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August 2010, Issue 105
unpan-ap@sass.org.cn
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ˇˇ ASEAN Sets Ambitious Green Energy Goals
Asia-Pacific Faces Tough Challenges in Achieving MDGs: Indonesian VP
Asia-Pacific Ministerial Meeting Agrees to Develop Further Efforts
100 CEOs to Gather in Seoul at G-20 Summit
APEC Formulates New Growth Strategy for Region
ASIA: Fifth International Conference on Public Policy and Management 2010
Full Compensation for Colonization Sought at Public Meeting
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ˇˇ CHINA: New Rule Targets 'Naked Officials'
'Learning Society' Promised in Education Plan
China's 1st Law on Online Games Takes Effect
China's Central Bank Issues Guidelines for Developing Gold Market
China Issues Rules on How Insurers May Invest Assets
China Mulls Better Regulation of Bank Service Pricing
Macao to Revise Press Laws in 2 to 3 Years
Anti-trust Law Treats 'All Firms Equally'
CBRC Unveils Rules to Regulate Credit Card Sales
HK Sets More Rules to Regulate Property Market
China Issues New Rule to Enhance Supervision on Criminal Case Filing
HK's Constitutional Reform Package Conforms to Basic Law
JAPAN: BOJ's Plan to Boost Business
2 Port Areas Picked for 'Int'l Freight Hub' Program
Japan to Join the Hague Convention on Child Custody
Gov't Planning Additional Economy-spurring Measures
SOUTH KOREA: Bill to Regulate Size of Local Office Buildings
Guidelines Set for Disability Level
Ministry Kicks Off 10-year Tech Project
Korea Likely to Ease Mortgage Rules
MONGOLIA: Livestock Insurance Program Speed Up
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ˇˇ INDONESIA: Govt Renews Effort to Ratify ASEAN Haze Treaty
LAOS: Meeting on Farmers' Living Condition Improvement Held
Vientiane Eyes on Renewable Energy Development
PHILIPPINES: BIR Chief Says She's Ready to Defend VAT on Toll Fees
Philippines: Comprehensive Internet Law Pushed
THAILAND: Effort to Develop Itself as a Center of ASEAN
Direction for the 11th National Economic and Social Development Plan
A Call for Thailand's Industrial Competitiveness on the Basis of Innovation and Creativity
VIET NAM: National Assembly Discusses Environmental Taxes and Fees
Government Urges Labor Ministry to Issue New Poverty Standards
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: Time-Bound Action Plan Soon to Prevent Money Laundering
Govt Plans to Unfreeze 1,500 Bank Accounts
SRI LANKA: Moves Ahead to Implement Science Policy
MALDIVES: Passing Bill to Establish Supreme Court
NEPAL: SEBON All Set to Draft CDS Regulations
PAKISTAN: Ministry Progressing on E-Office Programme Meticulously
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ˇˇ AZERBAIJAN: President Ilham Aliyev Signs Order to Approve State Program on ICT Development for 2010-2012
Azerbaijani Government Approves Changes to Law 'On Traffic Rules'
KAZAKHSTAN: Minister of Communications Signed Order on Mass Media Monitoring Technique
Government Approved Draft 2011-2015 State Program on Healthcare Reforming
TAJIKISTAN: Law on Restrictions on the Use of Tobacco Products Expected to Come into Effect on Jan 1, 2011
UZBEKISTAN: Creation of New Legislative Basis for National Mass Media
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ˇˇ Business Warned to Consider Climate Change
Pacific Leaders Promise to Improve Access to Finance
AUSTRALIA: Policies to Drive Services on a Faster Broadband Network Still Unclear - AIIA
Australian Regulator Introduces New Mobile Content Rules
Australia's PM Promotes National Broadband Plan
NEW ZEALAND: Boost Support for Pacific Fisheries
NEW ZEALAND: Govt Moves to Change Holidays Act
Govt Proposes New Adventure Tourism Rules
Identity Information Bill Introduced to Parliament
State Sector Amendment Bill Introduced
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ˇˇ Indonesia to Host Asia Pacific Special Ministerial Meeting on MDGs Progress
Asia's Leadership Gap
State Auditors from Across Asia Gather in Capital City
Asia-Pacific: Workshop on Improving Public Service Through ICT
Angara to Lead Anti-Corruption Forum in September
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ˇˇ CHINA: Support Education for Ethnic Minority Groups
China to Select Central Government Workers from Grassroots
China Moves to Break Civil Servants' 'Iron Bowl'
Gov't Replacing Slums with Basic Housing
NPC Proposes a Reform in Income Distribution
JAPAN: Gov't to Examine 13 Local Agencies for Streamlining
Easing of Labor Regulations Worsened Income Gaps - Gov't Report
Gov't Moves to Determine Situation of Elderly People
Benefits for 34 Children Donated to Local Gov'ts in Major Cities
Ministry to Help Japanese Firms Win Contracts Abroad
Foreign Ministry Finalizes Personnel Reshuffle Plans
Japan to Subsidize Energy-efficient Plants: Report
Gov't to Set Up Special Team for Job Creation for Young People
Elderly Now Approve of Withholding Premiums
SOUTH KOREA: National Pension Fund Exceeds W300 Trillion
Gov't Shakes Up Recruitment for Senior Civil Service Jobs
Gov't Plans Reserve Fund for Reunification
Gov't Hikes Minimum Cost of Living
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ˇˇ INDONESIA: House Speaker Agrees with Idea to Move Its Capital
Govt to Revise Regulation on Procurement Bidding
Constitutional Amendment Needed to Empower DPD
PHILIPPINES: Palace Supports Ban on Officials' Name, Images on Government Projects
Philippines President Pledges to Stop Corruption
THAILAND: Government Committed to the Development of Human Capital
VIET NAM: Government Inspectors 'Must Be Independent'
Official 'Red Invoices' No Longer Required
Good Response to Reforms of People's Councils
Next Congress Goes Online
Hanoi Argues Against Admin Center's Move
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: Steps Underway to Strengthen BBS
INDIA: Appointments of Senior Officials Not Under RTI
Government Departments to Replicate E-Governance Model of Jhansi
Terminate Corrupt Officials Immediately: Committee
Top Bank Executive Cleared of Corruption - After 24 Years!
Civil Servants Admit of Partaking in Corruption
Civil Society: MDGs a Far Cry, Adopt People Centric Approach
MALDIVES: President Establishes Local Government Authority
NEPAL: High-Level Committee to Be Formed for Financial Stability
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ˇˇ ARMENIA: Become Board Member of International Organization for Standardization
AZERBAIJAN: Women's Number in Parliament Should Increase 2-3 Times
Azerbaijan's Economic Development Ministry Creates Opportunity to Communicate with Citizens Online
Azerbaijan Expands Pilot Program to Support Low-income Families
Azerbaijan Adopts Systems Registration Rules
Azerbaijani CEC Discusses Free Airtime for Candidates
Civil Service Commission Announces Tender to Create Automated Control System
KYRGYZSTAN: Anti-crisis Plan Approved
KAZAKHSTAN: Citizens Are in Favor of Presidential Form of Government
TURKMENISTAN: Membership of Central Commission for Elections and Referendums Approved
Turkmenistan to Establish Ministry of Public Utilities
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ˇˇ Pacific NGO Welcomes Calls for More Engagement with Civil Society
IFC Launches New Pacific Microfinance Initiative
AUSTRALIA: Food Security on Its Election Agenda
Australian Political Leaders Take Questions From Undecided Voters
Gillard Fights Surge to Fast-finishing Coalition
Australian Political Uncertainty Continues
Greens Is the Biggest Winner of Australia's General Election
COOK ISLANDS: Nov 17 Election
FIJI: Law Society President Found Guilty of Misconduct
NEW ZEALAND: PM Makes a Case for Compulsory Super
National Government's Clear Focus on Work
SOLOMON ISLANDS: Electoral Commission Wants Free and Fair Voting
Solomons Politicians Begin Coalition Government Talks
New Solomons PM Pledges Responsible Leadership
TONGA: PM Says Further Steps Needed to Protect Regional Fish Stocks
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ˇˇ Should Asia Look to Europe as an Example of Regional Integration?
APEC Seeks 'Quality' Growth in Next 10 Years
Countries Gather in New York to Focus on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment
'Central Asia Needs Cultural Approach'
ASEAN, UN and USAID Conduct Major International Exercise to Prepare for Severe Pandemic
South Asia, Neighbors to Hold 2nd High Level Forum on Regional Cooperation
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ˇˇ CHINA: Industry Alliance Launched to Promote TCM
MOF Offers US$73 Mln to Help Mudslide Victims
Chinese Netizens' Comments Key to Judicial Work
"Most Humorous" Government Web Site Goes Viral
CPC Official Urges Reform of Training of Officials
Chinese Vice Premier Stresses Workplace Safety
Official Urges Promoting Chinese Culture with Improved Technology
China's Schools Told to Strengthen Safety Measures
JAPAN: Pension Reform Urgently Needed
SOUTH KOREA: METI Sets Up Panel to Export Infrastructure
Korea Ranks 4th in R&D Investment Among OECD Nations
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ˇˇ INDONESIA: Government to Exempt the Poor from Baby Delivery Cost
LAOS: Officials Upgraded on External Cooperation Techniques
IPT and India's Trigyn Technologies to Train Trainers of Trainers for ICT
MALAYSIA: Public Bank's Founder Gets Award
THAILAND: Government Promotes Creativity Among Young Children to Help Develop the Creative Economy
"Creative City Prototypes" to Be Selected Under the Creative Thailand Program
VIET NAM: Delayed Projects May Lose Licences
Vietnam Must Rethink Growth Strategy: Analysts
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: E-Content and ICT for Development Award 2010 - An Initiative to Promote Innovations
INDIA: The Sixth Annual Freescale Technology Forum to Be Held in Bangalore
Beginning of a New Era in Management of Wakf Properties
Key E-Training for Employees in Bahrain
"India Must Lead Climate Change Action and Innovation"
India's Middle Class Driving Innovation, Consumption, But Still Vulnerable - Report
SRI LANKA: To Set Up Financial Training Academy
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ˇˇ ARMENIAN: Strategy 2020 Armenian Youth Party Program Official Website Launched
5000 Mwt of Energy Expected to Be Generated in Armenia by 2020
AZERBAIJAN: Start Pilot Program on Targeted Social Aid from 2011
Training on Establishment of Business Relations Held in Azerbaijan
KYRGYZSTAN: Energy Transparency Initiative Promises to Reform Troubled Sector
OSCE Experts, Kyrgyzstan's Authorities Discuss How to Improve Elections
KAZAKHSTAN: KZT 245 mln Allocated for Development of Innovation Projects in 2010
TURKMENISTAN: Establish Road Institute
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ˇˇ Pacific Civil Society Welcomes Dialogue
AUSTRALIA: Opposition Vows to Block Internet Filter
Australian Prime Minister Highlights Cost of Living
Australian Government Plans Fast-track Teacher Training
Australian Government Defends Immigration Detention
COOK ISLANDS: Government to Put Greater Focus on Pearl Farming
NEW ZEALAND: Govt to Carefully Consider Housing Report
Public Sector Innovation Needed in Years Ahead
NZ Agency Faces Legal Challenge over Climate Change Data
ˇˇ 85% of Natural Disaster-Related Fatalities Occur in Asia
Conference Warns of Cyber Crime Threat
UN Reports Wide Disparity in Gender Gap
Modest Growth Expected for Pacific Economies in 2011, Says ADB
50 Million Women in Asia at Risk of HIV Infection: UNAIDS
Gender Differences in Web Usability - New Study
Asian Economies More Resilient During Global Crisis than Expected: Report
Asia's Expanding Middle Class Presents Huge Opportunity for Region, World - Report
Asia Leads Global Recovery for First Time: Singapore Minister
Asia-Pacific Internal Markets Could Propel Recovery: UN
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ˇˇ CHINA: Lead the World in Urbanization - Blue Paper
CHINA: Social Networking Up Despite Challenges
Online Shopping Gaining Ground in China
Independent Technology Urged for China's Info Tech Drive
Internet Videos: a Blow, Also an Opportunity
Superfast Broadband by 2020
China Embraces New Internet Opportunities
Shanghai Government, Partners Open Cloud Data Center
Chinese Increasingly Use Microblogs to Get News, Information: Survey
National Cable TV Network Soon
JAPAN: Gov't to Have Internet Providers Block Access to Child Porn Images
Consumers to Gain Internet Access to Aggregate Credit Card Charge Data
NORTH KOREA: Embracing Social Networking
SOUHT KOREA: "Smart Work" System Pushed
Korean IT Posts Record Exports, Surplus
Korean Public Firms Ranked Among OECD's Most Valuable
Telecoms, Portals Compete over Social Hubs
Free WiFi Zones Open in Subway Stations Nationwide
Domain Names in Korean to Be Introduced Next Year
Internet Calls Possible on Mobile Phones
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ˇˇ INDONESIA: Govt, MDF Launches Final Rehab Projects in Nias
LAOS: High Rice Price Hits Low Income Earners
Economic Growth to Hit 7.8 Percent This Year
MALAYSIA: CAT Puts in Place IT Infrastructure for E-tourism
PHILIPPEINES: DA Warns of Reduced Rice Production This Year
THAILAND: Human Resource Development and Creative Economy
Thailand's GDP Likely to Grow by 7 Percent in 2010
Chiang Mai Is Striving to Become a Medical Hub in the Greater Mekong Subregion
Thailand Cited as the Center of Production Networks in ASEAN
An Increase in Thailand's Export Growth Target
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: Newly Introduced E-Tendering Cuts Time Significantly
Build a Poverty-Free Bangladesh, Urges Hasina
ICT Act Challenged
BHUTAN: ADB President Reaffirms Support
INDIA: Center to Formulate Safety Norms for IT, ITES
India to Become World's Third Largest Economy by 2030
ICT for People's Entitlement Under MGNREGA
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ˇˇ AZERBAIJAN: East-West Information Superhighway Project to Open Direct Access to Internet Network Core
E-Azerbaijan State Program Envisages Independent Body in ICT
Schedule of Operations and Feasibility Studies to Be Prepared to Implement Projects within State Program 'E-Azerbaijan'
IRAN: To Send Man to Space in 2017 - President
KAZAKHSTAN: First Show Impressive Results after World Economy Started Recovering
TAJIKISTAN: Information Access Development Support Project to Be Launched in September
TURKMENISTAN: New City to Be Founded in Lebap Province
UZBEKISTAN: Digital TV Introduced
Information Technologies Skills Open New Opportunities for Blind People
Internet Festival Starts in Uzbekistan
Huge Progress Maked in All Spheres of Life
Population in Regions Masters Information Technologies
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ˇˇ Pacific Police Chiefs Meet to Discuss Crime
AUSTRALIA: Gillard Government Actively Considering IT Portfolio
Labor to Launch NBN Blueprint
Liberal Party's Social Media Strategy
New Zealand's Broadband: Bring It on at the Speed of Light
Australia's PM Promotes National Broadband Plan
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ˇˇ APAC Public Sector Enterprise Networking Spend to Grow
Asia Microfinance Forum 2010 to Focus on Financial Inclusion in Asia
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ˇˇ CHINA: Regulator Sees No Risks from Local Gov't Loans
China to Strengthen Punishment for Illegal Forex Activities
CHINA: Gov't Finds 2 Bln Yuan for Health Care
Insurers' Investment to Boost Infrastructure Projects
Chinese Central Bank Pledges Financial Support for Development of Western Regions
Chongqing Aims to Develop into Regional Financial Hub
China's Financial Sector Steps Up Self-examinations to Ensure Professional Ethics
China Raises Limit for Investments in Stocks and Mutual Funds
China Announces New Move to Boost Yuan's Overseas Use
China Opens Interbank Bond Market
Finance Sector Roped in for Upgrading
JAPAN: Gov't Eyes over 1 Tril. Yen for Growth Stimulus in FY 2011 Budget
All Ministries Face 10% Budget Cut
3 Major Japanese Banks to Boost Workforces in Asia
Japan's Gov't Debt Tops Y900 Tril for 1st Time: MOF
Banks Bail on Low-interest Education Loans
Fading Recovery Turns Up Heat on Bank of Japan
SOUTH KOREA: Tax Reform Aimed to Boost Employment
MONGOLIA: Central Bank Releases Annual Report
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ˇˇ INDONESIA: Transaction Worth Rp 500m Subject to PPATK Scrutiny
MALAYSIA: Minister - Investments Set to Hit RM40bil This Year
US$200mil Scheme for Green Financing
VIET NAM: Foreign Debt Levels Pose Risks
Loosened Monetary Policy Bankrolls Credits
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ˇˇ INDIA: Inflation to Ease by 6 Percent: PM
ADB $150 Million Financing Facility to Help India Improve Urban Infrastructure
PAKISTAN: SBP Unexpectedly Hikes Policy Rate by 50 Basis Points to 13 Percent
People's Works Programme: Rs 14.4 Billion Released for 13,241 Schemes in 2009-10
Govt Mulls New Rs 100 Billion Tax to Meet Flood Challenge
WB to Provide $900m Loan to Pakistan
LSM Registers 4.84 Percent Growth in Fiscal Year 2010
IMF to Review Pakistan Budget and Economic Prospects
Government Decides to Take $100 Million Soft Loan from IMF
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ˇˇ ARMENIA: IFC Is Ready to Assist Its Construction Industry
AZERBAIJAN: Bank Standard Introduces Emergency Service
KAZAKHSTAN: Now, an EDI Centre
TURKMENISTAN: Worthy Place of Entrepreneurship in National Economy
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: NBN No Cost to Homes - Gillard
COOK ISLANDS: Budgets Rushed Through
NEW ZEALAND: Strong Health Investment in Lakes DHB Area
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ˇˇ Public-Private Partnerships Can Unlock Central Asia's Vast Potential - ADB
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ˇˇ CHINA: Promise to Better Fund Private Industry
ICBC Bids to Privatize HK Unit
JAPAN: Gov't to Increase Private-sector Decoration Recipients
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ˇˇ INDONESIA: Private Sector Corruption Rising
LAOS: Private Companies Donate for City Pillar Shrine
IFC Pledges Further Support for Private Investment in Laos
PHILIPPINES: Private School Group Supports P-Noy's 12-year Basic Education System
PCIC Urges Farmers to Avail of Crop Insurance
THAILAND: Ease of Doing Business
Public and Private Sectors Joining Hands in Increasing Processed Food Exports
VIET NAM: Foreign Funds Targeting Private Businesses
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: 52,000 Posts Lying Vacant in Health Sector
Private Banks Better Remittance Manager
INDIA: New Portal to Link India's Farm Sector with Industry
Bihar to Extend IT Benefits to Agriculture Sector
PAKISTAN: Services Sector Deficit Narrows by 13.83 Percent
Influential Private Sector Projects: Ministry Allocating Dearer Gas: Pepco
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ˇˇ AZERBAIJAN: Insurance Company Introduces Three New Products
Azerbaijan Presents Opportunities of E-trade Portal
GSM Kazakhstan Installs 4G Base Station in Astana
KAZAKHSTAN: Government Approved Draft Program on Engineering Development for 2010-2014
TURKMENISTAN: President Instructs Government to Increase Exports of Goods
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: Bank Criticised over Bomb Finance
Australian Steel Companies Say Overseas Labour Threatening Jobs
Media Giant Sees Economic Growth Ahead
NEW ZEALAND: Campaign to Fight Foreign Agricultural Investment
Cheapest Pacific Telecom Services in Tonga, Palau: Survey

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ASEAN Sets Ambitious Green Energy Goals

VietNamNet Bridge - ASEAN Energy Ministers yesterday, July 23, agreed on an 8 per cent reduction in regional Energy Intensity by 2015, based on 2005 levels. Energy intensity measures the energy efficiency of national economies based on units of energy consumed per unit of GDP (gross domestic product). In a Joint Ministerial Statement issued at the conclusion of the five-day ASEAN Ministers of Energy Meeting (AMEM) in Da Lat City, they also agreed to increase the use of renewable energy by up to 15 per cent of total consumption over the next five years. The ministers said periodic assessments and review of regional energy efficiency as well as conservation work will be undertaken, while senior officials will be tasked with developing a systematic plan of action and effective monitoring mechanism to achieve set targets. They pledged to strengthen efforts to address climate change challenges and enhance regional energy co-operation towards achieving a low-carbon economy.

Vu Huy Hoang, Minister of Industry and Trade, told the press after the closing of the 28th AMEM and the Associated Meeting with Dialogue Partners that the regional bloc will promote energy co-operation towards regional integration and building up a regional community. They will also focus on co-coordinating efforts in implementing the ASEAN Plan of Action on Energy Co-operation (APAEC) 2010-15, he said Hoang said that 28th AMEM had been highly successful, attracting international attention with the events organised over the last five days.
The ministers stressed the importance of first energy discussions held between Russia, the U.S and ASEAN. "The meetings focused on how to ensure energy supply but protect the environment by looking for new and renewable energy sources, especially for hydropower and bio-fuels," he said. Sundram Pushpanathan, ASEAN Deputy General Secretary, said the meeting would surely contribute to making ASEAN energy greener. He pointed out that in the years 2020-30, energy consumption in ASEAN would double, while the region was one of the areas most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Interconnection
The ministers endorsed the Terms of Reference for the Nuclear Energy Co-operation Sub Sector Network, which will be the body to assist SOME (Senior Officials of Energy Meeting) /AMEM in carrying out nuclear co-operation activities. The meeting noted that the second phase of ASEAN Interconnection Master Plan had been completed. It recommended guidelines to speed up implementation of the ASEAN power grid, especially on the reliability of operations, safety standards and procedures for generation, transmission. The meeting called for a model framework for investment in interconnection projects and for cross-border sale and electricity transmission. While discussing the Trans-ASEAN gas pipeline, delegates emphasised the extensive co-operation that would be needed to implement and maintain it.

ASEAN plus
The vital role of increasing dialogue with partners and the private sector was also recognized at the meeting. "The Dialogue Partners and international organisations will play a significant role in the realisation of APAEC 2010-15 with their support and technical assistance to ASEAN towards the low-carbon-green growth development model," Minister Hoang said. Energy co-operation with East Asian nations should be strengthened in all areas including energy security, renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation, the ministers agreed. Co-operation with Russia and the U.S in the energy sector is an opportunity for ASEAN to expand strategic ties with dialogue partners, they said.

Energy awards
The ministers congratulated the winners of the ASEAN Energy Awards 2010 for displaying sound energy management in buildings and industries, constructing energy efficient buildings and implementing renewable projects. Viet Nam won four prizes. The Ana Mandara Resort Da Lat received the first prize for tropical buildings, while a building constructed by the Tien Dat Tourism Company won the second prize. The Ocean Park building won a prize for effectively managing energy while the Landmark building won the third prize for an energy-efficient renovated building. The next 29th AMEM and meetings with dialogue partners will be held in Brunei Darussalam in 2011.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 07/24/2010

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Asia-Pacific Faces Tough Challenges in Achieving MDGs: Indonesian VP

Indonesia's Vice President Boediono said on Tuesday that Asia-Pacific is still facing tough challenges in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015.In his opening remarks of the Special Ministerial Meeting for Millennium Development Goals Review in Asia and the Pacific: Run Up to 2015, Boediono said that there is an extreme poverty in the Southeast Asia and hunger among children in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Besides, he said, there is a gap in accessing basic education in the Asia Pacific and low level of children finishing their basic education in South and Southeast Asia. Boediono also said that gender imbalance still occurs in the regions.

Meanwhile, he said, mother and infant mortality rate is still high in Southeast Asia. Another challenge is that HIV rate is still high in sub-region of North Asia and Central Asia. He added that a problem that must be urgently addressed is low level of forest coverage in Asia." Many countries keep losing their forest coverage in a dangerous level. This could increase the risk of climate change that hikes risk of food crisis," said Boediono. He said that there are several targets that Indonesia is optimistic to achieve." We are optimistic to reduce proportion of population who live with income less than 1 U.S. dollar per day," he said. He added that Indonesia is optimistic that every child could gain basic education while gender imbalance and risk of infant mortality could be reduced significantly. However, he said, Indonesia needs to make special efforts in certain areas such as high level of mother mortality and loss of forest coverage.

From Xinhua 08/03/2010

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Asia-Pacific Ministerial Meeting Agrees to Develop Further Efforts

The two-day Special Ministerial Meeting for Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Review in Asia and the Pacific: Run Up to 2015 was over on Wednesday with a declaration to develop further efforts.Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa in his closing remarks said that participants were very confident that the meeting has provided valuable inputs for the High Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the MDGs in New York next September. Natalegawa highlighted some of the issues that in the next five years will demand collective attention to achieve the MDGs in 2015.First, the challenges of the international community are more complex than ever. Secondly, a global effort is needed to achieve the MDGs as a whole.Furthermore, the noble goal can only be achieved through sincere cooperation and partnership among all stakeholders. Following the closing, Sha Zukang, the United Nations Under Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs urged for immediate action in achieving the Millennium Development Goals ( MDGs) target as the deadline of 2015 is closer.( by Cundoko Aprilianto)

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 08/04/2010

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100 CEOs to Gather in Seoul at G-20 Summit

"One hundred business movers and shakers from around the world will come together in Seoul later this year when heads of the 20 major economies meet for a global economic summit, organizers of the business meeting here reportedly said Thursday. The committee planning the meeting said that CEOs from 100 global companies are expected to attend the two-day Seoul G-20 Business Summit starting Nov. 10, just a day before the G-20 summit is convened, according to local news reports. [Xinhua]

South Korea, which chairs the G20 leaders' meeting on November 11-12 in Seoul, will push to make the business summit a regular part of the G20 process. Previous G20 summits have also included business chiefs, but organisers of the November 10-11 business summit said it would be the largest such gathering and would be closely linked to the main summit. The chief executives will freely discuss their economic concerns at a round table with the political leaders, organisers said. The Seoul G20 summit, the fifth to be held by leaders of the 20 top world economies, will mark the start of a transition "from a crisis response mode to post-crisis mode", said Kwon Hae-Ryong, director-general of the organising committee. [Economic Times]

Organisers said they had confirmed acceptances from leading companies in various industries including private equity (Blackstone), credit cards (Visa), steel (ArcelorMittal), food (Nestle), nuclear power (Areva), cellphone semiconductor chips (Qualcomm), rail transport (Alstom), wind power (Vestas), auto parts (Bosch), iron ore production (Vale), water treatment (Veolia) and outsourcing for retailers (Li & Fung). Acceptances had also been received from CEOs of the largest companies in a particular field in each continent or nation, including HSBC, Takeda Pharmaceutical, Deutsche Bank, Total, Eni, Repsol and Nomura Holdings. [Agence France Presse] Prior to the summit, the participating business leaders will name deputies to take part in two preliminary meetings in September and October. There they will establish a joint report on 12 major issues, such as ways to promote global trade, investment and job creation.

The report will be formally adopted by the CEOs and then delivered to the G-20 leaders at the upcoming Seoul summit, according to the organizing committee. [Yonhap News].

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 08/05/2010

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APEC Formulates New Growth Strategy for Region

Beppu, Japan - APEC has committed to pursuing "high quality growth" in a Statement released today at the Growth Strategy High-Level Policy Roundtable held in Beppu, Japan. APEC's new approach to growth reflects members' continued belief that free and open trade and investment is still key to regional prosperity; but it also recognises that economic growth should incorporate other factors - such as environmental sustainability - that are essential to future prosperity and citizen wellbeing. Five attributes of quality growth have therefore been selected for action, namely balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure growth.

From http://www.apec.org/ 08/08/2010

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ASIA: Fifth International Conference on Public Policy and Management 2010

The conference is a platform for all those who are working in the field of policy making or are in a position to influence it. This is also an opportunity to meet and know about the work done nationally and internationally in areas related to policy - be it economy, governance, global or local issues and new emerging trends. Along with academicians, there are students, people from industry, civil servants, policy makers and policy administrators and other relevant stakeholders take part in the conference.

From http://www.ifg.cc/ 08/08/2010

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Full Compensation for Colonization Sought at Public Meeting

Around 900 citizens from Japan and South Korea gathered Sunday to call on the Japanese government to compensate completely for damages that Tokyo inflicted on Korean people during its 35-year colonial rule up until the end of World War II. The meeting, co-hosted by citizens groups of the two countries, was held at a public hall in Tokyo's Toshima Ward prior to the Aug 29 centenary of Japan's annexation of the Korean Peninsula. The participants referred to the state compensation for former "comfort women" who were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers, Koreans who were left behind in Sakhalin after the war, Korean atomic-bomb survivors and Korean victims of air raids on Tokyo, as they have been alienated from full redress.

"It is time for the Japanese government to provide an apology and compensation to the Korean victims in order to come to terms with its colonization and to promote measures so that Japan will not repeat the same mistakes in the future," the attendants said in their statement adopted at the end of the gathering.

They also sought the termination of discriminatory policies against Koreans living in Japan, such as exclusion of ethnic Korean schools from the newly introduced tuition waiver at public high schools. Ko Yong Chae, a student at the Korean school in Tokyo, told the meeting, "We, Korean school students, lead lives as Japanese students do, laughing with friends during recess and working out at club activities." "We just want to have learning opportunities and rights as Japanese students do," said Ko, a third grader at the senior high school, calling for the tuition waiver program to be applied to ethnic Korean school students.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan issued a statement earlier this month, in which he apologized to South Korea for Japan's colonial rule and expressed his determination to deepen ties for the sake of peace and prosperity in East Asia, but Naruhiko Ito, who leads the organizers of the meeting, said, "Mr. Kan did not touch on North Korea. It suggests he seeks a decoupling (of the Korean Peninsula)." "How can he compensate for the misdeeds of the past 100 years and create a peaceful and amicable course for the future?" he said.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 08/23/2010

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CHINA: New Rule Targets 'Naked Officials'

Party and government officials whose spouse and children have emigrated overseas are to be subject to strict examination when applying for private passports and going abroad, according to a new regulation released Sunday. A provisional regulation by the General Offices of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the State Council specified new rules overseeing the issuing of private passports and travel passes to Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan to such officials. Party and government leaders of this kind have become so renowned in China that they have a shared nickname, "naked officials." They usually moved their spouses and children, as well as their assets, to foreign countries, and they put the money into their wives' or children's bank accounts. Even if they were eventually apprehended, the wealth transferred to overseas banks still belonged to the officials' families. According to the new rules, "naked officials" should submit written accounts on all income and property owned by their spouse and children living overseas, and on any changes in their financial conditions. "Officials whose duties or services are related to the countries and regions their spouses and offspring are living in should voluntarily report it to their higher authorities. If conflicts of interests are involved, the officials must avoid holding related posts," the regulation said. The regulation stated that such officials should "strictly comply with relevant laws and regulations" when applying for passports and travel passes, or applying for traveling or emigrating abroad.

Officials above deputy-county head level applying for passports should consult with their higher authorities, it said, adding that a thorough examination should be conducted when promoting officials whose family members have emigrated abroad. A statement from the CPC Central Committee General Office said the new regulation is "an important anti-corruption measure" to make officials self-disciplined, clean, reliable and to be people of integrity. "The regulation not only stresses education, management and supervision of civil servants whose spouse and offspring live aboard, but also focuses on the protection of their interests and working enthusiasm," it said. The regulation covers all civil servants, but excludes those top-ranking specialists in high-tech fields who have been recruited from overseas, along with high-qualified overseas returnees. Experts say this is the latest effort to place officials' actions in the public's view. In September 2009, the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection first ordered increased oversight of "naked officials." The municipal government of Shenzhen of southern Guangdong Province then implemented regulations in November 2009, including provisions saying that "naked official" should not become department chiefs or leading members of key departments. Earlier this month, the two general offices issued another regulation, designed to curb corruption and increase transparency about the assets of government officials. It required officials at deputy county chief level and above to annually report their assets, marital status, whereabouts and employment of family members. The reporting system for monitoring Party and government officials was set up in 1995, and revised in 1997 and 2006 by broadening the list of items and adding detailed procedures. Prof. Li Chengyan of Peking University said the two regulations that were announced recently were "a substantial step" towards the establishment of an asset declaration system for China's civil servants.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/26/2010

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'Learning Society' Promised in Education Plan

Universal preschool education and a pledge to eliminate illiteracy are among the reforms of China's education system published in the country's national education plan for the next decade. The pledges are among a host of promises listed in the "Outline of China's National Plan for Medium and Long-Term Education Reform and Development (2010-2020)," which was published in full on Thursday. "The strategic goals to be attained by 2020 are to basically modernize education; shape a learning society; and turn China into a country rich in human resources," says the document, which comprises 22 chapters and 27,000 words. It says that preschool education should be basically universal by 2020, and the nine-year compulsory education policy should be consolidated. The enrolment rate for senior middle school should be 90 percent of those of school age, while the enrolment rate for higher education should be 40 percent of high school graduates. It also sets the goal of eliminating illiteracy among young and middle-aged people by the end of the decade. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the State Council have issued a notice requiring local Party committees and governments to carefully implement the national education outline. The outline vows to spare no efforts to "run every school well and bring quality education to every student. No child shall be allowed to drop out due to family financial difficulties." Minister of Education Yuan Guiren said the outline addressed major issues faced by China's education system, educational development bottlenecks, as well as issues of public concern.

The outline's drafting began in August 2008 and it was made public on the Internet twice to solicit feedback. Millions of suggestions were received and the draft was revised about 40 times accordingly. The outline says issues about providing equal compulsory education opportunities for children of migrant workers in cities shall be addressed. To prevent quality education resources unfairly going to key schools and parents trying to send their children to such schools, the outline also says that by 2020, the quality of compulsory education shall be balanced in all regions, ensuring school-aged children and adolescents have equal access to quality compulsory education. In a bid to lessen assignment burdens on primary and secondary school students, the outline requires the establishment of an assignment burden monitoring and reporting mechanism. To address inadequate funding, the outline states the country's fiscal education expenditure should be increased to be four percent of GDP in 2012. In 2008, China's fiscal education expenditure was 3.48 percent of GDP, lower than the world average of 4.5 percent. The outline also says the Chinese central and local governments shall expand financial assistance for education in the ethnic minority-inhabited areas. The country will strengthen campus safety management and boost safety education among teachers and students to improve schools' emergency response capacities and guard against crime, says the outline. The outline says that China will tighten fund management in a bid to prevent school financial risks. Also, a consultancy commission for higher education funding will be established to enhance efficiency of fund distribution. In mid-July, a high-profile work conference on education was held in Beijing. At that conference, Chinese President Hu Jintao urged the Communist Party of China and the whole country to give priority to education in their work.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/30/2010

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China's 1st Law on Online Games Takes Effect

China's first regulation governing the booming market of on-line games takes effect on Sunday, which is expected to protect children from unwholesome content and Internet addiction. The regulation, issued by the Ministry of Culture on June 22, states that on-line games targeting minors must be free of content that leads to the imitation of behavior that violates social morals and the law. It also requires gaming companies to develop techniques that limit the gaming time of minors in order to prevent addiction. But the regulation did not specify the techniques and the permissible gaming time. The issue drew national attention last year following a series of deaths at boot camps for Internet addicted youth. Further, web players will now have to register using their real names before playing games online, according to the regulation. China's on-line population reached 420 million by June 2010, according to data from the China Internet Network Information Center. The market value of the on-line game industry in China increased by almost 40 percent to 25.8 billion yuan (US$ 3.8 billion) in 2009. Several separate sets of regulations will also come into force on Sunday, including one that governs army service, and another that stipulates health care institutions would face punishment for withholding certain information to patients and the public.

From Xinhua News Agency 08/01/2010

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China's Central Bank Issues Guidelines for Developing Gold Market

The People's Bank of China (PBOC), China's central bank, said Tuesday that the country would expand the development of gold markets to increase the competitiveness of domestic financial markets while broadening investment channels for ordinary customers. The central bank will allow more commercial banks to import and export gold and encourage them to offer yuan-denominated gold derivatives, according to a statement posted on the bank's website. PBOC also vowed to perfect policies related to the gold market, including foreign exchange policies, to speed development of the market. Further, the central bank asked lenders to offer better services for raising funds for domestic gold firms looking to establish overseas offices. It will also assist in opening the market to the outside world and permit more foreign participation in it, the statement said. Additionally, China is considering allowing foreign suppliers to provide gold bullion directly for the Shanghai Gold Exchange. Meanwhile, PBOC said the government would strengthen supervision of the gold market to ensure healthy and balanced development.

From English.news.cn 08/03/2010

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China Issues Rules on How Insurers May Invest Assets

China's insurance regulator issued detailed rules on Thursday governing how insurers invest their profits, which reiterated the ban on direct investment in property development and specified the ratio of funds that insurers could invest in new sectors such as unlisted companies. Insurance companies will not be allowed to invest more than 10 percent of their assets, as of the latest quarter, in the property market, according to the Provisional Measures on Insurance Capital Uses posted on the website of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission. Further, insurance companies will be allowed to invest up to 20 percent of their assets in the stock market and up to 5 percent in purchasing stakes in unlisted companies. They are permitted to invest up to 20 percent of their assets in unsecured corporate bonds and debts of non-financial enterprises and up to 5 percent in debt related to infrastructure projects. The regulator also announced restrictions on insurers' investment in derivatives and asked insurers to strengthen risk controls. The new rules will take effect on Aug. 31, 2010.

From Xinhua News Agency 08/05/2010

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China Mulls Better Regulation of Bank Service Pricing

China's banking regulator said Tuesday that it is considering revising the bank service pricing regulation so bank costumers might enjoy better services. A draft version of the revised regulation has been sent to China's commercial banks and local price monitoring offices, said China Banking Regulatory Commission in a statement on its website. Several Chinese commercial banks, including the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which is the country's largest lender, raised their cross-bank same-city automatic teller machine (ATM) withdrawal fees last month, which invited opposition among the bankcard holders. According to the draft, any changes in service pricing should be prominently announced five months before its implementation, and if the customers objected, the bank should stop the service rather than forcing them to accept the service and the price change overtly or in a disguised form. "It is necessary to inform the clients about the price change in advance, so that they could have time to make their decisions or prepare for the change," said Guo Tianyong, head of the China Banking Research Center at the Central University of Finance and Economics. The draft version of the new regulation, which was jointly prepared by CBRC and the National Development and Reform Commission, would also seek public opinion after the two departments receive feedback from commercial banks, said the CBRC.

From Xinhua News Agency 08/10/2010

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Macao to Revise Press Laws in 2 to 3 Years

The government of Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) planned to revise the SAR's press and broadcasting laws, the whole process of which was expected to take two to three years, the SAR's information chief said on Monday. The SAR government will continue to uphold the principles of freedom of the press, and will revise the two laws impartially and through transparent procedures, said Chan Chi Ping, director of the SAR's Government Information Bureau, at a press conference held. According to Chan, the revision of the two laws will be conducted in four phases, including launching relevant research on press regulations in different jurisdictions, drafting the new laws based on the findings of the research, conducting public consultations, and starting the legislation procedure. For the first phase, the government has already commissioned the Macao University of Science and Technology (MUST) to carry out the study on the press and communication regulations of the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Portugal and Luxemburg, the related policies and legislative techniques in Common Law countries, and a review of the current practice of press and broadcasting laws in Macao. The study, with a total budget of 120,000 patacas (15,000 U.S. dollars), was scheduled to be completed in October this year, according to the Bureau.

From Xinhua News Agency 08/10/2010

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Anti-trust Law Treats 'All Firms Equally'

China has "never discriminated" against foreign companies by using different standards in handling cases of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) involving the anti-trust law since its implementation in 2008, said a senior official of the Ministry of Commerce on Thursday. Since the Chinese government blocked a proposed bid by Coca-Cola for China's top domestic juice maker Huiyuan at a price of $2.5 billion in 2008, there have been concerns that the country is unfairly treating foreign businesses by taking advantage of the anti-monopoly law. The ministry said that, by the end of June, it had accepted and handled more than 140 M&A cases and approved 95 percent of them "with no strings attached". "It's unreasonable to conclude that China discriminates or holds any bias against foreign firms by saying that we have banned or set restrictive requirements on some foreign cases," said Shang Ming, director-general of the ministry's anti-monopoly bureau. The Coca-Cola bid was the only case turned down and five others were approved, although those came with additional restrictive requirements, according to the Ministry of Commerce. All the six cases involved foreign companies. He said the reason why China prohibited or set restrictive conditions on certain cases involving foreign firms is that "we found they owned a very high market share, and ... if approved, would exert negative impact on market competition". The ministry said in April it had also started an anti-monopoly review on a merger proposal between mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto's iron ore joint venture. China is the biggest buyer of iron ores.

There were concerns that the merger of the two major mining companies would put its domestic steel industry at stake. Organizations representing foreign companies such as the American Chamber of Commerce in China have said major State-owned companies should also be put under scrutiny in anti-trust approval, because many of them have a monopoly position. Wu Hongwei, professor of law at Renmin University of China, said the accusations against China are groundless as the law is in line with international principles and are not discriminatory. "No one can deny the progress China has made in opening its market just because of some complaints or pressures," he said. The number of M&A applications presented to the ministry for approval will grow by 20 percent from a year earlier, as M&A cases worldwide are expected to pick up this year, Shang said. The ministry said that, during the past two years, it has found a high ratio of foreign companies among the applicants for M&A approvals. Under the Chinese anti-monopoly law, companies with annual turnovers of 10 billion yuan ($1.47 billion) globally and 400 million yuan in China, or combined turnovers of $2 billion in China, must get anti-trust approval for a proposed deal from the Chinese government. Wei Xinghua, professor of economics with Renmin University of China, said that if an M&A deal is based on market rules, no objection should be raised.

However, he said many foreign companies tried to monopolize sectors through the acquisition of local companies. Foreign companies control 21 out of 28 major industries in the country, Wei said. In many industries, the top five players are all foreign ones, he said. Shang said China will try to improve the anti-trust law by drafting some supplementary rules and regulations, as the law is still quite new in China. But the improvement will be made gradually, Shang said. The anti-trust law took effect on Aug 1, 2008. A number of multinationals have been complaining about the slow pace and transparency of the evaluation and review process. In the case of Panasonic's takeover of Sanyo, the ministry accepted the filing four months after the company first lodged its file. But Shang said the complaints "do not really make sense". Under the law, there are three phases in the review. "Actually, in the review of majority of the cases, more than 60 percent was finished during the first phase and took less than 30 days. The rest took 90 days and even a few lasted 180 days," he said.

From China Daily 08/13/2010

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CBRC Unveils Rules to Regulate Credit Card Sales

The banking regulator issued new rules on the supervision and management of credit cards, aimed at preventing misleading promotions among card issuers and protecting against default risks of card holders. The China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) posted Wednesday on its official website the draft measures open to public feedback until September 10. The new measures are the first of their kind for China, and they address market access, card issuance management and risk management, adding far more detail to the current rules issued by the central bank in 1999. The CBRC forbids the commercial banks to tie card salespeople's compensation solely to the number of cards issued. According to the new rules, card salespeople must fully disclose to customers the fees charged, interest rates and risks. They are not allowed to disclose customer's information for sales of the bank's other products or services without the consent of the card holders. The card issuer is forbidden to charge card holder annual fees if the card is not activated. The commercial banks are not allowed to issue cards to adolescents aged under 18, except supplementary cards attached to their parents' accounts. "The new measures are aimed to prevent against rising default risks of credit card, and also to improve the service quality," said Tan Ruyong, finance professor at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. The credit card business has developed fast in recent years. The total number of cards issued by commercial banks has reached 185 million. The transaction value by credit card was 2.2 trillion yuan ($324.96 billion) in the first half of the year, 730 billion yuan ($107.83 billion) more than the previous year, which played an important role in driving domestic demand and promoting consumption. But the rapid growth has brought along rising default risks. Credit default reached 8.8 billion yuan ($1.3 billion) in the first quarter, growing by 14.4 percent year-on-year with the default ratio of 3.5 percent, up 0.4 percentage points over the fourth quarter of 2009, according to the central bank.

From Global Times 08/13/2010

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HK Sets More Rules to Regulate Property Market

To control potential risks in property sector, the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) announced Friday new rules to curb speculative activities. The Lands Department said it would not allow confirmor transactions of first-hand uncompleted flats which were granted pre-sale consent by the department. The new rules, which took effect from Aug. 13, also forbade purchasers of those flats to re-sell, sub-sell or transfer the benefits of the agreements for sale and purchase before the transactions completion. Meanwhile, the department also required buyers to forfeit 10 percent, instead of the current 5 percent, of the total purchase price if the transactions were canceled. "I remind potential home buyers to be cautious when borrowing money to purchase property," said John Tsang, financial secretary of the government, commenting on the new rules. "We will continue to monitor the situation closely. I will not hesitate to introduce further measures should that prove necessary. " On the same day, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority asked banks in Hong Kong to implement new prudential measures for residential mortgage loans. The measures included a maximum loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of 60 percent to properties with a value at or above 12 million HK dollars and lowering the maximum LTV ratio from properties which were not intended to be occupied by the owners to 60 percent. (One US dollar is equivalent to 7.77 HK dollars)

From Xinhua News Agency 08/13/2010

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China Issues New Rule to Enhance Supervision on Criminal Case Filing

China publicly issued a new rule Wednesday to improve the supervision of prosecuting organs over the filing of criminal cases by the police to curb irregularities in the process. The rule, jointly issued by the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) and the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), is to begin a trial enforcement period this Oct. 1. To ensure the easy flow of information, the new rule stipulates that the SPP and MPS should exchange information regularly on the occurrence, report, filing and solving of criminal cases, as well as the approval of the arrest of suspects and supervision of the investigation process. Also, the two agencies should inform each other about progress in major criminal cases, according to the new rule. "The system will help the two sides to exchange information quickly, increase transparency, and enable the prosecutorial organs to find out and rectify irregularities to assure filing in a timely manner," according to a statement issued by the SPP and MPS on Wednesday. The prosecutors could also discover irregularities by hearing complaints from victims, their legal agents, relatives and relevant law enforcement agencies, the rule stipulates. If the prosecuting agencies have evidence to show police illegally investigated civil and economic dispute cases with measures exclusively used for criminal cases, or relevant police officers use case filings to retaliate, blackmail, or seek illicit gains, they should demand the police agencies submit written explanations on such cases, according to the rule. The prosecuting agencies should ask police agencies to revoke the filing of a case or urge the police to put a case on file, if they think the explanations submitted are not well founded, the rule stipulates. The police agencies can demand a reconsideration of the case if they disagree with the decision of the prosecuting agencies, according to the rule.

From English.news.cn 08/18/2010

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HK's Constitutional Reform Package Conforms to Basic Law

China's top legislature Tuesday determined that the constitutional reform package of Hong Kong conforms to the Basic Law of Hong Kong and relevant interpretations by the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC). The NPCSC members made the comments while reviewing the package during the ongoing bimonthly session scheduled from Aug. 23-28. Hong Kong's constitutional reform package refers to the draft amendments for the methods of selecting the Special Administrative Region's (SAR's) Chief Executive and for forming the SAR's Legislative Council (LegCo) in 2012. LegCo passed the draft amendments in June, before Chief Executive Donald Tsang signed them off later in the month. A statement issued by the NPCSC on Tuesday said, "The reform package is an important step in the development of Hong Kong's political system, which has been jointly pursued by the SAR government and Hong Kong citizens." It also said that appropriate revisions to the methods of selecting the SAR's Chief Executive and forming LegCo would be conducive to achieving the goal for Hong Kong's democratic development, which has been stipulated by the Basic Law. The Basic Law and a decision by the NPCSC in December 2007 stipulated that Hong Kong's Chief Executive and LegCo in 2012 would not be elected by universal suffrage. The reform package suggests the number of members of the Election Committee for Chief Executive be increased from 800 to 1,200, and the current nomination threshold, at the ratio of one-eighth of the total membership of the Election Committee, be maintained. Regarding the method of forming the Legislative Council, the number of seats should be increased from 60 to 70. Of the 10 new seats, five will go to geographical constituencies through direct elections while the other five to functional constituencies.

From Xinhua News Agency 08/24/2010

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JAPAN: BOJ's Plan to Boost Business

The Bank of Japan has announced a new lending plan to back up the government's economic growth strategy. It will lend a total of ¥3 trillion at an annual interesting rate of 0.1 percent - the same rate as the central bank's key interest rate - to banks, which will then lend the money to enterprises at an interest rate lower than usual rates. The new loan scheme is unusual in that the central bank has allowed itself to be directly involved in the government's economic policy. The BOJ must be feeling a sense of urgency about the poor state of the economy. What is significant with the new plan is that the loans are aimed at helping enterprises in 18 areas where high economic growth is expected. The BOJ hopes that the loans will help invigorate economic activities in these areas and create new demand, thus helping pull the nation out of the current deflation. The 18 areas overlap the areas the government plans to support under its growth strategy. They include such areas as the energy industry, the eco-friendly industry, tourism, agriculture, the child rearing-related industry and large-scale projects in other Asian countries. Each bank can borrow up to ¥150 billion. The term of a loan is one year, but the loan can be renewed three times so that the maximum term will be four years. The BOJ plans to start lending toward the end of August. Many small and midsize companies and newly established firms operate in the 18 areas. If the loans are actually made and used for research and development and for capital investment, some positive effects can be expected. The plan faces obstacles. Generally speaking, companies are presently avoiding taking new risks and are reluctant to borrow money. Meanwhile, banks are inclined to use their funds to buy national bonds. Since the BOJ cannot judge the prospects for individual enterprises, the banks' role will be critical to the success of the new loan plan. They must strive to find companies that need funding for innovative projects that have a strong chance of being commercially successful.

From http://search.japantimes.co.jp/ 08/04/2010

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2 Port Areas Picked for 'Int'l Freight Hub' Program

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has selected Japan's two largest port areas as international freight shipment hubs under a government program aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of the country's ports. The port areas of Keihin, which includes Tokyo, Kawasaki and Yokohama, as well as Hanshin, which includes Kobe and Osaka, will be given priority in funding for infrastructural improvements under a new policy of the government led by the Democratic Party of Japan. Key projects under the new policy include construction of 18-meter-deep piers capable of accommodating super container vessels as the government aims for Japanese ports to catch up with the likes of Singapore and South Korea's Busan in freight volumes. The Ise Bay area comprising Nagoya failed to make the list although it was designated in 2004 as one of three key strategic ports alongside Keihin and Hanshin under a Liberal Democratic Party-led government.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 08/08/2010

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Japan to Join the Hague Convention on Child Custody

Japan has decided to become a party to a global treaty on child custody as early as next year amid growing calls abroad for the country to join it to help resolve custody problems resulting from failed international marriages, government sources said Saturday. The government will develop domestic laws in line with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which provides a procedure for the prompt return of "abducted" children to their habitual country of residence and protects parental access rights, the sources said. Complaints have been growing over cases in which a Japanese parent, often a mother, brings a child to Japan without the consent of the foreign parent, or regardless of custody determination in other countries, and denies the other parent access to the child. Japan has come under pressure from the United States and European countries to join the 1980 treaty aimed at preventing one of the parents in a failed international marriage from taking their offspring across national borders against an existing child custody arrangement. The government has judged it necessary to resolve the issue as soon as possible, given that leaving it unresolved for a long term would undermine Japan's international standing, the sources said. However, the government has yet to determine when to ratify the treaty, as it is expected to take time to develop related domestic laws because of differences in the legal systems of Japan and other signatory nations.

For example, on parental rights, Japan's law gives a single parent full custody of children in a divorce, virtually allowing the custodial parent to take the children away without the consent of the noncustodial parent, while the United States and Europe allow joint custody. Japan's Civil Code also does not mention visitation rights for noncustodial parents and many Japanese parents awarded custody are known to refuse the other parent access to the child. Many civic groups active on the issue urge the Japanese government to amend the Civil Code to allow joint custody but the government is set to forgo such an amendment at this stage, according to the sources. In January, ambassadors of the United States and seven other nations urged Japan to sign the Hague convention in a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in Tokyo. Amid growing global concerns over the so-called child abductions, the Japanese government set up a division in the Foreign Ministry to specifically deal with the issue in December last year, while then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in February suggested that he was considering Japan's accession to the treaty. Japan and Russia are the only two countries among the Group of Eight industrialized nations that are not a party to the Hague Convention.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 08/15/2010

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Gov't Planning Additional Economy-spurring Measures

The government has started planning additional measures aimed at addressing the slowing economy and stronger yen, government sources said Monday. The measures are expected to include stimulating personal consumption of eco-friendly products, helping new graduates find jobs and revitalizing small and midsize companies, they said. Regarding financial resources for the implementation of additional measures, ideas such as using part of a surplus in the fiscal 2009 budget or part of the reserves compiled in the fiscal 2010 budget have been floated. But it remains uncertain whether the government will be able to hammer out and implement measures swiftly in the divided Diet, where opposition parties control the upper house and the ruling coalition the lower house. Following the release Monday of slower-than-expected gross domestic product growth data showing the Japanese economy expanded an annualized real 0.4% in the quarter through June, Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda and other related ministers to report on the current economic situation and outlook. "We need to closely watch (the economy) including foreign exchange," Kan told reporters, referring to the growth data and the recent sharp rise in the yen against the U.S. dollar and other major currencies, which has had a negative impact on the earnings of Japanese exporters.

Last week, the dollar hit a 15-year low in the upper 84 yen level, prompting calls from political and business circles for action to halt the yen's appreciation. The government will consider specific economic measures based on reports from Noda as well as Satoshi Arai, state minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy, and Masayuki Naoshima, economy, trade and industry minister, the sources said. The government "should prioritize economic measures over compiling the fiscal 2011 budget and tax revisions" in order to prevent the economic recovery stalling, a senior Cabinet Office official said. The government has started analyzing the scale of adverse effects on the economy stemming from the expiration of its "eco-car" subsidy and "eco-point" incentive programs for appliances in September and December, respectively. Kan, who has emphasized fiscal reconstruction, is expected to avoid additional issuance of deficit-covering bonds. Some potential ideas for financial resources include using 920 billion yen, the remaining balance of 1 trillion yen set aside in the fiscal 2010 budget to deal with the economic crisis and local revitalization, the sources said.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 08/17/2010

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SOUTH KOREA: Bill to Regulate Size of Local Office Buildings

Amid controversies over the excessive spending of some local governments on the construction of new office buildings, a revised bill was approved Tuesday to restrict their size depending on the number of residents per municipality. A revision to the management law on public assets and property, which contains the construction regulation of government office buildings, passed through the Cabinet meeting presided over by President Lee Myung-bak, officials said. The "luxurious" office buildings of some local governments are pointed out as one of the main factors that have damaged their fiscal health recently. Thirteen local governments have spent a total of 1.4 trillion won ($1.2 billion) on refurbishing or rebuilding their office buildings since 2005, according to a recent report from the National Assembly Budget Office. For the maintenance of their new buildings, a budget of 26 billion won has been allocated, a 227 percent increase from 7.9 billion won before the renewal, the report said.Seongnam City in Gyeonggi Province recently declared a moratorium on its debts regarding its new town development in the Pangyo district. The city of 940,000 citizens spent 322.2 billion won to build a 75,000 square-meter office building, which was completed in November last year. Under the revision, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is not allowed to build its office building larger than 127,402 square meters, while the office building of Gyeonggi Province should not exceed 77,633 square meters. A city with a population of less than one million is required to have an office building smaller than 22,319 square meters, according to the revision. When the detailed standard for building size is finalized according to the revision, local governments should transfer excess space within one year to be used for other public purposes such as cultural activities. However, the cities in Gyeonggi Province are resisting the new measure. Of the total 32 municipal governments in Gyeonggi Province, more than half their office buildings are considered to exceed the new standard. Citing the province's constant administrative expansion, local governments there claim that the standard should be set considering the different situations of the individual cities.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 07/27/2010

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Guidelines Set for Disability Level

The disabled here have long experienced confusion as government agencies require different medical reports for disability benefits. After three years of study, some 30 standards for disability evaluation have been unified and streamlined, the Korean Academy of Medical Science said Monday. About 120 doctors participated in completing the guidelines that will be used for the legal consideration of disability benefits, the medical association said. Disability evaluation has thus far been conducted by a doctor in charge. But, under the new standard, the doctor is to submit necessary data for consideration and a third party doctor is required to do the evaluation. "A doctor in charge may know the situation better. But in order to ensure the objectivity of evaluation, a doctor who doesn't examine the patient and know the disability standard will be allowed to do the final evaluation," said the review committee affiliated with the association. Some diseases, such as complex regional pain syndrome and endocrine disorder, have been newly included for disability consideration. "The pain syndrome has been considered only in the U.S. The committee agreed to contain such new diseases as soon as related evaluation methods are developed," the committee said. The new guidelines also abolished the 15 legal categories, which have divided the types of disability and offered different benefits. The new standard has adopted the "rate of disability," aimed at considering social and economic situation of disabled people as well as their physical and psychological impairment. The disability rate will be measured, depending on activity limitation in executing a task or act and participation restriction experienced by an individual. "So far, the incoherence in disability evaluation has caused confusion and there were many abuse cases," said Sohn Myung-se, professor of Yonsei University College of Medicine and the committee chairman. "The nation's top specialists have made these medical guidelines for disability evaluation. I hope they will be used widely, including in court rulings and decisions on disability benefits," he said.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 08/09/2010

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Ministry Kicks Off 10-year Tech Project

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology next month will kick off its 10-year project to develop ground-breaking neo-technologies. Through its Global Frontier research and development project, the ministry will be supporting 15 research units until 2021, aiming to secure five or more original leading technologies, said officials Thursday. The Global Frontier is the third among the ministry's 10-year projects to renovate the country's science-technology level. The 1990-2000 G7 project resulted in the development of the Code Division Multiple Access technology and flat screen televisions. The following 2000-2010 21C Frontier project led to biomedicines and diminutive disposal of carbon dioxide. The 2010 Global Frontier has adopted as its issues new technology platforms such as bio fuels, augmented realities and human-friendly biotechnology, said officials. The outputs of the project are expected to be deployed on a commercial scale in 10 years and put on general use in 20 years, according to the ministry.

Among the total of 136 originally developed technologies, 15 were initially selected through the online Open Global Frontier Forum, among which seven will be propelled this year, said officials. The project will mostly focus on three major R&D teams, respectively led by a state scientist, said officials. Seoul National University's innovative medical bio convergence team aims at developing high-efficiency medicine by using bio fusion technology. The neo carbon circulation biomass team, led by Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology, is to develop an eco-friendly fuel from the carbonic biomass created through nature photosynthesis. The simulation bio sensor solution team of Korea Institute of Science and Technology will work on an interactive communication between humans and simulation worlds. The selected teams are to receive a government research fund of 5 billion won ($4.2 million) this year, which will be raised to 10-30 billion per year until 2020, said officials. "Based on our last 10 years experience in the previous 21C Frontier project, we have now established an improved set of management rules," said a ministry official. In order to properly evaluate the research results and to maximize fund efficiency, the ministry is to introduce a strict fail or pass system to filter out under-qualified teams, the official also said.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 08/09/2010

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Korea Likely to Ease Mortgage Rules

The government is considering easing mortgage lending rules and extending transfer tax reduction for multiple homeowners as part of efforts to boost the real estate market, a senior ruling party official said Sunday. Officials from the government and the Grand National Party plan to meet this week to fine-tune measures to fend off a further cooling of the property market, which would put a dent in the fragile economic recovery. The long-delayed package is likely to be announced this week or next, sources said. "We are considering extending the reduction of transfer taxes for those owning two or three homes, which is scheduled to expire at the end of the year," Ko Heung-kil, chief of the GNP policy committee, told reporters. The government introduced the two-year rate cut - from 60 percent to a range of 6 to 35 percent - in early 2009 to boost home transactions. "The market should be revived for non-speculative buyers and sellers," he added. Ko also said the government and the party are discussing whether to loosen mortgage borrowing restrictions.

Differences among policymakers over the matter forced the government to delay announcing the real estate steps originally scheduled for late July. He said no decision has been made on the debt-to-income ratio rule, which restricts homebuyers' lending in proportion to their annual income. "But we are recommending raising the DTI cap," he said. The ceiling of the ratio is 40 percent for would-be buyers of homes in speculation-watch zones in southern Seoul, 50 percent for the rest of Seoul and 60 percent for Incheon and Gyeonggi Province. The government is considering raising the upper limit by 10 percent points, sources said. Experts doubt the effectiveness of the proposed rise, saying it would have only a symbolic effect. "But psychological factors are important in revitalizing the real estate market." he said. Policymakers have remained divided over the lending controls. The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs and the GNP support calls from the real estate and construction industries to ease the regulation. The Finance Ministry and the Financial Services Commission are more cautious out of concern that a relaxation could lead to an increase in household debts and instability in property and financial markets.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 08/22/2010

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MONGOLIA: Livestock Insurance Program Speed Up

The Government of Mongolian with the help of the World Bank is implementing the Index-Based Livestock Insurance Program (IBLIP) since 2006. Insurance is provided through partnering with local private insurance companies such as "Mongol Insurance", "Bodi Insurance", "Prime Insurance" and "Practical Insurance". Last year alone, out of MNT1.8 billion planned to grant as compensation of the index based livestock insurance, the Government started to allocate MNT622 million to herders from 48 soums of four provinces, through Khan Bank of Mongolia. The pilot project for IBLIP was launched in 2006 and was implemented into three of 21 provinces, including Bayankhongor, Uvs and Khentii. Six further provinces were added in 2009 and 2010. Following the pilot program's success, IBLIP has received funding to eventually expand to reach herders in all of Mongolia's 21 provinces by 2013. The Project Implementation Unit has prepared a detailed action plan to support the scale up and has completed the recruitment process for province coordinators.

An index-based insurance program based on livestock mortality rates by species and soum (county) was recommended by the Bank. In 2005 the Government entered into a credit agreement with the World Bank to implement the IBLIP. The approach is a combination of self-insurance, market based insurance and a social safety net. Herders bear the cost of small losses that do not affect the viability of their business, larger losses are transferred to the private insurance industry and only the final layer of catastrophic loss is borne by the Government of Mongolia. The total International Development Association's contribution is US$17.75 million. This figure includes the recent additional financing for IBLIP's scale up which was approved by the Board in February 2010. IBLIP is currently co-financed by the Japanese Government (US$1.3 million), the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (US$0.6 million), and the Korean Government (US$0.7 million). The Government of Mongolia financed US$322.9 thousand for the program.

From http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/ 08/24/2010

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INDONESIA: Govt Renews Effort to Ratify ASEAN Haze Treaty

The government will for the second time push the House of Representatives to endorse the ASEAN agreement on haze pollution, an official said on Thursday. Indonesia is the only country in Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) that had not endorsed the agreement aimed to cut forest fires and combat haze pollution. "From the government side, there has been agreement to ratify it," Environmental Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta told The Jakarta Post from Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. "But, it might still take time because it depends on the process in the House." Gusti was in Kuching, Malaysia, on Thursday to attend a two-day ministerial meeting on haze to converse actions on expected land and forest fires on upcoming dry season.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 07/29/2010

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LAOS: Meeting on Farmers' Living Condition Improvement Held

(KPL) Coordination Committee of the Farmers'Living Condition Improvement Project held a meeting in northern province Louang Namtha on July 27. Farmers'Living Condition Improvement Project is designed for 2008 - 2012 to improve the livelihood of farmers in 18 poor districts of five northern provinces of Louang Namtha, Luang Prabang, Houaphanh, Xiengkouang and Bokeo. The project aims at providing agricultural input to farmers in the said provinces such as crop seeds, animal vaccines, animal feed and holding training course for them on maintaining animals barns as well as the establishment of demonstration animal raising groups, the provision of loans and the investment in basic infrastructure development. The meeting was presided over by Deputy Head of Livestock Extension and Fisheries Department, Mr. Sith.ong Phiphankhavong. Also present at the meeting were Head of Agriculture and Forestry Service of Louang Namtha province, Mr. Khamlek Saydala, and representatives of provincial agriculture and forestry services from five northern provinces and relevant authorities.

From http://www.kplnet.net/ 07/30/2010

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Vientiane Eyes on Renewable Energy Development

(KPL) Vientiane Capital is drafting a plan on renewable energy resources to handle with the future increase in electricity consumption in Vientiane Capital. The plan is aimed at coping with the constraints in electricity generation and the consistent growth of Vientiane Capital. "As a result, the Vientiane Energy and Mining Service is speeding up to draw up a plan for the development of substitute energy, which is aimed at reducing insufficient electricity supply in towns and increase the volume of electricity export a major money spinner of the country," said its head Khounkeo Phansavath this week. The socio-economic development plan of Vientiane Capital is primarily concentrating on infrastructure development, including communication, agriculture, tourism and other sectors. All works have required the electricity supply for development. Realising its necessity, the Vientiane Energy and Mining Service has therefore required the use of renewable energy such as the development of solar cell in some public parks and street lights in the Capital.

The supply of hydropower electricity to 500 villages with a total population of 123,174 in the four municipal districts of Vientiane Capital is now overloaded, continued Mr Khounkeo. "A few years ago, Vientiane Capital faced electricity shortage during summer times, which was resulted from a high volume of electricity consumption, he explained. If the plan for solar cell development was implemented, it would be a part to reduce the problem of insufficient electricity supply in Vientiane". Vientiane Capital is conducting a feasibility study on the construction of a five-MW small-scale hydropower dam along Nam Sang river, Vangma village, Sangthong district northwest of Vientiane Capital. This dam will solely generate electricity for Vientiane Capital to lessen the overloaded supply of electricity from the Nam Ngum hydropower plant. Meanwhile it would also increase the volume of electricity export by the dam, continued Mr Khounkeo. In reducing the import of high price fuels, Vientiane Capital established a jatropha plantation association in Thongmang village, Saythany district in 2008.

Many local companies have invested in land clearing for jatropha cultivation with a total area of 1,000 ha. If all parties paid heed to the development of different sources of renewable energy, Vientiane would have sustainable renewable energy, he called for. However there is a need to have a master plan to manage the plantation of jatropha and the human resource development of Vientiane Energy and Mining Service to support the above projects. Vientiane Energy and Mining Service was speeding up to create a plan to produce substituted energy to use, which is aimed at reducing insufficient electricity in city and increase the volume export of electricity a main income of the country," said its head Khounkeo Phansavath this week. In the socio-economic development plan of Vientiane Capital is concentrating on infrastructure development as a priority, including communication, agriculture, tourist and other sectors. All works have required the use of electricity for the development. Seeing as necessary, the Vientiane Energy and Mining Service has therefore required the use of renewable energy such as the development of solar cell in some public parks and street lights in Vientiane Capital.

