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December 2011, Issue 121
unpan-ap@sass.org.cn
Special Focus on International Anti-corruption Day
ˇˇ GLOBAL: Message of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for 2011 International Anti-corruption Day
GLOBAL: RCOCI Publishes 100 Documents in Observance of International Anti-corruption Day
SOUTH ASIA: Survey of Public Opinion on Corruption
CHINA: Cracking Down on Corruption
SOUTH KOREA: Corruption Row to Undercut Reshuffle Effect
MALAYSIA: Corruption Score Falls Again
INDIA: May Approve Anti-corruption Bill
NEPAL: Govt and Private Sector Partnership Necessary to Curb Corruption'
PAKISTAN: Govt to Make Details of 'Tape Scandal' Public
AFGHANISTAN: Vowing to Tackle Corruption at Bonn Summit
PNG: 154 Ranking in World Corruption a Goal to Work from Says PNG Transparency
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ˇˇ Guidelines for Cost-Effective Disaster Management
Russia Announces APEC's Priorities for 2012
Kyoto Protocol Saved from Extinction, yet Significantly Weakened
Can Asia Step Up to 21st Century Leadership?
Six-Party Nuclear Talks Plunge into Uncertainty
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ˇˇ CHINA: 1st White Paper on Foreign Trade Released
School Bus Regulations Draft Issued
Conference to Map out Economic Policy for 2012
China to Keep Property Curbs and 'Prudent' Policy
China Issues Guideline to Improve Transparency of Charities
China Tightens Control of Social Networks, Demands Real Names on Beijing Microblogs
China Sets Goal for Urban Unemployment
JAPAN: To Set Up Asian Disaster Insurance Plan. Scheme Covers South Pacific States, ASEAN
Govt Draft Proposal Would Ease Curbs on Arms Exports
SOUTH KOREA: Tightens Monitoring of Social Media
South Korea Governing Party Changes Rules
President Lee Urges Resolution of Comfort Women Issue
S. Korea, U.S. Defense Ministers Agree to Cooperate After N.K. Leader's Death
MONGOLIA: Draft Policy on Salaries Backed
Long-waited Revised Law on Election Passed
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ˇˇ INDONESIA: Province Launches IT Literacy Programme
MALAYSIA: Govt Won't Push Through IT Bill If Industry Rejects It
Bill for Affordable Homes Passed
Senate Passes Peaceful Assembly Bill
PM Launches Financial Sector Blueprint 2012-2020
Plans to Enhance Readiness for Retirement
SINGAPORE: Stepping Up Citizen Outreach
Singapore Signs WTO Pledge Against Protectionism
THAILAND: Experts Seek Revamp of Town-planning Law
VIETNAM: Approving First Phase of National Highway Project
Vietnamese City Unveils ICT Transformation Plan
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: Passing Hindu Property Restoration Act
Proper Implementation of Social Safety Net Programme Stressed
INDIA: State to Expand Flagship E-governance Programme
Government Okays Key Anti-graft Bills to Counter Anna Threat
Food Security Bill Gets Cabinet Nod
India May Approve Anti-corruption Bill
SRI LANKA: Launching National IT Literacy Initiative
MALDIVES: President Ratifies Amendment Bill to Export Import Act
PAKISTAN: Passing Women's Rights Bill
Cabinet Approves PSM Revival Plan
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ˇˇ AFGHANISTAN: Laws to Protect Afghan Women Scantily Used: UN
AZERBAIJAN: Presidential Administration - Socially Oriented State Policy to Continue Along with Boosting Opportunities of Azerbaijan
Centralized Control in Adoption Is Proposed in Azerbaijan
Draft of Town Building Code Directed to Parliament in Azerbaijan
GEORGIA: Leader Unveils Grand City Plan
KYRGYZSTAN: Trade Promotion Programme Presents Results
QATAR: Introduces ICT Accessibility Policy
UZBEKISTAN: World Bank Launches New Partnership Strategy with Uzbekistan
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: NSW Gets World's Toughest Wind Farm Rules
COOK ISLANDS: Implementing Pacific Cyber Safety Programme
Cooks Government Plans Promised Pension Increase from Next Year
FIJI: Drawing Up Policy for Elderly
MARSHALL ISLANDS: Marine Resources Authority Welcomes Green Light for PNA Plan
NEW ZEALAND: Extended Deposit Guarantee Scheme to End
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Planning for Public Smoking Ban
TUVALU: Laying Out New Proactive Approach to Aid Delivery
First Country Assistance Strategy to Connect Tuvalu with More Global Opportunities
VANUATU: Passport Law Change Legalised Corruption - Former Cabinet Minister
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ˇˇ ADB: Asian Nations' Development Needs Greater Accountability and Transparency
Message of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for 2011 International Anti-corruption Day
RCOCI Publishes 100 Documents in Observance of International Anti-corruption Day
"One Community, One Destiny" - Cambodia Takes Over as ASEAN Chair for 2012
Asia-Pacific News Agencies Adopt Ethical Guidelines
Survey of Public Opinion on Corruption in South Asia
UNECA, WB, ITU Adopt Framework to Measure Governments' ICT-Based Service Delivery
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ˇˇ CHINA: Civil Service Recruitment Just and Fair
Shanghai Unveils Official Microblog to Serve the Public
Tax Official Denies Corruption Charges
Taiwan Upgrades Training Programs for Civil Servants
Corruption Has No Place in Taiwan's Education System
Chinese Academy of Sciences Elects 51 New Academicians
Scandal-driven Judicial Reform in Henan Gets Public Support
Hong Kong Candidates Heat Up Usually Dry Exec Race
Local Gov'ts Urged to Act on School Bus Safety
China Cracks Down on Corruption
ASEAN and China Observe Permanent Landmark in Beijing, with the Opening of the ASEAN-China Centre
CPC Official Calls to Better Address Public Complaints
Taiwan Holds Final Televised Election Debate
Hong Kong: Public Wants Election Loophole Plugged
Xi Stresses Organization Construction to Prepare for CPC's Congress
Guangzhou Launches Official Microblog
JAPAN: 76% Think Politics Has Deteriorated
Hashimoto Wins Election, Vows to Quickly Press Central Govt on Osaka Metropolis Plan
Ministries Failing to Use IT Procurement Contract Database
Support for Noda Cabinet Falls to 42%, Disapproval Rises to 44% - Respondents Cite Lack of Leadership Behind Disapproval
NORTH KOREA: Leader-in-waiting Unlikely to Push for Reform
N. Korean Leader Kim Dead: State TV
SOUTH KOREA: Corruption Row to Undercut Reshuffle Effect
Preliminary Candidate Registration for General Elections Opens
Workshop on Corruption Impact Assessment
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ˇˇ MALAYSIA: Thumbs Up for Electoral Reforms
Shortlived Bonus Joy for Civil Servants
PHILIPPINES: Province Launches Web Portal for Legislative Activities
Gov't Central Payment System Set
SINGAPORE: To Launch New Business Licensing System by 2013
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: Key Govt Agencies Introduce E-tendering
Cabinet Okays Proposal to Raise Govt Service Age Limit
Child Parliamentarians Propose to Set Up Children Affairs Ministry
SRI LANKA: UN Chief Hopes Sri Lankan Government Will Take Steps on Accountability
MALDIVES: Parliament Reorganises Security Services Committee
NEPAL: Govt Dissolves IT Commission
PAKISTAN: E-governance in Transport Department Soon
Govt Decides to Expedite Reforms in Key Institutions
Govt to Make Details of 'Tape Scandal' Public
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ˇˇ AFGHANISTAN: Vowing to Tackle Corruption at Bonn Summit
ARMENIA: President Reshuffles Government Ahead of Elections
AZERBAIJAN: E-government Portal Created
AZERBAIJAN: E-government Portal Offers 56 Types of Services
GEORGIA: Government Moves to Extraordinary Mode of Operation
KYRGYSTAN: Political Manoeuvring
KUWAIT: Cabinet to Quit, Emir to Dissolve Parliament
Adjust Salaries of Public Sector Staff, Says Otaibi
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: Queensland Appoints First GCIO
Australian PM to Outline Cabinet Reshuffle
FESA to Become Government Department
NEW ZEALAND: MPs Sworn in for New Parliament
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Somare Calls on Public Servants to Remain Neutral
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ˇˇ Asia-Pacific Telcos to Transform in Full Steam in 2012
Empower Women and Be Better Prepared for Climate Change, Says World Bank Study
APEC Builds Expertise on Input-output Tables for Economic Modelling Issued
Busan Outcome and Beyond: Partnering for Progress in Aid Effectiveness
World Bank Strengthens Ability to Respond to Crises in Poorest Countries
Developing Nations' Quest for Reforms
Singapore Tops Asia-Pac 'Good Governance' Index
ADB Introduces Maturity-Based Pricing on Sovereign Loans
Google Boosts Asia Data Capacity
Human Rights Training Workshop for the ASEAN Secretariat
China, Korea, Japan Conclude Joint Study on FTA
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ˇˇ CHINA: Vice-premier Promotes Innovation
Official Stresses Improving Social Management
Gov't Weibo Learning to Talk the Good Talk
China Keen on Action in Global Efforts Against Climate Change
China Improves Education Access for Disabled
JAPAN: Government Drafts 'Happiness Indicators' to Supplement Economic Data
Govt Relief Program Cost-cutting Effort Stalls
Japan to Open Up 7 Cities to Bids for Public Works
SOUTH KOREA: The World's First Low-carbon Product Certification Introduced
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ˇˇ MALAYSIA: Corruption Score Falls Again
Malaysian State Police Curbs Crimes Using Facebook
Household Waste Separation to Start September 2012
PHILIPPINES: Training Teachers in Computer Labs Management
Gov't Cites Model OFW Families
SINGAPORE: Launching Universal Authentication Token
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: Workshop Held in India on Local Governance, B'desh Shared Experiences
Managing Medical Waste in Bangladesh
Skill to Be Enhanced Through Exchange of Mutual Cooperation and Experience: Minister
INDIA: Technology for Non-profits
India Puts Retail Reform on Hold
Seminar on E-commerce Strategies in Dimapur
MALDIVES: To Clean Its 'Rubbish Island'
PAKISTAN: Skills Development Programme to Be Evolved for Youth
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ˇˇ AZERBAIJAN: Legal Entities to Make Online Tax Reports from 2012
AZERBAIJAN: First Regional Innovation Zone to Appear
TAJIKISTAN: IFC Helps Implement Best Risk Management Practices
UZBEKISTAN: Financial Risk-management Training
Establishment of Information Exchange Between Customs Authorities of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan Through ASYCUDA Established
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: To Launch Soil Mapping Facility
NEW ZEALAND: Women Move Up the Govt Ranks
Green Light for Red Zone Innovation Hub
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: 154 Ranking in World Corruption a Goal to Work from Says PNG Transparency
TONGA: Call to Improve Recruitment and Training of RSE Workers
VANUATU: To Get New Teacher Standards
Pacific Media Body to Start Training Programme with British Help
ˇˇ Top 10 ICT Predictions for Asia-Pacific: IDC
'Redraw the Line' Campaign Raises Climate Change Awareness in Asia
Social Watch Report 2012: Rights as the Basis of Sustainable Development
Asia's Economy Heading for 'Yo-Yo' Year in 2012
Asia to Overtake US as World's Top Casino Market by 2013: PwC
Growth of Computer Graphic Industry in Asia
No Great Game: The Story of Post-Cold War Powers in Central Asia
OSCE: Political Stability Needed for Successful Infrastructural Development of Central Asia
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ˇˇ CHINA: Top 10 Events to Commemorate WTO Entry
Over 90,000 Detained for Illegal Food Production, Gambling, Drug Trafficking
Study Finds 75% Construction Workers Work Without Contract in China
China's Economy at a Turning Point
China to Hold Unemployment Rate Under 5%
JAPAN: Net Users Warned Against Recycling IDs
Gov't Warns of Increasing Rates of HIV, AIDS Infection
Japan's Post-tsunami Revival Plan Reaches Tipping Point
No. of Welfare Recipients Reaches Record High
Japan Central Bank Says Business Confidence Falls
Japan Premier Says Nuclear Site Stable
SOUTH KOREA: Top 1% Make Over W130 Million a Year
65% of Citizens Believe Korean Society Is Corrupt
S. Korea Revises Down Growth Forecasts
South Korea Slashes 2012 GDP View on Global Uncertainty
Korea's Jobless Rate to Top 3.7% in 2012: Think Tanks
OPINION: The 'Angry Generation' in Korea
Index Shows Business Sentiment Down
MONGOLIA: ADB Funded Road Program to Spur Growth, Development in West Mongolia
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ˇˇ INDONESIA: To Use E-audit System in Western Province
MALAYSIA: To Set Up 4,000 WiFi Villages by 2012
PHILIPPINES: Project Seeks Improved Living Conditions of Poor
SINGAPORE: Launch of OneKey - Security and Convenience for Online Transactions
E-waste Recycling in Singapore
Singapore's Economy May Grow 3% in 2012: MAS Survey
THAILAND: Focus on Educational Strengths, Govt Told
ICT to Monitor Websites
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ˇˇ INDIA: Delhi to Have E-registration for Property Deals
M-governance Gains Momentum in India
India Seeks Internet Content Screening
India's Income Inequality Doubles in 20 Years: OECD
15% Renewable Energy Use in India by 2020
NEPAL: Govt to Maintain Stability for Economic Prosperity
Nepal's Priority on Social-economic Transformation: Minister Bhatta
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ˇˇ AZERBAIJAN: Primary Provider to Ensure Eurovision-2012 Internet Resource Security
Azerbaijan Launches e-Registration of Cash Machines
Salary Increases in Azerbaijan Cover About 670,000 State Employees
Azerbaijan to Expand Wi-Fi Network
Number of Facebook Users in Azerbaijan Exceeds 600,000
GEORGIA: EBRD - Georgian Economy Healthy and Developing
Government Lays Out 2011 Achievements
IRAN: To Launch a Secure Internet
KAZAKHSTAN: To Create ICT Development Fund
Kazakhstan Government Blocks Internet and Mobile Networks
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: Leveraging Broadband to Provide In-home Healthcare
Australian State Releases Transport Info App
Aged Care Funding in Disarray
NEW ZEALAND: Government to Look at House Affordability
Solid Economic Growth amid Global Uncertainty
Internet Crime Website to Be Launched for Pacific Users
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ˇˇ Developing Countries to Receive Over $350 Billion in Remittances in 2011, Says World Bank Report
Development Banks Agree New Partnership for Climate Action in Cities
Rising Risk of Deep Eurozone-US Recessions Poses Threat to Asia
ADB Says Global Financial Instability Shows Need for Fiscal Discipline in Pacific
Net Capital Flows to Developing Countries in 2010 Returned to Their Pre-crisis Levels, Says World Bank
Global Database Market to Grow 11.6% in 2011
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ˇˇ CHINA: Hong Kong Tops Global Financial Development Index
China to Keep "Appropriate" Investment Growth in 2012-planner
JAPAN: Public Fund Posts Worst Performance in 3 Years
Japan's Tax Raise Plan Snubbed in Poll
Govt Decides Tax Cut Plan for Next Year / Focus on Car Owners, 'Eco' Home Buyers
Japan Commits $20 m to South Asia Clean Energy Fund
Pension Boost Planned for FY13
World Bank Commemorates 40 Years of Issuing Bonds in Japan
Cabinet OKs Tax-hiking Budget Plan
Japan to Trim 2012/13 Budget, Rely on Special Bonds
SOUTH KOREA: Government to Raise Taxes for High-Income Earners
Pension Fund Favors Foreign Dollars
Park Seeks to Boost Welfare Spending
S&P Affirms S. Korea Sovereign Credit Ratings
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ˇˇ MALAYSIA: Up in WEF Financial Health Report, But Cost Remains Concern
IGP: Police Taking Money-laundering Seriously
PHILIPPINES: Spending US$10 Mil on Weather Facilities Upgrade
Philippines: WB Approves New Funding to Improve Delivery of Services to Poor Communities
Tax Crimes Linked to Money Laundering
Gov't Readies Fund Assistance to Victims of Storm Sendong
Govt Urged to Start Spending National Budget
Gov't Taps Banks for Planned 2012 Dollar Bond Sale
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: To Get $4.5 Billion for Poverty Reduction
High Rate of Inflation a More Pressing Problem for Bangladesh
SRI LANKA: World Bank Approves US$100 Million to Transform School Education System in Sri Lanka to Benefit 4 Million Children and 235,000 Teachers and Administrators
Sri Lanka Reaches Billion Dollar FDI Volume in 2011: Minister
NEPAL: IMF Suggests to Increase Lendings of Banks, Financial Institutions
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ˇˇ ARMENIA: Remittances Soar in 2011
AZERBAIJAN: Central Bank Prepares State Program to Promote Non-cash Payments
Azerbaijan's State Budget to Allocate Funds for SOCAR's Non-profile Assets
TURKEY: Defense and Security Budgets on Rise
UZBEKISTAN: IFC Helps Financial Organizations Expand Lending, Supporting Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses
Uzbek Health Sector Faces Spending Cuts
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: Govt Owed $1.7m for Emergency Help
FIJI: Ministry of Finance Says Prudent Financial Management Key to Budget
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Treasurer Delivers Budget
PNG Parliament Passes Budget
SOLOMON ISLANDS: Finance Minister Announces Tax Cuts
Solomon Islands Government Says Broad Support for Cost-cutting
TUVALU: World Bank Providing Millions for Its Development
World Bank Launches Multi Million Dollar Pacific Aviation Project
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ˇˇ CHINA: Private Colleges Offer Degrees in Social Work
Senior Official Reiterates Support for Non-public Economy
China to Focus on Private Investment as Growth Slows
SOUTH KOREA: To Consider Its First Sale of 30-Year Bonds
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ˇˇ LAOS: Private Sector Backs WFP's Nutrition Project
BURMA: Unlocking the Potential of the Private Sector
MALAYSIA: Broadband Plan - Stimulating the Private Sector
SINGAPORE: Private Sector More Bullish About Singapore Economy - MAS Survey
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: Private Sector Credit Expansion Declines in October
Govt Urged to Stop Bank Borrowing; It's Hurting Private Sector Credit Flow: FBCCI
INDIA: Telecom Sector's Diesel Consumption Under Question
SRI LANKA: Private Sector Urged to Increase Investment
NEPAL: Govt and Private Sector Partnership Necessary to Curb Corruption'
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ˇˇ AZERBAIJAN: MPs Discuss Flaws in Construction Industry
Challenge in Central Asia, South Caucasus Is to Diversify, Increase Agricultural Productivity, Reduce Red Tape, with Private-Sector Help, Says Secretary-General
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: Pain for Private Sector
Govt Looks to Private Sector for Christchurch Hospitals Rebuild
Manufacturing and Retail Boost Economy

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Special Focus

International Anti-corruption Day

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GLOBAL: Message of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for 2011 International Anti-corruption Day

Corruption afflicts all countries, undermining social progress and breeding inequality and injustice. When desperately needed development funds are stolen by corrupt individuals and institutions, poor and vulnerable people are robbed of the education, health care and other essential services. Although the poor may be marginalized by corruption, they will not be silenced. In events across the Arab world and beyond this year, ordinary people have joined their voices in denouncing corruption and demanding that governments combat this crime against democracy. Their protests have triggered changes on the international scene that could barely have been imagined just months previously. All of us have a responsibility to take action against the cancer of corruption. The United Nations is helping countries combat corruption as part of our broader, system-wide campaign to help bolster democracy and good governance. The United Nations Convention Against Corruption is a powerful tool in the fight. I urge all governments that have not yet ratified it to do so without delay. I also call on governments to include anti-corruption measures in all national programmes that support sustainable development. The private sector, too, stands to gain enormously from effective action. Corruption distorts markets, increases costs for companies and ultimately punishes consumers. Companies can create a more transparent global economy through anti-corruption initiatives, including the work of the United Nations Global Compact. On this International Anti-Corruption Day, let us pledge to do our part by cracking down on corruption, shaming those who practice it and engendering a culture that values ethical behaviour.

From http://www.un.org/ 12/09/2011

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GLOBAL: RCOCI Publishes 100 Documents in Observance of International Anti-corruption Day

SHANGHAI, 9 December 2011 - Marking the 8th International Anti-Corruption Day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement, reminding citizens all over the world to take action against corruption. "Let us pledge to do our part," he urged, "by cracking down on corruption, shaming those who practice it and engendering a culture that values ethical behavior." In Shanghai, the Regional Cooperation Office of City Informatization (RCOCI) takes prompt action. As always, it tries its best to support UN in its own way. This time, its UNPAN-AP Editorial Department makes a brilliant effort in uploading 100 valuable documents to the United Nations Public Administration Network (UNPAN), with an aim of raising people's awareness of combating and preventing corruption. The series of documents includes legislations, country profiles, case studies, and analytical reports, revealing corruption in various forms such as bribery, law-breaking without dealing with the consequences in a fair manner, unfairly amending election processes and results, and covering mistakes or silencing whistleblowers, etc.

From http://www.unpan.org/ 12/10/2011

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SOUTH ASIA: Survey of Public Opinion on Corruption

The anti-corruption organisation Transparency International will release a new survey of six South Asian countries on 22 December. The report Daily Lives and Corruption, Public Opinion in South Asia surveyed more than 7500 people between 2010 and 2011 in Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The survey asks respondents whether they think corruption has increased and which institutions are considered most corrupt. It also asks if people have paid a bribe in the past 12 months, to whom and for what.

Launch: Daily Lives and Corruption, Public Opinion in South Asia
22 December 2011

Panel discussion in Kathmandu, Nepal:
Hotel Annapurna
140 Durbar Marg, Kathmandu
13.00 local time (07.15 GMT)

and available online
@ www.transparency.org

Individual interviews may be arranged with both regional and national experts.

Transparency International is the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption. For interview requests or for enquires about the panel discussion please contact:

In Kathmandu:
Thama Nath Ghimire
+ 977 1 4436462 (office)
+ 977 9851122074 (cell) In Berlin:
Chris Sanders
Tel. +49 30 34 38 20 666
press@transparency.org

From http://www.transparency.org/ 12/19/2011

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CHINA: Cracking Down on Corruption

China uncovered 2.85 billion yuan (449.5 million U.S. dollars) of illegal off-the-book funds held by government departments and public institutions in the first 11 months of 2011, the Ministry of Finance announced Tuesday. Authorities found more than 8,000 "covert coffers," accounts that are often used to embezzle public funds or become a source of bribery, said the ministry in a statement. From the start of January to the end of November, 2,426 people received administrative penalties for setting up and using such accounts, and 902 were transferred to judicial organs for investigation, according to the statement. China launched a nationwide operation against "covert coffers" in 2009 as part of its efforts to fight corruption. The operation has effectively contained such illegal acts but problems still exist in a small number of departments and institutions, said Minister of Finance Xie Xuren. Xie said in October that the country had unearthed more than 58,000 "covert coffers", involving 26.65 billion yuan, between 2009 and the end of August.

From Xinhua News Agency 12/14/2011

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SOUTH KOREA: Corruption Row to Undercut Reshuffle Effect

With a year left in office, President Lee Myung-bak replaced his chief of staff Sunday amid political upheaval underway in the ruling party after the party chairman resigned last week. Political scientists remain skeptical about the role of the reshuffle in helping the lame duck President improve relations with the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) and regain credibility in the eyes of the public. Hong Sung-gul, professor of the Department of Public Administration at Kookmin University based in Seoul, said it is unlikely for Lee to be able to contain the spread of public distrust due to an ongoing corruption row. Several of Lee's relatives and an aide to his brother Rep. Lee Sang-deuk of the GNP were recently implicated in bribery cases.

Rep. Lee announced Sunday that he will not seek re-election in the April parliamentary elections, a move designed to block negative fallout of his aide's involvement in the bribery case. Despite this, Hong said the corruption row will deal a serious blow to the President. According to the political scientist, the row could undercut the reshuffle effect and will leave the President suffering from the consequences. On Sunday, President Lee named Ha Kum-loul, 61, a veteran broadcast journalist, as presidential chief of staff, replacing Yim Tae-hee. Yim, a former lawmaker, stepped down 17 months after he assumed the key post. The announcement was seen as coming sooner than expected. Earlier last week, a senior presidential aide told reporters Lee would be able to find time to screen candidates and conduct a reshuffle only after the budget proposal gets the green light in parliament. The budget plan is pending in the legislature.

The senior official made the remarks when asked about the probability of each candidate reportedly on the list as the prospective potential presidential chief of staff. At that time, three or four of Lee's confidants were mentioned as awaiting screening and interviews. Ha was not one of them, indicating the selection process was underway under tight security. A presidential aide told The Korea Times on condition of anonymity that the screening and interview of the senior journalist were conducted so secretly that even insiders didn't recognize Ha had gone through the necessary procedures. But the official said the timing was not a surprise because presidential aides believed it would be a waiting game for the budget proposal to be approved in the National Assembly. So the presidential office couldn't wait as it could lose the right timing for the reshuffle.President Lee is said to have sought a person who has a balanced view and can report public opinion to him without editing so as to help him respond effectively.

Park steals show
Shin Yul, professor of department of political science at Myongji University, predicted communication with the ruling party seeking a facelift ahead of the National Assembly elections won't be easy for President Lee. "If Rep. Park Geun-hye takes over the GNP leadership, it will be unavoidable that the former party chairwoman, who has the highest rating among presidential bidders in the ruling camp, will steal the show," Shin said. Considering how things have usually been done in previous administrations, Park is expected to distance the ruling party from the unpopular President as a tactic to help the GNP gain credibility with the public. This will inevitably lead to a sour relationship between the GNP and the presidential office, analysts say. Park is credited with saving the GNP in 2004 after the party suffered from an unsuccessful push to impeach then President Roh Moo-hyun.

The daughter of the late President Park Chung-hee is expected to pursue a massive reform to enable the GNP to successfully woo voters in upcoming elections. Hahm Sung-deuk, a professor of Korea University, said her taking over the party leadership at a time a year before the presidential election could be a high-stakes poker game."Park's leadership could be tested as there are several tough challenges ahead. First of all, she needs to exert effective leadership to pull together bipartisan support over the budget proposal and that won't be an easy job," the political scientist said.Hahm said Park is also required to manage inter-party relations, while being asked to come up with an innovative plan to overhaul the conservative party. Thus, her job at this critical juncture could risk her presidential bid next year as her leadership will be put to the test, he said.

From http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/ 12/12/2011

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MALAYSIA: Corruption Score Falls Again

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score has worsened for the third year running, slipping to 4.3 this year from 4.4 in 2010, according to a Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) report. Malaysia's country ranking also fell to 60 out of 183 countries from 56 out of 178 last year. It remained the third-least corrupt nation in Asean after Singapore (9.2) and Brunei (5.2), with Thailand (3.4) and Indonesia (3.0) following in fourth and fifth places respectively. Singapore also placed fifth in the overall country rankings and was the highest-ranked Asian nation this year. "Singapore is way ahead and I would like to point out that Indonesia is improving very fast and may overtake us because Indonesia has shown some will," said TI-M secretary-general Josie Fernandez (picture). New Zealand (9.5), Denmark (9.4) and Finland (9.4) were ranked the least corrupt nations in the world, while Somalia (1.0), North Korea (1.0) and Myanmar (1.5) were the most corrupt. Malaysia's Corruption Barometer results were unchanged, with 40 per cent of the public saying graft levels have stayed the same over the past three years and would remain so for the next three. The Corruption Barometer is a measure of the public perception of corruption. Members of the public saw the police and political parties as the most corrupt institutions, with the police named as the most likely recipient of bribes in the past 12 months.

But the percentage of respondents who admitted to paying bribes in the past year has fallen to 1.2 per cent from nine per cent in 2010. Forty-nine per cent also thought the government's efforts to fight corruption were effective or very effective, up a touch from 48 per cent last year. However, the number of respondents who felt Putrajaya's battle against graft was ineffective or very ineffective rose five points to 25 per cent. "This means the fence sitters have moved to see government's efforts as ineffective," said TI-M exco member Ngooi Chiu Ing. Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) corruption NKRA director D. Ravindran, present at the launch of report, said it was "clearly not very good news" that Malaysia was now further from its 4.9 CPI benchmark. However, he said it was more a mixed result if seen holistically, pointing out that almost half the public still saw the government's fight against corruption as effective. He added the Pemandu would continue its efforts to clamp down on "grand corruption" and increase the successful prosecution of corruption by the national anti-graft agency. "Some of these other things we are pursuing, we've not let it go, and hopefully we'll see some success going forward," Ravindran said.

From http://my.news.yahoo.com/ 12/01/2011

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INDIA: May Approve Anti-corruption Bill

NEW DELHI: India's cabinet was expected to approve a landmark anti-corruption bill which was the focus of nationwide demonstrations in August that rocked the government. An official in the prime minister's office said the cabinet meeting had been scheduled for 2:00pm (0830 GMT) on Tuesday. The new legislation would create a powerful new "Lokpal" or ombudsman tasked with probing and prosecuting senior politicians and civil servants suspected of graft. In August, veteran Indian activist Anna Hazare held a 12-day hunger strike to protest against an initial draft of the bill, saying it was a toothless measure incapable of curbing the rampant corruption it was meant to target. His campaign brought millions of ordinary Indians onto the streets in cities across the country, in a national outpouring of anger and frustration at the culture of bribery and kick-backs that permeates every level of Indian society. The public response was a shock for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's coalition government, which has been tainted by a series of high-profile corruption scandals. The precise details of the bill to be discussed by the cabinet on Tuesday are not known. The main dispute has been over who would fall under the ombudsman's ambit, with the Hazare campaign insisting that it should include the prime minister, the judiciary and lower-level civil servants. Hazare has threatened a second hunger strike beginning December 27 if the final version of the bill presented to parliament falls short of his demands. Time is running out, with the current parliamentary session scheduled to close on Wednesday, although there have been reports that the government would consider a one-week extension.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 12/20/2011

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NEPAL: Govt and Private Sector Partnership Necessary to Curb Corruption'

All should unite and remain committed to curb corruption in the country, said speakers at a workshop jointly organised by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) and Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) that kicked off in the capital from Wednesday. Speaking in the two-day programme under the theme "Good Governance-Zero Tolerance to Corruption" Secretary at CIAA Bhagawati Kumar Kafle said that the government, human rights organisations, civil society and privates sector should put their efforts to fight against corruption. Saying that the CIAA has been trying its best to control corruption in the country, Kafle informed that the anti-corruption body has also been conducting community education in some 30,000 schools and colleges across the country on corruption and is also taking complaints from general public from toll-free and hotline system against corruption among others. Terming corruption the number one enemy of good governance, Chief Secretary Madhav Prasad Ghimire said misuse of power, political interference, lack of proper implementation are giving rise to corruption in the country. Similarly, US ambassador to Nepal Scott H. DeLisi also termed corruption as a 'social evil' which has been risking the developing countries.

Saying that the corruption has been affecting the government and also hampering in the investment cost, DeLisi said corruption can still be minismised with the coordination between government, political parties, government officials and business leaders. Likewise, officiating president of FNCCI Bhasker Raj Rajkarnikar said that the federation is committed to continue anti-corruption campaign. Transparency International (TI), the global coalition against corruption, has ranked Nepal in 154th position out of 183 countries surveyed in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2011, making it one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The index shows that with a 2.2 score, Nepal is second most corrupt country in the SAARC region, below Sri Lanka (3.3) India (3.1), Bangladesh (2.7), Maldives (2.5), Pakistan (2.5). Like in 2010, Afghanistan, with a score of 1.5, was ranked as the most corrupt country in SAARC. Nepal slipped eight positions down this year. Last year, Nepal was ranked 146th and, same as this year, was second most corrupt country in SAARC after Afghanistan.

From http://www.nepalnews.com/ 12/14/2011

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PAKISTAN: Govt to Make Details of 'Tape Scandal' Public

* Interior minister says people creating panic through SMS not to be spared
ISLAMABAD: Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Sunday said that the government would make public the details about the "tape scandal". Talking to the media persons after visiting the First International Target and Outdoor Shooting Sports (TOSS) Show at Pak-China Friendship Centre, he said that he had directed the interior secretary to collect details regarding the "tape scandal". The people have the right to know the truth, he added. He said that during the Nawaz Sharif's regimes, Benazir was awarded "double" punishment in fake cases. The government would expose the vested interest behind the "tape scandal" and make the solid proofs in this regard public, he said. He said the enemies of country wanted to de-stabilise the country and the media should report the events with authenticity and avoid baseless stories. Separately, talking to reporters at Benazir Bhutto International Airport after his return from Dubai, Malik urged the masses not to pay attention to the speculations, as those who were spreading the rumours would be disappointed. The interior minister said that a number of Pakistani prisoners in United Arab Emirates (UAE) involved in petty cases. "I have discussed with UAE interior minister about release of these prisoners." He said a UAE investigating team would visit Pakistan soon in this connection and a Pakistani team would also visit UAE to ascertain the correct number of these prisoners held there. To a question about Karachi situation, the minister said that no one would be allowed to disturb the peace of Karachi. Rehman Malik said a meeting of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), Cyber crime wing and authorities concerned is also being held to investigate into the matter of unethical and unlawful SMS. He said that the government would take stern action against the people who were creating panic among the masses by spreading rumours through Short Messaging Service (SMS).

From http://pakistanlink.org/ 12/19/2011

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AFGHANISTAN: Vowing to Tackle Corruption at Bonn Summit

Afghanistan has promised to fight corruption in exchange for international support after NATO withdraws in 2014. The promise came at the end of a one-day global conference in the German city of Bonn on Afghanistan's future. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai at Bonn summit/ Photo credit: Khama Press The closing communique said "substantial progress" had been made since the last conference 10 years ago, weeks after the Taliban was toppled. However, key player Pakistan has boycotted the talks. Islamabad has been angered by a Nato attack on a border checkpoint last month that killed 24 of its soldiers. The final communique said that the international community was ready to stand by Afghanistan in the 10 years after Nato's withdraw - in exchange for good governance.

"The protection of civilians, strengthening the rule of law and the fight against corruption in all its forms remain key priorities," the document read. "Al-Qaeda has been disrupted and Afghanistan's national security institutions are increasingly able to assume responsibility for a secure and independent Afghanistan," it says. However, it added that "shortcomings must be addressed" with the goal of creating a peaceful Afghanistan "in which international terrorism does not again find sanctuary and that can assume its rightful place among sovereign nations". The communique concludes by saying that as foreign forces leave Afghanistan a "decade of transformation" should begin "in which Afghanistan consolidates its sovereignty". It says the international community's vision for Afghanistan is of a "stable and functioning democracy... conducive to prosperity and peace".However, correspondents say that behind the optimistic diplomatic language, Afghanistan faces immense challenges - the country will be dependent on billions of dollars of foreign aid for years to come and the absence of Pakistan or representatives from the Taliban has cast a shadow over the summit.

Not abandoned
Earlier, Afghan President Hamid Karzai hailed the progress his country had made but warned that such gains were by no means secure. "The people of Afghanistan are looking to this conference for clear affirmation of commitment to make security transition and economic progress irreversible," he said. About 1,000 delegates from 100 countries and international organisations took part in Monday's gathering. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, as host of the conference, said: "We send a clear message to the people of Afghanistan: we will not leave you alone, you will not be abandoned." US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she thought it "unfortunate" that Pakistan was not attending. "We continue to believe that Pakistan has a crucial role to play," she told reporters on the sideline of the meeting.

Mrs Clinton also said that Washington was ending a freeze on hundreds of millions of dollars in development funds to Kabul, following financial reforms there. Afghan and US officials have repeatedly said that militant groups operating in Afghanistan are based in Pakistan - a charge Pakistan denies. Nato apologised for the air strike on 26 November but Pakistan insisted it would not attend the talks. Efforts to hold talks with the Taliban have brought no tangible result so far. In September militants assassinated former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was leading Kabul's effort to broker peace with the insurgents. Correspondents say a failure to bring the Taliban into the peace process will make it harder to secure the long-term commitments needed to rebuild Afghanistan when Nato operations end in 2014.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 12/06/2011

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PNG: 154 Ranking in World Corruption a Goal to Work from Says PNG Transparency

Transparency International Papua New Guinea says the country is making progress on corruption, despite its 154th place in an international index of 182 countries ranked as corrupt. The chairperson, Lawrence Stephens, made the comment following an event his organisation hosted to mark today's international Anti-Corruption Day. Mr. Stephens says the gathering of school students and others was an opportunity for the community to observe the level of corruption in society and to make a public statement about it. He says although many politicians are involved in some form of corruption Transparency International PNG is working with the members of parliament who are committed to stopping it.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 12/09/2011

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Guidelines for Cost-Effective Disaster Management

Effective prevention of natural disasters is often possible and cost-effective, says Natural Hazards, Unnatural Disasters, a World Bank report dealing with the economics of effective prevention. Large natural disasters leave heavy economic footprints. Effective prevention and preparedness will reduce the disaster risk and take the burden off Finance Ministers, says the report released in the Indian capital by the Union Minister for Rural Minister Development Jairam Ramesh and the World Bank Managing Director Mahmoud Mohieldin. The report, released in nine languages across 22 countries predicts rising exposure to storms and earthquakes in the coming years making Asia and Pacific regions most vulnerable to natural disasters. Going by the report's estimates, India will experience thrice the number of earthquakes by 2050. This puts disaster management in the spotlight of future policy framework. Disasters come with heavy economic loss, accompanied by even heavier burden of relief and reconstruction. They have dealt a serious blow to many economies by widening budgetary deficits. When floods struck Pakistan in 2011, the budgetary deficit rose from 4.5% to 7.5-8.5%. This report, prepared under the guidance of economist Apurva Sanghi, offers a number of policy guidelines to face and manage natural disasters while not overburdening the budget.

Traditionally, government spending on prevention is lower than relief spending. The report underlines that creating institutions for disaster risk mitigation and preparedness which employ early warning systems, effective information dissemination, incentives to promote individual disaster prevention and smart infrastructures can significantly decrease the costs in dealing with natural disasters. The first policy implication is to make information available on hazards public and accessible. Another aspect important for India is infrastructure. Talking to OneWorld, Apurva makes it imperative for India not only to invest in new infrastructure but to operate and maintain the existing infrastructure. Shashidhar Reddy, Vice-chairman, National Disaster Management Authoity (NDMA) of India spotlighted the institutional arrangements India has in place to tackle natural disasters effectively. The initial focus of NDMA has shifted from the three Rs -Relief, Recovery and Reconstruction - to - prevention, preparedness and mitigation. Cost-effective measures of disaster management can be seamlessly merged with the existing development policies. Jairam Ramesh announced that India's rural employment guarantee programme will be upgraded to develop a mechanism to build resilience to natural disasters and adaptation to climate change. "We have the resources that can be put in place. All it requires is much more intelligent choice by local institutions which have the responsibility for implementing rural employment guarantee act and then providing the technical background," he said.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 12/13/2011

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Russia Announces APEC's Priorities for 2012

Facing a global economic slowdown and uncertainty in the financial sector, APEC senior officials gathered in St. Petersburg this week to set their priorities for 2012 aimed at boosting growth in trade and investment in Asia-Pacific. The meeting took place just three weeks after APEC Economic Leaders met in Honolulu, United States, where they took concrete steps toward building a seamless regional economy to generate growth and create jobs. Chairing APEC in 2012, Russia announced the theme for next year, "Integrate to Grow, Innovate to Prosper" , and pledged to facilitate APEC's collective efforts to increase sustainability and the pace of development. With full support from APEC member economies, Russian Senior Official, Ambassador Gennady Ovechko, announced that APEC will seek to achieve tangible results based on the following priorities: Expanding trade and investment liberalization and expanding regional economic integration; Strengthening food security; Establishing reliable supply chains; and Fostering innovative growth.

Ambassador Ovechko said regional economic integration plays a key role in promoting peace and stability. Describing the shift towards the Asia-Pacific, he expressed concern that the Eurozone crisis could influence financial distortions on world commodity markets, trade and investment. "To address these concerns, APEC will seek to make progress on a number of issues such as integration, investments, fighting protectionism, securing food markets, establishing reliable supply chains and fostering innovation policies," said Ambassador Ovechko, who chaired the Informal Senior Officials' Meeting. He said APEC has an important role to play in improving regional and global food security."Facing major challenges to the food supply, such as price fluctuations, APEC will search for sustainable development in the agricultural sector, facilitation of investment and trade, establishing efficient and resilient food markets and market infrastructure." "In 2012, APEC will pursue proposals for sustainable agricultural development and stable markets including increased transparency, monitoring and information exchange on agricultural production, and developing policies for community resilience and a more inclusive food supply for socially vulnerable population groups."

Ambassador Ovechko also said APEC will prioritize addressing the major chokepoints in supply chains to better ensure the smooth flow of trade. "Reliability of the supply chain is the key issue in APEC and worldwide. They should respond to possible risks related to routing, maintenance and development," said Ovechko. "It is necessary to ensure appropriate risk management, safe operation and protection of transport and transportation facilities." In 2012, APEC plans to push for policies that encourage innovation in the region that will increase productivity and ensure economic growth. "We believe that fostering cooperation in innovation will help us boost future trade and investment in APEC, improve existing and build new global production and supply chains," he said. "Some areas include developing hi-tech sectors and addressing barriers to investment; promoting technological progress among all APEC economies through networking among innovation centers; and providing APEC platforms for cooperation where business and scientists can discuss markets and policy needs." APEC officials will convene throughout 2012 in Russia, including Moscow in February, Kazan in June and Vladivostok in September. Ministers will also meet during the year in these cities, as well as in St. Petersburg, Khabarovsk and Yaroslavl. Finally, the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting will be held on Russky Island in Vladivostok on 8 - 9 September 2012.

From http://www.apec.org/ 12/13/2011

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Kyoto Protocol Saved from Extinction, yet Significantly Weakened

The UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, ended on Saturday 10 with the launch of negotiations for a new global climate deal to be completed in 2015. The new deal aims to ensure "the highest possible mitigation efforts by all parties", meaning that the countries should undertake deep greenhouse gas emissions cuts, or lower the growth rates of their emissions. It will take the form of either a protocol, another legal instrument or an outcome with legal force. In a night of high drama, the European Union tried to pressurise India and China to agree to commit to a legally binding treaty such as a protocol, and to agree to cancel the term "legal outcome" from the list of possible results, as they said this was too weak an option. The EU and the United States have said they want major developing countries to undertake emissions-cutting obligations similar to theirs. This is a departure from the Climate Change Convention which distinguishes between the binding commitments that rich countries have to undertake and the voluntary climate actions that developing countries should do. At the closing plenary on Dec 11, Indian environment minister Jayan­thi Natarajan gave a passionate defence why India was against committing to a legally binding protocol, and the need to base the new talks on equity.

Why, she asked, should India give a blank cheque by agreeing upfront to joining a protocol when the content of that protocol was not yet known? "We are not talking about changing lifestyles but about the effects on the livelihoods of millions of poor farmers," she said. "Why should I sign away the rights of 1.2 billion people? Is that equity?" Jayanthi said that the resolution on the new round of talks did not even contain the words equity or common but differentiated responsibility, a term in the Convention meaning that rich countries should contribute more than poor ones in the fight against climate change. If such a protocol is developed, in which poor countries had to cut their emissions as much as rich countries, "we will be giving up the equity principle. "It is goodbye to common and differentiated responsibility. "It would be the greatest tragedy." Several countries, including China, the Philippines, Pakistan and Egypt, supported India's position. Eventually, it was agreed that the term "legal outcome" be changed to "outcome with legal force", and the Conference approved the launching of the new talks. At the same time, it also took steps to wind down the current framework of climate talks, comprising the Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Road Map.

The Kyoto Protocol was saved from extinction by a decision by mainly European countries to enter a second period of emissions reduction commitments to start in 2013. However, Kyoto has been significantly and perhaps fatally weakened. Japan, Russia and Canada have pulled out of a second period, while Australia and New Zealand notified that they may or may not join. With only the European countries left, the Kyoto Protocol may live on till 2017 or 2020, but by then it may already be overshadowed by the new deal. The sketchy terms of reference of this new deal were remarkable for being so one-sided in favour of developed countries, as the equity principle was conspicuously absent, and the implied principle was that all countries had to take part, and having a high ambition for total emission cuts. The Durban conference also finalised details for a new Green Climate Fund, which will start operating with a Board and interim secretariat by early 2012. At times the Durban talks looked as if they were going off track, with disagreements on many issues. Even at the last session there were grumbles about how the South Africans, which managed the meeting, were trying to push through resolutions and texts without allowing for changes. In the end Durban may be remembered for phasing out climate change frameworks based on equity and launching talks for a new treaty whose contours are yet to be defined.

From http://www.socialwatch.org/ 12/16/2011

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Can Asia Step Up to 21st Century Leadership?

IF one had any doubts about the world being in the midst of a huge power shift, recent events should have dispelled those. From Europeans appealing to China to save the euro to President Barack Obama arriving in Bali to lobby for Asian support, the transformation is evident. Less clear is who will lead the world in the 21st century and how. There is plenty of talk about the 21st century being an Asian century, featuring China, Japan and India. These countries certainly seek an enhanced role in world affairs, including a greater share of decision-making authority in the governance of global bodies. But are they doing enough to deserve it? The intervention in Libya, led by Britain and France, and carried out by Nato, says it all. There is no Nato in Asia, and there's unlikely to be one. China and Japan are the world's second and third largest economies. India is sixth in purchasing-power parity terms. China's defence spending has experienced double-digit annual growth during the past two decades. India was the world's largest buyer of conventional weapons in 2010.

A study by the US Congressional Research Service lists Saudi Arabia, India and China as the three biggest arms buyers from 2003 to 2010. India bought nearly US$17bil (RM54.17bil) worth of conventional arms, compared with US$13.2bil (RM42.06bil) for China and some US$29bil (RM92.4bil) for Saudi Arabia. Chinese, Indian and Japanese foreign policy ideas have evolved. India has abandoned non-alignment. China has moved well past Maoist socialist internationalism. Japan pursues the idea of a "normal state" that can say yes to using force in multilateral operations. Unfortunately, these shifts have not led to greater leadership in global governance. National power ambitions and regional rivalries have restricted their contributions to global governance. President Hu Jintao has defined the objective of China's foreign policy as to "jointly construct a harmonious world". Chinese leaders and academics invoke the cultural idea of "all under heaven", or Tianxia. The concept stresses harmony - as opposed to "sameness" - thus signalling that China can be politically non-democratic, but still pursue friendship with other nations. China has increased its participation in multilateralism and global governance, but not offered leadership. This is sometimes explained as a lingering legacy of Deng Xiaoping's caution about Chinese leadership on behalf of the developing world. More telling is China's desire not to sacrifice its sovereignty and independence for the sake of multilateralism and global governance.

Japan's policy conception of a "normal state", initially presented as a way of reclaiming Japan's right to use force, but only in support of UN-sanctioned operations, may sound conducive to greater global leadership. But it also reflects strategic motivations: to hedge against any drawdown of US forces in the region, to counter the rise of China and the growing threat from North Korea, and to increase Japan's participation in collective military operations in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf regions. Beset by chronic uncertainty in domestic leadership and a declining economy, Japan has not been a proactive global leader when it comes to crisis management. Its response to the 2008 global financial crisis was a far cry from that to the 1997 crisis, when it took centre-stage and proposed the creation of a regional monetary fund, a limited version of which materialised eventually within the Chiang Mai Initiative.

In 2005, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asserted that "the 21st century will be an Indian century". Manmohan expressed hope that "the world will once again look at us with regard and respect, not just for the economic progress we make but for the democratic values we cherish and uphold and the principles of pluralism and inclusiveness we have come to represent which is India's heritage as a centuries old culture and civilisation". Yet, the Indian foreign-policy worldview has shifted in the direction of greater realpolitik. Some Indian analysts such as C. Raja Mohan have pointed out that India might be reverting from Gandhi and Nehru to George Curzon, the British governor-general of India in the early 20th century. Indian power projection in both western and eastern Indian Ocean waters is growing, thereby pursuing a Mahanian approach for dominance of the maritime sphere - named after US Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan - rather than a Nehruvian approach. It is partly driven by a desire, encouraged by the US and South-East Asian countries, to assume the role of a regional balancer vis-¨¤-vis China.

Asia's role in global governance cannot be delinked from the question: Who leads Asia? After World War II, India was seen as an Asian leader by many of its neighbours and was more than willing to lead, but unable to do so due to a lack of resources. Japan's case was exactly the opposite; it had the resources from the mid-1960s onwards, but not the legitimacy - thanks to memories of imperialism for which it was deemed insufficiently apologetic by its neighbours. China has had neither the resources nor the legitimacy, since the communist takeover, nor the political will, at the onset of the reform era to be Asia's leader. In Asia today, although Japan, China and India now have the resources, they still suffer from a deficit of regional legitimacy. This might be partly a legacy of the past - Japanese wartime role, Chinese subversion and Indian diplomatic high-handedness. But their mutual rivalry also prevents the Asian powers from assuming regional leadership singly or collectively. Hence, regional leadership rests with a group of the region's weaker states: Asean. While Asean is a useful and influential voice in regional affairs, its ability to manage Asia is by no means assured. Greater engagement with regional forums is useful for the Asian powers to prepare for a more robust role in global governance. So many of the global problems - climate change, energy, pandemics, illegal migration and more - have Asian roots. By jointly managing them at the regional level, Asian powers can limit their rivalries, secure neighbours' support, and gain expertise that could facilitate a substantive contribution to global governance from a position of leadership and strength.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 12/18/2011

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Six-Party Nuclear Talks Plunge into Uncertainty

The sudden death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has immediately caught South Korea off guard and plunged the envisioned multilateral negotiations aimed at denuclearization of the reclusive nation into a serious doubt. The third round of meetings between the United States and North Korea aimed at resuming the long-stalled six-nation nuclear disarmament talks has been delayed indefinitely. The meeting was originally slated for Thursday in Beijing. Seoul's recent efforts to hold the third round of talks with Pyongyang in a separate move to reopen the six-party talks will surely face a great setback, analysts said. It will take time for the North to return to any negotiation tables with the relevant countries, including the South, they said. They couldn't predict how long Pyongyang's diplomacy will remain paralyzed, citing the fact that no clear leadership has been established in the nuclear-armed totalitarian country. Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, who led the American delegation to the six-party talks, said he believes Kim Jong-un was "not ready" to take the helm. He said Kim's death will bring about a negative impact upon possible dialogue between the North and the U.S. although the two countries recently reportedly reached agreement on U.S. food aid in return for the North dismantling its uranium enrichment program.

Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at the Washington-based think tank, the Heritage Foundation, said it is likely that such negotiations would be postponed as North Korea goes through a mourning period, formalized succession process, and possible retrenchment of its foreign policies. "The death of Kim Jong-il would presumably delay a resumption of such negotiations as the new North Korean leadership assesses to what degree it is willing to open up to the outside world," Klingner told The Korea Times in an email interview. "Although Kim's demise provides an opportunity for change on the Korean Peninsula," he said it was a transition "fraught with uncertain, nervousness, and potential danger." Prof. Yoon Duk-min at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security is also taking a wait-and-see approach to the situation. "Nothing is predictable at the moment," Yoon said. "We need to pay attention to what's happening in the North after Kim's funeral slated for Dec. 28." Prof. Kim Yong-hyun of Dongguk University echoed the view, calling on the government to take an "extremely cautious" approach to the issue. North Korea has said the late Kim's third son, Jong-un, will replace his father as "Great Successor," but analysts here said it's unclear how strong the 20-something's grip on the North Korean regime and its military is. In other words, there is a constant possibility that internal power struggle could erupt in deciding who will take the helm of North Korea, they said.

From http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/ 12/19/2011

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CHINA: 1st White Paper on Foreign Trade Released

The Chinese government Wednesday issued its first-ever white paper on foreign trade, highlighting the country's achievements in boosting foreign trade and its contribution to the global economy. China's foreign trade has made remarkable progress in recent years. Trade volume registered an average annual growth rate of 16.8 percent in the years from 1978 when China started the opening-up policy to 2010 when the trade value reached 2.97 trillion U.S. dollars, 144 times as much as in 1978, according to the White Paper, released by the State Council Information Office. In the two consecutive years up to the end of 2010, the country was the world's largest exporter and second-largest importer, said the white paper.

The country saw an increasing number of trading partners and gradually formed a diversified import and export market. The white paper noted that China's foreign trade development has not only "greatly pushed forward the country's modernization drive", but also brought benefits to the world as multinationals grew rapidly through investing in China. China has honored its WTO commitments over the past decade by expanding market access, accelerating trade and investment facilitation and liberalization, reducing trade barriers and administrative interventions and deepening reforms of its foreign trade system, the paper said. The white paper introduces China's historic progress, international contribution and policies in foreign trade.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/07/2011

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School Bus Regulations Draft Issued

Draft school bus safety regulations, drawn up by the State Council Legislative Affairs Office, were released for public comment in China today, Xinhua reported. Through financial support, preferential taxes, encouragement of donations and other means, the country will provide school bus services for students receiving compulsory education in rural areas. The spokesman for SCLAO said: "The school bus is a mobile schoolhouse, so the school should be responsible for the safety of traveling students. As the school buys school buses and the company provides school bus services, both entities should be responsible for the safety of buses." The draft lays out three priorities for school buses: when a school bus is carrying students, traffic police should let it pass preferentially; a school bus can travel in bus lanes and other special channels reserved for public transport vehicles; when a school bus stops on the road to release or pick up students, vehicles behind it must stop to wait.

China issued a set of technical standards for school buses for primary school students last year, and the drafting of another standard for buses for the kindergartners is also underway. According to the draft, the government will adopt a license system for school bus operation. Vehicles that are up to school bus standards and with a unified appearance will be first in line to obtain approval from education authorities, and the draft also requires buses to register at the traffic administrative agencies before they can be used as school buses. Instead of compulsory annual safety checks, the draft would require school bus owners to renew their safety qualifications every six months. Drivers should also check the safety condition of the buses before each commute, the draft said. The draft asks schools and the school bus service providers to intensify safety management and maintenance and assign special staff on buses to look after students on board.

Further, the draft stipulates strict qualification standards for school bus drivers, including their ages, driving experience, non-violation records and health condition. Since most of the students and preschoolers in urban regions go to schools located in the vicinity of their homes, the government will give more support in terms of financial aid and taxation benefits for expanding bus services in the country's rural areas, where the students have to travel much farther for school, the State Council Legislative Affairs Office said in a statement. China has started nationwide school bus safety checks and pledged increased spending on school buses in wake of a fatal accident that stirred public concern over safety. Twenty-one people, including 19 preschoolers and two adults, died, and 43 others were injured last month when a nine-seat school bus illegally carrying 64 people collided head-on with a coal truck in Gansu province.

The accident has revealed problems in the country's school bus management, including regulatory loopholes, unimplemented safety measures and a failure to carry out government responsibilities, according to a statement issued by the State Council's Work Safety Committee. On Wednesday, another school bus ran red lights and collided with a truck, injuring 13 people, including 11 students on board, in Guangdong province. Several days after the November accident, Premier Wen Jiabao called on relevant government departments to "rapidly" create safety regulations and standards for the country's school buses while further improving the design, production, and distribution of the vehicles. The draft regulation is available at www.chinalaw.gov.cn, and feedback via online posts, letters and e-mails will be accepted until January 11, 2012.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/11/2011

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Conference to Map out Economic Policy for 2012

High-ranking Chinese officials gathered in Beijing on Monday for the annual Central Economic Work Conference, which will analyze international and domestic economic situations and map out plans for economic development in 2012. The annual event has served as a crucial mechanism for the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee to run the Chinese economy. The year 2012 is considered a crucial year in implementing China's 12th Five Year Plan (2011-2015), so the plans and strategies made in this conference will be significant for consolidating the sound momentum of China's economy and further promote the steady and relatively fast economic growth. In a prelude to or warming up of the conference, the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee convened a meeting on Friday, saying that China will maintain its prudent monetary policy and proactive fiscal policy next year, and make its macroeconomic regulation more targeted, flexible and forward-looking next year.

At the meeting it was agreed that China will continue to balance efforts to "ensure stable and relatively fast economic growth, while adjusting the economic structure and regulating inflationary expectations next year." China's GDP growth slowed to 9.1 percent in the third quarter from 9.5 percent in the second quarter, and 9.7 percent in the first quarter. Growth of the consumer price index (CPI), a main gauge of the country's inflation, eased to 4.2 percent in November from this year's peak of 6.5 percent in July.

From Xinhua News Agency 12/12/2011

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China to Keep Property Curbs and 'Prudent' Policy

China vowed Wednesday to maintain property market restrictions and "prudent" monetary policies after a major meeting to set the nation's economic course in 2012, at a time of global uncertainty. China's leaders also agreed to "guarantee steady growth" and keep the yuan "basically stable" at the close of the annual Central Economic Work Meeting, chaired by President Hu Jintao, the official Xinhua news agency said. The annual closed-door meeting in Beijing - the last before a once-in-a-decade leadership transition begins next year - was held against a backdrop of turmoil in China's biggest export markets of Europe and the United States. Analysts said the statement was a strong sign Beijing will move cautiously to ease tight credit restrictions put in place in the past two years to curb surging prices and property costs. Chinese leaders are anxious to prevent a sharp slowdown in the world's second largest economy but at the same time they want to avoid reigniting inflation, which has the potential to trigger social unrest.

The export-dependent country has seen demand for its products shrink in recent months as consumers from Paris to New York cut back on spending due to an increasingly bleak economic outlook. Given the "severe and complicated" global outlook, the main theme for the next 12 months will be "making progress while maintaining stability", Xinhua said, citing a statement issued after the three-day meeting finished. "China will ensure that macroeconomic regulation policies and overall consumer prices remain basically stable and will guarantee the steady growth of the economy and maintain social stability," it said. Beijing will also "unswervingly maintain its regulation policies on the property market next year to make housing prices return to a reasonable level", and stick to a "prudent monetary policy and proactive fiscal policy". Policymakers also vowed to keep a "basically stable" yuan exchange rate, which could put further downward pressure on the currency as investors bet against a strong appreciation next year. The yuan has been under the biggest selling pressure since the 2008 global financial crisis as slowing domestic growth and overseas woes fuel demand for the US dollar. Royal Bank of Scotland economist Li Cui said she expected the government to use a combination of tax cuts, infrastructure spending and reductions in the amount of money banks must keep in reserve to keep the economy growing. Investors reacted negatively to the statement, with the Shanghai Composite Index closing down 0.89 percent, or 20.06 points, at 2,228.53. The announcement comes after a series of key data last week showed the Chinese economy lost steam in November.

Consumer prices rose at their weakest pace in more than a year and industrial output growth hit its lowest level in more than two years, according to official data. Manufacturing activity also contracted in November for the first time in 33 months, fuelling concerns the economy is at risk of a hard landing. Late last month Beijing cut the amount of money banks must hold in reserve for the first time in three years to spur lending and counter turmoil in Europe and the United States that threatens to derail the economy. China's economy is expected to grow 9.2 percent in 2011 and 8.9 percent next year, which would be the slowest pace in more than a decade, a state-run think tank said last week. Vice President Xi Jinping is widely expected to replace Hu as party head next year, becoming president in March 2013, while Vice Premier Li Keqiang is in line to take over from Premier Wen Jiabao.

From http://news.yahoo.com/ 12/14/2011

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China Issues Guideline to Improve Transparency of Charities

The Ministry of Civil Affairs issued a new guideline Friday to offer suggestions to charity groups on how to disclose donation information in the wake of doubts about the transparency of their operations. The government hopes the guideline will improve charity organizations' information publicity and protect the public's right to know and supervise such organizations, said a ministry statement. Charity groups should disclose information about what donations they receive, how they raise money, how they use funds and who their beneficiaries are, according to the guideline. They should inform the public within 15 working days after receiving a grant and within a month after distributing donations to beneficiaries, the guideline said. In regards to donations after a serious accident or natural disaster, the information should be made public within 72 hours after donations are received, the guideline said.

Organizations should disclose relevant information every six months or less for charity programs lasting more than six months, enabling donors and the public to follow the program's development, the guideline said. The guideline is expected to set a standard for charity groups to establish their own information publicity system and for local governments to work out supervision rules on charity groups, the statement said. In June, the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC), a leading charity group in China, came under fire for a scandal involving a young woman calling herself "Guo Meimei." The woman, who claimed to work for an institution under the RCSC, posted many photos of her lavish lifestyle on her microblog, prompting speculation that she had embezzled funds from the Red Cross Society. Although it was later found that she was not an employee of the RCSC, the scandal exposed the problem of the lack of transparency in the operation of charity groups.

From Xinhua News Agency 12/16/2011

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China Tightens Control of Social Networks, Demands Real Names on Beijing Microblogs

Beijing authorities on Friday ordered Internet microblogs to require users to register with their real names, a tightening of rules aimed at controlling China's rapidly growing social networks. An announcement posted online said all microblog companies registered in the capital had to enforce real name registration within three months. The rules, jointly issued by the Beijing government, police and Internet management office, apparently apply to all 250 million users of the hugely popular Twitter-like service Weibo.com, regardless of location, because its operator, Chinese Web portal Sina Corp., is headquartered in Beijing. Sina rival Tencent Holdings is based in the southern city of Shenzhen. It wasn't immediately clear whether the company's microblog service would have to comply with the same rules. China had more than 485 million Internet users as of the end of June, the most of any country in the world.

Government officials warned in October that tighter new guidelines for social media sites were coming. Officials said then they were concerned about people using the Internet to spread lies and rumors. But the government is also clearly worried about the use of Weibo and other sites to mobilize potentially destabilizing protest movements. The new rules explicitly forbid use of microblogging to "incite illegal assembly." Public protests are illegal in China and are a concern for the Communist leadership. Microblogs helped mobilize 12,000 people in the northeastern city of Dalian to successfully demand the relocation of a petrochemical factory and served as an outlet for public anger after a crash on the showcase high-speed rail system in which at least 40 people died. They also have given a national platform to a handful of independent candidates who have run this year for local legislative councils.

Mark Natkin, managing director of Marbridge Consulting, which is based in Beijing and specializes in China's telecommunications and IT sectors, said announcing the rules in Beijing first could be a way of testing their impact in a limited area before expanding them to cover the rest of the country. He said the system would inevitably rein in China's microblogs. "Having a real name system will make people much more cautious about what they post," he said. China blocked Twitter and Facebook after they were instrumental in anti-government protests in Iran two years ago, and instead encouraged homegrown alternatives in the apparent belief that domestic companies would be more responsive to government demands. It remains to be seen whether China's new rules could drive some people away from domestic services. Tech-savvy Chinese are still able to access Twitter and Facebook by using special software that circumvents the government's firewall. "Real name registration is sadly predictable, but very hard to implement, or if implemented is futile anyway as users will just shift to other platforms," said Duncan Clark, managing director of BDA China Ltd., a Beijing research firm.

From http://www.washingtonpost.com/ 12/16/2011

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China Sets Goal for Urban Unemployment

China aims to keep the unemployment rate among registered city dwellers under 5 percent from 2011 to 2015, according to a statement released on Friday after an executive meeting of the State Council. During those years, the government aims to create jobs for 45 million people in cities and 40 million unemployed laborers in the countryside. "Employment pressures will continue to increase in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) period," said the statement, citing decisions made at the meeting, which was presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao. To meet the government's goal for unemployment rate among registered city dwellers, about 10 million jobs will have to be created each year for such people. That is about a million more a year than was created annually from 2006 to 2010, according to the statement.

At the end of the third quarter of this year, Chinese cities had a registered unemployment rate of 4.1 percent, which was unchanged from the previous quarter. The government will place a priority on employing college graduates and unemployed laborers in the countryside. It will also improve the system it uses to provide occupational training. Zhang Yi, an expert with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' institute of population and labor economics, said the policies have told both laborers and enterprises that the central government is placing a priority on job maintenance and creation. China is faced with many obstacles in its fight against unemployment. About 6.8 million Chinese students graduate from colleges every year and the countryside is home to about 100 million laborers without jobs.

"College graduates are in a fairly weak position in the hunt for employment because they almost always receive low pay in their first jobs and are more likely to change jobs frequently," Zhang said. He also said the heavy dose of theory that is inculcated into Chinese college students does little to prepare them for the realities of work. Zhang said students should receive practical training before they leave school. He also said more training and retraining should be offered to migrant workers to make them better competitors for work. "China now stands at a point where it can eliminate industries that both produce little and consume a lot of energy, while it improves and develops the high-tech industry," he said. "Training is essential to both promoting employment and improving the labor market." China is home to about 250 million migrant workers.

To keep the labor market and society stable, laborers should be given assurances that their wages will not be delayed, he said. Wang Ying, an expert with the China employment training technical instruction center, a subsidiary of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, said the center has been working with local governments to train migrant workers in accordance with the needs of businesses. Wang said the organization is also working to move unemployed laborers out of the countryside and into cities, where there is a demand for their work.

From http://my.news.yahoo.com/ 12/17/2011

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JAPAN: To Set Up Asian Disaster Insurance Plan. Scheme Covers South Pacific States, ASEAN

The government plans to jointly establish a large-scale insurance system encompassing the Asia-Pacific region to cover developing countries hit by devastating earthquakes, typhoons and other disasters, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned. The scheme will be established jointly by the Japanese government, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, officials said Saturday. For this purpose, funds will be drawn from premiums collected from countries and territories taking part in the insurance scheme and monetary contributions from Japan and other industrial countries, they said. The insurance scheme will comprise two categories. One will be a mutual assistance system to help small countries in the South Pacific finance recovery projects, while the other will cover countries in the Southeast Asian region, according to the officials.

The system envisaged for South Pacific island nations assumes that at least 15 countries and territories will participate, including Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Papua New Guinea. It will begin operating as early as November 2012, they said. A maximum amount of money to be paid out under the disaster damage insurance system will be worked out with reference to the maximum payment of 120 million dollars (about 9.4 billion yen) for a disaster under a natural disaster insurance system already in place for Caribbean countries, the officials said. The government will incorporate its contribution in the scheme - the amount has yet to be decided - into the state budget for fiscal 2012 and will make an official announcement of the plan during the sixth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting scheduled for May 25-26 in Okinawa Prefecture, they said.

Australia, New Zealand and some members of the European Union are considering making contributions to the proposed insurance system for the South Pacific island countries, according to the officials. Japan hopes the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations will take part in the disaster insurance plan. One member, Thailand, is currently suffering from major flooding. The system for the Southeast Asian area is expected to take effect as early as 2015, they said. Simulations of damage caused by major natural disasters will be carried out in three countries, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam, by the end of the year at the earliest, the officials said. According to the ADB, the Asian region accounts for about 40 percent of natural disaster-stricken areas in the world.

Since many areas in Asia lack sufficient fiscal resources and earthquake-resistance preparations are deficient, they also are susceptible to social and economic disruptions because of natural disasters, the officials noted. The financial assistance extended directly to disaster-hit developing countries tends to take time to move through the domestic procedures involved, they pointed out. By creating the insurance system, disaster-hit countries will be able to draw on insurance money quickly to rebuild their infrastructures, the officials said.

From The Yomiuri Shimbun 12/04/2011

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Govt Draft Proposal Would Ease Curbs on Arms Exports

The government has compiled a draft proposal to review the conventional arms export ban policy, paving the way for joint development and production of defense equipment with other countries. The draft was worked out Monday at a meeting of senior vice ministers of the Cabinet Secretariat, the foreign and defense ministries, and the economy, trade and industry ministry. Pending an official approval on the proposal at a Cabinet-level meeting, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura is likely to announce the government's policy to ease the control on arms exports. Fujimura indicated the possibility that his announcement on easing the restrictions will be delayed until January and later, saying, "We're not holding ourselves to announcing [a policy] within this year." The draft is designed to provide for exemptions on arms export control to make it possible for Japan to promote development and production jointly with other countries. Based on a policy worked out by the Democratic Party of Japan in November last year, the draft contains three basic tenets:

 - Transfer of finished products will be limited to peaceful and humanitarian purposes.
 - Joint development will be admitted only with the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization member nations.
 - A system will be established to prevent transfer of arms, military technology and confidential information to third-party countries. The government assumes that patrol boats and helmets, currently defined as arms, will be included in the category of completed products to be transferred overseas. Some members of the government and the ruling DPJ oppose pushing ahead with a review of the ban, fearing it will further irritate New Komeito, which one member said "takes a cautious view on relaxing arms export control." Behind this opposition is Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's recent decision to retain Yasuo Ichikawa as defense minister, although a censure motion had been passed against him, which Komeito pushed aggressively.

From The Yomiuri Shimbun 12/14/2011

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SOUTH KOREA: Tightens Monitoring of Social Media

South Korea has tightened monitoring of popular social networking sites to curb illicit content including an upsurge in North Korean propaganda, officials said Thursday. The Korea Communications Standards Commission said an eight-member team was launched on Wednesday to examine Facebook and Twitter posts and smartphone applications. Users will be asked to delete "harmful or illegal" content relating to pornography, gambling, drug abuse, false information, and defamation which are all criminal offenses in South Korea, it said. "Postings and sites that praise North Korea or glorify its leaders are also the target of our work as they increased rapidly this year," team leader Han Myeong-Ho told AFP. "North Korea has stepped up its propaganda drive through social networking sites," he added. If the users refuse to take down the material, the commission will order internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to offending accounts and sites, Han told AFP.

