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October 2009, Issue 95
unpan-ap@sass.org.cn
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ˇˇ Business Leaders Push for Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific
Time for Asian Policymakers to Address Gender Inequalities, Spur Full Economic Recovery
Nations Urge Early N Korea Talks
SCO Ministers Discuss Economic, Energy Cooperation in Beijing
Industry Urged to Embrace Action on Climate
Asia Looks to 'Lead World' with EU-Style Bloc
Central Asian Trade Ministers Look to Boost Ties with U.S.
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ˇˇ CHINA: White Paper on Ethnic Policy Issued
CPC Publishes Plans for Intra-Party Democracy
China Celebrates 60 Years of PRC's Founding
Chinese President Calls for Unity for Nation's Development
Wen: China to Continue to Develop Western Region
China Bans Foreign Investment in Online Games Industry
China Cautious About Personal Information Collection
HK to Enhance Financial Regulation to Protect Investors
China Orders Jails to Intensify Security Measures After Prison-breaking
China Reschedules Three Gorges Reservoir Plan for Drought-hit Downstream
Mainland, Taiwan to Negotiate Signing Agreement on Economic Co-op
JAPAN: Minister Says He'll Take Currency 'Steps'
60% of DPJ Lower House Members Want Japan Out of U.S. Nuclear Umbrella
DPJ Aims at Britain-Inspired Reforms
SOUTH KOREA: Gov't Launches Green Technology Certification Process
Lee Promises Greater Autonomy for Public Firms
Gov't to Maintain Expansionary Fiscal Policy Through to End of Year
Official Guideline on Right to Die Released
Gov't Plans to Create 650,000 New Jobs by First Half of 2010
Korea Gains Full Membership into the FATF
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ˇˇ INDONESIA: 2010 State Budget Approved, Govt Has Room to Expand
Govt to Issue Ruling on Batik for Students and Civil Servants
RI Told to Cut Poverty Rate by 15% Per Year
MALAYSIA: President's Address, Amendments to Constitution
Prime Minister to Launch 1Malaysia with Perak Folks
PGMA Signs Landmark Climate Change Law
SINGAPORE: STB Developing New Blueprint to Boost Tourist Growth
Labour Movement Working Towards Cheaper, Better, Faster Economy
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: New Education Policy Soon
Cabinet Approves National Employment Programme
Existing Child Laws, Charter Will Be Updated: PM
Project to Improve City''s Air Quality Launched
Govt to Launch Project to Rehabilitate Destitute Children
BANGLADESH: PM Vows to End Poverty by 2020
New Law Soon for Protecting Rights of the Disabled: PM
Initiatives on to Free the Country from Illiteracy by 2014
INDIA: NABARD Frames Farmer Friendly Scheme
Indian Govt. Tightens Visa Rules
J&K Government Plans Initiatives to Boost IT Growth
PAKISTAN: Senate Passes Election Rules Amendment Bill
Govt Committed to Repeal 17th Amendment
Govt Wants Uniform LB Policy for Entire Province: Shazia
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ˇˇ AFGHANISTAN: Rethinking The Constitutional Balance of Power
KAZAKHSTAN: All Efforts to Be Directed to Achieve Higher GDP Growth Rate
Majilis Passed Amendments to the Bill on Culture
Government Accepted Decree on Additional Measures of Support to Subjects of Processing Sector
President Discussed Formation of Legislative Base of Further Social and Economic Development of Kazakhstan
Russia, Allies Edge to Joint But Separate WTO Bid
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: Bill for Reform of the Health Professions
National Arts and Disability Strategy
Bill to Reform Tax of Employee Share Schemes
Skills to Go Green by 2010
Tax Agent Services Regulations
Australia's Largest Free Trade Agreement
NEW ZEALAND: New Laws Will Tackle Evil of Family Violence
New Regulations for Real Estate Industry
Government Committed to Single Economic Market
Parliament Passes Law on Money Laundering
ACC Reform Bill Introduced Next Week
Bill for New Electoral Commission Introduced
On-the-Spot Protection Orders Become Law
Improved Auditor Regulation to Be Introduced
National Standards the Key to Lifting Achievement
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ˇˇ IMF Pledges Voting Power Reform to Boost Emerging Countries' Say
Central Asian Trade Ministers Look to Boost Ties with U.S.
APEC Business Advisory Council Supports a Conclusion of the Doha Round But Warns of Risks to WTO's Relevance
Central Asia United on Economic Crisis Response
Central Asian Nations Gather in Ulaanbaatar for 8th CAREC Ministerial Meeting
Asia-Pacific Leaders to Discuss Regional Community Concepts
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ˇˇ HK to Speed Up Subsidized Nursing Home Provision for Elderly
China Addresses Life of Disabled Ex-servicemen
China Works to Better Handle Complaints for Social Harmony
Official Urges Further Improvement of Public Services
China's Anti-graft Chief Hails Online Efforts in Rectifying Misconduct
New Urban Employment Hits 8.51m
JAPAN: Comprehensive Pension Reform
Govt to Change Power Purchase System
Government to Move Up Job Creation Spending
Japan PM Says Not Running Away from Funding Scandal
Japan Inaugurates New Tax Reform Panel
Head of Japan Post Set to Resign Over Reform of Privatization Policy
Maehara Eyeing Steep Rise in Gift Tax Exemption for Home Buyers
SOUTH KOREA: President Lee Nominates New Prime Minister
Lee Calls for Election Reforms
National Assembly Audits Begin
Gov't to Build System to Protect Against Cyber Attacks
Presidential Council on Social Issues to Launch in Nov.
Gov't to Publish Data on Public Officials' Integrity
Parties Launch By-election Campaigns
South Korea Announces Multi-Billion Dollar CCS Test Programme
New Integrated Logo to Be Introduced for Gov't Offices
Gov't Forms Committee to Resolve Sejong City Dispute
MONGOLIA: Corruption Case Reported
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ˇˇ INDONESIA: Anti Corruption Activists Report Govt to Constitutional Court Chief
MALAYSIA: 20 Appointed to National Youth Consultative Council
Close Ties Between Administration and Civil Service Crucial - Najib
More Public Disciplinary Cases Last Year Than in 2007
PHILIPPINES: PGMA Orders Cabinet Members, Gov't Agencies to Speed-Up Relief and Rehabilitation of Typhoon Victims
PGMA to Launch Nationwide Program to Benefit Poor in Nueva Ecija
PGMA Creates Reconstruction Commission
PGMA Announces Creation of Special National Public-Private Reconstruction Commission
SINGAPORE: Ministers Support Enhanced Role of Police in Peacekeeping
THAILAND: Health Ministry Sends Medical Supplies to Flood-Hit Provinces
VIETNAM: Ageing Population Pressures Health Care
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: Forge National Unity to Eradicate Poverty, Corruption: PM
INDIA: Pitroda Appointed as PM's Advisor on Innovation
MTS India Declares Appointments in Its Senior Management Team
Centre Plans to Establish 10,000 ITIs
NEPAL: President Stands Up Against Poverty
PAKISTAN: Women Empowerment Govt's Top Priority: PM
Notice Taken on Corruption in Rental Power Projects: Faisal
Riaz Insists on Similar LB System for Provinces
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ˇˇ AFGHANISTAN: Women Strive to Make Voices Heard in Strategic Debate
IRAQ: Parliament Debates Open-List Electoral System
Premier Warns of Dangers of Political Corruption
IRAN: Proposal for National Election Committee Not Feasible: GC Spokesperson
KYRGYZSTAN: Cabinet Steps Down Following Reform Decree
KAZAKHSTAN: OSCE Astana Preparatory Conference to Discuss Land Transport, Good Governance at Border Crossings
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: Financial Services Sector Reports
AUSTRALIA: New Age Care Facility for NT
Increased Centrelink Support for Homeless
New Health Services for Tasmania
Australia's First Preventive Health Agency
NEW ZEALAND: Environmental Protection Authority Launched
Govt Accounts Reflect Extra Spending, Recession
Work and Income and Recruitment Agencies Join Forces for Jobseekers
Rates Challenges for Local Government
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ˇˇ Asia-Pacific Broadcasters Vow to Step
OECD World Forum in Busan to Explore New Ways to Measure and Foster Progress
ASEAN plus Three Strive to Prepare Regional Reserve Pool for Kick-Off
APEC Forum to Address Enhancing Capabilities of Smes at Year-End Summit
Central Asia United on Economic Crisis Response
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ˇˇ CHINA: State Councilor Urges University Faculty, Students to Embrace Innovation
VP Urges Smooth Progress of Pilot Rural Pension Program
Senior CPC Leader Urges Independent Innovation of Companies
Hu Stresses Development of Renewable Energy
JAPAN: New System to Speed Pension Cross-Checks
SOUTH KOREA: 174 SMEs Selected for Restructuring
Gov't, Civic Groups Coordinate on Green Initiatives
Mass Production of Electric Cars to Start in 2011
Gov`t to Set Up 4,000km of Coastal Bike Paths
Gov`t Campaign to Encourage Childbirth via 6 Slogans
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ˇˇ MALAYSIA: Teachers to Receive Incentives for Schools' Excellence
PHILIPPINES: PGMA Leads Strengthening of Disaster Management and Preparedness
UNDP Cites RP's Need for a "Disaster Czar"
SINGAPORE: Analysts Expect S'pore to Phase Out Special Risk-Sharing Initiative
S'pore Has Passed the Worst of the Storm, with Economy Rebounding
Employers Urged to Adopt Fair Wage System for Older Workers
VIETNAM: HCM City's New Clean-Up Plan
Judicial Reform Group Looks at Setting Up Regional Courts
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ˇˇ INDIA: UID Project to Track Identity Via Cellphone
India Way Behind in Constant Innovation: Murthy
New Initiative in India to Train People on AIDS
Management Guru Calls for Radical Innovation
PAKISTAN: Govt Working on Madrassa Reform Package: Zardari
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ˇˇ AFGHANISTAN: New Afghan Vote Rules May Ensure Karzai Victory
IRAQ: Parliament Again Fails to Vote on Key Election Law
IRAN: Former MPs Association Devises Plan to Resolve Problems
MPs to Start Deliberations on Economic Reform Plan Today
Kyrgyzstan: Bakiyev's Reform Push Strives to Contain Corruption in Bishkek
TURKMENISTAN: Investment Conference Highlights Slow Pace of Reform
OSCE Holds Online Workshop for Central Asia Police
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ˇˇ Youth Development and Support Program
AUSTRALIA: Report on Water Reform Welcomed
NEW ZEALAND: Major Push to Lift Public Health Performance
ˇˇ World Will Need 70 Percent More Food in 2050: FAO
IMF Raises 2010 Global Growth Forecast as Asia Leads Recovery
APAC Leads World in Wimax Adoption: Frost & Sullivan
Tsunami Alerts Show How Vulnerable Hundreds of Millions in Asia-Pacific Are to Range of Natural Disasters
UN Meeting Recommends Help in Accessing ICT for 400 Million Persons with Disabilities in Asia-Pacific Region
Mixed Messages in Hunger Report
UN: Record 1 Billion Go Hungry
Global Mobile-Phone Growth Remains Strong Despite Crisis
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ˇˇ CHINA: Henan Launches Platform to Fight Spam Messages
Children and Network Research Lab Established in Shanghai
Internet Surfing Becomes Major Leisure Activity for Chinese Adolescents: Survey
China Vows Crackdown on Industry Overcapacity
MIIT: Measures Will Be Taken to Support Chinese Tech SMEs
Internet Encourages a New Era of Individual Voices
Cell Phone Use Surges to High
China Closes 20 Illegal Literary Websites
Hong Kong Proposes E-Learning Pilot Scheme
JAPAN: IMF Warns Japan to Remain Trapped in Deflation Until 2012
Govt to Maintain Job-Assistance Program
SOUTH KOREA: Mobile Technology '1 Year Behind U.S.'
Surge in Single Women Driving Down Nat`l Birth Rate
Korea Gears Up to Lead Global Green IT Trends
Korea's Export Growth Rate for ICT Products Ranked Third in the World
MONGOLIA: 115th among 182 Nations in Human Development Index Report
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ˇˇ INDONESIA: Structural Imbalances `Homework' for Next Govt
Govt Upbeat About ICT Security Laboratory
SINGAPORE: Firms Urged to Tap into Opportunities Offered by ICT Contracts
THAILAND: Floods Affecting Thailand Nationwide
VIETNAM: All-Digital Broadcasts 'Unlikely' by 2020
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ˇˇ President for Collective Efforts to Protect Environment from Pollutions
INDIA: IT Sector to Create 5.8 Million Jobs in 4 Years
Himachal Pradesh Launches Mobile Governance Project
IT Sector on Recovery Path
Indian IT Sector Spendings to Touch $37.6 Billion by 2013
India Is World's Fastest Growing Telecom Market
Indian Govt. Seeks Power to Issue IP Address Locally
India to Receive Biggest Salary Hike in 2010
NEPAL: Online System to Crosscheck Driving Licence in Nepal
PAKISTAN: Nawaz Wants Action Plan for Economic Self-Reliance
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ˇˇ AZERBAIJAN: Over 14,000 People Provided with Jobs via Employment Fairs
IRAN: Iran Committed to OPEC Quotas: Khatibi
KYRGYZSTAN: Bishkek and Tashkent Weigh Gas and Water Concerns
KAZAKHSTAN: Distribution of Information Harming Children's Health and Growth to Be Forbidden
TAJIKISTAN: Solar Power Mitigates Energy, Environmental Woes for Its Nomads
TURKMENISTAN: Ashgabat Energy-Reserve Controversy Continues to Flare
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: IT Connection for Low Income Households
The Right Advice for Digital TV
Digital Age Challenges for Young People
NEW ZEALAND: Facilitating the Deployment of Broadband Infrastructure
Organised Crime Threatens NZ Way of Life
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ˇˇ ADB President Urges Asia to Support Efforts to Reform Global Financial System
U.N. Urges Asia to Spend More on Disaster Preparedness
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ˇˇ CHINA: Revenues of Listed Firms Make Up 37.67% of 2008 National GDP
China's New Loans to Hit 1.8 Trln Yuan
ADB Supports PRC's Push to Reform Rural Finance, Cut Income Gap with Cities
China Raises Foreign Fund Limits to One Bln Dlrs
China to Allow Firms in Partnerships to Invest in Local Stocks
VC Companies Gain More Freedom
China to Allow ICBC, CCB to Invest in Taiwan Banks
Big 5 Banks Face Stricter Rules
China's Banking Regulator Urges Reasonable Pace of Lending
China to Scrutinize State-owned Firms' Hedging Deals
China Launches Nasdaq-style Market to Spur Small Businesses
JAPAN: Analysis / Axing Projects Will Hurt Economy / Cutting 3 Trillion Yen in 'Wasteful' Spending Could Trigger New Recession
Japan's Foreign Reserves Rise to Record in September
Gov't Budget Requests for Fiscal 2010 to Hit Record
Bank of Japan Positive on Economy But Cautious on Domestic Market
Japan Govt Freezes Spending of 33 Bln Dollars
Japan May Hit Record for Bond Issues: Report
Gov't to Compile Multi-Year Budgets from FY 2011
NORTH KOREA: Received Us$2.3 Billion Through Past Nuke Agreements - Lawmaker
SOUTH KOREA: Budget for Space Technology R&D to Increase
Stronger Won to Hurt Korean Companies Next Year
New Loans to Help Market Stallholders
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ˇˇ INDONESIA: Govt Steps In to Settle Bad Debts of SOEs
Local Govts Allowed to Tax Fuels by 2011 Under New Law
PHILIPPINES: Treasury Gets P43-Million ADB Relief Fund
PGMA Supports Government's Microfinance and Livelihood Programs
RP Stronger Because of Fiscal Reforms, Prudent Banking Practices
House Adjourns Sessions; Approves on 2nd Reading Proposed P1.541-T National Budget for 2010
VIETNAM: NA Resumes Talks on Taxation Changes
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: Govt Eyes Banks as Key Source to Mobilise $10b Fund
Govt to Review 'Undeserving' Tax Rebates
INDIA: Govt. Unveils Interest Subsidy for Low-Cost Homes
SBI Increases Interest Rates on Corporate Loans
PAKISTAN: Govt Approves 6% Hike in Power Tariff
Cabinet Approves 100% Increase in Domestic Postage Rates
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ˇˇ IRAQ: 2010 Budget, Plans Bond Issues Approved
Iraqi Deputies Chided for Not Making Financial Declarations
IRAN: MPs Give Initial OK to Redirect Subsidies
Iran to Drop Dollar from Forex Reserves
Majlis Approves Food Subsidy Cuts
Plans of EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund to Be Presented
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ˇˇ $3.8M Grants Help Industry with Climate Change
New Tax Information Exchange Agreement
Australia Rises as a Financial Services Hub
$2.8M for Cycling Infrastructure in WA
Tax Bonus Aids Tax Return Lodgements
NEW ZEALAND: Govt Announces $25m of Subsidies to Small Communities
PM Launches $1 Million Prizes for Science
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ˇˇ CHINA: Non-public Sector Creates 60% of GDP
HK to Push Ahead with Private Hospital Development
JAPAN: Hatoyama Shifts from Koizumi's Postal Privatization Scheme
Back To the Drawing Board for Postal Reform
Gov't to Waive Tuition Fees for Private School Students on Low Income
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ˇˇ PHILIPPINES: Government & Private Organizations Supporting the Relief Caravan - DSWD
SINGAPORE: Survey Shows Govt, Fis Need to Boost Efforts to Help SMEs
VIETNAM: Approval for Private Cargo Airline
More People Opt for Private Hospitals
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: PDB for Pvt Sector Power Generation Policy Reform
INDIA: Job Market in Indian Financial Sector on a Rise
PAKISTAN: Government Sitting on Funds for Water Projects
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ˇˇ AZERBAIJAN: Regulations of National Fund for Entrepreneurial Support Approved
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: Power Workers to Continue Privatisation Fight
WA Govt Considers Privatising Goldfields Jail
NEW ZEALAND: NZ Supporting Private Sector Development in Tonga

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Business Leaders Push for Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific

Key business leaders of the Asia Pacific region have agreed that it is now time for APEC to take more decisive actions towards establishing a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) in view of the financial crisis and the stalled Doha Round negotiations. The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) met in Da Nang to finalize their recommendations to APEC Leaders prior to their dialogue in the November APEC Economic Leaders Meeting. ABAC members expressed caution about signs of the economic recovery and urged Leaders to take steps to ensure that this is sustained. They believe that this can be done if economies resist protectionism, promote global demand rather than just domestic and that they take the opportunity to undertake economic reforms. And that setting a firm timeframe for bringing a FTAAP into reality would send a very strong signal about APEC's commitment to accelerating the integration of their economies.

"We believe that APEC is in a position to be the champion of free and open trade. Our vision of a FTAAP would not just cover trade but encompass services, investments and behind-the-border issues of concern to business. We see it as an instrument for bringing about inclusive growth where no one is left behind." said Mr. Teng Theng Dar, the ABAC Chair of 2009. ABAC also sees the successful conclusion of the Doha Round no later than 2010 as not only providing a major stimulus to global trade and investments but also to deal effectively with persisting protectionism. Recognizing the upcoming negotiations in Copenhagen in December for an agreement on climate change, ABAC called on the Leaders to empower their negotiators to conclude a meeting with an agreement that provides business with a predictable and stable environment in which they operate. The business leaders are also developing their recommendations on key issues of critical interest to Leaders including climate change, energy, food security and the impact of demographic trends on the availability of labor. In a separate communications to APEC Finance Ministers, ABAC urged more dialogue on regulatory changes regarding capital requirements and financial reforms.

From http://www.apec.org/ 08/27/2009

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Time for Asian Policymakers to Address Gender Inequalities, Spur Full Economic Recovery

HANOI, VIETNAM - Women in Asia have been at the forefront of the region's export-fuelled boom over the past decade, but they were also among the first casualties of the global economic crisis. As economies in Asia begin to rebound, the time is ripe for policymakers to tackle gender inequalities that continue to leave women excluded, a high-level conference heard today. The three-day regional conference on the impact of the global economic slowdown on poverty and sustainable development is being hosted by the governments of Viet Nam and the People's Republic of China, the ASEAN Secretariat, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). It is co-sponsored by ten other development partners. About 350 delegates from 28 countries, 25 development agencies and embassies, and 13 non-governmental organizations and labor unions are participating.

At a session on gender issues, H.E. Ing Kantha Phavi, Cambodia's Minister of Women's Affairs, noted that while women have played a key role in the region's labor-intensive export industries, they were also the first to bear the brunt of the slump in demand for Asian goods when the crisis hit. "In my country, thousands of women have lost their jobs in the garment sector leaving them struggling to make ends meet, and it is now critical for governments to address the specific needs of women in these tough times to avoid major setbacks in gender equality gains and intergenerational poverty," Ms. Phavi said. Rising calls to boost domestic consumption and intra-regional trade, and to improve social protection systems in the wake of the crisis, provides a rare opportunity for the region's policymakers to address gender gap issues, speakers said.

"The Asia Pacific region should no longer rely on women being the buffer to economic shocks," said Shireeen Lateef, Director, Social Sectors Division of ADB's Southeast Asia Department. The informal sector, which provided a financial cushion for women during the 1997-1998 Asian Financial Crisis, is no longer able to do so, participants said. Gender issues in a broad range of export sectors were discussed including leather and shoe making in Viet Nam, textiles in Cambodia, automobile accessories in Malaysia and Thailand, electronics and call centers in the Philippines, furniture making in Indonesia, and electronics and other sectors in southern China. Speakers noted that women workers pushed out of export-related jobs have limited opportunities to earn alternative incomes and are facing higher unpaid workloads, relying increasingly on family and friends for support in the absence of social protection. Young migrant female workers are especially vulnerable. Speakers also cited studies dispelling claims that women workers who lose their jobs in the formal sector are able to cushion the blow with informal jobs such as "waste picking." The studies show that increasing numbers of men and women in the informal sector are competing over smaller slices of a shrinking pie, with women often missing out.

"This recession means less waste from the urban middle class and reduces the income of the poor in the informal sector by 20-35%," said Zoe Horn from Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing, a global research-policy network that seeks to improve the status of the working poor, especially women, in the informal economy. Speakers noted that the 1997-1998 Asian Financial Crisis provided many lessons for policymakers to advance gender equality, yet recent government rescue packages to tackle the current crisis have largely failed to consciously incorporate them. Now, as the region looks to rebalance its growth drivers in the wake of the crisis, policymakers have the chance to take concrete actions to address gender issues. Speakers observed that greater support for gender equality is one of the most effective ways of promoting economic recovery and inclusive growth, and mitigating negative social impacts.

From http://www.adb.org/ 09/29/2009

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Nations Urge Early N Korea Talks

Leaders of China, South Korea and Japan have urged an early resumption of talks on North Korea's nuclear programme. During talks in Beijing, the three leaders said they were committed to a denuclearised Korean peninsula. Tokyo and Seoul have been pushing a policy of withholding aid packages until after the North has dismantled its nuclear weapons programme. But correspondents say that winning the support of China - a key ally of Pyongyang - may not be easy. North Korea has already indicated that it may return to multi-party talks on the nuclear issue but has also said it wants direct negotiations with the US first. In a joint statement issued after their morning summit in Beijing, the leaders said: "We will remain committed to dialogue and consultation and continue to work through peaceful means to pursue the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. "We will make joint efforts with other parties for an early resumption of the six-party talks, so as to safeguard peace and stability in north-east Asia."

The six-party talks involve the two Koreas, China, the US, Russia and Japan. The leaders in Beijing also said that they would work closely together to make the upcoming global climate change talks in Denmark a success. Improved ties - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who recently visited North Korea, said the country appeared to be open to discussions and it was time to "seize the opportunity" to make progress. "North Korea does not only hope to improve relations with the United States, it also hopes to do so with South Korea and Japan," he said. "This is the deepest impression I got from my visit," he said. On Monday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was reported to have told Mr Wen he was "willing to attend multilateral talks, including the six-party talks". But Mr Kim said doing so was dependent on North Korea first holding bilateral talks with the US, a request Washington has not confirmed it will grant.

The US has said it is willing to engage directly with North Korea, but only as part of a return to the six-party forum. Washington wants the North's complete denuclearisation. Mr Wen said he supported the idea of direct US-North Korea talks. But South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak said that while he also welcomed the idea, the "final purpose of any talks between South and North Korea should be denuclearisation of North Korea". Conditions - On Friday, Mr Lee and Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said sanctions against North Korea should remain in place until it began dismantling its nuclear programme. But Mr Lee told reporters the countries had agreed on the "need for a fundamental and comprehensive solution" to the nuclear issue.

The two leaders agreed to offer North Korea a one-off package of aid in exchange for denuclearisation, instead of the step-by-step measures that have been followed since the talks began in 2003. As North Korea's biggest trading partner, China holds the greatest sway over the secretive Pyongyang regime. The BBC's Michael Bristow in Beijing says South Korea and Japan might find it tough to win China's public support for their latest proposals as Beijing sees North Korea as a close ally. But there was a sense of optimism following Saturday's meeting, which was a rare chance for the three regional powers to show unity, our correspondent says. Pyongyang pulled out of the six party talks in April this year and tensions in the region rose after it launched a series of missiles and conducted an underground nuclear test - drawing UN sanctions in response. The country had previously said it would never re-engage with the multilateral talks.

From http://news.bbc.co.uk/ 10/10/2009

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SCO Ministers Discuss Economic, Energy Cooperation in Beijing

RFE/RL - At a meeting of prime ministers representing the six Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) states in Beijing, calls were made for more energy and economic cooperation. But the Russian- and Chinese-dominated group, intended to serve as a mutual-security organization, did not publicly address growing security concerns in the region, the war in Afghanistan, or the international community's apprehension over Iran's disputed nuclear program. The session assembling the prime ministers of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan resulted in calls for a coordinated response to the ongoing global economic crisis. The representatives of the four countries with SCO observer status - India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan - also attended the meeting. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said the Beijing meeting offered a "unique opportunity" for participants to exchange opinions and work out a specific plan.

"I believe that if all member states work hand in hand and deepen cooperation, we will certainly be able to create a glorious future of peace and prosperity for the region," Wen said. There was no public mention of China's offer at the SCO's heads-of-state summit in Russia in June to provide $10 billion in credits to help Central Asian countries deal with the financial crisis. The prime ministers signed a number of agreements on regional cooperation, including in the areas of trade, energy resources, agriculture, transport, culture, health care, and the environment. They also agreed to create a fund to further develop transportation and telecommunication links. Meeting Sidelines: The sidelines of the gathering were expected to be teeming with activity. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was expected to meet one-on-one with the Iranian and Afghan vice presidents, and with the Kazakh prime minister. Putin's planned meeting with Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi was to come as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrapped up her diplomatic visit to Russia.

During a speech to students of Moscow State University on October 14, Clinton discussed the Obama administration's assessment of the nuclear threat posed by Iran, and the administration's changes to the Bush-era missile-shield proposal. Yury Ushakov, deputy chief of staff of the Russian government, told journalists that Putin and Rahimi would discuss the Iranian nuclear program. However, Ushakov added that "nothing new will be said" during the meeting. "Russia's position on the Iranian nuclear dossier is well-known in the world and it does not change," Ushakov said. Russia and China, two permanent members of the UN Security Council, have resisted Western pressure to impose tougher sanctions on Tehran. As for Putin's meeting with Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov, Ushakov said the two sides are expected to discuss bilateral cooperation and a number of other issues, including avenues toward joining the World Trade Organization. The SCO was initially founded as the Shanghai Five in 1996. It changed its name in 2001 after Uzbekistan joined the regional security group.

From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/14/2009

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Industry Urged to Embrace Action on Climate

Industry should embrace stronger environmental controls, a leading chemicals manufacturer has urged, as ministers from the world's biggest polluting countries meet in London for the final stages of climate change talks that will culminate in Copenhagen in December. Peter Huntsman, chief executive of Huntsman, told the Financial Times that the US and European Union should act together to raise environmental standards for manufacturing and force global competitors to comply as a condition of access to their markets.

EDITOR'S CHOICE - In depth: Copenhagen summit - Feb-16Public backing for deep China emission cuts - Oct-18"Our industry ought to be out fighting for environmental controls, we ought to be fighting for a higher standard instead of falling to the lowest common denominator," Mr Huntsman said. However, his remarks may be seen as protectionist, since any attempt by the US and EU to link environmental controls directly to trade could be seen as a way of excluding competitors in the developing world from the largest western markets. In London Todd Stern, President Barack Obama's special envoy for climate change, said developing countries must do more than they have agreed so far to curb emissions growth. "Where they are right now is almost certainly not enough, if you're talking about getting toward a place that's in the vicinity of holding the temperature increase to 2 degrees [a level which scientists say is the limit of safety]," he said. "It's very important for China to do what they are doing and more than that."

Public opinion on both sides of the Atlantic is firmly in favour of China taking on the lion's share of cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a Harris poll taken for the Financial Times. At the same time people are lukewarm about providing funds to the developing world to adapt to climate change. But Mr Stern said a deal was still possible in December at the climate change summit in Copenhagen, where countries will try to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto protocol. "There's a deal to be had," he said. "There are difficulties but not that many elements [needed] to put together a basic deal," he said. The US has yet to put forward a target for cutting emissions but Mr Stern said it was clear in what range such a target would fall, as the bill on cap-and-trade requires cuts of 17 per cent by 2020 and the current Senate bill cuts of 20 per cent. Speaking in Singapore, Mr Huntsman accused his own industry in the US and Europe of continuing "to fight against environmental legislation that by and large the general public want ... We seem to be continually coming down on the wrong side of history."

Mr Huntsman said he was "not a protectionist", pointing out that 40 per cent of his company's manufacturing operations were outside the US and Europe. "If the US and Europe would act in unison around environmental standards, I think you would be both protecting local industries and promoting environmental sustainability," he said. "If the US and Europe would act in unison around environmental standards I think you would be both protecting local industries and promoting environmental sustainability," he said. "The US ought to be taking the lead in these things. Instead of waiting for India to take the lead, Africa, Pakistan - come on, these countries will follow our lead once we have made some bold moves and we can make those bold moves without hurting American industry." Mr Huntsman, who in August said he thought a W-shaped recovery from recession was likely - implying a second downturn before a full recovery - said he now thought the recovery would be "more of a U," although there would be no significant economic growth in the US until the latter end of next year. He said the group would continue to expand in Asia, where revenues have grown to nearly $4bn a year from less than $100m a decade ago. He said the group was open to acquisitions but more likely to build its own plants.

From http://www.ft.com/ 10/18/2009

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Asia Looks to 'Lead World' with EU-Style Bloc

THAILAND: Asian leaders discussed plans at a summit on Saturday to "lead the world" by forming an EU-style community, as regional giants China and India tried to cool a simmering border spat. Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama pressed his regional counterparts to move towards the creation of an East Asian bloc and to take advantage of the region's more rapid recovery from the global recession compared to the West. "It would be meaningful for us to have the aspiration that East Asia is going to lead the world," Hatoyama, who outlined proposals for the bloc after taking office last month, told a newspaper. The community would involve the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with regional partners China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand, Japanese officials have said. But as the Japanese premier outlined his proposals, there was debate at the summit in the Thai beach resort of Hua Hin over whether the grouping would also include the United States.

Hatoyama said Tokyo's alliance with Washington was the "cornerstone" of Japanese policy but urged the region to "try to reduce as much as possible the gaps, the disparities that exist amongst the Asian countries". East Asian nations would carry out a feasibility study for a huge free trade zone covering ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea and also for a larger, looser grouping also involving India, Australia and New Zealand, officials said. ASEAN leaders have been discussing plans to create their own political and economic community for Southeast Asia by 2015. They also launched the region's first ever human rights watchdog on Friday. Increased integration has been a recurring theme of the meetings in Thailand, but rancorous rows over borders and human rights have dogged the summit. Chinese premier Wen Jiabao agreed with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh during talks on the sidelines of the summit on Saturday to work towards narrowing differences on a long-simmering border dispute, Chinese state media reported.

Beijing has voiced its opposition to a recent visit by Singh to Arunachal Pradesh, an Indian border state at the core of the dispute, and to a planned visit there next month by the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. India and China clashed in 1962 in the area. "The two sides agreed to continue talks, with the aim of incrementally removing the barriers to a solution that was fair and acceptable to both sides," the official Xinhua news agency said. Indian officials would not confirm an agreement, but the country's external affairs ministry website said Singh "stressed that neither side should let our differences act as impediment to the growth of functional cooperation". Host nation Thailand and neighbouring Cambodia however remained at loggerheads over the fate of fugitive former Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra, after Cambodian premier Hun Sen offered him a job as his economic adviser.

Meanwhile, ASEAN leaders in a statement on Saturday urged military-ruled member state Myanmar to hold free and fair elections in 2010 but made no mention of detained pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi. The group has faced international criticism in the past for failing to press Myanmar's junta to free Suu Kyi. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was sentenced to a further 18 months under house arrest in August. The statement also said that communist North Korea should "comply fully with its obligations" under UN Security Council resolutions on its nuclear programme and urged it to return to multi-nation disarmament talks. Around 18,000 troops and dozens of armoured vehicles have been deployed in Hua Hin after the Asian summit was twice postponed by anti-government protests, with another 18,000 on standby or on duty in Bangkok.

From http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/ 10/25/2009

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Central Asian Trade Ministers Look to Boost Ties with U.S.

RFE/RL - Trade ministers from five Central Asia countries and Afghanistan are in Washington this week for talks on expanding trade and investment. Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis said the United States is drafting a plan for Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to supply more goods and services to operations in Afghanistan as a way of boosting their economies. In a speech at a conference on October 7 in Washington on U.S. trade with Central Asia, Marantis said the region's logistical support for U.S. and NATO forces is helping to build a stable Afghanistan. But he said more can be done. Marantis said his office is working with the Department of Defense and other U.S. agencies on a new initiative "aimed at increasing opportunities for the [Central Asian countries] to supply goods and services to U.S. operations." He said the effort could create new opportunities for investment and job creation in the region, as well as help the United States and its NATO allies attain their security objectives.

The United States signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with all five Central Asian republics in 2004. The partners meet at annual meetings to find ways of promoting trade and investment between the United States and Central Asia. Marantis said the Obama administration is strengthening that agreement in two new ways. First, by adding a mid-year working-group meeting that will follow up on the issues and initiatives raised during the annual meeting. And second, by establishing bilateral channels for dialogue to complement the regional approach. Senior U.S. Defense Department officials briefed the Central Asian ministers at a TIFA meeting on October 8. Earlier this week, Kazakhstan's deputy minister for industry and trade, Zhanar Aitzhanova, said her country is committed to joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) as part of a free-trade zone with Russia and Belarus. Speaking to Reuters, Aitzhanova acknowledged that the decision rests with other members of the WTO, especially the European Union and United States. All three former Soviet republics have been negotiating to join the WTO since the 1990s without success.

From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/09/2009

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CHINA: White Paper on Ethnic Policy Issued

The Chinese government Sunday published a white paper on its ethnic policy, stressing harmony and equality among all ethnic groups. The paper, released by the State Council Information Office, reviewed the country's basic situation of ethnic issues, the government policies over the past six decades and the economic, social and cultural progress in ethnic minority regions. It was the third white paper on China's ethnic policy after two reports were issued respectively in 1999 and 2005, said an official with the State Ethnic Affairs Commission. "Through this white paper that summed up our ethnic policy and practice, we hope the international society could have a better understanding about the reality our policy is based, about what the policy is, and the impact it has on solving ethnic issues and promoting the development of ethnic minorities in China," the official said. In China, home to 56 ethnic groups, the Han ethnic group has the largest population while the other 55 ethnic groups are relatively small and called ethnic minorities. In the past 60 years, the population of ethnic minorities reported continuous increase, from 6.06 percent of the total population in 1953 to 8.41 percent in 2000, the paper said. The latest national census was conducted in 2000. Facts proved the country's ethnic policy was effective, the official said. "The Chinese government will stick to it and improve it according to the changing reality." The country's ethnic policy ensures the equality among all ethnic groups, the paper said.

They enjoy equality in personal freedom, legal rights, participation in state affairs, religious belief, use of their own languages and maintaining their own customs. In the past six decades, China has basically established a legal system with its own characteristics to guarantee the equality of all its ethnic groups, it said. Ethnic minorities took part in state affairs at the equal footing with Han people. Of the 161 members of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, the country's top legislature, 25 were from ethnic minorities, accounting for 15.53 percent of the total. Their religious belief was widely respected and protected by law. In Xinjiang, there are over 24,300 mosques and 28,000 Moslem clergymen. In Tibet, there are over 1,700 venues for Tibetan-Buddhist activities, with 46,000 monks and nuns living in temples, according to the paper. The 58-page document is divided into seven sections: A Unified Multi-Ethnic Country and a Nation with Diverse Cultures; Full Equality among Ethnic Groups; Consolidating and Developing the Great Unity of All Ethnic Groups; Upholding and Improving Regional Ethnic Autonomy; Accelerating the Economic and Social Development of the Ethnic Minorities and Minority Areas; Protection and Development of Cultures of the Ethnic Minorities; Striving to Foster Cadres and Talented People of the Ethnic Minorities.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 09/29/2009

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CPC Publishes Plans for Intra-Party Democracy

The Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee has promised to guarantee the "democratic rights of Party members" in order to improve Party building. The pledge was published on Sunday in a document detailing plans to fight corruption and improve democracy within the Party. The document contained a guarantee that Party members have the right to supervise and obtain information about Party affairs and participate in Party elections. It included a promise to allow both Party members and members of the public to nominate candidates in grassroots-level Party elections. It also decided to promote outstanding talents and develop a team of younger and more professional leaders. The CPC would further educate Party members against corruption and step up investigations and punishments on cases of discipline and law violations, according to the document. It promised to improve the transparency of power execution by making public major decisions concerning the immediate interests of the people and receiving supervision from the public. Auditing on the economic responsibilities of major leaders of the Party, the government and state-owned enterprises would be perfected, according to the document. It also pledged to speed up the separation of the government function from enterprises and intermediate organizations in the market. Administrative approvals would further reduced and regulated. The document was approved on Sept. 18 at the Fourth Plenary Session of the 17th CPC Central Committee. It said the CPC must further enhance and improve Party building in order to adjust to new trends, such as deepening globalization and multi-polarization, the global financial crisis, and scientific and technological advances.

From Xinhua News Agency 09/26/2009

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China Celebrates 60 Years of PRC's Founding

President Hu Jintao inspected China's defense forces in Beijing on Thursday, as the country held celebrations to mark the 60th founding anniversary of the People's Republic of China. Hu, wearing a high-collared dark Mao suit and riding in a black open-roof Red Flag limousine, passed by tens of thousands of soldiers and militia and ranks of camouflaged tanks and missiles. "Greetings, comrades," Hu said as he saluted the troops, according to state-run Xinhua news agency. "Greetings, leader," the soldiers responded. Hu's inspection of the troops was the first in a decade, according to Xinhua. At a rally in Tiananmen Square, Hu urged the Chinese people to unite to build a "rich, strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious and modernized socialist country," Xinhua reported. About 200,000 soldiers and civilians - from veterans and athletes to space heroes and young people - gathered in Tiananmen Square for the National Day military and mass parade showcasing achievements of the last 60 years, Xinhua reported. The packed square resembled a carnival as colorful crowds marched, cheered and waved. A 60-cannon salute rang out as the nation's flag swept over the square. The army showed off its latest weapons, which officials touted as made in China. Weapons on display included China's new generation of tanks, unmanned aerial vehicles and satellite communication devices, Xinhua said. More than 150 fighter jets, bombers, helicopters and other aircraft were to fly over the square, including a fly-past by China's first batch of female fighter pilots, state-run media said. A 1,300-member military band were also to make an appearance, according to Xinhua. Rain-dispersal rockets fired into the area in surrounding provinces and regions to induce rain before it reaches the capital in the largest weather-intervention effort since the opening ceremony of the Olympics last year, Xinhua reported.

From CNN 10/01/2009

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Chinese President Calls for Unity for Nation's Development

Chinese President Hu Jintao on Thursday called on the Chinese people to unite more closely to build a "rich, strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious and modernized socialist country." History reveals that China's development has never been a plain sailing, Hu said, adding, "But the people who have their destiny in their own hands and are united will overcome all difficulties and obstacles and continuously make great historic achievements." Looking into the future, China has "infinitely bright prospects," he told a rally celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. He called on the whole Party, the armed forces and people of all ethnic groups to unite more closely and make unremitting efforts for the grandiose goal of building a rich, strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious and modernized socialist country, realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and making new contributions to mankind.

From Xinhua News Agency 10/02/2009

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Wen: China to Continue to Develop Western Region

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Friday that China had made great achievements in developing its western region in the last 10 years and it would unswervingly stick to the West Development Strategy adopted in 2000. Wen also said the government was willing to continue cooperating with other economies in promoting the development. Wen made the remarks in a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the 10th Western China International Economy and Trade Fair and the Second West China International Cooperation Forum in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province. "Since last year, China's western regions have suffered the double blow of a big natural disaster and the global economic crisis. In a basket of measures to cope with the economic crisis, China continues unswervingly to push forward with the West Development Strategy," he said. More than 43 percent of investment allocated by the central government to expand domestic demand and fight the financial crisis had been used for projects to improve living standards, infrastructure projects, post-disaster reconstruction and technological innovation in western regions, he said. In the wake of the financial crisis, China rolled out an economic stimulus package with a 4 trillion yuan investment plan in 2009 and 2010 to finance massive projects nationwide. In the first half, total gross domestic product in the western region achieved an annualized growth rate of 11.8 percent, he added. Nationally, the economy expanded 7.1 percent over the same period. The West Development Strategy is a policy adopted by the Chinese government in January 2000 to help underdeveloped western region catch up with the more prosperous eastern region. The 12 western provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities have a combined population of about 370 million.

They include Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces, which were badly hit by the 8.0-magnitude earthquake on May 12 last year. In the last 10 years, the central government had financed more than 3.5 trillion yuan (512.4 billion U.S. dollars) to support development of the western region, Wen said. This year alone, China planned to invest 468.9 billion yuan in projects to boost development of the western region, the National Development and Reform Commission said on Monday. During the nine years from 2000 to 2008, GDP of the western region jumped from 1.66 trillion yuan to 5.82 trillion yuan, at an annual average growth rate of 11.7 percent, said Wen. More than 9.54 million rural residents had been lifted from poverty in the western region since 1999, and the country would mark the 10th anniversary of the strategy next January, he said. The government was outlining new policies to support the West Development Strategy in the next 10 years. Wen presented a four-point proposal for more cooperation with 14 countries neighboring the western region in such sectors as energy and transportation, trade and investment as well as energy saving and environmental protection. The opening ceremony was also attended by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Cote d'Ivoire Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka, Timor-Leste Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. Following Wen, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen also spoke at the opening ceremony. The five-day fair, also known as West China Expo, is co-sponsored by departments of the central government and 12 western provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. Initiated in 2000, the annual State-level economic event has become a key platform for trade expansion, investment promotion, regional cooperation and diplomatic exchange. The 10th West China Expo boasts more than 10,000 exhibition booths. Up to 50,000 delegates from 55 countries and regions, 36 Chinese provinces and cities, as well as the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps will participate at the fair, according to the organizer.

From Xinhua News Agency 10/06/2009

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China Bans Foreign Investment in Online Games Industry

China has banned foreign investment into its lucrative online games industry in an effort to tighten control over its virtual worlds. China's video game industry regulator the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) and copyright watchdog issued a circular on Saturday prohibiting foreign investment in domestic online gaming operations through joint ventures, wholly owned enterprises and cooperatives. The new directive also disallows foreign firms from indirectly influencing Chinese gaming firms through agreements or technology support. China's online gaming market is one of the world's fastest growing, with sales expected to rise 30 to 50 percent this year to 24 billion yuan to 27 billion yuan ($3.5-4 billion) according to GAPP. Chinese game developer NetEase.com won earlier this year the license to operate within China Activision Blizzard's blockbuster game, World of Warcraft. Their tie-up ran into problems with regulators who were concerned about their joint venture for Blizzard to provide technical support to NetEase.

From http://tech.yahoo.com/ 10/12/2009

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China Cautious About Personal Information Collection

A draft regulation, issued to solicit public opinions on Monday, bans credit bureaus in China from collecting personal information such as appearance, genetic data, finger prints, blood type and disease history. The draft regulation on credit reference was revealed by the State Council Legislative Affairs Office at its official website here. Credit bureaus are also forbidden to collect information about a person's ethnic identity, family, religious belief and political affiliation, according to the draft. They can collect financial data such as a person's income, deposit, property and taxation only if the person approves it in a written document and is well informed about the possible effects, the draft rules said. They also need the person's approval to provide his or her information to their clients. Credit bureaus can collect financial data about corporations and organizations but need their approval to provide the data to their clients. However, the Credit Reference Center run by the People's Bank of China, the central bank, is exempt of the restrictions. The center, a non-profitable organization founded in 2003, is in charge of developing and operating a nationwide credit data base. Banks are required to report credit data of their clients to the center, according to the draft. The center can also collect information about individuals, corporations and organizations from companies and organizations. The government, law enforcement departments and other legal administrative organizations can use the credit data at the center in line with laws, according to the draft rules. Under the draft rules, a credit bureau can do three sorts of business in China, providing credit reports, credit scoring and credit rating. To set up a credit bureau, a minimum of 5 million yuan (733,000 US dollars) will be needed as the registered capital. But for a credit bureau that provides credit reports of individuals or companies, the amount will increase to 50 million yuan (7.33 million US dollars). Banks are banned from providing information for credit bureaus without a qualification granted by the credit reference regulator, the People's Bank of China. The rules aim to regulate the credit reference business in China, said a statement from the office. The public can log on to the website or write to the office to submit their opinions.

From Xinhua News Agency 10/13/2009

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HK to Enhance Financial Regulation to Protect Investors

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Chief Executive Donald Tsang said Wednesday that the HKSAR government will further enhance financial regulation to protect investor and financial security. "To better protect investors, we will canvass the views of the parties concerned on the regulatory regime and the entire sales process of investment products," said Tsang when delivering his annual policy address at the Legislative Council. He said that the Government aims to strengthen investor protection in every aspect, from investor education, authorization of investment products, disclosure requirements, sales practices, conduct of intermediaries to financial disputes resolution. "Some of these measures have been implemented while some are undergoing or will undergo public consultation," said Tsang. The local financial system had emerged from this global financial crisis without any systemic problems, thanks to Hong Kong's robust regulatory regime, he said. Tsang pointed to the fact that the G-20 and international regulatory bodies, having learnt lessons from the crisis, have proposed a series of measures to enhance the regulation of financial institutions and markets. "Together with the regulators, we shall continue to improve our regulatory regime, taking into account global financial developments and local market needs," he said.

From Xinhua News Agency 10/14/2009

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China Orders Jails to Intensify Security Measures After Prison-breaking

China's Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has ordered prisons nationwide to strengthen security and supervision measures after four criminals killed a jail guard and escaped last Saturday. All prisons should conduct a thorough overhaul of the security facilities and measures to comb out defects in equipment and procedures as soon as possible, the ministry said in a statement issued on Wednesday. The priorities should be focused on safety controls and emergency management and every staff member of the prisons, from wardens to guards, should shoulder their due responsibilities for the security, the statement said. The four prisoners killed a jail guard, using his card and finger prints to breach the No. 2 Prison in Hohhot, capital of north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. One was shot dead and the other three were captured alive in a county near Hohhot on Tuesday after nearly three days of manhunt by more than 10,000 policemen and armed policemen in the region.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 10/22/2009

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China Reschedules Three Gorges Reservoir Plan for Drought-hit Downstream

General Manager of China Three Gorges Corporation Li Yong'an said here Saturday the company has slowed down the pace to raise the water level in the gigantic reservoir to help relieve drought in the downstream areas. The Three Gorges reservoir's water level was expected to reach its peak at 175 meters for the first time in early November according to the current progress, Li said. The water level at the reservoir had been scheduled to peak at the end of October and the original plan was postponed due to the severe drought that struck the vast areas in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, China's longest waterway. The water level rose to 170.39 meters at 3 p.m. Saturday from the 145.87-meter mark when the operation began on Sept. 15, according to the control center of the China Three Gorges Corporation. "Every aspect (of the project) is normal since we began the water-raising plan," Li told an appraisal meeting on the artificial propagation of the Chinese sturgeon, a rare species living in the Yangtze River. To help relieve the thirst of the Yangtze's middle and lower reaches, Li said, the Three Gorges project has increased its discharge of water to about 8,000 meters per second despite the shrinking inflow from upstream. "Our progress of the water storage has been affected and the water level at the Three Gorges reservoir's is expected to peak at175 meters in early November," he said. "The Three Gorges project can reach its full capacity as originally designed if we succeed in raising the water level to 175 meters this year," he added. According to a joint statement by China's State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters and Yangtze River Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters in September, the State Council, or China's Cabinet, approved the corporation's plan to lift the Three Gorges reservoir's water level to 175 meters by the end of October at a maximum of three meters a day. But water level rose about 1 centimeter per hour on average after surpassing the 170 meter mark due to the increasing demand for water from thirsty downstream amid low inflow from the upper reaches. The State Council has demanded the Three Gorges project to conduct the water-raising process in a "safe, scientific, sound and gradual" manner and properly handle relations between anti-flood, power-generation, shipping and water supply.

The Three Gorges corporation had promised to carry forward the process in a controlled manner to prevent adverse results from sudden rises and falls in the water level, like protective embankment collapses and cave-ins. Initiated in 1993, the Three Gorges Project is a multi-functional water control system built on the upper and middle reaches of the Yangtze River. Its main components include a 2,309-meter long dam, a five-tier ship lock system, and 26 hydropower turbo-generators. Its key functions are flood control, power generation, shipping and water supplies. An extra 10 billion kilowatt hours of electricity could be generated annually if the water level was raised from 156 meters to 175 meters. The navigable course in the Three Gorges reservoir could be expanded by 150 km so that a fleet of 10,000 deadweight tonnage (DWT) could sail all the way from Yichang, the nearest city to the Three Gorges dam, directly upstream to Chongqing, the most important industrial city on the upper reaches of the Yangtze. Some environment experts voiced concerns on possible massive geological disasters incurred by the water-raising moves, but the Three Gorges corporation said the occurrence of such events had been brought "under control". About 12 billion yuan about (1.8 billion U.S. dollars) has been spent on harnessing or removing hidden dangers which might later cause major geological disasters when the reservoir's water level rose, according to the corporation. An inspection panel led by Chen Lei, Minister of Water Resources, issued a license in August approving the project to raise water level to 175 meters, which will signal the completion of the project. The project has cost 184.9 billion yuan (27.19 billion U.S. dollars), including 69.3 billion Juan spent on resettling 1.27 million residents. China's ministries of environmental protection, land and resources, and other organizations were closely monitoring various aspects of the dam's performance such as the quality of water in the reservoir, silting and the possibility of related natural geological disasters.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 10/24/2009

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Mainland, Taiwan to Negotiate Signing Agreement on Economic Co-op

The Chinese mainland's Taiwan affairs chief Wang Yi said Sunday the mainland was willing to negotiate with Taiwan on signing of an economic cooperation agreement before the end of this year. Wang, director of the Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said the mainland and Taiwan could exchange views on the signing of the agreement in a new round of talks between the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), "if both sides consider it necessary." The ARATS and the SEF will hold the new round of talks in Taiwan's Taichung in mid or late December, the fourth round of meeting since last year. "We are willing to negotiate with Taiwan and launch official discussions on cross-Strait economic cooperation agreement under the ARATS-SEF framework as early as possible before year end," Wang, also head of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said. He said the cross-Strait economic cooperation framework agreement is "an institutional arrangement" aiming to normalize economic ties promote deep economic cooperation across the Strait. It covers trade of goods and service as well as investment and economic cooperation. Wang said both sides should "follow the principle of equality and mutual benefits and open up to each other." Fan Liqing, spokeswoman of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, said earlier this month, "Respective studies by the mainland and Taiwan show that such an agreement would be in the interests of people on both sides and promote economic development across the Strait."

The ARATS and the SEF signed an agreement on cross-Strait financial cooperation in April at the third meeting of their leaders. Wang said the mainland was willing to "further interact with Taiwan to solve problems concerning cross-Strait economic exchanges and push the economic relations between the two sides to a new level." Wang is here attending a two-day cross-Strait symposium on industrial and economic cooperation that began Sunday in Chengdu, provincial capital of southwestern Sichuan. He said the mainland and Taiwan should promote industrial cooperation that suits both sides' needs, and jointly work together on products' research and development, marketing and common standards, as well as establishing brands. Wang said he hoped Taiwan could provide fair and convenient environment for staff of the mainland's enterprises in Taiwan. Since June, Taiwan authorities have allowed mainland companies to invest in the island. "Our confidence toward cross-Strait economic cooperation comes from the rapid growth of the mainland economy and the need for mutually beneficial cooperation on both sides," he said. Wang said in discussing the formulation of a cross-Strait economic cooperation framework agreement, the mainland was "willing to take into full consideration Taiwan's reasonable needs," and both sides should carefully assess possible impact on certain industries and social groups, caused by the economic cooperation agreement to maximize benefits and minimize costs. More than 160 people, half of them from Taiwan, participated in the symposium, jointly sponsored by two think tanks across the Strait.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 10/25/2009

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JAPAN: Minister Says He'll Take Currency 'Steps'

TOKYO (AP) - Japan's finance minister on Sunday defended his recent remarks widely viewed as favoring a strong yen, stressing that he wanted currency stability and would take unspecified "steps" to achieve that. Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii said he had been making a general statement about the dangers of pushing policies that weaken currencies as a negative for global prosperity. "I wanted to appeal to the world," about such dangers, Fujii said on a nationally televised show on TV Asahi. "I didn't say a single word about the yen." He said big swings in exchange rates were not good for the economy, and promised that Japan will take the appropriate steps. Such measures are likely to include intervention, although he declined to use that word or give a specific rate for what he thought was best for the yen. "I don't want to use the word 'intervention,' but some steps will be taken," Fujii said. Earlier this month, the dollar fell to a nine-month low at about 88 yen, although it has recently recovered to about 90 yen. The earnings forecasts of some Japanese exporters assume the dollar will average about 95 yen.

A strong yen erodes the value of overseas earnings for Toyota Motor Corp. and other Japanese manufacturers, which have been struggling to stage a comeback after getting hammered last year by the financial crisis. Fujii, appointed after the Democratic Party of Japan won the Aug. 30 nationwide elections in a landslide, said Japan's past policies were rapidly growing outdated. Such policies had relied on exports for growth and had tended to favor a weak yen to boost overseas profits for big-name export-reliant companies, when they are converted into yen. The future of Japan should be more about social welfare, local economies and environmental businesses that help even out gaps between the poor and rich, Fujii said. Old-time policies that had pushed for economic growth worked when Japan was still modernizing after World War II, but were no longer relevant, he said.

From http://finance.yahoo.com/ 10/10/2009

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60% of DPJ Lower House Members Want Japan Out of U.S. Nuclear Umbrella

TOKYO - About 60% of the House of Representatives members from the Democratic Party of Japan want Japan to pull out of the U.S. nuclear umbrella in the future, a Kyodo News survey showed Saturday. While 58.3% of the respondents in the survey said Japan should try to leave the U.S. nuclear umbrella in the future, 2.8% said Tokyo should do so immediately. While the latest survey indicates a possible change in Japan's defense policy following the launch of the DPJ-led government, it remains unclear whether the government can depart from the previous defense policy. The Liberal Democratic Party, which reigned over Japan for nearly a half century with the exception of a brief withdrawal, had always put the U.S. nuclear umbrella as the cornerstone of the nation's defense policy.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 10/11/2009

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DPJ Aims at Britain-Inspired Reforms

Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa has taken Britain as his model as he begins to tackle specific, drastic reforms concerning Diet deliberations, election campaigns and political funding, sources said. A key point of interest is whether Ozawa will be able to gather support from both ruling and opposition party members for his proposals and revise the relevant laws at an ordinary Diet session next year. The focus of the reform plan is what kind of rules should be imposed on political donations from companies and organizations. The DPJ promised in its campaign manifesto for the recent House of Representatives election that it would ban such contributions completely. However, some believe the DPJ included this promise in the manifesto to deflect criticism regarding alleged illegal donations to Ozawa's office from Nishimatsu Construction Co. Ozawa's reforms are based on the British system. Immediately after the DPJ took power in September, Ozawa visited Britain together with political experts belonging to the Congressional Forum for New Japan, a group of representatives from industry, academia and other fields. Ozawa learned about the situation there from members of Parliament and different political parties. In Britain, companies and labor unions are allowed to donate to political parties, and the forum's 2002 proposal for increased transparency of political funds did not go so far as to call for a ban on such contributions. Given these circumstances, many believe the DPJ is likely to reconsider its position of seeking a total ban, after speaking again with experts from outside the party.

Some DPJ members feel strongly that the ban should be imposed only on donations from companies that receive orders for public works projects, to prevent them from forming collusive relationships with political parties. Such people feel that companies and labor unions have the right to freely participate in political activity. With no partywide agreement yet reached on this issue, the DPJ ultimately decided to propose a total ban in line with Ozawa's position. Members of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party have become increasingly apprehensive about DPJ's movements. "The DPJ probably will try to damage the LDP, which greatly depends on corporate donations, by quickly imposing a total ban on such contributions," one LDP member commented. According to an annual report on political parties' funds for fiscal 2008, donations from companies and organizations accounted for 15 percent of the political revenue of LDP lawmakers in the lower house. The ratio was 10 percent for DPJ members. The LDP also made more income from selling tickets for fund-raising parties than did the DPJ. If these sources of income are drastically restricted, therefore, it would have a more serious influence on the LDP. As these reforms would have a significant impact on the political world, Ozawa himself has stressed the importance of deepening the understanding of both ruling and opposition parties.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 10/18/2009

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SOUTH KOREA: Gov't Launches Green Technology Certification Process

Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-hyun said that the government has introduced a new certification process for green technology in order to support Seoul's low-carbon, green growth initiatives, one of President Lee Myung-bak's top national priorities. In a weekly crisis meeting held at the Gwacheon government complex on Wednesday, specific standards for green technology and green businesses were set out. The government introduced measures in July to streamline funding procedures for environmentally-friendly ventures in an effort to promote investment as the green industry is still clouded with too much uncertainty for many. The green certification process, which is a follow-up measure, will be used to validate projects pertaining to green technology, green projects and green businesses. Yoon expects the authentication process to reduce confusion in the market and to facilitate the flow of information leading to investment in green growth by financial institutions. He added that the government will work to push the National Assembly to enact a green growth act as well as revise related tax laws by the end of this year.

From Arirang News 10/01/2009

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Lee Promises Greater Autonomy for Public Firms

SEOUL (Yonhap) - President Lee Myung-bak said Wednesday that his government will delegate more power to public corporations and their CEOs, offering greater incentives for state-owned companies that comply with his small government policy. "The government is considering ways to give a significant amount of discretionary power to chief executive officers of public firms, who display excellence and are competent in their work," the president said in a ceremony marking the launch of the Korea Land and Housing Corporation. The new public firm was launched following a merger between the former land and housing corporations under a government reform plan that affected nearly 100 out of 319 state-operated or invested businesses. (by Byun Duk-kun)

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/ 10/07/2009

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Gov't to Maintain Expansionary Fiscal Policy Through to End of Year

Overall economic indicators of Korea are looking positive, but the government will continue to maintain its expansionary macroeconomic policy in the latter half of this year, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance said in its monthly economic report on Oct. 8. The economy is continuously improving, but the private sector's full recovery is yet to come, so the government will make the best use of the remaining budget for this year and increase investment by public enterprises through to the year's end, said the ministry. Meanwhile, the report said that the country's industrial and service outputs for September would increase when compared to those of last year. Sales of consumer goods for the month would also increase on the back of improving consumer sentiment, the report said. The report also said that the government's early budget spending this year had led to economic growth of 1.8 percent and 1.9 percent for the first and second quarters, respectively, quoting data released by the Bank of Korea.

From http://www.korea.net/ 10/12/2009

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Official Guideline on Right to Die Released

A government committee made up of members from various medical associations in Korea has announced official guidelines for a patient's right to die on Tuesday. The new regulations allow a dying patient and his or her family to have a say in whether the patient's life-support should be switched off. However, they only apply to brain-dead or terminally ill patients and their state must be confirmed by a medical examination. Previously, some doctors concerned about malpractice lawsuits insisted on keeping dying patients alive regardless of their will. The latest regulations are expected to reduce meaningless treatment and thus result in a rise in the number of patients who choose to die with dignity.