The supply electricity generating by hydropower dam to 500 villages with the population of 123,174 in Vientiane Capital was currently exceeding capacity, continued Mr Khounkeo. "A few years ago, Vientiane Capital found obviously the shortage of electricity during summer, which was the result of a high volume of electricity consumption," he explained. "If the plan of solar cell development were implemented, it would be a part to reduce problem insufficient electricity consumption in Vientiane". Vientiane Capital is conducting a feasibility study for the construction of 5 MW small scale hydropower dam along Nam Sang river, Vangma village, Sangthong district?northwest of Vientiane Capital. This dam will solely generate electricity supplying to Vientiane Capital to lessen the consumption of electricity, which is prone to be high. It would also increase net volume of electricity export if this dam was effective, continued Mr Khounkeo. There is another potential energy resource for reducing high price fuels Vientiane Capital established a jatropha plantation association in Thongmang village, Saythany district in 2008. Many local companies have invested in the clearance of land for jatropha cultivation with a total area of 1,000 ha. If all parties paid important to the multi-development of substituted energy, Vientiane would have sustainable substitution energy, he called for. However there is a need to have a master plan to manage the plantation of jatropha and the human resource development of Vientiane Energy and Mining Service to support all above projects.

From http://www.kplnet.net/ 08/11/2010

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PHILIPPINES: BIR Chief Says She's Ready to Defend VAT on Toll Fees

Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares said on Thursday she is ready to defend the imposition of the value-added tax (VAT) on the tollway rates. "I'm ready to defend it even in Plaza Miranda, no matter what it takes. The VAT on toll fees is implemented in Europe and South Africa," Henares told reporters covering the BIR beat. "I don't know where these legislators are coming from with ideas that tolls are not 'vatable'. We are implementing what the law says. We leave it up to the Supreme Court if there is a ground to suspend the hearing," she said. The 12 percent VAT on expressway toll fees will push through on Monday despite opposition by some senators and a case filed before the Supreme Court questioning its legality, Henares said. Earlier, Henares told the Senate committee on ways and means she would still push through with the VAT imposition on toll fees. "As of now, unless there are some changes, then there will be VAT on tolls on Monday," she said. According to Henares, only the Supreme Court could stop the BIR from implementing the VAT toll fees. She insisted there is nothing illegal with the VAT since there is no expressed provision in the law exempting toll fees from tax.

From http://balita.ph/ 08/12/2010
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Philippines: Comprehensive Internet Law Pushed

Senator Edgardo Angara Thursday pushed for a comprehensive Internet law in the Philippines to curb the rising incidence of online-related crimes in the country. Angara, chair of the Senate committee on Education, Arts and Culture, said recent studies have shown that a number of crimes and other forms of violations committed over the Internet are rapidly increasing, thus, a stringent law should be crafted that would give heavy penalties to "cybercriminals."

The Philippines has the highest social networking usage in the Asia Pacific Region with 90 percent of Filipinos frequent users of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, Angara said citing US-based industry tracker comScore report. "These numbers reflect the Filipino's inherent need to establish and maintain ties with the people we care about through social networking sites like Facebook or Friendster," Angara said. "However, these immensely popular sites also attract new kinds of illegal activities called cybercrimes. This is why we need to make the Internet safer for our citizens," he said.

Cybercrime constitutes the downloading and uploading of pornographic materials, hacking, fraud and a host of other destructive activities. Other activities including e-mail espionage, credit card fraud, spams, and software piracy, financial crimes, sale of illegal or stolen articles, pornography, online gambling, crimes impinging on intellectual property rights, e-mail spoofing, forgery, cyber defamation, and cyber stalking also fall in this category.

Angara said he has filed his proposed cybercrime law where persons found guilty of these acts would be punished with imprisonment of prison mayor or a fine of at least P200,000. "Preventive measures need to be taken and heavier punishments for violators should be established to protect Filipinos from online crimes," said Angara. Angara said the government needs to pursue an upgraded law against Internet-related crimes because the existing Cybercrime Prevention Act, which Congress has passed and enacted by the previous administration seems to be lagging behind the rapid development of the Web. "A more up-to-date Internet law would be more effective against cybercrimes, especially one that pursues specific violations like hacking and privacy infringement. This target-specific approach would also make it easier to prosecute offenders," the senator stressed. (by Hannah L. Torregoza)

From http://www.mb.com.ph/ 08/19/2010

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THAILAND: Effort to Develop Itself as a Center of ASEAN

Thailand has continued to push for a stronger ASEAN and a truly integrated ASEAN Community by the year 2015. It is also striving to develop itself into a center of ASEAN. In early August 1967, four ministers from Southeast Asian countries - Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore - were invited by the then Thai Foreign Minister, Dr. Thanat Khoman, to a reception villa at the seaside resort of Bang Saen in Chon Buri. During their four-day retreat, the Bangkok Declaration was worked out and was subsequently signed at Saranrom Palace in Bangkok on 8 August 1967, giving birth to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. Forty-two years have gone, ASEAN has achieved significant progress and is on course to realizing the vision and dream of the founding fathers. From five member countries in 1967 to 10 countries at present, from a small forum focusing primarily on economic, social, and cultural issues to the emerging ASEAN Community that will touch on many aspects of people's lives, it has grown from an unknown entity in Southeast Asia to an international recognized and respected regional grouping. The 10 ASEAN members are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

ASEAN has also enlarged its horizons beyond the region through cultivating external relations with countries in the Asia-Pacific region. It is now increasingly engaged with 10 dialogue partners: the European Union, the United States, Canada, China, Japan, India, Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Russia. ASEAN is now ready and fully committed toward achieving an ASEAN Community that would be based upon its success in the past, and at the same time heralding a new era of even greater cooperation for more mutual benefits. In an effort to develop itself as a center of ASEAN, Thailand has set objectives to become a regional energy center, a regional tourism hub, and a regional aviation hub. Thailand is located at the heart of ASEAN, a region that has tremendous business potential and by 2015 will be a market for 600 million people and has combined GDP of over 1.5 trillion US dollars.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said that, with Thailand's improved capacity and solid economic foundations, he believed that the country could act as a hub for production base and regional headquarters of foreign companies in the region, where emphasis is now on the creation of connectivity. In his remarks at "Thailand's Investment Environment: Looking Forward" in July 2010 in Bangkok, the Prime Minister stated that besides ASEAN, Thailand also provides linkages, in terms of logistics, between countries that border the Mekong River, including China. It is also a key player in ACMECS and the Greater Mekong Subregion. And with the numerous free trade and investment agreements that Thailand has entered into, and ASEAN has entered into, with countries like Japan, Australia, New Zealand, China, and India, it is certain that Thailand can become the "Gateway to ASEAN" and a passage to the future of Asia.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 08/09/2010

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Direction for the 11th National Economic and Social Development Plan

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has cited human resources as the heart of the 11th National Economic and Social Development Plan, to be implemented from 2012 to 2016, in order to guide the direction of the country's development in the future. Speaking at the 2010 annual meeting of the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board on the topic of the 11th Development Plan, the Prime Minister addressed certain points with both economic and social implications. He emphasized two sections relating to humanity in the 11th plan. The first part is human stability and the second is human knowledge and ability to develop. This must be addressed because the two sections will be very important in the process of creating justice and equality within society, especially within the fluctuating economy and amid great changes. As for the second issue, he said, if human resources could not be developed, then problems would arise from the loss of potential for competition, and conflicts would occur.

Concerning the issue of human stability, the Prime Minister stated that, during the past year, the Government has placed special emphasis on this issue. Policies, projects, and measures relevant to the support of human stability were pushed forward. There has been an effort to give knowledge and promote readiness for people who are about to have families, as well as children and students. Income insurance has been emphasized in both the agricultural and industrial sectors. The Government has also provided support for the disabled and older persons. Another point is that the Sufficiency Economy philosophy is about philosophy, and not projects. Therefore, he said, to help regulate the plan's direction in every topic that is to be brainstormed, the Sufficiency Economy philosophy must be applied. Doing so will be in accordance with the process of public participation and power distribution, because if everything is based on this foundation, then the likelihood of sufficiency, reason, and immunity against risks will be greater.

Prime Minister Abhisit also stressed that, in the 11th plan, the country must set a goal to make the welfare system clear. The welfare system is not a system that the state simply provides, but it must be sustainable in terms of finance. This means that pensions will be available when opportunities are opened for the public to contribute and participate. What the Thai people should be able to receive in 2016, before the end of the plan, is this insurance as well as confidence in the government, with significant data and numbers in hand. The government must also look at the trends of the change in population, to learn whether the welfare system can remain sustainable without impacting financial status, or cause problems as in many countries. He believed this system would play an important part in reducing injustice and conflicts between the people.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 08/17/2010

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A Call for Thailand's Industrial Competitiveness on the Basis of Innovation and Creativity

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has urged industrial operators to get ready to meet all challenges in the future, saying that Thailand's industrial competitiveness should be knowledge-based and focus on innovation and creativity. The call was made on August 16, when the Prime Minister presented "The Prime Minister's Industry Award 2010" to 31 outstanding industrial operators at Government House. Organized by the Ministry of Industry, the Prime Minister's Industry Award this year was the 18th of its kind. It was established in 1993 to develop the country's industrial sector and promote adherence to international standards, in terms of quality, safety, environmental and energy conservation, innovation development, and creativity.

Prime Minister Abhisit cited the industrial sector as a very important sector in the Thai economy, as its share of GDP now stands at 40 percent. He said that the Government is aware of the need to strengthen the industrial sector in order to reduce the production costs of industrial operators and increase the value of Thai products and services. In this regard, the private sector and various institutes must join forces in developing labor skills, logistics, and designs for the sustainable development of the Thai industry. According to the Prime Minister, in the first quarter of 2010, the Thai industrial sector grew by more than 22.8 percent and exports 28.2 percent, while the country's economic growth rate came to 12 percent. It is expected that the overall growth rate in the first half of this year would be 10 percent, which indicates a quick recovery of the Thai economy.

The Prime Minister said that Thailand is adjusting to the consolidation of the ASEAN Economic Community to be realized by 2015, when the mobility of products, labor, and investment in this region would be evident. In the face of this situation, he said, the Thai industrial sector needs to improve its efficiency and competitiveness and prepare to face greater competition. He pointed out that people expect the industrial sector to provide not only job opportunities but also better quality and standards all around, especially standards concerning environmental impacts and labor safety, as well as the quality of life in workplaces. So the management system must be improved in line with the changing situation. The Prime Minister also said that the future of the Thai economy would depend on the competitiveness of the Thai industrial sector, which should be knowledge-based and emphasize innovation and creativity.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 08/18/2010

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VIET NAM: National Assembly Discusses Environmental Taxes and Fees

Who are defined as environmental tax payers and the difference between environmental taxes and fees were top of the agenda at the 32nd meeting session of the National Assembly Standing Committee yesterday, July 23. Phung Quoc Hien, chairman of the NA's Finance and Budget Committee, said that there were differences between environmental protection taxes and fees. Fees were imposed on sources of pollution and fee payers were those who discharged waste to the environment, Hien said, adding that environment fees currently included waste water, solid waste, mineral exploiting fees. Meanwhile, environment taxes were levied on consumers including organisations and individuals using products which caused pollution to the environment, he said. Facts showed that environment fee collection over the recent past have remained limited and was not enough for localities to resolve pollution. Therefore, imposing both environmental taxes and fees on different stages of commodity production-consumption processes was necessary, Hien stressed.

Disagreeing with the report of the Finance and Budget Committee, chairman of the NA Committee for Culture, Education, Youth and Children Dao Trong Thi said, "If we levy an environmental tax on goods, we won't be able to encourage producers to renovate their technology and apply greener production methods that minimise discharges already affecting the environment." He suggested an environment tax be imposed on producers to encourage them to use clean technology. Chairman of the Economics Committee Ha Van Hien said that whether it was fee or tax, consumers were final payers, thus fees should be converted into taxes. However, Minister of Finance Vu Van Ninh said that fees aimed to limit the volume of waste discharged, the more waste producers let out, the more they had to pay. "In cases where the volume of waste a company discharges exceeds allowed levels, then the company should be punished in line with regulations of the Law on Environment Protection," he said. NA deputies also discussed the draft law's Article 13 which regulates that only oil and petroleum producers are exempt from environment fees, other goods including coal were not excepted.

Deputy Hien said that coal was a commodity which through its extraction and processing process seriously polluted the environment, and therefore coal producers were not exempt from environment fees. Coal consumers had to pay taxes as part of a way to encourage efficiency and thrift, Hien said. Deputies agreed on the draft law's regulation that five products including oil and petroleum; coal; HCFCs (hydrochloro-fluorocarbons); soft plastic bags and some pesticides would be taxed. NA deputy chairman Uong Chu Luu suggested that some goods such as cleaning chemicals and batteries should be subject to the tax as they had severe impact on environment and people health. Deputies also agreed on the Item 3, Article 4 of the draft law which states that exported goods were not subject to the tax.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 07/24/2010

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Government Urges Labor Ministry to Issue New Poverty Standards

VietNamNet Bridge - The Government has recently urged the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA) to quickly issue new poverty benchmarks. Vietnam has adjusted its poverty standards five times. The country is implementing a national program on poverty reduction for 2006-2010, which aims to reduce the poverty rate from 18.2 percent in 2006 to 10-11 percent in 2010. According to the current standards, poor households are defined as those whose average monthly income is no higher than 200,000 dong and 260,000 dong per person for rural and urban areas respectively. Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung said that the new poverty standard must serve to encourage the poor's self-reliance and prevent their dependence on State assistance. The new poverty standard will be developed based on the following six criteria: scientific calculation, minimum spending needs, suitability and comparability to international and regional standards, priority for mountainous and rural areas, compatibility with State resources, and support for provincial officials to survey households.
 
The MOLISA suggested that the poverty baseline should be 500,000 person/month and 400.000 person/month for urban and rural areas, respectively. If the above suggestion is passed, Vietnam will still have around 3.3 million poor households, the equivalent of 16.5 million poor people. It is estimated the new program on poverty reduction will need an additional 5,700 billion dong. The new poverty benchmark will be the basis for provinces and cities throughout the country to set their own poverty baseline so that they are in line with actual conditions. Currently, nine cities and provinces have higher poverty standards than the average, including HCM City, Hanoi, Binh Duong, Da Nang, Dong Nai, Khanh Hoa, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Binh Phuoc, and Long An.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 08/17/2010

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BANGLADESH: Time-Bound Action Plan Soon to Prevent Money Laundering

Bangladesh has decided to announce time-bound action plan by October deadline to prevent the money laundering and terrorist financing as asked by international groups, top sources in the Bangladesh Bank (BB) said. A 12-member National Coordination Committee, headed by Finance Minister AMA Muhith, is set to be formed soon to recommend the government specific action plan, a high official in the Ministry of Finance (MoF) said. Bangladesh Bank Governor, Attorney General, secretaries for Finance Division and Banking Division, MoF, secretaries for home, foreign and law ministries are likely to be the members of the proposed Committee, he hinted. The move has been taken in the backdrop of a report, submitted recently by Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The FATF in its report said Bangladesh has not yet attained the international standard in containing money laundering and terrorist financing activities. The FATF, an inter-governmental body whose purpose is to develop and promote national and international policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, in its report said Bangladesh is still non-compliant in at least 10 key areas in attaining international standard, an official said. "If Bangladesh fails to announce its time-bound action plan by October this year to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, the FATF will make public statement against our country," a high official in the BB said. "Such a public statement if made by reputed international watchdog body like FATF will demean the stature of our country badly, which might shatter confidence of buyers and investors towards Bangladesh," he added. Officials in the BB said they have recently raised the issue with MoF and strongly recommended for undertaking action plan to pacify international watch dog organization like FATF. They said the FATF has already listed Bangladesh as one of the countries falling under its 'Targeted Review' for non-compliance in combating money laundering and terrorist financing activities. Other countries in Asia that fall under the similar group are Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam, sources said.

Besides the FATF, Asia Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering in its recently concluded Mutual Evaluation Report also expressed its utter dissatisfaction over the poor level of legislations to curb money laundering crimes in the country, sources said further. The international watchdog groups, including FATF, have asked the government to attain the international standard in combating financial crimes by October this year or at least submit the government's Action Plan to them before its plenary secession due in October this year, an official in the BB said. The major areas in question are bringing amendments in Anti Money Laundering Act 2009 and Terrorist Financing Act, 2009, including the issues of anti-money laundering and terrorist financing in the existing Extradition Act, enacting Mutual Legal Assistance Act and ratifying the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (Palermo Convention) and ratifying the UN Security Council Resolutions 1267 and 1373. Furthermore, the FATF asked the government to introduce online reporting system to make the Financial Intelligence Unit of BB more effective, undertake efforts to obtain the membership of Egmont Group and strengthening monitoring in the NGO Affairs Bureau, Securities and Exchange Commission and Post Office Department to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. The proposed National Coordination Committee will examine the recommendations that could be implemented by the timeframe of October and prepare Action Plan to implement other recommendations, a MoF official said.

From http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/ 07/31/2010

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Govt Plans to Unfreeze 1,500 Bank Accounts

The government is soon to prepare a policy to allow for restoring activities on about 1,500 bank accounts seized during the last caretaker government's anti-corruption drives. However, the realised money, amounting to Tk 1,200 crore, will not be returned to individuals and businesses, officials say. Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith revealed the government's plan in a letter to National Board of Revenue (NBR) Chairman Nasiruddin Ahmed recently. He also asked the NBR to make a report on the seized accounts with a complete list of individuals and organisations. "A good number of bank accounts are unreasonably kept frozen for long," Muhith wrote. "These accounts need to be unfrozen. We want to fix the problem through a policy." The finance minister added, "We won't take any action regarding the money the caretaker government realised because a law is necessary to make returns of the money from government account. We are not ready to undertake any such measures." He said accounts of people with no pending income tax cases would be unfrozen first. NBR and Bangladesh Bank had requested the government deal with the money issue, because neither of the two has any legitimate authority to handle it. A joint task force confiscated the amount from a number of businessmen and politicians as penalties during anti-graft drives in 2007 and 2008, said a high official of the finance ministry seeking anonymity as he isn't authorised to talk over the issue. The government would like to use the money for loan payback, the official added.

From http://bangladesh-web.com/ 08/15/2010

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SRI LANKA: Moves Ahead to Implement Science Policy

Work on the first national science and technology policy has once again started after the launch of the implementation plan at NASTEC's sixth national conference on science and technology last month. The new policy aims to foster an innovation culture besides climate change action. Colombo: After protracted discussions that began in 1980s, the policy was formally approved by Sri Lanka's cabinet in July 2009, shortly before the country's civil war was officially declared at an end. It calls for increasing investment in science from 0.13% of the country's GDP to 1.5% by 2016, and its objectives include the promotion of basic and applied sciences for national development, sustainable resource management and adaptation to climate change. "We are putting together an integrated action plan," Nalini Ratnasiri, chair of Sri Lanka's National Science and Technology Commission (NASTEC) and a zoology professor at the Open University of Sri Lanka, told SciDev.Net. She said that various science and technology institutes in the country would be involved in working out the implementation strategy. "We have to work together with other ministries and institutes to fulfill this task," she said, adding that "through continuous conferencing we will take ideas from everyone".The implementation plan was launched at NASTEC's sixth national conference on science and technology last month (16 - 18 July) in Kandy, and Ratnasiri said a report on the implementation will be released soon. Sri Lanka's science and technology minister, Tissa Vitharana, a former scientist, told SciDev.Net that the action plan would need to be completed by the middle of September if the country's 2011 general budget can allocate the required funds. "To start the plan we need at least 0.4% of GDP [devoted to research]. I hope that amount will be granted because the war is now over," Vitharana said. Discussions on Sri Lanka's need for a coherent science policy began in the 1980s. A presidential taskforce was appointed in 1991 to look into science policy, and a ministry of science and technology was launched in 1994. Also in 1994, the country passed a science and technology development act, and set up two science organisations: a National Science Foundation to fund science projects and NASTEC to draw up policy. But the civil war delayed further progress at the time. Among the new policy's aims are fostering a science, technology and innovation culture that reaches out to all citizens; improving the resource base of scientists and technologists; developing sustainable use of natural resources for development; and promoting the application of science and technology for human welfare; disaster management and adaptation to climate change.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 08/19/2010

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MALDIVES: Passing Bill to Establish Supreme Court

The long delayed legislation for the establishment of a supreme court in Maldives has been passed; putting an end to power struggle and enabling a fully functioning and independent legal system within Maldives' young democracy. The legislation had been delayed by a power struggle between the parliament and the Maldives' president/ Photo credit: Dhivehi Observer The Maldives' parliament passed a crucial bill to appoint a permanent Supreme Court on Tuesday, ending a legal limbo that had threatened to paralyse the country's judiciary. The legislation had been delayed by a power struggle between the parliament and the Maldives' president, a spat that showcased the difficult transition to democracy for the country of 350,000 in the Indian Ocean archipelago, best known as a tourist destination. The legislation signed later Tuesday by President Mohammed Nasheed is "one of the key pieces of legislation needed to create a legitimate and fully functioning judiciary in the country," said a statement from his office. "This law goes a long way to filling the constitutional void the country has been in since Sunday" the president's press secretary, Mohamed Zuhair, was quoted as saying in the statement. The crisis erupted after the parliament failed to enact legislation to appoint a new Supreme Court. Attorney-General Husnu Suood also resigned Sunday, claiming his position was untenable in the "constitutional void" triggered by parliament's failure to pass the legislation. An attempt to prevent the country from spiraling into judicial chaos, Nasheed issued a decree Sunday - the day an interim court was to have been disbanded - allowing the Supreme Court to continue administrative functions until the crisis was resolved. The new bill - titled the Act on Judges - outlines the powers and responsibilities that judges hold, rules on judges' ethical standards, rules on the appointment and dismissal of judges, and judges' salaries and allowances. Zuhair welcomed the political parties for putting "aside their differences and passed this crucial law." However, the parliament has yet to approve the names of judges. Zuhair called on the lawmakers to "approve the President's nominations for the Chief Justice and bench of the Supreme Court" in order to create a "fully functioning and independent legal system the Maldives' young democracy deserves." Political disorder has engulfed the nation of 1,192 low-lying coral islands after the 13-member Cabinet resigned en masse in June, accusing the opposition in parliament of undermining Nasheed's powers by defeating all motions put before it. The Cabinet was reappointed last month. Nasheed took power in the country's first democratic elections two years ago, after being repeatedly jailed under the 30-year rule of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, whom he defeated in the 2008 poll. The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party has only 32 seats in the country's 77-member parliament. The opposition coalition, led by the Dhivehi Raithunge Party, has 36 seats, with the rest independents.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 08/12/2010

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NEPAL: SEBON All Set to Draft CDS Regulations

Security Board of Nepal (SEBON) has said that it is in the final stage of drafting regulations for Central Depository Scheme (CDS). If things move ahead as planned, the regulations will be endorsed by the Finance Ministry by mid-August. CDS is a clearing and settlement system used in the stock exchanges across the world. Under CDS, the current practice of holding and moving the scrip of quoted shares physically will be replaced by a safe and dependable computerised book entry system. The system also enhances liquidity by immediate transfers, end lengthy process of stock transactions besides frauds and manipulation in the secondary market. Nepal Stock Exchange (NEPSE) has already formed a group of personnel, comprising legal, IT and clearing experts, to assist in smooth implementation of CDS. CDSL of India and CMC of Tata group were also hired to implement CDS in Nepal.

From http://www.nepalnews.com/ 08/05/2010

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PAKISTAN: Ministry Progressing on E-Office Programme Meticulously

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Information Technology on Friday claimed that the ministry was progressing on its E-office programme strictly in accordance with the contract agreement signed between Electronic Government Directorate (EGD) and LMKR for development of E-office software. "The project was launched on 13th November 2004 at a cost of Rs 6.642 million only (and not multi billions of rupees) for software development for 135 users, however, it could not be finalised due to various factors. Since 2009, things have been fast tracked and one segment of the project, ie e-office suit - has been approved," he added. A spokesman of the ministry of information technology told APP that a news item published in a section of the press were incorrect, misleading and based on malafide intent. He said it was incorrect to say that some fact-finding report, on the issue of violation of contract by the vendor, was submitted to federal government. "Neither any fact-finding enquiry was held, nor was any such report submitted to the Senate Standing Committee's meeting held on 19.08.2010. It is also incorrect to state that tendering parameters of the project were changed and PPRA Rules were violated to benefit some vendor," he asserted. As to establishment of Data Centre, the ministry has recently submitted the revised PC-I of the Data Centre to the planning and development division and things are being fast tracked, added the spokesman of the ministry. However, he did not respond to the assertion that the federal government was losing its proprietary and intellectual rights over the project for electronic office (E-Office) software and application to private vendors because of poor monitoring of project implementation, resulting in huge payments for automation of government departments and line ministries. The spokesman also did not contest the notion that the contract required that "after successful conduction of acceptance test on software by the customer (MOIT), the software supplied pursuant to the contract will become the property of the customer." "The contractor will be bound to provide the source code to customer for usage and modification for its own use and train the customer staff so that some modification can be done on customer side." Being the property of the federal government, the software was then to be provided to provincial governments and government agencies free of cost by the government for improved working efficiency. However, the vendor started selling the software to government agencies independently and when some intelligence agencies wanted to get the software from the MOIT for security reasons instead of the private vendor, it suddenly came to light that the MOIT was unable to provide the facility because the vendor had not provided source code to the government, which was in violation of the contract. The MOIT, however, put the issue under the carpet. "The ownership of the product including source code in case of bespoke solution and services rendered under any contract, arising as a result of this RFQ (request for qualification), will be the property of the MOIT, government of Pakistan", said the contract.

From http://www.brecorder.com/ 08/21/2010

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AZERBAIJAN: President Ilham Aliyev Signs Order to Approve State Program on ICT Development for 2010-2012

President Ilham Aliyev has signed an Executive Order to approve the State Program on development of communication and information technology in Azerbaijan for 2010-2012 (Electronic Azerbaijan), AzerTAj State News Agency reported on Wednesday. Under the document, the coordination of implementation of the measures envisaged in the State Program was entrusted to the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology.

From http://en.trend.az/news/ 08/11/2010

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Azerbaijani Government Approves Changes to Law 'On Traffic Rules'

The Azerbaijani Cabinet of Ministers has approved changes to the Law "On road traffic rules", the Cabinet said. According to the changes, driving license will include a new category - "A1", which allows driving a motorcycle, whose motor work volume not exceeds 125 cubic centimeters, and motor force - 11 kilowatts. According to the law, a person above the age of 18 will get a license to drive vehicles on category "A1", the category "A", "B", "C" 18 years, "BE" - 19 years, "CE", and "D"- 21,"DE"- 24 years. The decision set new dates of training courses for drivers. Those interested in obtaining a driving license of the "C" and "D" category will have to undergo training for a period of three months and half, "A" and "B" - two months and half, "A1" - a month and half. Courses to raise the category will last a month and half. One-year driving experience is required for admission to the courses to raise a category of driving license from "B" to "BE" and three-year experience to raise "C" to "CE" and "D" to "DE".

From http://www.today.az/ 08/25/2010

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KAZAKHSTAN: Minister of Communications Signed Order on Mass Media Monitoring Technique

The Minister of Communications and Information of Kazakhstan, Askar Zhumagaliev, signed the order on the mass media monitoring technique in regards to observance of the legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan on July 21, the agency reports citing the Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech Adil Soz. "This order concerns all mass-media in the territory of Kazakhstan and the Internet resources as well." "Among the infringements of the legislation subject to monitoring are infringements of the Laws on Languages, on Advertising, on State Secrets and many other laws." "Monitoring will be done by the local executive powers and to be supervised by the authorized body that is the Ministry of Communications and Information. The officials of all akimats engaged in monitoring are granted the right to issue administrative offences reports and send them to the judicial bodies," the fund informs.

From http://www.kt.kz/ 08/03/2010

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Government Approved Draft 2011-2015 State Program on Healthcare Reforming

Draft State Program on healthcare reforming for 2011-2015 Salamatty Kazakhstan has been approved at the Government's session today. Presenting the document, Minister of Healthcare Zhaksylyk Doskaliyev said the program aimed at improvement of the people's health and formation of an efficient system of healthcare for ensuring socio-demographic development of the country. KZT 456 bln is envisaged in the budget for the program's implementation. According to the Minister, the program will be realized in six directions: enhancing interdepartmental and inter-branch interaction on improvement of the population's health; activation of preventive measures and screening; improvement of sanitary-epidemiological service; improvement of organization, management and financing medical care within the Unified System of Healthcare; improvement of medical and pharmaceutical education, development and implementation of innovation technologies in medicine. The program is to be submitted for the President's consideration today.

From http://www.inform.kz/ 08/16/2010

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TAJIKISTAN: Law on Restrictions on the Use of Tobacco Products Expected to Come into Effect on Jan 1, 2011

The bill on restrictions on the use of tobacco products, drafted under president's proposal, in particular, prohibits the sales of tobacco products on the territories and near educational health, cultural, and sports facilities, according to presidential press service. Besides, the law prohibits smoking in indoor public and working places, administrative buildings, offices of governmental and non-governmental organizations, health, educational, cultural and sports facilities, recreation areas, places for holding public events, halls of airports and railroad stations, public transport, except specially assigned smoking areas. The law is expected to come into effect on January 1, 2011. Those who break the law will have to pay a fee in an amount equal to up to 15 accounting indicators for physical entities and up to 300 accounting indicators for legal entities. The accounting indicator for this year is set at 35.00 somoni.

From http://www.asiaplus.tj/ 08/02/2010

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UZBEKISTAN: Creation of New Legislative Basis for National Mass Media

Uzbekistan Liberal Democratic Party fraction and Committee for ICT in cooperation with the Public Fund for Support and Development of Independent Print Media and Information Agencies of Uzbekistan and Creative Union of Journalists held a seminar on "The role of a journalist in society reforming" in Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis on 16 August. The seminar was attended by deputies, information sphere experts, Mass Media delegates and young journalists from Bukhara and Namangan regions. As Legislative Chamber reports, the participants of the seminar noted that Uzbekistan has a modern legislative basis meeting democratic standards and regulating the attitude to information sphere, as well as protecting the rights of citizens to search, obtain and spread the information, providing the freedom of mass media and the protection of journalism activity. Introduction of journalist research stipulated by the law is a vivid illustration of the freedom of activity of journalists. Thus, the necessary legislative basis is created in information sphere to provide further development of national mass media. In this context, the special role is given to the provision of gradual improve of quality, mastership and efficiency of national mass media to meet the highest standards and criteria of world mass media so that local mass media would be competitive in the global media market.

From http://news.uzreport.com/ 08/19/2010

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Business Warned to Consider Climate Change

A new initiative is urging companies and investors to be more aware of the cost of negative impacts on the environment. The impacts, known as 'externalities', are the impacts on society from factors such as emissions, pollutants or the using up of resources in the conduct of business. A British consultancy Trucost has costed the negative environmental impacts of the world's top 3,000 listed firms at $US2.3 trillion a year. Pavan Sukhdev, head of the UN Green Economy Initiative, has told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program one of the difficulties is in measuring 'natural capital'. "If you think a lot that comes to you free from nature - in the form of clean air, fresh water or the fact that soil nutrients are provided by forests and other forms of vegetation, or the fact that pollination is provided by bees - all of this comes free," he said. "You don't get invoices from bees or from trees. These services are coming from some kind of capital, and that capital is natural capital. But because it doesn't send you invoices and it does work for free, you find that it doesn't show up anywhere, that's the challenge."

Struggle
Mr Sukhdev says despite struggles to reach an international concensus on climate change, leaders should be abled to reach an agreement on reporting standards, so that countries and businesses can be compared by investors and regulators. "So we're not here about imposing taxes on companies or asking someone to go ahead first or second or third or last," he said. "The challenge is not so much doing it, but doing it in a way that is uniform. In other words it doesn't confuse the investor or doesn't confuse the citizen as to who's actually emitting what and who's calling what." Mr Sukhdev says while the process of identifying the actual cost is complex, once a rule is in place it will make it easier to identify and report these costs. He says discounting those costs can lead to poor decision-making, such as BP not taking into account the potential risks of a leak at their rig in the Gulf of Mexico, which has now cost them at least $30 billion. "Because people don't put in values which are real values, but they relate to nature, national capital and social costs as against direct company costs, because they don't put these values, and sometimes you might think they make the wrong decision," he said. "That's the lesson that I think people should learn from BP, which is let's estimate the value at risk of our business, let's see what potentially can go wrong, and then decide how we invest and how we protect ourselves and society against those risks."

From http://www.radioaustralianews.net.au/ 08/05/2010

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Pacific Leaders Promise to Improve Access to Finance

Pacific Island leaders have pledged to improve access to finance for Pacific Island people and enterprises. This year's Pacific Islands Forum was the first to host a parallel meeting of private sector leaders. Former Fiji Foreign Minister, Kaliopate Tavola, chaired the meeting and presented its outcomes to the region's leaders. Mr Tavola says the leaders expressed support for the private sector's recommendations. Those recommendations include making it easier for people to provide banks with recognised identification documents, setting up credit bureaus and improving opportunities for customary land to be used as collateral. Mr Tavola says the new dialogue gives the private sector a voice at the highest political level. "That's a big plus because they don't often get to be heard," he said.

From http://www.radioaustralianews.net.au/ 08/09/2010

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AUSTRALIA: Policies to Drive Services on a Faster Broadband Network Still Unclear - AIIA

Policies on what the respective political parties would do on top of a faster broadband network infrastructure remain disappointingly absent, according to the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA). Despite being asked specifically to outline the policies they would take to drive ICT innovation and services on a faster broadband network at a debate at the National Press Club, communications minister, Stephen Conroy, shadow communications minister, Tony Smith, and the Greens' Scott Ludlum, failed to provide any real detail. AIIA chief executive officer, Ian Birks, who earlier in the day published an open letter criticising all parties for a lack of focus on ICT in the election discourse, said fibre is a "future proof investment" but that ultimately he was disappointed the politicians didn't go beyond the network to address what they would deliver on it.

Overall, Birks said the debate was successful in raising the profile of the issues in the mainstream but he was critical of the policy positions put forward. "Inevitably the fact that the Opposition policy position was only released an hour before the debate firstly limited our ability to understand it but also probably limited the opportunity for the Opposition to socialise it and understand what some people's issues with it are," Birks said. "That was a little disappointing but at least because the lunch was held [the debate] it forced the hand of the Opposition to release it when they did. We have to say that it is good now we have a broadband solution from both sides of politics."

The AIIA chief, who counts among his member ranks Dell, Microsoft, Data#3, Fujitsu, Google, HP, IBM, Lenovo, Oracle, Cisco, Red Hat, SAP, SingTel Optus, Telstra, Unisys and a raft of other well-known and successful ICT organisations, said it was also disheartening the politicians didn't talk about the economic benefits to be derived from broadband infrastructure. "I was very disappointed by the response. For us it is a conversation about the economy, it's not a conversation about our sector. The economy will be enabled by how we take advantage of this broadband investment," he said. "To not be able to crisply state we will take advantage of it and the policies to support that, I think is to the detriment of all sides." Birks is now seeking an audience with the shadow communications minister to discuss the plan.

From http://www.computerworld.com.au/ 08/11/2010

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Australian Regulator Introduces New Mobile Content Rules

Australians will not be billed for premium SMS and MMS from suspect mobile premium service providers under new rules introduced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. It will now be an offence for mobile phone companies to contract with content suppliers who are not listed on an industry register. Also, from 3 November 2010, the ACMA will also be able to issue a temporary Do Not Bill order to stop suspect content suppliers from charging customers while it investigates a service. The rules are the latest in a package of measures dealing with consumer concerns about the unexpected costs of some SMS and MMS services. "This will be the toughest sanction the ACMA will be able to impose against premium SMS and MMS providers who break the rules," said ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman. "It cuts straight to the heart of industry's rogue element by drying up their revenue stream."

A final order preventing a company from charging for up to three years can be made where a content service provider is found to have breached the Mobile Premium Service Code in a way that causes significant financial harm to consumers. The new rules build on the recently implemented mobile premium services regulatory package. This includes the capacity for mobile phone users who do not wish to use any premium SMS and MMS to request their mobile phone company to bar these services and an industry-developed Mobile Premium Services Code. The code sets out detailed rules covering procedures for subscribing to premium SMS services; the banning of advertisements targeted at children under 15; how advertisements (and charges) are displayed; and complaints handling obligations.

A key feature of the code is a 'double opt-in' requirement. A prospective customer has to give two independent confirmations of a request before they can subscribe to an ongoing premium SMS service. The ACMA has already taken action against several service providers for breaches of the code. "The rules introduced by the ACMA have seen complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman about premium SMS and MMS drop by over two-thirds in the previous twelve months," Mr Chapman said. "This further step is intended to prevent unscrupulous operators profiting from non-compliance."

From http://www.cellular-news.com/ 08/15/2010

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Australia's PM Promotes National Broadband Plan

Australia's Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has used a trip to Townsville in the state of Queensland to sell the benefits of her $US38 billion national broadband network. Julia Gillard says regional cities like Townsville will benefit most from video conferencing services that link patients with specialists in capital cities. "They will be able to get that specialist support through the internet through the national broadband network." Ms Gillard is also visiting Mackay and Emerald today to campaign in marginal seats. She's being trailed by a large press pack from Canberra, but there have been some curly questions from the local media. "Do you think tomato sauce should be free when you by a pie from the bakery?" The PM says its better when the sauce comes for free.

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 08/17/2010

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NEW ZEALAND: Boost Support for Pacific Fisheries

New Zealand will commit an additional $4.8 million to support the management and policing of the Pacific's fisheries, Prime Minister John Key announced today. "The Pacific's fisheries are the cornerstone of the region's economy. It's in the best interests of all Pacific nations to pool our efforts," Mr Key says. "I have discussed with Pacific Island leaders how New Zealand can help manage and develop this critical regional resource. "As a result, in addition to our current $3.33 million support to the Forum Fisheries Agency, New Zealand will contribute $4.8 million to support the management and delivery of sub-regional and national observer programmes. "These initiatives will enhance effective fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance efforts in the region, as well as creating up to an additional 250 skilled jobs.

"New Zealand also contributes $5 million to the highly successful SPC Pacific Tuna Tagging Programme, which is designed to improve stock assessment and management of tuna species in the region," Mr Key says. New Zealand supports a number of sub-regional fisheries initiatives, including an arrangement with fisheries administrations in several Polynesian countries, and closer co-operation on fisheries management and development with a new arrangement between New Zealand, Kiribati, Nauru, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. New Zealand plans to support these arrangements through a focus on vocational training, strengthening management capacity, and private sector support to catch, process, export and market the resource, says Mr Key. This sits alongside significant bilateral support, such as a new, scaled-up three-year programme in the Solomon Islands.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 08/04/2010

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NEW ZEALAND: Govt Moves to Change Holidays Act

The Government is going to change the Holidays Act to make sure workers don't lose four days leave when firms shut their doors over Christmas and New Year. Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said today the Employment Court recently ruled that when a firm routinely closed over the Christmas and New Year period, employees were not legally entitled to the public holidays that fell within that time and would have to use annual leave to cover those days instead. "The Christmas and New Year holidays are an established feature of the New Zealand summer," Ms Wilkinson said. "Where firms do decide to close their doors it's important that staff aren't unfairly disadvantaged by losing four public holidays. "The law will be amended to ensure working Kiwis remain entitled to those days off, as they have been in the past."

To achieve the law change, Ms Wilkinson had made a late amendment to one of two bills she introduced to Parliament today to extend the 90-day probation period to all businesses and allow workers to exchange the fourth week of their leave for cash if they want to. Both changes, announced last month, are under fire from unions and the Labour party. Fierce debates are expected in Parliament when the two bills come up for their first readings. The 90-day probation period for new employees currently covers businesses with 19 or fewer employees. Unions say that when it is extended to all businesses, 400,000 workers will be affected - the number starting new jobs or changing jobs each year. Employees can be sacked during the probation period without the right to claim unfair dismissal. The Government says it creates opportunities for people who wouldn't otherwise be taken on, while unions say it is a "fire at will" law that leads to exploitation.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 08/16/2010

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Govt Proposes New Adventure Tourism Rules

All risky adventure tourism businesses would have to be registered and pass an upfront safety audit to operate, under a new Government proposal. The proposal is in response to a review ordered by Prime Minister John Key into the adventure tourism industry, following a number of deaths that have happened in the sector in recent years. One such tragedy was the death of British tourist Emily Jordan, 21, who became trapped between rocks while riding a body-board down a raging river near Queenstown in 2008. Between 2004 and 2009, 39 people died in New Zealand while doing outdoor activities. "The industry has grown rapidly and continues to innovate. What this review found is that our adventure tourism operators take their responsibilities seriously and manage risks effectively," Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said.

"However, for some activities there are gaps in the safety management framework that could allow businesses to operate at a lower standard than industry experts consider acceptable." The scheme could capture 1500 commercial operators including those that offer activities such as bungy-jumping, canyon-swinging, adventure-hikes, rock-climbing and mountaineering. Adventure aviation, commercial jet-boating and rafting would be exempt as they already need to pass strict safety requirements. The Department of Labour, which is putting together the proposal and will report in November, will also consider if clubs should be part of the compulsory registration scheme. The cost of an initial audit would depend on the risk. Medium risk would be $1000, and high risk would be $2200.

The audits would be repeated periodically, and subsequent ones would be half the price of the initial audit. The scheme, which would cost between $150,000 and $250,000 to set up, would be world-leading. At present the industry must abide by health and safety legislation and also has a voluntary accreditation system for risk management. The DoL will look at:
* Facilitating the establishment of an industry-led entity focused on the safety management framework for the sector;
* Investigating developing a register of government-accredited adventure tourism-related safety auditing schemes; and
* Investigating whether instructors and guides should be required to hold qualifications and work only within the scope of those qualifications.
It will report back by November 30.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 08/24/2010

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Identity Information Bill Introduced to Parliament

A new bill to help combat identity fraud has been introduced to Parliament today in the name of Internal Affairs Minister Nathan Guy. "The Identity Information Confirmation Bill extends the use of the Data Validation Service to public and private sector agencies on a strictly 'need to know' basis," says Mr Guy. "This allows agencies to check whether the identity information presented by a customer is consistent with that held by the Department of Internal Affairs through the citizenship registers, the passports database, and the various registers of the Births, Deaths, and Marriages registry office. "This service will help ensure compliance with the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009, which requires banks and other financial institutions to undertake more comprehensive 'know your customer' checks.

"This will be an important tool in preventing identity fraud and reducing compliance costs. "At the same time we are mindful of privacy concerns. Any agency using this tool must have the consent of customers - it is up to individuals whether or not to give permission. The tool only confirms whether the information provided by customers is accurate and does not give out any additional information about the person. "The Data Validation Service will be available only to organisations which meet strict security, privacy and integrity criteria. The Government has also agreed that the Privacy Commissioner will monitor this service."

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 08/24/2010

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State Sector Amendment Bill Introduced

The State Sector Management Bill has been introduced to the House of Representatives. The Bill is an omnibus Bill providing for machinery of government changes across several agencies. This Bill provides for the amalgamation of: The Foundation for Research Science and Technology, and the Ministry of Research Science and Technology, into a new Ministry of Science and Innovation and the National Library and Archives New Zealand into the Department of Internal Affairs "The purpose of these amalgamations is to improve services within existing baselines, reduce cost in the short to medium term, and future-proof the long term delivery of government services," said State Services Minister Tony Ryall.

"The Ministry of Science and Innovation amalgamation will enable a more coherent, coordinated system of government support for research and development and innovation. It will also provide a more stable platform to retain critical skills and maintain services at the required level in a tight financial environment. " The Bill will enable the Minister to establish one or more boards to make independent decisions on proposals for the allocation of specified funding for research, science and technology. "The amalgamation of Archives and the National Library into Internal Affairs recognises the increasing role technology will play in enabling government to discharge its responsibilities to manage information efficiently and effectively and enable New Zealanders to access information in ways that suit them. It will also provide opportunities for use of common capability, economies of scale, and better public access," Tony Ryall said.

The legislation preserves the statutory roles of the National Librarian, Chief Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library and the Chief Archivist. It maintains the statutory role of the Library and Information Advisory Commission, the Archives Council and the Guardians/Kaitiaki of the Alexander Turnbull Library. It also continues the Alexander Turnbull Library, and the functions of the Chief Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 08/24/2010

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Indonesia to Host Asia Pacific Special Ministerial Meeting on MDGs Progress

Indonesia will host a special ministerial meeting to review efforts to comply with MDGs ( Millennium Development Goals) among countries in Asia pacific region on Aug. 3-4, a senior official said here on Friday. Gafur Dharmaputra, director of Economic Development and Environment Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, told reporters that 15 of 30 Asia Pacific countries invited to attend the meeting had confirmed to send their foreign ministers and senior officials to attend the meeting." Besides reviewing the progress of MGDs efforts in each country, delegations attending the meeting will seek innovations in channeling the Official Development Assistance (ODA) financing innovation committed by donor countries following the financial crisis in donor countries," Gafur said.

Besides those delegations, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the United nations Development Program ( UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), will send their representatives to attend the meeting, Gafur said. The result of review conducted in the meeting will be brought to the United Nations (UN) MDGs meeting scheduled on Sept. 20 to 22 in New York, according to Gafur. The MDGs are the most broadly supported, comprehensive and specific development goals the world has ever agreed upon. Adopted in 2000, set to be achieved by 2015, it includes eight goals and targets that consisted of income poverty eradication, hunger, maternal and child mortality, disease, inadequate shelter, gender inequality, environmental degradation and the Global Partnership for Development.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 07/30/2010

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Asia's Leadership Gap

Recently, 10 foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) met in Hanoi. After their initial gathering ended, they hosted their counterparts from across the region, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Asean meetings are sometimes criticized as "talking shops," but this time dialogue and strategic leadership are needed immensely. Ironically, the two leaders who most emphasized the need for leadership in Asia and across the Pacific recently left office. Japan's former prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, and Australia's former premier, Kevin Rudd, both championed regionalism from early in their short time in office. But, though they are gone, the issue of regional leadership remains. Indeed, it is growing more important by the day.

The security issues facing the region, from the Korean peninsula to the outcome of the upcoming elections in Myanmar (Burma) this autumn, have grown more pressing - perhaps all the more so in view of reports that North Korea is assisting Myanmar's ruling generals to develop nuclear capabilities. Moreover, the role and attitude of a rising China must be assessed on a regional basis, particularly given that the long-standing dispute over islets in the South China Sea may be entering a new phase. Recent Chinese statements declare the islands a "core interest," terms usually reserved for Taiwan and Tibet. All of these issues test the region's ability to manage peace and mitigate tensions between its main powers - and thus underscore the concern that Hatoyama and Rudd raised. Hatoyama called for an East Asian Community, emphasizing ties with China and South Korea while questioning the continuing presence of US military bases on the island of Okinawa, the issue that eventually triggered his resignation. Rudd, by contrast, raised the idea of an Asia/Pacific Community with strong ties to the United States.

These leaders' departure from office reflected their countries' internal politics, and their successors will focus more on declining support at home than on regional ambitions. But the questions that Hatoyama and Rudd raised - who is in Asia, and who gets to lead regional cooperation - await a satisfying answer. As Australian and Japanese initiatives fade, attention now turns to Asean, which has put in place norms for peace that all major powers affirm. The Asean Regional Forum (ARF) is a long-standing forum that brings together foreign ministers, and that is benefiting from renewed attention on the part of Clinton, who made her second appearance - a perfect attendance record since coming into office, and a marked improvement on the record of her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice.

But more may be needed. Asia's major economies continue to growth and integrate, whereas the US economy remains soft, and its leaders' attention is increasingly focused on its domestic challenges. A shift of relative strategic influence and strength is discernible, especially given the rise of India and China. But old and unresolved rivalries within Asia are finding new expression as political ambitions and military budgets expand. A new forum will soon emerge. Building on the Asean defense ministers' meeting, a formal dialogue between the defense ministers of eight key countries - China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and the US - will run in parallel with the ARF. There is also talk about establishing a new strategic dialogue among leaders. Asian leaders already hold such talks annually at the East Asia Summit, an important initiative that brings together India and China, with Asean as host. Asean is likely to host a still-wider grouping that includes Russia and the US, though the precise framework is still being debated.

Some favor a permanent expansion of the East Asian Summit. Others suggest that leaders follow an Asean+8 formula, similar to the defense ministers' meeting. An Asean+8 meeting of leaders could then evolve its own modalities to suit the wider geographical group, and would not need to be held each year. The US has shown interest in a multilateral path to engagement with Asia on strategic issues. But President Barack Obama's administration has yet to decide which format it thinks best. There is a need for substantive engagement, so that a leaders' meeting makes sense. After all, there is already Apec for economic issues, as well as the US-Asean Summit, inaugurated last year. Moreover, the ongoing economic crisis and urgent domestic matters will command much of Obama's attention. Indeed, he has scheduled and then postponed visits to Indonesia three times already. To be sure, each time there were extenuating circumstances - a jobs summit, the final vote on the US health-care bill, and the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. But, taken together, these cancellations make clear that even a US administration that wants to engage more with Asia may still find itself preoccupied with domestic priorities, especially this year, as mid-term elections approach.

Two leaders who pushed for regionalism in Asia have departed because of domestic politics. Those who remain obviously would be well served not to overlook exigencies at home. But they also must acknowledge and attend to the post-crisis challenges facing the region as a whole. Project SyndicateSimon Tay, chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs and co-chairman of the Asia Society Global Council, is the author of "Asia Alone: The Dangerous Post-Crisis Divide from America." (by Simon Tay)

From http://opinion.inquirer.net/ 08/01/2010

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State Auditors from Across Asia Gather in Capital City

The 42th meeting of the Governing Board of the Asian Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions, or ASOSAI, will take place in Ha Noi from today. The two-day meeting will see the participation of 11 supreme audit institutions (SAIs) that are members of the ASOSAI governing board, including China, Japan, India and South Korea and two SAIs from Saudi Arabia and Mongolia which are members of ASOSAI's Audit Committee and a representative from the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions. The 42th meeting of ASOSAI Governing Board will review the operation of the governing board and the Secretariat from the last meeting which took place in October 2009, ASOSAI's 2009 finance report and report on ASOSAI's training programmes. Today's meeting will also discuss and work out the development strategy for the organisation in the 2011-15 period.

Tomorrow's session will hear reports from the Information Technology and environmental auditing special working groups and provide professional recommendations on the relevant issues.T he 42th meeting will also discuss the framework for co-operation between ASOSAI and EUROSAI (the European Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions).Viet Nam officially became an ASOSAI's member in January 1997. The State Audit of Viet Nam was elected as a member of ASOSAI's governing board for the 2009-12 term at the ASOSAI XI congress in Pakistan in 2009. In its 41st meeting in October 2009, ASOSAI governing board decided to accept Viet Nam as the host country for the 2010 meeting. State General Auditor Vuong Dinh Hue said it was an honour for Viet Nam to act as host for the 42th meeting of ASOSAI governing board." We have been doing our best to prepare. We established a group exclusively for organisation tasks headed by a deputy general auditor and we always had periodical reports on the progress of the preparations," he said.

Viet Nam has benefited a lot from being an ASOSAI member over the past 15 years, especially in auditing fields that are new to Viet Nam such as environmental and operational audits, Hue said. Hue said that as a member of ASOSAI's governing board, the Vietnamese audit has paid special attention to developing ASOSAI over the next five years to ensure supreme audit institutions become highly effective and prestigious audit bodies. This issue has become increasingly important since the recent economic crisis, he said. He also confirmed that the Vietnamese audit would develop towards not only auditing financial figures but also do performance evaluations, and assess national governance issues such as fiscal and monetary policies. The Asian Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions, established in 1979, is the Asian body of the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions. ASOSAI currently consists of 45 members which are supreme audit institutions in the Asia region. Each United Nations member can nominate a single ASOSAI/INTOSAI member.

ASOSAI's key objectives, as stated in its rules and regulations, include promoting understanding and co-operation among member institutions through exchange of ideas and experiences in the field of public auditing, providing facilities for research, and training and continuing education for government auditors with a view to improving the quality of their performance.

Vietnamese, Indian auditors join hands
Vietnamese General Auditor Vuong Dinh Hue and Comptroller and Auditor General of India Vinod Rai yesterday signed a co-operation agreement between the two supreme audit institutions. This took place on the sidelines of the 42th annual meeting of the ASOSAI governing board, taking place in Ha Noi today and tomorrow. The signing confirms the tight and long term co-operation of the two supreme audit institutions in the future in the fields of training, professional standards, practices and processes. The two supreme audit institutions will also exchange high level delegations and research teams. Yesterday also on the sidelines of the ASOSAI Governing Board 42th meeting, General Auditor Vuong Dinh Hue held separate meetings with the heads of audit delegations from South Korea, Turkey, India, Pakistan and hosted the Japanese audit delegation.

From http://business.asiaone.com/ 08/04/2010

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Asia-Pacific: Workshop on Improving Public Service Through ICT

Capacity building and information and communication technology (ICT) experts from six Asia-Pacific countries conclude workshop on resource tools designed to enhance public services through the use of ICT. The Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development (UN-APCICT/ESCAP), a regional institute of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, today concluded a Training of Trainers Workshop on Improving Public Service through ICT, co-organized in partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the National Information Society Agency (NIA) of the Republic of Korea. The three-day workshop, which started 9 August in Seoul, Republic of Korea, brought together twenty-five local resource persons from Mongolia, Viet Nam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Uzbekistan and the Pacific Island Countries for training in the field of e-Government and ICT project management. The workshop generated feedback on a recently developed e-Government Capacity Maturity Model (CMM), which measures the maturity of an organization in terms of its e-Government implementation efforts from, and an ICT Project Guidebook, which aims to serve as a primary reference point covering all aspects of ICT project management.

Workshop participants also discussed how to effectively integrate both resources into the national frameworks of civil servant training programmes. APCICT plans to use the e-Government CMM and the ICT Project Guidebook in the delivery of its flagship programme, the "Academy of ICT Essentials for Government Leaders" (Academy). Currently consisting of eight training modules focused on promoting use of ICT for socio-economic development, the Academy will utilize the CMM and ICT Project Guidebook to supplement modules 3 and 7, titled 'e-Government Applications' and 'ICT Project Management in Theory and Practice' respectively. The e-Government CMM and ICT Project Guidebook were developed as part of the "Improving Public Service through ICT" project involving APCICT, ADB and NIA, which kicked-off in December, 2009 with an inception workshop in the Republic of Korea. "The development of these valuable training and project management resources is the culmination of committed and collaborative work among national and regional development stakeholders throughout the Asia-Pacific region", said Dr. Hyeun-Suk Rhee, Director of APCICT. "The shared commitment to facilitate and improve the use of ICT in national development projects will do much to enhance the delivery of e-government and public services in the region". The workshop was attended by Nurilla Mahamatov of Uzbekistan, the winner of the first round of the APCICT Virtual Academy (http://unapcict.org/ava) Award. Eleven students and interns from across Asia and the United States, participating in APCICT's ICTD for Youth (ICTD4Y) programme, also attended the first day of the workshop.

From http://www.ifg.cc/ 08/12/2010

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Angara to Lead Anti-Corruption Forum in September

Upon the initiative of Senator Edgardo J. Angara, the Philippines will be host to a three-day regional meeting on anti-corruption that brings together parliamentarians, leaders and other members of civil society from the South East Asian region to discuss strategies to combat corruption, promote transparency and uphold accountability and good governance. The Regional Task Force Meeting of the South East Asian Parliamentarians Against Corruption (SEAPAC) will be hosted by the Philippines on September 30 to October 2, 2010 at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza. This meeting will be in preparation for the international biennial conference on anti-corruption to be held in Manila in 2013. Angara, the only Asian representative to GOPAC and the founding president of SEAPAC, explains, "this conference comes at a very opportune time. This is in tune with the Aquino administration's current flagship program of anti-corruption." Angara was the driving force behind the establishment of the South East Asia Parlimentarians Against Corruption (SEAPAC) and is a member of the Executive Board of the Ottawa, Canada-based Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC).

The SEAPAC's original 26 Parliament-Members hail from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Following the most recent GOPAC Executive Committee Meeting held in Ottawa last June, the SEAPAC Regional Meeting in September aims to intensify the fight against corruption. "Achieving good governance and fighting corruption can be helped by building networks among institutions. International cooperation is an important ingredient. Just as corruption transcends borders, so too must we fight it on a transnational level," said Angara. He added, "The main goal for this meeting is to gather Southeast Asia's parliamentarians to unite behind fighting corruption and promoting transparency in the government." Previous conferences have resulted in concrete measures: the ratification of UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), reform dialogues, and the Regional Action Plan and the Manila Declaration, which committed the members to a united plan of action. Angara was the sponsor in the Senate of the landmark law on government procurement which radically overhauled the rules of bidding and awards in the public sector, and now stands as the country's biggest anti-corruption law. Angara also authored the law creating the Ombudsman's Office and led the ratification of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) by the Philippine Senate.

From http://www.senate.gov.ph/ 08/17/2010

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CHINA: Support Education for Ethnic Minority Groups

The Chinese government will offer greater financial support to education for ethnic minority groups in the next decade, says a national education plan released Thursday. The Outline of China's National Plan for Medium and Long-term Education Reform and Development (2010-2020) says allocation of public educational resources shall favor minority-inhabited areas. "Speeding up educational development for ethnic minority groups is of far-reaching importance for promoting socioeconomic development among the people and in the areas inhabited by them, and for enhancing unity between people of different ethnic backgrounds," the outline says. Efforts shall be made to promote coordinated development of all kinds of education at all levels in minority-inhabited areas, it says. Border counties and impoverished counties in ethnic autonomous areas shall be supported to meet government standards for the construction of school buildings for compulsory education, with special efforts devoted to building boarding schools, it says. Development in senior middle school education in the minority-inhabited areas shall be speeded up. Support shall also be granted to areas with poor education in a bid to renovate, expand or build senior middle schools, it adds. No effort shall be spared to expand vocational education in minority-inhabited areas, and more support shall be granted to secondary vocational education in these areas, according to the outline. And more support shall be granted to educational development for ethnic minorities with small populations, it says. Efforts shall also be made to advance bilingual teaching, open Chinese language classes in every school, and popularize the national common language and writing system. However, minority groups' right to be educated in their native languages shall also be respected and ensured, it says. Schools in minority-inhabited areas shall get more help from their counterparts in other parts of the country under a "pairing-assistance" program, it says the education for ethnic minority groups has seen marked progress in recent years, it says.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/30/2010

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China to Select Central Government Workers from Grassroots

The State Administration of Civil Service Thursday announced a plan to select personnel for central government organizations from the grass-roots level. In all, 30 civil servants will be selected and assigned to 11 ministry-level organizations such as the ministries of foreign affairs, education, agriculture and culture. Civil servants working in government organizations in the province, city, county and village levels can apply for these posts. However, those at the provincial level will have to have two-years of grassroots work experience while village-level civil servants must have at least three-years of work experience. The written test and interview for the selection will be held in September. According to a statement released by the administration, the plan aims to create a system of cultivating civil servants from the frontline and grass-root levels for optimizing the structure of civil servants in central government departments.

From http://english.cpc.people.com.cn/ 08/13/2010

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China Moves to Break Civil Servants' 'Iron Bowl'

Lu Tao, a pioneer in the establishment of the civil servant system in China more than 20 years ago, is now leading a bold administrative reform in this coastal city, with an aim to terminate the "iron bowl" - a heritage from the planned economy now reserved mainly for civil servants. The solider-turned-official in charge of personnel management in Shenzhen hoped to have 30 years to transfer the city's 40,000 government officers in service from de facto life-long employment into limited employment based upon labor contracts. "Judging from either national development strategies or social needs, renovating the civil servant system has become a significant frontline of the Chinese reforms started 30 years ago in the country's economic fields," said the deputy director of the Human Resources and Social Security Department of Shenzhen city. "It is not a question of reforming or not, but a question of reforming today or tomorrow and a question of reforming proactively or passively," Lu said. In September, a group of 50 local personnel officers will go to Hong Kong for a brief training on the operation and management of government pensions for civil servants. Their objective is to bring back useful Hong Kong experiences so that Shenzhen, one of the earliest spearheads of China's economic reform, can provide another first in advancing the mainland's Civil Servant System Reform, according to Lu. "Geographically, Hong Kong is the nearest developed region to Shenzhen. And its experiences have the most relevance for us. Learning from Hong Kong has jet-propelled Shenzhen's economic takeoff from an obscure fishing village more than 30 years ago. We hope to continuously use such geographic advantage to make a breakthrough in the system design of administrative management," he said.

After small-scale experiments from 2007 to 2009 during which 53 civil servants were signed on, Shenzhen Municipal Government began taking bold strides by signing all of the 350 new employees to three-year labor contracts. "This is a land-mark move as it sends a signal that civil servants will no longer be a privileged group and might lose jobs as people in any other occupation do. Such insecurity is conducive to raising civil servants' sense of duty and facilitate the Chinese administration to become more service-oriented," said Li Luoli, vice president of the China Society of Economic Reform. Official figures show that a record high of more than 40,000 college graduates applied for the 350 openings. As 34,545 people had taken the exam, this year has witnessed the fiercest competition on record. "Such popularity indicates that our reform is welcomed and widely accepted. Although civil servants are no longer secure as lifetime jobs, those who excelled in their occupation have a chance to have their contracts renewed," said Lu. Under Chinese labor laws, once a worker has signed two labor contracts with the same employer in a row, the employee and employer can sign, through negotiations, a work contract with no fixed terms. This stipulation, Lu said, also applies to local civil servants. "Our goal is to gradually iron out the discrepancy between government workers and other occupations to facilitate the free movement of people in all jobs on an equal footing," said Lu.

Iron bowl fading out
Originated in the United Kingdom more than 200 years ago, the civil servant system was foreign to China until the 1990s when the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone was approved by the Ministry of Personnel as the country's pilot city to experiment with reforms. Before that, the new China established in 1949 had clung to a "collective mindset", with all businesses run by the government and all job assignments decided by the government. All those who relied upon public finance for salaries, either government officers or employees of state-owned enterprises, shared one catch-all name: "state cadre". A dividing line has been drawn, since the late 1980s when labor contracts were adopted to facilitate the ownership reform of state-owned enterprises. "Breaking iron bowls" had been hailed as a land-mark move to end equalitarianism and encourage competition. The reform later spread to public institutions affiliated to governmental departments in the 1990s when permanent employment was replaced by labor contracts. Administrative agencies were left as the place where employees were guaranteed to work till their retirement age as long as they were not removed for missteps or died earlier. Unlike average Chinese who depend on social security funds for life in their declining age, civil servants can count on public finance for retirement pay.

"This has caused so many side-effect," said Lu Tao. "Taxpayers tend to compare themselves with civil servants and complain about the high retirement pay of civil servants. As civil servants have become the few Chinese enjoying an 'iron bowl' in China, individual misconduct often triggers public resentments over the group and tarnishes the reputation of all civil servants." For instance, he said, running a red light could be trivial, but when it came to a civil servant, that would serve as good fodder for a metropolitan newspaper. "I should say it is public opinion that is forcing us to speed up administrative reforms," said Lu. Global practices show civil servant systems based upon labor contracts are prevalent in developed countries and regions including the United States, the United Kingdom and Singapore. Although China only partly duplicated the civil servant system by tabling labor contracts in the 1990s, Professor Li Luoli said that the initial administrative reform was positive for China as becoming civil servants was no longer the results of administrative order but public competition. Moreover, the rights and obligations of civil servants were clearly defined.

Tough nut to crack
When Lu was transferred to the personnel department of Shenzhen 20 years ago from Guangzhou, he was immediately infected by the city's dynamic to blaze a trail for China's economic take-off. He recalled that the pioneering national civil servant system had been decided by local government in 1992 as "one of the strategies" to promote China' s political system reform that could help China catch up with the booming economy of Asia' s four Little Dragons, namely the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Thirty-two years later when the overall strength of the Chinese economy has become something no nation could afford to ignore, the country, said Lu, must overcome unprecedented resistance as the ongoing reform was no longer to fill a vacuum, but to reshuffle resources and redistribute interests. When labor contracts were introduced into Shenzhen two years ago, repulsion was a knee-jerk reaction by many civil servants who feared losing their lifelong employment. But resistance was nothing new to reformers like Lu. And their magic weapon was "incremental reform", as always. "If our reform can appeal to new hires and bring them benefits, I am sure more civil servants with seniority would hope to follow suit," said Lu.

As Chinese civil servants in administrative agencies would receive retirement pay on public finance, they are not covered by the country's old-age insurance as people in any other occupation are. In contrast to the monthly accumulated and inherited old-age insurance, retirement payments are issued only after a civil servant passed his or her retirement age. If he or she died before that age, despite his work for the government for decades, no retirement pay will be provided to his survivors. To remedy the situation, Lu thinks it is time for the government to think about establishing a government pension compatible with corporate annuities and bringing civil servants access to social security funds, as without a monthly accumulation in old-age pensions, many civil servants are reluctant to do any job-hopping. Lu thinks that explains at least to some extent why Chinese people often complain administrative agencies have more hands than work available and are not service-oriented enough. "If government officers can be dismissed or change their jobs without worrying about their losses in old-age pensions, a healthier job competition will emerge. And more talented people will be invited into the rank of civil servants," said Lu. Also Lu thinks this is a good way to ease the financial burden of government. "Under a market economy, public finance can go bankrupt. If governments continue failing to put some money in reserve now for the retirement payments of its 6.3 million civil servants when the economy is good, once there was an economic downturn, public finance would face a great challenge," he said. Lu disclosed that Shenzhen Government was considering borrowing overseas experience to establish a special government pension for civil servants and earmark a certain proportion into the individual accounts of civil servants every month. Although money in this account can not be withdrawn until a civil servant resigns or retires, its owner can seek to preserve its value through several government-authenticated financial companies.

Apart from labor contracts and government pensions, another land-mark reform Shenzhen government is trying to advance is to classify the posts of civil servants into three different categories, namely administrative management, law enforcement and special expertise. According to the plans, nearly 70 percent of civil servants can then be promoted by seniority rather than administrative ranks. For more than two thousands years, the Chinese people have taken it for granted that he who excels in learning shall be an official. "When everyone needs an administrative rank to elevate his pay and benefits, a rat race become a common occurrence in the officialdom, and that is detrimental to the building of a service-oriented government," said Lu. Although it is too early to see when the central government might endorse a national practice of the ongoing Shenzhen reform, Li Luoli noted that one profound merit of what Shenzhen people are doing now was to iron out the privileges of government officers and correct the prevalent mistaken Chinese mind-set that civil servant employment is not an ordinary job, but an official position.