Criminal charges could be laid in serious cases, he said, but added that "most individuals and site operators voluntarily take out postings when they are asked by authorities to do so." The South's clampdown has triggered an outcry from liberal groups which have accused the government of trying to gag the private exchange of opinion through social networking sites. "The commission must immediately stop its anachronistic act restricting freedom of expression," six civic groups said in a joint statement on Tuesday. Critics say the Seoul government is seeking to muzzle its opponents through the guise of fighting North Korea's propaganda campaign. North Korea last year joined Twitter under the name @uriminzok ("our own nationals"), and made its foray onto the popular video-sharing site YouTube. The communist country has attracted more than 10,000 followers on Twitter. And last month the North's main government website (www.uriminzokkiri.com) began adding icons for users to post stinging postings attacking Seoul and Washington on social networks.

South Korea blocks pro-North Korean sites and access to the North's websites under a tough security law but some people in the South use proxy servers to access them. The North's publicity drive has prompted South Korean security authorities to step up a crackdown on pro-North activities in cyberspace. On November 11, a former army officer was arrested for operating an online community to disseminate propaganda postings obtained from North Korean websites. Freedom House, a Washington-based NGO, downgraded South Korea's media status from "free" to "partly free" this year. The move reflects an increase in official censorship, particularly of online content, and "the government's attempt to influence media outlets' news and information", it said. The Seoul government denies it has ever attempted to influence news media.

From http://au.news.yahoo.com/ 12/09/2011

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South Korea Governing Party Changes Rules

SOUTH Korea's beleaguered ruling party has revised its charter to clear the way for leading presidential hopeful and top female politician Park Geun-Hye to take charge as interim leader. The move came a week after Grand National Party (GNP) head Hong Joon-Pyo quit his post in the face of dwindling support for the party ahead of legislative polls in April and a December 2012 presidential vote. The resignation threw the conservative party into chaos, with many GNP members calling for a shake-up. The previous charter banned prospective presidential candidates from leading the party. But the GNP, at Thursday's caucus, revised it to help Park take the helm. Park has not yet officially announced she will be standing for president, but if elected would be the country's first female leader.

The daughter of former autocratic leader Park Chung-Hee, who was assassinated in 1979, she played a crucial role in a series of elections in 2004 and 2006. But she had stayed away from party affairs since Lee Myung-Bak narrowly defeated her in a 2007 GNP presidential primary. "The most important thing now is how to regain public confidence," said Park, who has agreed with reformist GNP members to change the party's structure and nomination process. She also promised to consider changing the name of the party, which suffered a stunning defeat to an opposition-backed independent in an October vote for mayor of Seoul. Its approval ratings fell further after an aide to a top GNP lawmaker was arrested this month on charges of trying to tamper with the result of the Seoul mayoral vote through a cyber-attack on the election commission. An opinion poll published last week showed that 24.8 per cent of voters would back the GNP while 30.5 per cent would support a unified opposition candidate. Others were undecided.

From http://www.news.com.au/ 12/15/2011

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President Lee Urges Resolution of Comfort Women Issue

President Lee Myung-bak flew back to Seoul on December 18 after wrapping up a two-day visit to Kyoto at the invitation of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. During a banquet held on December 17 at Kyoto State Guest House, President Lee and Prime Minister Noda conversed and exchanged opinions on a range of topics of mutual interest including bilateral relations, North Korea issues, and collaboration in other regional affairs. Both leaders shared a recognition that bilateral cooperation between the two nations has steadily consolidated in the realms of economy, human resources, and cultural exchanges. They reaffirmed their commitment to a joint solution for the North Korean nuclear issue - strengthening the ties between the two countries and a three-way relationship involving the United States - to contribute to stability and prosperity at the regional and international levels.

President Lee gave a positive evaluation of Japan's active role as the chair of this year's trilateral summit, which was also attended by China. They concurred to further reinforce cooperation in the East Asian region, together with other consultative bodies including ASEAN and the East Asian Summit. On the following morning, the two heads of state held a summit talk and ran through an agenda mainly revolving around the issues related to compensation for comfort women, victims of wartime sex enslavement by the Imperial Japanese military. During the summit, President Lee urged Japan to "show genuine courage" by giving priority to resolving the longstanding issue, which can be solved without delay when Japan addresses the issue beyond legislative measures. According to presidential spokesperson Park Jeong-ha, the Korean leader called for prompt action and the leadership of his Japanese counterpart in the resolution.

The long-time issue entered the spotlight along with a statue being unveiled on December 14 in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to commemorate the victims in light of the 1,000th weekly protest rally by the comfort women to request the Japanese government restore their honor and recognize its responsibility. Although the historic issue has been brought up during past bilateral summits, this is allegedly the first time the issue of comfort women has been dealt with so thoroughly at this level. Prime Minister Noda responded with Japan's legal stance and existing position over the issue that its compensation responsibility was resolved in 1965 on the occasion of the normalization of bilateral diplomatic relations, expressing his wish to approach the issue with a humanitarian perspective in this regard. The latest bilateral summit was part of the "shuttle diplomacy" between the two heads of state, which entails reciprocal visits. Prime Minister Noda paid a visit to Seoul October 18 to 19 for his first bilateral summit with President Lee since taking office on September 2 this year.

From http://www.korea.net/ 12/19/2011

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S. Korea, U.S. Defense Ministers Agree to Cooperate After N.K. Leader's Death

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta agreed on Tuesday to coordinate closely to cope with the aftermath of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, the defense ministry said. In a telephone call around 1 a.m. Tuesday, Korean time, Kim and Panetta said they would work together to maintain strong defense posture, while keeping a close eye on the communist regime experiencing a leadership vacuum, according to the ministry. Separately, South Korean Army Gen. Jung Seung-jo, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff here, and his U.S. counterpart, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, spoke on the phone around 11 p.m. Monday, the ministry added. They vowed to keep sharing any relevant information as necessary and to ensure strong military readiness posture.

North Korean state media reported on Monday that Kim Jong-il died of a heart attack on a train Saturday. In response, South Korea placed its military on emergency alert to counter potential armed provocations by the North in the absence of its leader. South Korean and U.S. forces here on Monday had agreed to deploy more surveillance and reconnaissance assets and strengthen information sharing. About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea, as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended on an armistice rather than a peace treaty. During their annual defense ministerial talks in October, Kim Kwan-jin and Panetta agreed to complete the "South Korea-U.S. Counter-Provocation Plan," a joint operational plan to counter North Korean provocations, by this year. The U.S. then pledged to provide "overwhelming reinforcements" in contingencies on Korean Peninsula.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/ 12/20/2011

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MONGOLIA: Draft Policy on Salaries Backed

The cabinet meeting held on Friday backed a draft national policy on salaries. A report on it has been given by T.Gandi, the Minister of Social Welfare an Labor. She has been obliged to reflect in the document the cabinet members' proposals and to approve it through discussions with the trilateral national committee on labor and social agreement. The document's purposes are to refine upon the salaries system and a mechanism of regulation, and to improve the livelihood of the state and private sector's people by promoting knowledge and skills of both employers and employees. The draft policy has five chapters - the common foundation, principles and others. There are six basic principles such as fixing the salaries.

From http://www.montsame.mn/ 12/16/2011

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Long-waited Revised Law on Election Passed

On Thursday, the State Great Khural (parliament) passed the draft amendment to the law on election. This has happened after about three years of discussing. Pursuant to the law, the parliamentary election for 2012 will run through a system with dominating majority with the ratio 48:28. In other words, 28 of the 76 MPs will be elected by a proportional system, while 48 will be individual candidates nominated by their parties. "Having overcome many difficulties we have passed the revised election, a working group and the Standing committee have spent a great deal of time to work on it, now, the new law must be promoted among the public," said D.Demberel, the Speaker.

In order to gain a seat in parliament, a political party must get five percent of the total national votes. Not less than 20 per cent of the MPs shall be women. Candidates and political parties are forbidden to promise cash handouts or stocks for voters, all attempts have been restricted to buy votes. It is considered that the law will improve responsibilities of political parties and candidates. State servants are replaced by representatives of political parties to work at the electoral constituencies and sections. If a state servant violates the law, he/she will be fired, losing the right to serve the state again. One of the most significant importances of the revised law is allowing the Mongolian citizens abroad to vote, nonetheless, it will not be possible if there is no Mongolian dipmission in a place he/she resides in.

From http://www.montsame.mn/ 12/16/2011

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INDONESIA: Province Launches IT Literacy Programme

Riau provincial government in central Sumatra has initiated a programme to introduce IT to children across its primary schools. It is an extension of a project already in place in other parts of Indonesia since 2008. The "KidSmart" project, in collaboration with IBM, aims to teach children children essential IT skills through specialised software and custom-designed terminals. In total, 250 primary schools in Indonesia are participating in the programme. KidSmart also involves training the teachers in using the software and hardware tools, and 300 teachers across Indonesia have been trained so far. The programme was inaugurated in Riau province at the city of Pekanbaru on the 7th of December, with the Governor of Riau HM Rusli Zainal, Riau Police Chief, Mayor of Pekanbaru Syamsurizal, and President-Director of IBM Indonesia, Suryo Suwignjo, in presence. "For teachers, mastering the technology is extremely important, so that they can operate it and implement it into their daily lives, and also serve as examples for their students," said Governor Zainal, as Mayor Syamsurizal inaugurated the cyber-technology training centre for teachers. The teachers are provided basic knowledge about the internet, word processing, spreadsheets and presentations techniques, and participate in a short workshop on crime prevention.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/16/2011

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MALAYSIA: Govt Won't Push Through IT Bill If Industry Rejects It

The Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry will not push through the Computing Professionals Act if industry players reject it. Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili said if the players saw no necessity for such a law, the Government would not proceed with it. He said the law was to protect and uplift IT-related professions to meet the world-class standard. "The idea came from the industry players and we are just the facilitating the process. "If they are not keen, it is entirely up to them to decide and as for us, we will have less work," he told newsmen here Wednesday. The proposed Bill has been criticised by IT practitioners, who said it would only allow people registered with the proposed Board of Computing Professionals of Malaysia (BCPM) to play an active role in application development. They claimed the formation of the BCPM would stifle innovation and creativity and could potentially force companies to relocate or shut down due to a lack of human capital. Industry players, especially the small ones, also said the need to certify individuals and firms who can bid for Critical National Information Infrastructure (CNII) projects would be used to justify tenders to favoured certain companies. "We will continue with our consultations and engage with more groups. I think six months is a solid period for a sufficient consultations to be conducted. "We will weigh all views and comments, and hopefully a final decision can be made then," Dr Maximus said.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 12/14/2011

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Bill for Affordable Homes Passed

The Dewan Rakyat passed the Perumahan Rakyat 1Malaysia (PR1MA) Bill 2011 on Nov 30. The Bill is subject to Dewan Negara's approval which will be tabled during this session. The initiative is part of the Government's effort to address the limited supply of houses in urban areas that would be affordable to middle-income earners. First step to their dream homes: Members of the public filling up forms to purchase affordable quality homes at Bandar Ainsdale in Labu, Seremban. The project, launched by Najib, would be jointly carried out between conglomerate Sime Darby and PR1MA Corporation Malaysia Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said urbanisation had led to more people facing financial difficulties in owning a home. Najib said the Government needed to quickly address the issue which affected urban areas more severely than rural areas as a result of the higher cost of living. He said the Government considered financial hardship, both urban and rural, a serious issue which must be resolved as soon as possible. Najib said the Bill enabled the overseeing of matters pertaining to housing development and construction, physical and societal infrastructure and other facilities under the PR1MA housing programme. The Bill also enabled the establishment of a statutory body known as PR1MA Corporation Malaysia, which will be responsible for planning, development, maintenance and quality assurance of its PR1MA houses. PR1MA's houses are not only focused at the "brick and mortar" but also the societal infrastructure. At the same time, PR1MA will also work together with private developers on related projects based on its guidelines for building houses meant for the urban middle income group. The Bill also serves to complement another government initiative the My First House financial scheme, which was set up to assist potential first-time home owners in acquiring a loan for the purchase of a house. PR1MA is a programme introduced by Najib as an initiative under the Government Transformation Programme's (GTP) Cost of Living National Key Results Area (NKRA).

From http://thestar.com.my/ 12/19/2011

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Senate Passes Peaceful Assembly Bill

KUALA LUMPUR: The Senate on Tuesday passed the Peaceful Assembly Bill, after a majority of Dewan Negara members voted in its favour in a voting by division system. The voting system, which was requested by the opposition, saw 39 members supporting it while eight others dissented. Earlier, when tabling the bill, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong said the bill allows citizens the rights to gather peacefully and without weapons, with certain conditions deemed necessary to maintain public safety and order. "The bill is the way forward towards strengthening the rule of law and upholding fundamental rights in Malaysia, in particular, the rights to gather peacefully and without weapons," he said. The bill was approved by the Dewan Rakyat on Nov 29 with six amendments. One of the amendments, involving Clause 9(1), allows organisers of assemblies to notify the police only 10 days before the event and not 30 days as in the original bill. Clause 12(1) was amended to shorten from 48 hours to 24 hours the period for the police to respond to the organisers' notification of an assembly. Clause 12(2) was also amended to shorten from five days to 24 hours the period for the vested party to make an objection to the police over the notice of assembly. The period for the police to respond to the objection was also shortened, from 12 days to five days, as per an amendment to Clause 14. An amendment to Clause 15 enables the police to impose restrictions on various aspects of the assembly, including the time and place, to maintain safety and public order to safeguard the rights of others. Clause 16 was amended to shorten the period of appeal by the organisers to the minister. When winding up the debate later, Liew hit out at Senator Syed Husin Ali for claiming that there were traders who raked in profits from the July 9 rally. "This is not true because many traders told me they suffered losses in millions of ringgit because of demonstrations in their areas since 1999," he said.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 12/20/2011

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PM Launches Financial Sector Blueprint 2012-2020

KUALA LUMPUR: The Financial Sector Blueprint is now in place to ensure a more competitive, diversified and dynamic financial sector for the future. The 2012-2020 blueprint is designed to take Malaysia's financial sector to the next level to make it inclusive and fully integrated within the regional and international financial system. The blueprint was launched by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Wednesday. The Prime Minister who described the blueprint as a far-sighted vision of the systems and strategies that need to be put in place, said that, as the country worked towards attaining developed nation status, it need to forge deeper links with regional economies in other parts of the world. "We will also need to break new ground in positioning Malaysia at the forefront of the international market in Islamic finance. "I am confident this blueprint will achieve both and I am also pleased to see it anchored firmly in the core tenets of financial stability, integrity and serving the best interests of Malaysia," he said.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 12/21/2011

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Plans to Enhance Readiness for Retirement

KUALA LUMPUR: Developing a vibrant private pension industry and enabling locally-incorporated foreign banking institutions to open more branches as well as conduct hire purchase businesses are among recommendations under the new financial sector blueprint over the next 10 years. In making the proposals, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) said developing a vibrant pension industry would enhance Malaysia's readiness for retirement and old age. It said efforts would be focused on positioning insurance companies and banking institutions as significant intermediaries in the private pension industry to drive the outreach of retirement products by using their extensive distribution networks. It said under the blueprint, efforts would be made to strengthen the financial safety net for pension products to promote confidence and predictability of the expected retirement income levels. It will put in place a regulatory framework to ensure the fund met the financial needs of those investing in retirement. Themed "Strengthening Our Future," the blueprint, unveiled by Prime Minister and Finance Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak yesterday, charts the direction of the financial system from 2011-2020 as Malaysia transforms into a high value-added and high-income economy.

Najib said the blueprint would provide for a more competitive, diversified and dynamic financial sector. The 2012-2020 blueprint is designed to take Malaysia's financial sector "to the next level", to make it inclusive and fully integrated within the regional and international financial system. Najib, who described the blueprint as a far-sighted vision of the systems and strategies that needed to be put in place, said as the country worked towards attaining developed nation status, it needed to forge closer links with regional economies in other parts of the world. "We will also need to break new ground in positioning Malaysia at the forefront of the international market in Islamic finance. "I am confident this blueprint will achieve both and pleased to see it anchored firmly in the core tenets of financial stability, integrity and serving the best interests of Malaysia." Malaysia's financial sector, Najib said, had expanded over the last 10 years, contributing 12% of the Gross Domestic Product, created jobs for almost 145,000 people and had demonstrated remarkable resilience and stability during the global financial crisis.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 12/22/2011

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SINGAPORE: Stepping Up Citizen Outreach

Reaching everyone for active citizenry@ home, or REACH, Singapore Government's Engagement Platform, has revealed that the amount of feedback it receives from citizens has risen significantly in 2011. After the General Election in May, the average monthly inputs REACH receives has increased from 153 to 259. And Between January and November 2011, the unit received over 45,000 inputs, up by 53 per cent from 29,450 in the same period in 2010. When Government Feedback Unit was first restructured in 2006, it received 9400 pieces of feedback; and this year's figure is five times higher than that. REACH's chairman Dr Amy Khor said that the number and the range of discussions signify the citizenry's increasing demand to have a say in policy making. She said the phenomenon bodes well for the unit's mission of promoting an active citizenry, adding that moving forwards, REACH will intensify its engagement with citizens both on and off line. Such efforts will include the development of mobile applications as a new engagement platform and more talk sessions with students. The government will also make better efforts to address the key concerns of citizens, including transport, housing, immigration and political reform.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/13/2011

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Singapore Signs WTO Pledge Against Protectionism

GENEVA: Singapore has joined several World Trade Organisation (WTO) members in signing a pledge against protectionism. The signatories issued a joint statement to support anti-protectionism messages and also made an additional pledge to fight all forms of protectionism in the strongest terms. The signatories included the US, the European Union, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Japan and Thailand. Their joint statement was issued Thursday at the 8th Ministerial Conference in Geneva. The members said they are concerned over the current heightened levels of global economic uncertainty and the prospect that this could result in increased trade protectionism. They said the WTO's role is ever more important as an active instrument of international cooperation to create confidence by promoting growth and development. The signatories said they would refrain from raising new barriers to trade in goods and services, imposing new export restrictions, or implementing WTO-inconsistent measures in all areas, including those that stimulate exports. They also reaffirmed that they would comply with WTO agreements and also take steps to roll back any protectionist measures introduced since the start of the global financial crisis in 2008. The signatories also called on other WTO members to join in the pledge which they said can be reviewed, and further strengthened if necessary.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 12/16/2011

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THAILAND: Experts Seek Revamp of Town-planning Law

The town-planning law is in need of a major overhaul to prevent flood problems and promote sustainable development by encouraging more public participation and new approaches, academics said yesterday. "It's time to revamp the old law," Somrudee Nicro, senior director of the Thailand Environment Institute, told a seminar. The Town Planning Act of 1975 failed to foster real public participation and gave rise to clashes like those in Rayong's Map Ta Phut industrial belt. "Without public participation and a focus on ecological conservation, conflicts with the people's sector will come up," she said. The Town Planning Bill (Alternative Version) of 2007 stresses good governance and public health. People must be provided information and be engaged in the decision-making process related to town planning, she said. "People must be allowed to have a say in land use and the environment." Harsher punishment would help deter violators of land-use zones. "Offenders should face up to five years in jail and/or a maximum fine of Bt100,000," she said. Decha Boonkham, a deputy chairman of the Senate ad-hoc committee on settlement and town planning, believes parties should abandon the "overcome Nature" mentality. "Town planning should be developed based on the physical features of each basin," he said. The new master-planning efforts should show respect for nature, Decha said, adding that after efficient urban planning was in place, everyone must abide by the zoning. "Houses, factories and communities must not spill into flood-prone areas," he said. Eggarin Anukulyudhathon, president of the Thai City Planners Society, said growth in Greater Bangkok had severely blocked water flows. "Planning at the regional and provincial levels should allocate 30-50 per cent to green spaces," he said. At the community or village level, water-detention areas must be adequately prepared. "To prevent flooding in town, we must understand the ecology," he said.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 12/20/2011

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VIETNAM: Approving First Phase of National Highway Project

The Ministry of Transport has approved the first phase of National Highway 20 upgrade to transport bauxite ore from the Central Highland province of Lam Dong to southern Dong Nai Province. According to Decision 2525/QD-BGTVT, signed by Minister Dinh La Thang on November 7, the 123km road from Lam Dong Province to Go Dau Port in Dong Nai Province will be injected with over VND7.6 trillion (US$364 million) from the State budget. This part of the highway has been in use for 30 years and reported to be in need of an upgrade to better serve the bauxite mining industry. Construction will include different paths with widths of 7m, 12m, 15m and 27m depending on the locations of deltas, mountains and cities. Surfaces will accordingly have high load capacities of 1,600 kilos per square centimetre to meet the requirements of lorries carrying bauxite to run at a speed of 60 to 80km per hour. It will be constructed under the Build-Transfer model. The first phase will run for three years, starting this month. This is one part of the two-phase project of the 268km National Highway 20, which runs from HCM City to the region. Bauxite is an aluminium ore. Reserves in the Central Highlands are estimated at 5.4 billion tonnes.

From http://www.asianewsnet.net/ 12/20/2011

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Vietnamese City Unveils ICT Transformation Plan

Da Nang, a city of nearly a million residents in central Vietnam, has embarked on a comprehensive modernisation programme that will see it become Vietnam's first "e-city" by 2020, according to Pham Kim Son, Director of the Danang Department of Information and Communications. Under a decision made in mid-December, Da Nang city government has resolved to become Vietnam's first "e-city", in which ICT will be applied to all major areas of governance including health-care, citizen services and transportation. According to Vietnam's Potential Competitiveness Index - Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry's overall survey of economic governance among the country's 63 provinces - Da Nang Province has ranked among the top five since 2008, and is therefore seen as a key base from which to propel the country into a more competitive stratum. According to the official report, the e-city programme will "be implemented in two phases with six main tasks, including an e-city model and an overall legal frame for such tasks, IT application models among enterprises and the community, and IT infrastructure improvement among others." The first phase, the report says, will be undertaken from 2012 to 2015, in which the focus will be on IT infrastructure and human resource development. The second phase, lasting from 2015 to 2020, will concentrate on connecting government agencies together, with the aim to spearhead the economy using IT. The city has been involved in rapid modernisation this year, with critical infrastructure pertaining to modern e-government models, resource management and allocation, and environmental friendliness already in the works. The city also plans to be one of the "Eco2 Cities", which conform to sustainability and efficiency standards suggested by the World Bank.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/21/2011

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BANGLADESH: Passing Hindu Property Restoration Act

The parliament of Bangladesh has passed a bill that will enable smooth return of property seized from the country's Hindu minority under a controversial law. The Bangladeshi parliament has passed a landmark bill that will enable the return of property seized from the country's Hindu minority. The Hindu community have welcomed moves to restore their property rights/ Photo credit: BBC The land was taken under a controversial law enacted in the 1960s. It was implemented by the East Pakistan administration before Bangladesh became independent in 1971. The law, initially known as the Enemy Property Act, allowed the authorities to take over land and buildings of Hindus who migrated to India. Under its terms, property belonging to millions of Hindus who fled to India was confiscated. The law came into effect in 1965 when Pakistan and India fought a brief war. The act was renamed as the Vested Properties Act after independence. The Vested Properties Return (Amendment) Bill 2011 now enables Hindus to reclaim their property taken over by the government and individuals. "There are some good provisions but it doesn't go far enough to address our demand that all the properties seized or taken over until recently should be returned to their rightful owners," Supreme Court lawyer Subrata Chowdhury told the BBC.

Exodus
Hindu community leaders say that even after the independence of Bangladesh in 1971 the law was still used to discriminate against them. Human rights groups and civil society activists have long urged successive governments to repeal the act. The governing Awami League made an electoral promise in 2008 that confiscated properties would be given back to the original owners. Experts say that while the changes to the law are welcome, it will be impossible to return all the land because some of it was confiscated more than 40 years ago. Most of it appears to have been taken over by Muslims with links to the main political parties. The government says that it will soon publish a list of properties that were seized. It that any Hindus wanting to make a claim will have 90 days to do so. It is estimated by one prominent academic that about 400 to 500 Hindu people are migrating daily from Bangladesh. Professor Abul Barkat told the BBC that if the current rate continues, Bangladesh will no longer have a Hindu community in 25 years' time.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 11/29/2011

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Proper Implementation of Social Safety Net Programme Stressed

Dhaka (UNB) - The government needs to take effective steps for proper implementation of the social safety net programme to ensure the food security of the marginal people, speakers told a seminar here on Monday. They said although the government has taken some programmes, including the social safety net, to help the marginal people, the real beneficiaries are being left out of the programmes for lack of proper selection. Prantik Manusher Sanghati, a platform of 11 non-government organisations, organised the seminar titled 'Right to Food and Work of Marginal People: Role of Social Safety Net Programme' at the National Press Club. Member of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour and Employment Rawshan Jahan Sathi, MP, former director general of Bangladesh Rural Development Academy M Khairul Kabir, senior research fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) Dr SM Zulfikar Ali and senior research fellow of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies Mahfuz Kabir, among others, spoke at the seminar held with Sanghati convenor Mohshin Ali in the chair. Rawshan Jahan said one of the major responsibilities of the government is to ensure the food and job security of the marginal people and the present government is sincerely working to ensure that. "Corruption and mismanagement, now prevailing in the social safety net programme, depicts the overall picture of the present society," she said. Dr Zulfikar said the benefits of the social safety net programme hardly reach the real marginal people due to undue political and other influences. He suggested looking for an effective way to reach the benefits of the social safety net programme to the doorsteps of the marginal people to help them get rid of poverty.

From http://www.unbconnect.com/ 12/19/2011

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INDIA: State to Expand Flagship E-governance Programme

The State of Kerala, which launched its flagship e-governance programme, the e-District project, will be extending it to cover all the 14 districts within the state, said Shri Kunhalikutty, Minister for Industries & IT, Kerala. At present, the project covers only two districts since its 2010 launch. "This is a project of the future, which will help make Kerala a knowledge society," said Kunhalikutty, adding that Akshaya, a Kerala project aimed at bridging the digital divide, is a pioneer in this field and will take up consultancy services for other states and even countries that are looking at Akshaya as a role model. "Akshaya has come a long way since its inception ten years back. The e-District project which is being implemented through Akshaya will open up tremendous possibilities," Kunhalikutty added. Askhaya is a key element in the success and use of Common Services Centres (CSC) across the state, which will take on a more active role in the coming years as a means to provide greater ICT access and services to the rural population across the country. The Government of India plans to have 100,000 CSCs as a part of its modernisation goal. Akshaya is a part of India's overarching series of G2C projects as a part of its 11th annual five year plan, and falls under the charter of the National E-Government Programme (NeGP).

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/01/2011

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Government Okays Key Anti-graft Bills to Counter Anna Threat

New Delhi: Pushed into a corner by an aggressive opposition and the looming threat of Anna Hazare, the government okayed a slew of anti-graft bills to tackle corruption at high places, including in the judiciary, and arrived at a "broad consensus" on the Lokpal Bill with its United Progressive Alliance (UPA) allies. The cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh , approved the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, the Grievances Redressal Bill and the whistleblowers' protection bill, a slew of anti-corruption legislations expected to help blunt criticism from the opposition and Team Anna about the government's resolve to fight graft. The three bills were cleared even as Hazare has demanded that grievance redressal should be part of the Lokpal bill and the judiciary should also be brought in the ambit of the anti-graft ombudsman. The cabinet decision came on a day when Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati refused to back the government on the Lokpal bill in its current form. Keen on building wide political consensus on the Lokpal bill, with the opposition joining hands with Hazare to oppose some recommendations of the standing committee, the government also tried to bring its allies on board so the UPA presents a united approach at the all-party meeting on the Lokpal.

Manmohan Singh discussed the Lokpal issue with the UPA leaders to arrive at a "broad consensus"."There is a broad consensus in the UPA on its approach to the Lokpal," Home Minister P Chidambaram told reporters after the meeting. The home minister was hopeful the all-party meeting would be "productive" and "would reach conclusions on the amendments to the draft Lokpal bill and bring it before Parliament".The Congress core too group met earlier in the day. Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan, however, termed the three bills as "mere window-dressing"."The issue is if government is serious about bringing down corruption. Just having bills is not enough," Bhushan said in a discussion on CNN-IBN news channel. "It obviously in only window dressing." The 74-year-old Hazare also reiterated his threat to resume protests from Dec 27 if a strong Jan Lokpal bill was not passed in the winter session of parliament. Hazare went on a daylong fast Sunday and found backing from leaders of several parties, including the BJP, the Communists, the Janata Dal-United, Biju Janata Dal and Telugu Desam Party. It was the first time so many political veterans publicly rallied behind Hazare.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 12/13/2011

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Food Security Bill Gets Cabinet Nod

New Delhi: The Cabinet today cleared the much awaited Food Security Bill that seeks to give legal entitlement to subsidised foodgrains to about 64 per cent of the country's population. The plan would cost the Government about Rs one lakh crore. The Bill was approved at a Cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here this evening, sources said. The Cabinet had withheld its approval to the contentious legislation last week after some senior Minister had expressed their reservations over some of its provisions. It had been decided then that more consultations would be held on the issue. The Bill proposes to give food security to 75 per cent of the rural population, and 50 per cent of the urban population. At least 46 per cent of the rural population would be considered priority households. In urban area, 28 per cent are under this category. The priority households would get seven kg rice and wheat per person per month at Rs three and Rs two per kg respectively. Those who come under the general category would get at least three kg at 50 per cent of the minimum support price. The cost of this subsidised food is expected to be Rs 95,000 crore. The National Advisory Committee, headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, is keen on getting the Bill passed to provide food security to millions of poor in the country.

From http://www.newkerala.com/ 12/18/2011

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India May Approve Anti-corruption Bill

NEW DELHI: India's cabinet was expected to approve a landmark anti-corruption bill which was the focus of nationwide demonstrations in August that rocked the government. An official in the prime minister's office said the cabinet meeting had been scheduled for 2:00pm (0830 GMT) on Tuesday. The new legislation would create a powerful new "Lokpal" or ombudsman tasked with probing and prosecuting senior politicians and civil servants suspected of graft. In August, veteran Indian activist Anna Hazare held a 12-day hunger strike to protest against an initial draft of the bill, saying it was a toothless measure incapable of curbing the rampant corruption it was meant to target. His campaign brought millions of ordinary Indians onto the streets in cities across the country, in a national outpouring of anger and frustration at the culture of bribery and kick-backs that permeates every level of Indian society. The public response was a shock for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's coalition government, which has been tainted by a series of high-profile corruption scandals. The precise details of the bill to be discussed by the cabinet on Tuesday are not known. The main dispute has been over who would fall under the ombudsman's ambit, with the Hazare campaign insisting that it should include the prime minister, the judiciary and lower-level civil servants. Hazare has threatened a second hunger strike beginning December 27 if the final version of the bill presented to parliament falls short of his demands. Time is running out, with the current parliamentary session scheduled to close on Wednesday, although there have been reports that the government would consider a one-week extension.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 12/20/2011

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SRI LANKA: Launching National IT Literacy Initiative

As part of the government's effort to foster an IT literate society, the government launched its "e-diriya" national IT literacy initiative which aims to provide basic computer knowledge to 50,000 "samurddhi" recipients and school children. According to Hambantota District MP, Namal Rajapaksa, it is imperative for the country to leverage its computer, internet, and telephone penetration rates in order to have a good foundation for IT literacy, especially in schools. "IT now is regarded as an important tool in every sphere of the country's development, because of this many take great interest in the use of IT as a tool," he said. Meanwhile, Professor P.W. Epasinghe, Chairman of the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka, pointed out that the widespread availability of ICT equipment such as computers and mobile phones should be accompanied by equally widespread availability of facilities to use them. "Through the launch of "e-diriya", we have taken steps to provide information technology knowledge to a segment of society that had not been covered before. From today we begin providing IT training to especially to 20,000 Samurddhi recipients in the first round. I think that this simple computer knowledge will help them change their standard of living in a positive way. I believe that although the computer cannot satisfy the hunger of Samurddhi recipients it will at least be able to equip them with knowledge and strategy for setting them free from poverty". "That is why we have named this project "e-diriya". The idea behind this is to fill the underprivileged group of people in our society with courage through IT. The purpose is to equip them with courage and strength to go forward in the world via computer knowledge," Professor Epasinghe said.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/12/2011

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MALDIVES: President Ratifies Amendment Bill to Export Import Act

President Mohamed Nasheed Thursday ratified the ninth Amendment Bill to Export Import Act. The bill, which was passed by the parliament on November 21, has been published in the government gazette. With the new amendment, only a party registered at the Economic Development Ministry has the right to export, import or re-export in the Maldives. The Act now also states that zero rate duty applies to all construction goods, environment friendly goods, fertilisers, and machinery run on renewable energy. Duty has also been removed on all food items, except those that can be produced in the Maldives.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 12/03/2011

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PAKISTAN: Passing Women's Rights Bill

Islamabad: On Tuesday, the assembly passed a twice-snubbed landmark private bill demanding greater social protection for women. A file photo of Pakistani brides at a mass wedding ceremony for the needy in Karachi, supported by the government/ Photo credit: Athar Hussain/ Reuters The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act 2011, which was authored by Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid MNA Dr Donya Aziz, had remained stuck for three years, first in various NA committees and then the house itself. However, after a couple of amendments were incorporated into the final draft, the bill was unanimously passed by the lower house, which is incidentally headed by a woman Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza. The act, hailed by commentators as a show of collective resolve by political parties to fight social taboos against women, deals with issues such as depriving women their inheritance and forcing them into marriage to settle disputes. The bill outlines strong punishments for social practices like wanni, swara or budla-i-sulh, wherein women are traded to settle personal, family or tribal disputes. For the first time, the bill proposes a minimum benchmark for penalising those involved in "anti-women practices". However, the bill does not propose a mechanism to ensure that such cases are reported and reach a court of law, which is a necessity as these crimes often go unchecked and unreported.

Mirza, who had sent the draft to the law ministry last month for vetting, congratulated the house and the author of the bill moments after MNAs voted to pass the legislation. Congratulations also poured in from Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani who said that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and its democratic government had always risen above party politics when it came to the rights of women. "All legislators of the PPP lent their full support to this bill and I will continue to lend my support to its implementation," he said. In her statement of objects and reasons, Aziz wrote that the legislation aimed to reduce social injustice against women by proposing severe punishments. The bill was deferred last month after a member from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz objected that proposing a minimum limit for a crime would be in contradiction with the basic spirit of the law. Pakistan Peoples Party stalwart Justice (retd) Fakharunnisa Khokhar also objected to a clause in the bill proposing inheritance for women in moveable property.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 11/21/2011

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Cabinet Approves PSM Revival Plan

PESHAWAR: Federal Cabinet on Wednesday approved a revival plan for Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) to make it a profitable national entity. The meeting of the cabinet was held here at the Governor's House with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in the chair. Briefing the media regarding the decisions taken in the meeting, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdaus Ashiq Awan said the Ministry of Production presented suggestions and priorities for the revival of PSM. The officials of Ministry of Finance and PSM were also present in the meeting and gave their input for the improvement of the institution. The cabinet directed constitution of a committee for the PSM, appointment of a professional and competent Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and filling of three vacant posts of the Mills board of directors (BoD), which consists of 12 members but presently has only nine. In order to overcome the financial losses of PSM, Dr Firdaus said the government has already given two packages of Rs 30 billion. But for sustained growth it also required some organisational and professional reforms, she added. She said that the holding of the meetings of federal cabinet in the provinces was a vision of the prime minister to strengthen federating units and promote national harmony. The minister said that credit of renaming the NWFP as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa goes to President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and all the coalition partners. She added that the purpose of holding the federal cabinet meeting in the provinces was to recognise provincial autonomy and address and resolve the problems of the provinces.

She said that the governor and the chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were especially invited to give their feedback on the issues related to the province. The cabinet discussed a seven-point agenda and reviewed the implementation of the decisions taken in previous meetings. The meeting also reviewed the implementation of the decisions regarding Finance Division. The minister said that the cabinet has so far taken 114 decisions of which 100 have been implemented while the remaining will be implemented soon. The cabinet also approved decisions taken in the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) meeting, and also reviewed the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The prime minister directed the department concerned to bring down inflation to single-digit in order to provide maximum relief to the masses, Firdaus added. Gilani directed commerce secretary for preparation of priorities to check rising prices of essential items. Briefing the meeting, the finance secretary said that 19 items had registered increase in price while 10 had become cheaper. He informed that PSM was established by former prime minister ZA Bhutto and had registered highest profits in 1993-94. But gradually it declined to its current despicable state. The cabinet ratified Technical Assistance Agreements recently signed with Brazil and Egypt. An important decision taken during the cabinet meeting was related to 270 million Saudi Riyal loan for the rehabilitation of infrastructure in the militancy-affected areas in FATA and Malakand Division. Firdaus said that the PPP has decided to meet all challenges with the active support of the country's masses. She said that the problems of state corporations, including PIA and Pakistan Railways, were reviewed in the cabinet meeting, and decisions taken in these weekly meetings would help these entities stand on their own feet.

From http://pakistanlink.org/ 12/15/2011

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AFGHANISTAN: Laws to Protect Afghan Women Scantily Used: UN

As the global campaign 16 Days of Activism to end violence against women is launched today, the UN notes that a landmark law to protect Afghan women's rights is being used to prosecute only a small number of cases. Kabul: Afghan authorities are failing to enforce the law to protect women from murder, beating, rape and other violence and being sold into marriage and prostitution, the United Nations said on Wednesday. Burqa-clad women walk along a street in Kabul/ Photo credit: Denis Sinyakov/ Reuters The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) revealed in a report that only a small number of cases of violence against women have been prosecuted under the Elimination of Violence Against Women law, passed more than two years ago. Prosecutors in Afghanistan filed indictments in 155 cases of 2,299 estimated incidents of violence against women, the UN mission said in the report. Just 101 cases were brought to court for final judgments.

"There is still a long way to go to ensure that more cases of violence against women are prosecuted," UNAMA human rights director Georgette Gagnon told reporters. She said cases that are prosecuted "sends a message that these are crimes and they need to be stopped and perpetrators . . . need to be punished". Women had few rights under the harsh rule of the Taliban, who were ousted in 2001, and an improvement in the lot of women has been a top priority of Western backers of the government of President Hamid Karzai, who has ruled since then. The law, passed in August 2009, supports equality for women, including criminalising child and forced marriage, selling and buying women for marriage or for settling disputes, as well as forced self-immolation, among other acts. But police, prosecutors, governors and other officials have only sporadically enforced the law, UNAMA said in the report.

Most cases were still unreported and some withdrawn. Some murder cases, for example, were instead prosecuted under sharia law, which sometimes resulted in acquittal of the perpetrators or lighter sentences. In other cases, the female victims themselves were in turn accused of so-called moral crimes. Low numbers of female police, a lack of women's shelters and overuse of mediation in areas such as domestic violence also discouraged women from filing complaints. "In some cases, authorities inappropriately pressured women to withdraw complaints and opt for mediation," said Gagnon. The UN mission recommended raising awareness of the law among all levels of government and officials and to train prosecutors, police and judges better on how to apply the law. In addition, weaknesses in the law, such as the failure to offer protection to women who run away from home to escape abuse and are then detained for "moral crimes", needed to be amended. Twelve of 28 special women's groups that the law required to be set up to stop violence in rural areas have collapsed, UNAMA said in the report.

Missed cases
UNAMA cited cases where the law was or should have been used, including that of two sisters, 15 and 17, who were killed in western Herat province in July 2010 after the elder sister refused to marry an older man. The future husband and father-in-law were sentenced to 16 years in prison, while three other people were acquitted. In central Daikondi province, a prosecutor used the law to challenge a verdict by a court that found two girls impregnated by a 60-year-old religious leader guilty of adultery. An appeals court rejected that challenge, the UN mission said. A woman in southern Kandahar province complained in March of her daughter's forced suicide. She said her daughter, who had been sold into marriage for $6,600, set herself on fire in her room when, after 10 years of the marriage, her in-laws forced her to have sex with three male guests visiting the family. "She was always saying that she would burn herself one day. I would tell her, please tolerate, this is life as it comes and one day you will have a bright future," the mother complained, according to the report. Police did not investigate. The report was based on 261 interviews and research with judicial, police and government officials as well as UN monitoring of cases of violence between March 2010 and September 2011. UNAMA said comprehensive statistics are impossible to obtain since most cases go unreported.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 11/25/2011

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AZERBAIJAN: Presidential Administration - Socially Oriented State Policy to Continue Along with Boosting Opportunities of Azerbaijan

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev's recent orders imply his immediate goals and objectives. This social policy continues with the country's intensified opportunities and growth of the public budget, Azerbaijani Presidential Administration Social and Political Department Chief Ali Hasanov said in an interview with Trend on Tuesday. "The president has repeatedly stated he wants Azerbaijan to have not a single poor person. The President's intention and policy targets to finally eliminate the Azerbaijani people's financial needs and enable each person to live in accordance with Azerbaijan's development, realities and financial opportunities, and has problem-free life conditions," Hasanov said. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed an order last week to increase the minimum wage from Dec.1, 2011 by 10 percent, setting it at $93.5 manat. The President also signed a decree to increase wages of educational institutions' employees on Monday.

Hasanov said increased minimum wage in the truest sense of the word creates social security sounding Azerbaijan's modern development. "Following this adequate development of the state monthly wage of teachers increased. Wages of employees of other sphere will also be increased. This policy will continue. The population welcomed it. Letters and calls received by the Presidential Administration and opinions in media indicate that people are satisfied with the state social policy and the president and support all of these steps aimed at improving their welfare," Hasanov said.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/06/2011

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Centralized Control in Adoption Is Proposed in Azerbaijan

The State Committee for Family, Women and Children has proposed to implement a centralized adoption control system. The limited HR and technological base inhibit the protection of children and families in difficult social situations, state official Elgyun Safarov said. Safarov noted there must be a central mechanism to control interstate and domestic adoptions. This process is implemented by a single structure in France, Russia, Italy and other countries. "The authority for interstate and domestic adoption proposed to pass to the State Committee" Safarov said. Such a mechanism may be an important step in fulfilling Azerbaijan's international obligations, he noted Safarov said that the Azerbaijani law does not specify an age limit for persons wishing to adopt a child. It is stated only that the adopter must not be less than 16 years.

The adoption of children should be allowed to individuals who aren't less than 23 and no older than 60 years according to the experience of foreign countries, Safarov noted. "The difference in age between the adopter and the adoptee shall not be less than 18 and more than 50 years. We have proposed to make such a change in Family Code" Safarov said. The State Committee believes that the records on adoption are necessary within the country as it applies on intergovernmental adoptions, Safarov noted The state committee, propose to determine the five-year deadline for submission of reports in both cases. These proposals are under discussion.

From http://en.trend.az/news/ 12/16/2011
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Draft of Town Building Code Directed to Parliament in Azerbaijan

The Parliamentary Committee on Legal Policy and State Building discussed and passed a draft of the Town Building and Building Code for approval to the parliament on Wednesday. The code regulates land use planning, urban design documentation, transparency of this process, compliance with the construction of town-planning documents, providing people with reduced mobility and persons with disabilities to use public facilities, and the safety of construction projects. The code regulates the procedure for obtaining a permit to build facilities on the basis of the "single window" principle. In relation to individual dwellings provided no authorization, but notification principle.

The first section contains general provisions, the principles of building and town building, the system governing the construction and urban development of normative-technical documents and a unified information system of providing, the main directions of state policy in town building and building activities. The second section focuses on town building, implementation of land use planning in Azerbaijan, drawing up documents of territorial planning, types of planning, it also reflects the position, including a list of structures involved in spatial planning, provide information about the purpose of planning, maintenance of plans, etc. The third section regulates the processes of construction activity. The section reflects all the rules governing the process from obtaining permits for construction of the facility and before it into operation.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/16/2011

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GEORGIA: Leader Unveils Grand City Plan

The vibrant Black Sea port of Lazika, with half a million residents making it second only to Tbilisi, is the economic powerhouse of western Georgia. Or at least that is the plan, if it is ever built. Georgians were taken somewhat aback this week as they absorbed news of President Mikheil Saakashvili's latest project. "We have decided to build a big city between Anaklia and Kulevi, and to call it Lazika," Saakashvili told residents of the western town of Zugdidi on December 4. "In ten years' time, there will be a minimum of half a million people living in the city. It will be Georgia's second biggest city after the capital Tbilisi; the main trading and economic centre in western Georgia, and Georgia's principal centre on the Black Sea." Many were left wondering whether it was possible to raise a city on a green-field site in just a few years, and what the point of doing so was, anyway.

Georgia already has major port facilities at Batumi and Poti, the latter not far from where the future Lazika is to be. Many of the president's grand plans - including building a Free Industrial Zone outside Poti - have faltered or fallen flat. (See, for example, Georgian Port Braces for Refugee Influx.) Saakashvili insists that work on Lazika will start next year and employ thousands of people, on a project currently costed at between one and one-and-a-half billion laris, or 600 to 900 million US dollars, of which the government is putting in some 200 million laris. "We have already begun talks with some large investment groups from Asia and Europe about them investing money in building the new city," Saakashvili told his audience in Zugdidi. Many Georgians asked themselves whether it made sense to throw money at the Lazika project when their country faced so many immediate challenges.

Nor is it clear who would make up the 500,000 residents. Georgia has only 4.5 million people, of whom 1.2 million live in Tbilisi. Saakashvili appealed to "people who have left Georgia, and to refugees from Abkhazia, to return and build the new city together with us". Presidential spokesperson Manana Manjgaladze said the plan was to finish building work by 2015."As for the city's population, some of them will be from villages, and some will be Georgians who have returned or will be returning from abroad," she added. There is a strong political undercurrent to the Lazika project, with its location only few kilometres from the border with Abkhazia. Abkhazia has declared independence from Tbilisi and won Russian recognition. Saakashvili has always said he will regain control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, another breakaway entity supported by Moscow.

Lazika seems to be both an attempt to outshine Sukhumi, the Abkhazian capital and port city now beyond Georgian control, and to create a sort of economic bridgehead for getting Abkhazia back. As Saakashvili put it, "We are founding a large new city which from the start will be a lot bigger than Sukhumi is today, and which create a clear basis for Georgia to regain its remaining territory, because Georgia naturally cannot be conceived of without Abkhazia. The reaction from many commentators was dismissive. "This is propaganda and PR designed to instil new hopes in the population. The government is already short of resources, yet they want massive new projects," Giorgi Khukhashvili, head of the Centre for Civic Projects, told IWPR.

"How can you talk about this project being successful when you have the experience of its immediate neighbour, the Free Industrial Zone in Poti, and of other giant projects in which the authorities have invested such hopes. And where are they going to find half a million people?" Merab Chkhenkeli, a former minister of construction and urban affairs, outlined the problems of building a city up from zero, including transport provision, schools, hospitals and much more.

"I think it's going to be impossible to create all of that within ten years," he said. Chkhenkeli said urban populations tended to grow up around some existing form of production. "You can build a village around a factory, but not a city of half a million people. I think the authorities would be better off thinking about how to develop those cities that already exist," he said. The president's spokesperson Manana Manjgaladze refused to entertain such pessimism. "No is under any illusions that the city will be built in a day, or even in a year. The main advantage of the site is its natural location, which is very suitable," she said. According to Khukhashvili, when Saakashvili informed local officials of his Lazika plan, their reactions said it all. "I think the future of this project could be best read in the eyes of the regional government officials in western Georgia who were present when the president made this very unexpected announcement. There was horror in their eyes," he said. Nino Kharadze is an IWPR-trained journalist who works for Radio Liberty in Georgia.

From http://iwpr.net/report-news/ 12/10/2011

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KYRGYZSTAN: Trade Promotion Programme Presents Results

The third phase of the Trade Promotion Programme in the Kyrgyz Republic (2009-2012) is implemented by the International Trade Center (ITC) and is financed by the Swiss Government with a total budget of USD 1.8 million. Within the programme's framework, a steering committee was established in order to ensure transparency of the programme activities, implementation and coordination with related donor projects and other stakeholders. Members of the steering committee are representatives from partner ministries, trade support institutions, private sector and donor organizations. At the turn of each year, a steering committee meeting is conducted to present a progress report for last year and plans for the upcoming year.

Within the framework of the programme, artisan firms and clothing companies participated in international trade fairs in Europe and Russia. A group of international consultants provided individual recommendations to partner enterprises on quality and productivity improvement. ITC introduced the revolutionary methodology, 3G Tailor, for industrial sewing machine operators that reduces the training time drastically by about 75% and improves trainee efficiency. By following the advise, partner companies have improved their productivity by 15-20%. Some factories are slowly moving from a whole garment system to introducing teams and production lines, implementing interprocess quality control and changing the remuneration of labour.

The programme actively involved in its activities representatives from universities and business service providers. ITC training courses are included in the curricular of the Kyrgyz State Technical University, Kyrgyz State University of Construction, Transport and Architecture and Arabaev Kyrgyz State University. For more details contact: International Trade Centre (ITC), Project Manager Indira Kadyrkanova, tel.: (312) 663006, (0555) 748519, e-mail: kadyrkanova@intracen.org

From http://www.swiss-cooperation.admin.ch/ 12/02/2011

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QATAR: Introduces ICT Accessibility Policy

To make ICT more accessible for persons with disabilities, the Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology (ictQATAR), has introduced the country's first eAccessibility Policy. The policy aims to ensure people with disabilities in Qatar have equal access to the technologies that can enrich their lives, and covers a range of e-accessibility issues, including websites, telecommunications services, handsets, ATMs, government services, access to assistive technologies and digital content. The policy is effective immediately and ictQATAR will oversee the implementation of the policy across sectors and monitor progress.

"For many people with disabilities, information and communication technology can be a tremendously empowering and enabling tool, however, if these technologies are not fully accessible, they may actually become tools of exclusion or isolation. Qatar's eAccessibility Policy, which was developed in consultation with numerous stakeholder groups, will make Qatar one of the most progressive countries in the region in terms of bringing the benefits of technology to people with disabilities," said Hessa Al-Jaber, ictQATAR Secretary General. The primary provisions of the eAccessibility Policy include:
•Requiring telecommunications service providers to provide accessible handsets, user interfaces, relay services, special rate plans, emergency services and accessible public payphones where appropriate.
•Requiring public sector organisations to develop websites and mobile content that can be accessed by persons with disabilities.
•Requiring all public sector organisations, including government owned banks, to implement service improvements that will ensure that public access terminals/kiosks and ATMs are available at strategic locations and usable by people with low vision blindness, deaf or hearing impairments, physical disabilities and reading problems.
•Requiring Qatar's Assistive Technology Center (Mada) to establish a fund to improve access to assistive technologies (AT) and services, encouraging the wide spread procurement of ATs, spreading awareness of the available services and benefits of ATs and providing demonstrations, special training and evaluations.
•Calling to action all producers and distributors of digital media in Qatar to improve the accessibility of their content through accessible eBooks, online information and special captioning for video programming.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/15/2011

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UZBEKISTAN: World Bank Launches New Partnership Strategy with Uzbekistan

The World Bank Group's Board of Directors today approved a new Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) for Uzbekistan, providing the framework for World Bank Group assistance to Uzbekistan between 2012 and 2015. The new Strategy proposes a program linked to Uzbekistan's development vision of reaching high middle-income status by mid-century. It was developed based on a broad dialogue with the Government of Uzbekistan and consultations with all development partners, including civil society organizations, academia, business communities, professional associations, and multilateral and bilateral donors.

Through implementation of the CPS, the World Bank intends to help enhance the key elements of the Government's medium-term growth and development strategy: promoting efficiency, enhancing competitiveness, accelerating diversification, and ensuring social inclusion. A new financing envelope of US$1.3 billion - consisting of concessional International Development Association (IDA) credits and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) loans - reflects the country's development needs, its income level, economic prospects, economic management, poverty level, and performance of Bank-sponsored programs. It will support projects in the areas of water supply and sanitation, irrigation, energy, transport, and private sectors over the next four years. The Bank will also extend the on-going support for basic services in health and education.

Proposed analytical and advisory services aim to help Uzbekistan prepare a comprehensive sector-wide understanding of future development directions. Horticulture and energy sector strategy development is an example of such engagement. In addition, the CPS envisages a high-level joint strategy development exercise - "Uzbekistan Vision 2030". This aims to help Uzbekistan define roadmaps to achieve its development goals in collaboration with Uzbek research institutes.

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 12/06/2011

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AUSTRALIA: NSW Gets World's Toughest Wind Farm Rules

PEOPLE living within two kilometres of proposed wind farms will have the right to veto them, under a NSW government proposal. Planning and Infrastructure Minister Brad Hazzard says NSW remains committed to being part of the Federal Government's 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020, despite proposing what he has described as the world's toughest wind-farm guidelines. Under the proposal, a company wanting to set up a wind farm in an area where landowner consent has not been given will have to go to an independent regional planning panel if there is community opposition. Mr Hazzard said he hoped the idea would find a balance between residents living near wind turbines and supporters of renewable energy. "Today I am announcing that the NSW coalition government is putting out for public discussion some of the toughest wind-farm guidelines in the country, possibly the world," he said.

The Victorian coalition government this year gave residents within a two-kilometre radius a right of veto over wind turbines. But Mr Hazzard said the NSW proposal was different to Victoria's and that wind-farm proponents would get a bigger say. People wishing to write submissions to the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure have until March 14. Across NSW, there are 17 applications to build wind farms, including 13 that are yet to be shown to the public. The NSW Greens said the proposal would kill off the wind-generation sector in favour of coal seam gas as a solution to the state's future energy needs. "If this draft plan becomes law, the government has effectively chosen a destructive coal seam gas future for NSW, over the clean, green and jobs-rich wind-energy sector," Greens planning spokesman David Shoebridge said. "NSW is abandoning the most cost-effective option for reducing its carbon footprint, which in effect means it is giving the green light for coal seam gas projects across the state."

From http://www.smh.com.au/ 12/23/2011

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COOK ISLANDS: Implementing Pacific Cyber Safety Programme

A cyber safety programme designed to protect internet users in the Pacific is being rolled out in the Cook Islands. The Police Commissioner says with more than 50 percent of the population accessing information online, the Cook Islands is second to Niue in terms of Pacific internet usage. Maara Tetava says because people in the Cook Islands only started going online about a decade ago, they're more vulnerable to the risks. He says Cook Islanders are falling prey to scamsters so educating people about scams is a priority. "But cyber bullying is also a concern to us - this programme will give us some indicator as to whether that's happening here in the Cook Islands. Not only are our presenters presenting, they're also talking to the kids and what they're finding out from the kids is mind boogling, really, about what they've been doing on the internet." Maara Tetava says it's also up to parents to get educated about the internet so they can proterct their children.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 11/30/2011

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Cooks Government Plans Promised Pension Increase from Next Year

The Cook Islands government's plan to double the pension for those aged 70 years and older will start to be implemented over the next financial year. Finance minister Mark Brown says money will be allocated in next year's budget, though he has yet to say how much. Mr Brown told parliament this week the government is currently looking at options for the pension increase implementation. He says this could include a staggered increase over a number of years. The governing Cook Islands Party promised during the last elections year to increase the pension for those aged 70 years and older to at least match earnings on the minimum wage.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 12/15/2011

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FIJI: Drawing Up Policy for Elderly

Fiji has its first national ageing policy. The policy recognises the contribution of older people to the social, cultural, economic and political sectors of Fijian society. It's been unveiled by the Pacific sub-regional Director and Representative of the United Nations Population Fund, Dirk Jena. FijiLive said the policy is aimed at strengthening social assistance for older people. The UN said the nation's older population is reported to be growing rapidly each year.

From http://www.radioaustralianews.net.au/ 12/20/2011

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MARSHALL ISLANDS: Marine Resources Authority Welcomes Green Light for PNA Plan

The director of the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority has welcomed a London based adjudicator's ruling to allow a plan by a cartel of small island nations to enforce new standards controlling the lucrative purse seiner fishing industry in the Pacific. The independent adjudicator, Melanie Carter, dismissed objections by some tuna industry players to the plan to allow the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, or PNA, to provide financial incentives for fishing nations to sustainably harvest skipjack tuna. Glen Joseph says for the PNA, it is a small victory, but much more needs to be done. The PNA plans to market "free-school" catches of skipjack tuna at a premium price to European and American wholesalers and retailers. "This is [the] first of the most important step that the PNA has taken in terms of putting its foot down and managing its own fishery. Of course we expect a lot of opposition and perhaps critics, but again the question we always ask ourselves is what's wrong with these small island states trying to manage their fisheries, sustainably and deriving economic benefits from it?" Glen Joseph says the certification of free-school catches of skipjack tuna by purse seiners is the first of its kind.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 12/19/2011

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NEW ZEALAND: Extended Deposit Guarantee Scheme to End

The Crown's Extended Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme will end on 31 December 2011, as previously stated by the Government. Deposits with the three institutions that are currently participating in the Extended Scheme will cease to be guaranteed by the Crown after this date. The original Deposit Guarantee Scheme was introduced in October 2008 as a response to the global financial crisis. It was designed to give assurance to New Zealand depositors that the New Zealand banking system remained sound. At its peak, the original scheme guaranteed deposits of approximately $133 billion with 72 financial institutions. Nine financial institutions defaulted while participating in the scheme. All payments to depositors for defaults under the original scheme were completed by early December 2010, when the original scheme ended. The Extended Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme was set up under its own specific legislation in October 2010. When it started, it covered deposits worth approximately $1.9 billion with seven financial institutions. The three institutions remaining in the Extended Scheme are Fisher & Paykel Finance Limited, Heartland Building Society and Wairarapa Building Society.

From http://www.scoop.co.nz/ 12/20/2011

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Planning for Public Smoking Ban

Papua New Guinea is preparing to ban smoking in public in an effort to stop early deaths from lifestyle diseases. The Acting Health Secretary, Dr Piason Dakulala, says the Ministry became more clear about setting goals to reduce smoking after the recent global summit on non communicable diseases at the United Nations. Dr Kadulala says the preparatory documents for the tobacco ban have just been gazetted. He says all sectors need to work together - for example with bans that will apply on public transport. He says its important people have good information as they tackle their addictions to tobacco.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 12/11/2011

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TUVALU: Laying Out New Proactive Approach to Aid Delivery

The Tuvalu government says it is taking a stronger, more proactive approach to improve the delivery of aid and to satisfy donor partners. Tuvalu's Minister of Finance and Economic Development Lotoala Metia attended international aid talks in South Korea where he stressed the difficulties for Tuvalu of dealing with up to 900 visits a year by separate aid partners. He has outlined the fresh approach at a meeting in Suva to donors like the World Bank and AusAID. Mr Metia says the plan is to set priorities, improve governance and accountability and it won't mean simply presenting a shopping list of projects to donors. "Some of the reforms being proposed will take a long time to implement and it won't be easy at all, making decisions that will affect the population of Tuvalu - scholarships, the Tuvalu medical scheme. Those are the kinds of tough decisions we are going to make. Mr Metia says Tuvalu's plan involves frank and regular talks with donors.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 12/07/2011

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First Country Assistance Strategy to Connect Tuvalu with More Global Opportunities

Funafuti, Tuvalu, December 14, 2011 - The World Bank has been scaling-up analytical and financial support throughout the Pacific and is now well-positioned to provide increased support to Tuvalu through the first Country Assistance Strategy. The Country Strategy continues the Bank's commitment to developing individual strategies to directly respond to the specific needs of small island economies while addressing common challenges in the Pacific. The Country Strategy will govern the Bank's program throughout the fiscal years of 2012 to 2015. It has been developed to reflect the Tuvalu Government's development priorities under the National Strategy for Sustainable Development 2005-2015, and the themes underpinning the World Bank's engagement in the Pacific. The country strategy will focus on two strategic areas:

Strategic area 1: Mitigating economic isolation by encouraging regional and global integration
The initial focus of the World Bank's program will be Tuvalu's inclusion in a regional Pacific Aviation Investment Program. Improved air travel can help better serve many Tuvaluans who seek employment, education and other opportunities overseas. Investments proposed under the program will also help Tuvalu connect to the outside world, expanding markets for goods and services. The Bank will work with Tuvalu to develop a fisheries management to support the Parties to the Nauru Agreement Office. This group of countries, for whom fisheries remain their primary resource, is undertaking measures to improve the management of tuna resources and to ensure that members receive a more equitable share of benefits. A number of seasonal and international employment opportunities are available for Pacific Islanders. Together with donors already working on education and skills development programs, the World Bank will help Tuvaluans, particularly women, take full advantage such opportunities.

Strategic area 2: Building resilience against external shocks
The World Bank will support Tuvalu to help strengthen financial management in light of fiscal difficulties and the lingering effects of the global financial crisis. Tuvalu already faces effects of climate change. All planned World Bank activities will incorporate climate resilience measures as integral elements of project design. The scope of the challenge will require the Bank to develop an appreciation of the Government's priorities before undertaking more complex activities. The Bank will also work with other partners to mobilize grant financing for climate change investments.

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 12/14/2011

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VANUATU: Passport Law Change Legalised Corruption - Former Cabinet Minister

Former Vanuatu cabinet minister, Joe Natuman, says amendments to the Passport Act will allow corrupt politicians to sell passports for personal gain. Last week parliament amended the Passport Act to allow non ni-Vanuatu diplomats to qualify for diplomatic passports. As minister of internal affairs last year Mr Natuman ordered the sacking of over 200 diplomats who were not Vanuatu citizens. He says some were criminals who had damaged Vanuatu's reputation. Mr Natuman says the government's actions amount to legalised corruption. "Because government ministers would sell passports to any foreigners for money, to make some money for their campaigns for the coming elections. That is basically what [will] happen. It's a form of legalised corruption. Last year Mr Natuman spearheaded a government audit inquiry into allegedly fraudulent activity at the Embassy in Beijing. It uncovered gross mismanagement and corrupt actions, including questions over the issuance of passports.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 12/09/2011

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ADB: Asian Nations' Development Needs Greater Accountability and Transparency

Greater accountability and better fiscal management are needed to achieve more inclusive growth in developing Asia-Pacific nations, the President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Haruhiko Kuroda said at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan (Republic of Korea), ADB reports. "Making growth more inclusive will also require greater accountability, transparency, and participation of public institutions, Kuroda said. Poor fiscal management undermines economic growth generally, which in turn puts inclusive growth out of reach." The forum in Busan was attended by over 2,500 delegates from more than 150 countries. Korean President Lee Myung-bak, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon were among the participants of the forum. The forum provides an international platform for developing and donor nations to discuss how aid can be used more effectively to promote development. The major focus of the Busan forum is to reaffirm international commitments for achieving greater development effectiveness with a much broader group of stakeholders, which includes the private sector. Forum participants discuss improvements to the way aid is delivered, building on the 2005 Paris Declaration and 2008 Accra Agenda for Action. "A high degree of inequality constrains the impact growth can have on reducing poverty, Kuroda said. High levels of poverty and gross inequalities can also undermine social cohesion and stability, as seen in some parts of the world." According to ADB's report, many countries in developing Asia are embracing inclusive growth as part of their development agenda. ADB supports their efforts through a range of initiatives involving project finance, technical assistance, knowledge products and services, and policy dialogue, the report says.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/01/2011

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Message of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for 2011 International Anti-corruption Day

Corruption afflicts all countries, undermining social progress and breeding inequality and injustice. When desperately needed development funds are stolen by corrupt individuals and institutions, poor and vulnerable people are robbed of the education, health care and other essential services. Although the poor may be marginalized by corruption, they will not be silenced. In events across the Arab world and beyond this year, ordinary people have joined their voices in denouncing corruption and demanding that governments combat this crime against democracy. Their protests have triggered changes on the international scene that could barely have been imagined just months previously. All of us have a responsibility to take action against the cancer of corruption. The United Nations is helping countries combat corruption as part of our broader, system-wide campaign to help bolster democracy and good governance. The United Nations Convention Against Corruption is a powerful tool in the fight. I urge all governments that have not yet ratified it to do so without delay. I also call on governments to include anti-corruption measures in all national programmes that support sustainable development. The private sector, too, stands to gain enormously from effective action. Corruption distorts markets, increases costs for companies and ultimately punishes consumers. Companies can create a more transparent global economy through anti-corruption initiatives, including the work of the United Nations Global Compact. On this International Anti-Corruption Day, let us pledge to do our part by cracking down on corruption, shaming those who practice it and engendering a culture that values ethical behaviour.

From http://www.un.org/ 12/09/2011

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RCOCI Publishes 100 Documents in Observance of International Anti-corruption Day

SHANGHAI, 9 December 2011 - Marking the 8th International Anti-Corruption Day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement, reminding citizens all over the world to take action against corruption. "Let us pledge to do our part," he urged, "by cracking down on corruption, shaming those who practice it and engendering a culture that values ethical behavior." In Shanghai, the Regional Cooperation Office of City Informatization (RCOCI) takes prompt action. As always, it tries its best to support UN in its own way. This time, its UNPAN-AP Editorial Department makes a brilliant effort in uploading 100 valuable documents to the United Nations Public Administration Network (UNPAN), with an aim of raising people's awareness of combating and preventing corruption. The series of documents includes legislations, country profiles, case studies, and analytical reports, revealing corruption in various forms such as bribery, law-breaking without dealing with the consequences in a fair manner, unfairly amending election processes and results, and covering mistakes or silencing whistleblowers, etc.

From http://www.unpan.org/ 12/10/2011

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"One Community, One Destiny" - Cambodia Takes Over as ASEAN Chair for 2012

Capping a productive year of meetings and outreach activities, H.E. I Gede Ngurah Swajaya, Permanent Representative of Indonesia to ASEAN, handed over the Chairmanship of the Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN (CPR) to the H.E. Kan Pharidh, Permanent Representative of Cambodia to ASEAN, in Jakarta today. Indonesia's past year as Chair of the CPR was marked by several, significant milestones. For example, many documents endorsed and adopted by ASEAN Ministers and Leaders were finalised. Another key achievement, recognized with Indonesia as Chair, was the closer and stronger integration and cooperation among the ASEAN Member States and with its Dialogue Partners and friends. Under its Chairmanship, Indonesia not only increased the ASEAN's international profile but also led the CPR to various provinces in Indonesia to reach out and interact with the people of Indonesia, up-close and personal. Cambodia, as the incoming Chair of ASEAN, hopes to continue the work and sustain gains achieved by its predecessors. Members of the CPR and the Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, expressed their utmost support to Cambodia in continuing the works of ASEAN and in implementing its priorities set for 2012 under the theme of "One Community, One Destiny".

From http://www.asean.org/ 12/13/2011

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Asia-Pacific News Agencies Adopt Ethical Guidelines

The Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies, or OANA, urged its member news organizations on Wednesday to stringently respect privacy and human rights while covering conflicts and disasters. "Take great care of the quality and style of our stories that they do not encourage violence, spread fear, traumatize, damage the principles of equality and justice, degrade human dignity and foster discrimination," the group that unites 44 news agencies, including RIA Novosti, from 35 countries said in the declaration adopted Wednesday. OANA also called on its members to "refrain from publishing stories or visual material that will be deemed offensive and discriminatory on the basis of class, race, language, religion, gender, and region that will generate feelings of hostility among people." Two separate points in the declaration call on members to respect "the dignity of the dead regardless of who they are" and "to exercise great judgment in distributing graphic pictures and videos of executions, close-up shots of dead and wounded people and mutilated bodies and limbs." OANA's declaration was adopted at its 50th anniversary convention in Bangkok, Thailand. "The history of OANA is inextricably linked with global processes of the dissemination of information and the freedom of speech, the ideas of peace, tolerance and openness, which together help strengthen mutual understanding and cooperation between peoples, nations and cultures within the vast expanse of the organization's member states," RIA Novosti's General Director Nikolai Biryukov said Wednesday in a congratulatory letter to the OANA's president Kemal Ozturk.

From http://en.rian.ru/ 12/14/2011

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Survey of Public Opinion on Corruption in South Asia

The anti-corruption organisation Transparency International will release a new survey of six South Asian countries on 22 December. The report Daily Lives and Corruption, Public Opinion in South Asia surveyed more than 7500 people between 2010 and 2011 in Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The survey asks respondents whether they think corruption has increased and which institutions are considered most corrupt. It also asks if people have paid a bribe in the past 12 months, to whom and for what.

Launch: Daily Lives and Corruption, Public Opinion in South Asia
22 December 2011

Panel discussion in Kathmandu, Nepal:
Hotel Annapurna
140 Durbar Marg, Kathmandu
13.00 local time (07.15 GMT)

and available online
@ www.transparency.org

Individual interviews may be arranged with both regional and national experts.