From Arirang News 10/14/2009

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Gov't Plans to Create 650,000 New Jobs by First Half of 2010

The government plans to create 650,000 new jobs by the end of the first half of next year, the Prime Minister's office said at a weekly economic meeting presided over by President Lee Myung-bak on Thursday (Oct. 15). The Prime Minister's office said it intends to pursue plans to increase jobs at government offices and small- and medium-sized companies (SMEs) for low-income earners and youths (aged between 15 to 29), respectively, up until the first half of next year, since the employment market seems likely to pick up in the latter half of that year, the office said. The government will also deal with the problem of a mismatch between demand and supply in the employment market and increase budget allocation related to job creation by 800 billion won year-on-year to 3.5 trillion won, according to the office. The government will also strengthen efforts to solve the problems of irregular workers and foster vocational training for the employees of SMEs, and at the same time increase jobs for eco-friendly industries. The entry barriers for start-ups in education, medical and tourism businesses will be lowered too, said the office. The government has so far actively dealt with unemployment problems caused by the unprecedented financial crisis, and will continue to do so in order to foster an environment that can constantly provide quality jobs for the people, the office said. (by James Ro)

From http://www.korea.net/ 10/16/2009

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Korea Gains Full Membership into the FATF

Korea has been admitted as a full member into the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) during the FATF Plenary held in Paris from October 14 to 16, 2009. Since the establishment of the Korea Financial Intelligence Unit and the introduction of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) system in 2001, the Korean government has been working to obtain full membership into the international organization. A wide range of efforts to join the FATF by Korea, which gained an observer status in August 2006, has come to fruition when this October FATF Plenary decided to admit the nation as a full member. The FATF, a leading international organization for anti-money laundering and counter-financing of terrorism (AML/CFT), was established in 1989 as an independent agency. It sets the global AML/CFT standards and works to ensure countries around the world comply with the standards.

The FATF has established the global AML/CFT network consisting of 183 countries through 8 FATF-Style Regional Bodies. The network enables the organization to supervise compliance with the international standards by countries across the globe. Korea's accession into the FATF will allow Korea to participate more actively in the process of setting or revising the global AML/CFT standards and in international AML/CFT cooperation. It is also expected to help improve integrity and confidence in the nation's financial market, having positive impacts on overseas business operation by local financial institutions. Korean financial institutions will find it easier to have overseas business operations. They were originally required to submit additional documents for overseas businesses to the relevant authorities of the host countries simply because Korea was not a member of the FATF.

Considering the recent G20 Summit called for efforts to enhance transparency in the financial markets and a stronger role by the FATF in addressing the risk of money laundering and terrorist financing, Korea will find itself well-positioned to increase its role in the FATF as it is set to take the G20 chairmanship and host the Summit next year. The Financial Services Commission is ready to take the FATF membership as an opportunity for Korea to make greater contribution to the international AML/CFT efforts. It is also planning to promptly address deficiencies in the nation's AML/CFT system so as to further increase transparency in the financial markets.

From http://www.korea.net/ 10/19/2009

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INDONESIA: 2010 State Budget Approved, Govt Has Room to Expand

The 2010 state budget bill was approved Wednesday during the current House of Representatives' last plenary session, providing the government the ability to adjust the budget under circumstances that may hurt the economy. New members of the House begin their term today (Thursday). Economic growth is expected to increase to 5.5 percent next year from an estimated 4.3 percent this year. Inflation in 2010 is predicted to reach 5 percent as the global economy recovers. While the global economy has begun to recover it may retrogress, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said at Wednesday's plenary session. "External and global factors can still impact on Indonesia's economy," she said. "It needs to be carefully monitored and managed." Global liquidity is set to increase, triggering inflation in the medium term. The bond market may also experience overcrowding as developed countries issue increased bonds to finance large budget deficits. "These two factors will potentially increase bond yields, pressurizing the cost of government bonds," she said. Indonesia's deficit is estimated to reach Rp 98 trillion (US$10 billion), or 1.6 percent of the country's GDP. Under the 2010 budget bill, the government can shift deficit financing for cheaper alternatives. The government can also withdraw standby loans from bilateral and multilateral agencies if the yield of government bonds significantly rises.

Mulyani also pointed out volatile global oil prices may destabilize the economy. The government has allocated Rp 107 trillion in energy subsidies, which may increase if global oil prices rise. Rp 69 trillion of the total has been allocated for subsidized fuels and Rp 38 trillion for electricity. If the Indonesian Crude Price (ICP) rises 10 percent above $65 per barrel over 12 months, the government may increase the prices of subsidized fuels. But the government has said adjusting the price was a last resort measure. Increasing fuel prices may affect people's purchasing power, which contributes to about 60 percent of economic growth. The House's budget committee chairman, Emir Moeis, said the government should regulate cost recovery (funds used to compensate costs spent by oil and gas contractors to produce oil) to minimize the government's refund spending. The new government, which will begin its administration on Oct. 20, can raise expenditure up to 2 percent of the total Rp 1,048 trillion - Rp 24 trillion - for priority spending. Mulyani said that based on the 2010 budget, under the theme "national economic recovery and people's prosperity maintenance", spending should be prioritized in order to continue welfare programs, including school aid, subsidized rice, infrastructure development, agriculture and energy projects, as well as labor-intensive industries.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 10/01/2009

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Govt to Issue Ruling on Batik for Students and Civil Servants

Coordinating Minister for the People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie said Tuesday he would issue a ruling on batik for students and civil servants to wear batik once a week. He said he would send a letter to National Education Minister Bambang Sudibyo and Home Minister Mardiyanto so they could recommend students and civil servants wear the national dress weekly. "This ruling could be the last during my term," he told kompas.com. Aburizal also said he would ask the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) to suggest private-sector employees wear batik once a month. "This will make batik more popular," he said.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 10/13/2009

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RI Told to Cut Poverty Rate by 15% Per Year

Indonesia is under pressure to reduce its poverty rate by 15 percent each year within the next five years to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) poverty target. Citing data from the Central Statistics Agency, Wilson Siahaan, the UN's Millennium Campaign member, said Tuesday that Indonesia's poverty rate was currently 34 million people, or 14 percent of the country's total population. Although the figure is down by almost 7 percent from 2008, he said it was not enough to help the country meet the MDG target, which states the country must decrease poverty by half of the 2000 figure. With Indonesia recording about 37 million people living in poverty - 19 percent of its total population - in 2000, the MDG said the figure must fall to about 18 million by 2015. "It's critical that Indonesia use the time between 2009 and 2014 wisely to achieve the MDG by 2015," Wilson said at a press conference about the UN's planned campaigns to fight poverty from Oct. 16 to 18. "The government needs to reduce the poverty rate by 15 percent a year," he said. "A 10 percent decline per year may be sufficient," Wilson said. "But we must aim to hit a 15-percent decline." Indonesia can meet this target, Wilson said, if the government pays attention to the country's informal-sector employees, who account for 23 million people. He said the government could potentially support 80 million in total. "The government must legalize informal-sector work," he said. "We must help it grow instead of being negative and believing small- and micro-businesses only congest streets." Wilson also suggested the government provide health services for people living in poverty, under its health insurance scheme named Jamkesmas.

He said many people living below the poverty line were denied access to health services because they failed to present ID cards that prove they live in the regions they seek services. Nova Riyanti Yusuf, a newly sworn in legislator from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party, said the government had programs to reduce poverty, such as the empowerment program, PNPM Mandiri, which provided funds for small-scale businesses. Nova said the education budget was "very high" and the health budget continued to grow. However she added supervision should be tightened to ensure funding went to the right people. "The government is on the right track," she said. "But the problem lies with monitoring. "The House of Representatives must properly supervise the allocated funds," Nova said. To ensure governments meet MDG targets, the UN has called for people across the globe to take part in its "Stand Up and Take Action" campaigns running from Oct. 16 to 18. The campaigns are expected to break a Guinness World Record for the number of involved participants.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 10/15/2009

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MALAYSIA: President's Address, Amendments to Constitution

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) - A total of 2,539 Umno delegates gathered at the Dewan Merdeka in the Putra World Trade Centre here Thursday for the party's annual general assembly, which will determine its direction in future. Their main focus will be the address by party president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak, who is also Prime Minister, and proposed amendments to the party's constitution, which are part of Najib's efforts to transform Umno. The proposed amendments are due to be debated at a special assembly sitting that will be convened after the opening of the general assembly and involves seven motions, including one to increase the voting base to elect leaders to the division level whereby 146,500 members will be eligible to vote as compared to only 2,510 people now. Before opening the assembly, Najib attended the flag raising ceremont and inspected a guard-of-honour mounted by Umno three wings - Wanita, Pemuda and Puteri Umno - at Plaza Merdeka.

From http://www.bernama.com.my/ 10/15/2009

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Prime Minister to Launch 1Malaysia with Perak Folks

IPOH (Bernama) - More than 50,000 people of various races and religions are expected to fill the Perak Stadium here this Sunday for the launch of the '1Malaysia With The People Of Perak' programme by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. Besides a show of songs and arts, the programme will be made merrier with various activities like an exhibition and stalls beginning tomorrow. The programme, the first one of its kind to be held, will be launched in every state after this. Tomorrow, the programme begins with a 'gotong-royong Perdana 1Malaysia' in the town of Chemor at 7am, while drawing demonstrations by Angkatan Pelukis Perak, people's sports, colouring contests, and a 1Malaysia riddles game will take place at the Perak State Youth and Sports Complex and the Indera Mulia Stadium here. Antiques sales at the Lokin market here and an exposition and stalls around Indera Mulia Stadium will go on till Sunday night and are expected to get a good reception. 'RTM Turun Padang' and Pentarama activities will also take place around the stadium to disseminate information and entertain Perakians through radio and television. Sunday, the highlight day of the launch, will be made merry with 1Malaysia aerobics, 1Malaysia exhibition and a 1Malaysia oration competition in the morning in the Perak Stadium and the Indera Mulia Stadium.

At night, the Prime Minister is expected to arrive at 8.40pm at the Perak Stadium accompanied by Information Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim and Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir for the launch. The national anthem, the 1Malaysia song and recitation of the Rukun Negara will be heard before Rais and Zambry deliver their speeches. After that, Najib will deliver the launching speech that will be heard by guests made up of students , those from institutions of higher education and non-governmental organisations. The programme does not end on that night as the Perak state government and the Ipoh Roadrunners Club will organise a 1Malaysia Festival Run on Oct 25 in conjunction with the programme. The run will begin at Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Cina) Padang Gajah, Bandar Seri Botani here at 7.30am and is open to 1,000 participants from various races. The '1Malaysia With The People Of Perak' programme over two days is organised by the state government and the Information Communication and Culture Ministry and is to enhance awareness, understanding, support and comprehension of the people about the concept besides instilling unity and love for the nation.

From http://www.bernama.com.my/ 10/16/2009

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PGMA Signs Landmark Climate Change Law

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed today an act that institutionalizes response to climate change. The Philippine Climate Change Act of 2009 or Republic Act No. 9729 makes it a government policy to formulate and establish a strategy and program to deal with the effects of typhoons and other weather disturbances, which have increased in frequency and intensity as a result of changes in the climatic pattern. The new law calls for the establishment of a National Framework Strategy and Program on Climate Change, which will focus on mitigation and adaptation - the two instruments to battle climate change - from the highest levels of government down to the barangay. Under the law, an autonomous policy-making body, known as Climate Change Commission, to be headed by the president, will set up, coordinate, monitor, and evaluate action plans for the express purpose of preparing the country against heavy rainfall that bring floods and landslides, as well as strong winds, as a result of typhoons. The law also calls for the creation of a roadmap to reduce risk of disasters on one hand and keep local carbon emissions within manageable levels on the other. Called Disaster Risk Reduction or DRR, this program includes emergency preparedness and rescue and relief operations. The Climate Change Commission will have as members the presidents of the League of Provinces, League of Cities, League of Municipalities, and the Liga ng mga Barangay, to mark the crucial involvement of local communities in addressing climate change.

Immediately after the signing, the president ordered Secretary Heherson Alvarez, presidential adviser on Global Warming and Climate Change, to ask developed nations to reduce global carbon emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, which is scheduled for a renegotiation after it expires in 2012. Sen. Loren Legarda, the law's principal author, said the signing is very timely in the aftermath of destructive typhoons "Ondoy" and "Pepeng." She added that as vice chairman of the Senate Committee on the Budget she will work for the allocation of resources for the immediate implementation of the law. "This pioneering landmark bill is the first in ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) and probably in Asia," Legarda said. Apart from Alvarez and Legarda, the historic signing was witnessed by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Jose Atienza, and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. Also present were members of the House of Representatives, local government executives, the diplomatic corps, environmental organizations, and the religious and business sectors. (PND)

From http://www.gov.ph/ 10/23/2009

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SINGAPORE: STB Developing New Blueprint to Boost Tourist Growth

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is developing a new road map for 2020. It is also looking for ideas from the public. Singapore's tourism industry has taken a hit with the economic downturn. Latest figures showed tourist arrivals from January to August fell 9.2 per cent over the same period last year to 6.23 million. There was one silver lining though - the rate of decline has slowed since June. The STB had previously set as its 2015 target 17 million visitor arrivals and S$30 billion in tourism receipts. But it now said that would be a challenge. Looking forward to 2020, the STB has put together a steering committee to chart strategic directions for the future of an industry that contributed 5.8 per cent to GDP last year. Five taskforces have been set up to look into specific areas - Business, Enrichment, Lifestyle, Marketing plus Travel and Hospitality. Industry leaders heading these taskforces know they face an uphill task. Dennis Foo, co-chair of Lifestyle Taskforce and CEO of St James Power Station, said: "... very exciting years ahead, with the two IRs (integrated resorts). But the big challenge is really to have the right software - essentially, it's the people. Hospitality is about people." Loh Lik Peng, co-chair of Business Taskforce and director of KMC Holdings, said: "A lot of it is looking ahead and seeing the growth opportunities in markets like China, India, Indonesia. "If you look at the wealth creation in those countries, the size of the middle class and the people who will travel for work and will want to come for events in Singapore or hold a conference here will increase exponentially. "We want to position ourselves so that we get a fair share of that market. We don't want to be marginalised by their own capital cities." About 70 per cent of Singapore's visitor arrivals are from Asia. For its new road map, the STB wants to tap on ideas from the public through this website. The public can submit their ideas over the next four months. STB's chief executive, Aw Kah Peng, said: "Everyone who has a good idea, who can contribute, we want to hear them. If we can take even a small number of these ideas and turn them into something that works for us, that will be tremendously powerful." The new road map and targets are expected to be ready by March next year.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/12/2009

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Labour Movement Working Towards Cheaper, Better, Faster Economy

SINGAPORE: The labour movement, NTUC, will be working towards helping put on track a "Cheaper, Better, Faster (CBF)" economy in the next two years. The CBF strategy will help drive Singapore into the next phase of growth. "We want to create early successes in all sectors to demonstrate how the CBF concept can be implemented on the ground," said labour chief Lim Swee Say. Mr Lim gave examples of companies that have already taken the CBF strategy to heart. The wafer fabrication sector had launched a national framework for skills upgrading in August. ST Microelectronics began training 7,000 engineers this year, to be followed by 3,000 technicians and operators next year. Making his closing address at the NTUC Ordinary Delegates' Conference, the labour chief was also encouraged by the strong endorsement given by union leaders to the CBF concept. However, even as they pledged their support, unionists raised concerns over how it would translate on the ground and impact workers. Some delegates at the conference were worried that the CBF strategy might lead to job cuts. Mr Lim said: "They feel that it's very important that the management has the same understanding of the CBF because the CBF economy is not about downsizing the workforce. "It's not just about applying them to manufacturing sector, it's not about just including the younger workers, better educated workers, but instead it should be inclusive for all workers - young and old." Mr Lim pointed out: "Which country, which tripartite partners will want to work together to become cheaper, better, faster, to improve productivity so that every one per cent improvement in productivity will lead to one per cent rise in unemployment rate?" He added that the end result will be stronger economic growth, more profitable companies, and higher wages. Mr Lim also said that older or less-educated workers will not be left out in the drive to be cheaper, better, and faster. Foreign workers too, will be given training. Over the next two years, NTUC will be working with companies to raise worker productivity. It will also work closely with the Singapore National Employers' Federation (SNEF) in the months ahead to ensure that both businesses and workers are on the same page regarding what the CBF strategy entails. The three-day conference, which ended on Thursday, was a time for unionists to take stock of their progress and to raise issues on the ground. Some said more could be done to get women back to work, and to provide better support for working mothers. Others suggested ways to make training courses more accessible.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/15/2009

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BANGLADESH: New Education Policy Soon

Bangladesh is all set to revamp its education system. A new policy is near completion and its implementation is expected to boost the country's lacklustre literacy rate, and modernise madrasaas by reinforcing the importance of science and information technology in their curricula. Dhaka: The final draft of the National Education Policy 2009 was formally submitted to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina by Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid on September 7. "We hope that the government will be able to announce the new education policy by the end of December," said Nahid. A girl's right to education will also be a primary concern of the new policy/ Photo credit: IRIN The policy will have to be mandated by the country's parliament, but is expected to win approval, since the current government dominates with almost four-fifths of the seats. It was developed by a 16-member National Education Commission, formed in April 2009, and which consulted widely. Bangladesh's adult literacy rate is at 52.5%, while neighbouring India has a literacy rate of 65.2%, according to UN Development Programme (UNDP) 2008 figures. "The new national education policy will make changes at the grassroots levels of the education system," said co-chair of the commission, Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad. The development and implementation of a modern and efficient education policy has long been a source of public outrage in Bangladesh. Since the country's independence in 1971, seven education commissions and committees have been formed, but none of the policies they created were implemented because of a lack of political will from governments of the day. The basic structure of the current policy has been in place since that year. Modifications have been made, but a complete overhaul of the system has long been overdue, say education experts, who praised the fact that public opinion had been taken into account in the policy's formation. The policy document is available on the Education Ministry's website, and an email address is provided for the public to send in their views until the end of this month. According to most education specialists, one of the biggest shortcomings of the current policy is the lack of practical and technical training in the curricula, leaving students vocationally unprepared. "The education system of our country doesn't equip the students with practical knowledge. This 'bookish' learning system is archaic, and needs to be updated according to the needs of a modern society," said well-known educationist and former government adviser Rasheda K. Choudhury. Another major concern is the lack of proper human resource development and deployment in the education sector.

A dearth of proper teacher training facilities has long been a source of concern. One of the key proposed changes will see total schooling years increased from 10 to 12. This includes the extension of free, mandatory primary school education by three years to a total of eight years. The policy will establish mandatory core subjects for primary-level education: Bangla, English, mathematics, Bangladesh Studies, social environment and climate change, and information technology and science. Bangladesh's religious education system, where `madrasahs' or Islamic schools focus primarily on Islamic teachings, will also be modernised to reinforce the importance of science and information technology in their curricula. A girl's right to education will also be a primary concern of the new policy, while there will be efforts to ensure indigenous children can learn in their own languages. Officials said Sunday that English, climate change studies and information technology would be taught in thousands of religious schools to make students more aware of the world around them. All pupils at the country's 16,000 state-sponsored madrassas will have English lessons along with traditional Koran and Arabic classes, said M.A. Yusuf, head of the government's Madrassa Education Board. "We are introducing English lessons for even the youngest students and making elementary knowledge on computers mandatory. We are also introducing teaching on climate change," he said. "This will boost students' job prospects and allow them to study in top universities." The reforms are part of government efforts to bring madrassa schools, which are considered by critics to be a breeding ground for Islamic militants, into the mainstream education system. "We want to introduce teaching that is needed in real life," education minister Nurul Islam Nahid told reporters about the planned changes. Kabir Chowdhury, a professor of English literature at Dhaka University who has helped formulate the madrassa reforms, said they were designed to curb extremism. "We have noticed that there is a militant tendency among some madrassa students and we want to reverse that trend," he said. Nearly three million mostly poor pupils attend the state-sponsored madrassas, accounting for 10% of the country's total students, according to official figures. The madrassa board estimates that a further two million students attend unrecognised religious schools.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 09/29/2009

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Cabinet Approves National Employment Programme

The cabinet on Monday approved a temporary ''national services'' employment programme for young people having passed higher secondary or equivalent exams, reports bdnews24.com. The cabinet, headed by prime minister Sheikh Hasina, approved the policy with a view to involve young adults in activities related to nation building, her press secretary Abul Kalam Azad told reporters after the meeting. The programme will initially be launched in Kurigram and Barguna districts, where young men and women aged 18 to 35 will receive training under 13 categories for three months. Participants will also be provided Tk 100 everyday, Azad said. The ruling Awami League in its election pledges vowed to create employment for one member of every family for a minimum of 100 days a year, and enlist the youth in work programmes to include national services. The finance ministry has already allocated Tk 20 crore in this pilot project, which will be expanded around the country if successful. Then the participants will eventually be given Tk 200 a day. The cabinet meeting on Monday also approved proposed amendments to the Dhaka Transport Coordination Board (DTCB) Act-2001 and Public Procurement Act-2006. Azad said, "The amended DTCB Act has provisions to form a 22-strong committee, with the city mayor, MPs, representatives of RAJUK, WASA and other organisations, headed by the communications minister." According to the Public Procurement Act, ''inexperienced'' contractors will be allowed the opportunity to secure public work orders worth up to Tk 2 crore.

The prime minister also issued directives to Dhaka city development body RAJUK not to approve any housing project without adequate water reservoirs and children's playgrounds. "She also asked concerned officials to send a relief team with medicine in aid of the earthquake affected people in Indonesia," Azad added. The cabinet further approved a proposal to increase the number of government Hajj administrative teams to better manage the annual pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. Azad said the number of members in the teams was increased to 35 from 20 as pilgrims increased by 10,000 over the last year. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina directed the authorities concerned to ensure maximum comfort for hajj pilgrims as preparations are on for operating sorties of flights from the third week of this month to carry them to Saudi Arabia for the annual pilgrimage to Makkah, reports UNB. The Prime Minister gave the order from the 40th meeting of her cabinet held at Bangladesh secretariat Monday that endorsed students'' temporary job policy, an amended public procurement law and the formation of Dhaka Mass Transport Authority. Briefing journalists in the PID conference room about the cabinet meeting, Press Secretary to the Prime Minister Abul Kalam Azad said this year a total of 58,459 pilgrims will go for performing the holly hajj rituals, 10,000 higher than the number of last year. "To cope with the additional responsibilities caused due to the increase in the number of pilgrims, the number of officers in the hajj administrative team has been increased to 35 from 20," the Press Secretary said. Sheikh Hasina further asked the Health Ministry to form and send a medical team to Indonesia in aid to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in the largest Muslim nation of the world.

From http://www.newstoday-bd.com/ 10/06/2009

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Existing Child Laws, Charter Will Be Updated: PM

Prime Minster Sheikh Hasina on Monday directed the authorities concerned to take steps to allow all mentally and physically challenged children to study and grow up with every other common child of the country, reports UNB. She further said that her government will modify the existing child laws and charters, enacted in 1974, for greater welfare of the children of the country. Sheikh Hasina revealed her government's new thinking for child welfare while addressing the inaugural ceremony of the National Children's Day and Children's Week-2009 at the Osmani Memorial Auditorium in the city. This year the day and the week are being observed with the theme -"Shishu Surakkhar Adhikar, Din Badaler Ongikar" (Right to Protect Children Well, Commitment for Changed Days). The Prime Minister in her address requested all to give special attention to the mentally and physically challenged children of the society. She said the mentally and physically challenged children are not a separate part of the society. They must be given such environment where they will have equal facilities to grow up with every other children of the society. "I am directing the Ministry concerned to ensure it immediately that physically and mentally challenged children are allowed to grow up and study with the other normal children of the society. I want they get a normal environment," the Prime Minister said. Sheikh Hasina made a special request to the normal children to always show sympathy and love towards the children with mental and physical problems. She said the medical treatment facility for the disabled children is one of those sectors that deserve best attention of the state and the society. "Only government or the state can't ensure the desired treatment facilities for the disabled children. This is very expensive. State, government, various institutions, and affluent members of the society need to come forward unitedly to give the mentally and physically challenged children necessary medicare facilities." The Prime Minister in her address voiced concern as child workers were still being used in many workplaces and promised to put an end to child labor during the rule of her present democratic government. She was also critical of using children in political purposes saying that such use can cause physical and mental harm to children. The Prime Minister also urged all concerned to make sure children are not used in political purposes.

Hasina said human resource development is a must for attaining the long cherished economic emancipation of the world people and only the children with healthy mind and body, and socioeconomic security can ensure that kind of human resource development. "Our children are the foundation of our future. They (children) will take the responsibility at every level and sector in the future. For our own betterment, our children must be given all facilities just from now on," she said. Chaired by State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Dr Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury, the function was addressed, among others, by secretary to the Ministry Rokeya Sultana and Unicef's country director Carel de Rooy. The inaugural function was followed by a cultural programme where a group of children by singing songs, dancing and staging drama demanded protection of their rights. Sheikh Hasina urged parents, all institutions working for the welfare of children and the people of all levels to come up with new ideas, plans and programmes, and work relentlessly to offer the children a better world. "Unfortunately, many children are still neglected and have no access to basic needs of life like accommodation, education and treatment, even nutritious foods. If we do not ensure basic needs of the children, how can we expect a prosperous world?" the Prime Minister questioned. Sheikh Hasina said social discrimination must be eliminated first to help all children enjoy all facilities of life at every level and sector. "Still, we see some children going to school in luxurious cars, while many others even do not have the opportunity for admission to school. Why does such discrimination exist? she asked. "A weak, uneducated child will not be able to contribute anything to his or her society in the future. That's why all children will have to be grown up with balanced mental and physical health. All children must be built as eligible citizens to face the challenges of the modern world," the Prime Minister told the function.

From http://www.newstoday-bd.com/ 10/06/2009

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Project to Improve City''s Air Quality Launched

The government with support from the World Bank Monday launched a Tk 487 crore mega project to improve the poor air quality of this densely populated city, reports UNB. The five-year project, the Clean Air and Sustainable Environment (CASE), will be implemented by the Department of Environment (DoE), Dhaka City Corporation and Dhaka Transport Coordination Board (DTCB), as the quality of the city's air has deteriorated over the years for various reasons. This is the first project that integrates the environment and transport under one common objective to improve the air quality of capital Dhaka, a sprawling city of 12 million people. "The CASE project will improve the air quality in Dhaka city by addressing two main air-polluting sectors, the brick manufacturing and the transport sectors," Roads and Highways Division secretary Mozammel Haque Khan told a project-launching workshop. The Ministry of Environment and Forest and the World Bank jointly organized the function at Sonargaon Hotel. Transport Policy Adviser of Panning Commission Dr Rahmatullah, Director General of Local Government Division Swapan Kumar Sarkar, Prof Dr Shamsul Hoque of BUET, senior urban transport manager of World Bank Hubert Nove Jessrerand, CASE Task Team Leader Maria Sarraf of WB, CASE project directors of environment component Dr Mohammad Nasiruddin and Traffic Management DCC component Eng Shehab Ullah, and DTCB Traffic Engineer Anisur Rahman, among others, attended the function. Mozammel Haque said the project will introduce cleaner technologies in the highly polluting brick manufacturing sector, reduce energy consumption and lower air pollution. "In urban areas, the project will introduce low-cost measures to reduce conflict between motorized and non-motorized vehicles, reduce congestion and provide safer and cleaner mobility for pedestrian in pilot areas in the city," he told the function. DTCB traffic engineer Anisur Rahman said the project will improve the traffic flow and pedestrian mobility and safety, build 25 foot over bridges, 70 km of new sidewalks, 80km of one-way streets. "It'll improve bus route network and introduce Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on at least one corridor," he added. About traffic component of the project, Eng Shehab Ullah said the project objectives are to improve traffic flow in project intervention locations by increasing 10 percent of vehicular traffic and decreasing 10 percent of accidents by the end of project. Dr Mohammad Nasiruddin said if the exposure to urban air pollution could be reduced by 20 percent to 80 percent it would result in saving 1,200 to 3,500 lives annually and avoiding 80 to 230 million cases of disease. Sarraf said the CASE project will include some 25 brick kilns using cleaner technology to reduce air pollution and strengthen the DCC and DTCB. Nasiruddin said the project will help decrease emission by 20-30 percent per brick kiln that will adopt a cleaner technology from a baseline of more than 1,000 mg/m3. "There will be reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission per brick kiln adopting cleaner technology by 15-20 percent compared to a baseline of about 760 tons per year for the production of 2 million bricks," he added. Acting Operations Advisor of the World Bank in Bangladesh Mohamed Toure said the Bank is particularly happy to be able to support the government to tackle Dhaka's environmental, transport and traffic challenges through the innovatively designed CASE project focusing on reducing air pollution and safe mobility under a co-benefit approach.

From http://www.newstoday-bd.com/ 10/06/2009

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Govt to Launch Project to Rehabilitate Destitute Children

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Sunday said the government will launch a project soon for rehabilitating destitute children across the country as the government has its duty to take care of them, reports UNB. "The state will take the responsibility of the destitute children. It's the government's duty to take care of these children," she said. The Prime Minister's remarks came while addressing a programme organised by Sheikh Russell Jatiya Shishu Kishore Parishad at the Osmani Memorial Auditorium on the occasion of the 46th birth anniversary of Sheikh Russell. She said some misguided people killed Bangabandhu and his family members with the help of the defeated force of 1971. Pointing finger to BNP and its ally Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, Hasina said they have been patronizing the killers. The Prime Minister alleged that not only Ziaur Rahman rehabilitated the killers by giving them jobs in foreign missions, but the Khaleda-Nizami government also promoted an accused in his foreign service. She said the BNP-Jamaat alliance had also tried to influence the verdict of the Bangabandhu murder case. "I don't know whether there is any incident in the world of assassinating all members of a family, including children. I don't know why they (killers) killed the innocent children. It's just unbelievable how the people for whom my father had dedicated his life could kill him," she told the function in an emotion-chocked voice. The Prime Minister said her government had undertaken ''Sheikh Russell Distressed Children Rehabilitation Project'' at Tungipara for rehabilitating distressed children but now the project is almost closed due to intervention of the BNP-Jamaat alliance government. She said her government will also implement ''Shanti Nibash'' project for rehabilitating orphans and elderly people. Hasina said no children will remain uneducated in the country. "They (children) will be brought up as good citizens by providing education and healthcare facilities to them," she said. The Prime Minister also emphasized equal education facilities for physically and mentally challenged children. She urged the affluent section of the society to come forward to help the distressed children. City unit organizer Mujibur Rahman read out the declaration and proposals at the function. Presided over by Parishad chairman Rakibur Rahman, the function was addressed, among others, by secretary general Mahmudus Samad Chowdhury MP, Adv Tarana Halim MP, Dr Abul Barakat and Kaler Kantha editor Abed Khan. The Prime Minister distributed prizes among the winning children of a cultural programme, including dance and art competition, arranged on the occasion of Sheikh Russell's 46th birthday.

From http://www.newstoday-bd.com/ 10/19/2009

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BANGLADESH: PM Vows to End Poverty by 2020

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led the nation in pledging to remain united to develop the country by 2020. Addressing a rally in Dhaka organised as part of the UN Stand Up Campaign, she called upon all political parties to jointly fight corruption and stabilise democracy. Dhaka: Prime minister Sheikh Hasina has said corruption has to be curbed if poverty is to be prevented. She stressed a strong democratic system to ease poverty in Bangladesh. "Democracy is the tool to alleviate poverty," she said on Saturday at a much-hyped "all-party" programme to launch anti-poverty campaign in the country. PM Sheikh Hasina addressing the rally/ Photo credit: Bangladesh News 24 "We need to move forward. For this, poverty has to be eradicated. Poverty will not be reduced if the social security net is not widened. Our fight is to prevent poverty for which we're doing politics and the thing we need most is national consensus," the PM said. She said the Anticorruption Commission will be allowed to work independently. "We want to see the country free from poverty. We want to provide what the constitution has said about the fundamental rights for the people." The programme marking the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty started without opposition Chief Khaleda Zia who backed out at the last moment. The prime minister said: "Assets have limits. So when one loots, the other part becomes poor. But we do not want to see that. We want to ensure equal distribution of wealth and rights." Hasina asked all to unite beyond political ideologies and said, "Let's save lives of the poor people of our country and ensure a better living for them." The prime minister said Bangladesh had become a food-surplus country in her previous stint in office. But the BNP-led alliance government made the country a food-deficit one again as they thought they would have more aid if there was deficit. She also stated the initiatives taken by her government to prevent poverty from the country.

Hasina said another 1.20 crore people slipped into poverty in the seven years since her last administration left office - two years of the caretaker administration and five of the BNP- led government. "The number of the poor rose 20% during this time when their number was supposed to drop in the country." Hasina sniped at Khaleda for skipping the anti-poverty programme. "Perhaps, she did not come finding the agenda of this conference being 'National consensus will prevent poverty'" Former Prime Minister Khaleda is facing trial on charges of embezzling Tk two crore from the Zia Orphanage Trust that allegedly existed only on paper. "The looted wealth will be recovered and the corrupt will be tried. They can not escape whatever the party identity may be" "After the end of our tenure in 2001, some 25,000 of our leaders and supporters faced tortures by the then ruling party," Hasina said. "And we are doing enough to stop repetition of such incidents. We are trying to maintain the law and order, and as we said in our election pledge we will try everyone for violation of law, whatever their identity." "The looted wealth will be recovered and the corrupt will be tried. They can not escape whatever the party identity may be. I am happy that the opposition members of parliament attend the standing committee meetings. They also join the teams going abroad to join international events." She said, "We want to establish the country as a developed one by 2020 as the succeeding year is the Golden Jubilee of our independence in 2021. We want to build a modern, science and technology-based Bangladesh, a digital one, not only for the urban areas.

We'll ensure technology for the rural areas." "We have always been facing some problems after assuming office. There was a terrible incident after two months (BDR mutiny) which we solved. We also faced (cyclone) Aila." The government has also allotted Tk 4,000 crore as stimulus package for the export-oriented industries. Speaker Abdul Hamid earlier in his speech said he was hurt that Khaleda had not taken the opportunity to share the stage with Hasina to launch anti-poverty call. He administered oath marking the day that took place altogether at 64 districts and six places of the capital. Finance minister A M A Muhith, chief whip Abdus Shahid and member secretary of All-Party Parliamentary Group Shishir Kumar Shil and United Nation's Millennium Campaign director Salil Shetty were also present. Hamid hoped to see the two leaders together sometime in the future. "There is no alternative to national consensus," the speaker said. Shetty said: "From the UN campaign for poverty side we've converted this day from seminars and speeches to a day which mobilises millions of ordinary people in the grassroots level in the programme "Stand up and take action against poverty, stand up and take action for the MDGs. "I am really pleased the parliament has taken the leadership to organise the event and is supporting this initiative. This is the body which can ensure execution of the programme." "We've seen some big achievements, 40 million more children are now at schools, 800 million people have come out of poverty, 2 million lives of children have been saved," the UN official said. Bangladesh has made a commendable progress in many areas of the MDGs and it has been a high performer in comparison with many countries of the South Asia, Shetty said. It has made considerable headway in the fields of child mortality, action against malaria, sending children to schools and political challenges, he said.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 10/20/2009

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New Law Soon for Protecting Rights of the Disabled: PM

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday said new law will be enacted to protect the rights of the physically and mentally challenged people by modifying the existing Disabled Welfare Act. Obviously, the physically and mentally challenged people will have participation in the process of the law, she said, reports UNB. Sheikh Hasina made the remarks while addressing the inauguration ceremony of the 5th Jatiya Pratibandhi Convention at the city's Bangabandhu International Conference Centre. This year, the national convention for the disabled is being observed with the theme `Empowerment, Participation and Development''. Social Welfare Ministry, Action on Disability and Development (ADD), and National Council for Disabled Women (NCDW) jointly arranged the function with ADD Country Director Mosharraf Hossain in the chair. Social Welfare Minister Enamul Huq Mostafa Shahid, Bangladesh Unnayan Parishad Chairman Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad and NCDW President Umme Kulsum Ranjana also addressed the function. A group of disabled children welcomed the Prime Minister by singing and dancing at the function attended by some 2,000 physically and mentally challenged people from across the country. The Prime Minister was given a crest by the convention organizers. Sheikh Hasina in her address said the government in its election manifesto has mentioned about the creation of facilities of education, health and employment for the disabled people. "We, in our election manifesto, have said about updating the Disable Welfare Act. Today, I want to inform you once again that a law will be enacted for protecting the physically and mentally challenged people and in the process, your opinion and participation will be ensured," she told the function. The Prime Minister informed that the government is considering reserved quota for the disabled group of people in all government jobs, including that of government primary school teachers.

Already the government has fixed the quota in class IV jobs for the disabled people while step has been taken to appoint visually impaired persons in the resource schools, she said. In a significant development, the Prime Minister declared that admission of physically and mentally challenged children into the mainstream schools will be made compulsory. Hasina said a few days back she came to know that a mother could not admit her child into a school as the child was physically challenged. "It hurt me. Why a child with some natural handicap won't be admitted into a school?" She said the entire society must change its attitude and mentality towards the disabled people, including children. To introduce unified education, she added, there will be allocation in the budget for teachers training, arranging disability-friendly education instruments and appointing an expert teacher on disability affairs at every school. The Prime Minister said education of disabled students has been proposed in the draft education policy to be brought under the Education Ministry instead of the Social Welfare Ministry. Besides, Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) from the next fiscal will disburse Tk 200 crore as micro credits for development of the disabled people while an allocation of Tk 5.41 crore has been kept in the current fiscal's budget for introducing a new development programme titled `Disabled Services Help Centre''. The Prime Minister further said that the government has increased stipends for the disabled students to Tk 500 at primary level, Tk 1000 at high schools and colleges, and Tk 1500 at the higher education level. She also said the government will take all steps so that the disabled people particularly mothers and their children can get free health facilities from all Upazila Health Complex and the Community Health Clinics. Besides, she said that at every union, information technology-based Tele Centre will be established where at least one disabled person will be employed. Taking into account the difficulties and sufferings of the disabled people in boarding public buses and other transports, the Prime Minister said the government will also take steps to arrange disabled people-friendly public transports.

From http://www.newstoday-bd.com/ 10/20/2009

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Initiatives on to Free the Country from Illiteracy by 2014

DINAJPUR (BSS): Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education Ministry Rashed Khan Menon said Friday multifarious steps had been taken to bring back healthy academic atmosphere in the educational institutions removing all irregularities, mismanagement and corruption. Steps had been taken to enrol all children in schools by 2011 and arrangements made to provide the poor children with lunch in schools, he said, adding initiatives were on to free the country from illiteracy by 2014, he added. Menon, also president of Workers Party of Bangladesh, was addressing a party meeting at Lokbhaban here this noon. He said the grand alliance government would not rest until the trial of the war criminals was held in the country. Menon demanded stringent action against those who were damaging the image of the grand alliance government through plundering and corruption. Chaired by Dinajpur district Workers Party general secretary Habibur Rahman, the meeting was also addressed, among others, by party Politburo member Mahmudul Hassan Manik, central leader Abdur Razzak and central leader and former municipality chairman Syed Mosaddek Hossain Labu.

From http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/ 10/24/2009

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INDIA: NABARD Frames Farmer Friendly Scheme

Bangalore: National bank for agriculture and rural development (NABARD) has come up with a scheme which can help farmers to protect themselves against exploitation by moneylenders and middlemen. NABARD has provided the basic format of the plan to all the listed commercial banks, regional rural banks (RRBs), state co-operative agriculture and rural development banks, and asked to build their own schemes keeping in lines with the format. Nand Gopal Gupta, Institutional Finance Minister has affirmed that the scheme will be really helpful for the farmers. Under the scheme, farmers will be sanctioned a loan of maximum Rs.25,000 on 12 percent to 12.5 percent simple interest on the condition that they do not take any fresh loan from the moneylenders. All such farmers who have obtained loan from moneylenders, either through written undertaking or verbally, will be provided loan under this facility. The farmers willing to obtain the loan should not be the defaulters of any banks. The farmers will have to submit an affidavit on how much have they taken as loan from the moneylenders. NABARD will re-finance at least 80 percent of the loan to the banks. Farmers will be asked to pay back the loan in five to seven years about a year after the loan gets sanctioned to them by the banks. All the banks have been directed to identify at least five villages (for every branch) and find out on their own about the villagers there who are being exploited by the moneylenders. The banks will have to facilitate easy loan to the farmers and free them from the clutches of the moneylenders. If a farmer turns up on his own, banks will have to help him also. The progress of the scheme will be assessed by the head offices of the banks.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 09/29/2009

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Indian Govt. Tightens Visa Rules

New Delhi: The Indian Government has tightened the employment visa rules to distinguish these from the liberal rules for the business visa. This is done to prevent companies from misusing the business visa. The new rules make it necessary for expatriate workers (including those from China) to re-enter India for completing their existing assignments only on an employment visa, according to Financial Express. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has clarified the government stand on visas to foreign nationals. The Ministry says that request for employment visas for jobs for which a large number or qualified Indians are available should not be considered. From now on, employment visas for clerical, routine and secretarial jobs will also not be granted. The Ministry has asked the Ministry of External Affairs to brief Indian missions abroad on the changed norms, so that they use suitable discretion in granting employment visas. Many countries such as the U.S. already have restriction on the number of visa provided to foreigners. According to the H1-B visa norms, the U.S. can issue upto 85,000 H1-B petitions, and set aside 20,000 for advance degree graduates for U.S. universities. According to the new norms, all foreign professionals living in India on business visas will have to leave the country by October 31 if they are engaged in execution of projects and contracts. Foreign professionals will have to re-enter India for completing their existing assignments only on an employment visa. Companies will have to bear the expenses of sending foreign professionals with business visas back to their home countries. The move is expected to impact the 70,000-odd expatriates, working in India in various sectors. Analysts expect multinationals with Indian subsidiaries to restructure their operations. "Companies will have to review and restructure their assignment programs in order to comply with visa requirements," said Kuldeep Kumar, Executive Director of PricewaterhouseCoopers. While some experts say that Indian Government should be careful since it is in India's interest to send more Indians abroad. Also, India should keep in mind the World Trade Organization norms. "India needs to tread carefully on such issues given that Mode 4 trade liberalisation (under the Doha Round of WTO talks) is high on India's agenda," said Biswajit Dhar, Director General, Research and Information System on Developing Countries.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 10/08/2009

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J&K Government Plans Initiatives to Boost IT Growth

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Government is inviting companies to implement mega projects, to fuel the growth of Information Technology (IT) in the state. The projects, which are being implemented, include establishing 1,100 IT kiosks called 'e-Khidmat centers' for the delivery of services in remote villages, reports The Hindu. According to J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, the projects worth approximately Rs. 150 core are being implemented to offer core infrastructure for growth of IT industry and e-governance initiatives in the state. According to Abdullah, for the past 20 years big business houses arrive in the state with blitz and vanish silently after a few months on security concerns. "Therefore, I feel it necessary to evolve a policy under which it is necessary for every company, which desires to establish its branch in the IT sector to have local partnership," he added. He also said that local partnership method will not only help in the perpetual presence of reputed companies in the state but also help in running their offices round the year. The Chief Minister said job avenues in the state have lessened and the IT sector provides a golden opportunity to accommodate the youth who have expertise in the sector. "Proactive measures are required to be taken by setting up dedicated IT parks, rich and efficient infrastructure as per present requirements of the globe, in order to boost IT sector in the state," said Abdullah.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 10/11/2009

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PAKISTAN: Senate Passes Election Rules Amendment Bill

ISLAMABAD: The Senate has approved the bill to eliminate graduation condition to contest polls. A special committee is also constituted to remove Balochistan's reservations about recruitment in PIA. At the beginning of Senate session, some of the members criticized the interior minister for not replying three months old questions. Chairman Senate while giving the ruling asked interior ministry to improve its performance. The chairman also postponed the questions and answers related to interior issues due to the absence of minister of state. Senator Lashkar Raisani protest for ignoring Balochistan quota in PIA recruitment and said Balcoh people are fully capable and competent. Chairman Senate then formed a special committee to remove the reservations of Balochistan that includes representatives of all political parties and FATA. Later, the House unanimously passed the election rules amendment bill 2009. According to bill, the condition of graduation to contest elections has been abolished. The Senate also approved a resolution to debate on increased price of essential commodities. The Senate session has been adjourned till 4:30 pm Wednesday.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 10/06/2009

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Govt Committed to Repeal 17th Amendment

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said the government is committed to abolish the 17th Amendment and 58-2B, Geo News reported Tuesday.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 10/13/2009

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Govt Wants Uniform LB Policy for Entire Province: Shazia

KARACHI: The Sindh Information Minister Shazia Atta Marri Wednesday said Pakistan People's Party (PPP) wants uniform policy in the entire province including Karachi and Hyderabad regarding Local Bodies system. Talking to media after Sindh Assembly session, she said the PPP pursues the policy of reconciliation and consults all allied parties for the benefit of all. Marri said the Sindh stance on GST on services have been accepted in NFC Award meeting, which is a welcome sign and will entail far-reaching effects. Responding a question, she condemned the maltreatment with Pakistanis jailed in India, adding the Foreign Ministry is taking up measures in this connection.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 10/14/2009

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AFGHANISTAN: Rethinking The Constitutional Balance of Power

As the international community, specifically the NATO allies, wrestles with the need to develop yet another military strategy in Afghanistan, some domestic political leaders in the strife-ravaged country are starting to question whether a highly centralized government is the best system for the present, challenging times. The recently conducted presidential election, a vote marred by widespread fraud, has helped catalyze the nascent constitutional debate inside Afghanistan. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Domestic critics of President Hamid Karzai believe the reports of massive vote-tampering on behalf of the incumbent shows that the strong-presidential system is detrimental for Afghanistan. They are calling for an urgent redistribution of power - from the central government to the regions - in order to prevent Afghanistan's democratization process from careening off the rails. Not surprisingly those supporting the idea of devolving power from Kabul to the regions tend to be political opponents of the president. Among these critics is the governor of northern Balkh Province, Gen. Atta Mohammad Noor. Though originally appointed by Karzai, Atta was a strong supporter of the president's main rival in the presidential vote, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah.

"This is one of the reasons why I supported Dr Abdullah," Atta said during a recent interview with EurasiaNet. "If one man has too much power it is a totalitarian system, and not a democracy. Rights will not be given, liberty is in question and there is no balance and no justice." The final election result has yet to be confirmed. Even so, Abdullah, in comments to EurasiaNet, talked like Karzai's reelection was not in doubt. Even if he didn't prevail in the election, Abdullah vowed to press ahead with an initiative to create more of a confederal system in Afghanistan. While the fine points of Abdullah's vision remain vague, his general framework emphasizes a need for the decentralization of power, in particular the direct election of governors. He also expressed a desire to establish a commission that could resolve constitutional disputes. Abdullah is convinced that the existing system is overly centralized, and, therefore, prone to abuse of power. "It is difficult", he said, "for a person who believes in democracy to go along with a system where everyone from the minister to the district governor works under the orders of the commander in chief."

The key for Afghanistan's future stability will be a system that deemphasizes the importance of the personality at the top of the political pyramid, and which instead stresses transparency and strengthens respect for institutions, he asserted. "Then it [wouldn't] matter so much who comes and who goes [via elections]. The system [would] be in place," Abdullah said. Under Afghanistan's current presidential system, power is highly concentrated in the chief executive's office, leaving regional officials with little political, administrative or financial authority. Governors of provinces are appointed by the president. Provincial councils - elections to which were held concurrently with the August presidential vote, but which have received scant media coverage - have no powers and barely any role in the management of local affairs. District council elections have yet to be held. The system may not be ideal, but now is no time to be tinkering, some prominent politicians say, including the governor of Wardak Province, Halim Fidai. In an interview with EurasiaNet, the Wardak governor said a strong presidential system offered the democratization process the best chances of success, given the current circumstances.

"A strong centralized government must be supported by the international community," Fidai said. "The problem is the international community is looking at Afghanistan from its own perspective and not the perspective of Afghanistan." "People are criticizing a centralized system that has not yet been [fully] implemented," he continued. "A [confederal] system would disunite and disintegrate the country. It would create more warlords; unqualified people would be [elected] as governors." Fidai's voice carries added authority because he is viewed as someone with whom the international military and diplomatic community can work. Wardak Province, thanks in large measure to Fidai's leadership, has emerged as a proving ground for pilot programs, including the controversial "AP3" project - officially known as the Afghan Police Protection Force Program - which seeks to arm communities to defend themselves. An existing problem with the appointment of governors is that local interest groups have excessive influence, Fidai suggested. "The appointees should be picked by the president alone in accordance with criterion of qualifications for the post," he added.

Although emphasis should remain on the concept of centralization, Afghanistan's governing system could benefit from some decentralization. "The local governance systems should have the authority to make government officials accountable," Fidai said. It is clear that the international community is disenchanted with Karzai's management style. Nevertheless, every indicator suggests that the United States and its European allies aren't about to support an effort to reform Afghanistan's political system at a time when an external threat, in the form of the Taliban insurgency, is eroding domestic security. The United Nations' September 30 dismissal of Peter Galbraith, who had been the No. 2 UN diplomat in Kabul, suggests that the international community is coming around to the position of overlooking the massive fraud in the August presidential vote, and giving its blessing to Karzai's reelection. Galbraith's earlier efforts to adopt a hardline stance on the fraud issue, demanding a wide-scale recount, was apparently responsible for his dismissal. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. The Galbraith incident suggests that the international community is circling the wagons around Karzai, perhaps because they see no better available options, and hoping for the best. (by Aunohita Mojumdar)

From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 10/02/09

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KAZAKHSTAN: All Efforts to Be Directed to Achieve Higher GDP Growth Rate

The Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, Karim Masimov, at the selector government meeting today said he considers necessary to direct all the efforts to achieve higher GDP growth rate, Kazakhstan Today agency reports. "GDP growth is a priority number one," K. Masimov said. "Now, all the efforts need to be directed to achieve GDP growth," the Prime Minister underlined. He also assigned akims of the cities and areas to keep this issue under control.

From Kazakhstan Today 10/05/2009

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Majilis Passed Amendments to the Bill on Culture

The deputies of Majilis of Parliament of Kazakhstan at the plenary session passed the bill on amendments and additions to Law of Kazakhstan on Culture, Kazakhstan Today agency reports. According to the Minister of Culture and Information, Muhtar Kul-Muhammed, "as a whole, the amendments to the legislation are directed at improvement of the national legislation regarding the support of domestic cinematograph, library science, formation and preservation of cultural values."

From Kazakhstan Today 10/08/2009
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Government Accepted Decree on Additional Measures of Support to Subjects of Processing Sector

The government of Kazakhstan accepted the decree on additional measures of support to the subjects of the processing sector and solution to the problems in the real estate market at the government session on Thursday, Kazakhstan Today agency reports. According to Vice President of JSC Samruk-Kazyna Fund, Kayrat Aytekenov, "these measures will be realized through the Fund of Stressful Assets." "As a whole, 50 billion KZT will be directed for financing of the investment projects." "80.5 billion KZT will be directed for support of the processing sector of the economy of Kazakhstan. 42 billion - public funds, 38.5 - from other sources," K. Aytekenov concluded.

From Kazakhstan Today 10/09/2009

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President Discussed Formation of Legislative Base of Further Social and Economic Development of Kazakhstan

The head of the state, Nursultan Nazarbayev, met the deputy of the Senate of Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Omirbek Baygeldi, Kazakhstan Today agency reports citing the president's press service. "During the meeting, the officials discussed the work of the Senate of Parliament related to formation of the effective legislative base of further social and economic development of Kazakhstan."

From Kazakhstan Today 10/09/2009

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Russia, Allies Edge to Joint But Separate WTO Bid

GENEVA (Reuters) - Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan's efforts to join the World Trade Organization as a single customs union are likely to produce coordinated negotiations but could still see separate accessions, trade officials have said. The three former Soviet states called a meeting of WTO members to discuss their plans, which may result in a face-saving climb-down. "I don't see a problem with the three of them coordinating their work - that's their call," Stefan Johannesson, the Icelandic diplomat chairing Russia's WTO accession negotiations, told Reuters. But trade officials said it was by no means clear that the three states, which will form a customs union from January 1, 2010, would enter the WTO simultaneously as they have pledged. Whether or not that happens was likely to emerge from the October 15 and subsequent meetings.

The European Union's trade chief said ahead of the meeting that she hopes Russia keeps open the option of joining the WTO unilaterally. "Russia needs to see strategically it is better to be in the WTO. It doesn't prevent it having strong relationships with their near neighbors," EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton told Reuters in an interview. Russia is by far the biggest economy still outside the 153-member WTO and has been trying to join for over 16 years. Frustration at the drawn-out talks, which many in Moscow put down to political considerations, has often boiled over, with officials suggesting that Russia may not join at all, or that the WTO needs Russia more than Russia needs them.

Putin's Proposal
However, only days after EU and U.S. officials spoke of Russia finally getting in this year, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin threw the talks into turmoil by announcing on June 9 that Russia would only enter the WTO together with its two neighbors whose own accession negotiations are far behind Moscow's. The move aimed to bolster the future customs union, part of Russia's strategy of strengthening ties with other former Soviet states, and may also have been an attempt by Putin to regain the initiative in the talks. "It's a reflection of their domestic politics, I guess," said one senior trade official, acknowledging that the proposal has become a little clearer in the intervening months. There is no precedent for a customs union to negotiate joint membership, and WTO members were perplexed by the legal implications.

Kazakhstan's chief WTO negotiator, Zhanar Aitzhanova, added some clarification last week when she said the three states could adopt a twin-track approach. They could negotiate as a customs union on issues such as the common external tariff that the union would be responsible for, but on other questions such as services and sanitary rules continue to negotiate separately, she told Reuters on October 7. But Johannesson said on October 14 that the joint approach could seriously delay Russia's accession. For instance Russia would have to wait while Belarus and Kazakhstan catch up in areas already agreed by Moscow. And if the customs union - which itself is still evolving - takes a different line on such questions, Moscow would have to reopen them and start afresh.

The WTO accessions process requires candidates to negotiate both with individual members bilaterally, and with the WTO as a whole, represented by a working group of interested countries which any existing member can take part in. That gives not only a decisive say to major trading powers like the United States and European Union, but an effective veto to every member. So even when the details of the customs union are worked out, Russia and other WTO members will need to convince Georgia, with whom Russia fought a war last year, to let Russia in. Georgia has blocked formal work on Russia's candidacy, arguing that Moscow's support for breakaway Georgian regions involves illegal interference with customs posts on its internationally recognized border, but is allowing negotiations to proceed informally.

From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/15/2009

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AUSTRALIA: Bill for Reform of the Health Professions

Nationally consistent registration and accreditation for health professions is a step closer today following the introduction of the legislation that sets out the framework for a national scheme. The Queensland Deputy Premier and Minister for Health, Paul Lucas, has now introduced the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Bill 2009 (Qld) to the Queensland Parliament. All health ministers have agreed that this legislation will form the basis for a national scheme to begin on 1 July 2010. The scheme will cover registration and accreditation, complaints, privacy and information sharing, and transitional arrangements. Under the scheme, a health practitioner will only have to register once and will have that registration recognised throughout Australia. No longer will a health practitioner wanting to work interstate be required to hold additional or multiple registrations. This will be of particular benefit in responding to national emergencies where a workforce can be mobilised quickly from across the country. Patient safety will be improved by having a national register that will clearly identify whether a health practitioner is registered and any conditions that may be imposed on their registration. Professional standards will continue to be developed by the individual professions and will ensure that Australia continues to have a world class health system where patient safety is paramount. Following passage in the Queensland Parliament, draft legislation will progressively be introduced in all parliaments across Australia to adopt and apply the new national law. The Bill was drafted in accordance with the Intergovernmental Agreement, signed by the Council of Australian Governments' in March 2008, and follows extensive consultation with consumers, practitioners and regulatory bodies. My fellow health ministers and I have welcomed the responses to the exposure draft Bill and the level of commitment to finalising the Bill. I look forward to Australia soon having a workable national registration system that will deliver for patients and health professionals alike.

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

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National Arts and Disability Strategy

Arts Minister Peter Garrett and the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, Bill Shorten, today commended the Cultural Ministers Council for endorsing the National Arts and Disability Strategy at their national meeting. "Arts and culture enriches us all - and with one in five Australians experiencing some form of disability, it has been an imperative to include and enable everyone who wishes to engage with such a vital part of Australian life," said Mr Garrett. The National Arts and Disability Strategy came out of a consultation process between the Cultural Ministers Council and the arts and disability sector, including organisations and individuals, and with submissions from arts practitioners and arts consumers in the sector. "We now strongly recommend that state and local governments, venue owners and others review this important document and incorporate it into their future planning and approach.," Mr Garrett said. "Australians with a disability face barriers to participation, whether physical, financial or social," said Mr Shorten. "This strategy sits under a broader national strategic policy push to get people past these barriers and into full participation in the life of the community." Partnerships among governments, and between governments and the private and non-profit sectors, are a vital component of the strategy, which guides partners to identify and develop priority projects. Four priority areas are set out in the National Arts and Disability Strategy: finding ways to address barriers to participation, as audiences or in arts practice; aiding ambition, and helping emerging professional arts practitioners; growing audiences for work created by those with a disability; and empowering people to participate in arts policy development and planning. The Australian Government provides financial and secretariat support to the Cultural Ministers Council through the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. For copies of the Strategy, including accessible formats, see the Cultural Ministers Council website: www.cmc.gov.au, or contact the Cultural Ministers Council Secretariat at contact@cmc.gov.au

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 10/09/2009

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Bill to Reform Tax of Employee Share Schemes

The Rudd Government has today introduced into Parliament the final form of the legislation to reform the taxation of employee share schemes, an important integrity measure contained in the 2009-10 Budget which will deliver a $135 million boost to the Budget bottom line.

The Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry, highlighted the Government's strong support for employee share schemes.

"The Rudd Government believes employee share schemes align the interests of employees and employers, boost productivity and encourage good corporate governance," the Assistant Treasurer said.

"These reforms will better target the employee share scheme tax concessions and improve corporate governance outcomes by encouraging schemes to offer genuine loyalty or performance conditions to gain access to the deferred tax concession."

"The Government has consulted widely with industry experts, including with the Board of Taxation, and with the Australian community to develop the most effective and workable reforms possible."

"I thank the Board of Taxation and the range of stakeholders with whom I have met and received advice during the several stages of this consultation."

As a result of consultation undertaken by both the Government and the Board of Taxation, the legislation and explanatory materials introduced today:

widen the exposure draft refund provisions to ensure that a refund will not be denied when employee share scheme benefits are forfeited as a result of leaving employment;
include significant additional guidance and examples of the real risk of forfeiture test, including when forfeiture conditions relating to retirement would constitute a real risk;
provide clear transitional arrangements for shares and rights acquired before 1 July 2009;
adjust the exposure draft provisions related to salary sacrifice arrangements to make it administratively easier to offer complex schemes involving both shares or rights with a real risk of forfeiture, and salary sacrifice arrangements;
exempt employee share trusts from capital gains tax over shares acquired to satisfy the exercise of rights provided under an employee share scheme; and
amend certain tests in the exposure draft package, such as the tests requiring schemes to be offered to a broad cross-section of employees, to make the rules easier to comply with.

The Assistant Treasurer has previously asked the Board of Taxation to consider two further issues raised in consultation:

how to best determine the market value of employee share scheme benefits; and
whether shares and rights under an employee share scheme at a start-up, R&D or speculative focused company should have separate tax deferral arrangements, despite not being subject to a real risk of forfeiture.

The Board of Taxation will report their findings in relation to these issues to the Government by February next year.

Consistent with the current law, tax on employee share scheme benefits cannot be deferred beyond the time when an employee ceases employment with their employer. This has been a feature of the law since 1995.

"I have considered stakeholder requests for the removal of the cessation of employment as a taxing point, but to do this would raise significant tax integrity issues, and punch a major hole in the revenue base, and that is untenable at this time," said the Assistant Treasurer.

As previously announced, the changes to the taxation of employee share schemes will apply from 1 July 2009.

The legislation and explanatory materials are available at www.aph.gov.au.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 10/21/2009

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Skills to Go Green by 2010

The Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, today announced that all apprenticeships and vocational education training packages will be reviewed to ensure that they include relevant green skills by March next year, and that all courses will be revised to include the new green skills by the end of 2010. Ms Gillard was speaking at the first national Green Skills Forum where more than 100 business and union leaders, educators and experts met to discuss the challenges of ensuring the Australian workforce has the skills to tackle climate change. Ms Gillard said if we can, on a major scale, reduce waste, conserve and better manage water, develop more energy efficient cities and sustainable transport systems - these will be inherently good things. Not just to meet treaty obligations or because of what will happen if we fail. These steps are in themselves powerful measures to improve the competitiveness of our industries and they will be better for the health of Australians and good for our environment. The Forum considered a draft National Green Skills Agreement between the Commonwealth and States and Territories that will move to update apprentices training packages, set national standards for green skills teaching and assist trainers to include green skills in their courses. The Agreement will be taken to the Ministerial Council on Training, Education and Employment next month, and to COAG in December. The Commonwealth Government recently committed to a green skills program that will see 50,000 green jobs and training opportunities made available, including: 30,000 apprentices will graduate by 2011 with green skills as part of their qualifications; 10,000 unemployed 17 - 24 year olds will be able to access a 26 week environmental work experience and training program through the National Green Corps; 4,000 training opportunities for installation installers; and, 6,000 new jobs contributing to environmental sustainability in priority local economies. The Government will also provide $200 million to TAFEs and has allocated up to $650 million to the sustainability round of the Education Investment Fund to support research and apply green technologies in universities and the TAFE sector.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 10/23/2009

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Tax Agent Services Regulations

The Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry, today announced the proposed final form of the Tax Agent Services Regulations 2009. The proposed Regulations contain key aspects of the tax agents' services regime, including the qualifications and relevant work experience requirements for registration as a tax agent or Business Activity Statement (BAS) agent under the new tax agent services regime. "The tax agents' services regime is a major piece of red-tape reducing national reform - it will see one, clear, straight-forward national regime put in place for the first time," said the Assistant Treasurer. The proposed Regulations include several new features that take account of stakeholder submissions received during the final round of public consultation. "The Rudd Government places a high value on the public consultation process and that's been integral in the development of all aspects of the tax agent services regime," the Assistant Treasurer said. "We welcome the latest input from industry and other stakeholders on the exposure draft Regulations, which represent the final legislative aspect of the regime."

