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July 2009, Issue 92
unpan-ap@sass.org.cn
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ˇˇ Addressing Climate Change Essential to Economic Recovery and Growth
Food Prices in Many Countries Remain Very High - High Prices Affect Poor People in Rural and Urban Areas
India-Pakistan Rapprochement? Terrorists, Beware
UN Lists New Sanctions, Bans for DPRK
Japan to Host 1st APEC Farm Ministers' Meeting in Niigata
Clinton Declares U.S. 'Is Back' in Asia
Asia's Easy-Money Policies: Fueling New Bubbles?
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ˇˇ CHINA: Detailed Measures Regulating Cross-border Trade Settled in Yuan Issued
China Tightens Regulations on State-owned Shareholders
Rule on Wealth Management Funds Tightened
Chinese Mainland Announces Measures to Boost Cross-Straits Entertainment, Educational Co-op
CPC Issues New Party Rule on Corruption
China Simplifies Rules on Forex Use to Boost Outbound Investment
China Adopts Plan to Promote Cultural Industry
More Laws Needed for Internet Regulation
Shanghai Relaxes Foreign Investment Approval Rules
China Issues Plans to Promote Ethnic Cultural Development
China Outlines Plans on Health Care Reform in 2009
China Publicizes Regulation to Implement Food Safety Law
China's Central Bank Stresses Adherence to Moderately Easy Monetary Policy
JAPAN: Govt N-Policy to Include Global Strategy / Panel to Propose Offering Nations Tech Know-How
New Minamata Relief Law Enacted
New Guideline Set for Granting Special Permission for Illegals to Stay
New Policies for an Older Japan
Japan Ratifies Int'l Treaty to Outlaw Cluster Bombs
Policy Challenges Facing Japan's Next Government
SOUTH KOREA: Courts Adopt Uniform Sentencing Policy
Gov't Plans to Promote Investment in Green Growth Related Industries
Gov't Unveils Plan to Be Among the Top Green Nations
S. Korean Parliament Chief Urges Prompt Constitutional Revision
N. Koreans Can Register in South, Court Rules
OECD: Korea Should Open More Doors to Migrant Workers
Gov't Announces Measures to Revitalize Tourism
S Korea's Media Reform Bill Passed at Parliament
Bank Holding Company Act Passes Nat'l Assembly
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ˇˇ INDONESIA: Govt Prepares Better Economic Policies for the Future
MALAYSIA: New Policy to Make Malaysian Economy More Competitive
Diversified Economy Is Our Saviour, Says Husni
Outdated Acts to Be Reviewed, Says Nazri
PHILIPPINES: Government Lending Program Generates 2.5 Million Jobs
House Approves Anti-Racial, Religious Discrimination Bill
PGMA Signs Directive on Digital Signatures
PGMA Signs Rent Control Act into Law
PGMA Envisions RP to Join First World Countries in 20 Years
SINGAPORE: Changes to Tax Laws to Meet International Standard
THAILAND: Internal Security Act to Be Enforced During ASEAN Meetings
Cabinet Extends Economic Package for the Poor Until End-2009
PM Rules Out Tough Measures to Contain A(H1N1) Spread
VIETNAM: UN Convention Against Corruption Ratified
President Announces Eight New Laws
NA Agenda Includes State Budget Changes
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: AL, JP Submit Ratified Constitutions
BHUTAN: NA Debates Civil Service Bill
INDIA: Government Defends Spectrum Allocation Policy
Manmohan Moots Convention on International Terrorism
ADB's India Country Partnership Strategy for 2009-2012
SRI LANKA: Transport Policy Slammed by Critics
PAKISTAN: Govt Will Ensure Independence of Judiciary, Says Gilani
Zardari for Repeal of 17th Amend, 58(2b)
PM Directs to Prioritize Formulating Labour Policy
Punjab Cabinet Approves Local Government Act
Pakistan's India Policy Revisited
Monetary Policy Delayed Till August 15
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ˇˇ AZERBAIJAN: President Decrees to Apply Law on Combating Money Laundry Legalization and Financing of Terrorism
IRAN: Bills to Facilitate Azeri Trade
KAZAKHSTAN: Leader Signs Law Curbing Internet
TURKMENISTAN: Labor and Criminal Procedure Codes Take Effect
Government of Turkmenistan to Increase Control over Implementation of Major Investment Programmes
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: National Unit Pricing Code Now Law
Towards a Seamless National Economy
A National Statement on Social Inclusion
Draft Bill to Protect $655M Revenue
Economic Stimulus Plan Progress Report
Australia to Advance the R2P Principle
Tough New Cartel Laws Now in Force
NEW ZEALAND: Disclosure Regulations for Financial Advisers
Bill Boosts Law Enforcement Tools
Govt Consults Public on 2020 Emissions Target
Disputes Tribunal Amendment Bill Passes
Securities and Financial Advisers Amendment Bills Passed
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ˇˇ UN Members Urge Reform of Bretton Woods Institutions
World Bank Finds Little Improvement in Global Governance
Asia Leadership Dialogues 2009 Held in Delhi
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ˇˇ CHINA: Energy-Saving Budget Amid Project Delays
China to Subsidize Renewable Energy Buildings and Projects
HK Allocates Fund to Promote Design Industry
Senior Leader Urges Efforts to Curb Corruption
China Charity Fund to Support 10,000 Extremely Poor People
Ministries Allocate US$3.9 Bln for Subsistence Allowances
Chui Sai On Wins Macao Chief Executive Election
Taiwan Leader Ma Ying-Jeou Elected KMT Chairman
10.4 Bln Yuan on Basic Public Health Care Service
JAPAN: Japan's Long-Term Employment System Worth Looking at Again: White Paper
Japan Names New Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister
Japan Upgrades Missile-Detection System
Japan Aims to Build 'One-Stop' Online Public Service System by 2013
Japan Has Tried to Destroy Secret Nuke Documents: Report
Hatoyama Plans to Dilute Power of Bureaucrats
Minshuto Scores Landslide Victory, Becomes Largest Party in Tokyo Assembly
Ministry to Punish Over 1,200 Officials for Illegal Union Activities
Lower House to Be Dissolved on Tuesday / 1,200 Set to Run in Aug. 30 Poll Showdown
Election Campaigning Gets Nasty in Japan
Japan Ruling Party No.2 Says Won't Ditch Reforms
SOUTH KOREA: President Lee Names New Chief of Human Rights Commission
MONGOLIA: Former Prime Minester Is New Ivanhoe Mines Advisor
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ˇˇ MALAYSIA: Crucial Priority Areas for KPIs Identified
Ministry Forms Panel to Improve Service at Shelter Homes
Personal Data Protection: 'Govt Has Own Mechanisms'
Contractual Bonus Sought for Govt Servants
PHILIPPINES: Improving Governance, Corruption Control - WB Study
PGMA Awards 10 Outstanding COPS
PGMA Launches National Youth Service Program
SINGAPORE: Govt to Set Up New Road Safety Council by Early 2010
Government Aims to Build New Media Capabilities Across Agencies
NMPs Officially Appointed by President Nathan
Singapore to Set Up Workplace Safety & Health Institute
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: JS Blasts TIB for Report on House
Hasina Re-elected AL President
INDIA: Economic Survey Wants Public Accountability Information System
RBI Reconstitutes Advisory Committee on Monetary Policy
MALDIVES: National Youth Council Formed
PAKISTAN: Magistracy System to Be Revived on Provinces' Demand : LG Elections Postponed
Govt. Serving Nation Under Zardari Leadership
Pakistan Cabinet Expansion, Reshuffle Soon
President Asks for Setting Up Inland Water Transport Authority: Govt to Build 13 Small Dams
Aitzaz Made Law and Justice Commission Member
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ˇˇ AZERBAIJAN: New Staff of Inter-Governmental Commission for Economic Cooperation Between Azerbaijan and Latvia Approved
TAJIKISTAN: Council for Coordinating Vocational Technical Education Development Programs Set Up in Khorog
Commission Set Up to Promote Permit System Reforms
TURKMENISTAN: New Head of Procurement and Rear Services of Ministry of Defense Appointed
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: New Energy Agreement to Create Jobs
Red Tape Cut for Emissions Data Reports
Australian Tsunami Warning System
Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society
NEW ZEALAND: Changes Reduce Bureaucracy Around Early Childhood Regulations
Government Improves Water Quality Monitoring
Critical Social Services Seek Access to New Fund
Minister Recognises New Zealand's Gatekeepers
2025 Taskforce to Be Established
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Evidence of Substantial Efficiency Gains Seen, According to Analysts
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ˇˇ Asia Emerges as Big Winner of UNPSA 2009
World Bank Launches 'Ecological' Cities Program
ADB to Help Improve Water Management in Urban Centers of 3 South Asian Countries
ADB Improving Its Development Effectiveness, Says Report
Poor Countries Need to Rethink Development Model, UN Report Finds
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ˇˇ CHINA: Innovation Key to Battle Fiscal Crisis
Top Legislature to Start Supervision over Infringements to Labor Interests in Economic Downturn
China Tightens Control of SOE's Financial Derivative Transactions
Ministry Orders Hospital Safety Checks
Macao to Increase Border-crossing Volume with Chinese Mainland
Pharmaceutical Safety Program Launched in China
Premier Urges Long-term Preparedness for Global Downturn
JAPAN: Govt Pushes Alternative Energy / Incentives Spur Domestic Development of New Electricity Sources
SOUTH KOREA: 'Green' Car Insurance Proposal Bases Premiums on Mileage
Gender-Equality Measures Must Benefit Both Sexes
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ˇˇ MALAYSIA: Religious Tolerance Program Aims to Foster National Unity
PHILIPPINES: RP Advances in 4 of 6 Dimensions of World Bank Report
SINGAPORE: Over 19,000 Job Seekers Find Work Through SPUR Programme
SGX Launches New Research Scheme
SPRING Launches New Scheme to Boost HR Practices in SMEs
THAILAND: One Stop Service to Detect H1N1 Patients Launched in Bangkok Hospitals
VIETNAM: New Index to Calculate Industrial Production
ADB Supports Quality Produce, Clean Energy in VN
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ˇˇ INDIA: To Have Network for Intelligence Sharing
Govt. to Aid Chip Designing in India
PAKISTAN: Conference at District Level Suggested for NJP Implementation
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ˇˇ TAJIKISTAN: Republican Seminar on Employment Problems Takes Place in Dushanbe Today
UZBEKISTAN: Round Table Discusses Issues of Mutual Insurance Sector Development
Experts Discuss Political and Economic Reforms in Modern Uzbekistan
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: A Simpler, More Effective Job Service Begins
Significant Reform of Job Services
Streamlined Environmental Assessments
Skills for Sustainability Award
Climate Ready Supports 180 Green Jobs
The PM's Award for Skills Excellence in School
NEW ZEALAND: Job Summit Output a Boost for Young Innovators
New Enviro Tool for Businesses Launched
Government Simplifies Overseas Investment
Launch of 'Maori in Industry and Trades Training'
ˇˇ Asia Warned of Growing Poverty
Broadband, Mobile Key to Economic Growth: World Bank
OECD Sees Slowdown in Migrant Workers Steepening in 2009
World Bank Sees '09 Global Remittances Declining 7.3%
Experts Ask: How Far Have APEC Economies Come In Achieving Free Trade?
Thanks to Asia, Economic Crisis Is Rolling Back: UN
Japanese Contribute USD 1.3 Million to APEC Energy Efficiency Initiatives
Asia Economies Could Rebound in 2010: ADB
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ˇˇ CHINA: Invest $14.7B in Grassroots Clinics
Mainland, Taiwan Urged to Boost Web Industry Cooperation
HK Urges Enhanced E-banking Security
China Mobile to Beef Up Rural Network
China to Implement Program for Clean Online Games
China Now Has 338m Internet Users
JAPAN: Tokyo Becomes World's Costliest City for Expats: Survey
Japan's Wholesale Prices Mark Record Drop in June
Registered Foreign Population in Japan Hits Record-High 2.21 Million
Child Abuse Cases Soar to Record 42,662
Record 11,000 Foreign Students Find Jobs in Japan In 2008: Survey
New-Flu Cases Top 4,000 in Japan
SOUTH KOREA: President to Donate His Personal Assets to Society for Scholarships
KC Mark to Unify Certification for Korean-Made Products
Per Capita GDP Expected to Shrink to $16,000 in 2009
Report: Boomer Retirement Wave Will Strain Economy
Korean Gender Earnings Gap Widest in OECD
14% of Households Live in Poverty
Cyber Attack 'Came from Britain, Not N. Korea'
Women Playing Increasing Role in Korean Workplace
KT Breaks Away from Korean Confederation of Trade Unions
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ˇˇ MALAYSIA: ICT Boost for the Underserved
SINGAPORE: CIMB-GK Securities Launches CFD Trading Platform via iPhone
MOE, IDA & Microsoft Launch Backpacklive! Initiative
THAILAND: Korn to Review E-Auction Rules to Speed Up Stimulus Projects
VIETNAM: Coming to the Rescue of Laid-Off Workers
Vietnam Far Ahead in Happiness Stakes: Survey
Training Vital to Develop IT Services
Vietnam's Transition to Market Economy Largely Complete, Say Analysts
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: To Get Additional Help to Overcome Crisis and Push Development Programs, Says ADB President
BHUTAN: Discrimination Against Women a Hot Issue
INDIA: ADB Extends $200 Million for First Urban Development Program in India's North East
Kerala Preparing New Law to Tackle Cyber Crimes
Plan Panel Approves Rs 2,000 Cr Cyber Network Project
Indian IT Industry Bucks Global Recession to Sustain Growth
SBI Starts Its First Off-site E-centre
IT Connect to Help Police Speed Up Probe
New IT Projects to Generate 6000 Jobs in Madhya Pradesh
NEPAL: 'Global Financial Crisis Has Affected Least Developed Countries Severely'
PAKISTAN: Steps Being Taken for Revival of Pak Economy: Miliband
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ˇˇ AFGHANISTAN: MCIT Launches Second Phase of Village Communications Network
Roshan Agrees to Use Capacity on AT's National Fibre-Optic Backbone
AZERBAIJAN: Azerfon Inks Partnership Deal with Vodafone, Rolls Out 3G Network
IRAQ: LS Cable to Provide Network for Sinatel
Asiacell to Offer M-banking
IRAN: Iran Rejects Zain, Relaunches Mobile Tender
23 New Economic Zones to Open
KYRGYZSTAN: Kyrgyztelecom Deploys Cisco Broadband Solution
KAZAKHSTAN: SKT linked to KazakhTelecom Mobile Unit
TAJIKISTAN: New Market Constructed in Khorog
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: Broadband Investment for Regional Australia
$1.2M for STC to 'Go Green'
Dealing with Computer and Television Waste
Feverish Obsessions with Fantasy Flu Instead of Real Ills
NEW ZEALAND: Report Shows Positive Shifts in Energy Use and Supply
Boost to Open Access to ICT
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ˇˇ Global Financial Crisis Turns Into Real Economy Crisis: World Bank Chief Economist
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ˇˇ CHINA: Allow Foreign Firms to List
China Spends 170m Yuan in Flood-control Subsidies
China Banking Regulator Warns of Risks to Loan Growth
Banks Active in Transacting Yuan Trade Settlement
China to Issue One-year Book-entry T-bonds
China's Bank Loan Total Exceeds Full-year Target
Chinese Banks to Improve Financial Support for Fighting Economic Downturn
Banks Tap Syndicated Loan Business
China Banking Regulator Urges Enhanced Management Against Possible Financial Risks
JAPAN: Japan's FY 2010 Spending to Be Capped at Record 52.7 Trillion Yen
Tax Revenues Slide by Record 13.2%
Gov't Spends Over Y3.8 Tril to Help Crisis-Hit Businesses
SOUTH KOREA: Health Spending Rising Fastest in OECD
Koreans to See Lowest Savings Rate in OECD
Gov't Collects W10.8 Trillion More Tax Than Expected
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ˇˇ INDONESIA: Rate Cut Aims to Bolster Bank Lending and Support Real Sector
MALAYSIA: Govt Sees Lower Tax Collection on Weaker Export Demand
Govt May Need to Spend RM8B More Next Year
SINGAPORE: MAS Unveils Measures to Boost Liquidity in Banking Sector
THAILAND: First Release of Government Savings Bonds Sells Out Quickly
Cabinet Approves Bt850 Million to Combat A(H1N1) Pandemic
Thai Central Bank Unworried About Withdrawals for Savings Bonds
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ˇˇ INDIA: SBI Cuts PLR Rates by 50 Bps
Reform Taxes, Cut Subsidies, Says Economic Survey
Government Allocates Rs.12,000 Crore for Rural Roads
Government to Press States for Goods and Service Tax
India's Financial Sector Is Sound: Finance Commission Chief
SRI LANKA: IMF Okays $2.6b Loan for Lanka
PAKISTAN: ADB Approves $500 Million Loan for Pakistan to Help Economic Recovery and Deepen Safety Nets for Poor
WB Approves $ 50 Million for Sindh
ADB, UK Provide Additional $45 Million to Boost Social Services in Pakistan
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ˇˇ AZERBAIJAN: Impact of Global Financo-Economic Crisis on Economy Minimized
KYRGYZSTAN: ADB Extends $50 Million to Improve Key Road Corridor
TAJIKISTAN: IDB Approves US$ 10.3m for Microfinance Project
UZBEKISTAN: Implementation of Internet-bank Service in Microcreditbank
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: 2009-10 Financial Sector Levy Rates
Easy Ways to File Your Tax Return
Launch of Australian Citizenship $1 Coin
$600,000 Worth of Opportunities for Industry
NEW ZEALAND: Govt to Align Investment and Income Tax Rates
Government Considers Local Body 'Bond Bank'
Resident Withholding Tax Focus of New Tax Bill
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ˇˇ CHINA: Official Encourages Private Business to Go "Green"
China Should Privatise State-owned Companies
JAPAN: Shinsei, Aozora to Merge in 2010
JR West Appoints New President
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ˇˇ MALAYSIA: Dr M on the Path to Realising Vision 2020
Govt Online Medical Service to Be Linked with Private Sector
VIETNAM: Gov't Aid Aims to Bolster More than 300,000 SMEs
Private Firms Keen to Go Green: Survey
Private Firms Invest in City Waste Treatment, Recycling
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ˇˇ INDIA: Govt Committed to 25 Pc Quota for Poor Students in Pvt Schools
Government to Sell Its Stake in Bharti Hexacom
PSU Outperformed Private Sector Last Week in Markets
Government Plans to List BSNL, TCIL
PAKISTAN: President and PM Decide to Take Action Against KESC
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ˇˇ AZERBAIJAN: Xalq Bank Joins PrivateMoney System
69 Percent Housing Privatized in Azerbaijan
IRAN: Private Investment in Ports Surpass $367m
TAJIKISTAN: The First Private Russian-Language Newspaper Brought Out in Northern Tajikistan
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: Aged Care Privatisation a 'Raid on Community-Raised Funds'
Rail Privatisation to 'Take Toll on Rural Roads'

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Addressing Climate Change Essential to Economic Recovery and Growth

"Growth strategies of the future must take account of climate change," says Ravi Menon, 2009 Chair for APEC Senior Officials. As members of government and academic spheres assemble at the APEC Climate Symposium (13 - 15 July), the resounding consensus is that climate change is a central social, economic and political issue. "This is global warming's Tipping Point," says Michael H. Glantz, Director of the Consortium for Capacity Building, explaining that the once-debated concept of climate change is now widely acknowledged to produce quite dramatic effects. "By the end of the century, this may be declared the Climate Century because everything we do, every decision we make is in response." Evidence of increased global warming can be seen throughout the entire Asia-Pacific and this compounds the effects of the global economic crisis - particularly for developing economies. Enabling economies to anticipate and adapt to climate change is therefore fundamental to economic recovery and sustainable growth. APEC 2009, says Menon, will "address the issue of how we can make growth more inclusive" and has cited climate change among the challenges to be addressed as APEC shapes strategies for post-crisis growth. This comes in the lead-up to meetings of APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade, and after the failure of last week's G8 Summit to garner the commitment of the world's largest developing economies to specific emission goals. The APEC Climate Symposium will contribute to a Global Framework of Climate Services to be agreed at the World Climate Conference 3 as well as to year-end negotiations at the Copenhagen Climate Conference 2009.

From http://www.apec.org/ 07/14/2009

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Food Prices in Many Countries Remain Very High - High Prices Affect Poor People in Rural and Urban Areas

Domestic food prices in developing countries remain high despite a sharp decline in international prices and overall good cereal harvests, FAO warned today in its latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation report. In several countries, prices exceed the already high levels of a year ago or are still at record levels, creating hardship for millions of people. In sub-Saharan Africa 80 to 90 percent of all cereal prices monitored by FAO in 27 countries remain more than 25 percent higher than before the soaring food price crisis two years ago. In Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean prices are monitored in a total of 31 countries, and between 40 and 80 percent of these remain more than 25 percent higher than in the pre food-crisis period, according to FAO. "The high food price situation continues to give rise to concern for the food security of vulnerable populations in both urban and rural areas, as these groups spend a large share of their incomes on food," FAO said.

In Eastern Africa, in Sudan, prices of sorghum in June were three times higher than two years ago. In Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia prices of maize have doubled compared to two years ago. In Southern Africa, prices of maize have declined in recent months due to a bumper harvest but remain above the pre-crisis level. In Western Africa, prices decreased in late 2008 following good cereal harvests, but increased again in 2009. In Ghana, prices of maize in Accra have more than doubled since June 2007. Among the reasons for high food prices, the report listed reduced harvests, higher or delayed imports, civil conflict, strong demand in neighbouring countries and regional trade flows, devaluation of national currencies, changes in food and trade policies, increased incomes and demand, and transport constraints and higher transport costs.

World cereal supply remains satisfactory
The outlook for world cereal supply and demand is satisfactory, despite an estimated 3 percent decline in world cereal production in 2009 from the 2008 record level, FAO said. World cereal production in 2009 is forecast at 2 208 million tonnes, 3.4 percent down from last year's record harvest, but nonetheless the second largest crop ever. Reductions are forecast for wheat and coarse grains. In Low-Income Food-Deficit countries, prospects for 2009 cereal crops are generally favourable and aggregate production is forecast to increase for the second consecutive year. However, the outlook is uncertain in parts of Western and Eastern Africa as well as in Asia reflecting an erratic start of the rainy season.

30 countries in crisis
Despite a positive outlook for global cereal supplies, 30 countries around the world are in crisis and require assistance as a result of natural disasters, conflict or insecurity, and economic problems. A World Food Summit is to be held at FAO Headquarters in Rome from 16-18 November with the aim of securing a broad consensus on the eradication of hunger, on improved governance of the international agricultural system and on policies and programmes to ensure world food security.

From http://www.fao.org/ 07/16/2009

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India-Pakistan Rapprochement? Terrorists, Beware

This week's sit-down between the prime ministers of Pakistan and India may not have removed mountains of suspicion and hostility between these two rivals, but their meeting may have leveled a few foothills. If that effort continues, it could have an earth-shattering effect on the Taliban and Al Qaeda, greatly helping the US in the anti-terrorism fight. That's because the Pakistan-India rivalry is central to removing the threat of Islamist terrorism from this region, including Afghanistan. Historic tension between Pakistan and India has distracted the Pakistan government from fully facing down Islamist extremists at home. The majority of Pakistan's troops are concentrated on its eastern border with India, rather than in the troublesome western border region with Afghanistan.

India-as-enemy also helps fuel the cause of Islamist militants in Pakistan, granting them - until recently - considerable leniency from the Pakistani government and public. A CliffsNotes version of the region's geopolitics would boil it down to this: Remove the rivalry distraction from the government, remove a major source of fuel from Islamist extremism, and the militants lose on two important fronts. But rapprochement between Islamabad and New Delhi is not a given. The two governments have fought three major wars since the partition of British India established their countries more than 60 years ago, and they're locked in a territorial dispute over Kashmir. Last year, when Islamist terrorists based in Pakistan staged a spectacular attack on the Indian port city of Mumbai - killing more than 170 people, including the gunmen - India broke off dialogue with Pakistan. It insists that Pakistan bring the Mumbai perpetrators to justice.

Given this background, the face-to-face between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani this week is encouraging. Their joint statement is even more so. The two agreed that terrorism - not each other's country - is the main threat to each nation, and they will cooperate in fighting it. And they agreed that talks on a whole host of difficult bilateral issues - including Kashmir - should not be linked to action against terrorism. In theory, at least, that should allow talks to resume regardless of what's happening on the ground. But statements and follow-through are two different things, and here, the United States can be helpful. Not in a big-foot way, and certainly not as a mediator, which India categorically rejects. The US has good relations with both governments (and not a little leverage). It can encourage each to restart talks, and it can help each with the antiterrorism fight.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has just such an opportunity when she begins a visit to India today. In an opinion piece published in the Times of India newspaper on the day of her arrival, Secretary Clinton wrote that India and the US had "experienced searing terrorist attacks." She added, "We should intensify our defense and law enforcement cooperation... And we should encourage Pakistan as that nation confronts the challenge of violent extremism." Caveats as towering as the Himalayas threaten Pakistan's anti-terrorism efforts - and thus, progress in relations between India and Pakistan. The caveats include differences of opinion between governments over which militants are bad militants. Seemingly intractable poverty and lawlessness create fertile ground for Islamist extremists in Pakistan. The government itself is an emerging and shaky democracy.

But Pakistani public opinion has turned decidedly against the extremists. More than 80 percent view the Taliban and Al Qaeda as a threat to their country, according to WorldPublicOpinion.org, an effort of the University of Maryland. This bolstered Islamabad as it moved much more intensely against terrorists in recent months. This week refugees are beginning to return to their homes in the Swat Valley, after the Pakistani Army undertook a significant effort to clear the region of insurgents. Last year, Pakistan was not serious about fighting terrorists in its own country. Relations with India had badly deteriorated. The US surge in troops and civilian help in Afghanistan had not yet begun. That picture has since changed, and conditions for gaining the upper hand against Islamist extremism in the region have improved. Nothing guarantees a successful outcome, but real progress in the India-Pakistan relationship would greatly help.

From http://news.yahoo.com/ 07/17/2009

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UN Lists New Sanctions, Bans for DPRK

The United Nations listed for new sanctions on Thursday five individuals and five entities believed to be involved in nuclear or ballistic missile development for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). The Security Council sanctions committee mandated to list the targets, and also announced a ban on the shipment of two sensitive goods to or from the East Asian country. New sanctions were voted against the DPRK on June 12, following a second nuclear test on May 25. Sanctions were imposed after Pyongyang's initial nuclear test in October 2006. The original measure included a ban on ballistic missile tests by the DPRK. "The committee has decided today (Thursday) to designate the following five entities for assets freeze," said Turkey's Fazli Corman, chairman of the Council panel. "These entities are linked to the DPRK's nuclear and/or missile programs."

Lister were, the DPRK's General Bureau of Atomic Energy, Namchongang Trading Corp., Korea Hyoksin trading Corp., Korean Tangun Trading Corp., and Hong Kong Electronics, identified as "owned or controlled to act on or in behalf of Tanchon Commercial Bank," but located on Kish Island, Iran. The company was accused of having transferred "millions of dollars of (nuclear) proliferation-related funds ... from Iran to the DPRK." "The committee agreed to continue working to identify subsidiaries of designated entities which are also covered by the relevant measures," Corman said. The individuals named were the director of the GBAE, Ri Je Son,a director of the nuclear program in the agency, Hwang Sok Hwa; the former director on the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center, Ri Hong Sop; the directors of two trading companies, Yun Ho Jin, of Namchongang and Han Yu Ro of Korea Ryongaksan Trading Corp., involved in the DPRK's missile program.

The goods banned are electrical discharge machining graphite and para-aramid fiber, Kevlar or Kevlar-like filament and tape. "The committee also agreed to continue working to identify additional technical items, including sensitive goods, ballistic missile-related items and nuclear-related items," the chairman said. "Please note that these sanctions are carefully targeted at only those entities and individuals responsible for the DPRK's ballistic missile, nuclear and other WMD related programs," he said. "They are designed to minimize any unintended humanitarian consequences on the people of the DPRK." Previously, the Security Council voted an arms embargo on Pyongyang, except from states to the DPRK of small arms and light weapons and their related materials, but on which states are required to notify the sanctions committee in advance. The panel also banned arms-related financial transactions, technical training or services. The Council earlier slapped an embargo on nuclear, ballistic missiles and other weapons of mass destruction programs and the export of luxury goods to the DPRK.

In the latest resolution, 1874, passed unanimously last month, the 15-nation Security Council provided for the creation of a Panel of Experts, to help in its work of identifying entities. The Council also mandated a constant review of the sanctions. The earlier sanction resolution, 1718, followed Pyongyang's first nuclear test in 2006. "Today's decision demonstrates our unity and resolve on this critical issue for international peace and security," Corman told reporters. After the announced new measures, Japanese UN Ambassador Yukio Takasu told reporters here that "Japan welcomes the decision of the 1718 committee to designate five entities and five individual sand items of goods which all are related to development of nuclear programs or ballistic missile programs."

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 07/17/2009

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Japan to Host 1st APEC Farm Ministers' Meeting in Niigata

The government will host the first meeting of farm ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Niigata in the fall of 2010, farm minister Shigeru Ishiba said Friday. "The main theme (of the meeting) will be how sustainable agriculture can exist in various ways, based on the harsh food situation," Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Ishiba told a news conference.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/18/2009

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Clinton Declares U.S. 'Is Back' in Asia

On her second trip to Asia as U.S. secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton is carrying a no-nonsense message about American intentions. "The United States is back," she declared Tuesday upon arrival in the Thai capital. By that she means the administration of President Obama thinks it's time to show Asian nations that the United States is not distracted by its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and intends to broaden and deepen its partnerships in this region. Clinton was trumpeting that line Wednesday in an appearance with a prominent TV personality before flying to a seaside resort at Phuket for two days of international meetings to discuss North Korea, Burma and a range of other regional issues. Clinton says she would, as previously announced, sign ASEAN's seminal Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, a commitment to peacefully resolve regional disputes that has already been signed by more than a dozen countries outside the 10-nation bloc.

The U.S. signing will be by the executive authority of Obama and does not require congressional ratification, said a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the move publicly. The administration of President George W. Bush had declined to sign the document; Obama sees it as a symbolic underscoring of the U.S. commitment to Asia. On her arrival here Tuesday, Clinton reiterated Obama administration concerns that North Korea, already a threat to the U.S. and its neighbors with its history of illicit sales of missiles and nuclear technology, is now developing ties to Myanmar's military dictatorship. Clinton held out the possibility of offering North Korea a new set of incentives to return to negotiating a dismantling of its nuclear program if it shows a "willingness to take a different path." But she admitted there is little immediate chance of that.

A Clinton aide said the United States and its allies are looking for a commitment by North Korea that would irreversibly end its nuclear weapons program. The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal U.S. government deliberations, said there is no sign that North Korea intends to make such a move, keeping the U.S. focus on enforcing expanded U.N. sanctions. In her remarks about a possible Burma-North Korea connection, Clinton did not refer explicitly to a nuclear link but made clear that the ties are disconcerting. "We know there are also growing concerns about military cooperation between North Korea and Burma which we take very seriously," she said at a news conference in the Thai capital. "It would be destabilizing for the region, it would pose a direct threat to Burma's neighbors," she said, adding that as a treaty ally of Thailand, the United States takes the matter seriously. Later, a senior administration official said that Washington is concerned about the possibility that North Korea could be cooperating with Burma on a nuclear weapons program, but he added that U.S. intelligence information on this is incomplete. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter.

The United States, in a joint effort with South Korea, Japan, China and Russia, is attempting to use U.N. sanctions as leverage to compel North Korea to return to the negotiating table over its nuclear program. A major element of the international concern about North Korea is the prospect of nuclear proliferation, which could lead to a nuclear arms race in Asia and beyond. Clinton spoke to reporters after meeting with Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva at the outset of a three-day visit to Thailand. Clinton sharply criticized the military rulers of Burma for human rights abuses, "particularly violent actions that are attributed to the Burmese military concerning the mistreatment and abuse of young girls." She said an Obama administration policy review on Burma is on hold pending the outcome of the trial of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is accused of violating the terms of her house arrest. The Noble Peace Prize laureate faces up to five years in prison if convicted, as expected.

From http://www.usatoday.com/ 07/21/2009

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Asia's Easy-Money Policies: Fueling New Bubbles?

Less than 10 months ago, the great fear in Asia was that the region would suffer through the overwhelming wealth destruction that was already taking place in the U.S. as a result of the financial crisis. Stock markets tumbled as exports plunged and economic growth deteriorated. Lofty property prices in China and elsewhere looked set to bust as credit tightened and buyers evaporated. Asia's markets were on the verge of a panic. But now, with surprising speed, fear in Asia is swinging back to greed as the region shows signs of recovery - and some economists are warning that asset-price bubbles that had been popped by the global recession may be reinflating. Property and stock prices are soaring in many parts of Asia. For example, the main index of the Shanghai stock market has surged more than 80% this year, while Indonesian stocks are up 57%. Although U.S. stocks have rallied off their March lows, the S&P 500 is still up less than 6% since Jan. 1. (See the World Economic Forum 2009.) It feels a bit curmudgeonly to suggest that these happy Asian trends should be greeted with skepticism. Higher asset prices mean households feel wealthier and better able to spend, which could further fuel the region's nascent economic rebound. But there's a risk that financial conditions now in place could lead to excessive or speculative increases in prices. If that happens, Asia could soon find itself saddled with overheated markets similar to the U.S. housing market of a few years ago - and on the brink, once again, of a crash. "The seeds are being sown for Asia's next bubble," HSBC economist Frederic Neumann said in a recent report. "The world has not changed, it just moved places." (Read "Asian Nations Step Up Support As Crisis Rolls On.")

The incipient bubble - or, possibly, bubbles - is being created by government policy. In response to the widening global credit crunch of 2008, policymakers from New Delhi to Tokyo slashed interest rates and flooded financial sectors with cash in frantic attempts to keep loans flowing and economies growing. These steps were perfectly logical for central bankers striving to reverse a deepening, and frightening, economic crisis. But there's increasing evidence that too much money is now sloshing around. This easy money might be winding up in stock and real estate markets, pushing prices up too far and too fast for the underlying economic fundamentals. Much of the concern is focused on China, where government stimulus efforts have been large and effective. Money in China has been especially easy to find. Aggregate new bank lending surged 201% in the first half of 2009 from the same period a year earlier, to nearly $1.1 trillion. Meanwhile, exuberance over a quick recovery - which was given a further boost by surprisingly strong 7.9% GDP growth in the second quarter - has buoyed investor sentiment. (Read "A New Deal for China?")

This combination of factors is reflected not just in soaring stocks. Property prices in China's major cities, after a period of weakness, are rising again, helped along by government incentives like tax breaks on property transactions. According to government data, new home prices in 36 Chinese cities rose 6.3% in June from a year earlier - before the worst of China's downturn set in. Anecdotally, the property sector is showing signs of the frothy enthusiasm that is symbolic of the onset of a bubble. In Nanjing in mid-July, 3,000 people snapped up tickets for the right to purchase an apartment in a new development with only 600 units. Within one hour of the opening of sales, buyers had already reserved about 100 of them for purchase. Exuberance can be contagious. China State Construction Engineering, the country's largest home developer, said this month that it plans to raise as much as $7.3 billion in an initial public offering in Shanghai, which would be the world's biggest IPO in more than a year. Demand for shares will likely exceed supply. Several smaller IPOs in China this year have been heavily oversubscribed by investors whose appetite for gambling has suddenly returned. "We're not in a full-blown bubble yet," says David Cui, China strategist for Merrill Lynch in Shanghai. "But the risk is there. There is such a sharp turnaround, especially since it is largely fueled by easy money."

Similar circumstances are evident elsewhere in Asia. In Singapore, property prices are rising despite the city-state's sharp recession. While GDP in the second quarter probably contracted 3.7% from a year earlier, the resale index for Housing and Development Board apartments, a key indicator of local property-market conditions, rose an annualized 5% in the second quarter, to an all-time high. In Hong Kong, a city famous for its property booms and busts, prices have rebounded from last year's slump and are on course to retake their highs set in mid-2008, according to HSBC. Policymakers may be starting to worry that asset prices are running up too quickly. China's central bank, for example, sold bills in July at the highest interest rate this year, a signal that the government could begin restricting credit. But many economists believe that policymakers will not aggressively rein in monetary policy and stimulus measures, out of fear of squashing Asia's nascent recovery while the global economy remains weak. "There is close to a zero possibility that the Chinese government will do anything this year that constitutes tightening," says Andy Rothman, a Shanghai-based economist for the brokerage CLSA. "The recovery is only in its early stages."

Still, some analysts see excessive exuberance not in stock and property markets, but among the economists predicting bubbles. Rothman believes that prices in China are indicative of an early stage of recovery and are not close to dangerous heights. Despite the big run-up in the Shanghai stock market, he points out, the index is still at half the level reached in the last peak, in late 2007. "We're seeing the early stages of asset-price inflation in China," Rothman says. "It is far too premature to be talking about a bubble." Without a major shift in government policy on the horizon, the easy-money conditions will stay in place, making bubbles more likely. "We believe a bubble is inevitable and will only grow bigger," said investment bank Nomura on China's property market, in a recent report. In a global economy that has produced more dramatic ups and downs than anyone thought possible over the past two years, Asia may be heading for another plunge.

From http://news.yahoo.com/ 07/23/2009

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CHINA: Detailed Measures Regulating Cross-border Trade Settled in Yuan Issued

China has issued detailed measures to regulate the pilot program for cross-border trade settled in yuan, according to a document released Thursday by the central bank. The document posted on website of People's Bank of China specified how to make transactions using the yuan to settle trade with Hong Kong, Macau and regional trade partners. China's State Council, or Cabinet, announced a pilot program to allow exporters and importers in five cities to settle cross-border trade deals in Renminbi, or yuan. The cities are Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Dongguan. The latter four are all in south China's Guangdong Province.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 07/02/2009

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China Tightens Regulations on State-owned Shareholders

China's state assets regulator announced it would strive toward stricter control over the actions of state-owned shareholders here Friday, in a move to protect investors' profits and maintain a stable market. State-owned shareholders of listed companies should apply for approval from regulators if they want to sell a certain number of shares that exceeded an amount not specified in a document published on the Web site of China's State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC). The application should include a timeframe for the sale of the shares, the minimum price of the shares and the number of the shares of the planned sales, to make sure that state-owned shareholders would not sell the shares at too low a price, said the SASAC. Shareholders of state-owned assets also need a pre-approval from regulators before moving assets, said SASAC. Previously, the exchange of assets must meet approval from the board of directors before being approved by the regulators. Then the exchange could be offered for approval by the shareholders. State-owned listed companies should disclose restructuring information with their shareholders, said the SASAC documents. If restructuring is halted by shareholders due to price fluctuations, it said, state-owned shareholders should wait three months before taking action.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 07/04/2009

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Rule on Wealth Management Funds Tightened

The China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) said Wednesday it had issued a new circular banning banks from investing wealth management funds in secondary-market stocks. It prohibited banks from investing wealth management funds in secondary-market securities-backed funds, equities of unlisted companies and shares in listed companies that are not allowed to be issued or traded publicly, said the statement on the CBRC website. The circular said banks should not spend clients' wealth management funds on investment in high risks or too complicated financial products. The circular urged banks to protect clients with medium or low incomes while providing rational investment services for high-end clients. It said for those high-end experienced investors who demand for products with high risks, commercial banks could satisfy them through private banking services, which would not be affected by the circular.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/09/2009

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Chinese Mainland Announces Measures to Boost Cross-Straits Entertainment, Educational Co-op

Officials from the Chinese mainland pledged on Saturday to further open its cultural and educational sectors to Taiwan, part of its drive to facilitate cross-Straits exchanges. Cai Wu, minister of culture, said in an interview on the sidelines of the fifth Cross-Straits Economic, Trade and Culture Forum that cultural authorities are making policies to encourage and benefit the development of Taiwan's entertainment business on the mainland. People in the Taiwan entertainment industry would be allowed to run performance venues through jointly investing in or cooperating with mainland enterprises or they can fund such venues on their own, said Cai. Entertainment industry brokerage companies will also be allowed to set up branches on the Chinese mainland, he said. Yuan Guiren, vice minister of education, said Taiwan students who have top-notch results in Taiwan college entrance examinations can also apply to mainland universities. They will be recruited after passing interviews organized by mainland universities, he said, adding the ministry encourages and supports intercollegiate communications and cooperation between mainland and Taiwan universities such as student exchange programs and acknowledgement of credits. Tian Jin, deputy director of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, said Taiwan cable TV network will be allowed to provide information services in cable TV facilities and related techniques in Fujian Province.

Regulators are also making policies that will allow Taiwan companies and individuals to cooperate with mainland businesses in movie shooting, movie theater construction and renovation, and mainland movies distribution, he said. Wu Shulin, deputy chief of the General Administration of Press and Publication, said the administration plans to make Beijing, Shanghai and Fujian, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces test zones for cross-Straits publishing cooperation. Publishers in Taiwan will be allowed to cooperate with mainland counterparts in publishing scientific and technological journals through book copyright trade, he added. According to Cai Wu, cultural exchanges between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan is still faced with many "man-made obstructions and difficulties." But he said the Chinese mainland will make more favorable policies in the near future to break down the obstruction, and to encourage more Taiwan cultural organizations and enterprises to support cross-Straits cultural exchanges. Cultural exchanges between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan should be regularized, he added. Cai's call was echoed by Chang Yui-tan, a special guest to the cross-Straits forum from the Kuomintang. Chang said the Chinese mainland and Taiwan are planning to hold two cross-Straits culture summit forums in September this year and in next January. "The goal of cross-Straits cultural exchanges is to lay a solid ground for the development of the peaceful ties across the Taiwan Straits," he said.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 07/11/2009

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CPC Issues New Party Rule on Corruption

China's ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) made public Sunday three regulations to promote Party officials' accountability and state-owned enterprise leaders' honesty, as well as strengthen inspection work inside the Party, aiming to curb corruption and improve government competence. According to the regulation on officials' accountability, officials with the following misconduct should be removed from their posts: Making a wrong decision that leads to great losses or has serious negative impact; Serious or a spate of accidents or cases occurred in the official's jurisdiction or working unit due to his or her dereliction of duties; Serious or a spate of accidents or cases occurred in the official's scope of duty due to lax management or supervision by government; Power abuse, malfeasance, or ordering or encouraging others to commit illegal administrative activities, which lead to group protest or other serious incidents; Incorrect handling of group protests or accidents, which exacerbates the situation or has serious negative impact; Violating official selection or appointment regulations, which leads to mistakes in appointing officials and have serious negative impact; Other conduct that harms national interests, results in great losses to people's lives, personal or public property, or has serious negative impact.

A spate of corrupt misconducts in recent years triggered nationwide investigations into officials' accountability. In one of the latest cases, 14 officials were dismissed in Chaohu City in east Anhui Province for running a jobs-for-money network. Zhou Guangquan, the former Communist Party secretary of Chaohu city, was accused of accepting bribes worth 5 million yuan (about 735,000 U.S dollars) on June 3. Prosecutors then discovered that among the 36 people who bribed Zhou when he was secretary of the Communist Party of China Chaohu City Committee from 2000 to 2004, 19 were government officials who were promoted after giving Zhou bribes. According to the fresh regulation, officials will be given even more severe punishment if they interfere with the investigation of their misconduct, forge and hide evidences or take revenge on whistleblowers. Officials with serious misconduct will be transferred to judicial departments for further investigation and punishment if their misconduct is deemed criminal. Officials have the right to testify for themselves before a accountability decision is made, and "reasonable opinions" will be taken into account, said the regulation. Also, a decision must be brought to leading officials for group discussion before it becomes final. Chinese disciplinary organs have punished 2,386 officials at or above prefectural level for their misconduct from July 2003 to December 2008, according to the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). Another 29,905 officials at county level were also punished during the same period, the CCDI said.

According to the regulation on state-owned enterprise leaders' honesty, company leaders are not allowed violate company principles and procedures to make major policies on production management, appointment and removal for key positions or management of huge money. They should not adjust the salaries, bonuses and other benefits of company leaders without the approval of personnel departments. The regulation also specifies various kinds of company leaders' spendings in disguise of work duty, including traveling aboard, buying cars and luxurious office decorations among others. Party committee secretary, board chairman and general manager are the main principals to supervise company leaders in accordance with the regulation. Violators will be given punishment ranging from warning, demotion to removal from post. The third regulation on Party's inspection work specifies that the missions for an inspection team include hearing reports, attending regular meetings of local organizations, talking with officials and residents and reporting issues to party organizations at higher levels among others. Also, the team has the right to further investigate problems concerning local organizations or officials on the premise of not interfering with their current work. Members of an inspection team will be given punishment ranging from name-and-shame, demotion to removal from posts if they seek personal benefits during inspection work, reveal classified information or fabricate evidences.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/13/2009

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China Simplifies Rules on Forex Use to Boost Outbound Investment

China's foreign exchange regulator said Wednesday it would loosen its controls on overseas investment procedures and foreign exchange management of domestic companies to boost outbound investment. In a statement on its website, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange said a regulation, which will take effect on Aug.1, would simplify the examination and approval procedures for domestic companies with overseas investment plans. Domestic companies would be allowed to register the source of their foreign exchange financing after their investment overseas instead of obtaining approval beforehand, according to the regulation. The regulation would also allow domestic enterprises to finance overseas investment with domestic foreign exchange loans, purchases of foreign exchange with yuan, their own foreign currency funds and profits gained abroad. Domestic companies would be able to transfer funds abroad before their overseas projects were established, after gaining approval from SAFE. The ceiling rate was 15 percent of the total project investment.

The SAFE would also improve supervision over overseas investment and step up supervision and management over the foreign exchange used in China's direct investment overseas. The draft of the regulation had been posted on the SAFE website to solicit public opinion from May to June. The regulation was aimed at offering more freedom to domestic companies on their forex use, investment and financing and to encourage them to "go out of China", said Liu Guangxi, director of the SAFE's capital account management department. "Successful overseas investment could help domestic companies to expand their markets, providing solutions to overcapacity and weak internal demand," said Zhang Qizuo, vice president of the Sichuan-based Chengdu University. The regulation would increase outbound investment and encourage more foreign exchange uses, so as to relieve pressure brought by China's rapid expansion of forex reserves, said Liu. China's foreign exchange reserves hit a record 2.13 trillion U.S. dollars at the end of June, the People's Bank of China said on its website Wednesday.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 07/15/2009

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China Adopts Plan to Promote Cultural Industry

The Chinese government adopted Wednesday a plan to promote the country's cultural industry, which encourages private and foreign capital to flow into the industry. The plan was discussed and adopted in a meeting of the State Council, or Cabinet, presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao. A statement of the meeting pointed out, "During the current financial meltdown, the cultural industry's development is significant in meeting with people's cultural needs, expanding domestic demand and consumption and promoting economic restructuring." "Market access threshold should be lowered to encourage private and foreign capital to enter the cultural fields that the government permits and let them take part in state enterprises' share-holding reform," it said. More efforts were needed to develop key sectors such as cultural innovation, film production, publication, advertisement, entertainment, exhibition, digital content and animation, it said. It added that multimedia broadcasting and Web and mobile TV should be actively promoted to upgrade the industry. Cultural products and services should be improved to adapt to the needs of rural and urban residents, the meeting heard, adding trans-regional integration of cable television network, cinema lines, digital cinemas and publications should be enhanced. "Government investment in the industry should be increased. More talents should be trained. Taxation and financial policies as well as legal and market environment should be improved to support its development," it said.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/23/2009

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More Laws Needed for Internet Regulation

The Internet in China needs to be administered by additional laws because what was once a virtual world is now a substantial part of the real one, a senior official has said. "The government should make efforts to strengthen the legislation of the Internet so it can be regulated effectively," Cai Mingzhao, vice-minister of the State Council Information Office, said at the UK-China Internet Roundtable meeting yesterday. The Chinese government has already set up a basic legal framework that regulates Internet information, tackles cyber crime and protects network security. Cai said the State must continually develop legislation to deal with new Internet-related issues as they arise, so the Internet can be managed. There are now 338 million Internet users in China - more than a quarter of the population. Some 181 million write blogs and the Internet is increasingly being seen as a "new channel" for public opinion. Bloggers have played an important role in busting corrupt officials and reporting incidents, such as the Urumqi riot. But the challenge of managing blogs and bloggers has become an important issue for the government, said Liu Zhengrong, deputy director of the Internet affairs bureau of the State Council. "Bloggers are prohibited from leaving 'harmful' or 'unhealthy' comments on the Internet, in order to protect the general public," Liu said. "Website administrators have responsibility to monitor and control the contents that are posted on their websites by bloggers." "Harmful" and "unhealthy" information includes the spreading of rumors, slander, porn, gambling, violence, details of murder and terror and the instigating of crime.

From China Daily 07/23/2009

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Shanghai Relaxes Foreign Investment Approval Rules

The Shanghai municipal government plans to give district-level authorities the power to clear foreign investment projects with an investment of up to 100 million U.S. dollars from August 1, up from the previous threshold of 30 million U.S. dollars. The move is expected to attract more foreign investment to Shanghai, which aims to position itself as a global financial center, said Thursday's China Daily. Sha Hailin, director of Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce (SCOFCOM), said foreign investors have set up 16 regional headquarters, five investment companies, and 10 research and development centers this year, taking the total number of international companies in the city to 708. As the biggest industrial and financial metropolis in the mainland, the city has taken a much heavier toll from the financial crisis as its economy is largely dependent on foreign firms, the newspaper said. The city posted a year-on-year growth of 5.6 percent in gross domestic product in the first half of the year, which was lower than the national average increase of 7.1 percent during the same period, according to the newspaper. Latest data from SCOFCOM show that Shanghai attracted 5.15 billion U.S. dollars of foreign investment during the first six months of this year, up 2.5 percent from the same period last year.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 07/23/2009

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China Issues Plans to Promote Ethnic Cultural Development

China's State Council Thursday issued a package of plans to promote the development of ethnic minorities' culture, in order to push forward the common development of all country's ethnic groups. According to the measures, ethnic minorities' culture will be greatly protected and developed by the year 2020. The government will put more efforts on press and publication development, as well as film and television production work. It will also strengthen financial and policy support for literary and arts organizations as well as museums. Ethnic minorities' culture development has seen great progress under the leadership of the Party and the government.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/24/2009

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China Outlines Plans on Health Care Reform in 2009

China's State Council Thursday issued a medical reform plan of 2009, as its first year's move of the three-year health care reform. The plan called for acceleration in building basic medical insurance system and essential drug system, and promotion on primary health care facilities and pilot reform of state-run hospitals. According to the plan, about one hundred state-run hospitals chosen from 12 cities will be designated as the pilot hospitals for the reform. It also includes the access of nearly six million retirees from bankrupt stated-owned enterprises to the basic health insurance. Moreover, the number of employees and citizens in urban areas joining basic health insurance is to reach 390 million by the end of this year, an increase of 72 million from a year earlier. The standard of building primary health care facilities will be released this year, with 986 county hospitals, 3,549 town hospitals and 1,154 community medical service center to be established. The nation unveiled a three-year plan on health care reform on April 7 this year. With 850 billion yuan (124 billion U.S. dollars) investment, the plan is considered to lay a solid foundation for equitable and universal access to essential health care for all in China by 2020.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/24/2009

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China Publicizes Regulation to Implement Food Safety Law

Chinese food producers must record all the information on raw material procurement and food processing procedures and keep the record for at least two years, under a new regulation to ensure food safety. The requirement is detailed in the Regulation on the Implementation of the Food Safety Law, which was published Friday. The regulation, effective Monday, details the requirements on food manufacturers and wholesalers in food processing and distribution and the importance of supervision by health authorities highlighted in the Food Safety Law, which took effect on June 1. Passed on July 8 at a meeting of the State Council, the regulation also gives specifics on food safety risk assessments.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/24/2009

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China's Central Bank Stresses Adherence to Moderately Easy Monetary Policy

The People's Bank of China, the central bank, reiterated Friday the adherence to a moderately easy monetary policy and continual implementation of the economic stimulus package. The bank said the propelling of a stable and relatively fast economic development would continue to be the top priority of the financial macro control in the latter half of this year, and the policy would be "consistent" and "stable." The bank also said it will use a set of monetary policy mix to coordinate a "reasonable" credit structure based on market rules, and to make loan extensions more sustainable. Chinese banks lent a record 7.37 trillion yuan in the first half to shore up the economy, which sank to 6.1 percent in the first quarter. The central bank reiterated the new credit should nurture real economy, and should be conducive to both the economic growth and industrial restructuring. It asked local lenders to give equal financial support to infrastructure construction, technology innovation and small business. On Thursday, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao said the country should stick to its proactive fiscal policy and moderately easy monetary policy to ensure a stable economic growth as the recovery is not yet solid. Chinese economy rebounded to grow 7.9 percent in the second quarter driven by a surge of fixed-asset investment backed by government's 4-trillion-yuan stimulus package.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 07/24/2009

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JAPAN: Govt N-Policy to Include Global Strategy / Panel to Propose Offering Nations Tech Know-How

The Cabinet Office's Atomic Energy Commission has decided to include international strategy in the nation's Nuclear Energy Policy when it is revised in the future so the government can contribute nuclear power generation technology and know-how to the international community. Nuclear power increasingly has drawn global interest as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Nuclear Energy Policy is the basis of the government's approach to the issue. The commission formulated the policy in 2005, and it was originally scheduled to be updated about 10 years after its formulation. It replaced the nation's long-term nuclear science research, development and utilization plans, which used to be revised every five years or so. The policy will promote nuclear energy development and use. The move to incorporate international strategy in the policy is aimed at gaining more global trust and encouraging domestic industries to expand overseas by offering broad support to countries with little experience in nuclear energy use as a developed nation in the field. Support would include the areas of technology and safety, as well as cultivating relevant legal frameworks.

The commission hopes to discuss the plan within a working group on international issues due to be set up soon, and to make it a centerpiece for the policy when it is revised. The commission, which will decide on setting up the working group at its meeting Tuesday, is planning to make an interim report on the policy within this fiscal year. Since the policy's formulation in 2005, circumstances surrounding nuclear energy have changed drastically. Amid the sharp rise in oil prices and implementation of anti-global-warming measures, many countries began to consider introducing nuclear power generation, prompting the reorganization of related industries. Noting these developments, the commission decided to revise the nation's policy earlier than scheduled, and make the promotion of nuclear energy a key strategy of international contributions. Japan's reliable and high-quality nuclear technology standards have earned international praise. The nation has signed bilateral nuclear energy treaties with seven countries and regions, including France and the United States, as well as similar support and cooperation agreements with six nations, including Indonesia. Meanwhile, China and India are considering boosting their utilization of nuclear power, while more than 20 countries plan to start nuclear power generation.

The key element of Japan's international contribution in nuclear power generation will be the extending of technology to other countries. For example, the earthquake-proof designs of Japanese nuclear reactors, as exemplified by those that withstood the Niigata Prefecture Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake in 2007, also have a very good worldwide reputation. Japan is said to have the world's lowest rate of unplanned stoppages of nuclear reactors. Promoting the technology of the nation's nuclear energy industry overseas in exchange for securing uranium is a key diplomatic resource strategy. But nuclear energy technology can lead to the development of nuclear weapons. When offering nuclear technology to another country, it is necessary to implement nuclear nonproliferation safeguards, such as enabling the International Atomic Energy Agency to carry out inspections. Japan has a long history of rigorous safeguards. If the nation can convey its exemplary stance in the peaceful use of nuclear energy to countries that do not possess nuclear energy, it will contribute to nuclear nonproliferation efforts.

From The Yomiuri Shimbun 07/06/2009

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New Minamata Relief Law Enacted

The Diet enacted a new law Wednesday that expands relief to victims of Minamata disease by loosening the redress requirements for one of the worst industrial pollution cases in Japanese history. The legislation, one of the key bills Prime Minister Taro Aso intended to pass this session, broadens the range of patients entitled to receive government relief for the first time since 1995. The law cleared the Lower House on July 3. According to the Environment Ministry, the new law will offer relief to roughly 20,000 of the 30,000 patients who have applied, although the exact amount of the funds to be distributed has yet to be decided. The Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc has suggested ¥1.5 million per patient; the Democratic Party of Japan is seeking ¥3 million.

At a press conference Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said he was satisfied with the legislation but acknowledged the government needs to listen to opponents of the bill. "We are glad to be able to fulfill the Diet's role (in enacting the bill)," Kawamura said. "However, we've also heard that certain patient groups are against some portions of the bill. As the government, I believe we need to work with these people and do our utmost so they can reach a full understanding of the object of the bill." Minamata disease, a neurological disorder contracted by eating seafood from waters contaminated with mercury-tainted industrial waste discharged into a bay by Chisso Corp., was first recognized by researchers in 1956, when residents of the city of Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture, began dying. But the disease, which caused hundreds of deaths and thousands to suffer from crippling disabilities, was not officially recognized by the government until 1968.

The new law expands the scope of recognized disorders to cover those suffering from four types of symptoms, including sensory impairment. But it will also allow Chisso, which caused the infamous disaster, to split into two entities, a decision that critics say will allow it to dissolve the holding company after completing the compensation payments and put an end to the liability saga. Hideki Sato, chairman of one of the Minamata disease patient groups that spoke at Wednesday's press conference, slammed the government's decision. "As a Japanese, I'm embarrassed at the mere fact that this law has been passed," he said. "We will be fighting the case in court." Hideo Ikoma, a Minamata disease patient who also attended the press conference, said he felt most of the resentment was being caused by the decision to let Chisso split up. "I think it's Chisso's duty to take responsibility and continue to provide reparations to the victims," he said.

From http://search.japantimes.co.jp/ 07/09/2009

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New Guideline Set for Granting Special Permission for Illegals to Stay

Illegal immigrants could be granted special residence permission if they live with and raise school-age children, Justice Minister Eisuke Mori suggested Friday. Under a new guideline to be introduced Monday, ''those who raise elementary, junior or senior high school children living in Japan for more than 10 years, who voluntarily report they have overstayed and who have no other record of law violation'' could be allowed to remain. However, those who have committed crimes involving drugs and guns will not be granted special residence permission, Mori indicated at a press conference. A justice minister is authorized to grant special residence based on the guideline. The new guideline has been compiled following the case of a 14-year-old Filipino girl, born and raised in Japan, whose parents were deported to their country in April. The family had long been seeking special residence permission for the whole family, but the Justice Ministry rejected the parents' request to stay while allowing their daughter to remain. Since then, criticism has grown that the criteria for granting special permission to stay are unclear. The ministry noted, however, that even under the new guideline, the Filipino couple would still have had to leave Japan as they entered the country using other people's passports.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/09/2009

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New Policies for an Older Japan

An aging population may change Japan's role in Asia. I demography is destiny, Japan is in trouble. The country is the "grayest" in the world, and its population is shrinking. These two developments will sap Japan's economic vitality. But little attention has been paid to how this changing demographic profile could affect regional security and U.S. strategic interests in Asia. Because the alliance with Japan is the cornerstone of the United States' engagement with Asia, American policy makers need to begin developing a strategy that prepares the alliance for this impending shift. To understand the urgency of the situation, consider that 21.5% of Japan's population is age 65 or more - a share that will expand to 39% by 2050. And while Japanese now enjoy a life expectancy of 81.25 years, the population is shrinking as fewer children are born. Today, there are 127 million Japanese, but that number is expected to drop by around 30% by 2055, when the population will reach 89 million. The main culprit is a plummeting fertility rate.

