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July 2010, Issue 104
unpan-ap@sass.org.cn
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ˇˇ 'Russia Needs to Change Attitude Towards Asia'
Migration Key to Long-Term Economic Growth, Says OECD
Asia Should Nurture Domestic Demand for Sustainable Growth: IMF Chief
Asia Can Play a Leading Role in IMF Policy-Making
Asia Urged to Increase Intra-Regional Trade
Asia to Step Up Reg'l Energy Cooperation
Asia on Edge After North Korea Nuke Threat
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ˇˇ CHINA: Ministry to Provide Living Allowances for Yushu Survivors
China to Maintain Macro-economic Policy Stance: Premier
China Tort Law Set to Further Guard Individual Rights
Rules on Listed Brokers Tightened
China Releases 2010 Salary Increase Guidelines
China's Central Bank to Continue Loose Monetary Policy During Next 6 Months
Western Region Development Plan a Dual Strategy
China Publicizes Natural Disaster Relief Regulations
New Rules to Curb Corruption in Govt Drug Purchases
Regulation Boosts SOEs Transparency
JAPAN: Gov't Maps Out 7 Rules on Pension Reforms
Gov't Sets New Charter for Balancing Work and Life
Expanded Renewable Energy Plan Shifts Costs to Households
SOUTH KOREA: Labor Law Revision Adds to Uncertainty
National Assembly Gives Thumbs Down to Sejong City Plans
Anti-Speculation Regulations for Banks Take Effect
Ministry to Help Firms Better Use Free Trade
Ministry May Ease Rule on Mortgages
MONGOLIA: New Law Will Be Helpful for New Business Registration
Renewed National Security Concepts of Mongolia Passed
Cabinet Makes Economic Decisions
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ˇˇ LAOS: Vientiane Focuses on Blowing Out Poverty
Consumers to Enjoy Higher Safety If Consumer Protection Law Passes
People with Disabilities in Savannakhet Given Assistance
World Bank Group Helps Facilitate Value-Added Tax Compliance by Lao Businesses
MALAYSIA: Minimal Impact Seen from Subsidy Cuts
THAILAND: Commit to Strengthening the Economic Competitiveness
Issuance of Community Land Title Deeds in an Effort to Push for Land Distribution
Thailand's Heavy Investment in the Social Sector to Revive the Economy
Diverse Dimensions of Thailand's Creative Economy
New Destination for Factory Taxes
VIETNAM: Localities Scrutinise FDI Projects
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: Steps to Make Public Transport Smoke-Free
SRI LANKA: Relaxes Monetary Policy
NEPAL: Works on New Monetary Policy Are Underway
Govt Unveils Action Plan to Produce 38,000 MW Electricity in 20 Years
Govt Set to Amend Industrial Enterprises Act
PAKISTAN: VAT Integral Part of IMF Programme
Govt to Merge FATA with KP
Govt Plans Early Completion of N-J Hydropower Project
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ˇˇ AZERBAIJAN: President Approves Law on Compulsory Insurance on Labor Ability Loss in Production
Azerbaijan Creates Fertile Ground for Long-term Measures to Protect Biodiversity in 2011-2020
Azerbaijan President Decrees to Social Protection of Media Representatives
KAZAKHSTAN: President Signed Amendments to Legislation Concerning Mobilization Preparation and Mobilization
President Signed Law on Further Improvement of Rules for Cconclusion, Execution and Denunciation of International Treaties
TAJIKISTAN: Freedom of Expression Network to Be Set Up
TURKMENISTAN: Raise Wages, Pensions and Scholarships Starting from 2011
UZBEKISTAN: Creation of Workplaces as Major Priority of Its Social Policy
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: Gillard Signals New Direction in Its Population Growth
Australia's PM Tackles Tax Furore
Australian Government Urged to Step up Oil Rig Monitoring
Australian PM Urges Free Debate on Immigration
Australian Mining Deal Slashes Government Forecasts
Australia's PM Unveils New Climate Change Policy
COOK ISLANDS: New Party from CIP Fallout
Cook Islands Parliament Urged to Launch a Commission of Inquiry over National Fuel Strategy
Cook Islands to Develop National Plan to Cope With Persistent Organic Pollutants
NEW ZEALAND: Govt Focused on Correcting Fall in Export Jobs
New Zealand Energy Data File 2010 Released
Chance to Drive Economic Growth
Government to Reform or Repeal Waihopai 3 Defence
Benefits of micro-insurance to be promoted in Pacific countries
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ˇˇ APEC Launches New Statistics Portal: StatsAPEC
Asia Pacific Gov'ts Urged to Increase Investments in Agriculture
Asia's Response to Climate Change and Natural Disasters - Report
Foundation Laid for Action-Oriented ARF in Future
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ˇˇ CHINA: Regulator Warns of Risks in Lending
China's Cabinet Seeks More Mergers, Reorganizations Among Nation's Businesses
New Rules to Improve School Bus Safety
Beijing to Combine City Districts to Balance Development
China Allocates More Relief Funds for Flood-hit South
China to Address Problems on Central Budget Implementation in 2009
China to Strengthen Poverty Alleviation Work
Chinese Vice Premier Pledges to Further Improve Investment Environment
Supreme Court Issues Detailed Work Report
China Plans Weather Insurance to Help Farmers
JAPAN: Plan for Gender Equality
Gov't Eases Requirements for Recognizing Hepatitis Sufferers
Funding Social Welfare
Panel Calls for Money in 8 Fields of Science, Technology
Gov't to Set Up Body to Draft Budget, Form Policy on Tax Reform
SOUTH KOREA: Tensions Grow over Time-off System
Korea to Tighten Investor Visa Rules
Labor Ministry to Focus on Jobs
Court Issues Language Guidelines for Judges
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ˇˇ INDONESIA: KPK Asks Lawmakers to Immediately Declare Assets
PPATK Needs No Extra Power: Expert
MALAYSIA: Health Financing Scheme Ought Not to Be Delayed Further
PHILIPPINES: Palace Working on Shape of Truth Commission
'Explosive' Gov't Deals Uncovered - P-Noy
Lawmaker Bats for 'Absolute Transparency' in Use of Pork Barrel
VIETNAM: Government Sets Up Administrative Control Agency
HCM City Offers Rewards to Those Who Denounce Corruption
Party Punishes Violations by 6 Members, 2 Groups
Anti-corruption Group Told to Take Tougher Action When Prosecuting
Party Disciplines Provincial Government Head for Dissolute Lifestyle
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ˇˇ INDIA: Over 600 Citizen-Centric Services Now Available Online
New Home Ministry Spokesperson to Take Charge July 26
Congress Asks J-K Govt. to Crack Down Corruption, Non-Functioning Bureaucracy
SRI LANKA: NDB Appoints Two COOs
Sri Lanka to Appoint Rating Advisor
Sri Lanka to Regulate Micro-Finance Institutions
NEPAL: Election for PM Post Taking Place Today
PAKISTAN: Freedom of Judiciary a Key Element of Constitution
Latif Khosa Resigns
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ˇˇ AZERBAIJAN: President Approves Structure of Foreign Ministry
GEORGIA: Parliament Approves New Government
Georgia Limits Public Information About International Court Cases
KYRGYZSTAN: Working Group Created Within Economic Rehabilitation of Its Program
Kyrgyz Interim President Names New Ministers
Kyrgyzstan Forms New Government
Kyrgyz Interim Gov't Amends Election Law
KAZAKHSTAN: Assistant to General Public Prosecutor Appointed
President of Kazakhstan Considers Necessary to Start Deep Integration of Eurasian Subcontinent
Kazakhstan Unified National Health System Improves Quality of Health Services
Kazakhstan's Chairmanship in SCO Official Website Launched
TURKMENISTAN: Foreign Ministry Comments on Reports About Problems with "Dual Citizenship"
Turkmenistan Makes Reshuffle in Government
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: First Cabinet Meeting for New PM
Australian PM Warns of Unpopular Cutbacks
Australia's PM Poised to Call Election
NEW ZEALAND: House Debates Performance of Wider State Sector
Minister Announces New Pharmac Appointments
SOLOMON ISLANDS: Candidate Numbers for Election Nears 300
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ˇˇ Asia-Pacific to Promote Low-Carbon Economic Growth
Asia Shows "Remarkable Resilience" in Global Crisis: IMF Chief
Asia Micro Finance Forum in Colombo
APEC Launches New Cross-Border Data Privacy Initiative
Asia Society's Landmark '2010 Asian Pacific Americans Corporate Survey' Examines Barriers to Career Advancement
Asia's Leading Young Academics Share Ideas on Region's Future
Asia Security Forum to Boost Regional Disaster Relief
Asia-Pacific: Advance on Intellectual Property
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ˇˇ CHINA: Try Out Program of Network Integration
China's Credit Cards Maintain Low Bad Debt Rates: CBRC
CHINA: CPC Launches Online Database of Communist Doctrines
China Publishes List of Pilot Cities for Convergence of Three Networks
China Exploring New Approaches to Protect Environment: Minister
Beijing to Build First 3D Technology Park
Beijing Police Establish Public Relations Office, Microblog
China Slashes Administrative Approval Items
Hu Stresses Deepening of Reform of Cultural System
JAPAN: Aim to Expand the Middle Class
SOUTH KOREA: Financial Reforms to Be at Fore of Seoul Summit
Green Product Information System Launched
MONGOLIA: World Bank Supports Its Policy Reforms
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ˇˇ LAOS: EPF Supports WREA's Environment Management
ADB to Help Laos Improve Vocational Training, Address Skill Shortages
PHILIPPINES: ADB Plans to Build Wind Power Projects in 5,000 Villages Nationwide
DILG Budget, Status of Funds Now on Website
Govt to Improve Logistics System
VIETNAM: President Calls for Stronger Judicial Training
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: Infringement on Intellectual Property a Global Threat
FAO Launches First Food Safety Website for Bangladesh
INDIA: First of Its Kind E-Governance Programme in India
Innovative Programming Vital for Quality Information Dissemination
NEPAL: Govt Recognises Contribution of Journos in Nation Building
PAKISTAN: First Pakistani Social Website Introduced
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ˇˇ ARMENIA: Ombudsman Concerned by Lack of Media Freedom
Armenia to Launch Several Energy Projects This Year
AZERBAIJAN: Tolerant to All Innovations Used in Global Economy
Azerbaijan President: Process of Holding Elections in Azerbaijan Improves Each Year, Transparency Is Completely Ensured
Baku to Host 1st Annual Symposium of Researchers of International Relations
New Website on Azerbaijani Ghost City Presented
Press Council Chairman: Azerbaijan Holds Strategy of Sustainable Assistance to Press
KYRGYZSTAN: Experts Uniquely Evaluate the Effectiveness of the Parliamentary System of Government
TURKMENISTAN: WB Realizes "Avian Influenza Control and Human Pandemic Preparedness and Response Project"
UZBEKISTAN: Human Rights Trainings for Law Enforcement and Judiciary Bodies
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: No Price on Carbon Until 2013 - Says PM
Australia's Leadership Debate Outlines Policies
FIJI: IMF Positive on Its Economic Reforms
Government to Improve Road
NEW ZEALAND: Improve Ability to Combat Identity Fraud
Government Committed to Ongoing Discipline
Early Signs That the Economy Is Rebalancing
Public Comment Sought on Clarifying Tax System
Solutions Proposed to GST Rate Change Concerns
ˇˇ Asia's Growing Pains
Massive Rise in Asia Pacific Social Media Posts
Asia in the Grip of Water Crisis - Asian Development Bank
Pacific Highway Upgrade a Priority
Global Mobile Subscriber Base Passes the 5 Billion Mark
UN: Food Security Challenges Asia-Pacific
Advertising Surges in Asia-Pacific Region
India, China Account for 47pc of 5 Bn Global Mobile Connections
Asia Gains in Digital Economy Rankings
A Dangerous Dynamic in Emerging Asia Markets
East Asia Cuts Poverty, More Work Needed to Meet Health, Environment MDGs - Forum
Lack of Standardization Around Mobile Web Conventions Presents Hurdles for Mobile Publishers
ADB Upgrades Forecast for Developing Asia as Broad Recovery Continues
Asian Wireless Telecom Firms Undergoing Transition
Economic Crisis 'Impoverished Millions'
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ˇˇ CHINA: Boost Web Retail Sales Through Better Regulation
Online Shops Must Register
China's Online Forum Users Hit 117 Million
Network Media Playing Larger Role in Spreading News in China: Blue Book
China's Online Population Tops 420 Million
E-commerce Boom Continues in China as One in Ten Chinese Shops Online
China's Mobile Phone Users Top 800 Mln
Internet Sector Value Up 56%
Internet a Resource for Finding Criminals
Taiwan, Japan to Develop Broadband Technologies
JAPAN: Central Bank's 'Tankan' Survey Shows Economic Improvement, but Concerns Remain
Economic Fears Causes Japan Machinery Order Drop
Japan, Australia to Boost Cooperation in Communications Technology
Japan's Publishing Companies Stepping Up Efforts to Develop E-book Market
SOUTH KOREA: Its Economy Remains World's 15th Largest
Cyber Attack a Hangover from Last Year
Mobile Web Usage Climbs during Nighttime
Seoul Tops Global Cities Ranking for E-Govt
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ˇˇ LAOS: 57 Percent of Lao People Use Safe Water
Public Health Expansion Network Is on Focus
THAILAND: Aim to Become the Hub for Regional Operating Headquarters
Rice Innovation Adding Value to the Thai Rice Industry
Public Opinions on National Reform
VIETNAM: Many State-owned Groups Become Limited Liability Companies
Vietnam Keen on More Free Trade Agreements
MPI Releases Socio-economic Targets for 2011
WB Says Vietnam's ODA Disbursement Slow
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: Tech Education at Primary Level from 2011
Govt Making Effort to Raise Industry's Share in Economy
BHUTAN: ADB, Japan Support Bhutan's Push to Improve Rural Roads, Boost Farm Incomes
INDIA: E-Driver's Licence Project Hits 10 Million
E-Toll System by 2012 in India
Companies' E-Returns to Have Digital Signature
Online Complaint Register System by PWD
Punjab to Introduce E-Tendering
Jharkhand Panchayats to Have E-Secretariat
PAKISTAN: Promotion of IT Must for Rapid Development: Chief Minister
Economic Growth Linked to Population Welfare
Government Urged to Open More IT Universities
Promotion of Higher Education Priority
World Bank to Help Pakistan Reduce Poverty
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ˇˇ ARMENIA: ArmenTel Announces New Payment System Launch
GNC Alfa Completes First Stage of IP/MPLS Network Construction
International Top Up for VivaCell-MTS Armenia Becomes Available Across Ezetop Distribution Channels
AZERBAIJAN: Economic Opportunities Presented in Trieste
Committee Head: 'Single Window' System Introduced in Azerbaijani Customs Proves Effective
UN 'Ready' to Assist Azerbaijan in Developing ICT Sector
Azerbaijani Postal Operator Launches Financial Services for Population
TURKMENISTAN: TurkmenTEL 2010 Attracts the Full Attention of the International Telecommunications & IT Industry
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: Interest Rates Stay Steady
Govt Delays Plan for Internet Filter
Gillard Opens Campaign with Regional Housing Plan
Population a Key Question for Campaigning Australian Politicians
NEW ZEALAND: Minister Opens New Waterways Centre
Department of Labour Launches a New Information Tool
Employment Law Package All About Jobs & Growth
SOLOMON ISLANDS: Central Bank Notes Signs of Economic Recovery
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ˇˇ Asia Private-Bank Boom Not What It Was in '07, Credit Suisse's Kreis Says
European Businesses Must Engage with Rising Asia, Says HSBC Report
Asia-Pacific Corporate Bond Risk Declines to Lowest in More than Two Weeks
Lending Rates Creep Up in Fast-Growing Asia
Emerging Market M&A Gains Share on West, Led by Asia
Foreign Direct Investment Recovery Underway
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ˇˇ CHINA: CDB Approves 600 Mln Yuan Emergency Loan to Flooded Regions
Banking Regulator Warns of Risks in Property, Overcapacity Sectors
China to Improve Access to Finance for SMEs
PBOC Pumps 105 Bln Yuan into Money Market
China to Continue to Fight Hot Money Inflow: SAFE
Shanghai Ranks 8th as Financial Hub Globally
PBOC Agrees to Provide RMB Cash Settlement Services to Taiwan
Central Bank to Drain 205 Bln Yuan from Market
China's Ministry of Finance to Sell 23.2 Bln Yuan in Local Government Bonds
Chinese Banks Post 18.3% Increase in Assets
JAPAN: Kan Proposes Sales Tax Refunds for Range of Income Levels
Kan Eyes Widening Corporate Tax Base
Double Taxation on Pension-insurance Payouts Overruled
Osaka Proposes Special Zone for Easier Regulations on Lending
Japan's FY 2011 Budget to Cap Gov't Spending at Y71 Tril
SOUTH KOREA: Banks Big Enough Already - Think Tank
Bank of Korea Raises Interest Rate to 2.25% to Stem Inflation
Gov't Seeks 7% Budget Hike for Next Year
KOFIA Plans to Launch Credit-default Swaps Index
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ˇˇ INDONESIA: Rp 20 Billion Allocated to Dredge Rivers This Year
LAOS: Spending Millions of US Dollars of Grant and Loans on Priority Projects
SEZ to Attract US$460 Million More of Investment
Samaiphanh Gives 10 Million Kip for New City Pillar Shrine Construction
THAILAND: An Annual Budget of 200 Million Baht Set Aside for the National Reform Process
VIETNAM: State Enterprises Called to Account
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: ADB $40 Million Loan to Boost Food Security, Farm Incomes
INDIA: Maharashtra Government to Reserve Budget for E-Governance
SRI LANKA: Inflation Slows to 4.8-pct in June
NEPAL: Govt Prepares Special Budget of Rs 110 Billion
Revenue Mobilisation Surges to Rs 179.90 Bn
PAKISTAN: World Bank Approves $6.2 Billion Lending Programme
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ˇˇ ARMENIA: HSBC Bank Armenia, National Center for Development of SME Open Academy of Trade Financing
KAZAKHSTAN: Economy to Grow by 150% by 2020
Kazakh Government to Discuss Anti-crisis Plan for Kyrgyzstan Today
TURKMENISTAN: Establish National System of Accounting and Auditing
UZBEKISTAN: Government, Central Bank and IMF Issue Joint Statement
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: Government Withholds WA Health Funds
Australian Government Releases New Budget Forecast
FIJI: Budget Unveiled Today
NEW ZEALAND: Community Response Fund Provides Support
Mental Health Funding - More Than Ever Before
Extra Govt Funding Provides New Respite Care Beds
Atlantis Healthcare to Receive International Investment
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ˇˇ China: Private Groups May Be First to Set Up Trade Offices - Official
China Launches "Thanksgiving" Campaign, Asks Private Businesses to Help Those in Need
JAPAN: State-paid Cabinet Secretaries Also Cash In at Private-sector Jobs
SOUTH KOREA: Woori Financial Sale Plan Further Delayed
Two S. Korean NGOs Approved as UNESCO Advisory Bodies
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ˇˇ MALAYSIA: Creativity at Record High
Optimism on Auto Sector Running High
THAILAND: Export Industry Has Grown Significantly Despite Political Challenges
Incentives Could Move CSR Beyond Big Businesses
VIETNAM: Businesses Profit from Social Networking
Bond Issuance Horizon Brightens
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ˇˇ SRI LANKA: Private Sector Wants in on Reforms
Sri Lanka's Six Regional Development Banks Merge
PAKISTAN: Govt. Accords Priority to Social Sector Development
Telecom, Banking and Insurance Services: FBR Has to Address Anomaly After Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwah Levy 17 Percent Sales Tax
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ˇˇ ARMENIAN: VivaCell-MTS Launches Improved Mobile Internet Tariff
AZERBAIJAN: New Railways Development Program to Create Big Business Opportunities
JSC Azerenergy Applies Ecological Policy and 'Policy of Quality'
KAZAKHSTAN: Power Plants Must Provide Energy to 320 Projects Within Industrialization Program for 5 Years
Cabinet Approves Program on Development of Pharmaceutical Industry of Kazakhstan for 2010-2014
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: Banks Face Pressure over Cost of Lending and Look Likely to Raise Rates
COOK ISLANDS: Mining Moves

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'Russia Needs to Change Attitude Towards Asia'

Russia needs to change its attitude towards Asia, where great opportunities exist for cooperation with giants like India, China and Japan, a top Russian minister said on Thursday. "In the modern world, there is a need to change attitude towards Asia. This is not 'uncultured Asia', but highly developed economy, technologies, educated people. Unfortunately, hardly anyone (in Russia) knows about Asia," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin told a forum on cooperation with Asian-Pacific nations. Borodavkin, who looks after the Asia Desk in the ministry, also said that there is a need to integrate Russia's eastern territories into the Asian-Pacific space. "It is high-time to intensify the dialogue to strengthen trust between the states of this region. Here we have wide opportunities of cooperation with India, China, South Korea and Japan," Borodavkin said. He said President Dmitry Medvedev's last week's visit to the far-eastern parts of the country, where he called for closer interaction with the Asian-Pacific neighbours, opened a new Asian vector in Moscow's foreign policy.

From http://www.hindustantimes.com/ 07/08/2010

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Migration Key to Long-Term Economic Growth, Says OECD

International migration has fallen during the economic crisis, but as the recovery moves into gear migrants will once again be needed to fill labour and skill shortages, according to a new OECD report. The OECD's International Migration Outlook 2010 says that the inflow of immigrants to OECD countries fell by about 6% in 2008 to 4.4 million people, reversing five years of average annual increases of 11%. Recent national data suggest migration numbers fell further in 2009. The decline reflects a fall in labour demand in OECD countries, says the OECD. Immigrants have been hard hit by the jobs crisis, with young immigrants, in particular, suffering steeper drops in employment. Unemployment among male immigrants, many of whom worked in sectors that were badly hit by the crisis such as construction, hotels and restaurants, has generally risen more than among their native counterparts. Nonetheless, few unemployed immigrants are returning home. In some countries, there has been an increase in employment rates among immigrant women, who have taken jobs to make up for the lost income of their unemployed spouses. Beyond the short-term impact of the crisis, immigration will continue to play a vital role for OECD economies in the long term because of the need for extra workers to maintain growth and prosperity.

With this in mind, the OECD says, governments in OECD countries should make every effort to assist immigrants who have lost their jobs, both by ensuring that they have the same rights to unemployment support as native workers and by providing support for job searches and language-training to help their integration. "It is important to recall that migrants are valuable contributors to the national economy especially when times are good," commented OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurr¨Şa. "Current economic difficulties will not change long-term demographic trends and should not be used as an excuse to overly restrict immigration. It is important that immigration policy has a long-term perspective." Without an increase above current migration rates, the OECD forecasts, the working-age population in OECD countries will increase by only 1.9% over the next 10 years. This compares with an 8.6% increase in the working-age population between 2000 and 2010. One of the keys to satisfactory employment outcomes and, ultimately, integration for immigrants is naturalisation. Immigrants who are eligible to take up the nationality of the host country should be encouraged to do so, the OECD recommends. Governments, meanwhile, should consider lowering barriers to naturalisation, such as limits on dual nationality and overly restrictive eligibility criteria.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 07/12/2010

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Asia Should Nurture Domestic Demand for Sustainable Growth: IMF Chief

Asia needs to nurture its domestic demand as its export-driven growth remains vulnerable to overseas shocks, Yonhap News Agency reproted the head of the International Monetary Fund as saying Tuesday. "Given that some of Asia's major trading partners - in particular Europe and the US - are entering a period of lower growth rates, the need to nurture Asia's domestic demand over the medium term has become even more crucial," IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn told a press meeting held after wrapping up a two-day conference here. His emphasis on domestic demand is in line with discussions during the conference, during which many experts and regional policymakers underscored the importance of nurturing a "second engine of growth" that can reduce the region's heavy dependence on exports for growth.

The importance of boosting domestic consumption and investment has gained more significance, especially after the global economy was quickly hurled into a recession in the wake of the financial crisis that started in late 2008. The crisis hit export-driven countries harder than others, raising the need to further nurture domestic demand to brace for a future worldwide economic slump, Yonhap reported. Concluding his discussions during the conference co-hosted by the IMF and South Korea, Strauss-Kahn said that Asia showed "remarkable resilience" in surviving the global crisis, emerging as a global economic powerhouse. He attributed the region's "extensive" reforms undertaken over the past decade since the 1997-98 financial turbulence that helped many of its nations avoid the full brunt of the crisis this time. The IMF chief took notice of Asia's "increasingly important" role in global economic policymaking, saying that its weight will continue to grow in the global economy.

With regard to the IMF's role, Strauss-Kahn said that the Washington-based organisation will step up efforts to improve the effectiveness of its policy advice and provide better service to a "broader" range of people in Asia. "We will strive for an even-handed approach to surveillance, which will enhance the effectiveness of the IMF's policy advice. We will serve a broader Asian audience through increased outreach activities," he said. He added that the IMF will work "closely" with Asian countries to strengthen the global financial safety net, an agenda that is being pushed by South Korea within the framework of the Group of 20 meetings. The IMF will also help Asia play a bigger role in the global economy, citing an ongoing move to increase its voting power in the organization, he said.

From http://www.bernama.com/ 07/13/2010

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Asia Can Play a Leading Role in IMF Policy-Making

The region took its medicine a decade ago and is all the stronger for it; the time is right for its emerging markets to play a bigger role in policy formation. The International Monetary Fund is like a doctor. We normally don't like to go to see a doctor, and will only do so when we're really sick. Before the 1997 Asian financial crisis, not many people in this part of the world knew about the IMF. But after the IMF stepped in with a bail-out package for Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea during the ongoing financial turmoil, it became known as an unpleasant doctor with a rude bedside manner. Tough conditions, from fiscal tightening to financial reform, were imposed on the recipient countries of the Fund's money. In Indonesia there was a social uprising as a result of the IMF prescription of social spending cutbacks. In Thailand, the government partly addressed the social needs of people at the bottom of the economic ladder by coming up with a Miyazawa spending programme. Ever since this bad publicity, the IMF has learnt its lesson. Under the leadership of managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the IMF has broadened dialogue with its members. It wants to be seen as a gentler and kinder doctor.

A two-day conference on "Asia in the 21st century", held in Daejeon, South Korea, and organized by the IMF and the government of South Korea, ended yesterday with a strong realisation of the growing role of Asia in the global economy. There was also an understanding of the IMF's willingness to take into consideration the opinions and representation of the emerging-market economies. Currently the IMF is in the process of taking on more international staff. It is also working on its quota representation so that the emerging-market economies can have a bigger say in the direction of IMF policy. Strauss-Khan has admitted that details need to be worked out over the criteria, or the weighting, used to determine the proportionate representation in the IMF's management structure. The organisation is not managed on a one-vote-one-country basis, but on the weighting of its members' contributions and economic situation.

The criteria to determine the economic weighting will require some time to be resolved, but Strauss-Khan expects that a spirit of cooperation will prevail so that the IMF has a final formula acceptable to all parties by the time of the G-20 Summit to be held in Korea in November. Certainly it hopes to decide the issue before the end of this year. Obviously, with the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and the financial weakness of the US, Asia's economic and financial credibility is gaining more weight. "In my view, the macro-economic, financial and corporate-sector reforms put in place over the last decade have played an important role in the region's resilence. So, despite being hit hard initially, Asia was able to bounce back quickly from the global financial crisis," he said.

The IMF's latest forecast for Asian growth is seven and three quarters per cent in 2010, relative to a global growth rate of four and a half per cent. As for Thailand, in spite of the political turmoil in April and May, the IMF's projection for growth in Thailand is 7 per cent, much higher than the Thai government's estimate of 5.5 per cent. This reflects the resilience of the Thai economy. That being said, plenty of downside risks remain. Policy-makers need to stay attuned to possible further shocks. Monitoring and managing of capital inflows and the risks associated with asset and financial bubbles are the policy challenges that need to be reckoned with.

From http://www.asianewsnet.net/ 07/14/2010

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Asia Urged to Increase Intra-Regional Trade

DAEJON, South Korea - The International Monetary Fund has urged Asian countries, including the Philippines, to trade more goods among themselves and rely less on the West for export evenue as it projects weak demand from that part of the world due to the debt crisis in the Euro zone. IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said in a press conference held here that the multilateral institution was not expecting the global economy to suffer from a "double dip," but warned Asia on a potential anemic demand from Western countries, especially those affected by the Euro zone crisis. Citing details of the latest World Economic Outlook by the IMF, trauss-Kahn said the institution expected the world economy to continue recovering this year from last year's recession, calming fears of a second round of global contraction.

However, he said that Asian countries, which sell a substantial portion of their export goods to Europe, should prepare for a sustained weak demand from countries in the opposite side of the globe and defy the ill-effects of the crisis by conducting more regional trade. He said heavy reliance on Europe and the United States for export revenues was one of the major risks to the sustainability of the robust growth in Asia. In the case of the Philippines, about 14 percent of its export revenue comes from Europe and 17 percent, from the United States. In the first five months of the year, Philippine exports rose year-on-year by 38.7 percent to $19.16 billion, consistent with the increase in exports of neighboring countries. The jump in exports came amid early signs of recovery of the global economy from last year's plunge.

Nonetheless, the IMF said there might be a potential slowing down of demand from Europe because of the debt crisis. "Asia's increasing regional cooperation and integration helped the region withstand the crisis. Asia will benefit from even further intra-regional policy coordination that is underway," Strauss-Kahn said. He said efforts to bolster sub-regional trade, such as those by the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) are welcome and should be widely supported. The IMF official acknowledged that Asia had become the growth driver of the world economy, growing faster than the average global growth. To maintain its position, he said, Asia should shield itself from shocks coming from the West by relying more on its internal strength. Besides boosting intra-regional trade, he said, increasing domestic consumption is another way to keep the Euro debt crisis from harming Asia.

From http://business.inquirer.net/ 07/14/2010

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Asia to Step Up Reg'l Energy Cooperation

Southeast Asia, China, Japan and South Korea will step up cooperation in areas such energy-security, oil stockpiling, natural gas, renewable energy and conservation, regional statements said on Friday. The 10-state Association of South East Asian Nation and China, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand will jointly "monitor the price-hike effect of the recent recovery in energy demand," a statement said, without detailing future work. The 10-country bloc aims to lift output of renewable energy to 15 percent of regional energy capacity by 2015, a second statement for ASEAN said. That includes hydro-power and biofuels. Renewable energy includes wind and nuclear power. On Thursday Vietnam called on Southeast Asian countries to consider using nuclear power for peaceful purposes as Asia faces rising energy needs to fuel economic growth.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Vietnam called on Southeast Asian countries to consider using nuclear power for peaceful purposes as Asia faces rising energy needs to fuel economic growth. The countries should "promote cooperation on planning and energy policy to ensure security of energy supply and demand, extraction and conversion, transport and distribution of oil and gas," Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said in the opening speech to a meeting of ASEAN energy ministers. He urged members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to "consider the possibility of cooperation in using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes as a source of alternative low-carbon and sustainable energy." The call followed a proposal by Russia to help Southeast Asian countries build nuclear power plants and develop its use. Several countries in the 10-member ASEAN such as Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia have plans to build, or are moving forward with building nuclear power plants to tackle electricity shortages.

From http://www.mb.com.ph/ 07/23/2010

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Asia on Edge After North Korea Nuke Threat

South Korea said the border with North Korea was quiet following Pyongyang's nuclear saber-rattling over the South's naval exercises with the United States. The war games begin Sunday and will include the U.S. aircraft carrier George Washington and as many as 20 other ships and submarines. A statement issued by North Korea's powerful National Defense Commission on Friday vowed to use nuclear weapons over what it considers a provocation by Washington and Seoul. "We are reinforcing surveillance in the Military Demarcation Line and other areas, but there have been no noticeable moves," an official with the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff told South Korea's Yonhap news agency Saturday. The latest threat from the North had its origins in the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan this spring. South Korea blames North Korea and the North denies any role in the incident. North Korea's statement says it insists on the right to "probe the truth" about the Cheonan, the statement said. This latest crisis has dominated Asian regional diplomacy in recent days. The BBC said Saturday that China, North Korea's friend, has warned the United States not to antagonize the isolated North Korean regime. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Hanoi Friday for the ASEAN Regional Forum. She discussed the situation with China's foreign minister, but did not meet with the North Korean representative, the BBC said.

From http://www.upi.com/ 07/24/2010

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CHINA: Ministry to Provide Living Allowances for Yushu Survivors

China's Ministry of Civil Affairs on Monday said it would provide living allowances and food for survivors of the deadly earthquake that struck Yushu Prefecture in northwestern China's Qinghai Province on April 14. People who lost their homes during the quake and are currently in economic difficulties, and those relocated away from their homes in Qinghai and the neighboring Sichuan Province would receive a government subsidy of 10 yuan (about 1.5 U.S. dollars) and 500 grams of food each day for three months starting mid July, the ministry said. Those who had lost their entire family, or whose family members were seriously injured, would be given more subsides and a larger food quota. In this category, particular attention would be paid to orphans, senior citizens and the disabled, it said. Local authorities could provide living allowances and other temporary government subsidies to those still in need after the end of the three-month program, the ministry said. The 7.1-magnitude quake struck Yushu, inhabited largely by Tibetans, in the northwestern province of Qinghai on April 14, killing more than 2,200 people and flattening thousands of homes.

From Xinhua News Agency 06/28/2010

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China to Maintain Macro-economic Policy Stance: Premier

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has reiterated the country's stance in maintaining the continuity and stability of macro economic policies to further consolidate the growth momentum. Wen held talks with economists and entrepreneurs on Monday and Tuesday, during which he said the country would work to make these macro policies more flexible and targeted, according to a statement posted on the government website (www.gov.cn) Wednesday. The attendants reached a consensus that the country's economy had picked up and been further consolidated, and it would maintain relatively fast growth for the whole year as domestic consumption, investment and exports had set the stage for steady and sustainable recovery. China's economy was developing in the expected direction under the country's macro regulations, the premier said, adding prudent observations were needed given the complicated economic conditions, both at home and abroad. China would balance maintaining stable and relatively fast economic growth, adjusting the economic structure and avoiding possible inflation, he said. Wen stressed focus should be placed on mechanism reforms and the transformation of economic growth mode, which is conducive to both addressing the current problems and easing the contradictions in the long run. The country's gross domestic product surged 11.9 percent year on year in the first quarter of this year, accelerating from 10.7 percent in the last quarter of 2009.

From English.news.cn 06/30/2010

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China Tort Law Set to Further Guard Individual Rights

China's newly-implemented tort law, the country's first special law on liability for acts of infringement, is likely to further safeguard individuals' personal and property rights and better gauge social behavior, law experts said Friday. The Tort Liability Law, which took effect Thursday, provides that people may sue for damages following medical accidents, road accidents, harm from pollution, mental distress, and violations of privacy or reputation on the Internet, as well as injuries from objects thrown from high-rise buildings. "Due to the lack of a legal basis to handle infringement cases in the past, the enforcement of the tort law will possibly trigger a surge in civil claims in the near future," said Wang Jun, a professor from the law school of Shanghai-based Fudan University. The tort law, approved in December of last year, has been seen as one of the key laws within China's legal framework of civil rights protection. But experts warned that the law should not apply to cases that happened before the day it took effect, as some media reports said Friday courts in Shanghai and other cities had accepted dozens of infringement cases, for possible future hearings, Thursday. "The law cannot be retroactive, but somehow it can provide a reference for judges handling cases that happened before July 1," said Wang Limin, a professor of civil law from Beijing-based Renmin University who also participated in writing the law.

The Supreme People's Court on Wednesday also issued a notice on the application of the law and made it clear that the law should apply to cases that happened after it took effect. The law could also apply to accidents that happened before but their damages occurred after it took effect, the notice said. The Supreme People's Court had also been working on a judicial interpretation on the application of the law, Prof. Wang Limin said. "A judicial interpretation is needed to detail the application of the law, so that individuals' rights can be fully guaranteed," Wang Jun said. The law stipulates that, in cases of privacy violation or reputation damages, the victim has the right to inform the Internet service provider (ISP) to delete it and that ISP must face joint liability for damages if it fails to act. The provision was prompted by a series of cyber manhunt incidents in the past two or three years. Several corrupt officials had been exposed, through the so-called "human flesh search", while the possible violation of privacy and reputation caused widespread worries. "It will add to the price of doing business for ISPs to make them assume liability, but it will also force ISPs to strengthen regulations so that individuals' rights would not be randomly infringed upon," Prof. Wang Jun said.

According to a survey published by the Shanghai-based Jiefang Daily, respondents showed overwhelming support for the tort law. At the same time, nearly 80 percent of the 1,800 respondents were most concerned about claims against hospitals' performing unnecessary examinations and the liability from throwing objects from high-rise buildings. The law provides that all households in a building where objects are thrown from a roof must be liable and pay for damages if the perpetrator cannot be found. This provision had previously stirred up online debates about whether innocent households should be held liable. Prof. Wang Jun said the provision could guarantee justice, considering the difficulty for the victim to provide evidence, and it "shows a preference towards the less unfavorable when faced with two unfavorable choices." On the other side, laws should be made in the hope of improving social norms to some extent and the tort law would gauge social behavior in the long run, Prof. Wang Jun said. "The fact that many households agree to install cameras around buildings to avoid common liability is a typical example. Fewer people will throw things off a building if the building is being monitored," Wang said.

From English.news.cn 07/02/2010

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Rules on Listed Brokers Tightened

China's securities regulator ordered publicly-traded brokerages to tighten management of internal information to prevent insider trading and conflict of interest. Listed brokerages must improve their information management system, including recording internal information, confidentiality and firewall systems as well as institute an emergency mechanism to prevent "conflict of interest and insider trading," said the China Securities Regulatory Commission in a recent statement on its website. The CSRC also required brokerages to disclose major financial information when it submits monthly management reports to it. The brokerages should publish regulatory decisions and assessments concerning their administration in their mid-term and annual reports, the statement said. The government in May for the first time clarified standards under which illegal manipulation of stocks and futures will be prosecuted.

From Shanghai Daily 07/06/2010

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China Releases 2010 Salary Increase Guidelines

The 2010 wage guideline in Beijing was released on Wednesday, stating an average salary jump of 11 percent. The wage guideline, which includes an average, upper and lower level, is an annual requirement from the government to enterprises to raise employee salaries. It stated that all enterprises in Beijing in 2010 must raise wages by between the lower and upper limits of 3 and 16 percent. According to the Beijing Human Resources and Social Security Bureau, only enterprises that can prove they were affected by the financial crisis can select a different rate, after negotiation with trade unions, but they must pay at least the minimum wage, which was set in July 1 as a monthly salary of 960 yuan. Due to the financial crisis, the municipal government did not release a similar guideline in 2009, but in 2008, the increase was 0.5 percent higher than this year for all three levels. This is a result of the GDP increment in 2009 being slower than 2007 by 2.2 percentage points and a reduction in the CPI (consumer price index) by 3.7 percentage points. "I am looking forward to my pay rise this year because last year I only got a few hundred yuan more," said Hu Peng, an employee at a foreign accounting firm in Beijing. Hu said his wage jumped by 30 percent in his second year of work in his company, but 2009 was a bad year.

He said some of his colleagues quit in early 2010 but he carried on because he hoped his salary will be better this year. The bureau also released "human cost" statistics for every industry in Beijing - detailing the complete cost of keeping an employee, including salaries and benefits - as well as wage guides for some specific positions. The banking sector had the highest annual labor cost of 176,771 yuan per person, with the rental and business service industry, such as rental car companies and employment agencies, scraping the bottom at 27,439 yuan. For specific salary guides, chief financial officers were said to claim the highest annual average at 362,867 yuan, almost 13 times that of a cleaner, the lowest, at 28,249 yuan. The income gap was reported to be the most significant problem for employees, according to an investigation by the Beijing municipal federation of trade unions. "We are searching for measures to reduce it and the wage guideline is one such approach," said Huang Wei, director of the labor rights department of the Beijing municipal federation of trade unions. The Beijing Human Resource and Social Security Bureau demands enterprises raise workers' wages immediately and fairly across the office hierarchy.

From China Daily 07/08/2010

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China's Central Bank to Continue Loose Monetary Policy During Next 6 Months

China will continue its relatively loose monetary policy during the latter half of the year to maintain the consistency and stability of macro economic policies, the People' s Bank of China (PBOC), the central bank, said Thursday. We will apply multiple monetary tools to maintain an appropriate growth in money supply, and adjust the credit structure to reduce risks, the PBOC said in an online statement, which disclosed the consensus reached by its monetary policy committee during the second-quarter meeting. The PBOC reiterated it would improve the yuan' s exchange rate mechanism and adjust its value regarding a basket of foreign currencies. It also vowed to ramp up risk-prevention efforts, to prompt the stable and healthy development of the nation's financial system. The PBOC said China' s economy was heading in an expected direction as a coordinated growth in domestic spending, investment and exports has propped up the economic upturn, but China also needs to grapple with tough challenges, including managing inflation expectations, maintaining a steady and fast economic growth, adjusting economic structures and transforming the growth mode.

From English.news.cn 07/08/2010

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Western Region Development Plan a Dual Strategy

Ten years after it unveiled a strategy to promote growth in its western area, China announced a plan to continue the initiative, even as the world's third largest economy strives to shift to a more domestic-driven growth. "The plan will not only benefit the western region, but is also crucial to the sound and fast development of the whole nation," Du Ying, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country's top economic planner, said at a Thursday press conference. "Under the new plan, the central government will focus on boosting economic growth, raising people's living standards and enhancing environmental conservation in the western region during the next ten years," Du said. The central government will also enhance support for development in the region by lowering tax rates and prices for industrial lands, he added. The NDRC, along with other departments, will compile a catalogue of industries in the western region covered by the government's favorable policies. Companies in these industries will enjoy a favorable corporate income tax rate of 15 percent, compared to the regular rate of 25 percent. The move to further develop the west came as the government took steps such as subsidizing auto and home appliance buyers, to boost domestic demand and lessen reliance on exports.

Challenges for China's future development lay in "whether we can continue to boost domestic demand and make it a foundation for overall sustainable growth and whether we can remove constraints on resources and environment," Du said. Turning to this vast region and market was a strategic move, which would help China bolster domestic demand and accelerate transformation of the economic growth pattern, Vice Premier Li Keqiang had said. The vast, resource-rich western region has great potential to help enhance domestic demand as the regional population accounts for 27.5 percent of the country's total, while consumption only takes 18.4 percent of national retail sales, Du said. Early this week, NDRC said it will unveil 23 new infrastructure projects in the western region this year, with a total investment of 682.2 billion yuan (100.62 billion U.S. dollars). The money will be utilized in building railways, roads, airports, coal mines and hydro-power stations. More investments in these new projects than in those started in 2009 reflected the government's intention to push the growth further into the poorer inland region, UBS Securities economist Wang Tao said in an emailed note to clients. China initiated a western region development strategy in 2000 in an effort to help this less-developed area catch up with the relatively well-off coastal area. The strategy covers infrastructure construction, attracting foreign investment and increased efforts in ecological protection. The western region involves six provinces, five autonomous regions and Chongqing municipality, accounting for more than 70 percent of the Chinese mainland's area and habitat of 75 percent of the country's ethnic minority population. Due to this strategy, the combined gross domestic product of the western region reached 6.69 trillion yuan in 2009, four times more than the 1.67 trillion yuan in 2000.

From Xinhua New Agency 07/09/2010

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China Publicizes Natural Disaster Relief Regulations

China publicized regulations on natural disaster relief on Wednesday. The regulations, which make clear the responsibility of governments in disaster relief work, will take effect Sept. 1, 2010. According to the regulations, leaders of governments at all levels will be held accountable for relief work, and the nationwide relief work is to be commanded by the national disaster reduction authority. The regulations also stipulates that governments above county level are responsible for mapping out emergency response plans, providing transportation and communication facilities to disaster relief work, designating emergency shelters and training disaster relief teams. Further, the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council issued a statement Wednesday, further clarifying the regulations. The statement notes that China is a natural disaster prone country. Over the past two decades, natural disasters have killed 4,300 people each year. The central government has allocated over 5 billion yuan (737 million US dollars) of annual relief fund during the past five years. The statement goes on to say that disaster relief work is still plagued by several problems, such as slack supervision over donations and other concerns. To address this problem, the regulations stipulate that donations could only be used in relief work. Governments at all levels, including grass-roots communities, should make public all information about donors, amounts of donations, and its specific usage. The regulations also stipulate that governments at all levels must devise a supervisory system dealing with complaints and whistle blowers, to prevent abuse of disaster relief donations and materials.

From English.news.cn 07/15/2010

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New Rules to Curb Corruption in Govt Drug Purchases

The Chinese government on Thursday released a set of rules to control drug prices and prevent commercial bribery during government drug purchasing. According to the new rules on the management and supervision of centralized drug procurements, medical institutions and pharmaceutical companies must now purchase drugs using a "centralized procurement system," which is supervised by provincial-level governments. The system, aiming to uniform drug buying procedures and control drug prices, first began in 1999 and had been adopted in most regions of the country by the end of 2009, according to the Ministry of Health. Using this system, hospitals should report to the provincial-level government the type, quantity and other requirements of medicines they want to purchase, and then the government will invite bids from pharmaceutical companies and sellers, select the most suitable bid and handle the purchasing on behalf of the hospitals. However, in recent years some drug makers and sellers bribed government officials and hospital staff in order to have their products listed in the purchase. In other instances, the price of drugs were raised once they were listed for being purchased. According to the regulations, pharmaceutical companies and drug sellers must not raise the prices of their products listed in the buying program prior to the purchase being made. The rules specify that drug manufacturers and sellers must not bribe government officials and hospital staff or provide false information on their products during the bidding process. Those violating these regulations will be punished, and their cases might be transferred to judicial agencies if the violations are deemed serious, according to the new rules. The new regulations were jointly released by the Ministry of Health, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Supervision and several other government departments.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/16/2010

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Regulation Boosts SOEs Transparency

The government's new requirement of collective decision-making in State-owned enterprises (SOEs) will play a significant role in preventing corruption, experts said on Thursday. In the long run, it may reduce the systematic risk of the Chinese economy, which relies heavily on SOEs, they added. "The old decision-making mechanism of SOEs was leading to a situation that decisions were made by one person. It increased the investment failure rate," said Wang Yukai, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance. The Chinese government issued a regulation on Thursday that requires SOEs to make major decisions through a leader group in the company, rather than relying on single top executives. The new regulation follows a policy announced earlier this month that requires top SOE officials to disclose details of their family-owned assets. All major decisions, appointments of high-level officials or executives, decisions on major projects, and the use of large quantities of capital must be jointly taken by a collective leadership, the General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the General Office of the State Council announced on Thursday.

Comparing with the similar regulation made in 2008, the revised one provides more details about ways to bring the general principles into practice. "It's an improvement, and good for supervision," State Council advisor Chen Quansheng told China Daily. According to the announcement, SOEs are expected to enforce a transparent decision-making mechanism through public participation, expert consultations and collective decision making procedures, including strategy making, filing for bankruptcy, restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, transfers of ownership and overseas investment planning. In 2004, China National Aviation Fuel Group Corporation suffered $550 million in losses on its investment in the petroleum futures market and Chen Jiulin, former chief executive of the company, was sentenced to three years in prison for it. Senior SOE officials need to report their personal property, marriage status and immigration situation of their children annually. "It is very wise to enforce this regulation to prevent the heads of SOEs from abusing their power for personal gains," said Wang. Chen Tonghai, former chairman of State-run oil refiner Sinopec, was found to have taken almost 200 million yuan ($29.4 million) in bribes and was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve last year. The collective decision-making mechanism can reduce the market risk of SOEs and benefit China's overall economy, but it will still take time to observe its effect, Wang said.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/17/2010

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JAPAN: Gov't Maps Out 7 Rules on Pension Reforms

A panel of cabinet ministers and other officials studying pension reforms laid out seven ground rules Tuesday for carrying out the reforms, calling on the opposition camp to hold a suprapartisan debate on the issue. The day's panel meeting opened with Prime Minister Naoto Kan saying, ''It's desirable that we revamp the pension system based on suprapartisan discussions involving the whole nation.'' Two of the seven principles spelled out by the panel state that the planned reform will seek to secure a minimum sum necessary for pensioners and a stable flow of funding to make the pension system sustainable. They did not mention a minimum monthly pension of 70,000 yen pledged in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan's manifesto for the upcoming House of Councillors election or the consumption tax revenue, which the DPJ's manifesto for the House of Representatives poll last August said should be used to fund the minimum payouts.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 06/30/2010

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Gov't Sets New Charter for Balancing Work and Life

The government on Tuesday set a new charter on balancing work and life among the public in line with Prime Minister Naoto Kan's goal of realizing a ''decent'' working environment. New guidelines seeking to encourage men's greater participation in child-rearing were also set, renewing those set by the government of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda in 2007. ''It's necessary for each member of the public to work with a sense of meaning and fulfillment to revive a spirited Japan,'' Kan said at a meeting of officials representing the public and private sectors. Private-sector representatives included Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of the Japan Business Federation, and Nobuaki Koga, chairman of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo. In his policy speech to the Diet earlier this month, Kan said he will seek to ''enable all to engage in decent work,'' describing such work as ''dignified and rewarding.'' The decent work slogan, advocated by the International Labor Organization, seeks to raise labor conditions, such as through the achievement of an income enough to make a stable living and of a safe working environment. The new guidelines seek to increase the share of men taking paternity leave from 1.23% in 2008 to 13% by 2020 and reduce the number of workers with nonpermanent, low-skill jobs from 1.78 million in 2009 to 1.24 million in 2020.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 06/30/2010

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Expanded Renewable Energy Plan Shifts Costs to Households

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans to charge a premium of up to 200 yen per month on each household in electricity bills to cover costs for utility companies to buy power from expanded sources of renewable energy in an effort to address climate change. The ministry is planning to start as early as 2012 a system to oblige utilities to buy electricity generated by businesses and homes from wind, water, geothermal heat and biomass energy in addition to solar energy, which is included in the existing renewable energy purchase program. Under the ministry's power sourcing plan approved by a panel of experts, a standard household of a couple and two children would be charged around 150 to 200 yen per month 10 years after the system is introduced. It is based on the estimate that a standard household consumes 300 kilowatt hours per month. The plan may draw flak from the public as companies and households that do not have power-generating facilities may just have to pay the charges and receive no benefit. Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Masayuki Naoshima told a press conference prior to the meeting, ''Based on the outcome of the meeting, we would like to design the details of the system and try to introduce the system smoothly soon.'' Regarding the view that people who cannot afford power-generating facilities may feel the system is unfair, he said further discussions will take place on the issue when hammering out the details, which is expected to finish by the end of this year. But Naoshima added that the envisioned system is ''essential'' in promoting the introduction of renewable energy while tackling climate change. The plan has also set the purchasing price of electricity generated from renewable energy sources other than solar power to around 15-20 yen a kilowatt hour, with the term to last about 15-20 years. The present system, which started in November last year, requires power utilities to buy excess electricity generated from solar power in households. So far, households have not been footed with a premium on their electricity bills. Utilities are currently paying 48 yen a kilowatt hour for excess electricity, but the ministry said that it plans to gradually lower the price.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/25/2010

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SOUTH KOREA: Labor Law Revision Adds to Uncertainty

As part of a revision to the labor union law, which passed through the National Assembly in January, controversial measures are waiting to be implemented in the coming months. In a labor conference on Tuesday, participants said that unpredictability would be added to the nation's already conflict-heavy labor-management relations. The European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea held the "New Paradigm in the Labor Market" conference on Tuesday in Seoul, with the attendance of representatives from labor, management and the government. The conference came amid tensions growing over the revised labor union law that calls for, among other things, permitting more than one labor union at a single workplace and limiting corporate payment to full-time union officials. Speakers from each stake-holder group were sometimes at odds during the conference, especially over the "paid time-off system," which is to be implemented from July 1 as a safety measure for the ban on corporate payment to full-time unionists. At a luncheon meeting with participating executives of domestic and foreign companies, Labor Minister Yim Tae-hee reaffirmed the government's strong will to implement the measure as originally planned. "Even though there are some concerns about the soft-landing of the time-off system, the government will make every effort to settle the new measure across industries," he said. "Some difficulties are expected in the procedures of implementing new measures. But the Korean government will respond strictly based on laws and principles and make this year as the beginning year for Korea's advanced labor-management culture."

Kim Young-hoon, president of the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions, the nation's second-largest labor umbrella group, responded to the minister by pledging an all-out fight against the government. A special review committee on the time-off system has laid out related regulations limiting the number of payable unionists and hours. However, labor groups have claimed the rules would prevent labor activities. "Unlike the similar systems in place in Europe, an upper limit has been set in the Korean time-off system, which deprives labor and management of the possibility of negotiation on their own," he said in a keynote speech. Kim said that the new measures and related rules could restrict labor-management talks to be used only for wage issues, criticizing the Labor Ministry for escalating labor conflicts by pushing ahead the measure. "The principle of the law is that union activities should be paid by unions. The time-off system is applied only to limited cases. That exception also should be downsized finally," said Lee Hyung-joon, labor policy director of the Korea Employers' Federation. Another controversy was raised over the multiple-unions system that will be implemented from next July 1. Since the nation became a member of the International Labor Organization in 1993, the U.N. labor agency has recommended that the Korean government remove the ban on multiple unions. However, the new labor union law requires one negotiating channel to be decided under the multiple unions system. "The regulation obliging a single negotiation channel to be decided and its complicated procedures will effectively prevent more unions from being created," said Kim Tae-hyun, the KCTU's policy planning director.

Legal disputes were still ongoing because it is possible that minority unions have no negotiating rights, which is unconstitutional under the current legal system. Roh Kwang-pyo, deputy director of Korea Labor and Society Institute, predicted that labor disputes could escalate as collective bargaining at individual workplaces was expected to face difficulties with the new labor law. "Affected by the result of the June 2 local elections, political activities of labor unions are also expected to be activated," he said. Roh, however, pointed out that the multiple-unions system would affect the nation's future labor relations in a positive way by increasing the unionized rate of workers. "It is important that workers have a voice as groups, not individually. When there's a power balance between labor and management, they can negotiate and reach a compromise," he said. According to the Ministry of Labor, the nation's unionized rate was 10.1 percent as of December last year, with the total number of union members standing at 1.64 million nationwide. However, the numbers of both unions and their members decreased, by 3.8 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively, compared with those of 2008. Criticizing the government for having been business-friendly, Roh emphasized his role of a moderator that listens to voices both of labor and management. He also suggested that a labor index, which can be acceptable internationally, be developed to assess the Korean situation more accurately.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 06/30/2010

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National Assembly Gives Thumbs Down to Sejong City Plans

President Lee Myung-bak's plans to turn Sejong City in South Chungcheong Province into a science and technology industry hub was thrown out in a plenary session of the National Assembly on Tuesday with 105 vote in favor, 164 against and six abstentions. Two hundred and seventy five out 291 lawmakers participated. Lee's plan was a radical revision to a bill introduced by his predecessor Roh Moo-hyun, who wanted to move key government offices out of Seoul. Fifty lawmakers from the majority Grand National Party - the traditionally conservative former GNP chairwoman Park Geun-hye and her 41 followers, six middle-of-the-roaders, and two Lee followers - voted against the bill. Of 168 GNP lawmakers, 157 were present. In the opposition camp, a total of 114 lawmakers, including 82 Democratic Party members, 15 Liberty Forward Party lawmakers, and eight pro-Park Geun-hye group members, cast nay votes. A mere one or two lawmakers of each party or faction cross-voted. The large billboard in the upper right side shows the voting results on the revised bill on the Sejong City project, with the majority in red against, in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

Park stood up to explain her views, the first time she has ever made her opposition to a major issue clear at a full session since she was first elected to the National Assembly. "The construction of Sejong should be seen from a new perspective of relieving overcrowding in the Seoul metropolitan area and achieving balanced development of the country," she said. "The issue is a matter of the future. If we want to move forward toward the future, we should send a signal that we keep our promises." The controversy over the Sejong City project, which threatens to turn into a white elephant, was sparked in September last year when Prime Minister Chung Un-chan called for a revision of the original bill for the relocation of key government agencies. Now the government may have to implement the original plan to relocate nine ministries and four government agencies including the Office of the Prime Minister to Sejong, and to build a multifunctional administrative city with a population of 500,000 by 2030. But DP chairman Chung Se-kyun told reporters after the session, "The original plan also has a 'plus alpha'" - an element of flexibility that would encourage conglomerates such as Samsung and Hanwha to invest and include a science and business complex. That could well lead to another round of controversy. Being told the news during a visit to Panama, Lee pledged to respect the decision by the National Assembly, but Cheong Wa Dae spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye quoted him as saying it was "deeply regrettable."

From http://english.chosun.com/ 06/30/2010

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Anti-Speculation Regulations for Banks Take Effect

Banks are restricted from speculative investment in the nation's foreign exchange market under new regulations put into effect on Thursday. The Finance Ministry and the Bank of Korea said on the day that banks are now obligated to hold more than a certain ratio of foreign currency funds against their foreign currency loans, and take into account the kinds of funds they possess. Banks are also required to hold spare foreign assets that amount to at least 2 percent of their total foreign currency funds or keep them afloat for at least two months. Regulations on Korean branches of foreign banks will also be implemented within this month. Finance officials say they will keep close watch for any possible negative effects of the measures in the foreign exchange market.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 07/02/2010

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Ministry to Help Firms Better Use Free Trade

The government Monday announced plans to simplify rules and build infrastructure to help companies make better use of free trade agreements. The Finance Ministry said it will streamline administrative requirements, including issuance of certificates of origin as part of efforts to help exporters expand their overseas business. Ending a meeting with the Foreign Ministry, Agricultural Ministry, Korea Customs Service and Ministry of Knowledge Economy, Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-hyun said the government will intensify efforts allowing more Korean companies to take advantage of trade pacts. "The support plans for Korean companies on the way will maximize the upside potentials of various trade agreements on the way," Yoon said. "By 2013, Korea will be ready to optimize exports on FTAs like advanced countries." The plans include shortening of documents evaluation periods and building of IT infrastructures showing comprehensive export-import data of partner countries. The government will also host annual events to promote more use of FTA. The five FTAs Korea currently has are with Chile, Singapore, the European Free Trade Association, Association of Southeast Asian Nations and India.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 07/09/2010

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Ministry May Ease Rule on Mortgages

The government is reportedly studying ways to increase exceptions to the debt-to-income rule, instead of easing the level of the financial restriction on home buyers, reports said on Friday. "Even though there are many who criticize that the level of current mortgage regulations is high, the DTI rule is supposed to keep the country's economy healthy by capping the increase of household debt," a senior official at the Ministry of Strategy and Finance was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying. "Relaxing the rule will produce more loss than profit at this moment," he added. The comment comes after the government delayed announcing measures to stimulate the sluggish property market on Wednesday. Policymakers seem to have failed to narrow their differences over whether to ease mortgage lending restrictions. Instead, officials are widely expected to settle on a partial easing of the debt-to-income ratio rule, a key mortgage lending criteria which restricts a portion of homebuyers' income in proportion to their loan payments. Currently, homebuyers cannot borrow more than 40 percent of their annual income in bank mortgages if they were to purchase an apartment unit valued at more than 600 million won ($495,000) located in government-designated speculation-watch zone. The limit is 50 percent for the rest of Seoul and 60 percent for the greater Seoul metropolitan and Gyeonggi Province. Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-hyun has also been expressing his opposition toward calls urging the government to relax the DTI rules. The minister said it was not appropriate to ease the rule to boost the real estate and construction market at a time when increasing household debt was becoming a problem.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 07/23/2010

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MONGOLIA: New Law Will Be Helpful for New Business Registration

More than 60 laws and regulations would be changed in the efforts to ease down doing of business in Mongolia. Paperwork on registration of new business will be reduced by half, said a government official. The government declared reformative drive to enable new business environment friendly to private small and medium size business owners. The government has ordered its subordinate agencies to bring up with a list of necessary permissions or licenses, unnecessary ones would be dropped by this autumn. "For example, in order to start construction, a construction company may need to get more than 140 permissions and signatures by government officials, which is a big burden on private businesses. All these permissions would be packaged into 14, a ten times easier for business starters," said Ch.Khashchuluun, Director General of the National Development and Innovation Committee. More online based registration system would be available, he added. The parliament's fall session is expected to review dozens of laws including law on corporate business, notary, property registration, and foreign investment.

From http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/ 07/20/2010

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Renewed National Security Concepts of Mongolia Passed

The Parliament of Mongolia passed the renewed National Security Concept of Mongolia at its plenary session on July 15, 2010. The first democratic National Security Concepts of Mongolia was adopted by the Parliament of Mongolia sixteen years ago. The concept strengthened the views of the new Constitution of Mongolia and for the first time declared the ideal of supremacy of basic national interests in policies and actions to ensure national security. Moreover, the Concepts provided for the comprehensiveness of national security and have become the vital leverage of the state policy to realize national security. Over the past years, the external and internal environments of the national security of Mongolia have rapidly changed, while the nature and sources of threats have become multifaceted and intricate. There have been big changes in relations and balance of power between and among big powers - the main factors to determine the world order. Furthermore, rivalry in political, economic and military sectors has intensified and there have emerged new nontraditional threats at international level.

