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Ausust 2012, Issue 129
unpan-ap@sass.org.cn
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ˇˇ Transform, Innovate, and Connect: A New Strategy for Information and Communication Technology
Introducing the OpenGov Hub
Asia Steps Up Fight Against Money Laundering
Asia Needs to Create 'Green Cities' - ADB
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ˇˇ CHINA: Establishes Sansha City
Shanghai to Allow Longer Stays Without a Visa
China to Support Geoinformation Industry
Post-swapping Police Chiefs to Boost Law Enforcement
Authorities Urged to Implement School Bus Regulation
Draft Laws on Mental Health, Tourism to Be Reviewed
China Eases Restriction on Passport Issuing
China to Formulate New Anti-corruption Plan
JAPAN: Govt to Overhaul Public Assistance System
Fukushima Govt to Use Stricter Rice Screenings
Tokyo Govt Applies to Land on Senkaku Island
Govt Begins Discussing Review of Bar Exam
Japan Finalizes Plan to Put Silk Mill on Heritage List
Official: Japan to Judge Osprey Safety in Early Sept.
SOUTH KOREA: New Sentencing Standard Established for Election Crimes
Govt. Revises National Defense Plans
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ˇˇ MYANMAR: To Carry Out ICT Reform
PHILIPPINES: President Signs Data Privacy Act
The Philippines Embarks on "One Map" Journey
SINGAPORE: Planning ICT Roadmap, Identifies 9 Key 'Themes'
THAILAND: Long-term Planning Crucial to Country's Successful Future, Says New Foundation
ICT Ministry Expands Free Wi-Fi Project
VIETNAM: Women MPs Discuss Equality Strategies
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ˇˇ INDIA: e-Governance Portal Set to Be Unveiled in Lagos
New IT Policy Designed to Promote e-Service Delivery
Govt Drafts Geographical Indication Act
Govt Starts Process to Frame Foreign Aid Policy
PAKISTAN: Government in Hot Water Over New Contempt Law
Parliamentary Body to Devise Policy Against Child Abuse
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ˇˇ AZERBAIJAN: Planning to Open New TV Channel
Azerbaijan Begins Master Plan Development for Five More Cities
KYRGYZSTAN: Amending Number of Legislative Acts
KAZAKHSTAN: To Adopt New Version of Law on State Border
Positive Conclusion on Feasibility of Shipyard Project Achieved in Kazakhstan
UZBEKISTAN: Government to Take Under Special Control Observance of Human Rights by Law Enforcement Agencies
Uzbekistan Works Out Measures to Prevent Massive Violations of Law and Order
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: Tightens E-Health Privacy Laws
FIJI: Keep Education Priority
NEW ZEALAND: Government Proposes Changes to EEZ Bill
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Govt to Repeal Judge Suspension Laws
Minister Reveals Strategy for Higher Education
SOLOMON ISLANDS: Government Re-Affirms Support to Integrity Bill
TONGA: Commit to Supporting Climate Change Initiatives
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ˇˇ IT and EGovernment Experts Say That Governments That Embrace Open Data Will Also Switch to Open Source
APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules System Goes Public
Fastest Undersea Data Cable System in Asia
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ˇˇ CHINA: Information Transparency a Test for Beijing City Gov't
76 Officials Punished Over Tainted Capsules
Online Simulation Training System Boosts PLA Navy to Upgrade Combat Power
Official Vows to Promote Greater Party Democracy
Publicity Personnel Urged to Better Serve the People
Gov't Reforms Will Decide China's Future
JAPAN: Police to Boost Number of Female Officers
Parties Back Plan to Cut Vote Disparity
SOUTH KOREA: Officials Take Tutoring for Promotion
Occupation Categories for Public Servants to Be Reduced
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ˇˇ MYANMAR: Names Navy Chief as New Vice President
PHILIPPINES: First Female Chief Justice Sereno Takes Oath
SINGAPORE: Cabinet Reshuffled
MINDEF to Review SAF Medical Support System
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: Govt Created a Reign of Corruption: BNP
Nahid Also Favours GPA-based Admission System in Public Varsities
INDIA: Civic Problems Can Be Registered on BMTF Website
Govt Launches National Automatic Identification System
Govt Panel Formed for Installing Fire Alarm System in Trains
Cisco Strengthens Public Sector Sales Team for India and SAARC
SRI LANKA: IT Savvy Officers, Need of the Hour - Naveen
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ˇˇ TAJIKISTAN: President Makes Reshuffle in Country's Judicial System
TURKMENISTAN: President Instructs to Create Presidential Archive
TURKMENISTAN: Establishing Political Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs
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ˇˇ FIJI: Begin Public Hearings on New Constitution
Fiji Public Servants Can Make Constitution Submission: PM
NEW ZEALAND: Public Sector Slowest to Pay Bills
UN Urges Govt Reforms to Not Target Beneficiaries
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: PM Warns Government Departments May Face Cuts
PNG PM Announces Full Cabinet Line-Up
PNG Cabinet Approves Anti Corruption Taskforce
SOLOMON ISLANDS: Second Female Enters Parliament
Study Released on Improving Governance of Public Sector Operations in the Pacific Region
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ˇˇ GCC Leads in E-Readiness: UN Report
Emerging Economies Alter Global Innovation Landscape
New Report: Mobile Technologies Put Users' Security at Risk
Global Initiative Seeks to Boost Health Innovation
Asian Nations 'Face Greatest Natural Disaster Risk'
City Management Is Asia's Most Pressing Priority
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ˇˇ CHINA: Diversified Gov't Performance Evaluations
Red Cross Society Promises Reforms
City Vows to Invest More in R&D, Tech Innovation
Lawyers Calling for Reform of Laojiao System
JAPAN: Govt OK's 8.46% Household Power Rate Hike
New Transit Service Launched in Miyagi
Govt Releases Report on Dike Opening
Ministry Looks at Cancer Claims / Panel to Determine Compensation Eligibility of Printing Firm Workers
Fukushima Starts Radiation Checks on All Rice
SOUTH KOREA: Has Highest Rate of Low-income Workers Among OECD States
Seoul Seeks to Expand US Visa for 'Professionals'
Gov't Vows to Widen Awareness of Multicultural Society
Gov't to Expand Job Opportunities for Defectors, Naturalized Citizens
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ˇˇ MYANMAR: Exempts All Publications from Scrutiny for More Press Freedom
SINGAPORE: Stepping Up Geospatial Capacity Building
Singapore Is Preparing to Stay Ahead of the Technology Curve
More Jobs for People with Disabilities
THAILAND: Industrial Intelligence
Thai Offers Faster Check-in Facility
October Date Confirmed for 3G Auction
VIETNAM: Authorities Told to Speed Up Granting of Land Titles
Myanmar FM Stresses Enhancement of Networking of ASEAN, Plus Three Countries
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: Govt Committed to Preserve Country's Heritage: Azad
INDIA: Govt. Should Use Available Technology to Prevent Blackouts, Opines Nasscom
Workshop on 'e-Governance & Electronic Service Delivery' Conducted at Chandigarh
SEBI Board May Approve e-IPO, Safety Net Mechanism This Week
"Govt. Is Working with Social Media to Prevent Misuse of Technology", Says Sibal
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ˇˇ AZERBAIJAN: Signing Agreement on Insurance of First Telecommunications Satellite
Azerbaijan Strengthens State Control in Combating Informal Employment
TURKMENISTAN: Developing Entrepreneurship in Agro-Industrial Complex
TURKMENISTAN: Acceding to UN Convention on Use of Transboundary Watercourses
TURKMENISTAN: Hosting International Telecoms & IT Conference
UZBEKISTAN: Advanced Technology Needed
Security Measures Strengthened in Uzbekistan
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: Health Mapping Study to Improve Cardiac Care Access
Aus Hospital Fast-Tracks Support for BYOD
Resilient to Global Instability
NEW ZEALAND: Govt Rethink on Subsidised Housing
Information-Sharing to Protect Children Has Popular Support
Govt Wants Business to Double R&D Spend
Pacific Investment Opportunities Promoted to the World
The Pacific Trade and Development Nexus
ˇˇ World Bank Group Announces New Focus on Using ICT for Greater Development Impact
Global Online Ad Market Grows 12.1 % in Q1: Report
Jakarta Most Active Twitter City, S'pore No. 11: Study
Secure and Trusted ICT Infrastructure Crucial Driver of Regional Economic Integration
APEC Ministers: Promoting Inclusive, Secure ICT Development to Build More Prosperous Digital Economies
Boost ICT to Drive New Growth - APEC
Public Sector Most Targeted by Cyber Attacks: Report
Asia-Pacific Online Payment Method Market Dominated by Credit Cards
World Rich List Shows Emerging Asian Century
World Economy Depends on Asia
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ˇˇ CHINA: 3G Subscribers Increase 47.33m
Online Transactions Jump 45% in Q2
IT Hiring Spree
Mainland Developers to Offer Bonds in HK
Govt to Expand Off-exchange Trading
iPad Takes Over 70 pct of China's Tablet PC Sales
Population, Employment Development Since 2002
China Unicom Teams Up with Three Video Websites to Lower Fees
China Telecom Profit 'Steady'
JAPAN: Vicious Apps Hit Android Phones / Extended Battery Life Among Deceptive Lures Used to Steal Personal Info
552 Targeted E-mail Attacks in 1st Half of Yr
Ministry to Make Univ. Database / New Online Resource Due in FY 2014 to Help Students Compare Schools
SOUTH KOREA: FM - Gov't Aiming to Secure 3% Level Economic Growth
Child Poverty More Common in Countryside Than in Cities
A Third of Middle Class Perceive Incomes to Be Lower
Unemployment in Seoul Higher Than Pre-crisis Period
Online Sales Jump to Record High in Second Quarter
Top Court Strikes Down Real-Name Online Verification
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ˇˇ INDONESIA: Launching Geoportal for Disaster Mitigation
Indonesian President Calls for Cheap, High Quality Education
Lack of Spectrum Sharing Threatens to Slow 3G, Digital TV Growth
Social Networks Wildly Popular in Indonesia, Among Those Able to Log On
MALAYSIA: Improving Emergency Hotline
MCMC Aims to Add at Least 800 More Community Broadband Centres in Sabah
PHILIPPINES: Filipinos Collaborate Online in Flood Evacuation Efforts
Philippines Has 9.5m Twitter Users
Mobile Library Carts Introduced to Provide Jobs for Older Job Seekers
SINGAPORE: MICA Minister Urges Netizens to Develop Netiquette
More Job Seekers Gain Employment with Help from CDCs
Govt Launches 3 Residential Sites to Yield 1,600 Housing Units
THAILAND: To Apply RFID in Traffic Control
Thailand to Beef Up Toll Auto-payment
VIETNAM: Proposed Fee Aims to Encourage SIM Registration
ASEAN Should Enhance Efforts to Reach Out to Its People
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: PM Seeks Global Actions to Remove Poverty, Hunger
INDIA: Connect with the President Directly Via Website
M.P. Govt to Provide Land to IT Cos on 99-Year Lease
ITC Launches Interactive Mobile Telephony for Tobacco Farmers
HC Asks Govt Not to Bar Fakhrul from Foreign Tour
SRI LANKA: Development Not at Cost of Environment - President
PAKISTAN: President Asks Govt to Consider PAF Medical College Plan
Karachi DHA to Improve Living Environment
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ˇˇ AZERBAIJAN: Tourists Will Be Able to Use New Mobile Website of Airline Flydubai
Volume of E-Trades with Foreign Currency Decreases by 14 Percent in Azerbaijan
Introducing E-Services Is Requirement of Azerbaijan's Economic Development
Presentation of E-Government Portal to Be Held in Azerbaijan in Autumn
Economic Successes of Turkic-Speaking Countries Create Good Conditions for Cooperation Development
Google Chrome Becomes Azerbaijan's Most Popular Browser
KAZAKHSTAN: Unemployment Rate in Kazakhstan Hits 5.2 Percent
TAJIKISTAN: Internet Access to Tajikistan's Leading News Agency Cut Off Again
NGOs Call on Tajik Authorities to Unblock Asia-Plus Website
UZBEKISTAN: To Open Two New National Television Channels
Uzbekistan Increases Investment Volume
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: E-Tax Returns Reach Record Highs
Low Commodity Prices Hit Pacific Economies
Aus Gov Fights Cyber-Crime
NEW ZEALAND: National Standards Website a 'Good Compromise' - PM
Government Backing Needed to Avoid 'World's Fastest Intranet'
Pacific Regional Integration Needs More Thought
Improving Health and Education Outcomes in the Pacific
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ˇˇ OECD Welcomes Multilateral Efforts to Improve International Tax Compliance and Transparency
Governments Can Save Up to 75% with Electronic Payment Programs
Pacific Economies Weathering Global Financial Turmoil
Automated Trading Revolution Sweeps into Asia
Asia Takes Active Part in Evolving Market Dynamics
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ˇˇ CHINA: High Local Govt Fiscal Revenue Prompts Calls for Reducing Tax Burdens
US$150m Fund for Tech Startups
No Notable Revenue from Weibo
China Adds 200 Mln Yuan for Pest Control
JAPAN: 55 Local Govts to Forgo Tax Grants for FY12
1.74 Mil. Cell Phone, Smartphone Accounts in Arrears
Extra 143 Bil. Yen Given for Reconstruction
Quake Insurance Sales Hit Record in FY11
Medical Expenses Hit Record High in FY11
SOUTH KOREA: June Trade Surplus Reaches All-time High
Household Debt Reaches W922 Trillion
S. Korea's Credit Rating Untouchable by Spat with Japan
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ˇˇ MYANMAR: World Financial Groups Re-engage with Myanmar to Support Reform
Myanmar Embarks on Monetary Reform
Myanmar Hopeful to Become Middle Income Nation by 2030: ADB
PHILIPPINES: Setting Up Climate Change Fund
THAILAND: House Approves Biggest Budget in History
VIETNAM: Succeeding in Strengthening Economic Balance, Curbing Inflation - HSBC's Report
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ˇˇ PAKISTAN: Govt Borrows Rs.51bn in 6 Days from SBP
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ˇˇ AZERBAIJAN: Bank of Azerbaijan Increases Share Capital by 1.5 Times
Level of Dollarization Seriously Decreases in Azerbaijan for 10 Years
Azerbaijani Accessbank Expands Its Branch Network
Azerbaijani Kapital Bank Reduces Tariffs on Plastic Cards
TAJIKISTAN: National Bank of Tajikistan Reduces Refinancing Rate by 0.3 Percent Points
Tajikistan's Budget Exceeds $1 Billion
TURKMENISTAN: Ready to Transfer Funds to IMF Trust Fund
UZBEKISTAN: Directing $290 Mln to Development of Pharmaceutical Industry
UZBEKISTAN: Uzbek Bank to Increase Authorised Capital by 1.9 Times
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: Boost Investment in Health Informatics
Aus Broadband Faces Budget Blow-Out
NEW ZEALAND: National's Tax Cuts Haven't Cut Tax Avoidance
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Budget Deficit at K513m - Report
Govt Warned of High Debt
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ˇˇ Private Sector Reforms Can Boost Development in Pacific - ADB Report
Catch Software Named One of Asia's Most Promising Private Technology Ventures
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ˇˇ CHINA: Baidu Income Rises Nearly 70%
Huawei Overtakes Ericsson as World's Largest Telco Player
Private Capital Likely for Telecom Sector
DreamWorks, Shanghai City Unveil Collaborative Blueprint
JAPAN: Summer Power Usage Falls 11% in KEPCO's Service Area
SOUTH KOREA: Gov't to Support Smalls Firms in Boosting Exports
Gov't to Support More Firms Affected by FTA Losses
Samsung Ranks 6th in Brand Value, Surpassing Coca-Cola
Privatization Projects Put on Hold
'Samsung, Apple Infringed on Each Other's Patents'
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ˇˇ MYANMAR: To Privatize Oil Refineries as Refining Processes Decline
SINGAPORE: Government Looks to Strengthen SMEs' Capabilities
SMEs to Receive More Subsidies for Technology Purchases
THAILAND: PM Fails to Impress Private Sector
VIET NAM: Firms Look to E-commerce to Boost Trade
Indonesia, VN, Myanmar Offers SME Opportunities
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ˇˇ BANGLADESH: Create More Jobs to Spur Growth - Entrepreneur
INDIA: 'Priority Sector' Light Engineering Fails to Flourish
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ˇˇ AZERBAIJAN: Insurance Companies of Azerbaijan to Be Able to Get International Certificate CII
Securities Market Increases by More Than Half in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan Begins to Establish Cadastre Data Base of Real Estate in Regions
Azerbaijani Insurance Company Expects a Decrease in Earnings This Year
KAZAKHSTAN: Oil Production to Decrease in 2012
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ˇˇ AUSTRALIA: SMEs to Lift Spending on Information Technology, Particularly on Software
Corporate Tax Cuts to 28pc in Government Blueprint
Survey Says: SMEs Becoming Less Proactive Online
Prime Minister Julia Gillard Says Private Schools Will Get More

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Transform, Innovate, and Connect: A New Strategy for Information and Communication Technology

A dramatic increase in use of mobile phones and the Internet; plunging prices of computing and mobile internet devices; the increasing prevalence of social media: these are some of the rapid changes seen in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector over the last decade. The World Bank Group's new strategy for the ICT sector for the period 2012-2015 reflects this new context. It aims to help developing countries use ICT to transform delivery of basic services, drive innovations and productivity gains, and improve competitiveness. "Information and communication technologies can help reduce poverty, boost economic growth, and improve accountability and governance," explains World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte.

Three Priority Areas
The new strategy emphasizes the transformative potential of ICT - in areas such as accountability, energy, and health - while maintaining a steady focus on ICT-enabled innovation and ICT infrastructure. Bank Group support will be directed to three priority areas: Transformation: Making development more open and accountable, for instance, by facilitating citizen feedback to governments and service providers; and improving delivery of services, such as education, health, and financial services. Innovation: Developing competitive IT-based service industries and fostering ICT innovation across the economy - with a focus on job creation, especially for women and youth. Connectivity: Leveraging private investments to help scale up affordable access to broadband - including for women, disabled citizens, disadvantaged communities, and people living in remote and rural areas. "The World Bank Group's new strategy will help our client countries take advantage of the opportunities that ICT offers across all sectors of the economy, drawing on our unique expertise in public-private partnerships in the ICT sector."

Working with client countries
The new strategy builds on the Bank Group's experience working with client countries on ICT sector reforms, infrastructure development, and electronic government: Over the 2000s, Bank support for ICT sector reforms helped attract an estimated $30 billion in private investment for mobile network infrastructure in the least developed countries. The IFC's $2.3 billion in telecommunications infrastructure investments and MIGA's $550 million in political risk guarantees also supported private investment in mobile service providers in difficult and high-risk environments. Bank Group support for ICT applications has grown rapidly over the last decade, and over 70 percent of the 1,700 projects in the Bank's active portfolio now have ICT components. Since 2007, the Bank Group has intensified its support for public-private partnerships for broadband and high-speed Internet, helping bring down retail prices and increasing the take-up of services, in some instances by a factor of 10.Stakeholders from 17 low- and middle-income countries and four OECD countries provided inputs for the new strategy through a series of face-to-face and online consultations. The document also draws on a review by the Bank Group's Independent Evaluation Group.

For Rashad-Rudolf Kaldany, IFC Vice President for Global Industries, "The Strategy recognizes the vital role of the private sector in improving access to information infrastructure and services in developing countries." He explains that "IFC works with the private sector as an advisor, financier, and standard setter to help unlock the potential of ICT for development. "Jose Luis Irigoyen, the World Bank's Director for Transport, Water, and Information and Communication Technologies, underlines how "ICT offers new tools to directly address poverty by providing access to information, contributing to pro-poor market developments such as microfinance and mobile money, and equalizing opportunities in rural areas."

Collaborating across the Bank Group
Under the new strategy, the World Bank, IFC, and MIGA will work together to assist countries in unlocking the opportunities offered by ICT. For instance, the World Bank will provide support for appropriate policy, legal, and regulatory frameworks, as well as catalytic investment in ICT backbone infrastructure; IFC will provide financing and advisory services to mobile operators; and MIGA will provide guarantees to support the roll-out of telecommunications networks and services. "MIGA has contributed to the rapid growth of access to ICT services in emerging countries by mitigating the political risk of investments," says Michel Wormser, MIGA's Vice President and COO.He adds that, "Under the new WBG strategy, MIGA will make available its insurance capacity to further accelerate ICT investments in higher-risk countries, notably fragile and post-conflict countries, where ICT will be key to growth, job creation, sharing of knowledge, and governance." The ICT strategy will adopt a new approach to implementation, including country diagnostics to help prioritize Bank Group interventions at the country level and leverage more partnerships with external sources of expertise. A results-based framework will be used to track progress.

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 07/25/2012

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Introducing the OpenGov Hub

At the International Open Government Data Conference held from July 10-12, Development Gateway and Global Integrity announced the upcoming launch of the OpenGov Hub. The hub is an endeavor to bring like-minded organizations together in one physical location to work on issues related to the open government agenda, and will be housed in Development Gateway's current headquarters in Washington, DC. It will open officially in September. The hub aims to be the day-to-day home for small- to medium-sized non-profit organizations that focus on 1) information transparency, 2) civic engagement and participation, and 3) accountability and anti-corruption issues. The initial anchor organizations - the larger tenants - will be Development Gateway and Global Integrity, and Frontline SMS has also announced that it will move into the hub this fall. There will also be desk space for a half dozen smaller organizations and expressions of interest are welcome from any group pursuing broadly related activities. A modest number of "hot desks" will be available for affiliated individuals who need short term office space while visiting Washington. Currently, Development Gateway and Global Integrity are at work transforming DG's existing office space into an open environment - tearing down doors and walls - so that individuals from different organizations can brainstorm, share experiences, and work alongside each other toward a more transparent, efficient, accountable, and participatory public sector. The OpenGov Hub will feature regular learning and outreach events aimed at both its regular tenants and the broader open government community of practice in the Washington, DC area. To join the mailing list, or explore whether the OpenGov Hub might be the right home for your organization, visit the website or contact info@opengovhub.org.

From http://www.i-policy.org/ 08/05/2012

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Asia Steps Up Fight Against Money Laundering

SINGAPORE: Asia is paying greater attention to the fight against money laundering, given the recent spate of investigations into these alleged activities in the US. Experts say banks and casinos in Asia are expected to step up their surveillance and reporting mechanisms to the authorities. US regulators are getting tough over money laundering activities and central banks in Asia are also monitoring developments closely. South Korea's financial regulator is planning checks on the local branches of HSBC and Standard Chartered. While Singapore's central bank said it has not been approached in the probe of Standard Chartered by the New York State Department of Financial Services, it is willing to provide assistance on supervisory matters, if approached. The bank also reiterated Singapore's tough stance against money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing. Casinos have also come under the spotlight. Las Vegas Sands is now the target of an investigation into possible violations of US money-laundering laws.

Professor Themin Suwardy, Associate Dean of School of Accountancy at Singapore Management University, said: "Casinos have a lot of banking facilities as well. If you take junket for example, you could probably bring a lot of cash into junket operations and have it remit to the casino you intend to visit." He added: "Money laundering is an activity which a lot of people do not see because it is invisible and you will find that the first step of defence will probably have to be heightened in terms of knowing your customers." Besides the US, Las Vegas Sands also operates casinos in Macau and Singapore. The Casino Regulatory Authority of Singapore said it noted that the US authorities are investigating on possible breaches by Sands and it is monitoring the US investigations. Asia Compliance's managing director, Dr Rohan Bedi, said: "It's definitely a red-flag for local regulators to look carefully at what transactions are happening and to see (that) similar vulnerabilities that exist not just in Sands but in other casino operators in Asia." Recently, Macau arrested 150 people in raids at casinos and hotels across the Chinese territory. Dane Chamorro, who is director of global risk analysis (Asia Pacific) at Control Risks, said: "Macau has long been known as the place where funds could be laundered from... from organised crime and certain rogue states like North Korea. This is primarily in the local casinos that I am talking about and particularly in the VIP gaming rooms." While Singapore has a robust structure to deal with money laundering, analysts noted that Macau and the Philippines will need to step up their regulatory frameworks to better scrutinise such transactions.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 08/13/2012

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Asia Needs to Create 'Green Cities' - ADB

In a new report, entitled "Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2012," the ADB said that to prevent a "bleak and environmentally degraded future," Asia must act now to pave the way for green, resource-friendly cities." Asia has seen unprecedented urban population growth but this has been accompanied by immense stress on the environment," said Changyong Rhee, ADB's chief economist. He added that the challenge now is to put in place policies which will reverse that trend and facilitate the development of green technology and green urbanization.In the report, ADB examined the challenges and opportunities associated with the region's breakneck urban boom. It also details measures needed to turn cities into environmentally sustainable, inclusive growth centers. According to the report, since the 1980s, the region has been urbanizing at a faster rate than anywhere else, and Asia was home to almost half of all the world's city dwellers. It added that in just over a decade, Asia will have 21 of 37 megacities worldwide, and over the next 30 years another 1.1 billion people are expected to join the region's already swollen urban ranks. "This breakneck expansion has been accompanied by a sharp rise in pollution, slums, and widening economic and social inequalities which are causing rapid environmental degradation," the report noted.

CO2 emissions
It continued that particularly disturbing are urban carbon dioxide emissions, which if left unchecked under a business-as-usual scenario, could reach 10.2 metric tons per capita by 2050 - a level which would have disastrous consequences for both Asia and the rest of the world. The report also said that rising urban populations mean that over 400 million people in Asian cities may be at risk of coastal flooding and roughly 350 million at risk of inland flooding by 2025. "Unless managed properly, these trends could lead to widespread environmental degradation and declining standards of living," it stated. However, the report noted that the growth of cities can have many advantages, including having critical masses of people in relatively small areas, making it easier and more cost effective to supply essential services like piped water and sanitation. It further said that rising education levels, factories leaving cities, the growth of middle classes and declining birth rates typically associated with urbanization, also have a broadly beneficial impact on resource use and the environment.

The report suggested that conservation and efficiency improvements will help, adding that many countries have begun diversifying their energy sources to include renewables, and have been investing in energy-efficient buildings and sustainable transport systems. It cited Thailand's "smart" electric grids, congestion and emission charges imposed in Singapore, and the removal of inefficient fuel subsidies in Indonesia. The ADB report also cited the waste-to-energy conversion plants in the Philippines as one of the early examples of mainstreaming new green technologies in promoting climate resilient cities. Finally, for urbanization to be not only green but inclusive, the report urged policy makers in Asia to promote climate resilient cities and improve urban slum areas in order to prevent disasters.

From http://manilatimes.net/ 08/16/2012

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CHINA: Establishes Sansha City

China on Tuesday established the city of Sansha on Yongxing Island in the southernmost province of Hainan.A ceremony to mark the city's establishment began at 10:40 a.m. on a square in front of the city government's main building. The national flag was hoisted while the national anthem played after the signboards of the Sansha Municipal Government and the Sansha Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) were unveiled. Sun Shaochi, vice minister of civil affairs, announced the State Council's approval of the establishment of the city at the ceremony.Luo Baoming, Party chief of Hainan province, said in a keynote speech that Sansha was established to administer the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea."The provincial government will be devoted to turning the city into an important base to safeguard China's sovereignty and serve marine resource development," he said. He said the main task now will be to build up political power in Sansha to ensure efficient management. The city government is located on Yongxing Island, a part of the Xisha Islands and the largest island in the area.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 07/24/2012

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Shanghai to Allow Longer Stays Without a Visa

A visa-free policy allowing travelers to stay in Shanghai for 48 hours before leaving for their next foreign destination may be extended, the city's border police said yesterday. Under consideration is a change in policy which would allow the time period to be 72 hours. The visa-free policy is seen as part of the city's efforts to attract more travelers and visitors and enhance Shanghai's reputation as an air transport hub. Lu Zhitao, deputy director of the Shanghai Exit and Entrance Frontier Inspection Station, said yesterday that the new policy would "greatly benefit passengers and airlines as well." Lu said the policy had been approved by the State Council, China's Canibet, and they were working on the details of how it would be applied. No timetable for its introduction was announced yesterday. The visa-free policy was first introduced in 2000 at the city's two airports, Hongqiao and Pudong. Police said 2,923 people used the 48-hour visa-free period last year, an increase of 78.5 percent on 2010.A 24-hour visa-free stay is available to all transferring international passengers passing through Shanghai while the 48-hour policy is available to 32 countries including the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan, Singapore, Germany, France, Hungary and Switzerland.

More foreign countries may be included in the new policy. The visa-free policy is also expected to be extended to railways and ports. Shanghai's international airports saw a slower increase in passenger volume and cargo transport last year amid the global economic slowdown and weakened trade growth. The changes in the visa-free policy are part of the city's bid to reverse that trend. Last year, Pudong International Airport fell one place to 21st on the list of the world's busiest air hubs in terms of passenger volume. In the first half of this year, more than 12.64 million international air travelers used the city's two airports, a 10.5 percent increase on the same period in the previous year. There were 410,000 passengers transferring to other international flights at the Pudong airport last year, an 80 percent increase on the total for 2010. Since March, passengers transferring to other international flights at Pudong within 24 hours have also been exempt from double border inspections. It's the first time the practice has been used at airports on the Chinese mainland. Police officers at the airport said that the practice "speeds up the process and saves time."

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 07/26/2012

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China to Support Geoinformation Industry

China is expected to introduce policies in August that will give preferential treatment to the geoinformation industry, which is predicted to produce 1 trillion yuan ($157 billion) worth of goods and services by 2020, said an industry source. The policies, which are likely to be issued by the State Council this month, will call for the use of tax cuts and other measures to support the industry, according to Cao Hongjie, vice-president of Beijing UniStrong Science & Technology Co Ltd, a Chinese maker of navigation products. The polices are aimed at making the geoinformation industry - which offers a range of products and services related to surveying, mapping and navigation - one of China's strategic emerging industries, Wang Chunfeng, deputy director-general of the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation, said last month. "Apart from the preferential policies, the government will also be increasingly open with its geographical data, which is important to the development of the industry," Cao said, citing talks he has had with administration officials. China, the second-largest economy in the world, has been working harder to transform its mode of economic growth.

To that end, it is paying particular attention to seven industries that rely more on the use of knowledge and technology than on labor and resources - energy-saving and environmental protection, information technology, biology, advanced-equipment manufacturing, new energy, new materials and new-energy vehicles. The country's geoinformation industry reported that it produced 150 billion yuan worth of goods and services last year, an amount up 50 percent year-on-year, according to the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation. Even so, it didn't come into existence in China until the 1990s and is still much smaller than many other industries in the country. The software industry, which is also receiving government support, had 1.8 trillion yuan in output in 2011.Chinese companies in the geoinformation industry are small and find it difficult to compete in global markets, wrote Xu Yongqing, deputy director of Development and Research Center of the administration, in an earlier report. They also do not offer a variety of products and are relatively ineffective marketers, Xu said. Even so, companies in the industry now have a variety of opportunities they can take advantage of, such as China's adoption of the navigation satellite system Beidou. "The navigation market stemming from the Beidou system will grow quickly and is expected to offer 100 billion yuan worth of opportunities," said Han Xingnan, an analyst with Guolian Securities, in a research note. The industries that are expected to undergo the quickest expansions are the national defense, transport, surveying, telecommunications and electrical power industries, he added. China plans to have more than 30 satellites that use the Beidou system by 2020, up from the current 13, enabling it to provide more accurate data and services.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 08/01/2012

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Post-swapping Police Chiefs to Boost Law Enforcement

Zhou Yongkang, a senior official of the Communist Party of China (CPC), has urged provincial police chiefs to improve local police departments, as well as their own leadership, as part of a campaign to make them head departments in different regions. Zhou, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, made the remarks during a symposium attended by heads of several provincial-level police departments who have been assigned to swap posts with each other, according to a statement released Wednesday. Zhou said post-swapping is expected to boost the vigor of local police departments and improve officials' leadership by expanding their horizons, eliminating the influence of friends and relatives and promoting a clean work style. Zhou described the campaign as "a major decision made by the CPC Central Committee to strengthen the construction of police forces in a new era."

Zhou urged law enforcement officials to stick to the Party's guidance and learn to "cope with complex situations with political wisdom, as well as laws and policies." Post-swapping officials were told to deepen investigations and set an example by following laws and regulations while managing law enforcement affairs through innovative and scientific measures. Stressing an uncorrupt nature as a basic requirement for police officials, Zhou called upon them to serve the people and boost local police officers' ideological knowledge, capacity and discipline. Presiding over the event, Li Yuanchao, head of the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee, stressed that self-improvement should be an important part of post-swap experiences. Li said it will be realized gradually in the future that all police departments should be headed, in general, by law enforcement officials from other regions.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 08/01/2012

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Authorities Urged to Implement School Bus Regulation

A circular was issued in China on Monday to ask local governments to better implement the regulation on school bus safety management by mapping out a transitional period. Issued by the Ministry of Education and another 19 departments responsible for school bus safety, the circular urged local governments to establish a school bus safety management system, set a reasonable transitional period and make detailed provisions in terms of school bus permissions, school bus drivers' qualifications and legal responsibilities. The focus of the management work should be put on rural areas where schooling is beyond the reach of public transport and nearby schooling is not feasible, said the circular. The authorities also urged local governments in all areas to encourage major passenger transport enterprises to be engaged for professional school bus operations. It also noted that all passenger vehicles during the transitional period should obtain school bus signs and employ drivers that meet qualifications. After the transitional period, school buses should conform to the national school bus standards.

The circular also said a coordinated safety check campaign will be launched this fall and all irregular practices will be rectified. The regulation on school bus safety, which was implemented on April 5, came after a string of school bus accidents occurred in China last year, prompting the government to introduce new safety regulations and standards for school buses to better ensure students' safety and allay public concern. The most serious accident occurred in November last year, when 21 students were killed after their nine-seat minivan, which was crammed with 62 preschool students, crashed in northwestern Gansu Province. After the accident, Premier Wen Jiabao ordered the school bus safety regulation to be drafted in a timely fashion, and it was passed in March in a meeting of the State Council, China's Cabinet.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 08/14/2012

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Draft Laws on Mental Health, Tourism to Be Reviewed

BEIJING - Top legislators of China will discuss several draft laws about mental health, safety of special equipment, tourism, and environmental protection during a session scheduled from August 27 to 31.The upcoming bimonthly session was announced after Monday's meeting of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, which was presided over by Chairman Wu Bangguo. Legislators will review, for the first time, draft laws on special equipment safety, tourism law and amendments to the Environmental Protection Law. They will continue to review draft amendments to the Civil Procedure Law, the Law on the Popularization of Agricultural Technology and Mental Health Law. During the session, legislators will review the State Council's reports on the implementation of the country's national economic and social development plan, the use of the central budget, as well as ensuring essential financial support for county-level governments. They are also expected to review a report on the enforcement of the Law on the Protection of Disabled Persons. Legislators will also discuss appointments.

From http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/ 08/20/2012

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China Eases Restriction on Passport Issuing

China will ease a restriction covering the household registration that people must hold when applying for passports and travel passes in six big cities, the Ministry of Public Security announced Wednesday. Those who work or study at higher education institutions in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen will soon be allowed to apply for passports and travel passes there, even if they do not hold household registrations in these six cities, the ministry said in a statement. The new policy will take effect on Sept. 1, the statement said. Currently, every Chinese must apply for a passport or travel pass to police in the area where he or she is registered in a household. That has caused great trouble for people who leave their hometown but do not transfer their household registration locations. The policy is being applied in the six cities because they see a large inflow of people, the ministry's statement said.

Apart from the household registration certificate, identification card and temporary residence permit, an employed person will need a statement from the city's social security department confirming at least one year of payment to social security programs. A college student will need a statement from his college on the enrollment. If the pass is granted, police will issue it within 30 days of an application being made. If the application is turned down, the applicant will need to apply for reconsideration in his household registration location, the statement said. The policy is among a number of efforts to facilitate people's travel abroad and to provide equal public service to both the registered and migrant population. In the first half of this year, about 38 million Chinese traveled abroad, an year-on-year increase of 18 percent, according to the National Tourism Administration.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 08/22/2012

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China to Formulate New Anti-corruption Plan

China will implement a five-year plan for eliminating corruption after the upcoming national congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), top official He Guoqiang said on Tuesday. He, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the CPC, expressed readiness to improve anti-corruption efforts, describing the improvements as a "dynamic and long-term strategic project." The 18th CPC National Congress will find new ways to prevent corruption both now and in the future, said He, who is also head of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. The spirit of the 18th CPC National Congress should be fully implemented in the formation of the next five-year plan to fight corruption, He said.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 08/22/2012

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JAPAN: Govt to Overhaul Public Assistance System

The government plans to overhaul the public assistance system to help recipients become economically independent and prevent cheating, by introducing such measures as having local governments pay rent directly to landlords instead of recipients, according to sources. The direct rent payments are the centerpiece of the reform, as the government plans to ensure all recipients have a place to live and prevent benefits being used for other purposes. Other measures include a plan to provide simple jobs to recipients for a certain period, which the government hopes will be a stepping stone for recipients to readjust to working life. The government hopes the reform will also help the government curb surging public assistance costs. The government has earmarked 3.7 trillion yen for benefits in the initial fiscal 2012 budget, an increase of about 1 trillion yen over the last five years. As of March 31, about 2.1 million people were receiving public assistance benefits.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry plans to build a new strategy to support the livelihood of those who need assistance by autumn. The reform plan will be incorporated in the strategy as part of the ministry's new comprehensive plan on helping recipients become financially independent. Currently, the government includes housing expenditures in public assistance benefits and recipients pay rent out of the benefit money. However, there have been reports of recipients using the money for other purposes, or living in housing cheaper than that specified when they applied for benefits. The government expects the misappropriation of housing expenditures can be prevented by having local governments pay rent directly to landlords. It also expects to eliminate real estate companies that provide low-quality housing to recipients while collecting most of their benefits in the name of rent, food and other expenses.

The ministry is also examining ways to motivate recipients to become financially independent. One proposal is to automatically deduct a portion of the money recipients earn each month, save the deducted amount and return the money to recipients when they stop receiving benefits to help finance their new lives. According to the ministry, there are three pillars to support the needy, including those whose unemployment benefits have expired. They are: to secure housing, to teach them how to rebuild domestic finances, and to assist in employment. For people who are willing to work but cannot find jobs - those who could become eligible for benefits in the near future - the welfare ministry plans to introduce a system to lend necessary funds to rebuild their lives, based on each person's situation. The system also encourages them to control their spending, such as by recommending they keep household accounts.

The ministry also plans to make permanent a program in which the government subsidizes people's rent based on certain criteria, such as their efforts to find employment. The program is scheduled to expire at the end of fiscal 2012.For people having difficulty reentering the workforce due to long-term unemployment, the ministry is planning to introduce a new system aimed at preparing an environment to ease their transition. The ministry will advise them on how to correct their unhealthy lifestyles and provide simple jobs, such as easy farmwork and cleaning parks, for a certain period. The aim of the program is to allow them to experience a regulated life and cooperation with other people, which may help them return to the workforce. The ministry plans to establish centers nationwide aimed at smoothly supporting people in need. The centers will be mainly managed by nonprofit organizations, the ministry said.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 08/18/2012

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Fukushima Govt to Use Stricter Rice Screenings

This year's rice harvest is set to start soon in Fukushima Prefecture, with local authorities introducing a system to check all bags of rice for radiation before shipments nearly 1-1/2 years after the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Last year, confidence in Fukushima-grown rice was shaken when radioactive cesium levels exceeding the state-set limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram were found in local produce after the Fukushima prefectural government had declared the safety of crops harvested within the prefecture, excluding areas near the TEPCO plant, which was knocked out by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. By introducing the new screening system, the Fukushima government hopes to ensure full safety for this year's harvest. The prefecture is a key production center for the Japanese food staple, prefectural government officials said.

Each bag contains 30 kilograms of rice. The nationwide limit for radioactive cesium in rice will be cut to 100 becquerels per kilogram in October. The prefecture, however, will apply the new limit earlier for the new screening procedure and discard any bags of rice containing cesium above the new threshold. Screenings under the stricter method are likely to start this weekend, covering the early harvest. Harvests of the popular Koshihikari rice variety are expected to get into full swing in early September. The Fukushima government will check for radiation rice samples from all districts where planting has been permitted - as it did in 2011 - to determine whether the districts will be allowed to ship rice. The comprehensive screening of all bags will be carried out in addition to sample checks, the officials said.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 08/21/2012

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Tokyo Govt Applies to Land on Senkaku Island

The Tokyo metropolitan government filed a written request last week with the central government for permission to land on Uotsurijima in the Senkaku Island chain, but the request was left pending due to flaws in the application, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Monday. The Tokyo government has announced plans to buy the Senkaku Islands, which are located in the jurisdiction of Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture. Filed on Friday evening, the request was left pending because of problems in the application concerning the landing date and who would be landing on the islands, the top government spokesman said.Fujimura would not disclose during a news conference Monday whether the government will approve the landing.

He said a decision would be made after the government comprehensively considers the request's content, the necessity of the landing, the intentions of the owner of the Senkaku Islands, and the government's need to maintain the islands peacefully and stably based on lease contracts with the landowner. The metropolitan government said Monday the request was not official and that officials of the metropolitan and central governments were finalizing talks on the application forms. It said it plans to file a formal request after attaching a letter of agreement written by the islands' owner, who lives in Saitama Prefecture. NAHA - Police on Monday questioned 10 people who landed on one of the Senkaku Islands on Sunday, on suspicion of entering land controlled by the government without permission, but are unlikely to file charges against them.

The government restricts all unauthorized landing on the Senkaku Islands in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture; anyone who does so is considered to have broken the law. However, in past cases, the Okinawa prefectural police did not mount a case against members of the Ishigaki municipal assembly and others who landed on the islands. In keeping with that precedent, the police plan not to build a case against the 10 individuals involved in Sunday's landing. After being questioned, Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly member Akihiro Suzuki told reporters that the group had not planned to land on Uotsurijima island. "I hoped to visit the island as part of the process of the Tokyo metropolitan government's planned purchase of the Senkaku Islands. I apologize for the trouble my private actions have caused," he said.

Sunday's landing came just days after a group of activists from a private Hong Kong group illegally landed on the island, which is also claimed by China. "We should more openly demonstrate our will to protect our own country," Suzuki said. The 10 people who landed on the island took part in a service to console the spirits of people who died in a shipwreck and other incidents off the islands in 1945 during the Pacific War. According to other participants, the 10 jumped into the sea from their boat after the service ended Sunday morning and swam to Uotsurijima island. They raised Hinomaru national flags on the island's lighthouse and elsewhere, and stayed there for about 1-1/2 hours.

Of the 10 people, five were members of the service's organizing group, and the others were local assembly members from Tokyo, Hyogo Prefecture, Tokyo's Suginami and Arakawa wards, and Ibaraki Prefecture's Toride, according to the participants. Before the service, the Japan Coast Guard reportedly warned the participants not to land on the island. However, soon after the service ended, the organizing group members swam ashore, and the local assembly members followed them. The local assembly members returned to Ishigakijima island Sunday night and held a press conference. They emphasized that they had not originally intended to land on the island, but that it was a sudden and spontaneous decision.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 08/21/2012

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Govt Begins Discussing Review of Bar Exam

The government started discussions Tuesday to review the nation's bar examination system. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura, Justice Minister Makoto Taki and four other ministers agreed to reach a conclusion by August next year. Details will be discussed by a panel of private experts led by Takeshi Sasaki, a professor at Gakushuin University. The review will include the government's target for the annual number of successful bar examination applicants as the country faces a glut of lawyers, a situation that leaves new lawyers struggling to find work. The Justice Ministry plans to propose lowering the target to 2,000 from 3,000.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 08/22/2012

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Japan Finalizes Plan to Put Silk Mill on Heritage List

The government formalized plans Thursday to recommend Tomioka Silk Mill and related industrial heritage be put on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The government plans to submit provisional recommendation papers to UNESCO in September, followed by final ones by February 2013.The U.N. body is expected to examine the recommendation in 2014.Four properties in Gunma Prefecture will be recommended, including the silk mill set up in 1872, which was Japan's first state-run silk mill to use modern technology from the West. The mill enabled the mass production of high-quality silk and contributed to the global silk industry. The mill remains as it was after its construction. The other properties include a farmhouse with a special roof for ventilation, which became a prototype for modern silk farmhouses. The government also decided to try to have five additional properties in the Hiraizumi cultural site inscribed on the heritage list. The site was put on UNESCO's list last year.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 08/24/2012

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Official: Japan to Judge Osprey Safety in Early Sept.

The government plans to reach its conclusion on the safety of the U.S. Marine Corps' MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor military transport aircraft in early September at the earliest, a senior Defense Ministry official has said. Late last month, 12 Ospreys were transported to a U.S. base in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, before their planned deployment at the marines' Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture. Following accidents in April and June that involved the Osprey aircraft, the Japanese and U.S. governments have agreed not to conduct Osprey flights in Japan until the safety of the aircraft is confirmed.

The U.S. government said in its final investigation report regarding the April accident in Morocco that it was caused by a failure to follow the flight manual. After analyzing the report, Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto plans to explain the results to the prefectural governments of Okinawa and Yamaguchi this week. Regarding the June accident in Florida, the Japanese government plans to complete its analysis in early September after receiving U.S. investigation results by the end of August, the Defense Ministry official said Friday.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 08/26/2012

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SOUTH KOREA: New Sentencing Standard Established for Election Crimes

A tougher sentencing standard has been established for people who commit election crimes. The Supreme Court's Sentencing Commission convened a full session on Monday and finalized a standard to ratchet up punishment for violaters of election law. The commission stipulated bribery as the worst election crime under the new criterion, explaining it will invalidate the election of anyone found to have won over voters with money and goods regardless of who they were trying to buy off. It also said jail sentences will be issued for serious bribery cases. The new standard will be applied from September first, and the Supreme Court noted it will apply to bribery cases that are currently being tried.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 08/21/2012

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Govt. Revises National Defense Plans

The military has modified its plans for troop reductions in the coming decade. An official at the Defense Ministry said under previous plans, military personnel numbers were supposed to be cut from 640-thousand to 517-thousand by 2020. However, since the Marine Corps is supposed to be augmented by five-thousand new forces, the government revised its plan to reduce the number of military personnel to 522-thousand by 2022. The number of noncommissioned officers will also be increased to around 40-thousand, another factor in the government's decision to push back the reduction. The Defense Ministry will move forward with its plan to establish a brigade in the East to brace against an invasion by North Korea's special forces, estimated at 200-thousand strong. It will also establish a satellite surveillance unit to monitor satellite activities in the skies above the Korean Peninsula. The Defense Ministry revised the 2005 reform bill for national defense for 2020 in March of last year, and has continued to revise and complement the bill ever since.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 08/23/2012

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MYANMAR: To Carry Out ICT Reform

YANGON, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) - Myanmar is planning to carry out reform in information and communication technology (ICT) starting first in Yangon region, official media reported Sunday. IT experts have been invited by the Ministry of Communication, Post and Telegraph U Thein Tun to give advice for the reform move, said the New Light of Myanmar. U Thein Tun told a workshop on ICT development Saturday that Myanmar is lagging behind in the ICT development compared with neighboring countries and called for hard work in the sector to catch up with other member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Regarding Myanmar's international communication, SEA-ME-WE-3 South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe 3 system linking 34 countries, underwater cable system and satellite communication system and cross-border transmission link system have been built.

Plans are also underway to be able to link with SEA-ME-WE-4, Asia, Europe under water cable. It will be linked to SEA-ME-WE-4 via Bangladesh. After completion of the project, it can communicate with other countries included in SEA-ME-WE-4 cyber link via fiber cable. With extended communication links with China, India, Thailand and Vietnam, the ICT sector is expected to develop rapidly. Through these infrastructure, Myanmar people are using fax by phone and IP services with ADSL, WiFi, WiMAX wireless broadband systems. The newly-established Yatanarpon web portal and triple play soft switch in Pyin Oo Lwin in October 2010 also fulfill the requirements for speedy development IP services. Moreover, the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Service, one of the high standard communication technologies, was launched in Yangon and Mandalay in December 2010.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 08/26/2012

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PHILIPPINES: President Signs Data Privacy Act

MANILA, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) - Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III has signed the "Data Privacy Act of 2012" which aims to protect individual personal information gathered by the government and the private sector. Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said Thursday that Aquino inked Republic Act No. 10173, otherwise known as the Data Privacy Act on Aug. 15 this year. The new law provides for the creation of the National Privacy Commission, which will monitor and ensure compliance of the country with international standards set for data protection. Among the functions of the commission include receiving of complaints, instituting investigations, facilitating or enabling settlement of complaints through the use of alternative dispute resolution processes, adjudicate, award indemnity on matters affecting any personal information, preparing reports on disposition of complaints and resolution of any investigation it initiates, and, in cases it deems appropriate, publicize any such report. The national government will provide the commission with an initial appropriation of 20 million pesos (462,962 U.S. dollars).

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 08/23/2012

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The Philippines Embarks on "One Map" Journey

The National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) is embarking on a multiagency project that seeks to establish a web portal where users can have 24/7 access to geospatial information generated by various public sector organisations. The web portal, which is aptly called "The Philippine Geoportal", is the realisation of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure. It stems from the "One Map" principle which is one set of consistent, multiscale basemaps that can be used for thematic mapping by many users working on Philippine geospatial data. Linda Papa, Deputy Administrator in NAMRIA told FutureGov that most of the wealth of information generated in various government agencies remains untapped or underutilised for decision making. "Information which is visually presented gives decision makers heightened situational awareness and helps users have greater appreciation and understanding of their value. What we are doing with the Philippine Geoportal is that we are integrating data from relevant government agencies and organisations to make geospatial data more meaningful and relevant," she says.

The project's key stakeholders are the National Government Agencies (NGA), Local Government Units (LGU), the academe and the general public. The stakeholders, especially those from NGA's and LGUs shall prepare the inventory, metadata, and the actual data of their organisation worth deploying on the web; develop the thematic layers and attributes associated to their agency using the standard multi-scale base map; and set-up a training program for participating agencies and other potential users to facilitate data integration and fusion To cite an example, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) will add the national roads. LGUs will add the local roads, the Department of Environment and National Resources (DENR) will add their thematic maps on forestry, mines and environment. Meanwhile, Baranggays (villages) will add addresses to every building footprint based on a standard and the Bureau of Internal Revenue will tag buildings and associate the establishments that have been tax mapped. Papa reveals that since the project is still in its beta testing phase, the pilot area for the project will be in Metro Manila which would automatically make the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) a major stakeholder in the project.

"The project is progressing well as we certainly have the interest of our stakeholders and that there are no issues with regards to sharing of data." In order to keep the relationship with its stakeholders strong, NAMRIA is equipping them with resources such as the hardware, software and as well as the capacity building of each stakeholder's technical staff. The project is being funded through the e-Government fund and has a total budget of Php 600 million (USD 14 million) over a three-year implementation period. "The Philippine government has really prioritised right now the acquisition of data for the whole country so this 2012 we have been provided with funds and support to pursue this project," says Papa. She adds that at present, the agency is considering using cloud computing, crowd sourcing and mobile applications on the second phase of the geoportal.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 08/23/2012

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SINGAPORE: Planning ICT Roadmap, Identifies 9 Key 'Themes'

Singapore's Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), in consultation with industry technologists, business leaders and other stakeholders, has identified nine key themes that will shape ICT development in the coming three to five years. The 2012 Roadmap - now in its sixth edition - identifies Cloud Computing, Big Data, User Interface, Communications of the Future, Cyber Security, Social Media, ICT and Sustainability, The 'Internet of Things', and the New Digital Economy as the nine points of focus that will drive ICT development in the immediate future. At the Infocomm Technology Roadmap 2012 Symposium, IDA CEO Ronnie Tay explained that "these roadmaps aim to help the industry and vertical sectors stay abreast of global ICT trends and developments." "This infocomm technology roadmap therefore seeks to identify infocomm technology trends that have the potential to impact and even disrupt our lives, and the opportunities that the public and private sectors can leverage," he added, addressing delegates from government and industry.

Meanwhile, IDA CTO Leong Mun Yuen urged the attendees to participate in "co-creation" by providing input on the technologies identified, as the IDA sought to "tap on the invaluable industry insights, experiences and feedback from the community to improve the roadmap and develop a shared technology vision." This public feedback to refine the Roadmap further is being sought on the official website until September 2012, after which the revised roadmap will be compiled and made available online. The Symposium divided the nine themes into three tracks that had threads in common, and potential technologies for development in each of the nine sectors were charted according to their immediate (less than three years), mid-term (three to five years) and long-term (over five years) relevance. For example, Quantum Computing was identified as one of the long-term innovation prospects in the Big Data theme, while predictive and in-memory analytics were highlighted as immediate prospects. Christopher Sia, Assistant Manager, Technology & Planning Group, IDA, identified retail, transport and health IT as the three sectors in which management of big data would prove crucial.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 08/23/2012

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THAILAND: Long-term Planning Crucial to Country's Successful Future, Says New Foundation

Business operators and academics yesterday said the government should draw up a clear-cut, long-term strategic plan, delegate power within state agencies and engage in deregulation, promotion and support in terms of infrastructure in order to take the Kingdom forward into a dynamic future global economy. Ideas and suggestions were addressed at the "Thailand at the Crossroads" seminar", held by the newly established Thailand Future Foundation, an independent mediator that aims to prod think-tanks into helping the state make the right decisions in further developing the country. The foundation is led by former finance minister Somkid Jatrusripitak and has among its collaborators well-known figures in the financial industry, such as former Bank of Thailand governor Chaiwat Wibulsawasdi and ex-finance minister Thanong Bhidaya as directors. The foundation is also supported by leading companies, who are represented as directors on an advisory board. Among them are Bangkok Bank, True Corp, Thai Union Frozen Products, Central Group, Mitr Phol Sugar Group and Thai Beverage.

