ISSUE 46
December 2002
 
 
   
    Government Faces Tricky E-government Transition
Drink Ban After Seychelles Poll Violence Kills One
Government Approves New Organic Law
Promote Federalism, Mutebi Tells Baganda
   
    E-governance Policy by March
Sri Lanka: World Bank to Support Country's Economic Reform Agenda
Government Makes Solid Progress in Face of Difficult Conditions
LTTE Officials Study Swiss Federalism
WB May Give Structural Adjustment Loans to More States
Parliament nod for Freedom of Information Bill
SLFP Opposed to Federalism - General Secretary
   
    E-government Plans Boost Public Sector's IT Spending in Western Europe
Major Public Policy Review Recommended
EU Adopts Merger Control Reform
Public Policy Research
Federalism: Berlusconi Says Reforms Will Pass any Vote
Niznanský Back Behind Public Administration Wheel
   
    U.S. Plans 5-Year Global Warming Study
Bush Signs Bill to Boost Cyber Security
Bush Signs Small Webcasters Legislation
New Legislation Enhances Access to Justice, Modernizes Outdated Laws
Keep Eco-Theology Out of Public Policy
President Bush Signs Child Internet Safety Legislation
E-government Bill Wins Praise from Tech Officials
Powell to Pledge Backing for Democratic Reform in Arab World
Jennings Talks About Western Public Policy
PNP Group Welcomes Passage of Anti-Corruption Legislation
 
   
    Jerry Gana Makes Case for Integrity in Governance
Local Governments Reform Plans Unrealistic-Government
Chiefs Have Governance Role Says Mbeki
A Drought of Good Governance
African Ministers to Meet to Rectify AU Governance
Government, Private Interest Necessary for Effective Governance
Prime Minister Optimistic about Effective Governance
Africa Set to Benefit in $5bn US Plan to Reward Good Governance
IYM Scores Government Low on Governance
Good Governance Demands Participation of All - Clergyman
   
    Minister Open to Corporate Governance Shake-up
It's a Battle Between Ideology and Governance
LTTE, Lanka Government Agree on 'Federal' Governance
Good Governance Through Inter Party Cooperation
Philippine Business Group Rues Lack Of Good Governance
PM Dissatisfied with Pace of Reforms
Symposium Tackles Seoul-Centered Government
National and United Future Clash Over Local Government Bill
Kiran Bedi Outlines Action Plan for Good Governance
Plan Panel Compendium On Good Governance
Road To Successful Governance Unveiled
MP: Plan Panel Lauds Governance Initiatives
Good Governance
   
    Swiss Opt for Stability, Keep Coalition Unchanged
UNDP Launches the First Regional E-Government System in Armenia
New Proposals to Reform European Governance
Government Increases Local Government Funding for County Council
Citizens and Governance in a Knowledge-Based Society - Part A
   
    Palestinian Leader Calls for Shakeup
   
    University Senate votes on New Government Model
Better Governance in Canada, Expert Says
Reinventing Government: Will Romney's Plan Work?
Cognos Awarded Prestigious Corporate Governance Honor
State, Local Government Must Improve Communication
Fiscal Forecast for State, Local Governments is Grim
Peru Hopes to Enhance Anti-Corruption Cooperation with China
   
    Modern Governance is not Conceivable Without Democracy, King Mohammed
Annan Urges Greater Focus on Good Governance at Morocco Meeting
 
   
    New Language Policy for Civil Service Welcomed
VP Malewezi Lambasts Civil Servants On Aids
Niger Government Disburses N200m Motorcycle Loan to Civil Servants
Ondo Finance Commissioner Charged with Fraud
Last Pay Hike for Civil Servants
BULGSA Calls for Transparency in Promotions, Appointments
Last Pay Hike for Civil Servants
'Civil Servants Will Not Face Aids Stigma'
Exercise to Determine True Size of Civil Service
FCC Addresses Employment Disparity in Civil Service
Corruption is Costing Kenya Dearly
Engineers Demand Higher Entry Point in Civil Service
Public Service Association applauds House for passing Bill
   
    Brunei Moves To Craft Human Resource Development Plan
Compensation for First Time to Public Servant Under Employment Diseases Benefits
Government Roles Urged to be Clarified as WTO Required
Civil Service Reform Must Hew to International Labor Standards
Entrepreneur Urges Reform of Selection Process for Civil Service Jobs
Will The Real Civil Service Please Stand Up?
Civil Service Fears Insurance Scheme Will Collapse
'No Decision Yet' on Civil Service Pay Cut Next Year
Proposal To Raise Retirement Age For Civil Servants To 58 Rejected
China's Zhu Calls on Hong Kong Civil Servants to Take Pay Cut
'Take Moral Highground', Civil Servants Told
4% Public Works Cut Eyed
Civil Servants Can Help Suhakam
Status Change for Officials Gains Support
Change the Mindset of Civil Services
India Shares End -2: Market Awaits Privatization News
Boon for Public Service Workers
Governmentt Assures Transparency In HPCL Bidding Process
140 Public Servants Apply for Packages
Public Service to Slash Admin Jobs
Be People-Friendly, Sarawak Civil Servants Told
Civil Servants on Better Ground
Corrupt Public Servants (Forfeiture of Property) Bill
Civil Service Unions in Accord After Pay Talks
Civil Servants Split $8m Backpay Today
Health, Power Lead Corruption List in India
Public Servants' Super Draining $6.5m Each Day
'Amakudari' Still Rife in Civil Service
Anti-corruption Drive in China Fruitful
   
    Civil Service Applications Ban Challenged
Prize Day at Institute of Public Administration and Management
Mazzella, Public Administration Should Become More Efficient and Sensible
23 New Graduates in the Public Service
PM Hails 'Historic' Civil Service Collective Agreement
Former Ministers Hit Out at Civil Service Employment Bar
Is IT Embedding "Spanish Practices" in the Public sector?
Civil Servants Reject Benchmarking
Whitehall Manages a Better Mix in Public Service
Blair Tells Party to Accept Public Sector Diversity
Rigorous New Vetting Measures for Civil Servants
Holyrood Civil Servants Miss Out on Bonuses
Public Service Reform 'Will Fail' without Community Powers
The Public Service: Critical to Malta's Prosperity
Anti-Corruption Chief Calls Interior Ministry for Reforms
   
    New Project to Evaluate Civil Service
18,000 More Civil Servants in Israel
   
    States Deal Differently With Local Fiscal Crises, National Study Finds
Civil Service Change Weighed
Commissioners Court Holds Public Workshop About Civil Service Status for Employees

Top Civil Servants on the Move?
Public Service Employees Honoured at Head of the Public Service Award Ceremony
Bush Announces Postal Commission; Privatization not a Goal, Officials Say
Reorganization Cuts 130 Civil Service Jobs at Parris Island
Many Law Grads Can't Afford to Take Public-Service Jobs
Marvelling: Civil Service Reform 3
City Council Approves Transparency Bill
Pyatt Attends Academy for Excellence in Local Governance
   
    Public Service Reform
 
   
    Knowledge Management is Key to Business
Mandela launches AIDS Drug Campaign
Minister On E-Government Crusade
Biggest IT Project to Provide Free Online Learning
   
    Microsoft and Uttaranchal sign MOU on E-governance
E-governance to Usher in Simpler Life for Indian Citizens
CAS Promotes E-government Construction
Teaching People to Be Employers
Knowledge Management the Mantra
Showcasing Local Innovation
Telecom Reform Pays Off
Advani for More Government-Private Sector Cooperation
State Of E-governance: Centre Calls Secretaries Meeting
KT Wins Contract to Build E-government for Jakarta
UNDP To Prepare Disaster Management Plan
Unfinished Election Reform
   
    E-government Strategy Comes Under Fire
Global e-government
Successful Pricing Management
E-Europe Action Plan Drives Improvement and Savings in Public Services
IDC Predicts E-government Spending Boom
MSN Partners with UK Government
Government Plots to Save Pots on Consultants
Public 'Tuned Off by E-government'
E-government Progress Stalling
Government Target in Doubt
Malta Has Much to Teach UK About E-government, British High Commissioner Says
Government Websites are 'Online Domes'
Government Well Wide of SME Online Target
   
    E-government Portal System Under Review
   
    Business Engine Announces Webcast On IT Governance Best Practices
Mexican Officials Promoting Prison Factories to U.S. Companies Looking to Cut Costs
Kissinger To Head 9-11 Commission
Officials Research Benefits of E-government at Masie Center
Italian Solution Provider DeltaDator Streamlines e-Government Processes With Savvion Business Process Management System
Government Partners with Private Sector in a Major Initiative to Bring Accessible Broadband Applications to Canadians
E-government is a Great Idea for City, County
Brazil CBD Engages In Board Changes To Lift Transparency
Bush to Sign e-Government Act
E-government Projects Aim to Simplify Paperwork for Feds
Row Forms Over Federal E-Government Projects
Move to Open Government Electronically
   
    E-gov XML Committee Formed
Global E-government 11 December
Global E-government
 
   
    Banker Cautions on Adoption of Corporate Governance Pattern
Nigeria, Sweden Hold Talks on Double Taxation
Public Finance in the Shrinking Nigerian Economy
   
    China to Accelerate Building of Public Finance System: Finance Minister
PFC's Public Issue Hits Ministerial Roadblock
Public Bank, Finance, Top Pick In Sector
China Bank Reform Cost Estimated At $373B: Goldman Sachs
A collapse of Fiscal Balance
Governance Panel Against Rotating Auditors
Public Finance Attractive with Dividends
Public Bank, Public Finance Offer Free Astro DMS to Their Customers
Karnataka Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Bill, 1999
CFO Code Calls for Champions of Integrity
Chinese Premier Urges Better Fiscal Management
   
    Hungary Says EU More Willing to Accept Its Tax-Break Terms
Italy Starts Europe's Largest Government Asset-Backed Debt Sale
Brown Backs Down in Row Over Europe Tax on Savings Sharp Improvement in Public Finances
Sharp Improvement in Public Finances
Sobotka Team Proposes Big Cut in Public Finance Deficit
EU Impasse Over New Savings Taxation Rules
Public-Finance Reform Debate Splits CSSD
   
    Top Tax Officials Go to U.S. to Calm Investors
Lahoud Stresses Transparency in Privatization Program
   
    State E-tax Plans Worry Taxpayer Groups
Bank-Holding Company PNC Adopts New Corporate-Governance Guidelines
Bush Reshuffle Puts Dividend Tax on Agenda
Consider the Effects of Taxation
Brazil: Palocci confirmed as Finance Minister
 
   
    The Private Sector And Nigerian Economy
Intel in Onne Port May Be Experimenting With Port Privatization
Private Sector Engine of East Africa's Economy
Orubebe Asks Delta Government to Halt Privatization of State Businesses
Achieving Good Corporate Governance
   
    Firm Advises on Road Privatization
States Add Impetus to Indian Privatization
House Committee Fine-Tunes Insurance Privatization Bill
New Zealand's Contact Energy Details Proposed Governance Changes
Pakistan To Appoint New Adviser On Privatization
India Shares End Down; Profit-Taking, Privatization Comments
Indian State-Run Cos -2: Pace Of Privatization May Slow
CEO: The Fulcrum Of Good Governance
Pakistan State Oil/Privatization -3: News Depresses Shrs
Senate Probes Privatization Program
Panel Drafts Plan to Push Code of Ethics
Sri Lanka Govt/IFC/Comml Bank -2: Ongoing Privatization
Indonesia Boosts Privatization With Indosat Sale
Government Committed To Privatization Programme
   
    Best of Welsh Entrepreneurship
Russia Sells $775 Mln Lukoil Stake in Biggest Offer
Cesky Telecom Privatization Stalls
Berezovsky Won't Succeed in Liberal Russia Privatization - Party Heads
Privatization: Tremonti, Some Have Damaged the Country
Fraport AG Leads The Way In Corporate Governance
Central Bank Meddles in Historic Privatization Deal
State Budget Gains More than $100 Million from Privatization
Russian Privatization Revenues Exceed Plan by 12% in 2002
   
    Mazaheri Seeks Support for Government Privatization Program
Basic Requirements to Enhance Private Sector's Role in Egypt's Economy
Iran Determined to Pursue Privatization, says MP
Privatization Objectives Not Fully Achieved: Official
Privatization Plans Sign of Confidence in Secondary Markets
State Starts Discussing Discount Bank Privatization
STC Set to Launch Massive Privatization Sell-off
   
    Harris Lauds Privatization in Montreal Speech
Problematic Privatization
Privatizing the Public Sector
Health Officials Heckled Over Hospital Privatization
New corporate governance rules to affect NYSE
Only Five S&P 500 Firms Get Top Governance Rating
Rethinking Snail Mail In 21st Century
Privatization Often is Not a Good Idea
Bellin Unveils Privatization Plan
Communicating Corporate Governance Via the Web
Study Examines Privatization of Child Welfare System
 

Government Faces Tricky E-government Transition

Majid Mowzer, divisional director sales of Metrofile Cape, part of the MGX Group, has warned that the transition to e-government will be challenging and will not happen overnight. Speaking yesterday at the opening of the government's three-day e-government conference in Cape Town, Mowzer said: "We must remember that the e-word doesn't mean an instant change from old systems to this new electronic world. This is an ongoing exercise whereby systems need to be evaluated, new architectures designed, processes modelled, infrastructure built and staff trained." Mowzer said that during this building phase, one of the challenges would be to adhere to governance requirements knowing that information may reside in a combination of legacy and new systems. "Adherence to e-governance translates directly to availability of and access to all requisite information, regardless of where that information may sit within the various departments. E-governance also means ensuring that as new methods of conducting business are adopted, so the back-end processes must be implemented to secure and protect that information for the period required by legislation. The requirement to understand and then comply with corporate governance is a pressing issue.

Mowzer added that access to information would increasingly become a focus area, not only to be compliant, but also to service an increasingly computer-literate customer base. "As government, business and private individuals become more computer-literate and -enabled, so the need for client self-service increases. An interesting challenge is to balance the demands of a few very literate, very demanding customers, with a majority who will still take some time to move to the electronic world. This may mean duplicate systems, with information stored in different forms - paper reports and invoices for many, electronic bill presentment and payment for some." Mowzer also pointed out that achieving e-governance would require a significant mindset change among employees and customers. "Implementing new systems is 10% about technology - the rest is ensuring that the people who will use the technology are adequately trained and comfortable with moving to the new ways. Technology change requires organisational change - new processes require buy-in from staff and other stakeholders." Another challenge, he said, would be to satisfy political agendas and social needs, at the same time as moving into a more technological world. "The process needs to be carefully managed to ensure that introduction of technology doesn't lead to reduced employment rates." Mowzer said that in spite of the major challenges facing the government, it was to be commended on the steps that had already been taken as far as legislation was concerned.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa - 30 November 2002

Drink Ban After Seychelles Poll Violence Kills One

Victoria - Police banned the sale of alcohol near polling stations as Seychelles parliamentary elections began on Wednesday after one person was killed in brawling between supporters of rival parties. ''The measure is necessary to assist in the orderly conduct of elections,'' said senior police officer Andre Valmont, who added that one person was stabbed to death in fighting at the weekend between supporters of rival political parties. About 62,350 voters around the Indian Ocean archipelago began electing a 25-seat parliament in a contest in which the ruling Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF) of President Albert Rene faces a tough challenge from the opposition Seychelles National Party (SNP. Valmont said police would not allow alcohol to be sold or drunk near polling stations during the three-day voting period from Wednesday to Friday. The authorities want to avoid the chaotic fist fights between drunken youths seen at previous elections. The SPPF had a majority in the last parliament, but opposition parties have been encouraged by Rene's relatively poor showing in last year's presidential elections, in which he won 54 percent of the vote against 45 percent for SNP leader Wavel Ramkalawan. Each party has fielded 25 candidates in the parliamentary polls. Ruling party supporters were optimistic after holding huge rallies over the weekend addressed by Rene. ''I feel assured we are going to win,'' said SPPF supporter Marie-Josee Edmond. The government has declared a three-day national holiday after the announcement of the results, which is expected to take place late on Friday.

From MSNBC, 4 December 2002

Government Approves New Organic Law

Luanda - The Council of Ministers Monday approved the law decree that establishes the new Government's structure, clarifies its leadership and defines framework of power sharing between the President and the Prime Minister. A press note from the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers issued at the end of the first meeting of the newly sworn-in Government, reveals that the sharing of competences between the Head of State and the Prime Minister is grounded on the Supreme Court's Judgement on that matter and what the Constitution states. The diploma creates the post of Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, the entity which ensures the execution and coordination of Government's economic and financial policies and is the main interlocutor with the international financial institutions. According to the law-decree, were also created the Ministries of Education, of Family and Promotion of Women, of Culture, of Urbanism and Environment, of Public Works and of Fisheries. The Council of Ministers also approved another law decree that changes the composition and the functioning regime of the Standing Commision of the Council of Ministers. Under this new rule, the Standing Commision is now the institution in charge of monitoring and ensuring the implementation of the Council of Ministers' recommendations with regard to special programmes leading to national reconciliation and population resettlement. Other Standing Commission's duties will be to monitor and ensure the execution of Government's deliberations concerning social reintegration of ex-soldiers, war disabled, abandoned children, as well as the relaunching of internal production and the rehabilitation of social and productive infrastructures. Under that diploma, the Ministers of Industry, Fisheries, Geology and Mining and of Social Communication are also members of the Government's Standing Commission. The Ministers of Defense, Interior, Justice, Planning, Finances, Foreign Affairs, Territory Administration, Assistence and Social Reinsertion, Public Administration, Employment and Social Security are already members. The Cabinet Ministers also approved the law decree on the organic statute of the Prime Minister's office.

From AllAfrica.com, 10 December 2002

Promote Federalism, Mutebi Tells Baganda

Kampala - Kabaka Ronald Mutebi has advised the people of Buganda to win the minds of other people in Uganda on contentious issues like federalism that they so much cherish if they are to be included in a revised national constitution. Mutebi was receiving a draft document of the views from the people in Buganda, at his Banda palace on Thursday. The report is to be revised before a final document is presented to the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) on January 28. Mutebi said Baganda should not seek federalism in isolation of other Ugandans as was the case in 1994 and 1995 when people believed that federalism was only a Buganda issue. He said federalism was not only good for Uganda but for all nations that cherished peace. He also asked the Government to respect the people's views as they are presented to the CRC. The Chairman of the 10-member Buganda Constitutional Review Commission, J.W. Katende, handed over a light blue manila file which contained three huge bundles of paper to the Kabaka. In his seven-minute address, the Kabaka said the function was historical in that the views from the people in Buganda would be addressed and given the due respect and the seriousness they deserve. He said Ugandans had high respect for agreements and that is why the Europeans made several agreements with Baganda and Ugandans which they never defied. "The people in Buganda are not contented with the 1995 Constitution which left out many of their views," he said.aid Ugandans had high respect for agreements and that is why the Europeans made several agreements with Baganda and Ugandans which they never defied. "The people in Buganda are not contented with the 1995 Constitution which left out many of their views," he said.

From AllAfrica.com, by Josephine Maseruka, 23 December 2002

 

E-governance Policy by March

New Delhi - The Department of Information Technology (DIT) will finalise the agenda for national e-governance policy by the end of the current fiscal. DIT is hopeful of finalising the agenda for the e-governance policy by the end of March 2003, sources told PTI on Sunday. It assumes importance in the context of Communications and IT Minister Pramod Mahajan's recent announcement that he would take it up with the Finance Minister to make the current three per cent budget allocation to IT in all government departments mandatory. The agenda, which will chart a roadmap for policy and projects, will see to it that once the basic infrastructure is in place, subsequent action could take place, they said. It is important to have a policy first and then keep looking at the required changes as and when warranted, sources said, adding the agenda would include technology standards, funding mechanism, HRD strategy playing the role of indicators to the states. DIT has a Rs 70-crore budget for the current fiscal and significant amount of this budget has been spent already on various projects taken up in coordination with several states. E-governance cannot be enforced by DIT on the states, therefore, while they are free to draw their own e-governance policies, they can improvise or move along with the national policy. Currently, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Manipur, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are among the states which have e-governance policies of their own and companies like Microsoft and IBM are betting big on this particular segment.

From Economic Times, India, 30 November 2002

Sri Lanka: World Bank to Support Country's Economic Reform Agenda

Washington - Sri Lanka's efforts to improve the quality of life of its people and to secure lasting peace will receive support from a US$15 million credit approved today by the World Bank. The financing will help the government implement a broad economic reform program aimed at modernizing and invigorating the economy and expanding the role of the private sector, putting the country on the path of higher economic growth and faster poverty reduction. "The Government's new economic strategy, 'Regaining Sri Lanka', is bold and far reaching," said Peter Harrold, World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka. "Our goal is to provide the support needed to translate that framework into reality on the ground." A key aspect of the government's plan is to introduce greater private sector participation in all areas of the economy, thereby decreasing public subsidies to inefficient state-owned entities and freeing up resources for priority social needs such as health care and education. "By allowing the creativity and competition of the private sector to improve services, the government is opening the door to a better standard of living for the people of this country," said Harrold. "These reforms will also allow the kind of sustained economic growth needed to reduce poverty and remove the social and economic tensions that exacerbate civil conflict. The peace process and the government's economic reforms are mutually dependent and are equally fundamental to Sri Lanka's future prosperity."

The World Bank financing will be provided in the form of an Economic Reform Technical Assistance Project, which will work to increase the government's overall expertise and ability to carry out far-reaching economic reforms; provide specific support for reforms in various sectors such as transport, telecommunications, petroleum, power, and water supply and sanitation services; support reforms in the financial sector, particularly state-owned banks and the insurance industry; improve government's ability to build nation-wide understanding of and consensus on reforms; and establish an effective regulator to ensure a level playing field, fair competition and protection of consumer interests as private sector activity grows. The new project is expected to support government's efforts to concentrate on where it is most effective, leaving other work to be done by the private sector operating under government oversight and regulation. Besides the government's new economic strategy, "Regaining Sri Lanka", World Bank assistance is also guided by Sri Lanka's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, which was produced by the government based on extensive consultations with civil society, donors and other interested stakeholders. The credit is being provided by the World Bank Group's International Development Association (IDA), it carries no interest but includes a small (0.75 percent) service fee. The credit has 40 years to maturity with a 10-year grace period. The total project cost is US$18.75 million, of which IDA will provide US$15 million and the government will provide US$3.75 million.

From World Bank Group, DC, 11 December 2002

Government Makes Solid Progress in Face of Difficult Conditions

The Timor-Leste and Development Partners Meeting held in Dili this week brought together the Government, international financial institutions and key partner nations as well as members of civil society and the private sector for a frank and open discussion about progress against the key deliverables outlined in the Government's National Development Plan (NDP). The Government of Timor-Leste's partnership approach to development includes not only strong links to its international development partners overseas, but also to local civil society groups and the private sector. Prime Minister Mari Bim Amude Alkatiri, stated "the challenges we face are daunting but we are determined to improve the living standards of our people and to reduce poverty." World Bank Vice President of East Asia and the Pacific, Mr. Jemal-ud-din Kassum, commended the Government on making substantial progress against goals laid out in the NDP. He also thanked the Government and the people of Timor-Leste "for their commitment to our joint dream - a world free of poverty." "Timor-Leste has made extraordinary progress in the past three years, and we must remember that difficult events like those last week reflect the very real challenges of development in a new country. We have joined all of Timor-Leste's development partners in renewing our commitment to supporting action and results on the urgent priorities identified by Government," affirmed Mr. Kassum.

Participants in the meeting heard that in the six months since Independence, the Government had begun to put the NDP into action through the implementation of 128 programs. The key programs are budget-linked and have built-in performance criteria, ensuring accountability and transparency. Solid progress has also been made in education and health and in the legislative framework for the judiciary and private sector development. Moreover, the Government has maintained sound financial management systems. The meeting called for a strengthening of the judiciary and law and order - a necessary condition for economic development, investment and employment. A robust regulatory framework will enable an environment for the private sector to develop, stimulating both domestic and foreign investment - especially in the critical area of rural development and agriculture. Growth in employment opportunities will assist in the alleviation of poverty whilst enhancing social stability and contributing to the ongoing development of the nation. Other key priorities include accelerated service delivery to meet the basic needs of the community. The delegates commended the Government on the considerable achievements made in the power sector, but stressed the need to address cost recovery at the same time as improving power supply. The Government was encouraged to work on improving communication and coordination between the central administration and local communities to enable those living in the districts to play a greater role in the implementation of the NDP.

Mr. Xian Zhu, World Bank Director for Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands stated that "the Government should be very proud of its early achievements which are concrete and truly impressive". The Government's Ministry of Planning and Finance presented to the meeting a planning framework for the implementation of the NDP, laid out in what it termed 'building blocks'. Part of this process includes prioritizing and sequencing the programs and projects for the balance of the 5 year NDP. Each program will have clearly measurable targets and will be budget-linked. Each will also have a human resource development component. Conference delegates endorsed the Government planning framework approach and agreed to synchronize the timing of their country assistance strategies in line with the Government's planning timeframe. Delegates supported the need to prioritise capacity building and human resource development to match the needs of the NDP, as reflected in the Transitional Support Program (TSP). The TSP supports the implementation of the key priorities of the NDP, and, in its second year will be refocused on service delivery for basic needs in the districts and rural areas. Timor-Leste's Development Partners said they were prepared to explore ways to minimize the costs for government when dealing with multiple development agencies.

From World Bank Group, DC, 11 December 2002

LTTE Officials Study Swiss Federalism

A top level delegation of the Liberation Tigers this week visited Switzerland at the invitation of the government there to study the country's federal system, officials said. In a packed schedule, the Tiger delegation met with senior officials of the Swiss government, but squeezed in time to take a guided tour of Bern, they said. Following the historic agreement reached in Oslo last week with the Sri Lankan government - on internal self-determination in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka based on a federal structure - the Tamil delegation, led by the LTTE's Chief Negotiator and political advisor Anton Balasingham flew to Switzerland from Norway. The head of the LTTE's political wing, Mr. S. P. Tamilselvan and Special Commander Eastern Flank, Col Karuna were also part of the delegation, officials said reported London based Tamil Guardian newspaper. In Bern, the LTTE representatives met for two hours with a Swiss government delegation which included the Head of Political Department IV of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Peter Maurer, the Head of Political Division (Asia-Pacific), Ambassador Rodolphe Imhoof , Foreign Affairs Ministry official Marcus Heiniger and Swiss Economic Development Ministry official Verina Nosar. The LTTE delegation then met with the Director of the Resource Network for Conflict Studies and Transformation (RNCST), Dr. Norbert Ropers, and representatives of a Swiss mine-clearing NGO. After lunch, the visiting LTTE officials met the Head of the Political Affairs Directorate of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Blaise Godet after which they held two hours of discussions with Swiss constitutional experts, including the Vice-director of the Swiss Federal Office of Justice, Prof. Dr. Luzius Mader. As part of their official visit, the LTTE delegates were also taken on a sightseeing tour of Bern, including a stop at a cheese factory, officials said.