At national level as well, dramatic changes have taken place many new issues have arisen relating to refining capacity of government and administration, ensuring economic security, creating healthy and safe living condition of our citizens, and protecting the environment, traditions and customs. Thus the President of Mongolia Ts. Elbegdorj issued a decree to renew the National Security Concepts of Mongolia. According to the Decree, a Working Group consisting of 61 people representing relevant government organizations and research institutes, scholars and senior government figures was established in November 2009. The Working Group developed the draft in eight months and submitted it to the Parliament of Mongolia. In conjunction with the renewal of the National Security Concept of Mongolia, other important documents of security and foreign policy sectors shall be renewed. The drafts of the renewed Army Doctrine, Foreign Policy Concept, Law on National Security, and Law on National Security Council are being planned to be submitted to the Parliament in its fall session.

From http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/ 07/20/2010

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Cabinet Makes Economic Decisions

The Cabinet approves the national list of concession, which includes some 91 projects and works mostly of infrastructure and basic social services, issues relevant resolutions. The ministers supported the concession list with the purpose of commencing these important projects and works as soon as possible or beginning from this July. Another issue approved by the Cabinet of Minister was the establishment of Development Bank and regulations of the Bank. Consequently, heads from the National Development and Innovation Committee (NDIC) and the State Property Committee (SPC), were commissioned to commence the Bank's activity within the 3rd quarter of 2010. The ministers approved the Bank's establishment in the hope that the Bank is of great importance for the successful and timely implementation of big projects and programs approved by the Parliament and for ensuring of active engagement of Mongolia in these projects and program. The Prime Minister Batbold instructed authorities of the NDIC and the SPC that the Bank must be managed by an internationally accepted professional team.

From http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/ 07/23/2010

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LAOS: Vientiane Focuses on Blowing Out Poverty

(KPL) More than 70 per cent of the population of Vientiane province are classified to live above poverty line thanks to the close attention of Vientiane Administration. The statement was made by Mrs Singkham Khongsavanh, member of the National Assembly, constituency 10 - Vientiane province at the 9th Ordinary Session of the National Assembly's Sixth Legislature. The poverty of half of the population in the province is set to be reduced, with the high potential resources of tourism, agriculture and hydropower electricity construction projects, Mrs Singkham said. Vientiane province residents are able to get jobs from various projects rice and maize plantation, hydropower electricity dams of Nam Ngum, Nam lik, Nam Song and Phoubia mining. The average GDP in the province accounts for 7.8 per cent, the per-capita income is US$751, said Mrs Singkham. However there are still challenges to overcome, including tourism development along with the conservation of traditional way of life, added the NA member. The Vientiane authorities will cooperate with the Lao National Tourism Administration to attract more investment from tourism entrepreneurs in Vangvieng district, publish more brochures about tourist attractions for distribution, and spread out more tourist information and Lao culture. She has proposed the construction of roads in Maid, Hinheub, Feuang, Sanakham and Muen districts.

From http://www.kplnet.net/ 06/24/2010

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Consumers to Enjoy Higher Safety If Consumer Protection Law Passes

(KPL) A new draft law on consumer protection was put into consideration of the ongoing 9th Ordinary Session of the National Assembly, sixth legislature, last week. The new draft law on consumer protection with nine parts and 76 articles is proposed by Mr. Nam Viyaketh, Minister of Industry and Commerce. He said that this law was very important and played a significant role to the livelihood of people nationwide because Laos was in the transition process from subsistence economy to market-oriented one. This draft law is based on the international norm. Before gaining this draft law, we have sent our high-ranking officials to study abroad, Mr Nam added. Many ministries have shared ideas on this draft law. Mr. Siaosavath Savengseuksa, Vice-Minister of Industry and Commerce, pointed out that the draft law on consumer protection would ensure safety in consumption for consumers and control goods import and distribution. It also ensures fairness for society.

From http://laovoices.com/ 06/28/2010

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People with Disabilities in Savannakhet Given Assistance

(KPL) The DGCD, Belgian development cooperation organisation through the Handicap International Belgium (HIB) has given three billion kip (USD 400,000) to the Lao National Disabled People's Rehabilitation Centre to implement a project on helping war victims and people with disabilities in Laos. The agreement was signed at the centre in Vientiane Capital on July 2, between Director of the HIB in Laos Mr. Louis de Neuville, and Director of the Lao National Disabled People's Rehabilitation Centre, Mr. Thongchanh Thebsomphou. The event was witnessed by relevant officials of both sides. The implementation of the project will be carried out within 18 months in six districts of the central Savannakhet province namely: Nong, Viraboury, Sepon, Sayphouthong, Outhoumphone and Kaysone Phomvihane. According to the Lao National Disabled People Rehabilitation Centre, the project is designed to promote community-based rehabilitation (CBR), which emphasises the importance of the direct participation of people with disabilities in planning and implementing community-based rehabilitation programmes, the need for increased collaboration among sectors providing services, the capacity building of medical officials in the target districts and the rehabilitation of children with disabilities and their families.

From http://www.kplnet.net/ 07/07/2010

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World Bank Group Helps Facilitate Value-Added Tax Compliance by Lao Businesses

(KPL) The Investment Climate Advisory Services of the World Bank Group joined the Lao government and private sector to support the introduction of the value-added tax in Lao PDR and ensure that local businesses are not burdened unnecessarily in complying with new requirements. At a workshop on 15 July organised by the Lao Tax Department in collaboration with the World Bank Group, businesses affected by the value-added tax were updated on relevant policies and procedures. At this event Government and the World Bank Group tax specialists answered questions on how to abide by the new tax rules. Furthermore, and to respond to the volume of enquiries on the subject, the Tax Department also has set up special hotlines. The workshop is one of several initiatives to provide guidance on how to file value-added tax returns and comply with accounting and reporting requirements, said Mr. Khamphai Vongsakhamphoui, Deputy Director General of the Tax Department. It is a useful and timely tool in helping facilitate compliance by taxpayers.

Aimilios Chatzinikolaou, Head of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Office in Lao PDR, said, Experience throughout the world shows that despite being a fair, neutral, and transparent tax instrument, value-added tax, if not properly set up, may result in an increased compliance burden on businesses. The IFC's role is to help ensure that doesn't happen in Lao PDR. The IFC is a member of the World Bank Group. Together with other activities to support a wider taxpayer information campaign, the workshop enhances information on value-added tax policies and procedures to help implement the new tax, which will affect about 2,000 businesses. At first we were unsure about the value-added tax because we did not know if it would be easy to comply with new procedures.

But today's workshop, which provided detailed guidelines on compliance, was very useful, said Mr. Xayasak Vongchith, Chief of Accounting Division, Viengthong Pharmaceutical Company. And the manual provided at the workshop includes the necessary information to help us comply with tax-filing requirements. The IFC also is working in partnership with the Tax Department to simplify tax administration procedures for Lao small and medium enterprises.

In the Lao PDR, IFC Advisory Services are delivered in partnership with Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Switzerland. The Investment Climate Advisory Services of the World Bank Group helps governments implement reforms to improve their business environment, and encourage and retain investment, thus fostering competitive markets, growth and job creation. Funding is provided by the World Bank Group and over 15 donor partners working through the multi-donor Foreign Investment Advisory Service (FIAS) platform.

From http://www.kplnet.net/ 07/19/2010
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MALAYSIA: Minimal Impact Seen from Subsidy Cuts

The cuts in the subsidies for petrol, diesel, liquefied petroleum gas and diesel will see minimal impact to consumption patterns in the short term. Analysts believe the less-than-aggressive cuts in the subsidies, which do not include cuts in the gas and cooking oil subsidies or an upward revision of toll rates, will not translate to any impact on business sectors most exposed to consumer demand. "The impact on consumption will be small initially. I'm more worried about the cumulative effect and this will depend on how fast and how much further cuts will be implemented," Jupiter Securities Sdn Bhd research head Pong Teng Siew said. He said the impact, although minimal at this point, would be pervasive as all industries across the board would be affected due to higher tranport costs. On whether there would be any more cuts in subsidies this year, HwangDBS Vickers Research Sdn Bhd research head Wong Ming Tek said this would be a "political call."

He said despite the Performance Management and Delivery Unit's recommendation for a six-monthly revision of the subsidies, it's really up to the Government how or when to implement the cuts. "We think this will result in higher inflation and dampen consumer sentiment but we don't expect it to be significant at this point," Wong told StarBizWeek. Meanwhile, Maybank Investment Bank Bhd research head Andrew Lee said any further cuts would be "extremely gradual." "If the Government is to raise prices too fast, household consumption is going to be hit and that will be reflected in economic growth," he added. Lee said this would not be good as domestic demand constituted the main driver of growth over the next two years because of the slower pace of growth on the external front.

Analysts believed the cuts could fast-track the implementation of multi-billion ringgit public transport projects such as the RM36bil mass rail transit (MRT) system for the country's capital. In this respect, infrastructure firms Gamuda Bhd and MMC Corp Bhd, which have proposed plans for the MRT system, could be the beneficiaries. Wong said in a report that the savings from the subsidy cuts could be channelled to the MRT project and expected some minor traffic disruption due to the increase in petrol and diesel prices but this would not affect PLUS Expressways Bhd, which had chalked up a 9.8% increase in traffic volume for its highways year-to-date in May.

From http://biz.thestar.com.my/ 07/17/2010

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THAILAND: Commit to Strengthening the Economic Competitiveness

Thailand is committed to securing a competitive advantage based on quality and excellence - not cheap labor - and is also committed to free and fair trade, whereby competition results in progress and is rewarding all those who participate. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva underlined the country's commitments to strengthening the economic competitiveness in his keynote address "The Prime Minister Meets Investors." Organized by the Office of the Board of Investment (BOI), the event took place at the IMPACT Convention and Exhibition Center, Muang Thong Thani, in Nonthaburi province, on June 18. In his address, the Prime Minister said that he remained optimistic about the fundamentals of the Thai economy. When his administration assumed office in December 2008, the global economy was entering a severe recession. Thailand then experienced an economic contraction of 7.1 percent in the first quarter of 2009. He laid out a plan to make sure that the country would see a recovery. One year later, the first quarter of this year, Thailand witnessed economic growth that reached 12 percent, actually the highest growth in 15 years.

The Prime Minister said that Thailand saw a recovery in both domestic consumption and private investment. Export growth was very strong, going at the rate of 32 percent, and the tourism sector in the first three months grew by almost 30 percent. The agriculture, industrial, and service sectors have all witnessed quite a strong recovery. While certain risks remain in the economy, both as a consequence of political challenges and from external factors, particularly the debt crisis in the European Union, Thailand still expects growth for this year. Officially, the various agencies put it between 4.5 to 5.5 percent. The Prime Minister said that the country would try to reach 6 percent for the whole year. As confidence returns, he said, during the first quarter of 2010, Thailand saw household consumption expenditure growth of 4 percent, private investment growth 15.8 percent, unemployment at a very low percentage, and manufacturing production expanding by 22.8 percent. This year Thailand also expects that auto manufacturing will increase to its highest level in 50 years, affirming the country's current ranking as the 13th largest auto manufacturing country in the world.

On the investment front, he is confident that if Thailand can refocus attention on the facts and on the economic data, investors will continue to view the country as among the best locations. Despite the challenges of the political events that took place, investment applications for BOI promotion from January to May this year increased by 7.3 percent in value, and in terms of the number of projects by nearly 50 percent year-on-year. Total foreign investment applications during the five-month period reached 86 billion baht. These values are more than double from the 41 billion baht received in the same period last year. This situation reflects the ongoing recovery, both in the global and domestic economies. The very evolution of Thailand's free market dictates that wages increase and that to maintain equity and competitiveness, the value of its productivity must likewise increase.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 06/23/2010

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Issuance of Community Land Title Deeds in an Effort to Push for Land Distribution

The Government has set up a new office to handle community land title deeds in an attempt to push for land distribution and tackle the issue of land rights for poor farmers. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on 5 July 2010 presided over the opening of the new office, which is located at the Office of the Permanent Secretary of the Prime Minister's Office, Government House, in Bangkok. The establishment of the office will accelerate the setting up of land banks and the granting of land rights to farmers, in response to the public demand. A regulation on the introduction of community land title deeds was approved by the Cabinet and took effect on 12 June 2010. The regulation led to the setting up of the office to handle land title deeds and the formation of a committee to coordinate this issue between the public sector, land owners, communities, and the people.

It is also in line with the policy of the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration, which seeks to protect and conserve land that is suitable for farming, with developed irrigation infrastructure already in place. The objectives are to rehabilitate soil quality and provide land for poor farmers through the establishment of land banks and the acceleration of the issuance of land rights certificates in the form of community land title deeds for poor farmers and communities living on state land that is no longer forest land. The policy also calls for the support of agricultural development in the form of agricultural estates.

All farmers want to have farmland of their own, which will be passed on to their children and grandchildren, so that they will not have to migrate into cities in search of jobs. Many farmers have made used of vacant plots of land for earning a living, but they are facing the problem of encroaching public land, resulting in land right disputes, which are difficult to settle. In addition, many small farmers who have grow cash crops and biofuel plants have been exploited by corporations, and finally, because of economic pressure, they have to sell their farmland. Prime Minister Abhisit pointed out that the introduction of community land title deeds is considered a starting point in solving the problem of farmland needed for making a living. The next step is to issue a law governing the granting of land rights for the benefit of the people. In the initial stage, he said, the allocation of community land title deeds would, at least, lead to the settlement of many land right disputes.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 07/07/2010

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Thailand's Heavy Investment in the Social Sector to Revive the Economy

Thailand has continued to invest heavily in the social sector in an effort to revive the economy and build sustainability. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva touched on the issue of the Thai economy during his keynote address at the 4th Euromoney Thailand Investment Forum, held at the Centara Grand Hotel in Bangkok on 6 July 2010.In his address, the Prime Minister cited the "Thailand: Investing from Strength to Strength" program as an initiative taken by his administration. The program would be integrated into the budgetary process for the next two to three fiscal years. The Government had already disbursed almost half of the first package of 350 billion baht. For the remaining 400 billion baht, or even more, the amount would be spent on investments in infrastructure, such as railway development and water management and also in schools and hospitals.

The Prime Minister believed that by the year 2012, Thailand's infrastructure would be much more developed, so that the country would become more competitive. The Government intends not only to stimulate the economy, but also to increase the competitiveness of the economy for the medium and longer terms. It is also trying to create a greater sense of security for all Thais in both the formal and informal sectors, and most significantly in the agricultural sector. Prime Minister Abhisit stated that the income guarantee program that the Government had launched for the first time toward the end of last year now provided added security and stability for farm income. This would enable greater stability for the Thai economy as a whole. He told the gathering of business people that Thailand is exceeding its targets not just for 2009, but even for the whole year of 2010. At the beginning of this year, people felt that the economy could grow by between 4.5 and 4.7 percent. The latest forecast and projections put the figure probably at 5 to 6 percent. This has all been achieved without any cost to the country's financial stability.

International reserves now stand at 144 billion US dollars. What is more remarkable is that despite the stimulus packages that the Government has put in, the fiscal position has no risk of being unsustainable. The projected deficit for this fiscal year is unlikely to be one of the largest in terms of fiscal deficit. Instead, he said, after about half a year, the country's revenues were now exceeding targets by almost 200 billion baht. In the end, the fiscal position is almost balanced, rather than experiencing a large deficit. This means that the projection for the debt-GDP ratio will be revised. The Government has already scrapped a plan for extra borrowing, expected to be worth 800 billion baht, in order to finance the stimulus packages. It is now able to cancel 400 billion baht, or half of that amount, because the country can now use its extra revenues. Today, Thailand enjoys strong growth, which will generate more income with which the Government may finance various projects.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 07/09/2010

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Diverse Dimensions of Thailand's Creative Economy

Thailand's creative economy has diverse dimensions and is involved with many sectors. Almost all ministries in Thailand are connected in some way with the creative economy, which is now being emphasized by the Government in an effort to make the country stand out in the ASEAN market. Mrs. Puangrat Asvapisit, Director-General of the Department of Intellectual Property, cited the creative economy as a cross-cutting issue, saying that the Government should encourage civil society, non-profit organizations, and the business sector related to creative content to take part in the development of Thailand's creative economy, as well. The creative economy is closely linked with tourism and culture. Not all "One Tambon, One Product," or OTOP, products, are classified as creative items. Some examples of creative OTOP goods include silk brocade cloth from Lamphun and phraewa silk from Kalasin. Traditional Thai massage, which reflects Thai wisdom and is found in various spas, is also considered a creative service.

The creative economy is also involved with products or services concerning innovation and intellectual property. For instance, the combination of communication technology and multimedia may result in "creative content." The Republic of Korea has been successful in putting content into animation and audiovisual services. It has also enjoyed significant growth in exports of television programs, films, and songs. Thailand's ICT Master Plan, 2009-2013, seeks to promote the digital content industry, so that the industry will have a value of 165 billion baht by 2013. According to a study by the Fiscal Policy Research Institute and the Kenan Institute Asia, China's creative industries contribution to its economy was relatively low, at 2.50 percent of GDP in 2006. However, this appears to be growing rapidly. In terms of labor share, Thailand's current figure is slightly higher than that of Singapore 10 years ago. Statistics show that Thailand's creative industries are growing faster than the rest of the economy, although they still contribute relatively less than the creative industries in developed countries and the number of jobs created by Thailand's creative industries is still quite low.

The study indicates that international trade figures also show a positive trend. Thailand's exports of creative goods reached nearly 13 billion US dollars in 2008 and ranked 17th, with a world market share of 1.29 percent. The creative industries in Thailand clearly have the potential to become an important growth engine for Thai exports. They placed Thailand among the world's top 20 exporters of creative goods. It is also significant that these creative exports are growing steadily at more than 5 percent a year, indicating strong global demand for Thai creative goods.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 07/17/2010

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New Destination for Factory Taxes

The Finance Ministry should speed up passage of a new law that would allocate tax revenues from factories in the Eastern Seaboard to local authorities instead of the central government, says Deputy Prime Minister Trairong Suwannakhiri. Once the law takes effect, more tax revenues could be channelled for local development in the area, a Finance Ministry official told the Eastern Seaboard Development Committee yesterday. Ministry officials are still drafting the law. Currently, tax collections from factories in the Eastern Seaboard are sent to the central government and there is little benefit to the local area.The committee wants the Finance and the Natural Resources and Environment ministries to push for the implementation of a green tax as well. "The industrial investments in Rayong total around 900 billion baht but only modest amounts of tax income are allocated to the province while local people have faced a big environmental impact from these factories," Mr Trairong said at the committee meeting yesterday.

Passage of the two new tax-related laws would help spur progress on a development plan to make Rayong an "eco industrial town" and a model for development in other areas. Mr Trairong said the current impasse over environmental regulation at the giant Map Ta Phut industrial estate in Rayong was being watched closely by people in southern Thailand as well, since they are concerned about the potential impact of increased industrial activity in their area. Governments for two decades have been touting the so-called Southern Seaboard as a new industrial hub but little progress has been made, despite the expenditure of hundreds of millions of baht in tax money on studies. Mr Trairong said Industry Ministry was expected to finalise a master plan within the four or five months for the Rayong Eco Industrial Town.

In the short term, he said, the Finance Ministry would improve regulations to allocate budgets for the Rayong Provincial Administration. The allocation should be based on the real population in the area and not just the registered figure. In 2009, there were an estimated 1.67 million people living and working in Rayong but a registered population of just 600,000. The rest were people who had migrated to work at the hundreds of factories in the province. The National Economic and Social Development Board has projected that Rayong's population will increase by 2.34 times by 2017 from the official figure of 600,000. Currently, the municipality of Mab Ta Phut is allocated 300 million baht per year while the Rayong Provincial Administration receives 600-700 million baht. The budget is not enough for infrastructure development in the fast-growing area, local officials say.

From http://www.bangkokpost.com/ 07/23/2010

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VIETNAM: Localities Scrutinise FDI Projects

VietNamNet Bridge - Many localities are becoming pickier in licensing new foreign-invested projects, setting more specific conditions on investors and selecting only projects in line with their development objectives. Many local authorities are halting any projects that fall way behind schedule, including the People's Committee of central Quang Nam Province which recently announced that it would withdraw the investment licences of five foreign-invested projects in the tourism sector due to slow progress. While the Foreign Investment Agency (FIA) under the Ministry of Planning and Investment has estimated that foreign-invested projects contributed over US$11 billion to the State budget during 2001-09, a large number of projects also have significant shortcomings, including pollution, heavy imports of out-of-date technology and equipment, and failing to meet their commitments. Many localities have, in the past, paid more attention to quantity than quality of their investments, affecting not only themselves but other sectors and ultimately the national economy.

FIA Director Do Nhat Hoang has said that measures were needed to control the quality of investments, including laws, policies and planning that promoted infrastructure construction and human resources training. Viet Nam Association of Foreign-Invested Enterprises president Nguyen Mai said that, during 1997-2010, Viet Nam only attached importance to the amount of foreign direct investment but, from next year, would focus more strongly on quality and effectiveness. The criteria for approving an investment license would now look not only to how many jobs would be created but to whether clean and modern technologies were to be used in production and whether investment would be co-ordinated with support industries and services. Infrastructure and human resources elements of the project would also be taken into account. Investors would undergo stricter assessments before receiving investment licences - especially for projects requiring large areas of land. Meanwhile, already licensed projects that continuously racked up delays or failed to make progress would see their investment licences revoked.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 07/02/2010

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BANGLADESH: Steps to Make Public Transport Smoke-Free

The passengers using the public transports of the city are soon going to travel sans their lighted cigarettes as the traffic department of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police is taking initiatives to make the buses smoke free. The DMP will also collaborate with other concerned organisations regarding this to make the attempt, A K M Shahidul Haque, DMP Commissioner, disclosed it to a delegation from different tobacco control organisations in his office yesterday.

National Professor of World Health Organisation Dr Mostafa Zaman, Co-ordinator of anti-tobacco organisations Saifuddin Ahmed, and Technical Consultant of 'The Union' Dr Md Akramul Islam were in the delegation, a Bangladesh anti-tobacco alliance press release said.
The members of the team lauded the DMP's attempts like declaring recent Bangla Nababarsha Mela smoke-free as well as the Ramna thana and other thanas under it as smoke-free zones. From the anti-tobacco organisations, a total of 500 anti-tobacco signboards were given to DMP. Commissioner Shahidul Haque said to keep the people safe from passive smoking, we need to declare our public transports free from smoking and everyone should co-operate in this regard.

From http://www.theindependent-bd.com/ 07/22/2010

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SRI LANKA: Relaxes Monetary Policy

(LBO) - Sri Lanka has relaxed monetary policy cutting rates by 25 basis points and raising its target from reserve money, the narrowest money supply through which final transaction in the economy are cleared. The central bank cut its reverse repo rate to 9.50 percent and the repo rate to 7.25 percent and increased its annual (average) increase for reserve money to 334 billion rupees, or a 21.2 percent growth, up from an original target of 14.5 percent. Central Bank said inflation was falling, private sector credit was growing and the economy was growing faster than expected. "Taking into consideration these developments in the economy the Monetary Board has decided to revise the policy interest rates downward," the central bank said. "In response to this, lending rates of commercial banks are expected to adjust further downward, stimulating economic activity." Twelve month inflation fell to 4.8 percent in June, though prices rose in absolute terms during the month. The central bank said growth in broad money fell to 15.5 percent in May 2010 from 18.6 percent at the end of 2009. From late 2009, excess liquidity and reserve money expanded causing concerns among inflation watchers who warned against a resumption of debt monetization. Liquidity was also boosted central bank profit transfers. The central bank later withdrew liquidity from the market.

Analysts have said that Sri Lanka policy rates - which are among the highest in the world -are undermined by direct monetization of government debt. Sri Lanka's rupee is strongly pegged to the US dollar as an external monetary anchor. Under a deal with International Monetary Fund, Sri Lanka's state agreed to cap domestic borrowings to level seen two years ago. Analyst say Sri Lanka could have lower interest rates and lower inflation like other dollar pegged countries in Asia, if ad hoc monetization of debt could be avoided. Though central bank profit transfers took place in 2009 and early 2010, official data showed that last year the Central Bank had not increased the so-called 'provisional advance' of printed money to the government.

From http://www.lankabusinessonline.com/ 07/09/2010

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NEPAL: Works on New Monetary Policy Are Underway

Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has said that it is ready to bring out a tight monetary policy in the upcoming fiscal budget in the parliament if the government seriously realises the existing economic problems. The current economic state is in a fix. The inflation rate is at double digit, balance of payment (BoP) is in deficit owing to swelling imports in contrast to dwindling exports. Experts have also attributed the current economic problems to policy lapses as seen in real estate and stock markets wherein prices are going up and down. According to the central bank, the works to draft the new monetary policy are underway. The new policy should be designed in a way that addresses the burning existing problems in the financial sector of the country, according to experts. It should help boost export trade, substitute imports, increase investment in the productive sectors, help provide access to banking service to rural people, and increase foreign currency reserve, they say. Monetary and financial policies are the only part of the broad range of policy measures to be taken.

From http://www.nepalnews.com/ 07/09/2010

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Govt Unveils Action Plan to Produce 38,000 MW Electricity in 20 Years

Former secretary Thapa presenting the report '20-year Hydro power Development Plan Formulation' at a press conference organised at the energy ministry on Wednesday, 14 July 14, 2010.nepalnews.com/NPA. The government has unveiled a long-term action plan with an aim to produce 38,000 MW of electricity in the next 20 years. The Ministry of Energy released its 20-Year Hydropower Development Plan Formulation prepared by a taskforce led by former secretary at the Water and Energy Commission Secretariat Kishor Thapa at a programme in Kathmandu Wednesday. According to the report, the government plans to free the country from load shedding within next five years by producing about 2,000 MW electricity in this period. 18,000 MW out of the proposed 38,000 MW will be produced from three mega-projects, Pancheshwar, Karnali-Chisapani and Saptakoshi within the next 20 years. Speaking at the programme Thapa said, the action plan will be successful only if the political parties support it fully. The investment climate and the support from the political parties have to be very favourable for this plan to materialise, said Thapa. The government had presented a target of producing 25,000 MW electricity within next 20 years during the budget speech last year.

From http://www.nepalnews.com/ 07/15/2010

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Govt Set to Amend Industrial Enterprises Act

The government has initiated process to amend the Industrial Enterprises Act, 2049 for the second time. The amendment process has been taken ahead in line with the Industrial Act, 2067. The ministry of industry has formed a task force to chalk out a draft of the amendment. The task force constitutes members representing ministries pertaining to industry, law, labour, finance, commerce and supply. The task force is planning to accomplish the amendment process within three months for fiscal year (FY) 2067/68. The industry ministry is also consulting with concerned stakeholders to incorporate their suggestions in the draft paper. The Industrial Enterprises Act, 2049 saw the first amendment in 2054 B.S. The draft paper incorporates special policy level arrangements related to 'no work, no pay', industrial security force, special economic zone, export increment, mobilisation of local resources, protection of intellectual property and additional privileges and facilities for small and cottage industries, among others.

From http://www.nepalnews.com/ 07/18/2010

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PAKISTAN: VAT Integral Part of IMF Programme

ISLAMABAD: The International Monetary Fund has observed that the Value Added Tax or an improved tax on sales and consumption is an integral part of the IMF programme. This was noted in the transcript of a press briefing by Caroline Atkinson, Director, External Relations Department, IMF, available on the IMF website here on Saturday. Responding to a question, Caroline said the VAT or an improved tax on sales and consumption is one of an integral part of the IMF programme. "And what we're looking for is that there should be a broad-based tax - a VAT or a reformed general sales tax that has fewer exemptions and broader coverage. And these discussions will be going on over the summer on this and other issues with Pakistan", she added. She was responding to a question that if there is any possibility of negotiations between the Fund and the government of Pakistan over the reform to general sales tax as the government did not implement the VAT. Meanwhile, tax officials told Business Recorder that the introduction of the reformed general sales tax (GST) from October 1, 2010 would reduce sales tax from existing rate of 17 to 15 percent, causing revenue loss of nearly Rs 50-60 billion to the national exchequer. The changes in the sales tax regime in October 2010 would benefit business and trade due to reduction of two percent in the rate of tax. The revenue loss from the reduction in the sales tax rate would be compensated by the withdrawal of exemptions and zero-rating under the reformed GST. The FBR has estimated around Rs 30-35 billion from one percent increase in sales tax. The proposed increase in sales tax from 16 to 17 percent is an interim measure for three months. The reduction of 2 percent sales tax would double the quantum of revenue loss to the national exchequer. However, withdrawal of exemptions under the Sixth Schedule of the Sales Tax Act, 1990 would generate revenue from second quarter of 2009-2010. The government is suffering revenue loss to the tune of around Rs 100 billion due to special procedures, sales tax exemptions and concessions granted through various Statutory Regulatory Orders (SROs). The net impact of reduction in sales tax rate from 17 to 15 percent and withdrawal of exemptions could be around Rs 50-60 billion in 2010-11. At the same time, the scope of sales tax on services would be broadened by bringing professional service providers into the tax net. In this regard, the issue of collection of sales tax on services needs to be resolved, sources added.

From http://www.brecorder.com/ 07/04/2010

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Govt to Merge FATA with KP

The ambassador made these remarks during a radio interview. The proposed merger of the Tribal Areas into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is supported by the Awami National Party (ANP) but opposed by the tribal elders. "The government's declared policy is the gradual inclusion of the Tribal Areas into what is now known as the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and the idea is that the people of the Tribal Areas should not be kept separate because that separateness has deprived them of schooling, infrastructure and economic opportunities," he told Radio Mashaal in Prague. It is for the first time that a senior government official has publicly announced a major policy statement about the Tribal Areas where al Qaeda and the Taliban have established strong footprints after the US ousted the Taliban in 2001. Haqqani's statement comes at a time when the government has delayed the implementation of the FATA reforms, which President Zardari had announced on August 14, 2009. The issue of merging the Tribal Areas was not discussed in the 18th Amendment and according to some political analysts, the merger might require a constituional amendment. "The government and the international community has allocated vast resources now and as soon as peace is restored in the Tribal Areas, one of the first things that will be done is to start building new infrastructure, bringing clean water, roads and schools," Haqqani said. The merger of FATA into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is supported by the ANP and its secular allies, but different tribal areas have strong reservations on the issue. "We will never support FATA's merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa," Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Tribal Areas President Malik Waris Khan said. "We need a separate province," he told Daily Times. "Our leader Benazir Bhutto had told the party's tribal leaders that autonomy status like Gilgit-Baltistan will be given to FATA. The issue of a merger should be decided by the tribal people, not outsiders," Waris said. The ANP has been demanding FATA's merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. "The merger will largely help the tribal people and we welcome it," ANP Vice President Senator Haji Muhammad Adeel said. Haqqani said the government had "consistently maintained" that "we consider all the Taliban a threat to our own security as well as to the security of our region and the world".

From http://pakistanlink.org/ 07/09/2010

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Govt Plans Early Completion of N-J Hydropower Project

ISLAMABAD: To complete the 969 megawatts (MW) Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project, the federal government has decided to import state-of-the-art equipment worth Rs 8 billion. Talking to reporters on Sunday, Minister for Water and Power Raja Pervaiz Ashraf directed the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) to expedite work on the Neelam-Jhelum project in order to complete it a year before the scheduled time. The minister said in order to complete the project on fast track basis, modern equipment and tunnel boring machines worth Rs 8 billion had been imported. "Although the project will cost $2.16 billion, the government has sufficient funds to complete the project," he added. Ashraf said the government was following the energy mix policy and trying its best to exploit all resources to bridge the gap between electricity demand and supply. "The government is paying attention to hydel projects in order to generate cheap electricity and overcome the energy crisis," he said. The minister dispelled the impression that the government was only focusing on thermal generation. "The main target of the government is to produce cheap electricity by exploiting indigenous resources. Thermal generation is not a long-term solution to future power requirements," Ashraf maintained. He said the government had already provided funds for the completion of the project, adding that it was being financed by the Kuwait Fund, the Saudi Fund, the Islamic Development Bank and the Abu Dhabi Funds. Ashraf said consumers were contributing 10 paisas per unit to the project, which constituted 50 percent of the financing for the project. "We can say that the project is being completed with the contribution of the people of Pakistan," he added. The power minister said the current ratio of thermal power generation was more than hydel generation and the government had decided to enhance the share of hydel power and alternative energy sources to provide cheap electricity to the consumers. He said the work on the Kohala Hydel Power Project of 1,100MW would also be started soon. "Besides reducing dependence on thermal power, the Neelum-Jhelum project would help save foreign exchange, generate employment opportunities and improve the infrastructure and social-economic conditions of the area," he said. Neelum-Jhelum Hydel Power Project Director Syed Ali Raza told reporters that round-the-clock work was underway on the project. He said the project was initiated in 2008 and would be completed in October 2015, instead of 2016. Raza said 3,400 acres of land were required for the project, adding that the government had already acquired 3,200 acres for the purpose.

From http://pakistanlink.org/ 07/12/2010

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AZERBAIJAN: President Approves Law on Compulsory Insurance on Labor Ability Loss in Production

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev approved the law "On compulsory insurance on labor ability loss in production". The Cabinet of Ministers was tasked to submit proposals on bringing the existing legislation into conformity with the law and bring the regulatory framework into line with the document in three months, as well as inform the head of the state about the insurance rates set for this type of insurance, norms to calculate the payroll of insured workers, the rules of the monthly premiums and average wages and one-time insurance payment rules. The maximum insurance rate is two percent of the salary fund. Tariffs will be differentiated according to various sectors. The Labor and Social Protection Ministry's Labor Inspectorate reported that about 250 accidents occurred in production in 2009 - 65 in the construction sector. As a result of accidents, 69 people have died. About 218 people were injured during production, including 48 people in the construction sector.

From http://www.today.az/ 07/03/2010

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Azerbaijan Creates Fertile Ground for Long-term Measures to Protect Biodiversity in 2011-2020

Azerbaijani Deputy Ecology and Natural Resources Minister Firdovsi Aliyev reported on progress achieved in work to protect biodiversity and forest protection in the country at the expert seminar on "Investing in biodiversity and increasing support for the green economy," which is part of the environmental conference that passes in the Gabala region of Azerbaijan. "Azerbaijan has created fertile ground for the adoption of a strategy to implement the extensive measures to protect biodiversity in 2011-2020," Aliyev said. Gabala hosts a conference on environment organized by the Azerbaijani government and the UNEP will be held in the Gabala region. The event is held in the run-up to the next session of the U.N. General Assembly on Biological Diversity in New York in September. Aliyev expressed hope that this international event will take decisions that will serve to the global protection of biodiversity. "It is important to develop a unified action plan for the protection of biodiversity," UN Environmental Programme representative Yvonne Iguero said. Many countries in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus have already begun to expand its protected area, as there is a need to reduce losses in biodiversity around the world, Iguero said. He noted the importance of investing in environmental protection. The seminar discusses the biological diversity of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, protection of biological diversity in the regions of Eastern Europe and Central Asia; economics of ecosystems and biodiversity, planning activities on biological diversity at regional and national level. Deputy Director of the Ministry's Department for Development of protected areas and conservation of biological diversity Hikmat Alizade said the Gabala resolution will be accepted July 7 following the result of the event. The European Environment Ministers' conference on Biodiversity and the achievement of the Millennium Goals for Development "will be held July 7.

From http://www.today.az/ 07/05/2010

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Azerbaijan President Decrees to Social Protection of Media Representatives

Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev has signed a decree to take measures to strengthen social protection of press workers. Upon the order, 5 million manat will be allocated from the Reserve Fund of the Azerbaijani President to the State Media Support Fund in order to improve the living conditions of the employees of the Azerbaijani press and to construct housing for them. Upon the order, the Ministry of Finance is in charge of allocating funds as stipulated in the order.

From http://www.today.az/ 07/23/2010

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KAZAKHSTAN: President Signed Amendments to Legislation Concerning Mobilization Preparation and Mobilization

The head of state, Nursultan Nazarbayev, signed the law on the amendments and additions to the acts of Kazakhstan concerning mobilization preparation and mobilization directed at modernization of the system of mobilization preparation and mobilization in Kazakhstan, the agency reports citing the president's press service. As informed earlier, the law introduces differentiation of powers of the Kazakhstan President, Kazakhstan government, the authorized body in the field of mobilization preparation and mobilization, state structures and organizations, carrying out mobilization tasks, the conclusion of the Senate of Parliament Committee of Kazakhstan for International Relations, Defense and Security states. The government defines financial assets of the mobilization reserve, which can be used for undertaking measures for liquidation of emergencies of natural and technogenic character and rendering humanitarian help. The amendments have been introduced to the law on mobilization preparation and mobilization, on the state reserve, and on state purchases.

From http://www.kt.kz/ 07/20/2010

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President Signed Law on Further Improvement of Rules for Cconclusion, Execution and Denunciation of International Treaties

Kazakh President signed the Law On amendments to the Law on international treaties of Kazakhstan aimed at further improvement of the rules for the conclusion, execution and denunciation of international treaties, their scientific expertise and defining effective monitoring mechanism for signed international treaties and their implementation in national legislation, the Presidential press service informs. The text of the Law is published.

From http://www.inform.kz/ 07/20/2010

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TAJIKISTAN: Freedom of Expression Network to Be Set Up

Protection of the right to freedom of expression requires consolidation of media and human rights organizations into a single network in order to solve problems in the sphere of freedom of speech and media in Tajikistan, Nouriddin Qarshiboyev, chairman of the National Association of Independent Media of Tajikistan (Nansmit), told Asia-Plus Wednesday afternoon, following a workshop on strengthening of support for freedom of expression in Tajikistan that took place here on July 21. Organized by Nansmit in cooperation with Internews Tajikistan under financial support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the workshop brought together representatives from the Bureau on Human Rights and Rule of Law (BHR), Journalists ' Union of Tajikistan, Office of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) in Tajikistan, Media Council, Nansmit, TajANESMI, as well as public associations Homa and Journalist. The meeting participants discussed the human rights situation in Tajikistan, activities of local media and human rights organizations, media and reporters on protection of freedom speech in the country, as well as activities of international and regional freedom of expression networks. They also considered a number of important aspects such as use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) for strengthening of support for freedom of expression, and ethical aspects of freedom of speech, the Nansmit head. According to him, the meeting participants decided to create the freedom of expression network in the country - TajFEN. The network is a voluntary association and it is open for other public associations, Qarshiboyev added. He noted that TajFEN would create a platform for discussions, exchange of information, discussion of problems facing freedom of speech and media in the country, and joint actions to protect freedom of expression.

From http://www.asiaplus.tj/ 07/22/2010

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TURKMENISTAN: Raise Wages, Pensions and Scholarships Starting from 2011

The President of Turkmenistan signed a decree on raising wages, as well as retirement pensions, state benefits and student scholarships. Under the document, wages, retirement pensions, state benefits and student scholarships will be increased by 10 per cent starting from 1 January 2011, the Turkmenistan.ru correspondent reports from Ashgabat. As of January 1, 2011, the highest amount of retirement pensions will be 585 Manat per month. The smallest amount of pensions for war participants is set at 574 Manat per month, and the highest pension for war participants is set at 766 Manat per month. The highest pension for war veterans, their spouses and rear front veterans is set in the amount of 702 Manat. The size of the average monthly salary in Turkmenistan for the calculation of retirement pensions is set at 746 Manat. The base line for the calculation of the minimum pension and state benefits is set at 133 Manat. The size of retirement pensions and state disability benefits is set at one per cent. Monthly salaries of heads of agencies, enterprises and organizations are set at 80 to 85 percent of monthly wages of the relevant heads of ministries and departments. The increase in wages should be provide though improving the structure of enterprises, institutions and organizations, improving the efficiency of utilization of industrial facilities and productivity of workers and use of idle internal resources.

From http://www.turkmenistan.ru/ 07/12/2010

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UZBEKISTAN: Creation of Workplaces as Major Priority of Its Social Policy

Council of the Senate [upper house] of Oliy Majlis [parliament] of Uzbekistan on 8 July held meeting to discuss implementation of the Program of new workplaces creation and maintaining employment of the population for 2010. The program was developed within the realization of President's statement at the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan devoted to results socioeconomic development of the country in 2009, priorities of economic program for 2010. The program was approved by the resolution of the Senate on 4 December 2009. These priorities include continuing and deepening reforms, renovation and modernization of the country, unconditional implementation of antic-crisis measures for 2009-2010, ensuring high and stable economic growth rates and its efficiency, pursuing powerful social policy.

The meeting noted that certain measures were taken in real economic branches and the country's territories on implementation of the program. The program's forecast parameters were fulfilled in excess. Credit resources allocated by Employment Assistance Fund under the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Population of Uzbekistan exceeded 2.14 billion soums. It was underlined especially that 132,000 workplaces were created due to the organization of small enterprises and micro firms, 101,700 workplaces - due to progress of all forms of out-work, including workmanship and national crafts, 59,400 workplaces - due to progress of the farms specializing on poultry farming, animal industries, fish breeding, etc.

The Council meeting participants stated that 91,400 workplaces were created during the past five months of 2010 within the Anti-crisis program for 2009-2012. More than 42,000 workplaces were formed only due to implementation of the Program of development of housing construction and settlements accomplishment. Credit resources allocated by banks for recovery, expansion and development of activity of business entities, creation of new enterprises have vital importance in the organization of workplaces. The meeting was attended by the members of the Senate and the Government, heads of corresponding ministries, state committees and departments, Central Bank and commercial banks of Uzbekistan, deputies of local councils of people's deputies, representatives of NGOs and mass media.

From http://news.uzreport.com/ 07/12/2010

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AUSTRALIA: Gillard Signals New Direction in Its Population Growth

Australia's prime minister, Julia Gillard has a signalled a change of direction on targets for Australia's population. She has expessed concern that a target of 40 million people might lead to overcrowding, as Rebecca Bruce reports.The former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd installed Tony Burke as the Minister for Population. But in one of her first moves as prime minister, Julia Gillard has changed his job description. Tony Burke will now be the Minister for Sustainable Population. Ms Gillard says the change sends a clear message about the new direction the government is taking. She says Australia shouldn't hurtle down the track towards a big population and she doesn't support setting arbitrary population targets. The prime minister says she wants to develop policies for a sustainable population to ensure the country doesn't become overcrowded. Ms Gillard was careful to stress the announcement wasn't about cutting immigration.

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 06/27/2010

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Australia's PM Tackles Tax Furore

The Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan's return from the G20 summit signals the start of fresh efforts to resolve the dispute over the mining profits tax. He arrives after Prime Minister Julia Gillard's decision to make minimal frontbench changes and Labor's continued improvement in the polls fuel speculation of an early election. Wayne Swan stepped off a plane from Toronto and straight into a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, where the mining profits tax was expected to dominate. Ms Gillard has made it her priority to find a resolution to the stand off with the mining industry over the resources super profits tax. She says there has already been progress. "I think there's some good will abroad and I think we can harness that goodwill to get to a solution," she said.

"The debate about the resources super profits tax had become a very heated and sometimes acrimonious one. I think we've already taken some substantial steps to get a better fix of goodwill and collaboration into the debate." With opinion polls showing her elevation is popular with voters, there' speculation the mining tax is the only major issue standing in the way of an early election. Opposition frontbencher Andrew Robb says he believes the Prime Minister wants to capitalise on a honeymoon period with voters by calling an early poll. " [She wants to] avoid any serious scrutiny of what plans they would have, and should have, to get rid of $100 billion worth of debt," he said. He says she's trying to win on the basis of personality rather than policies. Speaking in response to election speculation today, Ms Gillard would only say that the Government would go to an election in the second half of this year.

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 06/29/2010

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Australian Government Urged to Step up Oil Rig Monitoring

Environmentalists are calling for the Australian government to boost resources in the monitoring of oil rigs in north Australian waters. Last year, the Montara rig spewed oil into the Timor Sea off Western Australia's north coast for more than two months. The Resources Minister Martin Ferguson says he wants to move to a national system for monitoring off-shore oil rigs, following criticisms the Northern Territory government didn't properly check wells in its jurisdiction. The World Wildlife Fund's Gilly Llewellyn says no matter what the outcome, the lack of resources to monitor rigs needs to be addressed. "We never want to see a Montara incident again, these types of incidents as we've seen from the Gulf [of Mexico incident], they put workers safety at risk and they pose a massive threat to the environment." "So the real test will be how do they plan to tighten the regulation, you know, how do we evaluate and give proper scrutiny to changes of increased risks."

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 06/30/2010

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Australian PM Urges Free Debate on Immigration

The Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, is preparing to make an announcement on the government's policy towards asylum seekers and on immigration and is urging people to speak freely about the issue. Ms Gillard says 'political correctness' has no place in the debate about asylum seekers. 'People should feel free to say what they feel,' says Ms Gillard. She says people who express anxiety about so-called border security issues are not racist and those who have concerns about children in detention are not 'soft'. And she says she'll have something to say on the issue herself in the next few days. In the meantime, the opposition leader, Tony Abbott, insists the government should toughen its policy, saying 'you just can't trust the Labor party with an issue like this'.

A three month freeze on the processing of claims for political asylum by people from Sri Lanka expires this week and the Australian Greens Party is urging the government to lift the suspension. The Australian human rights lawyer Julian Burnside QC has also said future generations will look back in disgust at the government's policies on asylum seekers. Mr Burnside says the government's policies are too tough already.

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 07/04/2010

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Australian Mining Deal Slashes Government Forecasts

The Australian Government has revealed that its deal over the revised resources mining tax with the mining industry cost $US6.6 billion dollars. Prime Minister Julia Gillard made significant changes to the planned tax, which included dropping its rate from 40 per cent to 30 per cent and providing a 25 per cent extraction allowance. But the Treasurer Wayne Swan, says the continued strong demand for Australian resources means that prices have gone up again. He says it will bring in $US5.2 billion dollars more than Treasury originally estimated in May, meaning that cutting the tax rate has left a hole of only one and a half billion dollars.

Mr Swan says Australia is still benefitting from the Asian boom. "Asia's strong growth is expected to continue to generate strong demand for our resource commodities and further price rises for key commodities. The terms of trade are forecast to rise by 17 per cent in 2010/11 to around their highest levels on record, this will provide a big boost to national income and a big boost to investment. " The leader of the Australian Greens Party, Bob Brown, has used the figures to condemn the Government for doing the deal with the mining companies.

"It's now clear that the Gillard-Swan backdown to the mining barons is a $7.5 billion dollar disgrace this will be ripped out of the forward estimates for the budget. It's not available for schools, hospitals security public housing and transport."

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 07/14/2010

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Australia's PM Unveils New Climate Change Policy

Australia's prime minister Julia Gillard has unveiled a revised climate change policy, promising tougher standards for new power stations. Ms Gillard has announced that all new power stations will have to meet high standards for their carbon emissions. New coal fired power stations will also have to be carbon capture and storage ready capable of being retrofitted to capture and store the pollution caused by burning coal. Ms Gillard says if the Labor party is re-elected, the government will also create a climate change commission to provide evidence and information about climate change science to all Australians. The Prime Minister also confirmed she will select 150 Australians to advise her on whether there is a consensus on the best way to lower carbon pollution.

"I believe that an issue that is this profound, we need to have a deep and lasting community consensus," she said. The Prime Minister has also promised to spend $AU1 billion over ten years to connect electricity networks to renewable energy sources. Ms Gillard says industries would be rewarded for acting immediately to cut their emissions, rather than waiting for an emissions trading scheme to start.

Industry seeks action, not talks

Australian Industry leaders from the energy and resources sectors are calling on the government to stop talking about climate change and take action. Some of the most influential leaders from the energy industry met in Brisbane today. They say they know industry needs to rely on sustainable innovations rather than using fossil fuels. But the consensus among industry leaders is that they want the Government to stop talking about a climate change policy and put one into action. Rio Tinto's John McGagh says industry is waiting for the government to give them the security to invest in efficient energies. That security would be a climate change policy. "So it's a security of a policy environment and a policy environment that society is comfortable in and we're comfortable in as investors."

He said many energy efficient technologies already exist but Australia is behind in implementing them. Meanwhile the Federal Opposition says the release of the Government's revised climate change policy is nothing more than a smoke screen. Deputy Opposition Leader, Julie Bishop, says there is a fundamental dishonesty about Labor's Climate Change Policy. "She's putting off any decision, any policy on climate change," she said. "She says she believes in a carbon price, she's done a preference deal with the Greens, who believe in a carbon tax, I think this distraction of a committee of 150 people is designed as a smoke screen." During Ms Gillard's announcement at the University of Queensland a climate change protester had to be wrestled to the ground by a security guard, just metres from the Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 07/23/2010

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COOK ISLANDS: New Party from CIP Fallout

A new political party called Cook Islands Party Tumu has been born out of the recent Cook Islands Party 'Avatiu controversy'. Avatiu-Ruatonga-Palmerston MP Albert 'Peto' Nicholas is now declaring himself the new party's first candidate. One of the most influential founders of the CIP, 81-year-old Tupui Ariki Henry, has helped bring the new party into being. Yesterday Henry registered the party and its constitution, which he drafted, with the Ministry of Justice. The Cook Islands Party Tumu was formed because of fallout with the CIP central executive following Nicholas' recent announcement he would be the CIP candidate for this year's election, even though the party had not called for nominations for candidacy as per its amended constitution.

CI News spoke to Henry yesterday about what he views may create the first major split of the Cook Islands Party. "I know the present CIP won't like it. It's going to take away some of its support because we are saying this (new party) is the CIP of old." Henry believes the new party will attract some of the current CIP MPs, speculating that to start with perhaps the two Atiu MPs, Norman George and Nandi Glassie, might be interested in ditching the party. Henry says for now, Nicholas' Avatiu committee will act as the party executive committee until more constituencies join the party. "Chairman Joseph Haupini will lead the executive. I told them that if and when others join they may have to hold the first party conference to elect an executive." Henry says the change to the CIP constitution that allows for nominations to be called for candidates has led to the central executive being able to interfere with the candidacy process.

He says he saw the problem that the central executive created when a new electorate committee was elected and nominations were called after Nicholas had announced his candidacy. "I met with the MP (Nicholas) and his committee and they asked me for advice. The committee said he (Nicholas) wanted to stand again and that they would support him as an independent candidate if they must. "I told them this was the opportunity to form a new party - with both parties in trouble right now, it's a good time for it." Henry, a politician in the early years of self-governance, was campaign manager for 17 years for his father, the country's first premier and founder of the CIP Albert Henry. Now he will put his efforts into helping create a new party which he believes will win the support of the people.

Henry describes Cook Islands Party Tumu as meaning 'the base, the main or the real CIP.' CI News spoke to CIP vice president Mark Brown yesterday, who said the party executive would provide its reaction to the new party over the weekend. Brown said it was the first he had heard of the new party and he hoped to contact CIP leader Henry Puna in Manihiki before commenting on the issue. Meanwhile, nominations for the CIP candidacy in Avatiu closed yesterday.

From http://www.cinews.co.ck/ 07/03/2010

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Cook Islands Parliament Urged to Launch a Commission of Inquiry over National Fuel Strategy

The Cook Islands Minister of Finance, Wilkie Rasmussen, has released the Audit Office's report into the government's controversial strategy to nationalise fuel supply. The report makes 13 major recommendations. The most important is the recommendation that Parliament initiate a formal Commission of Inquiry to take evidence under oath and be open to the public. Our correspondent in the Cook Islands, Flo Syme-Buchanan reports.

"The audit report states that given the significant expenditure proposed by the Cook Islands government to achieve nationalisation of fuel supply, there was questionable decision making by Cabinet and senior officials. Only Finance Minister, Wilkie Rasmussen is cleared in the report. It goes further to say there were major systemic failures, especially the lack of robust checks and balances within all management systems and there was inadequate identification and determination of management and accountability responsibility. It said failure was due to a lack of detail and reasoned analysis that should've accompanied the government's plan to make a multi-million dollar investment. The report also states that basic principles of good governance were not adhered to and in most cases bordered on negligence of duty, reckless and irresponsible fiscal management." A former deputy prime minister, Sir Terepai Maoate, was sacked by the prime minister over the issue.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 07/11/2010

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Cook Islands to Develop National Plan to Cope With Persistent Organic Pollutants

Groundwork and training are underway in the Cook Islands to prepare a National Implementation Plan on persistent organic pollutants or POPs. Rarotonga's private sector and civil society are being asked to share information on how they use, manage, store and eventually dispose of dangerous chemicals. The project coordinator, Maureen Hilyard, says banned chemicals such as DDT and Lindane were once widely used in the Cook Islands. But she says research has shown that some imported canned fish contain much higher levels of POPs than fish caught in the country. In 2004, the Cook Islands signed the Stockholm Convention which obliges the Government to produce a plan on how it will protect the people and the environment from the risks of exposure to POPs, dioxins and other dangerous chemicals.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 07/19/2010

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NEW ZEALAND: Govt Focused on Correcting Fall in Export Jobs

More than half of all new jobs created in New Zealand since 2004 have been in public administration, health and education, while the number of jobs in major export industries has shrunk, Finance Minister Bill English says. That is why the Government is focused on tilting the economy towards productive investment, savings and exports, and away from unsustainable government spending, borrowing and housing speculation. "The composition of new jobs created in recent years is concerning," Mr English told Parliament today. "In short, jobs in export-related industries have shrunk, while most new jobs have been in Government-related sectors.

"More than half the jobs created since 2004 have been in the public administration, health and education sectors. While these sectors are important, they have grown unsustainably. Since 2004, they have grown by more than 20 per cent - or over four times the growth rate of other sectors. During this time, employment in agriculture, forestry, fishing and manufacturing has fallen. This pattern cannot continue," Mr English says. "We are simply ending up with too many workers in mostly public sector industries and not enough employment in the more productive parts of the economy to support them. That is why our overall productivity growth has been negative for a decade and we ended up with large balance of payments deficits."

The Government is focused on creating sustainable jobs through a programme to rebalance the economy. This includes:
1. Reprioritising almost $4 billion of spending towards frontline public services in the last two Budgets.
2. A multi-billion dollar investment programme in productive infrastructure.
3. Significantly increased funding for business science and research
4. A comprehensive Budget tax package to help tilt the economy towards productive investment and exports.
5. A thorough review of Government regulations affecting businesses.

This programme will continue year after year - and some progress is already being made, Mr English says. "It was pleasing to see over 20,000 new jobs created in the March quarter. It's also pleasing to see the tradeables side of the economy growing faster than the domestic side for the first time since 2002. "That will help ensure the 170,000 new jobs forecast in the Budget over the next four years will be worthwhile and sustainable."

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 06/30/2010

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New Zealand Energy Data File 2010 Released

New Zealand's leading record of annual energy data shows a year-on-year increase in renewable electricity generation of eight per cent, Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee announced today. "In 2008, annual renewable electricity generation was at 65 per cent. That rose to 73 per cent for the 2009 calendar year, with generation from wind and geothermal playing a bigger part in New Zealand's electricity generation mix," Mr Brownlee said. "The 2009 figures are more in line with the government's future expectations - renewable generation will continue to rise." The 2008 year saw unusually high levels of electricity generated from coal. In 2009, total installed capacity of wind powered electricity generation increased by 55 per cent to nearly 500 MW.

The latest edition of the New Zealand Energy Data File, which sets out detailed information on the supply and use of energy in New Zealand since 1970, was released by the Ministry of Economic Development today. A new Energy Snapshot publication has been released alongside the New Zealand Energy Data File. "The New Zealand Energy Data File is the go-to reference for anyone interested in the energy sector in New Zealand," Mr Brownlee said. "This year, that information has been distilled further for those with little or no knowledge of the New Zealand energy sector." The 2010 edition has also been updated to include liquid biofuels production information and P90 oil and gas reserves information, in line with the recommendation from the Electricity Market Review.

Other key highlights reported in this edition are: Although down eight per cent from 2008, crude oil production in 2009 was the third highest on record with the new Maari field coming online Total electricity generation in 2009 was 42,010 GWh, slightly below the level seen in 2008 Diesel demand in 2009 was down four per cent from 2008 levels, and the lowest since 2004 Remaining oil and gas reserves from currently producing fields at the end of 2009 were 983 PJ and 2,076 PJ respectively.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/02/2010

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Chance to Drive Economic Growth

Applications have opened for the Chief Executive's job at the new Ministry of Science and Innovation. The Ministry comes into being on 1 November. "This is an outstanding leadership opportunity," Research, Science and Technology Minister Wayne Mapp said. Dr Mapp's portfolio becomes Science and Innovation under the new structure. "Science and innovation are cornerstones of the Government's economic growth strategy," he said. "Last year we started the biggest overhaul of the science system in 20 years. We have set clear priorities in the system. The Crown research institutes are being reformed to have a clearer sense of priorities and more effective funding. The Budget provided extensive new funding for business and manufacturers to connect with our research institutions.

"The creation of this Ministry is the next step in improving the science system and setting the scene for excellence in science and innovation. This Ministry will ensure better returns from public investment and direct Government support where it can make the greatest difference," the Minister said. "The Chief Executive will have a crucial leadership role in managing science funding, advising the Government on New Zealand's science system, and driving knowledge transfer from the science sector to business and other research users. The Government is committed to unlocking the huge potential science has to lift our economy. We have created an environment where that can happen. This person will have a key role in making it happen," he said.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/06/2010

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Government to Reform or Repeal Waihopai 3 Defence

The Government is to either reform or repeal the 'claim of right' defence successfully used by the defendants in the Waihopai sabotage case, Justice Minister Simon Power said today. A preliminary report has identified five options, including the removal of the defence. Mr Power has asked officials to identify which one best fits New Zealand's legal framework. They are expected to report back by the end of September. The options are: Shifting the burden of proof.

Amending the definition of 'claim of right' so a defendant would have to prove they have a 'claim of right', rather that the prosecution needing to prove they do not. Adding a reasonableness element Amending the definition of 'claim of right' so a defendant would have to show that at the time of the offence their actions and/or beliefs were reasonable. Amending the offences that have 'claim of right' as an element Amending some or all of the 14 offences in the Crimes Act that have 'claim of right' as an element to ensure the defence is not wider than appropriate. Adding a property interest criterion Amending the defence of 'claim of right' so only a defendant with a legal claim to the property concerned could use the defence. Repealing the defence Remove the 'claim of right' defence from the Crimes Act so the defence is not available to any defendant in future.

Mr Power says his preliminary advice is that the courts have extended the 'claim of right' defence beyond what was anticipated by Parliament when it was defined in the Crimes Act 1961, and amended in 2003. "The 'claim of right' defence has a long history in common law and was used in New Zealand well before it was formally recognised in the Crimes Act. "It's clear it was not intended to be used to excuse the behaviour of people who take or damage property in cases where they are not claiming a personal property right. "Concern has been raised that the legislative scope of 'claim of right' has become too broad and that the defence should not be able to be used as it was in the Waihopai case, and I agree with that. "It also appears our law on this is out of step with comparable overseas jurisdictions, including England, Canada, and several Australian states.

"I have asked officials to look at finding the best option to bring the defence back to what Parliament intended, to clarify its scope, to address issues specifically raised by the Waihopai case, and to bring it more into line with overseas jurisdictions."

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/14/2010

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Benefits of micro-insurance to be promoted in Pacific countries

Advocates for micro-insurance say there is potential to develop the provision of insurance to low-income households in Pacific Island nations. The United Nations Development Programme Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme is to hold discussions on the topic in Fiji on Thursday. A technical specialist with the Financial Inclusion Programme, partly funded by the UN, Mike McCafferey says, for example, only 20 percent of those on low salaries in Fiji have insurance. He says there's a need for more education on the merits of insurance and for cheaper premiums to be offered. "Especially in the Pacific there are a lot of unpredictable events. These range from everything from flooding, to tsunamis, to health concerns out in rural areas. These cause different fluctuations in people's incomes and expenditures over a year. One of the best ways to mitigate those fluctuations is through an insurance policy." Mike McCafferey says a pilot micro-insurance product is currently being designed for Fiji.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 07/13/2010

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APEC Launches New Statistics Portal: StatsAPEC

Today APEC launched its new statistics portal, StatsAPEC. StatsAPEC is the only consolidated source of trade, financial and socio-economic data on APEC's 21 member economies. StatsAPEC can be accessed at http://statistics.apec.org/. The data dates back to APEC's inception in 1989 and can be exported to Microsoft Excel for further analysis. As a result of this new portal, business people, government officials, the media, researchers, students and the public-at-large now have free access to an extensive database of statistics.

StatsAPEC is made up of two databases:
The Key Indicators Database
The Bilateral Linkages Database

The Key Indicators Database includes over 120 trade, financial and socio-economic indicators, allowing for detailed analysis of trends in the APEC region. The indicators cover areas such as:
Gross domestic product
Population
Unemployment
Education levels
CO2 omissions

The Bilateral Linkages Database facilitates detailed analysis of trade and investment flows within APEC and between APEC and the world. It includes statistics on items such as:
Merchandise trade
Foreign direct investment
Bank lending

Also, APEC aggregates are available for a broad range of indicators, making it easy to examine the region as a whole. APEC aggregates are a feature unique to StatsAPEC.