Sethaput Suthiwart-Narueput, executive chairman of the foundation and formerly head of the Siam Commercial Bank Economic Intelligence Centre, said the authorities should be brave in making tough decisions on complex matters in order to ensure a bright future, as they had done in the past. Use of the Key Performance Index (KPI) is instrumental in helping authorities shape long-term strategies, he said, as the index is a better performance indicator than other traditional measures. Stressing the importance of having long-term policiesfor the country's development, he mentioned that less than a quarter of the government's revenue is used for investment, and that the proportion is falling. He presented examples of key past decisions that had positively affected the country. "Had we not taken steps to increase foreign direct investment, our exports today may be as much as 25 per cent lower. Furthermore, FDI provided us with the opportunity to build economic clusters, such as those in the automotive and electronics sectors. The Eastern Seaboard has led us into petroleum and petrochemical production. At present, Map Ta Phut is the most prominent oil production site in Southeast Asia and is ranked as the world's seventh-largest site. Similarly, the tourism industry has created a great number of jobs and opportunities," Sethaput said.

Chaiwat delivered an opening speech that sent a clear message that he believed human capital is the key to development. Commenting that Thailand faced the risk of lacking a skilled workforce amid an ageing society, he said having a skilled and socially responsible labour was essential. Thanong, meanwhile, said those at the top in the state sector should delegate power to subordinates, as they would be the ones implementing planned policies enabling many projects, especially mega-investment in infrastructure, to proceed. Business operators told the forum that the government should support and promote the private sector to do business both domestically and internationally. Nitinai Sirismatthakarn, a director of the foundation, said the four pillars of development were the population, the public sector, the private sector, and infrastructure and innovation.

While ordinary indexes suggest the outlook in these areas is bright, the KPI reveals the harsh truth, he said. "There have been very few policies involving unemployment, as the unemployment rate is low at 1per cent. However, digging deeper, we will see that 45 percent of those unemployed are youths, and this should be a major concern," he said. "Only 25 per cent of the workforce works in the same field as what they have studied, hence there has been no increase in real salary values. The private sector looks problematic as well, he said. The five largest businesses contribute 21per cent of tax, suggesting the weakness of small and medium-sized enterprises. However, the KPI shows that 78per cent of the workforce are in SMEs. In addition, although more patents have been registered in recent years, only one-third are owned by Thais, Nitinai said. "The inference we can draw is that there is very little funding for research and development," he added. "The Thailand Future Foundation is like a new wave of thought for the future of Thailand ... Let's hope that this will be a [new] beginning for all participants," said Somkid.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 08/01/2012

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ICT Ministry Expands Free Wi-Fi Project

The Information and Communications Technology Ministry will expand its free Wi-Fi project to 200,000 access points nationwide by the end of this year, up from around 76,000 points. The ministry has joined with the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and six telecom operators to implement the service expansion. It kicked off the project last year as part of the government's policy to promote equal Internet broadband access among Thais. ICT minister Anudith Nakornthap said the ministry and the NBTC would work more closely in supporting the government's ICT policies. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said the ICT is the key to enhancing the country's competitiveness and could be adapted to provide various public services. She made the remark while presiding over the opening ceremony of the four-day Bangkok International ICT Expo 2012 fair yesterday at Impact Muang Thong Thani. The premier also asked NBTC commissioners during her visit to its booth at the fair when it will auction the much-needed 2.1GHz spectrum and where the proceeds from the auction would be spent. NBTC vice chairman Settapong Malisuwan told her that the auction would take place in October and that all the proceeds would be transferred to the state coffers.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 08/04/2012

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VIETNAM: Women MPs Discuss Equality Strategies

HA NOI - The development and implementation of national gender equality strategies are key topics at a two-day international workshop for women in central resort city of Nha Trang that finished yesterday. The workshop, organised by the Committee for Social Affairs and female deputies of the National Assembly, also examined the roles of gender equality committees and women parliamentarians. It received technical support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The workshop was told that globally, parliaments faced challenges in promoting gender equality in the workplace. These included raising the numbers of women MPs, making institutions more aware of their commitments, difficulties in balancing parliamentary work and family responsibilities, and a lack of consensus and consistency among MPs of both sexes in promoting equality. Vice President of the National Assembly of Viet Nam, Tong Thi Phong, said that suitable mechanisms needed to be found for women and girls to enjoy the fruits of socio-economic development. Phong said that sharing experiences and learning from initiatives in countries with similar political and cultural values was invaluable. Participants came from Canada, Cambodia, China, Costa Rica, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, South Korea, Sweden, Thailand and Sri Lanka. - VNS

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 07/26/2012

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INDIA: e-Governance Portal Set to Be Unveiled in Lagos

Minister of Interior Abba Moro will unveil the e-governance portal, e-Citibiz, to stakeholders at a forum in Lagos soon. The initiative is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) between the Citizenship and Business Department of the ministry and Anchor Dataware Solutions (ADS), a group focused on the provision of world-class Information Communication and Technology (ICT) solutions. Speaking with reporters in his office in Abuja, ADS Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mr. Joel Adi said: "The project will revolutionise the way government business is conducted, improve commerce and industry, create jobs and accelerate the economic development of the country. "The portal will ensure an easy flow of data, integrate and automate the operations of the department and streamline its naturalisation, citizenship, marriage registry and expatriate quota management systems." "We are putting finishing touches to all installations for the success of the project and the actualisation of the government's goals."

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 08/08/2012

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New IT Policy Designed to Promote e-Service Delivery

The forthcoming IT policy of the Kerala government will give stress upon e-services delivery to citizens as one of the focused areas. Principal Secretary (Information Technology) P. H. Kurian told a Central team visiting the State to review implementation of e-governance programmes that a futuristic, integrated service delivery framework had been chalked out by the Kerala State IT Mission. It envisaged a single identity for citizens to log in to a State portal to access the services. A detailed, long-term plan is under preparation now in consultation with all departments, focussing on high volume. The Central team, led by Sathya Narayana, Secretary, Department of Electronics and Information Technology, reviewed the progress of various e-governance initiatives undertaken by the State, particularly the e-district programme and the State Service Delivery Gateway programme. The team held discussions with the chief secretary and other government secretaries on the integrated e-governance delivery services to be rolled out in the State. An official release said that the team had expressed satisfaction about the progress of various programmes and had explored the possibility of replicating some of the successful e-models of Kerala such as the e-literacy programme, common service centres and e-district programme in other States. e-district is a State Mission Mode Project under the National e-Governance Plan. It seeks to provide integrated, seamless and online delivery of citizen services at the district-level through automation of work flow, back-end digitisation, integration and process redesign. This project targeted high volume services delivered at the district-level and to undertake back-end computerisation to enable the delivery of citizen services through Akshaya centres. The state government has implemented the pilot phase of e-district project in Kannur and Palakad and delivery of 23 revenue certificates have been made online. An estimated eight lakh e-applications have been processed during the pilot run and certificates issued in 80 per cent of the cases. The e-district services are proposed to be rolled out to rest of Kerala in a year's time. The State Service Delivery Gateway project was formulated under the National E-governance Plan to fulfil the vision of integrating all services across departments and provide the same through common service centres and State portals.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 08/20/2012

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Govt Drafts Geographical Indication Act

Customers buy jamdani saris at a market at Rupganj in Narayanganj last week. The government has drafted the Geographical Indication Act-2012 with an aim to ensure entitlement to the country's traditional products and protect the reputation of these products against piracy. The industries ministry, which has prepared the draft of the law, gathered feedback from the stakeholders and is examining the feedback to finalise the draft of the Geographical Indication Act 2012, ministry officials said. 'The ministry will soon take steps for enactment of the law which will provide legal protection to the producers, rights and reputation of the products against piracy by other local manufacturers and traders,' said a industries ministry official. He said the geographical indication would help Bangladeshi producers and innovators differentiate their products from similar competing products and increase its sales and export by protecting reputation of the products. Through the application of the GI process, businessmen can get several benefits such as ensure market access, reduced duty facility in the international market and establish brand and goodwill of local products.

However, the draft does not say anything against piracy and unlawful use by international manufacturers and traders. 'The ministry will consider this issue while finalising the act,' another official said. He said that after the enactment of GI act, the government would identify the products that originate in the country and register those products as its own under the act. Geographical indication means identifying and defining any products according to the origin of country or territory or in a region in any country and the sign of GI ensure a given quality, reputation and other characteristic of the products. Industries ministry officials said the products might be natural, agricultural, industrial or handicraft items. The difference between trademark and GI is nature of ownership. Trademark can be owned individually or by a group of people but the GI gives the product a collective right owned by a concerned community, they said. In the absence of the GI act in the country, Bangladesh is going to lose its rights on some traditional products such as Jamdani Sari, Nakshikatha and Fazli Mango as neighboring India has already got entitlement of these products as her own traditional products under GI act. India has registered Jamdani as Upada Jamdani Sari from Andhra Pradesh. Recently, Export Promotion Bureau asked the Industries Ministry to take steps to cancel the Indian registration of Jamdani Sari and get entitlement to the product in the name of Bangladesh, EPB officials said. In a letter, EPB said that Jamdani is a unique Bangladeshi handloom product with a glorious history and unique creativity and Bangladeshi weavers make this fine cloth for thousands of years. 'But the sale of Jamdai might decrease as India holds the entitlement of the product,' it said. Officials from the Department of Patents, Designs and Trademarks told New Age that after enactment of the Geographical Indication Act, they will take steps to cancel Indian registration of the Jamdani Sari. According to the draft GI act, any registered association of manufacturers, any institution and authority will be able to get GI registration of any products and GI department will provide registration. The draft also described the qualification for application for registration, the process of application, procedure of appeal to court, cancellation and rectification of registration, and crimes and punishment under the act.

From http://www.newagebd.com/ 08/23/2012

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Govt Starts Process to Frame Foreign Aid Policy

The government has taken an initiative to frame a foreign aid policy to ensure an effective aid use for benefit maximisation and to outline an exit plan on aid dependency, Economic Resources Division officials said. The government has set up an inter-ministerial committee headed by the division's senior secretary Iqbal Mahmud to draft the policy and consult with stakeholders. 'We have been assigned to draft a policy on foreign aid to specify how foreign assistance could be used in the best possible way to expedite growth in line with the sixth Five-Year Plan and to inform donors of priority areas of aid,' a committee member told New Age in the past week. He said that international lenders, development partners, experts and economists were demanding a comprehensive foreign aid policy to provide the government with guidelines in deciding which foreign aid would be taken or rejected, setting priority sectors for development project implementation on foreign assistance. 'Ultimately Bangladesh should make an exit plan on foreign aid dependency and that is why we should ensure an effective use of every penny of external assistance and that should be demand-driven,' he said.

In the absence of a comprehensive foreign aid policy, the country fails to prioritise its requirement of foreign aid, they said. The committee has already held its first meeting and discussed the main objective of the policy and sketched an outline of policy formulation. The first draft will be ready by March and after the committee will then consult with the stakeholders on the draft, another committee member said. Now the committee is examining some policies of developing countries, he said. There is now no written and comprehensive aid policy outlining of government priorities, basic principles and procedures for taking and managing foreign assistance. The government takes foreign loans by following the ERD handbook on external assistance, officials said adding that the project implementing agencies and ministries have also their own internal policies to take aid which is not sufficient for such a big aid-recipient country. Most of the time, lenders and development partners identify areas for giving loans and ministries and departments follow them, they said. There is no coordination among the ministries and development partners, resulting in many partners working in many sectors being distracted from national priority and planning. But the government should know which loans it will receive, they said adding that aid architecture had changed globally and Bangladesh needed to formulate a policy to cope with the new era of aid.

Bangladesh needs to get foreign aid for big infrastructure projects such as power plants, roads and highway and bridges but donors usually are not interested in financing in the sectors, ERD officials said. The policy should identify the areas in which aid is most needed, how it can be used properly and how it can be used to stimulate development, they said. He said that there would be specific plans on receiving external assistance in the policy and the policy would discourage the government from taking loans for any purposes already taking place. 'The policy will also contain exit modality from aid dependence,' he said. Once the policy is approved, every penny of the external assistance will be taken in keeping with the policy. Lenders and development partners will be informed of government priorities and they should be aligned to the priorities and they should fully respect the government's ownership of development programmes and projects.

From http://www.newagebd.com/ 08/27/2012

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PAKISTAN: Government in Hot Water Over New Contempt Law

The federal government is going through a tough time regarding the Contempt of Court Act 2012 as a five-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC), headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry, will take up 27 various petitions against the new law. It has been witnessed that a highest number of petitioners have approached the SC regarding any matter for the first time. The Pakistan Bar Council also moved a petition on Saturday for declaring several clauses of the act null and void. Talking to Daily Times, Latif Afridi, counsel for the PBC, confirmed that he had filed a petition under Article 184(3) of the constitution against the law. He also said that in view of Article 8 of the constitution the court could declare void any law, which would be against fundamental rights. Afridi said that there were certain clauses, which were contrary to the constitution.

Meanwhile, it has been learnt that the federal government had also contacted the PBC leadership for getting their stance about the contempt law. It was also learnt that the government would honour the PBC's recommendations in this regard. Special Assistant to Prime Minister Fawad Chaudhry had confirmed that the government was in contact with the PBC members to get their support about the contempt law. "If the PBC will give recommendations regarding the amendment in new contempt law then we will follow its advice," he added. Objecting to the court's proceedings regarding the contempt of court law, Chaudhry said that acceptance of petitions against the law were against the constitution. PBC Executive Member Ramzan Chaudhry said that the PBC would request the SC to send back the law to parliament for reconsidering the clauses, which were in violation of the constitution. He said that the PBC had reservations on certain clauses, but it did not want confrontation among institutions, adding that they would request the SC to refer the new law to parliament. "Whenever a new law is framed it has some shortcomings, which can be corrected without confrontation," he added. Ramzan said that lawyers believed that there were several good clauses in the new law, including giving right of appeal to the accused, which was the need of the hour. He said that the PBC supported the clause about the permission of positive criticism on the court's judgements. He said that the PBC had serious reservations on the immunity clause, which was contrary to the constitution. Legal experts believed that it could be a setback for the government as the PBC, for the first time, had approached the court against the government in the last four years. Earlier, the PBC did not move any petition in the 18th Amendment and NRO cases. Pakistan People's Party senators Aitzaz Ahsan, Raza Rabbani and Babar Awan had also expressed reservations over few clauses of the law. On July 14, hearing the contempt law the court had issued notices to Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, Law Minister Farooq Naek, the Senate chairman, the National Assembly speaker and others.

From http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/ 07/22/2012

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Parliamentary Body to Devise Policy Against Child Abuse

A parliamentary forum will take up the children's rights issue today (Monday) to devise ways and means to end violence against children in the country. A special parliamentary forum was constituted by National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza last month to oversee the rights of children, and especially the rising tide of violence against them. The forum has been constituted in pursuance of a resolution adopted by the National Assembly on July 9, with the terms of reference to ensure children's rights in the country. Headed by Pakistan People's Party (PPP) MNA Rubina Saadat Qaimkhani, the forum comprises MNAs Shazia Marri, Natasha Daultana, Dr Zil-e-Huma, Raja Muhammad Asad Khan, Dr Nelson Azeem, Dr Doniya Aziz, Shagufta Sadiq, Advocate Pervaiz Khan, Asiya Nasir and Bilal Rehman. A non-governmental organisation, Sahil, has recently indicated in its survey report that abuse of children's rights is on the rise across the country. According to the report, the number of children who are sexually abused in Pakistan has registered an alarming increase of 40 percent during January-June in the current year. A total of 1,573 children were sexually abused in the first six months of this year. During the same months last year, the number of children who were abused stood at 1,123, projecting an addition of 450 victims, an increase of 40 percent. The report says that the increase observed in a short period of six months is a matter of concern. It mentions that the trend of increase in violence against children, especially sexual abuse, is rising across the country. Out of the 1,573 cases, 28.2 percent cases involved boys and 71.7 percent girls, the report highlighted.

From http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/ 08/13/2012

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AZERBAIJAN: Planning to Open New TV Channel

Azerbaijan plans to open a new channel, designed for our compatriots abroad. It will be possible to watch the new channel in any country in the world, the working group on preparation of the State Program On the use of Azerbaijani language in the context of globalization, in accordance with the requirements of time and the development of linguistics in the country told Trend. "Our compatriots living abroad will be able to get information about Azerbaijan from a single channel. Regardless of where they live, they will be well aware of the compatriots living in other countries," the working group said. The Working Group also proposed changes to the theme and direction of transmission, broadcasted from Azerbaijan, improve their quality and organization of lessons on broadcasted TV channels. In addition, the opening of Azerbaijani schools in areas where Azerbaijanis live abroad is included in the plans of the working group. President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree On the State program on the use of Azerbaijani language in the context of globalization, in accordance with the requirements of time and the development of linguistics in the country on May 23, 2012.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/10/2012

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Azerbaijan Begins Master Plan Development for Five More Cities

The State Committee for Urban Planning and Architecture has identified companies that will make up master plans for several cities in Azerbaijan, the committee said on Thursday. Tender was held on five lots, which provide for holding of these works in cities of Hajigabul, Siyazan, Yardimli Zardab and Zagatala. The tender winners were Azıx LLC, Renessans Studio LLC, El & En, Arxin-M LTD LLC and the chief state design institute; contracts were signed with them. The State committee deputy chairman Dovletkhan Dovletkhanov told Trend earlier that preparation of master plans of these five cities is planned to be completed in 2013. In 2012, the State Committee finalized work on preparation of master plans of 13 cities (Yevlakh, Sheki, Gakh, Barda, Agdash, Ujar, Jalilabad, Masalli, Gobustan, Shamakhi, Khizi, Ismayilli and Samukh). "These regional development plans will be the basic documents, which in the future various local authorities will rely on," Dovletkhanov said.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/16/2012

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KYRGYZSTAN: Amending Number of Legislative Acts

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev signed the law on introducing amendments and addenda to some legislative acts of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan adopted by Parliament on June 28, 2012, the presidential press service said on Tuesday. The law was adopted in order to further promote decentralization of public administration. In this regard, a new Article 21-1, which listed the issues that are within the competence of the joint meeting of local council is added to the law On Local Self-Government. In addition Article 43 of the Law On Local Self-Government has been amended and in accordance with it the election of the mayor is appointed by the Central Election Commission (CEC) no later than 10 calendar days from the date of the first meeting of the newly elected city council. Article 51 of the Law On elections of deputies of local councils was also amended, as well as Article 55. In accordance with amendments to Article 55 the amount of funds which formed at the expense of the election funds of political parties to finance the election campaign increased.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/07/2012

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KAZAKHSTAN: To Adopt New Version of Law on State Border

Kazakhstan will adopt a new version of the law On State border, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security of the Majilis (parliament) of Kazakhstan Maulen Ashimbayev told Trend. "In a short time the Majilis will receive the draft law On State Border in the new edition," Ashimbayev said. He said the lower house of parliament will also receive draft law "On War on Terrorism." "In light of recent developments the country's laws will be amended to strengthen the national security of Kazakhstan," he said. In late May, bodies of 14 border guards and huntsman were found at the Arkankergen border post. Law enforcement authorities say sole survivor, soldier-conscript Vladislav Chelakh, 19, confessed to the murder of colleagues. He was arrested and is currently under investigation. In late July, Chelakh repudiated his previous testimony, claiming that he had given it under psychological pressure. The investigation of the case has been extended. According to counsels of Chelakh, 10 more criminal cases of desertion and theft of property were filed against him.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/13/2012

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Positive Conclusion on Feasibility of Shipyard Project Achieved in Kazakhstan

A positive conclusion of the state examination on the feasibility of the project Construction of the shipyard and/ ship repair yard in the village of Kuryk in Kazakhstan has been achieved, KazMunaiGas said. The plant will carry out all types of repair to vessels of various types and purposes, as well as their maintenance amounting up to 70 units per year and the construction of vessels up to 15,000 tons (tankers, cargo ships, barges, support vessels). As a result of the state examination the total project cost is 42.633 billion tenge (149.22 tenge = $1). The project is implemented by KazMunaiGas in conjunction with the Italian company Eni. The management is being carried out by Management of construction companies of KMG - a wholly owned subsidiary of KazMunaiGas. The preparation of the feasibility study and design and estimate documentation has been financed by Eni, which will also participate in the financing of the construction. The design will be carried out with the participation of local companies and the choice of the executors will be completed by December this year.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/17/2012

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UZBEKISTAN: Government to Take Under Special Control Observance of Human Rights by Law Enforcement Agencies

Uzbek Cabinet of Ministers approved the position to establish the interdepartmental working group to examine the observance of human rights and freedoms by law enforcement and other government agencies. Interdepartmental Working Group established for the purpose of effective coordination among law enforcement agencies to protect human rights and freedoms and to further improve their interaction with civil society. According to the decree, the main tasks and activities of the interdepartmental working group will be the study and summary of issues related to the observance of human rights and freedoms, including the monitoring of the consideration and resolution of citizen's complaints about violations of their rights and freedoms, including complaints of torture and other degrading treatment. The Working Group will propose the necessary measures to eliminate detected violations of legislation in the field of human rights and freedoms, as well as develop proposals to improve legislation, to ensure the implementation in national legislation and practice key UN conventions on human rights and freedoms. In addition, the competence of the working group will include consideration of the concluding observations and recommendations of UN treaty bodies on the consideration of the periodic reports of Uzbekistan, as well as the approval and monitoring of national action plans for implementation of these comments and recommendations. The composition of the interdepartmental working group will be approved by the Cabinet of Ministers.

From http://en.trend.az/ 07/31/2012

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Uzbekistan Works Out Measures to Prevent Massive Violations of Law and Order

Exercises to prevent violations of law and order in crowded places were conducted in Uzbekistan, the country's Interior Ministry said on Friday. According to the report, in accordance with the plan of training of command units and security forces units, planned tactical special exercises code-named "VAL" were conducted to ensure public safety and prevent group violations of law and order in crowded places. According to the press service, the exercises were held in the territory of one of the districts of Tashkent region, in major market of the capital and adjacent territory of the Tashkent ring road. In addition, special tactical exercises to counter subversive acts and eliminate consequences of emergency situations involving units of National Security Service, Interior Ministry, Emergency Situations Ministry, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Health, the Prosecutor's Office and the Executive Power were held in Tashkent Metro. "Within the exercises, efficiency of interaction of intelligence services was inspected and practical management and coordination of actions of departments of ministries and agencies in a crisis situation was work out. Involved police forces and other law enforcement agencies have demonstrated congruence of actions, high professional skills, discipline, and psychological stability while fulfilling the set objectives to protect state and public security," the report says.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/18/2012

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AUSTRALIA: Tightens E-Health Privacy Laws

Medical and healthcare records to be managed under the Australian government's Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records (PCEHR) programme will be protected under new privacy safeguards that are being rolled out nationally. These safeguards expand the powers of the Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, to more closely monitor the way in which patient records are accessed, shared and stored by medical practitioners, healthcare staff, and technology solutions providers. Privacy Commissioner Pilgrim says Australia's eHealth reforms lay the foundations for major improvements to how healthcare services are delivered nationally. Under privacy controls, consumers are in control of how their medical information is handled. "They need to make sure they understand how to protect their personal and health information, and how this is collected, used and disclosed."

Consumers can decide which healthcare providers can see their records, and the type of information that is uploaded, and or accessed by a third party. Healthcare providers participating in Australia's eHealth record-keeping regime must fully understand their obligations under privacy and other data protection laws, Commissioner Pilgrim adds. These laws impose new obligations in addition to existing obligations under Australia's Privacy Act 1988. "Healthcare providers' obligations include not collecting more information from a patient's eHealth record than is necessary, and making sure their staff are trained in how to handle eHealth records correctly." Under expanded powers, the Privacy Commissioner can seek civil penalties and accept enforceable undertakings from health providers that fail to protect consumer information. Privacy safeguards are incorporated into Australia's PCEHR legislation. This law streamlines the way in which patients' medical history and records can be shared across the healthcare sector.

Australia's high-profile PECHR programme became operational during 1st July 2012. This programme is being administered by the Canberra-based National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA). The PCEHR roll-out supports a raft of reforms that will modernise Australia's healthcare service delivery effort, including record-keeping and improved information-sharing. Upgraded technology systems will deliver real-time access to patient information by integrating dispersed computer systems, networks and other infrastructure. Medical history will be stored and shared through a network of connected systems. This history consolidates key health information from a number of technology systems, while presenting data as a single view. Information in a PCEHR system can be accessed by patients and their authorised healthcare providers. The Australian government is now racing to close privacy loopholes, together with State and Territory governments.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 08/06/2012

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FIJI: Keep Education Priority

VILLAGERS of Nadroga Navosa residing in the Eastern and Central Divisions hope to see education remain a priority in the allocation of the annual provincial fundraising in October later this year. Those living in the Suva, Nasinu, Nausori and Lami areas met at the Ratu Sukuna Memorial School grounds at the weekend for their fundraising drive that would go towards the big provincial meet scheduled to be held at the Sigatoka Village ground on October 28. "Most of us present here today (Saturday) have all been educated at various tertiary institutions around the country. We hope that the money raised from here and added to the big provincial soli will be put into the education assistance for our young people," organising committee member Josua Mudreilagi said. He said they too had been beneficiaries of the education assistance from the Nadroga Navosa provincial soli. "This is our way of giving back. Most of us were assisted by the province so we are hoping through our contributions, it can be recirculated back to support the students from Nadroga Navosa today," Mr Mudreilagi said. The fundraiser managed to raise $5000. The eastern and central Nadroga Navosa villagers also held a sports day at RSMS.

From http://www.fijitimes.com/ 08/20/2012

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NEW ZEALAND: Government Proposes Changes to EEZ Bill

Anyone breaking marine consent rules in the Exclusive Economic Zone may soon face hefty fines, as the Government moves to better protect New Zealand's marine environment. Under proposed changes, companies who do not comply with the rules will face fines of up to $10 million. Fines were previously $600,000. In a speech to the Environmental Defence Society's conference today, Environment Minister Amy Adams said the Government had made changes to the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill after hearing from submitters and stakeholders who wanted the maximum fine to be lifted. "At this new level, I consider the penalty would be high enough to provide significant incentive to comply with the regime when operating in the EEZ," said Ms Adams. "The purpose clause of the Bill would become one of sustainable management of our oceans for economic growth."

She said the concept of sustainable management was well-defined in domestic legislation through more than 20 years of Resource Management Act case law. "Clarifying the transition period for planned petroleum activities would provide greater certainty for industry in planning for the 2013/14 drilling season, while still ensuring adequate environmental oversight," she said. "The changes the Government is proposing will create strong legislation, encourage compliance and provide greater certainty for industry and the public."

The key changes the Government proposes to make are:
*Amend the purpose of the Bill to incorporate the concept of sustainable management to reflect the Resource Management Act
*Increase the maximum penalty for companies that breach marine consents from $600,000 to $10m
*Clarify that a transitional period for planned petroleum activities will cover the 2013/14 drilling season; and
*Provide a maximum statutory timeframe of six months for a marine consent process.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 08/06/2012

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Govt to Repeal Judge Suspension Laws

The government of Papua New Guinea will repeal controversial laws giving parliament the power to suspend judges as part of an ambitious five-year reform program. Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio on Tuesday opened the ninth parliament of PNG and declared an end to the madcap political turmoil seen since August last year. In a speech outlining the government's agenda for the next five years, he declared the government would repeal the internationally criticised Judicial Conduct Act, which gave parliament the power to effectively suspend judges. The government would also scrap an age restriction of 75 years for the prime minister - a law introduced last year to keep 76-year-old, court-backed Sir Michael Somare from retaking the top job. Sir Michael is now part of O'Neill's government, the pair having reconciled after the election. "I am happy to say these challenges are now behind us, for the better," Governor-General Ogio said. "After the events of the past 12 months I am relieved to see parliament is ... intact. We must now resolve never to repeat these difficult and challenging times."

The governor-general said the more than 80 MPs who supported O'Neill, of the total 111, had reached an accord in Alotau, Milne Bay, and agreed to a sweeping reform agenda. The agreement aims to bury the political upheaval that saw O'Neill installed as prime minister in August 2011 and prepare the country for a revenue windfall from massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects. The agenda states it is a priority to ensure the Exxon-Mobil-backed LNG project starts on time for revenue to start flowing from 2014. The government plans to assume hiring and firing power over senior public servants and will restructure major departments such as national planning, which manages much of the development budget. The police force is also set for a shake-up - with a new secretary for police to take on some of the police commissioner's administrative responsibilities. Legislation will be introduced to set up an Independent Commission Against Corruption and strengthen the powers of the government's anti-corruption task force, called Sweep.

MPs have also agreed to reopen all aid posts closed in recent years, open the health sector to public-private partnerships, extend free education to grade 12 students, and introduce IT infrastructure to rural schools. "In the current coalition government it's been agreed to under the Alotau accord, where MPs have laid down basic conditions of government in the agreement," Attorney-General Kerringa Kua told AAP. "One of them is to repeal those contentious legislations that were introduced in the past 12 months." The official opening of the parliament was announced by a boom of cannon as Governor-General Ogio arrived to a full military ceremony. After inspecting a small platoon of troops he greeted Prime Minister O'Neill, his wife Linda and Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com/ 08/22/2012

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Minister Reveals Strategy for Higher Education

MINISTER for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology David Arore intends to grow the higher and technical education sector through a three- pronged strategy. Arore said that involved growing the 32 accredited higher education service providers and by deepening their market to ensure every parent had a child progressing into college or university by 2020. Speaking at his welcome luncheon in Port Moresby this week, Arore said he would like to expand scholarships coverage from the 9,500 students to 20,000 and doubling gross enrolment from 28,000 to 46,000 by 2020.

He said the strategies included:
# Expanding investment in new buildings and teaching equipment for technical colleges and universities to soak up the excess high school dropouts that was going to result from the government's free education policy;
# Separating technical and vocational education into an authority together with the National Training Council and placing them under the ministry in line with NEC decision 54/85, which directed that Tvet amalgamate with higher education;
# Awarding more research grants to science and technology to spur the growth of innovation in the country; and
# To work with the minister for labour and employment to create an employment service centre to find jobs for graduates in the country and overseas.

"I will ensure all universities and colleges adopt and adhere to a quality assurance rating my ministry has developed." Arore said he would be brutal on councils that had been responsible for running down state educational institutions in the country. "Council and the boardroom politics must cease and with the interest of our children given paramount importance," he said.

From http://www.thenational.com.pg/ 08/24/2012

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SOLOMON ISLANDS: Government Re-Affirms Support to Integrity Bill

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo has re-affirmed the government's full support towards the Political Integrity and Stability bill. Speaking during the close of the National Summit on Political Integrity and Stability in Solomon Islands on Thursday night, Prime Minister Lilo said the government's financial support for the program and their personal engagement demonstrates the desire to progress and achieve the program. "Once relevant options and reports are placed before Cabinet, we will ensure that there is no undue delay," the Prime Minister said. Prime Minister Lilo said the NCRA government firmly believes that their role as leaders today is to create the appropriate frameworks and platforms for the children of tomorrow. He said in order to achieve that; they must have a bi-partisan approach. "It is for this reason that the Opposition is also heavily involved," Mr Lilo said.

The Prime Minister recalled when the NCRA government under his leadership re-launched this project in March this year; the taskforce was given two major tasks. The first was to build on the momentum generated by previous governments but expand the consultation to the provinces. This Mr Lilo said would ensure that the program benefits from the inputs of the entire country. The second was to bring more clarity to the options available to the government. Prime Minister Lilo said this would enable the government to decide on the most practical and effective devices to achieve political integrity and stability. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister appealed to all Solomon Islanders to contribute their thoughts and ideas to help build a system of political government that has integrity and is stable. He also urged all parliamentarians to obtain the relevant reports and information to help them understand the process and the outcomes. "It is my earnest hope that we will bring the changes that are required."

From http://www.solomontimes.com/ 07/20/2012

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TONGA: Commit to Supporting Climate Change Initiatives

The Tongan Government is committed to supporting climate change initiatives with realistic outcomes. That's according to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Lord Ma'afu. He was opening a two weeks training on Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation. Lord Ma'afu said addressing climate change is a priority issue for the Tongan Government. "To this end Tonga is committed to supporting any initiative that is founded on any realistic and tangible outcomes. Tonga's political will is solid in terms of climate change," Lord Ma'afu told the regional participants. The workshop hopes to equip trainers with the knowledge and the ability to support and guide governments, NGO's and regional organizations in their efforts to adapt to climate change. It's also hoped that trainers would be able to train others in their respective countries especially at the community level. The training is made possible by the cooperation of two projects - the AusAid Funded Future Climate Leaders project and the European Union/University of the South Pacific project for Global Climate Change.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com/ 08/07/2012

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IT and EGovernment Experts Say That Governments That Embrace Open Data Will Also Switch to Open Source

Public administrations that grasp the benefits of making their data publicly available will increase their use of free and open source since open data and open source face comparable threats like initial lack of support and a fear for the impact on organizations, according to a number of experts in open data. "Using proprietary tools for open data is not as useful as using open source", says Jeanne Holm from Data.Gov, the open government initiative of the US government. "Open source makes it easier for organisations, even those without many funds, to start working on sets of government data. This type of software gathers the intelligence of the whole community", she adds. Holm was one of the keynote speakers at the Semantic Interoperability Conference 2012, which took place in Brussels on 18 June 2012. "I'm a fan of open source, so a little biased. But this type of software gives governments a way to modernise their IT systems, without falling out of time as they would with proprietary software. "Holm also says that public administrations do no longer consider open source to be controversial. "Not all of them see the benefits yet. Open source takes them away from their comfort zone."

A similar explanation is offered by Julia Glidden, eGovernment expert and Managing Director of a UK-based IT company. IT departments can come up a million excuses for not using open source, she says. "They can point to robustness, security and other technical limitations." Glidden says that the switch to open source in governments is largely a matter of change management. He goes on to say that open source threatens the career structures of IT staffers. It changes the relationships they have with the big IT-vendors and impacts the large budgets they enjoy. "They see open source in terms of risks to their careers, their sense of place in the organisation. It is safe to stay with what they know." She confirms the same is true for open data. "They fear, for instance, that if the data is abused, they will lose their job", she adds. "On the plus side, public administrations can now find help in the market to use open source", says Glidden. It has reached a critical acceptance threshold. There are suppliers, there are service providers. That is not yet the case for open data. There is a need for consultancies to help them with the mental change of approach that is needed for this kind of information sharing." Glidden concludes that open data and open source are mutually reinforcing. "Closed government is dead, it is just a matter of time. They will move to open source, they will move to open data". Katleen Janssen, a legal researcher at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Law and ICT at the Catholic University of Leuven is less sure of the link between open data and open source. "If open data becomes part of the philosophy of the public administrations, they will also move to open source. If open data is something they do because everybody else is, or because they are forced to, the effect will be limited." Both Glidden and Janssen spoke at the Open Data Day organised by the government of the Flanders region in Brussels on 15 June 2012.

From http://www.epractice.eu/ 07/30/2012

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APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules System Goes Public

The APEC Electronic Commerce Steering Group announced that the United States will become the first participant in the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) System to promote region-wide privacy policy compatibility; to protect consumers; and lower regulatory compliance costs throughout the Asia Pacific region.This voluntary, certification-based system promotes a consistent baseline set of data privacy practices for companies doing business in participating APEC economies. APEC Economic Leaders endorsed the system when they met in Honolulu in November 2011.APEC's 21 member economies account for 55 percent of world real gross domestic product as well as 44 percent of world trade, comprising a large market of 2.7 billion consumers. The APEC CBPR System in place is expected to further open markets and facilitate regional trade.Chair of the Electronic Commerce Steering Group, Lourdes Yaptinchay, advised the United States of its approval on 26 July 2012. "Participation in the system requires interested organizations to develop internal business rules on cross-border privacy procedures in line with the APEC CBPR System," she said.

"The goal of the system is to enhance electronic commerce, facilitate trade and economic growth, and strengthen consumer privacy protections across the Asia Pacific region, thereby promoting regional economic integration," Yaptinchay continued. Acting US Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank said that this initiative is a significant milestone in international data protection. "This system will enable participating companies in the United States and other APEC member economies to more efficiently exchange data in a secure manner and will enhance consumer data privacy by establishing a consistent level of protection and accountability in the APEC region," said Blank. "We are committed to working with our trading partners in APEC to help maximize its implementation throughout the region."The US Federal Trade Commission was named as the first privacy enforcement authority. "APEC privacy rules offer the promise of significant benefits to companies, consumers and privacy regulators, and the US Federal Trade Commission is pleased to be the first privacy enforcement authority in the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules System," said Commissioner Edith Ramirez. "We hope that many more APEC economies will soon join and help realize the system's potential as a model for global interoperability among privacy regimes."

From http://www.apec.org/ 07/31/2012

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Fastest Undersea Data Cable System in Asia

A new 7,800 km undersea data cable has opened to traffic in Asia linking Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, which could aid in financial trade. The Submarine-cable Express (ASE) transfers data via an optical fibre system at 40 gigabits per second, and is three milliseconds faster than any other cable between Singapore and Tokyo. The gain in speed may sound small, but could prove critical to financial trades made out of the region. The high frequency trades controlled by computers, involve making what may be hundreds of thousands of transactions in less than a second - all determined by a programme that tracks market conditions. With banks and hedge funds competing against each other, the size of the profit or loss can come down to a matter of beating the competition by a fraction of a second. The route for the new cable was chosen to be as straight as possible, reducing the time to get information from one end to the other to 65 milliseconds. The data transfer capacity of 40 Gbps is the equivalent of downloading a high-resolution DVD in about two seconds. The new facility adds to a web of undersea cables in the waters around Japan. These include the ones run by Australian operator Telstra International; Taiwan's largest phone operator Chunghwa Telecom; and the global telecommunications service provider Pacnet, based in Singapore and Hong Kong.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 08/21/2012

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CHINA: Information Transparency a Test for Beijing City Gov't

Information transparency has become another big test for the Beijing municipal government after it failed to respond to street talk over "withheld updates" on the death toll from the heaviest rain in 61 years. The death toll was raised to 37 on Sunday night, a day after the torrential rain battered the Chinese capital. But no updates on the deaths were released in the following four days even as people were speculating over the Internet that the toll could be much higher. City authorities have pledged not to repeat the opaque handling of the deadly SARS outbreak in 2003, but the slowness in updating the deaths have left the general public enraged and perplexed. The then health minister and Beijing mayor were sacked due to the opaque communication and even deliberate cover-up in battling the SARS epidemic. The city's irresponsible response meant people died and what was worse, eroded the public's trust in government. Again the city government faces a test of information transparency and the history should have taught it a lesson: a more open approach to disaster is undeniably the right choice. At a press briefing on Wednesday night, the city government said the rainstorm inflicted a direct economic loss of 11.6 billion yuan (1.8 billion U.S. dollars). But it did not provide the update on death toll - a question that mostly concerned reporters at the press conference as well as the general public.

Many users of Sina Weibo, China's popular Twitter-like microblogging service, said it should be easier to count the dead bodies than the economic losses. An article carried in Thursday's edition of The People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China (CPC), said though the city government pledged no cover-up of the death toll after the SARS case, but the public's concerns couldn't recede until the final figure was out.A swift release of authoritative information still had the room to crush untrue rumors even in the age of social media, the commentary said. "Information disclosure is a dynamic process rather than a static product," it said. "Only by responding to public concerns through various channels in a timely manner, can we better guarantee people's right to know and to a larger extent win the recognition and support of people from all walks of life." Meanwhile, the authorities' insufficient weather alert and disaster rescue also sparked a public backlash. Few of the city's 20 million residents received government-initiated rainstorm alerts telling them how severe the rain would be. Also a man was reportedly killed after being trapped inside his car in deep water in downtown Beijing for hours before government rescue workers came to pull him out.If the money equivalent to the loss was spent on renovating the city's drainage system and disaster-prone low-lying roads years ago, the economic losses could have been avoided, wrote "Zuojiayuantaiji" on Sina Weibo. "That would be a big win." The Beijing Daily, the city government's mouthpiece, examined the tragedy in a commentary published Wednesday, urging that in the future, more government funds should be earmarked to infrastructure in the suburbs, which covers 90 percent of the city's total area, as more losses were reported in many ecologically fragile mountainous regions this time.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 07/27/2012

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76 Officials Punished Over Tainted Capsules

A TOTAL of 76 officials have been punished for failing to prevent and stop the production of contaminated drug capsules, the State Food and Drug Administration said yesterday. The officials were employed at drug supervision agencies in five provinces and the municipality of Chongqing, it said in a statement. The punishments were not detailed. In April, a China Central Television report revealed that several companies had manufactured drug capsules using industrial gelatin which contained excessive levels of chromium and which was not allowed in drug capsules. The gelatin was found to have been made from leather scraps. After the program, the SFDA launched a nationwide inspection. In May, it announced that 254 pharmaceutical enterprises, or 12.7 percent of all capsule makers in the country, were found to be producing unsafe drug capsules.

From http://www.shanghaidaily.com/ 08/04/2012

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Online Simulation Training System Boosts PLA Navy to Upgrade Combat Power

"Torpedoes are found in direction xx at distance xx." Upon docking at a naval port from its drill mission, the missile destroyer Haikou of a destroyer flotilla under the South China Sea Fleet of the Navy of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) received the circular on "enemy" situation from the online simulation training system on July 17, 2012.After seeing two torpedo loci quickly approaching the warship on the screen, Shao Shuguang, commander of the "Haikou" warship, commanded the warship to maneuver at high speed and ordered to cast underwater sound jammer for interference. The torpedo loci on the screen were soon deviated from the ship's sailing direction. The "blue side" of this online simulation training is the experts of an experimental area of the PLA Navy located more than one thousand kilometers away. According to Chen Yueqi, commander of the destroyer flotilla who is also on the scene, the online training has become a strong means for the destroyer flotilla to speed up its transformation of the combat-power generating mode. At the interval of the confrontation, Wei Fangyuan, commander of the Ship-to-Air Missile Element of the Haikou warship, said: "This modern remote off-site network simulation training system can freely build various types of realistic battlefield environments, which not only allows the officers and men to feel the actual-combat atmosphere, but also tempers the commander's command quality."

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 08/08/2012

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Official Vows to Promote Greater Party Democracy

A senior official of the Communist Party of China pledged on Tuesday to carry out greater intra-Party democracy, a task experts said is crucial. The pledge came as the 91-year-old Party elected 2,270 delegates to attend a national congress later this year. The elections, held from October to July, have seen an unprecedented choice, with every 100 delegates elected from a field of more than 115 candidates. This represents a bigger choice than the 2002 and 2007 congresses. The elected delegates will represent more than 82 million CPC members to attend the Party's 18th National Congress. They will vote in a once-in-five-year leadership election of the CPC Central Committee and its Political Bureau Standing Committee. They will also review reports delivered by the CPC Central Committee and the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC.Wang Jingqing, deputy head of the CPC Organization Department, said members of the CPC Central Committee, a high-level ruling body of the Party, will also be elected with a wide pool, but the exact figure has yet to be decided. Wang, speaking at one of the first news conferences concerning the congress, said on Tuesday that intra-Party democracy is the lifeline of the Party and should be steadily encouraged across the board.

Wang said he foresees growing endorsement of the rights of Party members, among other steps, on the road to greater intra-Party democracy. Referring to elections offering greater choice, Wang said the CPC has also, for the first time, used the multi-candidate method when working out preliminary lists of candidates for elections. Some local Party committees have, for the first time, released the names of delegates on newspapers and TV programs to encourage more Party members to participate and offer feedback for the election. Wang said future efforts will include increasing the number of grassroots delegates to attend the Party congress. "In addition, a better enforcement of the right to know as well as the right of participation, decision and supervision are also essential in reinforcing the dominant power of the Party members," he said. Wang admitted that meeting the goal requires a modification of the Party congress system, which primarily involves better implementation of the tenure system of delegates. Under the system, delegates will be empowered to supervise Party organizations and leading officials, to recommend, elect and assess Party officials, said Lin Zhe, professor at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee. They can also put forward proposals for dismissing Party officials, among many other rights, throughout their tenure. The system was designed for delegates to better supervise Party officials even when the congress was not convened. "The transparency of the Party has improved, but in a gradual manner. Obligations of Party officials, such as releasing their personal assets, need stricter enforcement," she said.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 08/15/2012

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Publicity Personnel Urged to Better Serve the People

Senior Chinese leader Li Changchun on Friday called on publicity personnel to learn from a model publicity cadre and carry forward the spirit of serving the people. Li, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, met with Zhou Enyi, former head of the publicity department of a district of Panjin, a city in northeastern Liaoning Province, and thanked him for his long-term contributions to the Party and the people. An outstanding representative of grassroots publicity officials, Zhou has exhibited core socialist values and always put solving people's difficulties as his top priority in his 43 years of service, said Li. Li said that Zhou has consolidated the concept of "blood and flesh relations" between the Party and the people and deserves to be a national model. He encouraged officials, especially grassroots publicity officials, to follow Zhou's spirit so as to better serve the people and be well prepared for the upcoming national Party congress.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 08/17/2012

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Gov't Reforms Will Decide China's Future

The choice of south China's Guangdong province as the site of pilot reforms designed to streamline the country's administrative examination and approval system indicates that the Chinese government has doubled its efforts to reform itself in the face of potential growth plateaus. With its per capita gross domestic product hitting 7,000 U.S. dollars a year, Guangdong is one of a few developed Chinese regions facing the middle income trap. Rising wages have destroyed the province's low labor cost advantage, making it less competitive with advance economies producing high-value products and undeveloped economies with low production costs. It is hoped that the reforms being put in place there will keep the province's development on track. However, the province's performance under current conditions will act as a weathervane for the entire country's future development.

The State Council, or China's cabinet, said Wednesday that the reforms being put in place in Guangdong are urgently needed. The council has asked Guangdong to optimize its investment, fiscal, financial and social management mechanisms alongside its administrative reforms in order to clarify the limits of administrative power. On the same day, the State Council decided to remove or modify 314 administrative examination and approval items, adding the total of administrative approval items rescinded or adjusted to 2,497, accounting for 69.3 percent of the total in 2001, when administrative approval reforms began. The council has also asked government departments to refrain from interfering in areas that citizens, corporations or organizations are capable of handling themselves, choosing instead to focus on providing public services, thus shrinking the overall size of the government. The significance of the administrative approval reforms cannot be underestimated, as they form a crucial part of China's political reforms. The reforms will act as a catalyst to remove bureaucratic impediments, improve efficiency and inspire society to act on its own.

The State Council has given government departments a deadline to examine their administrative approval items against the Law of Administrative Permission. It has also forbidden government departments from creating new approval items that go against laws and regulations, making it compulsory to have the legality, necessity and rationality of all new items examined. These tougher measures demonstrate the central government's resolution to build a law-based and public service-oriented government. If government departments or leading officials are allowed to place their will above the law, the public's interest will be endangered. China's governing party, the Communist Party of China, has made governing for the good of the people its goal. By reforming itself in accordance with the demands of the public, the government can better implement the goals of the Party. If the Chinese can achieve sustained development through steady reform, their success will be an inspiration to the world at large.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 08/23/2012

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JAPAN: Police to Boost Number of Female Officers

Japan intends to increase the ratio of female police officers from the current 6.8 percent to about 10 percent by April 2023, police said Tuesday. The target reflects concerns that the number of aspiring police officers will decline as the country's birthrate is falling, the National Police Agency and the National Public Safety Commission said in a joint annual report. To secure qualified police officers and revitalize the organization's structure, female police officers need to be actively recruited and promoted to senior posts, according to the report. Since fiscal 2002, more than 1,000 female police officers nationwide have been recruited each year. As of April this year, the number of female officers stood at 17,700.A total of 242 female police officers currently hold the rank of police inspector or higher. Of that number, 35 are superintendents.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 07/25/2012

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Parties Back Plan to Cut Vote Disparity

The Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party have agreed over a proposal to rectify the vote-value disparity in the upper house that would see a total of four seats taken away from two overrepresented prefectures and a total of four added to two underrepresented prefectures. The two parties endorsed the plan at a meeting of the upper house's electoral system reform consultation council Wednesday. The proposal was submitted by the council's chair, Yasuo Ichikawa, at a meeting July 12. Ichikawa also serves as the secretary general of the DPJ's upper house caucus. The plan would see a two-seat increase in each of the Kanagawa and Osaka prefectural constituencies and a two-seat reduction in the Fukushima and Gifu prefectural constituencies. With no changes in the nationwide proportional representation, the number of seats in the upper house would remain at 242.

Currently, the disparity is greatest between Tottori and Kanagawa prefectures, at 1-to-5.124. After the proposal is implemented, the largest disparity will be 1-to-4.746, between Tottori and Hyogo prefectures. A bill to revise the Public Offices Election Law so it reflects the proposal will likely be submitted to the Diet soon. The DPJ and the LDP plan to enact the bill during the current Diet session so the next House of Councillors election in the summer of 2013 can be held under the new allocation of seats. The proposal also stipulates the addition of a clause to the bill that parties will consider an overhaul of the electoral system in time for the 2016 upper house election, as the proposal only slightly adjusts the vote-value disparity. At Wednesday's meeting, New Komeito and other opposition parties said the vote-value disparity should be reduced further by drastically reforming the upper house electoral system. However, the DPJ and LDP said Ichikawa's proposal is more realistic, given that the next upper house election will be held next year. Ichikawa proposed moving the discussions from the council, which comprises representatives of all upper house parliamentary groups, to a committee including upper chamber President Kenji Hirata and delegates from each parliamentary group. After the meeting, Ichikawa said prospects for revising the law during the current Diet session have become brighter.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 07/27/2012

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SOUTH KOREA: Officials Take Tutoring for Promotion

The promotion system for Seoul City officials has come under criticism as a large number of civil servants have taken expensive private lessons to prepare for tests. The municipal authorities recently found that some low-ranked officials paid millions of won for up to six months of private tutoring before taking an aptitude test designed to determine an employee's leadership and communication skills for manager-level positions. The finding adds to the problem of high education costs that elementary, middle, high school students and even jobseekers bear. A hired tutor usually teaches a group of six promotion candidates, and each of them pays about 1 million won ($887) for eight lessons, twice a week for one month. Such a course could last from three to six months. The municipal government said it is aware of the problem but added it has yet to confirm how many officials have actually paid for such lessons and been promoted.

"We believe some of our workers are disgruntled over having to pay a high price in order to become an upper-level official, and made the issue public knowledge," said Yoon Jong-jang, director of press relations at City Hall. Seoul City, however, dismissed any concerns that the current promotion system allegedly causes its employees to pay a high price to become upper-level officials. It said Monday that it has been running a study session six times every year for promotion candidates by instructors selected by the Seoul Human Resources Development Center. The municipal government added it will expand the lessons to 10 times a year and also will open an online study course from March. The city adopted the aptitude test in 2008 to replace a multiple-choice exam that mainly focused on deskwork skills of civil servants. The aptitude test is comprised of various parts, including group discussions and interviews to screen one's strength to communicate effectively with team members as a deputy director.

The supervisors also consider peer comments of a promotion candidate as well as paperwork skills in a separate evaluation before making the final decision. Yoon hinted that city workers are too "test-oriented" and only try to solve problems with "standardized" answers rather than nurturing creative minds. "During the time when we administered a multiple-choice exam to promotion candidates each spring and fall, our employees rushed to Noryangjin, a district known for streets filled with hagwon," he said. "It is usually where college applicants as well as jobseekers study but our officials went there because some hagwon offered a special study program designed for promotion tests," he added." Now we have a new kind of exam that requires logic and creative thinking based on experience from one's life and work and I just can't understand why they stick to the old way." The aptitude test is widely in use by the central government, including the labor, justice, education ministries as well as the Ministry of Public Administration and Security that devised it.