Transparency International is the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption. For interview requests or for enquires about the panel discussion please contact:

In Kathmandu:
Thama Nath Ghimire
+ 977 1 4436462 (office)
+ 977 9851122074 (cell) In Berlin:
Chris Sanders
Tel. +49 30 34 38 20 666
press@transparency.org

From http://www.transparency.org/ 12/19/2011

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UNECA, WB, ITU Adopt Framework to Measure Governments' ICT-Based Service Delivery

A new framework document and a list of ICT indicators to measure e-government across countries in the world have been adopted by the Partnership for Measuring Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Development including some institutions such as the UN Economic Commission for Africa, World Bank and the International Telecommunications (ITU). The framework proposes a set of globally comparative e-government core indicators to support the efforts of countries worldwide in the collection of data to measure the use of ICT in government service delivery. The document was adopted in Mauritius December 8, 2011. The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in a statement says "in order to facilitate use of the framework, the Commission will develop a manual for measuring e-government in 2012 and "training will be provided to stakeholders in member States to enable collection, processing and dissemination of statistics on the deployment and exploitation of ICT in government services."

Mr. Aida Opoku-Mensah, Director, ICT, Science and Technology Division at the ECA is quoted in the statement saying "In developing the Framework, particular attention was paid to providing a measurement approach that is feasible for developing countries, including Africa. It supports their efforts to utilize e-government for the benefit of their society and economy." The Partnership is composed of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, Eurostat, the International Telecommunications (ITU), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Bank. Mr. Makane Faye, Officer-in-charge of the ICT Policy and Development Section of ECA represents the Commission in the Partnership.

From http://www.ghanabusinessnews.com/ 12/19/2011

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CHINA: Civil Service Recruitment Just and Fair

About 970,000 Chinese people nationwide took an annual exam Sunday to compete for highly coveted positions of national public services. A government official on Sunday refuted an accusation that discriminations widely exist in the country's civil service recruitment process. Nie Shengkui, director of the examination and recruitment department of the State Administration of Civil Service (SACS), said that the recruitment process is always based on the principles of justice and fairness, which has promoted the upward mobility of people from the grassroots. The ratio of recruited male and female applicants is around 6 to 4 in last year, equal to the ratio of the male and female applicants, and more than 92 percent of the recruited are from the ordinary families in the grassroots, including 29 percent from the rural areas, according to Nie. Nie's words came after a survey report published earlier last week, accusing the authorities of having discriminatory requirements in civil servants recruitment.

Conducted by the Constitutionalism Research Institute of China University of Political Science and Law, the survey report said that without publicly acknowledging any form of discrimination, many public offices don't hesitate to hide their preferences on age, gender, education and state of health in recruitment. Nie defended that it is necessary to set some requirements in the recruitment in a bid to guarantee the future civil servants can carry out there duty competently. "Civil servants recruitment is a process of choosing talents for the government to manage the country, not for promoting employment," said Nie, "so there is nothing to do with employment discriminations." Chinese college grads are usually enthusiast about finding jobs within government branches, especially at a time when people are trying to secure a stable future amid a troubled global economy. A total of 970,000 applicants took the general exam of the recruitment on Saturday and Sunday, They will compete for only 18,000 posts in central government departments and their local branches.

From Xinhua News Agency 11/28/2011

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Shanghai Unveils Official Microblog to Serve the Public

The Shanghai municipal government on Monday launched its official microblog, joining an expanding group of Chinese authorities that resort to the popular social networking tool for smarter interaction with the public. The microblog "Shanghai City" on weibo.com - a popular microblogging site similar to Twitter - will serve as a platform to publish government regulations and information of activities, as well as interactions with Internet users over issues of public concern, according to the Information Office of Shanghai Municipal Government (IOSMG), the microblog's initiator. Within only about 12 hours since the release of its first posting at 8:40 a.m., the microblog has accumulated more than 120,000 followers. Vegetable prices, the selection of affordable housing, and upcoming cultural activities in Shanghai are included in the first several postings. "Shanghai City" will become a new channel for the Shanghai municipal government to closely contact with and better serve the public as it tries to conjoin more microblog accounts by government agencies to provide much needed information, said IOSMG head Zhu Yonglei. On the right column of the webpage are links to other microblogs owned by government agencies in Shanghai. According to the IOSMG, some 600 government agencies and 300 government officials of various levels in Shanghai have verified weibo accounts. "Shanghai Metro," the official microblog of the city's metro operator, is considered one of most influential government microblogs in China with over 1.15 million followers.

Shanghai is not the first city to launch official microblog service to the public. Governments of all levels are ambitious to make good use of the medium to better serve the public. Ten days ago, the Beijing municipal government launched a similar news release platform on the same microblogging service. Twenty municipal government agencies will post newly-unveiled policies and regulations, work developments, and information of news conferences on the joint microblog account. Microblog is becoming a widely recognized platform and channel for interactions between the government and the public. According to latest statistics by Internet giant Sina, which operates weibo.com, nearly 10,000 government agencies have opened verified microblog accounts by early November this year. "The government agencies should not be absent in such a burgeoning public opinion arena as microblog," said Xie Yungeng, deputy director of Institute of Arts and Humanities, Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Others however point out that the government-initiated microblogs pose a challenge while they help build up a positive image and credibility. Liao Shengqing, a journalism and communication professor at the Shanghai-based Fudan University, said microblog is more efficient than the traditional news spokesman platforms as it can respond to breaking events or clarify Internet rumors more quickly. "The credibility of the governments could be advanced if the microblog is properly used. However, the microblog will also lose its credibility instantly if misleading or disguised information is released," said Liao. Latest statistics show that China now has more than 300 million registered microblog users among its 485 million Internet users.

From Xinhua News Agency 11/28/2011

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Tax Official Denies Corruption Charges

Wang Jiping, former director of the Beijing tax authority, denied embezzling public funds of more than 10 million yuan (US$1.6 million) and taking bribes of more than 4 million yuan when he appeared in court Monday, the Beijing Times reported. Wang Jiping,63, the former official of the Beijing tax authority appeared in court yesterday.[Photo/Beijing Evening News] Wang, 63, was charged to embezzle more than 10.47 million yuan while buying tax payment machines between 2002 and 2004, according to the local prosecutors. The court told that when Wang became director, he teamed up with Zhao Yun, a tax payment machine supplier, to sell the machines to the bureau at a higher-than-usual price. The two skimmed the extra money. However, Wang claimed in court that all the money had gone to Zhao's company account and he had received none of it. Wang was also charged bribery over 4.35 million yuan from Shandong Langchao Company and individuals between 2002 and 2009. No verdict was announced. Four other people, including Zhao and three more Beijing tax officials, have been accused of corruption. Two have been sentenced.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 11/29/2011

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Taiwan Upgrades Training Programs for Civil Servants

In 2010, 369,669 civil servants were in the employ of the Republic of China. These government employees worked at the central and local government level, for state-run corporations, at health care institutes and the nation's public schools. To qualify for their positions, the vast majority of them had to pass an open and competitive civil service exam administered by the Examination Yuan, one of the five branches of government in the ROC. Upon passing the exam and completing a rigorous training course, they became civil servants, with their status protected by law as long as they obey the civil service code of conduct. Entering the civil service system, which is so intimately related to legal regulations and paper work, might seem like a rather humdrum career for young people. Indeed, it used to be thought that being a civil servant was far less exciting than working in the private sector, and not as respectable as doing scientific research. Many college graduates paid little attention to the profession; they did not know what it involved, or what kind of a career path it offered to someone who would be working in it for 20 or 30 years.

But the situation has changed recently. According to statistics from the Examination Yuan, the number of people registering to take the July civil service exam, the largest written test in Taiwan, reached a record high in 2010, and again in 2011. The phenomenon is due not only to the relatively high unemployment rate of the last three years, but also to the increasingly acknowledged fact that civil servants are a vital asset in moving the nation forward. "To have a capable government at the helm steering the nation through challenges and hardships, we need a team of outstanding civil servants," said ROC President Ma Ying-jeou in his 2009 New Year's Day celebratory message. He added that the Examination Yuan should institute a national training college responsible for the testing and training of civil servants.

At the president's request, the National Academy of Civil Service was established in Taipei March 26, 2010, taking the place of the National Civil Service Institute. Two affiliated departments were set up at the same time, namely the Assessment and Development Center, and the Academic Exchange and Cooperation Division. In addition, a central Taiwan training center was put in place to serve those far from Taipei. "The upgrade represents the government's determination to raise the caliber of civil servants," said Tsai Bih-hwang, president of the NACS, in a Nov. 14 interview with Taiwan Today. To do so, Tsai said, the NACS offers a wide range of training programs, including orientation classes for new staff; a lifelong learning program; a management training course for senior civil servants; and a set of administrative neutrality curricula for all governmental officials, including contractual and part-time employees.

Civil servants in the ROC government are categorized into three types: those who implement policy, managers, and those who formulate strategy - with the three groups respectively making up 41 percent, 54 percent and 5 percent of the total. The NACS trains more than 4,000 new recruits every year, all of whom are at either the implementation or management level. "Passing the Examination Yuan's tests grants trainees a ticket to the NACS, but to receive Executive Yuan certification, they still have to learn many lessons here," Tsai said. These entry-level lessons, as listed in the syllabuses provided by the NACS, include civil ethics, document processing, basic legal concepts and pressure management. "Trainees also have to participate in various discussions, group activities, and to give presentations on a variety of topics. The training program lasts between three and five weeks. The trainees will be announced as civil servants only if they have met all of our requirements," Tsai said.

For senior or high-ranking officials, the NACS focuses on developing their leadership and policy analysis skills, as well as the ability to convey a vision to their subordinates. "We are also adding change management and interdepartment communication topics to the school," Tsai said. During a recent management development workshop, he noted, a group of division directors coming from different backgrounds were asked to reach consensus on how to allocate staff and share space in a new building. "Clearly they had some difficulties, but the progress helped them become more creative and get rid of more old-fashioned mindsets." Not all civil servants are trained by the NACS, however. For example, the government has designated the Training Center for Judges and Prosecutors to train newly recruited judges. And police investigators have to study for one year at the Law Enforcement Academy under the Ministry of Justice, to familiarize themselves with forensic science and knowledge of firearms. The Foreign Service Institute under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for training young diplomats.

Besides its intensive training courses, the NACS also promotes lifelong learning among civil servants. Its predecessor launched a book-of-the-month club reading activity in 2004, a policy the NACS has continued. The types of books read cover an enormous range of topics, from aesthetics to charismatic leadership, from philosophy to Taiwanese history. As part of the program, civil servants are encouraged to write book reviews or join book clubs. To date, about 83 percent of all civil servants have participated in the book-of-the-month club at one time or another, according to NACS estimates. Tsai noted that the school is also active in spreading e-learning resources. "We signed a cooperation agreement with the National Central Library in March, which not only helps our trainees borrow books more easily, but also enables civil servants nationwide to download a list of NACS publications via the library's e-book portal," Tsai said.

Learning from other academies overseas to perfect the training framework is a new mission of the NACS. The efforts yielded dividends Oct. 19, when a memorandum of understanding was inked between the NACS and the National School of Public Administration of Poland (KSAP). According to the memorandum, the two schools agreed to enhance student exchanges, provide international classes to each other, and deepen co-development in the field of public administration research. In an interview a day after the signing ceremony, KSAP Director Jacek Czeputowicz told Taiwan Today he expects the partnership to increase the capabilities of Polish civil servants by providing them with chances to communicate with foreigners and giving them deeper insights into international relationships.

He also noted that Taiwan and Poland share a similar history, in that both nations made the transition from authoritarianism to democracy in the 1980s. Poland's experience with dictatorship makes its citizens all the more aware that "the value of administrative neutrality should be stressed," Czeputowicz said. The importance of having an independent civil service sector is one that many people in Taiwan have also taken to heart. In 2009, the Legislative Yuan passed an act stipulating that civil servants are forbidden from taking part in election campaigns during working hours, or taking advantage of their positions to support or oppose any political party.

"Promoting administrative impartiality is what the NACS strives for," Tsai said, adding that the school has launched a series of forums, study groups, and special and online classes on neutrality since 2010. "Here we can see why the NACS matters - it reports to the Examination Yuan, and therefore can shelter itself from the sway of the Cabinet, which controls the Executive Yuan at most. So our classes are truly politically neutral," Tsai said. Asked about the future, Tsai said much work remains to be done. "It will take time, but the NACS will never stop in its mission to produce the best civil servants possible," he said. (HZW)

From http://www.taiwantoday.tw/ 12/04/2011

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Corruption Has No Place in Taiwan's Education System

The problems with Taiwan's education system may have their roots in the institution, but the educators themselves may also have to take the blame. The recent widespread bribery scandal implicating school principals illustrates this point. It is well known how teachers enjoy a special status in this ancient society that has revered them as followers of the grand teacher master, Confucius. Such an honor places extra obligation on teachers, who are supposed to embrace higher moral standards and make more sacrifices than any other professional group that serves society, as they arguably have the most important job of all - educating the country's children. While most teachers do live up to the expectations, some have failed in their tasks. It may not really be a surprise that some school principals - who of course are teachers themselves - are corrupt.

But the scale of the latest corruption scandal has come as a shock. A dozen principals from elementary and junior high schools have been taken into custody for allegedly receiving bribes and kickbacks from school lunch suppliers, while another dozen or so have been arrested and granted bail in the same ongoing probe in New Taipei City. Investigators have hinted that more principals may be implicated as the probe continues. And we wonder how many more would be caught if similar probes were launched in other cities and counties. We have reason to believe that this is not a problem unique to New Taipei City, and this is worrisome. The scandal is doubly shocking and saddening because one of the duties of school principals is supposed to be to protect students from harm. But as this bribery scandal unfolds, it has been revealed that the principals are suspected of taking money from the suppliers who in turn would provide substandard meals to students, disregarding the possible hazards to their health.

The investigation started earlier this year after complaints of the presence of worms in food provided to students in one of the schools. It has since been discovered that lunch suppliers would bribe principals who would in turn would help them win the meal-supply contracts of their schools. The bribery usually would take the form of a lump sum - a few hundred thousand Taiwan dollars - prior to the contractor review, and then monthly kickbacks of a few dollars for each student subscribing to the meals. It means that for a meal for which a student pays somewhere between NT$30-50, about one tenth would end up in the pockets of corrupt principals in the form of monthly kickbacks. And of course another portion would have to go to make up the pre-contract bribery the suppliers already paid the principals, plus wining and dining costs incurred from entertaining these school officials.

For the suppliers, the meal money would also have to cover their operation costs - buying food and employing personnel - and most importantly to provide profits. How much would be left for the food itself that the students actually eat? And that's the kind of cheap and substandard lunch - with germs and worms - that students under corrupt principals have been eating. The scandal actually has thrown some light on other campus problems. We can now understand why some schools have refrained from reporting campus bullying - which has been a major concern since last year following some high-profile cases. Those school principals are perhaps less eager to protect students than their own interests. They could lose their jobs for the bullying cases and of course the income they received from bribery. Meal money is just one of many possible sources of bribes. These corrupt principals do not care about the education and safety of students. All they care about is that they keep their own jobs and students continue to subscribe to school-arranged meals. It sounds cynical, but shame on those corrupt school principals.

From http://www.chinapost.com.tw/ 12/09/2011

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Chinese Academy of Sciences Elects 51 New Academicians

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) announced Friday that it has elected 51 new academicians, 90 percent of whom have the experience of studying abroad. The dilatation has taken the total number of CAS's academicians to 727. The newly recruited academicians have an average age of 52.6, according to the CAS. Academician is the highest academic title conferred on Chinese scientists and experts working in scientific and technological fields. The title of academician is a lifelong honor. Nine foreign scientists, including three Nobel Laureates, were elected CAS foreign academicians. The three Nobel Prize winners are American Physicist David Gross, Israeli Chemist Avram Hershko and Japanese Chemist Ryoji Noyori, according to the CAS.

From Xinhua News Agency 12/10/2011

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Scandal-driven Judicial Reform in Henan Gets Public Support

Judicial reforms in central China's Henan province, many of which were initiated in response to scandals, have received support from the public, according to a report in the Monday edition of the People's Daily newspaper. According to the report, the rate of public satisfaction with the province's courts rose from 84.5 percent in 2006 to 93.6 percent last year. Moreover, the number of petitions to central governmental and judicial departments in Beijing complaining about the province's judicial system saw an 83-percent drop on a year-on-year basis, the report said. The province's judicial system previously came under fire for a scandal in which an innocent man was jailed for more than 10 years. In May 2010, Zhao Zuohai was acquitted after serving 11 years in prison for murder when the supposed murder victim, Zhao Zhenshang, was found alive and well.

Four days after Zhao Zuohai's release, he received a sum of 650,000 yuan (96,000 U.S. dollars at the exchange of time) in compensation and from the local court. Zhang Liyong, chief judge of the Henan Higher People's Court, also visited Zhao Zuohai's home and apologized for the wrongful conviction. The judicial system should not shirk its responsibilities but should confront the scandal head-on, the newspaper quoted Zhang as saying. After the case, local courts strengthened their evidence review processes, acquitting 73 detained suspects over a lack of evidence. In a 2009 mine explosion that killed 76 miners in the province, a local court handed down death sentences with two-year reprieves for two mine managers, the harshest sentence ever handed down for such a case. According to precedent, mine managers are typically sentenced to a maximum of seven years in prison on liability-related charges. However, after considering the serious consequences of the case and the actions of the managers, the court decided to charge the managers with "endangering public safety."

An investigation revealed that the managers had intentionally ordered the mine's ventilation facilities and gas sensors to be disabled, leading to the blast. In another scandal, another local court handed down a similar sentence to a man who was convicted of producing and selling large amounts of clenbuterol, a carcinogenic chemical added to pig feed to produce leaner pork. The local judicial system is also making efforts to expand its open trial and public hearing system. Local courts have published 99.37 percent of their decisions online in recent years, and live broadcasts of many of their hearings can also be found on the Internet. Being open-minded about public supervision is the best way to win the people's support and confidence, Zhang said.

From http://english.cri.cn/ 12/12/2011

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Hong Kong Candidates Heat Up Usually Dry Exec Race

HONG KONG (AP) - Candidates to become the next leader of Chinese-ruled Hong Kong are engaged in an unusual bout of mudslinging over private affairs and business deals, turning what is usually a staid, scripted contest into a public spectacle - not necessarily to Beijing's liking. Though the race pits two pro-Beijing candidates, one is a symbol of self-made success and the other a fixture of Hong Kong's moneyed establishment who is China's favorite but lagging in the polls. One of the juiciest revelations is that one candidate had an extramarital affair, an unusual public disclosure for a conservative ruling class that dislikes scandal. The race is giving Hong Kong, a former British colony and global center of finance and trade, something that has been lacking in previous chief executive races: a taste of democratic politics. It's also generating popular interest in a campaign that Beijing prefers to be kept among Hong Kong's trusted elite.

"The chief executive race is shaping up to be more exciting than originally anticipated," said an editorial in the Hong Kong Standard last week. Since the two leading candidates declared their intentions to run, it said, "one can expect their canvassing to become more vigorous. At the same time, the media is expected - even counted on - to leave no stone unturned in scrutinizing the candidates." Though Hong Kong has democratic elections for the legislature and local councils, Beijing is refusing to allow it for the chief executive until 2017 at the earliest - a sign of the communist leadership's preference for carefully arranged outcomes. Instead, the chief executive will be chosen in March by a selection committee, 1,200 members of the business and political elite, which for this round was elected Monday. Previous campaigns have been formalities because there was only one clear preferred candidate, making it easy for the selection committee, which is packed with Beijing loyalists.

This time the choice is between two main candidates: Henry Tang, a former senior government official and scion of a wealthy family from Shanghai who is Beijing's favorite, and Leung Chun-ying, the son of a police officer who got rich running a property consultancy and became the head of the Executive Council, which advises the government on policy. Tang has been seen as a possible candidate for the top job since joining the government a decade ago. But he also has a reputation for being gaffe-prone and a mediocre administrator. A noted wine connoisseur, his most notable achievement during his tenure in government was abolishing wine duty in 2008, which helped turn Hong Kong into a global wine auction hub. In a campaign misstep, his plans to announce his candidacy last month during a visit to a working-class neighborhood got derailed by a small but noisy mob of protesters using megaphones to accuse him of visiting for political purposes. Tang was forced to duck into the subway system and make his declaration while changing trains.

Leung took a veiled shot at Tang's attempt to connect with the grass roots. "You can't just start going to the local communities when there is an election," the South China Morning Post newspaper quoted him saying. Leung has played up his working-class background, telling supporters he helped his mother assemble plastic flowers when he was 11 to earn the family extra money. He's had to fight off press accusations of poor business dealings and untruthfulness while giving evidence as a witness for a 2001 court case. But it was the affair that first captivated Hong Kongers and let them know this race would be different. After local media speculated about a relationship with a former assistant, Tang admitted that he had "strayed in his love life and I feel deeply remorseful and guilty." He did not give any more details after meeting reporters briefly in front of his home, hand-in-hand with his wife of 27 years.

"Henry Tang has fulfilled all of the stereotypes about the wealthy playboy image that he came from," said Michael DeGolyer, a professor of government and international studies at Hong Kong Baptist University. Public opinion polls show that Leung enjoys much more support from the general public than Tang. While popularity was previously an unimportant factor in the chief executive selection process, Tang's lack of it is complicating decisionmaking in Beijing. Nearly 53 percent of 1,012 people surveyed said they would pick Leung in a two-candidate race, giving him a 26 percentage point lead over Tang, a Hong Kong University survey found last week. It's important for the chief executive to be both trusted by Beijing and respected by Hong Kong people, who aren't shy about voicing their unhappiness with Beijing. In 2003, half a million people took to the streets over proposed anti-subversion legislation that helped force the eventual resignation of the city's first chief executive.

With Henry Tang, "Chinese leaders favor a certain candidate, but this candidate is less popular and if Beijing goes to support a less popular candidate then there's a danger that the legitimacy of the chief executive, the legitimacy of the whole electoral process may be in doubt," said Joseph Cheng, a political science professor at City University of Hong Kong. "And that's the dilemma of Beijing at the moment."

From http://news.yahoo.com/ 12/13/2011

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Local Gov'ts Urged to Act on School Bus Safety

Local governments should take immediate action to make school buses more safe, China's safety watchdog said Tuesday following a third school transport tragedy in less than a month. Local governments should start to check school buses and correct problems with management now, rather than wait until relevant regulations are passed, Huang Yi, spokesman for the State Administration of Work Safety said. Huang's words came after 15 children died when their bus crashed on Monday in eastern China's Jiangsu province, the second day after the State Council released draft regulations aimed at improving school bus safety. The draft, which has been released to solicit public opinions over the course of the next month, stipulates that local governments above county level should take overall responsibility to ensure the safety of school transport systems.

It also stated the central government will establish a system of mandatory technical standards to test the quality of school buses. School buses should adhere to stricter standards and be of higher quality than average coaches, said Huang, who described recent tragedies as "saddening." The government should clamp down on illegal and unsafe "school buses," forbidding them from carrying students any longer, he said. Meanwhile, the draft proposes that school buses should have prioritized right of way in traffic under the command of police, enjoying privileges including the use of bus lanes in rush hour and private cars being forbidden from overtaking them when the buses are picking up children. In addition, Huang called on parents to report on flawed school buses. Also on Monday, a school bus carrying 59 pupils was hit by a truck in the city of Foshan in south China's Guangdong province, injuring 37 students. Last month, 19 preschoolers and two adults were killed when a nine-seater school van packed with 64 people collided head-on with a coal truck in western Gansu province. Premier Wen Jiabao later pledged to "rapidly" issue safety regulations and standards for the country's school buses while further improving the design, production, and distribution of the vehicles.

From http://english.cri.cn/ 12/13/2011

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China Cracks Down on Corruption

China uncovered 2.85 billion yuan (449.5 million U.S. dollars) of illegal off-the-book funds held by government departments and public institutions in the first 11 months of 2011, the Ministry of Finance announced Tuesday. Authorities found more than 8,000 "covert coffers," accounts that are often used to embezzle public funds or become a source of bribery, said the ministry in a statement. From the start of January to the end of November, 2,426 people received administrative penalties for setting up and using such accounts, and 902 were transferred to judicial organs for investigation, according to the statement. China launched a nationwide operation against "covert coffers" in 2009 as part of its efforts to fight corruption. The operation has effectively contained such illegal acts but problems still exist in a small number of departments and institutions, said Minister of Finance Xie Xuren. Xie said in October that the country had unearthed more than 58,000 "covert coffers", involving 26.65 billion yuan, between 2009 and the end of August.

From Xinhua News Agency 12/14/2011

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ASEAN and China Observe Permanent Landmark in Beijing, with the Opening of the ASEAN-China Centre

2011 marks the 20th anniversary of ASEAN-China ties, and the growing importance of the relationship by holding a reception celebrating the founding of ASEAN-China Centre (ACC) today. The Centre was launched at the sidelines of the 14th ASEAN-China Summit in Bali in November this year. "It is a special day today, as we witness an important milestone in ASEAN-China relations," said Mr Yang Jiechi, Chinese Foreign Minister, as he officiated the reception with Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN. Mr Yang also gave his support to the China-ASEAN Beijing Economic Forum, which ended with a gala dinner and performance at the Reignwood Theatre this evening. He said China has always been a good friend with ASEAN, and the Central Government is committed to the peaceful development and the stability of the region. "I have been to Nanning, Kunming, Chengdu, Wuhan, etc, and now, we are in Beijing - the cultural, political, science and technology and business capital of China, and the establishment of the ASEAN-China Centre here signifies the importance and commitment to the region's peace, stability, as well as prosperity," said Dr Surin.

Earlier in the day, Dr Surin also met Mr Liu Qi, Beijing Party Secretary and member of the Poliburo. Mr Liu also gave his blessings and support to the ASEAN-China Centre, and the CABEF, adding that the forum should be an annual event. "We are holding the China (Beijing) International Fair for Trade in Services in May next year. Perhaps CABEF can be held in the sidelines of the Fair," suggested Mr Liu. Dr Surin also suggested boosting educational exchanges, with perhaps a dozen students studying in China and further suggested for China to invest in ASEAN to support ASEAN Connectivity projects.

The ACC was set-up with the following objectives: a) to support the implementation of the Framework Agreement ; and various agreements on trade in goods, services, dispute settlement, investment and other agreements relating to economic cooperation signed under the umbrella of the Framework Agreement; b) to enhance two-way trade between ASEAN and China and further cultivate trade partnership in order to jointly promote exports to outside markets and achieve market expansion; c) to promote two-way flows of investment between ASEAN and China; d) to undertake activities to help investors and businessmen from less developed ASEAN Member States, especially Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, in exploring trade and investment opportunities in China; e) to promote flows of tourists between ASEAN and China; f) to enhance interaction among the business communities of ASEAN and China; g) to increase people-to-people contacts, public awareness, mutual understanding, as well as active participation among the ASEAN and Chinese peoples through cultural and educational exchanges; and h) to synergise the potentials of ASEAN and China in order to enhance the region's appeal to external partners and facilitate access to ASEAN and Chinese ventures.

From http://www.asean.org/ 12/16/2011

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CPC Official Calls to Better Address Public Complaints

Senior Communist Party of China (CPC) official Zhou Yongkang has called for efforts to promote a police campaign aimed at better addressing public complaints. Zhou, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, made the remarks in a written instruction after the Ministry of Public Security launched the campaign on Friday. During the six-month campaign, police will be sent to more households to settle disputes and complaints or help solve public problems. The public will also be invited to supervise the work of the police, according to the ministry. Zhou said he believed the campaign would cement ties between the police and the masses and called on police to build a positive image for themselves during the initiative.

From http://english.cri.cn/ 12/17/2011

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Taiwan Holds Final Televised Election Debate

The third and last televised debate among three candidates for the upcoming Taiwan leader election was held Saturday in Taipei, with last year's signed cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) highlighted in the debate before the Jan. 14 voting date. The candidates - Ma Ying-jeou, chairman of Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party, Tsai Ing-wen who represents the island's major opposition Democratic Progressive Party, and People First Party (PFP) chairman James Soong - stated their political views and debated with each other. Both Ma and Soong affirmed the ECFA's role in promoting cross-Strait trade. Ma said the ECFA has given Taiwan opportunities to compete with the Republic of Korea (ROK) and other Asian economies. Both Taiwan and the ROK were labeled as members of "Four Asian dragons" in the 1990s for their promising performance in economic growth.

Ma said the accusation against him that signing the ECFA was "selling Taiwan to China" was groundless. He criticized Tsai's cross-Strait policy and the so-called "Taiwan Consensus" as "vague". Soong of the PFP said that the mainland and Taiwan should not retrogress after signing the ECFA, and they should create better opportunities for each other under shared prosperity. However, he said the ECFA is not a "panacea" as there are more concrete problems to solve. On the contrast, Tsai continued to deny the "1992 Consensus" and avoided clarifying details of the "Taiwan consensus." In November 1992, the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation reached the consensus that each of the two organizations verbally acknowledges that "both sides of the Taiwan Straits adhere to the one-China principle." The agreement has since been serving as a significant basis for cross-Strait negotiations and peaceful development.

The three candidates also expressed their own views on topics regarding judicial reform, education, employment, housing, agriculture, social security, financing, health care and nuclear power. The televised debate was held by the Taiwan Public Television Service and other local media. The previous two debates were held on Dec. 3 and Dec. 10 respectively, with the latter debate attended by candidates competing for the island's deputy leader position. Saturday also marks the beginning of the election campaign, according to an announcement Friday by the island's authority in charge of the election.

From http://english.cri.cn/ 12/17/2011

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Hong Kong: Public Wants Election Loophole Plugged

Secretary for Constitutional & Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam says the Government has received more than 31,000 written submissions on the by-election issue, the majority of which suggest the loophole allowing Legislative Council members to resign to trigger the by-election mechanism should be plugged. However, Mr Tam said the views do not show clear public support for any one particular course of action when resignations occur. For option one, a by-election will be held, but the member who triggers it will be prohibited from participating in the poll. It is a view certain political parties have forwarded and the Government is now studying it and seeking legal advice. "Once we are ready to do so, we will then publish the consultation report as well as the next step forward. Certainly, we will have to go back to the Legislative Council because there is still a bill there. We will have to deal with it as well so I will have to go back to the Legislative Council but hopefully it will not be too long." Mr Lam said he did not want to rush the issue, emphasising he will listen to the views of legislators.

From http://www.news.gov.hk/ 12/18/2011

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Xi Stresses Organization Construction to Prepare for CPC's Congress

Vice President Xi Jinping Sunday called for better organization construction of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to prepare for the Party's 18th National Congress scheduled next year. Xi, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, made the remarks while meeting heads of the Party's provincial-level organization departments. Xi said comprehensive criteria should be adopted to select and promote competent officials in ongoing changing term of office of the CPC's local committees. During the evaluation on officials to be promoted, the Party committees should give full play to democracy by combining public opinions with centralized decisions, Xi said.

The Party's local committees should avoid simply regarding economic aggregate and growth rate of an administrative region as the main parameter to evaluate an official's political achievements, he said. As many young cadres will take office in leading posts of the Party's local committees, it's necessary to enhance education on them for political loyalty, anti-corruption and leadership capacity, the official said. Xi, also a member of the CPC Central Committee's Secretariat, urged to strengthen the Party's organization construction among grassroots units to better serve improving people's livelihood and recruiting more Party members among young workers and farmers.

From Xinhua News Agency 12/19/2011

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Guangzhou Launches Official Microblog

The municipal government of the southern Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou launched its official microblog Monday, joining other cities that have used the popular social networking tool to better interact with the public. The official microblog "Zhongguo Guangzhou Fabu," which roughly translates to "China Guangzhou News Release," was launched simultaneously on weibo.com and t.qq.com, two of the country's popular microblogging websites. Nearly 12 hours after being officially launched at 9:40 a.m., the microblog had accumulated over 110,000 followers on both sites. Twenty-four municipal government agencies, including police and education authorities, will post newly-released policies and regulations, work developments, and information about news conferences on the joint microblog account, Mayor of Guangzhou Wan Qingliang said.

More government agencies will join the microblog account in the future, he said. Last month, the municipal governments of Beijing and Shanghai unveiled similar news release platforms, as microblogging is becoming a widely recognized platform and channel for interactions between the government and the public. According to the latest statistics from Internet giant Sina, which operates weibo.com, nearly 10,000 government agencies had opened verified microblog accounts by early November this year. The latest statistics show that China now has more than 300 million registered microblog users among its 485 million Internet users.

From Xinhua News Agency 12/20/2011

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JAPAN: 76% Think Politics Has Deteriorated

Seventy-six percent of respondents believe the nation's politics have deteriorated recently, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey. A record 81 percent also said their votes were not reflected in actual politics, a large increase from the 67 percent who gave this response in a survey held in February 2008, when the government was led by the Liberal Democratic Party. The results indicate the public is dissatisfied with the Democratic Party of Japan, which was the object of high expectations when it became the ruling party in 2009. The nationwide survey was conducted via face-to-face interviews with 3,000 eligible voters in 250 locations nationwide last Saturday and Sunday. Of them, 1,724 people, or 57 percent, gave valid answers. Asked what the problem is with current politics, 45 percent said it is conducted without concern for the feelings of the general public, while 42 percent said it took too much time to make decisions.

Thirty-three percent said politicians had failed to present a vision for the future of the country. Multiple answers were allowed. Also, 88 percent said decision-making conducted at the initiative of DPJ politicians was not working. Asked what incumbent Diet members lacked, 50 percent cited decision-making ability. This was followed by "leadership capability" at 41 percent, a "sense of mission" at 30 percent and "common sense" at 28 percent. Sixty-two percent said their life or living conditions will not change no matter which political party is in power, suggesting many people feel resigned or helpless when it comes to politics.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 11/26/2011

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Hashimoto Wins Election, Vows to Quickly Press Central Govt on Osaka Metropolis Plan

Toru Hashimoto, left, and Ichiro Matsui shake hands Sunday night upon hearing media reports they were certain to win a double election for Osaka mayor and Osaka governor. OSAKA - Toru Hashimoto won Sunday's Osaka mayoral election and said he would soon begin pressing the central government and political parties to consider revising related laws to pave the way for the establishment of an Osaka metropolis. "I'd like to begin urging them by year-end to revise related laws so we can launch an Osaka metropolis in four years," the 42-year-old former Osaka governor said at a press conference Sunday night. As head of Osaka Ishin no Kai (Osaka restoration group), a local party, Hashimoto also said, "If [political parties] hesitate to work on this issue, we'll start preparations to field our own candidates for a national election."

Hashimoto's remarks suggest the local party could influence how major political parties will campaign in the next House of Representatives election, expected to be held in 2013. A gubernatorial election also was held Sunday, in which Ichiro Matsui, a former Osaka prefectural assembly member, defeated six other candidates. The 47-year-old secretary general of the local party is a close ally of Hashimoto. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Monday the election results suggest public opinion in Osaka and Osaka Prefecture agrees with Hashimoto's Osaka metropolis proposal. Fujimura also expressed the government's willingness to discuss the issue with Hashimoto and others, saying: "First and foremost, Osaka must have solid discussions on this issue. After that, we'll happily accept any request for consultations."

Both Hashimoto and Matsui made the party's Osaka metropolis proposal campaign pledges. They propose the Osaka prefectural government and the Osaka and Sakai municipal governments be reorganized into a metropolis similar to Tokyo. Under the proposal, the two government ordinance-designated cities in the prefecture would be divided into special administrative wards - eight to nine for Osaka and two to three for Sakai. Each ward would introduce elections by popular vote to choose ward mayors and offer administrative services close to residents' lives, while the metropolis would be responsible for policies affecting wider areas. By reorganizing the prefecture and two ordinance-designated cities, the proposal aims at having a unified administrative head and consolidating revenues so the metropolis could make intensive investments to stimulate the local economy.

Hashimoto launched Osaka Ishin no Kai in spring last year with the aim of realizing his Osaka metropolis proposal. In unified local elections in spring of this year, the party won a majority in the Osaka prefectural assembly and became dominant in the Osaka and Sakai municipal assemblies. Hashimoto decided to run in the mayoral election against incumbent Kunio Hiramatsu, 63, because the latter opposed the Osaka metropolis proposal. Hashimoto resigned last month as Osaka governor before his four-year term was to expire, thus sparking a double election, while also naming Matsui his successor. Sunday's election results were a blow to both the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, whose prefectural chapters supported opponents of the candidates fielded by the local party.

Sunday's elections were the first major elections since Yoshihiko Noda became prime minister. Neither the DPJ nor the LDP fielded candidates on their own, instead supporting Hiramatsu in the mayoral election and Kaoru Kurata, 63, former mayor of Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, in the gubernatorial election. Their losses also suggest the two major parties are losing their influence. The Japanese Communist Party did not field a candidate for the mayoral election for the first time in 48 years. Expressing an anti-Hashimoto stance, the party in effect supported Hiramatsu, while party-backed Shoji Umeda, a 61-year-old lawyer, gained fewer votes than Kurata in the gubernatorial election. Voter turnout in the mayoral election was 60.92 percent, up 17.31 percentage points from the previous election in 2007 and surpassing 60 percent for the first time since 1971, when gubernatorial and mayoral elections were last held on the same day. Turnout for the gubernatorial election was 52.88 percent, up from 48.95 percent in the 2008 election.

From The Yomiuri Shimbun 11/29/2011

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Ministries Failing to Use IT Procurement Contract Database

Government ministries have registered only half of their contracts for information technology-related procurements with a communications ministry database, despite being required to do so to ensure transparency and cut costs, according to the Board of Audit. The board also found problems with the database itself, as it did not include information that would help ministries handle their procurement transactions. The latest findings came through the board's survey of IT-related procurements made by ministries in fiscal 2009. "The database needs to be improved so hefty IT procurement costs can be cut as much as possible," a board official said Tuesday. According to the board, government ministries signed 774 major contracts - worth a total of 183.7 billion yen - with businesses in fiscal 2009 regarding the design, development and operation of their IT systems. Of them, 112 contracts were worth at least 140 million yen each.

Ministries are required to register any contract worth at least 140 million yen on the database. Of the 112 contracts that should have been registered, only 57, or 51 percent, had been entered on the database, the survey found. When asked why a contract had not been registered, one ministry official said, "Entering the data takes too much effort." Officials of other ministries also said the database lacked information that would be useful as a reference when preparing procurement contracts, such as the calculation breakdown of "proper bidding prices" and equipment prices. The government has not compiled a cost-estimation manual for IT system procurements, leaving ministries to set estimate prices on their own. "We have to refer to estimates presented by business operators," an official at the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said. The government's IT-related budget totals about 1 trillion yen annually.

The board believes this expenditure could be reduced by upgrading the database so ministries can share information including calculation breakdowns of cost estimates. While acknowledging some contracts had not been logged in the database, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said fixing the system was easier said than done. "We're asking each ministry to cooperate by registering their contracts," a communications ministry official said. "But the reality is that it's difficult [for us] to grasp how many need to be registered." University of Tokyo Prof. Yuichi Okumura, an expert on IT procurement, said the database - if used effectively - could make money available for more pressing needs. "Cutting waste from the sizable IT budgets would free up money for post-disaster reconstruction funds," said Okumura, a scholar on public policies. "To trim costs by reducing discretionary contracts or tenders involving just one bidder, the ministries need to accumulate expertise by using the database and encourage as many contractors as possible to take part in the bidding."

The communications ministry started operating the database in 2004, with the aim of letting ministries share information on contracts for operational system design and other projects. The requirement to register contracts worth at least 140 million yen was introduced in accordance with basic guidelines on IT system procurement drawn up in 2007 by an interministerial liaison council at the government's IT Strategy Headquarters.

80% of contracts uncompetitive
About 80 percent of government ministries' IT-related procurement contracts from fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2010 were decided through discretionary contracts, meaning there was only bidder in competitive bidding, the Board of Audit said Tuesday. Of the 1,677 contracts - worth a total of 933.4 billion yen - concluded during the three fiscal years in question, discretionary contracts accounted for 43.4 percent, while contracts for which there was just one bidder accounted for 37.6 percent, according to the board's random-sampling survey results. Although the proportion of discretionary contracts has declined since 2006, when they accounted for about 80 percent of the total, there has been an increase in contracts that elicit only one bid. "Even though we invite contractors to take part in the bidding process, very few come forward," said an official in charge of accounting at one ministry.

Although the ministry in question introduced full-fledged competitive bidding for IT-related procurement contracts around 2008, there have been many cases in which only one bid was submitted. In particular, it is extremely rare for leading companies to compete with each other for the same contract. "There appear to be some unwritten rules, or market divisions, among businesses," said the same ministry official. When asked to explain the tendency toward sole bidders, an official at a leading system development company said, "Developing systems for government ministries requires a high degree of specialist knowledge, as there are many complex legal operations that have to be analyzed in detail. This makes it difficult for newcomers to successfully enter the market." For this reason, businesses tend to make profits and keep their costs down by winning contracts for the maintenance and revamping of systems that they had previously delivered.

From The Yomiuri Shimbun 12/01/2011

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Support for Noda Cabinet Falls to 42%, Disapproval Rises to 44% - Respondents Cite Lack of Leadership Behind Disapproval

The approval rating for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has dropped to 42 percent, falling below the Cabinet's disapproval rating of 44 percent for the first time since the Cabinet was formed in September, the latest Yomiuri Shimbun survey has found. Support for Noda's Cabinet fell seven percentage points from the last survey conducted on Nov. 12 and 13. Meanwhile, its disapproval rating has increased by six points, according to the survey conducted on Saturday and Sunday. When asked the reasons for disapproving of the Cabinet, 35 percent of respondents said they did not have high expectations for its policies, while 23 percent cited a lack of leadership from Noda. Both ratings increased from 28 percent and 18 percent, respectively, in the last survey. Eighty-five percent believed that Noda failed to explain his own policies and ideas sufficiently to the public. This remains largely unchanged from the results of the last poll.

Meanwhile, 62 percent said Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa should step down, and 54 percent replied Consumer Affairs Minister Kenji Yamaoka should also resign. The opposition-controlled House of Councillors has adopted censure motions against the two ministers. However, the survey also found that 71 percent disagreed with the stance of the Liberal Democratic Party, which has refused to participate in any Diet deliberations so long as the two ministers remain in their posts. Forty percent of respondents approved of a proposed plan to finance the social security system via raising consumption tax to 10 percent over the next several years, while 54 percent opposed it. The last survey showed 47 percent agreed with the plan, while 48 percent were against it. Seventy-three percent also replied the LDP should hold talks with the ruling coalition parties over the issue. Asked which party they supported, 22 percent chose the DPJ, down from 28 percent in November's poll. The LDP was supported by 19 percent, also down from 23 percent. Forty-seven percent said they did not support any party, up seven percentage points from the last survey.

Approval for Noda's Cabinet fell to 42 percent from an initial rating of 65 percent taken just after its inauguration three months ago. The latest survey showed the Cabinet lost popularity not only among LDP supporters, but also among those without any party preference. The survey conducted in September showed 61 percent of LDP supporters approved of Noda's Cabinet; its approval rating was also much higher than the cabinets of the two prime ministers preceding Noda. Initial approval ratings stood at 39 percent for Yukio Hatoyama and 29 percent for Naoto Kan. At first, Noda's Cabinet expressed a willingness to sincerely listen to opinions from opposition parties - a stance that drew support from a wide range of respondents in the September survey, including opposition party supporters. However, support for the Cabinet among LDP supporters has fallen to a record low of 34 percent in the latest survey. The low approval rating has been attributed to the confrontational approach adopted by opposition parties in passing censure motions against Ichikawa and Yamaoka.

Among respondents with no specific party preferences, the Cabinet's approval rating fell to 33 percent from 53 percent recorded in September.

Only 79 percent of DPJ supporters were in favor of the Cabinet, down from 91 percent three months ago. The latest survey also showed that for the first time, the disapproval rating for Noda's Cabinet surpassed the approval rating. It took five months for disapproval ratings for Hatoyama's Cabinet to overtake its approval ratings, and just one month for Kan's Cabinet.

64% for keeping female royals
Meanwhile, 64 percent of respondents supported an idea to allow female members of the Imperial family to create a new family branch by maintaining royal status after marrying outside the family, with only 20 percent disagreeing with it. By gender, 61 percent of male respondents were for the idea, with 25 percent against it. Among females, 68 percent supported the plan, with 15 percent disagreeing.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 12/14/2011

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NORTH KOREA: Leader-in-waiting Unlikely to Push for Reform

North Korea's leader-in-waiting is unlikely to pursue reform and openness as he needs to strengthen his power base during a transitional period, a former senior intelligence official said Wednesday. Kim Jong-un is being groomed to succeed his father Kim Jong-il as the country's next leader in what would be the country's second hereditary power transfer. The elder Kim inherited power from his father, the country's founder Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994. "There is very little possibility that Kim Jong-un could embark on reform and openness in the short term," said Han Ki-bum, who handled North Korean affairs at Seoul's National Intelligence Service between 2008 and 2009. The assessment comes as the North is struggling to improve its faltering economy as part of attempts to build a prosperous nation by next year, the centennial of the birth of the country's late founder.

Han said North Korean officials could balk at changing economic policy even if the heir apparent son demands it, due to concern over the possible prosecution later. North Korea purged economic bureaucrats by holding them responsible for policy failure in 2002, Han said in a forum. In 2002, the North introduced market elements into its centrally controlled economy, scrapping its decades-old food rationing system, raising wages and lifting prices of goods sold at "farmers markets." However, the experiment with limited reforms touched off serious inflation mainly because of a short supply of goods. It is not unusual for the communist country to execute senior officials for policy blunders. Last year, the North reportedly executed Pak Nam-ki, former chief of the planning and finance department of the ruling Workers' Party, over Pyongyang's botched currency reform in 2009 that caused massive inflation and worsened food shortages. (Yonhap)

From http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/ 12/14/2011

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N. Korean Leader Kim Dead: State TV

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has died aged 69 of a heart attack, state media announced Monday, plunging the impoverished nuclear-armed nation into uncertainty. The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the leader "passed away from a great mental and physical strain" at 8:30 am on Saturday (2330 GMT Friday), while on a train for one of his "field guidance" tours. It urged people to follow Kim's youngest son and heir apparent Kim Jong-Un, who is aged in his late 20s. "All party members, military men and the public should faithfully follow the leadership of comrade Kim Jong-Un and protect and further strengthen the unified front of the party, military and the public," said the news agency and a weeping TV announcer. KCNA said Kim died of a "severe myocardial infarction along with a heart attack". It said an autopsy was performed Sunday.

The leader suffered a stroke in August 2008 which left him with impaired movement in his left arm and leg. The North declared a period of national mourning from December 17 to 29. South Korea's government went on an emergency footing after the shock news, the South's Yonhap news agency reported. It summoned a meeting of the National Security Council. North and South Korea have remained technically at war since the three-year Korean conflict ended only in an armistice in 1953.

From http://www.mysinchew.com/ 12/19/2011

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SOUTH KOREA: Corruption Row to Undercut Reshuffle Effect

With a year left in office, President Lee Myung-bak replaced his chief of staff Sunday amid political upheaval underway in the ruling party after the party chairman resigned last week. Political scientists remain skeptical about the role of the reshuffle in helping the lame duck President improve relations with the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) and regain credibility in the eyes of the public. Hong Sung-gul, professor of the Department of Public Administration at Kookmin University based in Seoul, said it is unlikely for Lee to be able to contain the spread of public distrust due to an ongoing corruption row. Several of Lee's relatives and an aide to his brother Rep. Lee Sang-deuk of the GNP were recently implicated in bribery cases.

Rep. Lee announced Sunday that he will not seek re-election in the April parliamentary elections, a move designed to block negative fallout of his aide's involvement in the bribery case. Despite this, Hong said the corruption row will deal a serious blow to the President. According to the political scientist, the row could undercut the reshuffle effect and will leave the President suffering from the consequences. On Sunday, President Lee named Ha Kum-loul, 61, a veteran broadcast journalist, as presidential chief of staff, replacing Yim Tae-hee. Yim, a former lawmaker, stepped down 17 months after he assumed the key post. The announcement was seen as coming sooner than expected. Earlier last week, a senior presidential aide told reporters Lee would be able to find time to screen candidates and conduct a reshuffle only after the budget proposal gets the green light in parliament. The budget plan is pending in the legislature.

The senior official made the remarks when asked about the probability of each candidate reportedly on the list as the prospective potential presidential chief of staff. At that time, three or four of Lee's confidants were mentioned as awaiting screening and interviews. Ha was not one of them, indicating the selection process was underway under tight security. A presidential aide told The Korea Times on condition of anonymity that the screening and interview of the senior journalist were conducted so secretly that even insiders didn't recognize Ha had gone through the necessary procedures. But the official said the timing was not a surprise because presidential aides believed it would be a waiting game for the budget proposal to be approved in the National Assembly. So the presidential office couldn't wait as it could lose the right timing for the reshuffle. President Lee is said to have sought a person who has a balanced view and can report public opinion to him without editing so as to help him respond effectively.

Park steals show
Shin Yul, professor of department of political science at Myongji University, predicted communication with the ruling party seeking a facelift ahead of the National Assembly elections won't be easy for President Lee. "If Rep. Park Geun-hye takes over the GNP leadership, it will be unavoidable that the former party chairwoman, who has the highest rating among presidential bidders in the ruling camp, will steal the show," Shin said. Considering how things have usually been done in previous administrations, Park is expected to distance the ruling party from the unpopular President as a tactic to help the GNP gain credibility with the public. This will inevitably lead to a sour relationship between the GNP and the presidential office, analysts say. Park is credited with saving the GNP in 2004 after the party suffered from an unsuccessful push to impeach then President Roh Moo-hyun.

The daughter of the late President Park Chung-hee is expected to pursue a massive reform to enable the GNP to successfully woo voters in upcoming elections. Hahm Sung-deuk, a professor of Korea University, said her taking over the party leadership at a time a year before the presidential election could be a high-stakes poker game. "Park's leadership could be tested as there are several tough challenges ahead. First of all, she needs to exert effective leadership to pull together bipartisan support over the budget proposal and that won't be an easy job," the political scientist said. Hahm said Park is also required to manage inter-party relations, while being asked to come up with an innovative plan to overhaul the conservative party. Thus, her job at this critical juncture could risk her presidential bid next year as her leadership will be put to the test, he said.

From http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/ 12/12/2011

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Preliminary Candidate Registration for General Elections Opens

Preliminary candidate registration for the April general elections began Tuesday, the National Election Commission (NEC) said, partially kicking off the crucial polls that could impact the 2012 presidential race. It is the first time in 20 years that South Korea will elect a new parliament and a new president in the same year. Parliamentary elections are held every four years and the presidential votes occur every five years.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/ 12/13/2011

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Workshop on Corruption Impact Assessment

On November 30, the ACRC Vice-Chairperson Mr. Hyeon-bok Choi gave an opening speech to comptrollers from 117 public corporate during the workshop on Corruption Impact Assessment at the Public Procurement Service building located in Seocho district, Seoul.

From http://www.acrc.go.kr/ 12/15/2011

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MALAYSIA: Thumbs Up for Electoral Reforms

Political parties and the Bersih coalition welcomed the Election Commission's decision to implement several proposals by the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reforms. MCA Youth chief Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong said it was a good move and hoped it would help remove misgivings about the process. Putera MIC coordinator P. Kamalanathan, who is also a PSC member, hoped the EC would implement other recommendations the committee had made. Umno Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin, while welcoming the changes, said many of them were demands made by Bersih 2.0. Bersih 2.0 had made eight demands during the July 9 rally among which were electoral roll clean-up, postal voting reform, the use of indelible ink and a minimum campaign period of 21 days. Bersih 2.0 steering committee member Maria Chin Abdullah hoped there would not be any last-minute change over the use of the indelible ink. PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub suggested that the EC gave a demonstration on how the ink was to be used. "Once everyone knows how it's done, they will be satisfied and there will be no more complaints," he said.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 12/20/2011

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Shortlived Bonus Joy for Civil Servants

GEORGE TOWN: About half of the civil servants employed by the state have been mistakenly paid their half-month year-end bonus twice through a banking error. State secretary Datuk Farizan Darus said the "double bonus" was erroneously paid out to 3,054 civil servants. He said the bank had intended to pay the salary for December last Monday and the bonus the following day. "However, the state government felt it was better to pay everything on Monday and instructed the bank to do so. "The bank forgot to withdraw the previous payment instructions, which led to the double payout," he said yesterday. Farizan said the problem was realised on Tuesday when word got out to civil servants from several state agencies who did not receive the "double bonus". "They asked to be paid twice as well, as they did not know it was a mistake," he said. Farizan said the bank was working on debiting the extra bonus from the civil servants' bank accounts. He said that at the time of the press conference, 233 accounts involving a sum of RM164,000 remained to be sorted and the bank expected to resolve the matter soon. Farizan said the state government urged those who withdrew the extra bonus to co-operate with the bank. Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had announced last month that the state government would pay out a half-month bonus with minimum payment of RM800 for state civil servants this year. Civil servants were also paid a bonus of half-month salary with minimum payment of RM600 in conjunction with the Hari Raya celebration in August.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 12/22/2011

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PHILIPPINES: Province Launches Web Portal for Legislative Activities

In a bid to serve citizens more effectively, the legislative department of the provincial government of General Santos city has launched a new website where all the information on legislative activities, legislations and issuances such as resolutions and ordinances can be easily accessed by the public. General Santos city is a highly urbanised first class city located in the southernmost port city of the Philippines. According to Vice Mayor Shirlyn Banas-Nograles, the website is important not only to the Provincial Council but also to the general public as well. The website features informative data like the directory of offices and employees, barangay profiles, and the schedules of committee hearings Added features include a web search box and the real-time weather reports. Nograles also noted that "this website now becomes one of the main legacies of the 16th Provincial Council to the people of General Santos city." The Vice Mayor also initiated the GenSan Codification of Ordinances Project wherein over 2,000 ordinances created from 1948 to 2010 are being reviewed and classified for easy reference. The website, however, according to Banas is still undergoing enhancement especially on pages that will contain the profiles of the City Councilors from 1948 to present.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 11/24/2011

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Gov't Central Payment System Set

The Aquino administration will pilot-test its central payroll system in the first-quarter of next year, starting with four to five national government agencies, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said. Budget and Management Secretary Florencio B. Abad said that the government plans to complete its central payroll system before 2013, which aims to put all the payrolls of state workers under a single account in the National Treasury. "We will begin the pilot-testing for the central payroll system in the first quarter of 2012. It should be completed before 2013," Abad told reporters. "Among the government agencies that will run the pilot are the Department of Finance, DBM, Department of Tourism and Commission on Audit. The Armed Forces of the Philippines is also interested," Abad added. Under the national payment portal, the Bureau of Treasury will eventually take over the distribution of salary of government employees, while the specific government agency is tasked only to prepare its employees' payroll. National Treasurer Roberto B. Tan said that the new system hopes to address the perennial problem of non-remittance of contributions to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). He recalled the time when government agencies had failed to remit to GSIS their contributions at a staggering sum of P9 billion, plus P15 billion in penalties. Tan said the Treasury would start with the payroll of all national government agencies first before expanding the system's coverage to handle the payroll of government-owned and -controlled corporations and government financial institutions. Abad also added an integrated financial information management system aimed to improve public finance management is set to be in place before President Aquino leaves Malacañang by 2016. Abad said the government is trying to institutionalize disclosure policies concerning the use of taxpayers' money.

From http://www.mb.com.ph/ 12/22/2011

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SINGAPORE: To Launch New Business Licensing System by 2013

As part of the Government's continuing efforts to foster a more pro-enterprise environment in Singapore, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Finance are working with 18 other government agencies to consolidate more than 250 business licenses on a common portal by the end of 2013. The new integrated system, which is estimated to cost about SG$30 million (US$23 million), is expected to simplify the whole business of applying, updating, renewing, and terminating licenses. First the new one-stop portal will offer more than three times the number of licences available on the current Online Business Licensing Service (OBLS) today to better serve the needs of businesses. Second, it will allow businesses to apply for multiple licences from different agencies as a single integrated application. Third, it will be more user-friendly and intuitive, as businesses can effortlessly search, sort and apply for the licences required. Businesses will also be able to manage and keep track of all their licence-related transactions with their own e-folder in the new system. All these will translate into time-savings for businesses. "Businesses want to get the licensing done with minimum hassle, and get down to the business of doing business. The new system will help businesses meet their regulatory obligations in a simple and convenient way," said Teo Ser Luck, Minister of State for Trade and Industry. The new system will be rolled out in three phases. The first phase will be rolled out by the end of 2013 when businesses can apply for some 160 licences on the new portal. The second phase will come in the second half of 2014 with about 80 licences added, and the remaining will be made available in the first half of 2015.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 11/21/2011

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BANGLADESH: Key Govt Agencies Introduce E-tendering

Dhaka (UNB) - Four key government agencies - Roads and Highways Department, Local Government Engineering Department, Rural Electrification Board, and Bangladesh Water Development Board - have launched the pilot phase of electronic-government procurement (E-GP) by inviting several tenders. As a major step towards implementing the follow-on Public Procurement Reform Project II (PPRP II), the government has taken an initiative to introduce electronic tendering in phases in all public sector organisations, thus bringing more transparency and accountability in public procurement system, said a World Bank press release on Tuesday. The government has also started the piloting of online procurement performance monitoring system in these agencies. The release said a World Bank team recently reviewed the status of PPRP II and noted that the project is progressing well in improving transparency and competitiveness. The World Bank provided US$24 million concessionary interest-free credit for the project which will end in March 2013. Already more than 69 percent of the committed amount has been disbursed. The Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU) of the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) has been implementing the project in coordination with the four key agencies. The World Bank team highlighted the need for strengthening CPTU with adequate staffing and enhancing procurement monitoring in the four target agencies. The release said the PPRP II is also helping improve procurement management through an extensive capacity development programme using a collaborative approach between international and local institutes, and already trained about 1,900 staff from different government procurement entities.

From http://www.unbconnect.com/ 12/13/2011

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Cabinet Okays Proposal to Raise Govt Service Age Limit

Dhaka (UNB) - The Cabinet has approved a proposal to extend the age limit of public servants by two years from 57 to 59. The approval came from a regular meeting of the Cabinet held with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair on Monday. To implement the decision, the President will promulgate an ordinance providing for raising the age limit of the public servants as Parliament is not in session now. Later, the Public Service (Retirement) Act 1974 will have to be amended in Parliament. Cabinet Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan briefed reporters after the meeting at the Cabinet Division meeting room. PM's Press Secretary Abul Kalam Azad was present during the briefing. The cabinet secretary said the public servants who are now enjoying PRL (Post Retirement Leave) will not be entitled to enjoy the new facility. He said there was a brief discussion on the proposal before endorsing the decision. After seeing that it has more positive sides than the negative ones, the Cabinet gave its go-ahead signal to it. The cabinet secretary, however, said the Prime Minister asked the authorities concerned to take effective measurers to clear the obstacles to promotion that might be caused by the extension of this age limit, and quickly fill up the vacancies in different ministries and divisions. Describing the reasons for raising the age limit, the cabinet secretary said the retirement age had been fixed at a time when the life expectancy of people was only 46. "But it's now over 67," he said.

He also mentioned that the senior public servants, now at 57, still have more to contribute to the government, the country and its people. "The cabinet took the decision after discussing the overall situation of the country," he said. The Cabinet reviewed the activities of various ministries and divisions of the government for fiscal 2010-2011, and expressed satisfaction over the progress in every sector. He said the meeting also endorsed the proposal for preserving 1 (one) percent quota for the disabled in BCS Cadre Service and all other first and second class posts of government jobs. The drafts of the Bangladesh Applied Nutrition and Training Institute Act 2011, the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (Amendment) Act 2011 and the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority Act 2011 were also approved by the cabinet. Besides, the cabinet gave its nod to the draft of the Mutual Cooperation on Crime Related Issues Act 2011. The Cabinet was also apprised about reports on the participation of Bangladesh delegation led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the 66th UN General Assembly meeting, adoption of Sheikh Hasina's 'People Empowerment and Peace Model' by the second committee of the UN as resolution and Saudi Arabia visit by the Education Minister. Cabinet members, state ministers in charge of different ministries and secretaries concerned attended the meeting.

From http://www.unbconnect.com/ 12/19/2011

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Child Parliamentarians Propose to Set Up Children Affairs Ministry

Dhaka (UNB) - A delegation of Child Parliament has submitted a proposal to the Prime Minister's health advisor to set up a separate ministry for the children and form a children's rights commission. Besides, the delegation, comprising members of the Child Parliament, placed a set of proposals relating to development and welfare of children during the call on at the health advisor's office at the Prime Minister Office in Tejgaon on Monday. They also discussed with Dr. Modasser Ali, the Prime Minister's Health Advisor, about various problems of children, especially those of the under-privileged and the deprived children. Dr. Modasser Ali received their written proposals and gave a patient hearing to them. The meeting was held at the Korobi Hall Room at the PMO. During the discussion Dr Modasser Ali attached importance to their proposals and assured them of sincerely considering them. The Health Advisor said: "It is a good proposal and the government will sincerely consider the proposal to set up the Children Affairs Ministry and the child rights commission". He said children are the future of the country and the nation and hoped that the Child Parliament play an important role to create a children-friendly atmosphere in Bangladesh. He said "All we have to take responsibility for development of children, ameliorate their problems and create a child-friendly atmosphere in the country". The Speaker of the Child Parliament Shahriar Sifat, and its members Troya Chakma, Anika Bushra, Raju Ahmed and Nargis Akhtar, among others were present at the meeting and spoke. Earlier Dr Modasser Ali attended the ninth session of the Child Parliament on Healthcare and Good Governance, held at BIAM auditorium in capital on Sunday.

From http://www.unbconnect.com/ 12/19/2011

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SRI LANKA: UN Chief Hopes Sri Lankan Government Will Take Steps on Accountability

New York, NY (BBN)- United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has voiced hope that the Sri Lankan government will move forward on its commitments to deal with accountability concerns in the wake of the long-running civil war in the Asian country. Sri Lanka"s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission tabled its report in the national Parliament yesterday, and Mr. Ban welcomed the public release of the report, according to information released by his spokesperson on Friday night. The spokesperson said Mr. Ban hopes the government will forward with its accountability commitments in good faith as an essential step towards reconciliation and lasting peace in the island country. Sri Lankan government forces declared victory over the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009 after a conflict that had raged on and off for nearly three decades and killed thousands of people. The conflict ended with large numbers of Sri Lankans living as internally displaced persons (IDPs), especially in the country"s north. Earlier this year, the UN chief forwarded a report by a three-member United Nations panel of experts on accountability issues during the civil war to the Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The panel found there were credible reports that both government forces and the LTTE committed war crimes during the war"s final months. It recommended that the government respond to the allegations by initiating an effective accountability process starting with genuine investigations.

From http://www.businessnews-bd.com/ 12/18/2011

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MALDIVES: Parliament Reorganises Security Services Committee

The parliament today reorganised the parliamentary security services committee and approved its members. The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) received the most seats from the committee. Hinnavaru MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Dhidhoo MP Ahmed Sameer, Hulhu-Henveiru MP Moosa 'Reeko' Manik, Feydhoo MP Alhan Fahmy and Galolhu-North MP Eva Abdulla represent the party in the committee. Members from the chief opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) include Mid-Henveiru MP Ali Azim and Felidhoo MP Yousuf Naeem while Kinbidhoo MP Moosa Zameer represents People's Alliance (PA) in the committee. Members of the 13-member committee also include Jumhooree Party Leader Gasim Ibrahim and Villufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed from Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP). Mulaku MP Abdulla Yamin and Guraidhoo MP Yousuf Riza are the independent representatives in the committee. The 63 MPs present in today's sitting unanimously endorsed the members.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 12/12/2011

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NEPAL: Govt Dissolves IT Commission

The government has dissolved the High-Level Information Technology Commission. A meeting of the Council of Ministers on Monday decided to dissolve the commission and to set up information technology division at the Ministry of Science and Technology. The division will have same responsibility as undertaken by the commission earlier. Meanwhile, the cabinet decided to accept Rs 131.04 million grant offered by the Chinese government Nepal Police for capability building. The cabinet also appointed Dil Bahadur Gurung as the executive director of Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC).

From http://www.nepalnews.com/ 12/12/2011

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PAKISTAN: E-governance in Transport Department Soon

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Transport and Information Mian Iftikhar Hussian has said that the Provincial Government has decided to launch E-governance in Transport Department for eradicating corruption and bringing transparency adding that in the first phase, E-payment system will be introduced for tax collection of Peshawar Bus Terminal (PBT). This, he stated, while attending a presentation of different private companies on E-payment at Peshawar the other day. The meeting besides others was also attended by the Secretary Transport Azmat Haneef Orakzai, Director Transport Amad Ali Lohani and other authorities concerned. Speaking at the occasion Mian Iftikhar Hussain said, after success full completion of e-payment system in PBT. The affair of PTA and RTA especially issuance of route-permits would be computerized and computerized permits would be started.He added that it would remove the public complaint regarding issuance of route permits. He hoped that the e-Payments system on one hand prove helpful increasing the revenue of the provincial government and while on the other hand no one could get extra tax /fee from transporter than the prescribed government rate similarly it would also resolve the day-do-day disputes over the turns of vehicles as there would be complete entry and exit data including the roots and turns would be available, he added. The minister continued that the system would be crystal and no one would be able to temper the computer data of tax collection and turns of the vehicles, he maintained. He further said that the computerized tax collection data would be provided to the authorities concerned on daily basis, introduction of that system would also discourage the illegal and without route-permit vehicles.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 12/09/2011

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Govt Decides to Expedite Reforms in Key Institutions

* Firdaus says energy sector reforms to help meet 20-year power demand
* Denies govt under pressure to resume NATO supplies

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Thursday decided to expedite institutional reforms for bettering the performance of key public sector enterprises, and meet every week to evaluate the process. Minister for Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdaus Ashiq Awan informed media that in view of the urgency to improve performance of power sector, PIA, Pakistan Railways and Pakistan Steel Mills, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani directed to hold cabinet meeting on a weekly instead of fortnightly basis. "Performance of these institutions was unsatisfactory and the prime minister directed initiatives on war-footing for earlier restructuring and reforms," the minister said while dilating upon 13-point agenda of the meeting. Dr Firdaus said reforms introduced in the country's institutions will produce results in coming years. She said reforms in energy sector will help meet 20 years power demand. She dispelled the impression that there was any pressure on government for the resumption of NATO supplies. "We are not taking pressure from anyone while it is the reality that the government with the support of people of the country, is responding in a benefiting manner." She said the government had always protected the interests of the masses of the country.

Regarding the memo issue, Firdaus said it was the commitment of the government to conduct a fair and transparent inquiry of the incident. "Now the case is in the Supreme Court, so let the court make a decision over the issue", she said adding that the government will honour the decision of the court. She said the prime minister directed uninterrupted gas supply to domestic consumers and evolving a gas sharing formula in consultation with other stakeholders, like industrial, commercial and CNG sectors. "There will be no unscheduled load shedding of electricity and needs of domestic consumers of gas should not be compromised to accommodate other gas users," she added. Gilani also directed the Ministry of Water and Power to inform the masses regarding load-shedding schedule through media campaign, the minister added. She said the cabinet also decided to withdraw subsidy from tubewells and start a metering process in all areas where the consumers are not paying bills. Firdaus said, "reforms process will be accomplished step by step, but briskly", besides ensuring a mechanism of transparency and accountability. She reiterated the government's resolve to recover the defaulted amount of power sector and said that so far Water and Power Ministry has recovered over Rs 2 billion. The prime minister has also directed to resolve the issue of net hydel profit for Azad Kashmir, she added. She said the PM directed to work out possibilities to determine uniform tariff by KESC and other distribution companies, and also called for a comprehensive plan to accommodate the major natural gas using sectors, like CNG, fertilisers and industrial and commercial consumers.

From http://pakistanlink.org/ 12/09/2011

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Govt to Make Details of 'Tape Scandal' Public

* Interior minister says people creating panic through SMS not to be spared

ISLAMABAD: Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Sunday said that the government would make public the details about the "tape scandal". Talking to the media persons after visiting the First International Target and Outdoor Shooting Sports (TOSS) Show at Pak-China Friendship Centre, he said that he had directed the interior secretary to collect details regarding the "tape scandal". The people have the right to know the truth, he added. He said that during the Nawaz Sharif's regimes, Benazir was awarded "double" punishment in fake cases. The government would expose the vested interest behind the "tape scandal" and make the solid proofs in this regard public, he said. He said the enemies of country wanted to de-stabilise the country and the media should report the events with authenticity and avoid baseless stories. Separately, talking to reporters at Benazir Bhutto International Airport after his return from Dubai, Malik urged the masses not to pay attention to the speculations, as those who were spreading the rumours would be disappointed. The interior minister said that a number of Pakistani prisoners in United Arab Emirates (UAE) involved in petty cases. "I have discussed with UAE interior minister about release of these prisoners." He said a UAE investigating team would visit Pakistan soon in this connection and a Pakistani team would also visit UAE to ascertain the correct number of these prisoners held there. To a question about Karachi situation, the minister said that no one would be allowed to disturb the peace of Karachi. Rehman Malik said a meeting of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), Cyber crime wing and authorities concerned is also being held to investigate into the matter of unethical and unlawful SMS. He said that the government would take stern action against the people who were creating panic among the masses by spreading rumours through Short Messaging Service (SMS).