The economic implications of this demographic transition are well known. As the number of working-age citizens shrinks, economic growth will slow, tax revenues will fall and government budgets will be squeezed. The cost of doing business will rise and investment capital will seek more dynamic markets. Japan will continue to be rich, but the country will be living off its wealth, not creating it. According to an estimate by McKinsey Global Institute, household wealth will enter an absolute decline over the next two decades, and by 2024 it will have returned to 1997 levels.

The strategic implications of this shift are equally important. Japan's demographic transition will act as a guillotine, cutting off the country's policy options. Most simply, budget priorities will shift. Health care, currently underfunded, will become a considerable drain on the government purse. Defense spending - always a tough sell in Japan - will feel a tighter pinch. Recruitment for the Self Defense Forces, already difficult, will get harder. The reluctance of some Japanese to see their country assume a higher security role will be intensified as the population gets older and more risk averse. Japan will be reluctant to send its most precious asset - its youth - into combat. Other forces will reinforce Japan's increasingly inward-orientation. Foreign aid and investment have laid the foundation for Japanese engagement with Asia (and the world). But as the domestic economy dwindles, official development assistance and the investment capital that lubricated foreign relations will shrink. This will diminish Japan's status in the region as other countries replace Japanese funds.

All won't be negative: The demographic transition will make it difficult, if not impossible, for other regional powers to demonize Japan as in the past. The bogeyman of remilitarization could be laid to rest for good. This will help eliminate one of the most important obstacles to regional cooperation and provide a real impetus for Asian solutions to Asian problems. However, Japan's evolution also creates challenges for its neighbors. Will China treat its former rival with dignity and respect, forging a genuinely cooperative relationship? Or will Beijing muscle Tokyo aside and assume the leading role in Asia? A solid Tokyo-Beijing axis could provide the cornerstone of genuine Asian integration, just as the Paris-Bonn link drove Europe's community-building process.

Seoul will also be at a crossroads. It could give vent to its long-suppressed anger over Japanese colonization of the Korean Peninsula and its junior status in the region. Or the South Korean government could reach out to a country with similar interests, values and concerns to forge a forward-looking partnership of like-minded nations. No relationship will be more affected by the demographic change that that of the U.S. and Japan. The new Japanese mindset poses a direct challenge to the evolution of the U.S.-Japan security alliance over the last decade. This period has been characterized by pressure from Washington for Tokyo to "put boots on the ground" in trouble spots like Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet paradoxically, at the very same time Japan will be fending off U.S. requests to do more militarily, Tokyo is likely to try to move even closer to the U.S. in response to its straitened economic circumstances and a fear that it is being eclipsed by a dynamic, rising China.

The U.S. needs to be prepared for these contradictory impulses and adjust how it engages Japan accordingly. First, it must abandon the quid pro quo mindset that often characterizes alliance discussions. Japan will have considerably less to contribute to the alliance, but that should not mean the alliance is less important. Discussion should focus on how Japanese contributions serve larger public and regional interests. Japan must do its part and come up with creative ways to share burdens and responsibilities. Second, the U.S. should shift the alliance's center of gravity away from military issues. Japanese engagement in this area will become more problematic. If Washington pushes Tokyo harder to make military contributions, it risks politicizing the alliance and undermining its support in Japan.

Third, the U.S. should create and strengthen regional institutions. Regional security mechanisms can pick up the slack as the U.S.-Japan alliance evolves. Other economic and political organizations can minimize tensions in the region. This process should begin soon, while Japan has more influence to maximize its leverage during the creation process. Washington and Tokyo should stop seeing their bilateral alliance and multilateral institutions as zero-sum alternatives. The U.S. should not see this process as a threat to its interests; instead, it should trust Tokyo to see that its interests are respected in these discussions. That would constitute a new form of burden sharing. Finally, the U.S. has to get its own economic house in order. Washington has relied on Japanese savings - along with those of China and other Asian nations - to finance its profligacy. As Japan ages, it will no longer have those funds to lend to the U.S. This is a potentially wrenching adjustment for America - one that might produce some premature aging of its own. Mr. Glosserman is executive director of Pacific Forum CSIS, a Honolulu-based think tank. This article is drawn from his recent study, co-authored by Tomoko Tsunoda, "The Guillotine: Japan's Demographic Transformation and Its Security Implications."

From Wall Street Journal Asia 07/13/2009

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Japan Ratifies Int'l Treaty to Outlaw Cluster Bombs

Japan on Tuesday ratified an international treaty to ban the use and stockpiling of cluster bombs, bringing the number of signatory countries to 14, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said Wednesday. The Convention on Cluster Munitions will enter into force six months after the 30th state submits its ratification. Once the pact takes effect, signatories are required to stop using cluster bombs immediately and to dispose of their stockpiles in eight years. The pact also says signatories should provide adequate care for the victims and clear contaminated areas. After Japan submitted its acceptance of the convention to the United Nations, Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone issued a statement Wednesday saying that the Japanese government will continue to play an ''active role'' in disposing dud bombs and supporting the victims. The Diet gave final endorsement to the signing of the treaty in June. A legislation to ban the production of cluster bombs and restrict their possession was also enacted Friday.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/16/2009

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Policy Challenges Facing Japan's Next Government

The winner of an election that Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso is set to call for August 30 will face a raft of challenges including the country's worst recession in 60 years and growing social welfare costs in a fast-ageing society. The cabinet signed off on Aso's plan to dissolve parliament's lower house on Tuesday. The main opposition Democratic Party has its best ever chance of beating Aso's ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner in the poll, ending half a century of nearly unbroken rule by the conservative LDP. Following are major challenges for a new government.

ECONOMY
Japan's economy is mired in its worst recession since World War Two and has edged back into deflation, although recently there have been signs of a tentative recovery. Aso's government has planned 27 trillion yen ($282 billion) in stimulus spending since the global financial crisis erupted last year. The Democrats have said the government is spending money on the wrong things, such as a museum of Japanese pop culture. But stimulus efforts from past economic problems have left a mountain of public debt equivalent to around 170 percent of GDP, the highest among advanced nations, constraining Tokyo's ability to spend its way out of recession and worrying financial markets about further debt issuance. The Bank of Japan, with its key policy rate near zero percent, has just voted to extend a series of steps, including buying corporate debt and increased buying of government bonds, to keep funding strains from further derailing the economy. The focus now is on when the central bank will exit from those emergency measures. Japanese banks have limited exposure to toxic debt that has wreaked havoc among their U.S. and European peers, but their large holdings of shares have left them with big holes in their balance sheets as stock markets have fallen.

AGEING POPULATION, SALES TAX DEBATE
One of Japan's biggest challenges is to revamp and pay for soaring health, social welfare and pension bills as a wave of post-war baby boomers retire. For a graphic tracking Japanese demographics, click:http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/079/JP_POPDCL0709.jpg Economists say funding these will mean raising the nation's 5 percent consumption tax, but the topic is politically touchy. The Democrats say it will not raise the tax at least for four years, while Aso has said it should be raised from 2011 but only if the economy recovers.

REFORM BACKLASH
Critics say five years of pro-market reforms under Junichiro Koizumi, prime minister from 2001 to 2006, have widened social, income and regional gaps, and both the LDP and the Democrats have sought to distance themselves from those changes, which included postal privatisation, deregulation of the job market, and repairing the nation's tattered finances. The global recession has intensified such criticism and given some impetus to calls for a return to stronger regulation. Companies worry that trend would be stronger under a Democratic Party government, given the party's support among labour unions.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
Japan's leader must address the challenge of China's rising regional clout, while keeping ties with its huge Asian neighbour and biggest trading partner on an even keel. Sino-Japanese relations have improved recently after years of friction over Japan's military aggression in Asia before and during World War Two, but territorial and maritime disputes still simmer along with mutual mistrust over military ambitions.

From http://uk.news.yahoo.com/ 07/20/2009

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SOUTH KOREA: Courts Adopt Uniform Sentencing Policy

Korean courts began adopting a uniform sentencing policy for convicted felons Wednesday aimed at preventing sentence disparity disputes. This is the first time in Korea's judicial history that a sentencing guideline has been put into practice. The sentencing-meter pertains to only serious offenses including murder, sex crimes, robbery and perjury. The yardstick for gauging the severity of punishment for a defendant is non-binding, but under the new policy a judge can hand down a heavier or lighter sentence after taking into account, for example, whether the accused is a repeat offender or an accessory to a crime. If a sentence does not reflect the guideline the judge must explain the reason in the ruling document.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 07/02/2009

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Gov't Plans to Promote Investment in Green Growth Related Industries

The Korean government plans to promote investment in green growth related industries. The plan is aimed at creating funds fit for the industries and expanding sources of financing as a way to prevent potential bubble in the industries.

Background
Both financing in the financial market and by the government are not fit for green growth related industries because 1) projects in the industries have a lot of uncertainties, 2) it will take long to realize return on investment in those projects, and 3) the external benefit is larger than that of other projects.

Direction of the plan
To attract private investment, the government decided to remove uncertainties: The government will introduce a certification system to approve green technologies and projects, and verify companies involved in green growth related projects as "green enterprises" if they qualify for government's requirements.

The plan
The plan is formulated on the basis of the three stages of development.

Stage 1: R&D and commercialization

To promote R&D projects and their commercialization, the government will increase fiscal support from 2.0 trillion won in 2009 to 2.8 trillion in 2012, along with 300 billion won funds set up by the KDB (Korea Development Bank). SMEs doing projects in stage 1 will access fiscal funds exclusive for them, which will be expanded from 60 billion won in 2009 to 1.1 trillion won in 2013. Credit guarantee offered to "green enterprises" and green projects will also be increased almost three folds from 2.8 trillion won in 2009 to 7 trillion won in 2013.

Stage 2: Industries maturing

To boost maturing industries, the "green funds" of 500 billion won will be formed by the KDB and National Pension Fund in the last half of this year, along with long-term deposit products and "green bonds" launched by banks to attract private investors. The government will grant tax incentives on capital gains: no tax on dividend up to 30 million won, among others.

Stage 3: Industries fully grown

To support fully grown industries, 100 billion won carbon funds will be set up in October 2009, followed by carbon emission rights exchange which will be test run in 2011. To promote exports of eco-friendly industries and projects, the government will expand export financing from 1.0 trillion won in 2009 to 3.0 trillion won in 2013 in addition to increased government guarantee for exporters.

Detailed plan
A detailed plan to support eco-friendly care and LED lighting was set up based on the plans by stages. Eco-friendly cares, which are in the commercialization stage, will have 200 billion won of project financing for facilities investment. In the case of LED lighting, 100 billion will be financed to help replace conventional lighting with LED lathing in public places.

From http://www.korea.net/ 07/06/2009

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Gov't Unveils Plan to Be Among the Top Green Nations

The Presidential Green Growth Committee announced on Monday (June 6) Korea's three action plans and 10 policies could help it become one of the top seven green powers in the world by 2020, and among the top five by 2050. The three action plans are (1) measures for climate change and securing energy independence, (2) creation of a new growth engine and (3) improving quality of life and strengthening the status of the country. The announcement was made at the fourth reporting session for green growth, presided over by President Lee Myung-bak and attended by Prime Minister Han Seung-soo, ministers from various departments, lawmakers and other officials from local provinces. To promote green growth, the government will inject a total of 107 trillion won until 2013, which is 2 percent of GDP and also twice the amount recommended by the UN for green investment. The goal is to upgrade production worth 182 to 206 trillion won and create jobs for 1.56 to 1.81 million people. The government has decided to extend investment to private sectors related to green technology and activate green financing through issuing long term, low interest green bonds and savings. The five-year plan requires cars to increase their fuel efficiency. From 2012 to 2015 cars should be re-designed to either drive 17 kilometers per liter or emit no more than 140 grams of greenhouse gas per kilometer. The government plans to form 14 Environment Energy Towns, broadly divided into four theme towns centered on efficient usage of waste resources, green power, biomass, and environment culture complexes by 2020. According to the plan, 600 low-carbon, environment-friendly towns will be established, together with various energy efficiency facilities.

A total of 48 environment facilities will be installed to create energy out of some 3.86 million tons of waste by 2013. Another 17 facilities will be set up to absorb the residual heat from incinerating sites. More personnel will be nurtured in the related fields to be injected to the project. A graduate school specializing in environment energy will be established, to be opened in 2013. The government also plans to come up with a comprehensive plan to process waste resources from industry by 2011. The government will decide on an exact amount of emissions for greenhouse gas within this year and proceed with a gradual reduction of gas emissions starting from next year. The energy management system will also go through an early demonstration this year and go into full action starting from next year. By 2012 the government plans to completely localize nuclear technology, export nuclear plants and extend the Korean share of the overseas green market by 8 percent, through the development of LEDs, solar cells, hybrid cars and other green technology products. Carbon emissions trading will be introduced tentatively in 2011, and then fully implemented in 2012. Furthermore, through activation of railway and other means of green transportation, the government has decided to increase the role of public transportation up by 55 percent. To allow all citizens to enjoy the benefits of green growth the government has decided to make efforts to reduce the number of households whose energy expenditure is worth 10 percent of their total revenue, from the present 1.23 million households to 890,000 households by 2013, and then reduce that number to zero by 2030. If everything goes as planned, all this is expected to create 143,000 jobs by 2013 and 15.2 trillion won worth of economic benefits by 2020.

From http://www.korea.net/ 07/07/2009

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S. Korean Parliament Chief Urges Prompt Constitutional Revision

By Shin Hae-in SEOUL (Yonhap) - South Korea's parliamentary speaker urged the legislature to make haste in amending the country's decades-old Constitution, which marked its 61st anniversary Friday. South Korea has long been weighing the issue of revising its Constitution, last changed 22 years ago. Opinions are split mainly over whether the law should be amended to allow a president to seek a second term as in the United States, or to give greater power to the legislature like many European governments, both of which would result in dramatically changing the nation's power structure.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/ 07/17/2009

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N. Koreans Can Register in South, Court Rules

North Koreans can register in South Korea, a court ruled. The Seoul Southern District Court on Sunday accepted a request made through a South Korean lawyer by a 67-year-old North Korean identified as Yoon and his three siblings to create a family relation register in South Korea. "As Article 3 of the Constitution stipulates that the territory of the Republic of Korea is the Korean Peninsula and its surrounding islands, Yoon and the three others are citizens of the Republic of Korea, despite the fact that they live in North Korea. As they qualify to create a family register in South Korea, we decided to accept their request," the court said. In February, Yoon and his siblings filed an unprecedented lawsuit with the court through a representative in the United States against his 75-year-old stepmother, surnamed Kwon, and four half-siblings to share a W10-billion inheritance left behind by his father, who died in 1987 (US$1=W1,260). Yoon's father moved to South Korea during the Korean War, leaving behind his wife, two sons and three daughters. He married Kwon in South Korea and had two sons and two daughters with her. A court official said Yoon and his siblings can now create a family register in Korea, but they still need to go through other legal procedures to verify their relationship with their father.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 07/20/2009

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OECD: Korea Should Open More Doors to Migrant Workers

Korea is said to be one of the most rapidly aging countries in the world. The National Statistical Office projects that by 2050, four out of 10 people in the country will be over the age of 65, which will be the highest in the OECD. As the population grows older, the working population is expected to drop by more than 15 percent in 2050, dealing a serious blow to the nation's economy. The OECD says the solution to this problem is in lowering Korea's threshold for immigrants. In order to cope with the country's shrinking working population, the OECD advises that Korea should supplement 14 percent of its population with migrant workers from 2020 to 2050.

By holding on to the virtue of homogeneity, Korea has always been on the OECD's list of countries where national and foreigner distinction is prevalent. As of 2007, foreigners who have acquired Korean citizenship accounted for a mere 1.5 percent of the total population. OECD Secretary-General Angel Guarria said countries should keep in mind that "the benefits of migration are shared between sending and receiving countries," and stressed the importance of "responsive, fair and effective migration and integration policies." According to a recent study by Hyundai Research Institute, migrant workers' productivity is expected to increase Korea's GDP by nearly 0.5 percent and the amount of money they spend here is expected to amount to almost W4 trillion (US$1=W1,260). Keeping the doors open to more immigrants is more likely to bring a positive rather than a negative effect to the economy, according to the study.

From http://english.chosun.com 07/20/2009

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Gov't Announces Measures to Revitalize Tourism

Tourists visiting Korea may soon be able to ride in double-decker buses and fly on small planes to visit the country's many remote islands. This is all part of the tourism ministry's new initiative to revitalize Korea's tourism industry. The government says it plans to loosen some of the current regulations for private investors to simplify the start-up process and improve public transportation for the benefit of tourists. Other measures include creating more hostels and camping sites across the country so that backpackers can travel on a budget. Along with these moves, individuals who hold permanent residency status in the G10 nations will soon be able to enter Korea without visas.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 07/22/2009

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S Korea's Media Reform Bill Passed at Parliament

South Korea's National Assembly passed the government-proposed media reform bills on Wednesday after seven-month-long disputes. The move was made amid strong oppositions from the nation's largest opposition party, Democratic Party (DP), which blocked the parliamentary building from the dominating Grand National Party (GNP) congressmen's entering the building. After two-hour-long physical clash outside the building, the GNP lawmakers made it to the inside, passing the media bill at around local time 16:00 (0700 GMT). The opposition DP, however, was not present at Wednesday's parliamentary session. South Korea's Lee Myung-bak government, since his inauguration, has been pushing for media reforms, which aims at lifting a ban on local newspaper companies from owning television channels. While the government has called it as a move to promote competition in the industry, the broadcasters and progressive civic groups strongly opposed the move, saying it would lead to monopolies in the media industry.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/22/2009

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Bank Holding Company Act Passes Nat'l Assembly

A tumultuous session of the National Assembly on Wednesday passed a revision of the Bank Holding Company Act which allows business conglomerates to own stakes in banks. The revised law allows non-banking businesses to own up to 9 percent, up from the current 4 percent, in bank holding companies starting Oct. 10.Five or six large conglomerates that form a consortium will be able to acquire the 50-percent stake plus one share needed for the management rights of a bank. On April 30, the National Assembly passed a revision of the Bank Act increasing the ratio of non-banking corporate ownership of banks without holding companies from 4 percent to 9 percent. No domestic conglomerates are interested yet. When releasing a management revamp plan in April last year, the Samsung Group pledged not to buy stakes in banks.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 07/23/2009

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INDONESIA: Govt Prepares Better Economic Policies for the Future

The government will take a lesson from the five-year experience of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's administration before outlining its future economic policies, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati says. "Learning from these five years [of experience in government], what is less should be added, what is slow should be accelerated and what is already good should be maintained," she said Thursday. Mulyani said she expected the official results of the presidential election would be completed on time and would be accepted by all parties. She also added that the result would bring certainty to the market. According to quick count results conducted by some survey agencies, Yudhoyono and Boediono lead by 60 percent of the vote, Megawati Soekarnoputri and Prabowo Subianto follow with about 27 percent, and Jusuf Kalla and Wiranto gained about 11 percent.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 07/09/2009

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MALAYSIA: New Policy to Make Malaysian Economy More Competitive

KUALA LUMPUR: The bumiputra 30% equity objective will now be a macro target as the Government seeks to turn Malaysia into a more competitive economy, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. The Prime Minister explained that the policy changes had to be made because of the drastic changes in the global economic scenario since the inception of the New Economic Policy (NEP) and the failure of the Foreign Investment Committee (FIC) to produce the desired results of increasing the bumiputra equity. "This is part of the overall new economic model. This has been necessitated by two major factors, "One, the economic environment regionally and globally has changed drastically since the inception of the NEP. "Secondly, the FIC as an instrument has not produced the desired results over the last 19 years. Bumiputra participation has remained stagnant over the last 19 years. "We need to have a new instrument but it has to be more market friendly. In the process, we are embarking on a new philosophy which will help the best and good bumiputras in business, not just any bumiputra, who are willing to help themselves," he said yesterday. On the doing away with the 30% quota for companies seeking listing, he said investors were dissatisfied with such a condition. Najib pointed out that even the allotment of shares by the FIC to bumiputras in the past did not work as most of them would "straight away sell-down an enormous amount". "We have done our research.

Very little shares are still left. The old model is not sustainable. Of the RM54bil in shares allocated, only RM2bil worth of shares are left in the hands of bumiputras. That's a D-minus performance. "In short, the FIC will no longer exist. We will replace it with an investment instrument called Ekuiti Nasional Bhd (Ekuinas), which is a private venture capital focusing on helping bumiputra entrepreneurs who have the potential and capability to develop into huge players domestically, regionally and globally," he told a press conference after delivering his keynote address at Invest Malaysia Conference here. He said Ekuinas would have an initial capital of RM500mil and which would be enlarged to RM10bil depending on the needs of identified entrepreneurs. He said the remaining processes that still required government approvals would be made through a unit under the Economic Plan­ning Unit. Asked if he would expect a political backlash following his announcement on the new policy reforms, Najib said: "I believe it is fair. These new policy guidelines are designed to create a win-win situation. In other words, it will make global investors happy and address the need for a more effective instrument for bumiputra equity participation. "The overall macro target of the 30% bumiputra equity remains. We will move along the line of achieving a balanced society. We have to be fair to all communities. It will be based on two important premises - that no one is marginalised or disincentivised. It's a tricky balancing act but it's do-able."

On whether the policy change should be termed as one of his achievements in his first 100 days in office, Najib, who had been in office for 89 days yesterday, said: "I came in with a clear promise to bring about change and reform. I try to live up to my promise as a politician. I hope you will have more faith in politicians in future." On whether Ekuinas would be established to achieve the 30% bumiputra quota target, he said: "It is not the only way. There are other ways as well to achieve the 30% bumiputra equity. It is important to see that the 1Malaysia concept is translated in the economic sense." To a question whether he was confident the Ali Baba practice (where bumiputra participation is in name only while non-bumiputras run the whole show) would be eliminated with the policy reform, he said: "I don't think you can eliminate sleeping partners overnight but you will reduce it substantially. We are helping those who want to help themselves." Asked if the policy reforms were the much talked about new economic model, he said it was part of the overall new economic model. "The new policy will make our economy more vibrant and dynamic and Malaysia will be high up in the radar screen of investors."

From http://thestar.com.my/ 07/01/2009

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Diversified Economy Is Our Saviour, Says Husni

IPOH: Malaysia is spared the worst of the global economic crisis because of its diversified economy, said Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah. He noted that unlike some countries which were on the verge of bankruptcy, the nation's economy was still "manageable". Malaysia's economic strength, he said, rests in the fact that it traded with countries representing various regions instead of relying on only one region. "We trade with 230 countries. Our products have markets in Asean, the United States, Europe, Japan and Korea," he told reporters after launching a Kampung Ramasamy road project in Tanjung Rambutan here yesterday. Husni acknowledged that the forecast for the global economy was uncertain, and that local exports had dipped an average of 20% from January to June this year. However, he expected Malaysia to start seeing positive growth in the fourth quarter of this year, an improvement from the -6.2% downtrend in the first quarter. "There are many forecasts but we can see the signs of recovery at the end of this year. Our economy is under sound management and our balance sheet is very strong," he added. He said times had changed and that the Government was focusing on people-centric projects that gave value for money. "That means the allocations and projects approved must give satisfaction to the people," he said. The Government, Husni added, had also restructured the tender system so that only those who were capable were granted projects, hence increasing efficiency and value for money. Husni said Malaysia also enjoyed solid regional cooperation, with the country contributing to a US$120bil (RM425bil) regional liquidity fund along with Asean nations, Japan, Korea and China. The fund, he said, could be lent out if a participating country were to face financial crisis.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 07/06/2009

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Outdated Acts to Be Reviewed, Says Nazri

KUALA KANGSAR: Several of the laws still in force in Malaysia today go back 60 years, said Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz yesterday. The Minister in the Prime Minister's Department said most of these laws were enacted between 1948 and 1952 or during the British rule and so the sentences were not in keeping with the current times. "Take, for example, the four Selangor Umno Youth members who were recently fined RM1,000 each under the Houses of Parlia-ment (Powers and Privileges) Act 1952 for preventing Karpal Singh (Member of Parliament for Bukit Gelugor) from entering the Par-liament (building). "The fine is rather small by present standards. The Parlia-mentary Select Committee could not pass a stiffer penalty as the provision was an old one," Nazri told reporters after closing the family day gathering of the Malay-sian Ex-servicemen's Association (Chenderoh chapter) here yesterday. He said this when talking about the Law Reform Committee under the Prime Minister's Department to review outdated acts, headed by Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong. Aided by the Attorney-General's Chambers, Nazri said the committee would propose whether the laws needed to be amended with regard to the offences prescribed and the corresponding penalties. He said that Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein had brought to the Prime Minister's Department attention that some acts are dated back over 60 years. On another matter, Nazri said the Commercial Vehicles Licen-cing Board (CVLB) would approve taxi permits to applicants who had more than five years' driving experience. "About 9,000 people applied for individual taxi licences when the applications were opened from May to October last year. The selection process is being carried out now and some applicants have already been approved," he said. He added that permits would only be approved to those who are healthy, besides having adequate capital, and had not been involved in any crime and not committed major traffic offences.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 07/06/2009

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PHILIPPINES: Government Lending Program Generates 2.5 Million Jobs

The government's lending program for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) has lent some P305.57 billion to some 5.6 million beneficiaries since 2004 and in the process created 2.5 million jobs. Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila reported this to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when she conferred today the first-ever Presidential Awards to nine successful MSMES at the Megatrade Hall 3 of SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City this morning. The awarding rites is part of the week-long activities of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development (MSMED) Week celebrated every second week of July in pursuance of Republic Act No. 9501, the Magna Carta for MSMEs, which the President signed in May last year. "Madam President, we have accelerated our livelihood for MSMEs through the SULONG program supporting a total of 2.5 million jobs covering the period 2004 to April this year," Favila said. As a major part of her overall national development plan, the President launched the SME Unified Lending Opportunities for National Growth (SULONG) Program in 2003 which provided MSMEs with simplified and standardized access to short- and long-term financing. Favila said access to these financing helped motivate MSMEs which, he said, became the backbone of the economy as the country faced the challenges of the global financial crisis. With the availability of easily accessible financing, Favila said government supported activities such as local and international trade fairs and matchings assisted more than 40,000 MSMEs in generating P11.6 billion and some $1 billion in export sales.

Aside from the SULONG program, Favila said the President committed a total of P3 billion for her economic resiliency program that include the Comprehensive Livelihood Emergency Employment Program (CLEEP) which created and helped save jobs for the poor and vulnerable sectors. Favila said these ensured stable prices, increased consumer spending and enhanced the country's competitiveness "to ensure our sustainable growth and attain or 2009 growth target." Favila said tripartite cooperation between the government, labor and business is being undertaken to maintain and create jobs and increase productivity. Technical assistance is also intensified to encourage MSMEs particularly export oriented firms, he added. Favila said more than 200 local government units nationwide have already streamlined their respective business registration licensing units which increased the number of registrations by 17 percent and contributed to the 36 percent increase in tax collections. "Let us continue to work together to help more than 700,000 of our MSMEs to rise to the level of our nine outstanding micro small and medium enterprises," Favila said. After the launching of the SULONG Program, some P26.76 billion was lent out to MSMEs in 2003, P27 billion in 2004, and more than P25 in 2005. As MSMEs comprise 99.6 percent of all registered firms in the country, the President vowed to increase financing to support MSMEs until 2010 as part of her priority strategy for economic growth. (PND).

From http://www.gov.ph/ 07/08/2009

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House Approves Anti-Racial, Religious Discrimination Bill

MANILA (PNA) - The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill criminalizing discriminatory acts against a person on account of his/her religion, ethnic origin and race. House Bill No. 948, or the "Anti-Religious or Racial Profiling Act of 2009," prohibits the use in print and broadcast media of racial, ethnic or indigenous characterization which subjects such race, religion, ethnic or indigenous group to humiliation, fear, anxiety, resentment and cynicism. Lanao del Sur Rep. Faysah RPM Dumarpa, author of the bill, said alleged suspects of offenses are often identified through their religious affiliation or racial or ethnic origins, posing them as major threats to national tranquility. "In news reports, reporters often use religious characterization when geographical, political, socio-economic or other distinctions might be more accurate. For instance, terrorists are identified through their religious affiliations with the use of the words Islamic terrorists or Muslim extremists or Muslim criminal," he said. Dumarpa said the bill also prohibits the act of subjecting an individual or group to unnecessary, unjustified and degrading inspection or searches, and the act of subjecting them to discrimination in public transport on account of race, religious affiliation, ethnicity or indigenous origin. "To deprive an individual or group of the opportunity for employment or professional advancement by reason of race, religious affiliation, ethnic or indigenous background also constitutes religious and racial profiling," he said. The bill likewise penalizes the act of singling out an individual or group for routine or spontaneous investigatory activity based solely on race, religious affiliation, ethnicity or indigenous origin. Violators face imprisonment and a fine of not more than P6,000 or both. Co-authors of the bill are Reps. Solomon Chungalao (Ifugao), Carlos Padilla (Nueva Vizcaya), Guillermo Romarate Jr. (2nd Dist., Surigao del Norte), Satur Ocampo (Bayan Muna party-list), Manuel Agyao (Kalinga), Mujiv Hataman (Anak Mindanao party-list), Emmanuel Villanueva (CIBAC party-list), Neptali Gonzales II (Mandaluyong), Del de Guzman (2nd Dist., Marikina City), Victor Agbayani (2nd Dist., Pangasinan), Rene Velarde (Buhay party-list), and Roman Romulo (Pasig City).

From http://www.gov.ph/ 07/10/2009

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PGMA Signs Directive on Digital Signatures

Manila - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo recently signed Executive Order No. 810 entitled "Institutionalizing the Certification Scheme for Digital Signatures and Directing the Application of Digital Signatures in E-Government Services." Issued on 15 June 2009, the EO is expected to address growing concerns over the security and integrity of online transactions in the country. It directs all government agencies and instrumentalities to require the use of digital signatures in their online services to ensure the confidentiality, authenticity, integrity and non-repudiation of e-government transactions, thus giving the transacting public the confidence and peace of mind they need in doing online transactions with government. The EO cites the important roles of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) in the certification scheme for digital signatures. It designates the DTI, through its Philippine Accreditation Office (PAO), as the Accreditation and Assessment Body; the CICT's National Computer Center (NCC) as the Root Certification Authority (CA) and Government CA; and all government agencies and instrumentalities with e-government services as Registration Authorities (RAs). It is expected that many government projects will be generated with the issuance of the EO, which means that more government services will become readily available and accessible online to the citizenry and the public. This will, likewise, create various business opportunities for the private sector. In time, government entities will have fully-integrated services that will completely address the needs of the transacting public - e-government services that are secure, transparent, efficient and cost-effective. This will make online transactions with government a truly pleasant and worthwhile experience. Also envisioned is a thriving and flourishing e-commerce environment in the Philippines to further promote the widespread use of e-commerce by the public and stimulate the growth of online businesses by encouraging businesses of all shapes and sizes to venture online. A copy of the Executive Order is available at the DTI website (http://www.dti.gov.ph). (DTI) (PIA)

From http://www.gov.ph/ 07/14/2009

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PGMA Signs Rent Control Act into Law

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law today Republic Act No. 9653, otherwise known as the Rent Control Act of 2009, which authorizes a one-year moratorium on rent increases in residential units to protect more than 1.5 million low-income tenants from indiscriminate rent increases. The President enacted R.A. 9653, "An Act Establishing Reforms in the Regulation of Rent of Certain Residential Units, Providing the Mechanisms Therefore and For Other Purposes," in simple ceremonies Tuesday morning in Malacañang. Witnessing the enactment of the consolidated version of Senate Bill 3163 and House Bill 6098 were Vice President Noli de Castro, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Senate majority floorleader Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, House Speaker Prospero Nograles, House Deputy Speaker Rep. Amelita Villarosa and Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, who is also member of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC). Also witnessing the signing were principal author Oriental Mindoro First District Rep. Rodolfo Valencia and several House members who were co-sponsors of the new rent control law. Under the law, no rent increase shall be imposed in any residential units covered under the Act for a period of one year its effectivity. After such period until December 31, 2013, the increase in rent should not be more than seven percent annually. In case of boarding houses, dormitories, rooms and bedspaces offered for rent to students, increase in rental should be allowed only once a year.

Under the new law, owners of residential units are allowed to impose not more than one month advance rent and not more than two months deposit. Covered under the Rent Control Act of 2009 are dwelling units in the National Capital Region NCR and highly urbanized cities whose monthly rent ranges up to P10,000; as well as units located in other areas whose rent ranges up to P5,000. These include apartments, houses and/or lands, buildings or parts thereof, boarding houses, dormitories, home industries, and retail stores being rented but are also used as dwelling places. Based on the 2006 Family Income and Expenditure Survey, about 1.6 million families are renting their dwelling units nationwide with about 1.55 million or 96 percent paying monthly rent of P10,000 or less. HUDCC Assistant Secretary Celia Alba said their office and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), in coordination with other concerned agencies, are tasked to conduct a nationwide information drive on the provisions of the new rent control law. Alba said the HUDCC was also tasked to conduct a review of the implementation of the new law, a study on rental regulation, and submit to Congress its recommendation whether a continuing regulation or deregulation is necessary. As government continues its low-cost housing program, the new rent control law is part of the social reform legislations to help poor families as well as students cope up with the effects of the global financial crisis. (PND)

From http://www.gov.ph/ 07/14/2009

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PGMA Envisions RP to Join First World Countries in 20 Years

MANILA (PND) - With less than a year before she bows out of office, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today stressed anew her vision for the Philippines: A republic ready to join the first world countries in 20 years. "To work and to lead, to protect and to preserve our country and our people, that is why I became President," thus said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in her message at the induction of the new set of officers of the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry,Inc. (FFCCCII) this morning at Malacanang's Rizal Hall. "When my father left the Presidency, the Philippines was second to Japan. I share his vision. If not second to the best, then a republic ready to join the first world in 20 years," the President stressed. Thus, in achieving this vision, the President said she made key reforms - tough and painful decisions, including the so-called "bitter pill" - the expanded Value Added Tax Law. The President noted that the past 12 months have been a year of financial meltdown and the Philippines was not insulated from it. "Financial systems in the West shattered. Even conservative financial systems in the East were shaken to their foundations. Grand names in international finance fell into disrepute and vanished overnight. Tens of millions have lost their jobs; billions across the globe have been hurt - the poor always harder than the rich," she said. "However, due key economic reforms already in place before the financial crash, the headline story of the Philippines in 2008 is that the country decently survived a succession of global crises in fuel, then food, then financial and finally economic, keeping economic fundamentals and not losing focus."

From http://www.gov.ph/ 07/23/2009

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SINGAPORE: Changes to Tax Laws to Meet International Standard

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Finance (MOF) is proposing changes to Singapore's tax laws to meet the new internationally agreed standard on exchange of information for tax purposes. The ministry is seeking comments from now till July 28 on the draft Income Tax (Amendment) (Exchange of Information) Bill, the MOF said in a statement. The bill proposes amendments to the Income Tax Act, as well as the Goods & Services Act and Stamp Duties Act, to allow Singapore to enter into Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreements (DTAs) with other countries. The changes will allow the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) to provide information on local accounts to foreign authorities even if the request does not relate to a Singapore tax matter. On March 6 this year, Singapore endorsed the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD's) 2008 Standard for the effective exchange of information through DTAs. The MOF said it decided to do so as the OECD standard has become an internationally agreed standard following its endorsement by the United Nations in October 2008. It added that the "proposed amendments are in keeping with Singapore's status and reputation as a trusted and responsible business and financial hub". "Such provisions will enhance the level of assistance that Singapore can provide to foreign jurisdictions under DTAs which incorporate the standard, and vice versa," the ministry said. However, requests still need to be "clear, specific, relevant and consistent with the new internationally agreed standard". "The standard allows the requested jurisdiction to reject requests that are frivolous or spurious in nature or 'fishing expeditions' by the requesting jurisdictions." The public can submit their comments directly to the Finance Ministry via its website, email, fax or post as well as the REACH consultation portal by July 28.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 06/29/2009

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THAILAND: Internal Security Act to Be Enforced During ASEAN Meetings

PHUKET (TNA) - Thailand would enforce its Internal Security Act on the southern resort island of Phuket during upcoming regional meetings, Defence Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan said on Monday. Gen. Prawit, who was visiting the meeting on Phuket, said preparations were fully completed. Touching on the security issue, he said joint military and police units have been directed to work in teams and local residents would also assist officials to provide security at the meeting venues. Gen. Prawit said the enforcement of the Internal Security Act would help prevent any untoward incident. Implementation of the law would cover the meeting period. The internal security law would be enforced only on Phuket. It would neither violate human rights nor cause trouble to the public, he said. Thailand will host the 42nd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM), Post Ministerial Conferences (PMC) and the 16th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) on Phuket between July 17-23. Meanwhile, Governor Wichai Praisangop said that the event, which would bring ministers from 21 countries and 2,000 members of their entourages and journalists to Phuket, will help revive local tourism. He believed that if the regional meetings are successful, the government will select Phuket as the venue for the ASEAN summit in October.

From http://enews.mcot.net/ 06/29/2009

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Cabinet Extends Economic Package for the Poor Until End-2009

BANGKOK (TNA) - The Cabinet on Tuesday extended the economic package designed to help low-income earners until the end of 2009, according to a government spokesman. The economic package initiated by the government of former prime minister Samak Sundaravej will expire this month but it was extended Tuesday by the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva until the end of December. Under the plan, tap water and electricity are offered free for the poor if consumed in amounts less than the monthly ceiling. Riders can travel on non-airconditioned buses on certain routes in the capital at no charge, while third-class trains are available to anywhere in the country for free. And the price of liquefied petroleum gas is frozen until the end of the year. Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij said the government decided to extend the package for the poor until the end of 2009 as it expects that its investment in the second economic stimulus package will improve the people's livelihood and should bear fruit by then. If the economic package is extended, the government will set aside Bt11 billion for the programme, within the budget for Fiscal 2010, beginning October 1, Mr. Korn said.

From http://enews.mcot.net/ 07/14/2009

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PM Rules Out Tough Measures to Contain A(H1N1) Spread

BANGKOK (TNA) - Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Tuesday affirmed the government would not yet take draconian measures to contain the influenza A(H1N1) pandemic. Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, he said his government would not yet impose such exceedingly harsh measures as temporary closure of schools and entertainment places and suspension of social activities as part of efforts to fight the spread of the new virus strain. Instead, it would place a great emphasis on screening and giving care to A(H1N1) flu patients. The government will rely upon the diligence and ethics of Thailand's medical professionals, public officials and citizens to respond to the challenge of the pandemic without officially closing such a range of public places. "Should schoolchildren and personnel in state agencies and private companies become ill from the A(H1N1) influenza, they can leave without having to submit a sick leave and a medical certificate. "We will rather keep watch on patients because we have the view the proposed closure of schools and entertainment places is not a key solution to the problem. It can neither guarantee the schoolchildren or personnel will stay home," said the premier. Mr. Abhisit allowed the A(H1N1) influenza pandemic spread would drag on until the end of this year. Although the flu death toll is expected to exceed 0.4 per cent of the number of infected people, he said, it would not surpass 1.5 per cent, which is the standard level that requires an imposition of the drastic measures. Asked how families of influenza victims would feel regarding the government's hesitation to impose the drastic measures, he said: "This government does not want anybody to die from the virus. All personnel have worked hard to contain the virus spread. But they need to adjust their performance periodically because the A(H1N1) influenza is a new type of virus strain and people are not immune.

From http://enews.mcot.net/ 07/15/2009

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VIETNAM: UN Convention Against Corruption Ratified

Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet on June 20 ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption, adding Vietnam to the community of nearly 140 member countries. By ratifying this convention, Vietnam is now a participant in the global legal framework for cooperation against corruption. Along with ratifying the convention, Vietnam issued an announcement saying it would not be held to item 2, Article 66 of this convention. This item stipulates that if disputes on the explanation and application of the convention cannot be solved by negotiation or arbitrators, members have the right to bring the case to the international private law court. Vietnam also stated to it would not adhere to some optional regulations, such as criminalising illegal money-making acts, corruption in the private sector, the use of special investigative techniques, which Vietnamese laws don't cover yet. In addition, the country doesn't consider this convention as a direct legal foundation for extradition of corruption-related criminals. Extradition must be based on Vietnamese laws. About Vietnam's adaptation to the convention, the Prime Minister's report said that Vietnamese laws satisfy all 135 compulsory articles of the convention. Vietnam's membership to this convention will help the country learn experience, get information and seek financial support for anti-corruption activities. Vietnam will have the right to ask for assistance from other member countries in investigating and dealing with corruption cases with foreign elements. 

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 07/03/2009

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President Announces Eight New Laws

Among eight new laws, the legal position, responsibilities and authority of overseas Vietnamese embassies and consulates will be regulated for the first time, the State President Office announced on July 3. Regulations will include duties to improve political and social, security and defense, and cultural relations. The regulations also rule their consul tasks, supporting and protecting Vietnamese community abroad and provide a unified approach to foreign affairs activities. The special duty of the organizations is to support the nation's economic development, which has been part of their operations for sometime but had not been drawn up in law. The law on urban planning was also announced. The new rules state that local authorities must hold a referendum on an urban planning project within 30 days before planning is decided. Under the new law on land and housing, Vietnamese living abroad, but who still retain their Vietnamese citizenship, will be eligible to buy and own houses in the country. Those qualifying for such status include: investors, scientists, artistes, those who make significant contributions to the country's development, those who work in Vietnam and who have much needed professional skills and people who are married to Vietnamese citizens. All of them must also be allowed to stay in Vietnam for at least three months. Such overseas Vietnamese are allowed to buy unlimited numbers of houses and have full rights to sell, donate, lease out, exchange or leave the properties as legacies to local organizations, agencies or individuals. They are also entitled to use the properties as collateral for loans. When the properties are not in use, the owners can authorize others to live in or take care of them on their behalf. In the adjusted law on management of public debt, debt guaranteed by the Government will be limited. Companies must increase their responsibility for their debt. The Government's guarantee is only for the nation's major projects. The law on films was also amended in order to meet WTO commitments. Under the adjustment, directors are not required to be Vietnamese citizens.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 07/04/2009

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NA Agenda Includes State Budget Changes

Ha Noi - The National Assembly's Standing Committee starts a three-day meeting today to discuss a range of issues, including plans to build the new Parliament House and proposed changes in State budget collection. Committee members will discuss ways to spend money mobilised from selling additional Government bonds this year and consider Government proposals to change State budget collection due to fluctuating global crude oil prices. Other topics on the agenda include the proposed project on the new Parliament House and initial ideas for the late year meeting of the National Assembly. They will also consider ways to improve the way the State audit office works, the creation of a Council on Science and Human Resource Development, and the implementation of the strategy on drafting laws and completing the legal system by 2010 as noted in Resolution No 48-NQ/TW of the Politburo. During the three-day meeting, the committee members will review three laws which were discussed at the last meeting of the National Assembly in June. They include the Law on Health Examination and Treatment, the Law on the Elderly and the Law on Militias.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 07/17/2009

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BANGLADESH: AL, JP Submit Ratified Constitutions

The Awami League and Jatiya Party (JP-Ershad) today submitted their ratified constitutions to the Election Commission. An AL delegation led by party leader and State Minister for Housing and Public Works Abdul Mannan Khan submitted the ratified constitution to the commission around 4:25pm, which was approved in its national council yesterday. Another delegation from JP submitted its constitution to the EC this morning. The AL and JP brought changes to their constitutions in line with the electoral rule set for the December 29 parliament elections. Earlier, the EC set today as the deadline for submission of permanent constitutions by the 39 political parties registered ahead of the December elections where they participated, submitting draft constitutions. According to the electoral laws, the EC asked the political parties to submit their constitutions after having ratification by holding national councils. The EC sources said they are willing to extend the deadline as the main opposition BNP and some other parties have requested them for more time.

From http://www.thedailystar.net/ 07/25/2009

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BHUTAN: NA Debates Civil Service Bill

The National Assembly will endorse the much debated and delayed civil service bill today. Confusion and contention among NA members, however, still prevails. Members of parliament (MPs) could not come to a consensus yesterday when the speaker, to some MPs' amusement, decided to stick to last week's decision - not to revoke sections in the Judicial Act, which gave judiciary authority over organisational structure, budgetary and personnel requirements. It was the third time NA had changed its decision on the clause. Yesterday, they resolved that the same sections in the anti-corruption act, royal audit act and election act would be revoked by the civil service act. The 'repeal section' of the act had drawn much criticism from the judiciary, constitutional bodies and some MPs, who said it would affect their independence. There is also a section in the judicial services act, which states that "unless submitted in writing by the judiciary itself to amend, add or repeal certain provisions in their act, no agency or the National Assembly had the authority to do so." Mongar MP and chairperson of the legislative committee, Ugyen Wangdi, argued that functional independence was different from human resource independence. "The reason for the repeal clause was to ensure parity and uniformity in rules for all civil servants in the government, constitutional bodies and autonomous agencies," he said. However, he proposed a new clause to be added for these constitutional agencies. The new clause states that RCSC should provide adequate autonomy to constitutional offices in relation to recruitment, transfer, promotion and termination of their employees. NA agreed to include the addition. "The concern over manpower shortage in these offices should be addressed by the clause," he said. MPs told Kuensel that the civil service act was going to benefit all 24,000 civil servants, but the protracted debate was over the 625 civil servants in ACC, RAA, ECB and the judiciary. "We can't have different rules and regulations for civil servants in these constitutional offices," said labour minister, Dorji Wangdi. He added that RCSC has no record of promotions granted by the judiciary and ACC to their staff since July 2007. The civil service commission, according to the act, would be an apolitical central personnel agency to streamline personnel actions, maintain parity, uniformity and consistency across the board, and forge a consistent system. The bill also outlines the values, conduct, duties and rights of civil servants. Chairpersons of constitutional offices and drangpons would, however, be outside the civil service act's purview. The speaker and some MPs yesterday suggested that the legislative committee, members of the royal civil service commission and stakeholders (constitutional offices) meet once before endorsing the new bill and the 'repeal clause'. But members said that discussions had already taken place and that the house should make the final decision.

From http://www.unpan.org/ 07/13/2009

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INDIA: Government Defends Spectrum Allocation Policy

New Delhi: Facing allegations of irregularities in the allocation of 2G spectrum to telecom firms, the government Wednesday told the Delhi High Court that the rates were low as it was concerned more about consumers' benefits than earning revenue. "This is not an issue of revenue. This is the issue of consumers' benefit. It is possible only when there is maximum competition and everybody is allowed to enter in the market," Attorney General Goolam E. Vahanvati told a division bench of Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah and Justice Manmohan. "Benefit cannot go to the consumer if the spectrum is allocated for thousands of crores (of rupees)," he added. Justifying the policy adopted by the government, he said if the spectrum was auctioned at a higher rate, only existing big players would have participated in the bidding and the benefit could not have gone the consumer. However, petitioner Arvind Gupta, who has approached the court against the allegedly shady practice of the government in allocating spectrum, submitted before the bench that as soon as the spectrum was allotted to a particular company, it changed hands the same evening and the company sold it to a foreign firm at a much higher rate. The bench asked the petitioner to file a detailed synopsis and chronology of the matter and deferred the case for July 22. In May, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) also defended the government's move to allot spectrum with licence to new entrants on a first-come, first-served basis, saying this would ensure a level-playing field.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 07/08/2009

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Manmohan Moots Convention on International Terrorism

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday made a strong pitch for dismantling terror infrastructure and asked countries not to provide safe havens for terrorists sending a strong message to Pakistan on the eve of his meeting with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. "In recent years, terrorist groups have become more sophisticated, more organised and more daring. Terrorists and those who aid and abet them must be brought to justice," he said addressing the plenary session of the two-day summit of the 118-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Though Singh did not name Pakistan, his speech left no one in doubt as to who it was aimed at. Singh meets Gilani on Thursday morning to get a categoric commitment that Pakistan would stop terror acts directed against India and push for expeditious trial of the accused in the Mumbai terror attacks.

"The infrastructure of terrorism must be dismantled and there should be no safe havens for terrorists because they do not represent any cause, group or religion. It is time that we agree on a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism," he said. Speaking at the summit, Gilani said there was recently forward movement in Pakistan's relations with India and it hopes to sustain the momentum and move towards comprehensive engagement. Islamabad has been pushing for resumption of the dialogue process stalled since the Mumbai terror strikes in November last year. Gilani used the occasion to rake up the Jammu and Kashmir issue. Pakistan believed that durable peace in South Asia was achievable if it was facilitated by resolution of all outstanding issues including Kashmir, he said.

Gilani went on to note that peace dividend for the 1.5 billion people in the region would be enormous. In Singh's speech terrorism figured prominently with the Indian leader saying that "extremism, intolerance and terrorism are our antitheses" because they "seek to destroy us and our movement." Addressing the summit under the new chairmanship of Egypt, Singh also warned that a stagflation may be in the offing if corrective steps were not taken immediately to deal with the global economic crisis. "If the aftermath of the crisis is not carefully managed and if the abundance of liquidity leads to a revival of speculative activities, we may well see a period of prolonged stagflation," he said. He said the global recession has strengthened protectionism in developed country markets, drastically reduced developing country exports and choked credit and capital flows to the third world.

The Prime Minister also spoke about the possible fallout if the crisis continued. "Crucially for the developing world, a continuing slowdown will force more and more of our people back into poverty, bringing down levels of nutrition, health and education. The progress we have made at great cost and sacrifice will be wiped out. The Millennium Development Goals will become a mirage". Singh said NAM has a great stake in ensuring that steps planned to revive the global economy take into account the concerns of the developing countries. These include the challenges of food and energy security, environment and reform of institutions of global governance. Amid questions being raised about the relevance of NAM, Singh noted that non-alignment "is an idea that evolves but does not fade. We must take it forward, harnessing it to meet the challenges of today."

Voicing concern over the accumulation of greenhouse gases resulting from over two centuries of industrial activity and unsustainable lifestyles in the developed world, he asserted that any equitable solution to the problem of climate change should acknowledge this "historical responsibility." Developing countries, Singh said, were the worst-affected by climate change. They had the biggest stake in ensuring the success of global efforts to tackle climate change. "We recognise more than anyone else our obligation to preserve and protect the environment. We are already making our significant contribution in this regard, but climate change action must not perpetuate the poverty of the developing countries," Singh said. "The weight of NAM should be used to achieve a comprehensive, balanced and above all, equitable outcome in the ongoing multilateral negotiations, leading up to the Copenhagen Conference in December this year," he said.

From http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/ 07/15/2009

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ADB's India Country Partnership Strategy for 2009-2012

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Board of Directors discussed on 15 June 2009 ADB's India Country Partnership Strategy for 2009-2012. A document that reflects in substance the economic development thrust and direction of the strategy is now on ADB's website. ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in the Asia and Pacific region through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members - 48 from the region. In 2008, it approved $10.5 billion of loans, $811.4 million of grant projects, and technical assistance amounting to $274.5 million.

From http://www.adb.org/ 07/24/2009

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SRI LANKA: Transport Policy Slammed by Critics

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's draft national transport policy came in for strong criticism at a public forum by experts who said it ignored important modes of private transport and private sector investment. Rohan Samarajiva, head of LirneAsia, a regional think tank, said the policy was also silent on opportunities in rebuilding transport infrastructure and services in the north and east, where much of it was destroyed by the ethnic war. The draft policy appeared to perpetuate existing inefficiencies, poor service and waste of public funds, he said, adding that policymakers would be daft to implement it in its present form. "The national transport policy does not allow for adequate private participation," Samarajiva told the forum organised by the Pathfinder Foundation, a research and advocacy institute in collaboration with Sri Lanka's Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport. "The document seems extremely government-centric." He criticised the draft policy's provisions for government intervention in areas where it said the private sector might be reluctant to invest. "There's already a lot of private investment in transport," he said, noting the rapid growth of private bus services as well as private modes of transport such as motorcycles and three-wheeled auto-rickshaw taxis. "Now there are more two-wheeler and three-wheelers - they make up 70 percent of vehicles but are barely mentioned in the policy. These are new technologies. "I can't take it seriously because it ignores 70 percent of vehicles and ignores green field opportunities." Samarajiva also said the draft transport policy gave too much attention to the state-run railways, which makes huge losses and is hugely overstaffed and inefficient, without mentioning how the service could be reformed and made efficient and financially viable. "The policy says railway is given the highest priority, even though it carries only five percent of passengers and makes huge losses. "It says it aims to put more people into railways - if they do that the railway will lose more money." Samarajiva slammed the draft national transport policy for saying the government will continue to invest in railway without any mention of reform. He said this could mean continued waste of public funds to prop up the existing loss-making railway monopoly and its poor service. The draft policy was also silent on post-conflict areas, he said, referring to the north-and east which has been cleared of Tamil Tiger rebels, who were defeated by government forces in May, ending a 30-year war. The end of the war offers a rare opportunity to build transport infrastructure from scratch. "The draft does not say anything on the greenfield situation opportunities that exist in the north-east," Samarajiva said.

From http://www.southasianmedia.net/ 07/25/2009

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PAKISTAN: Govt Will Ensure Independence of Judiciary, Says Gilani

ISLAMABAD: The government would take all measures for upholding the supremacy of law and ensuring the independence of the judiciary, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Saturday. Gilani was all praise for the National Judicial Policy (NJP), saying it was aimed at clearing the backlog of cases for speedy justice at all levels and to ensure the eradication of corruption. Commenting on the results the NJP had yielded in such a short time, the prime minister said the government would ensure an independent judiciary. He said that in line with the NJP, the government had immediately repatriated judicial officers working on deputation on executive posts. Gilani said the setting up of evening courts in the country would augment the efficiency of the judiciary for the speedy dispensation of justice to the people.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 07/05/2009

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Zardari for Repeal of 17th Amend, 58(2b)

* PPP Central Executive Committee vows to take fight against militancy to logical end

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari said on Monday that there is a need to undo the 17th Amendment and Article 58(2b) and "reform" the constitution in light of the Charter of Democracy. Presiding over a meeting of the central executive committee (CEC) of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) - along with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani - at the Presidency, Zardari said the PPP would rid the constitution of all "undemocratic clauses" in consultation with other political forces. The president said the PPP would deliver on its pledge to "democratise" the constitution. Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar later said, "The five-hour meeting discussed the current political situation and the proposed constitutional amendments." The PPP CEC also adopted several resolutions following the discussions. Babar said that the party had reiterated its resolve to take the fight against militancy to its logical end. He said that according to one of the resolutions, the most serious threat to Pakistan emanated from within rather than from outside. "The party ... called for addressing internal security threats on priority basis," he said. Babar quoted Gilani as saying that water issues between provinces would be resolved in accordance with the 1991 accord.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 07/07/2009

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PM Directs to Prioritize Formulating Labour Policy

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Friday directed the Ministry of Labour and Manpower to prioritize the formulation of a comprehensive Labour Policy to address the issues of development, welfare and export of labour. The Prime Minister stated during his visit to the Ministry of Labour and Manpower where he was given comprehensive briefing on the performance and achievements of the ministry. Gilani stressed for developing a clear vision and operational plan for exploiting human resource potential in the coming years and implementing through the Labour Policy. The Prime Minister asked the ministry to focus on education and skill development of the labour force, as it was necessary for meeting domestic labour market demand as well as for enhancing labour export earnings in a knowledge-based global economy. He said a large number of educational and vocational training infrastructure had been created, that must be optimally utilized and appropriately upgraded. Highlighting the reasons for low labour development, the Prime Minister said high population growth combined with weak capacity of the economy to absorb growing labour force, had created a situation of labour over-supply, unemployment and under-employment. He said the population was estimated at 170 million, of which, 49 million constitutes labour force. He said almost half of the labour force is engaged in agriculture and the rest in industry and services sectors and only 10 percent labour free force is estimated to be skilled. The engagement of non-skilled labour force is a major reason for low economic productivity, production inefficiencies as well as the lack of innovation and competitiveness of Pakistani products in international markets, he said. Emphasizing the need for labour export, the Prime Minister said that efforts must be made for enhancing the export of labour by exploring new markets. He said the growing populations in industrialized economies had created a demand for export of skilled labour. The Prime Minister emphasized that implementation of labour laws and their compliance by institutions and industry must be ensured. Referring to the anti-labour laws, Gilani said his government was committed to abolish these laws. The Prime Minister said since the success in achieving better opportunities and prospects for our labour force depends upon the working of our Labour Attaches and Community Welfare Attaches in various countries abroad, therefore, selection of most competent and eligible officers against such posts must be ensured and they must assigned targets.

Earlier in his welcome remarks, the Minister for Labour and Manpower, Syed Khursheed Shah said that the Ministry is implementing policies as enshrined in the manifesto of Pakistan Peoples Party for the welfare of labour in Pakistan. In the presentation, the Prime Minister was informed that an amount of Rs. 70 billion has been allocated for welfare of workers as grants, construction of housing colonies, hospitals and schools. The Ministry will also send additional 50000 workers abroad during this year. A project costing 5 million pounds in collaboration with ILO and EC to eliminate child labour in two districts of Pakistan and formation of provincial child labour units is being undertaken. The Ministry has prepared a plan for the welfare of labour community by extending medical care to the retired workers, 34000 additional workers to be registered for old-age pension and upgradation of existing 35 secondary schools to inter college level. Similarly plan is prepared for capacity building of TEVT institutions and labour market analysis unit funded by European commission (EC) and ILO, developing language training courses for overseas workers and training according to demands of labour receiving countries. The Prime Minister was apprised that the minimum wage of un-skilled workers was increased from Rs.4600 to Rs.6000 per month while the minimum pension of the workers increased from Rs.1500 to Rs.2000 per month. Similarly the amount of marriage grant from Workers' Welfare Fund increased from Rs.50000 to Rs.70000 and the marriage grants to female workers and daughters of workers will now be provided to all eligible workers. Also the amount of death grant has been increased from Rs.200000 to Rs.300000 and the maximum share of worker's profit from profit of the company raised from Rs.18400 to Rs.24000 per worker per year. The Prime Minister was informed that contract workers have now been made eligible for share in the company's profit. He was informed that the minimum and maximum amount of scholarship is increased from Rs.800 to Rs.1000 and Rs.1850 to Rs.3000 per month, respectively. All expenses of worker's children admitted in any public/private Universities, Medical Colleges, Public Schools run by Federal/Provincial governments paid by the Fund. The Social Security Scheme extended to the workers employed on wages upto Rs.10000 per month and the benefits available under the Workers' Welfare Fund (WWF) have been extended to the workers of commercial and service sectors. The Prime Minister was apprised that Complaint Cell with designated officer has been established at the Ministry to attend to workers complaints. Regarding bonded labour, the Prime Minister was informed that a fund of Rs.114 million is established for rehabilitation and welfare of bonded labour.