From http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/ 08/06/2012

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Occupation Categories for Public Servants to Be Reduced

The number of occupation categories for public servants will be reduced from six to four in approximately 30 years. The Ministry of Public Administration and Security announced that it will revise related laws to combine technical posts with contract workers into one category and to include civil workers in special services into the regular worker category. If the National Assembly passes the revision bill in October, around 140 legislations under the law will be revised and be implemented starting in 2014.The government has pushed for the revision of the current law since June of last year to resolve conflicts between occupation categories and to lower the costs of personnel management.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 08/23/2012

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MYANMAR: Names Navy Chief as New Vice President

NAYPYIDAW: Myanmar's parliament on Wednesday appointed the navy chief to replace a regime hardliner as one of the country's vice presidents, in a move seen as strengthening the country's reformers. Admiral Nyan Tun, 58, who has a reputation as a political moderate, was selected by the military personnel who make up one quarter of the legislature and have the right to choose one of the two vice presidents. His appointment was approved by an electoral college, house speaker Khin Aung Myint announced at a joint session of the lower and upper houses of parliament in the capital Naypyidaw. "He's very quiet and known as a flexible man," a military parliamentarian who did not want to be named said of the new vice president. "He has three children and lives a simple life." His predecessor Tin Aung Myint Oo - a renowned hardliner with close links to ex-junta chief Than Shwe - resigned in July ostensibly due to ill health, fanning rumours of a power struggle between regime moderates and conservatives. Since taking office last year President Thein Sein, a former general, has overseen dramatic changes including the release of hundreds of political prisoners and the election of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament. The army's first candidate, Yangon chief minister and retired general Myint Swe, failed to win approval because his son-in-law is an Australian citizen, which under the constitution disqualified him from the post. "The Yangon chief minister is not qualified to be a vice-president because of his Australian son-in-law. Military representatives changed the nomination in the last week of July to Admiral Nyan Tun," a parliamentary source told AFP. The same provision is a barrier to Suu Kyi taking a top leadership role in the country, and her party has vowed to campaign to completely redraft the constitution, which was written by the former junta. Myint Swe was one of the military leaders involved in a deadly crackdown on the "Saffron Revolution" monk-led uprising in 2007.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 08/15/2012

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PHILIPPINES: First Female Chief Justice Sereno Takes Oath

MANILA, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) - Philippine President Aquino on Saturday swore into office Maria Lourdes Sereno as the 24th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court - the first female to hold the position and the youngest-ever Chief Justice of the country who will keep the post until she reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 2030. Sereno took her oath at Malacanang's Rizal Hall barely a day after Palace Spokesman Edwin Lacierda announced that Mr. Aquino had appointed her based on the latter's confidence and optimism that she can implement much-needed reforms in the judiciary. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said in an interview after the oath-taking ceremony that she believed that the 52-year-old Sereno would be "a very good Chief Justice." "Her youth, her dynamism, and her brilliance would go a long way in ensuring that we can look forward to a judiciary that would be worthy of the people's trust," de Lima said.

Deputy Palace Spokesperson Abigail Valte said on Friday in a news briefing that Aquino was confident that Sereno "will lead the judiciary in undertaking much-needed reforms." "We believe the Judicial Branch of government has a historic opportunity to restore our people's confidence in the judicial system," he said. Sereno, who was appointed as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on August 16, 2010, obtained an Economics degree at the Ateneo de Manila University, and a Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of the Philippines, both on scholarships from the government and private institutions. She graduated valedictorian from the UP College of Law in 1984, and in 1992, through a De Witte Fellowship and a Ford-Rockefeller Scholarship, she pursued her Masters of Laws at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Sereno was legal counsellor at the World Trade Organizations' Appellate Body Secretariat in Geneva, and was the only female member of the 1999 Preparatory Commission on Constitutional Reform where she was elected chair of its Steering Committee.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 08/25/2012

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SINGAPORE: Cabinet Reshuffled

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will make several changes to the Cabinet and other appointments, effective from Wednesday, August 1. Further changes will be made effective from November 1 when the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) and the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) are restructured to form three new ministries. They are the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), and the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI). From August 1, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam will relinquish his appointment as Minister for Manpower. He will remain as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance and Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Mr Lui Tuck Yew will relinquish his appointment as Second Minister for Foreign Affairs. Mr S Iswaran will remain in his current appointments. As the Second Minister for Trade and Industry (MTI), he will have specific responsibility for industry-related research and development, energy and tourism, while continuing to assist Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang in other areas of MTI's work. Ms Grace Fu Hai Yien will be promoted to full minister. She will become Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs. Ms Fu will also assist DPM Teo Chee Hean on population matters.

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim will become the Minister for Communications and Information on November 1, 2012 when the new ministry is established. He will continue to be the Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs. Mr Chan Chun Sing, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Mr Lawrence Wong, Mr Lee Yi Shyan and Mr Masagos Zulkifli will be promoted to Senior Ministers of State (SMS). Mr Chan Chun Sing will relinquish his appointment as the Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts, and be appointed as Senior Minister of State for Defence. He will remain as Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports. Mr Chan will become the Acting Minister for Social and Family Development when the Ministry of Social and Family Development is established on November 1, 2012. Mr Tan Chuan-Jin will become the Acting Minister for Manpower and Senior Minister of State for National Development. Mr Lawrence Wong will relinquish his appointment as Minister of State for Defence and be appointed Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts. He will continue as Senior Minister of State for Education until November 1, 2012, when he becomes the Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information.

Mr Lee Yi Shyan and Mr Masagos Zulkifli will remain in their respective ministries. Ms Indranee Rajah will be appointed Senior Minister of State for Law and Education from November 1, 2012. This is a new appointment. Dr Amy Khor will be appointed the Minister of State for Manpower, concurrent with her present appointment as Minister of State for Health. She will also remain as the Mayor of South West CDC. Mdm Halimah Yacob will be appointed the Minister of State for Social and Family Development from November 1, 2012. Mr Sam Tan Chin Siong will be posted to the new Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth as Senior Parliamentary Secretary on 1 Nov 2012. He will concurrently be the Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Mayor of Central CDC. Ms Sim Ann will relinquish her appointment as Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Law and be appointed Senior Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Communications and Information on November 1, 2012. She will continue as the Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education. Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal bin Ibrahim will be appointed Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Transport. The Cabinet changes came just 14 months after a new team was formed in May last year after the General Election. The 2011 revamp saw the retirement of two former prime ministers and three ministers. Prime Minister Lee had described the revamp then as radical, with a team that will look to the future on a clean slate.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/31/2012

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MINDEF to Review SAF Medical Support System

SINGAPORE: The Defence Ministry (MINDEF) is reviewing its medical support system to provide better care for Singapore's National Servicemen. Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen made the announcement at the opening of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Medical Simulation Training Centre on Friday. The SAF is looking into partnering more experienced doctors with army doctors, as part of the review. It is exploring a pilot Physician Partnership Program to engage experienced civilian doctors to partner Full-Time National Servicemen serving as medical officers in the medical centres. This will be for medical consultations as well as to provide mentorship for the medical officers and medics. These collaborations also help augment the limited numbers of regular doctors within the SAF. The review also seeks to find ways to enhance SAF's emergency medical support system by working with the Emergency Medicine Departments in hospitals. Dr Ng said: "We recognise that the medical personnel working in hospitals, day in day out for example in the A&E Department, have more experience as they see larger numbers of patients. "For us in the SAF to upgrade our medical care, we ought to be either utilising their resources or working with them to learn from them."

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 08/24/2012

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BANGLADESH: Govt Created a Reign of Corruption: BNP

Blaming a ruling party-backed syndicate for pushing up the prices of essentials, opposition BNP on Saturday claimed that the government has established a reign of corruption in the country. "The government-patronised businessmen are knocking up the prices of essentials as the government has created a reign of corruption across the country by forming the vicious syndicate," BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said. He brought the allegation while talking to reporters at the house of noted journalist Gias Kamal Chowdhury after greeting the veteran journalist on the accession of his 73rd birthday. Criticising the government for blaming the opposition for hiking the prices of basic commodities, the BNP spokesman said it has become the habit of the present government to shift its failures onto the opposition. "The government should hand over power to the opposition as they think BNP is more powerful than them," he observed. Accusing the government of violating human rights, Fakhrul said many opposition leaders, including Ilias Ali, were made disappeared, while many others were killed by the government. The BNP leader also thanked the international human rights bodies for raising their voice over the blatant violation of human rights in Bangladesh. About Padma Bridge corruption, he said though the World Bank clearly stated that who were involved how the corruption was occurred in the project, it did not take any action against the culprits. "The government has held hostage the 16 crore people only to save a few persons." He urged the government to take action against those involved in the bridge project graft as suggested by the WB suggestion.

From http://www.unbconnect.com/ 07/21/2012

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Nahid Also Favours GPA-based Admission System in Public Varsities

Defending the new admission system introduced in public and private medical institutions, the Education Minister on Monday said the government wants to see the similar system in public universities, too. "We don't want a quick decision ... if not this year, we'll introduce the same system in public universities next year if they (universities) agree," Nurul Islam Nahid told UNB at his Secretariat office on Monday. According to the government decision, there will be no admission tests for public and private medical colleges this year as students will be enrolled on the basis of their SSC and HSC results. The decision was taken to prevent irregularities in the process of admission tests and stop coaching business centering the admission tests. The Education Minister said the government had proposed the universities to come up with an identical policy for enrollment in the public universities. "They couldn't yet reach a decision... discussions are on." Replying to a question, Nahid said the decision of the Health Ministry on relieving students of admission test for enrolling in the medical and dental colleges and institutions is a positive one.

"It's a positive decision... it'll help stop coaching business," Nahid said adding that it could be seen as an experimental one and other universities can decide based on the outcome of the system. He said anybody can put forward suggestions to improve the standard of the HSC examination, if necessary, to avoid admission test for perusing higher education. Asked about accommodation crisis in public universities, Nahid said, "This is not true... we've enough seats. The fact is that sometimes students can't get admitted to the universities of their choice." He also said no one will be deprived of perusing higher education since the number of seats is being increased every year in line with the growing number of successful students in the HSC examination. As per the decision of the Health Ministry, the candidates must have at least a combined GPA (Grade Point Average) of 8 in Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) to apply for admission. However, the authorities are yet to decide on the minimum individual GPA required in SSC and HSC or outline the technical details of how to fill up the limited seats with students from amongst thousands of top-graders applying for admission to medical colleges. Once, students used to be admitted to medical colleges through admission tests. The government last year took a combined medical and dental admission test for both public and private medical colleges.

From http://www.unbconnect.com/ 08/13/2012

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INDIA: Civic Problems Can Be Registered on BMTF Website

Registering a complaint about civic problems has become more easier now. Citizens can register their complaints online through Bangalore Metropolitan Task Force (BMTF) website. BMTF Inspector General of Police R P Sharma informed that this is a first of its kind measure. One can log in to the website and register their complaints. The problems may not be related to the BBMP. Any complaints, related to Bangalore city can be lodged. The online registration website is expected to function full-fledged from next week. Once the complaint is lodged, the citizens will receive an email. The complaints will be disposed off within seven days from the date of registering the complaint. Sharma said that BMTF has 76 sanctioned posts, of which 30 per cent are vacant. It is expected that the vacancies will be soon filled up.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 07/21/2012

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Govt Launches National Automatic Identification System

As part of efforts to enhance maritime security, the Centre launched the Rs 132-crore National Automatic Identification System (NAIS), which will ensure effective search and co-ordination besides broadcasting warnings to merchant ships. Describing the project as the "most important component of coastal surveillance" by the Union Government, Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan said it would go a long way in enhancing safe navigation along the 7,500-km long Indian coastline. The minister informed that the NAIS is a set-up connecting 74 AIS sensors installed on lighthouses along the entire coastline. The system will be able to track vessels to a distance of 50 km from the coast. This is intended to help different users like DG Shipping, various ports, Navy and Coast Guard in tracking, surveillance, search and rescue and management of aid to navigation. AIS has provisions to track small fishing vessels with customised transponders which will be helpful during search and rescue operations. The Minister with two lakh fishing vessels in operation, his Ministry has approved a pilot project for Directorate General of Lighhouses and Lightships to provide transponders to 1000 such vessels off the Gujarat and Maharashtra coasts at an estimated cost of Rs six crore.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 08/06/2012

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Govt Panel Formed for Installing Fire Alarm System in Trains

Expressing concern over repeated fire incidents in trains, a parliamentary panel has asked the Railways to find a solution to the problem with the help of technology and experts to prevent recurrence of such incidents. The Standing Committee on Railways has also asked the national transporter to install automatic fire alarm system in all trains urgently. The panel headed by DMK MP TR Baalu held a meeting on August 3 to discuss the recent fire incident in the Tamil Nadu Express and recommended several measures to prevent fires in trains. A sleeper coach of Tamil Nadu Express had caught fire on July 30 last claiming 32 lives. Recommending that help of latest technology be taken, the committee has asked the Railways to explore the possibilities of adopting best practices in fire fighting exercise available in other countries. "Experts from India and outside could be asked to give their views on measures that can be taken in this regard. Best practices in fire-fighting available with the railways in other countries could be studied," the committee suggested. It also advised setting up of Fire Safety Audit teams comprising experts from different segments of the Railway system to keep regular and periodic check on fire hazards in the Railways. "Railways may urgently consider installing automatic fire alarm system in all its trains. Sprinklers and other dousing systems could be provided in coaches. Fire-fighting equipment should be provided in more coaches in a train so that small incidents can be attended to in an effective manner," the panel noted. Advocating for the use of more fire retardant materials in the coaches, the committee has suggested the replacement of aluminium with copper in electrical fuses. The RPF staff could also be given basic training in fire-fighting so that they can be of assistance in emergencies, it suggested. The committee has also sought basic fire-fighting training for all railway personnel who work aboard running trains in different capacities.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 08/07/2012

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Cisco Strengthens Public Sector Sales Team for India and SAARC

Cisco India announced the appointment of Puneet Gupta as senior vice president to drive strategy and sales for its public sector business. In this role, Gupta will primarily focus on driving growth in key segments that include e-governance, defense and homeland security, and strategic infrastructure projects in central and state governments. Based in Delhi, he will report to Janesh Moorjani, president, Enterprise and Public Sector, India & SAARC. "Cisco has been the trusted partner for key national and state-wide projects in India and has a successful history of collaboration with central and state governments and public sector organisations. With its strong portfolio and deep sector expertise, Cisco can play a critical role to help citizens and governments connect, improve safety and security and enhance productivity within public sector organisations. We're confident that Puneet, through his extensive experience and expertise in this segment, will play a significant role in taking our strategy and relationships, to the next level," said Moorjani. Speaking on his new role, Gupta said, "India has been making rapid strides in adopting technology for better governance. The breadth of Cisco's technology solutions positions us strongly to help support the country's aspirations and contribute towards driving inclusive growth and development across India and I'm truly excited to be joining Cisco at this juncture." Puneet has over 19 years of experience and has worked with IT majors such as IBM and Wipro, amongst others. He spent over 14 years at IBM in a variety of roles, including leading their Public Sector business in India and South Asia. Under his leadership, the team focused on strategic Mission Mode Projects of Government of India as well as key infrastructure projects in defense and homeland security. Most recently, he spent a year at a young startup in the video conferencing space, where he led their global sales and marketing activities. Puneet holds a Bachelor of Technology (BTech) degree in Mechanical Engineering from Institute of Technology, Benaras Hindu University (IT-BHU), Varanasi and an MBA from Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 08/09/2012

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SRI LANKA: IT Savvy Officers, Need of the Hour - Naveen

Sri Lanka needs well educated and IT savvy persons to work as officers in the public sector in the current development process. All officers working in the public sector should improve their IT skills to facilitate this process, Public Management Reforms Minister Naveen Dissanayake said. The whole world is being transformed with the introduction of Information and Communication Technology (ITC). Sri Lanka should also face this challenge in a successful manner to achieve the government's vision of making Sri Lanka the knowledge hub of Asia, he added. The minister was addressing SAARC's Annual Government Transformation Summit (FutureGov SAARC Summit-2012) in Colombo on Thursday. FutureGov SAARC Summit-2012 was organised by FutureGove Asia Pacific magazine along with the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA). The summit showcased new developments in the public sector service delivery from around the world and provided a platform for Sri Lankan public servants to meet and interact with national and international peers. "The government has implemented an islandwide development programme and spent a large sum on these programmes. Sri Lanka has to fulfill a number of goals to become a developed country. Promoting Information Technology culture in Sri Lanka will help meet the above aims efficiently," the minister said. The forum covered strategies on how to align technology investment with agency priorities to create infrastructure and establish an enabling environment to implement e-government services, thus, creating effective and efficient e-Governance. "This is the time to take Sri Lanka to the next level of ITC. The government needs to implement ITC in a very correct and effective manner," MP Harsha de Silva said participating in the VIP panel discussion at the FutureGov SAARC Summit-2012.

From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 07/22/2012

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TAJIKISTAN: President Makes Reshuffle in Country's Judicial System

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon made reshuffle in the country's judicial system, Avesta.tj reported on Tuesday. The day before Rahmon met with a group of candidates to the posts in judicial system of the country. During the meeting the presidential decree on reshuffles was announced. Some 42 employees of judicial system got the posts of judges including 13 women.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/14/2012

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TURKMENISTAN: President Instructs to Create Presidential Archive

President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov signed a decree 'On creation of an archive of President of Turkmenistan' by appointing Maya Mollaeva as its chairman, the newspaper Neutral Turkmenistan reported. The new agency is created 'in order to further improve the archival work, as well as collection, recording, use and storage of documents covering all areas of the state and the socio-political activities of the President of Turkmenistan'. The new archive is entrusted to develop proposals on the structure, staffing and a draft of regulation on the archive within one month. The issue was discussed at a working meeting in Ashgabat, where the report on the main archival administration under the Cabinet of Ministers was presented. The archival institutions in the country carried out comprehensive work on preservation, accounting and use of documents of National Archival Fund of Turkmenistan during the reporting period. As noted during the period of archival institutions in the country, comprehensive work was carried out on the preservation, accounting and use of documents of the National Archival Fund of Turkmenistan. Extensive work is being done for the scientific and technical document processing of departmental archives and their deposit in the state archives.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/17/2012

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TURKMENISTAN: Establishing Political Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs

The Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs was founded in Ashgabat, with the participation of 300 delegates representing business organisations all over the country, the Turkmen government said on Tuesday. Creation of a new party was made possible by the adoption earlier this year of the Turkmen law 'On political parties'. As the session began, rules of the Congress were defined, as was its management team, the Secretariat and board members were elected. The agenda was approved which included the following questions: the creation of the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Turkmenistan, the approval of its statute and programme, the election of the Central Council of the party, the chairman and vice-chairman of the party's Central Council and Auditing Commission. According to the information, during the next voting the decision to form the new party was unanimously passed and its charter and programme approved. Members of the Central Council and its president were elected. Orazmammed Mammadov, chief specialist of the party, was elected its president on an alternative basis. Turkmenistan will make a gradual transition to a multi-party system, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov agreed this earlier in the year in an interview with the Russian Turkmenistan magazine, commenting on the recent adoption of a new law on political parties. Turkmenistan has so far registered the only political organisation - the Democratic Party, led by Berdimuhamedov.

"The advent of the Political Parties Act which guarantees the possibility of transition to a multiparty political system was a logical step in the productive use of the constitutional instrument at a certain stage of development of a democratic society," the president said. Berdimuhamedov drew attention "to a natural and harmonious nature of process in Turkmenistan", noting also that "in the modern world, democratisation processes are often not clear." "There are a lot of examples of how under the guise of democratic slogans the destructive political and even frankly reactionary forces reach the political scene, sowing discord among the people and intolerance, leading to disunity and chaos," the president said. Berdimuhamedov also noted that during the years of independence Turkmenistan "was able to maintain conflict free social development." "And I'm sure the country will continue to pursue this course. Therefore, I see that the gradual introduction of a multiparty system is useful as another evolutionary tool for the maintenance of civil society in harmony and unity of aspirations on the path to prosperity," the Turkmen leader said.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/21/2012

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FIJI: Begin Public Hearings on New Constitution

The chairman of Fiji's Constitutional Commission says there will be no government interference in the public consultations on the new constitution. The commission is beginning its first week of public hearings to allow people to put forward what they would like included in the country's new constitution. The commission began public hearings on Friday and has already received more than 30 submissions. The commission's chairman, Professor Yash Ghai, has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat the submissions they've received so far show many people are unhappy with the country's history of repeated coups. "A number of people have made comments on what they call the 'culture of coups' and people are rather unhappy that they put so much effort into submissions and so on and then a new constitution is established and not long after it is overthrown," he said. "People have also talked about the immunity which is given to coup-makers in the past and they think that this probably also encourages military, and in some cases civilians, to try to overthrow duly established governments. We're engaging with them on how they think the 'culture of coups' could be eliminated."

Professor Ghai says some submissions have also outlined concerns about the independence of the legal system. "The independence of the judiciary has come up in submission and indeed one of the terms of our Commission is to ensure that the new constitution has adequate provisions to ensure independence of the judiciary," he said. Professor Ghai says many people feel that a constitution which deals with the realities and concerns of the public will ensure that it stands the test of time. But concerns have been raised that people will not be able to participate in the process effectively as restrictions on public gatherings and the media remain in place. Professor Ghai says these concerns have been raised with the government to ensure that people are free to express their views freely. "It is early days and we have taken up with the government the need to review all the laws that restrict freedom of people or freedom of the media," he said. The Commission will submit a draft of a new constitution to a Constituent Assembly in January. It will be drawn up before the country's national elections scheduled for 2014.

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 08/06/2012

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Fiji Public Servants Can Make Constitution Submission: PM

Fiji's Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama has announced that public servants, as Fijian citizens, should also have a say and participate in formulation of Fiji's new Constitution to take our country to General Elections in 2014. This has never happened before neither for the 1990 nor the 1997 Constitutional Review processes, a government statement said. He said that public servants comprise nearly 4 per cent of Fiji's population and as such their views as Fijian citizens must be heard. "I would like to request all public servants to participate in the consultation process. Such participation and submissions however will have to be in your personal capacities and that no resources of the State should be utilised in this process. "Public Servants are free to air their views in front of the Constitutional Commission in their private capacity and not officially as public servants. This is in line with established procedures under the General Orders as well as the Public Service Act of 1999 which inter-alia articulates the Public Service Code of Conduct".

Additionally, groups of Public Servants and/or Institutions such as Permanent Secretaries, Ministry of Finance, Public Service Commission, Office of the Auditor General, Judicial Department, Fiji Police Force, Fiji Prisons and Corrections Services, Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption, Office of Solicitor General, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions etc. are permitted to make official submissions to better explain their roles and responsibilities. Bainimarama said this is a one time opportunity for every Fijian to contribute to the process currently underway to get the governance of Fiji set on a sustainable path. In a related development, some prominent religious groups have confirmed they will make submissions in the formation of Fiji's new constitution while others have yet to decide, but have unanimously welcomed members to make their submissions to the Constitution Commission. The Catholic Church is awaiting the green light from the Archbishop to decide on their submission. The Anglican Church will have to wait till October to decide on whether they will make a submission as well as the Assemblies of God who have opted to comment later.

Fiji Muslim League general secretary Taabish Akbar said they will have to finalise some issues before tabling their agenda to the commission. Then India Sanmarga Ikya (TISI) Sangam of Fiji has also confirmed to FijiLive they will make their submission. TISI Sangam national president Sadasivan Naicker said they will have to make a submission for the betterment of Fiji and its people. The Methodist Church will do so next month after their annual conference. Assistant general secretary Reverend Tevita Nawadra said they will finalise their position after the annual conference which starts later this month. Nawadra said they have issues that will be discussed during the conference that "needs" to be included in the new constitution. He said the agenda covers different issues that will benefit all Fijians. Commodore Bainimarama has urged all Fijians to have a say in the constitution making.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com/ 08/10/2012

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NEW ZEALAND: Public Sector Slowest to Pay Bills

Large businesses and public sector organisations remain the slowest to pay their bills, while small businesses and Christchurch firms have picked up their game, says credit checking agency Dun & Bradstreet. While noting a general improvement in bill-paying habits to an average 42.2 days - a record not seen since before the global financial crisis - D&B also found the majority of businesses still take more than the standard 30 days to settle their accounts. But even with an average improvement of four days faster payment, the public administration sector was still the slowest payer, at an average 47.3 days, the June quarter trade payments analysis says. Firms with more than 500 employees showed the biggest improvement in payment habits, shaving 5.3 days off averages recorded in the June quarter last year, but they remained the slowest payers in the private sector, at 45 days. By contrast, businesses with fewer than 20 employees were the fastest payers at 41.1 days, down 3.7 days year-on-year.

"Business-to-business payment data is one of the best indicators of cash flow and financial stability, as it reveals how a firm is meeting its existing financial obligations," said D&B's New Zealand general manager, John Scott, in a statement. Trade data shows that payment times began rising in late 2007, peaking at 51 days in the fourth quarter of 2008 at the height of the crisis, before largely trending downwards over the next few years." And even the slowest payers are doing better than Australian firms, which averaged payment times of 53.6 days in the June quarter. Indications of Christchurch recovery were also apparent, with that city's fall in average payment times outstripping the other main centres, falling 6.3 days to 41.8 days on average since June last year, the lowest in three years. Wellington and Auckland-based firms cut payment times by four days year-on-year to 44.5 days and 43.5 days respectively.

D&B said the "traditionally slow-paying" communications sector reduced average payment times by 8.7 days over the past 12 months, while other utilities sector firms also improved by an average of six days. Agriculture and forestry businesses maintained their ranking as the fastest payers; with payment times around 37 days for each sector.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 07/24/2012

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UN Urges Govt Reforms to Not Target Beneficiaries

A United Nations report has urged the Government to ensure its welfare reforms do not discriminate against disadvantaged women. In a draft report on the state of gender equality in New Zealand, the UN's committee on the elimination of discrimination against women said it was concerned new welfare laws would likely "predominantly affect Maori women and reduce their social benefits". It recommended the Government ensure its ongoing reforms did not discriminate against disadvantaged groups of women and called for an independent evaluation of their impact. The unedited draft report, presented to the Government this week, did not mention specific policies - but among the Government's most controversial welfare reforms have been those targeted at women on benefits. Opponents have criticised a scheme to offer beneficiaries free contraception, and a law change to compel beneficiaries to look for part-time work a year after having a second child, rather than waiting until the child turns five.

The work policy came into effect for youths on Monday and will apply to sole mothers and other beneficiaries from October. Anti-poverty campaigner Sue Bradford, from the Auckland Action Against Poverty group, said she was pleased the report had been critical of the "women-hating" welfare reforms. "We are going backwards very quickly, and I'm really glad that this United Nations group has picked that up and referred to it. I just wish the Government would pay some attention to the report and think about what they're really doing here with their welfare reforms, because the reforms clearly discriminate against disadvantaged women," she said. "We see it as misogynist, women-hating legislation in some regards because of the way it's going to disproportionately impact on unemployed women who are bringing up families on their own, women with disabilities - the very groups that this report is talking about." Ms Bradford said the report should come as a warning to the Government.

"This committee is going to get even more concerned if Paula Bennett keeps going down the same track." Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the Government was not cutting benefits. "As I have said publicly on many occasions welfare reform will not punish people for their circumstances but rather give them access to resources that were previously unavailable through the old system, particularly sole parents who move from the DPB to the new Jobseeker Support." In its draft report, the UN committee said it was concerned about the situation facing disadvantaged groups of women, including disabled women, minorities, rural women and migrants - all of whom were more vulnerable to multiple forms of discrimination in education, health, employment and social and political participation. It noted disabled women were disproportionately represented among those who lacked qualifications, did not work or who had low incomes. The report recommended the Government provide more information on the situation facing disadvantaged women in regards to access to education, employment and healthcare services.

Social welfare was just one of the areas covered in the wide-ranging report, which praised New Zealand's progress since the last assessment but also criticised its performance in a number of areas. The committee made recommendations on issues facing women such as family violence, access to justice, cyber-bullying, forced marriage, abortion law, education, and trafficking and exploitation. Women's Affairs Minister Jo Goodhew said she had received the draft report earlier this week and would consider its recommendations. "The committee commended New Zealand for having the fundamentals in place for the continuing advancement of women, but also made recommendations for improvement in a number of areas. "I will be discussing these recommendations with my ministerial colleagues." New Zealand is a signatory to the UN's convention on ending discrimination against women, under which progress reports are produced every four years. Ms Goodhew presented New Zealand's report to the convention in the United States last month.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 08/02/2012

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: PM Warns Government Departments May Face Cuts

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, says some government departments may face cuts. This is in light of Treasury forecasting a drop in revenue this year. Treasury Secretary, Simon Tosali, has informed O'Neill and his caretaker Ministers, that revenue may fall by about K 500 million (US$200 million) due to fall in commodity prices, and appreciation of the Kina against the U-S dollar. Tosali said cost overruns in the national elections, will also impact on expenditure this year. A detailed report on the performance of the 2012 Budget will be presented to Cabinet once it is ready. Prime Minister O'Neill, in a meeting with heads of government departments Monday warned of the cuts, saying some departments have not been delivering their desired outcomes to the people, and they will be restructured or abolished.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com/ 08/08/2012

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PNG PM Announces Full Cabinet Line-Up

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, has announced his government's full cabinet line-up, two days after his cabinet was sworn in by parliament. Only one of the three female MPs elected in the polls, Loujaya Toni, has been given a portfolio. The Lae MP has been announced as Minister for Religion, Youth and Community Development. Ms Toni has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program that she won't hide in the shadow of retired MP Dame Carol Kidu who previously held the ministerial portfolio of community development. "I'm going to hit the ground running, I won't be running in the shadow of Dame Carol Kidu," she said. "I'm going to be doing things differently and taking it to the next level as far as churches are concerned."

Development partnership
Ms Toni says it's important that the government works more closely with churches to improve development. "Prior to independence it was the church network that actually brought development into the rural areas of Papua New Guinea," she said. Ms Toni says churches have suffered from inadequate funding and lack of recognition in recent years. "But with the church partnership program that's happened with the help of the Australian government, that has certainly brought the government and the churches and the importance of that partnership into the limelight," she said. "I feel that with this portfolio we can take it to the next level."

Future opportunities
Ms Toni has also pledged to provide opportunities for youth to improve their skills and prospects for the future. "To be able to create an enabling environment for youths in the electorate to streamline them into trade skill areas," she said. "Also streamline youths into agriculture, into areas of arts and crafts, textiles and design and areas of music. So we work with the strengths of the youths and that way we bring the law and order problem down as well." In regards to community development, the new MP says she'll aim to empower traditional landowners.

Reserving seats
Only three female MPs were elected in this year's national polls, but Ms Toni says she won't support the bill to reserve seats for female MPs in parliament. "I wouldn't vote for 22 women seats because you can't get respect on a golden plate," she said. "You have to earn respect and the only way to earn respect in Melanesian PNG is to get your hands dirty like the guys, run with them at ground zero and come up with them through the ranks." Ms Toni says most male MPs have congratulated her on her election and say she's proven that seats don't need to be reserved. But she believes things do need to change. "We do need to create an enabling environment," Ms Toni said. "We do need to train the women to think and to understand that the first thing you need to do is to be able to create the confidence within the community that you're the candidate that will make the difference and crack the male Melanesian mindset."

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 08/10/2012

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PNG Cabinet Approves Anti Corruption Taskforce

Papua New Guinea National Executive Council (NEC) has approved the establishment of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy Task Force (NACSTF), Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has announced. This was one of the first decisions of the NEC appointed by Mr O'Neill, which held its first meeting on Wednesday. The primary role of NACSTF will be to implement the National Anti-Corruption Strategy. The National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2010-2030 was developed after PNG ratified the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in May 2007. Key government departments got together and worked on developing the anti-corruption strategy, which was unveiled last year. "We have made the fight against corruption a top priority for this government. We are not going to waste time," O'Neill said in a statement."As a government, we are taking action on our promise to the people - that corruption will be attacked wherever it occurs, or act to prevent it occurring," he said. The task force will operate within the framework outlined by the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, which won the backing of UN representatives who reviewed it early this year.

The task force will draw membership from key government departments including the departments of Prime Minister, Justice, Police, Treasury, the Ombudsman Commission, Auditor General and the Public Prosecutor's office, among others. The Department of the Prime Minister will be the lead co-ordinating agency. Funding of K500, 000 (US$235,000) will be immediately made available to fund the establishment of this task force, and it will start work without delay.

Some of the tasks and measures the task force will focus on include:
* The setting up of a National Integrity Commission, or the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) with wide ranging investigative and prosecutorial powers;
* Developing legislation to protect whistle-blowers, or those who report and expose corruption;
* Developing legislation to allow citizens easy access to government information (Freedom of Information Act) to ensure transparency and accountability;
* Developing risk management strategies for all government departments to strengthen processes and systems to minimise opportunities for corruption;
* Developing and putting in place performance agreements in employment contracts for public servants;
* Relocating financial disbursement functions in departments to Finance, thereby minimising opportunities for corruption;
* Utilising special investigation task forces, eg SWEEP;
* Constructive engagement with civil society in exposing corruption and promoting good governance;
* Strengthening audit and accountability institutions;
* Reviewing and strengthening the public tender and procurement process; and
* Implement outstanding Commission of Inquiry recommendations, like SABL and Finance Inquiry

"This NEC decision demonstrates our government's resolve to attack corruption at its root. This task force will need the support of all of us if it is to succeed in its work and I urge everyone to support it," the PM said. In a related development, Northern Province Governor Gary Juffa has commended Prime Minister Peter O'Neill for his efforts to establish an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). Governor Juffa volunteered to assist by voting for the bill and being part of a committee to ensure that the anti-corruption watch dog was established and operating effectively. Juffa warned that without proper oversight, laws and administrative measures to control corruption and punish offenders, the Government's efforts would be useless.

He requested that the committee be headed by the Attorney General Kerenga Kua, Speaker Theo Zurenuoc, Morobe Governor Kelly Naru a lawyer with experience in fighting graft and himself as a former law enforcement officer has experience in fighting corruption and transnational crimes in particular. "While we may look at the models in Hong Kong and Fiji and other economies, we need to develop our own unique ICAC with relevant powers, independence and most importantly, resources," uffa said. He said the Task Force Sweep Team should form the basis of such an organisation and Sam Koim should head the new body as he has proven that he can do the job. Juffa said ICAC should also be able to seize assets, freeze funds, arrest and detain persons found to have committed breaches of the laws it enforces.

From http://www.pina.com.fj/ 08/17/2012

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SOLOMON ISLANDS: Second Female Enters Parliament

Mrs Vika Lusibaea, the newly elected Member of Parliament for North Malaita will go down in history as the second women to have entered the Solomon Islands Parliament. Mrs Lusibaea, originally from Fiji, is the wife of former MP Jimmy Lusibaea who lost the North Malaita seat over a jail sentence he had received during the ethnic tensions. It was a landslide victory for Mrs Lusibaea following Wednesday's by-election. She polled a total of 2,802 votes ahead of the second candidate Fredrick Kwanairara with 901 votes. Supporters of North Malaita MP-elect, Vika Lusibaea have defended her victory saying she was the only candidate endorsed by North Malaita Council of Chiefs. Mrs Lusibaea's supporters have also defended her limited literacy skills saying previous North Malaita Parliamentarians held university degrees but have not delivered any tangible development to the constituency.

Governor General Sir Frank Kabui is expected to make the official declaration. Meanwhile, the Solomon Islands National Council of Women also congratulated Vika Lusibaea for winning the North Malaita seat also saying that this has proven that other women in the country can also follow by having to work in partnership with men. Mrs Lusibaea's win over the North Malaita seat is a victory for all the women in Malaita and elsewhere in the country, stating that such victory cannot be achieved if both men and women are not working together to support each other.

From http://www.sibconline.com.sb/ 08/06/2012

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Study Released on Improving Governance of Public Sector Operations in the Pacific Region

The extent, nature and quality of the accountability and transparency of government auditing operations in 20 countries in the Pacific region is the subject of a new study released today by the Pacific Association of Supreme Audit Institutions (PASAI), the official association of government audit offices and similar bodies in the region. This 2011 study is much broader and more detailed than an original study undertaken in 2009. It provides a useful benchmark for future follow-up work. The study consisted of a questionnaire completed by the heads of government auditing bodies in 20 countries and separate in-depth studies of six countries. This latest look at the state of accountability and transparency in government operations across the Pacific found many instances of good practice that could be usefully adopted by other states. Nonetheless as PASAI Executive Director, Eroni Vatuloka, points out 'the picture of accountability and transparency is still mixed in the region, with much work to be done to deliver a clear view for the public at large of how public resources are being used'.

'Some of the lessons we have learned from the study include the importance of the auditing institution's independence, the need for strong commitment from government to the public auditing function and the provision of adequate resourcing,' he said. The focus for the questionnaire and in-depth studies was based on international benchmarks identified specifically for this project. In all, nine benchmarks were identified that fell into three broad areas. These were, benchmarks affecting the government auditing institution and its work; those affecting the public sector more broadly and those affecting wider civil society and how it interacts with the government and the auditing institution. Vatuloka said that one particularly important finding, among many, in the study was that little progress can be expected in improved accountability and transparency while governance institutions continue to lack popular respect and support. To this end, the study calls for close collaboration and public support from all elements of civil society that advocate for strong auditing/governance mechanisms in the Pacific. 'This group includes the business sector, multilateral and bilateral aid donors, relevant Non-Government Organisations, academia and the media', Vatuloka commented.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com/ 08/17/2012

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GCC Leads in E-Readiness: UN Report

The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) leads the world in e-Readiness, mainly due to increasing digital literacy, particularly in Qatar and the UAE, according to UN e-Government survey. The survey is carried out every two years and takes stock of how countries around the world are progressing towards achieving true e-Government status. This year's report found many have put in place e-government initiatives including the acceleration of the adoption of ICT across the public sector in order to deliver more efficient, more transparent, more inclusive and more sustainable government to all citizens. Countries that lead the index and those that have moved up have moved beyond basic e-Services to integrated systems that link different institutions and departments offering a single point of contact to the public. This is where Gulf countries shine, according to the survey. "Although the UN 2012 survey shows that no country has a single sign on integrated portal, the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar are among the 10 closest to such a feat," comments Jamil Ezzo, director general of the ICDL GCC Foundation, which is the sole body to implement and disseminate the programme across the GCC and Iraq with the support of leading educational institutions and accredited bodies. Finding that the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia also appear in the top 25 leaders of emerging countries in e-Government development, ranking 8th, 16th and 21st respectively, he said this proved the seriousness of the e-Government agenda across the Gulf region.

The report highlighted other notable achievements of Gulf states in the survey as compared to 2010. The UAE was highly visible as it advanced 21 positions in the global rankings to take 28th place as compared to 2010 and fifth in Asia. Qatar moved 14 positions up to 48th place, Saudi Arabia by 17 places to 41 and Oman by 18 places to 64, while Bahrain and Kuwait did not make considerable progress, according to the report. In fact, the rapid progress made by the UAE is cited as best practice case of how effective e-Government can lead economic and social development. With double the population and three quarters of the GDP (gross domestic product) per capita, the UAE has achieved around the same level of online services as those offered in Norway, a global leader in eighth position. Digital literacy is one of the key indicators used by the UN report to measure a country's progress in e-Readiness, it said, highlighting that over 150,000 people from the Gulf region had enrolled on its programmes, a marked improvement over the preceding two-year period. Observing that women enrolments rose 7%, youth by 12% and senior citizens by 1.5%, the report said these improvements had been due to the ongoing funding and support from private and public sector partnerships. "The region as a whole demonstrated substantial improvement in participation in digital literacy particularly in the UAE and Qatar with a 6.1% and 4.5% rise respectively," it said. The UAE government has been a driving force in expanding its services online and closing the digital divide, as well as embracing the knowledge economy, the report said. However, it is not alone in this regard. Saudi Arabia achieved a best practice case through the introduction of its e-Dashboard portal, which verifies the identity of the citizen and serves as a single sign on portal. There is the Hukoomi initiative from the Qatar government, a technology gateway that brings together government services and programmes that are accessible through the Internet but also mobile devices.

From http://www.gulf-times.com/ 07/31/2012

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Emerging Economies Alter Global Innovation Landscape

The dynamics of global innovation are changing as a result of the activities of emerging economies, according to The Global Innovation Index 2012.Countries like China, India - and even Paraguay and Sri Lanka - show that while innovative activity generally increases with income levels, good results can be achieved using their own innovation models. The innovation report, which was released last month by the European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD) in France, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, Switzerland, evaluated 141 countries. It highlighted strong performances in innovation by several emerging economies, including China, Ghana, India, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia, Namibia, Paraguay, Senegal, Swaziland, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. Innovation inputs, such as economic policies, and innovation outputs resulting from innovation activities within the economy, were both measured. "The index measures both current innovation as well as potential future innovation," Sacha Wunsch-Vincent, a WIPO senior economic officer told SciDev.Net. Wunsch-Vincent said one of the most striking results this year was increased levels of innovation from lower- and middle-income countries, as a result of "improvements in institutional frameworks, skilled and educated labour forces, better innovation infrastructures, and a sophisticated business community."

The index is based on 84 indicators, including human capital, research infrastructure, market and business sophistication, and knowledge creation. It goes beyond the number of scientific publications and patents - where the most advanced countries dominate - to focus on a broader measure of innovation. This year, new indicators on ecological sustainability and online creativity were also included. European countries and North American countries continue to dominate the top 12 places, although these also include Singapore - which is top in South East Asia and Oceania - and Hong Kong (which is listed separately from ChinaIsrael comes top in North Africa and West Asia, Chile in Latin America and the Caribbean, India in South and Central Asia and Mauritius in Sub-Saharan Africa, with South Africa second. Colombia climbed six places to 65th, behind Chile - which scored relatively high on both political environment (34th) and regulatory environment (25th) - and Brazil. In contrast, Venezuela fell 16 places to 118th, reflecting low scores on government effectiveness, business environment, and market sophistication.

Jorge Alfonso Cano, director of technology development and innovation at Colombia's Administrative Department of Science, Technology and Innovation (Colciencias), told SciDev. Net that the results in Latin America reflected decisions made in that region over the last decade. For example, he said, Colombia had built a culture of innovation, a co-financing model between employers and the state, and increased tax benefits for innovative companies. Paraguay, although only ranked 84th, was placed in the top 10 in the 'Innovation Efficiency Index' of countries that have overcome relative weaknesses in inputs with robust output - or "achieved more with less". Since 2006, Paraguay has invested considerable effort and funds in its development support programme in science technology and innovation, with support from the Inter-American Development Bank, said Cano.

From http://www.scidev.net/ 08/02/2012

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New Report: Mobile Technologies Put Users' Security at Risk

The capability of repressive governments to monitor users of mobile phones and block access to internet content is far beyond levels realized by users and presents significant risks for user privacy and safety, according to a new report released today by Freedom House and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). This is a serious problem in countries that lack the rule of law and where civil liberties are not respected. The report, entitled Safety on the Line: Exposing the myth of mobile communications security, evaluates the ability of mobile phone services to protect security and privacy and to circumvent censorship in 12 countries: Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Egypt, Iran, Libya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. The assessment covered a range of mobile technologies, including operating systems, applications and mobile protocols. Findings showed that, across the spectrum, these technologies fail to protect users and are highly vulnerable to misuse by autocratic regimes. "Mobile phones have become integral to daily communication around the world and most of us use this technology with some expectation of privacy," said Daniel Calingaert, executive vice president at Freedom House. "However, governments are fully capable, particularly when laws and other protection mechanisms are not in place, of using these devices to track and monitor users for nefarious purposes. This is a cause for deep concern, and it must become part of the dialogue about how these technologies are developed now, and in the future."

Among the report's key findings: High mobile penetration rates in the studied countries - often above100 percent - indicate that mobile networks are the communications method of choice, making these platforms a priority target for monitoring by repressive regimes. Mobile phone users are vulnerable to highly intrusive surveillance, including. The remote activation of cameras and microphones and the tracking of users' movements through global positioning systems (GPS). The default settings of mobile operating systems provide inadequate security, and in repressive environments, adding security options is problematic. Virtual private networks (VPN) are designed to facilitate corporate use, but do not adequately protect individuals attempting to avoid surveillance. Because mobile security is threatened at multiple levels-of mobile networks, operating systems, applications, handsets, and users-it is nearly impossible for any single actor in isolation to change the situation, according to the findings. The report recommends improved awareness of mobile security threats among users in repressive environments and development of mobile phone handsets, operating systems, and applications that better protect user privacy in countries where human rights violations are common. "Every stakeholder in the process plays a role in the vulnerability of mobile technology to misuse, from the developers of the devices themselves to those who create the associated applications," said Cormac Callanan, one of the report's authors. "There is a real and immediate need for more cooperation and joint action between all stakeholders to improve safety and privacy for mobile users."

From http://www.i-policy.org/ 08/02/2012

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Global Initiative Seeks to Boost Health Innovation

[LONDON] An initiative aimed at creating a global community of health innovators to deliver high quality, accessible and affordable healthcare was formally launched at a meeting in London this week (1 August). The initiative is a joint partnership between the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College, London, and the Qatar Foundation, based in Doha, Qatar. It aims to achieve its goal by "[catalysing] greater international learning and collaboration about how to achieve health reform, and [spreading] innovative solutions with the potential to reform health systems." The launch was announced at the first Global Health Policy Summit, which brought together 500 individuals, including health ministers, policymakers, industry representatives, entrepreneurs, researchers and non-governmental organisations. The summit's chair, Lord Darzi of Denham, said the initiative was unique in creating a bank of evidence on innovation and best practice in healthcare delivery. Over the last eight months, working groups have produced reports on seven themes: primary care; digital innovation, ageing societies, maternal health, financing health systems; non-communicable diseases; and innovative delivery models. A separate report on the need to develop appropriate technologies for developing countries was published in The Lancet (1 August) on the day of the summit.

Each report draws on experience of innovation around the world, outlines evidence on best practice, and recommends practical action for ministers and policymakers. The reports list key healthcare issues for developing countries as being to increase access to healthcare and to fulfil unmet needs without creating unsustainable pressure on already stretched resources. Some of the reports state that innovation can at times be learned best from developing countries. For example, the primary care report outlines case studies of innovation in primary care delivery from Brazil, India and Turkey. The summit heard discussions on case studies from Abu Dhabi and South Africa on innovation in tackling non-communicable diseases, the training of nurses in remote regions to perform operations in Mozambique, and how companies in India are delivering cheap and efficient operation techniques to Mexico. An action plan was expected to be drawn up at the summit, based on discussion of the reports. But no details had emerged by the end of the meeting. A new US$1 million prize for supporting innovation in bioelectronics in the southern hemisphere was announced at the summit by Sir Andrew Witty, chief executive officer of the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Witty said that some developing countries were leading the way in pioneering innovation. He made a special plea for entries for the new prize from academic research institutions.

From http://www.scidev.net/ 08/03/2012

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Asian Nations 'Face Greatest Natural Disaster Risk'

Emerging economies in Asia, including India and the Philippines, face the greatest financial risk from natural disasters, an analysis suggests. The authors based their rankings on nations' economic activity and exposure to natural hazards, such as floods, droughts, earthquakes and cyclones. The nations' limited ability to recover from disasters left them exposed to severe disruption, they added. Risk analysis firm Maplecroft compiled the Natural Hazards Risk Atlas. Last year was deemed to be the most costly 12 months on record for natural disasters, costing US $380bn (242bn).The main reason for the spike was the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011, which was estimated to have cost US$210bn.

'Heavily exposed'
The authors said that the world's key growth economies were among those most exposed to risks related to natural hazards. "China, Mexico, India, Philippines, South Korea, Indonesia, Turkey, Bangladesh and Iran are each heavily exposed to major destructive natural hazards, such as earthquakes, flooding and tropical cyclones," they wrote." Businesses operating in, investing in or sourcing from emerging economies are therefore particularly exposed... and need to build their resilience to mitigate the disruption and impact of an event." "The Pacific Ring of Fire is a belt of seismic risk that draws in Indonesia, Philippines, Japan and Taiwan etc," she told BBC News. "So that exposes these nations to seismic risk, and high risk from earthquakes, but also - as we saw in Japan - the secondary risk of tsunamis." This combined with the hydro-meteorological risks. For example, along the Mekong Delta, we do see very high flood risks. "There are the drought risks as well when we see Monsoons failing or arriving late. "It is not really one risk in particular but it is the combination of multiple risks that are prominent in the areas."

Night lights
Ms Hodge explained that in order to create the atlas's maps and rankings, the authors assessed the underlying risk from 12 natural hazards and then compared this with economic output. "In order to look at economic output, we use a technique where we look at night-time lights, and then distribute economic exposure according to night-time lights," she added. "This is based on research that shows you tend to get concentrations of economic exposure coinciding with bright lights." We then used [Geographic Information System] techniques to effectively map the different data across each other, so where does the seismic risk lie? Where does the tropical cyclone risk lie?" Although the report identified Japan, the US, China, Taiwan and Mexico as the nations having the highest economic exposure to natural hazards in absolute terms, the authors said the huge economies had the capacity to recover relatively quickly.

This was a result of a high degree of resilience, such as established infrastructure, disaster preparedness and tight building regulations. "A way to explain how this might differ is by looking at somewhere like the US, where clearly down the west coast and alongside the east coast, you have got major concentrations of economic output hazards - earthquakes on the west, and hurricanes on the east," observed Ms Hodge. "That alone is going to drive the US into high rankings for absolute economic exposure. "However, if you look at that as the wider relative economic output - because there are concentrations of economic exposure in places like the mid-west that are not as heavily exposed to this risks - this has a balancing effect." "[But] when you consider that the Haitian earthquake in 2010, if you look at the proportion of the Haitian economy that was exposed to that earthquake, some of the upper estimates was close to the nation's annual GDP."

From http://www.bbc.co.uk/ 08/15/2012

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City Management Is Asia's Most Pressing Priority

Fast-growing Asian countries have no other option except to "go green" to ensure that they will not face a scarcity of resources and degradation of existing resources in the future. A recently released report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) says unprecedented urban population growth in Asia has resulted in immense stress on the environment. Thus, green technology and innovation are not options but a must for countries to achieve sustainable growth. Asian countries are seeing the fastest rates of urbanisation in the world. The ADB report says the continent is already home to almost half of the world's city-dwellers. It says that, in just over a decade, Asia will be home to 21 of the 37 megacities worldwide, and over the next 30 years another 1.1 billion people are expected to join Asia's already swollen urban ranks. Rapid urbanisation naturally causes many problems, including the quality of air, an increase in crime and scarcity of resources. Mass migration to urban areas can lead to homelessness, the expansion of slums and widening economic inequality. The ADB reports that urban carbon-dioxide emissions in particular, left unchecked under a business-as-usual scenario, could reach 10.2 tonnes per capita by 2050, a level that would have disastrous consequences for both Asia and the rest of the world.

Rising urban populations mean that more than 400 million people in Asian cities could be at risk of coastal flooding, and roughly 350 million at risk of inland flooding, by 2025. Unless managed properly, these trends could lead to even more widespread environmental degradation and declining standards of living. Asian countries, therefore, must begin to properly manage the growth of cities. A "green" campaign must be pursued as a matter of urgency. City residents must be made more aware of the damage they're doing to the environment, and steps have to be taken to mitigate this impact as much as possible. At a minimum, recycling bins should be made available in more public places and education campaigns must force people in cities to become more environmentally conscious. Growth in our own big cities, such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai, has not been managed well, if at all. Bangkok has seen a massive influx of migrants, due to rapid growth, over the past few decades. The devastating floods last year were partly the result of uncontrolled urban growth, as many new residential projects are sprouting up in areas that should be preserved for farming. The rapid spread of the city has blocked natural waterways that should have saved Bangkok from inundation. And the trash people dump in these waterways blocks the water flow.

In addition, transportation systems are not growing commensurate to the rising population. A majority of city residents depend on private transport, leading to greater emissions of carbon monoxide. The government's policy to encourage people to buy more cars will only exacerbate this problem and lead to a rise in demand for imported fuel. The government should be doing opposite by encouraging people to use mass transit systems, which are more environmentally friendly and more energy efficient. Urbanisation is inevitable, but it can be managed if there is political will to do so. Apart from green campaigns, the government can help further by encouraging people to stay in the rural provinces. People tend to migrate to where there are economic opportunities, despite the fact that the cost of living in cities is higher. People may not want to migrate if there are opportunities waiting for them in their home provinces. Economic prosperity should be spread out. Unfortunately, so far, we have seen only policies that encourage people to flock into the cities, such as the minimum-wage rise and financial assistance to taxi drivers in Bangkok. Encouraging people to migrate to cities will not support policies that promote community development, which is a basic concept for self-reliance. In the end, migrant workers who move to the cities often end up in menial jobs, struggling to make end's meet, and suffering from all the problems that sheer numbers of people are causing.

From http://www.asianewsnet.net/ 08/17/2012

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CHINA: Diversified Gov't Performance Evaluations

Although the performance of local Chinese authorities is typically evaluated based on the GDP growth of their jurisdictions, the recent diversification of the evaluation system has made it more flexible and encouraged new forms of development. The municipal government of Huangshan in east China's Anhui province spent six billion yuan (940 million U.S. dollars) from 2006 to 2010 to protect and renovate ancient dwellings there, drawing larger numbers of tourists and increasing tourism revenues in the years since. "We invested such a large amount of capital on the program because the new evaluation system has encouraged us to make more efforts to protect resources and the environment," said Wang Fuhong, secretary of the municipal Communist Party of China (CPC) committee. Wang said the city is in no hurry to develop its industries, but is more concerned with protecting the environment. Local government performance in Anhui will be assessed using a variety of factors, including GDP growth rate, resource and environmental protection, the improvement of people's livelihoods and social construction. The province's evaluation system places a 3-percent weighting on GDP growth for local evaluations, down from the previous 14 percent. The change will make evaluations of local development and performance more equal, said Shen Weiguo, director of the provincial development and reform commission. An excessive focus on the pursuit of GDP growth has hobbled the country's development, especially in terms of protecting the environment, said Li Deshui, former director of the National Bureau of Statistics. Li said the lower evaluatory weighting for local GDPs will help China's development become more sustainable. New evaluation systems have also been implemented in other provinces and regions.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 07/24/2012

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Red Cross Society Promises Reforms

In a bid to regain diminished public trust, the Red Cross Society of China has promised a series of reforms, including an online donation tracking system that is expected to be in place by year-end.Zhao Baige, the society's executive vice-president, outlined the plans at a news conference in Beijing on Thursday. The news conference follows the State Council's Tuesday release of guidelines on developing the country's Red Cross missions. "The document, for the first time, clearly defines the nature, position, role, and responsibilities of the Red Cross in China today, which should be an open and transparent humanitarian organization, not just a fund-raising charity group," she said. The guideline recognized the Red Cross as an indispensable auxiliary to the government in the humanitarian field, and as such, one that requires a favorable environment of law, policy, and public opinion. "That's recognition and support from the government for the Red Cross, which previously suffered a credibility crisis," said Deng Guosheng, a professor specializing in philanthropic studies at the School of Public Policy and Management with the Tsinghua University in Beijing.