From http://www.apec.org/ 07/01/2010

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Asia Pacific Gov'ts Urged to Increase Investments in Agriculture

Governments all over Asia Pacific have to work harder to encourage investments in the agriculture sector if they want to feed the whole world as the region alone requires an annual investment of about $120 billion until 2050 in order to achieve a production capacity that will keep up with the projected global population of 1.5 billion in four decades. Currently agriculture investments in the region amount to an aggregated $80 billion, which is more than 10 times what the Philippines plans to invest for a five-year period. Based on the Philippines' 2005-2010 medium term investment plan (MTPIP) for agriculture, the country would need P357.1 billion in order to develop at least 2 million hectares of new agribusiness lands in order to create at least two million jobs, and make food "plentiful at competitive prices."

Hiroyuki Konuma, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) regional representative for Asia and the Pacific, said efforts must be made to bring up the investments to the $120 billion level, a 60 percent increase, in order to ensure "food security" and address "chronic hunger" in the world. The FAO data for last year showed that about 100 million people "joined the ranks of the global hungry directly" as a result of soaring food prices. "The effects of this painful trend have been felt most acutely here in this region (Asia Pacific), where two-thirds of the world's one billion hungry people now resides," said Jaruhiko Kuroda, Asian Development Bank (ADB) president, at yesterday's opening of the ADB-led "Food Forum". Kuroda said that while the world learned a lesson or two during the sudden spike of food in 2008, the situation is seen to worsen in the years to come.

"Although global food prices have now stabilized as compared with 2008, they still remain 85 percent higher than their 2003 levels. And according to recent FAO and OECD projections, food prices for 2010-2019 will be 15 percent to 40 percent higher in real terms than they were at 1997-2006 levels," he said. "At the same time, people with rising incomes will demand diversified food choices, therefore adding strain (to) the region's already stretched agricultural resources," Kuroda added. Konuma said that global governments became very lax in the past after they managed to improve production during the "green revolution" years which resulted to lower food prices. Increasing investments in agriculture will also ensure the means to address poverty in the region, where about 70 percent of the population are dependent on agriculture. Ganesh Thapa, regional economist of Asia and the Pacific division of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said that investment in the agriculture should be complemented with other support programs to address poverty in the area.As in the case of the Philippines, the areas found with the most poverty incidence are those areas whose industry sector is tied to agriculture. (by Albert Castro)

From http://www.malaya.com.ph/ 07/08/2010

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Asia's Response to Climate Change and Natural Disasters - Report

This new report by energy, regional, and humanitarian disaster specialists at CSIS examines the politics of climate change in Asia, the region's response to natural disasters, and the implications for the future geometry of Asia's institutions and U.S. policy in the region. The assessment looks broadly at two areas of nontraditional security cooperation in Asia: (1) climate change, including the domestic political factors in Asia and the regional strategies for securing low-carbon pathways; and (2) regional approaches to disaster management. The volume draws on case studies to assess the utility of existing and emerging institutions - the promises as well as the problems - as the United States and the region seek greater cooperation on both traditional and nontraditional security challenges. The authors discuss the problems related to lack of coordination at different levels, the uncertain role of the military, and continuing gaps in resources and expertise in key organizations.

Looking ahead, the authors conclude that the United States will continue to play a critical role in supporting the region's response to many of the natural disasters it will face. They also recommend that the United States seek to focus Asia's attention on the long-term threat of climate change and other slow-onset disasters. As the authors explain, not only is the region expected to be a major victim of the consequences of climate change, it is a source of the threat itself. They recommend that the United States continue its bilateral and multilateral programs to increase energy efficiency and the use of alternative energy and clean-coal technology and that it also begin to explore broad, secure, low-carbon pathways within the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.

From http://csis.org/ 07/16/2010

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Foundation Laid for Action-Oriented ARF in Future

The region's premier security forum, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), today adopted a Plan of Action aimed at making the forum more action-oriented in the future. The Ha Noi Plan of Action to Implement the ARF Vision Statement, which contains policy guidance for the ARF to develop and implement concrete and practical actions toward the year 2020, was adopted by the 17th ARF Meeting in Ha Noi. The Plan of Action represents an evolution in the ARF, aimed at making the forum more action-oriented in addressing multi-dimensional challenges, especially the non-traditional security threats that have direct impact on peace and security in the region. Six areas of cooperation are identified in the Plan of Action as the basis for future ARF work, namely disaster relief; counter terror and transnational crime; maritime security; non-proliferation and disarmament; peacekeeping operations; and defence dialogue. The way forward for the ARF to implement preventive diplomacy and the enhancement of ARF's institutional features are also given primary attention in the Plan of Action.

From http://www.aseansec.org/ 07/23/2010

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CHINA: Regulator Warns of Risks in Lending

China's top banking watchdog said Saturday that domestic banks must step up the monitoring of lending risks although the overall capital adequacy ratio has exceeded regulatory requirements. "We have been constantly focusing on banks' capital strength, risks of large-sum loans and sour-debt provisions," Liu Mingkang, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, told the Lujiazui Forum. "Preemptive measures lay a solid foundation for China's banking sector to deal with crises and challenges." The average capital adequacy ratio of Chinese commercial lenders was 11.1 percent at the end of March, Liu said. It dropped slightly from 11.4 percent at the end of 2009 after the lending spree in the first quarter. But it was still higher than the regulatory requirements of 11 percent for big state-owned banks and 10 percent for smaller lenders. Liu said that all domestic banks had met capital adequacy requirements as of March 31. Domestic banks reaped hefty profits last year after lending to support the country's stimulus package. However, as inflation mounts, lenders face pressure to rein in credit to avoid risks. Analysts expect Chinese banks' capital will be boosted in the second half as most have plans to raise it from the stock and debt markets. Liu also noted that Chinese commercial banks' average provision coverage against bad loans reached 170.2 percent at the end of March, compared with a regulatory demand of 150 percent. Liu said banks must stay cool-minded as financial innovation becomes more sophisticated to ensure the country's financial safety.

From Shanghai Daily 06/28/2010

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China's Cabinet Seeks More Mergers, Reorganizations Among Nation's Businesses

China's central government has urged more efforts to be made to promote mergers and reorganizations of the country's enterprises, a government statement said Thursday. Being fragmented, some Chinese industries suffered from a relatively weak ability to be innovative and competitive, said the State Council, or the Cabinet, in the statement released after an executive meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday. The Cabinet urged efforts be made to enact mergers and reorganizations of businesses, deepen reforms, upgrade the industrial structure, and quicken transformation of economic development patterns. The move should be conducive to increasing the quality and quantity of development, strengthening the capabilities to counter risks from the international market and achieving sustainable development. Also, a wide variety of regulations hindering the merger of enterprises and the reorganization and obstructing fair competition should be eliminated, along with regulations created by local governments seeking to keep enterprises of other localities from acquiring and reorganizing their own firms, said the statement. Further, private firms should be given access to participate in industries that laws and regulations do not forbid, reforms on industry monopolies should be accelerated, it said.

Through mergers and reorganization, private businesses should be encouraged to enter some competitive business fields of industries that currently hold monopolies, said the statement. Mergers and reorganization should be used to eliminate backward production facilities, while the central government would set up a special fund to support mergers and reorganizations, the State Council said. Additionally, risk control and information disclosure should be stepped up to prevent and fight insider trading and manipulating of markets and to protect the interests of enterprises and prevent state assets from being drained away, said the statement. The State Council also called for strengthened supervision over central state-owned enterprises (central SOEs) from the board of supervisors to move forward on reforms on central SOEs and make sure the value of state assets are maintained and added. The draft of Regulations on Natural Disaster Relief was also approved in the executive meeting, said the statement.

From English.news.cn 07/01/2010

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New Rules to Improve School Bus Safety

Buses carrying primary students will need to meet a set of new compulsory regulations when the first national standard for school bus safety comes into effect on Thursday. Some of the 59 children who were crammed into an 11-seater minivan that was recently pulled over by traffic police in Nanyang, Henan province. The children, all primary and kindergarten pupils, were accompanied by a teacher. Police say overcrowding and poor conditions on school buses across the country are risking lives. Each vehicle must have at least two emergency exits and data recorders that record all driving information, like speed, time and mileage, the rules read. All the seats must be unfolded single seats with seatbelts, and the windows should be completely sealed or at least with the lower parts sealed. Co-promulgated by the Standardization Administration of China and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, the rules mean single and double-decker buses and minibuses cannot be used for school runs unless registered. "When the safety of school buses is guaranteed, parents will no longer have to wait outside school gates," said Yuan Guilin, a professor at Beijing Normal University. "It will also help improve traffic jams around primary and middle schools (because fewer parents will drive there)."

The high cost of the new school bus, though, could be a serious barrier to schools catering to children of migrant workers. "Schools and parents all welcome the release of the new standard, but for schools like ours, the costs and maintenance fees involved are beyond our reach at present," said Ren Haiying, president of Beijing Haiding Xingzhi Experimental School. Chen Wei, a Beijing father, said the new measures will better guarantee the safety of his child and ease the pressure of his daily routine. "My son studies at Zhongguancun No 3 Primary School and I am in charge of sending him and picking him up from school every day," he said. "We meet traffic jams every day during rush hour and it's a real headache." However, some parents are worried that the standard may result in schools greatly increasing bus fees. "The biggest problem of China's school bus industry is not the lack of a standard but the rampant use of illegal vehicles," said Zhang Jie, manager of Beijing Wanjiabang Vehicle Rentals. "If the problem exists, no matter how good the standard is, the qualified school bus is at a disadvantage in the market (as illegal buses are cheaper and more flexible)." Yuan, who has studied school bus safety for five years, said: "School buses carry much responsibility and hope, so they need strict supervision. "The release of the new standard is nice but I hope the related (government) departments enhance the management and supervision and do not see the standard as just a piece of paper or let the data recorders just be expensive decorations," he said.

From China Daily 07/01/2010

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Beijing to Combine City Districts to Balance Development

The State Council, or China's cabinet, has approved a plan which calls for combining four key administrative districts of Beijing, the national capital, into two larger ones. According to the plan proposed by the Beijing Municipal Government, the former Dongcheng, Xicheng, Chongwen and Xuanwu districts at the core of Beijing will merge to form the new Dongcheng and Xicheng districts. The new Dongcheng District, composed of the former Dongcheng and Chongwen districts, would have an area of 41.84 square km and a permanent population of 865,000; the new Xicheng District, including the former Xicheng and Xuanwu districts, would cover 50.7 square km, with about 1.25 million residents, as outlined in the plan. The adjustment of Beijing's administrative divisions was aimed at balancing the development of the city's core districts, said a spokesman with the municipal government. Among the four core districts of Beijing, the development of Chongwen and Xuanwu in the south was lagging behind that of Dongcheng and Xicheng in the north, said the spokesman. The action could optimize the district' social resources, reduce administrative costs and enhance Beijing's core area, he said. Further, the move was expected to speed the renovation of Beijing's Old City, which basically included the four districts, and make for better protection of the historical cultural sites in the Old City, he said. The municipal government has been striving to achieve the transformation of Beijing into a "world city", which has a global influence in terms of politics, economy and culture, by 2050.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/02/2010

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China Allocates More Relief Funds for Flood-hit South

China's Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Civil Affairs on Tuesday jointly sent 377 million yuan (55.2 million U.S. dollars) to four southern provinces which had been battered by rainstorms and consequent floods. The funds will be mainly used for the evacuation and resettlement of affected local people and the rebuilding of damaged houses in the provinces of Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangxi and Hunan, said a statement released Tuesday by the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Figures from the ministry show that around 260 people have been killed and 211 left missing in 11 provinces since rainstorms hit south China on June 13. More than 3.8 million people were evacuated and relocated due to floodwater, which also destroyed 312,000 homes and resulted in direct economic losses reaching 64.57 billion yuan (about 9.49 billion U.S. dollars). As of Tuesday, the two ministries have allocated a total of 867 million yuan for eight southern provinces and autonomous regions for flood relief.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/07/2010

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China to Address Problems on Central Budget Implementation in 2009

China's government has stressed the need to fix problems discovered in audits on implementing the central budget in 2009, said a government statement Wednesday. The statement came out of an executive meeting of China's State Council, or Cabinet, which was chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao Wednesday. The audits have played a key role in ensuring effective spending of various financial funds and fulfilling the central government's policies to expand domestic demand and to ensure smooth and relatively fast economic growth, said the statement. The National Audit Office, the national supreme auditor, recently reported the audit results to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, and then made them public, said the statement. All local governments, departments and organizations should rectify the problems as the task is a vital test of the government's executive force and credibility, said the statement. The meeting also called for more efforts to promote production safety, according to the statement.

From English.news.cn 07/07/2010

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China to Strengthen Poverty Alleviation Work

The General Office of China's State Council, the Cabinet, and the General Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee issued a circular recently, calling for more progress in the nation's poverty alleviation work. Poverty alleviation work that targets old revolutionary base areas, ethnic regions, border areas and poverty-stricken areas has made great progress since it was started 24 years ago, the circular said. Future tasks are to focus on ensuring adequate food and clothing for people in need and helping them out of poverty via improving their capabilities for development on their own. It is necessary to continue efforts in reducing poverty through development, and to make great efforts in advancing and enhancing infrastructure construction, improving the capacities to offer basic services, and cultivating key agriculture-based businesses, so as to ensure a comprehensive, coordinating and sustainable growth in developing the economy and society of the targeted poor regions, said the circular. Party and government departments, state-owned enterprises, key state research institutions, military and armed police forces should participate in the work, while large private enterprises and social organizations, too, are encouraged to devote themselves to the work, the circular said.

From English.news.cn 07/08/2010

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Chinese Vice Premier Pledges to Further Improve Investment Environment

Vice Premier Wang Qishan said here Saturday the Chinese government would continue the reform and opening-up drive to create a favorable environment for foreign businesses. Wang made the promise when meeting with a delegation of Japan's Association for the Promotion of International Trade (JAPIT) led by its chairman Yohei Kono, who is also former speaker of the Japanese House of Representatives. Wang spoke highly of the JAPIT's contribution to promoting the Sino-Japanese friendship and the bilateral economic cooperation. He said Sino-Japanese economies were highly complementary, and China and Japan should increase cooperation in energy conservation, environmental protection, electronic and manufacturing sectors to promote their strategic and mutually beneficial relations. Kono spoke highly of the Chinese government' s efforts to cope with the international financial crisis, saying that the Japanese business community was willing to strengthen cooperation with China in economy, trade and investment. The JAPIT delegation is visiting China at the invitation of the Chinese Council for Promoting International Trade.

From English.news.cn 07/10/2010

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Supreme Court Issues Detailed Work Report

China's Supreme People's Court (SPC) on Tuesday released a detailed 2009 report on the work of the country's courts, a move seen as the judiciary's efforts in promoting work transparency and seeking supervision from the public. During each annual session of the National People's Congress, which is usually held in early March, the country's chief justice will also deliver a work report. But different from that one, the mid-year report is said to be more comprehensive. "The report just released is in line with the one delivered by the SPC president regarding the main spirit and structure of the court. But this one, with more specific cases, figures and illustrations, aims to tell the public what the people's courts did in 2009 in full details," said Hu Yunteng, a senior official with the SPC. Figures from the report show that the SPC dealt with 13,318 cases of various types and ruled on 11,749 cases, up 52.1 percent year on year. Local courts at various levels resolved more than 10 million cases, according to the report. The number of cases brought before courts nationwide registered an average annual rise of 5.95 percent since 2005. The report pointed out that judicial work at grass-root courts was "more arduous" as cases soared, while the number of judges hearing these cases remained about the same. According to the report, one Chinese judge heard an average of 55 cases last year. In some local courts, this figure reached above 280.

In addition to statistics, the report also covers, in detail, several highly publicized cases. In July 2009, the Intermediate People's Court of Chengdu in southwestern Sichuan Province sentenced a drunk driver named Sun Weiming to death, the first such verdict in China. In the second trial, the verdict was reduced to life imprisonment. According to the report, while adhering to lawful judgment, various local courts "publicized the sentences on major drunk driving cases in a timely manner and addressed public questions earnestly and patiently." Following the verdict, the SPC issued a judicial interpretation last September that instructed local courts in what situations severe sentences should be handed down to a drunk driver as drunk driving cases rose rapidly in various regions, said the report. "The report, recording the courts' proper management of widely-focused cases, aims to address public concerns, reflect open justice and promote public confidence in justice," said Sun Jungong, SPC spokesperson. The report also mentions the prominent case of Huang Songyou, the former SPC vice president who was sentenced on Jan. 19 to life imprisonment for taking bribes and embezzlement. Further, the report indicates that the number of civilian jurors increased from 57,000 to 77,000 in 2009 and their opinions were taken into account in some 632,000 cases, up 25.1 percent year on year. "The people's courts at all levels highly values the efforts of civilian jurors in solving social conflicts and have been striving to introduce 'civilian wisdom' into the country's judicial work," said the report. According to the SPC, the court will solicit public opinions regarding the report and the work of people's courts in order to "scan for work deficiencies and better implement the principle of judicial openness." Such a report will be released regularly every year.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/14/2010

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China Plans Weather Insurance to Help Farmers

China may roll out its first weather insurance coverage before the end of the year to help farmers cope with economic losses from natural disasters. "The policy will first be carried out on a pilot basis in Fujian province, an area that is frequently hit by typhoons," a source with a major insurer told China Daily on Monday. A weather index insurance will pay out a contractually predetermined amount should the observed result meet the policy's requirement. It is different from traditional agriculture insurance, which requires adjustment for losses and claims auditing. "Such a policy will largely reduce insurers' underwriting cost and boost their initiatives to underwrite more agriculture insurance - a usually loss-making business," said Hao Yansu, a professor of insurance policy at the Central University of Finance and Economics. The country's current insurance coverage is unable to offer adequate compensation for losses from catastrophes, statistics from the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) showed. Insurers cover about 30 percent of losses from natural disasters in developed countries, but that figure is below 5 percent in China - a country that is frequently hit by a wide range of natural disasters. As of last Friday, about 38.2 million people in 10 southern provinces and Chongqing municipality had been affected by continuous rainstorms and floods since July 1, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said in a statement on its website.

About 124,000 homes have been destroyed and more than 1.3 million people relocated, it said. Direct economic losses were estimated at about 29.5 billion yuan ($4.4 billion), up from Thursday's 26 billion yuan. The weather insurance project was launched last September as an important part of an economic cooperation deal signed by China and Germany last year. The CIRC and the China Life Property & Casualty Insurance Company Limited promoted the project. "Weather index insurance could play an important role in helping farmers mitigate their economic losses and rebuild their homes, especially when there is still no catastrophe insurance scheme in China," said an analyst with the country's major non-life insurer. Global losses from natural disasters in 2010 could be three to five times what they were in 2009, said Thomas Hess, chief economist of the world's second-largest reinsurer, Swiss Re. Economically advanced nations tend to purchase more insurance coverage, which helps to finance the costs of reconstruction. Less developed economies can also benefit from insurance coverage, especially if the public and private sectors - insurers, reinsurers, brokers, governments and international agencies - work together, Hess said.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/20/2010

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JAPAN: Plan for Gender Equality

The government's Council for Gender Equality is scheduled to submit by the end of this month a proposal for the third basic plan to build a gender-equal society. Two such plans have been written on the basis of the Basic Law for a Gender-Equal Society, which went into effect in 1999. The draft for the coming plan underlines the fact that the attempt at building a gender-equal society has not made sufficient progress in the past decade.The reason is clear: During the days of Liberal Democratic Party rule, there were few political leaders enthusiastic about the issue. The Kan administration should exhibit strong leadership to help realize the idea contained in the law. The draft describes steps toward raising women's participation in important fields to at least 30 percent by 2020 and calls for introducing a system in which husbands and wives may use separate surnames in their family registers. Statistics show the few fields in which women account for at least 30 percent of the participants - government councils (33 percent), fast-track national servants (30 percent), the Japanese workforce in international organizations (56 percent) and pharmacists (67 percent). Clearly women's social potential is not being fully utilized. At the local level, for example, women account for only 5 percent of section chiefs and officials of higher positions at prefectural governments and only 6 percent of principals or vice principals at junior and senior high schools. To change the situation, the draft proposes the introduction of a quota system, preferential tax treatment for enterprises serious about gender equality and setting numerical targets for various "effective positive actions." Only when the human rights of both men and women are fully respected and only when they give full play to their ability through cooperation, can society acquire the vitality needed for its healthy development. This is vital because Japan's population is rapidly graying. Central and local governments, communities, enterprises and citizens must work together to achieve this goal.

From http://search.japantimes.co.jp/ 06/29/2010

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Gov't Eases Requirements for Recognizing Hepatitis Sufferers

The government plans to ease the requirements for hepatitis B sufferers to be eligible for compensation in connection with lawsuits over viral infections from mass vaccinations, in which needles were used repeatedly, government sources said Saturday. Cabinet ministers concerned with the settlement talks between hepatitis B suffers and the government have agreed that not only maternal and child health handbooks but other types of certificates can be used to apply for state compensation.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/04/2010

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Funding Social Welfare

Social welfare such as pensions, medical and nursing care as well as support measures for families rearing children is an important issue. A fiscal 2009 Cabinet Office survey shows that the largest portion of those polled - 69 percent - want the government's priority to be on establishing a pension system that is equitable and reliable. Japan's political parties have proposed various social welfare measures that voters will take into consideration in deciding which party to support in the July 11 Upper House election. The Democratic Party of Japan, which proposed giving a monthly child allowance of ¥26,000 from fiscal 2011 in its manifesto for the 2009 Lower House election, now says local governments can use funds meant to raise the current ¥13,000 monthly allowance for public services like nursery schools. Meanwhile, the No. 1 opposition Liberal Democratic Party calls for a complete review of the child-allowance program and proposes making nursery schools, kindergartens, school lunches and children's medical services free of charge. As for pensions, the DPJ proposes unifying various pension schemes to establish a system that guarantees at least ¥70,000 a month.

The system would be funded with revenues generated by the consumption tax. Both the LDP and Komeito propose allowing people to become eligible to receive a basic pension if they pay premiums for at least 10 years, instead of for 25 years as required at present. The actual amount of the basic pension would depend on premiums paid into the system. The Japan Communist Party proposes starting a ¥50,000 monthly pension soon with government funding. An additional amount would be based on premiums paid. Pension payment totals have been on the rise. Health and welfare ministry data show that, in fiscal 2008, some 36 million people received a total of ¥49 trillion. Yet, the average pension amount has been in decline, meaning that an increasing number of elderly people are having to make do with a smaller pension. Some social welfare-related proposals may seem too sweet for voters. The problem is that the parties are not giving detailed explanation about the funds needed. They must make clear how much people will have to pay to receive promised benefits.

From http://search.japantimes.co.jp/ 07/05/2010

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Panel Calls for Money in 8 Fields of Science, Technology

Expert members of a government panel on Thursday compiled an action plan calling for major allocations for research in eight fields concerning the environment, medicine and life science in the budget for the next fiscal year, with a view to boosting economic growth in the next decade. The government's Council for Science and Technology Policy will serve as a ''command center'' that acts as a bridge between ministries and agencies in sorting out projects before each of the government offices comes up with its request for the new annual budget from next April, according to government officials. Five of the eight fields designated by the panel members relate to the environment. They involve improvements in solar-power generation, the development of technology for using biomass energy, improvements in rechargeable batteries, energy saving through the use of next-generation ''smart grid'' power transmission networks, and the greening of infrastructure through the use of Earth-monitoring technology. The remaining three areas concern medicine and life science - cancer research, the compilation of a DNA database on and epidemiological studies into 100,000 people, and the development of technology in support of nursing care for the elderly.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/09/2010

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Gov't to Set Up Body to Draft Budget, Form Policy on Tax Reform

The government and the ruling Democratic Party of Japan plan to set up a new organization within the Cabinet Secretariat to draft the budget for fiscal 2011 and formulate a basic policy on reforming Japan's taxation system, according to political sources. The body, to center on Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, is expected to compile the budget for the year starting next April and will effectively replace the National Policy Unit, whose role is set to be redefined.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/20/2010

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SOUTH KOREA: Tensions Grow over Time-off System

Tensions were growing at individual workplaces nationwide over a new payment system for full-time union officials, which took effect from Thursday. As part of a revision to the labor union law, employers are no longer allowed to pay full-time unionists from this year. In preparation for the soft-landing of the new measure, however, corporate payment would be partly permitted for a limited number of union officials, called the "paid time-off" system. Labor groups have resisted the paid time-off system, saying related issues should be decided through collective bargaining at individual workplaces, not by the government. Despite the fierce opposition from labor groups, the government pushed ahead with the new measure on Thursday as originally planned and warned of a strict response to any violations. "Some people have doubts about the soft-landing of the time-off system. However, the government will make every effort for the new measure to be settled at workplaces," said Labor Minister Yim Tae-hee at a recent speech. The ministry has created a special task force team that is responsible for monitoring unfair labor activities related to the new law. Employers who are found to have violated the rules could face up to 2 years in jail or a fine of up to 20 million won ($16,000). The Korea Confederation of Trade Unions, the nation's second-largest umbrella labor group, pledged an all-out fight against the government in the coming months. "We reject all requests from employers that are based on the time-off system.

We will support affiliated unions to have their full-time unionists and activities secured through collective bargaining," said the group in a statement. The union of Kia Motors has to reduce its number of full-time officials from 181 to 19, according to the new measure. However, the union was demanding that the current number of full-time unionists be secured and that the company pay their wages. As the union declined to submit the final list of 19 full-time union officials by the deadline on June 30, the company also took a firm stand. The management has decided not to pay any of the full-time unionists for July and to withdraw 27 vehicles provided to the union. As the majority number of union members agreed to a general strike in a vote in June, the union leaders were planning to discuss a detailed schedule on July 12. Because the new measure does not apply to a labor-management agreement that was signed before July 1, Hyundai Motors, which has the largest union in Korea and whose agreement with the union expires next March, has not yet gone through such conflicts. There were some cases of agreement between labor and management as well.The union of Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. has decided to reduce its number of full-time union officials from 55 to 30, becoming the first union to accept the time-off system. While 15 of them will be paid by the company, the union will pay the other 15 on its own. "It is aimed at conducting autonomous union activities and paving the way to become an advanced union," said Oh Jong-swae, the union's chairman. According to the Ministry of Labor, more than 100 workplaces have renewed their collective agreement this year under the new measure.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 07/01/2010

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Korea to Tighten Investor Visa Rules

The government will raise the investment requirement for a visa required for foreigners to start up small businesses in Korea, in a response to the growing misuse of visas, officials said on Monday. Currently, a D-8 visa is issued to foreigners investing at least 50 million won ($41,700) with the intention of starting a business. The amount will be raised to 100 million won, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said. The ministry posted the revised version of the Foreign Investment Promotion Act in its bulletin on the same day. An official at the ministry said there had been a number of abuses of the terms of the visa. In some cases, the visa was being sought after for the purpose of gaining entry to the country, not to start a business. "The ministry has raised the investment requirement (after a) request from the Justice Ministry," he said. The D-8 visa, entrusted by the Justice Ministry, allows foreign investors to stay in Korea one year or less. The revised Foreign Investment Promotion Act also includes a plan to establish a research unit under Invest Korea, an affiliate of the state-run Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, to study foreign investment. The planned research center on foreign investment will be opened next month, the ministry said.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 07/02/2010

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Labor Ministry to Focus on Jobs

Aimed at strengthening its job creating role, the Labor Ministry on Monday changed its name to "Ministry of Employment and Labor." The change of the ministry's name came 29 years after the labor office was elevated to a government department. "Creating more jobs, helping people who want to work and ensuring they get paid properly are the main purposes and values that we have to seek," Minister Yim Tae-hee said during a relaunching ceremony held at the Gwacheon Government Complex in Gyeonggi Province. He pledged, in particular, to support senior citizens to continue social activities, saying "People's lifecycle has been changed due to a falling birthrate and an aging society. Those who used to be said of being old should not be considered senior citizens any more." Following the Tuesday meeting of Cabinet members, which will decide on job creation projects at 24 government offices, the Employment Ministry is expected to take a leadership role to inspect and oversee all new programs. The ministry's title shift came amid some pending issues deepening labor-management tensions. As part of a revision to the labor union law in January, employers are banned from paying full-time union officials. Even though the paid time-off system, which partly allows payment, was introduced from July 1 to protect smaller unions, labor groups have claimed that related rules are limiting the normal activities of labor unions.

Of the 1,320 workplaces that are monitored by the ministry, 362 had signed collective agreements as of Sunday. However, 21 were found to have violated the upper limit in the number of payable full-time unionists. Meanwhile, the Minimum Wage Council decided on Saturday to increase next year's minimum hourly wage to 4,320 won ($3.5). Management representatives, especially smaller business owners, had demanded to freeze the current level at 4,110 won, citing the uncertainty in the recent economic turnaround. However, other representatives from labor and the government agreed on the 5.1 percent increase. Management representatives claimed to freeze the current level, citing the uncertainty in the recent economic turnaround. But other Minimum Wage Council members from the government and labor agreed on the 5.1 percent increase. The minister also acknowledged that the time-off system puts pressure on the self-support efforts of labor unions, while the increased minimum wage will become a burden to businesses. "But those issues will be helpful to raise the value of labor. Through continuous discussions, I believe, advanced labor culture will be created here," he said.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 07/05/2010

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Court Issues Language Guidelines for Judges

The Seoul Central District Court thursday issued a set of courtroom language guidelines for judges. A special court language committee was recently established to analyze the way judges speak in courtrooms and correct inappropriate words and actions. Judges should, above all, pay attention to the litigants' words, said the committee. "A judge is to ponder on the reason for every word and action of the parties, instead of discarding it as an irrational claim," said a committee official. It is also important for judges to show their attention and understanding by giving adequate feedback or making eye contact with the litigants every now and then, the official said. "Lawyers sometimes bring up exaggerated claims in court, upon the client's request," said the official. "Judges need to keep this in mind and not ignore a defending claim, even when it seems a little out of place." Appropriate wording and composed manners were also listed as crucial judicial values. The guidelines included details such as the volume or facial expressions of judges during trial. "The main point is a sense of respect for all parties," the official said. "Judges are to put themselves in the shoes of the litigants, who may sometimes be intimidated by the entire trial processes." In the absence of a lawyer, the presiding judge is recommended to explain in detail the legal terms used during the trial, the guidelines stated. The committee's guidelines were based on observations of trials and feedback from state-appointed lawyers and prosecutors. Lawyers generally requested more chances to make their claims and prosecutors demanded that judges show confidence and dignity when handing down their rulings. "Only when the court shows respect will the parties truly trust the judicial system and accept the given rulings," said Lee Sang-hoon, senior judge and committee chairman. "Judges need to act as though every single trial is being watched by the public." The Seoul Central District Court will also take video footage of trials until the end of this month and send the data to each department for monitoring, said officials.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 07/15/2010

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INDONESIA: KPK Asks Lawmakers to Immediately Declare Assets

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has urged 128 House of Representatives lawmakers to submit their wealth reports as soon as possible. "There are 128 names who haven't declared their assets and we will push them to do it as soon as possible," KPK deputy chairman Haryono Umar told reporters after a meeting with House leaders. Haryono added the KPK would help the lawmakers fill in the forms if they found difficulties. According to the law state officials have to submit their wealth reports two months after they take or leave office. The lawmakers were inaugurated in October last year.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 07/16/2010

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PPATK Needs No Extra Power: Expert

Giving more authorities to the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK) is not the best solution to eradicate money laundering practices in the country, an observer says. Former National Police chief advisor Kastorius Sinaga warned of abuse of power if the currently-deliberated money laundering bill granted the PPATK bigger authorities, including to investigate and block suspicious accounts and to wiretap suspicious communications. "It's enough for the PPATK to function as a supervisory and data supplier body and let the National Police or the Attorney General's Office (AGO) enforce the law," he told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

He suggested that the bill extend the time-limit for the police or the AGO to feed back the PPATK analysis of suspicious transactions. "It would allow the police or the AGO to study the report deeper and determine whether they find indications of a crime in the report or not," he said. He also urged the National Police to strengthen the infrastructure of its money laundering division, under the directorate of economic crimes of the National Police detective unit, to improve the quality of its works. "The infrastructure in place is far from sufficient. The division lacks investigators and funds," he said. The police and the AGO should also publicly announce the PPATK analysis to enable civil society groups to supervise the investigation and encourage the police and the AGO to work faster, Kartorius added.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 07/17/2010

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MALAYSIA: Health Financing Scheme Ought Not to Be Delayed Further

While lauding the move to set up a National Health Financing Scheme similar to those in developed countries, industry observers feel some pertinent considerations should not be overlooked to ensure its effectiveness. At the same time, many agreed that the Government should not delay the implementation of the scheme to show its serious stance on the issue of healthcare. The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) secretary-general Muhammad Sha'ani Abdullah said such a scheme was essential as the current insurance-based model did not provide affordable coverage for those in need of healthcare protection. Speaking to StarBiz recently, he said a form of financing like Socso that cross-subsidised the lower income group was essential for universal access. Sha'ani, who is also chief executive of the National Consumer Complaints Centre, said: "Those wanting luxury services may use insurance but everyone should participate in the scheme which provide treatment, rehabilitation and post-treatment therapy or training for full recovery. "The scheme should cover all forms of medical conditions including serious illnesses like heart conditions, long-term dialysis treatments and nursing homecare to avoid the need for public donations to afford treatments,'' he said.

The Government had said it expected all wage earners to make scheduled monthly payments to the proposed scheme, adding that for it to be meaningful, the benefits derived by the public must commensurate with their monetary contributions. Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, in a recent report, said the scheme would not work on a flat-rate basis but instead be scaled according to income. The proposals for the scheme were still being studied. "The rich may pay more; the poor may pay less or do not pay at all," he said, adding that the ministry was seeking feedback from the public on the matter. A CEO of a foreign insurer, who declined to be named, agreed with Sha'ani that the Government should not delay the implementation of the scheme, adding that there was no such thing as a fool-proof scheme. "In every scheme, there will be someone trying to beat the system but the Government should not delay the implementation to show its commitment to the public," he said.

Besides looking at the contributor's income, the CEO said the amount a person was required to pay should also be based on an individual's lifestyle, health records (family history) and residential location. "Those living a high-risk lifestyle like consuming alcohol and smoking and those with chronic family health history should pay more as they have higher probabilities of seeking medical treatments. "Urban and rural folks should pay different amounts because the costs of healthcare in major towns are much higher than those in smaller cities. "We should look at any drawbacks from the scheme from a bigger perspective and learn from experience and improve on it during the early implementation," he said. Besides making the public pay for quality healthcare, the Government should also ensure all hospitals, especially private ones, and the relevant medical authorities set a proper and reasonable medical charges for every treatment available. Although private hospitals are profit-making organisations, they should not make excessive profits at the expense of the public, the CEO added.

From http://biz.thestar.com.my/ 07/17/2010

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PHILIPPINES: Palace Working on Shape of Truth Commission

Malacanang is now drawing up the mandate and parameters of authority of the Truth Commission that will be set up to look into allegations of corruption and abuse of power during the Arroyo administration. In a press briefing on Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Atty. Edwin Lacierda assured that the commission would not engage in any "witch hunting" activity, saying President Benigno Aquino III has ensured this by appointing "a person with integrity and with impartiality" to lead the agency. In his inaugural speech, President Aquino said he would create a truth commission that investigates anomalous transactions during the previous administration and named Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. to head the commission.

Lacierda said the commission would investigate and build a case against government officials concerned, not only against the former President, now Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of Pampanga. "They will collect the evidence, they will make a strong case, as what President Aquino said, enough to warrant conviction and submit it to the Ombudsman," he said. Lacierda said the Palace wanted the commission to be thorough in its investigation so as not to give the Ombudsman a chance to say "kulang kayo sa ebidensya" (you don't have enough evidence). The Presidential Spokesperson allayed fears that the commission would suffer the same fate as that of other investigating bodies, which had difficulty in getting hold of evidences, much less conviction against public officials allegedly involved in anomalous transactions. "It's a matter of political will. We will run after them and we will close all the scandals that happened during the previous administration. There is no closure and we need a closure to move on," he said in the vernacular. Once finalized, Lacierda said, a memorandum order will be issued to create the Truth Commission.

From http://balita.ph/ 07/02/2010

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'Explosive' Gov't Deals Uncovered - P-Noy

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday said his Cabinet has unearthed several "explosive" irregularities left behind by the previous administration. In his first news conference with Malacañang reporters, the President said Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima has informed him about these "midnight deals." The latter has asked for the re-composition of various government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) and government financing institutions (GFIs) to address the irregularities. "He (Purisima) felt worried enough to bring it to my attention that they were made aware that there are transactions that need the posting of the right people to prevent undue injury to the public," the President told the Palace reporters. The President said he has given his Cabinet officials two weeks to investigate "to get a clear and complete image" of these transactions and the status of their respective agencies. Asked if the midnight deals were within the scope of the forthcoming Truth Commission, Aquino said, "That is possible, but some are already in the limelight where a lot of very good leads are already present, and they might take the priority." "I instructed former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. (head of the Truth Commission), don't wait to answer each and every issue completely before we start giving the necessary information to relevant authoritiesˇ­So, it will be a work in progress, but that interest is to demonstrate that justice works in this country," Aquino added.

From http://balita.ph/ 07/08/2010

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Lawmaker Bats for 'Absolute Transparency' in Use of Pork Barrel

Amid the brewing dispute over proposed cutback in the Priority Assistance Development Fund (PDAF) or "pork barrel" of members of Congress, a lawmaker on Wednesday said he is pushing for "greater transparency and public accountability" in the use of the funds, in accordance with President Benigno Simeon Aquino III's pledge to fight malfeasance. "We should encourage if not require the full publication of all pork barrel-funded projects. This way, the public will be able to see clearly how their representatives and senators are spending the funds," said Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. "Let us publish the specific use of the allocations every six months in national newspapers, and post them on the web sites of the House (of Representarives) and the Senate, for all to see and scrutinize," he said. "If district constituents are not happy with the way their representative is spending the money, they can remove the official in the next elections. If there are anomalies such as ghost or overpriced projects, they can readily file the appropriate complaints," he added.

Barzaga said his proposal is also consistent with the new administration's promise to improve governance. In fact, he said, "this is precisely the 'openness in matters of public interest being sought by the proposed Freedom of Information (FOI) bill." Quezon Rep. Lorenzo "Erin" Tañada III earlier proposed for the lowering by as much as P10-billion the PDAF of legislators "to help the new administration cover the budget deficit and avert the imposition of new taxes."

The incoming House minority leader, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, however, immediately rejected the proposed pork barrel cutback, calling it "flawed, cosmetic, counterproductive and anti-poor." "Personally, I have no problem with slashing the pork barrel, as long as it (is) done fairly and equitably, to include the executive branch, in the spirit of burden-sharing," said Barzaga.

He nonetheless stressed the need for the new administration to draw up a definite strategy to address this year's projected P300-billion gap between government spending and income. "If the deficit is P300 billion, should we bridge it with P150 billion in extra revenue collections, and a P150-billion budget cut? Or should we just lessen the budget by P300 billion?" the Cavite solon said. Barzaga pointed out that Kim Henares, the new chief of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), had already vowed to increase annual tax collections by P150 billion, by simply running after tax dodgers, corrupt agents and smugglers. He also noted that President Aquino's advisers previously claimed they expect to generate up to P400 billion in annual savings as a result of reduced corruption. "We need sound and actionable strategies to achieve the P150-billion increase in revenue collections without having to impose new taxes, and to realize the P400 billion in savings," the solon said.

From http://balita.ph/ 07/08/2010

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VIETNAM: Government Sets Up Administrative Control Agency

VietNamNet Bridge - Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has formed a special agency to control administrative procedures, chaired by himself and the chief of the Government office. This agency is responsible for controlling administrative formalities and managing the national database on formalities as of October 14, 2010. On June 8, the Government issued a decree on controlling the implementation of and to review administrative formalities and control the national database on administrative formalities. This decree specifically banned activities for officials who provide administrative formalities, such as disclosing information about business documents and personal secrets of citizens, being imperious or raising difficulties for the people and accepting gifts in any form.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 06/25/2010

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HCM City Offers Rewards to Those Who Denounce Corruption

VietNamNet Bridge - A citizen who exposes corruption is now eligible for up to 10 million dong in reward money in addition to the usual certificate of merit, according to a regulation issued by HCM City authorities on June 22. When information and evidence is verified as correct, whistle-blowers will receive their certificates of merit and bonus from the local Council for Emulation and Rewards. In addition, they will be presented with an additional bonus of one to ten million dong or even more within 20 days of verification depending on the scale of corruption cases. The size of the reward will be decided by the city chairman or the chief of the municipal anti-corruption steering board. The new regulations go into effect on July 1. They also stipulate measures to protect those who denounce corruption.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 06/25/2010

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Party Punishes Violations by 6 Members, 2 Groups

VietNamNet Bridge - Several Party organisations and members would be punished for serious violations of the Party rules, said the Communist Party of Viet Nam Central Committee's Commission for Inspection. In an announcement yesterday, July 5, following the commission's 32nd session held from June 21 to July 3, the commission said it had looked into 45 cases and discovered violations by two local party organisations and six party members. The standing board of the Yen Bai provincial Party Committee and the Party delegation at the Quang Ninh provincial People's Committee had shown their weak leadership and failed to promptly address outstanding problems in their areas and local Party members' violations, said the announcement. The inspection commission requests that the two party organisations strictly rebuke the violating units and individuals.

Among individual violations of note were the cases of Nguyen Truong To, deputy secretary of the Ha Giang provincial Party Committee and Chairman of the Ha Giang provincial People's Committee; and Pham Thanh Binh, Secretary of the Viet Nam Shipbuilding Industry Group (Vinashin)'s Party Committee and Chairman of the Vinashin Management Board. The commission said that since 2005, To had made serious violations in terms of morality and lifestyle that caused discontent in the Party and society. It asked the Party Central Committee's Secretariat to strip To of all his Party status and requested authorised agencies to dismiss him of his People's Council membership as well as his chairmanship of the provincial People's Committee.

As for Binh, the commission concluded that his wrongdoings called for disciplinary actions as he had been irresponsible in the mobilisation, management and use of State capital, pushing Vinashin to the brink of bankruptcy. It decided to start the process of criticising and punishing towards Binh. At the same time, the commission asked the Government to inquire into the responsibility of related ministries and agencies for Vinashin's violations. It also warned a Bac Lieu provincial Party Committee member, in his capacity as chairman of the Bac Lieu Town People's Committee, for violations of financial management rules and the principle of centralised democracy.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 07/06/2010

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Anti-corruption Group Told to Take Tougher Action When Prosecuting

VietNamNet Bridge - Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung yesterday, July 8, urged the Central Anti-corruption Steering Committee to uphold its power to more effectively deal with prominent corruption cases. Dung, speaking at the CASC's 13th meeting reviewing its first six months of anti-corruption activities, said that the committee needed to focus its management on the investigations and prosecutions in key and complex corruption cases. The committee's report said that in the first half of this year, anti-corruption measures had been effective. More than 30 ministries and State-owned agencies and 57 cities and provinces had submitted their declarations on property and incomes from last year. Procedural bodies have for the first six months found and introduced 81 cases, prosecuted 122 cases and tried 100 cases for charges related to corruption. These anti-corruption actions had been strengthened, the committee said, helping uncover 11 serious and complex corruption cases that had been fairly tried. The fair judgements had also received support from the public, with the cases involving the top two leaders of the East-West Corridor project management unit as an example.

Huynh Ngoc Sy, director of the project, was sentenced to six years in jail for abusing power and embezzlement, while Le Qua, the project's vice director, received a five-year term for the same charges. They both received three years more than the previous charges.
In the case of Tran Ngoc Suong, former director of Hau River Farm, who was charged for embezzling VND1.1 billion (US$57,800), was being reconsidered following public claims of unfair judgement. The committee is working on another 13 critical cases including the power abuse in Ha Noi Airlines Petroleum Company and embezzlement and bribe-taking in Thi Vai Port in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province.The committee frankly pointed out weaknesses in their anti-corruption activities over the last six months. It failed to punish all the leaders of units where there were corruption cases and a number of corruption cases were processed slowly, and some were even not tried properly. It had also failed to do well in overseeing relevant bodies on inspecting and bringing corruption cases to light.

To overcome those shortcomings, chief of the People's Supreme Procuracy Tran Quoc Vuong said that it was necessary to establish a Central Judiciary Assessment Centre to help make ensure objectivity and accuracy of the appraisal results. The media and press had played an important role in the fight against corruption, deputy minister of Information and Communication Do Quy Doan said, and they needed to take more responsibility in their jobs. Doan asked relevant bodies to give journalists more chances and information to make sure the media and press gave out accurate information to the public. He also asked the committee to propose a document that would increase the role of the media and press in the anti-corruption battle to the Central Party Secretary Committee, which would replace the old one introduced in 1986. In giving ideas to the committee's activities, vice chairman of the Central Inspection Committee Pham Thi Hai Chuyen, suggested that co-ordination among Party's offices with the committee and relevant bodies should be strengthened.

To be most effective in fighting corruption, Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong said that procedural and relevant bodies needed to take more responsibility and improve their co-operation to shorten the time spent dealing with such cases. Trong asked the committee to complete its work on dealing with the case involving the Viet Nam Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Industry and Trade (VietinBank), which traded 3 million shares, by the end of this year, and to speed up the process with other cases. The inspection and auditing of management activities for land use, public investment, corporate finance usage, taxes and customs should be done under tight co-ordination with the Party's inspection offices to make sure they were completed under the planned times and with fair judgement, said Dung. The PM said that it was necessary to promote administrative reform in the fields of land, taxes, customs, finances and business. The media and press, Dung said, should uphold their constructive revolutionary roles in the fight against corruption, and relevant bodies should pave the way for journalists to do their jobs by providing them with full and accurate information.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 07/09/2010

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Party Disciplines Provincial Government Head for Dissolute Lifestyle

VietNamNet Bridge - Nguyen Truong To, the People's Committee Chairman of Ha Giang province, will be sacked for unethical behavior if a recommendation by the Communist Party's Central Inspection Committee is accepted. Both To's job as chief of the northern border province and his Party membership are on the line, Hoang Trung Luyen, the chief of the local Department of Propaganda and Training, said on July 6. The Central Inspection Committee's report judged that "since 2005, ... To has failed to lead an exemplary life but [instead] led an unwholesome life" that "seriously contravenes the morals expected of a Communist and causes bad effects on society." The committee has recommended that the Party sack To as deputy party secretary in Ha Giang and the Government remove him from the post of provincial chairman.
 
To was reportedly involved in a sex scandal. According to a number of sources, in late January 2006, Ha Giang Town police caught a girl named Dung in the act of selling her body at a local inn. Checking the prostitute's cell phone, police found several pictures of a buck-naked To. Dung declared that she took these pictures with her cell phone after having sex with To in late 2005. Police reported the case to the Ha Giang authorities but the file was buried. Nguyen Huy Nam, the former chief of the Ha Giang Party Committee's Organisation Department, insisted to a reporter for Nong Nghiep Viet Nam (Vietnam Agriculture) that "from 2005 until I retired (2009), neither the provincial Party Standing Committee nor its Organisation Department heard about this case."
 
To's wife told a reporter that she is very sad but she still believed in her husband after 39 years living together. She confirmed that she'd always be on To's side no matter what happens. In June 2010, the case was reopened. The Ministry of Public Security's Institute for Criminal Sciences examined the photos and concluded that the pictures are not changed and the man in the pictures resembled To in other photos. To initially rejected the photos but then on July 7, according to media reports, he admitted that he was the man in the four photos on the prostitute's cell phone. To, 57, was educated as an economist. Before being appointed provincial Chairman, he was the director of Ha Giang Department of Planning and Investment.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 07/09/2010

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INDIA: Over 600 Citizen-Centric Services Now Available Online

Of 1100 citizen and business centric services targeted for delivery, over 600 services of various Departments of Central and State Governments are now available electronically - anytime, anywhere. People can now obtain copies of their land records, Job Cards for employment under MNREGS, certificates relating to birth/death/income/caste/domicile etc., on-line. Benefits under various social services schemes such as various types of pensions - widow/handicap/old age etc., scholarships, education assistance etc., can be availed electronically. Of 27 MMPs under NeGP, 14 have already commenced delivery of services in different parts of the country. These include Mobile Computer Applications (MCA21), Pensions, Central Excise, Income Tax, Passport, Banking & Insurance, Land Records, Road Transport, Common Services Centre, e-Courts, EDI, National Service Delivery Gateway (NSDG) & India Portal. All MMPs shall start delivering e-services by 2014. Under all these projects 1,100 services are likely to be available progressively with full availability by 2014. To enable all this, state wide connectivity is being provided through State Wide Area Networks (SWANs) ensuring a minimum of 2 Mbps connectivity up to block levels. SWANs are operational in 23 States and the remaining will become operational by March 2011.

From http://www.egovonline.net/ 07/19/2010

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New Home Ministry Spokesperson to Take Charge July 26

New Delhi: The home ministry's new spokesperson Dileep Raj S. Chaudhary will take over July 26, official sources said Wednesday amid indications that Home Secretary G.K. Pillai will curtail his interactions with the media. Chaudhary, additional secretary (Naxal management) in the ministry, is currently abroad on work and will take on his new responsibility after he returns this weekend, home ministry sources told IANS. Ministry officials said Chaudhary, the first spokesperson of the ministry in the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government, will interact with the media on a day-to-day basis. Chaudhary was appointed spokesperson of the ministry of home affairs Tuesday, close on the heels of Pillai's comments on the involvement of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Pillai's remark to a newspaper that the ISI "was involved from beginning to end" in the Mumbai terror attack was raised by Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at his recent meeting with Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna in Islamabad. At the joint press conference after the talks, Qureshi said it was felt that Pillai's statement on the eve of the talks "did not serve any purpose". However, India later pointed out that Pillai had just quoted from the interrogation report of Mumbai terror attack accused Pakistani American David Coleman Headley. National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon Tuesday backed Pillai's observations and said that the nexus between terror groups and the official establishment in Pakistan was "getting stronger". A 1977 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre, Chaudhary has been cleared for a secretary level posting.

From http://www.newkerala.com/ 07/21/2010

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Congress Asks J-K Govt. to Crack Down Corruption, Non-Functioning Bureaucracy

New Delhi: The Congress Committee on Kashmir has asked the Jammu and Kashmir Government to crack down on corruption and non-functioning of a part of the bureaucracy. The Committee, which met here on Wednesday under the leadership of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, reviewed the performance of the State"s coalition Government, of which the party is a constituent. It has been reported that the meeting laid emphasis on district and tehsil-level contact with the people. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, Defence Minister A K Antony, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, and senior Congress leaders Saifuddin Soz, Karan Singh and Ahmed Patel attended the meeting. Earlier on July 17, Omar Abdullah met Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and apprised him about the deliberations of the recently held all-party meeting in Srinagar and briefed him about the law and order situation in the State and the steps being taken to bring back normalcy in the Valley. The issues relating to creation of adequate jobs for the youths of the State were also discussed. Abdullah insisted on the need for more measures to stop inflow of funds to protesters and implementing better crowd-control techniques. He also discussed the issue of Army deployment in Srinagar. The meeting came after days of violence in the Valley caused by clashes between protesters and security forces. At least 15 people were killed in clashes between protesters and security forces since June 11.

From http://www.newkerala.com/ 07/22/2010

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SRI LANKA: NDB Appoints Two COOs

(LBO) - Sri Lanka's NDB Bank said it has appointed head of legal Chrishanthi Jayawardena and head of retail banking Indrajit Wickramasinghe as chief operating officers. Jayawardena had headed legal and human resource functions at NDB Bank and was also secretary to the board since 1993. She had worked at F J & G De Saram, a law firm before joining the bank. Wickramasinghe had joined as head of marketing had had moved on to head retail banking. He is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, UK, and has a masters in business administration from Sri Lanka's University of Sri Jayewardenepura. Russel de Mel would continue to be chief executive officer of NDB.

From http://www.lankabusinessonline.com/ 06/29/2010

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Sri Lanka to Appoint Rating Advisor

(LBO) - Sri Lanka will appoint an international investment bank as a 'rating advisor' next month ahead of a US dollar denominated sovereign bond to be sold later in the year, a media report said. "We will be approaching the rating agencies with the selected advisor," Assistant governor of Sri Lanka's central bank, C P J Siriwardena was quoted as saying by Bloomberg newswires. The rating advisor will be chosen from among six international banks, the report said. Sri Lanka has a rating of 'B' from Standard & Poor's, five levels below investment grade, and a 'B+' rating from Fitch. Both agencies raised the outlook on Sri Lanka's rating after the country struck a deal with the IMF in 2009. The IMF deal which was suspended in February 2010 on a runaway budget deficit resumed yesterday with the release of a 400 million US dollar tranche and the government promising to keep current spending in check. Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal has said he wants to see the country's rating pushed up to investment grade by 2013. "With the expanding growth figures and International Monetary Fund installment, investor perception is high," Siriwardena was quoted as saying. In Sri Lanka state debt is raised by a unit in the Central Bank. The Central Bank raised the country's growth forecast for 2010 from 6.5 percent to 7.0 percent last month. Bloomberg newswires said the size of the bond issue has not yet been decided but earlier reports had mentioned a figure of 500 million US dollars. Sri Lanka has sold two 500 million US dollar bonds in 2007 and 2009. Last October Sri Lanka sold 500 million US dollars of 7.4 percent bonds at 506 basis points above the US Treasuries rate. In 2007 it sold a similar amount for a 3.97 percent premium. Sri Lanka also sells rupee denominated bonds to foreign investors which have been popular because they yield in excess of 11 percent a year. But the report said a ceiling of 10 percent of total outstanding bonds to be issued to foreign investors will remain.

From http://www.lankabusinessonline.com/ 07/01/2010

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Sri Lanka to Regulate Micro-Finance Institutions

(LBO) - Sri Lanka's government is to set up a dedicated authority to regulate micro-finance institutions to make their supervision more effective, a government minister said. Micro finance has been identified as a vital sector in the economy because of its contribution to the growth of the rural economy and income generation. The Cabinet of ministers has approved plans for a draft the 'Micro Finance Bill' to set up the Microfinance Regulatory and Supervisory Authority, minister Keheliya Rambukwelle said. The proposed authority will license, register, regulate and supervise micro-finance institutions whether they are companies, non-governmental organizations or co-operative societies. A large number of micro-finance institutions operated in the country without any regulatory or supervisory controls. A previous effort to regulate micro-finance institutions in 2006 through the central bank was abandoned because a separate, independent authority was considered more appropriate.

From http://www.lankabusinessonline.com/ 07/22/2010

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NEPAL: Election for PM Post Taking Place Today

Election to the post of Prime Minister is taking place at the legislature parliament today. According to the parliament secretariat, the election process will begin at Constituent Assembly (CA) hall, Naya Baneshwar at 11 am, Wednesday. Nominations for the post of Prime Minister have been registered as separate motions in the parliament. Unified CPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN (UML) have fielded their candidates in the prime ministerial race. Maoist vice chairman Baburam Bhattarai has registered a motion to elect Pushpa Kamal Dahal as the Prime Minister. The motion is seconded by another vice chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha. Likewise, NC leader Sher Bahadur Deuba and UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal have registered separate motions to elect Ram Chandra Poudel and Jhala Nath Khanal, respectively, as the Prime Minister. According to general secretary at the parliament secretariat Manohar Prasad Bhattarai, the election process will begin with deliberations on all three motions. After the deliberations, Speaker of House Subas Chandra Nemwang will allot time for withdrawing the motions. Only the lawmakers who have registered the motions, and not the candidates who have been proposed, can withdraw the candidacy to the post of PM. If two of the motions are withdrawn leaving a single motion, the Speaker will announce the concerned candidate elected to the post of Prime Minister. If the motions are not withdrawn, the Speaker will present the motion one by one at the parliament for decision. The motion registered first at the parliament will be presented for decision at the House first. Lawmakers present at the House will vote for or against the motion by signing on a box marked 'yes' or 'no' aside the candidates name. If more than 50 percent of the lawmakers present at the House vote for the candidate, the Speaker will announce the candidate elected to the post of the Prime Minister. The other motions will be automatically diffused. If the first candidate does not secure a majority, the House will move on to the second motion and repeat the process. If none of the motions get approved, the parliament will call for a second election to the post of the PM.

From http://www.nepalnews.com/ 07/21/2010

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PAKISTAN: Freedom of Judiciary a Key Element of Constitution

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has decided to give an opportunity to Senator Raza Rabbani to submit detail reply of questions raised about consultation process in judges' appointment. Justice Javed Iqbal said the procedure of judges appointment was not free of faults even in the past. The Supreme Court was hearing petitions challenging the 18th Amendment on Tuesday, Geo News reported. A 17-judge full court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was hearing the challenges against certain clauses in the amendment. Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday in his remarks said persons accused in murder were made judges in the past and century old tradition of consultation has been eliminated in the new process of judges' appointment. It also limited the role of chief justice, he added. The Supreme Court Bar Association's counsel Hamid Khan continued his arguments on Tuesday. He said 18th amendment has ended process of consultation whereas in PCO judges case, Supreme Court made consultation with chief justice mandatory. Justice Shakirullah Jan said in old procedure, administration had begun the process of judges appointment and this was the reason of consultation but in new process, judiciary will appoint the judges. Chief Justice in his remarks said consultations were made with prime minister and chief minister in July 31 verdict to strengthen parliamentary system. The scrutiny of judges conduct was carried out by administration and system will be collapsed if everyone eliminated from the process. Hamid Khan has completed his argument in today's hearing. The court has ordered attorney general to prepare a questionnaire and send it to Senatro Raza Rabbani and said a date will be fix to hear Raza Rabbani. Chief Justice said the purpose of hearing is to save thing and interpretation of constitution is the duty of court. Freedom of judiciary is a key element of constitutional structure, he added. Later the hearing was adjourned till tomorrow.

From http://pakistanlink.org/ 07/06/2010

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Latif Khosa Resigns

ISLAMABAD: Sardar Latif Khosa, the PM Adviser on Information Technology tendered resignation from his office, Geo News reported Tuesday. Prior to his resignation, he met President Asif Ali Zardari. It should be mentioned here that the portfolio of Ministry of Information Technology was taken from him last night. According to reports, the PM Secretariat was receiving several complaints in connection with his ministry. Plus, Khosa was at grave variance with the Secretary IT as well. Birjees Tahir, Chairman of National Assembly's Standing Committee on Information Technology took serious notice of corruption and irregularities in the IT ministry. It should be mentioned here that Sardar Latif Khosa was appointed as Attorney General after Malik Abdul Qayyum; however, he had to quit the office when bribery scandal was unfolded.

From http://pakistanlink.org/ 07/20/2010

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AZERBAIJAN: President Approves Structure of Foreign Ministry

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has signed an order approving the structure of the Foreign Ministry. The order says the structure of the Foreign Ministry was approved to execute the order dated November 11, 2008 on amendments and additions to the order dated May 14, 2007 on approval of the quantitative limit of employees and structure of the State Migration Service of Azerbaijan and to some presidential orders related with the approval of the structure of the central executive power." The presidential decree approved the structure:
1. The Office of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry (departments and divisions);
2. The Office in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic;
3. The Foreign Ministry's Diplomatic Missions and Consulates.

From http://www.today.az/ 07/15/2010

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GEORGIA: Parliament Approves New Government

The Georgian parliament approved the new government with 100votes "for" and one "against". Vera Kobalia would replace Zurab Pololikashvili as economy and sustainable development minister, Ramaz Nikolaishvili would replace David Tkeshelashvili as regional administration and infrastructure minister, and Lado Vardzelashvili would head the new Sports and Youth Ministry. Prime Minister Nika Gilauri was rapporteur on the question. He presented the new ministers and government priorities. Opposition MPs refused to vote for the changes in the Cabinet, saying they did not want to take responsibility for the activities of this government.

From http://en.trend.az/ 07/03/2010

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Georgia Limits Public Information About International Court Cases

A new amendment to Georgia's freedom of information law is introducing strict limits on "third-party" access to information about cases involving the Georgian government in international courts. Civil society watchdogs term the change a setback for the country's democratic development. The amendment's sponsor, however, contends that the change reflects international standards. Prior to the amendment, Georgian law stipulated that all information in administrative cases remain public; exceptions to the freedom of information (FIO) law included commercial and professional secrets, criminal cases and covert operations. The amendment, passed on July 21, will require journalists, human rights activists and others not directly involved in an international court case to apply to a Georgian court for the release of any details about the case. The fact that the case itself had been filed in an international court would remain accessible. The change has sparked outrage from two organizations that monitor judicial reform and human rights in Georgia. The amendment marks the first time the government has restricted the country's FIO legislation since the 2003 Rose Revolution, commented Tamar Gurchiani, a lawyer with the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA). "This is the worst step that could ever be made," commented Gurchiani, who termed the measure a violation of the constitutional right to information. "That is the closing of information in advance, without any discussion." Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee Deputy Chairperson Lasha Tordia, who drafted the legislation, argues that the changes are in line with international court procedures and will not obstruct the flow of information to the public. The government had decided to amend the law based on "requirements" from the Paris-based International Court of Arbitration, he contended.