From http://pakistanlink.org/ 12/19/2011

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AFGHANISTAN: Vowing to Tackle Corruption at Bonn Summit

Afghanistan has promised to fight corruption in exchange for international support after NATO withdraws in 2014. The promise came at the end of a one-day global conference in the German city of Bonn on Afghanistan's future. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai at Bonn summit/ Photo credit: Khama Press The closing communique said "substantial progress" had been made since the last conference 10 years ago, weeks after the Taliban was toppled. However, key player Pakistan has boycotted the talks. Islamabad has been angered by a Nato attack on a border checkpoint last month that killed 24 of its soldiers. The final communique said that the international community was ready to stand by Afghanistan in the 10 years after Nato's withdraw - in exchange for good governance.

"The protection of civilians, strengthening the rule of law and the fight against corruption in all its forms remain key priorities," the document read. "Al-Qaeda has been disrupted and Afghanistan's national security institutions are increasingly able to assume responsibility for a secure and independent Afghanistan," it says. However, it added that "shortcomings must be addressed" with the goal of creating a peaceful Afghanistan "in which international terrorism does not again find sanctuary and that can assume its rightful place among sovereign nations". The communique concludes by saying that as foreign forces leave Afghanistan a "decade of transformation" should begin "in which Afghanistan consolidates its sovereignty". It says the international community's vision for Afghanistan is of a "stable and functioning democracy... conducive to prosperity and peace".However, correspondents say that behind the optimistic diplomatic language, Afghanistan faces immense challenges - the country will be dependent on billions of dollars of foreign aid for years to come and the absence of Pakistan or representatives from the Taliban has cast a shadow over the summit.

Not abandoned
Earlier, Afghan President Hamid Karzai hailed the progress his country had made but warned that such gains were by no means secure. "The people of Afghanistan are looking to this conference for clear affirmation of commitment to make security transition and economic progress irreversible," he said. About 1,000 delegates from 100 countries and international organisations took part in Monday's gathering. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, as host of the conference, said: "We send a clear message to the people of Afghanistan: we will not leave you alone, you will not be abandoned." US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she thought it "unfortunate" that Pakistan was not attending. "We continue to believe that Pakistan has a crucial role to play," she told reporters on the sideline of the meeting.

Mrs Clinton also said that Washington was ending a freeze on hundreds of millions of dollars in development funds to Kabul, following financial reforms there. Afghan and US officials have repeatedly said that militant groups operating in Afghanistan are based in Pakistan - a charge Pakistan denies. Nato apologised for the air strike on 26 November but Pakistan insisted it would not attend the talks. Efforts to hold talks with the Taliban have brought no tangible result so far. In September militants assassinated former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was leading Kabul's effort to broker peace with the insurgents. Correspondents say a failure to bring the Taliban into the peace process will make it harder to secure the long-term commitments needed to rebuild Afghanistan when Nato operations end in 2014.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 12/06/2011

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ARMENIA: President Reshuffles Government Ahead of Elections

During the past month, several Armenian government officials either resigned or were dismissed by Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian, including high-ranking figures such as Armenian Police Chief Alik Sarkisian and Yerevan Mayor and Presidential Chief of Staff Karen Karpetyan. There are also indications in Armenian media that the wave of dismissals and resignations will continue. Political reshuffles have occurred in Armenia before, but the timing of this wave of dismissals and resignations could indicate that President Sarkisian is engaged in a power struggle with former Armenian President Robert Kocharian, who still has supporters within the government. That struggle could play out in Armenia's upcoming parliamentary elections and eventually affect some areas of Armenia's foreign policy, though it would not change Armenia's overall strategic relations with its power patron, Russia.

The political shakeup comes ahead of Armenia's parliamentary elections, slated for May 2012. Not long before the round of dismissals and resignations began, Kocharian said in an interview with Armenian news agency Mediamax that he has not ruled out returning to Armenia's national political scene. Many of the officials affected by the shakeup are rumored to have connections to Kocharian, so it is possible that Sarkisian reshuffled these officials in an attempt to limit Kocharian's support base within the government before the elections. Armenia's parliamentary elections typically serve as a springboard to presidential elections, and Sarkisian wants to preserve his majority in parliament. Sarkisian's Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) holds 64 of the parliament's 131 seats and is in a coalition with the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), which currently holds 18 seats. However, the PAP's leader, wealthy businessman Gagik Tsarukian, is believed to be close to Kocharian. If Tsarukian should decide to leave the coalition with the RPA, Sarkisian will no longer have a majority in parliament, which would make it easier for Kocharian to return to the national political scene and vie for power in the next presidential election.

No matter the outcome of a political contest between Sarkisian and Kocharian, one aspect of Armenian policy will not change: Yerevan's relationship with Moscow. An alliance with Russia is a geopolitical imperative for Armenia, and Moscow has taken steps to ensure Armenia's dependence on Russia. However, as Armenia's future will be shaped by the upcoming formation of the Moscow-led Eurasian Union, Armenia's policy in other areas, including relations with neighbors such as Turkey, Iran or Azerbaijan - could be affected. Much could change in the months before Armenia's parliamentary elections, but the significance of the reshuffles and Kocharian's possible role in national politics will be important in determining the future of Armenia's political landscape.

From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 11/24/2011

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AZERBAIJAN: E-government Portal Created

An e-government portal has been launched in Azerbaijan. A deputy communications and information technology minister, Elmir Valizade, announced the launch of the site at an international communications conference in Baku, Gun.Az reported."Ten ministries have joined the e-government portal. Work is under way to involve other agencies too," Valizade told the Bakutel conference. The site, which has Azerbaijani, English and Russian versions, has news about the e-government project and background documents. Regulations for the use of e-services in Azerbaijan are to be approved soon, the deputy minister said.

From http://www.news.az/ 11/24/2011

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AZERBAIJAN: E-government Portal Offers 56 Types of Services

The Electronic government portal in Azerbaijan offers 56 types of services, Azerbaijan's Deputy Minister of Communications and Information Technologies Elmir Velizadeh said on Tuesday. According to Velizadeh, the 15 state institutions in Azerbaijan are connected to the portal and the work to connect ministries and departments continues. The portal will be a key tool for supporting work with citizens and enterprises of state and private sectors. As the ministry said earlier, the portal is expected to launch in March next year. The total number of electronic services to be provided by state and government agencies in the country will reach 300. An Electronic government was created based on a principle of X-Road, which aims to combine existing data bases and systems of state institutions that were created on different platforms. Launching the portal will reduce the number of requested documents from citizens due to the fact that different authorities will interact with each other electronically.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/13/2011

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GEORGIA: Government Moves to Extraordinary Mode of Operation

The Georgian government moves to extraordinary mode of operation, Prime Minister Nika Gilauri said at a cabinet meeting today. He said that the government will hold two meetings per week by late 2011. Prime Minister said that ministers must give reports for their work in 2011 and submit the working plans for next year. "We will hear every minister and assess the work," he said. Georgian minister of culture Nika Rurua and minister of agriculture Zaza Gorozi have today made annual reports. They also presented the priorities of their departments' activity for next year. "The next meeting will be held in Kutaisi," he said. "A new governmental building has been recently commissioned."

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/17/2011

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KYRGYSTAN: Political Manoeuvring

Allies no longer: Almazbek Atambaev (left) with Ahmatbek Keldibekov, when both were part of a governing coalition in Kyrgyzstan. At the time, Atambaev was prime minister. Once he became president, Keldibekov did not last long as speaker of parliament. (Photo: Igor Kovalenko) With the formation of a new ruling coalition in Kyrgyzstan, President Almazbek Atambaev's Social Democrats have successfully engineered an overwhelming majority in parliament while excluding their former partner Ata-Jurt, even though that party came first in last year's election. After protracted negotiations, the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan, signed a coalition deal with the Ata-Meken, Ar-Namys and Respublika parties on December 16. Shortly afterwards, they agreed that the small Respublika party would get the prime minister's post.

The new governing bloc controls 92 of the 120 seats in parliament. This majority is important because under the 2010 constitution, which reduces the powers of the president, the majority party or coalition gets to form a government. Until two weeks ago, the governing coalition consisted of Ata-Jurt - which came first in the October 2010 parliament polls but did not secure a majority - plus the Social Democrats and the smaller Respublika. After winning the October 31 presidential election Atambaev, previously the prime minister, was inaugurated on December 1. His party walked out of the coalition the following day, citing disagreements on various matters including judicial reform and economic policy. There is little doubt that Atambaev waited till he had secured the presidency to ditch Ata-Jurt and forge an alliance more to his liking. When the coalition broke up, Social Democrat Damira Niazalieva said a new grouping was needed to bring together like-minded members of parliament and make lawmaking more effective."We would like to see old as well as new partners in the new coalition," she told the state news agency Kabar on December 2.

ATA-JURT SIDELINED ONE YEAR AFTER ELECTORAL SUCCESS
Ata-Jurt, which came to the fore only last year, was never a partner the long-established Social Democrats were going to be comfortable with. "That coalition was an enforced one," Pavel Dyatlenko, a political analyst with the Polis Asia think-tank told IWPR. "It didn't emerge because the [constituent] factions shared a common view of Kyrgyzstan's present and future." The Ata-Jurt party has a pronounced Kyrgyz nationalist streak, and its unexpected electoral success last year followed ethnic violence between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the south in June 2010, after which the established parties in the then interim government, including the Social Democrats, were accused of inaction.

Ata-Jurt was also seen as a vehicle for former allies of President Kurmanbek Bakiev, ousted following mass unrest in April 2010. To remain in the political game, the Social Democrats had little option but to work with and accommodate Ata-Jurt. "It was a transitional coalition, designed to maintain stability," Dyatlenko said. He added that the frictions were already in evidence. "There were cases where the Ata-Jurt faction came out against the coalition government, and thus breached the coalition agreement," he said.

Marat Sartpaev, the pseudonym for a blogger who writes for the leading website www.neweurasia.net, said Ata-Jurt's star seemed to be waning after an initial burst of popular enthusiasm following the June 2010 ethnic violence.

"Times have changed and that topic [nationalism] no longer tops the agenda," Sartpaev said in a December 9 blog posting. Ata-Jurt will be none too pleased at being ejected from government. So far, its statements have been measured. Speaking to journalists on December 16, its leader Kamchybek Tashiev said that the party planned to unify opposition groups to prevent power being concentrated in Atambaev's hands. Ata-Jurt suffered another setback on December 14 with the resignation of parliamentary speaker Ahmatbek Keldibekov, a politician from the party who was assigned the post as part of the coalition share-out. His resignation came after he was subjected to a parliamentary investigation and a threat from Ata-Meken to call a vote of no confidence in him. Analysts say Keldibekov was seen as building up his own position at the expense of other institutions. "He was replaced because the speaker and parliament were trying to place themselves on the same level as the government and president," Dyatlenko said. Tashiev was fairly cautious on the loss of the speaker's post, as he himself has had public differences with Keldibekov. "It isn't necessary to keep Keldibekov in the job to ensure the legislature is independent. That would be wrong thinking," Tashiev told IWPR. "It's just the usual political struggle between someone who held power and others who wanted that power."

NEW GOVERNMENT TAKES SHAPE
As it sidelines Ata-Jurt, the Social Democratic Party will have to reward those who have joined it in government. These include the long-established Ata-Meken and Ar-Namys, which stayed outside the last coalition, and the newer Respublika, which was part of it but is no doubt hoping for a bigger share this time round. After announcing the coalition on December 16, the partners agreed that Respublika leader Omurbek Babanov was to be Kyrgyzstan's new prime minister. The post of speaker went to Asylbek Jeenbekov of the Social Democrats, who was previously deputy speaker. Somewhat surprisingly, a seven-member faction within Ata-Jurt signed a separate agreement with the coalition on December 16. They include well-known politicians like former Bishkek mayor Nuriman Tyuleev and Marat Sultanov, a former speaker and finance minister.

But this development had already been predicted by Sheradyl Baktygulov, an expert on state governance, who argued that Ata-Jurt was not a homogenous force, so some members were likely to align themselves with the winning side while others went into opposition. According to Baktygulov, all this merely show how little Kyrgyzstan's politics have changed - it is individuals, not policy or ideological differences, that count. "The only real thing that can force coalitions to break up are the personal interests of the leaders, the politicians who are in coalition, and those [groups] whose interests are represented by members of parliament," he said. "It's all about which of our friends and relatives is to get a government post. The basic thing is to ensure that more of our friends and relatives get them, as opposed to the friends or relatives of others."

From http://iwpr.net/ 12/16/2011

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KUWAIT: Cabinet to Quit, Emir to Dissolve Parliament

The reports come amid plans by the opposition to stage a mass rally Monday night to press for the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, a senior member of the ruling family. Pro-government Al-Seyassah daily cited State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Ali al-Rashed as confirming that Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah will chair an extraordinary meeting for the cabinet later in the day. The daily and several other local media cited unnamed informed sources as saying the emir will accept the resignation of the cabinet and then dissolve parliament and call for snap polls, the fourth in just over five years. Opposition supporters Sunday night camped outside the palace of justice in the capital Kuwait City for the fifth night in a row as a show of solidarity with 24 activists arrested for storming parliament on November 16.

The latest developments appear to have been triggered by the reported resignation of three ministers of the 16-member cabinet of the oil-rich Gulf state in protest over the strained political situation. Writing on his Twitter account, Islamist opposition MP Mohammad Hayef said Monday he has "personally confirmed" that three ministers had submitted their resignations to the prime minister. He named them as health minister Helal al-Sayer, minister of justice and social affairs and labour Mohammad al-Afasi and state minister for development Abdulwahab al-Harun. "I have personally confirmed that Afasi, Harun and Sayer have tendered their resignations. Although it came late, their move should be praised," Hayef said.

Political tensions have escalated sharply in OPEC's third largest producer with unprecedented mass protests amid a campaign by opposition MPs to force Sheikh Nasser, a nephew of the ruler, to resign. Kuwait's public prosecutor on Sunday extended the detention of 24 opposition activists who stormed the parliament building on November 16 following clashes with riot police. Opposition MPs are scheduled to question Sheikh Nasser in parliament on Tuesday over allegations of corruption.

From http://en.trend.az/ 11/28/2011

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Adjust Salaries of Public Sector Staff, Says Otaibi

Attorney Faisal Besheer Al-Otaibi, a candidate contesting from the Fifth Constituency, called on the government to adjust the salary structure of Kuwaitis working in public sector institutions in such a way that the gap between the employees who were granted increments and those who weren't is filled up, reports Alam-Alyawm daily. He blamed the Civil Service Commission (CSC) for the gap, saying its policies have led to discrimination among employees who hold the same academic qualifications. He said all the protests and strikes taking place in the country are due to government's partial policies.

Al-Otaibi hinted that some government organizations do not grant regular increments to their employees and said CSC is directly responsible for this discrimination. Meanwhile, Nabila Al-Anjari, who is contesting from the Third Constituency, said voters will decide the future of the country as they have the power to choose candidates who can help achieve development and control corruption, reports Al-Jarida daily. She stressed the necessity of maintaining national unity and called for activating laws that ensure safety. Stating that Kuwaiti youths are the real engine of the country's future, she urged them to select their representatives carefully, away from tribal and sectarian considerations.

Another aspirant Ahmad Al-Obaid, who is contesting from the First Constituency, said some candidates are allocating unreasonable budgets for their electoral campaigns. "This deprives the country of services of some efficient and qualified individuals whose income is limited and who may not be able to campaign as vigorously as those with deep pockets." According to Al-Obaid, strong will and good management are the key elements required to achieve the ambitions of the citizens and to change the old policies. Also, there should be a clear-cut plan of action and an efficient team to carry it out, he said. There should also be plans to control corruption, for development as well as to strengthen the principle of freedom, he said. Furthermore, former MP Mohammad Al-Faji announced that he will not run in the coming elections and thanked all those voted for him in the 2003 elections, reports Al-Seyassah daily. He said it was an honor for him to represent the people of the then 16th Constituency, which is the current Fourth Constituency, and added that his diwaniya will always be open to everyone.

Citizens
Meanwhile, fighting the scourge of corruption is the duty of all citizens, hence the culture of good ethics must be inculcated in people to be able to deal with this menace, reports Al-Moustaqbal daily quoting former MP Rola Dashti as saying. In a statement to mark World Anti-Corruption Day, the former MP noted that corruption has come to stay and it's growing in a dangerous and rapid manner. She stressed that corruption is manifest in administration and state institutions, where incapable hands are appointed in positions where competence and experience matters most, and services are rendered in favoritism.

She blamed the situation on lack of implementation of law by the concerned authorities, and warned that neglecting the state of affairs has become a time bomb ready to explode. She decried rot in social values and ethics that has reached a level where people's dignity and honor is blatantly violated, while defamation, incitement and character assassination have suddenly become the order of day. On recent storming of the National Assembly premises and violation of law and the Constitution by youths, the former MP said "it's the outcome of deteriorating social ethics", as people in recent times accuse each other falsely and intrude on the judiciary, forcing it to pass judgments according to their whims and caprices. She said reform of institutions must begin with reform of individuals, followed by family reform.

In another news, all decisions related to salary increments, pay scales and pension-except for the teachers' pay scale, have been suspended pending the next parliamentary election in January or February 2012, reports Al-Moustaqbal daily. The daily quoting reliable sources said the aforementioned issues will be prioritized by the coming government, as well as matters concerning the living standards of citizens. Meanwhile, the teachers' pay scale the government and the national assembly approved recently will be activated next January and paid according to the new scale, sources indicated. Yet in another development, in his religious point of view on conducting by-elections to select parliamentary candidates, former dean of the Faculty of Sharia Dr Mohammed Al-Tabtabaei has stated on his Twitter page that participating in by-elections is unlawful, reports Al-Wasat daily. Meanwhile, the Salafist Bloc is expected to hold a meeting in the diwaniya of former minister and MP Mohammed Al-Baqer on Saturday to discuss crucial issues.

From http://www.arabtimesonline.com/ 12/16/2011

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AUSTRALIA: Queensland Appoints First GCIO

Queensland, Australia's third most populous state, has appointed a new standalone Queensland Government Chief Information Officer (QGCIO) - a first for the state - following its July announcement to create this role. Simon Finn, Minister for Information and Communication Technology announced on 1 December 2011 that Professor Peter Grant will begin his QGCIO role on the day itself. "I'm very pleased that Peter will take on this role, which is the first of its kind in the nation," Mr Finn said. "Peter brings over 40 years of experience to this position - half of which is in the public sector." "The new QCGIO role will provide government with the leadership, management and advice to ensure that whole-of-Government ICT investment is maximised," said Finn. "This new role will have a mandate to make the tough calls on Queensland's ICT policy development and have enough clout to drive change, innovation and develop strong ICT infrastructure." In this role, Grant will be responsible for whole-of-Government ICT direction including National Broadband Network master planning, effective working relationships with the ICT industry, and building ICT capacity development across the public sector. As QGCIO, Grant would give advice on the digital economy and support the Director-General of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet and provide regular reports to Cabinet on implementation of the new shared services model and whole-of-Government ICT performance. Finn said that Grant has previously held senior executive roles across a range of State Government portfolios, including the Department of Public Works, Queensland Health and the Department of Transport and Main Roads (Queensland Transport at the time).

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/02/2011

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Australian PM to Outline Cabinet Reshuffle

The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is expected to end days of speculation by announcing changes to her frontbench on Monday. The reshuffle is tipped to mean new faces in key portfolios like Health, with current Health Minister Nicola Roxon expected to be made Attorney-General. Robert McClelland, who has been Attorney-General for four years, will stay in Cabinet. Chris Evans is likely to lose his job as Workplace Relations Minister but keep his position in Cabinet and as Government Senate leader. There is concern from some within the left that Industry Minister Kim Carr could be demoted. Tasmanian Senator Nick Sherry is also tipped to be moved out of the ministry, which would mean Tasmania would have no-one in the ministry. Those in line for promotion include Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten, who is most likely to fill any Cabinet vacancy. The changes are aimed at positioning the Government for the two years until the next election is due. Ms Gillard has already said Kevin Rudd will stay on as Foreign Affairs Minister. But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott earlier told Sky television the Prime Minister needs to remove Mr Rudd from Cabinet. "Unless she addresses the Kevin Rudd poison at the heart of her government, it will continue to be dysfunctional," he said. "Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd cannot be in the same cabinet for government to function." Mr Abbott says he has no plans to reshuffle the shadow Cabinet, saying he is happy with the existing team. An opinion poll out today shows Labor trailing the Coalition by 14 points on a two-party preferred basis. The Nielsen poll in the Age and Sydney Morning Herald newspapers shows Labor on 43 per cent and the Coalition on 57 per cent. It says Opposition Leader Tony Abbott leads Julia Gillard as preferred prime minister by 46 per cent to 42 per cent.

From http://www.radioaustralianews.net.au/ 12/12/2011

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FESA to Become Government Department

A restructure of the West Australian Fire and Emergency Authority, which will have the body reporting directly to the Minister for Emergency Services, has been given the go ahead by cabinet. The WA cabinet vote in favor of the move comes weeks after patches of the internationally renowned wine region around Augusta Margaret River were ravaged by bushfires. Police Minister Rob Johnson was stripped of the Emergency Services portfolio earlier this month. Advertisement: Story continues below New Emergency Services Minister Troy Buswell said a bill would be drafted to amend the FESA Act, which would abolish FESA, and then recreate it as a government department. "The overriding intention of this legislative change is to ensure that the state's emergency services response is directly accountable to government," Mr Buswell said in a statement today. He said a new position would be created for a fire and emergency services commissioner who would report directly to the minister. FESA chief executive Wayne Gregson will become the first commissioner under the restructure. The legislative changes will also empower the Minister to establish a new advisory committee and bolster the powers of police during bushfire emergencies.

From http://www.smh.com.au/ 12/23/2011

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NEW ZEALAND: MPs Sworn in for New Parliament

The 50th New Zealand Parliament has met for the first time and MPs have been sworn in. Lockwood Smith was re-elected Speaker unopposed. Smith told the newly elected MPs he was "deeply honoured" and thanked MPs from the previous for the "better natured tone". Governor General Jerry Mateparae has also formally confirmed the appointment of Smith as Speaker. Dressed in a wig and black robe Smith presented himself to Sir Jerry at Government House. Prime Minister John Key, Chief Justice Sian Elias, representatives of most political parties and members of Smith's staff were present at the ceremony. Sir Jerry said the brief ceremony had a historic legacy. Earlier at Parliament, Key said Smith had shown he was a person of "good judgment". "You have served this House with great distinction," Key said. In his first words in the debating chamber as Labour leader, David Shearer acknowledged Smith's even hand. He joked that Smith had been so successful in working with Labour's shadow leader of the house, Trevor Mallard, that he might come and see him for some advice. Earlier, Clerk of the House, Mary Harris, administered the oaths and declarations of allegiance of all 121 MPs, including 25 new comers. A handful of MPs, including the Green Party's Julie Anne Genter and Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell have sworn their allegiance in te reo Maori. Mana Party leader Hone Harawira, who has protested against swearing an oath to the Queen, also gave his oath in te reo. Before taking the oath, however, he informally spoke in te reo acknowledging his people. Labour MP Sua William Sio was granted leave to give the oath first in English and then in Samoan. The first ever profoundly deaf MP, the Greens' Mojo Mathers, won spontaneous applause from fellow MPs after giving her oath.

OATH DEBATE
This morning Key said MPs who had an issue with the oath should "get on with it". The Green Party this morning said the parliamentary oath should be modernised and that there was public support for a change. Co-leader Metiria Turei said the party would raise changing it with the Speaker. An online survey of more than 650 people, conducted by the Greens, had found around three quarters opposed the current oath to the Queen, while more than 90 percent would support an alternative oath in which MPs pledged to do their best for Aotearoa/New Zealand. More than 70 percent supported including commitments to protect the environment and honour the Treaty of Waitangi. "The Green Party wants Parliament to be modern and unique to New Zealand and who we are now. The current oath is old fashioned and out of step with who we are as a nation," co-leader Metiria Turei said. "Our survey indicates the public support change. All too often, Parliament lags behind the will of the people and where they are at." Harawira has twice challenged the oath by substituting his own words and was this year tossed out of Parliament for it by the Speaker. Following his re-election in the Tai Tokerau by-election Harawira caused a furore when he swore his allegiance to the Treaty of Waitangi and voters in his electorate, before swearing his allegiance to the Queen. Ad Feedback Parliament's rules have since been changed to stop MPs challenging the oath by using their own words. Key said MPs were required to pledge allegiance to the Queen as New Zealand's Head of State. "That's the constitutional monarchy system that we have and I think every MP therefore is bound by that and should swear their allegiance." Harawira was just playing games and did it for grandstanding purposes rather than because he didn't support the constitutional monarchy, he said. "Frankly I think he should just get on with it like every other Member of Parliament." Key said it was a special day and an exciting time for new MPs. "You must take the oath very seriously, what happens in that Parliamentary chamber is important and you are bound by that oath, your word is your bond." He did not believe the oath needed to be looked at. Debate over the oath was a perennial issue, he said.

From http://www.stuff.co.nz/ 12/20/2011

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Somare Calls on Public Servants to Remain Neutral

Papua New Guinea's re-instated leader Sir Michael Somare is calling on public servants "to remain neutral" and comply with a court order that revoked his ousting, as the political deadlock continues. In the statement Sir Michael also repeated his earlier statement that the nation's police commissioner Tom Kulunga had been replaced by Somare appointee Fred Yakasa. Megan Whelan reports. "The statement came just hours after more than half of PNG's 109-member parliament voted to suspend the governor-general and replace him with a stand-in to swear in Peter O'Neill as prime minister. The MPs also voted to appeal to the Supreme Court to review its 3-2 decision to reinstate Sir Michael. In his statement, Sir Michael also sacked treasury department head Stephen Gibson and said cabinet had reinstated Somare appointee Gabriel Yer. The announcement came hours before Papua New Guinea's religious ministers are due to give a news conference in which they are expected to ask Mr O'Neill and Sir Michael to reach an agreement on the nation's leadership. The streets of the nation's sometimes volatile capital, Port Moresby, have so far remained free of political violence. The ministers' news conference is expected at 10 this morning local time."

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 12/14/2011

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Asia-Pacific Telcos to Transform in Full Steam in 2012

Research firm IDC said the continued economic turmoil on a global scale could potentially add another dimension of uncertainty to many telecom service providers (SPs) in the region in the next 12 months. "The convergence of IT and networks has created an enormous amount of new opportunities for telcos in the region far outstripping the possibilities that were imagined only years ago," said Adrian Dominic Ho, principal for telecom and managed services at IDC Asia-Pacific. "Moreover, the massive delivery of content and endless addiction of consumers to their smartphones have reinvigorated growth in broadband and consumer mobility. This insatiable demand of the Asian consumer will also help define the decade for many telcos, especially in uncertain economic times." He continued, "The Telcos' manifesto for success in 2012 is one really of common sense stemming from the need to focus on the three core factors driving ICT spending." He added, "Internally, telcos should also focus on operational efficiency, business transformation and their customer as shrinking margins and increased competition will make internal transformation more critical than ever before." The following are IDC's top 10 Telecommunications Predictions in 2012 for the APEJ region:

1. Getting ready for big data - Delivering hyper speed to hyper connect
There is strong evidence indicating that big data has produced numerous benefits for manufacturers, government, healthcare authorities, retailers, and financial institutions all over the world. Many have experienced increased revenue and competitive positioning, productivity gains, and net margins. Big data requires "big pipes" and the need for ultra-fast connectivity to deliver that extra competitive advantage, thus making the network more critical than ever before. There are large incremental potential network opportunities for telcos especially in low latency networks, and network and bandwidth optimization. Other opportunities for telcos include storage and analytics as a service (AaaS).

2. The new mobile enterprise - From social-enabled to business outcome led
There are four main driving factors behind enterprise mobility. First, the need to drive increase cost savings from contract and device management. Second, new applications will be integrated into smart devices that will drive sales and delivery execution. Third, customer loyalty and revenue generation will be enhanced by stronger mobile analytics that enables organizations to understand their customer better. Lastly, there will be a need for security and compliance for executive smart devices.

3. The enterprise orchestrated cloud - Outsourcing in a new dimension
In 2011, IDC estimates that 80 percent of new enterprise application development will be for the public cloud, and by 2015, 20 percent of enterprise application spending will be cloud-sourced. As a result, cloud service buyers will now have to manage a much larger number of services and vendors, adding a level of management difficulty to what should have been an easier adoption of new services. To counter this, cloud service providers will provide an integrated management of disparate cloud services - cloud orchestration - in 2012 and beyond. As a result, the market will not be talking so much about cloud services by 2015, but will consider these as a natural evolution of outsourcing, or Outsourcing 3.0.

4. Sub-$100 smartphones - The new middle class
Smartphones have ushered in a new era of personal computing, with the shipment of smartphones expected to exceed the shipment of PCs in the region in 2012, a milestone that is most likely never, ever going to be reversed. IDC expects the market to see the introduction of sub-$100 smartphones in 2012, which will in turn create big opportunities for service providers in emerging Asia. IDC also believes that consumers in these markets will soon demonstrate the same addictive nature to mobile applications as seen in mature markets.

5. Content-aware tiered pricing - Different strokes for different folks
Mobile operators will soon start offering tariff plans by segmentation (application specific, time of day, speed, etc.) as well as multi-device plans for smartphone- and tablet- users. Accordingly, unlimited data plans will start being phased out wherever possible and replaced with tiered plans especially for 4G LTE services. Analytics throughout the network will enable planners to understand usage patterns by time of day, device type (e.g. Samsung Galaxy S II vs. iPhone 4), and by application signatures (e.g. peer-to-peer, e-mail, video and audio streaming, FTP, etc.) so that personalized tariff plans can be offered to users and groups of users (e.g. employees working for the same company) strengthening customer retention and loyalty. Most carriers in Asia/Pacific are using legacy Operational Support Systems (OSS)/ Business Support Systems (BSS) and thus will need to upgrade or modernize the OSS/BSS to support real-time analytics.

6. Personalized cloud services - Expanding cloud opportunities
Organizations will be examining the possibilities of exploiting cloud technologies to collaborate with their customers. This may include extending their cloud customer relationship management (CRM) system in a collaborative fashion with their clients. The challenge for organizations and service providers will be to guarantee the same enterprise grade experience and performance. Licensing models would have to be modified as the current ones are too prohibitive for many organizations. The potential benefits for telecom SPs include increased bandwidth pull through, managed services, platform as a service (PaaS) and application lifecycle management.

7. The apps aggregator - Innovation scout team
The explosion of digital content and applications delivered on multiple devices over both fixed and mobile networks has brought about new opportunities for the telcos. With this, they have the chance to aggregate applications and content to deliver connected, personalized and user-centric solutions to the end-user. But telcos can only deliver these through focused and dedicated teams able to identify, bundle, integrate and launch the "right" business or consumer applications. IDC believes that in 2012, the more forward-looking telcos will form dedicated innovation scout teams to find and deliver appropriate applications and content to connected homes, businesses or hotspots.

8. Wholesaling Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) capacity - Creating PaaS opportunities
Telecom providers who have built up their cloud infrastructure as a service capacity too rapidly will start looking to fully realize their return on investments. Telcos could potentially wholesale their spare capacity to existing hosters, IT vendors and even other telcos who do not have the deep pockets required to build up datacenters. The other option for telcos is to create PaaS opportunities and claim leadership in this area that has largely been untapped by telcos. IDC believes that this will expand the cloud opportunities for many telcos by a factor of two.

9. Delivering 'Super Economics' - Sweating the assets with cloud
Asia-Pacific is now developing cloud networking strategies and architectures to support cloud computing services such as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), PaaS and IaaS. At the same time, "cloudifcation" of the SP's IT systems, edge, and core network starts to make a lot of sense because many, if not most, major SPs will be upgrading their OSS/BSS and service delivery platforms (SDP) in the next three to five years. Telcos would also increasingly look to cloud automation and standardization of many processes to drive further efficiencies.

10. Virtualization of mobile packet core - Coping with smartphone proliferation stress
Most 3G networks are designed to maintain approximately 25-60 percent overcapacity at the radio base station side and typically 30-50 percent overcapacity in the packet core. Most 3G operators are still generating over 60 percent of their cash flows from voice services but the investment in mobile data infrastructure is typically greater than five times that of mobile voice infrastructure. The excess capacity in the radio base station means that the baseband processors are sitting idle or are being underutilized. As such, many telcos will be compelled to virtualize their mobile packet core to ensure that their networks can meet the increased demand expected over the next few years.

From http://newsbytes.ph/ 11/25/2011

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Empower Women and Be Better Prepared for Climate Change, Says World Bank Study

WASHINGTON, November 28, 2011 - As the United Nations conference on climate change opens in South Africa, a new World Bank study demonstrates that women, when fully empowered, can be an important force for change as countries and citizens grapple with the impacts of climate change and prepare to adapt to them. World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte said a growing body of evidence shows that women tend to be disproportionately more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change compared to men. Because of their vulnerability - to more frequent and more extreme natural disasters like cyclones, floods, and droughts - it's vital that women play a more central role in building their communities' climate resilience. "We are seeing time and time again that when women are empowered to play leadership roles within their communities, the whole community benefits from better preparedness for extreme weather events," Kyte said. "It's smart economics, smart business, smart planning, and smart design to look at challenges with women's realities in mind."

One example of this comes from Bangladesh. In 1991, Cyclone Gorky killed 140,000 people in that country. Deaths of women outnumbered deaths of men by a ratio of 14 to 1. Through the government's intensive efforts to increase women's involvement in preparedness - including providing women-only spaces in storm shelters and getting women more involved as community mobilizers - the number of deaths in a similar cyclone event in 2007, saw the gender gap in mortality rates shrink to 5:1."Now women are acting as powerful agents of change in Bangladesh," Kyte said. "Women are getting the message out ahead of cyclones through early warning messages to other women in the community, encouraging them to use cyclone shelters. It's not only had a dramatic effect in reducing the gender differential in those who are dying in cyclones, but it has also improved cyclone preparedness overall." In the paper, entitled "Gender and Climate Change: Three Things You Should Know", the World Bank underscores the importance of gender equality for effective and equitable action on climate change.

The study refers to examples in India where poor women in drought-prone states like Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan have improved their social and economic opportunities through self-help groups that have linked together to increase their bargaining power. Over time, these institutional platforms that have grown up around improved livelihoods can be used to build climate resilience, including accessing advice for dealing with drought and building better watershed management structures. The paper's author, Lead Social Development Specialist Robin Mearns, says the key to ensuring gender equality is ensuring equal access to resources and opportunities for everyone. "Women very often don't enjoy the same rights or the same socio-economic status as men and that structural disadvantage means that they are often more vulnerable than men to the impacts of the same climate or hazard events," he said. In developing countries, projects aimed at addressing climate change or improving energy access can have important benefits for women if gender considerations are factored into early planning.

For example, a new Bus Rapid Transit project in Lagos, Nigeria has helped cut carbon emissions in that city by 20 percent. A gender analysis undertaken ahead of the project highlighted the need for providing well-lit bus shelters and other safety measures for women to improve their likely use of the system. Now, women are significant users of public transport, improving their participation in the local economy. The paper also highlights the important decisions that billions of women make every day that influence the amount of carbon that is released into the atmosphere. Women's choices around cooking fuels, cooking technology and the foods to cook all have an important bearing on carbon emissions. "Low-emissions development pathways can be more effective and more equitable where they are designed using a gender-informed approach," said Mearns.

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 11/28/2011

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APEC Builds Expertise on Input-output Tables for Economic Modelling Issued

As part of efforts to strengthen policy making in the Asia-Pacific, APEC hosted a conference in Singapore examining the use of Input-Output tables, a valuable statistical resource for many economies. Policy makers, academics and economists from around the region gathered at the conference to build capacity on developing Input-Output Tables (IOTs), used by economies for national accounts and internationally to show the complex linkages between economies. IOTs are a key tool for economic modelling since they show economic exchanges of goods and services among industrial sectors, said Alexey Ponomarenko, Director of the International Institute for Education in Statistics at the Higher School of Economics, Moscow. Building a greater understanding of IOTs is important for APEC given its mission to strengthen economic integration in the region. Ideas and decisions on integration should be based on best practice and detailed information such as data and analysis from IOTs, said Dr Ponomarenko, who chaired the November 24-25 conference. "If policy makers' understanding of the economy and international economic linkages are refined, it may progressively change the way governments formulate and implement their policies," he said.

IOTs have enabled deeper understanding of trade patterns in the globalized market place, including modern supply chains, experts told the conference. Research using IOTs has revealed highly fragmented and sophisticated production networks in the Asia-Pacific region, whose interdependency is deepening and shifting towards China, said Satoshi Inomata from the Institute of Developing Economies of JETRO in Japan. IOTs are valuable for measuring the value-added component of traded products, because they distinguish between intermediate inputs and final products. "Value-added measures can change our impression of comparative advantage," said Dr. William Powers, international economist with the US International Trade Commission. Increased understanding of value-added trade could have implications for domestic trade policies including the relevance of some protectionist measures, the conference was told. WTO Senior Statistician Christophe Degain explained that "so-called 'national products' may actually be predominantly produced in other economies, while products of foreign trademarks may be manufactured in the domestic market." IOTs are also being used to help economies calculate their greenhouse gas emissions from production and international trade. Developing a detailed analysis of economies' carbon footprint could impact on policies for sustainable economic growth, an APEC priority, the conference heard. A summary of the conference will be sent to APEC Senior Officials for discussion. The conference was sponsored by Russia's Ministry of Economic Development and organized by the Higher School of Economics, a Moscow-based National Research University.

From http://www.apec.org/ 12/02/2011

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Busan Outcome and Beyond: Partnering for Progress in Aid Effectiveness

High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness kicks off in Busan on November 29 President Lee reveals outcomes of G20 Seoul Summit Korea and Rwanda agree to reinforce development and trade cooperation Korea and Ethiopia agree to expand cooperation in development assistance President Lee urges building more "Inclusive Development Partnerships" The Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness drew to a close on December 1 in Busan, reaffirming commitments to global development and calling for renewed partnership. Held under the motto "Building a New Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation," the intensive forum addressed key issues associated with development cooperation goals and practices such as transparency, good governance, and leadership, while stressing a more inclusive global partnership alongside the emergence of new actors in the increasingly complex architecture for development aid. Representatives of developing and developed countries hailing from over 150 nations discussed the latest thoughts on development assistance over the course of the three-day run. The in-depth deliberations of participant nations representing different stages of development resulted in a new global development partnership that recognizes the distinct roles. Pursuant to the foundations laid by previous High Level Fora, alongside those set out in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and Accra Agenda for Action, the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation embraces a new political consensus taking into account a wider group of development actors. The new outcome document supplements the agenda by underpining diversity and the paradigm shift from effective aid to cooperation for effective development.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) delivers a keynote address at a private sector forum on November 30 at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness held in Busan (photo: Yonhap News). At the heart of the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation lies a set of shared principles and common goals, already familiar in the dialogue on development aid, with a series of "differential commitments for effective international development." The forum's success entails in its inclusive agreement and its building blocks. Aligned with the inclusive approach, the Busan outcome document is characterized by involving a greater number of state and non-state actors, calling for strengthened donor-recipient partnerships. Not only does the document highlight South-South and triangular cooperation for sustainable development with active debate by emerging powerhouses like China, India, and Brazil, but it also emphasizes the complementary traits of transparency, resilience, ownership, and accountability for reaching common goals. The document urges all stakeholders to commit and take initiatives and relevant steps to modernize, deepen, and broaden cooperation, aimed at better quality and effective delivery of development cooperation in the road ahead. "There's never been such an open, engaged, inclusive process behind development," remarked OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria during the closing ceremony. "The process of development has become more complex. The HLF4 outcome document leaves us with homework and responsibility." The Busan forum also reaffirmed the global commitment in the wake of the "urgency of achieving strong, shared, and sustainable growth" in line with and beyond the Millennium Development Goals.

President Lee Myung-bak gives a welcoming address at the opening ceremony of the Busan Forum on November 30 (Photo courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae). During a welcoming address on November 30, President Lee Myung-bak emphasized the fact that the target date for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is less than four years away. The Korean leader pledged the Korean government's unstinted commitment to achieving the MDGs and making a better world for all. Korea plans to double its official development assistance (ODA) in the four years to come. As the fourth and last High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness wraps up, the world now turns its eyes upon the post-Busan implementation. The participating leaders decided to establish a new, inclusive, and representative "Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation" that will serve as an open platform aimed at supporting and ensuring accountability for the fulfillment of the commitments. They called for continued high-level political support and to this end called on the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness to convene ministerial-level representatives and stakeholders slated for June 2012. For the post-Busan implementation, the OECD and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are expected to co-endorse the effective functioning of the Global Partnership and leverage the impact of development cooperation.

Korea's Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan and OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria unveil the Busan outcome document during a press conference before the closing ceremony (Photo: Yonhap News). "The global partnership will include participation by emerging economies such as China, India, and Brazil - all non-members of the OECD - as well as the private sector," said Korea's Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan at a press conference before the closing ceremony. The new partnership will further extend collaboration and sharing capacities in areas of respective comparative advantages.Meanwhile, the host country, a once-struggling nation which has experienced a dramatic transformation into a donor partner, is evaluated to have once again successfully played a mediator role following its placing of development on the agenda for the Seoul G20 Summit.

From http://www.korea.net/ 12/05/2011

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World Bank Strengthens Ability to Respond to Crises in Poorest Countries

WASHINGTON - The World Bank's Board of Executive Directors today approved a new mechanism that will allow the world's poorest countries to expedite access to funding following a crisis. The Immediate Response Mechanism complements longer-term emergency response tools available to members of the International Development Association (IDA), the Bank's fund for the poorest, offering countries financial support within weeks rather than months of an emergency. This will be achieved through the inclusion of contingent emergency response components in existing and future investment projects, at the request of the borrower. "The Bank has been strengthening its crisis response capabilities in low-income countries. Today's approval of the Immediate Response Mechanism will allow us to shorten our response time even more, enabling us to address the immediate needs of IDA countries within two weeks of a crisis, provided the country meets the eligibility criteria," said Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Vice President for Concessional Finance and Global Partnerships. Countries will be able to access a portion of undisbursed balances in their investment project portfolios, up to a total of US$2.2 billion. "In implementing this program, the Bank will work closely with interested countries to improve their emergency preparedness and arrangements for disaster response. Better planning, in advance of any crisis or emergency, speeds recovery and reduces the impact on vulnerable people," said Joachim von Amsberg, Vice President of Operations Policy and Country Services. In the case of crises, notably natural disasters and economic shocks, IDA would provide immediate financing in support of recovery efforts, such as the activation or scaling up of safety nets to mitigate the impact on vulnerable groups, repair or restoration of basic physical assets, protection of critical development spending such as on health and education, and creation of programs to jump-start economic activity.

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 12/08/2011

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Developing Nations' Quest for Reforms

Problems that beset poor countries and their likely solutions were tackled in a forum, "Sustainable Reform in the Developing World," held December 1-3, 2011 at Lalaan 1, Silang, Cavite that had Dr. Ella Simmons from the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church headquarter in the U.S; Dr. Robert Prouty from the World Bank and Mr. Vicente A. Pijano III from the Delft University of Technology in Netherlands in attendance. Other presenters included students and faculty from the AIIAS, De la Salle University, Mountain View College and other universities. In her keynote address, Simmons emphasized the hypothesis that many reforms are ideally formulated to address the problems faced by the developing countries, which unfortunately are not all implemented for the welfare of the people. Forum findings include concerns about bridging the digital divide that separates those who have access to technology and the Internet from those who don't, literacy and education, especially in the poorest countries, and health concerns for developing nations. Attendees were also challenged to do their part to make a difference in their communities, changing the world one person or one project at a time. AIIAS is a graduate level educational institution of the Seventh-day Adventist Church , and is a locally and internationally accredited institution.

The institution, with students and faculty from over 50 countries, is composed of two schools: the Theological Seminary and the Graduate School (formerly known as the School of Graduate Studies or SGS). The Seminary offers degree programs in Applied Theology, Biblical Studies, and Theological-Historical Studies, and SGS offers degrees in the areas of Business, Education, and Health. AIIAS is an institution recognized by the Commission of Higher Education (CHED), pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 2021 in 1987, and duly accredited by the Accrediting Association of Seventh-day Adventist Schools, Colleges and Universities (AAA) of Maryland, US; by the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU) for the Graduate School as leading to the 3rd level and by the Association for Theological Education in South East Asia (ATESEA) for the Seminary.

From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 12/10/2011

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Singapore Tops Asia-Pac 'Good Governance' Index

Vriens and Partners, an Asia-focused corporate advisory firm, has issued its 2011 'Good Governance for International Business' index of 19 economies in the Asia-Pacific region, in which Singapore has edged out Hong Kong for the number one position. Within the index, economies are evaluated on six 'pillars': the rule of law, openness to international trade and business, political stability, taxation, corruption, and fiscal and monetary administration. It is said that each of those pillars "has a major impact on business and investment decisions, and together they reflect an important aspect of an economy that is beyond the standard quantitative measures of market size, proximity, economic growth or wage rates that also drive those decisions." For example, 'taxation' assesses the tax environment, such as transparency and efficiency in tax collection, as well as local taxation rates, particularly the corporate tax rate, while 'fiscal and monetary administration' assesses the management of state finances and monetary regulations that encourage economic growth and stability. In its overview of the results of the index, it is emphasized that, with both Singapore and Hong Kong "well known for maintaining open economies, these two cities have focused on providing good governance for international business across all six pillars in order to attract investment and grow their economies". Singapore and Hong score 90.2 and 87.3, respectively, followed closely by New Zealand and Australia with scores over 80, although the latter does suffer as a result of its score on taxation.

It is pointed out that, in the second group with scores ranging from 60 to 79, were Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. Taiwan tops the group with even performance across all six pillars, while Japan has a weak score on taxation and fiscal and monetary administration. On the other hand, while South Korea scores strongly on fiscal and monetary administration and, if its free trade agreement with the United States is implemented in 2012, should improve its score on openness to international trade and business, Malaysia now "joins this group of advanced economies with a strong score for taxation and a continued commitment to openness to international trade and business." China and Thailand's scores are said to place them in a category of their own. China's score on fiscal and monetary administration has reduced over the past year, as has its openness to international trade and business. Thailand has "scored weakly on political stability and, though July's successfully-held elections present an opportunity to improve on that score, the on-going flood crisis presents a degree of uncertainty." Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Cambodia and Laos score between 40 to 49 in the index, with each facing "its own unique set of challenges in providing good governance for international business," while the lowest scores are attributable to Bangladesh and Myanmar, both scoring in the 30s. "The Good Governance for International Business index provides a timely and useful resource for business leaders and governments alike," said Hans Vriens, the firm's Managing Partner. "International business is increasingly interested in emerging economies across Asia, and there has been a clear effort by governments to improve governance for international business in order to attract investment."

From http://www.tax-news.com/ 12/14/2011

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ADB Introduces Maturity-Based Pricing on Sovereign Loans

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has introduced maturity-based pricing on new LIBOR-based loans to sovereign borrowers or with sovereign guarantees, and local currency loans with sovereign guarantees, for which loan negotiations are completed on, or after, 1 April 2012. Under the new pricing structure, loans with an average loan maturity of up to 13 years will not attract a maturity premium. Loans with an average loan maturity of greater than 13 years and up to 16 years will be charged a maturity premium of 10 basis points per annum. Loans with an average loan maturity of greater than 16 years and up to 19 years will be charged a maturity premium of 20 basis points per annum. The maturity premium will be added to the contractual spread of 0.4% per annum and will be applied for the life of the loan. In addition, ADB has introduced a cap on average loan maturity of 19 years. Average loan maturity is defined as the weighted average time to repay a loan. "The introduction of maturity-based pricing reflects ADB's continuous commitment to safeguard ADB's financial strength based on sound banking principles, while striving to provide resources for development lending at the lowest and most stable funding costs and on the most reasonable terms," said ADB Deputy Treasurer Kazuki Fukunaga.

From http://beta.adb.org/ 12/15/2011

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Google Boosts Asia Data Capacity

Search engine giant Google has launched the construction of a new data centre in Singapore to cope with the explosive growth of internet traffic in the Asia-Pacific region. "I think it's safe to say this is the fastest-growing region in the world in terms of internet usage and we have a very strong Google business here," Google's Southeast Asia managing director, Julian Persaud, said. "So I think we would allocate resources in line with where we see the biggest opportunity, which I think would be APAC (Asia-Pacific) and Southeast Asia," he added after the groundbreaking ceremony. The Singapore data centre will be the Silicon Valley company's first in Southeast Asia and second in Asia after construction began on its Hong Kong facility last week. Google figures show Asia has the fastest growing number of internet users in the world. But it faces stiff competition, particularly in China where domestic search engines like Baidu are popular and censorship last year forced Google to move its Chinese search engine overseas. Google will invest $US120 million ($A121.45 million) in the 2.45 hectare Singapore facility, with construction expected to be completed by early 2013. The company is also due to build a third Asian data centre in Taiwan on top of its current six facilities in the United States and two in Europe. The Asian centres will give regional Google users faster and more reliable services and enable the company to enhance applications such as Gmail without being constrained by capacity issues, company officials said. "Right now a lot of services to Asia are being delivered from, for example, the US because the capacity in Asia is just not enough," said Simon Chang, Google's head of Asia-Pacific hardware operations.

From http://www.computerworld.com.au/ 12/16/2011

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Human Rights Training Workshop for the ASEAN Secretariat

In celebration of the International Human Rights Day and with the aim to increase the understanding of human rights in the work place, the ASEAN Secretariat, United Nations (UN) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Southeast Asia Regional Office, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Asia-Pacific Regional Center and facilitated by the Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC) all joined hands to organize a five-day interactive workshop in Jakarta, from 12-16 December 2011. The workshop looked at how the staff of ASEAN Secretariat implemented the human rights norms and values in the work place and in their daily lives. The workshop also discussed about human rights regional mechanisms and some thematic issues; women and children rights, human trafficking and migration. Key references included the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Declaration on the Right to Development. Several questions were raised about the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) which is currently being drafted. Held at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, the workshop brought together the staff from the ASEAN Secretariat and the staff from the Permanent Mission of ASEAN Member States. The workshop was opened by the Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan; Regional Representative of OHCHR, Mr. Homayoun Alizadeh; and Policy Adviser-Legal Form & Justice of UNDP Asia-Pacific Regional Center, Mr. R. Sudarshan. "Through this training and workshop I hope all of you will take home a better understanding on international and regional human rights, the role that the United Nations as well as ASEAN has been playing in human rights. It is hoped that these kinds of trainings can be sustained, and will eventually become part of the induction course for all new ASEAN Secretariat staff", said Dr. Surin. This important workshop is to put the Secretariat in the right footing, he added.

The Participants also took part in the practical exercises, one of which was to file a complaint to the human rights regional mechanism committee and preparing a governmental response to it. This also included an analysis of human rights. The exercises highlighted the need to understand what are human rights, how they apply and how to defend them in a legal situation. The workshop invited various experts on Human Rights, Chairperson of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), Mr. Rafendi Djamin; Human Rights Officer of the UN OHCHR, Mr. Daniel Collinge; Co-Chairperson of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn; Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria, Prof. Frans Viljoen; Co-Chairperson of Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, Dr. Marzuki Darusman; UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region, Mr. Gerald Smith; UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and International Solidarity, Prof. Virginia Bonoan-Dandan; Philippine Representative to AICHR, H. E. Amb. Rosario Manalo; Thai Representative to AICHR, Prof. Sriprapha Petcharamesree; Program Manager of ASEAN Advocacy Department of Forum-Asia, Ms. Atnike Sigiro; and Senior Adviser on ASEAN and Human Rights Working Group, Ms. Yuyun Wahyuningrum, held the sessions. This is the first workshop on human rights organized by the ASEAN Secretariat for its staff and it is hoped that this kind of training will continue in the future.

From http://www.asean.org/ 12/16/2011

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China, Korea, Japan Conclude Joint Study on FTA

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Bernama) - Delegates from China, South Korea and Japan has concluded a joint study on Free Trade Agreement (FTA) among the three countries (CJKFTA) in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Friday. A statement, relating to general trade and economic relations, trade in goods, trade in services, investment and other issues, was issued after the conclusion of the meeting. The combined GDP of the three countries accounts for approximately 20 percent of the world's total, but the potential for the substantial economic integration has not to be exploited yet among the three countries, China's Xinhua news agency cited the statement on Friday. It also said that the trilateral FTA will not only expand bilateral and trilateral trade as well as investment with tariffs and non-tariff measures eliminated or gradually reduced, but also to provide a comprehensive and institutional framework, leading to a win-win-win situation for the three countries. At the joint study, the three sides recommend the governments to decide on how to proceed with a possible trilateral FTA and to announce the course of action, such as a time-frame and a road-map guiding the negotiations. The "Joint Study Report" will be released early before the Trilateral Summit to be held in China, according to the statement. Chong Quan, chief Chinese delegate to the meeting, told Xinhua that China expected that the leaders of the three countries would announce the launching of the trilateral FTA negotiations as early as possible. The trilateral FTA will bring exact benefit not only to the three countries but also to the Asian region and the whole world at large, Chong said. Building on the trilateral joint research from 2003 to 2009, leaders of the three countries reached a consensus during the trilateral summit held in October, 2009 that the three countries would conduct the joint study for the CJKFTA among the government officials, business and academic participants. After the Study was launched in May, 2010, the leaders of the three countries decided to accelerate the joint study so that the study would be concluded before the end of the year 2011.

From http://www.mysinchew.com/ 12/17/2011

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CHINA: Vice-premier Promotes Innovation

Unswerving efforts should be made to promote institutional and technological innovation in transforming China's economic growth pattern, Vice-Premier Li Keqiang said. Vice-Premier Li Keqiang talks with workers at a plant in Tianjin on Thursday during an inspection tour to the port city. Innovation is the key to stimulate domestic demand, he said. [Xinhua] Innovation is the key to stimulating domestic demand, increasing the impetus for growth and coping with risks and difficulties, Li said during his inspection tour in the northern port city of Tianjin from Thursday to Friday. When visiting the Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Li said that innovation is vital, in particular in the face of the current complicated and more severe international environment, which holds increasing uncertainties. "If enterprises want to survive and develop, they should expand domestic demand in the processing of opening-up, while changing to the innovation-driven development model," Li said, adding that capital, resources and the talented should also be centralized for innovation.

"An enterprise with more core technology, talented employees and proprietary brands will be better equipped to overcome market risks, and our national economy will be more competitive in this way. Meanwhile, such enterprises will be helpful in transforming the economic growth and industrial structure," he said. "We should make great efforts to create a better environment and provide job opportunities for small or tiny companies through innovation funds and risk investments," he added. While visiting Asia Power Systems (Tianjin) Ltd, a Caterpillar company, Vice-Premier Li checked the production and quality control process of high-efficient generators. He emphasized the important role that technology and quality play in the progress of an enterprise. "We must borrow advanced international technologies and managerial experiences to increase the competitiveness of domestic enterprises, so as to transform China from a big manufacturer that excels only in size to a really strong one," he said. Li also visited Tianjin Lishen Battery Joint-Stock Co Ltd and applauded the company's effort to prioritize research and development and market exploration.

Li urged domestic enterprise to aim high and follow the market closely for breakthroughs, expressing his hope to see domestic companies master important technologies and explore new markets to make more domestic brands known to the world. Accompanied by Zhang Gaoli, member of the Communist Party of China Central Committee Political Bureau and the Tianjin Party chief, Li also visited the construction site of the city's Langtingyuan public rental housing project. Again, he urged the establishment of a national information system covering personal housing assets to lay the foundation for fair and open distribution of subsidized housing. Li fully affirmed the achievements Tianjin has made and said the city should continue to make use of its geographic advantages and further promote the role of innovation in driving future growth.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/03/2011

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Official Stresses Improving Social Management

A senior official of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has urged more developed regions to improve public services and create a new model of social management. Zhou Yongkang, a Standing Committee member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, made the remark during an inspection tour of the city of Ningbo in east China's Zhejiang province on Monday and Tuesday. Economically developed regions like Ningbo should devote more resources to social management and explore new ways to crack difficult problems, Zhou said. While visiting community service centers, legal assistance agencies and traffic police departments, Zhou urged community-level social workers and officials to improve their services. While inspecting a local Internet management center, Zhou urged employees to follow the development of the Internet, understand the principles of online communication and play both a constructive and regulatory role in Internet management.

From Xinhua News Agency 12/07/2011

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Gov't Weibo Learning to Talk the Good Talk

A large number of government departments and officials have stepped into the online world through weibo - but most of them are still more show than tell, a new media researcher said on Monday. Wang Hui, director of the Beijing government information office, talks to journalists in Beijing at a news conference for the launch of micro blog services for Beijing government bodies in November.[Photo/Xinhua] So far, nearly 20,000 micro blogs - including more than 10,000 government departments and about 9,000 officials - have been opened on Sina weibo, the most popular and biggest micro blog service in China. However, some administrative weibo have hardly been updated after being opened, while some have just followed the new media trend blindly without interacting with netizens, said Zhu Huaxin, secretary-general of people.com.cn's department of public opinion monitoring, on the 2011 Government weibo Annual Summit in Beijing on Monday.

The Beijing Municipal Health Bureau, which opened its weibo on Nov 17, has posted 34 pieces of information and has 40,000 followers. But it seldom gets netizens' replies and forwards. "We are confused about how to interact with netizens and are still finding ways to operate in the new age of information technology," said Zhang Jianshu, director of information services at the bureau. "At present, weibo is taken as a window for our bureau to publish health information or knowledge for residents," he said. "We just posted some service information, such as tips for smoggy days and suggestions on preventing popular diseases in winter. What we are doing is still observing," he added. Like the bureau, weibo Chengde, a government micro blog in Chengde city, Hebei province, is also facing similar problems on operating the new platform. "We don't know how to discuss public or even sensitive issues with our fans, or which tone is better for answering netizens' questions," Zuo Xiaohua, deputy director of Chengde's governmental information office, told China Daily with a shrug.

Most government officials in the city with little knowledge about the Internet do not dare open micro blogs to show their opinions, let alone use weibo for the administration, Zuo said. "Our micro blog just relies on posting some soft information like travel tips, history and tourism culture to show our city's advantages," she said. Both the two official micro-bloggers said on the forum that they hope to learn some operation and interaction experience from Ping'an Beijing, a relatively mature official account with more than 2 million fans, and one that receives a lot of applause from netizens. Zhao Feng, a police officer in charge of maintaining the weibo of the capital's public security bureau, said they have established a 24-hour weibo operation system with 10 officers replying to netizen's questions in turns.

Zhao said the officers can answer in an informal way because weibo, different from official websites, is a fast and relaxing communication platform. "We also present some regular programs, including police studios and crime scenes, to make our account interesting and provide a space for talk between netizens and police officers," he said. But Zhu Lijia, a professor of public administration research with the Chinese Academy of Governance, said the more governments use weibo, the more disordered the online service will be. "The micro blog is a private communication platform, but our departments from the central government to the grassroots invest a lot of money in it instead of the previous e-government. I think it is unnecessary," he added.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/13/2011

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China Keen on Action in Global Efforts Against Climate Change

The world's second largest economy and major energy consumer believes in real actions in energy conservation and emissions reduction in addition to international talks and cooperation in climate change. In China's capital city of Beijing, the nation's top leaders in the past week have stressed the importance of speeding up the elimination of outdated industrial production capacities and enhancing energy conservation and emissions control in a key annual economic conference that concluded on Wednesday. In local regions, provincial governments are also on the move. The government of eastern Jiangxi province said it will strictly control and halt the approval of investment projects in areas where local authorities fail to eradicate outdated capacities according to schedule. In the southern powerhouse of Guangdong, the provincial government has signed administrative liability papers for emissions reduction targets with municipal governments.

Zhu Xiaodan, acting governor of Guangdong, said that the province will continue to promote energy conservation and emissions reduction through restructuring. Local governments risk not having their projects approved if they do not meet emissions control requirements. Minister of Industry and Information Technology Miao Wei said that China has succeeded in recent years in closing down outdated industrial production capacities. The Chinese government aimed to reduce energy intensity per unit of economic output by 20 percent during 2006-2010. Government data showed the country realized a 19.1-percent reduction - a number very close to the original target. During the period, the total output of sulfur dioxide and COD were down 14.29 percent and 12.45 percent, respectively, compared to the previous five-year period.

Data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) showed that China made tremendous achievements in outdated capacity elimination last year. The nation shuttered 41 million tonnes, 11.86 million tonnes, and 140.31 million tonnes of outdated capacities in iron-smelting, steel-making and cement production, respectively, in 2010. In the same year, 16.9 million kilowatts of outdated capacity in electric power generation and 231 million tonnes of outdated coal-producing capacity were phased out. The China National Building Materials Company Limited (CNBM), the world's largest cement producer, on Thursday set up a branch in the southwestern city of Chengdu, marking the beginning of the reorganization of the cement market in southwest China. Lei Qianzhi, president of the China Cement Association, said it's an internal need and a future trend to regroup and concentrate current capacity instead of developing new capacity in the cement industry.

Lei said the southwestern region faces an absolute excessive production capacity and low-level industrial concentration. Rough calculations show that fewer than five cement makers have an annual production capacity over 10 million tonnes. According to CNBM's plan, the company will regroup over 100 small cement makers in the next two to three years and form 100 million tonnes of cement production capacity, which will account for up to 25 percent of the market in the region at that time. The cement industry in China scrapped 340 million tonnes of outdated cement production capacity from 2006 to 2010. The country has set a further goal of eliminating another 250 million tonnes in the next five years. After 14 days of talks in Durban, South Africa, delegates to the UN Climate Change Conference this December agreed on the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, saving the world's only legally-binding treaty on curbing climate change from collapse.

China, which does not have mandatory emissions cuts obligations under the protocol, has made its own commitment. The country first promulgated its control on greenhouse gas emissions in 2009, when it pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 40 to 45 percent compared to 2005 levels by 2020. By 2015, it aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 17 percent compared to the level in 2010, according to its 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015). Meanwhile, it plans to cut energy intensity per unit of GDP by 16 percent. Miao Wei said these targets are challenging, revealing that China is facing great challenges in achieving its annual target of reducing energy consumption this year as the expansion of high-energy-consuming industries fuels energy demand. Energy consumption per unit of industrial value-added output only dropped 2.56 percent year-on-year in the first three quarters, which was far below the annual target of 4 percent. Miao said that the ministry would make greater efforts in pushing forward energy conservation and emissions reduction this year by strictly controlling the number of new projects that are polluting and highly demanding of energies. Confronted with the grave situation, Shandong province in east China has "blacklisted" 288 energy-intensive companies with high emissions while ordering 40 of them to scale back or halt production.

From http://english.cri.cn/ 12/17/2011

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China Improves Education Access for Disabled

China is striving to improve access to higher education for disabled people by forbidding examination authorities from excluding people from national level exams due to their physical or mental disabilities, according to a draft law prepared by the top education authority. The amendment to the Regulations on the Education of Persons with Disabilities also requires that due assistance be provided to enable disabled people to take exams, such as providing exam papers in braille for the blind, said Wang Daquan, deputy director of the legislative affairs office under the policy and legal affairs department of the Ministry of Education. The move came after the story of a visually impaired woman's fight to take a self-study exam in order to be enrolled in a university was widely reported. In late October, Dong Lina, 27, wrote a complaint to the Beijing municipal commission of education after the local examination authority twice rejected her application to take a self-study exam.

The self-study exam enables those who have not received formal schooling to get diplomas recognized by the government. Getting a diploma by taking the exam was a prerequisite for Dong's application to study in the Communication University of China. Dong, who hails from Dalian in Northeast China's Liaoning province, told China Daily that she quit her job as a massage therapist and came to Beijing in 2006 to receive training in broadcasting. After the media reported Dong's story, Beijing exam officials contacted her and promised her she would be able to take the exam in January on a computer with special software to read the questions. To date, only three out of 31 provinces, namely Guangdong, Henan and Jilin provinces, permit disabled people to take self-study exams.

About 83 million people in China have some form of disability, among them, 10 million are of schooling age, according to statistics from the China Disabled Persons' Federation. However, by the end of 2010, there were only 16 special education colleges nationwide, which due to a lack of funds were only able to enroll about 3,000 disabled students, said Zhuang Shufan, vice-president of Changchun University in Northeast China's Jilin province.In addition, the special education colleges provide only limited options for disabled students, such as massage and painting, Zhuang said. Shi Huimin, a mother of a 16-year-old girl suffering from cerebral palsy, urged the government to establish more vocational schools for disabled students. "At present, our children (with disabilities) can only stay at home after finishing the nine-year compulsory education," said Shi, who is a member of the Beijing Parents' Association for Persons with Mental Disabilities. "Vocational schools for the disabled are so rare and those that exist only accept children whose disabilities are not severe," she said. According to the draft regulations, authorities across the country will be required to set up special funds dedicated to improving disabled people's access to quality education. Moreover, all general schools and higher education institutions will be urged to become barrier.

From http://en.ce.cn/ 12/19/2011

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JAPAN: Government Drafts 'Happiness Indicators' to Supplement Economic Data

The Cabinet Office unveiled on Monday a set of indicators designed to measure public happiness to complement government economic statistics. Announced at the opening of an Asia-Pacific forum on well-being held in Tokyo, the statistics are designed to gauge happiness based on three major factors - socioeconomic conditions, physical and mental health, and relationships. The 132 indicators concern objective circumstances, such as poverty and parenting leave, as well as such subjective areas as sense of trust in others and radiation worries. One indicator reflects environmental activities by households and companies, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions to fight global warming.

The Asia-Pacific Conference on Measuring Well-Being and Fostering the Progress of Societies, organized by the Cabinet Office's Economic and Social Research Institute, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as well as other bodies, runs through Tuesday. The Cabinet Office refrained from compiling the indicators into a single integrated set, saying doing so would only conceal the features of each sphere of happiness. Among other countries, Bhutan is known for its gross national happiness index and France is considering developing one of its own. Measuring well-being and progress is a key priority for the OECD.

From http://www.japantimes.co.jp/ 12/06/2011

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Govt Relief Program Cost-cutting Effort Stalls

The number of people receiving welfare benefits soared to a record high of nearly 2.06 million as of August, but the government remains unable to find effective ways to keep the welfare rolls from swelling further. Alarmed by the rapid increase in the number of welfare recipients, a joint panel of the central government and local entities to review the public assistance program announced an interim report on Monday. The panel, the Consultative Council between the Central Government and Local Governments on the Public Relief System, has been in place since May this year. The body was set up at the request of local governments seeking drastic reform of the livelihood relief system. Factors behind the creation of the panel include a sharp rise in the number of welfare recipients classified as "other households," many of whom are in the prime of life, including those in their 20s and 30s, and a growing number of welfare cheats, including gangsters, who receive welfare payments fraudulently.

Members of the panel include prefectural governors and Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoko Komiyama. The panel was initially scheduled to work out a full report around August. But even after 10 meetings so far, including working-level ones, its discussions remain divisive. Major categories of those receiving relief include the elderly, the mentally or physically handicapped, people suffering long-term diseases or injuries, and single-parent households. In addition, an increasing number of working-age people have gone on public assistance after losing their jobs. Such people are referred to as "other households" in the welfare ministry's classification of assistance recipients. Various measures have been proposed to curb government spending on the public relief program, known as "seikatsu hogo," which has surpassed 3 trillion yen. When it comes to encouraging relief recipients to stand on their own, however, the government has failed to present any reliable ideas.

Many voices in local governments are calling for a complete overhaul of the social security system if that is what it takes to resolve the problem. In finalizing on the interim report in the panel's meeting on Monday, Ishikawa Gov. Masanori Tanimoto, a member of the panel, strongly criticized the current state of affairs, in which seikatsu hogo relief payments per recipient have exceeded the basic pension benefits of the national pension system. "If the current situation is left unchanged, there will arise the possibility of many people considering it preferable to depend on the public relief system rather than getting basic pension benefits after paying premiums for decades," Tanimoto said. He stressed, "Fears are rising that many temporary workers and other nonregular employees may opt not to pay national pension premiums, and are thus destined to be unqualified to receive pensions at all."

"These problems can never be solved by simply changing the public relief system," Tanimoto declared. Tanimoto argued the current situation, if left as it is, would threaten the very basis of the pension system, while leaving the rising number of welfare recipients unchecked. Especially noteworthy among problems with the relief system is that the number of working-age recipients has accounted for larger percentages of total recipients in recent years because of the protracted business downturn.

The ratio of working-age relief recipients, including those in their 20s, 30s or 40s, has doubled in the past decade in comparison to all recipients. "That being the case, such people are hardly given any motivation to stand on their own feet," Tanimoto noted. Topping the agenda for the public relief system review this time was how to help recipients find employment and become self-reliant. In May, at the inaugural meeting of the panel, then health minister Ritsuo Hosokawa urged its members to study "ways of building a framework to help welfare recipients become motivated to find employment." Incorporated into the interim report, however, are rather conventional measures that are easy to implement, such as increasing the number of employment counselors and boosting cooperation of welfare officials and "Hello Work" job placement offices. It seems little has been discussed by the panel about problems facing the social security system in its entirety.