The Red Cross faced such questions of its credibility last year after Guo Meimei, who claimed to be a manager of a Red Cross-related organization, flaunted a lavish lifestyle over the Internet. That sparked mass speculation about possible corruption in the society. Zhao called that incident a "growing pain" of the Red Cross, adding that the controversy has "somewhat prompted a top-down reform in the organization to address existing problems and gradually meet public expectations." Creating transparency tops the reform agenda. The Red Cross Society at various levels must provide information related to fundraising, financial management, tenders, procurement and distribution of donations. Donors and the public have the right to know the details, the guidelines said. To facilitate that, an efficient, transparent and normative system of management, information and supervision, including a donation-tracking system, will be established within three to five years, Zhao said. Furthermore, the system will be expanded to 80 percent of the provincial branches of the RCSC by the end of 2013 and later to more than 50 percent of the Red Cross organizations at the county level by the end of 2014, she added.

"It will help the RCSC improve its transparency with the functions of fundraising management, publicizing the use of funds, and risk warning in material management," she said. The guidelines also outline a fund-management plan for the society. The costs for carrying out humanitarian tasks supported by donations can be disbursed but must be publicly publicized, the guidelines said. "That's in line with international practice, and we need an operation mechanism that correspond with both the socialist market-economy system and international humanitarian values to sustain our work," Zhao said. A spokesman system will be introduced to better communicate with the public and help secure transparency, she added. Deng, the Tsinghua University professor, praised the reforms but expressed concerns about their implementation.

"Regarding reform measures, particularly those on strengthening the society's management and supervision over its local branches, I don't think they have the incentive to do so, given that they are now funded by local governments," he said. Zhao agreed, saying, "The way it has operated and practiced for so long might be a barrier to the reform." Wang Rupeng, the society's secretary-general, said that in some areas, there is too much government interference into the local Red Cross's organizing mechanism, internal governance, and routine operation. At more than 40 percent of the Chinese counties across the mainland, the Red Cross remains under local health departments, he said. "The Red Cross should be allowed more independence to better carry out its tasks in the country," Deng said. He expected that such a document issued by the State Council would help propel the new reforms, particularly at the local level.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 08/03/2012

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City Vows to Invest More in R&D, Tech Innovation

SHANGHAI will invest more in research & development and technology innovation, including establishing a city-level industrial research organization, providing more support policies and developing strategic industries, so as to upgrade the local economic structure, top government officials said at a conference yesterday. Shanghai is one of the leading cities on R&D and innovation nationwide, said Wang Zhigang, vice minister of the Ministry of Science. "But it will face challenges if we don't speed up (new measures of innovation)," added Yu Zhengsheng, Shanghai's Party secretary. Compared with other cities, Shanghai still lacks top technology companies with a high level of influence or revenue, such as firms with an annual income of more than 100 billion yuan (US$15.71 billion). Top names such as Sina.com and 360buy.com are based in Beijing while Shenzhen in Guangdong Province boasts Huawei, ZTE and Tencent.

In 2011, Shanghai's total R&D spending reached 59.77 billion yuan, up 24 percent year on year. It accounted for 3.1 percent of the city's total gross domestic product, said Mayor Han Zheng. To speed up innovation, Shanghai plans to establish a city-level industrial research arm, which will become a new innovation platform for technology sharing and communications among local firms, and research organizations. Meanwhile, the city has set up several funds and actively encouraged bank loans for high-tech startups and research projects of state-owned firms, which will help the city to transform itself from being oriented toward service to leaning on high-tech industries by 2015.The city's strategic industries, from new-energy car, next-generation network, to Internet and mobile payment, generated a total output of 1.02 trillion yuan in 2011, up 12.2 percent.

From http://www.shanghaidaily.com/ 08/16/2012

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Lawyers Calling for Reform of Laojiao System

Prominent lawyers are joining those now calling on China to reform its controversial laojiao system, or re-education through labor system, which allows suspects to be sentenced to forced labor without first undergoing a trial. The system, which has been in operation for more than 50 years, again became the center of a fierce debate after it had been used to detain a mother who was appealing for justice in her daughter's rape case. Ten legal professionals sent an open letter to the government on Tuesday warning that the punishment can lead to abuses of power. "Standing regulations do not require laojiao management committees to release a written verdict to explain how their decisions were made, so it's difficult to know if a decision was fair," said Li Fangping, an author of the letter and a Beijing lawyer known for his work in protecting the rights of people with HIV.The letter was sent to the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Justice. In it, the lawyers wrote that the laojiao system is neither transparent nor well-supervised. Both ministries have subordinate bodies that oversee the system, which can force a person to spend from one to three years in confinement and undergo compulsory labor. If authorities conclude the subject of laojiao has not been sufficiently re-educated, the sentence can be extended another year.

Li, who said the ministries have not sent him a reply to the letter, said all suspects should receive legal assistance when their cases are under review. He also said people who are older than 60 should be exempt from punishment under laojiao. He said it would be ideal if any measure that could be used to deprive a person of his freedom, such as detention, be subject to judicial review. For now, though, it's more realistic to try to reform the laojiao system than abolish it. Neither of the ministries that received the letter had released a statement about it by Wednesday night. China Daily's interview request to the Research Society of Laojiao, under the Ministry of Justice, went unanswered. The letter came amid a storm of criticism that arose after the mother of a rape victim was made to undergo laojiao for repeatedly petitioning authorities. Tang Hui, 39, was accused of "seriously disturbing the social order and exerting a negative impact on society" and sent on Aug 2 to a laojiao center in Hunan province's Yongzhou to serve an 18-month sentence. Tang had accused the city police of falsifying evidence in order to reduce the sentences handed down to those who were responsible for the kidnap, rape and forced prostitution of her daughter, who was 11 years old when the crimes occurred.

The mother was released on Friday out of consideration for the fact that "her 17-year-old daughter is still a minor and requires her mother's care", according to a provincial publicity department statement. The case outraged the public and prompted more than 700,000 posts on Sina Weibo, a popular micro-blogging service in China. Most of the messages expressed sympathy for her and called for justice to be served. The discussion reinvigorated a debate about various proposed changes to the laojiao system that lawmakers have discussed at annual meetings of National People's Congress in the past several years. Ying Yong, president of Shanghai High People's Court, is one of them. He noted in a proposal submitted during this year's NPC session, held in March in Beijing, that the system has contributed greatly to social order and improved economic development. Even so, the country finds itself amid different circumstances than were present 50 years ago and has established a legal system. Laojiao should therefore be modified, he said. Because the penalties under laojiao can exceed even the six-month minimum penalty for criminal offenses, Ying said, that undermines the notion that laojiao is imposed on suspects whose deeds have been not serious enough to constitute crimes.

He said the system should have been modified after the Administrative Coercion Law went into effect in 2012.That law, which regulates administrative power and protects civil rights, lists several compulsory measures that administrative organs can take and that can lead to people losing their freedom. Laojiao is not one of them. Ying called for a quick adoption of a draft law that pertains to the correction of illegal acts and that has been on the NPC's annual legislative agenda since 2005. Many believe the measure will be more lenient toward the legal rights of juvenile offenders and do more to protect them. It has yet to be submitted to the top legislature to be read. In 2007, the NPC Standing Committee said there are "lots of disagreements". A large one concerns which government department should be in charge of laojiao centers and which has the right to impose such a punishment on a person, Chen Sixi, deputy director of the NPC Internal and Judicial Affairs Committee, said in a previous interview. One compromise, he said, could entail setting up a "relatively independent but specialized" institution to bring more social resources into the process. Legal Daily, a newspaper affiliated to the Ministry of Justice, quoted a Ministry of Justice statement as saying laojiao had been used to punish offenders in 580,000 cases related to drug abuse by 2005. Those made up more than half of the cases that resulted in laojiao penalties.

From http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/ 08/16/2012

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JAPAN: Govt OK's 8.46% Household Power Rate Hike

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry approved a Tokyo Electric Power Co. plan on Wednesday to raise household electricity rates by 8.46 percent on average. It will be TEPCO's first rate hike in 32 years to be implemented with government approval under the Electricity Business Law. The hike, which will take effect on Sept. 1, will raise the monthly electricity bill of an average household by an estimated 360 yen. TEPCO initially applied for an average rate hike of 10.28 percent to help cover rising fuel costs following the suspension of nuclear reactors as well as compensation payments to those affected by the crisis at its crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which was severely damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. But the government instructed the company to reduce the average increase to 8.46 percent through further cuts in labor and employee benefit costs.

TEPCO filed for approval of the 8.46 percent rate hike earlier on Wednesday. Ichiro Takahara, director general of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, handed written approval for the household rate hike to TEPCO President Naomi Hirose. Takahara said he hopes the company will keep in mind that it has been allowed to raise the power rate despite its regional monopoly. The smaller-than-initially-planned hike will be "very tough" for TEPCO, but the company "will unite to pursue cost cuts and ensure a stable power supply," Hirose said.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 07/26/2012

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New Transit Service Launched in Miyagi

A so-called bus rapid transit service was launched in Miyagi Prefecture on Monday to replace some local train services that have been suspended due to damage from the tsunami caused by last year's Great East Japan Earthquake. East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) introduced the BRT system on a 2.1-kilometer-long section of road that is being prepared for use by the buses. The service will help local people who had used the operator's damaged Kesennuma Line. The 2.1-kilometer section will serve the area between Rikuzenhashikami Station and Saichi Station on the line. It is the first BRT to be launched in an area hit by the March 2011 disaster. The service's launch date was chosen to coincide with the start of the new term at high schools along the Kesennuma Line on Monday. JR East President Tetsuro Tomita said the company hopes to further support reconstruction in the affected areas by providing safe and convenient transport services.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 08/21/2012

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Govt Releases Report on Dike Opening

The agriculture ministry released an environmental impact assessment report on Tuesday on the planned opening of gates in a dike built as part of a massive reclamation project in Nagasaki Prefecture. Reflecting local opinion, the report said the government is considering securing a wider range of alternative water sources for farmland, developed under the Isahaya Bay reclamation project, that would be affected by the gate opening. Based on a Fukuoka High Court ruling in 2010, the state is required to open the gates by December 2013 for research into the impact of the 253 billion yen project on nearby fishing.

But the Nagasaki prefectural government remains opposed, saying that the opening of the gates could cause salt pollution of reclaimed farmland and increase the risk of floods in and around the reclaimed area. If the gates are opened, seawater will flow into a freshwater pool used for agriculture, forcing local farmers to seek alternative sources of freshwater. In an environmental assessment preparatory report released last October, the government proposed using groundwater. But the Nagasaki government is concerned that this could cause land to sink.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 08/22/2012

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Ministry Looks at Cancer Claims / Panel to Determine Compensation Eligibility of Printing Firm Workers

Following the revelation that a number of workers at printing companies have been diagnosed with bile duct cancer, the health ministry has said it will set up an expert committee to judge whether those who have applied for worker compensation are eligible for it. The committee to be set up within the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is expected to look into such cases in Osaka first, where more workers have been diagnosed with the condition than in Miyagi Prefecture and elsewhere. The panel will decide by the end of March whether workers are eligible for compensation. Applications for worker compensation are usually studied by local labor standards inspection offices. They are brought to the ministry when it is considered difficult to make a judgement at the labor office level because, for example, the origin of an ailment is not clear.

The ministry said there has been no case in which a bile duct cancer patient was found eligible for compensation since it started keeping relevant data in 1998. There have been cases where compensation applications were studied at the ministry in regard to conditions related to asbestos, dioxin and radiation exposure. But it is highly unusual for the ministry to study applications related to a particular industry. The committee is expected to consist of doctors well-versed on bile duct cancer and experts on chemical toxicity. The ministry has already begun selecting members. In the latest cases, applications for worker compensation were filed by 18 former and current workers of printing firms, including 11 who already died as of July 25. Ten of the 18 are former or current employees of Osaka-based Sanyo-CYP Co.

All 18 are believed to have developed the cancer because of a chemical substance contained in agents used for cleaning printing machines. But it remains unclear how much of the chemical substance each worker was exposed to.A team of researchers at the ministry has already begun an epidemiological study, but sources said it may take several years to draw a conclusion. It usually takes a long period of time to determine whether an applicant is eligible for worker compensation. But a ministry official said the applicants should not be kept waiting long. "Once it is determined highly likely the condition was caused by the substance, it is possible to recognize their eligibility even though the exact cause is not yet specified," the official said. If their eligibility is recognized, the sufferers' medical costs and compensation for absence from work will be paid. In cases in which patients have already died, pensions and lump sums of money will be paid to their bereaved families.

Recognizing worker compensation eligibility is meant to aid workers who suffered labor-related health damages, and businesses' responsibility usually is not questioned. But acknowledgement of eligibility could affect the possibility of civil lawsuits by workers seeking compensation for damages. In late July, the ministry launched a survey on bile duct cancer targeting about 16,000 printing companies nationwide. The ministry plans to release the survey results by early September.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 08/25/2012

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Fukushima Starts Radiation Checks on All Rice

The Fukushima Prefectural Government is now checking all bags of rice for radiation.Gov. Yuhei Sato, who visited an inspection center in Nihonmatsu on Saturday, the first day of the comprehensive inspections, said that he "wants safe Fukushima rice to be delivered across the country." The checks were deemed necessary to allay fears caused by the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power station. The first day saw 14 30-kg bags of early harvest rice produced in Nihonmatsu inspected. The equipment took only about 10 seconds to check each bag, with all of the bags showing radioactivity levels below 11 becquerels per kilogram, the lowest measurable limit. Rice farmer Takayuki Anzai, 58, smiled after his first bag passed the check. "I don't think that consumers will feel safe immediately, but we have to demonstrate scientifically proven safety and security," Anzai said.

The size of this year's rice harvest in Fukushima Prefecture is expected to total some 360,000 tons, or some 12 million bags, according to the prefectural government. Most of the checks will be finished by the end of the year.In October, the central government plans to tighten the allowable radioactive cesium level in rice to 100 becquerels per kilogram from the current 500 becquerels. The Fukushima Prefectural Government has decided to apply the new limit to all newly harvested rice in advance. Rice with radioactivity levels above the limit will be discarded.

From http://www.japantimes.co.jp/ 08/26/2012

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SOUTH KOREA: Has Highest Rate of Low-income Workers Among OECD States

South Korea was found to have the highest percentage of low-income workers among member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). According to the 2012 OECD Employment Outlook, South Korea's rate of low-wage workers stood at 25-point-nine percent as of 2010, up zero-point-two percentages from 2009. The figure placed South Korea in the top of the list for the second consecutive year in terms of having the highest percentage of such workers among OECD member states. OECD member countries' average rate of low-wage workers stood at 16-point-three percent, or nine-point-six percentage points lower than that of South Korea. South Korea appeared to have high percentage given its low minimum wage levels.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 07/26/2012

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Seoul Seeks to Expand US Visa for 'Professionals'

Korea is pushing to expand the quota of non-immigrant U.S. visas for its citizens with a "specialty occupation," a diplomatic source said Thursday. With the U.S. stuck in high jobless rates and politicians preoccupied with upcoming elections, South Korea is aiming to achieve the goal next year, added the source. "Riding on the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the Korean government will step up efforts to increase the number of H-1B visas for its citizens seeking jobs in the U.S.," the source said, requesting anonymity. Roughly 3,500 Koreans are granted the visas each year for those with professional skills such as IT, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, biotechnology, medicine and health, law, accounting, and the arts. Korean officials believe the amount falls far short of the need, with a growing number of South Koreans studying and seeking jobs here.

"Korea's goal is to have a separate yearly quota of about 15,000," the source said. If Congress accepts Seoul's push, South Korea will no longer be subject to the 85,000 annual visa limit for H-IB visas worldwide. "A problem is that Congress are focused on other issues. It appears to have no room to handle the visa issue this year," the sources said. "South Korea expects the matter to be resolved next year."

From http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/ 07/27/2012

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Gov't Vows to Widen Awareness of Multicultural Society

The government announced a set of measures on Friday to strengthen public education and understanding of a "multicultural society" and raise support for relevant programs. The number of multiethnic families in South Korea has been on the rise to reach some 250,000 households nationwide last year due largely to an increasing number of Korean men marrying foreign women and a steady influx of migrant workers settling here to take up jobs. Under the envisioned plan, the government will publish teaching guidelines for preschoolers and textbooks for primary and secondary schools that include contents on multicultural societies, and distribute them in phases starting 2013.Education sessions on multiculturalism will be held for the general public including for civil servants and employees at welfare facilities, according to the government. It also plans to publish diverse materials on the subject in multiple languages so as to improve public understanding of different cultures and histories.

Efforts to promote cultural diversity via the media will also be strengthened, which include supporting the production of media programs and strengthening monitoring of existing ones to correct discriminatory content and expressions against those from foreign countries, the government said. It also vowed to push for improving the environment of residential areas with a large foreign population to prevent people from harboring negative impressions. "South Korea is about to become a multicultural society, and those from foreign countries are getting prominent in our society and taking a bigger role. But we still bear prejudice and distorted impressions toward them," Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik said while presiding over the meeting to discuss the measures. "Efforts to improve understanding on cultural diversity and to embrace them as a true member of our society are a key task to achieve sustainable development and social integrity," Kim added.

From http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/ 08/17/2012

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Gov't to Expand Job Opportunities for Defectors, Naturalized Citizens

The government aims to expand public office employment opportunities for naturalized citizens and North Korean defectors. The government on Monday held a Cabinet meeting chaired by President Lee Myung-bak and approved a revision to the national public service law to that effect. Under the revision, the government will hire naturalized South Korean citizens and North Korean defectors through competition. The government expects the revision, if passed, will boost the pride of the naturalized citizens and the defectors as members of the South Korean society as well as help them become financially independent. The revision also stipulates that the government will confiscate early retirement benefits of public officials who are fined over three million won or sentenced to prison for bribery or embezzlement.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 08/20/2012

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MYANMAR: Exempts All Publications from Scrutiny for More Press Freedom

YANGON, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) - Myanmar government's Information Ministry Monday announced exemption of all private publications from scrutiny before publishing, a major step of its media reform to ensure more press freedom in the country. The "publish-after-check" system is to be adopted as the fifth wave of the government's press scrutiny policy change. Under the latest wave of the press policy change, 86 journals and 55 magazines on politics and religion and others such as calendar, postcard, message, song manuscripts and embassy publications have been placed under the "publish-after-check" system, meaning that all publications have been exempted from being scrutinized in advance by the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division of the ministry as in the past. The information authorities said the move is taken step by step "in conformity with transitional period before the new press media law is enacted."

To enact a new print media law, the ministry said it has submitted the print media bill to the government cabinet and then the parliament for approval, Deputy Director-General of Department of Public Relations of the Information Ministry U Tint Swe told a meeting with the press circle. He urged the media persons to strictly abide by code of ethics while enjoying freedom of expression, adding that they are also to follow the five norms - not to be biased to express from all views, to ensure freedom and accountability and freedom and rationality, to implement unity in democracy and to uphold national interest. Beginning June 2011, Myanmar had been undertaking media reform measures phase by phase, and on the road to media liberalization, the country has been cooperating with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in drafting a media law in accord with the constitutional provisions and based on international and regional norms and standards. Media role, that can guarantee press freedom, responsibility and accountability in promoting democracy, is being called for.

Meanwhile, a workshop on printing and television laws was held in March this year involving the personnel of the ministry and ICT experts from UNESCO. Jointly organized with Asian Media Information and Communication Center (AMIC) of Singapore, more workshops on media development in democratic society involving the participation of eight countries - Indonesia, host Myanmar, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the United States was also held successively. Aimed at developing the media sector and turning out qualified mediapersons of new generation, Myanmar formed the National Press Award Committee and has presented the first national press awards- 2011 to successful journalists. Launched amid Myanmar's media reform, the four awards and one special award were presented by the National Press Award Committee. The four awards are the Best News Award, Best News Feature Award, Best News Photo Award and Best News Cartoon Award, while the special award went to the Most Significant National News Photo of the Year Award.

The Best News Award, which deals with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Myanmar, was won by a group of four female journalists belonging to the Kumudra Journal, while the Best News Feature Award, which covers internal peace, was won by the 7-Day News Journal, and the special Most Significant National News Photo Award, which shows a meeting between President U Thein Sein and leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) Aung San Suu Kyi with a background portrait of Myanmar's Independence Hero General Aung San, was won by Myanmar News Agency. According to figures of the ministry, there are about 200 private-run journals and over 200 magazines being published in Myanmar periodically, while the number of private publishers now stands as nearly 7,000. Some five state newspapers - Myanma Alin, the Mirror, New Light of Myanmar, Myawaddy and Yadanapon are also being published daily.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 08/21/2012

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SINGAPORE: Stepping Up Geospatial Capacity Building

Singapore Land Authority pushed another step forward increasing the awareness and the use of geospatial technology by yesterday awarding the winners of the annual Spatial Challenge Awards 2012. The Spatial Challenge Awards have been organised annually since 2008, and are part of the SLA's initiatives to encourage the creative use of GeoSpatial Information and Technology in schools, as well as to equip young students with the relevant competencies and skills in order to build the country's geospatial capacity. "SLA and the Ministry of Education (MOE) are exploring the development of a web-based application for A-level Geography students. SLA is also formulating a Geospatial Competency Framework in consultation with academic, industry and public agency partners." said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Law Sim Ann. Supported by the Ministry of Education, the competition starts in March each year, with training sessions for both teachers and students conducted by SLA and Esri Singapore as the main sponsor.

There are 33 teams of students from 18 institutions taking part in this year's challenge and having spent six months of hard work, The winner in the Pre-University GIS Analysis category is Team Geogability from Catholic Junior College. The runners-up are Team Space Invaders from Hwa Chong Institution (College Section) and Team Nanyang Geographers from Nanyang Junior College. For Tertiary GIS Analysis category, the winner is Team GeoTrio from National Institute of Education, and the runners-up are Team 117570 from National University of Singapore and Team GTMS from National Institute of Education. The winner in the Tertiary GIS Application category is Team Edify from Nanyang Polytechnic, followed by Team Mapwork from Singapore Management University and Team Razzle Dazzle from SIM University. The Spatial Challenge competition was firstly introduced in 2008 with the aim of increasing the awareness of geospatial technology among students and encouraging the innovative use of GIT in schools. It is supported by the Ministry of Education. Each year, the competition starts in March, with training sessions for both teachers and students conducted by SLA and Esri Singapore, the main sponsor and the world's leading GIS software company.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 07/28/2012

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Singapore Is Preparing to Stay Ahead of the Technology Curve

The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) has produced a five-year roadmap flagging key technology trends in both the public and private sectors. Compiled in a 400-odd page report, the roadmap is up for public consultation till end-September this year, with the final details put online a month later. It lists nine broad areas of infocomm opportunities and challenges for stakeholders to leverage. The roadmap is also meant as a guide for organisations planning to integrate technology into operations. One such example is the Bay Hotel Singapore. The hotel allows guests to check-in with their mobile phones. IDA hopes more organisations will take the cue to use technology to improve customer experience. Social media is also highlighted as one opportunity area. The roadmap urges organisations to understand how it works, and highlights the importance of using it to extend influence. IDA's chief technology officer, Leong Mun Yuen, said: "There are a lot of technologies out there. Some of them may be relevant in the next three to five years. Some of them may only be relevant in 10 to 15 years." Mr Leong added: "So what we're trying to identify are the technologies that make sense and then work with the agencies or organisations that may want to use the technologies." International Data Corporation Insights-International's vice-president, Cort Isernhagen, said organisations must take the initiative to implement their own plans. His company provides consulting services to help firms make effective technology decisions.

Mr Isernhagen said: "Government support and government subsidies are helpful. And I think Singapore has been quite advanced and aggressive about ensuring that the local businesses have the support they need to grow and compete against the larger businesses coming in from overseas. "However, it's important to keep a fair market as well. And to let market forces decide which businesses will succeed." In the years ahead, more advanced ways of interacting with technology will come about such as emotion detection and voice biometrics. And authorities said research into such user interfaces will be worthwhile and benefit organisations and people. Cyber security is an area of concern, with digital attacks becoming more sophisticated. The roadmap says continuous innovation is needed to secure infocomm environments for individuals and organisations to work in. Using technology to save the environment is another other area of opportunity. The roadmap encourages the use of building innovations to monitor and optimise energy consumption. It also lists the widespread use of mobile technology as an area to capitalise. The roadmap said businesses can take advantage of this situation to strike more personalised relationships with customers. The last time a technology forecast was produced by authorities was in 2005. The newest roadmap came about after a year-long process of engaging researchers, organisations and educational institutes for input.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 08/17/2012

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More Jobs for People with Disabilities

SINGAPORE: About 100 jobs are expected to be created over the next five years with the launch of a new floral and hamper social enterprise. Most of the jobs are likely to go to those with mental disabilities. The enterprise is run by Bizlink Centre - which helps disabled people find employment. It has a partnership with the Institute of Mental Health, which regularly refers suitable people for the centre's other social enterprises. For this new project, Bizlink has collaborated with industry players like Katong Flower Shop to train the beneficiaries in skills like flower arrangement, and putting together hampers. Since June this year, four people have already received training. The project was launched by Minister of State in the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports Halimah Yacob. It's supported by the MCYS Comcare Enterprise Fund.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 08/23/2012

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THAILAND: Industrial Intelligence

The Office of Industrial Economics yesterday launched an Industrial Intelligence Unit to help companies keep up with the latest economic developments in preparation for the advent of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. "The IIU system will be beneficial for analysing investment as well as exports and will help predict trends of each industry. It is specifically designed to accommodate the rapidly changing economic climate of today's world," said Sophon Pholprasit, director of the OIE. "The IIU will provide nine key industrial databases: for Thailand's industrial outlook; textile and garments; iron and steel; electrical and electronics; automotive; foods; plastics; ISO [International Organisation of Standardisation]; and Asean economy. In the future, the databases will be expanded to comprehensively cover more industries."

The IIU is an information network for economic insights, industrial statistics, market conditions, investment and trade factors. It is a resource for industrial law and regulations, research and development information, articles and analysis regarding industries, and current issues. The mission is to help businesses strike deals and improve their operations to a level of competency that matches those in the AEC and the world. Ratchada Jiasakul, senior manager of Bryan Cave Thailand, said the AEC would bring about free movement of goods, services and investment as well as cooperation among member countries. Businesses need to be ready to respond to such changes, especially free trade in services and health, tourism, aviation and logistics.

The free movement of skilled labour and professionals - such as physicians, nurses, architects, accountants and geologists - would contribute to a brain drain and an increase in competition. Businesses have to familiarise themselves with the rules and regulations of other member countries, while the state should ensure that the information available for businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, is up-to-date and comprehensive. Aat Pisanwanich, dean of economics at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said Indonesia had high potential for Thai investors to set up a production base since it is the biggest economy in Asean. Myanmar is another promising country as its natural resources are still abundant. Investors should carefully study all rules and regulations. "The more you know about the country, the less likely you stand to make a deficit," he reiterated.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 07/27/2012

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Thai Offers Faster Check-in Facility

Electronic boarding pass service will increase convenience for passengers. Thai Airways International (THAI) passengers will no longer have to endure long queues at the check-in counter, thanks to the Mobile Boarding Pass service which allows customers to check in at domestic airports and also at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Chiang Mai International Airport and Phuket International Airport. THAI vice president Saroj Yuttatri said that with the new service, the firm aims to reduce the check-in-counter processes, increase passenger convenience, and also protect the environment. The passengers can avail of the new service via mobile phones or tablet browsers, mobile application, mobile game, and iPad application.

The Mobile Boarding Pass or Mobile 2D barcode Boarding Pass is an electronic boarding pass that THAI will send to passengers on their mobile device. There is also another option to speed up passenger check-in via http://m.thaiairways.com. Passengers will be able to complete their check-in by using the booking code and even change their seats. They can get Mobile Boarding Pass via Multimedia Message Service (MMS) at a service fee of Bt6 per mobile boarding pass or MMS. The new services will not only allow passengers to check-in by themselves but also allow the family or even a secretary to reserve a ticket and check-in for the passenger by revealing the passenger's mobile number to the mobile boarding pass system. The system then will send a 2D barcode boarding pass to the passenger automatically.

Passengers with baggage can go to the check-in bag drop counter at the airport to load their baggage and then go to immigration without showing their ticket. They will only have to show their mobile phone display. He said the service can be accessed by mobile phones that support multimedia messaging service based on iOS, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Mobile and Symbian platforms. In cases where there is a problem with a passenger's cellphone such as it has run out of battery, it is lost or is unable to receive the mobile boarding pass, the passenger can contact the check-in agent at the counter, present an ID card and inform about the flight, destination or booking code to be reissued their original boarding pass. In the cases of passengers who have already passed through the security check-in point, they should contact the gate agent at the boarding gate or lounge agent, then present the ID card and inform your flight, destination or booking code to the agent. The passenger's full record will then be printed and provided to the passenger instead of the original boarding pass.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 08/03/2012

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October Date Confirmed for 3G Auction

Thailand's National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has officially confirmed the schedule for holding the country's 2100MHz 3G mobile operating licence auction as 15-20 October 2012. The market's three private sector cellcos, Advanced Info Service (AIS), Digital Total Access Communication (DTAC) and True Move are expected to be the only participants, and are expected to each gain equal 2ˇÁ15MHz concessions at minimum bid prices.

From http://www.telegeography.com/ 08/23/2012

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Vietnam Automates State Agency Salary Payments

HCM CITY - The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has asked local authorities to more carefully monitor the granting of land-use certificates or "red books" for residential projects. A recent survey by the ministry showed that 81 per cent of house owners at 19 residential projects in Ha Noi and HCM City have no "red book". The Phu My Thuan Residential Project located in HCM City's Nha Be District, for example, has sold 578 flats, but none of the owners have received certificates because the investors had not been paid for use of the land. In addition, 180 flat owners at 101 Lang Ha Apartment Block in Ha Noi's Dong Da Street still have not received their land-use certificates, although they have lived there since 2007. As for the granting of land-use certificates for housing development projects, Tran Hung Phi, head of the Registration and Statistics Department under the General Department of Land Administration, admitted that the procedure had been generally slow because of investors' violations, including breaking regulations in the housing and building code. These have gone unenforced due in part to State agencies' careless supervision and management of investment projects. In addition, house buyers have been reluctant to go through the necessary procedures because of their concerns about fees and taxes. The ministry last year in August drew up detailed solutions to speed up the granting of land-use certificates. They include frequent supervision of projects that have had slow progress, punishment of investors who violate laws and regulations, and timely granting of certificates for house buyers. Phi promised that under the ministry's new guidelines, the certificates would be approved if investors completed the procedures and obeyed the laws on housing and building.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 07/30/3012

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Myanmar FM Stresses Enhancement of Networking of ASEAN, Plus Three Countries

YANGON, Aug. 17 (Xinhua) - Myanmar Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin has stressed the need for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and plus three countries (China, Japan and South Korea) to enhance networking between government authorities and agricultural and food-related research institutions to promote cooperation in rural financial institutions and agricultural and micro-financing arrangements, official media reported Friday. Speaking at the 10th East Asia Forum (EAF) hosted by Myanmar in Nay Pyi Taw Thursday, U Wunna Maung Lwin noted that the East Asia Forum has contributed to strengthening the East Asia cooperation and moving forward the East Asia Community Building in the long term. He added that the forum enhances investment in the development of rural and urban communities across the region. Appraising the forum about the national development strategy on rural development and poverty eradication, he urged the participants to find new practical ways and ideas for narrowing the development gap in rural and urban communities. The EAF was attended by representatives from ASEAN member countries, dialogue partners of China, Japan and South Korea, the Deputy Secretary General of ASEAN Political and Security Community and ASEAN Secretariat as well as business and academic circles. The year 2012 marks the 15th anniversary of the ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation and 10th anniversary of the East Asia Forum.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 08/17/2012

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BANGLADESH: Govt Committed to Preserve Country's Heritage: Azad

Information and Cultural Affairs Minister Abul Kalam Azad said the government is committed to preserve the country's heritage, its proper flourishing and development. The affirmation came during his meeting with visiting Deputy Director General of Unesco Getachew Engida who called on the information minister at his office on Monday. During the meeting Azad said Bangladesh will be known anew to the people of the world if its thousand years old culture and heritage are properly portrayed before them. Bangladesh will formally submit an application to the Unesco for granting as 'World Heritage Site its parliament building, an architecture drawn by Louis I Kahn,', the minister said. Officials of the cultural ministry and Unesco were present in the meeting.

From http://www.unbconnect.com/ 08/06/2012

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INDIA: Govt. Should Use Available Technology to Prevent Blackouts, Opines Nasscom

India witnessed the world's largest blackout on Tuesday and the $100 billion Indian IT-BPO sector managed to keep the lights on, drawing power from diesel gensets and keeping the links on with clients in Europe and US. Image of India as the new destination for foreign investment got dented, as jittery clients starting calling IT providers back home, if they would be able to provide uninterrupted services. India runs IT operations for airlines, banks and rail services across world. A large amount of back office of City of London is outsourced to back offices in Gurgaon, Noida and Delhi. Indian companies also handle back offices for Eurostar, the official partner for rail for Olympics. "The blackout has impacted the perception of India at a country level. India's image has taken a beating," said Som Mittal, President for Nasscom, India's IT association. As images of traffic jams and shutdowns of railway services were splashed across news websites and TV channels, powergrid failure, started trending on Twitter as one of the world's most tweeted topics. "Earlier power cuts and load shedding a a major problem were less known to clients. But with a massive blackout at a country level, India's power issues are now known to everyone. It can impact business perception," Mittal adds. Nasscom also said that India should use predictive technologies used in power grids to prevent such blackouts. "There are technologies available today and we hope government would start using them to prevent such incidents in future," said Mittal.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 08/03/2012

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Workshop on 'e-Governance & Electronic Service Delivery' Conducted at Chandigarh

The Governance Reforms Department conducted a Workshop on 'E-Governance & Electronic Service Delivery' with an aim to create better coordination amongst all departments of Punjab Government. B. Purushartha, Special Secretary cum Director, Governance Reforms said that the workshop was organized subsequent to the meeting of Deputy Chief Minister, Minister-In-Charge of Governance Reforms, held on 30-May-2011 wherein it was decided that all Citizen services should be delivered in an integrated manner through Single Window Centers and every Department needs to be sensitized to lay focus on implementation of ongoing e-Governance initiatives in Punjab including mission mode projects under National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) of Government of India for efficient delivery of citizen services. He futher said that workshop was also aimed at addressing the challenges being faced by departments in providing time-bound citizen services keeping in view the recent implementation of Punjab Right To Service Act 2011. Purushartha emphasized regarding need to form Project e-Governance Mission Team (PeMT) for every Department for undertaking various e-Governance initiatives. He further said that Departments must focus on backend automation of Government processes by transforming workflows so that services can be delivered to Citizens in a hassle free, transparent and time-bound manner. State e-Governance Mission Team (SeMT) shared informative presentations followed by interactive sessions on Integrated Delivery Framework of Services, Formation of PeMTs, National e-Governance Plan, Transformation of Government Process Workflows and Impact Assessments of various eGovernance initiatives.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 08/10/2012

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SEBI Board May Approve e-IPO, Safety Net Mechanism This Week

The Securities and Exchange Board of India will consider this week wide-ranging reforms in its regulations for mutual funds and initial public offers (IPOs), including a 'safety net' guarantee and tax incentives for new investors. Various proposals expected to be discussed and approved at SEBI's upcoming board meeting on August 16 also include introduction of e-IPO, which would allow investors to bid for IPO shares electronically and without any physical paperwork. According to a senior official, the key proposals for reforms in primary market include introduction of a 'safety net' guarantee for investors buying shares through IPOs. As per the proposed mechanism, a certain portion of the investment made by retail shareholders in the IPOs could be guaranteed for a fixed period, which could be for six months, even if the shares' value plunges below the IPO allotment price during this time. This 'safety net' mechanism is being considered only for the small retail investors, who would be compensated by the promoters and other entities selling shares through IPOs in the event of the company's shares plunging below a certain threshold limit within six months of listing or the time-frame set by SEBI. As per the current regulations, the companies are allowed to provide such 'safety nets' during their IPOs, but it is not mandatory for them to make such provisions and only a few companies have provided such facility for investors in the past. SEBI is of the opinion that a mandatory 'safety net' provision would also help in fair pricing of IPOs, besides providing investors some sort of capital protection guarantee. Many companies and investment bankers have come under the criticism of over-pricing of IPOs after their shares fell below the public offer price levels in several cases. It has been known that companies could be allowed to pass on the costs of 'safety net' provision to the investment bankers, who are primarily responsible for fixing the price of shares to be sold through IPOs.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 08/13/2012

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"Govt. Is Working with Social Media to Prevent Misuse of Technology", Says Sibal

Admitting to difficulties in identifying people using Web sites to spread communal hatred, the Government said it was working with social networking sites to create an institutional mechanism to prevent misuse of technology. Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said some social networking Web sites have agreed to share user information with the Government but there were some procedural issues involved. The minister said that the government has to make efforts in consultation with the Web sites and impress upon them to create an institutional mechanism to prevent misuse of technology. If there was misuse of technology there should be provision for punishment, Sibal said, adding no such provisions were available at present. Sibal said some Web sites have refused to share user information contending that they were beyond the jurisdiction of India as their web servers were located in other countries.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 08/23/2012

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AZERBAIJAN: Signing Agreement on Insurance of First Telecommunications Satellite

JSC Azerkosmos signed an agreement with the British insurance broker Marsh on insurance of Azerbaijan's first telecommunication satellite Azerspace-1, JSC Azerkosmos told Trend on Thursday. The contract was signed for a year and envisages defrayal of all costs in case of any accidents that will allow JSC Azerkosmos to continue work within satellite program Azerspace-1 at the expense of insurance indemnities. Azerbaijan's first telecommunication satellite (Azerspace-1) will be delivered to the Kourou spaceport in late 2012, and its launch is scheduled for early 2013. The French Arianspace will send the satellite into orbit. Azerspace's manufacturer is Orbital Sciences Corporation. An orbital position of 46 degrees east longitude has been leased from Malaysian satellite operator MEASAT.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/09/2012

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Azerbaijan Strengthens State Control in Combating Informal Employment

Azerbaijan has strengthened state control over the signing of labour contracts, the Azerbaijani Labor and Social Protection Ministry said on Friday. On Friday, the state labor inspectorate service of the Ministry held a meeting to discuss the work on elimination of informal employment in the country. The meeting was chaired by Minister Fuzuli Alekperov. According to the minister, who spoke at the meeting, in the last eight years the country has created more than one million jobs, the unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent, the poverty rate - to 7.6 per cent. It was noted that though the expansion of the private sector had the impact on employment growth, a significant increase in the number of employees (workers on the basis of an employment contract) is not observed, which indicates the presence of cases of informal employment. "As directed by the President, to address the facts of illegal employment state control over labor agreements was significantly strengthened, in this area application of specific measures with relevant organizations began," the statement. Thus, in the first half the signing of labor contracts with 960 persons was ensured, only in August the number was 1009, in the first ten days of August - 741. During the meeting, minister Alekperov gave strict instructions to employees of the State Service for the adoption of effective measures to address the informal employment in the labor market.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/17/2012

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TURKMENISTAN: Developing Entrepreneurship in Agro-Industrial Complex

Speaking about the importance of developing and promoting small and medium business in various sectors of national economy, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov focused on the entrepreneurship development in the agro-industrial complex, local media reported today. "Let people build small enterprises for processing products and dairy farms," the Turkmen president was quoted by Turkmen Dovlet Khabarlary state news service as saying. "Let them effectively develop cattle breeding. It is necessary to attract entrepreneurs, representatives from the private sector to conduct reforms in agriculture, to introduce new forms of work in rural areas, to give land to tenants for rent for a long-term period, to create all conditions for them to cultivate big harvest. According to the information, opening the private poultry enterprise "Gush Toplumy" in Baharly region, Akhal area and the sausage making workshop in the private enterprise "Bereketli" in the city of Abadan stipulated the effectiveness of the measures taken to create an abundance of foodstuffs. Legal, economic, financial and social conditions in the form of improving the tax system, simplifying registration and issuing permits for individual activity, providing concessional loans are being created in Turkmenistan to support small and medium enterprises, Turkmen Dovlet Khabarlary state news service said. According to a decree signed by Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, loans will be given at five per cent per annum for up to ten years for investment projects associated with producing the goods, rendering services, as well as up to one year for getting floating assets. President Berdimuhamedov previously allowed the Central Bank to allocate $ 30 million to the Turkmen Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs at the expense of public resources to enhance the domestic business. According to the long-term socio-economic development program till 2020, the share of private sector in the country's GDP must reach 70 percent.

From http://en.trend.az/ 07/29/2012

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TURKMENISTAN: Acceding to UN Convention on Use of Transboundary Watercourses

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) welcomed a decision of the Turkmen Parliament to join the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, UN News Centre said in its press release. The document was adopted by the Majlis (Parliament) of Turkmenistan. The Convention was adopted on March 17, 1992 in Helsinki (Finland) and entered into force on Oct.6, 1996. According to the UN press release, Turkmenistan has become the thirty-ninth Party to the UNECE Water Convention 90 days after depositing its instrument of accession with the United Nations Secretary-General. The decision by the Turkmen Parliament represents a major step towards strengthening transboundary water cooperation and integrated water resources management (IWRM). Transboundary cooperation on water is very relevant for Turkmenistan, which is 80 to 90 per cent desert. Bordered by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Afghanistan, water resources in Turkmenistan mainly come from the agreed water shares of four transboundary rivers: the Amu Darya, Murgab, Tedjen and Atrek, with the Amu Darya supplying almost 90 per cent of the total supply. Accession to the UNECE Water Convention by Turkmenistan is also highly important for political, economic and environmental cooperation in Central Asia, the press release says.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/09/2012

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TURKMENISTAN: Hosting International Telecoms & IT Conference

The 6th Turkmenistan International Telecommunications & IT Conference 2012 will be held in Ashgabat on Sept.17-18. The organisers of the event are the Communication Ministry of Turkmenistan, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Turkmenistan and Summit Trade Events Ltd. Trend Agency is a media partner of the event. According to the conferecne's official website, the event will highlight the investment opportunities in the development of Turkmenistan's telecommunication, broadcasting and and IT sectors. According to Communication Minister of Turkmenistan Bairamgeldi Ovezov, TurkmenTEL 2012 will provide a platform for strengthening regional and global cooperation in the ICT sector and provide telecomminication community the opportunity to meet and discuss issues key to the successful development of communication and information technologies, to exchange know-how, to determinbe cooperation and investment opportunities. Among the speakesr at the conference are the representatives of such companies, as Siemens Enterprise, Cisco Systems, Eastwind, MTS MITAS Telecom Systems.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/17/2012

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UZBEKISTAN: Advanced Technology Needed

For Uzbekistan, the primary task today is to attract the best technologies in the economy, First Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov said on Friday at the Uzbek-US business forum. He said issues of the financing of investment projects to date are not paramount. "We used to say, give the technology and money. Currently opportunities in Uzbekistan allow to solve the issues of financial security at our own expense," Azimov said. He said such a significant financial sustainability of the country is ensured by policy of its leadership aimed at large-scale diversification of the economy, including the upgrading and modernization of the industry, providing for implementation by 2016 of 500 investment projects worth about $ 50 billion, creating new export oriented productions for modern consumer products. As a result of the measures, the share of industry in GDP increased from 17 percent in 2000 to 24 percent now, the average annual growth of the industry in five years was 13 percent, including in engineering - 19 percent, food and light industry - 12 percent. "In the structure of GDP share of the fuel and energy complex is gradually declining, currently amounting to 6.1 per cent," the deputy prime minister said.

Uzbekistan's economy over the past five years has been growing at an annual average of 8.7 percent, exports grow annually by an average of 18-20 per cent. The share of cotton, previously the main export product of Uzbekistan, declined in the exports structure from 60 to 10 percent, with a five-fold increase in exports over the past few years. He reported that the foreign exchange reserves of the Republic are equal to 20 months of imports volume Uzbek banks, whose capital adequacy is three times as much as the requirements of the Basel Committee, finance up to 85 percent of the funds needed for investment projects. In addition the Fund for Reconstruction and Development, whose main task is to co-finance priority projects in key sectors of the economy, has to date funds exceeding $ 11 billion. Public external debt of the country is seven per cent of GDP, the total external debt - 16 percent of GDP. "There is no outstanding dept on any foreign loan since independence," Azimov said. Deputy Prime Minister appreciated the cooperation with U.S. companies, including General Motors, General Electric, Case New Holland, Boeing, and others. Azimov drew attention to the fact that the establishment of production facilities in Uzbekistan not only provides access to the market of Central Asia, but also the CIS countries with a combined population of 300 million people, with which Uzbekistan has bilateral agreements on free trade. "We are ready to provide the necessary guarantees for foreign investors who are ready to work in Uzbekistan," the deputy prime minister said.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/17/2012

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Security Measures Strengthened in Uzbekistan

Uzbek law enforcement bodies strengthen security measures on the eve of Independence Day, celebrated on September 1, acting deputy head of the Tashkent Main Internal Department, lieutenant colonel Bakhtiar Egamberdiev told media today. "The measures are directed to ensure peace and stability during the holidays and are being carried out according to the approved plan," he added. "Provincial bodies and relevant organisations pay special attention to the protection of public order, traffic and fire safety, prevention of emergency situations." He added that a large scale raid 'Cleaning - Anti-terror' project is being carried out. About 16 facts connected with drug trafficking were also being determined. Egamberdiev said that vehicles are being checked to prevent smuggling of firearms, explosives and drugs.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/23/2012

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AUSTRALIA: Health Mapping Study to Improve Cardiac Care Access

A team of researchers and some of Australia's leading cardiologists have leveraged today's cutting edge mapping technology to help combat the leading cause of death in the country - cardiovascular disease. According to Australia's Department of Health and Ageing, in 2010 heart disease caused about 32 per cent of all deaths nationally, with coronary heart disease and stroke alone causing almost 33,000 deaths, and more than 6,700 additional deaths being caused by heart failure, hypertensive disease and cardiac arrhythmias. Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Associate Professor Robyn Clark, led the research team towards completing a comprehensive seven-year study that aims to measure current access to cardiac care from a geographic perspective. The research team looked at the distance to cardiac treatment centre locations in Australia's 20,000 population centres which enabled them to identify significant gaps between regional and metropolitan access to cardiac care.

"By mapping the huge amounts of statistical data we collected with GIS technology, we were able to identify critical patterns and relationships that would not have been so apparent in tabular form. More specifically, we were able to identify locations and groups of people with limited access to cardiac services." Clark said. "For example, we found that only 40 per cent of indigenous people reside within an hour of appropriate cardiac medical facilities and cardiac rehabilitation services, while 12 per cent of indigenous Australians live three or more hours from any kind of hospital." The results were also used to create a cardiac health index, which ranks geographic areas according to fatal heart attack risk which would significantly help governments and local communities prioritise locations in terms of risk. Clark explained that because the index is backed by reputable research, community members and medical organisations will have greater leverage to lobby governments for improved cardiac care where it is needed most. In addition, it is also a valuable tool for governments to determine how to distribute health care infrastructure in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Meanwhile, David Purkiss GIS in Health specialist from Esri Australia said the study had important implications for the use of GIS technology across all areas of healthcare. Beyond cardiac research, Purkiss said the approach can be applied to a whole range of other acute and chronic conditions in areas such as mental health, midwifery, cancer treatment, and burns services. "Medical information has limited use unless it is combined with knowledge of the environmental factors associated with patients' locations and conditions. A health system underpinned with GIS technology will ultimately see us all benefit from a more precise understanding of the links between our health and where we reside, work and play," he said.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 08/02/2012

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Aus Hospital Fast-Tracks Support for BYOD

In a first for an Australian hospital, the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital is fast-tracking support for bring-your-own-devices being used by visiting medical officers (VMOs) and staff on the move. This support, first launched in June 2012, is now available to all hospital staff that are using tablets, smart phones and laptops with built-in wireless data viewing capabilities. "To my knowledge, this is one of the first such projects to be rolled out at a government-funded public hospital," says Nuno Goncalves, chief information officer, Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. "BYOD support is now available to all staff that wish to take up this option, Goncalves says. "At present, between 40 to 45 per cent of staff have registered for BYOD support in some form. We expect this demand to grow substantially." The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital handles more than 180,000 outpatient cases annually. As Australia's leading provider of eye, ear, nose and throat care services, it maintains an international reputation as a specialist clinical care, research and training hospital, spanning more than a century.

Support for mobile devices helps modernise the hospital's outpatient service delivery programme - while enabling VMOs and other staff to more readily access patient data and supporting information. "By allowing clinicians to bring in their own devices, the hospital can manage the cost of running on-site personal computers or laptops," says Goncalves. The hospital is recording a drop in the cost of running on-site computer systems, since launching this BYOD support. Integration is being provided between mobile devices and back-office medical information. This integration will enable staff to more readily view patient data that resides in back-office systems. Hospital services available within BYOD are the same as those previously offered for remote access. These services are being provisioned wirelessly, with built-in security and authentication features. "No medical data is actually stored on a mobile device," notes Goncalves. "We are mindful about the security and privacy aspects. Devices accessing the hospital's information systems have to be certified before-hand by the hospital's ICT department."

The 20-30 age demographics is much more open to mobile devices and applications. "It's a matter of time before we see more wide-spread use of BYOD in healthcare." Demand for BYOD is growing at Australian hospitals, says a new study by Deloitte Australia. This study, Debunking Myths Surrounding the Technology Journey for Digital Hospitals, notes that in a mobile environment, clinicians expect information-access when and where they need it, and in a way that is easy to access and view. Among the trends, clinicians working across multiple healthcare facilities, often in time-critical health care environments, are more receptive to BYOD apps. "Many clinical staff, particularly private providers working in public and private hospitals want to be able to incorporate information from the hospital into their own clinical information systems." Hospitals must build mobile device support into an overall healthcare information system. "This integration has to be from the ground up, rather than adding this support as an after-thought."

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 08/08/2012

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Resilient to Global Instability

AUSTRALIA'S economy is in a strong position to weather uncertain conditions offshore, Reserve Bank of Australia governor Glenn Stevens has said. Speaking to a House of Representatives Economic committee yesterday, Mr Stevens said changes to Australian banks following the global financial crisis had made Australia more resilient to recent global instability. "Our reliance on foreign funding for banks is lower than four years ago because of how banks have changed their funding structure," he said. "We're well equipped to handle things that could go wrong. Bad things can happen, but we should have quiet confidence that we should manage." Mr Stevens said although house prices remained high in Australia, household debt was being managed well.

From http://www.fijitimes.com/ 08/25/2012

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NEW ZEALAND: Govt Rethink on Subsidised Housing

There will be a review on the accommodation supplement for state rentals to stop people being able to live in subsidised housing for free, the Government reveals. Housing Minister Phil Heatley told TV3's The Nation that the Government was seriously concerned with the $1.2 billion spent on housing supplements, as well as the $600 million that went on state house rental subsidies. "We are reviewing it because we think it probably can be targeted better. For example you know when you've got someone in a state house getting a really cheap rent, you know 80 bucks a week, and then they have boarders who get the accommodation supplement, you know that household could be getting that state house almost for free," he said. He hoped that the Government would have a direction for the plan by the end of the year. The Government did not have any intention of returning to market-related rents which the previous National government introduced in 1991, Mr Heatley said.

The Government also wanted changes in planning regulations so more land could be opened up for building, improving the affordability of new housing in cities such as Auckland. "Essentially we need more supplies so we need more houses and we need more sections," he said. "Extending city limits to provide for more sections should be done in combination with subdividing large properties within existing city limits." Consent costs for subdividing existing land were too high, he said.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 07/29/2012

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Information-Sharing to Protect Children Has Popular Support

People have given the Government a mandate to share information about vulnerable children more widely but opinion is split down the middle on whether doctors and teachers should be legally required to report suspected abuse. A summary of almost 10,000 submissions on the Government's "green paper" on vulnerable children, released yesterday, says most submitters support sharing more information to keep children safe. Health services, in particular, expressed frustration with privacy laws that prevent agencies such as Child, Youth and Family sharing information about children with their doctors, teachers and other professionals. "We are typically so obsessed with privacy that we cannot make common-sense decisions for the safety of children," said Patrick Kelly of Starship hospital's child protection team. The Paediatric Society called for sharing information "freely between health/education/welfare". "This should be universal, but parents could opt out; this should be flagged as an indicator of vulnerability," it said.