Free Legal Aid Services units are providing assistance to Bonded Labourers in Punjab and NWFP at the cost of Rs.6.728 million and so far direct relief has been extended to 346 bonded labourers across the country. He was briefed that a housing colony of 75 houses at a cost of Rs.9.579 million in District Dadu has been completed and handed over to freed bonded labour. The Prime Minister was informed that 122 new licenses were issued to Overseas Employment Promoters to increase manpower export and the Ministry has signed additional protocol with State of Qatar for export of manpower. The MOU has been signed with M/s Bauer Kompressorn Middle East, UAE and National Training Bureau for skill up-gradation of skilled workers and export of manpower to UAE. Opportunity for the export of 2000 workers to Qatar and Bahrain is under process. Regarding the legal initiatives the Prime Minister was briefed that Chief Executive Order No. VI has been repealed to restore unions in PIA. The IRO 2002 has been repealed and Industrial Relations Act 2008 promulgated to restore union activities in the country. The Prime Minister was informed that the facility of pension is extended to the workers of small establishments having five employees only and provision are made for full wages to the workers during suspension period. The draft bills on employment and service conditions and occupational safety and health have been prepared and placed before the Pakistan Tripartite Labour Conference on 16th February 2009 for consultation along with the IRA 2008. The Prime Minister also announced the construction of colony for labour at Bahawalpur with all civic amenities including hospital, school and market. He appreciated the achievements of Ministry of Labour and Manpower in the last 15 months during the tenure of the present government.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 07/11/2009

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Punjab Cabinet Approves Local Government Act

* Chief minister forms committee to prepare report on amendments to Police Order 2002

LAHORE: A meeting of the Punjab cabinet - presided over by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif - approved the Local Government Act and amendments to the Punjab Power Generation Policy 2006, and discussed the law and order situation in the province and the provincial policy for the elimination of terrorism on Friday. The meeting also formed a cabinet committee to prepare a report on amendments in the Police Order 2002 within a fortnight. The committee would prepare the report taking into consideration affairs ranging from postings and transfers to the elimination of corruption. Addressing the meeting, the chief minister said that maintaining law and order was the top priority of the government, as peace was essential for development and the promotion of investment and trade activities. He said that police stations had "become a hotbed of crime and a symbol of terror" for those seeking justice. He said that provision of prompt and inexpensive justice to the masses was a collective responsibility, and reforms would have to be introduced to provide people expeditious justice. Shahbaz said the government had promoted good governance and adopted a "merit policy", on the basis of which 34,000 teachers were being recruited in the province. The chief minister said corruption was gnawing away at the roots of society, and "there is a need to demonstrate political will and determination for the elimination of this disease". Later, Punjab Local Government Minister Sardar Dost Muhammad Khosa and Senator Pervez Rashid briefed the media on the decisions made by the meeting. He said following the provincial government's approval, the Local Government Act would now be sent to the federal government. He said that LGs would be dissolved and administrators would be appointed before October 16.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 07/11/2009

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Pakistan's India Policy Revisited

Pakistan's India policy remains the subject of intense controversy in the country and the victim of lack of clarity - lack of clarity about the assumptions on which it is based, lack of clarity about our short-term and long-term goals vis-¨¤-vis India, and lack of clarity about the strategy adopted to realise those goals. India's critical importance for Pakistan for historical reasons and as an emerging great power in our neighbourhood dictates that our India policy should be analysed minutely and debated dispassionately by our leaders and opinion makers. It is inevitable that the deep interest in our India policy and the diversity of opinion within Pakistan would generate heated controversies. The lack of clarity surrounding our India policy compounds these controversies making rational discussion all but impossible. The need of the hour for our policy makers is to clarify the assumptions on which our India policy is based, the goals that it aims at and the strategy through which it strives to realise them. In the absence of the required clarity, our India policy will remain mired in confusion and short-term manoeuvres in response to day-to-day events, lacking sense of long-term direction and steadiness of purpose as is the case at present.

There are two prevailing tendencies in the country concerning relations with India. One of them holds the view that India has been and will always remain a country with hostile intentions towards Pakistan and that it is well nigh impossible to have tension-free and good neighbourly relations with this neighbour what to speak of a relationship of friendship and cooperation. The followers of this hard line approach generally support high defence budgets to match India's rapidly growing military expenditure, an uncompromising position on the Kashmir dispute and extremely limited cooperation with India in trade and other spheres. They do not have much hope in the efforts to resolve outstanding disputes between the two countries through peaceful means. In short, these Indophobes believe that both Pakistan and India are destined to live forever in an atmosphere of mutual hostility.

On the other extreme are Indophiles who have a benign view of India and absolve it of any blame for the past unhappy history between the two countries holding instead Pakistan responsible for all that has gone wrong in Pakistan-India relations. They do not view India as posing a security threat to Pakistan and, therefore, are against high defence expenditure. They entertain high hopes of resolving in the near future all outstanding disputes with India including Kashmir through peaceful means, and call for all round cooperation with India both bilaterally and within the framework of SAARC irrespective of its effects on our economy and, indeed, our country's independence and sovereignty. Some of them even go to the extent of questioning the very rationale for the genesis of Pakistan.

Unfortunately, our India policy has been the victim of pendulum like swings between these two extremes. There have been times when our leadership and policy makers could see no good coming out of India or out of cooperation with India leading to military adventures with disastrous results, aggravation of tensions in Pakistan-India relations, ramping up of military expenditures, weakening of Pakistan's economic performance and a general state of national demoralisation. We have also witnessed other occasions in our chequered history when our leadership went out of its way to have friendly relations with India disregarding past experience and India's long-term strategic goals at the regional and global levels. The high hopes generated by these leaders soon foundered on the rock of India's intransigence and hegemonic ambitions in the region.

These conflicting tendencies besides producing historically flip flops in our India policy have also resulted in a state of confusion among our policy makers in which the left arm of the government does not know what the right arm is doing. The latest example of this confusion is the pronouncement by President Zardari asserting that India is not and has not been a threat to Pakistan despite India's past unsavoury record and recent statements by our interior minister and other government spokesmen stressing that India is involved in fomenting anti-Pakistan activities in Balochistan and Swat.

It is high time our policy makers went to the basics in the reformulation of our India policy. The starting point in this exercise should be the recognition that the maintenance of peace between India and Pakistan, being nuclear powers, is a strategic compulsion. The corollary of this premise is that they must learn to live like good neighbours and resolve their differences and disputes through dialogue and negotiations rather than through resort to the use of force. The positive results achieved in the meeting of the PM's of the two countries at Sharm El-Sheikh, howsoever limited they may be, should, therefore, be welcomed. The settlement of disputes is possible only in a climate of mutual trust and confidence. Thus, confidence building measures between India and Pakistan have got to be a part and parcel of any scheme for peaceful management of Pakistan-India relations.

The Kashmir dispute because of the historical baggage, emotional involvement of the people on both sides and strategic implications would take a long time for reaching a final settlement unless either Pakistan or India is willing to give up its recognised position in favour of the other. The best that perhaps can be hoped for in the near future is an understanding that would safeguard the human rights of the Kashmiri people in IHK, grant them autonomy in the management of their affairs and lead to the withdrawal of the bulk of the Indian armed forces as the militancy winds down. Trade related disputes between India and Pakistan and other such matters may be amenable to a settlement in a much shorter time frame. In between would be disputes relating to sharing of river waters, Siachin and Sir Creek which may require difficult negotiations but given political will on both sides may be settled in not too distant a future.

If one looks at the past history of Pakistan-India relations, the obvious conclusion one can draw is that India does pose a threat to Pakistan's security especially if Pakistan through the mismanagement of its internal situation and external relations provides another tempting opportunity to the former as it did during the 1971 crisis. The relations between the two countries continue to suffer from various disputes, the most serious being the Kashmir dispute which has the potential of aggravating tensions and leading to military confrontation. But above and beyond these disputes, India's hegemonic ambitions seeking a veto over the actions of other regional countries and of extra-regional powers in the region will remain an enduring source of tensions and acrimony between the two countries as long as Pakistan refuses to fall in line with India's drive for regional supremacy. However, Pakistan by following a non-provocative approach and engaging India in a dialogue can reduce the intensity of this threat.

Pakistan needs to craft carefully a strategy to promote its economic progress and safeguard its security in the face of India's hegemonic designs in the region which now have the tacit support of the United States. After all, Washington declared quite unequivocally in 2005 that it had the intention to build up India as a "major world power in the 21st century" (to act as a counterweight to China's rising power, one may add.) The recent statements by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in India merely confirm this conclusion. In formulating our own strategy, we neither need to over-react especially in the military field where we cannot hope to match the additions to India's rapidly growing military might nor should we simply gloss over the dangers that India's hegemonic designs pose to us. Our focus should be on strengthening internal political stability and accelerating our economic growth to surpass India's outstanding economic performance while maintaining a credible security deterrent at the lowest level possible and building up alliances, especially at the regional level, to counter any possible threat from India. A firm but non-provocative policy towards India including CBM's, dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields should be an essential element of this strategy.

From http://www.asianewsnet.net/ 07/21/2009

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Monetary Policy Delayed Till August 15

KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan on Friday delayed the announcement of monetary policy for the current quarter by three weeks without giving any reason to satisfy trade and industry who were expecting a substantial cut in the policy rate. SBP Chief Spokesman Syed Mohammad Wasim told Dawn that the monetary policy would now be announced on August 15. Earlier it was scheduled for July 25. He refused to offer any reason for the delay. However, sources in the finance ministry said the delay was made on the request of the government, which does not want any hurdle in the release of 3rd $840 million tranche of the $7.6 billion IMF loan deal, which was signed in November 2008. The 3rd tranche was expected to come by June 30, but the IMF was not satisfied with the government's decision to delay the complete elimination of subsidies on electricity. However, Pakistani officials said that the IMF had agreed in Turkey to allow Pakistan to provide a power tariff subsidy of Rs55 billion during the current fiscal year. 'The IMF Board meeting is scheduled for August 7 which will approve the release of the 3rd tranche and the government does not want any hurdle before the Fund's approval,' said sources in the ministry of finance. Though the delay in announcement of monetary policy does not have direct link with the issue of subsidies on electricity, the IMF has been critical about fiscal policy emphasising on tight monetary policy. The sharp fall of inflation during the last couple of months gave hope that the policy rate would be slashed substantially in the next monetary review. The main inflation is expected to fall to single digit during the current fiscal year. The money market was expecting a 1.5 to 2 per cent cut in the discount rate but the sudden delay shocked the equity market hoping for more funds with the fall in the interest rates. 'The central bank must be waiting for IMF decision on 3rd tranche and new loan as liquidity is crucial in deciding the discount rate,' said Mohammad Sohail of Topline Securities, adding that inflation and trade data for July would also be crucial this time. Some analysts said the three weeks delay was substantially long period especially when the money supply was required to increase. The last fiscal year witnessed extremely poor supply of credit to private sector resulted into minimum economic activities. The economic growth was just 2pc in 2008-09.

From http://www.southasianmedia.net/ 07/25/2009

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AZERBAIJAN: President Decrees to Apply Law on Combating Money Laundry Legalization and Financing of Terrorism

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has decreed to apply the Law on Combating Legalization of Money or Property Acquired by Criminal Ways and Financing of Terrorism, AzerTaj state news agency reported. Under the presidential decree, the Cabinet of Ministers was instructed to develop proposals to bring existing legislation into conformity with this law within a month. The government was also tasked to bring the regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers and the bodies of central executive power into conformity with the law. According to the decree, the power "of the relevant executive authorities", stipulated by the Article 14-1.1 of the law on Currency Regulation is implemented by the State Border Service.

From http://www.today.az/ 07/22/2009

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IRAN: Bills to Facilitate Azeri Trade

The Iranian government has submitted two bills to the parliament on eliminating double taxation and preventing commercial tax evasion between Iran and Azerbaijan. The measure is aimed at correcting the trade structure and promoting bilateral economic relations, Mehr News Agency reported on Tuesday. Double taxation is the imposition of two or more taxes on the same income (in the case of income taxes), assets (in the case of capital taxes) or financial transaction (in the case of sales taxes). Based on statistics released by the Azerbaijan government, Tehran-Baku trade stood at $700 million in 2008. Iran holds a 10-percent stake in the development of Shah Deniz gas field in the Republic of Azerbaijan and has already invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the project. Iran and Azerbaijan have signed agreements for improving bilateral economic cooperation. Documents signed by the two neighboring nations mark a new chapter for further expansion of mutual relations.

From http://www.iran-daily.com/ 07/11/2009

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KAZAKHSTAN: Leader Signs Law Curbing Internet

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has signed into law new controls on the Internet that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has called repressive, local activists said on July 13. The OSCE, which Kazakhstan will chair next year, had earlier urged Nazarbaev to veto the bill. The legislation will allow local courts to block websites, including foreign ones, and to class blogs and chatrooms as media. But Kazakhstan pressed ahead with the new law, with local rights activists confirming the legislation had been endorsed by the powerful president. "Nazarbayev signed it last Friday," Sofya Lapina, a media rights activist, told Reuters on July 13. "We had hoped he would veto it and wrote letters to him but that has not been taken into account." The Central Asian state says the law was aimed at preventing unrest and protecting people's rights. "There are different points of view regarding this law," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yerzhan Ashykbayev told reporters on July 13. "The Foreign Ministry...will take all the necessary measures to explain to our OSCE partners and experts at that organization...what were the reasons behind this law." Several websites, including the popular blogging service LiveJournal.com, were already inaccessible to most Kazakh users.

In 2007, a court gave a pro-opposition blogger a suspended jail sentence for insulting Nazarbaev. Lapina said there already were signs of increasing self-censorship by local websites where moderators were quickly removing comments that could be deemed offensive. "On some websites, commenting on 'hot' topics has been disabled," she said. Visitors of a popular local news website zonakz.net expressed different views on the new law with some hoping it would curb pornography and piracy. But others were critical. "Great! Let's now ban everything except for [state-run TV channels] Kazakhstan-1 and Khabar," an anonymous user wrote. Kazakhstan has been hit hard by the global crisis after a decade of economic boom. Some economists expect the former Soviet republic's oil-dominated economy to shrink this year. Growing unemployment coupled with falling incomes have caused rising popular discontent with the government, although there have been no large-scale public protests. The Internet has increasingly become a tool for opposition activists in many countries to voice criticism of their leaders and to organize protests, most recently in Iran following June's disputed presidential elections.

From http://www.rferl.org/ 07/13/2009

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TURKMENISTAN: Labor and Criminal Procedure Codes Take Effect

New Labor and Criminal Procedure Codes of Turkmenistan, which were approved and published in press in April, entered into force on July 1. Henceforth, the employment relations between employer and employee in Turkmenistan can be regulated only on the basis of a work contract. The new Labor Code features new sections such as "Leaves", "Financial responsibility of the work contract parties", "Training, retraining and upgrading of workers' skills. Certification of work places and performance of workers" and "Social partnership in labor relation". The Code also introduces provisions relating to labor relations, the basis of their origin, subjects of these relations and a number of other important aspects. Other than this, the section "Occupational health and safety" was restored. Under the new Code, the length of the main leave is now extended to 30 days instead of 24. The list of persons who can take extra leave was also extended. The new Criminal Procedure Code of Turkmenistan enforces the role of members of Bar, formulates the fundamental principles of the concept of "presumption of innocence", introduces the rules that expand the possibility of application of preventive measures that do not relate to detention, including the use of cash bail for those wishing to stay at large for the period of investigation.

From http://www.turkmenistan.ru/ 07/01/2009

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Government of Turkmenistan to Increase Control over Implementation of Major Investment Programmes

The Ministry of Economy and Development of Turkmenistan is to ensure the development and maintenance of an inventory of all industrial and non-production facilities that are being built or reconstructed in the territory of Turkmenistan by all economic entities regardless of their ownership. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov signed a decree to this effect at a regular government meeting on 14 July. According to the president, Turkmenistan has been steadily increasing investments in projects of modernization of national industry and creation of modern industrial and social infrastructure. Thus, "it is necessary to ensure the full-scale use of funds invested in these projects and timely commissioning of facilities." The document orders that all business entities should submit monthly reports to the Ministry of Economy and Development on the construction of the above facilities the contract or project-estimated cost of which equals or exceeds 10 million manat. In turn, the ministry will submit monthly reports to the Cabinet of Ministers on the implementation of investment programs on these sites.

From http://www.turkmenistan.ru/ 07/15/2009

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AUSTRALIA: National Unit Pricing Code Now Law

Australian consumers will soon have access to nationally‑consistent unit pricing information at all large supermarkets and online grocery retailers. The Retail Grocery Industry (Unit Pricing) Code is now law and requires large and online supermarkets to display unit prices for all items for which a selling price is displayed, unless the item is specifically exempt. There will be a transition period and the Code will become mandatory on 1 December 2009. Unit pricing is where grocery items are priced by reference to common units of measure such as per 100 grams and per 100 millilitres. Unit pricing will let shoppers compare the price of grocery items more accurately at the supermarket, enabling them to drive their dollar further. Submissions to the ACCC Grocery Inquiry estimated that unit pricing could save households $96 a year. Customers might think that by buying larger packets that they might always be buying cheaper but that's not always the case. Unit pricing will allow customers to choose the cheapest packet size for a particular brand. And it will allow customers to compare different brands in different package sizes by reference to their price or unit. The introduction of unit pricing is an important part of the Government's response to the ACCC Grocery Inquiry, which found that significant benefits would flow from the introduction of a national unit pricing scheme. Smaller supermarkets can participate voluntarily, but if they decide to so they must comply with the Code. My predecessor, the Hon Chris Bowen MP, consulted widely with stakeholders in developing this Code. The ACCC will be responsible for enforcing the Code once its provisions become enforceable later in the year. The ACCC will also develop educational material to assist consumers and retailers in understanding the new scheme.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/01/2009

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Towards a Seamless National Economy

The Rudd Government has released a progress report on reforms to move Australia towards a seamless national economy. The report includes decisions taken at the COAG meeting in Darwin including: intergovernmental agreements on the single Australian Consumer Law and a national system for registering business names; measures to speed up development assessments; further steps to reform food regulation; and national regulation of maritime safety with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to become the national safety regulator for all commercial shipping in Australian waters. Co-chairs of the Business Regulation and Competition Working Group, Lindsay Tanner and Craig Emerson released the progress report. Of the 27 priority reforms, the national reform of wine labelling has been completed, national model rail safety regulation is scheduled to be in place in all jurisdictions by the end of 2009, and 23 of the remaining 25 reforms are on track and meeting the timeframes set in the Implementation Plan released earlier this year. Mr Tanner said: "The progress report is in keeping with our commitment to be publicly accountable for achieving these reforms. "By releasing this report we are opening ourselves up to judgements about progress being achieved." Dr Emerson said: "In the past, governments have talked about reforms and have agreed to have agreements, but no real progress was achieved. "The progress report shows that agreed milestones are being passed and sets out the remainder of the journey for each reform." The cases in which progress to date has been slower than anticipated, such as for reform of directors' liability, will go back to COAG to be advanced. The progress report can be found at: www.finance.gov.au/deregulation/coag.html and is available below.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/06/2009

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A National Statement on Social Inclusion

Today the Australian Social Inclusion Board released its Compendium of Social Inclusion Indicators. The Social Inclusion Board is an independent body established to provide advice to the Australian Government on was ways to achieve better outcomes for the most disadvantaged in our community To be socially included, Australians must have access to work, social support through family and friends and high-quality basic services like health and education. This enables people to deal successfully with adverse life events like bereavement or loss of a job and be able to make their voice count as citizens and community members. This report sets out Australian data on a range of key indicators of disadvantage, including access to work and services, social supports, how well local neighbourhoods are faring and health. It highlights several areas requiring long action, including retirement income and homelessness, where the Australian Government is already implementing new initiatives. In the 2009-10 Budget the most significant reforms to the pension system were announced since it was introduced 100 years ago. These reforms will improve the adequacy of the pension for those who rely on it to survive. The Australian Government is investing an historic $6 billion in social housing, with more than 650 new houses already under construction, and 15,460 essential home repairs and maintenance completed. This investment is key to halving homelessness by 2020.

The Government also believes that the early years are critical for children's development and for overcoming long term disadvantage. At COAG on July 2nd Australian Governments agreed a new Early Years Learning Framework, a long term vision for services to support early childhood development and a new shared framework to improve the quality of early years education and care. Australia's first comprehensive Paid Parental Leave scheme, announced in the 2009­10 Budget, will underpin our investment in children's early development. The indicators also point to important ongoing challenges. This report helps to clarify the nature of those challenges and support collaborative action across the whole community to further the Australian Government's Social Inclusion agenda. The Government, by the end of 2009, will develop a national statement on Social Inclusion to chart a long-term strategy towards making Australia a stronger, fairer society. This whole of Government strategy will encompass important measures already underway, such as reducing homelessness, closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and creating jobs and skills in local priority areas where unemployment and disadvantage are concentrated. Minister Gillard has written to State Social Inclusion Ministers proposing to meet with them to work through further action on social inclusion priorities. Mike Rann, Premier of South Australia, has offered to host the meeting.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/09/2009

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Draft Bill to Protect $655M Revenue

Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry, has today released for consultation an Exposure Draft Bill aimed at protecting $655 million in revenue, put at risk as a result of a decision last year of the Federal Court concerning insolvency and the application of the goods and services tax (GST). "The court's decision goes against the underlying intention of the GST law, as clearly stated and applied since its introduction nine years ago." "Up to $655 million in revenue could be lost if the Government doesn't take this action." "The decision has also created a degree of uncertainty for the business community and insolvency practitioners in particular." "These amendments will restore the policy intent as clearly stated in the Explanatory Memorandum to the law introducing GST," the Assistant Treasurer said. The amendments contained in the Exposure Draft Bill became necessary after the Federal Court decision in Deputy Commissioner of Taxation v PM Developments Pty Ltd [2008]. The court found that the GST liability for transactions occurring during the period of a liquidator's appointment is the liability of the company in liquidation and not the liquidator. The intention of the GST law is that the liquidator of an insolvent company is responsible for paying GST on transactions made in their capacity as the liquidator of that insolvent company. If left to stand, the Federal Court decision would mean that the GST liability would instead fall to the insolvent company, greatly reducing the likelihood of payment. The $655 million is made up of refunds of GST already paid and ongoing revenue costs over the forward estimates. The amendments will apply from the commencement of the GST law on 1 July 2000. The Exposure Draft Bill and draft Explanatory Memorandum are available on the Treasury website at www.treasury.gov.au. The consultation period is for four weeks, closing on Friday, 7 August, 2009. "I urge interested parties to consider the amendments and to provide any feedback so this can be taken into account in finalising the legislation," the Assistant Treasurer said. The Government will introduce the legislation during the Spring Sittings of Parliament.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/13/2009

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Economic Stimulus Plan Progress Report

The next phase of the Rudd Government's Economic Stimulus Plan kicked into gear last week with the first three Keep Australia Working Forums held in three States. The Forums saw Local Jobs Champions Lindsay Fox and Bill Kelty hit the road with Minister for Employment Participation Mark Arbib and Parliamentary Secretary for Employment Jason Clare. More than 400 community leaders, businesses, job service providers and Government representatives attended Forums at Dandenong in Melbourne, Devenport Tasmania and Casula in Sydney to begin developing local employment strategies. As well as the Forums, the Government teamed with business to announce more than 1000 new jobs during the first week of Keep Australia Working. Jobs Champion Lindsay Fox announced he would employ 450 more workers at Linfox over the next two years and Woolworths announced it would put on another 60 staff for a new distribution centre at Launceston. The Rudd Government also provided $7.2 million funding for 530 jobs and traineeships in the three States. On top of the 530 jobs and traineeships the Rudd Government will fund 160 paid work experience places for the two projects in South Eastern Melbourne, three projects in North and Northwest Tasmania and three projects in the Cantebury Bankstown South Western Sydney area.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/18/2009

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Australia to Advance the R2P Principle

Australia will advance the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle at the regional, global and civil society levels with a $4.5 million package of support over four financial years. Endorsed by world leaders at the 2005 World Summit and in 2006 by the UN Security Council, the R2P principle holds that states are responsible for the protection of their own civilians from grave mass crimes such as genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Under the principle, the international community assists states to exercise this responsibility, with the international community having a responsibility to respond through diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means when a state is manifestly unable to provide protection to its civilians. Australia is committed to supporting important project and research work on R2P that will contribute to making it an international norm in crisis prevention and resolution. As part of this package, Australia will provide $1.8 million to the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, based at the University of Queensland. This will assist the Asia-Pacific Centre's work to further support R2P within the Asia-Pacific region. The Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect conducts research and policy work, and engages in advocacy and outreach on R2P. This support builds on my announcement in August 2008 of $2 million to establish the Australian Responsibility to Protect Fund to advance the R2P concept and help states build capacity to protect their own civilians. Australia has entered into a joint initiative with the Asia-Pacific Centre for R2P to implement the Fund. Applications to the Fund are currently being assessed by a selection committee chaired by the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on R2P, Edward Luck. Grants will be awarded from late 2009 through an open competitive process managed by the centre.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/21/2009

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Tough New Cartel Laws Now in Force

The Australian Competition and Consumer watchdog has been given tough new laws to use in the fight against criminal cartel behaviour from today. Individuals and companies that fix prices or reduce choice by distorting the ordinary flow of competition now face some of the stiffest penalties in the world for this type of offence. Under the laws passed by the Australian Parliament recently, anyone engaging in serious cartel conduct faces up to 10 years in jail to send a clear message that cartel conduct will not be tolerated. No longer will individuals or companies be able to buy their way out of a criminal prosecution. Under the new powers, the ACCC can also authorise telephone interception to be used by the Australian Federal Police as part of any criminal investigation. Price fixing is essentially theft and consumers are the ones who suffer. These new laws demonstrate the Government's ongoing commitment to strengthen laws promoting competition. The Trade Practices Amendment (Cartel Conduct and Other Measures) Bill 2009 was passed by the Senate on 15 June.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/24/2009

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NEW ZEALAND: Disclosure Regulations for Financial Advisers

A discussion document on disclosure regulations for financial advisers has been released for public comment, Commerce Minister Simon Power said today. "The Financial Advisers Act 2008: Disclosure Regulations discussion document is an important step in the development of the disclosure requirements for the financial advisers' regime," Mr Power said. "The public has an opportunity to comment on the information that financial advisers will be required to disclose to clients and how they will do that. "These comments will help with the development of new disclosure regulations which I hope to have in place by early next year". Two related sets of papers have also recently been released for comment. They relate to the implementation of the Financial Advisers Act and the Financial Service Providers (Registration and Dispute Resolution) Act, which were passed last year. In the first of these papers, the Securities Commission is seeking feedback on regulating and supervising financial advisers. The second set of papers was released last week by Consumer Affairs Minister Heather Roy, and covers financial service providers dispute resolution framework. Mr Power said he was pleased to see progress being made to get the new financial services legislation in place, and hopes there will be a robust response from the public on these discussion documents. Submissions are due by August 12. The discussion documents are available at: http://www.med.govt.nz/templates/MultipageDocumentTOC____41042.aspx

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/01/2009

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Bill Boosts Law Enforcement Tools

A bill that will boost the tools available to law enforcement agencies to fight crime was introduced to the House today by Justice Minister Simon Power. Search and surveillance powers allow police and other law enforcement agencies to gather evidential material that is often crucial to the successful investigation and prosecution of offences. The Search and Surveillance Bill supersedes the Search and Surveillance Powers Bill introduced by the previous government last year. Mr Power says the National-led Government identified some deficiencies in that bill, and the new version introduces much-needed reforms. "This bill gives law enforcement agencies a more sophisticated set of tools to investigate drug offences, organised crime, and other offending." The bill: Widens the range of offences for which communications can be intercepted and when vehicle and people tracking can be used. Regulates visual surveillance by requiring a warrant where devices are to be used to observe activities in private buildings. Introduces a police-only examination order power, where people believed to have information about offending can be made to answer questions. Allows search scenes to be secured and people to be detained while searches are carried out, puts obligations on those in charge of computers/networks to help in computer searches, and allows police to stop and search vehicles. Balances the needs of agencies for search and surveillance powers with the rights of people being searched. "This bill ensures that law enforcement needs are adequately met, and that these are consistent with human rights values," Mr Power says. The Law Commission carried out a five-year review on search and surveillance and concluded that the legal framework was outdated and inconsistent. The commission recommended comprehensive reform.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/02/2009

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Govt Consults Public on 2020 Emissions Target

The Government today began a process of public consultation on New Zealand's 2020 emissions target with a public meeting in Wellington tonight. "Climate change is a very difficult issue in that the science is complex, it involves every country, the effects are multi-generational and reducing emissions has major economic implications. "We need to be honest and upfront with New Zealanders about the scale of the change required and the impacts on jobs, industries and the cost of living if we are to commit to an ambitious target. We need to carefully balance this with the importance of New Zealand doing its fair share on global climate change and protecting New Zealand's brand as a clean, green nation," said Dr Nick Smith. "This public consultation is an opportunity for people to connect with the process of international negotiations culminating in the December Conference in Copenhagen. It is our intention to table at the precursor meeting in Bonn our policy target for 2020 following these consultations," said Tim Groser. Over the next two weeks the Government will be consulting the people on New Zealand's proposed greenhouse gas emissions target for 2020 through nine public meetings, three business meetings, a national hui and an engagement with academics. A discussion document has been produced which outlines the challenge of climate change and New Zealand's contribution, along with the international situation and the consultation schedule. The document "New Zealand's 2020 Emissions Target," can be downloaded from: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/climate/nz-2020-emissions-target/index.html. In addition to attending one of the scheduled meetings, the public can participate in a live online discussion on Monday, 20 July at www.r2.co.nz/20090720. Questions can be submitted in advance at 2020target@mfe.govt.nz.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/06/2009

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Disputes Tribunal Amendment Bill Passes

A law that delivers on part of the Government's business relief package announced in February in response to the global financial crisis has been passed by Parliament today, Justice Minister Simon Power said. The Disputes Tribunals Amendment Act 2009 will allow a cost-effective way to resolve disputes and improve access to the Disputes Tribunal. It will increase the maximum claim level of the Disputes Tribunal from $7,500 to $15,000, or, with the consent of both parties, from $12,000 to $20,000. "This will allow parties to resolve their disputes in a more cost-effective manner," Mr Power said. "Small businesses and individuals will have improved access to the Disputes Tribunal, and the Act will reduce the costs associated with resolving disputes." The increase in the maximum claim level is one of a number of initiatives announced by the National-led Government in early February to assist small businesses through the economic downturn. It is designed to lighten the load of small businesses. "The Act will allow up to an additional 3,600 cases annually to be heard in the Disputes Tribunal. These cases would previously have not had a forum appropriate to the value of their claim or would have been heard in the district court. "This increase will enable individuals, households, and particularly small businesses to resolve their claims more quickly. "This will be of assistance, particularly in the current economic climate. "I would not rule out further changes to the threshold, as long as the character of the tribunal can be maintained," Mr Power said. "Changes were also proposed in other areas of the Disputes Tribunal. There may be an opportunity to evaluate these proposals once the current changes have been implemented and assessed." The Disputes Tribunal Amendment Act will enter into law on 1 August 2009.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/23/2009

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Securities and Financial Advisers Amendment Bills Passed

A bill that will make it easier for businesses to raise capital while ensuring prospective investors have all the appropriate information was passed by Parliament last night, Commerce Minister Simon Power said. The Securities (Disclosure) Amendment Bill amends the Securities Act 1978 on the recommendation of the Capital Market Development Taskforce. "The bill allows businesses to issue a simplified disclosure prospectus that will help do away with a lot of duplicated information that many businesses listed on the Stock Exchange face when making a securities offer," Mr Power said. "Listed companies will be able to use this new type of prospectus for offers of certain securities, instead of a full registered prospectus and investment statement. This will significantly reduce the need to duplicate information that is already publicly available under the continuous disclosure obligations. "The bill will help reduce costs and time for companies raising capital in this financially challenging environment while ensuring the timely disclosure of information to investors. "It also makes technical changes relating to categories of people exempt from disclosure requirements, which will make it easier for all companies, listed and unlisted, to raise capital. "These amendments will particularly benefit small and medium-size businesses that traditionally seek capital by 'shoulder-tapping' known investors. "I'm confident that the passing of this bill will help New Zealand respond to the current financial crisis," Mr Power said. "The Financial Advisers Amendment Bill has also passed its third reading. This bill makes some relatively minor changes to the Financial Advisers Act which will ensure that the regime works as effectively as possible."

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/24/2009

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UN Members Urge Reform of Bretton Woods Institutions

"UN member states launched a three-day debate Wednesday on how to help poor countries weather the global economic crisis amid growing calls for revamping multilateral financial institutions. 'The world institutions created generations ago must be made more accountable, more representative and more effective,' UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the gathering. 'We need to work together to reform global rules and institutions.'... Several participants insisted that the Bretton Woods international financial system that created the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in 1944 must be drastically overhauled..." In related news, AP writes that "...African, Asian and Caribbean countries complained Wednesday that the global economic crisis which they didn't cause was devastating their countries and urged the rich nations responsible for the meltdown to bail them out... Bangladesh's Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, speaking on behalf of the least developed countries, said the crisis is having 'a disproportionate negative impact' on the world's poorest people and she warned that 'our failure to reverse the economic recession now may unleash a social recession which will be far more difficult to contain.'..." Xinhua adds that "...in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where the bulk of the world's poor are located, the growth slowdown virtually eliminates any prospect for continued reductions in the poverty count in 2009, said World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala... Okonjo-Iweala said the crisis-related growth slowdown in developing countries implies that there are an estimated 55 to 90 million more extremely poor people in 2009 - living on less than $1.25 a day - than expected before the crisis..."

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 06/25/2009

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World Bank Finds Little Improvement in Global Governance

"While some countries are making strides in improving accountability and tackling corruption, overall governance standards across the world aren't improving much, the World Bank said Monday. In its eighth release of Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI), the Bank found a similar number of countries advancing or regressing among the 212 covered by the study, with many not showing much of a change in either direction in recent years..." Reuters writes that "...the data show improvements in controlling corruption in Indonesia, Tanzania, Estonia, Georgia, Rwanda, Serbia and Liberia, but also declines in countries such as Zimbabwe, Eritrea and Ivory Coast and Greece, illustrating that graft is not only a problem in least developed nations. 'The good news is that some countries are recognizing and responding to governance challenges and are showing strong improvements that reflect concerted efforts by political leaders, policymakers, civil society and the private sector,' said World Bank Lead Economist Aart Kraay..." Xinhua adds that "...in fact, the updated WGI show that current governance standards have plenty of room for improvement in many industrialized countries and emerging economies. 'We should not presume that rich and powerful countries have the very best levels of governance and corruption control; the financial crisis reminds us that the quality of governance in G8 countries is not always exemplary,' said Daniel Kaufmann, co- author of the report and a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. The WGI is a research project initiated by Kaufmann and Kraay in the late 1990s, and is now co-authored with Massimo Mastruzzi of the World Bank Institute..."

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 06/30/2009

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Asia Leadership Dialogues 2009 Held in Delhi

In an effort to recognise leading Asia business leaders, Asia Leadership Dialogues 2009 in the capital city here that became the sixth Asian city to host the event. The earlier events were held in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City. ''In this global recession, there could be opportunities amid the crisis. It is therefore important to be versatile and having the right mental attitude to face the challenges,'' Gaurav Dalmia, Board member, Dalmia Group, said in his keynote speech on ''Leadership in a New Asia''. ''Success does not happen overnight. Ultimately it is hardwork which pays off,'' he said. The ALD, a series of forums to showcase corporations and their C-suite leaders in Asia, is organised by Platinum Circle, a private group of global and Asian corporations. It provided a platform for the business leaders to speak with their peers on personal experiences, management philosphies and views on Asia's future. ''There is a need for Asia leaders to shape the world and encourage discussions on important issues. This global economic crisis has brought the focus on Asia and its leaders should have a voice to shape their destinies,'' Mr Dalmia noted, while sharing his experiences with over 200 top executives. Chairman of Platinum Circle, Lionel Lee, expressed his satisfaction over the success of the event so far and said it reflected the desire among Asia's corporate and public sector leaders to step up onto the world stage.

''We encourage business leaders to not only generate commercial profit but also give back to society and enhance their contribution,'' Mr Lee said. Referring to certain characterstics of the Asian leaders, he said, ''They are more humble and media shy. Because of this, the common people are not able to know about their extraordinary achievements.'' ''However, if they will open up, this would help in motivating the upcoming business leaders. It will act as their driving force,'' he said and added that the event would help to know what do Asian businessmen think about leadership and what was their take on post crisis in Asia. Mr Lee also mentioned about a Youth enterprise programme which will enable youths between the age of 16 to 20 to learn more about how to go about a business and become future entrepreneurs. ''The programme will be activity based so as to bring those skills in the youth, which are needed by them to become employable,'' Mr Lee said. He added that there would be a series of sessions from various top level executives and in order to create thrill and excitement, and help them come out with their new and fresh ideas, competitions would also be held. ''They will also be counselled about how to get through a business plan and put it into reality,'' he informed.

From http://www.newkerala.com/ 07/23/2009

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CHINA: Energy-Saving Budget Amid Project Delays

China will boost spending on energy- saving ventures by 25 percent this year as the Communist Party's top leaders reiterated the "extreme urgency" of reducing emissions after some projects and policies were delayed. The central government has allocated 38 billion yuan ($5.6 billion) from the state budget to boost energy efficiency for 2009, compared with 30.5 billion yuan last year and 23.7 billion yuan in 2007, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said in a statement on its Web site today. China faced difficulties in meeting energy-saving targets after some local governments eased their efforts to cut emissions and rules weren't "effectively" implemented, it said, without giving details. The statement also didn't name the projects that were delayed. The world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases intends to cut the amount of energy used to generate each 1,000 yuan of gross domestic product by 20 percent in the five years ending in 2010. Developing countries led by China and India have agreed to set a global emissions-reduction goal for 2050 by December, when 200 nations will meet to craft a plan to replace the Kyoto Protocol, a person familiar with climate talks said today. "The pressure to cut emissions has increased," Zhang Lijun, vice minister of environmental protection, said in the statement today. "We will maintain a strict standard on the high energy-consuming projects by applying the environmental approvals to resolutely cut pollution and reduce emissions."

A shortage of power in 2008 prompted China, the world's second-biggest energy user, to allow small coal mines to reopen after they were shut during the Olympics Games. About 80 percent of electricity used in the nation is derived from burning coal. Premier Wen Jiabao said in July last year China must intensify efforts to save energy and cut emissions. The nation shut 3,382 small and inefficient coal-fired power generators with a combined capacity of 19,890 megawatts in the first six months, according to today's statement. Local governments' spending on energy-saving and emission-reduction projects may reach 130 billion yuan between 2007 and 2009, Zhang said in the statement. China will invest more than 100 billion yuan to more than double its wind-power capacity by 2010 from last year, Shi Lishan, deputy of renewable energy at the National Development and Reform Commission, said June 2. China, which is building wind turbines, solar plants and hydro-electric dams, plans to reduce major pollutants by 10 percent in the five years through 2010, the government said in 2007. The nation rejected 473 billion yuan of polluting projects last year and will invest in clean energy to meet its carbon- reduction goals, Zhang said last month.

From http://www.bloomberg.com/ 07/09/2009

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China to Subsidize Renewable Energy Buildings and Projects

The Chinese government will give subsidies to renewable energy buildings and projects in pilot cities and rural areas. Pilot cities would carry out projects and build buildings with renewable energy technologies and products, said the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development in a circular on Thursday. Every pilot city was expected to get between 50 million yuan (7.33 million US dollars) and 80 million yuan in subsidies from the central budget. Meanwhile, renewable energy products and technologies would also be introduced to the country's vast rural areas, said the two ministries in the circular. The central government would channel money to local governments for installing renewable energy facilities to housings, schools and other public buildings. Solar energy water heater and solar radiators were highlighted by the two ministries. Every pilot county was expected to get a maximum subsidy of 18 million yuan, said the circular.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/09/2009

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HK Allocates Fund to Promote Design Industry

The government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) had allocated 10 million HK dollars (1.3 million U.S. dollars) for the design sector to develop its markets and training, and to host major events promoting Hong Kong as a city of creativity, an official said Wednesday. Acting Head of Create Hong Kong Alan Siu said that this year's 50 graduates from higher diploma or degree of design programs will be placed in a trainee scheme. The Government will subsidize each trainee 4,000 HK dollars ( 516 U.S. dollars) a month for a year, he said. Contributing also at least 4,000 HK dollars a month, design companies will provide posts and training for young people to gain practical experience. Another funded project is the Trade Development Council's series of seminars from July to November in five cities in the Pearl River delta region to introduce Hong Kong's design and its brand-management profession. A competition for the fashion industry will also be organized to find creative talent for both the local and Mainland industry, according to Siu.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/09/2009

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Senior Leader Urges Efforts to Curb Corruption

Senior Chinese leader He Guoqiang has urged discipline inspection organizations at all levels to grasp the "essence" of three newly-issued regulations to prevent corruption from the very start. These regulations reflect the attention the central government pays to anti-graft work. Discipline inspection organizations at all levels should carefully study them and grasp the essence of the rules, He said at a meeting for discipline officials held here on Monday and Tuesday. He, who is a member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Political Bureau, said these regulations constitute a major move in improving the legal framework for anti-corruption work. The three regulations involve inspection tours to learn about the performance of leading local officials, punishment of wrong-doing Party and government leaders, and tackling illegal practices in construction projects. He urged discipline inspection organizations at all levels to carefully review the work in the first half of 2009 and make detailed plans for the future.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/15/2009

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China Charity Fund to Support 10,000 Extremely Poor People

The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA) will fund 10,000 people who live in extreme poverty in China, in its largest expenditure this year. The charity foundation will select 10,000 qualified beneficiaries from across the country and offer each of them 3,000 yuan (about 428.6 U.S. dollars), according to Monday's China daily. CFPA plans to distribute the money to 1,000 orphans, 1,000 senior citizens, 1,000 disabled people and 1,000 ill persons. The money also will be distributed to 1,000 farmers, 1,000 intellectuals, 1,000 college students, 1,000 teachers, 1,000 migrant workers and 1,000 laid-off workers. CFPA has established 10 hotlines for eligible people to register and apply for assistance.

From http://english.people.com.cn/ 07/20/2009

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Ministries Allocate US$3.9 Bln for Subsistence Allowances

A total of 26.4 billion yuan (about 3.9 billion U.S. dollars) was allocated to fund minimum living allowances to China's urban and rural poor Monday by Chinese ministries of finance and civil affairs. Of the total, 13.8 billion yuan will be allocated to urban low-income residents, with the remaining 12.6 billion yuan on rural low-income residents, said a statement released on the Ministry of Finance (MOF) Web site. Subsistence allowances, as an important component of China's social securities system, aims to enable low-income households in both urban and rural areas to have access to adequate food and clothing. The 26.4-billion-yuan fund, together with a 27.6 billion yuan fund allocated at the end of 2008, bring subsistence allowances from the central government to 54 billion yuan, up 48.95 percent from last year, the MOF statement said. About 54.08 billion yuan was budgeted for subsistence allowances for 2009. The average monthly allowance in 2008 was 205.3 yuan in urban areas per person and 82.3 yuan in rural areas. The rural allowance was less than that in urban areas because living costs there are lower. There were 42.84 million beneficiaries in rural areas, and 23.35 million in urban areas by the end of 2008, according to a report from the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/21/2009

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Chui Sai On Wins Macao Chief Executive Election

Chui Sai On won the third-term chief executive (CE) election of Macao Special Administrative Region ( SAR) on Sunday, of which he was the only candidate. A total of 296 votes were cast by the 297 present members of the CE Election Committee, and Chui won 282 valid votes, the CE Electoral Affairs Committee, which oversees the election, announced after the voting procedure. The election was held at the Macao East Asian Games Dome this morning. By the SAR Law, the SAR's new CE is elected within the 300-member CE Election Committee. Chui said at a press conference after the election that he is pleased to see that he was elected with majority votes, and he respects the choice of the committee members. Some 14 members cast abstention votes. Jos Pereira Coutinho, a local lawmaker, was the only committee member who did not cast his ballot. He said this was "a way" to express his opinion about the election. The number of votes won by Chui was lower than the incumbent CE Ho Hau Wah as he gained 296 votes in the second-term CE election held in 2004.

Chui also said that he will soon start preparing his new administration and he will devote himself to serving the people of Macao. However, he did not answer questions concerning any new change he may bring to the SAR government. Born in Macao in 1957, Chui has been twice appointed as the SAR ' s Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture ever since the establishment of the Macao SAR in 1999. He holds a bachelor degree in Community Health from California State University, and a master ' s degree and PhD of Public Health from the University of Oklahoma. Despite winning the election, Chui still needs the appointment of China's central government to officially become the SAR's next chief executive, according to the SAR's Basic Law. The term of the incumbent CE Ho Hau Wah will end on Dec. 19 this year, after which the new CE will begin his five-year term in office.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/26/2009

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Taiwan Leader Ma Ying-Jeou Elected KMT Chairman

Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou was elected as chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT) on Sunday by a landslide win of 93.87 percent of votes. About 56.95 percent of the voters turned out in the election and Ma won 285,354 valid votes, according to the KMT Central Committee. Ma told reporters after the election that relations between the mainland and Taiwan have seen "twilight of peace" as the two sides resumed negotiations since last May. Ma said he would propose at the 18th KMT Congress in September to write the "common wish for peaceful cross-Straits development" reached by KMT and the Communist Party of China (CPC) into KMT's political guidelines. "This is an important historic promise," he said. "We will definitely honor it." Ma also said that KMT would continue to support the platform of exchanges with the CPC, such as the Cross-Straits Economic, Trade and Cultural Forum. Ma won Taiwan's leadership election last March and was inaugurated last May. He had previously served as chairman of KMT from July 2005 to February 2007.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/27/2009

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10.4 Bln Yuan on Basic Public Health Care Service

China's Ministry of Finance announced on Monday that the country allocated 10.4 billion yuan (1.53 billion U.S. dollars) in subsidies for nationwide public health care service in 2009. The fund is part of the country's efforts to carry out the medical reform plan and to improve basic public health care service nationwide, said the ministry in a statement on its website. The Chinese government passed the medical reform plan in January, which promised to spend 850 billion yuan by 2011 to provide universal health care to the country's 1.3 billion population. The funds will be used to establish a "stable health service mechanism and medical insurance for the rural and urban community". On July 5, the ministries of finance, health, civil affairs, human resources and social security, and the National Development and Reform Commission jointly issued a circular, asking local governments to increase funding for public health care system. The circular said that investment from governments at all levels should aim at providing universal basic medical services and supporting public health services, medical insurance systems and medicine supply and safety. Governments are also required to invest more to strengthen management and supervision of food and medicines, said the circular.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/06/2009

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JAPAN: Japan's Long-Term Employment System Worth Looking at Again: White Paper

Japan's once prevalent employment system based on the long-term hiring of workers is worth looking at again as a way to stabilize the nation's battered labor market and help restore its economy, a government white paper said Tuesday. The ongoing economic downturn since last fall has severely affected the labor market, with manufacturers cutting back on overtime work and slashing temporary jobs, the white paper on the labor economy 2009 says, adding that the negative impacts are much more severe than those seen during the previous two economic downturns in 1997 and after.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/01/2009

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Japan Names New Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister

Japan's embattled Prime Minister Taro Aso on Wednesday named Yoshimasa Hayashi as the new state minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy, the top government spokesman said. "As the state minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy, upper house member Yoshimasa Hayashi was appointed," Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told a press conference. Hayashi, 48, last year served as defence minister for the final two months of the cabinet under former prime minister Yasuo Fukuda, Aso's predecessor. He is a Harvard educated former businessman who once worked as an assistant for US lawmakers in Washington before he was elected to the Japanese parliament in 1995. Kawamura also said lower house lawmaker Motoo Hayashi will become the chairman of the National Public Safety Commission and the minister in charge of disaster management. The appointments, effective Thursday, came as Aso is struggling to improve his sagging popularity ahead of elections which he has to call by September.

From http://news.yahoo.com/ 07/01/2009

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Japan Upgrades Missile-Detection System

A new $935 million project called the Japan Aerospace Defense Ground Environment has been initiated to improve the country's automatic air warning and defense control system. JADGE has replaced the Base Air Defense Ground Environment, said Japan's air arm, the Air Self-Defense Force. Japan's official military policy of Self-Defense Only does not allow the nation's armed forces to have strategic bombers, so JADGE is to improve the ASDF's capabilities to counter airborne attacks, such as by airplanes. The new air-defense network also integrates Japan's ballistic missile sensors and interception systems, and is central to protecting the country from ballistic missile attacks by improving early warning systems. JADGE begins operating amid increasing concerns about the threat of North Korean missiles. The Japanese government approved plans at the beginning of June to develop a satellite early warning system for missile launches.

Tensions were heightened in April when North Korea launched what it said was a satellite-bearing rocket. It then conducted a nuclear test and several short-range missile launches. JADGE goes some way to satisfying the government's critics that the country's satellite detection systems need upgrading. The superseded Base Air Defense Ground Environment was an integrated network of radar posts and air defense installations throughout the country. BADGE was upgraded in the 1980s with E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft. Other aircraft were replaced in the early 1990s with more sophisticated models. These included the Nike-J, a Japanese version of the Nike-Hercules surface-to-air missile from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and the Patriot PAC-2 ground-to-air missile system built by Raytheon.

The ASDF started deploying PAC-3 systems in 2007 and last September successfully tested its capability in New Mexico's White Sands Missile Range. It shot down a mock ballistic missile by firing two PAC-3 missiles in succession. The tests were to gather operational data on the system's radar, launcher and controller set-ups. The government decided in 2003 to build a ballistic missile shield, so antiballistic missile functions were added to the concept. JADGE is now central to the country's ballistic missile shield through search, detection, tracking and interception of ballistic missiles in a centralized and automated manner, according to the ASDF. The new network, which was originally centralized at a base in Fuchu in the suburbs of Tokyo, is also linked to U.S. communications satellites, allowing the United States and Japan to share data.

However, a year ago the JASDF began relocating the headquarters of its Air Defense Command to the U.S. base in Yokata, home to the U.S. Air Force's 374th Airlift Wing. The wing provides airlift support to all U.S. Department of Defense agencies in the Pacific. It also provides transport for people and equipment throughout the Kanto Plain and the greater Tokyo area. The ADC headquarters is the supreme Japanese Self-Defense Force command authority and is also headquarters for ballistic missile defense including the new JADGE. The move is to improve coordination between the two forces and around 1,200 Japanese personnel have relocated, costing around $400 million and paid for by the Japanese government. Japan and the United States have no formal agreement to operate their armed forces as a coalition. Efficiencies rely solely on daily and persistent coordination, according to U.S. military officials. The move of Japan's ADC to Yokata is to enhance these interactions, they said.

From http://www.upi.com/ 07/02/2009

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Japan Aims to Build 'One-Stop' Online Public Service System by 2013

Japan plans to build by fiscal 2013 an online portal allowing citizens ''one stop'' access to a wide range of public services, the government's IT Strategic Headquarters said Monday. The system will have an online, high-security ''post-office box'' that citizens can use to manage personal information online, such as checking the record of their payments into the public pension program and obtaining a copy of a residency certificate, it said. The system is a midterm goal of the headquarters' ''i-Japan strategy'' which is to run through 2015. Under the strategy, the government has promoted developing online public services, dubbed ''e-government,'' but has fallen behind its target for turning that vision into reality. It also aims at improving children's information-gathering skills through the Internet.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/07/2009

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Japan Has Tried to Destroy Secret Nuke Documents: Report

Japanese Foreign Ministry bureaucrats had ordered the destruction of copies of a 1960 secret nuclear agreement between Japan and the United States just before the information disclosure law took effect in 2001, The Asahi Shimbun reported Saturday. The order covered related documents, including a memo explaining the secret pact that was passed down to successive administrative vice foreign ministers, the newspaper quoted former officials as saying. The secret agreement allows U.S. warships carrying nuclear weapons to call at ports in Japan and U.S. aircraft armed with nuclear warheads to pass through Japanese airspace without prior consultation with the Japanese government. The pact creates a loophole in Japan's three non-nuclear principles of not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons to be brought into Japan. The Japanese government has continually denied the existence of the secret pact, but U.S. documents and statements from former U.S. and Japanese diplomats strongly suggest otherwise.

A former high-ranking government official told The Asahi Shimbun that "I heard that the documents were all destroyed just before the information disclosure law took effect (in April 2001)." The former official said documents prepared only on the Japanese side were also targeted, including a government manual on how to respond to questions regarding the 1981 testimony of former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Edwin O. Reischauer on the existence of the secret pact. However, the former government officials acknowledged that they did not actually witness the burning or shredding of the documents, the report said. The pact's existence was validated in 2000 through declassified U.S. State Department documents. In addition, Ryohei Murata, a former administrative vice foreign minister, acknowledged in a recent interview that when he took over the post in the late 1980s, his predecessor handed over a single piece of clerical stationery that explained the secret agreement. Murata said he explained the secret agreement to two foreign ministers during his tenure.

The practice of explaining the pact to foreign ministers apparently ended in 2001, when Lower House member Makiko Tanaka assumed the post. Another former administrative vice foreign minister would not confirm if the secret agreement existed. "No document recording the secret pact remains. There is no way one can present something that does not exist," the former vice minister said to the newspaper. In the latest evidence, Kyodo News reported on Saturday the Foreign Ministry had kept the English-version document of a secret Japan-U.S. pact, quoting an unnamed former senior ministry official. The document had been placed under the strict supervision of the ministry's North American Affairs Bureau and Treaties Bureau, which is now International Legal Affairs Bureau, said the official who served as director general of the Treaties Bureau. It is the first time that the existence of the English-version document at the ministry has been revealed, Kyodo said. A former vice foreign minister has already confirmed the existence of a Japanese-version of the document in the ministry.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 07/11/2009

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Hatoyama Plans to Dilute Power of Bureaucrats

A government led by Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) will give politicians more say in policy decisions and dilute the longstanding power of bureaucrats, according to opposition leader Yukio Hatoyama's plan. Details of Minshuto's plan for reforming the central government structure if the party comes into power emerged over the weekend. The proposal will be included in Minshuto's campaign manifesto for the Lower House election that must be called by September. However, the plan does not state a clear timetable for achieving the goals because many of the measures would require legal revisions. One proposal would involve the creation of a "national strategy bureau" that would be under the direct control of the prime minister and set the broad outline for the government budget. The bureau would move the budget compilation function away from the Finance Ministry, giving the prime minister and his aides more power in compiling the budgets.

The party proposal calls for "bringing together talented individuals from the public and private sectors to create a national vision and the broad outlines of the budget under the initiative of politicians." Other proposals would make talks among Cabinet ministers more meaningful. A ministers' committee would be set up to allow for greater and freer policy discussions, unlike the regular Cabinet meetings that have become forums for rubber-stamping decisions already made by bureaucrats. The committee would be charged with "coordination among the politicians in dealing with difficult policy questions," the party proposal states. The Minshuto proposal also attempts to dilute the influence of meetings involving vice ministers - the top bureaucrats of each ministry - so that they no longer serve as a preliminary coordination body. The meetings now effectively determine what items appear on the agenda for Cabinet meetings.

A new "administrative renovation council" would also be established to monitor all budgets and policy systems to eliminate waste and questionable actions. In addition, the Minshuto proposal calls for sending about 100 politicians to the various ministries to serve in the top three positions of minister, senior vice minister and parliamentary secretary, as well as aides to the ministers. Politicians in the top three positions would be in charge of proposing and deciding on policy for their ministry. At a news conference Friday at the Japan National Press Club, Hatoyama gave an example of an issue that would be tackled by politicians under his administration. He said a resolution of the issue of lost and unidentified pension records would be handled by "acting after setting an objective of resolving the issue in two years." Hatoyama also said he would propose to the ruling coalition the creation of a deliberative council consisting of representatives of the ruling and opposition parties to ensure a smooth transition in a change of government.

From THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 07/13/2009

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Minshuto Scores Landslide Victory, Becomes Largest Party in Tokyo Assembly

Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) scored a landslide victory in Sunday's Tokyo metropolitan assembly election, giving the main opposition party a huge boost before the next Lower House election. Minshuto won 20 more seats to bring its total to 54 in the 127-seat assembly. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party lost 10 and ended up with 38 seats. "It's a result of higher trust in Minshuto, beyond the Tokyo administration," Naoto Kan, Minshuto's acting president, said on an NHK TV program Sunday night. The LDP and its junior coalition partner, New Komeito, failed to secure 64 seats needed to maintain a majority at the capital's assembly, although all 23 New Komeito candidates won. Minshuto gained about 40 percent of all votes, compared with about 25 percent for the LDP.

The Minshuto victory also snapped the LDP's 40-year streak of being the largest party in the Tokyo assembly. Voter turnout was 54.49 percent, up from 43.99 percent in the previous election four years ago. The results of the election are seen as a major indicator of how the parties will fare in the next Lower House election, which has been set for Aug. 30. The setback of the LDP-Komeito coalition in Tokyo had heightened calls for Prime Minister Taro Aso to step down. Coalition lawmakers also demanded Aso hold off on a Lower House election. "We have just received a sharp verdict from Tokyo voters," Nobuteru Ishihara, LDP's acting secretary-general and head of the party's Tokyo chapter, said Sunday night. "We'd appreciate some time to stop (and think)." Buoyed by Sunday's victory in Tokyo, Minshuto Diet members were expected to submit a no-confidence motion against Aso's Cabinet to the Lower House and a censure motion against the prime minister to the Upper House on Monday.

The momentum heading into the Lower House election is clearly on Minshuto's side. The opposition party endorsed 58 candidates for the metropolitan assembly election, 54 of whom won. What may be worrisome for the LDP is the fact that Minshuto gained seats in five of the seven constituencies with only one seat and won the most votes in all 16 two-seat constituencies. The LDP, which also endorsed 58 candidates, failed to win over unaffiliated voters and lost some seats held by veteran assembly members, including the secretary-general of the party's Tokyo chapter. With the LDP-New Komeito coalition no longer in control of the assembly, Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara has lost major power base. Ishihara, in fact, had actively supported 36 LDP candidates during the campaign.

Minshuto in its manifesto for the assembly election promised to abolish the metropolitan government's involvement in ShinGinko Tokyo, a debt-ridden financial institution set up at Ishihara's urging. Minshuto also opposes the forceful relocation of the Tsukiji fish market, the nation's largest, from its current location. As in the past four Tokyo assembly elections, all New Komeito candidates won, thanks to the solid backing of the party's main support base, the lay Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai. The Japanese Communist Party lost five seats and now has eight. A local political party, Tokyo Seikatsusha Network, won two seats. Two independent candidates were elected, while the Social Democratic Party failed to win a seat again. Aso was active in the campaigns of LDP candidates, visiting the offices of 57 candidates since before the official campaign period kicked off - an unusual move for a prime minister.

From THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 07/13/2009

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Ministry to Punish Over 1,200 Officials for Illegal Union Activities

The farm ministry said Friday it will punish 1,237 officials for involvement in or tacit approval of engagement in union activities during work hours in breach of the national public service law. A set of disciplinary measures announced by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries includes a one-month suspension from office applicable to 23 union members, the ministry said. Vice farm minister Michio Ide and the head of the farm minister's secretariat will return 10% of their pay for a month to state coffers, although the ministry said the top ministry officials do not bear ultimate responsibility because such illegal activities took place mostly in the ministry's regional offices. The ministry said it will demand repayment of a total of around 2.5 billion yen earned by union members while engaged in illicit activities and may file criminal complaints in serious cases.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/18/2009

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Lower House to Be Dissolved on Tuesday / 1,200 Set to Run in Aug. 30 Poll Showdown

Prime Minister Taro Aso will dissolve the House of Representatives at its plenary session starting at 1 p.m. Tuesday, sources have said. At an extraordinary Cabinet meeting following the dissolution, the government is expected to formally decide the schedule of the lower house election, with campaigning to officially commence Aug. 18 and the vote set for Aug. 30. It will be the first general election since September 2005, when then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi led the Liberal Democratic Party. The key question at the forthcoming election is whether the ruling coalition of the LDP and New Komeito will be able to hold on to power, or if they will be replaced by a new government led by the Democratic Party of Japan.

At a Cabinet meeting set for 8 a.m. Tuesday, the prime minister is expected to formally propose dissolution of the lower house and Cabinet ministers will then be asked to sign a document agreeing to the dissolution. After the Emperor signs the Imperial decree proclaiming the dissolution, lower house Speaker Yohei Kono will read it out and the house will be dissolved. Aso is expected to hold a press conference at 6 p.m. Tuesday to declare his determination for the election campaign. However, despite the lower house not yet having been dissolved, the ruling and opposition parties already have, for all intents and purposes, started campaigning. According to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey, as of Sunday, the number of would-be candidates, some of whom are running in single-seat constituencies and proportional representation seats, already had exceeded 1,200 - more than the 1,131 in the last general election.