The Court "required that some part" of information in cases between the Georgian government and private companies be kept "private" because discrepancies between Georgian law and the Court's requirements were causing "concrete" problems in cases involving the government, Tordia claimed. Contacted by EurasiaNet.org, Sylvie Picard Renaut, a lawyer at the International Court of Arbitration, responded that the organization may "lobby" to promote arbitration, but does not have any leverage over countries' policy-making. Tordia did not detail the cases or complaints in question, and referred questions to the Ministry of Justice. A ministry spokesperson had earlier directed EurasiaNet.org to parliament for information about the proposed amendment. The amendment wouldn't just potentially impact cases in the International Court of Arbitration. Several cases against the Georgian government are pending in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and elsewhere; arguably the most prominent within Georgia is the 2006 slaying of banker Sandro Girgvliani by four Ministry of Internal Affairs officers. The case had a public hearing at the European Court of Human Rights this April; a ruling has not yet been issued. "In [the] Georgian context, considering the general situation, I would say this is another restrictive law which limits the possibilities of NGOs, lawyers and the general public to discuss the issues which are of public importance," said Ana Natsulishvili, a lawyer at Tbilisi's pro-opposition Human Rights Center. A representative of the US democratization watchdog Freedom House echoed that concern.

"In general, adding exceptions to FOI laws does weaken them and, as such, is a threat to media freedom," Freedom House senior researcher Karin Deutsch Karlekar, the managing editor of the organization's Freedom of the Press Index, wrote in an email interview with EurasiaNet.org. "This has occurred in recent years in the United States, as well as in a number of other media environments. So local activists are right to be concerned." Tordia, a member of the governing United National Movement, maintains that the amendment is in keeping with citizens' right to information since the public will be able to seek access to documents via the Georgian courts. "If the courts require the information to be public, it will be," he said. "Otherwise, it will be closed." Natsulishvili and GYLA's Gurchiani counter that Georgian courts' pro-government sympathies will predispose them to rule against petitioners. Both worry that the amendment's restriction about releasing information concerning "activities related" to international cases could be interpreted broadly to pertain to domestic cases as well. Tordia responded with a shrug when asked about this interpretation of the amendment. In his February 2010 state-of-the-country speech to parliament, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili disputed the notion that the government still exerted a controlling influence over Georgia's courts. He declared that years of reform have made Georgian courts "more effective" and independent. "[W]e have done what we said we would do," he said.

From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 07/21/2010

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KYRGYZSTAN: Working Group Created Within Economic Rehabilitation of Its Program

A working group headed by First Vice Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, Umirzak Shukeev, has been created in Kazakhstan within the economic revival of Kyrgyzstan program. The OSCE chairman, Secretary of State, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, Kanat Saudabaev, informed during a telephone conversation with the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, Roza Otunbaeva, the agency reports citing the press service of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan. "The parties discussed some measures of realization of the program of economic revival of Kyrgyzstan discussed by the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and R. Otunbaeva at the meeting in Akorda on July 4," Ministry of Foreign Affairs press service informed. "A similar working group has been created in Kyrgyzstan. The parties agreed on carrying out of the session of the working groups to define specific measures for economic rehabilitation of Kyrgyzstan, including restoration of Osh and Dzhalal Abad," the press service cites R. Otunbaeva. "Kazakhstan as OSCE chairman intends to organize the International donor conference to attract help and form investment portfolio for this country."

From http://www.kt.kz/ 07/12/2010

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Kyrgyz Interim President Names New Ministers

Kyrgyz interim President Roza Otunbaeva appointed several new members to the country's caretaker government at a cabinet session on July 14, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. The new appointees were named to replace members who resigned so they can take part in parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for October. Amangeldy Muraliev was named first deputy prime minister, and Aleksandr Kostyuk, Okomkhan Abdullaeva, and Jantoro Satybaldiev as deputy prime ministers. Also recently appointed was Chorobek Imashev as minister of finance, Aygul Ryskulova as minister of migration and labor, Sabyrjan Abdukarimov as minister of health care, Mamasharip Turdukulov as minister of agriculture, and Sadyk Sherniyaz as minister of culture. All other ministers in the interim government, who came to power after antigovernment protests ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiev on April 7, retained their posts. Bishkek-based political analyst Mars Sariev told RFE/RL that Otunbaeva's new deputy prime ministers are reasonable choices with experience working under the government of Bakiev and his predecessor, Askar Akaev. Sariev added that it was "very good" that none of the new appointees has ties with any political party or group. At the same time, he noted that the new cabinet is a so-called caretaker government that will be replaced after the parliamentary elections.

From http://www.rferl.org/ 07/14/2010

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Kyrgyzstan Forms New Government

Kyrgyzstan's President Roza Otunbaeva has formed a caretaker government that will run the country until parliamentary elections in October. The unveiling of the new cabinet comes after the resignation of leading ministers from the interim government that ruled the country after President Kurmanbek Bakiev was deposed in the wake of bloody confrontations in early April. Three deputy prime ministers - Amangeldy Muraliev, Aleksandr Kostyuk, and Zhantoro Satybaldiev - are leading the interim cabinet. Many former members of the interim government have announced their resignations as they prepare to run for parliament. Otunbaeva had called on prospective candidates to resign, saying it was the only way to ensure the election would be held fairly and on an equal footing for all those taking part. The president has also called for neutrality within the interim government in the period leading up to the ballot and disallowed interim cabinet members from joining political parties. Competition for seats in the parliament is expected to be intense, with several new parties appearing in recent weeks. The legislature's powers were boosted and the authority of the president diluted by a revamped constitution overwhelmingly approved in a national referendum last month. Otunbaeva said the new constituion has laid the path toward establishing a parliamentary system of government.

From http://www.rferl.org/ 07/14/2010

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Kyrgyz Interim Gov't Amends Election Law

The Kyrgyz interim government said Tuesday it has amended the country's election legislation under a decree signed by interim leader Roza Otunbayeva, Xinhua reported. Under the decree, the number of parliamentary seats will increase from 90 to 120 while each party should not hold more than 65 parliamentary seats, according to a statement from the government's press office. Meanwhile, actual election date will be announced 90 days before election, instead of the 75 days as previously required. The decree also cut the electoral budget of 2.18 million U.S. dollars by half to 1.09 million dollars. Meanwhile, the minimum age for candidates running for parliamentary seats has been lowered from 25 to 21. The decree also said before they are eligible to vote, Kyrgzy citizens are required to not only present proofs of registered permanent residence, but also bring along documents of actual residence which need validation from local authorities, Voters with special marks on their left thumbs are not allowed to cast ballots. In a referendum on June 27, more than 90 percent of Kyrgyz approved a new constitution, which aimed to granting substantial powers to parliament and restricting the powers of the president. The country's parliamentary election is scheduled for October.

From http://en.trend.az/ 07/21/2010

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KAZAKHSTAN: Assistant to General Public Prosecutor Appointed

Assistant to General Public Prosecutor of the Republic of Kazakhstan has been appointed, the agency reports citing the president's press service. According to the press service, Berik Asylov has been appointed Assistant to General Public Prosecutor of the Republic of Kazakhstan by the president's decree. Muhtar Zhorgenbaev has stepped down from the post of Assistant to General Public Prosecutor of the Republic of Kazakhstan in connection with transfer to the other work.

From http://www.kt.kz/ 06/29/2010

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President of Kazakhstan Considers Necessary to Start Deep Integration of Eurasian Subcontinent

The President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, during III Astana Economic Forum said he considers necessary to start deep integration of the Euroasian subcontinent, the agency reports. "I am a convinced supporter of deep consecutive integration processes on the Eurasian subcontinent and consider that it is necessary to develop a uniform document reflecting the main principles and directions of the Eurasian integration," N. Nazarbayev said. According to the head of state, the mechanism of integration of the Eurasian space can be focused on several directions. "Trade development, opening of borders, and further development of trade demands additional reforms to make further transportation of goods cheaper and faster. That is what we are now doing in the Customs Union. We should develop the uniform and fair regulations of trade streams excluding possibility of regional protectionism." Integration processes will also demand "development of transport communication infrastructure." "We need to develop common transport and communication structure connecting Europe and Asia," the head of state considers. He noted that "stimulation of mutual investments" is also necessary. "Scale integration is impossible without generating and realization of considerable mutual investments. Creation of favorable investment climate in this continent is necessary as well," N. Nazarbayev noted. According to the President, common capital markets, development and search for new alternative energy sources, development of human resources and living standard are of big importance for the integration processes on this subcontinent.

From http://www.kt.kz/ 07/01/2010

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Kazakhstan Unified National Health System Improves Quality of Health Services

This week in Aktobe Kazakhstan Ministry of Healthcare held a session on the results of the introduction of the Unified National Health System for the first half-year. Vice Prime Minister Yerbol Orynbayev, Minister of Healthcare Zhaksylyk Doskaliyev, Akim of Aktobe region Yeleussin Sagindykov, representatives of the regional akimats and health organizations took part in the sitting. It was noted that the introduction of the Unified National Health System allowed to get many problems in healthcare sphere off the ground. During the last six months a competitive climate between medical organizations was created, uniform fees for medical services were established, patients' rights to free choice of a medical organization were ensured.

As the Ministry's representatives noted, due to the system Kazakhstanis get an opportunity of interregional hospitalization and admission to the national clinics and medical centers. Though last year it was possible only on a fee or quota basis. According to the them, the health system in regions got new opportunities for development after the introduction of the Unified National Health System. For instance, such high-tech and popular surgery as aortocoronary bypass was held in the regions twofold more times in the last six months than in 2009. Besides, for the first time 102 replacement arthroplasty were conducted in region. Taking into consideration the fact that earlier patients had to go to Astana or Almaty for such surgeries, these figures showed serious breakthrough in the Kazakh medicine. Another important result of the work was provision of equal opportunities for purchase of medical services. This was done for the development of the private sector in the healthcare. To date 103 agreements on medical care were signed with non-governmental hospitals and medical centers.

The participants of the sitting noted that maintenance of the basic principles of the system - the right to free choice of medical organization and adequate tariff policy - promoted development of competitive environment. According to new tariffs the cost of the treatment varies depending on complexity of the case. For instance medical institution receives KZT 26.6 thousand for treating uncomplicated acute appendicitis and KZT 249.8 thousand in case of peritonitis. The new system changed internal management and stimulated differentiated payment to healthcare workers. The works on further development of healthcare system will be continued in the second half of the year. Preventive measures on unjustified hospitalization will be taken as well as improvement of non-stop drug provision. Besides, it is planned to introduce a leasing system for acquisition and use of expensive equipment and ensure financing of medical institutions in remote rural areas. In addition, the implementation of new international technologies will continue in scientific centers, national hospitals, clinics and in the National Medical Holding.

From http://www.inform.kz/ 07/14/2010

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Kazakhstan's Chairmanship in SCO Official Website Launched

Official website of Kazakhstan's chairmanship in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization www.sco2011.kz was launched last week. Official Representatives of Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry Askar Abdrakhmanov informed about it at a weekly briefing on Monday. The website contains current news about Kazakhstan's presidency over the SCO, information about the activities of the organization's secretariat and Executive Committee of the SCO Regional Antiterrorist Structure, official statements, photo gallery, information for media regarding accreditation and other materials connected with the organization's work.

From http://www.inform.kz/ 07/19/2010

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TURKMENISTAN: Foreign Ministry Comments on Reports About Problems with "Dual Citizenship"

The Press Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan has issued a statement in connection with some reports that appeared recently in some media outlets on the issue of crossing the border of Turkmenistan by persons with the so-called "dual citizenship" of Turkmenistan and Russia. In this regard, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan said that according to Article 7 of the Constitution of Turkmenistan a citizen of Turkmenistan cannot be a citizen of another country. "Therefore, holders of the passport of Turkmenistan cross the state border in accordance with the law "On Migration" and "On the Procedure of Leaving and Entering Turkmenistan by citizens of Turkmenistan", saying that to cross the state border of Turkmenistan a citizen of Turkmenistan must have a visa of a foreign state that he/she is going to enter. With regard to foreign nationals, the law of Turkmenistan "On Migration" says that foreign nationals as well as stateless persons may enter and stay in the territory of Turkmenistan given they have Turkmenistan's visa," the statement says. According to the Turkmen Foreign Ministry, the circulation in the media of deliberately distorted information on this issue is an attempt to adversely affect the traditionally friendly relations between Turkmenistan and the Russian Federation.

From http://www.turkmenistan.ru/ 07/07/2010

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Turkmenistan Makes Reshuffle in Government

Turkmen President Gurbangulu Berdimuhammedov made new appointments in the government and regional administration. Based on the presidential decree, Meylis Mutdikov was appointed chairman of the State Maritime and River Transport Service. Rozgeldi Roziguliev and Amanmyrat Gurdov were appointed Deputy Chairmen of the State Maritime and River Transport Service Allaberdi Khojaberdiyev was appointed deputy chairman of the State Fishery Committee and Nursahat Iyaberenov was appointed deputy chairman of the State Publishing Service. Satlik Satlikov was appointed the Balkan province governor and Dursadap Orazmammadova the Bereket region governor. Taymammet Shiraliyev was appointed chairman of the Committee on the national tourist zone "Avaza" on the Caspian Sea. Orazmirat Niyazliyev was appointed the Central Commission Deputy Chairman for Elections and Referenda.

From http://en.trend.az/ 07/10/2010

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AUSTRALIA: First Cabinet Meeting for New PM

New Prime Minister Julia Gillard held her first Cabinet meeting today but there is still no word on the make-up of her new frontbench. Rejecting claims that she had been installed as a factional puppet, Australia's first female PM said her job was to get the Government "back on track" after Kevin Rudd was ousted in a Labor leadership coup yesterday. This morning Ms Gillard said Mr Rudd would not be attending today's Cabinet meeting and stayed tight-lipped about any reshuffle. "The Government is getting down to business, pressing ahead with the hard work and the changes that we need to make to get the Government back on track," she said.

One of Ms Gillard's first acts as Prime Minister yesterday was to promise to conduct genuine negotiations with the mining industry to end the impasse over the proposed resources super profits tax. "I have met this morning with Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan and with the relevant minister, Martin Ferguson, to work on the Government's negotiating strategy," she said. It is not yet clear what changes the Government may make and whether it will reach an agreement on the tax before the election. The Government had previously ruled out changing the 40 per cent rate of the tax, but when asked this morning whether the rate was still immovable Treasurer Wayne Swan replied: "I'm not going to get into the ins and outs of the tax."

This morning Ms Gillard revealed that she had spoken to US President Barack Obama and will speak to other world leaders later today. She said she had told Mr Obama she remained committed to Australia's role in Afghanistan and re-extended a long-standing invitation for him to visit Australia. Ms Gillard has continued to field questions about the role Labor's powerful factional warlords played in yesterday's leadership coup. "I have made my own decisions. I am a person of strong mind," she insisted. But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott insists yesterday's leadership change was a "ruthless political execution". "I think what's happened is that Labor has exposed the ugly underbelly of factional power inside the Labor Party, but they haven't changed the policies," he said.

Mr Abbott believes the Opposition has been strengthened by yesterday's events within Labor. Former Labor Leader Mark Latham says Ms Gillard needs to watch her back and the Labor leadership has become a "transit lounge". "Wayne Swan is no fan of hers," he told commerical TV news. "Gillard has, for reasons I never quite understood, enormous animus from people like [Anthony] Albanese and [Lindsay] Tanner and [Jenny] Macklin. I don't know what they did down there in the Victorian Left in the 80s and 90s, [but] they hate each other."

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 06/25/2010

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Australian PM Warns of Unpopular Cutbacks

The Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has warned that all her spending promises in the next election will be offset with savings. Ms Gillard says she is determined to see the budget return to surplus in three years - and that means it won't be a big spending election campaign. "There will be hard choices and some unpopular cutbacks," Ms Gillard said. But her bid to present herself as a prudent economic manager has been complicated by new questions over the toppling of Kevin Rudd. Ms Gillard was asked if she initially agreed to let Mr Rudd stay - on the understanding he would voluntarily go if bad polling continued. She was then asked if she later reneged on that deal. Ms Gillard refused to answer any questions about the conversation with Mr Rudd. She says people will soon be able to assess her at an election.

The Australian Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott says Ms Gillard has failed to boost her economic credentials. "She wanted to be the Prime Minister so she could oppose what she said were my cuts to government expenditure and now it seems she's proposing cuts of her own. I suppose it's another example of the Labor Party me-too-ing (copying) the Liberal Party."

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 07/15/2010

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Australia's PM Poised to Call Election

Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard has arrived at Yarralumla to request Governor-General Quentin Bryce issue the writs for a federal election. Ms Bryce delayed an overseas trip to ensure she would be in Canberra for this visit from the Prime Minister. Ms Gillard goes into the campaign to try and win a second term for Labor after just over three weeks in the job after she toppled former prime minister Kevin Rudd on June 24. Once her meeting with Ms Bryce is over - Julia Gillard is expected to hold a media conference setting out her case for Labor to be re-elected. Today marks the start of the official election campaign of up to six weeks.

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 07/17/2010

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NEW ZEALAND: House Debates Performance of Wider State Sector

The House of Representatives will debate the performance and current operations of Crown entities, State enterprises and public organisations today, 29 June. While government departments are key organisations for developing and implementing the Government's policies, many public services and public assets worth billions of dollars are administered by agencies that are not part of the "core" public service. District Health Boards, ACC, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, the Electoral Commission, the New Zealand Transport Agency, Television New Zealand, and the Independent Police Conduct Authority are among the numerous "Crown entities" whose performance is scrutinised by the House of Representatives.

These entities report to the House every year and their annual reports are reviewed by select committees. In conducting these "financial reviews", select committees may receive advice from the Office of the Auditor-General and publicly question and hear evidence from senior executives of the organisations concerned. The select committees then report to the House, and may raise issues that have arisen in terms of the performance and current operations of these organisations. The same process is followed for all State enterprises, such as New Zealand Post, MetService, Landcorp Farming and the State-owned power companies (Genesis Power, Meridian Energy, and Mighty River Power). Financial reviews are also conducted of bodies that have been designated by the House of Representatives as "public organisations" - the Abortion Supervisory Committee, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, and Air New Zealand.

The House sets 3 hours aside every year to debate the financial reviews of Crown entities, State enterprises and public organisations. Prior to the debate, members indicate which particular organisations they wish to focus on, and this provides the basis of the list of financial reviews considered in the debate. Select committee reports on the financial reviews of Crown entities, State enterprises and public organisations are available on this website. See related links on this page. Information about the make-up of the State sector, including a list of Crown entities and State enterprises, is available on the State Services Commission website. See related links on this page.

From http://www.parliament.nz/ 06/29/2010

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Minister Announces New Pharmac Appointments

Health Minister Tony Ryall today announced changes to the Pharmac board. Current deputy Chair Stuart McLauchlan has been appointed as Chair of the board, taking effect from 1 July 2010. "Mr McLauchlan brings strong financial and governance expertise to the board " said Mr Ryall. Existing board member Dr David Kerr of Christchurch has been reappointed. Associate Professor Jens Mueller of Waikato University and specialist paediatric surgeon Dr Anne Kolbe of Auckland University School of Medicine are newly appointed members of the board. Mr Ryall thanked the outgoing Chair Richard Waddel who has held the position since 2001. "I'd like to acknowledge and thank Richard Waddel for his commitment to the job during the nine years he was Chair."

Mr Ryall also thanked retiring board member Ms Adrienne von Tunzelmann of Tauranga for her seven years of service on the Pharmac board. The two remaining Pharmac board members are Ms Kura Denness of New Plymouth and Mr David Moore of Wellington.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/01/2010

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SOLOMON ISLANDS: Candidate Numbers for Election Nears 300

The Solomon Islands Electoral Commission says almost 300 candidates have been confirmed to contest next month's national general election. SIBC reports a total of 294 candidates have been confirmed to contest 28 constituencies. However, 20 constituencies are yet to confirm their lists, which could bring the total number of candidates to a record high. The Electoral Office is still to get lists from the remaining constituencies, but so far Central Honiara has received the highest number of candidates at 23. The constituencies yet to send in their candidate lists include some in Malaita, Western, and Temotu, and all the constituencies on Guadalcanal and Rennell-Bellona provinces.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 07/13/2010

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Asia-Pacific to Promote Low-Carbon Economic Growth

Government officials and policymakers from Asia and the Pacific have concluded a United Nations-organized meeting by adopting a course of action for environmentally sustainable economic growth, ahead of a key ministerial conference to be held in September in Kazakhstan. At the two-day regional preparatory meeting in Muju, Republic of Korea, participants underlined that a number of countries in the Asia-Pacific region had responded to the global food, financial and fuel crises with "green" stimulus packages and strategies, which have helped to spur job creation and economic growth. They also emphasized that while many initiatives were underway, there was no 'one-size-fits-all' approach, and that countries were tailoring green growth to national priorities.

The meeting, organized by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), produced three draft regional environment and sustainable development initiatives for endorsement by the Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific (MCED-6) to be held from 27 September to 2 October in Astana, Kazakhstan. These are the draft Regional Implementation Plan for Asia and the Pacific, the draft Ministerial Declaration and the draft Astana "Green Bridge" Initiative to be endorsed at the Astana forum. "This preparatory meeting has done the homework necessary to lead to a consensus at the MCED-6 on the structural changes needed in the current invisible and physical infrastructure of the economy to foster and promote low-carbon sustainable economic growth model," said Rae Kwon Chung, the top UN official responsible for coordinating environment and development policies in the Asia-Pacific region. Participants at the meeting also agreed to work towards formulating a common regional platform for green growth in preparation for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2012.

From http://www.scoop.co.nz/ 07/10/2010

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Asia Shows "Remarkable Resilience" in Global Crisis: IMF Chief

Asia showed " remarkable resilience" in surviving the global crisis, emerging as a world economic powerhouse, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Strauss-Kahn said here Tuesday. Concluding his discussions during a two-day conference, titled "Asia 21: Leading the Way Forward," Strauss-Kahn stressed that Asia is playing an "increasingly important" role in global economic policymaking, saying that as its economic weight in the world continues to rise, its representation in the international financial architecture will rise accordingly. Asia needs to nurture its domestic demand as its export-driven growth remains vulnerable to overseas shocks, said the IMF chief. "Given that some of Asia's major trading partners - in particular Europe and the United States - are entering a period of lower growth rates, the need to nurture Asia's domestic demand over the medium-term has become even more crucial," Strauss-Kahn said after wrapping up the conference co-hosted by the IMF and South Korea.

With regard to the IMF's role, Strauss-Kahn said that the Washington-based organization will make more efforts to improve the effectiveness of its policy advice and provide better service to its Asian members. He added that the IMF will strengthen the global financial safety net, and it will work closely with Asia in this regard within the framework of the G20 meetings that will be hosted by South Korea late this year. The IMF will also support the further strengthening of Asia's role and voice in the global economy, by building on the package of 2008 reforms which boosted Asia's voting power in the organization, and it will strengthen its collaboration with the regional organizations in Asia, Strauss-Kahn said. The event, bringing together some 300 high-ranking policymakers and high-level IMF officials, mainly focused on some agenda items that will be discussed in more details in the upcoming Seoul G20 Summit to be held in November.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 07/13/2010

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Asia Micro Finance Forum in Colombo

The Banking with the Poor Network (BWTP) will convene the Asia Microfinance Forum 2010 (AMF 2010), in Colombo this year. It is organised by the Foundation for Development Cooperation (FDC) with the lead sponsorship by Citi Foundation and Hatton National Bank as the Local Host. The AMF 2010 will be held in Colombo, from October 12 to 15. "We are expecting over 550 delegates to grace this gathering, where a majority of which will be represented from the Asian region. Amongst these delegates over 20 of them will include some of the largest leading global investors", HNB Deputy General Manager and Banking with the Poor Network (BWTP) Chairman Chandula Abeywickrema said. The micro finance industry needs to cater to the demands of the rural poor and enhance the accessibility to its facilities. It should promote greater financial infusion in the country with benefits reaching to the entire society not confined to only Western province, Abeywickrema said. "Micro finance industry is an important component in the country's development drive in providing economic enhancement, empowerment and enrichment. The country needs to develop entrepreneurship skills for youth empowerment in making more commercially viable enterprises," he said.

The Asia Micro Finance Forum is held every two years and is considered to be one of the largest gatherings of all stakeholders involved in microfinance activities in Asia. The Asia Micro Finance Forum organized by the Banking With The Poor Network (BWTP) is currently the largest Asia based micro finance network. It has been in existence for over 15 years, with over 50 members located in 15 different countries in Asia. The BWTP network consists of a unique diversity of membership that works towards building efficient large-scale sustainable organizations through co-operation, training and capacity building with the aim of achieving innovative, appropriate and demand-driven financial services for the poor. The Banking with the Poor Network (BWTP) arose out of the Banking with the Poor project of the Foundation for Development Cooperation (FDC). The Foundation for Development Cooperation is an independent, not for-profit international development organization. Established in Brisbane, Australia, in 1990, the mandate of FDC calls for it to conduct policy-oriented research, foster public awareness, mobilize broader Australian and overseas development cooperation, and support non-governmental development efforts.

These include practitioners, investors, policymakers as well as other capacity builders. The very first Asia Micro Finance Forum was held in Beijing China in the year 2006 and thereafter the event took place in 2008 in Hanoi Vietnam. This is the first time that a conference of this magnitude will take place in Sri Lanka. The conference will take on the theme 'Financial Inclusion - Achieving Asia's Potential'.

From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 07/15/2010

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APEC Launches New Cross-Border Data Privacy Initiative

Recognising that trusted flows of information are essential to doing business in the global economy, APEC has today launched a mechanism for regional cooperation on data privacy law enforcement. The new APEC Cross-border Privacy Enforcement Arrangement (CPEA) facilitates information sharing and cooperation between authorities responsible for data and consumer protection in the APEC region. "The CPEA is groundbreaking," said Colin Minihan, Chair of the Data Privacy Subgroup of APEC's Electronic Commerce Steering Group. "It demonstrates that privacy enforcement authorities are engaging with the realities of global data flows and the associated risks of privacy violations that transcend national and jurisdictional boundaries. The CPEA reflects the commitment of APEC privacy and consumer protection authorities to work together and across borders in enforcing consumer privacy protections."

The arrangement establishes a process under which participating authorities may contact each other for help with collecting evidence, sharing information on an organisation or matter being investigated, enforcing actions, and transferring complaints to another jurisdiction. Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart, said the CPEA is an important step forward in addressing new challenges for privacy in a globalised, online world. "This will help us deal with privacy concerns relating to organisations that operate in multiple jurisdictions and businesses that move personal information across borders for processing. These are increasingly common phenomena in the economy of the 21st century and we need 21st century tools to address them." The CPEA also encourages cooperation between privacy enforcement authorities in APEC and their international, non-APEC counterparts as the arrangement has been designed to work seamlessly with other regional and global schemes.

By providing a mechanism to help investigate and enforce privacy laws across borders, the CPEA will promote consumer trust in e-commerce which, in turn, will benefit business and trade in the Asia-Pacific. Thus, the CPEA is a key step in APEC's long-standing efforts to increase e-commerce and cross-border trade in the region. The CPEA was developed by a volunteer group of APEC member economies - Australia; Canada; Hong Kong, China; Japan; New Zealand; the Philippines; Chinese Taipei; and the United States - with input from civil society and business groups. Initial participants in the CPEA are the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Australia, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of New Zealand and the United States Federal Trade Commission. Additional privacy enforcement authorities from APEC member economies are also expected to join.

From http://www.apec.org/ 07/16/2010

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Asia Society's Landmark '2010 Asian Pacific Americans Corporate Survey' Examines Barriers to Career Advancement

Asia Society's groundbreaking "2010 Asian Pacific Americans Corporate Survey" of 2,000 Fortune 500 employees - the first to exclusively measure the corporate success of Asian Pacific Americans - answers the questions of how companies can create an inclusive workplace that promotes APAs to corporate leadership positions as well as draw on APA talent to grow their business at home and abroad. The survey showed that Asian Pacific Americans overwhelmingly care about the futures of their companies (88 percent of respondents) and most would recommend their companies as good places to work to other APAs (73 percent). They also gave high marks to their firms' diversity efforts. Yet, while APAs are among the most highly-educated employees, they largely feel underrepresented among the ranks of corporate leaders.

This disparity - or so-called "bamboo ceiling" - can be seen in the types of departments where APAs in the sample are employed, with nearly half of respondents working in either financial or technology related departments. Overall, APA employees are less likely to feel they are able to employ all of their skill sets or feel they have the opportunities for career growth and development. And in an era of globalization, less than one-third of those surveyed felt their company encourages its employees to pursue careers in Asia. "The resulting report is an insightful, fact based portrayal of APAs' leadership development challenges," says Asia Society President Vishakha Desai. "The report showcases best practices with specific, actionable activities that Best in Class companies use to successfully attract, develop, and retain their APA leaders."

The survey identified four Best in Class companies:
PepsiCo. - "Overall Best Company for Asian Pacific American Professionals to Work For"
McDonald's - "Best Company for Promoting Asian Pacific Americans to Develop Workforce Skills"
Cardinal Health - "Best Company for Support of the Asian Pacific American Community"
KPMG - "Best Company in Promoting Asian Pacific Americans into Senior Leadership Positions"

From http://finance.yahoo.com/ 07/16/2010

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Asia's Leading Young Academics Share Ideas on Region's Future

If the coming century is to be one of Asian dominance, the region's young students will have even bigger questions to ponder. And at least one of the old hands in the business of thinking about Asia has gone to new lengths to encourage their contribution. The eminent Australian economist, Emeritus Professor Peter Drysdale has run a unique international essay competition aimed at encouraging new academic talent. The initiative builds on the East Asia Forum academic blog he also heads. The powerhouse of talent uncovered by the competition has been on show at the Australian National University in Canberra this week, where the winners came together to present their ideas.

Presenter: Linda Mottram Speakers: Peter Drysdale, Emeritus Professor, Australian National University;
David Envall, Post-Doctoral Fellow in International Relations, Australian National University;
Aaron Connelly, Fulbright scholar, visiting fellow, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Jakarta;
Roger Huang, Research Development Officer, Centre for Asian Pacific Studies, Lingnan University, Hong Kong

MOTTRAM: As surely as scholars, diplomats and politicians in the region see Asia entering a new era of global dominance, the Australian National University's Peter Drysdale and his colleagues see a need to encourage a new generation of scholars focussed on the resulting questions. They've taken a most modern approach, by going on the internet with their scholarly blog, the East Asia Forum.

DRYSDALE: This medium not only provides an opportunity to distill complex ideas into a digestible form, communicate those ideas to influential policy makers around the region, not only around the region, around the world - it reaches into the centres of policy makers everywhere.

MOTTRAM: Taking it a step further, they announced an international competition for young Asia scholars to write just 800 words on Asia's economic and political challenges. The best of the essays were chosen and have now also been published in the East Asia Forum quarterly magazine, while Professor Drysdale personally arranged for the top scholars to attend a forum at the ANU in Canberra where they'd speak to their papers and have their work critiqued by established academics in the field. A dozen attended that event this week. And they ranged very widely. Unsurprisingly, China figured large, but so did Japan.

David Envall, was one of the participants - a post-doctoral fellow in International Relations at the ANU. He pondered the implications if Japan's stagnation and relative decline persists, particularly the possible impact on the lynchpin Japan-US alliance amid the possibility of rising populist Japanese politics and greater Japanese insularity.

ENVALL: If Japan's stagnation does persist our policy makers need to consider and prepare for such unpleasant dilemmas. If Japan were to lose another decade say, the Asian security order would be severely tested.

MOTTRAM: Fulbright Scholar and visiting fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, Aaron Connelly, backed those who call for a deeper United States role in the region. He also argued for an expanded East Asia Summit to embed the US in the region at leadership level. The trade-off would involve winding back APEC's (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation) seniority and giving it a more functional focus, a task for Australia, he suggested.

CONNELLY: Australia's ownership of APEC is what makes this possible. Australia was the right nation to propose APEC and it is also the right nation to propose the transformation of APEC.

MOTTRAM: Other issues examined by the scholars included whether China's much-criticised dam building program might present an opportunity for China to lead on better environmental practice. Another presentation on North Korea called for the establishment of an East Asian Development fund for the reclusive, reactive state and greater incentives targeted at younger, business-oriented members of the North Korean community to encourage change there. There were also new thoughts on dealing with Burma from Roger Huang, who's Research Development Officer at the Centre for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. He rejected any blanket dismissal for example of elections promised by the junta for this year, saying anything is better than the status quo of political impasse.

HUANG: I think it's very encouraging to see that Myanmar's allowing a multi-party election. If you think about it China, Vietnam, Laos are all single party states and it's illegal to have any sort of opposition on the political front in these three nations, for example.

MOTTRAM: Roger Huang also strongly criticised sanctions against Burma as counter-productive and displaying little more than double standards by countries that are often more than happy to trade with single party states with questionable human rights records. These young scholars delved into some difficult questions. But has quality and rigour been compromised in the requirement for brevity? Professor Peter Drysdale thinks not.

DRYSDALE: The quality of the argument has to stand within that format. And it can be linked back and it is linked back to detailed and careful scholarship and in electronic form in particular that can be readily available for all to assess.

MOTTRAM: And from his perspective as a very long-standing scholar of the region, Peter Drysdale describes the youngsters as high powered and very fresh in their thinking.

From http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/ 07/16/2010

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Asia Security Forum to Boost Regional Disaster Relief

HANOI - Asia's largest security forum is expected this week to adopt a plan boosting civil and military co-ordination in response to natural disasters - a rising threat across the region. The 27-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum meets in Hanoi on Friday, where a priority is improved cooperation in disaster relief by 2020, according to a draft action plan seen by AFP. The forum gathers major powers including China and the United States but is driven by the 10-member ASEAN bloc, which has been criticised in the past for a lacklustre response to Southeast Asian natural disasters. An initiative to improve relief was welcomed by the Asia-Pacific disaster chief of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Michael Annear. But "these agreements need to then be taken to the country level and incorporated into national processes" to be effective, he added.

The forum's statement aimed to "harmonise regional cooperation" over relief and strengthen civil-military coordination - for example by holding regular exercises - to enhance disaster responses over the next decade. It also sets out plans to develop tools such as a "model legal arrangement for foreign military assistance". But such pledges could be deflecting attention from more complicated issues such as tensions over North Korea's nuclear programme, according to Ian Storey, a fellow of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. He told AFP the forum "is moving toward more cooperation on less sensitive issues like humanitarian cooperation and disaster relief... because the other issues are just too difficult to deal with".

The region is prone to earthquakes, storms and volcanic eruptions and is expected to be hard-hit by rising sea levels and extreme weather caused by climate change. Experts have said environmental damage, shoddy urban planning, corruption and other man-made problems are magnifying the human cost of natural disasters almost every time they strike in Asia. The latest calamity, Typhoon Conson, has left a death toll of 76 in the Philippines, two in China and one in Vietnam over the past week, with dozens more still missing and feared dead.

At a security conference last month in Singapore, top regional officials called for a more coordinated response to relief operations across Asia-Pacific nations. Malaysian Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi called for the establishment of centres focusing on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. His New Zealand counterpart, Wayne Mapp, agreed the region had "to move beyond talking about to actually doing something and having centres of excellence, probably regional based, would probably help". In May 2008, ASEAN was faulted for failing to pressure Myanmar, a member of the bloc, to allow in international aid after Cyclone Nargis devastated the country's south, leaving 138,000 dead or missing. A group of officials from the UN and ASEAN were eventually allowed to coordinate aid with Myanmar's government, which the bloc hailed as a successful example of its capability and unity. - AFP/vm

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/21/2010

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Asia-Pacific: Advance on Intellectual Property

The Asia-Pacific's poorest countries stand to improve enormously from being part of a streamlined and clear intellectual property system, a senior United Nations official says in a call to government ministers from across the region to help their countries achieve their full potential. Francis Gurry, Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), told a high-level forum held in Dhaka, Bangladesh, this week that the region's least developing countries (LDCs) have the most to gain. "We believe that the potential of your countries to contribute to, and to benefit from, the intellectual property system is enormous," Mr. Gurry said. "That is why we are trying to develop tools and provide policy and technical support to help this region reach its capacity." Government ministers, lawmakers and IP experts from 12 so-called LDCs - Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Maldives, Kiribati, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Yemen - across the Asia-Pacific region participated in the two-day forum, which wrapped up yesterday. The forum discussed national experiences regarding IP and patents and trademarks, as well as issues concerning branding export products, traditional knowledge and national innovation strategies. During a three-day visit to Bangladesh Mr. Gurry also held talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other key Government officials and policymakers.

From http://www.scoop.co.nz/ 07/22/2010

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CHINA: Try Out Program of Network Integration

Chinese TV, Internet and mobile phone users will soon be able to do all three activities through a single device after the government announced Thursday a pilot scheme to integrate the three systems. The cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Dalian, Harbin, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Xiamen, Qingdao, Wuhan, Shenzhen, Mianyang and regions around central Hunan Province's three boom cities of Changsha, Zhuzhou and Xiangtan, were approved for the pilot program, according to a statement from the State Council posted on the government website (www.gov.cn). However, the statement gave no schedule and did not elaborate on the development of the trial program. The program, known as "three networks integration" in Chinese, aims to make the three systems compatible and allow users to make telephone calls, surf the Internet and watch television through only one cable or wireless entrance. Currently, TV, telecom and Internet networks are separated in China, and different operators provide access to cable TV, telecommunications and the Internet. The State Council, China's Cabinet, said in January the program would be accelerated through pilot projects from 2010 to 2012, focusing on trials connecting broadcasting and telecommunication networks. It vowed to achieve comprehensive integration by 2015.


From Xinhua News Agency 07/01/2010

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China's Credit Cards Maintain Low Bad Debt Rates: CBRC

China' s credit cards risks remain low as figures show bad debt rates stood at 2.3 percent as of the end of the first quarter, while that for the United States and Singapore were at 9.95 and 4.7 percent, an official with China' s banking regulator told Xinhua Thursday. Credit card receivables that are 180 days past due accounted for 0.4 percent of the total credit amount in the first quarter, said an official with the China Banking Regulatory Commission. China had issued a total of 186 million credit cards by the end of 2009, up 30.37 percent from one year earlier, according to data from the China Banking Association.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/01/2010

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CHINA: CPC Launches Online Database of Communist Doctrines

The Communist Party of China (CPC) on Wednesday launched an online database on Marxist theory by uploading the Party's major political doctrines to an Internet website, an effort that analysts said is promoting its ideology through information technology. Uploaded contents to www.ccpph.com.cn include collected works in Chinese of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, as well as former CPC leaders Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin. All the works are available free of charge for Internet users to read, while visually impaired readers can listen to recorded voices reciting the content in Chinese. The website also contains dozens of works explaining the doctrines, research of the communist party as well as the CPC's important documents, files and speeches of General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Hu Jintao and other current leaders. The database is sponsored by People's Publishing House, copyright owner of those Chinese works and major publisher of translated works of foreign political figures in China. Liu Binjie, Director of General Administration of Press and Publication, said that the official launch of these works on the Internet would expand the spread of Marxist theories. The world has entered an era when information, digitalization and other new communication methods are booming, said Huang Shuyuan, president of the People's Publishing House.

The more advanced and powerful communication methods a party uses, the more influential it will be, Huang said. To help online readers find a classic Marxist reading, the database of the website provides a smart search function which finds the origin based on fractional words that readers input. "It will greatly help researchers on Marxist doctrines like me, since many of those works could only be available in libraries," said Professor Zhang Guangming with the School of International Relations of Peking University. "We could search for information about Marxist works at any time in my reading room," Zhang said. Prof. Zhang Xixian with the Party School of the CPC Central Committee said that the online database represents a new trend for the Party to promote its theories in a more attractive way. By the end of last year, the number of Internet users in China had reached 384 million users, covering about 28.9 percent of the country's total population. Li Changchun, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, also attached great importance to the publication of the Party's theories by using multimedia technologies. The People's Publishing House plans to digitalize its 3.6 billion-word Marxist theories books within two years to complete the database and provide it free of charge to the public.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/01/2010

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China Publishes List of Pilot Cities for Convergence of Three Networks

The General Office of the State Council of China has published the list of the first batch of pilot regions and cities for the convergence of three networks, including the telecom network, the Internet network, and the broadcasting network. Twelve cities and region are included in the list: Beijing; Dalian in Liaoning province; Harbin in Heilongjiang province; Shanghai; Nanjing in Jiangsu province; Hangzhou in Zhejiang province; Xiamen in Fujian province; Qingdao in Shandong province; Wuhan in Hubei province; the Changsha-Zhuzhou-Xiangtan region in Hunan province; Shenzhen in Guangdong province; and Mianyang in Sichuan province. The pilot cities and region mainly meet three conditions: first, their networks can meet the two-way access integration requirement; second, they represent the economic population and user habits in specific regions; and third, they have a market structure with a certain scale. At present, the local governments of related cities and region are reportedly discussing the implementation of the convergence of three networks and the supporting policies will be launched soon. In addition, more cities and regions are expected to be included in this program in 2011. The convergence of three networks will stimulate investments and consumptions of about CNY700 billion in the next three years.

From http://www.chinatechnews.com/ 07/02/2010

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China Exploring New Approaches to Protect Environment: Minister

China's government is exploring new approaches to protect the environment and to deal with the heightening conflict between environmental protection and economic growth, said Zhou Shengxian, Environmental Protection Minister, Saturday. China took only 30 years to have the environmental problems that had gradually emerged in developed countries over 200 to 300 years, said Zhou at a theme forum of the Shanghai World Expo in Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province. "As a big developing country with a population of 1.3 billion people, China is under unprecedented pressure for both economic development and environmental protection," he said. "Therefore, we have to learn lessons from other countries, continue to reform and explore new approaches to protect the environment." The "new approaches" should feature "low cost, good returns, low emissions and sustainability," he said. However, he did not elaborate on what the new approaches were. "While achieving targets for economic development, we have to make sure that 1.3 billion people drink clean water, breathe fresh air and eat safe food," he said.

From English.news.cn 07/03/2010

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Beijing to Build First 3D Technology Park

Looking to encourage more interactive films and online games companies, Beijing is reportedly planning the city's first 3D technology park in Changping district and the feasibility report will be launched before the end of this year. According to the Science and Technology Commission of Changping, the new technology park will include functional areas for 3D technology research and development; manufacturing of high-end 3D products; check and verification of 3D products; 3D medical imaging services; an 3D international conventions and exhibitions. It will also have a 3D international research and development central area, a 3D international enterprise park, and a 3D international themed park. Fang Yan, deputy director for Changping district, said that the district has made major plans for its high-tech industry in the next few years. It will work together with China Video Industry Association and China 3D Industry Association for the construction of a high-end development and manufacturing base for 3D products. At present, some 3D-related enterprises, including Barco from Belgium, have already settled in Changping.

From http://www.chinatechnews.com/ 07/08/2010

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Beijing Police Establish Public Relations Office, Microblog

The Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau established a public relations office Tuesday and said it will institute a series of measures, including the opening of a microblog, to enhance transparency and interaction with residents. The office will interact with residents, build the image of the bureau and deal with public relations issues. Besides regular press releases, the office will solicit public opinion by opening a microblog, consult "opinion leaders" and interact with citizens online. It would also produce videos and appoint promotion ambassadors to boost its public reputation. The municipal police bureau has ordered all police bureau branches in Beijing to establish their own public relations office. The public relations services will cover permanent residents, migrant workers and foreign residents in Beijing. "With the aid of modern technology, we hope to communicate with residents and vulnerable groups with frankness and sincerity, as well as promote the publicity of social justice," said Fu Zhenghua, head of the bureau. While some residents appreciate the open attitude of Beijing police, some expressed concern. "They have good intentions, but I wonder whether the service will become merely a formality," said Yu Yian, a reporter with Beijing-based Health Times. "I hope the microblog can be fully utilized, unlike those badly maintained administrative websites," said Liu Juan, an employee with a IT company in Beijing. Wang Yukai, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance, said public relations services provide residents with an easy and more effective access to police affairs. On the other hand, police can learn more about public opinion and social conflict, Wang said. He said Chinese courts and procuratorates could also open microblogs, which may help solve conflicts caused by miscarriages of justice.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/14/2010

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China Slashes Administrative Approval Items

Chinese authorities will reduce the number of items subjected for the central government's administrative approval by ten percent to perfect the country's socialist market economy and fight rampant corruption. According to a statement sent to Xinhua Wednesday from the State Council's administrative examination and approval system reform office, the State Council would remove 113 administrative approval items while delegating approval power for 71 items to government departments at lower levels. More than half of the administrative approval items have been rescinded or adjusted since the country initiated its administrative examination and approval system reform in 2001, the statement read. Earlier reports said the reform was aimed at cleaning up China's over-regulated administrative approval system, which had led to unnecessary government intervention in small businesses. The lack of transparency and inadequate supervision of administrative authority had also resulted in many corruption cases. In a typical case, the Zhengzhou city government of Henan Province set up a "steamed bread office" in the late 1990s which required the registration of every person in the city who wanted to make and sell steamed bread, and charged them with "advertisement fees" of 1,000 yuan each without central government approval. While acknowledging that noticeable progress had been made since 2001, Wednesday's statement admitted that, currently, the number of administrative approval items was still more than needed. It said the State Council's administrative examination and approval system reform office would, in the future, strengthen supervision to make sure that cancellation of the items was carried through, conduct relevant studies, and further deepen the administrative examination and approval system reforms.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/14/2010

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Hu Stresses Deepening of Reform of Cultural System

Chinese President Hu Jintao Friday urged greater efforts to reform the nation's cultural system to boost China's "soft power." Hu, also General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), made the remarks at a meeting of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau. Hu listed the key tasks to reform China's cultural system now and in the near future: The acceleration of the reform on the cultural system and encouragement for cultural innovation; The acceleration of the building of a public network providing cultural services; The acceleration of the development of the cultural industry through the fostering of new cultural industry forms; The enhancement of the guidance of production of cultural products so as to meet the needs of the public. Hu said cultural reforms must take development as their theme. He asked CPC committees and governments at all levels to put cultural reform high on their agendas.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/23/2010

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JAPAN: Aim to Expand the Middle Class

Although the government announced in June a growth strategy that emphasizes the creation of new industries in such fields as environment, nonfossil-fuel energy and health-related services, the big problem for Japan is that its middle class is waning. The period of high economic growth begot the phrase "ichioku so churyu" (100 million people in the middle class). They enjoyed strong purchasing power and avidly bought the "3Cs" - cars, coolers (air conditioners) and color TVs. This mass consumption spurred strong domestic demand, which along with brisk exports served as a locomotive for the economy in the 1960s and 1970s. At present, exports are playing the role of underpinning the Japanese economy, even under deflationary conditions. Exports to Asian countries including the expanding markets of China and India have helped cushion the impact of the global financial crisis that started in the United States in the fall of 2008. While it is critical for Japan to improve its competitiveness to win competition in overseas markets, it is also important to take measures to increase personal consumption, which accounts for about 60 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. Because exports can fluctuate greatly depending on economic conditions abroad, domestic demand should be strong enough so that the Japanese economy can withstand a sudden fall in exports. In recent years, the government and business managers have sought deregulation of the labor market in the name of diversification of the form of employment and workers' freedom of choosing various types of employment. But the end result was an increase in the number of temporary workers, who are paid relatively lower wages and can be dismissed at any time. Temporary workers now account for about one-third of the nation's labor force. Their low wages and unstable employment are suppressing domestic demand. The government and companies need to adopt measures that will increase the number of full-time workers and thus broaden the middle class.

From http://search.japantimes.co.jp/ 07/14/2010

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SOUTH KOREA: Financial Reforms to Be at Fore of Seoul Summit

Proposed bank regulations and global financial safety mechanisms remained unfinished at the Group of 20 Summit in Toronto, leaving the debate on the most important issues regarding global financial reforms to the next round of the meeting in Seoul in November. Leaders of the world's rich and developing economies Sunday acknowledged there is no one-size-fits-all solution to different troubles encompassing Asia's roaring economy and bumpy recoveries of the West. Along with a target to halve national budget deficits within the next three years, the leaders detailed their commitment to soon impose tougher capital requirements against banks - for the first time. Requirements for banks to hold more capital and better equip themselves against risks will be finalized in Seoul under the proposals by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, a body of regulators that meets regularly in Switzerland. "The amount of capital will be significantly higher and the quality of capital will be significantly improved when the new reforms are fully implemented," the Toronto communiqu¨¦ stated. "We support reaching agreement at the time of the Seoul Summit on the new capital framework." Leaders endorsed a more flexible, open-ended timeline for building higher levels of capital than the 2012 deadline set last year, giving more room for the financial industry to recover from the latest recession. Seoul Summit is likely to refine development issue as well as the set up of a global financial safety net. "The Seoul summit has two main goals," President Lee Myung-bak told G20 leaders at the summit. "(The global financial safety net) is of a great importance for emerging economies that experienced fast outflow of capital during the crisis. We will try to deliver concrete results to establish global financial safety net in Seoul." A global financial safety net, in effect, controls extreme migration of foreign capital but wasn't of a priority as opposed to debt issues due to the recent Greece-triggered debt crisis in Europe.

Major economies including the U.S., Europe, China and Brazil, who have large reserve currencies, are cautious about establishing such mechanism. Lee also emphasized the need to bridge the difference between rich and poor, saying that Seoul Summit will start "full-scale" discussions on fostering development in poor countries. "A working group has been already launched on development. We will make efforts to produce concrete measures at the Seoul summit," Lee told his G20 counterparts. G20 leaders urged the International Monetary Fund to accelerate its reform by the Seoul Summit. "We called for an acceleration of the substantial work still needed for the IMF to complete the quota reform by the Seoul Summit and in parallel deliver on other governance reforms, in line with commitments made in Pittsburgh," the communiqu¨¦ said. Leaders in Pittsburgh Summit agreed to shift five percent of the IMF's quota to developing countries. The Toronto communiqu¨¦ called further reforms of the IMF and the World Bank, saying "We will strengthen the selection process in the lead up to the Seoul Summit in the context of broader reform." The G20 Seoul Summit is slated for Nov. 11-12 at the COEX, downtown Seoul.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 06/28/2010

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Green Product Information System Launched

Korea Environmental Industry & Technology Institute (KEITI) and the Ministry of Environment launched green product information system (http://www.greenproduct.go.kr), which provides information on green products. In an attempt to encourage green life, the system introduces green value and offers information on various green products. In particular, it shows that using green products leads to reduction of hazardous materials including greenhouse gas and wastes so that the public recognize the benefit of green products. In addition, it includes the performance and statistics by public organizations on purchasing green products. Also, green products users can share their opinion on using green products. An official from KEITI said the institute will actively promote the website so that it can significantly contribute to inducing green life.

From http://www.korea.net/ 06/30/2010

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MONGOLIA: World Bank Supports Its Policy Reforms

A US$12 million credit, approved by the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors will, among other things, help Mongolia to improve and manage social protection systems for the poor. The Mongolia Multi-sector Technical Assistance (MSTA) project, aims to support the government's efforts to build its capacity for policy making and regulation in the fiscal, social and financial sectors. Mongolia was hit hard by the global financial crisis especially as a result of the collapse of mineral prices, in particular for copper. Given Mongolia's high reliance on copper revenues in the budget (with mineral revenues accounting for more than one-third of the total budget revenues), the fiscal shock was very large, causing the balance to shift from a 2.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) surplus in 2007 to a 5.4 percent deficit in 2009. Real GDP contracted by 1.6 percent in 2009, following growth of 8.9 percent in 2008. The Government of Mongolia took the necessary measures to overcome the crisis and international development partners provided budget support and technical assistance.

"The crisis highlighted the need for policy reforms - especially in terms of policies to protect the country's poorest people from the boom and bust cycles typical of economies that depend on mineral exports" said Arshad Sayed, World Bank Country Manager for Mongolia "The challenge now is to turn the crisis into opportunity. The MSTA project aims to build the capacity needed to achieve this." Policy reforms include adopting an appropriate fiscal framework, improving the budget process and the planning and management of public investments, and implementing a targeted poverty benefit. Other key reforms are to prepare the banking sector for the upturn in economic activity, investment and capital inflows in the years ahead.

"The MSTA will assist Mongolia to successfully manage the upcoming mining boom and any bust that may follow," said Rogier van den Brink, World Bank Lead Economist and the Task Team Leader for the project. Duration of the project is four years from July, 2010 until December, 2014.

From http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/ 07/02/2010

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LAOS: EPF Supports WREA's Environment Management

(KPL) The Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) has given over 2.1 billion kip (USD 250,000) to the Water Resources and Environment Agency (WREA) to finance the latter's capacity building on environment management. An agreement on the assistance was signed in Vientiane Capital on June 21 between Head of the Water Resources and Environment Agency, Mr. Monemany Gnoibouakong, and EPF Director, Mr. Soukkata Vichith. The project on capacity building of the Water Resources and Environment Agency will be implemented within two years. Its activities include the establishment of a budget planning system for a centralised inspection and monitoring of water resources and environment management by relevant officials as well as the enhancement of collaboration between the Water Resources and Environment Agency and relevant bodies such as the Environment Protection Fund, World Bank and Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Planning and Investment.

From http://www.kplnet.net/ 06/24/2010

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ADB to Help Laos Improve Vocational Training, Address Skill Shortages

(KPL) The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is helping the Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR) to improve the quality and relevance of its technical and vocational training with an aim to address skill shortages in key areas of the economy. The statement was contained in a press release of the regional bank based in Manila, the Philippines, on 12 July. The ADB is providing a $23 million grant from its concessional Asian Development Fund for the Strengthening Technical and Vocational Education and Training Project. It targets improvements in quality, access, governance and private sector involvement in the vocational training sector, and complements earlier ADB-assisted projects in basic and post-secondary education. The Lao PDR's economy has been booming in recent years, supported by the buoyant mining and hydropower sectors, with gross domestic product growth estimated by the ADB to reach 7.5% this year, and to average 7.8% from 2011 to 2015. However, technical and vocational institutions are not producing the skilled graduates needed to meet labour needs in key sectors.

Market assessments show enrolment for courses in high demand areas such as construction are declining, and only a small proportion of private firms are recruiting workers directly from technical and vocational institutions. The ADB project aims to improve the relevance of vocational education courses and programmes, strengthen teachers'practical skills, update training equipment, enhance access for women, and strengthen the private sector's role in vocational education strategy development and delivery. Along with curriculum and teacher training improvements, the project will focus on developing certificate and diploma courses for students in four areas where labour shortages have been identified - construction and building, mechanical and machinery maintenance and repair, furniture making, and basic business. Absorbing the growing numbers of school graduates and providing skills that are relevant to the needs of a fast-growing economy represent challenges for the country's long-term development. This initiative will help develop a more highly skilled and diverse workforce, said Norman LaRocque, Senior Education Specialist in ADB's Southeast Asia Department.

The project will have a strong focus on improving access to vocational training for girls and ethnic groups. A training assistance voucher programme for students at public and private vocational institutions will be provided, with at least 25% of vouchers allocated to women and 20% to members of ethnic groups. Dormitories at public technical and vocational training institutions will be refurbished with 50% of places reserved for women. A six-month salary supplement will be paid to employers who hire women supported under the voucher programme to encourage post-study labour market integration. Two programmes with private firms and training institutions will be set up to improve the responsiveness of technical and vocational courses to labour market needs, including specialist skills training for both teachers and students in sectors such as mining, which require expensive equipment. About 20,000 students are expected to be trained through the project, and based on conservative estimates the improvement in skills could result in monthly wage increases for individuals of around LAK 200,000 ($24.20) a significant amount given that unskilled construction workers may earn around LAK 400,000 ? LAK 900,000 ($48.40 - $108.90) per month in the Lao PDR, said Mr. LaRocque. The Government of the Lao PDR will provide additional financial support of $1.8 million for a total investment cost of $24.8 million. The Ministry of Education is the executing agency for the project, which is expected to be completed by September 2015.

From http://www.kplnet.net/ 07/13/2010

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PHILIPPINES: ADB Plans to Build Wind Power Projects in 5,000 Villages Nationwide

The Asian Development Bank plans to put up small wind power projects in about 5,000 villages in the country. Jiwan Acharaya, ADB specialist on Regional and Sustainable Development Department, said the small wind projects hope to provide reliable supply of power in the countryside. "[Small wind] is a sustainable solution for rural, remote and dispersed markets, reducing energy import dependence, and entailing no fuel price risk or constraints," he said. Acharya said the wind power projects would have a capacity of 100 kilowatts each. "It will explore innovative and practical approaches to reduce costs of wind power equipment by transferring appropriate technologies and optimizing manufacturing processes," he said.

Acharaya said the project is also expected to foster public-private partnerships to stimulate investment and research and development activities for clean and renewable energy as well as displace combustion of biomass and fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. "It will also improve national and village-level capacities for planning, implementing, and maintaining decentralized systems for power generation and distribution," he said. At least US$ 3.87 million funding has been allocated by ADB for the project, which also includes Nepal and Mongolia. Last year, ADB approved a total of US$ 1.6 billion in financing operations through loans, grants, guarantee, a trade finance facilitation program, equity investments, and technical assistance projects. ADB also mobilized co-financing amounting to US$ 3.2 billion. The Philippines ' wind power generating potential stands at 76,600 megawatts, studies show.

From http://balita.ph/ 07/02/2010

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DILG Budget, Status of Funds Now on Website

MANILA - The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said Thursday it has already posted on the DILG website its current budget and status of funds of all the agencies under it. DILG officials said the public can access it anytime on the DILG website at www.dilg.gov.ph. It shows the Statement of Allotment, Obligations and Balances of the Office of the Secretary; the Philippine National Police (PNP); the National Police Commission (Napolcom); Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP); The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP); Philippine Public Safety College (PPSC); and Local Government Academy (LGA). DILG Secretary Jesse M. Robredo said the publication of the budget of the Department is one of the bold initiatives of the Department not only to ensure transparency in all Department's transactions, but, more importantly, to secure feedback from the public on "how we can judiciously utilize the funds of the DILG for their benefit." "We would like to give back to the public what is due them, hence, this effort of publishing our budget is our way of eliciting their views on how we can efficiently channel our remaining balance on programs and projects that would benefit them the most," Robredo said.

The DILG Secretary pointed out that the posting of relevant information on the website does not only adhere to the constitutional provision of the public's right to information, but it essentially aims to encourage the public to participate in governance when they give their feedback to the Department. To institutionalize the process of transparency, the DILG Chief explained that, aside from the budget of the DILG and its attached agencies, pertinent information on the Department's procurements, bidding and other important data will next be uploaded to the website. DILG Financial Management Service Director Ester Aldana said that based on the data posted on the website, allotments received by the Department as of June 30, 2010 are as follows: OSEC - P2,497,574,241.72; PNP - P63,767,678,617.06; Napolcom - P1,326,799,658.25; BFP - P6,943,247,018.90; BJMP - P4,374,274,415.00; PPSC - P 940,035,315.00; and LGA - P69,976,000.00. On the other hand, the total obligations incurred as of the same period are as follows: OSEC - P1,468,999,607.27; PNP - P36,414,767, 990.83; Napolcom - P678,615,441.30; BFP - P 3,613,667,042. 26; BJMP - P 2,255,220,927. 79; PPSC - P684,079,165.00; and LGA - P43,986,996.69. The unobligated balance of allotment as of June 30, 2010 are as follows: OSEC - P1,033,323,723. 50; PNP - P27,352,910,626. 23; Napolcom - P648,184,216.95; BFP - P3,329,579.90; BJMP - P2,119,053,487.21; PPSC - P255,956,150.00; and LGA - P25,989,003.31.

From http://balita.ph/ 07/22/2010

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Govt to Improve Logistics System

The government has plans to improve the logistics system to reduce cost to a level lower than 15 per cent as soon as possible, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Thursday. In his keynote speech on the development of Thailand's logistics in the next five years, Mr Abhisit said logistics were crucial for the country's development. "The government will move ahead with its plan to rapidly develop this system in order to strengthen trade competitiveness and to cut costs for the private sector," he said. The prime minister the government would set in place a plan to develop the country's transport network, particularly the dual track rail and high speed train systems, over the next five years. A feasibility study on a project to link the country's transport system to those of countries in Asean and China was also needed, he said. On plans to improve the network between the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, he said a study was being made on the investment worthiness of the each potential model. "The final decision on the development plan must be acceptable to the local people in areas where the roads are to be built," he said. The premier's speech was presented when he chaire to a seminar on "The Solution to Thailand's Logistics Crisis" held today by the senate transport committee.

From http://www.bangkokpost.com/ 07/22/2010

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VIETNAM: President Calls for Stronger Judicial Training

President Nguyen Minh Triet yesterday, June 29, affirmed the importance of the project on improving the Judicial Academy, a centre that will specialise in training members of the system.The President was speaking at a meeting concerning the situation of juridical training, which was organised by the National Steering Committee on Judicial Reform in Ha Noi. According to the project "Building the Judicial Academy into a major centre in training juridical titles", the Judicial Academy will maintain its current operations until 2012 and focus on improving the quality of its training. From 2013 to 2020, the academy will launch a pilot programme that will seek to recruit students who have a bachelor degrees in law. These graduates will be trained and assigned with judicial positions at agencies that are of need of well-trained staff. The Ministry of Justice has asked the committee to consider and approve the project soon and instructed the Supreme People's Procuracy and the Supreme People's Court to send staff to judiciall training courses.

