December 2012, Issue 133

unpan-ap@sass.org.cn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Study: City Planners Unprepared for Future
WB: Food Security for the Most Vulnerable, a Priority in Times of Crisis
Internet Access Fears Over Regulation Treaty Proposals
New Global Telecoms Treaty Agreed in Dubai
Internet Censorship, Restrictions Around the Globe

 

 

 

 

CHINA: Issuing Draft Proposal on Maternity Insurance
China Tightens Control on Chemical Safety in Workplace
China Plays Down Possible Birth Rule Change
Shanghai Visa Plan 'Set to Boost Visitor Numbers'
China to Enhance Food, Water Safety
Legislation May Help Speed Ambulance Journeys
China to Amend Law to Curb Land Expropriation
Laws Urged to Cover Theft of Online Data
JAPAN: Flaws in Anti-stalking Law Admitted, Criticized
Health Ministry Set to Regulate 760 Currently Quasi-legal Drugs
Govt. to Legislate Cell Therapy Guidelines
SOUTH KOREA: Gov't to Roll Out Measures to Resolve Problems in Taxi Industry
Smoking Ban in Restaurants Starts Saturday

Seoul City to Fix Cab Drivers' Wage System

Police Now Allowed to Enter Homes Without Warrant

Ministry of Health Announces New Restaurant Regulations

 

 

 

 

INDONESIA: President Issues Instructions to Cleanse Poso from Illegal Armed Bands
CAMBODIA: Passing Fire Prevention Draft Law
Cambodian PM Vows to Protect Environment
Cambodia Removes About 3 Million Mines, Unexploded Ordnances in 2 Decades
MYANMAR: Planning to Issue Official Documents for Migrant Workers in Thailand
PHILIPPINES: Lawmakers to Vote on Population Bill
SINGAPORE: Proposed Changes to Credit Cards and Unsecured Credit Rules
THAILAND: Govt Expands Free Wi-Fi Project to the Province

Thailand Issues 3G Licenses

VIETNAM: National Assembly Debates New Law on Electronic Transactions

President Announces Laws on Tax, Corruption

Vietnamese Gov't to Issue Resolution on Real Estate Problems

 

 

 

 

BANGLADESH: New Law Coming to Ease Brick Baking ‘Ignoring Environmental Concern’
INDIA: Bill to Amend the Competition Act Introduced
UP Plans to Roll Out 60 e-Gov Services by 2013
SRI LANKA: Queries Over Banking Secrecy Laws
MALDIVES: Parliament Passes That PG Violated the Constitution
PAKISTAN: The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill Introduced in NA

 

 

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Joining New ITU Regulation
KYRGYZSTAN: President to Introduce Strategy on Country’s Sustainable Development for 2013-2017
Kyrgyz Parliament Ratifies Agreement with Russia on Military Base
KAZAKHSTAN: Information 2020 Draft Program Approved
Kazakh Parliamentarians Raise Issue of Subsistence Minimum Revision

Strategy-2050 Was in Development for 2 Years: President

Kazakhstan Approves Law on Public Service

TAJIKISTAN: Adopting New Media Legislation

UZBEKISTAN: Parliament’s Legislative Chamber Adopts Amendments to Tax Legislation

Uzbek Senate Adopts Amnesty Act

Uzbek Senate Approves Job Creation Programme for 2013

Amendments to Electoral Laws Enter into Force in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan Fund Forum Completes More Than 600 Projects in 2012

 

 

 

 

FIJI: Constitution Commission Submits Draft Constitution to President
NEW ZEALAND: Seek to Balance Aims of Two Asia-Pacific Trade Pacts
Local Govt Reform Bill Passes Third Reading
Kyoto Pull-Out 'Economic Mistake'
NSW Govt Plan to Make Sydney an ICT Talent Hub
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Embracing the Asian Century

 

 

 

 

Global Grassroots Campaign Against Corruption Reaches Over Three Million People
E-Democracy: Isn’t It a Key to Cease Corruption?
Development Against Corruption and Fraud in Asia

 

 

CHINA: Big Cities Less Satisfactory in Govt Service
Officials' Trips to Be Placed Under More Public Scrutiny
Chinese Governments Go More Transparent on Web
Officials' Assets in Spotlight
Officials Urged to Fight Corruption
Non-Communist Parties Elect New Leaderships
JAPAN: Govt to Double Rent for Public Servants
Natl Civil Servants to Drop by 3,000 in FY13
Govt Workers' Winter Bonuses Drop 8.4%
SOUTH KOREA: With Majority Victory, Park to Become Nation's First Female President

 

 

INDONESIA: Jakarta Vice Governor Uses YouTube to Increase Transparency
MYANMAR: Vowing to Fight Corruption Effectively
PHILIPPINES: Govt Call Centre Launches SMS Service
SINGAPORE: Ruling Party Elects New Central Executive Committee
Singapore to Set Up Two Bodies to Manage Personal Data Protection Act
THAILAND: Mulling Extending Retirement Age of Civil Servants 
Thailand to Develop Public Offering System for Securities

 

 

INDIA: CMSS to Roll Out e-Procurement Solution
UP Civic Officials Study Gurgaon Municipal Corp e-Gov Module
Over 10K Government Email IDs Hit in Cyber Attack
NEPAL: Getting LDCs Leadership in WTO
PAKISTAN: Three Newly Elected Members Take Oath
Pakistan Making Democratic, Economic Gains Despite Heavy Odds

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Informatization Level of Educational System to Be Satisfactory
Azerbaijani Taxes Ministry Creates Organisation to Deal with Electronic Audit
Ruling Party: Azerbaijani Society Has Concrete Opinion on Presidential Elections
KAZAKHSTAN: State Commission Created for EXPO-2017
In Kazakhstan Civil Servants Will Be Accountable for Substandard Services
TURKMENISTAN: Replacing Justice Minister
Turkmenistan to Establish Agency to Protect National Economy from Risks
UZBEKISTAN: Special Information Systems to Be Created in Judicial Sphere

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Govt Fights Against Internet Governance Changes
Super Fast Broadband and Government Service Delivery
Reforms Failing to Close Indigenous Schools Gap
Australia to Establish Customs Reform Board Against Corruption
More Public Sector Jobs to Go in SA
MARSHALL ISLANDS: ADB and RMI Sign $5 Million Loan for Public Sector Reform
NEW ZEALAND: Legislative Milestone for Better Public Services
MPs Get 1.9 Per Cent Pay Rise
SOLOMON ISLANDS: More Needed in Fight Against Corruption
Public Service to Become Strict

 

 

 

World Leaders Meet to Assess the Net's Infrastructure
New Paper from the Association for Progressive Communications and the Internet Society Connects Internet Protocols and Human Rights
Growing Strong: The Global 100 Operators Report 2012
Asia's Future Food Security Hinges on Modernization of Farm to Market Chains
Asia Must Close Skills Gaps, Go High Tech to Sustain Future Growth – ADB
Annual Meeting on ASEAN Culture and Information Kicks Off in Capital
ITU-IMPACT Establishes First Cybersecurity Innovation Centre for Arab Region

 

 

CHINA: Suspending Rural School Closures
China Spends Big on Farmland Improvement 
Chinese Police to Minimize Traffic Controls for Officials' Trips
China to Firmly Promote Economic Reforms, Opening-Up
Public Urges Gov't Concern for School Attack
China Sets Up Lab on Nuclear, Biochemical Disaster Protection
JAPAN: Individuals on Welfare Hits Record 2.13 Million
Govt to Allow Recovery Funds to Carry Over
National Council on Social Security Holds 1st Meeting
Nursing Hiring More Disabled Workers
SOUTH KOREA: Seoul Encourages More Citizens to Work Out
Gov't to Remove Unnecessary Power Wires
Seoul City Gov’t to Develop App for Foreign Residents

 

 

MYANMAR: President Calls for Political Stability, Cessation of Armed Conflicts and Socio-eoconomic Development
MALAYSIA: To Proceed with AES Installation
PHILIPPINES: 1st Local Govt eGov Awards Presented
SINGAPORE: Calling for Emissions Reductions to Achieve Climate Change Deal
Singapore Wants More Interoperable Health Data: Survey
More Employers Providing Leave Benefits in Singapore: Survey
S'pore's Top Manpower Issues in 2012
THAILAND: Piloting a Free Wi-Fi School

VIETNAM: Deputy PM Wants All-out Fight Against HIV/AIDS

Officials Look at Food Security

Ministry Ponders Tax Delays, Cuts

State Auditor Seeks Truth on Gov't Firms

 

 

BANGLADESH: PM Seeks Foreign Friends’ Cooperation in Removing Poverty
INDIA: Govt Justifies Cash Transfer Announcement Before Polls
Indore Hosts National Seminar on eGovernance
PAKISTAN: Govt Facilitating in Growth of Media Kaira
Installation of 225 Water Filtration Plants in Sindh

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: State Committee to Reduce Real Estate Registration Period
First Regional Radio Station Opened in Azerbaijan
PACE Report on Azerbaijan Published
KAZAKHSTAN: Religious Situation Requires Correct Assessment
TURKMENISTAN: Must Work Hard to Ensure TAPI Project Implementation

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Aust Wiki Launches Social Media Kit for Disabled
NEW ZEALAND: Gov Wins Prestigious Spatial Award
Pay Equity for Women Plea to Govt
ORC to Activate Improved Flood Alert System
SOLOMON ISLANDS: Government Holds Gender Violence Awareness
TONGA: Government Gives More Than 70 Homes to Tsunami-Hit Community
VANUATU: ADB & Australia Help Improve Urban Development

 

 

 

Global Economy Facing Hesitant and Uneven Recovery, Says OECD
UNESCO Calls for Wise Use of ICT in Education
Information Economy Report 2012
Online Censorship in 2012
Global Internet User Survey 2012
Internet Use in Adoptions Cuts 2 Ways, Report Says
Mobile Operating Systems: Windows of Opportunity
Social Protection for the Poor in Asia Can Be Affordable and Deliver Big Gains
Engine for Balanced, Sustainable Growth with Equity
East Asia and Pacific Remains Bright Spot in Difficult Global Landscape
Southeast Asia's Strength Keeps Asia Growth on Track - ADB Report
Smallest Pacific Economies Must Build Links, Boost Connections to Thrive - ADB

 

 

CHINA: Boost for Mobile Internet Industry
China Will Hit 7.5% Goal for GDP Expansion  
China Mobile to Develop Own-Brand Smartphones 
Report Says 'Smart City' Construction Faces Risks  
E-Government Services Reach More Chinese Cities
China to Promote Equal Access to Funeral Services
Income from Phone Video Clips Set to Soar
China Ready to Enhance Communication
Slowdown in Growth of Nation's Wealthiest
Online Philanthropy More Popular  
JAPAN: Police to Add Cybercrime to Bounty System
61% of High School Students Secure Jobs
SOUTH KOREA: Low Birthrate Presents Major Problems for Korean Society
S. Korean Economy Will Begin Recovery Next Year
S. Korea's Gender Income Gap Widest in OECD
S. Korean Households Moving to Farm Towns Surged 86% Last Yr
Economic Revitalization Top Task for Next President - Survey
Overseas Network of South Korean Law Researchers Launched
Survey: Gov't, Society Should Chip in to Pay for Elderly's Living Costs
BOK Governor Calls on Banks to Revive Domestic Economy

 

 

INDONESIA: No More Cheap Labour
MALAYSIA: To Launch Emergency App for People with Disabilities
PHILIPPINES: Launching Online Portal for Local Govt Finances
SINGAPORE: 2012 Record Year for Property Market
THAILAND: Schools Pilot E-classroom Project
Thailand Launches New Facility for Geoinformatics Development
Thailand to Launch Disaster Warning App
Thailand to Implement E-Tax Invoice
VIETNAM: Annual Meeting on ASEAN Culture and Information Kicks Off in Capital
Lawmakers Back Stronger Foreign Exchange

 

 

BANGLADESH: Digital ICT Fair Begins Dec 19
Access to ICT to Disabled Stressed
Steps Afoot to Form SREDA to Deal with Renewable Energy
SEC Launches New Market Surveillance Software
Work on to Formulate Guidelines for More Media Freedom Inu
MALDIVES: To Introduce Passenger Information System
PAKISTAN: PM Assures Equal Opportunities for Special People
Transparency to Be Ensured in 3G Licence Auction at Every Cost
Pakistan Reiterates Resolve to Eradicate Polio
Sustainable Use of Land, Water Resources Key for Economic Uplift

 

 

ARMENIA: IT Development to Start from Primary School Level
AZERBAIJAN: Mobile Number Portability Service to Be Free in First Mobile Operator’s Network
E-services for Cargo Transportation Introduced
Broadband Internet Development Project May Be Launched in Azerbaijan Starting 2013
TURKMENISTAN: Economic Growth Averages 11 Per Cent
Turkmenistan Outlines Priorities for Economic Development Until 2030
UZBEKISTAN: Revising Amount of Benefits to Poor Families

 

 

AUSTRALIA: WA Boosts US$23 Mil GIS Project
Aust Tax Regulator Moves to Cloud Services
AUST Gov Launches Mobile App for Health
IT Recruitment to Slow in 2013
NEW ZEALAND: Clear Way to Secure Online Identity
Greens Push for Govt Support in ICT Sector
ITU Stalemate Could Spur National Regulation
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Rich-Poor Divide Must Be Reduced to Eradicate Poverty and Boost Growth - ADB

 

 

 

New, Individual-Level Data on Financial Inclusion: The “Unbanked” Are Deterred by Cost, Documentation, and Travel Requirements
World Bank Releases International Debt Statistics 2013

Huge Financing Gap Must Be Filled to Promote Climate-Friendly Technology – ADB

Improved Budget Management Protects Pacific Countries Against Global Effects

Improved Fiscal Management to Spur Growth in Pacific – ADB

 

 

CHINA: To Lead World's Government Auditors
Local Governments Write Up Income Targets
Bad Accounting Puts Foundation Under Scrutiny
China's Pension Deficit Climbs to 77 Billion Yuan
China Invests 577.8 Bln Yuan in New Western Projects
JAPAN: Bank of Japan Opts to Keep Monetary Policy Unchanged
Govt to Disclose Past Usage of Secret Funds
Govt Pledges 540 Mil. Yen in Aid to Haiti
SOUTH KOREA: Foreign Investment in Markets Rises in 2012
Gov't, Ruling Party Expected to Clash in Renewed Budget Talks

 

 

INDONESIA: Capital Expenditure to Reach 80 Pct of Budget This Year: Official
INDONESIA: Putting Financial Data in the Cloud
PHILIPPINES: President Approves 2013 Budget
SINGAPORE: Govt Disbursed About S$335m in GST Voucher-Cash as at Nov
S$1.7m Paid Out Under Sec & Wis for Persons with Disabilities
ADB Grants $251m Loans to Viet Nam
Banks Embrace Gov't Bonds Despite Tougher Competition
Gov't Fiscal Policies Must Spark Confidence in 2013

 

 

ADB, Bangladesh Govt Sign US$160mn Credit Deal to Help Improve Urban Transport System in Greater Dhaka
INDIA: Government Seeks Additional Borrowing
AISECT Wins Manthan Award for eFinancial Inclusion
SRI LANKA: Expecting BOP Surplus of US$380mn in 2012
Sri Lanka Cuts Interest Rates to Boost Credit
Sri Lanka Can 'Take-Off' After Reaching $4,000 Per Capita Income Central Banker
PAKISTAN: Govt Releases Rs98.9bn for Development Projects
Pakistan Stock Outperforms Among Global Market During Last Six Months

Political Parties Agree to Increase Education Budget Up to 7pc

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Revenues from ICT Sector May Reach $9 Billion by 2020
KYRGYZSTAN: Microfinance Sector’s Income Decreases by 22 Percent
KAZAKHSTAN: Kazakhmys Signes $1 Billion Pre-Export Finance Debt Facility
TAJIKISTAN: External Debt Reaches 2.3 Billion U.S. Dollars, Says Minister of Finance
TURKMENISTAN: State Budget’s Profitable Part Overfulfilled by 50 Per Cent
UZBEKISTAN: Plan to Raise $480.9 Million Investments from Arab Coordination Group

Uzbek Central Bank Reduces Cost of Banks’ Licence for Transactions in Foreign Currency

Rural Construction Bank of Uzbekistan to Increase Authorized Capital

 

 

Forum Officials Committee Discuss 2013 PIFS Budget and Corporate Plan
NEW ZEALAND: Deficit $169m Wider Than Predictions
Govt Urged to Offer Low-Cost Loans

Zero-Interest Loans to Help Poor Families

Govt Spent More Than $1m on Consultants for Novopay System

Public Financial System: From Transactions to Strategy

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Economy Strong, but Fiscal Pressures Growing - ADB

 

 

 

 

 

CHINA: Slower Rise in Services at Private Firms  
China Sees More Private Social Work Institutions
SOUTH KOREA: Dominating Phablet Market

 

 

SINGAPORE: Rising Costs and Labour Shortage Main Concern for SMEs
New Private Home Sales in November Fall to Lowest Level in 2012
Council for Private Education Appoints New CEO
S'pore Manufacturing Sector to "Continue to Face Headwinds" in 2013

VIETNAM: Expert Calls for Clarity, Co-Operation When Monitoring State Companies

Smart-phone Sales Up 83% as Consumer Interest Grows

 

 

BANGLADESH: The New Kid in the World of Outsourcing
PAKISTAN: Asian Foundation Team Visit ICCI to Explore Future Prospects of Private Sector

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Private Sector Ensures 80 Percent of Economic Potential
Azerbaijani Transport Sector Increases Freight Traffic Volumes by 3.4 Percent
KAZAKHSTAN: Domestic Manufacturers Need Government Support

UZBEKISTAN: Providing Additional Benefits to Enterprises with Foreign Investment

Law on Private Banking and Financial Institutions Enters into Force in Uzbekistan

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Services Sector Improves in November

NEW ZEALAND: Private Sector Commits to Improve MĀOri Land Productivity

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Study: City Planners Unprepared for Future

According to the United Nations, the world's population is expected to grow to as many as 11 billion people by 2050 -- more than half of those people will reside in cities versus the countryside. To properly support rapidly-growing, densely-populated urban areas, technological advancement will be paramount, according to a recent editorial in InformationWeek, whose Future Cities Survey found that the U.S.'s major urban centers have a long way to go when it comes to technology. In the context of preparing for future population growth, only 7 percent of the 198 municipal IT professionals surveyed from major U.S. cities reported their city IT strategy as “progressive and well conceived.” Conversely, 38 percent of those surveyed described their city's IT plan as “poor or nonexistent.”

Cities of the future, according to the editorial, will need an interconnected and sophisticated infrastructure that includes the city's buildings, roadways, rail systems, electric grid and water facilities to effectively serve the populace. The most prominent obstacle cited by survey takers was money, with 88 percent citing lack of funding as the primary obstacle to technological progress in their city. And mayors and other city officials need private-sector help to advance. According to the survey, 66 percent of respondents cited public-private collaboration as what should lead Future Cities efforts. Improving K-12 education, expanding access to wireless and broadband networks and ensuring the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure were listed as most promising areas for such collaboration. Conceiving a smarter city that is prepared for unrelenting population growth will be a matter of developing many different technologies in parallel, according to the editorial. Communications infrastructure, mobile device support, transportation systems, public safety and crime prevention investments, and surveillance technology all play a role in the future of large urban areas.

From http://www.govtech.com/ 11/29/2012

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WB: Food Security for the Most Vulnerable, a Priority in Times of Crisis

WASHINGTON DC, December 6, 2012 – In the midst of an ongoing global financial turmoil and rising food prices, a new toolkit designed by the World Bank seeks to assist countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region to ensure the health, food and nutritional security of the most vulnerable, especially poor mothers and young children. LAC is more vulnerable to natural disasters, food price volatility and humanitarian crises than other regions. Against this background, any new crisis and emergency situation represents a heavy toll on the nutritional status of the population, notably children.  It is estimated that 7.2 million children under five years of age are chronically malnourished in the region. The study, “How to Protect and Promote the Nutrition of Mothers and Children:  A Toolkit for Stable, Crisis, and Emergency Situations,” involved 130 survey participants in 12 LAC countries. It shows that most crisis-response policies and programs have overlooked the essential nutritional needs of mothers and their children in the first 1000 days of life, a critical period for a child's development.  In order to eradicate malnourishment in the region, these initiatives need to be improved and prioritize the most vulnerable groups, the study concludes.

To help countries improve the efficiency of their crisis and emergency response, the toolkit offers policy and decision makers a clear guidance on cost-efficient measures that can help countries better ensure the nutritional security of the population. For instance, all countries need to reinforce the promotion and protection of breastfeeding. A number of countries would benefit from adapting the food and water rations given in emergencies to the specific nutritional needs of pregnant and lactating women and children under 2 years of age.  Other suggested measures include the prevention of micronutrient deficiencies during emergencies, treatment of acute malnutrition, and efficient treatment of diarrhea through the combined use of oral rehydration solution and zinc. The findings of the study and the toolkit will be presented during the south-south workshop “Protecting the Nutrition of Mothers and Children: Tools for Crisis Managers”, in Panama City, on December 6 and 7.“The first 1000 days of life of a child is a critical window of opportunity for her growth and development. Failure to address the nutritional needs of mothers and children as part of crisis-management results in human suffering and missed opportunities for developing every person’s potential,” said Keith Hansen, World Bank Director for Human Development for Latin America and the Caribbean. “This toolkit shows that initiatives that successfully target the nutritional needs of pregnant and lactating mothers and young children are the best investments countries can make to protect the most vulnerable from food insecurities and socioeconomic and environmental instabilities. They also have a long-term impact on the country's economic development and can break the intergenerational cycle of poverty brought about by malnutrition."

Malnutrition decreases the children’s ability to resist infections and disease, such as anemia and diarrhea, and causes lifelong physical and cognitive damages.  Malnutrition rates among the poorest and least educated, as well as indigenous populations, are comparable to rates in some Sub-Saharan Africa countries. The prevalence of malnutrition in the region is also the result of national and international crises. When an economic crisis hits, the quality of food purchased by families diminishes.“During crisis, poor families tend to reduce the quantity of food they consume or replace for lower quality alternatives, such as foods with refined sugar and fats, and even cut down on preventive health services,” said Marie Chantal Messier, World Bank Senior Nutrition Specialist and lead author of the toolkit. “During harsh times, women frequently consume less food to protect their children's diet, which compromises their own nutritional security. If they are pregnant, this creates a cycle that harms both the mothers’ and their children’s health.”Malnutrition is not limited to the quantity and the quality of food consumed by the population, but it is also related to access to potable water, sanitation and health services. The study encourages governments and development partners to maximize limited financial and management resources, by prioritizing initiatives encompassing the sector of health, nutrition, agriculture, water and sanitation, and social protection. The toolkit is the result of an assessment that compared international benchmarks with initiatives adopted by 12 countries from the Latin American and the Caribbean: Bolivia, Colombia, Dominica, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent. Countries were selected for the study taking into account their poverty level, malnutrition rates, susceptibility to natural disasters and increase in vulnerability as a result of the recent global financial crisis and food price hikes.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 12/06/2012

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Internet Access Fears Over Regulation Treaty Proposals

A conference to update global telecommunications regulation in the Internet age could undermine economic development in developing countries if a controversial proposal to alter how international Internet data transmission is funded is adopted. Major divisions have emerged at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai this month (3-14 December), which has been convened to update Internet regulation via a new international treaty under the auspices of the International Telecommunications Union, a UN agency based in Geneva. The last such treaty was signed in 1988, before the advent of the Internet. Meanwhile, Internet-freedom advocates want the Internet excluded from the treaty altogether. The fear in certain developing countries and among Internet freedom advocates is that some of the proposals on the table could affect organisations that provide important data and content to developing countries, including Health and educational content. One controversial proposal — made by the European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association (ETNO) — calls for fees to be levied on Internet companies. This would be similar to the situation with traditional wire-based telephony, in which the company placing the call pays a fee to the company receiving it.

Although designed to make Internet behemoths such as Google, which send large amounts of traffic over the Internet, pay part of their advertising proceeds to the carrying networks, the proposal could affect all kinds of content providers, not just a few giants. Both private and state-owned entities operate Internet networks. Many networks simply exchange traffic with one another without payment and detailed accounting. The wider fear is that such measures could exacerbate the digital divide between rich and poor nations. "We are not talking about a paywall, we are talking about an insurmountable barrier for these [poorer] countries," says Rohan Samarajiva, a former director-general of telecommunications for the Sri Lanka government, who is now CEO of LIRNEasia, a regional think-tank on information and communications technology (ICT) policy. Samarajiva tells SciDev.Net that including the Internet in this treaty could reverse "20 years of liberalised policies that have delivered affordable connectivity to developing countries". He adds: "It has the potential to cut off much of the developing world from the Internet applications they have come to depend on". Terry Kramer, head of the US delegation to WCIT, said before the conference that the United States opposes proposals that could make "content generation more costly and uneconomical [and] will likely lead many small businesses and non-profits to restrict or charge for downloads — even leading to 'blackouts' in less-developed countries due to high termination charges".

Although opposed by many Asian countries and not backed by European governments themselves, the ETNO proposal is backed by some African and Arab countries, who see it as a way to fund Internet infrastructure investment, particularly to upgrade to high-speed broadband. African countries such as Cameroon strongly support the idea, but countries such as Botswana and Tanzania have already expressed reservations, according to diplomats. Non-profit campaign body the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) says: "This [existing] system has successfully supported the globally interconnected Internet". "Some countries see that it would be advantageous for them because it would allow them to generate revenues. But there are a whole range of countries for whom it is a non-starter," says CDT Internet policy expert Matthew Shears, who is currently in Dubai. CDT has carried out detailed analysis of the proposal, he says, and "we are not convinced that interconnection fees would be used for funding infrastructure development". "The real dilemma is that no one really knows the impact," of such proposals, which could "change the dynamic of Internet exchange," he tells SciDev.Net. "It is really crunch time and it is absolutely imperative that the Internet is kept out of this treaty." Contentious proposals put forward by some Arab states and Russia could also mean that countries would directly regulate Internet companies.

From http://www.scidev.net/ 12/12/2012

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New Global Telecoms Treaty Agreed in Dubai

Dubai, 14 December, 2012 – After two intensive weeks of negotiations, delegates from around the world have agreed a new global treaty that will help pave the way to a hyper-connected world that will bring the power of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to people everywhere.Over 2,000 delegates were registered for the conference, which was held by ITU at the request of its 193 Member States to renegotiate the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), the binding global treaty facilitating global interconnection and interoperability of information and communication services, their efficient operation and their widespread public availability. The treaty sets out general principles for ensuring the free flow of information around the world. New provisions in the text place special emphasis on future efforts to assist developing countries, on promoting accessibility to persons with disabilities, and on asserting all people’s right to freedom of expression over ICT networks. Other pioneering new provisions include a Resolution to create a single, globally harmonized number for access to emergency services, new text mandating greater transparency in the prices set for mobile roaming, and new provisions to improve the energy efficiency of ICT networks and help combat e-waste.

Tough issues that provoked considerable debate at the conference included network security, unsolicited bulk content such as spam email, the definition of entities providing services under the terms of the treaty, the principle of non-discriminatory access of countries to each other’s networks, and whether or not to include language on freedom of expression in the Preamble text of the treaty.Chairman Mohamed Nasser Al Ghanim (UAE) succeeded in breaking a seeming deadlock on Thursday, after discussions late into the night on Wednesday 12th failed to make headway on the few remaining sticking points. Coming back to the meeting on Thursday evening after a tense start to negotiations earlier that day, Mr Al Ghanim presented a new ‘consolidated package’ containing all agreed compromise texts that had been negotiated painstakingly section by section over the past two weeks at Committee, Ad Hoc Group and informal group level.ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré called the signing of the treaty this afternoon a “momentous occasion and historic opportunity to bring connectivity to the two thirds of the world’s people who are still offline.”Speaking to assembled delegates at the closing ceremony this afternoon, he said: “As you look back today on your very intensive, very long days of work, you can hold our heads up high – proud that you have triumphed over adversity and delivered the goods.” He added that he regretted that some countries have so far declined to ratify the treaty, and hoped ITU will  continue to work constructively with those nations going forward.

Dr Touré paid tribute to the exceptional Chairmanship of Al Ghanim, commemorating his success in managing the often difficult discussions by awarding him ITU’s Gold Medal, the organization’s highest honour. “Mr Al Ghanim has played a vital role in the work of the conference. He has managed to keep his calm and nerve throughout the long days and nights we have spent together, and he has epitomized the key ITU value of global consensus,” said Dr Touré.Mr Al Ghanim spoke of the huge challenge of reviewing the 24-year-old treaty to ensure it is relevant for future generations of ICT users and an increasingly globalized, competitive and highly innovative ICT environment. “We came to this conference with a wide divergence of views. Different countries contend with vastly different market environments, but all understand how critical ICTs will be to their ongoing social and economic development. While we did not manage to get universal consensus, I believe we nonetheless achieved a huge milestone in getting such broad agreement, and I am confident that these new ITRs will pave the way to a better, more connected world and a more equitable environment for all.”WCIT-12 was one of the most open treaty-making conferences ever held, with live and archived webcasting and English-language captioning of all full meetings of the substantive working committee (Committee 5 – Review) and the conference Plenary sessions. The conference also had a strong social media profile, as well as daily media briefings accessible via the Adobe Connect platform.

Conference statistics:
A total of 1,275 proposals to the conference from Member States
Almost 1,600 delegates onsite from 151 Member States, including almost 70 Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Ambassadors
A paperless working environment which saved literally millions of pages of paper
150 hours of official conference meetings onsite at the Dubai World Trade Centre – on top of many thousands of hours of informal delegation meetings
13 million page visits to ITU’s WCIT website over the past month
Around twelve million twitter impressions a day resulting from the tweets posted during the conference using the #WCIT12 and #WCIT hashtags
Over 30 professional quality videos produced onsite which have been watched over 10,000 times on YouTube, in addition to more than 30 Video News Releases which have been carried by major broadcast media around the world
Over 360 journalists participating in remote daily media briefings, saving three million kilometres of travel to Dubai and 420 tonnes of carbon emissions
Over 300 hours of live broadcast webcasts
600 hours of simultaneous interpretation and text translation of almost 700,000 words.

From http://www.itu.int/ 12/14/2012

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Internet Censorship, Restrictions Around the Globe

Envoys in Dubai signed a new U.N. telecommunications treaty Friday that a U.S.-led delegation says endorses greater government control of the Internet. The U.S. and more than 20 other countries refused to ratify the accord by the 193-nation International Telecommunications Union.Here is a look at Internet restrictions and availability at selected countries and regions around the world:

NORTH KOREA
Internet use is extremely restricted with many of North Korea's 24 million people unable to get online. Some North Koreans can access an internal Intranet that connects to state media. Members of the elite, resident foreigners and visitors in certain hotels are allowed full access to the Internet.

IRAN
Most Western social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked in Iran, as well as political opposition and sexually explicit websites. But proxy server sites and other methods are widely used to get around the official restrictions. Iran has announced plans to create its own domestic Internet with fully monitored content, but international experts question whether such a complete break from the worldwide Net is possible. Earlier this week, Iran accounted it had developed its own YouTube-style video sharing site.

CHINA
There are more than 500 million Chinese online but they contend with an extensive Internet filtering and censorship system popularly known as the "Great Fire Wall." Censors police blogs and domestic social media for content deemed pornographic or politically subversive and delete it. Many foreign websites, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the New York Times are blocked. Searches for controversial topics such as corruption scandals or jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo return error messages. Users evade controls using proxy servers.

CUBA
Tight control, slow connections and high costs mean only around 5 percent of Cubans have access to the global Internet, with another 23 percent relying instead on a government intranet with very limited content. Web access is mainly via public facilities where people must first register with identification.

GULF ARAB STATES
Political sites deemed threats to the state are often blocked. Since the Arab Spring, authorities across the Gulf have stepped up arrests of bloggers and others for posted considered offensive to rulers or advocating political reforms.

CENTRAL ASIA
Internet censorship is prevalent across former Soviet Central Asian republics, but the strongest restrictions have been recorded in Iran's authoritarian neighbors to the north, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Controls are strictest in Turkmenistan, where social networking sites Facebook and Twitter are out-of-bounds, as is video-sharing site YouTube and numerous news websites. Uzbekistan has taken a less extreme approach, but sites critical of the government are blocked as a matter of course. Tajikistan, which is like those countries also ruled by an unchallenged strong-man ruler, has twice this year barred access to Facebook after web-surfers used the site to post material critical of government officials.

ERITREA
The government restricts access to the Internet and closely monitors online communications. The U.S. State Department's latest human rights report said the Eritrean government monitored email without obtaining warrants as required by law, and that all Internet service users were required to use one of the three service providers owned directly by the government or controlled through high-ranking members of the country's sole party. But the vast majority of people do not have Internet access.

From http://www.foxnews.com/ 12/16/2012

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CHINA: Issuing Draft Proposal on Maternity Insurance

All employers should pay maternity insurance for all employees, according to a draft proposal published by China's Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council. The document on maternity insurance and birth allowance, which was released late Tuesday, said all employers should pay the cover. This includes government offices, enterprises, institutions, individual economic organizations and social bodies. Maternity insurance will not only be confined to local citizens who have a registered permanent residence or hukou. It will cover all on-the-job workers, the draft said. Employers should pay for maternity insurance in accordance with a rate to the total salaries of staff. The proportion should be no more than 0.5 percent. Employers that do not pay insurance will be punished, according to the draft. Birth allowance refers to the wage-equivalent subsidy which a female worker will receive during maternity leave. The sum should be the worker's average monthly income of the previous year, the draft said. The public can submit comments via email before Dec. 21.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 11/21/2012

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China Tightens Control on Chemical Safety in Workplace

Chinese companies that handle hazardous chemicals during manufacturing will have to obtain a permit as the country tightens rules on production activities, the work safety watchdog announced Tuesday. Manufacturers that handle hazardous chemicals during production have to obtain a license from the local regulatory administration, according to the regulations published by the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS). The regulations, effective from May 1, 2013, also lay down rules that companies formulate emergency plans and conduct drills accordingly to enhance responsiveness in case of an accident. Producers running without the license, or those involved with license counterfeiting or illegal transferring, will be subject to fines of up to 200,000 yuan (31,805 U.S. dollars) and criminal penalties in cases of serious violation, according to the SAWS. The number of deaths by accidents in China over the first ten months of 2012 dropped 13.7 percent year-on-year, data from the SAWS showed. The work safety regulator also vowed to shut down 625 small coal mines that have safety risks by the end of the year.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 11/28/2012

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China Plays Down Possible Birth Rule Change

China played down speculation about relaxing the birth rule raised by a quote from a former minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, according to a director-general at the commission on Thursday. In a China Daily report published on Wednesday, Zhang Weiqing, the former minister of the commission, said changes to the family planning policy are being considered and couples will be able to have a second child even if one of them is not an only child under the proposed change. The report was quoted by many newspapers and websites, triggering wide speculation. However, when asked for confirmation about the report today, Zhang Jian, director-general of the publicizing and education department of National Population and Family Planning Commission, played down the proposed change. "Speaking on behalf of himself, Zhang Weiqing's words don't have any weight," said Zhang Jian. At present, for urban residents, only parents who are themselves an only child are allowed to have a second child.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 11/30/2012

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Shanghai Visa Plan 'Set to Boost Visitor Numbers'

Shanghai hopes to cement its burgeoning reputation as a global tourist hotspot by allowing visitors to spend three days in the city without a visa. As a new year commences, citizens from 45 countries will be permitted a 72-hour visa-free stay inside the "administrative area" of Shanghai, the municipal government said on Sunday. The countries include the United States, France, Japan and Australia. The new policy, approved by the State Council, comes four days after Beijing officially announced a similar program, the first city to do so. That will also be introduced on Jan 1. Shanghai already had a program allowing visitors from 32 countries a 48-hour visa-free stay. "The extra 24 hours is of great significance and will boost tourism," said Zhao Huanyan, senior researcher at the Tourism Research Institute under the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. Shanghai has a different charm than cities like Beijing or Xi'an. It usually takes a longer time for tourists to be attracted to its beauty, say a night cruise on the Huangpu River, or a banquet and a shopping spree in the crooked alleys, Zhao said.

"The extra day will also allow business visitors to the city, the financial center of the country, more time to enjoy a city tour." While the city's outbound travel has been enjoying double-digit growth in recent years, inbound tourism fell last year, but there are signs it is picking up. In 2011, the number of foreign tourists visiting Shanghai reached 8.18 million, a 4 percent drop from the previous year that saw the successful hosting of the 2010 World Expo. But it is expected that in 2012 the number of inbound overseas travelers will rise to 8.25 million, a 3 percent increase. "The new policy will benefit airlines, travel agencies, shopping areas and, importantly, five-star hotels," said Zhao, adding that the city's supply of high-end hotels far outnumbers demand. According to real estate service firm Jones Lang LaSalle, Shanghai tops other Chinese cities with the largest number of four and five-star hotels, and is set to add another 80 to 100 hotels in the next three years. However, during the first nine months of this year, the average price of five-star hotel rooms in the city dropped by 8.54 percent, while the price for an equivalent room in Beijing saw a 10.9 percent jump, according to Zhao.

"The new policy is definitely good news for us," said Tang Weiwei, communications manager of Shanghai Pudong Kerry Hotel. "We believe it will result in more guests." Yu Sejie, general manager of Wabco China, a vehicle control system provider based in Brussels, said it will greatly improve the efficiency of global companies like hers, which organizes annual flights for thousands of overseas colleagues and partners every year for conferences. "It usually takes a month for my secretary to go through visa-application procedures to invite our foreign colleagues to our two or three-day workshop," she said. "The new policy will certainly make our work a lot easier." It will also help Shanghai Pudong International Airport become an international transport hub, aviation experts said. China News Service recently cited the Shanghai Municipal Office for Port Service as saying that during the first half of 2011, less than 100,000 of the 10.31 million passengers at the Pudong airport were transit passengers. Globally, the proportion is between 25 to 30 percent. The notice issued by the municipal government said the city's two airports, Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport and Shanghai Pudong International Airport, will set up a special channel for visitors entitled to visa exemption. More details will be released.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/10/2012

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China to Enhance Food, Water Safety

A senior health official vowed on Tuesday to intensify supervision of food and water safety in the coming year. In 2012, China published 88 new standards on food safety and expanded the monitoring network on chemical contaminants and pathogenic microorganisms in food from 25 percent of county-level administrative regions to 47 percent, according to Vice Minister of Health Chen Xiaohong. Speaking at a forum on health supervision, Chen pledged that 60 percent of counties would be covered by the end of 2013. In July, China updated its standard on water safety, which now consists of 106 indicators instead of the previous 35. Eight-three percent of water from plants in cities qualified under the new standard, according to Chen. The vice minister briefed that some 28,600 water safety inspection stations have been set up so far, covering all cities at or above prefecture level and 30 percent of all counties. Chen also reviewed measures taken to meet the requirements of the newly revised Law on Occupational Illness Prevention and Control. In 2012, 486 additional medical institutions were licensed to offer occupational health inspection services, according to Chen, who added that adequate occupational health evaluation centers would be available in more than 90 percent of China's counties by next year.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/12/2012

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Legislation May Help Speed Ambulance Journeys

Beijing legislature is working on the fifth draft of the legislation on first aid, the Beijing News reported on Thursday. In an attempt to help guarantee ambulances right of way, the legislature is considering exempting first aid workers from legal responsibility if an ambulance carrying a patient in a critical condition scrapes a car on its way to hospital. The government is also planning to train healthcare workers at a grassroots level so they can provide first aid to patients in the neighborhood when heavy traffic delays ambulances. On Dec 7, a first aid medical worker called Wang Yuzhu of Beijing Emergency Medical Center posted on her micro blog, that an ambulance she was in was stuck in traffic and the patient, who was in a critical condition, passed away before they reached the hospital. Wang later said that vehicles parked illegally in the bicycle lane blocked the ambulance’s only way to escape the traffic jam. The message stirred heated discussion over ambulance priority on the road, which is already stipulated by law but failed to be effective partly due to serious traffic congestion in the city. According to the center, the speed of its ambulances in urban areas in daytime is less than 40 kilometers per hour.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/13/2012

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China to Amend Law to Curb Land Expropriation

China's top legislature will deliberate on draft amendments to laws on land management and trademarks during its bimonthly session, it was decided on Friday. It will also discuss a draft decision to strengthen Internet information protection, although no details were provided. The session will be convened by the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee from Dec. 24 to 28 in Beijing, according to a decision made at a Friday meeting of the chairman and vice chairpersons of the NPC Standing Committee. The meeting was presided over by top legislator Wu Bangguo. The Land Management Law, passed by the top legislature in 1986, was revised twice in 1998 and 2004, respectively. The upcoming draft law amendment, submitted by the State Council, aims to address the outstanding problem of excessive land expropriation. The draft, passed at a cabinet meeting last month, proposes altering rules on how to compensate farmers whose collectively owned land is expropriated. Compensation for farmers' expropriated land is expected to rise if the draft amendment is adopted by lawmakers. Rural stability and grain supply security face a number of challenges due to excessive land expropriation, the State Council said, vowing stricter regulation on farmland expropriation. Protests by farmers over land seizures have erupted in villages across the country in recent years, prompting calls for better protection of farmers' property rights. In a report to the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last month, Hu Jintao pressed for reforms for the land expropriation system and increasing farmers' share of gains in land value. Meanwhile, a draft resolution regarding the State Council's authorization for the temporary adjustment of administrative approval of some laws and regulations in south China's Guangdong Province will be adopted at the legislative session. Lawmakers will continue to discuss a draft revision to the Law on Securities Investment Funds, which was deliberated on for the third time. Generally, a bill will be adopted by the top legislature after two or three readings.