From TamilNet, Sri Lanka, 11 December 2002

WB May Give Structural Adjustment Loans to More States

New Delhi: Encouraged by the results of structural adjustment loans to Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, World Bank on Tuesday said it may give such loans to more states subject to their adhering to new guidelines issued by the Centre to carry forward reforms. "We are encouraged by the performance of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Discussions were on with Orissa for a similar loan and preliminary discussion have started for Punjab and Tamil Nadu," World Bank Country Director Michael F Cartar said. The performance of Uttar Pradesh, which has also taken a Structural Adjustment Loan from the World Bank, has been "less encouraging", he said. The recent guidelines issued by the Centre to State Governments makes it very clear that the loans would be available subject to their agreeing to reforms to generate primary and revenue surplus, limiting fiscal deficit to less than three per cent of state's GDP over three to five years. The guidelines also emphasises on measures to phased elimination of subsidies, commitment to improve user charges civil services reforms including reduction in cost of governance. Admitting that the Central Government has written to World Bank and Asian Development Bank recently regarding the new guidelines, Cartar, however, made it clear that the Centre has not refused to be a guarantor to state governments for such loans. In fact, Cartar said no State Government could get loans from international agencies without the Centre being a guarantor. Besides loans could not be given directly to them and they are always routed through the Centre.

Cartar underlined the need for states to ensure that the structural adjustment programmes were on track and are implemented as agreed upon. The guidelines, Carter said that "once the loan is put through and is under implementation where the adjustment programme of the state has fallen behind by six months or is unlikely to be pursued further, the adjustment programme could be called off and the remaining undisbursed assistance cancelled." Cartar said so far such a situation has not arisen. Of the three states which have taken such loans, the performance of two is encouraging while that of Uttar Pradesh is less encouraging. No state has come for review as yet, he added. The guidelines have become necessary as in the past, there has been no uniformity, he said adding hereafter it will ensure that certain common criteria as a pre-requisite for getting such loans from multilateral agencies. "Unless the states take steps to reform and implement them well, they would not get structural adjustment loans," he said adding it was in the interest of the states to peform after getting the loans, as otherwise they would move towards debt trap instead of improving growth.

From Times of India, India, 17 December 2002

Parliament nod for Freedom of Information Bill

New Delhi - Parliament today approved the Freedom of Information Bill, conferring statutory right to the citizens to access information from the Government. The Rajya Sabha today passed the Bill through a voice vote after it negatived amendments suggested by the Congress member, Prithviraj Chavan. The Lok Sabha had passed the Bill earlier this month. Piloting the bill, the Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pension, Vasundhara Raje, said the move would provide openness in Government functioning and promised that the effort was not a one-off measure but a "novel and far-reaching experiment" through which the Government would learn as it moved along. With the passage of the Bill, India would be among the 20 or so countries to have legislated a measure which was in the direction of providing transparency, openness and accountability in Government functioning. Responding to members' concern over a conflict with the Official Secrets Act, the absence of an independent appellate authority, excluding jurisdiction of courts and not having a penalty clause on officers who refuse or delay passing on the requisite information sought by citizens, the Minister allayed the fears stating that the Bill was not in conflict with the Act or the oath of secrecy taken by Ministers. She said that the two-tier departmental appellate authority was aimed to address grievances and in addition, the decision was open to challenge in the high courts and the Supreme Court. She said the Government proposed to amend the Conduct Rules for Civil Services so that departmental penalty could be imposed on erring officials. Earlier, members from across the political spectrum welcomed the Bill saying it would usher in transparency and a corruption- free administration.

Taking part in the discussion, the Congress leader, Pranab Mukherjee, said the Government should have included a penalty clause to penalise officials who wilfully held back information. He regretted that some of the recommendations of the Standing Committee chaired by him, which had studied the Bill, were not included. He said the Bill also did not provide for giving reasons for not disclosing a particular information. Chandra Kala Pandey (CPI-M) felt the list of exemptions in the Bill for not disclosing information defeated its purpose while R. Chandra Sekar Reddy (Telugu Desam) said the Bill was silent on the appointment of officials who would deal with the issue. P.G. Narayanan (AIADMK) saw the Bill as a vital component in democracy and one that could check a drift in the management of public affairs. Nominated member, Fali S. Nariman, said the Government should exercise caution and expressed apprehension that the right to inspect could lead to logistics problem and create havoc with government files. Another nominated member, Kuldip Nayar, said the Bill did not have enough transparency or accountability. He said already several States had enacted similar legislation which was working well. He also sought to know whether the Government would repeal or amend the Official Secrets Act after the passage of this Bill. Mr. Nayar also felt that since the court of appeals were with the Government, he saw no justification in barring the jurisdiction of courts. He also advocated penalty for delay or refusal to provide information and demanded an independent monitoring body with representatives drawn from various walks of life. Property Bill - PTI reports: Parliament approved a Bill to amend the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 to remove legal lacunae in its implementation regarding lease of immovable property for agricultural or manufacturing or any other purposes.

The Transfer of Property (Amendment) Bill 2002, already passed by the Lok Sabha, was approved by a voice vote in the Rajya Sabha after a brief discussion. Replying to the discussion, the Minister of State for Law and Justice, Ravi Shankar Prasad, assured the House that the amendment would enable people to avoid litigation. Evidence Bill - Parliament approved a Bill seeking to bar cross-examination of a rape victim on her character with the Rajya Sabha approving the measure by a voice vote. Replying to the Indian Evidence (Amendment) Bill, 2002, the Minister of State for Law, Ravi Shankar Prasad, said the Government would bring a comprehensive legislation, covering measures to check crime against women, based on the recommendations of a committee. The House also passed the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2002 without discussion. Competition Bill - The Lok Sabha passed a Bill to provide a new competition policy and a regulatory body to replace Monopoly and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission with the Government asserting under the new dispensation, MNCs would not be allowed to abuse market and indulge in unfair trade due to their size and financial muscle. The Competition Bill, 2001 was passed by a voice vote after the Finance Minister, Jaswant Singh, assured the House that the new measure was aimed at promoting investment and competition and would enable Indian companies to grow in size to become worldclass entities.

From The Hindu, India, 17 December 2002

SLFP Opposed to Federalism - General Secretary

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party will remain implacably opposed to the federal system in the North-East as agreed between the United National Front government and the LTTE, said Maithripala Sirisena, the SLFP general secretary and a member of parliament, speaking at a meeting of the party's youth wing in Pollanaruwa, today. He said, "Sri Lanka is a unitary country. We will never allow the federal system in this country. Under the guise of peace, federalism is just an attempt to divide the country and allow the North-East to separate. "Currently, there is a separate government in the North-East. A separate Army, Police, Courts and Banks are operating there. The judicial administration of that part of the country is under the control of the LTTE. What else is needed? In such a situation, the current proposal for federalism is just to facilitate separation. Our party will never accept this. This will only lead to the division of the country. The UNF government is trying to change the unitary state that has been maintained for many years and is helping the LTTE to create a separate country. "In the past, the president had many executive powers. But currently many of them are powers in name only. In the future, the president may have to use her authority, otherwise the division of the country will become a dangerous reality." Many prominent members of the party, and members of the party's youth wing were present at this meeting.

From TamilNet, Sri Lanka, 24 December 2002

 

E-government Plans Boost Public Sector's IT Spending in Western Europe

Budget constraints are not expected to cause major IT spending decreases beyond the short term in public sector organizations in Western European countries, according to a recent IDC survey. In spite of the negative impact of the current economic uncertainty on total short term spending, the Western European public sector is expected to experience stronger growth compared to most other industries. According to IDC, this growth is mainly driven by the need to both improve internal efficiency and meet customer satisfaction standards that other industries have already achieved. "Driven by the eEurope action plan and national modernisation programs, public sector organisations are engaged in a transformation process that is expect to foster better services for constituents/patients/students and at the same time reduce spending in public services. Agencies must improve quality, accessibility, and the responsiveness of service delivery and grow efficiency and effectiveness of internal processes," said Massimiliano Claps, Research Analyst with IDC's European Vertical Markets group. In terms of IT budget expenditure, survey results suggest that local governments are more optimistic than central agencies, especially in the UK, where local councils are currently investing significant funds to develop electronic front and back end solutions. Education institutions also have a positive outlook on their IT budgets, especially in France, the UK, and the Netherlands. Security technologies, systems infrastructure software, collaborative technologies and knowledge management applications and database/datawarehouse solutions attract the attention of most organizations for future investments.

Industry specific solutions are also very important, particularly to local government agencies. As well analysing IT spending and enterprise solutions trends in the Western European public sector, specific IDC reports focus on hot topics such as CRM, security, mobility, and new technologies. CRM solutions still have to start deploying their full potential in the public sector. Drivers of growth are the expected benefits in terms of customer service and response and accuracy of information and data. The adoption of security technology is very high in the public sector across all surveyed countries, and investment plans to increase protection against virtual and physical attacks to organizations are aggressive. The increasing reliance on network solutions and virtual systems to interact with constituents/patients/students, and the data intensity and sensitivity of many of these applications (e.g. citizens/patients records) are driving companies to pay more attention to the issue of IT security. Many public sector agencies already have or plan to have mobile solutions. The most aggressive plans concern hot desking solutions, XML applications, and mobile collaborative technologies. In the area of new technologies, many public sector agencies - especially in the government segment - plan to invest in voice over IP and IP VPNs. Healthcare organisations are focusing on wireless LAN while peer-to-peer computing and rich media video streaming represent technology areas of major interest to education institutions.

From Europemedia.net, Netherlands, 03 December 2002

Major Public Policy Review Recommended

A wide ranging review of public policy areas has been recommended by the independent "three wise men" who advised the government in the run up to the Budget. The committee advising the Finance Minister, which comprised three former top level civil servants - Kevin Bonner, Maurice O'Connell and Dermot Quigley, warned that the present rate of increase in public expenditure was "unsustainable". It warned that savings on the scale required for 2003 could not be achieved without difficult decisions and some major policy changes. However, if corrective action is taken, it estimated savings in the order of E900m could be gained in 2003. To this end, it recommended that charges for drinking water should be considered, and that reform of the CIE group should be a priority. It also suggested that all government pay-outs should to be reviewed to see if a more focused approach to policy was necessary. This would include taking a fresh look at the universality of child benefit, a further increase in the drugs refund threshold, and medical cards for over 70s. It also recommended a review of pupil-teacher ratios and the possibility of further increases in third level fees. he committee said that means testing should be introduced for home improvement grants for the elderly and for people with disabilities, and that there should be a rationalisation of schemes to promote social inclusion. A cap at existing levels on employment in the public service was recommended - a measure which Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy announced in yesterday's Budget. It also said that Benchmarking awards should be phased "to reflect current pressures on the Exchequer". It also called for an assessment of the number of army barracks, garda stations, schools and health service facilities. And, it said the sale of state assets should be extended and co-ordinated. It also proposed that all semi-state groups should have to pay a dividend to the government. Regarding the National Development Plan (NDP), the committee recommended the phasing in of capital transport programmes over a longer period due to the changed economic environment, both globally and domestically.

From Online.ie, Ireland, 05 December 2002

EU Adopts Merger Control Reform

The European Commission has adopted a comprehensive merger control reform package designed to make it easier for companies to defend mergers in Europe. The European Union's antitrust chief Mario Monti unveiled the reforms Wednesday in Brussels. The reforms will make it more difficult for merger deals to be blocked and will give merging companies more flexibility to justify their actions. In addition, national antitrust officials will investigate more mergers instead of the Brussels-based EU authorities. The proposals aim, in part, to offset the growing perception that European antitrust enforcers have become too rigid in the way they assess corporate deals. Some information for this report provided by AP.

From Voice of America, 11 December 2002

Public Policy Research

The Market Research Society (MRS) in the UK is to host a topical new conference on public policy research. Entitled 'Challenges and Opportunities in Public Policy Research', the aim of the event is to explore how the government agenda for policy and research is changing and what implications this has for those involved in research. The conference, which is targeted both at research practitioners and those who are responsible for commissioning, managing and using policy-related research, is expected to attract a significant number of delegates. It will be co-chaired by BMRB's Managing Director, Malcolm Rigg, and Tim Oates, Head of Research at QCA. The themes to be addressed will be:·Better policy-making? Evidence and values in strategic decision-making;·Maximising the impact of Government research? Government contributions to the evidence base; Fit for purpose? Understanding the value of different methodologies. The conference will include keynote speeches and case studies covering different aspects of policy research. Afternoon workshops will provide the opportunity for debate and discussion. Amongst the high-profile speakers who will address the event are Len Cook, Office of National Statistics; Phil Davies, Cabinet Office; Nick Moon, NOP; Ben Page, MORI; Adam Rose, Central Office of Information; Lesley Saunders, General Teaching Council for England; Meg Wiggins, Institute of Education; Keith Bolling, BMRB; and Hugh Willbourn, Corr Willbourn. Malcolm Rigg, Managing Director of BMRB who will co-Chair the conference, commented, 'The policy research agenda has changed substantially in recent years. This MRS event will provide a valuable forum for reviewing and discussing the implications of these changes for social research. Public policy research is a vital area of research activity and we are delighted to be hosting this conference. We look forward to welcoming delegates to this event. It will bring together research practitioners and users from disparate fields and undoubtedly stimulate lively debate.' 'Challenges and Opportunities in Public Policy Research' takes place on 12th February 2003 in London. For further information visit www.mrs.org.uk

From Daily Research News Online, UK, by Butch Fernandez and Lenie Lectura, 13 December 2002

Federalism: Berlusconi Says Reforms Will Pass any Vote

Silvio Berlusconi is certain that the devolution program will be approved by the government coalition in as much as it is part of the electoral manifesto commitments. Only days away from the Senate debate on the issue the prime minister - speaking in Skopje - denied that such a reform would be approved thanks to an overwhelming majority and without accounting for the views of the opposition. "The centre-left coalition - he pointed out - launched a hurried reform plan with a five vote margin in its favour, we have a 100 vote margin...". Berlusconi said that as far as the "majority of Italians are concerned this is a natural step forward" also in view of the fact that "the most advanced democracies have chosen the federalist model". "If we were to deal with an opposition that took the good of the country to heart we would easily find an agreement - the prime minister added - but the current political climate says otherwise". "It is no coincidence that the Pope has called for greater solidarity and concord between political parties, I wish that could be so...", he added with a sigh.

From AGI, 15 November 2002

Niznanský Back Behind Public Administration Wheel

Viktor Niznanský as of January 2003 returns to the post of coordinator of public administration reform, which he resigned in 2001 after the previous parliament rejected his reform strategy. Niznanský said he would not fight to have his original plan followed, which argued for 12 rather than 8 regional governments, but would help implement the current government's programme statement, which calls for greater decentralisation.

From Slovak Spectator, Slovakia, 19 December 2002

 

U.S. Plans 5-Year Global Warming Study

White House Plans 5-Year Global Warming Study, Critics Say It's Unneeded - The White House is putting together a five-year plan for more research on climate change, a move that critics say leaves hard decisions on reducing global warming until after President Bush leaves office. The Bush administration strategy being debated at a three-day conference this week refocuses a 13-year-old research program on providing better economic projections of potential climate policy changes and tighter coordination of efforts by more than a dozen federal agencies. Administration officials said their hope is that as further research is done, still-developing technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells will emerge in practical uses to allow the United States to address the threats of global warming without wreaking havoc on the nation's economy. "The science program is kind of the ground we're laying here for the work that will go on on the technology side," Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham told reporters Tuesday. John H. Marburger III, the president's science and technology adviser, said the White House wants better data that can be used to shape a "clearly articulated policy ... that doesn't put the economy at risk." The new research plan asserts that people are clearly agents of environmental change but it is still unclear how much human activities are causing changes such as global warming. For many climate experts, though, it reopens questions that most scientists considered already fairly settled. Critics say the plan also largely ignores decades of international work into climate change led by the United Nations and the Clinton administration's published findings in 2000 from a decade-long federal assessment of potential impacts of climate change around the United States.

"The plan would be a great plan if it were written five or 10 years ago," said Janine Bloomfield, a senior scientist for Environmental Defense, an advocacy group. "But we've learned a lot since then." "I don't think the science plan really should be used as an excuse to delay tough actions," said Peter Frumhoff, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' global environment program. "If you're taking a precautionary approach to climate change, you'll both do research and you'll take actions to minimize the risks of really serious consequences." Bush has advocated voluntary measures for industry to cut smokestack and tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that many scientists blame for warming the atmosphere like a greenhouse. Some 1,200 scientists and government officials were gathering Tuesday for the start of the three-day meeting at a downtown hotel to hear about the White House draft strategy and to suggest changes before it is published in final form by next April. "The president has accepted the notion that some action has to be made," Marburger said."This is not a no-action, no-decision situation," echoed James R. Mahoney, the assistant commerce secretary who directs U.S. climate research efforts. President Bush's plan for slowing the rate of growth in heat-trapping gas emissions calls for increased federal spending on science and technology and for industry to voluntarily reduce air pollution. Shortly after taking office, Bush rejected an international treaty negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 mandating reduction of those gases by industrial nations. On the Net:U.S. research plan.

From ABC News-Politics, 4 December 2002

Bush Signs Bill to Boost Cyber Security

President Bush on Wednesday signed a bill authorizing $900 million in grants to spur federal agencies, industry and universities to devote more energy to cyber security research. The five-year program would require the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to bring industry and academic experts together to fund new research and to help attract top researchers to the field. It also would encourage efforts to recruit new students into cyber security programs. Senate proponents of the legislation were Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and George Allen, R-Va.

From Nando Times-Technology, 27 November 2002

Bush Signs Small Webcasters Legislation

President Bush has signed legislation that will resolve the dispute between record labels and small webcasters over the royalty rates for copyrighted music. The original law set a flat rate per song streamed, but took no account of the size of the company streaming the material. Small webcasters complained that a rule setting out retroactive payments for songs going back to 1998, would put many of them out of business. This complaint led to Congress stepping in and drafting this new legal agreement, which gives Sound Exchange, the music industry's main royalty collector, the right to negotiate individual contracts with small and non-profit webcasters. The new legislation also gives non-profit webcasters a six-month grace period for royalty payments.

From Europemedia.net, Netherlands, 6 December 2002

New Legislation Enhances Access to Justice, Modernizes Outdated Laws

Toronto - The Eves government is keeping its promise to modernize outdated laws and enhance access to justice with the passage of Bill 213, the Justice Statute Law Amendment Act, 2002, Attorney General David Young announced today. The legislation was approved by the legislature in an all-party vote of 53-0. "This legislation will allow the creation of clear and comprehensive standards for the preparation of contingency fee agreements. This will enhance access to justice while protecting clients," said Young. "The cost of going to court should not be a barrier to justice, and by modernizing and clarifying outdated laws, we are making the justice system work for the people of Ontario." The legislation regulates contingency fees in legal matters. Contingency fee agreements tie legal fees to the outcome of a case. Under such arrangements, clients pay a pre-arranged fee only in the event of a successful lawsuit. The legislation also consolidates 69 existing limitations periods into two clear time limits for initiating most lawsuits. "The international community and Ontario investors expect high standards in the wake of the Enron scandal," said Young. "This legislation is another step taken by the Eves government to ensure that Ontario remains a world leader when it comes to public accounting standards." This legislation provides a principled framework for Ronald J. Daniels, dean of the University of Toronto's Faculty of Law, whom the government has appointed to make recommendations on a more modern, effective and transparent licensing regime based on high, internationally recognized standards. The act also broadens eligibility for public accountancy licenses, to include members of the three major accounting bodies - Chartered Accountants, Certified General Accountants and Certified Management Accountants - who meet prescribed high standards.

From Canada NewsWire, 6 December 2002

Keep Eco-Theology Out of Public Policy

Is nature just a benign creature or a cold-blooded killer? The answer to this question is important not just as an intellectual exercise, but because it has profound implications for what kind of public policies we adopt. That, in turn, will have a very real impact on our standard of living and that of our children and grandchildren. Today, many people tend to romanticize nature and all things "natural" and vilify anything artificial. In short, whatever happens in nature is fine, but if we humans do anything to alter it, it is considered a crime against the natural environment. There are many examples of this kind of wrong-headed thinking. Pristine wilderness areas should be preserved at all costs. Economic development is a necessary evil at best. Natural foods are far better for the body and soul than processed food. Biotechnology is a monster that needs to be kept bottled up in a laboratory. Vaccines created in laboratories should be avoided. At the bottom of this kind of thinking is the notion that human beings are quite apart from nature rather than part of it. That view, says Professor Anthony O'Hear, a renowned philosopher at the University of Bradford, is simply mistaken and dangerous for humanity. As he succinctly puts it in a monograph entitled Nonsense About Nature, it is the instinct of human beings to "use [their] intelligence to change the way things are prior to [their] coming on the scene." Thank God our ancestors did precisely that. If not, life would, as the great English political theorist Thomas Hobbes described it in the 17th century, be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." The natural environment unleashes a host of weapons that kill us prematurely.

These include bacteria, viruses, toxins, cold snaps, heat waves, hurricanes and earthquakes to mention just a few. To protect us against nature's equivalent of a handgun, machine gun or B-2 stealth bomber, our forefathers developed defences. They include chemicals to get rid of bacteria in our drinking water, vaccines to kill viruses, herbicides and food processing techniques to make our food safe and tasty, insulation and central heating to keep us warm on cold winter days, air conditioning to keep us cool during summer heat waves, radar systems and seismic measurement machines that give us advance warning of nature's many vagaries. These artificial things have made life way better for humanity, particularly for those living in the developed world. To make it even better here and give a chance to those folks in the developing world to enjoy the benefits of technological progress and economic development, we have to continue to alter nature as we see fit. Just like an animal in the wild is instinctually on guard against any predators, so are men and women. We, being blessed with a higher level of intellect, will always find sophisticated ways of making life safer and better. The Aristotelian view, as Professor O'Hear points out, "sees man as part of nature and hence our doings as part of nature." And he goes on to say, "all creatures change their environment simply by existing and taking sustenance and shelter from it."

As Professor O'Hear puts it, "evolution inspires no thoughts of an ecological Golden Era. Species are not static, nor are their environments, nor is what conduces to the flourishing of some individual or species necessarily good for their co-existents or for the environment as constituted at any particular time." In short, there is no basis in evolutionary theory to view human beings with contempt, as many environmentalists and politicians do. Only by recognizing that humans are part of nature can we pursue the kinds of policies that will make life better for the world's 6 billion people. Practically, that means allowing technological progress and economic development to occur. Specifically, we should find ways of producing more fossil-fuel-powered electricity relatively cheaply, we should allow mining to take place with the environment in mind, we should log our forests in a sustainable manner, we must engage in aquaculture with relevant safeguards in place, we should build roads and highways so transportation is safe and efficient, we should find cheaper and more comfortable private modes of transportation, we should embrace life-saving biotechnology and we should encourage the introduction of new medicines and medical devices that help us enjoy a better quality of life. For all of these things to occur, we must stop worshipping at the altar of eco-theology. And we should do our best to tame that cold-blooded killer called nature so that we can delay meeting our creator as long as possible.

From National Post, Canada , by Fazil Mihlar, 6 December 2002

President Bush Signs Child Internet Safety Legislation

Remarks by the President at Bill Signing of the Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002 - The Roosevelt Room - The President: Good morning. Thank you. Please be seated. Thank you for coming. Legislation I sign today will create a new place on the Internet that is safe for our children to learn and to play and to explore. Dot Kids will be part of the U.S. country domain on the Internet. It will function much like the children's section of the library, where parents feel comfortable allowing their children to browse. Be a safe place for children to go. This bill is a wise and necessary step to safeguard our children while they use computers and discover the great possibilities of the Internet. Every site designated .kids will be a safe zone for children. The sites will be monitored for content, for safety, and all objectionable material will be removed. Online chat rooms and instant messaging will be prohibited, unless they can be certified as safe. The websites under this new domain will not connect a child to other online sites outside the child-friendly zone. I want to thank the supporters of this good piece of legislation. I want to thank them for their hard work - Representatives Shimkus, Upton, and Markey, as well as Senators Ensign, Dorgan and Fitzgerald. I want to thank them for coming. I am going to ask them to come up in just a second as I sign this piece of legislation. All of here today share the same goals: We must give our nation's children every opportunity to grow in knowledge without undermining their character. We must give parents effective tools to help their children learn. And we must be on the side of our parents as they work hard to raise their children. We must give our parents the peace of mind knowing their children are learning in safety. This act of Congress helps us meet these goals. I appreciate you all coming today. It's my honor now to sign the Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act. Will the members join me. (The bill is signed.) (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: I'll answer a few questions. Fournier, I may answer a few questions. You're stuck in a mini-press conference here. Yes? Q Sir, can you tell me specifically what the inspectors have or haven't been able to do, what they've uncovered or what they haven't uncovered that leads you to believe the signs are not encouraging that they're doing their job? THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Well, I can tell you this. This isn't about inspectors. The issue is whether Saddam Hussein will disarm. Will he disarm in the name of peace. And we expect him to fully comply. And one of my concerns is that in the past he has shot at our airplanes - anybody who shoots at U.S. airplanes, or British airplanes, is not somebody who looks like he's interested in complying with disarmament. He wrote letters, stinging rebukes to what the U.N. did. He was very critical of the U.S. and Britain. That doesn't appear to be somebody who was that anxious to comply. But we've just started the process. And one of the things that I want to continue to remind Americans, this is not a game that we're playing of hide and seek. This is our attempt to work with the world community to create peace. And the best way for peace is for Mr. Saddam Hussein to disarm. It's up to him to make his decision. Yes. Q Kofi Annan said Iraq is cooperating. Is there some daylight between you and - THE PRESIDENT: We've been at this - what - five days. This is after 11 years of deceit and defiance. And the issue, again, is not hide and seek; the issue is whether or not Saddam Hussein will disarm. And soon he'll be making a declaration of whether he has any weapons. For years he said he didn't have any weapons. And now we'll see whether or not he does. And if he does, we expect them to be completed destroyed and a full accounting. And I remind our citizens that the U.N. Security Council voted overwhelmingly, 15 to nothing, for this approach we've taken. Our NATO allies have joined us, and we all expect Saddam Hussein to disarm. Stretch. Q To follow on what Steve just asked you, do you disagree with the Secretary General's relatively optimistic take on things?