The ministry had also suggested the committee to give its opinion on the proposal concerning the establishment of a Judicial Academy Council before the proposal is submitted to the Prime Minister. Based on the proposal, the Prime Minister will consider the amendments to Decision 23/2004/QD-TTg, which will create a mechanism to strengthen inter-sector co-ordination among judges, prosecutors and lawyers.The council will be in charge of settling problems and working out policies for the academy. It will also have to solve issues related to the co-ordination between the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuracy and the Viet Nam Bars Association in training. President Triet asked members of the committee to study the proposal. The Juridical Academy was established 12 years ago and has trained nearly 21,000 students. It consists of four schools that specialise in training judges, prosecutors, lawyers and executives. On the same day, Triet met with leaders of the academy, lauding their achievements over the past 12 years. He also urged the academy to further improve its training capacity and programmes, while increasing co-ordination between relevant ministries and sectors.The academy should to develop its branch in HCM City because the city is a political-economic centre within the country, he said.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 06/30/2010

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BANGLADESH: Infringement on Intellectual Property a Global Threat

Infringement on intellectual property is a global threat and is causing high risk to potential inventors and investors, said Industries Minister Dilip Barua Saturday. "It is a problem in both the developed and the developing countries," the minister said. When the least developed countries (LDCs) are lagging far behind in science and technological invention, the tendency of the people to gain by imitating and piracy is certainly a big challenge, he said adding "The situation in Bangladesh can not be an exception." He was speaking at a day long workshop on "Colloquium for Judges on the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights" organised by intellectual property rights (IPR) project of the Ministry of Industries and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in the city. Creation, protection and management of IP is becoming an instrument for national development in the context of globalisation of trade and commerce and emerging knowledge world. Developing countries have many challenges to overcome while evolving their own IP system to suit their public policy needs and development goals, Mr Barua explained. "The country people are not so well-conversant with the IP laws and rules and awareness is the precondition for enforcement of any right and law," the minister said. Moreover, laws were also very old which needed amendment, Mr Barua added. Louise Van Greunen, director of WIPO said local IPR is important for the socio-economic development of the country. Consumer protection is also needed to control imitation and piracy by enforcing laws, she added. Dewan Zakir Hossain, secretary and his colleague ABM Khorshed Alam, additional secretary of Ministry of Industries, Jorge Nieto Rey, first secretary of European Union Delegation to Bangladesh and Enamul Hoque, registrar, Department of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks, among others, also spoke at the colloquium.

From http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/ 06/20/2010

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FAO Launches First Food Safety Website for Bangladesh

Dhaka - The Bangladesh Food Safety Project launched its new website on Wednesday to provide Bangladeshis with one-stop, easy access to information on food safety. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation representative in Bangladesh, Ad Spijkers, launched the site, says a press release. He stressed the important role the internet plays in "giving consumers and other interested parties rapid access to important facts and news on food safety matters". The new food safety website - www.bdfoodsafety.org - is designed to provide government officials, food producers, the food industry, consumers, and the media with easy access to information and resources on current food safety issues. Spijkers highlighted the need to "keep the public well informed on food safety, by providing them with high quality, practical and factual information". The website also provides information about the Food Safety Project. The FAO, with financial assistance from the European Union, is working with the government to implement the project. This will lead to improvements in the safety and quality of the food supply and improve consumer health, according to the FAO. Each year millions of citizens suffer from illnesses because they are eating contaminated, adulterated and unsafe food. The new food safety website will be updated regularly and provides information on such topics as Bangladesh Food Safety Project - goals, activities, major events, food safety information and resources, links to stakeholders and other food safety-related sites.

From http://www.bdnews24.com/ 07/21/2010

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INDIA: First of Its Kind E-Governance Programme in India

T. A. Pai Management Institute [TAPMI] a leading B school in India has announced a unique one year Post Graduate e-Governance Programme for Executives [eGPX] for Middle and Senior level Executives from Government, Public and Private sectors. TAPMI is the only B-School to start the one of its kind course in India. The programme is being offered by TAPMI in collaboration with National Institute for Smart Government [NISG], Hyderabad with support from the Department of Information Technology Ministry of Communications & IT, and Government of India. TAPMI is the first management institute in the country to be selected to conduct a post graduate e governance programme for executives in collaboration with NISG. The eGPX Programme has been designed to produce e-Governance professionals who will fill the capacity gap in the e-Governance space, both in the government and private sectors. Keeping with its tradition of academic excellence, TAPMI aims to support the government in its ambitious National e-Governance Plan by enlarging the pool of professionals in the e-governance domain by helping them acquire adequate skills to analyze, design and implement an e-Government application.

From http://www.egovonline.net/ 07/08/2010

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Innovative Programming Vital for Quality Information Dissemination

New Delhi: The Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Ambika Soni, on Thursday said that her ministry has redrawn its key policy parameters to 'put people first' and reach out to them effectively through innovative tools and processes. Citing the example of digitalization of Doordarshan and AIR network, the Soni here on Thursday said that this initiative ensured connectivity to the last mile in the remotest corner of the country. "Through such changed parameters, the Ministry was in the process of mainstreaming innovations and learning from the best practices of different stakeholders. It also enabled it to promote cost effective outreach tools through its various Media Units, while at the same time providing a platform to conduct a need assessment of the communication requirements at ground level," she said. Soni was speaking at the Workshop on 'Accelerating Rural Development and Strengthening Local Self Governance' organized by the Ministry of Rural Development here today. Elaborating further, the Minister said that the effort of the Ministry was to revitalize Media Units such as Song and Drama Division and Directorate of Field Publicity so that they could effectively communicate in a language and form that the people understood. Similarly, Prasar Bharti would fulfill the mandate of it being a Public Broadcaster by positioning appropriate programmes and content. The Minister further added that the Ministry had set a target of establishing 4000 Community Radio Stations by 2012, thereby establishing an effective advocacy tool for reaching out to the people. This would enable the community to be empowered with quality information and deliberate on issues directly concerning them within the given radius of 25 kilometers. Taking a cue from the success of 'Azadi Express' launched by the Ministry to commemorate 150 years of Independence, Soni said: "In future, the possibility of utilizing the medium of trains including their exterior for focused advocacy would be looked into." She informed that that it was necessary to adopt 'out of box' thinking in mainstreaming the communication initiatives of the Government. Soni mentioned that the focus should also be on providing an integrated approach involving media units as well as wholesome entertainment. She said a case in point was the recent conference of Media Units organized in the North Eastern Region at Guwahati on 13th July, which witnessed the participation of all the North Eastern States. "Being a first time initiative, it provided an opportunity to understand the problems face to face with the stakeholders," Soni stated. Highlighting the diversity of the country, the Minister mentioned that it was important to outline media plans according to the regional configuration and target audience. It was important for ministries leading flagship programmes to focus on a media plan that took into account the diverse tastes of the target audience.

From http://www.newkerala.com/ 07/21/2010

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NEPAL: Govt Recognises Contribution of Journos in Nation Building

The caretaker government has rewarded four senior journalists in recognition of their inexorable contribution to media sector, thanks to media advocates who have been urging the government to recognise the role of media in nation building process. Minister for Information and Communication Shanker Pokharel of the caretaker. Recognising their selfless service to nation through journalism, Minister for information and communication, Shankar Pokharel, conferred senior journalists Ramesh Ghimire of Janakpur, Ram Bahadur Chand of Kanchanpur and Chandralal Jha of Kathmandu, amidst a function at Singha Durbar, Thursday. Ghimire has been publishing Dhanusa Times since 1961, while Chand is regarded as a media icon from the far west. Similarly, Jha has served the longest jail term in the media history of Nepal for his reporting. He was arrested and detained for more than 15 times on various instances. Meanwhile, the government also honoured Gokul Pokhrel with National Journalism Award 2009 to recognise his contribution to 'development journalism' in the nation. However, some influential journalists criticised the caretaker government for selecting Pokhrel as a candidate for NJW. A former president of Federation of Nepalese Journalists, Bishnu Nisthuri, flayed the ministry for failing to respect the sentiment of Nepalese media. He expressed that Pokhrel was appointed as a member of National Human Rights Commission by the ex-king at a time when Nisthuri was inside bars for expediting media campaign against the censorship in Nepal. All four journalists who were honoured with the awards on Thursday received cash reward of Rs 200,000 and a letter of appreciation.

From http://www.nepalnews.com/ 07/16/2010

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PAKISTAN: First Pakistani Social Website Introduced

LAHORE: Information technology engineers have successfully launched a social network website like Facebook and proved their talent. Yousaf Fayyaz, one of the engineers who developed the website named BuddyFlick.com told APP here on Thursday that they had introduced the website with a vision and aim to prove the world that Pakistani engineers were talented enough to run and maintain their own social network. He said that running a social network was not an easy task as it required a lot of resources, adding the site would provide most of the features which were found on Facebook. He stated that he could not compare it with Facebook as owners of Facebook were more experienced and had more resources than anyone else in the social networking industry. He said the Buddyflick.com was still in early stages of development but it offered the features like photos, videos sharing, chat rooms, wall posts, games, quizzes, fan pages, groups, events, photo tagging, custom profile designs, twitter integration and some more services. BuddyFlick's creator said the site had been designed to provide a place where Muslims could spend time without the fear of being humiliated. He remarked the site was focused on helping people stay in touch with friends, discover new people, and things that were important to them, including he added anyone could connect with friends, family, school, social groups, activities and interests from this website.

From http://www.brecorder.com/ 07/09/2010

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ARMENIA: Ombudsman Concerned by Lack of Media Freedom

Armenia's human rights ombudsman has described the situation regarding media freedom in the country as "worrisome" in a special report released today, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports. Ombudsman Armen Harutiunian's report deplores physical attacks on local journalists, "restrictions" on news reporting, and strong government influence on Armenia's broadcast media. "There are numerous problems in the republic of Armenia and the course of reforms must be accelerated," Harutiunian said in presenting the report at a news conference. "In particular, journalists are subjected to violence for performing their professional duties and, as a rule, the guilty are not brought to justice." Harutiunian said the "people's rights to receive information are also restricted in many other ways." He noted that such incidents usually occur in the run-up to elections and on polling days. "This means that a culture of sensible political struggle has still not taken hold in the country," Harutiunian said. Harutiunian said his office has looked into the country's media legislation and found serious "contradictions and flaws." His report points to, among other things, the recently enacted amendments to a law on broadcasting criticized by domestic media watchdogs, the United States, and the European Union. Harutiunian also spoke of "many problems" with Armenia's electronic media, and he deplored a lack of pluralism in news coverage on local television and radio.

From http://www.rferl.org/ 07/08/2010

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Armenia to Launch Several Energy Projects This Year

Armenian Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Armen Movsisyan said that Armenia will launch implementation of several energy projects this year, including construction of Meghri hydropower plant and high-voltage line from Iran to Armenia. Meghri hydropower plant's construction will be launched soon, with its cost estimated $350mln, Movsisyan told journalists on July 14. The hydropower plant's capacity will make 140MW, while the annual electricity production will reach 800-850mln ofkW/hour. The plant will be constructed by Farat-Sepasat consortium of Iranian companies. According to Movsisyan, Armenia willbe paying by the produced electricity, as per agreement reached with the Iranian side. Besides, construction works on a new power transmission line will be launched by Iranian Sanir company in a month. The power transmission line's costis estimated to total100mln euros, while its voltage will be 400kW.

From http://www.panarmenian.net/ 07/14/2010

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AZERBAIJAN: Tolerant to All Innovations Used in Global Economy

It is necessary to conduct certain research before Islamic banking is implemented in the banking sector of Azerbaijan, chairman of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan Elman Rustamov said. "Over the last 17 years the development of financial and banking system in Azerbaijan achieved great success on classical and traditional principles, basing on the experience of countries, Rustamov said. "Now the financial system and banking systems have demonstrated resistance to the global crisis. However, our country is open to all innovations used in the global economy, and this tolerance can be used in the financial system. However, research in this area can not begin earlier than 2011, since this question requires serious analysis.A new strategy of development of financial and banking sector is under preparation now", he explained. "It will rely on the challenges of the crisis. The need to reach a new strategy for the entire financial system is associated with its role in the world economy. The financial sector in developed countries, including the U.S., exceeds the real sector six times, i.e. the creation of the financial industry is an important factor for the development and enhancement of the economy", Rustamov added. The development of the financial industry must have a primary role. It should act as a catalyst for promoting the economy.

From http://www.today.az/ 06/28/2010

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Azerbaijan President: Process of Holding Elections in Azerbaijan Improves Each Year, Transparency Is Completely Ensured

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has today inaugurated a new administrative building of the Central Election Commission (CEC), AzerTAj state news agency reported. The President congratulated the Commission's members and employees on the occasion. "A beautiful, majestic building has been built for the Central Election Commission. This is a great event, that is, you will have appropriate working conditions. The building is distinguished by its beauty. I will now look inside, but to my knowledge, the condition inside is good as well. We are taking all necessary measures to ensure that your work is organized better. I am very glad that the Central Election Commission has made great successes in its activities over recent years. The Commission has very important functions."

"Azerbaijan already has considerable experience in conducting elections. We study and use the best experiences in Azerbaijan. The whole activities are conducted in accordance with international standards. The process of holding elections in Azerbaijan improves each year, the transparency is completely ensured, and people freely and independently express their will," said President Ilham Aliyev. The President said much depended on CEC activities. "Azerbaijan has joined all international conventions and successfully cooperates with international organizations to further improve the electoral process. Today, the electoral process in Azerbaijan already complies with European standards. I am confident that the upcoming parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan will also be held fairly, the will of the people will be reflected in full scale and thus, a new important step will be made in the process of democracy development in Azerbaijan."

"Once again I congratulate you on this wonderful event. Both architects and builders have worked on this project for many years. Of course, I wanted the outside view of building to be beautiful, a good place to be chosen, and at the same time, inside conditions to be good. With regards to the place, then this remote district of Baku has become closer to the center, the metro line was laid recently, a new station was opened. So, to get here is easy. In addition, these buildings are being repaired. The building of the Migration Service was opened around. This area will become a kind of new administrative center of Baku. Once again I congratulate you," said the President. Later, the Head of State cut the ribbon symbolizing the official opening of the building, and then viewed it. The 9-storied facility is 39 meters in height, and occupies a total area of 9,600 square meters. The building features a library, archive, conference halls, a special room for video surveillance of polling stations, and the "Sechkiler" Information Center.

From http://en.trend.az/ 07/12/2010

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Baku to Host 1st Annual Symposium of Researchers of International Relations

First annual symposium of the researchers of international relations will take place in Baku on October 22-23. Organizers of the symposium held a press conference on Tuesday. Representative of the Caucasus University Rovshan Ibrahimov said international relations were a new research field for Azerbaijan and primarily this field was restricted with the education of diplomats at the different universities. Emphasizing the development of Azerbaijan, Ibrahimov said it became an important research sphere. Member of the organizing committee, chairman of the Public Union Ireli (Forward) Ceyhun Osmanli said 150 well-known international researchers would attend the symposium. "We would like them conduct serious researches on Azerbaijan and the region. The research works will be published in three volumes and sent to the world organizations, which are learning the international relations". Osmanli said they were interested in making Baku a research center of international relations. The global problems in the regional context, regional security problems, conflicts and post-conflict development, increasing tendency in the South Caucasus, development of international technology and energy policy in the region and other subjects will be discussed at the panel meetings.

From http://www.today.az/ 07/20/2010

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New Website on Azerbaijani Ghost City Presented

"Ireli" Public Association's Information Technologies Centre presented a new website about Agdam (http://myaghdam.wordpress.com). The site contains general information about the Agdam city, its historical monuments and architecture, culture and heroes, as well as extensive information on television, radio, newspapers and other media, information about roads and railways of the city. "Ireli" Public Association's Information Technologies Centre till the end of 2010 will present websites / blogs on all the occupied areas of Azerbaijan. It should be recalled that creation of blogs is held under the motto "My Karabakh! My Azerbaijan!". "Ireli" Public Association's Information Technologies Centre is the author of more than a dozen similar projects, implemented to propagandize the truth about Azerbaijan throughout the world. Today, 17 years pass since occupation of Azerbaijan's Agdam region by Armenia. Armenian invaders occupied majority of territory of Agdam on July 23, 1993. The Armenian aggressors seized 882 sq km of 1094 sq km territory of Agdam, one city and 80 villages. Some 128,000 people have become internally displaced persons and 17,000 of them are adult people.

From http://www.today.az/ 07/23/2010

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Press Council Chairman: Azerbaijan Holds Strategy of Sustainable Assistance to Press

Azerbaijan conducts the strategy of sustainable assisting to the press, the Press Council chairman Aflatun Amashov told Trend, commenting on the orders of the Azerbaijani President, signed in connection with the 135-th anniversary of the national press. "A new stage began for the Azerbaijani press. The stronger the Azerbaijani economy, the more obvious concerns about the press," Amashov said. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on measures to strengthen social protection of press representatives. According to the decree, funds worth 5 million manat must be allocated to the Azerbaijani State Support for Media Development Fund from the presidential reserve fund to improve the living conditions of Azerbaijani press representatives and construction of houses. One-time assistance was rendered to the media according to another presidential decree. Amashov said that the decree, signed to solve the housing problems of journalists, increase the amount of one-time assistance reflects the state's care of the press.

From http://en.trend.az/ 07/23/2010

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KYRGYZSTAN: Experts Uniquely Evaluate the Effectiveness of the Parliamentary System of Government

The formation of a parliamentary system of governance, which was approved by referendum passed in Kyrgyzstan uniquely evaluate by experts. A referendum on adopting a new constitution was conducted in Kyrgyzstan on Sunday. According to official data, nearly 91 percent of voters supported the draft of the document. The new draft constitution, proposed by the interim government that came to power after the overthrow of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April, significantly weakens the presidential branch, turning Kyrgyzstan into a parliamentary republic. However, despite the high percentage of voters for the document, experts' opinion on the effectiveness of such management systems in the Central Asian republic break up.

According to Kyrgyz expert Orozbek Moldaliev, Kyrgyzstan is ready to become a parliamentary republic. "Presidential rule, not for us," - said Trend Moldaliyev by telephone from Bishkek. According to him, Askar Akayevs' and Kurmanbek Bakiyevs' presidency in the post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, one of them comes from the north of the republic, the other - from the south is evidence for it. Each of the presidents enlisted the support of only one part of the republic, where he came from, said Moldaliyev, and the same always will be. According to the expert, who considers that Kyrgyzstan is not ready to become a parliamentary republic, just frightened by the prospect of successful development of the country. According to Bruce Pannier, U.S. expert on Central Asia, the parliamentary system of governance very convenient for Kyrgyzstan, where a lot of influential political figures such as Felix Kulov, Almaz Atambayev, between who often contradictions rises.

The expert also thinks that the heads of the neighbouring countries in the region does not benefit the successful establishment of the parliamentary system in Kyrgyzstan. "An example of a better system in the region is a threat to their positions so I wouldn't imagine Kyrgyzstan can depend on much help from its neighbours", - said Trend by e-mail Radio Liberty expert Panier. However, according to Russian expert on Central Asia Sergei Mikheyev, public support for the formation of a parliamentary republic in Kyrgyzstan - it is only one result which the provisional government of the republic wants to see. According to the expert, the referendum, in the long term, is unlikely to help Kyrgyzstan to overcome the crisis. "The parliamentary republic in Kyrgyzstan is actually a path towards a permanent mess, and it will not lead to stabilization of the situation," - told Trend by telephone from Moscow Sergei Mikheyev, deputy director of Center for Political Technologies.

From http://en.trend.az/ 06/29/2010

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TURKMENISTAN: WB Realizes "Avian Influenza Control and Human Pandemic Preparedness and Response Project"

A World Bank (WB) supervision mission has completed its visit to Turkmenistan in the framework of the Avian Influenza Control and Human Pandemic Preparedness and Response Project, WB reported. The project, which is funded through the Avian and Human Influenza (AHI) facility amounts to $1.97 million, of which $1.07 million is funded through the European Commission Single Donor Trust Fund and $0.9 million through a Multi-Donor Trust Fund Grant. The grant is administered by the World Bank. The project comes with the aim to strengthen the country's capacity to prevent the spread of avian influenza among poultry, prevent the transmission of avian influenza from birds to humans, and prepare for a pandemic, should it occur.

Turkmenistan has, so far, not had any recorded outbreaks of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Nevertheless, the risk to Turkmenistan of an HPAI outbreak remains significant as a result of migratory waterfowl patterns. "We are pleased to have this collaboration with the Government of Turkmenistan, and throughout project implementation noted a high level of dedication by all stakeholders in achieving Project development objectives," says Tamer Rabie, Senior Health Specialist and Project Team Leader based in Washington, DC. "We look forward to continuing our collaboration with the Government of Turkmenistan on this project and others in the health sector."

The mission was especially pleased with the following achievements, accomplished over the past 6-months: Refurbishment of the Central Veterinary laboratory in Akhal velayat: Under the Project, the Central Veterinary laboratory has been fully refurbished to meet applicable biosafety and biosecurity standards for the highly pathogenic avian influenza. Further it will be equipped with state of the art laboratory equipment. In addition, the project has provided funding to refurbish the Sanitary and Epidemiology Service (SES) laboratory which is expected to be completed by end July. Also, project funded small repair works in the velayat veterinary laboratories. Trainings under the Animal health component: FAO was engaged with the Veterinary authorities to provide master trainings on epidemiology and poultry diseases. Subsequently, cascade trainings took place in each of the velayats.

From http://en.trend.az/ 07/07/2010

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UZBEKISTAN: Human Rights Trainings for Law Enforcement and Judiciary Bodies

United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Uzbekistan has organized a series of trainings on the "Implementation of the Convention against Torture in the work of judiciary and law-enforcement bodies". The trainings were organized in cooperation with the Department for Human Rights Protection of the Ministry of Interior, the Research Center under the Supreme Court and the Legal Training Center under the Ministry of Justice. The Republic of Uzbekistan joined the Convention against Torture on 31 August 1995. In 2005 it presented the first National Action Plan on its implementation. The 2009 National Action plan on follow-up to the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council after consideration of the Universal Periodic Review of Uzbekistan also contains measures to combat torture. This Action plan foresees training of the police officers on the principles of the Convention against Torture and training of judges on addressing complaints about torture during trials. The trainings raised awareness on the provisions of international and national laws against torture and any forms of cruel and degrading treatment, as well as capacity building in addressing complaints about torture. The participants of the trainings included representatives of law enforcement officers from Tashkent, Tashkent region, Samarkand, Navoi and Jizzakh. The trainings were facilitated by international trainers - Slawomir Cybulski and Bogna Chmielewska, who have experience in organizing similar trainings for law-enforcement institutions in Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries. The trainings were organized by the UNDP "Development capacities of the national human rights institutions" project. The main objective of the project is to strengthen national capacities for promotion and protection of human rights and access to justice in Uzbekistan. The project will achieve its outputs through strengthening capacities of national human rights institutions to effectively fulfill their mandates.

From http://news.uzreport.com/ 07/23/2010

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AUSTRALIA: No Price on Carbon Until 2013 - Says PM

Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she will not revive the government's emissions trading scheme until at least 2013. Ms Gillard has indicated she will revise Labor's climate change policy before the election, and ruled out a carbon tax as an interim measure. She says the government will stick with its intention of reviewing global progress at the end of 2012 before deciding whether to proceed with the trading scheme. "The pricing of carbon I think is best done through a market-based mechanism, that is the carbon pollution reduction scheme, and the 2012 timeframe stands there," she said. "I believe that there are a set of things we can do in the meantime." Labor's previous plans for an emissions trading scheme were shelved under former prime minister Kevin Rudd.

'Carbon copy'
Ms Gillard says the government's policy will aim to reduce household carbon emissions. Australia's opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt says it appears the Prime Minister is preparing to adopt the Coalition's approach. He described her policy as "a carbon copy of the Coalition's direct action policy". "After all of the talk, she's come to the same conclusion as she did on immigration, that the Coalition's approach is sensible and balanced," he said. "We have a direct action plan." Greens Leader Bob Brown says he is disappointed there will not be a price on carbon. "Business needs the certainty of a carbon price," he said. "The community needs the certainty of action on climate change, real action, not the failed action of the Rudd Government's CPRS. "But they're not going to get it from Julia Gillard."

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 07/08/2010

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Australia's Leadership Debate Outlines Policies

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott have both laid out their cases for why voters should elect them to run the country. Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott have taken part in the only televised leaders debate of the election campaign before voters go to the polls on the 21st of August. Julia Gillard has focused on the Labor Party's economic credentials, saying a strong economy helps to deliver services that families need. "For the future we have the better economic plan. It's a plan to bring the budget back to surplus in 2013, three years earlier than scheduled and before any other major advanced economy in the world. An economic plan where we've given the mining industry certainty and will cut company tax," Ms Gillard says. And Australia's Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has outlined the priorities of the Coalition.

"If you elect the Coalition, you'll end the waste, you'll repay the debate, you'll stop the taxes and you'll stop the boats. That is my pledge, that is my action contract with the Australian people," Mr Abbott says.

From http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/ 07/25/2010

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FIJI: IMF Positive on Its Economic Reforms

The Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, speaking from Daejeon City in Korea said today that he had a fruitful meeting with Mr Anoop Singh, IMF Director Asia and Pacific Department. They discussed progress made by Fiji since the last IMF Mission in April this year and updated Mr Singh on the 2010 revised budget; the recent decisions made by the cabinet to progress the continued economic development in Fiji and discussed in detail various Monetary and Fiscal policy matters. Response by Mr Singh was positive and he was very supportive of the Fiji Government's continued efforts to improve on the economic front. He was impressed with the initiative and commitment shown in implementing the necessary reforms to drive these improvements in the long run. Mr Singh later commended Fiji's commitments, like other developed nations, in taking drastic measures to assist and sustain the Nation's economic growth following the recent global financial crisis.

The Prime Minister said that he was looking forward to the IMF visiting Fiji in August to continue consultations. The Prime Minister is attending a high level conference in Daejeon Korea, jointly organized by the Republic of Korea and the International Monetary Fund. He is accompanied by the Attorney General Mr Aiyaz Khayum, The Governor Reserve Bank Mr Sada Reddy, Permanent Secretary for Finance Mr John Prasad, Permanent Secretary for National Planning and Fiji Ambassador to Japan Mr. Isikeli Mataitoga.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 07/01/2010

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Government to Improve Road

Government is committed to fast-tracking the rehabilitation and the upgrading of roads across the country by "re-engineering the existing road maintenance implementation processes and procedures. The Wailada industrial town area is the first road upgrading project to be undertaken by the Central Coordinating Agency for Roads (CCAR) outsourcing initiative. The CCAR programme focuses on enhancing partnership with all stakeholders as a catalyst for outsourcing through the engagement of private contractors and to ensure the maximum returns on road projects. In launching the project, the Minister for Urban Development, Housing and Environment, Colonel Samuela Saumatua said CCAR was initiated in July 2009 by the Prime Minister to improve the rehabilitation, maintenance and construction of roads in Fiji.

Colonel Saumatua said the work carried out by CCAR is separate from the infrastructure programme undertaken by the Department of National Roads (DNR) which looks after road which are more than 5,000 kilometers. The current plan is to have majority of road maintenance and rehabilitation works under the CCAR and for the DNR to concentrate on new road constructions and to improve the functions of LTA, inter-island transportation, the public transportation and the bus industry review. For the past few months the CCAR team have compiled data and put together a Forward Works Plan, which captures road details in each municipal and sets rehabilitation and upgrading works plan for each municipal for the next 3 years to the end of 2012. More work is also being considered outside municipal boundaries. He said that the Wailada Road Project is a pilot project undertaken together with the Suva and Lami Town Councils and the Ministry of Local Government, Urban Development, Housing and Environment.

The total cost of the Wailada upgrading project is $1.5 million and has been outsourced to the Highway Stabilizers International to complete within 8 weeks. The Suva City Council Road Engineer while overall supervision work will handle direct project supervision and other technical support is covered by MWH (New Zealand).

From http://www.fiji.gov.fj/ 07/15/2010

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NEW ZEALAND: Improve Ability to Combat Identity Fraud

New Zealand's ability to combat identity fraud will be improved following the signing of an agreement between New Zealand's and Australian's immigration agencies overnight, Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman says. "It is important we are able to establish the true identity of people seeking entry to New Zealand so can we protect our borders and people," Dr Coleman says. The two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding for checking fingerprint information at a meeting in London of the Five Country Conference (FCC), a grouping of immigration agencies from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, the United States of America and New Zealand.

The initiative will give Australia and New Zealand: greater confidence that non-genuine immigration cases will be refused through the improved detection of fraudulent identity and immigration claims; improved border security by ensuring people with known criminal histories are identified early in the immigration process; early identification of ineligible immigration applicants to reduce fraud cost. "This arrangement will help both countries' immigration agencies establish the true identities of people and help to ensure genuine cases will be successful, while fraudulent cases will be dealt with appropriately through the improved ability to detect identity crime. Our new cooperation with Australia will create safer Trans-Tasman borders and will also facilitate faster processing for genuine travellers."

The new data-sharing arrangements have been developed consistent with privacy laws in all participating countries. "The protection of personal information is important to all the countries involved in these arrangements. All arrangements conform with Australia and New Zealand's respective Privacy Acts," Dr Coleman says. The FCC conference started in London on June 30 and ends today (July1).

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/01/2010

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Government Committed to Ongoing Discipline

The Government remains committed to sound management of its finances and ongoing fiscal discipline, Finance Minister Bill English says. He was commenting on news today that lower than forecast spending and slightly higher revenue resulted in a better-than-expected $4.74 billion operating deficit before gains and losses in the 11 months to May 31. Treasury expects revenue to come in close to forecasts for the full financial year ending June 30 and at least part of the lower spending track to be reversed in June. "The Government has made good progress in keeping spending under control and delivering a faster-growing economy that will help grow our revenue.

"However, in many ways, restraint in the public sector is only just starting. We still have a significant medium-term challenge to get back to surplus as soon as possible. Budget forecasts show that will not happen until 2015/16 - but I would like us to be back into surplus sooner," Mr English says. "In our first two Budgets, the Government took early steps to bring deficits and government debt under control. We will build on that over the next few years by living within our $1.1 billion annual allowance for extra operating spending and weeding out lower priority spending." The operating deficit before gains and losses was almost $1.1 billion better than forecast in the 11 months to May 31 - mainly reflecting core Crown revenue coming in $200 million above forecast and expenses $560 million below forecast. In addition, ACC insurance expenses were $130 million lower than expected.

Once gains and losses are taken into account, the operating deficit at $2.16 billion was close to forecast. Net investment gains were $1.1 billion lower than expected on weaker world equity markets.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/12/2010

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Early Signs That the Economy Is Rebalancing

It is encouraging to see signs that some of the imbalances handicapping New Zealand's economy for the past five or six years are easing, Finance Minister Bill English says. However, risks remain and the Government is focused on continuing to roll out its broad-based economic programme to generate faster growth and support more sustainable and higher-paying jobs. "It's clear that the tradeables side of the economy - exporting and import-competing industries - went into recession in about 2004. Remarkably, there have been no net new jobs in agriculture and manufacturing since 2002. "By contrast, since 2004, the non-tradeables sector - government and domestic industries - has grown by about 12 per cent. That's simply not sustainable."

The Budget's tax reform package, which left the vast majority of New Zealanders better off, was the next step in the Government's programme for boosting economic growth and helping New Zealand families get ahead. The programme includes a multi-billion investment in productive infrastructure such as roads and ultra-fast broadband, action to get the Government's finances in order and improve public services, measures to improve skills and education and a drive to cut red tape and regulation. Mr English identified a number of indicators which suggest New Zealand's economic imbalances are at least stabilising. "First and foremost, the economy is now growing, as opposed to shrinking as it did in Labour's last term. The Budget also forecast 170,000 new jobs over the next four years and average household incomes to rise by about $7000 in that time.

"Second, the tradeables sector grew 3.4 per cent in the nine months to March 2010, compared with just 1.2 per cent growth in the non-tradeables sector. This is the largest positive gap between the two sectors over a nine-month period since December 2002. "Finally, New Zealanders are being more careful with their spending. Per capita private sector consumption increased by only 1 per cent in the past year, after consistently increasing by more than 4 per cent, year on year, between 2002 and 2007. "Reserve Bank figures show household debt is also easing for the first time in more than a decade. After increasing rapidly from 100 per cent of disposable income in early 2000 to a peak of 159 per cent in mid-2008, household debt has eased to 155 per cent of disposable income."

Mr English emphasised that these were only early signs of the economy rebalancing and more work was needed to build this momentum, particularly with New Zealand - households, business and the Government - owing almost $170 billion in debt to the rest of the world. "This reinforces the Government's commitment to continue with its broad-based programme to ensure growth and jobs come from the right parts of the economy."

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/22/2010

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Public Comment Sought on Clarifying Tax System

Revenue Minister Peter Dunne today commended the work of the taxation Rewrite Advisory Panel in clarifying aspects of the tax system and called for public submissions on key remedial items for the Panel's consideration. Mr Dunne said that the Rewrite Advisory Panel, which is independent of Government and Inland Revenue, was originally established to review submissions on any unintended changes in the law in rewritten tax legislation and, where necessary, to recommend appropriate legislative action. "However I have now expanded the role of the Panel to look at addressing matters that may require remedial amendments to any of the Inland Revenue Acts," he said. Mr Dunne said that an efficient tax system plays an important part in building the economy and boosting productivity.

We are investing considerable resources in reforms to build a world-class tax system, and the Panel's work will be invaluable in providing quick responses to particular remedial questions that do not involve policy change and are not being dealt with by the tax policy work programme. "Initially, I would like submissions on the areas relating to the capital of companies being reorganised and beneficiary income of trusts, such as the treatment of notional income," he said. Submissions are invited on: Available Subscribed Capital on corporate reorganisation; and beneficiary income of trusts. Mr Dunne said that submissions to the Panel on remedial items in these areas will help improve the tax system by making necessary running repairs and maintenance.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/23/2010

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Solutions Proposed to GST Rate Change Concerns

Revenue Minister Peter Dunne intends to seek Cabinet approval for legislative amendments around health insurance, general insurance contracts and finance leases before GST increases to 15 percent on 1 October. Mr Dunne said the proposed changes had come from the work of the recently appointed GST Advisory Panel, which was now working with Inland Revenue on "solutions" to issues raised by the GST rate increase. "A number of issues had been identified which will arise for businesses as a result of the rate change and these will be addressed by transitional amendments to legislation," he said. "Following discussion with the Minister of Finance, I will be recommending changes to grandparent at the 12.5% rate health insurance contracts, general insurance contracts and finance leases that straddle 1 October, subject to certain criteria," he said.

A further issue surrounding business practices using electronic systems that did not exist in 1989 when the rate last changed had also been identified by the GST Advisory Panel, Mr Dunne said. "I will be recommending minor legislation changes to accommodate that too," he said. Other changes will ensure that certain contracts which have either been fully invoiced and performed or, in some situations, fully paid but not fully performed remain at the 12.5% rate. A final legislative measure relates to lay-by sales for which the 12.5% rate will apply to payments made before 1 October. "Legislative change will address compliance costs for affected businesses and where required, provide much needed certainty," he said. Inland Revenue officials will work with the GST Advisory Panel on the detail of these changes. "I am confident we will have done everything we can to ensure that the transition to the new rate is seamless," he said.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/23/2010

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Asia's Growing Pains

The single biggest policy issue facing Asia is how to sustain rapid economic growth that reduces poverty and is socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable. The challenges are all the greater given rapid population growth in much of the region, the necessity to rebalance growth in the light of the global financial crisis, and the multiple needs of responding to climate change. Inclusive growth, with its focus on creating economic opportunity and ensuring equal access, will play a pivotal role in addressing these challenges. More and more countries in developing Asia are adopting inclusive growth as the goal of policy. India's budget this year clearly identifies fostering high rates of growth and broadening inclusiveness as key objectives. Similarly, in March, China's budget emphasised improving the lot of the rural population as part of the effort to build a 'harmonious society' - a concept closely related to inclusive growth. The recognition of the importance of inclusive growth has been triggered by rising concerns that the benefits of economic growth have not been equitably shared. Although growth has led to a significant reduction in poverty, the region remains home to two-thirds of the world's poor. And in a large number of countries, many human development indicators continue to lag behind. Malnutrition among children under five years of age, for example, is worse in South Asia than in sub-Saharan Africa. Half of Asia lives without basic sanitation and 900 million people without access to electricity. Equally disturbing, a recent Asian Development Bank study shows that a large number of developing Asian countries have seen their Gini coefficient - a measure of income inequality - increase in recent decades. The rich are getting richer much faster than the poor. There is also unequal access to basic social services such as education and health, exacerbated by income inequality. In Indonesia, children from the poorest households are five times more likely to be out of school than those from the richest. In India, a child from a poor household is three times less likely to live past the age of five than a child from a rich household.

How should Asia's policy makers react to the increases in inequality? There is no simple answer. On the one hand, there is good reason to be concerned about the growing inequality. Increasing inequalities could imply a slower pace of poverty reduction. For a given growth rate, a growth process in which inequalities are increasing sharply will lower poverty reduction. There are also compelling reasons why high levels of inequality dampen growth prospects. High inequality could foment social unrest and weaken institutions, which in turn can slow growth. On the other hand, economic development is likely to entail processes that increase inequality. Development, observed Nobel economics laureate W. Arthur Lewis in the 1950s, 'does not start in every part of the economy at the same time'. Just look at China: Most of its spectacular growth occurred in its export-driven provinces along the east coast. Some have also argued that designing and implementing policies to combat inequality is extremely difficult and could even reduce economic growth.

Both arguments have merits. But they also point to the need for a nuanced analysis of inequality and clearly defined inclusive growth strategies. Critically, policy interventions aimed at tackling inequality need to distinguish between two types of inequality. One is driven by unequal access to opportunities and circumstances beyond the control of the individual. The other reflects the rewards and incentives that a market economy provides for citizens who work harder, look for opportunities and take risks in seizing them. It is the unequal access to opportunities that must be a non-negotiable target of reform. The provision of basic health care and education to empower the poor is fundamental. It is also essential to improve access to markets and basic productive assets by putting in place good policies, establishing sound institutions and levelling the playing field. Also, the developing of social safety nets to prevent extreme poverty should be an important part of policies for inclusive growth. At the same time, it is critical that more jobs be provided for the poor. In attacking poverty, the key is in generating productive, well-paying and decent job opportunities for the workforce. Economic crises, climate change and population growth mean that public resources will be squeezed to meet competing needs. Done right, an inclusive growth strategy that expands equal access to economic opportunity - not excessive income redistribution - will not empty the public purse or crimp growth. Asia has embraced the inclusive growth agenda. Now it needs to make it work.

From http://www.mysinchew.com/ 07/02/2010

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Massive Rise in Asia Pacific Social Media Posts

If you think big brother is watching your every move, he probably is, according to a leading online researcher, with Australia leading the world in social media engagement. About 1.3 billion, or 74 per cent, of the world's internet surfers visit social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, sites that often publicly reveal people's locations, activities and opinions. The Nielsen Company's inaugural Asia Pacific (APAC) social media report analysed how often internet users - from Australia, Korea, Japan, India and China - visit social media sites. The 74 per cent of the world's population that use social networking or blog sites spend an average of six hours a month doing so. The report also found that social networking sites YouTube, Wikipedia and Facebook are three of the top seven online brands that people visit. In APAC, the workplace is the most popular place to access social media, at 32 per cent, narrowly beating out the bedroom, on 31 per cent. In Australia alone, just under 10 million individual visitors access Facebook. "Its user growth is nothing short of staggering," the chief executive of Nielsen Online Japan, Charles Buchwalter, told a forum broadcast live via the internet. "Australia has grown the most over the last 12 months. "Australia leads the world in social media engagement, with the highest global average for time spent per month engaging with social media averaging over seven hours per month." And although Facebook is leading the pack in popularity, experts predict Twitter will soon outrank it. In Korea, Twitter grew by a staggering 1900 per cent in the year to May 2009. LinkedIn is a site slated to see a dramatic rise in Australia during the next year after an increase of 99 per cent of targeted audience between July 2009 and May 2010. While Virgin Mobile is tipped to top social media innovators during the same time. In India, Bollywood sites rate the highest, closely followed by celebrity sites, while one in three internet users "tweet". The report also found that most internet users in the Asia Pacific who share online content reviews rate them positively, except in China where 61 per cent of reviews are negative, compared to the average of 41 per cent. Mark Higginson, director of digital insights for Australia, predicts a future trend of enabled mobility - or an even greater version of big brother - "with the internet knowing who and where you are and providing content and social connections wherever you are". "Facebook is like a de facto currency."

From http://www.cio.com.au/ 07/02/2010

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Asia in the Grip of Water Crisis - Asian Development Bank

Asia is in the grip of a water crisis that could set back the region's robust economic growth if left unresolved, according to a top Asian Development Bank official. Arjun Thapan, special adviser to ADB president Harukiko Kuroda on water and infrastructure issues, said governments must start managing the resource better to prevent the problem from worsening. "We certainly believe that Asia is in the grip of a water crisis and one that is becoming more serious over time," Mr Thapan said on the sidelines of a water and urban planning conference in Singapore. "We believe that the estimate recently made about Asia having a 40 per cent gap between demand and supply by 2030 is a reasonable estimate." With 80 per cent of Asia's water used to irrigate agricultural lands, the shortage could have serious implications for food supplies, he warned. Between 10 and 15 per cent of Asia's water is consumed by industry. Mr Thapan said that the efficiency of water usage in agriculture and industry has improved by only one percent a year since 1990. "Unless you radically improve the rate of efficiency of water use both in agriculture and in industry, you are not going to close the gap between demand and supply in 2030." In China, thermal power generation is the biggest industrial water user, he said, noting that biofuels are also "notoriously water intensive." Mr Thapan said that if left unresolved, the water crisis "has the potential of slowing down" Asian growth. To manage water usage well, people should be charged for the volume that they consume, regardless of whether water is managed by a private company or a public entity, said Mr Thapan. "Water cannot any longer be seen as a free and never-ending natural resource. It is a finite resource," he said. While Asia's rapidly burgeoning cities are key economic drivers, many are also inefficient water users, and this should prompt government policy makers to implement reforms quickly. Singapore's National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said that about 200,000 more people every day move into cities and towns from rural areas. Every three days, the equivalent of a new city the size of Seattle or Amsterdam emerges, said Mr Mah, adding that by 2050, 70 per cent of the global population will be living in cities, up from 50 per cent currently. Another problem is the volume of used water in Asia that remains largely untreated, leading to massive pollution of water sources like rivers. Of the 412 rivers in the Philippines, 50 are biologically dead, he said. Between $2 billion and $2.5 billion is needed to clean up Manila Bay and Pasig River in Manila alone. In China, India, and the Philippines, among other Asian countries, the total availability of water per person per year has fallen below 1,700 cubic metres - the global threshold for water stress, a situation where water demand exceeds the available amount during a certain period. About 50 per cent of China's Yellow River is so polluted that it cannot support agriculture, and over 50 per cent of the surface water in the country's Hai river basin is not fit for any use, Mr Thapan said. "There is time, but again much will depend on how quickly you craft your water transformation agendas and how quickly you are able to implement them," Mr Thapan said.

From http://www.timesofmalta.com/ 07/03/2010

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Pacific Highway Upgrade a Priority

THE upgrade of the Pacific Highway between Ballina and Sydney has been identified as a priority infrastructure project in a new report. The Infrastructure Australia Council presented the report to Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese yesterday. Sir Rod Eddington, chairman of Infrastructure Australia, said the report was about 'getting the fundamentals right'. "In light of the continued - and unprecedented - global demand for infrastructure, these recommendations are essential if Australia's infrastructure competitiveness is to be maintained," he said. The report defines the upgrade of the Pacific Highway as a national freight network issue. It is also classified as a project that is 'ready to proceed'.

However, there is still the issue of funding - the project needs about $6.67 billion. "The Pacific Highway is a major freight route and interstate link between Sydney and Brisbane and supports major growing population, industrial and export centres and gateways," the report states. "This highway continues to experience delays and congestion, as well as increasing demand for improved access for commercial and social activity."

But the Infrastructure Australia Council report is not binding, and the Government does not have to agree with its recommendations. A spokeswoman for Page MP Janelle Saffin said the report confirmed that the upgrade of the highway was a priority. "We know it's important, that's why we've already invested a lot of money in it," she said. The Pacific Highway upgrade is being jointly funded by the State and Federal governments. The Federal Government has contributed $3.1 billion, with the State contributing $500 million. o far just 305km of the 664km between Hexham and the border is finished. But further funding options have not been identified. The Federal Government did not provide any funding in its 2010/11 Budget.

From http://www.northernstar.com.au/ 07/03/2010

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Global Mobile Subscriber Base Passes the 5 Billion Mark

The number of mobile connections worldwide reached five billion in the first week of July, according to research from The Mobile World. Q1 2010 saw net additions of 168m, taking the total to 4.82 billion, and the Q2 gain is likely to have surpassed this figure, with China and India adding 50m in April and May alone. These two markets are the world's largest, and they accounted for almost 28% of the global total at the end of Q1, but their contribution to the net quarterly gain in connections was double this at 56%. In absolute terms, the two markets added 94m in the three months ending 31st March 2010. By contrast, the G7 nations accounted for just 4.6% of the Q1 gain. If we exclude the US, this figure falls to a mere 1.7%. The BRIC grouping (Brazil, Russia, India and China) made up 59.2% of the total net additions, and the so-called 'Next Eleven', which includes Indonesia, Vietnam, Mexico and Iran, contributed 20.1%. With the world population at around 6.8bn, the global mobile penetration rate stood at just under 71% at the end of Q1. The Q2 figure is likely to be around 73%, while the 100% level will be reached before the end of 2014.

From http://www.themobileworld.com/ 07/04/2010

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UN: Food Security Challenges Asia-Pacific

More could be done to address growing food insecurity in the Asia-Pacific region but trends are reversing, U.N. officials told delegates in the Philippines. Jacques Diouf, director general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, told delegates at an investment forum in Manila that the number of malnourished people in the region increased by 60 million in 2009 to 642 million. "The sheer magnitude of food insecurity is the result of the low priority that has been given to agriculture in economic development policies," he warned. The agricultural sector, however, accounts for 11 percent of the gross domestic product in developing countries in the region and more than 50 percent of the employment, the United Nations reports. "In view of the critical dependence of this region's people on agriculture for their food security, it is encouraging to note that the long-standing neglect of agriculture is finally being reversed," he added. He further welcomed pledges from Group of Eight leaders during their Canadian summit in June to increase resources available for food security and agriculture in the region.

From http://www.upi.com/ 07/08/2010

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Advertising Surges in Asia-Pacific Region

Advertising in the Asia-Pacific region surged by almost 20 percent in the first quarter of 2010, marking the second consecutive quarter of growth, research firm Nielsen says. Driven by strong economic performances and rapidly improving consumer confidence, media advertising activity across 12 Asia-Pacific markets grew by 18 percent in the first quarter. Nielsen described this as the "clearest sign yet" economic prospects were improving rapidly across the region. Six of the 10 most confident consumer markets globally are in the Asia-Pacific area. Richard Basil-Jones, Nielsen Media Asia Pacific's managing director, said the advertising outlook for the rest of 2010 appeared "extremely positive."

"The latest Nielsen findings are the sign that marketers, manufacturers and retailers have been eagerly waiting for, as consumers spending intentions are turning into actual spending reality," he said. "Consumers are out there spending and intending to loosen up their purse strings, so the onus is now on marketers to ensure their products and services return to top of mind." In the first quarter of 2010, global consumer confidence rebounded to its highest level since the third quarter of 2007, Basil-Jones said. In the Asia-Pacific region, consumers are already upbeat on how they will spend their spare cash, with 41% planning a holiday, 35% planning to buy new clothes and 30% wanting to splash out on new technology. Advertising spending across the region rose to over $30 billion, an overall increase of 18%, led by India, Indonesia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan. In a quarter of bullish revenue growth, China dominated with a 69% share of all main media advertising spending, Nielsen found.

From http://www.mb.com.ph/ 07/10/2010

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India, China Account for 47pc of 5 Bn Global Mobile Connections

A survey into the mobile phone connections worldwide has revealed that there are now over 5 billion, with the Asia-Pacific region including India and China being the main users. Ben Wood, mobile phone analyst at CCS Insight said the mobile phone may be "the most prolific consumer device on the planet". "If you just take the UK in 1987, when the first mobile companies launched, an industry insider predicted a maximum of 10,000 phones," the BBC quoted him as saying. "Now almost every adult, child and domestic pet seems to have one, given that 30 million phones are sold every year in the UK," he said. The firm said that the Asia-Pacific region including India and China accounted for 47 percent of global mobile connections at the end of June 2010.According to Wireless Intelligence, the latest figures show mobile phone penetration has reached 130 percent in western Europe, in Africa 52 percent, and in eastern Europe 123 percent. The four billion connections mark was surpassed at the end of 2008, and analysts at Wireless Intelligence predict six billion connections worldwide by the middle of 2012.

From http://www.calcuttanews.net/ 07/10/2010

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Asia Gains in Digital Economy Rankings

The Economist Intelligence Unit has released its Digital Economy Rankings for 2010, which find that, despite Europe maintaining top position in terms of Internet infrastructure and adoption, recent investment has dramatically improved the Asia-Pacific region's e-readiness. "The top performers in the 2010 digital economy rankings - led this year by Sweden (1st), which dislodged the perennial e-readiness leader, Denmark (2nd) - demonstrate a high degree of connectivity and score well on all fronts, from the quality of their business and legal environments to social and cultural drivers of digital progress, the existence of sound public policy on ICT, and the levels at which consumers and businesses actually use digital services," the report states. "Many in Europe and North America suffered a decline in their positions in the table, as we found the availability of ultra-high speed networks to be in considerable need of development. By contrast, those economies that have invested heavily in the next generation of Internet infrastructure saw their scores - and rankings - rise, notably Asian countries such as Taiwan (12th), South Korea (13th) and Japan (16th)," the report said.

In the rankings for 2010, the United States rose two positions to finish 3rd, while Hong Kong, now in 7th place, overtook Singapore. As noted previously, Taiwan rose 4 places to 12th in the index, ahead of the United Kingdom which fell one place to 14th. Other territories of note that were placed in the top 25 include: Ireland, up one place to 17th; Switzerland which fell 7 places to 19th; Bermuda which fell one place to 22nd; and Malta which maintained 23rd position. The United Arab Emirates was placed 32nd. Sitting towards the bottom of the table, the Economist's report found that emerging markets China and India still remain considerably behind their international counterparts in terms of e-readiness, placing 56th and 58th, respectively.

From http://www.tax-news.com/ 07/13/2010

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A Dangerous Dynamic in Emerging Asia Markets

Hong Kong, Singapore and other nations need to prevent volatility from undermining their economic growth. In 2009 and the first half of 2010 low interest rates and an uncertain global outlook led to strong, volatile capital inflows into some of Asia's most promising economies. Policymakers in these places - which include Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Indonesia and India - have searched for the best ways to control the on/off switch, to prevent volatility from undermining their economic growth. In 2011 capital flows could turn even more volatile if investors begin reversing carry trades in anticipation of rate hikes in the U.S., the Eurozone and Japan. With growth risks derailing emerging Asia's monetary tightening schedule, more and more policy makers will battle credit and asset bubbles and inflows that create external vulnerabilities, like short-term private and sovereign debt inflows, to reduce the threat from capital outflows to liquidity, currencies, asset markets and capital expenditure (capex) financing. However, the region's capex financing needs, weakened current account balances and elevated sovereign and corporate debt issuances will tie policymakers' hands and prevent them from imposing punitive capital controls or taxes.

The root cause of volatile capital flows is debatable: Low interest rates abroad and expectations of domestic currency appreciation attract carry trade and external borrowings, but domestic conditions may be exacerbating emerging-market Asia's inability to cope with heavy, volatile short-term capital flows. Several regional economies currently are characterized by less liquid currency and capital markets, inadequate asset market diversification for foreign investors, partial capital account convertibility, weak business climates for foreign direct investment, inadequate sterilization and monetary and exchange rate policies that encourage speculation. Since structural reforms to enable flexible exchange rates and deepen financial markets can be implemented only in the medium term, prudential measures are becoming Asia's short-term policy tool of choice to cope with capital inflows. Macroprudential measures could reduce volatility from speculation in the very specific asset markets they target, but their long-term effectiveness in containing total capital inflows, currency appreciation and general volatility might be limited. This is especially true for regulations targeting equity and bond inflows.

Empirical evidence from Asia suggests that measures targeting corporations' and domestic and foreign banks' currency and derivative positions could somewhat reduce short-term capital inflows, external debt and associated vulnerabilities such as maturity and currency mismatches and systemic risks in the banking sector.

From http://www.forbes.com/ 07/14/2010

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East Asia Cuts Poverty, More Work Needed to Meet Health, Environment MDGs - Forum

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Poverty and illiteracy rates have been slashed but governments in East and Southeast Asia need to speed up health and environment improvements to meet the looming 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),Asia Development Bank (ADB), UNDP and UNESCAP said at a forum in Shanghai today. ADB, ADB Institute (ADBI), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and Shanghai Jiaotong University are holding the joint forum to examine the sub-region's progress on MDGs, and to look at actions needed to address problem areas.

"East and Southeast Asia have already achieved 11 of the 21 MDG indicators but governments must step up efforts on maternal health, child mortality, and environmental sustainability, including forest cover, to achieve all MDGs by the target date," said Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, ADB's Vice President for Knowledge Management. Widening gaps in income and development between countries, regions within countries, and urban and rural communities, are also setting back progress on MDGs and need to be addressed, the forum said. "The consequences of these disparities ¨D further aggravated by the uncertain prospect of the global economy and combined effects of the global food, climate, energy and economic crises ¨D are that improvements in the lives of the poorest are happening at an unacceptably slow pace and in some cases, hard fought gains are being eroded," said Nicholas Rosellini, Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, UNDP.

To help meet MDG targets, the forum urged governments to promote domestic demand, prioritize the supply of basic services, and expand social safety nets for vulnerable groups including, women and the unemployed. The need for greater regional cooperation was also highlighted in areas such as trade in food, and expanded monetary and financial ties. Recommendations from the forum will be taken to the UN MDG Summit in New York in September where the tripartite partnership of ADB, UNDP and UNESCAP will launch the 2010 Regional MDG Report, and present's Asia's voice on the goals.2010 markets the 10th anniversary of the UN Millennium Summit where 189 heads of state agreed on the MDGs which include halving extreme poverty, providing universal primary education, improving gender equity, and halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, all by the target date of 2015. "As we all know, the performance of the region in achieving the MDGs has been rather mixed with many countries finding difficult challenges in meeting the targets by 2015. In that context, the region could harness its vast financial resources to close the gaps," said Nagesh Kumar, Director, Macroeconomic Policy and Development Division, UNESCAP. "People's Republic of China is a world leader in achieving MDGs and we believe it has a lot of good experiences to share in this forum," Mr. Kumar added. This latest sub-regional forum by ADB, ADBI, UNESCAP and UNDP follows previous consultations in the Pacific, South Asia and Central Asia.

From http://www.adb.org/ 07/16/2010

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Lack of Standardization Around Mobile Web Conventions Presents Hurdles for Mobile Publishers

Since the inception of the mobile Web, there has been no clear consensus around how the various mobile Web domains: "m.", "wap.", ".mobile" and ".mobi" should be used. In the first census-level analysis of mobile Web domains, Ground Truth today offers hard facts to inform this debate, finding a cacophony rather than a consensus: no single naming convention has emerged to adequately optimize consumer mobile browsing. Today's news reveals another hurdle for mobile Web publishers and developers, who must now create content for multiple Web domain conventions. In the week ending July 4, 2010, Ground Truth measured 5.01 billion page views that included requests to 1,555,630 unique domains. The data shows that 18,934 (1.2 percent) of those measured domains and sub-domains were mobile-centric, such as "m.", "wap." and ".mobi", but 17.3 percent of total page views were served from those domains. The remaining pages were served from domains without a mobile-specific domain, such as "www." sites. Some of these sites, however, are mobile-aware, such as www.google.com, www.facebook.com, etc.

"Here's another situation where the mobile industry has done a disservice to itself by failing to develop standards around mobile Web development," said Evan Neufeld, vice president, marketing for Ground Truth. "The last thing publishers need is another roadblock to developing for mobile, and this data shows that there are at least three of them: 'm.', '.mobi' and 'wap.'." Of the mobile-centric domains, the prefix "m." and the ".mobi" suffix appear about equally, but sites using the "m." prefix serve 21 times more pages than do ".mobi" domains, Ground Truth reports. Following in popularity (by number of sub-domains) are the "mobile." prefix and legacy "wap." prefix. However, there is significant disparity of actual usage (as defined by page views) between them. The analysis shows that "wap." is nearly as commonly deployed by publishers as "mobile." but is used 68 times more by consumers. According to Ground Truth, the least popular mobile-centric prefix by a large margin is "wireless.", showing up in only 37 domains, and serving just 127,110 pages.

"The bottom line is there is no consensus among mobile Web publishers for a mobile-centric naming convention," said Neufeld. "Publishers who want to ensure their mobile-optimized content is discovered would be advised to set up all three most-used sub domains: 'm.', 'mobile.' and 'wap.'. When available, the '.mobi' domain should be deployed as well. This study underscores the importance for publishers to serve optimized content for the device making the request - be it a PC, mobile phone, netbook or tablet; before they lose consumers to the frustration of accessing content that does not properly render on any given device."

From http://www.cellular-news.com/ 07/16/2010

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ADB Upgrades Forecast for Developing Asia as Broad Recovery Continues

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has upgraded its economic forecast for developing Asia after first-quarter data showed broad-based growth driven by buoyant exports, strong private demand, and sustained stimulus policy effects. In a special assessment of the region released today, ADB said it now expects developing Asia to grow by an aggregate 7.9% in 2010, up from the 7.5% predicted in its Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2010 published in April. ADB warns downside risks in the second half of the year including uncertain global environment, unpredictable private domestic demand, and the risks of dramatic capital flows and exchange rate fluctuations. As such, the growth outlook for 2011 is kept unchanged at 7.3%. Developing Asia comprises 45 member countries of ADB and covers Central Asia, East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific. "The stronger-than-anticipated export rebound and much-improved consumer confidence have helped the region's economies recover faster than we expected. We are seeing the newly industrialized and Southeast Asian economies leading the way," said Jong-Wha Lee, ADB's Chief Economist.

ADB forecasts East Asia - comprising the People's Republic of China (PRC); Hong Kong, China; Republic of Korea; and Taipei, China - to expand 8.4%, slightly higher than the 8.3% predicted earlier this year. Higher investment has helped the latter three economies, as production and consumer spending have started picking up and exports are recovering strongly. The economic forecast for PRC is maintained at 9.6%. Recent measures to slow credit growth and cool speculation in the property market will likely lead to slower investment in the coming quarters. Industrial output and the purchasing managers' indexes also suggest a soft landing for the Chinese economy.

Aggregate growth in Southeast Asia is now expected to be 6.7% this year, sharply higher than the previous projection of 5.1%. First-quarter growth in the five bigger economies in this region (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) exceeded expectations on account of strong exports, robust industrial production, and improved consumer confidence. The subgroup is projected to post 6.8% growth this year. In South Asia, recent economic indicators have been broadly within expectations. ADB forecasts aggregate growth of 7.5%, slightly higher than the April projection of 7.4%. India's growth projection is unchanged at 8.2%. Improving global conditions as well as higher oil prices have helped the economies in Central Asia so far in 2010. ADB now sees the region's economy growing an aggregate 4.8%, up slightly from the ADO's forecast of 4.7%. Growth in the Pacific island economies is now forecast at 3.8%, versus 3.7% forecast in April. However, performances vary across economies with weakness in some being balanced by resilience elsewhere. ADB publishes its Asian Development Outlook for developing Asia in March or April and updates those forecasts in the Asian Development Outlook Update in September. It publishes the Asia Economic Monitor, a study of the 14 economies of emerging East Asia in July and December. The Asia Economic Monitor was also released today.

From http://www.adb.org/ 07/20/2010

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Asian Wireless Telecom Firms Undergoing Transition

HONG KONG (MarketWatch) - The Asian telecommunications space is undergoing an evolution as more markets in the region approach maturity after years of growth led by an explosive increase in subscribers. Although the emergence of smart-phones and high-speed third-generation mobile services, as well as mobile Internet and banking applications, offer new opportunities for revenue growth, investors in the sector may need to be prepared for a change in the way the returns are measured. Analysts at HSBC Global Research said that wireless-service providers in the Asia-Pacific region are transitioning from a period of "easy" top-line growth driven by addition of subscribers to a "more complex" model that emphasizes on free cash flow-dividend yields. "We argue that most Asian operators are reluctant to acknowledge this shift from a supply-constrained to a demand-constrained environment. We maintain a cautious view on the two key markets of China and India," HSBC said in a report. "We maintain a cautious view on the two key markets of China and India, which are at the beginning of a long, complex transition to a slower growth model," they said.