In the course of panel discussions, participants from local governments made various proposals. Among them was the introduction of a system designed to have money welfare recipients earn by working accumulated by the local governments concerned to pay the money back to them when discontinuing to receive welfare payments. Another idea was to give the recipients a lump-sum special payment when they agree to have their welfare payments ended. All these have effectively been shelved as "tasks to be studied sometime later," according to ministry officials. Commenting on these local government proposals at the meeting Monday, Komiyama said: "Affairs relating to public relief, the national pension and medical services have been dealt with by separate government organizations. And it has been pointed out by many that problems cannot be solved with such a vertically divided administrative system." The welfare minister added, "I'd like to have the government consider problems comprehensively...[and] horizontally in continuing discussions about the proposals."

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 12/14/2011

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Japan to Open Up 7 Cities to Bids for Public Works

The 42 parties to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) of the World Trade Organization on Dec. 15 agreed on a draft revision to expand the GPA's coverage of public institutions, which is expected to boost the number of international bids for public work projects.

From http://www.asahi.com/ 12/17/2011

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SOUTH KOREA: The World's First Low-carbon Product Certification Introduced

The world's first low-carbon product certification system has been introduced by the Korea Environmental Industry & Technology Institute (KEITI) run by the Ministry of Environment. Supporting Korea's national vision of Low Carbon, Green Growth, it is expected to contribute radically to reducing annual CO2 emissions. In order to receive the certification, companies or organizations first must confirm the amount of carbon emitted by each step in the manufacturing process of a product, which is certified by KEITI. Products will receive their low-carbon certification if the greenhouse gases emitted in their manufacturing processes are reduced a certain amount. In order to encourage more companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, certification will be granted until 2014 to companies that satisfy one of the stages.

A total of nine products including CJ Cheil Jedang's pre-cooked rice received the first low-carbon product certification along with other living necessities, furniture, and three types of electronics. The greenhouse gas emissions caused by manufacture of these products has been reduced by applying various technologies including a waste-heat collection system, and reducing product size and packages.The amount of CO2 expected to be reduced annually through those products is estimated to be reduced to around 164,000 tons a year, which equals the CO2-absorption powers of 57 million young trees. More promotions and campaigns will soon be held, and public organizations will be especially encouraged to purchase low-carbon products, KEITI said.

From http://www.korea.net/ 12/08/2011

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MALAYSIA: Corruption Score Falls Again

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score has worsened for the third year running, slipping to 4.3 this year from 4.4 in 2010, according to a Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) report. Malaysia's country ranking also fell to 60 out of 183 countries from 56 out of 178 last year. It remained the third-least corrupt nation in Asean after Singapore (9.2) and Brunei (5.2), with Thailand (3.4) and Indonesia (3.0) following in fourth and fifth places respectively. Singapore also placed fifth in the overall country rankings and was the highest-ranked Asian nation this year. "Singapore is way ahead and I would like to point out that Indonesia is improving very fast and may overtake us because Indonesia has shown some will," said TI-M secretary-general Josie Fernandez (picture). New Zealand (9.5), Denmark (9.4) and Finland (9.4) were ranked the least corrupt nations in the world, while Somalia (1.0), North Korea (1.0) and Myanmar (1.5) were the most corrupt. Malaysia's Corruption Barometer results were unchanged, with 40 per cent of the public saying graft levels have stayed the same over the past three years and would remain so for the next three. The Corruption Barometer is a measure of the public perception of corruption. Members of the public saw the police and political parties as the most corrupt institutions, with the police named as the most likely recipient of bribes in the past 12 months.

But the percentage of respondents who admitted to paying bribes in the past year has fallen to 1.2 per cent from nine per cent in 2010. Forty-nine per cent also thought the government's efforts to fight corruption were effective or very effective, up a touch from 48 per cent last year. However, the number of respondents who felt Putrajaya's battle against graft was ineffective or very ineffective rose five points to 25 per cent. "This means the fence sitters have moved to see government's efforts as ineffective," said TI-M exco member Ngooi Chiu Ing. Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) corruption NKRA director D. Ravindran, present at the launch of report, said it was "clearly not very good news" that Malaysia was now further from its 4.9 CPI benchmark. However, he said it was more a mixed result if seen holistically, pointing out that almost half the public still saw the government's fight against corruption as effective. He added the Pemandu would continue its efforts to clamp down on "grand corruption" and increase the successful prosecution of corruption by the national anti-graft agency. "Some of these other things we are pursuing, we've not let it go, and hopefully we'll see some success going forward," Ravindran said.

From http://my.news.yahoo.com/ 12/01/2011

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Malaysian State Police Curbs Crimes Using Facebook

Since setting up its Facebook page in May this year, active discussions by netizens on various crime occurrences has helped the Selangor State Police reduce the crime rate in the state. According to Tan Sri Ismail Omar, Inspector-General of Police, the Facebook page was launched in order to establish a good medium of communication between law enforcers and citizens. In addition, it has also been used by the state police to publicise information concerning public safety matters, and as a medium where they can receive feedback and reports from the public concerning crime occurrences in their respective communities. The Selangor crime index rate has been reduced by 8.4 per cent from January to September this year, as compared to 2010. Ismail further added that the Selangor police is confident in achieving the 5% target of index crime reduction by the end of the month.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/06/2011

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Household Waste Separation to Start September 2012

The household waste separation system will be implemented in stages starting September next year, Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung said. This is in line with the enforcement of the Solid Waste and Public Cleaning Act or Act 672 and the privatisation of solid waste management and public cleaning work. For a start, he said, the system would be implemented in such cities and towns as Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Alor Star where the concessionaire must carry out recycled waste collection on a weekly basis. "At the same time, we will also encourage recycling and when the time comes, say in two or three years, when there is sufficient awareness among the society about the need to segregate their household waste, we will make the system compulsory and those not adhering to it will be fined," he said. Speaking to reporters after declaring open the National Recycling Day here, he said if the people were able to put the system into practice, the 25,000 tonnes of waste generated daily can be reduced by up to 40 percent. Earlier in his speech, Chor said of the 166 waste disposal sites in the country, only eight had a sanitary status, making the rest more potentially harmful to the environment. He said these sites had also become hotspots for the spreading of vector-borne diseases and posed a threat to public health. "We should adopt a responsible attitude and play our role in tackling solid waste disposal problems by practising the 3R concept or reduce, reuse and recycle," he said. Chor also launched a toll-free line, 1-800-88-7472 (SISA), which allows consumers in all states in the peninsula, except for those in Selangor, Perak and Penang to report waste disposal issues. He also launched the RoadTour 1Malaysia, in collaboration with Radio Television Malaysia (RTM), to promote recycling throughout the peninsula for a week from Sunday.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 12/18/2011

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PHILIPPINES: Training Teachers in Computer Labs Management

6 State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) spearheaded this year's iSchools PC Recycling (PCR) 2.0 roll-outs - organised by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) - in the Philippines where 136 participants learnt to manage and maintain their schools' computer laboratories. DOST said that participating educators agreed that computer lab maintenance is one of the more painful aspects for a school's budget allocation, and although there may be plenty of computer donations coming in, managing and keeping them functional is something that most schools are ill-prepared for. PCR 2.0 aims to remedy this and the five-day seminar covered the five thrusts of PCR which are:
•The use of free and open source software
•Demystifying maintenance of the PC
•Recognising the need for recycling
•Harnessing creativity
•Proper documentation of equipment on hand

At PCR 2.0, participants 'revived' 71 out of 90 non-functioning computers with non-working spare parts turned into instructional materials and working ones stored and catalogued into a database.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 11/23/2011

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Gov't Cites Model OFW Families

The Overseas Filipino Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) on Wednesday recognized 34 families from all over the country in the seventh Model OFW Family of the Year Awards (MOFYA) held at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila in Pasay City. "Parangal sa matatag na pamilya, that is what the MOFYA is all about," MOFYA Administrator Carmelita Dimzon said during the awards ceremony. OWWA noted that the 34 families of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) "were selected based on the wholesomeness of family, civic and community involvement, success in managing finances and investments in successful entrepreneurial projects." Out of the 34 regional winners from the land- and sea-based categories, the families of Carlito Astillero and Candido Caminero, both from Cebu, emerged as the national winners. Each family received a trophy and a cash prize worth P600,000. Astillero, a father of five, has worked for 24 years at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He is a medical doctor and founder of the Order of the Knights of Rizal in Riyadh. He is a recipient of the "Most Outstanding Filipino in Saudi Arabia" award by the Philippine Embassy in 1990, the "Bagong Bayani Award" by President Corazon Aquino in 1992, the "San Lorenzo Ruiz Award as Outstanding OCW" and the Special Presidential "Banaag and Sikat Award" by President Fidel Ramos in 1994 and 1996, respectively.

Caminero, on the other hand, is a former farmer who has worked for 40 years as a ship engineer. He is a father of nine children, who, along with his wife, engage in community outreach programs in Argao, Cebu. His organization, Kasakit ug Kalipay (meaning "in sorrow and happiness"), helps Cebuanos in need of financial assistance. He is also a technical adviser to the National Irrigators Association. "I am very happy. I cannot explain in words the feeling that I feel now," Caminero told philstar.com minutes after receiving the award. "Now I am 63 years old. If possible, I will still work if my physical health permits," he added. Guest of honor Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada said he is aware of the contributions of OFWs in the country, but it is also his priority to provide Filipinos decent job opportunities within the country. "It is included in my advocacy as chair of the Senate Committee on Employment and Human Resource Development and the Congressional Oversight Comittee on Labor and Employment to ensure that a loved one leaving for a job abroad will only be an option than a solution to provide his/her family a decent living," Estrada said. Meanwhile, Labor undersecretary Danilo Cruz, speaking on behalf of President Benigno Aquino III, said the administration is continuing its fight against crimes and individuals who victimize OFWs. "Through coordination with and help from different state agencies, we have established a task force that will ensure the safety and welfare of OFWs and their families," Cruz said. Citing the contributions of migrant workers, he said data from the central bank show that the country has received $14.76 billion US dollars from OFWs covering the period of January to September this year. "This is a big help to the government. We can use these funds to implement programs and projects for the benefit of the people," he added.

From http://www.philstar.com/ 12/08/2011

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SINGAPORE: Launching Universal Authentication Token

Singapore government has launched a new universal token, as part of the National Authentication Framework. The token, called OneKey, is managed by a subsidiary of Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), the statutory board which functions as the country's infocomm industry champion, the national infocomm master-planner and developer, and the Government Chief Information Office. OneKey comes in the size of a business card and has a keypad on it. The token generates a password to enable two factor authentication (2FA). The device also allows for challenge response and transaction signing, requiring users to enter an account number and transaction amount before a password is generated. The government 2FA system is designed to replace the multitude of tokens issued by individual service providers such as banks and securities firms. The integrated authentication process means that users do not have to carry multiple tokens. Assurity Trusted Solutions, the IDA subsidiary which manages the token system, says that 'it will only be a matter of time' for government agencies to sign up and use the system. Currently, three companies have adopted OneKey, including brokerages Philip Securities and Kim Eng Securities, and ST Electronics, the company which developed the system. It is reported that a number of financial, government and education organisations are conducting tests on OneKey.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/13/2011

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BANGLADESH: Workshop Held in India on Local Governance, B'desh Shared Experiences

Dhaka (UNB) - Bangladesh delegates at a workshop on local governance held recently in India shared their experiences about emerging innovations in local governance system of the country. The workshop, held during December 5 - 8, 2011 in Kerala, brought together delegates from several countries to showcase innovations in the areas of decentralisation and local governance and learn from each other. The workshop, 'Next Generation Reforms in Decentralization and Local Governance', was organised by the World Bank-funded South-South Experience Exchange Facility and supported by the Switzerland Development Cooperation, said a World Bank press release on Wednesday. The Bangladeshi delegation, led by Md Monwar Hossain Chowdhury, MP, included MPs, senior officials from the Local Government Division and representatives from civil society and media. Bangladesh has successfully been implementing decentralisation programmes to strengthen the local government system. The World Bank is supporting these reforms through the Local Governance Support Project which has contributed towards enhancing local level accountability and governance. The first initiative, the Local Governance Support Project, supported by World Bank, UNDP/CDF, EU and DANIDA, and implemented by the Local Government Division was successful in providing enhanced resources and capacity building support to Union Parishads (UPs), the lowest tier of local governments. The $290 million Second Local Governance Support Project will provide support to all 4,504 UPs across the country to support further institutionalisation of the intergovernmental fiscal relations. The other participating states that showcased various innovations in local governance were the government of Nepal, the state of West Bengal (India), the state of Karnataka (India) and the government of Uganda.

From http://www.unbconnect.com/ 12/14/2011

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Managing Medical Waste in Bangladesh

Dhaka: IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) are working with the Bangladesh government and the private sector to help healthcare institutions better manage medical waste, a major public health hazard in the country. At a workshop on Wednesday, IFC and UNIDO brought together global specialists, representatives from the Ministry of Health, Environment and Local Government, multilateral donors, and the private sector to discuss how the challenge of medical waste can be addressed through public-private partnerships. "An integral part of our development framework, public-private partnerships in medical waste management can bring greater efficiencies in the sector and improve quality of service," said Ruhul Haque, Minister for Health and Family Welfare. Ayumi Fujino, South Asian Regional Director for UNIDO, stressed the importance of public-private partnerships, especially in infrastructure, in boosting economic growth and supporting development. Partnerships in the sector can also help attract more local and foreign investment, she said. Bangladesh is working to build support for greater private participation in the country's development through sustainable public-private partnerships. "IFC is keen to support the government in initiatives that would allow more private participation in public works," said Indranil Sarkar, Senior Investment Officer for IFC in South Asia. "We believe that the private sector has the potential to help address some of the country's most pressing development needs." The workshop highlighted the benefits of public-private partnerships, which include institutional development, and covered how to design, structure, and tender sustainable projects. Participants also shared case studies of successful projects from across the globe.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 12/15/2011

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Skill to Be Enhanced Through Exchange of Mutual Cooperation and Experience: Minister

Dhaka (UNB) - Commerce Minister GM Quader on Sunday said opportunities will be created in Bangladesh for developing the professional proficiency through exchange of mutual cooperation and experience. The minister said this at an international conference on 'Mechanical Engineering- 2011' organized by the Mechanical Department of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) as the chief guest at BUET auditorium on Sunday, said a handout. Bangladeshi mechanical engineers would be benefited through the conference like this, he added. Around 300 expert representatives from 23 countries have been participating in the three-day international conference. Two hundred and 25 technical papers will be presented at 32 technical sessions during the conference. There will be well decorated stalls for showcasing the products manufactured at various industrial units in Bangladesh. Dr. Mohammad Mahbubul Alam, Head of the Mechanical Department of BUET presided over the function which was addressed, among others, by Vice-Chancellor of BUET Prof Dr SM Nazrul Islam. The conference will end on December 20.

From http://www.unbconnect.com/ 12/18/2011

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INDIA: Technology for Non-profits

New Delhi: Datawind, the inventor of world's cheapest tablet computer - UbiSlate - has joined hands with NASSCOM Foundation to help bridge the digital divide in India. The Foundation has partnered with Datawind to announce a contest targeting the non-profit network across India, wherein 10 of them will stand an opportunity to win 20 Aakash tablets/UbiSlates each, to improve their operations and programme implementation. The contest will open between December 2011 and January 2012. Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of Datawind holding the world's cheapest tablet computer - UbiSlate/ Photo credit: NASSCOM How will the winning streak be decided? Each of the participating organisations will have to showcase how best the UbiSlate will be used for socio-economic challenges such as education, health and livelihoods. NASSCOM Foundation definitely sees potential for the information and communication technologies sector playing a crucial role in the process of social change. The recently announced Aakash/ Ubislate tablet has huge potential to aid the development sector's efforts. Datawind's visionary thinking will enable individuals and organisations to go beyond the reach achieved by computers and broadband Internet, and connect them through intuitive touch screen interface, mobile connectivity and other features that are apt for non-profits. Commenting on this association, Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of Datawind said, "Since 2006 and a similar effort with our PocketSurfer devices, we've partnered with the NASSCOM Foundation to help bridge the digital divide. We're excited by this partnership to help extend the reach and applicability of UbiSlate tablets and internet connectivity. It will also enable us to receive feedback from our audiences on their usage patterns, short-comings, and needed features for future releases."

The Foundation will reach out to 2000+ strong network of non-profits across 27 states through this initiative with one question: 'How can Aakash help your non-profit's mission?' The contest will gather ideas on applicability of the UbiSlate for alleviating the society from the current challenges it faces - education, healthcare, and overall accessibility to information. The competition will be run on NASSCOM Foundation's BiG Tech platform (www.bigtech.in), which is a technology philanthropy program that assists non-profits access to free software from NASSCOM Foundation's donor partners. While those who provide the most innovative ideas on using this device will be able to put them to best use, the Foundation will also monitor the progress of the winning campaigns and provide feedback to the Aakash team. According to Rita Soni, CEO, NASSCOM Foundation, "It is heartening to see innovative tech entrepreneurs actively involved with finding viable solutions to India's most pressing issues. The UbiSlate/Aakash tablet competition complements NASSCOM Foundation's aim to empower non-profits with technology, helping NGOs become more operationally efficient and find creative ways to tackle developmental challenges."

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 11/29/2011

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India Puts Retail Reform on Hold

Amidst political pressure, the Indian government has suspended its plan to open up country's huge retail sector to global supermarket giants. India's government has "suspended" plans to open the nation's huge retail sector to global competition, a key ally of the ruling coalition said. Pranab Mukherjee, the finance minster, said the government's decision will be made known in parliament/ Photo credit: EPA The move to allow foreign investment by Wal-Mart and other supermarket giants in India's estimated $470 billion retail industry was the first big reform to be announced since the government began its second term in 2009. "(National finance minister) Pranab Mukherjee has informed me that the government is suspending the FDI issue until a consensus is evolved," Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal state, said in televised remarks on Saturday. Mukherjee said he could not confirm Banerjee's statement. "Officially I cannot announce anything because parliament is in session. A government announcement will be made in parliament," he told reporters. Television reports quoted Banerjee as saying an announcement on the government's intentions in the retail sector could come next Wednesday when parliament resumes sitting after a break. Indian television quoted government sources as saying that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress party-led coalition was not abandoning its liberalisation move but would seek broad agreement before proceeding.

Anger over the reforms announced last month has united shopkeepers, trade unions, influential state leaders and lawmakers from opposition parties and from within Singh's coalition. Banerjee's regional Trinamool Party is the biggest partner of the Congress coalition and key to its survival in parliament. The Trinamool Party had objected to the government allowing international supermarkets into India, saying the move would swamp small family-owned stores which dominate the country's retail landscape and throw people out of work. The retail sector is India's second-largest employer after agriculture. "The (Congress) party welcomes all meaningful efforts to break the stalemate. In such a situation, a broad consensus is required," Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told India's CNN-IBN network late on Saturday. The retail furore has hamstrung parliament, threatening to derail the government's legislative plans for the session including bills to broaden food subsidies as well as key anti-corruption legislation.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 12/05/2011

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Seminar on E-commerce Strategies in Dimapur

Kohima: The Public College of Commerce (PCC) in collaboration with Digitech Institute of IT and Management of Dimapur, organised a seminar on 'e-Commerce Strategies for Knowledge Management- an Analysis and Evaluation', a first of its kind in Nagaland, held at Public College of Commerce in Dimapur. According to sources here today, Prof Amalesh Bhowal, Head of Department of Commerce, Assam University at Diphu, took over the first Technical Session where he presented statistics and information on internet users around the world. He said since Asia has the largest amount of internet users, the world was looking at Asia for economic development. The growth of economic sales was a clear indicator of the growing number of people using the internet to make purchases, he said and went on to add online purchases were limited to a certain category of buying like travel purchases, electronic items, food delivery and others. As for Knowledge Management (KM), it deals with the process of creating value from an organisation's intangible assets. Since businesses today have come to realise that their key asset and only sustainable source of competitive advantage lie in their ability to effectively apply, manage and utilise organisational knowledge. It was also mentioned that since the growth of e-Commerce is rapidly expanding and spreading across the areas of business to consumer, business to business, e-government and e-health that now we are in the e-millennium. Further it was stated that there was a need to demonstrate how companies could benefit by adopting strategies that harness the potential of KM technologies to transform their e-business activities and to achieve KM, one needed to integrate information system strategies with business strategies.

From http://www.newkerala.com/ 12/13/2011

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MALDIVES: To Clean Its 'Rubbish Island'

The government of Maldives has banned garbage dumping from its resorts in an island used entirely as garbage dump. Thilafushi, an artificial island 7km (four miles) from the capital, is nicknamed Rubbish Island. Boatmen bringing rubbish to Thilafushi are impatient at having to wait up to seven hours to unload/ Photo credit: BBC The accumulation of garbage there has become so acute that it has begun spilling into its lagoon. An emergency clearing operation has begun to remove "hills of rubbish" mostly collected from luxury hotels. Rubbish Island is a far cry from the Maldives' famous turquoise waters and white sands. Those who have been there describe vast piles of rubbish and perpetual smog and smoke. The routine is for mainly Bangladeshi workers to sift through the trash to look for materials their employers can sell. Waste from the whole country is taken there to the island be buried, burnt or - for some plastic and metal - recycled. Much of the rubbish comes from the luxury resorts which, reportedly, do not follow the rules on crushing their waste. The boats that bring rubbish to Thilafushi have recently started dumping it into the lagoon, many boatmen impatient at having to wait up to seven hours to unload it. The head of the Maldives' Environment Protection Agency, Ibrahim Naeem, says that delays in dealing with rubbish are caused by technical problems with the unloading of trucks. He stressed that Thilafushi was not full up and that work was under way to improve waste disposal and ban open incineration. Naeem said the jetty for rubbish from outlying islands will be closed until the lagoon is cleaned up - although a separate quay for the capital, Male, remains open. Criticising the waste management on Thilafushi, local environmental campaigner Ahmed Ikram said that years of promises to create a biofuel facility on the island to generate more power had come to nothingIkram's Bluepeace organisation has highlighted the problem of toxins from poisonous waste seeping into the sea. Thilafushi was reclaimed from a coral reef 20 years ago. There are other industries there, including boat repairers.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 12/08/2011

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PAKISTAN: Skills Development Programme to Be Evolved for Youth

LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Shahbaz Sharif said that a major proportion of Pakistan's population comprises youngsters and by imparting various skills to the young generation not only unemployment could be controlled but the dream of national progress and prosperity could also be realised. A comprehensive programme for skills development will be evolved within next few days and private sector will also be consulted for this purpose, he added. The CM said this while presiding over a high-level meeting at the CM Secretariat, on Wednesday, during which a number of decisions were taken for skills development in Punjab and expeditious implementation of the programme for vocational education of the youth. The meeting decided to promote private-public partnership and develop maximum workforce in accordance with the market needs. The CM said that in order to equip the youth with vocational education on a large scale, the private sector would also have to supplement the government's efforts. He said that instead of relying on bricks and mortar for skills development, available resources should be utilised, adding that in the first phase the institutes of TEVTA and Punjab Vocational Training Council that were lying closed should be made operational with the cooperation of the private sector.

Shahbaz said that the new generation should be imparted training in skills that would enable them to earn their livelihood in the country as well as abroad. Issuing instructions for ensuring effective implementation of apprenticeship programme, the CM directed that the responsibility be taken away from the Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA) and given to the Labour Department. He ordered the labour secretary to submit a comprehensive plan for the effective implementation of apprenticeship programme. He said that seminars should also be arranged for seeking participation and cooperation of private sector for this purpose. He also issued instructions for setting up a special committee headed by Chairman Chief Minister's Special Initiatives Entity Khawaja Ahmad Hasaan, which will submit its recommendations within a few days. Earlier, Punjab Vocational Training Council Chairman Faisal Ejaz Khan gave a detailed briefing regarding implementation of various programmes of skills development in the province, promotion of public-private partnership and imparting skills to the youth. Provincial Minister for Agriculture Ahmad Ali Aulakh, MPAs Hafiz Mian Nauman, Saqlain Anwar Sipra, Planning and Development chairman, Chief Minister's Special Initiatives Entity chairman, secretaries of Finance, Agriculture, Livestock and Dairy Development, experts and concerned officers concerned attended the meeting.

Separately, MNAs and MPAs belonging to various districts also called on the CM on Wednesday, informing him about the ongoing development schemes and problems of the people of their respective areas. Those who met the CM included Sardar Muhammad Mushtaq Khan, Yaqoob Sheikh, Pir Khizar Hayat Khagga and Pir Wilayat Shah Khagga. Former MNA from Bahawalnagar Mian Mumtaz Matiyana also met the CM and informed him about ongoing development projects in his area. Earlier, Argentinean Ambassador in Pakistan Rodolfo Martin Saravia called on Shahbaz at the CM Secretariat. While talking to the Argentinean ambassador, the CM said that transparency, standard and expeditious completion of development projects was the hallmark of the Punjab government and all agreements and joint ventures were being executed under this policy. He said that work on provision of modern, comfortable, and affordable transport facilities to the masses had kicked off in the metropolis and the programme would soon be extended to all cities of the province. He welcomed Argentina's interest in cooperating with the Punjab government with regards to the transport sector, saying steps would be taken expeditiously in this direction.

From http://pakistanlink.org/ 12/08/2011

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AZERBAIJAN: Legal Entities to Make Online Tax Reports from 2012

The legal entities will make tax reports via an electronic system starting from January-March 2012. The statement came from Taxes Minister Fazil Mammadov in his remarks during the debates on the draft 2012 state budget. The minister said he has signed two orders on this matter. Upon another order issued by the minister, the registration of cash registers will also be switched into electronic system.

From http://www.news.az/ 11/24/2011

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AZERBAIJAN: First Regional Innovation Zone to Appear

Azerbaijan's Ministry of Communication and Information Technologies has prepared proposals on the creation of the first Regional Innovation Zone in the country. The statement came from Azerbaijan's Deputy Minister of Communication and Information Technologies Elmir Velizade. He said the document is currently considered by the government. "The zone will become a special mechanism for stimulation of development of the IT-sector and entrepreneurship in this sphere", Velizade said, noting that the creation of the first Regional Innovation Zone is planned for the nearest future.

From http://www.news.az/ 12/13/2011

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TAJIKISTAN: IFC Helps Implement Best Risk Management Practices

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is partnering with the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP) to help local banks and microfinance institutions become more sustainable and offer greater financial products and services by strengthening their risk management capacity and practices. IFC and GARP signed an agreement to develop a formal risk management education and certification program to be implemented for the first time in 9 countries including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. The training program will train employees from local financial institutions, which will help to reduce vulnerabilities of local institutions to future financial shocks. For the first time in the region, the training and certification will be conducted in Russian, enabling many more individuals and local firms to participate. IFC selected and engaged partner-organizations in each country to provide on-site trainings and review classes. IFC risk experts will help participants to identify and mitigate financial risks such as credit, market, and operational risks.

"IFC is working to build the capacity of financial intermediaries in Europe and Central Asia to better manage risk" said Zarina Odinaeva, Acting Project Manager. "The collaboration between IFC, GARP and local training partners in bringing this Risk Certification Program to the region will provide risk managers and other financial professionals with an opportunity to prepare and take exams under the auspices of an internationally recognized certification program in their own countries. This should further strengthen the financial risk management culture and climate in the region." This initiative is part of the IFC Azerbaijan-Central Asia Financial Markets Infrastructure Advisory Services Project and the IFC Financial Markets Crisis Management Project, funded by the governments of Austria, Switzerland, Finland and the Netherlands. These Projects aim to strengthen financial markets in the region through strengthening credit information systems, risk management practices and education as well as facilitating the distressed loan resolution.

1st RCP seminar in Dushanbe
About IFC
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector. We help developing countries achieve sustainable growth by financing investment, providing advisory services to businesses and governments, and mobilizing capital in the international financial markets. In fiscal 2011, amid economic uncertainty across the globe, we helped our clients create jobs, strengthen environmental performance, and contribute to their local communities - all while driving our investments to an all-time high of nearly $19 billion. For more information, visit www.ifc.org
Stay Connected
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About SECO
The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs is the Swiss Confederation's competence center for all the core issues related to economic policy. Its aim is to create basic regulatory and economic policy conditions to enable business to flourish and benefit all. SECO also represents Switzerland in large multilateral trade organizations and international negotiations, and is involved in efforts to reduce poverty and help developing countries with transition economies build sustainable democratic societies and viable market economies. Each year, Switzerland spends about 1.9 billion Swiss francs on development cooperation and transition assistance to countries. For more information about SECO, please visit www.seco.admin.ch.

About GARP
GARP is a not-for-profit organization and is the only globally recognized membership association for risk managers. GARP's goal is to help create a culture of risk awareness within organizations, from entry level to board level. GARP provides risk education to professionals of all levels, through on-site and online workshops, and skills-based training. For more information about GARP, please visit http://www.garp.org.
Contact info:
Zarina Odinaeva
Phone: (+992-48) 701-1443
E-mail: ZOdinaeva@ifc.org

From http://www.swiss-cooperation.admin.ch/ 11/15/2011

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UZBEKISTAN: Financial Risk-management Training

On the 25th of November IFC ACAFI Project (Azerbaijan-Central Asia Financial Infrastructure Project, financed by the Swiss Government) organized a press conference devoted to the Program Risk Certification further implementation in Uzbekistan, by Global Association of Risk Professionals' (GARP) standards. IFC ACAFI Project is providing financial risk-management training to institutions in Azerbaijan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, helping them to reduce their risk of losses. As part of the first round of the Risk Certification Program implementation, IFC conducted review classes on the fundamentals of financial risk on November 17-24 in Tashkent. The review classes focus on risk-management methodologies, governance structures for the management of risk in financial institutions, and an overview of globally accepted standards and concepts in these areas. In the framework of the first phase of the program, Representatives of the Central Bank of the Republic of Uzbekistan and local training partners (Regional Baking Training Center and Federation of Accountants, Auditors and Consultants of Uzbekistan) joined the classes and successfully passed GARP's certification exam. Local training partners will further train staff of local banks and financial institutions during the second phase of the program. This training initiative is part of the IFC Azerbaijan-Central Asia Financial Markets Infrastructure Advisory Services Project, and the IFC Financial Markets Crisis Management Project, which are funded by Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. The review classes were held in Azerbaijan in September and in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan in October.

About ACAFI Project:
Since December 2009, IFC, in partnership with the Swiss Government, has been implementing a project to strengthen the financial infrastructure. The project aims to strengthen financial markets infrastructure in Azerbaijan and Central Asia by developing effective credit information sharing and introducing formal risk education and certification for financial institution employees.
Contacts in Tashkent:
Tatyana Kraynova
Phone: +998 71 238 59 25
E-mail: tkraynova@ifc.org

From http://www.swiss-cooperation.admin.ch/ 11/25/2011

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Establishment of Information Exchange Between Customs Authorities of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan Through ASYCUDA Established


From November 30 to December 1, 2011 the State Customs Committee (SCC) of the Republic of Uzbekistan was visited by UNCTAD (United Nations Conference for Trading and Development - the body of UN General Assembly, not being an international trade organization), headed by N. Popa, regional coordinator of ASYCUDA in Europe, Central Asia and Afghanistan (ASYCUDA - Automated System for Customs Data). The purpose of the visit was to present ASYCUDA system and discuss possible participation of Uzbekistan in a pilot project to establish information exchange between the Unified Automated Information System (UAIS) of SCC of Uzbekistan and ASYCUDA installed in the Afghan Customs Department on transit corridor through the Uzbek-Afghan border in the area Hairatan.

ASYCUDA is the world's first electronic customs system that was introduced in 2004 and gave a significant impetus to implementation of programs to enhance the efficiency of customs procedures through automation. Currently, this system is being used by customs authorities in more than 90 countries worldwide. It can handle more than 16 million customs declarations annually in the automated mode. This has 12-15-fold reduced time taken for customs clearance in many countries that have implemented this system. The advantages of this system are:
- Guarantees of UN.
- International standards and advanced technologies.
- Free transfer of software in full ownership of the recipient country (with technical support from own funds of the recipient).
- Adaptability to the needs of the recipient country.
- Rapid deployment and efficient transit module.
- Safety and multilingualism.

During the visit of the regional coordinator of the ASYCUDA it was noted that the World Bank provided funds to Afghanistan for the implementation of a multiphase project, one of the objectives of which is the possible establishment of information exchange between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan in transit. This project provides for exchange of data with all the countries bordering with Afghanistan. Uzbekistan is the first country UNCTAD has decided to begin negotiations on cooperation with. The same information was provided on the results of UNCTAD's program in Afghanistan during the years of cooperation. In particular, at all computerized customs offices:
- Transit procedures comply with international standards, arious forms are replaced by standard transit document;
- The whole process is fully automated for both Customs and for brokers/traders, and all transit declarations are submitted electronically, i.e. 100% electronic declaration (remote);
- All payments are made in the offices of the National Bank and automatically confirmed by the customs system;
- All the reference data (updated in the Central Office), are automatically transmitted to all customs offices and are integrated;
- The customs data generated at customs (including transit) will automatically be consolidated in the Central Office and used to control and monitor transit operations, production statistics;
- All employees of customs/brokers are trained to work with the system (Dari/Pashto);
- Registration time significantly reduced.

In addition to ASYCUDA the UNCTAD delegation have proposed other systems for cooperation, such as the introduction of a risk management mechanism, development of single window. Such cooperation shall include provision of international consultants, advice, training and methodological tools of the UN. In turn, the SCC presented a single automated information system. According to N. Popa, UAIS of the SCC is one of the best and most advanced systems in the region and deserves careful study by the customs authorities of neighboring states. In conclusion, the UNCTAD delegation expressed appreciation for the organization of the visit and the opportunity to share experiences.

From UzReport.com 12/13/2011

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AUSTRALIA: To Launch Soil Mapping Facility

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), state territory and agencies, Geoscience Australia, and the University of Sydney are collaborating to establish a new soil mapping facility in Australia, which seeks to respond to the need for more valuable information needed to manage the country's vast landscapes and ecosystems, The facility, known as the Soil Landscape Grid of Australia, will produce a comprehensive fine-scale grid of functional soil attributes and key landscape features needed for modelling and managing Australian landscapes and ecosystems, which are currently not available. The facility is expected to enhance the ecosystem research capability through the immediate improvement in the capacity to extrapolate from existing plots/sites, to effectively place new plots, and to design more effective landscape-scale research. In addition, once the facility is completed, Australian soils information will be consistent, readily available, comprehensive and relevant to current and developing modelling processes, and uncertainty estimates will make clear where there is need for more survey effort. The Soil and Landscape Grid is a two stage facility - The first stage uses currently available funding to establish the baseline for the facility and the first estimation of the key features of the soils grid. This will be achieved by using a combination of the existing soils data; developments in new soil measurement techniques and proximal soil sensing, digital soil mapping and accompanying information and communication technology (ICT) improvements; and spatial statistics to provide the best possible estimates of the key soil functional attributes at a scale important in ecosystem processes. The second stage will capture a much wider set of source data, will broaden the attributes estimated, will reduce and categorise the uncertainty of the estimates, and substantially improve the access to and ease of use of the facility.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/06/2011

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NEW ZEALAND: Women Move Up the Govt Ranks

Four women have had significant promotions in important areas in Prime Minister John Key's second-term cabinet along with Mr Key's trusted lieutenant Steven Joyce. Hekia Parata has leaped up the rankings from last in cabinet to No7 and will front one of the most difficult portfolios for any National minister: Education. She will oversee the development of charter schools which have already been met with resistance from teacher unions and Mr Key said she would be a "stellar" Education Minister, bringing new energy to the role. Social Development Minister Paula Bennett moves to the front bench keeping her portfolio to oversee the welfare reforms National campaigned on, including a tougher work testing regime for solo mothers who get pregnant on the DPB. "Capable" backbencher Amy Adams has been appointed directly into cabinet and will take over responsibility for the rollout of broadband from Steven Joyce, as well as Internal Affairs. But her biggest responsibility may be as associate to Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee. She is expected to spend a lot of time on the ground in Christchurch as the rebuild enters a critical phase. National's most highly ranked woman, Judith Collins, got what she wanted, taking the Justice portfolio from retiring minister Simon Power, and will front the sensitive issue of ACC reform this term.

National has promised to introduce competition in the work account. Mr Joyce has added Economic Development, plus Employment and Skills, and Science and Innovation to his Tertiary Education portfolio. His unwritten role will be to provide strategic co-ordination not just among his own portfolios but to other ministers with sectoral interests, such as energy and resources, to help lift economic performance. Mr Joyce's leap from No14 last term to No4 now, Mr Key said, "reflected the reality of what has been a tremendous first term" by him. Mr Brownlee has picked up Transport from Mr Joyce. Fisheries and Aquaculture have been folded in with Agriculture and Biosecurity to form a new portfolio of Primary Industries. Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson has been pushed up the rankings by other movements rather than having been promoted. It would have been inappropriate to move her out of the Labour portfolio while the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Pike River mining disaster was ongoing. After doing battle with teacher unions for a term, especially over National Standards, Anne Tolley has lost the Education portfolio and was moved down to allow for fresh blood. She has taken on the Police portfolio and is seen as tough enough to be taking on Corrections, which Judith Collins has kept under control. Outside cabinet Mr Key has promoted junior whip Jo Goodhew to take over the work of Tariana Turia as Minister of the Community and Voluntary Sector. Senior whip Chris Tremain was promoted to a ministerial post outside cabinet as well, leaving two or three whips roles to fill next week to manage the caucus of 59. Michael Woodhouse and Simon Bridges are front runners.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 12/13/2011

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Green Light for Red Zone Innovation Hub

The EPIC project team is very pleased to announce that the Sanctuary campus project has today received a provisional green light enabling the project to get underway. This has been the culmination of nine months hard work by many parties. The Silicone Valley style business innovation hub will be built at the edge of the Red Zone and has been designed to stimulate the growth of high innovation SMEs in central Christchurch.

Summary Outcome
• 17 ICT companies will share the campus based on Manchester St, between Tuam and St Asaph Streets, the site previously known as the Para Rubber site.
• The Christchurch City Council has generously provided the land at no cost for five years and provided fantastic support to the project.
• BNZ has provided flexible project financing and also leveraged an insurance solution into the site. BNZ will also have naming rights for the campus.
• Timbercore has been selected to build a large Wooden Span building, with a mezzanine floor.
• The build process is expected to start in February, with a target go live of June 1st 2012.
• Octa has been selected for the Project Management role.
BNZ CEO Andrew Thorburn says, "We're delighted to support this game changing project for business in Christchurch. The campus' focus on stimulating economic development in the innovation and SME sector will be a fast track return to growth for Christchurch."

Project Support
Colin Andersen, executive director Effectus Ltd says, "We are extremely grateful to the organisations that have provided hundreds of hours of free time and professionals services into this project. Without their efforts the project would have died off months ago."
Supporting organisations include: Duncan Cotterill, Warren & Mahoney, Colliers International, Canterbury Development Corporation, Octa, Timbercore, Deloitte, PWC, Industrial Research and Cera.

Tenant Listing
1. Astron Media
2. Brush Technology
3. Cerebral Fix
4. Concentrate
5. Effectus¬
6. Fraame
7. Hand Multi-media
8. Industrial Research (IRL)
9. Left Click
10. Memia
11. Paua Productions
12. Pilot Consulting Group
13. RPM Retail
14. SLI Systems
15. Spore Tools
16. Stickmen Studios
17. Treshna Enterprises

From http://www.scoop.co.nz/ 12/22/2011

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: 154 Ranking in World Corruption a Goal to Work from Says PNG Transparency

Transparency International Papua New Guinea says the country is making progress on corruption, despite its 154th place in an international index of 182 countries ranked as corrupt. The chairperson, Lawrence Stephens, made the comment following an event his organisation hosted to mark today's international Anti-Corruption Day. Mr. Stephens says the gathering of school students and others was an opportunity for the community to observe the level of corruption in society and to make a public statement about it. He says although many politicians are involved in some form of corruption Transparency International PNG is working with the members of parliament who are committed to stopping it.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 12/09/2011

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TONGA: Call to Improve Recruitment and Training of RSE Workers

Tonga's Ministry for Training, Employment, Youth and Sport, says seasonal workers travelling to New Zealand must be healthy and fit to make the most of the Recognised Seasonal Employment programme. The Ministry's chief executive, Taniela Fusimalohi, says Tongan people have a reputation for being good workers and overall physical and mental fitness is vital. He's recently been at a workshop in New Zealand for Pacific officials focussing on strengthening the scheme. He says healthy workers are more productive which is important for both New Zealand farmers and Tongan families hoping for economic progress. "We need to improve the way we recruit them and also the training undertaken in Tonga before they depart. We have to ensure that workers who do arrive in New Zealand are fit to work by properly training them and to see that we recruit people who are fit to work and don't arrive here with health problems or health issues. Taniela Fusimalohi says the RSE is an instrument to achieve goals such as reducing poverty and youth unemployment.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 12/18/2011

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VANUATU: To Get New Teacher Standards

Primary school teachers in Vanuatu are expected to continue their study under new national education standards. The Vanuatu Minimum Quality Standards for Primary Schools have been launched by the government through a development partnership with the United Nations Children's Fund and Australia and New Zealand. The UNICEF Pacific representative Dr Isiye Ndombi says the standards mean teachers are now expected to maintain a certain level of teaching proficiency to remain in their positions. "The standards indicate that the teachers should have a certain level of training. And if that's not enough, they will also have to leave to maintain those standards. So every teacher will have to continue learning as they teach. They will be re-certified on a regular basis." Dr Isiye Ndombi says the government of Vanuatu and its development partners are also working on how to reward teachers for their work and how to ensure good work morale.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 12/15/2011

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Pacific Media Body to Start Training Programme with British Help

A web-based training programme for Pacific media has been commissioned by the Pasifika Media Association, PasiMA. The move follows a meeting in Auckland where the one-year-old organization charted the course for its training programme, which is funded by a grant from the British High Commission in Solomon Islands. The training resources will be designed to support Pacific media operators and journalists, particularly in the fields of business management, investigative journalism and multimedia platforms. The PasiMA chairman Savea Sano Malifa, says the proposed training course will strengthen the role of member organisations in delivering robust journalism.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 12/12/2011

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Top 10 ICT Predictions for Asia-Pacific: IDC

With the uncertain economic outlook for 2012, analyst house IDC expects companies in the region to take a cautious approach to ICT spending in the coming year. "As consumers and workforces are becoming smarter, more affluent and demanding, companies will need to match their efforts with intelligent spending to avoid getting their fingers burnt in case another worldwide crisis hits," said Claus Mortensen, principal for emerging technology research, IDC Asia/Pacific. Business leaders are likely to face difficult investment decisions; to maintain growth; organisations will be looking to leverage ICT in newer and more robust ways. And IDC expects ICT spending in the APEJ region to reach $US653 billion in 2012, which is a 10.4 per cent growth over 2011. The firm was quoting insights from its Predictions report for 2012.The following 10 ICT predictions are what IDC believes will have the strongest impact on enterprise IT in the region:

1) The rise of what IDC terms as "Emerging Asian Enterprise"
Numbering some 2000 across the Asia-Pacific region except for Japan, these companies are not branches of MNCs, but "true-blue Asian companies," said Sandra Ng, GVP - ICT practice, IDC. In these organisations, CIOs are looking at new ways to compete more effectively and shorten the time to market for their IT investments. Possible areas of investments include mobility, cloud, analytics and social media. Hungry for growth, these companies are all about speed in terms of time to market, Ng added, and their internal technology processes need to be wired to support fast-paced growth. Another characteristic is that their IT demands can change or increase, even after deals have been signed with the vendor or service provider. "The vendor can have massive pre-sales work done up, but the customer might then decide to make changes to the project scope," Ng pointed out.

2) The Singular appeal
The complexity of the Asia/Pacific market has led to a need and appreciation of "singular" offerings and players where a single portfolio can generate a successful and sustainable business model for the vendor/provider. One example is China-based BesTV, an IP-TV provider who is focused solely on offering family entertainment programmes. Its success has led to many TV stations wanting to approach the company as a case study subject.

3) Orchestrating the Cloud
Cloud service providers will be providing integrated management of disparate cloud services, or cloud orchestration in 2012 and beyond. In 2011, IDC estimates that 80 per cent of new enterprise application development will be for the public cloud, and by 2015, 20 per cent of enterprise application spending will be cloud-sourced. As a result, cloud service buyers will have to manage a much larger number of services and vendors, adding another level of management difficulty.

4) The arrival of the Chief Data Scientist
With the emergence of "Big Data", the most useful insights will come though the high-end analytics that can be performed on the increasing volumes, velocity and variety of data organisations are generating. This means that there will be requirements for new analyst skill sets, and the Chief Data Scientist will emerge in 2012 as a job title to help organisations define their "Big Data" strategies.

5) Automation in the Cloud
With uncertain economic conditions, the ability to quickly provision IT capabilities and resources will become a key differentiator for CIOs, according to IDC. As the next wave of workloads move into the cloud, IDC believes it will become increasingly important to standardise and automate IT processes and that automation will be a key focus point for CIOs in 2012.

6) Innovation scouts from telcos
IDC believes that in 2012, forward-looking telcos will form dedicated innovation scout teams to find new and unique applications and content to their customers, as a key differentiator factor in the competitive telecommunications industry.

7) Virtualisation to deal with unpredictable systems
Instead of relying on redundancy, organisatons are expected to bank on virtualisation to allow them to build a margin of error into their IT platforms that permits failure. This concept is likely to become the preferred approach when deploying larger virtualised x86 environments within the next few years.

8) Companies look towards customer-centric IT
Due to the uncertain economic outlook, IDC expects "customer-centricity" to be on the top of the agenda for companies in Asia/Pacific in 2012, together with a focus on technologies that help companies increase customer focus, customer engagement, and increase their knowledge of those customers who contribute the most to their business.

9) New workspace architectures built around mobility, Cloud and data services
Consumerisation has created new demands on the work environment and IDC expects organisations to use desktop refreshes, green field deployments and remote/small site operations as opportunities to pilot new mobile services and solutions in 2012.

10) The middleclass smartphone
IDC expects the market to see the introduction of sub-US$100 smartphones in 2012, which will in turn create big opportunities for service providers in emerging Asia. IDC also believes consumers in these markets will soon demonstrate the same addictive nature to mobile applications as seen in mature markets.

From http://www.arnnet.com.au/ 11/30/2011

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'Redraw the Line' Campaign Raises Climate Change Awareness in Asia

SINGAPORE - Mobilizing a critical mass of people, communities, and cities to drive demand for clean energy, transport, and environmentally sustainable consumption is the focus of a campaign launched today at the Asia Television Forum in Singapore. "Redraw The Line" is a public awareness campaign created by The Asia-Pacific Media Alliance for Social Awareness (The Media Alliance) and Ogilvy & Mather with the support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) in response to the challenges posed by climate change. The campaign draws on the participation of the media, entertainment, and advertising industries; private sector sponsors; bilateral and multilateral development agencies; and youth or university students. "We are still waiting for an international commitment that will drive our nations to respond to the climate challenge as a global community, however, there are agents of change responding to climate change at every level," said David McCauley, ADB's Lead Climate Change Specialist. "Our goal is to mobilize a critical mass of people, communities and cities to take action that addresses the main impacts of climate change."

"Redraw The Line" is an Asian regional initiative that is emphasizing the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam during its first year. Other countries may be added over the next five years. Under the direction of regional media partners Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific and Viacom International Media Networks, youth teams will produce locally and culturally relevant messages and communication techniques. These will be based on the main climate change concerns of their country, as determined by their national climate change commission and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Selected institutions include Bangkok University's International College Media Lab and Assumption University's School of Mass Communication in Thailand, along with the Academy of Journalism and Communication in Viet Nam. A university in the Philippines is still being selected. National media companies in the three target countries are being invited to join the awareness campaign. Synovate, a market research company, is supplying pre- and post-measurement support through a climate change market survey on consumer awareness and attitudes.

From http://beta.adb.org/ 12/07/2011

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Social Watch Report 2012: Rights as the Basis of Sustainable Development

Rights are the basis of sustainable development, said Roberto Bissio, coordinator of Social Watch, when asked to summarize the conclusions of the new report of this international network of civil society organizations, launched at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Friday, on the eve of the Human Rights Day. Over sixty national reports by independent citizen groups form the core of the Social Watch Report 2012, which this year focuses on the rights of future generations. Social Watch demands that "bilateral and multilateral development agencies have to be made accountable for their human rights impact". "The adoption and implementation of the human rights approach is essential if sustainable development is to become a reality for all, especially the world's marginalized," noted, on other chapter of the report, Miloon Kothari, former UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, and Shivani Chaudhry, Associate Director of the Housing and Land Rights Network, India. "Failure to embrace this approach will lead to more hunger, dispossession, homelessness, landlessness and environmental degradation across the globe. The impact of rights violations will be particularly severe for women, children, indigenous peoples, coastal communities, forest dwellers, small farmers, landless workers, and the urban poor," they remarked.

"Development, if truly sustainable, needs to take place for and through people; human rights have to be placed at the core of any developmental approach," wrote on another chapter Mirjam van Reisen, professor of theTilburg University, and Simon Stocker and Georgina Carr, both members of Eurostep. "At the same time living conditions and general well-being have to be improved in a sustainable manner. In this regard emphasis should be placed on promoting gender equality, advancing women's rights and empowering women," "The human rights framework sets clear goals for well-being indicators," Bissio added in the overview, and he explained that "basically all of the first six Millenium Development Goals can be read as a request to fulfill existing rights in accordance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights," such as the rights to food, to health, to education for all girls and boys, the reduction of infant mortality, the universal attendance of all births by trained personnel, the universal access to safe water and sanitation and even the universal access to phone and internet services. "If fulfilment of basic dignity levels of enjoyment of social, economic and cultural rights is not incompatible with sustainability and achievable with existing resources, not doing so is not just an ethical fault but also a threat to the global system, increasingly perceived as unjust, unfair, designed to create more and more inequality and therefore illegitimate," remarked Bisiso.

He added that "when basic civic and political rights are absent civil society is unable to organize peacefully", people "cannot make their voices heard and the quality of government policies suffers," and he mentioned the cases of Eritrea, Burma, Palestine under foreign occupation and Yemen "teetering on de edge of civil war." Those circumstances prevent any progress towards sustainable development, according to the coordinator of Social Watch based on the 66 national studies published on the Report, all of them produced by grassroots organizations. Social Watch Report includes the Joint Civil Society Statement to call the Group of 20 to embed human rights in the plans of financial Regulation. "Human rights should be at the core of economic recovery," reads the text, signed by dozens of organizations. "Only an enduring commitment to respect, protect and fulfil legally binding [...] obligations enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and core international treaties can provide the basis for reforms to ensure a more sustainable, resilient and just global economy."

It also contains It also contains the data of the most recent measurement of the Basic Capabilities Index (BCI), indicator that combines infant mortality rates, the number of births attended by trained personnel and enrolment rates in primary school. This year Japan is in the top position and Chad at the bottom. The global BCI shows progresses between 1990 and 2011, although in general the progress slowed down between the previous decade and the next one. Since 2000, the BCI moved up just 3 points (100 is the maximum value), while world CO2 emissions, that had fallen in the last decade of the 20th century, moved up from 4.1 tons per capita to 4.6 tons. World trade and per capita income also grew faster than the social indicators. This edition includes the most recent measurement of the Basic Capabilities Index (BCI), indicator that combines infant mortality rates, the number of births attended by trained personnel and enrolment rates in primary school; the Gender Equity Index (GEI) and the new Social and Economic Rights Fulfillment Index (SERF Index), that determines the extent to which countries are meeting their obligations to fulfill five human rights enumerated in the International Covenant of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights: the right to food, the right to adequate shelter, the right to healthcare, the right to education, and the right to decent work.

From http://www.socialwatch.org/ 12/09/2011

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Asia's Economy Heading for 'Yo-Yo' Year in 2012

SINGAPORE - Asia's economic growth looks set to stumble over the next few months, prompting a flurry of interest rate cuts and a spike in stimulus spending that may ultimately pave the way for a strong recovery in the second half of 2012. "The catch-phrase for 2012 is the Asia yo-yo," said Rob Subbaraman, chief Asia economist at Nomura in Hong Kong. "The harder Asia's economies are hit, the stronger the tailwinds for a bounce back." The idea that bad news would beget good news was a recurring theme in economists' year-end outlooks. India, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines are widely expected to lower interest rates next year. Elections in Taiwan, Malaysia and South Korea may shake loose even more government spending. China will most likely continue cutting banks' reserve requirements to try to spur more lending. But beyond the basic premise that Asian policymakers will be in easing mode, there was little consensus on how each country would weather the turmoil. Between Europe's simmering debt troubles, concerns about a housing downturn in China, and an uncertain U.S. growth trajectory, there were too many wild cards.

European banks' claims on Asia, excluding Japan, amount to $1.4 trillion, according to data from the Bank for International Settlements. If Europe's debt problems intensify and its banks retrench, they may pull back some of that credit with little warning, leaving Asia vulnerable to a sudden exodus of capital. Singapore stands out among the most heavily exposed, with European bank claims amounting to 83 percent of the country's gross domestic product, said Chua Hak Bin, a Bank of America-Merrill Lynch economist based in Singapore. For Malaysia, they add up to 25 percent of GDP. It is difficult to predict if, when or where European banks will pull the plug. Foreign investors have yanked money out of Indonesian bonds and Indian equities in recent months, evidence of a global bout of risk aversion. But it is harder to track how much bank deleveraging has actually occurred. BIS data, considered the most reliable, comes with about a six-month lag. Nomura's Subbaraman said based on anecdotal information gleaned from market sources, "it doesn't feel like there's been wholesale withdrawals from European banks." He added, however, that there was "a lot of scope" for such withdrawals. For some Asian economies, it is China rather than Europe that will most influence 2012's course. China is the largest trading partner for many Asian countries, and it is no longer simply an assembly point for goods destined for export. Nomura's data shows that 58 percent of China's imports served domestic demand in the third quarter of 2011, up from 44 percent at the start of 2007.

That means what happens inside China matters a great deal for the rest of Asia. The biggest domestic worry centers on China's cooling property market, and the repercussions for bank lending and local government borrowing. Beijing orchestrated a real estate slowdown this year to try to avoid a damaging property boom and bust. But the side effect has been a rise in troubled loans to developers, and a drop in land sales that has cut off a vital source of revenue for heavily indebted local governments. Credit Suisse, which has been among the more bearish in its forecasts on China's housing sector, predicted property prices would fall 10 percent in 2012, bringing the cumulative decline to 20 percent from a mid-2011 peak. China's central bank said on December 2 that home prices were at a "turning point" and banks were concerned about a possible chain reaction if prices were to fall by 20 percent. Many market watchers took that as a signal that Beijing would ease some of the restrictions it placed on home purchases. China has already reduced the amount of reserves that big banks must hold, a measure that freed up an estimated $55 billion to $63 billion in lending capacity. Economists expect China to continue lowering banks' reserve requirements. That in turn should help spark stronger growth in the second half of 2012.

Zhu Haibin, JPMorgan's China economist, thinks the second-half recovery will be so robust that Beijing may resume raising interest rates toward the end of the year. "Basically our view is that China's interest rates are still behind the curve," Zhu said. "We don't think that the policy normalization was complete before it came to a halt." The policy-induced second-half bounceback assumes that inflation remains subdued. That appears to be a safe bet, at least in the near term. Commodity prices have come down sharply since May, helping to bring down inflation in China, Indonesia, South Korea and elsewhere. But the same forces that are likely to propel stronger second-half growth could also revive price pressures. A flood of easy money, coupled with renewed economic strength in commodity consumers like China, may stoke inflation. Barclays economists warned that the "inflation dragon is resting for a while" and could wake with a vengeance in late 2012. "One can envisage a scenario in which a bottoming out in global growth and the combined effects of past liquidity injections feed into global commodity prices and inflation at exactly the same time, risking a repeat of what occurred at the beginning of 2011," Barclays wrote in a research note. - Reuters

From http://www.malaya.com.ph/ 12/12/2011

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Asia to Overtake US as World's Top Casino Market by 2013: PwC

Asia will surpass the United States as the world's largest casino gaming market in 2013 on account of the region's robust economic growth and growing people interest for gambling, says a report by PwC last week. The global gaming outlook report said Asia is expected to generate revenue of USD 79.3 billion in 2015, up from USD 34.3 billion in 2010 with a compound annual growth rate of 18.3 percent. "This growth will see Asia Pacific overtake the US in 2013 as the world's largest regional casino gaming market," the PwC report noted. The growth in Asia Pacific would mainly be driven by the continuing economic growth in the region and the subsequent rise in disposable income and the emergence of a prosperous middle-class.

From http://www.rediff.com/ 12/14/2011

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Growth of Computer Graphic Industry in Asia

HONG KONG: Asia is the new poster child for the computer graphics industry, as it moves away from its manufacturing roots. At a three-day SIG-GRAPH exposition for computer graphics and interactive technology in Hong Kong, Asian developers were eager to show off their latest cutting-edge wares. Some of the special effects in the Hollywood blockbusters were done in Asia. Special effects houses have been blossoming in the region, thanks to Asia's talent pool and tax breaks. Rob Hoffman, Head of 3D Entertainment at Autodesk, said: "Just the tremendous amount of growth that's taking place in the film, games and TV industry where we're seeing a big transition, where work is coming to Asia from other parts of the world ... a lot of the content being played on the world stage is being created throughout Asia." Autodesk, a leading 3D and animation software developer, says 3D animation and stereoscopic live action features are here to stay as the technology improves and cost of producing such film come down. Augmented reality is another trend, seamlessly mixing real life with computer-generated information and technology.

Computer graphics also has its research and educational purposes. ETRI, South Korea's biggest government-funded research institute, which came up with the programme, is working on breaking down the barriers between humans and computers. Gaming company Nintendo is already using such technology for its Wii game console. Japan continues to lead in the arena of emerging technology, while gaming development is the focus in Korea. And this year in Hong Kong, organisers say mobile applications took centre-stage. Jeff Jortner, President of ACM SIGGRAPH, said: "Looking at mobile, particularly, the last year or two, that has really just jumped out. I think that the Asian market particularly in terms of mobile devices is really ahead of the US, in terms of looking at phones. "How do you blend that technology, use 3D on those devices? How do you do augmented reality where the camera is looking out and pointing out locations." The event has attracted over 7,000 developers and distributors from across 45 countries, more than double its numbers when it kicked off in Asia four years ago.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 12/14/2011

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No Great Game: The Story of Post-Cold War Powers in Central Asia

The U.S. has been increasingly active in these former Soviet satellites, but Russian influence is still a major force. A 2006 photo shows Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev posing in front a Russian-built Proton booster, one of which was used to launch KazSat, Kazakhstan's first foray into space / AP. This post is part of a 12-part series exploring how the U.S.-Russia relationship has shaped the world since the December 1991 end of the Soviet Union. Read the full series here. On December 16, 2011, Kazakhstan will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its independence from the Soviet Union. It was the last country to politically separate itself from Russia in 1991, the final nail in the coffin of the seven-decade Soviet experiment. The year saw a wave of Soviet states pulling away from the Soviet Union, like the skins of an onion, until only Russia was left in the center. Central Asia, a part of the world that has long been the subject of speculation, romantic adventure fantasies, and misinformation, suddenly found itself in the global spotlight. Kazakhstan possessed the world's largest nuclear testing site in Semipalatinsk, dozens of nuclear weapons, a biological weapons research facility on Vozrozhdeniye Island in the dried-up Aral Sea, and huge reserves of oil and natural gas in the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan, too, had some of the world's largest reserves of natural gas.

But despite a small gold rush of sorts to capture the region's energy resources, Central Asia mostly remained an underdeveloped backwater. Uzbekistan struggled with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a terror group that continues to plague parts of Afghanistan. Tajikistan endured a brutal civil war that, in many ways, defines the West's perception of it. After a brief paroxysm of ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, both countries settled into a sort of comfortable anonymity. There was a brief interest in exporting Turkmenistan's natural gas through a pipeline crossing Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the Taliban's war in Afghanistan prevented the plan from moving off the drawing table. Toward the end of the 1990s, interest in the region picked up: Chevron signed a major deal to develop one of Kazakhstan's Caspian oil fields and construction began on the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the first non-Russian export route out of the region. The U.S. deepened its military ties with the governments of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, sending small numbers of U.S. military trainers and bringing local officers to U.S. service academies. It seemed Russia was not only diminished but soundly defeated, and America was ascendant.

The terror attacks of September 11 and subsequent invasion of Afghanistan seemed at first to cement the rise of America in Central Asia. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld negotiated the use of military bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, even while the State Department grew less and less comfortable with human rights abuses in those countries. By the time the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, American policy in the area seemed set on autopilot, dominant and victorious. Then, something changed. In March of 2005, the "Tulip Revolution" in Kyrgyzstan unseated Askar Akayev, who had ruled the country since 1990, throwing the U.S. into panic that it might lose access to the airbase at Manas. Also that year, in May, Uzbek security forces massacred hundreds of protesters in the city of Andijon, and in the ensuing outcry the U.S. lost access to the Uzbek airbase it relied on to supply the troops in Afghanistan. While the Americans later managed to secure expanded access to Manas, it came at an increasingly high cost. The mid-2000s also saw Russia emerge from its slumber. Under Presidents Vladimir Putin and then Dmitri Medvedev, Russia slowly revived its campaign for influence in the region, gaining concessions from the Central Asian rulers and sometimes challenging the U.S. for access and resources. As of 2011, Russia and the U.S. could best be called frenemies in Central Asia, with Russia chafing at the continued American presence even while its officials worry about the consequences of an American withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The U.S., though, seems destined to diminish in the region, even as Central Asia finally flirts with economic viability. Kazakhstan's economy is thriving, Kyrgyzstan joined the WTO well before Russia, and Turkmenistan's gas pipeline to China has brought it much-needed cash. Both Turkey and China are spending increasing amounts of money and energy to gain social, economic, and political footholds in the region, and Russia is looking for new ways to extend its "security umbrella" southward. The U.S. is trying to cement its position with the New Silk Road, a concept for regional trade that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is mentioning in speeches, but that project's success seems far from certain. Politically, however, Central Asia remains painfully close to what it was in 1991, with the exception of Kyrgyzstan (which still struggles for stable political leadership). The tyrant of Turkmenistan may have died in 2007, but his replacement has continued to rule in much the same way. Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan are now entering their second decade with the same autocrats in charge. In many ways the region exists in a sort of time warp, with a dismaying lack of political or social progress on many fronts. Viewing Central Asia as a competition for influence, however, misses the point; that is a contest that America could probably never win. Instead, what's emerging is a tenuous collaboration: Russia and America working together to support and develop the region. Unthinkable 20 years ago, this new alignment of interests has the potential to be far more transformative than the fall of communism ever was.

From http://www.theatlantic.com/ 12/16/2011

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OSCE: Political Stability Needed for Successful Infrastructural Development of Central Asia

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) estimates political stability as important element of successful regional infrastructural development of the Central Asia, the organization reported on Monday. "Need for political stability and mutual confidence is vital prerequisites for successful regional infrastructural development," Ambassador Andrew Tesoriere, the Head of the OSCE Centre in Bishkek said at the "Regional/transboundary cooperation in energy" conference held at OSCE Academy on Monday. The conference was focused on current and future pan-regional energy projects and their social and environmental management.

In his opening remarks Tesoriere pointed to "exciting new pan-regional project possibilities" and their "significant strategic, economic and social impact promise." He also underlined that the delivery and operational management of such large projects should incentivize regional nations in their co-operation on enhanced collective peace and security. The conference was jointly organized by the OSCE Academy in Bishkek and the Embassy of France in Kyrgyzstan in the framework of France's G8 Chairmanship. It brought together representatives of the French foreign ministry, bilateral ambassadors in Kyrgyzstan, international and non-governmental organizations, the World Bank (WB), the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and other international financial institutions as well as local authorities.

Participants discussed presentations by international experts on topics such as cross-border energy supply and the region's energy deficits as well as current projects such as the Central Asia South Asia Regional Electricity and Trade (CASA-1000) and the Turkmenistan, Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline. The event formed part of the Initiative for Prosperity of the Border Regions, launched earlier in 2011 by France in the framework of its G8 Chairmanship and aimed at developing cross-border co-operation around Afghanistan. The OSCE Academy in Bishkek was established to promote and enhance the OSCE's principles and values in Central Asia by providing a forum for professionals and students to study international relations, comprehensive security, democratization, the rule of law and human rights.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/19/2011

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CHINA: Top 10 Events to Commemorate WTO Entry

China's Ministry of Commerce and Xinhua News Agency on Thursday jointly selected the country's top 10 news events related to China's entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the accession. The top 10 news events are listed as below:

 - China becomes the world's biggest exporter and second-biggest importer
China's exports and imports rose in 2009 against the backdrop of the global financial crisis, making the country the world's largest exporter and second-largest importer, the General Administration of Customs announced on Jan. 10, 2010. China's trade in goods surged to nearly 3 trillion U.S. dollars in 2010 from 509.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2001, with exports soaring by nearly five times and imports up by 4.7 times.

 - China becomes a core member of world multilateral trade system
A Chinese delegation, led by Minister of Commerce Chen Deming, took part in various negotiations aimed at reaching a breakthrough on agricultural trade and industrial market access, two key areas of the Doha Round trade opening talks, in Geneva in July 2008. It was the first time China joined core WTO members in negotiations since it entered the WTO, signaling that the country had become a core member of the world multilateral trade system.

 - China removes restrictions on companies conducting foreign trade business
On July 1, 2004, China allowed individuals and companies, including foreigners, to engage in import and export business without obtaining government approval, for the first time in half a century. The move came six months ahead of the schedule set in line with China's commitment to the WTO.

 - China fulfills commitment to WTO in tariff, non-tariff areas
China canceled all non-tariff trade barriers that were against the WTO rules, such as import quotas and licenses, on Jan.1, 2005. It signaled that the grace period given to China upon its entry to the WTO had basically ended. China's overall tariff level fell to 9.8 percent in 2011 from 43.2 percent in 1986 and 15.3 percent in 2001.

 - China establishes a law system of market economy consistent with WTO rules
The Standing Committee of the 10th National People's Congress, China's top legislature, passed amendments to the country's trade law on April 6, 2004. The revised law took effect on July 1. It was a key part of China's efforts to review and revise laws and regulations to fulfill its commitment to the WTO. In the past decade, the central government has reviewed over 2,300 laws, regulations and departmental rules, and local governments have reviewed more than 190,000 policies and regulations. The country gradually established a trade system in compliance with the WTO rules and further improved the law system of the socialist market economy.

 - China accelerates transformation of government functions
The Standing Committee of the 10th National People's Congress adopted the law on administrative licensing, which came into effect on July 1, 2004. As a milestone in China's bid to transform government functions, the law clearly stipulates the scope, procedures, extent of authority and oversight of administrative licensing. In another effort to make government work more transparent, the website of China's central government, www.gov.cn, opened formally at zero hour on Jan. 1, 2006.

 - China unifies corporate income tax rates for domestic and foreign companies
China's parliament, the National People's Congress, adopted a corporate income tax law on March 16, 2007, which puts domestic and foreign-funded enterprises on an equal footing for income taxes for the first time since China's opening-up began in 1978. The law, effective on Jan. 1, 2008, not only benefited domestic firms but also helped improve the quality and structure of foreign investment.

 - China's traditionally competitive industries make great strides
China's textile exports reached 77 billion U.S. dollars in 2010, accounting for 30.7 percent of the world's total, and its garment exports amounted to 130 billion U.S. dollars to take up 36.9 percent of the world's total, according to data released by the WTO on Oct. 21, 2011. China has become the world's biggest exporter of textiles and garments. Other traditionally advantaged industries of China like home electrical appliance and electronic and information technology sectors have also seen their potential well tapped to meet the demand of both domestic and foreign markets.

 - China's auto output and sales top the world
China surpassed the United States in the annual volume of auto output and sales for the first time in 2009. In 2010, China's auto output and sales both exceeded 18 million units, remaining the world's biggest and setting record highs, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers announced on Jan. 10, 2011. China's auto sector has made remarkable achievements in expanding industrial scale, building indigenous brands, developing foreign trade and restructuring the industry, with auto output surging to 18.26 million units in 2010 from 2.47 million units in 2001.

 - China turns to dispute settlement mechanism to protect economic rights and interests
On Sept. 11, 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama approved punitive tariffs of up to 35 percent on all car and light truck tires from China, which entered into force on Sept. 26. It was one of an increasing number of trade disputes China has been involved in the past decade, prompting the country to make more use of the dispute settlement mechanism to protect its economic rights and interests. Since its entry to the WTO, China has been subject to more than 690 investigations for anti-dumping, anti-subsidy and guarantee measures and other trade remedy measures, involving 40 billion U.S. dollars. It has become a long-term task for China to oppose protectionism and maintain the multilateral trade system.