The LDP and New Komeito are trying to secure a majority of seats - at least 241 - by pointing to what they say is the success of the Aso Cabinet's economic measures. The parties also plan to question the financial resources necessary to support the DPJ's policy pledges and challenge the DPJ's foreign and security proposals. The DPJ will argue that it is time for a change of regime and will highlight its own policies, including creation of a children's allowance of 26,000 yen per month and an income compensation system for individual farming households. The DPJ intends to form a coalition by joining forces with the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party in the election campaign.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 07/20/2009

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Election Campaigning Gets Nasty in Japan

Japan's opposition Democratic Party lashed out yesterday at what it charged was a misleading negative campaign by the ruling party ahead of an election that Prime Minister Taro Aso's coalition is in danger of losing. Analysts say Aso's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), shaken by internal feuds and facing a possible loss in an August 30 poll, is making attacks on the Democrats of a sort rare in a country where many have had an allergy to Western-style negative campaigns.

Struggling to avert an election loss that would mark the end of a half-century of almost unbroken rule, the LDP has made clear its strategy of attacking the Democrats as weak on security policy and irresponsible on public finances. On Wednesday, the LDP ran a full-page advertisement in the conservative Sankei newspaper, with a big, bold-faced headline declaring: "The Future of Japan is in Danger".

Democratic Party Secretary-General Katsuya Okada blasted the ad, as well as recent televised remarks by his LDP counterpart, as containing misleading statements about his party's policies.

"It is natural for there to be healthy criticism and debate about policies, but the stance of the LDP, which is stressing partial, biased information and is not engaging in serious debate, is extremely regrettable and sad," Okada told a news conference. An opposition Democratic Party victory would usher in a government pledging to pay more heed to consumers than companies, wrest control of policy from bureaucrats to reduce waste, and adopt a diplomatic stance less subservient to ally the US. It would also raise the chances of ending a political deadlock resulting from a divided parliament in which the opposition controls the upper house, which has delayed policy implementation as Japan struggles to emerge from a deep recession.

Surveys show the Democrats in front in the lead-up to the election, and analysts say the LDP, jolted by the prospect of losing power for only the second time since its founding, is adopting the negative campaign in a bid to win back conservative voters. In one example, the ruling party is running an animated cartoon on its website portraying Democratic leader Yukio Hatoyama as a smooth-talking suitor wooing a woman with fuzzy promises. The LDP is also charging the opposition with being under the thumb of the teachers' union, a group anathema to conservatives.

"It's an old political trick, although new in Japan. The LDP may try to make the most of it," said Sophia University professor Koichi Nakano of the LDP's strategy. "The question is whether it will come out as desperate and unseemly, or convince some undecided voters. It's not clear because we've not seen anything like this before." The LDP's No. 2 repeated his criticism of the Democrats' policies and rebutted media charges that his own party was way behind schedule on finalising their campaign platform. "You can't say it's better just because you've put it out earlier," LDP Secretary-General Hiroyuki Hosoda said in an interview with a group of reporters.

"It's odd to say it's good when it's sloppy ... They may be presenting it as a pretty rose but it might be an artificial flower."

From http://www.gulf-times.com/ 07/24/2009

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Japan Ruling Party No.2 Says Won't Ditch Reforms

Japan's ruling party has not abandoned its drive for vital economic reforms, the party's No. 2 official said on Friday, despite rifts in the group ahead of an election over how to fix the country's tattered public finances. Views within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) over the fate of pro-market reforms spearheaded by former leader Junichiro Koizumi are split as the party faces the possibility of losing the August 30 election. LDP Secretary-General Hiroyuki Hosoda said the party was still committed to Koizumi's drive to fix Japan's tattered public finances, although the economic downturn was making the process difficult."The path for reforms hasn't stopped," he said in an interview with a group of reporters. "It's just that in the three years after the Koizumi administration, we reformed regional economies too drastically and squeezed funding too much ... so we've been increasing funds for them a little." The party has been split over how to address the need to raise a 5 percent consumption tax, Koizumi's pet project of privatising the postal system, and other issues as it tries to finalise its campaign platform. The opposition Democratic Party presented a 49-page policy document on Thursday.

From http://au.news.yahoo.com/ 07/24/2009

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SOUTH KOREA: President Lee Names New Chief of Human Rights Commission

SEOUL (Yonhap) - President Lee Myung-bak Thursday named Hyun Byung-chul as the new head of the National Human Rights Commission after its former chief stepped down last month amid conflict over a government-initiated downsizing of the watchdog. Hyun, currently head of Hanyang Cyber University, was picked for his ability to put the organization back in order, an official at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/ 07/16/2009

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MONGOLIA: Former Prime Minester Is New Ivanhoe Mines Advisor

Officials of Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. announced on Wednesday that they had hired a former Prime Minister of Canada as a senior international adviser. Robert Friedland, Executive Chairman of Ivanhoe Mines, said former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien has been hired by the international mining conglomerate. In Mongolia, Ivanhoe Mines operates the mammoth Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine development project in southern Mongolia and maintains large shareholdings in Mongolian coal miner SouthGobi Energy Resources (SGQ:TSX-V). Mr. Chretien has been active in Canadian and global development circles as a lawyer with the Canada-based international law firm Heenan Blaikie since retiring as Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party in 2003. He entered national politics in 1963 and served three terms as Prime Minister between 1993 and 2003. During his long parliamentary career, Mr. Chretien held a succession of senior cabinet posts in the Canadian Government, including Minister of Finance, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce. "Jean Chretien was instrumental in advancing relationships between many Canadian businesses and rapidly industrializing China and its neighbour nations through his hands-on, prime ministerial leadership of a series of successful Team Canada trade development missions," said Mr. Friedland.

From http://www.mongolia-web.com/ 07/13/2009

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MALAYSIA: Crucial Priority Areas for KPIs Identified

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government has identified crucial priority areas for ministerial key performance indicators (KPIs) during its weekend retreat , said Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon. The Minister in the Prime Minister's Department for National Unity and Performance Management said the two-day camp attended by all but two members of the Cabinet, concentrated on each ministry's key result areas (KRA). "Members of the Cabinet presented their preliminary key result areas with suggestions for what should be included in their KPIs. "We looked at each other's KRAs and KPIs and offered constructive suggestions and criticisms," Dr Koh said after launching Gerakan's Satu Hati Fiesta here yesterday. He said the Government aimed at establishing KPIs for its ministries in less than one year. "According to consultants and experts in the field, we have covered in three months what private companies take a year to cover," he said.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 07/06/2009

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Ministry Forms Panel to Improve Service at Shelter Homes

KUALA KUBU BARU: A committee will be formed to raise the competency level in government-run shelter homes in the country and in the provision of care for the disabled, said Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil. She said the committee would find ways to improve the current state of service and equip the departments involved with the necessary expertise and technology in treating and caring for those who need special care at the homes. "I will personally spearhead the committee along with my ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Faizah Mohd Tahir and people from the Welfare Department," Shahrizat said when visiting the Taman Sinar Harapan shelter home here yesterday. She said that among others, the committee was also expected to discuss ways and methods on the training of welfare officers and the improvement of conditions at shelter homes. The minister also suggested that Suhakam and the Bar Council form a special task force and volunteer at the home for a month for hands-on experience before filing their official report to the authorities. Although she admitted that shelter homes could do with more staff, Shahrizat said that increasing the number of welfare officers was not a long-term solution. "What we need is a new methodology and a paradigm shift in the system and to move forward with a new mentality," she said, stressing that the community played an important role in understanding and providing care for the disabled.

"All I want to know is, where are the families of the patients here? They have made this into a place to dump or abandon their own disabled family members, whom they can't cope with anymore. "They have to be more involved in caring for them," she said, adding that the Government was open to any suggestion and help, particularly foreign expertise on the methods of caring for the disabled. Shahrizat said it was also time for change, adding that she had been dissatisfied with the current standard of care for the disabled and the condition of shelter homes. "I'm not going to play the blame game or point fingers at this stage. What really needs to be done is that everyone should come and put our heads together in resolving the issue," she said. Shahrizat said the caregivers involved had also given their best as they were not experts in handling the disabled, especially the mentally challenged. Welfare Department deputy director-general (operations) Halijah Yahaya, who was present, denied that cough syrup had been given as sedative to the residents.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 07/08/2009

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Personal Data Protection: 'Govt Has Own Mechanisms'

KUALA LUMPUR: The Personal Data Protection Bill, which aims to protect and regulate the use of private data, would only be applicable to the private sector and not government machinery, said Information, Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim. He claimed safeguards were already in place to take care of government channels but there were insufficient regulations on the use of personal data in the hands of irresponsible people. "We do not involve government concerns here because the Government already possesses the relevant authorities and legal precincts and parameters - such as the Official Secrets Act and laws pertaining to creditors," he said at a press conference after launching the 1Malaysia Contemporary Mural Painting Competition at the Sultan Abdul Samad building Wednesday. He said with the passing of the bill in the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara, the needs of electronic commercial dealings would be seen to while the identity of an individual would be safeguarded. Dr Rais said under the bill, the commercial world would not be able to buy or sell a person's personal data, and the data must be used carefully according to the law. "The data pertaining to the individual shall be guaranteed in terms of integrity, its proper usage through the channels organised under the Act. "We need to also look into the integrity of the data and the purpose of each datum that is collected by any institution in the commercial world," he said.

Dr Rais said the Government had received numerous complaints that a person's personal data has been missued to bar them from getting benefits from certain programmes and policies. Such personal data had also been transferred to bodies that were not supposed to receive it. "Under this law, a personal data protection commission would be created. In addition, the public would also be able to appeal to a tribunal established according to the Act if they are not happy with management of their data," he said. Dr Rais said the Act would be benefecial to the country especially in e-commerce and e-business. The 1Malaysia Contemporary Mural Painting Competition is open to all Malaysians and aims to to capture the philosophy of 1Malaysia in paint. Contestants interested in taking part of the competition must send their paintings before July 27 to the National Art Gallery. For more information, call (03) 4026-7000 or log on to www.artgallery.gov.my.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 07/15/2009

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Contractual Bonus Sought for Govt Servants

CUEPACS will be asking for a contractual bonus scheme for civil servants, Berita Harian reported, quoting Bernama. The Cuepacs Congress Council has passed resolutions demanding a permanent annual bonus scheme, and a review of the pension scheme calculation to include last-drawn allowances. The report quoted sources as saying that a memorandum based on the resolutions passed during a recent council meeting in Ipoh would be forwarded to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak soon. Cuepacs is also demanding a reduction in the housing loan annual interest rate from 4% to 1% and full payment in lieu of leave days not taken (currently, claims can only be made for a maximum 150 days). Cuepacs is making the demands in view of the government's move to review conditions for civil service employment. Several Malay dailies reported that Kota Alam Shah assemblyman M. Manoharan has publicly apologised for refusing to wear a songkok, even to functions at­tended by the Sultan of Selangor. Manoharan sent a letter of apology dated July 15 to the Peninsular Malaysia Federation of Malay Students, according to the reports.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 07/17/2009

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PHILIPPINES: Improving Governance, Corruption Control - WB Study

MANILA (PNA) - The Philippines slightly improved in its governance and control corruption last year, the World Bank (WB) said. In its Worldwide Governance Indicators 1996 to 2008, the Washington-based lender said the Philippines scored negative 0.75 in control of corruption last year from negative 0.79 in 2007. In 1996, the country scored positive in controlling corruption. The World Bank indicator measured broad dimensions of governance such as voice and accountability, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law and control of corruption: The indicators cover 212 countries and territories for 1996, 1998, 2000 and annually for 2002 to 2008. The indicators are based on several hundred individual variables measuring perceptions of governance, drawn from 35 separate data sources to capture the views of tens of thousands of survey respondents worldwide, as well as thousands of experts in the private, non-government organization and public sectors. Other Asian countries like Thailand scored better in anti-corruption last year to -0.38; Malaysia, 0.14; Vietnam, Indonesia, -0.64 and Singapore, 2.34. The Philippines has better score compared to Vietnam at -0.76.

In terms of government effectiveness, the Philippines scored zero last year from 0.04 in 2007; political stability, -1.41 from -1.31; rule of law, -0.49 frin -0.54; regulatory quality, -0.05 from -0.13 and voice and accountability, -0.2 from -0.16. The World Bank report said better governance helped in the fight against poverty and improved living standards. "When governance is improved by one standard deviation, infant mortality declines by two-thirds and incomes rise about three-fold in the long run," the bank said. The quality of governance around the world has not improved much over the past decade on the average, the World Bank said. Aart Kraay, co-author of the report and lead economist in the Development Research Group of the World Bank said, however, that the good news was that some countries were recognizing and responding to governance challenges, and were showing strong improvements that reflected concerted efforts by political leaders, policymakers, civil society, and the private sector. The WGI is a research project initiated by Kaufmann and Kraay in the late 1990s, and is now coauthored with Massimo Mastruzzi of the World Bank Institute. The authors define governance as the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised. This includes how governments are selected, monitored and replaced; the capacity of the government to effectively formulate and implement sound policies; and the respect of citizens and the state for the institutions that govern economic and social interactions among them.

From http://www.gov.ph/ 06/30/2009

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PGMA Awards 10 Outstanding COPS

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today awarded the country's 10 outstanding policemen in service (COPS), in ceremonies at Malacanang's Rizal Hall. COPS is an annual undertaking of the Metrobank Foundation headed by its president Aniceta Sobreña. This is the President's first public appearance since she returned from her official working visit to Japan and state visit to Brazil and undergoing voluntary quarantine last week at the Asian Hospital in Alabang, Muntilupa. Those awarded from the police commissioned officers rank were: P/Supt. Dionardo B. Carlos of the Dumaguete Police Station; P/Supt. Eliseo C. Cruz of Cabanatuan City Police Station; Police Chief Inspector Alden B. Delvo of Davao City; P/Supt. Eric E. Noble of PNP Personnel Holding and Accounting Unit. From the police non-commissioned officers, awarded were: SPO 1 Gaudencio N. Callo who set up a water refilling station with its earnings going to education programs that support the out of school youth; SPO4 Baltazar Q. Carillo who has been holding anti drug lectures for the youth; PO3 Manuela P. Cueto who has been conducting religious services at the Taal Local Jail and providing rehabilitative and restorative justice with the help of the Department of Social Welfare to children in conflict with the law; PO3 Arturo C. Melchor Jr., a pre-charge investigator tasked with investigating "rotten eggs" in the police system; SPO2 Danilo R. Nazareno for implementing the "private eye," a citizen-based information collection project adopted by the Dangerous Drugs Board and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency; and PO2 Sherill G. Ybanez, the youngest awardee, for initiating a campaign on family crime prevention program and conducting anti drug campaigns, feeding programs and diversion programs to children in conflict with the law. (PND)

From http://www.gov.ph/ 07/07/2009

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PGMA Launches National Youth Service Program

GUAGUA, Pampanga (PND) - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo launched here today the National Youth Service (NYS) program, one of the priority projects of the administration and the National Youth Commission (NYC) to underscore the importance of the youth in community action in the wake of the global economic crisis.. Addressing an enthusiastic crowd at the covered court of the Guagua East Central Elementary School in Barangay Sta. Filomena, the President lauded the youth and all agencies involved in the implementation of Executive Order No. 788, a policy that promotes the role of the youth in national service. In her speech, she noted that E.O. 788 is the prompt response of the national government to avert the mitigating impact of the global financial meltdown. The Executive Order tackles the need to involve the youth 18 to 24 years old in the national service program through the National Service Corps (NSC) and Youth Conservation Corps (YCC). Under the National Service Corps, all unemployed and underemployed skilled youth or college graduates will be recruited by involved agencies to perform like a domestic "Peace Corps."

She said the youth under the National Service Corps will undertake a two-year national service commitment either as educator and community service staff in exchange for a modest stipend or allowance. The Youth Conservation Corps, on the other hand, is composed of unskilled or less educated youth, and will focus on environmental and infrastructure projects. Such youth, the President said, will also undertake a two-year national service commitment with a modest stipend. The current program known as Out-of-School-Youth Serving Towards Economic Resiliency (OYSTER) shall be subsumed into the YCC, she added. The President distributed a total of 56 Certificates of Employment to youth beneficiaries from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) under the Youth Information Technology Opportunities (Youth-ITO) and Special Program for Employment of Students (SPES), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) under the project OYSTER, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) under the Bantay Dagat and Bantay Gubat Programs, and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) under the Community Service Program, and Philippine National Police (PNP) project OYSTER.

From http://www.gov.ph/ 07/09/2009

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SINGAPORE: Govt to Set Up New Road Safety Council by Early 2010

SINGAPORE: Singapore's setting up a new Singapore Road Safety Council by early next year. It aims to adopt a more focused and holistic approach to road safety by fostering closer cooperation of all stakeholders involved in activities to prevent road accidents and to enhance safety. The new council will also be the official body for Singapore to engage with other international road safety councils and programmes that contribute to global road safety outcomes. It will also serve as a forum for the public to express their views and exchange ideas on road safety matters. Besides this outreach, 37 of the region's best drivers were all set to perform and entertain in the Formula Drift series at the Changi Exhibition Centre which ends on Sunday. Kicking off the campaign was Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs, Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee. He said for the first quarter of this year, the number of fatalities on Singapore's roads dropped by about 32 per cent to 37 cases against 54 in the same period last year. This year's campaign targets two key audiences - elderly pedestrians and motorcyclists. Professor Ho said motorcyclists and pillion riders remain a key concern as they form half of those who died on the roads. To address this, the Traffic Police has also reviewed the Class 2B motorcycle training curriculum and new students since mid-May have to attend additional theory lessons on defensive riding before taking the practical test.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/08/2009

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Government Aims to Build New Media Capabilities Across Agencies

SINGAPORE: In a sign of the times, the Singapore government is putting in more resources to beef up its capabilities to tap onto some of the trendiest new media tools. More young Singaporeans are going online to get information and to network. To reach out to this group of people, the approach is simple - you have to speak their language. In the virtual world, this means having a presence in the networking and online sites of the moment. Sim Gim Guan, deputy secretary, Information & Corporate Management, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, said: "What we want to do now is to build up capability across the whole government, instead of the current state today where some agencies are a lot more experienced, while others have actually not leveraged on new media as much." One government agency has even gone as far as to create its own YouTube-inspired web TV channel. David Miller, assistant director, Corporate Communications, National Heritage Board (NHB), said: "Our plunge to new media is something which is still ongoing. We started off revamping the website with YouTube-like videos. We've been on Twitter for a couple of months now and essentially, we are using that as a platform to spread our message. "We are also on Facebook because this is where our target audience is. They are very familiar with that environment, so we are finding a way where we can speak their language."

Since Heritage TV was launched in February, it has garnered more than 16,000 hits. Moving forward, NHB plans to weave in more social media platforms like Plurk and possibly Wikipedia into its various online outreach sites. Singapore's security and enforcement agencies have also got into the act. The Singapore Police Force, Civil Defence Force, Central Narcotics Bureau and Immigrations and Checkpoints Authority all have dedicated YouTube channels. Videos, podcasts and vodcasts on issues like crime prevention and counter-terrorism are available online, and these videos have proven to be quite popular. The Singapore Police Force's videos have attracted more than 19,000 views. Even the more staid ministries are latching onto this trend. Singapore's Foreign Minister, George Yeo, has his own blog and Facebook account, and the ministry itself is trying to enhance its video-sharing capabilities and networking capabilities online. Miller said: "We really need to look into it and find a way where we can possibly penetrate into the other platforms without being too pushy about it." In the case of NHB's Heritage TV, it encourages Singaporeans to contribute their own videos to be posted online. Seminars and sharing sessions are already being held to equip civil servants with the necessary skills to leverage on new media. New courses are also being developed in partnership with the Civil Service Training College.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/14/2009

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NMPs Officially Appointed by President Nathan

SINGAPORE: Eight of the nine new Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) received their Instruments of Appointment from President S R Nathan at the Istana on Thursday morning. Among them were Paulin Tay Straughan, associate professor in sociology at the National University of Singapore, and Audrey Wong, artistic co-director of contemporary arts venue, The Substation. Singapore Maritime Foundation's chairman Teo Siong Seng is presently away and will receive his instrument of appointment on Monday. The NMPs will make their debut in the House when Parliament sits on Monday. They hope to raise wide-ranging issues in Parliament such as those relating to the elderly, sports and business.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/16/2009

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Singapore to Set Up Workplace Safety & Health Institute

SINGAPORE: Singapore will set up a Workplace Safety and Health Institute by the second half of next year, said Manpower Minister, Gan Kim Yong. Speaking at this year's awards ceremony, he said nations with more developed workplace safety frameworks, like Germany and Japan, have their own special institutes. Celebrating workplace safety, 172 recipients were honoured at this year's awards, 30 per cent more than last year. Kanji Nakao, managing director, Hitachi Global Storage, winner, WSH Excellence Award 2009, said: "Top management are involved in the daily operations to make sure we are safe and healthy and that is the basic principle of our company." But the Manpower Minister said its now time for Singapore to take the next step, that is become a global leader in safety standards. It has invited local tertiary institutions with a track record on workplace safety and health programmes, to submit proposals for the new Workplace Safety and Health Institute, which will focus on two areas. Mr Gan said: "The first area is on education and training to provide training for professionals, management executives and to inculcate the need for WSH and raise the professionalism among our workers. Second area is research and innovation. "We want to study the solutions to the WSH issues which Singapore encounters especially in different sectors and industries." Critical areas of safety lapses will also be addressed especially when Singapore saw 36 work-related fatalities in the first half of this year, four more than for the same period last year. Issues concerning workplace safety and health are not just meant for big companies. It's also for small and medium enterprises. So this year there is a new award for SMEs which have made the extra effort to promote workplace safety and health.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/24/2009

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BANGLADESH: JS Blasts TIB for Report on House

Star online ReportTransparency International Bangladesh (TIB) came under fire in the House today for its report titled 'Parliament Watch 2009' that claimed that Tk 5.41 crore got wasted due to quorum crisis in the inaugural session of the ninth parliament. Chief Whip Abdus Shahid raised the issue in the parliament and blasted the TIB for 'giving misleading' information on quorum crisis while treasury bench lawmakers supported the chief whip's views thumbing desks in presence of Prime Minister and Leader of the House Sheikh Hasina. "TIB undermined the parliament and the nation as well by giving false information on quorum crisis and wastage of money," Shahid said. Speaker Abdul Hamid thanked the chief whip for raising an important issue and said the TIB should have come up with accurate information. "They should think carefully before disclosing any information. Everybody should be sincere so that nation is not misled for wrong information," the speaker said. Referring to the TIB's disclosure on wastage of money, he said if Tk 5 crore is wasted in one session, then Tk 25 crore will be wasted in five sessions in a year. "But interestingly, I don't have the budget of Tk 25 crore to meet the expenditure of parliament session in a year," Hamid said. The speaker however admitted that the sitting of the House begins seven to 12 minutes in delay of the scheduled time.

From http://www.thedailystar.net/ 07/07/2009

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Hasina Re-elected AL President

DHAKA: Sheikh Hasina was re-elected the president of the Awami League unopposed for a sixth term as the ruling party held its 20th national council session amid fanfare on Friday. The council also elected Syed Ashrfaul Islam as the party's general secretary uncontested for the next three years. Party chief Sheikh Hasina, also the prime minister, inaugurated the national council session at Bangabandhu Convention Centre at 10:30am. The party held the council with the slogan '60 years of struggle and success' after a lapse of seven years. The election commission, formed to conduct elections to the party posts, invited aspirants for the post of the president as Sheikh Hasina dissolved the party's national committee at the council session. At once, all councillors, in a chorus, wanted Hasina for the highest post of the party, said sources among the councillors. Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury proposed Hasina's presidency and Matia Chowdhury supported the proposal. Amid cheers and applause, election commissioner Rahmat Ali declared Hasina elected unopposed and unanimously the party president as there was no contestant. Hasina was first elected president of the AL in 1981 when she was in exile. As the election commission, led by MA Mannan, asked for candidates for the post of the general secretary, Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim proposed the name of Syed Ashraful Islam for the post and it was endorsed by Matia Chowdhury. None declared candidature for the post and the election commissioner declared Ashraful elected unopposed. As Rahmat Ali invited the new party president and general secretary to the dais, the councillors vested the responsibility to fill the other key positions of the party in the party president. In reply, Hasina said she, along with the new general secretary, would announce the new committee, sources said.

As per the party constitution, the president, presidium members, general secretary, departmental secretaries and treasurer are to be elected by the triennial council from among the councillors. After being re-elected the party president, Hasina, wanted to know from the councillors why they had given her the responsibility of the party president once more when she wanted a new leadership to take over this time. 'None but you,' the councillors said in one voice, according to a source. More than 5,000 councillors from 73 organisational districts attended the party's national council session. The Awami League held the council session somewhat hurriedly, to comply with the Representation of the People Order (Amendment) Act 2009 which makes it mandatory for political parties to submit their ratified constitutions to the Election Commission six months inside the first sitting of the ninth parliament. The first session of the ninth parliament began on 25 January. In the second session of the council, which started at 3:00pm, the AL approved its ratified constitution and manifesto, a day before the expiry of EC's deadline. The second session was held inside the convention centre where none other than the councillors were allowed. Hasina expressed her gratitude to all for electing her the party president and sought their cooperation to lead the party properly, a councillor said. She urged all to remain united to further strengthen the party in the coming days forgetting past mistakes. 'Awami League is a family. If a member of the family has done a wrong, we all have a responsibility to bring them on the right track. It is time we move forward forgetting the mistakes,' she was quoted by the councillors as saying. 'I know all and everything...I know what some leaders of the party did during the regime of the caretaker government and they have got punishment for their deeds. It is time to forgive...,' Hasina said adding, 'It is true all do not have the same courage to face up to a special situation.' She gave an assurance that those who had served the party in its time of adversity would be rewarded.

The AL chief said she was grateful to the grassroots leaders and activists as they had helped keep the party united during its difficult time. Hasina recalled the memories of late Abdus Samad Azad. 'And I also miss Sayeda Johra Tajuddin and Zillur Rahman.' Syed Ashraful Islam, after being elected the party's general secretary, told reporters that he, along with the party president, would declare the full committee within a couple of days. He said he would try his best to discharge his duties with full dedication and help implement the pledges the party had made in its election manifesto. The council session turned into a festival with the participation of hundreds of leaders and activists of the party and its associate bodies gathering in and outside the Bangabandhu International Convention Centre. Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the programme at about 10:30am by releasing pigeons and balloons. Some 10,000 councillors and delegates attended the first session while leaders of different political parties, writers, poets, eminent persons, foreign diplomats, heads of religious institutes, intellectuals, ministers and state ministers and party lawmakers attended the first session of the council. A three-member Bangladesh Nationalist Party team comprising Fazlul Haque Milon, Shimul Biswas and Shirin Sultana attended the AL council to hand over greetings of their chairperson Khaleda Zia. With a view to ensuring security of the prime minister Sheikh Hasina, two bullet-proof glass boxes were set up on the dais - one for delivering her speech and the other in front of her seat. Tight security measures were taken at the venue and adjoining areas with deployment of police, RAB, SSF, SWAT and personnel of different intelligence agencies. A separate pandal was erected at the place fixed for Dhaka International Trade Fair, adjacent to the convention centre to accommodate party activists and well-wishers. They watched the proceedings of the first session on a big screen installed there. A cultural show was held under the pandal.

From http://www.southasianmedia.net/ 07/25/2009

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INDIA: Economic Survey Wants Public Accountability Information System

The government must have a public accountability information system (PAIS) with internet access that would give information about funds allocated and expenditure along with names of beneficiaries, the Economic Survey tabled in parliament Thursday said. 'The government in recent years has increased its outlays in the social sector. However, the reach of public and quasi-public goods and services supplied by the state to people still leave a lot of scope for improvement. There are still leakages in the schemes and the benefits in full do not reach the intended target groups of people,' the survey said. 'At the same time, some innovative measures have been initiated in NREGS (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) to bring in more transparency in disbursements of funds and prevent leakages,' it added. 'The PAIS system should be accompanied by an integrated smart card system which empowers the citizen to demand approved/budgeted entitlements as right. The system needs to be built on the identification and issue of unique ID number to all residents.' The survey said that based on this unique ID number (UID) and associated information, all residents should be entitled to a smart card containing specified unchangeable data. Entitlements would be based on the data contained in the smart card, and services, subsidies and entitlements received would be recorded against this card. 'This system would help in proper targeting and ensuring services reaching the intended beneficiaries of the government programmes and hence serve as the basis of efficient delivery of services,' the survey said. 'The UID scheme is a Planning Commission initiative and the initial UID database would be created using the electoral rolls database of the Election Commission of India. This database would be then enriched through linkages with partner databases. 'It said initially, linkages would be made with ration card and the below poverty line databases. 'The share of central government expenditure on social services including rural development in total expenditure (plan and non-plan) has increased from 11.23 percent in 2002-03 to 19.44 percent in 2008-09 (revised estimates),' the survey said.

From http://www.calcuttanews.net/ 07/02/2009

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RBI Reconstitutes Advisory Committee on Monetary Policy

Bangalore: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has reconstituted the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) on monetary policy with effect from July 1. The panel will review the macroeconomic and monetary developments in the country and will advise the banking regulator on the stance of monetary policy due on July 28. The panel will be headed by RBI governor Duvvuri Subarao and will have deputy governor S Gopinath, Usha Thorat and K C Chakrabarty as its members. Governor-in-charge of the Monetary Policy Department will be the Vice Chairman. Ashok Ganguly and Y H Malegam are the two members from RBI's Committee of the Central Board (CCB). External members to the TAC are D M Nachane, Shankar Acharya, Samir Kumar Barua, P J Nayak and A Vasudevan. The central bank said, "The tenure of the committee will be for two years up to June 30, 2011." According to the rule of the central bank, TAC would meet once in a quarter to review the macroeconomic and monetary developments and to advise the central bank on its stance of monetary policy. It will review the infrastructure, legal and institutional arrangements for trading, transfer and settlement in the markets in the context of emerging payments systems.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 07/25/2009

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MALDIVES: National Youth Council Formed

MALE: Ministry of Human Resources Youth and Sports have constituted an Interim National Youth Council to implement the government policies on youth development and welfare. The Interim National Youth Council is formed to implement government policy on youth, to plan and implement various youth activities. The ministry said a national youth council is required as substantial portion of the population of the country are youth and as youth play a key role in the development of the country. The ministry also said until the National Youth Council is formed, all major decisions involving government policy on youth development and welfare will be taken under the advice and guidance of the interim national youth council. The members of the interim national youth council, their ranks and areas they are represent are , Ahmed Shareef , Superintendent of Maldives Police Services; Samee Ageel , Director General at Ministry of Finance and Treasury; Ahmed Adil , State Minister at Home Ministry ; Mohamed Adlee , Senior Curriculum Developer at Maldives Education Development Center/ Ministry of Education; Hamza Khaleel , CYP Youth Caucus Member , Aishath Rasheeda , Director at Ministry of Human Resources Youth and Sports; Aishath Nazhath , Director at Ministry of Human Resources Youth and Sports; Abdulla Rasheed of Shabnameege / S. Feydhoo /private sector and Mohamed Habeeb of G. Benhaage / private sector.

From http://www.unpan.org/ 07/05/2009

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PAKISTAN: Magistracy System to Be Revived on Provinces' Demand : LG Elections Postponed

* Nazims to be replaced with administrators in August
* PM says postponement on NWFP government request due to security situation

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday announced that the local government (LG) system would be abolished in August and administrators would be appointed in place of nazims to run LG affairs until fresh elections, a date for which would be decided later. The prime minister said the old executive magistracy system would be restored. "The provinces unanimously agreed that LGs will be dissolved and administrators will be appointed to run their affairs until elections. Elections will not be held as long as the atmosphere across the country is not conducive for fresh elections," he said. "Since it is the prerogative of the president to dissolve the LGs and appoint administrators, I will advise the president to dissolve the LGs and appoint administrators in August," he said. Gilani said the LG elections were being postponed on the request of the NWFP government due to the security situation there. The prime minister said that the national census, due in September-October this year, was also being delayed because of the unstable security situation across the country and the ongoing military operations. "The census is being delayed for the time being and we will reassess the situation by the end of the year," he said. Gilani said the government had decided to declare 2010 as the 'Year of Literacy' with a full focus on increasing literacy. He said addressing the grievances of the people of Balochistan was the government's top priority. Gilani said water would be distributed among provinces according to the 1991 water-sharing accord.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 07/09/2009

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Govt. Serving Nation Under Zardari Leadership

KARACHI: Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah has said that our government is rendering services to the nation, following the program of slain Benazir Bhutto under the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari. Chairing the meeting of PPP Sindh here at CM house, Qaim said provincial government has established a vast network of development across province as 75 billion rupees have been allocated for development projects in the current fiscal budget while 55 billion rupees were allocated for the reason last year. He claimed commencing work on Thar Coal Project soon, which he hoped to have brought revolution in energy sector ending the ongoing power crisis once for all. Government is vigilantly bent upon establishment of law and order and peace, provision of employment, development of education and health sectors and end of inflation, he added. CM Sindh lauded the sacrifices of army men being rendered during Malakand operation.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 07/13/2009

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Pakistan Cabinet Expansion, Reshuffle Soon

The government has decided "in principle" to expand and reshuffle the federal cabinet in the next two to three days, Dunya News reported on Thursday. The channel quoted its sources as saying that Raza Rabbani, Nabeel Gabol, Sughra Imam, Afzal Sindhu and Ijaz Jakhrani were likely to get the ministries of Law, Information Technology (IT), Women's Welfare, Health and Kashmir Affairs respectively. Mehreen Bhutto and Anwar Kharal are expected to be made state ministers for IT and Health respectively. Senator Islamuddin Sheikh is also expected to join the cabinet, the channel said. The cabinet is expected to be expanded before Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's visit to Egypt next week. daily times monitor.

From http://www.unpan.org/ 07/13/2009

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President Asks for Setting Up Inland Water Transport Authority: Govt to Build 13 Small Dams

* 5 dams to be constructed in Balochistan, 4 in Sindh and 2 each in Frontier and Punjab
* Groundbreaking for projects in October

ISLAMABAD: Thirteen dams will be built in all four provinces, including five in Balochistan, four in Sindh and two each in NWFP and Punjab, WAPDA Chairman Shakeel Durrani said on Tuesday. He was speaking at a meeting attended by President Asif Ali Zardari at the Presidency. The meeting discussed various issues including the construction of small and medium dams and the development of hybrid seeds to multiply agricultural produce. The president advised the government to engage experts and consultants for a study on the setting up of an Inland Water Transport Authority (IWTA) in order to plan and develop an inland water transportation system on the River Indus. Zardari directed that the report on the IWTA be completed within 3 months. "The authority should be given legislative cover rather then establishing it through an executive order," he said. "Pakistan must not miss out on the economic potential of an inland water transportation system," the president added. Zardari directed that a committee consisting of the Maritime Industry task force Maritime Industry chairman, WAPDA chairman, and a representative each from the Ministry of Ports and Shipping and NESPAK be formed to oversee the preparation of the report within the stipulated time period. Earlier, Durrani briefed the meeting on the proposed project to build small and medium dams in two phases.

The president's spokesman Farhatullah Babar quoted the president as saying that the development of a comprehensive network of rivers and canals for an efficient inland water transportation system should not be delayed any longer. Babar quoted Zardari as saying that the Indus had historically served as a navigation route and there was a need to revive its role in the country's economic progress. Ground breaking: "The president has given a deadline of October for the ground breaking of the project," Babar said. Durrani said that land acquisition for the dams would start from August. "State land under the command area of the dams will be developed by the provincial governments with technical assistance from the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) to install sprinkle irrigation systems for high value crops," he said. In order to finance the dams, he said, Rs 2.5 billion were available from the current year's Public Sector Development Programme and a memorandum of understanding signed with China provided $700 million over the next four years. Babar quoted the president as saying that the state land in the command areas would be allotted to women, empowering them as part of the policy envisioned by Benazir Bhutto. PARC Chairman Dr Zafar Altaf also gave a detailed presentation on hybrid seed development, which had been aided by China, for wheat, cotton and rice. He said China had shared its world-class genetic resources with the outside world for the first time. "The president has asked the agricultural ministry and PARC to develop plans for helping small, marginal and fragile farmers," the president's spokesman said.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 07/15/2009

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Aitzaz Made Law and Justice Commission Member

ISLAMABAD: In recognition of his services for the independence of the judiciary, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan has been appointed member of the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan. The government has appointed Aitzaz on the recommendation of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who is also the commission's chairman. Aitzaz is the former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and was in the forefront of the movement for the reinstatement of sacked judges. The Law and Justice Commission is a statutory body of the federal government, responsible for systemic reforms and modernisation of the legal system and the administration of justice in the country.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 07/19/2009

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AZERBAIJAN: New Staff of Inter-Governmental Commission for Economic Cooperation Between Azerbaijan and Latvia Approved

On July 24, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree to approve new staff of the inter-governmental commission for economic, scientific-technical and cultural cooperation between Azerbaijan and Latvia, AzerTaj state news agency said. Azerbaijani side of the inter-governmental commission was approved in the following staff: co-chairman of the commission minister of transport Ziya Mammadov, members of the commission deputy foreign minister Khalaf Khalafov, the first deputy minister of finance Ilgar Fatizade, deputy minister of industry and power engineering Gulmammad Javadov, deputy minister of economic development Sevda Mammadaliyeva, deputy minister of education Elmar Gasimov, deputy minister of communication and IT Iltimas Mammadov, the first deputy chairman of the state customs committee Safar Mehdiyev, deputy chairman of Central Bank's board Aftandil Babayev and Azerbaijani extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador to Latvia Tofiq Zulfugarov.

From http://www.today.az/ 07/25/2009

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TAJIKISTAN: Council for Coordinating Vocational Technical Education Development Programs Set Up in Khorog

The Apprenticeship Council for Coordination of Joint Actions on the Vocational Technical Education Development Programs has been set up at the Khorog Campus of the School of Continuing and Professional Education (SCPE) of the University of Central Asia (UCA). Head of the Khorog Campus of UCA's SCPE, Dilovar Butabekov, said in an interview with Asia-Plus that the Council was set up on July 9 on an initiative of representatives from the Khorog construction organizations, cooperating with SCPE on development of the vocational technical education in the region, and the GBAO agency for employment, migration and social protection. "The council is dedicated to promote raising quality of training of specialists in the framework of the vocational technical education programs and placing apprentices graduating the SCPE vocational technical programs in jobs with construction organizations," Butabekov said.

According to him, the vocational technical programs are developed by the SCPE specialists and designed for one year. The programs are implemented under the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on vocational technical education development cooperation singed between UCA and Tajikistan's Ministry of Education and Ministry of Labor and Social Protection. UCA's School of Professional and Continuing Education (SPCE) is Central Asia's first provider of formal, university-based, non-degree educational programs, offering vocational, professional development and personal improvement opportunities to youth and adults. Established in 2006, SPCE is UCA's first operational academic program, and has the mission of fostering economic development. It does this by responding to trends and needs in the local economies of the communities in which it operates and offering courses that improve employment and income generating opportunities for youth and adults, and professional development opportunities for mid-career professionals.

By building vocational skills and professional competencies, SPCE will encourage entrepreneurship in the region and stimulate economic development. UCA was founded in 2000 by the governments of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and His Highness the Aga Khan. It is the world's first internationally chartered institution of higher education. The International Treaty and Charter establishing this secular and private University was signed by His Highness the Aga Khan and the Presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, ratified by the respective parliaments and registered with the United Nations. The Presidents are the Patrons and His Highness the Aga Khan is the Founding Patron and Chancellor of UCA. UCA is a private, independent, self-governing institution which will be governed by an independent Board of Trustees and led by a Rector. It will have three campuses of equal size and stature in each of the founding countries. (by Iftikhor Mirshakar)

From http://www.asiaplus.tj/ 07/10/2009

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Commission Set Up to Promote Permit System Reforms

To promote permit system reforms a special commission for improvement of legal documents has been set up under the Government of Tajikistan, according to the State Committee for Investments and State-owned Property Management (GosKomInvest). The commission members include representatives from the government, business associations and technical experts. "By government's resolution four representatives from business associations will become members of the commission for improvement of legal documents regulating permit system in the country." said the source at GosKomInvest, "They will work on improving legal documents approximately five days per months through the year with possible extension of the term." According to the GosKomInvest deputy head Shuhrat Rahmatboyev, president's decree and government's resolution issued in the past spring obligate to review all legal document regulation the permit system in the country. "The main objective of the government's strategy to reform the permit system is in removing obsolete and useless permit documents and creating new permit system meeting principles of a market economy," said the deputy head, "Reform will make procedures more practical and transparent." According to surveys conducted by international organizations active in the country, some 40 percent of local entrepreneurs face difficulties when applying for permits, a process that is expensive and time-consuming. (by Payrav Chorshanbiyev)

From http://www.asiaplus.tj/ 07/17/2009

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TURKMENISTAN: New Head of Procurement and Rear Services of Ministry of Defense Appointed

President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov signed a decree appointing Begench Gundogdyev Deputy Minister of Defense, Head of Procurement and Rear Services of the Ministry of Defense of Turkmenistan. Begench Gundogdyev succeeded Dovranberdi Atdanov who was relieved of his duties by a separate decree of the head of state "for failing to perform his duties," the Turkmenistan.ru correspondent learned from the press service of the Turkmen President.

From http://www.turkmenistan.ru/ 07/15/2009

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AUSTRALIA: New Energy Agreement to Create Jobs

Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, and Minister for Employment Participation, Senator Mark Arbib, today announced the signing of Memoranda of Understanding, under which the Rudd Government, industry and job service providers will work closely together to ensure job seekers are connected to job opportunities under the Energy Efficient Homes Package. The parties to the Memoranda are the Australian Government, the National Employment Services Association, Master Builders Australia, the Housing Industry Association and the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union. The agreement will identify labour needs, encourage building and construction businesses and Job Services Australia providers to work together to meet these needs, and connect job seekers with relevant training and employment opportunities. The Memoranda will help bring about: Better training and jobs for Australian job seekers, including disadvantaged and Indigenous Australian job seekers, both directly in insulation installation jobs under the Energy Efficiency Homes Package and as an introduction to broader job opportunities in the building and construction industry; Greater numbers of skilled workers for insulation installation and also for future initiatives and opportunities in the building and construction sector more generally. Mr Garrett and Senator Arbib welcomed the signing of the Memoranda as clear evidence of the parties' commitment to supporting jobs. "So often opportunities to connect people to employment are missed not through lack of will but through lack of communication between the different sectors. "This agreement is aimed at maximising the thousands of job opportunities for job seekers across Australia that arise out of the Energy Efficiency Homes Package - and ensuring they actually find their way to people looking for work.

"The concept behind this is to ensure that when a job seeker contacts their Job Services Australia provider for work, they can be directly referred to training and to local insulation employers to connect with a job under this package." The insulation components of the Energy Efficient Homes Package are: Homeowner Insulation Program - installing ceiling insulation, capped at $1,600, to eligible home owner-occupiers with very little or no existing ceiling insulation; Low Emission Assistance Plan for Renters - providing assistance to landlords and tenants, with up to $1,000 to install insulation in private rental properties. "The Energy Efficient Homes Package is the most ambitious energy efficiency program every undertaken, investing some $4 billion in household insulation and solar hot water, helping Australians save on their energy bills and reduce their impact on the environment at the same time," Mr Garrett said. The Energy Efficient Homes Package is a key part of the Rudd Government's $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan, which is specifically designed to support jobs now while building the infrastructure Australia needs for a stronger future.

Further information on Job Services Australia: http://www.deewr.gov.au/Employment/JSA/Pages/default.aspx
Further information on Energy Efficient Homes: http://www.environment.gov.au/energyefficiency/

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/02/2009

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Red Tape Cut for Emissions Data Reports

Companies required to report data on their greenhouse gas emissions and energy use will have their reporting red tape reduced, Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong announced today. At present, some companies are required to provide the same or similar data to up to eight different agencies in different jurisdictions. This process will now be streamlined under an agreement between the Commonwealth, state and territory governments for a nationally consistent approach to greenhouse and energy reporting. Senator Wong said the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Streamlining Protocol will help to reduce the administrative burden for companies when reporting to governments on a wide range of greenhouse and energy information. "This initiative will reduce duplication created by the range of measures that require businesses to report greenhouse gas emissions and energy information," Senator Wong said. "In extreme cases, some companies are preparing up to eight different reports for each different jurisdiction. "The Protocol will be used by all governments to streamline reporting requirements for existing and future greenhouse and energy programs and to establish a standard national approach for collecting greenhouse and energy information." Senator Wong said streamlined reporting would ensure more comprehensive and consistent information was available to both government and the public. "This information will be used to monitor the long-term effects of greenhouse gas emissions on the environment and better direct Australia's action on climate change," Senator Wong said. "Streamlining the greenhouse energy reporting process into a single, national system will reduce the administrative burden for Australian business." More information on the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Streamlining Protocol is available at www.climatechange.gov.au.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/02/2009

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Australian Tsunami Warning System

Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, today acknowledged the effectiveness of the Australian Tsunami Warning System (ATWS) following the undersea earthquake that took place last night off the coast of New Zealand. "The nature of tsunamis means it is important to warn the community of a possible threat, and to use all possible time to prepare," Mr McClelland said. "For this reason, Australia has robust arrangements for coordinating responses to tsunami warnings." The ATWS is provided through the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre which operates 24-hours a day, seven days a week to detect and verify tsunami threats to Australia as a result of earthquakes. The ATWS provides a comprehensive warning system capable of delivering timely and effective tsunami warnings to affected populations. It also supports international efforts to establish an Indian Ocean tsunami warning system, and contributes to the facilitation of tsunami warnings for the South-West Pacific. "Last month, I was pleased to visit the ATWS and deliver the results of 'Exercise Ausnami', a comprehensive test of the system." The events of last night confirm the ability of the system to detect a tsunami threat and provide quick warnings to relevant authorities, emergency agencies and the Australian public. "I would like to thank the staff of the Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia, Emergency Management Australia and relevant agencies in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Norfolk Island for their excellent work and quick cooperation."

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/16/2009

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Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society

The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, today officially launched the Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society at the University of Melbourne. "The Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society is a prime example of academia and industry working together to drive Australia's digital economy," Senator Conroy said. "Programs like this one are pivotal in the Government's plans to encourage and enable Australians to maximise the benefits of digital technology and the National Broadband Network." "Australia's Digital Economy: Future Directions paper, launched last week, recognises that the success of Australia's digital economy requires collaboration by government, industry and the community to maximise the benefits of the digital economy for all Australians." "This launch highlights the strong efforts being made by academia and industry to develop Australia's digital capabilities." "The Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society will play an important role fostering Australia's digital economy leadership by attracting national and international researchers and innovators, and providing a supportive, multi-disciplinary environment for innovative digital businesses." "Importantly, these activities will cover a wide spectrum of social, business and technological activities associated with the new National Broadband Network." "I extend heartfelt congratulations to the University of Melbourne and Professor Rod Tucker for the launch of the Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society and wish the entire team best wishes for the future," Senator Conroy said.

Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society: Online - www.broadband.unimelb.edu.au
Australia's Digital Economy: Future Directions: Online - www.dbcde.gov..au/digital_economy/final_report

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/24/2009

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NEW ZEALAND: Changes Reduce Bureaucracy Around Early Childhood Regulations

Changes to regulations covering early childhood education services will reduce unnecessary bureaucracy while ensuring the health and safety of children, Education Minister Anne Tolley said today. "The changes include 'in perpetuity' licences for early childhood education services and a new minimum age for home-based educators of 17 years," Mrs Tolley said. "They follow consultation with the sector and parents." Other changes include a new Police Vetting requirement for people aged 17 and over living in a home-based educator's home, and a new licensing fee for new services only, she said. "Sleep rooms and plumbed wash facilities will not be required, though services will still be required to have a clear procedure for how they will ensure hygiene and meet sleep requirements. There will also be changes to the risk procedures and role of persons responsible for outings. "These important changes follow the review I directed of the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008,"Mrs Tolley said. "They provide appropriate regulation that assures safe and caring learning environments without placing unnecessary burdens on services." Officials will do further work on other issues covered in the consultation but not addressed in these changes, including options for regulating limited attendance services, regulating group size and maximum centre size, and managing multiple licences to reduce compliance costs. The amended regulations and criteria are expected to take effect in August 2009.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/01/2009

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Government Improves Water Quality Monitoring

"An important part of the Government's strategy to address fresh water quality is improving the standard and frequency of monitoring", Environment Minister Nick Smith said today in addressing Fish & Game New Zealand's annual staff conference. "It is true that we manage what we measure, and there has been insufficient consistent data collection on freshwater quality despite it being one of New Zealand's most valuable and important resources." "This deficiency was exposed in the 2007 New Zealand State of the Environment Report, the new Government is determined to have the work done to enable more accurate reporting for the next State of the Environment report." Dr Smith released the 2008/09 Update on Freshwater Recreational Water Quality and the baseline report on Water Quality in Selected Dairy Farming Catchments. "The data from the last two summaries show that 58% of monitored freshwater swimming spots met the guidelines over 95% of the time where as 8% of sites breached the guidelines more than 25% of the time. This level of non-compliance is not acceptable and highlights the need for a concerted effect to improve recreational water quality." "There is a significant water quality issue emerging in areas of intensive farming, particularly dairying. The baseline report on water quality in those farming catchments is a valuable tool in monitoring the effectiveness of programmes like the Clean Streams Accord to tackle water quality impacts. It is no surprise that the report identifies degraded water quality in these areas and reinforces the need for further Government initiatives." This latest data reinforces the importance of the work on fresh water management by the Land and Water Forum announced by the Government last month. We need a collaborative approach that engages farmers, iwi, recreationalists and environmentalists in finding solutions to this important issue of fresh water quality.

For copies of the full reports, go to: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/land/water-quality-selected-dairying-farming-catchments/index.html www.mfe.govt.nz/environmental-reporting/freshwater/recreational/results.html

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/01/2009

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Critical Social Services Seek Access to New Fund

There's been considerable interest in the first funding round of the Community Response Fund, says the Minister for Social Development and Employment Paula Bennett. The first of three funding rounds for the financial year closed on July 3 with 294 applications received. The Community Response Fund is making up to $40 million available in the 09/10 year to assist critical social support service organisations facing cost and demand pressures. "The response has been predictable for this time of year. We know many social service providers will be waiting to see what will happen with their applications to philanthropic and charitable trusts. The Community Response Fund was designed to directly meet the needs of those organisations facing a funding crisis or a significant increase in demand for their services," Ms Bennett says. Around a third of applications to the 12 regional panels have come from the Auckland region. Most of the applications have been made on the basis the organisations are experiencing a funding crisis and an increase in demand. "That tells us we're on the right track with this Fund. We know organisations are feeling the squeeze, and we're determined to support them and the valuable work they do in our communities," Ms Bennett says. Applications will be considered by regional panels at the end of July, and decisions are expected to be announced in August.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/07/2009

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Minister Recognises New Zealand's Gatekeepers

Customs Minister Maurice Williamson, has recognised Auckland Customs officer Brian Morrison's 50 years of service to New Zealand. Mr Morrison now stands alongside John Hopkins and Brian Redfern who each have over 50 years of service to Customs. At a ceremony in Auckland today the Minister presented the New Zealand Customs Service Medal, which recognises 14 years of an officer's frontline service, to 11 Customs officers. Eleven other officers were awarded additional clasps to their medals for every seven years of subsequent service. Mr Williamson says he is delighted to be able to recognise the officers' work in protecting New Zealand's border. "It is a special opportunity to recognise these frontline officers who help protect the community from the scourge of illicit drugs, such as P, which destroys our communities. "I have the greatest respect for the work that Customs officers undertake everyday to help achieve this goal," says Mr Williamson. Comptroller of Customs Martyn Dunne paid tribute to the recipients' record of service. "It's a credit to New Zealand Customs that it has retained so many long-serving officers. It reflects the mutual commitment that the Service and its staff make to each other," he says. The medal recognises long service, professional conduct, and contribution as a frontline Customs officer. Long service awards are presented to all Customs personnel who have completed specified periods of service.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/17/2009

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2025 Taskforce to Be Established

An expert taskforce is being established to investigate the reasons for the decline in New Zealand's productivity performance over recent years. The Minister of Regulatory Reform, Rodney Hide, said the 2025 Taskforce was charged with recommending ways to improve productivity in order to close the income gap with Australia by 2025. "The establishment of the taskforce was a key component in the ACT-National confidence and supply agreement, reflecting the importance we place on working to close the income gap with Australia," Mr Hide said. "That income gap is one of the reasons we lose so many talented, hard-working New Zealanders every year." The Taskforce will provide an initial report in October 2009. Mr Hide said that report will identify the policy settings and changes that will deliver the productivity growth necessary for a stronger, more prosperous economy. Further progress reports will then be provided in 2010 and 2011. The five-member 2025 Taskforce will be chaired by Dr Don Brash. "Dr Brash is ideally suited to this role, with his wide experience of economic policy," Mr Hide said. He was Governor of the Reserve Bank for 14 years, and an important motivation for his entering politics in 2002 was the widening income gap with Australia." The other four members are yet to be selected. Mr Hide said ministers are considering potential candidates with strong expertise on the New Zealand economy and public policy. "We expect to be able to announce the remaining members in the next few weeks."

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/21/2009

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Evidence of Substantial Efficiency Gains Seen, According to Analysts

"Papua New Guinea has made important progress in implementing the Bogor Goals," says a team of independent analysts. This statement was made in an external review of the economy's ability to reach APEC's Bogor Goals, presented to officials today. Having reduced tariffs, says the team, will contribute substantively to Papua New Guinea's ability to reach its commitments by 2020. According to the same report, Papua New Guinea has made notable efforts in promoting liberalisation and facilitation in the services sector - most notably in telecommunication, legal, tourism and energy services. Progress has also been made in standards and conformance and customs procedures. The team also applauds efforts to improve regulatory transparency and to combat corruption. The Bogor Goals are that free trade and investment in the APEC region should be established by 2010 in developed economies and by 2020 in developing economies. Peer Reviews are conducted by independent, external review teams on a rotating basis and draw from the information found in economies' most recent Individual Action Plans, reports issued by the World Trade Organisation and academic studies pertaining to the economy under review.

From http://www.apec.org/ 07/15/2009

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Asia Emerges as Big Winner of UNPSA 2009

Established in 2003 and issued on 23 June annually, the United Nations Public Service Awards (UNPSA) programme aims to reward excellence and promote professionalism in the public sector around the world. This year, 4 out of 12 awards in various categories go to Asia, thus making this region a big winner of UNPSA. The Asian winners and their programmes are as follows: 1, "On and Off-Line Real-Time Water Quality Opening Services," Office of Waterworks, Seoul Metropolitan Government, Republic of Korea; 2, "Improving Public Medical Care Service through Collaborative Networks," Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital, Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Thailand; 3, "Institutionalization of community managed drinking water supply programme and user level water quality monitoring," Water and Sanitation Management Organization (WASMO), India; and 4, "Seoul City's Oasis," Seoul Metropolitan Government, Republic of Korea (finalist).

Besides, it is noteworthy that the Shanghai-based Regional Cooperation Office for City Informatization (RCOCI) of the People's Republic of China received the "2009 Special Award for the United Nations Public Administration Network (UNPAN) Member Excellence for Knowledge Sharing," which was issued at the same time to celebrate the achievements of network members in advancing knowledge-sharing through the use of information and communications technology to advance the Millennium Development Goals. For details, please click to view: http://www.unpan.org/Events/PublicServiceDayAwards/PastPublicServiceCeremonies/tabid/1097/language/en-US/Default.aspx

From UNPAN-AP Editorial Department 06/28/2009

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World Bank Launches 'Ecological' Cities Program

"The World Bank has launched a program to help cities in developing countries achieve economic growth and high quality living standards without damaging the environment... 'Urbanization in developing countries may be the single greatest change in our century,' it said in a book titled Ecological Cities as Economic Cities (Eco2) outlining how the Bank can help cities achieve economic growth and still have clean air and water and expansive greenery... [The book] incorporates the best practices from model cities such as Singapore, Stockholm in Sweden, Yokohama in Japan and Curitiba in Brazil..." The Business Times adds that "...Singapore was lauded for its efforts in integrated land use and transport planning, and effective measures to relieve road congestion and water resource management... Eco2 Cities co-team leader Arish Dastur said the World Bank should realize that 'infrastructure finance alone is not the answer, and should take a cue from countries like Stockholm and Singapore in this new initiative'..."

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 06/29/2009

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ADB to Help Improve Water Management in Urban Centers of 3 South Asian Countries

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is helping select urban centers in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka improve water management to enhance economic opportunities and reduce waterborne diseases. The project is funded through an $850,000 grant from the Investment Climate Facilitation Fund established by the Government of Japan last year under the Regional Cooperation and Integration Financing Partnership Facility, which supports technical assistance projects. Intermittent water supplies are the norm in South Asian urban centers. There are no strategies to make water available 24 hours a day, which is one of the most important objectives in urban water management system. This has resulted in water contamination and wastage, unreliable metering, and burst pipes.

Through the technical assistance, up to 30 urban centers in the three South Asian countries will acquire technology and expertise in managing the water sector. They will develop a better understanding of key policy parameters for water security and reduce risks and vulnerabilities caused by lack of understanding and knowledge of the water sector. To achieve these objectives, the technical assistance will determine geographical and population coverage of service areas in the chosen urban centers, assess if drinking water supply complies with acceptable quality standards, and if wastewater management affects the quality of groundwater, aquifers, and other water sources. The project will also determine the levels of non-revenue water, operational efficiencies, and operations management system of the select urban centers.

"Proper assessment, planning, and management of water-related issues require reliable data on critical factors related to urban water security," said KyeongAe Choe, principal urban development specialist of ADB's South Asia Department. "To improve urban water management, water security in South Asian urban centers needs to be properly assessed and reliable information shared. But this is not an easy task due to inconsistencies and differing definitions of terms and formats in gathering data, as well as the processes used in collecting and analyzing data," she added. The technical assistance will address critical issues identified based on experience from past ADB-financed projects; recommendations of the Asian Water Development Outlook 2007, which provide insights on achieving water security in Asia and the Pacific; and continuous consultations with concerned government agencies in South Asia.

From http://www.adb.org/ 07/09/2009

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ADB Improving Its Development Effectiveness, Says Report

The Asian Development Bank's (ADB) operations have delivered tangible benefits to the lives of millions of people in Asia and the Pacific over the past four years, while there are several areas needing further improvement at both the project level and within the organization itself, says a new development effectiveness report. The 2008 Development Effectiveness Review is the second corporate performance study to be conducted by ADB. It taps project completion reports and other data from 2004 to 2008, using a 'scorecard' approach to measure ADB's contribution to development in the region and its overall effectiveness as an organization. ADB is the first multilateral development bank to adopt a comprehensive results system for measuring its performance at the corporate level and to provide clear accountability to stakeholders. The review measures how well ADB is implementing its long-term strategic framework, Strategy 2020, which targets inclusive and environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. In 2008, over three quarters of all new assistance went to support projects in the five core areas of the Strategy - infrastructure, environment, financial sector development, education, and regional cooperation and integration.