In the wake of an increasing elderly population, legislators will also deliberate on a draft revision to a law that protects senior citizens' rights and interests for the second time after the first reading in June. They will also discuss a draft amendment to the Labor Contract Law and the draft law on tourism for a second time after their first readings in June and August, respectively. Certain clauses of the Agriculture Law will be revised at the session. A proposal on candidates for the electoral committee of the People's Liberation Army, submitted by the Central Military Commission, is expected to be approved. In addition, the session will adopt a draft resolution on convening the first annual session of the 12th NPC early next year. The agenda will also include deliberations on State Council reports on land management and mineral resources' exploitation, utilization and protection. Also tabled for reading are the Supreme People's Court's report on trials concerning intellectual property, and the Supreme People's Procuratorate's report on civil administrative procuratorial work. Reports on the implementation of the Agriculture Law and the law promoting small and medium-sized enterprises will be discussed.The session will also deliberate on official appointments and dismissals.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/14/2012

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Laws Urged to Cover Theft of Online Data 

Specific laws are needed to combat the theft of personal data, according to experts, after seven men were charged in Changsha, Hunan province, with selling more than 100 million bits of personal information online over the past five years. Information included names and addresses of cell phone users, car owners, company bosses and bank customers, Legal Daily reported on Thursday. The data were sold on the Internet and used to spam cell phones and illegal GPS devices, authorities said. Prosecutors said Zeng Zhizhong and Yi Zhijiang spent 4,000 yuan ($640) buying the databases of cell phone users, for instance, in Jiangxi and Hunan provinces over the Internet. Experts said the illegal use of personal data has worsened in recent years, partly because of improvements in the technology used to find it. In a survey by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released in April, 60 percent of respondents said their private information had been stolen, and the same number had received junk messages. To see just how easy it is to find personal information over the Internet, a China Daily reporter searched "car owners' data" on the Baidu search engine and was offered numerous links providing data. An operator on one website, chezhuziliao.com, said it charges 1 yuan for 10 car owners' information. To prove the authenticity, the operator e-mailed a list of 100 car owners in Beijing, dating from May to June 2011.

The list included car owners' names and addresses, license plate details, cell phone numbers, car brands and models, and even the serial numbers on car frames. China Daily called one of the owners on the list, who said he received many unexpected calls from insurance salesmen — but he was surprised and concerned to hear his own information was actually being sold. "A thief calling you and standing in front of your home may break in at any time. That's more dangerous than receiving harassing promotion calls," he said. Many laws and regulations cover the issue of private information — including about 40 enacted by the national legislature, 30 by the State Council and 200 by ministries, and banking and insurance regulatory commissions. However, Yang Lixin, a law professor at Renmin University of China, said the legal framework lacks a clear definition for private-information protection. "Courts pay less attention to the offense because there is no detailed explanation or definition on the subject," said Yang. Ruan Qilin, a professor at China University of Political Science and Law, said many suspects arrested in a police crackdown of the crime last year were released, after the evidence collected failed to be strong enough to prosecute, because of the weak definitions. Ruan added that China needs specific laws on private-information protection that would properly regulate who can handle and manage personal information. Citizen awareness in protecting privacy should also be enhanced through further public education, Ruan said.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/21/2012

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JAPAN: Flaws in Anti-stalking Law Admitted, Criticized

The Zushi case reveals flaws in existing legislation even after an anti-stalking law was enacted in 2000, and such flaws have resulted in the failure to protect victims despite the fact that police were notified.The victim in the current case had hidden her married name and new address. She had also used a different name at her workplace.Just before officers from Zushi Police Station arrested Hideto Kozutsumi on suspicion of intimidation in June 2011, the victim asked the police to take measures to prevent him from learning her real name and address.But when the suspect was arrested, officers from the same station read out aloud her married name and part of her address, which were included in the arrest warrant.

Kozutsumi apparently used these as clues to find her exact address using Internet bulletin boards or other such means.Though the anti-stalking law prohibits making phone calls or sending faxes successively, it does not contain a clear stipulation regarding e-mail.Some local governments have nuisance-prevention ordinances that prohibit sending e-mails in such cases.But according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey, Kanagawa Prefecture, Tokyo, Hokkaido and 30 other prefectures do not have such ordinances.The Kanagawa prefectural police said that such flaws in the legislation obstructed the investigation.

National Police Agency Commissioner General Yutaka Katagiri said at a regularly scheduled press conference that he admits there are legal flaws such as how arrest warrants should be written and the fact that sending e-mails successively is not covered.The NPA is considering what measures should be taken, including revisions of the law.Kenichi Ino, 62, whose daughter, Shiori, then 21, was murdered by a stalker in Okegawa, Saitama Prefecture, criticized how the police handled the current case.Ino said: "The police gave away what might have been clues to figure out the address. I can't help but think they didn't understand the victim's suffering. What is important is not whether the stalking was conducted through telephone calls or e-mail. It's about protecting the victim."

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 11/25/2012

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Health Ministry Set to Regulate 760 Currently Quasi-legal Drugs

A health ministry panel decided Wednesday to impose a blanket designation covering quasi-legal drugs with ingredients similar to those of regulated drugs to stop their abuse.A subcommittee of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry's Pharmaceutical Affairs and Food Sanitation Council plans to introduce the system as early as February next year after hearing from the public.Quasi-legal drugs, sold as legal herbs or incense via the Internet and other channels, produce similar effects to narcotics.As a result, 760 types of drugs will be newly classified as regulated under Japan's Pharmaceutical Affairs Law. The distribution or existence of 60 of them has been confirmed so far.There are currently 90 types of regulated drugs.Usage of quasi-legal drugs has been increasing, mainly among young people. With cases of hospitalization after inhalation or traffic accidents under their influence, their use has been cited as a growing social problem.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 11/29/2012

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Govt. to Legislate Cell Therapy Guidelines

A special committee of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry announced on Friday plans to legislate safety rules for cell therapy, such as regenerative medicine using induced pluripotent stem cells. The ministry hopes to introduce a relevant bill in next year's ordinary Diet session. Under existing guidelines, clinical studies on regenerative medicine conducted at universities and other public institutions need to obtain approval in advance from the health minister. But the ministry does not regulate cell therapy conducted at private clinics. The legislation is expected to make prior approval mandatory, depending on the risks of treatment using iPS and other cells, and stipulate cell-culture guidelines.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 12/16/2012

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SOUTH KOREA: Gov't to Roll Out Measures to Resolve Problems in Taxi Industry

 

The South Korean government is being proactive in devising comprehensive measures to resolve the fundamental and chronic issues facing the taxi industry.The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs has decided to come up with structural reform plans to address South Korea's overabundant cabs and revise plans to overhaul the licensing system for individually-owned taxis that are not managed by a company.It plans to conduct a study to find out the appropriate number of taxis that should be on the streets nationwide and how to evenly reduce the number over a five-year period.The ministry will also come up with realistic financial measures to reduce the number of individually-owned cabs in the nation, which is the main reason behind the oversupply of taxis.It will also revamp the taxi fare system by setting a target fare over a five-year period, considering taxis are a high-end mode of transportation.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 11/22/2012

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Smoking Ban in Restaurants Starts Saturday

A smoking ban will go into effect from Saturday that bans smoking in public establishments, such as restaurants and coffee shops, bigger than 150 square meters.The Ministry of Health and Welfare said roughly 80-thousand restaurants around the country will be required to ban all smoking within their premises unless they have a separate smoking area.Violators will be fined a maximum fee of five-million won, while customers found to be smoking in areas outside of designated smoking areas, will be fined 100-thousand won.The blanket smoking ban will also cover all public facilities including parking lots, gardens, playgrounds and other areas used by children or minors. Designated smoking units, meanwhile, are required to be built outdoors at least 10 meters away from the areas where smoking is banned.The health ministry added smoking will be banned in restaurants bigger than 100 square meters from 2014 and smoking will be banned in all restaurants from 2015.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 12/08/2012

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Seoul City to Fix Cab Drivers' Wage System

 

The Seoul Metropolitan Government will fix the current wage system of taxi drivers to improve their working conditions.At present, cabbies hand over around 100-thousand won of their earnings a day to their companies and take the rest as their income.The Seoul government will replace the current wage system with a new system from January in which drivers submit all their profits to the cab firms and receive a monthly salary.This way, even if drivers don't make money every day, their monthly revenue will increase as high as twofold from their current monthly income of a little over one-million won.

Drivers will also enjoy greater welfare benefits, including the four major social insurance plans and retirement pay.Seoul is the first local government in the country to completely abolish the existing wage scheme. Officials will closely oversee the transition and take disciplinary action against cab companies that do not submit accurate data on their earnings.Seoul will also draft more measures to improve cabbies' working conditions including adjusting the taxi fare by analyzing data collected by digital navigation recorders.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 12/12/2012

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Police Now Allowed to Enter Homes Without Warrant

South Korean police can now enter homes without the consent of the property owner if they suspect bodily harm is being inflicted to occupants within the premises. The National Police Agency said a new manual on dealing with urgent situations involving the entrance of homes was handed out and implemented by police nationwide recently. Details of the manual give police the right to enter homes if they rightly suspect that there is bodily or property damage being done inside the house. Police can also enter and search homes without a warrant if they spot evidence of a crime being committed. Human rights groups have condemned the changes, saying letting police enter homes upon their own personal decision is a clear violation of basic human rights.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 12/16/2012

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Ministry of Health Announces New Restaurant Regulations

Restaurants in South Korea will be required from next year to provide the total cost of an item on menus including value-added tax and service charges. The Ministry of Health and Welfare announced on Monday revisions to regulations on food sanitation under which restaurants must also list the price of meat per 100 grams, instead of per person, on their menus. The ministry said it will issue correction orders for restaurants that violate the new regulations once and force repeat violators to close for a minimum of seven days. Moreover, from January 31st, restaurants larger than 150 square meters will be required to display their prices outside in a bid to help patrons make choices.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 12/17/2012

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INDONESIA: President Issues Instructions to Cleanse Poso from Illegal Armed Bands

JAKARTA, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issues orders on Friday to cleanse Central Sulawesi province's city of Poso from illegal armed bands, prevent the city from being the playground for the bands so as to assure the security for the public. Speaking in his address to respond the recent violence allegedly conducted by terror group members against police that resulted in three fatalities on police, Indonesian president said that such violence should not be regarded as usual events. "The authority must take further correct and firm measures to respond such a situation with an aim to protect the people," the president said in Halim Perdanakusumah air forces base here on his arrival from his official visit to Malaysia and India. The president said that peace accord between the feuding parties had been attained in Dec. 2001, ending the sectarian conflict in the region that went from 1998 to 2000. "The good thing that we already attained should not be tore apart. It takes firm and responsive actions to respond such a situation. That is the task of our police and military to act accordingly," the president pointed out. He said that existence of illegal armed bands would not be accepted in any nation anywhere in the world. Three police were killed when they patrolled in Kalora village in the coastline of the city on Thursday. They were ambushed by alleged members of terror group, according to police. Crossfire between police and the attackers erupted right then, resulted in three fatalities among the police and one injured. Police said that they arrested more than five persons related to the ambush against those police. Investigation into those arrested persons is underway at the moment. Remnants of radical groups committing in the sectarian conflicts in Poso were still active. They were allegedly behind series of attacks against police in the last few months.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 12/21/2012

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CAMBODIA: Passing Fire Prevention Draft Law

 

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- The Government of Cambodia on Friday passed a draft law on fire prevention in order to contribute to maintaining security, social safety, public order, and life and property protection, according to a media statement released after the weekly Cabinet meeting. The draft law, compiled by the Ministry of Interior, was approved during the weekly Cabinet meeting, which was chaired by Prime Minister Hun Sen. "It aims at enhancing fire prevention in order to protect life, property, environment, security, public order and social safety," the statement said. "It will increase confidence among investors and tourists." In the meeting, Hun Sen appealed to private business establishments, especially factories and large-scale hotels, to cooperate with local officials and firefighters in order to prevent fire disaster. He also urged those owners to properly equip their enterprises with fire preventive system and fire extinguishers. If possible, he said, they should have fire trucks for their personal use.

 

Ouk Kimlek, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, said that the draft law on fire prevention would allow courts to sentence officials who demand bribes before extinguishing fires and introduce jail term punishment for arson. "Firefighters who demand money for their work before extinguishing fires will be jailed up to 5 years if found guilty," he told Xinhua over telephone on Friday. "For arsonists, the maximum sentence will be up to 15 years in jail." According to Kimlek, hundreds of houses and market stalls have been destroyed by fires this year and over a dozen of people were killed in the fires. The latest blaze happened at a night market in the tourism city of Siem Reap province last Saturday, claiming 8 lives and destroying over a hundred of souvenir shops.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 12/14/2012

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Cambodian PM Vows to Protect Environment

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday he decided to choose environment protection, not to choose 30 billion U.S. dollar expected revenues from the exploitation of titanium ore in Southwestern Cambodia. "According to a feasibility study, titanium ore deposit in Chhiphat district in Koh Kong province is estimated at the value of 30 billion U.S. dollars, but to exploit the mineral, it is required to destroy about 20,000 hectares of forest," he said during the inauguration of an automotive electronic parts factory in the province. "To protect environment, I decided not to grant an exploitation license to a company to exploit it because if we allow the exploitation, it will not only destroy forest and wildlife habitat, but it will also pollute sea water," he said. "Keeping the mineral under the ground will never spoil, and it will be never late to exploit it even in 200 years later," the premier said. Hun Sen announced in April last year not to grant an exploitation license to a local company Khmer United Group to exploit titanium ore in the province, citing concerns over environment, biological diversity and people living in the area. The firm said at the time that the area has the potential to produce 35 million tons of titanium. Koh Kong province is situated some 271 kilometers Southwest of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 12/17/2012

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Cambodia Removes About 3 Million Mines, Unexploded Ordnances in 2 Decades

Cambodia has removed and destroyed some 3 million mines and unexploded ordnances in the last two decades and the country will completely eliminate landmines in the next 10 years, a senior official said Friday. Heng Ratana, director general of Cambodian Mine Action Center ( CMAC), said that since 1992 to date, the center has cleared some 2. 5 million mines and unexploded ordnances and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and non-governmental organizations have removed about 500,000 mines. "We set the target to clear all types of landmines from Cambodia in the next 10 years," he said, adding that to realize this goal, the country needs an estimated 30 million U.S. dollars a year. The Southeast Asian nation is one of the world's worst countries affected by mines as the result of almost three decades of war and internal conflicts from the mid-1960s until the end of 1998. The five most mine-laid provinces are Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, Pailin and Preah Vihear. According to the record of Cambodian Mine and Explosive Remnants of War Victim Information System, from 1979 to Oct. 2012, landmines had killed 19,660 people and injured or amputated 44,519 others.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 12/21/2012

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MYANMAR: Planning to Issue Official Documents for Migrant Workers in Thailand

Myanmar authorities are planning to issue official documents to the remaining undocumented Myanmar migrant workers ranging from 800,000 to 1 million in Thailand, official media reported Wednesday. Temporary passports have been issued for more than 1.2 million Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand. More than 101,000 out of undocumented Myanmar migrant workers in Malaysia were granted passports, plans are underway to issue more passport to the remaining more than 100,000 workers. Arrangements are being made to identify offspring of Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand as the citizens of Myanmar and provide them with education. More than new 40,000 Myanmar workers have been sent to Thailand under the agreement of the two countries. Labor Attaches were assigned duties in Thailand and South Korea to handle the issues of Myanmar workers there. A nine-point policy is being implemented and formulation of a five-year work plan is being carried out. Under the MoU between Myanmar and Thailand, issuance of official documents started since 2009. Myanmar workers have been working in 15 countries including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Middle East countries.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 12/19/2012

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PHILIPPINES: Lawmakers to Vote on Population Bill 

The time has come to put the reproductive health (RH) bill to a vote, Philippine Palace officials and lawmakers supporting the measure said yesterday. “We can’t leave it hanging,” Transportation Secretary Joseph E.A. Abaya, a former lawmaker, said on the eve of a meeting with lawmakers led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Liberal Party (LP) leaders that President Aquino is presiding over at the Palace to muster support for the passage of the bill. Abaya, LP executive vice president, said the House of Representatives had reached a stage where the bill “should be put to a vote”. Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said it was time for a showdown. “Rich or poor, Filipinos want the RH bill. We should do head-butting now,” said Santiago, cosponsor of the bill in the Senate, which would to provide women, especially the poor, access to different forms of contraception so they can plan the size of their families.  She said she was confident of winning the showdown. She counted 13 senators in favour of the measure, one head short of the 14 that Sen. Panfilo Lacson, one of those who filed a bill on RH, earlier announced. She reminded politicians to be sensitive to public opinion and realise that as many as 80 per cent of respondents in surveys on the RH bill favoured its approval.

The best time to vote on the bill is before Congress adjourns on December 21 for the holidays, otherwise it would be too late, said Secretary Manuel Mamba, head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO). Mamba said there would be just a few weeks of sessions next year before the campaign for the midterm elections in May 2013 went into high gear in February. He said the president was making a final pitch to members of the House to show up and vote on the measure before the holiday season. Majority and minority leaders, leaders of the LP, Nacionalista Party, and Nationalist People’s Coalition and National Unity Party (formerly Kampi), and most of the House members are expected to turn up at the meeting in the Palace at noon today. All lawmakers were invited, according to Mamba. He said Aquino would put forward one request: Show up at plenary deliberations, produce a quorum and vote on the measure. “That’s the compromise I’m expecting. Vote on it, however it goes,” Mamba said by phone. “He (the president) will ask them that they should be there so that there will be a quorum and that they can vote on it. They can’t just archive it and decide later on. When is that going to happen again?” the PLLO chief said. For weeks, the House had failed to introduce amendments to the bill in plenary due to a lack of quorum, no thanks to absentee lawmakers, mostly administration allies. “Even the coauthors have disappeared,” Mamba said.

Substitute bill
When it finally mustered a quorum last week, the chamber accepted a “substitute bill”—House Bill No. 4244—that purportedly incorporated all the amendments. The new version gives priority to the poor in the provision of birth control methods and bans contraceptives that prevent the implantation of a fertilised ovum, as this is considered abortion by the Catholic Church. On Saturday, the president attended a thanksgiving Mass for the elevation of Manila Archbishop Luis “Chito” Tagle to the College of Cardinals in what was seen as a “thawing of relations” between the state and the Church. The meeting, however, hardly made a dent on the president’s position on the bill, which is fiercely opposed by the Church for purportedly promoting use of contraceptives and abortion. “You know, I disagree that there was a change of heart. That has always been his position. The president is pro-RP—responsible parenthood—but he’s always maintained that it should be voted according to your conscience,” the president’s deputy spokesperson, Abigail Valte, said over government-run radio. The president’s attendance at Tagle’s Mass showed that “men of principle can have disagreements on certain issues but they can still break bread together,” Valte said.

Monday’s meeting in the Palace may be the president’s final chance to make a personal appeal to the 287-member House to vote on the RH bill. “He has always told them that they’re leaders, and as leaders, they should lead their people,” Mamba said. Abaya agreed. “For such an important bill, I think the president wants to be involved to make his message clear on what his guidance and policy direction is, not only to Liberal Party but [also] to other supporters,” he said by phone. “I’m sure some are confused. So it greatly helps if he comes forward and makes a statement. It erases all [doubts],” Abaya added. Mamba, whose office acts as the middleman between the executive branch and Congress, said he was “optimistic about the outcome”. He recalled that lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to terminate debates on the RH bill after emerging from the August 5 meeting with the president. “Yes, that can be put to a vote,” Mamba added, referring to the substitute bill which he said was acceptable to the Palace. “After all, the president has always told them that ‘we will implement whatever you pass.’”

Abaya said “every inch” would be a battle from now on, but added that there was “still a shot at approval” before Congress adjourns this month. Should it come to voting, Mamba himself wasn’t confident that the bill would breeze through approval. “It could go either way,” he said, admitting that pro-RH lawmakers enjoyed a “slim margin” over their anti-RH colleagues. The bill is a priority measure but it has not been certified as urgent by the president. Mamba said the president would certify a measure as urgent if it was certain that it would be passed on second and third reading on the same day. “It’s useless to certify it as urgent if there is no quorum,” he said. Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, an LP deputy spokesperson, said Aquino was expected to call on lawmakers to vote on the bill, but was not inclined to dictate on lawmakers which side to choose. But one opponent of the measure, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, said that if the Palace forced a vote on the bill immediately after the meeting, without completing the period of amendments, it would “strain relations between the Catholic Church and the president.” Rodriguez has begged off from attending the Palace meeting, saying he won’t be swayed into changing his position on the bill.

Modified bill
Baguilat said proponents of the measure had already modified the original reproductive health bill to address the concerns of bishops. He believed that while the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines would continue to oppose the passage of the bill, there were prelates who softened their stance on the measure. “Privately, many bishops are comfortable with the language of the substitute bill,” he said. Asked to explain her confidence that pro-RH legislators would win, Santiago said: “Apart of course from a politician’s concerns, the first consideration in the real world is how many voters want the RH bill? If that is what the voter wants, why go against the one who has power to determine whether he or she remains senator or congressman?”“If anyone calls for a vote, we already have 13,” Santiago said in a radio interview. Besides, the RH bill had already languished for 15 years in Congress. Surely, it would be unimaginable for lawmakers “to let it die of old age,” she said.

From http://www.asianewsnet.net/ 12/03/2012

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SINGAPORE: Proposed Changes to Credit Cards and Unsecured Credit Rules

SINGAPORE: The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has proposed rules changes to encourage the responsible use of credit card and unsecured credit. The regulator said the changes are aimed at improving financial institutions' lending and disclosure practices, empowering individuals to make better borrowing decisions, and helping individuals who are at risk of credit problems avoid getting into greater debt. Under the proposed changes, financial institutions will have to review a borrower's outstanding debt and credit limits before granting a new credit card, new unsecured credit facility or increase credit limit. Banks will have to disclose clearly the potential cost and extent of debt accumulated as a result of rolling over debt. Unsolicited offers to customers to raise credit limits will be disallowed. Individual borrowers whose debts are more than 60 days past due date will not be allowed to charge further amounts to their credit cards and tap on other credit facilities.

And individuals whose interest bearing balances with a financial institution are more than two months of their income for six consecutive months or more will not be allowed to charge further amounts to their unsecured credit cards, charge cards and unsecured credit facilities from that financial institution, or obtain new cards and unsecured credit facilities from any financial institution. MAS said both lenders and borrowers have a role to play in ensuring that credit cards and unsecured credit are used responsibly and within the borrower's means to repay. The changes will complement existing measures to mitigate the risks of over-borrowing by individuals. MAS is also proposing to provide financially secure retirees greater flexibility to qualify for a credit card. Under the proposed changes, individuals above 55 years old can qualify for a credit card if they have an annual income of at least S$15,000, net personal assets exceeding S$750,000, or a guarantor with an annual income of at least S$30,000. Details of the proposals are released in a consultation paper available on MAS website.  Comments on the proposals should be submitted by 21 January 2013.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 12/21/2012

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THAILAND: Govt Expands Free Wi-Fi Project to the Province

Thailand’s Ministry of ICT (MICT) in partnership with private telecom operator, True Move has launched a pilot project to offer free Wi-Fi in Nakhon Ratchasima province. Group Captain Anudith Nakornthap said that the MICT selected Nakhon Ratchasima to be the first province outside Bangkok to trial the Public Free Wi-Fi project under the country’s ICT master theme of ‘Smart Thailand’. “This trial project will especially enhance the use of free tablet pcs under the One Tablet Per Child Policy project, given to first grade students in Nakhon Ratchasima this year,” he added. True Move planned to allow its 50,000 hot spots nationwide to join the MICT’s free Wi-Fi campaign. Users can select ‘ICT Free Wi-Fi by True’ network and register to obtain username and password. They can use free service up to 30 minutes per day, for the total of 15 hours per month with the download speed of 2 Mbps. Users will need to re-register every three months, said Suphachai Chearavanont, the Chief Executive Officer and President of True Move.                               

                                                                                                                                                                                 From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/07/2012

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Thailand Issues 3G Licenses

Ending the long-awaited licences for 3G, Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) on December 7 granted the spectrum licences to the three mobile operators to begin the services. The NBTC’s five-member telecom committee last week voted 4-1 to award license for the 2.1-gigahertz spectrum to the three bid winners of the slots which are Advance Info Service (AIS), Total Access Communication (DTAC), and Real Future of True (TRUE), to provide third-generation broadband cellular service, said Committee Chairman Settapong Malisuwan. According to him, the telecom committee will also require them to offer low 3G service tariffs, with 15 per cent lower than the average of both voice and data tariff fees of all telecom operators. This condition relates to the 2.1GHz licensing regulations that the licence holders must offer fair tariffs and ensure service quality. “Mobile-phone tariffs had already dropped by 10 per cent, while the 3G licence holders would have lower regulatory costs, which could enable them to operate the 15-per-cent reduction,” added Malisuwan. The license started on December 7, and will last 15 years with the expiry date set at December 6, 2027. The NBTC office will call in the three companies to receive licences this week.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/10/2012

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VIETNAM: National Assembly Debates New Law on Electronic Transactions

The National Assembly switched its focus to the approval of new and amended laws on Friday after debating development projects since the ongoing session opened last Tuesday. Members began by discussing the draft of a Law on Electronic Transactions, which is required for Laos' accession to the World Trade Organisation next year. It will also be necessary when the Asean Economic Community comes into effect in 2015. Minister of Science and Technology Prof. Dr Boviengkham Vongdara presented the draft law, highlighting the need to enact the law so that electronic transactions could be properly regulated. He explained that an electronic transaction is a form of agreement making or the exchange of information through the use of electronic devices. “In recent years, electronic transactions have been increasingly used in various sectors, especially in banking, trading, taxation, tourism, e-governance and so on.”

But the management of such transactions remains a challenge because the existing laws and regulations do not cover issues related to consumer protection, the electronic certification of licences, and the recognition of electronic documents. It has become essential for Laos to enact this law to regulate electronic transactions and ensure that Laos benefits from today's technological developments. The draft has been developed from the Decree on Electronic Trade and the new content brings it into line with other laws enacted by Laos and other countries. The draft has already been debated in a number of meetings to get input from various sectors so the law will be as comprehensive as possible. Prof. Dr Boviengkham said the law fulfils Party policy and supports the government's socio-economic development plan and various international conventions that Laos is party to.

The draft law comprises 10 parts and 55 articles. The first part refers to the purpose of the law and government policy in relation to electronic transactions, and gives explanations of the vocabulary used. The second part talks about electronic documents and agreements, the third covers electronic licences, the fourth talks about electronic transactions within government organisations, the fifth covers mediation, the sixth relates to prohibitions, the seventh discusses the settlement of disputes relating to electronic transactions, the eighth talks about management and inspection, and the ninth part talks about policies for those who perform well in this field and measures to be taken against violators.

From http://www.vientianetimes.org.la/ 12/10/2012

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President Announces Laws on Tax, Corruption

HA NOI (VNS)— President Truong Tan Sang announced nine laws, three resolutions and one ordinance yesterday. These include amended laws on electricity, tax management, anti-corruption, lawyers and personal income tax and new laws on publishing, capital, co-operatives and national reserves. The amended Law on Electricity stipulates that retail electrical rates will be determined by the market but adjusted if necessary by the Government. The Government will continue subsidising rates for poor households and those under Government social programmes. Electricity rates will also be required to take into account constant changes in the market as well as other factors, such as exchange rates, weather and reservoir levels.  The amended Law on Anti-corruption states that the Communist Party will regulate the operations of the central steering committee on anti-corruption and improves the transparency of listing assets. The amended Law on Tax Management classifies businesses in order to apply regulations related to tax exemptions and extensions.

The amended Law on Lawyers improves the working conditions for lawyers. Meanwhile, under the amended Law on Personal Income Tax, the level at which taxpayers start paying personal income tax will increase to VND9 million (US$428) per month from the current VND4 million ($190). For each taxpayer dependent, this threshold will increase from VND1.6 million ($76) to VND3.6 million ($171) per month. The Law on Publishing continues to ban private ownership of publishing houses. The Law on Co-operatives defines the permitted capital of co-operatives, incomes and income distribution. The Law on Capital regulates special mechanisms for capital concerning planning, architecture and construction. The Law on National Reserves regulates the use of national reserves in order to cope with natural disasters and epidemics or national security. The three resolutions announced include a resolution on conducting votes of confidence on officials elected or approved by the National Assembly or People's Councils, a resolution on collecting people's opinions on the draft amendment of the Constitution and a resolution on the continued pilot implementation of the Bailiff Institution. The State President also announced an amended ordinance on conferring the honorary title "Heroic Vietnamese Mother." — VNS

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 12/15/2012

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Vietnamese Gov't to Issue Resolution on Real Estate Problems

The Vietnamese government will discuss the issues of the country's real estate market at the end of this month towards issuing a resolution for dealing with problems in the market. The announcement was made by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung at a working session with the capital Hanoi authority on Wednesday. Earlier on Tuesday, Dung had a meeting with the country's southern Ho Chi Minh City authority on the issue. According to reports, bad debt in real estate sector accounted for 13 percent of total bank's bad debts in Hanoi and 6.27 percent in Ho Chi Minh City. Weakness in management and planning were likely attributed to the difficulties of the real estate market recently, Dung said, while asking the city authority to review the planning of housing market towards developing social houses, houses for workers, students and civil servants. Dung asked the cities to build the financial institutions to support the market and to stimulate the market demand, ensuring that low-income people can afford houses at reasonable prices.

Dung proposed the State Bank of Vietnam, besides focusing on dealing with bad debt, to study and map out feasible policies to provide loans for residents to buy social houses. The PM said the impacts of economic crisis on bad debts, stockpiles and the frozen real estate market are prominent, and solving these problems would ensure sustainable development of the economy. The PM advised the cities to restructure the market towards removing weak and ineffective businesses and providing housing to meet real demand. He noted the ministries to improve the transparency in the real estate market activities, to implement comprehensive and overall measures to remove the bottleneck of the market towards a healthy and sustainable real estate market, to deal with bad debts while decreasing interest rates, controlling inflation and balancing the macro-economy. According to the Vietnamese Ministry of Construction, at present, Hanoi has about 5,800 apartments unsold and an area of 175,000 square meters in apartment for rent that is vacant, while the inventory figures in Ho Chi Minh City are 15,000 apartments and 15,000 square meters respectively.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 12/19/2012

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BANGLADESH: New Law Coming to Ease Brick Baking ‘Ignoring Environmental Concern’

Dhaka, Dec 14 (UNB) – Even though horticulturists are claiming that emission of smoke from brick kilns are damaging crops and plants lying within a two-kilometre radius from the chimneys, the government is now on a move to ease brick baking enacting a new law. The government step may take a little time to come into effect, but the setting up of brick kilns by showing muscle powers in the localities are quite at pace, adding much to the ado of the Department of Environment (DoE) to regulate the sector. Referring to a recent research done by the Mango Research Institute, Chapainawabganj, Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) horticulturist Saeed Hassan told UNB, “It has been found that mangoes in groves laying within two kilometres of a brick kiln are affected with black tip disease.”

The emission of C02 and S02 from the brick kiln chimneys reduce the boron absorption of the mango leaves across the two-kilometre periphery, leading to the blackening and hardening of the flesh at the lower part of the fruits,” he explained. Besides, fractured and downsized fruits were also detected within the ranges of brick kilns, he added. Saeed also noted that during his deputation at Ishwardi as a government horticulturist, he observed similar traits in coconut and betel nuts. “There has been no research on coconuts or betel nuts, but my estimate is that the emissions from brick kilns can cause about 30-40 percent reduction of the fruit production,” he said. Another study by an international team of scientists at Peshwar in Pakistan also found out that Hydrogen fluoride emissions from brick kilns have been damaging trees and crops.

Published in the February issue of Environmental Pollution, the study pointed out that despite the potential of high fluoride emissions to damage to crops the impact of these brick kilns on agricultural production and farmers’ livelihoods in Asia is poorly understood. Abdur Rahim Majumder, chairman of Bholakot No. 9 union parishad (UP) at Lakkhipur district, realised the dangers of brick kilns so close to the houses and crop fields quite a few years back, but could do nothing against the muscle power of the entrepreneurs. “Now, there’re six brick kilns in my UP. The establishment of the brick kilns needed my clearance as per the laws, but I couldn’t withhold the applications by the entrepreneurs in face of threats and even physical assaults. Now, the brick field owners are not even letting me live in my own village,” he said.

All the brick kilns are very close to the habitation and crop fields, even within 100 metres, he said, adding that it is unimaginable to think about maintaining the environmental laws that prohibits a brick kiln within three kilometres of any habitation. A villager of Dohla under the same union, wishing anonymity, told UNB that the third brick kiln in the village was established just about a year ago, despite protests by the villagers and the UP chairman. “The villagers didn’t want a third brick kiln in the vicinity, rather they want the previously set up brick kilns to stops. We’ve seen enough of crop damages. The worst affected are the tall trees, including coconut and betel nuts,” he said. A coconut tree used to give about 40-50 fruits, but since the brick kilns started the operation they are giving only about 20-30 fruits, he added.

Asked about the failure to regulate the brick kilns with regards to the bar of minimum distance from habitation, DoE director general (in-charge) Md Shahjahan said the department alone cannot ensure the regulation of brick kilns as it also involves the role of the representatives to give the plot area clearance certificates. A high official at the Environment Ministry also said the government is thinking about reducing the minimum distance from habitation, forests and groves, allowed for setting up of a brick kiln. The Environment Ministry has already forwarded the draft of the new law, titled ‘The Brick Manufacturing Bill, 2012’, prepared by the DoE, to the cabinet, said the official. The draft law proposes reducing the minimum distance of a brick kiln from human habitation, forest and groves as outlined in the Brick Kiln (Control) Act, 1989 as three kilometres. The new act is going to propose the distance to be reduced at one kilometre only, said sources.

DoE director general (in-charge) Md Shahjahan told UNB that the draft law is still at the premature stages as it has not yet been sent to the law ministry for its vetting. He, however, noted that the emission of brick kilns is going to be reduced in the coming days due to new technologies that are gradually being adopted by the owners. But the records kept by Air Quality (AQ) Cell of DoE show that only 15 percent of the country’s brick kilns have so far adopted fuelwoond-saving and low-emission technologies as directed by the department. The DoE earlier set a deadline for brick kiln owners to replace the fixed chimney brick kilns with fuelwood-plus-emission-saving technologies such as Virtual Shaft, Hoffman, and Zigzag brick kilns by March of 2012, but the deadline has been extended until March next year due to very low adoption rate. According AQ Cell, about 1000 out of 6000 DoE-enlisted brick kilns have so far adopted the above mentioned technologies.

From http://www.unbconnect.com 12/14/2012

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INDIA: Bill to Amend the Competition Act Introduced

New Delhi: The Bill to amend the Competition Act was introduced in the Parliament on December 10. Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot introduced the ‘The Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2012′ in the Lok Sabha to amend the Competition Act 2002. The Bill will require the Competition Commission to decide on corporate mergers within 180 days. Once in place, the Bill will allow the Competition Commission of India (CCI) chairperson to authorise ‘search and seizure’ to its Director General (DG) for investigations. The amendments, approved by the Cabinet in October, are aimed at fine-tuning the regulations to bring rules on par with the prevailing scenario and in light of the experiences gained over the past years. CCI has the mandate to ensure that the merger and acquisition deals between various entities do not lead to situations that affect competition in the marketplace.

Once passed, the time period for CCI to decide on combinations would come down to 180 days from 210 days. The amended Act would grant powers to CCI chief to allow the DG to carry out search and seizure activities related to investigations. DG is the investigating arm of fair trade regulator CCI. At present, CCI’s Director General, upon authorisation by the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Delhi, has the powers to carry out search and seizure in any investigation. This is under Section 41(3) of the Competition Act, 2002. Other amendments include change in the definition of terms like turnover and group in competition related matter. Besides, a new Section 5A would be inserted into the Act. As per this section, “Notwithstanding anything in Section 5, the Central Government may, in consultation with the Commission, by notification, specify different values of assets and turnover for any class or classes of enterprise for the purpose of Section 5″. Section 5 relates to combinations of entities.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 12/10/2012

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UP Plans to Roll Out 60 e-Gov Services by 2013

 

Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh government has decided to expand the ambit of its e-governance services from current 26 to 60 by the end of the next year. Currently the state government is running 26 services in eight departments through Internet-enabled common service centres set up at the village level in all the districts of the state. The new services to be launched this month include filing of commercial tax (VAT returns) and women literacy programmes. A pilot project of this scheme is already being carried out in Maharajganj, Mirzapur and Sonbhadra districts of the state and is targeting to make 10,000 women literate by March 2013. Besides, common service centres (CSCs) would also be able to generate voter ID cards from February.

 

We are evaluating all possible services, which could be rendered through common service centres in rural areas. We have also formed a committee of district magistrates in some districts to evaluate the kind of services, which can be provided electronically. We would be setting up 17,000 more common service centres in UP in near future, and are trying and testing various pilot programmes under e-Governance scheme,” National Informatics Centre Deputy Director General (UP) S B Singh said. The state government is working in collaboration with three companies to bridge the digital gap between urban and rural India. These are ‘Srei Sahaj e-Village’ which looks after eastern UP, CMS which takes care of ‘western and central UP’ and ‘Vayamtech Technologies’. There are around 12,828 CSCs in the state and the government plans to roll out 18,745 more by early next year. The state government had launched 26 e-Governance services under Departments of Food & Civil Supplies, Panchayati Raj, Urban Development, Revenue, Women Welfare and Child Development, Training & Employment, Handicap Welfare and Social Welfare.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 12/17/2012

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SRI LANKA: Queries Over Banking Secrecy Laws

Sri Lanka's banking secrecy laws may not be worth the paper it is written on and confidential information of customers could be easily obtained, a senior government minister said over the weekend. Fisheries Minister Raajitha Senaratne said the 117 ruling party legislators who signed the impeachment motion against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake had access to what should have been highly confidential personal details of bank customers.  "I obtained credit card details of Mangala Samaraweera when I was merely an opposition member of parliament. So do you think the 117 government MPs who signed the impeachment cannot get (secret) banking details," Senaratne said. He was responding to queries during a media conference, on how confidential bank details of bank account details of the Chief Justice had been obtained by the ruling party.

The impeachment resolution was not supported by documentary evidence of the alleged financial misconduct of Bandaranayake, but a Parliamentary Select Committee, using powers it had given itself through Standing Orders (the rules of debate of parliament) and had obtained banking details. A press conference by the seven ruling party MPs in the PSC on Saturday admitted that they called for supporting evidence from the banks and that the impeachment itself had no supporting documents. Asked if the PSC acted as prosecutors or as judges, Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva brushed aside the question and said they were inquiring the allegations. Critics say the actions of the PSC is the latest in a series of actions where the justice has been denied to citizens over a systematic expansion of the powers of rulers through two constitutions and the destruction of a once-independent public service.

From http://www.lankabusinessonline.com 12/10/2012

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MALDIVES: Parliament Passes That PG Violated the Constitution

The Parliament passed that the PG had violated the constitution when he had failed to take action against those accused of utilizing a service or item exceeding more than MVR25,000 in value of the PG’s office while he had prosecuted others accused of the same offence. The report publicized by the Parliament regarding the issue stated that the failure violates Article 17 of the constitution on equality and Article 20 which guarantees equal opportunities. The report also stated that the banquet held in the welcoming the attendees of the e-crime conference the PG held in association with the International Association of Prosecutors was not publicly announced for bids while the finance Act clearly states that any services or items exceeding MVR25,000 must go through a public bidding process.

The Parliament Finance Committee proposed and passed the report on Monday also called on forwarding the case of the 2010 PG’s office Audit report to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). The report was passed by the majority of 46 members. Some member claimed that the decision to declare PG violating the constitution would cost him his position as PG, however the Parliament deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim said that today’s decision would not oust PG Muizzu from his position. Nazim further stated that a member of an independent institution would only be terminated through the constitutionally stated procedure.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv 12/17/2012

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PAKISTAN: The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill Introduced in NA

ISLAMABAD: “The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2012” was introduced in the National Assembly on Wednesday. It was moved by Law Minister Farooq H. Naek. Member of the Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat Tariq Shabbir laid before the House report of the Standing Committee on the “The Islamabad Capital Territory Private Education Institutions (Registration and Regulation) Bill, 2007”.

From http://www.brecorder.com 12/19/2012

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AZERBAIJAN: Joining New ITU Regulation

Azerbaijan joined the new regulations of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Azerbaijani Communications and IT Ministry said today after a document was signed by Minister Ali Abbasov. The new regulations will come into force after ratification according to the Azerbaijani legislation. The new ITU new regulations are to ensure the free flow of information worldwide and was agreed within the World Conference on International Telecommunications, held in Dubai (Dec. 13-14). The text of the agreement focuses on further efforts to help developing countries, to promote access to information for people with disabilities and to approve the right of all people to freedom of speech within the networks of information and communication technologies. New ITU regulations will create the way to a more equitable sphere for all. A decision was made at the conference to create a single global number for the emergency services, as well as new provisions aimed at improving the energy efficiency of ICT networks and help combat e-waste. Energetic and long discussions at the conference were caused by such complex issues as safety of networks, determining the organisations providing services in accordance with the terms of the agreement, the principle of non-discriminatory access to each other's networks and the issue of whether to include freedom of speech in the preamble of the agreement.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/17/2012

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KYRGYZSTAN: President to Introduce Strategy on Country’s Sustainable Development for 2013-2017

 

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev plans to introduce a Strategy of Kyrgyzstan's sustainable development for 2013-2017 during a council on the country's economic development on Dec. 7, KyrTAG reported. The strategy includes previous experience of the country's reforming as well as existing plans of state bodies, political parties and experts in this regard. The project of the Strategy will be puublished in the country's mass media for the experts' consideration. The national coucil for Kyrgyzstan's sustainable development was created by the country's president's decree.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/06/2012

 

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Kyrgyz Parliament Ratifies Agreement with Russia on Military Base

 

Kyrgyz MPs ratified the agreement with Moscow about the status of Russian Kant military base, KyrTAG reported on Thursday. According to the document, Russia will not pay for the lease of the firing ground, because the base is a part of CSTO forces. The object also sets free of all types of taxes and communal payments.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/13/2012 

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KAZAKHSTAN: Information 2020 Draft Program Approved

 

At today's meeting the Сabinet approved the draft state-run program Information Kazakhstan 2020. Transport and Communications Minister Askar Zhumagulov tabled the document. The program is purposed to introduce information and communication technologies in all economic sectors. It will let solve tasks in order to raise efficiency of public administration system and contribute to the development of the country's information space. The draft program foresees further implementation of modern communication technologies, digital television, and active use of new technologies.