The key new features of the proposed Regulations would include: maintaining the existing ability for individuals with academic qualifications in law to seek registration as a tax agent, even if they haven't completed the additional practical legal training course required to practice law; providing the Tax Practitioners Board (Board) with greater flexibility in determining which additional courses a specialist tax agent service provider is required to complete in order to be eligible for registration - this ensures that individuals whose registration is limited to providing services in a narrow area of the taxation law, such as quantity surveyors, are not required to complete courses that are of limited or negligible value; providing the Board with greater flexibility in the types of organisations it is able to recognise for the purposes of the Regulations; confirming that Recognised Tax Agent Associations are not intended to exist exclusively for tax agent or BAS agent members as it is realistic for professional associations to seek to represent a wider group; replacing the term 'Recognised Professional Associations' with 'Recognised Tax Agent Associations' to better reflect the full suite of associations present across tax agent services; providing the Board with the discretion to recognise Recognised Tax Agent Associations that do not meet the voting requirements or do not have the requisite number of members having regard to the purpose and intent of the tax agent services regime, to ensure that a broader range of organisations can seek to be recognised by the Board; confirming that if a Recognised Tax Agent Association's registration is terminated by the Board, the Board will have full discretion to delay the termination of an tax or BAS agents registration so as to give them sufficient time to seek membership of an alternative association; ensuring that Recognised Tax Agent Associations are not prevented from offering voting membership to individuals with substantial experience in providing tax agent services and individuals who have academic legal qualifications - but may not have completed the additional practical legal training required to practice law; and confirming that existing and aspiring agents would not be required to be a member of a professional association or BAS association to be registered under the regime.

The Assistant Treasurer today also announced the members of the newly-established Tax Practitioners Board, which will oversee the new tax and BAS agent regime. "I am confident the focus of the Tax Practitioners Board will be on making the transition to the new regime as smooth as possible," the Assistant Treasurer said. "It is a regulatory regime developed through extensive consultation, which have been reflected in the proposed Regulations, and I know the new Board is gearing up to work with all parties to help them understand any obligations they may have." The Assistant Treasurer will recommend that the Governor-General in Council approve the proposed Regulations at a forthcoming meeting of the Federal Executive Council.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 10/23/2009

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Australia's Largest Free Trade Agreement

The largest Free Trade Agreement Australia has ever concluded will come into force on 1 January 2010, following discussion between ASEAN leaders today. The Agreement establishing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) spans 12 economies, with over 600 million people and a combined GDP of $3.1 trillion. The Agreement will cover a massive 20% of Australia's two-way trade, worth $112 billion. The deal will eliminate tariffs on 96 per cent of our current exports to ASEAN nations by 2020. Currently, only 67 per cent of our exports to the region are tariff-free. This will support Australian industry by promoting exports, and will play an important role in supporting Australian jobs. This will be the most comprehensive Free Trade Agreement to enter into force for ASEAN, covering a range of areas including:
Goods
Services
Investment
Intellectual property
e-commerce

The nations covered by the AANZFTA are the 10 ASEAN Member States: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Viet Nam; and Australia and New Zealand. When the global financial crisis began at the end of last year, one of the greatest threats to economic recovery was the potential for an outbreak of national protectionism. The initial signing of the AANZFTA in February was an important sign of the determination of nations to work together to build economic recovery, and today's announcement cements that cooperation. The entry into force of AANZFTA is also another important step towards greater cooperation and economic integration in the region.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 10/25/2009

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NEW ZEALAND: New Laws Will Tackle Evil of Family Violence

New legislation will help protect victims of family violence and see more offenders held to account for their actions, Police Minister Judith Collins says. Crime statistics released by police today reveal family violence continues to be a major problem in New Zealand. Recorded violence rose 7 percent during the year to 30 June 2009, driven almost entirely by recorded family violence which increased 13.5 percent. "Too many families continue to live in terror of the threat of violence within their homes," Ms Collins said. "In the 2008 calendar year, police responded to 82,692 incidents and offences relating to family violence. In the year to 30 June, 23 murders were classified as family violence murders. "Domestic violence is an evil that casts a shadow over the lives of too many New Zealanders - particularly children, the most vulnerable in our society. "It is time we got serious about stamping out this problem by offering more protection to victims and ensuring offenders were punished for their actions." The Government has introduced new legislation aimed at significantly reducing family violence. The Child and Family Protection Bill will focus on keeping children safe where there have been instances of family violence in the home. The Domestic Violence (Enhancing Safety) Bill will allow police to issue on-the-spot protection orders to help protect victims of domestic violence. It will also allow sentencing judges in the criminal courts to issue protection orders on behalf of victims. The crime statistics showed a 3.7 percent increase in total recorded crime for the year. New Zealand's population increased just under 1 percent during that period meaning recorded offences per 10,000 population increased by 2.8 percent. Overall, police recorded 442,540 offences compared with 426,690 last year. Ms Collins said the latest statistics were a reflection of good work by police. Police resolved 212,038 offences to increase the resolution rate from 47 to 47.9 percent. The statistics showed increases in drugs offences, sexual offences and dishonesty offences, and a decrease in homicides and robberies.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 10/01/2009

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New Regulations for Real Estate Industry

Four sets of regulations will underpin the Real Estate Agents Act 2008 and the new regulatory regime, Justice Minister Simon Power announced today. The regulations will ensure the regulatory processes are transparent, and make it easier for licensees to comply with obligations. This will help keep compliance costs as low as possible. "These regulations are very important. They supplement the Act and will enable the new regulatory regime to operate efficiently," said Mr Power. "They will also help consumers by clearly setting out the information they can expect licensees to provide before they enter into certain contractual arrangements, and by making it easier for consumers to make a complaint if problems do arise." The regulations are: Real Estate Agents (Audit) Regulations 2009 deal with the audit and use of trust accounts that agents must operate. Real Estate Agents (Complaints and Discipline) Regulations 2009 address procedural aspects of the new complaints and discipline process. Real Estate Agents (Duties of Licensees) Regulations 2009 set out the forms that licensees must use to satisfy certain disclosure obligations and to get informed consent before they or a related person can acquire an interest in a client's property or business. Real Estate Agents (Licensing) Regulations 2009 deal with the licensing process, including application forms and the educational prerequisites for each of the three classes of licence (agent, salesperson, and branch manager). The regulations come into force when the new regulatory regime commences on 17 November 2009. Copies of the regulations are available by clicking here.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 10/02/2009

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Government Committed to Single Economic Market

The Government's commitment to the ongoing development of the trans-Tasman single economic market (SEM) agenda was today outlined by Commerce Minister Simon Power. In a speech to the Institute of International Affairs seminar, Remaking the Trans-Tasman World, Mr Power reiterated the importance of achieving a seamless operating environment for Australian and New Zealand businesses. "Our ambition is that a New Zealand company can conduct its business as easily in Australia as it can at home, and vice-versa," Mr Power said. "The easier we can make it for companies to operate in both New Zealand and Australia by removing unnecessary barriers, the greater the opportunities for business to make substantive productivity gains and take up new opportunities that will underpin long-term business growth." Mr Power referred to the new intensity and renewed focus on this trans-Tasman bond that Prime Ministers John Key and Kevin Rudd signalled when they met in August. Both committed to accelerating the pace of delivering practical benefits and outcomes to business in a Joint Statement of Intent. "We have identified a framework of principles and outcomes to drive this", Mr Power said. "We want to move beyond current constraints and find new options for achieving a stronger trans-Tasman economy." He said that some of the short- and medium-term outcomes that New Zealand wants to achieve include: Enabling trans-Tasman businesses to file company information only once while meeting the requirements of both governments. Establishing a single set of accounting standards. Establishing a single insolvency proceeding.

Further exploring the sharing of competition and consumer regulations, and cross representation on the New Zealand Commerce Commission and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Mr Power also spoke about the parallels between the two countries' reform agendas. The Commerce portfolio, with responsibility for the framework of laws regulating the broader business environment, is central to accelerating a single economic market. The SEM agenda also includes the wider co-ordination efforts under way in investment and tax policy and portability of superannuation, which is being advanced by the Finance Minister and the Australian Treasurer. "This is an exciting time for the trans-Tasman relationship. There is a strong rapport between Prime Ministers and between senior ministers." "There is a high level of shared political commitment to accelerate the pace of achieving a single economic market to provide greater opportunities for businesses from both countries to grow and respond to global opportunities and challenges." The Prime Ministers' Joint Statement of Intent is available at www.med.govt.nz

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 10/13/2009

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Parliament Passes Law on Money Laundering

A bill that boosts measures to counter money laundering by criminal gangs and organised crime, and which counters the financing of terrorism, was passed into law today. Justice Minister Simon Power said the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act will help tackle financial and drug-related crime by assisting Police to detect and trace profits of organised crime groups. "This Act enhances our ability to investigate organised crime, by following the illegal money trail through financial systems, and goes hand-in-hand with the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act, passed by the Government in April, which can be used to attack criminal profits. "This is also another weapon in the fight against methamphetamine, in that it will be an impediment to the laundering of money from such activities by the criminal gangs. "The Act will also ensure that New Zealand's financial sector continues to be attractive to legitimate international investors, and is not seen as a safe haven for organised criminals and tax evaders. "New Zealand cannot be seen as a weak link for organised criminals and terrorists. "This Act will allow us to better contribute to the international fight against money laundering, tax evasion, and terrorism financing. "It implements measures established by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) - an inter-governmental body that sets international standards for combating money laundering and terrorist financing. "Most of New Zealand's trading partners are included in the task force, and not implementing its measures puts our reputation and access to international financial markets at risk." Mr Power said the legislation provided for a lead-in time for financial service providers and casinos to make sure they have measures in place to, for example, check their customers are who they say they are, and systems that can identify and report suspicious activity. "As far as possible, the Act enables businesses to focus their resources on those customers or products that represent the most risk," Mr Power said. "It recognises that effective control of money laundering requires a collaborative approach between industry and government. "The Reserve Bank, the Securities Commission, and the Department of Internal Affairs are tasked with supervisory roles and will support the new regime as it is phased in. "The legislation brings this aspect of our financial sector regulation into line with those countries to whom we might like to compare ourselves, such as Australia."

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 10/15/2009

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ACC Reform Bill Introduced Next Week

The government today tabled the ACC Reform Bill in Parliament and will introduce it for its first reading next week, ACC Minister Nick Smith says. "I am pleased the government has secured support for this critical legislation from both the Maori Party and from ACT that will see ACC's proposed levy increases reduced by half," Dr Smith said. "Today the National and ACT Parties reached an agreement that will ensure the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Amendment Bill will be passed through all stages." National's intention is to work with ACT to open the ACC Work Account to competition subject only to the government receiving a report from the steering group currently considering the Stocktake of ACC Accounts that sets out the merits and feasibility to New Zealand of such a policy, and outlines a process to achieve this policy objective in a way that resolves any significant outstanding issues of such a move. The ACC Stocktake Group will also explore other areas in which the private and non-government sectors (including Iwi) can be involved in accident management and compensation. Accordingly, the ACC Stocktake Group will have an added term of reference to deal with this competition issue, and it will undertake this additional work to the same timeframe as currently planned i.e June 2010. The Group will provide an interim report on the competition issue no later than 1 February 2010.

For the purpose of its work on opening the Work Account up to competition, two additional members, to be agreed between National and ACT, will be appointed to the ACC Stocktake Group. To ensure that this work is given the necessary priority, the government will provide ACC with additional funding. Subsequent to the government receiving the report in June 2010, and the anticipated decision to open up the Work Account to competition as soon as reasonably practicable, the government will introduce legislation into Parliament during 2010 to ensure the soonest implementation possible. The government will consult with the ACT party during both the process of making a decision on the ACC Stocktake Group's report, and in the preparation of any subsequent legislation. The Steering Group is chaired by former Labour Cabinet Minister and former ACC Board chairman David Caygill and contains independent advisors Dr Neil Quigley and Gordon Smith. It also comprises current ACC Board chairman John Judge, and senior officials from Treasury, Department of Labour, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 10/22/2009

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Bill for New Electoral Commission Introduced

A bill that establishes a new Electoral Commission with over-arching responsibility for electoral administration was introduced to Parliament today by Justice Minister Simon Power. The Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill will establish the commission, which will be an independent Crown entity separate from executive government. Responsibility for electoral administration is currently split between the Chief Electoral Officer, the Electoral Commission, and the Chief Registrar of Electors through the Electoral Enrolment Centre. Mr Power said having one agency would remove duplication and confusion over responsibilities, as well as saving costs and reducing complexity for political parties, constituency candidates, and the public. "Ongoing reviews have found the existing arrangements to be flawed. "The proposal for a single entity will address those flaws and alleviate the pressure on the current agencies, political parties and candidates, and the public." The bill will transfer the functions of the Electoral Commission and the Chief Electoral Officer to the new commission on 1 October next year, so it can administer the 2011 general election. "I'm confident the new agency will provide better access to electoral services and encourage a more integrated, efficient, and strategic approach to electoral administration." Mr Power said. "The adoption of an independent Crown entity for electoral administration will provide the best balance of a high level of independence with good accountability and the ability to administer the electoral functions to a high standard." A further bill will transfer the functions of the Chief Registrar of Electors to the new commission on 1 October 2012. The reform is in two stages to ensure transition to the new commission does not create risk for the administration of the 2011 election.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 10/22/2009

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On-the-Spot Protection Orders Become Law

A law aimed at further protecting victims of family violence was passed into law last night. The Domestic Violence (Enhancing Safety) Act strengthens the responsiveness of criminal justice agencies to victims of domestic violence. It amends the Domestic Violence Act 1995, the Sentencing Act 2002, and the Bail Act 2000. "The most significant change is to the Domestic Violence Act with the introduction of police safety orders. "Police will now be able to issue orders on the spot to ensure the immediate safety of victims by removing the alleged violent person from the home for a period of up to five days. "Police will issue these orders in situations where there is an insufficient basis to arrest but where they believe there is a likelihood of domestic violence occurring, and an order is necessary for the safety of the victim. "This will provide a period of safety in which victims can consider their future options, including the possibility of a court protection order. "Another important feature of the law is the amending of the Sentencing Act 2002, to enable the criminal courts to issue a protection order on the behalf of victims in cases where an offender is sentenced for a domestic violence offence. "Both of these provisions will be enacted from 1 July next year to allow police and the courts time to develop operational processes and undertake training. "This will ensure a smooth transition from the legislation to day-to-day policing practice and court management of domestic violence matters." The other provisions of the Act come into force on enactment.

The law also: Removes from the Domestic Violence Act the two-tiered penalty structure for breaches of protection orders, leaving only the maximum penalty of up to two years' imprisonment. Provides a penalty of up to six months' imprisonment for failing to attend a court-ordered programme. Repeals the statutory criteria that police have to take into account when considering whether to arrest, without warrant, a person who they suspect has contravened a protection order. This means the approach taken by police will be the same as for any other offence when an arrest without warrant is being considered. Allows police to impose any conditions considered reasonably necessary to protect any particular person residing with the victim, such as children, new partners, or elderly parents. "This law provides useful tools in expediting the response of the criminal justice sector to domestic violence," Mr Power said. "The police safety orders will provide immediate protection for victims, while making it very clear to the person who has allegedly committed the violence that their behaviour will not be tolerated. "This law is predicated on the belief that there is still more that can be done to protect victims of family violence and help prevent them from becoming just another statistic."

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 10/22/2009

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Improved Auditor Regulation to Be Introduced

The Government is to introduce an improved auditor regulation which will apply to statutory audits in New Zealand, Commerce Minister Simon Power said today. Under the regulation, the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants will be required to regulate auditors as a specialist profession rather than as chartered accountants, and the Accounting Standards Review Board will become responsible for monitoring and reporting on the way the institute regulates auditors. The board will be able to instruct the institute to remedy any weaknesses in their regulatory systems and processes. Currently, any chartered accountant holding a Certificate of Public Practice can carry out an audit as long as they think they are competent to do so, and no audit-related restrictions have been placed on them. "A recent report by the Register of Companies identified audit failure as a contributing factor to finance company failures over the past three years. This indicates that self-assessment is not working. We need to make sure that large and complex audits are performed by properly qualified individuals. This change will better protect investors' interests," Mr Power said. The changes will also bring New Zealand's regime into line with international norms. "Self-regulation is no longer acceptable internationally. We need to introduce independent oversight to ensure that New Zealand auditors are able to practise overseas. "However, the new licensing system will only apply to major audits, such as the audits of issuers and large companies. "The changes will have no impact on audits of small and medium companies and non-profit entities. "I am planning to introduce legislation to implement these changes in the middle of next year, with the aim of bringing the new system into effect in 2012. The Cabinet paper is available here.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 10/23/2009

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National Standards the Key to Lifting Achievement

Prime Minister John Key will today fulfil a major election promise with the launch of National Standards in reading, writing, and maths for primary and intermediate schools. "We have a strong mandate from parents and we are delivering for them," says Mr Key, who will launch the standards with Education Minister Anne Tolley at Glen Taylor School in Auckland today. "National Standards will lift achievement levels for New Zealand children, and will give parents plain English reporting on their child's progress." The standards provide clear signposts for teachers and parents on how students are achieving in literacy and numeracy. "As many as one-in-five students are being left behind. We need to identify those students early so they get the help they need to make progress. "The Government is providing $36 million over four years to support schools in doing this. "Parents want, and deserve, clear information on how their children are doing at school. Parents can't help if they don't know there is a problem in the first place. "Under National Standards, schools will report to parents twice a year from 2010. "In order to succeed, our children must have the very best educational opportunities. "National Standards will help realise those opportunities."

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 10/23/2009

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IMF Pledges Voting Power Reform to Boost Emerging Countries' Say

"The International Monetary Fund's (IMF) policy body said Sunday in Istanbul it supports quota reform that would shift some voting power from developed countries to emerging and developing countries such as China. At its semiannual meeting, the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) officially backed the commitment reached at the recent summit of G20... to shift at least 5 percent of IMF voting power to emerging and developing economies..." [Kyodo (10/5)/Factiva] AP adds that "...IMFC planned to review progress at its next meeting in Washington on April 24, and sought an agreement on the voting shift by January 2011. The change would then be subject to approval by the legislatures of some member countries... The committee, which sets the IMF's agenda, said it was also committed to protecting the voting share of its poorest members..." [Associated Press (10/4)/Factiva] In related news, The Observer writes that "...UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling refused point blank Saturday to give up Britain's special seat on the board of the IMF as he resisted calls to surrender economic policy-making power to the developing world. The chancellor said he backed plans to give emerging nations a bigger role in the running of international financial institutions, but insisted reform would not come at the expense of the UK..." [The Observer (UK, 10/4)/Factiva]

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 10/05/2009

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Central Asian Trade Ministers Look to Boost Ties with U.S.

RFE/RL - Trade ministers from five Central Asia countries and Afghanistan are in Washington this week for talks on expanding trade and investment. Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis said the United States is drafting a plan for Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to supply more goods and services to operations in Afghanistan as a way of boosting their economies. In a speech at a conference on October 7 in Washington on U.S. trade with Central Asia, Marantis said the region's logistical support for U.S. and NATO forces is helping to build a stable Afghanistan. But he said more can be done. Marantis said his office is working with the Department of Defense and other U.S. agencies on a new initiative "aimed at increasing opportunities for the [Central Asian countries] to supply goods and services to U.S. operations."

He said the effort could create new opportunities for investment and job creation in the region, as well as help the United States and its NATO allies attain their security objectives. The United States signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with all five Central Asian republics in 2004. The partners meet at annual meetings to find ways of promoting trade and investment between the United States and Central Asia. Marantis said the Obama administration is strengthening that agreement in two new ways. First, by adding a mid-year working-group meeting that will follow up on the issues and initiatives raised during the annual meeting. And second, by establishing bilateral channels for dialogue to complement the regional approach. Senior U.S. Defense Department officials briefed the Central Asian ministers at a TIFA meeting on October 8. Earlier this week, Kazakhstan's deputy minister for industry and trade, Zhanar Aitzhanova, said her country is committed to joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) as part of a free-trade zone with Russia and Belarus. Speaking to Reuters, Aitzhanova acknowledged that the decision rests with other members of the WTO, especially the European Union and United States. All three former Soviet republics have been negotiating to join the WTO since the 1990s without success.

From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/09/2009

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APEC Business Advisory Council Supports a Conclusion of the Doha Round But Warns of Risks to WTO's Relevance

The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) has warned that business interest in the multilateral process is waning and that the WTO may be perceived as less relevant, if a conclusion to the Doha Round is further delayed. Earlier this week, ABAC members met with WTO Ambassadors and Director-General Pascal Lamy in Geneva, to express their support for a rapid conclusion of Doha and to convey their strong belief in the primacy of the multilateral trading system. While business generally supports the multilateral process and the WTO, explains Tony Nowell, ABAC Liberalization Working Group Chairman, scepticism has been steadily rising because of the widening gap between rhetoric and action. Conversely, he says, support has been growing for the establishment of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). APEC Leaders have instructed officials to develop specific recommendations for moving forward on an FTAAP, an idea espoused by ABAC since 2006.

"While an FTAAP and the WTO are not incompatible - both will go on regardless of the outcome of Doha - it does take away focus on the Doha Round and forces business to adapt to new challenges that the WTO has yet to consider. There is real danger that the WTO's relevance may be questioned if it is not in a position to have any influence on these issues - particularly now that the supply chain business model has become the norm." According to Teng Theng Dar, Chairman of ABAC 2009, the APEC Leaders' Meeting in Singapore in November may be a golden opportunity to declare a commitment to complete the Round on time, given the presence of Leaders of economies that account for almost half the world's trade and including the USA, China and Japan. "With the global economic recovery still fragile and business and consumer confidence still unstable, any signal, whether positive or negative, is going to be magnified in its impact. It is therefore critical that the news coming out of Geneva be positive."

The message that ABAC heard in Geneva is generally positive, he explains, but not without caution: "We are told that completion of the Round by 2010 is indeed possible but that several things will have to happen within a relatively short period of time. In terms of the process itself, all technical issues should be settled by late this year. On the substantive issues of the negotiations, it seems that movement from the major players - particularly the USA - is key to progress." Incoming ABAC Chair Gempachiro Aihara, said that the while the new Japanese government has yet to unveil its economic and trade policies, past experience suggests that these policies will favour positive engagement with the global economy. He expressed optimism that, as host of APEC in 2010, Japan will take a leading role in achieving progress in both APEC and the WTO. ABAC was created by APEC Leaders to provide a business perspective on regional economic integration. Members are appointed by the Leaders of each APEC member economy.

From http://www.apec.org/ 10/14/2009

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Central Asia United on Economic Crisis Response

BEIJING (AFP) - Leaders from Russia, China and four Central Asian nations vowed on Wednesday to work together to coordinate their responses to the global economic crisis. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, host Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, and leaders from four ex-Soviet countries - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - also agreed their top finance officials would meet by year's end. The six had gathered for a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a regional security grouping dominated by Moscow and Beijing, and seen by some Western critics as a way to counter US influence in Central Asia. Representatives from India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan also joined the talks at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, as the four countries have SCO observer status. "This document will create good opportunities. It will allow us to secure coordination of anti-crisis measures," Putin said before the adoption of an agreement outlining the crisis response and a post-crisis strategy. "The crisis has become a catalyst for reform of the international financial system. Our organisation should take part in this."

Wen said the leaders had agreed to "vigorously develop exchanges and cooperation in the areas of trade, energy resources, agriculture, transport, communications, culture, health, environment, and product quality control, and to improve economic competitiveness and our capability to prevent risks". Russian and Kazakh officials said the leaders had agreed that their finance ministers and central bank chiefs would meet in Almaty before year's end. "The SCO is increasingly focusing on concrete activities in the area of economic cooperation," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin told reporters. "If earlier the SCO was largely an organisation for maintaining security, then today it's obvious that the global financial crisis forces SCO members and observers to pay increasing attention to the economic component of this structure's activities." Borodavkin said the situation in Afghanistan - but not Iran's disputed nuclear programme - had been discussed. Members also agreed to set up a special fund for joint energy, infrastructure and telecommunications projects.

The SCO grew out of a regional effort in the mid-1990s to reduce military forces along common borders. It later came to involve anti-terrorism efforts and cooperation in the economic and energy fields. SCO members possess 17.5 percent of the world's known oil reserves and nearly half the natural gas supplies, according to a 2007 study published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. "The attractiveness of the SCO is growing. An ever-increasing number of countries want to join our projects," Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov said. Putin, who arrived here earlier this week, on Tuesday said Russia and China could better help solve global problems when they adopted a common stance. "Both China and Russia conduct peaceful, peace-loving foreign policy. We are not fighting wars anywhere, we don't have our troops abroad," he said. "It is a consolidated view towards these problems, an ability to agree to positions on key issues of global development that very often calm down the situation, so to speak - play a stabilising role."

From http://news.yahoo.com/ 10/14/2009

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Central Asian Nations Gather in Ulaanbaatar for 8th CAREC Ministerial Meeting

ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA - Ministers from across Central Asia are gathering in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, today for a major annual conference aimed at building transport and energy infrastructure, simplifying border and trade arrangements, and fostering closer cooperation among countries in the region. Hosted by the Government of Mongolia, the 8th Ministerial Conference of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program brings together ministers from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the People's Republic of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The CAREC Program was initiated in 1997 with the goal of development through cooperation leading to accelerated economic growth and poverty reduction. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has served as CAREC Secretariat since 2000. Ministers at the 14-16 October conference will consider the endorsement of two key documents: The CAREC Energy Action Plan Framework and the CAREC Program Results Framework. The energy action plan focuses on opportunities for regional integration through power development, particularly investments in Central Asia for regional and export opportunities. The results framework will help track the progress of CAREC's investments and policy programs.

Also high on the agenda will be the release of initial findings of the Corridors Performance Measurement and Monitoring Program, an initiative that has studied the main causes of delays and costs along the six CAREC priority transport corridors that stretch across the region. Speaking on the eve of the Ulaanbaatar conference, Juan Miranda, Director General of ADB's Central and West Asia Department, extolled the successes of CAREC since its inception. "We are seeing greater energy security, efficiency and trade, and landlocked countries are working together more closely to improve connectivity and create jobs," Mr. Miranda said. Mr. Miranda said the energy transmission line bringing electricity from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, illustrates the tangible benefits of CAREC cooperation. "In bringing electricity to Kabul, CAREC has shown the humane and transformative effects of regional cooperation and collaboration. The city now has a 24-hour power supply, compared with two hours a day just a few months ago," he said.

From http://www.adb.org/ 10/14/2009

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Asia-Pacific Leaders to Discuss Regional Community Concepts

Asia-Pacific leaders to discuss regional community conceptsLeaders from 16 Asia-Pacific nations meet in Thailand on Oct. 25, 2009, amid increasing ne... Leaders from 16 Asia-Pacific nations met in Thailand on Sunday, amid increasing need to enhance cooperation on the economy, disaster management and other areas, with Japan's ''East Asian community'' and Australia's ''Asia-Pacific community'' concepts possibly drawing attention as proposals to build new regional forums. The East Asia Summit, which groups the 10-member ASEAN plus Japan, China and South Korea, as well as Australia, India and New Zealand, is held for the first time in about two years because political instability has delayed a series of summit meetings related to ASEAN. Issues on the North Korean nuclear standoff and the situation in Myanmar, where pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi remains detained, are also likely to be taken up during the summit meeting, a senior Japanese government official said.

''We hope discussions will deepen (at the EAS) on how to proceed on regional cooperation in Asia, with our focus on building an East Asian community,'' the official said Saturday. While noting that the Japan-U.S. alliance is the cornerstone of Japan's foreign policy, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is expected to seek understanding on his long-term vision of creating an East Asian community by steadily promoting ''open and highly transparent'' regional cooperation. Specific areas that he hopes to enhance cooperation will include trade, investment, finance, the environment, disaster prevention and people-to-people exchanges, the official said. Hatoyama appears to be suggesting U.S. involvement in his envisioned community for closer regional cooperation, but it remains unclear whether it means U.S. participation in the framework.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd unveiled last year an Asia-Pacific community concept, which is likely to group more countries in the region and includes the United States. Hatoyama has already explained his community concept to the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and at the so-called ASEAN-plus-three summit, which involves ASEAN, Japan, South Korea and China, on Saturday. A chairman's statement issued after the Japan-ASEAN Summit said ASEAN leaders ''appreciated'' Japan's aspiration to pursue such a long-term vision. ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

From Kyodo 10/25/2009

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HK to Speed Up Subsidized Nursing Home Provision for Elderly

Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang Wednesday said the government will adopt a novel multi-pronged approach to speed up the provision of subsidized residential care places for the elderly. When delivering his annual policy address at the Legislative Council on Wednesday, Tsang said the city's ageing population will create greater demand for subsidized residential care places, in particular those with nursing care. The new initiatives on subsidized residential provision include: increasing from 50 percent to 90 percent the proportion of nursing home places in existing subsidized contract residential care homes for the elderly; purchasing, for the first time, vacant places from self-financing nursing homes and care and attention homes; and making full use of the space in existing subsidized elderly homes to provide more places that offer continuous care. The chief executive said these initiatives will substantially increase the number of subsidized residential care places that provide nursing or continuous care in the next five years. Furthermore, in the next two years, the government will provide additional subsidized day care places in districts with a stronger service demand, and extend the District-based Scheme on Career Training to give greater support to careers of the elderly at district and neighborhood levels.

From Xinhua News Agency 10/14/2009

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China Addresses Life of Disabled Ex-servicemen

The Chinese armed force and government pledged to well arrange the life of disabled retired soldiers at a meeting held Thursday. Chinese President Hu Jintao said in an instruction to the meeting that the armed force and government must work together to provide good retirement service for the soldiers who were injured and disabled during their service. These soldiers made special contributions to the country and deserved good life after retirement, said Vice Premier Hui Liangyu at the meeting. He promised the government departments will put this issue on top of their agenda and provide financial and policy supports. Xu Caihou, vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, said at the same meeting that the armed force will improve cooperation and communication with the government to smooth the procedure. He also said efforts will be made to reduce the number of soldiers disabled or injured in their service, such as improving training methods and improving medical service.

From Xinhua News Agency 10/16/2009

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China Works to Better Handle Complaints for Social Harmony

A senior Chinese official Friday called for better handling complaints to promote social harmony.. Zhou Yongkang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Political Bureau, told a meeting here that the work to take in people's complaints and solve their problems is vital for improving the relations between the Party, government and people. At China's Party organs and government departments, offices are set up to receive common people's letters, calls and visits. From August to September, the central government sent 16 teams to 26 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities as well as 15 central government departments to inspect their work in this field. Reviewing the reports from the inspection teams, Zhou said problems existed and in some localities and fields, the government's efforts in handling complaints did not meet with people's needs and expectations. "The decisions made by the government should be scientific, democratic, open and in line with laws so as to prevent new social disputes," he said. The government should review the risks to social stability when adopting new polices and carrying out reforms, he said. "Policies, projects and reforms that most people oppose should be stopped or suspended." When new problems occur, officials should investigate its cause and mend related policies, he said. "People's legal requests must be fulfilled." The government should improve communications with the people through the offices of letters and calls, he said. We should educate people and help them express their opinions in a rational and orderly way," he said. "We would handle those, who raise their requests irrationally illegally, in line with laws."

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 10/16/2009

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Official Urges Further Improvement of Public Services

A senior civil affairs official hailed marked progress in public services in China's nationwide communities Monday and urged further improvement to meet the demand of the public. Li Xueju, minister of the Civil Affair Ministry, made the remarks when addressing a national meeting on building harmonious communities. Community is the basic unit of the society, and harmonious community is the foundation for a harmonious society, Li said. He said by the end of 2008 there were more than 20,000 community health service stations, 34,000 stations for cultural-related services, and about 67,000 community-based labor and social security working organizations. There were also 61,000 police service stations, 70,000 mediation stations and 55,000 legal assistance stations, plus tens of thousands of other services facilities such as charity supermarkets and services stations handling residents' complaints, Li said. "With these various types of service stations, many issues concerning the livelihood of local residents have been properly resolved," Li said. The number of volunteer organizations for community service has reached 430,000, with more than 26 million registered volunteers, Li added. "The number of community volunteers is still increasing," Li said. "Many communities have also recruited professional personnel, who played key roles in providing services concerning psychological consultation and legal assistance, among others," Li said.

From Xinhua News Agency 10/19/2009

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China's Anti-graft Chief Hails Online Efforts in Rectifying Misconduct

China's anti-graft chief He Guoqiang Thursday hailed an online interview program on rectifying officials and government agencies' misconduct. He, secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China, said the program by the People's Daily Online has made full use of the Internet media to answer people's questions and help solve their problems. The program will undoubtedly help promote the government's efforts in rectifying misconduct of officials and government agencies. The program started on July 16 to encourage people's participation in the government's rectifying campaign. Officials in charge of the rectification work are invited to answer netizens' questions, which cover a wide range of hot topics including farmers' benefits, education, medical treatment, transportation, food and drug safety among others. Netizens can also disclose misconduct of government agency staff during the online interview, and authorities will start investigations, according to the State Council's rectification office. Currently rectification offices in 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities have set up their official Web sites.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 10/22/2009

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New Urban Employment Hits 8.51m

New employment positions filled in China's urban areas hit 8.51 million in the first nine months of 2009, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MHRSS) announced Friday. The figure accounted for 94 percent of the government's annual target of 9 million, ministry spokesman Yin Chengji told a press conference. "The employment situation has been generally stable this year," Yin said. "It is better than what we had expected." The number of newly employed people in China's urban areas had reached 900,000 a month since the beginning of the second quarter. "We predicted that the number for the whole year would top 11 million at yearend," said Yin. During the first nine months, 4.02 million laid-off workers found new jobs, accounting for 80 percent of the government's target of 5 million for the whole year. By the end of the third quarter, 9.15 million people had registered as unemployed in urban areas, a rate of about 4.3 percent, unchanged from the number reported at the end of the second quarter. "We are confident that the rate will still be at the present level at the end of this year," said Yin. He said that 74 percent of the 6.11 million new graduates from the country's universities and colleges had been employed as of Sept. 1, which was moderately higher than the ratio from a year earlier. The government has resorted to a series of measures to help college graduates find jobs, such as giving them preference in military recruitment and encouraging them to take grass-roots posts in the countryside and relatively poor western regions. Yin called for the continued implementation of a three-year employment project launched in April to offer internships to a total of 1 million graduates, providing a transitional period before they started career-related jobs. The economic recovery had eased severe unemployment situation of migrant workers. "We thought that the employment situation for migrant workers was generally stable," said Yin. An MHRSS study of 250 Chinese villages showed that, by the end of September, the number of migrant workers in cities was 94 percent of the number at the same time last year, said Yin. The central government has been urging local governments to offer free training for unemployed migrant workers to help them find new jobs or start businesses in their hometowns.

From Xinhua News Agency 10/23/2009

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JAPAN: Comprehensive Pension Reform

Japan's pension system has many problems. It is complex. The Kokumin Nenkin pension system is for self-employed people, pensioners and jobless people. The Kosei Nenkin system is for workers at larger companies, and the Kyosai Nenkin system is for public servants and teachers. There is another system for workers at small companies. Premiums and benefits differ from system to system. Less than 50 percent of Kokumin Nenkin participants are actually paying their premiums. If this rate of delinquency keeps up, it is feared that many people will have to live on small pensions, if any, thereby creating a serious social problem. The ruling Democratic Party of Japan proposes creating a unified system covering everybody under the principle that people with the same incomes should pay the same premiums. The proposed system would consist of the minimum, guaranteed monthly benefit of ¥70,000 plus the benefit linked to the amount of premiums individuals have paid. The guaranteed portion would be fully funded by consumption tax revenue. When the premium-linked benefit increased beyond a certain level, the guaranteed benefit would be reduced accordingly.

Employees would pay 7.5 percent of their income as premiums with employers paying an equivalent of 7.5 percent of the employees' income. But it is unclear whether self-employed people should pay the full premium amount - that is, 15 percent of their income. The DPJ has not made clear when and by how much it will raise the consumption tax to pay for the guaranteed benefit. People may oppose the proposed introduction of the social security number system as a violation of privacy. Transition to the new system would start in fiscal 2014; until then, the government would concentrate on resolving the current pension records fiasco. The DPJ needs to answer many questions about its reform proposal. For the time being, it should do what it can to include irregular workers in the Kosei Nenkin system and to integrate the Kosei and Kyosai Nenkin systems. It should build consensus on pension reform by holding talks with the opposition parties.

From http://search.japantimes.co.jp/ 10/05/2009

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Govt to Change Power Purchase System

Japan's system of buying up all electricity generated by renewable energy sources has come into the spotlight as Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama made an international pledge that the nation would cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from the 1990 level by 2020. Expectations are running high that implementation of the system will promote the use of renewable energy sources, including sunlight and wind, which produce no gas emissions. But at the same time, there is concern that will lead to a rise in power rates, thereby hitting people directly in the pocketbook, observers point out. The purchase of surplus electricity by power companies, which has been conducted on a voluntary basis, will be made mandatory from November due to the revision of the relevant law by the previous administration of Prime Minister Taro Aso. Under the new system, power companies will be required to buy up the difference of electricity generated by solar energy at households and schools and that consumed by them at set prices.

The rate at which power companies purchase surplus electricity from households will be set at 48 yen per kilowatt. Since the power companies plan to include the buy-up cost in electricity bills, standard households will have to shoulder a maximum of an additional 100 yen per month in power charges. In its campaign platform, the Democratic Party of Japan called for establishing a system to buy up all the electricity generated by solar energy, including the portion to be consumed by the producer. The party also is looking into the possibility of expanding the scope of electricity to be purchased to include that generated by other renewable energies such as wind. The DPJ's plan is expected to help promote use of renewable energy sources and decrease dependence on fossil fuels. But it may increase the purchase cost, thereby bringing about a spike in power charges.

The rate to be shouldered by each household to cover the buy-up cost for the entire amount of electricity to be generated by solar energy alone is estimated at 180 yen, a 1.8-fold increase over the cost in case of a partial purchase. The burden is expected to become bigger when the entire amount of electricity to be generated by energy sources other than sunlight is included. In Germany, where power companies buy up the entire amount of electricity generated by renewable energy sources, the average household is charged an additional 3 euros (about 400 yen) per month. Germany's power generation by renewable energy sources accounted for 14.2 percent of total power generation in 2007, up sharply from 6.7 percent in 2001. Commenting on the situation in Japan, Shosuke Mori, chairman of the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan and president of Kansai Electric Power Co., said: "It's advisable to purchase only surplus electricity. Otherwise, it'll be hard to obtain the people's support."

The previous Aso administration decided to review the electricity purchase system after two years. But Masayuki Naoshima, the economy, trade and industry minister in the Hatoyama Cabinet, hinted at the possibility of revising the system at an earlier date, saying, "We'll study how to deal with the system without sticking to the two-year time frame and while looking into the possibility of purchasing the entire amount of electricity to be generated." The ministry is expected to start discussions on the matter with power companies shortly. One plan under study to lessen the people's burden is to provide public funds for low-income earners so that they can pay electricity bills. In this instance, it is difficult to decide who will be entitled to such financial benefits. The avowed goal of reducing emissions by 25 percent is strongly opposed by the industrial sector. Nuclear power generation will have an effect on curtailing emissions, but it will take time to win the approval of residents in areas where nuclear power stations are to be constructed. Thus, it is increasingly difficult to secure new sites for nuclear power stations within a short period. Under the circumstances, renewable energy sources are becoming more important.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 10/08/2009

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Government to Move Up Job Creation Spending

The government has decided to move up the allocation of certain budget funding to create jobs, money the former administration planned to spend over a period of three years, as an emergency effort to cope with deteriorating employment conditions, it was learned Friday. By immediately dispensing the funds, which were included in the fiscal 2009 supplementary budget by the former administration of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, the government aims to create jobs in a short time. The money was initially meant to be allocated over three years. According to sources, the spending will be the main pillar of the government's program of emergency job-creation measures, which it intends to finish drafting late this month. The measures will be compiled by an emergency task force charged with creating employment, which will be established next week and led by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. The money the government plans to spend ahead of schedule includes emergency funds for the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to create jobs and funding for the Environment Ministry to subsidize local governments to help them promote environmental programs.

The fiscal 2009 supplementary budget contained 450 billion yen in such money for the health ministry and 55 billion yen for the Environment Ministry. Regarding the health ministry's money to create jobs, many prefectural governments have already submitted, and embarked on, their three-year project plans after obtaining approval from the central government. The government is examining other emergency measures, including steps to help construction workers who have lost their jobs due to the decrease in public works projects find new work, strengthen job training in the nursing care industry and expand the scope of employment adjustment subsidies. The government's aim is to respond to a possible deterioration in employment conditions, such as an increase in the number of unemployed, which may occur toward the end of calendar 2009 and the end of this fiscal year. The government has postponed the submission of the second fiscal 2009 supplementary budget to next year's ordinary Diet session.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 10/10/2009

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Japan PM Says Not Running Away from Funding Scandal

BEIJING (Reuters) - Japan's new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, said late on Friday he was not trying to "run away" from an investigation into a funding scandal that emerged months ago, adding that he would cooperate with prosecutors as needed. Japanese media said this week prosecutors have begun questioning people incorrectly listed as donors to Hatoyama in his funding reports. Hatoyama has admitted an aide filed false reports, but said the funds came from his personal accounts. Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama speaks at a joint news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak after a summit at the presidential Blue House in Seoul October 9, 2009. (REUTERS/Jung Yeon-Je/Pool) "As authorities are in the middle of investigation, it would be undesirable for me to affect it by comment on the matter," he told reporters in Beijing, where he will hold a trilateral summit with his counterparts from China and South Korea on Saturday. "It's not like I am running away," he added. "My office and I will fully cooperate and want to wait for authorities to give a clear picture of the whole matter."

Despite Hatoyama's sky-high support rating of over 70 percent after three weeks in office, a media poll showed this week the same percentage of voters are unhappy with the new premier's explanation of the scandal. Political analysts say the impact of the scandal depends largely on whether further damaging details emerge and whether prosecutors decide to press charges, both of which could at a minimum distract the government from urgent policy matters. Hatoyama took over as party leader in May after predecessor Ichiro Ozawa resigned over another funding scandal. Fresh revelations in that affair could jolt the party since Ozawa retains hefty clout in his current position as secretary-general. After his Democratic Party trounced its long-dominant conservative rival, Hatoyama took office on Sept. 16, bringing to power an administration that aims to radically change how the country is run, wean the economy from exports and create more equal ties with close ally Washington.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 10/10/2009

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Japan Inaugurates New Tax Reform Panel

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has attended the first meeting of the government's new Tax Commission, which replaces the party-dominated dual tax panel system of the former Liberal Democrat Party (LDP) government. "I call on you to discuss, with utmost sincerity and in the interest of the people, a tax system to be developed for the future of this country, and reach a consensus," Hatoyama declared during his address to the tax panel's inaugural meeting on October 8. The Tax Commission has been established to explore a range of tax reform proposals, and Hatoyama has indicated that one of its earliest decisions will be to consider tax exemptions and cash payouts for low-income households, which could be put in place from next April. The abolition of tax charges on cars and a reduction in fuel tax could be another outcome of the Commission's deliberations in the months ahead, the Prime Minister has said. In addition, panel members are set to explore exemptions for companies within the corporation tax system.

Headed by Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii, the Commission will include other senior members of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), as well as top-ranking civil servants from the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry. The tax panel replaces the two tax reform panels established under the previous government, one of which consisted of a small group of LDP party members and the other a more independent government body led by an academic. However, this system did not seem to establish a clear vision for the future of the Japanese tax system as the country grappled with the problem of a growing social security burden, and the party tax panel frequently overruled or ignored the proposals of the government tax panel. The DPJ promises that the new tax panel will be much more transparent and open to public scrutiny. The new DPJ administration, which formally took power on September 16, ending a long period of domination by the LDP, has moved swiftly to shore up the government's finances by announcing that it will cut "wasteful" parts of the stimulus package launched by former Prime Minister Taro Aso earlier this year. Among other pledges, the DPJ has proposed to cut sales tax on cars, abolish road tolls, give tax breaks to people buying homes in cash, and cut the corporation tax burden of small to medium-sized businesses.

From tax-news.com 10/14/2009

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Head of Japan Post Set to Resign Over Reform of Privatization Policy

Yoshifumi Nishikawa, the head of Japan Post, is set to resign after the Democratic Party of Japan decided to put on hold plans for postal privatization, local media reported on Tuesday. The new plan of the DPJ reverses a policy put in place after the 2005 "postal vote", which was won by the Liberal Democratic Party under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in a landslide. That vote was considered a referendum on Koizumi's pledge to implement reforms, but in the four years since the election was held, public opinion has turned against the Koizumi pro-market policies as the global recession has led to unemployment and a struggling economy in Japan. Under the LDP plan, the postal service was to be privatized over ten years from 2007, when Nishikawa took the job as the head of Japan Post. From as early as 2010, shares were supposed to be sold in the savings and insurance sections of the organization before full privatization by 2017. Since coming to power in September, however, the DPJ has reviewed the postal service and concluded that operations within the organization have worsened under the Koizumi reforms. The DPJ now aims to ensure the organization improves the services that it provides to the public. Nishikawa is expected to officially voice his desire to resign before a Japan Post board meeting set to take place on Oct. 28.

From http://english.people.com.cn/ 10/20/2009

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Maehara Eyeing Steep Rise in Gift Tax Exemption for Home Buyers

Land minister Seiji Maehara has proposed raising the gift tax exemption limit for home buyers to ¥21 million from ¥6.1 million to help stimulate economic activity, sources said Wednesday. Maehara will seek the increase as part of the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry's tax reform requests for fiscal 2010, they said. The previous government led by Prime Minister Taro Aso raised the limit by ¥5 million to ¥6.1 million, including a basic annual exemption of ¥1.1 million, as a temporary measure, when it adopted stimulus measures in April. The tax exemption is granted to people aged 20 and over who receive financial support from their parents or other family members for the purchase of homes. The temporary increase that came into effect from January is effective through the end of 2010. The envisaged exemption of ¥21.1 million would include the basic annual exemption, the sources said.

From http://search.japantimes.co.jp/ 10/23/2009

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SOUTH KOREA: President Lee Nominates New Prime Minister

President Lee (left) shakes hands with new Prime Minister Chung Un-chan at Cheong Wa Dae on Sep. 29. President Lee Myung-bak on Tuesday (Sep. 29) appointed Chung Un-chan as the new Prime Minister at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae. President Lee asked Prime Minister Chung, former head of Seoul National University, to sincerely serve the people. The appointee replied by saying that he would do his best in such efforts. The President also introduced the dialogues he had with other G20 leaders in Pittsburgh regarding tough employment markets worldwide which have followed the severe economic crisis. After the appointment, Prime Minister Chung had an inauguration ceremony at the Central Government Complex in Seoul, attended by 500 government officials, including ministers. In his inauguration address, Chung pledged to do his utmost to unite people and usher in an era in which trust and diligence are highly emphasized.

From http://www.korea.net/ 09/20/2009

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Lee Calls for Election Reforms

President Lee Myung-bak stressed the need for reforming the country's election system and administrative districts at a special press conference on Wednesday. For decades Korea's electoral system has been split with the ruling Grand National Party routinely sweeping votes from its political stronghold in the southeastern Gyeongsang provinces while the opposition Democratic Party dominates the southwestern Jeolla provinces. The Chungcheong region of central Korea has been a staunch supporter of candidates hailing from that region. Lee said that the political landscape makes it impossible for rival political parties to communicate since they are anchored by region rather than issues. The President, a member of the GNP, said he invited opposition lawmakers to Cheong Wa Dae to explain the results of his recent U.S. visit but the invitation was rejected. He did not propose specific ideas for reforms but urged politicians to take on the challenge. Korea's administrative zones also need to be revamped, Lee said, focusing on balanced regional development.

From Arirang News 10/01/2009

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National Assembly Audits Begin

The National Assembly's audits of 478 government agencies began Monday starting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. During the foreign ministry audit, lawmakers found that of 1,140 school textbooks used in 59 countries, 51 percent contained inaccurate information about Korea. According to lawmakers, the most common error in the books was the depiction of the East Sea as the Sea of Japan while a geography textbook used in Thailand noted that Korea has two national languages, Korean and English.

From Arirang News 10/06/2009

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Gov't to Build System to Protect Against Cyber Attacks

The government is looking to construct a new system to thwart distributed denial of service (DDoS) cyber-attacks. The Ministry of Public Administration and Security says W20 trillion (US41=W1,163) will be poured into the project. The money will be distributed to over 132 public agencies such as science institutions, police organizations and local governments so that each may set up its own protection system. Meanwhile, Public Administration and Security Minister Lee Dal-gon will also seek an anti-cyber terrorism body at the Interpol-UN global security forum in Singapore on Monday.

From Arirang News 10/12/2009

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Presidential Council on Social Issues to Launch in Nov.

The Cabinet has agreed to establish a presidential advisory council for resolving social problems. The envisioned council is set to launch in the middle of next month and will be comprised of subcommittees charged with handling issues related to class divisions, ideologies, regional disparity and generation gaps. The council will be made up of some 35 members, including ministers of related agencies and top presidential aides.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 10/13/2009

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Gov't to Publish Data on Public Officials' Integrity

The Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission says it is looking to rate the degree of integrity among top officials and make the information available to the public next year. It is part of the government's measures to promote transparency at state-run organizations. The watchdog is also considering applying the data when evaluating individuals and their organizations. In 2008, nearly two out of every 1,000 government workers were involved in corruption cases.

From Arirang News 10/14/2009

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Parties Launch By-election Campaigns

Ruling and opposition parties began campaigning Thursday for the October 28th by-elections. During two days of candidate registration that ended on Wednesday, a total of 29 candidates entered the race, posting a competition ratio of 5.8-to-1. The leadership of the ruling Grand National Party on Thursday toured around the Jangan district in Suwon, the Sangnok district in Ansan, and Yangsan in South Gyeongsang Province to appeal for voter support. The main opposition Democratic Party's top legislators also stumped in Sangnok and Jangan. The chairman of the minor opposition Liberty Forward Party Lee Hoi-chang and other top party legislators are focusing their campaigns on North Chungcheong Province. The Democratic Labor Party will focus its campaign efforts in Suwon and the New Progressive Party in Ansan.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 10/15/2009

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South Korea Announces Multi-Billion Dollar CCS Test Programme

South Korea's government has announced a wide-ranging carbon capture and storage (CCS) research and development programme that will see it invest directly in a number of high-profile pilot projects. The Ministry of Knowledge Economy said earlier this week that it will spend US$85.5m by 2013 on R&D, as well as set up a consortium to build a pilot 500MW power plant by 2015 to gauge the feasibility of CCS. A further US$1.1bn would be given to state-run electricity monopoly Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) by 2020 to further its CCS studies, said the ministry. KEPCO last month announced plans to spend US$2.4bn to develop clean energy technologies, including CCS. CCS is a fledgling technology that captures emissions from coal-burning plants and stores it in rock formations deep underground. The ministry said the scheme is part of government efforts to reduce the nation's CO2 output by more than 90 per cent on current levels by 2020. "The eco-friendly technology can be used by thermal power plants along with steel mills and oil refineries that release a lot of greenhouse gases," a ministry official told the Korea Herald. Earlier this week, the ministry released figures showing that South Korea's carbon dioxide emissions grew by 113 per cent between 1990 and 2007. The government is to set a carbon emissions target later this year. Environment minister Lee Maanee recently indicated that officials are likely to choose a goal of four per cent below 2005 CO2 levels by 2020.

From http://www.businessgreen.com/ 10/16/2009

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New Integrated Logo to Be Introduced for Gov't Offices

SEOUL (Yonhap) - The government will introduce a new logo to be shared by all government offices before the end of the year, a presidential council said Sunday, a move largely aimed at promoting the country's national image in the international community. The move comes as state ministries and agencies currently use their own logos.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/ 10/18/2009

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Gov't Forms Committee to Resolve Sejong City Dispute

The government is moving quickly in response to President Lee Myung-bak's call last week for a resolution to the disputed Sejong City administrative district project, which has become a major political controversy. The prime minister's office has begun forming a committee aimed at revising laws related to the establishment of Sejong City. The office has yet to decide whether the committee will be comprised of both government and civic officials or only civic officials. Possible committee members include ministers, engineering and city planning experts, and officials from Chungcheong Province, where the administrative city is planned to be built. The office will launch the committee after next Wednesday's by-elections, before parliamentary inquiries next month. Prime Minister Chung Un-chan, who was the first to propose a change to the Sejong City project, says he's adhering to expert's opinions on the matter.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 10/20/2009

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MONGOLIA: Corruption Case Reported

Anti-corruption agency transferred the case of S.Batmonkh, a former Chief Executive Officer of the Civil Aviation Authority, to the State Prosecutors' Office for legal penalty. Batmonkh is accused of misusing Tg136.7 million funding of the authority during his term of office to a number of organizations, and individuals, in the name of "donation and assistance". Most of it was transmitted to Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party and its youth league. According to media speculation, Batmonkh's case is likely to be covered under the amnesty law.

From http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/ 10/20/2009

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INDONESIA: Anti Corruption Activists Report Govt to Constitutional Court Chief

Anti corruption activists reported the government to the Constitutional Court chief Mahfud MD on Monday for issuing the regulation-in-lieu-of-law on the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). Among the activists were those from Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), the National Consortium for Legal Reforms (KRHN), the Center for Legal and Policy Study (PSHK), the Center for Anti Corruption Study (Pukat) and the Indonesia Legal Resource Center (ILRC). They said the regulation had no legal basis. The regulation was issued to appoint an acting chairman and two deputies after the current chairman and deputies were declared suspects in two different crimes. "The government's argument is really subjective and the regulation has endangered the KPK's existence and independence," Febri Diansyah from ICW said. The regulation also threatened democracy and human rights in Indonesia, Febri added.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 09/28/2009

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MALAYSIA: 20 Appointed to National Youth Consultative Council

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) - Twenty youths from various racial and career background have been appointed to the National Youth Consultative Council for 2009-2010, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek said. He said the appointments were based on the 200 nominations made by youths. Singer Dayang Nurfaizah Awang Dowty was among those appointed. "Forty candidates shortlisted were interviewed by the minister and 20 agreed to become the minister's appointed members," he said in a statement here on Wednesday. Shabery who was also council chairman said previously, the appointments were made by the minister but starting this year, they were based on nominations. He said the council which had existed since 1971 was a forum for youth leaders to meet government leaders face-to-face to discuss policies, strategies, issues and approach to youth development programmes. In 2007, the council was gazetted under the Youth Organisation and Development Act, making it a consultative body responsible for youth development. Shabery said the 20 youths will receive their appointment letters at the council meeting to be held in Putrajaya on Oct 22.

From http://www.bernama.com.my/ 10/14/2009

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Close Ties Between Administration and Civil Service Crucial - Najib

PUTRAJAYA (Bernama) - Close ties between the administration and the civil service are crucial in creating a successful nation, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said. Speaking at the Prime Minister's Department's Hari Raya open house here, the prime minister said, history had shown that the country's success thus far was due to the close relations between the administration and the civil service. Najib said the public sector had all the while been translating the government's policies and ensured their successful implementation. "May this special relations can be defended as they are still many more challenges which we need to overcome," he said. He said it was the government's wish to see both sides continued to work together for the betterment of the people and country. The open house was participated by departments and agencies under the Prime Minister's Department and attended by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, cabinet ministers, deputy ministers and some 3,000 people mostly staff of agencies and departments.

From http://www.bernama.com.my/ 10/14/2009

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More Public Disciplinary Cases Last Year Than in 2007

SEREMBAN (Bernama) - Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan on Thursday attributed the higher number of disciplinary cases involving public servants last year compared to 2007 to one of two things. Either there is greater awareness among heads of department to act against erring officers or there is a decline in the level of integrity and discipline among officers, he told reporters after opening the fourth conference of chairmen of public service disciplinary boards, here. Mohd Sidek said 3,383 disciplinary cases involving public servants were recorded last year compared to 2,159 cases in 2007, registering an increase of 36.2 per cent. There was a 27.43 per cent increase in the number of cases in the federal public service, a 57.62 per cent increase in the state public services and a 30 per cent increase in the local authorities, he said. Mohd Sidek said disciplinary action was taken as a last resort to discipline an officer, and it depended on the seriousness of the case. Besides, he said, legal advice was sought to ensure that the action was proper and meted out according to the principles laid down. "This is to ensure that the officers penalised are accorded proper justice," he said. Mohd Sidek said effective, swift and correct disciplinary action would have its effect in terms of serving as a lesson to other officers not to commit similar offences. He also said that imposing a fitting penalty would also directly or indirectly instill in officers the fear to commit offences. "As such, the responsibility borne by the disciplinary boards in imposing disciplinary action is huge and has to be implemented with a high degree of trust and commitment," he said. At the function, Mohd Sidek launched a book of disciplinary cases to serve as a guide to ensure that disciplinary action against public officers was carried out in an organised and effective manner and adhered to set principles, procedures and rules. Disciplinary action which did not follow proper procedure might be challenged in a court of law, and would incur a loss for the government, he said. The two-day conference, organised by the Public Service Department and the Public Service Commission, is attended by 200 chairmen of public service disciplinary boards and disciplinary appeal boards.

From http://www.bernama.com.my/ 10/15/2009

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PHILIPPINES: PGMA Orders Cabinet Members, Gov't Agencies to Speed-Up Relief and Rehabilitation of Typhoon Victims

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo remains hands-on in the rescue, relief and rehabilitation of victims of tropical storm "Ondoy." In today's cabinet meeting at the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) office at Camp Aguinaldo, the Chief Executive received an update by her cabinet members on the progress of the rescue, relief and rehabilitation/restoration operations as a result of the devastation caused by typhoon Ondoy. The President issued several directives to ensure the security, health, sanitation and cleanliness in the typhoon-stricken areas and to help typhoon victims go back to normal life. It was noted that within the more than 600 evacuation centers, there is a strong possibility that health and sanitation problems will occur. Thus, the President ordered the Department of Health to lead in this endeavor by providing adequate health services. The President also ordered the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to mobilize barangay officials to look after the cleanliness of the evacuation centers in their area of responsibility. Labor Secretary Marianito Roque volunteered to hire 500 persons under the President's Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (CLEEP) to help in the clean-up of evacuation centers, waterways and drainage systems. Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chair Emmanuel Angeles called on medical schools to deploy their nursing and medical students to help. He said ROTC cadets and students taking up the National Service Training Program (NSTP) will be deployed to help in the clean-up of streets and schools. President Arroyo is also set to issue an executive order that will declare a "Clean-up Day" within the week so everyone can help in the clean-up operations. This will be a non-working holiday. The President also ordered the Philippine National Police to deploy personnel in abandoned areas to avoid looters from taking advantage of the situation. Noting that many vehicles were damaged by the typhoon, the President ordered Trade Secretary Peter Favila to make representations with car companies, repair /service shops not to take advantage of the situation to increase their prices. (PND)

From http://www.gov.ph/ 09/29/2009

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PGMA to Launch Nationwide Program to Benefit Poor in Nueva Ecija

GABALDON, Nueva Ecija (PND) - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will launch the Damayang Apat na Piso here tomorrow, a new social program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) that will benefit the country's poor. After the launch, the President will distribute cash cards to beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) here. The program is a poverty reduction strategy that provides grants to extremely poor households with children aged 0-14 to improve their health, nutrition and education. It is a flagship project of the Arroyo administration to break the intergenerational poverty cycle through investments in human capital. A household-beneficiary can receive as much as P1,400.00 for a maximum of three children that includes P500 per month for nutrition and health expenses and P300 per month per child for educational expenses for a maximum of three children per household. Household-beneficiaries must comply with certain conditions to continue receiving the cash grants. The conditions are: parents must ensure their children attend school at least 85 percent of the time and receive vaccinations and health care; pregnant women must receive pre- and post-natal care and be attended during childbirth by a skilled health professional; parents must attend responsible parenthood seminars, mother's classes, and parent effectiveness seminars. The program is part of government's commitment to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aimed at significantly reducing global poverty by the year 2015. Five of these MDGs are also the objectives of 4Ps. These are eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empower women, reducing child mortality, and improving maternal health. There are already 700,000 households presently benefiting from the program. With the government's plan to increase beneficiaries to one million, another set of 300,000 families will be included in 4Ps this year. With the allocation of an additional P5 billion, this brings 4Ps annual budget to P15 billion.