The report shows that ADB's completed operations, evaluated in 2008, delivered significant development gains particularly in the energy, transport and education sectors. It also notes that ADB has sped up and increased the level of its assistance, with funds of US$8.8 billion disbursed in 2008, the highest ever annual amount. The report further notes that the design quality of new operations has improved. "The review confirms that our operations have helped to improve people's lives. More people have gained access to reliable sources of energy, including clean energy, people and goods can travel faster within and between countries, farmers earn more because of better irrigation services and more people, particularly women, now have better access to finance, as do more businesses," said Rajat M. Nag, ADB's Managing Director General.

At the same time, it points out the mixed success rates of projects in some areas such as water and finance. It also highlights room for improvement in the creation and sharing of knowledge products such as research material and project 'best practices' as well as the need for promoting greater gender equality and empowerment of women through its operations. The report also warns that the global economic crisis is undermining the region's progress in development and poverty reduction, and stresses that ADB will need to play an even greater support role in future. In response to the review findings, ADB will take action to further improve its business. This will include strengthening its project performance reporting system, boosting cofinancing for its operations, and stepping up efforts to recruit more professional female staff.

From http://www.adb.org/ 07/14/2009

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Poor Countries Need to Rethink Development Model, UN Report Finds

The world's poorest countries are bearing the brunt of the global economic crisis and their governments need to review the development model they have followed for the past three decades if they are to substantially reduce poverty and achieve long-term growth, a new United Nations report concludes. The report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), released today, says "the crisis should be grasped as a turning point" for the so-called Least Developed Countries (LDCs) - a classification grouping the 49 poorest States around the globe. "The magnitude of the crisis offers both the necessity and an opportunity for change," according to the report, which says LDCs are particularly vulnerable to the current crisis because they have small economies and are so dependent on international trade, capital flows and finance.

The report notes that, in recent decades, many LDCs have severely reduced the role of government in promoting development. Yet the current crisis has "exposed the myth of self-regulating markets" and neo-liberal economic policies have also not succeeded in tackling other problems such as bottlenecks in production, chronic deficits and shortages of skills and knowledge among the labour force. The roles of the state and the market must be rebalanced, UNCTAD argues, and many affluent countries have already started shifting to include a much bigger role for the state in economic management, especially through fiscal stimulus packages. "Yet this tendency has been more evident in the advanced countries than in the developing world... most LDCs simply cannot afford to deploy similar packages."

Most LDCs are also behind schedule in their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the globally agreed set of social and economic targets that are supposed to be realized by 2015. The report recommends that poor countries therefore "build a new developmental state" that ensures much greater collaboration between the state and the private sector, and boosts investment and technological capabilities so that a more diverse range of products can be made. Wealthy countries must boost their support for struggling nations as well, the report emphasizes. "This is not simply a question of more and better aid, but also the design of rules that govern international economic relationships with regard to trade, finance, investment and technology flows."

From http://www.un.org/ 07/16/2009

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CHINA: Innovation Key to Battle Fiscal Crisis

Premier Wen Jiabao has encouraged domestic enterprises to make breakthroughs in science and technology development to weather the global financial crisis. Premier Wen Jiabao talks with workers at a workshop of China National Heavy Duty Truck Group Co., Ltd. (CNHTC) in Jinan, capital of east China's Shandong Province. Wen Jiabao made an inspection tour in Shandong from June 27 to June 28. Wen made the remarks during his inspection tour in east China's Shandong Province from Saturday to Sunday. It had been the Premier's fourth consecutive weekend inspection tour outside Beijing this month. Wen said the government would continue the current proactive fiscal policy and moderately ease monetary policy and take it a top task to keep a steady economic growth. Premier Wen Jiabao talks with workers at a workshop of Weiqiao Textile Company Ltd. in east China's Shandong Province. Wen Jiabao made an inspection tour in Shandong from June 27 to June 28. In JinJing Group, China's first glass-manufacturing company with a history of 105 years, Wen was pleased to see the company had gained steady sales increase with its independently-developed new products amid the global downturn. Wen said that technological breakthroughs were fundamental and long-term solutions which should be relied on to fight against the economic downturn.

He urged the enterprises in Shandong to provide better environment for young talent to contribute their ability and wisdom to technology development. When inspecting Jigang Group, Wen asked the steelmaker to improve its products' competitiveness by carrying out technological innovation, cutting manufacturing cost and developing energy-efficient products. Wen also visited privately owned Shandong Weiqiao Textile Company, the largest cotton textile enterprise in Asia with more than 150,000 employees. He said China's textile industry, which was strongly affected by export market, had encountered many difficulties caused by the global financial crisis. Wen urged efforts to create an environment of fair competition and fight against monopoly to facilitate the development of private companies. "It is a must to attach importance to the development of private businesses and private fund investment in an effort to deal with the financial crisis and boost economic growth," he said. Wen said coping with the financial crisis and overcoming difficulties in economic development both serve the purpose of improving people's livelihood and better development of individuals. Only when people's lives are improved and secured, will the economic development have a true meaning, Wen said.


From Xinhua News Agency 06/30/2009

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Top Legislature to Start Supervision over Infringements to Labor Interests in Economic Downturn

China's top legislature will launch a nationwide supervision campaign to exam the implementation of trade union law in an effort to protect laborers' interests during the economic downturn. It was revealed at a meeting held by the National People's Congress Standing Committee Friday to prepare for the month-long campaign which will start from early July. China has received shrinking overseas trade contracts after the international financial crisis, which has brought business difficulties to export-oriented and labor-intensive companies. The downturn also worsened the employment opportunities for laid-off laborers, and increased labor disputes and complaints. Labor dispute arbitration commissions throughout the country had received more than 960,000 cases in 2008, a 98 percent increase over the previous year, said Sun Chunlan, vice chairperson of the All China Federation of Trade Unions. With millions of unemployed migrant workers coming back to their hometowns, labor dispute mediation organizations also received more than 440,000 cases, Sun added. The top legislature will send supervision teams to Liaoning, Jiangsu, Hunan, Guangdong and Sichuan provinces, and Shanghai Municipality. The NPC will also mandate its local committees in a further seven provinces and municipalities to conduct the supervision.

The supervision campaign will focus on reviewing how local trade unions defend laborers' interests such as wages, insurance and investigating what kind of measures local governments have taken to protect the laborers' rights and interests. The teams will also investigate how the global economic downturn has impacted Chinese industries and companies and the nature of the labor disputes between employers and employees. "We will support local trade unions to help laborers and enterprises pass through the difficult period and promote the social security system by expanding the basic pension insurance," said Li Jianguo, secretary-general of the 11th NPC Standing Committee. Top legislator Wu Bangguo has told the supervision teams to research the new problems and difficulties found by the local trade unions amid the economic downturn, and urged trade unions to play a key role in protecting workers' legitimate rights and interests and make contributions to the stability of labor relations. China's trade union law was enacted in 1950 and was revised in 2001. The NPC Standing Committee previously conducted a supervision campaign over the law's implementation five years ago.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 07/03/2009

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China Tightens Control of SOE's Financial Derivative Transactions

China's state-owned enterprises regulator Wednesday reiterated that centrally-administered state-owned enterprises (SOEs) should strengthen control of financial derivative transactions, and report quarterly to the commission. This move by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) was aimed at reinforcing the government's stated intention of effectively banning speculation by some SOEs. In March, SASAC required the reports to include changes in holdings of derivatives, capital usage, settlements, profits and losses, and analysis of hedging results and risk exposure, said the commission in a statement released on its website. The report form of financial derivative transactions covered futures and options, forward contracts, swap contracts and combinations of contracts, and should be sent to the commission with the financial reports within 10 working days of the end of each quarter, said the statement. In order to better execute this measure, the commission designed a new form for SOEs to fill, said the statement. Several central SOEs have reported huge derivatives losses since last year as the global financial crisis spread. Three air carriers - Air China, Shanghai Airlines and China Eastern - had reported a total of 13.17 billion yuan (1.94 billion U.S. dollars) of book losses as of the end of January on aviation fuel hedging contracts. CITIC Pacific disclosed in October potential losses may exceed 15 billion HK dollars (1.9 billion U.S. dollars) from unauthorized hedging by senior financial managers against changes in foreign exchange transactions, notably the Australian dollar.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/08/2009

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Ministry Orders Hospital Safety Checks

China's Health Ministry on Tuesday ordered the country's hospitals, especially those treating A/H1N1 flu patients, to conduct thorough safety checks, a week after an A/H1N1 flu patient was accidentally electrocuted in her hospital ward bathroom in eastern China. All medical institutions must check their medical instruments, pressure vessels, electricity, water and gas utilities, construction sites, and main gathering areas for hidden dangers, deputy health minister Yin Li said on a teleconference. Stepped-up efforts must be made to ensure the safety of A/H1N1 influenza patients, he said, calling for a "comprehensive, in-depth, and thorough safety check at all medical institutions treating A/H1N1 patients immediately." He also urged hospitals to keep closer watch on their intensive care units, newborn wards, operating rooms, infectious disease and hematological departments, and disinfectant supply units, to lower the possibility of in-hospital infections. The order came one week after a woman A/H1N1 patient was accidentally electrocuted in her hospital ward bathroom in the No.1 People's Hospital of Xiaoshan District of the eastern Hangzhou City. Lou Yihong, 34, was found dead in her ward lavatory by a nurse at 7:35 a.m. of July 1. She was admitted on June 23 after being diagnosed with A/H1N1 flu, and had been recovering well as her temperature measured normal for a week before her death. The hospital agreed to pay Lou's family 950,000 yuan (139,706 U.S. dollars) for her death. Meanwhile, the State Food and Drug Administration has ordered a campaign, which started on July 6, to crack down on the production, sales and use of substandard medical instruments and medicines used to treat A/H1N1 influenza. Results of the campaign would be made public, the administration said.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/08/2009

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Macao to Increase Border-crossing Volume with Chinese Mainland

The border crossing capacity of Barrier Gate, a checkpoint that connects the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) with the Chinese mainland, will be significantly enhanced once the facility's expansion project is completed in the fourth quarter of 2009, according to a press statement released on Friday by the SAR government. Expansion project of the Barrier Gate, which links Macao to neighboring mainland city Zhuhai, was launched on June 11 last year, as the number of visitor arrivals from the mainland were on the rise in recent years. The Barrier Gate's building area will be increased from 17,880 square meters to 23,120 square meters, and the facility will be able to handle 500,000 border crossings by visitors every day, compared with the current daily volume of 300,000, the SAR government said. According to the figures from the SAR's Statistics and Census Bureau, Macao logged 8.9 million visitor arrivals during the first five months of 2009, of which over 4.4 million came from the mainland. Some 4.29 million of the visitor arrivals from the mainland entered the SAR through the Barrier Gate in the period.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 07/17/2009

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Pharmaceutical Safety Program Launched in China

China's State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) has announced a two-year campaign to improve the quality standards of pharmaceuticals from manufacture to sale. The program is aimed at better regulating the production, distribution, pricing, advertising and application of basic pharmaceuticals across the country, according to a statement posted on the website of the administration Friday. Pharmaceutical companies and hospitals that violate the regulations would face prosecution and the revocation of their operation licenses, according to the statement. In addition to the administration, five central government departments will join in carrying out the campaign, including Ministry of Health, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, State Administration for Industry and Commerce, and State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/18/2009

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Premier Urges Long-term Preparedness for Global Downturn

Premier Wen Jiabao urged long-term preparedness for dealing with the global downturn, saying China will tackle the development issue through reform at a meeting for Chinese diplomats Monday. Chinese President Hu Jintao also made a speech at the four-day meeting. Wen said that the global financial crisis has plunged the world into deep recession, and it's difficult to say the global downturn has reached the bottom. "The recovery of the global economy will be a slow process with twists and turns, there must be a long-term preparedness to effectively deal with (the global downturn)," said Wen. Wen said that China will stick to mutual-beneficial strategy of opening-up and the use of outbound investments. China will combine expansion of domestic demand with stabilizing foreign demand, continue to use foreign investment, and accelerate the pace of "going out" strategy, Wen said. Wen said China will continue to reform the RMB, or yuan, exchange rate forming mechanisms, and maintain the yuan's exchange rate at a stable level. China will participate extensively in international cooperation in non-traditional fields and further work with other countries to address the climate change issue, Wen said. In addition to President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, seven members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee attended the meeting: Wu Bangguo, Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, He Guoqiang and Zhou Yongkang.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/21/2009

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JAPAN: Govt Pushes Alternative Energy / Incentives Spur Domestic Development of New Electricity Sources

Government efforts to encourage the use of new energy sources, including solar and wind power, have been gathering momentum mainly due to new incentives and subsidies. These alternative energy sources produce little carbon dioxide, while helping create new businesses at low cost and without importing natural resources. The central government has accelerated the development of all-domestic new energy sources by introducing new goals and subsidy systems in rapid succession. The government aims to double the nation's electricity-generating capacity by 2020, using new energy sources including biomass, small-scale hydroelectric power generation and geothermal power, and to increase capacity three times or more by 2030. The government's major focus is on solar power. Advocating the "world's best sunlight plan," with the aim of increasing solar panel-derived electricity generation by 20 times by 2020 compared to 2005 levels, the government has introduced a variety of support measures.

About 45,000 households have applied for installation subsidies to install solar panels since the government introduced them in January. The government's installation subsidy per household ranges from 210,000 yen to 250,000 yen. Each local government also offers its own subsidies that can be used in combination with the national subsidies. The government likely will introduce a plan to double the purchase price electric power companies must pay for surplus electricity generated by household solar panels from the present 24 yen per kilowatt-hour to 48 yen during the first 10 years of installation. The new system will likely start this fiscal year. As solar power generation involves a range of industries, including makers of housing, batteries and related materials, as well as small private housing contractors, these moves also are expected to be effective in stimulating the economy.

Meanwhile, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has introduced a target of tripling or quadrupling the nation's geothermal power generation capacity from the current 530,000 kilowatts by 2030. Geothermal power is generated by turbines using steam extracted from underground. One of its benefits is stability, as it is unaffected by weather compared with other new energy sources. Japan is blessed with the world's third-largest geothermal resource reserves, following Indonesia and the United States. Japan's geothermal energy reserves total an estimated 200 million kilowatts, the equivalent of 15 to 20 large nuclear power plants. However, no new geothermal power station has been built in the nation, largely due to high construction costs and restrictions on the selection of locations usable for such facilities. The ministry plans to raise its subsidy rate for constructing geothermal power stations from the present 20 percent to 33 percent as early as fiscal 2010. The ministry likely will consider expanding the scope for geothermal generation under the Renewable Portfolio Standard Law, which obligates power companies to use new energy sources. However, when pumping hot water from the ground, it is necessary to prioritize environmental protection as about 80 percent of geothermal resources are located within national parks.

The push for alternative energy sources is not limited to the public sector. Private power and trading companies are planning to establish mega-solar power systems. There are also moves aimed at developing "smart grid" digital technology, which is necessary for a steady supply of solar power. Last month, the government announced its midterm greenhouse gas emission target of reducing emissions by 15 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. At the Group of Eight leaders' meeting last week in L'Aquila, Italy, they agreed to long-term goals of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent by 2050, with industrialized nations cutting theirs by 80 percent or more. To achieve these goals, it will be necessary to expand the adoption of new energy sources and not just raise the operational rates of nuclear power plants in the electricity-generating sector, in which greenhouse gas emissions are relatively high.


From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 07/18/2009

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SOUTH KOREA: 'Green' Car Insurance Proposal Bases Premiums on Mileage

The government is seeking to introduce a new auto insurance system by 2012 that will require drivers who travel longer distances to pay higher premiums. The new system is aimed at cutting carbon emissions, the main culprit behind environmental pollution. It will allow drivers who travel fewer miles to pay lower premiums. The increase in premiums for business-use vehicles would be limited to a minimum level. To implement the new system, the government will develop by the end of the year a device that can objectively track distance traveled and provide it at a low price. However, as drivers would be obliged to buy the measuring device, controversy is expected over who will bear the cost. On Monday the Presidential Committee on Green Growth will hold a meeting presided by President Lee Myung-bak to decide on measures to promote investment in "green growth," including the pay-as-you-drive insurance system.


From http://english.chosun.com/ 07/06/2009

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Gender-Equality Measures Must Benefit Both Sexes

Kim Tae-hyun The men I've met since taking office have demonstrated one commonality: an inconsistency in their attitudes regarding gender equality. Men in leadership positions in our society support the idea of equality for women in general, but when talking about military service, for example, they insist that men are at a disadvantage in current society. Or sometimes they insist that ours is becoming a female-dominated society, joking that there might be a need now to pay more attention to men. Seemingly of little significance are data which indicate that among the 30 OECD nations, Korea has the lowest index for women in positions of authority, the lowest rate of economic participation by high-degree women, and the lowest birth rate. Gender equality does not have to mean conflict between the sexes. Rather, it requires that men and women live in harmony and is therefore essential. Recently colleges have been seeing more male students enrolling in women's studies classes. At parks it is common to see young fathers playing with their children. It seems there is an increasing number of young men who would rather spend more time with their families than on becoming more successful in their careers and making more money. The trend is happening not just in Korea but globally.

I believe that to bring about true gender equality we must change our current concepts of femininity and masculinity. The Swedish government, for one, is establishing gender-equality measures that go beyond making women's lives easier. "Daddy month," a form of parental leave for men, is a good example. When men, who have relatively higher salaries, take parental leave, they receive a so-called gender-equality bonus. At the same time more companies are adopting more family-friendly policies that appeal to not only women but also men. In this regard, measures scheduled to take effect next year are important - gender-responsive budgets for addressing equality issues and gender-influence assessments aimed at ensuring that policies have an equal effect on both genders. If these are effectively allocated and implemented by reflecting the characteristics and differences of the sexes, gender-equality policies will truly ensure benefits for both men and women, not just women. Presently, the gender-influence assessment tasks are under the management of a division within the Ministry of Gender Equality. Given that the budgets and assessments will provide a base for policies promoting gender equality in our society, there should be a specialized division assigned to their administration, and there should be a supervisory group under the direct management of the prime minister to provide continuous monitoring.


From http://english.chosun.com/ 07/07/2009

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MALAYSIA: Religious Tolerance Program Aims to Foster National Unity

The 1Malaysia concept aimed at building a united Malaysia based on the principles of acceptance, equality and sharing among the country's multiracial and multireligious society is not something alien to the Muslim community. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the community in Medina at the time of Prophet Muhammad was a multi-religious community founded on the principles of acceptance and sharing between the Muslims and non-Muslims. "The principle of equality in Islam as a just religion also places the importance of fairness in relations between people. "No one should be marginalised or denied of their rights just because they are of a different religion," he said at the opening of the 52nd national-level Quran Reciters' Assembly at the Dewan Canselor, Universiti Teknologi Petronas last night. The text of Najib's speech was read by his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. Also present were Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom.

The prime minister said by imbibing and practising the principles of acceptance, equality and sharing, Malaysia's multi-religious society could continue to live in peace, prosperity and harmony. He said in the effort to foster unity in such a multi-religious society, it was important for each citizen to be rid of primitive thinking and reject any form of religious extremism. "Islam emphasises moderation and justice, so if each religious faithful takes a moderate approach and is fair to people of other faiths, God willing, unity, peace and stability will prevail in this country," he said. Najib said besides organising the reciters' assembly each year to remind Muslims to live their lives guided by the Quran, the government also made other efforts to enhance understanding and the practice of Quranic teachings, hence uplifting the status of Islam.

For this purpose, he added, the government had allocated RM10mil for holders of the Tahfiz Darul Quran (Quran memorising) Diploma to pursue the degree level at the public higher learning institutions. There are 29 reciters from 14 states taking part in this Tilawah AlQuran with Perak being represented by Shamsul Ariffin Saban @ Supian in the men's section and Sharifah Khasif Fadzillah Syed Mohd Badiuzzaman in the women's section. The Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, will close the tilawah on Saturday, with the top reciters in the men's and women's categories each receiving RM10,000, a challenge trophy, accompanying trophy, a Haj package, certificate and souvenir. The runners-up will each receive RM7,000, a souvenir and certificate, while the third placed will get RM5,000, a souvenir and certificate. The consolation prizes for the other participants are RM2,000, a souvenir and certificate each. The theme of the tilawah this time is "Unity the Catalyst for the Well-Being of the Ummah". - Bernama

From http://thestar.com.my/ 07/15/2009

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PHILIPPINES: RP Advances in 4 of 6 Dimensions of World Bank Report

The Philippine government, under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has advanced in four of six critical dimensions taken up in the World Bank 2008 governance report. This was disclosed by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Deputy Director General Rolando Tungpalan of the National Economic and Development Authority during the regular press briefing at the New Executive Building. "We are pleased to note that in the six dimensions, we have improved in four, namely: on rule of law we improved by 6 percentage points (from 34 to 40); regulatory quality or the ability of government to provide sound policies to promote and enable private sector investments we improved by 2 percentile points (from 50 to 52). "We managed to grow by 4 percentile points (from 22 to 26 percent) on government effectiveness; we are up by 1 percentile point on political stability and on accountability we had a slight decline from 43 to 41 percentile," Tungpalan explained. "Overall, we have had improvements in many sectors and we have been succeeding in our reform programs," he added. Ermita, who heads the Task Force on Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), said these criteria are crucial for developed economies like the United States, the European Community and others in determining their financial assistance to countries like the Philippines.

"The MCA has a lot of significance. At least you will better understand me when I tell you that we should watch the ratings given us by MCA, a program of the US government and for which the Philippine government can very well benefit from a new form of fund coming from the United States," Ermita said. He noted that because the Philippines' 2008 rating on controlling corruption fell by only .01 percent, "We have not been announced as beneficiary of a grant from the US government. This year, Tanzania was one of the countries that got $700 million grant from the United States. "In case we pass that (MCA ratings) based on the World Bank ratings that Undersecretary Tungpalan just said we can very well pass the threshold and before the end of the year we might qualify for such grant from the US government, which is usually anywhere from $300 to $500 million," Ermita said. This (amount), he said, can go a long way in boosting our economic status. "And that's why we should be able to tell the world, the United Nations and the US that we are handling our human rights cases very well , our cases against corruption and extra judicial killings."

From http://www.gov.ph/ 07/01/2009

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SINGAPORE: Over 19,000 Job Seekers Find Work Through SPUR Programme

SINGAPORE: A total of 124,500 workers have signed up for the Skills Programme for Upgrading and Resilience (SPUR) since its launch last December. Over 19,000 job seekers have found work through this programme aimed at helping firms and workers tide over the current downturn. More small and medium-sized firms are also tapping into SPUR. Faced with over 50 per cent drop in orders, Kinergy had to lay off 20 per cent of its staff at the start of 2009. The equipment maker said it would have had to lay off more, if not for the SPUR programme. David Loh, vice president of Kinergy Ltd, said: "If business continues to stay poor, in order to save costs, we may have to lay off (more) workers. But the SPUR programme, with this funding from the government, helps us to subsidise part of these expenses." Kinergy hires 150 workers and has already sent 120 workers for training under SPUR. A total of 1,800 firms are participating in SPUR and two-thirds of these companies are small firms like Kinergy, with less than 200 employees. About a third of SPUR trainees - or 36,000 people - are professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).

To specifically help this group, the number of courses available in the programme has been widened. With over 40 professional conversion courses, about 2,600 PMETs have managed to find new jobs through SPUR. But 27,000 people are still looking for work. Although there are some 30,000 jobs on offer at the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), matching these jobs to the unemployed is a challenge. Minister of State for Trade & Industry and Manpower Lee Yi Shyan said: "For our workforce to be resilient, they have to have an open mindset. In the IRs for instance, they actually expected more Singaporeans to respond, to come forward, but the numbers are really not to their initial expectations." With unemployment rate expected to remain high in the second quarter, workers may have to be less fussy. Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong said: "US unemployment rate has risen to 9.5 per cent, so I think it is important for us to focus our efforts on helping companies save jobs and helping the unemployed find jobs, rather than to think about green shoots prematurely." Mr Gan added that it is hard to predict if a second wave of retrenchments will come as this depends on companies' performances beyond July and August. The government had budgeted S$650 million for the SPUR programme and so far, S$210 million has been committed.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/03/2009

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SGX Launches New Research Scheme

SINGAPORE: Singapore Exchange (SGX) is introducing a new research scheme to give investors more information on listed firms that have little or no research coverage. This new scheme is called SGX Equity Research Insights. The bourse operator will produce standardised reports that contain analyses and views on company fundamentals - including industry prospects, its business and management and earnings outlook. But the research reports will not feature any investment ratings. In addition, SGX has appointed Standard & Poor's to provide fully-rated research reports to meet the needs of investors in sectors where specialised industry knowledge is critical in the analyses of the companies. For a start, S&P will produce reports on the Energy, Offshore and Marine sectors. The new programme starts in October and will replace the current SGX research incentive scheme. SGX will transfer companies on the research incentive scheme to the new programme unless they opt out. A company would have to pay an annual fee of S$12,000 to participate in the programme. But SGX and the Monetary Authority of Singapore will jointly provide subsidies for companies with market capitalisation of S$300 million or lower.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/14/2009

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SPRING Launches New Scheme to Boost HR Practices in SMEs

SINGAPORE: SPRING Singapore is launching a new programme to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) improve their human resource capabilities with the help of certified experts. SPRING said the new programme complements the HR Capability Package that was introduced last year. It comprises tools, templates and guidelines to help SMEs put in place sound HR systems for six key areas, including Manpower Planning, Learning & Development, and Career Management. Qualified HR consultants will be engaged to customise the six modules to the needs of the SMEs and develop relevant policies for their organisations. The consultancy fees are capped at S$3,000 per module and companies are required to take a minimum of three modules per consultancy project.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/14/2009

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THAILAND: One Stop Service to Detect H1N1 Patients Launched in Bangkok Hospitals

BANGKOK (TNA) - In an attempt to more rapidly detect those affected by the H1N1 viral flu pandemic which has so far led to the deaths of 11 people in the kingdom, Bangkok Municipality Administration (BMA) on Wednesday launched a 'One Stop Service' track at its hospitals and health centers across Bangkok. Bangkok Deputy District Chief Kraijak Kaewnil said that the BMA's nine hospitals and 68 health centres in the capital will open a special track for H1N1 patients. The service will be "one-stop", said Mr. Kraijak, adding that at-risk patients showing flu-like symptoms will be quarantined from other patients and member of the public who come to hospital on ordinary business. The so-called 'One Stop Service' includes filtering at-risk patients and conducting treatment in order to prevent the spread of the new virus strain to other people in the hospitals and health centres. Meanwhile, the Prince of Songkla University, Phuket Campus announced a further two holidays from Thursday to Friday after one of its students was pronounced dead from the H1N1 flu. University deputy rector Methee Sanpanich said that the Phuket campus and 1,500 dormitory bedrooms will be sanitised as a 19-year-old male student died from the deadly virus. Phuket earlier reported 37 cases of H1N1 patients and one death. Mr. Methee said that health authorities are also keeping close watch over three students who are close friends of the deceased student, but noted that initially they showed no signs of having contracted H1N1 flu.

From http://enews.mcot.net/ 07/08/2009

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VIETNAM: New Index to Calculate Industrial Production

HA NOI - The General Statistics Office (GSO) announced completion of a new method to calculate the industrial development index, called the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), said director of the GSO's Industry and Construction Statistics Department, Pham Dinh Thuy. Industrial growth has been measured by the old system since 1994 using constant prices from that year as the basis for its calculations. This index has proven inaccurate, particularly considering the country's shift to a globally integrated market economy. Thuy said with the new system, the industrial development index should be lower than that calculated by the old one. For example, based on the new system, industrial production results in the first quarter and the second half of the year could be increased 1.5 per cent and 4.5 per cent, respectively, over the same period last year. These increasing figures were higher according to the old method, falling by 2.5 per cent and 4.8 per cent, respectively. The Government will continue to apply the old method, along with the IIP, until it is officially removed in 2011. The GSO completed the new IIP after receiving nearly five years of technical assistance from the Japan International Co-operation Agency and Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 07/02/2009

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ADB Supports Quality Produce, Clean Energy in VN

VietNamNet Bridge - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has pledged US$95 million  to improve the safety and quality of Vietnam's commercial food crops and provide an alternative, clean energy supply to households through biogas development. An agreement to this effect was signed in Hanoi on June 30 between representatives of the ADB and the State Bank of Vietnam The US$110.4 million  project, lasting from 2009 to 2015, aims to ensure sustainable growth for vegetable, fruit and tea production, thus contributing to generating income and jobs for farmers in the agricultural sector. It will also help reduce food poisoning cases, improving the quality of life for the people. The project includes four parts: improving food regulations and quality control systems, developing infrastructure and farm produce quality control establishments, building biogas plants to provide an alternative energy source, and supporting efficient agency management and supervision of the project's activities. In addition, ADB will provide a technical assistance grant of US$1.5 million  as start-up funds for the project and to design a strategy to expand the national biogas programme. The project not only ensures food safety and quality for both the domestic and export markets while providing a sustainable alternative energy source for 40,000 households, but it also generates 1.4 million jobs in post-production work for farmers in 16 beneficiary localities, said ADB Country Director for Vietnam Ayumi Konishi.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 07/03/2009

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INDIA: To Have Network for Intelligence Sharing

Bangalore: To enhance internet security for critical networks in the country, government has announced plans to set up secure and dedicated online information network. This network will be used between the state police forces and the central intelligence agencies. Announcing this new initiative, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Maken said that the government would establish these networks at 30 locations across the country as part of its efforts in modernizing communication and information sharing. "Action has been initiated for the establishment of online, dedicated and secure connectivity between all the designated members of Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) and the Subsidiary Multi-Agency Centres (SMACs) in 30 important identified locations and between the SMACs and the State Special Branches," said Maken.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 07/09/2009

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Govt. to Aid Chip Designing in India

Bangalore: Since India is yet to make its mark in the microprocessor market, the government is trying to change this scenario through its new initiative. The project to be funded by the government will see top scientists from across the country come together, to design the microprocessor that is tentatively called the India Microprocessor. Through this initiative, the government also hopes to defend against the rising threat in strategic segments like defence, telecom and space by using microprocessors that are developed outside India. According to The Economic Times, Scientists from top India institutes like the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and IIT Delhi will work under entity called Zerone Corporation. Zerone will start operations from the facilities of a government-owned company with an initial investment of $200 million. According to a government official, a draft proposal in this regard is likely to be presented to the cabinet soon requesting funds. Demand for microchips from India's booming technology sector is expected to touch $315 billion by 2015, but a semiconductor policy of previous years to encourage firms to manufacture them locally evoked little interest from the private sector. The India Microprocessor is likely to adopt Sun Microsystem's Open Sparc open source chip design technology, along with Linux operating system and MySQL database software. According to Ramkumar Subramaniam, Vice-President for Sales and Marketing at AMD India, private companies would like to work with the government on this. "A similar partnership was forged by AMD with the Chinese government for licensing key x86 microprocessor technology that helped them develop embedded computer solutions," Subramaniam said. The chip could also help India develop a low-cost mobile phone, worth say just Rs 500, high-tech defence precision systems and a host of other applications in areas including healthcare and weather forecasting. Initially, the land and building would be provided by the government while the company will be 80 percent owned by the government and 20 percent by employees. However, the fabrication of chips will be outsourced to a private foundry overseas, as India still does not have one. Over the next two years, the stake is proposed to be relaxed to 49 percent for government, with 31 percent to be held by private IT hardware companies and the corporation's strategic domestic customers. The proposed company is expected to hire only Indian nationals to work on the project, with an aim to make use of the available potential in the country for this ambitious project.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 07/16/2009

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PAKISTAN: Conference at District Level Suggested for NJP Implementation

KARACHI: The district and session judges demanded at National Judicial Conference to make jails in every district and be given staff for coordination with the higher judiciary. The National Judicial Conference continued today for the second straight day at Supreme Court of Pakistan, where groups comprising judges, lawyers, the officers of concerned government administrative organizations and the officials from law enforcement agencies, were formed. The session judges from a working group said there are no jails in several districts and a lot of time is wasted in transportation of prisoners from one district to another. The session judges said a lot of time is wasted also in corresponding with the higher judiciary; therefore, the judges should be given special staff for the purpose. The working group set up under Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry recommended that session judges should hold seminars at district level for awareness of new National Judicial Policy and appropriate implementation on it. It was further recommended that district judiciary should be written and spoken in lieu of subordinate judiciary. There should be workshops for capacity enhancement for magistrate and civil judges. The CJP will formally announce today the final recommendations put up by the Judicial Conference Working Groups.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 07/05/2009

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TAJIKISTAN: Republican Seminar on Employment Problems Takes Place in Dushanbe Today

A republican seminar, formally titled "Strengthening of a Role of the Union of Employers of Tajikistan in Promoting Socioeconomic Development of Tajikistan under Conditions of the Global Economic Crisis," is taking place in Dushanbe today. Staged by the Union of Employers of Tajikistan (Union) under financial and technical support of the International Labor Organization (ILO), the seminar is considering issues relating to consolidation of efforts of the Union of Employers of Tajikistan to solve socioeconomic problems facing the country, problems of employment as well as the results of poll conducted among employers regarding the impact of the global financial crisis on business in Tajikistan. The seminar participants include representatives of President's Executive office, the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection (MLSP), the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Tajikistan, Tajik Aluminum Company (Talco), the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Tajikistan (CCI), IILO, and a number of NGOs.

The source at the Union noted that a delegation of ILO Subregional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia was currently in Tajikistan to hold a number of meetings and consultations with social partners of ILO in Tajikistan to discuss the plan of implementation of the Decent Work Country Program signed between Tajikistan and ILO for the period of 2007-2009. The delegation arrived in Tajikistan on July 13 and it will stay here till July 16. The Union of Employers of the Republic of Tajikistan is a voluntary association of employers and other legal entities, established with purpose to protect the rights and interests of employers, social dialogue and partnership development, promotion of employment and contribution to the development of an effective labor market. The activities of the association aim at realizing socio-economic reforms in Tajikistan, including the reform of labor market relations. It provides legal assistance to members as well as advice and training on enterprise development and related issues. (by Amrita Kirgizova)

From http://www.asiaplus.tj/ 07/15/2009

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UZBEKISTAN: Round Table Discusses Issues of Mutual Insurance Sector Development

A roundtable meeting to discuss the analytical note on "Development perspectives of mutual insurance sector" was held on 17 July in Tashkent. Ministry of Finance of Uzbekistan and the United Nations Development Program "Public Finance Reform in Uzbekistan" Project co-hosted the round table. The round table was held as a part of initiative focused on reforming and developing the institutional environment for insurance market of Uzbekistan. Participants of the round table included the representatives of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan, State Insurance Supervisory Board under the Ministry of Finance, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uzbekistan, Association of Professional Participants of Uzbekistan Insurance Market, Federation of Consumer Rights Protection Society of Uzbekistan, Association of Credit Unions, National Association of Microfinance Organizations and Credit Unions, private companies, insurance companies, higher education institutions, international and community organizations.

Nowadays, the insurance sector is going through an accelerating development and experiencing dynamic changes. Notably, the observed growth level has been stimulated by a set of recently implemented legislative documents. In particular, the Law "On insurance activities" and the President's decree "On measures of further reforming and developing the insurance market" dated 10 April 2007 has triggered activization of this sector. Moreover, such initiative has stimulated further changes in legislation, such as the adoption of laws "On obligatory insurance of civil liability of car owners", and "On obligatory state social insurance against accidents at production and professional diseases". In fact, a substantial attention has been paid to the enhancement of competitiveness of the existing insurance services, their development and quality improvement, adoption of modern insurance services, as well as facilitation of capitalization of insurance providers. Considering its contribution to the growth of small and medium businesses, mutual insurance is deemed the most attractive insurance service and has subsequently a significant potential in triggering further dynamic growth of insurance market in Uzbekistan.

It is necessary to note, that although the mutual insurance norms and the activity of mutual insurance institutions are outlined by the Civil Code, there is an urgent need to develop and implement a separate and complete legislative base for the given sector. Along with the previously defined project goals, it is becoming more apparent that it is crucial to assist the analysis and introduction of various modern insurance services in Uzbekistan. In fact, the discussion of advantages and risks of mutual insurance, related international experience, prevalence areas, as well as its implications in Uzbekistan, serves well within the frame of efforts made in this direction. During the roundtable the participants discussed the international experience related to mutual insurance application, its implications in Uzbekistan, as well as the sector's development prospects. Particular attention was paid to the discussion of the need to design and introduce a separate legislative base governing mutual insurance, which is said to be a key factor in further stimulation of the sector. The discussion results will be used in further development of adequate legislative foundation for mutual insurance sector.

From http://insurance.uzreport.com/ 07/17/2009

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Experts Discuss Political and Economic Reforms in Modern Uzbekistan

A two-day international round table on the "Political and economic reforms in modern Uzbekistan: state and prospects" started in Tashkent on 20 July. The dialogue has been organized by the Institute for Civil Society Studies, Center of Political Studies, Ministry of Economy of Uzbekistan, OSCE Projects Coordinator in Uzbekistan, US National Democratic Institute and the European Institute of International Relations. National experts and more than 30 foreign experts from the Great Britain, Germany, India, Iran, China, Kuwait, Pakistan, Russia, USA, Turkey, Ukraine, Japan, Central Asian countries gathered in Tashkent to discuss the course of political reforms in Uzbekistan, basic directions of modernization and democratic renewal of society, and issues of formation of the developed free market economy, realization of state social programs and Anti-Crisis Program, intended for 2009-2012. Participants of the first plenary session of the forum "Political reforms: problems and basic directions of modernization and democratic renewal of society" in their statements and reports on bright examples opened prominent features and achievements of Uzbekistan in political sphere, democratization of national electoral system, essence and basic positions of social programs implemented in Uzbekistan.

Participants of the event emphasized especially the importance and vitality of the Uzbek model of cardinal reforming and the country modernization, five base principles which underlie the country's development. Experts had common opinion that the scale reforms, carried out in Uzbekistan, gain more and more wide recognition in the international arena. The main thing is that results of the reforms begun since the first days of independence are finding practical embodiment in daily life of citizens, shown in positive change of their thinking. Experts noted that such values as human being, his rights, freedoms and legitimate interests always were and are in the centre of democratic reforms in Uzbekistan, implemented concept of transition from the strong state to the strong civil society. In the general opinion of experts, Uzbekistan has electoral system meeting the highest democratic requirements. The country has formed essentially new institutions and electoral mechanisms. The electoral legislation provides practical realization of a predominating constitutional principle - the principle of democracy. Uzbekistan has also all necessary organizational-legal, material conditions for free, active participation of citizens, political parties in election processes, reliable guarantees of full realization of their electoral rights. Experts believe, on certain parameters the electoral legislation and election practice of Uzbekistan is better than the similar processes in many democratic countries of the world.

From http://news.uzreport.com/ 07/20/2009

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AUSTRALIA: A Simpler, More Effective Job Service Begins

The new Australian Government employment service, Job Services Australia, starts today, heralding a simpler, more personalised service for job seekers during tough economic times. Minister for Employment Participation, Senator Mark Arbib said the new approach was a result of extensive consultation and planning with industry, community organisations, providers and users of Government employment services to produce a system that delivers a better service for job seekers. "The Government is one hundred percent focussed on keeping Australians in jobs and maximising employment opportunities," Senator Arbib said. "It's crucial that we remove as many barriers to employment as possible - including unnecessary red tape and complexities in the Government's employment services. "The new Job Services Australia offers a simplified, more personalised service to meet the individual needs of the job seeker, which is more important than ever in these tough global conditions. "The new Job Services Australia provides a one-stop-shop for employment services to save job seekers from running door to door." The new Job Services Australia system also provides increased opportunities for training and skills development and greater assistance for disadvantaged job seekers and those who have recently lost their job. "There is no doubt that unemployment will continue to rise in the next year as a result of the global economic downturn; that is why the Government has ensured that people who lose their jobs will now receive immediate and improved assistance with finding a new job," Senator Arbib said. "The new Job Services Australia complements the Government's Stimulus package, of which more than 70 percent is for infrastructure which will support jobs. "Across Australia, more than 35,000 constructions sites will be up and running over the next 12 months, cushioning jobs and boosting local economies." The roll out of Job Services Australia is the biggest change to Australian Government employment services since the changes to Job Network in 2003, with 2,000 sites across Australia providing access to improved services for more than 700,000 job seekers. "Although there are fewer job seekers transitioning than in the conversion to Job Network change in 2003, unfortunately, with any rollout of this size, there are going to be some teething problems and the Department is working extremely hard to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible for job seekers," Senator Arbib said. If job seekers have any inquiries, trained staff are available to assist through the Customer Service Line on 1800 805 260. For further information, please visit www.deewr.gov.au/jobservicesaustralia

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/01/2009

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Significant Reform of Job Services

Parliamentary Secretary for Employment Jason Clare today visited north-west Tasmanian employment service providers following the nation-wide launch of Job Services Australia on Wednesday, 1 July 2009. Mr Clare said the roll out represents the most significant reform to employment services in years. "That's why I have come to Tasmania, to see how Job Services Australia providers are handling the transition to the new system and to make sure any teething problems are sorted out," Mr Clare said. The transition to Job Services Australia involves more than 700 000 job seekers at 2000 sites across Australia. "The changes make employment services more flexible, more accessible, and more adaptive to the needs of disadvantaged job seekers," Mr Clare said. Member for Braddon, Sid Sidebottom, said employment in the region had been hit by the global financial crisis. "Effective and active employment services are vital for regions like north-west Tasmania in these uncertain times." "We want to make sure the services are ready to respond to anyone in the region who needs help, and that's why Jason is here today to see first hand how the change over is going," Mr Sidebottom said. Job Services Australia rolls seven programs into one, allowing job seekers to access a range of employment services from the same provider. The new arrangements also remove the capped services that in the past limited access to specialised services for some of the more disadvantaged job seekers. "The Australian Government's top priority is to keep people in jobs, and help those that are out of work to get the training and support they need to find a job. That's why we have introduced Job Services Australia," Mr Clare said. More information about the transition to Job Services Australia can be found at www.deewr.gov.au/jobservicesaustralia or by calling 13 17 64.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/07/2009

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Streamlined Environmental Assessments

Bilateral agreements for environmental assessments are now in place between the Commonwealth and all Australian states and territories with Victoria and the ACT both signing agreements in the past month. The agreements are in accordance with national environment law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). "This is a great step forward and I am very pleased that more streamlined environmental processes are now in place Australia wide," Minister Garrett said. Victoria and the ACT can now run a single environmental assessment process for projects that require environmental approval at both a federal and a state/territory level. This assessment can then be used by both levels of government in making separate approval decisions. "Bilateral assessment agreements cut out unnecessary duplication and are a more efficient way of ensuring we uphold important state and Commonwealth environmental protection. "This does not change the fact that approval for developments impacting on matters of national environmental significance sits with me. "We have worked closely with the Victorian and ACT governments in developing these agreements and I am certain they will assist in the continued protection of the environment and our precious biodiversity. While the signing of these agreements fulfils a goal set out by COAG, Minister Garrett said there will be room to further minimise red tape. "An independent review of national environment law, the EPBC Act, is currently underway. It will look at opportunities to further reduce the regulatory burden while maintaining appropriate and efficient environmental standards," he said. The bilateral agreements can be viewed at www.environment.gov.au

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/13/2009

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Skills for Sustainability Award

Acting Minister for Education, Mark Arbib, today launched the Skills for Sustainability award as part of the Skills for the Carbon Challenge. The Skills for Sustainability award recognises educational providers that deliver outstanding nationally-recognised training programs, products and work practices. The award was developed as part of the response to the 2020 Summit held in 2008. The award encourages training institutions to develop effective partnerships with industry organisations and community groups to build sustainable work skills that will support Australia's transition to a low carbon economy. To nominate for this award, an educational institution must demonstrate how they are delivering outstanding skills for sustainability and also indicate which programs, products and work practices adhere to social, economic or environmental sustainability principles. The Skills for Sustainability award is a single, national award and will be presented at the Australian Training Awards. The Australian Training Awards recognise the exemplary commitment made by businesses, organisations and individuals to our national training system and reward outstanding efforts in skilling our nation. Institutions that deliver nationally recognised training are encouraged to nominate for the Skills for Sustainability Award. Nominations must be submitted to the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations by Monday, 31 August 2009. Further details are available at www.australiantrainingawards.gov.au. The Australian Training Awards will be held at Exhibition Park in Canberra on Thursday, 19 November 2009. More information is available at australiantrainingawards@deewr.gov.au or by calling (02) 6240 5408.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/15/2009

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Climate Ready Supports 180 Green Jobs

Senator Kim Carr, Innovation Minister, today announced $13.4 million in grants to 22 businesses for projects supporting around 180 green jobs under the Rudd Government's Climate Ready Program. The $75 million Climate Ready Program offers matching grants from $50,000 to $5 million to help develop innovative solutions to climate change. "These projects will improve the environment and support the type of high-wage, high-skill jobs that drive economic recovery," Senator Carr said. "It is part of the Rudd Government's commitment to work in partnership with our innovative companies to seize the opportunities presented by the global fight against climate change. "Today's announcement takes the total number of projects funded under the program to 73, worth more than $58 million and supporting around 760 jobs. "Supporting green innovation and green jobs is vital in combating the effects of the worst global recession in 75 years." The funded projects will achieve concrete objectives such as reducing energy use and carbon emissions, and promoting waste recovery and water recycling. Projects include: • A NSW business awarded over $458,000 to develop a unique air conditioning system up to 12 times more power efficient than traditional systems. • A West Australian business awarded $2.6 million to create lightweight components for fuel-efficient transports. • A Queensland business awarded $500,000 to work on innovative equipment and processes for the recycling and recovery of green and organic waste. Climate Ready is part of the Clean Business Australia initiative - a $240 million partnership over four years between the Rudd Government and industry to deliver energy and water-efficient projects with a focus on productivity and innovation. A full list of the successful Round 3 recipients is available at www.ausindustry.gov.au . For further information on the Climate Ready program visit the website, call 13 28 46 or email hotline@ausindustry.gov.au.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/21/2009

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The PM's Award for Skills Excellence in School

The Prime Minister and Acting Education Minister today congratulated outstanding students who have been awarded a 2008 Prime Minister's Award for Skills Excellence in School. The Award recognises Year 12 students who have demonstrated excellence and outstanding achievement in vocational education and training in schools. Award categories include the highest achieving student in each state and territory, the highest achieving Indigenous student, and the highest achieving students in each represented industry area. Award recipients in each of these categories are listed below. Winners of this prestigious award are selected from the highest achieving recipients of the Australian Vocational Student Prize. Each winner receives a certificate from the Prime Minister and $2,000 in addition to their Australian Vocational Student Prize Award. The Awards recognise the significant achievements of these students in gaining a better understanding of the world of work and developing industry-specific skills, while at the same time studying for their Senior Secondary Certificates. The Award also promotes vocational education and training as a valuable and desirable pathway for students. The commitment of these students to learning exemplifies what the Council of Australian Governments' Compact with Young Australians aims to achieve. The Compact encourages young Australians to realise their potential by entitling every Australian under the age of 25 to an education or training place. The Compact will ensure young Australians have the skills necessary to play a productive role in Australia's economic prosperity. For more information about the Prime Minister's Award for Skills Excellence in School, the Australian Vocational Student Prize, and for the full list of 2008 winners, visit www.deewr.gov.au/avsp.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/22/2009

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NEW ZEALAND: Job Summit Output a Boost for Young Innovators

A new post-graduate internship programme to be set up by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology will create 150 new intern positions, Research, Science and Technology Minister Wayne Mapp announced today. The pilot programme will support post-graduate science, technology and engineering students. The Foundation will provide a maximum of $30,000 towards a post-graduate salary for a period of up to nine months. "This initiative is an output of the Prime Minister's Job Summit 'Workers-Skills and Transition' work stream. It will give 150 of New Zealand's young innovators a head start in their careers," Dr Mapp said. "The work stream highlighted the need for a continued focus on building and developing New Zealand's capability. These new positions are a practical response to that need. "This is a great opportunity for New Zealand businesses that might not have the means to employ post-graduates. We are encouraging businesses to continue innovating through the recession so they will be well placed in the market when the turnaround comes," he said. Specific companies will be targeted to create new vacancies for post-graduates that will lead to new or more research and development work. "We believe this will also stimulate an interest in companies across New Zealand to identify the graduate vacancies and improve industry collaboration with universities," Dr Mapp said. The funding for the post-graduate internships will be provided under TechNZ's capability funding programme.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/03/2009

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New Enviro Tool for Businesses Launched

A new web-based management tool to help businesses take the first steps towards understanding and improving their environmental and economic performance was launched today by Commerce Minister Simon Power. Envirostep is part of the Government's eco-verification programme, which is designed to give businesses the tools to respond to challenging economic conditions. Mr Power says consumers, and increasingly businesses, are demanding 'greener' responses. "It makes good business sense to integrate environmental management into businesses. "Businesses recognise that effective environmental management practice can deliver real cost savings by reducing energy, waste, and transport costs. At a global level, it can help reduce emerging trade risks and better position businesses to take advantage of competitive market opportunities". Envirostep is free for anyone to use, and fills a gap in the suite of tools available to small businesses to help build their capability. It was developed in partnership with business and sector stakeholders to help small businesses: Measure their environmental performance. Take practical steps that benefit both the environment and their business. Communicate their environmental performance. Progress to more sophisticated environmental tools and schemes if they wish. The programme enables businesses to measure their environmental performance by answering a series of specifically tailored questions. They then receive a report with a list of practical steps to help them improve their performance. "I hope the business community will use this tool to help make improvements to both business performance and to the environment," Mr Power said.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/15/2009

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Government Simplifies Overseas Investment

The Government has simplified overseas investment rules to make it easier for local firms to access scarce global funds, Finance Minister Bill English says. The changes are aimed at making overseas investment in New Zealand simpler and more attractive, while at the same time safeguarding our most sensitive assets. The changes are the first part of a two-part review, with the second part focusing on changes to the Overseas Investment Act itself. "Overseas investment can play an important role in economic recovery and job creation by providing the funds for local firms to grow. However the current rules are too complex and too difficult to interpret," Mr English says. "At present 98 per cent of all applications are approved. That is why we have cut red tape for overseas investors. This will make the process simpler, faster and cheaper, meaning more local firms get the investment they need when they need it." Under the changes Ministers have delegated greater decision-making powers to the Overseas Investment Office, which will be able to decide all applications barring rural sensitive land or land adjoining waterways. The changes take effect immediately. "This move alone is expected to reduce the number of ministerial decisions by 40 per cent and cut about two weeks off application assessment times." In addition, several types of transactions of a minor, technical or temporary nature have been exempted from the Act. Examples include some underwriting transactions and sales within a group of companies with shared ownership. These transactions result in little or no change to the overseas ownership of sensitive assets. In the next few weeks the Government will consider the second part of the review, aimed at improving three main areas of the Act.

Issues include: Whether the thresholds determining which land and business investments are screened are set at the right level - so we ensure that only genuinely sensitive assets are captured. Providing greater certainty for investors, by removing the ability to substantially change overseas investment rules during applications - avoiding the situation we saw last year with Auckland Airport. Considerably simplifying the screening of investments in sensitive land, while ensuring that overseas investors are subject to a higher standard than domestic investors. This will ensure investors do not have to meet arbitrary requirements of government departments and that, where it exists, other legislation is used to address New Zealand interests. The Government will also consider removing the previous Government's strategic asset test, which was never properly defined and created considerable confusion and uncertainty. "Instead, as a final reserve power, we will consider a new national interest test - similar to those in place in other countries. This would balance providing certainty for investors with safeguarding the interests of New Zealand. "In the rare times this test is used, the Government would be required to lay out to the public and Parliament its reasons for declining an investment. This will be clear and transparent," Mr English says. The overseas investment review is part of a wider review of bureaucratic red tape led by Mr English and Regulatory Reform Minister Rodney Hide.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/23/2009

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Launch of 'Maori in Industry and Trades Training'

A new initiative that will see more M¨ˇori gain skills and qualifications across a wide range of industries cannot come soon enough, according to the Minister of M¨ˇori Affairs Hon Dr. Pita Sharples. Speaking at the launch of 'M¨ˇori in Industry and Trades Training' in Mt Wellington this morning, Dr Sharples said the signing of an agreement with InfraTrain (the Industry Training Organisation for the civil infrastructure industry) was a step towards an additional 1,820 M¨ˇori receiving training - most at level 4 and above on the National Qualifications Framework - in industries with strong employment prospects. "It will also increase the number of M¨ˇori moving to higher level qualifications and into more senior roles within their organisations," said Dr Sharples. "Most importantly the M¨ˇori workforce will become more resilient and better prepared for opportunities that lie ahead." "This initiative will provide 250 training places at entry level through to diplomas in the civil infrastructure industry - 50 in Waikato; 100 in the Northland/Auckland area; and 100 in the East Coast/Hawkes Bay area, and will support these employees into higher level training, including five at diploma level," he said. "InfraTrain guarantees that at least 20 percent of these will be new employees, with the remainder moving into higher level qualifications within the industry. "Maori make up more than one third of the current civil infrastructure workforce in the North Island, where the government has signalled significant investment creating a demand for skilled workers and InfraTrain is committed to strengthening its M¨ˇori workforce," said Dr Sharples.

"M¨ˇori have long struggled to be better educated, to climb the qualifications ladder and to see M¨ˇori business and the M¨ˇori asset base flourish, and the M¨ˇori Economic Summit and the Prime Minister's Employment Summit reflected this. "The summit outcomes had a clear focus on industry and trades training as a driver of job protection, job creation and higher level skills and qualifications, and this has become a priority workstream for Te Puni K¨­kiri." "Te Puni Kokiri has identified the characteristics of training programmes that Maori succeed in, and has paid to have those elements included in this training package. They include mentoring for success, extra pastoral care, a Maori focus in the programme, and career planning with an emphasis on higher level qualifications that lead to real jobs. "Industry providers have endorsed Te Puni Kokiri's approach, and have contractually bound themselves to deliver agreed outcomes for Maori. The result is that Maori get much more benefit from training which is largely funded by the Tertiary Education Commission. Dr Sharples said today's initiative was one key step in a broader project, with policy and implementation plans being developed for cadetships and professional opportunities for M¨ˇori, and Te Wananga o Aotearoa and other providers working on training packages with the Maori Economic Task Force. The Minister of M¨ˇori Affairs was joined by the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon John Key who formally officiated at the launch.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/23/2009

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Asia Warned of Growing Poverty

"The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has warned that the global economic malaise is creating a social crisis in Asia, with slower growth leaving millions more people than expected mired in poverty and malnutrition this year. ADB Managing Director Rajat Nag said weak economic growth in Asia - estimated at 3 to 4 percent this year - would leave 60 million more people in poverty than would have been the case had the region maintained last year's pace of 6.5 percent..." Dow Jones adds that "... 'This financial crisis for Asia is much more a social crisis than just an economic or a financial crisis,' Nag said in an interview [with the Financial Times]. The warning was aimed at dispelling complacency in India and China, and Nag said that Asia's economic growth is fragile..." In related news, Xinhua reports that ADB Chief Economist Jong-Wha Lee "...said developing Asia would never get back on the sustained high growth trend if the economies in the industrialized countries further deteriorated. ... [And] Lee said even after we recover from this crisis, Asian developing countries should not be complacent, calling on governments to fundamentally change the export-led growth to a balanced one..."

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 06/29/2009

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Broadband, Mobile Key to Economic Growth: World Bank

"Access to affordable high-speed Internet and mobile phone service is key to economic growth and job creation in developing countries, the World Bank said in a report released on Tuesday. The report, Information and Communications for Development 2009, found that for every 10 percentage-point increase in high-speed Internet connections there is an increase in economic growth of 1.3 percentage points..." VOA adds that "...the study said mobile phones are the single most powerful way to reach and deliver public and private services to people in remote and rural areas in developing countries...The report said evidence from Brazil, Ghana and India shows that governments using modern Internet technology can become more efficient, transparent and responsive..." Reuters writes that "...many African countries should focus on lowering the cost of broadband access to help boost their economies, according to the report...The countries in the region have started to invest in IT infrastructure, but the cost of fixed and mobile phone services and Internet services are still two to five times the average income, hampering the takeup. 'There's still a long way to bring down cost,' World Bank Director for Global ICT Mohsen Khalil said. He said the typical monthly mobile bill was still $10-$12 in Africa, while in Southeast Asia many operators run profitable operations with average bills of $5 or less..."

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 07/01/2009

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OECD Sees Slowdown in Migrant Workers Steepening in 2009

"The number of people moving from one country to another in order to work has begun to fall in a number of leading economies, a decline that is likely to steepen this year, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said Tuesday. But in its International Migration Outlook 2009, the Paris-based think tank said developed countries will once again need overseas workers when their economies recover, and governments should continue to improve their systems for handling migrants..." Reuters adds that the report "...highlighted that unemployment among immigrants had almost doubled in the US, Spain and Ireland since the start of the economic crisis. No governments had so far announced drastic plans to close borders, but Italy has slashed an entry quota for non-seasonal immigrant workers to zero from 500,000 and Australia has cut a similar quote by 20 percent, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria said..." AP reports that "... 'Migration is not a tap that can be turned on and off at will,' Gurria wrote in the report. 'In tackling the jobs crisis, governments need to make sure that immigrants do not fall prey to increasing xenophobia and that discriminatory practices do not worsen an already difficult situation for them.'..."

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 07/01/2009

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World Bank Sees '09 Global Remittances Declining 7.3%

"Developing countries are expected to receive far less money from family members living abroad, with remittance flows expected to drop 7.3% this year, the World Bank said Monday. But remittances are actually holding up relatively well compared to other private flows to developing countries, such as direct or portfolio investments. Bank lending and debt issuance have largely dried up and are expected to post a net outflow from developing countries this year, while foreign direct investment will likely contract by about a third this year ... . In its base-case scenario, the bank expects remittances to developing countries to fall to $304 billion in 2009 from an estimated $328 billion last year. ..." "... Remittances are relatively resilient because the migrants living overseas have been relatively unaffected by the global financial crisis, though new migration flows have declined.

However, sources of risk to the outlook include uncertainty about the depth and duration of the current crisis, unpredictable movements in exchange rates, and the possibility that immigration controls may be tightened further in major destination countries. ..." "... Remittances slowed considerably in the fourth quarter last year, the development lender said in a report, after the global financial crisis accelerated following the collapse of Wall Street investment bank Lehman Brothers in September. ... The meltdown in the US real estate sector, the epicenter of the global crisis, was expected to reduce by 6.9 percent remittances for the Latin America and Caribbean region. The bank projected sub-Saharan Africa would experience a decline of 8.3 percent in its remittance flows. Flows to South Asia and East Asia, however, 'have been strong' and were expected to decline 'somewhat' in 2009. ..."

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 07/14/2009

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Experts Ask: How Far Have APEC Economies Come In Achieving Free Trade?

APEC officials are currently considering progress of members in trade liberalization and facilitation. Specifically, Russia, Papua New Guinea, Viet Nam and the Philippines will be subject to rigorous assessment of seventeen key policy areas affecting trade environments. Similar exercises are conducted on a rotating basis as economies review and scrutinize the Individual Action Plans (IAPs) of their counterparts. IAPs outline progress made toward achieving the goals set out in the Bogor Declaration of 1994. This declaration established a target of free trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region by 2010 for developed economies and 2020 for developing economies; and these goals were adopted by all APEC economies. To ensure consistent progress, the studies are conducted by independent review teams who also consider reports issued by the World Trade Organisation and studies published by experts who have also assessed the economies in question. During the Peer Review session, findings and analysis are discussed openly among members and subsequently made available to the public.