From http://engnews.gazeta.kz/ 11/27/2012

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Kazakh Parliamentarians Raise Issue of Subsistence Minimum Revision

 

A group of Kazakh Majilis (lower chamber of parliament) deputies, including Dariga Nazarbayeva (the daughter of Kazakh president), appealed to Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov on Wednesday with the issue on revising subsistence minimum in the country. "According to the law, the subsistence minimum in Kazakhstan is set at 17.439 tenge ($ 1 - 150 tenge). This amount is the basis of the minimum wage and the minimum pension. Therefore, the correct determination of the market basket and share of services must surely comply with the prices and reality, "a Majilis deputy Olga Kikolenko said, speaking on the behalf of a group of MPs at the regular session of Majilis on Wednesday. The law of Kazakhstan 'On subsistence minimum' is being implemented in Kazakhstan since 1999. Article 2 defines the minimum consumer basket, which consists of 43 items of food and a fixed fraction of the cost of non-food goods and services. "However, according to the latest information of Institute of Nutrition, improving calculation methodology of food in subsistence minimum in Kazakhstan is required, which would increase the cost of the food basket as well as services," Kikolenko said. The deputy recalled that, seven years have passed since the last revision of subsistence minimum in Kazakhstan, while in accordance with international practice, the minimum subsistence has to be reviewed every five years. According to the deputies, today there is a need to develop a system of social standards, determining the state guarantees, which should contain the minimum and extended key parameters and quality of life indicator : the level of wages, pensions and benefits, the amount of guaranteed medical services. All this is certainly based on the minimum subsistence, the system of its reform and regulation. "We appeal to the government of Kazakhstan with the question whether improvement of the calculation methodology of food in the subsistence minimum is planned, and whether the ratio of food and non-food parts of minimum subsistence will be revised," the Majilis deputy said.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/05/2012

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Strategy-2050 Was in Development for 2 Years: President

Kazakhstan's Development Program until 2050 has been in development for two years. President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev said while delivering the state-of-the-nation address "Strategy "Kazakhstan-2050": a new political course for successful country". "It took us two years to map out this program, we engaged internationally reputed and national experts, members of the Government. This program is a result of hard work," N. Nazarbayev added. The Head of State stressed the year of 2050 was not just a symbolic date. "Why this year? The UN has developed the Global Forecast of Civilizations Development until 2050. Nowadays more and more countries outline and pass long-term strategies until 2050," he elaborated.

From http://engnews.gazeta.kz/ 12/14/2012

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Kazakhstan Approves Law on Public Service

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed the Law on "Amendments and supplements to some legislative acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on public service", the presidential press service reported. The law is aimed at improving the state office efficiency, including introduction of new mechanisms for the formation, operation and evaluation of Public Service Staff. Following the reforms envisaged by the amendments, the number of political officials in Kazakhstan will be reduced by roughly 6.5 times. Moreover, the elite school of managers "A" will be formed in Kazakhstan. Amendments to the Kazakh legislative acts on public service envisage amendments and supplements to minimize "command moves" and strengthen the protection of the state employees in case of managers changing. According to the bill, appointments through moving state employers from one state body to another will be realized only in cases determined by the President.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/21/2012

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TAJIKISTAN: Adopting New Media Legislation

The Deputies of the Majlisi Namoyandagon (Tajikistan's lower chamber of the parliament) have endorsed a new bill on the periodical press and other mass media, Asia-Plus reported on Wednesday. A regular sitting of the fourth session of the Majlisi Namoyandagon of the fourth convocation, resided over by its head, Shukurjon Zuhurov, took place in Dushanbe on December 12. MP Olim Salimzoda, who is one of authors of a new media law, said that a special working group comprising representatives of the parliament, the government, political parties and journalism community to work further on the country's media law. During more than two years, the working group held 18 meetings and the bill was submitted for consideration to the Majlisi Namoyandagon in March 2010. "Under the new law, all media outlets in Tajikistan will be registered as legal entities and public agencies will have to answer journalist inquiries within three days," the parliamentarian noted.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/12/2012

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UZBEKISTAN: Parliament’s Legislative Chamber Adopts Amendments to Tax Legislation

The legislative chamber of Uzbek Oliy Majlis has approved a number of amendments to the laws envisaging the improvement of tax legislation and the creation of favorable conditions for the taxpayers, the lower chamber of the parliament said today. The bill on "Amendments and additions to some legislative acts in connection with the adoption of main directions of tax and budget policy for 2013, as well as reducing the frequency of submitting tax accounting" envisages making the relevant amendments to the Tax Code, the laws on "Bankruptcy", "Customs Tariff" and "Foreign Investments". The tax code and the law on "Bankruptcy" are amended. The amendments include the suspension of adding the property tax, land tax, as well as fines and penalties on previously added and not collected payments to the budget if a legal entity was considered by the economic court as a bankrupt for the whole period of bankruptcy procedures. The Tax Code has been also amended. Moreover, micro-firms and small businesses, paying generally established taxes, except for those producing excisable goods and mining minerals, which are taxable, are excluded from the category of taxpayers of compulsory contributions to the off-budget Pension Fund. The innovations in the Tax Code envisage the reduction of the tax burden, as well as the reduction and simplification of reporting and the procedure for its submission. The relevant amendments were made to the law on "Customs Tariff" and "Foreign Investments". The law adopted by the Legislative Chamber has been submitted to the upper house - the Senate for approval. It is expected that the Senate will consider the bill at the plenary meeting on Dec. 5 - 6.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/01/2012

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Uzbek Senate Adopts Amnesty Act

During a plenary session on Wednesday, the Uzbek Senate adopted an amnesty act in connection with the 20th anniversary of the republic's Constitution. Chairman of the Senate Committee for Legislation, Judicial and Legal Affairs Svetlana Artikova, who presented the draft law, stressed that firstly the amnesty should be applied to those whose crimes are not dangerous to society. The adopted resolution states that women below the age of 18, men over 60 and foreign citizens will be amnestied. In addition, the amnesty will cover invalids of the first and second groups, prisoners suffering serious illnesses, as well as those who committed a crime of negligence and sentenced for the first time. Those who are convicted of involvement in terrorist organisations for the first time and not committed serious crimes will also be amnestied. At the same time the amnesty will not apply to those sentenced to life in prison, convicted of murder and those committing particularly serious crimes. The Senate resolution will take effect starting on the date of publication in the mass media. The Uzbek Senate first adopted the Amnesty Act in 2005 in connection with the 13th anniversary of the Constitution. The right to make a decision on amnesty was passed to the Senate by the head of state at the launch of a two chamber parliament in Uzbekistan in 2005. Previously it was the exclusive prerogative of the president. Starting 2008, the amnesty decision is normally made by the courts in Uzbekistan. The previous amnesty was announced in Uzbekistan last December in connection with the 19th anniversary of the Constitution. It covered more than 45,000 people according to the Senate Committee on Legislation, Judicial and Legal Affairs. In particular, 1,958,000 prisoners were released from serving a criminal sentence, or the prosecution against them was dismissed.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/05/2012

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Uzbek Senate Approves Job Creation Programme for 2013

On Wednesday, the plenary session of Uzbek Senate approved a programme of job creation and employment for 2013. According to the statements of senators, the results on the creation of jobs in the past and the present needs in the labour market and priorities of socio-economic development have been considered during development of the programme. The programme is also closely linked to the regional development programmes of particular areas. The document is focused on the priority development of small businesses, increasing the role of farming, support for the service industry, social and market infrastructure and other effective forms of employment, including the cottage industry and crafts. The programme also provides employment opportunities for graduates of professional colleges and universities, women, the disabled and other categories of people in need of social protection, as well as the rural population. The programme envisages the creation of 972.700 new jobs in total. Reportedly, the job creation and employment programme for 2012 provided for the creation of 967.500 new jobs. Some 773.000 jobs have been created in January-September this year. According to official statistics, the number of citizens registered in the labour agencies as job seekers in late September was 18.000 compared to 24.100 during the same period in 2011. The number of unemployed, defined by 'Methods of calculating the unemployed in need of employment' and approved by the government in January - September 2012 was 621.700, or 4.8 per cent of the economically active population.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/05/2012

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Amendments to Electoral Laws Enter into Force in Uzbekistan

In Uzbekistan, amendments to the laws "On elections of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan" and "On elections to regional, district and city Councils of People's Deputies" related to the further provision of freedom of choice and the development of electoral law have entered into force in Uzbekistan. Laws on amendments to electoral laws were adopted by the lower house, Legislative Chamber of the Parliament in early November and were approved by the upper house, Senate, in early December. These laws were published on Thursday and according to their final article, shall enter into force on their date of publication. In particular, these electoral laws are complemented by standards regarding the prevention of election campaigning not only on Election Day, but also the day prior to voting. A ban on the publication of opinion polls, forecasts of election results and the results of other research related to ongoing elections, including their discussion in the media on and within three days after Election Day was also implemented. Changes made to the law clarify the rules governing election coverage in private media. Activation of these laws will provide greater transparency and openness in elections, election campaigns and in general national reform policy, given the country's diversity of opinions. According to the articles on the legal terms of the payment for air time, the area defined by non-state media involved in the election campaign and other requirements must be equal and the same for all candidates and political parties. The current law also clearly sets the timing, manner and procedures for early voting, and the possibility of the formation of polling stations in places of detention. It also establishes the right of observers to attend the Conference of the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan on Elections to the Legislative Chamber. This should in turn, according to experts, provide greater openness and transparency in the election of deputies. It is expected that the introduction of changes and amendments to electoral law will ensure greater transparency and openness in electoral processes, increase the effectiveness of election campaigns and election commissions.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/20/2012

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Uzbekistan Fund Forum Completes More Than 600 Projects in 2012

The 'Forum of Culture and Arts of Uzbekistan Fund' (Fund Forum) has implemented 611 national and international projects in the field of culture, arts, philanthropy, science, sports and medicine in 2012. This information was presented in the balance sheet of the fund's online conference recently held in Tashkent. In particular, a number of major social facilities were built and restored in the republic in 2012 under the auspices of the fund and its partners. Charity forum marathon 'In the name of Life' was held in all regions of Uzbekistan to support the activities of the National Breast Cancer Association. Fund Forum continued its project on the creation of a national cultural centre network. In the past year such centres were created in Karshi and Samarkand and a children's ecological cognitive theme park was opened in Tashkent. Allocation of educational grants for students, implementation of a grant programme for teachers and support of spiritual enlightenment were continued in 2012. In addition, projects were carried out to support the development of small and medium enterprises and farming as well as women entrepreneurs. There is a special grant programme to support social projects of regional NGOs in Uzbekistan.

Some 532 grants worth more than 1.320 billion soums (should this read dollars or soums) were assigned within the projects to provide assistance in holding 1000 weddings for needy young families. In 2012, the Fund Forum and its partners organised the Forum of Socially Responsible Citizens of Uzbekistan NGO and the Association of Silkworm Breeders and Silk Fabrics Production. Some 106 exhibitions, including 44 abroad were held in the framework of international cultural projects. In particular the Fund Forum implemented such important events as Art Week Style.uz, the National Dress Festival, the International Theatre Festival 'Theatre.UZ' and the Tashkent International Film Forum Golden Cheetah and a number of important conferences and symposia. Some 57 concerts featuring musicians from Russia, France, USA, Great Britain and Greece, including charity events with the participation of Uzbek pop stars and emerging artists are on the list of events held by the Fund. About 30 sporting events, including international competitions in gymnastics, dance, soccer tournament dedicated to the Day of Peace, Tashkent Grand Prix FIDE Asian Chess Championship for juniors under 20 years and other events were held.

A series of books on 'Masterpieces of Architectural Epigraphy in Uzbekistan' were prepared and published on the initiative and with the assistance of the Forum. The Forum of Culture and Arts of Uzbekistan Fund, established in 2004, is an open non-governmental voluntary self-governed association of citizens and civilian organisations. The main direction of the Fund is towards youth and social projects and actions, children's art, fashion and design, sports, holding festivals, exhibitions, concerts and charity events. Famous culture and art officials from Uzbekistan and foreign countries, headed by the chairman of the Board of Trustees and Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor Gulnara Karimova are among the founders and trustees of the Fund.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/21/2012

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FIJI: Constitution Commission Submits Draft Constitution to President

 

The new constitution must pave the way for a much more inclusive, modern, non-bureaucratic, stable and prosperous nation, Fijian President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau said Friday. Nailatikau made the comment after receiving the draft constitution from the Constitution Commission chairman Professor Yash Ghai. "Fiji has had a checkered constitutional history. We have had three constitutions since independence. The decree which established the commission will lead to the formulation of our fourth constitution." a statement from Fiji's Ministry of Information quoted Nailatikau as saying. Under the Constitution Commission decree, certain universally accepted principles must be enshrined in the new constitution, Nailatikau said. "These principles must not only be set out clearly but must also be captured in spirit throughout all the provisions of the new constitution. It is also imperative given our history that the new constitution is enduring. It must not be only for the present, it must be relevant for our future generations," he said.

 

Following the acceptance of the draft constitution, Nailatikau said he will deliver the document to the constituent assembly, which will comprise of representatives from a wide cross-section of society who will deliberate on the draft constitution and adopt the final form of the constitution. "I wish to take this opportunity to thank all my fellow Fijians who took time and energy to make submissions to the commission," Nailatikau said. "We, as a nation, are at an important juncture and it is critical that we all participate in this process with dignity, selflessness and patriotism to ensure that we have a truly democratic and just Fiji." The assembly will then present the adopted constitution to the president who will refer it to an independent judicial tribunal for vetting to ensure compliance before the president assents to it. The work of the Constituent Assembly is expected to be completed by late March 2013. The new constitution should come into effect on the day following the date of assent by President Nailatikau.

 

From http://www.globaltimes.cn 12/21/2012

 

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NEW ZEALAND: Seek to Balance Aims of Two Asia-Pacific Trade Pacts

 

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key's support for a new Asian free trade agreement received a mixed response Wednesday, with critics saying he was ignoring an obvious conflict between the new proposed pact and the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks. Key has joined other leaders from Asian countries in Cambodia to launch negotiations for a 16-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that would include the 10 ASEAN states, together with Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand. "The goal is an outcome that offers New Zealand businesses improved access to key markets across Asia, and robust trade and investment rules," Key said in a statement Wednesday. The RCEP offered the opportunity for the first time to negotiate a free trade relationship with Japan, New Zealand's fourth-largest trading partner. "New Zealand's participation in RCEP will complement our existing free trade agreements in Asia," said Key. "Along with our participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, it also underlines the government's commitment to ensuring New Zealand actively participates in the development of the trade and economic architecture of the Asia-Pacific region."

 

New Zealand would work closely with ASEAN and other partners to make the negotiations a success when they began next year, he said. Critics have said the United States is using the 11-nation TPP talks as a vehicle to contain China's economic growth in the Pacific, while the RCEP includes China and neighboring emerging economy India. The New Zealand International Business Forum (NZIBF) said Wednesday that while the coverage of the RCEP could be even bigger than the TPP in terms of its contribution to economic welfare, they were mutually reinforcing as potential pathways to a wider Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific. "This negotiation will build on New Zealand and Australia's existing high quality free trade agreement with ASEAN and will bring both the giant North Asian economies and India into the same network," NZIBF chairman Graeme Harrison said in a statement. However, Auckland University law professor and prominent TPP critic Jane Kelsey said Key needed "a reality check" if he really believed New Zealand could maintain a balance between the TPP and the RCEP. "The US-dominated Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is pitted against the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership that pivots around China as well as India," Kelsey said in a statement Wednesday. "The prime minister may not want to 'over-emphasize' the China- US stand-off, but that is now the dominant narrative of the TPP," said Kelsey.

 

New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser had promised that New Zealand would walk away if the TPP became an exercise in "China- bashing," but this promise was "more hollow by the day." "The TPP has now become a geo-political pact. There is a serious risk that participating governments will sign up for strategic reasons to a text that surrenders their domestic economies and grants undue influence over their policy decisions to powerful, largely US, corporate interests," said Kelsey. The current TPP trade agreement between Brunei, Chile, Singapore and New Zealand came into force in 2006, but the United States, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Canada and Mexico have joined negotiations to expand the agreement. Japan announced its interest in joining the TPP in 2010, when the negotiations began, and Thailand voiced its interest in joining this week. New Zealand became the first developed nation to sign a free trade agreement with China in 2008.

 

From http://www.globaltimes.cn 11/21/2012

 

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Local Govt Reform Bill Passes Third Reading

 

A bill implementing a programme to lift the performance and efficiency of local government has passed its third and final reading in Parliament. Local Government Minister David Carter says the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill is an important milestone in progressing major reform of New Zealand’s local government sector. New Zealand’s 78 local authorities make up 4% of GDP, spend $7.8 billion per year of public money and manage $120 billion worth of assets. Mr Carter says the Bill refocuses the purpose of local government, introduces financial prudence requirements for local authorities, strengthens council governance provisions and streamlines council reorganisation procedures. "The Bill’s passage today completes the first phase of the Government’s Better Local Government reforms which will focus local authorities on operating more efficiently and effectively, by doing things that only they can do. The reforms will help the local government sector play its part in growing the New Zealand economy. Communities, businesses and households all stand to benefit from these changes." Mr Carter says the second part of the reform programme, which will include some non-statutory actions and a second bill proposed for 2013, is progressing well.

 

From http://www.voxy.co.nz 11/29/2012

 

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Kyoto Pull-Out 'Economic Mistake'

 

Green MP Kennedy Graham says New Zealand's decision not to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol again was an economic mistake and will void New Zealand's influence over climate change for the next eight years. After two weeks, United Nations climate-change talks in Doha wrapped up yesterday with an agreement to work towards a binding global treaty by 2015 to take over from the Kyoto Protocol in 2020 and include countries such as China, India and the United States. In the meantime, 37 countries - including Australia and European nations - signed up to further binding commitments under the Kyoto Protocol through to 2020. Despite lobbying from European countries, New Zealand stuck to its decision to opt out of Kyoto along with Canada, Russia and Japan. Instead, it will set a non-binding target through to 2020, expected to aim to cut emissions by 10 to 20 per cent. Climate Change Minister Tim Groser defended the decision, saying it was time to look beyond Kyoto, which covered only 15 per cent of the world's emissions.

 

However, Dr Graham said it was one of the worst foreign policy decisions a New Zealand government had ever made and would weaken New Zealand's hand in future talks. He said it was also an economic mistake because New Zealand would lose access to Kyoto's carbon market, on which credits are traded to enable countries to meet their obligations. "Being excluded for a five-year period from access to the flexible mechanism for trading would harm New Zealand's economic interests as much as any policy decision this Government has yet made. "It would be politically stupid, morally offensive and economically harmful, and come to haunt us in the coming years," he said. Access to that market was one of the primary reasons Australia signed up to Kyoto again, with its Trade Minister, Craig Emerson, saying it would give businesses access to a predictable global emissions market. Mr Groser said New Zealand would have access to those carbon markets until at least 2015. He could not say what would happen at that point, saying that would depend on progress in talks for the new 2015 pact, as well as discussions about other regional carbon trading markets.

 

He said New Zealand would maintain its emissions trading scheme. "But the Government has no intention of forcing NZ businesses and households to pay higher than world prices in the current difficult international economic climate." Mr Groser said he was satisfied New Zealand had the right long-term approach. "We have every expectation that further progress will be made, but it will be slow, incremental and controversial," he said. The countries at Doha also agreed to a set up a process for richer countries to compensate small, poor countries for the damage done by the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels. That decision was seen as ground-breaking because of the implicit admission that the wealthier emitting countries were responsible for some of that damage. Countries already commit to funds for climate change adaptation and mitigation - such as the "fast-start finance" fund set up in Copenhagen in 2009. New Zealand contributes $30 million a year to that and is committed to continuing contributions.

 

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz 12/10/2012

 

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NSW Govt Plan to Make Sydney an ICT Talent Hub

 

The NSW Government has detailed its strategy to boost the state's digital economy, as part of the O'Farrell administration's plan to help the state adapt to disruptive innovation and increasing competition from emerging economies. The Industry Action Plan for the Digital Economy, released by Deputy Premier and Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Stoner, includes a $6.7 million innovation initiative to identify opportunities and challenges for the state, as well as smart work hubs and the implementation of the NSW Government's open data initiative. The State will also seek to raise the profile of Sydney, with the aim of positioning the city as a global hub for digital and ICT talent. The plan has been in the pipeline since September last year when the Government set innovation and productivity targets for the state until 2021. Under the plan, the ICT industry is expected to account for 4.9 percent of the NSW economy by 2020. "This state is the source of around 50 percent of Australia's total exports of telecommunications, computer and information services," Stoner said, adding it was critical for NSW to build on its digital strengths in order to help boost innovation and productivity gains across other sectors.

 

Victor Perton, former Commissioner to the Americas for Victoria welcomed the plan, but said there were some issues that would need to be addressed to ensure it was a success. "If they want to make it an IT skills hub we've got to make it more attractive for students to get higher degrees and higher training at NSW unis," Perton said, adding that Australia was sometimes criticised in the US for not producing enough home-grown PhD students. He added that the state would also need to deal with the issue of Australia being seen as a high-cost destination. "We're competing against Singapore, Hong Kong, India and China, all of who use much bigger subsidies and the like to lure investment," Perton said. Perton also said that in order for Australia to attract major ICT investment and boost flows of talent between Australia and the US, it would be necessary for Sydney and Melbourne to collaborate. "We will achieve success if Barry O'Farrell and Ted Baillieu shake hands and say, 'We expect our people on the ground to collaborate and go hunting in packs for those new investments'."

 

The taskforce that developed the plan is being led by director of IBM Research, Glenn Wightwick. "The Action Plan offers solutions to a range of issues impacting growth in the digital economy including export opportunities, innovation, productivity, investment, skills, employment and workforce participation, business conditions and global competitiveness," Wightwick said. "The Government has shown its interest and willingness to respond, but we still need to see the action and how real and effective the initiatives are", said Ross Dawson, a futurist who has written extensively on the global digital workforce. He added that Sydney's climate, beauty and culture gave it an unfair advantage over many other countries and that it was a viable and critical objective for it to be a global ICT talent hub. "Yes, we can be a global talent hub. We already are in some ways." Dawson pointed to a recent ranking by the Startup Genome project that ranked Sydney as 12th in the top 25 startup hubs in the world. However Randal Leeb-du Toit, head of commercial development at the University of Sydney, said if NSW wants to play on the global stage it needs to be doing something at a global standard. "It feels like it's a hand waving gesture more than anything else. It's like Tamworth trying to take on New York." Mr Leeb-du Toit said greater incentives were needed for entrepreneurs, similar to those on offer in Singapore and the US. "It doesn't have to cost them money, just change the tax equation for start-ups."

 

From http://www.itnews.com.au 12/17/2012

 

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Embracing the Asian Century

 

Papua New Guinea intends to take advantage of the Asian century and will soon count China as its second-biggest trading partner after Australia, the country's leader says. PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill says the Pacific nation wants to establish itself as a key energy, minerals and food exporter to the Asian region. His government would devote billions to roads, law and order, airports and ports over the coming years to ensure rural and coastal Papua New Guineans could move beyond producing only for local markets and that liquefied natural gas transport would be secure. “Clearly we are well placed to help meet the growing demands of energy by the Asian region, but it is not going to be without significant challenges,” he told the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney on Thursday. He said lifting productivity, including agricultural output, would be chief among these challenges. “PNG has never really focused on productivity, and especially on government measures to improve productivity,” he said.

 

PNG's relationship with Indonesia - with which it shares a major border - remained crucial, O'Neill said. “But our fastest growing relationship is with the People's Republic of China,” he said, adding that China was on track to eclipse all other trade partners but Australia. O'Neill stressed that the burgeoning relationship between PNG and China centred on trade and investment, not security or defence. “We feel that the security issues that have been expressed by many of our traditional partners is unnecessary, we are following the same path that Australia and New Zealand have taken by increasing our relationship with China in trade and investment," he said. Ties between Port Moresby and Canberra would remain strong, he said. “I have no doubt whatsoever that the relationship between PNG and Australia will continue to grow,” O'Neill said.

 

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 11/30/2012

 

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Global Grassroots Campaign Against Corruption Reaches Over Three Million People

 

Today's launch of the Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 shows us that governments have a long way to go to be more transparent and accountable to their citizens. While policymakers play a crucial role in ending corruption, we as citizens also have a voice. And what a voice we have had this past year! Transparency International's campaign "Time to Wake Up" is running in 17 countries across Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe, reaching over three million people. From rallies to animated video contests, to public debates and petitions, the Time to Wake Up campaign has made a real splash. Here's just a small selection of some innovative and exciting campaigning from Transparency International chapters around the world: In the Dominican Republic, the Time to Wake Up campaign has featured in large national demonstrations in the autumn of 2012. Following a major public advertising campaign, the chapter will hold a rally in the capital city on International Anti-Corruption Day, December 9. In Chinese Taipei, the chapter worked with the local school district to produce 10 animated videos about different forms of corruption and how to stop it. The videos are shown throughout the school year to over 100,000 children. In Hungary, the chapter held a huge water fight at a popular summer music festival, to symbolize waking up to the problem of corruption. In the autumn the chapter hosted a Corruption Thriller Film Festival and on December 7, for International Anti-Corruption Day, the chapter will hold an anti-corruption festival that includes a workshop, a mobile app contest and a live concert. In Lebanon, the chapter has been running a massive public advertising campaign using the Time to Wake Up slogan and calling on Lebanese citizens to sign a petition calling for the government to sign the United Nations Convention against Corruption. At an event on December 9 the Lebanese Transparency Association will present the petition, currently with approximately 30,000 signatures, and call for more people to sign.

 

From http://www.transparency.org/ 12/05/2012

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E-Democracy: Isn’t It a Key to Cease Corruption?

 

It is now extensively accepted that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have an important role in national development. The developmental prospective of information and communication technologies have been broadly discussed in the scientific literature but we still lack conceptual precision on the role of ICTs for success and failure of national development process. In recent times ICT is exploit by citizens and civil society for networking and improve advocacy and mobilization, local and globally. Blogs, Facebook and online communities create new modes of social contact. The use of ICT has influenced social movements and has also had an effect on the social life and democratic freedoms in some societies. The existing explanation of freedom and democracy, by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, states that every individual have rights to free communication, religious and political participation, and to engage in economic activity. These rights are defined as political, economic, and religious freedoms. Many scholars connect political freedoms with constitutional democracy (the right of individuals to elect their governments).

 

ICT offer new tools for well-organized public contribution in the democratic process in the form of e-democracy, e-government, e-voting and the propagation of opinions, thoughts, ideas, and rallying social action about things that concern society. At present ICT can be used to improve the democratic process in the form of e-government in which citizens are able to effectively impact the decision-making process in a judicious approach within and between institutions. In government, ICT not only can increase accountability and transparency, and counter corruption through more proficient administration and increased flows of information but also strengthen good governance and improve interaction between government and citizens. E-democracy can be closely defined as “e-administration”, where ICT serves to modernize inter-governmental relations and flows of information with the view to improve government services, transactions, and interactions with citizens, businesses, and other arms of governments. E-democracy can facilitate better service to citizens by:

Offering information via government web pages;

Facilitating access to government services, and;

Developing depersonalized services which reduce risk for corruption.

Generally, one can differentiate between three levels of ICT use to advance democratic processes at the national level:

1.ICTs within government, with a view to improve efficiency in interactions and information flows between government departments and state organs.

2.ICTs in the interface between government and citizens, with a view to improving interaction and feedback between government and citizens.

3.ICTs for empowerment of citizens and civil society organizations.

 

Presently, Pakistan has a democratic system without democrats and it is hijacked by a small group of feudal lords, political elites, bureaucrats and organizations under foreign influence. Most of the time, democratic election only commit to reshuffling of the same old faces. Regardless of miserable performance of political parties, low level of people’s participation in party politics and lack of political culture, majority of the people still believe that political parties are the backbone of democracy. Pakistan where democracy has not deep root saturation, ICTs have provided the users an opportunity to be aware of their socio-political and human rights and they show strong inclination towards attending social and political meetings as a matter of right. ICTs are foundations of socio-political information and development and can be a precious tool for enhancing people’s contribution in the development of policies, laws, strategies and other documents that shape their future. Since Pakistan is a developing country that faces many development challenges, plus extreme poverty, a low literacy rate, poor health facilities, and a weak socio-political situation, characterized by corruption and a lack of informed decision-making, ICT for progress is still at a nascent stage from a civil society standpoint. Even though the government is devoted to the development of ICT infrastructure in Pakistan but, the country is a graveyard of many failed and unsuccessful projects. Unfortunately, the government takes massive loans from the IMF, World Bank and others but there are practically no checks to measure the success of the projects they send the money on, or ways of helping to eradicate corruption in the implementation of projects. There are barely any monitoring and estimation procedure in country that is why according to The Transparency International annual report 2012 the corruption of Rs 12600 billion reported in different sectors of Pakistan during the last five democratic years.The United Nations general assembly selected ‘9 December’ as International Anti-Corruption Day, to elevate awareness of corruption. On this International Anti-Corruption Day, let us promise to do our part by cracking down on corruption, shaming those who perform it and prompt a culture that values ethical behavior as democracy is based on two core principles: participation and accountability!

 

From http://blogs.thenewstribe.com/ 12/18/2012

 

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Development Against Corruption and Fraud in Asia

 

Fighting corruption and fraud is crucial to achieving the goal of reducing poverty in the Asia and the Pacific region, explain Peter Pedersen and Clare Wee from ADB's Office of Anticorruption and Integrity. Beginning 9 December, ADB is marking International Anticorruption Day with a week-long series of learning events to further develop the understanding among its staff of this complex issue. What is the impact of corruption on development projects? Why is fighting corruption and fraud so important to ADB? Given the complexity of the nature of corruption, the impacts may differ from project to project. Nevertheless, ADB takes the approach that every dollar of its development funds should go to its intended beneficiaries, and not lost to corruption or fraud. ADB has always been at the forefront of fighting fraud and corruption. In 1995, ADB became the first multilateral development bank to adopt a policy on good governance and more initiatives were introduced over the years. More than ever, in this time of financial constraints, conditions are ideal for corruption and fraud to prosper, so it is ever more crucial for ADB to exercise strong vigilance in preventing fraud and corruption in ADB-financed, supported, or related activities, as well as take strong remedial action when circumstances of fraud and corruption are identified.

 

How does ADB fight corruption? We take a holistic approach and focus not only on remedial actions, such as debarment, but also on awareness raising, prevention and forging partnerships with others to maximize positive outcomes. For example, on the occasion of International Anticorruption Day, we are raising awareness amongst ADB staff that they not only have a right, but also a responsibility to fight corruption in ADB-financed, supported and related activities. This year’s theme is “iACT: Let’s Keep up the Fight”. Do you review the projects ADB is involved in? Projects are of course subject to regular audits and reviews. In addition, ADB regularly conducts project procurement-related reviews (PPRR) of ongoing projects to confirm compliance with applicable ADB's policies, guidelines, and the loan agreement to ensure that funds are spent for their intended purposes. ADB also collaborates with members of the international community and shares its PPRR methodology with other institutions, so as to maximize impacts. These reviews focus on procurement, financial management, and asset verification, and inspect project outputs, assess internal controls, identify irregularities and possible non-compliance, as well as make recommendations to fight fraud, corruption or abuse of resources. Two PPRRs reports were recently released: one on a power sector expansion project in Samoa, and another one on a project on decentralized rural infrastructure and livelihood in Nepal.

 

What do you think is ADB’s biggest challenge in its anticorruption efforts? "Our biggest challenge is getting our stakeholders on board in our anticorruption efforts. That means changing the mindsets of governments, executing agencies, corporations, and civil societies." Our biggest challenge is getting our stakeholders on board in our anticorruption efforts. That means changing the mindsets of governments, executing agencies, corporations, and civil societies. In coordination with supreme audit institutions and executing agencies, we have been sharing knowledge on PPRRs which have had positive results. This involvement has allowed the borrowing country to take ownership of these anticorruption efforts. For example, Bhutan has requested more support from ADB in its governance efforts after we did a PPRR. We see that as a positive sign showing their readiness to take ownership of anticorruption efforts. Are you hopeful that corruption can be eliminated in Asia? We have to be hopeful. The awareness factor has improved. If civil society says it will not tolerate corruption, we will see things change.

From http://www.adb.org/ 12/10/2012

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CHINA: Big Cities Less Satisfactory in Govt Service

 

Government services in China's biggest cities are less satisfactory than in smaller cities, a report has found. The report was jointly compiled by the Nanyang Center for Public Administration of Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University's School of International and Public Affairs. The report, compiled through different perspectives from residents and enterprises, aims to find out how satisfied residents and businesses are with government services. More than 23,000 residents and 3,600 enterprises in 34 cities were polled from May to July. In the report, a service-oriented government for citizens was defined as one that embodies five key dimensions, including public services satisfaction, public involvement, information transparency, government efficiency and level of public trust. Xiamen, Fujian province, emerged on top of the list of citizen satisfaction toward government service. It was followed by Qingdao, in Shandong province, and Hangzhou, in Zhejiang province. But China's largest cities ― including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen ― were not in the top 10. It's the third year that Chinese first-tier cities weren't on the list for public satisfaction of government service.

 

An advanced economy does not necessarily bring high public satisfaction. Such a contrast is also seen in the economically active Pearl River Delta area, where no city is in the top 10. Researchers said that demographic variables, such as age, educational background and income level, affect the result. And a larger gap was found in first-tier cities between high expectations and low evaluations of a government's public services. "These first-tier cities are on the top of the ranking of investment in the public services infrastructure. But they are far from meeting residents' demands. Building a service-oriented government has many aspects," said Wu Wei, director of the NTU's Nanyang Center for Public Administration. "Residents are more concerned about livelihood issues, such as their children's education and medical insurance, rather than how many skyscrapers have been built in the city," Wu said. "Economic advantages can provide a more material foundation for public services, but it cannot necessarily bring public satisfaction with government service," he said. "And a government needs to create a general sense of happiness for its residents," he added. The report said healthcare and housing were deemed the most unsatisfactory among citizens, especially among those in first-tier cities.

 

Low efficiency

In addition, local governments are deemed weak in working efficiency and building public trust. Even in the top city, Xiamen, its working efficiency is rated only 4.47 on a scale from zero to 10. "From a statistics perspective, these cities receive negative evaluation. Local governments should pay attention," NTU's Wu said. Hu Wei, a professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University's School of International and Public Affairs, agreed. "Over the past several years, the public-service ability of China's city governments has left much to be desired, especially in the field of government transparency and public participation," he said. "A service-oriented government should keep a balance between governing ability and social service. Distinguished performance in only one aspect cannot bring much satisfaction to citizens." Wang Ling, a resident in Tianjin, said: "Many government officials in China still lack the awareness of public service, which means it's hard for them to actively serve the citizens." Ren Yuan, a professor from the School of Social Development and Public Policy at Fudan University, said that the evaluation system of government performance is still based on local economies, which means government officials place much more emphasis on economic development and GDP.

 

"Under such an evaluation system, livelihood issues are often neglected. It's hard for residents to be satisfied with government service," he said. Ren said that the assessment for government performance should focus more on their work in the field of social welfare and livelihood issues. Public policy expert Liu Jianjun noted that as more migrants flock into big cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, for work, governments often have a heavier burden in governing the cities. "When making policy, local governments should have an eye on these groups of migrants, and ensure social equity and justice," he said. The report also noted that governments should improve their communication and interaction with citizens. "Internet-based social networks are becoming an important channel of communication between government and citizens," Wu said. "Government officials should learn how to communicate and exchange ideas with citizens on this platform, such as micro blogs."

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 11/23/2012

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Officials' Trips to Be Placed Under More Public Scrutiny 

 

Wenzhou will make public the details and expenses of Party and government employees' trips abroad on official duty, with the aim to better control the trips through public scrutiny. Detailed regulations issued by the government of Wenzhou city, which is famous in China for its private economy, will take effect from 2013 and will make public the details of international trips taken by the city's Party and government officials. According to the policy, 15 new rules will be implemented, offering practical solutions to monitor and regulate how officials travel abroad, which is occurring with increasing frequency because of the city's booming development. "We're taking a brave step to implement a policy that imposes such specific restrictions on officials both before and after they travel. It places the officials under a certain amount of pressure," said Wang Huiping, director of the rectification office of the Wenzhou city discipline inspection commission. Wang said the new rules are designed to avoid the type of corruption that occurs all over the country between officials and certain event organizers or agencies, who organize unnecessary trips using public money. To control the frequency of official trips, lower governmental departments will have to submit applications every October for the next-year's schedule of trips, which must be approved by all related departments senior to them. Within three days of the travel being approved, a detailed schedule, the list of participants, expenses, and the trips tasks must be posted on the website of the city's foreign affairs office and Taiwan affairs office. The new regulations will likely instill in the public a certain confidence in local officials.

 

"Such publicized information will let us know more about how government officials spend public money wisely, which is a reasonable way to control corrupt behavior," said Su Xian, a 28-year-old female office worker in Wenzhou. "Making the intended schedule of the trips public will be the first step, and the detailed reports after the trip will only be shown on the interior government website," said Wang. In addition, officials who will retire within six months and newly appointed officials are not allowed to take any official trips in the year. Further detailed rules relating to the regulations will be made public by the discipline inspection commission soon after the regulation is put into practice. "We may launch more rules to monitor the officials if we encounter new problems after the implementation of the policy," said Wang. This is not the first time the city has implemented strict regulations in regards to public expenses, which are a significant portion of the fiscal expenditure in the country. A policy was issued in April to implement the reform of the use of government vehicles, taking away the use of chauffeur-driven cars and replacing them with a limited transportation allowance. In May, restrictions were placed on the entertaining of visitors to the city government. Experts said the regulations seem to be a positive step toward regulating officials and minimizing public expenses, but said it is difficult to insist officials make public all the information regarding international trips. "It is positive that more pressure will be placed on government officials by having their expenses and schedules of international trips made public," said He Lixin, associate professor from the school of economics at Fudan University in Shanghai. He added that the goal of the regulations is to make efficient use of government fiscal expenditures, which will be considered more thoroughly after the regulation is put into effect.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 11/23/2012

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Chinese Governments Go More Transparent on Web

 

China's government bodies are more communicative online as they try to engage with web users, a report said Wednesday. A China Software Testing Center (CSTC) report titled "Chinese Government Websites Evaluation 2012" said governments have become more transparent by timely information disclosure and chats with Internet users on their official websites or microblog accounts. Official websites have developed into an important channel for government bodies to share information and collect opinions, according to the report. Zhang Shaotong, vice director of CSTC, said government websites were more communicative with Internet users on important issues this year. Many websites set aside space for netizens to comment or file complaints. The report said more than 80 percent of government bodies updated documents or policy information in time on their websites or microblogs this year. Also, more than 70 percent of online inquiries from the public were replied within five working days.

 

Officials also appeared more "human" on the Internet, as 75 percent of provincial-level governments asked senior officials to chat with netizens online, according to the report. In addition to websites, microblogs also play an important role with increasing significance in communication between governments and the public, according to the report. So far, more than 60,000 government bodies have run microblog accounts in Sina.com, China's largest tweeting service provider. Luo Wen, president of CCID, an Internet observing institute, said government microblogs are deeply rooted in China's 500 million netizens and can amplify government voices with the influence of microblogs. But China has a long way to go as there is still gap between transparency of government websites and expectations of the public. About 68 percent of government websites have not yet well organized their online information, and 70 percent lack detailed information, the report said. Xu Yu, director of the information department of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said China will further improve government transparency with upgraded technologies to better serve the public.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/05/2012

 

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Officials' Assets in Spotlight

 

South China's Guangdong province, traditionally a forerunner of reform in the country, will test out a program that will make details of officials' assets public, as part of an effort to fight corruption. The Hengqin new area in Zhuhai, the Nansha district of Guangzhou and Shixing county under the administration of Shaoguan city, have been selected as the districts where the test will be rolled out. The program will require all Communist Party of China and government officials to report their assets. The officials' assets will be made public and public opinion will be sought, according to a statement that the Guangdong Provincial Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC released over the weekend. "Currently, preparation work for the introduction of the test project is well under way in the three areas, while local Party commissions for discipline inspection are busy studying the details and relevant rules for the project, which is meant to prevent and fight corruption," said authorities with the Guangdong Provincial Commission for Discipline Inspection. Those who refuse to disclose their assets or lie in their reports will be relieved of their posts and be subject to further investigations, according to the statement.

 

All major Party and government officials in the three designated areas will be audited when they retire or are to be transferred to other departments or places, the statement said. Liu Liansheng, a senior official from the Guangdong Provincial Party Commission for Discipline Inspection, said departments have also been urged to further improve the system of exposing corruption online, to encourage the public to report corrupt officials. "In recent times, many corruption cases have been made public after local residents reported the cases online," Liu said. The Hengqin new area, which is adjacent to Macao, has established a special anti-corruption office that consists of officials and experts from the local Party commission for discipline inspection and the departments of supervision, public security, taxation, industry and commerce, according to local media reports. The office will learn about preventing and fighting corruption from Hong Kong and Macao, and seek more cooperation with its counterparts in the two special administrative regions in the coming years, reports said. Nansha district, located at the mouth of the Pearl River, plans to work closely with local housing, taxation, and exit and entry departments to allow the public to inquire into the district's Party and government officials' property, travel records and other information in the coming months, according to Mei Heqing, a senior official with the Guangzhou municipal commission for discipline inspection. Mei said in the near future, people will be able to easily go online to find out how many properties local officials own.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/10/2012

 

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Officials Urged to Fight Corruption

 

Local Party and government officials have been urged to stay faithful to their wives, after a series of scandals involving corrupt officials cheating on their spouses. The call to remain monogamous came from Mei Heqing, a member of the standing committee with the Guangzhou Party Commission for Discipline Inspection, on Thursday. Guangzhou's anti-graft body has investigated 61 officials of county-level or higher this year. "Thirty-eight of them, nearly 63 percent, have been found to keep mistresses, or have more than one sexual partner," Mei said at a news conference. "These cases have had a very bad social effect," he said. He Jing, former deputy Party secretary and deputy director of the Guangzhou public security bureau, was found to have taken large bribes when he was in office from 2003 to 2012. "He was also found to have several mistresses and to have had sexual relations with many other women in recent years," Mei said. He was removed from his post in August and has been transferred to a judicial organ for further investigation, Mei added. Other senior Party and government officials investigated on suspicion of having accepted bribes this year include Li Zhizhen, former director of the Guangzhou bureau of civil affairs, Zhang Jianguo, former deputy director of the Guangzhou Administrative Committee of Urban Management, and Dai Yuqing, former publisher and Party chief of Guangzhou Daily Group. Li, 50, is suspected of taking bribes worth more than 3 million yuan ($477,707), plus HK$90,000 ($11,600), a large sum of other foreign currencies, jade, gold, watches, jewelry and furniture. Zhang is suspected of accepting bribes of 3.92 million yuan, plus $20,000 and Dai is suspected of taking more than 2 million yuan in bribes. Li, Zhang and Dai have been transferred to judicial organs for further investigations and possible future prosecution, according to Mei. Guangzhou's Nansha district, at the mouth of the Pearl River, has taken the lead in Guangdong province by introducing a pilot project in which its Party and government officials are asked to report their assets, which will be made public and on which public opinion will be sought. Mei said his commission plans to work with the city's housing, taxation and exit and entry departments to allow the public to inquire into officials' property, travel records and other information.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/21/2012

 

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Non-Communist Parties Elect New Leaderships

 

With the conclusion of the China Association for Promoting Democracy's (CAPD's) national congress on Friday, the country's eight non-communist parties have all elected their new party leaderships. Since Nov. 30, the eight parties successively held the five-yearly national congresses, with the election of a new central committee -- the party leadership -- in each case. Yan Junqi was re-elected chairwoman of the CAPD central committee during the party's 11th national congress, the party announced on Friday. Yan hails from east China's Jiangsu Province and holds a doctoral degree in engineering. She worked as a professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University before going on to become deputy mayor of Shanghai. The 66-year-old joined the CAPD in 1998 and began serving as chairwoman of the association in December 2007. In an address given at the congress's closing session, Yan said the new central committee will rally and lead the association to work hard under the banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The CAPD congress called on all its 128,000 members to work together with the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) to build a moderately prosperous society and rejuvenate the Chinese nation. Yan's words echoed remarks from newly-selected top leaders of the other seven non-communist parties, who all renewed their parties' commitment to follow the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

 

The parties also vowed to study and carry out the new guidelines set by the power-transitional CPC National Congress of last month that set a policy tone for the country's future development. Under China's multi-party cooperation system, non-communist parties participate in state affairs under the leadership of the CPC. They and the CPC work together and supervise each other, instead of opposing each other. The eight non-communist parties are: the Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomintang, the China Democratic League, the China National Democratic Construction Association, the China Association for Promoting Democracy, the Chinese Peasants and Workers Democratic Party, China Zhi Gong Dang, the Jiu San Society and the Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League. Non-communist parties had a total of more than 800,000 members as of the end of 2011, with more than 37,000 organs at community-based levels, according to official figures. Founded between the 1920s and the late 1940s, they have a membership mainly consisting of professionals and academics from different sectors, elites among returned overseas Chinese and their relatives, people with links to the former Kuomintang, or Taiwan residents. Non-communist parties have contributed to the formation of key official documents or policies in the country by offering comments and suggestions.