From http://www.gov.ph/ 10/03/2009

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PGMA Creates Reconstruction Commission

DAGUPAN CITY (PND) - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Monday announced the creation a Special National Public-Private Reconstruction Commission to study the causes of the weather abnormalities, what actions to take to prepare the country, and the cost such actions will entail. The President made the announcement at the West Central Elementary School here, where the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC)-Cabinet meeting was being held to assess the damage wrought by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. '' I signed the executive order the other day,'' she said, adding, however, that Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita has yet to issue it. According to the President, there is need for such a special commission because of the increasing severity of typhoons and the magnitude of the devastation. The commission will also undertake the rehabilitation program and raise the necessary funds for the purpose. Thus, one of its responsibilities is to work closely with the United Nations, the World Bank, and donor countries. For that reason, somebody from the business community will head the commission. The President, however, did not name who that might be, if indeed she already had someone in mind. Finance Secretary Margarito Teves and a religious leader will act as co-chairs, while certain other members of the Cabinet, representatives from business groups, non-government organizations here and abroad making up the board of directors. She issued the executive order because The President said she issued the executive order because of the magnitude of the impact of the recent calamities that hit the country in the midst of the global financial crunch that also affected fiscal capacity. The Commission was tasked to undertake a study on the causes, costs and actions to be taken in the wake of the three typhoons that wrecked great damage to the country. It will also undertake the rehabilitation plan for wrecked infrastructure and other priorities; prioritize programs as well as oversee implementation of these programs. The special commission that will be headed by a business leader will also raise funds, especially grants, to fund reconstruction. It will also serve as a clearing house for international assistance implemented by donors themselves using the cluster approach. Furthermore, the Commission was also tasked to request the United Nations and the World Bank to coordinate an international pledging session. The Commission will have Finance Secretary Margarito Teves and a church leader as co-chairs with all department heads and business groups, representatives of Philippine and international non-government organizations as members.

From http://www.gov.ph/ 10/13/2009

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PGMA Announces Creation of Special National Public-Private Reconstruction Commission

Tacloban City - Amid the increasing severity of typhoons and the magnitude of the devastation, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced the creation of a Special National Public-Private Reconstruction Commission to study the causes of the weather abnormalities, what actions to take to prepare the country and the cost such actions will entail. The announcement was made during the National Disaster Coordinating Council-Cabinet meeting was being held to assess the damage wrought by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. The President said she signed the Order on Monday because of the magnitude of the impact of the recent calamities that hit the country in the midst of the global financial crunch that also affected the country's fiscal capacity. The Commission is tasked to undertake a study on the causes, costs and actions to be taken in the wake of the three typhoons that wrecked great damage to the country. It will also undertake the rehabilitation plan for wrecked infrastructure and other priorities; prioritize programs as well as oversee implementation of these programs. The special commission that will be headed by a business leader will also raise funds, especially grants, to fund reconstruction. It will also serve as a clearing house for international assistance implemented by donors themselves using the cluster approach. Furthermore, the Commission has also been tasked to request the United Nations and the World Bank to coordinate an international pledging session. President Arroyo informed that somebody from the business community will head the commission. The President did not name who the Chairman might be, but she mentioned that Finance Secretary Margarito Teves and a religious leader will act as co-chairs, while certain other members of the Cabinet, representatives from business groups, non-government organizations here and abroad make up the board of directors. (PIA 8)

From http://www.gov.ph/ 10/14/2009

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SINGAPORE: Ministers Support Enhanced Role of Police in Peacekeeping

SINGAPORE: An Interpol-UN partnership has seen more than 60 ministers back a plan to give the police an enhanced role in peacekeeping and peace-building operations. Foreign, Justice and Home Affairs Ministers attending Interpol's 78th General Assembly in Singapore joined senior police officials from 153 countries in endorsing the declaration. The declaration will allow Interpol, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and participating governments to set up a plan of action to promote international police peacekeeping as an essential counterpart to the military. This is to help re-establish the rule of law and rebuild society. An Interpol statement said that a plan of action to realise this would be drafted in the next 12 months. Current President of Interpol and Singapore Police Commissioner Khoo Boon Hui said the Ministerial Declaration recognises the enhanced roles that civilian police forces can play in post-conflict areas. He added that while military forces are indispensable for establishing initial security, civilian police forces are more suited for law and order tasks, and to ensure sustained security. The deployment of police peacekeepers is expected to help affected nations move from peacekeeping to peace building.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/12/2009

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THAILAND: Health Ministry Sends Medical Supplies to Flood-Hit Provinces

BANGKOK (TNA) - Thailand's Ministry of Public Health on Thursday sent medicines and medical supplies to aid flood victims in to northern and northeastern areas which earlier were hit by tropical depression Ketsana. Public Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai said 70,000 medical sets were dispatched to 15 provinces experiencing flooding for distribution to local mobile medical units to give preliminary assistance to people suffering from the floods. The 15 provinces include Ubon Ratchathani, Nong Khai, Nakhon Phanom, Mukdahan, Si Sa Ket, Roi Et, Yasothon, Buri Ram, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Nan, Uttaradit, Lampang, Chiang Mai and Tak. In addition, the ministry earlier stockpiled around one million sets of medical supplies for emergency distribution to the inundated areas. Provincial health offices in flood-hit areas were instructed to send medical workers to treat the victims as well as to educate them regarding basic treatment for flood-related diseases, said Mr Witthaya. Over one hundred local residents in Ubon Ratchathani are now suffering from flood-related diseases. The ministry also launched its flood-related Hotline 1699 for flood victims who have not been reached to ask for help from medical emergency teams. According to the Meteorological Department, tropical depression Ketsana was downgraded to active low pressure cell status, covering the Northeast. It is expected to move slowly along a low pressure passing through Nakhon Ratchasima and Thailand's central regions.

From http://enews.mcot.net/ 10/01/2009

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VIETNAM: Ageing Population Pressures Health Care

HA NOI - A dramatic rise in the number of elderly people in the country is pushing Viet Nam on its way to having an old population, said Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Ba Thuy yesterday at a conference on the challenges Viet Nam faces with its ageing population. According to international standards, a nation with an old population is one where 10 per cent of the population is aged 60 and over. Nguyen Quoc Anh, director of the Population Information and Data Centre, said that the number of elderly people in Viet Nam has increased quickly, rising from 8.1 per cent of the total population in 1999 to 9.9 per cent currently. Estimates indicate that the number will hit 11.4 per cent in 2020 and 26 per cent (equivalent to nearly 30 million people) in 2050. "Growth of the elderly population in Viet Nam has been much faster than that in many other countries around the world," said Anh. Nguyen Dinh Cu, head of the Institute of Population and Social Affairs, said the country has had little time to prepare for a changing economic structure suitable to the older population as a result of the rapid increase in numbers. "This poses a big challenge for Viet Nam's health and social welfare system, as well as the healthy living environment for the elderly," said Thuy. More than 80 per cent of Viet Nam's elderly currently live in the countryside. About 20 per cent live under the poverty line and another 20 per cent live in temporary housing. However, more than 70 per cent of the country's elderly lead their own lives without a pension or other financial support. Do Thi Khanh Hy, deputy director of the National Geriatric Hospital, said that combined with the individual economic difficulties of the elderly, the country will have to face the healthcare challenges of a larger number of elderly people suffering from serious ailments. National Geriatric Hospital statistics show that up to 70 per cent of the country's elderly contract chronic diseases. For example, nearly 80 per cent of Viet Nam's elderly have serious eye diseases and 40 per cent suffer from diseases of the ears. "This reality requires additional healthcare workers to provide care," said Hy. "More women reach old age than men and because of the pressures they face, such as domestic violence, child bearing and hard work, their health often suffers due to multiple diseases, leading to disability in their old age," said Hy.

Experts at the conference agreed that Viet Nam should develop policies for an older population. "Geriatric Departments at hospitals and State-funded elder care centres should be established in localities," said Nguyen Quoc Anh. Hy suggested that a community-based health care model for the elderly should be developed with participation from volunteers and health officers as well as the families of the elderly. "However, with the larger number of elderly it is necessary to establish a sustainable social insurance system in the countryside that will contribute to stabilising lives in difficult and rural areas," said Anh. "There should be more policies supporting the rural elderly that would allow them to find jobs suitable with their health condition and with the work they have done during their lifetime," said Cu. "A boost in information dissemination among young people about keeping fit because disabilities in old age can be caused by diseases that could have been prevented or treated if discovered sooner," said Hy. She said that a national elder-care programme should be created with specific provisions for retirement pensions, social welfare and health care services. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has begun implementing a plan to the year 2013 that will publish information about sports and exercises suitable for the elderly. Psychologist Trinh Trung Hoa said that the elderly could happily receive care from their children. However, if they are forced to be financially dependent on their children they would consider it a tragedy.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 10/02/2009

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BANGLADESH: Forge National Unity to Eradicate Poverty, Corruption: PM

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina has said corruption has to be curbed if poverty is to be prevented, reports bdnews24.com. She stressed a strong democratic system to ease poverty in Bangladesh. "Democracy is the tool to alleviate poverty," she said on Saturday at a much-hyped "all-party" programme to launch anti-poverty campaign in the country. "We need to move forward. For this, poverty has to be eradicated. Poverty will not be reduced if the social security net is not widened." "Our fight is to prevent poverty for which we're doing politics and the thing we need most is national consensus. She said the Anticorruption Commission will be allowed to work independently. "We want to see the country free from poverty. We want to provide what the constitution has said about the fundamental rights for the people. The programme marking the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty started without opposition chief Khaleda Zia who backed out at the last moment. The prime minister said: "Assets have limitations. So when one loots, the other part becomes poor. "But we do not want to see that. We want to ensure equal distribution of wealth and rights. Hasina asked all to unite beyond political ideologies and said, "Let's save lives of the poor people of our country and ensure a better living for them." The prime minister said Bangladesh had become a food-surplus country in her previous stint in office. But the BNP-led alliance government made the country a food-deficit one again as they thought they would have more aid if there was deficit. She also stated the initiatives taken by her government to prevent poverty from the country. Hasina sniped at Khaleda for skipping the anti-poverty programme. "Perhaps, she did not come finding the agenda of this conference being ''National consensus will prevent poverty''. "She did not like it. She would have come if the agenda would be ''We will loot property, be rich''," the prime minister said in her trademark sarcasm.

About the agenda she said, "It's one that speaks of time. Alluding to her arch political rival, the prime minister said what those who pocked money for orphans would give to the country. "So they didn't like the agenda." Former prime minister Khaleda is facing trial on charges of embezzling Tk 2 crore from the Zia Orphanage Trust that allegedly existed only on paper. "After the end of our tenure in 2001, some 25,000 of our leaders and supporters faced tortures by the then ruling party," Hasina said. "After that government took power in 2001, they unleashed a reign of terror, their torture was unrelenting. "They grabbed people''s houses, a six-year child was gang-raped as its father had cast votes for Awami League. "Many of the leaders are present here, who faced such tortures. "And we are doing enough to stop repetition of such incidents. Two or three incidents have occurred, but we've taken immediate steps against those. "We're trying to maintain the law and order, and as we said in our election pledge we will try everyone for violation of law, whatever their identity. "The looted wealth will be recovered and the corrupt will be tried. They can not escape whatever may the party identity be. "I am happy that the opposition members of parliament attend the standing committee meetings. They also join the teams going abroad to join international events. "As you are doing this, I will ask the opposition, ''Please come to parliament, speak for the people''." "We want to establish the country as a developed one by 2020 as the succeeding year is the Golden Jubilee of our independence in 2021. "We want to build a modern, science and technology-based Bangladesh, a digital one, not only for the urban areas. We'll ensure technology for the rural areas. Speaker Abdul Hamid earlier in his speech said he was hurt that Khaleda had not taken the opportunity to share the stage with Hasina to launch anti-poverty call. He administered oath marking the day that took place altogether at 64 districts and six places of the capital.

The programme, organised by the APPG as per Bangladesh's international commitment to halve the number of poor people by 2015, kicked off after Hasina had reached the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre, the venue. Finance minister A M A Muhith, chief whip Abdus Shahid and member secretary of All-Party Parliamentary Group Shishir Kumar Shil and United Nation's Millennium Campaign director Salil Shetty were also on stage. The chief patron of the APPG, Hamid said the programme was not a political one. "The nation was eagerly waiting to see the two leaders on the same stage. "I finalised the programme after getting her approval," Hamid said. "It hurt me that she did not attend the conference. She could have delivered her yesterday's statement on this stage. Hamid hoped to see the two leaders together sometime in the future. "There is no alternative to national consensus," the speaker said. He said he was neutrally discharging his duty as speaker. "The parliament is directed in line with the Constitution and the Rules of Procedures. The government never interferes here." Muhith said: "We were supposed to make a concerted pledge against poverty from this programme. It will be somewhat disturbed as the opposition chief has not come." Chief whip and APPG chairman Shahid said: "Refraining from attending the conference proves that Khaleda Zia does not want a Bangladesh free from poverty. "She does not want to work for the development of the country. Terming her statement on Friday ''untrue'', he said: "She proved that she does not do what she says. Her lame excuses have surprised many even in her own party, Shahid claimed.

From http://www.newstoday-bd.com/ 10/18/2009

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INDIA: Pitroda Appointed as PM's Advisor on Innovation

Bangalore: IT czar Sam Pitroda has been appointed as the Advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on infrastructure, innovation and information. Pitroda, who is also the Chairman of National Knowledge Commission (NKC), will have the rank of a Cabinet Minister. Pitroda will advise the PM on integrating information communication technology in the sectors of infrastructure, health, justice and information, reports PTI. "We look at organizing integration of national knowledge network and broadband connectivity for better service delivery to the citizens," Pitroda said on his plans after the appointment. "We will develop an action plan for the next decade which will be a decade for innovation and infrastructure," he added. Pitroda's appointment is the second high-profile appointment made by the Prime Minister this year, after appointing former Infosys Co-chairman Nandan Nilekani as Head of the Unique Identification Authority of India. Pitroda is not only a technocrat but a visionary as well and has made strong case for food, clean water, and adequate shelter for the unprivileged section of the society. By emphasizing on accessibility rather than density, Pitroda succeeded in introducing telephone to some of the remotest parts of India. As Head of the NKC, Pitroda had submitted a series of reports for reforms in higher education, elementary education, health, agriculture, traditional medicine and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). As recommended by NKC, the government has also started an innovative project, a National Knowledge Network, for giving broadband connectivity to about 100 science laboratories and research institutions. Pitroda holds over 50 patents and is also widely considered to have played a major role in India's communications revolution. Born in Titlagarh, Orissa, Pitroda did his schooling at Anand Vallabh Vidyalaya in Gujarat and Masters in Physics and Electronics in Baroda. In 1964, he went to the U.S. and did his Masters in Electrical Engineering in Chicago. In 1984, Pitroda was invited to return to India by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. On his return, he started the Center for Development of Telematics (C-DOT), an autonomous telecom research and development organization. In 1987, he became the Advisor to Rajiv Gandhi for shaping India's foreign and domestic telecommunications policies. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan this year for his contribution to Science and Engineering. He is also a recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi 'Global Indian' Award.

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

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MTS India Declares Appointments in Its Senior Management Team

New Delhi: MTS, the mobile telephony services brand of Sistema Shyam TeleServices (SSTL), has announced key senior level appointments in its top management team, including Cheenu Seshadri as Chief Strategy Officer Corporate Centre, Gurgaon; Sandeep Yadav as Chief Operating Officer for Rajasthan circle operations and VK Cherian as Director - Corporate Communication for the Corporate Centre in Gurgaon. Seshadri comes from Motorola, Illinois, USA, where he was the Vice President - Strategy. With a career spanning over 15 years, he brings with him a diversified experience in strategy and operations. He has also held senior level positions with global business and strategy consulting firm, Bain and Co. in Atlanta and with JDSU, a provider of optical products and test and measurement solutions for the communications industry. Also, Yadav who joins as the Chief Operating Officer for Rajasthan circle, has over 17 years of experience in executive decision-making and strategic business planning in the telecom and hospitality industries. He was heading the sales operations for Idea Cellular in the Delhi NCR region and also held similar senior-level roles with Idea Telecommunications, Reliance Infocomm, Hutchison Telecom and Hexacom in various parts of the country. Coming on board as the Director, Corporate Communication, Cherian brings 20 years of his experience in mainline media in New Delhi. He worked with The Financial Express and The Hindu Business Line. He watched closely and wrote on the boom in the Indian IT and Telecom industry and has been associated with it for over two decades. All of them will report directly to the SSTL President and CEO, Vsevolod Rozanov. Welcoming the new team members, Rozanov said, "I am delighted to see the team grow and welcome them to team MTS. It gives me great satisfaction to see the further strengthening of the top management team which is important since MTS is poised for significant growth in the coming months."

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 10/16/2009

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Centre Plans to Establish 10,000 ITIs

Hyderabad: The Central Government is planning to establish 10,000 Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) in rural areas across the country to impart technical training to the rural youth. The Union Minister of State for Planning, V Narayanasamy announced this while inaugurating the first national convention of rural institutes, organized by the National Council of Rural Institutes. "We have opened the flood gates for foreign investment in the education sector. Our thrust is on expanding the educational infrastructure in the rural areas by opening more institutes and universities," the Minister said. He added that plans were afoot to set up one rural university in each backward and tribal cluster across the country. Also, 25,000 schools would be set up in rural areas under the Public-Private Partnership mode. The ambitious Bharat Nirman programme launched by the Government of India with an outlay of Rs. one-lakh-crore has helped in containing migration of rural people to urban areas to a certain extent what with creation of better infrastructure facilities in villages, he added. "With emphasis on rural education and health care apart from infrastructure development, people in rural areas could feel better off. We can stop migration through such efforts," Narayanasamy pointed out.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 10/20/2009

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NEPAL: President Stands Up Against Poverty

Participating in the UN Stand Up 2009 Campaign, Nepal president Ram Baran Yadav expressed solidarity with the global efforts to fight against poverty and inequality. He pledged to make the country free of disease and maternal deaths and ensure quality education for all. Kathmandu: More than four hundred people including ministers, Constituent Assembly members, the diplomatic corps, UN agency heads, media and civil society gathered at president Dr Rama Baran Yadav's office at Shital Niwas where he read out the Stand Up pledge. Nepal President Ram Baran Yadav (middle) at the Stand Up event in Kathmandu/ Photo credit: Flickr Those gathered at Shital Niwas were invited to STAND UP while the president read the pledge against poverty: "We are standing up today to express solidarity with people all over the world to fight against poverty and inequality. We want an end to poverty and inequality. We want to create a society where mothers don't die while giving birth. Children will have the right to quality education. No one will die due to diseases. Overall environment, justice and sustainable development will be ensured by conservation and proper use of natural resources. The decisions made by the policy makers will not be for their personal gain but for the benefit of the poor and marginalized people," he said. He added: "We are committed to building a just society through a new constitution. Let's all commit to achieve millennium development goals (MDGs) not only for today but for everyday." Speaking on behalf of the government of Nepal, National Planning Commission (NPC) vice-chairman Dr Yubaraj Khatiwada reiterated the government's commitment to end poverty in the country. He said that the government is making efforts to streamline poverty alleviation in the national development planning process in order to meet the MDGs.

On the occasion, resident and Humanitarian Coordinator of the UN System in Nepal Robert Piper addressed the gathering and highlighted the conscientious efforts of the UN system in adding value to the Government of Nepal's efforts in meeting the MDGs. "The UN country team from its side is working across all of the MDGs. This includes activities that vary from food assistance, support for the education sector, programmes to support the elimination of gender-based violence, training of mid-wives and attendants, employment and income generating projects, distribution of anti-viral drugs as well as support for the upgrading of small towns and slums," he said. In another event in Tundikhel - the open theatre, eight Constituent Assembly members representing all parties, read the Stand Up pledge and proved that some issues are beyond and above politics. Around 5000 people enjoyed a musical programme while urging their leaders to keep the promise of achieving the MDGs. This is the fourth year that 'Stand Up, Take Action, End Poverty Now!' mobilisation is taking place from October 16 to 18. Millions of people across the globe will call on world leaders to eradicate extreme poverty and achieve the MDGs. Coinciding with International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, this mobilization recorded participation by 116.9 million people in 2008, the majority from poor countries, breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest mobilisation of human beings in recorded history.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 10/20/2009

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PAKISTAN: Women Empowerment Govt's Top Priority: PM

GILGIT: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday said the empowerment of womenfolk was the top priority of the government and concerted efforts were being made to achieve the goal. Talking to a delegation of women workers of Pakistan Peoples Party led by Saadia Danish, President Women Wing PPP, Prime Minister appreciated women activism in Gilgit-Baltistan and said that government was making concerted efforts for women emancipation and empowerment. The Prime Minister said he was happy to see wide participation of the women in public meeting. Gilani said that Benazir Income Support Programme was mainly aimed at development of women in country. The Prime Minister directed the administration of Gilgit-Baltistan to ensure ten percent quota for females in the entire government departments. He further directed the administration to ensure same quota in the jobs of projects coming up in the area. Prime Minister Gilani instructed the administration to expedite the identification of household women to be enrolled for Banazir Income Support Programme. The Prime Minister also directed the concerned authorities to open branch of First Women Bank in the area within shortest span of time and a women crisis center as well. The Prime Minister expressed his resolve to develop far-flung parts of the country and assured that Gilgit-Baltistan would usher in a new era of development and prosperity. The delegation thanked the Prime Minister for fulfilling the longstanding demand of the people of area.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 10/01/2009

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Notice Taken on Corruption in Rental Power Projects: Faisal

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) parliamentary Faisal Saleh Hayat claimed that the notice has been taken regarding corruption in the rental power projects, Geo News reported Sunday. Addressing a press conference here at Muslim League House, he said all the documented evidences have been provided regarding corruption in rental power projects to the concerned authorities. Faisal said Federal Minister of Power Raja Pervaiz Ashraf claimed to end load shedding first in June and then in December 2009, adding he should implement on the punishment which he specified for himself in the event he fails to fulfil his promise regarding putting an end to the load shedding. But, the Federal Minister for Power and Water took a U-turn by pushing the deadline to June 2010 from December 2009, he added.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 10/04/2009

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Riaz Insists on Similar LB System for Provinces

ISLAMABAD: The senior Punjab Minister Raja Riaz said Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani will decide the future of Local Bodies System cum consensus of all four provinces, Geo news reported Tuesday. The minister stated this while talking to Geo news here after holding sitting with PM Gilani. He said I support similar Local Bodies System in all four provinces, hoping for positives measures to be taken by PPP government soon. "The development funds shall be spent on minimizing the problems of province", he claimed adding, "Matters pertaining to political and administrative affairs of Punjab came during discussion with PM".

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 10/06/2009

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AFGHANISTAN: Women Strive to Make Voices Heard in Strategic Debate

Women have struggled to make their voices heard in Afghanistan. It turns out that many Afghan women's rights activists are ardent supporters of a strong US military presence in the country. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, might do well to broadcast their opinions amid the continuing debate over US war strategy. At an October 2-3 meeting in Kabul organized by an Indian think-tank, the Delhi Policy Group, female Afghan attendees spoke out forcefully for a continued, robust foreign presence in the country. Some endorsed the idea of a sizable troop increase. "We are suffering from terrorism," said MP Shinkai Karokhail. "We cannot say that troops should be withdrawn. The international troop presence is a guarantee of my safety." Afghan women were particularly critical of a policy option advanced by US Vice President Joseph Biden to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan and redirect the mission to the destruction of al Qaeda networks.

"Demilitarization is not practical in the current situation," well-known activist Suraya Parlika said, pointing to the deteriorating security situation. "Look at what is happening in Helmand and Kandahar. Violence is now spreading to northern Afghanistan. At this time we cannot think of demilitarization. We have to first create conditions that pave the way for demilitarization." The stance of the Afghan participants took other meeting delegations by surprise. The conference was ostensibly designed to promote a "peace trialogue" among women from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The widespread assumption heading into the meeting was that Afghan women would support the idea of an immediate withdrawal of foreign forces from the country. Indeed, the Afghan barrage of support for a continued strong foreign troop presence came in response to Indian participants' suggestions that Afghan women should call for a speedy withdrawal.

A visiting delegation of Code Pink, a US-based anti-war women's group, was also in Kabul to lobby local women to call for a fast American military exit. But following discussions with Afghan activists, Code Pink representatives admitted that their stance might need to be adjusted. Code Pink's Jodie Evans and Medea Benjamin said that while they still wanted the Obama Administration to work towards an exit strategy, they were reconsidering their calls for a two-year withdrawal timeline. "We have been feeling a sense of fear of the people of the return of the Taliban. So many people [are] saying that, 'If the US troops left, the country would collapse; we'd go into civil war.' A palpable sense of fear is making us start to reconsider," Benjamin told EurasiaNet. The opinions of Code Pink representatives were also influenced by analysis provided by the well-known activist and former Minister of Women's Affairs Masooda Jalal. When Benjamin asked whether Jalal preferred more troops or more financial aid, the icon of the Afghan woman's movement responded straightforwardly: "Both. It is good for Afghanistan to have more resources and more troops coming with the aim of building peace and [working] against war, terrorism and insecurity."

It would now seem that the worst fears of Afghan women won't materialize - at least in the immediate future. US President Barack Obama indicated during an October 6 meeting with Republican and Democratic legislative leaders that the so-called Biden option, featuring a draw-down of US troops in Afghanistan, is no longer under consideration. Obama, however, hasn't signaled whether he will go along with Gen. McChrystal's request for as many as 40,000 additional ground troops in Afghanistan. While none of the activists at the October 2-3 meeting suggested that international troops should stay indefinitely, Afghan participants agreed that foreign protection is needed until Afghanistan is able to build it own functioning security forces.

In an earlier interview, women's activist Wazhma Frogh told EurasiaNet that international troops were not the answer, but necessary for building the capacity of Afghan national forces. "Their presence is useful while there are warlords in power and the insurgency is going on." Najiba Ayubi, Director of the Killid Media Group, which runs both television and radio stations around the country, echoed Frogh's assessment. "The troops have to leave one day. But now is not the exact right time. Because we know our country," she said, adding that a civil war would start without the presence of foreign troops. "Islam has given us rights. But we have fear in our hearts that politicians will compromise our rights," MP Karokhail told EurasiaNet. "Nobody has consulted with us on negotiations with the Taliban." (by Aunohita Mojumdar)

From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 10/07/09

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IRAQ: Parliament Debates Open-List Electoral System

BAGHDAD - A member of the Iraqi parliament's legal committee says legislative approval of a new election law is being delayed by controversy over whether to adopt a closed- or open-list system in next year's elections, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports. Wael Abdullatif, an independent, told RFI that the main blocs in parliament have failed to agree on the open list despite majority public support for such a system. Abdullatif said the closed-list system - which considers Iraq a single constituency and was used in the last elections - has since been discredited because deputies were appointed by their parties rather than being elected directly. Khalid Shiwani, a member of the Kurdish bloc in parliament, told RFI that Kurds do not oppose to the open-list system as rumored and will go along with any system adopted by parliament.

Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, warned politicians on October 6 that that turnout will suffer unless the vote is an open process and the people know which candidates they are electing. Baghdad resident Sabri Jawad told RFI that voting in the closed-list system is like "electing someone hiding behind a screen." He added that "if parliament adopts a closed-list system they might as well cancel the elections because nobody will take part." Saad Abd al-Nabi, another resident of Baghdad, said the closed-list system being promoted by some politicians "runs counter to the freedom of expression and democracy they preach." National elections are scheduled for January 16.

From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/13/2009

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Premier Warns of Dangers of Political Corruption

BAGHDAD - Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has described political corruption as a serious problem in Iraq that interferes with national unity, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports. Al-Maliki made the statement during a conference on good governance at the Defense Ministry on October 15. He said political corruption is more dangerous and "more tiresome" to the state than financial fraud because it undermines the "foundations of national unity." He added that "the state can survive with fraudsters misappropriating public funds but political corruption undermines the entire state structure and threatens its social fabric." Walid al-Hilli, a leading member of al-Maliki's Dawa party, told RFI that regional powers and neighboring countries attempt to influence the Iraqi political parties and government.

Al-Hilli added that the intelligence agencies in the neighboring countries work "round the clock to find ways of supporting certain political movements and groups so that they will do well in the coming elections." Major General Muhammad al-Askari, the Defense Ministry spokesman, told RFI that the armed forces and Defense Ministry staff are banned from associating with political organizations to avoid the risks of political corruption. Al-Maliki accused parliamentary factions of blocking new electoral legislation in order to discredit his government ahead of the national elections, which are due to be held on January 16.

From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/16/2009

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IRAN: Proposal for National Election Committee Not Feasible: GC Spokesperson

TEHRAN - Guardian Council spokesperson Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaii has said the proposal to establish a national election committee is not feasible due to legal and procedural hurdles. It will not be possible to create a new institution not envisaged in the Constitution, Kadkhodaii told reporters on Saturday. "The creation of new institutions will not lead to any clear outcome," he observed. "We need a comprehensive electoral law to address any weaknesses and deficiencies in elections, and I hope such a law will soon be ratified, with the cooperation of the administration and the Majlis," he added. Commenting on Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaii's proposal to bar the ruling administration from interfering in elections, he said, "The electoral bodies and those responsible for supervising elections are appointed from among the people.

"The Guardian Council is not affiliated to any of the three branches (of government), and hence there is no problem with the institutions currently supervising electoral affairs." Rezaii has put forward a proposal calling for the establishment of a national election committee to prevent the faction in power from interfering in the electoral process. Rather than establishing new institutions, there is a need to work on the cultural aspects of elections, Kadkhodaii noted. "More than anything else, today we need to respect the law," he added. Election candidates should accept the people's decision and refrain from illegal actions if they lose, Kadkhodaii stated.

From Tehran Times 10/11/2009

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KYRGYZSTAN: Cabinet Steps Down Following Reform Decree

BISHKEK - The government of Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov has resigned. RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. The government stepped down after President Kurmanbek Bakiev announced a broad administrative reform that includes restructuring or eliminating several state institutions. Bakiev accepted the government's resignation and said an upcoming meeting of the ruling AK Jol party will discuss the formation of a new cabinet, presidential press service head Almaz Turdumamatov told RFE/RL. Chudinov became prime minister following the disputed parliamentary elections of December 2007.

From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/20/2009

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KAZAKHSTAN: OSCE Astana Preparatory Conference to Discuss Land Transport, Good Governance at Border Crossings

Policymakers and experts will discuss measures to promote good governance at border crossings, improve the security of land transportation and facilitate international transport by road and rail in the OSCE region at the First Preparatory Conference to the 18th OSCE Economic and Environmental Forum in Astana on 12 and 13 October. Participants and keynote speakers will include Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Konstantin Zhigalov, Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications Azat Bekturov, Goran Svilanovic, the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, and Kozy-Korpesh Karbuzov, the Chairman of the Customs Committee of Kazakhstan. Hong Wang, Principal Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Co-ordinator, Central and West Asia Department at the Asian Development Bank and Mohammad Mirzaei Kahagh, a Director at the Economic Co-operation Organization, will also take part.

The Astana meeting launches the 18th OSCE Economic and Environmental Forum process and precedes the first part of the Forum which will take place in Vienna in February 2010. The second part of the Forum process will start with the Second Preparatory Conference, to be held in mid-March. The concluding part of the Forum will take place in Prague in May 2010. Journalists are invited to attend the opening and first sessions of the conference, from 10:00-11:30 on 12 October, at the Rixos President Hotel Astana, Kunayeva Street 7, Astana. A news conference will be held in Hall "D" immediately following. Journalists interested in interviewing speakers are encouraged to contact OSCE Economic and Environmental Adviser Roel Janssens, roel.janssens@osce.org or OSCE Political Officer Andrew Offenbacher in Astana, andrew.offenbacher@osce.org. For admittance to the conference venue please present a valid press card at the conference registration desk.

From Gazeta.kz 10/08/2009

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AUSTRALIA: Financial Services Sector Reports

The Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law, Chris Bowen MP this evening launched Austrade's 2009 Benchmark Report and the 2009 Australian Financial Markets Association (AFMA) Report. "These reports underline the great advantages that Australia's financial services sector enjoys," Mr Bowen said. "While there is still a lot to work through, in terms of the fallout from the global economic recession, we can build on what is a solid policy platform. "I look forward to shortly receiving the report from Mark Johnson and the Australian Financial Centre Forum that will examine what further impediments there may be to Australia becoming a financial services hub for the Asia Pacific." Austrade and AFMA's reports give a snapshot of the health of the Australian financial sector. At A$1.2 trillion, Australia's total contestable investment fund assets pool is the fourth largest in the world and since 1994 this sector has experienced a compound annual growth rate of 10 per cent. "These reports are critical industry tools for foreign investors hoping to learn about Australia's financial sector, and for exporters of financial services wanting to demonstrate the strength and stability of Australia's economy, the liquidity of our markets, our skilled workforce and our enviably high quality of life." In working towards the goal of establishing Australia as a financial services hub in our region, the Rudd Government has enacted the following reforms:

• Cutting the withholding tax on certain foreign distributions from managed investment trusts would be cut from 30 per cent to a final rate of 7.5 per cent;
• Establishing the Australian Financial Centre Forum, which later this year will report on further ways to improve the competitiveness of our financial system and the clarity of taxation rules.
• Changing the attribution rules and the deemed capital account treatment of the sale of shares, units and property from Managed Investment Trusts - based on advice of the Board of Taxation
• Repealing and replacing the Foreign Investment Fund provisions with a narrowly-defined anti-avoidance rule. The Controlled Foreign Company rules will also be modernised and re-written.
• Finally, the Government took a significant step in August when it announced the transfer of supervision of financial markets from the ASX to ASIC, the corporate regulator.

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

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AUSTRALIA: New Age Care Facility for NT

A new modern facility for disadvantaged elderly Territorians has opened its doors, helping to ease pressure on the Territory's existing aged care services. Federal Infrastructure and Regional Development Minister Anthony Albanese today joined Deputy Chief Minister Delia Lawrie and Solomon MP Damian Hale in Darwin to officially open the $3.26 million Ponti Mews aged care facility. "This project has received more than $1.6 million in funding from the Australian Government - an investment that has not only left a lasting legacy for the community but also generated work for about 20 local tradespeople," said Mr Albanese. "Named after Ian 'Ponti' Pontifex - a tireless advocate for quality aged care in the Territory - the new facility consists of 12 aged care units and a community centre. "Residents will benefit from the facility's close proximity to the local hospital. They will also have access to the nursing, pharmaceutical and meal services which will allow them to continue living relatively independent lives." Ponti Mews is the latest addition to Masonic Homes' Tiwi Gardens Seniors Living Community. All up, this integrated aged care complex has received $5.75 million in Federal funding, with the NT Government also making a significant contribution. Mr Hale said this latest development by Masonic Homes is a perfect example of what co-operation between the Federal and Northern Territory Governments as well as a private provider can produce - a truly great result for our community and all Territorians. "Mr Doug Strain and his team should be congratulated on all their efforts to bring this latest facility to the Territory," said Mr Hale.

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

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Increased Centrelink Support for Homeless

Minister for Housing, Tanya Plibersek and Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen today announced that Centrelink Community Engagement Officers are now able to provide increased support for homeless Australians. Establishment of Centrelink's Community Engagement Officers delivers on another commitment from the Australian Government's White Paper on Homelessness. This program will see 90 specialist Centrelink staff, located across all capital cities and many regional centres, supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our community. This means homeless Australians, and those at risk of homelessness, have better access to income support and the many other services available through Centrelink. Community Engagement Officers will work with non-government organisations like drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, mental health services, hostels, boarding houses, refuges and drop in centres. Ms Plibersek said the CEOs will identify and support homeless people and those at risk, helping them access the right Centrelink support more quickly. "These CEOs will help individuals and families break the cycle of homelessness. The Rudd Government has worked hard over the last 18 months with all levels of government and the community sector to implement measures to help reduce homelessness," Ms Plibersek said. "Focussing on prevention reduces the number of people who will experience homelessness. Assisting homeless Australians to access the full range of Centrelink services will help them end their homelessness sooner." Mr Bowen said Community Engagement Officers will provide outreach services to agencies which support homeless and at-risk customers, such as rehabilitation centres, psychiatric hospitals, prisons, boarding houses and organised meeting places. "Centrelink is a key 'first to know' agency and is well placed to identify people who are at risk of homelessness. These officers are trained to work with homeless Australians, who can have difficulties accessing information and all the available support services they need," Mr Bowen said. "The CEOs will be placed in locations of highest need and all Centrelink staff will receive homelessness awareness training to improve and tailor the service they provide to this group. "They will work with community organisations assisting them to better understand their clients' obligations and entitlements." The Rudd Government's Homelessness White Paper contains ambitious targets to halve homelessness in Australia and offer accommodation to all rough sleepers who seek it by 2020. The Australian Government has invested more than $7 billion to tackle homelessness in Australia since coming to office.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 10/09/2009

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New Health Services for Tasmania

Health services in northern Tasmania will be boosted by the construction of a new Renal Satellite Service for the Launceston Community Health Centre. The $732,400 project was announced today by the Prime Minister, Parliamentary Secretary for Health Mark Butler and Local MP Jodie Campbell during the Prime Minister's visit to Launceston. The new facility will operate six days a week and have the capacity for 16 renal stations that can treat multiple patients per day. The number of Australians being diagnosed with kidney disease is increasing at the rate of six per cent per annum and the burden of treating these patients is already keenly felt in Northern Tasmania. This new facility will help relieve this pressure, and importantly, provide high quality health care in a community setting. This is particularly important when most renal patients require treatment several times a week on an ongoing basis. The approval processes for the Renal Satellite Unit will be completed during this month (October 2009) and the centre will open in December 2009. The delivery of this unit will provide an immediate boost in construction jobs, as well as providing long term health care to locals. Maci Constructions has been appointed to build the Unit. The funds come from the Rudd Government's $15 million commitment to build an Integrated Care Centre in the local area.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 10/12/2009

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Australia's First Preventive Health Agency

Australia's first ever Preventive Health Agency will soon be established following the passage of important legislation in the House of Representatives today. The Agency is a key part of the Rudd Government's decision to invest more in preventative health measures than any other government in Australia's history. The legislation is now with the Senate for consideration. It is essential that this Bill be passed without delay so that the agency can commence work on 1 January 2010. The creation of this agency responds to calls from health professionals for Australia to establish - as many other countries have done - a dedicated agency to focus exclusively on driving the prevention agenda and combat the complex challenges of preventable chronic disease. The agency will guide health ministers in their task of curbing the growth of lifestyle risks driving chronic disease. It is a role requiring national leadership, capacity to work across sectors and portfolios, and an oversight role for surveillance and monitoring. The agency will bring together the best expertise in the country and play a key role in gathering, analysing and disseminating the best available evidence and evidence-based programs. Its prevention activities will engage all Australian governments as well as employers, businesses and other sectors, to benefit every community in the nation. The new preventive health agency will concentrate on reducing the burden that preventable health problems are already placing on the workforce, and ensure Australia's productive capacity is maintained. The agency will receive $133 million over four years, from the Government's record $872 million COAG Prevention Partnership funding. Strong support for the agency has been expressed by key players in the preventive health field such as the Public Health Association of Australia, and this is important in ensuring the agency's success in forging cohesiveness in national preventive health efforts.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 10/22/2009

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NEW ZEALAND: Environmental Protection Authority Launched

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) that opens today marks a new era in managing New Zealand's natural resources with the Government taking a more active role and major resource consents being processed nationally. "A weakness in New Zealand's environmental management has been the degree to which major decisions have been left to regional and local authorities and it taking longer to approve consents than to build major projects," Dr Smith said. "The establishment of the EPA is about providing greater national leadership and enabling timely decisions on critical infrastructure." The EPA is established as part of the Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment Act that came into effect today enabling major resource consent applicants to apply directly to the new agency. "This reform has come about because the current system is slow, costly and inefficient. It is unrealistic to expect small councils to have the resources to be able to cope with major consents. Inevitably council decisions are appealed to the Environment Court dragging out the process for years. This new system will enable the decisions to be made through a single robust process that incorporates both local and national considerations. "The genesis of this new authority was National's 2006 Bluegreen Vision for New Zealand. The authority will initially be a statutory office within the Environment Ministry but further Cabinet decisions on its broader role are being considered. These may include environmental responsibility for New Zealand's exclusive economic zone, oversight of hazardous substances and new organisms, and the administrative functions of the Emissions Trading Scheme. "The Government's broader intent is for the EPA to be the national regulator on environmental issues and the Ministry for the Environment to be a smaller policy agency. "This reform strengthens New Zealand's system of environmental management and will help achieve the Government's goal of growing our economy while effectively protecting our natural environment."

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 10/01/2009

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Govt Accounts Reflect Extra Spending, Recession

The combined impact of significant extra spending and the recession are highlighted in the Government's annual accounts for the year to June 30, Finance Minister Bill English says. "There has been a marked deterioration in the Crown's accounts, from an annual operating surplus of $2.4 billion in 2008 to an operating deficit of $10.5 billion in the year to June 30 2009," he says. "The deficit is larger than the $9.3 billion forecast in the Budget in May, as tax receipts fell, spending increased sharply and a number of the Crown's investment portfolios sustained significant losses. "We cannot afford for these trends to continue indefinitely," Mr English says. Faced with expected cash deficits of between $10 billion and $12 billion over each of the next four years, Mr English says the Government expects to have to double Crown debt by 2013. "We will be borrowing about $40 billion in the next four years, to maintain public services and welfare entitlements, and to invest in productive infrastructure and support jobs. "This extra debt will increase the Crown's interest costs by about $700 million each year - preventing this money being spent in more worthwhile areas. "That means by 2013, total Crown interest costs are forecast to top $5.4 billion a year - more than the combined annual spending on law and order and defence. "This underlines the need for us to get our books in order as soon as possible - because budget surpluses give us choices. Deficits do not," Mr English says.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 10/14/2009

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Work and Income and Recruitment Agencies Join Forces for Jobseekers

The Minister for Social Development and Employment has welcomed a new partnership between Work and Income and the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association. "It's a great agreement, because it's simple and aimed at getting the right people into the right jobs, right away", says Paula Bennett. "The RCSA leads the way in recruitment. With over 700 recruitment agencies throughout New Zealand, this partnership allows people to tap into vacancies that traditionally haven't been available to them through Work and Income. "It benefits the RCSA by providing their employers with access to a more diverse talent pool. "Additionally, it allows their job-seeking clients to tie in with Work and Income to check they're getting all the financial support they're entitled to while they're between jobs. "By partnering up, we are expanding opportunities for job seekers and employers alike. "This is a great example of how we can all work together to manage our way through the current economic environment. It is this sort of Kiwi ingenuity and innovation that continues to see us through the tough times," Paula Bennett says.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 10/16/2009

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Rates Challenges for Local Government

Analysis of the 2009-19 Long Term Council Community Plans shows that New Zealanders are facing big increases in their rates bills, Local Government Minister Rodney Hide said today. Analysis of the LTCCP data shows that councils' operating costs will increase 39 per cent over the next 10 years. Over the same period councils' planned capital expenditure will total $31.4 billion, and total debt is forecast to rise to $10.8 billion. "To help ratepayers stop their rates continuing to spiral out of control, the Government will soon announce changes to the Local Government Act 2002," Mr Hide said. "These changes have come from the review I set up to improve the transparency, accountability and financial management of local government. "This work is about local government focussing on core functions, managing within a defined budget, and adopting transparent and accountable decision-making processes. "In these challenging economic times councils need to think carefully about the impact of rates increases. There needs to be some serious thinking about the trade-offs between the services local communities want and what is an acceptable level of rates increases. "The review is also looking at options to ensure local government operates within a defined budget, focuses on core activities and provides for 'plain English' financial disclosure." The report, 'Observations and Trends from 2009/19 LTCCPs', is available at www.localcouncils.govt.nz.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 10/23/2009

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Asia-Pacific Broadcasters Vow to Step

ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA (5 October 2009) - Television and radio broadcasters from across the Asia-Pacific region have pledged to step up their role in the fight against climate change. The Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) General Assembly in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, today adopted the 'Ulaanbaatar Declaration on Climate Change', with 200 broadcasters from 58 Asia-Pacific nations resolving to expand public knowledge and understanding about climate change, and its solutions. The Declaration also calls on broadcasters to develop and promote broadcasting industry standards in environmental management, to set quantifiable targets for a reduction in their own carbon footprints, and to ensure that their organizations understand climate change as a developmental, national and corporate priority. "Climate change is a threat to humankind and an urgent impediment to the future prospects and wellbeing of all countries," said Acting Secretary General, David Astley. "It is undermining our efforts to build social capital and strong economic systems." "ABU members recognize that as broadcasters they have a responsibility to provide the audiences of the Asia-Pacific with knowledge and information that empowers them to make informed decisions on options for climate change mitigation and adaptation."

Climate change will hit the Asia-Pacific region the hardest, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), causing dramatic spikes in food prices by 2050. Greater investments in clean energy, climate-resilient infrastructure, energy efficiency initiatives, and other adaptation and mitigation measures are needed to protect countries from the increasingly severe impacts of climate change. The ABU and its members have partnered successfully with the Asian Development Bank in an 18-month project on climate change solutions, and today delegates at the Assembly called for more training projects in the wake of the Declaration. "Broadcast journalists have an important role to play in helping policymakers and the public appreciate the extent of the climate change threat, and encouraging them to take cost-effective actions that can preserve the environment, save communities, and improve people's lives," said Ann Quon, Principal Director of ADB's External Relations Department. "The impact of climate change will disproportionately fall on the shoulders of Asia and the Pacific's poorest families, so it is essential that we get the word out about costeffective climate change solutions that can help prevent these families from being cast into crisis," she added.

ABU members also committed to dedicate the resources and broadcasting space needed to comprehensively report on the UN Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December 2009, and on follow-up actions. The Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) is a non-profit, non-government, professional association of broadcasting organizations, formed in 1964 to facilitate the development of broadcasting in the Asia-Pacific region and to organize co-operative activities amongst its members. It currently has over 200 members in 58 countries, reaching a potential audience of about 3 billion people. 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/ 10/052009

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OECD World Forum in Busan to Explore New Ways to Measure and Foster Progress

Assessing the progress and failings of our societies requires a far broader set of measures than just economic indicators. This is why international experts in fields as diverse as the environment, development, business and social affairs will be meeting in Busan, South Korea from 27-30 October 2009 to discuss and develop the statistics needed in a range of areas affecting quality of life. The OECD's World Forum on "Statistics, Knowledge and Policy: Charting progress, building visions, improving life" will respond to the call by G20 leaders at their September 2009 summit in Pittsburgh for measurement methods "to better take into account the social and environmental dimensions of economic development." The Forum will also aim to advance the recommendations of a commission of international experts set up by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Chaired by the Nobel prize-winning US economist, Joseph Stiglitz, the commission has called for a change in emphasis in how we measure economic performance and social progress - to move away from a system of indicators based on production to one based on people's wellbeing.

Joseph Stiglitz will be among nearly 200 speakers in Busan. Others include; Angel Gurr¨Şa, Secretary General, OECD; Danilo T¨ąrk , President of Slovenia; Steve Killelea, Founder of the Global Peace Index; Jenny Klugman, Director, UNDP Human Development Report Office; Tae-shin Kwon, Minister of the Prime Minister's Office, Republic of Korea; Lord Richard Layard, London School of Economics; Eduardo Lora, Chief Economist, Inter-American Development Bank; Yanghee Lee, Chair of the UN Commission on the Rights of the Child; Bader Omar Al Dafa. Executive Secretary, UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia; and Roger Ricafort, Director, Oxfam Hong Kong. The sessions will cover a broad range of themes: from inequality to urban development; from climate change to wellbeing. A number of international organisation will be presenting specific plans for improving the development and dissemination of social, economic and environmental indicators. Organised in cooperation with the European Commission, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the UN, the World Bank and in partnership with Statistics Korea (KOSTAT), the Busan World Forum forms part of the OECD-hosted Measuring the Progress of Societies project. It looks at the central role that key indicators can play in underpinning democracy and effective government policy-making. Two previous world fora were held in Palermo, Italy in November 2004 and in Istanbul, Turkey in June 2007. All sessions of the Forum will be open to the media. Separate press briefings will also take place during the event. Journalists can register for the Forum online at: www.oecdworldforum2009.org

From http://www.oecd.org/ 10/06/2009

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ASEAN plus Three Strive to Prepare Regional Reserve Pool for Kick-Off

HUA HIN, Thailand (Xinhua) - Leaders at the ongoing summits of east and southeast Asian leaders at the Thai beach resort of Hua Hin on Saturday urged their finance ministers to speed up preparation work on the region's foreign exchange reserve pool so that it can be launched by the year end. The landmark reserve pool, known as the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization (CMIM), will help the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as China, Japan and South Korea address short-term liquidity difficulties amid potential crises in the future, analysts said. Officials said they also expected to the multilateral financial aid mechanism to help spur cooperation and integration in the region. The multilateral CMIM can be traced back to the Chiang Mai Initiative (CMI) agreed on by the ASEAN Plus Three finance ministers in 2000. The CMI mainly comprises bilateral currency swap arrangements among the group.

The ASEAN Plus Three finance ministers agreed on "all the key components" of the foreign currency reserve pool at a meeting in Bali, Indonesia in May 2009, only two years after they agreed on efforts to establish the CMIM to combat short term liquidity difficulties amid financial crises. The CMI owed its birth to the sense of urgency felt by the southeast Asian economies in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis in 1997, said Simon Wong, regional economist for Asia, Standard Chartered Bank. The sense of urgency amid the current global financial turmoil and the economic downturn further "spurred the preparation for the launching of the regional reserve pool," which will be worth 120 billion U.S. dollars, said Thomas Kwan, regional head of research for Asia, Standard Chartered Bank. Thailand's Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij also acknowledged the role of the two crises over the past 12 years in accelerating the progresses, saying that the reserve pool is close to being operational.

"The CMIM will remain significant in future given that potential risks are still expected in the international financial system," Wong said. Officials said they also expected the reserve pool to facilitate trade and spur financial and economic integration in the region. For the reserve pool to be operational, a proper surveillance mechanism will have to be established to monitor the developments in the region's economy and financial system. Some analysts said there could be potential challenges or uncertainties any minute before the launch of the regional reserve pool. But the cooperation and integration in the region's trade economy, a trend more than obvious, have been the ultimate driver behind the birth and expected launch of the CMIM. Moreover, any country alone shall not be able to combat the globalized risks of the international financial system, officials argued.

Success is expected also partly because leaders in the region have also demonstrated a strong will to preparation for the launch. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao proposed the timely launching of the pool as one of the measures to combat the global financial turmoil and the economic downturn. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of Thailand, which currently assumed the rotating chairmanship of the ASEAN, also encouraged ASEAN finance ministers to work on the launch of the reserve pool by the end of the year. Korn said the senior finance officials of the ASEAN Plus Three will convene again in November in an effort to resolve all the remaining issues. The preparation work for the launching of the reserve pool will not slow down although the sense of urgency might be reduced with the gradual recovery of the global economy, he added.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 10/25/2009

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APEC Forum to Address Enhancing Capabilities of Smes at Year-End Summit

SINGAPORE : The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum will take on an added dimension in November. With economies recovering, leaders are expected to look into enhancing the longer term capabilities of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), instead of short-term measures like trade financing. This was disclosed as ministers in charge of the SME sector ended a two-day meeting in Singapore on Friday. There are signs the economy is turning around. So SMEs should position themselves for growth and tap on opportunities aboard, according to the ministers. Help will come from the combined efforts of APEC, which will focus on longer term programmes to make companies more competitive and productive. Lee Yi Shyan, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, said: "We will see a lot of ideas on building long-term strength and understanding overseas markets. Hong Kong talked about branding, Thailand talked about branding and how do you build a cluster and so on." While sentiment has improved, there are concerns that SMEs will lose out to bigger players. Mr Lee said: "There is a recognition that the SME is a vulnerable sector, and most of the financial institutions would favour larger companies, and so when you have a financial crisis and economic crisis, the SMEs tend to suffer more." Still, Mr Lee said SMEs have benefited from various government stimulus packages. And it is hoped that the withdrawal of the stimulus can be better coordinated to minimise the impact on businesses. To help SMEs access global markets, the ministers accepted Singapore's proposal to conduct a feasibility study on the establishment of a Market Research and Capability Development Centre. Results of this study will be presented in Hong Kong next year. Various economies will also lead reforms in five of the six priority areas under the APEC SME Strategic Plan. More details will be announced at the APEC Leader's meeting in November. Mr Lee said some 47 key performance indicators have been developed and they will be used to track progress of work done. The ministers also renewed their commitment to promote freer trade and more transparency. Other initiatives that have been endorsed include the APEC Business Fellowships, Workshop on Developing Trading Houses to strengthen the SMEs global market network, and a Crisis Management Centre which will enable SMEs to better prepare for and overcome the impact of crises.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/09/2009

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Central Asia United on Economic Crisis Response

BEIJING (AFP) - Leaders from Russia, China and four Central Asian nations vowed on Wednesday to work together to coordinate their responses to the global economic crisis. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, host Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, and leaders from four ex-Soviet countries - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - also agreed their top finance officials would meet by year's end. The six had gathered for a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a regional security grouping dominated by Moscow and Beijing, and seen by some Western critics as a way to counter US influence in Central Asia. Representatives from India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan also joined the talks at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, as the four countries have SCO observer status. "This document will create good opportunities. It will allow us to secure coordination of anti-crisis measures," Putin said before the adoption of an agreement outlining the crisis response and a post-crisis strategy.

"The crisis has become a catalyst for reform of the international financial system. Our organisation should take part in this." Wen said the leaders had agreed to "vigorously develop exchanges and cooperation in the areas of trade, energy resources, agriculture, transport, communications, culture, health, environment, and product quality control, and to improve economic competitiveness and our capability to prevent risks". Russian and Kazakh officials said the leaders had agreed that their finance ministers and central bank chiefs would meet in Almaty before year's end. "The SCO is increasingly focusing on concrete activities in the area of economic cooperation," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin told reporters. "If earlier the SCO was largely an organisation for maintaining security, then today it's obvious that the global financial crisis forces SCO members and observers to pay increasing attention to the economic component of this structure's activities."

Borodavkin said the situation in Afghanistan - but not Iran's disputed nuclear programme - had been discussed. Members also agreed to set up a special fund for joint energy, infrastructure and telecommunications projects. The SCO grew out of a regional effort in the mid-1990s to reduce military forces along common borders. It later came to involve anti-terrorism efforts and cooperation in the economic and energy fields. SCO members possess 17.5 percent of the world's known oil reserves and nearly half the natural gas supplies, according to a 2007 study published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. "The attractiveness of the SCO is growing. An ever-increasing number of countries want to join our projects," Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov said. Putin, who arrived here earlier this week, on Tuesday said Russia and China could better help solve global problems when they adopted a common stance. "Both China and Russia conduct peaceful, peace-loving foreign policy. We are not fighting wars anywhere, we don't have our troops abroad," he said. "It is a consolidated view towards these problems, an ability to agree to positions on key issues of global development that very often calm down the situation, so to speak - play a stabilising role."

From http://news.yahoo.com/ 10/14/2009

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CHINA: State Councilor Urges University Faculty, Students to Embrace Innovation

Chinese State Councilor Liu Yandong on Wednesday called for teaching faculty and students of a mining university to promote its fine traditions and embrace innovation. In a meeting with teachers and students of the China University of Mining and Technology upon its 100th founding anniversary, Liu said the university has made outstanding contribution in personnel training, scientific research and social services. She called for efforts to build the university into a world-class institution of higher learning, deepen its educational reform, embrace innovation in its mode of personnel training so as to provide support for national development of energy industry and environmental protection. She also stressed the importance of make breakthrough in important theories and key technologies of the mining industry and promote technologies that are highly energy-efficient, have low carbon emission levels and are conducive to the prevention of accidents. Efforts should also be made to facilitate the construction of a natural resources-efficient and environmental friendly society, she said.


From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 10/14/2009

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VP Urges Smooth Progress of Pilot Rural Pension Program

Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang has urged the central Hunan Province to ensure the smooth implementation of the new rural pension pilot project and pave the way for a nationwide coverage of the program. Zhang made the comment during an inspection tour to the province from Friday to Saturday. Zhang said that farmers should join the program voluntarily and that local governments should offer guidance and advice to farmers. The program is beneficial to hundreds of millions of farmers and any problem that arises should be dealt with in time, Zhang said. China launched a pilot rural pension program in August that is expected to cover 10 percent of the counties by the end of 2009 and the whole country by 2020. Different from the previous pension program where funding was supplied by the farmers themselves, the new scheme would be subsidized by the central and local governments. Farmers over 60 will receive a monthly endowment of varying amounts set according to their area's standard income levels after paying a fee to join the program. China has more than 153 million citizens aged 60, or 11 percent of the total population. A large part of the senior population is living in the countryside.

From Xinhua News Agency 10/18/2009

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Senior CPC Leader Urges Independent Innovation of Companies

A senior leader of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has urged the country's companies to embrace independent innovation and create more internationally claimed brands with independent core technology. "It is the core of the country's development strategy to promote the ability of independent innovation," said Li Changchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. Li made the remarks during a visit in east China's Anhui Province from Oct. 15 to 19 on the issues of independent innovation and local cultural industry. While visiting automobile company Chery, Li said companies should enhance their international competence and infuse strong energy into the country's development. Chery, the country's largest independent automaker, is marching into the mid- and high-end vehicle market. Its sales in the first half of this year reached 211,000 units. Li also visited local villages and asked about the cultural activities for villagers and the protection of traditional cultural heritages. Li urged local governments to promote cultural projects for residents.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 10/19/2009

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Hu Stresses Development of Renewable Energy

Chinese President Hu Jintao has urged the country's companies to reduce operation costs by speeding up the development of renewable energy and help improve the country's energy structure. "Developing renewable energy vigorously is necessary for taking up the front line in the new round of global energy revolution," said Hu while visiting a wind energy project besides the Bohai Sea during his inspection tour in Shandong Province from Oct. 16 to 19. The project, when finished, will produce more than 95 million kw of electricity every year and will play an important part in improving the local energy structure. After attending the opening ceremony of the 11th Chinese National Games in Jinan, capital city of Shandong, Hu inspected the province on local economic development and Communist Party building. Hu called upon companies to focus on technical innovation and scientific management to improve their sustainable development. While visiting the country's large oil base Shengli Oilfield, Hu climbed onto a well drilling platform to meet with the workers. He praised the workers for their hard work and outstanding professional skills. During an inspection in a paper making company, Hu asked about the methods for emission reduction and encouraged the company to continue to improve recycling economy and put more efforts in environmental protection. Hu also visited a village called Liujihou in the city of Dongying. The village set up its Communist Party branch in 1925 - one of the four oldest Party branches in the province. Hu urged Party members in the village to seek benefits for villagers, solve their problems and encourage them to develop modern agriculture in a scientific way.

From Xinhua News Agency 10/23/2009

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JAPAN: New System to Speed Pension Cross-Checks

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will use a new computer system to help speed up cross-checking of paper pension records against data already stored in a computer system as part of its efforts to solve the pension management fiasco, government sources said. The ministry will include about 200 billion yen in its budgetary request for fiscal 2010 to finance new system-related projects. According to the sources, the plan was decided Wednesday by Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma. Under the plan, the ministry will establish a computer system to cross-check about 850 million paper files and data stored in an existing computer system, with the aim of completing the cross-checking within two years. The new system will be designed to store paper records in the computer as image files, enabling the government staff in charge to easily conduct computer searches of the information. The system will make it easy to compare both sets of data by displaying the scanned documents and computerized records side by side on the screen.

Cross-checking of paper records began under the government led by the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito. However, paper records are scattered among the Social Insurance Agency's regional offices nationwide, so the ministry staff in charge had to get original pension record books or copies from the SIA offices. It was therefore originally estimated that cross-checking pension records would take 10 years even with 7,000 people assigned to the task each year. By implementing the computerized system and increasing the number of staff involved, Nagatsuma plans to significantly reduce the time needed to check records. Under the envisaged system, the ministry also will start checking employee pension fund records and data stored at the SIA - expecting that it will help solve the pension fiasco, in which 50 million unidentified records were found. Records of employee pension funds - a type of corporate and public pension - include data also preserved at the SIA.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 10/15/2009

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SOUTH KOREA: 174 SMEs Selected for Restructuring

Banks have chosen 174 small and medium-sized enterprises for restructuring as part of a plan to keep businesses in financial trouble from harming the nation's economic recovery. According to the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS), the selected companies hold up to W2.5 trillion worth of loans from the domestic banking sector (US$1=W1,174). As part of the plan, banks have set aside approximately W380 billion in loan-loss provisions. The government's restructuring plan, enacted since last year, has targeted businesses in financial trouble in order to prevent them from going bankrupt.