From Xinhua News Agency 12/08/2011

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Over 90,000 Detained for Illegal Food Production, Gambling, Drug Trafficking

Chinese police had investigated over 132,000 cases and detained more than 90,000 suspects by November in a nationwide crackdown on a set of highly attended offenses, especially food and drug safety cases. The high-profile campaign, launched on Aug. 22 by the Ministry of Public Security, aims to eliminate illegal food producers and vendors, factories producing counterfeit goods and markets built for the disposal of stolen goods, pornography, gambling and drug trafficking. A statement issued on Sunday by the ministry summarized the "preliminary progress" of the campaign, stating that 28,000 venues used for illegal activities have been shut down during the first 100 days. The statement particularly noted the results of operations against manufacturing and sale of clenbuterol, an illegal fat-burning drug that is sometimes illegally used as an additive in pig feed, and "gutter oil," or reprocessed cooking oil that is illegally produced using waste oil from restaurants. The statement also highlighted police officers' attempts to gather tips from the public. Over 100,000 tips were received through phone calls, e-mails and microblog posts, according to the statement. The ministry did not specify the ending date of the campaign in its statement, but vowed to establish "permanent mechanisms" to address those issues.

From http://english.cri.cn/ 12/12/2011

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Study Finds 75% Construction Workers Work Without Contract in China

A study on the living conditions of construction workers in 4 major Chinese cities has found that 75 per cent of them are working without a contract, and among those who have a contract, more than 63 per cent do not have a copy of their own. The study was conducted by university students and teachers in Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Shenzhen, four of the most developed cities in China. In a report by the China Youth Daily, the study finds that, on average, construction workers within these cities are working 27 days a month, 9.9 hours per day with a monthly salary of 3,375 yuan (roughly 2,000 USD); an amount considered relatively low given their long working hours, according to Lu Huilin, a professor from Peking University.

Currently, many construction companies entrust their work to labor foremen, who are responsible for hiring and paying workers. This is a violation of China's Labor Contract Law, which requires companies to sign contracts with workers directly and pay them according to official regulations. As a result of the current arrangement which prevails, workers cannot obtain legal contracts nor can their lawful rights be guaranteed. Li Xingfeng, a worker in Beijing says that he once worked for 20 days without pay. When Li asked if he could sign an official contract with his employer, they refused. "They wouldn't give me the contract and they asked me to leave," Li says. Those who conducted the study believe that the reason for refusal to pay workers or delays in payments is due to the absence of a valid contract. The researchers suggest that the problem can be solved by enforcing payment regulations.

From http://english.cri.cn/ 12/13/2011

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China's Economy at a Turning Point

All this year, the drumbeat with respect to China's economy has been consistent. As the economies in Europe and the United States - China's two largest export markets - have continued to struggle, and China has tightened credit in its war against inflation, the China economy has been slowing noticeably. In this year's third quarter, China's gross domestic product expanded at the slowest pace in nearly two years. GDP growth moderated to 9.1 percent in the third quarter from 9.5 percent in the second, with many economists expecting less than 9 percent growth in 2012. All signs, though, now point to a change in policy - and a potential change in the headlines coming out of China. This should be a welcome relief to global stock markets, which now closely monitor economic events in the country.

Why the sudden change? With the country's inflation rate slowing to 4.2 percent in November, China appears to be on the downhill side of its inflation battle. From a peak of 6.5 percent in July, prices eased to 4.2 percent in November, the lowest since September 2010. Because two-thirds of China's inflation over the past 12 months has been food-related, regulators have had no choice but to take all measures to bring rising prices under control. Approximately 900 million Chinese still live in the rural economy and have annual average per capita incomes of $900 or so. For this group of Chinese, food makes up a high percentage of annual household purchases. With inflation coming under control, China's economy may now be at a turning point. As we reported in a recent post on the subject, the People's Bank of China announced in November that it would reduce the reserve requirement ratio by 0.5 of a percentage point, effectively increasing the amount of money banks can lend. This was the first time that the PBOC had cut bank reserve levels in three years, the first signal that monetary policy in China is changing.

At the end of a Central Economic Work Conference that just ended on Wednesday in Beijing, where high-level policymakers from departments in the central government, the military and provincial-level governments discussed the general direction of economic policy for 2012, the leaders issued a statement that provides more clues as to China's future direction. The statement made clear that China would continue to maintain its current "proactive fiscal policy and prudent monetary policy." Furthermore, policy makers pledged to ensure that macro-economic policies and overall consumer prices remain basically stable, and that they aim to also keep the yuan's value "basically stable" while pushing ahead with reforms aimed at liberalizing the country's interest exchange rates. The statement also included commitments to "improve the quality of macro-regulation and maintain stable and relatively fast economic growth." Reading between the lines of the official government release, many economists concluded that China's top leaders will focus on slowly revving up the world's second largest economy in the coming year, rather that taming rapidly rising prices as it did in 2011. "For most of the last year, officials reiterated that controlling inflation was the primary task. Now, this goal is preceded by the goal of maintaining stable growth," said Mark Williams, chief Asia economist for Capital Economics.

From http://www.forbes.com/ 12/15/2011

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China to Hold Unemployment Rate Under 5%

China aims to create 85 million jobs and hold its unemployment rate under 5 percent from 2011 to 2015, according to a statement released after an executive meeting of the State Council, or China's Cabinet, on Friday. The statement said that the government wanted to create jobs for 45 million people in cities and 40 million unemployed laborers in the countryside. "To boost employment should be made the priority of our social and economic development," the statement said. The government will implement a more proactive policy to spur employment and provide fiscal, taxation and financial support to that end, the statement said, citing the decisions of the meeting, which was presided over by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. The targeted rate is the same with the goal set for the 2006-2010 period but higher than the 4.1 percent urban unemployment rate recorded at the end of the third quarter of this year.

From 2006 to 2010, 55 million new jobs were created in urban areas and 45 million people in the rural surplus labor force were transferred to new job positions, official data shows. The country faces an "arduous task" in creating enough jobs and employment pressure will "continue to build up in the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015)," the statement said. It added that China faces substantial job creation pressures as there are on average one million more people seeking employment each year up to 2015, compared with the last five years. Job shortage in urban areas will exceed 13 million each year between 2011 and 2015, putting a higher pressure on employment than the previous five-year period, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security has forecast.

China's economy has slowed this year as forceful domestic monetary policy tightening and Europe's festering debt crisis. China's economic growth slowed to 9.1 percent in the third quarter from 9.5 percent in the second quarter and 9.7 percent in the first quarter. The country will prioritize the development of industries and enterprises that can create more jobs than others, the statement said. Meanwhile, priority will be given to facilitating the employment of college graduates, it added. Official estimates put the number of college graduates in 2012 at 6.8 million, 200,000 more than the previous year. The government also aims to expand the social security system to all workers and improve employment stability significantly by 2015, according to the statement. Better job training and unemployment monitoring will be offered, it said.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/17/2011

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JAPAN: Net Users Warned Against Recycling IDs

Users of the PlayStation 3 game console have been shocked to see information about their online game play displayed on the Internet, with some complaining this violates their privacy. User IDs, not real names, are on display, but many people use the same IDs on two or more social network services. As one user put it, IDs are "like second names." Another said, "If such information is compiled, our real names may be discovered." A 36-year-old company employee in Tokyo was surprised to see records of his game-playing on the PS3 Web site. "Total playing time: 100 hours as of 0:59 a.m., March 28, 2010," one part read. The specific games he had played, his rank, and the dates and times when he won certain titles were displayed for anyone to see. The records showed the man was playing almost all day on weekends and until late at night on weekdays, and had won 34 titles.

"My living patterns and preferences in computer games were exposed," the man said. The identity displayed on the site was not his real name but the ID he registered when he began playing. Users of social networking services (SNS) and interactive Internet sites must register IDs, which are needed to log on and are used as their identities. According to a survey conducted by Nomura Research Institute in 2009, more than 90 percent of Internet users used the same IDs and passwords for two or more Web sites. The man in the gaming case used the same ID on Twitter and a blog site, and he displayed his real name on the blog. "An ID is a second name with a personality in online society. Even if my real name was not disclosed, I feel my privacy was violated by revealing my ID without my consent," he said.

A 31-year-old company employee in Koto Ward, Tokyo, who uses the same ID on the Twitter and Mixi sites, was also surprised to see his game-playing records. He tried unsuccessfully to delete them. "It's not my real name, but my acquaintances would know it's me," he said. According to Tokyo-based Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., which operates the PS3 site, the game-playing records of about 90 million users are available online, along with the categories and viewing times of TV programs they recorded via PS3 consoles. An SCE official said, "We've warned users not to disclose personal information through their IDs." But the official added, "We didn't explain to users that the records were displayed on the Internet." The company has revised its rules for users and notified them of the current situation.

Many online game sites provide services in which users can exchange information about their game results and other information. On the Xbox LIVE site operated by Microsoft, users can choose whether their information will be made public. In the case of Nintendo Co.'s DS consoles, only users of the game site can exchange information such as the games they have played. Even if people believe they are using an SNS service anonymously, it may be possible to identify them by combining information from two or more SNS sites. In January, a female university student posted on Twitter about seeing a professional soccer player on a date at a hotel where she worked part-time. The posting caused a big fuss online, and the university student's identity was unveiled about five hours after she put up the message. Her real name was discovered because she used Mixi under a similar ID, and had disclosed the name of her university on that site. Pictures of herself that she had put on Facebook were also leaked onto the wider Internet.

Hisamichi Okamura, a lawyer who is an expert in Internet and personal information issues, said: "Now is an age in which everybody can send out information. A person can be famous under another name on the Internet, and be attacked under that name. "Thus the other names used on the Internet are increasingly significant. If someone's real name is unveiled, it may infringe their privacy. "Users have to be very careful about managing their personal information. Also, companies need to present guidelines for protecting information related to individuals."

From The Yomiuri Shimbun 11/28/2011

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Gov't Warns of Increasing Rates of HIV, AIDS Infection

Health Minister Yoko Komiyama made an appearance at an AIDS awareness event in Shibuya on Sunday to encourage Japanese people to take an HIV check ahead of the U.N.-designated World AIDS Day on Dec 1. Komiyama said AIDS checks are available at public health centers across Japan and are free and anonymous, TV Asahi reported. World AIDS Day aims to draw attention to the steadily increasing rates of AIDS infection around the world. The ministry revealed that reported cases of HIV and AIDS infection in Japan last year surpassed 1,500 and that infection rates are increasing. The ministry also added that of those infected, around 70% were in their 20s and 30s, TV Asahi reported. The ministry also said that it believes around 90% of those infected caught the disease through unprotected sex with an infected partner. A spokesperson urged people to use a condom for contraception and to visit a health center for a check.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 12/09/2011

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Japan's Post-tsunami Revival Plan Reaches Tipping Point

TOKYO (Reuters) - Nine months after a historic magnitude 9.0 earthquake unleashed a deadly tsunami that wreaked havoc across Japan's northeast, the nation, armed with $155 billion in funding, is entering a critical stage of the rebuilding effort. Damaged railways and major roads are mostly fixed with at least temporary repairs, two-thirds of ruined ports have been restored and 47,000 households moved from emergency shelters to temporary housing. Of 22 million tonnes of rubble, two-thirds have been cleaned up, but final disposal remains a dangerous challenge because of concerns about radiation that spewed from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. All the recovery efforts were made possible by initial emergency budgets totaling 6 trillion yen ($77.19 billion).

Now Tokyo and local officials must produce a plan to "build better" to give the region, long beset by a shrinking and ageing population and lack of investment, a chance of revival. The tsunami-hit area accounts for about 6-7 percent of Japan's economic output, but the stakes are high for the entire nation. Policymakers, investors and companies are counting on the rebuilding effort to give the $5 trillion economy a jolt needed to keep it from sliding back into recession under the weight of a global slowdown and fears of contagion from Europe's debt crisis. People and businesses, pessimistic about the region's future however, are packing up. More than 38,000 residents left the area between March and August, the biggest exodus since 1969. Of those that remain, 180,000 out of the region's 5.7 million residents have filed jobless claims between March and October, 70 percent more than a year earlier.

"The people who evacuated the area after the disaster won't feel compelled to return unless they can find stable jobs, so reconstruction without job creation would be a failure," said Hideo Kumano, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute. "That money will finally flow in is a good news, but it is not a guarantee of a self-sustaining recovery of quake-hit areas." So far the news is not encouraging. Plans to modernize the struggling fishing industry or move coastal communities to higher ground, a precondition for large-scale rebuilding and investment, have been slow to materialize. Overwhelmed local bureaucracies, opposition from fishing cooperatives and the need to win the hearts and minds of skeptical residents are getting in the way. "Unless we can have accords with local people, we cannot proceed with rebuilding projects because there is a possibility of opposition," says a regional official in Miyagi, one of the three prefectures worst hit by the March 11 disaster. That means it may take months before rebuilding funds start flowing to projects on the ground, local officials say.

OLD BUSINESSES, OLD PEOPLE
The national government is promising five-year tax holidays and light-touch regulation on fishing rights, land use and other issues to those who will invest in special industrial zones in disaster-hit areas. Foreign businesses are also eligible. Industrial parks focused on automotive parts or medical equipment production as well as renewable energy projects such as wind farms are among ideas proposed by Tokyo. The process of deciding what to build and where has only just started and only 10 out of 19 municipalities requiring rebuilding in Miyagi prefecture have reconstruction plans ready. In neighboring Iwate, eight out of 12 have such plans. Reconstruction experts say a shortage of qualified planning professionals is one of the obstacles.

"The fact that many of quake-hit cities and towns are scarcely populated has made it difficult for local officials to create rebuilding plans on their own," said Yoshiyuki Aoki, a senior official of the government's reconstruction office in Tokyo. He says that, whereas the 1995 Kobe quake hit residential areas constantly under redevelopment, much of the northeast has no recent history of re-zoning and city planning and lacks experts. Tokyo wants to rectify that by sending a team of specialists to help, Aoki says. Re-establishing the fishing industry is another tough question facing planners. Cooperatives are defending a system that only loosely ties fishermen with processing firms and retailers, but keeps rivals out and Miyagi governor's initiative to open the business to outsiders got drowned in protests.

Shigeru Tabeta, professor of ocean technology and environment at the University of Tokyo who is assisting with rebuilding of port towns, says preserving the status quo is self-defeating. Tax breaks and incentives will only work if Japan opens its protected farming and fisheries to foreigners, experts say. With no magic bullet in sight, spending more on a solid safety net may be the only way to keep communities intact until revitalization plans materialize, says Iwao Sato, sociology of law professor at the University of Tokyo. His survey of the fishing town of Kamaishi showed more than a third of residents were out of work, compared with a fifth before the quake while the population of self-employed has fallen to 17 percent from 28 percent. "The government has mostly focused on building seabanks, elevating land levels and other infrastructure development," Sato says. "But more attention is probably needed on supporting the livelihoods of people through direct assistance on employment and homes, or else people will leave."
($1 = 77.7300 Japanese yen)

From http://old.news.yahoo.com/ 12/13/2011

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No. of Welfare Recipients Reaches Record High

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Monday that the number of welfare recipients in Japan reached a record high of 2.60 million as of Aug 31. The ministry said it will step up efforts to help unemployed people find jobs and also crack down on those fraudulently receiving welfare benefits. The jobless rate for men stood at 4.8%, while that for women was at 4.0%, the ministry said, attributing the high numbers of jobless to the strong yen and the March 11 disaster. Health Minister Yoko Koriyama said her ministry will work with local governments to revise the welfare benefits system to help get welfare recipients back to work, NHK said. She said officials from Hello Work job agencies will visit local welfare offices and establish vocational training programs with non-profit organizations. Koriyama also said that benefits may be discontinued to those not making an effort to find jobs, especially those who do not attend vocational training programs. Penalties will also be toughened against those people fraudulently claiming welfare benefits, NHK reported.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 12/13/2011

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Japan Central Bank Says Business Confidence Falls

A key central bank survey showed Thursday that confidence at major Japanese manufacturers fell over the last quarter, as the export-reliant country battled a strong yen and an increasingly precarious global economy. In the Bank of Japan's "tankan" survey of business sentiment, the main index for big manufacturers fell to minus 4, in the first deterioration in two quarters. Three months ago, it stood at 2. The figure represents the percentage of companies saying business conditions are good minus those saying conditions are unfavorable, with 100 representing the best mood and minus 100 the worst. The result is slightly worse than Kyodo News agency's average market forecast for a reading of minus 2. Large manufacturers also don't expect to feel better anytime soon. The central bank forecasts the index to fall to minus 5 over the next three months.

Japan has been battling a strong yen, which has hit multiple historic highs this year against the dollar. Amid Europe's debt problems and economic uncertainty in the U.S., global investors have looked to the Japanese currency as a relatively safe haven. But Japan relies on exports to drive growth, and the yen's appreciation has hit companies such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Sony Corp. hard. When the yen climbs, it reduces the value of exporters' overseas profits when repatriated to Japan. That has forced companies to shift more production overseas, prompting worries about a hollowing out of Japanese industry. The most pessimistic of the big manufacturing group was the electrical machinery sector - including audio and video equipment - which tumbled to minus 21 from minus 5. Companies doing business in petroleum products and heavy machinery also recorded big declines. The auto industry, however, showed surprising resilience. Its index jumped seven points to 20, despite the yen and recent parts supply problems due to the flooding in Thailand.

Big non-manufacturers were feeling more optimistic as well. Their confidence index rose to 4 from 1 three months earlier. The reading for medium-sized manufacturers was flat at minus 3, while the small manufacturers index improved to minus 8, up from minus 11. The survey, which helps guide monetary policy, showed that large companies overall plan to boost capital spending by 1.4 percent this fiscal year through March 2012. The figure is down from 3 percent in the September survey. Large manufacturing companies assume an average exchange rate of 79.02 yen per dollar for this fiscal year, compared with 81.15 yen three months ago. Big companies expect profits to retreat 9 percent this fiscal year after jumping 46 percent last year. The Bank of Japan surveyed 10,846 companies nationwide. About 99 percent responded. The bank's next policy board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

From http://news.yahoo.com/ 12/14/2011

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Japan Premier Says Nuclear Site Stable

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan declared on Friday an end to the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, saying technicians have regained control of reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. "Today, we have reached a great milestone," Noda said in a televised address to the nation. "The reactors are stable, which should resolve one big cause of concern for us all." The declaration - which comes nine months after an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the seaside plant, triggering a huge radiation leak - could set the stage for the return of some evacuees to affected areas. The government will now focus on removing the fuel stored at the site, opening up the ravaged reactors themselves and eventually dismantling the plant, a process that is expected to take at least four decades, Noda said.

But for many of the people of Fukushima, the crisis is far from over. More than 160,000 people remain displaced, and even as the government lifts evacuation orders for some communities, many are refusing to return home. "This does not ring true for us at all," said Hirofumi Onuma, 52, deputy principal of a high school in Minamisoma, which was evacuated after the disaster. "The plant is like a black box, and we don't know what is really happening," Onuma said. "I feel no relief." Environmentalists blasted the government's claims of progress at Fukushima. "By triumphantly declaring a cold shutdown, the Japanese authorities are clearly anxious to give the impression that the crisis has come to an end, which is clearly not the case," environmental group Greenpeace said in a statement. Blame for the accident has been laid on a confluence of many factors: a once-in-a-millennium tsunami, a site vulnerable to seismic disasters, a response that fell short and cozy ties between nuclear operators and those tasked to oversee them.

Many experts still doubt the government's assertion that the plant is now in a stable state and worry that officials are declaring victory only to quell public anger over the accident. The announcement on Friday of the equivalent of a "cold shutdown," a technical term that means a reactor's cooling system operates below 200 degrees Fahrenheit, assumes that the reactors are intact, said Hiroaki Koide, assistant professor at the Research Reactor Institute at Kyoto University and a prominent nuclear critic. The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., has acknowledged that the uranium fuel in three reactors has likely melted through their containments. Some experts, including Koide, suspect the fuel could be threatening groundwater. Experts have also expressed concern over signs of sporadic "recriticality" of the fuel, a phenomenon in which nuclear fission resumes in melted nuclear fuel lying on the floor of a storage pool or reactor core. Tokyo Electric, however, has said any fission is not likely to be self-sustaining. The plant continues to leak radiation, and water used to cool the reactors is still building up at the plant, forcing officials to consider releasing contaminated water into the ocean.

From http://detnews.com/article/ 12/17/2011

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SOUTH KOREA: Top 1% Make Over W130 Million a Year

Some 323,000 people earn at least a nine-digit gross annual income, according to the Chosun Ilbo's analysis of income data of 12.48 million salaried workers registered with the National Health Insurance. The number has risen steadily from 40,000 in 2002 and has now broken the 300,000 mark for the first time. About 2.6 percent of salaried workers earn at least W100 million. Those in the top 1 percent make at least W130 million a year (US$1=W1,154). National Health Insurance data cover almost all working people from civil servants, teachers and office workers to professional practitioners like doctors and lawyers, except the self-employed. But 51.1 percent or 6.38 million salaried workers are paid less than W2 million per month, still a significant portion but a decrease from 58 percent in 2005.

From http://english.chosun.com/site/ 11/29/2011

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65% of Citizens Believe Korean Society Is Corrupt

More than half of citizens here think Korean society and government officials are corrupt, according to a survey released Friday. The survey was conducted by the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission on 1,400 citizens and public servants and 700 businessmen here from Oct. 26 to Nov. 24 to measure their perceived levels of corruption in society. In the survey, 65.4 percent of citizens said Korean society was corrupt, up from 51.6 percent last year, and 56.7 percent also said government office workers were corrupt, up from 54.1 percent. A number of respondents were also critical of the government's anti-corruption measures, saying they are not effective. About 53 percent said they were skeptical of the government's anti-corruption measures, up from 42.7 percent. And 27.3 percent also said there will be more corruption in the future, up from 17 percent last year.

The anti-corruption watchdog said more negative attitudes seemed to have been affected by a series of recent corruption cases involving politicians and businessmen. The survey showed that young people took a more skeptical stance on the issue. Some 30 percent of those aged 50 and over said corruption cases will decrease in the future while only 20 percent of those aged 49 and below thought so. As major culprits, 56.6 percent of the respondents cited politicians and 23.3 percent blamed high-ranking government officials. The survey also found about 3 percent of citizens had offered gifts or bribed local government workers to receive favors while 6.7 percent of businessmen had done so. In the survey about the government's transparency on its policies on business activities, 27.1 percent of businessmen polled handed out a failing grade.

As a reason, 43.2 percent of them cited unfairness in the process of making policies and 25.8 percent said there were too frequent changes in policies. Based on the survey results, the anti-corruption watchdog will request the legislation of a special law to fight corruption, root out the influence-peddling culture and protect whistle-blowers. In a related move, they will strengthen anti-corruption education programs and launch campaigns with an anti-corruption center opening next year in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province. According to Transparency International, South Korea ranked 43rd among some 180 surveyed countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index this year, receiving 5.4 out of 10, and came in 27th among the 34 OECD member countries.

From http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/ 12/09/2011

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S. Korea Revises Down Growth Forecasts

South Korea's central bank on Friday cut its 2012 growth forecast to 3.7 percent from an earlier projection of 4.6 percent as exports are expected to slow due to Europe's debt crisis and a global slowdown. It is the slowest growth projection since Asia's fourth-largest economy expanded just 0.3 percent in 2009. The estimate is in line with private think tanks and international organisations, which said South Korea's economy would grow less than four percent next year. The Bank of Korea also revised down this year's growth forecast to 3.8 percent from its July projection of 4.3 percent. "This (downward revision) reflects projections of slower export growth and weakening consumer and investment confidence, stemming from the worsening of the euro-area sovereign-debt problems," the bank said in a statement. Exports are forecast to grow 5.0 percent next year, down sharply from a 11.6 percent rise this year, it said. The bank said inflation would ease to 3.3 percent in 2012 from 4.0 percent this year.

The bank's revisions come amid a slowdown in the global economy and a day after it left interest rates on hold for a sixth straigh month in a bid to boost activity. Adding to Seoul's troubles are the debt crisis in Europe and a stuttering economy in the United States, both of which are key export markets for South Korea. "Downside risks to growth outweigh upside risks," Lee Sang-woo, director-general at the BOK's research department, said at a media briefing. "The BOK's 2012 growth forecast cannot be viewed as conservative as there is a chance that the growth outlook can be revised down," he said, accordnig to Dow Jones Newswires. The bank Thursday kept its key interest rate unchanged at 3.25 percent for a sixth straight month, underscoring a policy dilemma as growth momentum was weakening while inflation persists.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/ 12/09/2011

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South Korea Slashes 2012 GDP View on Global Uncertainty

The South Korean government on Monday slashed its growth forecast for 2012 and said it would spend more than half of its budget in the first half to stem possible negative impacts from the euro zone debt crisis and a slowdown in developed countries. The Ministry of Strategy and Finance said Asia's fourth largest economy was expected to grow by 3.7 percent in 2012, down sharply from its initial forecast of 4.5 percent. It also cut this year's GDP forecast to 3.8 percent, from the 4.5 percent seen in June. The 2012 forecast matches the Bank of Korea's revised GDP forecast made last Friday, when it warned of possible further downgrades, and is 0.1 percentage point lower than that of the state-run Korea Development Institute. The finance ministry said annual growth would linger in the 1-percent range during the first half of 2012 due to the European debt issues, but would pick up for the rest of the year.

As the ministry sees the economy struggling in the first six months of 2012, it has decided to frontload 60 percent of its budget for next year to fund efforts to support the economy at that time, it said. "Policies based on stabilizing costs will be implemented in a flexible manner, looking at changes inside and outside South Korea, to heighten economic activity," the ministry said in a report. Annual export growth for 2012 is seen diving to 7.4 percent from nearly 20 percent this year, with global trade losing steam on low demand from the euro zone and the United States, though the ministry expressed hopes exports would get a boost from a free trade agreement with the United States passed in November. The ministry also saw annual inflation retreating to 3.2 percent in 2012 on stabilizing agricultural product and global raw material prices. Household income growth is also expected to decline in 2012, which could exacerbate the country's already elevated household debt burden. South Korea's budget bill, which has yet to be approved by parliament, estimates government spending of around 326.1 trillion won ($284.36 billion) next year, according to plans announced in September.

From http://www.cnbc.com/ 12/11/2011

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Korea's Jobless Rate to Top 3.7% in 2012: Think Tanks

Korea's unemployment rate is expected to slightly rise next year on the back of sluggish economic growth at home and abroad, leading private think tanks said Sunday. LG Economic Research Institute forecast the country's jobless rate will be 3.7 percent next year, while Hyundai Research Institute predicted 3.6 percent. Both figures are up from this year's estimated 3.5 percent. Samsung Economic Research Institute predicted a 3.4 percent rate. But it indicated a possible rise, citing lackluster job growth in the public sector. "Manufacturing has been leading the overall employment growth as exports bounce back after the 2008 financial crisis, boosting investments and production," said Lee Ji-sun, an LGERI researcher. "But aggravating external conditions amid the European fiscal crisis, plus Japan's economic recovery, seem to be directly impacting exports and the local economy."

In a report released last week, the Bank of Korea estimated the number of new hires at 280,000 for next year, down more than 31 percent from 407,000 so far this year. It also slashed the country's 2012 growth outlook to 3.7 percent. LGERI's initial forecast came in at slightly more than 200,000 new hirings, but later revised it up to between 250,000 and 300,000 on the government's drive to create more jobs. Job insecurity has long been a matter of concern for the government and economists as it could prompt a cutback in consumption, retard economic growth and further dampen the already fragile labor market. If less than 300,000 people get on the payroll next year, the nation's entire consumption could start tottering, economists said.

"If we fail to secure 300,000 new jobs, we will have to fret about a crunch in domestic demand," said Lee Sang-jae, chief economic analyst at Hyundai Securities. Since a 4.4 percent peak in 2000, Korea's jobless rate has fallen and hovered between 3.2 percent and 3.7 percent even during global slumps in 2008-9. However, employment in manufacturing, the foremost driving force behind Korea's economy, has slowed down since April in the face of looming debt calamities in Europe and the U.S., government data showed. "A slowdown in rich economies and shrinking investments by local companies will reduce new jobs in export and manufacturing industries," Hyundai Research Institute said. Brokerages remained more upbeat, expecting a modest improvement for the job market next year. Woori Investment & Securities and Hyundai Securities projected that around 300,000 will be newly hired, while Daishin Economic Research Institute forecast 260,000. "The manufacturing sector will not add many jobs, but job growth will continue in the service sector," said Lee Seung-hoon, an economist at Samsung Securities.

From http://sg.news.yahoo.com/ 12/12/2011

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OPINION: The 'Angry Generation' in Korea

When they say there are two Koreas, it naturally means North and South Korea. These days, however, it also means the division of South Korea into two antagonizing groups like east and west, conservatives and progressives and left and right. It is lamentable that today's South Korea is radically divided into two hostile extremes, tearing the already half-reduced country into two again. Perhaps the only comfort is that Korea is not alone in experiencing such a phenomenon; people say that there are also two Americas. Recently, TIME magazine carried an intriguing article entitled, "The New Generation Gap", that insightfully discussed the seemingly irreducible chasm between the two Americas. It reads: "For the past several years, our political conversation has focused on great divides in our national life: red and blue, the coasts vs. the heartland, the 1 per cent vs. the 99 per cent."

These sharp, yet vast divides in both the Korean and American societies primarily result from the generation gap between the young and the old. The TIME article, too, pointed out that age makes all the difference: "But the deepest split is the one that cuts across all these and turns not on income or geography but on age." The article named the younger of the two the "The Millennial Generation (aged 18-30)" and the older one "The Silent Generation (aged 66-83)." According to TIME, the Millennial Generation refers to Americans born after 1980 who reached adulthood during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama eras, while the Silent Generation includes Americans over 65 who came of age between World War II and the Vietnam War. The Millennial Generation almost always carries iPhones and iPads with headphones plugged into their ears, constantly surfing the Internet, whereas the Silent Generation is remote from such electronic devices and mainly stay offline, unaware of online social networks, and completely excluded from the online communities so pervasive among younger people.

South Korea, too, is suffering from the same generation gap. Due to unprecedented technological advancement, the Korean Millennial Generation seems to live in an entirely different world from the conventional, offline world in which the computer-illiterate Silent Generation resides. Born during the right-wing Chun Doo-hwan era, but raised under the force of radical social change during the left-leaning Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun presidencies, these young people harbor progressive views on sociopolitical issues. On the other hand, the Korean Silent Generation refers to the people who were born after the liberation and experienced dramatic social turmoil and political upheavals such as the Korean War, the 4/19 Students' Revolution, the 5/16 Military Coup and so on. Meanwhile, they have become anti-Communist conservatives who once lived under the right-wing military dictatorship. These were hard-working people who did not hesitate to sacrifice themselves for the economic development of South Korea. To their disappointment, however, the younger generation does not want to acknowledge their elders' efforts and toils. Instead, they simply relish the sweet juice of astonishing economic growth. Worse, the Millennial Generation tends to dismiss the Silent Generation as hopelessly conservative surplus people.

Both in Korea and America, indeed, young and old people perceive everything so differently that nothing seems to be able to reduce the vast sea of differences between them. And their different views have been vividly reflected in the election. For example, we have seen many younger Koreans voting for the Democratic Party who claims to be progressive, and many older Koreans vote for the Grand National Party, which is more conservative. TIME magazine predicted that "The 2012 election could be one of the starkest intergenerational showdowns in American history." The same thing will happen during the 2012 elections in South Korea as well. Meanwhile, another generation is now emerging in Korean society. This new generation is what we may call the "Angry Generation", who is angry not only with the incompetence and corruption of right-wing conservative politicians, but also with the deception and violence of left-wing radicals. The Angry Generation, which is not defined by just one age group, is tired of the ideological warfare in Korean society between the left and the right. Doubtful of both progressives and conservatives, they call for an end to the chronic antagonism in Korean society. They are angry at the bleak job market, endless social and political turbulence, and the selfishness of power-hungry politicians. They are also angry at the prejudice of Korean society against others ? foreigners, strangers and fellow citizens from other provinces.

This frustrated Angry Generation will decisively affect the 2012 elections in South Korea, which will serve as a judgment day for both the ruling GNP and the opposition DP. The 2012 elections will be a crucial moment for South Korea, since depending on the outcome, South Korea may be able to soar into the skies, or unable to take off and eventually crash to the ground. Like the Angry Young Men in the American 1950s, the Korean Angry Generation will trust no one and revolt against the hypocrisy and absurdity of our society in order to create a better society.

From http://ph.news.yahoo.com/ 12/14/2011

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Index Shows Business Sentiment Down

Korea's manufacturing confidence for the first quarter of next year plunged to a three-year low on jitters over a global economic slowdown, a poll showed yesterday. According to the survey of 2,200 local manufacturers by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the business sentiment index slumped to 77 for the January-March period of 2012, down 17 points from 94 for the current quarter, and staying below the 100-point level for the second straight quarter. The figure marks the lowest level in nearly three years since it hit 66 in the second quarter of 2009 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. A reading below 100 means pessimists outnumber optimists.

"Local companies are concerned about grim economic conditions for next year," said the KCCI in a statement. The companies said sluggish demand, financial troubles, fluctuations in exchange rates and high commodity prices will hurt their business conditions in the coming quarter. The survey also said that both conglomerates and smaller companies have a gloomy picture of their business conditions in the first three months of next year. The first-quarter sentiment index for large companies stood at 79, down from 94 for the fourth quarter of this year, and that for small- and medium -sized enterprises dropped from 94 to 77. The confidence index for exporting companies also fell to 84 from 99, while the figure for domestic-oriented firms fell to 75 from 93, according to the survey.

From http://koreajoongangdaily.joinsmsn.com/ 12/19/2011

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MONGOLIA: ADB Funded Road Program to Spur Growth, Development in West Mongolia

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a financing facility of up to $170 million for road improvements along a transport corridor in western Mongolia that will help reduce the region's isolation and spur development in one of the country's poorest areas."The remote western region of Mongolia suffers from high levels of poverty and underdevelopment, partly as a result of the lack of paved roads," said Steven Lewis-Workman, Transport Economist in ADB's East Asia Department. "Building paved roads in an area where there are very few will bring broad social and economic benefits, including increased access to jobs and markets both within Mongolia and with neighboring countries."

The funds for the Western Regional Road Corridor Investment Program will be released through a multitranche financing facility, with an agreed first loan payment of $45 million. The program will construct over 290 kilometers of regional roads, rehabilitate and construct some connecting local roads, build and equip three road maintenance units, and provide training and other capacity development support for road sector institutions. The investments, which complement another ongoing ADB road project in the corridor, will help complete the Western Regional Road. The route, which links Mongolia to the Russian Federation in the north and People's Republic of China in the south, is one of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) program's priority corridors, designed to boost trade, tourism and investment amongst member countries and beyond.

Past ADB road investments in Mongolia have relied on foreign contractors to carry out the work, but the new program will target increased input from domestic contractors and help build the capacity of Mongolia's road sector institutions to construct, manage, and maintain Mongolia's rapidly expanding road network. The first tranche loan, with a 32-year tenor, will come from ADB's concessional Asian Development Fund, with two further tranches to follow. The Government of Mongolia will contribute $92 million for a total investment cost of $262 million. The program will run for eight years with an expected completion date of December 2020.

From http://beta.adb.org/news/ 12/14/2011

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INDONESIA: To Use E-audit System in Western Province

The Supreme Audit Agency (Badan Pemeriksa Keuangan) will be using an electronic audit system to reach the isolated towns of West Papua as part of the agency's move to enhance and improve the financial accountability of government institutions. West Papua is a province of Indonesia covering the western peninsula of the island of New Guinea and has a population of 761,000 people. The e-audit system, which has already been implemented in other regions, would enable financial reports from the local administration, the central government, and relevant state firms to be uploaded to the agency's database. The system would establish a link-and-match relationship between the government and parties related to state financial management and the Supreme Audit Agency. With the system, the government will be able to check and monitor state finances, and track irregularities in the financial reports more efficiently. According to Supreme Audit Agency Chief Hasan Bisri, the e-audit system is urgently needed in West Papua because financial reports from the region were often late and not properly made. He added that the number of local administrations in West Papua had more than doubled in the last five years. The number of auditors, meanwhile, had always been limited, "Through this system, we will be able to study and prevent state losses earlier, and also improve the province's financial accountability and transparency" he said.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/01/2011

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MALAYSIA: To Set Up 4,000 WiFi Villages by 2012

By the end of 2012, about 4000 WiFi villages will be set up nationwide as part of the Government's initiative to bring the benefits of broadband to the citizens. According to Information, Communications and Culture Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Rais Yatim, at present there are only about 1,400 WiFi villages in the country and are mostly found in Perlis, Sabah, and Sarawak. "We are in the process of building electronic towers in Sabah and Sarawak, therefore our big enrolment drive to create Malaysia as an internet community is there now," he said. The average cost of the project for each village is about RM25,000 (USD 7,800) to RM 32,000 (USD 10,000). The villages would be provided with the normal computerising system with broadband facility which will be free of charge for the first three months, while a minimum of RM10 (USD 3) per month would be charged subsequently. The WiFi village project is an important component in helping the Government realise its objective of becoming a high-income and high skilled nation driven by innovation and a knowledgeable society. The Government hopes that recipients of the facility will regard broadband as a necessity in their daily lives, not only as an unlimited resource to obtain useful information and as a means to connect with other people, but also in the conduct of their business and work. The Minister added that in order to expand the use of the facility, an educational process in terms of sharing knowledge and experiences by relevant agencies are crucial to further increase the number and performance of online businesses in the country. "What is lacking is the systematic educational system to teach our young and older generation how to do business online in a manner that it is a culture with great returns besides garnering confidence," he said.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 11/23/2011
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PHILIPPINES: Project Seeks Improved Living Conditions of Poor

In a bid to solve the unchecked mushrooming of squatters in Metro Manila, the government on Monday launched the National Slum Upgrading Strategy (NSUS) project. Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is also the chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) said that the project will guide the efforts of national and local government units in upgrading slum communities and improving the living conditions of informal settlers in the cities. "The formulation of a national slum upgrading strategy, supported by this Project as well as the resources of the government, will boost our efforts to alleviate the plight of informal communities and improve the livability as well as the global competitiveness of our cities," he said. The Philippines is among the rapidly urbanizing countries in Asia with 60 percent of its population living in urban areas. At its current urbanization rate, its urban population is expected to account for 75 percent of the total national population in 25 years. Binay said that Metro Manila alone houses an estimated 12.5 million Filipinos - three million of whom are considered informal settlers. Of this number, about 525,000 live in vulnerable areas near waterways, esteros and under bridges completely exposed to and unprotected from the hazards of urban living and climate change. "Slum communities in the Philippines endure poor living conditions such as cramped living spaces, lack of proper housing and insecure tenure, inadequate access to basic services such as water and sanitation, and exposure to health risks," Binay said.

Funding for this Project will come from a US$455,000 grant from Cities Alliance, a global coalition of cities and their development partners committed to scaling up successful approaches to slum upgrading, city development strategies, and poverty reduction. The Cities Alliance is housed at the World Bank. As part of the process of developing a national slum upgrading strategy, the Project will provide resources for coming up with a comprehensive assessment and database on the condition, issues, opportunities, and risks confronting slum communities. "Community empowerment is at the core of any slum upgrading initiative. More than ever, we need to step up and effectively address the repercussions of urbanization," he said. According to Binay, the national slum upgrading strategy will help local government units identify policy and program options for local slum upgrading that will be integrated into the local planning process. "As we move forward in bringing our shelter programs and services closer through the Pabahay Caravan, we are sharing this NSUS initiative with the LGUs," Binay said. The launching at the Coconut Palace was attended by representatives from the country's Key Shelter Agencies, World Bank, United Nations Habitat (UN Habitat), Metro Manila Development Authority as well as local chief executives of the National Capital Region. Members of Cities Alliance include local government units, governments (including Australia, Brazil, Chile, Ethiopia, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Nigeria Norway, Philippines, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States); non-government organizations including Slum Dwellers International and Habitat for Humanity International; and multilateral organizations including the European Union, United Nations Environmental Protection Agency, UN-HABITAT, and the World Bank.

From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 12/20/2011

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SINGAPORE: Launch of OneKey - Security and Convenience for Online Transactions

Singapore, 12 December 2011 - Service providers such as banks and securities trading firms can now offer their end users the security and convenience of using just one two-factor authentication (2FA) device (OneKey). This was announced today by Assurity Trusted Solutions (Assurity), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), at the public launch of OneKey. Speaking at the event, Mr Chai Chin Loon, Chief Operating Officer of Assurity said, "Today marks a milestone for national e-security as the national two-factor authentication system goes live. With OneKey, end users would be able to make more secure online transactions and access multiple services using just one security device." Rising trend of online fraud and identity theft. Amid the rising trend of online fraud and identity theft, banks and securities trading firms have been required to put in place a 2FA platform for customers to make electronic transactions. The 2FA platform is an important second line of defence against unauthorised transactions. A basic 2FA platform requires a user to receive a one-time password (OTP), either via a physical device, or through a text message to his personal electronic devices (such as handphone), to complete the transaction. These devices are vulnerable to malware that can steal personal information and sniff out unencrypted text messages. A recent spate of man-in-the-middle attacks, SpyEye being a high-profile example, have exposed the vulnerabilities of basic 2FA using OTP only. The introduction of OneKey will help safeguard end users' online transactions with its triple functions of OTP, Challenge Response and Transaction Signing.

Mr Chai said, "Typical 2FA transactions based on just OTP, either through hardware device or SMS, can still be exploited by man-in-the-middle attacks. Transaction Signing will require users to key in their transaction details, which provide an additional layer of security to detect any changes to the details. One can think of Transaction Signing in OneKey as the equivalent of signing an online cheque." OneKey is developed by ST Electronics. The device is manufactured by VASCO Data Security International Inc, a US-based leader in strong authentication and e-signature solutions. Mr Lim Hup Seng, Executive Chairman of Assurity said, "We are in the era of the Internet and e-transactions will be a way of life. We envisage that in time to come, the majority of the people will transact online. The national two-factor authentication system is now live. Service Providers can now protect their end users' online transactions. OneKey offers security with convenience." The pioneer Service Providers to rise to the challenge are Phillip Securities Pte Ltd, Kim Eng Securities Pte Ltd and ST Electronics. Phillip Securities and Kim Eng Securities have started integration testing and will pilot OneKey among their end users soon. Employees of ST Electronics and Engineering have started using OneKey.

Accessing multiple online platforms with just OneKey
OneKey also gives users access to multiple online platforms. They may do online banking and online securities trading with just a single device. Users can look forward to the convenience of using just OneKey as more Service Providers come on board. Ms Rachel Lee, Managing Director of SC Auto Industries says, "I am really excited about this new national initiative to consolidate all 2FA tokens into a single device. I now hold nine tokens for both my personal and corporate banking. It is such a nightmare especially when I am overseas and have to make payment approvals and fund transfers! Now I can have the option of carrying just OneKey."

E-security awareness programme
From January 2012, Assurity will roll out a year-long public education programme to guide consumers on how to use OneKey. There will be talks and exhibitions to engage the public. These public exhibitions will take the fun-and-games approach. The first public education outreach was held today at lunchtime at Mapletree Business City.

From http://www.assurity.sg/ 12/12/2011

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E-waste Recycling in Singapore

A recent article from Scrap Magazine, which can be read here, discusses two E-Waste facilities in South East Asia, and how they are taking advantage of the developing market. For first time readers of this column, it is important to understand the basics of this industry. E-Waste, Electronic Waste, is the new buzz word that describes discarded electronics. A computer may be outdated, but everything from the motherboard to the plastic case can be recycled or sold for reuse. The process of dismantling the different components in an efficient way is to separate the plastic shell from the components, circuit boards, hard drives, power supply, etc. The circuit boards contain commodities such as palladium, copper, gold and silver. Recycling outdated computers is an immediate step that every business can take to improve their carbon footprint. The article discussing how the E-Waste industry is expanding globally, and how companies in Singapore now hold ISO 14001, ISO 9001, and OHSAS 18001 certification of its environmental, quality, and safety management systems. As we mentioned in this series, certification is an important step for the continued global growth of the E-Waste industry.

"The debate over the export of scrap electronics from the developed world to the developing world - specifically, from Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development member countries such as those in North America and Europe to non-OECD members, which include Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam - misses one fact that's fueling these companies' growth: With or without exports, electronic scrap is here. The supply of obsolete personal computers generated in the developing world will actually exceed that generated in the developed world within five to seven years, according to forecasts that researchers at Nankai University (Tianjin, China) and Arizona State University (Tempe, Ariz.) published last year. "Asia has 50 percent of the world's population," points out Venkatesha "Venky" Murthy, Cimelia's managing director, "but most of the consumer market hasn't been touched yet by consumer electronics." This market's growth will create "a big environmental challenge," he says, "but also a giant business opportunity for professional recyclers" such as these two companies. It is crucial for the scrap metal recycling industry in the United States to expand their business into the emerging markets. As with most things, this is easier said than done. There are still many challenges facing the industry as it looks to expand into growth markets. Patent infringement and a lack of a central regulatory authority will have an impact on the industry as it expands globally, and it is crucial to develop a framework that will benefit the international environment and economy.

From http://www.forbes.com/ 12/13/2011

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Singapore's Economy May Grow 3% in 2012: MAS Survey

SINGAPORE: Private sector forecasters expect Singapore's economy to grow by 3 per cent in 2012. This is according to the median forecast in the Monetary Authority of Singapore's December survey of Professional Forecasters. The most likely outcome, as reflected by the mean probability forecast, is for growth of between 3 per cent and 3.9 percent. That is down from the September survey range of 5.0 per cent to 5.9 per cent. The outlook is slightly more bullish than the official growth forecast issued by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) of between 1 and 3 per cent for 2012. Private sector economists expect first quarter 2012 year-on-year growth to be zero per cent, before picking up for the rest of the year (Q2: 3 per cent, Q3: 3.6 per cent, Q4: 4.8 per cent). Overall, a moderation in growth is forecast across all sectors next year, with the sharpest adjustment in the manufacturing sector. In 2012, the industry is expected to grow by 3.4 per cent, down from an expected 8.5 per cent this year. The financial services sector is expected to grow 4.2 per cent in 2012, less than half the 9.4 per cent pace forecast for this year. In the manufacturing sector, growth is expected to be at 3.4 per cent, down from 8.5 per cent this year. For hotels and restaurants, growth is expected to be around 4 per cent, down from 5.9 per cent in 2011.

Amid the forecasts of slower growth, unions are preparing workers for the bumpy road ahead. Francis Lim, President of the United Workers of Electronic and Electrical Industries (UWEEI), said: "The union is working with e2i and WDA to help the company to go for training. The last few months, we've started our union, our officers and also e2i have met up with some of the companies. So, they are working out and mapping out some training road map for the companies and also for the workers." Mr Lim said he's seeing some retrenchments, as well as workers going on shorter work weeks although not at an alarming rate. Hiring has slowed down considerably. He added that: "Looking ahead, normally at year end when people get their bonus, they start to move around, especially after Chinese New Year. There will be a slowdown because I think many of them dare not leave their companies, because a lot of uncertainties are ahead of them. They won't know whether they can find another job." For 2011, economic growth forecasts have been trimmed to 5.2 per cent from 5.3 per cent in the previous survey in September. The official forecast by MTI for 2011 is for Singapore's GDP to grow by 5 per cent. In 2012, headline CPI inflation is expected to taper off to 3.1 per cent from the forecast of 5.1 per cent for this year.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 12/14/2011

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THAILAND: Focus on Educational Strengths, Govt Told

With demand for education growing and student mobility increasing due to globalisation and internationalisation, Thailand must act now or risk lagging behind other countries in this field. Relevant agencies are starting to encourage the Education Ministry to seriously strengthen the country's transnational education (TNE). In particular, they have urged the ministry to promote TNE by focusing on those educational fields in which the country has already gained acceptance, instead of pushing Thailand as an education hub, arguing that the latter strategy is too difficult to achieve, Sudhasinee Vajrabul, deputy secretary general of the Office of the Education Council (OEC), said yesterday. Sudhasinee was speaking after a meeting with representatives from the Commerce Ministry's Department of Trade Negotiations (DTN), the Office of Higher Education Commission, the Office of Vocational Education Commission, and universities. They agreed that the ministry should promote Thailand as hub in the medical; nursing; tourism; service and hospitality; food; and agricultural fields. These fields were accepted internationally, so Thailand would be able to succeed more easily in promoting these specific fields, rather than relying solely on the education hub strategy, to which the overall quality of education and English language literacy in the country are important barriers, they said. Sudhasinee said the OEC would present the proposals to Education Minister Woravat Auapinyakul for consideration next Monday(Dec26) to seriously push Thailand's TNE forward.

"Universities in Thailand have provided international education, which is part of TNE, but it is like fashion. Some universities have opened international programmes just to promote themselves, but they are unable to generate profit. International education in Thailand is seen as second-class international education. Thus, we have to seriously provide quality programmes to lure more foreign students," Dhurakij Pundit University (DPU)'s vice president, Prof Paitoon Sinlarat, said. He recommended the universities add something special or unique to their international programmes that students could not learn in other countries, like indigenous drugs, to make their programmes more attractive. In addition to offering English language instruction, Paitoon urged officials to promote Thai language and Thai studies among Asean countries to increase the country's influence in the region, which is similar to what China has done. The idea was backed by many participants at the meeting. More people in Asean - especially in Vietnam - are studying the Thai language, according to information presented at the meeting. DTN official Ronnarong Poonpipat said Thailand should promote four areas of education to drive TNE - distance or online education; international education that brings foreign students to study in the country; international education in which foreign universities open branches or offshore campuses in Thailand; and "flying teacher" programmes.

"The Asean Economic Community is coming in the next three years... If we don't prepare for changes in education, Thailand will become a new educational market for other Other countries which have prepared an aggressive TNE strategy," Sudhasinee said. OEC secretary-general Anek Permvongseni said he planned to host a national conference on TNE to discuss the issue more thoroughly, and a regional conference with Asean countries to learn from their experiences in promoting TNE. "Singapore and Malaysia have aggressively promoted TNE. We should learn from them." Agreeing that disjointed educational policies formulated by different political parties when they come to power posed a crucial obstacle, the meeting's participants agreed to look for ways to develop more seamless policies.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 12/20/2011

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ICT to Monitor Websites

Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung has asked relevant agencies to dispatch Information and Communication Technology (ICT) staff for surveillance and monitoring the lese majeste websites 24 hours a day. Mr Chalerm said Wednesday his committee has set up three sub-committees to accelerate the surveillance work. He rebutted several recommendations proposed by academics and civil society. "This committee will never amend the Criminal Code's article 112 and I see no point of talking about this issue any further. If anyone want to launch the amendment through 20,000 signatures, let them do, but it's not easy. There's no guarantee, it will become a law - if the content (of the law) does not fit the benefit and the well-being of the whole society," said the deputy premier. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has signed up the order on Dec 7 to set up the executive committee to oversee the prevention and suppression of Illegal Information sharing through the ICT. The committee chaired by Mr Chalerm met for the third time this afternoon and agreed to meet twice a month as three sub-committees were now assigned specific tasks. The subcommittee on web monitoring will be chaired by Pol Gen Worapong, Adviser level 10, subcommittee on verifying lese majeste contents to be chaired by Pol Gen Panupong Singhara na Ayudhya, and subcommittee on investigation by Pol Gen Aek Angsananont and Pol Gen Pansiri Prapawat.

Pol Gen Worapong, also secretary to the lese majeste web closure executive committee, said the committee has succeeded in closing 319 URLs and was seeking the closures of another 87 URLs. He said while surveillance equipment (to oversight the websites) was not yet ready for the surveillance work, his sub-committee would be manned by ICT staff from the committee members. The monitoring centre, headed by deputy commander of the Technology Crime Suppression Division Pol Col Siripong Timula, would be run 24 hours on the second floor of the Police Headquarters, said Pol Gen Worapong. Pol Gen Worapong explained that the committee has helped accelerate the court order endorsement as relevant agencies have worked together under one "roof". Usually, it takes a week for the ICT and police to gather information and get the ICT minister to file for a court order to block the lese majeste URLs, now they could do it within one day with the same authorities functioning. The committee would be working separately from the Police Committee on investigation of lese majeste activities through all medium. Both the Chalerm-chaired committee and the normal committee would have to be endorsed by the Police Board whether to file a criminal lawsuit against those media and webmasters, he said. He added that two of five recent suspects of the problematic URLs were being investigated in Nakhon Pathom and Bangkok. Permanent secretaries for defence, foreign affairs, justice, interior, ICT, and secretary generals of the National Security Council and Drug Control Commission as well as police chief and national intelligence agency director were among 22 members of the committee.

From http://www.bangkokpost.com/ 12/21/2011

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INDIA: Delhi to Have E-registration for Property Deals

The Delhi government approved e-Registration of property transactions to cut down on the time taken in such deals and integrate data from various Registrars' offices. "In order to achieve wider goal of computerisation of Sub-Registrar offices, the cabinet has decided to implement e-Registration Fees Project which is highly secured with proper audit trail and cross verification system," Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said. The registration fees are levied on various instruments of transaction of property presented before registering authority for registration under the provision of Registration Act, 1908.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 11/23/2011

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M-governance Gains Momentum in India

Indian states have successfully deployed various mobile-based technologies to offer better public services due to familiarity of people with mobile-based applications. Governments worldwide have successfully deployed mobile-based technologies for providing a wide variety of public services, and the Indian States are following suit. Many Indian states are using mobile-based applications to provide better public services/ Photo credit: The Hindu A few years ago, Kerala launched 'Dr. SMS,' an m-health information system, for providing information on medical facilities available in the locality of the resident. Goa followed, with a mobile governance initiative for issuing alerts for receipt of government applications and complaints and status tracking. Next came Maharashtra. It adopted a similar traffic management system through mobile alerts. "It is obvious, from the way in which mobile markets have grown in India, that not only are mobile phone-based applications are popular, but they are also more inclusive in their reach because it is a medium that people are familiar with," says Nishant Shah, director-research, Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore. A laudable initiative launched by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation in September tries to use technology in an area that requires continuous monitoring.

A mobile phone-based Intelligent Garbage Monitoring System enables sanitary supervisors to report the status of cleaning of garbage bins through their GPS-enabled mobile phones. Centralised reports as well as those of individual bins can be generated with the system. The map with a GIS interface spans all areas of the city. Managing the number of trips, gathering daily summary of the clearance and, most importantly, reports of the bins that are full but have not been cleared can also be obtained. When trash is collected, each bin is photographed with a camera phone. The image is loaded on the website, where it is monitored by an administrator in the municipality office. Earlier, the clearing of bins was monitored through information from sanitary supervisors. "The manual process consumes a lot of time. The use of information technology to monitor municipal services can also increase worker productivity," says S. Raghavendra, administration officer, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. Experts say that though mobile applications for public services delivery use light technologies, they require collaboration among all stakeholders.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 11/23/2011

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India Seeks Internet Content Screening

India has urged social network companies including Facebook, Twitter and Google to remove offensive material, unleashing a storm of criticism from Internet users in the world's largest democracy complaining of censorship. New Delhi: Asserting that there was no question of curbing freedom of press directly or indirectly, Communications and IT Minister Kapil Sibal on Tuesday asked the internet firms like Google and Facebook to fall in line and remove "objectionable content" on their social networking sites. Sibal said the government will evolve guidelines to ensure that such 'blasphemous' material is not part of the content on any platform/ Photo credit: Techit Stating that the government cannot allow the issue of objectionable content to linger on, Sibal told journalists here that he had suggested a mechanism to the internet service providers to resolve the situation. "I suggested that these social networking sites should evolve a mechanism on their own to ensure that such contents are removed as soon as they get to know of it. I told them that this cannot go on. I believe that no reasonable person, aware of the sensibilities of a large section of the communities in this country, would wish to see this in the public domain," he remarked. "This government does not believe in either direct or indirect censorship and that is the reason I have asked these firms to evolve a self-mechanism and come back with a solution," he said. Mr. Sibal further said that way back in September this year, these internet firms were asked to find ways to handle the objectionable content within four weeks, but they failed to respond despite repeated reminders. In early November, the government had prepared the framework for a code of conduct for handling objectionable information. The issue was also discussed with Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and Facebook, he remarked.

Community standards
The Minister said the Internet firms 'backtracked' in giving a written response to the framework prepared by the government. "Orally, they had given consent to some of the clauses, but in writing, they backtracked. They said they cannot do anything. They also suggested that community standards of the U.S. will apply here," he added. However, Mr. Sibal said the U.S. Supreme Court judgements had clearly stated that community standards differ in the U.S. from place to place. "Even if the U.S. laws were to be applied here, the community standards in India have to be taken into account," he said. Sibal said the government will evolve guidelines to ensure that such "blasphemous" material is not part of the content on any platform. "The media are blaming the government for interfering in the freedom of the press. This is far from the truth because we are seeking their cooperation and if somebody is not willing to cooperate on incendiary material like this, it is the duty of the government to think of steps," he added.

To seek domain details
Sibal also said the government will seek details like the domain name, place and origin of content and the platforms used to upload objectionable material on social websites. He also accused the internet firms for not providing information on the use of cyber space by suspected terrorist operatives. "Sometimes, when data with respect to terrorists is sought in terms of email, there is hesitation to provide that data to us. Some of them have even moved courts. All stakeholders should be sensitive to the concerns of the communities in which they operate," he said. In a statement, social networking site Facebook said: "We want Facebook to be a place where people can discuss things freely, while respecting the rights and feelings of others, which is why we already have policies and on-site features in place that enable people to report abusive content. We will remove any content that violates our terms, which are designed to keep material that is hateful, threatening, incites violence or contains nudity off the service. We recognise the government's interest in minimising the amount of abusive content that is available online and will continue to engage with the Indian authorities as they debate this important issue."

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 12/06/2011

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India's Income Inequality Doubles in 20 Years: OECD

Inequality in earnings has doubled in India over the last two decades, making it the worst performer among all emerging economies, says a new OECD report. It also says that 42% of Indians live below the poverty line, as against the official figure of 37%.The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says the top 10% of wage-earners make 12 times more than the bottom 10%, compared to six times 20 years ago. India has also not fared well in poverty reduction, the report says/ Photo credit: AFP The OECD says India has the highest number of poor in the world. Some 42% of its 1.21 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day.

Poverty line
"Brazil, Indonesia and, on some indicators, Argentina have recorded significant progress in reducing inequality over the past 20 years," the report, entitled Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising, says. "By contrast, China, India, the Russian Federation and South Africa have all become less equal over time." In India, the report says, the ratio between the top and the bottom wage-earners has doubled since the early 1990s. India has also not fared well in poverty reduction, the report says. It says 42% of Indians live below the poverty line, as against the official Indian figure of 37%.The Paris-based OECD is a grouping of 34 advanced and emerging economies. Recently, the Indian government was criticised for saying that an individual income of 25 rupees (52 US cents) a day would help provide for adequate "private expenditure on food, education and health" in villages. In cities, it said, individual earnings of 32 rupees a day (66 US cents) were adequate. Many experts said the income limit to define the poor was too low and aimed at artificially reducing the number of people below the poverty line. A World Bank report in May said attempts by the Indian government to combat poverty were not working. It said aid programmes were beset by corruption, bad administration and under-payments.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 12/07/2011

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15% Renewable Energy Use in India by 2020

New Delhi: 'Targets for renewable energy in India are very small. They are not ambitious. We have to really gear ourselves up, to achieve at least 15% target for renewables before 2020 and do everything possible at multiple levels of policy, finance, technology and R&D in the very near future', stated Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Member of Parliament, while presiding over a meeting of the Climate Parliament Group on 14 December evening at the Deputy Chairman's Hall, Constitution Club, Delhi. Various Members of Parliament, who are also part of the Climate Parliament Group, while interacting with a group of prominent experts on renewable energy, further deliberated on other related issues. For example, they discussed decentralised and small off-grid applications of renewables, reduction of energy requirement and promotion of efficiency, lessening of costs and increasing of volumes, renewal energy technology, R&D funds, creating the market for renewables by binding regulations, incentives, aggressive trusts to indigenous manufacturing and R&D and many other possible ways and means of realising and increasing potentials of renewables in the country. At the end of the meeting, Members of Parliament also agreed as a Climate Parliament Group to take up some of these critical issues to the respective Ministries and bodies like Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), and Power and Planning Commission, for significant institutional, financial, technology, R & D, capacity and other supports and improvements in uptake of renewable in total energy mix.

The context of this meeting was a letter written to the Prime Minister of India by a number of Members of Parliament (who are also members of the Climate Parliament) in March this year, requesting to 'lay out an ambitious roadmap and a programme for the renewable energy development in consonance with the 15% target at the earliest possible'. There is a positive development as the document, 'Faster, Sustainable and More Inclusive Growth: An Approach to the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-17)' by the Planning Commission, Government of India, stated that 'the share of new and renewable energy could go up to 15% by 2020' (p. 42). The Approach also injected a new element of inquiry into the Indian renewable energy objectives, with positive new possibilities, by saying that 'With a National Solar Mission plans for a capacity of 22,000 MW by 2022, C-WET estimated a technically feasible wind potential of 49,000 MW. A fresh assessment of wind power a potential by some agencies has mentioned a higher figure which needs realistic review by the MNRE based on the scientific norms. These areas will need further study. The potential for such generation is clearly higher than current estimates of about 50 GW'. The Meeting of 14 December was meant to take the process forward, by concretising the key ideas, issues and areas for promotion of renewal energy in India.

Climate Parliament is a cross-party, global network of Parliamentarians (MPs), influencing policy decisions in parliaments for ambitious uptake of renewable energy, to meet the challenges of Climate Change. The Group is working to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy since the past more than two years. The work of the group focuses both on harnessing large-scale solar, wind and other renewable energy sources through regional grids, and in helping off-grid villages to harness their local renewable resources. Some of the Group Members are Prakash Javadekar, Sanjay Jaiswal, M S Swaminathan, Prem Das Rai, Ali Anwar, Hamdullah Sayeed, Neeraj Shekhar, Ninong Ering, Thomas Sangma, Anurag Singh Thakur, M B Rajesh, J D Seelam. Girish Sant, Coordinator, Prayas (Energy Group), Pune, and one of the experts present in the 14 December meeting, while giving his presentation 'Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency: Two Imperatives for India' to the MPs, said that India spends 5% of GDP on net energy import, compared to 2% by USA, EU or China. Indian imports are likely to increase due to rupee depreciation and higher coal imports. Thus, there are major policy changes required to improve the situation, through renewable and efficiency.

According to him, renewable can be mainstreamed, as solar costs are reduced from Rs 16 to Rs 8 per unit and wind costs are comparable to coal. According to him, to achieve 15% renewable energy target by 2020, we will need doubling the rate of RE capacity addition; existing power system will need to adjust to accommodate wind and solar generation and the Ministry of Renewable Energy and Power will be required to work jointly. There should also be promotion of Indian manufacturing, to avoid the import dependence. Dr. S. P. Gon Chaudhuri, Adjunct Professor, Bengal Engineering and Science University, and President, NB Institute for Rural Technology, presented the challenges and possibilities in the area of renewable energy technology in India. According to him, about 5 million people in Indian villages now use solar power. Renewable energy, particularly off grid solar photovoltaic, can play a major role in this regard. Anshu Bharadwaj, Executive Director, CSTEP, Bangalore, emphasised that 15% target is achievable, but it requires a lot of effort and planning in technology, economics, financing, policy and regulation. In the realm of wind power, there are some key challenges: better and strong interconnection of regional grids and regional grids to national grids, better wind forecast techniques, coordination between agencies, and simplification of land acquisition and conversion policies. In the realm of solar, the challenges are intermittency, policies for identifying 'paying consumers' and land acquisition. Jaisingh Dhumal, ICICI Bank, touched upon various financial issues like cost of funds and its viability, long-term funds, credit risks, R & D funds, and creating the market for RE by binding regulations.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 12/15/2011

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NEPAL: Govt to Maintain Stability for Economic Prosperity

Finance Minister Barsha Man Pun said that the government has been trying its best to maintain political stability for the economic development of the country as without political stability development of economy is almost impossible. Inaugurating the National Industrial Trade Fair in Pokhara on Thursday, FM Pun said that the government has been trying its best to make investment friendly environment along with political steadiness. He also said that all should be committed to their respective works including government along with industrialists, labourers among others to develop their working culture. Highlighting the importance of investment friendly environment, FM Pun said that political consensus is important to attract and implement the big investment in the country. Similarly, former president of Nepal Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) Ananda Raj Mulmi said that the frequent strikes and bandas have adversely affected the industries which have also discouraged the industrialists to make further investment. Mulmi also urged the government to make investment friendly environment by maintaining peace and security in the country. Likewise, vice-president of FNCCI Bhawani Rana said that this kind of industrial fair has been fruitful in the development of economy from the grassroots level in the country by boosting domestic products. The nine-day long event is organised by Pokhara Chamber of Commerce with an aim of promoting domestic products from the area along with boosting tourist destinations.

From http://www.nepalnews.com/ 12/09/2011

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Nepal's Priority on Social-economic Transformation: Minister Bhatta

Minister for Commerce and Supplies, Lekh Raj Bhatta, stated that Nepal's priority is on social and economic transformation within a democratic framework and maintained that trade remains an instrument in the transformation process. Addressing the 8th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland on Saturday, Minister Bhatta expressed serious concerns over the existing impasse in Doha Round of trade negotiations and urged the major players to display leadership and flexibilities to work through a multilateral process for a balanced, ambitious and specific outcome with clarity and precision on its development contents. Pointing out the productive capacity needs of poor countries, Bhatta stressed on the need of scaled-up Aid for Trade to develop the necessary infrastructures, institutions and technical capacity to harness the benefits from trade. Aid for Trade should be additional, targeted, predictable and sustainable, and in form of grants. He also called for immediate operationalisation of core principles of the Special and Differential treatment provisions made in the WTO agreements. Bhatta further underscored the need of immediate implementation of the early harvest provisions, inclusive of duty free quota free market access for all products from all Least Developed Countries (LDCs) with simplified rules of origin, cotton issues and LDCs' service waiver. He also underlined the need for immediate improvement and operationalisation of the 2002 WTO accession guidelines and technical assistance to expedite the accession process for LDCs. Referring to the people's uprisings across different continents, Minister Bhatta underlined that denial of dignity cannot continue and equal and fair opportunities must be guaranteed. We need to examine and analyze the ground realities from all perspectives and ensure that the legitimate aspirations of the people are at the centre and benefits from global trading system are fair, equitable and accessible to the bottom billion, he insisted. The Minister said that a fair, inclusive and transparent multilateral trading system is a global public good. He also reaffirmed Nepal's strong political commitment to a fair, rule based and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system.

From http://www.nepalnews.com/ 12/18/2011

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AZERBAIJAN: Primary Provider to Ensure Eurovision-2012 Internet Resource Security

Azerbaijan's primary provider - Delta Telecom Company will ensure the security of the Internet resource www.eurovision.az, Company CTO Raid Alekberli told Trend on Saturday. He said at present, work is underway to deploy the website in the global DATA-centers, including in the DATA-center of Delta Telecom. "Preparation of the technological infrastructure and rendering qualitative services is an important component during a period of preparation for the contest, which is also one of the requirements set for us by the President. Internet resource will be the mainly virtual display of song contest, and our aim is to ensure qualitative and secure access to it from all the world's DATA-centers," Alekberli said.

From http://en.trend.az/ 11/27/2011

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Azerbaijan Launches e-Registration of Cash Machines

The Azerbaijani Taxes Ministry is expanding the scope of tax services. According to the Ministry, work within the e-registration of cash machines project has been already completed. The current project is the next step of the Ministry of Taxes for the development of the entrepreneurship, formation of favorable business climate and facilitation of business registration procedure in the country. On 23 November 2011, President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev signed an Order on "Measures on State E-services".