 

They are also active in promoting public welfare, helping the needy, alleviate poverty in remote regions and facilitate coordinated development in both urban and rural areas. Furthermore, a number of non-communist party members hold key positions with government and judicial organs. Statistics showed that 30 of 31 Chinese provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities have deputy governors with non-communist party backgrounds. Health Minister Chen Zhu has been newly-elected as chairman of the Central Committee of Chinese Peasants and Workers Democratic Party. Minister of Science and Technology Wan Gang has been re-elected top leader of the China Zhi Gong Party. Wan Exiang, vice president of the Supreme People's Court, has been elected party chief of the Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomintang.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/22/2012

 

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JAPAN: Govt to Double Rent for Public Servants

 

The government will nearly double rents for apartments and houses built for national public servants in three stages from April 2014, sources said Tuesday. Previously, the government examined an idea of raising rents by an average of 50 percent. But Finance Minister Koriki Jojima indicated a larger increase was necessary at a news conference Tuesday. The government believes it should raise enough to cover the cost of rebuilding old housing, the sources said.

 

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 11/21/2012

 

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Natl Civil Servants to Drop by 3,000 in FY13

 

Internal affairs minister Shinji Tarutoko said Friday that the number of national civil servants is expected to decrease by about 3,000 in fiscal 2013.The forecast excludes the number of workers employed for a limited period, such as those engaged in rebuilding areas hit by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, according to his report to an informal meeting of cabinet ministers. The number may change following the more detailed estimation associated with budget compilations for the next fiscal year starting in April 2013.At a press conference, Tarutoko emphasized the government's efforts to cut personnel expenses. Even after temporary staff are included in the total workforce estimate, the reduction in fiscal 2013 will be double the net fall of 1,300 in fiscal 2012, the minister said.

 

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 12/08/2012

 

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Govt Workers' Winter Bonuses Drop 8.4%

 

National government workers received an average of 565,300 yen in winter bonuses Monday, down 8.4 percent from last year. The average for administrative workers, excluding those in managerial posts, was down 51,800 yen as government worker bonuses were reduced under a temporary special law. Annual bonuses for national civil servants in fiscal 2012 came to an average of 1.08 million yen, down 29.6 percent from a record 1.53 million yen paid in fiscal 1998.

 

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 12/11/2012

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SOUTH KOREA: With Majority Victory, Park to Become Nation's First Female President

 

Anchor: Park Geun-hye will become South Korea's first female president. Park won more than 50 percent of the vote in the election Wednesday, a massive showing of support that should help her govern the nation. Our Kim In-kyung has more.Report: Park Geun-hye's election will open a new era in South Korean politics as a female will be holding the nation's top leadership post.Park has promised "motherly" leadership, and during the run-up to the election, she said she would unite public sentiment and usher in a new era of happiness.Park's election was the first in which the successful candidate won at least 50 percent of the vote since 1987 when a direct presidential election system was introduced.She beat rival Moon Jae-in in all areas, excluding Seoul and the Jeolla region, realizing her goal of achieving grand national unity.

 

However, she will be faced with the task of having to integrate a deeply polarized nation of conservatives and progressives. This year's election was unprecedented in recent Korean history as there were two strong candidates instead of three, a situation which acted to divide the nation.Park is also the first child of a former president to be elected to the presidential office. She is the eldest daughter of late president Park Chung-hee who ruled the country for 18 years.

 

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 12/20/2012

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INDONESIA: Jakarta Vice Governor Uses YouTube to Increase Transparency

Basuki Purnama, the newly elected Vice Governor of Jakarta Capital City, Indonesia, has captured the attention of citizens and government officials by uploading videos of his activities on the popular video-sharing network, YouTube. Purnama records and uploads activities such as meetings with public servants, conversations with the public and events attended on his YouTube channel, PemprovDKI. He scolds bureaucrats for over-spending and makes accusations of corruption publicly. Discussions about budget cuts and project expenditure are also uploaded on YouTube. “We want people to be able to watch everything,” Purnama said in an interview at Al Jazeera. “This is their money, not our money. The people have a right to know.” The people of Jakarta have responded positively to this innovative use of social media. PemprovDKI has more than 28,000 subscribers, and the videos uploaded have collectively been watched more than 7.1 million times. Some videos are extremely popular – a meeting with the city’s Department of Public Works, for example, has more than 1.4 million views. In the video, Purnama asks the department to cut the cost of several projects by 25 per cent, and proposes to have the Corruption Eradication Commission look into past public works projects if the department refuses to do so. Purnama even uploaded a conversation with a resident about the risk of flooding of his house. Purnama has gotten high support from anti-corruption activists for his unprecedented actions, though some observers predict impending political trouble as public servants are publicly accused of corruption.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/18/2012

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MYANMAR: Vowing to Fight Corruption Effectively

The Myanmar government Friday vowed to fight corruption effectively, warning that corruption is an unacceptable and unpardonable misconduct in building a disciplined democratic nation and affects the dignity of the nation and the people. In a statement on anti-corruption issued on Friday, the Home Ministry said the government is rewriting a new bill to replace the existing Suppression of Corruption Act 1948 to meet the demand of the present time and international norms. The statement invites citizens to openly complain about bribery cases to the Bureau of Special Investigation and the Head Office of the Home Ministry. The statement pointed out that the culture of demanding for bribes in the form of cash gifts still exists in the government departments and private enterprises as well as in interaction between government staff and departments. It called for public participation in the elimination of bribery and corruption to ensure good governance and clean government.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 11/30/2012

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PHILIPPINES: Govt Call Centre Launches SMS Service

Citizens can now voice their queries, complaints, concerns and recommendations on various public services right on the palm of their hands all thanks to the Government Call Centre’s new SMS service. The Government Call Centre, dubbed “Contact Center ng Bayan” (The Nation’s Contact Centre), is a joint effort by six government agencies. It was conceived to be the government’s main help desk where citizens and other entities can voice their complaints and concerns with government agencies and gain access to information. The participating agencies are the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Civil Service Commission, Department of Health, Department of Trade and Industry, National Computer Centre and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation. According to Civil Service Commission-Region 8 Director Marilyn Taldo, the SMS service is part of the Commission’s plan to make it easier and more convenient for the public to voice their queries about services in the participating government offices. In addition, it eliminates the need for citizens to travel to the government agency for clarifications they may need on certain services. The contact centre can be reached by sending a text message to 090-888-16565.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/07/2012

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SINGAPORE: Ruling Party Elects New Central Executive Committee

Singapore's ruling party the People's Action Party elected a new central executive committee on Sunday, with 12 winning the top votes, and two others co-opted. Local media Channel NewsAsia said the committee represents "the party's highest policy-making body." The 12 members of the committee are Lee Hsien Loong, Khaw Boon Wan, Yaacob Ibrahim, Teo Chee Hean, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Lim Swee Say, K Shanmugam, Chan Chun Sing, Grace Fu, Gan Kim Yong, Heng Swee Keat and Ng Eng Hen, while Tan Chuan-Jin and Vivian Balakrishnan were co-opted. All of them are prime ministers or ministers for different ministries. The Straits Times reported that "the fourth-generation ministers like Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing and Second Minister for the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu made it to the top 12 with the most number of votes from the thousand plus cadres. "

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 12/02/2012

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Singapore to Set Up Two Bodies to Manage Personal Data Protection Act

Singapore's Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said on Thursday that they will set up a Personal Data Protection Commission and a Data Protection Advisory Committee to respectively administer and advise on the Personal Data Protection Act on Jan. 2, 2013. The act, which was passed by the city-state's parliament in October and will come into effect on Jan. 2 next year, is aim at protecting personal information from being stolen or indiscriminately collected and used for marketing purposes. "It will be implemented in phases over an 18-month period to allow time for organizations to adjust fully to the new law," the MCI said in a statement. The MCI said the commission will undertake education and outreach programs to help organizations and the public understand the law as well as issue advisory guidelines for organizations to comply with the act. Meanwhile, the commission will also set up a "Do Not Call" registry in early 2014 for public registration, the ministry added.

The "Do Not Call" registry will allow people to opt out of receiving intrusive marketing messages like telemarketing calls, faxes as well as text and multi-media messages including those sent via smart phone applications such as WhatsApp and Viber. The committee, on the other hand, is established to advise the commission on matters relating to the key roles, administration and enforcement of the Act. "During the transition period, the commission will work closely with sectoral regulators and associations to help organizations comply with the act to adjust their data protection practices, and embark on public education and engagement programs to help consumers better understand how they may protect their own personal data from misuse," local media Channel NewsAsia quoted Leong Keng Thai, chairman of the commission, as saying. According to earlier report, the act covers all private sector organizations engaged in data activities within Singapore. The commission can impose fines of up to 1 million Singapore dollars ( about 820,000 U.S. dollars) for every offense and penalties of 10, 000 Singapore dollars (8,200 U.S. dollars) for every unsolicited marketing call or message to a number in the "Do Not Call" registry.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 12/21/2012

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THAILAND: Mulling Extending Retirement Age of Civil Servants 

By 2050, when Thailand's population is expected to total 82.5 million, according to the UN's "World Population Ageing: 1950-2050" report, the number of elderly Thais - those aged 60 or older - is projected to reach 22.5 million, or 27.3 per cent of the population. With more people reaching retirement age and a declining fertility rate leading to fewer young workers, this situation will affect all sectors, particularly Thailand's civil service, which is the "back office" of the main engines driving the Kingdom's economy. According to the secretary-general of the Office of the Civil Service Commission, Nontikorn Kanjanajitra, this issue is of great concern and must be addressed urgently if public services for all Thais are not to decline in the decades ahead. "This has been our concern for years, as the average age of civil servants hit 45 years for the first time in 2004," Nontikorn said in an interview last week. The average dropped recently to 43, thanks to the retirement of those members of the "baby boomer" generation. Yet, the situation remains worrisome, taking into account higher life expectancy and lower fertility rates. More than 2.7 million people now work for the civil service in some capacity, comprising officials in 19 ministries whose salaries are part of the central government budget. Of the 1.65 million with full civil-servant status - qualifying for full benefits - only 42.2 per cent are aged below 40 years.

The Civil Service Act was amended in 2008 to extend the retirement age by up to 10 years from 60 for civil servants with needed technical or other individual skills - medical and legal, for example. Their retirements will be delayed by four years, with two three-year renewals possible. Nontikorn said his office is also studying a plan to extend the retirement age of civil servants in other areas. The study, which kicked off about a year ago, is expected to be completed this month and will be presented to the government next year. In the preliminary stage, two options are being considered. First, the 70-year threshold could be applied to experts working in other fields to address shortages. Second, the threshold in all fields could be extended from 60 years to 62 years. This may exclude those who do not hold at least a bachelor's degree. Also, for certain positions such as soldiers and police officers, there may be a physical requirement.  "Two benefits from this would be that [the workers'] expertise is retained, and the pension burden would be reduced," Nontikorn said. In Japan, which has a higher percentage of its population in the elderly range than any other country, the retirement age will be raised to 65 next March, while companies are allowed to pay half-salary to employees aged 60 or more.

Professor Naohiro Ogawa of the Nihon University Population Research Institute said earlier that the extension of retirement age is necessary; no country in the world, Ogawa said, can leave their retirement age unchanged for decades as life expectancy increases. Ogawa noted that if more people are kept in the workforce, their contributions help reduce the government's pension burden, making the pension scheme more sustainable. Mathana Phananiramai, a former lecturer at Thammasat University who has studied the impact of the ageing population, added that older retirement age would help ensure that retirees have more savings. Under the Pension Act, Thailand's retirement age has been fixed at 60 years since 1941, when Thais' life expectancy was just 52. Thanks to advances in medicine and other technologies, life expectancy is now 72. Meanwhile, Thailand's fertility rate is well under one, meaning less than one child is born to every couple. Without contributions from those who can still make them, the government is also shouldering extra healthcare expenses on civil servants and retirees, as well as their family members. About 5 million people are now eligible for the medical services under the Civil Servant Medical Benefit Scheme, according to Health Insurance System Research Office head Dr Samrit Srithamrongsawat. About half are aged over 60, consuming about half of total expenses, which stand at 60 billion baht (US$1.9 billion) per annum. Nontikorn said the burden would only rise as the ageing population demands more healthcare services. This will require more staff, buildings and utility expenses. In addition, the Thai public service will face a human-resource shortage, particularly in the medical area. "The age gap will only widen, as many civil servants age while we freeze the workforce periodically. We need to seriously rethink the recruitment rules. There must be incentives to facilitate the return of the recently retired to the public service," he said.

 From http://www.asianewsnet.net/ 12/03/2012

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Thailand to Develop Public Offering System for Securities

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Thailand will develop a ‘Public Offering System’ to provide one-stop service for the end-to-end issuance of Equity Instruments, Bonds, and other Financial Instruments. SEC Director of ICT Department Dr Kumpol Sontanarat said that this system will perform real-time interaction with other regulatory agencies such as Thai Securities Depository (TSD), Thai Bond Market Association (ThaiBMA), and the Bank of Thailand (BOT) via web services to issue identification to particular instruments. It will also promote relevant information pertaining to those instruments and securities on the SEC’s website and on the BOT’s Country Economic Report. The Public Offering system will be an in-house development project as one of the SEC’s twelve core services, he added. Apart from this, the SEC will also develop ‘SEC Centerpoint’ for through internal knowledge management, and Business Intelligence to manage and integrate large pools of Thai capital market information from various sources.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/19/2012

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INDIA: CMSS to Roll Out e-Procurement Solution

New Delhi: The Central Medical Services Society (CMSS) will soon roll out a e-Procurement to procure goods at competitive rates. CMSS is the newly-launched agency to streamline the procurement process in the public sector. The agency is working on a plan to set up an efficient supply chain to prevent leakages, a system to prevent stock-outs and excess inventory, and plan to reduce wastage with the help of a management information system (MIS), based on the assessment of the existing mechanism and the loopholes, sources said. The objective of this Society is to function as an independent, professional and autonomous agency for procurement of quality health sector goods and services required by the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in a transparent and fair manner and make the goods available at convenient locations for the benefit of the users by addressing efficiently the supply chain issues.

The agency has already done an assessment of the current system. Absence of an IT-enabled supply chain management, inadequate supply chain infrastructure, manual collection of data and absence of any credible MIS for proper stocking and inventory management, and delays in estimation of quantities and in settlement of tenders leading to delayed supplies were found out to be the main problems in the sector now. At present, the Health Ministry is procuring drugs, vaccines, contraceptives and medical equipments departmentally and through procurement agents for its various disease control programmes.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 12/05/2012

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UP Civic Officials Study Gurgaon Municipal Corp e-Gov Module

Gurgaon: Ninety-six officials from various municipal corporations, councils and committees in Uttar Pradesh visited Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon (MCG) to study the e-Governance steps initiated by the corporation. The officials also visited the solid waste management plant at Bandhwari and studied treatments on garbage and recycle waste material. Director General of the Urban Local Bodies Department said the state government has earmarked around Rs 700 crore to assist all municipal bodies in the state to set up solid waste management plants in their areas. Some of the municipalities have already identified the location to set up the treatment plants while the others have been given a month’s time to do so. “The MCG is the best in the state in implementing e-Governance and the state government wanted other municipal bodies to study and understand this initiative, so that it can be replicated in their jurisdictions as well. The visiting officials were told about the online tracking system, call centre and the Pragati portal, among other initiatives, undertaken by us,” a corporation spokesperson said.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 12/05/2012

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Over 10K Government Email IDs Hit in Cyber Attack

New Delhi: In what is being termed as the biggest cyber attack on the country’s official computer networks, over 10,000 email addresses of top government officials were hacked in a single day on July 12 this year. The IDs included those of officials working in the PMO, defence, external affairs, home, finance ministries, as well as intelligence agencies. The attack has been blamed on state actors, based in countries inimical to India’s interests. The attack took place despite an alert issued four days earlier, on July 8, by the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC), formed under the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), as the malware or malicious software used was “sophisticated” and targeted subjects, individuals and organisations.

“The advisory was issued on July 8… and the PMO, NSA and other agencies alerted,” a top NTRO official told The Indian Express. “The MEA and MHA took the biggest hit, plus strategic information related to critical sectors, including troop deployment, was compromised”Paramilitary forces were also badly hit, especially ITBP, as deployments were revealed. There were serious cases of negligence, the involvement of insiders, if any, is also being checked,” he added. News of the attack was confirmed by officials of intelligence and enforcement agencies who attended a day-long NCIIPC conference in the capital on Monday where Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, NSA Shiv Shankar Menon and NTRO Chairman P V Kumar were among those present.We would not like to name the state actors but D4 — destroy, disrupt, deny and degrade — process was initiated and counter offensive launched,” the NTRO official said.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 12/19/2012

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NEPAL: Getting LDCs Leadership in WTO

Nepal took over from Friday the role of the Coordinator of the Consultative Group of the Least Developed Countries in the World Trade Organization. Addressing the meeting convened to handover the Coordinatorship, Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Nepal to the United Nations, WTO and other International Organizations in Geneva, Shanker D. Bairagi, thanked LDCs delegations for the trust and goodwill shown to Nepal. The Ambassador underlined that the year ahead is challenging as external economic situation is not easy and the scenario in WTO is not much encouraging especially for LDCs. He stressed on the need of working hard to ensure that LDC issues are not sidelined and to remind the WTO community once again that delivering concrete results for the most vulnerable countries is a moral imperative and an obligation emanating from past WTO decisions. He highlighted the important role trade can play in helping LDCs alleviate poverty and achieve prosperity.

Bairagi emphasized that the LDCs Group should continue to pursue the longstanding agendas that include the operationalization of duty-free-quota-free market access for LDCs; simple, transparent and facilitative rules of origin; resolution of cotton issues and operationalization of Services Waiver decision. The Permanent Representative stated that the LDCs are bound together by common characteristics of vulnerability and being in special need of external support measures to be able to trade and develop. He underscored the importance of solidarity and common voice of the Group to advance LDCs' common issues. LDCs delegations congratulated Nepal on being elected as the new LDCs Coordinator in WTO and expressed hope that the Nepalese delegation will effectively lead the Group. The LDCs Consultative Group is the key forum of LDCs Members and Observers of WTO to discuss and form a common position on all pertinent issues in WTO. Nepal takes over the Coordinatorship from Haiti at an important time ahead of the Ninth Ministerial Conference (MC9) scheduled to take place in Bali Indonesia in the first week of December 2013.

From http://www.nepalnews.com 12/16/2012

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PAKISTAN: Three Newly Elected Members Take Oath

ISLAMABAD: Three newly elected members for the National Assembly on Monday took oath as MNAs. Chairperson Yasmeen Rehman administered the oath. The members included Chaudhry Zahid Iqbal, Mauhammad Hanif Malik; and Bawan Das, a member elected against a minority seat fallen vacant after resignation by a PML-N minority MNA Dr. Araish. Other two members Chaudhry Zahid Iqbal and Muhammad Hanif Malik who took oath on Monday, belonged to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. They had got elected from National Assembly constituencies NA-162 Sahiwal-III and NA-107 Gujrat-IV respectively.

From http://www.brecorder.com 12/17/2012

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Pakistan Making Democratic, Economic Gains Despite Heavy Odds

Despite facing heavy odds, Pakistan has made key democratic strides and built a new economy as it also courageously grapples with challenges of militancy, a political commentator noted. Writing for Americans For Democracy and Justice in Pakistan, David James makes the case for acknowledging Pakistan's achievements at a time when the media focuses on bombastic negative stories and militant bombings. The writer cites the case of Malala Yousafzai and notes that President Asif Ali Zardari, standing up against the extremists that rejoiced in the assassination attempt against the courageous 14- year-old advocate for education, recently travelled to Birmingham, England to meet with under treatment Malala and pledge $10 million to a new and energized program for female literacy in Pakistan.

"This act of leadership, courage and defiance against extremism by President Zardari did manage to capture the imagination of the international press, with photos of the meeting with Malala on all Evening News programs in the United States. But this coverage was the exemption, not the rule". "But there is a new Pakistan emerging a moderate, tolerant and modern nation building a new society and new economy against huge odds. In the long term, when the history of South Asia and the history of the world's fight against militancy is written, the story of the emergence of a moderate and modern Pakistan will be a central theme", says James, who studied politics and economics at Oxford University. There is little historical precedent for what Pakistan, in the face of incomparable challenges, is achieving. Early next year, the elected civilian government will complete its five-year term for the first time in national history.

The writer cites a number of democratic developments including restoration of the 1973 constitution, education and economic development programs and Benazir Income Support program and remarks that by implementing responsible policies, Pakistan is realizing its latent economic potential. The Karachi Stock Exchange is hitting all time highs and economic growth is expected to reach four percent. For a nation managing multiple internal and external conflicts, such performance is noteworthy. As for Pakistan's relations with the US they are also back on track, says James while praising Ambassador Sherry Rehman's diplomatic efforts to that end. During her tenure, through intense negotiations and ceaseless contact with administration officials, Senators and Congressmen, Rehman and others helped reopen NATO supply lines and oversee a dramatic improvement in economic, security, and political ties. Almost inconceivable 12 months ago when relations reached historic lows, US ties are now fully repaired and on a positive trajectory, as Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar recently stated.

Commenting on challenges facing the nation, the writer says "of course, large obstacles remain in the Pakistan comeback story". But consider for a moment, that despite those challenges because of a government that is beholden to its people and partners that have honoured their promises Pakistan's future looks brighter now than when the civilian government took office five years ago. The picture of the courageous Malala Yousafzai sitting with the President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari is a symbol of the new democratic and progressive Pakistan that is emerging, an untold story that will change the future of South Asia.

From http://www.brecorder.com 12/20/2012

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AZERBAIJAN: Informatization Level of Educational System to Be Satisfactory

Azerbaijani Education Ministry have submitted the next phase of project on informatization of educational system to the government of the country, the Minister of Education Misir Mardanov told reporters on Tuesday. According to the minister, ratification of the project, implementation of which is envisaged within 7 years, is expected. Work on informatization of educational system, connecting schools to the global network and enhancing the skills of teaching staff in the field of information technology will be continued within the project. "The current level of educational system's informatization can be considered as satisfactory, and the level of informatization will grow further with the financing of the field," he said. According to Mardanov, today more than half of teaching staff, about 80.000 teachers, have been trained to enhance their skills in information technology. According to these figures, Azerbaijan exceeds average indicators. As for equipping schools with computer equipment, today one computer falls to the share of 20 students, the minister said. "Our main goal is not to reduce the number, for the computers, issued to schools, to be used for the intended purpose . Also one of the important aspects is to improve the literacy level of teachers in information technology, as well as increasing the number of schools connected to the Internet" Mardanov said.

From http://en.trend.az/ 11/27/2012

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Azerbaijani Taxes Ministry Creates Organisation to Deal with Electronic Audit

The Azerbaijani Ministry of Taxes is creating a special organisation to deal with an electronic audit, Azerbaijani Deputy Minister Sahib Alakbarov told Trend on Monday. "In the coming days we intend to make changes to the structure of the Ministry," he said. "This will be a very strong organisation consisting of IT specialists and tax employees. This organisation will begin its activity in early 2013 enabling us to conduct an e-audit." He said that the project of introducing e-audit is under completion. "Specialists at the Ministry underwent special training," he said. "The project consisting of six components (establishing a legal framework, the information base and staff training), is under completion." Head of Tax Policy and Strategic Studies Department of the Ministry Akif Musayev told Trend earlier that the regulatory framework for the electronic audit will be created within the bill on amendments and additions to the Tax Code. This bill is being developed. The electronic audit is intended to protect the rights of taxpayers. An automated information system is required for its application. The Ministry of Taxes has the system, including all the possibilities for an e-audit the ministry said. Using an electronic audit will reduce the number of on-site inspections by 90 per cent.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/07/2012

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Ruling Party: Azerbaijani Society Has Concrete Opinion on Presidential Elections

2013 is the year of the presidential elections in Azerbaijan. "I think that the Azerbaijani society has a concrete opinion in this regard," Deputy Chairman, Executive Secretary of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party Ali Ahmadov said at a ceremony party of delivering a certification to a 600,000th member of the ruling party today. The ruling party and Azerbaijani people consider Ilham Aliyev as the only candidate in the presidential elections of 2013, he said. "I think that there are serious reasons to form the opinion," he said. "As a result of the economic policy of the previous years, Azerbaijan has become the fastest growing country in the economic sphere. Azerbaijan has changed people's welfare during the period." "2012 was a successful year for Azerbaijan and ruling party. The important actions were taken in the international arena," he said. "2013 will be also successful for Azerbaijan," he said. "It will be a year of great projects that will be implemented as a result of economic development and infrastructure project implementation."

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/22/2012

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KAZAKHSTAN: State Commission Created for EXPO-2017

The State Commission for the International Exhibition EXPO-2017 is created in Azerbaijan, President Nursultan Nazarbayev said in his address to the people in connection with the decision to hold the exhibition in Astana. "It is a great opportunity for our country to acquire new energy and "green" technology. It means billions of dollars will be invested in Kazakhstan during the preparation and holding of EXPO -2017 and the further use of its facilities. I've created the state commission to solve all issues with regard to the preparation of the exhibition," the statement said. He reiterated that Kazakhstan defeated a strong contender, the Belgian city of Liege, which already had experience in holding such an international forum. "It is a great success for Kazakhstan. Expo - an event of global proportions, comparable with the World Economic Forum in regards to importance and also with the most popular sport events in the world in regards to tourist attraction," the statement said. International exhibitions are mainly held in the countries considered to be economic giants like the U.S., France, Germany, Japan, Brazil, Canada, the UK, Spain, China and others during more than 160 years. Now Kazakhstan is also included amongst the ranks of such countries.

"This new success further underlines that we have become a respected country in the world. The majority of the 160 states - members of the International Exhibitions Bureau voted for us. Almost the whole world chose Astana," Nazarbayev said. However, he noted that the Expo 2017 - is at the same time, the huge responsibility of Kazakhstan to the world. "We have to carry out a lot of preparatory work, the building of an exhibition center, new hotels, roads, and transport development, all to ensure readiness for guests in just five years. Approximately 5 million foreign visitors will attend Expo 2019 during three months," the statement said. All the countries will prepare their pavilions under the theme of the exhibition - Energy for the future. As the experience of the past shows, such exhibitions have an enormous impact on the development of cities and countries where they are held. "The place in Astana for the construction of the new exhibition center is defined. This will be another "national construction" of Kazakhstan. Five years will pass quickly. Astana's success in the struggle for the right to host Expo 2017 - is the success of the people of Kazakhstan. I have no doubt that all citizens of Kazakhstan will take an active part in the preparations for the International Exhibition. I believe that EXPO 2017 will be another golden chapter in our history," Nazarbayev said. He urged Kazakhstan to unite and actively prepare the country for this great international event.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/07/2012

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In Kazakhstan Civil Servants Will Be Accountable for Substandard Services

In Kazakhstan, civil servants will bear responsibility for for poor quality government services, the deputy head of the Presidential Administration Baurzhan Baibek reported on Friday. He recalled that in past few years steps taken for improvement of provision of public service delivery gave positive results. "People felt those results on the example of PSC (Public Service Centers - Trend). Though their performance is far from being perfect, still people saw and felt that many of the services (registration, cancellation of registration, obtaining driver license, etc) may be performed quickly and efficiently," he said. According to him, the law is primarily directed to the fact that all of the complaints of citizens should be considered on time by government agencies, all the stages of application consideration must be transparent. As previously reported, the President signed the Law on "Amendments and additions to some legislative acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan for the public service" on Friday. The law aims at improving the efficiency of the state apparatus, including through the introduction of new mechanisms for the formation, operation and evaluation of personnel of public service.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/21/2012

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TURKMENISTAN: Replacing Justice Minister

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has signed a decree dismissing Myrat Garryev as Justice Minister, Turkmen State News Service (TDH) reported Sunday. Garryev was replaced with his deputy, Begench Charyev.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/02/2012

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Turkmenistan to Establish Agency to Protect National Economy from Risks

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov made a statement at a recent government meeting on the feasibility of establishing a special agency under the Ministry of Economy aimed at protecting the national economy from risks, the Turkmen government reported on Friday. Relevant departments were tasked with responsibility to prepare a draft resolution to be presented to the government in near future. According to the report, such structures already function under the government or independently in many countries of the world. "I believe a similar agency needs to be established in our country as well. It would be appropriate to task it with the responsibility of verifying the foreign companies willing to operate in Turkmenistan. "If their presence is deemed appropriate, the agency will grant them permission to function in our country, "the government report quotes the Turkmen president.

Alongside that this institution will be responsible for monitoring and ensuring the commissioning of projects built in Turkmenistan by various companies, as well as taking measures to prevent risks that may be incurred by the economy due to the late delivery. It is expected the newly formed agency should fully investigate the risks that may arise regarding activities of foreign companies willing to invest their resources. As noted by the Turkmen president, firms willing to operate in Turkmenistan may face a number of internal and external risks. Among the major risks the Turkmen leader highlighted political risks associated with the situation in the country where the head office of the company is located. According to him, regulatory risks due to changes in previously existing rules and the adoption of new legislation and regulations in the country where the company operates may occur as well. Companies may also face natural risks in their activities caused by natural disasters. According to Berdymukhamedov, regional and industrial risks should also be taken into consideration.

All the information regarding implementation of the project tender winning company should be directed to the newly established agency prior to announcement of any final results. If the necessity arises, the agency will be given authority to become acquainted with the activities of a foreign company willing to operate in Turkmenistan and visit its headquarters. "This in its turn will contribute to detailed examination of all risks that may arise during the operation of that company in Turkmenistan," theTurkmen President noted. "Upon receiving positive results of a deep examination of the foreign company's performance the agency is obliged to approve and publish the results. Otherwise it is excluded from participation in the tender and a new one is to be announced,"Berdimuhamedov said. According to official data, large factories are being built in Turkmenistan with the participation of foreign partners and approximately 2000 large buildings worth nearly $35 billion are being constructed. Alongside this construction are that of the transcontinental North-South railway and the development of oil and gas fields and construction of gas pipelines at final stage. Redevelopment of large scale construction works are in progress in cities and villages.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/22/2012

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UZBEKISTAN: Special Information Systems to Be Created in Judicial Sphere

Uzbekistan will develop and introduce information systems that are integrated within the national information system for collecting, processing and storing information about the activity in the courts in 2013-14. This work is envisaged by the order of the Cabinet of Ministers which approved the programme of introducing modern information and communication technologies in the work of the courts. The programme will see the analysis of introducing and developing information and communication technologies, including on resources and systems, the number and quality of online services, as well as the qualified personnel in the field of information and communication technologies in the courts. It is planned to provide court personnel with computer and office equipment, to create the local area networks in the central and regional court offices and to organise electronic litigation within the development of infrastructure for information and communication technologies. Moreover, the decree of the government envisages the measures will increase the level of computer literacy and improve the skills of judges and court staff, including their certification for using modern computer and information and communication technologies. The increased number of information resources and improved quality of online services will allow applications to the court with petitions and other documents in an electronic manner to exchange data and to interact effectively with legal and physical entities to publish the decisions of the economic courts. They will be financed from the state budget, the Development Fund of the Courts and the Judicial Bodies, as well as grants and loans from international financial institutions and organisations and other sources not prohibited by law.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/18/2012

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AUSTRALIA: Govt Fights Against Internet Governance Changes

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is in Dubai this week for the International Telecommunications Union's (ITU's) World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), and said that the Australian government will oppose changes that would give governments greater control over the internet. The ITU will seek the support of delegates from 193 different nations to change the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITR) to give more control over the internet to governments, rather than existing independent organisations, such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The treaty was first created in 1988 at a similar conference in Melbourne. The proposal likely to come from the closed-door meeting has already been met with opposition from Google and Anonymous, with Google's chief evangelist Vint Cerf saying that the changes could "put government handcuffs on the net", with a number of governments that have track records of opposing internet freedom getting a vote on the changes to the ITR.

Others have warned that the changes would make internet "blackouts", such as those seen in Egypt and Syria, much easier to coordinate. Conroy announced today that the case had not been made for the changes to the ITR to be accepted, and he believed that ICANN should still be kept in charge. "ICANN's multi-stakeholder model has played a significant role in the success of the internet, and is essential for ensuring that the internet remains a central point for innovation and a driver of economic growth," Conroy said. "Australia wants to make sure that any amendments to the ITRs do not undermine this model or fundamentally change the way the internet operates. Australia does not believe a case has been made for change." Conroy said that the ITU should still focus on developing technical telecommunications standards that ensure networks can work with one another across the globe, but said that ICANN should continue to oversee the global Domain Name System.

"There appears to be little value in either organisation seeking to encroach on the responsibilities of the other," he said. "Given the increasing importance of communications networks in our day-to-day lives, governments should continue to play a role in developing and protecting this vital infrastructure from harm — either from deliberate attacks or natural disasters." Conroy said that he would be meeting with the delegations from other nations to seek support for Australia's position on the proposed ITR changes. Telecommunications analyst Paul Budde this morning dismissed the concerns about the conference as "conspiracy theories," stating that it was not a "takeover of the internet by the UN," but working to build a consensus about ITR. "The decisions that have been made over that time have been based on consensus, and the Secretary-General of the ITU, the UN body in charge of the organisation organising the conference, is determined that any decision-making at this conference will take place on that basis also." He claimed that people with vested interests were seeking to spread FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about the conference. The conference comes just weeks after the government announced that it would drop its proposal for a mandatory internet filtering system in Australia, which, under its initial proposal, would have seen all content that sat outside the government's rating system blocked from view. Instead, the government has opted to force internet service providers to block content on the Interpol black list.

From http://www.zdnet.com 12/03/2012

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Super Fast Broadband and Government Service Delivery

Senator the Honourable Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Australia, reveals to FutureGov the strategic considerations and the far-reaching vision behind Australia’s bid to be a leading world digital economy by 2020. As the appetite for services using broadband rises inexorably, many nations are investing in super fast broadband infrastructure. In Australia, the Government has announced the AU$36 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) project that will connect 93% of premises to broadband using optical fibre while the remaining 7% will receive broadband via either a 4G fixed wireless connection or a next generation satellite service. The NBN is to be rolled out over the next decade. In addition to speed and capacity, the characteristics which differentiate the NBN from current broadband services include its Australia-wide coverage, as well as its stability and reliability. The establishment of the NBN as a wholesale-only, open access platform is designed to deliver stronger retail competition, greater choice, lower prices and more innovation.

The Australian Government has also released a National Digital Economy Strategy which has the overarching vision to make Australia one of the world’s leading digital economies by 2020. The Strategy includes eight high level goals focusing on the following areas:

·Online participation by Australian households

·Online engagement by Australian businesses and not for profit organisations

·Smart management of our environment and infrastructure

·Improved health and aged care

·Expanded online education

·Increased teleworking

·Improved online government service delivery and engagement

·Greater digital engagement in regional Australia.

Government service delivery

With the rollout of super fast broadband, the challenge for government agencies at the federal, state and local levels will be to both keep up with the way Australians will want to use the NBN as well as understanding how to take advantage of super fast broadband to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their programs and services. To assist this, the Federal Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy is developing a guide to help government agencies identify programs and operations that can best take advantage of super fast broadband. This guide will identify and explain:

·how the NBN will be different to Australia’s current broadband infrastructure

·the characteristics of government programs and operations that can most benefit from super fast broadband, and

·how to establish robust pilot projects to test the advantages that super fast speed broadband can deliver.

Client service delivery

Many government agencies use shopfronts to deliver client services. These shopfront services can include circumstances where clients are seeking, for example, to:

·register a business, car/boat or even a pet,

·obtain a licence to undertake a regulated activity such as driving a car, getting a visa or passport, obtaining permission for a development proposal, or

·secure a government payment or subsidy

Government shopfronts are often supplemented by a telephone call centre. Over the last 15 years, shopfront services have also been supplemented by an online service delivery channel where clients interact directly with an agency’s client service IT system. Most government client service agencies thus offer 3 channels of service delivery—a physical face to face channel, a telephone channel and an online channel. The online channel has proved to be highly cost-effective and is strongly promoted over face to face service delivery. But despite the inconvenience and cost to clients of physical face to face service delivery (such as travelling to a government shopfront, finding parking, queuing for a service often during the lunch hour, and frequently being re-directed to another agency shopfront to obtain other evidence and then coming back to the original agency), many clients continue to choose the physical face to face channel. This may partly be due to the complexity of the transactions involved or because some clients prefer the re-assurance of a face to face transaction.

With the introduction of super fast broadband, a question for many government agencies is whether to introduce a video-based service delivery channel to supplement their online client service delivery. Our hypothesis is that super fast broadband to every premises in Australia, enabling high quality video interaction in combination with the agency’s online client service channel, could significantly improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of client service delivery. It would, for example, enable two or more client service officers to be connected simultaneously to a client at home to enable the needs of that client to be managed comprehensively rather than the client being bounced from agency to agency. The challenge for government agencies will be to test how best this video based service delivery channel can be introduced and operated for the benefit of both clients and government agencies.

Other types of government services

Other types of government services that may benefit from super fast broadband include:

·Outreach services – For a large country with a relatively low population density, efficient service delivery to people and businesses in regional and remote parts of Australia is a major challenge. Many government agencies deal with this by developing outreach services where government officers travel from location to location to deliver services. Super fast broadband offers the opportunity for these services to be delivered via high quality video. This can enable more people to access services more easily and more frequently and that government agencies can deliver these services more efficiently.

·Consultations with householders and businesses – A key part of the role of government agencies is to consult with people and businesses in the community. Such input is critical to the development of sound service delivery policies and practices. But conducting such consultations can be expensive for government agencies and often inconvenient for people and businesses to attend. Super fast broadband offers the prospect of undertaking these consultations in a way that is significantly more convenient and more efficient.

·Communication of policies and programs – Government agencies now make extensive use of websites to communicate the details of policies and programs. But most of these websites make only limited use of rich media opportunities because it is generally only people and businesses in metropolitan Australia that have access to adequate broadband to enjoy the benefits of such websites. Ubiquitous availability of super fast broadband will make it much more attractive to government agencies to make more extensive use of rich media to communicate the details of policies and programs.

There are of course other opportunities for government service delivery using super fast broadband including the potential benefits for delivery of health and education services as well as opportunities to boost teleworking. As the NBN is rolled out, trials in these areas will also be conducted to better understand and realise the advantages of ubiquitous super fast broadband.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 12/17/2012

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Reforms Failing to Close Indigenous Schools Gap

EFFORTS to close the gap in education for indigenous students have stalled, reflecting the slow progress in lifting the literacy and numeracy skills of all students across the nation, despite the extra billions of dollars spent in schools. Literacy and numeracy test results released yesterday show indigenous students are closing the gap in a couple of areas, notably the reading standard among Year 3 students, but on average are improving at the same rate as non-indigenous students, leaving the gap intact.

From The Australian 12/19/2012

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Australia to Establish Customs Reform Board Against Corruption

Australian government will establish a Customs Reform Board as the first step of a reform against corruption following the arrests of customs officers on malpractice on drug smuggling, Minister for Justice Jason Clare told a press conference Thursday. One Customs officer, 28, one quarantine officer, 31, and two members of the public were arrested this week. Four more people were arrested in August and October. These eight people had been charged over drug smuggling following a clandestine two-year investigation into corruption. "There will always be the risk that organized criminals will target law enforcement officers. There's always the risk that our law enforcement officers could end up working for the crooks." Minister Clare said at a press conference in Sydney. The Customs Reform Board was made up of James Wood, former Royal Commissioner of the NSW Royal Commission into the NSW Police Service, former NSW Police commissioner Ken Moroney and former deputy chairman of Ansett David Mortimer.

It will oversee the Customs Services and give recommendations to stamp out corruption from the service and take more reforms. The government has already announced a number of changes to Customs this year, including covert integrity testing, drug and alcohol testing, new requirements to report misconduct, and expanding the powers of Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI). And Minister Clare said he planned to announce "major structural and cultural reforms" next year, including improving its law enforcement capability, integrity culture and business systems. Few months ago, a Customs officer was arrested, along with two men and one woman. They were charged with corruption and drug- related offences. "The investigation began... after Customs notified ACLEI of suspected corrupt activity almost two years ago," Australian Federal Police chief commissioner Tony Negus said. According to him, this investigation, which has resulted in eight people being arrested, is still ongoing, and further arrests are anticipated.

From http://www.globaltimes.cn 12/20/2012

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More Public Sector Jobs to Go in SA

Treasurer Jack Snelling has released his mid-year budget review, which demands government departments achieve a further 1 per cent in budget savings. Another 1,750 public sector jobs are earmarked to go and the Government plans to achieve additional savings of $464 million over four years. Mr Snelling said the department efficiencies would save $171 million over three years. He said $61.5 million would be pruned by reducing spending on contractors. A review of subsidies was expected to save $31.5 million. SA would contribute less for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, to save $29.2 million. Mr Snelling said the state took only 7 per cent of water extracted from the Murray but had contributed 24 per cent of the Authority's budget. He said more centralised communications functions across government would save $13.3 million over three years. About 50 full-time jobs would go as a result. Cutting back the number of boards and committees across government would achieve another $4 million of savings.