From Arirang News 10/06/2009

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Gov't, Civic Groups Coordinate on Green Initiatives

The Presidential Committee on Green Growth held the first round of its "green life dialogue" with a group of civic organizations on Wednesday. As a way to better coordinate its green initiatives, the government is holding meetings with environmental organizations on issues that are currently pending National Assembly approval including greenhouse gas reduction scenarios and the possible adoption of daylight saving time. A presidential official said the dialogue is part of the government's efforts to support initiatives that preserve the environment.

From Arirang News 10/08/2009

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Mass Production of Electric Cars to Start in 2011

The government seeks to begin mass production of electric-powered cars from 2011, two years ahead of schedule. The plan is for Korea to grab 10 percent of the global electric car market and become one of the top four countries in the sector by 2015. State investment of 400 billion won (342.9 million U.S. dollars) by 2014 will help Korean carmakers develop core parts and materials for electric cars. Tax benefits for buyers of electric cars could come after late 2011 as well as safety guidelines for low-speed electric cars to run on streets. Electric cars will also be used at the Group of 20 summit next year in Korea. First, the government will select strategically significant parts of electric cars to be fostered for 400 billion won (342.9 million dollars) in investment by 2014. Fifty-five billion won (47.1 million dollars) will go to the development of batteries for electric cars. In line with legal support, tax credits will be offered for expenses invested in the development of core parts and safety guidelines will be issued for electric cars. Also planned are approval conditions for recharging stations for electric cars and new regulations to allow such facilities to be established in public parking lots and apartment complexes. Low-speed electric cars, which are barred from running on roads, are expected to be allowed to operate in certain areas. Standards to convert gas-powered vehicles into electric cars are also in the works.


From http://english.donga.com/ 10/09/2009

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Gov`t to Set Up 4,000km of Coastal Bike Paths

The Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said yesterday that it will search for 4,000 kilometers of coastal roads for pedestrians and bicyclers to promote the two activities at fishing villages. The roads will be categorized into full, short, expert and general courses. The Korea Fisheries Infrastructure Promotion Association will supervise the search for biking roads through three teams of bicycle travel writers and amateur bikers for the east and southwestern coasts. The teams will conduct two months of operations from Thursday. The ministry will introduce the selected places in its pictorial magazine's December edition. The magazine will also contain information on 100 fishing villages, major fishing ports and coastal tourist attractions. A thousand copies of the magazine will go to libraries at major universities across the country, provincial and municipal government offices, and tourist information booths. Electronic copies will also be available at the home pages of Happy Bikers (bike.donga.com), The Dong-A Ilbo's biking portal, and the maritime tourism portal Sea Tour (www.seantour.com). The two sites will provide videos and photos of the exploration teams' activities.


From http://english.donga.com/ 10/14/2009

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Gov`t Campaign to Encourage Childbirth via 6 Slogans

To encourage childbirth, the Health, Welfare and Family Affairs Ministry has announced six slogans. The six are: "If every household has two or three children, Korea's future will grow brighter"; "The greatest present for your child is siblings"; "Childbirth is touching, childcare is rewarding, and families are happy"; "The more you have, the more hopeful you will be, the more grown your children are, the happier you will be"; "The joy of childbirth, growing happiness, younger Korea"; and "Two children mean happiness; three children mean hope." The ministry will run ads with the slogans inside subway trains and at platforms of lines one through seven until January next year. Next month, it will put the ads in newspapers to promote the slogans. "We came up with the catchphrases to encourage childbirth since many Koreans still remember old catchphrases designed to curb population growth," a ministry official said.


From http://english.donga.com/ 10/17/2009

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MALAYSIA: Teachers to Receive Incentives for Schools' Excellence

PUTRAJAYA (Bernama) - Three to four per cent of teachers, including principals and headmasters, may be eligible for special incentives that will be based on the excellence of their respective schools, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced Sunday. He said a special committee will be set up by the Ministry of Education to make the evaluation to determine which teachers qualified. Muhyiddin, who is also Education Minister, said the form of the special incentives will be announced at the end of the year to so that teachers can focus on their duties. "It will be based not only on the excellent exam results but also encompass leadership in school and several other criteria," he told reporters after a ceremony to present prizes for the 'Mighty Minds' competition here. He said the incentive may be in the form of a one or two months salary bonus. "All this will be in the form of a package as it not only depends on the success of the principal or headmaster, it must also involve many parties. We will announce before the end of the year," he said. On the awarding of National Scholarships to 30 best students, he said it will begin next year taking into consideration the results of this year's Sijil Peperiksaan Malaysia (SPM). "The ministry has decided to do re-grading, a marking system with new grades. We will choose the best of the best, creme de la creme, from all students and this will be done by the Public Service Department," he said. The evaluation of the students, he clarified, will be done by a special committee to be set up. On another development, Muhyiddin said a new subjects curriculum will be drafted to make the learning process more holistic, conducive and fun. "This new approach is to make students more proficient in line with the ministry's new policy, dignify Bahasa Melayu and strengthen English. It will make the teaching system more conducive and not only focussed on just exams," he said.

From http://www.bernama.com.my/ 10/25/2009

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PHILIPPINES: PGMA Leads Strengthening of Disaster Management and Preparedness

BARANGAY SAN NICOLAS, Lubao, Pampanga (PND) - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Tuesday night led 159 barangays in the second district of this province in strengthening disaster management and preparedness in the light of the damage wrought by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. The 159 Bantay Bayan barangay officials attended a disaster management seminar under the Regional Disaster Coordinating Council (RDCC) to brace their respective communities against the onslaught of calamities. President Arroyo attended the event with Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno. They were welcomed by Pampanga officials including Lubao Mayor Dennis Pineda, Guagua Mayor Ricardo Rivera, Porac Mayor Rogelio Santos, Sta. Rita Mayor Yolanda Pineda and Floridablanca Mayor Eddie Guerrero. In a speech before local officials, Teodoro thanked President Arroyo for her outstanding leadership in mitigating the crisis wrought by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. He said that coordination between the national government and local government units (LGUs) is vital in mitigating the problems relating to disasters. The Defense Chief noted that it is very helpful for the national leadership to have organized Bantay Bayan. Teodoro said Filipinos should always be ready to manage circumstances arising from disasters not only typhoons but also other calamities such as earthquakes and landslides, among others. He praised Central Luzon Police Director Leonilo dela Cruz for immediately conducting a pre-emptive evacuation before the onslaught of typhoon Pepeng that helped minimize the damages in Pampanga. Local governments, he added, should develop their capabilities in addressing disaster in their own communities because they are the first line of defense in saving lives and properties. President Arroyo and Teodoro made a ceremonial distribution of 30 PhilHealth cards out of 2,390; 30 emergency kits out of 2,390 from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO); and 30 Globe Satellite (G-SAT) subscriptions out of 2,449. The President underscored the importance of a well-informed and disaster-prepared community since the country and the world is experiencing abnormal weather conditions brought about by climate change.

From http://www.gov.ph/ 10/14/2009

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UNDP Cites RP's Need for a "Disaster Czar"

MANILA (PNA) - The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has cited the need for the Philippines to have its own specialized disaster management agency and a highly competent "Disaster Czar" to attend to disaster risk mitigation. Various sectors, including Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, called for the creation of such agency following the recent onslaughts by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng whose heavy rains and strong winds wrought havoc in Metro Manila and the rest of northern Luzon. The two natural disasters left some 700 casualties in their wakes and put to serious question country's national disaster preparedness program. Noting the number and frequency of natural disasters spawned by weather disturbances in the country, UNDP Country Director Renaud Meyer said the Philippines indeed needs such a dedicated disaster agency and an effective and efficient "Disaster Czar." A recent newspaper report quoted Meyer as having pointed to Presidential Economic Adviser and Albay Governor Joey Salceda as the man most fit to run such agency, being "one of the country's models to be emulated for having actually built up preparedness among every level of Albay society and government personnel." Meyer pointed out that Salceda has, in fact, developed Albay, his province, as one "that is best prepared to meet contingencies before they happen." "A measure of Salceda's and other Albay officials' success (in this regard) is the annual decline in casualties, deaths and property damage" from various natural disasters in his province, he added. Meyer noted that the Albay provincial government and its people not only manage the disaster when it comes and do a good job of doing rescue and relief work, but have also carefully mapped the vulnerable areas of the province and do actual year-round preparedness seminars and drills. Aside from his key role as Presidential economic adviser, Salceda is also an active campaigner on climate change adaptation. He has pioneered and coined the term "preemptive evacuation" which means "moving people out of disaster path before the actual danger occurs." It is now an adopted disaster standard operating procedure nationwide. Salceda's target - 'zero' casualty - in every natural disaster has been the guiding rule for the local disaster councils in Albay, as well as the crisis managers and the private sector groups that support him, who have all put premium value on human life above all. Helping the Philippines in development planning to support the Millennium Development Goal (MDG), the UNDP noted with approval that in many places, private sector and civil society groups took initiatives to undertake rescue and relief operations by themselves.

From http://www.gov.ph/ 10/15/2009

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SINGAPORE: Analysts Expect S'pore to Phase Out Special Risk-Sharing Initiative

SINGAPORE : Analysts expect Singapore to phase out its Special Risk-Sharing Initiative (SRI) once it expires in January. The scheme, announced in the Budget earlier this year, would see the government take on a significant share of the risks of bank lending. Analysts said with signs that the economy is recovering, business conditions are also expected to pick up in tandem. When the global financial crisis started late last year, one of the first things that companies found difficult to get was credit. That prompted the government to move to avoid a situation where good and viable companies were unable to get funding to stay afloat and grow. In Budget 2009, the government said it would take on a significant share of the risks of bank lending through the SRI. Essentially, companies would get access to a Bridging Loan Programme and some Trade Finance Schemes for one year until January 2010. The scheme could be extended another year if the situation warrants. But with the business climate improving, analysts do not think there is a need to continue with the scheme. P K Basu, chief economist, Daiwa Securities SMBC, said: "The fiscal stimulus has done its job, and the economy has rebounded very strongly. I expect real GDP to grow 6.7 per cent next year. So I do not think there is much need for additional measures. "The SRI initiative has played an important part. A lot of that has been in the form of reinsurance. Banks are protected against losses on certain types of lending to SMEs and trade finance. That is a very useful measure. "It was very necessary in the midst of the global crisis, but now that the crisis is passing, that too can be gradually withdrawn." Analysts believe enough is being done to boost lending conditions in Singapore. Although economic conditions have improved, analysts expect policy makers to remain cautious on easing back on stimulus measures currently. David Cohen, director of Asian Economic Forecasting, Action Economics, said: "They do not want to remove it too quickly because there are still uncertainties clouding the outlook, the world and the local economy." Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday announced that the government will extend its year-long Jobs Credit Scheme, which ends in December, for another six months. He also said it is too early to decide on the SRI, which was designed to help especially mid-sized companies. But Mr Lee gave the assurance that the government will continue to support companies to have access to credit.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/13/2009

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S'pore Has Passed the Worst of the Storm, with Economy Rebounding

SINGAPORE : Singapore's economy has rebounded sharply and the country is now past the worst of the storm. Giving his report card at the NTUC ordinary delegates conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the tripartite partners that the Trade and Industry Ministry has raised the growth forecast estimates for 2009 to between minus 2.5 per cent and minus 2 per cent. He said that though this is still negative, there is good reason to be relieved. Mr Lee said the question now was what is coming next and what should Singapore do about it. According to the International Monetary Fund, major economies have stabilised and will see slight growth in 2010. Mr Lee said Singapore should also see modest but positive growth. But the Prime Minister reminded Singaporeans to keep in mind a less benign scenario. He noted that growth so far in the US, Europe, Japan and China has been the result of government spending and when the stimulus ends, their economies may slow again. If that happens, then Singapore's growth will also be dampened. But even with growth, Mr Lee noted that unemployment will stay up for some time. Also, companies will not resume large scale hiring until they are confident of sustained recovery. So Mr Lee said Singaporeans must be psychologically prepared for dampened growth or in any event for unemployment to stay up.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/13/2009

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Employers Urged to Adopt Fair Wage System for Older Workers

Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong has urged companies to adopt a fair and equitable stance in dealing with workers' wages when they turn 60. Mr Gan said employers should not simply reduce salaries by the maximum 10 per cent permitted by the law. The practice of a pay cut of up to 10 per cent for older workers started some 10 years ago. Then, it was meant to alleviate the costs associated with a seniority-based wage system, and help ease the burden on companies as the retirement age was raised progressively from 60 to the prevailing 62. Recently, the labour movement said it wants to end this practice. Speaking to reporters at a community event on Saturday, Mr Gan called on companies to consider installing a more flexible-based wage system. He said: "They really should take into account whether the seniority wage system still exists in the company. They should also take into account reasonable factors such as the type of jobs that they are doing, the productivity of the workers and the performance of the workers." The Manpower Minister also responded to feedback given by older workers who have raised concerns about the cut in employers' Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution rate. Upon turning 50, this is reduced from 14.5 per cent to 10.5 per cent. Those aged 60 receive 5 per cent, or a two-third reduction from the top rate. Mr Gan explained this is necessary to enhance the employability of older workers. He said: "If we were to raise the CPF now or restore the CPF for the older workers, it may adversely affect the employability of the older workers and affect the competitiveness of the company and eventually, it will not be to the advantage of our older workers." The Manpower Ministry said the employment rate of older workers aged 55 to 64 has improved, up from 45 per cent in 2003 to 57 per cent at end-2008.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/24/2009

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VIETNAM: HCM City's New Clean-Up Plan

HCM CITY - Every household in HCM City should be committed to direct participation in keeping the surrounding environment clean, city officials said yesterday. This commitment would be included in the criteria to be recognised as an advanced, cultural residential area, they said. The officials were speaking at a workshop held to discuss a draft environmental protection regulation for the city as well as a formal commitment that households would be required to sign for participating in activities implementing the regulation. The commitment includes a list of dos and don'ts that the households agree to abide by in order to make the city environment cleaner. "Every resident needs to be aware and participate, or the city will not be able to fulfil the task of environment protection," said Nguyen Van Phuoc, deputy director of the city's Department of Natural Resources and Environment. Representatives of several departments and agencies in the city gave their comments on the two drafts with most of them saying the stipulation that requires each household to discharge garbage in regulated places and at specified times was impractical, because this would depend on the schedule of garbage collectors. Vo Anh Tuan, a specialist from the HCM City Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said the majority of garbage collectors failed to collect rubbish at scheduled times, leading to the pile up of plastic bags containing garbage on the streets. This caused environmental pollution and other health problems, especially when roads were flooded, Tuan said. Local authorities had to define responsibilities of garbage collectors to prevent this, he said. Nguyen Thi Hong, deputy head of District 10's Environment and Resources Division, said the regulation relating to noise levels should include the specific times when individuals and organisations are prohibited from making noise that affects residents, for instance at noon and in the evening.

The regulation and commitment should also take into account the building of septic tanks in every household and the treatment of waste collected from it before it is discharged into culverts, said Nguyen Quang Trung, a member of the Popularisation and Education Unit of the HCM City Party Committee. Trung also said that the local government should build more public toilets to deal with the existing shortage of such facilities in order to reduce urination on streets and pavements. According to a survey conducted earlier this year by the municipal Department of Natural Resources and Environment, garbage was perceived as the most serious environment polluter in the community by experts, officials and residents. Dust discharged by production activities, vehicle exhaust, and pollution in canals were also significant problems, the survey found. Opinions gathered at the workshop would be used to adjust the drafts towards making them more practical and feasible, Phuoc said. The workshop was organised by the municipal Department of Natural Resources and Environment and the Viet Nam Fatherland Front's HCM City Chapter.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 10/02/2009

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Judicial Reform Group Looks at Setting Up Regional Courts

HA NOI - The Central Steering Committee on Judicial Reform held its 21st meeting in the capital yesterday. President Nguyen Minh Triet, chairman of the committee, told the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuracy and the Ministry of Public Security at the meeting that judicial reform projects which had taken into account feedback from all parties would help to create better integrated legal policies to reduce disagreements. He asked judicial offices to continue discussing and adjusting judicial reform projects in an attempt to highlight the character of reform and to implement these projects under a road map. The President also requested the committee secretariat to continue working on laws in such areas as civil lawsuits and prosecution. Key points of the meeting included the establishment of regional courts, the courts of appeals, and the reorganisation of the Supreme People's Court and district-level investigation agencies. (VNS)

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 10/20/2009

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INDIA: UID Project to Track Identity Via Cellphone

Unique Identity Authority of India chairman Nandan Nilekani announced last week that an online authentication through mobile phones would soon be initiated in India. The system will enable retrieval of information within seconds by navigating a person's fingerprints taken on a cellphone to the central database. New Delhi: Establishing the identity of any person would be a cellphone call away once the ambitious Unique Identity Project (UIP) becomes operational, perhaps making it the first such initiative across the world. Nandan Nilekani/ Photo credit: Google The UIP, which aims to build a database on details of every Indian resident, will provide authorities to cross-check identities of persons they are dealing with using a cellphone, Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI) chairman Nandan Nilekani said here on Saturday. "If anybody wants to confirm the identity of a person, all he has to do is to take the thumbprint or fingerprint of the person on a cellphone and send it across to the central database and receive authentication within seconds," he said delivering the CSIR Foundation Day Lecture here. He said the UIDAI was in the process of designing and developing systems that will make such navigation possible. "The database would be developed in partnership with the government and private agencies across the country." Nilekani said that UIDAI would perhaps be the first body in the world to make available online authentication where agencies can compare demographic and biometric information of the resident with the record stored in the central database. However, the online authentication would be done only through a 'Yes or No´ response and the UIDAI will not share resident data with the authorities, he said.

The sheer enormity of the project could be gauged by the fact that currently similar databases of 120 million identities are available and UIDAI is in the process of building a register of 1.2 billion people, Nilekani said. The database would be developed in partnership with the government and private agencies across the country, he said. These agencies, including mobile service providers, cooking gas outlets, passport offices, NREGA and PDS authorities, would act as registrars or enrollers for the UIP. The details of persons approaching any of the above points of contact will be stored in the Central ID Data Repository (CIDR). "The first set of unique identity numbers will be issued in the next 12-18 months and the UIDAI plans to cover 600 million people within four years." The CIDR will contain basic information like name, date and place of birth, gender, name of father and mother and their UID numbers, address, photograph and fingerprints. The system will have an inbuilt mechanism to avoid duplication of data and the CIDR will perform a search on key demographic fields of the applicant before accepting the data. Nilekani said the first set of unique identity numbers will be issued in the next 12-18 months and the UIDAI plans to cover 600 million people within four years from the start of the project. Elimination of duplicate identities under various schemes is expected to save the national exchequer of over Rs20,000 crore every year, Nilekani said.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 09/30/2009

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India Way Behind in Constant Innovation: Murthy

Mumbai: Indian companies are doing well globally but they need to be innovative as they face challenge of creating global brand, according to N R Narayana Murthy, Co-founder and Chief Mentor, Infosys. "I have seen a new sense of confidence in India. Our companies have done pretty well. They have gone and acquired several companies in Europe, in Asia and in the U.S. But we do have a challenge and that is we have to create global brands," he said. Murthy was speaking on the occasion of a meet organized by Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay and Australia's Monash University to discuss future challenges and finding solutions through research in engineering, science and technology. He said innovation and marketing were two very important functions in any enterprise, without which it was very unlikely that a corporation would have a great future. That is why there is a need of a global brand. "Creation of such global brands requires innovation. I think it is our responsibility in the industry to create a great future for ourselves on a global scale in the global bazaar by creating global brands, products and services," he added. Murthy said India's GDP growth rate was pretty impressive and Indian exports were "pretty decent even though in the last year or so it has come down".

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 10/05/2009

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New Initiative in India to Train People on AIDS

A number of individuals continue to be hounded from their jobs because of their HIV/AIDS status in India. On the World Day for Decent Work, the ILO and the India Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS came together to release a unique advocacy guide that sensitises people on the disease. New Delhi: An innovative tool in India's response to HIV in the world of work has just been launched by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the India Network of People living with HIV/AIDS (INP+).The two organisations have come together to release a unique training video and handbook package aimed at guiding those living with the virus in AIDS advocacy in the workplace. Supporting the rights of people living with HIV in the workplace/ Photo credit: ILO Unveiled by Mallikarjun Kharge, Union Minister of Labour and Employment, the package contains testimonies from people living with HIV (PLHIV) in workplace settings as this has proven to be a very effective training initiative in the past. Practical, and offering step-by-step guidelines, it is designed to encourage HIV-positive people to be open about their status and spread the message of tolerance, anti-discrimination and respect for human and employment rights for those affected by the virus across the country. The video and handbook have been developed with contributions from more than 100 people living with HIV and are available in both English and Hindi. One active participant in this process is Hari Singh, a board member of the Delhi Network of People Living with HIV, who has been working with the ILO in advocacy initiatives since 2007. He spoke at the launch of his growing confidence in talking about his HIV status. He now speaks to employers, workers and trade unions about his life experience and provides clear and specific anti-AIDS messages. As in many other countries and communities, AIDS stigma and discrimination are still rife in Indian society, including the workplace, and a number of individuals have been hounded from their jobs because of their status.

According to Naveen Kumar of the Delhi Network of Positive People, this can have devastating consequences: "If you take away our jobs, you will kill us faster than HIV." Removing punitive laws, policies, practices and stigma and discrimination that block effective responses to AIDS is one of the nine priority areas in the UNAIDS Outcome Framework 2009-2011. This latest intervention is part of an ongoing umbrella project spearheaded by the ILO in India, the first country in the world to implement an ILO technical cooperation project on HIV following the creation of the agency's programme on HIV/AIDS and the world of work in 2001. From the very beginning, a person living with HIV has been represented on the ILO Project Management Team. "The ILO in partnership with INP+ has been actively pursuing the principle of right to employment and other basic employment-related rights of PLHIV in the development and implementation of HIV workplace policies and programmes," explains K.K. Abraham, INP+ president. As Syed Mohammad Afsar, ILO's HIV and AIDS Technical Specialist for South Asia and National Project Coordinator in India maintains, "Work is just as important as treatment for people living with HIV. The ILO Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and the world of work includes non-discrimination for purposes of employment as one of its key principles. People should be allowed to work and earn a living as long as they are fit to work." The ILO India project has been supported by the United States Department of Labour and, more recently, by the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). It is now seen by many as something of a yardstick for other programmes executed by the ILO with ministries of labour and with employers' and workers' organizations to address AIDS in the world of work. "In the ILO project, we have been building the capacity of people living with HIV and engaging them from the beginning. So far, 165 PLHIV from 20 networks in India have been trained in workplace advocacy programmes," Afsar added. According to Charles Gilks, the UNAIDS Country Coordinator for India, the initiative is highly welcome. "We cannot stress enough the importance of the rights of people living with HIV - to respect, dignity, access to care and treatment, and here in this project the right to work. Building the capacity of people to advocate this is critical and we salute the achievements of ILO and INP+ in this regard."

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 10/08/2009

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Management Guru Calls for Radical Innovation

Michigan: Management expert C.K. Prahalad has said that converting India into the largest economic opportunity the world has ever seen requires the integration of three key elements: economic strength, technology development, and moral leadership. In other words, it's time to eschew traditional strategy in order to actualize an India that plays a significant role in shaping the new world order. Prahalad is best known for his work regarding the "fortune at the bottom of the pyramid." But as Prahalad imagines an independent India at age 75, he foresees a new shape on the horizon. "I am always accused of having thought about the pyramid," Prahalad says. "But I was very clear since day one. Our job is to understand the pyramid so it becomes the diamond - so most people live normal, middle class lives. That, I think, should be our goal as managers and people of privilege." Prahalad is the Paul and Ruth McCracken Distinguished University Professor of Strategy at Ross. He presented his vision for "India at 75" during the first India Business Conference hosted at the school on October 10th. "History has shown that economic strength and vitality of technology without morality is defunct," he says. "No other country has as much diversity in terms of language, religion, and ethnicity as India. If we can learn to live in harmony and leverage our diversity, we can demonstrate that the world can live in peace. It's an obligation that diversity is something to be celebrated and leveraged, not squandered." According to him, it all starts with a goal of 200 million college graduates, a workforce of 500 million trained workers, universal literacy, and 300 new cities by 2022. So far, the goal of 500 million trained, skilled workers is one the Indian government has officially embraced. But, it's a goal that requires unprecedented innovation. "To train 500 million people at world-class levels and at low cost in (just over a decade) is a goal no society has ever attempted." Embracing this kind of radical thinking could be one reason that Prahalad has topped CrainerDearlove's "Thinkers 50" list of the Most Influential Business Thinkers for the second time. In 2007, he was also placed No. 1 on the biennial ranking of the Top 50 management thought leaders worldwide. He is also credited for having coined the term "core competencies" and is the author of the groundbreaking book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. "Leadership is about the future," he says. "We can understand the past, but not be constrained by the past. You cannot start with where we are, and yet that's what most strategy does. When you start with the current situation you can only extrapolate. Strategy is not about extrapolation. Therefore, I think our job is to imagine the future first and fold the future in."

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 10/22/2009

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PAKISTAN: Govt Working on Madrassa Reform Package: Zardari

* President says education budget to be increased to 7 percent of GDP in next five years

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) government is working on a package to reform madrassas to counter the "extremist mindset", President Asif Ali Zardari said on Friday. During a meeting with vice chancellors and rectors of universities from all over the country, the president said, "The government is working on a package of madrassa reforms as a long-term measure to reform extremist mindset." The government would raise the budget of education to seven percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the next five years, Zardari said, adding, "The higher education budget will be increased by 20 percent in this period." He also said universities budgets would be gradually increased three-fold in the next five years. The government had approved a higher salary structure for vice chancellors and varsity faculty members in accordance with market rates, he said. The president said vice chancellors, as heads of educational institutions, had a major role to play in training productive citizens. "As heads of universities, you are like the thread that holds the beads together," he said. Zardari stressed the need for harmony in the country and said Balochistan needed "special handling", adding that he had already asked parliament to consider giving amnesty to the political exiles of the province. He said the government was committed to integrating minorities in the mainstream so that they could also play their role in society. The president said the government would consider setting up universities in rural areas as well. He also suggested that the public-private partnership model could be used effectively to promote higher education in the country. Higher Education Commission Chairman Dr Javaid R Laghari thanked the president for the government's endeavours to develop the education sector.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 10/17/2009

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AFGHANISTAN: New Afghan Vote Rules May Ensure Karzai Victory

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's UN-backed election watchdog will treat presidential candidates as equally likely to be guilty of vote fraud in suspicious cases, new rules issued show, a move that may ensure a win for Hamid Karzai. Preliminary results showed the incumbent Karzai with 54.6 percent of the vote in August 20 vote, but the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) has ordered a recount of 12 percent of ballot boxes after finding "clear and convincing evidence of fraud." Karzai would have to face his main rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, in a second round if a fraud investigation lowers his share of the vote below 50 percent. For that to happen, however, the ECC would have had to have found that a much larger share of Karzai's votes was fraudulent than that of his rivals. The ECC published its recount rules on October 5, saying candidates would have ballots nullified in proportion to the total number of ballots they have in boxes considered suspicious, regardless of which candidate perpetrated the fraud.

The arithmetic appears to favor Karzai. Under the recount rules, ballot boxes considered suspicious are grouped into six categories according to the grounds for the suspicion, but are not separated according to which candidate benefited from the suspected fraud. The complaints watchdog will look at 10 percent of the suspicious ballot boxes in each category, determine what share of the boxes were fake, and then reduce each candidate's tally of votes in that category by the same percentage, it said. "The ECC will determine the extent to which its findings about the samples affect the overall results of the presidential election," the body in a statement. "It will do so by determining what percentage of valid votes in the sample are fraudulent and then multiplying this percentage by the total vote for each candidate in the corresponding category, not counting those votes already in the sample."

The head of the Election Complaints Commission was appointed by the United Nations envoy in Afghanistan, Kai Eide. Eide has been accused by his former deputy, U.S. diplomat Peter Galbraith, of turning a blind eye toward fraud, which Galbraith says was carried out overwhelmingly on behalf of Karzai and was big enough to prevent a second round. Karzai has acknowledged that some fraud took place, but says the extent of it was exaggerated by Western officials and media. Abdullah told Reuters he was looking into the recount rules to see whether they were fair. Karzai campaign official Arsala Jamal said he was also looking into the matter and had no immediate comment.

From http://www.reuters.com/ 10/05/2009

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IRAQ: Parliament Again Fails to Vote on Key Election Law

RFE/RL - For the second time in a week, a parliamentary vote on Iraq's new election law has been put off. No date has been set for a new attempt, and time is fast ebbing away as the crucial January 16 national elections loom. The amended election law is meant to provide a more transparent, responsive, and democratic voting system, as Iraq steers toward a future in which U.S. troops will not be present to support the government. Iraqi election officials say they need the election law passed at least three months ahead of the election date, to give them time to plan logistics. That makes it imperative for the amendment to be passed now. But in parliament on October 20, Islamic Al-Da'wah Party member Sami al-Askari accused some parties of "pretending" to support the new election law, while hindering its passage. Da'wah is Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's party. He said they preferred to spend the day in the cafeteria or at home, rather than to attend to provide the parliamentary session with a quorum. He urged the Iraqi people to recognize their lack of patriotism.

Opening The Lists
At the heart of the draft election law is a change that would allow voters to choose individual candidates for individual constituencies, rather than just voting for parties on a "closed" list. A closed list means the political parties simply share out the seats they have won to picked party members, without any say by the public on whether they find the appointees acceptable. An "open" list featuring individual representatives of a party on the other hand provides the public with a significantly higher level of choice. But some Iraqi political entities have done well out of the status quo, Joost Hiltermann, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, said after the regional elections in August. He says that that did well in the previous elections in 2005 "have no interest in changing the electoral law and system. They would want to maintain a closed list, which brought them victory last time."

If the new law is not passed, by default the election would have to be held under the old rules. Parties favoring the old election law include the Shi'ite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and Kurdish parties. By contrast, Maliki's allies grouped under the State of Law coalition did well under the "open" system in last January's provincial elections, capturing nine of the 10 Shi'ite-majority provinces. The Kurds, who have their own semi-autonomous region in the north, are at the center of another dispute affecting the election law. This concerns the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk, which the Kurds are demanding should be incorporated into their region on the grounds that it is a historically Kurdish city and its demographics were changed by Saddam Hussein's "Arabization" policies. But the Arab and Turkoman populations strongly oppose this, making it impossible to finalize arrangements for the election.

From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/20/2009

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IRAN: Former MPs Association Devises Plan to Resolve Problems

TEHRAN - The secretary general of the Former MPs Association has said the organization is drawing up a plan to resolve the serious problems the country is facing. A working group is carefully studying all dimensions of the issues and problems of the country, Yadollah Eslami told the Mehr News Agency on Monday. The people's right to express their views and to determine their destiny should be respected, he stated. Respecting and accepting the people's wishes is not a defeat but a social duty and a necessity because if the nation is not given what it is asking for, the government may one day have to give foreigners what they demand, he said. The plan can deliver if the establishment, influential figures, and all groupings recognize it as a means to resolve the current problems, Eslami opined.

From Tehran Times 10/06/2009

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MPs to Start Deliberations on Economic Reform Plan Today

TEHRAN - The Majlis will start its deliberations on the national economic reform plan today, according to MP Hassan Qafourifard. Subsidies are going to be paid to the people based on the information they have previously provided to government agencies, even though a number of people may have provided false information, Qafourifard told the Mehr News Agency on Saturday. The majority of those who have filled out the government forms are truly in need, and only a few may intend to obtain subsidies by submitting false information, he added. The MP also stated that experts have been preparing the bill for over a year and they have drafted an efficient bill. The national economic reform plan was proposed by the administration, which has said that the plan does not actually eliminate subsidies but only redirects them. Initially, the administration drafted a proposal to pay the subsidies in cash, but the bill was not ratified by the Majlis.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the MP stated that over one third of the national budget is allocated to providing subsidies. Affluent groups receive the lion's share of subsidies, whereas subsidies are actually meant to help those who are truly in need, the MP noted. Qafourifard pointed to the gasoline subsidies as an example and said that these subsidies benefit the people who travel more, who are naturally wealthier. The nation consumes over 65 million liters of gasoline per day but only produces 45 million liters at domestic refineries.

Majlis may hold closed session to review economic reform plan
The chairman of the Majlis special committee on the economic reform plan, MP Gholamreza Mesbahi-Moqaddam, has said that the parliament may hold a closed session today to review the plan. The Majlis will also hold an open session on Monday, he told MNA on Saturday. The administration has not added any additional clauses to the bill but there are some new proposals that will be examined by the MPs, he explained.

Majlis debate on economic reform plan may be expanded
MP Hamid-Reza Haj-Babaii has said that the parliamentary debate on the economic reform plan may be expanded. In light of the significance of the plan, the number of speakers in favor of and against the plan may be increased, he told MNA on Saturday. Haj-Babaii also stated that the Majlis will hold no closed sessions to review the plan and expressed hope that the review process would be completed on Tuesday.

National development depends on revision of subsidy system
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that there will be no national development unless the subsidy system is revised. One of the root causes of the inefficiency of the national economic system is the way that subsidies are allocated, and there will be no development unless the subsidy system is revised, the president told university professors at a meeting on Saturday.

From Tehran Times 10/11/2009

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Kyrgyzstan: Bakiyev's Reform Push Strives to Contain Corruption in Bishkek

Kyrgyzstan's cabinet resigned on October 20 as President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced a broad plan to restructure the government. Political experts in Bishkek offered guarded praise for Bakiyev's reform scheme, with some suggesting that it represented perhaps the last, best hope for his administration to contain corruption in the Central Asian state. Paving the way for Bakiyev's reform package, Prime Minister Igor Chudinov submitted his resignation immediately after the president unveiled his reform intentions during a televised address. By law, Chudinov's move triggered the resignation of the entire cabinet. Bakiyev quickly accepted the resignations, but asked ministers to stay on as an acting government until his ruling Ak Jol Party selects a new premier, who will then form a new cabinet. A nominee for prime minister will likely be announced within days.

Among the major changes envisaged by Bakiyev, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the State Committee for National Security - known by its Russian acronym, SNB - would come under the president's direct control. Other offices within the executive branch would be reorganized, while approximately 40 percent of central government employees would be laid off. Bakiyev said his reform agenda seeks to curb corruption, streamline government bureaucracy and make the process of selecting top officials more transparent and competitive. "The presidential administration is being abolished. A presidential institution is being set up in its place. It will be a system of inter-cooperating bodies with clearly divided powers designed to efficiently exercise the president's powers and to bring about its functioning as a single center for making decisions," Bakiyev said, in comments carried on state television.

"The experience of post-Soviet countries shows that personnel changes, without a [corresponding] change in the system of administration, [produces] nothing more than pseudo-reform. This does not lead, and will not lead to any results," the president continued. Given that the pro-presidential political forces enjoy a dominating majority in parliament, Bakiyev's reform program is expected to win fast legislative approval. Kyrgyzstan is home to both American and Russian military bases. But Bishkek political observers downplayed the significance of foreign-policy factors in Bakiyev's reform plan. Domestic considerations provided the motivation for the attempted overhaul of the bureaucracy, many believe.

The government changes did not catch observers by surprise. "This was a logical step in light of fundamental changes announced by the president [in September]. It is an expected move," Osh-based political analyst Muhamadjan Urunbayev told EurasiaNet. Bishkek-based political analyst Mars Sariev characterized Bakiyev's reform package as a make-or-break move for his personal political future. "This is an issue of survival for Bakiyev," Sariev said. "I think the old way of dealing with people in the system, where corruption, [the improper use of] contacts and bribing were taking place, will change. Bakiyev has no other way. If he doesn't change [the system], social tension will keep growing." The government changes did not catch observers by surprise. "This was a logical step in light of fundamental changes announced by the president [in September]. It is an expected move." Osh-based political analyst Muhamadjan Urunbayev told EurasiaNet.

Largely agreeing with Sariev, Dinara Oshurakhunova, head of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, suggested that Bakiyev had no choice but to take urgent action to streamline the government. "This reform is necessary, we need it. Otherwise, it is impossible to live in this corruption and crisis of governing," Oshurakhunova said. Her main worry is that Kyrgyzstan's financial capabilities might not be sufficient to match Bakiyev's reform vision. "I am concerned about the time and resources that will be spent for the implementation of the reforms," she said. Bakiyev critics are assailing the reform plan as insufficient and ill-conceived. One of the president's most prominent political opponents described the reforms as a disguised power grab. "Kurmanbek Bakiyev simply deprived the government of some authority and assigned it to himself," said Azimbek Beknazarov of the Unified Opposition Movement, a loose alliance of several opposition parties, in comments carried on October 20 by the 24.kg news agency.

Tolekan Ismailova, the head of the non-governmental organization Citizens Against Corruption, gave the plan a slim chance of success, mainly because it was developed behind closed doors, and lacked input from a broad spectrum of governmental agencies and civic organizations. "Nobody has heard and seen how and what will change. A small circle of people has decided that this will be a better way," Ismailova told journalists on October 20. While legislative approval is not expected to be a problem, analysts say that the reforms could well bog down due to likely resistance from within the state's bureaucratic machinery. In addition, the reforms could produce some unforeseen side-effects caused by expected infighting among political factions within Bakiyev's administration. (by Alisher Khamidov)

From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 10/20/2009

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TURKMENISTAN: Investment Conference Highlights Slow Pace of Reform

Attempting to develop an image as an investment-friendly destination, Ashgabat hosted what was billed as the inaugural International Investment Forum of Turkmenistan in mid-October. Turkmen leaders spent lavishly to produce a slick three-day event. Nevertheless, some business executives were not sold on the concept of Turkmenistan being an open economic environment. Roughly 450 international participants from approximately 50 countries attended the October 15-17 conference, according to the forum's co-organizer, the London-based conference management consultancy IC Energy. Attendees included high-level representatives of oil majors, but also a wide range of mid-sized and non-energy companies looking to get involved in Turkmenistan. During the tenure of Turkmenistan's mercurial former dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, the self-styled Turkmenbashi, or father of all Turkmen, the country was largely closed to foreign businesses, save for a few large and opaque gas and construction firms. But since Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov took over the presidency in 2007, the Turkmen government has proclaimed an interest in opening up its economy.

Berdymukhamedov himself was due to open the conference, but pulled out at the last minute because he was "very busy," according to Turkmen officials. He was, however, able to find time to attend the lengthy opening of a local chicken farm, which took place on the forum's second day, and which was widely covered on local television. During the opening session, Hans Gerd Prodoehl, Managing Director of Goetzpartners Management Consultants, extolled the virtues of the country as an investment destination. His firm has been employed by the Turkmen government for a little over a year with the task of aiding economic reform." His Excellency the President of Turkmenistan is a driving force for continuous reform and modernization of this state. This president is truly an innovator," said Prodoehl, to smiles and applause from the large delegation of Turkmen officials present. Meanwhile, the small group of foreign journalists covering the event had quizzical looks on their faces.

Prodoehl mentioned the country's "very high political stability and internal security" as a key factor that made Turkmenistan a secure foreign investment bet. Despite the much-trumped political stability, none of the forum participants thought it fit to mention that just days before the forum's opening, Berdymukhamedov carried out a wide-scale purge of energy-sector officials. Praise for the Turkmen government's reform performance did not come only from those on the state's payroll. "During the past five years, Turkmenistan has had impressive economic growth, even during the global crisis," said Dr. Ahmen Mohammed Ali Madani, President of the Islamic Development Bank. "The wise leadership of the country leads to political and economic stability." "In the last couple of years, we have found that a lot of cooperation is now possible with the Turkmen government," said Neil McKain, Head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) office in Turkmenistan. He referred to the textile factory in the Caspian port town Turkmenbashi, which produces jeans for Dolce & Gabbana, Lee and Levi's, as "an excellent demonstration of what is possible when investing in Turkmenistan."

But amid the praise for Berdymukhamedov's regime, there was the occasional dissenting voice among the forum delegates. "It's one thing to thank the president and government for inviting you to speak, but when people start lavishing praise on the country's system of governance, it can make you feel quite uneasy," said one forum delegate, who questioned whether such obsequiousness and flattery was the most healthy approach for foreign delegates to be taking towards the Turkmen government, which remains, under Berdymukhamedov, one of the most repressive countries on the planet. Delegates agreed, however, that the country had become somewhat easier to work with since the death of Niyazov. Some noted the currency reforms of May 2008 that allowed the country's currency, the manat, to be freely exchanged on international markets. This helped remove the huge discrepancy between the official and black market dollar exchange rates. "This reform almost overnight changed the number of projects we could consider investing in," said McKain of the EBRD.

Prodoehl of Goetzpartners admitted that one of the most pressing problems for foreign businesses was the difficulty obtaining Turkmen visas. "We know that the government is on the way to liberalization of the visa regime," he insisted. While the oil majors and top-level investors are able to arrange meetings with the president or ministers, smaller companies found the unusually easy access to Turkmen ministers and top officials available at the conference to be a genuine help. Many were confident that the first steps towards lucrative contracts had been made at the forum. However, there were doubts from some quarters as to whether international companies really are ready for genuine non-energy-sector investment in the country, where almost all enterprises are still state controlled. "There's no denying that people have made a lot of money in Turkmenistan, but while this might be called an investment forum, very few people here are actually investors," said one Western participant on the sidelines of the conference. "They're vendors. They will happily build the Turkmens a sparkling new building; they'll even gold-plate it if paid well enough. But there's a big difference between that, and actually risking money with a long-term investment in the country." For that to happen, he said, the country needs to make genuine systemic reforms, rather than simply pay lip service to the idea.

From http://www.eurasianet.org 10/19/2009

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OSCE Holds Online Workshop for Central Asia Police

An online workshop for police trainers in Central Asian participating States and partner countries organized by the OSCE Strategic Police Matters Unit started today. More than 30 police training experts and managers from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Mongolia are taking part in the five-day workshop on the OSCE POLIS website. They will discuss lessons learned in defining and implementing curricula for basic police training, based on the OSCE publication on Good Practices in Basic Police Training, with the aim of enhancing the overall value and effectiveness of their national training programmes. "Governments have to understand that investing in police training today is investing in future security and stability. Online discussions are a cost-effective way to exchange experiences and practices," said Manuel Marion, Deputy Head of the OSCE Strategic Police Matters Unit.

From Gazeta.kz 10/06/2009

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Youth Development and Support Program

Minister for Youth Kate Ellis today launched a new Federal funding program to support the development and participation of young Australians, aged 12 to 25. The Australian Government will provide $500 000 a year to eligible non-government, not-for-profit organisations through the Youth Development and Support Program. The program will give funding to projects that will inspire young people to achieve their true potential. "The Youth Development and Support Program will fund community-based projects aimed at helping young people in their transition to independence and adulthood," Ms Ellis said. Eligible groups are invited to apply for grants up to $75 000 towards projects that focus on the participation and social inclusion of young people. "This new investment will support events and activities that give young people new skills to deal with the difficulties life sometimes poses and encourage them to take up an active role in society," Ms Ellis said. "This Government wants to see more of our young people grow into confident and resilient citizens with the skills and enthusiasm to contribute to Australian life. "This Government wants to see young people involved in decision making and putting forward solutions to the problems we face as communities," Ms Ellis said. "Through the Youth Development and Support Program we can help achieve this." Applications for funding close on 4 November 2009. For more information visit the Youth Website or call 1300 363 079.

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

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AUSTRALIA: Report on Water Reform Welcomed

Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, today welcomed the release of the National Water Commission (NWC) 2009 Biennial Assessment. The report is a comprehensive assessment of progress against the 2004 National Water Initiative, Australia's blueprint for water reform. "Australia faces significant challenges in securing our water supplies, and climate change has raised the bar on water reform, making the challenges even more urgent than we thought," Senator Wong said. "After 12 years of inaction by the previous government, the Rudd Government has already made real progress on meeting these challenges - though we know there is still work to do." Senator Wong said reforming the management of our water resources was an important part of preparing Australia for a future with less water. "We welcome the National Water Commission's assessment, released today, of progress in this reform process." Senator Wong said the report found that progress had been made in a number of critical areas including water trade reform and management of the Murray-Darling Basin. "The report supports the Government's Murray-Darling Basin initiatives including the Federal Government's take-over of Basin planning, setting a scientifically-based limit on the amount of water use in the Basin, and our water purchase program. "However, we agree with the report's assessment that there is still work to do to secure Australia's water future. "That is why we have committed $12.9 billion to a long-term plan, Water for the Future, that has four key priorities: taking action on climate change, securing our water supplies, using water wisely, and supporting healthy rivers."

Programs under Water for the Future include $5.8 billion to help make irrigation infrastructure more efficient, and $1.5 billion to help Australian cities, towns and households secure their water supplies. In the Murray-Darling Basin, the Government continues to work with communities to prepare for a future with less rain due to climate change. "No government can make it rain, but this Government is enacting a three-point plan to meet the challenges in the Basin," Senator Wong said. "We have taken over Basin-wide planning and for the first time will place a scientifically-based cap on water use in the Basin. "We are investing in irrigation infrastructure to help our farmers and regional communities and to protect food security. "And we are buying back water to help restore health to our rivers." Senator Wong said the report would be considered by COAG over coming months. "The NWC's 2009 Biennial Assessment is a valuable contribution to Australia's understanding of progress in water reform and its recommendations will be examined closely."

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 10/09/2009

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NEW ZEALAND: Major Push to Lift Public Health Performance

Health Minister Tony Ryall today announced a major drive for better value for money in health. He intends to free up resources for more and better front line services. "Cabinet has agreed to a number of proposals from the Ministerial Review Group's report 'Meeting the Challenge' that will greatly improve national and regional cooperation and reduce duplication of back office functions, " the Minister said. As a package, the changes will move up to an estimated $700 million in savings over five years to frontline services. That would buy about 16,000 heart bypass operations or build two large city hospitals. The changes are also expected to reduce the health system bureaucracy by up to 500 administration jobs. These would be managed as much as possible through attrition and voluntary redundancy. "The National Government inherited a public health system that wasn't well placed to cope with the significant financial and clinical challenges facing it. There is too much duplication that has led to poor regional and national performance and a track to financial crisis." The Health Minister said there was a clear consensus across the health sector - and amongst the public - that change was needed. "To better focus on patients, the public health service needs to stop reinventing the wheel 21 times in areas like IT and payroll" Mr Ryall said. "This is about making the current system work better by filling in the missing links." "The Government wants better coordination between District Health Boards (DHBs) and the Ministry of Health, and we want neighbouring DHBs working better together to improve services. Clinical networks will be a big part of this cooperation." The major changes include setting up a new National Health Board (NHB) within the Ministry of Health. The NHB will focus on supervising the $9.7 billion of public health funding the 21 DHBs spend on hospitals and primary health care.

The new NHB will manage national planning and funding of all IT, workforce planning and capital investment. It will also take national responsibility for vulnerable health services such as paediatric oncology. Work will also start on consolidating the 21 DHBs' back office administrative functions such as payroll and bill payments. The Minister said the changes also give the Ministry of Health a clearer focus on working with District Health Boards on improving services for patients. "Officials estimate a one-off cost of between $5 and $10 million to set up the changes and that will be met within the Vote Health budget. Up to an estimated $700 million is expected to be saved in the first five years from coordinating procurement and logistics. All savings will be reinvested back into frontline health services." The Minister said Cabinet had carefully considered the Ministerial Review Group's 170 recommendations along with the public feedback received on them. "These changes are an urgent priority and implementation will begin immediately" said Mr Ryall. "An officials group will coordinate the changes to ensure they are effectively planned and managed."

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 10/21/2009

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World Will Need 70 Percent More Food in 2050: FAO

"World food production must increase by 70 percent by 2050, to nourish a human population then likely to be 9.1 billion, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) forecast Wednesday. 'FAO is cautiously optimistic about the world's potential to feed itself by 2050,' said FAO Assistant Director-General Hafez Ghanem. However, he stressed that feeding everyone in the world by then 'will not be automatic and several significant challenges have to be met.'..." [Agence France Presse/Factiva] Reuters adds that "...global cereals demand for food and animal feed is expected to rise to 3 billion tons by 2050 and more demand may come from the biofuels industry, the FAO said in a statement. Annual cereals output would have to grow by almost one billion tons from about 2.1 billion tons at present to meet the projected food and feed demand by 2050, the agency said. Meat output should increase by more than 200 million tons to reach 470 million tons in 2050, the Rome-based FAO said..." [Reuters/Factiva] ANSA writes that "...the FAO warned that failing to significantly boost food production would condemn 5 percent of the global population - amounting to 370 million people - to starvation... The FAO said that while there are still 'sufficient land resources to feed the world's population', much of them are compromised by 'physical and chemical constraints, endemic disease and lack of infrastructure', which must be overcome for the world to feed itself. Just as fundamental, according to the FAO, are efficient use of fresh water resources which, while presently sufficient are unevenly distributed and vulnerable to the effects of climate change..." [ANSA (Italy)/Factiva]

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 09/24/2009

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IMF Raises 2010 Global Growth Forecast as Asia Leads Recovery

"The International Monetary Fund (IMF) raised its forecast for global growth next year as more than $2 trillion in stimulus packages and demand in Asia pull the world economy out of its recession... 'The global economy appears to be expanding again, pulled by the strong performance of Asian economies and stabilization or modest recovery elsewhere,' the IMF said in its semi-annual World Economic Outlook. Still, the rebound will be 'sluggish, credit constrained, and, for quite some time, jobless.'..." [Bloomberg] AFP adds that "...growth momentum will build in Asia during the second half of 2009, forming the basis for a 'generally moderate recovery' in 2010, as demand from developed economies strengthens, said the report... China will grow by 8.5 percent in 2009, down from nine percent last year, while India will expand by 5.4 percent, down from 7.3 percent in 2008. But next year China will grow by nine percent, and India by 6.4 percent, according the IMF forecast..." [Agence France Presse/Factiva] Reuters reports that "...Asia's intensifying rebound was driven by expansionary fiscal and monetary policies, a recovery in financial markets and capital inflows, as well as the build-up of depleted inventory, the IMF said. 'Despite these positive signs, a sustained turnaround is not assured,' the outlook warned. 'The pickup in activity is so far being supported by many factors that could turn out to be temporary: rebounding capital markets, inventory adjustment, and expansionary fiscal and monetary policy,' said the Fund..." [Reuters/Factiva]

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 10/01/2009

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APAC Leads World in Wimax Adoption: Frost & Sullivan

MANILA - The Asia Pacific region continues to lead the world in WiMax innovation, as countries like Japan, India and Korea continue to invest in the technology, with maverick operators in neighboring countries following suit, industry analyst firm Frost & Sullivan reported recently. This feat, however, is stifled by China's refusal to license WiMax in its area, the firm said. "The fact that China has not supported WiMAX, preferring instead to back the homegrown TD-SCDMA 3G standard, is particularly unnerving for the technology's prospects in the region," said Shaker Amin, industry analyst, Frost & Sullivan. He irony is that Chinese infrastructure giants Huawei Technologies and ZTE are two of the world's largest WiMax vendors. ""Even grimmer still, important markets such as India and Thailand, both of which also hold great potential for WiMAX, have fallen behind in issuing WiMAX licenses and spectrum allocation in the 2.3 and 2.5GHz bands," Amin added.

Aside from sluggish adoption in some countries, Amin added that weak operator support, high equipment prices, and HSPA (High-Speed Packet Access) and LTE (Long-Term Evolution) competition continue to plague WiMax adoption in Asia Pacific. Despite these setbacks, the firm estimates the subscriber base in the region to amount to 24 million by 2014, with revenues of up to $6.4 billion. "We believe that the region holds the best prospects for WiMAX services in terms of subscriber uptake and future innovation," said Amin, adding that much of Asia-Pac, compared to the rest of the world, still lack 3G spectrum and broadband connectivity. For this reason, Amin noted that it's now or never for operators to adopt WiMax. "We believe that the key focus of WiMAX will be to provide basic data connectivity in underserved markets at around the 1Mbps level, and as a precursor or complement to HSPA and LTE technologies where spectrum is scarce," he explained.

From http://mis-asia.com/ 10/08/2009

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Tsunami Alerts Show How Vulnerable Hundreds of Millions in Asia-Pacific Are to Range of Natural Disasters

BANGKOK: Today's massive quakes off the coasts of the Philippines and the Solomon Islands - coming on the back of a string of typhoons, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis - have shown how hundreds of millions of people living in the Asia-Pacific are at risk from major catastrophes. The latest quakes measuring 7.8 and 7.3 struck this morning (Oct 8) between Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands and led to a tsunami warning for the entire Southwest Pacific - later withdrawn - while a 6.7 quake struck off the coast of the Philippines. Neither caused damage. Eight countries within the Asia-Pacific region have suffered a range of major disaster impacts within the last 11 days (see fact box below). Many countries also sit on the 'Ring of Fire' making them prone not just to earthquakes but also to volcanic eruptions. "What these disasters show us is how ill prepared the Asia-Pacific region is to disasters. Buildings are not quake proof. Early warning systems need to be strengthened. Disaster response mechanisms cannot cope with the thousands who need aid when crises strike and the risks are increasing thanks to growing urbanisation and the impacts of climate change," said Geoff Shepherd, World Vision's director for Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs for the Asia-Pacific.

For example, Metro Manila (population 11.5 million) - still reeling from Typhoon Ketsana -is at great risk from a major earthquake as it sits on a fault line. An estimated 40 percent of total buildings would be damaged, more than 33,000 people killed and 147,000 injured by a major quake.1 It is not a question of if, but when. World Vision's own Planet Prepare Report (www.wvasiapacific.org/climatechange/) which looks at the vulnerability of coastal communities in the Asia-Pacific states that 75% of the 634 million people living less than 10 metres above sea level and near the coast, live in Asia. These low elevation zones also have higher rates of urbanisation than the rest of the world. Shepherd said: "Countries are well aware of the risks and yet people are actually migrating into cities and into danger. Jakarta, Manila, Yangon, the economic belt of coastal China, these are all highly vulnerable to typhoons, flooding and in many cases quakes. Migration into cities to escape poverty is a good thing but only if there is proper zoning, proper preparedness planning and decent protective infrastructure. Governments need to get more serious, more quickly about protecting their people."

In addition, poor people living in rural and coastal communities are also ill prepared to deal with changing climate patterns that would destroy crops, and livelihoods - perhaps for good - creating greater vulnerabilities and increasing their dependency on government. World Vision is one of the agencies attending the talks on climate change at the UN in Bangkok and has been pushing for stronger mitigation and adaptation measures to be adopted. Dr. Brett Parris, Director of Climate Policy for WV International, said: "We urgently need wealthy countries to significantly lift their level of ambition on emission reduction targets and adaptation financing for developing countries. At-risk nations need to get even more serious about protecting their populations and including disaster risk reduction in their national adaptation plans." Meanwhile, Gerard Van Gramberg, Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs manager, who overseas World Vision's disaster response work in the Pacific Islands, said people there were now more aware of the risk of tsunamis following the Samoa disasters. "Islanders take earthquakes and tsunamis seriously but there is a general lack of preparedness and little understanding of the signs of one," he said. More work was needed to educate and prepare people - work that World Vision was doing - but that needed more funding.

From http://www.alertnet.org/ 10/08/2009

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UN Meeting Recommends Help in Accessing ICT for 400 Million Persons with Disabilities in Asia-Pacific Region

A United Nations meeting has recommended new guidelines for easing access to information and communication technology (ICT) by the 400 million persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the Asia-Pacific region. "ICTs, when used effectively, have the potential to empower PWDs to lead active, independent and productive lives," said Hyeun-Suk Rhee, Director of the Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development (APCICT), a regional institution of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and co-organizer of the three-day workshop which concluded today. The APCICT teamed with ESCAP's Social Development Division and the National Information Society Agency of the Republic of Korea to support its members in making ICT accessible to PWDs by offering training to policymakers from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Viet Nam. The government representatives were joined at the "Second Regional Workshop on the Enhancement of ICT Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs)" by ICT accessibility experts from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Australia, European Union, Italy, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom and United States.

The goal of the workshop was to train policymakers and stakeholders in enhancing ICT accessibility for PWDs and enrich the policy guidelines that members can use when they develop implementation strategies in the countries. "Nowadays it is taken for granted that ICT such as the Internet and mobile phone is a fundamental environment for all people even in managing daily lives as well as in employment and education. However it could be a huge challenge for PWDs," Aiko Akiyama of ESCAP told the workshop. For inclusive development, ICT needs to be accessible to vulnerable people including PWDs. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which entered into force in May 2008, clearly stipulates, among other things, the right of PWDs to access ICT. The workshop reviewed international mandates such as the CRPD, examined the various tools and guidelines available for policymakers, such as the ITU policy toolkit, and was an opportunity to share good examples from Australia, the EU and the Republic of Korea. Participants also looked at good practices in various policy sectors including education, employment, procurement, increasing affordability and availability of ICT products and services, and awareness-raising and advocacy.

From http://www.thaipr.net/ 10/14/2009

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Mixed Messages in Hunger Report

Brazil and China have been praised for their efforts to tackle hunger, in a development charity's report released to coincide with UN World Food Day. But the ActionAid report criticises India and others countries for not doing enough to alleviate the problem. The agency also ranked rich countries, saying Luxembourg is trying hardest to end global hunger, while the US and New Zealand rank bottom. Studies estimate that one billion people are malnourished globally. That figure, given in studies by a number of think tanks and aid agencies, represents roughly one in seven of the world's population. ActionAid's report, Hunger Free, says hunger is "a choice that we make, not a force of nature". "Hunger begins with inequality," it says, and then grows because of "perverse policies that treat food purely as a commodity, not a right". "It is because of these policies that most developing countries no longer grow enough to feed themselves, and that their farmers are amongst the hungriest and poorest people in the world," says ActionAid.

'Unacceptable' - Among the developing countries ranked, Brazil wins the top spot, with the aid agency praising President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's support for land reform and community kitchens for the poor. ActionAid said Brazil's success shows "what can be achieved when the state has both resources and political will to tackle hunger". China is also praised for cutting the number of hungry by 58 million in 10 years through strong state support for smallholder farmers. But the report criticises economically liberal India where, it says, 30 million people have been added to the ranks of the hungry since the mid-1990s and 46% of children are underweight. It says hunger exists in India not because there is insufficient food, but because people cannot access it, and that the exploitation of natural resources has led to "horrific displacements" of people, pushing many into poverty. "When people are already on the brink of starvation this is simply unacceptable," it says.

The report said some progress had been made, with a scheme to protect rural employment in the case of drought, but it needed to be implemented more effectively. Neighbouring Bangladesh is praised for reducing the number of chronically food-insecure people from 40 million to 27 million in the past 10 years and for improving childhood nutrition in the past two decades. But the report says Bangladesh has a long way to go to reduce overall malnutrition and build a sustainable agricultural system. The Democratic Republic of Congo is at the bottom of the list, with 76% of the population listed "chronically hungry". The cost of foods is growing in the country, there has been very low investment in agriculture and the government offers no social protection. Robert Dekker, the World Food Programme's (WFP) DR Congo director, told the BBC that Congolese people live almost exclusively on a diet of cassava flour, which is low in nutritional value.

He said health experts recommend adults eat 2,100 kilocalories a day for a healthy diet but in Congo the average is 1,650 a day. The BBC's Tomas Fessy, in the capital Kinshasa, says decades of war and neglect have meant there is no proper agricultural infrastructure in the country, while a poor road system makes it hard for people to reach food supplies. In Ethiopia, Action Aid says famine is "once again stalking" the country, as a result of continuing drought, a growing population and damaging land policies. Although the government has begun to introduce reforms, 7.5 million Ethiopians are classed as "food insecure". Biofuel 'invasion' - ActionAid also assessed richer, developed countries, praising those that have invested in agriculture in the developing world but criticising others that have promoted biofuels which, the report says, have displaced food crops. It says Tanzania, Mozambique, Ghana and Ethiopia have seen an "invasion" of agrofuel producers from the West, using up land that could be used to grow food.

The rankings are weighted to account for what ActionAid calls effort and progress, not just outcomes - that is how the winner in the rich country list is tiny Luxembourg, with all the Nordic countries close behind. New Zealand is at the bottom of the rich country list, accused of making particularly harsh cuts in its official aid to agriculture. And the US is second from last, described as "miserly" in its aid to developing world farmers. "The US owes a huge climate debt to developing countries and it must not delay in agreeing to find the finance to help developing countries adapt to climate change, and in signing up to a just global deal," said the report. ActionAid said the level of hunger in the world is "perhaps one of the most shameful achievements of recent history" and that there is no reason for anyone to go without food. "Every six seconds a child dies from hunger," said the charity's policy director, Anne Jellema. "This scandal could easily be ended if all governments took determined action."