THE PRESIDENT: What I agree with is that we've been doing this for five days, after 11 years of deception and deceit. The process is just beginning. And the world will determine soon whether or not Saddam Hussein is going to do what we've asked, which is, in the name of peace, fully disarm. This is not a game anymore of, well, I'll say one thing and do another. We expect him to disarm. And now it's up to him to do so. And time will tell whether or not he is willing to do so. Yes. Q A 95-year-old woman was killed on the West Bank yesterday, and aid groups say that malnutrition among Palestinian children is reaching crisis proportions. What are you doing to alleviate that suffering? And are you concerned that the desperation of the Palestinian community is driving them into the arms of al Qaeda? THE PRESIDENT: I am concerned that terrorists have disrupted the ability for peace-loving people to move a process forward. I am concerned about that. And our country will continue to fight terror and join our allies in fighting terror wherever it exists. And so I fully understand the Israeli government's attempt to stamp out terror, because we'll never have peace so long as terrorists are able to disrupt. I'm also concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people. I'm concerned about suffering that has taken place as a result of the activities of terrorists. We're working with the Sharon government to allow for tax receipts to be redistributed amongst the Palestinian people. And there are a lot of non-governmental organizations doing work within the Palestinian Territory to make sure that people don't starve. But the net effect of terrorism is to not only stop the peace process, but is to cause suffering amongst all the people of the region. And that's why our war against terror must - must remain steadfast and strong, wherever terror exists. Yes, Terry. Oh, you just asked a question. Q I'll ask another one - THE PRESIDENT: No, that's fine, that's plenty. (Laughter.) You did a wonderful job. It was such a great question, I already forgot it. Next. (Laughter.) Q Are you concerned about al Qaeda on the West Bank?

THE PRESIDENT: I am concerned about al Qaeda anywhere. I believe that al Qaeda was involved in the African bombings, in Kenya. I believe al Qaeda hates freedom. I believe al Qaeda will strike anywhere they can in order to disrupt a civil society. And that's why we're on the hunt. And we're making progress, slowly but surely we're dismantling the al Qaeda network. It doesn't matter how long it takes to find them, we'll find them. And we're going to bring them to justice. And the good news is, is that the free world is - recognizes the threats that we all face, and therefore, we're more bound together than we've ever been, in cutting off money, in sharing intelligence, and bringing people to justice. And it's a dangerous world we live in, because there's still terrorists on the loose. And this is the great charge we have; this is the first war of the 21st century, and it's a different kind of war. It's a different kind of war than our fathers and grandfathers fought. It requires the same amount of courage and the same amount of focus. And this government will continue to provide that focus. Q Sir, there's a report out today that shows a sharp deterioration in public attitudes abroad about this country, particularly among Muslim nations and key allies like Turkey and Pakistan. Are you concerned, sir, that your message that this is - that the anti-terror campaign is not a war against Islam is somehow not getting to those people?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I haven't seen the report. As you know, I remain skeptical about polls. I don't run my administration based upon polls and focus groups. I'm running this war against terror based upon freedom and doing my obligation to make sure our children can grow up in a free and safe society. I hope the message that we fight not a religion, but a group of fanatics which have hijacked a religion is getting through. I understand the propaganda machines are cranked up in the international community that paints our country in a bad light. We'll do everything we can to remind people that we've never been a nation of conquerors; we're a nation of liberators. And I would ask the skeptics to look at Afghanistan, where not only this country rout the Taliban, which was one of the most barbaric regimes in the history of mankind, but thanks to our strength and our compassion, many young girls now go to school for the first time. General McNiel, who is our general in Afghanistan, was in today in the Situation Room and gave me a briefing about the human condition in Afghanistan. It's improving dramatically. There are projects after projects after projects of going forward with the United States and other NGOs are involved to improve the human condition. The Muslim world will eventually realize, if they don't now, that we believe in freedom, and we respect all individuals - unlike the killers, we value each life in America. Everybody is precious. Everybody counts. And to the extent that we need to continue to make that message work, we will try to do so. But the best thing we can do is to show results from our activities, and be able to point to the fact that not only did we liberate Afghanistan from the Taliban, we remain in place, with a lot of aid and a lot of help. And the suffering of the human condition is improving, and suffering is less because of the United States of America. Thank you all. Thanks for coming. (Applause.)

From Whitehouse.gov (press release), 4 December 2002

E-government Bill Wins Praise from Tech Officials

Privacy advocates and technology industry groups are hailing the passage of legislation aimed at boosting online government services. They see the measure, which President Bush is expected to sign before year's end, as a way to cement the government's commitment to modernization and as a boon to consumer privacy. The bill, H.R. 2458, would establish an Office of Electronic Government within the White House Office of Management and Budget that would be modeled closely upon the Bush administration's current blueprint for e-government. But the measure also would mandate greater privacy protections by ensuring that all federal Web sites post standard privacy policies and establish safeguards for personally identifiable data held by the government. And federal Web sites could incorporate the technology known as the Platform for Privacy Preferences, which allows consumers to choose the level of privacy they want when surfing the Internet. Ari Schwartz, associate director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said the privacy provisions are critical because they compel agencies to think about the issue for the first time and will be "helpful toward moving the Bush administration to focus on privacy." The legislation also would require that agencies assess the privacy implications of technologies they want to procure to deliver services online. Schwartz said that language would help "build a marketplace for privacy" and "drive agencies to have vendors explain to them how their products meet privacy" requirements. Industry groups, meanwhile, said the measure will aid the push to deploy government services to citizens via the Internet. "I think the key word is focus," said Tom Gann, vice president and general manager of e-government initiatives at the software maker Siebel Systems. "This bill is important because it focuses the government more and more on e-government." The measure would authorize $345 million over the next four fiscal years, capping spending at $150 million in fiscal 2006. Gann said the funding would advance ongoing e-government projects spearheaded by Mark Forman, the head of OMB's information technology efforts. Forman is overseeing the implementation of 24 e-government projects. For companies that are good at overcoming vertical bureaucratic thinking in federal agencies, the bill would create opportunities to partner with agencies on projects that could facilitate a transformation in services, Gann said. It "enables us to have a greater, more far-reaching dialogue with government agencies," he said. Dan Burton, vice president for government affairs at the Internet security firm Entrust, said the measure also would give e-government projects a boost by authorizing $8 million for the authority that certifies government agencies to install e-signature technologies.

From GovExec.com, by Maureen Sirhal, 02 December 2002

Powell to Pledge Backing for Democratic Reform in Arab World

Washington - With peacemaking stalled, Secretary of State Colin Powell is ready to offer Arab nations U.S. support in promoting democracy and adapting to the modern world. Powell will outline the Bush administration's intentions in a speech Thursday at the Heritage Foundation, a private research group. He had planned to make the speech in early November, but held off while Iraq took center stage in U.S. policy-making in the Middle East and Gulf. Powell will declare that U.S. interest in fostering democracy and reform among Arab nations is comparable to the attention the United States gives those goals in its European policy. While Powell is not likely to unveil new peacemaking initiatives, the drive for economic and political reform is being coupled with U.S. promises to plug away at a settlement between Israel and the Arabs. The Bush administration has modest goals for a conference it will host Dec. 20 to plot peace moves in the Middle East. Even while announcing the talks two weeks ago, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said it would be impossible to make headway toward a Palestinian state amid violence and terror attacks on Israel. "We see no excuse for such attacks," Boucher said. "We're pressing the Palestinians to do all they can to end immediately the terror and violence." The conference - drawing together officials from the United States, Russia, Europe and the United Nations - will be aimed at developing a roadmap for Middle East peacemaking, Palestinian statehood and reform within the Palestinian Authority. The idea is "to make progress where we can," Boucher said, adding that ending the violence and restoring security will be on the agenda at the so-called Quartet talks.

From Jerusalem Post, Israel, 11 December 2002

Jennings Talks About Western Public Policy

The Jordan Ballroom was nearly filled to capacity last Friday evening as Peter Jennings, senior editor and anchor of World News Tonight, gave a public address at a conference titled, "Dateline the West." The conference, sponsored by the Cecil D. Andrus Center for Public Policy, the Idaho Statesman and the Gannett Co. Pacific Group, was a daylong event culminating in Jennings' speech. The conference's purpose was to examine the delicate line where media meets western public policy. Cecil Andrus, former governor of Idaho and current chairman of the Cecil Andrus Public Policy Center, introduced Jennings prior to his address. "He has, without question, one of the most impressive journalistic careers in the world," Andrus said of Jennings, who has received 14 Emmy Awards for his work on television and recently completed his new book "In Search Of America." Jennings focused on what he referred to as "the western point of view" in his half-hour speech. "The media is an eastern enterprise for the most part," he said. "I was quickly cast today as an eastern urban journalist. The west is more complicated in moral and historical terms than I had ever guessed." Jennings said that the eastern media has a tradition of romanticizing the west. This tradition came out of the legends of frontier people and entertainers such as Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show. "Myths about the west seem to stand for America in ways that legends from other parts of the country do not.

The frontier is very much alive here, and a heck of a good story, but there are promises and problem here that do not meet the national idea," he said. Jennings said one of the problems is the west's attitude toward government has not changed much since the days of the pioneer. He focused on the argument about the gray wolf and states rights, and the idea that, as he put it, "the people of the west are uniquely dependent on government aid." Jennings also addressed the idea of internal immigration. In the past 10 years, according to the statistics he cited, over 11,000 Californians changed their driver's licenses to Idaho, and only six Idahoans did the reverse. "Much of the pacific coast has ceased to be western, and the fact that the legend of the frontier lives on in Idaho is one of the main attractions," he said. This internal immigration brings wealth to Idaho, Jennings said, but has the effect of easternizing it. Idaho is giving way to technology. Jennings said he hoped some of the mythos lives on in Idaho forever, because, as he put it, "you cannot understand history without understanding the myths." The question and answer session covered questions ranging Jennings' 19-hour coverage of the Sept. 11 tragedy to whether he believed America would have a black president or a woman president first. Jennings concluded his speech and the conference by saying "I hope what you believe about your media, for the most part, is that nothing is out of limits."

From The Arbiter Online, by Elizabeth Puckett, 12 December 2002

PNP Group Welcomes Passage of Anti-Corruption Legislation

Three of the ruling People's National Party (PNP) has commended parliamentarians for the recent passage of anti- corruption legislation. However, the group has criticised the length of time it took to effect the legislation, saying it should have been in place from the outset of the 1997 PNP administration as government "and can only be described as tardiness on the part of the Attorney-General's Office and those directly responsible". At the same time the group said it wanted a workable mechanism where the public can readily and confidentially provide information with the assurance that there is the proper machinery for quick professional, independent investigations and appropriate action. The PNP group said it was also pleased that Prime Minister P J Patterson last week launched the Citizen's Charters for the Office of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Office. "The region wants more public education on the charters and of the work of the Standards and Monitoring Unit, which functions out of the Cabinet Office," said a Region Three statement. It added: "The region has long been aware of the numerous instances of indifference, inefficiency, incompetence, partisan behaviour, political sabotage, victimisation, discourtesy and plain downright rudeness from some government workers. The region feels that not only must quick and appropriate action be taken, without necessarily naming offenders at all times, but the public must be made aware of the sanctions and actions taken."

From Jamaica Observer, 17 December 2002

 
 

Jerry Gana Makes Case for Integrity in Governance

Abuja - Minister of Information and National Orientation, Professor Jerry Gana has identified integrity as a key to good governance and called on governors who would assume the mantle of leadership in 2003 to demonstrate integrity in the administration of state resources for the good of the people. He therefore called on the people of Kwara State to vote for former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic party (PDP), Mr. Gbenga Olawepo as governor in 2003 for the much-desired development of the state, because, according to him, he (Olawepo) is a man of integrity. Professor Gana made the call Tuesday night at Nicon Hilton Hotel on the occasion of the fund raising dinner organised by friends of Olawepo for the advancement of his gubernatorial aspiration on the platform of the PDP. He said Olawepo was a forthright politician who was there at the beginning of the PDP project, pointing out that "he helped in forming the party, shaping the initial idea, in mobilising membership for the party; this particular candidate we are talking about today will tell the story of the formation of the PDP. "I am very glad that you good people of Kwara have identified the tremendous qualities of this young man: he is very forthright, God-fearing, a man of integrity, a man of ideas, a man of determination, a man with a very clear vision, a man with the love of the people because he wants to transform their lives, a man who never gives up, a man who is a fighter to the core. "As the secretary of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, I do not usually go to fund raising dinners except for very special candidates.

The fact that I am here today and even chairing, I want to tell you that our friend is a very special candidate and I want to assure that many around the country are delighted that you want to give him the opportunity of governing Kwara State." Professor Gana assured that 'there will be a determined effort on the part of Olawepo to ensure good governance that will translate into real action of development down to the grassroots level because he has a very profound ideas of development. 'For him, development is not just a few things here and there, it is not just distributing money; it is not just distributing even facilities; for him development is a deep-rooted transformation of our society in such a way that the poverty of the people can be transformed into prosperity through a very clear productive process that will create wealth." He said that having interacted very closely with the gubernatorial aspirants for many years, he had come to terms with his understanding of wealth creation in the development process of the people. "For him (Olawepo), wealth creation is a way forward, wealth transformation is a way forward, not redistributing poverty," he said, adding, "his government would ensure that there is integrity within the system." Present at the fund raising dinner were Col. Isa Maina (rtd), Barrister Kunle Suleiman and Mr. Sunday Fagbemi (former PDP Kwara State Chairman and Secretary respectively), Raheem Adedoyin (Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP), Barrister Christy Akpan (Representing Akwa Ibom State Governor) and many chieftains of the party from Kwara State.

From AllAfrica.com, by Sufuyan Ojeifo, 05 December 2002

Local Governments Reform Plans Unrealistic-Government

The government has admitted that plans and expectations of the Local - Governments Reform Programme (LGRP) were over-ambitious and unrealistic and that there is no way the envisaged goals would be met. There was also a general agreement among government, the donor community and the civil society that progress made so far in the Local Governments reform programme was slower than earlier expectations and plans. In statements made at the Informal Consultative Group meeting, the three parties said separately that very little progress had been made in some critical systematic issues in implementing the reforms. Presenting a government statement on the issue, Daniel Foka from the President's Office noted: "Implementation of the reforms to date has been slow by the standards of the original plans." Foka said that it was now clear that early expectations were unrealistically high and that the plans were over-ambitious. "It is now recognized that the process of reforming the local government system is a major undertaking which involves changing of not just the way central and local governments carry on their business, but also fundamentally changing mind-sets at all levels of government and among the public at large," he said. The donor community mentioned in its joint statement three issues that will have major impact on whether Local Government Authorities (LGA) would be adequately capacitated and motivated to reform. These issues include the fiscal decentralisation and deciding mechanisms for resource allocations to LGAs, harmonisation and rationalisation of laws and regulations governing staffing at LGA levels and the legal harmonisation. "It is now recognised that insufficient attention had been given in the inception phase to the role of the Regional secretariats in the implementation of reforms," the statement says. The donor community suggests that it is important that prompt action be taken to initiate the intended capacity-strengthening programme for regional secretariats. This programme must be designed in a comprehensive and structured way and avoid being fragmented, the donor statement adds.

The statement also stressed the importance and necessity of increased co-ordination between many stakeholders in the different reform processes most of which must work through local governments and all of which must ultimately realise the poverty reducing objectives of the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS). "In view of this co-ordination, the Inter-Ministerial Working Group has a crucial role to play. Unfortunately this role is not yet being exercised as envisaged," added the statement. On their part, members of the Civil Society said in a statement that it was widely recognised that the full effect of local government reforms are still far from being realised in concrete practice, in both the 'non-reforming' as well as 'reforming' districts. The civil society argued that for many people, particularly the poor, women, young people and the vulnerable groups, the reforms continue to be experienced as alien, oppressive or unhelpful. "In some cases, the very institutions and staff who are charged with the responsibility of serving the people and upholding their rights are in fact experienced as frustrating people's efforts and as a source of harassment," said the statement which was read during the CG meeting. The representatives from the Civil Society who read the statement said that the decentralisation process has revealed contradictions between the principles of decentralisation on the one hand and central control, sector wide programmes and donor funded projects on the other hand. For instance, LGAs still face multiple and overlapping instructions and reporting requirements from central and sector ministries, he said, noting in a single financial year, LGAs are being presented with ten different planning and budgeting guidelines. "LGAs will never succeed if they are asked to do the impossible," he said. The government of Tanzania set out to reform the public service in the early 1990s and developed the Civil Service Reform Programme (CSRP) as the main reform vehicle. The programme implementation began on January 1, 2000 in 38 Phase I councils.

From IPP media, Tanzania, by Peter Nyanje, 4 December 2002

Chiefs Have Governance Role Says Mbeki

Johannesburg - Facing harsh words from traditional leaders who claim the government is sidelining them, President Thabo Mbeki agreed on Thursday they should play their rightful role in governance and development. This role, however, still had to be clearly defined, he told the Congress of Traditional Leaders' (Contralesa) national conference in Kempton Park. "Fortunately we have a Constitution that recognises institutions of traditional leadership, and places it firmly among institutions of government in our country," the president said. "But we have to do more work to define more precisely the role and place of such institutions." To this end, broad consultations were needed, including with members of the public. Contralesa president Patekile Holomisa said traditional leaders were being ignored in the drawing up of peace and development plans. "It is incumbent upon us to take up our rightful place in matters of the governance of our people. "By agreeing to the electoral systems by which leaders are appointed, our people were not thereby saying we were no longer their leaders. 'On the contrary, our people expected of these leaders to provide support systems to their traditional leaders, and not to be their substitutes." Traditional leaders were not consulted in the creation of the African Union or the New Partnership for Africa's Development, nor was provision made for their participation. "If these schemes and programmes are intended to uplift the living conditions of the millions of poor and long-suffering Africans, then the great majority of their beneficiaries are to be found in the rural areas," Holomisa said. "We need therefore to make it our responsibility to engage the leadership of the AU and Nepad to demand our rightful duty to be part of their programmes." Mbeki said traditional leaders should not need to be asked or invited to take part in governance, "but must say: 'this is what we are going to do'."

He agreed one could not hope to involve ordinary people in the development of the continent without involving their traditional leaders. The president criticised traditional leaders threatening violence to attain their goals. "In this country we know very well what political violence has done to our people. We cannot now resume that slaughter. "We cannot ourselves contribute to the stereotype that portrays Africans as savage brutes unable to resolve their differences in a peaceful manner." Turning to the draft White Paper on Traditional Leadership and Governance - which is very unpopular among traditional leaders - Mbeki pointed out the document was a basis for discussion, not a decision the government intended to impose on leaders. Changes could still be made. Holomisa said traditional leaders should seek from their respective governments constitutional amendments guaranteeing a meaningful role for them. They should also seriously consider the idea of forming a Southern African organisation. "Our people and governments must at all times hear our voice and views on a whole range of issues at local, regional, national, and now sub-continent levels." The difficulty of attaining unity among traditional leaders has been the "Achilles heel" in attempts to deal with their opponents, Holomisa said. Contralesa treasurer Madoda Zibi asked Mbeki to arrange an imbizo (summit) with traditional leaders, saying there were many questions they wanted to ask. He also assured the president the organisation had no intention of holding the government to ransom with threats of violence. Mbeki urged the conference-goers to put their heads together and come up with concrete plans. "I hope something comes out of this conference to assist the political leadership to be better able to answer the question 'what is the role and place of traditional leaders in our countries?'

From Dispatch Online, South Africa, 6 December 2002

A Drought of Good Governance

Zimbabwe's economic meltdown has been blamed by ruling ZANU PF politicians on the drought that has devastated the country over the past year, and which they say has wreaked havoc on our agro-driven economy. They further allege that the British and American governments have been interfering with Zimbabwe's internal affairs by funding and supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, in the process sabotaging the economy to force a regime change. Well, it is indeed common knowledge that the drought that has ravaged most of southern Africa has taken its toll on the performance of the region's economies, including that of Zimbabwe. In our case, it is however important to note that our economy has been in recession for the past three years. I do not dispute that the drought has had a negative effect on Zimbabwe's economy, but let me be quick to point out that our economy was already in dire straits before the dry spell. The reason for that underperformance is clear to all - poor government policies. Yes, the natural drought has contributed to the country's problems, but the real crisis in Zimbabwe is that of lack of good governance. Indeed, when all is said and done and we as a nation soberly assess our problems, we will come to the conclusion that in Zimbabwe we have been hit by a drought of good governance. That is where our problems lie. This man-made drought has been allowed to go on unchecked for years, hence the seriousness of the situation we find ourselves in as a country. This is a drought that we cannot expect God to alleviate if we pray for rain. This drought of good governance requires us as Zimbabweans to take corrective measures through whatever means are legal. I stand to be corrected, but I want to argue that if Zimbabwe was facing a natural drought only, our economy would not have been battered to the extent it has been. Just taking a cursory look at the daily bungling by the government and the ad-hoc policies being implemented reflects a serious lack of basic planning.

The examples are endless: the handling of the doctors', teachers' and lecturers' strikes, foreign currency shortages and the imposition of a price freeze only days after one Cabinet minister admitted price controls had hit hardest on those they were supposed to protect - the poor and defenceless. The government has also not distinguished itself in the manner it has prepared farmers resettled under its agrarian reforms for the 2003 farming season. They have land but inadequate inputs, weeks after the start of the rainy season. All these are clear indications of a drought of good governance. I won't even go into the way the chaotic land reform programme has worsened the plight of ordinary Zimbabweans by slashing food production and contributing to the present shortages. Lack of direct foreign investment, escalating joblessness, worsening poverty and soaring inflation all indicate a leadership bereft of ideas to run a sound economy. The collapse of Zimbabwe's health, education and transport systems, among other services, all mirror a country hard hit by a drought of good governance. So, when the story of the demise of Zimbabwe is told or written in the future, we should not forget to record the 2002 drought or the drought of good governance that has entrenched itself in our country. It is also important to note that this drought of good governance has also manifested itself in legislation that has been enacted by the present leadership to muzzle ordinary Zimbabweans by taking away their right to express themselves freely. Legislation like the draconian Public Order and Security Act, and the infamous Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act are clear examples. Which brings me to a point I have stressed in the various social circles I frequent - that Zimbabweans are not asking for anything out of this world. They merely ask to be governed properly and to be provided with an enabling environment that will enable them to prosper. To achieve this goal, Zimbabweans must bring about a form of rain that will wash away this man-made drought of good governance. The challenge cannot be any clearer.

From AllAfrica.com, by Sydney Masamvu, 6 December 2002

African Ministers to Meet to Rectify AU Governance

Pretoria - Foreign affairs ministers of the African Union (AU) are expected to meet in Libya this week to consider proposed amendments to the Constitute Act of the union. South Africa's foreign affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma arrived in the country yesterday to chair the Extraordinary Session of the Executive Council of Foreign Affairs Ministers of the AU, from 9 to 11 December. South Africa's foreign affairs department said the amendments were tabled during the Summit of Heads of State and Government at the launch of the AU in Durban in July. The summit then agreed to convene the special session to clarify existing articles of the AU's governing document, which commits African states to clean governance, co-operation, and political and economic integration. Countries that have made proposals are South Africa, Libya, Senegal, Nigeria Cote d'Ivoire, Tanzania and Mozambique. After this consideration, the council is expected to wind its business by submitting their recommendations for ratification by the Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government scheduled for early next year in Addis Ababa. President Thabo Mbeki is the first chairperson of the AU transitional period from the OAU to the AU. The duration of the chairmanship is one year. As chair, South Africa is playing a constructive role in ensuring that the core structures of the AU commence their functions smoothly and the first year of the AU is crucial for South Africa, to set the pace and direction of the organisation for subsequent years.

From AllAfrica.com, by Veronica Mohapeloa, 10 December 2002

Government, Private Interest Necessary for Effective Governance

As the economy moves from state-owned public enterprise to privately managed entities, government has been urged to work with the private sector to improve the performance of the enterprises. The founding Managing Director /Chief Executive Officer of Guaranty Trust Bank plc, Mr. Fola Adeola while presenting a paper titled " Transparent and Accountable Corporate Governance in the capital market" stated that an effective governance will improve the performance of the enterprises. According to him " to ensure economic growth and development in the country, it is necessary for government objectives and private sector economic interest to be interwoven." Therefore, he enjoined the government to tackle social issues such as poverty, health, education, and job creation in order to create a better society. Adeola explained that job creation cannot be successful without substantial resources, stressing that with the dwindling revenue from the petroleum sector, the main source of revenue for dealing with these issues remains taxation from corporate entities and individual s. In his words " the amount of tax revenue to government is invariably dependent on the profitability of the private sector, while the private sector is dependent on a favourable environment provided by government to thrive. Consequently, he said that a thinking private sector will report improved profits, rewards its employees and shareholders better, adding that such a situation will result in enhanced capital investment, boost purchasing power, create employment, reduce crime thus improve security and enhanced political stability. Adeola further stated that the private and public sector needed each other for survival, stressing that this can be reasonably achieved through proper understanding and acceptance of good corporate standards. " If the practice of corporate governance could be applied in running government and other corporate entities, the nation will be on the road to growth and sustainable development since government is the mover and shaker of the Nigerian economy today" he said. Adeola, also said that there has been a direct correlation between a country's performance and corporate practice, adding that good corporate governance increases the efficiency of capital allocation within an economy. He also stated that good corporate governance reduces the cost of capital for issuers , helps to broaden access to capital, encourages savings and serves as an effective tool in the fight against corruption. Adeola however, described macro economic growth as a process of improvement in respect of a set of criteria or values, chief of which is national income expressed by Gross National Product (GNP) or Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a country. According to him " economic development occurs when sustainable change is added to economic growth".

From Vanguard, Nigeria, by Peter Egwuatu, 10 December 2002

Prime Minister Optimistic about Effective Governance

Angola`s newly appointed Prime Minister, Fernando Dias Dos Santos "Nando", expressed his conviction that all is set for effective government action. "Nando" expressed this view at a ceremony launching the book "Angola - A Paz e os Desafios do Futuro" (Angola - Peace and Challenges of the Future), produced by the country`s ruling MPLA party`s politburo. He said on the occasion that, "the suffering we went through until we achieved peace has made us all mature and gain new experiences. "Anyway, conditions are created so that from now on we can work towards solving our problems and providing conditions that are good for our people and country", the Premier assured. The Prime Minister also sent Angolans a message of hope and optimism about the future. On the other hand, he also warned all members of the Government about the need for discipline as, he added, "only with this, can we achieve good results".

From Angola News Index, Angola, 11 December 2002

Africa Set to Benefit in $5bn US Plan to Reward Good Governance

African countries will be chief beneficiaries of an annual $5bn US government programme to reward emerging markets that meet its criteria of good governance, Walter Kansteiner, the US assistant secretary of state for Africa, said yesterday. The US will reinforce Africa's financial infrastructure through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an initiative launched last month by the Bush administration to boost private sector investment in developing countries. The corporation's remit will be to support capital market development and integration, loan guarantees and credit ratings. It will also assist portfolio investment from the US and help medium-sized and large corporations operating in Africa to raise debt. US companies have invested heavily in oil reserves off the coast of West Africa. But US investment banks have struggled to establish themselves in the continent's weak financial markets. Support will be channelled to countries which score highly on a system of 16 indices measuring good governance, economic liberties and delivery. US officials insist their measures will be objective and not allow discretion surrounding whether the US government favours a country's leaders. "What we are fighting for is Africa and to reward the good performers," said Mr. Kansteiner. "The private sector will get Africa up and going. It won't be just official development assistance. Governments must work together to set the table, but the private sector will deliver the meal." Some critics argue that the Corporation cuts across the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad).