From http://www.apec.org/ 07/15/2009

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Thanks to Asia, Economic Crisis Is Rolling Back: UN

The current economic crisis is rolling back due to the significant progress made by countries in Asia like India and China, a top UN official said on Wednesday. The financial stimulus packages and reforms announced by these countries could help in creating a more integrated and coordinated Asia and the Pacific that builds up on collective regional strengths and resources, UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Executive Secretary Noeleen Heyzer, said. During the course of the UN Economic and Social Council session, which is currently taking place in Geneva, Heyzer highlighted the need for appropriate investments in infrastructure to create economic corridors that link less developed countries to economic centres in the region, thereby increasing intra-regional trade. As a result, the recovery of larger economies like China, India and the Republic of Korea will have "greater reciprocal positive spin offs" for their smaller neighbours, she said. Heyzer said that her organization has responded to the crisis by encouraging policies that include social programmes such as health coverage, pensions, education and agricultural extension services, as well as investment in small and medium scale enterprises.

From http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/ 07/16/2009

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Japanese Contribute USD 1.3 Million to APEC Energy Efficiency Initiatives

With energy security and climate change emerging as two very real challenges to economic growth, Japan has contributed JPY 120,000,000 (approximately USD 1.3 million) to promote energy efficiency activities throughout the APEC region. According to the Japanese Senior APEC Official, Makoto Shiotoa, "This sum is specifically directed toward the development and implementation of energy efficiency policies, goals and action plans in APEC economies." Such activities could include but would not be limited to: research of policies, practices and potential for energy efficiency improvement in APEC; vehicles for disseminating project outcomes; and the APEC Peer Review on Energy Efficiency, whereby efficiency policies are reviewed and compiled as a means of information-sharing. "This fund is a very practical way to assist members to meet their commitments and maximise efficiency," explains APEC Executive Director, Michael Tay.

"The implementation of energy efficiency measures effectively pays for itself, through long-term reductions in energy costs. Many APEC economies would therefore benefit by developing clear goals and action plans toward optimum energy efficiency." While the existing global crisis underlines the urgency of addressing climate change, initiatives are the result of commitments made by APEC Leaders in 2007. The Sydney APEC Leaders' Declaration on Climate Change, Energy Security and Clean Development states that "economic growth, energy security and climate change are fundamental and interlinked challenges" to the APEC region and emphasizes "the importance of improving energy efficiency by working towards achieving an APEC-wide regional aspirational goal of a reduction in energy intensity of at least 25 per cent by 2030 (with 2005 as the base year)."

From http://www.apec.org/ 07/17/2009

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Asia Economies Could Rebound in 2010: ADB

Asian economies will likely bounce back from the global economic slump in 2010 but fears remain over the sustainability of growth if there is no wider recovery, the Asian Development Bank said Thursday. The bank's chief economist Lee Jong-Wha said the outlook for East Asia this year remained "pessimistic" but foresaw a V-shaped recovery led by China if countries continue to focus on stimulating domestic demand. "We are optimistic for developing Asia for a V-shape recovery... But the big question is whether it will be sustainable growth - in that part we are rather pessimistic without a full global recovery," Lee told AFP ahead of the launch of the ADB's biannual Asia Economic Monitor in Bangkok. "It will be very difficult to return to the pre-crisis trend of growth," he added. Despite an increasing proportion of export demand coming from within Asia, notably China, the region overall continues to rely on markets in the US, European Union and Japan for 60 percent of final goods exports, Lee said.

Those markets are less likely to recover from the global financial crisis so quickly, he said. The ADB report recommended a continued focus on loose monetary and fiscal policies to stimulate domestic demand, with support for small enterprises and stimulus packages that must be fast and efficient. "The issue is how effectively they (Asian governments) can mobilise these additional fiscal resources," Lee said. But non-economic events such as the A(H1N1) swine flu pandemic and political issues such as North Korea nuclearisation, with "low probabilities but potentially large impacts" pose a big risk in the coming months, it said. It showed that the pace of capital outflows from Asia had slowed in the first quarter of 2009, and Lee urged large Asian investors to focus more of their capital spending within the region. There was already evidence that investors' appetite for risk was returning, said Lee, but the report included a chapter dedicated to regulation and the requirement for Asia to develop stronger financial architecture.

"We need to balance between innovation and regulation," said Lee, calling for greater harmony of regulatory policy between states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its regional partners in China and beyond. While China's recovery has "gained traction" and the more closed smaller economies such as Indonesia are on course to stronger growth levels, Lee said concern remained for more export-dependent small regional economies such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. The Manila-based bank said earlier this month it would update on September 22 its flagship Asian Development Outlook forecasts, which predicted earlier this year that developing Asia would see its economic growth fall to 3.4 percent this year compared to 6.3 percent in 2008. The bank previously reported that 60 million people would remain in poverty in 2009, who could have been lifted out if Asia growth levels had remained at pre-crisis (2007) levels. That figure would rise to 100 million people in Asia in 2010, an ADB spokeswoman said.

From http://sg.news.yahoo.com/ 07/23/2009

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CHINA: Invest $14.7B in Grassroots Clinics

China's central government will spend 100 billion yuan (US$14.7 billion) for equipment and building constructions for nearly 10,000 grassroots medical institutions by 2011, according to the Ministry of Health Friday. Zhao Zilin, a senior official with the Ministry of Health, announced the plan at a press conference here Friday. So far, the government has allocated 20 billion yuan for the construction projects of 961 county-level hospitals, 3,556 township health centers and 1,153 community health centers. According to Zhao, the Health Ministry has worked with the National Development and Reform Commission to finance the country's all 2,000 county-level hospitals, 5,000 township health centers and 2,400 community health centers. The target of the financial aid is to build up at least one standardized county-level hospital and several qualified township health centers in each county. A standardized county-level hospital is required to have at least 250 beds for inpatients. The standardized equipment of a qualified township health center should include X-ray apparatus, Type-B ultrasonic devices and life-support machines.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/04/2009

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Mainland, Taiwan Urged to Boost Web Industry Cooperation

Cooperation and exchange between web industries of Chinese mainland and Taiwan was urged by Ye Kedong, vice-minister of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council in Beijing. Speaking at Cross-Strait Web Industry Development Forum 2009, Ye said Tuesday that Internet entrepreneurs and web industry leaders should spare no efforts to boost economic cooperation, cultural exchange, and develop interactive online communities. He said now that the "three direct links" (services of trade, mail, air and shipment) are available, and a direct chain of logistics has been established. Besides, beneficial policies such as direct remittance and exchange, and Taiwan's opening up to the mainland investment, all provide strong momentum for the rapid development of electronic business for both sides, Ye said. "Therefore, the web industry on both sides should seize the fine opportunity to enhance cooperation and map out directions for future development of the industry together," he said, adding "in this way provide new impetus for the revival and development of the economy of both the mainland and Taiwan." Ye also said the web industries across the Strait should expand cultural exchange and develop creative web cultural industry, thus building a bridge for the cultural and educational exchange of the two sides. The two sides should make more efforts to develop interactive web community as a platform for mass communication and exchanges between users at the basic level in both mainland and Taiwan, he added. The forum is sponsored by the Internet Society of China based in Beijing, and China Times Group of Taipei. More than 300 entrepreneurs, scholars, and industry leaders from both sides attended the forum which also gives them the first opportunity for meeting.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/08/2009

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HK Urges Enhanced E-banking Security

Hong Kong's Monetary Authority on Monday urged banks and consumers to boost Internet banking security due to growing sophistication in fraud techniques. The authority issued a circular on Monday requiring authorized institutions to notify their customers immediately via SMS after they complete an online high-risk transaction. It also urged customers to verify the transaction details and notify their bank immediately if they discover any unauthorized transactions. Some fraudsters infected customers' computers with Trojan horse programs to hijack their Internet banking particulars, including one-time passwords for two-factor authentication, and used them to conduct high-risk e-banking transactions like transferring funds to an unregistered third-party account, the authority said. It said e-banking services with two-factor authentication are safe to use, as long as both customers and banks take proper security precautions. The authority said it will work with the industry and police to monitor the latest technological developments and trends in Internet banking fraud, and boost consumer education.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/14/2009

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China Mobile to Beef Up Rural Network

China Mobile will invest 70 billion yuan in the next three years to build and upgrade its networks in the country's vast rural areas and promote the application of its 3G services in the countryside, as part of efforts to seek new growth engines amid slowing subscriber growth. The world's largest mobile carrier by number of users said it would add at least 10,000 natural villages to its network coverage every year in the next three years. China Mobile's network coverage will blanket at least 98 percent of the country's more than 5 million natural villages by the time the plan is complete, according to an agreement the company inked with the Ministry of Agriculture yesterday. The mobile carrier said the agriculture ministry would help it promote the adoption of its TD-SCDMA 3G mobile technology-enabled applications in the country's vast countryside and in the ministry's subordinates, a boost to China Mobile's 3G services. But the mobile carrier did not say whether the 70-billion-yuan investment was new or if it had been included in its previously announced investment pacts with local governments in the past several months. The move comes amidst slowing subscriber growth and increasing competition from the nation's two other telecom carriers, and right in the middle of an economic downturn and the launch of the country's 3G services earlier this year. Yesterday's move is also part of "China Mobile's fulfillment of corporate responsibility as a major State-owned enterprise to narrow the 'digital divide' between urban and rural areas", Chairman Wang Jianzhou said. The telecom behemoth had 435,000 outlets in rural areas at the end of last year.

China Mobile added 199.1 million new subscribers in the first quarter, 1.23 million lower than that in the same period a year ago. It added 88 million users in 2008, more than the 80 million the company expected; but its new additions may drop by 25 percent to 66 million this year as competition from China Telecom and China Unicom intensifies, Tim Smart, an analyst at Macquarie Group, wrote in a research report. The country's telecom carriers have in the last few years started to woo customers in small towns and rural areas as subscriber penetration is saturating in big cities. And, starting this year, the three carriers are focusing on 3G services, which all of them launched this year, as part of their search for new growth engines. But China Mobile, which adopted the homegrown TD-SCDMA standard 3G services, is likely to encounter fierce competition in 3G services from its two rivals as they use more mature standards, analysts said. "The revenue growth at China Unicom and China Telecom is likely to pick up pace as a result of the 3G rollout," said Fang Lu, a telecom industry analyst at Shenyin & Wanguo Securities. China Mobile has since 2004 spent a total of 19.5 billion yuan in expanding its mobile network coverage to 683,000 administrative villages, or 98.98 percent of the nation's total, the company said. China Mobile's first-quarter net profit growth slowed to 5 percent from an 11-percent increase in the fourth quarter, the lowest since 2005.

From China Daily 07/15/2009

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China to Implement Program for Clean Online Games

The General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) of China said Wednesday that the country will next year start to implement a five-year program advocating clean online games. Sun Shoushan, vice director of the GAPP, said the administration will put forward the "China Green Online Games Publishing Program" this year and the implementation begins since next year. The official made the remarks at a forum during the seventh session of the China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference (Chinajoy), one day after the GAPP issued a notice warning of the illegal release of online games and declaring stricter control on the games' approval. Some illegal companies release pornographic and violent games on the Internet, the notice said. Sun did not define what "green" online games are during his speech at the forum. However, he blamed some companies for neglecting social responsibility in the pursuit of economic benefits. "Some companies provide unhealthy and persuasive contents in online games for players, especially the young ones, so as to attract players and make unlawful profits," he said. The online game industry in China is expected to grow by between30 percent and 50 percent this year, with a sales revenue of 24-27billion yuan (3.51-3.95 billion U.S. dollars), according to the official. China has about 200 million online game players.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/23/2009

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China Now Has 338m Internet Users

The number of internet users in China is now greater than the entire population of the United States, after rising to 338 million by the end of June, state media reported today. China's online population, the largest in the world, rose by 40 million in the first six months of 2009, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing a report by the China Internet Network Information Centre. The number of broadband internet connections rose by 10 million to 93.5 million in the first half of the year, the report said. About 95 per cent of townships were connected to broadband by early June and 92.5 per cent of villages had telephone lines that could be used for internet access, Xinhua said, citing the official data. Rural coverage is expected to improve as the country's three telecoms operators, China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom invest 280 billion yuan ($49 billion) in a national 3G network over the next year, China Mobile vice president Lu Xiangdong was quoted as saying last week. China's fast-growing online population has made the internet a forum for the country's citizens to express their opinions in a way rarely seen in the traditional, strictly government-controlled media. The growing strength and influence of the web population has prompted concern in Beijing about potential social unrest, and the government has stepped up its control over the internet in recent years. After rioting early this month in the capital of the restive northwest Xinjiang region, the government cut off online access to most of the area, in one of the largest known internet blackouts in China yet. It has also blocked access to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and a range of other sites used for networking and sharing content.

From http://www.news.com.au/ 07/26/2009

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JAPAN: Tokyo Becomes World's Costliest City for Expats: Survey

Tokyo has knocked Moscow off the top spot of the world's most expensive cities for expatriates. According to the latest Cost of Living Survey from Mercer, Osaka is in second position, up nine places from last year, whereas Moscow is now in third place. Geneva climbed four places to fourth position and Hong Kong moved up one to reach fifth. Johannesburg replaced Asuncion in Paraguay as the least expensive city in the ranking. In Mercer's survey, New York is used as the base city for the index and scores 100 points, all cities are compared against New York and currency movements are measured against the U.S. dollar. Tokyo scored 143.7 points and is nearly three times as costly as Johannesburg with an index score of 49.6. The survey covers 143 cities across six continents and measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location, including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. It is widely regarded as one of the world's most comprehensive cost of living surveys and is used to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowance for their expatriate employees.

A significant reshuffle of cities can be observed in this year's ranking, mainly due to considerable currency fluctuations worldwide. The majority of European cities moved down in the ranking with Warsaw experiencing the most dramatic change, plummeting 78 places from 35th to 113th. London and Oslo, both previously in the top 10, have dropped 13 and 10 places respectively. The same trend can be seen in Australia, New Zealand and India. Sydney has dropped 51 places from 15th to 66th and Mumbai has slipped down to 66th from 48th place. Cities in the U.S., China, Japan and the Middle East have surged in the ranking. New York is a new entry in the top 10, jumping from 22nd to 8th place, and so is Beijing, now in 9th place, up from 20th in 2008. Japan now has two cities in the top 10 and Dubai has climbed 32 places to reach 20th.

Nathalie Constantin-Metral, a senior researcher at Mercer, said, "As a direct impact of the economic downturn over the last year, we have observed significant fluctuations in most of the world's currencies, which have had a profound impact on this year's ranking. Many currencies, including the Euro and British Pound, have weakened considerably against a strong U.S. dollar causing a number of European cities to plummet in the rankings." "With significant exposure to multiple economies and currencies, multinational companies continue to be greatly affected by the financial crisis. The cost of expatriate programs is heavily influenced by currency fluctuations and inflation rates. Now that cost containment and reduction is at the top of most company agendas, keeping track of the change in factors that dictate expatriate cost of living and housing allowances is essential," Ms Constantin-Metral added. "It is important for multinational companies to continuously benchmark against their peers to ensure compensation packages are fair and in line with the rest of the market."

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/08/2009

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Japan's Wholesale Prices Mark Record Drop in June

Japan's domestic corporate goods price index, the nation's benchmark measure of wholesale prices, fell a record 6.6% in June from the year-ago period, the Bank of Japan said Friday. The result was a heavier drop than a 6.3% fall forecast in a survey of economist by Kyodo News and a 6.4% projection in a Reuters poll. It was also the largest on-year tumble on record. From May, the index was down 0.3%. Export prices were down 12.8% on year in June, while import prices were 32.2% lower. "The slide in wholesale prices is highly likely to widen in July, August and September, exceeding 7% down the road," Tetsuro Sawano, senior fixed income strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities, was quoted as saying in a Reuters report following the data. "Today's data would help the Bank of Japan reinforce its cautious stance on the economy." The Bank of Japan is slated to hold a policy meeting next week, and could extend some of its programs designed to add liquidity to the nation's financial markets. Michael Kitchen is a Pacific Rim editor for MarketWatch and is based in Los Angeles.

From MarketWatch 07/09/2009

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Registered Foreign Population in Japan Hits Record-High 2.21 Million

The number of registered foreign residents in Japan hit a record high of 2,217,000 at the end of 2008, marking an increase of around 50% in the last decade, a report released by the Justice Ministry said Friday. The registered foreign population accounts for 1.74% of Japan's total population, it said. Chinese nationals accounted for the largest group of foreign residents at around 30%, or 655,000 people, followed by Koreans at 589,000, Brazilians at 313,000, Filipinos at 211,000 and Peruvians at 60,000. The number of permanent residents increased to 492,000, up 11.9%, and that of nonpermanent residents with skilled labor visas rose by 21.6%. Most foreign nationals resided in Tokyo, with 402,000 registered, followed by Aichi and Osaka prefectures.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/11/2009

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Child Abuse Cases Soar to Record 42,662

Cases of child abuse continued to soar in fiscal 2008 with a record 42,662 instances handled by child guidance centers nationwide, up 2,023 from the previous year, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said in a preliminary report Tuesday. The ministry also said that between January 2007 and March 2008, 142 children died of abuse in 115 cases, including neglect and family suicide. The fiscal 2008 abuse figure was a six-fold increase over 10 years earlier. It was also the largest number of cases reported since the ministry began tracking the statistics in fiscal 1990. "While actual cases of abuse have risen, the number of reports and consultations has also increased because of a growing awareness of the problem," said a ministry official in charge of child abuse prevention efforts. Yet, only in two cases did child guidance center officials make on-site inspections with court-issued warrants to confirm the safety of children during fiscal 2008, which ended on March 31, 2009, according to the ministry report.

Under the revised Child Abuse Prevention Law that took effect in April 2008, when abuse is suspected, child guidance centers are empowered to make inspections with police aid. That step can be taken if a center obtains a warrant from a court in cases where parents have twice refused to report to the office to discuss suspected abuse. In the two cases, in two municipalities, welfare officials took four children into protective custody. In one case, officials raided an apartment after learning that children were not allowed to go to school and were kept inside their apartment, which gave off a foul odor. The local child guidance center tried in vain to get the children's guardian to come to the office to discuss the situation. Officials used a key borrowed from the landlord, and cut open a second door lock to enter the apartment and take three children into protective custody. Of the 142 children in the report who died during the 15 months to March 2008, 64 were killed in 42 so-called family suicide attempts. Of the remaining 78 child deaths in 73 cases, nearly half were infants less than a year old. In many cases, mothers had mental problems or had no one to turn to, the report said.

In 15 of the 73 cases, or 20.5 percent, child consultation center officials were already handling the issue. Municipalities or hospitals were addressing six cases, 8.2 percent, as abuse. In 22 cases, or 30.1 percent, the authorities had contact with the families, but did not recognize the problems as abuse. Meanwhile, a separate welfare ministry survey released Monday found that one in two children living in child welfare homes had been abused by their parents or other relatives. The survey showed 41,602 children were in welfare homes or placed with foster parents as of Feb. 1, 2008, up 3,284 from the previous survey in 2003. Of those, about 21,000 had been neglected or abused in other ways by their parents. It said 33.9 percent of children, up 5.5 points from five years earlier, lived apart from their families because of abuse. A total of 10,588 children, or roughly one in four, had some form of disability. "Children who have emotional scars from abuse often fail to build good relationships with others or lash out aggressively toward certain workers at their facilities," said Reiho Kashiwame, a professor of child welfare at Shukutoku University. "Such children need specialized care that takes into consideration such traits."

From THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 07/15/2009

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Record 11,000 Foreign Students Find Jobs in Japan In 2008: Survey

A record 11,040 foreign students found jobs in Japan in 2008 after graduating from universities and other schools in the country, up 7.6% from the previous year for the sixth straight yearly rise, the Justice Ministry's Immigration Bureau said Tuesday. Of the 11,040, Asian students accounted for 96.6%, with students from China at 7,651, followed by those from South Korea at 1,360, Taiwan at 303, Vietnam at 189 and Bangladesh at 164, according to the bureau. The bureau obtained the data by tallying the number of students who applied for changes in visa status, which is mandatory for foreign students to be employed in the country. Breaking down the group by occupational field, translation and interpretation led with 33.7%, followed by sales with 16.2% and information processing with 11.2%.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/15/2009

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New-Flu Cases Top 4,000 in Japan

The number of cases of the new type of influenza has topped 4,000 in Japan, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Sunday. There have been no serious cases reported since the first infections in Japan were confirmed in May, the ministry said. As of Sunday, the ministry confirmed 4,027 infections of the A(H1N1) virus. In the 24-hour period to Sunday morning, the ministry counted 150 new cases. From Friday morning through Saturday morning, 209 new cases were recorded. The number of infections rose slowly in Japan at first, but accelerated in recent weeks leading up to the summer holiday season.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/19/2009

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SOUTH KOREA: President to Donate His Personal Assets to Society for Scholarships

The Foundation Establishment Committee, which was launched in March 2009 in connection with President Lee's donation of his personal assets to society, today announced how the funds would be administered. After discussions over the last four months, the Committee has concluded that the funds in the amount of about 33.1 billion won would be used for scholarships for young people. The property assets to be donated by President Lee include three buildings located in Seocho-dong and Yangjae-dong, two districts in southern Seoul. The properties were valued at 39.5 billion won by the Korea Appraisal Board, but the funds to be donated reached about 33.1 billion, including savings of 81 million won, because there are deductions of such debts as key money that has to be paid back to those who are leasing the property. The establishment of the Foundation is expected to be completed by early next month, after which the 12 executives of the foundation, including the head of the Foundation, will begin to work in earnest. The Committee explained that President Lee hopes that his donation would be able to serve as a small catalyst encouraging donations in Korean society. Chairman Song Jeong-ho of the Committee said that the President's donation embodies his firm belief that no one should be prevented from learning because of money and that poverty should not be handed down generation after generation. He went on to say that it is imperative for all Koreans to practice the spirit of generosity and responsibility and that is not something that can be practiced only by those with wealth, power, prestige and knowledge.

The President first revealed his intention to donate his assets in his autobiography, There Is No Such Thing as a Myth, published in 1995 when he was a lawmaker. In it, he noted that he would not bequeath his assets to his children. In addition, he once said,"My small fortune does not belong to me alone. The achievement was made possible thanks to the devotion of workers and their families as well as society. What I have so far achieved should be returned to society." Presidential Spokesperson Lee Dong-kwan explained that the President has a firm conviction that it was particularly important to take enough time to make a substantial plan rather than rushing the establishment of the foundation. His personal philosophy that when giving to the needy you should not let "your left hand know what your right hand is doing" has been at play too, the Spokesperson added. He also stressed that the donation of most assets to society by a head of state while in office is unprecedented in the history of politics. The Foundation was named Cheonggye in Korean, meaning a clean valley. President Lee was given the same pen name by a friend even before he embarked on the Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project. There were several other suggestions for the name of the Foundation. Candidates under consideration included Taewon, the name of President Lee's mother; Ilsong, another of President Lee's pen names and Myungyoon, a combination of the two middle syllables of the Presidential Couple's names. The final decision was made after consultation between President Lee and the Committee members. It has been pointed out, however, that it is difficult for some non-Koreans to pronounce "Cheonggye" and to immediately understand the meaning of the name. Taking this into account, the Foundation is to be named the Lee Myung-bak & Kim Yoon-ok Foundation in English. It will be called the Lee & Kim Foundation for short.

The Committee will tender an application for the establishment of the Foundation early this week to the Office of Education which has jurisdiction over the matter. Upon receiving the application, it is supposed to decide whether to approve or reject the application after completing preliminary and secondary considerations usually within 15 days. After the approval of the establishment of the Foundation, the following steps need to be taken: assets are transferred to the foundation, the establishment of the foundation is registered and reported to the tax office in charge, the business license is registered and the transfer of the assets is reported to the Office of Education in charge, which concludes the whole process. After the approval of the establishment of a foundation, it usually takes about three months to finalize the process. This time, however, it is expected to take about a month. Concerning this matter, an official from the Committee noted, "It will be possible for the time needed to be drastically shortened thanks to the great preparation that has already been made." With regard to the selection of the beneficiaries and the scope of the scholarships, the board of directors will engage in deliberations in a bid to complete the matter as early as possible in accordance with the internal procedures and principles following the completion of the establishment of the Foundation. The financial resources of the scholarship program will mainly come from the rent of the real estate donated this time. As of now, the total rent is expected to reach around 90 million won per month, or around 1.1 billion won a year. The amount was calculated without subtracting the operating expenses, and the rent will be subject to slight changes according to the conditions of the real estate market. An official concerned said that the Foundation would consider selling a portion of the properties if there is a shortage of funds.

The following is the list of executives of the Foundation. Lawyer Song Jeong-ho has been appointed the head of the board of directors and nine other members of the board have also been appointed. They include Kim Doh-yeon, President of the University of Ulsan; Kim Seung-yu, Chairman and CEO of the Hana Financial Group; Yu Woo-ik, professor of Seoul National University; Moon Ae-ran, President of Publicis Welcomm; Park Mi-seok, professor of Sukmyung Women's University; Yu Jang-hee, professor of Ewha Womans University; Lee Sang-soo, laywer; Lee Wang-jae, professor of Seoul National University and Lee Jae-hoo, lawyer. In addition, Kim Chang-dae and Joo Jeong-jung were named as standing auditors. The Committee held five sessions between March 4 and June 2 and has discussed and decided on the articles of association, the title, the purpose and the composition of the board of directors as well as the appraisal of the properties to be donated. Besides just a couple of comments on the name of the Foundation, President Lee entrusted everything to the Committee. The Committee said, "We have been engaged in in-depth deliberations over how to administer the donation to better reflect the will of the President. The President wanted the donation this time to be of at least a little help in relieving the burden on the shoulders of ordinary citizens and to make a contribution to promoting a spirit of donation in Korean society."

From http://www.korea.net/ 07/06/2009

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KC Mark to Unify Certification for Korean-Made Products

Korean Agency for Technology and Standards (KATS) is set to introduce the nationally integrated certification mark, "KC," in order to relieve enterprises of an economic burden caused by duplicate certifications and to enable consumers to choose quality products under a single certification mark. "KC" stands for Korean Certification. With promulgation of the revised Framework Act on National Standards, KATS decided to push ahead with establishment of an integrated management system on a full scale that can comprehensively control and coordinate pan-governmental national standards certification-related businesses systematically. The core content of the integrated management system for certifications of national standards is twofold: first, harmonizing 20 types of audit procedures for legal compulsory certifications with international standards (ISO/IEC Guide 67) and simplifying the types into nine to match domestic conditions and, second, integrating 13 existing legal compulsory certification marks into one KC mark. Owing to simplified certification audit procedures and resolution of duplicate certifications following introduction of the KC mark, enterprises are expected to be able to reduce certification expenses to 13 million won from 38 million won on average and shorten the certification time required to four months from 5.5 months, brining a 7.3 trillion won increase in sales, along with an employment effect 68,000 persons, according to Korea University's 2008 data. For consumers, moreover, the KC mark will provide such advantages as eliminating confusion over the diverse kinds of certification marks attached to products and presenting sufficient data to choose quality products, while reducing wasted time spent in selecting appropriate products.

From http://www.korea.net/ 07/08/2009

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Per Capita GDP Expected to Shrink to $16,000 in 2009

Experts believe that Korea's per capita gross domestic product will sink to the US$16,000 range this year, even falling below the $17,547 set in 2005. The main culprits behind the fall are the country's shrinking economy due to the global downturn and the fall in the value of the won. Per capita GDP will hit $16,738 this year with the local currency averaging W1,245 against the U.S. dollar and the economy shrinking 2.4 percent, according to Hwang In-seong, a senior economist at the Samsung Economic Research Institute on Wednesday. Kim Chang-bae, a researcher at the Korea Economic Research Institute, predicted that per capita GDP will fall to $16,421 based on the won valued at W1,290 to the dollar and the economy contracting by 1.9 percent. Lee Geun-tae, a researcher at the LG Economic Research Institute, forecast that if the won stands at W1,260 against the dollar and the economy shrinks by 1.7 percent, per capita GDP will record $16,700. Korea saw its per capita GDP surpass the $20,000 mark for the first time in 2007, when the won strengthened to W929 on average against the dollar. However the figure slid to $19,106 last year.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 07/09/2009

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Report: Boomer Retirement Wave Will Strain Economy

A report estimates that some 3.11 million Korean baby boomers will begin to retire from next year. Baby boomers are those born when the birthrate spiked between 1955 and 1963, after the Korean War ended. They have been a key driver behind Korea's industrial growth since the 1990s, leading the country's production and consumption. If they take a step back from the front lines the country's economy will be hit hard, suffering less consumption, a smaller working population and reduced tax revenues. The situation is similar in America, where there are concerns that the growing number of retiring baby boomers will hurt the nation's economy. According to the report released by the Hyundai Research Institute on Tuesday, statistics on Korea's future population by the National Statistical Office show that baby boomers will number 7.12 million in 2010. Assuming the retirement age at businesses is 55, next year will be the start of the boomers' retirement era when those born in 1955 turn 55, the report said. The report finds that some 3.11 million wage earners out of the 7.12 million boomer population will retire between next year and 2018. The self-employed and those working for family business without pay were not counted among the 3.11 million. Korea's baby boomers account for 14.6 percent of the entire population, whereas their Japanese counterparts (those born between 1946 and 1949) make up five percent of that nation's population. When the retirement of baby boomers picks up speed, Korea will face far more serious social problems than Japan, it predicted. If all of the 7.12 million boomers retire during the next nine years, the country will face a shortage of 1.65 million economically active people as only 5.47 million new workers are expected to be added to the labor market in that period, the report said.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 07/09/2009

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Korean Gender Earnings Gap Widest in OECD

Korea has the widest gap between the earnings of men and women in the 30 OECD member states. According to an OECD report released Thursday, Korean men earned on average 38 percent more than women as of last year. The gap is more than double the OECD average of 18.8 percent. Japan came second with a gap of 33 percent, followed by Germany (23 percent), Austria (22 percent), and the U.K. and Canada (21 percent). Korea came fourth with 30 percent in terms of the employment gap between men and women after Turkey (51 percent), Mexico (46 percent), and Greece (32 percent). The birthrate is also the smallest in the OECD at 1.08, far below the average of 1.64. The average age of Korean women at first childbirth is 29.1, the fifth oldest in the OECD members and 1.3 years older than the average. And the teenage birthrate, or births per 1,000 South Korean girls aged 15-19, was the lowest at 3.5, while that of the U.S. was the highest at 50.3. The ratio of out-of-wedlock births to total births for Korea was also the lowest at 1.3 percent, while Iceland's was the highest at 65.6 percent.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 07/10/2009

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14% of Households Live in Poverty

The number of poor households has mushroomed amid stagnant growth over the past six to seven years, with 14 out of every 100 urban households now living below the poverty line. In a report released Monday, the Korea Development Institute said the ratio of poor households in urban families of more than two members has been on the increase since 2001, hovering above 14 percent for three consecutive years. The report defines poor families as those whose average monthly income is less than 50 percent of the median family income, for instance families of four with an average monthly income of less than W1.77 million (US$1=W1,312) as of 2008. There were fewer than 10 percent poor households until the late 90s, but the percentage rose to 12.8 in 1999 when income disparity grew in the wake of the Asian financial crisis. The ratio fell back to 10.5 percent in 2000 but then rose steadily to 14.2 percent in 2006. It was 14.4 in 2007 and 14.3 percent in 2008. The proportion of middle-class households, meanwhile, is declining. Families with an income between 50 percent and 150 percent of the median family income took up 65.5 percent in 1999, rising to 68.5 percent in 2000, but then fell to 62.7 percent in 2007 and 63.3 percent in 2008. Yu Kyung-joon, a senior research fellow at the KDI, said, "In the 2000s, economic growth dropped and more fruits of growth went to those who are not poor." Korea has a higher poverty rate than advanced nations. In an OECD analysis of its 30 member states, Korea ranked sixth at 14.6 percent as of 2006, behind the U.S. (17.1 percent) and Japan (14.9 percent) but well ahead of Germany (11 percent), Switzerland (8.7 percent) and the U.K. (8.3 percent).

From http://english.chosun.com/ 07/14/2009

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Cyber Attack 'Came from Britain, Not N. Korea'

The source of a crippling cyber attack targeting Cheong Wa Dae and other key websites in South Korea and the United States was a computer in the U.K., analysis shows. Although it remains unclear exactly who was behind the distributed denial of service attacks, they were orchestrated from a master server with an IP address in England. The Korea Communications Commission said Tuesday Vietnamese computer security company Bach Khoa Internetwork Security told the Korea Information Security Agency that the master server behind the attacks was located in the U.K. After the DDoS attacks began, KISA had sent samples of the computer virus to 16 member nations of the Asia Pacific Computer Emergency Response Team, which includes Vietnam. The KCC then passed on the information to the National Intelligence Service, state prosecutors and the police, while an international investigation has been launched. British authorities are said to have been notified and have launched a probe of the server using that IP address. KISA speculates that the master server, which uses a Windows 2003 operating system, spread the virus through 125 host websites across the world. Damage was reported in 166,000 computers in 74 countries, including South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan, Canada, New Zealand and the U.K. In South Korea alone, around 78,000 computers were infected. Hwang Chul-jeung, the head of network policy at the KCC, said, "Either the server in England had been hijacked or another master server may have been used."

From http://english.chosun.com/ 07/15/2009

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Women Playing Increasing Role in Korean Workplace

The lives of Korean women have changed quite a bit over time. According to data released by the National Statistical Office last Tuesday, the number of women who are working as primary breadwinners in Korea has gradually increased from less than 15 percent in 1980 to over 22 percent in 2009. In line with this trend the age at which women are giving birth to their first child is also on the rise, as women are now choosing to walk down the aisle a few years later than did women in the past. Financial independence is said to be playing a major role in changing women's lives. Although men in general still control the economy, the difference in the economic participation rates of men and women is said to be steadily closing. And while those in their early 20s showed the highest economic participation rates in 1998, today women in their late 20s are most heavily involved in the economy. The most popular job among Korean women is teaching, with the number of female elementary school teachers accounting for as much as 74 percent of the total in 2008. The number of female lawmakers and public servants has also risen. It was only in the 1980s that the first law on gender equality in employment was established in Korea. Even until the 90s women were not given equal opportunities or even recognized for their abilities simply based on their gender.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 07/15/2009

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KT Breaks Away from Korean Confederation of Trade Unions

The members of KT's trade union voted on Friday (July 17) to secede from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). KT (formerly Korea Telecom) is a prominent wired and wireless telecommunications service provider in the country. About 95 percent, or 27,000, of the union members of KT, voted in favor of withdrawing from the national trade union KCTU. The KCTU, established in 1995, is the second largest umbrella trade union in Korea, following the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU). The KT's union was the third largest in size in the KCTU, after those of Hyundai Motor Company and KIA Motors. After the vote, the KT union said through a statement that it had consented to the members' request for a new vision for industrial relations. The union added that it would break away from confrontational union-management relations to achieve co-prosperity and unity. The union also said it plans to focus on the welfare of its worker and form a separate federation on its own in the future.

From http://www.korea.net/ 07/19/2009

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MALAYSIA: ICT Boost for the Underserved

KUALA LUMPUR: Rural areas in Sabah, Sarawak and Pahang can look forward to having better telecommunications facilities soon - an initiative that will be funded by the Universal Service Provision (USP) fund. The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (SKMM) said it will focus on the provision of telecommunications facilities and Internet access to the areas, under the national High-Speed Broadband (HSBB) project, during the next 16 months. Local telcos are required to contribute a set portion or their profits annually to the USP fund, which is then used for rural ICT (information and communications technology) projects and to develop other underserved areas. There is reportedly RM3bil in the kitty now. "There are still many areas without basic telephony and Internet facilities," said Mohamed Sharil Mohamed Tarmizi, SKMM acting chairman, so SKMM has earmarked RM2.4bil to improve these areas nationwide under the HSBB project. Some of these areas are in Sabah, Sarawak and Pahang, which have been classified as Zone 3 of the HSBB project. The zone contains areas recognised as having low economic activities. Mohamed Sharil was speaking at a press conference after a ceremony to mark the commencement of HSBB project infrastructure works in the capital last week. Speed boost The HSBB project - launched last year under a public/private partnership between the Government and telco giant Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) - is aimed at improving the nation's broadband Internet quality to offer speeds of up to 10Mbps (megabits per second). Currently, Internet users can only connect at speeds of up to 4Mbps, although business users have the option of a higher 1Gbps (gigabits per second) connection under the TM Direct service.

"In rural areas, Internet connectivity is offered in community centres and there will be more of this in the next 16 months," Sharil said. Besides providing telephony facilities and Internet access, SKMM will also be involved in educating the rural population on the benefits of ICT. Minister of Information, Communications, Culture and Arts Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, who officiated at the ceremony, said a team of officials from TM, SKMM and the ministry would be sent to Zone 3 areas to educate rural folk on ICT use. "We don't want the people to have the impression that the HSBB project is focused only on urbanites and areas with high economic activities," he said. Making it better between 2002 and 2006, Sharil said, the USP fund had been used to improve cellphone service coverage in rural areas. He declined to quantify the total amount disbursed. SKMM disburses the monies in the fund after first identifying the areas with telecommunications facilities that are below the national average penetration rate. Sharil explained that if a particular location is about 20% below the national average, it would then qualify as an area to be developed using the USP fund. After the locations are noted, tenders would be called for and bids would be made by service providers wanting to provide the communications infrastructure for those areas.

From http://star-techcentral.com/ 07/03/2009

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SINGAPORE: CIMB-GK Securities Launches CFD Trading Platform via iPhone

SINGAPORE: Brokerage CIMB-GK Securities has launched a contract for difference (CFD) trading platform for investors on the go via the iPhone. It says it is the first local brokerage here to do so. The launch is part of CIMB-GK's retail marketing strategy to cater to the growing segment. Under the new platform, investors can use the iPhone or iPod touch to trade the CFDs. CFD is an agreement between two parties to exchange, at the close of the contract, the difference between the opening price and closing price of the contract, multiplied by the number of underlying stocks specified in the contract. CFDs are traded in a similar way to ordinary stocks and are used as an alternative instrument to stock trading.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/13/2009

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MOE, IDA & Microsoft Launch Backpacklive! Initiative

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Education, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore and Microsoft Singapore have announced the launch of the BackPackLive! initiative. The three parties will jointly invest S$5.5 million in this new initiative. It is an expansion of the previous five-year IDA-Microsoft BackPack.NET initiative launched in 2003. The new collaboration will focus on inspiring and exploring information and communication technology practices among teachers to develop students' self-directed and collaborative learning capability.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/17/2009

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THAILAND: Korn to Review E-Auction Rules to Speed Up Stimulus Projects

Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij will review electronic-auction rules so as to speed up public investment projects under the second economic-stimulus package. The World Bank has expressed its support. "Government procurement by electronic means, e-auction, has been a major cause of slow budget disbursement," Korn told a press conference yesterday. Korn and senior officials met with specialists from the World Bank on Samui, where they discussed several topics of collaboration. The minister said on the closing day of the two-day workshop that the government wanted to ensure faster budget disbursement of the stimulus package, worth Bt1.43 trillion. He said public investment under the first stimulus package, worth Bt116 billion, which the government implemented in March, had scarcely moved, due to complex rules about government procurement. This is delaying economic recovery, he said. He said Thailand used e-auction for all kinds of public procurements from buying goods to concession bidding. He said the government would change e-auction rules by the end of the month in order to accommodate faster spending on public investment. Korn also said e-auctions had not prevented leakage of public funds or corruption.

Annette Dixon, World Bank country director, said Thailand was unique among countries using e-auctions in applying the practice to every government procurement of goods and services, instead of only standardised goods such as stationery. She said e-auctioning was useless in complex investment projects such as those involving infrastructure. The World Bank will send specialists to help improve government procurement, she added. The two sides also discussed establishment of an infrastructure fund to finance public-investment projects. Experts from the World Bank suggested inviting the private sector to participate in public investment, Korn said. The World Bank also proposed a clean-technology fund with loans at lower than market interest for environmental-improvement projects. The bank will collaborate with the National Economic and Social Development Board on this. Korn said the government might join with other countries such as China to launch an infrastructure fund to finance rail routes from southern China to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 07/05/2009

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VIETNAM: Coming to the Rescue of Laid-Off Workers

With unemployment insurance coverage not kicking in until 2010, the large numbers of workers laid off during the current economic crisis has caused the Government to take a stopgap measure. Government Decision No 30/2009/QD-TTg, issued February 23 and further guided in Joint Circular No 06/2009/TTLT-BLDTBXH-BTC, issued on February 25 by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Finance, introduced three policies aimed at keeping workers on the job, or supporting those who have temporarily lost their incomes. First, enterprises may qualify for bank loans at zero-per-cent interest for up to 12 months to meet payrolls, social insurance premiums and job-loss or severance allowances. Companies that have been forced to trim their workforces by 30 per cent or lay off 100 or more employees (excluding seasonal workers employed under-three month labour contracts) and lack financial resources to pay wages, social insurance premiums and job-loss or severance allowances to laid-off workers would be eligible. Laid-off workers would be defined as Vietnamese workers employed under labour contracts of an indefinite term or a term of 12-36 months or seasonal labour contracts or job performance contracts of a term of three months or more.

Enterprises facing a need to lay off workers are required to work out, in collaboration with grassroots trade unions, labour rearrangement plans that indicate the total number of employees, the number to continue to be employed, those entitled to social insurance benefits, and those whose labour contracts are to be terminated and made redundant. The plan must then be submitted to the provincial-level Labour Service office in the province in which the enterprise is headquartered. Within five working days of receiving the proposed plan, the provincial-level Labour Services would be required to send a written confirmation of receipt to the enterprise and the local branch of the Viet Nam Development Bank. Enterprises are also required to submit their latest quarterly financial statements to provincial-level departments of finance, which will issue written confirmations of receipt to the enterprise and the local branch of the Development Bank. The Development Bank may then decide on loan amounts and approvals, as well as manage and recover debts. This policy is a one-time bailout of enterprises and employees in hard times. But the Viet Nam General Confederation of Labour has expressed concerns that some enterprises will use the programme to get interest-free loans for other purposes, by declaring a number of redundancies higher than actual figures to reach the prescribed level of 30 per cent, or colluding with employees to alter the terms of their labour contracts in order to meet the relevant requirements.

Many ineligible enterprises might also qualify for the loans by separating the payroll for executives from that of workers, thereby shirking the obligation to pay social insurance premiums for these workers. The director of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs' Employment Department, Nguyen Dai Dong, admitted that most enterprises reported only their laid-off workers and omitted the number of newly-recruited ones, creating another possible loophole. Second, the programme aims to pay wages to laid-off employees of enterprises which have become insolvent. Payroll costs will be advanced from provincial budgets and refunded from proceeds from the liquidation of the assets of the concerned enterprise. Finally, workers laid off in 2009 and Vietnamese guestworkers who lose their overseas jobs due to production cutbacks and must return home before their labour contracts expire will be entitled to loans from the National Fund for Employment under the National Target Programme on Employment; loans for job training under Prime Minister's Decision No 157/2007/QD-TTg of September 27, 2007, on student loans and credit to be provided to workers for 12 months from the date they become unemployed; and loans from the Social Policy Bank as social policy beneficiaries under State Bank Decision No 365/2004/QD-NHNN of April 13, 2004, for 12 months from the date they become unemployed or return home.

As the policy only provides laid-off workers with loans while seeking new jobs, Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Thanh Hoa says Vietnamese guestworkers will be entitled to debt payment deferral or have their debts rescheduled. On February 24, the Viet Nam General Confederation of Labour proposed that the National Fund for Employment give laid-off workers loans at an interest rate of 3.8 per cent per year, against the prevailing 7.8 per cent. The labour export department also proposed a plan to the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs to grant assistance of up to VND5 million to guest workers forced to return home prior to the expiration of their contracts. According to statistics accumulated by the ministry from 41 provinces and cities, there were already 66,700 laid-off workers in these localities in January. The labour export department also estimated that about 10,000 guest workers would be forced to return home in 2009. - VNS

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 07/01/2009

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Vietnam Far Ahead in Happiness Stakes: Survey

The New Economics Foundation (NEF) looked at 143 countries that are home to 99 percent of the world's population after devising an equation that weighed life expectancy and people's happiness against their ecological footprint. The foundation found Vietnamese people have a life expectancy of 73.7 years and 65 percent of the country's residents say they're happy and satisfied with their lives. The Happy Planet Index (HPI) found Latin American countries occupy nine of the top 10 spots with Costa Rica ranked the happiest and greenest place on earth. Scores range from 0 to 100 - with high scores achieved by meeting all three targets embodied in the index - high life expectancy, high life satisfaction, and a low ecological footprint. The ecological footprint is a measure of the amount of land needed to provide for an individual's resource requirements plus the amount of vegetated land to absorb all their CO2 emissions and the CO2 emissions embodied in the products they consume.

Thus, the index indicates the degree to which long and happy lives are achieved per unit of environmental impact. In the East Asia region, the Philippines was ranked behind Vietnam at rank 14, while other, more developed countries and territories of the region including Japan and Hong Kong only made it to 75th and 84th spots respectively. Nic Marks of NEF said the HPI initiative, first released in 2006, aims to create a strong economy based on minimal environmental impact before wasteful lifestyles push humans to the crisis of climate change, the online newspaper Vnexpress said Monday. HPI measures people's well-being in terms of long, happy and meaningful lives in accordance with the rate of resource consumption. It is based on the concept that a successful society is "one that can support good lives that doesn't cost the Earth." An NEF study in 2006 announced Vanuatu was the world's happiest nation, putting Costa Rica in second place.

From http://www.thanhniennews.com/ 07/07/2009

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Training Vital to Develop IT Services

HCM CITY - The Government must create a new agency responsible for training employees for the burgeoning software and IT services industry, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan has said. The ministries of Education and Training as well as Information and Communications should take the lead in organising the effort, he said. Nhan made his remarks at the 14th annual Viet Nam Computer Electronics World Expo meeting held yesterday in HCM City. The Government plans to earmark VND900 billion (US$50 million) for the training of IT staff, who are in high demand among local and foreign companies over the next five years, Nhan said. Nhan asked the Ministry of Information and Communications to outline a plan to help the IT industry develop quickly and sustainably. He also asked authorities to provide the Prime Minister with ideas and incentives to aid the IT sector to reach new heights over the next three years. Nhan said the Government would help the software and IT services industry become a major sector of the country's economy. Nguyen Trong, former chief of the National IT steering committee, said no other industry in the next 15 to 20 years could bring as much benefit to Viet Nam as the local software and IT services sector. He said it was realistic to place Viet Nam among the world's leaders in the industry by 2025. However, the country's software and IT services industry is still relatively small, with total turnover of US$648 million, or 0.5 per cent of last year's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

"Most companies in the industry have limited capital of around VND2 billion ($110,000), with no more than 15 programmers," Trong said. But the industry, which includes software and online games production as well as IT services, has great potential compared to other local sectors. Trong said the proportion of added value in most local industries was only 25 per cent while software and IT services was 56 per cent. In 2007, the average contribution to GDP for every 1,000 staff in all sectors was VND26 billion ($1.5 million), he said. During the same year, labour capacity for every 1,000 employees in top revenue-earning industries such as mine exploration was equal to VND281 billion, while the gas, electricity and water supply labour capacity amounted to VND202 billion. Software and IT services ranked third in 2007, with VND166 billion, but in 2008 the figure increased to VND240 billion. "We can easily see that software and IT services can develop in a sustainable way more than the mine, gas, or electricity and water supply industries that exploit natural resources," Trong added.

Global top 30
With Viet Nam ranked among the 30 best countries for outsourcing, the potential for growth is huge. HCM City is ranked among the top 31 cities in the world for the rate of development in software and IT services. "The biggest obstacle to overcome is that we have to make around 1 million software programmers reach an international level," Trong said. "This goal is not beyond our reach but requires great determination from the Party and Government, and civil society's complete agreement and effort." Chu Tien Dung, chairman of the HCM City Computers Association, noted that in 2008 the total revenue of the IT industry of $4 billion remained high, with a growth rate of 49 per cent. "This year, however, the industry will suffer more because of the global crisis," he said. Revenue from software and IT services increased by 50 per cent in 2007 and 47 per cent in 2008. In 2008 the total number of staff was 30,000 and the average annual productivity value was $11,000 per employee per year. The average return on investment in 2008 was about 25 per cent. "This shows a tendency that software and IT services have become more and more promising, with an improvement in national reputation and brandname," he added. However, the annual productivity value per person of $11,000 is equal to only 45 per cent of that in India and 65 per cent in China. "We have to improve our skills and acquire contracts for more complicated jobs to be able to compete with strong IT companies in India and China," Dung said. By maintaining a year-on-year growth of 40 per cent, the industry would reach $6.2 billion in revenue or 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2020, he predicted.

Software companies
Dung proposed that the Government invest in promising software companies and assume the mantle of leader in encouraging the development of national major products and technologies as well as human resources training. "The current number of 30,000 programmers is far from our target of 1 million by 2025," he said. The deputy director of the HCM City Information and Communications Department, Nguyen Anh Tuan, said the industry had become more competitive because of low labour costs and improvement in workforce quality, restructuring, and reorganisation of software companies. These assets, along with advanced internet and telecommunications infrastructure, would allow the country to narrow the gap between strong IT nations such as India and create a solid position in the outsourcing market. "We have pledged to support the industry by increasing IT applications in Government offices, and accelerating investment and brandname promotion activities, as well as speeding up the development of software concentration zones," Tuan said. Nguyen Lam Phuong, deputy director of FPT Information Systems, the country's leading software company with 4,500 programmers, said that in a global crisis software companies should recruit high quality human resources at a reasonable cost to prepare for future development. "By 2015, the FPT will focus on portable software and development that brings high value in return such as system design, research and development, structure and programme construction," he added.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 07/16/2009

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Vietnam's Transition to Market Economy Largely Complete, Say Analysts

Vietnam is "making a decisive escape from poverty." In an independent assessment of Vietnam's ability to meet it's commitment to achieve Bogor Goals by 2020, analysts cite a rise in living standards and marked reform since adoption of the doi moi strategy in 1986. And "joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2007 is a highlight of such achievements." Overall, the Vietnamese "economy grew by 7.8 percent each year, from 2002 to 2007; and exports grew more than threefold from 2003 to 2008 - a growth rate of over 25 percent per year. Trade-led growth has come from the private sector and since 1986 the number of state-owned enterprises has been reduced dramatically." "Since late 2008, the economy has been seriously affected by the global financial crisis which has damaged most of Viet Nam's export markets. Nevertheless, the Government is determined to adhere to its outward-looking development strategy and to sustain its program of reducing and eliminating impediments to international trade and investment." The Bogor Goals are that free trade and investment in the APEC region should be established by 2010 in developed economies and by 2020 in developing economies. Peer Reviews are conducted by independent, external review teams on a rotating basis and draw from the information found in economies' most recent Individual Action Plans, reports issued by the World Trade Organisation and academic studies pertaining to the economy under review.

From http://www.apec.org/ 07/16/2009

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BANGLADESH: To Get Additional Help to Overcome Crisis and Push Development Programs, Says ADB President

DHAKA, BANGLADESH - Bangladesh will be given additional assistance to overcome the effects of the economic crisis and push ahead with development programs, said Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Haruhiko Kuroda. "This will allow the government to scale up development programs in response to the crisis, particularly infrastructure investment, while strengthening social safety nets to cushion the impacts on the poor and vulnerable," said Mr. Kuroda who is on a two-day visit to Bangladesh. Mr. Kuroda reaffirmed ADB's continuing strong support for the government's economic and social programs at a press conference, which was held following his meetings with Prime Minister Ms. Sheikh Hasina and Finance Minister Mr. AMA Muhith. Infrastructure is essential for faster and more inclusive economic growth and ADB is encouraged by the new government's commitment to continue with critical reforms, particularly its commitment to scale up infrastructure investment, said Mr. Kuroda at a press conference during his visit. ADB plans to tap on its countercyclical support fund to provide the increase in aid for Bangladesh. ADB recently set up a $3 billion countercyclical support facility to help its developing member countries cope with the global economic crisis and sustain longer-term growth. Strong measures by the government to improve governance and law and order, along with efforts to enhance sub-regional cooperation and draw private sector investment, are equally critical to sustain economic growth and reduce poverty, added Mr. Kuroda. He further announced that ADB is likely to increase its annual assistance package to Bangladesh to an average of $800 million in the next three years, up from $600 million a year during 2006-2008. Bangladesh is one of the largest beneficiaries of the Asian Development Fund, a low-interest loan and grants facility established by ADB to bolster efforts of its poorest developing member countries to tackle poverty. ADB has a long and active presence in Bangladesh, partnering with the government on a range of poverty alleviation and infrastructure development projects. Among the key development initiatives, it is currently involved are the design and construction of the Padma Bridge and programs to help mitigate the impact of climate change. On the second day of his visit, Mr. Kuroda is scheduled to make a field trip to an ADB-funded urban health care project in Dhaka and meet up with beneficiaries of the project. Bangladesh has received $9.86 billion in loans and $183 million in technical assistance from ADB over the years. ADB's resident mission in Bangladesh also enjoys the distinction of being the first overseas country field office established by the multilateral lending agency.

From http://www.adb.org/ 07/23/2009

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BHUTAN: Discrimination Against Women a Hot Issue

THIMPHU: Trafficking and exploitation for the purpose of prostitution, violence against women, lack of political participation and stereotyping are some of the issues being discussed actively by public. The list goes on. Issues that women in Bhutan are still subjected to discrimination were discussed by the National Commission for Women and Children by various stakeholders, like the United Nations and the country's Ministry of Labour Thursday. The occasion was presided over by the foreign minister, Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering, the education minister, who is also chairperson of NCWC, Lyonpo Thakur S Powdyel, UN officials and foreign delegates. In his address, Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering said that, in Bhutan, human rights gained importance during the 1990s. "So, the government decided that we should focus on issues of human rights, particularly with women and children and the environment, during participation in international forums." The NCWC executive director, Dr Rinchen Chophel, said that, although Bhutanese women enjoy far better rights, gender discrimination still exists. "Women are still subjected various forms of violence just because of a simple reason, that they are women." "We must have clearly defined policies for women from all sections of society - from the high-class family to a yak herder, as all are citizens of the country and should enjoy equal protection by law," he added. Last year's data on position and gender in civil service showed only 30 percent of 19,516 civil servants were females. An increase of only one percent from 2007. Bhutan joined CEDAW in July 17, 1980 and was one of the first member countries to ratify the convention in 1981. Bhutan will also present its seventh CEDAW periodic report in New York on July 23.

From http://www.unpan.org/ 07/05/2009

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INDIA: ADB Extends $200 Million for First Urban Development Program in India's North East

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing up to $200 million to improve infrastructure in five state capital cities of North East India, the first time it has extended large scale assistance for urban sector development in one of the country's most underdeveloped regions. ADB's Board of Directors approved the multitranche financing facility for the North Eastern Region Capital Cities Development Investment Program. It will be used to upgrade basic infrastructure, such as water supply, and sanitation in the state capitals of Shillong (Meghalaya), Aizawl (Mizoram), Kohima (Nagaland), Gangtok (Sikkim) and Agartala (Tripura), benefiting an estimated 1.2 million people. The program represents one of the largest externally-funded infrastructure investments ever seen in the region. North East India has suffered from a dearth of investment because of its remote, mountainous location, long distance from markets, high levels of poverty and unemployment, and limited private sector interest. However, plans for transport projects to link the capital cities and India's drive to increase trade with neighboring states offer it new opportunities for development. The loan facility from ADB's ordinary capital resources will be made available in three or more tranches over the duration of the program implementation period from 2009 until 2015. The loans will be priced in accordance with ADB's LIBOR-based lending facilities. The Government of India and state governments will provide an additional $85.7 million equivalent for a total estimated program cost of $285.7 million. The funds will be used for a variety of subprojects that improve water supply, sanitation and solid waste management in the cities, with a special emphasis on those that benefit the urban poor. There will also be support for reforms, and staff skills development to raise the efficiency of municipal services and to increase citizen participation in decision-making over municipal matters. "This program not only brings improved urban services to the homes of the residents in the North Eastern Region capital cities, but is also a prime example of sustainable investment in infrastructure development in prioritized areas, which is a cornerstone of our strategy in India and part of ADB's long term Strategy 2020 to reduce poverty in the Asia-Pacific region," said Kunio Senga, Director General of ADB's South Asia Department.

From http://www.adb.org/ 06/26/2009

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Kerala Preparing New Law to Tackle Cyber Crimes

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan Monday told the state assembly that a comprehensive law is being prepared to tackle the increasing number of cyber crimes being reported in the state. "We are working with the legal department to see that a comprehensive law is worked out. The current IT Act does not have enough teeth because it was formed a few years back, and since then the world of technology has changed dramatically. So that has to be amended," Balakrishnan said. Replying to a calling attention motion moved by Congress leader Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, the minister said a full-fledged cyber police station has already started functioning here as the first step to tackle the menace. Moving the motion, Radhakrishnan stressed that the use of mobile phones in educational institutions should be banned as it would go a long way in checking cyber crime. "The mobile and the Internet have now been identified as root causes of cyber crimes and most of the victims are women and girls. A cyber fraud information centre has to be opened," said Radhakrishnan. Balakrishnan said: "We have already started to computerise all police stations and also train police officials on the ways to conduct investigation into cyber frauds with the help of C-DAC (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing)."

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 07/06/2009

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Plan Panel Approves Rs 2,000 Cr Cyber Network Project

As many as 14,000 police stations and more than 6,200 important government offices across the country will soon be connected through a cyber network. The aim of the Rs 2,000 crore three-year project is to improve connectivity and increase the crime fighting abilities of the police and other official agencies. The project, called the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems, was approved by the Planning Commission on Wednesday. The ambitious scheme also proposes to link passport offices and immigration counters which would ensure that criminals trying to flee the country are not able to do so. Under the scheme, all courts will also linked so that police offices at all levels get details of cases and take appropriate action. The home ministry is hopeful that once all the courts are connected, the number of pending cases will come down. The ambitious scheme also proposes to link National Crime Records Bureau with state bureaus to facilitate better planning to handle rising crime. For 2009-10, the government has set a target of covering 10% police stations and other major offices. The remaining 90% would be covered by 2010-11. The project aims at creating a comprehensive and integrated system for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of policing at the police station level through adoption of e-governance, and creation of a nationwide networked infrastructure for an IT-enabled state-of-the-art tracking system for investigation of crime and detection of criminals in real time. The Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) project would be initiated by the home ministry and implemented by the National Crime Records Bureau.

From http://www.unpan.org/ 07/13/2009

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Indian IT Industry Bucks Global Recession to Sustain Growth

New Delhi: The Indian IT industry managed to limit the impact of global recession last fiscal and maintain the growth momentum, albeit lower than that in the boom times, says tech publisher Dataquest. "Export firms did better in recession-hit developed markets than those whose business is limited to the Indian market," Dataquest editor Prasanto K. Roy said. Though the business of top 20 firms led by Indian IT bellwethers TCS, Infosys and Wipro, and multinationals such as HP and IBM, grew by an average 19 percent, seven of these posted single-digit revenue growth. "Overall, the top 20 Indian software and hardware firms reported a combined revenue of Rs.183,621 crore (Rs.1.84 trillion/$39.52 billion) in 2009, compared to Rs.149,250 crore (Rs.1.49 trillion/$32.12 billion) in 2008," Roy said, citing findings of a survey. Among the seven, four are multinational subsidiaries - Microsoft India, which grew a mere one percent year-on-year to Rs.32.98 billion (Rs.3,298 crore); HP India up two percent to Rs.157.63 billion (Rs.15,763 crore), Oracle three percent to Rs.59.62 billion (Rs.5,962 crore) and Cisco by four percent to Rs.60.84 billion (Rs.6,084 crore). "One of the reasons for export-driven firms maintaining the growth is because of increasing IT outsourcing in a downturn to keep costs flexible. In the domestic market too, global firms such as IBM and Wipro fared very well," Roy averred. Among the top 20 firms, eight firms grew fastest despite slowdown and negative sentiment in the market. These include Mphasis, with revenues increasing 69 percent to Rs.31.73 billion (Rs.3,173 crore); HCL Infosystems, up 60 percent to Rs.80.89 billion (Rs.8,089 crore) and Cognizant Technologies, up 49 percent to Rs.94.10 billion (Rs.9,410 crore).