From http://news.bbc.co.uk/ 10/15/2009

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UN: Record 1 Billion Go Hungry

"Parents in some of Africa's poorest countries are cutting back on school, clothes and basic medical care just to give their children a meal once a day, experts say. Still, it is not enough. A record 1 billion people worldwide are hungry and a new report says the number will increase if governments do not spend more on agriculture..." [Associated Press/Factiva] Reuters adds that "...the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)and the World Food Program (WFP) said 1.02 billion people - about 100 million people more than last year - are undernourished in 2009, the highest number in four decades. 'The rising number of hungry people is intolerable,' said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf as the new annual report on world hunger, The State of Food Insecurity, was released..." [Reuters/Factiva] Xinhua reports that "...the largest population of the undernourished is in the Asia- Pacific region (642 million people), followed by Sub-Saharan Africa (265 million), Latin America (53 million) and the Middle East and North Africa (42 million). Some 15 million people suffer from hunger in the developed world. The financial crisis has led to declines in foreign aid and investment in poor countries as well as in remittances from relatives working in wealthy nations, the report noted. 'This loss of income is compounded by food prices that are still relatively high in the local markets of many poor countries,' the FAO said..." [Xinhua/Factiva]

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 10/15/2009

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Global Mobile-Phone Growth Remains Strong Despite Crisis

The global recession has taken a toll on many sectors of the economy, but one in particular is proving resilient - information technology. More and more of us are getting mobile phones or going online - and one of the fastest growing areas is Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union. A new report by the UN's trade body, UNCTAD, says there were 4 billion mobile-phone subscriptions at the end of 2008. Growth that year slowed a little compared with 2007, but remained close to 20 percent. And penetration is rising most in developing and transition economies. "Between the years 2003 and 2008 many of the top 20 performers in terms of increasing the level of mobile penetration are found in transition economies, as we call them, the former Soviet republics, and also many of the new EU members figure among the biggest or most dynamic economies in this context," says Torbjorn Fredriksson of UNCTAD, who coordinated the report.

"This very much reflects the fact that a mobile telephone today is seen no longer as a luxury item but really as a necessity, people don't want to give up their subscriptions once they have them," he adds. Pent-Up Demand: The region's star performer was Montenegro. Last year it had more than 230 mobile-phone subscriptions for every 100 inhabitants - a rise of 160 percent in just five years. In Russia and Ukraine, mobile penetration more than doubled in the same period (132 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants for Russia; 120 for Ukraine). Armenia outperformed its Caucasus neighbors with growth of 83 percent, compared with 70 percent for Georgia and 55 percent for Azerbaijan. And at the other end of the scale, Turkmenistan was the regional laggard with 21 percent growth. Fredriksson says some of the growth in the former Yugoslavia reflects the freeing of pent-up demand, when a lot of money went into developing the telecom sector after the wars of the 1990s.

That also explains the rapid increase in the number of Internet users in those countries. Among the world's top 20 performers were Bosnia-Herzegovina, where Internet penetration rose 21 percent from 2003-08, as well as Macedonia, Moldova, and Iran, where it rose by around one quarter. The report says there were 1.4 billion Internet users around the world by the end of last year, up around 15 percent on the previous year. Most of them are now in the developing world. China has the largest share, at nearly 300 million, followed by the United States (with some 190 million). But the report warns of a widening divide in access to broadband Internet. Rich countries are forging ahead, with one in three people having access to broadband in places like Scandinavia. But others are lagging behind, meaning they can't take full advantage of Internet applications such as e-commerce or distance learning. "If you look at the transition economies, the highest level is seen in Croatia with 11 percent, in Macedonia with 8 percent, and Russia with 5 percent, so you can see there is still big potential for expanding these penetration levels," Fredriksson says. Fredriksson says transition economies are in a relatively good position to do that, thanks to a largely well-educated population and the proximity of major developed markets, leading him to expect "rapid growth" in broadband access in the next few years. (by Kathleen Moore)

From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/23/2009

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CHINA: Henan Launches Platform to Fight Spam Messages

According to Henan Communications Administration, basic telecom operating companies in this province have launched a joint processing platform to fight Chinese mobile text short messages and to further improve the coordination of anti-spam channels. To promote the control of spam SMS, the administration published a notice about the special campaign, and this campaign will last until the end of this year. The notice requires these basic telecom operating companies to organize a complete anti-spam joint processing system and to enhance handling of outstanding problems such as lack of communication with users who complain about spamming. China Mobile Henan, China Unicom Henan, and China Telecom Henan have signed the coordination agreement to crack down on spam short messages in Henan and these three major telecom operators in China have worked out detailed cooperation procedures for cross-network spam short messages processing. In addition, they clarified time limit, standards, and divisions of work for spam short messages processing. In August 2009 alone, these telecom operators suspended the short message service of 4,678 mobile phone numbers that were involved in sending spam messages and blocked 140,000 viral spam messages.

From http://www.chinatechnews.com/ 09/30/2009

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Children and Network Research Lab Established in Shanghai

China's first Children and Network Research Lab has been formally established in Shanghai. Jointly launched by the Center for Information and Communication Studies of Fudan University and TaoMee Inc., the operator of 51mole.com, an online community for children, CNRL will be engaged in the study and promotion of children's Internet education and advocating green and safe online surfing concept and behaviors. CNRL will conduct surveys on children's Internet use; carry out studies on the psychology and online behaviors of children; organize featured events targeting children and their parents; compile books about green online surfing; and promote Internet-based education. Meanwhile, the first batch of 2000 handbooks on green online surfing has been given to middle and primary schools in Beijing and Shanghai. As a kid-friendly book, the handbook is easy to understand and offers various directions on safe online surfing.

From http://www.chinatechnews.com/ 10/09/2009

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Internet Surfing Becomes Major Leisure Activity for Chinese Adolescents: Survey

Accessing the Internet for entertainment has become one of the major leisure activities for Chinese adolescents, according to a survey by the Ministry of Health. The survey, done among 12,671 students from grade seven to seniors in schools and universities in nine provinces and municipalities including Beijing, northern Shanxi Province and southwestern Sichuan Province, found Internet surfing was only after doing homework and socializing with friends among their after-school activities, followed by reading, watching TV and sports. The survey jointly launched by the China Association for Science and Technology in May also showed teenagers were not so enthusiastic about activities about culture and technology. The survey was released on the World Mental Health Day which fell on Saturday. The MOH's theme for this year was to urge the reasonable and appropriate use of the Internet. World Mental Health Day was initiated by World Psychiatric Association in 1992.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 10/11/2009

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China Vows Crackdown on Industry Overcapacity

China's cabinet has laid out detailed plans to curb overcapacity in industries such as steel, aluminum, cement and wind power, warning that the country's economic recovery could otherwise be hampered. In a reiteration of existing policy targets, the State Council said meeting the government's long-standing goal of reducing overcapacity was urgent because the result of inaction would be factory closures, job losses and rising bad bank loans. "What especially requires our attention is that it is not only traditional industries such as steel and cement that suffer from productive overcapacity and are still blindly expanding," it said in a notice posted late on Tuesday on www.gov.cn. While highlighting overcapacity in sectors such as steel and cement - both energy-guzzling and polluting - , it also aimed at new industries such as wind power equipment and silicon. For the steel industry, the government toughened its tone by calling some 10 percent of the country's crude steel capacity illegitimate, but did not elaborate what it would do about it. China is the world's biggest steel producer and consumer. "There is 58 million tonnes of crude steel capacity under construction, most of which is illegitimate. Crude steel capacity could exceed 700 million tonnes and overcapacity will intensify if curbs are not implemented in time," it said. The cabinet said it would no longer approve or support any new steel projects or any expansion in existing projects.

Analysts said the immediate casualty of the clamp-down could be Australia's coking coal sector, whereby exports to China have surged more than 10-fold from a year ago to reach 14 million tonnes in the first eight months of this year. "The policy would support our view that the surge in China's coal imports over the past few months will be short-lived. From an Australian perspective, we could be seeing some degree of a pullback over the coming months," said Clyde Henderson, a coal analyst at Wood Mackenzie consultancy in Sydney. "But still, many other steelmakers elsewhere are now looking to restart their capacity, so that will compensate for softer demand in China." China has recently emerged as a net importer of coking coal, in part driven by the closure of small and unsafe mines at home. The surge in Chinese demand has also helped hard coking coal prices to rebound by some 30 percent since December to around $150-$160 a tonne in the spot market. By 2011, blast furnaces with a capacity of 400 cubic meters or less, and rolling furnaces and electric furnaces with a capacity of 30 tonnes or less, must be eliminated. On aluminum smelters, the Cabinet repeated pledges announced in May to ban for three years new capacity and to remove small plants with combined capacity of 800,000 tonnes by 2010. It noted that traditional coal-to-chemical capacity, a highly polluting and water-consuming sector, exceeded demand by 30 percent. In the first half of 2009, only about 40 percent of coal-to-methanol facilities were in operation. The government said it planned to toughen regulatory standards to restrict entry in these sectors.

It also bans for three years new plants that produce only coke - processed from coal and used as a fuel in smelting iron ore. In unusually blunt wording, the cabinet also pointed its finger at local authorities. "Some regions have acted illegally. We are once again seeing cases of illegitimate approvals, of construction starting before it has been approved, and of construction starting even as the approval process is underway," it said. The cabinet's strident warning about overcapacity underscored why Chinese officials have been circumspect about the economy, repeatedly saying that it has shown signs of recovering from the global financial crisis but is still not on solid ground. On Tuesday, the central bank said it would stick to its accommodative monetary policy to support an economy that is suffering from weak external demand. Also on the blacklist is cement of which China is the world's top producer and consumer: projects that had not kicked off construction as of September 30 would be halted and reviewed, the notice said. Certain provinces will also be asked to make plans to eliminate outdated capacity within three years. Any additions of new capacity must be met by corresponding and equivalent cuts in outdated capacity, it said. "China's cement production capacity will rise to 2.7 billion tonnes per year if all approved projects start operation, and market demand totals only 1.6 billion tonnes," it said. For the wind power industry, it said that in 2010 Chinese companies would produce equipment equivalent to 20 million kilowatts of capacity, but that the country would install only 10 million kilowatts of actual capacity. To tackle this oversupply, the cabinet said it would in principle refuse approval for the construction of complete wind-power equipment factories. It also banned investors in the sector from using locally produced equipment, aiming to prevent local governments from building their own equipment plants.

From http://news.yahoo.com/ 10/12/2009

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MIIT: Measures Will Be Taken to Support Chinese Tech SMEs

Li Yizhong, head of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, has disclosed to local media that China will continue to launch many favorable tax policies to support the development of small and medium sized technology enterprises. According to Li, China will set up a special foundation for the development of SMEs; reduce by half the income tax payable of small enterprises; lower the land use tax of SMEs; and postpone the tax payment of SMEs who face certain difficulties. Meanwhile, Li said that the local finance departments around China would also strengthen their support for the SMEs. Li stated that many measures have been taken in recent years to ease the burden of SMEs. For example, the enterprise income tax rate has been reduced from 33% to 25% and a preferential tax rate of 20% is now offered to small enterprises. On top of that, a 15% tax rate is now provided for high tech enterprises that meet the High and New Technology Enterprises criteria. The HNTE criteria were enhanced recently to focus on providing the beneficial tax rate to only the top tier software and hardware businesses that provide unique services in China. Companies who hope to meet these new, stricter criteria must have a certain amount of their funds used on research and development; they must employ a certain percentage of staff who have doctoral degrees; they should have a required amount of technical staff on their payrolls who graduated with tech-related diplomas from Chinese universities; and the companies must provide local regulatory agencies with schematics and programming codes for key technology products.

From http://www.chinatechnews.com/ 10/16/2009

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Internet Encourages a New Era of Individual Voices

Internet blogger Shao Yibei describes herself as "a tiny drop of water in the ocean of Chinese netizens longing to shine". She never expected to attract an instant spotlight on her work. The 26-year-old music lover had a five-minute video clip uploaded to the Internet in February. In the video, she was playing guitar and singing a song she wrote about an urban single woman's attitude toward marriage. "My friend uploaded the clip just for fun," Shao said. "None of us expected what would happen the next day." Response from the virtual world was overwhelming, with Shao's online video clip receiving more than 300,000 visits, or hits, during the first few days. Shao also received thousands of requests to "become her friend" on her blog. Movie producers invited Shao to compose songs, and work on her first album is under way, she said. "I find it difficult to communicate with others in real life, so music is my way of expression," Shao said. "But it's the Internet that makes me heard." Shao is now known as a folk music singer and blogger Shao Xiaomao. "It's such a happy surprise to see my ideas being shared by so many people. I'm not alone," Shao said. With the praise has come some criticism about openly expressing ideas on the Internet. Shao's mother, a high school teacher, is among the critics. "My mom first felt shameful that I was talking about marriage in the song in a straightforward way, which she thought should be private," Shao said. "Then she blamed me for standing out on the Internet, even though she knew it wasn't me who started it," she said. But Shao disagrees with her mother. "If I'm able to express my ideas freely, why shouldn't others?" she asked.

The different opinions from a mother and daughter reflect the profound changes in China since the country adopted reform and opening up policies in the late 1970s, said Hu Qiheng, chair of the Internet Society of China. Hu said the Internet is playing an important role in raising public awareness about individuality and citizenship in China, by "providing a platform for the Chinese, who tend to be silent in real life, to express themselves and exchange ideas". In April 1994, as the vice president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Hu applied to the US National Science Foundation to be connected with the Internet, and thus ushered in a new cyber world for the most populous country in the world. The first Internet surfers in China were more than 1,000 scientists. Fifteen years later, the country's netizen population surged to 338 million, according to a report released by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) in July. "Everyone is someone on the Internet, which has been shaping a new generation in China," Hu said. "Between their own interests and mainstream social values, they are more freely pursuing the former than their parents," Hu said. The Internet has broadened information sources for the general public, said Chen Jiangong, a CNNIC senior analyst. "More importantly, the distribution of information is interactive and real-time," Chen said. Zhang Jie, a 26-year-old magazine editor in Chongqing, has found surfing online indispensable in her daily life since she began accessing the Internet 10 years ago.

Like most of her friends and colleagues, Zhang relies heavily on the Internet for work, entertainment and shopping. "The Internet does not only bring convenience to my life; more importantly, it reforms my mindset," Zhang said. Zhang said diverse voices and a wider array of information were not available before the arrival of the Internet. Tianya Forum, a virtual social community based in southern Hainan province, is Zhang's favorite. Her daily visit to the forum includes reading entries from Tianya By-talk, which focuses on social issues. The forum receives more than 100 million visits each month, according to Tianya By-talk administrators. "Different opinions stir skepticism and push me to look into the issues more carefully before coming to a conclusion," Zhang said. "It transforms me into a person with independent thought and an open mind," she said. Researchers said the Internet has proven valuable in increasing access to issues of public concern and the meaning of citizenship. "Expression of individuality needs to be encouraged in a country which values creativity. The Internet is speeding up the maturity of Chinese people's individuality," Hu said.

From Xinhua News Agency 10/19/2009

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Cell Phone Use Surges to High

China's mobile communications business accounted for more than 60 percent of the total telecommunications industry income in the first nine months, a record high since the country started to collect such figures a decade ago, the industry regulator said yesterday. The portion of fixed line income fell 4 percentage points year on year to 28.2 percent from January to September, said the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. "The mobile substitution (of fixed line) will continue in the domestic market because of the lower and lower mobile rate and the development of 3G," said Sandy Shen, a telecom analyst of Gartner Inc, a United States-based IT consulting firm. In the period, China's telecom industry posted revenue of 625.69 billion yuan (US$91.11 billion), a 3.1-percent rise annually, the ministry said. Mobile communications revenue accounted for 60.14 percent of the total income in the first nine months, compared with 55.58 percent a year ago, according to the ministry. From this month, China Telcom users get free incoming calls, making the company the first telco to adopt a long-awaited one-way charge system for all customers. The two other telcos said yesterday they will follow suit but did not say when, though they have announced other discounts. The average mobile communications cost is about 0.15 yuan a minute, close to fixed-line phone's 0.10 to 0.12 yuan. In Shanghai and Beijing, the mobile penetration rate has surpassed 100 percent by the end of last month, which means each citizen has one or more handsets on average, according to the ministry. In January, 3G licenses were issued to China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom. Based on the third generation technology, users can access high-speed data services on their handsets. China Mobile and China Unicom have launched mobile payment services in Shanghai. The handsets can be used as "mobile wallets" to pay public transport and World Expo tickets.

From Xinhua News Agency 10/20/2009

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China Closes 20 Illegal Literary Websites

China's National Working Group of Eliminating Pornography and Illegal Publications has announced achievements that it has made since campaigns were launched earlier this year against illegal online and mobile phone publications. NWGEPIP stated on October 20 that since the special campaigns were launched to crack down on vulgar online and mobile phone content, China had seized 1414 illegal online literary works, closed 20 websites that were found spreading pornographic information, and deleted a total of more than 30,000 links to illegal web pages. Meanwhile, NWGEPIP has also issued a special circular which asks each region around China to make efforts to stop the spread of vulgar novels online and remove unhealthy content from websites. In addition, NWGEPIP also states operators of websites publishing pornographic publications will be severely punished. A representative from General Administration of Press and Publication stated that in the first nine months of this year, various measures were taken to monitor online publications and up to 50,000 literary works of more than 4000 websites were monitored. GAPP will continue to focus on four areas: making relevant regulations, speeding up the construction of online publication monitoring system, establishing a GAPP online publication monitoring center, and promoting the construction of Chinese online literary publication platform. News about these closures comes days after Chinese authors rallied online against Google's plans to start a digital Chinese library service. Chinawriter.com.cn has posted a message allegedly from Google which states that the American search engine will compensate Chinese writers USD60 for each book of each writer who agrees to allow Google to use the book online. The search engine stated in the announcement that it would pay at least USD60 to each writer for each book if the writer agrees to reconcile with Google, and the writer can receive 63% of the revenue from readers' online downloading of the book in the future. Many writers have refused to accept the reconciliation agreement and have spurned Google's take-it-or-leave-it attitude. The authors state they plan to continue to fight Google's plans.

From http://www.chinatechnews.com/ 10/22/2009

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Hong Kong Proposes E-Learning Pilot Scheme

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government is committed to developing e-learning which will enhance student learning and development, Secretary for Education Michael Suen said on Thursday. Suen said the recommendations of the Working Group on Textbooks and e-Learning Resources Development on how the local government can encourage and support schools to make good use of e-learning resources will be carefully considered. The working group has submitted a report proposing a three-year "promoting e-learning" pilot scheme be launched in up to 30 primary and secondary schools in the 2010-2011 school year. It also suggests the development of the depository of curriculum-based learning and teaching resources be expedited and strengthened at the primary and junior secondary levels with additional resources from the 2009-10 school year. The report proposed a one-off grant to be disbursed to all primary and secondary schools this school year for buying e- learning resources in the next three years, and an e-commerce platform for e-learning resources and an online community for teachers at the Education City website be established.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 10/22/2009

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JAPAN: IMF Warns Japan to Remain Trapped in Deflation Until 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) - (Kyodo) - The International Monetary Fund warned Thursday that Japan will remain under a destabilizing bout of deflation until 2012, while pressing the world's second-largest economy to spur domestic demand for a full-blown recovery. In its twice-yearly World Economic Outlook report, the Washington- based institution also said global growth will recover to the 3 percent level in 2010 after contracting in 2009 under the weight of the worst financial crisis in generations. "In Japan, after a sharp first-quarter fall, activity is expected to contract by 5.4 percent in 2009 as a whole, although a sizable fiscal stimulus and a modest increase in exports will support growth in the second half of 2009 and will lead to a recovery of 1.7 percent in it said. "Given the significant slack in the economy, inflation will remain negative until 2012," it said, alluding to concerns that deflation may push back economic recovery. Japan's consumer prices continued record-breaking falls in August with the key index marking its sharpest ever decline of 2.4 percent from a year earlier, due mainly to lower energy costs.

The IMF urged Tokyo to pursue a recovery driven by domestic demand rather than by exports, saying fiscal support should encourage private consumption in the country. "To complement efforts to repair the supply side of economies, there must also be adjustments in the pattern of global demand in order to sustain a strong recovery," it said. "Specifically, many economies that have followed export-led growth strategies and have run current account surpluses will need to rely more on domestic demand," it said. The IMF raised Japan's growth projection in terms of real gross domestic product to minus 5.4 percent for 2009, up 0.6 percentage point from its previous forecast released in early July, and maintained its outlook for the country at 1.7 percent for 2010. It indicated Japan's recovery could be slow "because of the recent appreciation of the yen," a phenomenon that usually hurts exporters by eating into their yen-based earnings from foreign markets. While noting high debt levels in Japan, the IMF warned Tokyo should not repeat the same mistake as in the late 1990s, when it hiked the consumption tax to 5 percent from 3 percent before a nascent recovery took hold. "Premature tax hikes in 1997, along with an unfavorable external environment, were among the factors that seem to have contributed to pushing Japan into recession," it said.

In other parts of the report, the IMF put its global economic forecasts at minus 1.1 percent growth for 2009 and plus 3.1 percent for 2010. They compare with the earlier outlooks of a fall of 1.4 percent and a rise of 2.5 percent, respectively. "After a deep global recession, economic growth has turned positive, as wide-ranging public intervention has supported demand and lowered uncertainty and systemic risk in financial markets," it said. Even so, the IMF said the world still faces risks and that governments should not move too early to withdraw the massive pro-growth policies they have taken to tackle the current global crisis that erupted about a year ago due to the U.S. subprime mortgage meltdown. "Risks to the outlook remain on the downside. Premature exit from accommodative monetary and fiscal policies is a particular concern because the policy-induced rebound might be mistaken for the beginning of a strong recovery," it said.

As for the United States, the institution said its economy is showing "increasing sighs of stabilization" as unprecedented policy measures are helping stimulate consumer spending and calm housing and financial markets. It projected U.S. growth to be minus 2.7 percent in 2009 but to recover to plus 1.5 percent in 2010, down 0.1 point and up 0.7 point respectively. Major euro area economies are expected to suffer badly in 2009, with Germany - the largest economy in the area - being the hardest-hit with a 5.3 percent shrinkage. The euro area as a whole is projected to see a contraction of 4.2 percent in 2009, up 0.6 point, but rising by 0.3 percent in 2010, against the previous outlook of a 0.3 percent decline. The IMF put growth estimates for China at 8.5 percent and 9.0 percent in 2009 and 2010, and for India at 5.4 percent and 6.4 percent in the same two years.

From http://www.breitbart.com/ 10/01/2009

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Govt to Maintain Job-Assistance Program

The government plans to carry over a job-assistance project included in the fiscal 2009 supplementary budget into fiscal 2010 to ensure job seekers can have vocational training while receiving living expenses, Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma has said. The government also will launch a new permanent program similar to the project in fiscal 2011. A bill for the program is likely to be submitted to the ordinary Diet session to be convened in January at the earliest, Nagatsuma said. The job-assistance project is set out in the 700 billion yen fund earmarked for emergency human resource development and job assistance in the supplementary budget. The Japan Vocational Ability Development Association (JAVADA), a corporation under the jurisdiction of the ministry, has been commissioned to carry out projects set out in the fund. However, the Democratic Party of Japan regards that as problematic because JAVADA has been used by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry as an organ in which high-ranking ministry bureaucrats take up executive posts after retirement in companies they had connections with in what is known as the amakudari practice.

The DPJ had insisted on suspending the fund even before the Aug. 30 House of Representatives election that brought the party to power. However, 6,784 people have received job training under the project as of Sept. 29, while the nation's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped only slightly to 5.5 percent in August, the second-highest level on record. In addition, the tripartite agreement that created the ruling coalition reached by the DPJ, the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party includes the implementation of employment-assistance measures. The government, therefore, has decided to exclude from its planned freeze on the fund 346.6 billion yen - half of the fund - and continue the project through fiscal 2010. Nagatsuma emphasized that the government would improve the operations of the fund. The health, labor and welfare minister suggested that the decision to commission JAVADA to carry out the project might be reviewed. "We'll keep the project as a bridge to fill in the gap until we improve the way the fund is used," Nagatsuma said.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 10/08/2009

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SOUTH KOREA: Mobile Technology '1 Year Behind U.S.'

The level of Korea's fourth-generation mobile technology is one year behind that of the U.S., according to data released by the Korea Communications Commission. Japan is ahead of Korea by more than six months, the data shows. The areas of weakness in Korea's technology are in the system sector and the service platform sector, each shown to be behind U.S. technology by over a year. However, Korea's 4G mobile technology was found to be ahead of China's by almost two and a half years.

From Arirang News 10/07/2009

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Surge in Single Women Driving Down Nat`l Birth Rate

The educational level and professional careers of married women are less important factors affecting the national birth rate, while the main reason driving the rate down is the surge in the number of single women. A report released yesterday by the Statistical Research Institute under the National Statistical office said the phenomenon of older single women in cities is growing as serious as that of single men in rural areas in the past. The number of single women is generally higher in areas where the combined birth rate is lower. The combined birth rate refers to the number of newborns projected to be borne by a woman in her fertile years.

The study covered every district in the country between 2000 and 2007. The birth rate was the lowest at Busan's Jung district with 0.84, followed by Seoul's Gangnam with 0.85 and Busan's Seo with 0.86.

All three areas showed high ratios of single women, with the ratio of single women aged 35-39 at Seoul's Gangnam district the highest in the nation at 21 percent. More than 20 percent of women in their late 30s there were not married. The portion of single women was higher among those highly educated and in professional careers, as this group postpones marriages to pursue more education and job promotions. The ratio of women who finish graduate school among singles aged 40 to 44 was 5.2 percent, while the ratio was 1.3 percent among married women with children and 4.1 percent among men. The portion of single women in professional and managerial jobs was 27.4 percent, far higher than 9.7 percent for married women with children. A statistical office source said, "The gap in birth rates among married women due to educational level and occupation is gradually declining," adding, "The low birth rate apparently results less from the relationship between a falling birth rate and higher education levels and a rising number of women with professional jobs, but more from the surging number of single women."

From http://english.donga.com/ 10/12/2009

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Korea Gears Up to Lead Global Green IT Trends

Information technology facilitates international movements aimed at creating a low-carbon environment by raising energy efficiency, digitizing transportation and logistics systems, and monitoring/forecasting climate change. The Korean government, along with those of other advanced nations, is heavily into devising "green IT" strategies for that purpose. Looking at where Korea is and what the government is doing in terms of this newer technology will be helpful for the country to advance from being simply an IT powerhouse to the status of a leading nation of green IT. Amid international movements to tackle climate change and energy resource depletion, products and services associated with green information technology are emerging as new industrial engines. Despite the global economic downturn, the green IT market grew to a huge US$500 million, and is forecast to hit $4.8 billion by 2013.

As has been widely noted, green IT is newer technology pursuing eco-friendly industrial development through renovating existing characteristics of information technology. Eco-phones developed by Samsung ElectronicsKorea is ready and qualified to lead the global green IT trend with its skilled human resources and strong commitment to the movement on the part of the government and the public as well. In particular, Korea has top-notch technology in producing quality TV panels, digital TVs and mobile phones. If those products can be equipped with eco-friendly traits, it will be just a matter of time until Korea dominates the green IT product market. To realize this, the Korean government is pursuing strategies to transform the country's IT industry to an environmentally-oriented one. With the injection of $4.2 trillion of budgetary funds up until 2012, the government plans to increase industrial production by $7.5 trillion, create 52,000 new jobs, and decrease carbon gas emissions by 18 million tons.

Smart meter developed by LS Industrial SystemsSpecifically, the government will focus its energy on developing eco-friendly PCs, displays and network servers, which will have high energy efficiency and marketability. It also plans to build the world's fastest gigabyte Internet network by 2012, and to develop key technologies to raise the efficiency of Internet data centers (IDC). Also, the government plans to increase public sector telecommuting work from the current 2.4 percent to 20 percent by 2013, and further to 30 percent by 2020. It will also markedly decrease carbon emissions, especially during morning peak hours, by highly encouraging the use of bicycles. The use of e-documents at work and that of digital textbooks and electronic boards at school will also be largely promoted, said the government.

From http://www.korea.net/ 10/13/2009

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Korea's Export Growth Rate for ICT Products Ranked Third in the World

The export growth rate for information and communication technology or ICT products in Korea ranked third in the world as of the end of 2007. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development released a report ranking nations on Friday with China coming in with first place followed by Hong Kong. China also held the largest market share for exported ICT products at about 20 percent while Korea was seventh on the list with its market share standing at roughly six percent. Global trade of ICT products has fallen by about 4.5 percent over the past seven years. The countries noting the largest declines include the United States, Japan and Britain. In related news Korea ranked 10th on the international telecommunications patent table. The International Organization for Standardization says that Korea registered 48 patents as of August last year. In terms of individual companies Samsung Electronics led Korea with 14 patents closely followed by the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute with 13. The top three countries on the list were the US, Japan and France with the US topping the list with 911 telecommunications patents.

From http://www.arirang.co.kr/ 10/23/2009

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MONGOLIA: 115th among 182 Nations in Human Development Index Report

The 2009 Human Development Index (HDI) report, covering the period up to 2007 and released earlier this month, has placed Mongolia at 115th among 182 countries listed. Mongolia's scores had improved since the previous listing. The HDI is claimed as a standard means of measuring human development - a concept, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), that refers to the process of widening the options of persons, giving them greater opportunities for education, health care, income, and employment. The index assesses: Life expectancy at birth, as an index of population health and longevity; Knowledge and education, as measured by the adult literacy rate (with two-thirds weighting) and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrollment ratio (with one-third weighting); Standard of living, as measured by the natural logarithm of gross domestic product per capita at purchasing power parity. Norway tops the list, followed by Australia, with Canada at 4th, Japan at 10th, the USA at 13th, Germany at 22nd, Singapore at 23rd, China at 92nd, and Vietnam at 116th place. The index was developed in 1990 by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq and Indian economist Amartya Sen.

From http://www.gateway.mn/ 10/19/2009

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INDONESIA: Structural Imbalances `Homework' for Next Govt

Being among the few countries retaining positive growth amid the global economic downturn does not mean Indonesia's economy is safe and sound, because structural imbalances remain, economists say. While vice president-elect Boediono said the economy had a strong economic structure as proven by the fact Indonesia had survived the downturn with a fairly manageable impact, economist Faisal Basri dismissed his remarks, saying Indonesia was just lucky. Faisal countered Boediono's statement that Indonesia had focused more on its domestic market than the global market, making its economy stronger, at the launching of a book titled Lanskap Ekonomi Indonesia (Indonesia's economic landscape), written by Faisal and Haris Munandar. "We survived the crisis not because of a strong economic structure, but because we were lucky. Our banks didn't have subprime mortgages. Our exports were not yet competitive, and did not account for a large portion of the economy," he said. Proof of structural imbalance can be seen in the slow decline of poverty and unemployment rates, while the gap between the rich and the poor increases, Faisal said. According to the latest data from the Central Statistic Agency (BPS), a lagging manufacturing sector has contributed much to the imbalance, since around 70 percent of workers are now in the informal sector. Structural imbalances in the economy are homework for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who will officially commence his second five-year term on Oct. 20.

The government should pay more attention to developing human resources, because 20 percent of the government's budget now goes into education, Faisal said. "We never determine the quality of education. The *education* minister should have set some targets with the larger budget." The government should improve infrastructure, optimize funding for sustainable development, and balance the non-tradable sector and tradable sector, he said. "The government should liquidate state assets. Dividends paid by *138* state firms were smaller than the excise paid by four tobacco companies. One of the most acute diseases is in Pertamina," Faisal said. Pertamina spends $36.10 to produce one barrel of oil, while the oil giant Chevron spends US$6.80, he said. Purbaya Yudhi Sadewa, the chief researcher at Danareksa Research Institute, said the government should improve infrastructure to attract investment to the manufacturing sector. This would help reduce poverty and unemployment, he said. MS Hidayat, the chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Kadin had designed an economic roadmap for the next five years, covering priority sectors like infrastructure, bureaucracy reform, and food and energy security. "At the end of this month we, all stakeholders, will talk to the new government about the economy." Yudhi and Faisal expected the economy to expand by between 5.8 and 5.9 percent next year, more then the 5.5 percent set in the 2010 state budget. The economy is targeted to expand 4.3 percent this year.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 10/08/2009

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Govt Upbeat About ICT Security Laboratory

The government is upbeat about developing an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) security laboratory to protect its confidential data and information. Engkos Koswara, expert advisor for ICT at the Office of the State Minister for Research and Technology told The Jakarta Post on Friday the government expected to have an ICT security laboratory within five years. The laboratory would be useful for the development of an internalized ICT security system for protecting confidential information, as although security protection systems had been locally developed by private institutions since 2005, the government needed its own protection system, Engkos said. "The country's security protection mostly focuses on anti-viruses and network protection, without taking application and server databases into consideration. "Indonesia also needs a forensic and cyber crime research center including incident management response and analysis," he said, adding most institutions and individuals used ICT security systems like anti-virus software, both foreign, such as Kaspersky, and local ones such as PCMAV. The government will provide academic and financial incentives for those involved in developing technology for their ICT security protection. "The incentives are for lecturers, researchers and even talented students," he said, adding that Rp 100 billion (US$10.57 million) was allocated yearly from the state budget for technology development.

In line with the government's strategic planning, Russian giant security firm Kaspersky Lab has been in talks with the government on internalized ICT development, proposing cooperation for the provision of a research laboratory for security protection, as well as internships and scholarships for Indonesians. "University students can submit their research papers as part of the selection process for scholarships," firm founder Eugene Kaspersky told reporters Friday. "The world is prone to malicious software *or malware* attacks as hackers break confidential codes to make money through the computerized systems in the business sector," he said. "China, Latin America and Russia are the most prone to such attacks." He said Indonesia was not a main target of malware, which had damaged computer systems in countries around the globe, however he expected it to become a target within the next few years. Engkos acknowledged the danger, saying ICT security would be the government's priority in the coming years. (nia)

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 10/12/2009

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SINGAPORE: Firms Urged to Tap into Opportunities Offered by ICT Contracts

SINGAPORE: More than S$1 billion worth of infocomm technology contracts are up for bidding both regionally and globally. And according to some industry-watchers, Singapore firms are more than equipped to bid for these contracts. They comprise some 100 projects under international organisations such as the Asian Development Bank. The funding could ease the process of entering into new markets. Singapore is among the most advanced in the world when it comes to accessing and providing government services on the Internet. This puts local infocomm technology firms in good stead when they bid for ICT projects from international organisations such as the World Bank. Besides the monetary incentive, working with these international agencies could open up access for future work. Tan Sian Lip, vice president, CrimsonLogic, said: "Funds from international organisations obviously makes it easier for them to pursue these priorities. We have found out from our interactions with the World Bank that availability of financing in creative ways is possible. "That will enable us to create packages of services and projects which could be more creatively-tailored to the needs of the countries and align their interest with ours so that it comes up with better outcomes for them and also for us as well." Industry players said working on such government projects provides great opportunities for local players to make stepping stones into overseas markets. But they added that such public private partnerships are not a straight forward money and goods exchange. Mr Tan added: "You have to have a much clearer idea of the outcomes that you want to achieve with the project and then focus on the outcomes rather then the outputs of the project. So after doing the project, did people get healthier? Is trade moving faster?" 98 per cent of the projects open for bidding are e-government related. Yew Sung Pei, assistant chief executive officer, IE Singapore, said: "Singapore as a nation, we have built up the e-government competency, Singpass, public private partnerships over the years. "All these are real competencies we have built up that we can share with developing countries, and international organisations would like to help developing countries build these up." Singapore's expertise in e-government is a key edge for local firms when they compete with bigger rivals for the same projects.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/22/2009

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THAILAND: Floods Affecting Thailand Nationwide

SI SA KET (TNA) - Floods are continuing in varied areas of Thailand, with critical needs in some areas due to more overflowing torrents, while the national weather service warned that the weather system from China now covers the North and Northeast. A ridge of moderate high pressure from the Asian land mass is covering much of Thailand north and east of the capital. In the northeastern province of Si Sa Ket, second round of flash flooding has hit Si Sa Ket municipality. Inundation in some areas is over two metres deep due to the overflowing waters of the Mun River causing residents to move their valuables to higher ground. In Phitsanulok's provincial seat and Bang Rakam district over 30,000 rais (about 12,000 acres) of flooded paddy fields meant that farmers were unable to harvest their crops in time, meaning that they have lost most of their annual income. The farmlands now smell of rotten rice. Provincial officials are planning a long-term solution against the flooding and to allocate budget for a flood retention area project known as Kam Ling (Monkey's Cheeks). In nearby Kamphaeng Phet province, incessant rain and the accumulated run-off from several other northern provinces quickly raised water levels in the Yom River, triggering flash run-offs overflowing into many houses as well as agricultural areas. Meanwhile, floodwaters in Sam Ngam district of Phichit is more than two metres high. Villagers used boats for transport and moved valuables to the roadside. In Kanchanaburi province west of Bangkok, officials in Sai Yok, Thong Pha Phum and Sangkhla Buri districts warned motorists and drivers to drive carefully due to poor visibility from a dense fog covering the areas. Meanwhile, the Meteorological Department warned that the ridge of a moderate high pressure weather system from China now covering the Northeast and the North of Thailand is causing thundershowers temperature drops one 1-3 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, torrential rain and isolated heavy rainfall is likely with winds in lower central, eastern and southern Thailand. Tropical Storm Parma in the mid-South China Sea centred about 200 km east of Hainan Island, China. It is expected to be downgraded to become a tropical depression and will make a landfall at Hainan later on Monday.

From http://enews.mcot.net/ 10/12/2009

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VIETNAM: All-Digital Broadcasts 'Unlikely' by 2020

HCM CITY - The conversion of analog radio and TV broadcasts to a digital format throughout the country by 2020 is not feasible, according to the deputy general director of the Viet Nam Post and Telematics Ministry. Le Van Khuong, who heads the ministry's digital technology broadcasting group VTC, said residents of remote areas and the poor would be unable to afford the equipment needed to convert to digital TV. The average price of a digital-to-analog converter is VND3 million ($US170). Many of them are illegally imported, leading to a loss of revenue for the Government. "This really is a thorny problem for authorities," Khuong said. "They must build a clearer roadmap to implement digital TV in Viet Nam." In February, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung approved a radio and TV broadcasting plan, which aims to offer a greater variety of TV and radio services to all residents of the country. Under the plan, 95 per cent of Vietnamese residents would have access to land-based TV services, and AM and FM broadcasting would be transmitted to all corners of the country by 2010. By 2015, all residents would have access to land-based TV services and all provinces and city centres would have access to cable-TV services. Under the plan, by 2020 all cable TV networks would be using digital technology. Most of the households in remote and isolated areas would be provided with equipment to receive radio and television services at reasonable prices. Le Nam Thang, vice minister of Information and Communications, said the ministry was working on portions of the telecommunications law that focuses on training of human resources for the digital content industry. He said the law would also address the development of a modern information and communication infrastructure, and creation of a favorable environment for the development of companies producing and trading in digital information content. (VNS)

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 10/16/2009

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President for Collective Efforts to Protect Environment from Pollutions

President Zillur Rahman has emphasized on collective efforts to protect entire environment from atmospheric pollutions for the survival of the civilization and to bring changes in people''s lifestyle to face dire damages of climate change, reports UNB. "It needs collective efforts to protect entire environment from atmospheric pollutions with a view to surviving the civilization," he said at the inaugural ceremony of the Seminar on ''A New Lease of Life for Asthma Patients'' at Sonargaon Hotel Friday evening. Ministry of Environment and Forests, UNDP, UNEP, Bangladesh Lung Foundation, Ozone Secretariat, Mutual Fund and Implementation Committee of the Montreal Protocol and Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd jointly organized the seminar. Addressing the function, President Zillur said the people should have to bring changes in their lifestyle so that the environment can be saved from the dire damages of climate change. "Let us work unitedly for presenting a safe and habitable world to our posterity." Urging the world community to uphold the spirit of the Montreal Protocol in their works and actions, he strongly believed that the world community would extend their cooperation for the sake of entire mankind. The President noted that Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd. has inducted HFA (Hydrofluoroalkane) based Inhaler for the Asthma and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases) patients and also has taken initiatives for awareness building programme among the masses. "I believe it is an important step towards reducing Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) in producing CFC-free Inhaler in Pharmaceutical Industries in Bangladesh." He added: "As you all know Chlorofluorocarbon, one of the greenhouse gases, destroys not only Ozone layer but also increases atmospheric temperature. Today we, the people of entire planet, are anxiously observing the adverse impact of Global Climate Change due to the increase of atmospheric temperature over the years." "It is forecasted that Developing countries including Bangladesh would be severely affected owing to climate change and the raising of sea-level water."

Referring to the concerns Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have raised at the 3rd Global Climate Conference in Geneva and also in UN General Assembly recently, President Zillur said she also called upon the world leaders to extend their cooperation and work together in protecting developing countries from the adverse effects of climate change. "In this backdrop, we including the developed countries have to take more pragmatic initiatives to reduce the use of CFC and other greenhouse gases in balancing atmospheric temperature," he added. The President mentioned that Bangladesh is one of the signatories of the Montreal Protocol that has been enacted by the world community in 1987 to protect the Ozone layer. "Bangladesh has been closely working with the UN bodies to prevent the production and uses of greenhouses gases." He expressed satisfaction that the Ozone Secretariat and Montreal Protocol Mutual fund have extended their technical support and financial assistance to enter into CFC free atmosphere in pharmaceuticals products. "I appreciate their endeavours." Congratulating the foreign delegates for joining this important seminar in Bangladesh, President Zillur said their continued support and cooperation in this regard would surely help in maintaining CFC-free environment. "It would also be a tremendous stride in the process of attaining the well-being of human race and environment." UNDP resident representative Renata Lok Dessallien, President of the Implementation Committee of the Montreal Protocol Robyn Washbourne, Chairman of the Montreal Protocol Multilateral Fund Dr Husamuddin Ahmadzai, Gilbert Bankobeza of the Ozone Secretariat, Rajendra Shende of the UNEP and Chief Executive Officer of Beximco Pharmaceuticals Nazmul Hasan MP, among others, spoke on the occasion.

From http://www.newstoday-bd.com/ 10/24/2009

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INDIA: IT Sector to Create 5.8 Million Jobs in 4 Years

San Francisco: There is going to be more job generation in the IT industry, with the sector expected to create 5.8 million jobs by 2013. According to consulting firm International Data Corporation (IDC), the IT industry will be an engine, powering economies out of economic doldrums, creating more than 75,000 new businesses in the next four years and adding jobs at a rate of three percent annually. U.S. software giant Microsoft sponsored the IDC research into the impact of IT in 52 countries that represent 98 percent of the global IT spending. "Countries that foster innovation and invest in infrastructure, education and skills development for their citizens will have a major competitive advantage in the global marketplace," said Steve Ballmer, Chief Executive of Microsoft to AFP. "In this fundamental economic reset, innovative technologies will play a vital role in driving productivity gains and enabling the creation of new local businesses and highly skilled jobs that fuel economic recovery and support sustainable economic growth." Although, the future prospect in the job market looks promising, the impact of slowdown on the number of jobs created is overwhelming. The economic slowdown has resulted in a 40 percent drop in the number of jobs created in India last year. According to Business Standard, software service companies in India have been recruiting lesser number of people during the last one year. In the 36 software services' firms studied, 69,430 people were hired in 2008-09, compared to 103,118 people that these firms hired in 2007-08. IDC expects IT spending in the countries studied to grow at slightly more than three percent annually, three times as fast as the gross domestic products between now and the year 2013. In what is good news for software firms, spending on software is predicted to grow faster than overall IT spending, rising 4.8 percent annually. IDC estimates that cloud services could add $800 billion in net new business revenues between the end of 2009 and the end of 2013.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 10/05/2009

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Himachal Pradesh Launches Mobile Governance Project

New Delhi: In a move that could allow people in the state to access information more easily, the government of Himachal Pradesh has undertaken an initiative to offer a range of government-to-citizen information and services on the mobile phones. Through this initiative, people can access information pertaining to driving license, arms license and vehicle registrations on their mobile phones. The state's Principal Secretary (IT), B.K. Agarwal, said that the mobile governance scheme has been launched in Shimla, Solan and Hamirpur districts in the initial stage. In the first stage, services will be provided free of cost on the mobile phones. Under the scheme, applicants would be required to put their mobile numbers on applications submitted to various departments. The departments then inform the applicants about the status of their application through an SMS and also send out an SMS once the work is completed. The state IT mission has further identified around 20 services from eight government departments that would be covered by this project. The departments include irrigation and public health, agriculture, horticulture, state electricity board, state transport corporations, forest and education. According to the government, Spice Digital has been selected as the service provider for the SMS Gateway Services on eight paise per SMS charges. The process of establishing the SMS Gateway has been completed.

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

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IT Sector on Recovery Path

Bangalore: The management of front-line information technology (IT) companies have started commenting positively on the demand environment, and on note of that information technology (IT) index emerged as one of the top performers on BSE with a gain of 4.8 percent last week. The IT index traded in the range of 4,473 - 4,530 points (September 29 - October 06, 2009). Among all the stocks listed under its index, TCS topped the list with a gain of 7.65 percent followed by Wipro and Infosys, which grew 7.02 and 3.58 percent respectively. TCS signed a multi-million dollar deal with a Singapore state organization to provide annual application management services for two years. In its report, Sharekhan, a brokerage firm said, "The banking and finance industry across the globe is beginning to have a re-look at discretionary spend that was frozen completely after the financial meltdown. This would benefit players such as TCS (43.9 percent) and Infosys Technologies (33 percent) that have relatively higher exposure to the BFSI vertical." In the last few months, improved demand environment has led to improved decision-making cycle and deal closures have started taking place. In fact, front-line IT companies have been benefiting from vendor consolidation scheme. In the second quarter of financial year (FY) 2010, there has been deal flow of $2.2 billion for IT vendors. Among the 13 sector-specific indices of the exchange, banking sector was the top performer last week with a gain of 5.27 percent and was followed by IT and CD sector, which recorded 4.8 and 4.4 percent gain respectively. As of October 06, 2009, total market capitalization of the IT index was of Rs. 4,20,675.23 crore.

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

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Indian IT Sector Spendings to Touch $37.6 Billion by 2013

New Delhi: India's IT spend is expected to touch Rs.1,64,300 crore ($37.6 billion), accounting for 2.3 percent of the GDP by 2013. The spending will create nearly 7,000 new businesses - mainly small and locally owned - and add 3.24 lakh jobs between 2009 and 2013. The study done by global research firm IDC and Microsoft states that, "Spending on IT will reach Rs.989 billion in 2009, and is expected to grow to Rs.1,643 billion by 2013 for a compounded rate of growth of 11.8 percent. By 2013, IT as a percentage of GDP will increase from 1.8 percent to 2.3 per cent." "Over the past 20 years, we've seen transformative power in how investments in IT innovations foster economic growth. Continued innovation and investment in information technology will help jump-start recovery from the current recession and will significantly contribute to the growth of employment and new businesses," said Information Technology and Innovation Foundation Founder and President, Robert D Atkinson. The software sector, which accounts for 45 percent of employment and 12 percent of the total IT spend, will drive the growth. The research from 52 countries, including India, forecasts the creation of 5.8 million new jobs worldwide and 75,000 new businesses over the next four years. "In this fundamental economic reset, innovative technologies will play a vital role in driving productivity gains and enabling the creation of new local businesses and highly skilled jobs that fuel economic recovery and support sustainable economic growth," said, Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 10/12/2009

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India Is World's Fastest Growing Telecom Market

New Delhi: By adopting 'innovative' measures such as infrastructure sharing and outsourcing, India has surpassed China to become the world's fastest growing telecom market. According to a report by rating agency Moody's, these measures have helped telecom operators to keep the service charge low, which has fueled the growth. According to Moody's, India's net additions of 10 million subscribers per month have far outpaced China's monthly rate of increase, now below eight million. About two years ago, China was having the maximum number of new subscribers on a monthly basis, reports PTI. Although emerging markets with relatively low penetration continue to have above-average rates of increase in new subscribers, those numbers tend to be slowing, except in India, Moody's said. Moody's pointed out that Indian telecom players are using "innovative means such as outsourcing network management and sharing mobile infrastructure to keep costs low in extending services to under-served rural areas." Mobile operators in India frequently share base stations and partner with other firms or independent cell-tower firms in expanding coverage to under-penetrated rural areas from where much of the growth is coming. The agency said divestment of non-core assets like selling or sharing mobile phone towers as a way to control costs and optimize capital expenditure had helped Indian operators in expanding coverage. For the telecom sector in the Asia-Pacific region, Moody's has assigned a "stable outlook" and noted that this market presents attractive investment opportunities. The agency said that the revenue growth for the region would drop sharply by year-end 2009 from the double-digit growth rates of last five years. However, the full-year revenue growth of the industry for this year will remain marginally positive. Revenues from voice service and SMS are expected to fall but data revenue should continue to grow, Moody's said. The outlook is based on expectations from telecom operators in the Asia-Pacific region across Singapore, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Pakistan and Indonesia. It did not include any Indian operator, though NTT Docomo and Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) which have partnerships in India were included.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 10/13/2009

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Indian Govt. Seeks Power to Issue IP Address Locally

New Delhi: Indian Government along with Internet Service Providers Association of India has approached the Australia-based Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) to seek power to provide IP address in India through National Internet Registry (NIR). Currently, anybody who wants to get their own IP address have to apply to APNIC. While globally, IP addresses are controlled by the U.S.-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), according to Business Line. To apply for an IP address through APNIC is often time consuming and expensive. That is the reason why most entities in India do not own their own IP addresses and take whatever their bandwidth provider allocates. If the process is shifted to NIR then it will be less time consuming as well as cheaper. "At present, if one wants an IP address that entity has to pay the retail price directly to APNIC. If an Indian NIR is set up, it will buy IP addresses from APNIC on wholesale rates and then resell it to Indian corporates at much lower rates," said an ISP executive. If Indian companies have their own IP address then they will be able to retain it irrespective of the bandwidth provider. "Companies at present prefer to take whatever IP address is given to them by the service provider because applying for a static IP address from APNIC is a cumbersome process. The NIR will enable Indian companies to get their own IP address which they can keep even if they change their bandwidth providers," said an industry representative. Other countries such as China, Japan and Vietnam already have their NIRs. Market watchers say that the application by the Indian government might not be approved by APNIC as it will impact their revenue. "For APNIC it makes more sense if users approach them directly by paying market price. Allowing an NIR in India could hit its income, so there could be some resistance," said a market watcher. APNIC has put up India's application for discussion among members after which it will take a decision.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 10/14/2009

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India to Receive Biggest Salary Hike in 2010

Hong Kong: Companies in Asia are set to offer bigger pay rises next year as the region continues to rebound from global recession, notably in India where base salary levels are poised to jump nearly 10 percent. According to a survey by Hewitt Associates, salaries in Indonesia and China will also surge, by 8.7 percent and 6.7 percent respectively, whereas workers in Japan can expect a paltry 2.1 percent pay rise. The survey, which covered more than 2,000 local and joint-venture companies in the Asia-Pacific region, also states that salaries or annual guaranteed pay this year in Asia's fast-growing economic powerhouses China and India, at 4.5 percent and 6.3 percent respectively, were the lowest since 2005. Salaries barely grew at all in Hong Kong and Japan, this year as companies cut staff, reports Reuters. More than 60 percent of companies surveyed in Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore froze wage levels, compared with only 26.1 percent in India and 30.8 percent in China. Next year, only six percent of companies in India and 8.3 percent in China expect to freeze pay compared with 12-14 percent of companies in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 10/21/2009

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NEPAL: Online System to Crosscheck Driving Licence in Nepal

The new digital record system launched by the Department of Transport Management in Nepal allows license holders to check the validity of their driving ID online. It facilitates easy tracking of fake licences and faster delivery of services. Kathmandu: Nepali Department of Transport Management (DoTM) has launched digital record system which will enable driving licence holders to check the legal status of their license online in its website. The department launched this facility under the e-governance initiative for the public after the number of people holding fake driving licenses went up, reported China's Xinhua news agency cited a local daily on Tuesday. License holders can now check the validity of their driving licenses simply by entering the license number, citizenship number and the district from where they obtained their citizenship certificate. If the licence is fake, no details will be displayed. In the initial phase, DoTM has only kept the records of licenses issued by Bagmati Zonal Transport Office. The office has issued around 200,000 licenses till July 16, 2009. "Details of 1.2 million license holders throughout the country will be available online within the next four months," Anil Gurung, director at DoTM was quoted by the daily as saying. He said DoTM officials have been sent to all 14 zones to collect necessary data in this regard. The department will be able to issue and renew driving licenses and register vehicles through digital technology.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 10/08/2009

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PAKISTAN: Nawaz Wants Action Plan for Economic Self-Reliance

ISLAMABAD: Rejecting the Kerry-Lugar bill in its present form, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief Nawaz Sharif on Thursday demanded that the government form a parliamentary committee to devise a national action plan to ensure economic self-reliance. He was addressing a press conference after chairing a party meeting. The former premier said, "The national action plan should be devised to get rid of the curse of begging forever and the proposed parliamentary committee should legislate for foreign loans and aid." Nawaz also announced a committee, led by Senator Ishaq Dar, to come up with recommendations on the proposed plan. "The Kerry-Lugar bill has many clauses which are against our national security and dignity," he said, adding that the US administration had safeguarded its national interests in the bill while the government of Pakistan had failed to do so. He said, "I am satisfied that my party has fulfilled its national duty on the bill." He said the government had not taken any party into confidence on the bill. To a question, Nawaz said Saudi Arabia had not barred him from contesting by-elections. "The government of Saudi Arabia should not be dragged into Pakistan's political affairs," he said. For the first time, Nawaz did not call for former president Pervez Musharraf's trial under Article 6 of the constitution at a press conference.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 10/16/2009

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AZERBAIJAN: Over 14,000 People Provided with Jobs via Employment Fairs

The Azerbaijani Ministry of Labor and Social Protection has held 53 employment fairs nationwide including Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic in Jan.-Aug., the ministry said on Oct. 8. "About 1,743 enterprises presented 14,028 jobs at fairs," the message said. As a result, nearly 4,910 people were provided with jobs, 465 people were involved in refresher courses and 282 people were involved in public work. Besides Baku and Ganja, fairs 'First step to career' were held for students in Absheron peninsula. About 330 enterprises provided 1,834 jobs; 384 people were provided with jobs. Next fair will be held in Sumgait on Oct. 9. Nearly 288 enterprises will provide 2,651 jobs. As many as 1,452 of them account for private sector. Jobs will be offered in state and foreign companies based in Sumgait.

From Today.Az 10/08/2009

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IRAN: Iran Committed to OPEC Quotas: Khatibi

TEHRAN - Iran has always been committed to OPEC's crude production quotas, the country's OPEC governor said here on Saturday. The Mehr News Agency quoted Mohammad-Ali Khatibi as saying that Iran has always been committed to crude production quotas set by OPEC and there has never been any violation by Iran in this respect. Khatibi said reports by the International Energy Agency and other secondary sources are based on "guesswork and not reliable." "The point to be noticed is that the figures reported by these sources are completely incompatible with one another." OPEC agreed late last year to lower supply by 4.2 million barrels per day (bpd) as recession curbed fuel use and led to a slide in prices, Reuters reported.

Iran replaced the dollar with other currencies such as euro and yen in oil trading about three years ago, Khatibi said. "We took the decision in a bid to diversify the oil income currency basket. Since the dollar is becoming weaker this move has led to greater benefit for our country," he explained. "Some other countries have also replaced dollar with a currency basket but due to the political issues they are not willing to publicize their move," he added.

From Tehran Times 10/25/2009

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KYRGYZSTAN: Bishkek and Tashkent Weigh Gas and Water Concerns

What's more valuable in Central Asia, natural gas or water? Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan may soon find out. A recent Uzbek move to cut gas supplies has many Kyrgyz worrying about how to stay warm this winter. But experts say the gas cut-off may end up being counterproductive for Tashkent because it will encourage Kyrgyzstan to develop its hydro-power generating capacity. That would be a development which potentially causes a significant reduction in the volume of water flowing into Uzbekistan. Citing late payments and arrears of $19 million, the state-owned Uztransgaz cut natural gas supplies to southern Kyrgyzstan on September 24. At the same time, Uztransgaz reduced gas delivery to the northern parts of the country by 70 percent. Salamat Aitikeev, the head of Kyrgyzgaz, a government agency in charge of the country's gas sector, told journalists on October 5 that Uzbek authorities would resume gas delivery only after Kyrgyzstan pays off its $19 million debt in its entirety.

Observers note that neither side is blameless in the latest energy spat. "You need to pay your bills on time. If you don't pay, you don't get service," a Tashkent-based journalist who works for an Uzbek state-run television outlet told EurasiaNet on condition of anonymity. Tashkent is pursuing purely economic goals, he insisted. Nevertheless, the timing of the cut-off, coming as temperatures start to drop in Central Asia, has prompted speculation about an Uzbek ulterior motive. Some experts view the gas embargo as punishment for Bishkek's recent decision to consider opening another Russian military base near the countries' shared border in the Ferghana Valley. Moreover, this year Uzbekistan has vociferously opposed Bishkek's intention to develop the Kambarata hydropower station. The chief worry in Tashkent is that the opening of upstream hydropower plants will end up depriving of water Uzbekistan's vast agricultural sector.

In perhaps the most inflammatory response from the Kyrgyz side thus far, Kyrgyz MP Ziyadin Jamaldinov appeared to justify those fears, telling an October 8 parliamentary session that Kyrgyzstan should retaliate. "We must stop fully the delivery of water to Uzbekistan during the vegetation period," Jamaldinov said in widely distributed comments. Spite aside, some Kyrgyz experts speculate their country may be forced to release large volumes of water from reservoirs to simply generate enough electricity this winter. As a result, downstream areas of Uzbekistan could experience harmful flooding, and, next growing season, Uzbek farmers could find themselves without sufficient water to meet irrigation needs. The gas games appear to be justifying Bishkek's contention that the country needs more hydropower plants. At a September 29 meeting with their Russian counterparts, Kyrgyz lawmakers called on Moscow to speed up the financing of the Kambarata hydropower plant.

According to Kyrgyzgaz's Aitikeev, out of $19 million that Kyrgyzstan owes to Uztransgaz, about $5 million is from the unpaid bills of private consumers. The bulk of the debt belongs to Elektricheskie Stantsii, a government-subsidized electricity company. Aitikeev said that efforts to force Elektricheskie Stantsii to pay its bills are complicated because under its legal arrangement, the company cannot be ordered to pay its debts. So far, Kyrgyzgaz has repaid about $5 million to Uzbekistan, but it lacks funds to repay the full amount, covering debt accumulated since January 2009. Aitikeev suggested on September 28 that one solution might be for the Kyrgyz government to loan Elektricheskie Stantsii the money. Kyrgyzstan's aging infrastructure is also a factor. According to Kyrgyzgaz, the country has lost 53 million cubic meters of gas, or roughly 25 percent of its overall imports, this year due to holes and faulty pipelines.

Residents in southern Kyrgyzstan are growing agitated over the unreliable energy supply. Compounding their problems, Kyrgyz authorities introduced rotating brownouts on October 1 to conserve electricity for the upcoming winter. "We don't have gas. And now they are cutting off electricity. It makes life difficult," one Osh resident complained. As the crisis unfolds, many are relying on electric stoves and liquefied gas to prepare meals. But even those solutions will not suffice once winter sets in. In winter, with water reservoirs low, the country relies on natural gas to produce heat. Though rural residents can stock up on coal and dried animal dung to heat their homes, urban dwellers in centrally heated apartment blocks have fewer options. Osh officials are urging residents to take matters into their own hands. In early October, the Osh mayor's office created a taskforce to collect debts from private homes. By October 11, the office had collected 6 million soms, or $136,000.

In a separate move, in early October Uzbekistan decided to withdraw from the Central Asian Unified Grid System, a mechanism that was set up by the five Central Asian republics in 2001 to coordinate energy swaps and deliveries. Uzbekistan's departure from this system is expected to hurt the efficiency of regional electricity distribution, potentially leading to more waste in isolated power-strapped countries such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In response, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev signed an agreement with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev under which Kazakhstan will provide $25 million as an advance payment for Kyrgyz electricity supplies in winter. However, it is not clear when the funds will arrive and whether Bishkek will use the money to repay the Uzbek debt. (by Alisher Khamidov)

From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 10/14/2009

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KAZAKHSTAN: Distribution of Information Harming Children's Health and Growth to Be Forbidden

The representatives of the CIS member countries discussed the model Law on Protection of Children against Information Harming their Health and Growth today in St. Petersburg, Kazakhstan Today agency reports citing news agency REGNUM News. According to REGNUM, the chairman of the commission on legislation harmonization of struggle against terrorism, criminality and drug business, Victor Voytenko, said that the state must protect children from harmful information." "Children have the access to the information intended for adults," V. Voytenko said, having added that it harms children's. Accordign to REGNUM, according to the norms of the bill, it is forbidden to spread the information containing propaganda of violence, cruelty, the information discrediting social institute of family, including obscene abuse and pornography. The law states that a child is a "person who has not reached the age of 18."