Nepad is a plan forged by African leaders to promote good governance among themselves, in return for higher investment and development assistance. Its emphasis has been on African countries judging their peers rather than conforming to standards set by the west. However, US officials say the work of the Corporation will complement Nepad and the $10bn the US already hands out annually in development aid. "Rewarding the good performers makes sense. That's the Nepad theology. We truly do believe Nepad is what is going to make Africa work. But we are going to pull together the criteria we think are important," Mr. Kansteiner said. President George W. Bush is expected to champion private sector investment in Africa during a four-country visit there in January. He is also expected to promote the US steps taken to give African countries improved access to its market through the African Growth and Opportunities Act. With peace in many cases a prerequisite for economic development, the US has also played a part in negotiating the end to civil wars in Angola, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Representatives from the Sudanese government and rebel Sudan PLA are expected to meet in Washington soon to keep up the momentum on their peace process.

From Financial Times, UK, by James Lamont, 11 December 2002

IYM Scores Government Low on Governance

Igbo Youths Movement (IYM) yesterday observed its fourth global conference in Enugu where it gave the Federal Government hard knocks for failing to meet the expectations, of Nigerians in the last three and a half years of democratic rule, just as it restated its call for a Sovereign National Conference. President of the movement, Evangelist Elliot Uko, who expressed the group views on the performance of the government bemoaned the fate of the Niger Delta people, saying that injustice meted out to any man should be felt by all. "In the past three and a half years of our democratic rule, the Federal Government has failed the people woefully. In agriculture, roads, employment, power generation and all aspects that concern human welfare. it failed to address issues of well-being," Elliot charged. IYM, he said, was demanding no more than for government to make the economy grow and provide basic necessities, as well as secure the people's freedom to express themselves. The movement also threw its weight behind the agitation for resource control, condemning the practice whereby the environment of the people of the Niger Delta was degraded without their having any compensation in terms of development. "There is injustice not only on the Niger Delta but also the old South Eastern States, that is why we are in support of resource control," he said.

From This Day, Nigeria, by Ahamefula Ogbu, 17 December 2002

Good Governance Demands Participation of All - Clergyman

Rev. Dr. Robert Aboagye-Mensah, General Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana, had stated that the promotion of good governance is not the work of only the government in power but a social engineering that calls for the active participation of all citizens. He said the country need a strong and active civil society "that knows, understands and appreciates the complexity of governance and therefore able to offer constructive criticism." The General Secretary said this when he spoke on the role of the Church in demanding public accountability at the launch of the Ghana HIPC Watch and Lobby Week in Accra last week. He said that the church has a critical role to play in the nation's development both by supporting poverty reduction initiatives and sustainable development through social action, social service and evangelization, by actively seeking improved performance and service from the state. The General Secretary noted that policy formulation and decision-making process by the government has often lacked the due ingredients of broad-based participation and consultation to reflect the felt needs of the ordinary Ghanaian. He declared that most Ghanaians are ignorant of the Enhanced HIPC Initiative, the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (GPRSP) and other policies that are human centered and he therefore appealed to the government to strengthen the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) to educate the citizens about these policies and programmes. He also reminded religious bodies to develop the culture of dialogue, mediation and advocacy in searching for satisfactory answers to questions that affect public life and engage their members in discussions on national issues. He added that religious leaders should remind government officials of their responsibilities to the electorate and urged religious bodies to share the gospel with all. He charged the Ministry of Finance to hold more regular public interactions on economic issues, such as the budget, NEPAD, and the enhanced HIPC, through the media. In his welcoming remarks, Mr. Siapha Kamara, Chief Executive Officer of the Social Enterprise Development Foundation of West Africa and publisher of the 'Ghana HIPC Watch,' said that the aim of the national HIPC week is to lobby parliament and key ministries on the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy from the point of view of Northern Ghana, conduct educational workshops to sensitize and mobilize NGOs to get involved in the monitoring and evaluation of poverty reduction programmes and also to launch the Ghana HIPC updates. Mrs. Vicky T. Okine chaired the function.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Joseph Coomson, 17 December 2002

 

Minister Open to Corporate Governance Shake-up

Institutional investors could find themselves having to vote at company meetings if the Government accepts a suggestion from a critic of New Zealand corporate governance. The compulsory voting idea is one of the suggestions in a book that Commerce Minister Lianne Dalziel says she will ask officials to study. The book, Corporate Governance and Wealth Creation in New Zealand, was written by Joseph Healy and launched last week. Healy believes boards are often ineffective and self-perpetuating because institutions, the only organisations able to do anything about it, did not bother. Overseas the idea that institutions become more active as shareholders is gaining favour. The Economist recently reported that institutional investors were now pledging to act on corporate governance issues. In America, for example, those responsible for 14 state pension funds, together managing more than US$1 trillion of public pension money, have said they will actively seek to clean up corporate corruption. The magazine also cites similar moves by institutions in other countries and says if they band together they have the clout to demand change at companies whose shares they hold. Dalziel said she would buy and read the book, which says New Zealand business is suffering from a crisis brought on by substandard corporate governance in our biggest companies. He calls for Government and business leaders to bring about a new climate of corporate governance in New Zealand which emphasises transparency, performance and accountability. He puts up several proposals for the Government, businesses and the New Zealand Stock Exchange to consider.

Dalziel told the Business Herald she was especially interested in Healy's call for business groups and sector interests to come together - perhaps under the leadership of someone like Telecom chairman Dr Roderick Deane - to explain what needs to be done to grow bigger and stronger businesses. "I quite liked the suggestion of getting a group together to talk around those broader issues." Healy believes the Government should commit itself wholeheartedly to the view that it is in the national economic interest for businesses to grow and create shareholder value. He wants the Government to: * Make it compulsory for institutional investors to vote on shareholder resolutions, so they can achieve full accountability from boards. * Make anti-takeover devices - such as share caps - illegal. * Change tax rules so locked-in performance bonuses are not taxable until they are actually paid out. While Dalziel was noncommittal about the suggestions, she said Healy raised a number of issues worth exploring and she would seek advice. Healy suggests the Stock Exchange change its listing rules to require companies to use the Economic Value Added (EVA) measure in reporting results, so it is clear to investors if a company is creating or destroying wealth. He also charges that our sharemarket is among the smallest in the world in relation to the size of the economy (39 per cent of GDP, compared with 110 per cent in Australia). The NZSE is preparing to change its listing rules surrounding corporate governance of listed companies next year, but these do not include any EVA reporting requirement. NZSE chief executive Mark Weldon said there were many ways of measuring economic value in a company, with EVA being just one. The exchange had no plans at this point to make a listing rule that companies should disclose EVA.

From New Zealand Herald, New Zealand, by Kevin Taylor, 02 Dec 2002

It's a Battle Between Ideology and Governance

The Gujarat elections are, in my opinion, extremely significant and its results have the potential to dictate the future of the Indian polity for some time to come. First of all, the result will determine whether it is issue of 'governance' or 'ideology' that will triumph. Before Godhra the BJP was as good as lost in the State. Remember they had lost four important by-elections in the State. They were in a very precarious condition, until Godhra happened. Therefore, if the BJP were to win the elections by a reasonable margin it will legitimise and bring to the fore, the 'Gujarat Model' - of aggressive Hindutva, to be replicated for future elections. Also remember elections to five important State assemblies are just months away and the general elections are less than two years away. Gujarat has the potential to be for the BJP of today and the future, what the Ram Mandir was to the BJP of the 1990s. It will not only set the tone for the kind of tools for political agglomeration that the BJP will use, but will also impact the form of the generational shift in the leadership within the BJP. The new generation of BJP leaders is snapping at the heels of the old guard in the party's organisational rank and file. Based on the experiment in Gujarat, even Narendra Modi could be a claimant for the leadership, if one goes by the blatant way he has been projecting himself. In party posters in Gujarat, no other leader figures other than Modi himself. Faced with a more explicit and blatant position taken by Modi, Advani will be nudged to take a more Centrist position, which is already happening. Advani is already taking a stance akin to what Vajpayee has played in the BJP so far. Other than the period between 1987 and 1996, Advani has increasingly taken a liberal approach to ideological issues. Though most people see it as an effort to throw off his hawkish image and further his prime ministerial ambitions, it is also dictated by the emergence of a hawkish second generation. More and more, he will have to emerge as a balancer or moderator, exactly like Vajpayee has done in the days gone by.

So, if the BJP manages to win Gujarat with a good margin, then I can see a generational shift in its leadership and also a shift to a more strident ideological position in its politics. For the BJP, a lot will depend on how they are able to connect the issue of terrorism to what is happening in Gujarat and bring it to the consciousness of the voters in Gujarat. So far, it is not clear if they have been successful in that. However, the other side of the coin is that if they lose Gujarat, it will shake the very citadel of the Central Government. A loss will not fail to be part of a process in which the BJP and the NDA cookie at the Centre will begin to crumble. I think it is very significant that Advani, just recently, has exhorted his party leaders and cadres to go and campaign in Gujarat and not be complacent. Advani obviously realises that the stakes for the BJP in Gujarat are very high indeed! But the BJP is helped by the fact that the Opposition parties have not been able to get their act together. More than any other party, I think that the role of the NCP of Sharad Pawar will determine a lot in Gujarat. The NCP has great influence in considerable pockets of Gujarat and whom they will go for will also influence the outcome. Be that as it may, the Congress' campaign has been extremely timid and unsure. The party seems to be in a state of limbo. Congress has traditionally been a slow starter and it takes some time for the Congress' pitch to peak during a campaign. However, with one of the former architects of the BJP's spread in Gujarat, Shankarsinh Vaghela, at the helm of the Congress campaign in Gujarat, the party has not been averse to playing the BJP's game as well. One can discern streams of a Congress countering Modi's and VHP's hard Hindutva with its own version of soft Hindutva. While the Congress is 'steadfastly secular' at the Centre, it seems to be 'cautiously saffron' in Gujarat. But in my view that is a sign of a party in a fix. A party slightly unsure of itself. They have not been able to decide its campaign issues with any great conviction. Only the final leg of the campaign will tell us if the Congress can get its act together.

From Sify, India, by Mahesh Rangarajan, 4 December 2002

LTTE, Lanka Government Agree on 'Federal' Governance

Colombo: The agreement in Oslo between Sri Lanka's government and the LTTE to establish a federal structure in the country marks the first time that the two parties have explicitly chosen federalism as the framework for a solution to the long-standing ethnic problem. The word 'federal' has been taboo for many years in Sri Lanka, a self-proclaimed 'unitary state', and every past power-sharing package had been broadly described only as 'devolution', even when it envisaged creation of regional units of administration under a central government. For the Tamil Tiger rebels, who now seem to have come round to the view that Tamil aspirations can be met within a united Sri Lanka, it could be a double climb-down, as they have not only given the impression of shedding separatism as a goal, but also a confederal model as an alternative. Among the two main parties in the south, the ruling United National Party has described its proposed framework in the past as "asymmetrical devolution", that is, conferring on the north-east more powers than other regions in the country. With the country's mood strongly favouring continuation of the present atmosphere of peace, the development is seen widely as the best chance yet to evolve a negotiated settlement, but the parties, as well as Norwegian facilitators, have warned that there could be pitfalls ahead. Tamil United Liberation Front president V Anandasangaree said the credit should go to the LTTE for pressuring the government into agreeing to a federal model, shedding decades of opposition to diluting the unitary state. "It is now left to the opposition to support it. We cannot go to war again. This is the last chance for peace," Anandasangaree said, adding that federalism was also the goal of the late S Chelvanayagam, the founder of the federal party, the forerunner of the TULF. The Eelam People's Democratic Party had a dig at the Tigers for accepting power-sharing at the centre, and autonomy at the state level.

From Economic Times, India, 06 December 2002

Good Governance Through Inter Party Cooperation

'Voice Of Youth' a non-governmental organization conducting social development programmes with the participation of the youth conducted a workshop for young representatives of Local Government bodies in Anuradhapura District on propagation of good governance through inter party cooperation and collaboration. Dambulla Kandalama Culture Club was the venue of this residential workshop which was sponsored by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. Sri Lanka representative of this international agency based in Germany, Mrs. Marlies Salazar was present at the inauguration and delivered the inaugural speech. 'Voice Of Youth' programme director Senaka Dambawinne, DIG Elections and IT Sri Lanka Police Gamini Navaratne, editor of 'Ravaya' newspaper Victor Ivan, Consultant Sri Lanka Institute of Local Governance Dilan Fernandopulle and several eminent resource persons made deliberations on the relevant themes. Mrs. Marlies Salazar spoke on the theme 'Importance of Sustainable Development with Focus on Globalization' and told that the most important challenge in achieving development for the present generation is to not to take any measures endangering the future of the ones to be born. When we make use of the natural resources we have to consider its impact on the environment as well as the society. Speaking further the speaker pointed-out the norms of sustainable development: 1. Conservation of sociological base the working of man has to be limited to conserve the nature. 2. The relationship between the developed and developing nations, 3. Free economy. Post-war Germany was able to achieve fast economic growth with the help of the free economic policies. Respecting human rights is an essential element in the market economic system. It has to face many criticisms and challenges. Certain anti-globalization forces are working all over the world including in Sri Lanka.

Some people can lose their jobs. There could be negative impact on the culture and the society. Most of the people with no access to the new technology oppose the concept of globalisation. This kind of forces operate even in Germany. Globalisation is not a challenge, but is a chance to develop. Competitions open new vistas for development. The concepts of sustainable development and globalization has brought about advancement in many fields. The knowledge in international languages specially the English is very essential to reach the new technology. It is a sad situation that yet many people in Sri Lanka do not have sufficient knowledge of English. The authorities in the Education Department have to take suitable measures to overcome this backlog. The speaker also added: Every country needs at the least 25% of forest cover. There was 56% forest cover in Sri Lanka in the year 1956. This has been reduced to 18% by now. This has resulted in the lower water table in the ground resulting in the drop in the irrigation facilities and crop failures. Poverty will increase as a result. The German representative invited the local government representatives to pay attention to the development programmes carried out in their respective areas. They should check whether the forest cover and the water resources are conserved. They must influence to select the appropriate technology to the area. East Asian countries have achieved considerable progress in the recent years by correctly tackling those problems. The business community and the local government bodies have to maintain a good rapport and cooperation. Concluding the speech the speaker expressed her confidence that Sri Lanka would be able to find solutions to her problems and to achieve a balanced socio-economic development. "Voice of Youth" Director Senaka Dambawinne spoke on the 'Social Values and the Politicians' and said that it is an important thing for any society marching on the path of progress to safeguard its social values.

He gave the simple example that in our country some parents teach their children to tell lies in order to get them admitted to a prestigious school. Many people in high positions do not adhere to the rules and regulations. 'Ravaya' Editor Victor Ivan spoke on 'Good Governance and Peoples Aspirations' and first gave a brief background on the evolution of our society. The Western countries were first ruled by dictators and the people and to carry-out long struggles backed by the new ideological thinking. Gradually they were able to evolve democratic structures and the wish of the people is well reflected in their systems. The advent of the democratic system in Sri Lanka is different. Our country also was ruled by benevolent rulers who got their power by birth. The Western powers ruled our country for nearly five centuries and presented the parliamentary system at the time of leaving our country. Although our rulers are elected by the people they also think as kings and try use all the powers above the people. The speaker stressed the responsibility of the Auditor General to maintain the financial administration without leaving any room for misuse and corruption. Transparency should be in every deal. The final judgement should be from the people. The speaker traced many examples to prove that the judiciary as well as the auditing system in our country has not been functioning properly. He appealed to the young politicians to improve their knowledge and experience and not to be conditioned by the system, but to make every effort to modify the system to build a democratic just society suitable for living and promising the benefit of all the citizens.

From Daily News, Sri Lanka, by J. Gunadasa Jayawickrema Galewela, 06 December 2002

Philippine Business Group Rues Lack Of Good Governance

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce & Industry, or PCCI, the country's biggest business organization, Thursday said the lack of good governance in both public and private sectors tops the list of its concerns. The group said in its Philippine Business Conference Resolution that the issue of lack of good governance has become even more worrisome than terrorism, kidnapping, and the poor infrastructure in the country. Peter Favila, chairman of the PCCI's 28th Philippine Business Conference, said the group has underlined the importance of good governance following a slew of allegations of corruption in the government, revelations of corporate fraud, and greed in the country's top corporations. Among the recent corruption allegations to hit the government was the claim by Congressman Mark Jimenez, who is facing extradition to the U.S., that Justice Secretary Hernando Perez pressured him into paying a $2-million bribe last year. Perez, who is currently on 30-days' leave following the allegations, denied Jimenez's claim and has filed a lawsuit against the congressman. The corporate sector was also hit a heavy blow after the Supreme Court ruled last month that Manila Electric Co. (Q.MEL), the country's largest power distributor, should refund its customers excess charges dating back to 1994.

The utility firm is appealing the order. Former Board of Investments managing head Raul Hernandez, who oversaw the Philippine Business Conference resolution, said most developed countries have flourished mainly due to government initiatives on good governance. "For years, the government has urged the private sector to be globally competitive. We believe that we can only achieve this goal if the government is our partner and that it also reforms itself to be the best in its class," said Hernandez. Other issues identified by the PCCI in its resolution included promoting peace and order, infrastructure development, key legislation on business reforms, credit and financing for agriculture, and small- and medium-enterprises. Hernandez said the PCCI will adopt a scorecard to monitor the actions taken by the government and the private sector in addressing these issues. He said the conference resolution was culled from a series of business conferences held by the PCCI across the country over the last 12 months. He said most of the issues cited were geared toward addressing the high cost of doing business in the Philippines. Hernandez said it is crucial for the government to ensure a level playing field and effective competition by regulating natural monopolies to allow small businesses that comprise more than 90% of businesses in the country to thrive. The Philippine Business Conference, which began Wednesday, will be concluded Friday with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as guest speaker. (By Micheline R. Millar, Dow Jones Newswires; 632-885-0288; micheline.millar@dowjones.com).

From Yahoo Headlines, 12 December 2002

PM Dissatisfied with Pace of Reforms

New Delhi - Worried at the slow progress of economic reforms, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on Friday declared that "we need to move rapidly" to end inspector raj through reforms at various levels of governance. "Let me confess that I am myself as dissatisfied as any of you over the slow progress in several areas," he said, adding that problems of fiscal consolidation, slow progress of power and labour reforms was worrying.

From Indian Express, India, 13 December 2002

Symposium Tackles Seoul-Centered Government

An old Korean saying goes, "If you have a horse, send it to Cheju Island. If you have a child, send him to Seoul." It refers to the country's educational system _ all the major universities are based in Seoul. Also, money and power is situated in the capital city. "One of the biggest problems is that the members of the provincial parliaments mostly live in Seoul and do not care about the development of the provinces," Park Chan-suk, the former president of Kyungbuk University, pointed out. Although Korea introduced the self-administration of regions and local autonomy in 1991, the nation still has a long way to go to complete decentralization, he noted. He spoke during a two-day international symposium held jointly by the Taegu Institute of Social Studies and the German Konrad-Adenauer Foundation Korea in Taegu last week on decentralization. German Amb. Dr. Hubertus von Morr pointed out that during the World Cup South Korea showed a perfect example of decentralization when 10 different cities and stadiums across the country hosted the soccer games. This could be seen as a successful way to encourage local autonomy, he said. The ambassador, and the organizers, was surprised by the participants' enthusiasm. They openly discussed their anger about the dependence of the provinces on Seoul. Among the speakers was Sim Dae-pyung, governor of South Chungchong Province; Lee Eui-geun, governor of North Kyongsang Province; and Hwang Dae-hyun, president of the National Association of Mayors; and professors from Keimyung University and Kyungbuk University in Taegu. "Democracy is a lousy form of government, but I don't know any better one," said Thomas Awe, the resident representative of the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation Korea, quoting Winston Churchill. "'Buergersinn' is the German word for citizen's participation in regional politics. The more often people of one region or city get together to reach common aims, the more direct democracy and the general contentedness people increases,"' said Awe. Politics does not have to be a spectator sport, he added. Uwe Krueger, head of the town clerk's office of Erkrath city, addressed the local autonomy of German districts. With the public petition and the citizens' initiative there are two ways for German citizens to take an active part in politics. Encouraged by the success of the symposium, the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation Korea wants to organize a follow-up gathering in 2003. a.sontowski@web.de

From Korea Times, Korea, by Anke Sontowski, 10 December 2002

National and United Future Clash Over Local Government Bill

The United Future Party is in the middle of a row over the Government's controversial legislation widening the powers of local councils. The Local Government Bill also provides for Maori seats on councils and ensures full consultation with Maori. It was reported back by a select committee yesterday with all its main clauses intact despite the National Party's nationwide campaign aimed at blocking them. National is now blaming United Future for backing the Government after earlier saying it opposed some of the bill's provisions. "Once again, United Future has proven itself to be all talk and no substance," National's local government spokesman Gerry Brownlee said last night. "The so-called `commonsense party' opposed this legislation when it was introduced but then helped it through the select committee." He said the only concession the Government had given in return for United Future's support was a review of the legislation in 2007. United Future leader Peter Dunne said Mr. Brownlee was "living proof that National has become increasingly irrelevant to Parliament and the voting public". He accused Mr. Brownlee of ignorance and said he seemed to think the only way to oppose any government measure was to vote against it, regardless of rational debate. The select committee tabled a majority report yesterday after hearing 391 public submissions over the past year. If it is passed it will give local bodies the same power as individuals and corporations to conduct any business they want to. Critics say that power could eventually see local councils competing against businesses as they expanded their abilities to fund future projects without raising rates.

From Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand, 10 December 2002

Kiran Bedi Outlines Action Plan for Good Governance

Ramon Magsaysay awardee Delhi police joint commissioner Kiran Bedi has called for formation of non-political citizen's forum in every 'mohalla' in the country to achieve good governance. Speaking after receiving the prestigious Pinnameneni Seethadevi Foundation Award here last night, she said ''good governance is invariably linked to the Right to Information. People have to shed the present passivism of voting every five years and patiently suffering bad governance after that. We all need to organise ourselves.'' On the entire political class circumventing the Supreme Court-directed Election Commission's order asking those contesting elections to disclose their assets, educational qualifications and criminal antecedents, if any, she opined that with the Lok Sabha elections due in early 2004, the media had a greater role in educating the public so that they elect the right persons. Without naming any particular political party, is also an IPS Mrs. Bedi expressed concern over the 'politics of hate and violence prevailing in the country' and asserted that the need of the hour is to defeat the 'devisive forces'.

From Deepika, India, 17 December 2002

Plan Panel Compendium On Good Governance

New Delhi - The Planning Commission, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has prepared a compendium of successful governance initiatives and implementation practices at the state level. The compendium, scheduled to be submitted on Thursday, has documented replicable success stories in effective implementation and delivery of public services, which could be used for experience sharing both at the national and state level. The Tenth Plan draft document had envisaged such a compendium to cater to the needs of the state governments which wanted to improve implementation and sought information on better ways of doing things. According to sources, the priority areas that have been taken up in the document include interventions in the delivery of social services, land and water management and areas of major public interface with the government. The objective is to describe practices and experiences in the implementation of programmes and projects that have successfully addressed real-life problems. The criteria used for identification of initiatives include its relevance to the poor, benefits to maximum number of people, quantum of funds being deployed, potential for productivity enhancement of target population, viability, level of community participation and commitment, sustainability of interventions and potential for replicability. Information is provided on geographical coverage, allocation of funds, target achievement, activities undertaken, institutional arrangements and evaluations as applicable. Contact details have also been provided at the end of each case study to help interested persons to contain information in greater detail from the authorities in charge of the project. Officials added this was a continuing exercise and during the course of the Tenth Plan, the Commission would bring out further editions including subjects and initiatives not covered in the first compendium.

From Financial Express, Bangladesh, by Amiti Sen, 17 December 2002

Road To Successful Governance Unveiled

Much has been written about the Bhoomi project, a part of the e-governance initiative of the Karnataka government. Introduced as an alternative to the manual system of management of land deeds, this system of online updation of land records has permanently altered the government-aam jantaa relationship. No more are rural communities subjected to harassment by government officials, touts, and village-level toughies. For, computerisation of land records and the setting up of information kiosks has facilitated transparency in dealings and improved accessibility to individual records. Happily enough, this isn't a lone success story - across the country, similar developmental initiatives have been performing miracles, revolutionising not only the public's interface with the government but also improving the economic and social status of the communities in question. Take, for instance, Himachal Pradesh's bottoms-up approach to sustainable development. Via its policy of joint forest management, it promises local communities a fixed proportion of 25 per cent of net timber sales from plantation areas and also secures their rights in using forests for fodder and fuel wood collection. These, and more, find mention in the 200-page compendium titled "Successful Governance Initiatives and Best Practices" released by Planning Commission deputy chairman, K C Pant, in the capital yesterday. Prepared in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme, India country office, the report is a good first attempt at providing an account of those initiatives of the government sector which epitomise 'good governance'. The provocation for the publication, according to Mr. Pant, was the paucity of information in the public domain about models of effective implementation and delivery of public services provided by the State, especially at the state level. By detailing 20 case studies from 14 states, the Planning Commission hopes to enlighten state governments and, eventually, encourage them to learn from, adapt, and then replicate good governance practices at the grassroots level in their own backyard. A great idea, doubtless.

And the lessons that emerge are inspiring. As Ms K Seeta Prabhu of the UNDP puts it, "Partnerships between government and communities, good institutional mechanisms and proper monitoring - these together can make a real difference". The overall message, therefore, is a positive one - that problems of poverty, gender inequality, illiteracy, and unsustainable use of natural resources are not insurmountable. That decentralised decision-making, empowerment of women, devolution of power, application of sound economic logic are not just staples of public policy theory but are also evidenced in practice. That State-sponsored developmental schemes don't always end up as a waste of valuable resources. So, here is Yojana Bhawan hoping to achieve its cherished 8 per cent targeted GDP growth rate with some help from this publication. Indeed, the thinking is that as states are encouraged to better implement policies at the field level, they'll be on their way to achieving higher economic, social and human development indices, which will in turn favourably impact the overall GDP growth rate and also help tackle the problem of regional inequalities. Yet, disturbing questions continue to crop up: Will information, irrespective of how well it's disseminated, prove to be an adequate catalyst of positive change? Will the traditional laggards display political will to embrace good models served up on a platter? How far will the dismal state of state finances allow an improved focus on development expenditure? With ten states going to the polls next years, will populism continue to triumph over user charges? Watch out for the next compendium - and there will be one, Mr. Pant is quick to reassure - to see if new states make it to this progressive list.

From Financial Express, Bangladesh, by Parul Malhotra, 20 December 2002

MP: Plan Panel Lauds Governance Initiatives

Bhopal - Four schemes of Madhya Pradesh have been identified under the "successful governance initiatives" jointly identified by the Planning Commission and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Planning Commission has identified four schemes of Madhya Pradesh, followed by three of Tamil Nadu and two each of Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. Those identified in the state are - Education Guarantee Scheme of the Rajiv Gandhi Shiksha Mission, Rajiv Gandhi Watershed Management Mission for Integrated Watershed Development, Rogi Kalyan Samiti for improving public hospitals through community participation and the Gyandoot scheme for providing citizen services through information technology. A compilation entitled 'Successful governance initiatives and best practices and experiences from Indian states' was released prior to the recent meeting of the National Development Council and circulated to all state chief ministers. According to the Planning Commission, the criteria used to identify the schemes are relevance to the poor, benefits to maximum number of people, quantum of funds being deployed, potential for productivity enhancing, viability, level of community participation, sustainability of interventions and potential for replication.