From Xinhua 08/24/2010

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Gov't Replacing Slums with Basic Housing

The capital of Heilongjiang province, known for winters with temperatures as cold as -30 C, plans to tear down all its urban slums within three years and move its occupants to warmer homes. Harbin authorities have already demolished about 11 million square meters of slums from 2000 to 2009, and many slum dwellers have moved into new buildings. The government is planning to quicken the pace of housing and allow more people to live in better, warmer homes, said Gai Ruyin, Party chief of Harbin. "It is the government's duty to take care of this group of poor people, who cannot afford to buy any commercial houses," Gai said. Despite a decade's efforts to improve living conditions, Harbin now has 11.34 million sq m of urban slums scattered among its high-rises. The slum area is more than three times the size of Central Park in New York City. This year, the city government aims to revitalize 3.45 million sq m of slums. By July, 3.07 million sq m of slums had been demolished and work on building 5.49 million sq m of houses has started, said Ji Weiguo, the city's housing bureau director. The government will pour 9 billion yuan ($1.32 billion) into these relocation and construction projects, he said. The slums in Harbin mostly appeared in the 1950s. They do not have running water and drainage systems, or adequate basic facilities like heat and toilets. Shao Liqing, a community worker in a slum area called Baijiapu, said about 4,000 slum dwellers share two public toilets and people often have to wait in long lines to use them. Jiang Lina, 50, has lived in another slum area with about 2,000 people in Harbin for more than 40 years, and is now waiting to move into a new building next year. She said the highest temperature in winter inside her old home was only -10 C. "Without heating, we burned coal at night to keep the room warm, but it was still too cold to sleep well," she said. Under its latest development plan, the city will revitalize all 11.34 million sq m of slums by 2012. The government will build a new home between 40 to 70 sq m for each family. Under the plan, each slum dweller is expected on average to expand their living space from 15 sq m to 21 sq m. Relocated residents will need to pay 890 yuan ($130) for each square meter that is added to the basic floor plan. In the housing market, such apartments are sold for at least 4,500 yuan per sq m, Gai said. Jiang Lina said she cannot wait to move into her new home, which will have a kitchen and a toilet - facilities she has dreamed of for years. She also wants to have a study desk for herself. "Our old 12-sq-m home was only big enough for a double bed for ourselves and a single bed for my daughter. I used to write things on the bed," she said. "Now my dream is finally going to come true."

From China Daily 08/25/2010

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NPC Proposes a Reform in Income Distribution

China's top legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), has proposed a reform in income distribution be launched as soon as possible, aiming to increase residents' income and narrow the gap in wealth. Officials of the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee of the NPC said they have completed a research report on distribution of national income and made the proposals to be included in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015). The research report proposes increasing the proportion of residents' income in national revenue and the proportion of labor rewards in the primary distribution of national income. It suggests that the reforms should seek to enlarge the middle class until it becomes the largest sector in society. The report also offers proposals on taxation and social security. The legislature did not release further details on the proposed reforms in income distribution. The NPC, for the first time in history, completed 15 research reports on 14 major subjects from March to July to provide proposals for the formulation of the critical development plans for the next five years, after top legislator Wu Bangguo called for the research at the annual legislative session. The reports were presented at the NPC's bimonthly session, which opened on Monday, by Wang Wanbin, vice secretary-general of the session. According to a World Bank report, the Gini Coefficient for China, a main gauge of income disparity surged to 0.47 in 2009, exceeding the "security line" of 0.4, pointing to the unequal distribution of income which could arouse social unrest. This figure was 0.21 to 0.27 three decades ago. In the primary distribution of national income, the proportion that goes to wages and salaries, the major source for China's mid- and low-income families, has been declining, according to Yi Xianrong, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The proportion of the total income that Chinese citizens receive from the distribution of national income fell sharply to 57.9 percent in 2007, compared with 68 percent 20 years ago, according to the People's Bank of China. Other reports issued by the NPC proposed that the reform in income distribution be launched in combination with other measures, such as balancing the income increases among the government, enterprises and individuals, as well as increasing farmers' incomes. The reports also included proposals, such as reasonably improving the government's responsibility for fiscal spending, more stringent protection of farm land, creating a unified health insurance management system and increasing the government's spending on education.

From Xinhua News Agency 08/25/2010

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JAPAN: Gov't to Examine 13 Local Agencies for Streamlining

A central government panel on regional autonomy decided Wednesday to see if the operations of 13 local agencies under eight ministries can be transferred to local governments or privatized to promote decentralization and streamlining. Local authorities have requested that overlapping between them and the central government be eliminated, but many ministries are cautious about shifting their operations. Discussions on the issue will take place in the eight ministries including the Cabinet Office, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, and the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. The 13 agencies subject to the screening include the farm ministry's regional agricultural administration offices and two other agencies, and the transport ministry's regional development bureaus and two other agencies. The agencies, selected based on a request from the National Governors' Association, also include the labor ministry's prefectural labor bureaus which oversee "Hello Work" job placement centers. Meanwhile, some agencies such as the transport ministry's regional civil aviation bureaus and the Finance Ministry's local bureaus were exempt from streamlining, as it is considered necessary that they continue to be the state's responsibility.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/29/2010

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Easing of Labor Regulations Worsened Income Gaps - Gov't Report

The government's easing of regulations on the dispatch of workers and companies' cost-cutting efforts have led to a worsening in income gaps among Japanese people, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said in an annual report on labor released Tuesday. Such moves, including lifting the limit on fields in which workers can be dispatched, have resulted in an increase in the number of nonregular workers, such as part-timers, seasonal workers and temporary staff, the 2010 White Paper on the Labor Economy said. The document said long and stable employment is an effective way to achieve economic growth, noting the importance of human resource development in terms of enhancing the ability to add value to goods and services. The report, comparing employees' annual incomes in 1997 with those in 2007, said the country saw a rise in the proportion of low-income workers with annual incomes of between 1 million yen and the mid-2 million yen level during the 10-year period. During that decade, major corporations increased nonregular employees, which led to a rise in the number of low-income workers, a worsening of income gaps and also eventually a slowdown in the growth of people's incomes and consumption, it said.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 08/03/2010

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Gov't Moves to Determine Situation of Elderly People

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Tuesday the government intends to step up efforts to determine the situation of elderly people through cooperation with municipal governments across Japan following the latest developments involving missing centenarians and one who was found mummified. Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma, meanwhile, revealed plans to launch investigations soon into the whereabouts of pension recipients aged 110 or older across Japan and to announce the results by the end of this month. Nagatsuma said separately that his ministry plans to have municipal government officials visit the registered addresses on pension records of elderly people aged 110 or older, estimated to total between 50 and 100. Government data show that the estimated number of centenarians in Japan reached 40,399 in September last year, topping the 40,000 threshold for the first time. Nagatsuma said he will also urge local governments to hand commemorative gifts directly to elderly people on Respect for Senior Citizens Day in September. The government move was prompted by bizarre developments involving two centenarians in Tokyo - one suspected of having already died and another whose whereabouts are unknown. On Tuesday, the whereabouts of more centenarians were reported unknown in prefectures including Aichi and Shizuoka in addition to Tokyo as local governments began their investigations. A Kyodo News survey conducted Tuesday covering all of Japan's 47 prefectural governments apart from Tokyo showed that only 22 of them regularly check the whereabouts of their oldest registered residents through direct meetings.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 08/03/2010

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Benefits for 34 Children Donated to Local Gov'ts in Major Cities

Parents of only 34 children out of an eligible 5.5 million in major cities turned down central government-issued child allowances and donated them to their local governments, a Kyodo News survey showed Friday. The result of the survey on 74 local governments of 47 prefectural capitals, four non-capital large cities and Tokyo's 23 wards indicates a lack of publicity plus red tape associated with the donation program. Under the child allowance law put into force in April, local governments began in June distributing the allowances of 13,000 yen a month for each child of junior high school age or younger, or 2,255.4 billion yen a year for 17.35 million children across the country. But instead of setting an income limit for parents in providing the benefits, the law enables those who feel such benefits are unnecessary to donate the money to local governments. The benefits for 34 children, or one out of 160,000 children in the areas covered, have been donated to 14 city and ward governments as of the end of July - the eight cities of Sapporo, Sendai, Utsunomiya, Gifu, Osaka, Wakayama, Fukuoka and Miyazaki, and Tokyo's six wards of Chuo, Bunkyo, Meguro, Ota, Suginami and Itabashi. Of the cities and wards, Utsunomiya and Fukuoka received donations of allowances for seven children each, the largest, followed by three each in Tokyo's Meguro and Suginami wards. Parents of 29 children donated all the allowances for fiscal 2010 and those of the remaining five contributed parts of the yearly benefits.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 08/14/2010

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Ministry to Help Japanese Firms Win Contracts Abroad

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism plans to set up a new "international" bureau in a bid to help Japanese companies land infrastructure buildup and other construction contracts abroad. Ministry officials said the plan has been devised at the behest of minister Seiji Maehara, who has been leading the initiative to expedite Japanese businesses' push into foreign markets with government help. The ministry is promoting the export of Japan's shinkansen bullet train technology and other expertise possessed by Japanese firms and local authorities to build expressways, waterworks and sewer systems, for example, to help revive the Japanese economy.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 08/15/2010

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Foreign Ministry Finalizes Personnel Reshuffle Plans

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada has finalized plans for reshuffling senior ministry officials, including appointing Koro Bessho, deputy vice minister for foreign policy, as new deputy foreign minister for political affairs, ministry sources said Wednesday. Bessho, 57, also director general of the Foreign Policy Bureau, will succeed Kenichiro Sasae, 58, who will become new vice foreign minister, replacing Mitoji Yabunaka. Yabunaka, 62, will become an adviser to the Foreign Ministry, the sources said. International Legal Affairs Bureau chief Koji Tsuruoka, 58, is expected to succeed Bessho as director general of the ministry's Foreign Policy Bureau.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 08/19/2010

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Japan to Subsidize Energy-efficient Plants: Report

Japan's government plans to subsidize domestic plants producing clean-energy and energy-efficient goods under steps to support the slowing economy, the Nikkei newspaper said, as the murky outlook keeps firms from boosting spending at home. A strong yen is putting additional pressure on Japan's fragile economy, which is already seeing slowing growth and mired in grinding deflation, forcing the government to consider drafting a package of stimulus measures. In a draft version of the stimulus package, the government plans to subsidize investment in domestic plants manufacturing goods such as lithium battery cells for electric vehicles, the Nikkei said on Friday. Another proposal is to extend the deadline for subsidies aimed at encouraging households to purchase energy-efficient consumer electronics, the paper said. It will also extend a housing loan program, which was scheduled to end this year, that reduces annual interest on 35-year fixed-rate loans for energy-efficient and quake-resistant homes. Economics Minister Satoshi Arai will submit the draft stimulus plan to Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Friday, it said.

From http://www.reuters.com/ 08/20/2010

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Gov't to Set Up Special Team for Job Creation for Young People

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Saturday he plans to set up a special team to help promote job creation for young people including students graduating from university amid a severe employment situation. The special team will be headed by Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Manabu Terata, who serves as an aide to Kan, the prime minister told reporters in Kyoto. Kan made the remarks after visiting employment-related facilities in Kyoto as part of efforts to grasp the job situation for young people. The team is expected to compile short-term job creation measures as well as medium- and long-term employment support plans, as new graduates are facing difficulties in finding employment opportunities, government officials said. Kan also said he will accelerate work to compile fresh economic stimulus measures from next week. "I will put together various opinions from the beginning of next week and I want to move on to a stage to compile economic measures," Kan said. The government has started preparations for its new round of emergency steps to address slowing economic growth and the yen's recent surge in the currency market. In Kyoto, Kan visited the Kyoto Job Park, a job placement support organization which is operated by the Kyoto prefectural government in cooperation with the business community and "Hello Work" public job-placement offices, as well as a career support center of Kyoto University of Foreign Studies.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 08/22/2010

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Elderly Now Approve of Withholding Premiums

Two-thirds of people aged 75 or older approve of the current system in which public health insurance premiums are withheld from pension payments automatically unless people opt out, according to a recent government survey. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry surveyed opinions on methods of paying health insurance premiums, as the government will launch a new health insurance program for the elderly in fiscal 2013. The withholding of health insurance premiums from pension payments initially received a harsh response when it began in fiscal 2008 as part of a medical system for the very elderly. However, since the latest survey showed a large majority approve of the system, the ministry has decided to maintain it in the new program. In addition to the withholding method, the current system allows people to choose to make payments through financial institutions. The survey was conducted in May and June on 4,871 men and women aged 20 or older nationwide by mail-in questionnaires. Of the total, 206 were 75 or older. Valid responses were received from 67 percent. Among respondents aged 75 or older, 66.4 percent preferred the default withholding method, but 16.4 percent said the default method should be to pay through financial institutions while providing the option to have premiums deducted from pension payments. Only 10.3 percent completely opposed the withholding method, preferring a system where premiums could only be paid through financial institutions. Under the current system, every person aged 75 or older pays health insurance premiums. Initially, many elderly criticized the deduction method, saying that withholding money from pensions, often their sole source of income, was problematic. Surprised by the fierce opposition, the government changed the system so people could choose to make payments through financial institutions. The survey indicated that the automatic withholding method has become familiar and opposition to the system has waned, leading the ministry to state it would maintain the withholding method in an interim report on the new health insurance program released Friday.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 08/24/2010

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SOUTH KOREA: National Pension Fund Exceeds W300 Trillion

The national pension fund has grown to W300 trillion (US$1=W1,183). The National Pension Service on Tuesday said its assets amounted to W300.32 trillion as of July 23, up W22.68 billion from late last year. The fund, which was set up in January 1988, crossed the W100 trillion mark 15 years later in May 2003 and W200 trillion in April 2007. The NPS had expected the fund to reach the new benchmark around September or October but achieved it three months early. The total amount of pension premiums paid by subscribers is W232.8 trillion. The NPS made profits of W123.3 trillion from investments, W55 trillion of which has already been paid out to subscribers. Its accumulated profit rate is 6.61 percent. Since 1988, the fund has grown more than 30 percent a year on average and is expected to reach W500 trillion by 2015 and W2,400 trillion by 2040. The NPS expects it to peak at W2,465 trillion around 2043. The NPS ranks fourth in the world in terms of total assets after Japan's Government Pension Investment Fund, Norway's Government Pension Fund Global, and ABP, the national pension fund of the Netherlands.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 07/28/2010

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Gov't Shakes Up Recruitment for Senior Civil Service Jobs

In a bid to promote professionalism in the civil service, the government will fill half the recruitment quota for senior posts with civilian specialists in future, while applicants going through the customary exam will have to undergo a more strenuous interview. "We've worked out a program to improve recruitment in order to create an atmosphere of open competition in the civil service," Public Administration and Security Minister Maeng Hyung-kyu said Thursday. "To do that we decided to reform the recruiting system for senior administrative posts, which lasted for about 60 years, and came up with a new one." Eventually half the grade-5 positions will be filled through the existing written exam and the other half from among civilian specialists based on application documents and interviews. Next year, 30 percent of the quota will be filled by specialists, gradually increasing to 50 percent by 2015. That will allow people with professional licenses, advanced academic degrees or research experience in particular fields to apply for higher civil service jobs. Candidates with volunteer experience, publications or patents to their name will get preferential treatment. Applicants through the written test will face a more grueling interview. The ministry pledged to develop new interview techniques and widen the pool of interviewers. To prevent large numbers of applicants from falling down at the new hurdle, the ministry says it could allow unsuccessful candidates to try again the next year without having to retake the first and second round of written tests.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 08/13/2010

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Gov't Plans Reserve Fund for Reunification

The Ministry of Unification reportedly plans to expand and modify the South-North Cooperation Fund into a reserve "Unification Fund." The revelation follows President Lee Myung-bak's plan for a "unification tax" mooted in a speech marking Liberation Day on Sunday. The fund is currently worth about W1 trillion (US$1=W1,187), and the amount spent each year is reimbursed afterwards, so the fund never grows. But the ministry feels if it is turned into a reserve fund by setting aside a certain amount to add to it every year, it can grow in value. A government source said on Sunday, "The government plans to draft a new bill to turn the South-North Cooperation Fund into a reserve fund and put the bill forward in the plenary session of the National Assembly in October." He added the unification tax is likely to become the main source of the Unification Fund. "It is important as we need to prepare the huge cost of reunification."

From http://english.chosun.com/ 08/16/2010

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Gov't Hikes Minimum Cost of Living

The government has raised the minimum cost of living for 2011 by 5.6 percent compared to this year, the second largest hike since the National Basic Livelihood Security Law was introduced in 2000. The highest increase was in 2005, when the bar was raised by 7.7 percent after the credit card crisis froze the minimum living cost for years. The government on Tuesday set the minimum cost of living for a four-member household at W1.44 million (US$1=W1,191) up W76,000. The Ministry of Health and Welfare made the decision in a committee meeting. It will serve as the legal standard for selecting the beneficiaries of welfare stipends. The minimum cost of living is calculated each year based on how much money is needed for reasonable consumption in 11 categories such as housing, food, heating and water, transportation and communication, and leisure and cultural activities. Kwon Byung-ki, a ministry official, said, "Inflation is reflected in the new minimum living cost as part of underprivileged-friendly measures." The hike is even higher than the 5.1-percent increase in the minimum wage at end of last month.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 08/25/2010

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INDONESIA: House Speaker Agrees with Idea to Move Its Capital

House of Representatives Speaker Marzuki Alie agreed on Friday with an idea to move Indonesia's capital from Jakarta to somewhere in Central Kalimantan. "It is good if it (the capital) is moved. If it is located in the middle (of the country), it will surely be easily accessible from everywhere - the east, the west," he said as quoted by tempointeraktif.com news portal after attending a plenary session at the House in Jakarta. The main reason (to move the capital), Marzuki said, is for the sake of efficiency as Jakarta can no longer bear the burden of acute traffic jams. "Whatever is done, it will just move around there," said Marzuki, deputy chairman of the patron board of the Democratic Party. Moving the capital will be followed by all the country's administration offices, he said, so that Jakarta will purely become a commercial business city. "The current presidential palace can be used like Bank Indonesia museum for tourism purposes," he said. Marzuki further said that moving the capital will be the domain of the government. "The House of Representatives will be in charge of preparing its legislation and regulations," he said, expressing confidence the process of moving the capital will be able to be completed within five years.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 07/30/2010

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Govt to Revise Regulation on Procurement Bidding

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Thusday the government would soon revise a regulation on bidding process for public procurements of goods and services, blaming it as a key cause for sluggish public spending. "Based on our evaluation, the regulation has slowed down the spending of the state and regional budget. This has shed the trickling economic advantage from happening." "The impact is clear, economic development particularly in the regional level could not be maximized as local governments are afraid of speeding up their spending," said Yudhoyono prior to a Cabinet meeting attended also by governors, head of government agencies, state company executives and noted tycoons at the Bogor Presidential Palace. Yudhoyono said the revision would be deliberately discussed on Friday. Most bureaucrats in the central and local level have filed complaints over the rigidity of the presidential regulation No 80/2003 on procurements, which may risk them being prosecuted for power abuse or corruption should they fail to strictly comply.

Due to the revolving risks, the bureaucrats prefer to spend more time complying with the regulation, or in some cases, refusing to initiate procurement biddings. "There have been numerous complaints over the regulation. This has caused most of the state and local budgets idle... The thing is the regulation should not be too bureaucratic," said Yudhoyono. According to Finance Minister Agus Martowardjojo, only 35 percent of state budget expenditure had been materialized in the first semester of this year, far lower from an expected 50 percent. Average budget spending by local administrations is more or less at similar level. The nation's more than Rp 1,000 trillion (US$100 billion) state budget this year is expected to help drive the economy in the form of public spending. However, with less is spent, few economic advantages from the budget has ever been enjoyed by businesses. Indonesia's economy is set to grow by 5.8 percent this year, fueled particularly by public, private and household spending. Aside from the revision, the President has also highlighted several agendas in the meeting related with the need of the local governments to understand the state of the macro-economy in a bid to synchronize policies between local and central government. Yudhoyono has also urged a discussion in the meeting to seek efforts from local administration to shift their budget spending focus on creating local economy and infrastructure and business development than on routine and consumptive expenditure.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 08/05/2010

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Constitutional Amendment Needed to Empower DPD

House of Representatives Speaker Marzuki Alie said constitutional amendment was needed to ensure the authorities of the Regional Representatives Council (DPD). "If a state institution has unclear functions and authorities, then it will be a waste of state budget," Marzuki told reporters on Friday. "We have to be firm whether to dissolve any state institution whose functions are unclear." Marzuki expected the fifth constitutional amendment to take place by next year and underlined that the political process would not discuss the issue of presidential term of office. "All we want is to consolidate all political institutions within the country, there is no intention at all to extend the presidential term," he said. Marzuki deemed extension of presidential term would only mark a setback for the country's democracy.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 08/20/20100

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PHILIPPINES: Palace Supports Ban on Officials' Name, Images on Government Projects

Like the no "wang-wang" policy initiated by President Benigno S. Aquino III, Malacanang today expressed hope that government officials will refrain from using the Chief Executive's name or images in government projects. "We hope that this would be another example where by the President's own initiative, officials will also follow through, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing today. Lacierda said the President, in trying to lead by example, initiated the no "Wang Wang" (siren) policy on the road upon his assumption in office, to show that it is not him but the people, who are the real boss. He said that it is better for government projects to be highlighted as beneficial to the country.

Lacierda asked the private sector to cooperate with the President's initiative, citing as an example the big billboard with the picture of the President erected near Shangri-La mall in Mandaluyong city, which, he said, should not be encouraged. In line with the President's memo to cabinet secretaries to refrain from using his name or his photograph on project site billboards, Secretary Rogelio Singson issued yesterday department order (DO) 37, banning the placement of names and pictures of politicians on government projects. According to the order, project billboards should only contain the name and location of the project, name of the contractor, the date the project started, contract completion date, contract cost, construction consultant, implementing office of the DPWH, and source of fund. Lacierda also said that the government, in principle, supports the bill filed by Senator Francis Escudero which prohibits the naming of government projects after officials.

From http://balita.ph/ 08/12/2010

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Philippines President Pledges to Stop Corruption

The Philippine President Benigno Aquino is pledging a new era of clean and efficient government, and has used his first state of nation address to condemn his predecessor's rule. President Aquino says a Truth Commission to investigate the alleged wrongdoings of former President Gloria Arroyo will be set up this week. During his maiden speech, Mr Aquino has vowed his administration will be the opposite of the previous Arroyo government. He says he will stop the wasteful spending of public funds and abolish ill-conceived projects. He said the Arroyo administration has left his government without enough money to address areas of education, health, basic infrastructure and security.

From http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/ 08/27/2010

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THAILAND: Government Committed to the Development of Human Capital

The Thai government is committed to the development of human capital and the increase of labor productivity, in the medium and longer term. Speaking at the International Conference on Mega Trend in Human Capital and Labor Productivity toward the Global Integration, held recently at the United Nations Conference Center in Bangkok, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva stated that Thailand has recognized the importance of human capital. The clearest illustration of this has been the leadership of His Majesty the King. The Prime Minister said that His Majesty's vision has helped build the solid foundations necessary for the Sufficiency Economy philosophy and social development of the country. In his wisdom, he has shown that Thailand must strive to maintain growth that is always balanced and sustained. Thai people were deeply touched when His Majesty's achievements were recognized by the UN, when in May 2006, His Majesty was presented with the UNDP Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award, which acknowledges His Majesty's contribution toward improving the quality of life of the Thai people; the award was also in recognition of the Sufficiency Economy Theory and educational initiatives undertaken through the Royal Projects to address sustainable development issues, among others. So the challenge of increasing productivity is a challenge that the current Thai government embraces.

According to Prime Minister Abhisit, the Government was mindful that its economic policy must be people-oriented in the way that it tackled the economic crisis. This means that it should not merely sustain the people's purchasing power, but also continue to look for ways by which their opportunities may increase. He said that Thailand feels that investment in humans must take place even before birth, which means the country has to run programs to ensure that its people are well-educated when they prepare themselves to have a family. When children are born, they should be provided sufficient nutrition, so that their brain and body are developed fully and ready for education.

Over the past one and a half years, the current government has also invested substantially to provide free education and improve primary school education in child-care centers all over the country. Another issue concerns upgrading the quality of education, so that it can keep up with the changes that take place globally. That is why Thailand is undergoing another wave of education reform. The emphasis is on quality and making sure that students pick up not just academic skills, but skills that prepare them to be in the workforce, as well as life skills so that they can be good citizens and learn to live with one another in a harmonious and democratic society. The Government will continue to focus on providing Thai people with both security and skills, so that they have the opportunity to continue to improve upon their productivity and contribute to sustainable growth.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 07/25/2010

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VIET NAM: Government Inspectors 'Must Be Independent'

The Government Inspectorate must be legally independent, National Assembly Legislative Committee chairman Nguyen Van Thuan said yesterday, July 26. The chairman, who was offering an assessment of the draft Inspection Law to the National Assembly Standing Committee, said this requirement was not contained in the proposed legislation. The draft law made the inspectorate an agency of the Government, he said. This meant the Government leader would have the authority to approve inspection programmes; choose inspectors and issue any final conclusions. National Defence and Security Committee chairman Le Quang Binh agreed. "The Government Inspectorate" should become the National Assembly-approved "State Inspectorate" and have the independence of the State Auditor, he said. National Assembly vice chairman Nguyen Duc Kien said the State Inspectorate should work independently of both the legislature and the executive to ensure its integrity and objectiveness.

If inspectors answered to Government agencies, it was important that their leaders were pro-active in making decision after violations were found, he said. They must be responsible for the integrity and objectiveness of inspection conclusions. The vice chairman emphasised that the draft law must more clearly define and delineate the competence of inspectors and managers of Government agencies during inspections as well as the punishment of offenders. The law should also regulate specific punishment for inspectors and overseers of Government agencies found transgressing but the proposed legislation did not stipulate further inspections nor how to deal with wrongdoing, he said. The Standing Committee also discussed the necessity of having special-purpose inspectorates. But Finance and Budget Committee chairman Phung Quoc Hien said special-purpose inspectorates would probably mean numerous inspection units without ensuring efficiency.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 07/27/2010

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Official 'Red Invoices' No Longer Required

VietNamNet Bridge - Most companies will no longer have to obtain their invoices from official agencies and can print them on their own, thanks to the Government's efforts to usher in administrative reform. Under Decree No 51/2010/ND-CP, which will take effect next year, companies can print the "red invoices" that serve as official proof of commercial transactions for tax and other purposes. The document also allows them to use electronic invoices. Those that are not permitted to use either - sole proprietorships and non-commercial organisations - will have to continue to obtain the invoice from the authorities. But hereafter, they will have to get it from provincial tax departments rather than the Ministry of Finance. This would provide greater freedom to companies to do business, analysts said. Cao Anh Tuan, director of the General Taxation Office's Policy Department, said the new policy would completely change enterprises' invoice usage.

It will also save the Government some of the costs it incurs on printing these invoices while companies do not have to go through the rigmarole of obtaining them, he said. More than 350,000 companies are expected to become eligible to print their own invoices by themselves.

A pilot programme in Dong Nai Province since 2006 has found that companies greatly benefit from printing their own invoices. There are 235 businesses eligible to self-print the invoices and almost all of them maintain records properly and use the vouchers in accordance with the law. Some of the companies explained that printing the invoices themselves freed up time and energy for them to focus on running the business. In the invoices, they could incorporate information that makes management and accounting easier and added their logos and trademarks, thus getting free advertisement, they said.

No fraudulent practices
An unexpected benefit has been that these enterprises have not indulged in fraudulent practices like buying and selling blank invoices, erasing the invoices and illegally inscribing between the first and the second copies of the same invoice, according to a Dong Nai tax official. Enterprises should immediately begin preparations for printing the invoices, a representative of the General Taxation Department said. They should know what kinds of invoices they need to declare to the local taxation offices. However, analysts warned there were difficulties they may face during the process. Careful monitoring of the printing process were imperative to eliminate the possibility of fraud by printing presses, they said. Taxation offices are set for a hard time since thousands of enterprises would register to print the invoices, they added.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 08/04/2010

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Good Response to Reforms of People's Councils

VietNamNet Bridge - The legal framework regarding rights and responsibilities of municipal and provincial People's Councils must be reviewed if communal and district People's Councils are to be abolished, said Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung. Hung said the capacities of the municipal and provincial People's Councils had to be enhanced to improve their roles in guaranteeing citizen's rights and interests.Other organisational structures, such as the judicial, monitoring and citizen-oversight groups, also needed to be revised, he said.Hung was speaking as chair of a meeting in Ha Noi yesterday, August 16, to review the first phase of a programme to abolish communal and district councils. The meeting was attended by the National Assembly vice chairman Uong Chu Luu, officials from the Ministry of Interior and 10 participating provinces and cities.The abolishment process, which is being tested in the 10 cities and provinces, aims to simplify the nation's administrative systems and reduce the number of overlapping responsibilities and functions of lower-level authorities, while giving more power to higher level representative agencies.

Addressing the meeting, Hung said abolishing district and communal People's Councils was of great importance and the pilot period was absolutely necessary. Early feedback had led to positive changes in administrative reforms, more effective local-government administration and a clear demarcation between urban and rural governments, Hung said. He said the removal of district and communal People's Councils shortened the distance between municipal and provincial governments and citizens. The councils were also more responsive to citizens' concerns. The monitoring of operations of State agencies at the local level, as well as the rights of citizens, was still guaranteed under the changes, Hung said. "Before we had district and communal People's Councils. Now their responsibilities will belong to municipal and provincial People's Councils. The new mechanism needs to be carefully planned," Hung said. He added that the role of the Fatherland Front and other local citizens' organisations needed to be enhanced to better reflect citizens' voices and concerns. Hung asked participating cities and provinces to continue assessing and reporting on the situation to the National Steering Committee, the Politburo and the National Assembly.

Steering committee
A national steering committee will carefully consider whether to continue the pilot programmes in those localities or to implement the programme throughout the country much sooner. According to a report from the steering committee, during the pilot year at the district level, the number of citizens engaging with the council rose by 17.6 per cent. At the municipal level, it rose 6.3 per cent and at the commune level, 11 per cent over the previous year. Citizen and commercial proposals sent to district People's Committees increased by 8.4 per cent - and by 6 per cent at the municipal level. Proposals sent to district and municipal Fatherland Fronts increased by 37 per cent and 23.1 per cent. The report also showed that management initiatives for provincial People's Councils had also increased. These initiatives helped conserve financial resources, the report said.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 08/17/2010

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Next Congress Goes Online

VietNamNet Bridge - Viet Nam yesterday, August 18, launched a website to provide local and world viewers with information about the 11th National Congress of the Communist Party of Viet Nam (CPV) in January. Politburo member and secretary of the Central Committee of the CPV To Huy Rua said the website could be viewed at http://daihoi11.dangcongsan.vn. Rua said it would provide useful information for Vietnamese at home and abroad, Government officials and Party members. He added that the site would bridge an information gap and clearly present the significance and viewpoints of the CPV Central Committee about the congress. The website contains a variety of categories, including news, information on delegates and the congress, and initiatives for draft documents. It is also intended to help promote efforts to successfully implement the resolutions of the 10th congress, strengthen Party unity and gain public trust in Party leadership. The website will also collect opinions about draft documents for the congress. It will close in May 2011.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 08/19/2010

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Hanoi Argues Against Admin Center's Move

VietNamNet Bridge - Hanoi authorities have requested that the prime minister not move the national administrative center to Ba Vi Mountain, 60 kilometers from the city's center, VnExpress reported. Ba Vi's inclement weather conditions, poor traffic access and less than ideal connection to surrounding areas caused the Hanoi's People's Committee to argue against the proposed plan in its latest letter to the government. They further cautioned that such a relocation would probably affect ecologically Ba Vi, which was dubbed Hanoi's "green lungs," the news website quoted the committee as saying. The People's Committee questioned the wisdom of separating Hanoi's administrative center from its political center. Under the zoning plan, the National Assembly and the Communist Party offices will remain in the city's Ba Dinh District. The authorities suggested that the governmental offices be relocated to the west of West Lake or My Dinh - Me Tri area in Tu Liem District.

If the government agrees to halt the relocation, the establishment of a thoroughfare connecting the capital's center and Ba Vi Mountain won't be necessary anymore, Duong Duc Tuan, vice director of Hanoi Department of Planning and Architecture, told VnExpress. Since its announcement early this year, the plan to relocate the administrative center and bulid a road leading to its new location has provoked criticism from the public and lawmakers alike. The roadmap, known as the General Zoning Plan for developing the capital through 2030, was authored in a collaboration between the US-South Korea consultant joint-venture PPJ, and the Vietnam Institute of Architecture, Urban and Rural Planning. The plan is expected to be approved by the prime minister before Hanoi's 1,000th anniversary this October, according to the news source.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 08/20/2010

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BANGLADESH: Steps Underway to Strengthen BBS

The government has moved to strengthen the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) by recruiting manpower and revising the methodology of survey to avoid mismatch between its own data and those of other state-owned entities. The BBS has placed a proposal to raise manpower to 6500 from 4100 as it is facing acute shortage of human resource. It has also proposed to raise fund allocation and arrange training of statistical officers capacity building. The proposal on strengthening the BBS has been placed before the establishment ministry recently. Officials said the BBS has only 23 regional offices in as many districts out of 64. Each of the 23 offices has only one or two officials for collecting field-level data against the sanctioned post of four. The BBS has been facing difficulties to collect field-level agricultural or manpower data with the insufficient manpower. A total of 1500 posts still remain vacant in the BBS as recruitment of manpower is suspended for five to six years, officials said. The BBS also needs online connectivity with its field-offices to compile data within the shortest possible time as per the digital Bangladesh vision of the present government. Md. Shajahan Ali Mollah, director general (DG) of BBS, said: "The BBS has been running its activities with acute manpower and fund shortage." It receives Tk 10 million annually for carrying out different studies, he said. "The methodology of collecting field level data will be coordinated soon. The statistical mismatch between the BBS and other government entities will be minimised with the move," he said. Data of agriculture wing of the government and BBS field offices will be coordinated before being published, he added. The BBS collects data from field levels to prepare consumer price index (CPI) for measuring inflation. "We have also sought to raise number of Upazilla (district town) officer to nine from four to collect accurate data for CPI," the BBS chief said. "The government is actively considering our proposal. We expect a positive response from the higher authority soon," The BBS chief said the inflation for 2009-2010 will be above 7.0 per cent as per prices of food and non-food items, he added. Average inflation was 6.66 per cent in 2008-09 while 9.93 per cent in 2007-08, 7.22 per cent in 2006-07 and 7.17 per cent in 2005-06. The government aims to contain inflation below 6.50 per cent in 2010-2011 fiscal by reining in prices of essentials. "The inflation rates will be more accurate soon as we are going to update base-year of inflation estimation," BBS chief said. The BBS has been following System of National Accounts (SNA) of 1993, which will be updated soon, he added. Different food and non-food items like event management, flower business were absent in the SNA, but it contributes a significant part to the economy in recent years, he said. Officials underscored the need for a 'National Statistical Act' in a bid to follow same methodology of data collection.

From http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/ 08/07/2010

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INDIA: Appointments of Senior Officials Not Under RTI

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Friday said that information pertaining to appointment of top bureaucrats cannot be revealed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Justice S. Muralidhar passed this order while dismissing the plea of RTI activist and Magsaysay Award winner Arvind Kejriwal, seeking disclosure of the information on the ground that people had the right to know as to what was the grade assigned to an officer who was empanelled. The court also set aside the order of the Central Information Commission which had held that information relating to appointment of secretaries in different ministries falls within the ambit of the transparency law. "This court holds that the CIC was not justified in overruling the objection of the centre and directing the government and the DoPT (Department of Personnel and Training) to provide copies of the documents as sought by Kejriwal," the judge said. Setting aside the contention of the central government that the disclosure would amount to revealing details of an officer, the CIC had directed the department and the cabinet secretariat to disclose details pertaining to selection of officers for the posts of secretaries and additional secretaries.

From http://www.newkerala.com/ 07/30/2010

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Government Departments to Replicate E-Governance Model of Jhansi

The Jhansi Jan Suvidha Kendra (JJSK), part of the district's e-governance mechanism, has been functional for nearly 13 months in Uttar Pradesh and has quietly been at work, addressing complaints from over 20,000 families since its inception in 2009. The system, which most of the senior government functionaries are now trooping in to see and replicate, works on a relatively simple format. A complainant calls JJSK at the registered numbers and lodges a complaint. The software system monitors a total of 193 government departments in the district. On receiving a complaint, it immediately assigns a category - `A' demanding action within 24 hours, `B' seeking redressal in three days and `C', needing disposal in seven days - and allots a complaint number. The calls are attended to round the clock and complaints are forwarded to government departments concerned for timely disposal. With all complaints being digitally recorded, the system is also able to monitor any instances of false complaints, while also keeping officers - their conduct and performance - in check. And if officers are unable to address concerns within the allotted time, the district magistrate, who conducts weekly meetings to interact with public and officials concerned, also sets fresh deadlines by which the work must be completed. Now, since the implementation of JJSK, from nearly 50 complainants visiting the collectorate every day, the numbers have fallen sharply to single digit figures. The IT department of the state government has been promoting its e-governance system with much gusto, the JJSK model has not found mention despite its success. Interestingly, with the success of JJSK, the e-governance model is now being replicated in various government and private offices. While the Jhansi Cantonment Board and the UP Housing Development Board have already incorporated the grievance redressal mechanisms on their web portals, the Jhansi authorities are also in the process of `selling' the idea to the Indian Railways and Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited.

From http://www.egovonline.net/ 08/02/2010

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Terminate Corrupt Officials Immediately: Committee

New Delhi: Officials indicted with corruption will have a tough time holding on to their jobs as a high-level committee has directed such officials to be terminated right away. This will come more into force for Group A and B, and Class I and II services, reports Vineeta Pandey of DNA. Among other recommendations made by the committee include putting a fast track system into place to penalize high ranking central government and all-India services officers charged with corrupt practices or lack of integrity. However, even after their acquittal, the bureaucrats can avail all the benefits related to seniority and service. The committee added that employees who admit to their guilt should be considered for a lenient sentence. However, those charged of graft and lack of integrity do not come under this purview. The committee also added a 10 to 50 percent cut in pension and forfeiture of gratuity to offending officials who are awarded compulsory retirement as a penalty. The committee's suggestions also empower the inquiry officials to prevent delays in the disposal of disciplinary inquiries. They can also command their authority to ensure attendance of witnesses and production of documents. P. C. Hota, former UPSC Chairman, who headed the high level committee said, "To ensure that innocent officers do not get penalized, dismissal of officers should be cleared by a high-level committee headed by a high court judge. There can be a brief trial to check if the case is fit for dismissal and the officer can make representations before the committee to prove innocence." The committee was constituted by the ministry of personnel public grievances and pensions to review the procedure of disciplinary/vigilance inquiries and recommend measures for their expeditious disposal. It comprises of experts such as former vigilance commissioner P Shankar and former secretary of the department of personnel and training Arvind Varma. The committee also recommended amendment in the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) to mandate prior sanction for prosecution of government servants even after their retirement bringing it on a par with the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) process. Other suggestions by the committee include establishment of states vigilance commissions on the lines of the central vigilance commission and monitoring cells in each department/ministry to review the progress of all disciplinary inquiries. In its report to the government, the committee said, "In cases of abuse of power by the disciplinary authority, if the chief vigilance commissioner believes that the proposal to initiate the inquiry was baseless, he may advise punitive action against the disciplinary authority. This would ensure that there is responsible exercise of power by the disciplinary authority and witch-hunting of honest government servants would be prevented."

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 08/12/2010

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Top Bank Executive Cleared of Corruption - After 24 Years!

Mumbai: He lived with humiliation for a quarter of a century, lost his wife and saw his career going down the hill. But M.U. Kini, a bank executive accused of corruption charges in 1986, was finally cleared of all the alleged crimes after fighting an agonising legal battle for 24 years. Seventy-eight-year old Kini served as executive director of the Union Bank of India (UBI) during 1986-1989. Despite the major legal victory, Kini betrays no emotion but is bitter about how his future prospects in the banking industry were sabotaged by a handful of disgruntled elements within the UBI. Kini's greatest regret is that his wife Rajaramani is not alive today to share his victory - heartbroken, she succumbed to cancer around four years ago. Shortly after he took over as UBI's executive director, Kini was slapped with internal memos by the then chairman, J.S. Bhatnagar, accusing him of making several "improper" advances worth a few crores of rupees. "I had replied to those memos, clearly stating the position and the matter ended there. Suddenly one day, bypassing norms, the bank handed over the matter directly to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)," Kini told IANS. The CBI ruthlessly pursued the matter and summoned him regularly for "inquiries and investigations", taking him away from his responsibilities as executive director. Meanwhile, Bhatnagar retired in December 1988, paving the way for Kini to take over as the next chairman. "This was the strategic time that Bhatnagar and his coterie hit out. Even as my file was pending clearance at the centre for appointment as chairman, the CBI raided my house in Cuffe Parade - nearly three years after the case was registered against me and just four days before my tenure as executive director was to end," Kini said, recalling the murky politics in the upper echelons of the banking industry. Kini's stunned family members handled the CBI raids since he was away on an official visit to New Delhi, but these drew a blank, both at the official residence and at his private residence in Chembur in northeast Mumbai.

He pointed out that it is not unusual for people to make all kinds of anonymous complaints and allegations against top bank executives because of vested interests, especially when they are in queue for bigger responsibilities. "However, it is surprising that a respected and feared institution like the CBI fell into the trap and acted as an instrument of these vested elements to ruin my spotless banking career," he said. The CBI raid ensured that Kini was out of the reckoning for the bank chairman's post - and he was reduced to attending the Special CBI Court in Mumbai every month for 24 years. He, however, continued to work with the UBI till 58 after which he retired. "Earlier, I could manage it since I had the burning spirit to fight to prove my innocence. But in my 60s and 70s, it became a tiresome affair. It was virtual punishment for an innocent person and I was made to sit on benches for long hours among hardcore criminals," Kini said. Finally, in April this year, the Special CBI Court Special Judge Vijay R. Sikchi exonerated Kini of all the charges pertaining to cheating and corruption, proving an embarrassing setback to the CBI's efforts to nail him for 24 long years. Special Judge Sikchi acquitted Kini and six other co-accused of all the offences under Section 420 and Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code. Kini ended on an absolutely clean slate - he was additionally acquitted of charges under the stringent Prevention of Corruption Act, Section 5(2) and Section 5(1)(d). "I was unsure whether the vendetta would continue; so I waited for a full four months to see if the CBI went for appeal in a higher court. Apparently, after 24 years, even they are tired of harassing an old, innocent and ill man like me," said Kini, who underwent three major surgeries for urological problems in the intervening period.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 08/16/2010

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Civil Servants Admit of Partaking in Corruption

New Delhi: Political corruption in the country takes place because there are always some civil servants willing to collaborate in it, say 80 percent of the 4,808 civil service officers in a survey. The survey - carried out by the Centre for Good Governance, Hyderabad, in collaboration with ACNielsen ORG-MARG at the behest of ministry of personnel - has come out with some interesting findings about the revenue services. It has found that in case of services dealing with revenue collection, it is reportedly a common practice to "derail an honest assessing officer by making anonymous complaint against him". While commenting on the plight of honest officers, few respondents said that enquiry on baseless allegations itself is a punishment; it does not matter if he or she is exonerated in the end. "It has been pointed out that lure of post retirement assignments is a major reason for spinelessness of the senior civil servants," says the report. Political interference in civil services has been widely cited as a major reason for the poor performance of the services. Though the survey did not cover this issue explicitly, influence of political considerations in various aspects of administration was brought out through the comments offered by a number of civil servants across the services. The first ever government-sponsored 'perception' survey of civil servants highlights that a majority of respondent felt that corrupt officers get away without being punished. It was also felt that corrupt officers are able to get the most sought after postings. Harassment of honest officials through baseless complaints and investigations also turns out to be major issue in several services. The survey - conducted referring to 11 major thematic areas ranging from work environment, transfers, postings, integrity to harassment and discrimination - has found that many of the notions of bureaucrats about the civil services shattered, forcing almost an one-third of them to think about resigning from their respective services at some point of time. Pointing out to a trend where some of the successful candidates even prefer to join Indian Revenue Services the report says, a few officers have also expressed the view that probationers leaving other central services and joining revenue services or preferring revenue services over even the coveted IAS clearly betrays their intentions. The findings have come out with a different facet of discrimination within the bureaucracy as well. Officers remarked that discrimination is rampant based on caste, religion, region and service. Some women officers stated that there definitely is a 'glass ceiling' and female officers are denied good service postings. "Women officers are posted in development sector and not given postings in departments that deal with infrastructure, power or other such sectors," shows the survey. The issue of perceived disparity between officers belonging to the IAS and other services is considered as a major cause for inter-service rivalry and demoralisation of non-IAS officers. "Most non-IAS respondents consider it unfair to perpetuate the entry-level advantage of IAS officers for the entire duration of the service spanning two to three decades," the report adds. Most non-IAS respondents resented the hegemony of the IAS in all the senior positions in government, which gave them the authority to undertake cadre management and planning of all services.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 08/19/2010

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Civil Society: MDGs a Far Cry, Adopt People Centric Approach

New Delhi: Civil Society organisations today offered a helping hand to the government in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), saying that plans and policies of the government are being formulated without the involvement of the people and adopting a top down approach. The offer came at a function here, where NGOs in one voice expressed concern at the slow movement in achieving the MDGs and said such programmes intended for the common man and poor cannot become successful without their involvement.

The organisations which also spoke against the official bureaucratic approach included OXFAM (India), 'Save the Children', 'Child Fund India' and 'Wada Na Toro'(Do not break your promise). The occasion was the launch of a website by these organisations- www.noiseagainstpoverty.org - with the name being suggestive of the approach that these voluntary bodies would adopt in meeting the MDGs. Their moto is 'Stand up, take action, make noise for the MDGs.' The civil society organisations were represented by Mr Minar Pimple, Regional Director, Asia and the Pacific, UN Millennium Campaign, Mr Amitabh Behar, Convenor, 'Wada Na Toro, Mr Thomas Chandy, 'Save the Children India', and Ms Nisha Agarwal, CEO Oxfam (India). ' The government was fielded by Dr Pranab Sen, Adviser, Planning Commission and former Chief Statistician of India.

There are eight MDGs set by the United Nations intended to be achieved by the year 2015. These are eradicate poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. The conclave felt that India was far short of achieving these goals and focused attention needs to be given in particular to reducing child mortality, promoting gender equality and universalisation of primary education.

The civil society organisations in a sarcastic manner said the government has reduced this to a mere academic exercise and regretted that the middle class was not even aware or deeply concerned about the MDGs. The organisations spoke about the stark income and wealth disparities that exist in the country. Dramatising the situation, they said while Mr Mukesh Ambani is building a 40- storey house for his small family on a private island, while a poor man hardly spends Rs 20 a day. The national action plan of the government for achieving the MDGs was merely a paper exercise, with little effort on the ground. They said the highest child mortality in the world is in India adding that 53 per cent of deaths of children are due to malnutrition. The other reasons are girl child not being looked after properly and diseases like pneumonia taking their toll.

The States which have shown promise in achieving MDGs are Kerala, Goa and Tamil Nadu, they said adding that their example needs to be replicated on larger scale. They said the government should improve the working of the National Rural Health Mission(NHRM) and demanded that civil society organisations be involved right from budget planning stage. Dr Sen argued that the government was seriously taking up the issues concerned and these will find a clear reflection in the Twelfth plan. In short, the civil society organisations are aghast at the casual manner in which the government is working towards achieving MDGs and would want a people-centric approach and handling these on a firm footing. - UNI

From http://www.newkerala.com/ 08/23/2010

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MALDIVES: President Establishes Local Government Authority

MALE (HNS) - President Mohamed Nasheed Wednesday established the Local Government Authority as stipulated in article 60 of the Decentralisation Act. The Act states that the authority shall be established to oversee and coordinate the activities of the local councils. According to President's Office, the President also decided that, as stated in article 62(a) of the Act, the Home Minister would be responsible for the authority.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 08/05/2010

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NEPAL: High-Level Committee to Be Formed for Financial Stability

The government is mulling to constitute a high-level committee in order to facilitate coordination between various finance related bodies. Finance Ministry will be acting as coordinator of the proposed committee, which will comprise governor of the Central Bank, president of Security Board, Insurance Board's chief as other members. Similarly, Finance Secretary will be designated as member-secretary of the committee. The Finance Ministry has already submitted the proposal about the constitution of the committee to the cabinet for the latter's endorsement. According to the ministry, the proposition of the committee is gravitated towards addressing the lack of coherence and understanding between the regulatory bodies in order to create a common perception regarding the country's financial sector. As the committee will be fully empowered to exercise its rights, the decision of the same will be implemented without any unwarranted let-ups, said the ministry. The committee also aims to create coordination amongst the concerned agencies in respect to issue of public shares and, amend those acts and regulations which can create contradiction amongst the regulatory bodies in order to ensure financial stability. It is said to be conceptualised to discuss and solve the anomalies between the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) and the Security Board on the issue of public shares apart from sketching new policies and strategies that are needed to foster financial stability in the country.

From http://www.nepalnews.com/ 08/15/2010

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ARMENIA: Become Board Member of International Organization for Standardization

Director of the RA National Institute of Standards Enok Azaryan said that in July Armenia has been elected a board member of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Over 50 countries voted for Armenia's membership in the ISO board, Azaryan told a press conference in Yerevan. "The common methodology of standardization will allow Armenian entrepreneurs to avoid problems with export of their products. All issues related to commerce and trade turnover in 162 countries included in the ISO will be solved through common standardization," he said. Azaryan noted that standardization is carried out on a voluntary basis - at the option of producer. But a company will not be able to enter the European market without standardization. In case of violation of standardization and compliance rules, fines are envisaged at the amount of AMD 100,000-300,000. The Ministry of Agriculture and the Service for Protection of Consumers' Rights carry out inspections on compliance of foodstuffs and non-foods with standards respectively. According to Azaryan, around 20,000 people apply for standardization per year. Meanwhile, the cost of certificate varies from AMD 1.5-3.5mln, depending on type and scope of activity. Certificates are issued for three years. In addition, Azaryan said that the RA National Institute of Standards was awarded an ISO special prize in Tbilisi on July 27. The ISO was established in 1946 by five national organizations for standardization. Currently, the ISO comprises of 162 member states, out of which 105 states are full members of the organization. Armenia has become an ISO member in 1997.

From http://www.panarmenian.net/ 08/03/2010

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AZERBAIJAN: Women's Number in Parliament Should Increase 2-3 Times

Women's number in the Azerbaijani Parliament should increase in two or three times. Chingiz Dadashov, chairman of the Democratic Elections Support Centre said July 30 at the presentation of the ELS Independent Studies Center's project on the topic "Use of international practice to increase women's electoral activity." "At present, women MPs are much more active than their male counterparts. We must use this power and abilities of women," Dadashov said. ELS Independent Studies Center's Irada Yagubova said that an international conference will be held within this project Aug. 24-25 in Ganja with participation of independent experts from the U.S. and representatives of public organizations in the USA and Bulgaria, which work in attracting women to the election. Within the project it is also scheduled to conduct research related to participation of the Ganja region's women in the election. Yagubova said ELS Independent Studies Center has monitored women's participation in the elections in May in this region. The monitoring results will be announced at the conference. Yagubova said women who are going to run for parliamentary elections, will be given the necessary legal assistance and support. ELS's partner in this project is the League of Women Voters of the United States. The project aims at promoting women in political life, as well as bringing the electoral rights of citizens of the regions to the forefront in advance of parliamentary elections, women's participation in decision-making and other matters. The event's participants said that women's electoral activity is growing every year. Thus, women accounted for 3.4 per cent among the elected candidates in the municipal elections in 2004, while in last year's elections - 26.1%. Some 406 women were elected as municipality heads. ELS Independent Studies Center functions for five years. He is responsible for monitoring elections. During the period of existence the organization has held five exit polls.

From http://www.today.az/ 07/31/2010

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Azerbaijan's Economic Development Ministry Creates Opportunity to Communicate with Citizens Online

Ministry of Economic Development (MED) of Azerbaijan on its updated website created a page for communication with citizens, the Ministry said on August 4. "The page on the Ministry's website provides an opportunity for citizens' communication with Ministry's officials online," the same source said. For the first time since August 2, the Ministry's official has received a citizen via video over the Internet. The Ministry is continuing to use the most advanced ICT capabilities. For the first time in Azerbaijan, the Ministry has implemented an electronic signature in the corporate information system of the Ministry. In addition, within the program of the German Technical Assistance Society (GTZ) "Support to the private sector", the Ministry has created a portal for e-commerce www.b2b.az.

From http://www.today.az/ 08/05/2010

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Azerbaijan Expands Pilot Program to Support Low-income Families

According to the recommendation of the World Bank, it is planned to test a program to support low-income families in Guba and Ismayilli regions during a year. It was stated at the meeting of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Labour and Social Protection in Masalli region. A decision was made to initiate work on this program in Masalli region. The program will be realized in 2011. This program will be expanded for the whole country on the basis of corresponding changes to the law on "Targeted social assistance" in 2012. It is scheduled for mid of the next year. Responsible people for social protection centers of Astara, Lankaran, Lerik, Masalli, Yardimli and Jalilabad regions attended the meeting chaired by director of the department on poverty and policy of targeted social assistance in the Ministry Natig Gasimov. The work conducted in execution of the program in the regions was discussed. It was noted that Azerbaijan started to explore the possibilities to use the principles of social assistance, social rehabilitation of poor families, taking into account their current and potential opportunities, and increase family incomes as in many countries. A number of innovations, including the provision of low-income families with social services, maintenance and enhancement of employment for capable members of these families through active measures, the conclusion of a dozen social contracts to create real conditions for more efficient use of targeted assistance aimed to increase family income, will be implemented. The innovations, provided in the system, eliminate the factors causing poverty and create conditions for self-sufficiency of families. As of July 1, 2010, about 132,945 families (603,074 people) get aid. The average amount per family is 112.98 manat, per person - 24.91 manat. About 108,277 people (81.4%) receive benefits for the first time.

From http://www.today.az/ 08/14/2010

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Azerbaijan Adopts Systems Registration Rules

The Azerbaijani government adopted new rules for registering individual information systems data today, the Cabinet of Ministers reported. The rules also address annulling registration. The rules outlines the norms for registering and annulling individual data in the public registry. The Communications and IT Ministry handles the registration of individual information systems in Azerbaijan. According to the new rules, information systems will be allowed to collect and use personal data after having passed registration. A system may not be used after its registration has been revoked. The system's information must be eliminated according to the procedures outlined by legislation.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/23/2010

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Azerbaijani CEC Discusses Free Airtime for Candidates

The Azerbaijani Central Election Commission (CEC) voiced its stance on increasing the amount of free TV airtime for candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections today. "No country in the world discusses this issue because nowhere else are candidates provided with free airtime," CEC Secretary Natig Mammadov said. "One must create a fund and use this fund to achieve objectives and to receive certain powers." Opposition parties expressed discontent with the level of free airtime at a round-table discussion organized by the OSCE Baku Office this week on the media's role in the elections. According to Mammadov, airtime is given to electoral candidates for free only in Azerbaijan. "Perhaps, someone does not want to use other means of propaganda to implement his electoral program and is just waiting for free airtime," he said. Parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan are scheduled for Nov. 7. The elections are held by the majority system in 125 constituencies.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/26/2010

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Civil Service Commission Announces Tender to Create Automated Control System

The Civil Service Commission under the Azerbaijani President has announced an open tender for the creation and implementation of automated control system "Candidates - CSC", the CSC tender commission said. According to the Commission's requirements, the system should allow to control base of admission to vacant positions through an interview and contest with the possibility of receiving documents via the Internet, and include such modules as a "member of the contest commission," "work with reserve cadres," "internal interviews" and etc. Bids are accepted till 17:00 Oct.8. The tender will take place Oct. 15 at 11:00. For more information, please call: 465-87-93 (internal 204).

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/26/2010

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KYRGYZSTAN: Anti-crisis Plan Approved

The new authorities have admitted that "the Kyrgyz Republic turned out to be in crisis, which affected all spheres of life", 24.kg news agency reported. Political events broke out in April and June 2010 in the republic, caused profound economic disruption and social instability. This situation requires the implementation of high priority actions needed to address critical issues and tasks that will facilitate the exit of Kyrgyzstan on medium-term economic growth," the interim government officials explain. The President of transition period Roza Otunbayeva entrusted personal liability on headers of ministerial offices and other government agencies "for quality and timely implementation of anti-crisis plan." The authorities agreed that "the population of regions hit by ethnic clashes fall short of food, medicine and other essentials, and therefore require significant amounts of humanitarian aid". Political instability has had its negative impact on the inflow of investment into the country. Experts register weakening of confidence of the private sector to the state, reduction of liquidity in the banking system. The state budget also experiences difficulties, which are associated with reduced revenue as a result of slow economic growth, reduction of foreign trade and with forced increase of unplanned expenses. Small and medium-sized business suffered serious losses because of the socio-political instability, especially in service sector, tourism, trade. The economy experienced negative effects caused by external demand. Closed state borders with neighboring countries, almost led to the cessation of exports of agricultural products, enterprises of light and processing industries was substantially damaged.

According to preliminary estimates of the Ministry of Economic Regulation of the Kyrgyz Republic, the GDP (gross domestic product) is expected to drop down by 5.4 per cent, despite the forecasted 5.5 percent growth at the beginning of the year, GDP per capita declined from $ 888 to $ 839.4 (that is 48.3 less). General decline in production will be more than 5 per cent. The decline in the services sector will amount to 10.9 per cent, including the trade sector - 18.8 per cent, agriculture - 3.5. Inflation at the same time is expected to be 10.3 per cent. The interim government suggested to implement highest priority measures at the first phase of anti-crisis program up to the end of 2010: to ensure stability of government balance, to support of social stability, to maintain energy, food and public safety. "In order to maintain socio-economic stability and to implement the above mentioned tasks the priority areas of spending budget funds are: 1) solution of the internally displaced persons' problems, payment of compensation to the affected people; 2) provision of public obligations to the population (pensions, benefits, wages of public sector employees); 3) capital expenditure (rehabilitation and development of affected areas, housing construction sector and social infrastructure); 4) preparation for the heat deficit period; 5) support for agro-industrial complex (analysis of the needs of the regions and logistical resources (fuel, seeds, fertilizers), preparing for the autumn sowing); 6) issues related to the liberalization of foreign trade regime with major trading partners; 7) improving tax collection and ensuring revenue to the state budget, ensuring the sustainability of the state budget, the interim government suggested.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/17/2010

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KAZAKHSTAN: Citizens Are in Favor of Presidential Form of Government

Kazakhstan citizens are in favor of presidential form of government. Representatives of Public Fund of the Center of Social and Political Researches 'Strategy' informed at the press conference presenting the results of the research 'Important Events in Internal and Foreign Policy in Public Opinion of Kazakhstan Citizens' conducted in July, 2010, the agency reports. "As a whole, if Kazakhstan citizens have to choose between the presidential or parliamentary forms of government, most of them will prefer presidency, as the most close to their mentality and requirements of modern Kazakhstan form of government. The main thing - that the President has been a strong personality. One of the research questions was - assessment of work of various authorities. "The President's work has been highly estimated - at the level of 89 %. The attitude of the population to conferring to the President of the country the status of the nation's leader has been researched as well. "94 % of respondents know that the President of Kazakhstan, according to the amendments to the legislation, has been given the status of the nation's leader and most of them - 73 % are for this initiative." "20 % - neutral, that is they have no position on this question, and 7 % - do not agree or do not approve these amendments," the President's Public Fund states.

From http://www.kt.kz/ 08/17/2010

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TURKMENISTAN: Membership of Central Commission for Elections and Referendums Approved

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov signed a decree "On approval of members of the Central Commission for Elections and Referendums in Turkmenistan." As the Turkmenistan.ru correspondent reports from Ashgabat, the following membership of the CEC was approved: Chairman - Garriyev Murad; Vice Chairman - Orazmyrat Nyyazlyev and Bayramgul Orazdurdyeva; Secretary of the commission - Bekdurdy Amansaryev. The document also approved membership of the Commission on Elections and Referendums, which includes the deputy governors of provinces and cities of Ashgabat, the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, the Turkmen National Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, Organization of War Veterans, the National Centre of Trade Unions, Women's Union, Youth Organization of Turkmenistan named after Makhtumkuli.

From http://www.turkmenistan.ru/ 07/29/2010

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Turkmenistan to Establish Ministry of Public Utilities

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov issued instructions to look at the possibility of establishing the Ministry of Public Utilities of Turkmenistan at the cabinet meeting on 2 August. According to the president, it is necessary "to systematize and organize the strict and permanent monitoring of works carried out by the city administration on city development. As the Turkmenistan.ru correspondent reports, the President also instructed Deputy Prime Minister Hydyr Saparliyev to take all necessary measures for the timely completion of preparation of schools, childcare facilities for the new school year and to take control of the construction of new schools and kindergartens, having ensured that these facilities are put into operation as planned. Vice-Premier Deryageldi Orazov was instructed to maintain tight control over works carried out by the city administration to prepare for the winter season. "Already today we need to take all measures to ensure uninterrupted operation of heating systems in the houses and electricity supply to the population so that we don't have any problems in the winter time in this respect," Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said.

From http://www.turkmenistan.ru/ 08/03/2010

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Pacific NGO Welcomes Calls for More Engagement with Civil Society

The Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisations has welcomed comments by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretary-General calling for more dialogue and a partnership with civil society. Lack of consultation over the past 2 years has seen relations between civil society organisations and the Pacific Forum sink to an all-time low. The Pacific Island Association on Non-Government Organisations (PIANGO) warmly welcomed the call for a partnership made by Forum Secretary-General Tuiloma Neroni Slade, but it also warned action is needed to make the partnership a reality. Emele Duituturaga, Executive Director of PIANGO, says she hopes the comments by the Forum's Secretary-General, are a sign that things are about to change. "His comments are certainly welcome. And I think there is a real desire, there is recognition of NGOs (Non-Government Organisations) and CSOs (Civil society organisations)," she said. "But I'd have to say that has been the tenure of intentions that we've heard of in the last year so the challenge for both of us now is to move into some action."

Behind the scenes that action is already underway. Last month PIANGO held talks with the Forum Secretary-General to look at how it could work more closely with the region's peak body. Ms Duituturaga says those talks were are breakthrough, and she says she was particularly interested to hear Secretary-General Slade tell Pacific Beat that he wants a partnership strategy with civil society groups. "I think that would be the first concrete commitment is to develop that strategy...to bringing CSOs to a round-table dialogue to develop that strategy." "There are some mechanisms which are in place which have not been working, for example, PIANGO and 5 other CSOs have consultative status but we have not really been consulted so it raises questions about what does having that status mean," she said. "We've also applied for accreditation to a number of official meetings. I think it is now for the forum secretariat to identify what meetings PIANGO and other CSOs could attend"PIANGO also wants the secretariat to release European Union funds for civil society and to find money to fill its position for a Civil Society Advisor.

Ms Duituturaga says these issue need action and she would like to see civil society offered a formal dialogue at the Pacific Leaders summit. "It would be great to have the opportunity in a similar way those private sector leaders from PIPSO (Pacific Island Private Sector Organisation) directly with the leaders." "Civil society leaders have wanted that and I am sure that would be a great step in the right direction, plus also to have agenda items that civil societies have contributed to."

From http://www.radioaustralianews.net.au/ 08/18/2010

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IFC Launches New Pacific Microfinance Initiative

The International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank group, has launched a new microfinance initiative for the Pacific. The 12.3 million dollar project will provide funding to microfinance organisations in Papua New Guinea, the Pacific and East Timor. It follows shortly after the Pacific Islands Forum's first Private Sector Dialogue which highlighted the need for greater availability of microfinance.

Presenter: Jemima Gerrett
Speaker: Deva de Silva, from the International Finance Corporation

DE SILVA: The priority or the focus here is the lower income segments of the economies in the Pacific Island countries, starting from Timor Leste to PNG and all the other Pacific countries. So the projects and the focus will be at the microfinance and the small business segments of these markets.

GARRETT: Your first partner is the South Pacific Business Development Foundation, why that organisation?
DE SILVA: As I see always does in rolling out its programs of this nature we undertake scoping, and that scoping was done in about six or seven priority countries in this whole program, and in Samoa, Tonga, these are countries where the financial inclusion numbers are very low. And we looked for potential partners and we identified SPBD as a partner that has access to the grassroots level, and also access to the rural sector, and also access to the women in their portfolio, which were three key criteria that we looked at in terms of identifying partners. So this was identified as an initial partner but I must tell you that it's only just one of the initial pipeline. It's just that we brought it out because we've kind of signed up and ready to go with this project, but the others that we have which will come along in the near few months actually are very similar, and this should give an indication of our direction.

GARRETT: You are trying some new ideas, for instance you say you're willing to fund mobile phone companies and agri-business to provide microfinance. Why do you see potential there?
DE SILVA: In the Pacific one key issue that is that the rural segment is 80 per cent of the population but is not linked or integrated into the economy. And the other is that these pockets of people live geographically dispersed. I mean this is very common in all the countries in fact in our Pacific region, in the smaller nations especially. So what we have looked for is more novelty ways of reaching these people because the traditional bank branches, brick and mortar branches as we call them, it's not a viable way forward, and running it in a practical and viable and commercial and financial manner is not feasible. So we've looked at different models; can we link up larger coffee exporters or the large agri-supply captive buyers with rural or grower farmers through agri-supply chain channels, and supply chain programs? Or can we look at the phone where the penetration levels have been tremendous in the Pacific, can we use the phone as a means of reaching the under-banked or unbanked populations in these regions. So we're looking for things a little beyond the traditional way of bringing financial services to the rural sector.

GARRETT: Twelve-point-three million dollars is not a lot of money and this project covers a lot of countries. Do microfinance organisations need to get in quickly if they want to secure some funding?
DE SILVA: The 12-point-three that you're referring to is our initial funding envelope that the IFC and AusAid has put together, and going forward we expect other donors to join in, and we expect that the lessons learnt will help us expand this program and to go more deeper in the markets in the Pacific countries.

GARRETT: How will you make sure that some of these microfinance projects get out to countries that haven't had microfinance before?
DE SILVA: Jemima that's a very interesting question because some of these countries are very small, you're talking of countries that have a population of 100-thousand, 65-thousand. So in nations of that nature starting them green field microfinance institution locally sometimes may not be viable. On the other hand there may not be potential partners who can do that. So in the Pacific we're trying to take a more regional approach. We're trying to see how we can develop a partner who is well established in one country expand beyond that country to another country, and then to a third country. This has a few advantages; one is that this gives this particular entity commercial sustainability, gives them the size and gives them the ability to share their learning experiences across the region. And the other is that for the countries that do not have the capacity to come up with a green field institution, which is commercially sustainable, they get access to products, access to an institution that has a tested system and proven methodology of serving the unbanked. So we are taking a more regional approach rather than an in-country approach, in expandiing this outreach.

From http://www.radioaustralianews.net.au/ 08/27/2010

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AUSTRALIA: Food Security on Its Election Agenda

The emerging concerns over Australia's food security have seen both political parties move to address the issue as part of the election campaign. The governing Labor Party says it will add a national food policy to its list of election promises, while the opposition Liberal Party has already promised a food security minister at cabinet level if it wins. Professor Bill Bellotti, a sustainable agriculture expert at the University of Western Sydney, has told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program some Australian indigenous, rural and remote communities don't have enough food or sufficient access to food. But he says there are other perhaps more surprising cases. "Despite us exporting two thirds of the food we produce in this country there are sectors that are food insecure," he said. "For example, in South West Sydney a study has shown that 20 per cent of the population is food insecure at some time during the year." Professor Bellotti says food security policy must encompass a wide range of issues.