The analysts said the new growth model in Asia has become more delinked from earnings growth. The Asia-Pacific region - by far the largest in the world in terms of wireless subscribers and still among the fastest growing - had about 1.91 billion users out of the 4.31 billion subscribers in the world as of June 2009, according to Mobile Infolink data posted on the Web site of industry group GSM World. Figures released this month showed that China alone had more than 785 million subscribers by the end of June 2010. India, the second largest market by subscribers, had close to 650 million subscribers by the end of last month. HSBC analysts said they were cautious on the Chinese telecom companies, as a "slower 3G roll-out forestalls a growth rebound," while India's players faced a fiercely competitive environment, with an "opaque regulatory structure and poor outlook for industry profitability in the near term." The brokerage said that telecom operators in Taiwan, South Korea and Australia offered the best dividend yields, with Australia's Telstra Corp. being a clear standout, while Southeast Asian telecom companies also generally offered higher dividend yields. Telstra currently has a dividend yield of 8.7%, according to FactSet Research data. HSBC listed Korea as its favorite country-stock-sector combination in the telecom space, saying a shift there to a consumer-focused policy and an empowerment of management teams to make structural changes in their business models create the potential for superior returns.

Wireless telecom sector shares were broadly lower in Asia on Thursday, in line with the broad market performance in the region. Shares of Telstra fell 0.3% in Sydney, China Mobile Ltd. slid 0.5% and China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd. rose 1% in Hong Kong. NTT DoCoMo fell 0.2% in Tokyo, while Singapore Telecommunications and Bharti Airtel lost 0.3% each in Seoul and Mumbai, respectively. In the wider markets, Japan's Nikkei Stock Average fell 0.7%, the Hang Seng Index fell 0.2% in Hong Kong, South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.4%, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.6%, Taiwan's Taiex gave up 0.3% and India's Sensex lost 0.3%. (by V. Phani Kumar)

From http://www.marketwatch.com/ 07/22/2010

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Economic Crisis 'Impoverished Millions'

Millions of people around the world have been driven into poverty by the global economic downturn, says World Bank President Robert Zoellick. Speaking to reporters in Mexico on Wednesday, Zoellick estimated the economic crisis has impoverished 60 million people, the Associated Press reported. The World Bank chief also warned that the recovery from the global recession is still fragile. [Press TV] Mr Zoellick said that while the world economy is undergoing recovery, governments still face the spectre of uncertainty and volatility as he estimated that ˇ­in Latin America alone, up to 10 million were pushed into abject poverty. [International Business Times] Zoellick spoke at a news conference where he announced agreements on loans for Mexico totaling $US800 million ($A912.62 million) for development, infrastructure and cleaner transportation programs. "While we see the world economy recovering, it's still uncertain," Zoellick said. "There are still frailties out there." [Sydney Morning Herald/AP]

Zoellick, who earlier this week took part in a Central American summit in El Salvador, also praised economic recovery in Mexico, where growth is predicted to rebound to 4.5 percent this year, after the economy shrunk 6.6 percent in 2009. He repeated his message from Central America about the importance of involving the private sector in efforts to boost growth. "If you reduce the costs of doing business, if you make it easier to start a business, if you make it easier for people to get credit, you can also create the basis for growth," Zoellick said. The World Bank chief was due to meet with university students in Mexico City on Thursday. [Agence France Presse]

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 07/22/2010

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CHINA: Boost Web Retail Sales Through Better Regulation

China's Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said Tuesday it would boost web retail sales in the next five years through better regulation of online sales. To increase the share of web retail sales in China's total retail industry to five percent by 2015 from some two percent at present, measures would be taken to improve regulations and legislation concerning online transactions, said the MOC. In some areas where electronic business already shows signs of maturing, the target was set at 10 percent, according to the statement. The MOC also said that when the time is appropriate, China would require any person selling online to register with industrial and commercial agencies to bring them under government regulation. Further, more efforts would be taken to encourage businesses in the production, sales and services industries to develop more goods and services that fit online transactions, said the statement. In 2009, two percent of China's retail sales were conducted on the Internet, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said in a report released earlier this month. By the end of 2009, China had 384 million Internet users and more than 100 million online shoppers, according to data collected by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).

From Xinhua News Agency 06/30/2010

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Online Shops Must Register

Internet entrepreneurs are now required to register their personal details, including their real names and addresses, with e-commerce agents before they begin to operate their businesses online, according to a regulation that came into effect on Thursday. Many online shop owners are worried that the regulation, issued by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC), the country's market regulator, is a signal that the government is preparing to start collecting taxes from them. As the country's first regulation administering online trade and services, the rule lists the obligations of online shop owners and e-commerce agents. It also stipulates the obligations of commerce authorities over the management of e-shopping. If online business owners fail to abide by the regulation, they face a fine up to 30,000 yuan ($4,410), according to the regulation. Some online trading platforms, including taobao.com and paipai.com, can expect to be targeted by the SAIC as it monitors the implementation of the regulation, since they are the most influential e-commerce agents, with the largest number of transactions, the administration said. The platforms are required to register and review online shop owners' identities along with their business credentials, establish mechanisms to ensure the safety of online transactions and protect the buyers' legal rights.

They also need to monitor sites and bar the sale of counterfeit goods, according to the regulation. Commerce regulators in east China's Zhejiang province put the SAIC's regulation into effect on Thursday, specifying the local online trade inspectors' duties and urging businesses to protect their credibility. Half of the profits produced by the country's online transactions are from the province, according to a report by 21st Century Business Herald. Beijing and Shanghai are also reportedly due to publish their local online trade rules. "The regulation poses no impact on my business," said Zhang Dan, who works for a logistics company in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, while she also moonlights with an online clothes shop. "As an online shop owner as well as an ordinary consumer, I hope the authorities will strengthen their supervision of online business to ensure all those who sell counterfeit goods are purged from the market," she told China Daily. However, some online entrepreneurs have begun to worry that taxation may follow in the wake of the regulation's implementation, which may reduce their net profit and inflict further burdens on their operations. "There is nothing about the regulation that worries me, other than the buzz that taxes may soon be imposed on us," said Lin Nan, the owner of an online garment shop. "The way we make profits online is by always keeping the goods cheaper than the same ones in the department stores.

If the authorities order us to pay taxes, the advantage of doing business online will disappear," Lin said. "A considerable number of college graduates who run online shops will also lose their jobs. The government should take these concerns into consideration," she added. "If any tax is levied on us, we will have to pass the extra expense on to the buyers," said Crystal He, a Shanghai-based cosmetic dealer. "In order to establish a sound and credible online market, the government should certainly push forward the real name registration. The move will have positive effects on the development of China's online market," said Fang Yingzhi, an analyst with the China e-Business Research Center. "The regulation has not mentioned the collection of tax from online shop owners, which suggests the authorities are currently aiming to boost e-commerce in the country. In the long run, however, it is inevitable that the regulators will seek to collect taxes in the booming market," she added. According to a research conducted by the China e-Business Research Center, the number of China's online business websites will rise to 25,000 by the end of this year and the number of online shops is estimated to be more than 3 million.

From China Daily 07/02/2010

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China's Online Forum Users Hit 117 Million

China's online forum users exceeded 117 million in 2009, said a blue paper on the development of the new media in China issued here Wednesday. The paper, issued by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said since the 1990s online forums have become an increasingly important gateway for expression of public opinions. The paper pointed out that in recent years Internet usage in the country's rural areas and western part had increased at a quicker rate than the more developed urban areas and eastern part. Of the 384 million Internet users in the country by the end of 2009, over 100 million were from rural areas, according to the paper. China had invested 4.3 trillion yuan in Internet infrastructure construction, the paper added.

From English.news.cn 07/07/2010

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Network Media Playing Larger Role in Spreading News in China: Blue Book

Network media in China is rising from the "grass-roots" to the mainstream of the country's distribution of news, according to a blue book issued by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' journalism and communication research institute on Wednesday. Thanks to the rapid development and growing popularity of the Internet, network media in China is playing a larger role in expressing public opinions and in the distribution of information about major news events, the blue book reported. The blue book further said Chinese network media successfully played its role when covering the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2007, the country's relief efforts against the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, and the annual sessions of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee and the National People's Congress in 2009. "They showed the network media's maturation after more than ten years' of development," the blue book read. According to Liu Ruisheng, professor with the Huazhong University of Science and Technology and one of the authors of the blue book, by March this year, China had boasted 400 million Internet users. Despite the rapid growth of online communities, websites, blogs and social networking services websites in China, news portals remained an irreplaceable mainstream network media, Liu said.

From English.news.cn 07/07/2010

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China's Online Population Tops 420 Million

China's online population has risen to 420 million by the end of June, boosted by rising cell phone connections, said a report issued by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) Thursday. The number was up 36 million from December last year, the report said. The report said the proportion of Internet users to the total population in China had risen to 31.8 percent by the end of June, compared with 28.9 percent at the end of 2009. Internet users who connect through cell phones had become the major force driving the rise in the country's on-line population, according to the report. By the end of June, Internet users on cell phones hit 277 million and accounted for 65.9 percent of the total Internet users. The number of people connecting by cell phone rose by 43.34 million since the end of 2009, it said. About 49.14 million Chinese went on-line solely through their cell phones, indicating huge potential for the mobile Internet industry, the report said. Internet-based business was also growing rapidly, the report said. About 140 million people, or about 10 percent of China's population, had been shopping online. About 128 million people used online payment systems and 122 million used online banking services, according to the CNNIC report. The main problems that Chinese encountered were the security of their on-line activities and the lack of trust in on-line partners. Almost 60 percent of Internet users experienced hacker attacks and Trojan viruses during the first six months this year, and more than 30 percent had passwords stolen, according to the report. The report also found that 25 million more people were watching on-line video programs in the first half, bringing the total to 265 million, ending a year-long decline in online video audiences in 2009.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/15/2010

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E-commerce Boom Continues in China as One in Ten Chinese Shops Online

For Wen Zhenhua, the biggest success of her career was the bulk sale of condoms on www.meituan.com, a newly-opened and flourishing group-buying website. Some 50,000 international brand condoms sold out within hours of going on sale, and to Wen's delight, many Chinese Internet users discussed the sales as such trade in condoms is rare in China. "As the first among Chinese group-buying websites to sell condoms, we were pleased with the consumer response," said Wen, marketing manager at Meituan. The condoms were sold for a price of one yuan (15 U.S. cents) each, down from the market price of 3 yuan each. Meituan has more than 200,000 registered users only four months since it was established. It is now one of the leading Chinese group-buying websites. Wen said she is not surprised about the rapid increase in registered users - she is "of course very happy about it" - given that Chinese e-commerce is developing at a dazzling speed. Nearly 34 million Chinese people joined the online shopping army in the first six months the year, bringing the total number to 142 million. These figures mean one out of every three Chinese Internet users, or one out of 10 Chinese people, shops online, according to a report by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) released Thursday. "The rise of group-buying websites showcases the regional development of e-commerce," the report says.

Online retail sales increased 117 percent annually between 2007 and 2009, and they are expected to amount to 450 billion yuan this year, according to the research center of Alibaba Group, which runs the global e-commerce site Alibaba.com. "The Internet in China is moving from a platform for information and opinion to being a network with diverse applications and mass participation," said Hu Yanping, general manager at Data Center of China Internet, an independent Internet market monitoring agency. Hu says Chinese Internet users' online consumption will continue to grow rapidly. Nowadays, Chinese people not only buy articles of everyday use like clothes and snacks on the Internet, they also buy cameras and laptops and luxury goods like diamonds. Reports say some automakers plan to sell vehicles online. For many people, online shopping means a change of lifestyle and convenience with a few mouse clicks. Tsinghua University student Liu Dun, 21, bought a ticket to a Beijing golf tournament for just 20 yuan - instead of the usual 1,000 yuan - on group-buying website Aibang.com. Liu says he made "a lot of friends" after the tournament. "I will continue to shop through online team buying because it brings people with similar interests together and it saves money." "We provide personal consumption goods for local white-collars workers rather than real goods," said Meituan founder Wang Xing in a recent magazine interview. Meituan and its counterparts have sold coupons for Karaoke singing classes and laser-gun battle parks. "We want our clients to get out of their home and enjoy something they have not tried before," said Wen Zhenhua. Wang Xing attributed the success of his website to accurate market positioning and the development of the Internet itself. "We could not have survived five years ago because of the lack of a mature online payments system and the limited information dissemination back then," he added.

According to the latest CNNIC report, about 128 million people have used online payment systems and 122 million have used online banking services. But veteran Chinese Internet users still remember an Internet-based life experiment in 1999. The experiment involved 12 volunteers spending 72 hours connected to the Internet and trying to get food and clothing online. One of the volunteers with little knowledge about the Internet was forced to leave after starving for more than 26 hours. None of the volunteers were able to persuade people to accept their electronic currency as payment. They had to pay cash for everything. One of them tried to pay with electronic currency at five or six websites but failed.

From English.news.cn 07/17/2010

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China's Mobile Phone Users Top 800 Mln

China's mobile phone users topped 800 million by the end of June, said Zhang Feng, an official with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), Tuesday. The country reported 1.1 billion telephone users at the end of June, including 300 million users of fixed-line phones, Zhang said. China's third-generation (3G) mobile phone service subscribers numbered 25.2 million at the end of June, Zhang said. The country will invest about 120 billion yuan (17.73 billion U.S. dollars) in 3G this year, Zhang said. The 3G services allow for video calls between 3G subscribers, and television and Internet access.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/21/2010

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Internet Sector Value Up 56%

The market value of China's Internet industry climbed more than 56 percent from a year ago to 38.9 billion yuan (US$5.7 billion) in the first half, industry statistics showed. E-commerce remains the largest sector, contributing 27.6 percent of the total, while online advertising accounted for 21.9 percent as the World Cup and other seasonal events pushed marketing spending, according to a report released by Internet consulting firm iResearch yesterday. "The strong growth showed robust domestic demand although the Chinese economy is mostly boosted by investment and exports," iResearch said in the report. "Low inflation and strong consumer potential will push the Internet economy," iResearch analysts Hu Yuanyuan and Zhang Mobai wrote in the report. The mobile Internet proportion dropped to 10.3 percent from 12.8 percent in the first quarter as the government went after illegal wireless value-added content providers. The popularization of 3G and upgrades to telecommunications services are expected to lead to strong growth in the next few years. China Internet Network Information Center said earlier this month that the country's web users reached 420 million by the end of June. Penetration rate rose to 31.8 percent and mobile Internet users increased 18.6 percent from the end of last year to 277 million. China's Internet economy is expected to exceed 44 billion yuan by the end of the third quarter, according to the research firm.

From Shanghai Daily 07/22/2010

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Internet a Resource for Finding Criminals

Prosecutors in Southwest China's Chongqing municipality will look for criminal information on the Internet and in the media on a daily basis as part of their anti-corruption efforts, according to a new rule issued on Wednesday. The rule on handling reports online, which elaborates how to collect, deal with and provide feedback to complaints, is the first of its kind in the country. It stipulates that procuratorates in Chongqing should set up a special team, or designate certain officers, to look for corruption-related clues from online sources. China's procuratorate has a special division responsible for crimes involving dereliction of official duty, such as bribery and corruption. These cases are not handled by the police. "Before, most procuratorates, including us, collected complaints mainly through hotlines and our own reporting websites. Now, the Internet has become a new source," Lei Wanya, deputy procurator-general of Chongqing People's Procuratorate, said on Wednesday. With more people unleashing their anger and expressing their opinions online, the Internet has become a major platform and channel for people's voices and needs, Lei said. "The country is facing rising social conflict and people's awareness as citizens is also improving," he said.

According to a recent survey, 99 percent of netizens would endeavor to expose incidents of social injustice online, he said. "It is an irreversible trend that politics is entering the Internet age," he said. The rule on handling online reports stipulates that each procuratorate in Chongqing should form a team or designate officers to collect sources online and pass the information to the relevant departments. The departments should then provide feedback to the team of officers within three days. Prosecutors are also encouraged to collect public complaints from media coverage. Lei said the procuratorate authorities in Chongqing began to collect tips from the Internet in May, through registering an online name "Chongqing Jiancha", which means Chongqing prosecutors. By Tuesday, they had collected 34 complaints, including 11 reports containing real names. "Some are very valuable clues that will help us a lot," Lei said. "We also give feedback online on how we follow these clues." One example was in May, when Chongqing Jiancha found a clue on Tianya.cn, one of China's most popular forums, about a bribery case in a county of Chongqing. Following an investigation, several officials were found to have taken bribes, including a deputy city-level official, Lei said.

From China Daily 07/23/2010

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Taiwan, Japan to Develop Broadband Technologies

Three big Japanese corporations may join Taiwan in developing cutting-edge broadband technologies that will allow them to jointly tap China's vast telecommunications market. Fujitsu Ltd, NEC Corp and Mitsubishi Corp have expressed an interest in the offer to develop WiMax technologies together with Taiwanese firms, said Yiin Chi-ming, a Taiwanese state minister. Yiin said he expects to sign a memorandum of understanding with the three Japanese firms to set up a company involved in WiMax system integration when he leads a trade mission to Japan next week. WiMAX - short for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access - expands broadband wireless access over longer distances of up to 50 kilometers and reduces the cost of implementing broadband. Taiwan has sought foreign investment in the wake of a landmark trade deal the island signed last month with China, under which the mainland would slash tariffs on goods produced in Taiwan. The trade pact, known as Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, will also cover a broad range of services, Yiin said. "Foreign firms can benefit from Taiwanese companies' knowledge of the Chinese market and their strengths in product innovation and commercialization," he said. The trade group will also visit other Japanese firms to discuss joint projects in electric car, electronic components and energy-related technologies, he said.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/25/2010

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JAPAN: Central Bank's 'Tankan' Survey Shows Economic Improvement, but Concerns Remain

In the Bank of Japan's quarterly "tankan" survey of business sentiment, the diffusion index for large manufacturers has risen to 1 in June - the first time in two years a positive figure has been registered. The mark was 15 points above the level recorded during the previous survey three months earlier, and it was the fifth consecutive quarter for the index to rise. The last time positive figures were registered was in June 2008, prior to the Lehman Shock that rocked the global economy. The business confidence index among major non-manufacturers, meanwhile, rose 9 points to minus 5 - the fifth consecutive quarter of improvement. The figures indicate that economic recovery that has been led by foreign demand and supported by exports to emerging countries is now spreading with a boost in domestic demand. At the same time, however, concerns are also spreading over credit uncertainties in Europe, an economic slowdown in China and the U.S., and a strong yen, among other issues, and the path toward full-scale economic recovery remains rocky. The diffusion index is calculated by subtracting the proportion of companies who say that the economy is bad from the proportion who say it is good.

It has been predicted that the index in the tankan survey in June would come to minus 4, but exports boosted the figure for manufacturers to a positive level. "The economies of emerging countries were better than expected," a Bank of Japan official commenting on the index said. Mazda President Takashi Yamauchi on July 1 said that sales between April and May were up 20 percent from the same period last year. Due to tax breaks for eco-cars and other factors, domestic sales increased 30 percent. The president, speaking at an event in Tokyo to introduce new vehicles, added that the company also saw sales increases of 20 percent in North America, more than 20 percent in China, and more than 40 percent in Southeast Asia. In emerging countries, demand for flat-screen television sets has also surged, resulting in shortages of parts. As a result, Panasonic, which had planned sales of a 42-inch television set in June, has delayed release until September. Responding to the recovery among manufacturers of vehicles, electronics and production machinery, capital investment - which had been moving slowly - is starting to pick up. In the June tankan survey, major manufacturers indicated that they intended to increase capital spending in plants and equipment in fiscal 2010 by 3.8 percent compared with the previous year - the first time in three years that the figure has been positive. The recovery, boosted by foreign demand and centered on export-related firms, is now also being seen among non-manufacturers.

From http://mdn.mainichi.jp/ 07/02/2010

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Economic Fears Causes Japan Machinery Order Drop

A key indicator of Japanese corporate capital spending fell the most since 2008 in May, data showed Thursday, in a fresh sign that a fragile economic recovery may be losing momentum. Japan's core private-sector machinery orders dropped 9.1 percent in May from the previous month as firms held back on business investment, the steepest decline since August 2008. "Firms are not likely to add to their business investment actively in the near term as there is still the risk that (Japan's) economic growth will be hampered due to a possible slowdown in overseas economies," said Norio Miyagawa, economist at Mizuho Securities Research & Consulting. The fall in the volatile indicator was the first decline in three months and much larger than the median forecast of a 3.0 percent decline in a survey of economists by Dow Jones Newswires and the Nikkei business daily. Orders rose 4.0 percent in April compared with the previous month. Exports have driven a recovery from recession by the world's second largest economy, but companies have eyed economic woes in Europe with concern. The safe-haven yen has soared in recent months due to worries about the global economy, particularly Europe, which if continued will dent companies' repatriated profits and make their goods more expensive overseas.

A Bank of Japan survey last week showed that Japanese business confidence had turned optimistic for the first time since June 2008 as the corporate view of the economy improves. But the latest data indicates that companies are worried about Japan's vulnerability to a global slowdown, say analysts. Japan's domestic picture also remains fragile. Unemployment surprisingly edged higher in May to 5.2 percent, raising concerns about the country's ability to cultivate a self-sustaining recovery. A separate report Thursday showed that Japan's current account surplus in May shrank for the first time in 10 months, hit by slower export growth and a drop in income on overseas investment, the finance ministry said. The surplus in the current account - the broadest measure of trade with the rest of the world - came to 1.21 trillion yen (13.7 billion dollars), down by 8.1 percent from a year ago. The trade surplus edged down 0.6 percent to 391.0 billion yen with exports rising 33.8 percent against a 37.8 percent rise in imports. Despite remaining cautious about the impact of Europe's recent sovereign debt crisis on the global economy, Bank of Japan governor Masaaki Shirakawa said Thursday that Japan's domestic economy still showed signs of moderate recovery.

From http://www.google.com/ 07/08/2010

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Japan, Australia to Boost Cooperation in Communications Technology

Visiting Japanese Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi agreed with Australian officials Monday to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the area of information and communications technology, Japanese officials said. Haraguchi met separately with Chris Chapman, chairman of Australian Communications and Media Authority, and Michael Quigley, chief executive officer of NBN Co, a public corporation established to build and operate a new high-speed broadband network. Haraguchi and Chapman also exchanged views on a shift to the digital format from the analog format in terrestrial broadcasting, the officials said. Japan is set to terminate analog broadcasting and shift completely to the digital format in July 2011 while Australia is seeking a similar shift by the end of 2013.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/20/2010

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Japan's Publishing Companies Stepping Up Efforts to Develop E-book Market

Japan's publishing industry is searching for new business opportunities in the e-book market as major publishers plan to make a full-scale foray into electronic publishing. According to research company Impress R&D, the Japanese e-book market grew 24 percent from the previous year to an estimated 57.4 billion yen in fiscal 2009, with about 80 percent of the total revenue coming from digital comics for mobile phones.

From http://www.booktrade.info/ 07/21/2010

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SOUTH KOREA: Its Economy Remains World's 15th Largest

The Korean economy was the 15th largest in the world in 2009 for a second year in a row. The nation's nominal gross domestic product reached $832.5 billion last year, according to a report released by the World Bank on Wednesday. Korea's economy reached 11th in the worldwide rankings in 2003, but had backslid since then to 12th in 2004, 13th in 2005, 14th in 2006 and 2007, and 15th in 2008. The ranking stood still in 2009 mainly because Korea's real GDP growth rate stayed at 0.2 percent with consumer inflation remaining stable at 2.8 percent. Nominal GDP increases with rises in real GDP, consumer prices, and currency values. Brazil climbed two notches to 8th in 2009 with economic growth of 3.9 percent and a sharp 32.7 percent increase in the value of its currency. Australia rose one place to 13th with a growth rate of 1.3 percent and a 27.3 percent increase in currency value. With fast economic growth of 7.4 percent, India ascended from 12th in 2008 to 11th in 2009. Meanwhile, Russia tumbled from 8th to 12th as its economy shrank 7.9 percent last year. The rankings of the top five remained unchanged from 2008 with the U.S. in first, followed by Japan, China, Germany, and France.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 07/08/2010

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Cyber Attack a Hangover from Last Year

A cyber attack Wednesday on major government websites including Cheong Wa Dae's originated from the same zombie computers used in a massive hacker attack on July 7 last year, the National Police Agency's Anti-Cyber Terrorism Center said Thursday. Police said they traced Wednesday's so-called denial-of-service attacks to some zombie computers that were hijacked in last year's attacks but left untreated. They reactivated on the same day and at the same hour after lying dormant for a year. The hacking program is supposed to attack 25 selected websites, 11 in Korea and 14 in the U.S., on July 7. Last year's attack paralyzed the Internet in Korea for a week. A total of 462 zombie computers were used in Wednesday's attacks, police said - a mere fraction of last year's 270,000 computers.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 07/09/2010

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Mobile Web Usage Climbs during Nighttime

Internet usage through mobile devices rapidly rises between 7 p.m. in the evening and midnight, a study found on Friday. According to Daum Communications, the country's leading Internet software provider, the use of the mobile Web rises during the lunch hours and surges in the evening from 7 p.m. when workers usually leave their office. The portion of internet users going online using their cell phone reached 28.5 percent of the total web traffic between 7 p.m. and 12 a.m. The usage rate of the mobile Web reaches its peak at 9 p.m. Koreans increasingly access the Web via handsets, spurred by the launch of Apple's iPhone and a slew of other smartphones. The country's mobile carriers are also scurrying to increase the number of free Wi-Fi zones and to introduce competitive data plans in an effort to boost wireless Internet usage. The number of Americans accessing the Web over mobile devices is also on rise. Mobile Web usage in the U.S. climbs steadily throughout the day, peaking at 9 p.m., according to a new study by mobile media measurement firm Ground Truth. Mobile Web access, measured in page view consumption, rises from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workdays, with an average of 54 percent of users looking for content during this time. Web usage intensifies after 6 p.m. and reaches a peak three hours later. The 9 p.m. period accounts for 7.2 percent of all daily page views, the report said. The study proves that the mobile Internet is an "always-on" medium and has become well-established as a part of daily life, Ground Truth said. More than half of all mobile Internet users are accessing the Web from the moment they wake up until they go to bed at night, it added.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 07/09/2010

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Seoul Tops Global Cities Ranking for E-Govt

The South Korean capital of Seoul is the world's most advanced municipal e-government, according to a global survey of city web sites. The "Soul of Asia" topped the UN-sponsored table ahead of Prague, Hong Kong, New York and Singapore on the usability, content, services, privacy and inclusiveness of its online operations. Seoul, which was the world's first city to introduce wireless high-speed mobile internet services, was singled out for giving its citizens the opportunity to play an active role in governmental processes, such as the submission of ideas and suggestions on e-policies via well-organised policy forums. Commenting on why Seoul emerged on top, Dr Jung-hee Song, Assistant Mayor for IT and Chief Information Officer, Seoul Metropolitan Government, told FutureGov: "At the core of Seoul's success is the systematic information infrastructure, which includes e-Seoul Net and ISO 27001 ISMS (Information Security Management System). On top of this we have provided convenient and customized services that give citizens plenty of opportunity to get involved in policymaking." Song pointed to Seoul's e-Clean Finance System, e-Clean Fire Fighting System and e-Clean Welfare System as successful measures to bring greater transparency and accountability to public administration in the world's second largest metropolitan area. She added that sound IT governance has paved the way for prompt decision making in the capital. This has been made possible thanks to the integration of a wide range of information systems based on flexible enterprise architecture, she said.

Seoul also topped the bi-annual ranking in 2003, 2005 and 2007. The survey was conducted by the Global e-Policy e-Government Institute at Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU), Korea and the E-Governance Institute, School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers University-Newark in the US. It was co-sponsored by the UN Division for Public Administration and Development Management and the American Society for Public Administration. Looking to the future, Song said that while it was tricky to predict how technology would change the future of public administration in Seoul, "it is likely that every public service will be provided without the need for on-site visits, which will ease transportation issues. Working environments will be transformed into completely paperless offices. More people will work from home. And we will live in a city where 'ubiquitous working' is possible, raising efficiency and productivity and reducing our environmental impact." Initiatives such as u-Seoul, which aims to allow Seoulites to use mobile devices to access public services 'anytime, anywhere', will be a reality "within the decade", predicted Song. "Such developments will make citizens more satisfied, raise Seoul's image on the global stage and elevate its status as one of the world's most liveable and sustainable urban environments." While three Asian cities featured in the top five, Asia ranked third in the ranking of continents, behind Europe and Oceania (Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands), which topped the table. The top 10 e-government cities is as follows: 1 Seoul 2 Prague 3 Hong Kong 4 New York 5 Singapore 6 Shanghai 7 Madrid 8 Vienna 9 Auckland 10 Toronto. (by By Robin Hicks)

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 07/21/2010

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LAOS: 57 Percent of Lao People Use Safe Water

(KPL) Fifty seven per cent of the country's population access safe water, according to an official. Reporting to a workshop on the National Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment Process, held in Vientiane Capital on Wednesday, Mr. Douangchanh Keo-asa, Head of the Hygiene and Prevention Department, Ministry of Public Health, said that the government recognised that safe water and sanitation was vital to people's living condition, which has been put in the government's list of priorities. Mr. Douangchanh said that annually many Lao people died of infection of various diseases and people living in remote areas were at high risk of disease infection, hence the Ministry of Health was focusing on widening an access to clean water for people living in rural and remote areas. People are urged to use water from artesian wells, wells and gravity-fed waters and these basic facilities are being developed and constructed by the government, international organisations and the private sector. People are also encouraged to participate in developing and improving these basic infrastructures and their sanitation activities, said Mr. Douangchanh. Present in the workshop were representatives of the Housing and Urban Planning Department, the National Statistics Department, the Asian Development Bank and relevant officials.

From http://www.kplnet.net/ 06/24/2010

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Public Health Expansion Network Is on Focus

(KPL) The Ministry of Public Health is focusing on expanding public health and treatment service network to remote areas nationwide. It demands an effective management of medical equipment. Seeing this point of view important, the Ministry of Public Health held a meeting on national medical equipment management in Vientiane Capital on 29-30 June. Attending the meeting were Dr. Somthavy Changvisommith, Director of the Food and Drugs Department, Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Dong IL Ahn, country representative of World Health Organisation in Laos, Mr. Peter Heimann, manager of the Lao-Luxembourg Health Sector Support Programme, over 130 medical workers from hospitals and health service countrywide. Speaking in the meeting, Mr. Somthavy highlighted the resolution of the 8th Party Congress on expanding public health and treatment service network to remote areas aiming to improve living conditions of local people and enable them to get access to quality health service. The ministry has tried to expand and improve the health service and health care network, so far, said Mr. Somthavy. To achieve the plan, the ministry has poured a huge budget into the improvement of health infrastructure, particularly facilities and human resource development, and development of medicine and modern medical equipment to be delivered to all dispensaries and hospitals nationwide. More than half of total hospital and dispensaries nationwide are equipped with CT scanner fluoroscopy and blood diagnosis devices.

From http://www.kplnet.net/ 07/01/2010

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THAILAND: Aim to Become the Hub for Regional Operating Headquarters

Foreign companies locating their regional operating headquarters in Thailand will enjoy more tax incentives. The increase in the incentives being offered is among a number of initiatives by the Thai government to attract foreign investment. The Government believes that the new incentives will make Thailand the most competitive country in the region and enable it to remain competitive in the global economy. The Cabinet, during its meeting on June 2, approved a package of measures to promote the establishment of regional operating headquarters based in Thailand. The package will increase the relative attractiveness of Thailand as the hub for regional operating headquarters. According to the package, regional operating headquarters will enjoy, for 15 years, a tax break for income earned outside Thailand and only 10 percent corporate income tax on income earned domestically. The expatriate staff of these regional operating headquarters will also benefit from a reduced personal income tax rate of 15 percent for eight years. These measures became effective on 2 June 2010.

Deputy Finance Minister Pradit Phataraprasit believes that the tax benefits will reinforce Thailand's position as an important manufacturing and services hub in the ASEAN region. The setting up of regional operating headquarters in Thailand by large foreign companies will also provide more job opportunities for Thai people. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva pointed out that these incentives would help restore confidence in Thailand among foreign companies and revive the country's attractiveness. He said that Thailand would transform itself from a low-cost production base into a producer of high-technology, high-quality products. Investment incentives have already been offered for projects meeting this objective, such as research and development activities, high-technology production, and human resource development. Starting from May 2010, foreign experts and technicians working on research and development projects have been allowed to have their visas and work permits extended from two years to four years.

The Prime Minister stated that, on many levels, Thailand remains very competitive. For instance, it receives high marks for expatriate quality of life, low cost of living, overall tax burden, and for infrastructure. The airport rail link will soon be opened and the Skytrain network is continuing to expand. Regarding government services, a survey conducted by Political Economic Risk Consultancy in early June 2010 ranked Thailand third among 12 Asian nations in terms of efficiency. He also emphasized that Thailand has always given its best effort in ensuring the continuity and safety of foreign businesses and investments in the country.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 06/28/2010

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Rice Innovation Adding Value to the Thai Rice Industry

With innovation and creativity, Thai rice can be processed into various products, adding value to the country's rice industry. Minister of Science and Technology Virachai Virameteekul said that rice, the country's most significant crop, is the staple food of not only the Thai people, but also a major portion of the global population. Thailand has been the world's largest rice exporter for many years, so rice products bring in sizable income in terms of export value and they also contribute to Thailand's creative economy. Because of the importance of rice, the National Innovation Agency, under the Ministry of Science and Technology, is joining hands with the Thai Rice Foundation under the Patronage of His Majesty the King in organizing the Rice Innovation Awards 2010.

Thai rice can be made into many products, such as noodles, crackers, flour, health drinks, and cooking oil. Gaba rice, which has many health benefits, is considered an innovation. It is made by soaking the brown rice in water for an extended period of time before cooking it. Taking into consideration the marketing of processed rice products, vast opportunities are still open to traders. The processing of rice into various products is also one way to stabilize the rice industry, since rice prices are at times volatile. Minister Virachai said that creativity would help add value to agricultural products, leading to what is called "Creative Agriculture." This would be possible when knowledge in science and technology is adapted to benefit industrial and commercial sectors. As for the Rice Innovation Awards, contests have been held since 2007 to raise public awareness of the development of Thai rice innovations, in both form and the production process. Entries are now being accepted until the end of July 2010.

According to Dr. Sumet Tantivejkul, Chairman of the Thai Rice Foundation, an entry to the Rice Innovation Awards should add value to any form of rice, such as paddy, brown rice, husk, rice bran, or straw. The innovative production process should be related to Thai rice products. If the entry is in the form of food, it should be packaged and have a suitable shelf life. In addition, the entry must not have been awarded before, at the national level. The winner will receive a cash prize of 50,000 baht and a plaque of honor given by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. The second prize includes a cash prize of 30,000 baht, and the third prize 20,000 baht. There are also two complimentary prizes, each consisting of 5,000 baht. The award presentation will take place on October 5, which marks "National Innovation Day." October 5 is observed as National Innovation Day in honor of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is recognized as the "Father of Thai Innovation." It was proposed by the Ministry of Science and Technology, which has been entrusted with promoting and supporting efforts to enhance Thailand's innovation. The Ministry has also been carrying out activities to broaden knowledge about innovations and create a culture of innovation in the country. The National Innovation Agency expects that the Rice Innovation Awards project will receive at least 60 entries this year.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 06/29/2010

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Public Opinions on National Reform

A great number of people have expressed their opinions on national reform through telephone calls in the call-in program "Six Day, 63 Million Ideas: Joining Hands in Moving Thailand Forward." The program, which will end on July 6, was launched by the Government on July 1, with 300 telephone lines receiving calls at Government House in Bangkok. While a large number of people offered suggestions on how to reform Thailand, many callers made complaints on various issues. According to Advisor to the Prime Minister Apirak Kosayodhin, the economic problem involving non-conventional debts comes first among the complaints. In order to tackle the non-conventional loan issue, the Government has been urged to extend low-interest loans as financial sources that will help low-income earners to make a living. The Ministry of Finance has also opened a hotline to accept these complaints. Other issues people want the Government to address include the provision of better social welfare and the ensuring of social and economic equality.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said that all calls were considered the representations of 63 million Thais. The Government expects public opinions through other channels, as well, such as postcards sent to P.O. Box 9999 at Government House and the Prime Minister's website, He said that the call-in program for "donations of ideas" was an initiative aimed at raising public awareness of participation in the reform process and promoting the sense of belonging to the country. In order to go through the present critical period in modern Thai history, people need to discuss and exchange views to seek the best solution for the country. He believes that if all sectors of society place importance to the efforts to move Thailand forward, a better environment will take place, thus paving the way to national reconciliation.

Meanwhile, Ms. Vimon Kidchob, Director-General of the Department of Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the US House of Representatives on July 1 approved a draft resolution supporting Thailand's reconciliation plan. The resolution on the political situation in Thailand was proposed by Mr. Eni Faleomavaega, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment. The resolution, among others, urges all parties involved in the political crisis to renounce the use of violence and to resolve their differences peacefully through dialogue. It also supports the goals of the five-point roadmap of the Government of Thailand for national reconciliation. During the deliberation of the draft resolution, US House members had voiced their support for the Thai government's effort in addressing the demands of the protesters. They expressed confidence in the effort in implementing the Prime Minister's reconciliation plan, and were of the view that, as Thailand is a close friend, the United States should lend support to reconciliation in Thailand. Commenting on this issue, Prime Minister Abhisit said that the US support for the plan was an affirmation that foreign governments and international organizations understand the situation in Thailand and that the Thai government is on the right track in dealing with political conflicts.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 07/06/2010

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VIETNAM: Many State-owned Groups Become Limited Liability Companies

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has allowed the Vietnam Post and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) and the Army Telecommunication Group (Viettel) and 13 other corporations and groups to restructure as one-member limited liability companies owned by the state. Under the Business Law that goes into effect on July 1, state enterprises that have not yet been equitized (i.e., have not issued shares) must become state-owned "one-member limited liability companies." After three years of equitisation, Viettel has just finalized the process at some subsidiaries. Viettel is the first that experimentally applied the model of a group operating in the areas of telecom, real estate, banking and finance without a management board.
 
VNPT will also change its model into a one-member limited liability company, working in the fields of telecom work construction, finance, banking, advertising, office leasing, postal and telecom services. Its chartered capital is more than 72 trillion dong (nearly $3.79 billion). VNPT and Viettel are the two biggest operators in the telecom markets. VNPT owns the two mobile networks, VinaPhone and MobiFone, while Viettel runs Viettel Telecom. Viettel has also expanded its operations to Cambodia, Laos and Haiti. Other big state-owned economic groups and corporations are Electricity of Vietnam (EVN), Vietnam Cement Corporation (Vicem), Vietnam Railways Corporation, Vietnam Textile-garment Corporation (Vinatex), Vietnam Coal and Mineral Industry Group (Vinacomin) and Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Group (Vinashin). Previously, the Vietnam Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam) and MobiFone were allowed to become one-member limited liability companies.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 07/01/2010

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Vietnam Keen on More Free Trade Agreements

VietNamNet Bridge - The free trade agreements (FTA) that Vietnam and other ASEAN members have signed with their partners have benefited the country immensely, including an impressive rise in export earnings in the first half of the year. The remark was made by Phan Van Chinh, Head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade's Import-Export Department, at the industrial and trade sector's recent meeting in Hanoi .In the reviewed period, Vietnam earned 4.2 billion USD from exports enjoying tariff cuts offered by FTAs with other ASEAN member countries and the group's partners, which accounts for nearly 13 percent of its total export value against 9-10 percent recorded in previous years. After the ASEAN-China FTA took effect early this year, Vietnam 's exports to other ASEAN countries rose by 21 percent year on year to 5.3 billion USD, which includes the value of commodities that are not yet eligible for FTA tariff cuts. As the FTA between ASEAN and the Republic of Korea lifts tariffs on 92 percent of imports from 2010, Vietnam posted a surge of 35 percent in its exports to the country, earning 1.2 billion USD.According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, to date, Vietnam has not signed a FTA with any single country.

However, as a member of ASEAN, Vietnam enjoys a number of FTA's, including the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA), the ASEAN-China FTA, the ASEAN-RoK FTA, the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA, and the ASEAN-India FTA. At present, relevant Vietnamese agencies are negotiating to sign FTAs with several important markets, including the Trans-Pacific Economic Partnership (TPP) Agreement, and an agreement on free trade with Switzerland , Iceland , Liechtenstein and Norway (EFTA). They are also preparing to start negotiations on the country's first bilateral FTA, which will be signed with Chile and an FTA with the European Union. Currently, the National Committee for International Economic Cooperation is completing a national FTA negotiations strategy until 2020 to submit to the Government in July. This year, Vietnam targets to earn about 8.6 billion USD in exports from FTA zone out of the planned total export earnings of 66-67 billion USD.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 07/09/2010

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MPI Releases Socio-economic Targets for 2011

VietNamNet Bridge - Strong national economic recovery in 2010 will serve as the basis for Vietnam to build a socio-economic development plan for 2011. Vietnam intends to obtain a 7-7.5 percent GDP growth rate in that year. Socio-economic development targets for 2011 have been revealed by the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MoPI). The main task is to retain a high economic growth rate based on continued economic structure adjustment, competitiveness improvement and global integration. The Ministry of Planning and Investment has set up an ambitious plan for economic growth in 2011. While GDP growth for 2010 is forecasted to reach 6.5-6.8 percent, MPI has decided to set the target for 2011 at 7-7.5 percent, requiring Vietnam's GDP to be 2,231,000-2,252,000 billion dong, or $112 billion (the exchange rate is 20,000 dong per dollar). If so, the average GDP per capita will be $1270.

MPI also mentioned goals for three economic sectors, including agriculture, forestry and seafood, industry and construction, and services. The added value of the three sectors would be 2.5-3 percent, 7.5-8.2 percent, and 8.2-8.5 percent, respectively. All targets represent considerable increases over 2010. Similarly, after predicting that 2010 export revenues would increase by 12-13 percent over 2009, MPI built its guiding framework for 2011 socio-economic development with the hope that the export revenue would reach $70.4-71.7 billion, an increase of 10-12 percent over 2010. Meanwhile, total investment capital will remain at the high level of 930,000 billion dong, equal to 42 percent of GDP, increasing by 15.5 percent in comparison with the implemented figure for 2010. Regarding inflation, Vietnam will curb the inflation rate at less than eight percent, just as in 2010. With this goal, the Government is clearly pursuing policies to obtain high economic growth and macroeconomic stability.

According to MPI, budget overspending in 2010 will total some 5.5 percent of the GDP. Total import revenue is forecast to reach $86 billion and the trade deficit is predicted to stand at $14.3-15.6 billion, a relatively high figure equal to 20-22.2 percent of export revenues. Regarding the general payments balance, Vietnam will have a surplus of $1.3 billion, obtained thanks to the high capital surplus of $11.4 billion. Explaining these high and ambitious goals, MPI analysts explained that, after the global economic crisis, the world will enter a new development stage with many opportunities. Vietnam's economy is now recovering very rapidly in all economic sectors: the macroeconomy has stabilized, the investment environment has improved, while the domestic market has become prosperous. Economic experts also aver that the first half of 2010 showed that the national economy has been recovering very rapidly, much more quickly than predicted. The trend will continue into the latter half of the year, serving as a strong base for Vietnam to initiate its new five year socio-economic development plan for 2011-2015 and to implement its 10 year socio-economic development strategy for 2011-2010.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 07/13/2010

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WB Says Vietnam's ODA Disbursement Slow

VietNamNet Bridge - The World Bank (WB) noted that it is a great loss for Vietnam when it takes 8.6 years on average to finalize disbursement for an ODA-funded project. According to the WB, around $11 billion of official development assistance (ODA) was not disbursed by the end of 2008. This figure may be even higher now. On average, Vietnam needs up to 8.6 years to complete disbursement for an ODA-funded project. It takes from one and a half year to two years for a project to start after approval. WB Vietnam Director Victoria Kwakwa remarked that slow disbursement causes big losses for Vietnam when the inflation rate is still high. She cited three major reasons for this situation: project preparation is not good while State agency ability to implement projects and the consulting capability of domestic consultants doesn't meet the necessary standards.
 
From 2011 to 2013, the WB will provide around $6 billion to 44 projects in Vietnam, including $3.2 billion in soft loans and the remainder as commercial loans.To deal with slow implementation, the WB and the State Bank of Vietnam on July 15 signed a $100 million credit deal for the "Fund for Project Preparation". This is a project of the Ministry of Planning and Investment to raise the ability of Government agencies in making plans and preparing for ODA-funded projects. This project will be carried out over five years and Vietnam will contribute $3 million of reciprocal capital. This project has brought the WB's total investment in Vietnam to around $5 billion.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 07/17/2010

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BANGLADESH: Tech Education at Primary Level from 2011

The government has decided to introduce technical education in primary schools from January, 2011 in at least one school in each Upazila, reports bdnews24.com. State minister for primary and mass education Md Motahar Hossain said about the decision Wednesday. Hossain said that the ministry has already requested Tk 100 million to implement the decision. He further added that the ministry would implement it gradually within one year if they do not get the total amount at a time. The state minister said that students of third, fourth and fifth grades will be included in the proposed programme. "The initiatives have been taken to give students a better idea about practical life." The government will handle the total management, he added. Hossain said that they would take measures to provide education in the afternoon and night shifts to accommodate child labourers and their families. Secretary Md Shaheen Khan said that the technical education has been going on in 73 primary schools across the country under Children's Welfare Trust. "We are trying to add realistic education to the mainstream system from the primary level," he added. Ministry sources said that a children's welfare trust named 'Pathakoli Trust' was established in 1989 for the advancement of deprived street children so that they can be engaged in various economic activities. Some 73 trusts were established then across the country including Dhaka and Narayanganj. The programme was halted by the BNP government in 1991. It was, however, reopened by the Awami League government in 1996. From 2005, every student of 73 schools has been given Tk 1,250 while each school gets Tk 30,000 every year to bear their costs. Twenty-two schools have been set up under the project until now. Risky structures were also repaired at a cost of Tk 18.4 million. The secretary said preparations were underway to form a curriculum.

From http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/ 07/09/2010

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Govt Making Effort to Raise Industry's Share in Economy

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told Parliament on Wednesday that the government is working on upgrading Bangladesh to a middle-income country by raising contribution of its industrial sector in the national economy up to 40 per cent from the existing 28 per cent. "The proposed industrial policy has reflected the target," she said, adding that it would be possible to reach the ultimate target of turning the country into an industrial state through maintaining continuation after attaining the target of the industrial policy. Hasina said this while replying to a query from treasury bench lawmaker Md Tajul Islam. "The country's industrial and investment policies were liberalised to open new investment avenues through creating a sound environment for entrepreneurs to further develop the industrial sector in light of the proposed Industrial Policy 2010," she said. Under the proposed industrial policy, there will be a package of import duty on capital machineries based on advantaged and disadvantaged areas for ensuring balanced development of the country, she said. To encourage Non-Resident Bangladeshis to invest in the country, their investments would be considered as foreign investments, she said. Hasina said the government is determined to ensure industrial development for building a Sonar Bangla as dreamt by Bangabandhu. She said measures would be taken for creating massive infrastructure facilities including setting up economic zone at industrially disadvantaged areas of the country like greater Rangpur, Dinajpur and Rajshahi districts and incentives would be given to those areas. The government would take all steps for further development of human resources and ensuring proper utilization of technology, she said. The Prime Minister said the present government has taken initiatives for turning Bangladesh into an industrialized country by gradually upgrading its present agriculture-based economy. The growth of agriculture sector would also continue through utilizing the modern technology, she said. "No country can become industrialised by only depending on agriculture." Replying to a supplementary from Md Tajul Islam, the Leader of the House said the private sector has been inspired for making investment at various sectors like television, telephone, air lines. Replying to another query from treasury bench lawmaker M Abdul Latif, she said various facilities and incentives have been ensured for foreign entrepreneurs to attract foreign investment in the country. The foreign entrepreneurs do not face any problem for VISA, she said. "But we have to proceed cautiously as militancy has been raised during the BNP-Jamaat regime," she said. She said during the Awami League rule after 1996, many foreign investors invested in the country, which came down during the subsequent BNP-Jamaat government. In reply to another query from Hafiz Uddin Ahmed, she said the government has taken various initiatives for overall development of the disadvantaged northern Bangladesh. "We have started Bara Pukuria coal power project," she said. The Bangabandhu Bridge over river Jamuna, many roads and bridges were constructed, she said, adding that the present government started construction of a bridge over the Teesta.

From http://www.theindependent-bd.com/ 07/22/2010

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BHUTAN: ADB, Japan Support Bhutan's Push to Improve Rural Roads, Boost Farm Incomes

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Government of Japan are supporting Bhutan's drive to improve farm roads and provide new livelihood opportunities in some of the poorest and most remote parts of the country. The Government of Japan-financed Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, administered by ADB, is providing a $3 million grant for the Farm Roads to Support Poor Farmers' Livelihoods Project. It will develop about 40 kilometers of farm roads in two impoverished districts and provide equipment and skills training to help isolated communities sell their farm products. At least 650 households, or around 4,000 people, are expected to benefit from the project. In remote rural areas in Bhutan, it can take many hours, or even days, to walk to the nearest roads, severely limiting the ability of farm households to sell excess produce, or access schools or health clinics. As a result, many families suffer from food insecurity and maternal mortality rates are high. "Improved road access will allow poor rural households which depend on agriculture to grow larger marketable surpluses and increase their income, and it will also give them badly needed access to economic and social services," said Snimer Sahni, Principal Agricultural Economist of ADB's South Asia Department. Along with constructing new roads to transport produce to market, the project will establish community groups to manage and maintain the roads, and provide farmers with skills to link up with financial institutions, traders and food processors. It will also train local road engineers, build sheds, platforms and other infrastructure, and provide small processing equipment such as chili-drying machines, to support the production and marketing of farm goods. "By the end of the project the goal is to see poverty incidence in target areas decline by 30% with the proportion of households suffering from hunger falling to less than 5%," added Ms. Sahni. The new farm roads, which will link up with others being built under the ADB-financed Road Network Project, will incorporate environmentally-friendly construction techniques including improved drainage systems to avoid storm damage, and the revegetation of cut slopes. The project will help farmers sell their goods collectively for better prices by providing seed capital for farm groups to process and market their produce. There will also be a strong focus on assisting women, with at least 50% of members in marketing infrastructure user groups to be female, and at least half of the beneficiaries of the poor farmer training to be women. The Government of Bhutan will provide additional project funding of $256,314, with communities contributing $72,579 (mainly in kind) for a total investment cost of about $3.3 million. Bhutan's Department of Agriculture is the implementing agency for the project which will be implemented over three years.

From http://www.adb.org/ 07/15/2010

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INDIA: E-Driver's Licence Project Hits 10 Million

The government of India has passed the 10 million mark for issuing electronic driver's licences. Of the country's 110 million drivers, nine per cent have now been registered with electronic driving certificates. The e-Driver's License project aims to reduce the incidence of car-related calamity by alerting officials to the driver's history. Inside the e-Licence is a microprocessor that stores the driver's data - vehicle registration number, the owner's identity, insurance details, and pollution control certification status. It also contains security features that can help curb car theft - a big contributing factor to car accidents. India was second only to Italy in a ranking of the world's worst drivers.The project aims to reduce which is expected to contribute to a reduction in car accidents.

From http://www.egovonline.net/ 07/02/2010

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E-Toll System by 2012 in India

India will soon see a uniform electronic toll collection system on its national highways, increasing the revenue, curbing leakages and ensuring smooth travel across the country. The system, which will use passive RFID (radio frequency identification) technology, is likely to be in place by May 2012. The system will increase the revenue and curb leakages in toll collection across highways. RFID technology is a tracking system and has widespread applications across several industries like retail and logistics. The RFID tag will be stuck on the windscreen and cost about Rs 100, while the toll booth will have a tag reader, which is expected to cost about Rs 2 lakh. A vehicle owner can "recharge" the account for the vehicle (the account number will be the RFID tag number), and when the vehicle passes through the lane of any toll plaza across the country, the appropriate toll will be debited from the account.

From http://www.egovonline.net/ 07/05/2010

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Companies' E-Returns to Have Digital Signature

Digital signatures will now be mandatory for all the electronically filed income-tax returns of companies, according to the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT). Currently, companies have to file their returns only in the electronic format, no paper returns are accepted by the Tax Department. This regime has been in place since the assessment year 2007-08. Simply put, companies cannot henceforth electronically file their returns without digital signatures. Before this move, companies could file their electronic returns with or without digital signatures. Accounts are required to be audited under the income-tax law, if turnover or gross receipts from business exceeds Rs 40 lakh (Rs 60 lakh from assessment year 2011-12 onwards) or if turnover or gross receipts from profession exceeds Rs 10 lakh (Rs 15 lakh from assessment year 2011-12 onwards).

From http://www.egovonline.net/ 07/13/2010

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Online Complaint Register System by PWD

An online complaint registering system will be set up in the State to expedite execution of public works. The permanent mechanism for the public to register complaints about damaged/potholed roads would hereafter function from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The helpline '18004257771' would be beefed up by adding six lines and the staff manning the system would work in two shifts.The response of engineers to handling the complaints would be assessed. Individual engineers would be graded on the basis of the results achieved in the delivery/rollout of the required service. The time-to-action and the efficiency with which the repair work is executed would come up for scrutiny while deciding on the grade of an engineer. The Web-based application for monitoring of the works will come into being by August-end.

From http://www.egovonline.net/ 07/13/2010

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Punjab to Introduce E-Tendering

In a bid to bring in transparency in awarding contracts and maintain quality in construction works, the Punjab government will shortly introduce the e-tendering system in the Public Works Department. The Punjab government has also decided to replace the existing conventional tender form with new Standard Bidding Document (SBD). The e-tendering system would bring in more transparency, efficiency, competitive bidding and economy in construction works. Henceforth, details of the tenders will be furnished on the website of Public Works Department as soon as the necessary uploading processes are completed and a link of the same will be provided on the public works site.

From http://www.egovonline.net/ 07/14/2010

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Jharkhand Panchayats to Have E-Secretariat

All panchayats offices across Jharkhand will have e-Secretariat to encourage e-Governance mechanism at the lowest-level of democratic set up. To begin with, as many as 1,610 gram panchayats out of the total 4,565 will get computers with net connectivity. Secretariat of the rest gram panchayats will be computerised in two subsequent phases. Computerisation work will commence by the end of this fiscal, when the building would be handed over to Gram Panchayats. Apart from serving as storehouse of database of each individual of the panchayats and documents related to development activities, the e-Secretariat will also be tasked to keep the records of work and payments made to the workers under various schemes of the MGNREGA going in the area. Labour cost of the building of each panchayat secretariat is estimated to cost Rs 10 lakh. The fund for the purpose has been arranged from the MGNREGA scheme. Construction cost pegged around Rs 11 lakh, however, would be borne out by the state from the central assistance under the Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF).

From http://www.egovonline.net/ 07/16/2010

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PAKISTAN: Promotion of IT Must for Rapid Development: Chief Minister

LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister, Shahbaz Sharif has said promotion of Information Technology for the rapid development of the country is need of the hour and the government is implementing a comprehensive programme for this purpose. He said that after setting up of IT labs in high schools their scope was being extended to middle schools level and as a result million of students would benefit from this facility. The chief minister was addressing a meeting held on Wednesday to review the pace of implementation of various development programmes in the province. The meeting was attended by Vice Chairman Investment Board, Chairman Planning & Development, Secretary Finance, Chairman Punjab Board of Information Technology, Country Manager of Microsoft and other concerned senior officers. The chief minister said that government was paying due attention for providing basic amenities to the people as well as rapid development of the province and a record development budget of Rs 193 billion was reflective of this fact. Shahbaz said that government had strictly implemented financial discipline during the last year and in the next fiscal the same would be implemented by reducing non-developmental expenditure and would spend it on the welfare of the people. He said that imparting latest knowledge to the new generation was of vital importance keeping in view the changing phenomena of the world. Therefore, special attention had been paid for harmonising the syllabus of technical education in accordance with the latest demands, provision of modern equipment and highly trained teachers to the institutes besides promotion of Information Technology. Shahbaz said that foundation of revolution had been laid in education sector by setting up IT labs in more than 4286 schools of the province and now a project had been evolved for establishing computer labs at middle level in the same transparent manner. He said that setting up of computer labs would leave far reaching impacts on education sector.

He said besides establishment of IT labs, planning was also being made for utilising IT for providing facilities to the people and increasing capacity buildings of various departments and a special committee had been constituted in this regard. He said that Rs 1.96 billion have been allocated for Information Technology in the province. Shahbaz said that the Punjab government had accelerated work on the project of Land Record Computerisation pending for the years together so that people could get rid of the traditional role of patwari and forgery in registration and transfer of properties. He said that Rs 6 billion had been allocated in the budget for provision of free medicines in the hospitals whereas, scope of facility of free dialysis was being expanded throughout the province during the current financial year and an amount of Rs 300 million had been allocated for this purpose. The chief minister pointed out that the health department would have no concern with the mobile hospitals whereas, the company providing hospitals would be responsible for maintenance of these hospitals and provision of medical facilities to the people and the Punjab government would provide remuneration for its services. He said that besides upgradation of rural and basic health units, new hospitals were also being constructed throughout the province. The Punjab government was paying special attention to medical education and four new medical colleges would be constructed in the province during current year. He averred that liver transplantation was also being started in the province and the patients suffering from liver diseases would benefit from this facility. Chairman Planning and Development gave detailed briefing in the meeting with regards to implementation of various projects.

From http://www.brecorder.com/ 07/01/2010

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Economic Growth Linked to Population Welfare

ISLAMABAD: The development and economic prosperity of Pakistan depends on the implementation of policies for population welfare, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said on Sunday. Addressing an award distribution ceremony in connection with World Population Day, Gilani said, "All hopes of development and economic prosperity will flounder if we, as a nation, lose focus and do not keep population issue in the spotlight." He said the government planned to carry out a population census to decide about the distribution of resources in the country. The prime minister declared the year 2011 the "Population Year" to highlight various issues linked with population and development, with focus on involvement of various segments of society to propagate the benefits of birth spacing for the better health of mothers and children in conjunction with Islamic teachings. He said the country was at the brink of political chaos when the elected government shouldered the responsibility of serving two years ago. "Due to the tragic death of our great visionary leader Benazir Bhutto, the nation had virtually lost its sense of direction. Economic deprivation, scarcity of resources, internal strife and terrorism dominated the national scene," he said. He said the government had been able to address the challenges in a befitting manner with the support of the people and continued assistance from friends. Pakistan is now steering towards the path of prosperity, self-reliance and economic well being, Gilani said, adding, "Our government's policies have helped in confronting terrorism - the biggest challenge posed to our homeland's security and stability and, the issue of rising poverty and economic meltdown." The prime minister said the government was cognizant of the fact that had rapid population growth had a direct nexus with poverty. Gilani said despite the challenges, the Ministry of Population Welfare had been working with full dedication.

From http://pakistanlink.org/ 07/12/2010

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Government Urged to Open More IT Universities

LAHORE: Chairman NetSol Technologies Limited, Salim Ghauri has urged the government to open more Information Technology (IT) universities in the country. In a statement issued on Wednesday, he said there was a time when medicine and engineering were considered only viable options for students pursuing higher education. However, degrees in business, IT, media and arts were now are in vogue, as students pursue jobs that pay well. Attractive and lucrative packages in these disciplines, particularly in IT industry due to widening dollar-rupee parity, were alluring great number of youngsters and there was a need to establish IT universities in the country. Ghauri also appreciated the role of Higher Education Commission (HEC) in catering the different choices in education pursued by students within the last decade and said a change in education policy has played vital role, as the HEC extended licences to 84 universities throughout the country since 2000, with an emphasis on developing disciplines that were not explored before. He said this shift in national policy has helped in development of new industries since late 1990s. He further said the number of institutions catering to higher education, especially in information technology and business had increased from 18 to 78 in 1998 since steps were taken to improve higher education system. He also appreciated the government for encouraging students for international scholarship programmes, leading to a sea change in IT industry of Pakistan. Since 2000, he said, around 16 universities were set up in Karachi, Out of which two are not operational and four are being run by the government while the rest are being run privately. He said it was a matter of great satisfaction that most of them cater to students who wish to pursue degrees in IT, commerce, business studies and fine arts.