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 11/30/2011

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Salary Increases in Azerbaijan Cover About 670,000 State Employees

Salary increases will cover 667,900 employees of public organizations according to the latest decrees of Azerbaijani President of Ilham Aliyev, the Finance Ministry told Trend. "Additional funds worth 12.9 million manat will be sent to pay a 10-percent wage increase in 2011. An additional 154.7 million manat will be allocated from the state budget to fund salary increases in 2012," the ministry said. President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev signed a number of orders to increase the wages of workers in social security institutions, agriculture, land reclamation and water management, environment, fishery and hydrometeorology, academic and research institutions (excluding subordinated to the Azerbaijani National Academy of Sciences), healthcare and educational institutions (except universities), institutions of culture, youth and sports in December. Monthly official (tariff) salaries of these institutions financed from the state budget increased by 10 percent under the decree, from Dec.1, 2011. The official exchange rate is 0.7864 manat to $1 on Dec.13.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/13/2011

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Azerbaijan to Expand Wi-Fi Network

The Azerbaijani Communications and IT Ministry have instructed Internet service providers to increase access to the Web nternet during Eurovision-2012, the ministry said on Friday. Authorities noted that Internet service providers will be required to provide wireless access to the Internet. Four thousand users should be provided with access to the global network. The minimum speed of access for one user must be at 1Mbit / s. Internet channel bandwidth 8Mbit /s should be organized in the venue of the competition for online-broadcast of the contest. The expansion of wireless Wi-Fi in all public places in central Baku will be provided. Wi-Fi will cover shopping malls, restaurants and other public places.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/16/2011

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Number of Facebook Users in Azerbaijan Exceeds 600,000

Number of users of Facebook social network in Azerbaijan exceeded 600,000, according to Facebakers Research Company's report as of Dec. 17. Over the last four months, the number of the social network users in Azerbaijan increased by more than 100,000 users. Azerbaijani Facebook segment ranks 91st in the attendance rating, two points less compared to early October. Roughly 7.27 percent of the Azerbaijani population use Facebook, which increased by 1.17 percent as a result of the last three months. The percentage of users of social network among the total number of Internet users in Azerbaijan also increased by 2.63 percent and amounted to 16.37 percent. Some 64 percent of the total number of users is men, while 36 percent - women. Some 47 percent visitors of the social network account for peoples at age of 18-24, while 23 percent visitors - at age of 25-34 and the 16-17 year-old users account for 12 percent of the total users. Moreover, 8 percent fall to the age category of 13-15, 6 percent account for age category of 35-44, two percent - 45-54 and one percent of users account for age category of 55-64 and one percent - above 65. The number of Facebook users in Azerbaijan is greater than some other CIS countries such as Kazakhstan with 362,260 users, Belarus with 354,520 users, Moldova with 221,220 users, Armenia with 242,300 users, Uzbekistan with 106,080 users, Kyrgyzstan with 64,620 users, Tajikistan with 26,820 users and Turkmenistan with 12,020 users. The top five Facebook-using countries in the world, according to Facebakers, are the United States, Indonesia, India, Brazil and Mexico. The total number of Facebook users globally is 799 million people. Facebook social network started working on Feb. 4, 2004. At present, its services are available in 60 languages, including in the Azerbaijani language.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/17/2011

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GEORGIA: EBRD - Georgian Economy Healthy and Developing

"The Georgian economy is developing well since the government maintains a very strong macroeconomic policy, while being prudent in managing fiscal and public debt, also conducting a flexible monetary policy," said the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Managing Director for Turkey, Eastern Europe, Caucasus and central Asia Olivier Descamps at a meeting with journalists. According to the EBRD director's assessment, the country is in a strong position, the banking sector has resumed growth, and the confidence of investors in general is positive which is proved by the investment demand in the country. At the meeting Descamps emphasized the priority sectors, namely the hydro energy sector and agriculture - fields where Georgia has a comparative advantage, development of which can increase the country's export and create more jobs opportunities. According to him the EBRD has applied about 60% of its 2011 credit portfolio towards agriculture.

"One of our innovations is that we issued credit to Georgian banks in GEL as a long term credit resource. I think the fact that commercial banks have to attract credit in USD; consumers find it more convenient to take credit in USD and this was why agro business was not developing. Risks in the agro sector are high and crediting it in USD would only increase these risks. As a result of our decision, the currency rate related to risks has been excluded," said Descamps. In 2011the EBRD invested about 250 million dollars in Georgia spread among 21 projects. Of those, 60% is destined for the financial sector, 25% to hydro power and the other 15% to the enterprise sector, manufacturing, agribusiness or services. "Our priorities will continue to be one of the main providers of long term innovative financing to the financial sector", said Descamps. Asked about the possible impact of the European financial crises, Descamps said that there will be indirect impact and no country can avoid that.

From http://www.messenger.com.ge/ 12/16/2011

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Government Lays Out 2011 Achievements

A government sitting was held on December 18, and Prime Minister Nika Gilauri spoke about the achievements of the current year and outlined future plans. At the same time, the Ministers of Agriculture and Culture underlined the upcoming plans of the ministries. As Gilauri mentioned, by the end of the year government sittings will be held two times a week, "as all the ministries should deliver information on the current year's achievements, problems and future prospects." While assessing the current year, the prime minister emphasized that Georgia has kept stability in the economy and will end the year with 6.5 % economic growth, the highest figure in the region." The prime minister added that, export reached a record peak in 2011 - nearly USD 2 billion worth of exports were made during the last 11 months, which is 40% more compared to last year." Gilauri also reported that the next government sitting would be held in Kutaisi, in the newly built House of Government. The protection of the cultural environment and its popularization would be the main priorities for the Ministry of Culture for 2012. At the same time reforming different sectors of the ministry would be on agenda. Agriculture, which was named as one of the priorities in the state budget for 2012, has some positive plans for the future as well. These include introducing new technologies, retraining of farmers, building big farms and import substitution.

The government believes that all challenges and needs are reflected in the 2012 state budget. However, different attitudes appear among both the parliamentary and non parliamentary opposition, which say that the 2012 budget is in the authorities' interests rather than the interests of Georgian society. According to economic analyst, Nodar Khaduri, there is no significant difference between the 2010 and 2011 state budgets. As he states, 2011 was a period of world crisis and optimism that the Georgian economy is going to get better is hubristic. "In 2007, economic growth was 12%, 2011 concluded the degradation of the economy through the 2008-2009 years," the analyst said. He also stated which spheres would be most important prior for the authorities: "tax administration should be simplified for small and medium business, this sphere should be taken as an employment field and not one oriented on income to the budget." He also mentioned that the development of agriculture is very important, "however, there are some decisions that are separated from reality" such as the hybrid corn program which was made "without preparation" and which affected a serious number of farmers. At the same time, politically motivated acts against businesses such as that against Cartu Bank, creates negative influences on the economy. As for 2012 state budget the analyst stated that it is obvious that the election campaigns are already in full swing. "Social expenses are to increase which will be easy for the citizens to mention. The authorities moved solving social problems up to September but now the election period is upon us. I welcome infrastructural projects, however more money is being allocated for PR rather that some real positive changes to economy," Khaduri says.

From http://www.messenger.com.ge/ 12/19/2011

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IRAN: To Launch a Secure Internet

Iran will launch an improved secure internet to prevent cyber-attacks, Mehr news quoted a member of the board of directors in Iran's Telecommunication Infrastructure Company Mohammad Taher Shams as saying. Iran's IP network, IPMPLS, will provide various services in IP, MPLS and VPLS and a secure internet. "The network's most important aim is to prevent domestic and international cyber-attacks", he said. Earlier, Iran announced that it has taken all necessary steps to create the Halal Internet network. The Iranian net Consortium has already been established for this purpose, the Iranian IRNA state news agency quoted the country's Deputy Vice President for Economic Affairs Ali Agamohammadi, as saying.

The Iranian net consortium will work in the area of the fibre-optic network and Internet speed will increase once launched. "The consortium initially will render services through a fibre-optic network to 10 million users," he said. Iran announced it had detected and thwarted a cyber-attack by the Stuxnet worm, which was supposedly created to infect Iranian industrial and nuclear computer systems in 2010. The Stuxnet worm first identified by Iranian officials in June last year, is a malware designed to infect computers using Siemens Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) - a control system favoured by industries that manage water supplies, oil rigs and power plants.

From http://en.trend.az/ 11/29/2011

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KAZAKHSTAN: To Create ICT Development Fund

The council of Kazakh operators made a decision to establish the ICT development fund, the Kazakh Communications and Information Ministry reported on Friday. "The establishment of the fund will provide substantial support for the young Kazakh companies and will contribute to the development of ICT sphere," Kazakh Communications and Information Minister Askar Zhumagaliyev said. According to the Ministry, the Fund will create favorable conditions for research work, implement measures and tools for commercialization of innovative ICT ideas. "Moreover, the Fund's support will allow start-up projects to successfully overcome the process of formation, reach and surpass the level of cost recovery," the report said. The Fund's Board of Trustees will include Kazakh IT companies, telecom operators and Kazakh National ICT Holding Zerde. The Fund will get finance from members' contributions and profit from ongoing projects.

From http://en.trend.az/ 11/26/2011

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Kazakhstan Government Blocks Internet and Mobile Networks

The Kazakhstan government has shut down cell towers and Internet access in the oil city of Zhanaozen as the president decreed a state of emergency after riots erupted in the southwest part of the country. The state of emergency allows authorities to issue a curfew, blackout radio, tv and other communications, which are said to have been down since Friday. A group of hackers is working hard to keep Internet connections open to citizens in areas that have been affected by the blackout. Tensions in the western part of the country began back in May when hundreds of striking oil workers from State-run KazMunaiGas Exploration Production were fired. The firings and unresolved worker grievances sparked more strikes and protest. Reuters has been following the unrest reporting on Friday that fired oil workers and protesters clashed with police during a Kazakh independence day celebration, which resulted in at least 12 deaths after police opened fire. Protests have now spread to other parts of the country including the nation's capital. International human rights groups and journalists are trying to assess the situation and verify the death toll but are finding it difficult to get information from officials or on-the-ground citizens. There are reports of higher death tolls on Kazakh social media but the information cannot be confirmed. The hacker network Telecomix announced on Saturday it has been working to get free dialup servers set up to restore Internet access in Zhanaozen.

From http://www.ejc.net/ 12/20/2011

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AUSTRALIA: Leveraging Broadband to Provide In-home Healthcare

The Minister for Veterans Affairs, Warren Snowdown, and the Minister for Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy announced an AU$8 million (US$8 million) in-home health telemonitoring trial which will enable chronically ill veterans to have their health monitored by health professionals without leaving the comforts of their own homes. "This trial will take advantage of reliable, high-capacity broadband capability to change the way health services are delivered to the veteran community and allow veterans to access high-quality health care from home," said Minister Snowdown. With the in-home telemonitoring technology, vital statistics and other relevant information can be viewed from home, and veterans will also have access to high definition video consultations with their General Practioner (GP) or nurse coordinator when required. "This will ensure the veterans' health can be observed, any irregularities can be identified and appropriate GP intervention provided in a timely manner," he said. According to Minister Snowdown, around 300 veterans will be able to participate in the trial in the National Broadband Network (NBN) early release areas of Toowoomba in Queensland, Coffs Harbour and Armidale in New South Wales, Mandurah and Geraldton in Western Australia and Kingston Beach in Tasmania, commencing from July 2012.

Mr Snowdon said veterans in the trial would have an individual health care plan developed for them in consultation with their GP and a nurse coordinator. "Overseas experience has shown that telemonitoring can have significant health benefits for those involved, including more responsive management of chronic conditions." Importantly, the program will be closely linked with the Coordinated Veterans' Care Program, which provides ongoing, planned and coordinated care, led by a GP with a nurse coordinator, to eligible veterans who have chronic conditions, complex care needs and are at risk of an unplanned hospitalisation. Meanwhile, Senator Conroy said the trial is an example of the exciting and transformational opportunities enabled by the NBN, and contributes to the Australian Government's vision for Australia as a world leading digital economy by 2020. "The NBN is the platform that will connect veterans and their health care teams, providing an avenue for care that is ideally suited to many people within our veteran community," Senator Conroy said.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/03/2011

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Australian State Releases Transport Info App

New South Wales (NSW) has revamped a free app for iPhone and Android smartphones that integrates all of the public transport information within the state into a single portal. "The Transport Info app is now even easier to use, providing up-to-the-minute information on bus, rail and ferry services," a Transport for NSW spokesperson said. "Anyone with a smartphone or tablet computer - including iPhones and iPads - can download it for free." The app, known as 'Transport Info', provides information around the clock, and customers can use it to:
•plan a trip and view a map of their journey;
•find their next bus, train or ferry from any location, and save favourite locations and trips for quick access;
•view information including details about service changes; and
•view wheelchair-accessible trips.

The app is an updated version of a previously released app, but with a faster search function, improved map capabilities with rapid loading times and a better zoom function, and the ability to save personalised travel itineraries. It also features a completely different user interface. Transport Info also has integrated GPS information and is one of the many initiatives to be rolled out by Transport for NSW in the coming months. It can be downloaded at its dedicated website or downloaded at the Apple App Store or the Android Marketplace by searching for "Transport Info".

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/16/2011

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Aged Care Funding in Disarray

The number of Australians aged 80 and over is likely to double from 4 per cent of the population to 8 per cent by 2051. Photo: Meredith O'Shea. BUDGETARY pressures on aged care are driving a dramatic imbalance in federal funding with thousands who need care at home missing out, while funding for more than 2000 beds in nursing homes goes unused. Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, yesterday called for a "sustainable" aged care system, signalling moves towards a more user-pays system to meet ballooning costs. The latest round in aged care funding released yesterday has highlighted the deepening disparity in supply and demand for aged care services the government is struggling to finance after a $1.9 billion blow-out in estimated costs over the next four years. Advertisement: Story continues below The funding approvals show that demand for community, or home-based care has outstripped the funded places available by more than 22,000 after the government created only 1698 new community care places this year. In contrast, there has been a 25 per cent shortfall in the take-up of the funded nursing home beds available as nursing home operators say the federal funding fails to meet their costs.

Aged care homes have taken up just 7933 places out of the 10,493 available. In New South Wales, 2261 nursing home places have been taken up, along with 488 community aged care packages. In Victoria, the figures are 2430 and 665 respectively. The financial headache for the government is that despite the higher demand and lower unit cost of community care places, diversion of unallocated funding from nursing homes would accelerate spending because of faster community uptake, placing further strains on the government's surplus target in next year's budget. Mr Butler said the latest developments underlined the need for reform, warning that not enough beds were being built now to provide aged care in the future. The number of Australians aged 80 and over was likely to double from 4 per cent of the population to 8 per cent by 2051. Chief executive of Aged Care Association Australia, Rod Young, said the report "reinforces the very serious need for government to agree to reform the aged care sector sooner rather than later". The low demand for nursing home places had been caused by a decade-long need for a system that enabled capital raising and not the current system which fuelled "the growing mismatch between available services and needs of older people", Mr Young said.

From http://www.theage.com.au/ 12/23/2011

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NEW ZEALAND: Government to Look at House Affordability

Local Government Minister Nick Smith will look at issues around housing affordability in his new role, Prime Minister John Key says. A productivity commission report last week said constraints on land supply and other issues were making housing unaffordable. Key acknowledged that government "potentially" had a role in pushing local authorities to open up more land for housing and Smith, in his new role as local government minister, would have discussions about that. "It's most acute in Auckland. That's one of the issues around their spatial plan, ensuring that they just get that balance right. " But Key said it was his view that interest rates remained "the most important issue around housing affordability". "That's what determines whether people ultimately can afford their mortgage but of course we have to be sure house prices aren't choking off the capacity of people to pay."

From http://www.stuff.co.nz/ 12/20/2011

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Solid Economic Growth amid Global Uncertainty

The economy posted solid growth in the September quarter, despite considerable global uncertainty, Finance Minister Bill English says. Statistics New Zealand today confirmed gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 0.8 per cent in the September quarter. The economy has grown in nine out of the past 10 quarters. GDP grew by 1.9 per cent over the last year. "It's pleasing to see growth picking up again, after a relatively flat second quarter, on the back of an increase in manufacturing and a boost to tourism and spending from the Rugby World Cup," Mr English says. "This result was achieved against a backdrop of global uncertainty. Since then the global outlook has worsened as Europe seeks solutions to its sovereign debt problems. "We face challenges from increasingly volatile global financial markets, reduced demand for our products in some markets and a high Kiwi dollar. "But, the outlook for New Zealand's exports remains positive and rebuilding in Canterbury will have a positive impact as it picks up next year. "The rebuild, along with high export prices and interest rates at 40-year lows, gives us confidence the economy will continue to experience moderate growth next year. "We're also confident this recovery will be built on a sound platform of higher savings, exports and productive investment, rather than the excessive borrowing, consumption and government spending of much of the past decade. "Returning to Budget surplus in 2014/15, lifting savings and exports and increasing the competitiveness of the economy will remain the focus of the Government's programme," Mr English says.

From http://www.scoop.co.nz/ 12/22/2011

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Internet Crime Website to Be Launched for Pacific Users

A website where the Pacific's internet users can report online crime is to be launched out of Samoa. The Cook Islands Police Commissioner says the new website is the second phase of the Cyber Safety Pacifica programme, which is just been implemented in Rarotonga. Maara Tetava says most Pacific communities have only had access to the internet in recent years and the programme aims to educate them about associated risks. He says the website will be run by the Pacific Transnational Crime Unit.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 12/04/2011

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Developing Countries to Receive Over $350 Billion in Remittances in 2011, Says World Bank Report

Geneva, December 1, 2011 (Washington DC, November 30, 2011 8pm) - Remittance flows to developing countries are expected to total $351 billion this year, and worldwide remittances, including those to high-income countries, will reach $483 billion [corrected from $406 billion on December 5] for the current calendar year, according to a newly updated World Bank brief on global migration and remittances. The top recipients of officially recorded remittances, estimated for 2011, are India ($58 billion), China ($57 billion), Mexico ($24 billion), and the Philippines ($23 billion). Other large recipients include Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Vietnam, Egypt and Lebanon. While the economic slowdown is dampening employment prospects for migrant workers in some high-income countries, global remittances, nevertheless, are expected to stay on a growth path and, by 2014, are forecast to reach $593 billion [corrected from $515 billion on December 5]. Of that, $441 billion will flow to developing countries, according to the latest issue of the Bank's Migration and Development Brief, released today at the fifth meeting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development in Geneva.

"Despite the global economic crisis that has impacted private capital flows, remittance flows to developing countries have remained resilient, posting an estimated growth of 8 percent in 2011," said Hans Timmer, Director of the Bank's Development Prospects Group. "Remittance flows to all developing regions have grown this year, for the first time since the financial crisis." High oil prices have helped provide a cushion for remittances to Central Asia from Russia and to South and East Asia from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Also, a depreciation of currencies of some large migrant-exporting countries (including Mexico, India and Bangladesh) created additional incentives for remittances as goods and services in these countries became cheaper in U.S. dollar terms. Remittance flows to four of the six World Bank-designated developing regions grew faster than expected - by 11 percent to Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 10.1 percent to South Asia, 7.6 percent to East Asia and Pacific and 7.4 percent to Sub-Saharan Africa, despite the difficult economic conditions in Europe and other destinations of African migrants.

In contrast, growth in remittance flows to Latin America and the Caribbean, at 7 percent, was lower than expected due to continuing weakness in the U.S. economy, while the Middle East and North Africa, affected by civil conflict and unrest related to the "Arab Spring", registered the slowest growth (2.6 percent) among developing regions. The Bank expects continued growth in remittance flows going forward, by 7.3 percent in 2012, 7.9 percent in 2013 and 8.4 percent in 2014. There are, however, some serious downside risks to the Bank's outlook for international remittance and migration flows. Persistent unemployment in Europe and the U.S. is affecting employment prospects of existing migrants and hardening political attitudes toward new immigration. Volatile exchange rates and uncertainty about the direction of oil prices also present further risks to the outlook for remittances. More recently, some of the GCC countries, which are critically dependent on migrant workers, are considering tighter quotas for migrant workers to protect jobs for their own citizens. "Such policies may impact remittance flows to developing countries in the longer term," said Dilip Ratha, Manager of the Bank's Migration and Remittances Unit and a co-author of the Migration and Development Brief. "But in the medium-term the risk of disruption to these flows is relatively low."

Remittance flows would receive a further boost if the global development community achieves the agreed objective of reducing global average remittance costs by 5 percentage points in 5 years (the '5 by 5' objective of the G8 and the G20). Remittance costs have fallen steadily from 8.8 percent in 2008 to 7.3 percent in the third quarter of 2011 due to increasing competition in large volume remittance corridors such as UK-Nigeria and UAE-India. However, remittance costs continue to remain high, especially in Africa and in small nations where remittances provide a life line to the poor. "In addition to streamlining regulations governing remittance service providers, there is a pressing need to improve data on remittance market size at the national and bilateral corridor level," said Ratha. "That will stimulate market competition and also help in more accurate monitoring of progress towards the '5 by 5' objective." The World Bank has made considerable strides in developing financing instruments for leveraging migration and remittances for national development purposes. Diaspora bonds can be a powerful financial instrument for mobilizing diaspora savings to finance specific public and private sector projects, as well as to help improve the debt profile of the destination country. The Bank has established a Task Force on the Implementation of Diaspora Bonds to facilitate the provision of technical assistance to developing country governments. "The Bank now houses considerable expertise in this area and we look forward to working with client governments in developing alternative sources of financing for development projects," said Ratha.

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 12/01/2011

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Development Banks Agree New Partnership for Climate Action in Cities

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - Five Multilateral Development Banks, who are lending some $8.4 billion annually for climate action in cities, agreed today on a new partnership to combat global warming. With the overall aim to better coordinate and deepen support to cities in adapting to and mitigating climate change, the African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Inter-American Development Bank, and the World Bank have agreed to work more closely to develop common tools and metrics for cities. The five MDBs said they would develop a common approach for cities to assess climate risk, standardize greenhouse gas emissions inventories, and encourage a consistent suite of climate finance options. Hela Cheikhrouhou, Director of the African Development Bank's Energy, Environment & Climate Change Department said, "Considering that the rates of urbanization in Africa are the highest in the world, this is a timely initiative and is aligned with the Bank Group's recently approved Urban Development Strategy." Woochong Um, Deputy Director General, Regional and Sustainable Development Department at ADB said, "ADB is working with multilateral development banks through the Climate Investment Funds and other avenues to mobilize the public and private sector financing needed by developing Asia and the Pacific to support climate change."

Jean-Patrick Marquet, Director of Municipal and Environmental Infrastructure at EBRD, outlined that "The sustainability and climate change challenges for cities can be managed with a multi-faceted approach involving active stakeholders' participation in pursuit of both environmental benefits and transition objectives". "This is an effort to disseminate best practices on an issue of global importance and where south-south cooperation aided by multilateral banks can really make a difference," said Walter Vergara, Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Unit Chief of the Inter-American Development Bank. "While cities account for over two-thirds of global energy consumption and an estimated 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, they are also crucibles of innovation. Cities are critical in the fight to tackle climate change," said Rachel Kyte, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development. "With this new partnership, the development banks will be able to better leverage city-level leadership on climate change mitigation and adaptation across the world." Many cities around the world are already responding to the challenges of climate change. Increasingly, they are acting in concert and learning from one another, regionally, and through national and international networks such as the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, United Cities and Local Governments, the EU's Covenant of Mayors, and the World Mayors Council on Climate Change.

From http://beta.adb.org/ 12/05/2011

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Rising Risk of Deep Eurozone-US Recessions Poses Threat to Asia

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Economic growth in emerging East Asia will continue to moderate into 2012 as growing sovereign debt problems in Europe and an anemic US economy raise the spectre of a deep global economic downturn, says the Asian Development Bank's latest Asia Economic Monitor. In the event that both the eurozone and the US economies contract sharply, the impact on emerging East Asia would be serious yet manageable, the report says. "The turmoil emanating from Europe poses a growing danger to trade and finance within emerging East Asia; so the region's policymakers must be prepared to act promptly, decisively, and collectively to counter what could be an extended global economic slowdown," said Iwan J. Azis, Head of ADB's Office of Regional Economic Integration, which produced the report. The semi-annual report released today assesses the 10 ASEAN economies - Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; Indonesia; Laos PDR; Malaysia; Myanmar; Philippines; Singapore; Thailand; and Viet Nam - as well as those of the People's Republic of China (PRC); Hong Kong, China; the Republic of Korea; and Taipei,China.

ADB cut its forecast for the region's growth in 2012 to 7.2% from the 7.5% forecast in the September Asian Development Outlook 2011 Update. Growth is still forecast at 7.5% for this year. In a special section - Can East Asia Weather Another Global Economic Crisis? - the report describes the events that could lead to a recession in the eurozone and a new economic downturn in the US. It examines how a new global economic crisis would affect the region under differing scenarios. East Asia comprises emerging East Asia plus Japan. In the worst case scenario - with the eurozone and US contracting as much as they did in 2009 - emerging East Asia would grow by 5.4% next year. That would be 1.8 percentage points below the current forecast but not as severe as the impact of the 2008/09 global crisis. This is due in part to diversification of the region's export markets and increased domestic demand as a source of growth. Nonetheless, the region's financial systems remain just as vulnerable as they were in 2008. The report notes that heightened risk aversion would see investors slash holdings of Asian financial assets while highly leveraged European banks would cut lending, leading to tighter credit conditions. To cope with a potentially prolonged global crisis and a slow subsequent recovery, Asia's policymakers can use available financial, monetary, and fiscal tools. These include mechanisms in place to safeguard financial stability and ensure sufficient credit is available regionally. Monetary policy must remain flexible while exchange rate coordination would avoid competitive devaluations. And the region still has sufficient fiscal space to apply stimulus gradually and judiciously where needed while avoiding too much budgetary strain.

The report forecasts the eurozone economy will expand 0.5% next year with the US economy growing by 2.1%. For 2011, ADB is still forecasting growth of 1.7% and 1.6% for the two economies respectively. Growth in the PRC is likely to moderate even as domestic demand continues to rise, and is now forecast at 8.8% in 2012 after expanding 9.3% this year. In September, ADB had forecast growth of 9.1% in 2012. The newly industrialized economies of Hong Kong, China; the Republic of Korea; Singapore; and Taipei,China, will see slower growth both this year and next year in large part because they are more dependent on international trade than their neighbors. This leaves them highly vulnerable to an economic contraction in Europe and the US. ASEAN's economies will also grow more slowly than previously expected. Thailand, hit particularly hard by the recent floods, should recover from supply disruptions next year. ADB now sees Thailand's economy growing a smaller 2.0% this year, but is maintaining its 4.5% growth forecast for 2012. Japan's economy is forecast to bounce back from the effects of the recent natural disasters as supply chains are rebuilt, but the strong yen will likely hurt exports while domestic demand is likely to remain weak. As such, ADB continues to forecast a contraction of 0.5% this year followed by a 2.5% expansion next year.

From http://beta.adb.org/ 12/06/2011

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ADB Says Global Financial Instability Shows Need for Fiscal Discipline in Pacific

Manila, Philippines (BBN) - The eurozone crisis is expected to have only limited impact on the Pacific because the region's growth prospects are more closely tied to the economies of Australia and New Zealand, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said on Wednesday. The region may feel some indirect impacts through trade and investment links between the European Union and the Pacific's economic partners, declining values of the Pacific's trust funds, and declines in tourism, the ADB said in its latest report on Pacific Economic Monitor. The ADB's Pacific Economic Monitor also said governments in the Pacific should make sure that their finances are in good shape in case they need to act to counter the impact of slower global growth in the future. The report, a tri-annual economic review of ADB's Pacific developing member countries, shows that many governments exceeded their revenue targets in 2011 and that tax collections were generally higher than in 2010. Expenditures were also higher in many countries, but were more than offset by revenue increases. This contributed to a general improvement in fiscal balances in the region.

A review of 2012 budget releases indicates that revenue increases will again exceed expenditure growth. Several countries are developing new revenue measures to strengthen government finances. Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga are targeting smaller budget deficits in 2012, stepping back from higher deficits incurred due to fiscal stimulus or disaster recovery efforts. The resource-rich economies of Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste are using high revenues to pursue expansionary policies and high levels of economic growth. Political instability is causing delays and rising uncertainty regarding national budgets and fiscal planning in Kiribati, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu. The Northern Pacific countries, facing the expiration of long-standing financial assistance arrangements, are making progress towards longer-term fiscal self-sufficiency. However, they still need to strengthen reforms and reduce their dependence on aid.

The report includes four articles discussing financial market issues affecting the Pacific. The analysis of sovereign investment funds in the Pacific shows that despite considerable volatility, declines in value have been smaller than in 2008, but it cautions that substantial downside risks remain. The second article considers the economic and financial benefits of developing a domestic bond market in PNG. An article by the Pacific Financial Technical Assistance Centre argues against taking short-term measures to control interest rates or regulate bank profits in the region. A special article from Standard & Poor's provides an update on the sovereign credit ratings of selected Pacific economies in light of the prospect of weaker global growth and volatility in financial markets. The Pacific Economic Monitor 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 better understanding of the Pacific Island economies.

From http://www.businessnews-bd.com/ 12/14/2011

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Net Capital Flows to Developing Countries in 2010 Returned to Their Pre-crisis Levels, Says World Bank

WASHINGTON - Net capital flows to developing countries rose by 68 percent in 2010 to $1,130 billion, compared with flows of $675 billion in 2009. Last year's increase was driven by a massive jump in short-term debt, a strong rebound in bonds and a moderate rise in equity flows, according to Global Development Finance 2012: External Debt of Developing Countries, released today. The combined stock of developing countries' external debt increased by $437 billion to $4 trillion at end 2010, but remained moderate in relation to GNI - an average of 21 percent - and was equivalent on average to 69 percent of exports. Short term debt constituted 25 percent of debt stock, but risks were mitigated by international reserves, equivalent to 137 percent of external debt stock at end 2010. Debt related inflows jumped almost three-fold, compared to a 25 percent increase in net equity flows, driven by a massive jump in short-term debt and a strong rebound in bond issuances. Financing from official creditors as a share of total net debt related flows fell to 14 percent in 2010, compared to 49 percent in 2009. In contrast, net debt inflows from private creditors rose to $424 billion, close to five times the 2009 level. The rebound in capital flows was concentrated in 10 middle income countries. In these countries, net capital inflows rose on average by almost 80 percent in 2010, almost double the rate of increase (41 percent) recorded by other developing countries. These 10 countries accounted for 73 percent of developing countries' GNI and received 73 percent of total net capital flows to developing countries in 2010.

The regional trends varied: East Asia and Pacific had the fastest rise in net capital flows in 2010: They increased by 90 percent to $447 billion, which was dominated by China where net equity rose 52 percent and net debt flow rose 178 percent in 2010. External debt stocks rose 21 percent in 2010 but the ratio of external debt stock to exports - 37 percent at end 2010 - was the lowest of all regions. Europe and Central Asia region recorded a 66 percent increase in net capital inflows in 2010 to $173 billion, driven by the rise in net debt inflows from private creditors. Despite the rebound, net capital flows were only 40 percent of their pre-crisis level. External debt stock in relation to exports improved to 122 percent, but the external debt service to export ratio was unchanged from 2009 at 24 percent. Latin America and the Caribbean saw net capital inflows rise to $319 billion in 2010, 6.7 percent of GNI, well above their pre-crisis level. Driving the rebound was the fourfold increase in private capital flows. However, the region also recorded a 20 percent rise in net debt inflows from official creditors. External debt stock rose 16 percent, equivalent to 102 percent of export earnings, but remains a moderate 22 percent in relation to GNI. Middle East and North Africa was the only region to record a fall in net capital flows in 2010. They fell 10 percent to $26 billion, with lower net equity and debt-related inflows from official creditors only partially offset by increased bond issuances. The ratio of external debt stock to exports was 43 percent. By the end of 2010, international reserves in MENA were high in relation to external debt stock, at 227 percent.
South Asia region saw net capital inflows rise by 29 percent in 2010 on the back of a 92 percent surge in net portfolio equity flows and a doubling of net debt flows from private creditors. This was equivalent to 5.3 percent of GNI. India accounted for 92 percent of net capital flows to the region and 72 percent of external debt stock by the end of 2010. Sub-Saharan Africa saw a 16 percent increase in net capital flows in 2010, with a 33 percent increase in net debt inflows from official creditors partially offset by a fall in net equity inflows. Measured relative to GNI, net capital flows, at 5.2 percent, were unchanged from their 2009 level. External debt stock rose only 3 percent in 2010 and is moderate relative to exports - 54 percent - and to GNI - 20 percent.

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 12/15/2011

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Global Database Market to Grow 11.6% in 2011

Research firm IDC has released the latest results of its "Worldwide Semiannual Database and Data Integration Software Tracker" which monitors and forecasts data for four market segments - relational database management systems (RDBMS), non-relational database management systems, data integration and access software (DIA), and database development and management tools. "We expect the database and data integration market to experience year-over-year growth of 11.6 percent in 2011, reaching a total market size of $35.5 billion," said Wilvin Chee, associate vice president at IDC. "While the relational database management software (RDBMS) market should grow at the same rate, the best improvement will be seen in the database development and management tools (DDMT) market, where year-over-year growth of more than 300 percent is expected." In the DDMT space, a host of countries are exhibiting strong growth in 2011, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, India, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the US. The RDBMS market is expected to see even more countries making strong gains, including Chile, Indonesia, Israel, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and the UAE.

"The need for better overall management in enterprises has expressed itself in initiatives to collect and manage high quality, trusted data for use in decision support as well as driving increasingly automated business processes," said Carl Olofson, research vice president at IDC. "This has resulted in strong growth for database management systems, data quality, dynamic data movement, and other software that supports growing efforts in the areas of master data management, data governance, and enterprise data integration." During the first half of 2011 (1H11), the three traditionally strongest vendors (Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft) further consolidated their positions with a 2-percent increase in collective market share compared to a year ago. For 1H11, the three vendors now hold 75 percent of the global market. Among them, Oracle notably outperformed the market with year-over-year growth of 22.4 percent. Along with Oracle, HP and Informatica experience the best revenue growth among all the major vendors. HP has been growing consistently above market average over the past several semiannual periods, while Informatica has been increasing steadily with strong double-digit revenue growth. HP also had revenues above the $100 million mark for the first time in a semiannual period.

From http://newsbytes.ph/ 12/22/2011

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CHINA: Hong Kong Tops Global Financial Development Index

Hong Kong has muscled its way to the top of the World Economic Forum's Financial Development Index, overtaking the United States and the United Kingdom for the first time, according to a report published on Tuesday. The United States slipped to second place in the ranking of the world's leading financial systems and capital markets, although its overall score was unchanged from last year. The United Kingdom fell to third place due to lower scores on securitisation and IPO activity, the Financial Development Report said. The report, launched in 2008, analyses financial development including the efficiency and size of banking and other financial services, the business environment, financial stability, and the extent of financial disclosure and market liberalization in each center. Hong Kong, which jumped from fourth place last year, has capitalized on a regulatory crackdown on the finance sector in the United States and Europe and on its proximity to China to lure more financial services to its shores.

"Hong Kong's ascent to the top of our index marks a major milestone, the first time in the report's history that the United Kingdom or the U.S. didn't come out on top," said Kevin Steinberg, chief operating officer of the World Economic Forum (WEF) USA. "While Western financial centers are understandably focused on short-term challenges, this report should serve as a wake-up call that their long-term leadership may be in jeopardy," he said. Singapore was ranked fourth, followed by Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and Japan respectively. Nigeria was bottom of the list with Venezuela not far behind. China rose three places from last year to 19th whereas euro zone countries slipped in the rankings as they struggled to contain their debt crisis, including Germany which dropped one place to 14th. More than 90 percent of countries have not returned to pre-crisis levels in terms of ease of access to credit and loans, venture capital availability and financing through local equity markets, according to the latest report.

"The challenge will be how to encourage economic activity while not fuelling the next credit bubble, which could cause severe consequences down the line," said Isabella Reuttner, senior project manager at the World Economic Forum and editor of the report. "Therefore, when looking for possible solutions, decision-makers should not lose sight of the long-term consequences while they fix the short-term situation." The Financial Development Report ranks 60 countries, analyzing drivers of financial system and capital market development that support economic growth. The World Economic Forum said the index aimed to serve as a tool for advanced and emerging economies to benchmark themselves and identify areas for reform.

From http://www.cnbc.com/ 12/13/2011

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China to Keep "Appropriate" Investment Growth in 2012-planner

China will keep "appropriate" investment growth in 2012 to help underpin the economy amid the global downturn, the country's top economic planner said in comments published on Sunday. "The key to maintain steady and relatively fast economic growth is expanding domestic demand," the China News Service quoted Zhang Ping, the head of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), as saying. The government will maintain an "appropriate" level in investment next year while promoting further expansion in consumption, Zhang was quoted as saying.

The government will ensure the completion of state projects under construction while kicking off key projects under the 12th five-year plan (2011-2015) and spending more on cheap housing, education and water conservation, Zhang added. Zhang reiterated plans to encourage private investment in railways, utilities as well as financial and energy sectors. Zhang did not reveal targets on investment growth in 2012. The government aims for an 18 percent annual rise in fixed-asset investment in 2011 and 16 percent increase in retail sales - a key gauge of consumption. Beijing has promised to do what it can to foster growth. It concluded its policy-setting conference on Wednesday with a vow to "guarantee" growth in the face of an "extremely grim" outlook for the world economy.

But Chinese officials have cautioned against unveiling fresh fiscal stimulus to boost investment given the hangover from its 4 trillion yuan ($629 billion) stimulus package unveiled in 2008, which has led to piles of local government debt. Instead, they have pledged to support consumption by lifting household incomes and shoring up social safety nets.

From http://finance.yahoo.com/ 12/17/2011

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JAPAN: Public Fund Posts Worst Performance in 3 Years

Japan's public pension fund, the world's largest, logged its worst investment performance in three years in July-September as strength in the yen and Europe's debt crisis hurt returns in foreign assets and domestic equities. The Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), which needs to raise returns for a rapidly ageing population, said its rate of return fell to minus 3.32 percent, or a loss of 3.73 trillion yen ($48 billion), after a slim return of plus 0.21 percent, or a profit of 240 billion yen, in April-June. Hurt by huge losses on foreign equities in particular, it was the fund's first investment loss in five quarters and its biggest loss since the October-December quarter in 2008 when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. "Our performance was mainly hurt by falls in domestic and foreign equities," Masahiro Ooe, a councilor at the GPIF, told a news briefing on the fund's performance.

"The yen's appreciation worsened the performance in foreign equities and foreign bonds." Its rate of return in the six months to September was minus 3.1 percent, outperforming the California Public Employees' Retirement System (Calpers) rate of minus 5.4 percent, but lagging the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, which produced a return of plus 0.1 percent during the period. The fund, whose portfolio is nearly worth as much as the Russian economy, said total assets fell 4.3 percent to 108.9 trillion yen during the period. The GPIF has been selling assets to raise proceeds for pension payouts since the financial year 2009/10 and plans to raise about 8.9 trillion yen worth of cash by selling assets in the current financial year to March 2012. In the previous financial year, the fund sold 4.77 trillion yen worth of domestic bonds and foreign securities, its second year of being a net seller of assets.

BIG LOSSES
The GPIF suffered large losses on foreign and domestic equities, as well as foreign bonds due to the strength of the Japanese currency, which appreciated nearly 5 percent against the dollar during the period. Falls in global share prices stemming from Europe's sovereign debt problems and concerns over the global economic slowdown also depressed the GPIF's performance in equities. For foreign equities, it recorded a negative return of 21.36 percent, or a 2.74 trillion yen loss, and for Japan stocks, it posted a negative return of 9.75 percent, or 1.27 trillion yen. For foreign bonds, it posted a negative return of 4.27 percent, or 406.1 billion yen, but managed to book a positive return of 1.06 percent, or a profit of 618.4 billion yen, in Japanese government bonds. The GPIF invests the reserves of national and corporate pension plans. It allocates about two-thirds of its assets to JGBS, where the benchmark 10-year yield is now around 1.065 percent.

The GPIF plans to begin investment in emerging markets equities by the end of the current financial year in March 2012 and Ooe reiterated that it is in the last phase of selecting managers. "We cannot give any details now, although we are in the final stage (of choosing managers). We'll disclose them swiftly as soon as we complete our processes." Sources familiar in the matter said in September that 11 companies were on the final shortlist to supervise investments into emerging markets equities for the GPIF. Six of the institutions on the shortlist are Japanese, with the rest from overseas, the fund industry sources said. They said the Japanese money managers are: Mizuho Asset Management, Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management, Chuo Mitsui Asset Management, Nomura Asset Management, Nomura Funds Research and Technologies, and T&D Asset Management. They said the other firms are: Invesco, Neuberger Berman, Lazard Asset Management, BNY Mellon and BNP Paribas Investment Partners.

From http://www.reuters.com/ 12/02/2011

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Japan's Tax Raise Plan Snubbed in Poll

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's plan to raise the consumption tax has proven unpopular in a poll which showed deep public distrust with established political parties, a report said Sunday. A telephone poll, conducted by Kyodo news agency over the weekend, said 50.7 percent of respondents want a general election to be held before a law for a consumption tax hike is enacted. In contrast, only 25.4 percent supported Noda's plan to call an election after the legislation but prior to an actual tax hike, Kyodo said. The government plans to double the five-percent sales tax rate by the middle of the decade, as the nation looks to tackle rising social welfare costs and ballooning debt. But critics, including ruling and opposition lawmakers, fear that the economy is too fragile to cope with a tax hike, despite the threat from ratings agencies of a sovereign debt downgrade.

Raising the tax is considered potentially risky as the issue has contributed to the fall of prime ministers in the past, particularly after a hike to the current rate in 1997. The approval rating for Noda's government fell 2.5 percentage points from November to 44.6 percent, while the disapproval rating rose six points to 40.3 percent, Kyodo said. The poll received responses from 1,021 randomly selected eligible voters. Noda replaced unpopular Naoto Kan as prime minister in September as the third chief executive to take office since the ruling centre-left Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) came to power in a general election landslide in 2009. The DPJ ousted the long-ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party, pledging to give priority to ordinary people's livelihood. But the party's leadership has since been criticised for backpedalling on the promise and aligning with the country's powerful bureaucracy. The poll also showed that 71.5 percent called for a realignment of political parties, against 17.8 percent who said such a change is unnecessary, Kyodo reported. The result indicated "public dissatisfaction with the current political framework involving two major parties and several small parties," Kyodo said.

From http://au.finance.yahoo.com/ 12/04/2011

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Govt Decides Tax Cut Plan for Next Year / Focus on Car Owners, 'Eco' Home Buyers

Finance Minister Jun Azumi at a press conference early Saturday morning. After struggling until late Friday night to come to an agreement with a Democratic Party of Japan tax panel, the government decided early Saturday on an outline of a set of tax changes for fiscal 2012, including a cut of 150 billion yen a year on levies for car owners. The outline approved by the Cabinet is in preparation of the compilation of an initial state budget for the next fiscal year starting April 1. The Finance Ministry is scheduled to draft the budget by the end of the year. The biggest difference in views in the talks between the government and the DPJ on the tax changes was over the party's proposal for abolishing the acquisition and weight taxes for vehicle owners.

The DPJ Tax System Research Committee chaired by Hirohisa Fujii, a former finance minister, had adamantly called for doing away with the two taxes to support carmakers. The government resisted the committee's demand on the ground that there could be no means of securing funds to make up for the revenue shortfall of about 900 billion yen that would result from the abolition of the two taxes. The government and the ruling party eventually agreed to increase the cuts in the automobile weight tax to 150 billion yen from the initial government plan of 100 billion yen, while shelving the DPJ's proposal for abolishing the automobile acquisition tax. As for other tax cuts, the outline calls for introducing a tax break on bank loans for people who purchase homes meeting government-set energy efficiency levels. Under the tax break, an owner of an energy-efficient home newly built in 2012 will have 4 million yen deducted from his or her income tax.

The government plans to submit bills related to the tax changes in an ordinary Diet session early next year with a view to having the fiscal 2012 state budget pass the Diet by the end of fiscal 2011. Commenting on the decision to lower the automobile weight tax, Finance Minister Jun Azumi said after the Cabinet approval, "Automakers and related industries must keep leading the national economy." Azumi indicated the government is set to concentrate on business conditions of motor vehicle manufacturers, which have deteriorated due to the sharp appreciation of the yen against the dollar and other major currencies and the recent flooding in Thailand, where many manufacturers have production facilities. Revenue from the automobile weight tax so far has been about 700 billion yen a year. The government-proposed tax cut would result in a decline of about 20 percent of the tax revenue.

Because of the tax cuts, the weight tax on a passenger car for household use would be reduced 2,500 yen per 0.5 ton per year, provided the vehicle meets the government-set fuel-efficiency requirements. According to the outline, tax breaks for people who purchase fuel-efficient vehicles will be extended for three years beyond the current expiration date next spring. The fuel-efficiency requirements for the tax breaks, however, will be made more stringent and the breaks will be scaled down, it said. The outline also calls for reintroduction of a subsidy program for the purchase of hybrid, electric and other low-emission vehicles. A subsidy of 100,000 yen per car will be available for 3 million cars, with 300 billion yen to be earmarked in an envisaged fourth supplementary budget for fiscal 2011. To realize the auto-related tax cuts, the government will be required to secure an additional 50 billion yen in revenue, as the government has pledged to abide by the principle of securing a new funding source when it gives the go-ahead to a new tax reduction.

From The Yomiuri Shimbun 12/11/2011

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Japan Commits $20 m to South Asia Clean Energy Fund

The Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) has committed to contributing $20 million to the South Asia Clean Energy Fund, a fund created by the Global Environment Fund of the World Bank and the Yes Bank. This is the second major contribution that the South Asia Clean Energy Fund (SACEF) is receiving, after OPIC's $100 million. The SACEF, which intends to create a corpus of $300 million, plans to invest in green energy projects in South Asia, with focus on India. In its evaluation, OPIC had noted that the SACEF would have "a high development impact" on Asia. The Fund, it said, would invest in equity, mezzanine debt and convertible debt of small and medium enterprises across Asia in solar, wind, hydro, biofuels, natural gas, batteries and green information technology.

The SACEF generally seeks "significant minority equity positions and prefers to share a majority or controlling position in combination with another financial or strategic minority investor," OPIC papers say. By taking management positions in project companies, the Fund will transfer its expertise in clean energy to host country enterprises, and control strategic decision-making. Over time, the Fund's investments may lead to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in countries that currently suffer from high levels of pollution.

From http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/ 12/11/2011

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Pension Boost Planned for FY13

The government will take measures to ease the burden on low-income pensioners and people who do not qualify for pension benefits, in or after fiscal 2013 when the consumption tax rate is expected to be raised, according to an outline on social security issues. The outline was presented Tuesday at a meeting of the Democratic Party of Japan's council on the integrated reforms on social security and taxation chaired by Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Ritsuo Hosokawa. The outline includes pension scheme reforms to increase the benefits to be paid to low-income earners who receive small pension payments. It also recommends reducing the minimum period of enrollment required to receive the basic pension payment from 25 years, stating such measures are expected to be introduced in the fiscal year when the consumption tax rate will be raised. The government plans to map out the comprehensive reform draft that incorporates the consumption tax hike by year-end, sources said. The outline will serve as the basis for concrete reforms to the social security system that the government and the ruling parties plan to map out by Friday.

As the government and the DPJ have already agreed on the direction of the draft, many categories in the outline are expected to be incorporated, they said. As the government plans to raise the consumption tax in fiscal 2013 or later, the outline recommends it bolster the minimum pension guarantee in fiscal 2013 at the earliest, to improve the pension system for people who receive small pension payments and those who do not qualify for pension benefits under the current rules. To keep the state-paid portion of the basic pension at 50 percent, the outline stressed the necessity of raising the consumption tax as a permanent financial resource. The outline made no reference to the time period during which to reduce the so-called "special exception level" of pension benefits. Current pension payments are 2.5 percent higher than they should be, as the government has not cut the payout amounts despite the drop in consumer prices. However, during the Tuesday meeting the executive committee approved the government's policy to reduce pension payments over three years in accordance with price fluctuations.

The outline said the government will study expanding the scope of corporate pension subscribers to include part-time employees, with an eye to submitting a bill at the ordinary Diet session next year. However, the outline said that in introducing the change the government must take into consideration the impact it would have on companies, as it would likely significantly affect small and midsize enterprises and retailers that hire many part-time workers. The committee removed from the outline the issue of a proposed flat-rate charge system meant to reduce the financial burden on the government resulting from medical expense refunds. Under the refund system, patients who paid extremely high medical expenses can receive a refund. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry proposed in October to add a flat-rate surcharge of 100 yen to outpatients' hospital fees to increase revenues. However, as many DPJ members opposed the change, the outline only stated the government was working toward making changes to the system.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 12/15/2011

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World Bank Commemorates 40 Years of Issuing Bonds in Japan

The World Bank honored Japan's journey from being a recipient of World Bank funding to a major investor and development partner by commemorating this year's 40th anniversary of its first bond issued in the Japanese capital markets, in the lead up to the IMF/World Bank annual meetings to be held in Tokyo next year. By investing in World Bank bonds over the last four decades, Japanese corporations and individuals have funded approximately $150 billion in economic and social development around the globe. The World Bank is the world's largest source of development finance and expertise, and works together with its member countries to help them achieve their development goals, improve the standards of living of their citizens and tackle global problems such as climate change. World Bank bonds fund this effort, providing financing for projects in areas such as health education, environment and infrastructure. The World Bank's first bond issue in Japan was a JPY 11 billion "samurai bond" launched in June, 1971. Since that first bond issue, Japan has developed into one of the most important markets in the world for World Bank bonds.

The World Bank thanks the Japanese Ministry of Finance and the Japanese financial community for their support over the past four decades. "We are very grateful for the strong support Japanese investors have consistently shown over the years for the World Bank's borrowing program. Japanese investors greatly value safety, long-term commitment and innovation, values we believe the World Bank has brought to the Japanese market for the past four decades," said Madelyn Antoncic, Vice President and Treasurer of the World Bank. "In addition to being a source of funding through World Bank bonds placed with Japanese investors, Japan is an important partner in the World Bank's development efforts. Japan is the second largest shareholder of the World Bank and is one of the largest donors to the International Development Association ("IDA"), the part of the World Bank Group that helps the poorest countries, as well as to many funds administered by the World Bank, including the Global Environment Facility and the Global Fund for Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria," said Kazushige Taniguchi, Special Representative, Japan, World Bank.

The first bond issue represented an important step in the evolution of Japan's relationship with the World Bank. Japan became a member of the World Bank in 1952, and throughout the 1950's and 1960's, as Japan rebuilt its economy after World War II, the World Bank provided over US$850 million of loans to the country. In all, the World Bank made 31 loans to Japan during that time, funding important economic development projects throughout the country, including the construction of the first bullet train line. In recognition of the important role Japan plays in the World Bank Group, Tokyo has been selected as the site for the World Bank and International Monetary Fund's annual meetings in 2012, the 60th anniversary of Japan joining both institutions.

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 12/15/2011

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Cabinet OKs Tax-hiking Budget Plan

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda agreed Friday on a guideline for compiling the fiscal 2012 budget with a focus on "Japan revitalization" following the March quake-tsunami and amid the uncertain global economic outlook. The guideline also calls for crafting a bill to raise the politically sensitive consumption tax. Noda told his economic team he hopes the budget for the year starting April 1 will help "turn the crisis into an opportunity," and pledged to "fully make efforts to revive hopes and pride in Japan." At the same time, the administration will maintain discipline to restore the country's fiscal health, the worst among major developed economies, he said. It will spend no more than about ¥71 trillion on policy initiatives, except for debt-servicing costs, while new bond issuance will be capped at about ¥44 trillion, according to the guidelines.

The stipulated amounts are the same as those under the initial budget for the current fiscal year. The Finance Ministry plans to compile a draft budget for Cabinet approval on Dec. 24. The Diet is expected to start deliberations on it early next year. The potential consumption tax hike from the current 5 percent, which some lawmakers oppose, would help the government secure funds to cover swelling social security costs. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said the administration is holding to its basic position of submitting the tax bill to the Diet by the end of March. The administration is hoping to keep the economy on a moderate recovery track despite the negative impact of the March 11 disasters, the export-killing yen surge and uncertain global economic prospects amid the sovereign debt crisis in Europe. Fiscal problems in Greece, Italy and some other eurozone countries that have unsettled global financial markets are "not a fire on the other side of the river," Noda told his ministers, referring to Japan's debt-laden public finances and reiterating his commitment to ensuring investor confidence in the fiscal sustainability of the country.

Noda's budget guideline stresses the need for policies to create new industries with growth potential and boost employment. It also aims to introduce measures for farmers, who have protested Noda's decision to join talks for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The agricultural industry has argued that joining the TPP, a multilateral free-trade agreement, would trigger an influx of cheaper imports to Japan and hurt the livelihoods of people in the sector. As for government work related to the March disasters, the 2012 budget would involve outlays for radiation decontamination.

From http://www.japantimes.co.jp/ 12/17/2011

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Japan to Trim 2012/13 Budget, Rely on Special Bonds

Japan's government plans to trim its initial budget for next financial year from this year's record, but spending cuts will be achieved by using a special type of bond that does not need to included in general accounts, the Nikkei newspaper said. The government is planning a 90 trillion yen ($1.2 trillion) initial budget for the year beginning next April 1 that would include 68.4 trillion yen of actual spending, the paper said. It would mark the first decline in the initial budget for six years and compares with the record 92 trillion yen initial budget this year, which contained 71 trillion yen in spending. The government is considering issuing special-purpose bonds to fulfill the state's share of pension payouts, thereby excluding related costs from the budget's general account. The bonds are designed to be repaid through future sales tax increases.

Reliance on debt would actually increase when the special bonds are taken into account, although the government would technically be able to honor its pledge to keep new borrowing and general spending at this year's levels of around 44 trillion yen and 71 trillion yen. The general budget will also exclude costs related to rebuilding areas of the northeast devastated by the March earthquake and tsunami, which the government plans to finance with another type of special bond due to be repaid over 25 years, financed by rises in corporate and income taxes. With its public debt already twice the size of the $5 trillion economy, Japan wants to slow increases in its debt pile through self-imposed ceilings as the euro zone debt crisis has spooked markets. Investors are also wary about additional fiscal burdens but they do not so far see funding strains as serious as those in the euro zone, thanks to Japan's large domestic savings.

The March disaster has led the government to compile three supplementary budgets totaling 18 trillion yen, on top of the record initial budget. It plans to approve another extra budget of over 2 trillion yen in the coming days. For next fiscal year, tax revenues are estimated at around 42 trillion yen, falling short of new borrowings for a third straight year, while the government plans to secure over 3.5 trillion yen in non-tax revenues, down from 7.2 trillion yen this year, the Nikkei said. The ruling Democratic Party plans to agree by the end of the year a proposal to eventually double the 5 percent sales tax to pay for rising welfare costs, but Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is struggling to win broad support. A newspaper poll has found that 54 percent of Japanese oppose the government's plan to double the tax by mid-decade. Debt-servicing costs are estimated at 22 trillion yen for next fiscal year, the Nikkei said.

From http://www.cnbc.com/ 12/18/2011

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SOUTH KOREA: Government to Raise Taxes for High-Income Earners

The government and ruling Grand National Party are seeking to introduce a so-called "Buffett Tax," named after billionaire Warren Buffett, boosting it to 38 to 40 percent the current 35 percent income tax levied on people who make more than W500 million a year (US$1=W1,154). Only around 10,000 Koreans fall in that income bracket. "When the existing income tax scheme was created in 1996, there were only around 10,000 people who made W88 million a year, but now there are 280,000 people in that bracket," a senior GNP official added. "We need to narrow down the income brackets to raise more taxes on top earners." The official said research on individuals earning more than W200 million a year shows that most of them work in the overseas subsidiaries of Korean conglomerates, and it is difficult to impose the highest tax rate on the self-employed since their monthly income fluctuates.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 11/29/2011

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Pension Fund Favors Foreign Dollars

The national pension fund service is aiming to help the government secure greenbacks from abroad for overseas investments, raising hope that the local currency market will be stabilized. "The National Pension Service has proposed a plan to the government to raise U.S. dollars for overseas investments from abroad instead of from the local foreign exchange market," NPS Chairman Jun Kwang-woo told Yonhap News Agency during a telephone interview. Jun said working-level talks with the Ministry of Strategy and Finance and the Ministry of Health and Welfare are under way, adding that he expects the government to welcome the move. "NPS assets are expected to reach 1,000 trillion won [$885 billion] in 10 years. If the fund's overseas investments increase to 30 percent of its total investments, it will near the size of the country's foreign exchange reserves," Jun said.

From http://koreajoongangdaily.joinsmsn.com/ 12/07/2011

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Park Seeks to Boost Welfare Spending

Park Geun-hye, former leader of the governing Grand National Party (GNP), will make a last-minute effort to boost next year's state budget for welfare services, party insiders said Friday. They said the eldest daughter of the late President Park Chung-hee wants to add as much as 3 trillion won to the government's proposal to spend 92 trillion won ($79.6 billion) on welfare-related projects, up 6.4 percent from this year. Under the government's budget submitted in September, welfare-related services account for 28.2 percent of its 326.1 trillion won in spending planned for next year. "Former Chairwoman Park is seeking a boost in the welfare budget. However, she does not want to add any new projects or systems," said GNP lawmaker Lee Hahn-koo, who has acted as her advisor on economic policy.

The legislator noted that Park wants to increase the government's subsidies for college tuition and the social-insurance systems, as well as expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a refundable tax credit for low-income working families. She has maintained that the government should allocate additional 1.5 trillion won to expand state financial assistance for college students as part of her party's efforts to halve tuition. Park also argues that the government should set aside an additional 495 billion won for creating jobs for the young and subsidize as much as 50 percent of social insurance premiums for low-paid workers. "Lawmakers of the National Assembly Education Committee have approved an increase of 400 billion won, but this is far below the amount needed," Park, the de facto head of the GNP's interim leadership, said in a meeting with university students in Daejeon last month.

Park, the GNP's most likely candidate to run in the next presidential election, is expected to take the helm of the conservative party from next week. Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan, a close confidant to Park, said there remains room for a further increase in the 2012 budget. "The government is fully aware of the GNP's top priorities, which have moved further toward welfare," he said. "I'm confident that many of her demands will be carefully reviewed and reflected during the budget deliberations." Rep. Gu Sang-chan, another close associate to Park, also painted rosy prospects for a welfare budget hike, saying many members of the Assembly Special Committee on Budget and Accounts have reacted positively to it. "It is hard to give an exact number. But I can assure you that state support for college tuition will be likely further increased," he said. The majority of GNP lawmakers of the budget committee, the last step before the budget bill is put to a vote in a floor session for final approval, are known to have close ties with Park. The National Assembly will resume budget deliberations once an extraordinary session opens later this month.

From http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/ 12/13/2011

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S&P Affirms S. Korea Sovereign Credit Ratings

Ratings agency Standard & Poor's confirmed its sovereign credit ratings on South Korea Wednesday and said the outlook was stable, citing fiscal soundness and a net external creditor position. A week after the agency threatened downgrades for 15 eurozone countries and the European Union, it affirmed the Asian nation's "A" foreign currency and "A+" local currency long-term sovereign credit ratings. The ratings scale stretches from a top-grade AAA down to D for debt that is already in default. "The outlook is stable," the agency said, adding that its ratings on South Korea reflected a political and economic profile labelled "intermediate" and an assessment of the country's flexibility and performance as "very strong".

"South Korea's favorable policy environment, sound fiscal position, and a net external creditor position lend support to the government's creditworthiness," it said. "These strengths are balanced against the significant security risks and contingent liabilities that the sovereign faces." It added praise for the "policy environment has helped to promote significant economic development over a number of decades" and the government's healthy fiscal position. Geopolitical risks have increased in the last two to three years due to uncertainties over a possible North Korean leadership change, the agency said. But the stable outlook reflects "our expectations that geopolitical tensions will not escalate markedly from current levels", S&P said.

From http://news.yahoo.com/ 12/14/2011

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MALAYSIA: Up in WEF Financial Health Report, But Cost Remains Concern

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia has inched up a spot to 16th in this year's World Economic Forum's (WEF) Financial Development Report, an annual survey measuring financial system health. It was only one of two emerging economies and one of six Asian economies in the top 20, which was otherwise dominated by Western nations. Malaysia's ranking was bolstered by strong results in financial stability (6th), banking financial services (15th) and non-banking financial services (13th), according to the survey report. The country also retained the top rank in currency stability and continued to be a leader in financial information disclosure (second), which contributed to its reputation for financial system stability. But the report said Malaysia's relatively weak business environment (25th) was a concern, and urged continued focus on developing infrastructure (33rd) and reducing the cost of doing business (31st). It noted that more attention should be given to both the foreign exchange (32nd) and derivatives markets (32nd), as well as relatively poor retail access (23rd) to capital compared to commercial access (5th). Hong Kong took the number one spot in this year's index after overtaking the US and the UK, the first time an Asian financial centre has secured top honours since the survey began four years ago.

The city-state jumped from fourth place last year thanks to strong scores in non-banking financial services such as initial public offerings (IPO) and insurance. The US slipped to second place although its overall score was unchanged from last year, while the UK fell to third due to lower scores on securitisation and IPO activity. Singapore dropped a rung to number four - even as other Asian economies moved up the rankings - closely followed by Australia in fifth place. Coming last in this year's ranking of the world's leading financial systems and capital markets was Nigeria, with Venezuela, Ghana and Tanzania close behind. The Financial Development Report ranks 60 countries, analysing drivers of financial system and capital market development that support economic growth. The WEF said the index is intended to serve as a tool for advanced and emerging economies to benchmark themselves and identify areas for financial reform.

From http://my.news.yahoo.com/ 12/14/2011

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IGP: Police Taking Money-laundering Seriously

Money laundering is not an issue taken lightly by the police as they have been regularly freezing and seizing the fixed assets and cash of suspected drug trafficking members. Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar said money laundering was an issue closely monitored by police as they not only arrested suspects but also probed to see if their wealth had been derived from the proceeds of illicit activities. "In many drug cases, the suspect's background and financial standing is investigated thoroughly and police have used the forfeiture of property powers in the past to seize the ill-gotten gains," Ismail said. He was commenting on a recent report by US-based watchdog Global Financial Integrity (GFI) that Malaysia lost RM150bil in illegal outflow of cash in 2009, the fourth highest in the developing world. According to the report, Malaysia lost a total of US$338bil (RM1.08tril) in the last 10 years and the GFI called on world leaders to wake up and act to address these harmful outflows. "Money laundering is not something new and the police have been regularly acting against organised crime members and drug syndicates who have amassed substantial fixed and variable assets with their ill-gotten gains," Ismail said. He was speaking to reporters at Bukit Aman here on Friday after witnessing the handing over of duties between acting management director Datuk Abdul Rahim Hanafi and the newly appointed director Datuk Mortadza Nazarene.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 12/16/2011

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PHILIPPINES: Spending US$10 Mil on Weather Facilities Upgrade

The Philippines is pumping in US$9.87 million to upgrade its weather and flood forecast facilities, said Florencio Abad,Secretary, Department of Budget and Management (DBM). 150 million pesos (US$3.48 million) will be used to enhance the Doppler radar network - a system capable of detecting the motion of rain droplets in addition to the intensity of the precipitation - of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), while 275 million pesos (US$6.39 million) will be used to construct a state-of-the-art National Meteorological and Climate Center (NMCC). "We are beefing-up our weather forecasting capabilities in order to minimise the economic and social impact of climate change, more importantly, to save human lives," Abad said. "Better, real-time monitoring of typhoons, flooding and disasters will benefit sectors across the board, including aviation, maritime and shipping, agriculture and trade sectors whose operations are severely hampered by weather disturbances," he added. PAGASA will purchase and install three Doppler radars in Antique, Palawan, and the Zamboanga Peninsula along the western side of the Philippines, completing the Doppler radar network's coverage of the country.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 11/26/2011
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Philippines: WB Approves New Funding to Improve Delivery of Services to Poor Communities

WASHINGTON DC, DECEMBER 1, 2011 - The World Bank's Board of Executive Directors approved today a new loan to the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) for a project designed to support investments in local public infrastructure and services. The new financing amounting to US$50 million will fund the Regional Infrastructure for Growth Project (RIGP) which aims to improve physical and economic integration within and across local government units in participating provinces and regions by increasing access to finance for an open menu of local public infrastructure and services. DBP President and Chief Executive Officer Francisco F. Del Rosario Jr. welcomed approval of the loan saying, "This project will build on DBPs existing support for improved physical and economic integration - such as the Roll-on-roll-off (RORO) network - by encouraging LGUs to work with each other and with private sector partners to improve connectivity and access to better infrastructure development and services, especially to poor communities." DBP will on-lend the US$50 million loan to LGUs, public utilities or eligible local government-owned and controlled corporations, and private sector enterprises developing local infrastructure as well as providing services through public-private partnerships (PPP). In addition to offering direct retail sub-loans, DBP will also channel financing through wholesale loans to eligible private financial institutions for on-lending to local service providers.

"The project will finance a wide array of local public infrastructure and services that meet the objective of improving physical and economic integration," said Mr. Del Rosario. "These projects will typically be among the priorities identified by a provincial agency or by a regional body or authority through their development and physical framework plans." Among the eligible projects are environmental infrastructure (water supply, solid waste facilities, drainage systems); agriculture support systems (irrigation, small impounding reservoirs, supply chain infrastructure); disaster risk mitigation (sea walls, flood protection, slope protection); social (school buildings, hospitals, health centers); transport (provincial and local roads, local ports, public transport facilities); and tourism support (eco-parks, convention centers, heritage sites, resorts). In 1991, Congress enacted the Local Government Code to promote local autonomy and accountability as well as empower LGUs to improve public services and stimulate local development. The Code has devolved significant responsibility for the delivery of key services, and has provided annual transfers to LGUs through Internal Revenue Allotments (IRA) to support core operations. Moreover, the Code has given LGUs the mandate to raise additional funds for investment in infrastructure and services through taxation and borrowing. While significant strides have been made to improve local infrastructure and service delivery in many parts of the country, a number of LGUs and communities continue to face development challenges, including inadequate infrastructure and inefficient services due to limited access to finance. "RIGP aims to help address these challenges," said Mr. Del Rosario.

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 12/01/2011

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Tax Crimes Linked to Money Laundering

The Bureau of Internal Revenue has urged the Senate to include tax evasion as one of the predicate crimes under the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) that would empower the government to freeze suspected accounts and prosecute erring taxpayers. In a position paper submitted to the Senate Sub-committee on Anti-Money Laundering, the BIR said "The inclusion of tax crimes as a predicate offense to money laundering is proper and timely. as it is in line with the present trend among national governments and international organizations that are dedicated to curtailing illicit capital flight as a means of supporting and sustaining economic development in low income countries. Predicate crimes are the unlawful acts under the Republic Act 9160 or AMLA such as kidnapping for ransom, plunder, jueteng, smuggling, and drug trafficking among others for which government can seek the freezing of funds or assets of suspected individuals. Violation of AMLA carries a penalty of imprisonment ranging from seven to 14 years and a fine of not less than P3 million but not more than twice the value of the monetary instrument or property involved in the offense. In justifying its recommendation to include tax evasion as a predicate crime under the AMLA, it said that the Tax Code provides that "all income derived from whatever sources, legal or illegal, is taxable; and that nonpayment of taxes on income derived from whatever sources, legal or illegal, is a criminal offense."

The Internal Revenue further said that "those involved in illegal enterprises are necessarily engaged in tax evasion because reporting their true personal incomes would serve as an admission of guilt and could result in criminal charges." "Tax evasion is essentially present in the first stage of the money laundering process for the reason that individuals involved in illegal enterprises are necessarily engaged in tax evasion because reporting their true personal income from illegal activities would serve as closely intertwined with tax evasion," the Internal Revenue told the Senate's sub-committee on AMLA. Besides the inclusion of tax evasion in the list of predicate crimes, the BIR is also recommending that those facing money laundering charges be automatically prosecuted for tax evasion as well. The senate committee on banks and financial institutions completed the Committee Report on Senate Bill 2484 that aims to amend the AMLA, which is up for discussion on the floor.

From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 12/17/2011

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Gov't Readies Fund Assistance to Victims of Storm Sendong

The government is ready to provide more than a billion pesos to assist victims of tropical storm Sendong (international name: Washi), the Budget department said yesterday, even as President Benigno S. C. Aquino III will visit today flood-stricken areas in Northern Mindanao which suffered the highest number of deaths. Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad said in a statement that the administration is ready to use P1.297 billion in calamity-response funds for the storm victims. "With the Calamity Fund, the government is generously equipped to mobilize and support disaster relief efforts in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and other Sendong-affected areas. We are ensuring the quick release of these funds so that victims will receive swift and proper assistance," Mr. Abad said. Aside from the Calamity Fund. Mr. Abad said, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of National Defense (DND) and Department of Education are also supported by separate quick response funds (QRFs) which will guarantee direct and immediate support to the affected areas. "In addition to the Calamity Fund and the QRFs, we also have the Local Government Support Fund shares of all affected local government units, for whom President Benigno S. Aquino III will provide Special Allotment Release Orders and Notices of Allocation [today]," he said.

The need for additional funds can be supported as the administration has sufficient reserves to augment the Calamity Fund and QRFs to expedite relief operations. Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters yesterday that Mr. Aquino will fly to Cagayan de Oro City, Iligan and Dumaguete today. "Mr. Aquino wanted to visit as early as yesterday but the weather conditions and upon the advice of the PSG (Presidential Security Group) and the DND, they recommended that the visit be made [today] and so that's the decision made," he said at a briefing in Malacañang. Mr. Aquino has ordered a comprehensive report from Cabinet secretaries on relief efforts for storm victims, he added. For his part, House Speaker Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr. (4th district, Quezon City) has called on congressmen to donate P1 million each from their pork barrel fund next year to help rehabilitate areas damaged by Sendong. "On a longer term, we intend to request each of the 284 congressmen to allocate P1 million each from their PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) to be used directly to help alleviate the areas that were devastated by the storm," he told a briefing with reporters yesterday. Each of the 284 congressmen is given P70 million in so-called pork barrel funds that are earmarked for pet projects. Mr. Belmonte said the assistance, however, will have to wait until Congress resumes sessions on Jan. 16 to charge disbursements under the 2012 budget. Congress has been on break since Friday. For the meantime, he said the House of Representatives will ask each congressman to personally donate at least P20,000 "for immediate relief." In a related development, the Chinese embassy in Manila has donated P440,000 for the storm victims, a statement yesterday said.