Agriculture minister Tony Burke says his party's initial announcement of its national food policy provides a good mix. "It's an attempt to start to look at the whole of that value chain and to start to find where along the value chain we can find efficiencies, where along the value chain we can create issues that improve food affordability and that also go to the sustainability of food production in Australia," he said. The opposition's agriculture spokesman, John Cobb, is critical of the policy - saying there's no funding attached and the focus is wrong. "It looks at domestic and international food security, issues which affect food affordability, the sustainability of our food systems," he said. "Now, he's more interested in after it's left the farm than doing anything about the people who matter the most, those who produce all those things."

The minority Greens Party says the food policy must protect arable land from expanding cities to ensure food security. Climate change and energy spokesperson, Christine Milne, says Australia's food policy must have a global dimension too, pointing to the food riots of 2007-8 as a portent of things to come. "Australia is one of six countries which is a net exporter of food," she said. "We have got a responsibility not only to grow for ourselves, but to make sure that we are producing as much as we can to feed into the global food markets, so that we head off what inevitably is going to come and that is famine and insecurity as a result of climate change."

From http://www.radioaustralianews.net.au/ 08/04/2010

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Australian Political Leaders Take Questions From Undecided Voters

Australia's Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has taken the stage at a Returned Serviceman's League club in western Sydney to answer questions from undecided voters. But he soon stepped off and began his address "on your level" with the audience of 200 people chosen by a polling company. Just prior to his appearance, Prime Minister Julia Gillard spent an hour being quizzed about the ousting of former prime minister Kevin Rudd, health, education, gay marriage and the issue of trust. She put forward her case for the Government's re-election by again saying that keeping the economy strong is "at the centre of everything". "My focus as prime minister is having an economic plan for the future ... I don't believe Mr Abbott has an economic plan to keep our economy strong," she said. "This is all about your choice, who you want to lead the country - you'll be thinking about the past, you'll be thinking about the future."

Ms Gillard told the audience she is committed to delivering on all the promises she makes during the campaign. "There have been some big changes coming off what was not a good legacy from the previous government when we came in - that's obviously not getting agreement in all parts of the audience - so I'm saying to you directly, everything we do is fully funded, fully costed and fully deliverable," she said. Mr Abbott goes into the forum with a $AU750 million Murray-Darling river plan he announced in South Australia today. The plan includes pumping 150 billion litres of water back into the Lower Lakes and Coorong, fixing inefficient irrigation infrastructure on farms and starting a Menindee lakes re-engineering plan to save water. Last week Ms Gillard challenged Mr Abbott to a debate on the economy, but Mr Abbott refused.

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 08/11/2010

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Gillard Fights Surge to Fast-finishing Coalition

HUGE swings against the Gillard government in the states of Queensland and NSW in the dying days of the campaign have split the national vote. Labor and the Coalition are going to the polls today in a photo-finish. According to a Newspoll survey, conducted exclusively for The Weekend Australian with 2500 voters from Tuesday to Thursday, Labor has 50.2 per cent support on a two-party-preferred basis to the Coalition's 49.8 per cent. Based on preference flows at the 2007 election, Labor has suffered a 2.5 percentage point swing away from it since the election and a 1.8 point swing against it since last weekend. Labor's primary vote is 36.2 per cent, with the Coalition on 43.4 per cent and the Greens on 13.9 per cent. A national uniform swing of 2.5 per cent against Labor would wipe out the government's majority, with the loss of 13 seats, and result in a hung parliament.

Labor has suffered in its primary vote in Queensland in the last week of the campaign, down eight percentage points in just three days to 27 per cent, compared with 42.9 per cent in 2007. In NSW, Labor's primary vote is down from 39 per cent to 35 per cent, compared with 44.5 per cent at the last election. This suggests Labor could lose up to 25 seats in those states alone - far more than it could pick up in South Australia and Victoria, where there is a swing to Labor. A Nielsen poll in Fairfax newspapers today puts Labor ahead 52 to 48 per cent on the two-party-preferred vote, while on primary votes, the Coalition's lead is only 41.5 to 39 per cent. A Roy Morgan poll for the Seven Network put Labor ahead 51-49 on two-party-preferred.

Yesterday Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott campaigned furiously on the final day before the polls open this morning, both warning the election was on a knife edge and urging their supporters to vote for them. The Prime Minister launched into a scare campaign, claiming the Opposition Leader would reintroduce Work Choices on Monday if he were to win. Mr Abbott said Labor did not "deserve a second chance" after failing in its first term. Fearing a protest vote against Labor in NSW and Queensland - and resentment about the removal of Kevin Rudd as prime minister - Ms Gillard said federal voting would not change Labor premiers and that Mr Rudd was urging a vote for Labor. "On the very first day of this election campaign I said this would be tough, this would be tight, this would be close. The election is tough, it's tight, it's close," she told ABC radio in Brisbane.

"What I would say to people is whatever view people have about their state government, whether it's in Queensland or any other part of the nation, how they vote tomorrow will not change their state government. People will wake up on Monday and, if they live in Queensland, Anna Bligh will be Premier. If they live in Victoria, John Brumby will be. If they live in Western Australia, Colin Barnett will be. There is no way of voting tomorrow that changes your state premier. "The real risk here is that Tony Abbott will be prime minister of this country on Sunday." The Newspoll survey reveals Ms Gillard has come from behind to go into the election with an eight-point lead over Mr Abbott on the question of which leader is best at handling the economy. She maintains a 13-point lead on who would be a better prime minister - 50 per cent to 37 per cent. However, in Queensland Mr Abbott is equal with Ms Gillard.

From http://australianit.news.com.au/ 08/21/2010

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Australian Political Uncertainty Continues

Australia is in for weeks and possibly months of negotiations to finalise its first minority government in seventy years, after the indecisive general election. However negotiations can't progress until the outcome is known in several crucial seats where some votes are still flowing in. To form government, Labor or the Liberal-National Coalition must control 76 seats in the House of Representatives. Both parties are claiming the right to form a minority government and have opened talks with three independents and up to three other minority MPs in the race to get the numbers. Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard has warned it will take some time to negotiate the next government. Ms Gillard says she's back in Canberra to continue the work of government and begin negotiations with a Green MP and several independents who will hold the balance of power.

She says there are two key questions for those MPs to consider. "Which party is best able to form a stable and effective government in the national interest, which party can best process the business of the people of Australia and get legislation passed, and I would say that it is the Government that is best able to undertake those tasks," she said. Ms Gillard was ignoring bitter recriminations within her party, over the Labor party's poor performance at the election. Meanwhile her opponent Tony Abbott is also ready to negotiate to form government, though the handful of minority MPs is proceeding cautiously. It's possible Labor and the Coalition will win between 72 and 74 seats in their own right, depending on how several undecided seats fall. One of those seats could produce a fourth independent.

A Green also elected at the weekend poll and a conservative from Western Australia who's signalled he will behave as an independent are the additional minority players. All players are proceeding cautiously. The independents say they're committed to stable government but will have to define what that means to maximise their influence. Three of the independents say their priority issues are stable government, as well as health, broadband communications and sustaining the rural sector. But there's also a push to use what will be Australia's first hung Parliament in seventy years to reform Australia's adversarial political style, with the independents demanding a more cooperative approach. Meanwhile, the vote count could take weeks.

Phil Diak, from the Australian Electoral Commission, says up to two million postal and other votes are now being counted and says that could take some time. "We allow up to thirteen days, that's Friday week, for postals to reach us and traditionally there are some postal votes that go right down to the wire, that last day in reaching us that come from overseas," he said. The constitutional deadline for the outcome to go to the Governor-General is October 27.

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 08/23/2010

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Greens Is the Biggest Winner of Australia's General Election

Australia election outcome is uncertain whether Labor or the Coalition to win the minority government of the first hung Parliament in 70 years, but one thing is clear that Greens have won a golden result in the 2010 general election. Up to Friday, 83.16 percent of votes have been counted by Australian Electorate Commission, and the Greens party will control the balance of power in the Senate from July 1 next year, after six more Greens senators were elected, taking their total representation to nine. Greens' member of Parliament Adam Bandt also swept to a historic victory in the seat of Melbourne, becoming the first Greens candidate elected to the House of Representatives at a general election.

Greens Leader Bob Brown said the poll, which saw a predicted 3. 7 percent swing towards them in the primary vote, proved the party was a genuine third force in Australian politics. "It looks like we'll have nine senators in the new Parliament, a party room of 10," Senator Brown told Australian Associated Press on Saturday's election night. "From where I sit, that's a greenslide." Swinburne University professor of political science, Brian Costar, said the Greens' success did not come out of the blue. "It wasn't a flash-in-the-pan result - it was building on earlier strengths," Prof Costar told ABC News on Friday. "The Greens have done well in elections in recent years. They' ve been racking up some quite respectable vote tallies, and of course they've been doing well in the Senate. "We shouldn't have been surprised. If you pick a winner out of the election, it was definitely the Greens."

Elected member of Parliament Bandt has nominated pushing for a price on carbon, the abolition of mandatory detention of asylum seekers and changing the law to recognize same-sex marriages as his top priorities in Parliament. Bandt has also indicated he will side with a Labor government in the hung parliament, despite his leader's desire to be more circumspect. Professor Costar said Bandt's victory is "particularly significant" to hold the balance of power in Parliament. "It's something that the Greens' predecessors - the Democrats and in the dark past the Democratic Labor Party - could never do," he said. However, some speculated the Greens will struggle with their increased power. Liberal backbencher Malcolm Turnbull is one such doubter. "I think the Greens will struggle to maintain their political purity when they actually have the responsibility of real political power, because the truth is there are none so pure as the impotent," Turbull said on Q&A television program on ABC TV.

But Professor Costar thinks the Greens' Senate experience will be successful. "While they haven't held the balance of power in their own right, they have had situations where they have shared that and they've got a mixture of experienced people in the Senate and new people. I don't think there will be any problems there. "Neither do I think there will be any problems in the Lower House, where the Greens are not terribly central to the formation of the Government." The Greens earlier have signaled they plan to introduce private member's bills on same-sex marriage. Other issues likely to see the light of day in the Lower House include treatment of asylum seekers, introduction of a carbon tax, and an end to the federal intervention in the aboriginal regions of Northern Territory. More populist issues taken by the Greens to the election include a ban on junk food advertisement, a national recycling program and free university. While negotiation has begun between the two parties and three independents, as well as Bandt, who are likely to decide which of the two major parties forms a minority Australian government, it remains to be seen whether other Greens policies start to look more enticing to the major parties in the coming days and weeks.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90001/90777/90851/7120688.html

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COOK ISLANDS: Nov 17 Election

The general election will be held on November 17 according to Prime Minister Jim Marurai. Marurai made the announcement as soon as Parliament began its sitting yesterday. The PM said Parliament will be dissolved on September 24 just two days before the current four year term of government expires. The date of the election has been a hotly debated topic since last December's rift in the governing Democratic Party led to calls from the MPs outside of Marurai's then five member cabinet for Queen's Representative Sir Frederick Goodwin to dissolve Parliament and call an early election. The November 17 election has been declared a general election, but is technically a snap election because Parliament will be dissolved prior to the end of its term. Snap elections are more generally defined as early and unexpected elections.

Over the past two weeks, government had been considering an October snap election by dissolving parliament early and allowing less than sixty days to prepare for polling day. The electoral office has been preparing for the election since last year and chief electoral officer, Secretary of Justice Mark Short has held several discussions with cabinet and MPs over the past week leading up to the announcement. - HG

From http://www.cinews.co.ck/ 08/13/2010

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FIJI: Law Society President Found Guilty of Misconduct

The President of the Fiji Law Society, Dorsami Naidu, has been found guilty of seven charges of unsatisfactory professional conduct and of professional misconduct. The complaints reportedly relate to matters such as bills, and information to clients. However, the head of Fiji's Independent Legal Services Commission, John Connors, has dismissed seven other charges. Two separate charges have also been withdrawn by the Chief Registrar. The matter has been adjourned for mitigation before the penalties are handed down by the Legal Services Commissioner.

From http://www.radioaustralianews.net.au/ 08/16/2010

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NEW ZEALAND: PM Makes a Case for Compulsory Super

Prime Minister John Key is setting out a compelling case for compulsory superannuation and says public opinion has shifted since it was rejected in a 1997 referendum. The Government hasn't made any decisions and is going to wait for recommendations from a panel of experts which will consider all the issues around retirement savings. It would start with a blank sheet, with nothing ruled in or out, but there would be no change to existing national superannuation levels and eligibility, Mr Key said today. He went on at his post-cabinet press conference to explain why it was "a serious issue" which had to be addressed. "I want to see national savings rise so we are less reliant on foreign borrowing," he said.

"The global crisis showed that if you rely very heavily on foreign borrowing, as New Zealand is doing, eventually it catches up with you." If nothing was done New Zealand would become more and more in debt and would become a riskier proposition for foreign lenders. "Our total foreign debt is running at around 90 per cent of GDP," he said. "That puts us up there with countries like Greece, Ireland and Iceland... the difference between them and us is that their debt is dominated by government borrowing, ours is dominated by private sector debt." Mr Key said New Zealand's net debt to the world - government, households and businesses - had jumped from about $100 billion in 2000 to almost $180b today and was forecast to reach about $250b in 2014.

He said he thought there had been a shift in opinion since 92 per cent of voters rejected compulsory superannuation in the 1997 referendum. "I think New Zealanders have come to realise they're going to live longer, so even with the retirement age at 65 they're going to be much more active in their retirement," he said. "And relying solely on national super... puts them in a precarious position." He said that was why so many people had joined KiwiSaver. Mr Key said any decisions that came from the expert group's recommendations could become part of next year's budget, or they could be issues which National campaigned on at the next election.

"If we identify and are convinced New Zealand has a vulnerability because of its high foreign debt, and also that New Zealanders aren't as well prepared for their retirement as we might like them to be, then we need to consider our response," he said. Labour's finance spokesman, David Cunliffe, said he didn't have a problem with the Government seeking advice from experts but he thought it surprising the Government had no plan of its own. "Outsourcing the problem to a savings working group is tantamount to an admission that any effects from tax changes have been minimal, and National has nowhere else to go," he said. Labour leader Phil Goff said his party was working on a superannuation policy and did not rule out a compulsory model.

"We absolutely have to increase our savings as a country," he said. United Future leader Peter Dunne, who is Minister of Revenue, said his party had been backing a compulsory KiwiSaver scheme since 2007. "When I raised it with Labour in the previous Parliament they weren't keen, when I raised it with the National Party earlier this term, they weren't keen," he said. "I'm delighted to see they may be coming to the table."

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 08/17/2010

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National Government's Clear Focus on Work

Legislation aiming to break the cycle of welfare dependancy and get more people in work signals a turning point says Social Development Minister Paula Bennett. Changes to welfare law rebalancing incentives and obligations and providing a greater focus on work, are fair and reasonable says Ms Bennett. "I know these are tough times but you won't find a job unless you're looking and that's what we expect people to do," says Ms Bennett. This week legislation extending the 90-day trial period to all employers and employees also takes another step in Parliament."This is a great week for New Zealand, with two pieces of legislation encouraging job opportunities and removing the barriers to work," says Ms Bennett. "This Government is growing a stronger economy, creating more jobs for New Zealanders and making it easier for employers to take on staff," says Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson.

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill will be read for the first time today. Changes to the welfare system include: Work testing for DPB recipients with a youngest child aged six and over; Unemployment Beneficiaries required to re-apply after one year; Increased abatement rates making 28,000 people better off; Effective sanctions that don't penalise dependant children. The Social Security (New Work Tests, Incentives and Obligations) Amendment Bill passed 65-55 last night.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 08/19/2010

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SOLOMON ISLANDS: Electoral Commission Wants Free and Fair Voting

The Solomon Islands Electoral Commission is advising people to allow the voting process to proceed freely and fairly, following rumours of widespread vote buying ahead of tomorrow's election. The chair of the commission Sir Peter Kenilorea says such voter behaviour could lead to election results being challenged in court. Jo O'Brien reports from Solomon Islands. "Sir Peter says while he's yet to receive a report of a specific incident, there are rumours of vote buying in many constituencies. He says there's talk of candidates providing people with fares to go home for voting, or with goods such as solar lighting. The commission chairman says the law is very clear on such behaviour, with the penalty for bribery or undue influence increased for this election, to more than 600 US dollars or up to six months imprisonment. Sir Peter says if people make complaints such incidents could end up in court as an election petition, but there have not been many successful legal challenges in the past."

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 08/02/2010

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Solomons Politicians Begin Coalition Government Talks

Intense negotiations to form the next coalition government in Solomon Islands are underway. Caretaker Prime Minister Derek Sikua says he's confident he'll retain his job and form government despite losing several key allies in the election. Opposition leader Manasseh Sogavare is also jockeying to gain support despite his party suffering heavy losses in the polls. The Solomons Electoral Commission has announced 25 returning MPs and 24 newcomers, with one seat in Malaita Outer Islands yet to be counted. However none of the 25 women contesting seats were successful. Sarah Dyer, a senior representative at the National Council of Women, says there'll be no women represented in the national parliament this time round. "We get alot of support from both men, women and young people...[who think] that the country needs women in parliament and then when the election results come it's the other way around."

From http://www.radioaustralianews.net.au/ 08/11/2010

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New Solomons PM Pledges Responsible Leadership

The new prime minister of Solomon Islands, Danny Philip has pledged to lead the nation responsibly. Mr Philip was on Wednesday morning declared the new leader of Solomon Island, beating the only other candidate Steve Abana by three votes. He received 26 votes to 23 for Mr Abana with one ballot paper spoilt. The vote of 50 MP's was held amid tight security at Parliament House in Honiara to avoid any repeat of the riots that followed the 2006 vote. The new prime minister says he's honoured to be leading the island nation. "Today I stand here before you in this honourable house with great humility but with a great sense of awe and responsibility, which I have never experienced in my life before," he said. "Eight Solomon Islanders have taken this podium in the past and have given similar assurances to the people and have taken their oaths." "I'm taking this responsibility today as the prime minister of my beloved Solomon Islands."

From http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/ 08/25/2010

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TONGA: PM Says Further Steps Needed to Protect Regional Fish Stocks

The Prime Minister of Tonga has spoken of the critical need for Pacific island countries to take further steps to protect regional fish stocks. Dr Feleti Sevele and other leaders at the 41st Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit in Port Vila have received a presentation from the Forum Fisheries Agency on the state of regional fisheries. He says the Agency's paper, co-authored by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, has clearly spelt out the regional threat from illegal and unregulated fishing. "The fisheries situation in the Pacific and the need to conserve and the need for us to get into agreements that will protect our resources from being overfished and also from poaching from other nations." The Prime Minister of Tonga, Dr Feleti Sevele.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 08/04/2010

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Should Asia Look to Europe as an Example of Regional Integration?

The regional integration of national capital markets and the cross-border sharing of information and knowledge have never been more important for Asia, in our opinion. Asia is building on recent growth momentum and looking for productive ways to use its rapidly expanding wealth for its own benefit - and to meet its own urgent development needs - in favour of seeing that wealth flow out to other markets. We are far from suggesting an inward-looking regionalism, however. Globalisation is good for Asia; the international flow of goods, capital, and knowledge has been - and will continue to be - integral to the region's development. But Asia does need to take concrete steps toward boosting its self-sufficiency in the interests of its long-term growth. The global financial crisis taught us the crucial role that local financial markets can play in instilling regional stability and it is in the region's long-term interests that its cross-border linkages are strong, balanced, and productive.

Given the region's scope and diversity, it would be unrealistic and unproductive to expect it to come together as some kind of tight-knit union of national financial markets in a one-size-fits-all manner. Asia is a diverse and evolving collection of economies at different stages of development and its financial markets often function in ways that differ from the traditional Anglo-American model. We envisage, instead, an alliance of national financial markets, preserving some differences but standardising and harmonising a range of enabling financial practices and legislative frameworks. Asia's diversity can be a strength provided that its market players and policymakers can find coordinated ways to provide financial resources where most needed, and to create attractive regional investment options and returns for regional and global investors.But how is the right balance of integration and local diversity best achieved? Just as the world will continue to learn from Asia's story of resilience and growth during recent difficult times, we believe that Asia will be well served by looking to Europe and assessing the ongoing effects, good and otherwise, of Europe's own regional integration since the 1990s.

Europe remains an example of fundamental tenets
Europe, despite its current sovereign credit concerns, remains an example of the broad goals that, in our opinion, Asia's policymakers, regulators and market participants cannot afford to ignore. In this regard, we believe that there are three tenets so inherent in the European marketplace, and so imbued in the collective mindset of its participants, that they have fundamentally defined its development over the past two decades, and inform its character today. The first is information. By this, we refer not only to transparent and accessible financial information, but also to the depth and quality of information that comes with time - the deeper knowledge of credit track records built up over years. The second is accessibility. In Europe, local and regional investors can access cross-border capital and equities markets and make the most of opportunities. Global investors can access the region much more easily than is the case in some parts of Asia.

The third tenet is consistency. By this we mean that there is consistency across borders, so that national economies are more-or-less as open as each another, and consistency of regulation such that investors favour the region as a whole, rather than channelling funds into selected economies and away from those perceived as less-open and more-difficult.Let's take a brief look at what's happened in Europe in the past decade or so. Corporate and government bond markets have expanded significantly; in 2008, total financial assets in the eurozone were $42 trillion, compared with $55 trillion in the US. Since the introduction of the euro to financial markets in 1999, Europe's bond markets have become deeper and more liquid and the euro has surpassed the dollar as the most important currency for international bond and note issuance. By 2008, euro-denominated issuance made up nearly half the universe of international bonds and notes.

Another development of particular relevance to the Asian story is that Europe's stock market landscape has evolved to eschew national borders, more or less in step with the spirit and overarching intent of the European Union itself. In Europe, market participants are now basing decisions increasingly on industry and company factors and less so on country-specific factors, as stock markets across the region have become increasingly integrated. Europe-wide funds have also become a major market component; their share in the aggregate equity landscape has risen substantially in the past decade. Also, Europe has seen rapid progress in the development of a mature and sophisticated credit culture, as well as a market that is deep and liquid enough to embrace, and benefit from, innovative and complex financial instruments. With this maturity and depth comes a certain resilience - current sovereign credit concerns notwithstanding. While GDP growth for most European sovereigns has weakened, bond issuance has remained vibrant and there has been a healthy level of new ratings. Even its high-yield bond market has continued to develop.

Along with the positive lessons, heed the warnings
But, while Europe offers many positive lessons for Asia, it also comes with warnings. There is the need to rebalance Asia's growth model vis-¨¤-vis competitiveness of industry and improvements to productivity. Some of the problems currently plaguing parts of the EU relate to the lack of competitiveness, and reflect a paucity of the right kind of investment over time. In Europe, we're seeing where unsustainable growth paths can lead - where an over-reliance on easy credit fuels the asset-price bubbles that cascade to entrenched credit and macroeconomic problems. In Europe there is also the risk that regulators, in response to the recent crisis, will place tougher regulations on banks on a country-by-country basis, which would weaken the cohesion of the region's financial markets. When individual governments implement local regulations, there is always the danger that this might weaken the competitiveness and attractiveness of their financial markets. In dialogues with regulators and financial supervisory boards, Standard & Poor's has stressed how critical it is to ensure consistency across regions when enacting new regulations and rules. We also have recently communicated with the Basel Committee on the Basel III set of new prudential rules that will apply to financial institutions, and we have stressed that some of the proposals could make it more difficult for banks to finance economic expansion.

Stronger cross-border linkages and greater accessibility
So, while we are far from positing Europe as a model for Asia to slavishly copy, we do believe that Asia may be well served by picking up on some of what has been achieved in this more advanced region. For example, Asia's public finance environment may witness a much-needed revamping and rebalancing of sovereign- versus local- and regional-government expenditure and revenue obligations. Reforms that allow all levels of government better access to capital markets will signal a positive step in this direction, and will be key to a deepening of capital markets in Asia and - consequently - the eventual alleviation of pressure on sovereign finances. Another key priority for Asia will be policies that promote and enable strong cross-border linkages, and mechanisms that allow for the better rechanneling of Asia's funds back into its own markets. Alongside this will be the goal of improving global investors' access to Asia's markets, which goes hand-in-hand with the development of fair and consistent regulation across those markets.

Conclusion
Most of Asia's economies posted better-than-expected growth in the second quarter. In the face of such momentum - in some cases it has been quite spectacular - we believe that it is imperative that policymakers and regulators do not lose sight of constraints such as insufficient social welfare, widespread poverty, and inadequate financial and legal frameworks. If unchecked, these factors will only act as dampeners to long-term growth and development. In our opinion, there remains a lot of work to be done to make sure that Asia grows and develops in a balanced and sustainable manner, and the challenges of regional financial markets integration will need to be continually addressed. We believe that the deeper, more liquid, and more inter-linked the region's capital markets become, the sooner the region's economies will be able to make the transition from emerging to established market status and achieve the sustained growth that will enhance quality of life across the region.

From http://www.financeasia.com/ 07/30/2010

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APEC Seeks 'Quality' Growth in Next 10 Years

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum will seek to improve the 'quality' of its growth over the next 10 years so that the benefits of its economic integration efforts can be shared in the region, a draft of the APEC growth strategy obtained by Kyodo News showed. Under an action plan included in the draft long-term comprehensive growth strategy, which the 21-member forum is to finalize later this year, the Pacific Rim economies are expected to implement structural reforms that place priority on such areas as developing smaller businesses and enhancing opportunities for women. To ensure the strategy's implementation, the draft stipulates that an interim report to the leaders be prepared in 2015 to evaluate progress, and a final report in 2020.

Noting that economic integration has in some cases revealed disparities within and between economies, the draft said, "It is clear APEC members cannot continue with 'growth as usual,' and 'growth quality' needs to be improved, so it is more balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure." Japan, as this year's chair of APEC, is taking the lead in drafting the growth strategy which the leaders agreed to formulate in a meeting in Singapore last year, the first such initiative for the forum since its launch in 1989.The substance of the strategy will be discussed at the upcoming high-level meeting to be held in Oita Prefecture on Aug. 7-8, and finalized in November when the leaders of the members gather in Yokohama for an annual summit. The need to compile a growth strategy came against the background of the global financial crisis triggered in 2008, which showed that the market mechanism alone wouldn't result in desirable growth in the region, according to a Japanese government official.

But Japan may face difficulty in further working out specifics of the strategy, given the diversity economically of the members constituting the forum, with one senior Foreign Ministry official saying that talks in Oita Prefecture may "end up with abstract discussions." The other government official said that countries such as China are especially sensitive about discussing in detail issues related to reforming domestic systems as they don't want to be seen as having had structural change "imposed" from the outside. APEC, which accounts for more than half the world's economic output and 44% of its trade by value, involves such members as Australia, China, Peru, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States, and some of the countries that belong to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. As for balanced growth, the draft strategy says that APEC economies will maintain growth-oriented policies "until durable private demand is secured," while showing wariness over excess volatility and disorderly movements in exchange rates.

"All economies will pursue exchange rates that reflect economic fundamentals," the draft said. The draft also calls for the need to work to facilitate access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises and women entrepreneurs as part of efforts to realize "inclusive growth" that can ensure that all citizens have the opportunity to thrive in the global market economy. To achieve more balanced and inclusive growth, the action plan to implement the strategy says that senior officials of the member economies should implement a new strategy for structural reform, which will "contribute to higher quality growth across the board," according to the draft. Other issues covered by the action plan include the need to design a "Green Growth Plan" to enhance APEC-wide coordination to mitigate climate change by promoting low-carbon technologies, and efforts to create a regional business environment to foster innovation and protect intellectual property.

From http://www.mb.com.ph/ 08/01/2010

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Countries Gather in New York to Focus on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment

The 2010 Annual Ministerial Review, held during the High-level Segment of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), unfolded in New York from 28 June to 2 July 2010 and went into high gear on Gender issues by focusing on the theme, "Implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to gender equality and empowerment of women". At the meeting, delegations drew on the Beijing+15 global review to assess the progress made in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted in 1995. The discussions aimed to contribute to the 2010 High Level Plenary Meeting of the 65th General Assembly - the MDG Summit - to be held in September. The gathering ended with the adoption of a ministerial declaration re-asserting ECOSOC's commitment to achieving gender equality globally. At the AMR, thirteen developing and developed countries - Australia, Brazil, France, Guatemala, Moldova, Mongolia, Namibia, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Republic of Korea and United States - reported on the progress they have made towards the MDGs, particularly on gender. Mrs. Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile and Professor Frances Stewart, Chair of the Committee for Development Policy, delivered keynote addresses that focused on gender equality and empowerment of women.

A thematic debate highlighted the "Current global and national trends and their impact on gender equality and empowerment of women". The debate tackled the interconnections between gender equality and the empowerment of women, ensuring food security, dealing with climate change, and the impacts of the global financial crisis, and gave special attention to improving the lives of women in countries in special situations and conflict/post-crisis zones. As part of the High-level Segment of ECOSOC, the 2010 High-level Development Cooperation Forum (DCF) was also organized on 29-30 June. The DCF brought together a wide range of stakeholders to discuss key development cooperation issues with a view of providing policy orientations towards more accountable, coherent and effective development cooperation, thereby contributing to the deliberations of the MDG Summit in September.

Several side events and informal meetings were also organized, a number of which featured Bank participation. Carlos Braga (Acting VP and Corporate Secretary) participated in the HLS Development Cooperation Forum policy dialogue, "Impact of multiple crises: allocating resources among competing needs", while LCR HD Director Keith Hansen participated in an interactive plenary of the coordination segment on "Coordinating efforts for achieving the health-related MDGs". One of the major events was a policy dialogue on the last day of the High-level Segment, where representatives of the international financial and trade institutions - including the World Bank - gathered to discuss the state of the world economy and its implications for the achievement of the MDGs. Otaviano Canuto, Vice President of PREM, represented the Bank and highlighted the continued and scaled-up efforts of the Bank on gender issues as part of its drive to achieve the MDGs and cushion the impacts of the global economic crisis.

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 08/04/2010

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'Central Asia Needs Cultural Approach'

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the problems in Central Asia do not have a military solution and resolving them requires a cultural approach. Speaking at the closing ceremony of the tripartite summit of Persian-speaking countries in Tehran on Thursday, Ahmadinejad criticized unsuccessful military attempts by extra-regional forces in Central Asian countries namely in Afghanistan. "Foreign presence in the region has not helped resolve regional problems and has instead complicated them, and created more troubles for regional nations," IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. Ahmadinejad emphasized the benefits of attaining peace and security in Afghanistan, calling for the formation of an independent and legitimate government in the country. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, who singed a declaration with their Iranian counterpart on different political, cultural, economic and anti-terrorism issues, attended the one-day summit held in Tehran.

From http://rds.yahoo.com/ 08/06/2010

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ASEAN, UN and USAID Conduct Major International Exercise to Prepare for Severe Pandemic

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the United Nations and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), will shortly host a pandemic preparedness and response exercise focusing on managing the impacts of severe pandemics on societies, governments and organisations in the Southeast Asian region. The exercise, which is a first of its kind anywhere in the world, will take place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on 16-20 August 2010. It is expected to attract over 170 high-level participants from governments, UN agencies, international bodies and non-governmental organisations. The unprecedented event aims to improve the capabilities of ASEAN Member States, both individually and collectively, to prepare for and respond to a severe pandemic with potentially devastating effects on the region. The exercise also sets out to improve multisectoral preparedness and response at the country, regional and global level among the Member States and other international actors.

A severe pandemic could have hugely damaging effects on the Southeast Asia region. While many countries are engaged in meeting such a threat, much of the focus in the past has been on health area preparedness. ASEAN Members States increasingly recognize that non-health sectors can also be gravely affected, impeding a government's capacity to respond to a pandemic. This thinking has led to the need to come together to identify the gaps in pandemic preparedness, and to strengthen collaboration and coordination among Member States. In expressing his appreciation for the event and emphasizing its importance, the Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, said that 'the table-top exercise will help us fulfill the wishes of our ASEAN leaders for our region to be ready in times of pandemics. We will use the exercise to identify our gaps in pandemic preparedness and prepare for a regional pandemic preparedness plan as called for in the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint. Lessons learnt from this exercise can be used not only for cases of pandemics but also for other severe events affecting our region, such as natural disasters.'

Dr. Nhim Vanda, Senior Minister, First Vice President, National Committee for Disaster Management, Royal Government of Cambodia, emphasized the value of the event to the region; 'Cambodia was one of the first countries in Southeast Asia to focus its preparedness efforts on non-health sectors. This event provides the opportunity to bring the multisector preparedness focus to a regional level and set an example that can be followed on a global front.'The transboundary nature of pandemics means that they seldom remain isolated within a single country. Effective regional arrangements are imperative to ensure the continuity of operations and subsequent security of a country during a pandemic. The pandemic preparedness and response exercise aims to strengthen these arrangements. The 'Southeast Asia Regional Multisectoral Pandemic Preparedness and Response Table Top Exercise: Managing the Impact of Pandemics on Societies, Governments and Organisations', is being funded with support from the USAID.

From http://www.aseansec.org/ 08/10/2010

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South Asia, Neighbors to Hold 2nd High Level Forum on Regional Cooperation

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Leading government officials from South Asia and neighboring countries are meeting in Manila this week for a second round of high level talks on regional cooperation which will take stock of progress on work done to boost trade, and to develop cross-border road corridors and energy infrastructure. The Second High Level Forum on Emerging Vision for Shared Prosperity: South Asia and Beyond, hosted by ADB, is being held at its headquarters from 12-13 August, 2010. Among those attending are government representatives from South, Southeast, and Central Asia, as well as South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Secretary General, Sheel Kant Sharma. ADB is led by its President, Haruhiko Kuroda, Managing Director General Rajat M. Nag, South Asia Department Director General, Sultan Hafeez Rahman and Central West Asia Department Director General, Juan Miranda. South Asia has taken many steps to boost regional cooperation over the past 20 years, including establishing a free trade area in 2006, and reducing tariff and nontariff trade barriers. However it is lagging East Asia in terms of regional integration. The first High Level Forum in 2009 identified key focus areas of increasing physical connectivity, improving trade facilitation, and developing cross-border energy infrastructure and trade in power. This year's event will focus on strengthening implementation in these key focus areas. In his welcoming remarks to open the forum today, Mr. Kuroda spoke of the connectivity, energy availability, and trade facilitation challenges that face the region, and the need to address these challenges in the regional context to boost growth and alleviate poverty. "The ongoing and proposed regional projects in information and communication technology, transport and energy are likely to make substantial impact on poverty reduction and inclusive growth by improving productivity and generating employment and income," Mr. Kuroda said. ADB has supported many regional integration initiatives in South Asia both with direct finance, by helping to catalyze funds from the private sector, and through capacity development work. It has approved a multi-country infrastructure investment project to give regional tourism a boost, supported a road project for Bhutan that will have cross-border benefits, and provided wide-ranging technical assistance to regional bodies, including SAARC. On a broader scale, ADB is aiming to increase allocations for all regional cooperation activities to 30% of its total operational spending by 2020. It has allocated more than $1 billion, or 10% of the resources of its concessional Asian Development Funds to regional projects between 2009 and 2012. It has also expanded its regional Trade Finance Facilitation Program from $150 million to $1 billion, and is working on an Asian Infrastructure Financing Initiative to pool resources for regional infrastructure needs.

From http://www.adb.org/ 08/12/2010

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CHINA: Industry Alliance Launched to Promote TCM

A government-backed industry-university alliance was launched in Beijing on Saturday to further promote the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in the global market. Members of the alliance include Peking University, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, the health ministry's development center for medical science and technology, and 12 domestic pharmaceutical corporations. "The alliance marks a new stage in the development of TCM's entering the global market," said Wang Guoqiang, vice minister of the health ministry, also director of the TCM State Administration. The alliance's launch came as Tianjin-based Tasly Pharmaceutical Co. announced Saturday that the company's Compound Danshen Dripping Pill had been tested safe and effective during the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s Phase II clinical trials. The FDA had also approved the drug to enter the Phase III trials, said Tasly chairman Yan Xijun, also a board member of the TMC promotion alliance. He added that he expected the drug to enter U.S. and global drug markets in 2013. FDA Phase II trials gauge the effectiveness of a drug and its side effects and risks, while Phase III trials are more extensive. Once Phase III is complete, a pharmaceutical company can request the FDA approval for marketing the drug in the U.S. The Compound Danshen Dripping Pill is mainly used to treat angina and coronary heart diseases.

More than 10 million people worldwide take the pills annually, according to Tasly. With domestic sales of more than one billion yuan (about 148 million U.S. dollars) last year, the drug was the first Chinese patent traditional medicine to pass the FDA's Phase II trials. Despite 2,000-years of use on home turf, Chinese traditional medicines often find it tough to enter markets dominated by Western pharmaceuticals. None of the Chinese patent medicines has so far been approved for marketing in the mainstream U.S. and European drug markets. Previously, the Compound Danshen Dripping Pill had only been approved by drug watchdogs in Canada, Russia, Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Singapore and some African countries. One major obstacle Chinese drug firms face when obtaining market approvals in the U.S. and European countries is how to explain the ways traditional Chinese medicines work in a scientific language that appeals to Western ears. Many traditional Chinese medicines are mixtures of a number of ingredients, which makes them much more difficult to explain than western drugs in a quantitative sense. The huge expense of conducting the FDA's marathon-like three-phase clinical trials, often mounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, and unfamiliarity with laws and regulations in Western countries made things even more complicated.

Hopefully, the TCM promotion alliance might change the current situation for the good. "With support from the government and collaboration among its members, the alliance will enhance our research capabilities, and could invite more overseas experts to provide guidance for us to promote TCMs in the global market," said Zhang Boli, president of Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Tasly's success in passing the FDA Phase II clinical trials was also of great help for Chinese firms undergoing similar drug trials, said Zhang, who is also a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. "It is a breakthrough in the globalization of traditional Chinese medicines," he said. Vice Health Minister Wang Guoqiang also said that Tasly's progress in FDA clinical trials could play an exemplary role for other Chinese patent traditional medicine. Yan Xijun said Tasly was willing to share with the alliance's members its experience in passing the FDA's clinical trials. "It should be a long-term strategy for Chinese patent traditional drugs to seek FDA recognition in order to be further promoted in the global market," he said. He said the newly launched TCM promotion alliance hopes to see at least one Chinese patent traditional medicine entering the U.S. and European drug market by 2015, one to two drugs undergoing FDA Phase III clinical trials and at least three undergoing Phase II trials by that time.


From Xinhua News Agency 08/08/2010

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MOF Offers US$73 Mln to Help Mudslide Victims

China' s Ministry of Finance (MOF) announced Sunday that it had allocated 500 million yuan (73 million U.S. dollars) in emergency aid to fund rescue efforts following devastating mudslides in northwest China. The money will support the relocation and relief efforts for landslide victims, hygiene and disease control, reconstruction of local infrastructure, rebuilding of houses and the clearing of the barrier lake which was formed by the massive mudslide, MOF officials said. Heavy downpours triggered mudslides and mud-rock flows in Zhouqu early Sunday morning. The disaster has left at least 127 people dead and some 2,000 missing as of 4 p.m. Sunday, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

From Xinhua News Agency 08/09/2010

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Chinese Netizens' Comments Key to Judicial Work

Senior Chinese official Zhou Yongkang Friday called for improving publicity work in the judicial sector. Zhou, secretary of the Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China Central Committee (CPC) , made the remarks during his visit to the Beijing-based Legal Daily, the official newspaper of the commission, where he chatted online with netizens and answered questions. Zhou highly praised Chinese netizens for their complaints and suggestions, which are key to the nation's judicial work. Founded on Aug. 1, 1980, Legal Daily is known for its outstanding judicial news reporting in China and abroad. Zhou, also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, hosted a seminar on the improvement of publicity work in the judicial sector, which was joined by representatives from mainstream media such as the People's Daily newspaper, Xinhuanet.com, website of Xinhua News Agency, and China Central Television. "The mainstream media has contributed a lot to the legal career development of the country. Many dedicated reporters have been working with the police in fighting against crimes and protecting peoples' lives," Zhou said. As democracy and legal systems develop further in China, the expectation of Chinese citizens on the fulfillment of their rights to know, to participate, to express and supervise will become much higher, Zhou said. Therefore, the nation's judicial agencies at all level, together with the media, should work with more concern on the people's basic rights, the stability of society, and the dignity of law, Zhou said. In particular, the media should report news stories that are close to people's lives, and judicial agencies should focus on those problems exposed by the media and set up regular news release systems for the timely dissemination of news to the public.

From Xinhua News Agency 08/14/2010

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"Most Humorous" Government Web Site Goes Viral

Recently, the Guangxi Highway Administration Bureau Website, billed as the "most humorous and most responsible" official website, went viral on China's Internet. It was first recommended to netizens by an Internet article titled "The most humor and serious official Web site I've ever seen." The Article praises the feedback section of the Web site, which features various questions and issues, some bizarre, but the administrator always answers them in a humorous way. "The answer is humorous, easy to understand, not bureaucratic," the article said. Not long after that, this so-called "most humorous and most responsible" government Web site became popular all over the Internet. The burst of visits even halted the Web site temporarily. The design and layout of the Web site of the Guangxi Highway Administration Bureau is nothing special. However, it was the dialogue between the Web site's administrator and netizens that made people laugh. A netizen called "for everyone" wrote: "The highway toll stations are temporary units, so we might lose our job after two or three years due to the reform of the national transportation system. Many of us are confused about the future. Please give some directions." The administrator replied, "You cannot change the environment, but you can change yourself. You cannot change the facts, but you can change the attitude, the attitude finally decides your position." "I think for three days about how to answer this question, and I hope to give them more encouragement." said engineer Li, who is the major "spokesman" of this message board and he gives most of the responses. "How much for a kilogram of Lipu taro in Guangxi?" "Please visit Taobao.com ... ..." The netizens' questions are described as a wide range, some even bizarre, but the administrators never ignore them, but answered every question with humorous and easy to understand words instead of a bureaucratic official tone. For the humorous style, engineer Li said that is related to his individual personality. "I'm very optimistic, like surfing the Internet, do not like inanimate atmosphere."

Li said most of the netizens are young people, so this manner of communication is more friendly and acceptable to the netizens. The Web site was established in 2007 and the "message and feedback" section in 2008. Now there are 5 staff members responsible for the maintenance and message responses, according to Yang Zhiqun, director of the Information Center of Guangxi Highway Administrative Bureau. The title of "most humorous and most responsible" also led to hot discussions on the Internet, some net surfers even held a negative attitude towards it. Some surfers believe that it is a humanization reflection. Some surfers feel that "it is good thing for the government to seriously study the manner of answering the people, but the most important thing is how to sincerely help the people to relieve their worries and overcome their difficulties. A Netizen called "Bingbu Sima Daren" said: "Your work is very good, but why does this typical work lead to such a high degree of attention? When the ordinary work become an oddity, society is really unfortunate." Administrators reply: "Your words made us think deeply! I will top your message for a period of time, thank you! " "People have questions, and I should have responses," The "most humorous and most responsible" government Web site is in stark contrast with some "cold and sleepy" government websites. No responses for the surfers' questions, public information can't be found, emails from people are not read, as well as the people's complaints are overlooked... ... It is believed that the "most humorous and most responsible" Web site just reflects the lack of work in the relevant departments if viewed from another angle. "We've got so much attention, it reflects there are too little platforms where the government can communicate with the masses," said engineer Li, the message board can let us communicate with the masses directly, promptly solve the masses' problems, "communicate with the netizens is also a pleasure. We can learn from each other, it is also an upgrade on our own. " For the "glib" accusation, engineer Li said that they deal with messages based on information public rules released by the State Council. The questions were all asked by the ordinary people from the grassroots level, they all were asked with a common tone, so we certainly will reply them with a common tone. "If it is related to the policies and laws, we will certainly give a standardize response." However, engineer Li also told about his worries, "We still hope that the netizens can ask questions related to our work field, if our Web site becomes a general forum, I am afraid the message board will be meaningless."

From http://english.cpc.people.com.cn/ 08/17/2010

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CPC Official Urges Reform of Training of Officials

A senior official of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Monday urged greater efforts to make the training of officials more pertinent to and effective in raising their skills at governing. Push forward the reform of the training of officials unswervingly so that the training could better serve the scientific development of the country, said Li Yuanchao, head of the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee at a conference on the reform in Beijing on Monday. He added that the training must be both relevant and complementary to officials' jobs and called for the optimization of the systems that educate officials on Party theories, governance and Party spirit. He stressed the need to create a diverse official training system with more involvement from higher-learning institutions and research institutes besides the current main training channel of Party schools and administration schools. He also called for better training of officials at grassroots levels. The general office of the CPC Central Committee issued the text of the reform outlines for the period of 2010 to 2020 on Tuesday. It issued a separate circular, ordering the implementation of the outlines the same day. The reform aims to build educational and training systems for officials with Chinese characteristics that are more open, dynamic and effective by 2020, read the text.

From http://english.cpc.people.com.cn/ 08/18/2010

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Chinese Vice Premier Stresses Workplace Safety

Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang has called on more efforts to reduce workplace accidents. Zhang made the remarks at a meeting held by the safe production commission under the State Council, or the cabinet, saying that China's central government has always paid much attention to workplace safety. Workplace accidents dropped 6.5 percent so far this year from the previous year and the death toll was down by 10.8 percent, Zhang said. But workplace safety faces severe challenges as problems have surfaced recently with frequent accidents and insufficient investigations into the accidents, he said. More efforts should be made to crack down on illegal production, overhaul key sectors like coal mines, transportation, dangerous chemicals and fireworks and enhance safety monitoring in city planning, he said.

From Xinhua News Agency 08/20/2010

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Official Urges Promoting Chinese Culture with Improved Technology

Senior Chinese leader Li Changchun urged promoting innovation, communication and the influence of Chinese culture with advanced technology on Monday. Li, a member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Political Bureau, made the remarks during his visit to the Beijing International Radio, TV and Film Equipment Exhibition (BIRTV). Li also called for efforts to better integrate culture and technology. Li reviewed some new achievements of communication technology innovation on display. He urged businesses to strengthen independent technological innovations to adapt China's Radio and TV communications technology to the digital and internet age. Also, improved integrity of culture and technology would help to promote the competitiveness of Chinese culture and enterprises in the cultural sector should promote the technical element in their products with improved equipment and proprietary intellectual property rights of key technologies, Li said. Further, advanced technology should be employed to promote both the emerging cultural sector and traditional sector, Li said. The BIRTV exhibition is sponsored by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. About 400 exhibitors attended the exhibition with equipments for radio, TV and film productions, broadcasting, transmitting and projecting on display.

From Xinhua News Agency 08/24/2010

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China's Schools Told to Strengthen Safety Measures

China's Ministry of Education has called upon all schools and kindergartens nationwide to strengthen measures to ensure campus safety, according to a statement from the ministry on Tuesday. Local education departments around China should, as soon as possible, provide all primary and secondary schools, as well as kindergartens, with safety personnel, the statement said. Other safety measures should also be intensified to ensure a flawless campus safety system, the statement added. The statement also asked schools in the natural-disasters-affected regions to conduct thorough checks to focus on school buildings affected by recent floods and mudslides, to eliminate any safety risks. School buildings found to have safety concerns should be quickly overhauled before being occupied, the statement said. The statement told school officials to take precautions to protect the students from extremely bad weather, epidemics, mass food poisonings, fire and other accidents. The statement also asked the school officials to organize more safety education and drills, as well as training for the teachers in the upcoming semester. Most of the schools in China are to begin the new semester on September 1.

From English.news.cn 08/25/2010

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JAPAN: Pension Reform Urgently Needed

In fiscal 2009, the premium payment rate for the kokumin nenkin pension, which is mainly for self-employed and jobless people, dropped to its lowest ever at 59.98 percent. The rate is 2.1 points less than in the previous year and fell for the fourth straight year. It is an ominous sign that the premium payment rate for people aged 25 to 29 is only 47 percent. By contrast, the premium payment rate for people aged 55 to 59 is about 73 percent. The kokumin nenkin pension system was originally established for self-employed people. But their participation in the plan has been declining year by year. Now wage earners with one-year or longer employment, temporary employees and part-timers account for nearly 40 percent of the participants in the kokumin nenkin scheme. Permanent workers take part in a different scheme - the kosei nenkin pension. It is safe to assume that the percentage of irregular workers among the kokumin nenkin participants is increasing. Since their wages are low, the monthly premium of ¥15,100 represents a heavy burden. In addition, people who solely rely on kukumin nenkin pension receive only about ¥48,000 a month on average, despite long years of premium payment. Private-sector companies entrusted with the job of encouraging people to pay premiums or informing low-income people about the existence of a system of premium exemptions or reductions are not performing well. At 312 places nationwide where such companies are undertaking the task, the goal in premiums collection was achieved only at 13 locations. Drastic reform is in order. Most workers at these companies use the telephone to contact people, but only 4 percent actually visit them. At present, some 420,000 elderly people are pensionless. It is feared that some 760,000 people will become pensionless because they have failed to pay premiums. To become eligible, one has to pay premiums for at least 25 years. The government must immediately reform the pension system, including shortening the minimum required period of premiums payment and expanding the kosei nenkin system to cover irregular workers.

From http://search.japantimes.co.jp/ 08/21/2010

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SOUTH KOREA: METI Sets Up Panel to Export Infrastructure

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry set up a panel involving both the public and private sectors to study ways to gain infrastructure-related business orders abroad. The Thursday creation of the new organization to promote the export of nuclear power plants and high-speed rail systems came after Japanese companies failed to participate in projects to build atomic plants in Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates. Panel members from the private sector include Shoei Utsuda, chairman of Japan Foreign Trade Council Inc. and chairman of trading house Mitsui & Co., as well as Masayuki Oku, chairman of the Japanese Bankers Association and president of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. During their first meeting, some panel members said the government needs to support personnel training in targeted overseas areas for infrastructure operation and maintenance. Amid growing demand for infrastructure in both emerging and developed countries, the United States, China, South Korea and others are seeking to clinch related business orders through coordinated efforts by the public and private sectors. Government backup is essential as support measures that are not directly related to infrastructure could be a key factor in winning orders. Efforts will likely be put to the test when leaders from Japan and Vietnam meet possibly this fall to likely discuss the remaining nuclear power plant projects in Vietnam.

From http://search.japantimes.co.jp/ 08/07/2010

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Korea Ranks 4th in R&D Investment Among OECD Nations

Korea's investment in research and development ranked fourth largest in 2008 among member nations of the OECD for a fourth year in a row. According to statistics released Tuesday by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, the country spent W34.5 trillion (US$1=W1,182) on R&D in 2008, or 3.37 percent of its GDP. Around 75 percent of Korea's R&D investment came from the private sector, higher than in China (72.3 percent), the U.S. (71.9 percent), and Germany (69.9 percent). More than 70 percent of the money from the private sector was spent by big businesses, indicating that conglomerates are spearheading the country's R&D investment. The government's R&D budget has grown 10.5 percent annually since 2002, outpacing the overall national budget growth rate of 6.5 percent. Meanwhile, the largest chunk of the government's R&D funds this year, W4.41 trillion, was earmarked for the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, followed by W4.39 trillion for the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, and W1.80 trillion for the Defense Acquisition Program Administration.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 08/12/2010

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INDONESIA: Government to Exempt the Poor from Baby Delivery Cost

The Ministry of Health has allocated Rp 1.45 trillion (approximately US$161 million) to cover medical fees of women from lower-income families who give birth to their babies. Health Minister Endang Sedyawati said Friday the policy, effective in 2011, was aimed at curbing maternal mortality rate in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals. The government, Endang added, will provide the service free of charge to women who deliver their babies with assistance from midwives, or doctors at community health centers or hospitals. The free hospital service is given to either normal or caesarian births. Endang added that the government would focus on women who lived in remote villages, where maternal mortality rate is considered high. "In the future, there must be no more babies withheld at clinics or hospitals only because their parents cannot afford to pay delivery fees," Endang said as quoted by Antara news agency. A ministerial regulation to implement the policy is expected to be ready next month to give the ministry enough time to familiarize it before it comes into force.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 08/20/2010

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LAOS: Officials Upgraded on External Cooperation Techniques

(KPL) Forty-eight government officials have been handed over certificates after having successfully completed a training course on external relations for one month. The graduation ceremony was held last Friday at the Institute of Foreign Affairs in Vientiane Capital. The one-month training course has been participated by government officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the External Relations Committee of Party Central Committee and various government organisations. The training was held between June 14 and July 23. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Hiem Phommachanh, who presented certificates to the trainees, said that the training course aimed at providing basic knowledge of foreign affairs by learning international documents on foreign affairs, foreign policy of Laos, ASEAN role and border affairs. All participants have been taught by trainers from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Hiem urged the trainees to interpret into reality at their workplace the knowledge they have learned from the training.

From http://www.kplnet.net/ 07/26/2010

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IPT and India's Trigyn Technologies to Train Trainers of Trainers for ICT

(KPL) T he Institute of Post and Telegraph of the National Authority of Post and Telecommunication of Laos has inked an agreement with the Trigyn Technologies Limited India on setting up and enhancing ICT capacity building. The MOU will establish a fully fledged Training Centre which will cater to many IT related courses to help in implementing many projects for Lao government in the IT area in coming years. "Trigyn Group will support IPT in setting up Information Communication Technology (ICT) capacity building for Laos which will fulfil the IT vision for the country," said Chairman and Executive Director, R. Ganapathi. In its early stage, the two-million-US dollar project will have around ten trainers trained in ICT who will then train other ICT trainers, according to IPT Director General Mysith Amnatchaleun. The project's objective is to train government staff and through other agencies, like the Boudviseth College, provide certificate courses in IT and provide appropriate IT skills to implement various ICT initiatives of the Lao government like E-governance application and Fibre to Government and Home. "Our vision is to help the Lao people access ICT and reduce information gap between people in rural and remote areas and those living in cities," said Mr. Mysith. If the pilot project is successful, more exclusive project of ICT development in Laos will be studied into and proposed to the government for consideration in an attempt to make Laos an ICT hub in the Greater Mekong Region, according to ICT Director.

From http://www.kplnet.net/ 08/06/2010

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MALAYSIA: Public Bank's Founder Gets Award

PUBLIC Bank's founder and chairman Tan Sri Dr Teh Hong Piow has been accorded the first Asian Corporate Director Recognition Award 2010 for Malaysia. The award was given by Corporate Governance Asia, a journal on corporate governance in the region, at the bank's 44th anniversary banquet last Saturday. The award recognised corporate leaders in Asia for their outstanding performances and contribution, Public Bank said in a statement yesterday. Public Bank was also awarded the Corporate Governance Asia Recognition Award 2010 for the sixth year. - Bernama

From http://www.btimes.com.my/ 08/26/2010

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THAILAND: Government Promotes Creativity Among Young Children to Help Develop the Creative Economy

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said that the Government would focus on education to encourage young people to think out of the box in order to develop the creative economy. The Prime Minister on July 16 discussed the issue of the creative economy with Mr. John Hawkins, a member of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Advisory Committee on the Creative Economy. Mr. Hawkins paid a courtesy call on the Prime Minister during his visit to Thailand, where he had chances to talk to Mr. Apirak Kosayodhin, Advisor to the Prime Minister, and high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Commerce to exchange views and experience on the creative economy. He said that the United Kingdom has the Prince's Trust, a charity founded by the Prince of Wales to help young people, and this trust also supports the new generation to run their own businesses, thus helping stimulate the creative economy. Also in the Republic of Korea, young people are changing their focus of study from aiming to become doctors and engineers to becoming writers and film directors. He suggested that the Government should play a role in creating the environment conducive to creative economy activities, facilitating the creation of creativity, rather than directly initiating creativity itself.

Prime Minister Abhisit stated that Thai society is evidently in a transition stage of developing new ideas and introducing innovations and creativity. The Government in August 2009 launched the "Creative Thailand" policy to develop and strengthen the country's creative economy. Emphasis is placed on promoting Thailand's strengths, which consist of diversity in cultural heritage. The Prime Minister thanked Mr. Hawkins for his useful suggestion, saying that the Government would support the private sector in playing a leading role in the creative economy drive. He said that the Government had introduced many initiatives; for instance, it has allocated funds in the second economic stimulus package to promote the creative economy. A permanent office to handle the mobilization of the creative economy will be established. The Government also plans to hold an international forum for discussion on this issue.

According to Mr. Hawkins, new ideas, not money or machinery, seem to be the source of success today. He believes that the creative economy gives new life to the manufacturing, service, retailing, and entertainment industries. It is changing where people want to live, work, and learn, to think, invest, and produce. He stated that the creative economy is based on a new way of working and the output value depends on the uniqueness of the product, or on how easily it can be copied and sold to large numbers of people. The Prime Minister affirmed his belief that, through the creative economy, Thailand would be able to utilize its traditional wisdom and knowledge in order to add value to its products and diversify their ranges and markets.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 07/22/2010

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"Creative City Prototypes" to Be Selected Under the Creative Thailand Program

The Government will select 10 provinces as "creative city prototypes" in a pilot project under the Creative Thailand program, aimed at increasing the value of Thai products and services. Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot said that the selection would be completed by July 2011. The creative city prototypes must be able to increase their economic value, based on their history, culture, arts, traditions, wisdom, and innovations. He said that the Government would hold a World Creative Economy Forum in late November 2010. The forum will consist of four major events, a world creative economy forum, a contest of world movies, a contest of international designs, and a festival of international broadcasting. According to Mr. Alongkorn, the Government is pushing for the creation of a movie town for film shooting. The project will develop Thailand as a movie production center in Asia. Moreover, the Government is seeking a suitable site for development into a special economic zone for creative industries. The objective is to increase the country's economic value to 900 billion baht by the year 2012, or the share of Thailand's creative industrial value from 12 percent today to 20 percent of GDP in the next two years.

Concerning the creative economy, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said that the Government is determined to move Thailand forward, more competitively and innovatively. Thailand must push forward its competitive advantage, particularly as its economy makes the transition toward a "creative" economy. The Government launched the Creative Thailand policy in 2009 in order to enhance the competitiveness of the country in the international arena. After the establishment of the National Creative Economy Policy Committee last year in order to set guidelines for creative economy policy and to ensure its implementation, Thailand is now in the process of forming a Creative Economy Agency to assist in the translation of this policy into action. The Government has allocated 8.24 billion baht for creative economy activities carried out by the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and other agencies. The Prime Minister stated that the Government is introducing education reform, and the heart of the reform is to create an important foundation for the enhancement of a knowledge-based economy, or the creative economy, in the future.

The Board of Investment will also be actively supporting the drive toward a Creative Economy in Thailand, and through its new investment policy for sustainable development, it will help the country improve its human resources potential through increased occupational training and education, as well as measures to strengthen science and technology. These steps will support knowledge-based industries in Thailand. The Government has adopted the creative economy as a key engine to move the country forward under the 10th National Economic and Social Development Plan, 2007-2011, and the 11th National Economic and Social Development Plan 2012-2016.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 08/19/2010

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VIET NAM: Delayed Projects May Lose Licences

Construction projects that are delayed, behind schedule or managed improperly will have their licences revoked by the HCM City Export Processing and Industrial Zones Authority (HEPZA). Hepza is currently reviewing 90 projects, most of which received licences one to two years ago, to identify the rate of progress and solve difficulties, if any, faced by investors. It will withdraw licences of projects that have stayed idle since the day they were licensed or are not financially viable. Because of the global economic downturn last year, some investors faced financial difficulties and suspended construction of their projects. But with the economic recovery, many investors have recently resumed construction of their factories and other facilities. Still, many of them have failed to start their projects, despite having received licences during a period from 1996-2003. During the first six months of the year, HEPZA said it had revoked licences of six foreign-invested projects and one domestic project. Total investment capital was US$12.36 million.

Currently it is making plans to cancel another seven foreign-invested projects, with a combined investment capital of $23.62 million covering 7.91ha, said Nguyen Tan Phuoc, deputy head of HEPZA. Investors, who paid deposits for land rental before being granted licences, will lose the deposit if they fail to start their project on schedule. The revoked land will be granted to projects that are environmentally friendly or to investors who have sufficient financial competence to carry out their projects, Phuoc said. Since 1991, HEPZA has revoked investment licences of 87 domestic projects and 95 foreign ones, equivalent to total investment capital of $453.95 million. As of June 30, 13 industrial parks and export processing zones in the city have attracted 1,187 projects with total registered capital of $4.9 billion. These include 710 domestic projects with registered capital of $2.1 billion.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 08/14/2010

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Vietnam Must Rethink Growth Strategy: Analysts

Vietnam must rethink the growth strategy that propelled it from poverty to the ranks of Asia's fastest-growing economies, analysts say, or risk stagnating. The country, which aims to become an industrialized nation by 2020, risks losing out both to poorer, lower-wage nations and richer ones that are more innovative and have a higher-quality labor force, they say.

"Vietnam is at a critical juncture in its economic and social development history," the World Bank's country representative, Victoria Kwakwa, said last week at a seminar organized with the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS). In 1986 the war-shattered country began to turn away from a planned economy to embrace the free market, a policy called "Doi Moi", which led to growth rates that ranked among the fastest in Asia.

But the Doi Moi momentum is losing steam, the World Bank and VASS said. The Vietnamese economy depends too much on exploitation of natural resources and its industry, often dominated by large state-owned groups, lacks dynamism, they said in a joint report which added that transport and other infrastructure is underdeveloped. Another obstacle is education, which experts have said is far from an international standard, afflicted by corruption and unsuited for providing the skilled workforce the country needs.

Vietnam faces fierce challenges if it wants to avoid being trapped as a middle-income nation, said Do Hoai Nam, president of VASS. "Vietnam has just got out of the list of poor countries and its achievements are not really sustainable," Nam said. The economic infrastructure is not well-developed, there is a lack of specialization and competitiveness and a shortage of skilled workers, he said.

Science and technology standards are low compared with regional rivals, Nam added. Between 1990 and 2009 Vietnam's annual growth dropped below five percent only once, and peaked at 9.5 percent in 1995. Annual income per capita grew from less than US$100 in 1990 to about $1,200 this year, while the poverty rate fell from 58 percent in 1993 to about 12 percent in 2009, said the World Bank-VASS report.

At the seminar, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung predicted that real per capita gross domestic product will rise to between $3,000 and $3,200 in 2020. Experts say such figures do not tell the whole story and that growth is coming at the price of increasing inequality between urban and rural areas. "Many countries have been reaching the middle income status from lower levels, but very few countries (succeeded) in moving to high income," said a study by Le Kim Sa, of VASS. He noted that while Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan became high-income countries or territories in about three decades, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines have been stuck at middle-income levels. Over the next decade and beyond, Vietnam could either further accelerate its economic and social development to become a prosperous industrializing society, or it could face "stagnation on both economic and social developments fronts", the World Bank's Kwakwa said.

From http://www.thanhniennews.com/ 08/23/2010

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BANGLADESH: E-Content and ICT for Development Award 2010 - An Initiative to Promote Innovations

For the first time in Bnagladesh, e-Content and ICT for Development contest took place with objective of promoting innovations through integration of ICTs in the daily life of common people, business operation and functioning of the government. Ministry of Science and ICT and Development Research Network D.Net, jointly oirganised the first National e-Content and ICT for Development Award 2010 at the National Museum on August 9. Thirty-two organisations were awarded for developing information and communication technology, in the first national competition of its kind in the country. The organisers also honoured some noted personalities for their lifetime contribution to their respective fields by dedicating the awards. The contest was held in 14 categories both for on-line and off-line content products and ICT interventions and applications. The winners of the award will be eligible for contesting in World Summit Award 2011. A jury panel, consisting of ICT experts and other renowned people picked up the winners out of 48 finalists. A total of 93 initiatives have been nominated for the contest. The e-government and institutions award was dedicated to Prof Rehman Sobhan, e-health award to National Professor MR Khan, e-learning and education award to the late Abdullah Al Muti-Sharfuddin, e-games award to Mustafa Monwar, e-entertainment award to the late Abdul Alim, e-culture and heritage to the late poet Shamsur Rahman, and e-science and technology award to the late Dr Muhammad Kudrat-e-Khuda. The organisers dedicated the e-environment award to Prof Dwijen Sarma, e-business and commerce award to the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, e-enterprise and livelihood award to Angela Gomes, e-inclusion and participation award to Bangladesh Army. The e-localisation award was dedicated to Ebika Biswas (the first mobile lady in Bangladesh), e-news award to the late professor Abdul Kader (founder of Computer Jagat), and m-content award to Prof Iqbal Z Quadir (chairman of Iqbal Quadir Foundation).

In e-government and institutions category, DataSoft Systems Bangladesh Ltd was awarded for its private-public partnership project 'Customs Information Management System', which has been implemented at the Chittagong port customs office. The first runner-up award went to Millennium Information Solution Ltd for the national web portal of Bangladesh. Business Automation Ltd became the second runner-up for the Bangladesh Hajj Management Portal. Developer Amader Gram has won the championship award in e-health category for its AG Breast Care-A Choice initiative. In learning and education category, the champion was Rangamati-based Ananda Multimedia for interactive multilingual multimedia education software for classes I-II of national curriculum textbooks. An education web portal, varsityadmission.com, has been given an appreciation award for its primary and secondary education initiative: English in Action. 'bdplay.com' was given a special award in e-games category. In entertainment category, Multimedia Content and communications Ltd was the champion for its website lemon24.com. A special award went to Trimatrik for its computer graphics animation film 'Pekku'. Bangladesh Genocide Archive received the championship award in culture and heritage category, while BRT Group was the first runner-up for its 'Amar Ekushe' multimedia compact disk. biplobiderkotha.com received a special award. 'biggani.org' was given a special award in e-science and technology category.

In business and commerce, no project was declared a champion, while the first runner-up was Bangladesh Telecentre Network for its website msme.com.bd and the second runner-up award went to Golden Bangladesh for goldnebusiness.bd.com. The highly contested category was e-enterprise and livelihood, in which digital sugarcane procurement and development system, designed by Bangladesh Sugar and Food Industries Corporation, won the first prize. The first runner-up was Bangladesh Telecentre Network's byabsharkhobor.com and e-krishok.com ended up as the second runner-up. In e-inclusion and participation category, YPSA got the top prize for Daisy for All (dfa.daisy.org), a project for the disabled children. The top prize in e-localisation category went to Ankur ICT Development Foundation for its project - Computer in Bangla for All. Somewhere in Net Ltd was honoured as the first runner-up for somewhereinbangladesh.com, a popular blogsite. In e-news category, the championship prize was handed to computerjagat.com, a live web casting and online news portal while techzoom24 became the first runner-up. The much-talked-about paperless admission system taken by Shahjalal University of Science and Technology received the top prize in m-content category. The first runner-up was i-Informedia's SMS ID-empowering identity through mobile SMS. Finance Minister AMA Muhith attended the ceremony as the chief guest while State Minister for Science and ICT Architect Yeafesh Osman was the special guest. Manusher Jonno Foundation was among the sponsors.