Overruns absorbed

The Treasurer said the budget would absorb some of the Health Department's overruns, amounting to $523.2 million over the forward estimates. "We have more doctors, more nurses, more hospital beds and more elective surgery per head of population than anywhere in the country. We want to maintain that," he said. "We couldn't maintain that and achieve the savings which had previously been set out in previous budgets, so we've had to significantly change those savings and of course it's had a budget impact." Mr Snelling blamed a fall in GST revenue and other taxation for the worsening financial position. The Treasurer said GST and other federal grants had been revised downward by $288 million across the forward estimates since the 2012-13 state budget. As flagged in recent days, the Government will impose a levy on CBD parking spaces, aimed at raising $52.1 million over two years. It will see car park owners pay $750 per year for each parking space they have, with the levy to be indexed. The Government also is moving to monthly rather than two-yearly minerals royalty payments. It says that will achieve a one-off benefit of $31.6 million in the 2013-14 financial year.

Public sector

Jan McMahon from the Public Service Association said the budget review showed the Government did not care about its workers. "The public service is seen as the Government's ATM. That is, whenever they want to get extra cash they just think that they can just continue to slash jobs without having any impact on South Australian families," she said. "You can't have savage job cuts like this and there be no impact." But Business SA CEO Nigel McBride praised the attention given to public sector employment. "We welcome the recognition by the state Treasurer that, rather than put the burden on ordinary South Australians, the Government must look at substantive savings in the public service," he said. Opposition treasury spokesman Iain Evans said the Government could blame no-one else for its problems. "This is a budget discipline problem of the Government's own making," he said.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority said it was stunned the SA Government had slashed its funding. But the Basin plan will not be affected because it is federally funded. Authority chairman Craig Knowles said the SA money lost would have been spent on maintaining assets such as dams, locks and weirs. "I'm a little surprised to see ... the South Australian Government, who fought so hard to save the Murray over the last couple of years, making a major public and political campaign out of it, to once the plan is finally put in place to suddenly pull back on a lot of the lifeblood that makes the river system work," he said.

SA Greens leader Mark Parnell condemned the cuts to environment spending, including the decision to axe the statutory body Zero Waste SA, which helped improve recycling and reduce waste. "If South Australians want to keep our leadership role in recycling and waste management then it's going to have to come from somewhere. Zero Waste was doing that job," he said. "When the Government cuts Zero Waste the costs will be picked up elsewhere or the alternative is we go back to the bad old days, everything going to landfill."

From http://www.abc.net.au 12/20/2012

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MARSHALL ISLANDS: ADB and RMI Sign $5 Million Loan for Public Sector Reform

A $5 million loan agreement with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) was signed today in Majuro to support the Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) as it continues implementing public sector reform initiatives to achieve long-term fiscal sustainability. “This initiative reaffirms ADB’s long-term partnership with the Marshall Islands. While good progress has been made on fiscal and structural reforms under the program, further efforts are needed to generate sustainable medium-term economic growth in the Marshall Islands,” said Ayumi Konishi, Deputy Director General of the ADB’s Pacific Department, who represented the organization at the signing. Dennis Momotaro, Minister of Finance, represented the Government of RMI. The Marshall Islands economy heavily relies on government spending and foreign grants, which fund more than two-thirds of government’s budget. Most foreign grants are provided under an amended Compact of Free Association (or the Compact) with the United States. Economic growth over the medium-term in the RMI is expected to stay low at around 1.5% and revenues are projected to decline. Within this low-growth scenario, the RMI needs to adjust to the annual decline in United States Compact of Free Association grants, which will expire in 2023.

In 2010, ADB approved the Public Sector Reform Program and its subprogram one, which included design of policy actions and the implementation of immediate reform initiatives. Subprogram two, for which the $5 million loan was signed today, will complete the implementation of the policy actions. Policy actions under the subprogram two that have already been achieved include: introducing new legislation covering state-owned enterprises, taxes, fiscal responsibility and debt management; adopting and implementing reform plans for selected state-owned enterprises to improve their performance; and completing a public sector workforce audit and planning exercise. Post-program monitoring will continue throughout 2013. The $5 million equivalent loan comes from ADB’s Special Funds resources. RMI has been a member of ADB since 1990.

From http://www.adb.org 12/13/2012

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NEW ZEALAND: Legislative Milestone for Better Public Services

The State Sector and Public Finance Reform Bill concluded its first reading debate in Parliament this afternoon, says State Services Minister Jonathan Coleman. "This omnibus bill is one of the initiatives by the government as part of its Better Public Services reforms," said Dr Coleman. "It is progress towards a more innovative, efficient public sector that delivers better results for New Zealanders," he said. Other parties have been consulted on the proposals in the State Sector and Public Finance Reform Bill, which amends the State Sector, Public Finance and Crown Entities Acts. The proposed changes provide a wider range of public sector management tools to support and encourage:

- Government agencies collaborating more and organising themselves around results.

- Government agencies sharing functions and services, co-ordinating on purchasing goods and services, and developing systems together in order to leverage the scale and expertise of the state sector.

- Greater financial and reporting flexibility and the provision of more meaningful performance information to Parliament.

- Stronger leadership at the system, sector and departmental level to achieve the desired change in the performance of the state sector.

Delivering better public services is one of the Government’s four priorities for this term. "A claim made by the New Zealand First associate finance spokesman Andrew Williams today that this legislation will give the Prime Minister "complete dictatorship" over the State Services Commissioner is nonsense," said Dr Coleman. "The clause 6 (J) Mr Williams referred to is being carried over in identical wording from the current legislation, which has been in existence since 1988," he said.

Better Public Services legislation changes

The proposed changes to the State Sector Act 1988 will:

- Strengthen the State Services Commissioner’s role in leading the state services.

- Extend chief executives’ responsibilities to consider the collective interests of government and longer-term sustainability, rather than focusing on single departments or agencies.

- Add a new organisational arrangement - Departmental Agencies - to the options available for delivering public services. These operational agencies will be set up within a department to carry out a specific function and their chief executive will report directly to a minister.

- Improve governance across the system.

- Ensure the State Sector Act is modern, flexible and generally fit for purpose.

The proposed changes to the Public Finance Act 1989 will:

- Clarify chief executives’ responsibilities for strategic financial management and stewardship.

- Improve financial flexibility to support innovation and different ways of working within government.

- Provide more meaningful information to Parliament about what the government is spending and achieving.

- Encourage more strategic reporting on future intentions, and reduce related compliance costs.

- Specify the governance regime for Public Finance Act Schedule 4 companies.

The proposed changes to the Crown Entities Act 2004 will:

- Support sector-wide leadership by strengthening the alignment of Crown entities.

- Support leadership of particular functions across entities by expanding the scope for the use of whole-of-government directions.

- Simplify, streamline, and improve planning and reporting provisions.

- Formalise the role of the monitoring department and the Minister of State Services’ ability to request information.

- Improve the operation of the legislation.

From http://www.voxy.co.nz 11/29/2012

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MPs Get 1.9 Per Cent Pay Rise

MPs will receive a 1.9 per cent pay increase, the Remuneration Authority confirmed this afternoon. The salary increases are deemed to have come into effect on July 1 this year meaning MPs will receive back pay for the last six months. That works out to $1400 for backbench MPs and $3895 for the Prime Minister. The increase takes a backbench MP's base pay from $141,800 a year to $144,600 while Prime Minister John Key's pay goes from $411,510 to $419,300. Opposition Leader David Shearer's base salary rises from $257,800 to $262,700. In a statement, the authority said MPs pay had not kept pace with increases in the cost of living or with general wage movements. That was partly at the request of Parliament and partly down to the authority taking into account "adverse economic conditions".Since 2009 general salaries and wages had risen by 5.6 per cent while parliamentary salaries excluding the $2000 and $5000 increases to make up for he loss of travel perks, had risen by only 2.9 per cent, the authority said.

The increase announced today, "still leaves members of Parliament receiving lower remuneration increases than the general population".MPs also received a one per cent increase in the tax free allowance they get for entertaining visitors, gifts, donations and other sundry purposes. That means the prime minister's tax free allowance rises to $21,600, and MPs' allowance goes to $16,200. The authority also released its salary determination for judges, giving them a 2.5 per cent increase in base salary. That sees a High Court judge's base pay rise to $395,000 and a District Court judge's salary rise to $300,500. Those increases are effective from October this year.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz 12/20/2012

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SOLOMON ISLANDS: More Needed in Fight Against Corruption

The Police Commissioner, John Lansley, says more needs to be done in the fight against corruption. Speaking at the International Anti-Corruption Day on Saturday, Mr Lansley says such an issue "must include all stakeholders taking decisive steps together." "Corruption is an inhibitor to investment therefore it is important to combat it seriously to ensure that opportunities for employment, investment, education, and health are not denied." The police chief added that the recognition of corrupt activities is an important first step. "It is therefore necessary that education based on ethics and integrity are part of the school curriculum and also part of any public sector training programme," said Mr Lansley. The Police Commissioner also highlighted the need for the establishment of an Independent Commission Against Corruption. He says such a body would have auditors, prosecuting lawyers, police, media officers and secretarial staff. Mr Lansley says members of the Commission would also need powers to have access and seize documents.

From http://www.solomontimes.com 12/10/2012

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Public Service to Become Strict

The Solomon Islands Minister for Public Service has cautioned that the public service will become strict on all applicants qualifications and attitude towards work. This was revealed during the debate on the 2013 budget estimate yesterday in Parliament. Hon. Stanley Sofu says this is important to consider because some officers have good qualifications but poor work attitudes. He has revealed that some Public officers are not performing to expected standards despite the good qualifications. He therefore urges supervisors to ensure their staff improve their work attitude. However, the Minister praised his Ministry for the job well done in 2012.

From http://www.sibconline.com.sb 12/20/2012

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World Leaders Meet to Assess the Net's Infrastructure

History’s greatest invention needs a tune-up

Representatives from almost every nation in the world will soon meet in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to attend the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT or “wicket” as some say). From Dec. 3 to 4, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will host representatives of its 193 member countries, who will discuss high-level issues in telecommunications, like how best to foster continued development of Internet infrastructure across the planet. The conference originated from two sources, said ITU Counselor Richard Hill. Several developing countries announced that they wanted existing regulations to be modernized. And some developed countries thought many of the outdated regulations could be abolished. “I think it’s safe to say there’s a general agreement that everyone wants the same thing: more telecommunications and more Internet,” Hill said. “But there’s some disagreement on exactly how to achieve that. The purpose of the conference is to discuss that and come up with an agreed path forward. ”It’s generally agreed that the previous WCIT, which occurred in 1988, created a financial and ideological framework that allowed telecommunications and the Internet, in particular, to flourish and support the information-based culture that much of the world enjoys today. The goal of this year’s conference is to hone the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), a treaty developed at the first conference that aims to facilitate global interconnection and interoperability of telecommunications traffic across national borders. Once the wording of the new regulations is decided and each nation ratifies the document, nations will be treated as sovereign entities, free to implement the conditions of the treaty in their dealings with outside nations as they see fit. The ITU’s role in the conference is that of arbitrator. The ITU isn’t an enforcement agency, nor is it attempting to control the Internet, as some have suggested. As far as the Internet and telecommunications go, the ITU is simply a watchman, establishing a written interpretation of the will of the world. “Ultimately the stakeholders are the people who use telecommunications, which is all of us,” Hill said.

The ITRs cover many different topics

Some of the main points of discussion will be: preventing fraud and cybercrime, promoting equipment standards, reducing the cost of mobile roaming, empowering consumers, protecting the human right of communication, improving telecommunications access for people with disabilities, improving energy efficiency, promoting the responsible disposal of electronic devices, taxation and interoperability. “On some topics, there’s universal agreement already,” Hill said. “They just have to fine-tune the language. On other topics, the positions are very far apart.” Aside from the topics that nations tend to more or less agree on, there are three main fronts where battles are being fought. One battle pertains to identifying the best method for reducing international mobile roaming rates. The other two battles are related to the financial model and security of the Internet. Just as Democrats and Republicans will eternally debate the best model for stimulating the national economy, there are two competing philosophies that overarch WCIT’s most contentious discussions. One camp wants the market to dictate how telecommunications infrastructure is developed and managed. This camp believes the Internet has worked well so far operating on a privatized, liberalized model and therefore that is how telecommunications should continue to run. The competing philosophy wants increased government involvement in infrastructure development and management as a means to ensure adequate financing, fairness and security.One of the biggest challenges in creating a treaty that includes nearly every nation in the world is the disparity between the most developed and least developed countries, ITU Director Malcolm Johnson pointed out during a September press briefing. What works well in the U.S. or Japan may or may not work well in developing Africa or developing Asia. Creating a standardized infrastructure framework for the world, therefore, proves very difficult, Johnson said, but making low-cost Internet access available for the world’s citizenry is a noble goal worth pursuing and within WCIT’s purview.

The United States’ main goal for WCIT

U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer stated, is to ensure that the telecommunications and Internet sectors thrive. The U.S. belongs to the philosophical camp of not changing things if they’ve been proven to work well. Kramer said the U.S. would oppose any major changes to the existing ITRs during the conference, particularly any that would undermine net neutrality or endanger freedom of expression.The U.S. delegation has strong support, Kramer said, and comprises more than 100 members, including the FCC, U.S. departments of Commerce and Defense, Google, Facebook, PayPal, civil society organizations, free speech organizations, “and a lot of nations that agree with the U.S.” The U.S. also has detractors in the conference.

Some of the biggest rifts in ideology were highlighted after proposals put forward by the Association of European Telecommunications Network Operators (ETNO) were attacked by the U.S. and its ideological allies. Among ETNO’s proposals was a financial element that would allow a “sending party network pays” model. Whereas the existing Internet model allows the free flow of information, the sending party network pays model requires the party sending information over the Internet to pay a tax to the receiving network operator.This aspect of ETNO’s proposal gained popularity among some developing nations in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, as well as some parts of Europe, because it provides an income source for nations that are in the early stages of building out their fixed networks. It sounds like an excellent solution for nations that have few funding options, Kramer said, but such a model would be detrimental to the entire Internet and is ultimately a bad idea.“I think a lot of [ETNO’s supporters] have an old business model in mind,” Kramer said. “Many of them are from countries that haven’t liberalized, they have primarily a single telephone company and they’re used to the old voice model where they can collect that termination fee for accepting traffic from abroad. It’s a very old model, it worked very well early on, when you had an environment where people weren’t certain about the technology, and a working environment where the paid model was the primary way that things operated.”

ETNO responded to its critics in a letter, stating that such a model would not be mandated, but just an option to be used by Internet operators “when commercially suitable.” The organization also pointed out that such an arrangement already exists to accommodate “high-value traffic” transmitted in the paid-peering arrangement between Netflix, Level 3 and Comcast. ETNO has stated that it “fully supports the principle of an open Internet and does not believe that its proposal would hamper [an open Internet].”The problem with even allowing the sending-party-network-pays model as an option, Kramer said, is that it would eventually stifle Internet availability. For example, if Khan Academy, an educational video website, was required to pay a tax each time it sent data to an African nation operating under the sending-party-network-pays model, Khan Academy’s owner might decide to stop offering his website in that country. Or alternatively, the company’s owner could choose to start charging users subscription fees, as Netflix does, to cover the costs of sending traffic to countries operating under a sending-party-network-pays model. This model would chip away at the free model that has made the Internet so successful, Kramer said.“Our philosophy very much has been: Allow the markets to be liberalized,” he said. “Allow multiple providers of broadband access, whether they are mobile or fixed providers, to provide that service to end users, stimulate competition that drives down pricing, and in turn you get lots of users who are willing to pay for that broadband access. And that should be the model that funds infrastructure development, broadband development and creates a cycle of economic growth where you have more and more broadband access. That creates an Internet economy and Internet access, that creates more affluence that then creates more money in the telecom sector.”He added, “That kind of privatized, liberalized model is the one that has worked not only in the U.S., but it’s worked in South Africa, it’s worked in Ghana, it’s worked in Kenya, it’s worked in Korea, it’s worked in Japan.”

Another departure from traditional Internet governance is a proposal that would send traffic through designated access points as a means to regulate Internet content. Currently organizations like the Internet Society, Internet Engineering Task Force and World Wide Web Consortium work as part of a multistakeholder effort to determine how best to govern Internet traffic and handle security issues like spam, malware and hackers. Proponents of the traditional approach to Internet governance appreciate the competence and agility of small, specialized organizations with stakes in the Internet’s continued availability and openness.The U.S. is content with the current form of Internet governance, Kramer said, and opposes proposals that would put controls on the Internet. “There are over 425,000 different global routes for traffic,” he said. “There are 40,000 different network operators serving 600 million websites.” The huge number of working pieces that compose the Internet have come to interconnect in such a way so that rates have been negotiated steadily downward through the years, reducing costs for everyone. “If you force certain routes, you’re almost creating a monopoly route,” Kramer said. “Prices go back up and then the cost of Internet services go up, the cost of broadband provision goes up, and again it limits the audience that’s available.” Furthermore, mandating regulated traffic routes also readies the slippery slope to Internet censorship, he said. One of WCIT’s main goals is to find a way to lower rates on international roaming. Some nations favor rate regulation as a way to lower rates. By simply ordering lower rates, rates can easily be reduced.

But this is problematic, Kramer said, because service providers might be led to subsidize their losses on lowered international rates by increasing other rates or raising the cost of mobile devices. “We’re proposing improved transparency on mobile roaming rates and mobile roaming usage,” Kramer said. By making rates and usage data more visible to consumers, service providers will begin negotiating cheaper rates in order to stay competitive, he said. This conference is a milestone, but it’s not the end of discussion about international telecommunications. What happens during the conference will tune the trajectory of discussions about telecommunications and Internet governance. In the event that ITRs are established that place taxes on the Internet or mandate data checkpoints that could lead to Internet censorship, “the people who would be the most alarmist about this would say that would balkanize the Internet, create a whole bunch of standards and approaches,” Kramer said. “You could create a model that didn’t honor free speech and democracy, you could create a model that didn’t honor economics — all those things would be violated.” It would ultimately create a fractured, uncooperative infrastructure. However unlikely, such a scenario is possible, Kramer said.No one can say exactly how the conference will turn out, but WCIT’s most important contribution will be how it establishes precedents for future relations between nations. ¨ (By Colin Wood)

From http://www.govtech.com/ 11/30/2012

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New Paper from the Association for Progressive Communications and the Internet Society Connects Internet Protocols and Human Rights

“Like Internet protocols, human rights standards attempt to articulate principles that will apply universally over time, as ideas and conditions evolve,” a new paper argues. Commissioned by the Association for Progressive Communications and the Internet Society, the issue paper released today compares the standards-making processes as well as the principles underlying human rights on the one hand and Internet protocols on the other. The technical and the legal come together in this unusual but useful exploration of the fundamental intents behind Internet protocols and the human rights framework. Co-authors Avri Doria and Joy Liddicoat, respectively protocols specialist and human rights advocate, incorporated valuable contributions by the Internet Society’s Nicolas Seidler and Markus Kummer and dialogue from the Internet Governance Forum 2012.

“There are some shared principles between Internet protocols and human rights,” the main authors say in their discussion of this interconnectedness. “They generate continuities and discontinuities which could inform and assist those who seek to defend human rights and to maintain a free and unencumbered Internet. ”The main contribution of this paper is the examination of selected Internet protocols and human rights and the discussion around the impacts of the points of convergence and divergence. “We see this discussion as a process,” said Markus Kummer, Vice-President for Public Policy at the Internet Society, insisting that comments in reaction to the paper are welcome. “It is our hope that this discussion will engage human rights activists, policy makers and the Internet technical community in a dialogue about ways that they can collaborate. It is our belief that human rights considerations are part of the DNA of the Internet and that a dialogue between these communities will be beneficial to promote a rights-fostering Internet.”

“This opportunity for human rights and technical communities to collaborate shows there is more we can do together to promote and protect both human rights and the Internet,” said Joy Liddicoat. “We are grateful for the Internet Society’s support for this research and look forward to more dialogue in 2013.” The issue paper is part of APC’s Connect Your Rights! project, the aim of which it is to make the links between the internet and human rights. The project is conducted with support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).It is also part of the Internet Society’s core mission to promote an open Internet as a necessary foundation for people to exercise some of their key fundamental rights in the online environment, including freedom of expression and freedom of association and peaceful assembly.

From http://www.apc.org/ 12/13/2012

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Growing Strong: The Global 100 Operators Report 2012

Consistent gains have pushed China’s three telecoms operators up the Global 100 led by China Mobile, which has broken into the top five. “Could the world’s largest mobile operator be on the verge of breaking into the top five?” we asked this time last year on publishing the 2011 edition of the Global 100 ranking of the world’s biggest telecoms operators. A year on and China Mobile has done exactly that, leapfrogging Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica to take the number four position in the 2012 table. It added more than 9 billion (or almost 43 billion yuan) to its revenues in the most recent financial year, while Telefonica, which held fourth place last year, grew its top line by just over 2 billion. Strong growth from the Chinese telco has brought change to the top five of the Global 100 for the first time since 2007, when AT&T replaced NTT in the number one spot. China Mobile stood in 11th place that year with revenues of 29.47 billion (303.64 billion yuan). It has grown consistently ever since and in the most recent financial year booked revenues of 64.06 billion (528 billion yuan), an increase of 117% in euro terms over those six years. AT&T, by contrast, which has also performed strongly in recent years–being the world’s largest telecoms operator by revenue is no mean feat–saw its revenues increase by 11% over the same period, to 97.86 billion. China Mobile’s domestic rivals have also made steady gains in the Global 100 in recent years. Back in 2007 there were four Chinese operators in the top half of the table, ranging from China Mobile down to China Netcom (which was absorbed into China Unicom via an industry restructuring in late 2008) at number 28; the four together had revenues of 64.08 billion, just 18 million more than China Mobile’s annual turnover today. This year China Telecom, China Unicom (both of which rose up the table by one place this year, just as they did in last year’s report) and China Mobile together recorded revenues of 119 billion, more than twice their 2007 figure.

From http://www.totaltele.com/ 12/20/2012

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Asia's Future Food Security Hinges on Modernization of Farm to Market Chains

Asia’s ability to keep food prices in check and ensure long-term regional food security will require the region’s farm to market supply chains to become more efficient and cost effective, says a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) study. “Asia faces a formidable challenge of feeding 5 billion people by 2030,” said Bindu Lohani, ADB Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development. “Rising populations and incomes, resource degradation, and climate change will keep putting upward pressure on food prices, requiring vast improvements to ensure adequate, affordable food supplies. ”The Quiet Revolution in Staple Food Value Chains: Enter the Dragon, the Elephant and the Tiger, produced by ADB and the International food Policy Research Institute in response to the 2008 spike in food prices, analyzes domestic rice and potato supply chains in Bangladesh, India and People’s Republic of China (PRC).It finds that the rapid modernization of staple food chains in Asia has allowed farmers to increase control over what they produce, and to whom they sell. The transformation has been particularly dramatic in the PRC, with modern rice mills increasingly buying direct from farmers, cutting out middlemen. In India the spread of modern cool storage facilities is giving consumers year-round access to potatoes, and delivering substantial price advantages to farmers.More isolated rural areas have seen an increase in jobs and incomes from new links with commercial urban centers, and better infrastructure, technologies and policies. At present the benefits are not always shared equally, however, with large and medium-sized farmers typically getting the lion’s share of subsidies and marginal farmers largely missing out .

The study notes that the cost of energy, labor and farm inputs like fertilizer and seeds remain substantial, and can quickly translate into higher retail food prices. In Delhi and Dhaka, power accounts for about 75% of cold storage operational costs, leaving potato prices vulnerable to energy price shifts.Value chain transformation is crucial for ensuring that food prices in Asia’s cities – home to half the region’s people – remain affordable, and the study calls for regional food security to be placed front and center in the 21st century policy agenda.“The changes in food demand, driven by urbanization and increasing incomes of consumers, are creating important opportunities for agricultural development and rural poverty reduction in Asia,” said Bart Minten, one of the authors of the study and Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI.There is no “silver bullet” to address the challenges facing staples value changes, meaning a variety of policy and program measures will be required to stimulate the efficiency of staples markets. Given Asia’s widely different zones, no “one size fits all” approach will work, requiring tailored solutions. Improving post-harvest productivity in areas such as processing, storage and distribution, and directing government subsidies and support to the neediest farmers and regions are central to more efficient supply chains, which ultimately affect prices, the study says.

From http://www.adb.org/ 12/10/2012

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Asia Must Close Skills Gaps, Go High Tech to Sustain Future Growth – ADB

Asia and the Pacific must overcome skills gaps and scale up technical training to create innovative economies able to generate sustainable, inclusive growth, says a new book by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).“While Asia and the Pacific accounts for almost half of global unemployment, 45% of employers in the region face difficulty in finding suitable talent in their markets,” said Bindu Lohani, ADB’s Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development. “Countries in Asia will not be able to create sufficient employment unless they address the serious skills mismatches that exist in their labor markets. ”The ADB publication, Skills Development for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth in Developing Asia, looks at the issues, challenges, and potential measures countries could take to develop the skills needed to promote employment, sustain growth, and improve global competitiveness. The book, co-published with Springer, consists of articles from leading experts and policy makers in technical and vocational education and training. Video: The Right Skills Mean Better Jobs and Stronger Economies Shifting away from the factory-driven growth model of the past requires a technically adept market-driven labor force able to generate creative, cutting edge ideas and products. However, the book reveals that Asia’s training systems are struggling to fill employers’ needs. Even those with graduate degrees are lacking market-ready technical skills to be absorbed into the workforce.

The large informal labor force in Asia is also unable to take full advantage of new opportunities in the modern market economy. In the People’s Republic of China, for example, there is an annual ‘floating population’ of more than 150 million migrant rural laborers who regularly seek jobs in cities, but who lack the training to pursue more skilled work. In India, meanwhile, there are 200 million workers stuck in low productivity jobs, while around 1 million young people are expected to join the workforce every month for the next 20 years. The publication argues that equipping secondary school and university graduates with employable skills requires a shift from academically-oriented learning to demand-driven courses relevant to industry needs. This can be achieved through, for example, credible national qualification frameworks and certification systems and closer links amongst schools, universities, and technical and vocational education providers. Developing skills of disadvantaged groups, including women, will bring substantial economic benefits and help reduce the growing income inequality in the region, according to the book, which recommends more public-private partnership to increase the cost-efficiency, quality, and relevance of technical courses.The publication also notes that greener economies could generate up to 60 million additional jobs over the next two decades and lift tens of millions of workers out of poverty. Green jobs require a mix of new technical skills related to renewable energy, climate change adaptation, trade, recycling and use, and engineering, which are not yet addressed adequately by training institutions.ADB has ongoing programs in support of technical and vocational education and training in 12 countries, amounting to a total of about $ 500 million.

From http://www.adb.org/ 12/12/2012

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Annual Meeting on ASEAN Culture and Information Kicks Off in Capital

The 47th Meeting of the ASEAN Committee on Culture and Information (ASEAN-COCI), the annual meeting that evaluates and ratifies all co-operative projects in the domain, was officially kicked off in Ha Noi yesterday. The three-day meeting, with the participation of ASEAN members and dialogue countries, will review the effectiveness of on-going projects and approve new co-operative projects proposed by ASEAN nations. Nguyen Van Tinh, chairman of the National ASEAN-COCI, said that before the meeting started, the ASEAN-COCI Sub-committee on Culture had finalised a draft work plan on co-operation in culture and arts with China, as well as a cultural flagship project in the period of 2013-15 with Brunei and Malaysia. He said the meeting would be a chance for Viet Nam to show the ASEAN community that it was capable of taking the role of ASEAN Secretary General in the 2013-17 term. The ASEAN-COCI, established in 1978, has twice held its meetings in Viet Nam.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 12/13/2012

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ITU-IMPACT Establishes First Cybersecurity Innovation Centre for Arab Region

Geneva, 19 December, 2012 – ITU and its cybersecurity partner, the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threats (IMPACT), has announced a partnership with the Information Technology Authority (ITA) of Oman for the first Cybersecurity Innovation Centre to cater to the needs of the Arab region. The formal exchange of Agreement took place in Muscat, Oman on 15 December 2012. ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré said: “It has been our aim to localize ITU-IMPACT’s cybersecurity services through establishment of regional cybersecurity centres. Through such centres, ITU-IMPACT will be better positioned to respond to the needs of our stakeholders more effectively and efficiently. This underpins our overall strategy to expand and widen ITU-IMPACT’s cybersecurity initiatives in the region, as well as to enhance the capacity, capability, readiness, skills and knowledge in the areas of cybersecurity. The Government of Oman is well known throughout the region for its strong commitment to cybersecurity. So it is very fitting indeed to establish ITU-IMPACT’s very first cybersecurity regional centre here in Muscat.”With a total investment of over USD 2 million from the Oman government and ITU, the establishment of the new Cybersecurity Innovation Centre will play a pivotal role in supporting ITU-IMPACT’s global headquarters in Malaysia in localizing cybersecurity services and support to meet the unique needs of the Arab region. The Centre will also serve as a catalyst for enhancing regional cooperation, coordination and collaboration to address escalating cyber threats.

The Centre will benefit from ITU-IMPACT’s existing global threat information and collaboration platforms. These include ITU-IMPACT’s state-of-the-art systems such as NEWS (Network Early Warning System) and ESCAPE (Electronically Secured Collaborative Application Platform for Experts). Datuk Mohd Noor Amin, Chairman of IMPACT, said; “We are extremely proud to establish in Oman ITU-IMPACT’s first Cybersecurity Innovation Centre. This centre will lay a strong foundation for increased cybersecurity cooperation within the region and it will help position the centre, and Oman itself, as a regional cybersecurity hub.” Dr Salim Sultan al Ruzaiqi, Chief Executive Officer, ITA Sultanate of Oman said: “Another key objective is to ensure that we continually develop the capabilities to offer our stakeholders throughout the Arab Region a flexible and intuitive approach in the areas of cybersecurity. This success marks a significant milestone in our region, especially in planning a more regionalized service, offering a greater assistance against cyber threats. ”With 144 countries now part of the ITU-IMPACT coalition, IMPACT is entrusted with the task of providing cybersecurity support and services to ITU’s Member States and other organizations within the UN system. ITU-IMPACT’s global partnership now embraces over 200 industry, academia and international organizations.

From http://www.itu.int/ 12/19/2012

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CHINA: Suspending Rural School Closures

China has suspended closing or merging rural schools following a sharp decrease in pupil numbers because many dropped out. Wang Dinghua, a Ministry of Education official, confirmed the suspension and said the department is reconsidering the layout of rural schools "in a more scientific manner." Local governments should work out feasible plans of elementary and junior high schools in accordance with local conditions, Wang said, according to a report in Thursday's Beijing Times, which is run by the People's Daily. Plans must be submitted to central authorities in charge of educational system reform before June, it said. No closures or merges are allowed until a new plan comes out. China urged rural schools to restructure or merge in 2002 in order to use resources better and distribute them more fairly. An average of 63 rural primary schools and three junior high schools disappeared each day between 2000 and 2010, according to an NGO report issued by the Beijing-based 21st Century Education Research Institute (CERC). Each hour, four rural schools disappeared, the report said. From 2000 to 2010, the number of rural primary schools and junior high schools decreased by 229,400 and 10,600, or about 52 percent and 25 percent, respectively, it said. The number of students registered in rural primary schools decreased by more than 31.5 million, while that for the junior high schools plummeted by 16.4 million. Most of them entered schools in towns or cities, or simply dropped out. Higher enrollment in urban schools and a decreasing birth rate in rural areas contributed to the decline, the report explained.

Therefore, the decreasing school age population prompted the authorities to close and merge rural schools. However, overcrowded classes and a long commuting time remain a new problem for rural students, after closures or merges. Many parents worried about safety on the way to schools and boarding conditions, particularly after a string of school bus accidents and food poisoning incidents that have occurred since 2011. Out of these concerns, the educational ministry prohibited "blind" closures and mergers of rural schools in September. The ministry requires that commutes should be limited within 40 minutes. "Keep what should be kept. Students' demand is paramount," said Wang, adding school closures should undergo strict procedures, including asking for local opinion. "If most villagers do not agree, the school should remain," Wang said. In China's rural areas, many small, poorly-resourced schools exist. In Chicheng County of north China's Hehei Province near Beijing, the Shuiquan Primary School once had 40 students. First to fifth grade students shared one teacher. The educational quality was far below other schools, said a local official, adding there were no music, English or computer classes because of resources. "The major difference of urban and rural education lies in the allocation of education resources," said a local official. Chicheng, with a population of 292,000, had more than 400 schools 10 years ago. The number dropped to 104 last year, according to local government. However, some parents were against the policy of closing down small-sized rural schools, as children drop out due to poor transport. "The high rate of rural dropouts is alarming, as we feel China's nine-year compulsory education has already covered nearly all students (which was announced by the government years ago), and dropouts seem not a problem," said Xiong Bingqi, CERC's vice president. "However, it is an illusion. We must not ignore the salient dropout problem," Xiong said.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 11/22/2012

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China Spends Big on Farmland Improvement 

China has allocated 29 billion yuan (about 4.6 billion U.S. dollars) from its central budget to improve the quality of farmland and boost grain production this year, the Ministry of Finance said Tuesday. The funds, part of the country's comprehensive agricultural development plan, represent a 6 billion-yuan increase, or 26.09-percent increase, from the investment in 2011, the ministry said. Around 82.94 percent, or 24.05 billion yuan, has been used to improve the quality of medium- and low-yield lands, the ministry said. The government plans to build 13.31 million mu (890,000 hectares) of high-quality farmland and add or improve irrigation on 25.82 million mu of land by the end of 2012, said the ministry. These efforts are expected to boost China's grain production capacity by 4.09 billion kilograms, according to the ministry. China's grain output rose 3.2 percent year on year to hit 589.57 million tonnes in 2012, marking the ninth consecutive year of growth, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/04/2012

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Chinese Police to Minimize Traffic Controls for Officials' Trips

China's Ministry of Public Security has ordered the country's police "not to arrange road closures in general" and to "minimize time for traffic controls" arranged for officials' trips. Coming in response to central authority's latest call to fight formalism and bureaucracy, including excessive security measures that disrupt traffic, the ministry said in a circular made public on Friday that the moves aim to "avoid inconveniencing the public wherever possible" and guarantee their normal traffic rights. Local police officers are encouraged to step up inspection and research so as to better solve problems of major public concern, according to a statement from the ministry's traffic management bureau. Efforts should also be made to better educate police to curb formalism and bureaucracy at various levels, the statement urged. The ministry also asked its traffic management staff to address inconvenient, opaque and nonstandardized practices in law enforcement to ensure justice and equality. The ministry made the arrangement in response to new requirements announced after a meeting of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee earlier this week. The new CPC leadership demanded, "There should be fewer traffic controls arranged for leaders' travel security in order to avoid unnecessary inconvenience to the public."

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/07/2012

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China to Firmly Promote Economic Reforms, Opening-Up

China will fully deepen reforms in its economy system and open itself up more next year, according to a statement issued after the conclusion of an annual central economic work conference on Sunday. Deepening economic reform is crucial to stabilizing growth, transforming the economic growth pattern and making structural adjustments, the statement said. The conference, which sets the tone for economic policymaking in the year ahead, called for "greater political courage and wisdom" to promote further reforms, it said. In-depth research and studies should be done to improve the top-level design and general plan for China's reforms, and a clear overall scheme, road map and timetable should be made, it said. While effectively implementing measures that have already been announced, new measures should be introduced in a timely way to solve outstanding contradictions, it said. People's initiatives, practices and creativity should be respected in the course of reform, it added

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/17/2012

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Public Urges Gov't Concern for School Attack

The public has been expressing their dissatisfaction with the media and local government in their handling of the aftermath of the slaughter of children that happened Friday. Twenty-three school children and an 85-year-old woman were stabbed in a central China village. Elsewhere, twenty-six people, including twelve girls and eight boys, were shot dead in Connecticut, in the United States. Both massacres broke out in elementary schools, on Dec. 14. "It's a sad day for the whole world. The Children wounded and dead in Wanquan and Sandy Hook... What's wrong with the world?" wrote film actor Jackie Chan on Weibo.com, China's most popular twitter-like microblog service. On Sina Weibo, "Save the Children" tops the list of hot topics, with more than 6 million netizens joining in discussions. However, discussions have shifted focus from school safety concerns or condemnation of the massacres to the ways how the slaughters have been handled. While the Chinese public are searching for answers, the government of Guangshan County, where the 23 Chinese children were slashed, has kept silent. Guangshan government announced on its website on Friday it would hold a press conference on Saturday, but then canceled without giving a reason. Local government staff began to "disappear" or become "dumb."

Xinhua's reporters arrived at the Chenpeng village management office with one female person there, claiming not to be office staff. The reporters even found an official of the local educational bureau playing computer games while trying to get information about the rampage. The official called himself "common staff" but was confirmed to be the educational office's deputy head. "Why not stand out to publicize the truth?" commented "zcufkp" on t.sohu.com, among thousands of netizens opposing local government's attitude. "We should confront the tragedy, and then try to avoid the recurrence of the tragedy," according to an article published by critic Jia Ye on leading BBS platform tianya.cn. Jia cited the swift and full media coverage and government response in the U.S. to the school shooting case, and President Barack Obama joining in with mourners and vowing to stop school slaughter. City dailies on the mainland have also been questioned by netizens to unexceptionably put the American school shooting on their front pages. "Now we are all American," Ding Daoqin, an economic researcher with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said on his microblog. He retweeted a picture showcasing the headlines of dozens of newspapers including "Children lost in American shootings," "Don't Cry, America," "Hold on, America." "We know much about the American killer, even his family and childhood, but know little about the Chinese suspect," noted writer Zheng Yuanjie on Weibo.

Some have said the aim is to try to turn people's attention to foreign cases. The People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China, publicized a short article on its official microblog calling on the Guangshan government for information transparency. "The Guangshan tragedy is sad for the children and pain for the imbalanced development of China," the article said. According to a statement released by Guangshan government, Min Yongjun, the suspect in Friday's knife attack on Chinese students in Guangshan, central China's Henan Province, has been arrested. The attack took place around 7 a.m. on Friday, when 38-year old Min, who is allegedly a long-term epilepsy sufferer, hit and stabbed an old woman and then rushed to the school to stab the children. Authorities in Xinyang city, which administrates Guangshan, have ordered reinforced patrols near schools in the city. Rao Mingsheng, health director for Guangshan, said on Monday that none of the people injured in the attack was in a critical condition.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/17/2012

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China Sets Up Lab on Nuclear, Biochemical Disaster Protection

China established a state-level lab in Beijing on Tuesday to develop technologies to minimize the damage of nuclear and biochemical disasters on human health and the environment. The lab will focus on technologies that can evaluate and monitor damage, protect people, facilities and the environment in the event of nuclear and biochemical disasters, and repair the damage, said Pei Chengxin, the lab's director. It is attached to an institute under the People's Liberation Army (PLA) General Armament Department, which has developed several key technologies for civilian use in monitoring poisonous gas and biochemical threats, Pei said. With the support of military research, the lab is expected to develop related technologies for civilian use and train more scientists in this field, he said. The new lab also merges a state-level laboratory of analytical chemistry, a PLA institute on environmental science and a lab on chemical warfare protection. However, Pei did not reveal some details such as the size of the lab's staff.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/19/2012

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JAPAN: Individuals on Welfare Hits Record 2.13 Million

The number of people on welfare in August rose by 6,342 from the previous month to a record high of 2.13 million the welfare ministry said Wednesday. The number of households with one or more recipients increased by 5,230 to 1.56 million, also the highest on record. Meanwhile, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry received 5,183 inquiries about welfare from people affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami from August to September this year. The period saw 1,394 households begin to receive welfare benefits.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 11/22/2012

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Govt to Allow Recovery Funds to Carry Over

Recognizing exceptional circumstances, the government has decided that unused funds allocated for reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake may be carried over to the next fiscal year for a second time. It will also simplify the application procedure.The Local Government Law prohibits the carrying over of funds for a second time if the reason given is the same as for the first carry-over.Disaster-stricken prefectures, concerned about delays in recovery efforts, welcomed Tuesday's move.Governments of the three prefectures hit hardest by the quake and tsunami--Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima--feared about 280 billion yen allocated for reconstruction work for fiscal 2011 and carried over to fiscal 2012 would have to be returned to the central government because of the rules. The money allocated for fiscal 2011 to repair piers and restore farmland was carried over to the current fiscal year due to delays in placement of orders caused by planning work that took a long time.

Many of the funds will not have been spent by the end of this fiscal year due to construction delays caused by shortages of materials and workers.But these are problems that also existed a year ago, and the law states that allocated funds cannot be carried over for a second time for the same reason.If local governments want to use the remaining funds, they usually have to suspend their projects at the end of the fiscal year--in this case March 2013--and return the unused portion to the national government. Then they must compile new budgets to get the funds back.Because of the regulations, the disaster-stricken prefectures, concerned about further delays in recovery efforts, have asked the central government to respond to their requests for permission to continuously use the funds without a pause.In response, the central government has decided to recognize such facts as rising construction material prices, including those of ready-made concrete, and construction delays due to unsuccessful bidding, which have occurred frequently this fiscal year, as "different reasons [that have to extend restoration projects]" for another fiscal year.Unsuccessful bidding occurs when no potential contractors place bids.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 11/30/2012

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National Council on Social Security Holds 1st Meeting

The government's national council on social security reform held its first meeting Friday at the Prime Minister's Office to begin discussions about the future of the nation's social security system. It took more than three months to launch the council, chaired by Keio University President Atsushi Seike. This was partly because of disagreements between the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito over the timing of the dissolution of the House of Representatives. The council will primarily discuss four fields: public pensions, medical care, nursing care and measures to cope with the chronically low birthrate. Political observers predict that pension and medical care for the elderly will be the main focus of the discussions as the DPJ's stance differs from that of the LDP and Komeito. The council will hold its second meeting on Dec. 7 to start full-fledged discussions.