The society proposed giving people a common identity number across the three sectors to facilitate information sharing. But the summary said views were much more divided over whether doctors, teachers and other professionals should be required by law to report suspected abuse - a system called "mandatory reporting" which Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has previously expressed sympathy for. "Submissions on mandatory reporting were most likely to support the idea, however the weighting between support and opposition to mandatory reporting was very close," the summary said. A submission by the police said there was already a high rate of voluntary reporting of child maltreatment and the main problem was inadequate resources to respond to reports. "The issue may not be so much an under-reporting of incidents but the response to those incidents and the resourcing required in regards to response," it said. "A current issue is the ability to assess risk in low-level incidents and provide an appropriate response."

However, Hamilton-based Child Matters, which trains professionals in how to recognise abuse, strongly advocated mandatory reporting - not by law but "through a regulatory process whereby reporting is part of a planned intervention undertaken by trained people who are supported by their organisation's child protection policy". "Through this process the advantages of mandatory reporting remain, while any disadvantages are overcome," it said. "Well trained and supported workers do not over-report, do continue to take personal responsibility for reporting, do not pass the buck, and are more liable to identify those difficult-to-recognise situations that get overlooked even with mandatory reporting." Australian associate law professor Ben Matthews, an expert on mandatory reporting laws, also argued that fears of over-reporting were not backed up by international evidence. He said many reports of possible abuse that turned out to be unfounded actually came from the general public, while 70 per cent of all substantiated reports in the US came from doctors and other professionals who were required to report concerns. A "white paper" outlining the Government's preferred direction is due on October 12.

GREEN PAPER
* Suggests changing spending priorities to help the youngest and neediest children.
* Proposes sharing information about suspected child abuse more widely.
* Seeks feedback on whether professionals should be required by law to report suspected abuse.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 08/15/2012

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Govt Wants Business to Double R&D Spend

The Government wants businesses to double their spending on research and development as part of its plan to grow the economy but even reaching that target would leave New Zealand languishing below the average for developed countries. Prime Minister John Key and Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce this morning presented the second of the six government progress reports on its Business Growth Agenda. Following on from the ambitious target set in last week's first report to lift exports, this morning's document outlines a plan to "encourage the business sector to double their expenditure on research and development (R&D) to more than one per cent of GDP". Business currently spends the equivalent of 0.54 per cent of GDP on R&D and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development' (OECD) average is 1.62 per cent. Mr Joyce also said the Government intended lifting its own spending on R&D from 0.6 per cent to 0.8 per cent.

Across the private and public sectors New Zealand currently spends about 1.3 per cent of GDP on R&D compared to the OECD average of 2.4 per cent. Achieving the Government's targets would lift New Zealand's spend to about 2 per cent. Mr Joyce said the Government would lift private sector R&D investment through new co-funding tools. "We are investing $115 million a year in TechNZ co-funding programmes with companies and so far nearly $300 million alongside business in the Primary Growth Partnership." Mr Joyce said the benefit of those programmes was they resulted in new R&D expenditure rather than encouraging businesses to reclassify existing spending as new money. That is the charge the National Government levels at Labour's R&D tax credit scheme which it canned after winning the 2008 election. Mr Joyce said the Government's new Advanced Technology Institute, which is to be named after the late scientists Sir Paul Callaghan, would also help lift private sector R&D spending by "improving the New Zealand business incubator model, and encouraging multi-national firms to invest in doing R&D in New Zealand".

BusinessNZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly said there was strong support in the business community for the Government's "systematic approach to building innovation" and the Advanced Technology Institute "will be a connector between business, science and research here and overseas, and is a centrepiece of the innovation policy". Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said this morning's report had "yet again ignored the critical role green innovation will play in transforming our economy onto a more sustainable footing". While the report identified key problems in our innovation economy it "simply repackages old ideas that have left New Zealand investing less than half the OECD average on R&D" said Dr Norman. "Four years in government and National is failing to lead the innovation step change the New Zealand economy needs."

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 08/21/2012

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Pacific Investment Opportunities Promoted to the World

The Pacific continues to provide an ocean of opportunities for international investors. Launching the 2012 edition of "Investment Opportunities in the Pacific Islands" this week, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, remarked that investment opportunities found in the Pacific remain as diverse as the region itself. "Spread across 14 island countries, six time zones and three sub-regions, investors are spoilt for choice," said Mr Slade. The publication is the second edition of its kind developed by Pacific Islands Trade & Invest (PT&I), an arm of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat with presence in Auckland, Beijing, Geneva, Sydney and Tokyo. The PT&I network has the specific objective of promoting Pacific island businesses for increased export and inflow of investments.

"I would like to congratulate the Trade Commissioners of our international trade and investment offices for their continued hard work and initiative to create greater international opportunities for our region's businesses," said Mr Slade. "Our Leaders have recognised the important role of the private sector in the region, and we must continue to support private sector development in the Pacific in pursuit of sustainable economies and communities, and to improve lives of Pacific peoples," Mr Slade added. "Investment Opportunities in the Pacific Islands" features 60 investment-ready opportunities in 14 Forum Island Countries (FICs) across various sectors. FICs include the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Online database
Complementary to the publication, PT&I is developing an online database of investment opportunities across the 14 FICs which will be regularly updated. "When completed, it will be the only database of its kind in the Pacific islands region," said Mr Slade. "We see this as an excellent way of attracting investor interest in the region and demonstrating that the Pacific is open for business." The online database will allow Pacific businesses looking for joint venture partners, equity participation or a buyer to use the database to promote investment in their business free-of-charge.

Thriving tourism platform
Trade Commissioners Mr Adam Dennis (Auckland), Mr Sam Savou (Beijing), Mr Caleb Jarvis (Sydney) Mr Kanichiro Sohma (Tokyo) and Trade Promotions Adviser Ms Robyn Ekstrom (Geneva) continue to promote the Pacific's natural comparative advantage in the tourism sector and ancillary investments. "The region's natural beauty and effortless hospitality truly provides the scope for future growth," said the Trade Commissioners in the publication's welcome message. "One need only imagine the region to conjure up images of thriving traditional cultures, clear lagoons, white sandy beaches, pristine coral reefs, dense tropical jungles and year-round warm weather. Indeed, tourism is one of the key economic sectors with which the Pacific islands have a comparative advantage, allowing some of them to compete on an international stage. The thriving tourism sector provides numerous other investment opportunities in the transport, hotel, food supply chain, specialty restaurants, and other such activities that support tourism sector development in the Pacific," Secretary General Slade added.

Abundant natural resources
Commissioners further highlighted that the Pacific was awash with natural resources. "Potential investors to the region have the opportunity to capitalise on the growing global demand for high quality organic and fair trade products. The Pacific's burgeoning organic sector offers excellent prospects for growers and exporters, especially in premium products like tropical fruits and vegetables, cacao, coffee, pepper, vanilla and virgin coconut oil."

Linking Asia-Pacific
Despite the Pacific's geographic isolation from the traditional European and North American markets, Commissioners say that there are nonetheless numerous success stories, and that the future of global economic growth will emanate largely from Asia. "The proximity to Asia does provide real prospects and opportunities for growth in trade between Asia and the Pacific, despite the relatively small size of Pacific island economies."

Strengthened ICT
Commissioners added that technology is also playing a part in addressing the geographical isolation of the region. "Beyond simple personal communication, mobile telephony in the Pacific has grown to be an invaluable business tool for banking, checking commodity prices, currency transfers and online marketing." Internet connectivity in the Pacific islands is also improving according to the Trade Commissioners. We invite investors to explore the region and discover firsthand its untapped, raw potential and many distinct advantages in the Pacific ocean of opportunities," Mr Slade said.

From http://www.forumsec.org/ 08/09/2012

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The Pacific Trade and Development Nexus

Pacific ACP Trade Ministers gather in Nuku'alofa, Tonga, over the next two days to discuss a range of regional trade related issues. Their deliberations will form the basis for onward advice to Pacific ACP Leaders at their annual meeting in the Cook Islands later this month. "Let us not forget the very reason why we seek increased trade in our countries - it is because of the trade and development nexus," said the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, at the opening of the meeting. Trade assists in the development of our economies and in so doing, contributes to the reduction of poverty. Given the small size of many of our economies, we need to continuously seek markets within and beyond the region to increase trade." Two main trade arrangements, the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) and the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union will be a core part of Ministers' discussions.

PICTA Protocol
"I am very pleased to report that a milestone has been achieved," said Secretary General Slade, announcing that the negotiations of the PICTA trade in services arrangement had concluded. "Ministers will be requested to initial the PICTA Protocol for trade in services and recommend that Forum Island Country Leaders sign the Protocol at their upcoming meeting in Rarotonga. This arrangement is a crucial step in strengthening our regional economy with trade in services playing an increasingly significant role in each of our economies. As we deepen integration among the Pacific economies, we must take advantage of other opportunities available to us."

EPA
Pacific ACP Countries launched the EPA negotiations with the EU in 2004. "We did so with high expectations that the EPA would be an instrument for development and as such, this development dimension would be reflected in all areas of the negotiations," said Mr Slade. "We believe that the EPA must take into account the specific, special economic, social, environmental and structural constraints of the Pacific ACP States, as well as their capacity to adapt their economies to increased trade with the European Union. We have strived to negotiate an EPA that is economically meaningful, politically sustainable and socially acceptable." Mr Slade added that the fisheries chapter is a key component of the EPA negotiations which Ministers need to consider, with the aim of ensuring that we secure global sourcing rules of origin for fresh, chilled and frozen fish. In the decade since the EU and the five ACP regions launched their negotiations, the only region that has concluded negotiations on a comprehensive EPA is the Caribbean. The African and Pacific regions are still negotiating a comprehensive EPA with the European Union.

"The Pacific ACP region, assisted by the Forum Secretariat, has undertaken a significant amount of work to progress the EPA negotiations," said Secretary General Slade, adding that a large amount of financial resources and time have been spent in an endeavour to prepare for and conclude the negotiations. Mr Slade welcomed progress made by countries in finalising their draft market access offers. Two additional countries - Solomon Islands and the Republic of Marshall Islands - have indicated that they are ready to submit their offers to the EC. This will bring the total to 12 Pacific ACP States that have submitted their offers to the EU. "This is a significant undertaking and is of strategic importance in progressing the negotiations," he said. "The next negotiating session with the EU, planned for October, will be THE critical negotiating session that will determine whether the region will be able to conclude the negotiations this year, or even in the near future," added Mr Slade. "We must therefore, as PACP Leaders have directed, remain committed to negotiate the comprehensive EPA as a single region. We must also impress on Europe the importance of refocusing the EPA negotiations on the development dimension taking into account the special circumstances of the Pacific ACP Countries."

Ministers will also consider the way forward for the Pacific Aid for Trade Strategy and the Pacific Trade and Development Facility. The Pacific ACP Ministers Meeting is being held at the Fa'onelua Convention Centre in Nuku'alofa from 16th-17th August.

From http://www.forumsec.org/ 08/17/2012

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World Bank Group Announces New Focus on Using ICT for Greater Development Impact

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2012 - The World Bank Group today released its ambitious new Information and Communication Technology (ICT) strategy aimed at helping developing countries use ICT to transform delivery of basic services, drive innovations and productivity gains, and improve competitiveness. The strategy reflects rapid changes in the ICT sector over the last decade, including a dramatic increase in use of mobile phones and the Internet, plunging prices of computing and mobile internet devices, and the increasing prevalence of social media. "Information and communication technologies can help reduce poverty, boost economic growth, and improve accountability and governance," said World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte. "The World Bank Group's new strategy will help our client countries take advantage of the opportunities that ICT offers across all sectors of the economy, drawing on our unique expertise in public-private partnerships in the ICT sector." The new strategy for 2012-2015 builds on the Bank Group's experience working with client countries on ICT sector reforms, infrastructure development, and electronic government: Over the 2000s, Bank support for ICT sector reforms helped attract an estimated $30 billion in private investment for mobile network infrastructure in the least developed countries. The IFC's $2.3 billion in telecommunications infrastructure investments and MIGA's $550 million in political risk guarantees also supported private investment in mobile service providers in difficult and high-risk environments.

Bank Group support for ICT applications has grown rapidly over the last decade, and over 70 percent of the 1,700 projects in the Bank's active portfolio now have ICT components. Since 2007, the Bank Group has intensified its support for public-private partnerships for broadband and high-speed Internet, helping bring down retail prices and increasing the take-up of services, in some instances by a factor of 10. "The Strategy recognizes the vital role of the private sector in improving access to information infrastructure and services in developing countries," said Rashad-Rudolf Kaldany, IFC Vice President for Global Industries. "IFC works with the private sector as an advisor, financier, and standard setter, to help unlock the potential of ICT for development." Stakeholders from 17 low- and middle-income countries and 4 OECD countries provided inputs for the new strategy, which emphasizes the transformative potential of ICT - in areas such as accountability, energy, and health - while maintaining a steady focus on ICT-enabled innovation and ICT infrastructure. Bank Group support will be directed to three priority areas: Transformation: Making development more open and accountable, and improving service delivery - for instance, by facilitating citizen feedback to governments and service providers.

Connectivity: Scaling up affordable access to broadband - including for women, disabled citizens, disadvantaged communities, and people living in remote and rural areas. Innovation: Developing competitive IT-based service industries and fostering ICT innovation across the economy - with a focus on job creation, especially for women and youth. The World Bank, IFC, and MIGA will work together to assist countries in unlocking the opportunities offered by ICT. For instance, the World Bank will provide support for appropriate policy, legal, and regulatory frameworks, as well as catalytic investment in ICT backbone infrastructure; IFC will provide financing and advisory services to mobile operators; and MIGA will provide guarantees to support the roll-out of telecommunications networks and services. "MIGA has contributed to the rapid growth of access to ICT services in emerging countries by mitigating the political risk of investments. Under the new WBG strategy, MIGA will make available its insurance capacity to further accelerate ICT investments in higher-risk countries, notably fragile and post conflict countries, where ICT will be key to growth, job creation, sharing of knowledge, and governance," said Michel Wormser, MIGA's Vice President and COO. The ICT strategy will adopt a new approach to implementation, including country diagnostics to help prioritize Bank Group interventions at the country level and leverage more partnerships with external sources of expertise. A results-based framework will be used to track progress.

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 07/25/2012

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Global Online Ad Market Grows 12.1 % in Q1: Report

The global market for Internet advertisements jumped 12.1 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, growing faster than traditional advertising channels, a report showed Thursday. The increase surpassed a 3.1 percent growth in the overall global advertising market as well as single-digit growth in other advertising channels such as TV, newspaper and radio, according to the quarterly report by the Nielsen Company. Spending on radio advertisements jumped 7.9 percent, while those on outdoor ads and film ads rose 6.4 and 4.1 percent each, it said. Dollars spent on ads in newspapers and on TV gained 3.1 and 2.8 percent, while those in magazines slumped 1.4 percent. TV ads were the market's cash cow, accounting for 61.9 percent of all advertisements, while Internet advertisements claimed 2.6 percent of the market. The report, meanwhile, showed that Internet ad growth in emerging markets eclipsed that in advanced economies. Spending on Internet ads surged 31.8 percent in South America and 35.2 percent in the Middle East and Africa, growing more than two times faster than 12.1 percent in Europe, according to the report.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 08/02/2012

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Jakarta Most Active Twitter City, S'pore No. 11: Study

Jakarta Post/ANN - Jakarta Twitter accounts more active than London and Tokyo, while Indonesia is country with fifth largest number of accounts. A recent study conducted by Paris-based social media consultant Semiocast reported that Jakartans were the most active Twitter users and posted 2 percent of the 10.6 billion tweets worldwide.

Semiocast revealed its study on Monday and said that Jakarta Twitter users surpassed London and Tokyo, which were listed respectively as the second and the third most active Twitter city. In the results of the study, which can be publicly accessed through www.semiocast.com, Bandung was named as the 6th most active Twitter city, higher than Paris, Osaka and Istanbul. Globally, Semiocast reported that Twitter had reached the half billion accounts in June 2012, including more than 140 million in the US alone. New York was the most active Twitter city in the US, followed by Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami. User-base growth is slowing in Japan and Korea but increasing in Arab-spoken countries. Riyadh already ranks in the 10th most active Twitter city. Indonesia has nearly 30 million Twitter users, 5th biggest country after the US, Brazil, Japan and the UK.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 08/01/2012

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Secure and Trusted ICT Infrastructure Crucial Driver of Regional Economic Integration

The development of stronger, more integrated digital economies in the Asia-Pacific region will be the focus of the APEC Ministerial Meeting on Telecommunications and Information (TEL) on 7-8 August 2012 in St Petersburg, Russia. APEC Ministers will consider actions and proposals put forward by APEC senior telecommunications officials who concluded their strategic and technical meeting here on Monday. The goal is to advance practical policies that improve confidence in information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure across APEC economies. The advancement of joint initiatives designed to promote greater information and communications ICT inclusiveness and security will be among the issues on APEC Ministers' agenda. "Widespread access and use of ICT such as broadband infrastructure and applications remains a crucial driver of regional economic integration and can furthermore improve trade opportunities and supply-chains," said Andrey Mukhanov, chair of the APEC senior telecommunications officials' meeting. "APEC economies continue to work together, in coordination with key industry stakeholders, to reduce barriers to information flows, bridge the digital divide and create a safer, more trusted ICT environment." In 2010, APEC economies reported that they had achieved the goal of universal internet access throughout the region. Two of their concrete targets now are to achieve universal broadband access by 2015 and access to the next generation of high-speed broadband networks and services by 2020.

APEC Telecommunications and Information Ministers will assess ways to build on the progress made this year to promote the sharing of regulatory frameworks and best practices between member economies. This includes harmonizing regional industry development in areas such as data and network integrity, and ICT user privacy. Efforts to boost member economies' technical capacity to accommodate the sector's growth, including the rapid proliferation of fixed and mobile devices, and their ability to raise ICT proficiency in the region will also be examined. "Greater education and awareness, in addition to the lowering of costs for consumers, are critical to ensuring that everyone has the skills, ability and access to benefit fully from the information economy," said Mukhanov. "APEC's ongoing work in this regard is bolstering growth and expanding business participation in the region." he added, "It is also bringing important social benefits such as improved human safety, including food and energy security, as well as providing practical solutions for a broad spectrum of challenges related to green growth and emergency situations."

From http://www.apec.org/ 08/06/2012

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APEC Ministers: Promoting Inclusive, Secure ICT Development to Build More Prosperous Digital Economies

APEC Ministers today called for increased cooperation between members and other key stakeholders to promote widespread access and secure use of information and communications technology (ICT) to further drive economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region. A roadmap for achieving this was articulated in the St Petersburg Declaration adopted at the conclusion of their meeting here on Wednesday. Ministers urged the APEC Telecommunications and Information Working Group, tasked with spearheading this effort as part of APEC's 2010-2015 Telecommunications Strategic Action Plan, to focus on the following areas: Developing ICT to promote new growth. Enhancing socio-economic activities through the use of ICT. Promoting a safe and trusted ICT environment. Promoting regional economic integration. Strengthening cooperation in the ICT sector.

Information technologies are critical to boosting economic growth in today's 21st global economy noted Nikolay Nikiforov, Minister of Telecom and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation who chaired the ministerial meeting. "Year by year, we witness an increase in globalization and in the influence of information and communications technologies on world economic development," Nikiforov said. "These technologies can decrease transaction costs related to the search and exchange of information and provide additional capacities for economic growth." APEC Ministers agreed that widespread access and use of ICT remains the crucial driver for further integration in the APEC region and is closely related to bridging the digital divide and the provision of broadband which can improve trade opportunities and supply-chains. This increases the importance of public and private sector coordination to promote network integrity and resilience and create stronger, more secure ICT infrastructure, they concurred. "ICT development, access and use is fundamental to linking APEC economies and markets closer together," said APEC Secretariat Executive Director, Ambassador Muhamad Noor.

"Focusing on promoting safer and more trusted ICT environments and strengthening cooperation in the ICT sector are central to this discussion within APEC." The forward implementation of APEC's Telecommunications Strategic Action Plan includes the promotion of concrete initiatives the can improve cyber security and ICT proficiency to achieve members' shared ICT objectives. "Ensuring universally accessible ICT infrastructure and services will not only contribute to bridging the digital divide, but will also help extend social and economic prosperity to all, thereby contributing significantly to inclusive growth," Noor said. The results of the 9th APEC Telecommunications and Information Ministerial Meeting will be reported during the 2012 APEC Leaders' Meeting in Vladivostok on 8-9 September.

From http://www.apec.org/ 08/08/2012

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Boost ICT to Drive New Growth - APEC

Ministers from the Asia-Pacific on Wednesday called for stronger regional cooperation in promoting widespread access and secure use of information and communications technology (ICT) to further drive economic growth in the region. Widespread access and use of the ICT remains a crucial driver for further integration in the Asia-Pacific region, and will help bridge the digital divide, increase trade opportunities and improve supply chains, according to a roadmap included in the St. Petersburg Declaration adopted at the end of a ministerial meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. To that end, the ministers urged the APEC Telecommunications and Information Working Group to focus on developing the ICT, enhancing socio-economic activities through the ICT, promoting a safe and trusted ICT environment, and strengthening cooperation in the ICT sector.

The working group is tasked with spearheading this effort as part of APEC's 2010-2015 Telecommunications Strategic Action Plan, which is designed to generate concrete initiatives that can improve cyber security to achieve members' shared ICT objectives. Information technologies are crucial to boosting economic growth in the 21st century's global economy, said Nikolay Nikiforov, minister of Telecom and Mass Communications of Russia, who chaired the 9th APEC Telecommunications and Information Ministerial Meeting. "Year by year, we witness an increase in globalization and in the influence of information and communications technologies on world economic development," Nikiforov said. "These technologies can decrease transaction costs related to the search and exchange of information and provide additional capacities for economic growth," Nikiforov said. The results of the ministerial meeting will be submitted to the 2012 APEC Leaders' Meeting in Vladivostok on Sept. 8-9.

From http://manilatimes.net/ 08/13/2012

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Public Sector Most Targeted by Cyber Attacks: Report

The July 2012 Symantec Intelligence Report has revealed that the public sector is the most targeted industry by phishing activity in July, with one in 113.3 emails comprising a phishing attack; one in 85.3 emails being blocked as malicious. The Education sector was the most spammed industry sector in July, with a spam rate of 70.3 per cent compared to 69 per cent of spam rate for the Automotive sector. The report also showed that Saudi Arabia is the most spammed country in July, with a spam rate of 79 per cent, compared to 68.5 per cent in the UK. In East Asia, Hong Kong ranks the most spammed country with 67 per cent of email was blocked as spam, followed by 66.6 per cent in Singapore, and 64.1 per cent in Japan. Phishing activity in Australia accounted for one in 752.1 emails, one in 2,241.4 in Hong Kong, one in 7,448.8, and one in 3,450.6 in Japan and Singapore respectively. From the same report, Olympic scam spam rate has increased steadily before doubling from May to late July, when the Games began. Attackers used Olympic themed hashtags on twitter to spread malicious code, bundling threats with popular Olympic-themed Android apps, and creating spam and phishing scams that pretend to be contests sponsored by credit card companies. There have also been instances of spammers attempting to trick users into downloading malware. According to Akamai's Q1 2012 State of the Internet report, the most frequent origins of attack traffic were from the Asia Pacific/Oceania region. n the first quarter of 2012, more than 42 per cent of abserved attack traffic originated in the Asia Pacific/Oceania region while Europe originated about 35 per cent, North and South America with a combined of 21 per cent, and just under 1.5 per cent from Africa.

Attack Traffic and Top Ports Attacked
According to the Akamai report report, there was quarterly growth in the percentage of observed attack traffic from China (16 per cent andnumber one on the top 10), the US (11 per cent), Russia (7 per cent), Turkey (5.7 percent), Romania (3 per cent), and Germany (1.9 per cent). However, there were percentages drop relative to the prior quater in Taiway (3 per cent), South Korean (4.3 per cent), and Brazil (4 per cent).

Global Average and Peak Connection Speeds
When it comes to average connection speeds, all of the top 10 countries experienced positive year-over-year changes in average connection speeds. Globally, a total of 125 countries experienced year-over-year increases and only 10 countries that qualified for inclusion saw declines in connection speeds. The global average connection speed in the first quarter was 2.6 Mbps. South Korea (15.7 Mbps) featured the fastest average connection speed. Countries/regions rounding out the top 5 included Japan (10.9 Mbps), Hong Kong (9.3 Mbps), the Netherlands (8.8 Mbps) and Latvia (8.8 Mbps).

Year-over-year, the global average peak connection speed increased by 25 percent, and increases were also seen across all of the top 10 countries. Globally, nearly 130 qualifying countries saw year-over-year increases in average connection speeds, ranging from 3.8 percent growth in Pakistan (to 5.9 Mbps) to a 213 percent jump in Libya (to 3.8 Mbps). In summary, the top three countries in the Asia Pacific region with the highest average connection speeds and a high level of broadband connectivity are South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong - still holding steady from the last report. China still remains the top attack traffic source with 16 per cent of observed traffic in total; Other countries in Asia that generated attack traffic are Taiwan (#5), South Korea (#6), and India (#9). South Korea had the highest level of high broadband adoption at 53 per cent and the highest average connection speed at 15.7 Mbps, while Hong Kong recorded the highest average peak connection speed at 49.3 Mbps.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 08/15/2012

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Asia-Pacific Online Payment Method Market Dominated by Credit Cards

With the exception of China and Thailand, the Asia-Pacific online payment method market was dominated by credit cards in 2012. Nonetheless, many consumers in this region do not place their confidence in online payment methods due to safety concerns and mistrust of online retailers. Online shopping is becoming a growing trend in the Asia-Pacific region, with 63% of the population the shop online at least occasionally. Growth within the online payment methods market is being driven by factors such as high internet penetration levels, disposable income, and cultural factors. In Japan, every resident had on average more than six credit cards in 2011, which was the most popular online payment option there. Japan is the largest online shopping market in the Asia-Pacific region, which could have been one of the reasons for PayPal to enter the market via a joint venture with Japanese Softbank in May 2012.In 2011, credit cards represented the most used payment option in B2C E-Commerce in South Korea, reaching a share of more than 70%. This trend was similar in Australia, where payments of online purchases were dominated by paid credit cards or money transfer services such as PayPal. The Asia-Pacific online payment method market is set to expand rapidly over the coming years, driven by economic growth, with India and China set to lead the region. Internet usage is set to grow meaning in turn online payments will also increase.

From http://www.officialwire.com/ 08/17/2012

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World Rich List Shows Emerging Asian Century

Hong Kong (CNN) - Asia is set to have the world's wealthiest residents, with city-state Singapore heading the rich list. Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea will do well, too, according to by a new survey that predicts which countries will be home to the wealthiest citizens by 2050.By one measure, they are already are. Singapore's per capita income is estimated by Knight Frank and Citi Private Wealth's 2012 Wealth Report to be the highest in the world at $56,532 in 2010, measured by purchasing power parity. Norway follows at $51,226, then the U.S. ($45,511), Hong Kong ($45,301) and Switzerland ($42,470). (The International Monetary Fund listed Singapore 3rd in the world in 2010-11 by per capita GDP, behind Qatar and Luxembourg, which weren't included in the Knight Frank report). By 2050, the Wealth Report estimates the world's wealthy citizens will be dominated by Asia: Singapore ($137,710), Hong Kong ($116,639), Taiwan ($114,093) and South Korea ($107,752). The only western economy projected to remain in the top five is the U.S., with an estimated per capita income of $100,802.

Danny Quah of the London School of Economics predicts that by 2050, the world's economic center of gravity will be somewhere between India and China, the report notes. In 1980, the global economic center lay in the middle of the Atlantic. Some of the world's super-rich have already crossed the Pacific. Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, a native of Brazil, moved to Singapore in 2009 has since renounced his U.S. citizenship. Jim Rogers, the co-founder of the Quantum Fund with George Soros, also moved to the former British colony in 2007.Rogers: It's easier to get rich in Asia "I have moved - I have sold my house in New York. I have moved to Asia and my girls speak Mandarin, speak perfect Mandarin ... I'm preparing them for the 21st century by knowing Asia and by speaking perfect Mandarin," Rogers told CNN recently. "It's easier to get rich in Asia than it is in America now. The wind is in your face. (The U.S.) is the largest debtor nation in the history of the world," Rogers added. "The largest creditor nations in the world are China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore. The assets are in Asia. You know who the debtors are and where they are. Look at Greece. Look at Spain. I mean, I don't like saying this. You know, I'm an American, too. But facts are facts."

The report's list of fastest growing economies between 2010 and 2050 also gives more credence that the world's wealth is moving toward Asia. Of the top 10 fastest rising economies - Nigeria, India, Iraq, Bangladesh, Vietnam, the Philippines, Mongolia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Egypt, respectively - all but three are in the region. Old World economies will have the worst growth performance in the next 40 years, the report predicts: Spain, France, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany are at the bottom of the list. But Japan and its aging population will have the weakest projected growth of all economies, Knight Frank estimates. However, just because the denizens of Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan are projected to live in the world's wealthiest regions doesn't mean all will share in the wealth. In the report Tina Fordham, Senior Global Political Analyst at Citi, warns that the dissatisfaction with income inequality shown in the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations "will gain momentum, and that there could be a long-term recalibration between governments, businesses and society as a result." On Monday, a court ordered the protesters of Occupy Central in Hong Kong, one of the last outposts of the global protests sparked by Occupy Wall Street, to give up its encampment at HSBC's headquarters in the city.

From http://edition.cnn.com/ 08/17/2012

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World Economy Depends on Asia

BANGKOK, Aug 18 (Bernama) - The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) says the global economy situation will likely to depend more on Asia and the Asean Economic Community (AEC), Thai News Agency reported. Unctad secretary-general Supachai Panitchpakdi said that the European debt crisis would limit world economic growth at two per cent this year, a prediction different from the US-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) which said world economy should grow by four per cent.The eurozone could collapse unless the Greece's debt problem was resolved, Supachai said, and forecast that eurozone economy would contract by 0.7 per cent this year and between 1-1.3 per cent next year. Supachai made the comments during a session themed "New Challenges for Thailand in the New Era of Global Trade and Investment" organised by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce here Friday.

According to him, the United States has cut taxes for the rich and has emphasised on financial policies rather than production, resulting in the US economy becoming highly vulnerable. Supachai, a former deputy prime minister and commerce minister, said he believes the world economy would depend on savings in Asia where high savings accounted for 60 per cent of global savings, with substantial portions coming from China and Japan. On the formation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) by 2015, Supachai said he was not concerned over tax reductions once the community is formed. "Regulations in the 10-nation block should be adjusted accordingly as the world economy will be pinning its hope on the AEC," he said.

From http://www.mysinchew.com/ 08/18/2012

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CHINA: 3G Subscribers Increase 47.33m

THE number of people subscribing to 3G mobile phone services in China increased by 47.33 million in the first six months of this year, according to statistics released yesterday. The total number of 3G subscribers reached 176 million by the end of June, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a statement on its website. The number of Internet broadband users leapt 14.03 million to 164 million in the year's first half. Main business revenues for China's telecommunication industry jumped 9.2 percent year on year to reach 517.53 billion yuan (US$82.15 billion) in the January-June period, according to the ministry.

From http://www.shanghaidaily.com/ 07/25/2012

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Online Transactions Jump 45% in Q2

THE transaction volume of China's online retail market grew 45 percent from a year ago in the second quarter to 279 billion yuan (US$44.3 billion), an industry report shows. The online shopping market size, consisting of orders put on both the business-to-consumer sites and consumer-to-consumer vendors who open their stores on platforms like Taobao Marketplace, boomed in the previous quarter due to large scale of promotions in the past few months. The B2C market jumped 82 percent annually to 96.8 billion yuan in the three months ended June 30, Beijing-based research house Analysys International said in a report yesterday. Last week, Tmall, the business to consumer shopping site under China's largest e-commerce company Alibaba Group, said it will offer 1 billion yuan (US$159 million) in discounts for consumers as well as subsidies for external vendors in the second half of the year to boost spending. Business-to-consumer sites made up 35 percent of the overall online retail volume, the report showed. Both Tmall and 360Buy, two of the leading B2C sites, launched discounts to attract customers, while home appliance retailers like Suning and Gome also joined the price war to lift online sales at a time when revenue at traditional offline stores are dwindling.

From http://www.shanghaidaily.com/ 07/25/2012

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IT Hiring Spree

SHANGHAI'S information technology employees will hit 600,000 in 2015, almost double the current level, which will boost the IT revenue of the city, the local industry regulator said yesterday. By 2015, information technology service revenue will hit 600 billion yuan (US$95 billion) in the city, up 50 percent from 2011. It will account for 16 percent of the country's total IT revenue of 4 trillion yuan then, according to the Shanghai Commission of Economy and Information Technology.

From http://www.shanghaidaily.com/ 07/31/2012

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Mainland Developers to Offer Bonds in HK

Real estate developers on the Chinese mainland are offering privately sold bonds in the Hong Kong market as they seek alternative sources of financing. After early reservations, Hong Kong investors have begun to respond well to mainland developers' offers of dim sum bonds - which are bonds denominated in renminbi and issued in Hong Kong - according to the newspaper The Economic Observer, citing a source from the financial services company Morgan Stanley. The source said Hong Kong investors have become more welcoming toward developers from the mainland. Even so, some investors are staying away from realty developers' offers of bonds. On July 19, the Shanghai-listed realty developer Gemdale (Group) Co Ltd raised 1.2 billion yuan ($189 million) - 200 million yuan more than it had planned - by offering dim sum bonds with 9.15 percent yields through an overseas subsidiary. That marked a turning point for Hong Kong investors, who showed that they were ready to embrace developers' dim sum bonds after keeping their distance from them for 18 months, said Kerry Lam, a Shanghai-based private investment consultant.

"The trend is likely to continue into the future," said Dickie Wong, research manager at the Hong Kong-based Kingston Securities Ltd. In Hong Kong, financing costs are much lower than on the mainland, making the city's bond market attractive to mainland developers, Wong explained. On the other hand, Hong Kong investors are being drawn to the bonds' relatively good interest rates, in general, yields in the city are extremely low, Wong said. To many investors, the 9.15 percent yield offered on Gemdale Group's bonds was appealing, especially compared with the 5 percent yields on most bonds sold in Hong Kong, Lam said. The popularity of mainland developers' bonds will largely depend on their ratings and yields, Lam said. If more developers with good credit offer dim sum bonds in Hong Kong, that will benefit both investors and developers, Lam said. The cost of bank loans has decreased in recent months after the People's Bank of China reduced the country's benchmark interest rates in June. Even so, obtaining credit is not easy. Lam said bonds remain attractive because they usually offer a cheaper means of raising money than do trusts or other channels. Zhang Liangjun, managing director of the China operation of the property service company Cushman & Wakefield Inc, said that mainland real estate developers are contending with reduced cash flows, and many are under pressure to refinance and deal with large property inventories. For the first half of the year, 17 developers expect to report losses, 22 expect higher profits and 13 expect lower profits, according to industry performance forecasts. Analysts said many developers are offering discounts on newly built homes to boost their sales revenue and to improve cash flow.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 08/03/2012

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Govt to Expand Off-exchange Trading

The State Council, China's cabinet, has approved the expansion of a pilot program under which unlisted companies are allowed to sell shares on an over-the-counter (OTC) trading platform, an official from the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) announced at a press conference in Beijing Friday. Though the OTC platform, which aims to give small technology and high-growth enterprises easier access to funding amid a slowing domestic economy, will serve as an effective supplement to the mainland A-share market, it may also arouse investor worries about tightened liquidity pressure in the stock market in the short term, analysts say. In addition to the OTC pilot established in 2006 at Beijing's Zhongguancun Science and Technology, the country will expand the pilot zones to the Zhangjiang High-Tech Industrial Development Zone in Shanghai, the East Lake High-Tech Development Zone in Wuhan, Hubei Province and the Binhai High-Tech Industrial Development Area in Tianjin, the CSRC official said. Meanwhile, the CSRC will set up a share transfer system for the nation's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in a bid to gradually bring other qualified industrial zones under the pilot OTC program and offer relevant services for unlisted companies in the pilot zones, according to the official.

The official also said that as the OTC market mainly targets small-scale private financing, the funds raised through this platform will be limited even after the expansion. For instance, in the case of Zhongguancun Science and Technology Zone, more than 100 companies participating in the pilot program have only raised a total of 1.73 billion yuan ($271.48 million) over the past six years. Yet, concerns about squeezed liquidity still exist. A recent research report on the OTC market released by China Merchants Securities estimates that the potential capital volume of the market will reach nearly 700 billion yuan, which will inevitably divert capital flow from the A-share market, the Yangtse Evening Post reported Sunday. Moreover, past experience also shows that news about the OTC pilot was often interpreted negatively by A-share investors. On March 28, the Shanghai Composite Index and the Shenzhen Component Index plunged 2.65 percent and 3.15 percent respectively after fears of tightened capital were sparked by a news update about the OTC platform. "Considering the sluggish sentiment in the current market, the OTC expansion plans will likely exacerbate concerns over the liquidity restraint and drive the A-share market to dive again Monday," an analyst from Aijian Securities, who preferred to remain anonymous, told the Global Times. Nevertheless, Dong Dengxin, director of the Financial Securities Institute at Wuhan University of Science and Technology, pointed out that in the long run, the move is actually good news for the country's capital market as it will provide more financing vehicles for SMEs that have difficulty getting funds. "But it should be noticed that this is a high-risk market, especially for venture capital, and not suitable for individual investors," Dong said.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 08/06/2012

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iPad Takes Over 70 pct of China's Tablet PC Sales

BEIJING, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) - The iPad's market share in China's tablet PC sector climbed to over 72.6 percent in the second quarter of 2012, according to a report released Monday by market researcher Analysys International. The figure marked a 20.06-percent increase from the first quarter of 2012, said the report. Behind the iPad, the tablet PC from Lenovo Group, the world's second-biggest PC maker, held about 8.38 percent of the market share. Meanwhile, Samsung's tablet PC saw a 7.69-percent year-on-year decrease in its market share, which stood at 3.59 percent in the second quarter of 2012.Apple Inc. launched the new generation of iPad in the Chinese market in March, but consumers were unable to buy them until the second quarter, said Li Yanyan, an analyst with Analysys International. Besides, the price cut for the iPad 2 also encouraged purchases, she said.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 08/08/2012

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Population, Employment Development Since 2002

The National Bureau of Statistics released a report on Friday concerning the country's population growth and employment status since the 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) was held in late 2002.The following are facts and figures from the report: China's population reached 1.347 billion people by the end of 2011, an increase of 62.82 million from 2002. The annualized growth rate came in at 0.53 percent during the period. The ratio of Chinese to the world population dropped from 20.3 percent in 2002 to 19.5 percent in 2011.In 2011, the number of Chinese between the ages of 15 and 64 topped one billion, accounting for 74.4 percent of the total. People at or above 65 took up 9.1 percent of the entire population, compared with 7.3 percent in 2002. China saw 16.04 million births in 2011, a crude birth rate of 11.93 per 1,000 people. The illiteracy rate fell to 4.08 percent in 2010 from 9.16 percent in 2002. The number of urban dwellers hit 690.79 million as of the end of 2011, accounting for 51.27 percent of the country's total population, exceeding the number of rural residents for the first time. In 2011, China's family size averaged 3.02 persons per household, although the figure was less than 3 for urban families. China had a work force of 764.2 million people by the end of 2011, 359.14 million of whom work in urban areas. The urban unemployment rate was 4.1 percent by the end of 2011.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 08/17/2012

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China Unicom Teams Up with Three Video Websites to Lower Fees

CHINA Unicom announced today to cooperate with Tudou, PPTV and Sohu to offer affordable mobile video services in Shanghai. The cooperation created a new income channel for Chinese online video websites which are still struggling to make profit. It also helps China Unicom, Apple's partner on iPhone, to expand its product portfolio to attract more high-end users, analysts said. Each video channel of the three websites will charge users 10 yuan (US$1.5) for unlimited access each month, without other fees like mobile data cost. Comparatively, data cost for mobile video was previously up to several hundred yuan for frequent users. Shanghai is the first and currently the only place to offer the service nationwide, which will be available later to other regions, according to Li Mingduo, China Telecom's vice general manager for new business division.

From http://www.shanghaidaily.com/ 08/22/2012

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China Telecom Profit 'Steady'

CHINA Telecom posted better-than-expected net profit in the second quarter of this year despite a decline, the country's third-biggest mobile carrier said yesterday. Net profit was 4.55 billion yuan (US$715 million), down 10 percent from a year ago. But it was higher than analysts' estimates of 4.4 billion yuan. China Telecom, also the country's biggest fixed-line phone operator, generated 70.1 billion yuan in revenue in the quarter, growing 14 percent year on year. China Telecom's profit was "steady" due to growth in fixed-line phones and broadband and especially a rise in smartphone income while the margin dilution from Apple's iPhone 4S debut in March should be "manageable" given controlled iPhone sales, Morgan Stanley said in a note. China Telecom's earnings fell because of rising handset subsidy on iPhones. But in the longer term, new iPhone users will help the carrier to generate profit and compete with bigger rivals such as China Mobile and China Unicom, industry insiders said.

China Telecom jumped 4.5 percent in Hong Kong to close at HK$4.17 (66 US cents) yesterday, compared with a 1.06 percent decline of the Hang Seng Index. The near-term price target of China Telecom is HK$4.28, according to Morgan Stanley. China Telecom began offering subsidized iPhone 4S in March, based on CDMA technology. For a long time, China Telecom lacked competitive CDMA models in the market. The introduction of the iPhone 4S is helping it win high-end users. By the end of June, China's mobile phone user base reached 1.05 billion, with 140 million 3G users, or 16.7 percent of the total user base. The 3G penetration rate will hit 20 percent by the end of this year, which generates huge market potential for carriers, including China Telecom, according to Analysys International, a Beijing-based research firm.

From http://www.shanghaidaily.com/ 08/23/2012

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JAPAN: Vicious Apps Hit Android Phones / Extended Battery Life Among Deceptive Lures Used to Steal Personal Info

An increasing number of malicious software applications have been detected that are capable of stealing personal information from Android smartphones by using false claims to trick users into downloading them, it has been learned. According to an official of the information security company Symantec, 10 kinds of malicious and unauthorized apps that can steal telephone numbers and e-mail addresses have been detected since July. As the company believes such malware should be regarded as computer viruses, which are prohibited by law to make or provide, it informed the Metropolitan Police Department about its findings. When an Android user downloads one app that claims to prolong battery life, the phone displays an initialization message, immediately followed by another that says, "Your mobile phone is not compliant with the app."

At that moment, personal information such as telephone numbers and e-mail addresses stored in the smartphone are sent to a third party. "In fact, no smartphones are compliant with these apps, and they do not enhance battery life. Their only function is to send telephone numbers and e-mail addresses stored in the smartphone to an outsider," Joji Hamada, senior researcher at the company said after analyzing the app.The company also found other malware that falsely claimed it could "improve signal reception" or "charge the battery via solar power." They did not perform as advertised and existed only to steal personal information. Another malware app found in classified advertisement sites for female job seekers was titled "Can you hit the jackpot?" But the app next displays the message, "Sorry, you drew a blank." Meanwhile, the user's contact directory is sent to an outsider. The smartphone is then inundated with e-mail spam.

Symantec first detected this kind of malware in April when it encountered an app titled "The Movie," which streamed an actual film while it stole digital information from a host smartphone. The company found seven such malware apps in July and three in August. In May the Metropolitan Police Department searched an information technology company in Tokyo and others on suspicion of the provision of viruses. Malicious softwares found in the past were capable of digital information theft. But the apps themselves functioned as advertised. "Malware has been found to be on the rise this summer. Clearly such programs harm users, and should be regarded as viruses. This year they became more malicious than last year," Hamada said. As an increasing number of personal data thefts from smartphones have been reported, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry compiled a guideline for developers early this month that obliges them to solicit the consent of the users before obtaining personal information or providing said information to a third party.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 08/23/2012

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552 Targeted E-mail Attacks in 1st Half of Yr

A total of 552 cyber-attacks targeting defense- and telecommunications-related companies through the use of e-mail with malware programs were reported in Japan in the January-June period, National Police Agency data showed Thursday. Malware programs contained in attached files launch once the files are opened. Some of these programs cannot be detected by antivirus software. Victims of the attacks sometimes fail to notice the infections early on, because such e-mail messages often use the names of real companies or individuals as senders. This could lead to leaks of confidential information or cause other damage as a result. Targeted e-mail attacks had been declining since June 2011, but started increasing again this year, with 225 such attacks reported in the January-March period and 327 from April to June.

An analysis of the January-June cases by the police found that 36 percent of the malware programs contained in the attached files were designed to be connected to Internet Protocol addresses in China, 11 percent in Japan and 9 percent in Thailand. In one of the cases reported in the first half, an e-mail message from a sender who pretended to be a reporter with a real media organization arrived at six private companies in April. The malware attached to the e-mail was programmed to start unauthorized communications with an IP address in Hong Kong, according to the NPA. On Thursday, the NPA and 10 private-sector cyber-security companies jointly set up a committee to help minimize damage from targeted e-mail attacks. The NPA and the companies will aim to find computers infected with malware programs swiftly by sharing and analyzing information on cyber-attacks reported to the police. Since August last year, the NPA has called on about 4,800 private companies with business deals with government agencies to report information on targeted e-mail attacks to the police. These companies include defense-related firms and firms dealing with state-of-the-art technologies.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 08/24/2012

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Ministry to Make Univ. Database / New Online Resource Due in FY 2014 to Help Students Compare Schools

The education ministry has decided to create an online database of information about public and private universities in Japan as early as fiscal 2014, sources said. It aims to help students preparing for entrance exams choose schools. The database will include the number of foreign teachers, support systems for studying abroad and students' employment situations after graduation, as well as basic information such as faculties, departments and tuition. The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry hopes the database will help students easily understand universities' features and effectively compare information. The ministry has provisionally named the website "university portrait" and established a preparatory committee comprising presidents of universities. It plans to include the related costs in the fiscal 2013 budget. In principle, it will post information that universities want to release, and it will try to publicize information about all 780 schools in Japan. It will be the first public database of comprehensive university information.

Universities have been obliged to publicize nine pieces of information, such as their syllabi, tuition, entrance fees and graduates' employment situation, since the 2011 revision of enforcement regulations of the School Education Law. The ministry intends to improve this information by adding facts about studying abroad. Universities have publicized such information on their websites. But as the content varies widely, observers have said it is difficult to compare schools. In addition, university information sites created by private sector entities have focused on entrance exam information. A ministry official in charge of higher education said post-entrance information was poor. Therefore, the ministry and university officials decided that a standardized database with comparable data and created by a public organization would make it easier for students to collect information and make informed choices about which university to attend. The ministry believes the database would also benefit universities, as it would provide a platform to promote key selling points. The ministry is also considering creating an English version to attract foreign students. The ministry's independent administrative institution, to be newly established as early as fiscal 2014 after integration of the National Institution for Academic Degrees and University Evaluation and the National Center for University Entrance Examinations, will likely manage the website.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 08/24/2012

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SOUTH KOREA: FM - Gov't Aiming to Secure 3% Level Economic Growth

Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan says the government will make all-out efforts for the nation to post economic growth of three percent or more this year, despite increasing downside risks related to global economic slowdown. Bahk made the remark on Thursday while presiding over a meeting on revitalizing the economy. The finance minister said that concerns are mounting over economic recovery slowing down due to a slump in both global and domestic demand due to Europe's financial crisis. On the Bank of Korea's announcement that the nation's gross domestic product grew zero-point-four percent in the second quarter, Bahk said domestic demand is unlikely to see sharp slowdown as the government is continuously working on improving employment and stabilizing prices. However, Bahk was quick to add that in order to prevent consumer and business sentiment from worsening, the government must remain vigilant of signs of financial crises and exert efforts to prevent the emergence of further vicious circles that could aggravate the economy.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 07/26/2012

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Child Poverty More Common in Countryside Than in Cities

There are up to 14 times more children in rural communities who do not get enough to eat than in metropolitan areas, according to a study by Lee Bong-joo, a social welfare expert at Seoul National University. Lee surveyed 1,150 children between nine and 11 nationwide in 2009, asking them if they are forced to skip dinner. Only 0.2 percent in large cities said yes, and around 1 percent in mid-sized or small towns. But the proportion jumped to 2.9 percent in rural villages. When asked if they had to skip lunch, the proportion of children in rural communities who said yes was 1.5 percent, compared to 0.7 percent in large cities and 0.3 percent in mid to small-sized towns. Asked if they were unable to eat breakfast, 13.6 percent of children in rural communities said yes, compared to 9.1 percent in large cities and 12.3 percent in mid to small-sized towns.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 08/02/2012

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A Third of Middle Class Perceive Incomes to Be Lower

A third of South Korean citizens officially categorized as middle class by income perceive themselves as being in the low-income bracket. A report from the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs said 32 percent of the middle class see themselves as part of the low-income class. The middle class is conformed of those whose incomes are in the 50 to 150 percent range of society's median income. The report also showed 82 percent of the high-income class perceive themselves as part of the middle class while 29 percent of the low-income class believe they belong to the middle class. Meanwhile, 64.6 percent of of the middle class said they are not receiving enough subsidiaries compared to their tax payments, while 8.7 percent said they are.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 08/19/2012

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Unemployment in Seoul Higher Than Pre-crisis Period

Unemployment in Seoul is now higher than during pre-financial crisis days. The Seoul Economic Research Center affiliated with the Seoul Institute said the number of jobless people climbed to 240-thousand in the second quarter of this year, up 20 percent from 200-thousand in 2007 immediately before the nation was hit by the financial crisis. The youth unemployment rate in Seoul stands at eight-point-two percent this year, an increase from the eight-point-one percent average over the past five years. The figure is also higher than the nationwide average unemployment rate among youths at seven-point-seven percent. By gender, men account for 61 percent of employed people and women 39 percent. However, the number of jobless women has been increasing every year.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 08/20/2012

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Online Sales Jump to Record High in Second Quarter

Korea's e-commerce sales jumped to a quarterly record high during the second quarter, driven by an increase in cyberspace transactions among businesses, a government report showed Friday. The country's online sales came to 287.04 trillion won ($253.35 billion) during the April-June period, up 16.2 percent from a year earlier, according to the report by Statistics Korea. The amount is also up 2.2 percent from the previous quarter. This marked the highest quarterly results since the agency started to compile related data in 2000, the statistics agency said. The increase is in line with the growing trend among businesses and consumers to turn to cyberspace for cheaper and more convenient transactions, it added.

The report showed that business-to-business (B2B) transactions, which accounted for over 90 percent of all cyber sales, came to 263.28 trillion won, up 17.2 percent from a year earlier. Business-to-government (B2G) sales rose 4.5 percent on-year to 16.15 trillion won over the cited period. Business-to-consumer (B2C) deals also grew 2.7 percent to 4.72 trillion won while consumer-to-consumer (C2C) transactions surged 26.9 percent to 2.89 trillion won, the report showed. Meanwhile, "cybershopping" sales mostly involving B2C also increased 11.2 percent on-year to 7.83 trillion won during the second quarter, according to the report.