From http://nation.ittefaq.com/ 08/18/2010

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INDIA: The Sixth Annual Freescale Technology Forum to Be Held in Bangalore

New Delhi: Freescale Semiconductor, a global designer and manufacturer of embedded semiconductors, announced that it will host its annual Freescale Technology Forum (FTF) India at Hotel Leela Palace, Bengaluru, from August 18-19, 2010. The conference will be focused on the topic 'powering innovation'. Registration for the forum is now open at www.freescale.com/ftf. The Forum, which debuted in 2005, has drawn nearly 35000 attendees at FTF events worldwide since its inception. Henri Richard, Freescale Senior Vice President, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, will present the opening keynote address at FTF India. Chairman of Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited (KREDL) and Additional Chief Secretary to Government of Karnataka, K Jairaj will be the guest keynote speaker at the forum. The closing session of FTF will feature a panel discussion on 'Smart City and Smart Grid - opportunity and Challenges'. Eminent technologists from Distribution Utility, Metering and Technology companies will head the closing panel discussion which is scheduled on Thursday, August 19, 2010. "One of the primary motives of FTF is to focus on providing developers with insights into future embedded technologies. This year's forum will catalyze innovation and promote it by showcasing revolutionary technologies that would transform our lives. We will also provide a comprehensive, market-focused spectrum of enablement solutions and ecosystem partnerships which are needed to help developers innovate and accelerate their time to market," said Ganesh Guruswamy, Vice President and Country Manager, Freescale Semiconductor India. Vivek Tyagi, Country Sales Manager, Freescale Semiconductor India said "FTF is our biggest customer event and a platform to showcase new technologies that have the potential to change the world. The forum, which is in its sixth year, has attained iconic status in the semiconductor industry. The event of such stature will only add to the exuberant and stimulating environment that we have for innovation and partnership in India." FTF India 2010 will include more than 71 hours of technical training sessions organized into tracks focusing on Automotive, Consumer, Industrial, Networking and Enabling Technologies. The event will also feature about 50 demonstrations on new technologies from Freescale and its partners. The global partners for the event include ENEA, Green Hills, Mentor Graphics, Wind River, Microsoft Windows Embedded and QNX.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 07/26/2010

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Beginning of a New Era in Management of Wakf Properties

The Ministry of Minority Affairs (MOMA), Government of India, has envisaged d to undertake a landmark e-governance project to computerize wakf records. Wakf Management System of India (WAMSI) is a three-year project beginning from 2009. In its ambit, it has onus to computerize records of 29 State Wakf Boards (SWBs) as mentioned in Wakf Act, 1995 and Jammu & Kashmir Wakf Board. A sum of Rs 25 crore has been earmarked to be spent in three different stages. Each State Wakf Board is entitled to receive Rs 27.10 lakh in the first year to establish a space for Centralized Computing Facility including Electrical, Networking & Hardware infrastructure. As per e-readiness guidelines, each SWB is also advised to hire an Assistant Developer and Data Entry Operator at a fixed monthly salary of Rs.15000 & Rs.10000 respectively. Objective of this computerization project is to ensure proper survey data is available and matches with the database maintained by other state level departments such as Land Records & Revenue departments. It further aims to achieve efficiency and effectiveness by implementing specific management systems pertaining to managing of wakf properties. Leasing & Litigation Tracking Management System is also expected to be developed.

From http://www.egovonline.net/ 08/11/2010

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Key E-Training for Employees in Bahrain

Government employees in Bahrain are being offered e-training courses to enable them to deal with new advancements in technology, it was announced yesterday. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Bahrain Public Administration Institute (BIPA) and the eGovernment Authority to implement the Micro e-Learning project. It will provide training on administrative guidelines and organisation policies to government employees. The project would be available soon to all government employees, after the completion of contract with a specialised international institution. The agreement reflected the authority's initiatives with BIPA to encourage public sector employees move towards e-government technologies in line with Bahrain's Vision 2030.

From http://www.egovonline.net/ 08/12/2010

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"India Must Lead Climate Change Action and Innovation"

Dr. Ashok Khosla is currently President of the IUCN and Chairman of Development Alternatives, an organisation dedicated to global, national and local sustainable development. He is one of world's leading experts on the environment. In this interview - the first of a two-part series, Dr. Khosla highlights India's role in the international negotiations and action for climate change mitigation and adaptation. OneWorld South Asia: In the context of the Copenhagen Summit, and the failure of developed and developing countries to come up with lasting solutions to climate change - what steps should be taken by developed and developing countries to mitigate climate change and work towards adaptation strategies? How can they work towards this common goal? Dr. Ashok Khosla: Developing countries claim that the problem is created by the rich who used up higher amounts of energy in production systems and emitted large amounts of carbon dioxide and other gases. The developed countries say that the developing countries have large numbers of people who will become richer and richer in the future and will enter the global economy and they will be producing large amounts of carbon dioxide and using up lots of energy and they should be curbed. Poor countries in the global South like India cannot reduce very much of their energy use but they can look at the rate of population growth. So clearly, both sides are going to have to do something. Developed and developing countries together have a lot to contribute both in adaptation and mitigation. I believe that the global South is already doing their bit. By improving the lives of people, they are making it possible for people in developing countries to want smaller families and this means that the rate of population growth will come down. In countries like Korea, Thailand and even Kerala in India, birth rates are now almost at replacement levels and below. This means that they have done their bit and they should be given credit for that. Smaller population growth can only come from investment in the development of very poor countries by the global community, by the Indian government as well as everybody else.

However undue priority is given to technologies - for example on new technologies to make electricity more efficient in the sense of using coal or petroleum products. And so, there is an impasse here. At the same time, the South says that the North is using up huge quantities of energy and they are the ones who have to cut it down and of course that's correct. But, at the negotiating table, in the UN conferences that deal with these issues, there is basically a standoff and they're not listening to each other. There's also the question of adaptation, for carbon emissions have already a process and impacts will continue to grow for a while. These processes are then not going to suddenly stop and reverse and so there will likely be major issues of sea-level rise, extreme events, disappearance of glaciers and problems with water flows. So the question is - how do we adapt to them? How do we organize our societies so that we can make our industries less dependant on resources that won't be available, to be ready for extreme events. Developed and developing countries together have a lot to contribute both in adaptation and mitigation. But they are not recognizing each other's contributions and that is why they are unable to come to the table together. OWSA: What do you think India's position should be in international negotiations? What should its domestic strategies be, considering the risk that India faces in terms of sea-level rise or agricultural patterns being affected due to climate change? AK: India is a vast country. It is going to suffer more, in absolute terms, than almost any other country if its climate changes a lot. India has been known for its natural wealth and biomass, all of which comes from water resources. And if all of these disappear, we're in serious trouble. But we're also not just a big country, we are a responsible country and we have to think globally as well. So, it's not only good for us to bring the changes under control but it's also good for the whole planet and that I think we should be very concerned with this. We cannot go into these negotiations with a single minded, narrowly conceived idea of self interest.

India should play a leadership role in demanding cogent action, in helping to set goals, and also demonstrating solutions. So, I think India should play a leadership role in demanding cogent action, in helping to set goals like how much carbon dioxide should be acceptable in the atmosphere and we also need to contribute in our own way by adopting more efficient technologies. But India also has to, because of its voice and strength in the global economy, be persuasive. It ought to be demonstrating through its own science and technology for example, how we can use the sun, the wind, the biomass and all the other forms of primary energy to better advantage without creating more carbon emissions. So this is something India, I think, really needs to do very actively - to set an example, both at a population end and at the technology, production and industrialization end. It ought to be looking at ways in which our agriculture minimizes the damage and is less dependant, because of the allocation issue, on changes in the climate. So, I would say, India's job really is to be a leader, which means to take bigger, longer term and more strategic view of how events will unfold. Looking at the next five years or ten years is not something that should constrain India's thinking. It should be looking at what sort of world we would be living in the next 50 years and should be a model for these issues. I think partly because it's straggling between very poor countries like in Africa and many other parts of the world and the developed countries in terms of its access to and ability in science, technology, business, and entrepreneurship, it should be a leader in innovation. So, the negotiations should be colored by an Indian position which says we are all in it together and we have to sit and listen to each other instead of counting the number of pennies we're going to lose by coming to an agreement because the loss is actually very small compared with the disastrous consequences if we don't deal with it.

OWSA: You have made enormous contributions to the environment and the development challenges throughout your career. What more do you seek to accomplish? AK: I'm not sure if I have accomplished very much. If this question is directed at me personally then there is a long way to go. And I hope that IUCN globally and Development Alternatives in India will be able to demonstrate very attractive alternatives that everybody finds useful in their lives. What we try to do is to minimize the negative impacts on the world around by minimizing the use of energy resources and maximizing the quality of life of people. One of the areas that is under great threat is the species and habitats of this world. We are losing species that are becoming extinct at a rate that almost never happened in the history of our planet from the beginning; certainly not for seven hundred million years. And so we are going to end up in a world which is going to be greatly impoverished in terms of the living resources on which we depend. All of these things could very soon be greatly diminished. When that happens, then human existence itself would be under threat. So the job that IUCN and Development Alternatives took on long time ago is to find better ways. This means good science, a very deep empathy and sensitivity to the needs of people and above all an understanding of how it all works- how economics works? how communities work? Unfortunately we keep finding those are very different from the way the world has evolved and today's world doesn't seem to heading in the right direction and our job is to try and change that. Now if you ask me what more do I seek to accomplish, I would say that we may have managed to change direction by one degree but we still have about a hundred and seventy nine degrees to go before we bring it around. So there is a lot of work yet. In our next edition of 'Weekend Special', read the second part of this interview with OneWorld South Asia, where Dr. Khosla speaks of comprehensive energy strategies, clean technology and green jobs...

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 08/14/2010

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India's Middle Class Driving Innovation, Consumption, But Still Vulnerable - Report

NEW DELHI, INDIA - Innovative, cheaply priced products targeted at India's booming middle class are helping to spur domestic consumption and growth but the sector remains vulnerable to economic shocks and carefully calibrated policy measures will be needed to sustain income gains in the longer term, says a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) report. In a special chapter of Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2010, its flagship annual statistical publication, ADB says the ranks of India's middle class, defined as those consuming between $2 and $20 per day (based on survey data in 2005 purchasing power parity dollars), grew by around 205 million between 1990 and 2008, second only to the People's Republic of China. The surge in numbers has seen additional annual sector spending of $256 million and spawned low-cost, locally produced products and services such as Tata Motor's $2200 Nano Car, the Godrej Group's $70 battery-operated refrigerator, and cheap mobile phone rates. The special chapter, titled "The Rise of Asia's Middle Class", also notes that the emergence of a substantial middle class in India has created new avenues for employment and entrepreneurship, and a louder voice for improved public infrastructure and services. At the same time, more than 75% of the country's middle class remain in the $2 - $4 daily consumption bracket, the lower end of a range of $2 to $20, leaving them at risk of falling back into poverty in the event of a major economic shock, such as the global financial crisis. Infrastructure constraints, like unreliable power supplies may also hamper consumption of durable goods. To help unlock the full potential of the Indian middle class as consumers and drivers of growth, the report says the government must continue to remove structural and policy impediments to the sector's development and improve income distribution across the population. Actions should include infrastructure improvements and social safety nets that encourage spending, while providing a buffer during hard times. The government should also put in place policies that stimulate the creation of stable, well-paid jobs, and encourage entrepreneurship and education. "Policies that bolster the middle class may have benefits not only for economic growth, but may be more cost-effective at long-term poverty reduction than policies that focus solely on the poor," said Jong-Wha Lee, ADB Chief Economist. The report notes that while a strong middle class is necessary for sustainable economic growth, higher incomes are resulting in environmental pressures and a rise in 'diseases of affluence' such as obesity, which policy makers will increasingly need to address.

From http://www.adb.org/ 08/19/2010

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SRI LANKA: To Set Up Financial Training Academy

(LBO) - Sri Lanka's government is to set up an academy to train public servants and strengthen the country's fiscal and revenue administration, government spokesman media minister Keheliya Rambukkwelle said. The Academy of Financial Studies (AFS) will be set up as the training arm of the Ministry of Finance and Planning. It will absorb services presently provided by Institute of Government Accounts of Finance and Institute of Public Finance and Development Authority. "The academy is being set up taking into consideration the inadequacy of training facilities in public finance, accountancy and taxation which are acutely felt needs," Rambukkwelle told a news conference. "A massive development drive is being planned and accounting is an area that has to be geared to meet these requirements, sophistication has to be brought in." The island is recovering from a 30-year ethnic war which ended in May 2009 and economic growth is picking and forecast to hit seven percent this year. Rambukkwella said the civil administration has to be revamped and strengthened to meet the needs of the future. "In the next four years we hope to have an accelerated development programme. The 30-year-old system we are used to is too slow. We need to have a stronger public service and accounting service." The proposed academy will provide training facilities to officers in the Ministry of Finance and Planning, including those attached to accountancy service and planning service and officers of the Inland Revenue Department, Customs Department and Excise Department.

From http://www.lankabusinessonline.com/ 08/06/2010

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ARMENIA: Strategy 2020 Armenian Youth Party Program Official Website Launched

Strategy 2020 Armenian Youth Party program official website was launched. The www.strategia2020.am website features two main projects: human resources and youth management. Strategy 2020 Armenian Youth Party program enables excellent students in their last university year to apply for positions in RA governmental structures.

From http://www.panarmenian.net/ 08/10/2010

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5000 Mwt of Energy Expected to Be Generated in Armenia by 2020

5000 Mwt of energy might be generated in Armenia by 2020 in case of a new power unit opening, according to the deputy director of Noravank Scientific Research Center, Sevak Sarukhanyan. "Annual energy consumption in Armenia amounts to 1200 Mwt. However, with a new power unit opening, energy consumption might reach 2000 Mwt, with the remaining part to be exported. At present, Iran's demand for Armenian electric energy is 1000 Mwt, with a potential to reach 2000 Mwt, should the border with Turkey be opened. Besides, construction of new power unit will create jobs for energy sector specialists," Sarukhanyan said in a conversation with PanARMENIAN.Net reporter. According to Armenian National Statistic Service data, January - July energy production volume in RA comprised 3205.3 kilowatt-hour, exceeding 2009 results by 15%.

From http://www.panarmenian.net/ 08/25/2010

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AZERBAIJAN: Start Pilot Program on Targeted Social Aid from 2011

The Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Azerbaijan plans to introduce a system to sign social contracts with the recipients of targeted social aid (TSA) from 2011, the head of the department on poverty and policy of targeted social aid of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, Natik Gasimov. "Analysis of the program of targeted social aid over the last four years has revealed a great need of poor groups of population in the active involvement in the programs of social security, said Gasimov. - Due to this, it was decided to study the possible introduction of the principles, successfully implemented in many countries worldwide for issuing social aid, in Azerbaijan."

The first innovation, he said, will be signing social contracts, in which certain obligations will be assigned to the recipients of TSA that would lead to an increase in employment, provision of social services to needy families, creation of conditions for effective use of aid, he said. In cooperation with the World Bank, a new program on social aid is prepared, which will facilitate the creation of conditions for self-securing of poor people in the future by addressing the factors affecting family poverty. "A similar practice is successfully implemented in five regions of Russia, and we plan to introduce it in two districts of Azerbaijan from 2011," said Gasimov. Upon the recommendations of the WB, the draft program of self-securing will be tested in two pilot areas of the country during one year. According to Gasimov, in those districts, it is expected to completely pay social aid envisaged for the year provided that a business plan will be submitted with activities to be conducted through TSA funds. These funds may be spent on the development of agriculture, small businesses, individual activities. Guba and Ismayilli were selected as the pilot areas.

In mid next year, after making appropriate changes to the law on targeted social aid, it will be possible to extend the program to the whole country from 2012. As of July 1, 2010, the number of recipients of TSA in the country amounted to 132,945 families (603,074 people). The average amount of TSA for a family in the country is 112.98 manat, per person - 24.91 manat. Of the total number of recipients of TSA, 108,277 people (81.4 percent) receive the aid for the first time. Since 2006, Azerbaijan has introduced a TSA system. Its amount is determined based on the difference between "need criteria", which is 65 manat and income per family member.Official rate on July 28 is 0.8036 AZN/USD.

From http://en.trend.az/ 07/28/2010

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Training on Establishment of Business Relations Held in Azerbaijan

The Azerbaijani Naftalan city hosted a training course on "Role of business ties in the development of entrepreneurship" organized by the Naftalan City Executive Power and the Ganja representation of the Baku business education center under the Economic Development Ministry, the ministry reported. Representatives of the training center, the executive power, the Azerbaijan State Agricultural University and more than 15 entrepreneurs attended the trainings. Entrepreneurs were provided with information on how to establish business relations with a view to ensure production of goods and ensure its sales, managing relationships, ethical principles and standards and a code of corporate ethics.

From http://www.today.az/ 08/23/2010

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KYRGYZSTAN: Energy Transparency Initiative Promises to Reform Troubled Sector

Kyrgyzstan's interim government is addressing some of the root economic causes of the political instability in the Central Asian nation this year, in particular energy-sector woes. But as officials take steps to reform the ailing sector, some civil society activists are worrying about the government's commitment to genuine change. Mismanagement of the energy sector played a key role in the downfall of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's administration in April. The opaque sector is notorious for corruption, and Kyrgyz citizens greeted tariff increases last winter with anger when it appeared the president's friends and family members might be in position to profit from the increases. Moreover, some villages faced blackouts up to 16 hours per day. [For background see EurasiaNet's archive]. On July 20, provisional President Roza Otunbayeva signed a decree that is designed to "introduce transparency and public consultation into the management and regulation of the Fuel and Energy Sector." On paper, at least, the decree forces government agencies and private companies working in Kyrgyzstan's energy sector to adhere to a set of criteria known as the Fuel and Energy Sector Transparency Initiative (FESTI). FESTI promises to publicly report the finances of energy interests and introduce "transparent procedures for defining tariff methodologies and setting tariffs," as well as use "open and competitive tenders" for fuel export and import. The also decree establishes a monitoring body including "representatives from state agencies, non-governmental organizations and the companies of the Fuel and Energy Sector of the Kyrgyz Republic."

Kyrgyzstan makes most of its energy via hydroelectric power plants. Due to limited reservoir capacity, it cannot store the water to create power during the winter months. Nikolai Kravtsov, an energy expert and director of Yustin, a consumer rights advocacy group, called the decree "very timely," but cautioned that implementation will be far more difficult than simply signing a document. "The main thing now is that officials in the ministries understand the document correctly. If we let [ministry officials] implement this document, that will be the end of it," Kravtsov said. FESTI is "the right measure now" for tackling widespread corruption, said Asiya Sasykbaeva, director of Interbilim, an umbrella group that monitors the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Kyrgyzstan. "The level of corruption is very high in the sector because every head of every office, when appointed, thinks [the resources] are his personal property," Sasykbaeva said. But, she fears, the Energy Ministry may already be flaunting the new regulations. While expressing his support for the initiative, Energy Minister Osmonbek Artykbaev revealed on July 21 that Bishkek was negotiating with Beijing about exporting power to China, the AKIpress news agency reported. A week before, the ministry announced a $57-million deal to sell power to five Kazakh companies this year, potentially exporting more than 1.8 billion kilowatt hours.

Bishkek published the names of the companies and the amounts of the tenders, but announced the sale only after the contracts had been concluded. Moreover, at the end of June the ministry stopped reporting information on the amount of water in the Toktogul Reservoir, Kyrgyzstan's largest, for four days. Officials told EurasiaNet.org that the information was held as a commercial secret during negotiations with Kazakhstan. Anti-corruption activists question why they were not involved in the process. "Civil society actors were invited to the consultations regarding selling the energy, but when it came to the price discussion, civil society actors and the press were asked to leave. Of course, this is not good," said Sasykbaeva, the Interbilim director, going on to suggest that officials are trying to cover up energy losses rather than reveal shortcomings in their management. "If state officials are not professional, people shouldn't pay for it." Little has been reported on the negotiations with Beijing since Otunbayeva signed the FESTI pact. Another sticky issue will be the raising of tariffs. A price hike is needed to keep the sector solvent, ministry officials have indicated. At the same time, energy tariffs are a politically explosive issue in Kyrgyzstan. In one of its first decrees following the April uprising that forced Bakiyev from power, the provisional government reversed the energy tariff hikes that had been the source of widespread protest. But the system is not sustainable at the lower rates, many experts believe. [For background see EurasiaNet's archive]. While expressing her support for FESTI and noting potential fiscal benefits from selling energy to Kazakhstan, Aziza Abdurasulova, a well-known anti-corruption crusader, says that, to improve transparency, only experts independent of the Energy Ministry should determine the rates of energy tariff increases. Kravtsov, the consumer advocate, is also skeptical about how the provisional government is approaching tariff price increases. The day after Otunbayeva signed the FESTI declaration, the energy minister began pushing for tariff increases without consulting outside experts. "He is basically sabotaging the decree of the president," Kravtsov said.

From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 08/02/2010

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OSCE Experts, Kyrgyzstan's Authorities Discuss How to Improve Elections

Measures to improve elections in Kyrgyzstan, including providing for effective and timely remedy to complaints, improving voter lists and promoting fair media coverage were in focus as experts from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights met with authorities in Kyrgyzstan. The ODIHR delegation visited Bishkek as part of a dialogue with Kyrgyzstan's authorities and other election stakeholders with the goal of improving the conduct of elections ahead of the country's 10 October parliamentary elections.

The meetings focused on recommendations made by the ODIHR limited observation mission for Kyrgyzstan's constitutional referendum on 27 June and how these could be implemented ahead of the upcoming parliamentary vote. "We welcome the opportunity to meet with the Kyrgyz authorities to discuss ways in which the recommendations made in the report can help improve election processes ahead of such an important test for the country," said ODIHR Senior Election Advisor Nicola Schmidt. "We hope that all election commissions continue to work in the open and transparent manner that we saw during the referendum process. It is important that electoral procedures and regulations are clear and that they are consistently applied."

The discussions also covered recommendations concerning fair and responsible campaigning; additional training for polling station staff, particularly in relation to the counting and tabulation of results; safeguards to prevent multiple voting; the strengthening of the independence of election commissions and the establishment of clear and consistent procedures for their formation. Schmidt and Raul Muresan, who was deputy head of the limited referendum observation mission, met representatives from the Foreign Ministry, the Central Election Commission and other government authorities, as well as from civil society organizations, the media and international organizations. ODIHR will observe the parliamentary elections in October at the invitation of Kyrgyzstan's government.

From http://news.uzreport.com/ 08/25/2010

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KAZAKHSTAN: KZT 245 mln Allocated for Development of Innovation Projects in 2010

Scientists and novice businessmen will be rendered assistance in writing business plans to attract investments by the experts of technological parks. Managing Director of the Center of Engineering and Transfer of Technologies of the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies of Kazakhstan Bolat Menshik has made it public today at a press-conference. B. Menshik emphasized that the assistance also would be provided in bringing innovation technologies to market products and attracting investors. Assistance of the state is free. 8 technological parks of Almaty, Karaganda, Uralsk, Shymkent, Ust Kamenogorsk and Petropavlosk are considering at present 149 interesting projects. 30 of them are planned to be financed by the yearend. KZT 245 mln was allocated for this aim.

From http://www.inform.kz/ 07/29/2010

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TURKMENISTAN: Establish Road Institute

Turkmenistan plans to set up a higher education establishment for training of specialists for the road construction industry. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov issued relevant instructions at a meeting yesterday. As the Turkmenistan.ru correspondent reports from Ashgabat, the head of state also asked the chairman of the state concern Turkmenautoyollary, Ashir Sarybaev to increase the pace of construction of roads in the country, improve their quality, limit the weight capacity of multi-ton cargo vehicles on these roads, and build granite curbs along the edges of central streets of the capital.

From http://www.turkmenistan.ru/ 08/10/2010

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Pacific Civil Society Welcomes Dialogue

The Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisations (PIANGO) has welcomed calls for more dialogue with civil society after the secretariat of the Pacific Islands Forum was criticised for failing to consult civil society organisations. That was before the recent Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Port Vila. Now, the forum's secretary general, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, has acknowledged the enormous grassroots skills, knowledge and staying power of civil society organisations and called on regional bodies to build a partnership with them.

Presenter: Jemima Garrett
Speaker: Emele Duitutraga, executive director, Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisations

GARRETT: The forum secretariat's failure to consult the peak bodies representing grassroots organisations has been a bone of contention for the past two years - and all the more so as those organisations saw donors such as the World Bank and the private sector win direct access to the annual Pacific leaders' summit.

Emele Duitutraga, executive director of the Pacific Islands Association on Non-Government Organisations, hopes the comments by forum secretary general, Tuiloma Neroni Slade are a sign that things are about to change.

DUITUTURAGA: His comments are certainly welcomed. And I think there is a real desire, there is recognition of NGOs (Non Government Organisations) and CSOs (Civil Society Organisations), but I'd have to say that has been the tenor of intentions that we've heard in the last year and so the challenge for both of us now is to move into some action.

GARRETT: Behind the scenes that action is already underway. Last month PIANGO held talks with the forum secretary general to look at it could work work more closely with the forum secretariat. Ms Duituturaga says those talks are a breakthrough, and, she says, she was particularly interested to hear secretary general Slade say that he wants a partnership strategy with Civil Society.

DUITUTRAGA: I think that would be the first concrete commitment, to develop that strategy - meaning, to bring CSOs to a round table dialogue to develop that strategy. There are some mechanisms which we consider are in place but have not been working, for example, PIANGO and five other CSOs have consultative status but we have not really been consulted, so it raises questions about what does having that status mean. We've also applied for accreditation to a number of official meetings. I think it is now for the forum secretariat to identify what meetings PIANGO and other CSOs can attend.

GARRETT: The Pacific Islands' Association of Non-Government Organisations has been waiting two years for the forum secretariat to release funding for civil society provided by the European Union - and for it to find money for an unfilled CSO adviser position at its headquarters in Suva. Ms Duituturaga says these issues need action and she would like to see civil society offered a formal dialogue at the Pacific leaders summit.

DUITUTURAGA: It would be great to have the opportunity in a similar way that private sector leaders from PIPSO (the Pacific Island Private Sector Organisation) have been able to meet directly with the leaders. Civil society leaders have wanted that and I am sure that would be a great step in the right direction, plus also to have agenda items that civil society have contributed to.

GARRETT: What difference could a better dialogue and partnership with civil society organisations make for the way that regional programmes run by the forum secretariat are implemented?

DUITUTURAGA: The secretary general talked about the need for ownership at the community level, the need for the Pacific Plan and other issues like climate change, HIV/AIDs to be addressed at the community level. The reality, and I think he acknowledges this, is that CSOs are already engaged at that level. We are at the forefront, we're at the heart of community development, addressing climate change, addressing HIV/AIDS. I think at the regional level, that is where regional mechanisms are out of sync in recognising or bringing that in. So, CSO involvement will accelerate MDGs (Millennium Development Goals). I am not convinced that MDGs will be reached by 2015 without CSOs taking the lead. The Pacific Plan will be able to be owned at the country level and implemented at the community level because we are already involved in the issues in the Pacific Plan. And so that recognition or that involvement would also mean that the Pacific Forum would be better able to track MDG implementation, Pacific Plan implementation and report that to the leaders, so we would improve reporting. We would also accelerate implementation and I think the issue of ownership will be driven home through CSO efforts.

From http://www.radioaustralianews.net.au/ 08/18/2010

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AUSTRALIA: Opposition Vows to Block Internet Filter

Australia's Opposition treasury spokesman, Joe Hockey, says the Coalition will not back the government's proposed internet filter. The government announced the filter two years ago as part of its cyber safety program to protect children from pornography and offensive material. The plan has been criticised by internet users who claim it will slow download speeds and lead to unwarranted censorship. Mr Hockey says if Labor wins the election the opposition will not vote in favour of the filter. "We believe the internet filter will not work and we believe it's flawed policy," he said. "It is not going to capture a whole lot of images and chatter that we all find offensive ... that are going through email." He says the Coalition would stick to the plan of "giving parents more control".

"The ISP filter-based system does not work, therefore it creates ... an assumption of trust that cannot be met by the technology." Last month the Government announced an independent review of its filter policy. The review, which could take up to a year, will look at what makes up "refused classification" rated content. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the review had nothing to do with criticism of the proposal from the likes of Google and the US government. Senator Conroy had originally intended to introduce the legislation in the first half of this year but then deferred it to later in 2010. Electronic Frontiers Australia, which monitors online freedoms and rights, has welcomed Mr Hockey's stance. "We call on Minister Conroy and the Gillard Government to now admit the mandatory filter policy is dead, and to move on to a debate more grounded in reality," EFA chair Colin Jacobs said.

"The Government must now listen to the experts and get back to working on giving Australians access to better and faster broadband." Greens Senator Scott Ludlam says the Coalition's announcement is "excellent news". "The Liberal Party should be congratulated for finally declaring their hand," he said. "The ALP should drop the censorship proposal rather than fighting what now looks inevitable.

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 08/06/2010

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Australian Prime Minister Highlights Cost of Living

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has sought to highlight cost of living issues, during a day of grassroots campaign events in the Northern Territory. Julia Gillard has made her first visit to Darwin for the election campaign, focusing on the very marginal Labor seat of Solomon. She handed out how to vote cards at the Rapid Creek market. She also posed for photos, took phone calls and discussed the pressures of household bills during a tour of the Casurina shopping centre. Ms Gillard finished her day inspecting new housing in the satellite city of Palmerston.

From http://www.computerworld.com.au/ 08/12/2010

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Australian Government Plans Fast-track Teacher Training

The Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard says a plan to fast-track professionals into teaching will not detract from other teaching graduates. If it's re-elected, the ruling Labor party is planning to spend $AU16 million encouraging professionals such as engineers, accountants and lab technicians to move into teaching. Ms Gillard says the professionals will go through an eight-week intensive course and then spend two years working as a teacher to gain their degree. She says they'll spend roughly the same amount of time learning as post-graduate teaching students, but they'll receive $10,000 to help them through the initial course. "Something that would have stopped them making that choice is many Australians could not have sustained the income loss to go to a traditional teacher education course, this will give them a way to support them into teaching."

The Australian Education Union is concerned Labor's new plan to lure more professionals into teaching will put underqualified teachers in classrooms. The AEU's President Angelo Gavrielatos says a short training course should not replace a teaching degree. "At the end of the day qualifications represent the minimum requirement you'd expect of qualified teachers. And I'm yet to meet a parent in the street or anywhere that wants anyone other than a qualified teacher teaching their child."

From http://www.computerworld.com.au/ 08/10/2010

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Australian Government Defends Immigration Detention

The Australian Government has been forced to defend the legality of immigration detention in a High Court hearing. The High Court is hearing an application to overturn a decision by the government to refuse refugee applications by two Sri Lankan men. The pair arrived on Christmas Island last October claiming they would be persecuted if sent back to Sri Lanka. The two men were alleged supporters of the paramilitary Tamil tigers movement. The two men wanted the Minister for Immigration to intervene in their case, but were told he had no duty to. During the course of proceedings today the government solicitor general was questioned by Justice Crennan on what grounds asylum seekers were kept in detention. He said it was clearly proscribed under the Migration Act.

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 08/25/2010

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COOK ISLANDS: Government to Put Greater Focus on Pearl Farming

The secretary of the Cook Islands' Ministry of Finance, Kevin Carr, says the Government intends putting more focus on pearl farming and agriculture as it strives to develop the economy. The Cooks has been struggling financially and MPs have been debating a supplementary budget for the current year while Mr Carr says the budget for the coming year, presented tomorrow, has been a difficult one to write. "People have generally been prepared for a difficult budget, a budget that doesn't have a lot of extra income for new development and I think the government's performed very well in being able to do what it can do with its limited funds."

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 08/01/2010

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NEW ZEALAND: Govt to Carefully Consider Housing Report

The Government is carefully considering the Housing Shareholders' Advisory Group report on options for improving the social and affordable housing sector, Finance Minister Bill English and Housing Minister Phil Heatley said today. "The aim of this review was to identify how we could help those most in need get the assistance they need for as long as they need it," Mr Heatley said. "The Government has around $15 billion invested in social housing and is committed to retaining state housing. However, a significant number of houses are in a poor state of repair, are of the wrong size and are in the wrong places to meet demand. "We want to ensure this significant asset is utilised to the best effect. We also want the system to be fairer and to work better for those families most in need," he said.

The independent Group's report identifies a number of challenges to be addressed regarding social and affordable housing in New Zealand. It makes 19 recommendations, which the Group believes will help to ensure New Zealanders have access to social and affordable housing in the future. Mr Heatley said the Housing Shareholders' Advisory Group had produced a comprehensive report and, in the process, would help to generate constructive debate. He welcomed the Group's call for the need to diversify the funding of social housing by increasing community sector involvement. "I note the Advisory Group's concern that many countries are grappling with similar issues but New Zealand has yet to adopt some of the strategies observed offshore to address them," he said.

Mr English said the Group had decided to widen its brief and include housing affordability and social housing's relationship with the wider benefit system. "As the scope of the report has widened, it needs further consideration and we want to gain a deeper understanding of the issues and to get feedback from the wider sector and officials before making any decisions on the report," he said. "There are a number of challenges to be addressed and there is no quick fix. We want to ensure we carefully consider the report and consult with the sector before considering any changes to government policy," he said. "We have asked the Housing Shareholders' Advisory Group to engage with key stakeholders in the wider sector on the implications arising from their recommendations and to report back to the Government later in the year."

Mr English said the Government would only consider making changes to the current system if it meant it was going to work better and deliver the right results for those most in need. The seven-member Advisory Group was chaired by Dr Alan Jackson, a former senior vice-president in the Auckland office of global consultancy firm, the Boston Consulting Group. Other members of the Group included Major Campbell Roberts (Salvation Army), Diane Robertson (Auckland City Mission), Brian Donnelly (New Zealand Housing Foundation) and Paul White (iwi, social services and housing), who all have considerable experience working in the social and affordable housing sector. Andrew Body and Martin Udale are experienced in the business, banking, corporate and investment communities.

Mr English and Mr Heatley commended the Group for its work so far and thanked them for the professional job they had done. "We look forward to hearing back from the Group later in the year on the outcomes of their discussions with the wider sector."

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 08/06/2010

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Public Sector Innovation Needed in Years Ahead

Public sector restraint and innovation will be needed for years to come to improve the quality of frontline services, while also ensuring New Zealand climbs out of deficit and controls its debt, Finance Minister Bill English says. "Although our economy has now been growing for a year, we are still looking down the barrel of five more years of deficits," Mr English said in a speech to the Australia New Zealand School of Government in Melbourne today. "Even when we get back to surplus, there will be strong competing demands on Government spending - high Government debt will need to be repaid and, when surpluses permit, we will resume contributions to the NZ Super Fund. "Therefore we are likely to require surpluses of at least 2 per cent of GDP before we even have the choice of significantly increasing public spending.

"In our first two Budgets, we have reprioritised almost $4 billion of spending over five years - about 1.1 per cent of our total spending - to put back into vital frontline services in areas like health, education and law and order. "We now face a far more challenging task - finding further savings so we can improve the quality of our public services within tight fiscal constraints. We also need to rebalance our economy away from excessive Government spending and towards savings, exports and sustainable growth. "We are laying the foundations for a public service that chooses innovation and change. We have left existing structures largely in place and pushed responsibility for managing resources clearly on to public sector chief executives, rather than the Treasury or the Minister of Finance.

"Longer-term effective change is driven by people who know the business, clearly understand the parameters they are working to and have the tools they need to implement change. "It's not an option for the public sector to wait out these challenges. Hope is not a strategy. And it won't work because the New Zealand public want to see evidence that the public sector is living within its means, as New Zealanders are themselves."

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 08/12/2010

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NZ Agency Faces Legal Challenge over Climate Change Data

Climate change sceptics in New Zealand have accused the government's atmospheric research agency of inflating temperatures to bolster evidence of global warming. In a move that has been heavily criticised by several top scientists, New Zealand's Climate Science Coalition is mounting a High Court challenge to the country's official temperature record. The Coalition's chairman and lawyer Barry Brill says temperatures haven't increased as much as the government agency claims. "One of the most important facts in the whole debate is what's been happening in the past and in our country that record is wrong," he said. A spokesman for the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research said the agency is confident that its science will be fully vindicated.

From http://www.radioaustralianews.net.au/ 08/17/2010

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85% of Natural Disaster-Related Fatalities Occur in Asia

Population density plays a role, but why do so many natural disasters occur in Asia in the first place? 85% of all natural disaster-related fatalities occur in Asia, according to the World Health Organization. And starting tomorrow, representatives from 13 countries will meet in Vietnam to address the widespread occurrence of disaster-related fatalities in Asia and how to better prepare for them in the future. With Afghanistan's 5.3 earthquake last this week, the 5.2 earthquake in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan today, and Pakistan's ongoing flood crisis, the meeting in Vietnam is utterly timely. IRIN, a humanitarian news site, reported that in 2009 alone, "Asia accounted for six of the top 10 disasters in the world." With China and India both in Asia, sheer density and the size of the continent obviously plays a role in the high number of fatalities in the region. But of course poverty, poor engineering standards, and weak preparedness policies also affect disaster recovery and fatality statistics. But the curious thing we're waiting on geologists, climate scientists, and psychics to explain is this: why do so many natural disasters occur in Asia in the first place? (by Jenara Nerenberg)

From http://www.fastcompany.com/ 08/24/2010

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Conference Warns of Cyber Crime Threat

The 13th Asia-Pacific Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy Associates conference ended here today with participants taking note of the threat posed by cyber criminals. Conference organising chairman Datuk Shahbudin Abd Wahab said participants acknowledged that cyber crimes were fast-spreading and could undermine global security. "We acknowledge that future threats will come from cyber criminals intent on exploiting information and the World Wide Web," he told reporters at the close of the conference, here today. Shahbudin, who is the Royal Malaysia Police College commandant, said identity theft was also a major concern because personal data could be used to commit crime. "These criminals are a web-savvy lot; and one crime could lead to another and snowball into a major security issue such as terrorism," he said. He said there was an urgent need for enforcement agencies and ICT experts as well as international enforcement agencies such as the Interpol to collaborate to deal with the problem. "The conference here is among the avenues for such cooperation. We can't work alone," he said.

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

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UN Reports Wide Disparity in Gender Gap

Lack of women's participation in the workforce across Asia-Pacific costs the region an estimated $89 billion every year, according to a new report released by the UN Nations Development Program (UNDP). On the other hand, the increase of women workers in developed countries in the last 10 years contributed more to global growth than has China's remarkable economic record, observes the report, "Power, Voice and Rights: A Turning Point for Gender Equality in Asia and the Pacific". Microenterprises in particular have become an important way for poor women to build assets. Nine out of 10 enterprises in the Philippines are microenterprises. Among micro entrepreneurs, women outnumber men two to one in trade and repairs. Despite obstacles to credit and capital, the flow of women into business in Asia-Pacific is steady; up to 35 percent of small or medium enterprises in the region are headed by women.

East Asia, the most successful sub-region in Asia-Pacific in terms of growth rates, has the smallest gender gap in the world in the employment-to-population ratio, and lower segmentation of jobs by gender. Reaching the same level of women's labor market participation in the United States - over 70 percent - would boost GDP in countries by 4.2 percent a year in India, 2.9 percent in Malaysia and 1.4 percent in Indonesia, the UNDP report states, adding the gains would be greater where current female participation rates are the lowest. Long-term data from 1960 to 2000 suggest that a combination of gender gaps in education and employment accounts annually for a significant difference of up to 1.6 percentage points in per capita growth rates between South Asia and East Asia. Over that period, East Asia made long leaps in life expectancy and education for women, while pulling a record number of them into the workplace. In turn, this sub-region grew faster than all others worldwide.

Still, in the ownership and control of assets and the ability to earn incomes - two fundamental pathways to economic well-being - women continue to lag far behind men in much of the region. Asia-Pacific as a whole lags behind much of the rest of the world. The report cites the findings of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization that women head 20 percent of farms in most regions of the world. In Asia-Pacific, a mere 7 percent of women are farm managers. And yet, more than 65 percent of females in South Asia and more than 40 percent in East Asia were employed in agriculture in 2007. For the most part, patterns of asset ownership and control make men more likely to inherit, own and manage larger stretches of land, while women's activities are confined to small household plots.

Most employed women in Asia-Pacific are in vulnerable employment - broadly defined as self-employed or own account workers and contributing family workers. In the midst of the after effects of the global economic downturn, gender disparities are now apparent in the disposability of female workers. More than half of the 40,000 jobs lost in the Philippines during the global economic downturn were in export processing zones where 80 percent of workers are women. Despite laws guaranteeing equal pay for equal work, women still earn only 54 to 90 percent of what men earn in Asia-Pacific countries. Wage gaps arise from women's predominance in lower-paid positions; interruptions in their work life, often related to family concerns; and the lower valuation of typically female occupations.

Female computer programmers make 80 percent of what men do in Singapore, and 90 per cent that of men in South Korea. Across all job sectors, women's labor has certain common characteristics. Women workers are often in demand after available supplies of male labor are exhausted, or because women are willing to accept low wages and poorer work conditions. In 2004-2005, there were just under 15 million women workers in the informal sector. More than half of them were women involved in home-based work for different industries, mostly on a piece-rate basis. While these jobs can provide opportunities, workers are also vulnerable to the growing competitiveness faced by export-based industries such as garments. (by Paul Icamina) (This is the first of two parts)

From http://www.malaya.com.ph/ 07/30/2010

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Modest Growth Expected for Pacific Economies in 2011, Says ADB

Stronger than expected economic growth in resource rich Timor-Leste has resulted in an upgrade of the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) forecast of economic growth in the Pacific region, according to the latest edition of ADB's Pacific Economic Monitor. The July 2010 edition of the report, a tri-annual economic review of 14 Pacific island countries by ADB, reveals that high economic growth in Timor-Leste, which has resulted in an upgrade of projected economic growth in the Pacific region overall, is driven by continued increases in government expenditure, and improved agriculture production. Growth projections for Papua New Guinea (PNG) remain unchanged at 5.5% in 2010 and 7.7% in 2011. As anticipated, delays in the construction phase of the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project have shifted some of the growth contribution of this project into 2011.

Pacific island economies, excluding PNG and Timor Leste, are expected to perform slightly better overall in 2011 than in 2010. Projected economic growth for 2010 remains unchanged at 0.5%; however, this performance is expected to improve in 2011, albeit only slightly, with a 1.3% expansion projected. An upgrade of economic growth in Solomon Islands in 2010, from an earlier expectation of 2.0% to 3.5%, is largely due to stronger than expected recovery in the commodities of logging, cocoa, fish and palm oil. In contrast to Solomon Islands, The Monitor mentions downgrades in growth for the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, and Vanuatu economies, due to weaker than expected tourism growth outside Fiji, and slower than expected implementation of public investment programs. The Monitor warns that inflation is now projected to reach 5.9% in the Pacific region overall this year due to the post-crisis rise in world oil prices. The Pacific is particularly vulnerable to rising oil prices, as the region pays more for fuel than other regions.

"Fuel and utility prices are too high in most Pacific countries. This is a problem that can be tackled by policies that enhance competitive pressures and raise efficiency," said Robert Wihtol, Director General of ADB's Pacific Department. The report includes a special article on the ongoing policy discussions in Papua New Guinea as to how sovereign wealth from LNG resources should be managed and utilized. The report says these funds may potentially be used to address a backlog of infrastructure maintenance and to provide a catalyst for PNG's public-private partnership program. The relative cost of telecommunications, fuel and electricity is explored in the latest issue. The report notes the good progress made in lifting the performance in telecommunications, notably in Palau and Tonga, and the potential to extend the gains to other countries and other industries. The report provides an update of recent developments in the region and explores topical policy issues. The ADB publication uses data from Australia, New Zealand, US, and Asia to supplement data from the region and to provide up-to-date assessments and broader coverage of the Pacific island economies.

From http://www.adb.org/ 08/02/2010

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50 Million Women in Asia at Risk of HIV Infection: UNAIDS

BALI, Indonesia (Reuters) - Fifty million women in Asia are at risk of being infected with HIV because of the risky sexual behaviour of their husbands or boyfriends, leading health experts said in a report on Tuesday. More than 90 percent of the 1.7 million women now living with HIV in Asia became infected while being in monogamous, long-term relationships with men who engaged in risky sex behaviour, the report launched by UNAIDS said. These include men who had other sexual partners or who were drug users." We need to target men who engage in paid sex, injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, who can transmit the virus to their partners," Jean D'Cunha, regional director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women in South Asia, told a news conference held on the margins of an HIV/AIDS conference in Bali." We need to question the attitudes, values and behaviour and transform these so that women would be less vulnerable to HIV/AIDS."

While the issue of gender inequality is often ignored or laughed off, experts say it cannot be taken lightly in the context of HIV/AIDS, a disease that can be transmitted through sexual contact and which is incurable. Sex workers, who have very little bargaining power to begin with, are usually forced to comply when their clients refuse to use condoms. Back home, the wives of these men too have no power to demand that condoms be used even if they know about the risky sexual behaviour of their husbands. While the fight against the AIDS epidemic has seen progress on some fronts, women continue to bear the brunt of it. Women make up 35 percent of all adult HIV infections in Asia now, up from 17 percent in 1990.

REVERSING A CULTURE
Maire Bopp-Allport, head of the Pacific Islands Aids Foundation, contracted the AIDS virus from her boyfriend around 1996. Today, she is a familiar figure in the global fight against the disease." At the heart of the issue is thousands of years of education to our males that it's okay to think that women are there to simply serve them and do everything they want. We need to bring a new culture where it's not okay," she told Reuters." They need to be able to think that the abuse of a woman is the abuse of their daughters when their daughters become women," she added. (by Tan Ee Lyn)

From http://www.nsnews.com/ 08/05/2010

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Gender Differences in Web Usability - New Study

Gender as an audience sensitive criteria (differentiation) is barely present in North American technology product design (where it is much easier to do) let alone Web experiences. In Asia there is more design innovation in this area, for example see: Toshiba's Femininity series. Implications of this phenomenon are discussed below. First a summary of the findings:

Comscore report 'Women on the Web' Key Findings:
1. Women have surpassed men as online buyers (and they spend more) and their influence is growing rapidly. Social retail is an emerging area for women, due to their tendency to share and discuss with other others.
2. Women spend more time online (8% globally) than men and 30% more time on social networking sites than men.
3. Women are motivated differently in their use of social networking sites like Twitter. Twitter adoption is equal or higher than men. Twitter is used by women more for conversation, to follow celebrities or to find deals and promotions. Men are more likely to post their own tweets.
4. Social networking is emerging as a driver for women in the mobile sphere.
5. Women are using online entertainment (eg puzzle, board and card games) and functional sites (money management) as much as men (change in past behavior from health, apparel, baby goods).
6. Cultural differences in emerging markets (Asia, Latin America) will always influence online behavior by gender- an important localization issue.
7. Older women more than men, are rapidly adopting social networking sites - and at the same intensity as younger women.
8. Women are still attracted to health content, community and lifestyle sites. However women are outpacing men in some areas of finance and are actively engaging in male-dominated areas such as adult content and gambling.
9. Compared to men, women Bing users spend more time on Bing for search, than Google - and YouTube for video. Facebook, while visited more than men is unable to compete with regional social networking sites (such as CyWorld in South Korea, Vkontakte.ru in Russia, Mixi.jp in Japan or StudiVZ in Germany), especially among older women.
10. Women spend more time on Social Networking, Instant Messaging (IM) and Email than men globally.
11. The embrace of social networking and its importance to women has significant implications for content and user experience.
12. Women spend more time on photo sites and adopt photo sharing faster. Email usage is higher in the 45+ age group. Latin American women do more IM'ing than other women globally, with their use of email topping North American females.

Significance of the Data
The findings from the Comscore global study provide a fresh starting point to understand the opportunities for designing user experiences, both Web and product, that resonate with women. Women's presence on the Web is changing, and as Comscore found, restricted access to technology (computers and Internet) is a major hindrance to more women getting online. As more of the world's women get online, the opportunity to design for women will be the default (not the exception, as it has been viewed in the past). A 2002 study by Van Slyke et al. entitled 'Gender Differences in perceptions of Web-based shopping' found that women were visiting shopping sites more than men, but that men were buying more than women. They also recommended: "Web merchants may find it useful to use technology to increase a sense of community and create a social forum for their customers". Given the Comscore findings above, women's usage of the Web has clearly changed! But has web design and user experience strategy kept up?
Source: Demystifying Usability blog, 18 August 2010

From http://www.usabilitynews.com/ 08/18/2010

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Asian Economies More Resilient During Global Crisis than Expected: Report

Asia has shown more resilience than initially expected to the global financial crisis, with major economies posting solid growth, even as demand for exports from the US and Europe slumped, says a new report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2010, ADB's flagship annual statistical publication, says while gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates were broadly lower across the region in 2009, larger economies such as the People's Republic of China (PRC) and India still managed to post healthy economic expansions, supported by government stimulus spending that helped offset export declines. In 2009, when the worst effects of the crisis were flowing through the global economy, PRC's GDP grew 9.1% and India's 7.4%; other strong performers include Bangladesh with growth of 5.7%, Viet Nam with 5.3%, and Indonesia with 4.5%.

The latest edition of Key Indicators contains wide ranging economic statistics that closely track the impact of the global crisis through the second half of 2008 and into 2009, and enable clear comparisons with the pre-crisis years up to 2007."Data comparisons show that the crisis did not have as serious an impact on Asia and the Pacific as had been initially feared in 2008, but it did interrupt the strong growth trends seen before 2007 and its cost can be measured in the gains foregone in the slowdown," said ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda in the report's foreword.The data notes that private consumption as a percentage of GDP in developing Asia remains relatively low compared to developed countries, while household savings rates are generally high, suggesting that governments in the region have scope to promote more social protection schemes that can encourage domestic spending and reduce dependence on exports, helping to rebalance growth.

The statistics also show that the Asia and Pacific region has the largest share of global GDP measured in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms at around 33%, with Europe accounting for 28%, and North America 24%, while six of the world's top 20 economies, in GDP at PPP terms, come from Asia. At the same time, the data shows that output in the region is dominated by just three countries - PRC, India, and Japan - which collectively produce 70% of the total. In terms of capital formation, PRC and India lead the way, and in the long run this should see them continuing to grow at faster rates than other large economies in the region.

From http://www.adb.org/ 08/19/2010

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Asia's Expanding Middle Class Presents Huge Opportunity for Region, World - Report

Developing Asia's rapidly expanding middle class is likely to assume the traditional role of the US and Europe as primary global consumers and help rebalance the global economy, says a new report on Asia's middle class from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The report, published in a special chapter of Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2010, the flagship annual statistical publication of the ADB, found that Asia's consumers spent an estimated $4.3 trillion (in 2005 purchasing power parity dollars), or about one-third of OECD consumption expenditure, in 2008 and by 2030 will likely spend $32 trillion, comprising about 43% of the worldwide consumption. The special chapter, titled "The Rise of Asia's Middle Class", examines the rapid growth of Asia's middle class, how the poor advance to the middle class, factors that characterize the middle class, and pathways through which they become effective contributors to growth and poverty reduction in the region. "Developing Asia's middle class is rapidly increasing its size and purchasing power, and will be an increasingly important force in global economic rebalancing," said ADB Chief Economist Jong-Wha Lee. "Even though the Asian middle class has significantly lower income and spending relative to the Western middle class, its growth in expenditures has been remarkable and its absolute levels are commanding."

Strong economic growth in Asia over the past two decades has been accompanied by significant reductions in poverty as previously poor households have moved into the middle class. Defining the middle class in Asia as those consuming between $2 and $20 per day, the report found that in 2008, Asia's middle class had risen to 56% of the population - or nearly 1.9 billion people - up from 21% in 1990. The middle class of the People's Republic of China (PRC) is currently larger than all others in absolute size, having added 800 million people to its ranks between 1990 - 2008. In the same period, spending in Asia increased almost three fold, compared to marginal increases in all other regions, including developed countries. As a result, consumption expenditures by developing Asia are now second only to developed countries. The report stresses that a great number of Asia's new middle class individuals still get by on incomes just above poverty levels, leaving them vulnerable to a relapse into poverty. At the same time, the emergence of so much new spending power carries with it a host of new environmental and health concerns that until recently were more typical of wealthier parts of Asia and the world.

"Clearly, policies are needed that both bolster the new status of the middle class and deal with its adverse consequences; policies that encourage the creation of and access to more well-paid jobs and more advanced education and health care to help prevent slippage back into poverty, and that mitigate additional environmental constraints and health concerns," said Dr. Lee. Yet, in balance, expectations are that Asia's middle class, through its sheer size and dynamism, will present a huge opportunity for the region and for the world. The report projects that by 2030 much of developing Asia will have attained middle class and upper class majorities, with the PRC and India expected to provide the largest number of new middle class. With the appropriate middle-class friendly policies, the report says, Asia will be able to move away from export-led to domestic-led consumption growth and reduce its exposure to negative external shocks, such as the 2008 global financial crisis, which began in the US. In turn, it will also help correct the global imbalances that contributed to the financial crisis.

From http://www.adb.org/ 08/19/2010

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Asia Leads Global Recovery for First Time: Singapore Minister

A Singapore minister said on Friday this is the first time that Asia has led a global recovery, and the turnaround in the region is more entrenched, and has progressed further than that of the advanced economies. Singapore's Minister in Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Finance and Transport Lim Hwee Hua said at Invest Fair 2010, an annual investment conference here. The intra-Asian trade and investment are also growing much more rapidly than Asia's trade with the rest of the world, with the Asian regional economy now a driver in its own right .This is not just a short term phenomenon, she said, but a longer term shift that reflects the growing importance and integration of the regional markets. Closing in on Asia, the minister further said that the quick and successful recovery reflects the stronger economic fundamentals in the Asian economies, buttressed by years of reform post the Asian Financial Crisis. The minister observed that the regional recovery looks poised to strengthen.

From Xinhua News Agency 08/20/2010

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Asia-Pacific Internal Markets Could Propel Recovery: UN

To sustain its economic recovery, the Asia-Pacific region needs to create new internal markets by addressing infrastructure gaps and alleviating poverty, according to a United Nations-backed gathering that wrapped up on Thursday in Bangkok, Thailand. The roundtable, whose theme was "Global economic crisis and the Asia-Pacific region: sustaining Asian dynamism in a post-crisis world," was jointly organized by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Club de Madrid, an independent group aiming to promote democracy and change and whose members are former heads of State and government. "There is a question mark on the ability of the region's economies to sustain recovery beyond the fiscal stimulus packages as developed countries wind down the global imbalances or curb excessive consumption," said Noeleen Heyzer, ESCAP Executive Secretary.

She added that the region "will need to find new sources of supplementing aggregate demand to sustain its growth. "There are 950 million poor people in Asia and the Pacific, who, participants at the meeting pointed out, could help boost domestic consumption if the necessary policies are in place to lift them above the poverty line. Enormous gaps in infrastructure development across the region also could help increase domestic investment, as well as allowing smaller and less developed countries to share the benefits of growth with their larger and wealthier neighbours. November's meeting of the Group of 20 (G20) in Seoul, Republic of Korea, will be the first gathering of the leading and emerging nations in the Asia-Pacific region. In this regard, participants at Thursday's meeting underlined that the region should play a global governance role commensurate with its increasing economic strength ."In the months to come, it will be necessary to find the balance between short-term macroeconomic coordination to prevent a double-dip recession and important long-term issues," said Wim Kok, former prime minister of the Netherlands and current head of the Club de Madrid. "Asia needs to avoid being complacent, and its leaders need to be prepared to take the next steps forward," he stressed.

From http://www.newkerala.com/ 08/20/2010

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CHINA: Lead the World in Urbanization - Blue Paper

As China's urban population reached 46 percent of the total population last year, Chinese urban dwellers became the largest such population in the world, according to a 'blue paper' released on Thursday. By the end of 2009, China's urban population reached 620 million as both the annual birth rate and the total urban population became the world' s largest, according to "City' s Blue Book: China's Urban Development Report No. 3," which has been released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Social Sciences Academic Press. It said China's urban population is twice that of the population of the United States and one quarter more than the total population of 27 countries of the European Union. By 2015, urban residents in China will make up about 52 percent, and by 2030, 65 percent of the total population in the country, it said. "A milestone change for urban development will take place when urban people make up more than 50 percent of the population and thus surpass the number of rural people," the paper said. "The 50-percent point phenomenon will occur in the mid-12th Development Program period (2011-2015) when both the number of urban and rural Chinese will reach 680 million," it said. The role of the urban economy will be further strengthened by that time, it said, adding that the urban economy would continue to drive the domestic demand.

From English.news.cn 07/30/2010

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CHINA: Social Networking Up Despite Challenges

While the number of Chinese social networking site (SNS) users has been steadily increasing, growth rates in the crowded market appear to have slowed, with some firms losing users and others shutting down all together. As of July 15, the number of Chinese social network site users hit 210 million, up 19.6 percent since the beginning of this year, according to a report by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). There reportedly are over 100 social networking sites in China at present. Social media sites like photo and video sharing platforms, blogs, and social networking sites encourage cooperation and interaction between users, and mainly have user-generated content. However, booming user numbers in China have not meant a strong revenue stream for all, with two well known social networking sites - 360quan.com and mayi.com - pulling the plug earlier this month. Cash flow issues ended the lives of the two sites since, like most other Chinese social networking sites income was mainly from investments and advertisements. Both sites tried to hold off their eventual demise by cutting staff before they closed, to no avail. "It is not surprising to see this phenomenon," said a former executive working for Chinese SNS website, renren.com, who declined to be named. "I worked for renren before, and its user growth rate has slowed dramatically since the third quarter of 2009." China's top social network sites include renren.com, Kaixin001.com and Tencent's qq.com. By mid-2009, renren.com boasted eight million daily visitors, up from five million earlier. But according to the source, growth has slowed sharply even though the site pumps millions into advertising.

Attracting and retaining new users is a common problem for Chinese social networking sites. "I am fed up with those social networking websites," said Yin Yifan, a 24-year-old female office worker in Shanghai. "I found I spent too much time playing social-networking games, and I finally found those games all look similar, regardless of which site you are on," she said. Kaixin001.com, a Chinese social networking site targeting white-collar workers and students, saw user rates decrease 25 percent in the last three months alone, according to data from Alexa Internet, Inc, a Web information company. Kaixin's users are disproportionately childless women between the ages of 25 and 35 who browse from work and have incomes between $30,000 and $100,000, according to the Alexa site. Differentiating themselves from other similar SNS sites has also proven to be a problem for operators. "Most Chinese SNS are copies of Facebook or MySpace, so they all have a similar look. If Chinese SNS firms cannot find a way to make themselves stand out and thereby turn a profit, they inevitably will close down after they burn up investment (money)," said an Internet analyst from SAIF Partners, a Hong Kong-based investment consulting company. The market still appears very promising. Data from Internet research company Analysys International shows that the number of Chinese social networking site users is expected to reach 510 million and sales revenue will top 979 million yuan in 2011.

From China Daily 07/30/2010

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Online Shopping Gaining Ground in China

Online consumers from China are the most prolific online shoppers in the Asia Pacific region and nearly 95 percent of them are planning a web purchase in the next six months, said John Burbank, chief executive officer of Nielsen Online, the online division of research firm Nielsen. According to the survey, books and clothing, accessories and shoes top the list of planned online purchases in the next six months for Chinese online consumers. Compared with other countries in the Asia Pacific region, Chinese online consumers are the keenest to purchase clothing online, followed by consumers in South Korea (56 percent) and Philippines (37 percent). The Nielsen survey polled over 27,000 Internet users in 55 markets globally to understand how consumers shop online and the other factors that come into play when they decide how to spend their money. "There is not much of difference in the buying patterns of online consumers compared with other countries. The purchases are mainly for price and convenience," said Burbank. "But given the country's comparatively low Internet penetration and the huge base, the e-commerce market has huge potential." As of June 2010, the number of Internet users in China climbed to 420 million, 36 million more than the end of 2009, according to a report from the China Internet Network Information Center.

But the country's Internet penetration rate, which was 31.8 percent by the end of June, still lags behind many other countries. Online retail sales increased 117 percent annually between 2007 and 2009, and is expected to reach 450 billion yuan (US$66.45 billion) this year, according to the research center of Alibaba Group, which runs the global e-commerce site Alibaba.com. The Nielsen report shows that total online spending as a percentage of total monthly spending varies by country, with Chinese and South Korean online consumers making the most purchases through the web. Online consumers from New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and Hong Kong make the least number of purchases on the Web. Chinese consumers on average spend route 6 to 25 percent of their average monthly spending through the web. Nearly one-third of online consumers said they primarily do their Internet shopping with retailers who have an online presence. Over 26 percent of the respondents opt for sites that also have traditional "brick and mortar" stores and those that allow you to select products from different online stores. Though e-commerce in China is growing at a rapid pace, online shopping's share of total retail sales in China is still lower than the US and the rest of world. "Online payment security, ensuring product quality and after sales services are the key barriers for online shopping," said Burbank. "The online market must take steps to improve the credibility of suppliers and transaction security. This will help bolster consumer confidence in online shopping."

From China Daily 07/31/2010

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Independent Technology Urged for China's Info Tech Drive

A blue paper on China's information-based development published on Thursday warned that lack of independent core technology is likely to hinder the country's info tech drive. According to the blue paper, titled "Analysis and Forecast on China's Informatization (2010)," more than 90 percent of personal computers' CPUs and basic software in the country were imported. "This condition is inevitable during our country's process of reform and opening-up, but as the country goes deeper in informatization, it's bad for sustainable development," the paper warned. The blue book was published by the Social Sciences Academic Press under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "Although China has been experiencing fast development in information technology since the 21st century, it should be noted that our information and communication technology practices are mostly at a level that developed countries already achieved in the 1990s," said the paper. The paper urged measures to promote the speed and quality of China's information technology drive. However, the book also noted obvious information development in the country's rural areas, citing the population of rural Internet users surpassed 100 million last year. According to the paper, about 72 million countryside people log on to the Internet through cell phones, up 79 percent year on year. Figures from the China Internet Network Information Center show that China's online population rose to 420 million, the world's largest, by the end of June.

From Xinhua News Agency 08/02/2010

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Internet Videos: a Blow, Also an Opportunity

Zhang Minxiao, owner of a trading company in east China' s Jiangsu Province, has not turned on a television since 2008. Instead, the 29-year-old business man now spends more than 20 hours every week watching programs on the Internet, often sports games. "I enjoyed watching my favorite programs any time I like. I watched nearly 50 matches of this year' s World Cup on the Internet," said the busy entrepreneur, who was also a die-hard fan of Argentina. Zhang said Chinese TV viewers would not have access to programs produced outside the Chinese mainland, unless they paid extra fees for satellite TV channels. However, online video sites provide more choices, notably, for free. "A great attraction of watching serials on the Internet is that you'll not be bothered by the interminable advertisement that is broadcast every 15 minute during an episode," Zhang said. He began watching online videos in 2003. For Zhao Yayuan, a 25-year-old enthusiast of American and Japanese soap operas, the limited number of serials broadcast on television cannot feed her growing appetite. "Chinese TV stations just broadcast old serials again and again," said Zhao, who worked for the Beijing-based China Today. Zhao spends her leisure time hunting for the latest episode of the hottest foreign serials on YOUKU and TUDOU, two popular video websites in China. "The update of hit serials on such websites can be simultaneous or a one-day delay at most, compared with the broadcasting schedule of foreign TV channels. Besides, I can decide when and how many episodes to watch," Zhao said. Zhang and Zhao are among many Chinese web users who prefer online videos for a wider selection of programs and a more flexible watching schedule. By June 2010, the number of the Internet users in China had hit 420 million, according to a report issued by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).

An earlier survey, also conducted by the CNNIC, noted that by the end of 2009about 240 million web users, mostly youths aged 10 to 29, watched online videos. Some 67 percent of the total spent less time watching TV programs while nearly 40 million users had abandoned watching traditional television. Although major video websites are dragging more viewers away from television sets, they also provide a win-win opportunity for China' s TV industry. In recent years, the boom of delivering television programs on the Internet has brought large profits to their producers, said Li Jingsheng, an official with the State Administration of Radio Film and Television. "The TV program producers can earn big money by selling the Internet copyright of its works to websites, while the latter will win more clicks," said Wang Chong, a teacher of journalism and communications with the Capital University of Economics and Business in Beijing. In March 2010, the Internet copyright of the 60-episode serial, Journey to the West, which was adapted from a Chinese classic, was sold for 16.8 million yuan (about 2.5 million U.S. dollars), while the popular 81-episode sitcom, My Own Swordsman, was sold for a mere 100,000 yuan in 2006. Accompanied by the rapid development of video websites, however, the number of lawsuits over copyright piracy on the Internet among websites, their counterparts and program producers has surged. "This shows all parties' rising awareness of their due rights, which is good for the healthy development of the industry," said Wang, who also called for regulations to combat copyright piracy. "The video websites should enhance oversight on their users and delete illegal contents, which are uploaded by users and often cause copyright disputes," said Lu Heng, a PhD in the Department of Media and Communication with the City University of Hong Kong.

From Xinhua News Agency 08/09/2010

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Superfast Broadband by 2020

Most homes will have Internet access with speeds of 100 megabits per second by 2020, Sina.com.cn reported today, citing an IT expert. Bandwidth is the foundation of a high-end information society, Zhou Hongren, deputy director of the State Council Advisory Committee for Informatization told the 2010 Digital TV Industry Summit. He said 100 megabits is a target accepted by most countries. The US plans to give 100 million homes access to the Internet at downstream speeds of 100 megabits and upstream speed of 50 megabits by 2010. Australia's goal is to give 90 percent of homes superfast broadband and the remaining 10 percent access through wireless networks.

From China.org.cn 08/18/2010

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China Embraces New Internet Opportunities

The Ninth China Internet Conference (CIC) powered up with the theme of "Green Serivce-based Internet" on Tuesday. As a vane of the Asian Internet industry, the annual conference attracted over 160 IT CEOs and experts this year. "In the context of post-global financial crisis, China now faces brand new challenges and opportunities both on economic levels and new IT industries. Huge new IT-related industries will emerge as the Internet develops at a rapid pace, this however, will also to some extent be dangerous if improperly used," Hu Qiheng, chairman of China Internet Association said in his opening speech. To ensure the discussions runs in a comprehensive and insightive way, the CIC organized a three-days forum which covers twelve main themes, including topics "Internet application and service," "Internet and advanced culture development," "Green internet environment development," and "Cloud computing's potential." Liu Yun, vice president of Google cast a general prediction for future internet development patterns, featuring with infinitive users all over the globe, smart-end-user service, tailor-made internet service, scientific and artistic media paterns which will require every media person with no-choice but to grasp the new technology. More topics like mobile Internet service, cyber-advertisement and neo-media future, Internet games, and Internet securities will be discussed in the coming two days.