The IT bellwethers also posted healthy growth rates. TCS was up 22 percent to Rs.25,895 crore; Infosys, up 31 percent to Rs.20,392 crore, and Wipro up 41 percent to Rs.23,882 crore. Multinationals such as SAP India grew 33 percent to Rs.4,320 crore, Dell India by 32 percent to Rs.4,266 crore, IBM India by 19 percent to Rs.12,048 crore and Accenture by 16 percent to Rs.4,400 crore. With a decline of 18 percent in its growth, hardware firm Lenovo failed to make it to the top 20 club. Korean major Samsung also saw growth falling 40 percent to Rs,1,200 crore from Rs.2,014 crore. Export revenues do not include that of business process outsourcing (BPO) services. Scam-tainted Satyam Computer Services has been left out of the top 20, as its financial performance came under cloud following the Rs.78-billion (Rs.7,800-crore) accounting fraud by founder-chairman B. Ramalinga Raju. The Dataquest survey findings are lower than the projections made by the IT industry's representative body - National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) - for 2009-10. With the industry's annual growth rate dipping to 16-17 percent from about 30 percent in 2004-2008, the aggregate revenues was estimated to be $60 billion, including export revenue of $47 billion. In view of the prevail ing uncertainty, Nasscom has taken a two-year view to factor in the volatile environment and estimated that the IT industry would grow at 15 percent to achieve export revenue of $60-62 billion by 2010-11.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 07/20/2009

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SBI Starts Its First Off-site E-centre

Bangalore: State Bank of India (SBI) starts its first off-site e-centre-cum-bank of ATM in West Bengal. The e-centre comprises of four installed ATM units and an internet banking kiosk. The bank will put one trained person on duty at every e-centre to assist customers, if required. The bank is also planning to start similar e-centre elsewhere in the state. K Rajendra Prasad, Assistant General Manager, Alternate Channels, SBI, said, "The Northeastern circle of SBI has commissioned six numbers of bank of ATMs in various states of the region, out of which three are equipped with e-centres." The bank has already established 116 ATMs in the region in a short period since June 1, 2009, against the set target of 101. AK Deb, Chief General Manager of SBI NE Circle, revealed that the bank plans to scale up its ATM count to more than 1,000 during the current fiscal from existing 465 machines.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 07/20/2009

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IT Connect to Help Police Speed Up Probe

New Delhi: The government has cleared a project to interconnect 14,000 police stations and 6,000 police officers across the county for speedy investigation of crime and detection of criminals in real time, parliament was informed on Wednesday. "The government has given clearance to the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems project. Under the project, 14,000 police stations and 6,000 other police offices at various levels would be interconnected for evolution of IT-enabled state-of-the-art tracking system around investigation of crime and detection of criminals in the real time," Minister of State for Home Ajay Maken informed the Rajya Sabha. Maken said the project will be implemented in a manner where the major role in the implementation of the project would be with the states and the role of the central government would be largely confined to development and management of the core application software and aspects pertaining to issuing guidelines, review and monitoring of the project implementation. The project is expected to be implemented by 2012.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 07/23/2009

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New IT Projects to Generate 6000 Jobs in Madhya Pradesh

Bhopal: As many as 6,000 jobs will be generated in Madhya Pradesh by the four Information Technology Parks coming up, Industry and IT Minister Kailash Vijaywargiya told the state assembly Thursday. Replying to a question by independent legislator Paras Saklecha, Vijaywargiya said the four Information Technology Parks, coming up at Indore, Bhopal, Gwalior and Jabalpur, will create jobs for about 6,000 people. The minister further said that a total of 22 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) have been signed in the recent past to take the state ahead in IT sector. He added that additional job opportunities would also come through 51 IT units associated with Software Technology Park of India's regional office in Indore. Vijaywargiya said the chief minister has also held discussions with several IT companies and invited them to invest in the state.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 07/24/2009

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NEPAL: 'Global Financial Crisis Has Affected Least Developed Countries Severely'

Nepal's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Madhu Raman Acharya said the global financial crisis has affected least developed countries severely by decelerating their growth, reducing investment and decreasing revenue generation from tourism and remittance, national news agency RSS reported. In a statement during the general exchange of views in the conference on 'World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development' in New York, he said that the situation in landlocked developing countries has been exacerbated by their remoteness and bottlenecks in transit transport system. While highlighting the need for central and proactive role of the United Nations system for a collective and comprehensive solution to the financial and economic crisis, ambassador Acharya called for a global stimulus package with special attention to the needs of vulnerable countries. "The present financial crisis has also created a historic opportunity to begin comprehensive reform of the global trading and financial architecture, particularly the reform of regional and development banks," he added.

From http://www.nepalnews.com/ 07/06/2009

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PAKISTAN: Steps Being Taken for Revival of Pak Economy: Miliband

ISLAMABAD: British foreign secretary David Miliband Wednesday said that Britain backs resumption of dialogue between Pakistan and India. Addressing a press conference along with the Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad, Miliband said measures are being taken for the revival of Pakistan's economy. "Britain is Pakistan's partner in trade," he said, The British foreign secretary said he had met with the IDPs of Malakand and analyzing the overall situation in detail. He said grant to Pakistan through Kerry Lugar Bill will not be adequate. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the occasion said revival of country's economy is linked with peace in Pakistan.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 07/08/2009

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AFGHANISTAN: MCIT Launches Second Phase of Village Communications Network

Ministry of Commutations and IT is honored to keep its commitment M.jpgto cover the very far and remote areas of the country, as MCIT had already planned to cover those villages and areas that don't have access to telecom and ICT services, said H. E. Minister Sangin, Minister of Communications and IT in a press conference made for this purpose on Tuesday June 23, 2009 in the Hub of Afghan Telecom. The key purpose of launching of this project is cover the under services and villages of the country where the GSM operators cannot extend their services. In addition to this, the project will create job for two people in very village, since it holds two lines for Telephone and Internet and on the other hand it will reduce the level of unemployment in the country. According to the estimation of Afghan Telecom, one thousands villages will be covered by end of the solar calendar year 1388 through this network and it will in turn involve 2000 jobless Afghans in the country. This is the second pilot phase of the VCN project that is launched by Afghan Telecom for villages and rural areas of the country where the GSM operators cannot extend their services.

The total cost of this project is five million USD paid by the developmental budget of the Ministry of Communications and IT. The said project has already covered one hundred and two villages over the last six months. The result of this pilot project was positive and every network gained 60000 Afghanis that is divided equally between the holder and Afghan Telecom. Afghan Telecom has imported the related equipments for one thousand and three hundred thirty villages to provide these villages with the VCN and meanwhile has received more than five hundred applications from the various people for purchasing the system. Eng. Gul Ahmad Rastman the CEO of Afghan Telecom also addressed the press conference and said that their company will also give the customer a small terminal against some amount of money and meanwhile Afghan Telecom is responsible for installing and activating the system in the related villages, since the network is run by both the holder of the system and Afghan Telecom Jointly. In closing, the network was officially inaugurated by cutting the ribbon by HE Minister Sangin and CEO of Afghan Telecom.

From http://www.mcit.gov.af/ 07/03/2009

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Roshan Agrees to Use Capacity on AT's National Fibre-Optic Backbone

Afghan Telecom (AT) has announced that wireless network operator Roshan has agreed to use capacity on its national fibre-optic backbone network (known as the OFC). The OFC will complement Roshan's existing infrastructure, enabling the cellco to ensure the redundancy of its network and provide additional capacity for its growing number of subscribers. AT and Roshan plan to expand their partnership over coming months, as the OFC is extended across Afghanistan. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and AT commenced the construction of the OFC in April 2007. The OFC is a fibre optic backbone linking the main road system and covers the main ring from Kabul - Kandahar - Herat - Mazar - Kabul. Other major cities like Kunduz, Ghazni, Pul-e-Khumri and Charikar are also connected. Once complete, it will bring high speed and high capacity telephony, internet and video services to 68 cities in 17 provinces of the country. 'This is an important milestone for the development of Afghanistan and the telecoms industry. We are extremely pleased that Roshan is the first GSM operator to be entering into a commercial partnership with Afghan Telecom for fibre capacity,' said Amirzai Sangin, Minister of Communications and Information Technology.

From http://www.telegeography.com/ 07/07/2009

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AZERBAIJAN: Azerfon Inks Partnership Deal with Vodafone, Rolls Out 3G Network

UK-based ¬telecoms group Vodafone has announced a non-equity partnership deal with Azeri mobile operator Azerfon to offer co-branded services. Under the agreement, Azerfon has exclusive access to a range of products, services and devices from Vodafone in Azerbaijan. Vodafone's products and services will be marketed in Azerbaijan under a co-branded approach and as part of a phased roll out Vodafone will provide the Azeri cellco's customers with network access across 67 countries where the UK company has a presence. The pair will also collaborate jointly on future technological developments. Azerfon, which is currently constructing a 3G network in the country, will also be able to benefit from Vodafone's experience in rolling out high speed mobile data networks and mobile broadband products, working with leading global equipment providers. Commenting on the benefits of the partnership, Guido Helbich, CEO of Azerfon, said: 'The strategic partnership between Azerfon and Vodafone is of great importance to both companies. It is a logical step for Azerfon as the fastest growing mobile operator in the country to continue the development benefiting from Vodafone's expertise and world-wide success together with the provision of best in class and most innovative products and services from around the world on the local market. It will allow us to reach our potential and better develop the ICT sphere of Azerbaijan.'

From http://www.telegeography.com/ 07/23/2009

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IRAQ: LS Cable to Provide Network for Sinatel

LS Cable has secured a USD200.2 million contract with Sinatel Co. for the provision and installation of telecoms infrastructure in Iraq. According to Reuters, under the deal LS Cable will set up a network for broadcasting, internet, fixed line and wireless services in several key Iraqi cities by mid-2012. No further details have been disclosed.

From http://www.telegeography.com/ 07/10/2009

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Asiacell to Offer M-banking

Iraq's second largest cellco by subscribers Asiacell has signed an agreement with Amwal, a consortium of private Iraqi banking institutions, to launch mobile banking services, writes AME Info. The new service will enable Asiacell's subscribers and the consortium's clients to make inter-bank transfers, pay bills and check account balances. 'Our partnership with Amwal and the offering of this new line of services to the millions of Asiacell subscribers is in accordance with our ongoing efforts towards enhancing the local economic infrastructure and raising the overall caliber of business operations by reducing dependence on direct financial banking services,' said Dr. Diar Ahmed, CEO of Asiacell, adding, 'We understand the significance of creating greater integration between all economic sectors in Iraq, and look forward to seeing greater engagement from the Iraqi people in regulated financial services that allow them to settle all of their banking needs by utilising this modern technology.'

From http://www.telegeography.com/ 07/14/2009

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IRAN: Iran Rejects Zain, Relaunches Mobile Tender

Iranian newspaper Poul has reported that a new tender will be held to find a strategic investor to launch the country's third mobile network. Iran's telecoms minister Mohammad Soleimani was quoted as saying that Kuwaiti-based Zain Group, which had been offered the third operating licence in May, had 'not fulfilled obligations'. It had looked like Zain would pick up the combined 2G/3G concession after the Tehran government stripped it from UAE-based Etisalat, which had won a tender with local partner Tamin Telecom in January. According to state officials, Etisalat's licence award was cancelled because it had failed to meet required collateral commitments and was late paying fees.

From http://www.telegeography.com/ 07/03/2009

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23 New Economic Zones to Open

An advisor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said 23 new special economic zones (SEZ) will be inaugurated across the country this week. "The plan to establish the special economic zones was presented to the parliament last year and was approved by lawmakers last month," Mahmoud Salahi, who advises President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on SEZ affairs, said. "Most of these zones are located in the less privileged areas of Iran such as Mehran in the western province of Ilam and Namin in Ardebil province," IRIB quoted Salahi as saying. Salahi stressed that the economic zones will help these regions' development by creating jobs. "The government will present another bill to the parliament to establish more special economic zones, including one at the Iran-Afghanistan border," he said. Currently, Iran has 16 SEZs, which include Assalouyeh, Salafchegan and Mahshahr petrochemical zones.

From http://www.iran-daily.com/ 07/07/2009

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KYRGYZSTAN: Kyrgyztelecom Deploys Cisco Broadband Solution

Kyrgyzstan's incumbent telecoms operator Kyrgyztelecom is deploying Cisco's ASR 100 Series Aggregation Services Router as a network platform for broadband-based voice and data services. According to a press release from the vendor, the implementation of the solution is a key element of Kyrgyztelecom's plans to build a next-generation Metro Ethernet fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) aggregation network, initially in the capital of Bishkek and then across other cities. 'Kyrgyztelecom's mission is to contribute to Kyrgyzstan's socio-economic development by providing a world-class communications infrastructure to every citizen whenever and wherever it's needed, and by any available media,' said Marat Mambetaliev, Kyrgyztelecom's CEO, adding, 'By choosing Cisco's latest innovative technologies, we are ready for the future expansion of our network, including the deployment of a next-generation Metro Ethernet FTTH aggregation network in Bishkek and beyond.' Over the next two to three years, the operator plans to connect five million people to broadband services.

From http://www.telegeography.com/ 07/02/2009

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KAZAKHSTAN: SKT linked to KazakhTelecom Mobile Unit

South Korea's leading mobile operator by subscribers, SK Telecom has announced its interest in buying a 51% stake in KazakhTelecom's (KT's) mobile division, Mobile Telecom-Service, Reuters reports. Company spokeswoman Lauren Kim said, 'Our company is considering whether to participate in the bidding... We have yet to finalise a feasibility study.' As reported by CommsUpdate on 30 June KT is planning to auction the stake and has invited all interested parties to contact RBS Corporate Finance, financial advisor to the sale, by 17 July. Russia's Mobile TeleSystems has also been linked with the stake after company CEO Mikhail Shamolin said, 'There are two countries where we are not present yet and I believe we should be present, which are Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.'

From http://www.telegeography.com/ 07/14/2009

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TAJIKISTAN: New Market Constructed in Khorog

A new market was opened in Khorog, the capital of the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region (Gorno Badakhshan or GBAO) on July 17. The market, built by local limited liability enterprise, Silk Road, is intended for 600 shops. According to Aydibek Bekmurodi, one of managers of Silk Road, construction of the market began on the bank of the River Ghund four years ago. He added that the Aga Khan Foundation had provided funds for completing riverbank reinforcement works and beginning the construction of the market. In all, some 1 million US dollars have been spent for construction of the market, Bekmurodi said. "In the future, we plan to build warehouses and workshops for production of various building materials, hotel and consumer services center at the market," the Silk Road manager said, noting that the market would provide more than 1,000 jobs. (by Shonavruz Afzalshoyev)

From http://www.asiaplus.tj/ 07/18/2009

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AUSTRALIA: Broadband Investment for Regional Australia

The Rudd Government today announced the first round of regional locations for the $250 million priority rollout of the National Broadband Network. "The Government is moving rapidly to deliver the National Broadband Network and will start work on high-speed infrastructure for an initial six priority regional locations," the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, said today. "This im mediate action will result in new high-speed backbone links to stimulate competition and better broadband services in regional Australia." "This is just the beginning and the National Broadband Network will ensure high-speed broadband is also expanded to all homes, schools and workplaces across Australia." The Government's Regional Backbone Blackspots Program is fast-tracking investment of $250 million to improve regional broadband competition and services. A competitive tender to construct, operate and maintain the backbone links was called today - with construction expected to begin by September. The initial priority locations to receive investment are: Emerald and Longreach, Queensland. Geraldton, Western Australia. Darwin, Northern Territory. Broken Hill, New South Wales. Victor Harbor, South Australia. South West Gippsland, Victoria. "Backbone links are the broadband highways that connect our cities, towns and rural areas to the wider world," Senator Conroy said. "Access to competitive backbone infrastructure on an open access, equivalent basis will allow retail broadband providers to expand further into regional areas." "These projects will kick-start the first of 25,000 local jobs that will be directly supported by the eight-year National Broadband Network rollout." "Submissions from a wide range of stakeholders have helped the Government identify the first six priority locations for these initial backbone infrastructure investments. However, it should be clear that National Broadband Network backbone infrastructure investment will not be limited to these individual locations and routes." "Subject to the outcome of the first round tender, more locations will be identified later in the year."

Tender documentation is available online: www.tenders.gov.au
Further information on the National Broadband Network is available online: www.dbcde.gov.au/nationalbroadbandnetwork

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/01/2009

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$1.2M for STC to 'Go Green'

Sydney Theatre Company (STC) on Walsh Bay, Sydney Harbour, will 'go green' thanks to a $1.2 million investment from the Rudd Government, Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, and Environment Minister Peter Garrett announced today. Joining STC Artistic Directors Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton on-site for the launch of the Greening the Wharf project, the Ministers said the project would transform the wharf into a sustainability hub employing solar power technology, water-smart design and the latest in energy efficiency. "Sydney Theatre Company's Greening the Wharf project is a great example of innovative energy and water-saving technologies being put to use in the urban environment," Senator Wong said. "The funding will help Sydney Theatre Company install an innovative rainwater harvesting, storage and reticulation system, which will meet 100 per cent of the Company's non-potable water needs. "As we work to secure Australia's water supplies and tackle the effects of climate change, projects like this are increasingly important to show others how to reduce water and energy use." Minister Garrett said Greening the Wharf project would install cutting-edge Pluto photovoltaic cells - high-efficiency, low-cost solar cells developed by the University of New South Wales and China's Suntech Power from the University's world-record-holding PERL silicon solar cell technology. "The project will deliver substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and demonstrate that significant cuts in energy and water use can be made within a heritage building," Minister Garrett said.

"Here, at this iconic Sydney location where some of our best artistic performances take place, we now have Sydney Theatre Company ensuring that some of the best environmental performances will also be a hallmark of this building. "By revolutionising the energy efficiency of this building, STC will reduce its carbon emissions by about 555 tonnes a year -the equivalent of taking more than 150 passenger cars off the road for one year." Artistic Directors of Sydney Theatre Company, Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton today welcomed the funding for the Greening the Wharf project. "This groundbreaking project, which will deliver the majority of the Company's energy and water requirements from sustainable sources, is believed to be a first for any theatre company in the world in its scale and the comprehensiveness of its approach to sustainability," they said. Greening the Wharf is being funded from the Rudd Government's Green Precincts Fund, an initiative to prepare Australia for a future with less water and to encourage local communities to better manage their water and energy use.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/12/2009

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Dealing with Computer and Television Waste

Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, in his capacity as the Chair of the Environment, Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC), has called for comment on a national approach to dealing with computer and television waste. The consultation package includes a comprehensive analysis of the community's willingness to pay for recycling and provides options to promote discussion on a way forward. At its last meeting the EPHC committed to finding a solution to the growing problem of unwanted televisions and computers, Mr Garrett said. "This is the first step in agreeing a solution, and we would like the public to be a key part of this process. "Community response to the consultation package will help pave the way for new product stewardship arrangements.'' The formal consultation package includes the report on the choice modelling study on recycling of televisions and computers. This is the first time that choice modelling has been used in a process of this kind and it will provide a qualitative assessment of community attitudes to this issue. This report shows that the community is willing to pay for a television and computer recycling scheme. The consultation package also includes a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS). This document includes a cost-benefit analysis which assesses a number of management options aimed at increasing the recovery and recycling of end-of-life televisions and computers. These options include a business as usual base case, a number of co-regulatory (where industry runs the scheme and government provides support through regulation) and regulatory options. "The preliminary findings of the cost-benefit analysis are positive with all options showing a net benefit to the community. No one option stands out as a preferred approach and the outcome of the public consultation process will help inform the final recommendation". Mr Garrett said. Public meetings will be held in key cities as part of the consultation process. Written submissions and comments close on Thursday 13 August 2009. Find out more about the consultation package and how to have your say by visiting http://www.ephc.gov.au/.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/16/2009

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Feverish Obsessions with Fantasy Flu Instead of Real Ills
PANIC-mongering by authorities about a pandemic is distorting the threat and distracting from real killers like malaria

THERE have been 11,194 confirmed cases of swine flu in Australia during the past couple of months. The total number of people to have suffered swine-flu related deaths since is 24. Of these, all have been described as suffering from other health related conditions. These are the bald facts about swine flu's impact in Australia. What swine flu has come to signify, however, is a different story. From newspaper headlines yesterday in The Sydney Morning Herald such as "Swine flu attacking mothers, newborns" to the ABC's The World Today on Wednesday running with "Expert claims 20,000 could die from swine flu", the narrative of swine flu in Australia has sounded a consistently ominous tone, with each swine flu-related fatality seemingly providing yet further proof of the catastrophe tocome.

Often, the media has uncritically taken its cue from officialdom. Whether it is the Australian government or the World Health Organisation, during the past two months there has been a steady drip-drip of anxiety-inducing statements, accompanied by but-don't-panic caveats which, given their frequency, seem intent on doing the opposite. Never has fear been cultivated so pragmatically. Indeed, since swine flu provides the seemingly all too imaginable threat against which people must be protected, thus providing some semblance of a point to policy-making, one suspects that if the disease did not exist the authorities would have to invent it. Which, in a sense, they have. On May 3, with a health alert raised to level five - one short of a full-scale siren-headed pandemic - WHO chief Margaret Chan used the key motif of the swine flu narrative: uncertainty. We hope the virus fizzles out, she said, because if it doesn't we are heading for a big outbreak. On June 11, following several weeks of excitable, spluttering anticipation, WHO finally announced that swine flu was worthy of its highest alert status, level six, global pandemic.

And still the announcements and statements come. Just a few days ago, Chan declared a pandemic of this typeunstoppable. While WHO preoccupied itself with second-guessing the apocalypse, the Prime Minister was advising people on basic hygiene. For the frighteningly unsocialised, or just the extravagantly rude, advice such as cover your mouth when coughing phlegm everywhere may have been useful, but for everyone else it just seemed to highlight the strange, exceptional nature of swine flu. The public announcements continue. A worst-case scenario could see about 6000 people die from swine flu this winter in Australia, federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said yesterday in a pangloomian attempt to imagine the worst in the worst of all possible worlds.

Not that swine flu is to be taken lightly. By all accounts swine flu is more serious than normal seasonal flu. Biological sciences professor Ian Jones, summarising recent US research published in Nature, concluded that the new virus is about five times more pathogenic than seasonal H1N1 but that, nonetheless, the likely outcome to infection is recovery. For the few cases of severe infection the data will help in clinical management of hospitalised patients. Also having looked at the Nature research, Mark Henderson of London newspaper The Times noted: "It's not a mild illness, but neither does it seem especially severe. Perhaps moderate is the best term." Yet moderate hardly seems apposite for a strain of flu that has dominated the news headlines at various points during the past two months. And it is precisely that predominance that is the problem.

Each policy announcement, each subsequent media report, ripping swine flu from any clinical context, adds to the impression that it is not just flu; it is something more significant. In other words, it is not just a moderate strain of influenza, it is an exceptional strain of influenza. So while politicians and officialdom are simultaneously forced to admit that, for most people, swine flu will not even require treatment, their incessant swine-flu chatter, their constant need to make announcements, to speculate and faithlessly reassure, ends up creating swine flu as something extraordinary. Swine flu has become more than a clinical problem; it has become politicised, a symbol of the fear that legitimises and underpins security-conscious policy-making today.

This unrelenting, myopic focus on swine flu, regardless of the content, cannot help but decontextualise what is in effect a strain of flu. It doesn't matter if the statement contains the caveat don't worry; what is problematic is the announcement at all. The obsession with swine flu, or A/H1N1 as the increasingly popular flu geekery would know it, effaces far more serious diseases, such as malaria. In the words of WHO, there were 247million cases of malaria in 2006, causing nearly one million deaths, mostly among African children. The elites' obsessive flusteria does not just detract from other, more serious, ailments. It also makes it difficult to put swine flu into any perspective, to contextualise it in terms of similar conditions. Take the following statistic from Britain's National Institute for Clinical Excellence: the average mortality rate of influenza in Britain is 600 deaths a year in a non-epidemic year and 12,000 to 13,800 deaths a year in an epidemic year. So while swine flu is, in rare cases, fatal, so are the other strains of flu that we cope with year in, year out.

As the authorities continue their unhealthy, increasingly desperate cultivation of swine flusteria, a telling paradox has emerged in the public's attitude to swine flu. Since it has well and truly established itself as part of the illness landscape in Australia, it no longer seems, well, threatening. In fact, when swine flu was over there - in Mexico, to be precise - and not over here, when it seemed an unknown threat on the horizon rather than a known threat in Australia, it was the potential subject of far greater trepidation. Or, rather, it was far easier to exploit. To make a cause of combating an illness, of protecting people from flu, was far easier for WHO and the Australian government to trumpet when the threat was vaguer, less defined. It could loom spectre-like over the near future, a threat of unknown proportions. Or at least it could until the all-too-flu-like mundaneness of it hit home. But now it is here, swine flu is likelier to be the object of jokes than panic among the public. So while the occasionally tragic reality of swine flu is clearly not a creation of the authorities' feverish imaginations, the political and media obsession with it is. A top-down politicisation of an illness has served only to obscure and problematise a clinical problem. That most people seem largely unflustered by the hype simply reveals its unhealthy elite origins.

From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 07/17/2009

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NEW ZEALAND: Report Shows Positive Shifts in Energy Use and Supply

Energy and Resources Minister, Gerry Brownlee has released the latest edition of The New Zealand Energy Data File. The publication is an annual record of energy use in New Zealand. "This document is what you might describe as the energy bible of the country. It has been revamped to offer a comprehensive record and database of all our energy trends for each calendar year", said Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee. "It is a very useful resource for anyone interested in the facts and figures of our energy resources ranging from electricity price trends through to the state of play in our oil and gas resources," he said. "The report for the 2008 calendar years shows some pleasing trends. In that year around 65% of electricity generation came from renewable sources," said Mr Brownlee""And as reported recently in the New Zealand Energy Quarterly for the first quarter of this year, that trend improved with electricity supplied from renewable sources rising to 74%," he said. Another positive change can be seen via the increase in geothermal electricity generation capacity by 30% to nearly 580MW in 2008. In addition, total electricity generation dropped slightly from 2007 to 2008, mainly as a result of decreased demand from consumers and the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/02/2009

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Boost to Open Access to ICT

The Government has given a boost to projects aimed at bringing the world of information, computers and technology to people who are digitally disadvantaged. About $5.99 million from the Community Partnership Fund (CPF) is being distributed to 28 information and communication technology projects, with the aim of building skills and capabilities in New Zealand communities where access to ICT is limited. Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Tariana Turia said the funding would work to expand existing projects. "I'm happy to see that 1500 more families will benefit from the funding of further Computers in Homes projects because it aims to help parents support the learning needs of their children," Mrs Turia said. Mrs Turia was also pleased to hear the latest CPF funding round would enable three computer clubhouses - or community hubs that will help young people explore ICT ideas and develop their skills - to open in Lower Hutt, Hamilton and Whanganui. Communications and Information Technology Minister Steven Joyce said funding from the CPF will help ensure more New Zealanders are digitally literate and are able to use ICT to improve their lives. "There are an estimated 20-30% of New Zealanders who are currently excluded from the digital world. This is both in terms of access to digital tools and the capability to use them. This sort of funding will help us turn that around. "For both economic productivity and social reasons, there is a role for government in helping ensure everybody can participate in the 21st century digital world we live in. A complete list of successful applicants is available at www.digitalstrategy.govt.nz.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/08/2009

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Global Financial Crisis Turns Into Real Economy Crisis: World Bank Chief Economist

"The current global financial crisis, the most severe since the Great Depression in the 1930s, is rapidly turning into a real economy crisis and it's too early to say that the crisis has already bottomed, World Bank Chief Economist Justin Yifu Lin said in a recent exclusive interview with Xinhua. 'The collapse of the financial sector can be avoided. And the people's confidence is restoring,' after the developed countries tried all out to rescue their economies, said Lin, who is also Senior Vice President for Development Economics at the World Bank. ... Although the financial markets in the US and Europe are showing evidence of recovery, Lin is cautious about the view that the markets have reached the bottom. Lin pointed out that overcapacity leads to less investment, which will in turn affect the starting or the profiting of enterprises. With poor profit figures and forecasts, it's hard to restore consumers' confidence and to stabilize the financial market. ..."

In a guest article in The Economist Lin writes: "Fixing finance is easier if you have a clear idea what it is for. What matters most is setting up a financial sector that can serve the competitive sectors of an economy. In many poorer countries, that means focusing on activities dominated by small-scale manufacturing, farming and services firms. The size and sophistication of financial institutions and markets in the developed world are not appropriate in low-income markets. ... Governments and the international financial institutions that help them should resist the temptation to strive for 'modern' stock markets in the early stages of a country's development. ...Stock markets are unlikely to be a major force in poor countries in the near future. Microfinance companies and other non-bank financial institutions will play a more important role in financing poor households. ... But gigantic banks are not the way to go. ... Smaller domestic banks are much better suited to providing finance to the small businesses that dominate the manufacturing, farming and services sectors in developing countries. ...Governments in low-income countries should recognize the strategic importance of small, private domestic banks. They should also carry out some fundamental reforms.

On the demand side of the equation, entrepreneurs in developing economies need to be able to signal more easily that they are creditworthy. Sustained efforts to improve credit and collateral registries offer large pay-offs. ... On the supply side, underachieving banks, be they large or small, should be rooted out through merger or liquidation. In many developing countries, supervisory authorities find it difficult to intervene and dispose of troubled banks' assets quickly. ... Facilitating the creation of new local banks and improving the methods for intervening to deal with troubled banks will encourage competition and provide healthier incentives. That will help banks promote the private-sector-led growth that will be crucial to recovery from the current financial crisis. Leave the developed markets to worry about how to reform their highly evolved financial systems. To make sustained progress in lifting the weight of the extreme poverty that will remain after the crisis has subsided, low-income countries need to make their financial institutions small and simple."

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 07/10/2009

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CHINA: Allow Foreign Firms to List

China may allow foreign firms with investments inside the country to list domestically, as part of efforts to boost trader confidence during the global downturn, according to an official. "We will continue to actively work with relevant authorities to study and complete the policy of allowing foreign-invested companies to list in the country," Vice Commerce Minister Chen Jian told reporters. "We will guide high-quality foreign-invested companies to carry out domestic listings at appropriate times," he said. The remarks came as figures showed foreign direct investment in China had fallen for an eighth straight month in June as overseas companies grow more cautious due to the crisis. The latest data also show China received 34.05 billion dollars of foreign investment in the first five months of the year, down 20.4 percent from the same period a year ago. The government is planning policies to stabilise foreign investment, with a focus on projects that will help create jobs, save energy and protect the environment, Chen said. "We will continue to work on the creation of a stable and transparent policy environment, level and open market conditions, and regulated and efficient administrative services for foreign investment," he said. However, Chen indicated there would be no change to an order announced last month stating domestic firms should be prioritised in bids for projects that are part of a 585-billion-dollar stimulus package unveiled last year. "The problem now is not that we are protecting (Chinese companies), but that there are signs that domestic products are discriminated against. We just want an impartial environment," he said.

From http://news.yahoo.com/ 07/02/2009

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China Spends 170m Yuan in Flood-control Subsidies

China allocated 170 million yuan (24.89 million U.S. dollars) in flood-control subsidies to its rainstorm-hit southern regions, the Ministry of Finance said Monday. The ministry said in a statement on its website that the subsidies from the central budget are used to support disaster-control work in southern areas where water conservancy facilities suffered in heavy rainstorms. The money will go to 13 provinces or cities in southern China. Guangxi was included, said the ministry. Torrential rains and floods hit southern China from the end of June, and have battered 12 provinces, killing 75 people and leaving another 13 missing and 938,000 homeless as of July 5, said the Ministry of Civil Affairs Sunday. More rainstorms were expected across a large part of northeastern China, and will likely continue to wreak havoc in the southern regions from Monday to Wednesday, forecast the National Meteorological Center Monday.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/06/2009

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China Banking Regulator Warns of Risks to Loan Growth

China's banking regulator said rapid credit growth poses a risk to the nation's lenders and a concentration of credit to some industries and businesses may damage the stability of the financial system. Banks should offer more syndicated loans to share the risk of defaults, Wang Huaqing, the disciplinary secretary of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, said in a speech posted on the watchdog's Web site today. Chinese banks advanced a record 5.84 trillion yuan ($850 billion) of new loans in the first five months, almost triple the amount of a year earlier, after the government eased lending restrictions in November to stem a slowdown in the world's third- largest economy. The regulator on May 31 warned against the "accumulation of risks" and ordered lenders to ensure the quality of new loans. "Syndicated lending can diversify risks for individual banks, but concentration trends won't be fundamentally changed until the economy improves," said Qiu Gaoqing, a Shanghai-based analyst at Bank of Communications Co. "The problem isn't too big for the near and medium term as loan quality remains stable." The China Se Shang Property Index of 24 real-estate companies fell 3.4 percent today, the biggest drop since May 11, on concern regulators will crack down on mortgage lending to cool gains in home prices.

A real-estate "bubble" is being felt in major cities across the country, the China Daily newspaper reported July 3. Many of this year's loans were given for infrastructure projects, real estate development and urban construction, which are mostly long-term borrowing programs, as banks sought safer investments and avoided offering credit to manufacturers, exporters and small and medium-sized businesses, Qiu said. China's 4 trillion yuan stimulus plan has led to some projects that are wasteful, raising the risk that investors may struggle to repay bank loans, Reuters cited People's Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan as saying on July 4. New loans may exceed 10 trillion yuan this year as lenders continue to finance infrastructure projects to support the stimulus package announced in November, the China Securities Journal said yesterday, citing a Bank of China Ltd. report. China's economic growth in 2009 will top the government's 8 percent target on strengthening investment, household demand and stabilizing demand for exports, BNP Paribas said today. "As lending expanded rapidly, the concentration risk of loans is becoming increasingly evident," Wang said in the speech. As credit gets increasingly channeled to select industries, borrowers and regions, banks get more vulnerable to economic swings and corporate failures, he added. "There can even be systemic risks under serious circumstances," Wang said.

From http://www.bloomberg.com/ 07/07/2009

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Banks Active in Transacting Yuan Trade Settlement

Chinese banks have been active in transacting yuan cross-border settlement after the first deal was made Monday. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) said Tuesday it had dealt with yuan cross-border settlement totaling 17 million yuan (2.49 million U.S. dollars) in two days. Many banks in Guangdong Province were active in dealing with yuan cross-border settlement. The Bank of China Guangdong branch transacted yuan cross-border settlement totaling 7.96 million yuan (1.17 million U.S. dollars) Tuesday. "Guangdong Province has a large economic scale and is highly dependent on foreign trade. Yuan cross-border settlement could help enterprises avert exchange rate risks and reduce costs," said Cao Licong, deputy governor of the BOC Guangdong branch. "The service is favored by enterprises and will be promising in the future," said Hu Ye, deputy governor of the ICBC Guangdong branch. China launched its first yuan cross-border settlement Monday. China's State Council, or Cabinet, announced in April a pilot program to allow exporters and importers in Shanghai, and southern Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Dongguan cities to settle cross-border trade deals in Renminbi (RMB), or yuan. China last week issued detailed regulations for the pilot program for cross-border trade settled in yuan. The rules specified how to make transactions using yuan to settle trade with Hong Kong and Macao and regional trade partners.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/08/2009

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China to Issue One-year Book-entry T-bonds

China's Ministry of Finance (MOF) said Wednesday it would issue 27.52 billion yuan (about 4.03 billion U.S. dollars) of one-year book-entry T-bonds this week, the 14th batch of this type this year. The bonds have a fixed annual interest rate of 1.06 percent, with the interest to be paid once on maturity. The sales period will run from July 9 to 13, and the bonds will be tradable from July 15, said the MOF in a statement on its website. According to the MOF, the 15th batch, with planned face value of 28 billion yuan, will start bidding on July 15. The sales period for the three-year bonds will last from July 18 to July 20.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/08/2009

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China's Bank Loan Total Exceeds Full-year Target

China's banks extended a surprisingly large amount of new loans in June, more than doubling that of May's, while driving up possibilities of bad loans and excessive production capacity amid a credit boom. Preliminary calculations showed that new lending was 1.53 trillion yuan, the central bank said on its website yesterday, bringing total lending this year to 7.4 trillion yuan, far exceeding the country's initial full-year target of disbursing 5 trillion yuan in loans. Total lending so far this year amounted to almost one quarter of last year's GDP. June's figure was the third-biggest monthly sum this year, after the 1.89 trillion yuan lent in March and the 1.62 trillion in January. The surge in June loans is a result of the government's decision to pare the equity capital requirement of fixed-asset investments in May, Liu Yuhui, director of the Center for Chinese Economic Evaluation at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told China Daily. The equity requirement for railway, road and metro projects was lowered to 25 percent from 35 percent, while the ratio for airport, port and inland shipping construction was lowered to 30 percent from 35 percent. "The lower requirements for infrastructure-related investment projects mean that it will be easier for the local governments to borrow from banks to fuel local infrastructure construction," Liu said. "The eye-popping loans in the first quarter is a result of the central government's 4-trillion-yuan stimulus, and now it's the turn of the local governments to start the borrowing spree," he added.

In addition, some of the new lending this month was also the result of the sustained recovery in residential property transactions, which usually drive up mortgage loan expansion, said Liu. "Demand may also have been augmented by concerns over potential monetary tightening as borrowers consider the medium-term inflationary repercussions of loose monetary conditions," Jing Ulrich, managing director and chairperson of JPMorgan's China equities business, said in an email research note. The record pace of lending is making the central government uneasy that bank credit is creating new bubbles in China's stock and property markets and could sow the seeds of a new crop of bad loans in the predominantly state-owned banking system. The focus must now shift from the quantity to quality of lending, said Glenn B Maguire, Asia Chief Economist of Societe Generale Corporate and Investment. Wang Huaqing, vice-chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, said on Tuesday that banks should spread risk by syndicating big loans for projects like railways and airports. The surge has also reminded some analysts about the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and 1998 when Chinese banks went on a lending spree to often less than creditworthy state companies, only to get saddled with a mountain of bad debt that forced the government to bail out its biggest lenders years ago ahead of their initial public offerings.

From China Daily 07/09/2009

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Chinese Banks to Improve Financial Support for Fighting Economic Downturn

China's central bank official has called on the country's financial institutions to closely monitor new trends in the economy and improve financial support for fighting the economic downturn. "The domestic and overseas economic and financial situation that we are facing is undergoing unprecedented complicated changes," said Li Dongrong, assistant governor of the People's Bank of China, in a statement on the bank's website on Monday. These changes were posing "new challenges" to monetary and credit policies, he said. Li's comments were made during his trip to east China's Zhejiang Province on July 8 and 9, according to the statement. The country was still facing a daunting task in restructuring its economy as the country faces difficulties in implementing its policies to expand domestic demand while external demand continued to be slack, Li said. He said local agencies of the central bank and commercial lenders need to do more research to find out the real situation of the economy and the financial sector, so as to better serve the economic development. Li also said the central bank would continue to stick to the principle of preventing risks and guide the flow of loans to keep the financial system stable.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 07/13/2009

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Banks Tap Syndicated Loan Business

Banks in Shanghai are gearing up in offering syndicated loans in a bid to reduce risks, the local banking regulator said yesterday. The outstanding value of syndicated loans in the city totaled 155 billion yuan (US$22.7 billion) by the end of last month, a rise of 15 billion yuan from the start of this year, said the Shanghai Bureau of the China Banking Regulatory Commission yesterday in a statement. The outstanding value was up 25 percent, or 30.5 billion yuan, on a year-on-year comparison. China's 4-trillion-yuan stimulus package generated several major infrastructure and investment projects and created the need for syndicated loans. Banks in Shanghai have issued syndicated loans to industries such as transport, energy, chemicals, electronics and real estate. Banks in the city have set up teams for syndicated loans and established a regular communications mechanism among themselves to discuss possible projects. The local banking regulator is pushing the growth of syndicated loans to trim a concentration of risks. China has moved to an easing monetary policy since November, including lifting lending quotas, cutting interest rates and reserve requirements. The top banking regulator has already asked banks to offer syndicated loans if a single client's total credit need is more than 15 percent of the bank's capital or if a single credit project is more than 10 percent of the bank's capital. At the end of last year, the outstanding value of syndicated loans in China totaled 956 billion yuan, 2.98 percent of the total outstanding loans based on credit data. In some mature markets, syndicated loans account for 20 percent of their total loans.

From Shanghai Daily 07/15/2009

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China Banking Regulator Urges Enhanced Management Against Possible Financial Risks

China's banking regulator urged banks to strengthen risk control and optimize credit structure to prevent possible financial risks amid a surge of bank loans. Rapid expansion of bank loans in the first half year boosted the country's economic growth, but it also increased the possibilities of financial risks, Liu Mingkang, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, said in a speech posted on the regulator's web site on Sunday. He said Chinese banks had seen imprudent and extensive lending, and should be cautious about possible risks including inadequate capital for investment projects, financing risks, concentration of loans, and risks on property market led by rapid loan growth. He urged lenders to ensure the minimum requirement of capital adequacy ratio and lift the provision coverage ratio above 150 percent this year. As of the end of June, the provision coverage ratio of commercial banks was 134.3 percent, which was 10.4 percentage points higher than the end of March. He also encouraged banks to continue lending to major projects backed by the government, small-and medium-sized enterprises, rural development, low-income housing, major scientific research, energy conservation and emission cuts programs.

Loans to energy intensive and heavy pollution industries, and to sectors of overcapacity should be under strict control, he noted. In addition, he ordered lenders to stick to rules on mortgage for second home buyers and step up scrutiny over approvals. Down payments on second homes is currently set at no less than 40 percent of the price. Government data showed bank lending hit a record 7.37 trillion yuan (1.08 trillion U.S. dollars) in the first half, as the government looked to a moderately easy monetary policy to support economic recovery. The figure far exceeded the full-year target of5 trillion yuan. The banking regulator said in early July that current rapid loan growth posed a risk to the country's lenders and a concentration of loans to some industries and business may damage the stability of the financial system. The watchdog suggested syndicated loans as a good tool for banks to share risks. The central government reiterated the stance of adherence to the current stimulus policies.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said on July 10 that the government should steadfastly adhere to the pro-active fiscal policy and relative easy monetary policy. Wang Qing, Morgan Stanley's chief China economist, said the loan growth should normalize in the remainder of the year, as the pace in the first half of this year is not sustainable. China should stick to the current pro-active fiscal policy and moderately ease monetary policy in the following months to fuel the economic growth, he said, adding shift to tightening policy might slow down the current growth. Wang said it's not a problem for Chinese economy to achieve its goal of eight percent growth for this year. The Chinese economy expanded 7.9 percent in the second quarter, buoyed by the government's massive stimulus packages. The first half year recorded a growth of 7.1 percent year on year. Liu said China's economy was back on the track for recovery as a result of a pro-active fiscal policy and moderately easy monetary policy, but the foundation for recovery was not yet solid and there are still many uncertainties. Liu Mingkang was speaking at a conference held in Beijing on July 17.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 07/19/2009

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JAPAN: Japan's FY 2010 Spending to Be Capped at Record 52.7 Trillion Yen

The government and the ruling bloc agreed Tuesday on a plan to place a cap on general expenditures in the state budget for fiscal 2010 at 52.7 trillion yen, an all-time high, Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano said. The cap on outlays to implement policy measures for the year starting next April will increase about 5 trillion yen from the previous ceiling, due primarily to rising social security payments. On Wednesday, the Cabinet is scheduled to endorse the spending cap, which will serve as the basis for budgetary requests from ministries and agencies.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/01/2009

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Tax Revenues Slide by Record 13.2%

Tax revenues for fiscal 2008 posted a record year-on-year decline of 13.2 percent to ¥44.267 trillion, due partly to sharp falls in corporate tax revenues amid the global recession, the Finance Ministry said. Total revenues fell some ¥9.3 trillion short of the initial projection, it said. Money coming in from corporate taxes plunged 32.1 percent to ¥10.01 trillion as corporate earnings deteriorated. Personal income tax revenues declined 6.8 percent to ¥14.99 trillion due to pay cuts. The consumption tax brought in ¥9.97 trillion, down 2.9 percent. The total was ¥2.16 trillion less than a revised projection under the second supplementary budget for the fiscal year. Nontax revenues were ¥374.3 billion less than the government's projection. The combined revenue shortfall of ¥2.536 trillion was not offset by ¥1.818 trillion in unspent outlays, bringing about a net revenue shortfall of ¥718 billion. The government will cover the net revenue shortfall with a transfer from the National Debt Consolidation Fund. In the fiscal year that starts next April, it will have to raise funds through deficit-covering bond issues and other means to match the transfer.

From http://search.japantimes.co.jp/ 07/03/2009

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Gov't Spends Over Y3.8 Tril to Help Crisis-Hit Businesses

The Japanese government spent a total of about 3.83 trillion yen in seven months through June in extending emergency loans to and buying commercial paper from private businesses hit by a global financial crisis, according to government data made available Saturday. The government effectively declared in its monthly economic report in June that the nation's economy had bottomed out of the recession, but analysts say private-sector businesses are still largely dependent on public funds and assistance. The data, including those from the Finance Ministry, show that the amount was spent in a total of 12,800 cases of emergency loans and CP purchases implemented by three government-backed lenders - Development Bank of Japan, Shoko Chukin Bank and Japan Bank for International Cooperation - as well as by private lenders. The DBJ extended emergency loans totaling 1.83 trillion yen to large and midsize companies and bought 350 billion yen worth of CP, or short-term debt issued by companies to facilitate operations, between last December and this June.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/19/2009

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SOUTH KOREA: Health Spending Rising Fastest in OECD

Korea has the highest rate of increase in annual health spending among member countries of the OECD. According to a 2009 OECD report, the trend began in the 1990s, when Korea's rate of increase doubled the OECD average. Between 2000 and 2007 Korea's rate of increase was at 9.2 percent annually, way higher than the OECD average of 3.7 percent. But Korea's total health spending is still among the lowest, accounting for less than 7 percent of the country's GDP in 2007.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 07/06/2009

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Koreans to See Lowest Savings Rate in OECD

Korea's household savings rate in 2010 is expected to plummet to the bottom of the OECD because people are busy paying interest on housing loans and many have to pay for their children's private education. The lower the savings rate, the more consumption will dwindle and the more difficult it will get to revive the economy. The OECD economic outlook report released Sunday projects that out of the 17 member states whose savings rates can be compared, Korea's rate for 2010 will be 3.2 percent, among the lowest alongside Japan. The rate is calculated as gross savings divided by gross disposable income excluding tax and pension payments. The average household savings rate of the 17 OECD members is estimated at 8.5 percent next year, 5.3 points higher than Korea's. Sweden will top the list at 16.3 percent. Korea ranked fourth lowest this year at 5.1 percent after Japan (3.3 percent), Norway (4.6 percent), and Denmark (5 percent). The rate had consistently risen in the wake of Korea's economic growth since the 1970s and topped the world list at 25.2 percent for the first time in 1988, at the time of the Seoul Olympics. But that plunged to 10.7 percent in 2000, ceding first place to Belgium, and dwindled to a mere 6.4 percent in 2001, below the 10 percent level for the first time in about 20 years.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 07/06/2009

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Gov't Collects W10.8 Trillion More Tax Than Expected

The government over-collected W10.8 trillion in tax last year (US$1=W1,279). The Ministry of Strategy and Finance on Wednesday said it took W167.31 trillion in taxes in 2008, 1.1 percent more than the W165.56 trillion it originally expected. But the actual forecast error is much bigger as it did not take into account an oil tax refund, quota tariff reduction, and comprehensive real estate tax refund when drawing up the budget. The National Assembly Strategy and Finance Committee said W10.8 trillion or 6.5 percent of tax was over-collected last year, considering tax cuts and refund worth W9.1 trillion. This is not the first time the government took more taxes than expected: W400 billion was over-collected in 2005, W2.7 trillion in 2006, and W14.2 trillion in 2007. Forecast errors by tax source were also big. Last year, W2.9 trillion was collected in excess corporate tax and W1.6 trillion in tariffs, while composite income tax was W2.4 trillion short. The ministry said the reason is that it considered a possible shortage in tax revenue to prevent the government from running out of money. But critics say this suggests an unnecessary tax burden and sloppy spending habits.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 07/16/2009

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INDONESIA: Rate Cut Aims to Bolster Bank Lending and Support Real Sector

The central bank cut its benchmark interest rate Friday for the eighth straight month to 6.75 percent to accelerate bank lending, strengthening the already sound macroeconomic framework, and promoting a more robust real sector. The rate cut however leaves "limited" room for the central bank to cut its rate further ahead, Bank Indonesia (BI) said in a statement. BI has cut its rate by 275 basis points from 9.5 percent in November 2008 as inflation has slowed. "The cut is expected to facilitate the acceleration of lending," acting BI Governor Miranda S. Goeltom said in a press conference. "Latest data shows bank lending is quite high. It is expected banks can accelerate credit expansion." As of April, lending reached Rp 1,780.9 trillion, increasing from Rp 1,745.6 trillion in January, according to BI data. Judging by its key indicators, the banking sector remained healthy as of May, as seen from the relatively high capital adequacy ratio (CAR) of 17.3 percent, while the rate of non-performing loans (NPLs) was still below the BI's maximum tolerance of 5 percent. Overall the banks have not been as aggressive as BI in cutting their lending rates. Bank Danamon chief economist Anton Gunawan said this was because the  banks should maintain liquidity and a strong capital base in these conditions, while facing a higher threat of rising NPLs because of the downturn. He estimated that bank lending rates have therefore been cut by only 1 percent on average since the beginning of this year.

A lower BI rate would be followed by lower rates for BI certificates (SBIs), which may prompt banks to start channeling loans instead of putting money in SBIs or government bonds. "But it won't be that fast, particularly as banks prepare to channel loans for government-led infra-structure projects [which may commence in the second half of this year] that will deplete their funds," said Anton. Lending can help businesses to expand, which will spur growth. BI estimated the economy grew by between 3.7 percent and 4 percent in the second quarter this year, bringing full-year growth to between 3.5 percent and 4 percent. Inflation is projected to slow to below 5 percent this year, Miranda said. The increase in several commodity prices worldwide has caused inflationary pressures, but can be compensated by a stronger rupiah and weakening domestic demand. The rupiah appreciated 9.9 percent against the American greenback in the second quarter, providing a positive contribution to Indonesia's balance of payments. As of June, the foreign exchange reserves stood at US$57.6 billion, equal roughly to 5.6 months of import financing. BI's language signals the near-end of the rate easing cycle, Citi analyst Johanna Chua said, expecting BI to have one more cut this year. "We have been long expecting BI to cut the policy rate eventually to 6.5 percent by August and maintain that view. "We had earlier raised concerns that the language would be less dovish now than before as oil prices rise, growth trajectory has improved and BI's focus will likely shift on next year's inflation trajectory," she said. But despite more limited room for rate cuts, government bonds and the rupiah would remain positive, " she concluded. The next key event that may impact upon the market will be the presidential election on July 8.

From The Jakarta Post 07/04/2009

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MALAYSIA: Govt Sees Lower Tax Collection on Weaker Export Demand

KUALA LUMPUR: Inland Revenue Board (IRB) expects lower tax collection this year compared with last year as some businesses continue to be affected by lower export demand. Chief executive officer Datuk Hasmah Abdullah said as a concession, IRB was offering a longer instalment period with lower payments to taxpayers, especially those facing financial difficulties. "We are still expecting a positive growth, although much lower than last year. Last year's revenue growth was about 10% to 15% (over 2007)," she said after the launch of EON Bank Bhd's Online Payroll yesterday. Online Payroll offers services catering for various payroll needs, including salary crediting for employees with EON Bank accounts or MEPS member bank accounts through interbank transfer. "The new service will allow businesses and companies to make statutory payments for the IRB and Employees Provident Fund through EON Bank's Internet banking service," said group consumer banking head Michael Lor. With the launch of its new service, EON Bank targets by year-end to triple the number of companies using the group's business Internet banking facilities, now totalling over 8,000.

As collecting agent for the IRB, EON Bank offers services for over-the-counter income tax payment, online income tax payment and online monthly schedular tax deduction. For the first six months, IRB collected tax amounting to RM6.7bil via seven banks over 1.5 million transactions. "We are currently in talks with a foreign bank in Malaysia to be our collecting agent," said Hasmah. Meanwhile, EON Bank's loans growth for the first half year was at 3% to 4%, and was on track to meeting its full year target of 6% to 8%, said Lor. He said the banks' non-performing loans rate was also declining since March, while deposits enjoyed good growth in the first six months. "However, we do see higher withdrawals as customers took out their savings to purchase investments such as sukuk and amanah saham which give them higher returns than fixed deposits," he said. "We are confident of catching up on the deposits growth in the second half year following the launch of a few new products recently," he said.

From http://biz.thestar.com.my/ 07/16/2009

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Govt May Need to Spend RM8B More Next Year

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (Mier) says the Government may need to spend another RM8bil next year if the economy continues to be weak. "If the recovery is weak and tepid, the Government will have no choice but to introduce another stimulus package of RM8bil next year," said executive director Prof Datuk Dr Mohamed Ariff Abdul Kareem. Ariff said the country's fiscal deficit may reach 9% in 2010 because of the extra spending. "Next year will still be difficult and the Government may need to spend more to boost growth," he said. The Government has already announced stimulus packages worth RM67bil that are expected to bring its fiscal deficit to 7.6% this year.

From http://biz.thestar.com.my/ 07/17/2009

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SINGAPORE: MAS Unveils Measures to Boost Liquidity in Banking Sector

SINGAPORE: Banks in Singapore will be allowed to have a wider pool of collateral as part of measures announced on Thursday to help them better manage their risks and liquidity profiles. Releasing its latest annual report, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said it suffered a net loss of S$9.2 billion in the fiscal year ending March as its investments were hit by the global financial crisis. New measures are being unveiled to strengthen Singapore's financial system and ensure well-functioning markets. One key move is aimed at boosting the pool of liquidity in the banking sector. MAS said it would enhance its standing facility and accept AAA-rated Singdollar debt securities issued by sovereigns, supranationals and sovereign-backed corporates as collateral, in addition to Singapore government bonds. It will also permit banks to treat these securities as Tier 2 liquid assets, with the same zero risk rating as Singapore government securities. This will help the financial sector cope with future crises. Irvin Seah, economist, assistant vice president of Group Research, DBS Bank, said: "Now you actually have a wider range of securities to be used as collaterals, so it actually makes the whole financial system more liquid. "It will allow the financial institutions to have liquidity and more credit when necessary, so this will actually help mitigate against the kind of credit crunch scenario which we've seen in some other countries in the recent financial crisis."

The MAS is also tweaking the Singapore government securities primary auction system. It will now be empowered to adjust the issuance size or vary the subscription amount as necessary to stabilise an auction. Associate Professor Annie Koh, Lee Kong Chian School of Business, Singapore Management University, said: "I think MAS is very right to have the flexibility because sometimes the bond market may be very much affected by the external factors. "We live in unusual times, so the government should have the onus to say 'this is not a good time to raise funding'. Currently, if equities markets get hit, the government bond market is also dragged down because they are all correlated very highly now. You may get a situation which is outside your control and the government bond market just collapses." In other moves to boost consumer confidence in the financial sector, the MAS is reviewing the Deposit Insurance Scheme. MAS noted that by and large, Singapore's financial system has weathered the financial crisis well. It said its current policy stance remains appropriate to support economic recovery and ensure medium-term price stability. Inflation will come in at between -0.5 and +0.5 per cent this year, which is within analysts' expectations. This is partly attributed to a high base last year when commodities prices were higher. However, experts said there is a possibility that the forecast may be upgraded, considering the recent uptrend in oil prices.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/16/2009

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THAILAND: First Release of Government Savings Bonds Sells Out Quickly

The first 30 billion baht tranche of government savings bonds were sold out by 10.30am on Monday, to the delight of Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij. "The Finance Ministry had decided to increase the size of the first batch of bonds for Thais aged at least 60 from 15 billion baht to 30 billion baht because older Thais depend on the income received from interest more than other groups of people," Mr Korn said. "Older people depend on the income received from interest more than other groups of people." The additional 15 billion baht were taken from the planned third and final 20 billion baht of bonds to be offered to the general public on Friday and next Monday. As a result, the third batch had been reduced to five billion baht. About 40,000 older Thais had bought the bonds, investing on average 600,000 to 700,000 baht each, the minister said.

All bonds allocated to Krung Thai Bank in Phichit were sold within 10 minutes. People began queuing in front of the Bangkok Bank head office in Silom about 4am, and even earlier elsewhere. "I don't want to miss this chance to buy some bonds," said a 78-year-old man who said he had waited in front of Kasikorn Bank in Phaya Thai since 1am. The bond's coupon rate is set at three per cent a year for the first two years, four per cent for the third year and five for the last two years - an averaged annual rate of return of four per cent. The maximum investment for the first two tranches of bonds is one million baht per person, with no restrictions for the final stage. The minimum investment is 10,000 baht per person. The first lot of 30 billion baht is being issued on Monday and Tuesday to Thai people aged 60 or over. The general public can buy into the second batch worth 15 billion baht on Wednesday and Thursday. The final 20 billion baht lot will be offered on Friday and next Monday.

The government has issued an 11.8 billion baht bond quota to Bangkok Bank, 10.1 billion baht to Krung Thai Bank, 8.7 billion baht to Siam Commercial Bank, 7.8 billion baht to Kasikorn Bank, 4.5 billion baht to Bank of Ayudhya, 3.8 billion baht to TMB Bank and 3.2 billion baht to Siam City Bank. Meanwhile, the Bank of Thailand looked to issue more bonds because of the very high demand. BoT senior director Pongpen Ruengvirayudh said there was a high possibility that the central bank may issue more bonds after the first tranche of the government savings bonds were sold out rapidly in the morning. "The private sector would likely sell less debentures in the second quarter of this year, and this would be a good opportunity for the BoT to improve the bond market and its liquidity," Mrs Pongpen said.