At the first meeting, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told council members, "I want you to hold discussions that result in a firm sense of reassurance for the public."The council was established under a law for the promotion of social security system reform, which was passed in August based on a policy agreement between the three parties. The DPJ had demanded to hold the meetings quickly, but the LDP was wary of meeting before the lower house election. As a result, they had been unable to select the council's members. The law stipulates that the government shall take necessary legislative actions within one year of the law's enactment--by August next year--based on the council's conclusions. Effectively, this means the council will have about nine months for practical discussion. However, some members at the first meeting complained that there is not enough time to address all the issues."It will be difficult [to finish] by August," said Prof. Hisao Endo of Gakushuin University at the first meeting.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 12/01/2012

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Nursing Hiring More Disabled Workers

"You prefer your green tea lukewarm, right?" Miwa Kobayashi, 21, smiled as she addressed an elderly person at Co-op Dei Sabisu Senta Imaizumi, a day service center in Tochigi, Tochigi Prefecture.One of Kobayashi's jobs is to make tea for about 100 users of the facility according to how they like it."She isn't a certified nursing care helper, but she's very attentive and can do subtle favors," her colleague, Eiko Shimada, 44, said. "She brightens up our workplace."Kobayashi is one of a growing number of intellectually disabled people working at nursing care facilities for the elderly, mostly by serving meals and cleaning. The development is a win-win scenario: it helps people with disabilities find employment while helping to alleviate the industry's labor shortage.Kobayashi started her job 2-1/2 years ago, but sometimes took days off because she became discouraged when she had difficulty reading patron's names. As writing down temperatures and blood pressure figures remains a challenge, other employees take care of such tasks for her.

"We heard from the head of the school she graduated from that she tends to keep her troubles to herself and is not good at math," said Masako Sasaki, 53, manager of the facility. "So the staff here share information about her. I hope she will expand her skill set little by little."The disabled people's employment promotion law obliges private companies as well as the central and local governments to employ a certain percentage of intellectually or physically disabled people.From April the requirement will be raised from the current 1.8 percent to 2 percent for private companies, and from 2.1 percent to 2.3 percent for the central and local governments.If companies ignore the law or refuse to obey warnings from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to improve the situation, the ministry may publish their names.

According to the ministry, 1,130 intellectually disabled people found medical and welfare jobs, including nursing care services, through Hello Work public employment security offices in fiscal 2006. The figure accounts for 9.9 percent of all jobs obtained by intellectually disabled people for the fiscal year. However, the figure has increased to 3,088, or 21.6 percent of the total, in fiscal 2011.Tokyo metropolitan government-run Eifuku-Gakuen in Suginami Ward was the first among special assistance schools for disabled students to introduce a course providing occupational training related to welfare services in 2007.At present, three such schools have a similar course in Tokyo, and the number will increase to four in the next academic year.Although it is possible for disabled people to work at welfare institutions without qualifications, the specialized school courses offer not only training programs that teach how to help elderly people bathe and perform other essential tasks, but also provide intern placements at welfare and nursing care facilities with an eye to possible employment after graduation.

To secure workplaces for students, teachers in charge of student employment visit more than 100 facilities and companies each year, according to Eifuku Gakuen. Thanks to such efforts, all 15 graduates who have taken the course since its inception were able to secure employment."We want to tell the care facilities that our students are capable and motivated," Kiyoshi Hamabe, the school's teacher, said."Less than 30 percent of intellectually disabled students can find jobs after graduating from their schools," said Akita University Prof. Jun Utsumi, who is familiar with issues related to employment of disabled people."While their average monthly wage is only about 120,000 yen, if job opportunities in the nursing care industry expand, we can expect some improvement. It is necessary for schools and relevant facilities to cooperate to expand opportunities for students to experience the work before they are actually employed," he said.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 12/09/2012

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SOUTH KOREA: Seoul Encourages More Citizens to Work Out

In its latest pronouncement on public welfare, Seoul City is asking doctors to not only prescribe medicine but also recommend sports programs suitable for each patient, in a bid to encourage citizens to take more exercise.The city government announced a sports master plan Thursday to encourage citizens to exercise more to improve their health, lower medical expenses and increase sports-related jobs.”By providing infrastructure and developing sports programs and policies, we aim to get 70 percent of citizens to exercise for 30 minutes at least once a week by 2020, while currently 53 percent are doing so,” city official Jeong Kwang-hyun said.According to the plan, the city will ask doctors’ groups in Seoul to prescribe “exercise remedies” for patients starting next year.

“In Sweden where 94 percent of people exercise for 30 minutes per week, doctors provide patients with exercise programs according to their needs, and such measures are effective. People who don’t exercise willingly will change their minds if doctors tell them to do so,” Jeong said.Besides the exercise remedies, the city will develop various walking and trekking programs at parks, in mountains and along the Han River and increase public awareness of existing walking courses.It will also expand sports services at welfare centers. “While exercise and sports are good for the elderly or the disabled to enhance their health, the number of exercise instructors at such facilities is too small,” Jeong said.

As well as recruiting more instructors, the city government will collect 500 volunteers to offer lectures on stretching, yoga, dance, sports massage and other programs by visiting such facilities.Those measures will also help increase jobs, including posts for exercise instructors at welfare facilities and schools,” he said.For expats and multiracial families, it plans to hold championships for sports events popular among them, such as table tennis, football and sepak takraw.It will also build more sports facilities and improve old ones. For Jamsil baseball stadium, it will complete the process of putting in new seats, expand the number of toilets and establish smoking rooms before the upcoming spring season begins. Earlier this week, Seoul City issued guidelines regarding the sale of alcohol which it claims will reduce alcohol consumption and problems associated with excessive drinking. However, the guidelines are not supported in law.

From http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/ 11/22/2012

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Gov't to Remove Unnecessary Power Wires

The government has announced a comprehensive plan to remove unnecessary power lines and communications cables from roadways to improve the urban landscape and prevent accidents. The government on Friday made the announcement in a meeting on the people’s livelihoods chaired by Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik. Under the plan, the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) and the Knowledge Economy Ministry will form a related policy coordination committee to establish a unified management system. In addition, the government has decided to establish a database of unnecessary or illegally-installed telecommunication cables and power lines to achieve a comprehensive and systematic removal of the lines.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 11/23/2012

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Seoul City Gov’t to Develop App for Foreign Residents

The Seoul City Government will develop a smartphone application that will provide information and tips on living in Korea to foreign residents and interracial families. The Seoul Metropolitan Government says it will complete the development by next May. The application will provide information on immigration, citizenship, legal counseling and real-time foreign exchange rates in five languages, including English, Japanese and Chinese. The number of foreigners living in Seoul has doubled over the past five years to roughly 400-thousand. Foreign residents now account for four percent of the city’s total population.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 12/05/2012

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MYANMAR: President Calls for Political Stability, Cessation of Armed Conflicts and Socio-eoconomic Development

Myanmar President U Thein Sein has called for political stability,cessation of armed conflicts and socio-economic development of the people in the country, official media reported Monday. Addressing at the city hall in Dawei,in Myanmar's southern Taninthayi Region on Sunday, Thein Sein expressed his hope that Taninthayi Region would achieve development though per capita income of the Dawei is currently lower than those of Kawthoung and Myeik, said the New Light of Myanmar. He underscored the need of qualified human resources who could harness rich natural resources and the duty lies with the education sector. Foreign investments with substantial capitals and technologies were invited but there is a lack of regulations in allowing foreign investments could beset more adverse consequences than favorable outcomes,he said. The Foreign Investment Law, which is one of the integral parts of legislation, has been enacted, he said. He said the officials have town plans and city plans ahead of entry of foreign investors, pointing out that local people are to take responsibilities for regional development. According to the UN Millennium Development Goals, he stressed the need to reduce poverty rate from 26 per cent to 16 per cent by 2015. There are over 1200 villages in Taninthayi Region and over 60000 across the nation.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 12/17/2012

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MALAYSIA: To Proceed with AES Installation

The Road Transport Department (RTD), Malaysia decided to progress the installation of the Automated Enforcement System (AES) cameras at 831 locations nationwide before the end of next year to enhance safety measure for the road commuters. Director-General Datuk Solah Mat Hassan said that fourteen AES units have currently been installed, with seven in Perak, two in Selangor, five in the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, apart from four mobile AES units. Datuk Solah added that since the implementation on September 23 this year, the rate of traffic offences at strategic locations have been decreased by 75 per cent. Despite the acts of vandalism occurring on Saturday and opposition towards its implementation, Datuk Solah said that the implementation would not be put on hold. I would like to stress that the AES cameras were installed to reduce road accidents and protect lives, including that of those who committed the act (of vandalising the cameras),” he said.

Two AES cameras were vandalised on Saturday in Selangor, in which the RTD would leave the case to the police to investigate and prosecute those involved in such act. “We will proceed (the implementation) unless there is a directive from the Federal Government to do otherwise,” he said. The cameras were installed to save human lives and all parties should give their cooperation. If everyone, including political leaders, understands the reason behind the installation, there will be no questions about the implementation,” added Datuk Solah after a briefing session on AES implementation to government department officers, non-governmental organisations and the media at the state RTD headquarters on Saturday. The two-hour briefing on AEC was attended by some 150 heads of department and officers from government agencies and non-governmental organisations who revealed the support over the AES scheme. State RTD Director Ahmad Musadad said the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) had located 86 “black spots”—accident-prone areas, in all twelve districts in the state. “The AES cameras would be installed at all black spots by next year,” he said, adding that 60 would be for speed limits and the remainder for traffic lights.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/10/2012

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PHILIPPINES: 1st Local Govt eGov Awards Presented

The city governments of Cebu and Tarlac took first places in Philippines’ inaugural ‘Honourable Jesse Robredo Awards for Excellence for ICT in Good Governance’, also known as ‘eGov Awards for Local Government Units (LGUs)’ last week. Named after the late Jesse Robredo, head of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the awards are presented by the National ICT Federation of the Philippines, the national organisation of ICT Councils promoting collaboration and sharing of best practices in ICT. The awards seek to recognise and felicitate good governance through the use of modern ICT in LGUs in the Philippines. This inaugural session of the awards received 58 entries from local governments around the country. The city government of Cebu won first place in the category of G2B (Government to Business), which awards laudable use of ICT solutions to enhance transparency, accountability and responsiveness to the needs of business enterprises. The second place in the same category was given to the city government of Balanga for a combination of 20 in-house application systems that streamline city government services such as tax and rent payments by vendors. The first place in the G2C (Government to Customer) category was awarded to the provincial government of Tarlac for its electronic health project, ‘Wireless Access for Health’ (WAH), which enables reliable health data transmission through the application of advanced 3G wireless technology. The G2C category recognises effective application of ICT solutions in the education and engagement of the public in the use of electronic channels for improved public services. The second place in this category was given to the government of Naga City.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/21/2012

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SINGAPORE: Calling for Emissions Reductions to Achieve Climate Change Deal

DOHA: Singapore has called on countries to show their commitment by pledging emissions reductions in order to achieve a global deal on climate change. Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said the new agreement must be applicable to all. "Climate change is a global challenge that requires a global solution. All parties have to play their part by making a contribution," he said. Mr Teo was delivering Singapore's national statement at the High-Level Segment of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar, on Wednesday.  "In this regard, developed countries have to show leadership in emissions reductions. Developing countries, too, can and must make a contribution to the process," he said. Mr Teo said for the new agreement to be applicable to all, it has to be acceptable to all. It has to take into account the unique national circumstances and constraints of parties. He said this will allow each party to decide how best it can contribute, based on the context and constraints of each country, and provide a greater impetus for universal participation.

"The global agreement is only a means to an end. Ultimately, we need to encourage and incentivize all parties to adopt the right policies early to make the transition to a low emissions development pathway. It is therefore important to provide support to build capacity in developing countries," he said. Mr Teo said Singapore is committed to play its part in the global fight against climate change. He said Singapore has made an unconditional pledge to reduce its emissions by 7-11 per cent below business as usual (BAU) by 2020. It has also committed to a 16 per cent below BAU pledge, if there is a legally binding global agreement. Mr Teo added: "Our vision for Singapore is a climate-resilient global city that is well-positioned for green growth. While climate change poses a challenge, it also offers tremendous opportunities for new economic growth. The global demand for low-carbon solutions will catalyse demand for new skills and technology.  "Singapore has placed priority on developing areas such as clean energy and energy efficiency, green buildings, public transport, smart grids, carbon management, as well as waste and water management.

"As Singapore is a city state with limited access to renewable energy, energy efficiency is core to our efforts to reduce emissions in all sectors. To support this, a new Energy Conservation Act will come into effect in April 2013." Mr Teo said the global challenge of climate change requires a global response, with the participation of all countries and contributions by all. "The multilateral rules-based system under the UNFCCC is fundamental to solving the global climate challenge. We need to protect and strengthen the UNFCCC and take it one step further towards a truly global agreement, so that it remains an important platform for global action against climate change," he said.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 12/05/2012

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Singapore Wants More Interoperable Health Data: Survey

The Patient Satisfaction Survey 2012 recently launched by Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) revealed the patients’ expectation to see improvement in better coordination of care and transfer of information among the health-care institutions. The MOH said it will continue to work on ensuring the patients experience seamless transfer from acute hospitals to community care facilities, while the National Electronic Health Records will help enhance the flow of patients’ medical records across both public and selected private sector entities. Also, the Survey showed the patients’ dissatisfaction over the waiting times at health care institutions. The MOH has tried to improve this area through its Community Health Assist Scheme launched in January to allow more patients to seek subsidised medical treatment with General Practitioners near their homes.  The majority of public hospitals and polyclinics have received an increase in service satisfaction levels compared to two years ago, said the Survey.  Among the hospitals, Khoo Tech Puat Hospital achieved the best results at 83 per cent, followed by Alexandra Hospital at 79 per cent, and Tan Tock Seng Hospital at 77 per cent, said the MOH.

Singapore General Hospital made the largest improvement of seven percentage points to score 74 per cent. Singaporean patients were particularly satisfied with the performance of hospitals’ Specialist Outpatient Clinics, according to the MOH Clinics at six out of seven hospitals registered improvements in the level of service rendered. Polyclinics continued to improve on their previous scores with the overall satisfaction levels for the National Healthcare Group Polyclinics going up by two percentage points to 82 per cent and SingHealth polyclinics also up by two percentage points to 77 per cent. Clementi Polyclinic (89 per cent), Jurong Polyclinic (87 per cent) and Hougang Polyclinic (86 per cent) achieved the best results among the polyclinics this year. Tan Tock Seng Hospital is tops when it comes to service at Specialist Outpatient Clinics, moving up from third spot on 2010. The Patient Satisfaction Survey 2012 was commissioned by the Ministry of Health and carried out by an independent survey company, with more than 12,000 patients took part in the survey from June to September 2012.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/12/2012

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More Employers Providing Leave Benefits in Singapore: Survey

A survey conducted by Singapore' s Ministry of Manpower showed that more employers in this city- state have provided various leave benefits and work-life arrangements to help their employees cope with family commitments. According to the main findings of the survey released on Thursday, 41 percent of establishments offered at least one form of work-life arrangement to their employees in 2012, up from 38 percent in 2011. Among them, part-time working was the most common work-life arrangement offered by 33 percent of establishments, while the flexitime, the staggered hours and the tele-working are following behind. Meanwhile, employers were also going beyond statutory requirements to provide various leave benefits for happier workforce. About 89 percent of the establishments gave compassionate leave, while 73 percent of them gave marriage leave. Paternity leave, study or examination leave, parental care or sick leave were also among the provided leave benefits. The survey also said that 5-day work-weeks continue to be the norm, with 44 percent of full-time employees in 2012 under such a work-week arrangement. Some survey released these days had said that Singapore is the most unemotional country in the world, and at the same time, fewest adults in this city-state experiences positive emotions in the world. Some citizens thus said the top officers should review this issue and try to figure out how to reverse the trend. On the official hand, they has encouraged the establishments, both private sector and public sector, for a long time to provide their employees more opportunities to spend with their family members and as a result, to make them happier.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 12/21/2012

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S'pore's Top Manpower Issues in 2012

SINGAPORE: Foreign worker levies were raised in last year's Budget. All the changes would have been implemented next July. Depending on the sector companies are in and how reliant they are on foreign workers, companies will pay between 250 and 750 dollars more in levies per worker. To reduce dependency on foreign workers, companies are being urged to raise productivity. In addition, they are encouraged to tap on older workers, back-to-work women, part timers and the disabled. The Employment Act is also being reviewed in response to the needs of a changing workforce. Phase one of the review is expected to be completed in 2013, and the second phase will likely commence in the last quarter of next year. The labour movement wants the Act to be extended to cover the growing numbers of professionals, managers and executives (PMEs). Some have urged the government to be more flexible and adjust foreign worker numbers according to business conditions.

Analysts warn there could be more companies that will shift elsewhere, downsize or even close down with the tightening measures. Mech-Power is one of many local companies that has endured the labour crunch. It moved a large part of it operations to Johor to cope. Cliff Loke, managing director of Mech-Power said: "Whenever we have an overload of work, we just put out a (recruitment) banner outside the factory and we get a lot of workers coming after us for the job. Also, the labour cost is much cheaper than in Singapore." Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin indicated the pace of labour restructuring will also be a factor in tightening measures. "We will work with companies to transit and we will look at the various measures in place and to see whether we will continue to tighten (foreign labour). So, a lot depends on demand," said Mr Tan. "Will demand ease off? Will restructuring take place? So this is something we will continue to track and we will continue to effect these levers (in tightening labour) over time."

Policies are also being changed to improve the welfare and well-being of foreign workers. Starting 1 January 2013, foreign domestic workers will get a mandatory day off. Employment agencies said this can attract more foreign maids to work in Singapore. "Singapore employers are very fearful of what the domestic workers are going to be doing on their (rest days). I think there's a fear factor they seem to have, but we need to trust the person who's working in our homes," said K Jayaprema, president of Association of Employment Agencies Singapore. "What an employer can do is to guide these domestic workers. They can also look at skills upgrading. There're so many courses available for these domestic workers." In November, 171 bus drivers from China went on strike. It was the first strike in 26 years in Singapore. The drivers were unhappy about pay and living conditions. The government considered the strike as an illegal one as public transport is an essential service and sufficient notice of the intent to go on strike is needed. Observers believe Singapore's international reputation has not been dented. "I think the long-term repercussion (of the strike) is quite minimum but should another episode happen, then I'm not very sure," said Assoc Prof Tan Khee Giap, co-director at Asia Competitiveness Institute.To prevent such an episode from happening again, employers have been urged to review their grievance-handling procedures.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 12/23/2012

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THAILAND: Piloting a Free Wi-Fi School

Ministry of ICT (MICT) on Friday launched a pilot project of Dtac Free Wi-Fi at Wat Nam Daeng School in Samut Prakan province where 150 first grade students can connect their computer tablets to the network. Wat Nam Daeng School is situated in Samut Prakan provice—an adjacent province of Bangkok, and is one of the government schools where their 150 first grade students received a free tablet pcs under One Tablet Per Child Policy launched few months ago. The free broadband network is provided by Dtac, one of Thailand’s three leading mobile phone operators. Students in four first grade classrooms can connect to the high speed network at the same time. Dtac also provided Wi-Fi enabled LCD television to empower the learning process in the classrooms. This initiative is a part of the government’s free Wi-Fi programme aimed to blanket 80% of the country by May next year, said Group Captain Anudith Nakornthap, ICT Minister. Nakornthap said on Friday that the Ministry has recently been allocated a new budget of THB 830.9 million (US$ 27.15 million) to expand the free Wi-Fi network. Currently, there are 200,000 hot spots nationwide under this programme in collaboration with private mobile companies. The MICT is now discussing with the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to expand the Wi-Fi coverage to 31, 334 schools nationwide in which the nationwide coverage would need an investment of more than THB 29.98 billion (US$ 980 million). Meanwhile, Dtac CEO Jon Eddy Abdullah said that the Dtac Free Wi-Fi project will be provided to 12 state hospitals starting next year.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/17/2012

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VIETNAM: Deputy PM Wants All-out Fight Against HIV/AIDS

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc urged the health sector to mobilise a mass movement comprising the public and entire political system to combat HIV/AIDS. Phuc made the impassioned plea while reiterating the nation's commitment to conquering the disease at a meeting held on Saturday to mark World AIDS Day. The Deputy PM said HIV carriers and those at high risk of HIV infection should receive access to HIV prevention, treatment and care services to reduce the threat of the disease spreading in community. Phuc also praised the country's achievements in dealing with the HIV/AIDS pandemic over the past 20 years and particularly recent times, with the rates of new infection and fatalities both falling for the past four years consecutively. Phuc also asked all ministries, sectors, social organisations and the people to continue strengthening awareness of HIV/AIDS prevention methods. Besides boosting programmes that tackle stigma and discrimination towards HIV infection people, he asked the Ha Noi City to increase the amount of prevention, care and treatment services available to the public.

Ministry of Health statistics show that despite becoming controlled with only a small amount of increases during recent years, the country still faces a latent risk of a HIV boom. For the first time, more HIV infections were transmitted through sexual contact than blood contact. Meanwhile, HIV infections through unsafe sex way were a major cause in the southern west area. In many mountainous provinces further north, especially the districts of Thanh Hoa and Nghe An provinces, HIV infection rates were high due to the inadequate knowledge of medical staff and the public. Viet Nam is aiming to halve the number of new HIV infection cases caused by unsafe sex; eliminate HIV transmissions from mother to child and halve fatalities of HIV infected mothers by 2015. HIV infection rates are also expected to fall sharply among drug addicts through the provision of preventive treatment services to all new infected cases by 2015. According to the ministry, Viet Nam had over 204,000 people living with HIV and 61,856 deaths caused by AIDS related diseases since the first HIV infection case was reported in the country in 1990.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 12/03/2012

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Officials Look at Food Security

Director of the Ha Noi Agriculture and Rural Development Department, Hoang Thanh Van, has called on northern provinces to make better use of their advantages to create a safe food supply for the capital city. Speaking at a recent conference on agricultural promotion among 19 northern provinces and cities, Van said the city had recently paid increasing attention to co-operating with neighbouring provinces through technology transfer and experience sharing. Popular farming products in Ha Noi include orange and sugarcane from Hoa Binh Province, tea from the provinces of Thai Nguyen and Phu Tho, as well as sturgeon from the provinces of Lao Cai and Yen Bai. A report from the department said that with a population of 6.8 million people plus 2 million migrant students and labourers, the city's agriculture production can meet about 40 per cent of demand.

According to the department, in the next three years, the city's population is expected to reach nine million but it will only be able to produce 52 per cent of meat demand, 64 per cent of fish demand, 65 per cent of eggs demand, 44 per cent of rice demand and 17 per cent of fruit demand. Meanwhile, its farming production faces challenges from diseases, unsafe food and environmental pollution. Van's counterpart in northern Lang Son Province, Nguyen Thi Thanh Nhan, said that regional co-operation was also crucial to control and curb food smuggling. The engagement among agriculture enterprises was not enough and trade promotion programmes were not as effective as expected, she added. Nhan suggested establishing a centre for quality testing agroforestry products in border provinces, so that imported products' quality could be verified before entering the domestic market. She also urged greater co-operation in quality control between Viet Nam and other countries, especially major exporters.

Meanwhile, representatives from the provinces of Lao Cai, Yen Bai and Hoa Binh urged Ha Noi to offer preferential policies for investors. Director of Agriculture and Rural Development in Lao Cai Province, Pham Van Lai, said the province supplied forestry products and tea for Ha Noi but had to import fruit and flowers from the capital, so co-operation would bring more market expansion opportunities for both localities. Director Van from Ha Noi said that as of next year, the city would boost co-operation with provinces in food control and poultry transport, especially cross-border smuggling. The city has also launched the website sanbanbuon.vn which is expected to introduce and promote its partners' farming products more widely.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 12/19/2012

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Ministry Ponders Tax Delays, Cuts 

Tax delays and corporate income tax reductions are among the major measures proposed by the Ministry of Finance to alleviate difficulties for businesses next year. The ministry suggests setting a 10 per cent corporate income tax from July 1 2013, six months earlier than initially planned. This will also be applied to investors working on social housing–apartment projects for low income people. The businesses dealing with social houses and apartments (of below 70sq.m which are sold at less than 15 million per sq.m) will enjoy value added tax reductions of 50 and 30 per cent respectively. The regulation will be applicable from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014. For the next two years, the ministry also recommends halving land lease payments for businesses, households and individuals who rent State land. Construction investors who fail to pay land leases due to financial difficulties can make payments according to their sales income. However, they are allowed to delay payment for a maximum period of 24 months if tax institutions receive notification. The ministry also proposes a six month extension for next year's first quarter corporate income tax payments, as well as three months for the second and third quarters. This regulation targets small and medium-sized enterprises which employ less than 200 full time workers and whose revenues do not exceed VND20 billion (US$900,000) per year. Enterprises with more than 300 employees and who are specialising in forestry, agricultural and seafood products, garment production, shoes, electronic parts and infrastructure construction will also be subject to delayed income tax payment. Property investors and dealers will also be granted the extension. Tax payment extension will not apply to businesses which are subject to special income tax, for example financial institutions, banks, insurance companies, stock markets and lotteries. 

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 12/22/2012

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State Auditor Seeks Truth on Gov't Firms

The State Auditor of Viet Nam (SAV) will audit 143 companies and agencies belonging to 16 ministries, 34 provinces and cities, 25 investment projects and five national target programmes in 2013. This was announced by Deputy State Auditor General Le Minh Khai at a press conference yesterday. A number of state-owned groups and banks were slated for auditing, including the Viet Nam National Oil and Gas Group, the Coal and Mineral Industries Group, the Song Da Corporation, Electricity of Viet Nam and Viet Nam Textiles and Garments.Four State-owned banks were also on the list: the Viet Nam Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Industry and Trade, the Agriculture and Rural Development Bank, the Viet Nam Commercial Bank and the Viet Nam Development Bank, according to Khai.

Objective data

Auditing State-owned groups and banks aims to provide objective and truthful information about the economic restructuring process to the Government and people. Based on the results, the SAV will propose petitions to the Government and the National Assembly directing the restructuring of state-owned enterprises and banks, according to Khai. The audits will focus on inspection of land management and use, home and urban development and exploitation of natural resources and minerals. SAV will also step up inspections in areas related to economic restructuring, especially projects relating to state investment restructuring, added Khai. The SAV carried out 161 audits and proposed solutions for financial errors worth VND9,100 billion (roughly US$433 million) in 2012. 

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 12/22/2012

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BANGLADESH: PM Seeks Foreign Friends’ Cooperation in Removing Poverty

Dhaka, Dec 15 (UNB) – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday sought the cooperation of Bangladesh’s foreign friends again in making the country free from hunger and poverty. We want to make the country free from hunger and poverty. So, we need your cooperation once again,” she said. The Prime Minister said this while addressing a function arranged to honor 62 foreign friends of the Liberation War at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC). Hasina said the country is celebrating its 41st anniversary of Victory Day tomorrow (Sunday). “It marks the victory for our foreign friends, too, the cause they had stood for. So honouring you in this month of victory makes the occasion more special,” she added. Your help had accelerated the defeat of the occupational forces in 1971,” Hasina told the foreign friends.

The Prime Minister said honouring the foreign friends will encourage the young generation to know, understand and feel the independence of the country as well as their contributions. She mentioned that earlier the government honoured 145 foreign friends and organisations, including former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Sheikh Hasina offered the nation’s deepest sense of gratitude to the foreign friends of the Liberation War as they had inspired people allover the globe and played the leading role in mobilising support for the emergence of independent Bangladesh. A total of 145 foreign friends and organisations, including former Indian Prime Minister Srimoti Indrira Gandhi, were awarded with this honour for their invaluable contributions to the Liberation War. It was the fourth such programme and a total of 62 foreign friends and organisations were conferred upon Bangladesh Liberation War Honour and Friends of Liberation War Honour.

Each of the awardees received a crest and a citation from the Prime Minister. Hasina said: ”The just struggle for the emancipation of Bangladesh received significant boost from their invaluable contributions and their intervention helped change the approach of many countries which were initially not so sympathetic to our aspiration. The foreign friends had lent legitimacy to the cause, made the world pay heed to the saga of sorrow and humiliation of Bengalis, she added. In this context, she mentioned that many of the foreign friends had little or no prior connection with Bangladesh – still, they stepped forward, provided moral, spiritual and material supports. They simply listened to their hearts, rose in protest against the atrocities perpetrated by the occupation army, she mentioned. Hasina expressed her firm resolve to turn Bangladesh into a middle-income happy, prosperous nation within a decade saying her government is relentless in this regard.

Voicing her happiness as the world acknowledges Bangladesh as a country where moderation and tolerance are practiced, she said, “The world recognises us as one of the emerging economic powers of the world,” the Prime Minister said adding that the foreign friends are the equal partners of Bangladesh’s accomplishments. She unequivocally said the people of the country are steadfast in their endeavour to live up to the expectations of foreign friends, turn Bangladesh into a country that they (Foreign friends) had envisioned while extending support in 1971. Earlier, on her arrival, the Prime Minister exchanged pleasantries with the foreign friends. Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan read out the citations of the recipients. Among others, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and State Minister for Liberation War Affairs AB Tajul Islam spoke on the occasion. Ambassador Jagdish C Sharma Sena Medal spoke on behalf of the recipients.

From http://www.unbconnect.com 12/15/2012

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INDIA: Govt Justifies Cash Transfer Announcement Before Polls

Government today justified the announcement of its direct cash transfer scheme saying it does not constitute violation of the model code of conduct and does not contain anything new that was not in this year's Budget. In a communication to Election Commission, which had expressed unhappiness over last week's announcement and sought an explanation, the government said the Finance Minister's Budget Speech in March this year had outlined the success of several pilots across a number of states relating to the Aadhar-based service delivery mechanism. This only clearly established that the Scheme had already been partially operationalised even prior to March 2012, the government contended. The BJP had objected to the government announcement and had petitioned the poll authority to set aside the scheme.

"The present proposal to extend the pilots to 51 districts across India is the logical next step towards the implementation of this methodology of transferring benefits to at least 50 districts. "This is meant to ensure that the final roll out of Direct Cash Transfers is seamless and smooth. Thus, the proposed pilot in 51 districts is not a new scheme but an extension of the pilot already in place," the communication from the Planning Commission said. It said that recommendations of the Task Force headed by Nandan Nilekani on IT strategy for Direct Transfer of Subsidy were made way back in February 2012. These recommendations were accepted by the Government in March 2012, and were also announced by the Finance Minister in his Budget Speech. "In view of all (the) above, it is stated that the announcement being objected to does not constitute a violation of the Model Code of Conduct," the Planning Commission letter said.

The government said no announcement of any financial grant or a new promise in the nature of a financial benefit has been announced after the coming into force of the Model Code of Conduct on October three. It said that no eligible beneficiary will receive any additional entitlement than he/she was already entitled to under identified Schemes. "There is no increase in the number of beneficiaries under the various schemes of the Central Government where direct cash transfers are proposed to be introduced," the government said. It said the scheme was to be introduced from January one for more efficient delivery of benefits under the ongoing programmes by which time the election process will be completed. "Accordingly, the announcement made by the Government is not in breach of para VII of the Model Code of Conduct," he said.

The Direct Cash Transfers based on Aadhar-enabled payments were integral to the unique identity number scheme as conceptualized in 2010. It was envisaged that Aadhar platform will be made use of in the various existing schemes of the government to reach the benefits to eligible beneficiaries more efficiently. "The announcements in question are only in the nature of the logical next steps in the on-going efforts of the government to ensure better targeting of beneficiaries under various existing schemes of the central government," it said. "It may be seen from the Press statement appended to the above reference that the announcements by the Ministers concerned which are being objected to were by way of clarifying the government policy and the perceived impact of this delivery mechanism," the government said.

From http://news.outlookindia.com 12/03/2012

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Indore Hosts National Seminar on eGovernance

Indore: A national level seminar on “eGovernance: Issues and challenges” was organized at university teaching department campus of Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya (DAVV). “All efforts should be made to make e-governance available to common man. The state government has used it in its various departments, which has led to three time rise in income of the departments,” said state industries minister, Kailash Vijayvargiya. He was speaking as chief guest at the event. Vijayvargiya said if we want to lead our nation and society then we have to take help of eGovernance. “Machines will replace humans,” he said. Speaking on this occasion, vice chancellor of DAVV, DP Singh said, “We are ahead of other countries in the field of technology and e-governance. We have to take the help of eGovernance to make educational institutes competitive.” Vineeta Dixit, principal consultant of information and technology ministry briefed audience about expansion of eGovernance in past two decades. She said, “eGovernance should reach each and every citizen.”

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 12/18/2012

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PAKISTAN: Govt Facilitating in Growth of Media Kaira

ISLAMABAD: The present democratic government was doing its best to facilitate media industry in its growth,said Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira here Tuesday. Talking to a delegation of All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) here the minister said the Pakistan Peoples Party government believed that media independence and strengthening of democracy go hand in hand. The delegation discussed issues related to the media industry. The minister proposed that a committee should be formed to review advertisement policy.

From http://www.brecorder.com 12/18/2012

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Installation of 225 Water Filtration Plants in Sindh

ISLAMABAD: Sindh government is spending rupees 8.5 billion on the installation of 225 Water Filtration Plants for providing pure drinking water to the people of nine districts of the province. Talking to Radio Pakistan, a spokesman of Sindh government said that under the programme potable drinking water will be provided to these districts through Reverse Osmosis plants, Ultra Filtration plant and desalination plants in three phases. Replying to a question, the spokesman said work is already in progress on this project which is scheduled to be completed during the ongoing financial year. He said with the installation of filtration plants millions of people will have access to clean water and they will be saved from water borne diseases.

From http://www.brecorder.com 12/20/2012

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AZERBAIJAN: State Committee to Reduce Real Estate Registration Period

Automating the property registration process in Azerbaijan will reduce the time taken considerably, the State Property Committee said on Wednesday. The State Committee plans to take measures to simplify the rules for immovable property registration, render electronic services to conduct the state registry, improve the rates for services rendered by the territorial registration administrations and minimise the time for the registration process. The main goal is to ensure the transparency of property registration, improve and simplify the access to services rendered by the State Committee. The State Committee has been using e-services since May 1. As of November 1, the number of appeals to the state committee in electronic form reached about 700. At present citizens have the opportunity to appeal to the regional registration offices in electronic form for real estate registration. The process of registration and liquidation of the mortgage, as well as the recognition of property rights will be transformed into e-form in the future. Simplifying the procedure of state duty payment in the process of real estate registration will be one of the innovations.

From http://en.trend.az/ 11/29/2012

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First Regional Radio Station Opened in Azerbaijan

The regular meeting of the National Council for Television and Radio (NCTR) took place on Friday, the council informed. Following a contest on opening the first regional radio station at the operating frequency 93.3 MHz covering Ganja and surrounding territories with participation of three candidates - LLC "Turkel TV" and LLC "Yevlakh TV", LLC "Kapaz independent broadcasting company" was announced a winner. A license for a period of six years was granted to the winner. The meeting also decided to extend the period of the license for "Lider TV" Ltd and "Radio-Azerbaijan" for up to six years.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/21/2012

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PACE Report on Azerbaijan Published

The report "Azerbaijan's implementation of commitments" prepared by the co-rapporteurs of the PACE Monitoring Committee on Azerbaijan Pedro Agramunt and Joseph Debono Grech has been published. The co-rapporteurs stressed that after Azerbaijan joined the Council of Europe, the progress was achieved in the formation of legislative base which is important for democratic institutions' activity. The co-rapporteurs also emphasized that great progress was achieved in signing and ratifying CE legal documents after Azerbaijan joined the Council of Europe. The report stressed that Azerbaijan, except for one document, signed and ratified all the legal documents included in the country's commitment to the PACE. The co-rapporteurs also consider establishing the Judicial Council within the reform of the Azerbaijani judicial system as commendable.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/21/2012

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KAZAKHSTAN: Religious Situation Requires Correct Assessment

In order not to slip back into the Middle Ages, the religious situation in Kazakhstan requires a correct assessment, President Nursultan Nazarbayev said. "We have to stay away from events alien to our mentality. Certainly, we are Muslims and we are Sunnis. This is the path, selected by our ancestors based on respect for national traditions and respect for parents," Nazarbayev said at the meeting devoted to 21st anniversary of the country's independence. However, in his opinion, today, 'some external forces are recruiting young people, forcing them to leave the true path of Islam and choose wrong directions.' "According to them, we not only have to make our sisters and daughters hide their faces, but also not sit at the same table with them. They should not drive, should not move freely, and should not receive education. How are we supposed to bring them up then?" the head of state said. "I am leading our youth to the XXI century and the XXII century, while these problems drag us back to the Middle Ages," Nazarbayev said.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/14/2012

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TURKMENISTAN: Must Work Hard to Ensure TAPI Project Implementation

We have to work hard to create favourable conditions for the implementation of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) project, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow said at a government meeting, the country's television reported on Tuesday. The Turkmen leader said global economic and financial circles understand the reality and reasonability of TAPI and the project is supported at a political level. "These factors which include tools of energy diplomacy need to be used," Berdimuhamedow said, adding that the interdepartmental working group on energy diplomacy has been tasked to speed up the work. TAPI is currently at an important stage of development. In the autumn, Turkmenistan held a series of international road shows on the TAPI project with the participation of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). According to reports from Ashgabat, the heads of U.S. companies such as Chevron, Exxon Mobil, BP, BG Group, Germany's RWE and Malaysia's Petronas expressed their intention to participate in the project. According to its feasibility, the 1735 km long TAPI pipeline will start from the eastern region of Turkmenistan, where the largest gas fields are situated and after passing through the territory of Afghanistan and Pakistan will reach Fazilka (India) on the Pakistani-Indian border. The capacity of the pipeline is 33 billion cubic meters of gas a year. At this stage negotiations are being held on the formation of the consortium, financing and security and in particular through troubled Afghanistan. Observers believe that the implementation of TAPI can contribute to the restoration process in Afghanistan, as it will create jobs and provide the country with a guaranteed income from transit. Holding the status of positive neutrality, Turkmenistan has a long border with Afghanistan and recently proposed inter-Afghan peace talks under the auspices of the UN in Ashgabat. Ashgabat provides humanitarian assistance to the neighbouring country by building social infrastructure facilities and supplies of electricity and fuel to Afghanistan are carried out on favourable terms. Turkmenistan undertook a major project, the implementation of which will increase electricity exports to Afghanistan by five times. Export capacity in this area reaches about 325 million kilowatt-hours per year.

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/11/2012

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AUSTRALIA: Aust Wiki Launches Social Media Kit for Disabled

The benefits of social media, including Tweets and YouTube, are being extended to people with disabilities under a just-launched initiative by the Brisbane-registered coalition of emergency management professionals, Emergency 2.0 Wiki. Emergency 2.0 Wiki, a voluntary body, has developed an on-line Emergency 2.0 Wiki Accessibility Toolkit. This toolkit is tailored for the sensory and mobility-impaired. Among its features, the toolkit offers tips, resources and apps to overcome the problems of accessing social media for the blind, deaf or physically-restricted. It also offers guidelines for emergency agencies and government. Visually-impaired users of smartphone or other mobile devices will benefit from an “Easy Chirp” service that presents information using an alternative site to Twitter. This makes it easier to monitor emergency notices, or other community news-feeds. Vibrations or flashes also demonstrate on-line information for those with hearing difficulties. Additionally, YouTube videos come equipped with sign language and captions.

Eileen Culleton, founder and CEO for Emergency 2.0 Wiki, told FutureGov, it took three months to develop this service. Developers used Media Wiki free software and GoogleDocs information-sharing, collaboration and editing tools. Content was “crowd-sourced” from a global knowledge base, including professionals representing the emergency, government, NGO, and business sectors in Australia, New Zealand, and the US. Dr Scott Hollier, member of the Emergency 2.0 Wiki Accessibility Reference Group, said social media can potentially save lives. But people with disabilities often faced difficulty accessing important messages – as social media was inaccessible in some settings. “For example, the main Twitter website can’t be easily read with a screen reader, the device that reads out information on a screen for people who are blind,” Dr Hollier said. “But important emergency information can be accessed by using an alternative site such as Easy Chirp to read tweets.”

“As people tweet in real time, an accessible app such as Easy Chirp can provide people who are blind with immediate notification of when a fire starts or when flash floods hit a town,” Dr Hollier noted. Unlike standard Wiki sites – where collaborating “authors” routinely update posts – the Emergency 2.0 Wiki service has built-in security. Firstly, participants register with a dedicated LinkedIn account. Credentials are cross-checked before access to the network. This network now has 240 professionals from Australia, Asia, Europe, North America, Canada and the Middle East. The Emergency 2.0 Wiki Reference Working Group galvanises expertise from Australia, New Zealand, and the US. This service began as a voluntary initiative of the Gov 2.0 Queensland Community of Practice. It was launched in December 2011 after Queensland’s devastating floods. Social media was widely-used – enabling emergency management field staff, first-responders, medical teams, police and community groups to communicate in real-time across affected locations.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 12/11/2012

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NEW ZEALAND: Gov Wins Prestigious Spatial Award

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) has clinched a regional Asia Pacific Spatial Excellence award for the innovative management of spatial information, while making this data more widely available to citizens. This Asia Pacific Excellence Award acknowledges work spearheaded by LINZ to develop and implement the LINZ Data Service (LDS). The LDS is New Zealand’s first standards-compliant service that offers free and open access to government-held public data. This service is offered free of charge and on-line. Up to 3,500 users are currently subscribing to the service. These subscribers include state and local agencies, as well as individual users. Each month, more than 200 end users are signing up. Jan Pierce, General Manager Customer Services, LINZ, told FutureGov this project will improve the way New Zealanders find, use and share geospatial information. It sets new benchmarks with how agencies manage and share spatial information.

“We started work on the project in November 2010 in partnership with a software solutions provider,” she says. “The aim was to open up data access and support easy on-line downloads.” This spatial data is hosted in the cloud, while utilising software-as-a-service offerings. End users can download data to PCs, tablets, smartphones, and other devices with internet access. Under this award-winning initiative, LINZ is making land and seabed information more accessible, while ensuring data is reliable, up-to-date and fit for purpose. More broadly, spatial information also incorporates topographic data, information relating to hydrographic surveys, and more detailed mapping of street addresses. LINZ coordinates and leads the New Zealand government’s Geospatial Strategy. This strategy, launched in 2007, seeks to open up access to geospatial data, while delivering productivity gains. Other agencies using geospatial tools include NZ Fire Services, Ministry of Fisheries, NZ Police, Statistics NZ, Ministry for the Environment, and Dunedin City Council.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 11/23/2012

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Pay Equity for Women Plea to Govt

A campaign has been launched to demand equal pay for women after finding that, on average, men are paid at least 10 per cent more than women. Pay Equity Challenge Coalition spokeswoman Angela McLeod said figures were showing the gender gap had widened from 12.85 per cent in September last year to 14.178 per cent in September this year. Other figures released yesterday in the Household Economic Survey 2012, revealed 259,000 men had a personal income of $80,000 or more compared to 92,500 women. Labour's women's affairs spokeswoman Sue Moroney said it was a huge discrepancy. "Women outnumber men at every income decile below $47,000 and men outnumber women at every income decile above $47,000. Pay equity is a structural problem that requires structural solutions." The campaign is calling on Parliament to do something about the problem.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz 11/30/2012

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ORC to Activate Improved Flood Alert System

The Otago Regional Council (ORC) is converting to a more efficient and effective system of alerting the public to predicted or actual flooding in the Otago region. ORC director of environmental engineering and natural hazards Gavin Palmer said the council was transitioning towards using social networking device Twitter to send alerts to cellphones, and away from telephone ring lists. Dr Palmer said this would allow anyone wanting to get the alerts to do so simply by subscribing to the service through Twitter. The Twitter alert sent by ORC would notify the recipient, that in the council’s opinion, conditions could lead to flooding. The alerts would direct the users to the ORC website to find out more detailed information on potential flood events. Under the new system, flood information could be sent out more efficiently and effectively to a wider group of people than previously, Dr Palmer said. There will be two types of notifications − "watches" (high river or lake level is possible within the next 36 hours) and "warnings" (high river or lake level is likely or certain within the next 36 hours).