From China Daily 08/19/2010

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Shanghai Government, Partners Open Cloud Data Center

AtHub Corporation (www.revobranding.com/SDATA/Default.php) announced on Thursday it has opened China's first cloud computing data center at the Shanghai SHIBEI Hi-Tech Park, according to a report by Datacenter Dynamics. The move comes a month after CDC Global Services announced it will design, implement and provide operations services for the Foshan Municipal Cloud Computing Center in China. Dubbed Shanghai AtHub, the colocation facility will be run by AtHub on behalf of the local government. The Shanghai Municipal Government says the new facility is part of China's overall strategy to transform itself into the "Asia-Pacific cloud computing center". mChina is currently hoping to form 10 cloud computing enterprises with annual income of more than $14.7 million (100 million yuan) to match the markets leading providers in three years, as reported earlier this week by the People's Daily Online. The country will also establish 10 cloud computing demonstration platforms in the fields of e-government, small and medium-sized enterprise servers and urban management.

The Shanghai government formed AtHub with members of IBM, HP, EMC, Intel and Cisco. According to the AtHub website, it provides "turn-key data centers, build-to-suit data centers, powered space, and other data center solutions for domestic and international tenants." The company currently operates one demonstration center at the International Carrier Hotel and will open another data center in October 2011. It also revealed in the past that it will eventually bring all it data centers across the country into the cloud. The company has teamed up with some of China's largest telecommunication providers, as well as been given RMB1 billion in government funding to develop the country's first commercial cloud platform. AtHub also plans to select 100 software and information service enterprises in China to migrate to the cloud, which the company said could potentially earn $14.7 billion (100 billion yuan) in revenue for the IT industry. Additionally, it will soon initiate a cloud computing investment fund and the Cloud Computing Industry Development Union which will set up independent technical standards for the cloud industry.

From http://www.thewhir.com/ 08/20/2010

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Chinese Increasingly Use Microblogs to Get News, Information: Survey

Microblogs have become a popular way for Chinese to receive the latest news and information, according to a survey conducted by the China Youth Daily newspaper. The survey had 3,282 respondents from 30 Chinese provinces, regions and municipalities. The survey showed that 73.5 percent of respondents use microblogs to get the latest information while 66.6 percent use them to participate in online discussions. Some 52.1 percent of respondents use microblogs to keep in touch with friends. The survey also showed that 73.7 percent of respondents consider microblogs as an "important" source of news because the information on microblogs is usually distributed quickly and widely. Ding Jie, an employee of the China International Publishing Group, said she opened a microblog account a month ago. She has found using a microblog to be interesting and useful. "Now, I do not have to go to news websites because I can get all news I am interested in from other microblogs," Ding said. The survey revealed that 56.5 percent of respondents "generally believed" information on microblogs while 23.2 percent of respondents were uncertain about the credibility of the information. Some 20.3 percent of respondents thought the information was unreliable. Prof. Kuang Wenbo of the Journalism School of Renmin University of China was quoted by the China Youth Daily as saying that "microblogs are grassroots media that anyone can publish information upon, making it difficult to judge the veracity of the information." "Microblogs can only serve as a supplement to traditional media," Kuang said, according to the report.

From English.news.cn 08/24/2010

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National Cable TV Network Soon

China on Tuesday said it intends to consolidate radio and television networks under a single national cable television network company. The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) said the new company will come up by the end of the year and will further expand into new businesses like mobile TV and online videos. The nation's radio and television networks need to be consolidated under one roof as currently they are individually run and have not developed into large-scale entities," said Tao Shiming, director of the SARFT's society administration bureau. At present, there are 1,000 radio and television networks in China, and are run by different operators at varied administrative levels. The absence of a nationwide and unified network comes in the way of their plan to compete with others for the opportunities that arise from the convergence of technologies, said industry experts. Tao said the consolidation exercise is likely to start at the provincial level by the end of this year and culminate in nationwide consolidation later. "All networks in the nation are likely to be integrated in three years," said Zeng Huiming, deputy secretary-general of the cable TV committee of the China Radio and Television Association. Earlier reports said the new consolidated company will have a start-up investment of around 80 billion yuan ($11.8 billion), with contributions coming from both the government and broadcast and television companies. Zeng said the investment modalities and consolidation plans are still being discussed by the SARFT. Though the SARFT insists that the move would create huge opportunities for the networks, analysts said that it would not be an easy task to achieve. Xiang Ligang, a leading telecom expert, said he was not sure of what the returns would be from the whole exercise. "It's hard to earn profits if the new company offers lower prices. But at the same time it is also hard to win more users if it charges high fees," said Xiang, adding that the three telecom operators, which have invested over 2 trillion yuan on telecom networks, will still have an advantage in the market. The government last month launched a pilot project in 12 cities to test the convergence of the three networks. The trials are expected to last till 2012 and will focus on connecting the broadcasting and telecom networks.

From China Daily 08/25/2010

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JAPAN: Gov't to Have Internet Providers Block Access to Child Porn Images

The government decided Tuesday to take countermeasures against child pornography including a step to block access to indecent images of children on the Internet. At a ministerial meeting on crime fighting, the government decided to have Internet service providers block access to images if they are found to violate the law banning child prostitution and child pornography, government officials said. The providers will block access to such images based on a list of problematic websites to be compiled by a new body, the officials said. "The crime of child pornography should not be tolerated, and we have to save the children who are being victimized," Prime Minister Naoto Kan was quoted as saying at the meeting. As part of the countermeasures, the government will also make efforts to enhance counseling services for victims of child pornography and reinforce ethics education. Japan has drawn criticism from overseas for not prohibiting the possession of child pornography images by individuals. Japan and Russia are the only countries among the Group of Eight major powers that do not have laws that ban possession of such images. As it appears difficult to revise related legislation to put such a ban in place in the immediate future, the Japanese government hopes the new countermeasures would prevent the distribution of child porn images within the framework of existing laws. While some critics say the blocking system will constitute censorship, the government said it will ensure neutrality in the operations of the list-compiling body. The government will make preparations by the end of next March to make it possible to implement effective blocking of child porn images on the Internet, the officials said. The number of exposed child porn cases has been on the rise, totaling 935 in 2009, up about 40 percent from a year earlier, but this figure is said to be just the tip of the iceberg.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 07/27/2010

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Consumers to Gain Internet Access to Aggregate Credit Card Charge Data

Consumers will be able to check for themselves on the Internet how much they have been charged on their multiple credit cards and other relevant credit data held by card issuers possibly from fiscal 2011, according to industry sources. The move is intended to address an increasing number of inquiries from consumers who want to know the aggregate balance of their charges or why their attempted credit purchases have been rejected, following the enforcement in June of a tightened money lending law. Credit Information Center Corp, which gathers personal information on credit transactions from credit card issuers, will start a trial run of the service in December to verify user identification, the sources said. CIC, based in Tokyo, currently provides personal credit card data to individuals but only when they visit one of its offices in Tokyo or six other cities in person or ask it to mail the information, which takes around one week. The Internet disclosure service would cover billing data, balances and past payment records including delinquencies, if any, held by multiple credit card issuing companies, the sources said.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 08/09/2010

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NORTH KOREA: Embracing Social Networking

North Korea has turned to Twitter and YouTube to step up its propaganda struggle with South Korea and the US as the isolated state comes under growing international pressure since the sinking of a southern warship. Although curious web surfers have been checking out Pyongyang's offerings, North Korea 's intended message may not be getting through, with South Korea blocking links from northern tweets and some viewers posting mocking comments on the videos and messages. The US, however, welcomed North Korea's move into the social media, with the state department adding that Pyongyang should allow its citizens free access to the sites.

North Korea, one of the world's most secretive nations, blocks internet access for most of its 24m citizens, although it has a cadre of elite hackers. Uriminzokkiri, a website run by North Korea's propaganda agency, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, has announced the launch of the Twitter feed and of a channel, or dedicated section of videos, on YouTube. The Twitter feed, under the name Uriminzok, "our nation", has attracted more than 6,000 followers in less than a week. Uriminzok yesterday tweeted dozens of messages linked to official propaganda reports on Uriminzokkiri. The messages, which echo Pyongyang's news media, threaten "merciless retaliation" against South Korea and the US, calling them "warmongers".

Users in South Korea who try to follow links on North Korea's Twitter messages receive a warning against "illegal content" and have been blocked from following links from the tweets to Uriminzokkiri. "People would have to bear in mind that they could be violating the law when they tweet with the account," said Lee Jung-joo of the South's unification ministry this week. Others seem to be taking the messages less seriously. One viewer, under the user name FRwritings, wrote that Kim Jong-il, the northern leader, was "on Twitter to promote his hairdo". Seoul blocks about 65 websites linked to the North and bans its citizens from communicating with North Koreans directly, but has not blocked access to the YouTube channel, which launched last month.

From Financial Times 08/19/2010

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SOUHT KOREA: "Smart Work" System Pushed

The Korean government said it would introduce the so-called "Smart Work" system, which permits anyone to work anytime and anywhere by using the Internet and smart phones. The new system would be expected to make an environment of "working without going to work" for 30 percent each of the public and private sectors by 2015.

From http://www.telecomskorea.com/ 07/28/2010

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Korean IT Posts Record Exports, Surplus

The IT sector posted record exports and a record trade surplus for July. The Ministry of Knowledge Economy on Wednesday said IT exports rose 26.9 percent on-year to W13.79 billion (US$1=W1,169) in July while imports increased 13.7 percent to W6.56 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of W7.23 billion. This is the first time the sector's surplus topped the W7 billion mark.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 08/05/2010

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Korean Public Firms Ranked Among OECD's Most Valuable

Korea's public enterprises ranked second among the member countries of the OECD in terms of their asset value. According to the Korea Institute of Public Finance, Korean public enterprises were valued at over US$150 billion, trailing only Japan ($220 billion) and scoring higher than the U.S. and England. However the economic contribution of Korea's public corporations was low compared to other countries, and they showed one of the lowest levels of employment.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 08/09/2010

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Telecoms, Portals Compete over Social Hubs

Local telecoms, online portals and electronics giants are competing to create social networking hubs in a bid to lure more mobile users. KT Corp., the country's No. 2 mobile carrier, said Monday it released a social networking hub service for its feature phone users, incorporating four different networking sites ¨D Twitter, Facebook, Cyworld and MeToday. By registering their identifications of the SNS websites on the new site, users can upload and check their postings and photos simultaneously with their mobile phones. The local telecom also said it is currently in the process of developing a mobile application involving the service for its smartphone users. Last week, Yahoo! Korea also made a similar announcement, claiming its renovated homepage would offer a "one-stop networking service" for the portal users. It also said the company's renovated homepage would provide easy access to other websites, meaning a single log-in would be enough to get the desired service. "Different strong points exist for the country's portals and the development of a win-win strategy will be possible when they are shared by the service providers," Kim Dae-sun, general manager of the Korean branch, told reporters at the press conference. SK Communications, the operator of the popular Korean networking site Cyworld and online messenger Nate On, is also busily moving to establish its own social networking hub and Microsoft is soon planning to launch an upgraded version of its own social hub Windows Live.

There are also rumors that Google may be preparing to launch another self-designed social networking service in order to start competing with Facebook. However, it is not only the online portals that have engaged in the fierce battle. Samsung Electronics also unveiled its social hub on some of its mobiles such as Galaxy S and Wave. The hub ¨D which includes allowing the checking of e-mail accounts, logging on online messenger as well as blogging sites ¨D was designed for the convenience of its mobile users, according to Samsung officials. Through the service, users can view not only the recent history of the blogged online messages of the users' registered friends but also the updates and the statuses of the people listed on their messengers, all with a single touch. The social networking services, which are now the rising online communication platform, have become a direct, prompt and wide-reaching communication tool used by all different sizes of firms to reach out to the public. The firms use them to figure out their consumers' needs and also improve their corporate images by making use of the affordable method. Going a step further, companies use it to form intimate relationships with their own employees and customers. Research conducted by IBM also found that utilizing social networking services has helped firms maximize their profits. The report said that an IBM employee who uses social media tools generates an average of $588 more revenue than one who does not. Some local companies which make active use of the new online communication platform are large-scale corporations like KT, Samsung, LG, Doosan, Korean Air, Shinsegae, AhnLab Inc. and many government branches.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 08/09/2010

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Free WiFi Zones Open in Subway Stations Nationwide

Smartphone owners will be able to use wireless Internet for free at subway stations across the country starting this month. KT plans to open WiFi zones at all subway stations in Seoul and the metropolitan area, Busan, Daegu and Incheon by the end of August, the company said on Monday. The mobile operator has already set up the zones at 84 transfer stations and 22 major stations on subway lines No. 1 through 8 in Seoul. Installation is underway at the remaining stations. SK Telecom also finished establishing WiFi zones at subway stations in Busan and Gwangju. It is currently working on subway stations in Daegu and Daejeon, and will then start work for Seoul and the metropolitan area.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 08/10/2010

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Domain Names in Korean to Be Introduced Next Year

Starting next year people will be able to type domain names in Hangeul or written Korean in their Internet address bar to visit web sites in Korean. Currently some Internet addresses can be typed partly in Hangeul, however the domain name is still in English such as ".kr." The Korea Communications Commission said it is planning to introduce a system that will enable people to type everything in Korean. The Korea Information Security Agency also said that it has applied to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to use Hangeul domain names. KISA plans to provide the appropriate regulations and Domain Name System by the end of this year. The new service will make web browsing more convenient for many users, especially those who surf via smartphone.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 08/12/2010

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Internet Calls Possible on Mobile Phones

Consumers will now be able to place or receive cheap Internet calls with their cell phones wherever they are located, without using up their voice minutes, the Korea Communications Commission said Friday. The state telecom and media regulator also said the owners of fixed mobile convergence phones will be identified by a single number for their mobiles, home and office phones. "Until now, the FMC service users had to use two different numbers - starting with 010 for mobiles and 070 for fixed-line phones using the Internet - which caused great inconvenience," a KCC official said. "In particular, the service users could not take calls using the Internet phone when they were outside of the Wi-Fi zone. The country's convergence services are expected to spread wider by taking this step." As of now, the percentage of FMC service users take up about 17 percent of those who use Internet calls and this group reduces the telecommunications costs up to 22,000 won ($18.66) per year, according to the KCC. The FMC service increases voice call continuity, meaning that service users could be reached with a single phone number disregarding their location. As an exemplary case, the user could start the day by placing a call at a Wi-Fi-equipped caf¨¦ while getting a cup of the morning brew, then head outside where they would be connected back to the cellular system. The user can then once more get connected to the Wi-Fi inside his or her office. What should be noted is that the Internet calls may even be free of charge when consumers have an Internet connection through wireless networks. The calls made with FMC phones are reportedly 28 percent cheaper compared to calls made through regular mobiles when Internet connection is not available. KT currently services the highest figure of 11 mobile devices which would make use of the FMC service, while its rivals SK Telecom and LG Uplus have eight each. The telecoms are projected to further release 10 more FMC devices in the latter half of this year.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 08/20/2010

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INDONESIA: Govt, MDF Launches Final Rehab Projects in Nias

Five years after the magnitude-8.8 earthquake that devastated the North Sumatra island of Nias, the central government and Multi Donor Fund of the World Bank launched Friday their last three projects on rehabilitation and reconstruction program in the area. The projects, worth US$24 million, comprise Nias Islands Transition Project, Nias Islands Rural Access and Capacity Building Program (RACBP) and Nias Livelihood and Economic Development Program (LEDP). Backed by the UN Development Program and Home Affairs Ministry, the transition project aims to prepare the local government and people to take over and maintain the assets, which were built by the Aceh-Nias Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency (BRR). The BRR operation ended in April last year. The MDF will end its program in 2012.

The RACBP is dedicated to build basic infrastructure, including village roads and bridges, as well as train local people to maintain it. The project is jointly executed by the International Labor Organization and the Ministry of Disadvantaged Regions. The last project aims to boost economic activities of the local people, focusing on cocoa and rubber plantations, rice and vegetable production as well as livestock. The World Bank is assisting the Ministry of Disadvantaged Regions to implement the LEDP. "It is time for Nias government, people and NGOs to build the region by themselves. The central government will continue supervising the construction and training local people to maintain their assets," director of local government and special autonomy at the Home Affairs Ministry, Soni Sumarsono, said during the project launch at Nias regent office in Gunungsitoli. Nias regional secretary R.E. Nainggolan said that the regency administration would fully support the final projects. MDF has a total 14 rehab and construction projects worth $115 million in Nias since 2005.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 07/30/2010

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LAOS: High Rice Price Hits Low Income Earners

(KPL) The price of milled rice in markets remains high, which has sent a direct impact on low income earners, according to the Industry and Commerce Services in Central and Southern provinces. Meanwhile the agricultural areas are also threatened by natural disasters.
The increased price of milled rice in the markets is resulted from the imbalance between producers and local customers. An official of the Savannakhet Industry and Commerce Service said that rice farmers were not satisfied with the imbalance because their agricultural areas have been affected by flood last year. Moreover, some middlemen have hoarded rice for profiteering. Now glutinous rice in the markets is sold at 7,000 kip a kilogram, up by 2,500 kip from May, while the price of milled ordinary rice also increased to 6,500 kip per kg, from 6,000 kip. The high price of rice is affecting the living conditions of people at grass root level in Savannakhet province, according to an official of the Industry and Commerce Service of Savannakhet province, Mr Thansoubin.

The reason for the continual hike in the rice price was due to the flood in southern provinces which were hit by the Ketsana tropical storm last year. This year, farmers have further been hit by drought that causes late transplantation of the rainy season rice crop. However, Mr Thansoubin said that if there is rainfall this month, the rice price will decline. Mr Saithong Sayavong, Head of the Industry and Commerce of the southernmost Champassak province said that it was very difficult to cap on the rice price in the market if we did not have rice reserve. "Concerning this problem, local people are very concerned with the drought this year, which is another reason why farmers did not sell rice and keep it for their own consumption." He said that the problem was not the insufficient rice supply but price."We ensured that the local markets have enough rice for consumption but increasing or decreasing rice price depending on the market mechanism," he said.

From http://www.kplnet.net/ 08/05/2010

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Economic Growth to Hit 7.8 Percent This Year

(KPL) Despite earlier forecast that the national economy contracted, economists still hope that Lao economy this year will grow 7.8 percent, up by 0.2 percent over the target. The Lao economy this year remains increasing constantly though the business of construction sector does not go smoothly. Dr Liber Lybouapao, Deputy Head of the National Institute for Economic Research, gave views that the sector did not send impacts on the national economic growth because the investment situation, trade and services are developing well. He believed that the increase in the sectors will help stimulate the national economic growth to 7.8 percent, a rise of 0.2 percent over the target, although there is one more month away before the end of the 2009-2010 fiscal year. The figure has reached the Government's target approved by the 9th Ordinary Session of the 6th National Assembly. The investment sector relating basic infrastructural development is a major factor to help spurring the national economic growth, he said. While the services and the production process for export also tend to increase, Mr Liber said. The tourism sector plays an important role to help attract more overseas investors, resulting in the positive financial status. The International Monetary Fund also confirmed that the Lao economy will grow stronger than other countries in the region, according to the IMF report in June. A senior economist from the Asia Development Bank said recently that the economic growth of Laos this year would increase thanks to the power from the influx of international investment.

From http://www.kplnet.net/ 08/13/2010

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MALAYSIA: CAT Puts in Place IT Infrastructure for E-tourism

KUALA LUMPUR: Creative Advances Technology Sdn Bhd (CAT) has in place an IT infrastructure that is available for any travel and tourism provider to host its e-tourism business on. Thus far Firefly and several travel agents have used its infrastructure and it is hoping that many more agencies in the travel and tourism industry will want to ride on its infrastructure. CAT has also hosted Virtual Malaysia, the e-tourism portal for the tourism ministry for more than a decade. It calls the infrastructure Sota or standard online tourism architecture and has invested RM10mil to develop it. "We have the infrastructure to support the travel and tourism industry and we will continue investing in IT going forward as we know the job of the travel agent is to sell packages and tickets so they would need someone to manage their IT needs and we have the expertise for that," CAT chief executive officer and founder Rohizam Md Yusoff told StarBizWeek.

There are 2,800 travel agents in the country and not all have their own websites. However, the country's two airlines, Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia, have their online offerings and are doing very well with online bookings. Firefly has opted to use Sota's infrastructure for its online ventures. "We are positioning ourselves as an innovator," Rohizam said, adding that Sota was endorsed by the Pacific Asia Travel Association and Asean Tourism Association. Besides earning a commission for the transactions from the travel and tourism industry for providing the IT platform, CAT will supplement its income with advertisements. It uses Paypal for its payment gateway for the transactions on the Sota portal. "When airlines have their own portals, the possibility of travel agents becoming non-relevant is there. However, here is an opportunity that allows travel agents to compete globally on price and services as they can now focus on the selling and marketing of their products and services," he said. Even though online bookings were on the rise it would take about three years for this venture to break even, said Rohizam.

Globally there are many online sites that offer a whole host of travel and tourism information and packages. Companies like Expedia.com, asiantrials.com, orbitz.com, lastminute.com, kayak.com, cheapflights.com, priceline.com and many others offer a huge range of packages and tourism information for the consumers. "There are huge successes in the global online booking business but there are nothing (to shout about) here and we would like to see some of the agencies that we host becoming the likes of Expedia or even Priceline," Rohizam said. Expedia is said to be the largest global online travel agency and the value of its travel bookings in the second quarter of 2010 was US$114.3mil compared with US$40.9mil a year earlier. Revenue climbed 8% to US$834 million on strength from advertising and media revenues as well as hotels, a report said. Having maintained the portal for Tourism Malaysia for a long time, Rohizam believes CAT will get more agencies that it can host. It wants to expand into Asean next year and is in talks several travel agents in the Philippines and Singapore. Sota is owned by CAT, whose holding company is Creative Quest, in which Rohizam and his sister hold 70% equity stake while the remaining 30% is held by his partner Vincent Kok and a private equity fund known as Pacific Tiger. The paid-up capital of Sota is RM15mil.

From http://biz.thestar.com.my/ 08/14/2010

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PHILIPPEINES: DA Warns of Reduced Rice Production This Year

The Department of Agriculture regional office here has warned of reduced rice production this year with the farming sector not able to achieve its production target of 3.2 metric tons per hectare. DA regional executive director Larry Nacionales said that rice production suffered much this year and much delayed planting season of about one and a half months caused a major disturbance in the farming cycle mainly due to severe El Niño phenomenon. Western Visayas, the country's second top rice producing region, was only able to produce 2.3 metric tons per hectare in last cropping season due to natural and man-made calamities. Nacionales is positive, however, that the region still remains a rice sufficient area, even if it suffers production slump that form the bulk of 14 percent surplus sent to other rice deficient areas in the country. Out of 309,000 hectares earmarked in the region for rice production and harvest by August this year, only 221,000 hectares were planted by June that will stretch rice harvest by end of October. Nacionales said the agriculture department will invest massive irrigation program on top of its subsidized rice seeds and expanded crop insurance program due to lessons learned from the recent El Niño and long dry spell. There will also be no subsidized commercial fertilizer as new DA Secretary Proceso Alcala is bent on organic fertilizer production and use in the farms, Nacionales disclosed.

From http://balita.ph/ 08/13/2010

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ITHAILAND: Human Resource Development and Creative Economy

The Government is determined to move Thailand forward, more competitively and innovatively. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva stated that the country must push forward its competitive advantage, particularly as its economy makes the transition toward a "creative" economy. The statement was part of his remarks at "Thailand's Investment Environment: Looking Forward" on July 15 in Bangkok. The Prime Minister said that while the Government is trying to come up with new initiatives to enhance trade and investment, it is also working very hard to address concerns expressed by the business community with regard to Thailand's competitiveness. All these efforts reflect the commitment of the Government to making Thailand a "more productive and easier place to do business." In order to achieve this goal, the Government's task lies first and foremost in human resource development. It needs to enable Thai people to achieve their full potential through increased occupational training and education. The Government also needs to adopt measures to strengthen the science and technology sectors. Together, these steps would promote knowledge-based industries in Thailand. A number of measures have already been put in place to upgrade human resource development and launch the Government's drive toward becoming a creative economy.

After the establishment of the National Creative Economy Policy Committee in 2009, chaired by the Prime Minister in order to set guidelines for the creative economy policy and to ensure its implementation, the Government is now in the process of forming a Creative Economy Agency that can oversee the economic transition and coordinate the many aspects that this entails. In the budget, it has allocated 8.24 billion baht for creative economy activities by such agencies as the Industry Ministry, the ICT and the Science and Technology ministries, and others that will be working on this initiative. As of 2 July 2010, 1.3 billion baht has been approved for the 2009-2010 period for various projects. In this regard, the Prime Minister pointed to the excellent cooperation that exists between the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as they work to enhance the country's creative capacity by linking foreign technology and science with the local facilities and expertise. Already, Thai embassies are devoting more attention to identifying ways and means that Thailand's national capabilities in science and technology can be strengthened, particularly its universities and research and development facilities. The Government is now working to increase university-business linkages and to support initiatives that can commoditize academic research. One recent example of cooperation is the design by Chiang Mai University of Thailand's first robot that can read Thai sign language. This was a collaborative project with the private sector and will benefit the speech- and hearing-impaired.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 07/21/2010

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Thailand's GDP Likely to Grow by 7 Percent in 2010

With several positive factors in its favor, Thailand's economic growth for 2010 is likely to expand significantly. The Bank of Thailand has decided to adjust its forecast for the country's GDP this year from a range of 4.3 to 5.8 percent to between 6.5 and 7.5 percent. According to Mr. Paiboon Kittisrikangwan , Assistant Governor of the Bank of Thailand, the adjustment was made because Thailand's economy in the first quarter of 2010 grew by 12 percent. The growth rate in the second quarter is likely to stand at 7 percent. Moreover, he said, the global economy is picking up, which contributes to the growth of Thai exports, while impacts from the recent political unrest have been on a limited scale. Thai exports are expected to expand by 24.5 to 27.5 percent and imports by 34 to 37 percent. The Thai tourism industry has also shown signs of improvement.

Even so, the central bank sill maintains its forecast for the economic growth in 2011 at between 3 and 5 percent. Thai exports next year are projected to grow by 7 to 10 percent and imports 9.5 to 12.5 percent. In his recent remarks on Thailand's investment environment, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva pointed out that economic storm has finally passed as far as Thailand is concerned. The economy has pulled through and remains strong. Both as a country and as a people, Thailand has demonstrated time and time again its remarkable resilience. Every time that it faces a crisis, it learns some lessons and use them to build a more stable and solid future.

He quoted figures of the first five months of this year showing that Thailand's exports grew by about 35 percent, and Thailand is now confident that a target of 18 percent growth for the whole year is achievable for exports. Even tourism in the first three months grew by almost 30 percent. And the combination of faster-than-expected first- quarter growth, global economic recovery's boost to the export sector, and the revival of domestic spending has led Thailand to increase its GDP growth projections. The International monetary Fund has been even more upbeat; it has recently made an upward revision of its projection of Thailand's economic growth to 7 percent. The Prime Minister also said that despite the political situation in April and May this year, the number of investment applications for promotion from the Board of Investment during the first half of this year increased by 50 percent year-on-year. The value of projects concerning the applications was also up by 7.8 percent, compared with the same period last year. The value of total foreign investment applications nearly reached 100 billion baht, almost double the first half of 2009. This reflects that both global and domestic economies are back on track.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 07/28/2010

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Chiang Mai Is Striving to Become a Medical Hub in the Greater Mekong Subregion

Already famous as a prime tourist destination, Chiang Mai province in northern Thailand is striving to become a medical and health hub in the Greater Mekong Subregion, which, besides Thailand, comprises Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, and China's southern province of Yunnan. Chiang Mai Governor Amornphan Nimanant said that Chiang Mai has good potential for being developed as a health care city, not only in the Greater Mekong Subregion, but also in the BIMSTEC region. He cited the readiness of the province as the reason, especially in terms of equipment, experienced personnel, and facilities. More importantly, Chiang Mai is the economic center in northern Thailand, making it the most suitable choice as a center for health tourism. President of the Thai Lanna Spa Association Pakin Ployphicha said that Chiang Mai's tourism business, in particular the spa service, has been affected by the recent political events, leading to a decline in the number of visitors. Income from the spa business in Chiang Mai in 2010 is likely to come to only 400 million baht, against 800 million baht estimated earlier.

In order to cope with the changing situation, Mr. Pakin said that many spa service operators are adjusting themselves in terms of marketing and management. The objective is to turn the crisis into an opportunity. For instance, several operators have opened spa therapist training schools to produce personnel in this field. A number of trained personnel have been sent to provide the service in foreign countries, especially Europe and the Middle East, where Thai spa, the concept, which includes the art of traditional massage and herbal therapy, is becoming popular. Spa therapists from Chiang Mai are now in great demand in foreign markets. Thai spas enjoy an excellent reputation for its distinctive charm. The spa sector has become a major branch of Thailand's service industry. Thai practitioners are known for their pleasant personality and service-mindedness. They have accumulated experience through practices which are embedded in a wealth of indigenous knowledge.

Apart from providing training to produce spa therapists, many spa service operators in Chiang Mai have also turned to produce health products made from herbs, such as soap, lotion, and other cosmetics. The sale of herbal products generates a sizable income, accounting for about 20 percent of the entire spa business there. State-of-the-art technology has been blended with traditional know-how in order to create Thai herbal spa products. The development of Chiang Mai into a health care city is in line with the Government's policy to support the private sector in an effort to help Thailand become a medical hub of Asia. Chiang Mai is attracting more international tourists to join health tours of the city, which is moving toward becoming a medical and health hub in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 07/30/2010

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Thailand Cited as the Center of Production Networks in ASEAN

Mr. Hidetoshi Nishimura, Executive Director of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), has cited Thailand as the center of production networks in this region. Mr. Nishimura gave a briefing on ERIA and its activities to Minister to the Prime Minister's Office Ongart Klampaiboon, who led a group of senior officials from the Government Public Relations Department (PRD) and journalists from private media organizations to visit ERIA in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 2 August 2010. ERIA, which is part of the ASEAN Secretariat, was inaugurated in June 2008. It functions as an independent research institute and provides resources for narrowing development gaps and enhancing research capabilities in countries in need of improvement in public policy. Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) is ERIA's research network in Thailand.

Mr.Nishimura quoted the Chairman's statement of the EAS Fforeign Ministers Informal Consultations, held in Ha Noi on 21 July 2010 as saying "The Ministers welcomed the effective contributions of ERIA in enhancing regional economic integration, bridging development gaps and promoting connectivity for both ASEAN and EAS countries." After discussion with Mr. Nishimura, Minister Ongart said that over the past two years, ERIA has focused its work on three main issues: energy, transport, and logistics, as it believed that these issues would play an important part in reducing gaps among people in this region. ASEAN is seen to become more powerful, if it is able to build up the size of the middle class in society. Having the middle class as the driving force of the region will be vital to further development in ASEAN. Minister Ongart was confident that research projects undertaken by ERIA would be of great benefit to the strengthening of ASEAN. He said that Thailand should make use of the results of ERIA research work to come up with energy, transport, and logistics roadmaps, in order to narrow gaps between the rich and the poor and increase the number of middle-class people in Thai society.

Before visiting ERIA on the same day, the group also visited the ASEAN Secretariat and had a discussion with Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN Secretary-General. Dr. Surin said that ASEAN's present and future role has been widely recognized, especially when countries in the region quickly recovered from the economic crisis and continued to enjoy high growth. For instance, Thailand recorded a growth rate of 12 percent in the first quarter of 2010, Singapore more than 10 percent, and Indonesia more than 6 percent. The quick recovery would help the global economy pick up, as well. ASEAN, which celebrated its 43rd anniversary on 8 August 2010, still maintains its well-balanced position between India and China. Dr. Surin described the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta as a mini-United Nations, since it is represented by 45 ambassadors from countries outside the ASEAN region. Because of the economic dynamism in this region, such major countries as the United States and Russia have shown interest in joining ASEAN. He cited an expanded East Asia Summit (EAS) as a regional platform for the future of ASEAN. Even so, he stressed the concept of maintaining ASEAN centrality in the evolving regional architecture. EAS, or ASEAN+6, now consists of 10 ASEAN countries plus Australia, China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and New Zealand. If the United States and Russia are included, the regional platform will become ASEAN+8. Dr. Surin revealed that ASEAN foreign ministers would recommend to ASEAN leaders when they meet later this year in Ha Noi, Vietnam, that they admit the United States and Russia into EAS.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 08/10/2010

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An Increase in Thailand's Export Growth Target

The Ministry of Commerce has decided to raise Thailand's export growth target in 2010 from 14 percent, or about 173.8 billion US dollars, to 20 percent, or 183 billion dollars. The Cabinet, during its meeting on August 10, acknowledged the new export growth target and strategies for export promotion, proposed by the Ministry of Commerce. According to the Ministry, Thai exports began to pick up in November 2009 and have continued to grow steadily. During the first half of this year, Thai exports expanded by 36.6 percent over the same period last year. The recovery of the world economy was cited as a major factor contributing to Thailand's export growth. Moreover, Thai products and services have received wider recognition in the international market. Free trade agreements made by Thailand with various countries have also provided greater opportunities for Thai products to expand in such markets as ASEAN, China, Japan, India, the Republic of Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.

Speaking about the current economic situation in Thailand, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva pointed out that following a higher than expected recovery of the world economy, Thailand's economy picked up with the first quarter of this year showing 12 percent year-on-year growth. The country's export value has increased by 32 percent, private investment by 15.8 percent, and manufacturing production by 22.8 percent. Thailand is now confident that the target growth for the whole year is achievable for exports. Even tourism in the first three months grew by almost 30 percent. And the combination of faster-than-expected first quarter growth, global economic recovery, boosting Thailand's export sector, and the revival of domestic spending, has led the country to increase its GDP growth projections to between 5 and 6 percent for the whole year, up from earlier projections of 3.5 to 4.5 percent.

The Ministry of Commerce said that, in its export strategies, emphasis is placed on the Asian region, especially ASEAN countries, China, and India. At the same time, it still maintains Thailand's traditional markets, namely the United States and the European Union. The Government attaches great importance to the realization of the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015, when the ASEAN market of 570 million people will become a single market. This will help expand Thailand's export market and its sources of raw materials and labor. In addition to boosting exports, the Ministry of Commerce will strengthen domestic market development in an effort to reduce dependence on the export sector in the long run. It will also encourage the private sector to penetrate into new markets, engage in new businesses in foreign countries, and seek partnerships for business networking. Moreover, the Ministry will promote the export market for businesses concerning environmental preservation and energy conservation, as well as Thailand's identities and innovations.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 08/17/2010

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BANGLADESH: Newly Introduced E-Tendering Cuts Time Significantly

The Time of the Bangladesh Bank's procurement process has been reduced significantly with the introduction of electronic tendering, officials said on Tuesday. They said since the online tender process was launched by Bangladesh Bank (BB) governor Atiur Rahman on June 12, the central bank has opened 24 tenders, of which four has already been awarded. The process has been speeded up following provision of online submission by the bidders, automated evaluation and speedy award announcement ensuring full security of the system. The officials said two-thirds of the time of procurement has been reduced with the e-tendering process. "Which was earlier done in three months can now be done in a month," said Gouranga Chaktraborty, systems management of IT operation and communications department. He said the tendering process is totally safe and secure and evaluation is done by the central bank's own software. He said that the system evaluates the proposals automatically as soon as the bidding is closed and declares the award. An evaluation committee is the only authority which can verify the whole process and the documents if anything unusual is found, said another official. The e-tendering system of the central bank is introduced with the facility of online bidder registration, email acknowledgement of new tender according to bidder's interest list, online bid participation, online frequently asked tender-specific questions with comprehensive security.

From http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/ 07/31/2010

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Build a Poverty-Free Bangladesh, Urges Hasina

Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina urged the people of Bangladesh to build a prosperous, modern and poverty-free country, while addressing a function where eighty economically vulnerable women were given sewing machines as part of the country's many income-oriented programmes. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday urged the people to build a poverty-free Bangladesh as dreamt by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. "Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman always dreamt of a poverty-free Bangladesh. Let us work hand to hand to fulfill his dream and build a prosperous and modern Bangladesh," she said. Hasina was addressing a function arranged at the Bangabandhu Mazar Complex to distribute sewing machines among the economically vulnerable women. Eighty women were given the sewing machines after a two-month-long training arranged by the district administration. The PM thanked the Gopalganj district administration for arranging such income-oriented programmes. She expressed the hope that other district administrations will also come up with similar innovative programmes to help remove employment crisis in the society. Hasina said that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman throughout his whole life continued politics for socio-economic and political emancipation of the people. "Bangladesh has achieved independence under the leadership of the Father of the Nation. Now we have to achieve economic emancipation of the people," she said. The premier said that her government is working with various programmes to create social safety net including empowering the country's women community by providing employment. Mentioning the government's "one house, one farm" project, she said the present government is strongly committed to removing unemployment from the country. "Concept of various development programmes being run by the present government has been taken from Bangabandhu's government." About the Gopalganj district administration's programme to providing the women with sewing machines, the PM stressed ensuring proper and profitable marketing of the products to be produced by these women. In this regard, she suggested association-based marketing of the products. Every capable person including the women would have to be involved in productive activities to strengthen the country's economy, Hasina said. "We want such a Bangladesh where not a single woman sits idle at home," she said. Earlier, in the morning, the PM placed wreath at the grave of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at Tungipara.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 08/16/2010

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ICT Act Challenged

A Writ petition was filed yesterday with the High Court challenging the legality of some provisions of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973 under which the war crimes trial is being held. Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami senior Assistant Secretaries General Muhammad Kamaruzzaman and Abdul Quader Mollah, who are now detained, jointly filed the Writ petition seeking HC direction to suspend the proceedings of the International Crimes Tribunal and the trial against them. The HC bench comprising Justice MA Wahhab Miah and Justice Kazi Rezaul Haq fixed August 17 (today) for hearing on the petition. The petitioners challenged the Sections 3(1), 6(2), 6(8), 19(1), 19(3), 20(2) and 23 of the International Crimes Tribunal Act, 1973 which have restricted the accused to challenge the formation, proceeding and order of the tribunal. These sections of the Act have violated the basic structure and supremacy of the Constitution, the petition said. The petitioners also challenged the First Amendment to the Constitution that said the fundamental rights would not be applicable to the armed forces, defense forces, auxiliary forces and prisoners of war who were involved in war crimes. In 1973, the Constitution (First Amendment) Act 1973 was passed inserting Sub-art (3) in Article 47 whereby any law providing for the detention and trial of war criminals was kept out of the purview of the provision of Part III relating to fundamental rights. The petition stated that the first amendment to the Constitution was done violating the fundamental rights of the people. The petition further stated that according to the Section 3(1) of the Act during the war criminals trial the fundamental rights would not be applicable to the people who were involved in war crimes. This section violated the constitutional rights of the people which guaranteed them under the Constitution. The petition also stated that the appointment of the two High Court judges in the Tribunal under the Section 6(2) of the Act violated the Articles 147 (3), 99 and 94 of the Constitution. Their appointments also violated Sections 94 (3), 94, 99, 109 and 144 of the Constitution, the petition said. The petition stated that as per the Section 20(2) of the Act, the Tribunal could award capital punishment to the accused, but it was not mentioned in the Act for which offence it would award this punishment. The Criminal Procedure of Code (CrPC) would not be applicable under the Section 23 of the Act, which is contradictory to the Constitution, the petition said. The petitioner also challenged the first case of the Tribunal under which it was issued arrest warrants against four top leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami for alleged crimes committed during the War of Liberation in 1971. The four Jamaat leaders are: party Ameer Motiur Rahman Nizami, Secretary General Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujaheed and Senior Assistant Secretaries general Muhammad Kamaruzzaman and Abdul Quader Mollah. Barrister Abdur Razzaq appeared for the petitioners.

From http://nation.ittefaq.com/ 08/17/2010

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BHUTAN: ADB President Reaffirms Support

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) remains a committed development partner of the Government of Bhutan, President Haruhiko Kuroda said at the conclusion of a 3-day visit to the country. Mr. Kuroda, who paid a courtesy call on His Majesty The King of Bhutan and met with Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley, lauded Bhutan's strong progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, with poverty rate cut from just over 36% in 2000 to around 23% in 2007. "Over the years Bhutan has made substantial progress in reducing poverty and improving the lives of its people. Just 10 years ago more than one third of the country's people were considered to be living in poverty - a figure that had dropped to less than one quarter by 2007," said Mr. Kuroda. The economy, which is highly dependent on sales of electricity to India, was only mildly affected by the global financial crisis and growth is expected to remain strong in the near term, driven by up to 10 planned hydropower projects. At the same time, unemployment, lack of skilled labor for key industries, gaps in infrastructure development, and an underdeveloped private sector are areas the country must address in the medium to longer term. "Given that rural poverty remains much higher than urban poverty, efforts must continue to ensure that economic growth is made inclusive and brings benefits to all citizens," added Mr. Kuroda, who also made field trips to ADB-assisted projects during his visit. Mr. Kuroda noted that ADB has been deeply engaged in supporting energy, transport, urban infrastructure, finance, and governance improvements in Bhutan, and is aiming to scale up assistance over the next 2 years to support the remaining period of the Government's current Five-Year socioeconomic development plan. Indicative spending for Bhutan under ADB's concessional Asian Development Fund for 2011-2012 is estimated at about $58.4 million, up 60% on the previous 2-year allocation. For the next 4 years, ADB's investment program includes a renewable energy project to support the government's rural electrification program, urban infrastructure, rural roads, domestic airport improvements, and capacity-building support for government agencies. Since Bhutan joined ADB in 1982 it has received nearly $384 million in lending and non-lending assistance, and in 2009 disbursements reached an all-time high of $35.6 million. Currently there are ongoing lending operations worth a net $228.6 million. From 2006, all assistance has been in the form of grants, except for the Bhutan Green Power Development Project which has multiple sources of finance.

From http://www.adb.org/ 07/31/2010

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INDIA: Center to Formulate Safety Norms for IT, ITES

Chennai: The central government is contemplating on the possibility of formalizing certain safety norms for IT and ITES sector. The plans is to set up "Occupational Safety and Health norms" for the Information Technology and IT-enabled Services along the lines of other segments of the organized sector industries, reports Deccan Herald. This was indicated here on Monday at the first-ever national seminar organized by the Union Labour Ministry on "Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) in IT and ITES industries" in coordination with its Regional Labour Institue (RLI), Chennai and the Directorate General Factory Advice Service and Labour Institutes (DGFASLI) Mumbai.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 07/27/2010

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India to Become World's Third Largest Economy by 2030

Bangalore: Hawksworth, an economist based in London, projects that India will become the third-largest economy racing past Japan. According to him, after 2020, India will grow more quickly than China because it will have a younger and faster-growing population. He added that the Chinese growth will begin to slow after 2020 because of its rapidly aging population. India's growth can be accredited to pharmaceuticals, power, telecommunications, civil aviation, insurance and real estate and an increasing foreign direct investment influx. As per an internal survey, India's working age population is expected to grow continuously over the next 40 years. One prime factor for India's development will be the consumer base which is much higher as compared to China and thus a better invested capital. According to the International Monetary Fund Estimates, the Chinese economy will total about $5.4 trillion this year, while the U.S. one will be about $14.8 trillion - almost three times the size of the Chinese economy. To catch the U.S., China will have to grow extremely fast while the U.S. economy dawdles. For China to catch the U.S. in 10 years, its economy would have to grow at more than 12 percent per annum, for example, while the U.S. grows at 2 percent, Bryson estimates. However, most economists say, it is unlikely that China will have sustained growth that high and the U.S. will be that low.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 08/17/2010

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ICT for People's Entitlement Under MGNREGA

India's rural development Ministry at a workshop unveiled their strategy for nationwide rollout of biometric enabled ICT applications for improved MGNREGA implementation, and signed an MoU with the UIDAI towards this end. Rural women demonstrated how this has helped ensure their rights under the scheme. UIDAI Chairman Nandan Nilekani congratulates Dr.C.P.Joshi Union Minister for Rural Development on launch of National Framework for ICT enabled MGNREGA. Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister for Environment, and Ministers of State Agatha Sangma, Sisir Adhikari and Pradeep Jain Aditya look on. The Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India (MoRD) on 20th August, 2010 unveiled their strategy for nationwide rollout of biometric enabled ICT applications for improving delivery of services under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), at a national workshop titled "Mahatma Gandhi NREGA - making ICT an instrument for people's entitlement: A step towards Governance Reform and Transparency". Women from Suwana block, Bhilwara district in Rajasthan demonstrate how a hand-held device can help them register demand for work, receive a dated receipt and collect wages under MGNREGA. "Today we have moved a step towards good governance and transparency," said Dr.C.P.Joshi, Union Minister for Rural Development, following the demonstration of an end to end ICT-based solution by OneWorld Foundation India, where rural women of Suwana Block, Bhilwara district of Rajasthan accessed information on their work history, demanded jobs against a dated receipt, and also received wages - on a simple biometric registration. "We have shown that it is possible to introduce efficiency and also address key problems of our central NREGA stakeholders - the workers - including delays in work allocation, bogus muster rolls and non-payment of wages, and we will focus on concretising these ideas further in the coming year" he said. Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister of Environment and Forests, complimented the Ministry on pioneering steps towards better service delivery in NREGA through ICT.

Remembering the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, he said, "I feel it is a befitting tribute that this important step towards ICT enabled innovation to ensure rights of rural workers is being showcased on his birthday." Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission calls for incorporation of ICTs in all schemes under the 12th Plan document. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission - India's apex planning body, expressed hope that approach documents for the 12th Plan would incorporate the use of such tried and tested technologies for bringing several other schemes, for example PDS, on to a heightened scale of implementation. The occasion also saw the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the MoRD and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), to integrate MGNREGA processes and database with 'Aadhar' the unique identification that would be given to every citizen. Nandan Nilekani, Chairman UIDAI, expressed delight at the imminent possibility that the unique id 'Aadhar' would soon facilitate a range of NREGA, banking, insurance and other services for rural citizens bringing them on par with their urban counterparts. Congratulating the Ministry on the successful integration of ICT for benefit of rural populace, Sam Pitroda, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations, said, "Our task is to democratise information from Panchayat level onwards to ensure that key stakeholders get to participate in government schemes." "ICTs can act as enablers, provided we create the right environment - mindsets, work flows, work culture - what we need is an effective communication network buttressed by a broadband platform, UID platform, GIS platform, and appropriate application software, security, human resources - young talent with the ability to manage and maintain these tools at local level," he added.

MGNREGA is a landmark social security legislation that epitomizes the right to employment on demand. Independent studies by reputed institutions have indicated that since its inception in 2006, the act has provided nearly 800 crore persondays of employment with 50% of share for women and more than 50% for SC/ST, and Rs.66976.91 crore as wages. It has resulted in enhanced wage rates and bargaining power of labourers, increased purchasing power resulting in increased spending on food, health and education, reduced distress migration, and augmented productivity through green jobs. The large scale of operations and the need to handle large volumes of information in a transparent manner necessitated the use of ICTs in programme delivery. In the last year, pilot initiatives were undertaken in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. Starting 2nd October 2009, OneWorld had attempted to imbibe transparency and public accountability in MGNREGA by e-enabling all the processes right from bio-metric based registration, demand for work, issue of dated receipt, allocation of work, recording of attendance with GPS coordinates and work measurement using hand-held devices. A digital repository facilitating access to NREGA related knowledge for practitioners, and a community radio initiative complete the cycle of knowledge facilitating the transition of rural poor from wage employment to sustainable livelihood. Lessons from this pilot, executed in partnership with the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, and the UNDP, did demonstrate considerable potential for expanding, extending and scaling this effort - to reach out to NREGS beneficiaries - preferably on voice mode to mitigate the constraint of literacy, and riding on all-encompassing reach of mobile and hand-held technologies. Going forward, integration into the comprehensive MG-NREGA database on real-time basis will eliminate fraud, duplication and delays in work measurements and payments, translating to significant overall benefits to workers in financial terms. The data generated can be linked with the unique identification numbers of citizens 'Aadhar'. It can also be used by banks, post offices for the purpose of servicing MGNREGA accounts through the Business Correspondent Model.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 08/23/2010

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AZERBAIJAN: East-West Information Superhighway Project to Open Direct Access to Internet Network Core

The way that today the countries of the South Caucasus and Central Asia regions pass is quite significant in their independent development despite the political and economic problems. Making a start from the general idea of the development of the region and including it in the global system of global economic relations, Azerbaijan once again appeared as the initiator of global-scale project of constructing the information superhighway "East West", which is the beginning to acquire real incarnation. Azerbaijan's resolution on the project to establish information superhighway "East-West" was adopted by the UN General Assembly late last year. The UN General Assembly's adoption of a resolution on this project is a great achievement of Azerbaijan, which is a powerful tool in the implementation of the projects and allows attracting additional funding, gives a mandate to Azerbaijan as the coordinator country of the projects both regionally and globally. The resolution adopted by the UN takes a general recommendation character, and the process of negotiations with the countries to provide resources and opportunities for entering their markets will be conducted based on their interests. Certainly, no country will do something that does not meet its interests. Each country has its own internal and external infrastructure development plans. Nevertheless, a common interest is displayed in this project, particularly by the regional countries. Eurasia is the "white spot" on the world map. The question is not about the absence of communication lines at all, but about the level of their existence. Network, which is the core of the Internet network (level network-TR1) is virtually absent in the region. There are only six such networks in the world, and they are mostly located in Asia, Western Europe and North America. Each of these networks is an integrated whole network that includes Asia, Europe and North America. These six global networks exchange traffic with each other. Even large operators like Deutsche Telecom and British Telecom use the network of second level - TR2. A majority of countries in the Eurasian region refers to the networks of the third level - TR3, which have access to the data network through TR2 network. Despite the fact that the countries of the region have access to international communication channels, lack of networks of the first level is a problem. The project, initiated by Azerbaijan, on its characteristics will refer to the TR1 or TR2 class.

Today, worldwide telecommunications are undergoing a period of wide introduction of fiber-optic lines in practice. The rapid process of informatization of society has become the main reason for the widespread use of fiber-optic transmission systems in information networks for different purposes. Tens of thousands of kilometers of fiber-optic communication lines has been laid in the world, which covers countries of Western Europe, USA and Japan. The question is about local lines with length from a few tens of thousands - hundreds of kilometers to highways with length of thousands of kilometers, in which information is transmitted at speeds of tens of gigabits per second. The most typical event in the development of optical lines has been the creation of the first transatlantic route TAT-8 in 1988. Its comparison with the first submarine cable line on a metal cable TAT-1 (1956) showed that the cost for per channel decreased by 100 times. This led to the fact that the general direction of the subsequent decade was the construction of rapid lengthy submarine and underground transmission optical lines. In addition to the transatlantic and transpacific routes TAE highway (Trans-Asia-Europe) that runs along the Silk Road, an underwater pipeline FLAG (Fiber Optic Link Around the Globe - a fiber-optic communication line of the globe) and SEA-ME-WE-3 (South-East Asia-Middle East-East-Western Europe - link South-East Asia - Middle East - Western Europe), should be marked out. Fiber-optic cable highway TAE, which includes also Azerbaijan can be called a system of agreements on traffic transit. This highway is a network of the previous generation, which is actually not a single network, and set - a chain of networks between China and Western Europe, gathered together for the construction of canals. Countries that have access to the Internet through the TAE, in the case of expansion the communication channel must pay all the countries, through whose territory it carries out the traffic transit. Accordingly, each of these countries itself serves a network and each of them, using different equipment, uses different technical standards. Unlike the TAE, the "East-West" project is a single network, which is technically and technologically passing through the territory of countries - participants of the project does not require alignment of the chain. The "East-West" highway technologically has a huge advantage in terms of speed of construction, for example VPN networks. The network allows effortlessly connect and provide a guaranteed service, for example a large an international company, operating in several countries.

There are several advantages of the project initiated by Azerbaijan. One of them is the fact that this network will save on network access TR1, whereas today, each country pays for it individually. By bringing the countries into a single network, the consortium will be created, which in turn will save on getting traffic. Another advantage is the fact that the regional traffic (video conferences, movies, games, etc.) will be kept directly within this single network. Regarding the cost of the "East-West" project, today there is a preliminary assessment of the Booz Allien Hamilton Consulting Company, which prices the project at hundreds of millions of dollars. However, the assessment envisages the construction of its own fiber-optic infrastructure on the region. The company examined how much construction of some optical lines from Western Europe to China can cost. Company Booz Allien Hamilton offered to work with countries and hold deregulated market. This is a very complicated issue, as each country has its own policies and priorities. Accordingly, each country will protect its national interests. However, there is another approach that can be much more attractive. This opportunity is using existing optical lines in close cooperation with major leading operators in the region. In general, network operators are built on fairly optimal routes. Operators are well aware of the geography, topography of their countries and networks. Therefore, construction of a network from zero with the exception of those cases when there is an urgent need for optical channels, makes no sense. The exception can be underwater cable line between Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, or Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, which is now the subject of negotiations between the countries. According to practice, construction of an overall network takes several years of hard work. It will be necessary to legally register it, conduct topographical studies, etc. On average construction of the network with length 5,000- 10,000 kilometers can take from three to five years. The project's implementation will depend how Azerbaijan will be able to convince the countries and the operators in its success. The project may lead to conclusion of a certain framework agreement on traffic transit, on which the region's countries can earn. There are regional leaders and countries with low development indicators among them. Azerbaijan's initiative, envisaged primarily to "bring up" lagging countries, on the territory of which highway line can be laid, to the general level of development. It is envisaged that the project will be implemented on the basis of the consortium. Every country, every operator will act as an investor, it can be possible to attract foreign capital. Today major international investors, in particular China, which at the state level has already expressed readiness to invest in this project in the project, show great interest in this project. Belarus, Georgia, and almost all countries of the region are interested in this project in various degrees. Azerbaijan's resolution on the information superhighway "East-West" adopted by the UN is designed to connect totally 20 countries and play an important role for the development of the region. The project's implementation will eliminate the existing "digital gap" between countries within the Western European and Pacific basins.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/02/2010

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E-Azerbaijan State Program Envisages Independent Body in ICT

The main objectives of the "State program on development of communication and information technologies in Azerbaijan for 2010-2012 (Electronic Azerbaijan)", approved by President Aliyev is to fulfill the tasks of a national strategy in this area, ensure the transition to an information society, build a competitive economy, based on knowledge, using information and communication technologies, the official press reported. One of the points of the plan is to restore the communication infrastructure in the areas liberated from the occupation (within one year after the release). The program also involves the use of ICT solutions at all levels of state management, the formation of public information systems, electronic services on a "single window" and others.

The state program will be implemented in four main areas, including development of telecommunications, postal infrastructure and services, introduction of information and communication technologies and development of electronic services in state and local bodies, creation of conditions for the transition to an information society, as well as enhancement of export potential and competitive ICT. The program will be financed from the state budget, domestic and foreign investments, through loans, grants and technical and financial assistance of the international and foreign organizations, as well as through other sources that are not contrary to the law. After the state program is implemented, conditions for the development of information society will be created. The Internet segment will be developed. The circle of computer users will be expanded. The "digital inequality" will be liquidated. Solutions of "electronic government" will be introduced. Digital signatures and others will be applied.

A plan of actions within the "Electronic Azerbaijan" program includes measures to develop the network infrastructure of operators, full electronization of the network, establish an independent regulatory body of the telecommunications industry, provide services based on satellite communication and develop e-commerce. TV and radio broadcasting zone (including digital) will be expanded. A single portal on culture and tourism will be created. A single document system will be created and used by public authorities. According to the Azerbaijani President's decree, the Communications and IT Ministry will coordinate the execution of the state program.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/12/2010

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Schedule of Operations and Feasibility Studies to Be Prepared to Implement Projects within State Program 'E-Azerbaijan'

A Coordinating Council on the implementation of the "State program on development of communication and information technologies in Azerbaijan for 2010-2012 (Electronic Azerbaijan)" has decided to prepare schedule of operations and feasibility studies of the projects indicated in the program within a month by executive bodies, the Communications and Information Technologies Ministry said. According to the Ministry, the Council has also decided to determine necessary funds to execute plan on specific points during the reported period. He decision was made during the first meeting of the Coordinating Council, which was held the day before in the Ministry. The Council will coordinate activities and prepare a work plan to implement the tasks under the state program on the relevant directions.

The main goals of the state program, approved by President Aliyev are to fulfill the tasks of the "National Strategy for Development of Communication and Information Technologies in Azerbaijan Republic" (2003-2012). The state program will be implemented in four main areas, including development of telecommunications, postal infrastructure and services, introduction of information and communication technologies and development of electronic services in state and local bodies, creation of conditions for the transition to an information society, as well as expansion of export and competitive potential. The program will be financed from the state budget, domestic and foreign investments, through loans, grants and technical and financial assistance of the international and foreign organizations, as well as through other sources that are not contrary to the law.

After the state program is implemented, conditions for the development of information society will be created. The Internet segment will be developed. The circle of computer users will be expanded. The "digital inequality" will be liquidated. Solutions of "electronic government" will be introduced. Digital signatures and others will be applied. A plan of actions within the "Electronic Azerbaijan" program includes measures to develop the network infrastructure of operators, full electronization of the network, establish an independent regulatory body of the telecommunications industry, provide services based on satellite communication and develop e-commerce. According to the Azerbaijani President's decree, the Communications and IT Ministry will coordinate the execution of the state program.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/19/2010

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IRAN: To Send Man to Space in 2017 - President

"Recently we have sent living organisms into space. According to the Iranian Space Agency's program first astronaut should have been sent into space in 2024, but the state prematurely was able to implement some programs, and Iran's first astronaut will fly to space in 2017," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on an air of the Hamadan Province's television, Iranian President's official news website president.ir. reports. He said a satellite will be launched into the circumterrestrial orbit in the near future, which will operate within a year. "The Space Agency has submitted to the Government a program to launch into orbit a satellite, providing communication and television services. In the near future this program will be implemented," Ahmadinejad said. In February 2010, Iran sent into space the rat, turtles and worms sent by Kavoshgar 3.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/05/2010

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KAZAKHSTAN: First Show Impressive Results after World Economy Started Recovering

Yesterday upon completion of the enlarged session of the Government Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Massimov commented on the impressive 8% GDP growth in Kazakhstan in the first half of 2010. As he said, Kazakhstan was one of the first countries which showed impressive results after the world economy started recovering. According to the Premier, maintaining the macro-economic stability in the country due to realization of a range of state programs was one of the reasons of the economic growth. Kazakh Minister of Economic Development and Trade Zhanar Aitzhanova gave details of the macro-economic situation in the country at the Government sitting. According to her, the results of the first half of the year showed that the Kazakh economy entered the growth trajectory. Measures on stimulation of the domestic demand and maintaining business activity in the country taken by the Government within the anti-crisis program made great contribution to the economic recovery. Development of the real sector was of special importance for the country's economy - the industrial production in Kazakhstan in the first half of the year increased by 11% compared to the corresponding period of 2009. Increase in production in the manufacturing industry by 18.3% which outstripped the growth in mining industry (6.3%) proves qualitative changes in the economy. Essential development of the manufacturing industry of the country was provided by dynamic development of the engineering where the production increase in the first half of the year made 67.5%. The additional gain in production in the chemical industry reached the level of 67.5%. Launching of agro-industrial facilities producing goods oriented at the domestic market and markets of the Customs Union provided production increase of 14.6% in the food industry. The agricultural output growth by 3.1% was conditioned by 3.3% increase in livestock. The positive growth rates of the sector were provided by state support. However, the investments to the main capital decreased slightly in the first half of the year. Manufacturing industry, wholesale and retail trade, transportation and warehousing were less attractive sectors for investments.

At the same time, the rate of equity capital of enterprises and companies increased by 45%. As Zh.Aitzhanova noted, the Government managed to slow down the decrease in the volume of construction works due to realization of investment projects and putting into service of new housing. Investments into housing construction increased by 14.5% in the first half of the year. Activation of the real sector of the economy resulted in recovery of the transport services sphere. The shipments volume increased by 16.8% in the first half of 2010. System measures on entrepreneurship development and improvement of business climate taken by the Government played an important role in the economy recovery as well. Due to allocation of funds for support of small and medium business entities partner banks financed over 2.5 thousand enterprises to the amount of over KZT 144.7 bln. Besides, Road Business Map - 2020 Program aimed at business sector recovery and support of new business initiatives was started this year. The work on reduction of administrative barriers for small and medium business entities is underway as well. These and other measures allowed increasing production of small and medium business by 6.1%. The indicator of social well-being of people is one of the most important for the Government. Successful launch of the industrialization program and implementation of the Road Map had a positive impact on the social indicators. The unemployment rate reduced by 0.9% in the first quarter compared to the corresponding period of 2009. The inflation rate has been decreasing since the beginning of the year - from 1.4% in January till 0.2% in June. In the first half of 2010 the inflation made up 4.4% due to appreciation of food by 5.6%, paid services by 4.6% and non-foods by 2.7%. Upon the results of June, 2010 the annual inflation rate made 6.8%. Domestic manufacturers increase food production to keep prices at the domestic market down. Besides, trilateral memos providing uninterrupted supply of sugar, rice, vegetable oil to the domestic markets were signed between regional akimats and wholesale and retail trade enterprises.The Minister also addressed the issues of international reserves of the country. According to her, these reserves increased by KZT 5.7 bln in the first half of the year and made USD 53.1 bln. The assets of the National Fund were up to USD 26.5 bln.

From http://www.inform.kz/ 07/28/2010

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TAJIKISTAN: Information Access Development Support Project to Be Launched in September

The republican public association, Molodyozh Novogo Veka (New Age Youth), will launch its first Internet journalism development support project, Blogging as Means of Extension of Information Space. The association director Rustam Tohirov says the project, designed for six months, will be launched on September 1 this year. "The main objective of the project is in promoting popularization of blogging among Tajik journalists in order to expand the access of the country's regions to information and support development of the civil journalism in the country for the purpose of advancing democracy, transparency and freedom of speech in Tajikistan," he said. According to the statistics from the Ministry of Culture, some 370 sources of information now function in the country, however, these indicators do not impact population's access to information and cannot reflex actual development of freedom of speech at the proper level, Tohirov said, adding that the main reason for that is the fact that the majority of media in Tajikistan "release information locally." He noted that the project included a number of events, including seminars on blogging for young journalists working with print media, open lectures for students from the faculties and departments of journalism, roundtable meetings, etc.

From http://www.asiaplus.tj/ 08/24/2010

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TURKMENISTAN: New City to Be Founded in Lebap Province

A new city with social infrastructure will be founded in Lebap province of Turkmenistan, near cement and potash plants that are currently under construction. According to the plan of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the city will be populated with workers of these plants and their families. It should be recalled that there was earlier developed a master plan in Turkmenistan for the construction of a new administrative center of Akhal province, which provides for construction of social facilities, up to twelve storey houses as well as two-storey cottages. It is expected that the new city will be also built in Balkan province of Turkmenistan, near the city of Turkmenbashi and the seaside resort "Avaz".

From http://www.turkmenistan.ru/ 08/23/2010

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UZBEKISTAN: Digital TV Introduced

Uzbekistan was one of the first countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States to start introducing digital TV broadcasting. The transfer to digital TV started in 2007 and should complete by 2015, according to the plan. In 2008, test zones of digital broadcasting were set up in two cities of the country - Tashkent and Bukhara, Currently, 25 channels are broadcast in the capital, and their number will soon increase to over 40. This year, a digital transmitted will be supplied to Samarkand, while in Tashkent their number will be increased from two to four. Next year, digital transmitters will be mounted in four other regions of Uzbekistan. Tashkent-based company TelMax Electronics produces special TV tuners to receive digital channels. To date, the company produced more than 5,000 of such set-top-boxes. With growth of demand for the receivers, a new company will be launched with foreign investments to manufacture 50,000 to 60,000 receivers per year.

From http://www.gov.uz/ 07/28/2010

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Information Technologies Skills Open New Opportunities for Blind People

Two month computer courses for blind people were completed at Computer resource center of the cultural house Sanat Gulshani (attached to Society of Blinds). This center was created with the support of joint projects "ACCESS" and "Assisting the Government of Uzbekistan in the formulation and implementation of ICT for development" (ICTP), implemented by UNDP in cooperation with the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of Population of the Republic Uzbekistan and the Uzbek Agency for Communication and Information, also with a support of the World Bank in Uzbekistan. Blind people and people with impaired vision, completed computer courses are now able to use special software JAWS, special equipment SARA, TOPAZ, and be able to be in touch with the world information and communication technology (ICT), the use of various literature, read newspapers and magazines, use the Internet network, to find friends there, to communicate and exchange information. "This is my second year working with the JAWS program, and I really at hand. I am a philologist and I have a lot to write, do researches where JAWS just saves me. Being blind, I was able to create website and place there all sorts of information about outstanding scientists with disabilities, scientists who being blind and achieved a lot. Now I would like one, so the JAWS program will be nationalized and that it sounded in Uzbek language. I think the organizers of the training will take our demands into consideration," said Munavvara Kurbanov, Ph.D. in Philology, participant of the training course.

Today, all over the country operate 80 libraries for the blind, which services are used by 40 thousand of our compatriots and blind people with impaired vision. Over 700 blind university students have no access to ICT, which is the main aim of the courses where the emphasis was based on creating opportunities for people with disabilities to obtain, analyze and utilize information. According to the reporter of "Bir Safda" journal of the Society of Blinds, Nadira Zakirova, she improved her journalistic skills and activity by the assistance of the trainings conducted by the ACCESS and ICTP projects. "Before I wrote my first article in Braille, and then for publishing it in the magazine, I had to rewrite them. For this I needed help of another person. Now with the help of JAWS I can type the articles on the computer and prepare for publication. This is very comfortable and exciting process for me," says Nadira. It should be noted that after the end of the course, Nadira was able independently create and design a web site of the journal "Bir Safda. Upon awarding of certificates to graduates of computer courses, Assistant Resident Representative of UNDP in Uzbekistan, Sitara Syed stressed the importance of these trainings. "Looking at you, I see how you crave to obtain information on a par with everyone. These courses are only the beginning, and it is important to know your opinion about the quality and content of our training. Based on your responses, we will further strive to improve our courses and create new opportunities for access to information for blind people," said Ms. Sitara Syed.

In future ACCESS project plans to conduct similar courses in all regions of Uzbekistan. In this purpose, the main partners of the project are German Society for Technical Cooperation in Uzbekistan (GTZ) and the World Bank Office in Uzbekistan. The main goal is to adapt blind people to the modern labor market, tp break stereotypes and stigma in society, develop professional capacity and motivation of participants to conduct similar training courses on their own in other regions of the country. The project ACCESS (Accessibility, Civic Consciousness, Employment and Social Support for People with Disabilities) was approved by the Ministry of Labor and social Security and UNDP in August 2008. It acts on the basis of the new edition of the Law of The Republic of Uzbekistan "On social security of people with disabilities" that was adopted in the year 2008. The project is foreseen to operate for two years during which it intends to work on increasing public awareness on the disability issue, enhance the coordination of governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations the activities of which are oriented to assist people with disabilities, improve accessibility of the surrounding environment and assist with job placements of people with disabilities.