From http://bworld.com.ph/ 12/19/2011

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Govt Urged to Start Spending National Budget

Franklin Drilon has urged the government to start its infrastructure and social services programs as early as January next year. Drilon, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, made the call after the P1.8-trillion national budget for 2012 was signed by President Benign Aquino 3rd last week. The senator said that the early signing of the General Appropriations Act of 2012 should fast track the implementation of the Aquino government's infrastructure and social services programs next year. "I commend the early enactment of the 2012 budget, the earliest to be passed since 1986, which shows that this government is bent on fast-tracking its infrastructure and social services programs next year as ordered by President Aquino," Drilon said. He said the early approval of the national budget would allow Malacañang to promptly start government infrastructure projects as early as January to spur the rapid rehabilitation of farm to market roads damaged by back-to-back natural disasters this year. "Critical investments aimed at improving much needed social services, supporting economic growth and reducing poverty will now be addressed properly, and in a more transparent manner in keeping with President Aquino's call for a results-focused budget," Drilon said. Mr. Aquino upon signing of the national budget has instructed government agencies to start implementing bidding of contracts for projects, especially infrastructure.

During the budget deliberations at the Senate earlier, Drilon urged the Department of Public Works and Highways to accelerate the implementation of government infrastructure projects in a bid to ramp up domestic economic growth. Drilon said the slack spending in infrastructure in the first half of the 2011 resulted mainly to a Gross Domestic Product growth of only four percent, below the government's estimate of 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent. He noted that the Aquino government was criticized this year for its under-spending which has caused the contraction of public spending and has affected efforts to achieve the targeted GDP growth. He noted that infrastructure spending was crucial in order to achieve the government's targeted GDP growth for the year. Drilon said the allotment of more funds for infrastructure in the 2012 budget was needed to generate jobs and pump prime economic activity especially in the countryside, warning that allowing projects lined-up in 2011 to migrate to 2012 because of non-execution would bring "difficulties" economically.

From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 12/19/2011

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Gov't Taps Banks for Planned 2012 Dollar Bond Sale

EIGHT FOREIGN BANKS have been hired as underwriters for the government's planned $1.5-billion bond sale next year, officials yesterday said. "We have mandated eight banks," National Treasurer Roberto B. Tan told BusinessWorld, confirming a wire report identifying these as Citigroup, Inc., Credit Suisse Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., JP Morgan Chase & Co., Standard Chartered Plc, UBS AG and HSBC Holdings Plc. A source who requested anonymity said the government would be conducting a dollar-denominated bond sale with tenors likely to be 10 and 25 years. Mr. Tan, for his part, said: "Currency of the issuance would depend on the market's appetite. Right now, a dollar bond issuance is quite attractive based on the currency's demand and price". Finance Undersecretary Rosalia V. de Leon said, "we are still assessing market conditions before setting the date of the bond sale." The Monetary Board gave its go-signal last Thursday.

From http://bworld.com.ph/ 12/20/2011

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BANGLADESH: To Get $4.5 Billion for Poverty Reduction

The Asian Development Bank will provide US$4.5 billion aid in five years to Bangladesh to boost its economic growth and reduce poverty. Over one-third of Bangladesh's population lives below poverty line. Dhaka: Bangladesh will receive $4.5 billion in loans from the Asian Development Bank over next four years to strengthen efforts to reduce the poverty which still grips a third of its population, an ADB official said on Thursday. Around one-third of Bangladesh's 160 million people still live on just $1.25 a day/ Photo credit: Andrew Biraj/ Reuters "The assistance over a period till 2015 aims to develop infrastructure, energy and electricity to generate more employment through industrialisation," he told Reuters. It would also help boost Bangladesh's farming and communication sectors. Of the total loan, $2.4 billion will come from ADB's soft-lending arm, the Asian Development Fund, and the rest from the Ordinary Capital Resources. Bangladesh's Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith told reporters on Thursday that the ADB assistance would help to achieve economic growth and cut poverty. Bangladesh is targetting economic growth of 7.0 percent in the fiscal year to the end of June 2012. Over the last few years credit and other financial assistance offered by development partners were equivalent to only two percent of the country's GDP (gross domestic product), officials said. Around one-third of Bangladesh's 160 million people still live on just $1.25 a day, according to government officials. Bangladesh's GDP in the fiscal year ending in June 2011 was about $110 billion and the per capita income was $818, according to government statistics.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 12/09/2011

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High Rate of Inflation a More Pressing Problem for Bangladesh

Dhaka (UNB) - Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Monday said that the more pressing problem that Bangladesh is facing is high rate of inflation. "More pressing problem confronting Bangladesh is high rate of inflation, which is not simply induced by global inflation, but also because of certain domestic policies," he said while inaugurating a four-day regional training workshop at a city hotel. Bangladesh Bank Governor Dr. Atiur Rahman presided over the workshop titled 'Beyond Inflation Targets: Policy Options and Instruments for Sustaining Growth and Equitable Development'. UNDP country director Stefan Priesner, UNESCAP representative Aynul Hosan and UNDESA resource person John Loxely, among others, also spoke at the inaugural session. Bangladesh Bank deputy governor Ziaul Hasan Siddiqui gave the welcome address. Speaking as the chief guest, the Finance Minister said that while preparing the national budget for the current fiscal, the government set the target to contain inflation within single digit. "The challenge for us is to contain it (inflation) within one digit and somehow we've to keep within that."

According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistic (BBS), the point-to-point inflation in November was 11.58 percent, up 0.16 percent over last month mostly because of the fuel price hike. The point-to-point inflation has been in the double digit for the last six months, with October registering 11.42 percent. The food inflation in November fell slightly to 12.47 percent from previous month's 12.82 percent, and non-food commodities rose to 10.16 percent from 9.05 percent. Muhith said that the government had also planned to keep the deficit financing within five percent of GDP in the current fiscal, which it has been doing for the last couple of years. He said that this year, the problem lies in huge subsidy as it was projected 2.7 percent of GDP. Subsidy is becoming larger because of delayed price adjustment in petroleum. He also opined that the policy of "expanding power production involving substantial cost was perhaps not right." The Finance Minister, however, said it is the growth in the power sector that helped the country to achieve a very high growth rate in national production as well as in industrial production. He hoped that the trade growth this year will be 12 percent or much more. He said: "Sustainable growth and equitable development would have to be tied up with fiscal and monetary policy. The government needs to consider this serious problem."

Mentioning that only 7,000 bank branches is certainly inadequate for a country like Bangladesh with over 150 million population, Muhith stressed the need for finding ways of expanding banking services in the country to spread development in every part of society. He said Bangladesh had been maintaining good macroeconomic balance in the last 15 years although the country has a serious problem in the management of economy, and also having pretty low investment rate, FDI and public expenditure programme. "I'm hopeful and confident that it will continue to be in the way that was in the past," he added. The Finance Minister also urged the global public sector to take some responsibility in managing the price of two commodities - food items and oil. Bangladesh Bank governor Dr. Atiur Rahman said that the government needs to limit the buildup of public sector borrowing pressure on the credit markets to leave room for increasing credit flows to private enterprises. "This entails proper co-ordination and dovetailing of monetary and fiscal policies, and in Bangladesh, the government and the Bangladesh Bank are in continuous contact and consultations to this end." He also said that for the central banks in developing economics, supporting inclusive growth at the highest sustainable rate is crucially important for equitably opening up advancement opportunities for the disadvantaged population segments.

From http://www.unbconnect.com/ 12/19/2011

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SRI LANKA: World Bank Approves US$100 Million to Transform School Education System in Sri Lanka to Benefit 4 Million Children and 235,000 Teachers and Administrators

WASHINGTON, November 29, 2011 - The World Bank today approved a US$100 million concessional credit to Sri Lanka to enhance access and quality of primary and secondary education to provide a foundation for the knowledge - based economic and social development of the country. Transforming the School Education System (TSEP) will be implemented at the national level by the Ministry of Education and at the provincial level by the Provincial Ministries and Departments of Education, with the support of the Ministry of Local Government and Provincial Councils. This country programme has clear themes: supporting initiatives to increase opportunities for children in the age group of 6-10 years to complete primary education and for children in the age group of 11-16 to complete secondary education up to grade 11. The programme will support several innovative initiatives to enhance learning out comes and improve the orientation of the education system to the economic development and social needs of the country. It would also help assist the country to empower schools with greater managerial authority and responsibility and to develop the planning, administration and monitoring capacity of the provincial, zonal and divisional levels of the education system. "The program will help the country develop a foundation for the skills needed for the global economy of the future, and the ethics and values required for good citizenship in a modern democracy," said Dr Harsha Aturupane, Lead Education Specialist and Task Team Leader of the operation. The TSEP will directly benefit about 4 million school children, around 215,000 school teachers, 15,000 principals and 3,500 education managers and administrators. Among the 4 million students, there are approximately 1.6 million primary school students and 2.4 million secondary school students. The TSEP will indirectly benefit school communities of about 10,000 schools, the households of 4 million school children, the contractors of school infrastructure and suppliers of educational equipment, and the academics and researchers who will receive support for research and evaluation activities.

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 11/29/2011

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Sri Lanka Reaches Billion Dollar FDI Volume in 2011: Minister

(LBO) - Sri Lanka has reached a highest ever foreign direct investment volume of a billion US dollars by November 2011, deputy economic development minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene said. "This includes state land sales," minister Abeywardene said. "Land purchases are an integral part of an investment project. By November 2011 we have posted the highest ever volume of foreign direct investment." Sri Lanka is targeting a billion US dollars of FDI or about 2.0 percent of gross domestic product per year after a war ended in 2009. In 2010 Sri Lanka drew 516 million US dollars in FDI, slightly lower than 602 in 2009. The previous highest FDI inflows were seen in 2008, when Sri Lanka attracted 889 million US dollars. Analysts have warned that Sri Lanka's investment prospects are now clouded by an expropriation law that violated property rights of citizens and non-citizens. Though the state promised an end to expropriations nationalizations of land in listed plantations companies were announced in a budget for 2012. But minister Abeywardene defended the move saying expropriations only applied to particular companies which had broken some conditions.

From http://www.lankabusinessonline.com/ 12/09/2011

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NEPAL: IMF Suggests to Increase Lendings of Banks, Financial Institutions

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged Nepal's banks and financial institutions to increase their landings as they have excess liquidity at present. The visiting delegation of the IMF held meeting with Finance Minister Barsha Man Pun at his office in Singh Durbar on Wednesday and suggested him to work on the control of current expenditures, increase capital, and improve revenue administration. Informing the delegation about the progress on peace and constitution drafting process, FM Pun said that the government is committed to address the issues seen in the BFIs. The minister also said that the government has been always encouraging the financial institution to make investment in productive sectors. He informed the delegation that the bank deposit currently stands at Rs. 743 billion.

From http://www.nepalnews.com/ 12/15/2011

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ARMENIA: Remittances Soar in 2011

Cash remittances sent home by thousands of Armenians working in Russia and other countries increased by more than 23 percent in the first 10 months of this year compared to 2010, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports. Central Bank of Armenia (CBA) data shows that local commercial banks processed almost $1.24 billion in noncommercial cash transfers from abroad, up from just over $1 billion in the same period last year. The total amount of incoming wire transfers, which includes funding for business transactions, reached $1.56 billion. It was $1.27 billion from January to October 2010. More than 80 percent of the cash inflows came from Russia, which is home to hundreds of thousands of Armenian migrant workers. The United States, which also has a sizable Armenian immigrant population, accounted for roughly 5 percent of the total.

The remittances have long been a major source of income for a large part of Armenia's population. A rapid rise in their volume in the early 2000s contributed to double-digit growth in the country's economy, which came to an end with the outbreak of the global recession in late 2008. Economic growth in the country resumed in 2010, helped by an almost 14 percent rise in remittances. According to the CBA, the remittances totaled $1.3 billion, equivalent to over 13 percent of gross domestic product. The sharper rise in 2011 remittances is one of the reasons why economic growth is on course to exceed 4 percent this year. Armenia's heavy dependence on the cash transfers also makes it vulnerable to a renewed economic crisis around the world and in Russia, in particular. Moody's Investors Service, a credit ratings agency, emphasized this dependence as it lowered its outlook for the Armenian economy late last month. It warned that an economic slowdown in Russia resulting from a drop in global commodity prices could seriously cut into Armenian remittances.

Residents of rural areas of the country, where unemployment rates have been above the nationwide average, are particularly reliant on financial support from their family members working abroad. Frunz Ohanian, an elderly farmer in the village of Geghanist in the southern Ararat Province, and his wife Satenik, are one such family. They have for years lived off money wired by their older son, who migrated to Russia a decade ago. "Last month he sent a lot of money so we can meet our basic needs," Frunz Ohanian told RFE/RL on Wednesday (December 7). Ohanian said he still hopes that his son, daughter-in-law, and four granddaughters will eventually return home. "If the situation improves, if there are jobs, of course they will come back," he said. "I don't doubt it."

From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 12/11/2011

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AZERBAIJAN: Central Bank Prepares State Program to Promote Non-cash Payments

The Azerbaijani Central Bank (CBA) has prepared a state program to promote non-cash payments. It will cover 2012 to 2016, CBA official Alim Guliyev told media today. "The package of proposals to promote non-cash payments in Azerbaijan was prepared and submitted to the government," he said. "One proposal is to prepare a special state program. CBA has prepared the final version of the program and agreed it with the banking sector and a number of bodies." He stressed that ensuring the effective use of electronic payment systems and expanding the legal framework will be the primary objectives of the state program.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/01/2011

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Azerbaijan's State Budget to Allocate Funds for SOCAR's Non-profile Assets

An additional 61 million manat will be allocated out of Azerbaijan's public budget for financial provision of non-profile assets of SOCAR (State Oil Company of Azerbaijan), such as diagnostic centers, hospitals, cultural centers and ministries of health, culture and tourism, during their transfer to the relevant ministries in 2012, Finance Minister Samir Sharifov said at a parliamentary meeting on Tuesday. "Additional 61 million manat should be allocated for financial provision of diagnostic centers, hospitals, cultural centers and ministries of health, culture and tourism," Sharifov underscored. The company intends to escape non-profile assets held on its balance. In particular, it concerns institutions such as the Central Hospital of Oilmen.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/06/2011

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TURKEY: Defense and Security Budgets on Rise

The Turkish Ministry of Defense budget has been fixed at TL18.2 billion for the 2012 fiscal year, marking a 7.4 percent increase over 2011. The Defense Ministry budget will make up 1.3 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) for 2012. But these figures and ratios do not include the extra budgetary funds earmarked for defense, which are not available even to legislators, Today's Zaman reported. The Defense Ministry's budget was taken up in Parliament on Dec. 13 and the new budget was approved. Yet, legislators have once again failed to question the unavailability of the extra budgetary funds allocated to the defense industry, which are not included in the ministry's budget. The ministry's budget is composed of the budgets of the Defense Ministry, the air, navy and land forces as well as the General Staff. The new Court of Auditors Law adopted late in 2011 is hoped to help the introduction of a more transparent process for the oversight of military expenditures. Meanwhile, a study released recently by Bilgi University, showed that the ratio of Turkey's defense and security budgets within the GDP in 2010 was over 3.7 percent. But again this ratio is misleading since extra budgetary funds set aside for defense are not available.

Defense and security budgets
Funds allocated to both the Defense Ministry and other institutions responsible for the country's security and law and order comprised around $39 billion (11.1 percent) of the total fiscal year budget for 2012. Still this percentage does not represent the additional budgetary funds that have been allotted for defense and are based on figures made available by the relevant ministries, some of which have provided restricted information. The Ministry of Defense's budget comprised 5.2 percent of the total budget for the 2012 fiscal year compared to 5.4 percent last year. The budget for the Public Order and Security Undersecretariat has been fixed at TL19.1 million, marking a 30.4 percent increase over last year, while the General Directorate of Security budget was set at TL12.1 billion, marking a 14.6 percent increase over last year. The Security General Directorate's share of the total budget for the 2012 fiscal year stands at 3.5 percent.

The budget of the Gendarmerie General Command (JGK) will be TL4.9 billion for 2012, a 7.6 percent increase compared to 2011, while the Interior Ministry budget will be TL2.5 billion, marking a 14.8 percent increase over last year. The JGK's share of the total budget for the 2012 fiscal year saw an increase of 1.4 percent, while the Ministry of Interior's share of the budget increased by 0.007 percent. The Coast Guard Command (SGK) budget has been set at TL375.9 million, an 18.9 percent increase over last year, and the budget of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) will be TL750.9, a 12.8 percent rise over last year. TL14.3 million has been allocated to the General Secretariat of the National Security Council (MGK), which is a 5.4 percent increase compared to last year.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health will see a cut in its 2012 budget, with TL14.3 billion, a 16.7 percent decrease from last year. The Justice Ministry will have a budget of TL5.2 billion, while the budget for the newly established Science, Industry and Technology Ministry has been set at TL2.2 billion. The Foreign Ministry budget, meanwhile, will be TL1.3 billion for 2012. The Ministry of Education budget has seen a 14.8 percent rise in its budget compared to 2011, at TL 39.1 billion. It's ratio within the GDP in 2012 will be 2.75 percent.

According to the study conducted by İstanbul-based Bilgi University between 1988 and 2004, Turkey's military spending was above education spending except for two years. In 2004, two years after Turkey's military spending began to decrease in 2002, spending on education exceeded military spending, the same report said. This comprehensive report was published by the Public Expenditures Monitoring Platform, which is composed of 52 nongovernmental Organizations. The report, however, also underlines that monitoring military spending in Turkey has various difficulties. "The figures of the Defense Ministry, the Gendarmerie General Command [JGK] and the Coast Guard Command [SGK] can be easily obtained via the website of the Ministry of Finance. Although those figures are easily accessible, obtaining detailed figures and long-term estimations on the spending of the Defense Industry Support Fund [SSDF], the Turkish Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation [MKE] and village guards as well as payments made through funds [that are neither available to the legislators nor to the public] or foreign credit intended for military spending, are not possible. Even though we state that data are accessible, we do not claim that the available information is transparent," the report states.

In addition, information on the budgets of around 16 military-owned state companies, including Havelsan and Roketsan, which are affiliated with the Foundation to Strengthen the Turkish Armed Forces (TSKGV), are not available. It is not expected either that auditors will carry out inspections of these companies under the Court of Auditors Law. The Taraf daily asked Omer Dincher, the minister of education, in an interview on Nov. 28 whether despite claims that the Education Ministry's budget is now higher than the Defense Ministry's budget, this was actually the case considering the extra budget allocated to the Defense Ministry, which is still unknown. Dincher responded, saying that the budget of the Education Ministry was about TL60 billion for 2011 if the budgets of certain institutions, including High Education Board (YÖK) and universities, are included. Whereas, he said, the defense budget was around TL39 billion for 2011, when the budgets of the SSDF, military companies and other similar resources are included.

Poor state of military technology
According to Minister of Defense İsmet Yılmaz, the ratio of meeting the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK)'s military equipment requirements through domestic production has reached 52 percent from around 15 percent in 2004 under the 2010 figures. Information on whether this ratio comprises critical military technologies is not available. However, Muslim Sarı, a deputy from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), stated during a Planning and the Budgetary Commission (PBK) discussion on the Defense Ministry's budget on Nov. 4, Turkey still depends on critical military technologies abroad. He also urged that the ratio of funds earmarked for Research and Development (R&D) defense projects be increased to 5 percent from the existing 2 percent. Outlining his ministry's budget during the session on the Defense Ministry budget in November at Parliament's PBK, Yılmaz stated that under the 2010 figures, Turkey realized a $853,5 million worth exports in the fields of defense and aviation. Funds allocated to R&D in the defense industry went up to $666 million. Striking example of noncompliance to transparency

One of the underlying problems in tracing defense expenditures in Turkey is its nontransparent nature. Below is a striking example of this taken from Bilgi University's report: "When we analyzed the allocation sheets evaluated by Parliament and shared with the public via the Ministry of Finance's General Directorate of Budget and Financial Control, we observed that the Ministry of Defense had is two-and-a-half pages of allocation sheets and General Command of the Gendarmerie two pages, while the Finance Ministry, Health Ministry, the National Police Force and the Ministry of Internal Affairs had 41, 24, 28 and 12.5 pages respectively. ... Another institution for which information is lacking is the TSKGV. It's income is sourced from its affiliates, which in 2009 constituted 42 percent of the total turnover of the defense industry in Turkey, and part of its funds are allocated to military projects." The report says, military spending for 2010 was calculated to be 2.48 percent of the GDP, which falls to 2.14 when the estimates covering the TSKGV and military pensions are excluded.

Turkey scores moderate to low transparency level
Transparency International (TI) UK, an organization that fights corruption worldwide, released a report in October concerning the defense budget transparency levels of different countries. TI UK ranked Turkey among 21 countries that have moderate to low levels of transparency in their defense budget, displaying Turkey as a poor state when it comes to the transparency of its defense budget despite its 59-year-long membership to NATO. Among the 21 countries include Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Tanzania, Rwanda and Vietnam. Being scored moderate to low generally reflects that while there is some appropriate legal framework in place for addressing defense budgeting, there is little willingness or capacity to enforce it in practice, according to TI UK.

Turkish legislators receive little information
"Many countries have designated defense committees in place, but their ability to perform their functions vary greatly. In Turkey, for example, parliamentarians receive so little information pertaining to the defense budget that they cannot effectively monitor expenditures," according to TI UK. Under the heading of "Transparent, but Only on the Outside?" TI UK said that "the Turkish army is an established player in the national economy, and its economic clout has been aided by substantial freedom from oversight and restraint regarding its spending decisions." In addition, TI UK points to a bizarre situation in Turkey. "Remarkably, in the case of Turkey, international organizations such as NATO and SIPRI receive and publish official data on military spending. The same access to information, however, is not offered to Turkish media and the public. Turkish citizens may be able to access information provided by the [Stockholm International Peace Research Institute] SIPRI and NATO; however, it is not provided to them directly by national bodies. Despite progress made towards increased disclosure of spending information on the international scene, Turkey remains secretive when it comes to informing its own citizens and military assets and spending continue to be outside independent auditing processes."

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/17/2011

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UZBEKISTAN: IFC Helps Financial Organizations Expand Lending, Supporting Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is helping financial institutions in Uzbekistan to improve their credit underwriting practices, facilitating lending to entrepreneurs and businesses, especially the small and medium enterprises that drive the country's economy. IFC, in partnership with SAIPRO Information Rating Agency, launched a two-day seminar on how banks can use automation, scoring, and credit bureaus in their loan operations. Industry experts, including representatives from Italy's CRIF and Iceland's CreditInfo Solutions, discussed best practices in credit information exchange. Over 80 participants from the financial industry attended the seminar. "This initiative is an important next step following Uzbekistan's new law on credit information exchange, which was adopted in October 2011 with IFC's support," said Ravshan Djuraev, General Director of SAIPRO. "The training will enable participating financial institutions to expand their financial services for small and medium enterprises, and individual clients, and help leading international credit bureaus who are interested in Uzbekistan's market identify potential partners."

This initiative is part of the IFC Azerbaijan-Central Asia Financial Markets Infrastructure Advisory Services Project, implemented in partnership with Switzerland's State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, SECO. The IFC project is working to strengthen financial markets in the region by improving credit information systems, risk-management practices, and training, as well as by facilitating distressed loan resolution. "Effective scoring and automation tools enable financial institutions to increase volume while decreasing expenses and non-performing loans," said Fabrizio Fraboni of IFC's Global Credit Bureau Program. "Adopting best international practice in credit underwriting helps banks to improve operational efficiency and enhance the quality of their loan portfolios." Uzbekistan became a member of IFC in 1993. As of July 2011, IFC has committed $77 million of its own funds and mobilized an additional $12 million to support private sector development in Uzbekistan.

From http://www.ifc.org/ 12/01/2011

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Uzbek Health Sector Faces Spending Cuts

Many state-run medical institutions in Uzbekistan are to have their government funding cut, but it is unclear how they will make up the difference in the absence of a functioning private health sector. The planned cuts were hidden in a package of "intensified reforms" signed off by President Islam Karimov at the end of November, which also includes an expanded network of clinics in rural areas. Some hospitals and clinics will have to shift towards fully funding themselves, although the state will retain a controlling stake in them. A local economist said the government was clearly looking to reduce spending. "It is a consequence of a treasury shortfall," he added. Official statistics indicate that government spending on healthcare is equivalent to 15.7 per cent of gross domestic product¸ but the reality is a lot different. "Much more modest sums than this [figure] are allocated, and the sector is funded on whatever is left over," a health ministry staffer in Tashkent said. He said the health provision was in poor shape now, and would get much worse if funding was reduced. One option for these hospitals could be to start charging fees from 2012, when private health institutions will start being licensed. But the standards needed to win a license, including the availability of cutting-edge technologies, are high. And it is not yet clear whether such licenses will be issued to state institutions so that they can charge patients or set up separate private wards. Finally, the vagaries of state policy are likely to deter many from making a substantial investment in the future. Private healthcare existed in Uzbekistan until 2009, when it was banned, apart from dentists and cosmetic surgery clinics. This article was produced as part of IWPR's News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy. If you would like to comment or ask a question about this story, please contact our Central Asia editorial team at feedback.ca@iwpr.net.

From http://iwpr.net/ 12/17/2011

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AUSTRALIA: Govt Owed $1.7m for Emergency Help

More than $1.7 million worth of overdue accounts are owed to the ACT Government by people who have received emergency ambulance treatment or transport. Figures provided to The Canberra Times show that at the end of June, the overdue debt for ambulance services in the ACT was $1.793million from 2665 invoices. The figures suggested that many Canberra residents were unaware that ambulance services in the territory were not free for people without insurance, except in certain circumstances. At the end of June last year the debt was $2.498 million from 3796 invoices. Emergency ambulance treatment and transport in the ACT is billed at $803 plus $11 per kilometre outside the territory. Transport and treatment by the SouthCare rescue helicopter costs $2458 for the first half hour and $166 for every additional six minutes. ACT Ambulance Service chief officer David Foot said some private health insurance funds offered ambulance-only cover and ACT Pensioner Concession and Health Care Card Holders were entitled to free ambulance services. "If an ACT resident is involved in a motor vehicle accident on a public road in the ACT they're covered for ambulance transport fees under the road accident rescue fee and that was a decision taken by government some years ago," Mr Foot said. "We also offer free service to ACT government schools for the kids at school so if a child's injured in a playground accident at school or in the classroom during school hours and we have to treat them and move the child to hospital they're actually covered for that." ACT government school students were also covered when participating in approved school activities, including school sport. The costs of veterans who held Gold Cards and some White Card holders were met by the Department of Veterans' Affairs. Mr Foot said people could be billed for treatment provided by paramedics even if they were not subsequently transported to hospital. "If we arrive at a scene and we do provide treatment as defined under the Emergencies Act 2004, even if we don't transport the patient from the scene because they decline to be transported they are liable for the account," he said.

From http://www.canberratimes.com.au/ 12/12/2011

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FIJI: Ministry of Finance Says Prudent Financial Management Key to Budget

The head of Fiji's Ministry of Finance, Filimone Waqabaca, says prudent financial management and compliance are key elements to attaining what the interim government has set out to achieve in the 2012 National Budget. When asked how the government will afford a 3 per cent increase to civil servant wages, he says it has increased taxes and duties on certain items. Mr Waqabaca says adhering to financial prudence on expenditure and compliance in terms of revenue collection will help meet the goals set out by government. He says tighter management of funds will allow the government to prepay some of its outstanding loans and achieve the long term plan to reduce debt levels. Mr Waqabaca says during the preparation of the budget the debt level was projected to decrease to 53 per cent by 2014, but now the debt level forecast for 2012 will be 51 per cent to Gross Domestic Product.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 11/28/2011

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Treasurer Delivers Budget

Papua New Guinea's government has delivered a $US4.8 billion budget, the largest in the nation's history. It was already delayed two weeks amid political lobbying ahead of a Supreme Court ruling on the legitimacy of the O'Neill government. Treasurer Don Polye told parliament that the budget would reduce tax and tariffs on food, while providing free education to the majority of the nation's school students. In his first budget speech since he became treasurer in August, he said the budget's theme is about sharing PNG's wealth and empowering people. Today, parliament is to debate and vote on the budget amendments. On Friday, the Supreme court is expected to hand down its verdict on whether Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and his government were constitutionally elected in early August. If ruled unconstitutional, PNG could see a return to the government of Sir Michael Somare.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 12/06/2011

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PNG Parliament Passes Budget

The Papua New Guinea parliament has passed the budget following weeks of delays due to the political impasse in which two rival groups have claimed to be the legitimate government. The impasse now appears settled after Peter O'Neill consolidated his claim to the prime ministership, this week being recognised by the Governor-General, the Speaker of parliament, the police commissioner, the Defence Force and the public service. His rival, Sir Michael Somare, still claims to be the legitimate leader but lacks public support and the numbers to challenge Mr O'Neill successfully in parliament. Meanwhile, the O'Neill administration passed its budget, the nation's largest ever, which includes substantial spending increases for health and education. Earlier, a senior member of the O'Neill cabinet, Bart Philemon, said they would complete other key legislation as well. "We have already put [through] the first and second reading of the Sovereign Wealth Fund. The only other major legislation is the 22 women's seat one, [for] which parliament failed to get the required number of 73." The O'Neill administration has also passed an amendment to the Prime Minister's Act which restricts the age limit of a Prime Minister to 72. Parliament has been adjourned until January 17th.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 12/21/2011

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SOLOMON ISLANDS: Finance Minister Announces Tax Cuts

The Minister for Finance and Treasury in Solomon Islands says the introduction of personal income tax cuts next year will not impact on public services. Rick Hou says anyone earning less than SI$15,080 a year will not have to pay income tax from January the 1st . The previous income earners threshold was half that amount.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 12/04/2011

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Solomon Islands Government Says Broad Support for Cost-cutting

The Solomon Islands government says the Governor General understands the need to disconnect his mobile phone as part of new cost-cutting measures. The new Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo ordered the suspension of all government post paid mobile phones on Friday including his own phone and those of government ministers and the Governor General. Mr Lilo's spokesman David Tuhanuku says the phones will be reconnected once the Prime Minister is satisfied there are arrangements in place to stop the overspending. He says there's been a government budget blow-out this year of nearly two million US dollars for phone and fax expenses alone. "These are initiatives that should be welcomed by the people because it is about restoring order to government systems and government finances and also to save critical dollars to be used somewhere (they are) critically needed." David Tuhanuku says the Prime Minister is also taking steps to control vehicle hire expenses and he is likely to bring in further measures to cut costs.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 12/19/2011

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TUVALU: World Bank Providing Millions for Its Development

Tuvalu is to receive a 62 million US dollar grant from the World Bank. World Bank Country Director for the Pacific Islands, Ferid Belhaj, says Tuvalu faces unique challenges in ensuring sustainable development. These include its extreme remoteness and economic isolation, the tiny and dispersed population and capacity constraints. The funding will improve international air travel, provide budget support to strengthen the economy, support a regional fisheries' strategy, and give assistance for adaptation to climate change. The World Bank strategy will also help Tuvaluans take better advantage of regional seasonal work programmes through education and training.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 12/15/2011

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World Bank Launches Multi Million Dollar Pacific Aviation Project

The World Bank launched its largest regional aviation project in the Pacific, this week. The organisation has approved a 62-million-US-dollar grant to improve international air travel for the people of Tuvalu, Tonga and Kiribati. Piers Merrick, of the World Bank's Pacific Department, says the Pacific Aviation Investment Programme aims to assist small countries like Tuvalu reduce their isolation and strengthen their economies. "Aviation's a critical link if you are sea-locked and you're as isolated as Tuvalu, then, really aviation is your principal connection to the outside world - for all Tuvaluans for a host of reasons. One step is going to be to strengthen and repair the runway but also really to bring it up to international safety standards." Mr Merrick says when New Zealand provided emergency aid to drought-afflicted Tuvalu last month, the Hercules wrecked part of the runway which hadn't been well-maintained.

From http://www.rnzi.com/ 12/14/2011

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CHINA: Private Colleges Offer Degrees in Social Work

A bachelor's degree was not good enough to earn Zhang Changhong, 24, a promotion. The social worker in Huilongguan community in Beijing needed more. "Social work is becoming a sought-after job in China, and it will involve more post-graduates," she said. "Don't call me a loser again!" That's because Zhang has just applied to study part-time for a master's degree at Beijing City University, the first and only minban, or non-public, university qualified to accept post-graduate students in Beijing. Zhang's monthly salary is around 2,000 yuan ($314). The shabby apartment she shares with friends costs her around 800 yuan a month. Her daily work is to feed information about the residents in her community into a computer. In China, a social worker's duties include helping people with family problems, helping the disabled find jobs and making people aware of government policies within the assigned community. Unfortunately, some are often mistaken for unpaid volunteers, despite having qualifications in psychology or social work and having relevant experience. Five minban universities authorized by the Ministry of Education (MOE) have started accepting post-graduate students since November.

The State-run higher education institutions used to have absolute monopoly of post-graduate enrollment, and have done so since 1949. Zhang said she was confident about the tests she would be taking on Jan 7 and 8 next year, on politics, English, social work theory and social work application. She graduated with a degree in biological engineering from Beijing Technology and Business University. Social work was not her first career choice. "But I don't want to change jobs anymore, as a social worker's job is becoming popular in China and we would soon be counted among the highly-educated and talented people," she said. Huilongguan community is one of the largest residential areas in the northern suburbs of Beijing. Around 100 university graduates are employed as social workers in this community. As part of a government plan, 2 million qualified social workers will be employed by the end of 2015, said a Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) official. To ensure that it happens, the government intends to adopt payment guidelines and other motivation policies. "Beijing lacks social workers, and we started the post-graduate program to meet increasing public demand," said Liu Lin, president of the Beijing City University.

Most of the country's social workers do not receive professional training, according to the MCA. Preliminary statistics from the MCA show there are about 200,000 social workers on the Chinese mainland. Only about a quarter have passed the exams required for a license. Every year, about 10,000 social work majors graduate from 250 higher educational institutions in China. In 2006, nearly 60 percent of them chose to work in other jobs, primarily because of the low salaries and a lack of promotion prospects. In 1997, the State Council released the Regulations for Running a School by Social Forces, which defined minban education as "schools or educational institutions that are run by corporations, public enterprises, social organizations, social groups, or individual citizens through non-fiscal educational funds".People tend to prefer programs that award them a certificate in the end whereas minban education comes without a diploma. By 2010, the number of minban universities reached 866 with 920,000 students in China, according to China Education Daily, a newspaper affiliated to the Ministry of Education. "It is an obvious signal that the country has begun to equally promote State-run and minban education," said Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, a private, non-profit policy-research body. But people, he said, were still skeptical about the quality of teaching in minban universities in China.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 11/27/2011

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Senior Official Reiterates Support for Non-public Economy

China will stick to the support for its non-public businesses by maintaining a fair economic and legal environment, top political advisor Jia Qinglin said Friday. In a meeting with non-public entrepreneurs, Jia, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, said the non-public economy is an indispensable and important part of China's modernization drive. Promoting the healthy development of the non-public economy is a long-term task that needs to be implemented resolutely, he said. The government has stepped up financial support and introduced tax breaks to boost private and small-sized businesses, which contribute to more than half of China's GDP and provide about 80 percent of jobs. Jia said advantages and opportunities exist in the development of non-public businesses, urging entrepreneurs to seize opportunities and contribute to boosting economic development.

From Xinhua News Agency 12/02/2011

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China to Focus on Private Investment as Growth Slows

China aims to free up its infrastructure and financial businesses to private investment in 2012 to bolster growth in the world's No. 2 economy in the face of a global slowdown, the country's top economic planner said. China's National Development and Reform Commission said it would support private investment in railway, utilities and financial projects which are so far dominated by the government. It also said stabilizing consumer prices would be an important task for the next year - a shift from its 2011 rhetoric when Beijing listed inflation as a "top priority" for policy. An embracement of private investors in 2012 would be a sharp contrast to 2008, when China countered a world recession with massive government stimulus that created impressive headline growth rates but also heavily-indebted state sectors.

A debt hangover from the 2008 spending spree has left its mark. China's Railway Ministry, a big investor with 2 trillion yuan ($313.80 billion) worth of debt, is set to miss its annual investment target of 600 billion yuan for 2011. It had only completed 396.3 billion yuan worth of investment in the first 11 months. All said, China has pledged repeatedly over the years to free up these industries for private investment but has never delivered on its promises. Much of the courtship of the private sector this time is focused on small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that have been worse hit by the current slowdown. Zhang Dejiang, one of China's four vice premiers, said in an article in the Communist Party's journal Qiushi that Beijing will do more to support them.

Zhang said China would give SMEs more financial and tax incentives, and plans to launch a National SME Fund designed to increase financial aid to these smaller firms that account for 60 percent of China's economy and 80 percent of its jobs. China's Finance Ministry has already cut taxes for the country's smallest firms and China's central bank is encouraging banks to lend more to them. Shut out of the bank lending market, local governments are also rolling out their red carpets for private investors.

From http://www.cnbc.com/ 12/17/2011

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SOUTH KOREA: To Consider Its First Sale of 30-Year Bonds

South Korea may sell 30-year bonds in 2012 for the first time as it seeks to raise the average maturity of debt and help the government and domestic investors manage risks, said an official from the finance ministry. The securities may be issued in the second half of next year, said the official, who has knowledge of the discussions and declined to be identified because the talks are private. South Korean insurers and pension funds are seeking longer- maturity bonds to increase the stability of their investments, he said on Dec. 16 in comments embargoed until today. The finance ministry currently sells bonds with tenors of three years, five years, 10 years and 20 years. Plans to sell debt maturing in less than three years in 2012 may be pushed back, according to the official. Hong Nam Ki, a spokesman at the finance ministry, wasn't immediately available to comment.

"The new issuance plan reflects demand for longer-maturity bonds from Korea's insurers and funds, and will strengthen the government's fiscal status," said Peter Park, a Seoul-based fixed-income analyst at Woori Investment & Securities Co. "The new bonds won't raise current 10- and 20- year debt yields that much as the initial offer will probably be small, and the government will reduce 10- and 20- year bond sales." The finance ministry plans to sell 80.9 trillion won ($70 billion) in bonds next year, down from 82.4 trillion won in 2011, according to the government's budget plan. The official declined to say how much of next year's figure may be made up of 30-year bonds.

South Korea's benchmark 20-year bonds yielded 4 percent as of 11:40 a.m. in Seoul, unchanged from the end of last week, according to Korea Exchange Inc. prices. The rate on benchmark 20-year notes was 4.68 percent at the start of this year and reached 3.65 percent on Sept. 14, the lowest level in Bloomberg data going back to January 2006. The three-year bond yield was 3.33 percent today, unchanged from the end of last week. Indonesia's benchmark 30-year bonds yielded 7.61 percent on Dec. 16, while similar-maturity U.S. Treasuries yield 2.84 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

From http://www.businessweek.com/ 12/19/2011

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LAOS: Private Sector Backs WFP's Nutrition Project

VIENTIANE (Xinhua via COMTEX) - YUM! Brands has contributed more than two million U.S. dollars to support the United Nations World Food Program (WFP)'s nutrition projects in rural Laos. Eight fundraising champions of the 2010 World Hunger Relief campaign, organized by YUM! Brands, have traveled to Laos to see the impact of their donations. Restaurant managers from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia traveled to Laos' northern province of Luangnamtha to visit WFP school meals program sites, and also talk to women and health center staff about the benefits of WFP's nutrition education initiative Feeding the Future and its Mother and Child Health and Nutrition activities. Cornelia Paetz, WFP Public Information Officer in Laos, told Xinhua on Wednesday that restaurant managers started their trip on Nov. 20, during which they helped distribute school meals and had a chance to participate in a nutrition training course. "YUM! helps WFP provide a daily mid-morning snack to primary school children in six provinces and to enable WFP to expand Feeding the Future, a nutrition education project that has reached more than 100 children and is still growing," said Eri Kudo, WFP Representative in Laos. "By providing children with the food they need to develop their physical and mental potential, these projects ensure that children receive an education and act as an important investment in breaking the cycle of poverty and hunger," she added.

Paolo Nicolas, marketing director for YUM! Brands in the Asia region, said the company has set an ambitious goal to become the " Defining Global Company that Feeds the World", and the visit to Laos demonstrates YUM!'s continued commitment to the goal. "We are inspired by this visit to raise more support for WFP and the Lao government to help them reach their objective to improve nutrition in this country, especially for children," he added. YUM! Brands (or YUM!) is a United States-based Fortune 500 corporation, which operates or licenses Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, and WingStreet restaurants worldwide. Through its annual World Hunger Relief campaign, YUM! and its brands KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Long John Silver's and A&W All- American Food raise funds and awareness and encourage employee volunteerism for WFP. The campaign, which is the world's largest consumer outreach effort supporting hunger relief, spans 110 countries and includes the participation of 37,000 restaurants and more than one million employees and franchise associates from around the globe. In 2010, the global campaign raised more than 46.4 million U.S. dollars for WFP's work in regions of greatest need, reaching more than 6.7 million people in 39 countries. WFP's global fight against hunger involves collaboration between governments, UN agencies, NGOs and the private sector. In 2010, the private sector was the sixth-largest donor to WFP; working with the private sector also allows WFP to raise awareness of its work and issues surrounding hunger to millions of people it would otherwise not reach. These partnerships help WFP create cost- effective, sustainable solutions to hunger by combining WFP's expertise and knowledge with companies' resources and technical support.

From http://news.investors.com/ 11/23/2011

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BURMA: Unlocking the Potential of the Private Sector

Although the November 30 - December 2, 2011 visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Burma signaled a perceptible thawing of relations between both countries, meaningful impact and lasting societal change could only be achieved if developments in the political arena are mirrored in Burma's economic sphere. Since his election in February 2011, Burmese President Thein Sein has taken steps to improve governance by pushing for more open elections and relaxing restrictions on political parties. His administration released some 200 political prisoners on October 12, 2011 and championed legislation that allowed the National League for Democracy party led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to participate in upcoming elections. These reforms have earned Thein Sein the moniker "Burma's Gorbachev." The momentum created by these political reforms is unlikely to be sustained unless the immense potential of Burma's private sector is unlocked, and non-junta entrepreneurs find the space to innovate and operate on a level playing field. Secretary Clinton's visit was both symbolic and strategic because it communicates U.S. commitment to support countries making demonstrable steps towards participatory and inclusive governance; consistent with U.S. foreign policy objectives in Burma.

Shortly after assuming office, Secretary Clinton lamented the inadequacy of a broad range of international interventions in Burma and announced a review of U.S. policy toward Burma which resulted in the "pragmatic engagement" strategy in September 2009. This entailed direct engagement in senior-level dialogue with the regime to address U.S. concerns regarding democracy, human rights and non-proliferation, while maintaining existing sanctions. The December 2011 visit sought to evaluate the content and sustainability of Burma's unfolding reform agenda. It must, however, be noted that Burma's road to democratization is unlikely to be sustained or sustainable unless more attention is paid to addressing economic inequity and opportunity across the country. A continuation of the political economy of the junta years (with generals in suits) would not inspire confidence.

It is worth noting that Burma has a history of unsustainable, fragmented or counterproductive reforms. A number of political prisoners were released in 1992 when Gen Than Shwe took power. This also occurred twice within the context of the country's intelligence sector reforms in 2004 and 2005. Currently, progress would require the release of all political prisoners and firm commitments to guard against their being re-arrested or intimidated. The opening of political space would allow all shades of opinion to be openly expressed and debated without fear or favor. Accomplishments in this area would be hollow if the average Burmese citizen faces significant barriers to full economic participation. Economic policy and economic institutions must promote entrepreneurship in order to unlock the potential of a growing private sector. The stranglehold of the current political elites must be eased and economic policy must benefit all. In the past, economic policy has been used to reinforce the dominance of the predatory elite and weaken the entrepreneurial groups that could threaten the status quo if they became too affluent. Many view the tax amnesty of 1990 and the introduction of foreign exchange certificates in 1993 as examples of economic initiatives that were geared towards consolidating the position of administration officials or proxies.

Burma's economy is both complex and fragmented. There is an urgent need to delink the billion-dollar trade in illicit drugs from the rest of the economy. Measures should also be taken to bridge the gap between the formal and non-formal parts of the economy. Programs should also be put in place to ensure that the financial gains from Burma's petroleum sector (almost $2 billion this year) would effectively contribute to broad-based economic development, particularly in the rural areas. Supporting and promoting economic openness could underpin and sustain political change by empowering groups that had been marginalized in the past, delivering tangible democratic gains and creating a viable constituency for peace. The recent suspension of the $3.6 billion dollar Myitsone Dam on environmental grounds shows that the new Burmese administration is open to productive dialogue with civil society and private sector representatives. These channels should be institutionalized in order to establish trust and promote collaboration between the political leaders and Burma's growing private sector.

Three important initiatives could support this process. First, the United States should consider extending 'pragmatic engagement' to include the private sector. Reforms should minimize barriers to entry and establish an equitable framework for private sector growth. The overarching short-term objectives must be the creation of jobs and the promotion of equity, especially among groups that were either marginalized or disadvantaged. Reducing the footprint of public sector officials (current or recently retired) in Burma's private sector is also desirable. Second, due consideration could be given to the development/articulation of a conflict-sensitive approach to private sector development in Burma. This involves a careful analysis of existing linkages, as well as a determination of incentives/disincentives for enablers and spoilers. Third, a forum should be created to sensitize and train both private sector actors and government officials. Such a forum will help strengthen policy/program implementation, build capacity and prevent the escalation of conflict (particularly those related to Burma's extractive sector).

From http://inec.usip.org/ 12/12/2011

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MALAYSIA: Broadband Plan - Stimulating the Private Sector

Introduction
Through the Malaysia National Broadband Plan (NBP), the government of Malaysia is promoting the establishment of universal access and service (UAS) to broadband Internet. As opposed to costly government intervention in building and managing a national broadband network, the strategy is for government to invest in broadband network connectivity and services for key regional organizations in order to stimulate critical demand for broadband services. Infrastructure and service provision is to be carried out by industry, supported through enabling regulations and incentives that establish an open market in which industry operators can creatively meet the growing demand for broadband connectivity in a variety of ways that include fixed, wireless and satellite approaches. Malaysia is one of the leading economies in the region with a GDP of approximately USD 357 billion that has transformed from mainly a raw materials export economy into high technology sectors. With a population of 27 million, Malaysia's increasingly affluent and skilled workforce have readily adopted the use of ICTs in business and personal activities. Mobile phone use is substantial with penetration rates of around 75 per cent of the population and demand for Internet, especially broadband, is growing. Despite this, only about 14 per cent of national households have broadband. Exacerbating this is limited market demand in the less lucrative rural and peri-urban markets. The government of Malaysia recognized the barriers and challenges to broadband access would require more than simply broadband infrastructure but also flexible approaches to infrastructure development and service delivery that would serve to lower broadband costs in marginal areas. Increased regional awareness of broadband potential is also needed in important community activities and services to generate a critical level of use of broadband that would stimulate the increased subscriptions to broadband services and encourage private industry to deploy needed networks

The NBP Programme
To address the issues the NBP was launched in 2004 through the efforts of the Ministry of Energy, Water and Communication and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission. An autonomous steering committee was established to manage the plan and task forces set up for fact finding in areas of policy and regulation, technical applications and industry. Broadband Stakeholder Groups (BSGs) were also organized with industry, community and government representatives at regional levels to assist in identifying key institutions and areas for broadband connectivity investment and critical feedback in crystallizing local demand for broadband services. Based on findings, targets were set to increase the number of broadband subscribers to 1.3 million or 5 per cent of the population in order to develop a critical mass of demand in underserved markets that would provide incentives for industry to establish necessary infrastructure and services. A central component of programme focus is in connecting key institutions to broadband services and stimulating increased usage through investing in broadband network capacities. Planned approaches include investing in connecting government offices, schools and community organizations to broadband Internet and promoting e-government services accessible to local residents. Examples of targets for network and broadband connectivity for institutions include:
ˇöBroadband service subscriptions for organizations paid by government;
ˇöConnection of approximately 900 Federal, state and local government departments;
ˇöNetworking around 10 000 primary schools through the Schoolnet programme;
ˇö74 000 connections for public universities and research institutions;
ˇö4 000 hospitals and clinics networked and connected to internet resources; and
ˇö1 700 libraries and a multitude of community centres with a focus on educational, entertainment and e-commerce applications.

The NBP includes development of telecommunications policies and regulations that serve to build capacities introduce financial incentives and encourage infrastructure building in underserved regional areas. Examples include measures to unbundle and co-locate services, opening Malaysia's Universal Services Programme for broadband initiatives, and allowing for broadband service delivery through multiple technologies including wireless solutions.

Industry response
In response to regulatory and financial incentives, telecommunications industries have initiated a number of solutions to increase penetration of broadband services. In September 2006 leading mobile operator, Maxis Communications Berhad, launched Maxis Wireless Broadband, a 3.5G (HSDPA) mobile service providing households and business customers with wireless broadband connection for both information and telephony services via a single wireless modem terminal. The service has proven popular with year end subscriptions in 2007 expected to total nearly 100 000 subscribers.

Enabling strategies
Nonetheless, challenges of stimulating demand in underserved areas have required that the NBP involve regionally specific measures and flexible policy and regulatory approaches. Enabling policies have been established to increase the number of SME businesses providing broadband services. Some policy examples include provision of suitable taxation regimes, financing mechanisms and government contracts as incentives for SME businesses. Example of regulations identified to support the competitiveness of regional markets include introducing flexibility in both the pricing of services and the types services that can be bundled in underserved areas. Further, NBP task force and BSGs input provide assistance in feasibility analysis through carrying out regional supply and demand surveys and openly sharing results with stakeholders and industry. As an innovative approach to assessing local service viability, the NBP secretariat set up a geographic database where local businesses and households register their need for broadband services and geographic location; information crucial for identifying local market demand for broadband services and investment decisions in broadband infrastructure. Since its inception in 2004, Malaysia's NBP has spurred greater integration of broadband services in key organizations of regional and underserved markets. New forms of broadband services delivery such as wireless HSPA have helped connect underserved areas. Although targeted levels of broadband connectivity originally outlined in the NBP are not yet fully realized, crucial experience and lessons learned are improving the implementation and approach of plan activities. An updated version of the NBP is set to be officially released in early 2008. Some of the expected changes include the establishment of minimum standards in network speeds for main client categories that include public, government and industry.

From http://www.ictregulationtoolkit.org/ 12/21/2011

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SINGAPORE: Private Sector More Bullish About Singapore Economy - MAS Survey

SINGAPORE - Private sector forecasters expect Singapore's economy to grow by 3 per cent in 2012. This is according to the median forecast in the Monetary Authority of Singapore's December survey of Professional Forecasters. The most likely outcome, as reflected by the mean probability forecast, is for growth of between 3 per cent and 3.9 per cent. That is down from the September survey range of 5.0 per cent to 5.9 per cent. The outlook is slightly more bullish than the official growth forecast issued by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) of between 1 and 3 per cent for 2012. Private sector economists expect first quarter 2012 year-on-year growth to be zero per cent, before picking up for the rest of the year (Q2: 3 per cent, Q3: 3.6 per cent, Q4: 4.8 per cent). Overall, a moderation in growth is forecast across all sectors next year, with the sharpest adjustment in the manufacturing sector. In 2012, the industry is expected to grow by 3.4 per cent, down from an expected 8.5 per cent this year. The financial services sector is expected to grow 4.2 per cent in 2012, less than half the 9.4 per cent pace forecast for this year. In the manufacturing sector, growth is expected to be at 3.4 per cent, down from 8.5 per cent this year. For hotels and restaurants, growth is expected to be around 4 per cent, down from 5.9 per cent in 2011. Amid the forecasts of slower growth, unions are preparing workers for the bumpy road ahead.

Francis Lim, president of the United Workers of Electronic and Electrical Industries (UWEEI), said: "The union is working with e2i and WDA to help the company to go for training. The last few months, we've started our union, our officers and also e2i have met up with some of the companies. So, they are working out and mapping out some training road map for the companies and also for the workers." Mr Lim said he is seeing some retrenchments, as well as workers going on shorter work weeks although not at an alarming rate. Hiring has slowed down considerably. He added that: "Looking ahead, normally at year end when people get their bonus, they start to move around, especially after Chinese New Year. There will be a slowdown because I think many of them dare not leave their companies, because a lot of uncertainties are ahead of them. They won't know whether they can find another job." For 2011, economic growth forecasts have been trimmed to 5.2 per cent from 5.3 per cent in the previous survey in September. The official forecast by MTI for 2011 is for Singapore's GDP to grow by 5 per cent. In 2012, headline CPI inflation is expected to taper off to 3.1 per cent from the forecast of 5.1 per cent for this year.

From http://www.todayonline.com/ 12/14/2011

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BANGLADESH: Private Sector Credit Expansion Declines in October

Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN) - Credit expansion to the private sector declined further in October due to lower trade financing by the commercial banks, bankers said on Wednesday. "Trade financing has been declined in the recent months because of short supply of the US currency in the market," a senior official of a commercial bank told BBN in Dhaka. The rate of private sector credit growth came down to 21.46 percent in October 2011 from 21.98 percent of the previous month in the current calendar year, according to the central bank statistics. The banker also said most commercial banks disbursed loans cautiously during the period due mainly to adjustment of their credit-deposit ratio (CDR) in line with the directives of the central bank. The Bangladesh Bank (BB) has already set CDR at 85 percent for conventional banks while in Sharia-based Islamic banks, it remains at 90 per cent as the safe limit. "The private sector credit growth may decline further in the coming months as the BB has increased its policy interest rates recently," a BB official said. The credit flow to the private sector increased by 21.46 percent to BDT 630.63 billion in October last on a year-on-year basis from BDT 624.31 billion during the corresponding period of the previous year, the BB data showed. Central bank has used different monetary instruments including increased interest rates on repurchase agreement (repo) and reverse repo aiming to contain the current inflationary pressures on the economy, the BB official said. "The BB will use its monetary tools in line with the existing monetary policy statement (MPS)," he said without elaborating. In its latest half-yearly MPS, the central bank stated that it would aim at containing inflationary pressures through discouraging credit flow to unproductive sectors and for speculative purposes including real estates and investments in stock market, beyond affordable limits.

From http://www.businessnews-bd.com/ 12/14/2011

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Govt Urged to Stop Bank Borrowing; It's Hurting Private Sector Credit Flow: FBCCI

Dhaka (UNB) - The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) on Saturday urged the government not to go for further bank borrowing to help ensure smooth credit flow to the private sector. Addressing a press conference, FBCCI president AK Azad suggested the government to cut subsidies and re-arrange the budgetary allocations to reduce dependence on bank borrowing. "We don't favour bank borrowing by the public sector. The government has already borrowed Tk 20,000 crore and placed proposal for borrowing another Tk 20,000 crore. It's shrinking credit flow to the private sector," he said. The press conference was arranged at the FBCCI conference room to brief the media about the fifth SME Fair-2011 to be held December 20-24 at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in the city. FBCCI first vice president and convener of the fair committee M Jashim Uddin, vice president Mostafa Azad Chowdhury Babu, FBCCI director and fair committee co-convener Abdur Razzaque and FBCCI directors including SM Nurul Haque and Monwara Hakim Ali were present. The apex trade body chief said the economy is already under immense pressure and if the government continues bank borrowing it will also fuel the rising inflation. Replying to a question, he said credit flow to the private sector has already declined due to heavy government borrowing from the banking sector. "However, we don't have exact data on the percentage of drop in credit flow." Azad also said there is liquidity crisis in the banking sector and further bank borrowing by the government will reduce investment in the industrial sector.

From http://www.unbconnect.com/ 12/17/2011

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INDIA: Telecom Sector's Diesel Consumption Under Question

New Delhi: Concerned over the increasing exploitation of the diesel subsidy by the profit making telecom sector, representatives from across the political spectrum, have urged the government to take measures to accelerate a shift away from diesel and to renewable sources and technologies1. These include members of parliament, cutting across party lines, including members of the standing committees for Energy, communication & Information Technology and Environment & Forest. In their letters to the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and the Communication &Information Technology Minister Mr. Kapil Sibal, and through parliamentary engagement, the politicians have specifically raised the need for substantially reducing the consumption of diesel by the telecom sector, especially in their network tower operations. They have further stressed on mandating the public disclosure of emissions and the establishment of the progressive emission reductions plans within the ambit of the newly proposed National Telecom Policy. In response, while the government has acknowledged the large-scale exploitation of diesel by sectors such as telecom, it is yet to put in place effective and appropriate mechanisms to address this concern. Earlier this year, Greenpeace in its report "Dirty Talking - A case for telecom sector to shift from diesel to renewable", highlighted the aggressive exploitation of diesel by the sector, as the second largest consumer, resulting in a loss of over Rs. 2600 crore to the state exchequer annually.

"It's been over 3 months since the Bharti Airtel led Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) failed to deliver on its commitment by coming up with a clear roadmap for the disclosure and progressive reduction of emissions by September 20114" said Mrinmoy Chattaraj, Climate and Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace India. "Given their unwillingness to act voluntarily(5), such a transition is best delivered through mandatory norms, including policies and fiscal mechanisms which encourage companies to transit substantively to renewable sources" he further added. Greenpeace has been engaging with the telecom sector, operators in particular, to:
- Publicly disclose the carbon emissions of their entire business operation and establish progressive emission reduction targets
- Commit to shift the sourcing of 50% of their energy requirements towards renewable energy sources and phase out diesel use in their business operations by 201

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 12/14/2011

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SRI LANKA: Private Sector Urged to Increase Investment

(LBO) - Sri Lanka's private sector has been called upon to make big investments using tax savings and gains from incentives given by government, and banks urged to lend more to small business. Treasury secretary P B Jayasundera said the government was managing to maintain public investment at around six percent of Gross Domestic Product or almost 500 billion rupees and expects the private sector to play its part. The government expects the private sector to invest 2,000 billion rupees as more investments are needed to maintain high economic growth, he said. "The reason why the government is keeping public investment at 6-7 percent is because we are expecting five times that investment from you," Jayasundera told a post-budget seminar held by Ernst & Young mainly for its clients. "If we spend 500 billion rupees, the private sector must spend 2,000 billion. That's what we expect from you." These levels of investment were needed from both the public and private sectors to maintain economic growth at its current pace of eight percent a year with the government managing to reduce the budget deficit and also inflation and interest rates. "We we want the real econ to grow faster than eight percent and we aim to keep inflation below seven percent."

In the last two budgets tax incentives had been given to promote productivity, research and development and exports and also value addition to encourage businesses to make more value added products. Jayasundera also urged banks to borrow abroad and loosen their purse strings and lend more, especially to small businesses who he said had complained repeatedly that they did not have enough access to cheap funds. "Banks should go abroad and borrow. You must start looking for fifty million US dollar, 200 million dollar size money," he said. "What's the point of getting a triple rating if you can't raise 50 million dollars? You must tap investment funds, trust funds, pension funds. Not only banks, even the richer corporate must borrow abroad," Jayasundera said. "You must raise funds outside rather than pre-empting the limited funds available domestically for SMEs."SMEs (small and medium enterprises) are the backbone of the economy, they are the future." SMEs face two problems - access to finance and high cost of funds.

From http://www.lankabusinessonline.com/ 11/23/2011

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NEPAL: Govt and Private Sector Partnership Necessary to Curb Corruption'

All should unite and remain committed to curb corruption in the country, said speakers at a workshop jointly organised by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) and Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) that kicked off in the capital from Wednesday. Speaking in the two-day programme under the theme "Good Governance-Zero Tolerance to Corruption" Secretary at CIAA Bhagawati Kumar Kafle said that the government, human rights organisations, civil society and privates sector should put their efforts to fight against corruption. Saying that the CIAA has been trying its best to control corruption in the country, Kafle informed that the anti-corruption body has also been conducting community education in some 30,000 schools and colleges across the country on corruption and is also taking complaints from general public from toll-free and hotline system against corruption among others. Terming corruption the number one enemy of good governance, Chief Secretary Madhav Prasad Ghimire said misuse of power, political interference, lack of proper implementation are giving rise to corruption in the country. Similarly, US ambassador to Nepal Scott H. DeLisi also termed corruption as a 'social evil' which has been risking the developing countries.

Saying that the corruption has been affecting the government and also hampering in the investment cost, DeLisi said corruption can still be minismised with the coordination between government, political parties, government officials and business leaders. Likewise, officiating president of FNCCI Bhasker Raj Rajkarnikar said that the federation is committed to continue anti-corruption campaign. Transparency International (TI), the global coalition against corruption, has ranked Nepal in 154th position out of 183 countries surveyed in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2011, making it one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The index shows that with a 2.2 score, Nepal is second most corrupt country in the SAARC region, below Sri Lanka (3.3) India (3.1), Bangladesh (2.7), Maldives (2.5), Pakistan (2.5). Like in 2010, Afghanistan, with a score of 1.5, was ranked as the most corrupt country in SAARC. Nepal slipped eight positions down this year. Last year, Nepal was ranked 146th and, same as this year, was second most corrupt country in SAARC after Afghanistan.

From http://www.nepalnews.com/ 12/14/2011

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AZERBAIJAN: MPs Discuss Flaws in Construction Industry

The draft of the Town Planning and Building Code was discussed at the plenary session of several parliamentary committees on Wednesday. The MPs discussed flaws in the construction industry. Member of the Committee on Economic Policy Vahid Ahmadov pointed to the importance of developing a separate town planning and building codes, building code should be developed in more detail. "Rules of the road construction, construction of bridges and similar construction shall be shown separately and available language," Akhmedov said. It is necessary to indicate in the project that the communication should be constructed prior to construction, the member of parliament Fazail Agamali said.

He also told about the importance of the "single window" principle in this area. "Otherwise, the executive authorities, and other structures will affect the documentary-keeping," Agamali said. The public should be informed about the work of reconstruction, in cities, said the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights Rabiyat Aslanova. The interests of the people are violated during the construction, Aslanova noted. Noise and pollution at construction sites can be an example of it. The chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Policy and State Building, Ali Huseynli noted that, the code defines the legal basis and principles of construction activities and urban development, as well as the rights and responsibilities in this area.

Impact on the environment isn't taken into account in the construction, said the head of the Department of Administrative and Military Legislation of the Milli Majlis Sayyad Karimov. "Evaluation of environmental issues will be reflected in the new bill," Karimov said. The head of the Milli Mejlis Safa Mirzoyev noted that the code will eliminate red tape in this area. Examination revealed that the construction and town planning codes repeat each other by one third, so the codes have been combined, Mirzoyev said, commenting some members propose of the need for two separate codes. Do you have any feedback? Contact our journalist at agency@trend.az

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/05/2011

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Challenge in Central Asia, South Caucasus Is to Diversify, Increase Agricultural Productivity, Reduce Red Tape, with Private-Sector Help, Says Secretary-General

It gives me great pleasure to greet the Silk Road Summit, organized by The Economist. This forum is an opportunity to address common problems and promote sustainable, equitable development for all. The economies of Central Asia and the South Caucasus have come a long way since the start of the transition process in the early 1990s. However, the global recession of 2008 and 2009 hit them hard - harder than any other region. Most economies have now rebounded. But, vulnerability remains. The region is still too reliant on one or two major sources of income. Some depend on oil or other natural resources; others on agricultural commodities. Still, others rely on remittances from migrant workers.

The challenge is to diversify, reduce red tape and increase agricultural productivity. Invest in education, infrastructure and technology. The region is also highly vulnerable to organized crime. Borders are often porous. This allows opium, money, chemical precursors, arms and humans to be trafficked with almost total impunity. Cooperation within and beyond the region will be crucial in addressing these challenges and ensuring stability and good governance. The private sector can make an important contribution. I encourage the Governments of the region to put in place the regulatory frameworks and incentives that will generate smart investments and promote responsible business practices. The United Nations is strongly committed to doing its part to ensure the success of the economic and political transitions in Central Asia and the South Caucasus. Please accept my best wishes for a productive summit.

From http://www.iewy.com/ 12/03/2011

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AUSTRALIA: Pain for Private Sector

THE AUSTRALIAN Government's harsher efficiency dividend will lead to private sector job losses, a leading Canberra public policy consultant says. Professor Stephen Bartos said there would be some non-government staff shed within the nation's capital but forecasting how many jobs would go was difficult. "What we don't know yet is where the efficiency dividend savings [within government] will be made," he said. "Will there be more in Canberra or in the regions? "What we do know is that some parts of the private sector will be hit hard if the Government goes ahead with this." The efficiency dividend is a percentage figure that departments and agencies must save on their budget each year. Professor Bartos said an under-reported aspect of the government cutbacks was the 20per cent cut to capital expenses. This was expected to hurt ACT office supply companies who sold stationery, faxes and telephones to government departments. The Community and Public Sector Union has claimed up to 3000 public service jobs would be lost because of the increased efficiency dividend.

As yet no estimations have been made about private sector job losses that could be a by-product of the savings measures. Canberra Business Council chief executive Chris Faulks said her organisation predicted a significant amount of private job losses. "We are a one industry town relying on government business," she said. The regional director of recruiting company Hays, Adam Shapley, expected few private sector workers to find themselves out of work. He said Canberra still had a skills shortage, which would absorb most people turfed from a job. A number of sectors would probably avoid noticeable monetary losses caused by government savings. "I don't think it will impact the construction or property market and we don't see it in the IT sector," Mr Shapley said. "There's a lot of infrastructure projects committed to now as B and C-grade buildings in Canberra are refurbished to make them A-grade."And [in other sectors] a lot of the long-term consultancy contracts are underway at the moment anyway."

From http://www.canberratimes.com.au/ 12/18/2011

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Govt Looks to Private Sector for Christchurch Hospitals Rebuild

Doctors are accusing the Government of starting the privatisation of health services, with a suggestion the private sector could help pay the $600 million cost of rebuilding Christchurch's public hospitals. The Government is looking at the proposal, which includes allowing private investors to build and manage hospital buildings. Health Minister Tony Ryall said today (Thur) that Canterbury District Health Board and the National Health Board had been asked to look at how a public private partnership (PPP) could be used to build new facilities for the city. "This could include design, build and management of buildings, and some non-clinical support service - while the DHB maintains full responsibility for delivering public health services," Mr Ryall said. "There is already a wide range of private involvement in the public health service - and similar public private infrastructure partnerships have worked well overseas."

Mr Ryall said Canterbury had already faced capacity problems due to the ageing and growing population, but the Christchurch earthquakes had made the situation a lot worse. "The price tag for the redevelopment could be in the vicinity of $600 million," he said. "We need to meet the future needs of the people of Canterbury and make sure it is affordable." One option being considered was a "modified greenfield", which involved rebuilding most of the clinical wards at Christchurch Hospital, including a new acute services wing. It would also include a new specialist centre for older peoples' services at Burwood Hospital. However the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Ian Powell objected to the proposal, saying it was code for privatisation. "Their driver will be profits, pure and simple. There are big bucks to be made here. It would be like asking a panel beater to design a traffic intersection."

Public hospitals are highly integrated organisations designed to handle the most complex and urgent pressures in dealing with patient lives, he said. "Each part of the hospital depends on the other parts to succeed. The last thing they need is the introduction of fragmentation that this sort of privatisation would create." Labour's health spokeswoman Maryan Street said Mr Ryall had dumped the news on the eve of Christmas to try to hide it. "Make no mistake - this is the beginning of the privatisation of health services. It is wrong because it will undermine the public health system, it does not make economic sense, and this model has failed internationally." She said the Government could borrow the money to build the hospital more cheaply than the on-going costs of paying the private sector to build and own the facilities.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 12/22/2011

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Manufacturing and Retail Boost Economy

The New Zealand economy, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), grew by 0.8 percent in the September 2011 quarter, Statistics New Zealand said today. This follows a 0.1 percent growth in the June 2011 quarter. The largest movements in the September 2011 quarter were in the following industries:
• manufacturing (up 2.3 percent) - mainly driven by a 6.3 percent increase in food, beverage, and tobacco manufacturing
• retail, accommodation, and restaurants (up 2.5 percent) - the largest quarterly increase in this industry since the March 2007 quarter
• finance, insurance, and business services (up 0.6 percent) - mainly due to business services • construction (down 2.2 percent) - the largest fall this quarter.

"Activity in the retail, accommodation, and restaurants industry was certainly boosted by the Rugby World Cup. New Zealanders and visitors to New Zealand both contributed to that rise," national accounts manager Rachael Milicich said. "The big mover in manufacturing was from food, beverage, and tobacco, which had its biggest rise since 2002." For the year ended September 2011, the economy grew 1.3 percent. Real gross national disposable income, which measures the goods and services that New Zealand has command over, was up 2.8 percent for the same period. The expenditure measure of GDP - which is conceptually the same as the production measure of GDP - was up 1.0 percent in the September 2011 quarter, following 0.1 percent growth in the June 2011 quarter. The production measure of GDP shows the volume of goods and services produced by an economy. The expenditure measure shows how those goods and services were used. Household consumption expenditure was up 1.5 percent in the September 2011 quarter. This is the largest increase in the volume of spending by New Zealand households since the March 2007 quarter. In the latest quarter, the largest increases by volume were: food in supermarkets, food and alcohol in restaurants, and recreational goods.

From http://www.scoop.co.nz/ 12/22/2011

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