Dr Palmer said 36 hours was considered sufficient to give people time to prepare and respond to the flood, whilst keeping the forecast period as short as possible. ORC flood managers currently telephone people individually based on predefined triggers (river levels or flows at indicator sites). ORC has 24 ring lists with a total of 430 contacts. The Twitter alerts and ring lists will operate alongside one another in the meantime, until the new system is proven to meet ORC and community service requirements. "Contacting the people on the ring lists is time-consuming," Dr Palmer said. "The lists do not provide complete coverage of flood-prone areas in Otago, or some of the areas that have the highest flood risk. Moving to a Twitter-based alert system will free up our staff to assess, forecast, monitor, and respond to flood situations; and release clear, concise, and timely information." Dr Palmer noted that several regional councils in NZ had either done away with ring lists, or were in the process of doing so. The Canterbury earthquakes and the grounding of the Rena container ship off Tauranga had highlighted how social media could connect people to resources, vital information, and each other.

In the case of Otago floods, the Twitter alert would act like a pager notification. Once people subscribed to the service, which was free, they would automatically receive flood alert notifications until they unsubscribed from the service. They did not need to subscribe every time there was a flood, and could unsubscribe whenever they wanted to. Users of ORC’s website could also choose to connect to the WaterInfo website (for detailed, real-time hydrological data, the Otago Natural Hazards Database, and the Otago Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Group website (for advice on how to prepare, respond and recover from floods), Dr Palmer said.

From http://www.voxy.co.nz 12/03/2012

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SOLOMON ISLANDS: Government Holds Gender Violence Awareness

The Solomon Islands Ministry of Health and Medical Services in coordination with the Ministry of Women Youth Children and Family Affairs (MWYCFA), will be holding an awareness on Gender Violence at the Honiara Central Market this morning. This event organised by the Social Welfare Division within the Ministry of Health will focus on creating awareness among the community in Honiara of the recently established Gender Based Violence Helpline. The event forms part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence that began on the 25th November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women - better known as White Ribbon Day) and ends on 10th December (International Human Rights Day). The Social Welfare Division's Gender Based Violence Program (GBV Program) was established in October 2011. The role of the GBV Program is to work with stakeholders to improve the prevention of and response to sexual and gender based violence.

The issue of sexual and gender based violence in the Solomon Islands needs to be urgently addressed. The high rate of GBV was revealed in the Family Health and Safety Study conducted across the country in 2009, which produced the following statistics:

.64% of women aged 15-49 reported being physical and / or sexually abused during their lifetime.

.18% of women aged 15-49 reported experiencing physical violence by someone other than an intimate partner

.18% also experience sexual violence by someone other than an intimate partner

.36.9% of girls under the age of 15 have experienced sexual abuse

.Male family members including fathers and step fathers were identified as the most common perpetrators of physical non-partner violence

.Boyfriends, strangers and male acquaintances were identified most common perpetrator of sexual non-partner violence

The Social Welfare Division GBV Program receives funding support from the Australian Government with the purpose of strengthening, coordinating and monitoring the GBV services provided to the people of the Solomon Islands. Mr Vozoto is also working with the Solomon Islands Planned Parenthood Association (SIPPA) to implement a project called 'Nokim Daon Vaelens', funded by the British High Commission. Nokim Daon Vaelens aims to further strengthen impact the GBV Coordinator in advancing gender equality and contributing to the prevention of sexual and gender based violence at the community level as well as working to improve the clinical response for survivors within health facilities. The Social Welfare GBV Program's recently established GBV helpline uses the toll free number (132) and is operational 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The helpline is available for survivors of sexual and gender based violence to call and receive support over the phone. The first priority is to ensure the survivor is safe and then refer them to the appropriate care. Survivors may need emotional and physical care, including counseling, treatment of injuries, and medication to prevent sexually transmitted infections (including HIV) and/or pregnancy.

The helpline can refer the survivor to other service providers such as health facilities and the police, public solicitors office, social welfare, Family Support Center and Christian Care Center. A large number of GBV cases are likely to remain unreported. When a survivor takes the courage to come forward for care it is important that they receive the most appropriate care as efficiently and effectively as possible.

From http://www.solomontimes.com 12/06/2012

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TONGA: Government Gives More Than 70 Homes to Tsunami-Hit Community

Prime Minister of Tonga, Lord Tu’ivakano has handed over the remaining 34 of 73 new houses to the people of Niuatoputapu who lost their homes during the 2009 tsunami. Supported by the World Bank, the houses were constructed as part of the Post-Tsunami Reconstruction Project which has helped rebuild people’s homes, infrastructure and livelihoods. Alongside the Prime Minister, the opening ceremony in Niuatoputapu was attended by Thomas Roth, Australian High Commissioner to Tonga; Robert Jauncey, Senior Country Officer for the Pacific Islands for the World Bank and the Hon Sosefu Fe’ao Vakata, Member of Parliament for the Niuas Constituency. In September 2009, the remote Niua islands in the north of Tonga were struck by a major earthquake and tsunami, which submerged nearly half of the main island of Niuatoputapu. The impact was devastating: nine people lost their lives; 85 homes were destroyed with more badly damaged; and critical government infrastructure, schools, and water and sanitation systems were torn apart.

Three years later, things look very different. Nearly 130 affected buildings have been repaired or rebuilt, including homes, shops and community halls; water supplies have been resumed, roads have been reconstructed, with further improvements in progress, and children are studying in a brand new school. “This is a real milestone for the people of Niuatoputapu who have shown their strength and resilience as they rebuild their community,” said Prime Minister, Lord Tu’ivakano. “These homes signify a bright and safer future, and are a mark of the collective efforts of all involved – community and government and our partners. It is a great honour to be here as these homes are handed over to the Niua community,” said Robert Jauncey, Senior Country Officer for the Pacific Islands at the World Bank. “The Post-Tsunami Reconstruction project is immediately improving the lives of people affected by the natural disaster, but moreover helping strengthen critical infrastructure for the future.”

“Today is a proud moment for Niuatoputapu,” said the Hon Sosefu Fe’ao Vakata, the Minister for Revenue and Member of Parliament for the Niuas Constituency. “After much adversity, the community is not only rebuilt but is reinvigorated – the new homes, the new school, the community centres are testament to this.” In Niuatoputapu, the houses have been constructed on higher ground and to cyclone-resistant standards – a critical step in an area with high vulnerability to tropical cyclones and other natural hazards. Starting in October 2010, the project was funded under a grant from the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries. The project was implemented by a committee chaired by the Ministry of Finance and National Planning in coordination of relevant line ministries, with complementary reconstruction activities conducted by New Zealand’s aid program, Caritas International and the Government of Japan. The remaining homes built under the project were handed over to the community in September this year.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 12/04/2012

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VANUATU: ADB & Australia Help Improve Urban Development

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Australian Government are helping the Government of Vanuatu achieve sustainable urban development through improved access to sanitation, drainage facilities and roads. Loan and grant agreements were signed for the Port Vila Urban Development Project. Vanuatu's Minister of Finance and Economic Management Charlot Salwai, Andrea Iffland, Regional Director of ADB’s Pacific Liaison and Coordination Office in Australia. The Australian High Commissioner, Mr Jeremy Bruer, participated in the signing ceremony. “The Vanuatu Government welcomes the assistance of the Asian Development Bank and the Australian Government to undertake the most significant investment in the national capital since independence,” said Charlot Salwai from the Government of Vanuatu. Port Vila is the commercial and tourist center of the country, generating almost two thirds of national GDP. The current poor state of the capital’s drainage, road and sanitation infrastructure are having a negative impact on Vanuatu’s ability to attract and retain commercial and tourist related investment. The deteriorating condition of this critical infrastructure is also leading to increasing public health concerns, environmental degradation and poorer quality of life of Port Vila residents and visitors.

“Working with the governments of Vanuatu and Australia, we look forward to introducing improved access to basic services, such as sanitation, drainage facilities and improved roads to Port Vila - the largest population center and main commercial hub of Vanuatu,” said Andrea Iffland, Regional Director of the Pacific Liaison and Coordination Office in Australia. Increasing urbanization is putting unprecedented pressure on the infrastructure of the nation’s capital, the population of which has increased almost 400% since independence in 1980. ADB will provide a loan of $5 million from its Special Funds resources. The Government of Vanuatu will contribute counterpart funding of $3.10 million, together with a significant Australian contribution.

From http://www.adb.org 12/17/2012

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Global Economy Facing Hesitant and Uneven Recovery, Says OECD

The global economy is expected to make a hesitant and uneven recovery over the coming two years. Decisive policy action is needed to ensure that stalemate over fiscal policy in the United States and continuing euro area instability do not plunge the world back into recession, according to the OECD’s latest Economic Outlook. “The world economy is far from being out of the woods,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said during the Economic Outlook launch in Paris. “The US ‘fiscal cliff’, if it materialises, could tip an already weak economy into recession, while failure to solve the euro area crisis could lead to a major financial shock and global downturn. Governments must act decisively, using all the tools at their disposal to turn confidence around and boost growth and jobs, in the United States, in Europe, and elsewhere,” Mr Gurría said (read the full speech).GDP growth across the OECD is projected to match this year’s 1.4% in 2013, before gathering momentum to 2.3% for 2014, according to the Outlook. In the United States, provided the “fiscal cliff” is avoided, GDP growth is projected at 2% in 2013 before rising to 2.8% in 2014. In Japan, GDP is expected to expand by 0.7% in 2013 and 0.8% in 2014. The euro area will remain in recession until early 2013, leading to a mild contraction in GDP of 0.1% next year, before growth picks up to 1.3% in 2014.

After softer-than-expected activity during 2012, growth has begun picking up in the emerging-market economies, with increasingly supportive monetary and fiscal policies offsetting the drag exerted by weak external demand. China is expected to grow at 8.5% in 2013 and 8.9% in 2014, while GDP is also expected to gather steam in the coming years in Brazil, India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa. Labour markets remain weak, with around 50 million jobless people in the OECD area, the Outlook said. Unemployment is set to remain high, or even rise further, in many countries unless structural measures are used to boost near-term employment growth .The euro area crisis remains a serious threat to the world economy, despite recent measures that have dampened near-term pressures. Adjustment of deep-rooted imbalances across the euro area has begun, but much more is needed to ensure long-term sustainability, including structural reform in both deficit and surplus countries. More needs to be done to tackle negative links in the euro area between public finances, bank solvency and risks that any country may have to leave the euro. In the long run, this requires a fully-fledged banking union with fiscal backstops.  Recapitalisation of banks should be undertaken where necessary. The Outlook suggests a possible positive scenario could arise if decisive policy actions are taken to improve business and consumer confidence, and to boost growth and jobs worldwide. The rapid and broad implementation of structural reforms, not least in labour and product markets, is key to this scenario.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 11/27/2012

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UNESCO Calls for Wise Use of ICT in Education

Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova urged educational policy makers to use ICT wisely and ensure the universal accessibility of ICT in education that would lead to quality education. Knowledge and education can be used to build confident in young women and men as well as to allow them to stand on their two feet, she said at the opening of the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Forum on ICT in Education (AMFIE) 2012 held in Bangkok last week. “ICT can and must serve this essential goal,” she added and continued: “We must ensure that ICT are accessible, and that they bridge divides and favour inclusive education, that they draw on appropriate content, and that they support quality teaching.” This requires effective capacity development and policy dialogue, according to Bokova. However, Bokova strongly emphasised the role of teachers to best use technology for better learning. “Technology can be a powerful education multiplier, but we must know how to use it. It is not enough to install technology into classrooms – it must be integrated into learning. Nothing can substitute for a good teacher.” She continued that it is not technology itself that empowers people, empowerment comes from skills and knowledge. Gwang-Jo Kim, Director of UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education inserted that ICT, if used wisely, can contribute to universal access to quality education informal, non-formal and informal education settings across sectors.

“However, ICT in education only works when it is closely aligned with a clear national vision, explicit implementation strategies, feasible action plans and solid monitoring and evaluation,” he said. Kim stressed that each country in APAC has its own education context and unique challenges. Integrating ICT in education varies widely—from least developed countries where electricity supply in schools is scarce, to middle income countries where there is high demand for assistance in developing effective ICT policies, to high income countries where there are concerns related to rapidly growing harmful effects stemming from over-supply of, and easy access to ICT. The AMFIE was held this year by UNESCO in co-operation with the Thai Ministry of Education and Intel Cooperation under the theme “The Power of ICT in Education Policies: Implications for Educational Practices” to present challenges and updates on innovative policy making practices. Delegates from 20 countries across the Asia Pacific Region including 15 on ministerial level, 36 senior officials and international experts attended the Forum.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 11/27/2012

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Information Economy Report 2012

The Information Economy Report 2012: The Software Industry and Developing Countries is the seventh in the flagship series published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).In the 2012 edition, special attention is given to the role of software capabilities in accelerating progress towards a more inclusive information society.

Key issues covered include:

•The link between software capabilities and development

•Global and regional trends in production, spending, trade, investment, venture capital and employment in the software sector

•The evolving ICT landscape and its impact on software production patterns

•Trends and implications related to free and open source software (FOSS)

•An analysis of the market orientation of software production in developing countries

•Country case studies

•Policy recommendations on how governments and their development partners can better leverage software for development and strengthen national software systems

The Information Economy Report 2012 finds that, because software is increasingly permeating societies at all levels of development and activity, it is becoming more important for countries to develop the technological capabilities needed to adopt and adapt existing software solutions, and eventually to innovate. Software and service activities represent an opportunity for developing countries, thanks to the low capital entry requirements, the sector's high-value, high-growth nature and knowledge-rich profile. Due to changes in the ICT landscape, even small-scale developers in developing countries can now participate in software development and production, for example in the area of mobile applications. The Report suggests that there is considerable room for developing countries to make better use of the software potential. The Report introduces the concept of the national software system. It emphasizes that domestic software producers and users are greatly influenced by the quality and affordability of ICT infrastructure, access to relevant human resources and capital, the legal framework, an enabling business infrastructure, as well as by the links with software networks in the rest of the world.

Governments play a central role in the national software system. Overall, the competitiveness of the system is affected by the national vision, strategy and government policies which should nurture software capabilities and the system as a whole. In particular, Governments are important users of software (notably through e-government and public procurement activities) and they strongly influence most of the enabling factors of the system.The Information Economy Report 2012 offers several policy recommendations to governments, such as:

•To take active part in fostering their national software systems.

•To tailor software development strategies to their specific contexts, based on consultations and partnerships with relevant stakeholders.

•To integrate software strategies into broader development plans

•To strike a balance between domestic and export market promotion related to software

•To adapt education and training schemes to the new ICT landscape

•To encourage technological upgrading in enterprises, and adoption of relevant international standards and certifications

•To facilitate the strengthening of developer communities

•To give adequate attention to FOSS, especially in public procurement

•To seek the support of development partners in training, application development, support to the strengthening of legal and regulatory frameworks, supporting IT/software associations and clusters, meetings of developers, software SME development and more

•To leverage South-South cooperation where appropriate

The Information Economy Report 2012 explores various examples of software development initiatives by individual countries and groups of countries.

Among the cases cited are:

•Software trends in the BRIC countries

Nigeria's new software strategy

•The emerging Android ecosystem in Sri Lanka

•The Malaysian Public Sector Open Source Software Programme

•The eGovFrame platform of the Republic of Korea

•Software for sustainable development in Lao PDR

•The Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa

•A global UNCTAD/WITSA survey of national IT/Software Associations

•Locally developed software to improve farmers' access to information in Bangladesh

•Software promotion in Argentina.

In the Statistical Annex of the Report, UNCTAD presents among other things international data on software spending, exports and employment.

From http://unctad.org/ 11/29/2012

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Online Censorship in 2012

The OpenNet Initiative, which documents attempts to mould the internet, lists IP blocking, DNS tampering, URL blocking using a proxy, keyword blocking and denial of service attacks as the most common forms of filtering. State-directed censorship, as employed in Iran and China for example, is carried out at the internet backbone, affecting access throughout the country. China's internet restrictions known as "The Great Firewall" are installed on the international internet gateway of mainland China.YouTube, Google+, Twitter, Dropbox, Facebook and Foursquare are banned. But the firewall, as hackers have proved countless times, has its limitations and cracks.US President Barack Obama's Google+ account was flooded with comments in February after a temporary gap in the firewall allowed Chinese users to access the social network.Several of Google's online services were blocked during the country's transfer of leadership this month.

Closed network

Iran is launching a closed national computer network in 2013 that will cut itself off from the global internet. It claims foreign powers are trying to disrupt its development. In 2010 a computer worm caused centrifuges to fail at its main uranium enrichment facility.But Al Jazeera reports the proposal may find opposition in unexpected quarters. "The country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has his own website in 13 languages and accounts on Twitter and photo-sharing site Instagram. Any interruption to Iran's global internet access is likely to also affect his followers."

Transparency

In September this year Google blocked the Innocence of Muslims film in Libya and Egypt. Censoring the video went against Google's bias in favour of free expression. The company said the video fell within its guidelines but "given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt we have temporarily restricted access in both countries". Google often complies with user-data requests and take-down notices from governments and companies.Reasons given for removing content include defamation, pornography, hate speech, national security, religious offence and copyright and trademark law. So Google's not a court but it's increasingly acting like one. It determines whether to comply with a government's request and takes into account the country's laws. It publishes a transparency report every six months documenting how much data it's removed and where. South Africa requested Google to remove content for the first time this year and was successful. The South African courts submitted three removal requests between January to June 2012. The reason given for all three was defamation. South African government agencies and courts did not ask Google for any user information.

Surveillance

In a report on internet freedom, Freedom House, an independent watchdog organisation dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world, reported that digital media freedom is generally respected in South Africa. That political content is not censored and that bloggers and online content creators are not prosecuted.

South Africa's internet freedom is however threatened by two pieces of proposed legislation. The Protection of State Information Bill that would make it illegal to publish and access certain state information, affecting the traditional and digital media, bloggers, internet users and whistle-blower sites. And the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill could legalise the bulk monitoring of internet communications."Reports indicate that the government conducts some bulk surveillance of mobile phone conversations, short-message service and emails through the National Communications Centre (NCC), a government agency that houses interception facilities … while most interceptions involve reasonable national security concerns, such as terrorism or assassination plots, the system allows the NCC to record South African citizens' conversations without a warrant. Although the NCC operates outside the boundaries of the law, a current Bill in Parliament - the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill, previously shelved in 2008 but reintroduced in 2011 - would legalise the interception of "any communication that emanates from outside the borders of the republic, or passes through or ends in the republic" … an email address with a foreign company or through social-networking platforms like Facebook could potentially count as interceptable communication."In July this year, Skype expanded its cooperation with law-enforcement authorities to make online chats and other user information available to police. And BlackBerry maker Research in Motion agreed to hand over encryption keys for its secure corporate emails and messenger services to Indian security services in August. There are ways to circumvent monitoring and the threat of surveillance that often leads to self-censorship.Tor, for example, allows you to browse anonymously and access blocked websites. It hides your online identity. Ethiopia's only internet service provider, which is state owned, installed a system in June 2012 that blocked access to Tor. A few days later the Tor project posted a message explaining how to circumvent the blocking.

From http://mg.co.za/ 11/29/2012

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Global Internet User Survey 2012

The Global Internet User Survey provides reliable information relevant to issues important to the Internet’s future and informs the Internet Society's programmes and activities.In 2012, more than 10,000 people in 20 countries were asked about their attitudes towards the Internet and behaviors online, offering one of the broadest views of people’s attitudes about key issues our world faces when it comes to the Internet. The questions ranged from how users manage personal information online, attitudes toward the Internet and human rights, and the potential for the Internet to address issues such as economic development and education.We believe it's people who are the source of innovation that has driven the Internet’s development, evolution and dramatic growth over the past four decades.The data collected is openly available to everyone.Download the Summary of the report here.Key findings from this year's survey cover a broad range of topics.

The Internet and Human Rights:

•Eighty-three percent of respondents agreed or agreed strongly that access to the Internet should be considered a basic human right.

•Eighty-nine percent agreed or agreed strongly that Internet access allows freedom of expression on all subjects, and 86 percent agreed or agreed strongly that freedom of expression should be guaranteed.

•Sixty percent of respondents agreed or agreed strongly that Internet access has contributed significantly to civil action and political awareness in their country.

Internet censorship:

•Thirty percent of users agreed strongly that censorship currently exists on the Internet.

•Sixty-six percent of respondents agreed or agreed strongly that governments in countries with no Internet censorship have a responsibility to keep the Internet free of censorship in countries where the Internet is being censored/controlled/shut down.

•More than 70 percent of users agreed or agreed strongly that more government involvement would make the Internet too controlled or would limit content they can access.

•More than two-thirds agreed or agreed strongly that increased government control would inhibit the growth of the Internet and/or stifle innovation.

Online privacy and identity:

•Even when users know they are sharing personal data with a site or service, most users (80 percent) do not always read privacy policies and a significant fraction (12 percent) of respondents admitted that they never read privacy policies.

•Of users who logged into online services, only half reported that they logged out.

•Nineteen percent of respondents were aware of circumstances in which personal data was used in a way they did not expect. The most commonly reported consequences were: unsolicited communications, stolen personal data, private data becoming public, impersonation, and financial loss.

The Internet and economic and societal issues:

•Nearly two-thirds of respondents agreed or agreed strongly that the Internet would play a significant role in solving global problems, including reducing child mortality (63 percent), improving maternal health (65 percent), eliminating extreme poverty and hunger (61 percent), and preventing the trafficking of women and children (69 percent).

•An even higher percentage of respondents agreed or agreed strongly that the Internet would increase global trade and economic relationships (81 percent), improve the quality of education (80 percent), and improve emergency response during a natural disaster (77 percent).

•A majority of respondents felt strongly that the Internet plays a significant role in making improvements to business, science, and technology in areas such as: expanding the availability of goods and services (66 percent), allowing entrepreneurs to conduct business across all countries (65 percent), and advancing science and technology and creating a technologically recognized workforce (61 percent).

Attitudes towards the Internet:

•Ninety-eight percent of users agreed or strongly agreed the Internet is essential for their access to knowledge and education.

•More than 80 percent agreed or agreed strongly that the Internet plays a positive role for their individual lives as well as society at large.

•Nearly 75 percent of users strongly agreed that access to the Internet allows them to seek any information that interests them.

General Internet usage:

•Internet users nearly universally (96 percent) indicated they accessed the Internet at least once a day.

•More than 90 percent of Internet users surveyed globally indicated they use social media, with a majority (60 percent) using it daily, an increase of 10 percent over 2011.

•Connection speed (73 percent) and reliability (69 percent) ranked slightly above more affordable monthly fees (68 percent) among factors that would increase usage. Other factors included more content in their local language (50 percent) and more online availability of government and/or community services (49 percent)

Background

The Internet Society is a trusted independent source of leadership for Internet policy, technology standards, and future development. More than simply advancing technology, we work to ensure the Internet continues to grow and evolve as a platform for innovation, economic development, and social progress for people around the world. The Global Internet User Survey (GIUS) is a globally-scoped survey programme developed by the Internet Society to provide reliable information relevant to issues important to the Internet’s future. As an ongoing effort, the survey informs and supports the activities of the global Internet Society community. While other ICT surveys focus on economic, infrastructure, or other Internet use indicators, the GIUS focuses on users, which are the source of innovation that has driven the Internet’s development, evolution and dramatic growth over the past four decades.In 2012 the GIUS interviewed more than 10,000 Internet users in 20 countries. This report is intended to provide a general overview of the behaviors and opinions of Internet users on various topics. The data and this report aim to represent the views of the users surveyed rather than the positions or views of the Internet Society, or its global community. The 2012 GUIS was conducted for the Internet Society by Redshift Research, a leading business market research firm.

Methodology

The 2012 Global Internet User Survey was conducted via online panels comprised of a total of 10,789 Internet users across 20 countries. Because of differences in sample sizes, the margins of error in the results for each country vary between 3.10% and a 4.38% at the 95% confidence level.

From http://www.i-policy.org/ 12/07/2012

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Internet Use in Adoptions Cuts 2 Ways, Report Says

The Internet has fundamentally changed the adoption process. It has allowed adoptees and their birth parents to reunite, and adopting parents can find a range of support from families around the world struggling with similar problems. But even as the Web has helped open up the adoption process, it has brought risks. It has led to an increase in fraudulent adoption agencies, which often turn out to be little more than Web sites, and it has allowed abusive parents whose children have been removed to find them, sometimes with tragic consequences. This shifting landscape is the focus of a report to be released on Thursday by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a nonprofit organization that works to change adoption policy and practice. The report, part of a three-year research project, found that the Internet could have both positive and negative effects on the adoption process and the millions of people involved. The report found that the widespread use of the Web had circumvented legal and procedural protections. Traditional adoption agencies have long offered education, counseling and the ability to screen prospective parents, but many of the Web-based adoption services not only do not offer these services, but also may not even be legitimate. The report found other dangers. Without their families’ knowledge, young adopted children have used Facebook and other sites to find and contact their birth parents. Also, birth parents have contacted young children.

From http://www.ejc.net/ 12/13/2012

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Mobile Operating Systems: Windows of Opportunity

Android dominated the tumultuous smartphone market in unit volume terms in 2012, but some are adamant its reign is only temporary. On the face of it, 2012 should go down as the year when the title of undisputed smartphone OS champion of the world was awarded to Android. However, new competitors and the fact that few handset vendors are actually profiting from Android suggest the contest is far from over. “There is a definite threat to Android from Microsoft,” claims Richard Windsor, founder of Radio Free Mobile. The former Nomura analyst concedes that Microsoft’s Windows Phone has got off to a “disappointingly slow start” in terms of shipments, but he insists it offers a more complete experience than Android. “Microsoft can offer an Apple-like experience at a much lower price,” he says. “Android looks good on paper, but in practice it doesn’t work that well. Apple offers a much more genuinely integrated experience...and Microsoft will as well.” Microsoft took big steps this year towards realising this vision. In June CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled Microsoft’s first foray into tablet hardware, the Surface, and in October launched Windows 8, the operating system he hopes will deliver a coherent user experience across tablets, PCs and smartphones. However, Windows Phone failed to carve itself a meaningful share of the smartphone market in 2012.

According to IDC, three out of every four smartphones shipped in the third quarter were running on Android. To express it another way, of the 181.1 million smartphones shipped worldwide in the three months ended 30 September, only 45.1 million were not based on Google’s mobile OS. Second-placed Apple saw iOS device shipments reach 26.9 million in Q3, followed by also-rans RIM and Symbian with 7.7 million and 4.1 million respectively. Windows Phone shipments reached 3.6 million. “I think that the new [Windows-powered Nokia] Lumias, when all the hype and dust has settled, are not competitive products,” warns Bengt Nordstrom, CEO of consultancy Northstream. “It will take another year and a generation before they can potentially challenge.” He expects Microsoft’s OS market share to grow in 2013 as Windows Phone 8 “bridges the gap in terms of major functionalities” between itself and rivals Google and Apple. “Furthermore, if Microsoft is able to leverage its strong position in services such as Office and unified communications, several enterprises will choose Microsoft, even when it comes to mobile solutions,” he predicts. While there is no denying Android dominated 2012 in unit volume terms, it became clear over the course of the year that not every Android hardware maker benefited equally from its success. In fact, it could be argued that Samsung was the only handset vendor to make meaningful money from Android sales.

The Korean electronics giant saw revenue at its IT and mobile communications division–which as well as its handset arm also includes its infrastructure and IT solutions operations–steadily grow throughout the year to $24.3 billion by Q3 from $17.5 billion in Q1. Operating profit grew to $5.2 billion from $4 billion over the same period. Samsung consistently attributed its performance to robust smartphone shipments. Strategy Analytics claimed that the Samsung Galaxy S3, first unveiled in May, overtook Apple’s iPhone 4S to become the world’s single biggest-selling smartphone model in Q3, shipping 18 million units. The research firm’s executive director Neil Mawston predicts the iPhone 5 will regain top spot for Apple in Q4–he estimates the device sold 6 million units in the last nine days of September–but there is no denying Samsung’s S3 has proven “wildly popular” in North America, Europe and Asia. Meanwhile, none of Samsung’s rival Android players came close to matching its financial performance in 2012. HTC, which four years ago developed the first ever Android handset, the G1, eked out small quarterly operating profits this year, ranging from a high of $282 million in Q2 down to $168 million in Q3. Between February and August, amid revenue warnings over intensifying competition, writedowns and a slumping bottom line, it was reported that 47 of the Taiwan-based company’s foreign institutional investors had completely sold off their holdings, while a third-quarter profit warning saw more than $1 billion wiped off its market capitalisation in just two days. To make matters worse, in November HTC agreed to pay unspecified licensing fees to Apple as part of a patent settlement. It is not alone on that score though. In August Samsung was ordered to pay Apple $1.05 billion in damages for violating design patents.

Still, HTC is a success story compared to the likes of Motorola, LG and Sony, which throughout 2012 regularly reported more or less flat revenues and operating losses. Notable recent launches from these companies include the HTC One Series, Motorola’s RAZRi, the LG Optimus G and Sony’s Xperia T. “If you’re an Android maker, life is quite difficult because it’s a question of ‘how do I differentiate?’,” says Windsor. As far as Nordstrom is concerned, it requires being at least on a par with the competition in almost all handset features, and then going further to offer something unique. “In the case of Samsung, the ‘something more’ was the design factor, the technical specs, and the integration of services,” he says. And what of RIM? The Canadian BlackBerry maker has had another difficult year under new CEO Thorsten Heins as it seeks to reverse its ailing fortunes and effectively reboot its smartphone proposition with its new OS, BB10, which is slated for launch on 30 January 2013. Until this year, RIM was a staunch advocate of vertical integration. Much like Apple, the company insisted it was the best way to ensure end users got the best out of its hardware, software, and services. However, rumours emerged during the first half of 2012 that RIM was changing its tune, and planned to license BB10 to other manufacturers. This drastic change of direction was effectively confirmed by Heins in August, but no licensing deals have been announced.

And sales are sluggish. According to Gartner, which measures device sales to end users, RIM sold 26.9 million BlackBerrys in the first nine months of 2012. By comparison, Samsung sold 20 million-23 million phones per quarter. RIM should “sell itself to the highest bidder”, advises Windsor. “It doesn’t have the momentum, it doesn’t have the financial resources, and it doesn’t have the developer support to be competitive.” Heins would doubtless disagree. BB10 is based on the QNX operating system developed by a RIM subsidiary of the same name. “BB10 is not just a smartphone OS, it’s a new, revolutionary mobile computing platform,” said Heins at BB10’s unveiling in May. “This takes us into a whole new area of mobile computing, way beyond smartphones and tablets.” RIM’s traditional stronghold was the enterprise segment, but Nordstrom, notes that in the US it has lost “significant ground” to Apple, while Microsoft “is coming up strong” with its own enterprise services offering. “The best area to focus on for RIM is developing countries,” he says. If that is the case then RIM had better get a move on, because 2012 saw some new players arrive to tap into emerging smartphone markets. Mozilla Foundation, maker of the Firefox Web browser, in July revealed its HTML5-based smartphone platform, Firefox OS. The first devices will be made by TCL Communication and ZTE, and will debut in Brazil on Telefonica-owned Vivo’s network.

In the same month a new company set up by former Nokia employees emerged with plans to revive the Finnish handset maker’s moribund MeeGo OS. Called Jolla, it has renamed the platform Sailfish OS, and is establishing R&D facilities in Hong Kong with a view to tapping into China’s fast-growing mobile market. Despite the focus on China, it announced in November that its first operator partner will be Finland’s DNA. That is no bad thing, says Windsor. Focusing on China is a “dangerous game”, he says. “It is brutally competitive and horrendously cut-throat.” Windsor insists there remains enough growth in Europe and North America to sustain a company like Jolla. “The [smartphone] market is big enough for multiple players. Jolla is a small company...it doesn’t need a lot of volume,” he says. So what does 2013 have in store for the smartphone OS market? “Apple and Samsung will have to prove that they can continue leading the market,” says Nordstrom, while “Google and Microsoft will have to prove they can do more than services.” He expects Google to push its Nexus line of products more aggressively, and Microsoft to develop more of its own hardware. But Windsor disagrees with this last point. “Surface was more of a demonstration product,” he claims. “It’s more of a message to Microsoft’s hardware partners, rather than Microsoft saying ‘we are going to be more like Apple’.” Instead, Microsoft is likely to pitch itself as an alternative for struggling Android players. “Microsoft is keen for the other [vendors] to step up commitment and so is unlikely to make it hard for them to make Microsoft phones,” says Windsor.

From http://www.totaltele.com/ 12/21/2012

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Social Protection for the Poor in Asia Can Be Affordable and Deliver Big Gains

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Social protection systems in most Asian countries fall far short of meeting the needs of the poor and vulnerable even though better safety nets can be affordable for poorer countries, says a new study from Independent Evaluation at the Asian Development Bank.Despite high economic growth in much of the region, public spending on social protection in Asia and the Pacific is lower than in any part of the world except for sub-Saharan Africa.Recent economic and financial crises, food and fuel emergencies, and the rapidly increasing frequency of natural disasters have starkly exposed the inadequacy of the region’s national social protection systems to guarantee a minimum level of subsistence and meet people’s basic needs.The evaluation study—Asian Development Bank: Social Protection Strategy—finds convincing evidence that social protection programs, and especially well-designed safety nets that transfer resources to the poor, can reduce the depth and severity of poverty and inequality.“Governments around the world tend to scramble to adopt social protection programs in times of crisis,” says the Director General of Independent Evaluation Vinod Thomas. “But comprehensive systems built in stable years are much more effective in coping with the human impact of future economic or political crises or natural disasters. ”Widening wealth gaps are also drawing attention to the need for greater social protection in Asia, where income disparities over the past two decades have widened in 11 countries that account for more than four-fifths of the region’s population.

All countries spend on the poor in some form or another, although there are considerable country variations in the levels and effectiveness of the spending. Concerns over the cost of universal social protection are deterring some countries, but well-targeted safety nets are not prohibitively expensive, says the study. In the Philippines, for example, the government’s conditional cash transfer program to uproot extreme poverty costs less than 0.5% of the country’s gross domestic product, yet reaches 15 million people. The program makes regular cash payments to mothers conditional on their children attending school and public health clinics. After just three years of implementation, evaluation findings show positive results on elementary education school enrollment and beneficiary households spending more on the health and education of their children. While safety nets, and particularly conditional cash transfers, can reduce poverty, some countries still prefer to retain food and fuel subsidies for their social programs. In India, the government distributes food, fuel, and fertilizer instead of cash, but these subsidies are vulnerable to misuse and leakage. In addition, such subsidies generally cost more, benefit the better-off relative to the poor and are politically difficult to unwind.Rapid social and demographic changes are highlighting the need for affordable pensions, health insurance, and childcare. Governments across the region are trying to respond to these challenges. As such, social protection needs to be higher on their development agenda. “While Asia has traditionally relied on the extended family to provide protection, this is proving inadequate and declining,” says the study’s principal author Joanne Asquith.

The Asian Development Bank’s experience in helping countries build comprehensive social protection systems—which began in response to the Asian financial crisis—suggests that governments are generally reluctant to borrow for social protection except in times of crisis. Indeed, lending surged during the global economic crisis of 2008–2010, but then sharply declined.Says Asquith: “Social protection systems are not best built by providing a one-off response to a crisis, but that’s when political support for social protection is usually highest. “Development partners need to step up their engagement with governments to sustain political support for social protection in stable years,” she says. Because social protection is an integral part of ADB’s strategy to reduce poverty and promote inclusive growth, the study recommends that ADB, in partnership with others, strengthen its support for this area. ADB’s portfolio of loans for social protection projects and programs totaled $2.2 billion between 2002 and 2011.

From http://www.adb.org/ 11/27/2012

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Engine for Balanced, Sustainable Growth with Equity

“We are convinced that resilience and sustainable economic growth can be more readily achieved when the whole region grows together,” said Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marty Natalegawa this morning as he kicked started the work for 2013. Addressing APEC’s Senior Officials this morning, Minister Natalegawa discussed the need for resilience in the face of challenges and opportunities before the region. Natalegawa will serve as the co-chair for the APEC Ministerial Meeting, along with Indonesia Minister of Trade Gita Wirjawan, which will be held in Bali in October 2013. Natalegawa described the enormous challenges that are so complex that they make the world a tangle of contradictions. “It is a world of plenty, yet in which millions go to bed hungry; a world of vast opportunities, yet in which millions are unemployed; a world of amazing connectivity, yet in which distant villages are isolated for lack of infrastructures; a world challenged by the threats of food security, climate change, and energy security,” he explained. ““In essence: challenges that demand partnership and cooperation.” For APEC to contribute to economic expansion, Natalegawa said that the Asia-Pacific region should serve as an engine for balanced, sustainable growth with equity. Indonesia’s theme in 2013 is “Resilient Asia-Pacific: Engine of Global Growth.”

“First, we must maintain the momentum of free and open trade and investment, to which our Leaders committed themselves when they endorsed the Bogor Goals in 1994” Natalegawa emphasized the importance of enhancing small and medium enterprises; assisting rural populations with means for development; and achieving greater recognition of the role of women in all endeavours, including development efforts. “Second, we must see to it that economic growth is inclusive, with an eye to equity and social justice-- by empowering and tapping the creativity of our peoples,” he continued. “And we must also see to it that it is as sustainable growth, one that is consistent with our environmental concern.” Natalegawa said that the economies of the region have distant provinces and growth poles that are not yet well connected with one another and to the world market. “Third, we must accelerate economic growth in the Asia-Pacific by addressing the region’s need for connectivity. Hence, we must seize the opportunities for investing in the development for infrastructures for connectivity, including infrastructures for connectivity of our maritime areas. ”At the conclusion of his presentation, he introduced APEC Indonesia 2013 logo which depicts a strong bamboo tree, with 21 bamboo shoots. “Indonesia’s logo symbolizes the resilience of APEC economies and the firmness of our commitment to serve as a force for sustainable global prosperity with equity.” Indonesia takes the helm of APEC in 2013 almost two decades after it first hosted in 1994 when it facilitated the Bogor Goals to lay the foundation for open trade and investment regime in the Asia-Pacific region. Russia expressed its support for all of the priorities that were proposed by Indonesia. “APEC’s priorities for 2013 will carry forward the achievements we reached in Vladivostok earlier this year,” said APEC Russia’s Senior Official, Ambassador Gennady Ovechko. Russia holds the chairmanship until the end of this year. APEC Senior Officials will meet next in Jakarta in February 2013.

From http://www.apec.org/ 12/07/2012

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East Asia and Pacific Remains Bright Spot in Difficult Global Landscape

Economies of developing East Asia and Pacific remained resilient despite the lackluster performance of the global economy. The World Bank’s latest East Asia and Pacific Economic Update released today, projects the region will grow at 7.5 percent in 2012, lower than the 8.3 percent registered in 2011, but set to recover to 7.9 percent in 2013.With weak demand for exports from global markets, domestic demand has remained the main driver of growth for most economies of the region. The region’s economic performance in 2012, the report says, was affected by China’s economic slowdown.China’s growth is projected to reach 7.9 percent this year, 1.4 percentage point lower than last year’s 9.3 percent and the lowest growth rate since 1999. Weak exports and the government’s efforts to cool down the overheating housing sector slowed down China’s economy in 2012, but recovery has set in the final months of the year. In 2013, China’s economy is expected to grow at 8.4 percent, fueled by fiscal stimulus and the faster implementation of large investment projects.“The East Asia and Pacific region is becoming increasingly important for the world economy, and is expected to contribute almost 40 percent of global growth in 2012” said World Bank Chief Economist for East Asia and Pacific Bert Hofman. “With high growth rates sustained in the region, we expect poverty to continue to decline. The share of people living under $2 a day in the region is forecast to reach 23.3 percent by the end of 2014, down significantly from 28.8 in 2010.”

Developing East Asia, excluding China, is projected to grow 5.6 percent in 2012, up from 4.4 percent in 2011. The rebound in Thailand following the floods in 2011, strong growth in the Philippines, and relatively mild slowdowns in Indonesia and Vietnam contributed to this recovery. Continuing strong performances by Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines will boost Developing East Asia, excluding China, to 5.7 percent in 2013 and 5.8 percent in 2014. Another bright spot in the region is Myanmar’s reengagement with the international community. The Myanmar economy continued to accelerate in fiscal year 2011-12, with GDP growth at 5.5 percent, and expected to reach 6.3 percent in fiscal year 2012-13. The government is moving ahead with reforms, but significant challenges remain for Myanmar to reach its potential, including addressing infrastructure constraints, improving financial and telecommunications sectors and sustainable management of natural resources. The report notes that there are considerable risks that could slow the region’s momentum, citing possible delays of reforms in the Eurozone, the “fiscal cliff” in the US, and a possible sharp decline in the growth of investments in China as among the sources of uncertainty. The report also discusses the growing concern that renewed monetary expansion in the G-3 nations (comprising the United States, Japan and the countries in the Eurozone) could trigger a flood of capital into the region that could lead to asset bubbles and excessive credit growth, and raise the risk of sudden outflows in the future.

“The bulk of the capital flowing into the region consists of foreign direct investments, which creates jobs and growth in production capacity. Nevertheless, monetary authorities should closely monitor developments in their capital accounts,” said Hofman. “Appropriate exchange rate arrangements and capital market development could provide a cushion against undesirable effects of capital inflows, while macro-prudential measures could guard against excessive credit growth.” World Bank Senior Economist Keiko Kubota, main author of the report, said “If a shock in growth were to occur, most countries could counter the impact by easing their fiscal policies. For economies in the region that face difficulties in budget execution, particularly of the capital budget, fiscal interventions aimed at increasing private domestic demand such as targeted social assistance or investment tax credits, are very important.”  