From http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/ 08/24/2012

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Top Court Strikes Down Real-Name Online Verification

The Constitutional Court on Thursday unanimously ruled that a law requiring verification of the real names of Internet users is unconstitutional. The real-name policy, which was introduced five years ago after several celebrities and high school students committed suicide linked to online bullying, will be scrapped. The question is now how to stem the reckless slander and abuse that are common among Korea's vociferous Netizens. The case was filed by three people in 2010. The court in its ruling said, "Freedom of expression is a constitutional right that serves as the foundation of democracy. A law limiting freedom of speech should clearly benefit the common good to compensate for the limitation, but there is no evidence that real-name verification is achieving this goal." The court added that when damage is palpable as a result of false or illegal information being posted on the Internet, the person responsible can still be tracked down from the IP address, and the victim can be protected by deleting the information or compensated by filing for civil or criminal damages. Critics say the court overlooked the speed with which messages are disseminated on the Internet, and insist that once the damage is done it is often difficult to undo.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 08/24/2012

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INDONESIA: Launching Geoportal for Disaster Mitigation

The Geospatial Information Agency, formerly known as the National Coordinating Agency for Surveys and Mapping or BAKOSURTANAL, launched an interactive map called "Ina-GeoPortal" which aims to assist public sector organisations in their disaster mitigation and environmental conservation efforts. The Ina-GeoPortal will give government agencies and the general public real time access to authoritative spatial information on areas that are prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods. According to a report from the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Indonesia is vulnerable to natural disasters such as tsunami, landslide, earthquake and flood. Out of the 4408 natural disasters that have occurred over the past years in Indonesia around 70 have been caused by earthquakes, two by tsunami, 24 by volcanic eruptions, and 470 have been brought about by landslide events. With the Ina-GeoPortal in place, first responders and decision makers in government agencies will be able to plan, organise and coordinate emergency response activities in an integrated manger. The information available in the portal will heighten their overall situational awareness enabling them to arrive at well informed decisions during such critical times. The portal uses the same system as Google maps but has more accurate coordinates and content which is provided by various government agencies. In addition, it can be linked to the US Geological Survey so that users can view historical data on earthquakes that occurred in Indonesia. Ina-GeoPortal is part of Indonesia's National Spatial Data Infrastructure. It was introduced in 2011 as tool that would help disseminate geospatial information between agencies to reduce duplication, improve data quality and save production costs.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 07/31/2012

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Indonesian President Calls for Cheap, High Quality Education

JAKARTA, July 31 (Xinhua) - Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has called for inexpensive and high-quality education across the country, local media reported on Tuesday. "Our education system must offer cheap and quality education," he said at the Ministry of Education and Culture office. "An ideal education system encompasses a good curriculum, high- quality teaching material, modern teaching methods, and cutting- edge infrastructure, all of these are relevant to the current information era," the president said, quoted by the Antara news agency. He added that education must also be accessible to all children regardless of their economic background. During his visit to the ministry, which was part of a series of the presidential visits to ministries and state institutions scheduled for the first two weeks of the holy fasting month of Ramadhan, Yudhoyono expressed hope that the national education program would be a great success, adding that the government had allocated sufficient funds. "I am optimistic that the quality of education can be improved through better management, target setting, and proper implementation so that the funds are not misused," he said.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 07/31/2012

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Lack of Spectrum Sharing Threatens to Slow 3G, Digital TV Growth

The Jakarta Post reports that a lack of spectrum sharing between Indonesia's incumbent telecoms operators threatens to hinder the pace of rollout of digital TV and 3G in the country. The paper says that broadcasters and telcos alike are showing signs of unwillingness to share precious spectrum resources leading to a lack of capacity. Citing Ivan Cahya Permana, the head of service control systems at PT Telkomsel, the paper notes that the cellco says it needs more spectrum, given that the channels already allotted it have hit full capacity. Telkomsel currently provides voice, text and data services through two channels allocated to it by the government, but with more than 110 million subscribers, it needs more spectrum to support a push into the 3G realm. Ivan is keen for the state to allow it to use spectrum in the 700MHz band for 3G, which would allow its towers to provide wider coverage than the more commonly allocated 2100MHz band. However, the 700MHz spectrum band is currently assigned to TV stations in Indonesia for analogue broadcasts, and telcos are petitioning the government to assign a different part of the spectrum to broadcasters so they can expand their 3G services. Earlier, the state announced plans to rearrange spectrums for TV - as part of a digital switchover - by 2018. Ivan notes that by redistributing the TV broadcasters' spectrum, the leftover frequencies could be used to offer Long Term Evolution (LTE) technologies too. Despite this call, the broadcasters are unwilling to rush headlong into DTT - citing costs as the primary reason.

From http://www.telegeography.com/ 08/032012

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Social Networks Wildly Popular in Indonesia, Among Those Able to Log On

Indonesia is an emerging market seeing more investment and economic growth of late, making it a strong contender for a place alongside the BRIC countries. With a growing population that skews young, internet users have proven themselves especially eager to join social networks: Nearly nine out of every 10 internet users in the country will regularly use a social network this year - the highest penetration rate worldwide.

And advertisers trying to reach those social networkers will not have trouble finding them. They are highly concentrated on the world's largest social site: Between 2011 and 2014, Facebook will continue to account for approximately 94% of all social networkers in Indonesia.

A high number of users in Indonesia, as well as India, will make Asia-Pacific the top Facebook region this year. But Facebook's conspicuous absence from China will continue to drive down overall Facebook penetration in the region. Despite the positive social networking outlook in Indonesia, there is one glaring discrepancy in metrics: Reach is still limited by infrastructure realities within the country - only 21% of the broader population will use social networks this year. With a large population distributed across many islands, poor internet development has limited online access. Broadband will be available in only 1.5% of households this year, and that percentage will hold steady through 2016. The number of internet users will increase more rapidly in the next few years, however, which bodes well for social network adoption. Online penetration among the entire population will rise from 24% in 2012 to just under 40% in 2016. Mobile will play a large role in this transition. In 2016, 53% of mobile phone users will access the mobile internet. By 2014, nearly all internet users in Indonesia (95%) will use a social network at least once per month. The only obstacle in the way of a population intent on socializing online is getting internet access to the masses.

From http://www.emarketer.com/ 08/16/2012

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MALAYSIA: Improving Emergency Hotline

Malaysia's Emergency Response Service (MERS) 999 will enhance its hotline service following the benchmarks of 911, the national emergency number in the United States. Professional training will be provided to call-takers and dispatchers of MERS 999 and they will be certified according to the highest standards of crisis call handling. An operator team will be set up to answer emergency calls within 20 seconds; the current response time averages 30 seconds. "We decided to implement this in line with the Government Transformation Programme to institute best practices in handling emergency calls," said Information, Communications and Culture Ministry Secretary-General Datuk Seri Kamaruddin Siaraf. According to him, soft skills over the phone constitute a key part of this training. The MERS 999 system is a Federal Government project that includes four emergency service providers which are the police, fire department, hospital, and civil defence. The project is operated under several ministries including the Information, Communications and Culture Ministry, and Housing and Local Government Ministry. A well-trained call-taker and a dispatcher work together to handle emergency calls and dispatch resources to the location of the incident. Currently, the structured training of MERS 999 is not based on the highest standards of public safety. Siaraf added that the appointed government agency would be in charge of the establishment of a Public Safety Profession for emergency call centre operation in Malaysia.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 08/01/2012

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MCMC Aims to Add at Least 800 More Community Broadband Centres in Sabah

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has revealed that it expects at least 800 more villages in Sabah to benefit from free access to wireless internet services deployed as part of its National Broadband Plan (NBP). Further, the Borneo Post cited Bukhari Yahya, the MCMC's director for Sabah and Labuan as saying that he was confident the regulator could provide the facility to another 500 locations (on top of the other 800 to be rolled out) by the end of 2012, with the executive noting: 'With this facility, they (villagers) are able to access the borderless world for free and empower knowledge through use of ICT (Internet Communication Technology).' Meanwhile, Yayha said that alongside the wireless internet rollout initiative the MCMC is also upgrading its 3G technology and reception to rural areas and providing 28 more '1Malaysia Internet centres' (formerly known as community broadband centres [CBCs]) across Sabah. As noted in TeleGeography's GlobalComms Database, according to the MCMC's most recent data, the state has yet to achieve its rollout targets for rural infrastructure, and at the end of 2011 a total of 251 CBCs had been constructed, up from 240 a year earlier, with 176,508 registered members across them, while a further 121 mini-CBCs had also been rolled out across the nation.

From http://www.telegeography.com/ 08/06/2012

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PHILIPPINES: Filipinos Collaborate Online in Flood Evacuation Efforts

In September 2009, Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) hit the Philippines, causing the worst flooding in more than 40 years in Metro Manila. Damages were estimated to be at $1.09 billion and about 747 fatalities were recorded. Now, three years later, the torrential rains that has been pounding Metro Manila and its nearby provinces since yesterday is now dubbed as "Ondoy 2", as the capital city now finds itself again submerged in chest-deep flood waters and many citizens stranded on the 2nd floor or the roof of their houses. With the crisis far from over, a group of twitter users proactively created a Googledoc spread sheet to help first responders facilitate evacuation efforts. The Googledoc "#rescuePH " allows users to report people who are in need of immediate evacuation or assistance. The document includes the following information: Timestamp (which indicates the time when the entry was made), address of persons who need to be evacuated, status of the rescue alert, contact information and the exact twitter message. In addition, the spreadsheet also contains emergency hotlines of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council. New entries are marked red, and users who input information are requested to update the status column to green when people are rescued. To date there are 250 entries. This initiative stems from the concept of turning crowdsourced data into actionable information. Through this initiative, first responders would be able to streamline their efforts in order to help victims get needed aid as soon as possible.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 08/07/2012

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Philippines Has 9.5m Twitter Users

9.5 million out of Twitter's 517 million users were from the Philippines. Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network | 10-08-12 0 commentThe Philippines has once again been recognised as one of the world's social media capitals, ranking 10th in the list of countries with the most number of users on website twitter.com. Data from social media monitor Semiocast showed that 9.5 million out of Twitter's 517 million users were from the Philippines, placing the country in the 10th spot in the worldwide rankings, trailing Spain but ahead of Turkey. The feat was achieved despite the fact that only 30 per cent of Filipinos have access to the Internet. The Filipino Internet user's affinity with social media was nowhere more evident than at the height of torrential rains that inundated most of Metro Manila this week.

"At the height of Tuesday's intense rain and flooding all over the country, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos trooped to Twitter to spread critical flood information, as well as to mobilize rescue and relief operations," Smart Communications, the country's leading mobile network, said in a statement. "Even as the torrential rains rendered several families stranded and helpless, with flooded homes and without electricity, we saw how people found their mobile phones-and mobile Internet-especially useful to stay connected," Smart chief wireless advisor Orlando Vea said. Smart said about 93.9 per cent of the country's Internet users were also active on social network facebook.com. Filipinos are able to access the Internet, Vea said, due to the availability of cheap mobile devices and affordable access rates.

"This is certainly good news, but, frankly, not really surprising. Filipinos have always been active in social media and we are increasingly using mobile phones to tweet or post on Facebook," he said. "With a strong and resilient network like Smart, you're sure to receive every tweet, every update, and you can rely on your network not dying out on you when you need connectivity the most," Vea said. The PLDT group, of which Smart is a part of, ended the first half of the year with 3.1 million Internet subscriptions.

From http://www.digitalone.com.sg/ 08/10/2012

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Mobile Library Carts Introduced to Provide Jobs for Older Job Seekers

SINGAPORE: Having mobile library carts to provide jobs for mature workers - that's the latest initiative by the North East Community Development Council and National Library Board (NLB). 59-year-old William Khoo is one resident in the North East district who has gone for the librarians-to-be briefings. He now mans one of the mobile carts, which holds some 100 adult and children's books in the four official languages. Khoo said: "I have learned a lot from NLB - how to borrow, how to check for the book, the barcode, and everything inside, so it can be done. I can introduce something to the people, (and) share with the people. I'm really very happy." The mobile cart job is aimed at giving older job seekers above the age of 40 in the North East district a six-month stint as a library assistant. During that time, the North East CDC will assist them in finding a permanent job. Mayor for North East District Teo Ser Luck said: "While this pushcart is still manual on the ground, what I hope to do is further computerise the process, so that the job seekers can also learn some computer skills. It will help them with a new skill set, most of the job seekers do not have this area of expertise." The mobile cart also aims to make borrowing of books more accessible to residents, especially when parents are waiting for children to finish classes at the community club. The initiative has been introduced at the Sengkang and Pasir Ris East Community Clubs (CC). The scheme started at Sengkang and Pasir Ris East CC in July. It will be rolled out to five other CCs namely Kaki Bukit CC, Serangoon CC, Tampines West CC, Tampines Changkat CC and Tampines CC in the North East district by September.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/28/2012

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SINGAPORE: MICA Minister Urges Netizens to Develop Netiquette

SINGAPORE: Information, Communications and the Arts Minister, Yaacob Ibrahim, urged all netizens to come together to develop an internet code of conduct. Dr Yaacob was addressing more than 800 students from 50 secondary and post-secondary institutions at a dialogue. He said a code of conduct is meant to encourage civilised behaviour online. He also noted that unless there is a code of conduct, when something goes wrong there will be people asking the government to do something about it. Dr Yaacob said this is worse because having laws would stifle the internet. He added that a code of conduct would set the parameters for an honest, constructive and rational discussion. "If you think let's say a certain minister is lousy, that's an opinion, we won't go after you. "But if you say the minister is corrupt, you must back that with facts because that's an accusation, that's an allegation. "If you tell me I'm corrupt, I will tell you to justify it, if not I'll see you in court. How then can you say the same thing in the internet and get away with it? Cannot be. It's simple logic. But again, we're not interested in building this code of conduct from the top and then enforce it down. "We believe as netizens, all of us should come together and develop a code of conduct or what we call netiquette that we can all agree upon. It is supposed to be a bottom up process." The discussion centred around racial and religious harmony on social media. Some students asked how they can respond to or stop racism while others asked for the minister's opinion on how to better integrate foreigners into Singapore's society.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/28/2012

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More Job Seekers Gain Employment with Help from CDCs

SINGAPORE: More job seekers have found work through the career centres at the five Community Development Councils (CDCs). From April to June this year, some 3,300 job seekers found employment. That is a 23 per cent increase, compared to the same period last year. The CDCs said this reflects strong hiring activities by employers. But they cautioned that the pace of hiring may slow down in the coming months as the global economic outlook remains uncertain. As for social assistance, the five CDCs received some 15,000 applications from April to June this year. It is a nearly six per cent increase compared to the same quarter last year. The CDCs said the increase can be attributed to an increase in the number of interim financial assistance applications. Higher inflation and cost of living could also have contributed the increase.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 08/16/2012

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Govt Launches 3 Residential Sites to Yield 1,600 Housing Units

SINGAPORE: The government has launched three residential sites for sale by public tender, which are expected to yield an estimated 1,600 housing units. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) launched two sites located at New Upper Changi Road and Prince Charles Crescent, while the Housing and Development Board (HDB) launched an Executive Condominium site at Woodlands Avenue 6 / Woodlands Drive 16. In a media statement, URA and HDB said this will provide developers and home-buyers with more choices for private housing. The two land parcels at New Upper Changi Road and Woodlands Avenue 6 / Woodlands Drive 16 are launched for sale under the Confirmed List of the 2nd half 2012 Government Land Sales (GLS) Programme. The site at New Upper Changi Road has an area of 31,881.6 square metres. It is located within an established private housing estate and close to Tanah Merah MRT station.

According to Lee Sze Teck, senior manager of Research and Consultancy at Dennis Wee Group (DWG), the site is expected to attract an estimated top bid of between S$650 and S$700 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr). This translates to between S$357 to S$384 million. The breakeven price is estimated to be around S$1,050 to S$1,100 psf while the selling price could be from S$1,300 to S$1,350 psf. Meanwhile, the Woodlands Avenue 6 / Woodlands Drive 16 site has an area of 16,505 square metres, and is located near to Admiralty and Woodlands MRT stations. DWG estimates a top bid for this site within the HDB Woodlands estate to be between S$300 and S$350 psf ppr. This translates to a breakeven price of S$600 to S$650 psf and an estimated sale price of S$680 and S$730 psf. The residential site at Prince Charles Crescent was made available for sale via the Reserve List system. On 30 July, URA said it received an application for a developer to put up the land parcel for public tender at a bid price of not less than S$390 million.

The Prince Charles Crescent parcel has a site area of 23,785.4 square metres is within the prime residential area within the central region. It is within short driving distance of the central business district and Orchard Road. DWG said bids for this site is likely to be cautious considering the performance of projects in the central region of Singapore, the requirement to complete and sell the project within five years to avoid paying ABSD and the absolute quantum of the bid. The size of bid is likely to limit the bidders to bigger developers, with up to six bidders for the site. DWG expects the top bid to be between S$800 to S$850 psf ppr or S$430 to S$457 million. The site also has an estimated selling price of between S$1,500 and S$1,600 psf. Tenders for the sites at Prince Charles Crescent, Woodlands Avenue 6 / Woodlands Drive 16 and New Upper Changi Road will close at 12 noon on 20 September, 9 October and 16 October respectively.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 08/23/2012

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THAILAND: To Apply RFID in Traffic Control

Thailand's Ministry of Transport (MOT) decided yesterday to adopt Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to reduce speeding violations and enhance traffic safety. The RFID will transmit signal from speed cameras to the control rooms of the Expressway Authority of Thailand (EXAT). The information of overspeed vehicles will be transferred and forwarded automatically to Highway Police's command and control centre for stoppin overspeed vehicles promptly, said Sorasak Saensombat, Deputy Permanent Secretary of MOT. The MOT expected to finish the RFID installation by end of this year. Apart from RFID technology, the MOT will also carpet main roads, highways, and motorways with speed camera detectors that would be able to detect all kinds of vehicles including personal cars, public buses, vans, and trucks to leverage its road safety system. Previously, public transport was not included in the overspeed monitoring scheme. The new cameras will be installed at every 20 kilometres and operate 24/7. The dummy cameras will also be installed alternately to alert speed motorists. Overspeed vehicles will be reported to Department of Land Transport to suspend the vehicle permit and reject the vehicle registration renewal. "We will finalise the total units of speed camera detectors and budget required by end of July, and the project can start within two months," he said. According to Saensombat, the MOT will initially seek budget from Road Safety Fund, and Inter City Motorway Division, Department of Highways. Also, the Ministry has agreed with Royal Thai Police to share 20% of the traffic violation fine in order to fund this project and buy more speed camera detectors to cover more areas as well as to cover the maintenance cost.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 07/27/2012

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Thailand to Beef Up Toll Auto-payment

Following the popularity of 'Easy Pass' card- a pre-paid card for expressway users in Bangkok, Expressway and Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (ETA) under Ministry of Transport will purchase an additional of 70,000 cards this week, and build four more automatic toll booths on strategic highways. The ETA has also prepared THB 100 million (US$ 3.2 million) from the next fiscal budget to procure more cards and install six more automatic toll booths in 2013, said ETA Governor Aiyanat Tinapai. "Easy Pass scheme helps reduce traffic congestion at the toll booths, the queue has been shortened from one kilometre to 0.5 kilometre only, especially during rush hour," said Tinapai. ETA's Director of E-Business Services Division Thitipan Panichprasatsin said that the ETA has cancelled the deposit when people buying the cards since July 14, resulting in the drastic increase of demand. "Previously, about 300-400 units of Easy Pass cards were sold daily. Now we are selling 1400 -1500 per day," he added.

There are 450,000 Easy Card members now, and the increased usage of the cards is encouraged to help solve traffic problem, Panichprasatsin said. The ETA is testing high speed clearance at the automatic toll booths. The tryout speed is 50 kilometre per hour. Currently, vehicles have to reduce their speed to not greater than 30 kilometres per hour while passing through the booth. "We are carefully testing the high speed passage for safety before implementing it, as accident may easily occur when the cars pass through the narrow channels. If an accident really happens there, it will be severe," he added. The ETA is also seeking a collaboration to launch a common card to integrate Easy Pass and M-Pass to be a single system. M-Pass is a pre-paid card scheme used for motorways managed by Department of Highways, Ministry of Transport. "We are now studying the possibility and ways to merge the two systems especially that of the financial system," he said and explained that Easy Pass fee includes tax while M-pass is without tax. The ETA may invite the Comptroller General's Department to settle this issue before starting the new system.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 08/10/2012

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VIETNAM: Proposed Fee Aims to Encourage SIM Registration

Vietnam's Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) is considering charging at least VND40,000 (USD1.9) to activate and start using a new SIM card, Viet Nam News cites the deputy director of the MIC's department of telecommunications, Nguyen Van Tru, as saying. 'The fees include phone number registration as well as new subscriber identity module (SIM) cards, which will only be charged for once, in a move to end the current wave of unregistered SIM cards which are causing a shortage of phone numbers in Vietnam,' Tru said. In an earlier effort to tighten up the rules governing SIM ownership, the government banned the sale of activated SIM cards, and restricted an individual from owning more than three SIMs per operator.

From http://www.telegeography.com/ 08/21/2012

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ASEAN Should Enhance Efforts to Reach Out to Its People

Despite Association of Southeast Asian Nations' achievements and intentions to become a single "caring and sharing community", the grouping has lacked popular participation during its 45 years of existence. University of Indonesia international relations observer Makmur Keliat said that one important achievement of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) had been the absence of major conflict in the region. "Asean's presence has been important for building norms in the region," he said. Established on Aug. 8, 1967, in Bangkok with the signing of the Asean Declaration by founding member nations Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, Asean completed its expansion to 10 member nations when Brunei Darussalam joined on Jan. 7, 1984, Vietnam on July 28, 1995, the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Myanmar on July 23, 1997, and Cambodia on April 30, 1999. Keliat said that the region before Asean's establishment was far from a peaceful area, citing the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation from 1962 to 1966 and the US and French wars in Vietnam from the 1950s to the 1970s. "At least the existence of Asean has significantly improved interactions between member nations, which in the end has contributed to economic, political and sociocultural cooperation," he added. Despite its successes, an important element has been missing in shaping the sociocultural identity of Asean. This can perhaps be understood considering that the association, since its inception, has been principally been a diplomatic endeavour. The acceleration of people-to people contacts can be expected to take time. In general, Asean member nations have been more concerned with building states and not communities. The reaction of Indonesian and Malaysian people on the Ambalat border issue and the Preah Vihear Temple conflict between Thailand and Cambodia in the past year has shown an absence of "Asean spirit". "We haven't seen an Asean spirit or a manifestation of an Asean identity in solving the conflicts. This is the challenge for Asean," he said.

Keliat suggested that Asean invite civil society groups at its meetings, from working groups to the ministerial level. "The representatives of civil society will not have a say in the meetings; their role will be just to observe. Their engagement could raise a sense of belonging and sense of identity in Asean," he added. He said he derived his argument from the China-Asean Free Trade Agreement: Even though the agreement had been signed in 2002, the public was surprised when it came in to force. "It is still a long way away for Asean to build its spirit, but the effort should be intensified by engaging more people in the grouping's activities." Yuyun Wahyuningrum of the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), an umbrella organisation for dozens of Indonesian human rights NGOs, expressed a similar sentiment. She said that her experience in working with civil society groups in the region had shown her that Asean should promulgate more of its achievement to its people. "Asean's existence has proven to be beneficial. At least it strengthens advocacy groups and networking in Southeast Asia." Wahyuningrum said that Asean's failure to issue a joint communique at the 45th Asean Ministerial Meeting (AMM) in Phnom Penh underlined a need for Asean to maintain its mechanisms free from outside intervention. Disunity in Asean was also felt at the civil-society level. There are still perceptions among Asean governments that civil society groups should be controlled or monitored. "There is not a unified perception toward civil society. For some governments, civil society is not considered an important pillar of democracy, but something to be monitored," Wahyuningrum said. Wahyuningrum acknowledged that Asean was gradually growing more relevant to its people. A clear example could be seen in 2008, when a tropical cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar, causing massive destruction and at least 138,000 fatalities. In the worst natural disaster in Myanmar, the government refused foreign aid, but welcomed assistance from Asean. At least, Asean has changed the way governments interact with its people. "Not only Asean's presence in the humanitarian aspects, but also to mediate government and its people," Wahyuningrum said.

From http://www.asianewsnet.net/ 08/08/2012

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BANGLADESH: PM Seeks Global Actions to Remove Poverty, Hunger

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday called for concerted efforts of the international community to fight against poverty and hunger as the two issues have global origins and implications. "The whole world needs to mobilise its resources, share experiences, research findings and technology, and fully commit themselves to implementing global and national plans and strategies on these issues," she said. The Prime Minister was speaking at the inaugural session of the Global Nutrition Event at 10 Downing Street. Joint chair of the 'Global Nutrition Event' British Prime Minister David Cameroon and vice president of Brazil Michel Temer also spoke, among others, at the session. "The multiple global crises and the slow process of recovery amply suggest that there is a need to look carefully at global economic and financial approaches," she said stressing supportive policies for regional and global actions. Hasina mentioned that there is a need for global consensus to effectively respond to over-speculative transactions and commercialisation of commodity markets. "Likewise, external banking, currency and financial transactions also have tremendous impacts." "Their economy-wide adverse impact has now ignited a demand for a proper balance between government protection of the financial sector and regulation of institutions. This is because such policies impact foreign exchange and competitiveness of export, and as such influence the effectiveness of domestic policies and programmes," she said. In turn, Hasina said, they impact domestic growth, productivity and employment, and in the process impact human development in general and hunger and under-nutrition in particular. She mentioned that the food onslaught of 2008-09 reminds how devastating the impact of price escalation and imposition of export restrictions by food-exporting countries on net-food importing countries. "The farmers and consumers both suffer from price volatility. This must be addressed if we're to achieve progress on hunger and under-nutrition," she said.

Similarly, she said, development efforts are being hampered owing to impacts of climate change. Hasina laid emphasis on the need of concerted regional and global actions that may among others include regional buffer of grains, policies such as clear affirmation not to impose export ban on imports of net-food importing countries, or preferential treatment in case ban has to be imposed. As for Bangladesh, the premier mentioned that salinity intrusion, submergence of land due to sea-level rise, and greater intensity of rapid-onset events like cyclones are already creating havoc on people's lives, property and livelihood. "Evidences suggest crop yields will decline, production will be affected, crop and meat prices will increase, and consumption of cereals will fall. These will all lead to reduced calorie intake and increased child malnutrition," the Prime Minister told her audience. In this context, she said for Bangladesh 10 percent productivity loss owing to climate change means a loss of about 4 million metric tonnes of food grain, amounting to about US$ 2.5 billion (approximately 2.5 percent of GDP). If it adds up damages to property and similar other losses, the country are faced with a situation of a loss of about 3-4 percent of GDP growth. "Had we been spared from these losses, we could have easily secured a much higher GDP growth. There would have been a solid economy, robust employment growth, enhanced food production, and greater allocation to health resulted in huge success on under-nutrition and stunting," she said. Hasina said the UN Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN) states that malnutrition is the largest single contributor to disease, and in childhood leads to physical and mental underdevelopment. An estimated 146 million children living in developing countries are underweight as a result of acute and chronic hunger. More than 147 million pre-school children in developing countries face stunting. The Global Hunger Index indicates that South Asia has the highest child malnutrition rate in the world. Bangladesh represents 6 percent of global childhood under-nutrition, Hasina said adding that the government's pragmatic policies and measures have, however, been successful in reducing the number of people consuming less than 1805 kcal (measure of poverty) per day. "We expect to achieve the MDG target of 14 percent in 2015. During our government's three and half years' period, we have been able to reduce under-nutrition from 42 percent to 36 percent and stunting from 43 percent to 41 percent. We expect underweight children to be at 36.5 percent in 2015. This would place us in track to achieve the hunger target of UN MDG -1," she said.

In Bangladesh, the Prime Minister said, one third of women are undernourished, and a large proportion of pregnant women are anemic. Micronutrient deficiencies are also major concerns. To reduce childhood and maternal malnutrition, the government is focusing on the first 1000 days of life, that is, from conception to 24 months of life. "We're also promoting delayed marriage to improve the nutritional status of adolescent girls and lowering incidences of low birth weight babies, and subsequent malnutrition." She said the government has launched a 5-year National Nutrition Services (NNS) from July 2011 to integrate nutrition with the existing health and family planning services and reduce malnutrition using the 11,000 community clinics already in operation. A comprehensive approach to address the issue of nutrition is on to improve dietary intake, food safety, hygiene practice, water and sanitation, immunisation, and health education. Preparation of low-cost recipes, processing and preservation of micronutrient rich foods, and income generation activities are being emphasised through the existing community based arrangements. She said the government's research efforts has led to the development of high-yielding nutritious varieties of rice and those resistant to salinity, drought and those that grow with the rise in water level. "We're once again self-sufficient in rice production." "It should be enough, if we bear compassion and humanity in our hearts, to pledge today to open all the doors, sweep away all the barriers, and combine our resources as one family to eliminating hunger, malnutrition, and poverty, and thereby, leaving a world better than the one we inherited, to our future generations."

From http://www.unbconnect.com/ 08/12/2012

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INDIA: Connect with the President Directly Via Website

While the historical perspectives from the earlier websites have been retained, the re-designed website has some new features, which include direct connectivity from the website to social networking media of the President i.e. Facebook and You-Tube. These two features have been initiated after assumption of charge by the President Pranab Mukherjee. The new website also has a Video Gallery. Citizens can connect to the President directly by clicking the button 'Write to the President', which will take them directly to the helpline portal. Moreover, visuals have been conceptualized and made user friendly. Launching the website, Secretary to the President, Omita Paul expressed the hope that it would be a step forward to bring the President of India closer to the people. She also said that efforts would be made to ensure that the website is in line with the best global practices.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 08/04/2012

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M.P. Govt to Provide Land to IT Cos on 99-Year Lease

With an aim to give impetus to the information technology industry, the Madhya Pradesh Government has decided to give land to IT companies on a 99-year lease period instead of the present 33 years. The state government has issued orders for making this amendment in the Information Technology policy, official sources said today. Now, land to industrial houses making investment in the state will be given on 99-year lease on case-to-case basis. There will also be a provision to renew lease further. The state Cabinet had taken a decision to this effect recently. Earlier, there was provision to provide land on 33-year lease. The amendment has been made in the concerning clause of Information Technology Policy, 2006. It will be applicable to all the leases given after implementation of the amendment. The amendment will lead to acceleration of the pace of construction work of SEZ at Indore, which is fast growing as an IT hub of the state. It will also be applicable to land allotted to Infosys, TCS and Suvi Ltd at SEZ, Indore.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 08/04/2012

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ITC Launches Interactive Mobile Telephony for Tobacco Farmers

The Indian Leaf Tobacco Development (ILTD) Division of ITC is exploring mobile telephony-based technology tools for personalised farmer communication. This comes after the popular e-Choupal initiative, which transformed the agricultural procurement value chain in the country. The service, known as 'Namma Sandesh' is an interactive mobile telephony based communication service to farmers for provision of crop advisory on best agronomy practises, market prices, weather forecast and local news to farmers. This platform will provide accurate and timely crop advisory services through mobile phones and the subscribed farmers will regularly receive a combination of voice and SMS messages at regular intervals throughout the crop cycle. Mobile phones are now evolving into a powerful communication medium to farmers for improving agricultural productivity and profitability through provision of timely and accurate information. The project is being rolled out in Mysore district in Karnataka with more than 5,500 farmers who grow tobacco and ragi, with a potential to cover more than 50,000 farmers in the district.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 08/16/2012

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HC Asks Govt Not to Bar Fakhrul from Foreign Tour

The High Court on Sunday asked the government and the police not to bar the Bangladesh Nationalist Party's acting secretary general, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, from going on a foreign tour. The vacation bench of Justice Quamrul Islam Siddiqui and Justice Md Ashraful Kamal also asked the government to explain in four weeks why restraining Fakhrul from going abroad would not be declared illegal. The government was also asked to explain why a direction would not be given to the concerned authorities not to stop Fakhrul from going abroad. The court passed the order after hearing a writ petition filed by Fakhrul, challenging the legality of the government's action in barring him from going abroad and seeking a High Court direction to the authorities concerned not to obstruct his foreign tour. The home affairs secretary, inspector general of police, additional inspector general, Dhaka's deputy commissioner and the officer-in-charge of immigration were asked to answer the rule. Moving the petition, Fakhrul's lawyer AM Mahbub Uddin Khokon told the court that Fakhrul on May 6 came to know from the newspapers that his name was included in a list of opposition leaders who are barred from going outside the country. The list has been sent to the immigration police at the airports, said the lawyer. He said that Fakhrul would go to New York on August 29 to attend a meeting and he feared that if he tried to go abroad without any order from the court the immigration police at the airport would humiliate him in public. Assistant attorney general Md Jahangir Alam opposed the petition, saying that the court should not issue an order based on the newspaper report. Daily Bangladesh Protideen published a report on May 6 under the headline 'Embargo on leaders of BNP-led 18 alliance leaving the country'.

From http://www.newagebd.com/ 08/27/2012

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SRI LANKA: Development Not at Cost of Environment - President

Development projects will not be carried out at the cost of the environment or by causing hardships to the people, although the country is on the path of rapid economic development, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said. The President said projects which will cause loss of personal property on a large scale and environment degradation will be rejected and added his government was not prepared to implement projects which would cause hardships to a section of the people to benefit others. He said certain Opposition elements were trying to obtain political mileage from the issue while spreading falsehoods to mislead the people. "The government's policy in respect of all affairs will continue to be guided by the vital interests and well- being of the people. This will not yield to any other consideration," he said. President Rajapaksa was speaking at the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) election rally in support of its candidates contesting the upcoming polls from the Ratnapura district to the Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council on Saturday. The President said the government has not neglected any village. "Development activities are taking place in all of them in line with the policy of achieving equity in development," he said.

Speaking on the upcoming PC polls, President Rajapaksa said Provincial Councils and other local government bodies were playing a very constructive role in developing villages, districts and provinces. He said the government will ensure that such local bodies will meet their obligations in working towards realising people's aspirations. The President said the government laid emphasis on developing human resources and education of children. President Rajapaksa said the government provided jobs to graduates, professional and other skilled people. Speaking on migrant employees, he said the government's efforts has drastically reduced women going abroad to work as maids while increasing the migration of skilled professionals, both male and female. When the public queried from the President who was going to be the Sabaragamuwa Chief Minister when the UPFA records victory on September 8, the President said the most suitable will be appointed. The election rally was held at the public grounds in Ratnapura town. A mammoth crowd attended the meeting, despite the inclement weather. Several UNP activists including politicians Ratnapala Walegoda, Shantha Suduwella and Rohana Samaratunge joined the UPFA.Ministers Mervyn Silva, Prof Tissa Vitarana, D E W Gunasekera, Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Vasudeva Nanayakkara and W D J Seneviratne and Western Provincial Council member Udaya Gammanpila also addressed the meeting.

From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 08/27/2012

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PAKISTAN: President Asks Govt to Consider PAF Medical College Plan

President Asif Ali Zardari, on Monday, advised the government to consider the feasibility plan prepared by the Pakistan Air Force for the establishment of a medical college at Shaheed Benazirabad (Nawabshah) on priority and expedite the process for early start of work on the project. He was chairing a briefing at the Presidency on setting up of a medical college and a hospital in Shaheed Benazirabad, Sindh. During a presentation, the Pakistan Air Force gave a detailed briefing to the president on the findings of the feasibility study on the proposed project that they had conducted. Those present during the briefing included Naveed Qamar, Dr Hafeez Sheikh, Dr Firdaus Ashiq Awan, Secretary General Salman Faruqui, Dr Asim Hussain, Farhatullah Babar, Dr Nadeemul Haq, Syed Murad Ali Shah, and senior officials of the departments concerned. Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt, Air Marshal Asim Sulaiman, Air Vice Marshal Sohail Aman and other PAF officers also attended the meeting. President's spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar while giving details of the meeting said that the president during his visit to Shaheed Benazirabad last September had observed the need for the establishment of a medical college and a hospital. The spokesperson said that since the Pakistan Air Force had presence in Nawabshah, they had been asked to prepare the feasibility report for establishing the college. Air Vice Marshal Sohail Aman briefed the meeting about the findings of the feasibility report highlighting various aspects of the project and the requirements for the establishment of the medical college. Briefing the meeting, Aman said that the plan envisaged an independent medical college with an initial yearly intake of around 100 students.

He said the primary purpose of the institution would be to have a co-education facility capable of ensuring high quality in terms of education, faculty, student and facilities. He also briefed the meeting about the initial land and financial requirements of the proposed project. The spokesperson said that the briefing on proposed medical college was followed by another briefing about the construction of high-rise buildings in Karachi and other parts of the country. He said that during the presentation the president reiterated his call that land had become a scarce commodity and all residential and commercial buildings had to move up vertically rather than horizontally so as to economise the land usage. The president said that in view of rising population of the major cities, it was essential to rationalise and harmonise the procedure for giving permission for high-rise buildings.

From http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/ 08/07/2012

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Karachi DHA to Improve Living Environment

The Defense Housing Authority (DHA) is taking various measures to improve the living environment in the area. An official said here the other day that the DHA has issued a communique to inform/update the residents about these measures being taken by the housing authority to improve the living environment. The communique enunciates the roles and functions of DHA and Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC), the two separate organisations working in tandem for the shared goal of providing best civic facilities for the welfare and well being of DHA residents. The DHA is essentially a development authority (a body corporate) responsible for carrying out land usage planning and infrastructural development, while CBC being a service provider assures provision of municipal services and maintenance of civic infrastructure in developed phases of DHA. However, presently DHA is performing most of these functions in Phase-VIII as it is not fully developed yet. It was pointed out that for the convenience of DHA residents and members, some of the major functions of CBC include distribution of water, maintenance of roads, streetlights, traffic signals, parks, sewerage system, commercial areas, plots and all maintenance related work. Cleanliness of the area including garbage collection/disposal, bush shredding etc also falls under the jurisdiction of CBC. Infrastructural development in DHA Phase-VIII has gained momentum and is being completed on a fast track basis as per the timelines set forth. Two to three more sectors of Phase-VIII will be opened for construction of houses by the next year whereas rest of the major infrastructure works would be completed in three-four years. Comprehensive master planning of Phase-VII Extension has also been completed and infrastructure work of the area would commence soon to provide all requisite civic facilities to residents. It was pointed out that the DHA is working concertedly on early revival and rehabilitation of the stalled Cogen Plant in DHA to ensure availability of additional water. The process is complex and entails dealing with numerous stakeholders.

However, lately the rehabilitation process has started rolling and positive results are expected soon. The preliminary development works on the site of DHA's new mega project 'DHA City Karachi' have commenced while Sector Development Works in the area would start in next few months. Balloting of plots in DCK is being planned by the end of this year. DHA made concerted efforts to revive the dormant water front development projects failing which DHA land was repossessed in most cases through the help of court. DHA remains committed to the concerns of allottees/affectees, while handling these projects and is continuously interacting with the developers for early revival of such projects. DHA has formulated a new security plan to improve the security in the area and has also planned electronic surveillance of the entire DHA in phases. 120 digital cameras at all entry/exit points have been installed in DHA for surveillance/monitoring of the focal points while 260 more cameras are being added in Phase-II of the programme, furthering the aim to attain safe and secure environment in DHA. Administrator DHA, Brig Aamer Raza Qureshi, said that comfort and convenience of residents remains the top priority of DHA and concerted efforts were being made to provide the best housing and residential facilities to residents.

From http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/ 08/27/2012

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AZERBAIJAN: Tourists Will Be Able to Use New Mobile Website of Airline Flydubai

Travellers can now access a host of online functions and important travel information in the palm of their hand with the launch of a new mobile website from flydubai, Dubai's innovative low-cost airline, the company's press release says on Friday. Designed to work with any device that has an internet data connection and a web browser, the new mobile flydubai.com, allows customers to book and pay for flights from almost anywhere in the world. With all the functionality of the normal flydubai booking process travellers can chose their seats, purchase checked baggage and select insurance. Payment is safe and secure using either Visa or Mastercard. Alternatively, passengers can choose the pay later option allowing cash purchases via one of more than a thousand payment partners in the UAE. Furthermore, users can access to-the-minute flight status information, including arrival and departure times as well as journey duration - a useful tool for both flydubai customers and anyone collecting or dropping off friends and family at the airport. "At flydubai we have a passion for making travel less complex and more cost-effective. We continuously strive to provide our customers with the very best overall experience - from the booking process, through to check-in and the flight itself. The launch of this mobile website, which coincides with a re-launch of the main website, makes it even more convenient and accessible for passengers across our network to flydubai, thereby encouraging them to travel to more places more often," flydubai's CEO, Ghaith Al Ghaith, said. Visitors to the site can also access their passenger profile created previously on flydubai.com. Those who have not created a profile do not miss out; they can still view a booking by entering their reference number and family name. The key information is then prioritised and clearly displayed. "flydubai recognises that mobile technology is playing an increasingly important part of our customers' everyday lives. As one of the region's most innovative airlines, it was important for us to give passengers the freedom to book a leisure or business trip anytime, anywhere and this is just the start of our plans for mobile technology," Al Ghaith added.

From http://en.trend.az/ 07/27/2012

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Volume of E-Trades with Foreign Currency Decreases by 14 Percent in Azerbaijan

The total volume of trades of currency section at Baku Interbank Currency Exchange (BBVB) in July on USD/AZN has made 68.583 million manat or $87.336 million, BBVB said on Friday. "In comparison with indicators of June in accounting month the total volume of trades in currency section has increased on 11.084 million manat or 14 percent," the statement said. In total, 10 banks have taken part in the trades of currency section of the BBVB in July 2012. In accounting month in "Bourse E-System of Trades" (BEST) 44 trading sessions are conducted and 37 transactions are registered. The average daily turnover in "Bourse E-System of Trades" on USD/AZN reached approximately $3.97 million, then that the average volume of each transaction has made $2.36 million. It is necessary to note, that exchange rate of national currency on tool USD/AZN_TOD in accounting month has increased on 0,03 percent from 0.7850 to 0.7848 for $1. Thus the US dollar average rate in consideration to manat has made in July, 2012 - 0.7853 AZN for $1, against 0.7854 AZN following the June.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/03/2012

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Introducing E-Services Is Requirement of Azerbaijan's Economic Development

The Azerbaijani Economic Development Ministry renders interactive e-services in seven directions and informative e-services in nine directions. Deputy Economic Development Minister Niyazi Safarov made this statement during a speech at an event on e-services in the
ministry's activity. "The ministry carries out systematic measures for introducing and expanding e-services, and is preparing the appropriate electronic support and the necessary legislative framework. Today, duties are paid in the online mode, and documents confirming these payments are also carried out in e-form," Safarov said. He said e-services are a requirement for the country. "The first half of the year was successful for Azerbaijan's economy despite the difficult global economic. The country's GDP grew by 1.5 percent, and the share of the private sector in the GDP exceeded 82 percent," Safarov said.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/06/2012

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Presentation of E-Government Portal to Be Held in Azerbaijan in Autumn

Some 30 state agencies have been connected to Electronic government portal, Azerbaijani Deputy Minister of Communications and Information Technologies Elmir Velizade told reporters on Monday. "The official presentation of the portal is expected in autumn," Velizade said. He said the total number of electronic services centered on the portal and provided to government agencies is 124 units. "The number of state agencies connecting to the portal is increasing every day and the list of e-services is growing," Velizade said. Also, the deputy minister noted intensification of the process of the issuance of digital signature, which is now used by more than 40 enterprises, which greatly simplifies access to the e-government portal as well as the provision of electronic services by these structures. Digital signature can be obtained at all post offices and branches of Azerpost. The total number of digital signatures issued by the public and private companies and the population exceeds 2,000.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/06/2012

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Economic Successes of Turkic-Speaking Countries Create Good Conditions for Cooperation Development

During the year the trade turnover of Azerbaijan with the member countries of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking states (CCTS) increased by 55.5 percent, while for the six months of 2012 this figure rose by 35 percent, Azerbaijani Economic Development Minister Shahin Mustafayev said on Tuesday in a speech in Baku at the second meeting of the economy ministers of the Council member states. He said the share of these countries in Azerbaijan's foreign trade turnover is steadily growing. "Despite the ongoing crisis in world markets, the economies of member countries of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking states are observing stability, and the total GDP of these countries has exceeded $1 trillion," Mustafayev said. The minister said the economic success of the Council's member countries create good conditions for development of cooperation within the organization. "Today, energy from Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan goes through Turkey to Europe. In addition, projects that are just beginning to be implemented, such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, Trans-Anatolian pipeline (TANAP), construction of a new international trade seaport in Alyat and others are designed to increase the export potential of the region," Mustafayev said. He said the main purpose of this meeting is preparation for the next summit with the participation of Heads of State in Bishkek. The Baku meeting is attended by the ministers of economy of Azerbaijan, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as representatives of public and private sectors in these countries. The meeting will discuss the current state of and prospects for enhancing cooperation between the parties. The first meeting of economic ministers of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking states was held in the Kazakh capital, Astana, on October 13, 2011. It was attended by ministers and deputy ministers of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/14/2012

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Google Chrome Becomes Azerbaijan's Most Popular Browser

Google Chrome browser has become the most popular browser in Azerbaijan, Global Stats said on Saturday. From the beginning of the year the browser got ahead of its competitors in terms of number of users. According to the Global Stats, in January-August (data as of August 18) Chrome's share in the Azerbaijani market was 39.23 percent. The market share of the Opera browser is 33.39 percent, Internet Explorer - 15.63 percent, Mozilla Firefox - 10 percent, Safari - 1.36 per cent, while others account for 0.38 percent. Compared to the same period last year, Google Chrome's market share has increased by 19.61 per cent. For comparison - last year first place was occupied by Internet Explorer, which held 31.56 percent of the market for Internet browsers in Azerbaijan. Chrome's popularity is associated with the convenience and simple interface, fast loading of pages. In the world of Google Chrome yet entrenched in the second position with a market share of 31.44 percent. Primacy belongs to Internet Explorer, whose share is 34.04 percent of the total number of Internet users. Third place is taken by Mozilla Firefox - 24.65 percent, Safari - 6.94 percent, Opera - 1.81 per cent, while others account for 1.12 percent.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/19/2012

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KAZAKHSTAN: Unemployment Rate in Kazakhstan Hits 5.2 Percent

Some 8.6 million people were employed in the republic's economy in July 2012, the Statistics Agency of Kazakhstan said. "Compared to the same period of last year, their number increased by 137,100 people or 1.6 percent. Number of wage workers in this period amounted to 5.8 million people (68.1 percent of total number of employed people)," the Agency said. At the same time, according to the Statistics Agency, the number of the unemployed in July 2012 was 469,200 people, while unemployment rate - 5.2 percent. Officially, as of late July 2012, the number of people registered in employment offices of the Labour and Social Protection Ministry of Kazakhstan hit 62,900 (excluding those included in the participants of "Employment Programme 2020"). Share of registered unemployed people hit 0.7 percent of the economically active population (in July 2011 - 0.7 percent).

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/11/2012

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TAJIKISTAN: Internet Access to Tajikistan's Leading News Agency Cut Off Again

Tajik Internet providers blocked access to the Asia-Plus website on August 1 following order from the Communications Service under the Government of Tajikistan. Internet access to Asia-Plus has been cut off for the third time over the past two months. In its letter sent to local Internet providers Wednesday morning, the communications service agency again cited "technical reasons" for blocking access to Asia-Plus. "This confusion with blocking websites has been going on since July 24, when the government forces launched a special operation in Khorog," said representative of one of companies offering Internet services in Tajikistan. "Since that time, we have been receiving new addresses of websites to block nearly every day." Asia-Plus has decided not to conduct any negotiations with the communications service agency any more. "There is no point in conducting negotiations with the Communications Service head Beg Zuhurov. We intend to solve this issue at another level and in another format. Practice shows that negotiations have drawn blank. We earlier reached an agreement with Beg Zuhurov that they will inform use of blocking the site. However, they have never done this," said the Asia-Plus executive director Zebo Tadjibayeva. "As far as we know, only courts may decide whether websites can be blocked, not separate ministries. Besides, we are incurring both financial losses, because we cannot fulfill our obligations to customers and users in full, and moral losses, because such actions undermine our reputation. Moreover, the main thing is that blocking websites deprives citizens of their right to receive and impart information. This right is vested by the Constitution of the Republic of Tajikistan." Meanwhile, Internet access to Russian TV Channel Vesti has remained cut off for several days. Some of Tajik Internet providers have also blocked Lenta.ru, Ferghananews.com, and Pamir-vesti.ru. Besides, the Communications Service on July 26 asked Internet providers to block access to video sharing website YouTube.

From http://news.tj/ 08/03/2012

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NGOs Call on Tajik Authorities to Unblock Asia-Plus Website

Tajik civil society is seriously concerned over blocking Internet access to Tajikistan's leading independent news agency Asia-Plus that deprives citizens of their right to receive information. A joint statement released by the Association of Young Lawyers "Amparo," Bureau on Human Rights and Rule of Law (BHR), Human Rights Center, NGO Imran, NGO Spin Plus, NGO Note Bena, Center for Child's Rights, and Sughd Barristers' Association on August 4 notes that the website of the Asia-Plus news agency has been blocked three times in two months. Internet access to the Russian news sites (RIA-Novosti, Lenta.ru and Vesti.ru), video sharing website YouTube and two news portals specializing in Central Asia (Fergananews.com and Centrasia.ru) has also been cut off following an order by the Tajik communications service agency. Blocking news sites restricts population's opportunities to receive alternative information from other sources and leads to artificial aggravation of the situation and appearance of disagreeable rumors in society, the statement said. Tajik non-governmental organizations called on the authorities to unblock the Asia-Plus website and other international news portals and ensure the right of citizens to receive alternative information.

From http://news.tj/ 08/04/2012

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UZBEKISTAN: To Open Two New National Television Channels

President Islam Karimov signed a decree on creation of two new state television channels - Culture and Enlightenment and Around the World in the system of Uzbek National Broadcasting Company. According to the decree, TV channels will be created in the form of the state unitary enterprise. The main objectives of Culture and Enlightenment TV channel are the creation of highly informative, popular scientific, cultural and educational television programs aimed at enhancing cultural and educational level of the population. The channel will inform about the important events in the cultural and scientific life of Uzbekistan, including with use of various modern forms and methods of interactive translation capabilities of digital and multimedia technologies, to acquaint viewers with the achievements of world civilization in science, art and culture. Around the World TV channel will focus on expanding people's knowledge about the history, geography and national traditions and culture of the peoples of the world, the great geographical discoveries, the uniqueness of nature, flora and fauna of the various continents and oceans, including by demonstrating television productions of the leading TV channels around the world.

The channel will create high-quality special science-fiction and educational television programs about the features of the cultural and ethnographic development of regions of Uzbekistan, as well as programs aimed at increasing environmental awareness. In addition, it will inform the international community about the unique tourism potential of Uzbekistan, capabilities and level of cognitive and ecological tourism as well as promote healthy lifestyles and active forms of recreation. The structure of each channel will consist of five editors. Art council will operate at each channel. Viewers will be able to watch TV in digital format. Both channels will be commissioned from January 2013. According to the decree, the Ministry of Finance will provide the necessary funds for the maintenance of channels, given the increasing share of their own funds since 2013, during the forming the parameters of the state budget. Purchase of technical equipment provided by attracting concessional loans from international financial institutions. Currently, there are TV channels Uzbekistan, Yoshlar, Tashkent and Sport, as well as 12 regional broadcasters operating within National Broadcasting Company of Uzbekistan.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/15/2012

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Uzbekistan Increases Investment Volume

Investments in the Uzbek economy from all financing sources in the first half of 2012 increased by 10.9 percent compared to the same period in 2011 and amounted to $5.4 billion, according to the Uzbek State Statistics Committee. In the total investment, funds of enterprises and population accounted for 54.3 percent, bank loans - 10 percent, extra-budgetary funds, including the Fund for Reconstruction and Development - 12 percent, the state budget - 4.6 percent, the fund for reclamation of land - 0.4 percent. The volume of foreign investments and loans, mastered in January-June, accounted for 18.7 percent of total capital investment ($1.01 billion). According to the committee, manufacturing industries mastered 67.7 percent of the total investment. In particular, the fuel and energy sector received 17.5 per cent of all investments, metallurgy - 2.6 percent, the chemical and petrochemical industry - 1.6 percent, engineering - 4.5 percent, light industry - 2.5 percent, food - 1.6 per cent, the industry of building materials - 1.6 percent, construction - 3.8 percent, transport and communications - 18.9 percent, agriculture - 4.1 percent, exploration projects - 2 percent, trade and catering - 4.2 percent, other industries - 1.5 percent. The total volume of mastered investments in terms of constant prices grew by 12.5 percent to 18.291 trillion soums last year. In 2012, the government plans to provide growth of capital investment from all sources of funding by 9.3 percent.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/22/2012

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AUSTRALIA: E-Tax Returns Reach Record Highs

The Australian Taxation Office's e-tax programme is marked by a high uptake of on-line responses. This week, more than one million people have registered to submit their tax returns electronically. These lodgements are saving time, and helping get refunds much faster. This latest tally is just over a month into tax time - marking a major milestone for electronic filling reforms, according to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) Commissioner Michael D'Ascenzo. The ATO is responsible for collecting net tax of up to US$273 billion (AUD$273 billion) each year. "This latest milestone brings the total number of lodgments since the official launch of e-tax in 1999 to 18.5 million," Commissioner D'Ascenzo said. "The ATO is committed to making the lodgment of income tax returns fast and easy. This year, most Australian taxpayers who are expecting a refund and lodge electronically will have it in 12 business days or less."

As one of the largest information technology operations in the Australian Public Service, the ATO's operation is supported by an annual ICT budget of US$633.3 million (AUD$633.3 million). This agency employs more than 2,100 staff nationally. It also partners with external service providers to deliver and support over 750 networked systems. These systems are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, covering 61 sites nationally. Last year, 2.6 million self-preparers used e-tax to lodge their return with almost 74 per cent of them choosing to use an online pre-fill service. This service helps people complete their tax return by downloading information the ATO has received from employers, financial institutions, and government agencies. This information is pre-loaded against relevant questions in an e-tax form. A pre-fill option is saving time and helping ensure that a tax return is correct. "All people need to do then is check their information and add any missing details," Commissioner D'Ascenzo said.