From The Hindu, India, 26 December 2002

Good Governance

Inspiring practices are replicable too - The Planning Commission's attempt to publicise successful governance initiatives of state governments is a commendable one, though it can be viewed as a logical follow-up to its National Human Development Report, 2001(NHDR). While the NHDR frequently referred to the concept of 'good governance' and elaborated on the tools necessary to achieve this objective, it failed to adequately highlight actual models of development unfolding across India. The recently released compendium "Successful Governance Initiatives and Best Practices: Experiences from Indian States", prepared jointly with a unit of the United Nations Development Programme, makes up for that shortcoming. The documentation of 20 successful programmes underway in 14 states brings to the fore the myriad outcomes of good governance: Be it the economic upliftment of local communities, their improved access to land and water and social services such as quality education and health care, or a qualitative improvement in their dealings with local administration. Subsequent editions can now be expected to widen the scope of their content and also include experiences of states not mentioned in the debut document. As far as this compendium is concerned, it does end up dispelling somewhat the widely prevailing cynicism associated with State-sponsored developmental schemes.

Indeed, several powerful messages emerge, foremost among which is that good governance is scarcely more than a combination of political vision, economic wisdom, focussed implementation and effective monitoring - the latter two achieved by co-opting non-governmental organisations and local communities into the schemes in question. That success stories have also emerged from northern and eastern states such as Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, and Tripura - together with their southern and western counterparts, which have traditionally been at the forefront of the development process - is heartening too. That said, more than 50 per cent of the success stories emerge from just four states (Madhya Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh). Herein lies the publication's greatest relevance. Innovative education guarantee schemes, e-governance initiatives, sustainable forestry management practices, water supply and sanitation systems are approaches which have not only worked but can also be replicated. The Planning Commission has set the ball rolling by putting in the public domain these select experiences. It is sincerely hoped that they are replicated widely within and across various states. If 14 states can do it, there's no reason why 28 states and six union territories can't.

From Financial Express, Bangladesh, 22 December 2002

 

Swiss Opt for Stability, Keep Coalition Unchanged

The Swiss parliament replaced retiring Interior Minister Ruth Dreifuss with a colleague from the Social Democratic Party, keeping a coalition in place that has governed the country for the past four decades. With 131 votes out of 199, Micheline Calmy-Rey, 57, beat party colleague Ruth Luethi, 55, to the post in the seven-seat Cabinet. Lawmakers snubbed the Swiss People's Party, which sought a second seat in the government after doubling its share of the vote in less than a decade. Political stability has helped the country, which isn't a member of the European Union, attract the biggest share of assets managed outside investors' home countries. Financial-services revenue has helped make the economy Europe's seventh largest even though it has only 7.3 million residents. "The Swiss franc will remain a safe haven because the country has a stable government," said Jan Amrit Poser, head of fixed-income research at Bank Sarasin & Cie in Zurich. This might have changed in case of a "polarization" of politics. The People's Party, which opposes entry into the 15-member EU and campaigns against immigration, wanted coalition members the Radical Democrats and Christian Democrats to opt for one of its members and shift the balance of power to the political right.

The Social Democrats and the two centrist groups have two ministerial posts each, leaving one to the People's Party. The four parties together have almost 90 percent of all seats in the Swiss parliament, a reflection of the country's tradition of including the most relevant political groups in the government. 'Wrong' - "Now everything will be just as before: wrong," Christoph Blocher, the head of the Zurich branch of the party, said in an interview. "We need more tax cuts and not more revenue." The People's Party may use parliament's rebuff to push its claim to be the only true right-wing party at the parliamentary elections in October. After electing a new minister, the government also made Economics Minister Pascal Couchepin president, a post rotated annually among the seven ministers with mostly ceremonial duties. He may use his job to breathe new life into a flagging campaign to make the Swiss economy more competitive by removing regulatory hurdles and state support, analysts said. The election of Calmy-Rey came as little surprise after the centrist parties pledged to vote for one of the two official candidates. Calmy-Rey is finance minister of the canton of Geneva and has been credited with turning around the region's finances. Geneva traditionally has the highest jobless rates in Switzerland. Geneva Revival - Under the guidance of Calmy-Rey, the canton of Geneva returned to a balanced budget with a series of cost cuts and as the economy recovered from a six-year period of little or no growth. Geneva posted a deficit of 580 million Swiss francs ($394 million) five years ago.

Though Calmy-Rey replaces the interior minister, the government next week will decide which department the newest member of government will get. The ministers with the most years of service have first say and may want to choose a new post. "I'll be on the side of the ordinary people and the economically weak," Calmy-Rey told reporters after her election. Calmy-Rey, a native of Sion, is only the fourth woman to serve as minister, joining Justice Minister Ruth Metzler in the government. Calmy-Rey is an adviser to the Swiss National Bank. She has been a member of Geneva's regional council since 1997. The first Swiss female minister, Radical Democrat Elisabeth Kopp, was elected in 1984, more than a decade after women gained the right to vote. Dreifuss will retire at the end of the year after almost a decade in power. The 62-year-old became the first Jewish president of Switzerland in 1999. Calmy-Rey's party favors joining the European Union. Swiss voters last year rejected a bid to open membership talks with the 15-member bloc. "She will, of course, work for membership in the EU - that's one of the reasons why we elected her," said Mario Fehr, social democratic lawmaker, in an interview. "She's a symbol for an open Switzerland."

From Bloomberg-Politics, by Simone Meier, 4 December 2002

UNDP Launches the First Regional E-Government System in Armenia

On December 4, in Vanadzor city UNDP launched the first regional e-governance system in Armenia developed a pilot project for the region of Lori. The system is a component of a broader project "Support to Information Society and Democratic Governance" implemented by UNDP to assist Armenia in strengthening democratic governance through modern information and communications technologies (ICT), a press release by UNDP said. Lori was selected as a pilot region taking into account the existing supportive infrastructure, as well as the propitious and hands-on stance of the regional authorities towards the issue. Utilization of the e-governance system will create conditions to increase the effectiveness of the regional governing bodies, to enhance democratic norms and practices, and will promote state-citizen closer relationships. The system, reachable from the Internet, including from the public access center established by UNDP at Lori Governor's Office, facilitates access for the citizens and all the interested parties to diverse and accurate information and data on the following: structure of the regional administration, their rights and responsibilities; requirements for initiating entrepreneurial activities; members of the Parliament elected from the region; tax and other laws and regulations in force; services provided by the Governor's Office; local and international organizations operating in Lori, their projects, and numerous other issues. In addition, the system provides an on-line opportunity for the population to directly refer their letters and applications to the regional authorities and anticipate responses through the same system. "This system is key to enhance transparency and predictability, hence credibility in the manner regional authorities operate. We look forward to replicating it to all the provinces of Armenia," said Joel Boutroue, the UNDP Resident Representative. Taking into consideration the importance of this initiative, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) will support UNDP in expanding the e-governance system throughout Armenia.

From Armenian Daily, 06 December 2002

New Proposals to Reform European Governance

The Commission adopted on 11 December a set of measures for improving EU decision-making within existing Treaties and presented a report on progress made since its July 2001 White Paper on European Governance. Background: When taking office in 1999, Commission President Romano Prodi drew attention to the need for fundamental reform of the EU decision-making process and the way that the EU institutions function. Promoting new forms of European governance then was made one of the four strategic priorities of the Prodi Commission at the beginning of 2000. This current Commission initiative is the renewal of long-standing efforts for institutional and policy-making reform. The need to improve the quality of and to simplify regulation has been recognized at both at EU level and within individual Member States since the mid-1980s. The White Paper on European Governance and its ensuing action plans are intended to involve the Parliament, Council and Commission and Member State governments in improving the way in which legislation and policies are prepared and implemented under the existing EU treaties. The Commission has defined governance as "the rules, processes and practices that affect how powers are exercised at the European level" as defined by the treaties as they stand. The choice of promoting new forms of governance under the existing institutional framework became the only options available following the decision of the Nice European Council in December 2000 to call for an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on institutional reform in 2004. Some of the initiatives proposed in the Commission's White Paper on European Governance may be taken forward in the preparation of treaty amendments.

The Commission is also presenting separate contributions on the reform of the treaties to the Convention on the Future EU, drawing upon the contents and processes launched by the White Paper. A link is thus established to the work of the Convention and the IGC. Issues: The Report on European Governance reviews the progress achieved over the past 16 months with regard to governance issues. It shows that the Commission has already developed and launched the majority of the actions proposed in the White Paper. A public consultation had been launched following the publication of the White Paper and ran through 31 March 2002. The Commission reports that the response to its public consultation "was modest in numbers (260 contributions) but rich in content." It is worth noting that some EU institutions and Member States did not contribute to the consultation. Similarly, a geographical imbalance across the EU was in evidence as regards contributions, perhaps reflecting differences in public consultation culture and tradition. The Commission reports that the public response largely supports the White Paper's definition of the principles underlying European governance of openness, participation, accountability, effectiveness and coherence. Part of the public response regrets the apparent limits of the White Papers understanding of "governance" which focuses predominantly on the effectiveness and efficiency of the EU decision-making system. The Commission was seen to disregard issues of democratic legitimacy and democratic deficit in European integration.

The principles of democratic legitimacy and subsidiarity thus have been proposed as additions to the underlying principles. The public consultation supported the following key governance approaches of the Commission: ·improving bottom-up involvement in EU policy shaping and implementation; ·widening the choice of instruments to respond to new governance challenges more focused European institutions with clearer responsibilities; The Commission's new communications include proposals for: ·improved quality of control as regards the application of legislation: the duty of the Commission "as guardian of the Treaties" will become more relevant in the perspective of enlargement; a "more balanced" implementing committee system, or so-called 'comitology'; ·a framework for new regulatory agencies; the use of "tripartite conventions and contracts" with local, regional, national authorities for a more "adapted and flexible" implementation of EU legislation and programmes. Next steps:·In 2003, the Commission intends to pursue the agenda defined in the White Paper in light of the results of the public consultation. The Commission also intends to reach agreement on the initiatives already launched and to provide further governance inputs as part of the reform of the treaties under the Convention and the IGC.

From Euractiv, Belgium, 12 December 2002

Government Increases Local Government Funding for County Council

The chairperson of Limerick County Council, Cllr Brigid Teefy, has welcomed the Government's announcement that it is increasing its funding of the local authority by 6.9 per cent in the coming year.IN the announcement of the 2003 Local Government Funding allocation, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, martin Cullen, has announced funding of 17,607,117euro for Limerick County Council for 2003. "This is a very significant increase and will play a major part in ensuring that the various work programmes, including improvements, can be maintained and continued in 2003," said Cllr Teefy in welcoming the funding and increase of just under 1.2million euro. Meanwhile there will be no decision on the proposal by the management of Limerick County Council to privatise the waste collection service in the county until Monday December 16 at the earliest. The issue has been discussed at two meetings of the county council but with no final decision taken on the controversial issue by councillors. The item is now down for discussion on the agenda for the council's meeting this coming Monday, when it is expected that a final vote on the matter will be taken by councillors. At a previous meeting of the council, director of services Paul Crowe warned councillors that people living in the county could face average annual domestic waste collection charges of 394euro if councillors vote to retain the service.

From Limerick Post, Ireland, 11 December 2002

Citizens and Governance in a Knowledge-Based Society

Part A - The European Commission has published a call for proposals for Priority 7 (part A) under the Sixth Framework Programme's 'Citizens and governance in a knowledge-based society' thematic priority (point 7 in the work programme). This is one of the areas covered by the 'Integrating and strengthening the European Research Area' specific programme. Integrated projects and networks of excellence will be used to fund projects selected under this call. The activities carried out in this thematic priority are intended to mobilise in a coherent effort, in all their wealth and diversity, European research capacities in economic, political, social sciences and humanities that are necessary to develop an understanding of, and to address issues related to, the emergence of the knowledge-based society and new forms of relationships between its citizens, on one hand, and between its citizens and institutions, on the other. Areas covered by this call are: - Science and technology in the knowledge based society; (area 1.1.3 of the work programme) - Societal trends in the knowledge based society and their implications for quality of life; (area 2.1.1 of the work programme) - Migration, immigration and multiculturalism as challenges for knowledge-based societies; (area 3.1.1 of the work programme) - Multilevel governance, democracy and new policy instruments; (area 5.1.2 of the work programme) - New approaches to security and the role of Europe (area 6.1.1 of the work programme). The total indicative budget for this call is 20 million euro. Citizens and governance in a knowledge-based society - Part B - The European Commission has published a call for proposals for priority 7 (part B) under the Sixth Framework Programme's 'Citizens and governance in a knowledge-based society' thematic priority area (point 7 in the work programme). This is one of the areas covered by the 'Integrating and strengthening the European Research Area' specific programme.

Projects selected under this call will be funded using the specific targeted research project instrument and the coordinated action instrument. The activities carried out in this thematic priority are intended to mobilise in a coherent effort, in all their wealth and diversity, European research capacities in economic, political, social sciences and humanities that are necessary to develop an understanding of, and to address issues related to, the emergence of the knowledge-based society and new forms of relationships between its citizens, on one hand, and between its citizens and institutions, on the other. Areas covered by this call include: - Understanding the knowledge based society (area 1.2 of the work programme); - The contribution of knowledge based entrepreneurship as a source of growth, employment and development potential in Europe (area 1.2 of the work programme); - The integration of social sciences and humanities (area 1.2 of the work programme); - Education challenges for the knowledge society (area 2.2 of the work programme); - Reinforcing the links between science and education (area 2.2 of the work programme); - Intergenerational inheritance of inequalities (area 2.2 of the work programme); - Insecurity (area 1.2 of the work programme); - Historical development of socio-economic development models (area 3.2 of the work programme); - Citizens attitudes, preferences, civic values (area 3.2 of the work programme); - Compatibility and tension - sustainable development and the knowledge society (area 3.2 of the work programme); - Knowledge for Humankind initiative (area 3.2 of the work programme); - Social, political and economic transformations in the candidate countries (area 4.2 of the work programme); - Corporate social responsibility (area 5.2 of the work programme); - Human rights (area 6.2 of the work programme); - Violent conflicts (area 6.2 of the work programme); - Active civic participation (area 7.2 of the work programme); - Assessments of the media's impact in the public sphere (area 7.2 of the work programme). The total indicative budget for this call is 33 million euro.

From Cordis News, EU, 17 December 2002

 

Palestinian Leader Calls for Shakeup

Barghouti: Old leaders should step aside - Influential Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, now sitting in an Israeli jail, said Tuesday that he believes the Palestinian national movement needs newer, younger leadership. According to one of Barghouti's lawyers, Barghouti told the Palestinian Legislative Council: "It is the time for many of the Palestinian leaders and officials to leave their positions after failing in their roles and responsibilities in this decisive battle," referring to the two-year-old Palestinian uprising. According to the source, he said Palestinian Authority officials should make way for younger leadership, but did not mention Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat by name. Arafat is 73. Barghouti is 43. "This should be done in a democratic and legal way as soon as possible," he said. The Palestinian Authority is scheduled to hold presidential and legislative elections in January as part of a plan to revamp its government. However, Palestinian officials have been saying it is unlikely that elections will be held as planned because Israeli troops encircling most of their cities have made it impossible for them to prepare. One of Barghouti's attorneys told CNN about the remarks. Recently, top Palestinian officials have said the armed uprising was a mistake and should stop. "Resistance is a holy right for the Palestinian people to face the Israeli occupation," Barghouti said. "Nobody should forget that the Palestinian people negotiated for 10 years and accepted difficult and humiliating agreements, and in the end didn't get anything except authority over the people, and no authority over land, or sovereignty." Barghouti, the West Bank chief of Arafat's Fatah movement, is accused of playing a central part in ordering deadly attacks against Israelis during the past two years. He faces 37 charges, including murder, attempted murder and involvement in a terrorist organization.

From CNN, 4 December 2002

 

University Senate votes on New Government Model

A 38-6 vote by the senate body allows for the adoption of compromise model. University Senate is preparing to flesh out a new governance structure after Thursday's meeting. With a vote of 38-6, the senate body adopted a skeleton of a compromise model over the current system. Four senators abstained. An intense discussion preceded the vote, creating divisions among students and between students and faculty. Student senator Chris Borkowski brought forward accusations that members of Student Government Association did not prepare student senators for their vote in October. "For the past two months, there have been questionable tactics to ruin any chance for the student senate to vote in favor or against the compromise model while having knowledge of all models and opinions," Borkowski said. SGA President Tolu Olowomeye said both models were presented to the students unbiased, and copies of the model structure were made available to student senators a week before the October SGA straw vote. She also said faculty had ample time to attend a meeting and present its case. Olowomeye called Borkowski's accusations "brutally disrespectful." The debate continued until visitor Eric Richardson encouraged senators to take action. "Your system doesn't work," Richardson said. "There is a faculty phobia here that if we let professors run us, we don't get a vote." President Blaine Brownell took the floor first in the discussion, voicing his support for the compromise model. "The current model has been in place for a long time," Brownell said. "But it is not an acceptable model based on what (university senators) have said."

Although Provost Beverley Pitts was unable to attend because of a death in the family, she sent Acting Assistant Provost Deborah Balogh to express her support for the compromise model. Professor Mark Popovich, author of the compromise model, said this was not a common occurrence. "In 30 years I can't ever remember a president or provost that have so emphatically supported a faculty vote in a governance system," Popovich said. "I thought President Brownell showed great statesmanship today, and I think he understood it was in the best interest of the faculty to do it that way." Despite the fact that Brownell and a majority of the senate showed support for the compromise model, a task force must be appointed before a final structure is adopted. University Senate Chairwoman Marilyn Buck said details like committee structure and proportionality would be worked out in the task force. The task force has not been appointed, an effort Buck said would surface in future senate meetings. "Everything below the council structure is up for arbitration," Popovich said. With the proportions of students, staff and professional personnel uncertain, student senators prepare for the next step in the restructuring process. "Now we have to fight for our seats," said Nick Zuniga, SGA president pro tempore. As far as the direct link to the agenda committee, SGA Vice President Megan Pickens remains skeptical. "It depends on the makeup of the agenda committee," Pickens said.

From Ball State Daily News, IN, by Lauren Phillips, 6 December 2002

Better Governance in Canada, Expert Says

The Canadian business sector enjoys better corporate governance and suffers from less misconduct than its U.S. counterpart, a key business figure said yesterday. Speaking before a Senate committee looking into corporate scandal, Purdy Crawford said Corporate Canada and the equity analysts that report on it operate under higher ethical standards than in the United States. Securities laws here are also at least as strong as those in the United States, he told the standing committee on banking, trade and commerce, although enforcement has traditionally been lax in Canada. "From my various experiences, I think we have better corporate governance in Canada than in the U.S.," said Mr. Crawford, a veteran Toronto lawyer and corporate director on both sides of the border. Despite its apparent advantage, though, Canada should take measures to boost investor confidence in the markets, he advised. The measures, he said, should be based around a "made-in-Canada" solution, not just a copy of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the sweeping corporate accounting reform legislation adopted last summer in the United States. He suggested that Canada should place greater emphasis on independent directors on all key committees, independence from management for a majority of directors and a "lead director" if there is no non-executive chairperson. He also endorsed Ontario's Bill 198, which calls for the securities regulator to gain the right to issue fines and order profit disgorgement, raises the maximum court fine to $5-million from $1-million and maximum prison term to five years from two, and calls for the certification of financial statements. He also called for two sets of rules: one for larger, established firms, one for startups.

From The Globe and Mail, by Simon Tuck, 6 December 2002

Reinventing Government: Will Romney's Plan Work?

Boston - Experts say the national economy is beginning to show some tentative signs of recovery. But conditions in Massachusetts are the worst they have been since the Great Depression, Gov.-elect Mitt Romney's budget chief warns, and there are few encouraging signs that state revenues will rebound anytime soon. Revenues have not kept pace with the cost of running the government, and the Romney team says Massachusetts is ripe for wholesale changes in the way government conducts business. "The most serious fiscal crisis in 60 years deserves the most far-reaching reforms in 60 years," Eric Kriss, who will serve as Romney's secretary of administration and finance, told business executives on Tuesday. And some experts see Romney's pledge to make sweeping change as the bright spot on an otherwise dark economic horizon. The fiscal crisis, coupled with the arrival of a new executive team and an apparent mandate for change from voters, create the perfect climate for reform, experts say. "Not only is it practical, but it's an absolute necessity," said Tripp Jones, executive director of the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC), a nonpartisan think tank. Jones, a member of Romney's transition team studying education issues, served under Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis. "Too much of government hasn't changed," Jones added. "We're in a new century. We've got all kinds of know-how that we didn't have 10, 20, 30 years ago." Finances aside, Jones said the state is rich in other ways, such as technological innovation and brainpower. Romney has talked about merging the Turnpike Authority and the Massachusetts Highway Department. Kriss last week suggested changes to straighten out the "alphabet soup" of health and human service agencies.

The courts and higher education also have been mentioned. "Whenever you deal with government, don't you have the feeling that they go through too many steps?" wondered Edward Moscovitch, an economist and former state budget director under Gov. Frank Sargent. "I think it's great that they want to rethink that and say, 'Could we do that with fewer steps?' Are we doing stuff we don't need to be doing? Are there people there who have an attitude that 'You can't fire me, so I'm not going to work very hard?' The answer is yes. So I think it's great." Politically, reform has never come easy, given the clout of the state's labor unions, Civil Service laws, a web of state regulations to untangle, and the perhaps inevitable resistance from the political opposition. Jones admitted there are "effective, powerful forces that fight change," from the "well-intentioned" who resist reform for personal, practical, or philosophical reasons, and those who simply want to "bust the chops of a new administration." "Our system of government is set up, intentionally, to make these sorts of changes very difficult. And it's going to take a real compelling and creative form of leadership to make anything meaningful happen," he said. Romney acknowledged that it might be difficult to sell the public on sweeping reform. Some of those who rely on state government to survive may directly feel the impact of the economic conditions, he said. "Our economy is actually quite good and is quite strong," he said Thursday, citing recent, if small, upticks in job creation, and the prospect of strong holiday spending. "That's something which is hard, I think, for people to recognize. "But what people don't recognize is that there is quite a lag between the economy coming back and state revenues coming back, number one, and number two, this gap we have ... is not just an economic downturn issue.

The forecasts show this continuing indefinitely." Officials are predicting a budget deficit next year that will exceed $2 billion. Some say a wholesale restructuring is impractical and will take longer than Romney's four-year term. "Their main point of needing to take a fresh look at how government operates, how government does business ... we're in full accord that this is the opportunity to do that," said Michael J. Widmer, director of the nonprofit Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. Widmer said Romney is in for a rude awakening if he expects to make the same quick changes he made at Bain Capital or the Olympic Games. "This isn't a political or a partisan issue. It's the reality of public sector management. It's true of most jurisdictions, and certainly in Massachusetts," Widmer said. Acting Gov. Jane M. Swift, who stepped aside when Romney decided to run earlier this year, said reform is never easy. Some critics say she and her Republican predecessors squandered opportunities to make significant change. But she suggested there is room for optimism. "I was a member of the Legislature in 1991 when Bill Weld did effectuate enormous structural change based on the severity of the fiscal crisis and the voter mandate that he was given," she added. "And I think Mitt Romney possesses both of those points of leverage in order to achieve structural reform." (Julie Mehegan's e-mail address is jmehegan@lowellsun.com).

From Lowell Sun, MA, by Julie Mhehegan, 08 December 2002

Cognos Awarded Prestigious Corporate Governance Honor

Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants Recognizes Cognos for Outstanding Corporate Reporting - Cognos (Nadaq: COGN; TSX: CSN), the world leader in business intelligence (BI), today announced that it has been named the Silver Winner in the High Tech category of the 2002 Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants Corporate Reporting Awards. The award recognizes Cognos for leadership and excellence in corporate reporting, specifically in the category of annual reporting. "At Cognos, we believe that the character and core values of a company are as important as its performance," said Tom Manley, Cognos senior vice president, finance and administration and chief financial officer. "We are honored to have been selected for this important award. It is a reflection of our ongoing commitment to corporate integrity, openness and good governance." Judges for this award included representatives from the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, the Canadian Investor Relations Institute, and the Toronto Society of Financial Analysts. For further information on this award, please visit www.cica.ca. About Cognos: Cognos, the world leader in business intelligence (BI), delivers software that helps companies improve business performance by enabling effective decision-making at all levels of the organization. A forerunner in defining the BI software category, Cognos delivers the next level of competitive advantage - Corporate Performance Management (CPM) achieved through the strategic application of BI on an enterprise scale. CPM lets organizations measure execution against business strategy to ensure the two are aligned at all levels across the enterprise. Cognos provides a framework for CPM that links people, information, and decision- making processes throughout the organization, and enables the complete management cycle with integrated software for planning, budgeting, reporting, analysis, and scorecarding. Cognos serves more than 20,000 customers in over 135 countries. Cognos enterprise business intelligence solutions and services are also available from more than 3,000 worldwide partners and resellers. For more information, visit the Cognos Web site at http://www.cognos.com.

From CanadaIT.com, Canada, 11 December 2002

State, Local Government Must Improve Communication

There is a duality that is naturally created between the governing/taxing body and those whom are governed and taxed. On the one hand the needs of the community must be met, but on the other it must be done in as economical a fashion as possible. This has always been a strained relationship as people have debated the extent to which they can afford to pay for things such as education, sewers and the like. In recent years however, this relationship has reached a breaking point. Legislators, town officials, and school districts need to begin a discussion to examine how they can better communicate to people how the taxing structure works, what those taxes are to be used for, and the needs of the taxing body. It is essential for these groups to work together to achieve this goal. There essentially has been little change in the desire of all three governing bodies to achieve a state of frugality. What has changed, though, are the demands placed upon these bodies in the pursuit of maintaining and improving our schools, towns and state. And the cost to do all of this has risen as New Hampshire - and particularly the Seacoast - has grown. So then what to do? First, the state must examine making the statewide property tax a truly state tax. As it stands now, the tax is collected at the local level and then excess education monies, if there are any, are sent to Concord. The state needs to step up to the plate and take responsibility for administering and collecting its own tax.