From http://news.uzreport.com/ 08/03/2010

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Internet Festival Starts in Uzbekistan

Internet festival of national domain UZ 2010 started in Uzbekistan on 5 August. The organizers of the event are the Fund "Forum of Culture and Arts of Uzbekistan", "Kelajak ovozi" youth initiatives centre, UZINFOCOM center and Mirada Software company. Uzbek Agency for Communication and Information (UzACI) and the Women's Committee of Uzbekistan provided official support to the festival. Internet festivals have been spent in the country since 2001, it was noted at the press conference devoted to the festival opening. Since 2007, festivals are held only for sites in the national domain UZ. The goal is to develop resources in the domestic domain. Previously, internet festivals were held every two years. From 2010, the festivals will be held on an annual basis. In Uzbekistan, the estimated number of internet users is currently about 3 million. The second-level domain UZ was created on 29 April 1995. The number of active UZ domains is more than 10,500. There are also thousands of third-level domains in the UZ zone. Since the beginning of this year, more than 1,000 UZ domains were registered. Given this, it was decided to make internet festivals annual. The main initiators of the festival are UzACI and UZINFOCOM, which is the administrator of the UZ domain zone. This year's festival will be held from 5 August to 20 September. Its results will be announced on the first day of the Information Technologies Week, InfoCOM 2010. The main goals of the festival are popularization of the internet among the general population, providing assistance to development of national content as a medium for creativity, professional activities, recreation, a source of reliable and timely information. A jury of experts in internet technologies, art, culture, governance and other fields will be created to evaluate the websites. The contest program includes 14 thematic and 2 special nominations.

From http://www.gov.uz/en/ 08/06/2010

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Huge Progress Maked in All Spheres of Life

On the threshold of 19th anniversary of Independence of the Republic of Uzbekistan, diplomatic offices of our country abroad keep receiving opinions and assessments of prominent representatives of political, social, expert and business circles. They express their opinions on the events of internal and international policies of Uzbekistan. Sylvie d'Izarn, Chief Editor of Les milieux des Empires analytical edition and observer from France at parliamentary elections in Uzbekistan in December 2009 is one of them. In her interview to Jahon Information Agency she noted reforms in different spheres of economy, science and education that took places during years of independence. A special interest is paid to Uzbekistan's initiatives on the settlement of Afghan problem. "In September 2010 Uzbekistan will celebrate the 19th anniversary of Independence," she said. "During this short period a lot was done for the prosperity and development due to reforms in different spheres of life initiated by the President Islam Karimov."

The French analyst thinks that Uzbekistan is a country that differs from other countries in way that it pays great attention to all-round development of the civil society, the implementation of legal reforms and reforms in economy. During the process of identity formation, the country considered the positive experience of the West and centuries-old cultural and historical traditions of Uzbek people. All positive changes that took place under the direction of the President Islam Karimov opened the country for the world community and provided a worthy place in the international arena as well as let it carry an equal dialogue with the West and Europe. "I want to emphasize that last year parliamentarian elections in Uzbekistan where I personally took part as an observer in Tashkent and Samarkand brightly illustrated the improvement of parliamentarian and election systems and the aspiration of Uzbek people to democratic transformations. Elections were transparent, on the democratic and multiparty basis that evidences Uzbekistan's urge to build a democratic state," she proceeds.

"Of course there is a lot to do on the way of society democratization. However one should not compare Uzbekistan with Europe- old democracy. Uzbekistan's independence is only 19 years old. And the country achieved a lot during such a short period of time in all spheres of life, including economy. New western technologies were introduced into national economy, industrial branches were modernized, a number of modern objects were constructed, especially lyceums, colleges, schools and kindergartens." "For the years of independence, the government has exerted grandiose efforts and made a huge work to develop rural areas and to create equal opportunities for youth both from cities and from rural areas to realize its potential. A lot was done for the youth for the years of independence. Islam Karimov declared 2010 the "Year of Harmonically Developed Generation". A number of music and other types of competitions are held, many music schools and conservatories, sport facilities are aimed to encourage the talents of children." "Uzbekistan is carrying out well-planned and weighed foreign policy by playing its role in the settlement of regional problems. Rational position of Tashkent in relation to June events in the region is a bright evidence of that. Afghanistan is a serious problem for the whole world. The international coalition lacks the coordination of actions and correct vision from the strategic prospect. In this context we would like to emphasize and support the efforts of Uzbekistan in the regulation of Afghan problem. This is the only country to suggest practical ways out of emergency situation by rendering social and economic aid to Afghanistan."

"The "6+2" contact group for Afghanistan that included 6 boundary countries, Russia and USA was created couple of years ago under the initiative of the President. This group made a substantial contribution to the restoration of peace in Afghanistan." "Considering the situation, the President of Uzbekistan came out with the initiative to resume the activity of the contact group in the new format of "6+3" by adding NATO due to its considerable involvement into Afghan problem. The implementation of the initiative to resume the activity of the contact group might bring peace to this country. Uzbek experts have more extensive knowledge of the real state of affairs in Afghanistan due to geographical neighborhood and to the experience from "6+2" and SCO." "I would also like to note the successful chairmanship of Uzbekistan in SCO during which the Uzbek side came out with a range of important initiatives on the regulation and the strengthening of collaboration with other international organizations."

From http://news.uzreport.com/ 08/24/2010

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Population in Regions Masters Information Technologies

Special computer literacy teams made of Tashkent IT University (TUIT) students and other specialists have completed a training course for population in various regions of Uzbekistan. About 400 TUIT students and teachers, as well as teachers of professional colleges, specialists from regional authorities, Kamolot youth movements and Mahalla charity fund were attracted to the courses. The total number of the listeners made up over 15,000 people, mainly young people. The courses were held at computer rooms in educational establishments in all districts of the country, Uzbek Agency for Communication and Information said. Raising the IT awareness of the population is part of the State Program "Year of Harmoniously Developed Generation" approved by President Islam Karimov on 27 January.

From http://www.gov.uz/ 08/25/2010

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Pacific Police Chiefs Meet to Discuss Crime

Eighteen chiefs of police from across the Pacific are meeting in Brisbane this week to discuss strategies for tackling transnational crime and disaster response in the region. The Australian Federal Police is hosting the 39th Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police Conference. The theme of this year's conference is Policing the Pacific. Delegates will canvass issues such as recent responses to disasters in Samoa and Tonga, maritime security, countering domestic violence and frameworks for police forces. Tonga's Police Commissioner Chris Kelley, who's at the conference, says police chiefs will talk through a number of issues. "There are clearly some issues that are being raised and some issues that have to be talked through, that of transnational crime for instance and regional enforcement is another one," he said. "That's obviously important and hardening the borders across the Pacific; they are areas that are going to be discussed over the next couple of days."

From http://www.radioaustralianews.net.au/ 08/25/2010

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AUSTRALIA: Gillard Government Actively Considering IT Portfolio

The Gillard Government is believed to be "actively considering" an IT portfolio and accompanying minister, should it win Government on 21 August. The portfolio would consolidate some of the responsibilities currently under the lead of the existing Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner, as well as the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Kim Carr. It would complement the existing Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy portfolio currently headed by Senator Stephen Conroy, and look to encourage the development of the IT industry, with a focus on government engagement and online services. Tanner has announced he will quit Parliament following the election. Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, refused to comment on a possible replacement until after the election.

The second Howard cabinet added IT responsibilities to the communications portfolio under "Communications, Information Technology and the Arts," led by then Senator Helen Coonan until the 2007 federal election. However, since the Labor Government won power in 2007, various aspects of responsibilities pertaining to the IT industry have been disaggregated into at least three different portfolios. The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy largely pertains to the existing telecommunications industry as well as aspects relating to consumer protection and the Internet, particularly the Government's National Broadband Network (NBN) and a mandatory ISP-level Internet filter. The Department of Finance and Deregulation's Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has assumed responsibility of some of the "harder" aspects of IT, including those recommendations outlined in the Gov 2.0 Taskforce report on government engagement, and the consolidation of IT procurement and assets outlined by the Gershon report released last year.

Carr's Innovation, Industry, Science and Research portfolio is largely focussed around the research and development aspects of the ICT industry, including the Government's proposed tax concessions pertaining to software development, and IP Australia. Some in the IT industry, as well as the media, have suggested the possibility of instating an overarching IT ministry to consolidate some of these responsibilities, with campaigns supporting Labor ACT senator, Kate Lundy, for the role. One media report suggested a reevaluation of the portfolio divisions was certain, should Labor succeed in winning Government. Lundy told Computerworld Australia that it was no secret she would appreciate being given such a role but that it was "the leader's call on where it sits in that relative policy".

"I'd encourage it to be considered as an option," Lundy said. "I'm sure it is actively considered as an option. "I think part of the issue is that the ministers are all doing a terrific job in that area, so whether or not it warrants an emphasis over and above the other priorities of government, that really comes back to the Prime Minister's decision." A spokesperson for Julia Gillard refused to confirm or deny speculation on the ministry. "The Prime Minister is focussed on the election and her positive plans for the future," they said. "We will not be getting ahead of ourselves by speculating about portfolios in a possible future Government."

Some have pointed to Lundy's husband, David Forman, as a potential point of conflict. Forman founded anti-Telstra telecommunications alliance, the Competitive Carriers' Coalition (CCC), in 2001, and was executive director there until recently. It is believed he left the group in March to work at consulting firm and lobbying group, CPR. Lundy confirmed that CCC remained a client of CPR, but said that all of his interests and business relations had been fully disclosed. David Forman was not available for comment at time of writing. Australian Industry Information Association (AIIA) chief executive officer, Ian Birks, said the current distribution of IT-related responsibilities was "siloed" into separate departments. "There isn't a lot of communication between the Department of Innovation and Industry, and the Department of Broadband and the other key sector portfolios like health, education and energy," Birks said. Instead of a specific IT ministry, the industry group has been lobbying for a productivity portfolio that would work in a cross-government sense to provide a focal point for application of technologies in varied sectors.

From http://www.computerworld.com.au/ 07/28/2010

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Labor to Launch NBN Blueprint

Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, will tomorrow unveil a blueprint for the National Broadband Network (NBN) in hope of sparking political debate on communications policies between the two parties ahead of the Federal election. According to Conroy, the blueprint will allow the Australian public to see which towns receive fibre, wireless and satellite aspects of the Labor party's proposed network. Tomorrow's announcement was pre-empted in a speech given by Senator Conroy today to attendees of a press conference held by the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), in which he summarised the party's broadband, digital economy and digital television policies while also slamming the Liberal party for the lack of a communications policy.

"We've got a very very exciting announcement that will actually be the footprint of the National Broadband Network," Conroy said. "You'll be able to see if you're the 93 per cent fibre, you'll be able to see if you're in the 4 per cent wireless and you'll be able to see if you're in the 3 per cent satellite." The announcement, which will be held in Perth, will allegedly mark the start of the Labor party's campaigning for communications to be "front and centre" on the Federal election agenda. "I'm hoping [it] will mean next time we see each other - hopefully next week - we'll be able to say, 'yep it's on the agenda now', and it's going to be debated all the way through," Conroy said. Throughout his speech, Conroy continued to argue that communications was a key point of differentiation between the two political parties throughout the election campaign.

Conroy's announcement comes as the Federal election campaign continues between Liberal and Labor parties with little mention of communications policies from either party, despite the release of election manifestos from industry bodies like the AIIA and the Internet Industry Association (IIA). Conroy has already announced that, in accordance with the NBN Implementation Study released earlier this year, the amount of premises receiving fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) technology will be extended to 93 per cent from 90 per cent. However, the Coalition is yet to announce its policy, fuelling speculation that it will revive the terminated OPEL project, with some sources claiming the party will introduce a fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) network in order to cut costs.

From http://www.computerworld.com.au/ 07/29/2010

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Liberal Party's Social Media Strategy

The Liberal Party's social media presence throughout the Federal election campaign has been patchy at best, hallmarked by a PR 'broadcast'-style approach and is typified by Opposition leader Tony Abbott, who hasn't bothered tweeting in almost a month. The party as a whole, has offcial accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr plus a Youtube channel which it uses to 'talk at' followers instead of engaging in direct conversation. Tony Abbott also has a profile on Twitter, Facebook and Flickr, yet fails to use these platforms to converse with his audience. His last recorded tweet was back on 16 July. Amnesia Razorfish social strategy manager, Karalee Evans, said social media was clearly not on Tony Abbott's agenda and that he may have "missed the boat".

"He's not using social media as a chance to get his message across and there's a million Australians on Twitter," Evans told Computerworld Australlia. "That's a million people that he can potentially communicate his policy and his thoughts to for why we should elect him so he's crazy not to." In contrast to Abbott, former Liberal leader, Malcolm Turnbull, was demonstrating how Twitter should be used for political benefit, Evans said. "[Turnbull] is engaging with people, he's having debates with people around the NBN and around the filter," she said. "He's actually authentic and transparent in his policy views, which is proving quite successful, he has many more followers than Tony Abbott which then increases his reach and the number of people that he can get that message across to."

Despite the imminnent election day, Evans said there was still time for Tony Abbott to "do a 180 degree turn and start engaging" with social media and followers. "I think if he was to [engage] now there might be some initial backlash as to why it's been so long... But I think people quickly get over that and use the opportunity to ask the questions that matter to them," she said. "Every day that goes past during this campaign period is more and more disappointing, purely because of the sheer number of people who are trying to engage with all three party leaders and all three party's social brands." The Australian Greens use of social media, while basic, has been commended for its two-way interaction with followers, using the platforms for engagement rather than distribution tool. The ALP launched its own social media space called LaborConnect, in addition to its presence on mainstream social networks, inviting followers into a "Labor backyard" to engage in conversation, ignoring conversations that were already taking place.

From http://www.computerworld.com.au/ 08/10/2010

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New Zealand's Broadband: Bring It on at the Speed of Light

Commentators over the last few weeks have argued the Government's ultra-fast broadband plan is crying out for "a rigorous cost/benefit analysis" that's "nowhere to be found". And that we should be concerned that Telecom might miss out on the Government's $1.5 billion investment. To which there is really only one reply - bollocks. Of course we want ultra-fast broadband. The faster the better. Bring it on at the speed of light and beyond. Those who tut-tut that we can't justify a fibre optic rollout in cost/benefit terms, or argue that the productivity gains from slow to fast broadband are negligible, betray a terrible lack of understanding of what this thing called the internet is. And what happens when speeds on the greatest goods and services delivery mechanism the world has ever seen get really fast.

The internet is not the web. It's the tracks that deliver the web, but also a whole lot of other kinds of traffic - music and movie files, software, instant messages, phone calls, video conferencing, streaming audio, fabrication data, computation and heaps of other stuff in a list that goes on for pages. When you make this traffic flow very fast - and the change from the few megabits per second we currently get on broadband to 100Mbps proposed is enormous - something else happens. At high speed the network becomes the computer. And all sorts of other possibilities emerge - dumb devices such as mobile phones or tablets connect to servers on the net and do complex things. The switch to computing in the cloud, computing as a utility, the net computer, or whatever you want to call it, has huge implications for economic development, not to mention surveillance, security and privacy, that we're only just beginning to realise.

In the face of all this, to call on the crude economic tool of cost/benefit analysis, is just plain silly. Such an analysis would have to take into account so many variables that the model falls over before you even start. It would have to measure, for example, the benefit that accrues from more people making video conference calls instead of travelling to meetings by plane. Or the energy efficiency gains that could be achieved by a community of houses hooked up to a grid network controlling electricity usage. Or the material cost savings from wholly digital versus material (DVD) delivery of movies. Ditto for newspapers, magazines and audio CDs. With cloud computing, storage costs fall, too, as all media can reside on the network.

Then there is Telecom which has belatedly decided it wants to be part of the Government's bold plan - offering to "structurally separate" to do so. Commentators have been quick to argue that to exclude Telecom would be terrible - leading to "a duplication of assets". But it's nonsense - Telecom's assets will still be connected. There will not be two separate networks. By its very nature, the net is an interconnected mesh of copper, hybrid coaxial cable, fibre, and all sorts of other wires, not to mention all manner of wireless frequencies. In fact, duplication on the network is good thing. The internet is built on multiple paths - a failsafe so that if one path breaks there's always another route for delivery. As for concerns that "Telecom shareholders would end up with much less value in the two separate companies created by the split", frankly we don't care.

This is the harsh reality of commerce in the internet age and companies, indeed industries, all over are dealing with the value destruction and opportunity, this new force in businesses brings. That Telecom finds itself at "a beggar's crossroads" is entirely of its own doing. Its arrogant attitude towards consumers, and its refusal over decades to improve the public utility of its monopoly network, is what led to the Government stepping in with its broadband investment promise. The Government is doing what Telecom refused to do - speeding up the network at a pace that will quickly deliver benefit to all New Zealanders. That's something it should be commended for, and so far, it has to be said, Communications Minister Steven Joyce is doing a superb job.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 08/12/2010

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Australia's PM Promotes National Broadband Plan

Australia's Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has used a trip to Townsville in the state of Queensland to sell the benefits of her $US38 billion national broadband network. Julia Gillard says regional cities like Townsville will benefit most from video conferencing services that link patients with specialists in capital cities. "They will be able to get that specialist support through the internet through the national broadband network." Ms Gillard is also visiting Mackay and Emerald today to campaign in marginal seats. She's being trailed by a large press pack from Canberra, but there have been some curly questions from the local media. "Do you think tomato sauce should be free when you by a pie from the bakery?" The PM says its better when the sauce comes for free.

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 08/17/2010

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APAC Public Sector Enterprise Networking Spend to Grow

The public sector enterprise networking market will grow 13 percent between 2009 and 2013 in the Asia-Pacific, generating almost US$1.4 billion by the end of this year, according to a new report Friday. The survey by Springboard Research noted that data communications equipment will continue to form the largest share of revenues in the region, with network security investments are also expected to escalate, given its critical importance to network infrastructure. Nupur Singh Andley, associate research manager of connectivity at Springboard, said in the report: "With the increase in the usage of applications, cloud and outsourcing services, data and network security will assume high priority." The research firm also revealed that education will receive a large bulk of the total public sector spending on networking equipment, followed by healthcare, utilities and defense. Springboard noted that last year saw a significant rollout of government network and deployment of basic telecom and applications infrastructure across most emerging markets in the region, such as China and India, and parts of ASEAN. It added that this year will see the buildup of integrated service delivery platforms and applications to support services between government agencies and citizens.

Countries such as Singapore and Australia will see relatively low growth in ICT and networking equipment spend as technology adoption is already high in these markets' public sector, Springboard said. There are, however, "booming opportunities" in the public sector of markets such as India, China, Korea and some members of ASEAN as these economies grapple with deploying their nationwide telecom network infrastructures and bridge the urban-rural divide. Andley said: "E-government initiatives are likely to drive adoption of enterprise networking equipment, especially in emerging markets such as India and China. Despite their impressive initiatives toward e-governance and digital inclusion, these countries have a long way to go in terms of infrastructure development and service delivery." (by Tyler Thia)

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

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Asia Microfinance Forum 2010 to Focus on Financial Inclusion in Asia

The Asia Microfinance Forum 2010 convened by the Banking With the Poor Network (BWTP) and organised by the Foundation for Development Cooperation (FDC) will be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 12-15 of October 2010. Citi Foundation is Lead Sponsor and Hatton National Bank, the Local Host for this event. Microfinance Focus will be the official media partner of the conference. Entitled 'Financial Inclusion-Achieving Asia's Potential, the forum will bring together leading microfinance practitioners, policymakers, financiers, academics and advocates as partners in achieving greater financial inclusion in Asia.

The first day of the conference will gain robustness around the forum's theme of 'Understanding Financial Inclusion' and the role of microfinance in achieving it. Concurrent sessions will be conducted to discuss the role of field officers and a robust human resource policy, credit risk management and social performance management. Day two will commence with a plenary session on Policy Making and will be followed by parallel sittings on issues of financial literacy of clients, savings & inclusion and investment landscape in Asia. Field visit, workshops and an Investment Market Place will also be organized on the second day.

Moderated panel discussion on "Investment Landscape in Asia" will focus on the current investment climate in Asia, including a discussion of challenges and opportunities for both investors and MFIs. The market place will have over 15 International Investors focusing in Asia and a diversified pool of approximately 30 high-potential MFIs from Asia. The Market Place will be moderated to ensure that Investors have the chance to meet one to one with a diversified and investible pool of MFIs from Asia for matching their investment preferences. On the concluding day of the conference, a series of sessions will be delivered on a variety of issues like consumer protection, alternative delivery channels and financial inclusion in the Mekong. A session will be dedicated for a discussion on 'Return on Equity' which is fast emerging as the new industry benchmark and Youth Entrepreneurship for diversifying income generation will be a focus of a concurrent panel discussion.

A Sri Lanka Special session will also be conducted to draw attention to the state of the industryin the country and the way forward. The conference will conclude with a plenary session which will bring to the table the core priorities that need to be set for achieving financial inclusion. Symbiotics will also be conducting a parallel workshop on 'Investment Relationship Management' and Microfinance Sector will facilitate Social Performance Management workshop on the second day of the conference. The Banking with the Poor Network (BWTP Network) is Asia's microfinance network that works towards building efficient, large-scale sustainable organisations, through co-operation, training and capacity building with the aim of achieving innovative, appropriate and demand-driven financial services for the poor. The Network is an association of a diverse range of microfinance stakeholders committed to improving the quality of life of the poor through promoting and facilitating their access to sustainable financial services.

From http://www.ibtimes.com/ 08/21/2010

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CHINA: Regulator Sees No Risks from Local Gov't Loans

The China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) said on Tuesday that nearly one-fifth of the bank loans disbursed to local governments are questionable, but will not cause any systemic risks to the banking sector. Lenders have disbursed over 7.7 trillion yuan ($1.14 billion) till June this year to finance local government projects. Loans amounting to nearly 1.54 trillion yuan face default risks due to lack of qualified borrowers or warrantors, according to CBRC data. The regulator had recently conducted a nationwide assessment of the lending portfolio of commercial lenders. "These questionable loans won't necessarily turn sour, as most of them have eligible collateral or a secondary source of repayment," a CBRC spokeswoman told China Daily on Tuesday. The regulator said in a statement that it would conduct on-site inspections over the next three months and urge banks to make adequate provisions to prevent possible increases in bad loans. As part of the country's effort to bolster economic growth amid the global financial crisis, Chinese lenders gave out record 9.6 trillion yuan of new loans last year with a big chunk of them for funding infrastructure construction.

The lending spree also raised the specter of surging bad loans and could hamper efforts to overhaul the banking sector. According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, local government loans accounted for 11.6 percent of the total outstanding loans for major State-owned lenders last year, while the exposure of mid-sized lenders was around 12.9 percent. Qiu Zhicheng, a banking analyst at Guosen Securities, feels that the economic growth over the next few years will determine the fate of the bad loans. "In boom times, it is unlikely that these loans will turn bad, as local governments would have adequate funds to repay the loans due to ample gains from land sales. But it is hard to imagine the quality of these banking assets if economic growth slows down," he said. Qiu said the regulator might require banks to set aside additional funds to counter rising default risks. That in turn, may hurt lenders' profitability over the next few years. The non-performing loan ratio of Chinese banks stood at 1.3 percent as of the end of June, while their average bad loan provision ratio was 186 percent, according to CBRC data. "Right now, China's commercial banks have adequate provisions and they are capable of controlling risks," the regulator said in the statement.

From China Daily 07/28/2010

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China to Strengthen Punishment for Illegal Forex Activities

China's foreign exchange regulator said Thursday that it will increase punishments for illegal foreign exchange activities. The move aims to help curb the hot money inflows and promote sound development of the foreign exchange management, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), the regulator, said in a statement. During the inspections in the past two years, SAFE found that some banks had relaxed approval regulations in a bid to quickly expand its foreign exchange business, though its statement does not list the names of the erring banks. The regulator said it will intensify the scope and frequency of investigations into banks' foreign exchange activities. Starting from February this year, investigations into speculative hot money, which have entered the country, betting on an appreciation of the Chinese currency, and a hike in asset prices, have found 190 cases, or US$7.35 billion, of hot money inflows, the SAFE said earlier this month. Capital flows into and out of China for purposes other than import - export payments are strictly controlled by the SAFE, which manages China's US$2.45 trillion in foreign exchange reserves.

From Xinhua News Agency 07/29/2010

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CHINA: Gov't Finds 2 Bln Yuan for Health Care

Rural residents in the Beijing area will get more subsidies in their medical welfare packages after the municipal government made the biggest increase in funding for health care in recent years. The Beijing Health Bureau said in a statement on Wednesday that the funding for each rural resident will rise to 520 yuan from 320 yuan. The change will cost the government nearly 2 billion yuan and ensure the medical needs of the 3 million rural residents around the capital will be better met. In the past, the government had allocated 910 million yuan for the subsidies. The bureau, which also launched major medical reform in Beijing in April, also said that the ratio of rural residents covered under the new medical reform package has increased from 93 percent to nearly 97 percent this year. This means treatment fees for most minor diseases and some major diseases, including leukemia and heart problems, will be covered by the government for those residents. The ceiling for government funding for a major disease is 170,000 yuan, the bureau said. The bureau has also found 2.6 billion yuan this year to help reduce the cost of medicine and make treatment more accessible to the public. Soaring medicine prices and the illegal sale of fake drugs have been major problems for Beijingers and the bureau said it will launch a drug purchase platform to ensure regulation of drug sales in the capital. "The same medicine will have the same price citywide," the bureau said in its statement.

The bureau said it has enlisted more than 1,500 products for 519 types of frequently-used medicine and will include more than 190 new ones later this year. Beijing municipal government has launched a price cut in hospitals and medical stores citywide since March. Some drugs are now more than 30 percent cheaper than they were before the initiative. In addition, hospitals in Beijing have stepped up their services with a new move that will allow patients to print out laboratory reports from home. The Peking University Third Hospital is piloting the service, which allows patients to receive notification messages from the hospital before they can download the reports from the hospital's website using a serial number. If successful, the new services will be available in all major hospitals in the capital. Fang Laiying, director of the health bureau, said a roadmap for medical reform in Beijing is under revision. Better performing community hospitals will be encouraged and major medical departments and hospitals will be established later this year as part of the medical reform package in the capital. "We will set up a medical reform committee to supervise the overall reform outcome," Fang said in the statement.

From China Daily 07/29/2010

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Insurers' Investment to Boost Infrastructure Projects

The insurance regulator might loosen the restrictions for insurers to invest in infrastructure projects, which could diversify the insurers' portfolios and give more funds to support public works. The China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) will discuss to lower the threshold for insurers to invest in infrastructure projects soon, according to China Securities News (CSN) Thursday. The number of provincial projects under construction could be lifted, and the investment cap could be lifted if the move is made, CSN reported. The CIRC issued guidelines last April for insurance companies investing in infrastructure projects and stated that the investment can't exceed 6 percent of life insurer's total assets and 4 percent of property insurer's assets of previous quarter. Insurance companies have accumulated a large amount of cash over the past few years and are now facing greater pressure to manage their portfolios. "About 20 to 30 percent of insurer's assets on average are bank deposits, and insurers lack long-term investment assets," said Xu Liping, insurance sector analyst with China Galaxy Securities. Less strict regulations might boost insurer's investment in infrastructure, which will benefit the insurer's portfolio management and cut local governments' reliance on bank loans. "Insurer's capital may also finance the development of much needed public works projects such as affordable houses," Xu said. Insurance funds and annuity are expected to invest in the construction and operations of affordable housing projects in Shanghai, according to remarks made by the municipality's mayor two weeks ago. Due to relatively low returns, private capital is reluctant to invest in affordable housing projects, but it won't be a problem for insurers. The long-term returns on infrastructure projects is not as high as returns from the stock market, Xu said, adding that the infrastructure investment will not have major impact on the financial performance of the insurance companies. Infrastructure investment is not risk free. The Shenzhen metro is calculated to lose about 22 billion yuan ($3.25 billion) between 2012 and 2016, and the Beijing subway bleeds over 1 billion yuan ($147.55 million) per year.

From Global Times 07/30/2010

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Chinese Central Bank Pledges Financial Support for Development of Western Regions

Chinese central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan was cited Tuesday as saying the central bank will increase its financial support for the development of the country's western regions. The central bank will offer more financial aid to the tourism industry and other service industries in the western regions of China, the People's Bank of China said in a statement on its website citing remarks Zhou made during his visit to the provinces of Qinghai and Gansu. Zhou said the central bank will work to improve the financial environment of the western regions and make fundraising easier for small- and medium-sized businesses and farmers. Greater efforts will be made to boost financial innovation and to support urbanization in western China, he added.

From English.news.cn 08/03/2010

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Chongqing Aims to Develop into Regional Financial Hub

Chongqing will become a regional financial center in southwestern China in the coming years, an official from the municipal government said. The city has set a goal to develop into a regional financial hub by 2015, Li Jianchun, director of Chongqing's Foreign Trade and Economic Commission, told Xinhua. Chongqing, a traditional manufacturing center in China, has a population of 32.8 million. After being separated from Sichuan province and made into a municipality in its own right in 1997, the city has accelerated its development. Chongqing has set favorable policies for foreign investments on both local income tax and enterprise income tax. Any foreign-funded enterprise can open foreign currency accounts in any bank or financial institution in Chongqing which have the right to run foreign currency business, according to the official. Foreign-funded enterprises may get loans from financial institutions, enterprises and individuals abroad, or from foreign financial institutions in China, and they are not subject to a loan quota. The city also has invested heavily in infrastructure to attract investments. The network of roads and railways connecting Chongqing to the rest of China have been expanded and upgraded, reducing logistical costs.

Those infrastructure improvements have led to the arrival of dozens of foreign investors in industries ranging from auto making to finance and retailing such as Ford, Mazda, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Wal-Mart, and Carrefour. "Chongqing is rapidly urbanizing to promote the region's investment and consumption demand," the official said. The municipal government launched a household registration reform last week, with the goal of turning 10 million farmers into city dwellers by 2020. Within two years, 3.38 million farmers, mainly the new-generation migrant workers born in the 1980s and the 1990s, are expected to become urban citizens. There are also many advantages for Chongqing to develop into a financial center at the moment, Li explained. "Chongqing is less affected by the international economic crisis than China's coastal regions and the municipality has the most solid and complete industrial base in the region," he said. Until late 2009, at least 16 foreign financial institutions, including Citibank and Metlife, have set up branches or representative offices in Chongqing. Meanwhile, the city has just launched a 30-billion-yuan (4.4 billion U.S. dollar) project as part of its efforts to become a financial center. The first commercial real estate project for the financial sector, to be located in the central business district in the city, will be the core of the city's future development. Knowing the critical role of the financial industry for the economy, the city has set a goal of balanced development of banking, securities and insurance, the official added.

From Xinhua News Agency 08/04/2010

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China's Financial Sector Steps Up Self-examinations to Ensure Professional Ethics

China's banking, securities and insurance regulatory commissions have launched self-examinations to push forward the financial sector's anti-corruption campaign. In a bid to improve the country's financial supervision system, standardize the behaviors of financial practitioners and guard against financial risks, the China Banking Regulatory Commission, the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the China Insurance Regulatory Commission developed their own codes of conducts last year. Required by the the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the three Commissions launched in March self-examinations on the implementation of their respective codes of conduct. About 3,857 banking organizations and 193,000 business outlets have been covered by the examinations. Through the examination, risk control in banking organizations has been improved and their management mechanisms have been standardized, according to a CCDI statement issued Tuesday. Meanwhile, China Insurance Regulatory Commission punished 1,392 insurance organizations and ordered the dismissal and replacement of 156 managerial staff between 2009 and June 2010 to strengthen the supervision of insurance organizations and the management on managerial staff. "The lessons drawn from the global financial crisis warn us that China's banking industry should deepen education in ethics among practitioners so as to ensure stable, coordinated and sustainable development of the industry and to safeguard the legitimate rights of depositors and customers," said Wang Huaqing, secretary of the discipline inspection committee under the China Banking Regulatory Commission. The code of conduct for the banking industry includes items requiring practitioners to guard against fraud, illegal fund raising, bribery and insider trading.

From English.news.cn 08/10/2010

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China Raises Limit for Investments in Stocks and Mutual Funds

The China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) issued Wednesday, a circular in which it said to raise to 25 percent the investment ratio of insurers in the capital market of stocks and mutual funds. The previous percentage on investments was of 20 percent. More detailed information contained in the notice showed that now, insurance firms will be able to invest 20 percent of its total assets in the previous quarter in stocks and stock funds, while the total amount to be invested in equities, equity funds, bond funds and currency funds will have to be below the margin of the 25 percent of the last quarter's assets. It (the notice) also specified that investments in a single company's stocks cannot exceed 10 percent of the insurer's general capital, and the investment in a single securities fund should not exceed 3 percent of the insurer's last quarter's assets. In addition, the investment in a single close-ended fund can not exceed 10 percent of the issuing amount of the fund. Overseas investments by insurance companies should be no more than 15 percent of their total assets by the end of the previous quarter.

From Global Times 08/13/2010

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China Announces New Move to Boost Yuan's Overseas Use

The People's Bank of China (PBOC), the central bank, announced Tuesday it would allow overseas financial institutions to invest in the country's interbank bond market on a trial scheme as an effort to further promote yuan cross-border trade settlement. Under the trial program, yuan accumulated overseas because of central bank currency swaps, trade settlement or yuan investment could be used to invest in the country's interbank bond market, it said. Yuan clearing banks in Hong Kong and Macao, overseas banks involved in yuan cross-border trade settlement and foreign central banks or monetary authorities that have signed currency swap agreements with China would be permitted to make the investment, the PBOC said. China's interbank bond market now trades more than 10 different kinds of bonds, including treasury bonds and bonds issued by the country's policy banks. The country has been striving to push forward internationalization of the yuan and the latest development is aimed to expand yuan trade settlements. Cross-border yuan trade settlement is now allowed in all countries and regions of the world, after starting first in Hong Kong, Macao and 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations last year. Since late 2008, China has signed currency swap agreements with Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Belarus, Indonesia, Singapore, Argentina and Iceland, as well as Hong Kong.

From Xinhua News Agency 08/17/2010

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China Opens Interbank Bond Market

The Financial Times reported that China is to allow foreign central banks and overseas lenders to invest in its domestic interbank bond market, in a move to "encourage cross-border renminbi trade settlement" and "broaden investment channels for renminbi to flow back (to China)." Beijing is trying to encourage use of the yuan in trade deals as part of a long-term plan to promote it as a reserve currency and reduce China's exposure to the US dollar, which is currently used for most Chinese trade.

From China.org.cn 08/18/2010

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Finance Sector Roped in for Upgrading

Shanghai will encourage local companies to invest in private-equity funds, attract the best fund management companies and offer capital support as the city cooperates with the finance industry to boost its economic upgrade. "Innovation on products, management, services and system is key of the program to boost economic upgrading with the help of the finance industry," the Shanghai Financial Services Office said yesterday. Earlier this month, Shanghai issued guidelines to reiterate the financial industry's role in helping the city achieve a more sustainable growth model. Under the guidelines, the city government makes it clear for the first time that districts can treat private-equity or venture capital companies as quasi-financial players and offer preferential policies to them. The companies are not included as financial institutions in national regulations. So far, 101 private-equity management companies have been set up in the city. Also, Shanghai will encourage more government-backed financial guarantee companies to help potentially high-growth small companies secure loans. They are now too conservative to offer guarantee or collateral on bank loans. "A new incentive mechanism will be mapped out to not only check guarantee companies' ability to secure capital but also their ability to leverage loans," said Fang Xinghai, director of the local finance office. The city aims to almost double its funds for financial guarantees to small companies to 2 billion yuan (US$295 million) by 2012. Shanghai will also offer more government subsidies, a new over-the-counter market and support for small and medium firms to list.

From Shanghai Daily 08/18/2010

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JAPAN: Gov't Eyes over 1 Tril. Yen for Growth Stimulus in FY 2011 Budget

The government is considering securing over 1 trillion yen for special growth stimulus measures in its budget for fiscal 2011, Cabinet members said Monday. The government is also planning to widely canvass public opinion on what policies should be pursued under the stimulus spending, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said at a press conference. The ruling Democratic Party of Japan proposed last week allocating at least 2 trillion yen for fresh growth steps within the government's spending cap of 71 trillion yen for the year through March 2012. "We described the amount as exceeding 1 trillion yen," Koichiro Gemba, state minister in charge of public services, told reporters at the prime minister's office after joining a meeting to discuss guidelines for budget compilation, which the Cabinet is expected to approve as early as Tuesday. The phrasing reflects the government's efforts to strike a balance between the DPJ's proposal and the position of the Finance Ministry, which did not want to clarify a figure for the fresh stimulus. With the proposed special allocation, the DPJ is hoping to realize a process of budget compilation led by lawmakers rather than bureaucrats. But Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda has stressed that the government must first revise earlier budgets and press for cutting wasteful spending before specifying any numerical goal for fresh outlays. Gemba, who doubles as DPJ policy chief, also said the government will ask each ministry and agency to cut back on its request for spending in the year starting in April by 10 percent from fiscal 2010, excluding social security expenses. The request for reduction comes in line with a Finance Ministry desire. However, there are negative views within the Cabinet about imposing such caps in a uniform manner. Sengoku, speaking at a news conference, said the government is planning to conduct a "policy contest" in order to listen to public opinion on what policies they want the government to pursue as part of the growth stimulus steps. "We will think about how to enable" many people to offer comments, the government's top spokesman said.

From http://www.breitbart.com/ 07/26/2010

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All Ministries Face 10% Budget Cut

Despite dissent within the ranks of his Democratic Party of Japan and Cabinet, Prime Minister Naoto Kan's administration endorsed on Tuesday a 10 percent cut on all ministries' fiscal 2011 budget requests and earmark at least ¥1 trillion to stimulate economic growth. The approved guideline, which ministries will use when they compile their budget requests, caps annual policy-related spending at ¥71 trillion, as previously pledged by Kan. The Cabinet also agreed to hold open debate on which projects deserve a share of the ¥1 trillion. The challenge for Kan is to curb government spending while also providing sufficient stimulus for the weak economy. The fiscal hawk has said corralling the soaring public debt is inevitable to avoid a financial crisis similar to what Greece has been going through. But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku acknowledged that agreeing on terms for the 2011 budget wasn't easy and some ministers want the guideline modified. "Some opined that the draft should state clearly how the DPJ's political pledges are reflected in the budget plan," Sengoku told reporters after the outline was pitched to the Cabinet. Others insisted the government first focus on cutting wasteful spending and use the fat as a budget resource, he said.

Kan called on Cabinet members to "demonstrate their leadership" in cutting wasteful spending in their ministries. "This is an extremely important budget that will revitalize a vigorous Japan," Kan told a special Cabinet meeting in the afternoon, according to Sengoku. The across-the-board 10 percent budget cut drew flak until the last minute, especially from ministries that claim there was no fat left to carve after last year's budget-making process. "We would like to have all the spending that we cut last year recognized," agriculture minister Masahiko Yamada said. Land minister Seiji Maehara voiced discontent over the plan, insisting his ministry has already pushed for substantial cuts in public construction projects. Kan also clashed with the DPJ policy research council, which initially requested that ¥2 trillion be set aside for stimulus purposes to kick-start the economy. With the Finance Ministry reportedly opposing the ¥2 trillion demand from the DPJ, the Cabinet agreed on ¥1 trillion as a compromise. Sengoku said Monday the ¥2 trillion figure from the party "is a suggestion and not an official request," illustrating friction between the DPJ and the government. "We are working to not exceed ¥44 trillion in new debt issuance." Kan is expected to face a tough extraordinary Diet session that kicks off Friday, in the wake of the DPJ-led ruling bloc's loss of its majority in the July 11 Upper House election. The coalition is certain to face resistance getting bills passed, including the budget plan. Approving the budget guideline was an attempt by the DPJ to demonstrate it is calling the shots, not bureaucrats, as Kan will have final say over the distribution of the special ¥1 trillion, Sengoku said.

From http://search.japantimes.co.jp/ 07/28/2010

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3 Major Japanese Banks to Boost Workforces in Asia

The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Mizuho Corporate Bank and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. plan to increase their workforces in Asia by a total of more than 500 employees by the end of March to handle growing business opportunities in the region, sources close to the matter said Monday. The three major Japanese banks had already boosted their combined number of employees in Asia from about 8,900 in March 2007 to around 11,900 by March this year, corresponding to around 18 percent of their total workforces. The banks plan to boost the figure further to around 12,430 by next March through personnel realignment and recruitment of new workers. The planned personnel increase follows a combined boost of around 340 employees a year earlier. Through the move, the Tokyo-based lenders are aiming to cope better with Japanese companies' growing appetite for launching businesses in Asian countries as well as increasing demand for funds for use in resource development projects and infrastructure construction in the region. As part of its efforts to offer fine-tuned financial services in Asia outside of Japan, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in January set up a section in Shanghai, China, specializing in investment banking and co-financing operations. It is also accelerating efforts to use its local workforce in a more effective way, such as by promoting local personnel to higher-ranking posts in China and Hong Kong. Mizuho Corporate Bank, the Mizuho Financial Group's investment banking unit, also set up in Shanghai in April a section in charge of business with Chinese and Taiwanese companies. The bank has also been making efforts to strengthen its overseas personnel training by setting up job training sections in Shanghai and Singapore. Sumitomo Mitsui, meanwhile, established a section in Singapore in May that manages its Asian investment banking operations in an integrated manner and placed staff in Indonesia who specialize in trade financing operations. "It is the correct strategy for them to focus their management resources on growing markets amid a tough earnings environment in Japan," said Akira Takai, chief analyst at Daiwa Securities Capital Markets Co.

From http://mdn.mainichi.jp/ 08/03/2010

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Japan's Gov't Debt Tops Y900 Tril for 1st Time: MOF

The outstanding balance of Japan's central government debt hit a record high of 904.08 trillion yen at the end of June amid massive government bond issuance and declining tax revenues, Finance Ministry data showed Tuesday. It is the first time that the debt balance, including government bonds and financing bills, has exceeded 900 trillion yen. Per-capita debt came to around 7.10 million yen based on Japan's estimated population of about 127.42 million as of July 1. The debt is equivalent to almost 1.9 times the nominal gross domestic product in fiscal 2009, which totaled 476 trillion yen. Under its medium-term fiscal management plan through fiscal 2013 announced in June, the government is aiming to keep annual spending below 71 trillion yen, the same level planned for fiscal 2010, and government bond issuance below 44 trillion yen. In its longer-term plan, the government will aim to bring the primary balance for both the central and local governments back into surplus by fiscal 2020 after halving the deficit by fiscal 2015.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 08/11/2010

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Banks Bail on Low-interest Education Loans

In an unexpected side-effect of new regulations meant to deter aggressive sales practices, some banks, including Resona Bank, have stopped accepting applications for low-interest education loans designed for university and vocational school students. Three banks operated by Resona Holdings, Inc. and some regional banks have terminated the low-interest loans, designed to help pay admission, tuition and other fees. The loans are extended to students' parents in cooperation with the educational institutions, which sometimes act as guarantor or contribute to interest payments. It is the first time a major bank group has been known to withdraw from a cooperation loan program of this nature. The cooperation loan program hit a snag when the revised Installment Sales Law was enacted in December. Bolstered regulations in the revised law target consumer credit companies and sales firms that employ aggressive tactics to sell expensive health foods and other products, methods that became a social problem as people were pressured into oppressive repayment programs. But the law can be interpreted as also applying to banks and parties that cooperate with banks on loan programs. Under the revised law, banks that offer loans in cooperation with educational institutions must register with the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, and are subject to on-site inspections. The banks must also periodically report the balances of their customers' loans to credit information companies. The cost to banks of reconfiguring their systems to meet these obligations may run to several hundred million yen. In many cases, banks have chosen to stop extending the cooperation loans to avoid the additional work and financial burden, industry sources said. For the educational loans in question, a bank extends a loan to a student's parent, with the application being made through the university or vocational school. Sometimes the school may act as guarantor or subsidize interest accrued on the loan. Some cooperation educational loans allow repayments of the principle to be suspended until after graduation. Regular educational loans, which are applied for directly from banks, have higher interest rates.

Universities often suggest cooperation loans to students who seek advice about financial difficulties, along with other assistance options such as scholarships. Resona Bank, one of the three banks operated by Resona Holdings, stopped accepting applications for cooperation loans in June. The two other banks are Saitama Resona Bank and Kinki Osaka Bank. The bank had offered loans in cooperation with about 80 universities, including Waseda and Keio universities, and some vocational schools. Interest on the loans was around 3.5 percent, one to 1.5 percentage point lower than standard educational loans. Resona had extended such loans to several hundred students annually, and currently has about 5,000 outstanding cooperation education loans. As an alternative, the bank said it would lower the interest rate of its standard educational loans to the cooperation loans' level, but would limit the application period to around the start of the academic year. Regional banks have also stopped offering educational loans in cooperation with educational institutions. Bank of Kyoto ended its program in December. It now offers two different direct educational loans, which have slightly higher interest rates. Shizuoka Bank, North Pacific Bank and Gunma Bank have also terminated their cooperation educational loan programs. Three major banks, including Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, plan to maintain their cooperation loan program, but may exclude some universities in the future, according to sources.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 08/20/2010

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Fading Recovery Turns Up Heat on Bank of Japan

As the Bank of Japan continues its quest to lift the country out of a long deflationary slump, the pressure is mounting for the central bank to take more drastic action - even if Japanese officials still show little willingness, or ability, to step in. The doldrums of deflation - the debilitating decline in prices and wages that can act as a dead weight on economic activity - have becalmed Japan's economy for much of a decade. Last week, the nation was knocked from its long-held ranking as the world's second-largest economy. China edged up to No. 2, behind the U.S. Meanwhile, recent signs of a Japanese recovery seem to be fading. The economy grew an anemic 0.1 percent from April to June. And a strengthening yen, which makes Japan's exports less competitive, has many people urging the bank to further ease monetary policy to shore up the economy - if not for outright government intervention in currency markets. But on Monday, hopes for decisive action were dashed when Prime Minister Naoto Kan and the Bank of Japan's governor, Masaaki Shirakawa, opted against a widely anticipated meeting and instead engaged in a 15-minute phone call in which they did little more than agree to "communicate closely with each other." The Nikkei stock index slipped 0.68 percent to 9,116.69 on Monday, its lowest close this year. "The government has again taken a wait-and-see attitude," said Norio Miyagawa, senior economist at Mizuho Securities Research and Consulting. "The truth is, there are no quick fixes, but markets are disappointed that they got nothing at all."

From http://www.dallasnews.com/ 08/24/2010

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SOUTH KOREA: Tax Reform Aimed to Boost Employment

The government plans to adopt a new corporate tax plan from next year in a bid to boost job creation. The Ministry of Finance revealed its tax reform plan on Monday as part of the government's efforts to raise the standard of living and promote employment. Under the new plan, which is projected to create some 50,000 jobs, companies that hire more employees than in the previous year will receive tax benefits. The plan also offers some tax benefits for people who fall in the low-income bracket.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 08/24/2010

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MONGOLIA: Central Bank Releases Annual Report

The Bank of Mongolia released the Annual Report for the year of 2009 recently. The 2009 had been a problematic year for financial sector of Mongolia. Particularly, there was a risk that the global financial depression could impact Mongolian tugrug and the banks' quick payment capacity had loosened and the peoples' trust in banking and financial sectors because of commercial banks. Bank of Mongolia managed to take decisive actions, when everything depended on the Bank, said the bank's First Deputy Director B. Javkhlan, when he called an informal meeting with the press. The Bank had increased its Policy Interest Rate up to 14 percent and began to host currency auction twice a week in order to protect the tugrug, national currency of Mongolia. The central bank managed to regain the peoples' trust in Mongolian tugrug and to avoid from sharp fluctuation in inflation thanks to its tough policy followed by some critics. Bank of Mongolia issued MNT304,2 billion in loan to commercial banks in 2009, 124,3 billion of which was paid off in the same year. In years of last crisis, the construction industry had suffered the most and Bank of Mongolia issued 55,7 billion in loan to two commercial banks in order to prevent banks from falling into risk. However, central bank investigation revealed later that these two banks spent this loan money for designated purposes and only 1/3 of the issued loan reached to lenders.

From http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/ 08/03/2010

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INDONESIA: Transaction Worth Rp 500m Subject to PPATK Scrutiny

Any transaction worth at least Rp 500 million (US$54,940) either in rupiah or foreign currency, must be reported to the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK), a draft law on anti-money laundering says. Article 25 paragraph 1 (a) of the draft stipulates that the report must be submitted to the PPATK within 14 work days after the transaction. House of Representatives lawmaker involved in the bill deliberation, Ahmad Yani, said Friday the article was aimed at preventing money laundering in the country. "The substance is we will target the buyers to know where the money comes from," Yani of the United Development Party (PPP) was quoted by Antara news agency. But the bill does not stipulate punishments for those who fail to comply with the requirement, except for administrative sanctions. Yani said, however, said the article marked a progress in the country's efforts to fight money laundering. "In the past it was only financial institutions that had to go through the PPATK scrutiny. Many people can actually deposit their money in the forms of bank accounts, property, jewelries and other goods only to evade taxes," he said. Article 15 of the bill says that parties that are subject to PPATK scrutiny include multi-finance firms, insurance companies, share brokers, stock exchange, money changers, cooperatives, pawnshops, futures companies, car dealers, developers, art gallery owners and so forth.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 07/30/2010

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MALAYSIA: Minister - Investments Set to Hit RM40bil This Year

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is optimistic total investments in the country will reach RM40bil this year compared with RM32bil last year, said International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed. In the first six months of the year, Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) has approved investments totalling RM13.2bil, of which RM7.5bil was from abroad. Speaking to reporters after the ministry's monthly gathering here yesterday, Mustapa said Mida had approved 455 projects between January and June. Of the total projects approved, electrical and electronics accounted for RM3.3bil, fabricated metal products RM605.9mil, and scientific and measuring equipment RM554.4mil. He said the three largest foreign direct investors in Malaysia during the period under review were Singapore with RM2.9bil, followed by Japan (RM722.6mil) and Switzerland (RM537.8mil). Mustapa said Miti had mobilised its machinery in the country and abroad to lure more investments in the second half of this year.

From http://biz.thestar.com.my/ 08/14/2010

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US$200mil Scheme for Green Financing

The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) will meet with representatives of Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp next week to discuss the mechanisms of a US$200mil (RM632mil) "green financing" scheme that has been allocated to Malaysian manufacturers, its president said. "We will meet next week and discuss how we will work out this scheme including how much to disburse and to which companies," Tan Sri Mustafa Mansur told StarBizWeek when contacted yesterday. The financing, the first of its kind in the country will be used to fund various types of "green initiatives" including renewable energy, recycling and waste management projects, Mustafa said. The financing was open not only to members of the FMM but also to other companies, he said, stopping short of revealing the criteria needed to be eligible for the scheme. "It's all still very preliminary. When we work it out, we'll let you know," he said.

On April 20, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between FMM, non-governmental organisation Green Purchasing Network Association Malaysia (GPNM), and Sumitomo Mitsui to develop the environmental business in the country. In a statement issued by Sumitomo Mitsui on the same day, the banking group said "the environmental business is growing in Malaysia". Bernama, quoting the statement, said the aim of the MoU was to enhance the environmental business in Malaysia by capitalising on FMM's domestic membership of over 2,400 companies, GPNM's know-how in promoting Green Purchasing (buying products which are eco-friendly), and Sumitomo Mitsui's financing expertise and experience in environmental projects. "The aim of Sumitomo Mitsui is to further grow our business in Southeast Asia by developing the environmental business in Malaysia where there is high potential for reducing greenhouse gases," the statement said. Malaysia has pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by 40% from 2005 levels by 2020.

From http://biz.thestar.com.my/ 08/14/2010

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VIET NAM: Foreign Debt Levels Pose Risks

Viet Nam should reduce the level of debt it owes to foreign lenders and increase domestic debt in order to avoid foreign exchange rate-related risks, said the vice chairman of the National Financial Supervisory Committee, Le Xuan Nghia. "In each industry and locality, we need to clearly calculate how much investment can we mobilise from the State budget and other domestic sources, and how much we need to borrow from foreigners," agreed Dang Van Thanh of the National Assembly's Economic and Budget Committee. Thanh also urged the development of a system for better monitoring and evaluating public debt. The nation's foreign debt was overwhelmingly held by the Japanese, making the debt susceptible to foreign exchange rate risks, said Central Institute for Economic Management deputy director Vo Tri Thanh, noting large fluctuating range of the Japanese yen. Japan held nearly 42 per cent of Viet Nam's total foreign debt at the end of 2009, followed by Singapore at 27 per cent. Although the US dollar is the key trading currency, it accounts for only 16.6 per cent of Viet Nam's debt currency structure.

Foreign debt was equal to 39 per cent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of 2009, and a new Ministry of Finance report has estimated that this would reach 44.6 per cent this year - very close to its set maximum threshold of 50 per cent. However, Government and foreign debt indicators were currently within safe zones, reassured the head of the finance ministry's public debt management and foreign finance department, Nguyen Thanh Do. Official development assistance - often given in the form of loans with favorable interest rates - accounted for nearly 75 per cent of the Government's foreign debt structure, Do noted. The average interest rate for all government loans in 2010 was 2.1 per cent, according to ministry computations made at the end of 2009. Nghia said the key factor in managing foreign debt was the maintenance and improvement of sovereign credit worthiness - an index that reflects national financial prestige. "If we manage debt ineffectively, reducing national credibility, the consequences would be multiplied because creditors would turn their back to us," he said. "Even the long-term loans are in risk then." The secured debt threshold varied among countries depending on various factors, including national financial prestige, foreign currency reserves and the Incremental Capital Output Ratio (ICOR) Index, Do added.

Decree requires publicity
Detailed information on the national debt and debt repayment will be periodically made public, under a new decree issued this month and taking effect on August 30. The new decree sets out secured indicators in managing public debt, including domestic and foreign debt as a proportion of GDP and debt burdens in comparison with trade revenues. The decree requires the development of a long-term strategy to include better assessment and management in the period before loans are taken. The national socio-economic development strategy would serve as the key basis for working out public debt strategy, along with industrial and regional development plans and Government guidelines on capital sources and loan usage. A three-year public debt management programme to guarantee secured debt-related indicators and ensure that debt management follows Government guidelines will also be established, along with the formulation of a detailed annual borrowing and repayment plan that includes domestic and foreign loan structures and interest. The decree is one of several documents promulgated under the new Law on Management of the Public Debt, which was issued last year and took effect this year, along with a decree on Government-underwritten debt and a decree on Government and municipal bond issues.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 07/28/2010

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Loosened Monetary Policy Bankrolls Credits

VietNamNet Bridge - The State Bank has started loosening its monetary policy through pumping capital into commercial banks to muscle-up export and rural area credits. The central bank aggressively pumped money through open market operations (OMO) with bigger volumes of both two and four-week valuable papers in recent weeks. Last month, around VND10 trillion ($526 million) was refinanced to Vietinbank to support its credit for exports and another VND10 trillion to Agribank for medium and long-term agricultural sector credit after seeing the consumer price index (CPI) in July rise only 0.6 per cent. "The credit growth rate in August is expected to rise more than in previous months. The average deposit interest rate may fall to below 10 per cent a year from 10.9 per cent which would not affect total deposits," said State Bank governor Nguyen Van Giau.

A central bank report read that the January-July credit growth was 12.97 per cent against the beginning of this year while the deposit growth was 16.3 per cent. "Both deposit and credit growth rates stayed at the right pace and our policies will focus on meeting the whole-year credit growth of 25 per cent," the governor said. The central bank planned to pump around VND30 trillion ($1.5 billion) into agricultural sector credits by the end of this year through commercial banks. The Agribank will allocate around VND4 trillion ($210.5 million) from compulsory reserve cuts allowed by the central bank to support medium and long-term credits in future weeks. "Stimulating agricultural sector credit will not affect foreign currencies as the money will run domestically with the expenditure plans of enterprises and farmers within Vietnam," said Giau.

The new credit support move stems from the January-July CPI staying at 4.84 per cent against the end of 2009 and banking system having operated calmly during the past seven months. However, the central bank will still keep reining in credits for imports which may cause unstable credit growth. VinaCapital managing director Andy Ho said the credit growth was not at a level that allowed enterprises to expand their businesses. "Negotiated lending interest rates are still too high for enterprises to access loans except some high-profit return projects," he said.The central bank revealed that in the first half of the year it had difficulties in dealing with the reduction of VND80 trillion ($4.2 billion) of the country's total deposits including half from enterprises during Tet and had to wait for stable macro economic figures to take stronger action.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 08/14/2010

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INDIA: Inflation to Ease by 6 Percent: PM

New Delhi: Hoping for a good rainfall in the current monsoon season, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday said it will help ease the inflation rate to 6 percent in the second half of the year but conceded the growth target for the 11th five-year plan will remain unmet. At the same time he expressed satisfaction over the fact that even those states that had tended to lag behind in the development process in the past had shown acceleration in growth during the first half of the present plan that concludes in 2011-12. Addressing the opening session of the 55th meeting of the National Development Council, the country's top policy forum, the prime minister also sought to drive home the point that despite falling short of target, India's growth in recent years was unprecedented. Yet on prices, his prediction of a 6 percent inflation by the year end, as against 7-8 percent predicted by his own high-powered Economic Advisory Council, was based more on the prospect of good monsoon showers than any policy intervention. "We expect to see the inflation rate in wholesale prices come down to around 6 percent by December," the prime minister told the council, which comprises chief ministers of all states, key members of the federal cabinet and Planning Commission members. "The present high rate of inflation is mainly due to food price inflation. With a normal monsoon, which is the expectation at present, the rate of inflation in food prices will abate in the second half of the year," he added. The meeting, called for a mid-term review of the 11th Five Year Plan, mainly deliberated on five areas of concern: Farm productivity, management of water resources, electricity generation targets, issues of urbanization and specific problems of tribal development. Taking stock of the progress made during the first three years of the plan period, the prime minister said the country had fallen short on achieving various sectoral targets, especially those on infrastructure, agriculture and power generation. "The mid-term appraisal projects the 11th plan will achieve an annual average growth rate of 8.1 percent per year. This is lower than the target of 9 percent, but is still the highest ever achieved in any plan period," he said.

Agriculture may not reach the target of 4 percent by the end of the plan period in 2012, power generation capacity would fall short of the envisaged 78,000 MW, while the upgrade of physical infrastructure has not been enough, he said. He said agriculture, an important indicator of inclusiveness, was a matter of concern. "I would especially draw the attention of chief ministers to the Planning Commission's assessment that agriculture is not receiving the priority it deserves," he said, "This must be corrected." On the state of infrastructure, he said the progress was tardy and grossly inadequate if the country sought to achieve a 9-10 percent growth over sustained basis and was another area that needed more attention in the future. "Because the resources required for bridging the infrastructure gap are huge, we adopted the strategy of encouraging public-private partnership. We need to improve the terms and conditions on which projects are awarded to ensure process is transparent, competitive." The prime minister also dwelt on the issue of Maoist extremism and said the strategy to address this pressing problem was to address what he called "development deficit" in affected areas that makes people succumb to exploitation. "There should be no doubt that the security challenge posed by Left-wing extremism has to be met and it will be met, with the Centre and the States cooperating fully with one another." "But this must be supplemented by action on two other fronts," he said, listing the two fronts as overall good governance to inculcate a sense of empowerment among people and providing more development resources for the special circumstances of these areas.

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

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ADB $150 Million Financing Facility to Help India Improve Urban Infrastructure

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is extending a $150 million multitranche financing facility to help India's National Capital Region (NCR) accelerate plans to build urban infrastructure. ADB's Board of Directors approved the India National Capital Region Urban Infrastructure Financing Facility, which will provide funds in two or more tranches. It will extend long-term finance for improved urban services, while helping to encourage private investor interest, and support for a regional rather than city-centric approach to development. India's economy has been growing at one of the fastest rates in the world in recent years, fuelled by its booming cities, but municipal governments have struggled to keep pace with the demand for services because of financing and capacity constraints. In the NCR, which incorporates Delhi and subregions of three states, the population is expected to almost double to 64 million by 2021 from 37 million now, and the NCR Planning Board has notified the Regional Plan 2021 that it has identified investment needs in transport, power, water and solid waste totaling about $43 billion. The financing facility will allow the NCR to accelerate its planned investments by providing long-tenure funds. It will identify bankable projects, extend capacity-building assistance for sub-borrowers of the funds to design and execute high-quality infrastructure, and help attract private investors and public-private-partnerships into the sector. The impacts will be improved health and economic well-being for millions of urban residents. Infrastructure planning in India's cities is often narrowly focused but the NCR Planning Board's Regional Plan seeks to take a broader approach, providing more comprehensive and environmentally-friendly development that can reduce negative aspects of urbanization such as pollution, slums and traffic jams. "A regional approach is more proactive, enabling systematic and inclusive urbanization and sustainable growth and this is the basis of the NCR Planning Board's business plan and one of the primary motivations for the new financing facility," said Sekhar Bonu, Principal Urban Development Specialist in ADB's South Asia Department, noting that a strengthening and transformation of the Planning Board will help it to become a model for other state-level urban sector institutions to emulate. The first tranche loan of $78 million will have a 25-year term, including a 5-year grace period, and an annual interest rate determined in accordance with ADB's LIBOR-based lending facility. An additional $50 million will be provided by the NCR Planning Board for targeted investments. The Planning Board is the executing agency for the investment program, which is expected to be completed by June 2017.

From http://www.adb.org/ 08/11/2010

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PAKISTAN: SBP Unexpectedly Hikes Policy Rate by 50 Basis Points to 13 Percent

KARACHI: Faced with high fiscal deficit, growing inflation concerns, and persistent government borrowing, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Friday further tightened its monetary policy by announcing a raise of 50 basis points (bps) to 13 percent in key policy rate for next two months effective from 2nd August 2010 to mitigate risks to macroeconomic stability. The decision was taken by the Central Board of Directors of SBP, at the meeting held here on Friday, under the chairmanship of Yaseen Anwar, Acting Governor SBP. The SBP has made it clear that the increase in policy rate is neither on the dictation of International Monetary Fund, nor for its next tranche. With current increase in policy rate, the SBP Overnight Reverse-Repo (Ceiling) rate has been increased from 12.50 percent to 13.00 percent, while with 300 bps difference the SBP Overnight Repo facility will be available at 10.00 percent. The last increase in policy rate was made in November 2008 from 13 percent to 15 percent. SBP has kept the policy rate unchanged at 12.5 percent during the second half due to resurgence of inflation and increased pressure on fiscal accounts. Although, a rise in inflation was anticipated due to announced increases in electricity tariffs, there was a risk that this increase could spread to other prices. While, upward adjustments in domestic petroleum prices and volatility in food prices only added to the uncertainty. Moreover, declining real investment and worsening law and order conditions affected economy's ability to meet prevailing aggregate demand. Taken together, these factors contributed towards entrenchment of expectations of high inflation and adversely affected the inflation outlook. Unveiling the first Monetary Policy Statement of current fiscal year at a press conference held at SBP, Karachi, Yaseen Anwar said: "this has been done to mitigate risks to macroeconomic stability, monetary policy has to take lead for containing aggregate demand pressures emanating mainly from expansionary fiscal position".

He said that renewed committed efforts are required to increase the economy's resource envelope and contain current expenditures. In particular, measures to increase the tax to GDP ratio and eliminate the revenue deficit of fiscal accounts are urgently required to provide a firm foundation for sustainable economic growth. "This would reduce the pressure on government borrowings from SBP and debt payments, create room for development expenditures in critical areas, and soften the adverse impact on the private sector," he added. He said that the average CPI inflation of 11.7 percent during FY10 has been 2.7 percentage points higher than the target and current trends and expected developments indicate risks of inflation pressures continuing in the current 2010-2011 fiscal year (FY11). These include further upward adjustments in electricity prices, increase in General Sales Tax (GST), and revisions in government employees' wages to compensate for the current high inflation, he said and added that after incorporating these factors, the average CPI inflation is projected to remain between 11 and 12 percent in FY11, which is higher than the announced target of 9.5 percent. Anwar said with the start of new fiscal year concerns of persistence in inflation and fiscal weaknesses are overshadowing the improvement in the external current account deficit and economic recovery. He said that the gap between national savings and investment has narrowed but mainly because of decline in investments and at the same time aggregate domestic demand, led by public sector consumption expenditures, is picking up while prospects of aggregate supply remain weak due to energy shortages and dismal law and order conditions. "These developments together with rising total debt are stressing the macroeconomic stability and call for renewed efforts to maintain an upward trajectory in economic growth," he asserted. He said an increase in the Net Domestic Assets (NDA) of the banking system of Rs 488 billion during FY10 can be largely explained by the government's borrowing requirements for budgetary support and commodity operations. "The need for continued reliance on the banking system, both from scheduled banks and SBP, to finance the fiscal deficit essentially emanates from low tax revenues, high current expenditures, and shortfalls in projected external financing," he said and added that tax collection by the FBR at Rs 1,327 billion shows a shortfall of Rs 53 billion the target of Rs 1,380 billion for the year, while only Rs 177 billion was received from external sources against the budget estimate of Rs 377 billion.

The SBP Acting Governor said the provisional figures indicate that the revised FY10 fiscal deficit target of 5.1 percent has been missed and could be higher than 6.0 percent. Similarly, the target of government borrowings from SBP has also been breached for the fourth quarter of FY10 as the stock of net government borrowings from SBP (on cash basis) was at Rs 1,171 billion as on June 30th, 2010 against the target of Rs 1,130 billion. Clearly, such fiscal developments are inconsistent with the objectives of macroeconomic stability, he said and added that these have contributed towards aggravating expectations of rising inflation and have kept an upward pressure on interest rates. The result is a crowding out of private sector credit and increased stress on debt sustainability, he added. "Containing the fiscal deficit within the announced target of 4 percent of GDP for FY11 already seems challenging," Anwar said. Moreover, meeting the tax collection target of Rs 1,667 billion would require a 25.6 percent growth or a 0.8 percentage point improvement in the tax to GDP ratio, which seems unlikely without broadening of the tax base, he said and added that low tax revenues of the government have become a serious concern as it has increased reliance on foreign borrowings to meet rising expenditures. "Delays or shortfalls in such inflows could put pressure on external accounts sustainability," he observed. Talking about external sector, Anwar said notwithstanding significantly lower Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and shortfalls in projected foreign inflows, SBP's foreign exchange reserves increased to $13 billion by end-June 2010 from $9.1 billion at end-June 2009. "This includes receipts of $4.6 billion from the IMF; $2.2 billion for balance of payment support, $1.1 billion for temporary bridge financing for the budget, and $1.3 billion through a onetime non-recurring increase in SDR allocations," he added. Anwar said that the Net Foreign Assets (NFA) of the banking system increased by Rs 152 billion during FY10 due to an improvement in the balance of payment position.