From http://www.brecorder.com/ 07/15/2010

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Promotion of Higher Education Priority

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday accorded precedence to promotion of higher education on behalf of his government. He acknowledges that education is pivotal to the progress and prosperity of the country. He emphasised that his government shall patronise a liberal policy towards the private education institutes that meet the Higher Education Commission's (HEC) criteria. The board meeting of FAST National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences was held at the Presidency. "No nation can progress without making education its topmost priority," said Zardari. Human resource development was also accorded importance in the speech. Zardari was disappointed that only 91 PhD students at the FAST University are being funded by the HEC. He assured the nation that every effort shall be made to expand higher education facilities so as to raise a pool of highly-qualified professionals for trade and industry in Pakistan. The president commended services of FAST National University for providing financial assistance worth Rs 50 million to about 1,000 deserving students, to continue higher education. Zardari said that the secret to the success of the developed nations lie in their attainment of higher education standards and productive human resource development. Dr Amir Muhammad, rector of FAST National University, gave a detailed briefing about the functions, performance, research and faculty of the university along with the 11 advanced disciplines being taught at the university. The rector also highlighted some problems that included the transfer of six acres of purchased land by the Sindh government to the university for its Karachi campus, along with allotment of 30 acres of land in Sector H-11, Islamabad, to FAST National University. The institute, established in 2000, already has campuses located in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar and is offering quality education in different disciplines like electrical engineering, business administration, mathematics and accounting and finance. Presently, 500 students are being sponsored by the government (under National ICT scholarship programme) for study at this university. Twenty-five Fulbright scholarships have been awarded to FAST university graduates. Zardari assured the faculty of FAST University that the problems would be forwarded to the federal and Sindh governments for early reviewing. The meeting was attended by most of the faculty along with government officials like former senator Farhatullah Babar.

From http://pakistanlink.org/ 07/15/2010

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World Bank to Help Pakistan Reduce Poverty

ISLAMABAD: Isabel Guerrero, World Bank Vice President for South Asia has reiterated the Bank's commitment to help Pakistan get back on the path to strong growth for reducing poverty. During a two-day visit to Pakistan, Guerrero called on President Asif Ali Zardari and key officials, including the government's economic team led by the Federal Minister for Finance Dr Hafiz Shaikh to update them on the progress made on issues of mutual interest since her last visit in April this year, and to introduce Rachid Benmessaoud, the World Bank Country Director for Pakistan. "The World Bank Board of Directors has just discussed a new Country Partnership Strategy for Pakistan which envisages financial support of up to 6.2 billion dollar for Pakistan over a four-year period," Guerrero said. "Improving economic governance, human development and social protection, improving infrastructure to support growth, and helping Pakistan cope with the impact of conflict and reducing the probability of future conflicts are the main pillars of the World Bank support to Pakistan going forward". Ms Guerrero commended the government's economic management team on the progress made in economic and finance reforms. She underlined the need for staying on the reform path and redoubling the efforts aimed at reducing fiscal deficit and improving tax to GDP ratio. Guerrero also discussed the progress made by the Bank Group in strengthening local resources to better assist the country, especially in the fields of rural development, energy sector and water resource management. Guerrero also reviewed with the government's economic team the progress made in setting up a Multi-donor Trust Fund for development in conflict-hit border areas in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Balochistan. Guerrero also met with development partners to share views on ways to enhance effectiveness of development and bilateral finances. "The World Bank will focus on strengthening its co-ordination work with Pakistan's development partners to help support the government," said Guerrero. Guerrero also discussed the status of social sector and human development programmes under implementation with the support of International Development Association (IDA), the concessionary lending arm of the World Bank Group.

From http://www.brecorder.com/ 07/17/2010

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ARMENIA: ArmenTel Announces New Payment System Launch

ArmenTel CJSC dealers throughout Yerevan and Armenian regions were provided with an opportunity to accept payments from subscribers, the company said in a press release. The system is from now on available in over 900 trade points throughout Armenia. These are shops selling mobiles phones, supermarkets, food stores and newsstands. The service will simply the process of recharge and other payments within Beeline network to the amount from AMD 10 to 500 000.

From http://www.panarmenian.net/ 07/14/2010

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GNC Alfa Completes First Stage of IP/MPLS Network Construction

GNC Alfa has completed the first stage of IP/MPLS network construction with 10Gbps network capacity. Networks in Yerevan and 16 Armenian towns have been put into operation. Coverage of 29 towns is envisaged till yearend, UITE press service told PanARMENIAN.Net GNC-Alfa is a telecommunications network services operator in Armenia. The Company owns a fiber-optic network passing along the Armenia-Iran gas pipeline. GNC-Alfa network, built on technologies of American Juniper Networks, is designed to provide wholesale transport network services to fixed and mobile operators and ISPs, as well as transit services via Armenia.

From http://www.panarmenian.net/ 07/19/2010

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International Top Up for VivaCell-MTS Armenia Becomes Available Across Ezetop Distribution Channels

On July 19, VivaCell-MTS Armenia and ezetop announced the launch of a new service - International Top Up - which offers Armenian people living or working abroad the possibility to recharge the VivaCell-MTS prepaid mobile of their families back home in Armenia. The new service will be offered in partnership with ezetop, a company based in Ireland that enables relatives abroad to support friends and family back home by delivering airtime credit directly to mobile phones, the press service of VivaCell-MTS Armenia reported. "With this new service, the Armenian people living abroad have a new way to sustain the family back home. Now, they can send anytime a recharge to VivaCell-MTS mobiles of their family from any of our 160,000 locations in 12 countries around the world," said David Shackleton, ezetop's Chief Operating Officer. "An International operator with an Armenian flavour is not just a slogan, it is a belief. The highest value for an Armenian is taking care for parents and their children. And for thousands of our compatriots who have left their homes for other countries in search of work staying in touch and always being connected to their families and friends is a priority. Our cooperation with ezetop will provide many Armenians working abroad with affordable means of communication with their families living in the motherland as well as an opportunity to support them," stated VivaCell-MTS General Manager Ralph Yirikian. VivaCell-MTS mobiles in Armenia can now be easily recharged from abroad through ezetop retail locations across the US, Canada, Germany and Spain as well as online -www.ezetop.com.

From http://www.panarmenian.net/ 07/19/2010

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AZERBAIJAN: Economic Opportunities Presented in Trieste

Azerbaijan's economic opportunities were presented in the Italian city of Trieste at the presentation entitled "Azerbaijan Country Presentation" organized by the Azerbaijani Embassy in Italy. Trieste Commerce Chamber Secretary S.Patriarca, Trieste Municipality's State Minister for Economic Affairs P. Rovis, representatives of the Italy Trade Institute and the major economic organizations, as well as more than 30 Italian companies attended the event. Patriarca expressed the Italian companies' interest in cooperation with Azerbaijan, noting the importance of efficient use of existing capacity in this area. Azerbaijani Ambassador to Italy Emil Karimov informed the participants about the successful economic policy pursued in the country and the prospects of cooperation for the development of bilateral ties. The Italian entrepreneurs were informed in detail about the favorable economic environment in Azerbaijan, the country's leading role in the region and the pace of development, as well as the ongoing economic reforms. As a part of the event, Karimov gave an interview to ANSA news agency, and the Telequttro television channel, in which he described the country's energy policies, existing projects and Azerbaijan's role in ensuring the energy security of Europe.

From http://www.today.az/ 06/26/2010

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Committee Head: 'Single Window' System Introduced in Azerbaijani Customs Proves Effective

"The principle of 'single window' sytem introduced in Azerbaijani customs has proved effective. The State Customs Committee of Azerbaijan is always ready to cooperate in this field with parties concerned," the committee head Aydin Aliyev said at a workshop on Azerbaijan's experience in this field. The workshop was conducted with ADB's financial support within the program of the Asian Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC). Representatives of eight countries, including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, China and Mongolia, ADB representatives, UN Socio-Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific, UN Economic Commission for Europe and others attended the workshop. The representative of the UN Economic Commission for Europe Virginia Cram-Martos said that introducing of "single window" is important for the region of Central Asia. "Azerbaijan has surpassed other countries in the region in introducing 'single window' and achieved great success," she said. She said that Central Asia is removed from potential markets as the Caucasus. She said that all these countries will rapidly join regional markets and may even provide the market with more competitive products compared to European countries within the improvement of trade. CAREC member-countries must develop a regional market to develop cooperation in the customs area with the European countries, she said.

From http://www.today.az/ 07/12/2010

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UN 'Ready' to Assist Azerbaijan in Developing ICT Sector

The United Nations' Resident Coordinator in Azerbaijan has expressed the organization's readiness to continue assisting the country's government in developing the information technologies sector. "The Trans-Eurasia Super Information Highway project is an example of this," Fikret Akcura told journalists. He expressed confidence the project would allow Azerbaijan to play the role of a transit information highway between Europe and Asia. "And this will boost Azerbaijan's development and also serve to prosperity of the whole continent," he added. Akcura is also Resident Representative for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Azerbaijan. UNDP Azerbaijan is advocating for the development of Azerbaijan based on converting the country's "black gold" (oil) into "human gold" (improved human capital). It is committed to bringing knowledge, experience and resources to help the Azerbaijani people to build a better life in partnership with the Government and international community.

From http://www.today.az/ 07/12/2010

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Azerbaijani Postal Operator Launches Financial Services for Population

Azerpoct, the Azerbaijani national postal operator, has launched financial services for population, Azerbaijani Communications and IT Ministry Postal Communications Department Head Novruz Mammadov said. Mammadov said today the banking services are available at post offices in the first (Sabail) and fifth (Garadagh) branches. "The introduction of financial services in the branches of the postal operator will be implemented in Baku's post offices and regions in stages. The branches and subsidiaries' appeals on preparedness in connection with the provision of banking services will be considered individually, followed by permission of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan (CBA). The appeals of the Absheron, Sumgait and several regional branches of Azerpoct are under consideration," Mammadov added. Mammadov said Azerpoct has all legal rights to provide financial services to the public. Today, the operator is allowed to provide five of the seven existing financial services. These include opening and managing accounts, money transfers, issuance of debit card transactions for buying and selling currencies on the order book and collection of cash and other valuable. The provision of two more additional services - taking deposits and issue of credit cards will be revised in 2011. The communications operator received a license from the CBA to provide financial services. In the future, the CBA will authorize the provision of such services. In the initial stage, post offices will provide limited banking operations, such as cash operations, money transfers, and opening customer accounts. Long-term prospects include providing loans. Azerpoct hopes to compete seriously with players on the country's banking market. Today, 47 banks operate in Azerbaijan with over 500 branches. Meanwhile, Azerpoct has nearly 1,600 offices.

From http://www.today.az/ 07/13/2010

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TURKMENISTAN: TurkmenTEL 2010 Attracts the Full Attention of the International Telecommunications & IT Industry

The fourth Turkmenistan International Telecommunications and IT Conference, TurkmenTEL 2010, will bring together 300 delegates to discuss intergovernmental cooperation and the opportunities for international investment in the development of the Turkmenistan's and wider region's Information and Communication Technology Industry. International guest speakers including H.E. Mohamed Jamil Mulla, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, H.E. Amirzai Sangin, Minister of Communications and Information Technology(MCIT), Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Abdul Saboor Nasimzada, Head of Transmission for Afghan Telecom Corporation of MCIT, Elmir Tofiq Velizade, Deputy Minister of Communication and IT, Republic of Azerbaijan, Arthur Levin, Chief, Services Department, International Telecommunication Union and Platinum Sponsor SONY will join the Minister of Communications of Turkmenistan Ovlyaguly Jumagulyev in the opening plenary session of the conference. 30 additional presentations will be made by senior representatives of market leading organisations on topics including Fixed and Mobile Communications, Data Communications Broadband and Internet, eGovernment, Broadcasting, IT Infrastructure and developing Regulatory Frameworks.

TurkmenTEL 2010 is official organised by the Ministry of Communications of Turkmenistan and fully supported by the National Mobile Telecommunications Company Altyn Asyr and National Telecommunications Company TurkmenTelecom. Annadovlet Mukhammedov, General Director, National Telecommunications Company, TurkmenTelecom will address the conference in the morning of the second day of the conference. TurkmenTEL benefits from a high level of support from the commercial sector. We would like to thank Sony, Canon, Riedel, ORACLE, IBM, MMI, Alcatel-Lucent, Eutelsat, Hughes, Nokia Siemens Networks, Intec, Gilat, HP, Iskratel, Turksat, Peter-Service and East Wind for their valued sponsorship of the conference. 4th Turkmenistan International Telecommunications and IT Conference, TurkmenTEL 2010
Dates: 15 - 16 September 2010
Venue: Ashgabat Exhibition Palace "Sergi Kosgi". Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Organisers: Ministry of Communication of Turkmenistan Summit Trade Events Ltd.
Website: www.turkmenistantelecoms.com
E-mail: info@summittradeevents.com
Tel: + [44] (0)207 328 8899

From http://en.trend.az/ 07/21/2010

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AUSTRALIA: Interest Rates Stay Steady

Australia's Reserve Bank has left official interest rates on hold at 4.5 per cent for the second month in a row, as Europe's debt crisis continues to cloud the global economy. The RBA had previously lifted rates by 25 basis points three months in a row at the end of last year, and then again lifted rates every month this southern autumn before pausing in June. But central bank governor Glenn Stevens says current interest rates are appropriate until it is clear whether the global economy is heading up, or back down. "The current setting of monetary policy is resulting in interest rates to borrowers around their average levels of the past decade," he said in a statement accompanying the decision. "Pending further information about international and local conditions for demand and prices, the board views this setting of monetary policy as appropriate."

No surprise
All 22 economists surveyed by Bloomberg had forecast that rates would stay on hold, meaning the decision came as no surprise to financial markets. The Australian dollar scarcely moved after the decision - it was trading at about 83.7 US cents before the announcement and was later fetching 83.83. While the Reserve Bank governor noted the recent "caution in financial markets" over the past couple of months, he says Australia's economy is still performing well. "With the high level of the terms of trade expected to add to incomes and demand, output growth in Australia over the year ahead is likely to be about trend, even though the effects of earlier expansionary policy measures will be diminishing," he said.

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 07/06/2010

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Govt Delays Plan for Internet Filter

The Australian government has delayed the introduction of its mandatory internet filtering program. Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy says the filter will not be put in place until an independent review can be carried out into what content would be banned. He says the review is likely to take about a year. Senator Conroy has also announced measures to address concerns that the proposed list of blocked websites would go too far and lack transparency. Among them, an independent expert would review the list every year. Senator Conroy says the measures are not designed to appease international critics of the plan, including the US government. "International companies and other governments don't determine Australia's classifications scheme," he said.

Several major internet service providers, including Telstra, Optus and Primus have agreed to block websites known to contain child pornography while the review is carried out. The Government announced the filter two years ago as part of its cyber-safety program to protect children from pornography and offensive material. Last year it ran tests on the system. Senator Conroy had intended to introduce the legislation in the first half of this year, but deferred it to later in 2010. The plan has been criticised by internet users who claim it will slow download speeds and lead to unwarranted censorship.

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 07/09/2010

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Gillard Opens Campaign with Regional Housing Plan

Australia's prime minister, Julia Gillard, says she will provide 15 regional cities with $A15 million each to fast track housing developments. Danny Morgan reports, it's the first plank of her sustainable population policy. Julia Gillard says that she's aware that people in Australian cities are struggling to cope with the rapid growth in the population. She says she understands it's getting harder to book a doctor's appointment or to find a seat on the bus to work. To encourage people to move to regional centres, Ms Gillard has promised a total of $200 million so councils in some areas can quickly open new housing developments. Ms Gillard reiterated that she is against a big Australia and prefers a sustainable population. She says the election will be a referendum about infrastructure and services for families.

The five week election campaign will be fought between two relatively new leaders, with the Coalition needing to win 17 seats to take office. Announcing the election date on Saturday, Julia Gillard said Labor has a plan to guide the country confidently through the challenges of the future. "This election, I believe, presents Australians with a very clear choice," she said. "This election is about the choice as to whether we move Australia forward or go back. Our great nation - our very great nation - has been built by generations of men and women who had the courage to move forward." Opposition leader Tony Abbott spoke a short time later, saying the election was about "giving a great people a better government". He says says Prime Minister Julia Gillard has given Australians no reason to trust her and has urged voters to change government.

"Only a Coalition Government can end the spin and incompetence which marked the Rudd-Gillard government," he said. "Why should people trust Labor's 2010 promises when you couldn't trust their 2007 promises." The leader of the minority Greens party, Bob Brown, says his party expects to increase its numbers in the Senate. He says the Greens will act responsibly if they hold the balance of power. "We have got the experience, we have got the runs on the board," he said. "We showed for example when Tony Abbott and the opposition were blocking Kevin Rudd's stimulus package we moved up to the plate, we got a better outcome with a jobs dividend, we saved this nation from recession along with Wayne Swan and Kevin Rudd."

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 07/18/2010

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Population a Key Question for Campaigning Australian Politicians

Australia's political leaders are continuing their campaigning in the lead-up to the August 21 election. The Australian Opposition leader, Tony Abbott, is campaigning in Melbourne, while the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is in Sydney's western suburbs. The leader of Australia's minority Greens party, Bob Brown, says he is confident he will be able to work well with Tony Abbott if the opposition Coalition wins the election. The Greens are tipped to win enough support to give them the balance of power in the Senate. Senator Brown says he had a meeting with Mr Abbott soon after he became Opposition leader. "I saw enough there to know that if he becomes the Prime Minister, I'll be able to talk with him and so will my colleagues - talk with their counterparts in a Coalition cabinet," he said.

Sustainable questions
The Australian Opposition says the Government should explain what it believes is a sustainable population. Australia currently has a population of around 21 million and the country's immigration intake is a major discussion point during the election campaign. The Coalition says it will set population growth caps if it wins the election. But the Deputy Opposition Leader, Julie Bishop, says there's no indication Labor will do the same. "What's missing from Labor's policy on sustainable population is what they actually mean by sustainable population," she said. "It's a phrase that's been trotted out all the time - Tony Burke was the Minister for Population, he's now the Minister for Sustainable Population, but his brief is exactly the same."

Foreign policy
The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has defended her level of foreign policy experience. The Opposition has repeatedly criticised how Ms Gillard has handled negotiations with East Timor over her asylum seeker plan. But Ms Gillard says she can handle complex foreign policy issues. "I'm not going to pretend that I've come to this position with a lifetime in foreign affairs," she said. "I haven't - that's true. And if you look at some of my predecessors as Prime Minister, obviously Kevin Rudd had a lifetime of experience in Foreign Affairs, John Howard did not. And we could go back through Prime Ministers."

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 07/20/2010

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NEW ZEALAND: Minister Opens New Waterways Centre

Improved knowledge and skills will play an important role in improving New Zealand's water management, Environment Minister Nick Smith says. Dr Smith today opened the new Waterways Centre in Christchurch - a joint initiative between Canterbury and Lincoln Universities that creates a centre for excellence in water resource education and research. "Fresh water is so plentiful in New Zealand that we have been too casual about its management," Dr Smith said. "We now have major issues with water quality and allocation that will require better regulation, stronger institutions and improved knowledge and skills. "The important role for the Waterways Centre is to bring together the engineering, agricultural, geology, environmental and geography disciplines of Canterbury and Lincoln Universities to help provide the research and skills base to help New Zealand better manage water.

"The Government is contributing $1 million to the Centre from the Tertiary Education Commission's Encouraging and Supporting Innovation Fund. We commend Canterbury and Lincoln Universities for taking up this initiative. "This new centre needs to be seen alongside the Land and Water Forum process, the Government's decisions to appoint commissioners at Environment Canterbury, the mandatory requirement for irrigators to install water meters, the development of stronger national standards with a new Environmental Protection Authority and tougher penalties and enforcement of water quality standards." Better fresh water management is crucial to the development of the New Zealand economy.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/09/2010

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Department of Labour Launches a New Information Tool

The Department of Labour today launched a new information tool about employment relations and health and safety for small business owners and self-employed people. Infozone: Business Essentials is a web resource which provides simple, straightforward downloadable templates, documents and spreadsheets to enable people to generate their own information and data for use and future reference. This includes schedules, registers, employment agreements, self-assessments and action plans. Department of Labour Acting Group Manager Information and Promotion, Tony Waldegrave says Infozone: Business Essentials is a first stop for small business owners. "It explains the basics of employment relations and health and safety regulations so business owners can see how these things are done. There are also links to more detailed information," Mr Waldegrave says.

"There are minimum obligations that every business or self-employed person must meet and this web resource provides small business owners and self-employed people with the information they need to get these right". "Employing people can be challenging. Infozone: Business Essentials takes business owners through correct employment procedures step by step for hiring, managing and paying people, with templates and a calculator to help". Mr Waldegrave says business owners are responsible not only for the health and safety of employees but also of everyone who comes to the workplace. Infozone: Business Essentials sets out key health and safety requirements to enable them to meet those obligations.

From http://www.dol.govt.nz/ 07/12/2010

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Employment Law Package All About Jobs & Growth

Prime Minister John Key today announced a fair and balanced employment law package aimed squarely at jobs and economic growth. "This employment law package is all about policies to help productivity and employment in New Zealand," says Mr Key. "As we continue to grow out of the recession, it's important we have the right environment to create more jobs. "Employment growth happens because a business is prepared to give someone a chance - often someone they have never met before and know very little about. "The extension of the 90-day trial period to all workplaces is all about giving prospective employees a shot at work, and giving employers the confidence to hire. "An evaluation of the 90-day trial period showed that 40 per cent of employers who used it said they would not have, or were unlikely to have, hired that person without a trial period. In addition, employers have generally acted responsibly and workers have been treated fairly.

"Many other developed countries we compare ourselves with, like Britain and Australia, have similar policies. In some cases the policies go much further. "We are giving many more businesses increased confidence to hire new employees, and giving many more people a chance to prove themselves in the job market. "We are making a number of other changes to improve the Employment Relations Act, many in line with the National Party's 2008 manifesto including making union access to workplaces require employer consent - which cannot be unreasonably withheld. "We are also implementing our promise to allow employees the choice to request the trade of their fourth week of annual leave for cash. This is alongside other changes to the Holidays Act to improve this area of the law.

"I would like to acknowledge the Act Party's involvement in this package and their support for it. "The employment law package is one more step on the road to a more productive economy and increased employment."

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/18/2010

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SOLOMON ISLANDS: Central Bank Notes Signs of Economic Recovery

The Central Bank of Solomon Islands says the country's economy saw signs of recovery in the domestic economy in the first three months of 2010. The SIBC reports the bank says overall production began to rise again following its contraction in the second half of 2009. It says bad weather and flooding experienced during the quarter adversely affected the production of most agricultural commodities. The bank says the external sector provided a favourable environment for the country's exports, although imports continue to outweigh the gains in exports, and as a result trade activities rebounded, after witnessing a slow down in the fourth quarter of last year. The Central Bank says the overall production index saw a rapid 21 percent rise in the March quarter, and crude palm oil exports also saw a quarterly increase of around 11-percent which is 27-percent higher than for the same period the year before.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 07/19/2010

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Asia Private-Bank Boom Not What It Was in '07, Credit Suisse's Kreis Says

The past year's expansion in Asia's wealth management industry bears little resemblance to the boom of 2007, when firms were hiring indiscriminately and clients were less cautious, said the head of Credit Suisse Group AG's private-banking unit in the region. "In 2007, banks who were expanding organically hired everyone that could count to ten without using ten fingers," Marcel Kreis said in a June 24 interview. "Certainly we're not back: the investment environment, the client environment, the whole thing is not what it was in 2007." Credit Suisse, based in Zurich, and rivals such as UBS AG are adding private bankers in Asia as wealth managers replenish ranks depleted following the bust of 2008. This time, banks need to be more careful because rich clients who suffered losses during the global financial crisis haven't fully regained their confidence, said Kreis, 58. "If you fall off a cliff, you have a sharp recovery afterwards," said Roman Scott, managing director of Calamander Capital and the former head of Boston Consulting Group's Asia wealth management practice. "That's called a dead cat bounce. But it doesn't mean things are back to normal." Credit Suisse, ranked the world's fifth-biggest wealth manager by Scorpio Partnership last year, trimmed its private- banking workforce in Asia-Pacific by 13 percent in 2009 to about 360, said Kreis. He plans to add about 60 managers in 2010.

'Cynical' Clients
Kreis joined Credit Suisse in 2007 from UBS, where he was head of global wealth management for the Asia-Pacific region. He has worked in the region's private-banking industry since 1983, including stints at Citigroup Inc. and Merrill Lynch & Co. Private banks face pressure to be more transparent in their dealings with customers, after wealthy investors got burned on complex securities that plummeted in value during the credit crisis, Kreis said. "2008 has left a lot of private investors a lot more cautious, a lot more short-term oriented, a lot more focused on simple products than more complex ones," he said. "Clients are more cynical today." The MSCI Asia-Pacific Index has lost 6.2 percent after rallying 34 percent in 2009. The gauge soared almost 150 percent in the five years through Dec. 31, 2007 before plummeting 43 percent in 2008.

Margin Drop
Industry profit margins have fallen by about 30 percent since 2007 as rich clients shifted their focus to investments like gold and real estate, said Calamander's Scott. Growth may also be hurt by cross-border restrictions on private bankers based in Singapore and Hong Kong who fly to neighboring countries to woo clients, according to the executive. Credit Suisse, Switzerland's second-biggest bank, attracted a record 11.5 billion Swiss francs ($10.6 billion) in net new money last year at its Asia-Pacific private-banking unit. Kreis said he aims to increase net new money to as much as 45 billion Swiss francs by 2012 from the end of last year. Wealth in Asia outside Japan is expected to grow at twice the global rate from the end of 2009 through 2014, the Boston Consulting Group forecast this month.

Higher Demands
Credit Suisse plans to hire senior private bankers who can help bring in investment-banking work, since entrepreneurs control much of Asia's wealth. The wealth management unit initiated 69 investment banking deals in the Asia-Pacific region in the first half of 2009, up from one in the same period of 2006, according to presentation slides from a conference Credit Suisse hosted in September. "In a raging bull market where a rising tide lifts all boats, you were a lot more inclined to give junior bankers an extra year or so to prove they can deliver," said Kreis. "In a market that's more volatile and more uncertain, you tend to err on the side of the caution and that's certainly what we do."

From http://www.bloomberg.com/ 06/30/2010

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European Businesses Must Engage with Rising Asia, Says HSBC Report

HONG KONG (AFP) - As the global economic axis tilts towards Asia, European businesses are at risk of being left behind, according to a report released by HSBC. The model where the West did the development work and the East took care of production with cheap labor is dead, it says, adding that innovation will increasingly originate from the East. "Unless European business confronts the implications of the re-balancing of economic power and the growth of Asia, business opportunities will be lost and business threats will increase," it said. The "Looking East: The changing face of world business" report investigates the challenges and opportunities of the rise of Asia for European businesses and identifies current and future trends. It warns that European companies are at risk of not engaging with the new economic world order. "We are no longer looking at when West meets East, but at how the East will redefine the West and the way we do business," said Alan Keir, HSBC's group general manager and global co-head of Commercial Banking. "It's crucial that European businesses are not only appreciative of this fundamental and fast-paced change, but that they are able to respond swiftly and effectively. Our competitiveness as a region is at risk." Firms must look at how they can capitalize on Asia's diverse consumer base, skilled workforce and advances in research and development, while mitigating the risks posed by the macro-economic climate. Booming Eastern populations and consumer wealth will create unprecedented market opportunities for European businesses, the report says. But "the free-market, liberal principles on which the West was built are often in direct contrast to methods of rule in the East," it adds. "European businesses need to be aware that the competitive playing field is not necessarily level." "As the influence of the West declines, the importance of business relationships in Asia will grow: European companies must not find themselves sidelined in the new economic and political order." In the Asian workforce, the result partly of huge investment in education means the paradigm where the West did the design and development work and the East took care of production and manufacturing is anachronistic.

From http://ph.news.yahoo.com/ 07/03/2010

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Asia-Pacific Corporate Bond Risk Declines to Lowest in More than Two Weeks

The cost of protecting Asia-Pacific bonds from default fell to the lowest in more than two weeks, according to traders of credit-default swaps. The Markit iTraxx Asia index of swaps on 50 investment- grade borrowers outside Japan dropped 4 basis points to 127 basis points as of 8:09 a.m. in Hong Kong, according to Credit Agricole CIB. That's the lowest since June 22, according to CMA DataVision in New York. The Markit iTraxx Australia index decreased 6 basis points to 122.5 basis points as of 9:45 a.m. in Sydney, also to the lowest in more than two weeks, according to Nomura Holdings Inc. and CMA data. The Markit iTraxx Japan index fell 5 basis points to 127 basis points as of 8:49 a.m. in Tokyo, the least since June 22, Morgan Stanley and CMA prices show. Credit-default swap indexes are benchmarks for protecting bonds against default and traders use them to speculate on credit quality. An increase suggests deteriorating perceptions of credit quality and a drop shows improvement. The swap contracts pay the buyer face value in exchange for the underlying securities if a borrower fails to meet its debt agreements. A basis point is 0.01 percentage point. (by Shelley Smith)

From http://www.bloomberg.com/ 07/08/2010

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Lending Rates Creep Up in Fast-Growing Asia

HONG KONG - Barring any surprises, interest rates in the United States and much of Europe look set to stay steady until next year. But in fast-growing Asia, the cost of borrowing has begun to creep up again. South Korea on Friday became the latest country to raise interest rates from the lows of the financial crisis, joining a host of others in the region in gradually normalizing borrowing costs. The increase was slight - the key seven-day repurchase rate was nudged up by quarter of a percentage point, to 2.25 percent - but the timing surprised many analysts, who had expected the Bank of Korea to hold fire until next month. Less than 24 hours earlier, the central bank in Malaysia had also staged a quarter-point rate rise - its third this year - again surprising observers, who had mostly forecast no further move for the time being. The key overnight policy rate in Malaysia now stands at 2.75 percent

And last Friday, India announced an unexpected rate hike, its third this year. Vietnam, Taiwan, New Zealand and Australia also have started to return rates toward more normal levels, in Australia's case with a string of hikes that started last October. Collectively, the moves are testimony to the region's economic strength. The Asia-Pacific region was spared major banking failures, and its governments and households are far less indebted than those in Europe and America. This, as well as stimulus spending and sharply lower interest rates last year, allowed the region to escape the global downturn relatively unscathed, despite a sharp drop in exports as global demand plummeted in 2009.As a result, the region's developing countries could see growth of 9.2 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund's latest projections, published on Thursday. This compares with 3.3 percent and 1 percent, respectively, for the United States and Europe. South Korea last month raised its official growth forecast for 2010 to 5.8 percent, from 5 percent.

Fast growth has brought inflation pressures, and it is these that the region's central banks are seeking to combat with their gradual rate rises. The Bank of Korea said Friday that although the economy was on track for solid growth, inflation threats were set to mount. "Consumer price inflation has so far remained in a range of somewhat above 2 percent but a little below 3 percent," the central bank said in a statement accompanying its rate decision. But it added that "upward pressures are expected to build continuously" because of the continued upturn in economic activity. The bank pledged to maintain an "accommodative policy stance" to aid the economic recovery, but some analysts projected further small increases could be in the offing. "Pending the release of further guidance, we are inclined to keep our call for an August rate hike, for now," commented Wai Ho Leong, a regional economist at Barclays Capital in Singapore, in a note, citing the central bank's apparent concern with inflation, and continued strong growth. (by BETTINA WASSENER, New York Times)

From http://www.startribune.com/ 07/10/2010

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Emerging Market M&A Gains Share on West, Led by Asia

SINGAPORE: A burst of corporate acquisition activity in Asia shows that executives throughout the region are gaining confidence in their financial outlook and expansion strategy, with cross-border deals on the upswing. Asia Pacific M&A, excluding Japan, rose 78 percent last quarter, according to Thomson Reuters, with emerging market acquisitions now one-third of total deal volume. While the largest transactions still mainly originate in the United States and Europe, a slew of recent deals have come from places like China, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Asia's M&A activity received a boost on Monday with a quartet of Australian deals totalling more than $4 billion and including buyers from Thailand, Singapore, China and Korea.

"What I think you will see over time is a steady increase in confidence of Asian players to go outside and do deals and not just in the West but emerging markets as well, such as Africa," said David Timblick, CEO of Lazard Asia, speaking at the London School of Economic's Asia Investment Banking conference in Singapore on Monday. Australia's Centennial Coal Co Ltd agreed to a $2 billion takeover offer from Thailand's Banpu Public Co Ltd, while Anglo American sold five Australian coal fields worth $488 million to a South Korean consortium. On top of those deals, Singapore's Wilmar International Ltd agreed to buy CSR's sugar business for $1.5 billion, while Australian pallet maker Loscam Ltd said it had been acquired by Hong Kong-based ports operator China Merchants Group. "I think Asia M&A volumes will surpass the U.S. and Europe," said Ronnie Behar, Credit Suisse's co-head of mergers and acquisitions for Asia, excluding Japan, who was also speaking at the conference.

From http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/ 07/11/2010

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Foreign Direct Investment Recovery Underway

Singapore - A modest recovery in global foreign direct investment (FDI) flows was evident in the first half of 2010, with the rebound being most palpable in some APEC member economies. Recent trends in FDI were discussed at the launch of UNCTAD's World Investment Report 2010 at the APEC Secretariat in Singapore today. Philip Gaetjens, Director of the APEC Policy Support Unit provided an Asia-Pacific perspective and noted that, "In line with worldwide trends, FDI inflows and outflows for the APEC region fell in 2009. However, the stock of inward FDI still grew by 16 percent to US$7.2 trillion and the stock of outward FDI increased by 26 percent to just over US$8 trillion." FDI stock refers to the amount of investment already accumulated in a host economy or region, as opposed to the actual flows in a given year.

These outcomes, as well as information on Greenfield projects and mergers and acquisitions (M&As) in the APEC region, can be found in a summary report prepared by the Policy Support Unit. UNCTAD's FDI forecasts were reported by Ambassador Muhamad Noor, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat, who relayed that, "UNCTAD predicts a stronger rebound in 2011 and 2012 with global inflows forecast to reach between 1.3 and 1.5 trillion US dollars in 2011, and as much as 1.6 to 2 trillion US dollars in 2012." Ambassador Noor also noted that while UNCTAD expects all regions to experience recovery, developing and transition economies will remain favourable destinations for FDI.

APEC has long-placed a high priority on investment liberalisation and facilitation because of the critical role investment plays in stimulating economic development and trade. In 1994, it developed the APEC Non-Binding Investment Principles to strengthen and enhance the transparency of investment regimes within APEC. In 2007, APEC also launched an Investment Facilitation Action Plan aimed at the promotion of investment in member economies. APEC and UNCTAD have a history of partnering on investment-related initiatives. Under the APEC-UNCTAD Joint Capacity Building Project for Addressing Knowledge Gaps in the Use of Foreign Direct Investment, seven APEC economies have been selected as examples of best practices and case study reports have been completed in four areas, including electricity and roads. Reports on skill development and small and medium enterprises will be published shortly. APEC and UNCTAD have also undertaken a joint study on the core elements of 100 international investment agreements. The study has been used as the basis for capacity building activities such as the APEC-UNCTAD Regional Training Course on the Core Elements of International Investment Agreements in the APEC Region held in Malaysia in June 2009, and a Workshop on Investor-State Dispute Settlement held in the Philippines in December 2009. APEC's work on investment continues under the auspices of the Investment Experts' Group.

From http://www.apec.org/ 07/23/2010

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CHINA: CDB Approves 600 Mln Yuan Emergency Loan to Flooded Regions

China Development Bank (CDB) said Monday it has approved an emergency loan of 600 million yuan (88 million U.S. dollars) for flood-control work in China's rain-devastated regions. An official with the bank said CDB will work to meet the capital demand of flooded regions for relief work. According to the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, since the beginning of the year, floods have taken toll of 381 Chinese lives across the country, of whom, more than 200 people have died in the country's 10 southern provinces and regions after heavy rains began pelting down June 13, triggering floods and landslides. Economic losses from the floods in the 10 regions, including Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, and Guangxi and Guizhou, have reached 59.3 billion yuan, said the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters. A rainstorm-triggered landslide Monday afternoon buried 107 people in southwest China's Guizhou Province, local authorities said. Casualty numbers are not immediately known. Rescue work is underway.

From Xinhua News Agency 06/28/2010

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Banking Regulator Warns of Risks in Property, Overcapacity Sectors

China's chief banking regulator said Tuesday that Chinese banks should pay more attention to possible financial risks in local government financing vehicles, the property sector, as well as other sectors with excessive production capacity. Liu Mingkang, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission(CBRC), said at a CBRC conference that, given the current complicated economic conditions in China, China's banking industry is still facing challenges to maintain its stable development. Chinese banks ought to further strengthen loan risk management and carry out stress tests on loans to the property industry and other related sectors, Liu said. Liu reiterated that banks should maintain the consistency and stability of China's tightening measures on the property market and not relax control on lending for home purchases. Banks should also tighten loans on industries with high industrial emissions, high energy consumption, excessive capacity and backward capacity, Liu added.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/01/2010

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China to Improve Access to Finance for SMEs

China pledged Thursday to improve financial services for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by offering them better access to finance. The People's Bank of China (PBOC), China's central bank, outlined principles to facilitate the development of the country's SMEs in a joint statement released with China's banking, securities and insurance regulators. "Loans to SMEs by banks and financial institutions this year should exceed the amount last year and their growth rate should outpace that of all loans," the statement on the PBOC website said. The statement ordered financial institutions to establish independent criteria for approving loans to SMEs and to improve their efficiency in processing loan applications submitted by SMEs. The statement encouraged SMEs to use Renminbi for trade settlement in cross-border trade when possible. The statement affirmed the central bank's support for SME's purchases of foreign exchange for overseas investment and Chinese companies' foreign borrowings.

From English.news.cn 07/01/2010

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PBOC Pumps 105 Bln Yuan into Money Market

The People's Bank of China (PBOC), or the central bank, injected 105 billion yuan (15.5 billion U.S. dollars) into the money market this week through its regular open market operations to increase short-term liquidity. It was the seventh straight week that the PBOC has acted to boost liquidity in the money market with net injection. This week's action also brought the central bank's net injection into the money market to 900 billion yuan (132.84 billion U.S. dollars) over the past seven weeks.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/08/2010

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China to Continue to Fight Hot Money Inflow: SAFE

China's State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) said Friday it would step up efforts to monitor and fight hot money inflow. This is the fifth time for the country's foreign exchange regulator to respond to the issue publicly within a week. The regulator posted a question-and-answer statement on its website each time. Investigations into speculative hot money starting in February have found 190 cases or US$7.35 billion of hot money flowing into China this year, according to the SAFE. Capital flows into and out of China for purposes other than payments related to exports and imports are strictly controlled by the SAFE, which manages China's US$2.45 trillion in foreign exchange reserves.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/09/2010

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Shanghai Ranks 8th as Financial Hub Globally

Shanghai was rated the eighth top financial hub in the world in a new index tracking 45 financial centers globally. The International Financial Center Development Index, launched yesterday in Shanghai, rated New York, London and Tokyo as the world's top three financial hubs with Shanghai showing the biggest growth potential. Shanghai, which has ambitions of becoming the world's leading financial center by 2020, was rated with the most potential, beating the likes of Hong Kong, New York and Tokyo, based on indicators on market growth, economic prospect, innovation efforts and prospects. Despite those bright prospects for growth, Shanghai is still lagging behind mature markets in service, ranking only 19th. Shanghai is lacking senior financial professionals, though the city is rolling out measures to attract senior bankers and products and risk control managers. Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen are three Chinese mainland cities among the 45 hubs listed in the index. In March 2009, the State Council issued guidelines to help Shanghai accomplish its goal to become a major global financial center by 2020. Shanghai will create a multi-layered financial market, promote the opening of financial services and ensure financial stability in the coming years to achieve this goal.

City Party Secretary Yu Zhengsheng said in June that Shanghai will try every innovation to fulfill the target. Shanghai's rise is backed by China's growing economic power. China defied the global financial crisis in 2009 by growing 9.1 percent, with the momentum picking up in the first quarter of this year to 11.9 percent. The city already holds the Shanghai Stock Exchange, which is expected to be the biggest market on initial public offering this year; China's sole gold exchange; foreign currency bourse; and the major metals futures exchange. The lion's stake of foreign bankers has based their China headquarters in Shanghai on the city's emergence in the financial industry. Accelerating Shanghai's development in modern services, manufacturing, financing and shipping will be of great significance to the Yangtze River Delta and the nation, the State Council said earlier. The index was launched by Xinhua News and Dow Jones Indexes. It was based on 66 indicators and 2,386 surveys. The two agencies have joined hands as strategic partners in Shanghai.

From Shanghai Daily 07/09/2010

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PBOC Agrees to Provide RMB Cash Settlement Services to Taiwan

The People's Bank of China (PBOC), the central bank, announced Tuesday that it has authorized the Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited (BOCHK), to provide RMB cash settlement services to Taiwan. An agreement had been signed between the PBOC and the BOCHK to allow the BOCHK to sign RMB contracts with Hong Kong branches of Taiwan commercial banks authorized for such exchanges by Taiwan authorities, said a statement on the PBOC website. According to the agreement, the Hong Kong branches would then provide RMB cash supply and withdrawal services to their head offices in Taiwan, which in turn would offer RMB cash exchange services to local clients. Currently, Taiwan banks can trade yuan at the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) and Bank of America in Hong Kong. The new service could make travel across the Taiwan Strait more convenient, and lay foundations for a cross-Strait currency settlement mechanism and boost cooperation on currency administration, it said. The clearing services could start in Hong Kong once all the parties involved were technically ready. More negotiations were needed on the launch of RMB deposit, remittance and trade settlement services in Taiwan, said the statement. Chinese mainland and Taiwan negotiators last month signed a landmark economic pact, the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), which aimed to establish a systematic mechanism and enhance cross-Strait economic cooperation.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/13/2010

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Central Bank to Drain 205 Bln Yuan from Market

China's central bank said Wednesday that it will auction 160 billion yuan ($23.61 billion) of three-year bills and 45 billion yuan of three-month (91 days) bills in its regular open market operations on July 15. The three-year bills, a surge from the previous sale worth 22 billion yuan on July 2, also will set a new record since the People's Bank of China resumed auction of the three-year bills earlier this year. A Thursday report by the China Securities Journal, citing bill traders, said that the money market saw ample liquidity again with the close of Agricultural Bank of China's initial public offering subscriptions and the pass of seasonal factors that fueled demand for money. Meanwhile, demands for three-year bills from institutional investors have increased owing to their concerns about the economic outlook as economic data for June and the first half of the year is rolling out. Analysts said that it was not a surprise for the central bank to decrease the net injection or even exercise small money drain from the market as it has increased money supply for seven weeks in a row, with net injection hitting 938 billion yuan, and the market's recent cash crunch has passed, the paper reported. The central bank drained 35 billion yuan from the market through selling one-year bills on Tuesday. Bills and notes worth 259 billion yuan will mature on the open market this week, the report said.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/15/2010

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China's Ministry of Finance to Sell 23.2 Bln Yuan in Local Government Bonds

China's Ministry of Finance plans to sell 23.2 billion yuan (3.42 billion U.S. dollars) of three-year bonds for seven local governments on July 19, according to a statement posted Friday on the ministry's website. All the bonds will be sold through the ministry at a fixed yield of 2.33 percent on behalf of the governments of Beijing Municipality, Fujian, Shandong, Guangdong, Hainan and Yunnan provinces, along with Qingdao City, the ministry said in its statement. Prior to the new sales, the ministry floated 43.8 billion yuan (6.47 billion U.S. dollars) worth of local government bonds in June. China planned to sell a total of 200 billion yuan (29.53 billion U.S. dollars) worth of local government debt this year. China began issuing local government bonds last year to help fund its 4 trillion yuan (about 590 billion U.S. dollars)-economic stimulus package last year, when 35 provinces and municipalities sold a total of 200 billion yuan worth of such bonds. Last month, Liu Jiayi, the head of China's National Audit Office, told the country's top legislature in a report that the financial crisis had left some Chinese provinces with serious debt problems. Bank loans taken out by local governments totaled almost 3 trillion yuan by the end of 2009. According to China's law on government spending, it is illegal for local governments at all levels to have deficit accounts and local governments should eliminate debt payments within the fiscal year. The Chinese central government allows local governments to establish financing platform companies with their fiscal funds, land revenues and other assets to supplement capital for economic and social development. Local governments are prohibited, however, from using their revenues and government assets to guarantee loans from banks and other financial institutions. The State Council, China's Cabinet, in June ordered local governments to halt all forms of fiscal revenue guarantees for debts.

From English.news.cn 07/16/2010

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Chinese Banks Post 18.3% Increase in Assets

Total domestic assets in foreign currencies and yuan at Chinese financial institutions had risen 18.3 percent year on year to 87.2 trillion yuan (12.9 trillion U.S. dollars) by the end of June, China's banking regulator said Thursday. Combined liabilities had risen 18 percent from one year ago to 82.3 trillion yuan by the end of June, the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) said in a statement on its website. Large-scale commercial banks' assets had grown 13.2 percent year on year to 43.6 trillion yuan by the end of June while assets of joint-stock commercial banks had risen to 13.5 trillion yuan, up 24.6 percent from a year earlier, the statement said. Liabilities at large-scale commercial banks rose to 41.2 trillion yuan, up 13 percent year on year, while those of joint-stock commercial banks increased 23.6 percent year on year to 12.8 trillion yuan. The bad loan ratio of major commercial banks - both large-scale commercial banks and joint-stock commercial banks - fell to 1.30 percent, down 0.29 percentage points from the beginning of 2010, the CBRC said in a separate statement on its website Thursday. CBRC Chairman Liu Mingkang Tuesday warned of possible financial risks in local government financing vehicles, the property sector and in sectors with excessive production capacity. He asked Chinese banks to further strengthen loan risk management and to carry out stress tests on loans to the property industry and other related sectors. "Given the complicated economic conditions in China, China's banking industry still faces challenges to its stable development," he noted.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/22/2010

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JAPAN: Kan Proposes Sales Tax Refunds for Range of Income Levels

Prime Minister Naoto Kan proposed on Wednesday sales tax refunds for a range of income levels, indicating the kind of measures that may be considered in the event that the tax is hiked. In suggesting ahead of the July 11 House of Councillors election that the current 5% consumption tax rate could be doubled, the Democratic Party of Japan leader has said that refunds may be considered to alleviate the impact of an increase in the regressive tax on low-income earners. ''We will discuss a system in which all the tax payments would be returned to those whose annual income is 3 million yen, 4 million yen or less,'' Kan said during a stump speech in the city of Yamagata.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/01/2010

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Kan Eyes Widening Corporate Tax Base

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Sunday he wants to consider expanding the corporate tax base in parallel with a proposed cut in corporate taxes. The premier made the remarks during an appearance on a Fuji Television program, apparently with a review of preferential taxation on some industries in mind. The remarks were also thought to be aimed at countering arguments that Kan's Democratic Party of Japan-led government is tilting toward doubling the 5% consumption tax rate to cover the revenue shortfall that would result from corporate tax cuts. A possible rise in the consumption tax rate is a major issue for the July 11 House of Councillors election, with the DPJ and the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party calling for a hike to fix the nation's tattered public finances. Reiterating the need to lower corporate taxes as a means to boost Japanese companies' international competitiveness, Kan said that even if the corporate tax rate declines, tax revenue will be secured to some extent by a broadened tax base.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/05/2010

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Double Taxation on Pension-insurance Payouts Overruled

It is illegal to impose income tax as well as inheritance tax on the beneficiaries of life-insurance money paid in pension form, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, overturning a lower court decision that approved the form of double taxation. The ruling is likely to have a significant impact given that it may spur similar lawsuits demanding the return of income tax already paid. There are probably millions of policies with the same type of contract, and cases involving beneficiaries of similar pension payments are believed to number in the tens of thousands, according to the government. At issue was the interpretation of a provision in the Income Tax Law stipulating that income tax will not be levied on inheritance, bequests, gifts or donations from an individual. Tax authorities consider the pension, including the right to receive it, as inherited assets, but at the same time consider tax cash actually received as miscellaneous income.

The top court's Third Petty Bench, presided over by Justice Kohei Nasu, said the provision should be interpreted as "excluding double taxation on things of the same economic value." The plaintiff in the case was a 49-year-old housewife in the city of Nagasaki whose husband died in October 2002. Because he held a life insurance policy with the pension contract, she obtained after his death the right to receive a lump sum of ¥40 million and a pension of ¥2.3 million every year for 10 years. She filed suit with the Nagasaki District Court in August 2005, demanding that the government nullify the double taxation on the pension. While the district court's November 2006 ruling ordered the government to annul the taxation, the Fukuoka High Court overturned the decision in October 2007. According to the earlier rulings, tax authorities found about 60 percent of the ¥23 million pension she was to receive as taxable. Although she was not levied an inheritance tax after basic deductions, an income tax was imposed after she received ¥2.3 million in the first year of receipt.

From http://search.japantimes.co.jp/ 07/07/2010

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Osaka Proposes Special Zone for Easier Regulations on Lending

The Osaka Prefecture government proposed on Tuesday that the central government designate the prefecture as a special zone for easier regulations on consumer loans. The proposal came after the revised moneylending business law took full effect in June to toughen regulations on consumer loans by lowering the maximum lending rate from 29.2% to 20% and limiting loans to one-third of a borrower's annual income. The tougher regulations are expected to disqualify some small enterprises and consumers from borrowing loans from consumer loan companies and prompt them to depend on loan sharks and other illegal lenders. A poll by the prefectural government has found that one of every seven borrowers from consumer loan firms plans to depend on illegal lenders. ''We should utilize wisdom, instead of direct regulations, to balance lenders and borrowers well for appropriate lending deals,'' Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto said. ''The revised moneylending business law has no wisdom.''

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/07/2010

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Japan's FY 2011 Budget to Cap Gov't Spending at Y71 Tril

The cabinet decided Tuesday to cap the government's annual spending at 71 trillion yen for the year through March 2012. The outline for the fiscal 2011 budget came in line with Japan's medium-term fiscal framework through 2013 unveiled last month, in which the government also said it would aim to keep annual new government bond issuance below 44 trillion yen.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/20/2010

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SOUTH KOREA: Banks Big Enough Already - Think Tank

Korea's major banks are already big enough to pose systemic risks to the financial industry, a leading think tank said Thursday, lending weight to opposition to a plan to create homegrown mega-banks. "Korean banks trail global banks in outright comparison of assets, but when considering their share in the domestic economy, they are relatively larger," Park Hyun-soo, senior researcher at Samsung Economic Research Institute, said in a report. The total assets of Kookmin Bank amounted to 24.1 percent of the country's gross domestic product, while Bank of America accounted for 15.6 percent of the U.S. economy, he said. Kookmin, a unit of KB Financial Group, is Korea's largest commercial lender with assets of 273.8 trillion won. Its global ranking, however, was 69th in 2009. Smaller players Woori and Shinhan ranked second and third in Korea and have higher shares than that of BOA, at 20.5 percent and 18.5 percent, respectively, Park added. "Both in terms of assets and deposit market shares, Korea's major banks have the potential to create large systemic risks to the financial sector," he diagnosed. The report comes as Korea rethinks its strategy to advance its banking sector, ahead of the planned privatizations of Woori Finance Holdings Co., the parent of Woori, and Korea Development Bank. Before the global banking crisis, Korea had envisioned the creation of a few mammoth banks, through mergers and acquisitions, which would rank among the world's top 50 in size. However, the mega-bank plan became uncertain amid global moves to break up "too big to fail" banks. "Korean banks should focus on core competence and optimization of their business portfolio, rather than blindly pursuing mergers that would pump up asset size," the expert said. Last month, KB Financial's chairman-nominee Euh Yoon-dae expressed his intention to acquire Woori in order to create a mega-bank through a merger with Kookmin, adding fuel to the mega-bank controversy. On July 1, the government delayed the planned announcement of a detailed plan for its stake in Woori.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 07/08/2010

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Bank of Korea Raises Interest Rate to 2.25% to Stem Inflation

The Bank of Korea raised its benchmark interest rate for the first time since the global crisis, joining counterparts across Asia in removing monetary stimulus after a strengthening in the region's growth. Governor Kim Choong Soo boosted the seven-day repurchase rate to 2.25 percent from a record low 2 percent, the bank said in a statement in Seoul today. An increase was forecast by just four of 14 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, while investors in recent days had added bets on a move. South Korea joins India, Malaysia and Taiwan in lifting borrowing costs in recent weeks, judging that economic rebounds across Asia will remain resilient to Europe's debt crisis. The decision follows Kim assessment that growth may surpass the country's trend rate, and a call by the nation government to wait until second-quarter data come later this month. "When economies are recovering fast, that's the time to raise interest rates, partly to keep it under control but also to signal to people that things are getting better," Jim Walker, managing director and chief economist at Hong Kong-based Asianomics Ltd, said in an interview in Seoul Thursday. Government bond yields have risen on expectations of a rate move. Yields on one-year securities rose to a five-month high of 3.15 percent yesterday, according to data compiled by the Korea Financial Investment Association. Yields have jumped 38 basis points since the central bank on June 10 signaled a greater emphasis on consumer prices as the economy accelerates.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 07/09/2010

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Gov't Seeks 7% Budget Hike for Next Year

Government ministries have requested an increase in next year's budget of W313 trillion (US$1=W1,209), a nearly 7 percent jump from this year's budget. The Ministry of Strategy and Finance says it will consider the feasibility of the request and submit its final proposal for the 2011 budget to the National Assembly in October. Among the 50 government ministries and agencies, those related to foreign and unification affairs sought the biggest budget increase of 11.8 percent or a combined W3.7 trillion. Funding requests for R&D were next with a 10.8 percent or W15.2 trillion increase.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 07/09/2010

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KOFIA Plans to Launch Credit-default Swaps Index

Korea's financial investment association plans to introduce a benchmark for credit-default swaps on the nation's corporate bonds, according to two officials at the group. Swaps on notes sold by companies, banks, card issuers and finance leasing firms may be tracked by the index, which the Korea Financial Investment Association plans to start in the fourth quarter of this year, said one of the officials, who asked not to be identified as details are still being determined. The association, also known as KOFIA, is a non- profit organization that promotes the nation's capital markets. Credit-default swap indexes are benchmarks for protecting bonds against default and traders use them to speculate on credit quality. An increase suggests deteriorating perceptions of creditworthiness and a drop shows improvement. The swap contracts pay the buyer face value in exchange for the underlying securities if a borrower fails to meet its debt agreements. A basis point is 0.01 percentage point.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 07/19/2010

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INDONESIA: Rp 20 Billion Allocated to Dredge Rivers This Year

Jakarta administration has budgeted to spend Rp 20 billion (US$2.2 million) to dredge six rivers in five municipalities this year. The six rivers are the Grogol (from Jl. Palmerah to Jl. Kyai Tapa), the Ciliwung (from Jl. Manggarai to Jl. Matraman), Rawa Kerbau (from Jl. Cempaka Putih to Jl. Letjen Soeprapto), Kesehatan (From Jl. Cideng Timur to Jl. Tanah Abang), Serdang (from Jl. Sunter Jaya to Lapangan III) and Krukut Bawah. Public Works Agency chief Ery Basworo said the administration put the projects up for tender and expected the work to be carried out between August and December. "We should finish the dredging by the end of this year, to reduce flooding in the city," Ery said as quoted by beritajakarta.com on Thursday.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 07/09/2010

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LAOS: Spending Millions of US Dollars of Grant and Loans on Priority Projects

(KPL) The Finance Ministr's External Finance Department has successfully magnetised more than 1.4 US$ billion overseas aid from friendly countries over the past three years. The fund was spent on 34 priority projects countrywide, which were outstanding works of the department. The figure was reported to last week's third meeting of the External Finance Department held in Vientiane Capital. On other hand, the Ministry Finance has approved grant aid and loan to 196 projects over the past three years, said Mrs. Thipphakone Chanthavongsa, Director of the External Finance Department. She continued that the department had so far focused on cooperation with friendly countries and the Party Foreign Relation in order to raise funds for social-economic development and the relief of state revenue during the impact of global economic crisis. To fulfill the target, it needs to enhance bilateral cooperation with loan suppliers of Vietnam, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Malaysia and Thailand, she stated further. The government has also supervised the ministry to conduct loan procedure via the Finance Ministry's single window system to ensure the stable finance and state budget. Attending the meeting were Mme Viengthong Siphandone, Deputy Minister of Finance, directors of departments and high-ranking officials.

From http://laovoices.com/ 06/25/2010

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SEZ to Attract US$460 Million More of Investment

(KPL) The Savanh-Seno special economic zone is ambitious to attract more domestic and overseas investment worth more than US$ 465 million till 2013. The plan is focusing on creating a favourable condition in investment for more than 50 companies, which are expected to create more than 6,000 jobs for local people. This ambitious plan was disclosed by Mr Bouakham Sisoulath, Party Secretary of the Savanh-Seno special economic zone at the second Party meeting of the entity late last month. More 25 companies with a registered investment of US$36 million have investing in the Savanh-Seno special economic zone. If compared to 2005's, the figure shows a rise, mainly by 23 companies. This was thanks to the close attention of the Party Unit of the Savanh-Seno special economic zone. The infrastructure development of the Savanh-Seno special economic zone on 234 ha has largely been completed. Most emerging companies invested in this zone are the Lao Tin Smelting Co. Ltd from Japan, which is the largest factory in the Savan Park followed by logistics service.

From http://www.kplnet.net/ 07/06/2010

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Samaiphanh Gives 10 Million Kip for New City Pillar Shrine Construction

(KPL) The Samaiphanh Company in cooperation with the Ministry of Health has donated 10 million kip to the Ministry of Information and Culture to finance the ongoing construction of the new City Pillar Shrine of Vientiane Capital. The handover of the donation was held at the Ministry of Information and Culture in Vientiane Capital last Friday between President of the Samaiphanh Company, Mr. Visaykoun Voutthivilath, and Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Mounkeo Oraboune, in witness of relevant officials of parties concerned. The construction of the new City Pillar Shrine is estimated at 15 billion kip. The construction began in March this year and so far it has been carried out by 40 per cent. Over 10 individuals and organisations have made donations for the construction project. However, further donations and contributions from the government and private sectors as well as the general public are appreciated for the construction which is expected to be over in 2011.

From http://www.kplnet.net/ 07/12/2010

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THAILAND: An Annual Budget of 200 Million Baht Set Aside for the National Reform Process

The Government has set aside an annual budget of 200 million baht to carry out various activities in the national reform process, which is set to last three years. The Cabinet, during its meeting on 29 June 2010, approved a draft regulation of the Office of the Prime Minister on national reform. The draft regulation was proposed by the National Health Commission, which was entrusted by the Cabinet with establishing a reform office to serve as secretariat handling the task of reforming Thailand. The National Health Commission told the Cabinet in its proposal that social crisis in the country stemmed from the problem of social and economic structures concerning disparity and injustice. In order to tackle this problem on a sustainable basis, the Prime Minister has invited all groups of people to join forces in dealing effectively with national issues. He proposed a reconciliation plan with measures to solve the problems in a systematic manner, especially those related to welfare and opportunities. Clear objectives have been set to increase people's income, and all governments that assume office must continue to create social justice.

On May 11, the Cabinet assigned the Pattana Thai Foundation to work with the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board and the Thai Health Promotion Foundation to conduct public forums from May to September 2010 on the reform process. Later, on June 17, a brainstorming session took place to seek ways to reform Thailand. It proposed that the Government establish a mechanism to handle the reform and suggested that the Government invite respected persons to help the reform process. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has appointed two reform committees: the Committee on Reform Strategy, chaired former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun, and the Committee on Reform Assembly, chaired by prominent social critic Professor Dr. Prawase Wasi. The Government will not interfere with the operations of either committee, which will coordinate work and give recommendations on structural issues.

The Committee on Reform Strategy will focus on drawing up strategies, measures, and processes for reform. It will offer recommendations for the Government and the public to consider and implement. The Committee on Reform Assembly will concentrate on promoting the participation of all sectors of society in mobilizing the reform process. It will set up an assembly at the national level and support the formation of assemblies on specific issues and localities as appropriate. Meanwhile, the National Statistical Office launched a national survey to gather 100,000 people's views on various issues concerning national reform. The opinions of citizens will be gathered through other channels, as well, such as a call center and various seminars.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 07/05/2010

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VIETNAM: State Enterprises Called to Account

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has asked the Ministry of Finance to intensify its inspections of State-owned enterprises to make sure they conform with financial regulations. This is aimed at providing early warnings of financial difficulties. The ministry was also asked to keep a close eye on investments made by enterprises in their core businesses as well as beyond their spheres of competence in other sectors, including banking, securities, insurance and real estate. The requests were made in the Government's recent meeting to review the equitisation of State-owned enterprises, the transformation of the enterprises into one-member liability limited companies, and their performance in the first six months of the year. The Prime Minister asked the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs to further examine the implementation of working conditions and salary policies in enterprises, and promptly conduct research on a plan to reform salaries and bonuses paid in State-owned groups and corporations before submitting the plan to the Government for approval.

The Ministry of Home Affairs was required to develop the policy of appointing a representative to oversee the State's share of capital held in State-owned industries, and generally upgrade the quality of enterprise leaders. To improve efficiency of State-owned enterprises, the Prime Minister urged ministries, authorities, boards of directors and the State Capital Investment Corporation to more strictly oversee the operation of enterprises in which the State contributes capital. The Steering Committee for Enterprise Renovation and Development will co-operate with ministries and local agencies to develop a plan for State-owned enterprise reform, renovation and classification for the 2011-15 period and submit it to the Government for approval. The State-owned shipbuilder Viet Nam Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (Vinashin) was recently found to have run up debts of over US$4.2 billion.