There needs to be a separate bill and collection method for the statewide property tax. By delineating more precisely what the state demands, taxpayers will be better able to see where their money is going and know the difference between what the state is taking as compared to what the county, municipal, and schools are taking. We know that each of the four property taxes assessed on residents is portioned on the one bill that people receive, but the state needs to take ownership of its revenue-generating means and unburden the locality. Second, county, municipal, and school governing bodies need to communicate with each other when making decisions that will have an effect on their individual tax rates. We are not saying that they don't currently, but some do this better than others. For example, in Exeter, Plaistow and Hampton, the school districts and municipal governments have infrastructure needs that are going to compete for voter support during Town Meeting. Add Rockingham County's needs, and it is likely that none of the necessary improvements and maintenance will be passed. Delineating, balancing, and communicating the needs of all three in as strong a package as possible will help decision makers prioritize their needs, place their initiatives in scale with taxpayer affordability, possibly reduce redundancies, and ultimately save money for the taxpayers.

From Rockingham News, NH, 13 December 2002

Fiscal Forecast for State, Local Governments is Grim

Washington - Survey says fewer services and higher taxes are likely as resources dry up - The fiscal crisis now shaking state and local governments appears likely to grow even larger in the next budget year, bringing with it deep cuts in a range of services and mounting pressure to raise taxes, according to a survey of state budget documents by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. As state governments struggle to close current deficits - by slashing Medicaid spending, raising state college tuitions and, in some cases, releasing nonviolent prisoners - the survey of preliminary budget documents in 42 states shows that the fiscal outlook for next year is no better. And most states already have exhausted billions of dollars put aside during the boom years as a cushion against recession. "The states have done the easier things first, and now they're left with much starker choices," said Robert Greenstein, executive director of the center, a liberal research group. The study found that 11 states have adopted or proposed plans to eliminate health coverage for 1 million people living near the poverty level. The study is based on preliminary figures taken from working documents used by governors and legislators, and could change if the economy improves before most 2003-2004 budgets are enacted in June. On average, the states surveyed were anticipating deficits of 13 to 18 percent of their general fund budgets, or more than twice the gap faced in the recession of the early 1990s. Officials of national organizations that monitor state fiscal health said it is impossible to pinpoint the anticipated deficits for 2004.

But they generally agreed with the center's prediction of a continuing crisis for state governments, caused by plunging tax revenue and the steeply rising cost of Medicaid, which expanded dramatically in the 1990s to cover families leaving welfare. "Getting the real number is virtually impossible right now," said Scott Pattison, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers. "But given that, this is as good an effort as one can do." Some states - including Alabama, Alaska, California, Nevada and Oregon - face shortfalls close to one-fourth of their general fund budgets. Iris Lav, the center's deputy director, said that even deep cuts in basic services and tax increases probably would not overcome deficits of 25 percent. Only three governors have proposed or signed tax increases so far - in New Jersey, Connecticut and Arkansas - but Lav said that more than 40 states raised taxes in the 1990s recession, when deficits peaked at 6.5 percent of general fund budgets, far below next year's anticipated shortfalls. The report appeared likely to fuel debate over whether President Bush should include help for the states in his economic stimulus package. Montana Sen. Max Baucus, the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, has proposed directing $75 billion to states to relieve fiscal crises. Economists have warned that deep cuts and tax increases at the state level would dampen the effects of the president's proposed tax cuts. White House officials have responded in the past that the federal government faces its own deficits. But one official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, "The president will continue to look at options for securing economic growth, and constructive suggestions from the nation's governors will certainly be given consideration."

From Newark Star Ledger, NJ, by Dale Rusaakoff, 25 December 2002

Peru Hopes to Enhance Anti-Corruption Cooperation with China

Peruvian Prime Minister Luis Solari on Tuesday expressed the hope that the two countries could enhance exchanges and cooperation in the fight against corruption, drug trafficking and other crimes. In a meeting with visiting Chinese Procurator-General Han Zhubin, Solari said the two countries have separately tightened the screws on corruption and other crimes and that cooperation in this field would benefit both sides. "The crimes and criminal organizations could only be fought through international cooperation, with the goal of consolidating democracy, justice and social welfare," Solari said. He also hoped that the two countries could deepen cooperation in economics and trade, and tourism. Han said the Chinese government, which has declared war on corruption and drug trafficking, is interested in learning from the experiences of Peru. The two countries will sign a memorandum of understanding to promote the sharing of experiences and the training of personnel, Han said. Han and his delegation arrived in Lima on Monday for a four-day visit.

From EastDay.com, China, 17 December 2002

 
 
 

Modern Governance is not Conceivable Without Democracy, King Mohammed

Morocco's King Mohammed VI on Wednesday underlined that modern governance is not conceivable without democracy, calling for enforcing new forms of governance to adapt to the requirements of modern times. The king made the statement in a message read out on his behalf by Moroccan Premier Driss Jettou to the 4th Global Forum, currently held in Marrakesh. "Governance is not conceivable without democracy, as is economic and social progress without participation and development without liberty and respect of human rights, hence, the pertinence of the topic chosen for this meeting "Citizens, Businesses and Governments: Dialogues and Partnerships for Democracy and Development," said the king "If each of these actors: States, Businesses and civil society has a key role to assume within the society of tomorrow, it is on the way these roles will be understood, played and above all integrated, that will depend the efficiency of new governance in the fields of democracy, economic development and social progress," he added. The new realities in the world impose on governments to ponder other types of national and international governance, said King Mohammed VI, adding that the world is faced today with serious breaks and dangerous unbalances, despite the immense progress scored particularly in the realms of knowledge development, technology, economy or communication. "The most lethal break is that of violence that hits the planet and divides humanity," he deplored.

To traditional conflicts have added new forms of open or covert wars, ethnic conflicts, civil wars, terrorism, which are nurtured by motivations that we thought, are obsolete, drawn from ethnic differences and so called clash of civilizations or from abusive religious proselytism, the king underlined. King Mohammed VI stressed that the immense gap between the North and the South and unequal development of the planet are another break worsened by the great demographic unbalance which extends poverty and edging out in the underdeveloped countries and feeds the feeling of injustice and lack of solidarity and speeds up the currents of immigration. It is in this connection that dialogue between governments, businesses and citizens should blow a new breath, inspire alternatives and result in ways and means likely to lead to a fairer world of stronger solidarity and a planet better shielded, stressed the King. Touching on Morocco's experiment in the field of governance, King Mohammed VI underlined that the Kingdom started the redeployment of the State, reinforced democracy, promoted decentralization, sparked economic liberalization, privileged associative initiatives, encouraged partnerships between the private, the public sectors and the civil society. A Long path is yet to go to gain full benefits from the political, democratic, economic and social opportunities offered by the new forms of governance, he said.

From Arabic News, 12 December 2002

Annan Urges Greater Focus on Good Governance at Morocco Meeting

To make progress in building a better world, the international community should pay more attention to democracy, public administration and sound systems of governance, said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday, as suggested by a press release issued by the UN Information Center on Thursday. "Leaders and policy-makers need the tools and institutions that will translate the Millennium Declaration's broad goals into nationally owned strategies and actions," Annan said. The press release added that the Secretary-General delivered the remarks to the fourth Global Forum on reinventing government by the Executive Director of UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Africa, Mervat Tallawy. "Citizens need the transparent, responsive mechanisms through which they can voice their demands and participate in all stages of policy-making, implementation and evaluation," he added. According to the forum, the three-day forum in Morocco aims to make governments more responsive to citizens and private sector, modernize their operations and reconcile the values of local societies with the sweeping culture of globalization. In his statement, Annan also emphasized the involvement of private sector and civil society organizations in activities such as the delivery of public services traditionally incumbent solely on the states. "Such partnerships are critically important," he said. "While the state has a crucial role to play in development, it cannot accomplish its tasks on its own." Annan noted, the UN is deeply engaged in global efforts to 'reinvent government', particularly in developing countries and those with economies in transition and that some world bodies activities include policy research and analysis, training programs and advisory services.

From IRNA, 12 December 2002

 

New Language Policy for Civil Service Welcomed

Political parties have welcomed government's new language policy for state departments. The policy was announced by Ben Ngubane, the Minister of Arts and Culture, yesterday. Concern was however raised about the fact that departments should choose their own single language for inter- and intradepartmental use. The Freedom Front (FF) and Afrikaner-Eenheidsbeweging (AEB) felt that this would lead to Anglicisation. According to the new plan, all government departments will make use of at least six official languages in all external official correspondence within the next three years. Sydney Opperman, the Democratic Alliance (DA) spokesperson, said every contribution towards the protection of all aspects of South Africa's rich diversity should be welcomed with open arms. He said Ngubane demonstrated his commitment toward the development of language diversity with the announcement of the plan. Discussions around a workplace language for intra- and interdepartmental use must be conducted in a sensitive manner and would lead to compromises. Special attention paid to languages of the Khoi and San would help to save them from extinction, Opperman said. Cassie Aucamp, the AEB leader, said his party received Ngubane's announcement with mixed reaction.

He welcomed government's realisation of the cost of multi-lingualism and the willingness to budget for at the highest percent, additional cost for this. Also on the positive side were the inclusion of six languages instead of 11, which would have been impractical, said Aucamp. Criticising the prescriptions about internal language use, Aucamp said departments' language of choice would inevitably be English, as the majority of South Africans could "help themselves" in English on at least third-language level. "Strictly applied, this would mean that two Afrikaans officials would correspond with each other in English regarding official matters," he said. Ngubane said that government wants to establish a new culture of multi-lingualism in South Africa with the new plan. All government documents would have to be in at least six languages, chosen from the Nguni and Sotho groups, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans and English, if they were not available in the 11 official languages. Amounts budgeted for the additional cost of phasing in the plan, are R90 million in the first year, R95 million in the second year, and R142 million in the third year. The policy also provides for the establishment of language units in all national and provincial government departments. - Sapa.

From SABC News, South Africa, 4 December 2002

VP Malewezi Lambasts Civil Servants On Aids

Lilongwe Civil Servants received a stern dressing down for the Vice President, The Right Honourable Justin Malewezi last week at the launch of 'The HIV/AIDS Impact Assessment report on human resources in the public sector' for their tardiness at the function and their lack of appreciation of the pandemic. The launch, which took place strategically at the Capital Hill open space next to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was set to begin with the arrival of invited guests at 8 am. Civil servant began arriving well after the VP had arrived at 8 am and the programme had started. Chairs that were placed under tents were unoccupied and one of the tents was completely empty. At the end of his statement which he delivered at the launch, the VP said he had arrived at 9 am and found most of the seats empty. 'I came here at 9 o'clock and found all these chairs empty. I would like to ask the SPC, the deputy SPC and the Principal Secretaries to instil some sense of discipline, and part of that discipline is punctuality,' the visibly concerned VP said berating the civil servant and telling them of the importance of the launch saying: 'We can not allow ourselves to handle things so loosely as if this is not an important thing. This is probably the most important single issue that the civil service should be addressing itself to' he said. The VP stressed the importance of the civil servant's support in the effort that the government is making in the fight against HIV/AIDS adding: 'I hope the next time we have functions, particularly here at Capital Hill when the offices are just around the corner we could find time early enough to come and listen and participate and support the effort that government is making in order to combat this disease' After Malewezi's address to the civil servants, some guests were overhead saying 'People should know the VP is always on time.

The civil servants have no excuse' UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Co-ordinator Ms. Zahra Nuru said the launch had taken place at Capital Hill in order to make it accessible for the civil servants to attend. 'As the report was centred around the Public Service and with the government as a partner, we though that the Capital Hill was the best place to launch it.' When asked if she was pleased with the turn out of the civil servants, she said: ' At first there were a few people standing around but once they were seated, we had quite a good crowd.' The report, which was funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and compiled by the Malawi Institute of Management (MIM) was commissioned in an effort to find out the impact that HIV and AIDS has on development efforts, and on the central role of the public sector for development management. The report has revealed that approximately K10 million which is not budgeted for is being spend by the government on it's workers because of the level of the epidemic. Government departments that were involved in the study were the Ministry of Water Development, the Malawi Police Service, the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health and Population. The report also concluded that there was sufficient evidence of a high magnitude of human resource capacity erosion in the public service between 1990 and 2000 and that HIV/AIDS had contributed significantly to the capacity erosion in the five sectors of government that participated in the study.

From Malawi Here, by Pushpa Jamieson, 6 December 2002

Niger Government Disburses N200m Motorcycle Loan to Civil Servants

The sum of N200 million has been set aside by the Niger State government to be disbursed as car and motor-cycle loans for civil servants in the state. The secretary to the state government (SSG) Adams Erena made this disclosure while speaking in an interactive forum with newsmen in the state Ministry of Information. Erena explained that the committee set up by government to work out the modalities for the disbursement of the loans has submitted its report, adding that the report was being considered by the state executive council. The secretary explained that 70 per cent of the beneficiaries were drawn from the field workers while the remaining 30 per cent would cover non-field workers. Erena, said the loans were aimed at providing efficiency in the civil service, stressing that official cars were no longer available in the service. The SSG pointed out that the state housing corporation was working in conjunction with the Federal Mortgage Bank to provide low cost houses for civil servants on grade level 06 and 17, on owner-occupier basis. Erena regretted the negligence of the civil service at the early life of this administration, adding that the situation has new changed for the better. He frowned at the use of youths by politicians for thugery and called on the state ministry of information to use its machinery to educate and sensitise the youths on the need to avoid violence during the electioneering period.

From Daily Times of Nigeria, by Aideloje Ojo, 05 December 2002

Ondo Finance Commissioner Charged with Fraud

Akure-Ondo State Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Segun Ojo was yesterday arraigned before a state High Court on a two count- charge of conspiracy and fraud. But Mr. Ojo pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges from the dock and was granted bail in the sum of N500,000, on self-recognition. The arraignment, yesterday, of the embattled Finance Commissioner followed assumption of jurisdiction on the criminal matter by the presiding judge in the case, Justice Deji Akinwalere. The Finance Commissioner had a couple of months, ago been dragged by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) before the State High Court, alleging criminal offences against the public officer. But counsel to the Finance Commissioner had challenged the jurisdiction of the court. Following the preliminary objection raised by the Finance Commissioner, Justice Akinwalere asked both parties in the matter to address him. Arguments were taken for weeks from both the ICPC and the accused person in the matter while ruling in the matter was fixed for July this year. But the High Court judge could not deliver the ruling in July following industrial action embarked upon by personnel of the state judiciary over unpaid salaries. Before proceedings commenced yesterday in the matter, the High Court judge threw out the application by the accused person, challenging the court's jurisdiction to entertain the case. On his assumption of jurisdiction in the matter, Justice Akinwalere ordered that the two count charges of conspiracy and fraud pressed against the public officer be read to him. Mr. Ojo, who responded from the dock that he understood the charges pressed against him, pleaded not guilty to them.

The charges specifically read: That you Mr. Segun Ojo did conspire with others to purchase a property at Plot 90, Ajose Adeogun Street, Victoria Island, Lagos at N500 million from Ventures and Trusts Limited for Ondo State government in 2000 without budgetary provision for such during the year. According to the charge, the act violated section 22(40 of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act 2000 since it was without government approval and cash backing. But immediately the charges were read to Mr. Ojo, and his pleas were taken, his attorney, Dr. Tunji Abayomi made an oral application to the presiding judge for his client's bail on self-recognition. Justice Akinwalere did not ask the prosecutor- ICPC, in the matter whether it would object to the oral bail application before granting it. The development however caused serious furore as attorney to the ICPC, Mr. Kado accused the judge of not being fair to the commission. Kado who wondered why he had to grant such application without asking whether he would object to it alleged that he did not even hear the opposing counsel, ask for bail for the accused person. Not until Senior Counsel in the court intervened, the presiding judge could not continue with the proceedings as both opposing attornces in the matter were exchanging words. Justice Akinwalere however fixed hearing of the matter for between February 10 and 13, 2003. Meanwhile, counsel to ICPC in an affidavit to the court alleged that the accused person Mr. Ojo attempted to travel outside the country to Milan, Italy on November 12 but was stopped by security agents.

From Vanguard, Nigeria, by Dayo Johnson, 11 December 2002

Last Pay Hike for Civil Servants

Zimbabwean civil servants' 80 percent salary increases in January could be their last for 18 months while their annual bonus could for the first time be replaced by a performance-related 13th cheque, if Cabinet approves a wage freeze proposed by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. Sources in the ministry said although Cabinet had yet to approve the proposal, the government had already taken a position on the wage freeze, which would complement a blanket freeze on prices introduced last month. They said once negotiations with labour and employers were concluded, a statutory instrument would be gazetted and the salary freeze, which would also apply to the private sector, would be effective from January 2003. "After the increases in January, we are looking at a period of between 18 to 24 months of salary freeze," a government official told the Financial Gazette. "That is at least up to July 2004 to achieve the desired results of combating the inflationary high cost of living from our side." Officials in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare said the government had invited other members of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum to a meeting next Monday to work out the implementation of the wage freeze. The forum comprises the government, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and the Employers' Confederation of Zimbabwe (EMCOZ). The secretary-general of the ZCTU, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Public Service and Social Welfare and the director of EMCOZ will meet today to work out the agenda of next week's discussions.

Labour and Social Welfare Minister July Moyo told the Financial Gazette yesterday that he could not provide details of the proposed wage freeze because key stakeholders were still being consulted. But sources said in preparation for the January 1 implementation of the freeze, the government had directed all National Employment Councils (NECs) to conclude and submit their collective bargaining results by December 31. Most NECs have already concluded their negotiations but are still awaiting Cabinet approval for the agreements reached. The sources said the government was banking on employers supporting its proposal because they had been hard hit by escalating production costs, including inflationary increases in wages. However, ZTCU president Lovemore Matombo said his organisation would not support the salary freeze, saying it was a futile exercise that had not worked anywhere in the world. "We don't support that move of a salary freeze, it's nonsensical. Our mandate is not to negotiate for people's poverty," he told the Financial Gazette. "Government should deal with stabilising the economy, the issue of good governance and implementing sound policies. Those are the problems the country is facing. It's not about salary freezes," he added. Analysts said a freeze on wages at a time workers were battling the soaring cost of living as well as serious shortages of basic foodstuffs would trigger social unrest and further destabilise Zimbabwe's economy. The country is facing unemployment of over 70 percent while at least eight million Zimbabweans need emergency food aid, which the analysts said were already recipes for massive social unrest.

From Financial Gazette, by Sydney Masamvu, 12 December 2002

BULGSA Calls for Transparency in Promotions, Appointments

BULGSA president Gabatsoswe Lebitsa has called for transparency and strict adherence to laid down Ministry of Local Government promotion and appointment procedures. Addressing the 28th annual general conference of the association in Francistown, Lebitsa said allegations of maladministration and nepotism in Local Government should be thoroughly investigated to avert large-scale corruption. The BULGSA president said activities that threatened the performance of local authority employees must be uprooted, adding that public service reforms like Performance Management System (PMS) could only be successful if implemented by a contented work force. "We called upon the government earlier in the year that - in the interest of public service - government should appoint a commission of inquiry to look into these issues but our call has been ignored and we wish to make a similar call today," Lebitsa said. He appealed to the government to listen to their plea that the job evaluation exercise and White Paper be completed as a matter of urgency. Lebitsa said BULGSA had been waiting for the outcome of job evaluation for 14 years during which time the association showed goodwill, patience and respect for the rule of law. "Our meeting with President Festus Mogae filled us with optimism and hope, but the response to our petition by the Ministry of Local Government has brought desperation and hopelessness because it is unspecific and non-committal," Lebitsa said. BULGSA chief reiterated his plea that the implementation date of the White Paper be communicated to BULGSA. He said the ministry's intention to grade all jobs already graded by the grading team, representing local authorities management and staff, be discouraged since it "serves only to delay completion of the job evaluation exercise". He called on workers not to lose sight of their needs but to be wary of those seeking to neutralise and tame them. "As workers we cannot make it without the solidarity of workers, our democracy cannot flourish if we become a nation of 'yes men and women' and psychopaths who survive by always pleasing the powerful and singing praises for the gratification of their whims," Lebitsa said.

From Republic of Botswana, 17 December 2002

Last Pay Hike for Civil Servants

Zimbabwean civil servants' 80 percent salary increases in January could be their last for 18 months while their annual bonus could for the first time be replaced by a performance-related 13th cheque, if Cabinet approves a wage freeze proposed by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. Sources in the ministry said although Cabinet had yet to approve the proposal, the government had already taken a position on the wage freeze, which would complement a blanket freeze on prices introduced last month. They said once negotiations with labour and employers were concluded, a statutory instrument would be gazetted and the salary freeze, which would also apply to the private sector, would be effective from January 2003. "After the increases in January, we are looking at a period of between 18 to 24 months of salary freeze," a government official told the Financial Gazette. "That is at least up to July 2004 to achieve the desired results of combating the inflationary high cost of living from our side." Officials in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare said the government had invited other members of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum to a meeting next Monday to work out the implementation of the wage freeze. The forum comprises the government, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and the Employers' Confederation of Zimbabwe (EMCOZ). The secretary-general of the ZCTU, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Public Service and Social Welfare and the director of EMCOZ will meet today to work out the agenda of next week's discussions.

Labour and Social Welfare Minister July Moyo told the Financial Gazette yesterday that he could not provide details of the proposed wage freeze because key stakeholders were still being consulted. But sources said in preparation for the January 1 implementation of the freeze, the government had directed all National Employment Councils (NECs) to conclude and submit their collective bargaining results by December 31. Most NECs have already concluded their negotiations but are still awaiting Cabinet approval for the agreements reached. The sources said the government was banking on employers supporting its proposal because they had been hard hit by escalating production costs, including inflationary increases in wages. However, ZTCU president Lovemore Matombo said his organisation would not support the salary freeze, saying it was a futile exercise that had not worked anywhere in the world. "We don't support that move of a salary freeze, it's nonsensical. Our mandate is not to negotiate for people's poverty," he told the Financial Gazette. "Government should deal with stabilising the economy, the issue of good governance and implementing sound policies. Those are the problems the country is facing. It's not about salary freezes," he added. Analysts said a freeze on wages at a time workers were battling the soaring cost of living as well as serious shortages of basic foodstuffs would trigger social unrest and further destabilise Zimbabwe's economy. The country is facing unemployment of over 70 percent while at least eight million Zimbabweans need emergency food aid, which the analysts said were already recipes for massive social unrest.

From AllAfrica.com, Sydney Masamvu, 14 December 2002

'Civil Servants Will Not Face Aids Stigma'

The Secretary of State for Health, Dr. Yankuba Gassama has said that civil servants will not be removed from the civil service because they have AIDS. [The] pandemic is the archenemy of the society that continues to frustrate developmental programmes. Speaking at the annual celebration of world AIDS Day, SOS Gassama said the war against the AIDS pandemic should be intensified to eradicate the scourge, because of its effect on the socio-economic development. He said the disease, which poses a potential threat to development should always be seen as the number one enemy of the generation. As a result of its menacing effects, he said the government has undertaken lot of programmes for the prevention and control of the endemic. 'Another significant development registered in this area is the support rendered to the government by the UN system, MRC, and WEC for the people living with HIV/AIDS', he disclosed. 'The people living with the virus should not be discriminated or removed from their positions, but rather encouraged to participate and involve in activities for the prevention and control of the pandemic', he said. 'Government is aware of the fact that people living with or affected by Aids should be part of the solution and not the problem', said SOS Gassama. Deliberating on this year theme, "live and let live", he said people should recognize the importance of partnership, and collaboration in fighting the scourge of the AIDS pandemic. In his remarks, Dr. James N. Mwanzia, WHO Representative said stigma and discrimination are two deeply rooted vices, which undermines and threatens the intervention prevention, care and support for people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. He lamented that women are often blamed for the transmission and spread of the disease, because of the low status accorded them in the society. "Women who are infected with the virus are often accused in families and communities of being prostitutes or living a promiscuous lifestyle', he added. Accordingly, he said the men are not spared from HIV/AIDS related stigma and discrimination. 'The impact of HIV/AIDS on children demands particular attention, and the degree of discrimination and stigma they encounter are directly or indirectly evident', said Dr. James Mwanzia. Finally, he said efforts should be consolidated to devote lot more resources on stigma reduction within the context of HIV/AIDS prevention and control in line with Abuja Declaration and the United National Declarations, adopted by the United National General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS in June 2001.

From AllAfrica.com, 16 December 2002

Exercise to Determine True Size of Civil Service

The Minister of Information and Presidential Affairs, Mr. Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, on Tuesday said there is an on-going exercise to determine the true size of the Civil Service. He said this would enable the government to realise the needs of the Service within the process of re-organisation to improve its conditions. Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey said this when answering questions in Parliament. Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni, NDC-Kumbungu asked the Minister the number of Special Advisers and/or Special Assistants (Personal Assistants) to the President, Ministers, Regional Ministers and District Chief Executives so far recruited or employed. The Minister said as at now there are 27 Special Assistants and Advisers in the system. Eight of them are presently at the Castle, while the rest are attached to the Ministries, Departments and the Regions. Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey said the Civil Service would need about 37 Chief Directors as its full strength at the national and regional levels to man it but as at now only eight of such officers are at post, half of whom are on contract. He said this means that the top of the bureaucracy of the Service was woefully understaffed and the situation has put much pressure on Ministers to wrestle with their mandate to implement decision with despatch to usher in the "Golden Age of Business". Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey noted that it was such a situation that has led the Government to accept the need for Ministers to have Special Assistants in their offices to assist them and to some extent to help Chief Directors in the speedy implementation of policies and in the discharge of other ministerial duties and commitments. He said for the Civil Service to play its role more effectively, it must be staffed with persons with integrity, knowledge and skills and they must also function under conditions of service that are seen to be attractive. Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey noted that the Service of today is not as effective as it should be, adding that its capacity for initiative and policy implementation has been weakened by low morale, weak management and the failure of the system to ensure that the skills of Civil Servants are upgraded through periodic courses in capacity building. "An equally important factor which explains the weakness and lethargy in the Civil Service derives from what we all recognise to be poor conditions within the service, including poor salaries and wages," he added. He said government acted quickly to identify many of the problems and various initiatives are being considered to address them. He assured Civil Servants of Government's support as long as they carry out their duties impartially and with integrity, adding that the government has also given the issue of remuneration some attention and "in the less than two years of the NPP administration, Civil Service salaries have been raised by 60 per cent."

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 18 December 2002

FCC Addresses Employment Disparity in Civil Service

The Federal Character Commission (FCC), established in 1996 to work towards equal representation of each state of the federation in the federal civil service has began moves to address the dispute in the civil service. According to its Chairman, Alhaji Suleiman Lawal, the commission has started collecting data from each government ministry, parastatal and enterprise on the number of Nigerians on the pay list and state of origins of such employees. The chairman, who paid a courtesy visit on the Women Affairs Minister, Hajiya Aisha Ismail, yesterday appealed that the ministry should give his commission co-operation in its assignment. He said the decree establishing the commission gave it the power to sue ministries which employed more than the stipulated number of Nigerians from any particular state to the detriment of other states. He explained that in the decree, no state should have up to three per cent of its indigenes in any of the federal ministries or establishments. Alhaji Suleiman stressed that the commission would insist that each government ministry and establishment complied with the provision of the FCC law, saying, however: "We are not going to use the provisions of the law to promote mediocrity in the federal service." According to him, the commission would do all its best to ensure that the much talked about marginalisation by various states in the area of job creation and distribution of social amenities was properly addressed. Responding, Hajiya Aisha promised that the data on the staff strength of her ministry would be ready for collection at the end of this month and credited the coming of democratic government into the country for the flourishing of the commission "which was muzzled by the military for long." She appealed to the commission to give women and youth great consideration as disadvantaged sections of the society in employment opportunities.