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 12/19/2012

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Southeast Asia's Strength Keeps Asia Growth on Track - ADB Report

The surging economies of Southeast Asia have been a bright spot in developing Asia’s otherwise subdued 2012 growth performance, but the broader region should still pick up steam in 2013, says a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) report.The latest Asian Development Outlook Supplement, released today, says developing Asia will post growth of 6.0% in 2012 and 6.6% in 2013, 0.1% percentage point lower than anticipated by ADB in October. Robust private consumption in Southeast Asia and a mild economic recovery in People’s Republic of China (PRC) nearly balance out the weaknesses in India’s economy. The report warns that ongoing sluggishness and uncertainty in Europe and the United States mean that risks to the forecasts remain firmly on the downside.“Enduring debt problems and economic weakness in Europe and the looming fiscal cliff in the United States remain very real threats to developing Asia next year,” said ADB Chief Economist Changyong Rhee. “At the same time there are highly encouraging signs from Southeast Asia and recent data from PRC confirms a bottoming out of the economy, with industrial output rebounding to a five-month high in October.”Malaysia and the Philippines outstripped expectations, with strong third quarter performance boosting ASEAN-5 growth forecasts from 5.6% to 5.9%. Third quarter expansion in the Philippines was a stellar 7.1%, more than double the rate from the same period a year earlier.

This performance and the recovery in PRC―supported by a turnaround in industrial production and retail sales and solid fixed investment―are helping to offset weakness in other East Asian economies, including Hong Kong, China; the Republic of Korea; and Taipei,China.India’s economy remains sluggish, with sliding industrial production and declining exports. Growth in Central Asia is also soft, pulled down by difficulties in its two largest economies―Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Pacific economies, led by resource-rich Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste, are continuing to benefit from infrastructure rollouts which should support growth of 6% in 2012, but the expansion will moderate in 2013, the report says.Inflation remains broadly benign across most of the region as a result of price declines in some food commodities, including soybean and palm oil. Inflationary pressures remain a concern in South Asia, however, with the subregion expected to post an annual inflation rate of 8.3% in 2012. An expected spike in meat prices, lower output of grains, and higher global demand will see inflation for developing Asia tick up to 4.2% in 2013, from a revised rate of 4.0% in 2012.

From http://www.adb.org/ 12/07/2012

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Smallest Pacific Economies Must Build Links, Boost Connections to Thrive - ADB

SUVA, FIJI – The smallest Pacific island economies can overcome economic growth challenges related to isolation and low populations by expanding economic links and using technology to build connections, according to the December issue of the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Pacific Economic Monitor (PEM), released today.“Changes in the global economy will place greater pressure on the smallest Pacific island states to find ways and means of sustaining themselves,” said Xianbin Yao, Director General of ADB’s Pacific Department. “By building greater links within Asia and the North Pacific – and looking for opportunities for generating jobs through information technology – small island states can help unlock their potential for growth in the face of unique economic challenges.”Three special articles in the latest PEM focus on growth prospects in the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, and Tuvalu, noting that geographical isolation, high transportation costs, low connectivity, and small and often dispersed populations can inhibit private sector job creation and public service delivery. Growth in these economies usually reaches only 1-2% per year, making significant reductions in poverty difficult.

Sound macroeconomic policy is essential to support economic growth, but the first article acknowledges that these countries have limited monetary policy options due to their use of foreign currencies. High public debt can also limit a government’s ability to spend their way to higher growth, making structural reforms -- such as streamlining regulations on investment and services trade, or easing access to land and finance -- critical.A second article shows ties between the North Pacific and economies in Asia are likely to become increasingly important, but small island states will need to build up the appropriate supporting institutions to take full advantage of opportunities for growth.Finally, a third article argues that geography need not be the barrier to growth it has been presented as by some and, as such, reliance on development assistance need not be a permanent feature of the smallest Pacific economies. It suggests a “second industrial revolution” triggered by new information and communication technologies, and the easing of the barriers to labor movement, could pave the way to a brighter economic future for the smallest Pacific economies.

From http://www.adb.org/ 12/10/2012

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CHINA: Boost for Mobile Internet Industry

SHANGHAI opened four new industrial parks, unveiling favorable policies alongside, to give the local mobile Internet industry a shot in the arm, officials said at an industry summit yesterday. The city is hoping to lead China in the new sector by 2015, they told the Shanghai Mobile Internet Industry Summit. Shanghai's mobile Internet industry revenue will hit 80 billion yuan (US$12.7 billion) by 2015, creating a total of 60,000 jobs, compared with 13 billion yuan now, according to the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Information Technology, the city's top IT regulator. "Shanghai will establish itself as a leading city in the mobile Internet industry nationwide, and it has the conditions to achieve the target," said Zhu Zongyao, a senior official at the commission. Shanghai launched the four mobile Internet industry parks in Xuhui, Huangpu and Baoshan districts and Pudong New Area yesterday. Firms in the park can enjoy favorable land rental rates and related subsidies. Mobile Internet has become a catalyst to develop the information service industry in Shanghai and help the city complete its economic transformation into becoming more service-oriented, said Zhu Xiaoming, the professor of the China Europe International Business School. Shanghai has a complete industry chain from chip designing, handset manufacturing, telecommunications networks to mobile entertainment and mobile payment, according to the commission's Zhu. With improved broadband and Wi-Fi networks, Shanghai has unique advantages in developing the mobile Internet industry, China Telecom and China Unicom officials said. Mobile payment, a convergence of online payment, cloud computing and wireless technology, represents the future, said Zhou Ye, president of China PNR, a Shanghai-based third-party payment firm.

From http://www.shanghaidaily.com/ 11/28/2012

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China Will Hit 7.5% Goal for GDP Expansion 

CHINA is confident of meeting its economic growth target of 7.5 percent this year, Commerce Minister Chen Deming said yesterday. "China's gross domestic product will certainly expand more than 7.5 percent this year," Chen told an annual forum held by Caijing Magazine in Beijing. "China's broad macroeconomic policy of stabilizing growth and accelerating restructuring will help it achieve the target.'' In the first three quarters, China's GDP grew 7.7 percent from a year earlier to 35.3 trillion yuan (US$5.6 trillion), compared with last year's expansion of 9.3 percent. In the third quarter, its economy gained 7.4 percent, the slowest in over three years. But the economy did better than expected in September and October, giving a boost for a modest recovery. Some analysts forecast the GDP to grow 7.8 percent in the last quarter. Chen's remark echoed those of Zhang Ping, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, and analysts who said China has overcome the worst economic slump after a seven-quarter slowdown. On Tuesday, Zhang said at a forum in India that China should grow over 7.5 percent this year, and keep inflation within 3 percent. But Zhang also cautioned that China's foreign trade may miss the 10-percent growth target this year amid the still weak global demand.

From http://www.shanghaidaily.com/ 11/29/2012

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China Mobile to Develop Own-Brand Smartphones 

CHINA Mobile plans to launch its own-brand smartphones and establish a mobile Internet firm as the country's biggest mobile carrier embraces an emerging mobile Internet age, the company's president Li Yue said today. The carrier, with more than 700 million subscribers, hopes to introduce the latest iPhone into the mainland market but it still has a different business model from that of Apple Inc, Li said at the China Mobile Global Developers Conference 2012. "We have the army (traditional telecom services). Now we need the navy and the air force (new mobile Internet services)," Li told the forum held in Guangzhou today. China Mobile will integrate services such as mobile reading, music, video and the Internet of Things into the business of the new mobile Internet company, Li said. Meanwhile, China Mobile will launch smartphones of its own brand in the future to provide customized services to its clients, Li said without giving a timetable. Despite its huge client base, China Mobile is facing challenges from QQ and Weixin, instant message tools developed by Tencent which is eroding China Mobile's short message and voice message incomes, industry analysts said. Mobile devices now account 13 percent of the world's Internet traffic, compared with 4 percent a year ago. The sales of mobile devices will soon surpass the sales of PC computers, according to Mary Meeker of the investment firm, Kleiner Perkins. China Mobile has launched new tools for mobile payment and voice search, known as "China's Siri." iFlyTek, 15 percent owned by China Mobile, provides a text-to-speech solution that allows a smartphone user to type in his native language when calling China Mobile's hotline or ordering a pizza. China Mobile has had business cooperation with Apple Inc since 2007. "There is no problem in our cooperation. But both sides have differences regarding the business model and profit sharing," said Li. Apple also has cooperation with China Unicom, a rival of China Mobile. China Unicom is scheduled to start selling the brand-new iPhone 5 next Friday.

From http://www.shanghaidaily.com/ 12/05/2012

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Report Says 'Smart City' Construction Faces Risks 

THE construction of "smart cities" in China is facing challenges and risks as more mainland cities join the go-intelligent bandwagon, a report suggests. The report cited blind expansion and limited funding channels as among the challenges. Nearly half of China's 47 major cities or regions have officially included a smart city blueprint into their strategic development plan to improve urban competitiveness. The plan calls for embracing innovations in information and communication technologies. But some Chinese cities are too impatient in their smart city ambition and don't have an overall, long-term plan and lack sufficient coordination. That could result in redundant construction and insufficient use of information resources, according to a report by Xinhua news agency unveiled yesterday. "Chinese cities should avoid simply pursuing a big scale while building smart cities," Wu Hequan, former vice president of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said in the report. "The purpose is not to change the face of a city but to make life better for its people." Funding for the construction of smart cities is also limited, with government being the main source, as the private sector has concerns about investment returns and risks.

From http://www.shanghaidaily.com/ 12/05/2012

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E-Government Services Reach More Chinese Cities

E-government services are now available in more than 90 percent of China's cities and 80 percent of its towns, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Governance Hong Yi said Thursday. All central government departments and provincial-level governments have established websites and 99.1 percent of municipal governments have done the same, Hong said at a two-day forum on Chinese e-government services. Over 90 percent of core central government services, such as those relating to customs, taxation, public security and social security, are now offered online, Hong said. Chinese e-government services have seen progress in terms of networking, infrastructure, digitalization, sharing and security over the last decade, Hong said. The forum was attended by over 300 participants, including representatives from central and local governments, institutes and enterprises.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/06/2012

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China to Promote Equal Access to Funeral Services

People should have equal access to basic burial and funeral services by the end of 2015, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) on Friday. Providing basic funeral services to low-income groups, and the society at large, including body transportation, preservation, cremation and the placement of ashes, is a project that benefits people, the ministry said. In March, the MCA said it would promote a policy of benefiting people by reducing or remitting basic funeral charges for low-income groups. Some regions have implemented the policy with different measures, reducing people's financial burdens. However, funeral security varies significantly among different social groups and between rural and urban residents, according to the MCA. The ministry urged local civil affairs authorities to roll out specific measures, specifying the coverage of the policy, standard of assistance, sources of funds and simplify procedures for low-income groups to apply for assistance. The ministry also urged local authorities to award those who choose environment friendly burial methods.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/07/2012

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Income from Phone Video Clips Set to Soar

VIDEOS shot by mobile phone may generate over 90 million yuan (US$14.5 million) income in China this year, a 50-percent annual surge, thanks to the popularity of smartphones featuring high-quality cameras, top industry firms said yesterday. So far this year more than 60,000 mobile-shot videos have been uploaded and an income of over 90 million yuan from online advertisements, sponsorship and mobile subscriptions is expected, market leaders China Mobile and Youku Tudou said during the weekend. These videos have been viewed by over 40 million people either online or through mobile devices, according to Wu Zheng, vice president of Youku Tudou. "It's a new opportunity for people to become directors without worrying how to broadcast and promote (the videos)," said Wu. Content providers can provide 20-25 percent of Youku Tudou's total income, according to Wu. Li Yue, China Mobile's president, has said mobile video has become a unique opportunity for mobile carriers. The booming sales of smartphones with better cameras have encouraged users to make video clips. Wacker not in favor of tariffs Richard Fu Trade Germany's Wacker Chemie AG, which provides polysilicon for the solar industry, rejects import duties on solar products amid escalating trade disputes between China and the West, Chief Executive Rudolf Staudigl has said. The US has imposed punitive duties on Chinese solar products and the European Union is also investigating Chinese imports. China, on the other hand, started to scrutinize polysilicon imports from abroad. "We at Wacker are rather concerned about this development. We were one of the first to speak out against any kind of protectionism," Staudigl said in Shanghai.

From http://www.shanghaidaily.com/ 12/17/2012

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China Ready to Enhance Communication

A top government spokesman said China is poised to enhance communication with the rest of the world in a more "proactive and comprehensive" manner in the coming year. China has delivered on the open and timely release of information in the past year, said Wang Chen, minister of the State Council Information Office, on Tuesday in an address to more than 400 representatives from major world news agencies and overseas diplomats stationed in Beijing as well as spokesmen from 60 central agencies. So far this year, the State Council Information Office has organized 57 news conferences on heated issues including the disputes over the Diaoyu Islands and China's rare earth export policy — a wide range of topics that aimed to let the rest of the world understand China in a "comprehensive" manner, he said. Next year marks the first year under the new leadership, when documents issued following the 18th Party Congress will be implemented. As all eyes fall on China, which underwent the leadership transition in November, the minister said he welcomes more foreign reporters who wish to visit China and look deeper into the country. "China needs to know the world, and the world needs to understand China.

I hope foreign friends come and see China for themselves ... and cover China in a more sufficient way," he said, adding that the office is committed to providing service as usual for all journalists. Foreign reporters said they hope more facilities will be provided to assist their reporting on China in the coming year. Eric Baculinao, Beijing bureau chief of NBC News Worldwide LLC, said that the past year has been an important year for the US and China, and the next year will mean new challenges for reporters. "We will do more reporting about China under the new leadership. We hope that there will be more conveniences for us to report on issues that are important for both countries. I look forward to a more productive year in China in terms of news reporting from here, but this will depend on how convenient it will be for us," he said. Kor Kian Beng, a correspondent with the Singapore-based The Straits Times, said he expects to have more opportunities to attend important conferences and see different parts of China. Chi Zhang, a producer with Brussels-based VRT Nieuws, has worked in China since 2008, and said he hopes to travel to different parts of the country. He attended a media trip to the Ningxia Hui autonomous region last year and produced a TV program on the Hui ethnic group, local wind power plants and control of the deserts, which was "inspiring and eye-opening". "Next year we will keep focusing on people's livelihoods, economic development, rural development and anti-corruption. I would like more chances to go to various parts of China for reporting," he said.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/19/2012

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Slowdown in Growth of Nation's Wealthiest

The scale of China's private wealth and the number of its rich people grew at a slower pace this year amid the nation's economic downturn, especially in traditionally affluent areas, according to a survey released yesterday. The 2012 China Wealth Market Survey of nearly 2,000 millionaires, in terms of US dollar, across China found that the total value of private investable assets in the country is estimated to reach 73 trillion yuan (US$11.7 trillion) this year with a 14 percent annual increase. The average growth rate from 2009 to 2011 was 24 percent. Meanwhile, the number of China's high-net-worth households with investable assets worth more than 6 million yuan rose 17 percent to 1.74 million, a dramatic slowdown from the average 38 percent increase over the past three years. With a high density of high-net-worth households already, rich provinces and cities along the eastern coasts, such as Shanghai and Guangzhou, are underperforming the national average growth "due to a contraction of business owners' wealth as a result of the economic downside," the survey by Boston Consulting Group and China Construction Bank Corp said. In contrast, underdeveloped inland provinces, such as Anhui and Hunan, report a 30 percent increase in wealthy families. The "economic growth engine in China will shift to central-western inland regions," the report said. "Provinces with large populations and sizable private wealth will represent significant growth potential, such as Anhui, Hunan, Hubei, Sichuan, Shandong and Shaanxi." Household savings in wealthy families have slowed, accounting for only 51 percent of their investable asset portfolio this year, which is the lowest proportion so far and a 4 percent decrease from last year. Instead, the wealth is flowing to high-yielding finance programs. The amount of money held in wealth management products by banks has almost doubled each year to make up a fifth of the investable asset pool. Wealthy Chinese are steadily moving their money abroad, the report said. A quarter of respondents yet to establish overseas businesses said they "would definitely or probably use offshore financial services in the upcoming three years."

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/21/2012

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Online Philanthropy More Popular 

Online philanthropy is gaining popularity among Chinese, as many believe that it offers more convenience and transparency compared to the traditional methods of donating. Last month, the headmaster of a primary school in west China's Qinghai province posted an online plea for help, as the school's teachers must copy exams by hand before giving them to students because of a lack of printers, which the school cannot afford. Gesanghua Education Aid, an online non-profit charitable organization that works to improve schools in China's impoverished west, subsequently initiated a program to help raise funds for the school in cooperation with Taobao, China's biggest online retailer. The program has raised a total of 264,166 yuan (42,396 U. S. dollars) from 55,907 donors, reaching 88 percent of its fundraising target, according to Yuan Jing, director of the program. Supplies purchased with the donations will be bought online and the process will be open to public supervision, Yuan said, adding that donors can get in touch with the program's team members online if they have any questions about the program.

Taobao was involved with similar programs earlier this year, raising donations to improve living conditions for Anti-Japanese War veterans and collecting funds to buy sports supplies for poor students in south China's Sichuan province. "Promoting projects online has become trendy among charitable organizations," said Zhan Chengfu, head of the social welfare and charity promotion department under the Ministry of Civil Affairs, at a symposium on charity causes held last week. New media tools, such as microblogging services and instant messaging programs, have brought charity groups lower costs, greater speed and a broader scope in promoting programs and fundraising, Zhan said, adding that the Internet and online payment technology have lowered the threshold for participating in charitable efforts. A survey conducted among nearly 1,000 charity groups found that more than 60 percent are promoting programs on the Internet, while nearly 40 percent have blogs or microblog accounts. Netizens have largely applauded the trend. "Every time I buy something online, I donate some money to online charity programs," university student Li Fan said. "Most of the time, my donations are just a very small sum of money. Without online donations, I don't think I would bother going all the way to the charitable organizations to donate such a small amount of money," she said. Hong Bo, founder of the Gesanghua organization, said the transparency of online philanthropy has attracted attention at a time when public trust in traditional charities has been eroded by multiple scams and abuses. The development of the Internet has also promoted the development of grassroots charity organizations by offering them more fundraising channels, Hong added.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/22/2012

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JAPAN: Police to Add Cybercrime to Bounty System

The National Police Agency has decided to expand the scope of crimes that can be covered under its reward system to include cases other than homicide, kidnapping and other life-threatening crimes. The decision, made Thursday, comes in response to a recent case in which four innocent people were arrested on false accusations of making online threats. Police later found those threats were sent from their personal computers infected with a remote-controllable virus, without their knowledge, and released the four. The agency said it planned to implement the revision immediately. Since the arrests were made largely due to a lack of effective means of investigating cybercrimes, the agency decided to relax its rules for the bounty system to include a wider variety of cases in the hope this will lead to gathering more information.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 12/08/2012

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61% of High School Students Secure Jobs

The percentage of high school students promised employment as of Oct. 31 rose 2.3 percentage points from a year earlier to 60.9 percent, the education ministry has said. The Education, Culture, Sports and Technology Ministry surveyed about 194,000 high school students who are set to graduate in March. Of that number, about 118,000 had secured employment, according to the survey.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 12/17/2012

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SOUTH KOREA: Low Birthrate Presents Major Problems for Korean Society

A domestic study forecasts that due to a super low birthrate and dwindling population, South Korea will face a number of problems in the decades ahead including a rapidly aging society and lack of defense resources. Our Kim Soyon has more. Report: Researcher Lee Sam-sik at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs analyzed changes in the population, and his findings show that the nation’s total fertility rate plunged from six babies per woman in 1960 to one-point-23 per woman in 2010. Lee's research shows that a seriously low birthrate of under one-point-three has continued for a decade. Based on that trend, the population is forecast to peak at 52 million in the year 2030 before gradually falling and the elderly accounting for four out of ten Koreans by 2060.

The number of students from elementary school to the university level stood at ten million in 2010, a figure that is expected to drop to five-point-six million by 2050. The lower number of students will inevitably force schools to merge or close.Resources for national defense will also present a problem. The number of conscriptable-age youths is projected to be short by eight-thousand in 2020, 84-thousand in 2030 and 123-thousand in 2050. The study also shows the percentage of Koreans aged 50 and older among the working population is expected to rise. The figure stood at 20 percent in 2005 and is expected to increase to 30 percent in 2016 and 40 percent in 2050. This raises concerns about social security funding and a slowdown in economic growth. Based on such forecasts, the National Pension Service and the Korea Labor Force Development Institute for the Aged will hold an inaugural forum on the aging population in Seoul on Wednesday.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 11/20/2012

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S. Korean Economy Will Begin Recovery Next Year

Strategy and Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan says that the South Korean economy will begin picking up next year and in 2014 exceed the potential growth rate.The minister delivered the optimistic predictions during a crisis management meeting on Wednesday, noting the nation’s success in attracting more than ten million foreign tourists and a projected two-way trade of more than one trillion dollars for two straight years.Bahk said that the South Korean economy is doing well despite the global economic crisis, citing the OECD’s forecasts that the nation’s gross domestic product will grow three-point-one percent next year and four-point-four percent in 2014.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 11/28/2012

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S. Korea's Gender Income Gap Widest in OECD

South Korea's income gap by gender is the widest among member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).The OECD found that as of 2010, South Korean women received about 39 percent less wages than men, the biggest gap among 28 OECD members that had related data.South Korea's 39 percent gender income gap is way higher than the 15 percent OECD average. It's also significantly ahead of Japan's 29 percent gap.Germany and Israel follow at 21 percent and then the U.S., Canada, Finland, Switzerland and Austria at 19 percent.Hungary, Poland and Spain had the smallest income gap of six percent.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 11/30/2012

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S. Korean Households Moving to Farm Towns Surged 86% Last Yr

The number of South Korean households moving to farm communities topped ten-thousand last year, up 86 percent from the previous year.Statistics Korea conducted a first ever nationwide survey on urban Koreans relocating to rural farming areas and found that ten-thousand-75 households, or over 17-thousand-400 people have made this move in 2011.The average age of the head of the household of these families was 52-point-four years. Thirty-seven percent of the families were headed by men in their 50s, while 25-point four percent were headed by those in their 40s. The two age groups took up over 60 percent of the total.The statistics office assessed that the surge came as the country’s baby boom generation began to retire in droves since 2010, with more retirees opting to spend their later years in rural provinces.As for the main crops they choose to raise, the survey shows 54 percent of all households heading to farm towns decide to grow vegetables, followed by fruits and other special produce such as ginseng.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 12/07/2012

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Economic Revitalization Top Task for Next President - Survey

Survey results released by the nation’s top lobby group for conglomerates showed that South Koreans believe the next administration should focus on revitalizing the economy and stabilizing living costs.According to a survey by Research and Research requested by the Federation of Korean Industries of 800 men and women across the nation with the exception of Jeju Island, 26-point-five percent said the next president should work on revitalizing the economy. Twenty-three-point-three percent said the president had to stabilize inflation while 22-point-seven percent said the biggest task for the next administration was job creation.Forty-three-point-one percent of those surveyed said next year’s economic growth for South Korea would be similar to this year’s while 35-point-five percent believe it would be worse. Only 14-point-six percent said the economic situation would turn up next year compared to 2012.The survey was conducted from Nov. 28 through Dec. 1, with 95 percent confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is plus minus three-point-four percentage points.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 12/09/2012

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Overseas Network of South Korean Law Researchers Launched

Scholars teaching or studying South Korean law overseas have launched an overseas Korean law research network.The Korea Legislation Research Institute held a ceremony in Seoul to commemorate the launch of the Korean law research network with around 20 Korean law researchers from the United States, Britain, China and Australia in attendance on Friday.The institute said that thanks to its successful experience as a developing nation, South Korea has an upper hand in exporting legal institutions compared to the U.S. and western European countries. It promised continued support for the transfer of legal institutions to transition and developing nations and their research.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 12/14/2012

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Survey: Gov't, Society Should Chip in to Pay for Elderly's Living Costs

A new survey finds that more and more people believe children should not have to shoulder the living costs of their elderly parents alone and that the government and society should jointly step up. In a recent poll by Statistics Korea on some 37-thousand people ages 13 and over, 51 percent of respondents said children should pay for their elderly parents' living costs, down from 53 percent in 2008. Forty-nine percent of those polled said the elderly should pay for their own living expenses, up two percentage points from 2008.Thirty-three percent of respondents said that families should be responsible for taking care of their elderly parents. That’s down sharply from 40-point-seven percent posted four years ago. Meanwhile, the percentage of people who believe their parents should be jointly taken care of by their families, the government and society rose from 44 percent to 49 percent between 2008 and this year. Seven percent of respondents said the eldest son or his wife should be responsible for supporting the parents, down sharply from 17 percent posted in 2008. The survey found that 75 percent of respondents believe that all children, and not just the eldest, should support their parents, up from 59 percent in 2008.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 12/20/2012

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BOK Governor Calls on Banks to Revive Domestic Economy

Bank of Korea Governor Kim Choong-soo has ordered commercial banks to take the lead in reviving the South Korean economy as political uncertainties have abated with the end of the presidential election. Kim also said during a financial meeting at the BOK office on Thursday that new leadership is present in South Korea and four other major economies, namely the United States, China, Russia and Japan have changed. His remarks can be interpreted as a call for banks’ active role in turning around the nation’s economy in light of a slow recovery and President-elect Park Geun-hye’s implementation of “economic democratization” policies.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 12/21/2012

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INDONESIA: No More Cheap Labour

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has taken a firm stand amid demands from labour unionists to end the international perception that Indonesia is a haven for investors wanting to tap pools of cheap workers. On the heels of recent rallies by unionists that often ended in violence, Yudhoyono said on Thursday that the government's stance over labour welfare was in line with the workers' demands. "It is our moral obligation to fight for it. The era of cheap labour and injustice is now over," said Yudhoyono in a speech before governors, regents, mayors, police chiefs and regional military commanders. Yudhoyono argued that labour rallies and strikes would stop if businesses were more committed to improving the welfare of their workers. In the past two months, workers have staged rallies demanding an increase in regional minimum wages by an average of more than 30 per cent for next year, and for companies to be given limits on the amount of contract workers they can hire from third parties under the outsourcing scheme. The government has bowed to union pressure by introducing a decree that limits the outsourcing scheme. Several local administrations have also agreed to excessively raise next year's minimum wages. The Jakarta administration, for example, has decided to raise the minimum wage by 44 per cent, far higher than the 25 per cent demanded by workers' union.

Apart from supporting better welfare, Yudhoyono also expected workers to end their violent rallies. "We cannot tolerate violence, sweepings or disturbances in the production process," he said. "I've always demanded that the police prevent such violence. The police should not let the perpetrators get away with these crimes." Yudhoyono also urged businesses that fell victim to extortion by officials, an act which may reduce the ability to pay higher worker wages, to send their complaints directly to him via postal box 9946. In a separate event, Coordinating Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa said that there should be a balanced relationship between firms and their workers. "We should also take sides with businesses. Companies unable to comply with the minimum wage increases should immediately file a report with the government to demand a wage freeze. We will definitely facilitate them," said Rajasa. Businesses have voiced concerns that the recent sprawling disputes with workers would send jitters to potential investors and worsen the already high unemployment rate. According to the Central Statistics Agency, around 41.4 million people, or 35 per cent of the 118 million workforce, are categorised as open or half-unemployed workers.

 From http://www.asianewsnet.net/ 12/01/2012

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MALAYSIA: To Launch Emergency App for People with Disabilities

Disabled people or callers who are under threat and cannot speak will soon be able to call for emergency help with the new ‘SaveMe 999’ application to be launched by Malaysian’s Emergency Response Service (MERS 999) next week. MERS 999 will officially introduce this latest update to its existing emergency response platform on December 18. With SaveMe 999 app, users with disabilities will be able to send an accurate location or text a complete address of the location, choose relevant agency, select incident or text complete incident (threaten, kidnap, murder, robbery, rape or fight), then the information will be sent to the MERS 999 response centre and the officers would start the dispatching procedure to the relevant emergency agencies. Emergency callers and location of incident can be tracked accurately with Automatic Number Identification (ANI), and Automatic Location Identification (ALI) on the smartphones.

The SaveMe 999 application will be available for download on Android and iOS enabled smartphones and devices. MERS 999 is an initiative by the Malaysian Government for computerised emergency call taking and dispatching. Under its single platform and a single emergency number, the country’s five emergency service providers — the Police, Fire and Rescue Department, Ambulances/Hospitals, Civil Defense and Maritime Enforcement — share information and consolidate and integrate emergency response resources. The MERS 999’s response centres nationwide are operated by Telekom Malaysia. Malaysia has up to 283,204 registered disabled people out of total population of 28 million.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/12/2012

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PHILIPPINES: Launching Online Portal for Local Govt Finances

As support to President Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s mandate to move the Government towards a “straight path”, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) launched a website called “ Full Disclosure Policy Portal“, which allows citizens to view the finances and other transaction of Local Government Units (LGU). The portal is a joint collaboration between DILG’s Bureau of Local Government Supervision (BLGS) and multilateral and bilateral organisations such as the World Bank, Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). It aims to assist LGU’s in complying with the requirements of the DILG issued Memorandum Circular 2010-083 titled, “Full Disclosure of Local Budget and Finances, and Bids and Public Offerings”. The latter mandates provinces, cities and municipalities to fully disclose specific financial transactions to keep their constituents informed of how the LGUs’ budget is managed, disbursed and used. By logging on to the FDPP, the public can view important LGU documents such as annual budget reports, statements of debt service, statements of receipts and expenditures; quarterly statements of cash flow, annual procurement plans or procurement lists, items to bid and bid results, abstracts of bids as calculated, and supplemental procurement plans. Furthermore, details on the Special Education Fund (SEF) income and expenditure estimates; reports of SEF utilisation; annual Gender and Development accomplishment reports; Trust Fund (PDAF) utilisation; 20 per cent component of the Internal Revenue Allotment utilisation; and reports of Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund utilisation.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/04/2012

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SINGAPORE: 2012 Record Year for Property Market

SINGAPORE: Despite six rounds of cooling measures in the last couple of years, the private property market continued its uptrend unabated in 2012. Although data for December is yet to be out, but both sales volume and prices of new private homes have already surpassed previous highs. In the past two years, the Yaps have bought four private properties, three of which were in 2011. They hold to the view that property investments are a good hedge against inflation. But with property prices hitting the roof, the family of four is finding it increasingly difficult to find new investment opportunities. Prices of private homes have gone up by 3.7 per cent so far this year, according to Savills. And experts expect marginal increases in 2013. A property investor, Soh Poh Neo, said: "Even if rental is coming down, we still can support the mortgage payment because loan-to-value (LTV) is very much lower so mortgage monthly instalment is also much lower. So yield will be coming down in view of the supply but interest rate is low, so it is not so frightening. I believe that not many people will sell in a crash situation because everyone has good holding power. The latest cooling measures caught people like me being filtered out. Next what am I going to do, I will use my children's name to buy - they have longer term for the loans."

The Yaps used their son's name - 23-year-old Travis Yap - for the latest purchase of a unit at eCo. Since 6 October, property investors like Madam Soh and her husband Mr Yap, aged above 35, could borrow less from banks to finance their mortgages. The latest cooling measure, which has also capped loan tenures at 35 years, is the sixth to be implemented in Singapore in the last couple of years. Experts said more cooling measures may be implemented if home prices do not show signs of easing. But with the current low interest rates and access liquidity in the market, property investors are finding it easy to finance mortgage loans, and this may drive demand and home prices higher going forward. DTZ's research head for Asia Pacific, Chua Chor Hoon, said: "The government may be looking at the HDB market, at the rules and regulations over there, because a high proportion of buyers in the private condominium market are people with HDB addresses. So these could be people who are not just upgrading but buying a private condominium for investment purposes." To cope with demand, the government has increased the supply of land for new private homes through its Government Land Sales (GLS) Programme.

For the first half of next year, the GLS programme will put up 12 private residential sites including five for executive condominium projects put up for sale. These will yield some 14,035 private and executive condominium units. But since 2011, the total number of units yielded from the government land supply has been getting less - from 14,300 units for GLS H1 2011 to 14,100 units for GLS H1 2012 and 14,035 units for H1 2013. Savills Singapore's research head, Alan Cheong, said: "This year, the high supply numbers and therefore the high demand numbers were a by-product of the very aggressive 2011 government land sales supply. But moving into 2013, you find that the 2012 GLS numbers were much more muted. And these will be launched next year. So next year and corresponding the new home sales numbers would come through at a more sedate pace." Knight Frank's research head, Png Poh Soon, said: "The assessment from our house view is from 16,000 to 18,000 for the whole year. Compared to 2012, which our assessment and forecast is up to 22,000. In terms of price wise, we don't foresee that in 2013 there will be any quick correction. But on the other hand, we don't think there will be runaway prices. We foresee that prices will trend upwards but at a slow steady pace."

Another trend that will see the property market cooling in 2013 - capping the total number of units that can be built on a site for non-landed private residential developments outside the central area from 4 November 2012, reducing the number of investors looking to buy a property that requires less capital. Chua Chor Hoon said: "Volume will come close to it but won't surpass because a lot of shoebox units have been sold so we will see larger units."Up till November, nearly 21,000 new units have been sold. This have already surpassed the previous record where about 16,000 units were sold for the whole of 2010.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 12/21/2012

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THAILAND: Schools Pilot E-classroom Project

Two government secondary schools in Bangkok have piloted a Future Classroom Project to encourage the students to enhance the latest innovative technologies as learning tools and preparing for the government’s roll out of free tablet pc for the seventh graders in 2013. Taweethapisek School and Wat Rachathiwas School, in collaboration with the Office of the Basic Education Commission and Intel Corp, are working on a trial project for grade seven classrooms on adopting education IT solution as part of supporting the government’s One Tablet Per Child (OTPC) policy. The Future Classroom model is an education IT solution tailored for one-to-one e-learning in classrooms starting on the first of December 2012. Under this pilot project, ICT infrastructure including content distribution network, firewall, content catching and classroom management is supported by Intel together with its Learning Series 1-to-1 e-lLearning Professional Development Programme to train teachers using Intel Teach. This is to address the challenges of internet connectivity and content accessibility at the two schools.

E-Learning hardware such as 10 units of 10-inch screen tablets have been provide to Wat Rachathiwas School’s standard one class and a class of autistic students, and Taweethapisek School’s standard one class during the pilot period between December 2013 and January 2013. The evaluation of the outcome will be in February. The tablets are equipped with classroom management software programme, which allows teachers to monitor on the devices used during the class. Using the content distribution solution, a team of pedagogical experts select and create appropriate content. The content gets automatically pushed from a central server to the server appliance, which is located at each school. There the content is accessible to the students and teacher via the local area Wi-Fi network, which is fast and reliable regardless of the school Internet connection. The server appliance also provides firewall protection, caching, and other networking services that every school requires. With one-time configuration, the server appliance requires no further support to maintain its performance, and is even remotely accessible should a problem arise. Students can access learning content from the Office of the Basic Education Commission and Intel’s provided content from Skoool, Wikipedia, and Khan Academy through the server appliance of the school.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/05/2012

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Thailand Launches New Facility for Geoinformatics Development

Thailand’s Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA) has launched a new facility called ‘Space Krenovation Park (SKP) to further enhance the development of country’s geo-informatics and space technology. The SKP is located at the Thaichote Satellite Control Station in Chon Buri province. GISTDA Executive Director Dr Anond Snidvongs said during the opening ceremony of the SKP that the agreement to forge alliances between Thai and foreign geo-informatics and space technology entrepreneurs was signed to support related research, develop innovative and add value to relevant products and businesses such as spare parts for space missions, batteries, mapping, high resolution satellite images, as well as a centre for the development of potential geo-informatics and space technology in ASEAN. The SKP comprises of seven main sections including satellite control unit, geo-informatics centre for ASEAN, a facility to provide knowledge and training to private entrepreneurs who are keen to enter this business, a rent space for private sector to conduct research on relevant product development.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/06/2012

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Thailand to Launch Disaster Warning App

National Disaster Warning Centre (NDWC) under Thailand’s Ministry of ICT will launch a mobile application for disaster warning alert, said NDWC director Group Captain Somsak Khaosuwan. “We are now progressing the development of this new app that would warn everything about disaster warnings and provide related information such as disaster monitoring, and water flow,” said Khaosuwan. The launch of the disaster warning app is expected to be on December 26, in memory of the 8th anniversary of devastating Tsunami that killed over 230,000 people in fourteen countries around Indian Ocean including Thailand. The application will be available for download on both iOS and Android enabled mobile devices.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/11/2012

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Thailand to Implement E-Tax Invoice

Thailand’s Revenue Department will implement Electronic Tax Invoice system and allow for online submission via internet. This system is slated to effect a tremendous change in the way registered companies file documents, issue tax invoices and receipts, and is aimed to cause an essential reduction in cost and paper use while empowering e-commerce business, said Prowmatr Huntra, Principal Advisor on ICT, Revenue Department, Ministry of Finance, Thailand. The RD released the Departmental Regulation allowing a VAT operator to issue and deliver tax invoices electronically early this year, and gave them time until early next year to prepare, deliver and keep their tax invoices or receipts in an electronic form as they see fit.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/18/2012

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VIETNAM: Annual Meeting on ASEAN Culture and Information Kicks Off in Capital

HA NOI (VNS)— The 47th Meeting of the ASEAN Committee on Culture and Information (ASEAN-COCI), the annual meeting that evaluates and ratifies all co-operative projects in the domain, was officially kicked off in Ha Noi yesterday. The three-day meeting, with the participation of ASEAN members and dialogue countries, will review the effectiveness of on-going projects and approve new co-operative projects proposed by ASEAN nations. Nguyen Van Tinh, chairman of the National ASEAN-COCI, said that before the meeting started, the ASEAN-COCI Sub-committee on Culture had finalised a draft work plan on co-operation in culture and arts with China, as well as a cultural flagship project in the period of 2013-15 with Brunei and Malaysia. He said the meeting would be a chance for Viet Nam to show the ASEAN community that it was capable of taking the role of ASEAN Secretary General in the 2013-17 term. The ASEAN-COCI, established in 1978, has twice held its meetings in Viet Nam. — VNS

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 12/13/2012

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Lawmakers Back Stronger Foreign Exchange

The country's foreign exchange ordinance will be revised in order to reduce the use of foreign currency in Viet Nam, legislators decided yesterday during the 8th session of the National Assembly's Standing Committee. NA Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung asked the State Bank to work with the NA's Economic Committee to improve the ordinance before submitting a final draft to the NA in May. The committee also discussed budget allocations for two national target programmes, one on climate change adaptation and one addressing environmental pollution. According to the Government's statement, the total State Budget will allocate VND248.3 billion (US411.8 million) to the climate change programme and VND131 billion ($6.24 million) to the pollution programme.

Chairman of the NA's Finance and State Budget Phung Quoc Hien backed a Government-proposed VND33 billion ($1.57 million) project to treat waste water discharged from type 2 urban areas in the three basin areas of Nhue-Day, the Cau River in the north and the Dong Nai River in the south. The Government plans to allocate VND15 billion ($714,000) each to the provinces of Thai Nguyen and Dong Nai and give the remaining VND3 billion ($143,000) to the steering management board. Hien said that with pollution increasing in all three river basins, urban waste water should be treated before being discharged, and there should be bans on discharging waste water from industrial areas or craft villages into these rivers. Many deputies agreed that in funding pilot projects, the Government should focus on the twin goals of raising environmental awareness and preventing pollution. The committee asked the Government to review the proposed projects and to allocate capital for both urgent projects approved by the Prime Minister and pilot models that could expand beyond one community if successful.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 12/14/2012

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BANGLADESH: Digital ICT Fair Begins Dec 19

A six-day 6th Multiplan Digital ICT Fair 2012 will start on December 19 at Multiplan Centre on Elephant Road in the capital. The Multiplan Centre Shop Owners’ Association will arrange the fair with the slogan ‘Be the change, start green now’. This was announced at a press conference organised by the association on Saturday at its office. Digital ICT Fair-2012 convener Toufique Ehesan said at the briefing that more than 450 stalls would be showcasing the latest ICT gadgets in the fair. Two seminars on contemporary ICT issues, debates on environment, a blood donation programme, cultural programmes including painting competition for kids, and raffle draws will also be held on the sidelines of the fair, he said.

From http://www.newagebd.com 12/02/2012

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Access to ICT to Disabled Stressed

Dhaka, Dec 12 (UNB) – Speakers at a roundtable here called for ensuring access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to the persons with disabilities for improving their condition.  The use and development of ICT is rising day by day in the country. But its access to the disabled is very limited, which hampered their development, they said addressing the roundtable in the city on Wednesday.   Centre for Services and Information on Disability (CSID) organized the roundtable titled “Access of Persons with Disabilities to ICT” at Bangladesh Computer Council Bhaban at Agargaon. Nazrul Islam Khan, Secretary, Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), attended the programme as the chief guest.

Moderated by Monsur Ahmed Chowdhury, Member, UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and vice chairman of CSID, the roundtable was addressed by Dr. Gyanendra Nath Biswas, Executive Director, Bangladesh Computer Council, Fahmida Mariam, Regional Director, South Asia, Sightsavers and Bitalie T Islam, Country Director, Handicap International, and CSID Executive Director Khandakar Jahurul Alam. Addressing on the occasion, the speakers called upon the government to take necessary steps for including the persons with disabilities into the mainstream ICT sector in order to bring them into the mainstream of the country’s development. Non-government organizations should also come forward in this regard, they said. A number of persons with disabilities were also present on the occasion.

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

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Steps Afoot to Form SREDA to Deal with Renewable Energy

Dhaka, Dec 14 (UNB) – Steps are afoot to form the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA) following the passage of a bill by parliament in this regard last month. The Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry moved the bill and it was approved in the last session of parliament as the ‘SREDA Bill 2012’ on November 28.Now, we’re waiting for the President’s assent to the bill to launch SREDA,” Additional Secretary of Power Division Tapos Kumar Roy told UNB. After publishing the gazette notification, the Power Division will move for establishing the SREDA through appointing its Chairman, members and other staff, officials said. They said the SREDA will have a chairman to be appointed from additional secretaries of the government and also five members who will have the status of joint secretary. There will be another 55-60 staff at different levels.

Officials at the Power Division under the Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry said they have prepared two draft rules — ‘Energy Efficiency and Conservation Rules’ and ‘Renewable Energy Rules’ — to make the SREDA effective. At present, there is a government plan to increase generation of renewable energy of 500 MW, particularly the solar power, by 2015 from the present level of 70 MW. The Power Division moved for creating the SREDA as a separate entity in the power sector as part of a government plan to promote energy efficiency and also the use of renewable energy across the country as an alternative energy solution. At present, there is no central authority or organization to deal with the renewable energy issues. As a result, different public sector entities and also private sector entrepreneurs who have greater interest on renewable energy face difficulties. The Power Division officials hope that now the problems in the renewable energy promotion will gradually get resolved.

Fro