Pham Viet Muon, deputy head of the Steering Committee on Enterprises Renovation and Development, attributed Vinashin's trouble to not only the common difficulties faced by many enterprises due to the state of the international economy, but also to excessive speculative investment in other sectors beyond its core business. He said: "Vinashin must operate according to the law and use loans responsibly. Vinashin's management board must review and define their responsibilities." Muon noted that after the 2008 crisis, Viet Nam was among several countries that still possessed a stable business environment. From 2005 to 2007, Vinashin signed 166 contracts worth $5-6 billion. It began facing difficulties in 2008 due to the global financial crisis. Muon also said that the Government must learn from the shipbuilder's experience to more strictly control State-owned corporations and groups.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 07/08/2010

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BANGLADESH: ADB $40 Million Loan to Boost Food Security, Farm Incomes

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is extending financial assistance to Bangladesh to grow high-value crops including vegetables, spices, and fruits that will boost incomes for poor farmers and support the nation's food security. A loan of $40 million equivalent from ADB's concessional Asian Development Fund is being provided for the Second Crop Diversification Project. It will be used to support the development of high-value crops in 27 districts in the southwest and northwest of Bangladesh - including some of the poorest, least developed and most climate-vulnerable areas in the country. Over 75% of Bangladeshis are involved in agriculture, with rice the dominant crop. However, the country lacks sufficient supplies of fruit and other nutritious foods, forcing it to rely on pricey imports. In response, the government has put in place an agriculture development strategy to diversify crops, ensuring national food self-sufficiency and increased incomes for farmers. The new project will build on the gains of an earlier ADB-assisted Northwest Crop Diversification Project. It will provide farmers in targeted districts with the latest in high-value crop production techniques, including "green" technologies for organic manure. The focus will be on crops with proven market demand, high profitability, and potential for commercialization, including fruits, vegetables, pulses, spices, cut flowers, potted plants and value-added agriproducts. "Agriculture projects continue to be important for promoting social inclusiveness, particularly of women and ethnic minorities, and this initiative will benefit marginal, small and medium farmers in target areas, as well as generating employment opportunities for landless people," said Jiangfeng Zhang, Senior Country Economist for ADB's Bangladesh Resident Mission.

With Bangladesh highly susceptible to extreme weather events due to its low-lying position along the Bay of Bengal, the new project will pilot test climate-resilient varieties of crops in drought and flood-prone areas. Training in the production and post-harvest processing and marketing of high-value crops will be provided equally to men and women, and to reduce post-harvest losses and improve produce quality, the project will support investments in low-cost community-based infrastructure such as collection and post-harvest handling centers, and small scale cool, cold and dry storage facilities. As small farmers typically lack savings to make business changes, the project will provide about 175,000 of them with access to agriculture credit to diversify into new crops. "The project will also undertake a feasibility study on setting up a quality standards certification system for fruit and vegetable farms to pave the way for access to domestic retail outlets, including supermarkets, and to reduce food contamination," said Mr. Zhang. The new initiative complements and incorporates lessons from agriculture projects undertaken by ADB's development partners in Bangladesh, including World Bank, Danish International Development Agency, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Islamic Development Bank and Food and Agriculture Organziation. ADB's loan, which will finance 87% of the total project cost of $45.8 million, has a 32-year term with an 8-year grace period. Interest during the grace period is set at 1% per annum, rising to 1.5% for the rest of the term. The government is extending $5.42 million, with farm communities extending around $390,000 equivalent. The Department of Agricultural Extension and Bangladesh Bank are the executing agencies for the project, which is expected to be completed by June 2016.

From http://www.adb.org/ 07/01/2010

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INDIA: Maharashtra Government to Reserve Budget for E-Governance

In a bid to promote e-Governance policy of Maharashtra Government, all the departments have been asked to spend half per cent of their budgetary provision on computerisation and providing online services to citizens. The IT department has proposed mandatory electronic delivery act. The idea is that the Government wants the citizens should receive the services faster and cheaper with the help of the e-Governance. Learning from the past experience, the resolution has said that the departments should buy software along with hardware otherwise the machines lay unused. The IT department has also proposed a 'Maharashtra Mandatory Electronic Delivery of Public Service Act 2010' to encourage e-services. With the proposal, if implemented, the people might soon do away with long queue and receive birth certificates, land documents and other important papers online as the government would provide various services via Internet.

From http://www.egovonline.net/ 07/06/2010

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SRI LANKA: Inflation Slows to 4.8-pct in June

LBO) - Consumer prices in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo rose 4.8 percent in June 2010 from a year earlier, down from 5.3 percent in May, the fourth straight monthly fall, the government statistics office said. In the month of June the Colombo consumer price index rose 0.8 percent in absolute terms to 217.7 from 215.9 points a month earlier. The Central Bank, has said it intends keeping inflation at single digit levels. Inflation hit 28 percent in June 2008. The 12-month moving average, which is a lagging indicator spread over two years has been on the rise since March, rose to 3.9 percent from 3.6 percent in May 2010.

From http://www.lankabusinessonline.com/ 06/30/2010

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NEPAL: Govt Prepares Special Budget of Rs 110 Billion

The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has prepared a special budget of Rs 110 billion ready to be tabled at the parliament anytime to ensure smooth functioning of the government before the government to be formed presents a full budget. Finance minister Surendra Pandey informed a meeting of the UML parliamentary board on Saturday that the size of the special budget would be Rs 110 billion. According to Pandey, in the special budget Rs 53 billion had been earmarked for regular expenses, Rs 26 billion for development and Rs 31 billion for reimbursement of interest and principal on loans. The MoF prepared a special budget as a caretaker government cannot present a full budget as per the provisions in the interim constitution. The Madhav Kumar Nepal led government has been relegated to caretaker status after Nepal resigned through a televised address on Wednesday. A cabinet meeting on Thursday, one day after the government stepped down, had decided to present a special budget to address the contingency needs if a new government is not formed on time. There are provisions the government can spend one-third amount proposed in the full year's budget as advanced budget. The size of the special budget was determined based on this provision. A special budget was presented three years ago when Girija Prasad Koirala was heading a caretaker government following the elections to the Constituent Assembly (CA).

From http://www.nepalnews.com/ 07/04/2010

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Revenue Mobilisation Surges to Rs 179.90 Bn

The government collected Rs 179.90 billion in revenue in fiscal year (FY) 2009/10, exceeding the set target by well over Rs 3.40 billion. In the budget, the government had targeted to collect Rs 176.5 billion revenue in the same FY. The collection is 25.5 percent higher than in 2008-09. And, the collection can well cross Rs 180 billion as we are yet to receive data from one branch of Rastriya Banijya Bank (RBB) and four branches of Nepal Bank Ltd (NBL), said revenue secretary Krishnahari Baskota. It was for the fourth consecutive year that the government has managed to beat the target comfortably. Baskota ascribed the consistent growth in revenue collections to recent efforts of the government to motivate the revenue officials, introduction of reforms in revenue administration and new steps taken to plug the leakage. The Value Added Tax (VAT) has contributed the highest in the total collection. "VAT contributed 32 percent at Rs 56.75 billion in the total collection," he said adding that the second largest contributor is customs as it contributed 19 percent at Rs 35 billion. The income tax comes across as the third largest contributor as it contributed Rs 33.75 billion, followed by excise duty at Rs 24.25 billion. According to the Ministry of Finance, registration fees too fetched additional Rs 5 billion in revenue along with Rs 2.25 billion from vehicles registration tax. Non-tax sources generated Rs 23 billion to the national coffer. "Wider issuance of Permanent Account Number (PAN) and publication of tax directives largely made the government's program to mark 2009/10 as tax compliance year successful," claimed Baskota. However, entrepreneurs have been saying that the government has concentrated on revenue mobilisation instead of strengthening the export competitiveness of the local industry.

From http://www.nepalnews.com/ 07/21/2010

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PAKISTAN: World Bank Approves $6.2 Billion Lending Programme

WASHINGTON: The World Bank on Thursday approved a four-year $6.2 billion lending program for Pakistan that seeks to boost tax revenues, make energy supplies more reliable and improve conditions in conflict-hit areas. While the lending strategy from 2010 to 2013 is slightly less than the $6.5 billion committed during the last four-year period, the program hones in on specific trouble spots in Pakistan. Pakistan is battling al Qaeda-linked militants, which has uprooted nearly three million people since 2009 and put an extra burden on the country's struggling economy. The World Bank said it will intensify its efforts to help the government increase tax revenues, which has caused chronic underfunding of key services and made the country reliant on foreign aid. Pakistan's tax-to-GDP ratio is one of the world's lowest. "Raising the ratio of tax to GDP - currently only 10.2 percent of GDP - is essential to mobilise resources to invest in human development and infrastructure, build resilience to future shocks, and guard against costly and disruptive growth reversals," the Bank said in a statement. Pakistan was due to implement a value-added tax (VAT) or a reformed general sales tax of 15 percent by July 1, but the 2010/2011 budget deferred the move to October 1 because of a failure to reach consensus among provinces. The Bank's plan envisages working with provinces to boost revenues. In the energy sector, the Bank said it will help Pakistan tap its huge hydropower potential to make power supplies more reliable and improve the distribution of natural gas system, which through leakage or inefficiencies has higher than average losses. The country has long suffered from chronic power shortages that have angered the public and stifled industry. In April, the government announced measures to cut state electricity consumption by half. The World Bank said it will also focus its lending on addressing problems in Pakistan's conflict-hit areas. These include Federally Administered Tribal Areas near the Afghan border, and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, formerly known as North West Frontier, which has been targeted by militants but is not an Islamist stronghold. In particular, the World Bank said funding will be aimed at health and education, and improving the livelihoods of people, particularly for young men, living in these areas. "This strategy recognises that to steer Pakistan back on a path of broad-based growth, create jobs, and reduce poverty, a prolonged period of macroeconomic stability, financial discipline and sound policies is required," said Rachid Benmessaoud, World Bank country director for Pakistan.

From http://www.brecorder.com/ 07/10/2010

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ARMENIA: HSBC Bank Armenia, National Center for Development of SME Open Academy of Trade Financing

HSBC Bank Armenia CJSC and the Small and Medium Entrepreneurship Development National Center of Armenia (SMEDNC) opened Academy of Trade Financing, where seminars on facilitation of business development in international trade will be held. SMEDNC Executive Director Karen Gevorgyan said that seminar participants will be provided with the opportunity to raise awareness on possibilities and instruments of foreign trade financing, to estimate foreign trade risks more clearly and manage them more efficiently, as well as to become acquainted with effective ways to enter the international market. For his part, CEO of HSBC Bank Armenia CJSC Astrid Clifford expressed hope that the Academy will become a useful instrument of financing and facilitating the international trade. Seminars will be held by specialists of the trade financing department of HSBC Bank Armenia CJSC free of charge three times a month. The Academy of Trade Financing is a global project of HSBC group, which has been efficiently launched in England, France and Georgia.

From http://www.panarmenian.net/ 06/29/2010

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KAZAKHSTAN: Economy to Grow by 150% by 2020

The President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, informed the economy of Kazakhstan will grow by 150 % by 2020 today during the space bridge 'We will build strong Kazakhstan together!', the agency reports. "The economy by 2020 will grow by 150 %, labor productivity and the industry will grow by 1.8 %, and agriculture - by 2 times. We do not rely only on our bowels, on our raw materials, but we create an alternative economy," N. Nazarbayev informed. He reminded that this year "we will finish construction of 144 objects." "72 objects costing $2.5 billion will be commissioned. All in all, 191 objects costing $20 are planned to be commissioned next year.

From http://www.kt.kz/ 06/28/2010

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Kazakh Government to Discuss Anti-crisis Plan for Kyrgyzstan Today

The Kazakh Government will discuss the Anti-crisis Plan for Kyrgyzstan today. First Deputy Prime Minister Umirzak Shukeyev has made it public today at the session of the Cabinet. "Kyrgyz delegation, representatives of the Eurasian Fund and World Bank will take part in today's discussions. Our site is headed by Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade Kuandyk Bishimbayev", U.Shukeyev said. As the Vice Premier noted, the Anti-crisis Plan would be developed together with the World Bank. The document must be submitted to Kyrgyz Government for consideration by August 15. "We agreed with the World Bank to develop one Plan that would be financed from different sources - international financial organizations, Eurasian Fund, humanitarian aid", U.Shukeyev said. According to him, the EurAsEC will present this Plan at the session of the Eurasian Fund in Moscow on August 17.

From http://www.inform.kz/ 07/20/2010

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TURKMENISTAN: Establish National System of Accounting and Auditing

President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov signed a decree approving the program of reform of accounting and auditing system in Turkmenistan. The document approves the composition of the coordination committee, the regulations of this commission and plan of action to implement the above program. As the Turkmenistan.ru correspondent reports from Ashgabat, starting from 1 January 2013 all enterprises, institutions and organizations irrespective of their ownership (except for banks) are required to implement a phased transition, and starting from 1 January 2014 a full transition to the national system of accounting and auditing in accordance with international standards of financial accounts and audit. Banking institutions of Turkmenistan are required, beginning with 1 January 2011, to make the transition to international standards of financial accounts, make financial calculations on the basis of the year 2011 in accordance with international standards, and to ensure the conduct of annual audits beginning with the financial accounts drawn up in 2011 in accordance with international standards.

From http://www.turkmenistan.ru/ 07/12/2010

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UZBEKISTAN: Government, Central Bank and IMF Issue Joint Statement

The following joint statement was issued on 30 June in Tashkent by a staff mission from the International Monetary Fund and the authorities of the Republic of Uzbekistan. "An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission visited the Republic of Uzbekistan from June 14 - 29, 2010 to hold discussions with the Uzbek authorities for the 2010 Article IV consultation. The mission was headed by Ms. Taline Koranchelian, Assistant to the Director in the Middle East and Central Asia Department; David Owen, Deputy Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department, joined the policy discussions. "The discussions focused on Uzbekistan's policy response to the global crisis and the economic outcome in 2009, the outlook for 2010 and for the medium term, and policy issues of importance for Uzbekistan.

"Uzbekistan has remained resilient to the global economic crisis largely because of the authorities' cautious policies, which ensured significant fiscal surpluses and enabled them to accumulate considerable resources to support growth in this period. The mission congratulates the authorities for their timely and effective response to the crisis. It notes that the authorities' anti-crisis program, including the reduction in the tax burden, was crucial to limit the impact of the global crisis on the banking sector, to maintain a balance of payments surplus, and to preserve robust growth in 2009. A very cautious approach to borrowing on global financial markets also limited the country's exposure to the global crisis. Real GDP is estimated to have grown by 8.1 percent in 2009, one of the highest rates in the world, while average inflation increased slightly.

"Driven by the continuing effects of the anti-crisis package, the authorities' industrial modernization and infrastructure development program, and the better external environment, real GDP is expected to continue growing at a healthy 8 percent pace in 2010. The authorities and the mission agreed that the main challenge in the short term is to guard against a build-up of inflationary pressures through continued cautious macroeconomic policies. "The mission fully agrees with the authorities that Uzbekistan' medium-term challenge is to further increase the real income per capita of the Uzbek population and to create new jobs for the young and growing labor force. In this context, the authorities' industrial modernization program rightly focuses on infrastructure development that should lay the ground for increased investment in Uzbekistan.

The financial sector has developed significantly over the past four years, and the substantial increases in capitalization and bank assets contributed to the stability of the banking sector and will allow to support the authorities' industrial modernization and infrastructure development program. "To fully realize the potential economic benefit of the authorities' program, the mission made a number of recommendations. These included: maintenance of tight monetary policy, a more flexible exchange rate policy; further reforms, particularly in the exchange system, tax administration, and the deepening of the financial sector; and significant improvement in the quality and dissemination of data. These recommendations will be thoroughly considered by the authorities in the formulation and implementation of economic policies. "The mission emphasized to the authorities that the Fund staff stands ready to assist Uzbekistan in its reform efforts, including through technical assistance. "The mission is grateful for the excellent cooperation with the Uzbek authorities, and the fruitful and open discussions."

From http://uza.uz/ 07/01/2010

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AUSTRALIA: Government Withholds WA Health Funds

The Australian Government is withholding millions of dollars of funding from Western Australia because it has not signed a new health agreement. The other states and territories will today begin receiving extra money for their health systems. Earlier this year the Federal Government offered the states and territories billions of dollars in extra money for health if they signed a new funding agreement. Western Australia refused because it does not want to give up control of its GST revenue. The Health Minister Nicola Roxon had indicated she may bypass the WA Government and send the money directly to hospitals. But a spokesman says that is not possible and the Commonwealth has vowed to withhold $AU350 million for emergency departments and elective surgery procedures until WA signs on.

Efforts to negotiate a compromise appear to have stalled in recent weeks and the dispute looks likely to continue for some time. The WA Government wrote to the Commonwealth last month suggesting ways to resolve the dispute, but it hasn't heard back. The other states and territories are expected to use their extra cash to improve aged care services, provide more doctors and nurses and more hospital beds.

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 07/01/2010

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Australian Government Releases New Budget Forecast

Australia Treasurer Wayne Swan has released new figures showing that Australia's budget surplus will be $AUS2 billion more than expected by 2012/13. The forecasts have been issued just nine weeks after the federal budget and come as the Government looks to showcase its economic credentials to voters as it prepares to go to an election. The Government has also revealed that the major concessions it made to the mining industry over its proposed tax on profits comes at a loss of $7.5 billion if calculations are made by using commodity prices which have not bee revised upward. The budget will return to a $3 billion surplus in three years. That amount is three times bigger than forecast in May's budget. The deficit for this financial year is roughly the same at $40.4 billion, but will be $3 billion less in 2011-12 at $10 billion. The unemployment forecasts remain unchanged from the May budget, at 5 per cent for 2010-11 and 4.75 per cent for 2011-12.

Growth for 2010-11 is predicted at slightly less than the May budget at 3 per cent, 3.75 per cent for 2011-12 and 3 per cent for 2012-13. Just over a week after becoming Prime Minister, Julia Gillard made significant changes to the Government's proposed Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) on mining profits which included dropping its rate from 40 to 30 per cent. The Government said the change would only result in a $1.5 billion loss of revenue from the originally projected amount of $12 billion, but the Opposition has questioned the credibility of the figures and demanded more detail on how the figure was reached. Today's updated figures confirm that the Government will be collecting $10.5 billion of revenue from its MRRT, which replaced the Resources Super Profits Tax (RSPT).

But the documents also reveal that the calculation has been made by using commodity prices which have been revised up. "The revised commodity price forecasts increase revenue from the resource tax arrangements by $6 billion over the forward estimates," it says. Federal Opposition leader, Tony Abbott, has urged the Government to use any extra windfall revealed in today's figures to pay off debt and not "pork barrel" during the election campaign.

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 07/14/2010

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FIJI: Budget Unveiled Today

Fiji's interim Prime Minister and Minister for Finance will unveil the revised 2010 budget this morning. FBC News reports the re-direction of funds to priority areas and new measures to boost government revenue will be announced. Commodore Frank Bainimarama is expected will urge the country to live within its means, safeguard finances and maintain macroeconomic stability. The Commodore stated yesterday that the regime's focus is to reduce wastage, improve productivity, and speed up project and reforms implementation.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 07/01/2010

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NEW ZEALAND: Community Response Fund Provides Support

A further $5.738 million is being injected into critical social services under the Government's Community Response Fund. "This means 131 community organisations get added support to provide social services to communities," says Social Development Minister Paula Bennett. This is round three of the fund, established last year to help NGOs meet critical demand while under financial pressure from an economic recession. Community organisations apply for funding under two criteria: financial crisis and increased demand, including innovative ways to meet increased demand. Round Three has seen increased applications with innovative solutions. "This shows organisations are thinking smarter about how to respond to increasingly complex needs of their communities," says Ms Bennett.

"We're seeing greater collaboration and more sharing of back office functions among providers who continue to improve as a result," says Ms Bennett. "The Community Response Fund is changing the ways services are delivered, as well as ensuring groups providing vital community services continue to meet increased demand," Ms Bennett said. To date, the Community Response Fund has provided $25 million to 479 organisations across the country. Applications for Round Four of the Community Response Fund opened in February and will close in July.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 06/30/2010

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Mental Health Funding - More Than Ever Before

"The Government continues to invest strongly in mental health with an extra $174 million over the next four years," Health Minister Tony Ryall says. "We are spending more on mental health than the previous Government ever did." "Savings in the 2010 Budget account for less than half of one percent of the $1.2 billion the Government spends on mental health each year." "We have made savings from contracts that finished, from contracts where there was not sufficient uptake and from uncommitted money that has gone back into the health pot." "None of these savings pose any risk to frontline services." "This is all in the context of Labour quietly cutting more than $100 million from the Health budget in the weeks leading up to the 2008 election."

"Several new and exciting mental health initiatives will be announced shortly." "These are in addition to new initiatives announced last year such as $26 million for eating disorder services." "The bottom line is that we are spending more on mental health services and providing more services to the public than ever before."

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/14/2010

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Extra Govt Funding Provides New Respite Care Beds

Health Minister Tony Ryall today opened a new wing at Sevenoaks Retirement Village in Paraparaumu housing ten new respite and palliative care beds. Three of the beds are dedicated to short term respite care funded out of the extra $5 million for respite care the government announced last year. "This is a good example of a community identifying and meeting its own local health needs, and the result is an impressive facility," said Mr Ryall. "The Kapiti Retirement Trust began 50 years ago to meet a shortage of appropriate accommodation for the elderly, and has followed the same principles today in identifying a shortage of respite and palliative care beds then filling that gap." "Older New Zealanders deserve quality services in their retirement - they deserve to live as good a life as possible and it is refreshing to see communities like this one responding to the needs of their older people - and doing that well.

"The Government is committed to improving the quality and standards of care for older people. We have spent an extra $60 million on aged care and DHBs are expecting to spend more on home support next year."

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/19/2010

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Atlantis Healthcare to Receive International Investment

Minister of Trade Tim Groser welcomed a NZ$20 million international investment into Auckland healthcare company Atlantis Healthcare. White Cloud Capital, which announced its investment today is backed by leading industrial families from Europe, India, North Asia and Australasia. Atlantis Healthcare develops innovative support programmes to help patients adhere to their prescribed course of treatment. It has offices in New Zealand Australia and the UK, and employs 120 people. Mr Groser said the investment will help Atlantis expand quickly in the international marketplace. "It's a good news story and a signal that the world is now recognising New Zealand's innovative achievements in health and health technology"

New Zealand has pioneered advances in many areas of healthcare technology, ranging from leading electronic medical records, ground breaking medical devices and biopharmaceutical products to software and information technology (IT) solutions. "We are building an international reputation for quality and innovation in this arena" "For example, over the past few months, Orion Health has secured major projects in Europe, North America and the Middle East against strong global competitors." In addition to Atlantis and Orion, there are a number of other New Zealand health and technology companies making an impact internationally including the likes of Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Emendo, Intrahealth and Mesynthes. It is fantastic to see these international wins Mr Groser concluded.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 07/20/2010

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CHINA: Private Groups May Be First to Set Up Trade Offices - Official

Private trade and industrial associations in Taiwan may be the first groups to be allowed to set up offices in China under the terms of a landmark trade pact between the two sides, Taiwan officials said Tuesday. According to officials participating in the fifth meeting between top cross-strait negotiators, private institutions such as Taiwan Furniture Manufacturers' Association (TFMA) may be the first to benefit from an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China, which allows for the reciprocal establishment of economic and trade groups offices. The semi-official Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) and China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) may be next in line, the officials said. For many years, Taiwan and China have been discussing the issue of setting up TAITRA and CCPIT offices on each side, the officials said, adding that the ECFA has now provided a structure to allow for that. After they have established offices in China, Taiwan economic and trade groups will be able to expand their business exchanges with Chinese companies and offer.

From http://focustaiwan.tw/ 06/29/2010

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China Launches "Thanksgiving" Campaign, Asks Private Businesses to Help Those in Need

China's united front authority has launched a campaign to encourage people operating private businesses to reciprocate society's kindness by helping the needy. In the campaign, business people will be encouraged to help people in need, especially those who devoted their lives to China's revolutionary cause, old members of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and old model workers, by offering "pairing assistance," said the CPC Central Committee United Front Work Department Thursday. The united front is a term used by the CPC to describe its policy of uniting the political forces representing people of various circles. In written instructions on the program, top political advisor Jia Qinglin said the campaign would inspire "patriotism and a sense of social responsibility" among private business people. "It would help to create a good atmosphere within the united front, and even within the entire society, for being grateful to the CPC, the country and the Chinese people," said Jia, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). The campaign, initiated in Shanxi, Hebei and Chongqing provincial-level areas, is worth being extended nationwide, Jia said. Du Qinglin, head of the United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee, said during a teleconference about the campaign on Thursday that the program is "innovative and efficient" in promoting healthy growth and raising the ideological and moral standards of these business people. Du asked local united front offices and industrial and commercial departments to work out unique ways to move the campaign forward.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 07/15/2010

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JAPAN: State-paid Cabinet Secretaries Also Cash In at Private-sector Jobs

Ten of 198 state-paid secretaries working for 68 ministers, senior vice ministers and parliamentary secretaries under the Kan Cabinet in Japan have received salaries from companies and unions where they hold executive and other posts, the Yomiuri Shimbun has learned. In principle, state-paid secretaries are prohibited from concurrently holding other jobs under the law governing the salaries of secretaries to Diet members. But the law also stipulates that these secretaries can hold other jobs if the lawmakers whom they work for permit this. It has been learned that one of the secretaries received a total of 5 million yen (US$57,757) in 2009 from four organizations, including a union of a major automaker. An observer said this kind of practice may be regarded as a loophole in the law and such remuneration could be construed as a form of donation to the lawmaker concerned. Assets of the 68 ministers and other senior government officials under the administration of Prime Minister Naoto Kan were disclosed Friday. According to the administrative offices of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, 21 state-paid secretaries concurrently held jobs as executives with private companies or other positions. Of them, seven were unpaid and four received remuneration as lawyers. Of the 10 others, a policy secretary to Shinichiro Furumoto, a parliamentary secretary of finance, received a total of 5.04 million yen (US$58,219), the highest amount, from four organizations, including a union of Toyota Motor Corp. The union is a power base of the lawmaker, who is a lower house member of the Democratic Party of Japan elected from Aichi Constituency No. 11. The secretary said: "My positions 1/8at the organizations3/8 are not nominal and I've made tax declarations 1/8for the payments3/8.

But it may be that a state-funded secretary would face criticism for concurrently having other jobs. I plan to resign from these posts." It also has been learned that a state-paid secretary to Tadahiro Matsushita, a senior vice minister of economy, trade and industry, received 4.08 million yen (US$55,446) for an executive post at a construction company run by the secretary's relatives. Matsushita is a lower house member of the People's New Party elected from Kagoshima Constituency No. 3. Under the law, lawmakers can have up to three secretaries whose salaries, ranging from about 5 million yen to 10 million yen per year (US$57,757 to $115,514), are paid from state coffers. Following a fraud case involving salaries of a lawmaker's secretaries, revisions were made to the law in 2004 to prohibit state-paid secretaries from holding other jobs, in principle. But secretaries could do so if they obtained permission from the lawmakers they work for and report it to the speaker of the lower house or the president of the upper house, depending on which chamber the lawmakers belong to. Prof. Masaki Taniguchi, a specialist in Japanese politics at the University of Tokyo, who is well-versed in political fund issues, said: "The remuneration secretaries 1/8of lawmakers3/8 receive from their concurrent jobs could be considered a different form of donation to lawmakers. Since lawmakers and their secretaries both are employed by the taxpayers, 1/8secretaries3/8 should refrain from taking concurrent posts."

From http://www.bellinghamherald.com/ 07/17/2010

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SOUTH KOREA: Woori Financial Sale Plan Further Delayed

Financial authorities delayed the announcement of a privatization plan for Woori Finance Holdings, citing the need to consider external conditions. "It has been suggested that we spend more time to look at external environments of the sale, such as global issues and (macroeconomic) issues, with relevant authorities," Financial Services Commission Chairman Chin Dong-soo told reporters. Wednesday was the government's self-imposed deadline to present a finalized plan. "Some members of the Public Fund Oversight Committee are out of office and we will not be able to resume discussions until they return in mid-July," he said. The committee is a sub-body of the FSC chaired by Chin. The chairman, while declining to provide any specific time table when he will be able to present a plan, but said he believes the matter should be sorted out in some way before the yearend. "After the Asian financial crisis, we had many plans for the financial sector, but how many of them turned out as planned?" he asked, stressing the importance of external factors. "One thing sure though is that Woori Financial should be handed over to private hands," he said. The government owns 57 percent of Woori Finance, the nation's No. 2 financial group by assets and the parent of Woori Bank, after it was bailed out in the aftermath of the 1997-98 financial crisis.

The latest delay appears to have to do with a heated controversy as to whether the country should continue pursuing a Korean mega bank, going against the global trend of breaking up "too big to fail" banks. Creating a few mammoth banks capable of competing globally was the centerpiece of President Lee Myung-bak's ambitions to transform the nation from a financial dwarf into a regional banking center. The Woori sale would play a crucial part role in this, because any bank that buys Woori would gain an upper hand toward becoming the mega bank. Opinions seem to vary even within the very center of policymaking circles, including chief financial regulator Chin. "Size should not be the main purpose" of the banking sector consolidation, he has said, signaling a shifting stance. Meanwhile, Euh Yoon-dae, chairman-nominee of KB Financial Group who is known as a close confidant of Lee, voiced his advocacy of the mega bank plan. He said he wanted to buy Woori to create a mega bank. KB Financial is the nation's No. 1 financial group and owns the largest commercial bank, Kookmin. A union of Woori and Kookmin would create a bank with assets exceeding 500 trillion won ($409 billion), by far the largest in Korea and the ninth-largest in Asia.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 06/30/2010

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Two S. Korean NGOs Approved as UNESCO Advisory Bodies

Two Korean cultural organizations are to serve as advisory bodies for the UNESCO. The Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) announced in late June that the Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation (KCFH) and the World Martial Arts Union (WOMAU) were recently approved as official NGOs for UNESCO, free to offer advice in regards to protecting items of intangible cultural heritage. The decision was made at the third General Assembly of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The two Korean NGOs will have rights to request international assistance for protecting intangible heritage, make lists of intangible properties in need of urgent protection and also take part in the screening process for the UNESCO list. The Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation, established in 1980, has contributed greatly to protecting and preserving Korean traditional rituals and arts by bringing to life its performances and special rites. The World Martial Arts Union was founded in 2002 to encourage personnel and logistics exchange between traditional martial arts organizations around the world. The union so far has 35 martial arts organizations in 34 countries as its members. Both organizations were recognized for their expertise in their respective fields. The two organizations submitted applications in 2008 and were approved along with 95 other NGOs from around the world. The Cultural Heritage Administration plans to continue recommending other local NGOs with experience and knowledge as advisory bodies to UNESCO.

From http://www.korea.net/ 07/05/2010

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MALAYSIA: Creativity at Record High

THE standard of Malaysian advertising creativity has hit an all-time high, industry veteran Datuk Rishya Joseph tells StarBizWeek. He disagrees with the view that the level of creativity has dropped based on Malaysia winning only a silver and a bronze this year at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival versus a silver and six bronzes last year. Pointing to Campaign Brief Asia's latest Hottest Creatives in Asia list, he says five of the top 10 creatives are Malaysian (all from BBDO/Proximity). And in the Hottest 181 Agencies in Asia rankings, Saatchi & Saatchi Malaysia and BBDO/Proximity Malaysia are second and third, respectively. "Our creatives are in a very illustrious list, and I am very proud that Malaysian creativity is ascending. It certainly is not going down," he says, adding that Malaysia had never done this well before. "You can't take a single award show's (Cannes Lions) reading and make a blanket judgment. We did very well at Cannes in the last three years though maybe not this year. You have to take a measure over three to five years," Joseph says. He also says the Yasmin Ahmad-directed TV commercial Funeral that clinched two golds at Cannes should've been credited to Leo Burnett Malaysia.

Although the client is from Singapore, the production involved Malaysian talent. (In fact, the commercial won the Film Golden Kancil at the last Kancil Awards.) Joseph says he is proud that under the creative leadership of Yasmin's husband Tan Yew Leong, the legacy of Yasmin lives on at Leo Burnett. "That agency is going from strength to strength," he praises. On the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents (4As), he says that for the first time, the association is a "legit" entity with a bite, rather than a toothless tiger. "They have created so many good things - from the Putra Brand Awards to the Effie Awards to their emphasis on training (the Shine programme). "The association has gained credibility in the marketplace. Previously we never stood up for a cause. Today, the 4As is fighting for the right causes, such as the made-in-Malaysia ruling."

Joseph says that while technology will drive the way we manage the future of our business, ideation will never change. "At the crux of anything, you must have the fundamentals of that idea. Ideas must have its fundamentals based on consumer insights, consumer engagement principles, and consumer response mechanism. "Advertisers have to recognise that insights are critical. It's almost becoming a science behind the art. In today's brand economy, ideation is the key differentiator."

From http://biz.thestar.com.my/ 07/10/2010

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Optimism on Auto Sector Running High

PETALING JAYA: Analysts are upbeat about the outlook of the local automotive industry for 2010, saying "the current state of the auto industry is one of optimism not seen since 2005." "We believe the TIV (total industry volume) will exceed our initial forecast of 546,000 units as consumer and business confidence improves," said Kenanga Research in a report yesterday. The research house said it was revising upwards its 2010 TIV forecast to 568,000 units from 546,000 units originally due to the commendable sales performance in the first six months of the year. The Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) has revised upwards its 2010 TIV forecast to 570,000 units from 550,000 units initially due to the stellar sales performance in the first half of the year. The TIV in the first half grew 19.8% to 301,077 units compared with 251,305 units in the previous corresponding period.

However, Kenanga said that it anticipated TIV in the second half of 2010 to "normalise" as the period was expected to be "seasonally slow." RHB Research, in its report, said it was maintaining its 2010 TIV growth forecast of 9.5% to 587,698 units. "We are keeping our 2010 to 2012 TIV projections. We expect TIV to grow 9.5%, 4% and 3.2% in 2010 - 2012, following a 2% contraction in 2009," it said. TIV for 2009 was 536,905 units. RHB Research said it was positive on the earnings outlook for local automotive companies, namely Proton Holdings Bhd, Tan Chong Motor Holdings Bhd, UMW Holdings Bhd and MBM Resources Bhd. It noted that UMW was looking to increase localisation of its Toyota models, in particular the Camry by 2012 as part of the company's RM170mil assembly plant upgrading programme. "The Camry is currently assembled in Thailand and selling for between RM144,000 and RM174,000 as a CBU (completely built-up) unit. Once locally assembled, we believe this price would be brought down by at least 5% as import duty will no longer be imposed," it said. The research house also said UMW was looking at increasing the local content of its Toyota Vios, which had 40% local content. RHB Research also said it was optimistic about the launch of Proton's Waja replacement model in the final quarter of 2010. The vehicle is expected to be similar to the Mitsubishi Lancer and priced RM20,000 to RM40,000 cheaper than the actual Lancer.

It also said Proton could be consolidating its plants in Shah Alam and Tanjung Malim and secure contract manufacturing to optimise plant utilisation which would further improve profitability via better cost control and economies of scale. Sales of Toyota vehicles rose to 34,943 units in the first half of 2010 versus 30,147 units previously, making it the market leader in the non-national passenger car segment. Sales of Proton vehicles increased to 80,051 units from 67,770 units during the same period. RHB Research said it was also positive on the outlook for Tan Chong (which distributes Nissan vehicles) and MBM Resources (which has a 20% stake in Perodua). Perodua sold 94,936 vehicles in the first half of 2010 compared with 77,045 units previously, making it the market leader in the local passenger market.

Sales of Nissan vehicles increased to 13,406 units from 11,220 previously.An analyst from a local bank-backed brokerage said the TIV performance in the first half of 2010 was within expectations, adding that he had revised upward his forecast to 573,000 from 561,000 initially due to the good industry performance. He said he was positive on the outlook of the local auto industry, noting that many car companies were offering low interest rates to boost sales.

From http://biz.thestar.com.my/ 07/22/2010

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THAILAND: Export Industry Has Grown Significantly Despite Political Challenges

The Thai export industry has grown strongly despite the fact that Thailand had to grapple with political challenges during the last couple of months. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva stated that the strong growth indicates the country's solid fundamentals and its commitments to continuing to provide Thai goods and services to foreign friends regardless of obstacles the country might have faced domestically. The statement was part of his remarks at the opening ceremony of "Thailand's Best Friends 2010" at Santi Maitri Building, Government House, in Bangkok on June 30. The event was organized by the Ministry of Commerce, which plays an important part in promoting the Thai export industry, one of Thailand's main income contributors and a significant engine of the country's economic growth. In his remarks, the Prime Minister said that even as Thailand faced the crisis on a global scale in 2009, its exports were valued at more than 152 billion US dollars. Despite the sharp decline from 178 billion dollars recorded in 2008, due to the crisis that had affected many countries globally, the value still represents 58 percent of the country's GDP. And as the world economy started to recover, Thailand's exports made a quick turnaround. The export value for the months of January to May this year stands at 75 billion dollars - a very high growth of nearly 35 percent from the same period of last year.

As Thailand is moving progressively on national reconciliation and reform, the Prime Minister believed that the country would become stronger and more stable. That would also mean that its export industry would continue to expand further. He said that Thailand would build upon its goods that have already garnered trust and confidence from consumers worldwide in order to diversify its range of merchandise and further improve their safety and quality standards. These products are, for example, electrical appliances and electronics, computers and parts, automobiles, gems and jewelry, plastic beads, chemicals, food and agricultural products. In this regard, Prime Minister Abhisit said, research and development, as well as the creative economy initiative, would help Thailand to reach its objective. Additionally, Thailand would also strive to produce goods that are environmentally friendly, paving the way toward green growth and a green economy.

The Government has adopted a more pro-active approach and also adopted some new strategies for export promotion. For instance, it has appointed chiefs of products to oversee the quality and marketing strategy of each product, while enhancing more market penetration. The Government has invested more in human resources, especially in educating and equipping Thailand's leading and SME exporters with critical trading tools, such as technical know-how, branding knowledge, and innovation management. At the same time, it has concentrated more on the building of strong relationships and networks between Thai exporters and foreign importers by implementing a customer relationship management strategy. This strategy is very crucial to the future of Thailand's export prospects, since a long-term trade partnership is built upon - and indeed nurtured through - trust and confidence between traders and consumers.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 07/02/2010

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Incentives Could Move CSR Beyond Big Businesses

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) should place more importance on corporate social responsibility, but they may need incentives, says Yuthasak Supasorn, director of the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion (Osmep).The country's 2.82 million SMEs account for 90% of the businesses in Thailand, but it is mostly large companies that carry out projects as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. Mr Yuthasak, however, stressed that it is crucial for SMEs to also play a role in giving back to society. "The problem we will face next does not concern the size [of businesses] but it is the responsibility of everyone, especially at a time when the government is also increasingly supporting social enterprises," he said.

However, he agreed there should be incentives to help SMEs reach the goal. Osmep itself has a plan to offer certain additional benefits to businesses that register their CSR projects with the office. "Businesses that are able to achieve a certain degree of environmental sustainability would be given first priority in our programmes, such as when going on overseas roadshows for business matchmaking. This is what we will do in order to provide incentives," said Mr Yuthasak. "Companies that see this issue as important have high potential to grow in the future, since the current trend is [to judge businesses on] whether or not you are offering benefits toward society." Osmep and the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding to promote recycling and resource management within the two organisations.

Responsibility toward the environment is now the norm for businesses, and Osmep should start by setting a good example, as it will also increase the efficiency of resource management by various companies, said Mr Yuthasak. FTI chairman Payungsak Chartsutthipol said the FTI had operated a recycling programme since 2007, in which 5.1 tonnes of products have been recycled. Mr Yuthasak said he saw bright prospects for the overall performance of SMEs in the second half of this year. Although consumer confidence fell in May because of the political unrest, sentiment should improve in second half of this year, he said. And while interest rates have started to increase, support from healthy exports should enable SMEs to see good growth, he added. However, he is concerned about the service and tourism sectors such as hotels affected by the decline in the number of foreign tourists.

From http://www.bangkokpost.com/ 07/23/2010

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VIETNAM: Businesses Profit from Social Networking

Social networking has become a mainstream business tool in Viet Nam, a study has found. newly released global survey commissioned by workspace solutions provider Regus said 62 per cent of businesses successfully used social networks to win new business. Relatively little analysis had been done into the real use businesses are making of social networking and whether hard business can be generated through this channel. To understand if businesses globally believe that social networking is ready to take its place as a marketing tool, the survey asked business leaders not only whether they had made any customers using the tool but also whether they believed it is effective enough to get its own marketing budget. It found that well over a quarter of businesses world-wide (27 per cent) set aside a proportion of their marketing budget for social networking activities. In Viet Nam, the number rose to 54 per cent. Around 92 per cent of respondents in the country used social networking to keep in touch with contacts though only 46 per cent had found employment through social networks. Around 77 per cent said the main utility of social networks is managing and connecting with customer groups.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 07/09/2010

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Bond Issuance Horizon Brightens

Limited liability companies are set to be allowed to issue bonds under a new draft decree. The Ministry of Finance (MoF) is drafting a new decree to replace Decree 52/2006/ND-CP dated May 19, 2006 on issuance of corporate bonds. Accordingly, joint stock companies, limited liability companies and state-owned enterprises during the conversion into limited liability companies or joint stock companies will be allowed to issue corporate bonds on domestic and international capital markets. "The draft decree provides clear governing scope on which limited liability companies are allowed to issue bonds, helping the enterprises have more options in raising finance and capital structuring," said Dang Duong Anh, executive partner of Vilaf Hong Duc law firm. Anh said the new decree would make conditions for the MoF to supervise the private placement of the enterprises and provide an international bond issuance legal framework to enterprises. Currently, Decree 52 offers little clarity to whether limited liability companies are permitted to issue bonds. "The draft decree on issuing corporate bonds via private placement if approved by the government will make clear this issue by allowing limited liability companies to issue bonds," Anh said.

Meanwhile, Hoang Gia Hiep, executive board member of Vietnam Bond Market Association, said Decree 25/2010/ND-CP dated March 19, 2010 detailed the transformation of state companies into one-member limited liability companies and management of state-owned one-member limited liability companies. However, from July 1, 2010, all state companies that failed to be equitised by that day will have to be converted into limited liability companies or even state economic groups. Hiep said it was a breakthrough to allow enterprises issue short-term debt instruments. "Under the draft decree, the definition of bonds includes short-term debt instruments. Currently, bonds are considered long-term debts and related to investment projects. This has curbed the bond market's development and transfer instruments," Hiep told VIR. Hiep said bond issuances would allow for financial restructuring and enterprises' capital scale increases. However, Anh said it was questionable as to whether or not foreign-invested companies had to register the issuance of the bonds under the draft decree with the Department of Planning and Investment as part of their respective investment certificates. "It will be difficult for state management to allow foreign-invested companies to issue bonds to raise capital because it will exceed the total investment capital limitation under enterprises' investment certificates.

Anh said one of the conditions for the companies to issue international bonds via private placements was that the total value of such bond issuance must be within the total foreign commercial loan limit approved by the prime minister annually. "It is not easy for the companies to determine whether their bond issuance falls within that limit. On the other hand, a bond is a kind of loan and enterprises can have foreign loans without this condition. Therefore, this condition should apply to state-owned companies only. "The draft decree requires the issuers to comply with regulations on foreign loans. The question given is whether international bond issuance must be registered with State Bank if its term is from 12 months," he said. In additional, Anh said, until now, the conditions and requirements for financial institutions such as commercial banks to act as the underwriter of a bond private placement had not been provided by the MoF which might lead to difficulties for financial institutions who wanted to act as an underwriter of a bond private placement.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 07/17/2010

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SRI LANKA: Private Sector Wants in on Reforms

(LBO) - The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce said the Sri Lankan government should involve the private sector when implementing its latest budget proposals which include reforms in taxation, education and administration. The Ceylon Chamber said in a statement that improved systems and procedures outlined in the 2010 budget presented to parliament Tuesday will enhance the competitiveness of enterprises. "The Chamber looks forward to the early implementation of the policies outlined in the budget and urges the government to involve the private sector at an early stage of implementation." The chamber said it was confident that once the proposals are implemented and "consistency prevails", it will boost investor confidence and promote growth.

From http://www.lankabusinessonline.com/ 06/30/2010

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Sri Lanka's Six Regional Development Banks Merge

(LBO) - Sri Lanka's state-run Regional Development Banks (RDBs) are to merge, getting access to foreign funds, and diversify from agriculture into other areas like tourism and lend in the former north-east war zone, officials said. The single entity created from the merger will help reduce costs and improve operating efficiency. "Operating as single development bank, donor agencies are now looking at RDB positively," Rathnasiri Siriwardane, chief executive at the merged RDB told LBO at a media conference, Friday. He said the government treasury on behalf of RDB is negotiating with funding agencies to develop infrastructure and grant soft loans to develop rural businesses. "The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Bank might contribute for infrastructure development. "They didn't consider that at a regional (development) bank level. With this merger we will be going for an amalgamated IT (information technology) system and be able to share costs like advertizing." RDB was formed by merging regional development banks of the island's regions of Rajarata, Ruhuna, Wayamba, Uva, Kadurata and Sabaragamuwa. The bank is jointly owned by the Sri Lankan treasury, and state-owned Bank of Ceylon, People's Bank and National Savings Bank which provided 12 million rupees as seed capital in 1992. The bank now has a stated capital of 3.2 billion rupees and deposit base of 39 billion rupees, Siriwardane said. He said RDB has an asset base of 42 billion rupees, with nearly 38 billion rupees as loans and advances, and the rest in government securities. RDB's 3.2 million customer base is predominantly from the agriculture sector with average loan value between 75,000 to 100,000 rupees. "More than 50 percent has gone to the agriculture sector because this is a rural bank," Siriwardane said. The bank charges eight percent interest on agriculture cultivation loans and 12 percent interest on other agriculture loans. It also gives commercial loans with an interest cap of 16 percent. RDB has improved its NPL (non-performing loan) ratio to 4.8 percent of total loans through better management from 39 percent in 1998, Siriwardane said.

Sri Lankan state banks have a bad record for giving loans often on orders of politicians and being unable to recover them. Siriwardane said nearly 50 percent of RDB's 251 branches are now connected via an IT network. "This will help us to have better control of the bank's branch network," Siriwardane said. RDB also plans to expand lending to the north and east, which are recovering from a 30-year ethnic war which ended in May 2009. "We were only servicing six provinces and now we'll be going to the north and east," Janaki Kuruppu, chairperson of RDB said. "We will also be focusing on the tourism sector and on developing special products for people who want to start on that business." Sri Lanka's north and eastern provinces are under banked having suffered from a lengthy war. Kuruppu said the bank apart from its main business of providing loans to the agriculture sector, now will focus on other sectors like tourism which is booming with the end of the war. In the five months to May arrivals were up 48.5 percent to 233,922 from a year earlier. "We will come up with products that will support tour operator support services like car rentals and small guest houses and renovations," Kuruppu said. The regional banks have also been profitable. Last year Rajarata Development Bank made 100 million rupees in profits, while Ruhuna made 256 million, Wayamba 398 million, and Uva made 72 million rupees. Udarata made 110 million and Sabaragamuwa 305 million rupees, W A Sirisena, deputy general manager, finance told LBO on the sidelines of the media conference. Siriwardane said the merged bank is on course to hit a billion rupees in profits in 2010. He said RDB will hold 25 percent of its profits to increase core capital and maintain capital adequacy ratios to support loan growth and to avoid asking funding support from the government.

From http://www.lankabusinessonline.com/ 07/16/2010

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PAKISTAN: Govt. Accords Priority to Social Sector Development

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani Thursday said government considers social sector development as its top priority. Chairing a meeting on social sector cooperation with USA under the Kerry-Lugar Act, the Prime Minister emphasized that the relevant Ministries and organizations should not loose sight of the welfare and benefits to the people at large. Prime Minister said the social sector development was a significant area requiring concerted efforts and appropriate allocations both through own sources as well as assistance from friendly countries. The Prime Minister said the National Education Policy comprehensively covers various aspects, which would help achieve the Millennium Development Goals. He said the Health Policy and women empowerment initiatives also have to be holistic to meet the growing needs of the society.

From http://pakistanlink.org/ 07/09/2010

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Telecom, Banking and Insurance Services: FBR Has to Address Anomaly After Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwah Levy 17 Percent Sales Tax

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue has to resolve a major controversy on collection of taxes on telecommunication, banking and insurance services as Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwah have imposed 17 percent sales tax on these services whereas Federal Excise Act continues to empower the FBR to collect Federal Excise Duty on the said services at the prescribed rates. It is learnt here on Thursday that the Punjab and KP have imposed 17 percent sales tax on telecom services including services provided by mobile phone companies. Other services liable to 17 percent sales tax included banking and insurance services. These taxes have been imposed through their respective Finance Acts passed recently for 2010-11. The responsibility to recover/collect this levy has been passed on to FBR. These provinces have authorised the FBR to collect the levy under their respective laws. However, the FBR has not issued any instructions so far for charging/collection of sales tax on these services despite the fact that the said services have been notified by the provinces through their respective laws. The Federal Excise Act had imposed 19 percent FED on telecom services and 17 percent on banking and insurance services. The present status of law could not be termed as double taxation as both the Federation and the province (Punjab and KP) are well within there constitutional domain to levy and collect the respective taxes on the telecommunication, banking and insurance services. However, if the provinces start collecting sales tax on these services, it would be heavy taxation on telecom, banking and insurance services; which will in return make these services unaffordable for already overburdened common man. So far, the said provinces have not started proper collection of the levy as the FBR is already charging FED on these services under the Federal Excise Act. In case Punjab/KP started collecting 17 percent sales tax on telecom services, the accumulated effect of taxes would come to 36 percent in case of telecom services after incorporating 19 percent FED under the Federal Excise Act. If 17 percent sales tax was collected on banking and insurance services, the total impact of taxes would come to 33 percent.

The 33 percent taxes would include 16 percent FED on banking and insurance companies. When contacted, senior tax experts said that the Federal government had decided to transfer the levy and collection services to the provinces under reformed GST/VAT for which the provincial levy was made effective under the provincial Finance Acts for the year 2010, however, it is not understandable as to why the FED has not been abolished. Under the present circumstances if either one is not removed it would clearly mean that the non-collection will result into default on the part of the telecom; banking and insurance companies. In short this levy as it stands today seems to be validly enforceable. It was stated that in order to resolve the issue some sort of a notification should have to be passed to hold the levy and collection of one by the FBR; in short either to abolish sales tax on services or exempt FED under the Federal Excise Act. In case this is not done the subscribers of telecom services would have to pay 36 percent sales tax/FED and services of banking and insurance would be subjected to 33 percent FED/Sales tax. The tax/legal experts are also of the view that the levy will sustained if challenged before high courts for reason that the provinces have the mandate under the constitution to levy sales tax on services; whereas the Federal government has the authority to levy FED on services. The two levies may be harsh and termed as heavy taxation of one industry by both provinces and Federation but would by no means be ultra vires to the constitution. It has also been learnt by this scribe that the telecom companies and the Pakistan Banks Association have taken up the matter seriously and have decided to approach the relevant provincial and federal authorities for the effective resolution of this anomaly so as to save themselves from the default. It has been further learnt that FBR has also taken cognisance of the issue and are looking for a way to have the same resolved without disturbing the current collection and the affordability of these services for the end consumer; who has to bear the burnt.

From http://www.brecorder.com/ 07/23/2010

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ARMENIA: VivaCell-MTS Launches Improved Mobile Internet Tariff

Armenian mobile operator VivaCell-MTS, a subsidiary of Mobile TeleSystems of Russia, has improved its 'MTS Connect Unlimited' tariff plan, offering subscribers 5GB of high speed internet downloads per month, instead of the previous 1GB of data, for the same monthly cost of AMD8,800 (USD2.42). In addition, the cellco is providing an MTS Connect modem free of charge for users taking a one-year subscription.

From http://www.telegeography.com/ 07/20/2010

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AZERBAIJAN: New Railways Development Program to Create Big Business Opportunities

The main goals of the State Program on development of the railway system in Azerbaijan in 2010-2014 approved upon the order by the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev are to continue reforms and improve the legal framework for the creation of broad opportunities for commercial railway, take measures to update the railway infrastructure in accordance with current requirements, provide transportation of cargos, the volume of which will be increased after the launch of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. Also, the program is aimed at improving the quality of cargo and passenger transportation and security, introducing scientific and technological advances and new technologies in transport infrastructure, defining and implementing a strategy to improve passenger services and increase their profitability, restoring the northern section of the railroad, purchasing locomotives, purchasing diesel locomotives, training and social security.

The program will be financed at own expense of Azerbaijan Railways JSC, domestic and foreign investments, technical assistance and grants from other sources, not contrary to law. In particular, according to the program, in 2010-2011 it is expected to take institutional reforms in the Azerbaijan Railways JSC, prepare and adopt rules for the transportation of cargo and passengers, use railway vehicles, traffic safety, prepare a law on railway transport. In order to improve speed and security, there are plans to repair 317 kilometers of major railways. It is assumed to construct and reconstruct bridges and other infrastructures. Within modernization of train park, there are plans to purchase 50 new electric locomotives, repair and modernize 28 locomotives and purchase spare parts, establish a repair center in Bilajari locomotive depot.

For the transportation of oil and oil products, it is intended to purchase 300 new tanks, purchase carriages for dry goods, purchase spare parts and reconstruct the carriage depot in Alat. 25 new carriages will be purchased for the transportation of passengers, repairs will be implemented and spare parts will be purchased, as well as capital repair center will be established in Baku carriage repair depot.

From http://www.today.az/ 07/08/2010

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JSC Azerenergy Applies Ecological Policy and 'Policy of Quality'

JSC Azerenergy (production and distribution of electricity in Azerbaijan) introduced an "Ecological policy and 'Policy of quality' approved by Company Head Etibar Pirverdiyev for the first time, the Azerenergy environment management told Trend. The company's ecological policy based on the Constitution, laws, the presidential decrees and other legal acts of the country, as well as international agreements signed by Azerbaijan in the field of environmental protection and rational use of natural resources. Based on the international standard ISO 14001, the company's ecological policy designed to protect society and the environment from the adverse effects of electricity by using modern technology. The ecological policy in the application of environmental protection and ecological security defines basic principles such as the implementation of preventive measures to reduce environmental risks in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity, organization, application and implementation of research in the field of renewable energy, rational use of natural resources, environmental protection for future generations and achievement of dynamic progress. One of the main tasks of Azerenergy is to ensure energy security of Azerbaijan, improve reliability of supply, meet the energy needs of consumers and strengthen the company itself as a reliable partner on the international market.

From http://en.trend.az/ 07/22/2010

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KAZAKHSTAN: Power Plants Must Provide Energy to 320 Projects Within Industrialization Program for 5 Years

In the Kazakh President's Address 'New Decade - New Economic Growth - New Opportunities of Kazakhstan' special attention is paid to the development of electric power industry of Kazakhstan. In accordance with the Forced Industrial Innovation Development Program we need faster growth of electric power industry development for providing the whole country with electricity. The realization of 144 projects is planned this year, 72 projects have already been put into operation in the first half of the year. 320 investment projects are to be realized according to the Program in a five year span of time. 13 projects will be realized within the electric power industry. According to the statistics, the use of electricity has increased to 9.7 percent since last year. If this tendency remains it is necessary to reconstruct and renovate existing facilities. Building of new facilities is also required. Development of electric power stations is planned to be realized on the following conditions: technical re-equipment and reconstruction of the equipment installed now at the stations, commissioning of new capacities at the existing plants, building of new ones, involvement of alternative renewable energy sources.

At the end of 2008 a new mechanism of pricing on electricity was introduced with the purpose of attracting investors in repair and development of facilities. The mechanism provides for marginal, calculated and individual tariffs. This mechanism of so called 'marginal tariffs' allows the power plants to plan their funds. In 2009 more than KZT 65 bln was invested in reconstruction and modernization of existing facilities, and more than 85 bln in 2010. According to the preliminary estimates, more than KZT 700 bln will be allocated for this purpose within 7 years. Existing competitive electric power market of Kazakhstan is not sufficiently attractive for investors. Therefore the Government of Kazakhstan adopted the Resolution on approval of the concept for further development of market relations in the sphere of electric power in Kazakhstan. Target market model provides commissioning of new capacities.

The purpose of commissioning capacity market is to prevent the emergence of significant deficits in power, increase investment attractiveness of the sector, form objective pricing system. The concept of the corresponding bill was approved at the sitting of the Interdepartmental Commission on the issues of law-making on June 21, 2010. In the process of planning the sector development special attention is paid to key power facilities. They are Balkhash Thermal Power Station, the large-scale project aimed at generating enough electricity for the needs of South Kazakhstan ensuring its electric power independence, Moynak Hydroelectric Power Station, the source of electric power for providing it to the southern regions of Kazakhstan where it is needed the most. Besides, they are the power units at Ekibastuz Hydropower Power Plant and at Aksu. At Ekibastuz Hydropower Power Station the installation of a new power unit will be conducted. The associated gas from oil fields will be used at gas-turbine electric power stations in West-Kazakhstan region and Kyzylorda region.

Development of the country's electric power industry is connected with restoration and development of generating capacities and involving of energy renewable sources. Wind energy, solar energy, geothermal energy, the energy of small rivers can be used on the territories of Kazakhstan. The increased electricity consumption rate and environmental restrictions on emissions of greenhouse gases that are produced by burning organic fuel lead to the necessity of development of such energy sources as named above. According to the objective of the Forced Industrial Innovation Development Program of Kazakhstan, the volume of renewable electric power will reach 1 bln kWh per year which is to be more than 1 percent of total energy consumption. After the draft law 'On the support of use of renewable energy sources' was adopted last year several national and foreign investors expressed their willingness to implement projects in this sphere. Within the framework of this program a Karatal Hydroelectric Power Station was put into service at Karatal River in Almaty region on June 28. Several pilot projects are developed in the field of wind power, as well.

From http://www.inform.kz/ 07/02/2010

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Cabinet Approves Program on Development of Pharmaceutical Industry of Kazakhstan for 2010-2014

The Kazakh Government has approved the sectoral program on development of pharmaceutical industry for 2010-2014. First Vice Minister of Industry and New Technologies Albert Rau introduced the corresponding document to the Cabinet at the session. "The program is aimed at provision of the domestic market with 50 percent of pharmaceutical and medical products in kind through national production", A.Rau said. According to the Vice Minister, for this purpose achievement, in accordance with the program, it is planned to modernize the current and construct new pharmaceutical enterprises and etc. As A.Rau noted, the main instrument for the program implementation is conclusion of a long-term treaty for up to 7 years on purchasing medicines and medical products from the domestic producers through SK Pharmacy LLP. According to the Vice Minister, the program provides support of export directions.

From http://www.inform.kz/ 07/13/2010

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AUSTRALIA: Banks Face Pressure over Cost of Lending and Look Likely to Raise Rates

AUSTRALIA'S biggest banks could be forced to raise interest rates independently of the Reserve Bank to cover higher funding costs. But it is not likely to happen until after the federal election. Cost pressure facing the big banks was highlighted by Westpac's move in late June to raise $800 million in five-year funding at 35 basis points more than a similar deal seven months ago. A report by Macquarie Equities Research shows the banks could justify increasing their standard variable lending rates, but were likely to be dissuaded by the political environment. Australian home loan numbers rose sharply by 1.9 per cent during May. The average loan size fell by 1.3 per cent, but the number of new loans grew despite higher interest rates. The major banks have become a target of Wayne Swan, who has heavily criticised rate moves outside of the RBA cycle, or moves higher than the central bank's decisions.

The banks have tentatively agreed to restrict rate rises to the RBA's official moves in the short term, but are expected to move after the election, which could be called as early as this week. Macquarie analyst Michael Wiblin said National Australia Bank could be the first to lift rates after the election because its 7.24 per cent standard variable rate was the lowest of the four majors (by 12 basis points). "The sensitivity around mortgage repricing over the last six months is due to the election," Mr Wiblin said. He said said the Australian banks had not been able to follow the global trend of retail banks, especially in Britain, increasing standard variable rates to absorb higher funding costs. A NAB spokeswoman said the bank had retained the standard variable rate in the market for the past year. "We do not comment on speculation by others about interest rates.

From http://www.dailytelegraph.news.com.au/ 07/13/2010

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COOK ISLANDS: Mining Moves

Cabinet has agreed to a two-speed approach to a new seabed mineral regime, according to Trevor Pitt, advisor to Prime Minister Jim Marurai One side of the approach will involve looking at putting infrastructure in place for mining. Pitt said that this would continue at a slow and steady pace. But a more fast track approach will be taken to setting up exploration licensing. Exploration will involve sampling the deposits and checking the levels of the resources available. Pitt said that government is keen to make sure that exploration and developments from it are controlled and done in an environmentally friendly way.

From http://www.cinews.co.ck/ 07/21/2010

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