From AllAfrica.com, 18 December 2002

Corruption is Costing Kenya Dearly

In a previous article, I offered suggestions, as an interested, but non-partisan outside observer, on the rather technical subject of information and communications policy in Kenya and how minor, largely cost-free changes could help stimulate Kenya's economy. While information communications technology (ICT) affects many people, its economic impact on individual Kenyans is as yet largely indirect. By contrast, corruption, especially by public officials, high and low, touches every Kenyan and should be the priority for the new Kenya government, whoever wins the coming election. From Kitu Kidogo to the inflated cost of medicines, telephone calls, and repairs to pothole-ravaged cars, average Kenyans pay the cost of corruption from their own pockets each and every day. And the chai is not small change: Studies conducted in 2001 on Government expenditures from 1990 to 1997 suggest that Sh475 billion was lost to public coffers during that period as the direct result of corruption and laxity by public officials. That works out to an average of Sh68 billion each year! Large-scale corruption and waste - Most Kenyans understand all too well how bribery works. Beginning with the Sh20, Sh50 or Sh100 handed at the roadside along with a driver's licence or paid to jump a queue at the emergency room or offered to cover the cost of "copying" an official form, the costs go up quickly when parents apply for birth certificates or seek public school enrollment for their offspring or when intending travellers apply for their first passport. And obtaining justice is always an expensive proposition, whether at the office of the local chief or in courts of law. While no one can condone such practices, I do understand how petty bribery arises from a tight and unpredictable economy and how minor officials press all the advantages they can out of the positions they happen to hold. It's wrong and it degrades the fabric of everyday life, but with all the high-stakes corruption going on - call it Kubwa Kidogo - it's hard to focus just on the underpaid traffic policeman.

Large-scale corruption and waste by senior Government officials and the public institutions they manage is enormously damaging to the economy and has become a pernicious cancer weakening the foundations of society. Official corruption also sets the tone and pattern for all the petty graft mentioned above and has increased the cost of doing business in Kenya, tarnished the image of the country and led to many of Kenya's serious problems with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and bilateral donors. To turn the situation around, the next government must institute a policy of zero tolerance to corruption in high places. Nor is corruption only an internal problem. Each year, the respected, independent non-governmental organisation, Transparency International, based in London and Berlin, surveys businesses and governments worldwide to compile its annual "Corruption Perception Index." In 2002 Kenya ranked as the sixth most corrupt country in the world to conduct business in, in a survey of 102 countries (and was the fourth most corrupt in Africa.) The report cited corruption and kickbacks paid to Kenya's political elites and their cronies, a view confirmed by the Kenya office of Transparency International in its own recent survey which found that "certain public sector institutions displayed the highest incidences of bribery." In fact, Kenya's law enforcement institutions - police, Judiciary, prisons - and local authorities, including Nairobi and Mombasa, were cited as six of the 10 worst offenders in Transparency International's 2002 Urban Bribery Index. Whether it's the procurement of overpriced and poor quality goods and services, the evasion of taxes and customs duties, the submission of false invoices by politically-connected Government contractors (who then have the nerve to collect interest when the false bill is not paid on time), or out-and-out bribery - such corruption remains largely hidden from wider public view. Destructive ideological agendas - But just like the roadside bribe, the cost of this corruption comes straight out of the pockets of those least able to pay. Corruption aggravates income inequalities in a country where more than 50 per cent of the population already live below the poverty line. It reduces public and private investment, undermines economic growth, acts as a powerful disincentive to productive economic and business activity, and results in huge losses of tax revenues.

Corruption also aids and abets international terrorism and undermines Kenyan national security. Immigration officials who steal and sell Kenyan passports to foreign nationals and who take bribes to issue illegal visas could open the door to persons such as the men who perpetrated the heinous attack on Paradise Hotel on November 28, the destruction of the American Embassy on August 7, 1998, and the bombing of the Norfolk Hotel on December 31, 1980. When international terrorists know that money and greed are more important to officials than national pride, they are able to use corruption to advance their very destructive political and ideological agendas. So, how should Kenya tackle its most vexing economic and social problem? Allow me to offer a few very candid suggestions on the subject to the next President. These are all steps which can be taken quickly, with virtually no cost to the public purse. * He should publicly pledge that any Cabinet member, senior official, civil servant or parastatal head who is indicted or taken to court on corruption charges will be immediately dismissed or, at a minimum, suspended from his or her position. Retaining such officials would tarnish the image of the Government and that of any new President at precisely the moment when Kenya needs to restore domestic and international confidence. Never again should a minister accused and indicted for embezzling millions in State funds ride to the courthouse in a Government limousine flying his ministerial flag. This type of behavior is an insult to honest and law-abiding citizens and demonstrates a lack of integrity in Government. * He should introduce in Parliament, as one of the first orders of Government business, a constitutional amendment to establish a new Anti-Corruption Authority with full prosecutorial and investigative authority. Parliament, in turn, should swiftly pass and implement the long-stalled Public Ethics and Anti-Corruption legislation consistent with the new constitutional provisions.

However, as an interim measure and without waiting for legislation or constitutional amendments, the Government should adopt and widely publicise a new code of conduct for civil servants and Cabinet officials. The code of conduct should make it absolutely clear that conflict between a public servant's personal business interests and official responsibilities will not be tolerated. This means that the provisions of the Ndegwa Commission report, which allows civil servants and politicians to own and operate the businesses that give rise to these conflicts of interest, should be quickly repealed. And no longer, for example, should a Permanent Secretary responsible for road contracts, housing or any other economic sector contract be able to sit as co-owner or partner in a private or family-run company that routinely bids on, and wins, tenders overseen by his ministry and his office. This type of behaviour should no longer be acceptable or legal. * Finally, the next Government should propose and introduce legislation requiring every registered company in Kenya to list by name all of its principal financial shareholders. Shell companies and proxy ownership should not be tolerated; instead the Government should adopt tough rules that mandate full and unambiguous disclosure. If the next Government undertakes these measures, corruption will not end overnight, but it will no longer be acceptable, and I believe the impact of the government's action will be felt all the way to the roadside encounters we see everyday. For, if ministers can no longer get away with it, what chance does the poor traffic policemen have? Mr. Carson is the American Ambassador to Kenya.

From Daily Nation, Kenya, 20 December 2002

Engineers Demand Higher Entry Point in Civil Service

Lagos State chapter of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) has asked that the entry point into the civil service for fresh graduate engineers be raised from grade level 08/3 to grade level 09/5. Dr. Musibau Salau, chairman of Lagos State chapter of the NSE, made the call at the close of the society's 2002 gala award night on Wednesday in Ikeja. "Because of the long period of their studies, I am recommending here that the starting salary grade level of an engineer should be 09/5. This will boost the morale of the engineers," he said. If the call was implemented by the Federal Government, he said, the productivity level of the Nigerian engineer would rise tremendously, while the nation would reap good fruits. "The Nigerian engineer needs to be encouraged. They should be assisted in procuring lona switch minimum interest, short or long-term," Salau added. He sought the assistance and co-operation of the press to enable the NSE to achieve its objective of changing Nigeria for the better. At the gala night earlier, Mr. Olubunmi Peters, chairman of the occasion, urged the Federal Government to make engineers heads of parastatals and other establishments. "If other professionals were tried as heads of government parastals and did not succeed, why not try engineers?" he queried. Peters also urged engineers to participate in politics instead of staying glued to their profession. "Engineers should contest all levels of politics; these are where policies are made. You should not be sit tight Nigerians who only think of their profession," he said. Peters is the zonal co-ordinator, highways construction, south west, of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.

From AllAfrica.com, 21 December 2002

Public Service Association Applauds House for Passing Bill

The Public Service Association has applauded Parliament for passing the Labour Relations Amendment Bill, saying this will create a conducive environment for collective bargaining in the civil service. The Bill, which seeks to harmonise the country's labour laws, was passed by Parliament recently. Association executive secretary Mr. Charles Chiviru said in an interview the Bill was one of the most important pieces of legislation to be passed by the House since independence in 1980. "Now that the Bill has been passed we are eagerly waiting for its implementation as this will facilitate the establishment of a National Employment Council and workers committees in the civil service," he said. "We are aware that this implementation exercise cannot be done overnight as this is a process." Mr. Chiviru said Government workers had over the years been short-changed in collective bargaining negotiations due to the absence of favourable legislation. He said before the passing of the Bill collective bargaining negotiations between the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the Joint Negotiation Council representing civil servants were not binding. "The Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare had the final say in the negotiations, thereby rendering the whole exercise of little value," he said. Mr. Chiviru said although his association was applauding parliament for passing the Bill there were still some grey areas that needed to be addressed in the near future. He singled out the issue of approval through a popular vote by the workers in the event of them resorting to an industrial action. "We feel this section must be amended and we are going to lobby for that in the near future," Mr. Chiviru said. The association, he said, would next year embark on an extensive exercise to educate civil servants on the contents of the Bill. The Bill, passed after a stormy debate between the ruling Zanu-PF and opposition MDC Members of Parliament, was a product of on-going democratic reforms of the labour market that started in 1980. MDC legislators opposed nearly every aspect of the Bill. The Bill was one of the longest pieces of legislation to be debated in the House as it had taken about 10 years for it to sail through. Last year, the Parliamentary Legal Committee issued an adverse report, saying some of the sections of the Bill violated constitutional rights such as freedom of expression. The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare later addressed the concerns raised by the committee, leading to smooth passage of the Bill.

From Harare Herald, Zimbabwe, 30 December 2002

 

Brunei Moves To Craft Human Resource Development Plan

Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei will craft its own National Policy in Human Resource Development Plan within the next nine months starting next month. Towards this end, the Professional Services Agreement was signed yesterday between the Department of Economic Planning and Development and the foreign experts. The signing of the agreement will facilitate the appointment of experts on policy formulation and planning of Human Resource Development (HRD) for Brunei. Signing on behalf of the government was the Acting Chief Director of Economic Planning and Development Awang Haji Kassim. Dr Charles Bedet, represented the foreign consultants. Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office Dato Haji Abdul Wahab witnessed the signing ceremony.Pengiran Haji Osman, Acting Director of Administration and Information Technology at the Department of Economic Planning and Development, said human resource is the sultanate's top priority to ensure the future of the nation. He added that the Department of Economic Planning and Development has been entrusted in managing and handling of matters pertaining to HRD.

Pengiran Haji Osman also said arrangements have been made to ensure that policies with human resource development will be formulated and a department will be tasked to monitor it and become a centre of HRD activities. "This is very vital for the development of Brunei," he said. He added the preparations of policy and plans for HRD have four phases, the first of which began on November 17.The second phase is scheduled for February next year, the third in May and the final phase calls for the experts to forward reports to a steering committee in July. In the first phase, the experts gathered information and familiarised themselves with matters related to human resource development in the sultanate. In the following phase, several workshops will be conducted and studies will be continued. During this period, they will draft the policy report, recommendation and preliminary report. For the third phase, the researchers will again forward their report to the steering committee. "Hopefully, several policies will be drafted in the third phase leaving the fourth phase only for adoption and endorsements," he said. "Brunei prioritises the development of human resource towards achieving progress in national building." Human resources are not only the main focus of the sultanate's development but also to ensure that its future is secured," he said.Brudirect.com

From Bru Direct, Brune, 28 November 2002

Compensation for First Time to Public Servant Under Employment Diseases Benefits

R. M. Kamalawathie, a nursing officer attached to GH Kurunegala who became disabled after being infected with a tuberculosis germ while serving the hospital was given Rs. one lakh as compensation. It was handed over by P. Dayaratna, Minister of Health, Nutrition and Welfare. Kamalawathie thanked Minister Dayaratna, Vajira Abeywardana, Minister of Public Administration and Ven. Muruttettuwe Ananda Thera, Chairman, Public Services Nurses' Union for the assistance. This is the first time such a compensation was awarded to a public servant. Kamalawathie will also receive pension up to 55 years and retire thereafter.

From Daily News, Sri Lanka, 4 December 2002

Government Roles Urged to be Clarified as WTO Required

China will clarify the functions of its central and local governments to ensure the uniform practice of its economic and trade laws and policies as required by the World Trade Organization (WTO). China will clarify the functions of its central and local governments to ensure the uniform practice of its economic and trade laws and policies as required by the World Trade Organization (WTO). The clarification of functions will be achieved through deepened reform of its public administrative sector, said Wang Feng, division chief of the State Commission Office for Public Sector Reform. The WTO requires that within a single country, goods and services from home and abroad must be treated equally in its administrative system, procedures and actions. The divisions of power between central and local governments still needs to improve in China, Wang said. Some functions overlap and some are failing to meet their responsibilities. "That may lead to local protectionism, monopolies, market separation and policy inconsistence, which will hamper the uniform implementation of China's commitments to the WTO,'' Wang said. He said future reform of the public administrative sector will clarify the functions of the central and local governments to form a system with rational division of power, co-ordinated operation and effective supervision. "Macroeconomic regulation is exclusive to the central government and economic management powers by city, county, town and village departments are being gradually weakened,'' Wang said.

Wang was speaking at an international symposium held Thursday on how to innovate the Chinese public administrative system in the post-WTO era. "Deepening the reform of the administrative management system is not only a requirement of the WTO, but is also critical to the need for establishing and improving a socialist market economy and promoting economic and social development,'' said Li Tielin, minister of the office for public sector reform. China watchers also agreed that reform in this area is needed. "How the government is put together often determines how well it can work,'' said Odile Sallard, an official with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international organization that helps governments tackle the economic, social and governance challenges in a global economy. China is now working with the OECD in its reform of the public administrative sector. China conducted four major institutional reforms in public administration along with the country's economic development in 1982, 1988, 1993 and 1998. "These reforms, particularly those since 1998, strengthened the government's macro-regulatory functions, promoted independent decision-making by State-owned enterprises, rationalized relations between central and local governments, downsized government and more importantly - created an enabling environment for a government which meets the demands of a market economy,'' said Leitner Kerstin, a resident representative from the United Nations Development Programme. The two-day symposium, organized by the National Academy of Public Administration, attracted more than 150 scholars and government officials from home and abroad.

From People's Daily Online, China, 6 December 2002

Civil Service Reform Must Hew to International Labor Standards

It has become clear that the government's plan to reform the civil service system bumps up against international labor standards. Taking up appeals filed by Rengo (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) and Zenroren (National Confederation of Trade Unions), the International Labor Organization has issued an advisory opinion to the Japanese government which contains unusually harsh criticism of the civil service reform plan, raises suspicions that it violates international labor standards, and recommends reforms. We support the conclusions of the ILO. Its advisory opinion is based on a thorough examination of the process which led to the Cabinet's approval of the "civil service reform outline" at the end of last year, and makes many valid points. The ILO maintains that the government's insufficient dialogue with the labor unions representing civil servants working in the central government raises procedural issues. While the government convened numerous hearings with labor unions, there is no evidence that it has made an effort to reach an accord with them. The ILO also recommends that the government reconsider its decision to continue its traditional policy of restricting the basic labor rights of civil servants. The Constitution recognizes the basic labor rights of working people, but civil servants are the only group of workers whose collective bargaining rights are restricted, and who are prohibited from striking. The power to set wages and determine salary rankings for civil servants was instead delegated to the National Personnel Authority. But the government's reform plan seeks to reduce the authority of the NPA as much as possible under the banner of meritocratism, and to expand the discretion and authority of the agencies and ministries. The attempt to gut the NPA could very well violate the Constitution and ILO treaties that guarantee basic labor rights.

As the ILO points out, if the government is going to clip the wings of the NPA, then it ought to restore basic labor rights to civil servants. The government maintains that the ILO does not "fully understand conditions in our country" and that civil service reform is a domestic matter. While the government's response may appear to be reasonable, the ILO's advisory opinion is based on a deep understanding of conditions in Japan. Moreover, Japan is a member of the ILO's standing committee, has ratified 46 ILO conventions, and has played a central role in the organization. Japan must have joined the ILO because it accepts its basic principles. If there is a basis to the ILO's concerns, then Japan has a duty to afford them the appropriate level of respect. What is to be made of the government's refusal to lend an ear to the ILO's advice? And what is the reason for putting special Japanese circumstances ahead of international labor standards? Hewing to international labor standards does not merely guarantee the rights of working people. Ensuring that working conditions are protected and uniform around the world can help to put the brakes on excessive competition in the international marketplace. Globalization makes such efforts even more important. Unfortunately, the Japanese government's posture flies in the face of such trends. We have on several occasions pointed out the dangers of allowing a handful of bureaucrats and politicians to determine the shape of the civil service system, and to impose self-righteous reforms.We urge the government to view the ILO as a bearer of precious advice, and to begin a debate in the Diet to redo its reform plan.

From Mainichi Shimbun, Japan - 27 November 2002

Entrepreneur Urges Reform of Selection Process for Civil Service Jobs

After speakers from Canada, Japan and Germany shared experiences on their countries' public service reform, panelists invited by the Examination Yuan urged the government to target Taiwan's civil servant selection for reform to match the needs of future governments. Entrepreneur, Luis Ko, president of I-Mei Foods Co, suggested that the government must not merely aim at abandoning existing imperfections of the current civil servant's selection system, but instead should embark on creating a framework that could respond well to the needs of the civil service system for future generations. "The new selection system should get rid of entrance examinations that select unneeded human resources for the government's future development. At the same time, training and selection of professionals for the government's future administrations should start now," Ko noted. He proposed that, on the one hand, a review should be made to determine whether the country's political warfare system should be maintained. On the other hand, the government should start training and selecting civil service professionals for its future administrations such as the planned aboriginal autonomous administration. Another panelist, National Taipei University Professor Wong Seng-lee, agreed with Ko's view that it is worthwhile to review contents of the current selection system while the government's promoting the reform. "Along with civil servant selection reform, the Examination Yuan could start by separating worthwhile national examinations from those unneeded," said Wong, adding that it is a waste for the government to make every effort to have a fair, efficient examination and then choose professionals that they will not need.

Professor Jay Shih, Chengchi University, and member of President's Commission on Government Reform, was speaker who presented the fourth session at the forum. During his address on the second day of the "International Symposium on the Development of the Civil Service System in the 21st Century," Professor Shih spoke on a policy evaluation of Taiwan's effectiveness of the civil servant selection system. Shih suggested that the civil service examination system must emphasize the strategic human resource management function more than the prevention of political interference. A centralized and independent Examination Yuan established by the Constitution has indeed made a great contribution by running a generally open competition under an authoritarian regime, Shih pointed out. The system has helped Taiwan recruit many good people into government service and, more importantly, has prevented the emergence of a spoils or political patronage system of the type so often seen in developing countries, he noted. Shih nevertheless reminded listeners that past successes should not lead the nation to ignore the challenges that Taiwan's civil service examination system now faces. The professor of public administration singled out three challenging issues ahead - continuing to strengthen the examinations' procedural justice, setting the enhancement of substantive justice in the selection system as the top priority, and making organizations play a greater role in selection. He strongly advised that test validity (substantive justice) and organizational work force needs are two main goals that should drive the civil service examination system in the future. Ko also advocated that the Examination Yuan play a major role in human resource planning for the country's future development as well as constructing syllabus for the national education system.

A major problem Ko pointed out is that the current top ranking administration will have trouble mapping out future plans simply because they were selected by the same system, twenty or thirty years ago, the very system they need to change. A shortcoming of the system Ko, reiterated is that the current system does not provide officials with the tools to plan the government's future. The conferees also discussed the possibility of implementing restrictions on an examinee's highest educational background for certain selection examinations, a method which Singapore has applied to some of its basic national examinations. Chang Kow-lung, vice minister of the Examination Ministry and the third panelist of the session, disclosed that the administration "does" consider putting boundaries to the examinee's educational background in some national ordinary exams. The administration figured out the majority of successful examinees for the junior and elementary exams were highly educated examinees. This conflicted with the government's motivation to divide the national examinations into three levels to try and assure citizens with different educational backgrounds would have equal access to the civil service system, said Chang. The two-day symposium concluded with the Examination Yuan's president Yao Chia-wen's pledging continued reform, including creating the neutrality within the administration. Yao also said the Examination Yuan will start to undertake self-reform, "the Examination Yuan will proceed with internal reform while it's going to move ahead with restructuring the country's civil servant selection system."

From eTaiwan News, Taiwan, by Fiona Lu, 22 November 2002

Will The Real Civil Service Please Stand Up?

When I visited Hongkong in the past, my fellow civil servants there used to sigh and tell me how much easier my job was, compared to theirs. As a free and democratic society, they had to face attacks from the media, politicians and trade unions all the time, whereas in the disciplined society in Singapore (they were too polite to call us authoritarian), people would comply obediently. The next time I visit Hongkong, I can also show off some battle scars and sigh in unison with them. In 1976, Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew stoutly defended the civil service of the day in a speech in Parliament. It is worth quoting what he said at some length, because it gives you an idea of what has changed in the public perception and expectations of the public service over the last 25 years. In his inimitable style, he said: 'A civil servant who can both do his job as an administrator and be good at the public relations side of it, who is able to say 'No' to an obstreperous, vehement and insistent constituent who wants the answer to be 'yes' and wants his MP to bend the rules in order that the answer is 'yes', would have learnt the secret of politics... I am glad that this is the maximum of criticism. There is no charge of dishonourable, corrupt or other practices; if MPs come here and complain of discourtesy, inadequate toilet or canteen facilities, tatty signboards, all this is in part a reflection of our relatively healthy state of affairs.' MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES - IN 1976, CIVIL servants were expected to be honourable and incorruptible. They were forgiven if they lacked courtesy. Their job was to administer, not manage the ground. Today, being honourable and incorruptible is not enough. The Government wants, and the public expects, civil servants to be innovative, courteous, open and responsive. The public also expects civil servants to show compassion and behave with humility. They not only want them to admit their mistakes but also to be contrite about it. They want civil servants to acknowledge that they do not have all the answers, take on board public suggestions and give credit to the source of the ideas. The private sector wants the Government to facilitate, not regulate.

The question is: Can the civil service be all things to all men and are all the demands consistent with each other? Can civil servants be efficient and save taxpayers' money as well as be innovative and experiment with many (some wasteful) ways of doing things? Can civil servants make bold decisions and take calculated risks, and yet ensure mistakes never happen and things never go wrong? If civil servants are completely responsive, taking in all suggestions, can they formulate coherent policies? Is the public service doing anything to improve its performance? Is it doing enough? If you have read what Mr. Lim Siong Guan, the head of the civil service, and I have been saying to civil servants and noted the measures that we have rolled out in the last few years, you would have realised that we are both acutely aware that the civil service needs to change. Mr. Lim's PS21 initiative, started in 1995 when he was in charge of the Public Service Division (PSD), was meant to instill in all civil servants the need to anticipate, welcome and execute change. When I took over PSD, I added two new strands in view of Singapore's need to position itself for a new phase of economic development and Singapore 21's findings of what Singaporeans want for Singapore. These two strands are innovation and responsiveness. With innovation, the PS21 movement is now asking the civil servant not only to improve the process or product but also to do things in a different way. Different ministries have been encouraged to start their own innovative agendas by implementing measures to encourage innovation. It could be an activity that opens the mind of participants to new options and possibilities. Or a space in the office to which officers can retire, to think out of the box. Responsiveness is trickier to instill. We can start with improving service delivery, and we are using the vehicle of e-Government to do so. By ensuring that all government departments come on board and offer as many services online as possible, we hope to make service delivery faster, more convenient and more accessible to the public. Yet another useful device is an independently conducted opinion survey on public service. This identifies the strengths and weaknesses of the various departments polled, as perceived by citizens who actually use the services. The shallow department head will trumpet the strengths of his department and ignore its weaknesses.

The wise department head...will be shamed into studying how he can improve his department's service delivery, so that in the next survey, the weaknesses will diminish. IS THE GOVERNMENT LISTENING? Some members of the public say the Government does not really listen. They point to the fact that when the Government chooses to consult, the policy is already well-cooked - too well-cooked - and the public's views are ignored. They regard consultation as a sham because they say that policies are never changed. It is impossible for any government to fulfill the desires and respond to the demands of every citizen. However, no government should ever ignore the ground or fail to address growing cynicism among the electorate. As Singaporeans show their ability to contribute constructive views, even contrary ones, it would also be foolish for the Government to refuse to listen. Some views are taken on board and policy decisions do get changed, but the Government is not very adept at admitting or communicating this. I believe that consultation is likely to expand to more and more areas in the years ahead. You can argue about the pace and the extent, but I think the direction to consult more is set. Where there is broad consensus of opinion among Singaporeans, such as in the economic arena, the Government is more consultative and responsive. Where there are deep divisions of views, values and culture, such as in the social and political fields, the Government is not inclined to move too fast, lest our society pull apart. It will consult, but where there is no consensus, it is difficult for the Government to be responsive. When citizens are asked to be active and when they, in turn, demand that the Government listen and be more open and transparent, we have moved beyond the realm of service to that of governance. Issues of governance are complex and difficult to resolve. They are also delicate because they involve the issue of where power resides among various groups - between government and the people, the public and civil servants, and between politicians and civil servants. We are still sorting this out, but if we acknowledge that the direction is towards a more open, transparent and responsive government, then certain guidelines can be laid down to help civil servants change their mindsets and ways of doing things. For instance, shouldn't civil servants now think about what can be communicated to the public rather than what can't be?

The new rule requiring all Cabinet Memoranda to include a section on public communication is a first step in that direction. This seemingly bureaucratic requirement has already caused civil servants to consider more explicitly and systematically what impact a particular government policy will have on the public and how the policy can be better explained. LOYALTY CHANGES MEANING - But the requirement does not exhort civil servants to think of releasing as much information as possible to the public, subject to the constraints of security, accuracy and the national good. Civil servants are still grappling with the challenge of balancing responsiveness with responsibility. Giving the civil servant more flexibility to decide, including empowering the street-level bureaucrat to make more decisions on day-to-day issues, will affect our system of ministerial accountability and responsibility. If it further diminishes the ability of the minister to know what the civil servant does, should the minister still be responsible? Or should he be accountable, but not responsible? If the civil servant is responsible, it must be because the mistake is his and his alone. Otherwise, he and his fellow civil servants will find it difficult to remain loyal to the government of the day. The old system worked well when civil servants had permanent tenure and pensions. But if employment in government becomes contractual, and civil servants have no pensions and lifelong employment, will their concept of loyalty change? The older generation of civil servants would uphold the concept that blame is usually borne by civil servants and public credit should go to the politicians. To them, civil servants were supposed to be professional and give advice to their ministers without fear or favour, according to the merits of the case and following their conscience. But while integrity was crucial, loyalty was equally important. They would be horrified by the idea that there should be 'whistle blowers' within the public service to inform the public about what goes on inside - this would be sheer disloyalty. They would not believe that governance is advanced by leaks and counter-leaks of confidential government memoranda as individuals and departments battle each other in turf wars.