Information available from the ATO's pre-fill service includes welfare payments, as well as pensions and allowances. This service also incorporates Medicare information, medical expenses and amounts being claimed through private health insurance policy and rebate details. The ATO's 2012-2015 "Online Strategy" factors in new areas of focus. These areas incorporate integrating pay-as-you-go and fringe benefits tax installments into a core information management system. The agency is also transitioning to a 'one client' register to support expanded online services. This register will help integrate data covering superannuation membership and change-of-contact details. Internet portals and gateways are also improving communication between the ATO and tax agents. This communication is speeding up responses to industry surveys and other information-gathering activities.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 08/03/ 2012

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Low Commodity Prices Hit Pacific Economies

Australia's ANZ Bank says lower commodity prices are taking their toll on the Pacific, with export growth down sharply in many economies. Paul Gruenwald, chief economist for the Asia Pacific, says prices for most soft and hard commodities like palm, rice, coconut, sugar, cocoa and coffee have fallen in the first half of 2012. "Drops have really ranged across the commodities, sometimes it is as much as, 20, 30, 40 per cent," Dr Gruenwald told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program. "I think the why is just the slowdown in global growth and demand, which is something we would expect when things are not going so well on the growth side." Palm oil had been performing well with the price almost doubling between early 2010 and mid 2011, but it has dropped again and economists are struggling to agree on the reason. "One of the things we have been scratching our heads about these last couple of years is that these price movements seem to be more than just driven by supply and demand in the market," Dr Gruenwald said. "We have a lot of financial speculation, if we can use that term, in some of these commodity markets, which is relatively new. So it tends to push the prices both up and down a bit more than one would expect." ANZ Bank says Pacific Island nations have been affected by falls in export revenue to varying degrees, with the hard commodity energy exporters like Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and East Timor hardest hit. Polynesian nations have also been hit by drops in soft commodity prices. Dr Gruenwald said they were expecting a modest global recovery and renewed growth in China, which would result in higher commodity prices.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com/ 08/21/2012

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Aus Gov Fights Cyber-Crime

The Australian government is moving to track down cyber-criminals under proposed amendments to its key cyber-crime and telecommunications legislation. These amendments have passed the Australian Senate. When fully operational, changes will strengthen Australia's cyber-crime and telco legislation, while improving cyber-crime fighting capabilities. Australia wants to tighten its cyber-security and related laws to complement international best-practice. Future changes will enable domestic agencies to access and share information to facilitate international investigations. The passage of cyber-crime legislation through the Australian Senate enables Australia to "accede" to the Council of Europe Convention on Cyber-crime, according to the Australian Government Attorney-General Nicola Roxon. This convention is the first international treaty on crimes committed via the Internet and other computer networks. It deals especially with computer-related fraud, child pornography and violations of network security.

Australia joins 34 other nations that are party to this convention. These signatories include the United States and Germany. Over 100 nations are using this convention to strengthen their legislation to combat the threat of cyber-crime. Among the global guidelines, this convention promotes a coordinated approach to cyber-crime - while requiring countries to criminalise computer-related offences. "Cyber-crime is a growing threat that touches all aspects of modern life," Minister Roxon said. "It poses complex policy and law enforcement challenges, partly due to the transnational nature of the internet." The change to current legislation is good news for fighting crime and will help make it easier for police to track down cyber-criminals around the world, Minister Roxon said. "In particular, this will help combat criminal offences relating to forgery, fraud, child pornography, and infringement of copyright and intellectual property."

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 08/24/2012

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NEW ZEALAND: National Standards Website a 'Good Compromise' - PM

A university professor fears schools will use tricks to paint themselves in the best possible light, when National Standards results are published on a Government website from September this year. The Ministry of Education will add National Standards data to the existing Government website Education Counts. The site will not rank schools in league-table fashion but will show achievement data in regions and will show how individual schools are performing against the National Standards in each region and nationally. Education Minister Hekia Parata says the data is "variable", or "ropey" as Prime Minister John Key puts it, which would make comparisons between schools difficult. From next year, schools will be required to report in a consistent way - by whole school and by year level. The ministry received National Standards data from 95 per cent of schools, and the information will be published on the website in the format that schools submitted it in.

"I accept that the data is variable. It is the first year, and no consistent format was required, so that was to be expected. It can only get better over time," said Ms Parata. Mr Key said at a post-Cabinet conference in July he was not opposed to data comparing schools within a similar decile or socio-economic grouping. Mr Key said today "a good compromise had been reached by putting the data online, but he still thought comparing schools in the same decile group was valuable for parents. "There is a lot of work to be done until it's meaningful," he said. Ms Parata said the Government will not use the performance of schools to create league tables, but nothing was stopping the data from being used to create league tables. Ranking schools on performance requires a national test which is not used in New Zealand. Australia has a national test, and presents the results on the My Schools website. Labour Party leader David Shearer said league tables will leave parents misinformed not better informed.

"There needs to be accountability in the education system, but it needs to be based on accurate data which truly measures student progress." Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said releasing the data will lead to schools being ranked and judged on inaccurate data. However Ms Parata said a Ministerial Cross Sector Forum has endorsed the move. Teacher unions disagreed, saying the National Standards data was too unreliable to be published and will be used for league tables. NZEI National President Ian Leckie says publishing the data online will unfairly create winner and loser schools. In Auckland 300 primary school principals signed a letter from the Auckland Primary Principals Association opposing league tables. Waikato University's Faculty of Education professor Martin Thrupp was one of 177 academics who signed an open letter to Government opposing using the data.

He said the announcement today effectively declared "game on for primary schools. It's an invitation for them to paint themselves in the best possible light and to do that quickly." He said there will be an increase in the number of New Zealand children at or above National Standards. "It won't be authentic improvement - because they will be teaching to the National Standards and there will be a lot of gaming around it. Schools will pull out all the shortcuts and tricks in order to paint themselves in the best possible light - that's what happens when things go public," he said. Schools will provide National Standards data to the ministry by March next year - the date has been moved forward from May.

How it will look. The website will show:
- A disclaimer telling parents the data is variable for the next few years.
- School profiles, including details on the student population.
- Tables, graphs and text to show how well students are achieving against the National Standards.
- A tab linking to the Education Review Office report for the school.
- Achievement data in reading, writing and maths.
- The percentage of children well below the standard, below the standard, at standard and above the standard.
- Data broken down into Maori and Pasifika and male and female groups.
- Overall performance data against the standards in each region, as well as overall national performance.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 08/08/2012

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Government Backing Needed to Avoid 'World's Fastest Intranet'

The Government needs to step in fast to revive a scheme to build a high-speed telecommunications link out of New Zealand or we risk only ever having a single connection, says an industry commentator. Competition on New Zealand's international broadband link was dealt a blow earlier this month with news the high-profile backers of a second submarine internet cable were pulling the pin. The Pacific Fibre project had planned to build a 13,000km cable between Auckland, Sydney and Los Angeles at a cost of around $400 million. Big business names behind the project included Facebook billionaire Peter Thiel, Trade Me founder Sam Morgan, Xero's Rod Drury and the Warehouse founder Sir Stephen Tindall. Announcing the cancellation, Pacific Fibre chairman Sam Morgan said it had spent millions of shareholder funds and despite getting some good investor support had not been able to find the level of investment required in New Zealand and offshore. "The global investment market is undoubtedly difficult at the moment but we knew this was always going to be hard, regardless of our timing."

Investor Rod Drury told the New Zealand Herald earlier this month there had also been political concerns over the potential of Chinese involvement in the project. Currently New Zealand's only broadband cable link is provided by the Southern Cross Cable Network, a venture in which Telecom has a 50 per cent shareholding. IDC senior analyst Glen Saunders says Southern Cross extending the estimated lifespan of the cable to 2025 and earlier this year slashing prices by 44 per cent on new customer contracts has perhaps put off "a desperate need" for an additional link. He says a business case for a future venture might come down to how quickly uptake of the Government-backed fibre network happens. "If we're using a lot more fibre and bandwidth then ultimately Southern Cross might not be able to cope." He says the "killer app" that drives a thirst for fibre connections could be five years away. Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Paul Brislen says his fear is other submarine cable players will be turned off for a long time by the failure of the Pacific Fibre project.

He says the Pacific Fibre business case was predicated on hooking up the Australian market, but with extra capacity being added directly between Australia and North America by other players, the investment rationale gets tougher. "Without the Australians needing to sign up to a fibre that comes through New Zealand there is very little chance of getting a fibre off the ground that just connects New Zealand to the US because the costs just aren't balanced by the income you would receive from the customer base," Brislen says. He would like to see the Government back an alternate link, either directly or by committing to purchasing capacity. "It's a lot of money to be investing in this part of the world, so without a government backing it I think we'd be stuffed." With the added links out of Australia firing up, the Government needs to move fast as the window for a viable business case closes, Brislen says. "It would be a crying shame to build this UFB (Ultra-Fast Broadband) and RBI (Rural Broadband Initiative) project and have the world's fastest intranet."

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 08/23/2012

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Pacific Regional Integration Needs More Thought

The World Bank's outgoing Pacific Island Countries Director says more thought and more money needs to go into developing regional integration in the Pacific. Ferid Belhaj says small Pacific nations need to consider regional integration with larger markets such as from New Zealand and Australia if they want to be globally competitive. He says the main challenge for the Pacific is because of its remoteness, although telecoms projects helped to make the Pacific more accessible. The World Bank will look to the aviation industry to help expand economic development in the region. "We are addressing it through providing more safety to the aviation industry through infrastructure projects, but also through instilling more of a regulated framework within those countries," Mr Belhaj said.

The World bank has invested US $125 million in the aviation industry across six countries in the Pacific, hoping to attract investment from the private sector. "At the end of the day it is instilling more confidence in the aviation sector and making sure that the sector would play a greater role in integrating the economies of these countries," he said. "If you look at what India was able to achieve there, look at what other countries were able to achieve, going beyond the obstacles of distance and getting technology to help them get closer to where the economic action is and much closer to where the potential for growth is," he said. "So ICT is the of the future when it comes to integrating these economies and creating more jobs so that when we talk about the global world, the Pacific will be part of the global world."

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 08/16/2012

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Improving Health and Education Outcomes in the Pacific

The World Bank Thursday launched a new report aimed at improving health and education outcomes for the nine million citizens of the Pacific region. Region-wide health remains a critical challenge, with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart failure and cancer now accounting for three out of every four deaths in the region, combined with an unfinished agenda on infectious disease and maternal and child health. A million school-aged children around the Pacific do not go to school at all and around 40 percent do not complete even basic primary education. Improving health and education services is a priority for governments and donors across the region. A new World Bank report, "In Sweet Harmony? A Review of Health and Education Sectorwide Approaches (SWAps) in the South Pacific" suggests that development aid to national health and education programs has tended to be short term and fragmented, creating inefficiencies and calling for greater coordination between donors and governments. Sectorwide Approaches (SWAps) aim to align resources under one common program in support of national priorities.

The report suggests that this approach - which focuses on results, shared funds and the use of existing systems and capacity - has the potential to boost efficiency and deliver better health and education services to more people. Experience to date points to specific ways of meeting this potential, through: an even stronger focus on results; intensified efforts to strengthen and use national systems and capacities; and improvements in donor systems to better meet the needs and demands of countries in the Pacific. "Given the vast challenges in health and education, it's important to ensure that every dollar spent counts," said Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Country Director for Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and the Pacific Islands. "We all know that health and education are absolutely critical priorities for the region and we look forward to working closely with governments and donor partners to improve management and impact of these services." The report indicates that, while obstacles remain, there is room for optimism. In Vanuatu, improvements have occurred in education through SWAps and in Solomon Islands, progress has been made towards greater harmonization of development assistance in the health sector. The report is currently being discussed widely with Pacific Island governments, donors, and other people and groups working in health and education.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com/ 08/17/2012

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OECD Welcomes Multilateral Efforts to Improve International Tax Compliance and Transparency

26/07/2012 - The OECD welcomed today a new model international tax agreement designed to improve cross-border tax compliance and boost transparency. Developed by the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, the model allows the implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) through automatic exchange between governments, reduces compliance costs for financial institutions and provides for reciprocity. The model agreement calls on the OECD to work with interested countries on adapting the terms of the agreement to create a common model for automatic exchange of information, including the development of reporting and due diligence standards for financial institutions.

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurr¨Şa said: "I warmly welcome the co-operative and multilateral approach on which the model agreement is based. We at the OECD have always stressed the need to combat offshore tax evasion while keeping compliance costs as low as possible. A proliferation of different systems is in nobody's interest. We are happy to redouble our efforts in this area, working closely with interested countries and stakeholders to design global solutions to global problems to the benefit of governments and business around the world." As a next step, the OECD will organise, in cooperation with the Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC) to the OECD, a briefing session on the "Model Intergovernmental Agreement on Improving Tax Compliance and Implementing FATCA" at OECD headquarters in Paris in September 2012. The Organisation will then quickly advance to design common systems to reduce costs and increase benefits for governments and businesses alike. For more information please contact Pascal Saint-Amans, Director of the OECD's Centre for Tax Policy and Administration (pascal.saint-amans@oecd.org, Tel.: + 33 1 45 24 91 08) or Achim Pross, Head of the International Co-operation and Tax Administration Division (achim.pross@oecd.org) Tel.: +33 1 45 24 93 51).

From http://www.oecd.org/ 07/26/2012

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Governments Can Save Up to 75% with Electronic Payment Programs

Government payment programs benefit millions living below the poverty line in developing countries. WASHINGTON, August 2, 2012- Improvements that make government payment programs more efficient, safer and more transparent can cut related administrative costs by as much as 75 percent. As part of its commitment to helping governments modernize in this area, the World Bank is releasing "General Guidelines for the Development of Government Payment Programs", which promotes best practices and establishes standards for developing and improving government payments programs. Millions of people in developing countries worldwide receive their salaries, benefits and pensions through government-to-person (G2P) payments. But in many cases, they are not being delivered in a cost-efficient way. "Only 25 percent of low-income countries process cash transfers and social benefits electronically and this percentage is only slightly higher for public sector salaries and pensions," said Gaiv Tata, World Bank Director, Financial Inclusion Global Practice. "This means that many governments are stretching limited resources, and spending more than they should on paying benefits and salaries."

The report focuses on cases such as Brazil's "Bolsa Familia" social safety net program, where the government saved 75 percent on administrative costs by going electronic. Bolsa Familia easily brought universal coverage to 12.4 million low-income individuals, representing about 30% of the population below the poverty line. By providing beneficiaries with access to a payments account, G2P programs can also expand financial inclusion for millions of the unbanked by serving as their gateway to other financial services. Programs like "Bolsa Familia" provide a lifeline to low-income families so that they can spend on essentials such as food and education.More efficient government payment programs not only optimize government payouts, but they can also improve revenue generating activities. "It is estimated that government expenditures and tax collections, which make heavy use of government payment systems, amount to 15 percent-45 percent of the GDP," explained Massimo Cirasino, World Bank Manager of Financial Infrastructure. "More efficient electronic payment systems not only save the government money, they can also potentially benefit taxpayers and all other users of electronic payments." The guidelines, which also address the operational challenges government payment programs face, provide recommendations on: Ensuring that payments and collections support the sound, efficient, and transparent management of public financial resources; Making government payment programs safe, reliable and cost-effective; Ensuring that efforts to modernize government payment programs accelerate the development of national payments systems and promote financial inclusion. The guidelines were developed in consultation with the International Advisory Group for Government Payments (IAG), which is composed of public sector officials from various countries, as well as NGOs and payment service providers. The guidelines are available at www.worldbank.org/paymentsystems.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 08/02/2012

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Pacific Economies Weathering Global Financial Turmoil

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Pacific economies remain relatively sheltered from global financial turmoil, with growth projections largely unchanged at the mid-year point, according to the latest Pacific Economic Monitor, released today by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).Growth in the Pacific region is expected to run at 6.0% in 2012, but slow to 4.2% in 2013. The slowdown in 2013 is expected to be mainly due to lower growth in resource exporting countries that weigh most heavily in regional averages. "Pacific economies are weathering persistent troubles in the eurozone, but they need to broaden and build resilience in their economies," said Xianbin Yao, Director General of the ADB's Pacific Department. "To support this agenda, ADB is continuing its efforts to assist Pacific economies in making long-term infrastructure investments and undertaking necessary policy reforms to achieve stronger and more inclusive growth in coming years." Listen to Monitor author Christopher Edmonds talk about growth prospects for the region, and how the eurozone crisis has effected Pacific economies. Economic troubles in the eurozone continue to have only modest and indirect effects on Pacific economies, owing to the relatively greater importance of economic developments in Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States in driving Pacific growth. While the eurozone crisis drags on, relatively stronger performance in these countries appears to be moderating the impact on Pacific economies.

Slowing growth in the People's Republic of China, however, is expected to have greater implications for the Pacific, mainly due to its strong ties with Australia, the main trading partner of many Pacific economies. The slowdown forecast for the Pacific in 2013 is expected mainly due to lower growth in resource exporting countries, such as Papua New Guinea (PNG), Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste, which weigh most heavily in regional averages. The value of Pacific exports to Australia was 6.1% lower during the first five months of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011. This is because PNG's main exports to Australia - gold, mineral fuels, petroleum, and petroleum products - dropped by 10.0%, and PNG accounted for 90.8% of total Pacific exports to Australia in the first quarter of 2012. The value of Pacific exports to New Zealand in the first quarter of 2012 rose by 22.2% compared with the same period in 2011, due to rising import volumes of phosphate from Nauru and coffee from PNG. Tourist arrivals in the Pacific have maintained modest growth during the first five months of 2012. Departures from Australia to major South Pacific destinations increased by 1.4% compared with the same period the prior year. Inflation in the Pacific is projected to run at 6.3% in 2012 - a modestly lower level than predicted at the start of the year - due to continued easing in international commodity prices, particularly lower food prices. However, recent extreme weather in the US and India is leading some analysts to reevaluate forecasts for continued easing of food prices into next year.

From http://www.adb.org/ 07/25/2012

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Automated Trading Revolution Sweeps into Asia

Tracing a 7,800 kilometre route from Japan past the Philippines and across to Singapore and Malaysia, a new underwater cable costing $430-million (U.S.) opened for business this week aimed at automated traders. The "Asia Submarine-cable Express" will loop up to Hong Kong in a month's time, shaving three milliseconds off the speeds offered by existing cables and providing the shortest link between the Tokyo and Singapore bourses.

From http://www.theglobeandmail.com/ 08/23/2012

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Asia Takes Active Part in Evolving Market Dynamics

The growth of the technology sector in Asia is as vast and as varied as the continent itself. While Japan and South Korea are at one end of the spectrum designing the latest gadgets, there are countries like China and India where manufacturing is at full swing supplying components for multinational electronics giants such as Apple. Southeast Asian nations are quickly entering the fold as well showing huge potential for trade and development. For most tech vendors, the Asian market is ideal for expansion since it is unfettered by legacy systems and practices of Western countries. The region's sheer size, however, has proven difficult to navigate with nuances that make individual country markets unique. As margins continue to shrink and business volatility increases, companies are hard pressed to reduce expenses across the board while still pushing to expand operations. Redundancies in the workforce are eliminated and streamlining becomes king. Several semiconductor firms have announced restructuring plans, most of which involve comprehensive job cuts, in this quarter alone.

Technology licensor Rambus said it expected to save $30 to $35 million by trimming 15 percent of its workforce. (See Rambus' restructuring plan involves job cuts.) ON Semiconductor also announced that it will complete job cuts by the end of the third quarter as it targets $10 to $15 million in savings this year. (See ON Semi trims workforce to reduce overall expenses.) There are also some companies that choose to cut their losses before profits plunge deeper. UMC revealed this week that it will close down its 200-mm fab in Japan in response to poor macroeconomic conditions. (See UMC board votes to close Japan fab.) Revenue will always be a key driver in any business sector so seasoned industry players are emphasizing the need for diversification. Analog Devices claims it is experiencing a shift in customer demand as more start to depend on chip makers for systems-level solutions and not just components. (See ADI sees positive changes in converters sector.) To prevent overcapacity and further price declines, companies are implementing defined investment roadmaps of M&A activities to build credible local capability while leveraging global assets. More funds are funneled to research projects that are likely to produce substantial results which typically generate real market share gains as economies improve.

From http://www.eetasia.com/ 08/24/2012

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CHINA: High Local Govt Fiscal Revenue Prompts Calls for Reducing Tax Burdens

The tax revenue growth of local governments exceeded the local GDP growth in the first half of this year amid the economic slowdown, which underscores the urgency for the government to further cut taxes to relieve the burden of businesses and spur growth, experts said Monday. Majority of the local governments saw fiscal revenues rise as high as 20 percent, much higher than their local GDP growth in the first six months, the official People's Daily newspaper reported Monday, citing official statistics. The high growth of fiscal revenues was mainly caused by indirect taxes, a major component of taxes, Yang Zhiyong, a senior researcher with the National Academy of Economics Strategy under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. Unlike a direct tax imposed on an individual or property, indirect or turnover tax is imposed on a transaction. Inflation and double taxation in some cases also contributed to a faster growth of the indirect or turnover tax revenue, said Zhang Guangtong, vice president of the School of Taxation, Central University of Finance and Economics.

In China's tax structure, indirect or turnover taxes include value added tax (VAT), business tax, consumption tax and other attached taxes such as urban-rural construction and education tax, and in total they account for about 70 to 75 percent of all tax revenues. It is important to reduce the indirect or turnover taxes and grant more tax deductions to small and medium-sized enterprises, Zhang said. Yang said that China should further reduce tax rates and expand the tax reform replacing business tax with VAT to avoid double taxation caused by an inconsistent taxation system for manufacturing and service sectors. Industrial manufacturers are imposed VAT while service businesses such as financial, consulting and transportation companies pay business tax. To boost the development of the service sector as part of the efforts to restructure its economy, China introduced a pilot VAT reform program in Shanghai starting January this year, and approved eight other cities and provinces to expand the reform.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 08/07/2012

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US$150m Fund for Tech Startups

INNOVATION Works, an investment firm focusing on Chinese information technology startups, has raised second-round funding of US$150 million to invest in mobile Internet companies. Founded by Google China's former head Kaifu Lee, Innovation Works is one of the most famous angel and venture capital investment firms on the Chinese mainland. The Innovation Works Development Fund II (IWDF) has completed raising US$150 million, Sina.com reported yesterday. The firm finished its first-round fund of US$180 million last year. It used the funds to invest in startups such as mobile application store Doubanjia and mobile operating system Dianxin, which have attracted millions of Chinese users. Beijing-based Innovation Works also announced it will open a new office in Shanghai by the end of the year.

From http://www.shanghaidaily.com/ 08/07/2012

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No Notable Revenue from Weibo

SINA Corp, operator of the Chinese mainland's most popular microblogging service Weibo.com, does not expect significant income from the social media site, although advertising from the site has started to pay off. The advertising income from Weibo totaled about US$10 million in the second quarter, Sina CEO Charles Chao told a conference call with analysts after the earnings release. "We don't expect to generate significant operating profit in the second half of this year as we continue to invest in our Weibo platform," he said. Sina said earlier this year that it would invest about US$160 million in Weibo, including marketing expenses and spending on technology upgrade. Sina's revenue in the three months ended June 30 increased 10.7 percent to US$131.6 million, up from US$118.96 million in the same period a year ago.

From http://www.shanghaidaily.com/ 08/17/2012

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China Adds 200 Mln Yuan for Pest Control

China's Ministry of Commerce said Tuesday that it has allocated an additional 200 million yuan (31.75 million U.S. dollars) in subsidies to assist in pest control efforts. The funds, together with 400 million yuan issued previously, are designated to protect cornfields in northeastern and northern China from armyworms and southern rice-producing areas from rice planthoppers and rice blast disease, the ministry said in a statement on its website. The ministry asked local authorities to work with professional pest control organizations to improve results and step up supervision to increase the efficiency of the funds. At a work conference on disease and pest control held Monday, the ministry said this year's autumn crops will deal with more disease and pests than in years past due to increased rainfall.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 08/21/2012

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JAPAN: 55 Local Govts to Forgo Tax Grants for FY12

The Tokyo metropolitan government and 54 municipalities will be able to manage their own finances in fiscal 2012 without tax grants from the central government, according to an outline submitted by Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Tatsuo Kawabata to a Cabinet meeting Tuesday. The central government offers local governments general tax grants to cover revenue shortages. The number of local governments this fiscal year that do not need general tax grants is four fewer than fiscal 2011, marking the fifth consecutive yearly decline and the lowest since 1989, according to the outline.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 07/25/2012

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1.74 Mil. Cell Phone, Smartphone Accounts in Arrears

Amid the growing prevalence of smartphones, an increasing number of users, mainly young people, are falling behind in making installment payments for their smartphones and other mobile devices because of high calling rates and other charges, according to a private credit information organization. As smartphones are more expensive than cell phones, many young people buy them on installment plans. The installment payments are included in their phone bills. According to the Credit Information Center (CIC), a major data-gathering organization, if someone falls behind in paying for his or her smartphone or other mobile device for three months or longer, information on the case will be registered in a database dubbed the "blacklist."

The number of cases registered in the database stood at about 922,000 in December 2010, when such registration became mandatory. The figure had almost doubled to 1.737 million by June 2012, according to the CIC. If a person makes a late payment, even for a small amount, it may cause him or her disadvantages in the future, such as not being able to take out a housing loan from a bank, promoting some financial institutions to issue warnings to their customers. The rapid increase in the number of late payments is apparently related to the rapid dissemination of smartphones. A smartphone costs about twice as much as a traditional cell phone, with prices ranging from 50,000 yen to 70,000 yen, leading many people, mainly in their 20s and 30s, to buy smartphones on 12- to 24-month installment plans. However, their phone bills can become more expensive due to charges other than the installment payments, such as calling rates, leading some customers to fail to pay. Once the fact that someone has fallen behind in his or her payments is registered in the database, it will remain on record for five years even if he or she eventually finishes making all the payments.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 08/23/2012

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Extra 143 Bil. Yen Given for Reconstruction

The government will allocate an additional 143.46 billion yen in grants for projects to rebuild areas hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami last year, the Reconstruction Agency said Friday. In the third round of such grants, the Miyagi prefectural government and 17 municipalities in the prefecture are set to receive 80.43 billion yen. Miyagi was one of the three prefectures hit hardest by the disasters, along with Iwate and Fukushima prefectures. The Iwate prefectural government and 11 municipalities there will receive 48.58 billion yen, while 13.77 billion yen will go to the Fukushima government and 16 municipalities in the prefecture.

The remaining 680 million yen will be provided to the prefectural government of Hokkaido and 12 municipalities in six prefectures - Hokkaido, Aomori, Ibaraki, Saitama, Chiba and Niigata. The total amount to be allocated to the four prefectural and 56 municipal governments is 30 percent more than requested by local authorities. Of the total, the central government will allot 51.5 billion yen for projects to promote collective relocations of communities, 31 billion yen for improving ports and other fisheries-related facilities, and 20.9 billion yen for public housing construction.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 08/25/2012

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Quake Insurance Sales Hit Record in FY11

A record 53.7 percent of new fire insurance contracts in fiscal 2011 which ended in March, included earthquake coverage, an industry group said. The average nationwide figure was up 5.6 percentage points from a year before, the highest jump on record, said the Non-Life Insurance Rating Organization of Japan on Thursday. Interest in quake insurance grew after a magnitude-9 earthquake and ensuing tsunami hit the Tohoku region on March 11 last year, pushing the figure above 50 percent for the first time.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 08/25/2012

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Medical Expenses Hit Record High in FY11

Medical expenses hit a record high of 37.8 trillion yen in fiscal 2011, up 3.1 percent from the previous year, reflecting the nation's graying population and the growing use of advanced medical equipment, according to government data. Medical costs, covered by health insurance and the central and local governments, set a new record high for the ninth straight year, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Friday. The pace of increase slowed from the previous year's 3.9 percent because the overall population decreased.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 08/26/2012

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SOUTH KOREA: June Trade Surplus Reaches All-time High

The volume of the nation's trade surplus posted a record high last month, but was found to take the form of a recessionary surplus that results from a drop in imports. The Bank of Korea announced on Friday that last month's trade surplus amounted to five-point-eight billion dollars, or the highest monthly record ever to be posted. In January, the nation posted a deficit of 970 million dollars but has since seen continuous surpluses. The volume of trade surplus for the first half of the year was estimated at 13-point-seven billion dollars, up eight billion dollars from the same period last year. The central bank said the fact that the goods balance posted a record surplus had led to the July trade surplus posting an all-time high. However, the bank was quick to add that, compared to a year ago, exports rose one-point-one percent while imports shrank five-and-a-half percent last month, which means that last month's trade surplus stemmed from an economic depression.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 07/27/2012

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Household Debt Reaches W922 Trillion

Household debt in Korea grew again in the second quarter after falling slightly in the first, the Bank of Korea said Thursday. As of the end of June, household debt totaled W922 trillion (US$1=W1,132), up W10.85 trillion from the end of March. The BOK's figures include loans taken out from banks and purchases made on credit. According to the BOK, bank loans during the second quarter rose W10.9 trillion to W868.4 trillion, accounting for the majority of household debt. In contrast, credit purchases dropped W50 billion to W53.5 trillion, continuing their decline from the first quarter when they fell W1.2 trillion, amid prolonged sluggish consumption.

From http://english.chosun.com/ 08/24/2012

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S. Korea's Credit Rating Untouchable by Spat with Japan

South Korea's credit rating was found to have been little affected by the current conflict with Japan, after the neighboring country threatened to take non-diplomatic measures, including an examination of a plan to buy won-based bonds and to extend an existing currency swap agreement with Seoul. South Korea's credit default swap premium (CDS) was at 108 when President Lee Myung-bak made a visit to Dokdo on Aug. 10, but fell to 102 on Aug. 23.A lower CDS premium indicates it costs less to hedge South Korea's sovereign debt against default, in other terms, meaning the country has a lesser chance of defaulting on its outstanding debts from risk. South Korean domestic banks' refinancing rate of short-term debts also fell, reflecting improvement of financial stability. Credit ratings agency Moody's said in a report that South Korean banks rolled over more long-tern foreign currency debt than their short-term foreign currency debt in July, reducing financing risk as a credit positive development for the banks.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 08/26/2012

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MYANMAR: World Financial Groups Re-engage with Myanmar to Support Reform

YANGON, Aug. 2 (Xinhua) - The World Bank opened its first country office in Yangon's Inya Lake Hotel Wednesday, while preparing to grant 85 million U.S. dollars to support Myanmar's reform drive. The World Bank's move signified a re-engagement with Myanmar by a world financial institution after decades-long non-engagement. World Bank Group Vice President for East Asia and Pacific Pamela Cox announced the grant at the opening of the office which was jointly made with Karin Finkeiston, International Finance Corporation Vice President for Asia and Pacific . "The Bank is preparing to present to its Board up to 85 million U.S. dollars in grant to benefit men, women and children through community driven development programs which will allow communities to decide whether to invest in schools, roads, water or other projects," said a press release of the World Bank Group. However, it also said "Myanmar will have access to interest- free loan from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank's fund for the poorest countries, after it clears arrears of 397 million USD to the World Bank." "We are committed to eradicating poverty and the new office opening in Myanmar will allow us to reach some of the poorest people in East Asia. They have been cut off from the global economy for too long and it's very important that they receive real benefits from the government's reform," said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group.

"Myanmar is among the poorest countries in the region. The needs of the people are great and the World Bank Group is working with partners to support government reform that will improve people's lives, especially the poor and vulnerable," said Cox, adding that it will help lay the foundation for broad economic growth, creating opportunities for all. According to her, "the World Bank Grant will support a national community driven development program providing fund to people in local communities, including in border conflict areas. Community members will select development projects they need and transparency will ensure that everyone can track the use of fund." The bank is also expanding technical assistance and providing global expertise to help the government deliver services to the people and attract responsible foreign investment, expand trade, manage its resources better and create more jobs and opportunities for people, Cox was quoted as saying. Myanmar became a member of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) in 1952. The bank has approved no new lending since 1987. In 1998, the government went into arrears but has remained a member of the bank. Cox and Finkeiston arrived in Myanmar Monday for inauguration of the World Bank office in the former capital before which she met Myanmar President U Thein Sein, cabinet members, parliament members including Aung San Suu Kyi in Nay Pyi Taw.

It was the the first visit by the World Bank senior leadership since Myanmar began undertaking reform. Following the opening of the World Bank Office in Yangon, Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Wednesday said it will also re-engage with Myanmar by opening an office in the country, claiming that 15 million people out of 60 million live in poverty in the country. "Establishing an office in Myanmar allows us to deepen our understanding of the challenges facing the country, and how best to offer assistance to achieve inclusive and sustainable economic growth", said Stephen Groff, ADB Vice President for East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific. "It's crucial that we understand the reality facing Myanmar as we work with the government to formulate a partnership strategy for successful development and poverty reduction," he added.

ADB has not been operative in Myanmar since 1998, but the country, as a member of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) program, has participated in the bank-assisted regional activities over the past two decades. ADB recently accomplished its preliminary need assessment in the country in some key areas of transport, energy, agriculture and natural resources, education, and urban development, including water and sanitation. ADB's restoration of operations is said to coordinate with other development partners and is based on resolution of arrears. Before the ADB launches its program in Myanmar, the unpaid debts of the country to the bank are to be cleared, which reportedly amount to about 500 million U.S. dollars in addition to the 397 million dollars to the World Bank. Meanwhile, foreign bank representatives offices were opened in Myanmar one after another bringing the total number of such bank offices based in the country to 20 which include those from Singapore, Bangladesh, China, France, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Thailand, Cambodia, Brunei, Vietnam, South Korea, the United States and the United Kingdom.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 08/02/2012

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Myanmar Embarks on Monetary Reform

YANGON, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) - Myanmar has made a master plan for the monetary reform which is to be implemented with the assistance of the World Bank. The World Bank (WB) opened its first country office in Yangon Wednesday, announcing preparation to grant 85 million U.S. dollars to support Myanmar's reform. The office is also involving International Monetary Corporation (IMC) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Under the master plan, Myanmar is to enact Foreign Exchange Management Law soon, Minister of Finance and Revenue U Hla Tun disclosed on Thursday, saying that the government will allow local private banks to set up joint ventures with foreign counterparts that have opened offices in Myanmar. Foreign banks from Singapore, Bangladesh, China, France, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Thailand, Cambodia, Brunei, Vietnam, South Korea, the United States and Britain have opened 20 representative offices in the country.

The minister added that committees have also been formed to deliberate securities dealing bill for the development of capital market. He expected stock exchange to be launched in 2015 under the capital market development roadmap. Efforts are also being made for the accomplishment of ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015, he added. Meanwhile, Japan said it will provide technical aid to Myanmar for the development of capital market. A memorandum of understanding on the technical aid was signed between the Central Bank of Myanmar and the Daiwa Research Institute and Tokyo Stock Exchange in May. Starting in July, 11 authorized private banks in Myanmar admitted opening of foreign currency accounts in U.S dollar, Euro and Singapore dollar as well as FEC (foreign exchange certificate). However, such services are limited to government departments, state-owned economic enterprises (SEE), joint ventures with the SEE, foreign embassies and diplomats. Previously, only two state banks - Myanma Foreign Trade Bank ( MFTB) and Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank (MICB) - were allowed to provide such services.

Aimed at stabilizing the exchange rate and ensure emergence of foreign exchange market in the country, the Central Bank of Myanmar granted the 11 Myanmar private banks to trade the three foreign hard currencies. These banks have set up exchange counters at banks, airports, hotels, shopping centers and major tourists destinations for the convenience of tourists. Moreover, starting on Feb. 1, Myanmar government has eased foreign exchange control allowing exchange of up to 10,000 U.S. dollars with Myanmar kyats without any documentation. The fresh regulations apply to both Myanmar citizens and foreigners in order to get rid of black foreign exchange market. Beginning in April, Myanmar changed the fixed foreign exchange rate regime to a managed floating exchange rate and the U.S. dollar is quoted at 880 Kyats currently, up from 818 Kyats when it was first applied.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 08/04/2012

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Myanmar Hopeful to Become Middle Income Nation by 2030: ADB

BANGKOK, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) - Myanmar could expand its economy by 7 percent to 8 percent per year for a decade or more and become a middle income nation by 2030 if its reforms stay on track, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in a report released here on Monday. Analyzing the opportunities and challenges facing Myanmar after decades of isolation, the report "Myanmar in Transition" is ADB's first major assessment of the country since it began political and economic reforms in 2011. It noted that Myanmar is showing good potential for growth and could become one of the next "rising stars" in Asia. If the government keeps a firm and lasting commitment to reforming, economically and socially, the country would follow the pace of Asia's fast growing economies and raise its per capita income to 2000 to 3000 U.S. dollars by the year of 2030. Stephen Groff, ADB's vice president for East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said that Myanmar has to strive for strong and inclusive growth, which is imperative for poverty alleviation and improved living standards. Key development agendas for Myanmar which has the lowest per capita GDP among Asian countries also include maintaining macroeconomic stability, improving infrastructure and human capital and mobilizing resources for investment, he said. In terms of advantages, Groff said Myanmar boasts abundant natural resources and labor force. "Its strategic location, close to China and India and the ASEAN bloc, leaves it perfectly positioned to prosper from Asia's dynamic economic growth," he said.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 08/20/2012

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PHILIPPINES: Setting Up Climate Change Fund

MANILA: Philippine President Benigno Aquino has signed a law creating a one billion peso (about $24 million) "survival fund" to combat the effects of climate change, a government official said on Tuesday. The law is meant to fund climate adaptation projects in a country battered by about 20 typhoons a year that cause large-scale deaths and damage, said Climate Change Commission deputy head Mary Anne Lucille Sering. Philippine officials as well as international experts have said the growing intensity of the annual typhoons is a result of climate change. "Now, we have the means to make our communities safer against the intensifying effects of climate change," Sering said in a statement. The law, signed on Friday, would use the survival fund to bankroll projects in water resource management and boost forecasting and early warning systems for climate-related hazards, Sering said. It would also be used to guarantee risk insurance for farmers in case of crop damage, she added.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 08/21/2012

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THAILAND: House Approves Biggest Budget in History

BANGKOK, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) - Thailand's House of Representatives, or the lower house, on Saturday gave green light to the government's 2013 fiscal budget bill which proposes the highest spending of 2.4 trillion baht (around 76.2 billion U.S. dollars) in history. Members of the House voted 279 to 8, with 127 abstentions, to pass the bill after a three-day final deliberation. The budget sets expenditures at a historically high 2.4 trillion baht and revenues at 2.1 trillion baht (66.7 billion dollars) in the 2013 fiscal year which begins on Oct. 1. Policy changes under the controversial spending plan include cutting corporate income tax from 30 percent to 23 percent, which has been slammed by the opposition Democrat Party as "only favoring capitalists." Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong promised to ensure transparency in budget spending, saying the government was taking a prudent approach by proposing an increased budget. Under the Constitution, the Senate,or the upper house, must consider the Budget Bill within 20 days of its passage by the House.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 08/18/2012

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VIETNAM: Succeeding in Strengthening Economic Balance, Curbing Inflation - HSBC's Report

HANOI, Aug. 2 (Xinhua) - The Vietnamese government has succeeded in strengthening the balance of economic development and curbing inflation, said the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) in its report released on Thursday. The report, Vietnam at a glance, indicated that the country's inflation has slowed from a peak of 23 percent in 2011 to 5 percent in July; trade deficit has been narrowed to 58 million U.S. dollars in the first seven months and foreign reserves increased. While the Vietnamese government has been successful at dampening demand to slow down inflationary pressures, it has also pulled the brake on growth more than expected. Therefore, the country is expected to see more interest rate cuts in the near future, said the report. According to HSBC, the Vietnamese policy makers are willing to perform necessary actions to promote the economic development. A number of measures have been applied since last year to tighten credit and dampen demand. The government recently passed a resolution to increase the efficiency of state-owned enterprises and the banking sector. The Vietnamese dong is also quite stable since the beginning of the year. However, there are still many problems to be solved including low level of credit growth and declining domestic demand. The report said that the country is expected to see interest rate cut by 1 percent in the near future. The report also asserted that Vietnam is on the right track on cutting debt and applying measures to promote productivity that will put the economy back onto a faster growth trajectory.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 08/02/2012

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PAKISTAN: Govt Borrows Rs.51bn in 6 Days from SBP

The government has borrowed Rs51 billion in six days from the State Bank of Pakistan, Geo News reported. The central bank has issued new statistics of borrowings of the government, according to which the government has borrowed Rs51 billion only in 6 days in the current fiscal year. This means that the government is borrowing Rs8.5 billion per day from the State Bank. According to the statistics, the government borrowed Rs44.72 billion to over come budget deficit. The provincial governments had a loan of Rs3.54 billion while Rs6.39 billion were borrowed for the purchase of commodities. In the previous fiscal year ended June 30, the government's total borrowing from the central bank had reached Rs1200 billion.

From http://www.thenews.com.pk/ 07/21/2012

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AZERBAIJAN: Bank of Azerbaijan Increases Share Capital by 1.5 Times

The State Securities Committee (SSC) of Azerbaijan registered the issue prospectus of ordinary registered shares of Bank of Azerbaijan in the amount of 16.5 million manat, the SSC said on Friday. Prospectus includes 825,000 shares with a par value of 20 manat each. Thus, the bank's authorized capital will be increased from 33.5 million manat to 50 million manat. Bank of Azerbaijan is operating from December 1, 1993. At the present time, bank has 17 branches, 3 additional offices, 32 ATMs and 1855 POS-terminals.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/10/2012

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Level of Dollarization Seriously Decreases in Azerbaijan for 10 Years

The level of dollarization seriously decreased in Azerbaijan during the past ten years, the share of deposits in national currency has more than doubled, Central Bank of Azerbaijan said on Tuesday. "A lot of institutional reforms in the field of cash handling, upgrading and improving the quality of management systems were held over the past 20 years," the CBA stated. Thus, the legal and institutional framework of cash management is brought into line with modern practice. During this period, the Treasury set up a modern infrastructure that meets the high standards of safety, levels of automation increased, business processes are built in accordance with international standards. The optimization of regional systems of governance in accordance with international experience is also held, regional and reserve centers meeting the modern standards are created. "The Central Bank, along with meeting demands for cash, announced the "politics of pure money in circulation" and ensured the maintenance of the quality of the outstanding bank notes at a high level," the statement said. In addition, the central bank intends in the near future to take a place among the advanced countries with the most effective management systems in all areas of the bank. August 15 marks the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the issuance of national currency - manat, which is considered as the main attribute of the sovereignty of Azerbaijan after the restoration of state independence. Since January 2006, the country re-denominated manat (one new manat were equaled to 5000 manat). "The Central Bank intends to ensure the implementation of the strategic challenge voiced by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev:" I am confident that manat, as a strong currency, will play a role in solving economic and social issues of Azerbaijan in subsequent years," the CBA stated.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/14/2012

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Azerbaijani Accessbank Expands Its Branch Network

Azerbaijani AccessBank has opened its 34th branch in Badamdar, the bank's press release says on Friday. The "Badamdar" office is a fully fledged branch providing the entire range of banking services to corporate and private clients such as current and deposit accounts, loans for small and medium entrepreneurs, consumer loans, Visa plastic cards as well as money transfers internationally and locally. "We had an existing AccessBank branch in the Badamdar settlement since 2009. In early July this year, the branch was relocated to the Lokbatan settlement due to the proximity to clients working at the "Bina" and "Sadarak" markets," the "Badamdar" branch manager, Jahangir Eyubov said welcoming the opening of the branch. However, the Bank's Management decided - following its principle to strive for offering the best possible client service - to restore its "Badamdar" branch operations due to strong demand for AccessBank's services in the Badamdar location, he said. AccessBank was established to provide access to financial services for Azerbaijan's micro and small businesses and low and middle income households. AccessBank is recognized as the Most Reliable Bank in Azerbaijan by Fitch International Ratings ('BB+ Outlook Stable'), and as "The Best Bank in Azerbaijan" by Global Finance (2011) and Euromoney (2012, 2011 and 2010) in their annual awards as well as "The Bank of the Year" by The Banker (2011). AccessBank is 100% foreign owned by six shareholders, consisting of: the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, the International Finance Corporation, the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank, KfW Development Bank - the Development Bank of the German Government (20% per each), Access Microfinance Holding acting in microfinance field as a strategic investor (16.5%), and LFS Financial Systems GmbH - a German consulting company (3.5%).

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/17/2012

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Azerbaijani Kapital Bank Reduces Tariffs on Plastic Cards

Azerbaijani Kapital Bank offers all types of plastic cards at a 50% discount on the eve of the Eid ul-Fitr, the bank said on Saturday. Kapital Bank also changed the terms of subscription to its SMS-banking service. "If previously customers had to pay 3 manat for subscribing to the service, now it is available for free," the statement said.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/18/2012

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TAJIKISTAN: National Bank of Tajikistan Reduces Refinancing Rate by 0.3 Percent Points

National Bank of Tajikistan reduced refinancing rate by 0.3 percent points, setting it at 6.5 percent per annum, Avesta.Tj reported. According to the country's National Bank, this action is taken to lower average interest rates on loans in the banking system, as well as for efficient implementation of the country's monetary policy. According to the source in the National Bank of Tajikistan, in early July 2012 the refinancing rate reduced by 1.2 percent points from 8 percent and was set at 6.8 percent per annum. The refinancing rate is the main lever of monetary policy. The refinancing rate is an instrument of monetary regulation, through which the National Bank influences the interbank market, as well as the interest rates on loans and deposits, provided by lending institutions to legal and physical entities.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/17/2012

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Tajikistan's Budget Exceeds $1 Billion

Total volume of Tajikistan's state budget exceeded 5 billion somoni (over $1 billion) during the seven months of the year, Avesta.tj reported on Friday with reference to the Finance Ministry. This index is by 2.2 percent more than detail plan. Over 3.3 billion of the amount accounts for tax income, which increased by 24.8 percent compared to the similar period of 2011. Non-tax income to the budget hit 6.8 percent, increasing by 28.1 million somoni compared to similar period of last year.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/17/2012

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TURKMENISTAN: Ready to Transfer Funds to IMF Trust Fund

The Turkmen Central Bank strengthens effective cooperation with leading global financial institutions, especially with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Turkmenistan is IMF member since 1992, Turkmen official source said today. The information that IMF carries out reforms aimed at preserving the stability of the international monetary system in terms of the global financial and economic crisis was voiced at the government meeting in Ashgabat. IMF Executive Board has proposed for IMF members, including Turkmenistan to transfer a certain amount to a trust fund to reduce poverty and promote economic growth. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov stressed the importance of transferring funds by Turkmenistan to this particularized fund. "This action is primarily based on the fact that public policy is based on the principles of humanism of our ancestors and ancestral traditions of the Turkmen people, ready to help other nations in hard times," the president said. He added that this confirms Turkmenistan's high economic potential and growth of its international prestige.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/24/2012

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UZBEKISTAN: Directing $290 Mln to Development of Pharmaceutical Industry

Uzbekistan in 2012-2013 will direct $290.5 million to the development of the pharmaceutical industry, the Uzbek pharmaceutical industry state joint-stock company said on Friday. In total, until 2014 it is planned to implement 39 investment projects for production of 30 new drugs of generic number for the prevention and treatment of socially significant and socially dangerous diseases. These products are in high demand and are imported into the country mainly on import contracts. Before late 2012 Salubris Vita joint venture (Tashkent region) plans to start operating the production of drugs that normalize the intestinal microflora worth $21 million. JV Al-Bi Pharma (Tashkent) will establish production of vitamin preparations worth $8 million, Nicka Pharm (Tashkent) will start producing cardiac drugs ($ 5.3 million). In 2013, the industry plans to start the project for the production of antibiotic substances cephalosporin worth $37 million and antiviral drugs ($15 million) on the basis of the Navoi free industrial economic zone, as well as plasma substitutes and blood solutions in Fergana ($30 million). It is expected that production of basic products will be increased threefold in comparison with 2011 year and will exceed 720 million standard units, which will increase the share of domestic products in the total pharmaceutical market to 43 percent from the current 30 percent. Of the total investment volume in the pharmaceutical industry some $ 145 million will be foreign investment, $ 95 million - loans of Uzbek banks, $50.5 million - local businesses.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/05/2012

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UZBEKISTAN: Uzbek Bank to Increase Authorised Capital by 1.9 Times

The Uzbek Industrial and Construction Bank (Uzpromstroybank),which is the third largest bank in terms of major financial indicators in the banking system of the republic, carried out an additional issue of shares worth over 152 billion soums, planning to increase its authorised capital by 1.9 times - up to 318.5 billion soums, the bank said on Monday. The additional issue was registered by the Centre for Coordination and Control over the Securities Market under the State Property Committee of Uzbekistan on August 2. According to the prospectus, the bank will place 54.578.1 million common shares, at 2,785 soums each. The additional issue was made in accordance with the decision of President Islam Karimov "On additional measures to increase the capitalization of Uzpromstroybank (April 2012), providing for an increase in the authorised capital of the bank in 2012 - 2013 by more than two times - up to 300 billion soums through the issuance of additional shares worth 152 billion soums. According to the decree, the Ministry of Finance shall redeem the total volume of additional issue of securities at 44.5 billion soums, the Fund for Reconstruction and Development of Uzbekistan (FRDU) - 33.1 billion soums, Uzbekneftegaz, Uzbekenergo, Uzhimprom and their structural units will redeem shares worth 28.3 billion soums, other investors will acquire the shares at 46.1 billion soums by public subscription. As reported in early July, Uzpromstroybank increased authorised capital by 12.5 percent - up to 166.5 billion soums by increasing the nominal value of shares. The credit facility placed additional issue of shares worth 166.543 billion soums - in total, 57.78 million common shares and two million of preferred shares, at 2,785 soums each.

The additional issue was undertaken by the decision of the annual meeting of stockholders to increase authorised capital by capitalization of profits. In total, 18.5 billion soums, including 12.3 billion soums from the net profit for 2011 (55 per cent of profits), and 6.2 billion sums from the profits of past years were directed to capitalization. The shares were placed by private subscription among the shareholders according to the participation rights by converting shares of 2,475 soums on new denomination 2,785 soums. Uzpromstroybank was established in 1922 and re-registered in 1991. The main activity is to lend to enterprises operating in strategic sectors of industry. The bank has 45 branches, 176 savings banks, 65 mini-banks located in all regions of the republic, a representative office in Moscow. Bank shares are owned by 35,062 shareholders, including 31,500 individuals and 3,562 legal entities. The largest shareholders are the Ministry of Finance of Uzbekistan and the Fund for Reconstruction and Development, whose combined shareholding is currently 51 per cent. In 2011 assets of Uzpromstroybank grew by 79.4 per cent compared to 2010 - to 3.46 trillion soums. The credit portfolio grew by 63.6 per cent to 2.23 trillion soums and liabilities by 85.4 per cent to 3 24 trillion soums.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/06/2012

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AUSTRALIA: Boost Investment in Health Informatics

Healthcare informatics will play a key role in delivering integrated patient care - with the Australian Government planning to use this platform to manage and share data across the healthcare system. In future, healthcare agencies and service delivery providers will increasingly use informatics to collect, analyse, and move data across different jurisdictions, according to Dr Michael Bainbridge, programme clinical lead, National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA). Dr Bainbridge, also adjunct professor, clinical informatics, University of British Columbia, was speaking at the industry's peak Health Informatics Conference (HIC 2012) in Sydney. He said paper-based record-keeping is seen as "public enemy number one." This regime is being replaced by informatics and electronic records to deliver modernised healthcare. Informatics offers a "cradle-to-grave" snapshot of patients, at the same time, supporting evidence-based policy and funding reforms for peak agencies like NEHTA. NEHTA is driving the Australian Government's high-profile US$233.7 million (AUD$233.7 million) Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) programme.

The three-year programme will deliver fully integrated e-health services nationally, while making better use of e-health data across agencies, hospitals, clinics and healthcare centres. Informatics offers a cost-effective platform to acquire, store, retrieve and use health and biomedicine information, noted Dr Bainbridge. He said nearly two terabytes of data is pumped out each day, per patient, at emergency wards. This data can reside in different places, in varied formats, while relying on sometimes incompatible technology. "With informatics, we're on a better trajectory to managing patient care. Patients are also taking ownership of their own data and medical records." Dr Bainbridge said a paternalist model of healthcare has shifted. This is being replaced by more precise and personalised information-exchange. "We're moving past incomprehensible medical forms toward empowering patients." Health informatics helps integrate all episodes of care, while improving productivity across the system, according to Mike Woods, deputy chair, Productivity Commission (Australian Government). Informatics offers cost-effective tools to empower consumers and care-givers, he said. This platform supports a cohesive and connected information base. It also improves operational performance, while helping medical staff evaluate, cost and forecast activities.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 08/02/2012

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Aus Broadband Faces Budget Blow-Out

The Australian Government's high-profile National Broadband Network (NBN) slated to deliver "fibre-to-every-home" is facing cost over-runs, amid mounting concerns about delivering this major project to time and budget. Revised figures indicate the government may need to inject an extra US$2.9 billion (AUD$2.9 billion) to off-set capital and operating costs. Original spending for this broadband roll-out was placed at US$36 billion (AUD$36 billion), while delivering high-bandwidth services to homes and businesses. The NBN will connect just 92,000 homes and offices to broadband services by June 2013, well below earlier projected forecasts. The June 2013 subscriber rate represents a 14 per cent uptake, compared with an earlier forecast connecting 566,000 users nationally. "Changes in the scope of the overall project required to be delivered by NBN Co have resulted in an increase in Capital Expenditure during the Construction period," notes a revised four-year corporate plan released 8th August by the NBN Co. Sydney-based NBN Co is managing the roll-out of Australia's most ambitious telecommunications infrastructure project. This project is comparable in size and scope to building Sydney's iconic Harbour Bridge.