From http://www.bangkokpost.com/ 07/13/2009

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Cabinet Approves Bt850 Million to Combat A(H1N1) Pandemic

BANGKOK - The Thai Cabinet on Tuesday approved a Bt850 million budget to fight the influenza A(H1N1) pandemic which has killed at least 24 Thais, while infecting more than 4,000 others across the country. Deputy Public Health Minister Manit Nopamornbhodi revealed that Bt650 million will be spent on procurement of two million doses of anti-H1N1 vaccines to inject health officials and at-risk patients. Another Bt250 million, Mr. Manit said, will be used for 10 million tablets of anti-viral Oseltamivir to be distributed to hospitals nationwide. Mr. Manit added that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajijva will address the nation on television Channel 11 at 8.30 pm Tuesday to brief the public regarding the status of the H1N1 pandemic in Thailand to create better understanding on the issue. The Cabinet on Tuesday also resolved not to temporarily close schools to control the H1N1 outbreak. Deputy Education Minister Chaiwut Bannawat said that the Cabinet, however, resolved that students who contract the new virus and their parents are allowed to stay at home for self-quarantine. The missing days of parents and children will not be considered as an absence. Mr. Chaiwut said that concerned ministries will cooperate with private companies to allow the H1N1-infected employees, as well as parents of the infected students to take leave without medical certificates. Meanwhile, Sidivachr Cheewarattananaporn, president of the Thai-Chinese Tourism Alliance Association (TCTA), revealed Tuesday that a number of Chinese tourists have cancelled their planned trips to the kingdom due to fear of H1N1. Mr. Sidivachr urged the government to carefully report the situation of H1N1 outbreak in the country as the released figures of the infected cases by 'those who are not involved' has terrified some tourists. "Tourists feel insecure. Our tourism industry is 'totally dead'. The news reports have impacted the overall economy as many people presented exaggerated information. I think only those who are in charge of this matter such as prime minister, deputy prime minister and the health minister should discuss the situation with the press," the TCTA president said. (TNA)

From http://enews.mcot.net/ 07/14/2009

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Thai Central Bank Unworried About Withdrawals for Savings Bonds

BANGKOK (TNA) - Bank of Thailand (BoT) Assistant Governor Paiboon Kittisrikangwan on Thursday said the central bank was unconcerned over significant numbers of withdrawals from commercial banks to invest in government savings bonds issued under the "Stronger Thai" scheme. He said the funds transfer in the banking system is considered normal, but conceded that the issuaning of the saving bonds, which offer an average interest rate of more than 4 per cent, might force commercial banks to raise their deposit rates to maintain their customer base. In addition, it might prompt the banks to introduce new financial products with higher interest to attract new clients and maintain their customer base. However, it depended on the policy of each bank as some banks might need not to mobilise deposits because lending was lower than targeted. The deposit rate hike would benefit consumers as rates had dropped too quickly in recent time. Mr. Paiboon said he believed the government's issuing of savings bonds at a face value of Bt 80 billion altogether would not affect liquidity in the banking system since current liquidity remains sufficient and the loan to deposit ratio has stayed at 84.04 per cent. Additionally, the proceeds from selling the bonds will circulate in the country's economic system, he added.

From http://enews.mcot.net/ 07/17/2009

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INDIA: SBI Cuts PLR Rates by 50 Bps

Bangalore: State Bank of India (SBI) has announced that it will cut its prime lending rate (PLR) by 50 basis points (bps) to 11.75 percent from 12.25 percent that will be effective from June 29. SBI had earlier cut its term deposit rates by 25 basis points across all maturities with effect from June 15. The latest action by India's largest bank is expected to encourage other public sector banks also to pare their lending rates. After the Finance Minister's directive to banks on June 10 to reduce the PLRs, only SBI and Union Bank of India have reduced the rates. Union Bank of India had announced a 25 bps reduction in the PLR to 11.75 percent, with effect from July 1. Other banks like IDBI and Bank of India are yet to cut their rates. The PLR is the rate at which a bank lends to its most creditworthy customers and according to a SBI official around 60 percent of the bank's loan portfolio will be impacted by this cut. All loans including home loans, which are linked to PLR, will benefit from the latest rate cut. With Indian firms borrowing below PLR from banks, SBI's corporate customers too would gain from the rate cut.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 06/25/2009

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Reform Taxes, Cut Subsidies, Says Economic Survey

New Delhi: Introducing a new income tax code, reforming existing tax structure and duties, slashing subsidies on fuel, fertilisers and food were some of the measures suggested by the Economic Survey 2008-09, released here Thursday. The survey, tabled by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in parliament, called for creation of a new income tax code to bring about a neutral tax regime - a tax structure where deductions are consistent and there are no incentives or exemptions from tax. Among other tax reforms, it was suggested that taxes like fringe benefit tax (FBT), commodity and security transaction taxes be done away with. It also called for the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) by April 1, 2010. Rationalisation of the dividend distribution tax (DDT), which in its current form results in double taxation, is another major proposal of the survey. The survey, which is an annual report card on the state of the economy and provides suggestions on the road ahead, also sought the removal of the inverted duty structure - a mechanism where taxes increase as a product goes through the manufacturing cycle, with inputs attracting the least taxation rate and finished product the highest. The dismantling of the inverted tax structure would bring down prices of domestic manufactured goods and make Indian industry globally competitive. Adopting an aggressive reformist approach, it called for a huge reduction in various subsidies prevalent on fuel, fertilisers and food. Prominent among them are:

- Limit subsidy on cooking gas to six to eight cylinders per household
- Kerosene subsidy only for non-electrified, non-cylinder homes
- Provide fertiliser subsidy directly to farmers
- Convert production subsidies into direct consumer subsidies
- Review customs duty exemptions and move to uniform duty structure

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 07/02/2009

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Government Allocates Rs.12,000 Crore for Rural Roads

New Delhi: The government has increased its outlay for rural roads by 57 percent to Rs.12,000 crore ($2.5 billion) in the budget presented by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Monday in parliament. "Rural roads have been identified as one of the six components of Bharat Nirman with the goal to provide connectivity to all villages with a population of 1,000 (500 in the case of hilly or tribal areas) with an all-weather road by 2009," said a finance ministry statement. The northeastern region and Sikkim got Rs.1,067 crore for building their rural road network. A total of 146,185 km of road length is proposed to be constructed by 2009, which will benefit 59,564 unconnected eligible habitations in the country, the ministry said.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 07/06/2009

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Government to Press States for Goods and Service Tax

New Delhi: Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Tuesday said the government will try and persuade state governments and other stake holders to implement a unified goods and service tax (GST) as it had done for the central value added tax (Cenvat). "I know there is a problem. We had a problem while implementing VAT earlier. I will try to persuade them given my persuading skills," Mukherjee said facetiously in an interaction with industry leaders here. The GST, expected to significantly mitigate the problem of double taxation and unify disparate markets across the country, will be rolled out April 1, 2010.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 07/07/2009

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India's Financial Sector Is Sound: Finance Commission Chief

Hyderabad: India's financial sector is sound and the government is closely monitoring the evolving macro-economic situation, Vijay Kelkar, chairman of the 13th Finance Commission, said here Monday. He was speaking at a meeting with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and state government officials. "Inflation is under control; the balance of payments position also continues to be sound. The government has shown its willingness to enact significant monetary, fiscal and sectoral policy measures to minimise the negative impact (of the global crisis) on the real economy," Kelkar said. On the international front, India is actively coordinating policy action with other countries for reform of international financial institutions as well as improved regulation and supervision of global finance. Recent forecasts are for around 6.7 percent growth in 2008-09, down from 9 percent in 2007-08. "The fact that we are on a somewhat sounder fiscal footing than had been the case historically has allowed the government significant elbow room to act to contain the fallout of the crisis," Kelkar claimed. Stating that the pause on the road to fiscal reform is temporary, he wanted the central and state governments to resume medium-term fiscal reform. The chairman added that the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) legislation had helped the central and state governments reduce deficits last fiscal. The Reserve Bank of India projects a revenue surplus for all states at 0.54 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008-09 in contrast to a revenue deficit of 2.3 percent in 2002-03, Kelkar said. During the same period, the fiscal deficit has reduced to 2.1 percent of GDP from 4.1 percent the year before.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 07/20/2009

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SRI LANKA: IMF Okays $2.6b Loan for Lanka

AFP, WashingtonThe International Monetary Fund on Friday approved a 2.6-billion-dollar loan for Sri Lanka to support its economic reform programme and help the country weather the severe global downturn. The IMF executive board approved the loan as the Asian country emerges from a 37-year civil war. The so-called Stand-By Arrangement is in an amount equivalent to 1.65 billion Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), an IMF asset that is based on a basket of currencies - the dollar, yen, euro and pound - and calculated daily. The 20-month loan is worth about 2.6 billion dollars, the IMF said. A first installment of about 322.2 million dollars is immediately available to Sri Lanka, while the remainder will be phased in "subject to quarterly reviews," the multilateral institution said. "The key objectives of the authorities' economic reform program supported by the fund are to strengthen the country's fiscal position while ensuring the availability of resources for much needed post-conflict reconstruction and relief efforts." The IMF said the program also was intended to rebuild international reserves and strengthen Sri Lanka's domestic financial system, "and to protect the most vulnerable in the country from the burden of the needed economic adjustment." Britain abstained from voting on the loan after politicians indicated they could not support it. British Financial Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Timms said it was "not the right time for the program," in light of the political situation on the island threatening its success. Britain wanted to "secure long-term peace and prosperity" for Sri Lanka through reconciliation between its communities, Timms wrote in a letter to the multi-party parliamentary groups on Sri Lanka and Tamils.

"While we remain determined to help Sri Lanka avoid a damaging balance of payments crisis that would disproportionately affect the poorest and most vulnerable, we judged that the immediate risks of a Sri Lankan default have recently diminished in the light of recent capital inflows and an improved reserve position." The IMF loan, under negotiation with Sri Lankan authorities since March, came two months after the end of the civil war with the rebel Tamil Tigers that claimed up to 100,000 lives and left some 300,000 war-displaced civilians in the north. Colombo crushed the Tamil Tiger rebels - who had been fighting since 1972 to carve out a separate state for minority Tamils - in May. The Sri Lankan government had requested a 1.9-billion-dollar IMF loan in March to help stave off its first balance of payments deficit in four years after foreign currency reserves fell to around six weeks' worth of imports. "The global financial crisis has had a significant impact on Sri Lanka's economy," said Takatoshi Kato, the IMF deputy managing director and acting chairman of the board. "The government's ambitious program, supported by the IMF, intends to restore fiscal and external viability and address the significant reconstruction needs of the conflict-affected areas, thereby laying the basis for future higher economic growth," he said. Kato said the government's program would entail "difficult" economic reform measures. "Nevertheless, the government should take advantage of the opportunity created by the end of the conflict to ensure national reconciliation, restore macroeconomic stability, and promote strong and durable growth," he said.

From http://www.thedailystar.net/ 07/25/2009

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PAKISTAN: ADB Approves $500 Million Loan for Pakistan to Help Economic Recovery and Deepen Safety Nets for Poor

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank's (ADB's) Board of Directors has approved two loans to Pakistan totaling $500 million that will assist the government with its macroeconomic stability efforts and fund a targeted safety net program for the poor. The loan, known as AETP2, is the second subprogram of the Accelerating Economic Transformation Program (AETP). The loans support short- and medium-term reform actions being taken by Pakistan's government in response to the global economic and financial crisis. The loans also carry forward measures enacted by the government in 2008 to cushion the impact of skyrocketing global fuel and food prices. Under AETP2, a loan of $150 million from ADB's Special Fund will target the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), a cash transfer program focusing on poor women. Under the scheme, the female head of qualified families receives 1,000 rupees per month to help defray the rising cost of food and other household expenses. Created in October 2008, the BISP social safety net program is expanding its current coverage of 3.5 million families to 5 million families next year and aims to reach 7 million families by 2011. An additional $350 million in ADB loans will help Pakistan move to more market-based pricing of wheat and electricity, remove subsidy distortions and improve targeted social safety nets. It will also improve the bankability of the energy sector by resolving long-standing accumulated debt and attracting much needed investment. AETP2 will also help Pakistan strengthen financial intermediation. "The AETP2 program will benefit millions of poor and vulnerable families through targeted cash allocations, and by removing inadequately targeted subsidies in the wheat and energy sectors, while freeing up much needed funds for development," said Rune Stroem, Country Director of ADB's Pakistan Resident Mission. "These targeted interventions will help enable Pakistan to meet its urgent social and developmental needs in FY2009."

From http://www.adb.org/ 06/26/2009

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WB Approves $ 50 Million for Sindh

WASHINGTON: The World Bank has approved a US $50 million credit to Pakistan, designed to improve water resource management and enhance agricultural productivity in Sindh Province. The additional financing for the Sindh On-Farm Water Management Project aims to improve the efficiency, reliability, and equity of irrigation water distribution at watercourse levels and enhance agricultural productivity. Under the additional financing around 3,000 watercourses will be improved, which comprises earthen improvements, lining, installation of concrete turnouts (pucca nuccas), and culverts in watercourses. About half of Sindh's 35 million people live in rural areas, and one-third of them live below the poverty line. Rural people, 70 percent who are landless, derive almost 60 percent of their income from agriculture. The Province has about 42, 000 watercourses and so far 17,000 watercourses have been improved/lined under various on-farm water management programs, including the Sindh On-Farm Water Management Project. The additional financing will also support efforts to boost agricultural productivity through demonstration on tunnel farming for high value crops, and training of farmers in improved water management, agricultural practices, and new technology and information dissemination.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 07/01/2009

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ADB, UK Provide Additional $45 Million to Boost Social Services in Pakistan

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province, has received fresh funds of $45 million dollars equivalent for a program that is helping support improvements in the delivery of health, education, water, and sanitation services in the region, Asian Development Bank (ADB) said. ADB's Board of Directors has approved the release of the third tranche of Punjab Devolved Social Services Program. A total of $25 million comes from ADB's concessional Asian Development Fund and $15 million from its ordinary capital resources. Cofinancing in the form of a $5 million grant is being provided by United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID). The first and second tranches of $80 million and $55 million equivalent were disbursed in December 2005 and November 2007 respectively. Punjab, which contributes more than 50% of Pakistan's gross domestic product and is home to 56% of its population, has suffered, like other parts of the country, from a lack of access to social services in the past, resulting in a high level of poverty, low levels of literacy and school enrolment, and other development problems. In a bid to improve service delivery for the poor, Punjab's government devolved responsibility for education and health to districts, and water supply and sanitation to town municipalities. Recently, Punjab adopted a medium term development framework (2008-2011) to strengthen the allocation of resources and promote fiscal discipline. ADB's program, which is closely tied to the development framework, set out a challenging reform agenda for improving social services. Achievement of the policy actions was linked to the release of loan funds. To date, the province has made significant progress in complying with key actions including strategic sector planning at the provincial and local government levels, the establishment of minimum standards for social services, the strengthening of accountability, and the promotion of public-private partnerships (PPPs).

Despite facing fiscal constraints, which have been exacerbated by the global economic crisis, the province has boosted per capita health spending in the public sector, progressively since fiscal year 2005 through fiscal year 2008. Reforms in the education sector have increased the number and quality of schools. Punjab has also benefited from an expansion of district inspection in education. "Over 2 million more children are in school because of these investments with the enrolment rate among females in middle school rising from 43% in 2003 to 53% in 2005 and the share of female enrolment in government primary and middle schools increasing from 45% to 50%," said Linda Arthur, Social Sector Specialist at ADB's Pakistan Resident Mission. Plans to increase and improve water supply and sanitation services are also on track, while PPP models have been drawn up, paving the way for private sector investments. "PPPs are expected to improve the quality of services, particularly for the poor, while helping to reduce the cost burden of full public service delivery," said Ms. Arthur. The program includes a technical assistance grant of $20 million equivalent from DFID to support reforms and boost the capacity of institutions to deliver improved social services. The executing agency for the program is the Punjab Planning and Development Department.

From http://www.adb.org/ 07/14/2009

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AZERBAIJAN: Impact of Global Financo-Economic Crisis on Economy Minimized

The measures and reforms recently conducted in Azerbaijan have minimized impact of the global financo-economic crisis on the country's economy, said Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at the meeting on the results of socio-economic development of the country in the first half of 2009, held under his chairmanship, AzerTaj news agency reported. "GDP rose 3.6 percent in the first half of the year and non-oil sector growth was 4.1percent. It shows that the future of the country less depends on the oil factor," Ilham Aliyev said. The solution of the social issues was successfully developed in the first half of the year and existent program were carried out in this field, the president said. The inflation ratio dropped to 3.7 percent in the past six months. Cash profit of the population increased 19 percent and average monthly salary - 15 percent in this period, the Azerbaijani president said. The head of state said 35,000 new jobs, including 25,000 permanent jobs, opened in Azerbaijan in the first half of the year. The second phase of the State Program for Socio-Economic Development of the Regions started to be carried out in this period. The government increased resources allocated to develop entrepreneurship, the president said. (by U.Ismayilova)

From http://capital-en.trend.az/ 07/23/2009

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KYRGYZSTAN: ADB Extends $50 Million to Improve Key Road Corridor

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is extending $50 million to the Kyrgyz Republic to continue upgrading a major transport corridor that supports the livelihoods of over half a million people and is the country's main trading link with the People's Republic of China (PRC). ADB's Board of Directors has approved a $28 million equivalent loan and $22 million grant from its concessional Asian Development Fund for a second rehabilitation project on the Bishkek-Torugart Road. The Government of Kyrgyz Republic will provide counterpart funds of $12.5 million for a total project cost of $62.5 million. The funds will be used to upgrade 75 kilometers of two-lane road, to build a border control facility and to provide training and skills development for road engineering graduates of local universities. The new project is the second phase of an ongoing rehabilitation program for the road, funded by ADB. ADB is the country's main development partner in the road sector, providing assistance of nearly $280 million for infrastructure since 1996. Goods moved along the Bishkek-Torugart Road account for about half the Kyrgyz Republic's total trade with PRC. It traverses three of the country's poorest provinces, where many people rely on it to transport goods to market.

Large sections of the road however are in poor condition, resulting in long travel times and high operating costs. "Rehabilitating the road will increase the speed and reliability of passenger and freight flows, it will give better market access and business opportunities to people living in the corridor, and will help reduce poverty, particularly in Naryn oblast," said Prianka Seneviratne, Principal Transport Specialist in ADB's Central and West Asia Department. The road, running from Torugart on the Kyrgyz border with PRC, to Bishkek near the border with Kazakhstan, is part of one of the main transport corridors of Central Asia. The corridors are a key element of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program, an ADB-supported initiative designed to strengthen integration and growth opportunities and reduce poverty amongst the eight member countries, including Kyrgyz Republic. "Improving transport infrastructure and border operations in the Kyrgyz Republic will lower the cost of domestic transport and international traffic, as well as transit traffic, and it supports the objective of increased trade and integration with large markets in South Asia, PRC, the Russian Federation and Turkey," said Mr. Seneviratne. The second stage project is due for completion by December 2013, with the Ministry of Transport and Communications appointed to execute it.

From http://www.adb.org/ 07/16/2009

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TAJIKISTAN: IDB Approves US$ 10.3m for Microfinance Project

Catering to its strategic objectives of poverty alleviation and the promotion of Islamic finance, the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) approved a loan of 10 million US dollars and a technical assistance grant of 330,000 for a microfinance project in the rural areas of Tajikistan, press release issued by the IDB head office in Jeddah on July 7, 2009 said. The project aims to complement the Tajikistani government's efforts in achieving economic growth and lessening poverty by increasing the access of rural populations to reasonable and reliable microfinance services, as well as encouraging Sharia'h-compliant microfinance products in the region. Tajikistan joined the IDB in 1996 and as of June 2009, there were a total of 33 IDB operations. In 2008, the IDB Country Poverty Assessment (CPA) exercise found the limited availability of affordable microfinance facilities to small-scale farmers as a major constraint in alleviating poverty.

This project will enable the socio-economic uplifting of the rural poor, the establishment and expansion of strong Sharia'h-compliant microfinance and increased micro-entrepreneurs, which will in turn generate more job opportunities. In line with IDB objectives, it is also expected to contribute to the empowerment of women as it will be targeting women micro-entrepreneurs in rural areas, and women will constitute at least 50% of the microfinance beneficiaries. The total project cost is estimated at about US$ 20.08 million. The project will deepen the outreach of microfinance services for the marginalized, and have multiplying positive effects for Tajikistan. The IDB expects that through these efforts, the long-term outcome will be economic development and poverty reduction. (by Amrita Kirgizova)

From http://www.asiaplus.tj/ 07/20/2009

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UZBEKISTAN: Implementation of Internet-bank Service in Microcreditbank

A service Internet-bank was implemented by Microcreditbank for providing with comfortable interactive bank services for corporate clients and enterprise subjects, the bank's press service said. Internet-bank system is aimed for remote control of client with bank in real-time mode. During the process the client can: Keep track on information of his accounts; Promptly get information about proceeds on account; Enter and send payment documents to the bank. Hereby the documents shall be immediately recorded into data base of the bank, and become available for further processing; Form abstracts of personal account, balance turnover sheets, references about usage of the account for different periods of time and by wide specter of criteria; View the archives of payment documents, choose the documents by different parameters; Make import of payment documents, prepared by systems of business accounting on enterprises (for example, from 1C system); Make export of documents from Internet-bank system into text file for further its import into system of business accounting on the enterprise; View the information of manuals (for example, currency manuals, manuals of bank departments).

From http://finance.uzreport.com/ 07/17/2009

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AUSTRALIA: 2009-10 Financial Sector Levy Rates

The Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law, Chris Bowen MP, today announced the financial sector levy rates for 2009-10. The levy rates are used to calculate annual levies from the financial services sector to fund the operational costs of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), and certain market integrity and consumer protection functions undertaken by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) in relation to APRA-regulated institutions. In 2009-10, APRA will collect $119.8 million to fund its own levy-related activities and to cover the relevant costs of ASIC and the ATO. This compares to the levy requirement of $107.9 million last year. The additional funding reflects ongoing increase in supervisory activities by the regulators to address the effects of the global financial crisis. Next year, there will be no charges for First Home Saver Account (FHSA) providers considering that this sector is still in a development stage. "The Federal Government has also contributed an important part of the additional funding needed by the regulators to address the effects of the global financial crisis," Mr Bowen said. "Regulators with sufficient resources have played an important role in maintaining the stability of the Australian financial system during the current period of international market turbulence." The Government has provided APRA with additional funding of $45.5 million over four years, starting from 2008‑09. Of this amount, $18.5 million has been provided for 2009‑10. This appropriation gives APRA additional resources over the funding from levies and fees paid by industry.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/02/2009

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Easy Ways to File Your Tax Return

With tax time here, the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry, is encouraging Australians to take advantage of the extensive range of options to make filing their tax returns easier and more convenient. "There are more ways than ever to file your tax return and they're aimed at making the process as easy as possible." "Millions of Australians are already using the method that best suits their needs and lifestyle." "Online lodgement is a lot more popular, with more than 2.2 million people using the e-tax service last financial year," said the Assistant Treasurer. E-tax can be accessed for free from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website www.ato.gov.au Making it easier for taxpayers and their agents to complete their tax returns, e-tax has a pre-filling service which downloads your information into e-tax and completes or partially completes the relevant items.

These include being able to download:
Government benefits payments Payment summaries
Bank interest payments
Dividend income details from share registries and most listed public corporations
Medicare information
Private health insurance details
Another program, the Tax Volunteers Program is aimed at helping low income earners get over the line in meeting their obligations.

"Many tax volunteers are retired tax agents and accountants and the work they do to help, especially vulnerable people, is commendable." "This program is in its 21st year and demand is expected to be strong for this service in the current global economic environment," said the Assistant Treasurer. The ATO has also enlisted the help of Centrelink to promote tax support products in their shopfronts. "Centrelink customers are able to pick up an e-tax CD or access the ATO website from some Centrelink shopfronts," said the Assistant Treasurer. There are also improvements to communications, including expanding the use of text messaging. "You can even subscribe to an alert service when information relevant to your return becomes available on the net for your use," said the Assistant Treasurer. Further information about all these options is available at www.ato.gov.au or by phoning the Tax Office on 13 28 61 between 8am and 6pm weekdays.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/09/2009

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Launch of Australian Citizenship $1 Coin

The Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry, has today launched a commemorative $1 coin celebrating Australian citizenship and marking the 60th anniversary of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1949. The coin, the first of an annual release, portrays the Commonwealth Coat of Arms and the words 'Australian Citizenship'. "Just sixty years ago, most people living in Australia were regarded as British subjects." "That all changed on Australia Day, January 26, 1949, when people born here automatically became Australian citizens under the Nationality and Citizenship Act." "A growing number of people who choose to make Australia home are embracing the status of Australian citizenship." "The Rudd Government believes Australian citizenship symbolises our unity as a nation." "It represents a commitment to Australia and its people, the values we share and our common future," said the Assistant Treasurer. Since the first citizenship ceremony took place on 3 February, 1949, at Albert Hall in Canberra, more than four million migrants have made the pledge of commitment to Australia. The coin is an important addition to the nation's collectable coin issues and offers people the chance to celebrate the significance of their Australian citizenship - whether a citizen by birth or by choice. The legal tender, base metal coin has an unrestricted mintage and depicts the Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, with the 2009 year-date on the obverse. It comes on a coloured presentation card of iconic Australian symbols. The card incorporates a Certificate of Authenticity and features a fold-out stand for display. Images of the Australian Citizenship $1 Coin can be found and downloaded from http://www.perthmint.com.au/product-photgraphy-distributors.aspx.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/10/2009

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$600,000 Worth of Opportunities for Industry

Maximising supply opportunities for Australian companies for the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games is one of four projects to share in $600, 000 of Australian Government funding. The funding, awarded under the Supplier Access to Major Projects (SAMP) program, will allow the Industry Capability Network (ICN) to link competitive Australian companies with lucrative supply opportunities in major projects in Australia and overseas. The Rudd Government is focused on ensuring that local suppliers get a fair go. This program helps get Australian firms and services out in the market competing for valuable contracts wherever they may be. It is often easy to overlook Australian firms when awarding contracts, particularly where there is a lack of knowledge about Australian capabilities. Many Australian suppliers can provide goods and services at globally competitive prices. By linking global opportunities to local capabilities we create crucial links that boost Australian productivity, export capacity and most importantly, jobs. In 2008 the SAMP program helped Australian companies win $548 million worth of contracts. The new round of funding will build on this success. Speaking at Advanced Polymer Technology Australasia/Sports Technology International in Melbourne today, Federal Member for Isaacs Mark Dreyfus announced the new round of SAMP projects on behalf of Innovation Minister, Senator Kim Carr. Businesses like Sports Technology International are a great example of local businesses that have directly benefitted in major projects as direct result of the SAMP program. For example, Sports Technology International were successful in securing the contract to supply and install the running track for the 2008 Youth Commonwealth Games in India, maintaining their strong connection with elite sports in Asia. The three other successful projects in this round of SAMP include identifying supply opportunities relating to: QGC's proposed Queensland Curtis LNG project; the construction of three new hospitals in south Queensland; and the Shanghai World Expo 2010. Further information on SAMP and the other services provided by the ICN, including guidelines and application forms, is available at www.icn.org.au.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 07/24/2009

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NEW ZEALAND: Govt to Align Investment and Income Tax Rates

The Government is proposing to introduce legislation to align resident withholding tax (RWT) rates on interest and portfolio investment entities (PIE) tax rates with recent changes to personal income tax rates and the 30% company tax rate, Revenue Minister Peter Dunne announced today. "The changes will be part of taxation bill to be introduced later this month, with passage expected by December," he said. "This is catch-up legislation that couldn't be put in place late last year when the personal tax cuts were enacted because of the time needed to consult with banks and other financial institutions over the changes. "I am announcing the changes today to give financial institutions as much time as possible to start preparing for them. "Resident withholding tax on interest is based on the marginal tax rate of the recipient of the interest income. Its purpose is to ensure that tax is paid at source on that income at a rate that closely approximates the recipient's tax rate. "New resident withholding tax (RWT) rates will be 12.5%, 21%, 33% and 38%, depending upon the personal tax rates of individual recipients. The new RWT rates will generally apply from 1 April 2010. "The default rate for individuals who do not specify their tax rate to their bank will rise from 19.5% to 38%. This will apply from 1 April 2010 for new bank accounts. "There will be a new 30% RWT rate on interest for companies that invest in financial institutions. Its use will be optional for financial institutions for a year from 1 April 2010, and compulsory thereafter. "Tax rates on portfolio investment entities (PIEs) will also reflect the new personal tax rates, with rates ranging from 12.5% to 30% for income over $70,000. The changes will ensure that people who invest in PIEs are not disadvantaged relative to direct investors. Once enacted, the new PIE rates will apply from 1 April 2010. "The changes will mean that savers who choose a rate with their bank do not pay more tax on interest than they need to, and that PIE investors are not over-taxed on their investment," Mr Dunne said.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/07/2009

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Government Considers Local Body 'Bond Bank'

The Government is working with local body representatives to investigate setting up a "bond bank" to help councils finance up to $30 billion of planned infrastructure over the next decade, Finance Minister Bill English says. The establishment of the so-called bond bank to reduce councils' cost of borrowing was one of the Jobs Summit Top Twenty initiatives. It was also recommended by the Financial Markets Development Task Force. A study will look at whether combining councils' borrowing needs would result in lower interest rates and transaction costs. This arrangement is common overseas. The study will also investigate options for how such an organisation could be run. "The Government recognises that councils face a big spike in costs over the next decade to provide adequate sewerage, water and roads. Some of this will be appropriately financed by debt," Mr English says. "We are sympathetic to any arrangement that can lower the cost of local authority borrowing and we are keen to help councils work together to see if they can do this. Any arrangement that comes out of this process will be entirely voluntary." A joint Government and Local Government New Zealand steering group set up to look at the proposal expects to receive the study in about a month. Decisions about whether such a vehicle is feasible, and if so how to operate it, will follow. Lawrence Yule, President of Local Government New Zealand welcomed the scoping study. "We look forward to working with the Government on this initiative, which has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of borrowing for councils, with flow-on effects for ratepayers too." The study will be conducted by advisers Cameron Partners and Asia-Pacific Risk Management.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/08/2009

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Resident Withholding Tax Focus of New Tax Bill

The alignment of certain investment tax rates with income tax rates is the central feature of an omnibus taxation Bill tabled in Parliament today, Revenue Minister Peter Dunne said. "The Taxation (Consequential Rate) Bill consists of a good deal of 'catch-up' legislation that makes downstream changes to tax law that follow on from earlier tax changes, as well as generally updating tax law and providing greater taxpayer certainty," he said. "The Bill introduces new resident withholding tax (RWT) rates on interest paid to individuals, to bring them into line with recent changes to personal tax rates. The new rates for individuals will be 12.5%, 21%, 33% and 38%, depending on their income. "The Bill introduces a new default rate of 38% for people who do not notify their bank of their correct tax rate. The new default rate will apply to accounts opened from 1 April 2010. "There will be a transitional period for people who have a bank account at 1 April 2010 and who are on the current RWT default rate of 19.5%. They will be automatically shifted up to a 21% rate for a year from 1 April 2010. They will then have a year in which to either confirm with their bank that 21% is their correct rate or to select one of the other RWT rates. If they neither confirm the 21% rate nor elect another rate, their RWT default rate will then go up to 38% from 1 April 2011. "The changes to the default rate are being made to motivate people to use the correct tax rate for the interest they receive from their financial institution. "The bill also introduces a new 30% RWT rate on interest paid to companies, to align with the recent change in the company tax rate. Its use will be optional for a year from 1 April 2010 and mandatory thereafter. "As a complementary measure, the Bill aligns the tax rates on portfolio investment entities with the new personal tax rates, so that PIE rates will be 12.5%, 21% and 30%.

The changes will ensure that people who invest in PIEs are not disadvantaged relative to direct investors. Once enacted, the changes will apply from 1 April 2010," Mr Dunne said. Other changes in the bill include: Secondary tax code and extra pays: introduction of a new 12.5% secondary code and a new 12.5% withholding tax rate for extra pays that brings the withholding rates on employment income into line with new personal tax rates. Forestry/climate change: clarification that the expenses of participants in the Permanent Forest Sink Initiative are to be treated as forestry business expenses for tax purposes. Tax returns: changes to allow Inland Revenue to accept corrections of minor errors in subsequent returns, to reduce compliance costs for taxpayers. Trusts: changes to allow tax agents more time, if needed, to allocate beneficiary income. GST/waste: clarification that the new waste disposal levy, introduced on 1 July, is subject to GST. For information on these and other changes in the Bill, see the separate commentary on the Taxation (Consequential Rate Alignment and Remedial Matters) Bill, at www.taxpolicy.ird.govt.nz.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/21/2009

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CHINA: Official Encourages Private Business to Go "Green"

Chinese top political advisor Jia Qinglin Monday encouraged private companies to go "green" by developing new energy and energy-saving technologies. In a one-day inspection tour to Langfang city of central China's Hebei Province, Jia, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), visited the XinAo Group, a local private company specialized in research and development of renewable energy and new energy. When talking with the staff of the company, Jia said new energy and energy-saving industries would not only serve as an effective stimulus for the country's economic recovery, but were also of great potential and importance to future development. "Developing a green economy has been widely recognized by the world. Private companies can play an important role in the development of new energy and the environment-friendly and energy-saving industries," Jia said. He noted that China's private companies were faced with both challenges and opportunities amid the current global financial crisis, and urged them to boost research, development and trade of energy-saving products and technologies. "In this way, the private business can create new market demand and more job opportunities," he said. He also urged local governments and relevant trade organizations to fully recognize the important role private business played in the national economy, and give favorable policies to help them prosper. The private companies, on the other hand, should make use of the opportunities at hand, and increase their exports and improve their competitiveness in the international market, he said.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 07/06/2009

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China Should Privatise State-owned Companies

CHINA should privatise its state-owned enterprises and let university or pension funds buy large stakes in the publicly-listed companies, analysts say. The Australian National University's China Update 2009 was released yesterday, as attention was focused on China following the detention of Australian Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu. Mr Hu is accused of espionage and stealing state secrets, with claims from Beijing that he was involved in bribery during annual iron ore negotiations. China has tried to quash suggestions that the detention is linked to the failed bid by state-owned Chinalco for a bigger stake in Rio Tinto. Experts say the Hu case could have serious implications for foreign investment in China. In the China Update, Xiao Geng, Xiuke Yang and Anna Janus call for privatisation of the state-owned enterprises (SOEs), saying it is still possible for state interests to be safeguarded without majority state ownership. "The interest of the state can still be maintained through one golden share that gives the state veto power against any decisions by the board that are potentially harmful to the national interest or national security," they say. According to their figures, SOEs make up for a large majority of China's top companies, accounting for 70 per cent of the Chinese top-500 enterprises.

All up, they account for 94 per cent of assets and 88 per cent of profits. Of the top-500 companies, SOEs generate 93 per cent of taxes and employ 89 per cent of workers.

The authors say Beijing will face growing pressure both domestically and internationally to change these state-owned firms. "The global impacts of the ever-growing Chinese SOEs will not be ignored abroad," they say. "Therefore, there will be a further demand for transformation of the Chinese SOEs with pressure coming from domestic consumers and politics, as well as from international competition and international politics." In his chapter of the update, Chen Ping suggests China consider following an American model of allowing university funds to own the transformed SOEs. "China should learn from the US model of land-grant universities and non-profit university endowment funds, rather than the Singaporean model of sovereign wealth funds," he says. "SOEs transformed into publicly listed, shareholder companies owned by university funds, pension funds, and so on, would greatly improve China's image abroad and its educational foundation at home."

From http://www.news.com.au/ 07/14/2009

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JAPAN: Shinsei, Aozora to Merge in 2010

Shinsei Bank and Aozora Bank said Wednesday they have reached an agreement to merge in October next year to create Japan's sixth-largest banking group with total assets of over ¥18 trillion. The two loss-making lenders largely owned by U.S. private equity investors set the merger ratio at 1-to-1, with Shinsei to be the remaining company. The new bank will have Norito Ikeda, 61, former president of Ashikaga Bank, as its first president, they said. The two banks have suffered huge losses amid the global financial crisis and aim to restore their financial health and turn around their business through the merger. Having incurred large losses in the year that ended March 31 due mainly to troubled investments overseas, the two lenders said the new bank will focus more on domestic corporate financing operations. They also intend to improve profitability through the consolidation of systems and cost-saving measures. Ikeda said in Tokyo the new bank will focus on domestic operations.

"I believe it is fully possible to create a bank that customers want by positively combining the two banks' characteristics," said Ikeda, who just agreed Tuesday to take the post. The new bank's name will be decided by an integration committee the two banks will set up. The committee will be cochaired by Shinsei President Masamoto Yashiro and Aozora President Brian Prince, and Ikeda will also become a member. With Shinsei becoming the surviving entity, Aozora will be delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange's first section at a yet-to-be-decided date. Shinsei Bank was created from the ashes of Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan, which failed in 1998 during Japan's banking crisis, and Aozora's predecessor, Nippon Credit Bank, also went bankrupt at that time. The two lenders were bailed out by the government and once again brought largely under private ownership in 2000. Shinsei is now largely owned by J.C. Flowers & Co., while Cerberus Capital Management L.P. is a principal shareholder in Aozora. Still, the two banks have yet to pay back a total of ¥400 billion in public funds. Ikeda said the new bank may apply for additional funds if necessary.

From http://search.japantimes.co.jp/ 07/02/2009

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JR West Appoints New President

West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) announced Friday that its vice chairman, Takayuki Sasaki, will become the new president on Aug. 31. Sasaki, 62, will replace Masao Yamazaki, 66, who resigned Wednesday after he was indicted in connection with a train derailment in Hyogo Prefecture that killed 107 people and injured 562 on April 25, 2005. Yamazaki will continue to serve as a director.

From THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 07/11/2009

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MALAYSIA: Dr M on the Path to Realising Vision 2020

Private sector and Govt need to work together to transform Malaysia into high-income economy. KUALA LUMPUR: The Government and the private sector should work together to transform Malaysia from a low-cost export-oriented country to a high-income economy that is built on domestic demand and wealth, if the country's Vision 2020 is to be realised, says former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He said Vision 2020 could not be achieved by continually depending on the low-cost, export-oriented economic model. "What we have to do now is to reassess our economic thinking. Think out of the box," he said in his keynote address after launching The BrandLaureate Lecture Series here yesterday. "Do not be caught in this time, (that) the only way to grow the country is to produce as cheaply as possible and sell to other countries - the export-oriented economy." Instead, he said, "we have to build up the purchasing power capacity of our people and grow our economy through domestic economic activity." Vision 2020 was possible to achieve "if we are prepared to change our mindset, not just the Government but also the private sector and the people," he added. At the event, the Asia Pacific Brands Foundation, the organiser of The BrandLaureate Lecture Series, presented "The Father of Vision 2020" award to Dr Mahathir.

According to Dr Mahathir, Malaysia has to understand the mechanics of countries like Japan and Singapore, noting that although most European nations have high costs, these markets are also developed. "So, we have to rethink our strategy. It is an old idea that we can grow only through manufacturing cheap and selling to foreign countries, to be an export-based economy. That is over now," he said. To achieve Vision 2020, Dr Mahathir said the country had to depend on domestic purchasing power, and called on Malaysia to get away from the idea that it must keep everything low-priced. The BrandLaureate Lecture Series will be held for six months starting end-July. It will feature speakers such as former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid, Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow, Tan Sri Hamad Kama Piah Che Othman, Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, Tan Sri Vincent Tan and Tan Sri Francis Yeoh.

From http://biz.thestar.com.my/ 07/01/2009

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Govt Online Medical Service to Be Linked with Private Sector

PETALING JAYA: Teleprimary care, the Government's online medical consultation service, could soon be linked with the private healthcare sector to expand the country's healthcare system. Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the Government-private healthcare initiatives must be strengthened to meet growing demands in quality and keep to its target to give outpatient care within the period of 30 minutes. "The Government is coming up with a proper system to incorporate the strengths of the private healthcare sector," Liow said after opening the second Teleprimary Care (TPC) Users Conference yesterday. The project was established in 2005 to enable doctors in urban and rural clinics to consult each other and other specialists without having to physically refer their patients to other doctors. Liow said the Government would need to expand TPC in order to work with the private sector. "To do this fast, we need the help of the private sector. "The TPC is one of the ways to get them to help us," he added. Liow also said the TPC had also been instrumental in recording patients infected with the influenza A (H1N1) virus. "It's a great system where we can get data instantaneously in real-time to monitor the situation on the ground," he said. Meanwhile, Liow said the Government had spent nearly RM36mil to roll out TPC since its launch in Johor, Perlis, Sarawak, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. "The expansion of TPC to Sabah and Pahang is expected to cost RM10mil for the equipment and for infrastructure in the selected clinics," he said. Liow added that there were now 73 government clinics, 10 health departments and four hospitals that employed TPC nationwide.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 07/17/2009

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VIETNAM: Gov't Aid Aims to Bolster More than 300,000 SMEs

Government support will aid more than 300,000 small- and medium-sized enterprises with capacity development in key business areas, pursuant to a recent decree taking effect in August. Under the decree, the Government will assist small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the areas of finance and land area, technological and technical capacity, and market expansion. Measures for broadening public services, distribution of information and consulting, and human resources development are also included under the document. "These measures aim to create a foundation for SME's, which make up 90 per cent of all enterprises nationwide, to solve their basic financial barriers and lagging technological and human resources capacity," said Cao Sy Kiem, chairman of the Viet Nam Association of SMEs. The Ministry of Finance and the State Bank of Viet Nam have been charged with diversifying their services to benefit SMEs, such as establishing a mechanism for guaranteeing credit and offering investment management and financial consulting services to SMEs. "The Viet Nam Development Bank will serve as the warrantor for SMEs when they seek to borrow money from other banks," said Kiem. "In the economic downturn, most banks refused to lend to SMEs, forcing our factory to cease operation for several months. As a textile and garment company, our customers only pay on their contracts when they receive the products, so our on-hand capital was very low," said Le Thi Phiet, director of the Nghia Hung Garment and Textile Company. "I had to resort to seeking help from my friends and others to stay in business," she said. "According to the new decree, even SMEs with overdue debts will be able to borrow from banks if they can prove to the Viet Nam Development Bank that their troubles result from negative impacts of inflation and economic downturn," said Kiem.

"That is big news for SMEs who have had difficulty raising funds in the past," said Phiet. Moreover, women-owned enterprises with majority female workers will benefit from more favourable lending options, according to the decree. Requirements for provincial and central-level people's committees to reserve land for industrial zones to include SMEs are also part of the new decree. "In the former SME support decree, there were no regulations which defined the specific agencies responsible for implementing this type of programme, so enterprises like us had no idea which agency to go to for assistance," said Nguyen Hoang Van, director of Van Hung Furniture Company in Ha Noi's Thach That District. "Our company has wanted to increase its land area for years to build new workshops but we know we can't afford the space. We sought help from the district-level people's committee but there were no mechanisms for them to assist us," said Van. In order to improve the technological capacity for SMEs, the decree calls for the Ministry of Science and Technology to help them register and transfer intellectual property rights for their products and services and to apply new technologies for production and business operation. "This is to avoid a situation where SMEs would lose their brand names and intellectual property rights as happened to other businesses in the past due to lack of information and legal knowledge," said Kiem. "Through the training courses, the State will also provide support to SMEs to improve their project development capacity in order to meet the technical demands of potential credit institutions," said Kiem. "The courses held by state agencies will help SMEs save on costs and turn training into a long-term process," he added. The Ministry of Planning and Investment will also assist the Government in SME support activities.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 07/06/2009

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Private Firms Keen to Go Green: Survey

HCM CITY - Most private businesses in the country are willing to adopt green practices even if it impacts the bottom line, claims the Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR). The accounting and consulting firm said its latest study found up to 69 per cent of privately held businesses (PHBs) in Viet Nam were prepared to introduce 'green' practices. The country ranked sixth in this regard, comparing very favourably with the world average of 51 per cent. East Asian economies were generally more willing to become environmentally friendly in tough times, at 61 per cent, compared to the lowest average of 43 per cent in Nordic countries, the study found. The IBR is an annual survey of the views of senior executives in 7,200 PHBs from 36 economies worldwide. When asked to rate the environmental friendliness of their business community and their appetite for introducing green practices, the executives presented a global picture of those prepared to take the initiative on green practices and those unwilling to put their bottom line at risk. Greece, Turkey, Argentina and mainland China are economies with low perceptions of environmental friendliness within the business community but where, despite this perception, PHBs are most willing to take the initiative and introduce green practices themselves. In contrast, in other countries with similar perceptions about the environmental friendliness of their business communities like Russia, Armenia, Belgium, France and the UK, PHBs said they were much less likely to introduce green practices that might affect their bottom line. "It is fascinating to see where in the world the greatest appetite for green practices lies. Despite the downturn, profit is clearly not the only factor driving PHBs and we should take great encouragement from their desire to build sustainable businesses," said Atkinson, managing partner of Grant Thornton Vietnam. Atkinson said those who persisted with their green agenda during the downturn would be best placed to seize competitive advantage when the upturn comes. The report found interesting global variations. Businesses worldwide rated the environmental friendliness of their local business community at 30 per cent, with those in Nordic countries topping the table at 61 per cent, and their Greek and Turkish counterparts tipping the scales at the other end at minus 41 per cent and minus 42 per cent, respectively.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 07/08/2009

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Private Firms Invest in City Waste Treatment, Recycling

The country's biggest commercial hub is being flooded with a mountain of rubbish that is becoming increasingly costly to treat. Each day, 6,000 tonnes of household waste are produced in HCM City, and the amount is expected to rise by 10 per cent annually for the foreseeable future, city officials have said. All of the city's waste is handled at the Phuoc Hiep dump in Cu Chi District and the Da Phuoc solid waste treatment complex in Binh Chanh District. Two other waste sites, one in Binh Tan District and another in Hoc Mon District, were closed last year after reaching full capacity. Dao Anh Kiet, acting director of the city's Department of Natural Resources and Environment, said the waste treatment fee is US$20 per tonne at the Phuoc Hiep dump, resulting in a daily cost of $60,000. The fee at the Da Phuoc solid waste treatment complex is $16.4 per tonne. Kiet said the fees were especially burdensome because of the economic downturn. Gov't response With the rapid economic growth of recent years, the city government encouraged private investors to pour money into environmental and sanitation projects. As a response, the Viet Nam Waste Solution Company was created, said Dr Nguyen Trung Viet, head of the Management of Solid Waste Division of the HCM City's Department of Natural Resources and Environment. The company invested more than $90 million in the Da Phuoc solid waste treatment complex, which covers an area of 128ha. It has a treatment capacity of 3,100 tonnes a day, half of the city's daily waste production. The lifespan of its treatment technologies is 21 years. Ten other companies have invested in waste treatment facilities in the city, including the Tam Sinh Nghia Investment-Development and Vietstar. The facilities, a few of which are under construction, will be equipped with new technology that will help cut the treatment fees paid by the city government. The plants are expected to begin operating in 2010. The new technology will also recyle the waste into useful products, such as composted fertiliser, and reduce the rate of unprocessed waste. Methane gas, a greenhouse gas harmful to the environment and emitted by waste, will be used to generate electricity.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 07/22/2009

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INDIA: Govt Committed to 25 Pc Quota for Poor Students in Pvt Schools

Launching the consultation process for reforms in education, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal on Thursday underlined his commitment to implement 25 per cent quota in private schools for poor students as proposed in the Right to Education Bill. Interacting with school principals at New Delhi on Thursday, Sibal said the institutions have responsibility to educate the people as the country is estimated to have 47 million surplus students by 2020. The Right to Education Bill, which has been pending in the Parliament, seeks to reserve 25 per cent of the seats for children of weaker sections from the neighbourhood. The Bill says that the government will bear the cost of education of these poor children. Allying apprehensions expressed by some of the principals about additional financial burden they will have to bear, Sibal said the government will prepare a compensatory mechanism for them "as per provisions of the Act". "We will ensure the students of poor and weaker sections get education. We will prepare a compensatory mechanism as per the provisions," he said. Sibal also told the principals that they have to do "some sacrifices" to ensure that all sections of the people get education and skills. The minister said the government would also explore the option of starting double shifts in schools for full utilisation of the resources. (ST-2/07) Bill making free education fundamental right gets cabinet nod. A Bill seeking to make free and compulsory education to children in the 6-14 age group a fundamental right will be placed before current session of Parliament. The Right to Education Bill was cleared on Thursday by the Union Cabinet after incorporating certain changes in the original draft as suggested by the Standing Committee, sources said. Once the Bill becomes a law, it will make free and compulsory education a fundamental right. The Act provides for 25 percent reservation of seats in private schools for poor children in neighbourhood. The government would reimburse the money at government rate towards these seats. The Bill prohibits payment of donations or capitation fees or interviewing the child or parents as part of a screening procedure. The financial burden to implement the Bill will be shared between states and Centre. A school can be fined up to Rs one lakh if not recognised by a regulating body. HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has said that the government was committed to implement 25 percent quota in private schools for poor students as proposed in the Bill.

From http://www.unpan.org/ 07/05/2009

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Government to Sell Its Stake in Bharti Hexacom

Bangalore: The government is all set to sell of its holdings in Bharti Hexacom, a subsidiary of Bharti Airtel. The key ministries have approved a cabinet note moved by the Department of Telecom (DoT) to divest the government's stake in Bharti Hexacom. The government's 30 percent stake in Hexacom is held through the Telecom Consultants of India (TCIL). The remaining 70 percent is held by Bharti Airtel. Bharti operates through Hexacom in six states which includes the North East (except Assam) and Rajasthan. The subsidiary has less than nine million subscribers. The Union Cabinet will now be approached for formal approval for the disinvestment. This will mark the second major disinvestment for the communications ministry after the UPA regime was re-elected. TCIL had tried to exit Hexacom in 2005-06 but later decided against it since the price offered by Bharti was too low. The department of disinvestment (of the ministry of finance), has however asked that legal advisers and valuers for the transaction be appointed through a transparent process. The current exit has been decided on account of two factors. Firstly, TCIL had been seeking dividend payouts every year which Bharti group constantly turned down. Secondly, TCIL had also been seeking the listing of Bharti Hexacom, which too was turned down, on the grounds that their policy does not permit subsidiaries being listed. As per DoT records, Hexacom had revenues of Rs. 1,345.8 crore in 2007-08 and a profit and net worth of Rs. 330.7 crore and Rs. 918.2 crore respectively, during the same period. It also estimated that these figures increased significantly in 2008-09.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 07/13/2009

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PSU Outperformed Private Sector Last Week in Markets

Bangalore: Shares of public sector companies outperformed private sector firms last week. On BSE, public sector undertaking (PSU) index gave better returns among the dozen other sectoral indices during the week ended July 19. Among the 13 sectoral indices, the PSU index, which includes companies like GAIL, BPCL, HPCL, IOCL and MTNL, gave almost five percent returns in the last week. The PSU index is trading today at 8136.34 points as against 7,851.72 points, a week ago. When markets closed today, the total market capitalization of the PSU stocks was Rs.4,934,647.97 crores. The PSU stocks soars 48.97 points to close the day 0.61 percent higher of yesterday's close of 8,087.39. The stocks touched an intraday high of 8272.48 and a low of 8057.90 points. In all, a total of Rs.1.41 crore PSU shares were traded through the day. Majority of public sector undertakings have established records of steady profitability and performance and several amongst them, such as Bharat Heavy Electricals (BHEL), Coal India (CIL) and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) have attained global standards. BHEL has regularly declared dividends for 20 years now. Its order books are full for the next 10 years. CIL has broken new grounds by acquiring coal mines overseas. It has paid the government a dividend of Rs.1,700 crore. About 41 central public sector enterprises are listed and they account for around 40 percent of the total capitalization of stocks listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). Jagannadham Thunuguntla, Equity Head, SMC Capitals said, "The present government, with the clear and aggressive disinvestment policy, has a lot of cushion and headroom in its fiscal policy making. With the aggressive disinvestment policy, the fiscal deficit may not be such a serious threat to the Indian economy, as generally perceived." During the last week, PSU companies that gave positive returns were Canara Bank (1.54 percent), Bank of Baroda (1.66 percent) and ONGC (4.69 percent). Other indices that gave positive returns were Reality (3.91 per cent), Metal (2.06 percent), CD (1.89 percent), Bankex (1.86 per cent) and Auto (1.06 percent).

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 07/22/2009

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Government Plans to List BSNL, TCIL

Bangalore: The government is planning to list Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) and Telecommunications Consultants India (TCIL) at the bourses with an initial 10 percent divestment, but the timeline for this would be decided in consultation with the Finance Ministry. Siddharth Behura, Telecom Secretary said, "Two of our companies BSNL and TCIL are not yet listed. We would like to list them with 10 percent divestment in each of them initially. But the timeline will be decided in consultation with the Finance Ministry." The government believes that the listing especially of BSNL would help in improving the company's image and promote its growth. BSNL sources said that there will not be any fresh equity, but only offloading by the government. The company will not get any proceeds from the IPO. In the quarter ended June 30, 2009, BSNL's net profit has hit a low of Rs.104 crore on revenue of Rs.34,937 crore, both down from a year earlier, hit by higher staff costs and declining income from services. The government had planned to sell 10 percent of BSNL and list its shares last year, but had to defer the proposal after opposition from a major workers union and the stock market meltdown. Rakesh Upadhyay, CMD, TCIL said, "Whatever decision the government takes, the PSU will abide by it. No valuation had been done yet, but the listing would be good for the company."

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 07/23/2009

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PAKISTAN: President and PM Decide to Take Action Against KESC

* KESC issued show-cause notice, warned of stern action over failure to meet obligations

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met President Asif Zardari late on Tuesday to discuss the fate of the local government (LG) system and the Karachi Electricity Supply Company's (KESC) failure to provide power to the people of Karachi. Sources said the president and the prime minister discussed the current power crisis in the country, and Zardari took a serious notice of the continued power outages in Karachi. They said the president issued a show-cause notice to the KESC management, warning them of strict action in case it failed to meet its obligations. The sources said Gilani also briefed President Zardari on the views of Punjab, the NWFP and Balochistan provinces regarding the LGs. The prime minister has already advised the president to dissolve the LG system and Zardari is likely to act on the advice soon. The president's spokesman Farhatullah Babar said the president advised the government to take immediate action to streamline the operations of the KESC and "make it respond to the challenges". Following the directives, relevant authorities have been instructed to take immediate action. Accordingly in the show-cause notice, the KESC was asked to give reasons why the government should not act against the company for its dismal performance. The president also briefed Gilani on his meeting with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief Nawaz Sharif in which the two leaders agreed to reform the constitution in accordance with the Charter of Democracy and repeal the 17th Amendment. staff report/ daily times monitor.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 07/22/2009

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AZERBAIJAN: Xalq Bank Joins PrivateMoney System

Azerbaijani Xalq Bank has finished a process of connecting to one more urgent money transfer system - PrivateMoney, the bank reported. It is possible to receive and send money transfers via the new system without opening an account for a short time and three percent of commission which is imposed on sender. A large geography of transfer (CIS countries, Latvia, Portugal and Cyprus) is also one of the system's advantages. Besides PrivateMoney, the bank offers the same services via Western Union, Bistraya pochta, Migom, Xpress Money, and Contact. At present a service network of Xalq Bank covers 8 branches and 4 departments in Baku and the country's regions.

From http://capital-en.trend.az/ 07/20/2009

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69 Percent Housing Privatized in Azerbaijan

Housing of 23.1 million square meters has been privatized in Azerbaijan which makes up 68.9 percent of total housing, the State Statistics Committee said. Nearly 421,900 apartments have been privatized in Azerbaijan from 1990 till June 2009. He said 4,900 apartments with total area of 313,000 square meters have been privatized in Azerbaijan in the first quarter of 2009. In January-June, apartments with an area of 2,900 square meters have been privatized in Baku in January-June.

From http://www.today.az/ 07/20/2009

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IRAN: Private Investment in Ports Surpass $367m

Iranian private sector has invested over 3.65 trillion rials (about $367.3 million) in domestic ports development projects during March 21-May 21, director of Ports and Maritime Organization said. IRNA quoted Ali Taheri-Motlaq as saying the figure was significantly higher than the amount invested in the same period of the last year. The investments were mainly made in Imam Khomeini and Shahid Rajaee ports, the official said. The private sector invested more than one trillion rials in development projects last year (ended March 20), he said, adding that half of the projects have come on stream. Shahid Rajaiee Port, southern Hormuzgan province, has the shipment capacity of 3.3 million twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEU). In 2008, the volume of shipment amounted to two million TEU, ranking the port at the 60th place among the world's largest ports. Taheri-Motlaq added that the Ports and Maritime Organization has signed agreements with 34 shipping lines and 22 liner shipping services have launched routes to Shahid Rajaee Port.

Also, steel production in private sector has increased by 22 percent during March 21-June 21, said head of Iran's Steel Producers Association. Taqi Bahrami-Noushahr told IRNA that the figure has had a 14-percent rise compared to the same period of last year. He added that the private sector produced 1.1 million tons of steel products, while the public sector produced more than 2.7 million tons during the three-month period. Bahrami-Noushahr continued that the production of beams has increased by 9 percent, bars by 8 percent, hot rolled sheets by 27 percent, and other steel products by 6 percent compared to the same period of last year. Pointing to the production of 2.6 million tons of crude steel during March 21-June 21, he said the amount shows a 7-percent growth compares to the same period of the year before. He also said close to 400,000 tons of steel products has been exported abroad. Given the global economic crisis, the figure indicates a huge success for country's steel producers. Based on the report of International Iron and Steel Institute, Iran, with annual output of over 10 million tons, became the 19th largest steel producer worldwide in 2008, overtaking Poland.

From http://www.iran-daily.com/ 07/21/2009

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TAJIKISTAN: The First Private Russian-Language Newspaper Brought Out in Northern Tajikistan

The first issue of the Russian-language weekly Tretiy Vzglyad (Third View) has been published in Khujand. This social-political publication has been founded by known local journalist Bobojon Ikromov. It is the first private newspaper in the Russian language in northern Tajikistan. The first issue contains materials about the most important political and economic events taking place in Sughd and other regions of Tajikistan as well as the latest developments in neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. (by Bakhtiyor Valiyev)

From http://www.asiaplus.tj/ 07/21/2009

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AUSTRALIA: Aged Care Privatisation a 'Raid on Community-Raised Funds'

A plan to sell state-owned nursing homes in the New South Wales Riverina has been dubbed a raid on community-raised funds. The State Government called for expressions of interest early this year on 11 nursing homes including facilities at Holbrook, Leeton, Harden, Murrumburrah and Corowa. Leeton Shire Council opposes any change to the Leeton Nursing Home, saying residents paid more than half the construction cost. General manager David Laugher says there has been little communication on the issue, but it has confirmed the home is being reviewed by a potential operator. "The only comment we've had is that the hospital and health care services will be retained and an acknowledgment that whilst the community contributed to the hospital, they anticipate that the services will remain," he said. "But other than that we can't get any further." Mr Laugher says there needs to be better communication over the issue. "What we are seeking to do is engage in discussion between the community and the Government about what is effectively a corporate raid on community-raised funds," he said. "We have struggled to get any further information than that, even asking directly whether or not any of the organisations has particularly expressed an interest in Leeton. "We finally managed to get a statement from the department that said, 'yes there was one', but we don't know any further detail." The Government says it will only outsource the nursing homes if it gets appropriate tenders. Health Minister John Della Bosca issued a media release yesterday saying 13 providers have been invited to submit tenders. "If we can't be sure that these operators will meet the very high public benchmark we've set, then we won't be putting these services into the private sector," the statement said. "Particular emphasis will be placed by NSW Health on making sure the aged care places stay in individual local townships and communities. "We'll be ensuring that there's proper provision of quality care for residents and we'll be making sure we support staff through the changeover process." The Government says 98 per cent of aged care facilities in Australia are run by non-government providers.

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 07/22/2009

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Rail Privatisation to 'Take Toll on Rural Roads'

A group of outback Queensland mayors say they are worried the State Government is not considering the full impact of privatisation of public assets on small rural communities. The Outback Regional Roads Group is meeting in Longreach today and its co-chairman, Bruce Scott, says there is concern that if rail services are privatised it will mean more heavy trucks on rural roads that are already deteroriating. Councillor Scott says the Government should be thinking about the wider impact of any rail sell-off. "I understand the enormous pressure on Government spending but we have to think of all the effects when we start talking about selling off assets," he said. "We've seen it with other public utilities that've been sold - if you don't get it right in the quest for having cash, it can have major major long-term effects and we've seen that through the privatisation of banks, telecommunication companies." He says the Landsborough Highway - from Morven to Cloncurry - is also in urgent need of an upgrade. "The Landsborough Highway, which is part of the national highway, is lagging behind in its maintenance," he said. "It's an issue for the Federal Government that really needs to be addressed. This is a major thoroughfare and we need to make sure that it doesn't deteroriate to a point where it stops commerce in doing what they do best."

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 07/23/2009

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