From Kazakhstan Today 10/08/2009

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TAJIKISTAN: Solar Power Mitigates Energy, Environmental Woes for Its Nomads

The power lines strung above the dusty lanes of Alichur are nothing more than a painful reminder of simpler times. In the 18 years since the Soviet Union collapsed, the town has not seen one watt of state-supplied electricity. Tajikistan's notoriously weak and unreliable energy grid barely maintains a tenuous connection to the vast and sparsely-populated Murgab District of Badakhshan Province, situated on the high plateaus between Afghanistan and China. In the district center, Murgab, incandescent bulbs flicker like dying embers only a few hours per day, rarely providing enough wattage to make reading at night feasible, let alone to power an appliance. And that is in the summer months, when hydropower from rivers swollen with melting snow is supposed to be plentiful. But now, some Badakhshan residents are declaring their energy independence from Dushanbe, embracing solar power, and finding, in the process, that they are saving money, and easing the stress on the local ecosystem. Using inexpensive Chinese equipment brought from just across the border, many save over a dollar per day by relying on the sun, rather than kerosene, as a power source. The savings constitutes a small fortune for the average Tajik. Per capita GDP in Tajikistan is estimated at $1,800 annually, making it one of the poorest countries in the world. Roughly 60 percent of Tajiks live below the poverty line, according to CIA estimates.

The photovoltaic panels "are economical. You buy them once and you don't have to buy kerosene anymore," says Atabay, an ethnic-Kyrgyz yak herder, gesturing to the sympathetic sun outside his felt yurt. Previously, he used 20 liters of kerosene per month. Now, in addition to clean light, he listens to music and spends his savings on diesel for a generator so he can watch satellite television. Many families in the area have already purchased a solar set-up, says Marifat, one of two merchants who sell the equipment in Murgab's ramshackle bazaar. After five years, business has tapered off: "Now, I only sell three or four a month. Last year I used to sell 10 to 15 pieces in a good month." "We are selling less, because all the people in Murgab bought them already." The average price for a 12-volt unit is 1000 somoni (about $230). It is a large outlay, but one most people realize will save them in the long run. "The price includes the panel, battery, three light bulbs and an inverter," she adds. Ainagul, another Kyrgyz herder who also spends the short summer season based in the 'jailoos' - summer pastures north of Alichur - says that before purchasing her solar setup, her family used one liter of kerosene every day to provide light "because we have small children and we had to have light at night." At five somoni a liter, that totaled over $400 per year. She spent 700 somoni ($160) on her six-volt solar unit.

"We've had it for two years," says Ainagul, setting a bowl of yak butter before a visiting reporter. "It provides three or four hours of light and music from the tape recorder" per night. "It helps the children study," she adds. These days, as summer rapidly gives way to fall, herders like Ainagul are returning to their mud-brick houses in Alichur, packing up their portable solar setup, rolling up the yurt and mattresses and heading for town. "We use it all year, but it works better in summer. In the winter, there is not as much sun." Perhaps 70 percent of the yurts on the Alichur plain have either a solar panel or share one with neighbors, revealing the tight-knit bonds amongst the extended nomadic families. Of course, in a country as impoverished as Tajikistan, not everyone can afford the investment, despite the long-term savings. To assist the hardest-pressed Tajiks, the Mountain Societies Development Support Programme (MSDSP), a project operated by the Aga Khan Foundation, distributes panels to qualifying recipients, says Baktiyar Azizmamadov, the MSDSP regional manager in Khorog. Solar, he notes, is a green alternative in more than one way.

In the high-altitude pastureland around Murgab and Alichur, with short summers, little rain and long, harsh winters, shrubs grow slowly. The Soviet state once provided coal for heat and cooking and feed for the animals. Now, coal imported from neighboring Kyrgyzstan is prohibitively expensive at 800 somoni per ton (about $180); each home needs between three and five tons per winter. Without alternatives, locals must pick the plants for fuel and animal feed. The shrubs are getting harder to find and herders complain they now have to hire trucks and drive up to 80 kilometers to collect them. "There are almost no plants; they've all been dug up," says Azizmamadov. The depletion of supplies could lead to permanent ecological damage and conflicts over grazing rights, observers warn. "The solar alternative releases pressure" on the local environment, he adds. "We hope this will reduce the amount of shrubs used" since the money saved can go towards cooking fuels. With solar electricity, locals can burn fewer shrubs while also moderating their need to purchase such expensive fuels as diesel and kerosene. Nevertheless, the solar power is too weak to heat homes or supplant cooking fuels such as dung - helpful for soil regeneration - plants and coal. The plundering of the fauna continues, prompting one elder to grieve: "No grass remains. There is no food for the yaks." (by David Trilling)

From http://www.eurasianet.org 10/01/2009

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TURKMENISTAN: Ashgabat Energy-Reserve Controversy Continues to Flare

Are Turkmenistan's energy reserve figures fudged or not? Just over a week after allegations first surfaced that the Turkmen government's claims are grossly hyped, the controversy over Ashgabat's export capacity is still flaring. Representatives of the firm that conducted the original audit are vigorously defending their reputation for thoroughness. Meanwhile, a whistleblower says he remains confident in the accuracy of his sources' information. The results of an audit performed by the British energy consultancy firm Gaffney Cline & Associates, released just over a year ago, concluded that the South Yolotan-Osman natural gas field contains between 4 trillion and 14 trillion cubic meters (TCM) of gas. The most likely total is around 6/tcm. Such volumes would make the field one of the world's largest and enable Turkmenistan to increase its annual production capacity by 70 billion cubic meters per year, roughly double the current level.

On October 12, two separate sources - Russian journalist Arkady Dubnov, writing for the Russian newspaper Vremya Novostei, and a Germany-based non-governmental organization called the Eurasian Transition Group (ETG) - alleged that the Turkmen government misled the independent auditors by providing them with inaccurate, hyped data. The end result was that Turkmenistan's actual reserves are probably far lower than the estimate contained in the 2008 Gaffney Cline report. In an email exchange conducted with a EurasiaNet correspondent, Jim Gillet, a top Gaffney Cline representative, explained that the thoroughness of an audit depends on the quality of the data provided. He steadfastly defended Gaffney Cline's reputation for auditing expertise, insisting that the comprehensive nature of its auditing methods would make fraud very difficult to perpetrate. "There is a very considerable volume of data to be assessed on a project of this nature. This data [comes] in a wide range of types and from a range of sources," Gillet explained. "Therefore, in practical terms, it would be impossible to falsify it all [in a way] such that it could still appear to be coherent and could mislead an expert team. This is why companies like [Gaffney Cline] are used by organizations, such as stock exchanges and banks, to provide independent and expert opinion on such issues."

Meanwhile, Dubnov, when reached by a EurasiaNet correspondent, vigorously defended the integrity of his sources. He stressed that it was the impression of his sources that Gaffney Cline was not involved in hyping the reserve figure. The British firm, Dubnov emphasized, "submitted results that are based on [misleading] data submitted by the Turkmen side." The origin of the energy-reserves controversy can be traced back to a point when several Western energy companies purchased official Turkmen government technical data in order to complete tenders to develop gas deposits. "Some experts from Western companies could not believe the data they were provided by Turkmen officials," according to ETG. The controversy burgeoned until it came to the attention of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. Dubnov suggested that a wide-scale purge of Turkmenistan's energy-sector leadership, the news of which emerged in mid-October, was Berdymukhamedov's way of handling the problem. But the purge apparently wasn't enough to keep the energy-reserves question out of the public spotlight. Not all experts are quick to buy into the allegations of hyped reserves. Igor Ivakhnenko, a specialist on Caspian Basin affairs for the RusEnergy newsletter, believes Moscow may be rumor-mongering for geopolitical purposes. The Turkmen government and the Kremlin-controlled conglomerate Gazprom remain locked in a pricing dispute, he noted. The Russian government, therefore, has an incentive to undermine Ashgabat's credibility by spreading disinformation that would discourage prospective international competitors from doing business with Turkmenistan, thereby enhancing Gazprom's ability to obtain the volume of exports from Turkmenistan that it wants, at a price that the firm could dictate.

Ivakhnenko characterized the Vremya Novostei and ETG reports as "speculation." The allegations are designed to "discredit the idea that Turkmenistan can export its gas" to multiple partners, Ivakhnenko said, adding that Moscow is especially eager to foster the impression that Ashgabat, after fulfilling existing export commitments to Russia and China, would not have enough left over to make a substantial contribution to a proposed trans-Caspian export route. He also expressed doubt that Gaffney Cline would ever go along with a scheme to inflate reserve totals. The firm has a vested interest in protecting an image for accuracy. "The audit firm would totally ruin its reputation by playing this kind of game, or by being incautious with [suspect] data provided by Turkmen [leadership]," Ivakhnenko added. Michael Laubsch, the executive director of ETG, acknowledged that he could not verify beyond all reasonable doubt the information provided by the source for the NGO's report on Turkmen energy reserves. "Circles in Turkmenistan are so closed, that you never know," Laubsch said. "But this source in the past was mostly right with the information he gave us." (Regis Gente)

From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 10/21/2009

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AUSTRALIA: IT Connection for Low Income Households

More than 20,000 low income households across Australia now own their own personal computer thanks to Centrelink and not-for-profit organisation WorkVentures. The joint partnership provides low income Australian households with quality, internet-ready, refurbished PCs at an affordable price. Federal Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen MP, said the public is getting behind the low-cost PC initiative. "The response we're seeing to the low-cost PC offer from Centrelink customers is very pleasing," Mr Bowen said. "It's obvious that many people on low incomes want access to a computer, so I'm delighted that Centrelink customers are using the WorkVentures Connect IT program. This initiative makes information technology more accessible for these people as PCs can be delivered anywhere in Australia for just $290. "Having a PC with internet access at their disposal enables people such as retirees and families to enjoy the many advantages of doing their Centrelink business online." WorkVentures CEO Arsenio Alegre said the computer reuse program provides companies with a cost-efficient way to give a new lease of life to their used computers while giving a helping hand to financially disadvantaged families, individuals, schools and not-for-profit organisations. "The program also benefits the environment, as the life of the equipment is extended and waste is kept out of landfill." Recently, Minister Bowen presented Sydney resident Mrs Jennifer Arnold with a special gift to celebrate the delivery of the 20,000th low-cost PC. The Minister presented Mrs Arnold with a free PC that had been upgraded with the latest Microsoft software, Office 2007, extra RAM and a DVD burner. For more information on WorkVentures' Connect IT low-cost PC offer phone WorkVentures on 1800 11 22 05, visit www.workventures.com.au/connectit or pick up an information brochure/order form at your local Centrelink office.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 10/06/2009

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The Right Advice for Digital TV

As the full switchover to digital television in Mildura draws closer, a new scheme is set to help households get ready. The digital switchover retailer scheme will train electronics retailers to provide the right advice to people making the switch to digital TV. The scheme was launched by the Executive Director of the Government's Digital Switchover Taskforce, Andy Townend, in Mildura today. "For the vast majority of people, switching to digital television will be a relatively straightforward exercise," Mr Townend said. "We know people will have a range of questions about how to get ready and in a lot of cases, electronics retailers are in the best and most reliable position to answer." "It is therefore important that retail staff employed by retailers who participate in the Government's Quality Assurance Scheme become 'digital advisers." "Advisers will be assessed every 12 months so that the Taskforce can be assured that the information is up-to-date. The Taskforce will contact these advisers and their stores directly to pass on the latest information about their switchover area," Mr Townend said. Digital Advisers will wear an identification badge which includes the digital switchover logo, the adviser's name, expiry date of the training. Participating stores will be listed on the www.digitalready.gov.au web site. Mr Townend also launched the Antenna Installer Endorsement Scheme to provide further confidence for households in the Mildura/Sunraysia region switching to digital TV. Under the Scheme, experienced antenna installers register online to have their skills assessed against industry agreed minimum standards. "Consumers in Mildura can be confident that an endorsed installer has the necessary knowledge to provide them with a digital TV antenna solution," Mr Townend said. "The switch to digital TV in the Mildura/Sunraysia region is a historic moment in Australian television history and will ensure more people enjoy better picture quality and sound, new content and new channels."

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 10/14/2009

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Digital Age Challenges for Young People

The Minister for Youth, Kate Ellis, says a new report shows young people are making a vital contribution to Australia, but they're also facing new risks and challenges. Ms Ellis today released The State of Australia's Young People: a report on the social, economic, health and family lives of young people. "Most young people are well educated, have close relationships with their families and friends and contribute to society through study, work and volunteering," Ms Ellis said. "But the report also shows there are serious risks to their health, safety and wellbeing." Amongst the findings of the wide-ranging report:

Teenagers aged 15 - 19 have the highest hospitalisation rate for acute intoxication of all age groups and one in five 16-year-olds have used illicit drugs
One in three sexually active young people report experiencing unwanted sex
One in four young people are living with a mental illness
Almost a quarter of young people feel unsafe walking alone at night and young people are more likely to be the victim of a crime but less likely to report it
Nine out of ten 17-year-olds use a mobile phone
Nine out of ten families have an Internet connection.

The State of Australia's Young People shows that some young people are at greater risk of falling behind than others, particularly those who are Indigenous, from a low socio-economic background, aren't studying or working or have a disability.

The findings are based on national data sources, existing literature, interviews and focus groups with young people and people in the youth sector. "This report provides further evidence on which to base the work the Government is doing to improve the lives of young people," Ms Ellis said. "We're investing to solve many of the problems young people face with initiatives like our $125.8 million Cyber Safety Plan, the $35.6 million National Youth Mental Health Initiative Headspace and the $277 million Compact with Young Australians, which guarantees training places for every young person who wishes to up-skill. "We're also talking with young people through the Australian Youth Forum," she said. "Focusing on improving the lives of young Australians delivers great social, economic and community benefits and means a happier and healthier country into the future." The full report is available at www.youth.gov.au.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 10/22/2009

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NEW ZEALAND: Facilitating the Deployment of Broadband Infrastructure

Communications and Information Technology Minister Steven Joyce today released a discussion document on complementary measures the government is considering to facilitate the deployment of broadband infrastructure by local fibre companies and other telecommunications companies. "Access to ultra-fast and high-speed broadband is part of the essential infrastructure of a productive and growing economy, and will be crucial to New Zealand's improving its competitive advantage in the global market. "The government is considering a range of regulatory and non-regulatory measures that the government, local councils and industry groups could adopt to support the roll-out of both the government's recently announced initiative on ultra-fast broadband and the government's rural broadband strategy," says Mr Joyce. Submissions on measures relating to access to support structures and services, access to land and Resource Management Act controls should be made to the Ministry of Economic Development by 5.00pm, Friday 6 November 2009. The Ministry of Economic Development is also hosting workshops in Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland on the 12th, 14th and 16th of October respectively, to enable interested parties to better understand the issues addressed in the discussion document. Further information and the discussion document are available at: www.med.govt.nz/ facilitating-broadband.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 10/07/2009

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Organised Crime Threatens NZ Way of Life

Police Minister Judith Collins today declared war on organised crime, describing it as one of the biggest threats to the New Zealand way of life. Speaking to the New Zealand Police Association Annual Conference in Wellington, Ms Collins said organised crime was becoming embedded in society and police were being given new powers to stop it. "Traditional gang rivalries are being cast aside as they join forces to reap huge profits from the trade in methamphetamine and other criminal activity," Ms Collins said. "No longer do gangs exist as an assertion of identity, a support group for the disenfranchised or a reflection of their members' other interests in common. They are now large criminal businesses. They exist to make money. "Gangs have infiltrated businesses; turning legitimate enterprises into money laundering outlets. Their money has bought them a veneer of legitimacy that is far more dangerous to our society than anything we have seen before. "This threatens our way of life and must be stopped. We have to look at ways of preventing rivers of illegal money flowing into the bank accounts of organised crime. The time has come to put organised crime out of business." The Government has introduced a raft of new legislation giving police the power to "hit the gangs where it hurts". One of the most powerful new tools in the police toolbox will be the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act which allows police to find and forfeit gangs' ill-gotten gains. "We're not just going to take away their profits. We're going to use those profits against them," Ms Collins said. "Recovered proceeds of crime that are returned to the Crown will be used to fund anti-methamphetamine initiatives. "The message to gangs should be clear: This government is coming after your business and will use every tool we have to destroy it."

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 10/15/2009

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ADB President Urges Asia to Support Efforts to Reform Global Financial System

SEOUL, REPUBLIC OF KOREA - Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Haruhiko Kuroda today urged Asian countries to actively and collectively participate in international efforts to reform the global financial architecture. "It is critically important that Asia actively participates and takes its rightful place at all levels of governance - to ensure the new financial architecture matches the needs of globalized finance with the region's financial development agenda," said Mr. Kuroda, at a high-level international conference hosted by ADB together with the Korean Financial Services Commission and Ministry of Strategy and Finance. The two-day conference "Global Crisis Response: Financial Policy Response and Lessons from the Crisis" aims to draw lessons from the global financial crisis and help Asian policymakers tackle the challenges of safeguarding financial stability. Mr. Kuroda's statement came a few days after the G20 leaders vowed to get tough on financial regulation, and agreed to redouble efforts to prevent future crises. "We must work together to put these ambitious declarations into action ... We need to link Asia's regulatory systems to the reformed global architecture," said Mr. Kuroda.

A new framework should include appropriate changes in governance that reflect the increased influence of emerging economies, he said. Mr. Kuroda noted that Asian authorities need to design an effective and coherent framework for cross-border crisis management and contribute to the international regulatory and surveillance system. The ADB President also reiterated ADB's call for the establishment of an Asian Financial Stability Dialogue that would bring together central bank governors, finance ministers, and market regulators to coordinate regulatory development, promote financial stability and better articulate joint positions in international gatherings such as the G20. Mr. Kuroda added that Asia needs to play a major role in helping correct global macroeconomic and structural imbalances. "In particular, Asian countries need to rebalance sources of growth by promoting greater domestic and regional demand and reducing reliance on external markets. And this must be done collectively," he said.

From http://www.adb.org/ 09/30/2009

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U.N. Urges Asia to Spend More on Disaster Preparedness

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Governments in Asia's most catastrophe-prone areas should set aside one-tenth of their development funds to limit the risk of disaster, especially given the impact of climate change, a U.N. official said on Thursday. The world spent $12 billion on humanitarian responses to disasters last year, and 99 percent of those killed by natural phenomena were in the Asia Pacific region, said John Holmes, the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, during a visit to Jakarta. "A 10 percent figure of what you are spending on response or even on development should go into disaster risk reduction because that is a good investment," he said. Holmes toured West Sumatra on Wednesday, visiting areas where a magnitude 7.6 quake in late September triggered landslides, killed more than 1,000 people and destroyed more than 130,000 homes.

Before visiting Indonesia, Holmes had stopped in Manila, which was been badly hit by tropical storms recently. Holmes said that the Indonesian and international response to the earthquake in Padang, West Sumatra, was one of the more successful he had seen, but that building codes needed to be enforced to minimise the impact of the next natural disaster. "All development measures should have disaster risk reduction measures built into them," he said, adding that disaster risk reduction should also be built into discussions on a world climate pact that will take place in Copenhagen in December. "That also has to be part of the wider Copenhagen discussions and negotiations in December in order to ensure that not only do we focus on reducing emissions to tackle climate change at its source but also to make sure we are focusing on the adaptation side," he said.

"In other words, helping developing countries cope with the effects of climate change which are with us right now and disaster risk reduction is very much a part of that." Indonesia, which sits on one of the world's most active seismic fault lines, has several active volcanoes and is prone to earthquakes and heavy flooding. In December 2004, a magnitude 9.15 quake off the coast of Indonesia's Aceh province triggered an Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 230,000 people in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India, with around 170,000 killed in Indonesia's Aceh alone. A recent tsunami in Samoa also caused widespread destruction.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 10/16/2009

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CHINA: Revenues of Listed Firms Make Up 37.67% of 2008 National GDP

Revenues of China's listed firms on the Shanghai and Shenzhen bourses reached 11.3 trillion yuan (1.65 trillion U.S. dollars) in 2008, accounting for 37.67 percent of the country's total GDP in the same year, according to China's securities authorities. The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) said profits of the firms stood at 1.07 trillion yuan in 2008, making up 36.31 percent of the profits of all Chinese enterprises each with annual sales of over 5 million yuan. By the end of 2008, China had 1,625 firms listed on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges, with the total assets valued at 48.7 trillion yuan, according to the CSRC. By September this year, there were 1,678 firms listed on the two bourses. And China had lauched the Growth Enterprise Market (GEM), a Nasdaq-style market, as ten firms took subscriptions on Sept. 25. China set up its first stock market, the Shanghai Stock Exchange, in December 1990.

From Xinhua News Agency 10/04/2009

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China's New Loans to Hit 1.8 Trln Yuan

Monthly new yuan-dominated loans over the next four month were expected to reach 450 billion yuan (65.9 billion U.S. dollars), a report from Galaxy Securities said Wednesday. The report forecast that mid-to-long term new lending would see a steady increase fueled by a continuing rise in the urban fixed-asset investment this year. Data from the National Bureau of Statistic showed fixed-asset investment in China's urban areas rose 33 percent in the first eight months of 2009 from a year earlier to 11.3 trillion yuan. The fourth batch of project investment, part of the country's 4 trillion yuan stimulus package announced last November, is expected to be allocated in the fourth quarter, which will require more credit for the real economy to expand, according to the Galaxy Securities report. New loans in the first eight months stood at 8.15 trillion yuan, far exceeding the full-year target of five trillion yuan, according to he People's Bank of China, the central bank. The report also said the whole year new lending would top 10 trillion yuan, which was in line with forecasts from the country's several major financial institutions including Bank of Communications and the CITIC Securities.

From Xinhua News Agency 10/08/2009

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ADB Supports PRC's Push to Reform Rural Finance, Cut Income Gap with Cities

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will support the People's Republic of China's (PRC) drive to develop modern, effective rural financial services that help address the growing income gap between cities and the countryside. ADB will extend a technical assistance grant of $500,000 to improve the central bank's statistical system regarding rural finance, and to help the government formulate policies that will lead to the development of an inclusive, market-oriented rural finance system. The PRC has long channeled public support into rural finance services. However, past measures have seen mixed results. A major drawback was the imposition of a government driven 'top down' approach which failed to improve institutional behavior or encourage the development of innovative new products. Policymakers and People's Bank of China (PBC, the central bank) have also lacked detailed statistics, enabling them to respond effectively to the rural sector's needs. "One of the components of the technical assistance is to support the establishment of a statistical system at PBC for the proper monitoring of rural financial flows for policy-support purposes," said Ying Qian, Principal Financial Sector Economist for ADB's East Asia Department. He added that the current system only covers bank loans and in future it may be desirable to include data on deposits, remittances, and other forms of agricultural finance, including those from the informal market. The project will research different rural financial services that could help government agencies develop policies combining a 'top down' approach with 'bottom up' innovations from communities. It will also look at how the gender-bias of current services could be improved to make them more sensitive to the needs of women. In 2007 the country's urban-rural income ratio increased to 3.33 to 1, its biggest gap since 1978, and the government is now focused on policy actions aimed at reducing that divide. The Government is providing $200,000 equivalent for the project, which is slated to run from October 2009 to October 2010. PBC will be the executing agency.

From http://www.adb.org/ 10/09/2009

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China Raises Foreign Fund Limits to One Bln Dlrs

China's foreign exchange regulator said it had raised the limits on securities investment by foreign institutions to one billion dollars from 800 million dollars starting Monday. The rules, which govern the Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor, or QFII programme, were published on the State Administration of Foreign Exchange website over the weekend. The QFII programme, launched in 2003, is the main way for foreign institutions to invest in yuan-denominated equities in China, where the authorities keep strict control over capital flows. The new rules are aimed at "attracting mid- and long-term investments," the foreign exchange watchdog said. The agency also slashed the lockup period on investments made by qualified foreign pension funds, insurance companies, and mutual funds down to three months from one year previously. China agreed in talks with the United States in late 2007 to raise the QFII ceiling for the combined quotas to 30 billion dollars from 10 billion dollars, but total approvals so far were about half that amount at 15 billion.

From http://news.yahoo.com/ 10/11/2009

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China to Allow Firms in Partnerships to Invest in Local Stocks

China's securities regulator plans to allow domestic companies formed under partnerships to invest in stocks to boost participation in the nation's equity market. Such companies, mainly venture capital firms and private equity funds, can open trading accounts under a draft rule proposed by the China Securities Regulatory Commission, according to a statement posted on the regulator's Web site yesterday. China currently allows individuals, locally incorporated companies, and some qualified foreign institutional investors to buy stocks. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell 6.1 percent in the third quarter, the worst performance among the largest emerging markets. The nation's $300 billion sovereign wealth fund said this week it will continue increasing its stakes in the nation's three-biggest lenders.

From http://www.bloomberg.com/ 10/14/2009

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VC Companies Gain More Freedom

China's securities watchdog yesterday said that venture capital (VC) companies under partnership could be allowed to become shareholders of listed companies. It is a long-awaited move to encourage VCs to bolster domestic companies' listings on the mainland. The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) said it would modify the regulations on measures for the administration of securities registration and clearing, which would enlarge the scope for investors. Under the new rule, companies under partnership could open trading accounts to sell shares on the open market. "The new measures could lift the legal barriers for VC firms under partnership to invest in companies that are to be listed. It's expected to boost the healthy development of private equity (PE) firms as well as the NASDAQ-style Growth Enterprise Board (GEB)," an official with the CSRC said at a media conference yesterday. Previously, only individuals and specifically qualified companies could open trading accounts. "This new provision in the CSRC consultation draft is good news for partnerships and non-legal VC and PE firms. The new rules will remove this uncertainty in their pre-IPO investments and will enable their exit from those companies upon their listing on the GEB," said Hubert Tse of Yuan Tai PRC Attorneys, who advised DBS Private Equity on its $100 million onshore renminbi fund formation. Latest figures show that 28 companies have been given the green light to list on the GEB. Among them, 23 are backed by VC or PE companies. "With the new regulations, we could expect more VC companies under partnership to grow rapidly and help the industry integrate into the global market," said Gavin Ni, founder and CEO of Zero2IPO According to Ni, globally, about 90 percent of VC companies are established in the form of partnerships.

From China Daily 10/14/2009

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China to Allow ICBC, CCB to Invest in Taiwan Banks

Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. and China Construction Bank Corp. are likely to get the go ahead from Chinese authorities to invest in Taiwanese banks, potentially taking stakes of up to 20%, according to a Taiwanese media report Thursday. No date was indicated when Chinese authorities would approve the investments, according the Commercial Times report, which cited unnamed mainland Chinese authorities as sources. The report said the investment rules were being liberalized at a time when Chinese companies were seeking to increase their exposure to Taiwanese assets. Before investment flows can begin, the two sides will need to work out agreements on cross-straits financial supervision and define to what extent they will open their financial-services sectors to each other, Dow Jones Newswires reported Friday.

From http://www.marketwatch.com/ 10/16/2009

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Big 5 Banks Face Stricter Rules

China's banking regulator has asked the country's big five state-owned banks to increase provision against bad loans and to maintain their capital base after they extended a record amount of new yuan loans in the first nine months of this year. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the Bank of China, China Construction Bank, the Agricultural Bank of China and the Bank of Communications must raise their bad loan coverage ratio to above 150 percent by the end of this year, the China Banking Regulatory Commission said in a statement on its Website on Friday, quoting Vice Chairman Jiang Dingzhi. In January, the CBRC imposed a 130-percent requirement on banks. Chinese banks extended a record 8.67 trillion yuan (US$1.27 trillion) of new yuan loans between January and September, a 150-percent surge from a year ago. The amount of loans granted has already surpassed the 5-trillion-yuan target for this year. "China's expansionary fiscal policies are causing growing concerns that banks are over-lending to risky projects, industries with overcapacity, and for investments in shares and real estate," said Yvonne Zhang, Moody's Investors Service's senior analyst. The outstanding loans at the big five banks contributed to 47.4 percent of the country's total at the end of last month. The increase in credit has, however, stabilized since July with an average growth of 200 billion yuan in the combined monthly new yuan loans. The latest requirement from the CBRC followed other moves. For example, it said early last month that it has curbed some joint stock banks from granting new loans as their capital adequacy ratio fell close to the regulatory minimum of 8 percent. Last year, China raised the minimum ratio for public banks to 10 percent from 8 percent. The ratio will go up to 12 percent at the end of this year. The outstanding non-performing loans fell to 520.8 billion at the end of June, down 42.7 billion yuan from the end of last year.

From Shanghai Daily 10/17/2009

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China's Banking Regulator Urges Reasonable Pace of Lending

China's banking regulator urged a "scientific and reasonable" pace of lending by big banks in the country while warning them to improve risk management, a notice posted Friday on the agency's Website said. The country's five major banks, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Agricultural Bank of China, and Bank of Communications, took 47 percent share of the total bank loans in the country during the first three quarters this year, China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) said in the notice. The five banks have also maintained a steady credit line of less than 200 billion yuan (29 billion U.S. dollars) in monthly new lending during the third quarter, according to CBRC. Jiang Dingzhi, CBRC vice chairman, called on those banks to improve risk management over lending so as to ensure the stability of the banking sector. The agency requires those banks to raise their provision coverage ratio to at least 150 percent within the year. It also puts tighter restrictions in bank lending to businesses in industries with overcapacity problems. China's new yuan-denominated loans in the first eight months reached 8.15 trillion yuan, 5.04 trillion yuan more than the same period of last year.

From http://english.people.com.cn/ 10/17/2009

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China to Scrutinize State-owned Firms' Hedging Deals

China's state-owned firms looking to hedge their losses from rising crude oil prices will be supervised more stringently, China Daily reported Wednesday. The State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) has required companies under its control to scrutinize hedging deals more closely while signing financial derivatives contracts. The move follows rising book losses from hedging contracts suffered by such state-owned firms as China Eastern Airlines and Air China, who have only recently begun to narrow down such losses-on-paper from former hedging deals. SASAC tightened the rules during a recent budget meeting convened by state-owned enterprises. The futures trading volume should not exceed 90 percent of the spot volume. The percentage for those who are inexperienced in such trades or those who have reported significant losses previously will be no higher than 50, the newspaper said, citing Shen Ying, director-general of the SASAC Statistics Evaluation Bureau. SASAC also clarified that it would defend the legal interests of hedging firms through negotiations with investment institutions in case there are misleading clauses in previously signed deals.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 10/21/2009

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China Launches Nasdaq-style Market to Spur Small Businesses


China held a launching ceremony Friday for its Nasdaq-style market, ChiNext, in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province. The first batch of 28 selected firms will make their debut on Oct. 30 on the Shenzhen-based exchange. The growth enterprise market (GEM) will boost start-ups of high technology and high growth, said Shang Fulin, chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, at the launching ceremony. It could help channel social resources to competitive new-born sectors and innovative enterprises, Shang said. Zuo Xiaolei, chief economist with the Galaxy Securities, told Xinhua that the launch of ChiNext is a historic event in China's capital market and it defines the multi-layer development pattern of the country's capital market. "It helps connect China's innovation-oriented companies with the country's innovation growth strategy and will definitely bring influences to China's innovation economy," she said. It took ten years for China to go from mulling the idea of setting up the new board to finally launching it. The market is aimed at helping small and medium-sized Chinese enterprises that have been struggling to raise funds. He Chengying, General Manager of the Development Research Department with Guosen Securities, said ChiNext improves channels for small business of high growth and high creativity to raise funds.

"It's especially necessary to help the small and medium-sized enterprises to raise funds after the global financial crisis. The time is ripe to launch the new board," He said. He said high growth was the advantage of the exchange, as was better than the main board. "Whether a growth enterprise market could succeed has much to do with its indigenous culture. The Nasdaq's success has a lot to do with the United States' immigration culture full of innovation," He said. "China chose Shenzhen as the GEM's base. The city also boasts immigration culture full of innovation spirit," He said. Since the 1970s, the GEMs have been an effective way for various countries to support start-ups. A total of 75 GEMs showed up in the world, but only about 40 survived and are active. "The GEM poses relatively more risks than the main board as the GEM serves enterprises of innovation and growth," Shang said at the launching ceremony. He Chengying urged the regulator to tighten monitoring and check speculation to protect small investors' interests. "Many of the companies are oversubscribed," He said. IPO launches in China have often seen steep price hikes followed by even steeper falls as investors snapped quick profits. The launch of the new board will not affect the main board as the enterprises are small and the fund-raising volumes are relatively small too, He said.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 10/23/2009

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JAPAN: Analysis / Axing Projects Will Hurt Economy / Cutting 3 Trillion Yen in 'Wasteful' Spending Could Trigger New Recession

With the acceptance of revised supplementary budget requests by ministries and agencies for the current fiscal year having closed Friday, the government has turned its attention to implementing a key policy of cutting as much wasteful spending as possible. The government has not announced which projects will be halted or by how much spending will be cut, but it likely will halt projects worth a combined 3 trillion yen. It is feared that this envisioned downsizing of ministries' budgets will slow economic recovery, which has been promoted by the previous government's stimulus package. Some observers have warned the nation might once again fall into a recession under the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. If the 3 trillion yen portion of the supplementary budget were not reallocated, it would push down the nation's gross domestic product for fiscal 2009 by 0.4 percent, according to an estimate by the Financial and Economic Research Center of Nomura Securities Co. As the effect could be expected to be concentrated in a six-month period from October to March, it would have a big impact on the economy.

Many analysts maintain that the economy will enter a period of uncertainty in the latter half of the current fiscal year, if part of the supplementary budget is not implemented. They predict the combined economic effects of the fixed-amount benefits that have been provided to individuals, the eco-point system - under which coupons are issued for purchases of eco-friendly household electrical appliances - and tax incentives for buyers of eco-friendly cars, will not be strongly felt during that period. Takahide Kiuchi of the Nomura research center expressed pessimism, saying: "In addition to the drop in personal consumption and output, the higher yen is expected to adversely affect exports. If the implementation of part of the supplementary budget is halted under such circumstances, it could send the national economy into a tailspin." The government is reviewing the supplementary budget to secure fiscal resources for its featured policy of providing child allowances as part of the fiscal 2010 budget.

Ryutaro Kono, chief economist at BNP Paribas Securities in Tokyo, ruled out "the possibility of an adverse [economic] effect if the government explains how it will use the budgets [of projects] whose implementation has been halted." But even if the government does explain how it will carry out its featured policies in fiscal 2010 and the years after that, the details of the projects that will see funds reallocated to them and the fiscal resources each will be allocated have yet to be worked out. If the projects do not progress as scheduled and policy implementation is delayed, the adverse effects of halting the implementation of the budget would be magnified. The government wants to eliminate as much waste as possible from budgetary appropriations, but freezing a huge amount of spending would hurt the economy. To successfully address this dilemma, Yasuo Yamamoto of the Mizuho Research Institute said: "A review [of the supplementary budget] should be conducted based on how necessary projects are. There's no need to stick to a set amount to be cut. If budget cuts are forced through, it could adversely affect peoples' livelihoods."

In reexamining the extra budget, the government has chosen not to halt projects if peoples' livelihoods would be directly affected, but to instead secure the necessary funding. This is evident from the fact that most of projects subjected to review were related to facilities and goods, such as the construction of a national media and art center - which was ridiculed as "a state-run manga cafe" - installation of solar panels at diplomatic missions, and the replacement of police vans with eco-friendly models. Mizuho Fukushima, state minister in charge of consumer affairs, oversees few projects that could be subject to a budget cut, said Kenta Izumi, a parliamentary secretary of the Cabinet Office for administrative reform, because most of the projects are closely tied to peoples' livelihoods.

FY10 budget hard to compile - In order to raise the 7.1 trillion yen needed to carry out its eye-catching policies, the government will launch a full-scale effort to compile the fiscal 2010 budget following its review of the supplementary budget for the current fiscal year ending March 31. Observers have pointed out that the government will find the compilation of the fiscal 2010 budget more difficult than its review of the extra budget for fiscal 2009. This is because, in addition to the 2010 budget being much larger, the compilation will be carried out under the government's newly introduced rules that have removed caps on budgetary requests by government offices. The ministries and agencies will submit their budgetary requests for fiscal 2010 by Oct. 15. The requests will be scrutinized primarily by the Administrative Reform Council led by Prime Minister Hatoyama. In addition to the abolition of the ceiling on budgetary requests, no call for restraint has been made, such as pushing for the "curtailing public works spending by 3 percent from the previous fiscal year" as was made under the previous administration.

In order for the government to be able to pay child allowances and make high school education free, it must slash other budgets. But in many fields, including social security, it is difficult to make sufficient cuts. The Administrative Reform Council is key to ensuring the cuts are made. The council has said it may introduce "the same method to scrutinize projects" as has been adopted by Japan Initiative, an independent and nonprofit organization that makes policy suggestions, and make its screening process transparent. Japan Initiative chief Hideki Kato will be appointed chief of the council's secretariat. Speaking at a news conference Friday, Kato expressed his willingness to make the budget compiling process transparent. "It'll be impossible to please everyone during the review process," he said. "So it's important to review the projects in a transparent manner."

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 10/06/2009

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Japan's Foreign Reserves Rise to Record in September

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's foreign reserves rose to a record high $1.053 trillion at the end of September, the Ministry of Finance said on Wednesday. Market players are keeping a close watch on the new ruling party's stance on foreign reserves management as some lawmakers from the Democratic Party, which took control of the government on Sept. 16, have called for more active management of dollar assets in Japan's reserves, such as taking more credit risks.

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

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Gov't Budget Requests for Fiscal 2010 to Hit Record

TOKYO - The total amount of money central government offices want to secure in the state general-account budget for fiscal 2010 is likely to reach an all-time high of above 90 trillion yen, despite the Democratic Party of Japan's efforts to trim wasteful spending, ruling party lawmakers said Wednesday. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano told a news conference that the government may need to enlarge the budget for the year starting in April, depending on economic and employment conditions. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has asked ministries and agencies to submit their budgetary requests by Thursday. Hatoyama has instructed central government offices to ask for less money than the previous year. The initial budget for fiscal 2009 stood at 88.55 trillion yen.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 10/15/2009

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Bank of Japan Positive on Economy But Cautious on Domestic Market

TOKYO (Xinhua) - The Bank of Japan (BOJ) said Thursday that the Japanese economy "has started to pick up". In its Monthly Report of Recent Economic and Financial Developments released on Thursday, the central bank said that with public investment, exports and production all on the increase there were signs that economic recovery was on the way. It did sound a note of caution, however, noting that private consumption and housing investment remain weak, saying this shows "Japan's economic conditions are likely to improve gradually." The bank mainly saw positives in general improvements in the global economy, saying that it expected to see exports and production to continue rising as economic conditions improved overseas. On the domestic front, however, the BOJ said that it did not see many signs of improvement.

"With the exception of durable goods consumption, which is expected to remain firm for the time being mainly due to the effects of various measures, domestic private demand as a whole is likely to remain relatively weak with corporate profits and the employment and income situation remaining severe," the report said. On Wednesday the BOJ surprised market watchers when after a two-day policy meeting it failed to mention any reduction of stimulus measures put in place to try to reinvigorate the Japanese economy. The bank also commented on the effect of the price of petroleum products, which have declined dramatically over the last year. It said that once the price of petroleum has stabilized year-on-year, it expects prices for domestic corporate goods on the whole to stop declining, as companies at the same time adapt to the low demand for goods in the current economic conditions. The report also noted that Japanese companies are now borrowing less money as many have managed over the last few months to return to liquidity. "In these circumstances, firms' financial positions, although many firms, mainly small ones, still see them as weak, have continued to improve as a whole," it said.

The report comes on the back of two months of generally positive data on the Japanese economy and business sentiment across the nation. While year-on-year data has continued to show that conditions are much worse than they were in the early days of the crisis that followed the U.S. credit crunch, most statistics show prices, production and consumption have generally stabilized or are showing small improvements. The report is likely to be welcomed by markets, which were boosted Thursday after the Dow Jones Industrial Average in the United States broke through the 10,000-point barrier for the first time in around a year on Wednesday on the back of better than expected results for JP Morgan Chase in the July to September quarter. The report will be a cause for concern for the Democratic Party of Japan, however, which has said it hoped Japan to become a two-tier economy, in which domestic demand plays as big a part as exports. In its election manifesto it stated that it aims to "change the Japanese economy into one centered on domestic demand."

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 10/16/2009

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Japan Govt Freezes Spending of 33 Bln Dollars

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan's government announced Friday it would freeze spending of about 33 billion dollars from the previous administration's extra budget as part of its war on waste in the public sector. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's cabinet approved the suspension of spending of about 2.93 trillion yen (33 billion dollars), out of a supplementary budget of 14.7 trillion yen for the year to March 2010. The cuts were just short of the government's target of three trillion yen. Former premier Taro Aso pushed the extra budget through parliament in May to fund his economic stimulus measures. The savings were "unprecedented," said Hatoyama, whose Democratic Party took power last month, ending more than half a century of almost unbroken conservative rule. "In a way, this is the start of new politics," he said. Hatoyama's centre-left government plans to use the money to fund its campaign promises, such as expanded childcare allowances, an end to expressway tolls and free public high school tuition fees. It has scrapped some projects including a planned national media arts centre aimed at promoting manga cartoons and animated films, as well as an expansion of highways and public housing development programmes. The Hatoyama government will continue to try to cut waste, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano. Hatoyama has "instructed the ministers to conduct thorough spending cuts in drafting (the next year's) budget," Hirano told a regular press conference.

From http://news.yahoo.com/ 10/16/2009

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Japan May Hit Record for Bond Issues: Report

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) - Faced with the prospect of a 6 trillion yen ($66 billion) tax-revenue shortfall, Japan may be forced to bring its balance of new bond issues to 50 trillion yen for the first time ever, according to a report Tuesday. Newly appointed Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii indicated the possibility for the fresh bond issues, the Nikkei business daily reported, quoting Fujii as saying tax revenue for fiscal 2009 is expected to fall well short of the original, 46.1 trillion estimate, and "could even be a little worse." Current bond issuances stand at 44 trillion yen, the report said. Plans for additional issuances are expected to be included in a bill for a second fiscal 2009 supplementary budget. A drop in tax revenue below 40 trillion yen would the first since fiscal 1985, according to the report. And the proposed issuance of new bonds in excess of tax revenue for fiscal 2009 would be the first since fiscal 1946, the report said. Fujii said that bond issuances for fiscal 2010 will be capped at 44 trillion yen, according to the Nikkei.

From http://www.marketwatch.com/ 10/19/2009

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Gov't to Compile Multi-Year Budgets from FY 2011

TOKYO - A government committee on the state budget compiled a report Monday aimed at formulating multi-year budgets from fiscal 2011 by creating a midterm fiscal framework giving an overall picture of expenditures and revenues in fiscal 2011-2013. The government aims to have the report, compiled by the committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for National Policy Naoto Kan, approved by the cabinet by the end of this week.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 10/20/2009

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NORTH KOREA: Received Us$2.3 Billion Through Past Nuke Agreements - Lawmaker

SEOUL (Yonhap) - North Korea has received some 2.7 trillion won (US$2.29 billion) from South Korea and international partners since 1994 in return for false promises to scrap its nuclear program, according to a lawmaker on Monday. For the Geneva Framework Agreement reached in 1994, the North received $1.98 billion worth of support from South Korea, the U.S., Japan and the European Union, which was mostly used in building light-water reactors, Rep. Kwon Young-se of the ruling Grand National Party said, citing a report submitted by the foreign ministry. (by Tony Chang)

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/ 10/05/2009

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SOUTH KOREA: Budget for Space Technology R&D to Increase

The government will invest just over W100 billion in space technology development next year (US$1=W1,176). According to the Finance Ministry, the 2010 budget is a 40 percent increase from last year and the first time the government has allocated such a large sum for R&D in this sector. The budget for space technology development has been growing for three consecutive years, and finance officials say the increase is to strengthen the foundation for the development of Korean-made space launch vehicles and satellites.

From Arirang News 10/05/2009

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Stronger Won to Hurt Korean Companies Next Year

The surge in the Korean won's value could hinder the performances of Korean companies next year, especially if the won-dollar rate falls to the 1,100 level, a Dong-A Ilbo-commissioned study said yesterday. In developing next year's business plans, major domestic companies are agonizing over the won's surging value and its negative effects on key performance indicators such as revenues and operating profits. Many experts say export-dependent companies will be hit hard if the won rises to 1,100 to the dollar. Dong-A commissioned Samsung Securities analysts in each industry to forecast next year's performance for 80 major Korean companies, including Samsung Electronics, the Hyundai Kia Automotive Group, LG Electronics, POSCO and Hyundai Heavy Industries, based on a won-dollar rate of 1,130 won.

Their study indicated drops of 2.8 percent in revenue, 10 percent in operating profit, and 4.8 percent in net profit on average from existing forecasts. The rate of 1,130 was the average forecast for next year by Samsung Economic Research Institute. Dong-A had the Samsung Securities analysts lay out their performance forecasts for next year based on the 1,130 rate. The analysis was then compared with the performance forecasts of the 80 companies presented by Samsung Securities in August and last month. According to performance forecasts based on exchange rates ranging between 1,050 and 1,213 won (1,186 on average) to the dollar, projected revenues came to 533.3 trillion won (454 billion dollars); operating profits 41.7 trillion won (35 billion dollars); and net profits 40.1 trillion won (34 billion dollars).
In other words, key performance indicators of companies will deteriorate due to the rise in the won's value by 56 points (0.05 cents) on average.

Apart from the Samsung institute's forecast, major think tanks and companies mostly expect next year's won-dollar rate to be in the lower 1,100 range. This is expected to inevitably reduce the price competitiveness of Korean exporters. LG Economic Research Institute projects next year's won-dollar rate at 1,140, but the Samsung Group is using the more conservative projection of 1,100 in developing its business plan for next year. The effects of foreign exchange fluctuations are expected to vary by industry. While sectors such as metals, materials and pharmaceuticals will see relatively smaller drops in revenues, energy will see a fall of 4.8 percent, electronics 4.4 percent and chemicals 3.8 percent.

In profitability, key sectors for many major Korean companies such as semiconductors, electronics and cars will face tough times. Chip companies including Samsung Electronics and Hynix Semiconductor were expected to rake in operating profit of 12.46 trillion won (10 billion dollars) and net profit of 14.45 trillion won (12 billion dollars) next year. Those figures, however, are expected to drop to 8.97 trillion won (seven billion dollars), down 28.1 percent, and 12.46 trillion won (10 billion dollars), down 13.8 percent, respectively, if the won-dollar rate is 1,130.

A won-dollar rate of 1,130 will reduce the automotive sector's operating profits 21.4 percent and its net profits 15.3 percent. Lee Ki-bong, a senior manager at Samsung Securities, said, "The automotive and electronics sectors will suffer worsening price competitiveness due to a stronger won, and this will result in losses for Korean companies."

From http://english.donga.com/ 10/06/2009

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New Loans to Help Market Stallholders

For stallholders at Korea's traditional markets, it is not easy to apply for loans because their credit ratings are very low. During the Chuseok holidays in early October, there were many shopkeepers who couldn't fill their shops with groceries. In Korea, national holidays such as New Year's Day, Lunar New Year's Day and Chuseok are big chances for merchants to make money, because people who visit their hometowns during these times usually buy fruits, snacks or beverages for their relatives. The merchants couldn't fill up their stores since they did not have enough money to buy stock that customers were lining up to buy. Worse, they cannot borrow money from banks because they have poor credit ratings records. According to a survey of stallholders at traditional markets, conducted by the Small and Medium Business Administration in June, about 30 percent had debts amounting to over 10 million won.

A total of 224 merchants from the Seoul metropolitan area took part in the survey. About half had debts over 3 million won, and 15 people said they had fallen prey to loan sharks. These predatory lenders ask for high interest, which sometimes tops 136 percent per annum, but the merchants have no choice because they cannot take out a loan from banks in their neighborhood. To solve the problem, the government has expanded its microcredit loan service for sellers as of June 30. With the injection of 15 billion won in budget, the Microfinance Foundation (www.mif.or.kr) now helps the merchants to take out a loan at a much lower interest rate of 4 percent. In Seoul alone, a total of 24 traditional markets are benefiting from such a service now. "The market loan project not only supports the petty sellers' business but also helps activate traditional markets around the country," said Ju Hong-min, an official from the Financial Services Commission. (by James Ro)

From http://www.korea.net/ 10/21/2009

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INDONESIA: Govt Steps In to Settle Bad Debts of SOEs

The government has so far facilitated the restructuring of Rp 10 trillion (US$1.04 billion) of bad debt owed by state firms under the so-called investment account fund (RDI) and subsidiary loan agreement (SLA). These debts are part of the Rp 15 trillion worth of bad debts the Office of State Minister for State Enterprises have been trying to work out. "The debt restructuring is one of the Office's 14 priority programs. The debts belong to 26 state enterprises amounting to Rp 15 trillion, Rp 10 trillion of which has been settled or restructured," Secretary to the State Minister for State Enterprises Muhammad Said Didu told reporters on Friday evening. The Office has been facilitating the settlement of these debts following a recent warning from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to immediately sort out and settle the state enterprise debt mess as well as prevent state losses. The Rp 15 trillion of bad debts were part of Rp 49.79 trillion of loans under the government RDI and SLA schemes. Under these schemes, the government channeled loans, mostly derived from overseas creditors, to 85 state companies since 1971 as working capital, investment capital, and financing for state projects as instructed by government. However, only 41 state companies returned Rp 32.32 trillion of these debts, while 44 companies had some difficulties in servicing the remaining Rp 15.48 trillion. Commenting on the remaining Rp 5 trillion of bad debts, Said stated that the Office is finding it hard to help settle these, although it would continue to try to do so and has set a target to settle all the remaining debts by 2011.

According to Said, the remaining debts are owed by a group of companies which include financing companies PANN Multifinance, diversified group PT Rajawali Nusantara Indonesia (RNI) and shipyard company PT Dok Kodja Bahari, and PT Jakarta Lloyd. "RNI alone has Rp 2 trillion of unsettled debts," added Said. Previously, Said had stated that these state companies had failed to service the debts due partly to lack of feasibility studies in debt management, as well as to problems related to overlapping business and government functions, while the 1998 crisis had severely devalued the currency. At present, the country has 141 state firms. Last year, 114 SOEs booked a total profit of Rp 77.6 trillion while the remaining 27 SOE firms suffered Rp 13.8 trillion in losses. During the same year, the total dividend from state companies destined to state coffers reached Rp 29.1 trillion.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 10/05/2009

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Local Govts Allowed to Tax Fuels by 2011 Under New Law

Three years from now, fuel prices may vary at regional level due to the application of local fuel taxes, but the head of state may "intervene" to ensure that resulting variations in prices will not cause undue problems. The new law on regional tax and retribution states that there will be a regional tax on fuels, capped at 10 percent. Under the law, the government has been given a three-year period to determine the mechanisms to be used and to make preparations for the regions to impose such a tax. "Fuel tax will be imposed on buyers ... If there are problems the president may intervene," Budi Sitepu, Finance Ministry's director of regional tax and retribution, said in a discussion Friday evening. Budi was referring to the possibility that there could be massive price differences in fuels between one region and another that this might trigger smuggling when the differential taxes became effective. For example, if Jakarta imposes a 5 percent fuel tax on a liter of Premium gasoline, priced at Rp 4,500 (about 48 US cents), then the price will reach Rp 4,725; while if nearby Bekasi imposes a 10 percent tax, then the price will reach 4,950. The price difference may cause Jakartans to buy fuels in Bekasi. Therefore, he said, the President had the authority within these three years to ensure regions would be ready to implement the tax without causing any problems. "But after three years it will be the regional authority *to determine prices*. We thought there would not be any problem, but in the end to anticipate *any problems that may arise* there is this clause," said Budi. The fuel tax will be imposed on both subsidized and nonsubsidized fuels. At present, the government subsidizes Premium gasoline, diesel and kerosene. Outside of these distribution channels, several oil companies, including state oil and gas PT Pertamina, also sell nonsubsidized, high quality fuels

The new law on regional tax and retribution provides regions with greater authority to determine levies and extra discretion to determine the rate of such levies, but taking into account the benefits to their respective areas. Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said regions should take into consideration local economic conditions and the state of their industries when determining tax rates, to avoid negative impacts on the national economy. It is expected most of the new taxes and retributions will already be effective by 2011. With the new law, regional revenues will account for 24 percent of regional budgets, up from 19 percent this year, said Budi. Lawmaker Nursanita Nasution, who helped deliberate upon the law, said the government could punish regions imposing bad taxes and retributions that would be detrimental to the economy. "This provides some certainty," she said. The law also states that owners of motor vehicles must pay between 1 and 2 percent private vehicle tax. If the owner has another car, the tax will be between 2 and 10 percent for the second car. Owners of single two-wheeled and three-wheeled vehicles will only have to pay between 1 and 2 percent tax. The law was endorsed by the House of Representatives in August.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 10/12/2009

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PHILIPPINES: Treasury Gets P43-Million ADB Relief Fund

The Arroyo administration received yesterday a grant of $3 million from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Haruhiko Kuroda, ADB president, pledged the amount in a letter of condolence and sympathy to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo after typhoon Ondoy struck and killed hundreds and laid to waste properties worth billions of pesos in the National Capital Region and surrounding provinces. In that letter, Kuroda also said he was "deeply saddened by the tragic loss of lives, suffering and damage caused by floods as a result of heavy rains that suddenly and relentlessly hit Manila and nearby provinces over the past weekend." The ADB said the telegraphic transfer was sent directly to the Department of Finance International Finance Group, which in turn forwarded the cash to the Bureau of Treasury for disbursements to government agencies in charge of relief operations. "We are closely monitoring the situation and stand ready to assist the government of the Philippines," Kuroda said. ADB's emergency facility - the Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund disburses grants to cover the cost of restoring life-saving services following a disaster in the region. It coordinates its efforts assistance program with the United Nations to and the international community. (PND)

From http://www.gov.ph/ 10/06/2009

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PGMA Supports Government's Microfinance and Livelihood Programs

LUBAO, Pampanga (PND) - President Gloria-Arroyo today led the inauguration of the One Town One Product (OTOP) Trade Fair, Diskwento and Food Caravan in Barangay San Nicolas here. The event, designed to spur economic activity in Central Luzon, was jointly conducted by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Agriculture, and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). After cutting the ceremonial ribbon, President Arroyo toured the booths of trade participants showcasing products of the provinces of Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Bataan, and Bulacan. OTOP is a DTI program that supports micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to manufacture and market products using indigenous raw materials and local skills and talents. The President distributed checks from Small Business Guarantee and Finance Corp. to micro entrepreneurs in the province. She talked with loan beneficiary Marites Ramos, who transforms recyclable products into fashionable bags and pouches. Out of the P10,000 initial capital, Ramos made the business grow. She then availed of an additional P50,000 loan to further boost her capital and expand her business. To the farmers, the President awarded seeds, thresher, and tractor to further boost their income. She also briefly visited the Jobs Fair where hundreds of applicants lined up and the ongoing medical mission where residents were given free medical check-up and medicines. About 2,000 guests composed of entrepreneurs, trade shoppers, job seekers and locals availing of medical and dental services attended the event coinciding with the 99th birth anniversary of former President Diosdado Macapagal. Before gracing the trade fair, President Arroyo attended the 6 a.m. mass at Saint Augustine Church which was officiated by Father Nolasco Fernandez. She then had breakfast with the clergy together with some 985 barangay health workers of district two at the Church Open Court.

From http://www.gov.ph/ 10/14/2009

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RP Stronger Because of Fiscal Reforms, Prudent Banking Practices

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo this morning told local and international investors the Philippines remains one of the best investment destinations among the world's emerging markets. Speaking at the 2009 Philippine mid-year economic briefing at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel, the President traced the country's stronger and stable economy to fiscal reforms, prudent banking practices, and sound macroeconomic fundamentals. "Because of the bitter medicine of fiscal reform that we took years ago and the economic resilience that it has in turn created, we are today a stronger, more robust nation. We are poised to ride the wave of the impending global economic rebound and to offer investors an opportunity to capture the growth prospects that come with it," the President said. With strong Investor appetite for Asian equities, the Philippine Stock Exchange posted a 48 percent rise and foreign direct investment (FDI) saw a double digit increase so far this year. The President said much have been achieved in the areas of infrastructure investment, job creation and macroeconomic stability that have helped the Philippines withstand external shocks and even sustain positive economic growth throughout the global recession. The Philippines is one of only three countries in the Far East which continues to post positive growth. She said international rating agencies such as Moody's Investors Service and multilateral financing institutions (MFIs) such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) have also maintained their positive outlook on the country's economic growth for this year and 2010. The President, however, cautioned much remains to be done to build a strong middle-class and ensure the country's long-term economic prosperity. "Our goal is to reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio (or the country's ability to settle its debts) so we can stop wasting our resources on debt servicing, and to maintain higher spending for infrastructure and human capital as we have done before and during the global food, economic, and now climate change crisis. Having the ability to invest is a gift that we must not squander. Having money to provide a safety net to our poor, invest in our children's future, and lay the groundwork for long term prosperity must be sustained in the years to come," she said.

The President stressed her administration has laid the groundwork that generated the country's fastest growth in 30 years; created 8 million jobs; and the highest level of revenues in decades. The President said the Philippines has become one of the world's most competitive locations for business process outsourcing (BPO), an industry that today employs over 400,000 workers compared to only 4,000 in 2001. The President added strong investments and various reforms have produced highly skilled and world-class workers that give the country one of the best value-for-investment propositions among emerging markets. "This Administration has delivered over the last eight years. I am hopeful that our economic progress will be sustained, and that the Philippines will continue to be one of the havens of stability among the emerging markets of the world," the President said. Meanwhile, Bangko Sentral Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said the Philippines has sufficient liquidity to ensure orderly market conditions and fund growth requirements. Tetangco said the banking system remains stable, with a manageable external debt of $51.8 billion as of June 2009, down 5.4 percent from the year ago level. Tetangco said FDI is projected at $1.5 billion; and gross international reserves (GIR), excluding short-term liabilities, at between $42 billion and 43 billion or the equivalent of seven months' worth of imports. Remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are expected to exceed last year's level by three percent. Tetangco said the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has also allocated P5 billion in special rediscounting loans for typhoon-affected micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). Tetangco said government will push domestic demand and consumption as the key economic driver in the short term. (PND)

From http://www.gov.ph/ 10/14/2009

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House Adjourns Sessions; Approves on 2nd Reading Proposed P1.541-T National Budget for 2010

MANILA, Oct. 16 (PNA) - The House of Representatives adjourned its sessions before daybreak Friday after approving on second reading the proposed P1.541-trillion national budget for 2010. "I'd like to thank you for your cooperation. I'd like to thank the members of the minority for being very understanding," said Speaker Prospero Nograles before he declared the adjournment of sessions at 2:41 a.m. The proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2010 is 8.1 percent higher than this year's national budget of P1.426 trillion. The Department of Education (DepEd) remains the top fund recipient with an allocation of P172.8 billion, which is consistent with the Constitutional mandate of providing the highest priority to education. The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) came in second with P105.3 billion; the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) with P65.4 billion; the Department of National Defense (DND) with P62.7 billion allocation; Department of Agriculture (DA), P37.8 billion; Department of Health (DOH), P28.5 billion; Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), P19.7 billion; Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), P15 billion; Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), P14.5 billion; and the Judiciary with P13 billion allocation. The higher expenditure program for next year will fund increases in interest payments and salary adjustments of government employees due to the implementation of the Salary Standardization Law III. Allocation for debt service-interest payment is increased by P88.2 billion for a total of P340.8 billion or 22 percent of the proposed 2010 GAA. Personal Services will get P494 billion of the budget or 32 percent. Appropriation for Capital Outlay was down from P233 billion to P183 billion. Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF) will grow by about P49 billion to P76.5 billion while the Priority Development Allocation Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers, or popularly known as pork barrel, was pegged at P6.9 billion.

Before the approval on second reading of the proposed national budget for next year, militant lawmakers, who had repeatedly objected and advocated for the abolition of the pork barrel funds since 2001, demanded an explanation from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) why their annual P70-million allocation was never released to them. In the 17-hour-long marathon session that began at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Gabriela Rep. Liza Largoza-Maza and Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casino took turns in complaining that the militant party-list groups were being "singled out" and left out of the annual P70-million PDAF allocation because they were critical of the Arroyo administration. "We believe that the party-list groups, Gabriela, Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Kabataan were never given our pork barrel fund allocations because we are very vocal against this administration," said Maza. For his part, Casino said they repeatedly called for the abolition of the pork barrel funds as the government was using this as a political tool against its critics. "We repeatedly called for the abolition of the pork barrel funds because this is being used as a political tool against government critics and thus, bred political patronage," he added. House appropriations chair and Quirino Rep. Junie Cua, who sponsored and defended the P933.024 million budget of the DBM, confirmed that militant lawmakers were not issued their pork barrel funds. Bagatsing, a member of Lakas-Kampi-CMD (Christian, Muslim, Democrats), complained that he could not understand why some allies of the administration like him were treated differently as far as pork barrel fund releases are concerned. "Bakit walang pork barrel fund releases ang distrito ko up to now? Kami na kakampi ng gobyerno ay hindi nabibigyan ng PDAF allocation (Why does my district don't have pork barrel fund releases up to now? We who are allies of the government do not receive PDAF allocation)," he lamented. Cua briefly conferred with DBM Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. and said that no releases of pork barrel funds had been made due to lack of funds.