"The company expects to achieve an annual Internal rate of return of 7.1 per cent, a marginal increase on its original projection released 20 months ago before the full-scale rollout of the National Broadband Network had commenced," notes the NBN Co's corporate plan. Completion date for the NBN is being pushed back by six months to mid-2021. Opposition's shadow minister for communications and broadband, Malcolm Turnbull, has accused the Australian government of "hiding" the true original costs to build this national broadband network. "The government's strategy from the beginning has been to hide the true costs of the NBN and exempt it from parliamentary and public scrutiny," warned Turnbull. "This week's revised corporate plan will not be credible unless it owns up to the true overall cost of the project, and acknowledges the rollout delays and higher costs that are obvious to the community." Despite the broader debate surrounding the NBN, this project is "on track" to meet its targets, according to the Federal minister for broadband and communications, Stephen Conroy.

Additionally, Australian finance minister, Penny Wong, has noted the NBN will deliver a "solid return" for tax-payers. This project's focus should not just be on profits, but the value it will bring to businesses and families, she says. The NBN project is the poster-child of Australia's current Labor-led government. It was crafted, during an earlier election promise, to deliver affordable broadband to every home across cities, towns, and regional areas. The Labor government, under Prime Minister Julia Gillard, faces an election in the New Year. Industry observers note that Australia's widely-debated, and somewhat controversial, broadband project may be replaced by a more affordable blueprint, should the Opposition (Liberal Party) win government in 2013.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 08/09/2012

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NEW ZEALAND: National's Tax Cuts Haven't Cut Tax Avoidance

National's 2010 tax cuts, that advantaged New Zealand's wealthiest citizens, have unsurprisingly failed to spur an altruistic upsurge in compliance, Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today. Information obtained under the Official Information Act shows that only 50% of the wealthiest Kiwis are currently paying the top income tax rate, despite it being cut by National in 2010 to 33%. Finance Minister, Bill English, argued at the time that shortfalls from cutting the top tax rate would be offset by tightened compliance measures. "The Government's tax cuts in 2010 failed to address the ability of some very wealthy New Zealanders to structure their affairs so they pay less tax than many middle income earners," said Dr Norman. "If we want to strengthen our economy we need to strengthen the fairness of our tax base. A lot of the income the very wealthy receive would be captured by a capital gains tax. Low and middle income New Zealander's on 'pay as you earn' are paying their fair share, helping to build schools, hospitals and pay for our public services. It is not fair that many rich New Zealanders are cheating on their tax. National's unfair tax cuts coupled with widespread tax avoidance by some of our wealthiest citizens undermines the public's faith that we have a fair and equitable tax system. Widespread tax avoidance from the top down is a big part of the reason Greece is now the basket case of Europe," said Dr Norman. Research undertaken by the University of Chicago found that if Greece had collected all the taxes due in 2009, it would have generated an additional 11.2 billion euros. "The Key Government needs to look at solutions that make New Zealand a fairer place rather than tax cuts that increase inequality. Tax is the price we pay to live in a civilised society."

From http://www.scoop.co.nz/ 08/26/2012

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Budget Deficit at K513m - Report

THE mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook released today indicates that the 2012 budget has moved from a balanced budget to an expected deficit of K513.1 million, Treasurer Don Polye has announced. Growth in the PNG economy had been revised upwards to be 11.0% last year and 9.9% this year. Growth in non-mining GDP had also increased to very high levels of 13.1% last year and 10.4% this year. These growth rates were some of the strongest of all nations in the world. Inflation had been revised upwards to 8.0% this year. Despite this strong growth performance, the fiscal position had deteriorated. This was due to increased uncertainties in the international economy, a fall in most commodity prices, especially gold and copper, and the strong appreciation of the kina. Altogether, revenue was now estimated to be K392.5 million lower than at budget time. Over-expenditures of K120.7 million, especially in provincial personnel emoluments, had been identified, Polye said.

"This is a responsible government that is willing to make the decisive decisions that are vital for protecting our economy and maintaining macroeconomic stability. So this government has a plan to address this deficit and bring us back to a balanced budget approach as outlined in 2012." The treasurer announced that the first step in this plan is to ensure all ministries do not overspend their appropriations. "Particular action will be taken to address the expected over-spending in personal emoluments, especially in the provinces. "Second, we will take immediate action to identify waste, duplication and lower priority expenditures. As mentioned by the prime minister, this will include looking for savings in the public service where there are inefficiencies. We need more expenditure out in the rural areas rather than public servants in Port Moresby. Third, administrative actions also will be taken to slow the rate of expenditure. For example, within the development budget, the rate of actual spending indicates that some agencies do not have the capability to spend all the 2012 funding effectively by the end of the year. We can still support such programmes in the 2013 budget but they should not feel forced to spend the funds just because we are approaching the end of the year. We will also look towards the IRC and Customs to see if further revenues can be raised through higher compliance efforts. We will also approach SOEs to see if further dividends can be paid in 2012. Together with the actions to reign in over-expenditure, these administrative actions will aim to bring the budget this year back to a balanced budget. Fourth, we will introduce a medium-term fiscal strategy that will focus on the key medium-term development plan enablers including education, health, infrastructure and law and order. We want to create a plan that provides a framework that strikes the balance between maintaining macroeconomic stability, supporting current economic growth; and meeting the significant development needs of our people over the next five years."

A fifth strategy would be to release a 2013 budget strategy "that sets out how we can meet the targets of the MTFS while also making a strong start in meeting our key priorities such as expanded tuition fee-free education". Finally, Polye said the government would take actions to make for better public financial management, including improvements in accountability and transparency. Such changes would include a move towards multi-year budgeting, better information flows on the budget, stronger project screening and management processes and better systems of reporting on government finances.

From http://www.thenational.com.pg/ 08/20/2012

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Govt Warned of High Debt

THE government needs to rein in domestic borrowing if it is to avoid serious economic crisis similar to those experienced in 1994 and 1998, the opposition warned yesterday. Shadow minister for finance and treasury Joseph Lelang told a news conference PNG was poised on the brink of an economic precipice, with similar high debts incurred during the 2012 elections, excessive domestic borrowing and falling revenues. Lelang said domestic debt was already projected by the Treasury Department to rise to K6 billion this year, an increase of K900 million from last year. Added to the government's forecast budget deficit of K513.1 million, domestic debt would increase by K1.4 billion alone in just 2012, Lelang said. This position coupled with the global economic turn and the resultant falling prices for PNG's export commodities is an unsustainable and untenable position, he said. He said already inflation had risen to 8.5%, higher than the 7.6% assumed in the 2012 budget.

Lelang predicts it is heading higher driven by private sector need to borrow from the banks to expand their businesses. It is an attractive borrower's market presently with high liquidity in the banks and low interest rates. Lelang, who is immediate past secretary of planning and implementation, said foreign reserves had fallen by K451.6 million because of ongoing high imports by the PNG LNG Gas project for its construction phase and low commodity prices. Strong domestic demand by the private sector and excessive government spending is also driving foreign reserves down. Treasury Department has recently announced that total revenue has declined by K392.5 million with the largest fall recorded from income and profits tax from the mining and petroleum sectors and the dividend withholding tax. "It is plain, clear and simple," Lelang said. "We must live within our means. "Borrowing is not an option especially when this government has already created much debt in the last 12 months."

Lelang said the opposition was raising this red flag because circumstances facing PNG today are similar to those facing the country in 1994 before the balance of payment crisis which saw the floating of the kina and its free fall; and the 1998 crisis when excessive domestic debt was incurred to support excessive spending in the 1997 elections and revenue was falling. Both occasions warranted rescuing from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

From http://www.thenational.com.pg/ 08/24/2012

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Private Sector Reforms Can Boost Development in Pacific - ADB Report

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Reforming state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and improving the business environment and women's economic empowerment are critical to building a vibrant private sector in the Pacific region, according to the latest edition of the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Pacific Economic Monitor. "Building the private sector is key to ensuring that growth in the Pacific is inclusive," said Xianbin Yao, Director General of the ADB's Pacific Department. "By removing barriers and building the right conditions, Pacific policy makers can help develop a strong and dynamic private sector." Listen to Monitor author Christopher Edmonds talk about growth prospects for the region, and how the eurozone crisis has effected Pacific economies. The July 2012 edition of the report, a tri-annual economic review of 14 Pacific island countries, includes three articles on private sector development efforts as the theme of its section covering economic policy and management in the region. One article highlights recent SOE reform efforts in Kiribati. It illustrates that with proper assessment, governments can identify and manage opportunities for reform of poorly performing SOEs that drain public resources, damage growth prospects, and create a cycle of costly and inefficient productivity. In the case study of the Kiribati Supply Company Limited, the enterprise found new life as a profitable privately-held business.

The second article examines efforts to improve access to finance in the Pacific through secured transactions, or loans backed by movable assets such as boats, cars, or farm equipment. Secured transaction legislation, presently in use in the Republic of Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu, can reduce the cost of arranging credit and increase accessibility of credit. The last article also focuses on women's economic empowerment, assessing key constraints that women face with regard to business laws. The article recommends reforms to overcome constraints. Adjustments in legislation and regulations that promote women's participation in the private sector can help reduce poverty in the Pacific. Automating business processes (such as business licensing and registration) and reforming business ownership regulations can reduce opportunities for bias or discrimination and free women from the obligation of having male business partners or loan co-signers. Much of the work discussed in the Monitor was carried out by ADB's Pacific private sector development initiative (PSDI), established in 2006 with co-financing from Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). The PSDI is a knowledge hub with a team of technical experts focusing on business law reform, access to financial services, SOE reform, and public-private partnerships.

From http://www.adb.org/ 07/25/2012

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Catch Software Named One of Asia's Most Promising Private Technology Ventures

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - (Marketwire -08/21/12)- Catch Software announced today that it has been named a finalist in the Red Herring Top 100 Asia listing, a prestigious list honouring the most promising private technology ventures in the Asia Pacific region. Catch develops Enterprise Tester, an award-winning QA and test management tool that dramatically cuts QA efforts by being easy to use, providing access to information across the development lifecycle, and being highly scalable. With Enterprise Tester "QA teams can slash test setup and execution times and reporting becomes easy," says Product Manager, Audrey Cheng. "This is what QA professionals need; a great tool that assists rather than hinders the testing process." This singular focus on quality, along with the company's strategic partnerships with two other Australasian success stories, Atlassian and Sparx Systems, seems to have been a driving factor in the company's success and the reason it now counts Fortune 500 and Global 2000 firms amongst its biggest customers. Bryce Day, Founder & CEO of Catch Software, said, "It's an honour to be recognised for the fantastic work that our team does every day. We are in a really exciting growth phase, working on projects with globally-recognised brands, and looking forward to what the next twelve months brings."

The Red Herring team selected the most innovative and promising companies from a pool of hundreds from across Asia Pacific. The nominees are evaluated on both quantitative and qualitative criteria, such as financial performance, technology innovation, quality of management, IP creation, CAGR, execution of strategy, and disruption in their respective industries. This unique assessment of potential is complemented by a review of the actual track record and standing of a company, which allows Red Herring to see past the "buzz" and make the list a valuable instrument for discovering and advocating the greatest business opportunities in the industry. Red Herring Top 100 Asia will be announced at an awards ceremony in Hong Kong on September 12.

About Catch Software
Catch Software is an award-winning company headquartered in Auckland, New Zealand. They make test management, execution, and integration tools that help QA professionals get more out of their testing effort. Their flagship product, Enterprise Tester (www.enterprisetester.com), is a test management platform which was released in early 2009 and is now used by QA teams globally. For more information please visit: www.catchsoftware.com

From http://finance.yahoo.com/ 08/21/2012

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CHINA: Baidu Income Rises Nearly 70%

BAIDU, China's biggest search engine operator, said profit in the second quarter of this year surged nearly 70 percent due to increasing spending for paid search links. Chief Executive Officer Robin Li told a conference call after the earnings release yesterday that the company will consider making an acquisition to extend more services to users, following last year's US$306 million investment in travel search site Qunar. "If users search for information or product that belongs to important vertical categories, Baidu will consider owning that by either acquisition or do it ourselves," Li said. Net income in the three months ended on June 30 increased 69.6 percent to US$436 million, and sales grew 59.8 percent to US$859 million, the company said yesterday.

Baidu had about 352,000 customers in the second quarter, up 18 percent from the same period of last year. The average amount of spending jumped 34.8 percent annually to 15,500 yuan (US$2,426). Li said the company will continue to optimize its sales process and offer advanced tools to help customers market their businesses on the Internet and on mobile Internet devices. The company kept its dominant position in the US$1.1 billion domestic search market in the second quarter, with a 78.6 percent market share, far ahead of Google China's 15.7 percent.

From http://www.shanghaidaily.com/ 07/25/2012

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Huawei Overtakes Ericsson as World's Largest Telco Player

Huawei Technologies knocked off Swedish telco giant Ericsson to become the world's largest telecom equipment vendor by sales for the first time, after it reported an increase of 5.1 percent in sales to 102.7 billion yuan (US$16.1 billion) yesterday. Ericsson, previously the world's second-largest equipment manufacturer, last week reported a drop in sales to 106.3 billion kronor (US$15.25 billion) during the first half of 2012, less than Huawei's sales over the same period. Huawei estimates 15 percent growth and improved operational efficiency for this year, and expects its 2012 profitability to match last year's numbers. "We are relatively optimistic about the company's operating performance and profitability in the remaining days of this year," said Huawei's CFO Meng Wanzhou. A staff from Huawei said the company's first-half performance has roughly met the company's expectations. Since 2011 Huawei has made aggressive expansion into the terminals market which has driven its revenue growth. In the face of uncertainties in the global economy, many telecom equipment makers are scaling down costs.In 2011, Ericsson sold half of the stake in its joint-venture with Sony Ericsson to Sony and this deal to some extent dented Ericsson's scale. Ericsson has placed increasing value on its global services and support solutions businesses which have accounted for about half of the company's revenues and have maintained rapid growth.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 07/25/2012

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Private Capital Likely for Telecom Sector

WITH the aim to spur the slowing economy, China plans to unveil a detailed policy on allowing private capital in the telecommunications sector, the top industry regulator said yesterday. The regulator is drafting a plan, which will be released "very soon," said Zhang Feng, a senior official with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology yesterday. Private investors will be able to invest in eight areas, including mobile communications resale, broadband services, value-added telecom services and basic operating services, the ministry said. "With the new investment from private capital, the service level and share structure of the whole industry will be greatly improved," Zhang said during a broadcast conference yesterday.

Presently, private investment is restricted in the Chinese telecommunications sector, which is regarded as a national strategic industry. China has more than 1 billion mobile phone users, which makes it the world's biggest telecommunications market. During the conference, the ministry also pledged to push the development of the Broadband China project, which will help carriers improve broadband speed and cut their service cost. The faster fiber-optic network now reaches 23 million families across the country and by the end of this year it will cover 35 million families nationwide, according to the ministry.

From http://www.shanghaidaily.com/ 07/26/2012

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DreamWorks, Shanghai City Unveil Collaborative Blueprint

US film giant DreamWorks Animation (DWA) and its Chinese partners said today that they plan to co-produce upcoming film "Kung Fu Panda 3," as well as build an "entertainment destination" in Shanghai. The news was announced at a signing ceremony held in the city to launch a landmark Sino-US cultural project titled "Oriental DreamWorks. "The two parties confirmed that the long-anticipated third installment of the blockbuster "Kung Fu Panda" franchise is slated to be released in 2016 by DWA and Oriental DreamWorks (ODW), a studio established by DWA in partnership with a trio of Shanghai-based companies. Oriental Dreamworks, a Chinese venture by Dreamworks Animation SKG Inc, will invest more than 20 billion yuan (US$3.1 billion) building an entertainment center in Shanghai. DWA and three Shanghai-based state-owned groups - China Media Capital (CMC), the Shanghai Media Group and Shanghai Alliance Investment Limited - signed a deal in February to form a joint venture focusing on animation production, with the Chinese companies acting as controlling partners.

The first two "Kung Fu Panda" films enjoyed great success in the Chinese market, with the second film taking in 470 million yuan at the box office. ODW is expected to produce its first original animated film in 2017. Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DWA, said previously that there are seven different proposals being considered for the film. In addition, the two parties signed an agreement today to establish the "Dream Center" entertainment zone in the West Bank Media Port, which is located in Shanghai's Xuhui district. Built with a total investment of more than 20 billion yuan, the zone will be made up of theaters, restaurants and bars, said Li Ruigang, CMC's chairman. The West Bank Media Port, with the "Dream Center" as its flagship attraction, is expected to see 20 million visitors a year, according to data provided by the district government of Xuhui. "In the long term, we may bring more entertainment zones to other domestic cities or even build them abroad," Li added.

From http://www.shanghaidaily.com/ 08/07/2012

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JAPAN: Summer Power Usage Falls 11% in KEPCO's Service Area

Kansai Electric Power Co. said Thursday that summer electricity consumption in its service area has been down 11 percent, or 3.1 million kilowatts, from the 2010 level. The drop is twice that of last summer, when consumption fell 5 percent from 2010, the year of a very hot summer. The current percentage is higher than the voluntary electricity-saving target, set at 10 percent by the government to avoid power shortages that could result from the suspension of nuclear reactors following the outbreak of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 power plant in March 2011.The figures have been submitted to the Union of Kansai Governments, comprised mainly of local governments in the Kansai region, as an interim report. They were calculated based on maximum electricity demand from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. from July 2, when the company first asked its customers to cut consumption, through Friday. The power-saving period ends on Sept. 7.

Industrial power consumption has fallen by about 12 percent, which compares favorably with a reduction of 7 percent last year, while power used by commercial buildings was down 11 percent, against a 5 percent reduction a year ago. Households also reduced power use by 11 percent, compared with about 3 percent in 2011.Electricity supply and demand have been stable this summer thanks to power-saving efforts, and also because KEPCO's power plants have suffered no major problems, a company official said. "The restart of reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant was necessary to keep the supply of electricity stable this summer," the official added. The power-saving targets for the KEPCO service area were reduced from 15 percent to 10 percent on July 10 after the Oi nuclear plant's No. 3 reactor was fully reactivated.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 08/24/2012

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SOUTH KOREA: Gov't to Support Smalls Firms in Boosting Exports

The Ministry of Knowledge Economy has announced short-term measures to help domestic small and medium-sized companies expand their exports. To increase the nation's shipments to Europe, the ministry will further strengthen the marketing of export items that benefit from the Korea-EU free trade agreement while offering FTA-related consultations to small exporters at all times. The Korea Trade Insurance Corporation and the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) will offer joint consulting and other support to companies that develop markets in emerging economies such as Africa. The growing popularity of Korean pop culture overseas known as the Korean Wave or "hallyu" will be used as a marketing tool to boost Korean products in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) market. Shinhan Bank will sign an agreement with the ministry to quickly provide export guarantees to small and medium-sized firms that participate in projects won by large corporations overseas.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 07/25/2012

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Gov't to Support More Firms Affected by FTA Losses

The government will provide loan assistance to a pork-packing company over claims its suffered losses when South Korea's free trade deal went into effect with the European Union (EU). The Ministry of Knowledge Economy's trade commission said Thursday that it accepted the North Jeolla Province firm's claims and designated it eligible for assistance in trade adjustment. The pork-packing company will now be able to secure up to 500 million won in loans annually for operation funds and up to three billion won in loans for equipment funds over three years. The ministry's decision comes after the standard of recognizing firms hit by trade losses was significantly eased last month so companies that saw more than a ten percent decline in sales or production could receive assistance. Previously, the standard only applied to companies that lost 20 percent in sales or production. With the recent move, the ministry is expected to receive similar requests from more firms that have been impacted by growing imports due to FTAs.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 08/23/2012

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Samsung Ranks 6th in Brand Value, Surpassing Coca-Cola

Samsung's brand value has been ranked sixth among 500 companies worldwide, surpassing that of Coca-Cola, GE and Toyota. According to an assessment of 500 companies' brands conducted by brand value consulting group Brand Finance, Samsung climbed from 18th to 6th, joining the global top ten list for the first time. Samsung was valued at 38-point-197 billion dollars this year, rising by 56 percent compared to 21-point-five billion dollars last year. Hyundai Motor's brand value was assessed at 13-point-09 billion dollars and its rank increased from 230th last year to 63rd this year. LG Electronics also climbed the rankings from 168th to 87th, making its first ever appearance in the top 100. The company with the highest brand value was Apple, which took over Google for the number one spot this year. Microsoft, IBM and Walmart followed in third, fourth and fifth.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 08/23/2012

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Privatization Projects Put on Hold

The Lee Myung-bak Administration's ambitious scheme to privatize a number of state-invested enterprises has come to a virtual halt in the face of growing opposition from political parties and civic groups. In the early days of his administration, Lee pledged to overhaul state-run companies through privatization, calling them inefficient and unprofitable. He said state enterprises operate without proper supervision and that their size had become excessive. Despite his lame duck status following a series of corruption scandals implicating family members and close aides over the past few years, he persistently vowed to push the controversial plan. However, with less than six months left in office, his administration has finally abandoned the privatization schemes involving Incheon International Airport, KDB Financial Group, KTX bullet trains and many other state-owned entities. According to government sources Wednesday, the government has decided not to submit a revised law on the privatization of Incheon Airport to the National Assembly for approval during a plenary session in September.

The government has been seeking to sell a 49 percent stake in the country's main gateway, insisting it would make the airport more globally competitive and efficient. However, both ruling and opposition parties have stood steadfast against the move, arguing it will compromise national security and make it more expensive for the public to use due to higher user fees and other costs. "It has become difficult to push ahead with the plan to sell a stake of Incheon Airport. We will not forward the revision to the Assembly as both governing and opposition parties oppose it," a senior government official said. He also said public opposition has been growing towards allowing private entities to operate the KTX and listing shares of KDB Financial Group on the local bourse. "There is a growing voice that these matters should be handled by the next administration. In a worst-case scenario, these privatization plans could be scrapped," the official said. This shows that policymakers have become reluctant to deal with the privatization of public enterprises and other controversial issues, due to opposition from political parties and civic groups, ahead of the December presidential election.

According to public opinion polls, a growing number of citizens also want the current administration leave sensitive matters to the next government. Accordingly, it will not be easy either for the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs to select a private company, which will operate KTX trains from 2015, early next year. Under the plan, a private enterprise will be allowed to operate KTX trains departing from Suseo, southern Seoul, for both Busan and Mokpo. The ministry has been seeking to break the 113-year monopoly maintained by Korail, the state-run railroad operator, by introducing competition to the country's railways management. It said the move will slash ticket prices by up to 20 percent and help pay back its debts as a result of KTX railway construction. But Korail and opposition parties are strongly against the plan, saying the privatization of KTX operations could hike fares and extend undue benefits to private entities.

Additionally, the government plan to list shares of KDB Financial Group by the end of this year will not likely materialize. The government submitted a revised law on the privatization of the KDB group to the Assembly in June. But its outlook seems murky due to ruling party opposition. A series of attempts by Korea Finance Corp. (KoFC) to dispose of a 42-percent stake in the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) also faces a dismal outlook. Only Korea Air has so far shown interest in the country's largest aerospace firm. The KoFC fears that it could draw a backlash from political parties and civic groups that argue it provides undue favors to a certain business, ahead of the presidential election if the country's largest air carrier acquires KAI without any competition.

From http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/ 08/24/2012

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'Samsung, Apple Infringed on Each Other's Patents'

A domestic court has ruled that both Samsung Electronics and Apple infringed on each other's patents. The Seoul Central District Court on Friday ruled that Apple infringed on two of Samsung's patents. The court ordered Apple to pay 20 million won for each infringement and stop selling and scrap the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad1 and iPad2.Samsung's infringed technologies include one that reduces power used for data transmission and another one relating to signal transmission. Meanwhile, the court ruled that Samsung also violated Apple's patent relating to the "bounce-back" function, which notifies users they are at the end of an electronic document by bouncing it back. Samsung was fined 25 million won and ordered to stop selling and scrap the Galaxy S2 and Galaxy Tab products. However, the court rejected Apple's claim that Samsung infringed on its design patent related to the rounded corners of its phones. The court also turned down Apple's infringement claim on the slide unlock technology.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 08/24/2012

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MYANMAR: To Privatize Oil Refineries as Refining Processes Decline

YANGON, July 26 (Xinhua) - Myanmar authorities are planning to privatize all state-owned oil refineries in a bid to turn them into effective operation, local media reported Thursday. Oil refinery in Yangon region's Thanlyin township will be the first of its kind to be privatized which is expected by late this year , said Biweekly Eleven News. Most of the refineries are out-dated, the report added. The three existing oil refineries in Myanmar are Thanlyin oil refinery, Mann Thanpayarkan oil refinery and Chauk oil refinery, which can totally produce 7,500 barrels of oil. Of them, Thanlyin oil refinery can produce 11,000 barrels of light oil per day. In the fiscal year 2012-13, Myanmar has targeted to extract 7. 156 million crude oil, of which 3.435 million from inland blocks and 3.721 million from offshore blocks. It is also expected more crude oil could be extracted from offshore block of Tanintharyi and more oil blocks will be developed in Magway, Bago and Ayeyawady regions in the same fiscal year. Meanwhile, Ministry of Energy is cooperating with ASEAN Council on Petroleum (ASCOPE) to share technologies and equipment for oil and gas exploration, production, refining and commercial sectors.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 07/262012

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SINGAPORE: Government Looks to Strengthen SMEs' Capabilities

SINGAPORE: As the business environment changes, the government is looking to improve small and medium enterprises' (SMEs) access to money and markets, as well as to strengthen their capabilities. This is its first holistic review since the last round of recommendations put forth by the Economic Strategies Committee in 2010. Singapore's economy may have slowed, with official forecast for GDP to grow between 1.5 and 2.5 per cent in 2012. But SMEs, which collectively contribute to half of Singapore's GDP and 70 per cent of employment, remain critical to Singapore's economic growth. Many SMEs operating in Singapore cite rising business costs and curbs on foreign labour as key challenges. Benjamin Tan, director, T.C.E International, said: "I own a Burmese clinic. So they have a lot of clientele from Myanmar. We have trouble finding people from there. Although they are very skilled and qualified, they have to go through a certain number of years in public hospitals. So we hope for case-by-case basis allowances, especially in the healthcare industry." Such feedback could help direct policies that help strengthen SMEs' capabilities.

This, as the business environment has changed after the Economic Strategies Committee made its recommendations on Singapore's long-term economic transformation in 2010. The SME review will consult and gather feedback from various industry stakeholders and businesses. The SME review, which started in April this year, will also study the SME development models in other economies. Findings from the review will be shared at the next budget debate. Led by Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck, SPRING Singapore and International Enterprise (IE) Singapore will be undertaking this SME review. "The mindset is to come up with policies that are more SME-centric. Come up with criteria requirements, come up with schemes where it's SME-focused," said Mr Teo. The review will look into reaching out to micro and small enterprises as well as streamlining schemes and application processes for assistance programmes. The authorities will also be exploring ways to help SMEs strengthen capabilities in innovation and branding and enter overseas markets. For now, 30,000 out of some 165,000 registered SMEs in Singapore have applied for the Productivity and Innovative Credit scheme this year. While the new Innovation and Capability Voucher (ICV) has seen 460 applications since it was launched in June. Some 2,000 participants attended the 14th SME conference organised by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 08/23/2012

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SMEs to Receive More Subsidies for Technology Purchases

SINGAPORE : Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will receive more subsidies for their technology purchases. Funding support will now be increased from the current 50 per cent to 70 per cent of qualifying costs for all SMEs. At the same time, the grant cap for Business Improvement and Packaged Solutions categories has also been increased from S$10,000 currently to S$20,000. These are part of measures to enhance the government's iSprint programme that promotes automation among local SMEs. The base of "iSPRINT Packaged Solutions" - first introduced in September 2010 to simplify the grant application process - has also been broadened to more than 150 packaged solutions. Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, announced this at the 15th annual Infocomm Commerce Conference. The event was organised by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCCI). Aside from financial assistance, two Infocomm Resource Centres have also been set up. These will provide low-cost, efficient advisory and consultancy services to SMEs, as well as equip SMEs with the technical know-how to embark on IT projects with solution providers. These centres are located at the SCCCI and the Singapore Polytechnic.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 08/24/2012

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THAILAND: PM Fails to Impress Private Sector

A year in office, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra barely gets passing scores according to the private sector for her leadership and overall economic management. However, they think she has been fairly able to deal with situations such as inflation, preparation to counter the impact of the euro-debt crisis, and for the upcoming Asean Economic Community (AEC). Business persons had not expected much from her as a leader, as they believed her brother - former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra - would call the shots, and economic ministerial teams would incubate policy planning and implementation. However, overall they say she looks "good" as she does not hit back when criticised, she has softened political tension and also let governmental work move on. Some businesses avoided evaluating her leadership but instead touched on the performance of her government.

PAIBOON PONSUWANNA, chairman of the Thai National Shippers' Council, gave Yingluck less than 50 points out of 100 for her leadership of the country's economy. He said "during the one year of her administration, the PM has done nothing to drive economic growth, especially export growth, especially considering the global crunch resulting from the EU debt crisis. Some of her government's policies such as the minimum wage increase have destroyed Thai export competitiveness as well as created cost of living problems for the people. Although Yingluck led a meeting for export proposals and instructed the ministry to set up working committees to boost trade growth, the government has not shown any real action, he added. He said the PM had only used traditional methods for controlling the rising cost of living. Like other governments, she too imposed price controls without considering the real cost of production, for which the government is partly responsible.

"The premier has not yet shown her ability to solve the problems for a majority of the people who are consumers because cost of living has gradually increased," said Paiboon. However, she did show some leadership by setting up a working panel to prepare for the full liberalisation of regional markets under the Asean Economic Community in 2015, despite a delay. VALLOP VITANAKORN, vice president of The Federation of Thai Industries, gave Yingluck 6 points out of 10 as she has to work under her brother's influence. As a result, her leadership is not as bright as she could be. However, it does not mean that she does not have leadership qualities. "Her image now is not bad as we had initially feared but that's probably due to her background in property management," said Vallop. In economic management, she is trying to reduce the impact of external factors on domestic growth, and in that she is moving in the right direction. Vallop suggested that she should increase confidence in the administration by making more decisions herself. "Particularly, she should review all of the government's populist policies, which would hamper the Kingdom's economic growth rather than persevere with them only with a political motivation," Vallop stressed.

SUTHIPHONG PHEUNPHIPHOP, president of Thai Travel Agents Association, said her government cannot run the country well, especially in dealing with some problems. Preparing the tourism industry for the opening of the AEC is an example. The government has not been productive enough to offer any help. Obviously, the government has never talked to the private sector before negotiating with other countries. It had also exploited this sector to exchange some benefits with neighbouring nations. It is not fair and he felt "disappointed" about it. "Today, the private sector is leading the tourism sector, not the government. Most of them are SMEs and may struggle to survive after the AEC," he said, adding that private operators would move forward with their own plan instead of waiting for the government. As the leading tourism nation in the region, he urged the government to work more closely with operators before the AEC comes into effect in 2015.

Regarding inflation, unfortunately the government took office during a time of rising prices. Though the government may have tackled the problem, it had not dealt with the cause. "I think for solving inflation, the prime minister can get only 50-60 per cent marks," he said, adding it was a complicated issue that needed more time to find an integrated solution. In terms of investment, her government's image was plagued by "corruption". Budget injected into projects will not help boost the economy as planned. The rice mortgage scheme is an example. About 30-40 per cent of budget is expected to be pilfered before it reaches the farmers. Her policy also helps only some industries, especially automobiles with the first-car buyer programme. TIPP DALAL, group chief executive officer of Tripple i Logistics Group, said her leadership as premier was not very visible yet. Though she has had experience in the property business before taking the PM's post, her vision on the economy has not been seen. To be fair, this might be because she lacks a group of capable aides. "In my view, I don't think any of the economic policies are by her directly. If she had any role, it would be marginal," he said.

Tipp also criticised her government for having too many populist policies, especially the rice pledging, which not only distorts the market, takes away the country's competitiveness, but also leads to wasteful budget expenditure. In addition, the Yingluck government has not launched any long-term strategic plan. "What we have seen are pieces of short-term policies such as first-car buyer scheme, rice pledging, investment projects in road, rail and airport. But, we don't see any medium-term and long-term strategic plan which would give the country a direction in the next three to five years," he said. Tipp said there has not been any strategic plan for logistics development by the Yingluck government "Two things that challenge Yingluck the most are being a woman, and a nominee of her brother [ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra]," said Tipp. "However, Thais did not expect much from her. But, in the second and third years of her premiership, she should show her capability to be a leader and she has a tendency towards that. We wish to see her own "policies" or "vision" on one big thing that could make the country better off," he said.

SUBHAK SIWARAKSA, president of CIMB Thai Bank, said that Yingluck's role has been to help soften the political tension, and the situation today can restore business confidence. "Businessmen want only political stability, and the premier proves that she can ease political tension," he said. Yingluck's role to prepare for the AEC was seen recently, he said, adding that she recently chaired the workshop with ministries and representatives from the private sector. "She has ordered participants to draw up a master plan in preparation for the AEC single market." However, he said the impact of the global economic recession should not be overlooked. Controlling the prices of goods is not easy, but the government has attempted to solve it by launching the Took Jai shops, selling low-cost consumer products. Meanwhile, the Bt300 daily minimum wage and Bt15,000 salary for new graduates is a good policy that can boost domestic consumption.

ISSARA BOONYOUNG, president of the Business Housing Association, said that "the property sector has faced higher costs due to the daily minimum wage increasing from Bt215 per day to Bt300 per day". However, in the one year she has been in power "she has managed to ensure the country's economic growth at nearly 5 per cent despite production capacity being hit by the floods in the last quarter of last year". Meanwhile, global economies are slowing down, he said. SUPHACHAI CHEARAVANONT, chief executive officer of True Corp, said Yingluck had shown good leadership as she is so calm and never talks back when criticised. She is also a hard-working person and Thai society admires hard-working people.

CHALONGPHOB SUSSANGKARN, former finance minister, said "the Yingluck government has weakened the market mechanism by its intervention in many farm product prices. Such action will erode the country's competitiveness while other countries such as Myanmar will emerge". "Fifty years ago Myanmar and Thailand competed with each other to be world's largest of rice exporter, but later Myanmar lost its market [due to its isolation policy]. Now it is open to the global community and will come back to compete with Thailand," Chalongphob warned. In order to help low-income groups, the government should use other measures rather than high price subsidy, he suggested. He agreed that there is an urgent need to address the widening income gap between the rich and the poor. However, Chalongphob said he did not believe that the government or anyone else could allocate economic resources more efficiently than the market mechanism does.

CHATCHAI TUANGRATTANAPAN, a director of the Thai Retailers Association (TRA), said that "the Yingluck government has made no strategic decision over the past 12 months. They have only maintained the status quo." There is no negative and positive matter in the country as well as in its retail sector. "The government plans to advance Bt2.2 trillion loans to invest in local infrastructure. But we have seen no concrete plan from the government about such infrastructure projects that will generate long-term economic benefits in the next five to 10 years," said Chatchai. He said the Yingluck government had no policy to fight corruption, which is one of the serious problems facing the country. The government should have a clear direction and position the nation correctly in moving towards the Asean Economic Community in 2015.

HASAN BASAR, managing director of Bangkok PR agency, said that "not just is the current premier considered weak but the country is frustrated with a lack of capable leader for quite long. What we need is a leader who can bang the table and get the job done." He said that the best way to handle inflation is not to try and stamp it out, but to make its effects on the daily cost of living easily manageable. And the way to do that is to increase the real prosperity of people. Though the impact from prolonged financial crisis in the euro zone has not yet affected the country directly, Basar said that the government led by Yingluck Shinawatra should put a bit more focus on longer-term strategies that can enhance economic vitality and comprehensiveness. "The private sector in the country is very good at looking after itself. But if the government provides the right environment for them to flourish - to work conveniently and efficiently - it would be the best and the most sustainable protection for each individual's prosperity," Basar added.

To create a sustainable economic environment, the government must ensure that it can provide modern and sufficient infrastructure such as roads, railways, a proper IT network and sufficient power and drainage system. Meanwhile, the PM sector must have consistency and clarify policies in aspects that affect business such as a low tax environment. "Of course, it's too late as it's less than 1,000 days to come. We should have had an aggressive tax reduction programme that attracted key corporations to set up base in the kingdom years ago," Basar said. He suggested that the government is still going to have to do it though it would probably have less impact. For instance, the government should provide long-term tax breaks to international organisations who want to set up business in Thailand and the tier two supporting such industry will then follow. Another easy measure is to start developing English language skills.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 08/06/2012

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VIET NAM: Firms Look to E-commerce to Boost Trade

HCM CITY - e-Commerce is expected to help Viet Nam meet its export turnover target of more than US$110 billion this year, according to an official with the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce. Vo Tan Thanh, director of the chamber's HCM City branch, said e-commerce was considered the best option for import-export companies in terms of time and pricing power. Thanh spoke at an Open Sesame event held on Friday. At the event organised by the world's largest online B2B marketplace for global trade Alibaba.com and OSB Joint Stock Co, Thanh said e-commerce would become indispensable in the near future for businesses, allowing them to access customers more easily. Vietnamese small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have paid more attention to international trading activities, and increase exports instead of only focusing on domestic markets.

Viet Nam has a good foundation for e-commerce to develop. The country has currently more than 30 million internet users, accounting for 35 per cent of the population. Moreover, Viet Nam is one of the top countries in Asia that is developing rapid internet speed for information technology infrastructure. According to the global e-commerce platform Alibaba.com, Viet Nam is viewed as a country with great potential, having 210,000 registered members on its platform as of the first quarter of this year. According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, total export turnover for the first six months of the year reached $ 53.1 billion. With rapid development of online trading in Viet Nam, the target is expected to be met. Thanh said that Business-2-Business (B2B) e-commerce floors had attracted many businesses from around the world, including those from Viet Nam.

Timothy Leung, deputy chairman of Alibaba.com Group's global business and development division, said that "by using e-commerce, enterprises are able to easily access new markets and customers. Online trading helps reduce transaction times and costs". There are 3,600-4,000 Vietnamese businesses per month that register on Alibaba.com. Vietnamese items that top the list for foreign viewers of the site are related to agriculture, food and beverage, and construction and property. US, China and India are among the buyers who have great demands to seek Vietnamese suppliers. This means that Vietnamese businesses will be able to gain a leg-up on e-commerce competition. Thanh said that e-commerce had opened up opportunities for businesses to contact partners around the world, and make it easier to seek new clients as international consumers tend to search for new supplies of goods.

He said that using e-commerce, businesses should be responsible and reliable in their trading, and answer buyers' inquiries as quickly as possible.Alibaba Group in collaboration with OSB Joint Stock Co and its partner VCCI have launched a project to help Vietnamese businesses intensify exports via e-commerce conducted nationwide from July to December.The project is expected to contribute to export growth of Viet Nam in the remaining six months and promote e-commerce development among the Vietnamese business community. The project targets supporting 500-600 local exporters with total sponsor value of VND21 billion ($1 million). It will give priority to exporters operating in key sectors such as agriculture, food, furniture, construction materials, minerals, chemicals, textiles and garments. The exporters will have an opportunity to join the world's largest online B2B marketplace, with 45 per cent discount on member registration fee for a Gold Supplier on Alibaba.com. They also will receive free training on e-commerce, and be able to meet large exporters to share experiences. - VNS

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 07/30/2012

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Indonesia, VN, Myanmar Offers SME Opportunities

Myanmar, Vietnam and Indonesia are attractive for Thai investors, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, economists and business leaders said yesterday. Aat Pisanwanich, dean of economics at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said Yangon was the most appealing region in Myanmar for Thai investors, especially SMEs engaged in Thai restaurants, spas, hotels and tourism. Mandalay is another big city that could accommodate investment from Thailand. The jewellery industry should check out opportunities in precious-stone cutting, he told the "TMB Borderless on Stage 2012" seminar. The food industry may also look at Dawei in the southern part of the country where a deep-sea port will be constructed by Ital-Thai, he said. SMEs in the textile and furniture industries should also think about moving their production base from Thailand to Myanmar to take advantage of lower labour costs.

The threats are inadequate electricity supplies, poor telecommunication service, high logistics costs, the remaining trade sanctions and low consumer income. "However, if Thai firms wait until everything is put in place, they will not be able to compete with other foreign firms that are now moving into the country," he said. Another interesting country is Indonesia, where the middle class comprises about 50 million people now and is estimated to grow to 150 million over five years out of a population of 250 million currently. So the market there is huge, Aat said. Aswin Techajareonvikul, president of Berli Jucker (BJC), said Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) were more interesting for Thai SMEs than Indonesia, where there are already large players and Thai firms may find it hard to compete.

BJC now has glass-bottle and canned-food plants and a product-distribution operation in Vietnam. Over the next three years, it will focus on expanding its business in CLMV. The firm could help Thai SMEs that want to market their products in these countries, where the combined population is more than 170 million. The CLMV market is growing as they have young populations that want to consume more and adopt new lifestyles, Aswin said. Thai companies should go into trading in small countries such as Laos and Cambodia instead of manufacturing, he added. Wichitra Chalermchaichana, an economist at the university, said Thai restaurants could enter Vietnam as Thai cuisine is gaining popularity. A few Thai restaurants have already opened branches there. However, land prices in prime areas are very high, so SMEs may choose to form joint ventures with local partners. Thai SMEs are expected to take advantage of the AEC, which will come into fruition in 2015, she added.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 07/24/2012

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BANGLADESH: Create More Jobs to Spur Growth - Entrepreneur

The country urgently needs to create better jobs for all to accelerate growth by identifying high employment generation potential industries and sectors, said a leading entrepreneur and former adviser to the caretaker government. "Bangladesh has made slow but steady progress over the past 40 years in its quest to improve the lives of its people by providing them with gainful jobs," said Syed Manzur Elahi, chairman of Apex Group. He said the inability to create gainful and decent jobs may jeoparadise social order even regional stability that has been seen in Europe and the Middle East recently. In his recent write-up titled 'Creating Jobs for All', Elahi said job creation has been more rapid in services and manufacturing and there has also been some qualitative improvement as well through higher participation of educated labour and female labour in the total workforce. "These have helped bring about increases in real wages and average labour productivity... between 1980 and 2010, both real wages and average labour productivity have gone up by 1.6 percent per year," the successful entrepreneur said. On challenges to job creation, he said, "We must recognise that serious challenges remain in average labour productivity of Bangladesh compared to international and even regional standards." The quality and education level of the overall workforce, skill level and technical and vocational training remain very low compared to the needs of the market place, Elahi added. He gave importance to investment in education and human resource development and promoting technical and vocational education for skills upgradation. Manzur Elahi mentioned that only 22 percent of the employed labour force is engaged in the formal sector. "Some 11 percent of the employed labour is in manufacturing and another 11 percent is in organised services. The rest are still engaged in informal activities." The world is facing a worsening youth unemployment crisis; young people three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and over 75 million youth globally are seeking jobs, he said. Elahi also sought initiatives to engage with the US, EU and Japan and other major buyers on market access through economic diplomacy. The paper was presented at the International Conference on People's Empowerment and Development that held in the city early this month (Aug 5-6).

From http://www.unbconnect.com/ 08/24/2012

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INDIA: 'Priority Sector' Light Engineering Fails to Flourish

A file photo shows an employee wielding an iron frame at a factory in Dhaka. The light engineering sector, which has got a huge potential, has failed to flourish due to the lack of an effective policy, financial support and upgraded technology, say entrepreneurs. - New Age photoThe light engineering sector, which has got a huge potential, has failed to flourish due to the lack of an effective policy, financial support and upgraded technology, say entrepreneurs. The experts and entrepreneurs say that light engineering factories are struggling because of the shortage of capital, strict conditions imposed by the banks for loans and shortage of skilled workers. The government declared the light engineering a 'priority' sector in its Export Policy 2010 and a 'thrust' sector in its Industry Policy 2005, but none of the successive governments took effective action to help the sector to flourish, said Abul Hashim, owner of Nipun Engineering. The banks charge small businesses high interest rates of 16 to 17 per cent and are also unwilling to offer collateral-free loans although the sector belongs to the Small and Medium Enterprise category, said the Nipun's owner. He said that due to lack of capital and other sorts of support from financial institutions, most of the factories use outdated machines and produce low-quality products.

The BRAC Bank's SME official told New Age that most of the entrepreneurs in the light engineering sector cannot improve the quality of their products and market them through the right channels as they do not have access to information. If these industries cannot upgrade their technology now, they might not survive in the future because of increasing competition in the global market, he said. Saiful Islam, proprietor of Progoti Engineering, said that most of the people working in the sector do not have any formal training. 'They have learnt the trade simply by working,' he said, adding that proper training is sure to improve their productivity. To promote this sector the Bangladesh Institute of Technical Assistance Centre provides some materials and training for light engineering industries but these are not sufficient, said the BITAC's director, Syed M Ehsanul Karim. Students of BITAC or polytechnic institutes are not interested in working in the light engineering sector because of lack of job security or technological support, he said. 'Many industries have machines and tools but the workers are incapable of operating them,' he said. The Bangladesh Engineering Industry Owners' Association's president, Abdur Razzaque, told New Age that 'the light engineering sector lacks policy support'. He said that about 6,00,000 skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled people are working in about 40,000 light engineering factories throughout Bangladesh. Razzaque said that small factories are engaged in manufacturing various import-substitute products such as electrical, ceramic, rubber and plastic goods, agricultural machines, machines for the apparel sector, for rice mills and for the paint industry and are helping the country to save a significant amount of foreign currency. They also make spare parts for cars and power looms, and even ammunition boxes for the Bangladesh Army.

From http://www.newagebd.com/ 08/26/2012

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AZERBAIJAN: Insurance Companies of Azerbaijan to Be Able to Get International Certificate CII

The Association of Professional Risk Managers of Azerbaijan (ARPA) is going to organize courses for highly specialized and well-known in the circles of the insurance certificate CII (Chartered Insurance Institute) for the first time in the autumn, the ARPA told Trend. "Since September, the ARPA will be the only official regional examination center of CII in Azerbaijan, which will make another valuable contribution to the development of human resources not only in financial, but also in the insurance sector of our country," the association said. A presentation on CII in Azerbaijan will be attended by representatives of CII headquarters in London, who will continue to conduct courses in the future. The ARPA noted that the certificate CII for employees of insurance companies is the only internationally recognized document that gives an opportunity for career growth and recognition of employees of the insurance area of  our country on a par with their foreign counterparts. CII is one of the largest institutions of the UK, recognized in insurance and financial spheres; it has about 102 thousand members in more than 150 countries worldwide, and maintains the highest standards of technical competence.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/09/2012

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Securities Market Increases by More Than Half in Azerbaijan

The securities market in Azerbaijan increased by 55 percent during the firstn half of the year compared to to the same period last year, and reached $5.8 billion manat, the State Committee on Securities of the country (SCS) said on Thursday. During the reporting period, the government bond market amounted to 37 million manat, which is by 81 percent less compared to the same period last year. However, despite this, the growth in this market segment has been implemented due to the Central Bank's notes and repurchases transactions conducted with them. The amount of notes of the Central Bank increased by 25 percent in the first half of the year compared to the same period last year, reaching to 616.7 million manat, and the growth of the secondary market for these instruments amounted to 31 percent. The number of repo transactions increased by 8.9 percent during the reporting period compared to the same period last year, their volume - by 81 percent to 4.9 billion manat. Corporate securities market in Azerbaijan has decreased by 30 percent in the first half of the year compared to the same period last year, reaching $231.2 million manat despite the increase in transactions with them by 12.5 percent. According to the report the number of transactions with shares in the primary market decreased by 40.5 per cent, volume - by 26.5 percent during the reporting period. However, the increase in the number of transactions with shares on the secondary market by 16 percent and volume by 96.3 per cent eventually led to an increase in the stock market in general by 5 percent to 84.6 million manat, operations with them - by 13.6 percent. Operations on the corporate bond market decreased by 7.9 percent, volume - by 41.6 percent, amounting to 146.6 million manat. The volume of transactions in the primary and secondary market of mortgage bonds decreased by 65.4 percent and reached 73.6 million manat for the year.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/09/2012

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Azerbaijan Begins to Establish Cadastre Data Base of Real Estate in Regions

Center for cadastre and technical inventory of real property under the State Committee for Property Affairs of Azerbaijan has determined the winners of tenders for the establishment of an electronic database of inventory data on real property, state-owned and located in regions of the country, the committee said on Wednesday. The first tender involves the creation of a database of real estate in Tovuz, Agstafa, Gazakh and Dashkesan areas, the second - in Masalli, Jalilabad, Yardimli, Bilasuvar and Neftchala regions. Planimetr-85 and AzLANDKAD-XXI won the tender. The Centre has signed the relevant contracts with them.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/15/2012

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Azerbaijani Insurance Company Expects a Decrease in Earnings This Year

Azerbaijani insurance company Bakı Sığorta predicts the volume of insurance premiums to be at a level of four million manat by the end of the year, deputy chairman of the company Mehman Aliyev told Trend on Wednesday. The State Insurance Supervision Service under the Azerbaijani Finance Ministry said that charges to the company amounted to 3.3 million manat in January-July 2012, in 2011 - 4.54 million manat. "Trading in the first seven months shows that we will meet our forecast," Aliyev said. He noted that the company expects earnings at a level of 0.5 million manat by the end of the year. Bakı Sığorta ended 2011 with a net profit of 0.638 million manat. "The level of authorised capital is sufficient and we are not going to increase it this year," Aliyev said. The company increased its paid-up share capital by one million manat in April - to 6.52 million manat. The controlling interest of IC Bakı Sığorta is owned JSC Bank Respublika (51 per cent). The company has operated as a licensed insurer since August 28, 2007 and has a perpetual licence for the provision of 25 voluntary types of insurance services.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/22/2012

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KAZAKHSTAN: Oil Production to Decrease in 2012

Kazakhstan's oil production will decrease by 70,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.57 million bpd in 2012, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts. According to the EIA's report on the short-term energy outlook, the country's oil production will amount 1.45 million bpd in the third quarter and to 1.62 million bpd in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to 1.63 million bpd in the first quarter and 1.59 million bpd in the second quartes of the year. In 2013 EIA expects Kazakhstan's production to increase by 200,000 bpd to 1.77 million bpd. In the first quarter of the next year the country's oil production will amount to 1.73 million bpd, in the second quarter - 1.75 million bpd, in the third quarter - 1.78 million bpd, in the fourth quarter - 1.82 million bpd. According to BP, the proven oil reserves in Kazakhstan amounted to 39.8 billion barrels in early 2011, but hit 1.757 million barrels per day in 2010, or 4.4 percent more than the volume in 2008. Kazakhstan produces oil mainly from its largest oil fields - Karachaganak and Tengiz. Karachaganak field, opened in 1997 in north-western Kazakhstan, has estimated initial reserves of hydrocarbons in the volume of 9 billion barrels of condensate and 1.37 trillion cubic meters of gas. Tengiz field, opened in 1979 in western Kazakhstan, has estimated reserves of about 26 billion barrels.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/10/2012

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AUSTRALIA: SMEs to Lift Spending on Information Technology, Particularly on Software

SMALL and medium enterprises are expected to spend up more on information technology this year than last year but will favour software spending over hardware. The Sensis e-Business Report says SMEs are expected to shell out an average of $11,300 for hardware and software this year, an $1800 increase over last year.

From The Australian 08/07/2012

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Corporate Tax Cuts to 28pc in Government Blueprint

COMPANY tax would be cut to 28c in the dollar in a bid to lift productivity and increase wages under a landmark federal plan to be released next week, reigniting debate on major economic reform. The government's business tax working group will set the target in a long-term blueprint to ease burdens on business and lure more foreign capital at a cost of at least $3.6 billion a year.

From The Australian 08/09/2012

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Survey Says: SMEs Becoming Less Proactive Online

The latest MYOB Business Monitor report reveals "a significant decline" in SMEs' online business activity despite a increase in the incidence of web sites. MYOB's regular survey of SMEs has found that while the number of businesses with a web site has risen slightly from 36% in March to 38% in June, other types of online business activity has declined. In particular, social media activity has declined from 18% to 15% for Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and from 19% to 13% for LinkedIn. "The decline in popularity of online business activities was completely unexpected, particularly that of online marketing and social media," said MYOB CEO Tim Reed. "Many of these tools, such as a basic LinkedIn page, are free and can be used to raise the profile of a business and to communicate with customers."

He suggested that this decline could be the result of operators that are experiencing declining revenues (which outnumber those seeing rising revenue) focusing on other aspects of their businesses. The highest incidence of SMEs with web sites is in Queensland (47%) compared with 27% in Western Australia, whereas social media usage is highest in Victoria (19%) and lowest in New South Wales (12%). Curiously, online business activities such as placing orders, paying bills, accepting payments, using Skype or other VoIP services also fell between the two surveys. More than 1000 SME operators were surveyed for the Business Monitor.

From http://www.itwire.com/ 08/14/2012

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Prime Minister Julia Gillard Says Private Schools Will Get More

JULIA Gillard will today promise every independent school increased funding under Labor's education reform blueprint as she moves to head off a revolt from the states amid growing concerns that as many as one in three schools will be worse off under the plan. Victoria and Queensland last night threatened not to sign up to the funding reforms if any schools - public, independent or Catholic - were left disadvantaged by the government's response to the Gonski recommendations.

From The Australian 08/20/2012

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