"This, together with increases in total deposits of the banking system, has facilitated the market liquidity conditions and helped in meeting the credit requirements of the economy," he added. He, however, said that the sustainability of external accounts improvement and build up of NFA face headwinds in FY11. "Consistent with recovery in the domestic economy and forecasts of higher international commodity prices, import growth is projected to increase to 12.0 percent in FY11 as opposed to a decline of 2.3 percent in FY10," he said and added that despite the uncertainty of economic recovery in Pakistan's export destination countries and an unfavourable domestic business environment, the export growth for FY11 is projected to be around 7.0 percent compared to 2.7 percent recorded in FY10. "After assuming a benign outlook for worker's remittances and further CSF (Coalition Support Fund) inflows, this trade outlook is expected to widen the external current account to 3.7 percent of projected GDP," he added. SBP Acting Governor said while incorporating the projections of the external sector and consolidated fiscal position along with the announced targets of inflation and real GDP growth, the broad money is projected to grow by 13.0 percent in FY11. The total investment as a percentage of GDP has now declined for three consecutive years, reaching 16.6 percent in FY10, he concluded.

From http://www.brecorder.com/ 07/31/2010

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People's Works Programme: Rs 14.4 Billion Released for 13,241 Schemes in 2009-10

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Finance has released Rs 14.4 billion for 13,241 schemes under People's Works Programme-I (PWP-1) for members of Parliament in 2009-10. According to the documents made available to Business Recorder. The ministry released these funds for the Members of National Assembly and Senate for development schemes relating to the construction of roads, electricity, gas, education, sanitation, etc, in their respective constituencies. As many as 1,362 schemes have been completed out of 13,241 during this period. A total of Rs 7.2 billion were released for 6,391 schemes in Punjab, Rs 3.3 billion for 1,801 schemes in Sindh, Rs 2.2 billion for 3,243 schemes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Rs 9,34.71 million for 724 schemes in Balochistan, Rs 670.36 million for 973 schemes in Fata and Rs 150.28 million for 109 schemes for Islamabad. A total of 347 schemes out of 6,391 in Punjab, 118 out of 1,801 in Sindh, 51 out of 3,243 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 43 out of 724 in Balochistan, 797 out of 973 in Fata and 5 out of 109 schemes in Islamabad have been completed. According to the documents, the Finance Ministry released Rs 7.89 billion for construction of roads, Rs 2.5 billion for electricity and Rs 392.26 million for gas supply to various villages. Similarly, Rs 811.61 million were provided for various schemes in education sectors, Rs 134.33 million for health, Rs 1,789.81 million for water supply and Rs 935.74 million for sanitation. Most of the funds were released to Pak PWD, Pepco, DCO of provincial governments, SNGPL, LGRD, BDA, Agriculture Engineering Department, SSGCL, KESC, Cantt Board and other departments.

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

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Govt Mulls New Rs 100 Billion Tax to Meet Flood Challenge

ISLAMABAD: In a bid to collect the massive funds that will be needed to reconstruct the flood-affected areas, the government will soon impose a new tax, official sources told Daily Times on Wednesday. "The tax will be in the shape of a 'surcharge' on imports and local production of goods and services to generate some Rs 100 billion," the sources said. Officials will brief the president and prime minister about the proposed tax, which would then be imposed through a presidential ordinance. The Ministry of Finance and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) are currently discussing the applicability of the tax. FBR Chairman Sohail Ahmed confirmed that the entire federal budget was being reviewed and the federal tax collection target was also undergoing revision due to the flood damage. "The federal tax collection target of Rs 1.667 trillion is no more relevant," he said. Sohail, however, said that revision did not mean that the tax collection target was being lowered. "Actually the tax collection target is being increased," he said. He further disclosed that "some additional revenue measures" were also being considered to generate revenue for meeting the challenges posed by the floods. The government has also decided to divert funds from the Rs 180 billion 2010-11 Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for flood rehabilitation.

From http://pakistanlink.org/ 08/12/2010

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WB to Provide $900m Loan to Pakistan

WASHINGTON: The World Bank said on Monday it has agreed to provide a $900 million loan to Pakistan, saying the economic impact of the disaster on the economy was expected to be "huge." The funding will come from the International Development Association, the World Bank's arm for low-income countries, a bank statement said. "The government of Pakistan has requested around 900 million dollars of financial support from the World Bank, which we have committed to provide," the statement said. Described as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today, the floods over the last three weeks have affected 20 million people, and destroyed crops, infrastructure, towns and villages, according to the Pakistani government. "The economic cost is expected to be huge," the World Bank said on Monday. Preliminary information indicated that "direct damage" from floods was greatest in the housing, roads, irrigation and agriculture sectors, the bank said.

From http://pakistanlink.org/ 08/17/2010

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LSM Registers 4.84 Percent Growth in Fiscal Year 2010

KARACHI: The Large Scale Manufacturing (LSM) posted a modest recovery of 4.84 percent growth during fiscal year 2009-10 because of re-entry of commercial banks in consumer financing and rising global demand. The performance of the manufacturing sector was very poor during fiscal year 2009, as it posted a negative growth of 8 percent followed by weakness in domestic demand, power shortages and deterioration in law & order situation. Economists said that LSM growth gathered pace due to rising domestic consumption as well as global recovery and re-entry of commercial banks in consumer financing helped strengthen the demand for consumer durables, especially automobiles, despite rising cost of production. Moreover, export-based industries, particularly value-added textile, finally picked up in response to improved global demand as well as domestic policies, they added. However, they said that in specific terms, supply of energy would be a major determinant of capacity utilisation in going forward and sustaining a decent growth in LSM may be constrained due to energy insufficiency in the country. According to statistics release by Federal Statistics Bureau (FBS), LSM growth during the last fiscal year 2010 was satisfactory and it registered a growth of 4.84 percent. Official provisional statistics of Quantum Index Numbers of Large Scale Manufacturing Industries (QIM) of FBS depicting the production of major industries in the country have not been growing. LSM is the one of the major indicators of the economy, which shows the industrial productivity of the 100 items received from different sources ie Oil Companies Advisory Committee (OCAC), Ministry of Industries & Production and Provincial Bureaus of Statistics. OCAC supplied the data of 11 items, Ministry of Industries & Production supplied the data of 35 items and Provincial Bureaus of Statistics provided data for 54 items. With a growth of some 5 percent, overall QIM reached 205.98 points in June 2010 from 196.48 points in June of last fiscal year. Major share in this growth was contributed by Provincial Bureaus of Statistics, as during the last fiscal year its had gone up by 9.49 percent from 209.66 points to 229.56 points, while industries' index grew by 3.16 percent to 199.45 points. However, industries index declined by 7.68 percent to 146.99 points at the end of last fiscal year as compared to 159.22 points in fiscal year 2009. During June 2010, LSM witnessed a growth of 4.55 percent to 212.86 points as against 203.60 points during the same period of the last fiscal year. Economists said that poor law and order situation, high interest rates, shortage of power and other utilities are still a major threat to the growth of LSM and if the government did not take appropriate action to solve these issues, the improving growth would again be constrained.

From http://www.brecorder.com/ 08/21/2010

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IMF to Review Pakistan Budget and Economic Prospects

ISLAMABAD: The International Monetary Fund said on Saturday it would review Pakistan's budget and economic prospects following catastrophic flooding during talks with Pakistani officials starting Monday. The meeting next week comes amid reports that Pakistan would ask the IMF to ease the terms of a $10 billion loan it received in 2008. "The scale of the tragedy means that the country's budget and macroeconomic prospects, which are being supported by an IMF financed programme, will also need to be reviewed," said Masood Ahmed, director of the IMF's Middle East and Central Asia department. "In this context, we look forward to meeting with Pakistani government officials in Washington next week to evaluate the macroeconomic impact of the floods, assess the measures they are taking to address this impact, and discuss ways in which the IMF can assist Pakistan at this difficult juncture. The IMF stands with Pakistan at these difficult moments," he said. Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh is likely to ask the IMF to restructure the current loan or consider new financing during the meeting.

From http://pakistanlink.org/ 08/22/2010

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Government Decides to Take $100 Million Soft Loan from IMF

ISLAMABAD: Federal Law Minister Babar Awan has said that the government has decided in principle to take $100 million soft loan from International Monitory Fund (IMF) to meet the expenses of relief and rehabilitation of the flood affected people. He stated this while addressing a press conference at his residence here on Sunday. The Minister said that it is the need of the hour to accept the soft loan to meet the urgent needs of the affected people. He also referred to the example of United States, saying that it also took loans of billions of dollars from China to meet its needs. He further added that the Parliamentary Committee for the appointments of judges under the 18th Amendment could not be formed as long as petitions challenging the amendment are in the courts. He further said that after September 5, the judges of the Balochistan High Court would be retired and the new judges could not be appointed in the absence of the proposed parliamentary committee. He said that the government respects the judiciary and would wait till its decision in this regard. The Minister said that PML-N should not adopt double standard with respect to the appointment of the judges, as on one hand it supported the 18th Amendment, and on the other, it criticised the government on the judges' appointment in the absence of the Parliamentary Committee. To a question, the Minister said that the government has constituted a Council on the recommendations of the provinces instead of a proposed Commission as agreed by Prime Minister and PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif to oversee the relief and rehabilitation activities. "Takhat Lahore' should shun doing politics on national issues and focus on the flood affectees", he maintained. PML-N, he said, making things controversial aimed at diverting focus from the bad governance of the Punjab and cited the incidents of the broad daylight murdering of the two innocent brothers in the presence of police in Sialkot and torturing the lady doctors in Bahawalpur the other day. The Minister also demanded of the PML-N to give details of the "Qarz Uttaro Mulk sawaro" campaign, saying that the amount could be used for the flood affectees. He appreciated the role of the international community for their support and contribution for the flood affectees, adding that the government is waiting for the assistance of Organisations of Islamic Countries.

From http://www.brecorder.com/ 08/23/2010

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ARMENIA: IFC Is Ready to Assist Its Construction Industry

IFC Executive Vice President and CEO Lars Thunell said that investments of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in Armenia have considerably expanded, increasing from $5 million in 2009 to $35 million as of June 30, 2010. "It is a considerable growth, given the fact that we had been providing consultative assistance rather than financial until recent times," said Thunell during his visit to Yerevan. He noted that the Corporation aims not only to maintain this level, but also to advance, dependent on programs meeting the IFC's financing criteria. Mr. Thunell believes that, taking into consideration the amount of funds, which the Corporation is ready to invest in Armenia, as well as the interest displayed by the country's private sector and government, the IFC's activity in Armenia will be expanded. "We understand that Armenia's real estate infrastructure and construction industry have been facing difficulties, and we hope that the situation will improve through our participation in programs," he concluded.

From http://www.panarmenian.net/ 08/26/2010

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AZERBAIJAN: Bank Standard Introduces Emergency Service

Azerbaijan's Bank Standard introduced a new service for gold and platinum cardholders today. The "Emergency Cash" service provides cardholders with immediate access to their funds while abroad in the event that their card has been stolen or lost. This is the first such service in Azerbaijan. Clients may call the bank to receive an urgent money transfer through Western Union. After answering the bank's security questions, the transfer is made. The client is given the transfer code, and the funds can be received at any Western Union office.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/16/2010

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KAZAKHSTAN: Now, an EDI Centre

Taking forward India's relationship and cultural ties with Kazakhstan, the Indian government under South-South Cooperation has decided to set up Kazakhstan-India Entrepreneurship Development Centre (KIEDC) at Almaty with the help of Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDI), Ahmedabad. "The need of the hour is to create globally competitive entrepreneurs who will exploit and manage resources for the benefit of the economy, besides making profits for themselves and creating jobs for others," says Dinesh Awasthi, director, EDI, Ahmedabad. Here, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can be effective mechanism in facilitating economic development, as it is this sector which has the highest capital-employment ratio. It is this sector, which provides opportunities for the youth to exhibit their entrepreneurial potential by being job creators than job seekers, says Awasthi. He adds that the latent talent of a large number of technical personnel and others with work experience can be tapped for the larger benefit of the economy and given the nature of SME sector, any effort to develop the sector can lead to regional balancing. The KIEDC will cater to the needs of both the start-up and the existing entrepreneurs. The centre will also organise courses for support system like banks, industry promotion agencies, planners and policy makers to create an enabling environment for establishment of SMEs. To ensure sustainability of the project, it will also organise trainers' training programmes and these trainers can later organise entrepreneurship development programmes for potential entrepreneurs. EDI has already set up four similar centres in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam with the support of ministry of external affairs and the ASEAN secretariat.

From http://engnews.gazeta.kz/ 08/02/2010

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TURKMENISTAN: Worthy Place of Entrepreneurship in National Economy

A key priority of Turkmenistan's economic policy is the effective development of the private sector that, in its turn, serves as a criterion of the quality of integration, economic and social progress and improvement of the standards of living of citizens. Encouragement of business initiatives is to profoundly promote sectoral shifts, the introduction of innovations, use of capital and division of labour. The task to increase the share of the non-governmental sector in the GDP (excluding the fuel and energy sector) by 70 percent by 2020 is set in Turkmenistan In this regard state-private partnership stand as a strategic aspect of the activity aimed at developing and modernizing the socio-economic system of the country. State-private partnership exists in a wide spectrum of forms including a variety of contracts that the state provides to private companies for performing work and rendering public services, management, procurement of products to meet the needs of the state, technical assistance contracts and others. The adoption of the Law of Turkmenistan "On the State Support for Small and Medium Businesses" gives an additional impetus to encourage small and medium businesses. The action programme for the state support of small and medium businesses is under development in accordance with this Law. The State Commission for the support of small and medium businesses was established at the governmental level. In our country entrepreneurial organisations can receive a loan at 5 percent interest per annum for a term of ten years to purchase fixed assets and a loan for a term of one year to purchase floating assets.

The government support for the private sector is based on the general principles of social and economic development when income of population rises as the share in the private sector in the GDP increases, and when businesses are responsible for many sectors of the social sphere. The support to small and medium businesses in Turkmenistan is characterized by a relatively stable increase in the quantitative and qualitative indicators reflecting the entrepreneurial environment in the region. As of July 1, 2010, 12,100 entities operate in the private sector in Turkmenistan. The strategy for encouraging small and medium businesses in Turkmenistan is based on the following principals: the priority to the development of small and medium businesses, integration, publicity, transparency of the government support for small and medium businesses, access to the state support for private sector entities, the guarantees of free entrepreneurship and the guarantees of protection of the property rights of small and medium businesses. The government support for small and medium businesses is provided in the forms of legal, institutional, property, financial, information assistance and other at the national level, and at the level of velayats and Ashgabat. The executive authorities and local government bodies collaborate to conduct the unified state policy for encouraging small and medium businesses.

A key aspect of the strategy for supporting and encouraging entrepreneurship in Turkmenistan is the creation of the enabling environment for small and medium businesses. The ways to create this environment have been identified. These include the provision of small and medium businesses with financial, material and technical resources, encouragement of investments allocated by small and medium businesses for implementing the national social and economic development programmes, creation of new jobs and increase of income of population. The practice of government purchases on a competitive basis of goods (works, services) produced by small and medium businesses and the measures aimed at developing the programmes for financing small and medium businesses, providing assistance to small and medium businesses in training, re-training and raising the level of professional skills of personnel, promoting foreign economic activity, interregional cooperation and enhancing their export potential are of particular importance. Turkmenistan has developed the system to support small businesses: executive authorities particularly address the strategic tasks of encouraging small-scale forms of business activity, whereas local government bodies determine the major fields of this activity because entrepreneurial activity has the distinctly territorial specificity, concentrates within a particular area and is restricted to a particular territory.

The 2011-2030 National Social and Economic Development Programme stipulates that the measures of direct and indirect support which when combined will contribute to the free development of small and medium businesses will be elaborated and ensure enhanced public activity and accelerated growth in entrepreneurial activity. As a result, enterprises operating the private sector of the national economy will increase in number and create more new jobs, and an initial capital required for newly created enterprises will be accumulated and existing small and medium businesses will receive new incentives to expand that will enable to overcome negative tendencies of private enterprises towards tax evasion. In the future, considerable attention will be given to promotion of various forms of ownership and privatization of existing state-run and public properties. In this regard, the measures aimed at elaborating the effective legal framework required for effective activity of business entities of various forms of ownership will be taken. The science-based approach will be taken to privatization and denationalization of enterprises of the light and food industry, the services and trade sectors that aim their activity at flooding the domestic and foreign commodity markets basis. An equity market will be created in these industries and the banking sector as well.

Free economic zones will be created and developed in Turkmenistan in compliance with the peculiarities of the national economy. An important role in this process will be assigned to the creation of free economic zones including industrial clusters and promoting free trade near Ashgabat, in Turkmenbashi on the Caspian seaside and in Garabogazgol. To attract foreign investments and facilitate establishment and operation of joint ventures and foreign companies the measures to update statutory documents regulating and guaranteeing protection to foreign investments, free economic zones, transition to international accounting standards will be taken further. The contractual and regulatory framework will be updated further in Turkmenistan so as to expand international cooperation in the investment sector. Foreign investments in the national economy will be attracted through concluding production sharing agreements, providing tax concessions, concluding contracts for cooperation and risk response services. The mechanisms for protection and insurance of foreign investments, collateral security and the framework of guarantees provided when settling disputes will be improved. The measures aimed at receiving credits from foreign banks to promote investment activity will be taken. These efforts will be taken in industries that apply advanced technologies and innovations, first of all. These measures will ensure the growth of employment, maintain social stability in the country and facilitate application of scientific and technological advances in industry, effective use of financial and material resources that will lead to increased productivity of labour, and introduction of advanced technologies and innovations. Therefore, the private sector will be able to find a worthy place in the national economy, and entrepreneurial activity will reach a qualitatively new level.

From http://www.turkmenistan.gov.tm/ 08/20/2010

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AUSTRALIA: NBN No Cost to Homes - Gillard

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has denied people would have to pay thousands of dollars to rewire their homes to get Labor's national broadband network. One day shy of the election Ms Gillard was ambushed by Ray Hadley on NOVA 96.9 FM today and, in a defensive exchange, accused him of being untruthful. The outspoken shock jock - who signalled he had struggled to have Ms Gillard on his regular 2GB program - said he had no idea he was being invited onto the FM program at the same time as the prime minister. But he launched himself into a tough interview, taking the opportunity to grill Ms Gillard about the NBN and border protection. Ms Gillard seemed surprised but gave a feisty performance and accused the broadcaster of raising fears about costs associated with the NBN after he asked how much people would have to pay to rewire their houses to receive the service.

"A new wire. A fibre will be rolled out to your home. The cost is not in that. You don't pay a cost for that," Ms Gillard said. "Then, of course, you would pay, if you want to use the fibre and obviously people do, people do want to have the national broadband network in their home, then they would pay a service provider. There will be competition. So service providers will be there saying 'pick me. I'll give you this price'." Ms Gillard rejected suggestions from Mr Hadley that the cost of rewiring homes to receive the NBN would be between $2000 and $4000. "Well, Ray I can tell you I have met with people in Tasmania who have the NBN now and that is not what has happened and that is not what it has cost... there are trial people in Tasmania obviously in small parts of Tasmania." Ms Gillard accused Mr Hadley of trying to raise cost fears.

"It is simply not right to raise this fear of costs for people. That is not right. That is not what is going to happen. It is simply not true. "The spectre that you've tried to put in people's mind about charges for the National Broadband Network is untrue, completely incorrect and no-one should vote on that basis."

From http://australianit.news.com.au/ 08/20/2010

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COOK ISLANDS: Budgets Rushed Through

Parliament is likely to guillotine debate on the 2010-11 Budget in the same way it did to approve the amendments to last year's annual Budget yesterday. The supplementary budget, which reduced the $215.5 million budget to $186.4 million, went through a name change and was amended before being passed after just three days in the committee of supply. Standing order 307 of Parliament allows 10 days for budgets to be debated in the committee of supply but it is rare for talks to ever last that long. Yesterday Parliament agreed to suspend standing order 307 to enable the bill to be read for the third time and passed. The Appropriation Amendment and Validation Act made changes to last year's budget to account for the removal of the $37.5 million China soft loan for infrastructure and add in $3.5 million worth of Toagate related expenses, funding for the cyclone relief efforts for Aitutaki and Penrhyn and increased welfare benefit payments.

The $157.6 million annual budget for 2010-11 will be passed by early next week. The budgets are being rushed to allow government to announce the date when Parliament will be dissolved and when the election will be held. Further talks between government and the Opposition were held yesterday on just when the election will be called. Government is now leaning towards dissolving parliament in September and holding an election mid-November. The election is likely to be held 60 days after the dissolution of Parliament, instead of the usual three month lead up following the expiration of the term of government. The current four year term will expire on September 26. The suggestion of October 27 as a date for the snap election is now seen as less likely because it is the day after the public holiday for National Gospel Day.

Opposition MP Norman George told Parliament he thought Prime Minister Jim Marurai would be announcing the election date yesterday. Finance Minister Wilkie Rasmussen told Parliament during his budget speech that passing the bill was important given the pending election. He said many people had become disillusioned with performance of MPs and were 'questioning our collective capacity to work in their best interests'. Rasmussen said without a Parliament sitting this year until now, the MPs are also the subject of more public scrutiny. He thanked the MPs for agreeing with the move to cut short debate on the budget bills to enable the release of government funding and for the election to be held. Parliament adjourned following Rasmussen's budget speech at 4.30pm after just three hours of sitting. It resumes meeting from 1pm today.

From http://www.cinews.co.ck/ 08/12/2010

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NEW ZEALAND: Strong Health Investment in Lakes DHB Area

Health Minister Tony Ryall says the Lakes District Health Board has posted big improvements in key services over the past year. Immunisation is a particular success story. In the first half of 2009-10 Lakes had the lowest immunisation coverage of the 21 DHBs, yet by year end had exceeded the target of 85 per cent of two year olds fully immunised. The improvement in the ED target is also impressive. At the start of the 2009-10 year it was at 82 per cent and by year end had met the target requiring 95 per cent of patients to be admitted, discharged or transferred from an Emergency Department within six hours. "Lakes DHB has received an extra $28.4 million from the Government over the last two years, and is investing strongly in improving health services," said Health Minister Tony Ryall.

During the year ended 30 June 2010, Lakes DHB treated 39,160 people from the Rotorua and Taupo districts and delivered 163,257 procedures, assessments, education contacts, ED visits, community and home visits. During that time Lakes DHB also delivered 3248 elective procedures, up from 3,082 in 2009. "While people in the Lakes DHB area received improved health services in 2009-10, Lakes DHB also again finished the year on budget," said Mr Ryall. "The DHB had budgeted for a deficit but came in with a modest surplus this year." The Health Minister says in 2009-10 Lakes DHB brought significant capital projects on stream including: Construction began on the $83 million redevelopment of Rotorua Hospital $2.9million spent on replacement or upgraded clinical equipment, including radiology, ultrasound and theatre items.$3.7 million upgrading patient management and other information systems Paimarie Whanau Accommodation - five new units to house families of acutely unwell patients, who come from out of town Commencement of the construction of the new laboratory building

"During the year the Lakes DHB has provided services to more patients, staff have completed more procedures, and significant results have been achieved in the six Health Targets. This is the result of great teamwork at Lakes DHB, and the staff should be well pleased with what they have achieved so far," said Mr Ryall.

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 08/24/2010

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Public-Private Partnerships Can Unlock Central Asia's Vast Potential - ADB

Public-private partnerships can play a vital role in unlocking Central Asia's vast economic potential, senior officials at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) told a business forum here. The two-day Business Development Forum on Central Asia, hosted by government of the People's Republic of China, has been showcasing trade and investment opportunities in the region and the mechanisms needed to tap them. The forum, which is part of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) program, brought together over 300 participants including CAREC and government officials, representatives from state-owned industries, private sector investors, and members of national chambers of commerce. In his keynote address, ADB Vice-President (Operations 1) Xiaoyu Zhao said Central Asia faces the fundamental challenge of converting its abundant resources into higher value goods and services, a transformation he said can only be achieved through genuine partnerships with the private sector.

"Private sector participation could be a catalyst to removing the challenges in the region by bringing capital, management, and technology to infrastructure rehabilitation and modernization within the countries, and across their national borders," Mr. Zhao said. In earlier remarks at the forum, ADB Vice-President (Operations 2) Lawrence Greenwood said that boosting trade is an important element of private sector-led growth strategies in the region, requiring close cooperation among CAREC members toward reducing the cost of cross border transactions. CAREC, comprising Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, PRC, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and six multilateral partners, including ADB, was established in 1997. Its work includes improving Central Asia's physical infrastructure, harmonizing customs and other trade facilitation procedures and promoting trade in power. ADB has served as its Secretariat since 2000.One of its critical goals is to develop a seamless network of six transport corridors which will connect member countries to each other as well as providing links to the fast-growing economies of east and south Asia, and established markets in Europe and the Russian Federation. The regional group is set to mark a decade of successful operations in 2011 with close to $15 billion in investments which have contributed to accelerated economic growth and improved living standards.

From http://www.adb.org/ 07/29/2010

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CHINA: Promise to Better Fund Private Industry

China's cabinet promised private investors a bigger stake in a number of government industries ranging from finance to oil drilling, apparently in response to complaints that Beijing's huge stimulus went mostly to state companies, leaving private industries to wither out the current global economic crisis. The announcement by China's cabinet July 26 apparently applied only to Chinese investors, not foreign businesses. The cabinet did not go into details on the role private companies will take in areas such as energy, which are politically sensitive. The cabinet promised to help private companies further investment abroad as well. The Beijing stimulus largely went to the growth of state industry as private businesses struggled amidst shrinking global demand and the global economic crisis, a temporary reverse to nearly three decades of economic reform efforts. The phenomenon dubbed by the Chinese roughly translates "as the state advances, society retreats." Private business generates the bulk of new employment in China, not to mention wealth, and some analysts warn that concentrating stimulus funds on state owned businesses that are less dynamic may create an economic disadvantage for the country. Until China details how exactly each industry will be affected, the government's push towards private investment has ambiguous ramifications for investors, however. The Chinese government did list areas it promised to increase access to private investment, including setting up financial institutions as well as building schools, hospitals, airports, and water systems. China also said it will increase investments in science and technology projects. State owned industries dominate China's energy and finance agencies. However, private companies will also have the opportunity to partner with state oil and gas companies, according to the statement. The announcement did not detail what if any limits would be placed on private investors in this area. In recent years, many privately owned oil wells and coal mines have been forcibly sold to the government. China's investments in foreign markets have surged in recent years, led mostly by state oil companies and state owned resource assets. Private investment abroad remains low with slow growth, however, a problem China's cabinet said it will address as more stimulus funds are funneled into the private sector.

From http://www.redherring.com/ 08/03/2010

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ICBC Bids to Privatize HK Unit

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd, the world's most valuable bank, said it will pay shareholders of its Hong Kong arm a 27 percent premium to take it private, as part of an effort to expand its presence on the island city. Each ICBC (Asia) Ltd shareholder would receive HK$29.45 (US3.79) per share, ICBC said in a proposal posted on the Hong Kong exchange yesterday, an exercise that would cost the bank HK$10.8 billion. "While ICBC (Asia) is currently trading at its recent high, we believe further growth of the business may be limited by its status as a listed company in Hong Kong," the banks said in a joint statement. "After ICBC (Asia) has been privatized, it will have much greater flexibility to take advantage of ICBC's resources as the business continues to develop in the coming years." Trade on ICBC (Asia) shares will resume today after being suspended on July 27, the banks said, adding that the price also represents a 48.7 percent premium over its 90-day running average. Goldman Sachs and ICBC International Capital served as joint financial advisers to ICBC, the bank said. The privatization will allow ICBC to provide additional capital to the Hong Kong unit, allowing it to compete more effectively against local players such as HSBC and Bank of China (Hong Kong). Shares of smaller banks in the territory such as Dahsing Bank and Wing Hung Bank have already risen on expectations that they could become potential takeover targets as ICBC moves to expand its presence in Hong Kong. Such expectations stem from ICBC's history of acquiring smaller rivals to expand its business. ICBC (Asia) acquired Fortis Bank Asia HK's retail and commercial banking operations in 2004, and China Mercantile Bank in 2005. ICBC now owns about 73 percent of its Hong Kong unit's total issued shares. Listing rules require a minimum public float of 25 percent.

From Shanghai Daily 08/11/2010

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JAPAN: Gov't to Increase Private-sector Decoration Recipients

The cabinet of Prime Minister Naoto Kan has decided to increase the number of private-sector recipients of the government's spring and fall decorations, government sources said Thursday. The government plans to boost the number of private-sector recipients by around 100 in November's decorations from the past level and to increase it further next spring and beyond, the sources said. The decision reflects the eagerness of Kan's Democratic Party of Japan-led government to put an emphasis on the private sector rather than on the public sector, the sources said. Among the recipients, those from the public sector, such as former public servants as well as Diet and local assembly members, have been awarded more so far.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 08/13/2010

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INDONESIA: Private Sector Corruption Rising

The number of corruption cases from January to June 2010 doubled compared to the figure for the same period last year with private company directors taking the top spot as perpetrators. Data from the Indonesian Corruption Watch shows that 176 corruption cases involving losses of more than Rp. 2 trillion have surfaced with 441 individuals named as suspects by law enforcement officials. The main actors in corruption cases have shifted from legislative members with 63 suspects in 2009 to directors in private companies with 61 suspects in 2010. "This shows that the orientation of the private sector is still restricted to making the largest profits possible by employing various means," said ICW senior researcher Febri Hendri. The data also shows that the main mode of corruption has shifted from misuse of budgetary funds, with 32 cases in 2009, to embezzlement, with 62 cases this year. Febri added that the embezzlement by government officials and other individuals involved social aid funds during the local elections in 2008 and 2009. "We will present our findings to law enforcement institutions such as the attorney's general office, the police and the Corruption Eradication Commission," he added.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 08/04/2010

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LAOS: Private Companies Donate for City Pillar Shrine

(KPL) Fifteen private companies have donated 2,110 million kip for the construction of the new City Pillar Shrine at Phiavath village, Sisattanark district, Vientiane Capital. The hand-over ceremony took place on 10 August at the Prime Minister's Office. The donations were presented by representatives of the fifteen private companies to Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh. The fifteen private companies are Daoheuang (500 million kip), ST Group (300 million) kip, Lao Brewery Company (200 million kip), Phongsabthavy Construction (150 million kip), Douangchaleun Construction (150 million kip), Sengvixay Construction (150 million kip), Lao Telecommunication (110 million kip), Khamphay Sana Construction (100 million kip), VXP Company (100 million kip), Phongsavanh Bank (100 million kip), DM construction (50 million kip), Lao Soft Drink (50 million kip), K&C Group (50 million kip), SMV Consulting (50 million kip) and Golf Course at 6 km (50 million kip). Mr. Bouasone said that the Vientiane Pillar Shrine was a sacred place, important archaeological site and a valuable property of the nation, which was indicated in the recordings of the inscription stones of the city pillar aged 470 years or before 20 years prior to the proclamation of Vientiane as the national capital of the Lane Xang Kingdom. He added that the Vientiane Pillar Shrine would be a symbol of Vientiane Capital and a symbol of civilisation era of Vientiane. On this occasion, Mr. Bouasone also expressed his heartfelt thanks to the fifteen donors for their donations.

From http://www.kplnet.net/ 08/10/2010

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IFC Pledges Further Support for Private Investment in Laos

(KPL) The International Finance Cooperation (IFC) has pledged to further support the development of infrastructure, energy and financial sectors for Laos in order to spur the country's economic growth. The commitment was made at a meeting between Lao Minister of Finance Somdy Douangdy and the IFC Vice-President for Asia, Eastern Europe, Middle East and North Africa, Mr. Rashad R. Kaldany, at the Ministry of Finance on 17 August. The IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, also plans to maximise the contributions from private companies for poverty alleviation, according to yesterday's IFC press release. The two sides have discussed on the IFC's support for the government's development agenda by encouraging the participation of the private investment sector in areas such as hydropower. The IFC's strategy in Laos focuses on developing the private sector as a catalyst for economic development, promoting inclusive growth through improved access to infrastructure, and supporting environmentally and socially sustainable growth, particularly through renewable energy and sustainable development of Lao natural resources.

Laos is endowed with natural resources and is strategically located in one of the fastest growing regions in the world, said Kaldany. The increased interest in the hydro and mining sectors bodes well for continued economic growth. "Our focus is to support the development of these resources in a sustainable and environmentally sound manner and that the projects contribute to improving people's lives," he further stated. Last month, the IFC, through its joint World Bank-IFC sub-national initiative, extended a $15 million loan to Electricite du Laos, the largest utility company in Laos, to expand its electrical grid to 37,000 rural households in central and southern parts of the country, supporting phase two of the country's Rural Electrification Programme. During the visit to Laos this week, Mr Kaldany discussed opportunities for scaling up IFC's partnership with Laos during meetings with private sector partners and senior government officials in Vientiane on Tuesday.

From http://www.kplnet.net/ 08/17/2010

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PHILIPPINES: Private School Group Supports P-Noy's 12-year Basic Education System

The country's largest association of private elementary and secondary schools on Wednesday expressed their support to the proposal to add two more years in the current 10-year basic education cycle but warned the Department of Education (DepEd) against tinkering with the basic curriculum in the process. At the same time, the Federation of Associations of Private Schools Administrators (FAPSA) appealed to the DepEd to allow private schools a year to implement the proposed plan after the public schools. Eleazardo Kasilag, FAPSA president said a 12-year basic education system, which formed part of President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III 10-Point Education Reform Agenda, in the country is long overdue. "Where there is distress, there is a call. It is due decade ago, however, FAPSA schools appeal that we be given option to implement a year later after the public schools. For the private elementary, we have Nursery, Kinder I and Kinder II," Kasilag said.

When asked for the reason for its appeal to be given additional time to implement the proposal among its member-schools, Kasilag said contrary to the popular belief that private schools are overflowing in resources, majority of members are in financial roughshod. He added that some of their members have to seek credit just to bankroll the construction of new schools and other facilities as well as pay the salaries of teachers. "We know in our hearts that private schools have beyond what is seen. We are rich in spirit, but ragged in goods for some FAPSA schools. Funds for new building, new teachers and facilities for the additional high school year have to be loaned," he explained. At the same time, Kasilag warned the DepEd it will lose the group's backing if the plan, called by Education Secretary Armin Luistro as K+12 Enhanced Basic Education Program, will include another revision of the basic education curriculum. He said that their stand is before DepEd maintain the current curriculum. "Let it not be a reform of the curriculum again. The RBEC or the Revised Basic Education Curriculum is still in its infancy. It was thoroughly studied under seven DepEd secretaries and some of the best minds. Fapsa hopes that it is not a case of different strokes for different folks," he added.

On Monday, Luistro said he wants "substantial" changes in the curriculum to address the problem of the dwindling number of graduates of the basic education system who enter and finish college and gain employment. The DepEd chief said "irrelevant" subjects currently taught in schools nationwide would be dropped from the curriculum while new subjects would be incorporated to develop the technical and vocational skills of the students. He said DepEd would coordinate with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) to determine what technical and vocational skills are in demand. Luistro said an initial draft of the proposed 12-year education cycle would be released in time for the celebration of the World Teachers Day on October 5.

From http://balita.ph/ 08/12/2010

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PCIC Urges Farmers to Avail of Crop Insurance

The Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) is urging farmers to avail of crop insurance which is being made available by the government to marginalized sustenance farmers. Specifically, the program, which is a "high risk undertaking" is being offered only to farmers tilling not more than five hectares of agricultural land. PCIC president, Atty. Jovy Bernabe disclosed that it is the government that is paying for 60 percent of the premium and the farmer will pay the remaining 40 percent. The PCIC offers six insurance coverage namely for palay, corn, 44 high value commercial crops, livestock, agricultural facilities and even life of farmers, according to PCIC acting vice-president Norman C. Cajucon. He added that they looked forward to make PCIC a "one-stop shop" for farmers and for other stakeholders of the agricultural sector. In 2009, the PCIC covered some 100,000 farmers nationwide and was able to insure some P5 billion worth of crops.

From http://balita.ph/ 08/13/2010

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THAILAND: Ease of Doing Business

The Thai government takes very seriously the question of how to make investors feel comfortable with and confident about making their investments in Thailand. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva touched on the issue of ease of doing business in Thailand in his remarks "Thailand's Investment Environment: Looking Forward" on July 15 at SCB Park in Bangkok. The event was organized by the Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry, and Banking, in cooperation with the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce. The Prime Minister raised the Map Ta Phut issue as an outstanding problem, saying that the Government is trying its best to ease investors' concerns and eliminate obstacles to business ventures. In this connection, he said, the four-party committee has already completed its work, particularly in sending recommendations on how the Government may improve the environmental situation in the Map Ta Phut area. It also offered recommendations on the regulations to be issued, particularly on the list of activities that are deemed harmful to the environment and health. The National Environmental Board has already begun its procedures of considering the issues of these regulations.

The Prime Minister is confident that, over the next two months, all the regulations and the frameworks for future applications will be clear and then, all the projects that are still under court injunctions will be able to resolve the issue by the end of the year. So, as the Government moves forward, it will take the Map Ta Phut issue as a very important lesson, not only in terms of the need to make sure that the country's regulatory framework is crafted with care so that no more uncertainties are created. At the same time, the Prime Minister said that the Government must do much more to ensure that there is trust and confidence between industries and the local communities. This is particularly important as Thailand wants to move toward a "greener and cleaner economy," and press for "eco-friendly" industries to protect the environment and to conserve energy. This direction is reflected in the Board of Investment's new investment policy for sustainable development. In line with this policy direction, BOI has approved a variety of measures. Among these, special incentives will be granted to promote machinery upgrades that conserve energy. Maximum incentives will be given to investment in energy conservation, alternative energy-related activities and the manufacturing of eco-friendly materials and products.

Prime Minister Abhisit stated that Thailand also recognized that, common to investments in all sectors, investors must have confidence in the system. Therefore, in an effort to improve transparency, BOI has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission to prevent wrongful activities and dealings between investors and state officials and to provide a channel through which investors facing this problem may seek remedy. In 2009, it established the One-Start-One-Stop Investment Center, which is now the gateway where investors are able to meet and discuss their business operations with various government agencies under one roof. In addition to this, the Government also aims toward a more streamlined business start-up process, which will reduce the time investors need to spend in the early stages, as well.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 07/23/2010

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Public and Private Sectors Joining Hands in Increasing Processed Food Exports

The public and private sectors are joining forces in upgrading the standards of Thai food and increasing the value of Thai processed food exports. The Board of Trade of Thailand has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Thailand Trade Representative Office and the National Food Institute to foster their cooperation in enhancing the potential for processed food production for export. Under the MOU, the Thailand Food Export Center will be established to help develop small- and medium-sized enterprises in the processed food industry. Foreign experts will be invited to offer technical know-how on various matters, ranging from standard production to packaging and taxation. The objective of the signing of this MOU is to increase Thai processed food exports to 48 billion baht in the next five years. In the initial stage, emphasis will be placed on such target groups as hospitals, military units, and prisons in European Union countries.

Mr. Kiat Sittheeamorn, President of the Thailand Trade Representatives, said that in the first year of the joint operation, the Thai processed food export value is likely to stand at 400 to 500 million baht. The figure would rise to between 40 and 50 billion baht in the fourth year. He called for the greater production of ready meals, as vast export opportunities are now open in the world market. According to the National Food Institute, good quality and safety standards are recognized as the strengths of the Thai food industry. Thailand has continued to promote food safety, aimed at contributing to good health among the people and to Thai food production and exports. Thai food plays an important part in contributing to the Thai economy. Thai restaurants and Thai food can be found in almost every corner of the world. Food processing is cited as one way to add value to agricultural products. The production system must be rearranged for the better quality of products in line with local and international demands.

The National Food Institute was established in 1996 to help develop the food processing industry and particularly to remove barriers affecting its competitiveness in the global market. The Government has a policy to promote Thailand as the "Kitchen of the World" by encouraging the opening of more Thai restaurants overseas. The policy will also help promote exports of raw materials from Thailand for Thai food preparation. Thailand is striving to promote food production and food safety at the same time. Today, the country has become one of the world's major food exporters.

From http://thailand.prd.go.th/ 08/10/2010

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VIET NAM: Foreign Funds Targeting Private Businesses

VietNamNet Bridge - No longer targeting publicly traded Vietnamese companies, many foreign funds have recently begun investing in privately run businesses in Vietnam. The Aureos South East Asian Fund (ASEAF), a fund managed by Aureos Capital Management Company, recently decided to invest $4.2 million in Tran Anh Digital World Company. Explaining the decision to invest in a privately run business like Tran Anh, Do Doan Kien, Chief Representative of Aureos Capital in Vietnam, said Aureos Capital sees great potential in the company. Vietnam is a country with a young population and a market with an increasingly high demand for computers and electronic products. According to Kien, Aureos Capital had to thoroughly consider the business strategy and corporate governance of Tran Anh before making the decision to invest in the company. Another investment deal that has gained notice is the $9.1 million investment deal in Nam Long Investment Company, also a private company.

Vietnam Azalea Fund, a fund managed by Mekong Capital, has purchased 2.7 million shares of Nam Long in order to hold 6.7 percent of the chartered capital of the company. Some months ago, VinaCapital Vietnam Opportunity Fund VOF, managed by VinaCapital, announced an investment deal worth $15 million in Prime Group, a brick manufacturer. Similarly, Dragon Capital recently decided to invest in Sacomreal, a real estate firm, in order to raise the company's foreign ownership ratio to 7.5 percent of equity. The noteworthy aspect of these deals is that foreign funds do not consider investment deals in privately run businesses as small deals used primarily to diversify their investment portfolios. In fact, injecting money in private companies is the main target of many investment funds. For example, Mekong Capital said it is planning to set up a new fund with $150 million in 2010. The new fund will be named Mekong Enterprise Fund - MEF III, and the main targets of the fund will be privately run companies in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, ASEAF has revealed that after wrapping up the deal to invest in Tran Anh Digital World Company, the management company will raise more funds to increase the fund's capital to $250 million. Do Doan Kien said the main focus of ASEAF will still be small and medium sized enterprises. "Vietnam will be one of the six most important markets in ASEAF's investment strategy, together with Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, and Cambodia," Kien said. Commenting on the potential of Vietnamese private businesses, a representative of a foreign investment fund said that these businesses have great potential to develop in the future. "In the next 10 years, some Vietnamese private businesses will emerge as the leading companies in South East Asia in their business fields," he said. Paul Coleman, a financial expert with PricewaterhouseCoopers Vietnam, said that many business sectors in Vietnam, such as the retail sector, now have the presence of private businesses, which means more opportunities for foreign investors.

From http://english.vietnamnet.vn/ 08/04/2010

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BANGLADESH: 52,000 Posts Lying Vacant in Health Sector

State Minister for Health and Family Welfare Captain (Retd) Dr Mojibur Rahman Fakir yesterday said the government has been working on filling 52,000 vacant posts in the health sector aimed at reaching healthcare facilities to the doorsteps of people. Around 10,000 posts of health assistant and physician have so far been filled and appointment of 13,500 more community healthcare providers and 600 physicians are now at the final stage, he said. He was speaking at the installation ceremony of Swadhinata Medical Technologist Parishad (SMTP), a platform of the country's medical technologists, at the Shaheed Dr Milon auditorium of Dhaka Medical College (DMC). Awami League Health and Population Affairs Secretary Dr Bodiuzzaman Bhuiyan (Dablu), Secretary General of Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad (SWACHIP) Prof Dr Iqbal Arslan and principal of Institute of Health Technology (IHT) Dr Jalal Uddin spoke as the special guests with SMTP President M Shahjahan Siddique in the chair. Dr Mojibur said detection of disease is prerequisite for sound treatment where technologists are playing the most important role. He hoped that the technologists will supplement the government efforts in implementing the 'Charter for Change' declared by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Dr Bodiuzzaman said the government is planning to upgrade the position of medical technologists to second class from third class like diploma engineers and diploma nurses. He said people from all walks of life fought unitedly for liberation of the country in 1971 responding to the call of Bangabandhu and the war crimes trial began too as a result of the people's unity. Shahjahan put forward a set of demands to help further develop the healthcare sector including announcement of salary scale for medical technologists, creation of new posts, introduction of registration system for their recognition and higher training for them.

From http://www.thedailystar.net/ 07/31/2010

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Private Banks Better Remittance Manager

Private banks, by handling more than 69 percent remittances to Bangladesh, have emerged as major remittance managers overtaking the state-owned banks in the last few years. Bangladesh Bank data shows aggressive marketing drives launched by the private banks at home and abroad have curtailed the dominance of the state-run banks to only 27 percent in the past few years. In fiscal 2005-06, the remittance inflow was $4.8 billion. Of the amount, private banks (PCBs) managed 49 percent, while the state-owned banks (SCBs) 46 percent. According to central bank data, remittance through PCBs increased by 17 percent to $7.62 billion in fiscal 2009-10 compared to a year ago. The volume of remittance handled by SCBs increased by 5 percent in fiscal 2009-10 to $3.04 billion. Bangladesh recorded $10.98 billion in inward remittance in 2009-10. Khondkar Ibrahim Khaled, chairman of Bangladesh Krishi Bank, said if any bank has sufficient foreign reserve, it can handle international trade very easily. The bank can also earn money by selling foreign currency. "The state-owned banks can't do what the private banks can do to build relations with the international money exchange houses," said Khaled. He said the state banks still handle remittances in a traditional way, while the private banks use new marketing strategies. All banks have foreign networks for handling remittances. Many private banks even deputed officials in some major remittance generating countries like in Middle East, said Khaled. As per the central bank data, of all the private banks, Islami Bank was the highest remittance handler in fiscal 2009-10. The bank brought $2.93 billion in remittances followed by state-owned Sonali Bank's $1.3 billion and Agrani Bank's $938 million. Sonali had been the highest remittance earner until FY2005-06 when the amount stood at $1.22 billion. Helal Ahmed Chowdhury, managing director of Pubali Bank, said the central bank's anti-money laundering drive helped much to redirect remittance inflow to the formal channel. The private banks' initiatives to open exchange houses in foreign countries and establishing liaison with different foreign exchange houses also helped them become major remittance earners. Chowdhury said the private banks' move to arrange home delivery of money by using channels like banks, non-government organisations and mobile phones made them the market leader.

From http://www.thedailystar.net/ 08/15/2010

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INDIA: New Portal to Link India's Farm Sector with Industry

New Delhi: A new e-portal serving as a one stop information source for all stakeholders of the Indian food industry was launched. Food Processing Industries Minister Subodh Kant Sahai inaugurated the new portal, eFreshindia.com. "We are still wasting Rs30,000 crore (Rs.300 billion) worth of agriculture produce every year and that is because farmers do not have access to information besides lack of infrastructure, cold storage chain and links with industry," he said. Lauding the initiative to launch the portal, the minister urged the people behind it to approach the farmers first and fill their information needs, rather than of the big retailers. The portal has been developed and operationalised by IL&FS Education and Technology Services (IL&FSETS). eFresh.com BV of the Netherlands has given the linkage to the international portal, eFresh.com. Later, interacting with the media, the minister said the information on weather and seasonal agricultural crops that the new portal would provide would help farmers go for multiple cropping. Joost Van Odjik, managing director of eFresh.com BV, said India has one of the largest food baskets in the world. "India has to play a pivotal role in world food production," he added. The portal will link input suppliers and service providers with the primary food producers or farmers and then with transporters, packaging and storage facilities, food processing units, wholesalers and retailers right up to the family dining table. The information will be available in English, Hindi, Telugu and Marathi, and will later be in all other regional languages.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 08/11/2010

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Bihar to Extend IT Benefits to Agriculture Sector

The Bihar government is building state-of-the-art e-Kisan Bhawan at block level to extend benefits of Information Technology (IT) to the agriculture sector of the state. Construction work of e-Kisan Bhawan is in progress in 324 blocks out of the total 534 blocks in the state. To be equipped with genset and Internet connection, the e-Kisan bhawan would act as a information and advisory centre for farmers. It would also work as a soil testing lab, training centre, will provide weather information, among others.

From http://www.egovonline.net/ 08/13/2010

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PAKISTAN: Services Sector Deficit Narrows by 13.83 Percent

KARACHI: The country's services trade deficit narrowed down by 14 percent during July 2010 mainly due to low imports and rising exports of services sector. The State Bank of Pakistan said that the country's services sector trade performance was very encouraging with a massive decline in imports and notable increase in exports. According to SBP statistics overall services sector trade deficit reduced by 13.83 percent at $274.016 million during July 2010, as compared to $317.294 million in July 2009, depicting a decrease of $43.278 million in the first month of fiscal year 2011. Economists said that although services deficit has declined by some 14 percent but it is still at higher level and should be reduced to save forex reserves. "Huge payments of transportation travel services, insurance, technical fee, royalties and government sector are the major contributors in services deficit," they said, and urged the government for a long-term policy for the promotion of services sector exports. Services trade imports decreased by about 2 percent or $9.47 million to $556.409 million in July relative to $565.879 million in corresponding period of last fiscal year. Services exports also presented a satisfactory performance and registered an increase of 13.60 percent or $33.808 million during this period. With current decline, services sector exports stood at $282.393 million in July 2010 as compared to $248.585 million in July 2009. The country earned $93.520 million on account of transportation services as against payments of $328.672 million and $24.452 million from travel over the payments of $63.665 million. Communication sector imports stood at $9.089 million, construction $0.873 million, insurance services $2.283, financial services imports $6.623 million, information services payments at $13.26 million, royalties and licence fees at 0.401 million and government services imports stood at $76.96 million during July 2010. Communication exports stood at $12.946 million, construction services export at $0.821 million dollar, insurance $10.74 million, financial service $6.084 million, information technology services $11.137 million, royalties earning $6.185 million and government services exports stood at $30.460 million in July 2010.

From http://www.brecorder.com/ 08/22/2010

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Influential Private Sector Projects: Ministry Allocating Dearer Gas: Pepco

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco) is accusing the Petroleum Ministry of manipulation to allocate dearer natural gas to influential private sector projects. Pepco Managing Director Engr Tahir Basharat Cheema, in a strongly worded letter to Director General Gas has criticised the 'unjust' decisions taken in the past as well as those in the pipeline. Pepco has written at least 11 letters to the Petroleum Ministry with regard to supply of gas to TPS Guddu from Kandhkot field and Mari deep reservoirs, but the issue remains unresolved. Once again pleading Pepco's case, Tahir argued that the ECC's decision of August 24, 2004 to divert 75 mmcfd Mari Shallow gas to Fatima Fertiliser confirms that "in lieu thereof Wapda would be supplied gas from Mari deep reservoir and Kandkhot gas field"."We understand that ECC decision is being partly followed by SNGPL through supply of 40 mmcfd gas from Kandkhot field over and above the 50 mmcfd already being supplied by them from Kandkhot field through a separate allocation. Despite a valid, long-term and confirmed agreement between MGCL and TPS Guddu for supply of 110 mmcfd gas, the diversion of gas to Fatima Fertiliser was effected," Cheema said. According to him, as a result of this allocation, generation capacity of TPS Guddu was crippled because only two out of all the machines at the complex were capable of running on RFO, thereby leading to 300 MW idle capacity. "This power, generated on gas, if made available to the country, would not only have decreased the power outages but also the country's circular debt amounting to Rs 230 billion would have substantially reduced", the letter added. The other part of ECC decision of August, 24, 2004 pertaining to 50 mmcfd Mari Deep Gas, needs construction of 12" dia, 10 km of pipeline for connecting Mari Deep Reservoir to existing 20" dia, Wapda's line from Mari Shallow to Guddu. In a letter number SGMT-85/9283 written on December 01, 2009, SNGPL had requested MPNR to allocate 50 mmcfd Mari Deep gas to SNGPL for onward supply to TPS Guddu so that they can initiate construction of pipeline. Pepco argued that in the presence of ECC decision of August 24, 2004, there was no need for any further allocation of Mari Deep gas till such time Star Power came into operation.

The following machines at TPS Guddu are undergoing rigorous rehabilitation, that would not only improve their efficiency ratings, but also reduce the much desired cost of service: (i) overhauling of block-1 comprising G-11, G-12 and CCP-13 (From 290 MW to 415 MW) combined cycle power plant with expected completion by end December 2010 at a cost of $30 million with target date of December 2010. Fuel option is gas only (92 mmcfd); (ii) upgrading of block-2 comprising CCP-6, G-9 and G-10 (from 215 MW to 270 MW) combined cycle power plant at a cost of $15 million with target date of August 2010. Fuel option is gas only (69 mmcfd); (iii) overhauling/ upgrading of Btock-3 comprising CCP-5, G-7 and G-8 (From 225 MW to 280 MW) through USAID at a cost of $18.068 million with target date of March 2011. Fuel option is gas only (71 mmcfd); (iv) replacement of units 1 - 4 by setting up of 747 MW state-of-art technology CCP machines with efficiency of 54.4 percent. Expected year of commissioning is 2012. Fuel option is gas only (134 mmcfd ); and (v) installation of 110 MW Rental Power Plant by PPR. Fuel requirement is 30 mmcfd gas. "After successive completion of above activities, we feel that the label of inefficiency on these units shall be removed and TPS Guddu can be in a position to share approximate 1827 MW load to the national grid against gas consumption of approximately 400 mmcfd in addition to firing of 500 metric tons RFO on units 3&4," sources quoted Cheema as saying. Keeping in view the present average supply of 256 mmcfd at Guddu during 2009-10, the anticipated shortfall is estimated to be 144 mmcfd. "By all canons of justice, gas supply to an existing consumer carries a definite priority over any new consumer. As such TPS Guddu stands above all other consumers when it comes to requirement of gas for its units," Cheema said. According to Pepco Managing Director, 40 mmcfd Zamzama gas allocated to TPS Guddu through a separate ECC decision that was being supplied to TPS Guddu has been unilaterally taken over by SNGPL since May 2007 to meet the requirements on their own network. Pepco has requested that SNGPL should be directed to immediately: (i) start supply of 40 mmcfd Zamzama gas to Pepco that they have unilaterally taken over under the pretext of supplying additional 40 mmcfd Kandkhot gas, which in fact is a replacement of Mari Shallow gas allocated to Fatima Fertiliser, as per ECC decision of 2004; (ii) start work on construction of 12" dia, 10 km pipeline for supply of Mari Deep Gas. In the meantime arrangements are in place for payment of already agreed Pepco's share of the project to SNGPL as cost of construction; (iii) finalise GSA for TPS Guddu that has been lying with SNGPL since long simply because Pepco has technically and rightly insisted that the quantities mentioned in the GSA should be amended to 160 mmcfd instead of 120 mmcfd as mentioned in the draft GSA forwarded by SNGPL; and (iv) supply of maximum quantity of gas for TPS Guddu shall reduce the cost of service and go a long way in producing affordable power, which is in accordance with the energy sector vision of the government , outlined by the Prime Minister in April 2010.

From http://www.brecorder.com/ 08/23/2010

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AZERBAIJAN: Insurance Company Introduces Three New Products

Azerbaijani Insurance Company Qarant Sıgorta introduced three new products - "Qarant-flat", "Qarant-responsible neighbor" and "Qarant-entrepreneur", a statement said. Customers who use the product "Qarant-flat", will be able to insure their homes against the risk of flooding. This product provides coverage for damage from flooding as a result of leakage, breaking of water, sewer pipes and water tanks, located in an apartment or a neighbor's apartment (building house). The product "Qarant-responsible neighbor" insures customers and their family members from civil liability for damage to life, health or property of third parties as a result of flooding due to leakage or breaking of water and sewer pipes and water tanks in the apartment or house.

Insurance product "Qarant-entrepreneur" is performed only for the already built and refurbished property used in business. This product provides coverage for damage from flooding as a result of leakage or breaking of water and sewer pipes and water tanks, located in the apartment or in a neighboring apartment (building house). According to the terms of new products, the insurance contract is concluded for the already constructed, renovated and occupied homes and apartments. Otherwise the contract is considered invalid from the moment of signing. Moreover, the agreement covers real estate and movable property located in an apartment, home. The insured sum for any kind of accident and all incidents that occurred within a specified period, is, in general, 5,000 manat. Insurance charges for products "Qarant-flat" and "Qarant-responsible neighbor" is 40 manat.

Insurance charges for the product "Qarant-entrepreneur" varies depending on floor space: 0-100 square meters - 50 manat, 101 - 200 square meters - 80 manat, 201-350 square meters - 105 manat, 351-500 square meters - 125 manat. The insurance fee is disposable for all three products. The policyholder and members of his family are insured. Qarant Sıgorta launched the actual activity since the beginning of 2008. Following 2009, the amount of the insurance company's charges amounted to 4.185 million manat, and the amount of the insurance payments - 250.073 manat. During 2009 employees of the company introduced new products Qarant avto, Qarant Sıgorta, Qarant Usaq, insurance for traveling abroad. Qarant Sığorta got license by the Ministry of Finance to establish "Qarant insurance agent" in 2009. In January 2009, Qarant Sığorta has successfully passed the audit for the international certificate ISO 9001:2008 in Azerbaijan. Insurance Company Qarant Sigorta got license for insurance activity in November 2007 from the Azerbaijani Ministry of Finance. Qarant Sigorta is part of ZQAN Holdings. The company provides services on 18 voluntary and four compulsory insurance. On August 13, the official exchange rate is 0.8037 manat to $1.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/13/2010

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Azerbaijan Presents Opportunities of E-trade Portal

The Azerbaijani Gazakh region hosted a training course on "E-commerce and its role in the development of entrepreneurship" organized by the Baku business education center under the Economic Development Ministry, the ministry reported. The training was attended by the representatives of the training center and entrepreneurs. The portal of e-commerce www.b2b.az, created with the support of the Ministry of Economic Development and German Society for Technical Assistance GTZ was presented. The portal was created to provide support to producers in Azerbaijan, which can post on site the information about the products they wish to buy or sell. The portal www.b2b.az operates in three languages - Azerbaijani, Russian and English. Entrepreneurs can post all information free of charge and the farmers in regions, who have no access to the Internet, can use its services at the regional offices of the Ministry and the National Fund for Entrepreneurship Development.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/23/2010

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GSM Kazakhstan Installs 4G Base Station in Astana

GSM Kazakhstan/KCell has installed its first 4G base station in the capital city Astana. In a presentation endorsed by the Ministry for Communication and Information of the Republic of Kazakhstan, GSM Kazakhstan offered a presentation of its Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, which demonstrated data upload, speed measurement, high resolution digital video, videoconferencing, and video camera connections from Astana to Almaty, transmitted on a 'real time' basis. GSM Kazakhstan has said that its network will offer transmission speeds of up to 100Mbps. Corporate communications director Aida Dossayeva commented: 'At present we observe a vigorous growth of mobile traffic. New communication technologies need to be introduced in order to satisfy growing needs of subscribers for mobile data communication, and meet their expectations of high speed. LTE is rightfully considered one of the most advanced technologies that our country requires for innovative development'. GSM Kazakhstan's parent company TeliaSonera became the first cellco in the world to commercially launch LTE technology when it launched in Sweden and Norway in December 2009.

From http://www.telegeography.com/ 07/29/2010

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KAZAKHSTAN: Government Approved Draft Program on Engineering Development for 2010-2014

Deputy Minister of Industry and New Technologies Albert Rau presented draft Program on Engineering Development for 2010-2014 Tuesday at the sitting of the Government. According to A.Rau, the main purpose of the program is maximum satisfaction of requirements of the domestic market and stimulation of production of engineering good with high added value. The Deputy Minister also paid special attention to the great import dependence of Kazakhstan in engineering products. He said that the draft Program provided development of technologies and innovations in the sector in support of the export of domestic goods, providing tax relieves for research and development, technical regulation of the sector and personnel training. In particular, the Program provides construction of a personnel training center for 700 places in Ust-Kamenogorsk and other. 19 investment projects to the amount of KZT 159 bln 555 mln are planned to be realized within the Program. Upon the results of the sitting the draft Program was approved by the members of the Government.

From http://www.inform.kz/ 08/24/2010

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TURKMENISTAN: President Instructs Government to Increase Exports of Goods

The Ministry of Trade and Foreign Economic Relations of Turkmenistan along with other line departments will work out a detailed plan for further actions to increase exports of goods produced in the country and establishment of close relations with all interested foreign partners, having first examined the needs and opportunities of foreign markets with the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan. As the Turkmenistan.ru correspondent reports from Ashgabat, relevant instructions were issued by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov at a meeting held on 16 August dedicated to the issue of further development of trade, textile and carpet industries and private entrepreneurship. Speaking to the head of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Turkmenistan, Palvan Taganov, the President noted that the Chamber should not only promote domestically produced goods at various international exhibitions, but also contribute to sales of domestic products abroad. "Unfortunately, there are no new initiatives in this respect," Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said, noting the inadequacy of measures taken and work carried out by the senior management of the Chamber. The Turkmen leader demanded that the Deputy Prime Minister Hojamuhammed Muhammedov and Minister of Textile Aynabat Babaeva "steadily increase the volume of sales of domestic textiles in the world markets through the development of marketing services, which are responsible for surveying the market needs and sales of products, as well as opening new markets." The Chairman of the State Joint Stock Corporation "Turkmenhaly" Ogulhadzhat Ishangulyeva was instructed to expand markets for carpet products.

From http://www.turkmenistan.ru/ 08/17/2010

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AUSTRALIA: Bank Criticised over Bomb Finance

Campaigners in Australia are urging the ANZ Bank to stop financing companies that produce cluster munitions. The call comes as a major ban on cluster bombs came into effect on August 1. ANZ provides credit to Lockheed Martin, which produces cluster munitions, and L3 Communications, a company that makes fuses used in the bombs. Mark Zirnsak, the social justice spokesman for the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania, has told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program a postcard campaign is urging the bank to stop financing Lockheed Martin. "Members of the community have been sending in postcards to the ANZ, asking them to join those banks globally that have said they won't do business with companies that manufacture cluster munitions - as a way of pushing these manufacturers to get out of the business," he said.

Cluster bombs are particularly devastating for civilians, with hundreds or thousands of small bomblets scattered over a wide area, posing a risk to those clearing them or to children who pick them up to play with. A postcard produced by campaigners shows six-year old Abdullah, pictured with his left arm missing above the elbow. It explains the Iraqi boy was sleeping in his home in 2003 when a cluster bomb came through his window, the shrapnel blowing off his arm and tearing open his abdomen. On the back of the postcard is the address of ANZ's chief executive officer, Mike Smith, along with a message, urging the bank to stop financing the American weapons maker. In a statement, ANZ said the bank works with its defence clients to ensure they are aware of community views regarding controversial weapons. "ANZ has a clear policy to ensure our involvement in the defence sector is consistent with our commitment to responsible and ethical business practices and decisions," it said. "We regularly communicate the policy's intent to our defence industry clients and we are engaged in an ongoing dialogue with stakeholders, such as the Uniting Church, to ensure we have a full appreciation of their concerns regarding these issues."

More than a hundred nations have signed a treaty banning the use of cluster bombs which came into force this week, but the key producers - America, China, Russia, Brazil, India, Pakistan and Israel - refuse to sign. Australia has signed the convention but hasn't yet ratified it and put in place national laws to enforce the ban. Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties has recommended it do so. Committee Chairman Kelvin Thomson says it should also be illegal for banks to finance companies involved in cluster munitions. "The Treaties Committee is clearly of the view that Australian entities should not be involved in developing or producing cluster munitions, either directly or by providing funds to anyone who might develop or produce cluster munitions," he said. "So, clearly we don't support that activity being undertaken."

From http://www.radioaustralianews.net.au/ 08/05/2010

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Australian Steel Companies Say Overseas Labour Threatening Jobs

Steel fabricators say Western Australia's resources boom is bypassing them, threatening jobs and the sector's long-term future. The Australian Steel Institute says work worth millions of dollars, which could be done in WA, is being sent to overseas fabrication yards. The institute's state manager James England says, unless the WA Government is prepared to enforce higher local content rules on major projects, the industry's future looks bleak. Mr England says WA companies are being disadvantaged because overseas operators are not held to the same safety, environmental and pay standards. "We're more expensive than places that pay their workers a dollar an hour; you can't really be expected to compete with businesses that don't have the same standards," he said. He says foreign firms should adhere to Australian standards when working on Australian projects.

"Well lets get apples for apples. If we're going to be beaten up on price, lets have the standards set the same so if a contractor comes along and says price from company A is half that of company B, well let's look at the standards, we'll level those out and look at how those prices stack up," he said. The Premier and State Development Minister, Colin Barnett, says the steel fabrication sector will be overflowing with work because of the resources boom. But he says some work must be done overseas. "In some cases Australian industry, let alone Western Australian industry does not have the capacity. Some of the components are of a scale and complexity that they cannot be built here," he said. "We are in the fortunate position that there are so many large projects coming on that I think you'll find most of the fabrication and construction operations in this state will be flat out for at least the next five to ten years."

From http://www.radioaustralianews.net.au/ 08/05/2010

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Media Giant Sees Economic Growth Ahead

Media magnate Rupert Murdoch says the economy in the western world remains fragile, but he is very confident about the next six months. News Corporation executives have described the company's results over the last financial year - showing a profit of $US2.5 billion - as solid, Announcing the group's fourth quarter results, Mr Murdoch said the company's advertising revenue was up - describing it as inexplicably good. He says the result shows the company is continuing to thrive on a truly global scale, despite the volatility of world economies.

Helped
Company executives say advertising revenue was up, helping the return to profitability. That has helped push the media conglomerate back into the black, with a profit of $2.5-billion over the last financial year. It finished its last quarter with $875 million in net income. But Mr Murdoch says there is still sufficient fragility in the economy not to be overly confident in the medium term. News Corporation owns newspapers, magazines and other media in countries including Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the US and the UK.

Australian election
Meanwhile, Mr Murdoch has refused to say who he thinks should be Australia's prime minister, saying it's up to his editors to decide. He says he is watching the election closely and doesn't think any great issues have emerged, but he would not answer a question about who should be prime minister. "I think I have no comment at all," he said. "Just read our newspapers and see what our editors think. They have the freedom to decide that."

From http://www.radioaustralianews.net.au/ 08/05/2010

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NEW ZEALAND: Campaign to Fight Foreign Agricultural Investment

A group of New Zealand businessmen have funded a high profile campaign to fight foreign investment in the country's agricultural land. The Save the Farms group has embarked on a newspaper advertising campaign which calls for an end to New Zealand farms being sold to foreign investors. The group's spokesman is a former policeman turned lawyer, Tony Bouchier, and he says he's confident that they'll get a lot of support and that their intention is to encourage a national debate. Last week, a Chinese dairy company, which has bid for 16 dairy farms in New Zealand launched its own campaign to advertise how its investment would benefit the country.

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 08/23/2010

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Cheapest Pacific Telecom Services in Tonga, Palau: Survey

Tonga and Palau have been found to have the cheapest telecommunications in the Pacific according to a new Asian Development Bank survey. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) compared mobile and residential landline charges in 11 Pacific countries and found Tonga offers the cheapest services, closely followed by Palau. Fiji and Samoa also rated well. The highest phone charges are in Kiribati where prices are 6 times those in Tonga. ADB economist, Emma Ferguson, says the survey shows countries that have changed their telecommunications rules in favour of competition and performance have been able to reduce charges. "The survey found the presence of a government phone provider is not a barrier to lower charges, as long as that provider operates on an independent and commercial basis," she said.

From http://www.radioaustralianews.net.au/ 08/10/2010

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