"I was told by the DBM secretary that yes, indeed, pork barrel fund releases were withheld due to lack of funds and when funds come along, the money is being prioritized and allocated for more important social services and infrastructure projects that also benefit the poor," he said. Meanwhile, Akbayan Party-list Rep. Walden Bello, during plenary deliberation, said he was voting against the passage of the proposed 2010 GAA as "it violates economic wisdom." "This budget is not only in real terms smaller than the 2009 budget, (but) it drastically reduces capital outlays by P40 billion from the 2009 budget, or by 22 percent. This is a pro-cyclical, as opposed to a counter-cyclical budget, one that will feed into the downward spiral of recession," he said. Bello cited the proposed budget for agriculture wherein the government reduces its proposed budget for rice programs from P10 billion in 2009 to P3.1 billion in 2010; and for corn - from P1.3 billion this year to P658 million in 2010. "How can government hope to achieve its targets of increased agricultural production, higher incomes for millions of small farmers, and long term food security when it is not willing to provide even the minimum necessary public investment for agriculture?" he said. As such, a special committee composed of Cua, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, and South Cotabato Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio was formed to accept the individual amendments in the proposed GAA for next year. Congressmen have until October 20 to submit individual amendments. The proposed national budget, which is contained in House Bill 6767, is expected to be passed on third and final reading when Congress resumes session on November 9.

From http://www.gov.ph/ 10/16/2009

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VIETNAM: NA Resumes Talks on Taxation Changes

HA NOI - The Standing Committee of the National Assembly (NA) started a two-day working session yesterday to finalise preparations for the NA meeting slated for late this month. High on the agenda of the meeting would be the 2010 supervision plan of the NA and the adjustment of the 2009 law compiling programme, as well as the project to build the first nuclear power plant in the country, said NA chairman Nguyen Phu Trong. After a short opening session, the deputies started to discuss amendments to the Law on Value-Added Tax and the Corporate Income Tax, which were supposed to be presented at the previous NA meeting last June but were postponed due to disagreements between the appraisal committee and the drafting committee. In its report, the Financial and Budgetary Committee said the revised bill was much better than the previous one. In 2009, the Government has either exempted individuals or companies from or reduced the corporate income tax and the value-added tax. In the present socio-economic context, the committee said it was important to have synchronous and stable measures on financing in place in order to help enterprises solve their problems, including tax incentive policies. Ha Van Hien, chairman of the Economic Committee, emphasised the importance of the policy design. "The policy should really help those who need help, particularly the poor, not the enterprises," said Hien. He also suggested that the government give a preferential tax policy for enterprises operating in disadvantaged areas. Tran The Vuong, head of the Ombudsman Committee expressed his concern that the Government's policy bring benefits to the designed targeted groups such as students, workers in industrial parks and the poor.

He claimed that residents in resettlement buildings were not the ones that had to give up their houses for development projects or were not poor people. During their discussion, the drafting committee was asked to make clear implementation measures to avoid tax fraud or the creation of any tax loopholes. Deputies requested the government subsidise loan interest for students and low income earners. Dao Trong Thi, chairman of the Committee for Culture, Education and Youth said project owners should take students' needs into consideration before designing the buildings. In his conclusion, NA Vice Chairman Nguyen Duc Kien asked the Government to continue to refine the draft and come up with measures to ensure preferential policies are in place for the targeted groups. Also in the morning, deputies heard a report on changes in the import-export tariffs presented by Vu Van Ninh, Minister of Finance. In its appraisal report, the Financial and Budgetary Committee agreed on the necessity to adjust tariffs in response to impacts of the economic downturn. However, the committee said the changes in the import tariffs suggested in the report from 10 per cent to zero was too extreme. In his opinion, the committee chairman, Phung Quoc Hien, said the zero import tariff on seafood would lead to the increase in the imported volume of the staple. "This will have negative impacts on the fishery sector, on the country's seafood consumption and on the life of certain groups of fishermen," said Hien.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 10/16/2009

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BANGLADESH: Govt Eyes Banks as Key Source to Mobilise $10b Fund

The government formed a high-level committee headed by a Deputy Governor of Bangladesh Bank for the formation of a mega-fund for development of the country''s potential power-and-energy sector that cries for huge finances to flourish, reports UNB. Power and Energy Ministry in a meeting Wednesday made the decision to form the fiduciary body to arrange the fund, which can draw on a liquidity glut in the country''s banks for profitable investment of the idle money, sources told the news agency. State-owned portfolio institution Investment Corporation of Bangladesh (ICB) will provide the secretarial support to the committee that will mainly explore ways and means of formation of the fund and also determine its structure and management issues. The committee, which can co-opt any expert in the committee, was asked to submit their findings and recommendations within two months. Prime Minister''s Adviser Dr Taufiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, who was present at the meeting, told the media that both the private and public sectors would have their access to the fund to implement projects in the twin-sector that is lagging far behind an ever-growing demand for power and energy for exploiting available prospects for economic growth. "We''re targeting to mobilize US$ 5-10 billion under this fund... We''ve received good responses from the financial institutions in private and public sectors to create the fund," he said after the meeting. The government has laid out a mega-plan to generate about 7000 megawatts of power in next 5 years. But mobilizing funds is being seen as the biggest challenge to implementation of the agenda. In such a situation, the Power and Energy Ministry moved to create such a big fund to support public and private investments in the sector.

State Minister for Power and Energy Enamul Haque presided over the meeting, attended by a deputy governor of the central bank, chief executives of the state-owned commercial banks-Sonali, Rupali, Janata and Agrani - chief executives of international banks-Citibank NA, Standard Chartered and HSBC - chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the president of Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSC), and the chief of public-sector investment-promotion institute IDCOL. Power secretary, ERD secretary, NBR chairman, PDB chairman, REB chairman, Petrobangla chairman, managing director of state-owned gas-exploration company Bapex also attended the meeting. Meeting sources said chief executives of both the private-and public-sector banks and financial institutions appreciated the government move to create such a mega-fund for investment. They said that a huge idle liquidity remained with the banking sector which could be invested in the power-and-energy sector under this institutional arrangement. Supporting the government move, Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) chairman Rakibur Rahman said the private-and public-sector projects in power and energy "can easily raise their funds from the capital market, even through floating the green-field projects". He said the power-and-energy companies which have already been listed with the stock markets are being tremendously responded to by the investors as shares of those companies are selling at high prices. Sources said the ERD secretary, opposing this view, said that the power-and-energy sector should not get involved in stock markets as such market is believed to be ''forgery market''. This scathing remark involving business barons evoked a heated debate at the meeting, as the DSE chairman protested the comment of the ERD secretary. PM''s Adviser Dr Taufiq-e-Elahi told the meeting that the government wants to reduce its dependence on the conventional donor agencies for money. "We want to create a platform where the local financing institutes will play their due role. If that happens, then donor agencies will automatically come forward to invest". The State Minister said that the government is looking for sustainable primary energy source. "So, we want to make holistic approach to this new initiative for fund creation." The government move, incidentally, came at a time when there have been strong pleas for exploring country''s valuable gas wealth domestically and protests against leasing offshore gas blocks in the Bay to foreign companies.

From http://www.newstoday-bd.com/ 10/01/2009

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Govt to Review 'Undeserving' Tax Rebates

The government is going to review the "undeserving" tax rebates given on various occasions since the country's independence as it desperately needs to give a boost to revenue collection, reports UNB. According to an NBR official, the government will form a committee in this regard soon to look into the matter. "There are so many tax rebates... I won't say all of them are useless, but most of them are... ," the official said wishing anonymity. He mentioned that the government in the budget for fiscal 2009-10 indicated about its stance about the tax rebates. "But, we'll go case by case," he said. As per the existing laws, a five-year tax holiday is applicable for the industries set up in Dhaka and Chittagong divisions (excluding the three hill districts), while a 7-year tax holiday applicable for industries set up in Khulna, Sylhet, Barisal and Rajshahi divisions, and the three hill districts. Besides, the government through hundreds of SROs had also given tax rebates to certain industries, different sectors and even on some individual undertakings. The NBR official said they are hopeful about getting the green signal from the Finance Ministry to review the tax rebates. "Then we'll start our work to sort out the sectors and industries from where the tax rebates could be withdrawn." Earlier, the Finance Minister, during his visit to the National Board of Revenue (NBR) just before announcing the budget for fiscal 2009-10, commented that the tax rebate is a jungle. "Tax rebate is a jungle; there are so many rebates. This needs to be rationalized to help boost the government's revenue income," the minister had said at that time. "Yes, the minister is right; there are so many tax rebates in Bangladesh," the NBR official said. He said the business houses often come to the NBR for tax rebates or tax exemption. "Taxes are imposed when a person or business organization makes profit... in our country people wants profit but have an allergy in giving taxes to the government." The NBR official hinted that the tax rebates, which were earlier given on undeserving grounds, would be removed very soon. He also said the government is trying to get some amount in the national exchequer by withdrawing the tax rebates as it has announced a Tk 113,819 crore national budget for this year with a target of Tk 61,000 crore to be collected by the NBR.

From http://www.newstoday-bd.com/ 10/19/2009

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INDIA: Govt. Unveils Interest Subsidy for Low-Cost Homes

New Delhi: In an attempt to promote low-cost housing in the country, the government has launched interest rate subsidy scheme. The scheme can help a home loan borrower to save up to Rs. 10,000 in equated monthly installments (EMIs), provided the cost of house is less than Rs. 20 lakh. The interest subsidy scheme to promote low-cost housing was announced by the Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee during the budget in July. Mukherjee had allocated Rs. 1,000 crore for the interest subsidy scheme, which will remain in operation for a year from October 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010. The interest subvention scheme of one percent will apply on all individual housing loans up to Rs. 10 lakh for units costing up to Rs. 20 lakh. Under the scheme, one percent subsidy will be given on first 12 EMIs to be paid by the borrowers to the banks. The scheme will cover all regions of the country and is expected to give a boost to credit flow to the housing sector and create additional employment in the housing and allied sectors, such as steel and cement.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 10/01/2009

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SBI Increases Interest Rates on Corporate Loans

Bangalore: State Bank of India (SBI) has increased the rates on corporate loans by up to 50 basis points (bps). This step is mainly taken to help the bank in improving its net interest margin (NIM) over the span of next few months. The NIM is the difference between the cost of funds and the interest earned. In the end of first quarter of the current fiscal, SBI's NIM came down to 2.3 percent. The bank aims to bring back to three percent and want to end the current financial year with a net interest margin of 2.55-2.6 percent. Bank's executives said that the low NIM could be because of the decline in the credit deposit (CD) ratio. The high NIM in September 2008 was due to a high CD ratio of around 72 percent. The ratio has now dropped to 67 percent amidst the global financial crisis. Earlier the bank trimmed its deposit rates by 25 bps. A senior official form SBI said that the move was aimed at helping companies that park their current account funds in this instrument. The rate of interest on current account is zero. However, officials also said that once the credit demand picks up, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) would take steps to shift to a tighter monetary policy regime. Consequently, SBI and other banks would have to raise rates to counter competition from other asset classes as the stock market sentiments shows improvement.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 10/09/2009

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PAKISTAN: Govt Approves 6% Hike in Power Tariff

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday approved a summary for a 6 percent increase in electricity tariff for the quarter starting from October 1, sources told Daily Times. The government expects the increase will add another Rs 38 billion to revenue for the period between October and December. However, the increase will not be applicable to electricity users consuming up to 50 units per month. The decision is in line with the International Monetary Fund's condition that the country needs to do away with the Rs 132 billion annual subsidy to the power sector. The monthly revenue of the Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO) stands at around Rs 34 billion, but the company has failed to effectively recover its money as several of its distribution companies are continuously failing to recover outstanding dues. Of PEPCO's eight distribution companies, IESCO has the lowest transmission and distribution (T&D) losses at 11 percent, followed by the Gujaranwala Electric Power Company at 11.25 percent. The T&D losses of the Faisalabad Electric Supply Company are 11.23 percent and that of the Lahore Electric Supply Company are 12.30 percent. The Multan Electric Power Company bears T&D losses at 17.5 percent, the Quetta Electric Supply Company at 20.50 percent and the Peshawar Electric Supply Company at 33.20 percent.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 10/01/2009

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Cabinet Approves 100% Increase in Domestic Postage Rates

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Wednesday approved 100 percent increase in postage rates for ordinary letters and announced a proportionate increase in rates for other categories of inland postage. "In order to make the domestic postal tariff cost-based, the cabinet approved revised tariff for inland post. This includes increasing initial postage on an ordinary letter from Rs 4 to Rs 8 and proportionately increasing the rates of other categories of inland postage," stated a press release issued after the meeting. The cabinet also approved a draft bill to grant university status to the Dawood College of Engineering and Technology Karachi, appointing the education minister to the post of the university's pro-chancellor. Separately, during a press conference, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said educational institutions across the country would be reopened after necessary security measures.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 10/22/2009

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IRAQ: 2010 Budget, Plans Bond Issues Approved

"Iraq's cabinet has set its 2010 budget deficit at $15.3 billion and plans to cover it with bond issues and loans from the multilateral lenders, a government spokesman said on Tuesday... Ali al-Dabbagh said the budget, which must first be passed by parliament, would raise spending by 15 percent from this year's $58.6 billion..." [Reuters/Factiva] AFP adds that "...Baghdad expected a $20.3 billion deficit in 2009, and has been in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a loan to help cover the shortfall. Dabbagh said a similar course of action, involving the World Bank and the IMF, would be taken in 2010..." [Agence France Presse/Factiva] Dow Jones writes that "...the panel entrusted with drawing Iraq's 2010 budget suggested the country's crude oil exports would be 2.15 million barrels a day. Iraq's crude oil exports for the first eight months of 2009 stood at an average 1.850 million barrels a day... Iraq's oil revenues provide for more than 95 percent of the country's national expenditure..."

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 10/14/2009

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Iraqi Deputies Chided for Not Making Financial Declarations

BAGHDAD - Iraq's top anticorruption official says only about one-third of Iraqi lawmakers have disclosed their financial assets as required, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports. Abd al-Rahim al-Igaily, a judge who is the chairman of Iraq's anticorruption commission, told RFE/RL that as of September 30, only 92 parliament deputies out of a total of 275 have filed statements with the commission about their financial holdings and assets. He added that this percentage is low compared to the 100 percent compliance by members of the Iraqi cabinet and the Presidential Council. Igaily said the commission will publish on its website the names of those who have made their financial disclosures as a means of pressuring the noncompliant legislators. He explained that people holding public office who fail to disclose their finances by a certain deadline shall be suspended until they do so, adding that four judges in the Kurdistan region and some members of the anticorruption commission itself have already been suspended. Igaily said two provincial governors could also be suspended from office if they do not file statements of their financial assets this week.

From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/08/2009

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IRAN: MPs Give Initial OK to Redirect Subsidies

TEHRAN - The Majlis has ratified the generalities of the national economic reform plan, the main aim of which is redirecting subsidies. In a parliament session on Sunday, 188 MPs voted in favor of the plan, 45 voted against it, and there were 6 abstentions. The vote was held after a number of MPs and a representative of the administration expressed their views on the plan. The Majlis will examine the details of the plan during its next session later today. The national economic reform plan was proposed by the administration, which has said that the plan does not actually eliminate subsidies but only redirects them. Initially, the administration drafted a proposal to pay the subsidies in cash, but the bill was not ratified by the Majlis.

New plan in line with Article 44
MP Elyas Naderan stated that the implementation of the economic reform plan is in line with Article 44 of the Constitution. "The implementation of the plan will lead to a reform of the economic system," Naderan said on Sunday. In addition to the revision of economic activities, Article 44 also calls for the empowerment of the underprivileged classes, but this will only be possible through a redirection of the subsidies and efforts to make prices real, he added. However, a utopia will not be created through the implementation of the plan and there will be some problems, but the long-term benefits will be great, Naderan stated.

New plan will make national economy dependent
MP Alireza Mahjoub has expressed the view that the implementation of the plan will make the national economy dependent on the international economic system. "We are connecting ourselves to the international economy without enjoying international economic support," he said on Sunday. The national currency will fall and the people's influence on the economy will decrease, he asserted. And the poorer sectors of society will suffer the most, he added.

Patterns of consumption will be improved
Majlis Economic Committee Chairman Arsalan Fat'hipour stated that the patterns of consumption will be improved through the implementation of the plan. "The implementation of the bill will lead to a revision of many of our incorrect habits of incorrect consumption and to the nation's economic development," the MP said on Sunday. The implementation of the plan will coordinate the national economy with the global economic system, Fat'hipour opined.

Inflation will rise to 50 percent
MP Eqbal Mohammadi warned that the plan will raise the inflation rate to 50 percent. "The bill will raise inflation and slow down the economy," he said on Sunday. Mohammadi stated that even if the plan is implemented over the course of five years, the inflation rate will soar to over 50 percent. According to the bill, the plan will be implemented over the course of three years.

Economic reform plan aims to promote social justice
MP Hassan Shabanpour stated that the plan aims to promote social justice. Over 30 percent of the national budget is allocated to providing subsidies, and this has encouraged excessive consumption of energy in the country, he said on Sunday. Shabanpour also stated that the improper allocation of subsidies has unfairly distributed the assets of the nation and has widened the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Important Majlis committees opposed to the plan
MP Nourollah Heydari stated that the important Majlis committees are opposed to the economic reform plan. The report of the Majlis special committee on the economic reform plan indicates that the energy, industries, and legal committees are all opposed to the plan, and this shows that the experts are not convinced, he said on Sunday. And the national infrastructure is not in place for the implementation of the plan, he added.

Infrastructure is in place
However, MP Mohammad Dehqan asserted that the required infrastructure is in place for the implementation of the plan. The majority of MPs agree with the generalities of the plan and they can discuss the details during the next session of parliament, he said on Sunday.

From Tehran Times 10/12/2009

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Iran to Drop Dollar from Forex Reserves

TEHRAN - The Trade Promotion Organization of Iran (TPOI) announced this week that it plans to exclude the U.S. dollar from Iran's foreign exchange reserves. In line with this plan, Iran has informed Japan that it should use the yen instead of dollars to pay for the oil it buys from the Islamic Republic. In addition, Iran has decided to open a bourse for oil and gas transactions in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, especially the Euro. Although the opening of the new bourse has been postponed several times, the plan shows the country's determination to replace the dollar in its oil and gas transactions. The TPOI has also announced that since October 2007 Iran has sold 85 percent of its oil exports in currencies other than the U.S. dollar and is determined to sell the remaining 15 percent in other currencies such as the UAE dirham. During his first term, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered that the dollar should be replaced by the euro in the transactions of Iran's currency reserve fund.

From Tehran Times 10/17/2009

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Majlis Approves Food Subsidy Cuts

TEHRAN - The Majlis approved a proposal on Tuesday to phase out subsidies on certain food products redirecting the extra income towards helping the low-income sector of the population. The bill was passed with 154 votes in favor, 14 against, and 10 in abstention. ""According to the bill subsidies on food products such as wheat, rice, sugar, and oil will be ended gradually in five years. But the parliament excluded medicine subsidies from the bill,"" the state radio said on Monday, Reuters reported. Earlier the parliament on Monday approved two articles of the subsidy reform plan that would cut energy subsides and bring prices closer to international market levels, according to the Mehr News Agency. Lawmakers approved two articles of the bill which would allow the government to adjust energy prices based on the final prices the government pays for them. The bill needs the approval of the Guardian Council before it can be implemented. The government wants to increase energy and utility prices and compensate low-income families with direct cash payments. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has argued his subsidy reform bill would help implement justice and remove discrimination, but some critics say the bill may rekindle inflation.

From Tehran Times 10/21/2009

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Plans of EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund to Be Presented

The plans, directions, and the steps of the work of the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund will be presented within two - three months. The chairman of the board of the Eurasian Development Bank, Igor Finogenov, informed during the press briefing of the Fourth EDB Conference on Eurasian Integration, Kazakhstan Today agency reports. "The detailed documents connected with the work of the fund, including internal documents are being prepared. EDB has been defined as the managing director, the manager of this fund. We will soon start considering specific programs," EDB chair said. "The agreement on creation of the fund was signed on June 9." This agreement will come into force when all the countries complete their interstate procedures on ratification of the agreement on creation of the fund. The Russian Federation has already completed these procedures. We expect all other countries to finish all the procedures within a month of two," I. Finogenov said.

From Kazakhstan Today 10/02/2009

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$3.8M Grants Help Industry with Climate Change

Waste water recycling and retro-fitting equipment to utilise waste heat for production are among 12 projects to be funded under the latest round of Re-tooling for Climate Change. The program offers dollar for dollar grants from $10,000 to $500,000 to help small and medium manufacturers reduce the environmental impact of their production processes. Dr Craig Emerson, acting Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research today announced the 12 applicants that received grant offers totalling $3.8 million under the third round. "Re-tooling both tackles climate change and puts manufacturers on a more sustainable footing," Dr Emerson said. "In this round, the activities supported include process and plant upgrades that reduce energy and water consumed in manufacturing, capture and treatment of storm water for use in manufacturing, and improved energy monitoring systems. "It is great to see such strong participation in the program by manufacturers from regional Australia, with over half of the successful grantees from regional locations. "The Rudd Government is committed to helping manufacturers make environmentally sustainable changes to their business." Re-tooling for Climate Change is part of the Rudd Government's Clean Business Australia initiative - a partnership with industry to tackle climate change. A list of Round 3 successful applicants is available for download. For further information on Re-tooling for Climate Change visit AusIndustry's website at www.ausindustry.gov.au call the hotline 13 28 46 or email the hotline at hotline@ausindustry.gov.au

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 10/08/2009

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New Tax Information Exchange Agreement

Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry, has announced that Australia and Guernsey, a significant financial centre, have today signed a new tax information exchange agreement. "Reaching tax information exchange agreements with offshore financial centres is an important part of the Australian Government's efforts to prevent tax avoidance and evasion," the Assistant Treasurer said. Earlier this week, while attending the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Annual Meetings, the Assistant Treasurer addressed the Taskforce on Financial Integrity on the issue of tax evasion and revenue policy, where Australia's commitment to tax integrity was highlighted. "This week in Istanbul I continued to press the case for global action to clean the financial system of tax havens and tax evasion," said the Assistant Treasurer. "I strongly welcome Guernsey's constructive engagement on this issue." "The pace with which jurisdictions are coming onboard is speeding up with each passing week - Guernsey is now the third jurisdiction to sign a tax information exchange agreement with Australia in as little as four months, and the eighth overall." "These treaty signings and continuing negotiations with other jurisdictions reflect the Rudd Government's commitment to the widespread implementation of international standards on tax transparency and integrity." "Australia is now the chair of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, an international leadership role in the fight against tax avoidance and evasion, so while here at the IMF and World Bank meetings I am strongly encouraging my counterparts to join us in this task," said the Assistant Treasurer. The eight foreign jurisdictions to have signed a TIEA with Australia are: Bermuda, Antigua and Barbuda, the Netherlands Antilles, the British Virgin Islands, Jersey, the Isle of Man, Gibraltar and Guernsey.

The tax information exchange agreement with Guernsey will provide for bilateral exchange of taxpayer information, on request, for both civil and criminal tax purposes. This will allow the Commissioner of Taxation to seek information relevant to an Australian tax investigation directly from the authorities in Guernsey. Australia and Guernsey also signed an agreement on the allocation of taxing rights over certain income of individuals. This will eliminate double taxation of certain income derived by government employees and students. This agreement will also establish an administrative mechanism to resolve transfer pricing disputes between taxpayers and the revenue authorities of Australia or Guernsey. The two agreements will enter into force after both countries have completed their relevant domestic requirements. Legislation for this purpose will be introduced into the Australian Parliament as soon as practicable. Copies of the agreements will be available shortly on the Treasury website.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 10/08/2009

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Australia Rises as a Financial Services Hub

The Australian Government's goal to develop Australia as a regional financial services hub has received a major fillip with the release of the World Economic Forum's Financial Development Report 2009 which ranks Australia second among the world's financial centres, ahead of the US, Singapore and Hong Kong. In the WEF's Financial Development Index, Australia ranked 1st in terms of financial access and performed very well in both banking (5th) and non-banking (3rd) financial services. The report also confirms the strength of Australia's financial services sector in the face of the global economic recession: 'The efficiency of its banks, where it earns 1st place in the rankings, is a key strength; the stability of its banking system (10th) and a low risk of sovereign debt crisis (1st) underpins its relatively high degree of financial stability through the current crisis.' (p. 18). "This report highlights what has been a remarkable performance for Australia's financial services sector and gives the nation well-deserved global recognition," Financial Services Minister, Chris Bowen said. "This is testament to the strength of our financial system; our solid financial skills base and well-run financial institutions; our system of prudential regulation, and proactive regulators. "The Rudd Government's goal of developing Australia as a regional financial services hub is just as much about creating more highly skilled and well-paid jobs for the next generation of Australians as it is about ensuring our financial system is able to continue to respond to future external shocks. Mr Bowen said the report provided a timely indicator of Australia's improving performance, but noted that much remains to be done. "Australia cannot rest on its laurels and the upcoming report from the Australian Financial Centre Forum will provide another opportunity for the Government to examine options to remove any remaining obstacles to Australia becoming a financial services hub for the Asia Pacific." The Rudd Government has already moved to enhance Australia's competitive position by: Cutting the withholding tax on certain foreign distributions from managed investment trusts from 30 per cent to a final rate of 7.5 per cent; Establishing the Australian Financial Centre Forum, which later this year will report on further ways to improve the competitiveness of our financial system and the clarity of taxation rules; Changing the attribution rules and the deemed capital account treatment of the sale of shares, units and property from Managed Investment Trusts - based on advice of the Board of Taxation; Repealing and replacing the Foreign Investment Fund provisions with a narrowly-defined anti-avoidance rule and modernising the Controlled Foreign Company rules; and Announcing the transfer of supervision of financial markets from the ASX to ASIC, the corporate regulator.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 10/09/2009

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$2.8M for Cycling Infrastructure in WA

Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese, and Parliamentary Secretary for Western and Northern Australia, Gary Gray, today announced that the Rudd Labor Government would invest more than $2.8 million in 16 cycling infrastructure projects in Western Australia. Mr Gray was in South Perth for the announcement with Mayor James Best. Mr Albanese said that this investment was from our $40 million National Bike Paths Projects fund, part of the Government's Economic Stimulus Plan. "The Government's investment will deliver projects worth $5.7 million - more than double - with the remainder of the funding provided by local councils," said Mr Albanese. "Around Australia we are funding 174 projects, supporting more than 1,900 jobs and traineeships. Practical projects like these are exactly what our Economic Stimulus Plan is all about. "Our investment in cycling infrastructure will also help take cars off local roads and reduce carbon emissions over the longer term." Mr Gray said that WA bike path projects would support 167 jobs and traineeships, delivering an economic boost in local communities. "The Government is supporting local economies and investing in infrastructure that will make a difference over the longer term in communities," said Mr Gray. "The projects, located across Perth, Geraldton, the Margaret River, Merredin, Nannup, Northam, Kwinana and Mandurah will encourage healthier lifestyles amongst residents and create more sustainable communities. "The Rudd Labor Government is delivering funding for cycling infrastructure around the country, providing Australians with a greener, healthier way of getting to and from school and work, as well as recreational facilities," Mr Gray concluded.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 10/16/2009

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Tax Bonus Aids Tax Return Lodgements

The Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry, today released the Inspector-General of Taxation's (IGT) Review into the non-lodgement of individual income tax returns, while announcing that the Rudd Government's tax bonus stimulus payment has reaped an important side-benefit by boosting the number of taxpayers who've lodged tax returns to an all-time high of around 96 per cent. Based on pre-tax bonus data, the IGT found a non-lodgement rate of tax returns of 9.35 per cent; however, using the latest data, the Tax Office now estimates only 4 per cent of Australians have outstanding non-lodged tax returns. The latest Tax Office analysis has found that as at 30 June 2009, 12.5 million 2007-08 returns had been lodged. This compared to 11.7 million lodgements expected by the Tax Office for that year, before the announcement of the tax bonus. "The tax bonus has almost single-handedly cut the number of outstanding tax returns by more than half," the Assistant Treasurer. "The Tax Office estimates an extra 800,000 taxpayers lodged returns before the June 2009 deadline to be eligible for the tax bonus - this is a massive improvement almost overnight." "This is an important achievement as we move towards the end of the year and the conclusion of the most comprehensive review of our tax system in a generation." "Tidying up important issues such as the lodgement of personal income tax returns ensures we have as clean a slate as possible for consideration of the outcomes of the Australia's Future Tax System review."

The IGT's Review into the non-lodgement of individual income tax returns made six formal recommendations, three to the Government and three to the Tax Office. The recommendations relating to the Government are: that the IGT report be referred to the Australia's Future Tax System review for its information and use; the ATO be provided with access to more sources of third party data, together with Tax File Numbers and Australian Business Numbers, for compliance purposes and to identify non-lodgers; and the penalties for failure-to-lodge are strengthened. The Government has already acted on the first recommendation, but has declined to accept the others. "The report's call for more third party data has privacy implications and could impose additional cost burdens on the community, particularly on businesses," the Assistant Treasurer said. "Also, after liaising with the community and with stakeholders, the Government takes the view that increasing penalties for non-lodgement would be unlikely to deter those who are determined not to lodge tax returns and could act as a disincentive for non-lodgers to come forward to the Tax Office to rectify their tax affairs." "In coming to these positions, the Government has also taken into account the significant improvement in tax lodgements brought about by the tax bonus eligibility requirement." The IGT's recommendations to the Tax Office are: that the Tax Office supplement its current reporting on lodgement compliance by a periodic report on the broader outcomes and impacts being achieved on the level of non-lodgement in the community; the Tax Office should flag low-risk non-lodged returns in its systems and identify them as a separate category in its management reports; and the Tax Office should progressively increase, where appropriate, the use of default assessments to further support lodgement compliance. The Tax Office has indicated its agreement with all three recommendations. "I would also like to thank the Inspector-General of Taxation and his staff for today's Report. It is an important contribution to the maintenance and development of our tax system," said the Assistant Treasurer. The IGT report is available on the Treasury website www.treasury.gov.au and the IGT website www.igt.gov.au.

From http://www.alp.org.au/ 10/16/2009

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NEW ZEALAND: Govt Announces $25m of Subsidies to Small Communities

The government has approved nearly $19 million of subsidies for small communities to help them improve drinking water supplies and another $5.8 million for new sewerage systems, Health Minister Tony Ryall has announced. "The 66 successful water supply applications are the last to be assessed under the scheme's old criteria. The drinking water subsidy scheme is currently being reviewed, because we want to be sure that it is benefiting the small communities which have the greatest need." "In this latest round of applications, the Sanitary Works Technical Advisory Committee (SaWTAC) recommended 66 of the 72 drinking water applications be funded, and three of the nine sewerage applications. And we have accepted SaWTAC's recommendations." "The drinking water assistance applications came from a variety of territorial authorities, marae and community organisations - all with communities of under 5000 people." The amount of subsidy made available to specific communities is commercially sensitive at this stage, as communities will be seeking tenders for the various projects. Successful applicants will be notified this week.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 10/20/2009

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PM Launches $1 Million Prizes for Science

Prime Minister John Key has delivered on another promise to the science community by launching the inaugural Prime Minister's Prizes for Science. Speaking at an event at Plant and Food Research in Auckland, Mr Key announced five categories of prizes worth a total of one million dollars. "Our scientists are doing high-quality research in many areas but too often their achievements receive little public acclaim. We are committed to raising the profile and prestige of science in New Zealand," says Mr Key.

There will be five categories of prizes:
The Prime Minister's Science Prize - $500,000
The Prime Minister's MacDiarmid Young Scientist of the Year Prize - $150,000
The Prime Minister's Future Scientist Prize - $50,000
The Prime Minister's Science Teacher Prize - $50,000 to the teacher and $100,000 to their school
The Prime Minister's Science Media Communications Prize - $150,000

Mr Key says, "New Zealand's prosperity rests on our ability to make full use of our scientific expertise. These prizes, by combining recognition and financial reward, will be important in attracting young people into science careers. "Combined with my appointment of Professor Sir Peter Gluckman as Chief Science Advisor these prizes demonstrate I am serious about the role science plays in our economic performance." The inaugural winners will be announced in February 2010 and subsequent winners will be announced in November each year. Further details available at www.pmscienceprizes.org.nz

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 10/23/2009

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CHINA: Non-public Sector Creates 60% of GDP

China's top economic planner said the non-public sector of the economy created 60 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) at present time. In the meantime, private businesses created more than 70 percent of jobs in China's urban areas, according to Zhang Ping, director of China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). China's non-public economy, which plays an important role in sustaining economic development and creating jobs, had developed at very fast speed since the reform and opening-up policy was initiated 30 years ago, said Zhang.

From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 10/06/2009

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HK to Push Ahead with Private Hospital Development

Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang Wednesday said in his policy address that by the end of the year, the government will invite Expressions of Interest (EOI) to develop private hospitals on four sites including Wong Chuk Hang, Tseung Kwan O, Tai Po and Lantau. Based on the EOIs received, the government will make appropriate land disposal arrangements which can encourage innovation, enhance the quality of services, increase the transparency of fees and charges, and ensure the provision of quality private medical services to the public. Those hospitals may also provide traditional Chinese hospitals, Tsang said. To facilitate the development of Chinese medicine, the government will expedite the setting of standards for Chinese herbal medicines commonly used in Hong Kong and aim to extend coverage from the current 60 herbal medicines to about 200 by year 2012, the chief executive said, adding that the government will assist and promote the establishment of testing laboratories in the local market to enhance the city's capability to test Chinese medicines. "We will further consider allowing more renowned Chinese medicine practitioners from the mainland to join clinical teaching and research programs in Hong Kong so as to make Hong Kong a stage for promoting Chinese medicine to the world," he said. To step up the training of medical personnel, Tsang said, the government will provide 60 additional senior year places for degree programs on nursing in the 2010/2011 academic year.

From Xinhua News Agency 10/14/2009

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JAPAN: Hatoyama Shifts from Koizumi's Postal Privatization Scheme

TOKYO - Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's cabinet adopted a basic policy Tuesday for changing the postal privatization scheme launched in 2007 in line with former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's reform initiative, with an eye to offering more stable services to rectify gaps between urban and rural areas. Amid the policy change, Japan Post Holdings Co President Yoshifumi Nishikawa has decided to resign from his post, according to sources familiar with the matter. The new policy will involve the government reorganizing the Japan Post group to ensure universal postal services across the country, stipulating that mail and financial services are to be provided in an integrated manner through the postal network. Under the policy, it will position the post office network as a foothold to ensure the rights of socially vulnerable people and to correct regional disparities in the services.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 10/21/2009

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Back To the Drawing Board for Postal Reform

A mountain of problems related to the review of postal reform awaits the new Japan Post Holdings Co. president, who was named Wednesday, while interested parties prepare to weigh in on the review. One of the biggest tasks facing Jiro Saito, who has been unofficially appointed as the new Japan Post Holdings supremo, is how to reinvent strategies for postal privatization now that the brakes have been put on the reform initiated by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. On discussions in connection with the review of postal reform, Central Japan Railway Co. President Masayuki Matsumoto said, "I believe [the review] is aimed at improving the functions and efficiency of postal services by taking the reform in a different direction, but I've no idea how the review will turn out." The government plans to submit a bill for drastic reform of the postal system to the ordinary Diet session next year after passing a bill to halt the sales of stocks of Japan Post group companies during the upcoming extraordinary Diet session scheduled to convene Monday.

The focus of the government's review of postal reform is the division of the group's businesses into four entities under Japan Post Holdings. A growing number of voices say the split-up has hampered customers' convenience because each company specializes in its own business field. The Democratic Party of Japan, the People's New Party and the Social Democratic Party are considering having Japan Post Holdings take over Japan Post Service Co. and Japan Post Network Co. and placing Japan Post Bank Co. and Japan Post Insurance Co. under the holding company. That would allow the three major businesses of postal service, postal banking and postal life insurance to be managed in an integrated manner. But the merger of the three companies would mean the revival of a huge postal entity with more than 200,000 employees. This may result in the corporate traits of a "government enterprise" being kept intact.

How to fund uniform services? - In formulating its basic policies concerning the review of postal reform, the government decided that it would oblige Japan Post Bank and Japan Post Insurance to provide banking services and postal life insurance services, respectively, in a uniform manner nationwide. This means having the two companies offer financial services in rural areas and provide assistance in stabilizing the business of post offices, which rely heavily on commission revenue from the two companies. Osamu Urano, adviser to the group of postmasters of government-commissioned post offices nationwide, said, "I hope [Saito] will become a driving force behind the introduction of universal financial services nationwide." Japan Post Service and Japan Post Network are now obliged by law to offer universal postal services nationwide and maintain the nationwide network of post offices. Prof. Shuya Nomura of Chuo Law School said, "There's no precedent globally for obliging a financial institution to provide universal financial services nationwide." Observers said there would have to be discussions over how the costs of maintaining universal services should be shouldered because the uniform-services requirement will make it impossible for Japan Post Bank and Japan Post Insurance to withdraw from unprofitable areas.

Post bank to be backed by govt - The laws related to postal reform stipulate that the government sell nearly two-thirds of the stock of Japan Post Holdings, which the government currently fully owns, and that Japan Post Holdings sell its stakes in Japan Post Bank and Japan Post Insurance, both of which the holding company fully owns, by the end of September 2017. According to the plan to review postal reform that is being discussed by the new administration, the government will not only cancel its sales of entire stocks of Japan Post Bank and Japan Post Insurance, but will also continue holding about two-thirds of Japan Post Holdings stock. Meanwhile, the holding company will keep holding about two-thirds of the stock of both Japan Post Bank and Japan Post Insurance. This means the two financial entities will effectively be given government backing, causing concern that they will have an unfair advantage over private financial institutions. Katsunori Nagayasu, head of the Japan Bankers Association and president of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, said: "If the government owns most of the stock [of Japan Post Bank], it will enjoy unfairly favorable competition conditions in comparison with private financial institutions. In that case, I believe [Japan Post Bank's] business scope should be restricted. I hope the government will carefully discuss the matter by paying attention to the country's overall financial system."

Management overhaul - Another pressing issue is the lineup of the new management team under Saito. Shizuka Kamei, state minister in charge of postal reform, and Internal Affairs and Communication Minister Kazuhiro Hara-guchi have expressed their intention to overhaul Japan Post Holdings' management, citing their responsibility for supporting reforms launched under the initiative of Koizumi and over scandals including the fire sale of Kampo no Yado inns. But as leading figures in business circles, such as Jiro Ushio, chairman of lighting products manufacturer Ushio Inc., and Hiroshi Okuda, senior adviser of Toyota Motor Corp., are outside board members of Japan Post Holdings, observers say it is unrealistic to force all of them out of the board. In selecting its board members, Japan Post Holdings must obtain the approval of its appointments committee and the existing board of directors. Saito and Okuda, who serves as chairman of the appointments committee, likely will choose new board members while consulting with Kamei.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 10/23/2009

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Gov't to Waive Tuition Fees for Private School Students on Low Income

TOKYO - The education ministry decided Thursday to pursue ways to make private high schools tuition-free for students from low income households in addition to those at public schools under the new government's key policy, government sources said. The ministry will ask the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry to use taxes allocated to local governments in order to help fund the tuition-free program that would apply to households with an annual income of up to 3.5 million yen. Education ministry data show that municipal governments across Japan spend roughly 32 billion yen in expenses related to public high school tuition fees, including those needed for tuition exemptions and for covering fees in arrears. The ministry is seeking to use 24.9 billion yen out of the 32 billion yen after the aid package for high school students is put in place in the next fiscal year.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 10/23/2009

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PHILIPPINES: Government & Private Organizations Supporting the Relief Caravan - DSWD

MANILA (PNA) - Social Welfare and Development Secretary Esperanza I. Cabral announced that national government agencies and more than 30 private and international organizations have pledged their support to the "Sama-Samang Pagtulong Relief Caravan" during the organizational meeting held Friday at the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) in Quezon City. At least 100 truckloads of relief goods will be brought to more than 500,000 families in the 19 provinces of Regions I, II, III and Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) affected by typhoon "Pepeng." According to Secretary Cabral, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will lead the send-off ceremony at the Diosdado Macapagal Avenue, Pasay City on Monday, October 19 at 6:00 a.m. "The representatives of the different government agencies, private and international organizations pledged goods consisting of potable water, food and clothing packs while other organizations will provide logistics support such as transportation and manpower during the caravan," Cabral said. "We shall divide the relief caravan into 10 groups based on their provincial and regional destinations. We have already identified drop-off points where Provincial Disaster Coordinating Councils (PDCCs) and local government officials will receive the relief goods. On the other hand, the DSWD will supervise and monitor the distribution of relief goods in the affected areas," she said. The drop-off points are in the following areas: Lingayen City, Pangasinan and San Fernando, La Union for Region I; Ilagan City, Isabela, Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya and Tuguegarao City, Cagayan for Region II; Malolos, Bulacan, San Fernando, Pampanga, Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija and Tarlac City, Tarlac for Region III; and Bangued, Abra and Baguio City for Cordillera Autonomous Region.

"Department Secretaries, Cabinet Officers for Regional Development (CORD), and Chairmen of the Regional Disaster Coordinating Council (RDCCs) will witness the turnover ceremonies in the identified drop-off points," the DSWD chief said. Among the government agencies supporting the relief caravan are the Departments of Education, Environment and Natural Resources, Labor and Employment, Agrarian Reform, Public Works and Highways, Transportation and Communication, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Health, Agriculture, Interior and Local Government, Science and Technology, National Youth Commission, Office of Civil Defense, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Presidential Management Staff, Office of the Press Secretary, Bureau of Customs, Social Security System, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and Land Bank of the Philippines. Likewise, DSWD's partner organizations for the caravan include World Food Programme, United Nations Children's Fund, United States Agency for International Development, Ayala Foundation, World Vision, Sagip Kapamilya Foundation, Ronald MacDonald Charities, and Jollibee Foundation, among others. Secretary Cabral disclosed that the DSWD has organized this relief caravan in response to the instruction of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during the recent Cabinet meeting, to alleviate the plight of families in the typhoon-affected areas.

From http://www.gov.ph/ 10/16/2009

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SINGAPORE: Survey Shows Govt, Fis Need to Boost Efforts to Help SMEs

SINGAPORE: The ability for companies to get access to funding has been affected in recent months by the global financial crisis. But a recent survey has shown that some 62 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises around the world have managed to survive the downturn by boosting cash flow through internal financing. The Access to Finance for the Small and Medium Enterprise report was commissioned by three major global accounting bodies - CPA Australia, CGA Canada and the ACCA. The research, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, highlighted the needs of SMEs as the global economic climate begins to improve. SMEs represent roughly 99 per cent of enterprises around the world, produce 40 to 50 per cent of the economic output of affluent countries, and account for more than half of all private sector employment in the OECD. It is of no surprise that a sustained global economic recovery will depend heavily on the growth of the SME sector, which has struggled amid the current recession. The recent SME survey has indicated that SMEs need a helping hand in order to restart investing and hiring activities. Neil Stevenson, executive director, Brand, ACCA, said: "I think we've come to a critical juncture and I think our survey does illustrate that conditions have improved, and certainly if you look at the survey, SMEs are seeing good growth opportunities for the future. "I think governments around the world will see the SME sector as a good way of helping the global economy to recover its position. With that said, now is a critical time.

"We've seen in the survey that investment has been postponed (by SMEs), that SMEs are facing cost-cutting and saving, so now is the time for governments to look at where we have got to (help) and what will be required to take us to the next stage of development that we need." Some 82 per cent of SMEs surveyed believed that banks were not doing enough to pass on interest rate cuts. Experts said when it comes to access to funding, banks need to be less formulaic in their approach to SMEs, assess risk on an individual basis and reduce the risk of incorrect rejections. While 44 per cent of SME respondents stated that the financial crisis had dented their ability to expand into new markets, many were optimistic about growth potential in the year ahead. Jeff Hughes, executive general manager, Member Services, CPA Australia, said: "I think a lot of it has to do with the demand that they have seen coming forward over the last 12 months. "They are probably a little more optimistic than we gave them credit for at that time, and I think the lessons they've learnt over the first six to eight months of the crisis, with regard to their cost reductions... have actually held them in good stead for the future." SMEs in the Asia Pacific, as well as in Africa and the Middle East, are expected to outperform the rest of the world as the global economic recovery unfolds.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/23/2009

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VIETNAM: Approval for Private Cargo Airline

HCM CITY - TraiThien Air Cargo, Viet Nam's first private cargo airline, has received a licence and is expected to begin operations in October next year, according to the Ministry of Transport. The private airline, which has a charter capital of VND500 billion (US$28 million), received approval from the Prime Minister last month. Licensing done to Trai Thien Airline Jst Co, who runs TraiThien Air Cargo, pursues the Viet Nam Civil Aviation Law 2006 and Decree on Air Transport Business Activities 2007. The company has set its sights on the Northeast Asian and Southeast Asian markets. It has registered to operate with five Boeing 737 aircraft, but only one is expected to be pressed into service initially. The cargo sector is now shared by 11 foreign carriers including China Airline Cargo, Korean Air Cargo, Malaysia Airlines System, Federal Express and Air France-KLM Cargo. Six other domestic airlines - Vietnam Airlines, Vasco, Jetstar Pacific, Indochina Airlines, VietJet Air, and Mekong Aviation - are licensed for both passenger and cargo transport. The last three are privately owned but only Indochina has begun operations so far.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 10/02/1009

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More People Opt for Private Hospitals

Have you ever been to a hospital? If you ever do go, when you arrive at a public hospital in Ha Noi, you may be dismayed by the long queues of people waiting their turn. Then, when your turn finally comes, you may have to face a doctor with a sullen or annoyed demeanor. With these realities, many people today choose a private hospital or clinic for their health care needs. "The number of people visiting private clinics is increasing," says Associate Professor Dr Nguyen Thi Ngoc Dinh, former head of the Viet Nam Ear, Nose and Throat National Hospital. "People often believe in public hospitals. But it actually takes a lot of time for people to be examined because they have to wait so long. So, people with enough money and those who don't want to waste their time often choose private clinics. They know they will be served immediately and with enthusiasm. Moreover, they can choose which well-known doctor they want to see." Dinh says she now works for a private general hospital. "There were fewer patients a year ago than there are now. I realise that more and more patients are choosing private clinics, and that this trend will continue into the future." In countries such as the US and Singapore private hospitals outnumber the public options. People tend to go to the prestigious private clinics following an introduction from others, so the private clinics and doctors do not need to advertise. The private hospitals can also accept insurance cards. Nguyen Hoang, 37, from Ha Dong District, says he is afraid of the cumbersome procedures that patients must go through before they can be treated at public hospitals. "I don't want to be examined at a public hospital because it would take a lot of time, there would be a lot of waiting and their procedures are complicated. I prefer private hospitals because their procedures can be completed quickly.

In particular, if you go to a private hospital you will find it easier to ask the doctors to provide you with documentation about your illness so that you can be reimbursed by your insurance. It's much easier than asking for the same paperwork at public hospitals." Since many people are afraid of the long queues at Ha Noi's famous hospitals, such as the Central Obstetrics Hospital and the Saint Paul General Hospital, private options have become the top choice. Ngo Thanh Loan, 32, from Dong Da District, says private clinics suit her. "I'm a State employee so I can hardly go to hospital during working hours. Even when I was pregnant I went to a private clinic close to home. Their prices were not too high. The doctors gave me detailed advice, and the staff had a good attitude." Loan says she often chooses private clinics recommended to her by friends. "When I go to a private clinic, I always look at how large and hygienic it is. If it's ok, I'll have one exam there, then, if I think they did a good job, I'll go back." "I even registered for treatment using a health care insurance card at Hong Ha, a private hospital," she adds. Because public hospitals are always crowded with large numbers of people in need of care, some patients and their family members try to give money to doctors or nurses so they can queue jump. Some give money to hospital staff and ask them to lead them directly to doctors for quick treatment. Doctors and hospital staff are forbidden from taking bribes, says director of the Ha Noi Obstetrics Hospital, Nguyen Huy Bao. "Overcrowding at public hospitals has caused this problem," he says. "But we strictly prohibit our doctors and staff from accepting bribes from patients or leading them to examinations before their turn. Everyone must queue. We've installed 16 cameras to supervise our staff." But Bao says another long-term solution is necessary. "We should open more examination rooms, where people can pay a premium to be examined immediately, rather than queuing to use their health insurance cards."

Although many have turned to private clinics, many others still hold on to their belief in public hospitals, such as Nguyen Linh An, 35. "When I was a little girl my parents often took me to the National Paediatrics Hospital. I still prefer the way public hospitals work, and they are cheaper than private clinics. I trust the public hospitals because their doctors have received excellent training; these hospitals have many great doctors and leading experts. "Moreover, the State often provides modern equipment to the public hospitals, so we have a peace of mind in terms of the quality of their examinations and treatment. "Public hospitals are still the first choice for me and my family," she says. Though many people prefer to go to private clinics, one important reason they should still consider public hospitals is their modern facilities. For this reason, patients must surely opt for the public sector for serious diseases. I hope the public hospitals will get the upgrades they need and that their procedures will be rapidly simplified so they can continue to serve as the main health care support system for the country's people. (VNS)

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 10/18/2009

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BANGLADESH: PDB for Pvt Sector Power Generation Policy Reform

The state-owned Power Development Board has proposed an amendment to the Private Sector Power Generation Policy, which critics think will hamper the ongoing reforms in the problem-ridden sector, reports UNB. According to Power Ministry officials, the proposed amendment will ultimately curtail the powers of the Power Cell in inviting international tenders for setting up power plants in the private sector. Official sources said if the proposal of the PDB was approved, the ongoing reforms in the power sector would take a u-turn instead of moving forward. Power Cell, a reform-implementation wing of the Power Division under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, was set up in 1995 mainly to carry out reforms in the country's crippled power sector. The main responsibility of this agency was to promote and facilitate private investment in the power sector to reduce government's burden in the sector that has long been lagging far behind an ever-growing demand for electricity. Because, in the early nineties, the public-sector-based power business became totally inefficient, loss-making and problematic. In some cases, the system loss (euphemism of electricity theft) in power distribution ran as high as over 70 percent. As a result, donor agencies suspended all kinds of funding to the power sector that hindered its development and compounded the cumulative crisis. The power board had to bear much of the blame for the problems and the power pilferage that gave rise to millionaires even from a lowly rank as meter-reader, as the story unfolded in the recent past. Against such a backdrop, recommendations came from the donor agencies to carry out massive reforms in the power sector and promote private investment in the sector to overcome a cash crunch and power crisis. In such a situation, the then BNP government had moved for an overhaul of the power sector and formed the Power Cell in 1995.

The Private Sector Power Generation Policy, which was framed in 1996, and later revised in 2004, vested absolute mandate in the Power Cell to promote private investment and do other necessary jobs. The policy states: "The Power Cell has a mandate to lead private power development, recommend power-sector reforms and restructuring, conduct study on tariffs and formation of a regulatory framework for the power sector." It further says, "The Power Cell shall facilitate all stages of promotion, development, implementation, commissioning and operations of private power-generation projects and suitably address the concerns of project sponsors. It will also assist project sponsors to secure necessary consent and permits from GOB where such consent and permit would be needed." Since the inception of Power Cell in 1995 to date, all the power plants in the private sector have been processed by the Power Cell for implementation. The agency invited tenders and made all necessary negotiations on behalf of government with the private-sector investors to purchase electricity from private power plants. So far, the Power Cell has conducted the process of setting up 19 private power plants in the country with a total capacity of generating 930-MW power. Of these, power plants of about 570-MW capacity have come up in the last two and a half years. The Power Cell also recently invited a tender for setting up a 450-MW power plant at Bibiyana-a major venture in the power-hungry power sector. However, before the inception of the Cell, about 760-MW-capacity private power plants had been processed by the PDB. But now PDB sent a proposal to the Power Division recommending an amendment to the Private Sector Power Generation Policy seeking its own authority to invite tenders for setting up power plants in the private sector. As per the existing law, the PDB is authorized to invite tender for plants in the public sector only. The latest proposal from the PDB came as a surprise to the Power Division officials as they considered it as a "step backward" which will ultimately put the ongoing power-sector reforms into a dilemma. They said the present management of the PDB is more interested in setting up power plants instead of bringing efficiency in its management. They also observed that the ongoing reforms to turn the PDB into a holding company and also establish corporate management in the state-owned agency have been slowed down in recent times because of a lack of its interest in implementing reforms. When contacted, PDB officials declined to make any comment about the policy-amendment proposal.

From http://www.newstoday-bd.com/ 10/11/2009

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INDIA: Job Market in Indian Financial Sector on a Rise

Bangalore: The Indian economy is reviving from the global economic slowdown as companies from almost every sector have started hiring. Even though the hiring is nowhere near the 2006-07 level, it is definitely better than last year. Indian institutions were not that much effected by the recession but were cautious and had stopped or slowed the hiring process. These institutions have started hiring again. There are now new opportunities in capital markets. Equity market has been impacted a lot due to recession. Many private equity firms are shutting down their office in India. But there is greater emphasis on exposure to Indian equity markets even on their Asian desks and global desks. So there will definitely some hiring here in future. According to Economic Times, apart from equity market, core banking areas such as corporate banks, treasury, credit and certain allied areas such as technology and HR are witnessing induction of senior talent. Banks are building their bench strength and are again offering growth oriented jobs. The insurance industry is strengthening its treasury, back-office and front-office leadership roles. Many mortgage- insurance companies might open an office in India. There are also many new service areas which have come forward post recession like credit bureaus, derivative trading desks, commodity trading, reinsurance and risk and analytics. To conclude with, there will be many jobs in financial sector in next few years but the profile will be more tilted towards highly advanced service areas.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 10/08/2009

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PAKISTAN: Government Sitting on Funds for Water Projects

ISLAMABAD: Despite government claims of according top priority to the water and power sector to eliminate load shedding, the government has released a mere Rs 2.8 billion to the Ministry of Water and Power in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2009-10, against a promised Rs 17.85 billion. This below-par allocation poses a major challenge for the ministry and has exposed the government's "hollow commitment" to the people. These views were expressed on the opening day of the Planning Commission's three-day meeting to undertake the first quarterly review of the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP). The meeting aimed at finding out the funds utilisation and the difference of allocations in the PSDP book, prepared by the Planning Commission and the Pink Book prepared by the finance minister. In the PSDP 2009-10, the government had allocated Rs 47.255 billion for 85 developmental projects for the ministry's water sector. The government had to release Rs 17.85 billion in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2009-10, but released only Rs.2.8 billion due to "so-called financial constraints". The water ministry demanded additional funds to the tune of Rs 6 billion from the government to complete the ongoing mega projects in time. Some of the important water projects are: Mirani Dam, Sabakzai Dam, Satpara Multipurpose Dam, Gomal Zam Dam, Greater Thal Canal, Naigaj Dam Dadu Sindh and construction of small dams. The meeting also identified a difference of Rs 224.6 million for the water sector. For the power sector, the government allocated Rs 139.306 billion for the Water and Power Development Authority. During the first quarter, the government allocated Rs 22.3 billion. The meeting also discussed the allocation for the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC). The government had allocated Rs 19.5 billion for its 40 developmental schemes. According to rules, the government has to release Rs 6.1 billion in the first quarter of the fiscal year, but it released only Rs 2.8 billion. In the annual budget, the government had allocated Rs 447.440 million for five ongoing developmental projects of the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA). It had to release Rs 109.8 million for the first quarter, but released only Rs 82.5 million. For the Ministry of Information, Technology and Telecom, the government allocated Rs 1.128 billion in the PSDP 2009-10 for total 83 developmental projects. The government had to release Rs 430.4 million in the first quarter, but released only Rs 48.5 million.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 10/20/2009

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AZERBAIJAN: Regulations of National Fund for Entrepreneurial Support Approved

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has signed a decree to approve the new rules of lending and regulations of the National Fund for Entrepreneurial Support (NFES) which assists businesses in particular the development of small and medium enterprises and improvement of employment opportunities. According to the decree, the supervisory board was set as the supreme governing body of the Fund. The Supervisory Board consists of 7 members, including the chairman. Three board members are appointed by the ministries of finance, taxation, labor and social protection, the other 4 members by the Ministry of Economic Development. Under the Regulations, the funds of NFES come from the state budget allocations, proceeds from its operations, including payments on principal, interest, penalties and commissions for soft loans, donations provided by local and foreign legal entities and individuals, assistance and grants issued by foreign states and international organizations, loans received by the government, and other sources not prohibited by the legislation.

The funds are used in compliance with rules approved by the President of Azerbaijan. The Fund is headed by Managing Director who is appointed and dismissed by the Ministry of Economic Development. According to the rules of using funds, the delivery of loans to businesses is carried out through authorized banks and non-bank lending institutions under agreement on their behalves or their responsibility for repayment. Only 10% of proceeds from interests, penalties and fees paid to the NFES can be used for the strengthening of the logistics and social protection of employees. The balance of the total amounts borrowed by agent banks from NFES can be up to 100% of their total capital. The limit can be raised to 150% when large-scale projects are undertaken. The balance of the total funds borrowed by non-bank lending institutions may be up to 100% of their share capital.

Soft loans from NFES may be provided to businesses under the following limits:
- From AZN 10 000 to AZN 50 000 - small loans;
- From AZN 50 001 to AZN 250 000 - medium-sized loans;
- From AZN 250 001 to AZN 1 000 000 - large-sized loans;
- From AZN 1 000 001 to AZN 5 000 000 - huge loans.

The maximum amount of a soft loan for 1 business entity should not exceed AZN 5 million. Maturity period are as follows:
- Small loans - up to 2 years;
- Medium-sized loans - up to 3 years;
- Large-sized loans - up to 5 years;
- Huge loans - up to 7 years.

Annual interest rates for loans are as following:
- To finance media development projects - 0.5%;
- To finance other projects - 1%.

Annual interest rates on loans charged by authorized credit institutions should not exceed 6% of the total loan amount (4% for media development projects).

From Today.Az 10/09/2009

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AUSTRALIA: Power Workers to Continue Privatisation Fight

Electricity workers on the New South Wales north coast say they will continue to campaign against the part privatisation of the energy industry. Country Energy staff in Coffs Harbour and Grafton met representatives from the United Services Union (USU) yesterday to discuss their concerns about the sale. Union organiser Trish Brown says the campaign will involve political pressure, community education and media exposure instead of industrial action. She says if the industry is sold, job losses will follow. "Being at Grafton was very interesting because you think, if you lose 30 or 40 jobs in an area like that, they're big job losses for a local community and small business," she said. "There was nothing new to come out of the meetings but people have still got fire in their belly. "They're very, very disappointed in this Government and what they're trying to achieve just for a quick buck, so they're very disappointed but ready for a fight." The USU says up to 70 jobs are at risk at Coffs Harbour and Grafton. Ms Brown says Country Energy staff are ready to campaign hard. "It will be community-based, media-based, politically-based, so it will be very similar to what we ran last year when Morris Iemma was in," she said. "We will have to try and secure some kind of employment protection for them which is what we have been trying to do and the Government is just resisting us so it could mean a lot of devastation for a lot of regional areas."

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 10/08/2009

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WA Govt Considers Privatising Goldfields Jail

The Western Australian Government has confirmed it is considering privatising the new Eastern Goldfields prison. The Government committed $230 million in its last budget to building the new facility by 2013. The Opposition is concerned privatising the prison will lead to poorer conditions for staff. Attorney-General Christian Porter says while he is confident private prisons do work, a decision about the facility's operation is yet to be made. "We're in the procurement stage, so we're determining the scope of the project and how it will be procured, whether it will be publicly or privately built and how it will be operated," he said. "So that's part of the process that we're in at the moment."

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 10/08/2009

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NEW ZEALAND: NZ Supporting Private Sector Development in Tonga

Foreign Minister Murray McCully today welcomed the establishment of the Business Opportunity Support Scheme (BOSS) in Tonga, which aims to encourage commercial investment and increase earnings from exports and tourism. "Encouraging the development of Tonga's private sector will help create the economic growth required to lift more people out of poverty," Mr McCully said. "BOSS is a joint initiative by the private sector and the New Zealand and Tongan governments. It will helpTongan and New Zealand firms making significant investment decisions, and support business links between our two countries. "The scheme will provide grants of up to $30,000 to assist investors and entrepreneurs carry out feasibility studies focusing on the export-related, import substitution, and tourism sectors. "The grants will encourage commercial investment by helping businesses who would not otherwise be able to assess the commercial viability of potential new investments or business opportunities. "Supporting private sector development is a key theme in New Zealand's approach to development assistance in the Pacific, and the BOSS scheme is a practical example our commitment to strengthening trade and economic growth in the Pacific," Mr McCully said. BOSS is part of New Zealand's programme of official development assistance with Tonga. The bilateral aid programme has increased to $16 million for each of the 2009/10 and 2010/11 financial years, and will reach $18 million in 2011/12. For more information on the support New Zealand provides to Tonga click here.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 10/21/2009

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