Their belief in the Cabinet form of government meant that the Government should speak with one voice and disagreements should be subdued once a decision was taken. Whether younger civil servants will continue to feel the same way in the future, remains to be seen. There is a concern among some of us that the old civil service ethos is being eroded and more thought should be put into what will replace it. The old culture emphasised that government operated on the basis of certain clear principles and a fixed value framework. People knew their roles and responsibilities and how they should behave. There were rules and regulations to ensure compliance and many civil servants were happy to follow the rules and let the politicians take the responsibility of explaining to the public if mistakes were made, or if they wished to overrule the civil servants for being inflexible. I am not saying that that is the better way or that it is feasible and possible to go back to 1976. But as we move into the new Singapore, the civil service will have to re-examine its ethos and come up with a new value system more befitting of the society we have become or are becoming. When I last met the then head of the British Civil Service, Sir Richard Wilson, I asked him how he succeeded in arranging for busy ministers to attend policy seminars with equally busy senior civil servants. He told me that his good fortune was that he became Civil Service head at a time when the Labour government first took office after many years in the political wilderness, and the incoming ministers needed to be brought up to mark quickly on policy issues. As that day may never come in Singapore, we will have to find some other way of churning up such an interest. The writer is permanent secretary in the Prime Minister's Office. This is adapted from a longer version published in Ethos, the Civil Service College's quarterly journal.

From Straits Times, Singapore, by Eddie Teo, 6 December 2002

Civil Service Fears Insurance Scheme Will Collapse

The civil service is in a state of worry that their Public Service Group Insurance Scheme will collapse soon if it continues in the same manner, with 60 per cent not insured. Not only civil servants can afford to pay the premiums for the current insurance where there is also "hardly any returns". Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase has refused to comment on the issue saying he has nothing to say. The current Group Insurance Scheme was established in 1989. The Daily Post was informed the GIS under Marsh Company is of a voluntary nature where there are "very low returns unlike the local Colonial Health Insurance Scheme". The PSC employee who preferred not to be named said another Health Insurance provider, based in New Zealand made a presentation to the PSC promising a 100 per cent in premiums. "It was not considered even though it's cheaper. We were told this was because Marsh has been with us since 1994," the employee said. Government had turned down a $4 million budget requested by PSC specifically for the health insurance of civil servants. They have, however, allocated $780,000 for short-term support for those already under the insurance scheme for local hospitalisation or overseas medical evacuation. This, the employee said is for $65,000 per month for the current members of the scheme.

From Fiji's Daily Post, Fiji, 04 December 2002

'No Decision Yet' on Civil Service Pay Cut Next Year

The government says it has yet to decide whether to cut civil service pay next year, despite a pledge by Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa to slash HK$20 billion off the budget and balance the books by 2006-7. Secretary for the Civil Service Joseph Wong yesterday rejected rumours the administration had already drafted a proposal to introduce further pay cuts next year. The government has not made a decision on pay adjustments for next year," he said. "Before we make a final decision, we will consult our civil service fully and extensively." Tung said after meeting senior officials on Saturday the government's annual spending would be cut from a projected HK$219.7 billion to HK$200 billion by the 2006-7 financial year. Speaking at a press conference at SAR government headquarters yesterday, Wong said the Civil Service Bureau would consult the staff side of the Central Consultative Council and "every civil service union, and indeed every civil servant ... will have ample time and ample opportunity to express their views". He also rejected suggestions that long-service payments for civil servants would be reduced. "I would like to point it out clearly, the government has never considered, and does not intend to consider adjusting the long-service payment of civil servants," he said. This expense was exempted from the government's expenditure reduction programme. Salaries for the 170,000 civil servants account for about 70 per cent of government spending. After Saturday's meeting, Tung also said the government would revive the economy, raise revenue and cut spending to attack the deficit - which stood at HK$72.4 billion for the first seven months of this fiscal year. Several ministers who attended the meeting later declared themselves willing to accept a 10 per cent pay cut. Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works Sarah Liao said yesterday although spending cuts would be difficult to achieve, she would ensure her bureau's services and morale would not be affected. "There is a basic requirement ... that important services must not be reduced," she said. "But for some services like obtaining and renewal of driving licences, the availability of on-line application services provide room for us to consider shutting some licence offices." Liao also vowed to communicate with staff before any pay cut proposals were endorsed.

The Standard, Hong Kong, by Michael Ng, 9 December 2002

Proposal To Raise Retirement Age For Civil Servants To 58 Rejected

Shah Alam - The proposal to raise the retirement age for civil servants to 58 was rejected because it would entail a huge expenditure by the government, Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Tuesday. "We have to cut the coat according to the cloth. We cannot spend without taking our income into account. We can give more money to the people, repeatedly raise wages but when the country goes bankrupt, there'll be problems," the prime minister said. He said the government had considered the matter before deciding to raise the retirement age from 55 year to 56 recently. "That's one more year's salary that we have to pay," he told a news conference after opening the 22nd World Fellowship of Buddhists General Conference and 13th World Fellowship of Buddhist Youth General Conference here. He said this when asked to comment on proposals by the Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Service (Cuepacs) and the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) to the government to raise the retirement age for civil servants to 58 from the current 56.

From Bernama, Malaysia, 10 December 2002

China's Zhu Calls on Hong Kong Civil Servants to Take Pay Cut

Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji has called on Hong Kong civil servants to take a pay cut to help ease the government's swelling budget deficit, local newspapers reported on Tuesday. "I don't think all of them are opposed to cutting a little bit of pay," the South China Morning Post quoted Zhu as saying in Beijing at a meeting with Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa. "Senior civil servants could receive a higher pay cut while the reduction for the middle-ranking civil servants could be smaller," said the Chinese economic tsar. Zhu's comment was the first official acknowledgement that Hong Kong's administration may be planning another round of pay cuts for its 175,000 civil servants, who had their wages reduced by up to 4.42 percent in October. A local newspaper reported last week that another cut may be in the works as the administration struggles to close the gaping budget deficit, but top Hong Kong officials quickly denied there was such a plan. Legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, who is also general-secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, said Zhu's comments would give no room for civil servants to negotiate. Worse, private sector bosses may get even bolder in cutting costs. "It's almost certain the government now has got the mandate from heaven to cut pay and civil servants will have no say. Bosses in the private sector will even take the cue and use Zhu's words to cut salaries," Lee told Reuters.

Zhu's comments were also seen as interfering in the internal affairs of Hong Kong, which was promised a high degree of autonomy under the 'one country, two systems' concept agreed when Britain returned the territory to Chinese rule in 1997. "I think he's overstepped the boundaries of the 'one country, two systems'. How Hong Kong solves its deficit is Hong Kong's own problem. But he seems to be helping Hong Kong silence its civil servants," Lee said. Cecilia So, president of the 100,000-strong Hong Kong Chinese Civil Servants Association, urged talks with Tung's administration to avoid a repeat of the acrimonious row that preceded the pay cut in October. Some 35,000 civil servants took part in one of Hong Kong's largest protests in years to denounce the pay cut in July. "Other than cutting pay, there must be other ways to cut costs. We hope the government can cooperate with civil servants and not cause further divisiveness between the people and the civil servants," So told Reuters. Zhu also said he was confident that the Hong Kong government would solve its budget problems in three years. When asked if he was interfering in Hong Kong's internal affairs, Zhu was quoted by newspapers as saying: "You should listen to what Mr Tung is saying". Tung vowed on Saturday to slash public spending to reduce the territory's budget gap, one of the highest in Asia. The administration has set a new target to cut public spending to HK$200 billion (US$25.65 billion) by the 2006/07 fiscal year, HK$20 billion lower than the original goal. Hong Kong's budget deficit ballooned to HK$72.36 billion for the first seven months of the fiscal year ending in March, or about 60 percent higher than its target for the entire year.

From Reuters, UK, 10 December 2002

'Take Moral Highground', Civil Servants Told

Former prime minister Anand Panyarachun yesterday expressed concern that political and business activities had weakened bureaucracy to the point that conflicts of interest could become a serious problem. Giving a speech on "ethics of policy-makers" to mark the 60th anniversary of the Bank of Thailand, Anand also urged government leaders to listen to the opinions of bureaucrats and other groups. He said he was worried to see civil servants and state-enterprise officials becoming weakened and losing their courage to argue with politicians in power or do things that were right but against those in power. "Although there are still good officials, they are spineless, and they are too worried about their own future and themselves to argue [with politicians in power]," Anand said. He added that the country's future was not bright if these officials failed to improve their role and stand up to protect the country's interest. "The past 60 years have taught us that our country survives because of good officials. I have served in the bureaucracy for 23 years, the business sector for 23 years and the political sector for two years, and I've seen a lot. Let me put it straight that I am really concerned about the bureaucratic system," Anand said. "In the past, when the political sector or the military were not good, the country survived because of a good bureaucratic system. Now the military has distanced itself from politics, but political and business interests dominate and have weakened the bureaucracy." He said policy-makers should search for different and varied views by sounding out people both affected and not affected by the policies. The former prime minister said it was dangerous for politicians in power to refuse to listen to other people's opinions and think that they were always right. Anand urged the government to realise that policies which were beneficial to the public were not merely the "total sum of private sector's interests" and that the public interest did not automatically depend on the wishes of most people.

On the contrary, he said, the public interest rests on ethics and social justice. "We cannot survive without the power-balance system. [The government] needs to be reminded and reprimanded by a civil society," Anand said. He said the issue of conflict of interest could become a serious problem because politicians and businessmen still did not understand the issue. "Conflict of interest will become an important issue ture and will make it complicated for policy-makers to work," Anand said. He cited his own experience, giving an example of how a conflict of interest could happen. He said he had been working for Saha Union for 20 years and the company needed an export quota for clothes. He said he had been offered a position on the government's committee setting the export quotas but had declined it because it would create a conflict of interest. "Had I accepted the position, I would have created a conflict of interest immediately. I could not resign from my company to accept the position either, because I had worked for the company for 20 years and had an attachment to it and wanted to help it," Anand said. He said the administration and lawmakers needed to work with transparency and must refuse any form of bribery. "It is wrong, despite the fact that the bribes are accepted - Taking commission is wrong and granting benefits to someone you love or to your relatives is also wrong," Anand said. He said Thai people should be taught integrity from childhood so that they grew up ethically and refrained from taking advantage of other people. The former prime minister also reminded BOT officials that they had to have the courage free themselves from dominance by politicians and continue working as a key pillar of society.

From The Nation, Thailand, by Anoma Srisukkasem, 10 December 2002

4% Public Works Cut Eyed

The Finance Ministry plans to cut fiscal 2003 public works spending by about 4 percent from the previous year's budget, up from the 3 percent reduction target stipulated in guidelines for budgetary appropriation requests submitted by government ministries and agencies in August, sources said Tuesday. According to the sources, the ministry has decided to take the unusual measure of seeking additional cuts in public works outlays due to the shortfall in tax revenues resulting from the prolonged economic downturn. As a result, the budget for public works in fiscal 2003, which was estimated at about 9 trillion yen, likely will be slashed by tens of billions of yen, the sources said. However, the ministry is expected to consult with the ruling coalition parties over the cutbacks as some members of the coalition have urged the government to place priority on combating inflation in the supplementary budget for this fiscal year and the initial budget for fiscal 2003, and to take a cautious approach toward public works cutbacks. Fiscal 2002 outlays for public works, including telephone and water services, were cut by 10 percent from the previous year to about 9.3 trillion yen. A 3 percent expenditure reduction in accordance with the budgetary request guidelines therefore would have reduced such spending to about 9 trillion yen in fiscal 2003.

From Daily Yomiuri, by Yomiuri Shimbun, 10 December 2002

Civil Servants Can Help Suhakam

Kuala Lumpur - The work of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia will be more effective if senior government officials understand the importance of human rights and view Suhakam's recommendations positively. "All we need is for senior members of the ministries to study our recommendations and submit an appropriate report to the political masters," said Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman after receiving a memorandum from the Civil Society, a group of NGOs, at his office here today, "Short of that, it makes the work of Suhakam very difficult. "We need the co-operation of everyone - the Government, non-governmental organisations and the silent majority." Abu Talib cited the case of the commission's recommendation for the amendment of the Suhakam law to be comprehensive and effective, which had yet to receive any response from the Government. He said the failure by MPs to debate Suhakam's 2000/2001 reports which were recently tabled at Parliament was most unfortunate. "Many issues were raised with regard to human rights in the report which if debated at Parliament, would help to further create awareness of human rights in this country. "On the basis of the report and silence of Members of Parliament, the NGOs got together and debated on the function of Suhakam in those two years (contained in the memorandum)." Abu Talib said the media should also help the Suhakam cause by publicising its recommendations, thus putting the pressure on the Government to accept them. Datuk Param Cumaraswamy, who led the the NGO group, said as Suhakam was set up under a Government-sponsored legislation, it was expected that the Government accepts the recommendations made by the commission. "Some recommendations might be difficult for the Government to accept."

He said it is only proper for the Government for purposes of accountability and transparency to give reasons why these recommendations or part of the recommendations cannot be accepted." This is extremely important, otherwise over a period of time, people will lose respect for Suhakam." Cumaraswamy, who is United Nations Special Rapporteur, said the NGOs had made it clear in their memorandum to Abu Talib and the members of the commission that they would work together in the promotion and protection of human rights in Malaysia. "We would also like to see human rights policies of the Government to be consistent with international standards, treaties and obligations of Malaysia. "We once again call upon the Government to ratify the main covenants on civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights and convention of torture in accordance with international standards, on this day when the whole world is commemorating World Human Rights Day." Cumaraswamy said it was unfortunate that Malaysia having held important positions on international forums particularly the chairmanship of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations, was not complying with these covenants. He added that there was a need for an amendment to the legislation on Suhakam as the legislation was far from satisfactory and not in accordance with the international standard.

From New Straits Times, Malaysia, by Sarah Butcher, 11 December 2002

Status Change for Officials Gains Support

Doctors, pharmacists seek civil service roles - The Ministry of Public Health is supporting doctors and pharmacists who want to be employed as civil servants rather than state workers as required under bureaucratic reform. Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng said though the government has a policy of cutting the number of civil servants, most doctors and pharmacists who worked in rural hospitals wanted to be employed as civil servants, not state workers. "The ministry is concerned about boosting the morality of its staff, many of whom feel more secure as civil servants," he said. They believed civil servants enjoyed better benefits. Uncertainty about employment could explain the high number of doctors resigning from the ministry, said Mr. Chaturon. This year alone, 300 doctors had quit the ministry, 30% more than the number of new doctors being employed. Most doctors were still concentrated in the city areas. While the ratio of doctors per head in Bangkok is 1:800, in Kanthrarak district in the northeastern province of Si Sa Ket it is 1:34,000. Mr. Chaturon said the ministry would also look into drug quality and the patient referral system. Hospitals where patients are registered are responsible for paying the cost of treating patients, even when patients are transferred to other hospitals. Mr. Chaturon said he also wanted greater public acceptance of drug addicts. They should be treated as patients rather than criminals. If the policy did not change, it would be difficult to control people who had been rehabilitated from getting into drugs again. Mr. Chaturon said school students who were addicted to drugs should be treated with discretion, for their future could be affected. They should also be given a chance to continue their education.

From Bangkok Post, Thailand, by Aphaluck Bhatiasevi, 11 December 2002

Change the Mindset of Civil Services

Hyderabad - Eight years ago, when Estonia broke away from Russia, it had no computers, and had only one mobile phone in the Ministry of Finance! And today it can proudly boast of 60 per cent Internet penetration, and belonging to the top ten countries in terms of Internet penetration and e-governance practices! And we have the extreme case of a Cabinet Minister who logged in from his laptop in Seattle to participate in a Cabinet meeting taking place in Estonia! All this was made possible because they `de-politicised' and created a non-profit organisation (foundation) for putting the country `on-line'. In Singapore most people file income tax returns online, while in India most wait in long queues and special counters are opened as the deadline approaches. Everyone goes around with computers even in shopping malls and help with e-governance. Even in a country like Coasta Rica and Lebanon, people go around with `mobile' equipment offering e-mail and other services. This is the world of e-governance, of mobile equipment, of technology transforming the way societies function, and are examples of how governments have begun to offer services. While Estonia is an example of a small country `leapfrogging' and benefiting from technology developed by others, for other countries which are already into the concept of e-governance, it is a question of changing the mindset of their administrative machinery, and concentrating on a few services that really make a change in the lives of the people. "Every country, every city and its people are different. Each has to adopt something that is most suitable to it in providing the seamless services," says Douglas Holmes, the well-known author of the book on "e-gov: e-business strategies for Government", which has become a handbook for governments the world over on how to implement digital governance. As Editor of Microsoft's E-Government News, Mr. Holmes travels extensively interviewing and discussing e-governance with public, officials and technology companies, just as he did in Hyderabad today. Sharing his experiences with The Hindu here, he was of the opinion that there was no standard success formula for e-governance.

Every country has to decide what is good for it. For example, Australia has made incredible progress in taxation, while it is Customer Relationship Management (CRM) in the case of Canada. And a small State like Spain, which is not on anyone's radar, has the most advanced portal on tourism, because it considered tourism its most important industry and decided to concentrate on it. "Governments have to look at what is important for them and concentrate (prioritise) and not generalise e-governance concepts," he says. Moreover, e-governance should not be viewed from the point of view of rendering services only, but as an instrument to drive the economy, he feels, adding "Adopt a model most suitable for that country, culture, geography and economy". Significantly, he says, a case has yet to be made to show e-governance as an instrument for saving administrative costs. However, in specific segments savings could be seen immediately. These are in areas like e-procurement, on-line tax filing and collection of customs and excise duties. In short, wherever revenues and business dealings are involved, savings and cost effectiveness is visible immediately. What about areas such as healthcare where developing countries like India use it for a social purpose, to take medicine and specialisation to the doorstep of the needy in remote areas? No one can argue that there are no social benefits. However, this area continues to be a neglected one. Even in France only half the doctors have a computer! For most people, dealing with a government is considered a waste of time, a precious commodity. "You deal with government because you have no choice," he says. Then how to smoothen the process? Change the mindset of civil services and changing business processes is what is required, though most challenges are technological. He concedes that the problem of mindset persists in developed countries also, and not in developing countries alone!

From The Hindu, India, by P. Vikram Reddy, 11 December 2002

India Shares End -2: Market Awaits Privatization News

Bombay - Indian shares ended higher Wednesday on significant gains in Infosys Technologies and state-run bank shares. The 30-share benchmark Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index, or Sensex, ended up 13.59 points, or 0.4%, at 3303.27, but off its intraday high of 3324.23. Volume on the BSE was worth INR19.90 billion, higher than the daily average of INR12 billion to INR15 billion in the last month. On the rival National Stock Exchange, the 50-share S&P CNX Nifty ended up 6.05 points, or 0.6%, at 1069.75. Infosys was the star of the day with heavy buying by investors and funds. Infosys closed up 3.8% at 4,671.75 rupees, but off its intraday high of INR4,714. Dealers said an 8.2% rebound in Infosys's ADRs triggered the buying in local shares. "I see Infosys going up by another INR200 over the next few days" to further bridge the gap between local shares and ADRs, said a strategist at a foreign brokerage. Dealers said the company's decision to convert some of its local shares into ADRs will increase the float on the Nasdaq, and eventually reduce the current over 40% premium that the ADRs are trading at. State-owned bank shares also moved up sharply with investors looking for growth stocks. Bank shares were in demand because of the new securitization law, which is expected to push up their profits. "Banks with large non-performing assets will gain as they look attractive now," said a dealer at a Bombay brokerage. State Bank of India closed up 3.3% at INR279.25. Among other bank shares, Bank of Baroda closed up 10.8% at INR68.50 and Bank of India was up 3.9% at INR33.50. Indian Overseas Bank was up 3.8% at INR13.85 and Syndicate Bank was up 3% at INR15.50.

India Shares End -2: Market Awaits Privatization News - Dealers said there is good buying support at lower levels, and with any positive news from the government on its privatization program shares are expected to gain further. "I think the next resistance for the Sensex is at about 3350 levels," said Sanjay Thakkar, chief dealer at private brokerage Marison Finvest. He said the Sensex is expected to get good support at over the 3240-point level on any correction or profit-taking. Dealers said they are awaiting the outcome of a meeting of the Core Group of Secretaries on Disinvestment Wednesday. Any news on the size of the stakes to be sold in Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum with a time schedule will potentially move the entire market up, they said. Hindustan Petroleum closed down 0.3% at INR270.05. Bharat Petroleum closed up 2.9% at INR205.90. Bharat Petroleum saw good buying on speculation the company may declare a high dividend, and also on news reports that the government is considering a proposal that will include an issue of American Depositary Receipts or Global Depositary Receipts as part of the privatization of Bharat Petroleum. Meanwhile, Punjab Communications closed up 2.6 at INR69.85, but off its intraday high of INR78 and Punjab Alkalies closed up 9.7% at INR13.60. Both these shares moved up on divestment hopes. Mahanagar Telephone closed up 2.4% at INR107.75 on news reports the company will be on the next list of privatization candidates. "The government is progressing further (on privatization), and has not stopped at one point," said Khandwala Securities strategist Gurunath Mudlapur. Shares among Sensex heavyweights closed mixed. Reliance Industries closed down 0.4% at INR292.50 and Hindustan Lever was up 0.4% at INR179.90. ITC was down 1.8% at INR648.80. (By Raghavendra Upadhyaya, Dow Jones Newswires; 91 22 22884212; raghavendra.upadhyayadowjones.com).

From Yahoo Headlines, 11 December 2002

Boon for Public Service Workers

ACT Public Service workers look set to receive extended maternity leave as part of a substantial enterprise-bargaining breakthrough announced yesterday. ACT Minister for Industrial Relations Simon Corbell said the Stanhope Government was keen to deliver improved salary and conditions for ACT public servants. The maternity leave provision would give the ACT workers an edge over their Commonwealth and interstate colleagues. Mr. Corbell said, after the union's in-principle agreement to Common Core Conditions, the Government had offered: A 10.5 per cent pay increase over 18 months with the agreement expiring on March 31, 2004, and 6.5 per cent backdated to the expiry date of current agreements - September 30, 2002, for most; with a further 4 per cent paid from July 1, 2003. The new offer includes a package of maternity leave initiatives, including: An increase in paid maternity leave for ACT Public Service staff from 12 to 14 weeks. An entitlement for employees returning from maternity leave to access regular part-time employment for a period of up to two years from the birth of their child. An option for the leave period to be doubled at half pay with the additional period to count as service for all purposes. Access to annual leave and long service on half pay, when taken in connection with maternity leave. Access to "primary care-giver leave" where an employee, the primary care-giver of a newborn or adopted child and who is not entitled to maternity leave, will have access to equivalent provisions. "From the Government's perspective the ACT now will have an edge over the Commonwealth on these issues," Mr. Corbell said. "The Commonwealth does not offer this level of paid maternity leave so that's an advantage for the ACT Government both in terms of recruitment and retention of staff; but it also demonstrates our capacity to be a best practice employer and puts us in line with the International Labour Organisation standard," he said. "The extension of this provision puts ACT Public Service staff ahead of the majority of their interstate colleagues."

Mr. Corbell said the matter of how to pay for pay parity had yet to be resolved but he was optimistic all parties would reach "a satisfactory conclusion within a week". The State of the Service Report 2001/2002 records the ACT Public Service as having 9952 employees, of which 68.9 per cent are female and 31.1 per cent (4481) are male. CPSU assistant national secretary Margaret Gillespie said she was happy with the offer "at this point" and should it go ahead, there would be additional benefits. "What it means is that the Government will be able to arrest the problems it has with recruitment and retention of staff, given the percentage of ACT employees that are women; it will also increase loyalty to the employer," she said. "Women will want to stay and the flow-on from that is a career path and eventually more women in senior positions." MLA and former chair of the Select Committee on the Status of Women Katy Gallagher said yesterday she applauded the move to 14 weeks' paid maternity leave in the ACT public sector. "This actually goes further than that recommended by the select committee. "It can only help to encourage women to return to the workforce and to support families who are trying to balance personal and working lives. It's a fantastic result and puts the ACT out in front of the Commonwealth and every other state other than the Northern Territory," Ms Gallagher said.

From Canberra Times, Australia, 11 December 2002

Government Assures Transparency In HPCL Bidding Process

New Delhi - The government would ensure that there is maximum competition in bidding for Hindustan Petroleum Corpora-tion Ltd (HPCL). Speaking to FE, officials of the ministry of disinvestment (MoD) said there was no question of disqualifying, directly or indirectly, any private company from bidding for HPCL. Disinvestment minister Arun Shourie had informed Parliament on Monday that the oil major would be privatised. Reacting to a news report which said domestic companies would be barred from bidding for HPCL, MoD officials said such a bar was ruled out for two reasons. Firstly, it would be legally untenable. Secondly, it would be politically difficult, for the Swadeshi lobby would criticise the government for selling national property to foreigners. On the issue of public sector undertakings (PSUs) being allowed to bid for other PSUs, MoD officials said the Cabinet Committee on Disinvestment had already decided in its meeting on September 7 that PSUs and government-controlled co-operatives would not be allowed to participate in any participation process, as this defeated the very purpose of privatisation. This decision came in the wake of Indian Oil Corporation aggressively bidding for IBP Ltd and acquiring it, paying up almost double the price what the second largest bidder was willing to pay. But there was a rider to the September 7 decision: PSUs can bid for other PSUs if the CCD gives them special permission to do so. The petroleum ministry has never been comfortable with this decision. Petroleum minister Ram Naik has made it clear that his ministry would consider proposals of ONGC and Gail for the take-over of HPCL. Meanwhile the MoD has sought a meeting of the CCD, which is subject to the availability of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. While the Centre has resolved the issue of disinvestment in HPCL, some important issues are still be addressed. The most important among them is that of allowing ONGC and GAIL bid for HPCL. In fact, this is becoming a new contentious issue between the petroleum ministry and the MoD. Did the informal meeting between the concerned ministers on oil sector privatisation on December 6 reach any consensus? Mr. Shourie and his officers are absolutely tight-lipped about this.

From Financial Express, Bangladesh, by Ravi Kapoor, 12 December 2002

140 Public Servants Apply for Packages

More than 140 public servants have applied for separation packages under the State Government's plan to shed 600 staff this financial year. The Government set aside $42 million for the program and so far only 122 of the applications have been accepted. Those who have taken packages worked in eight different agencies which the Government will not identify. However, it is known that up to 40 redundancy packages could be offered in Primary Industries. The decision to offer the packages was announced in the State Budget this year as part of the Government's plan to cut back state spending to fund election promises. Some public servants, especially those in the transport sector, are understood to be unhappy about the decision. Workers at TransAdelaide who have been on the redeployment list for years want to take packages but their requests have been rejected, along with a number of other applications in other departments. The Government will grant packages only in instances where it can be demonstrated that the shedding of a staff member will save the department money. Normally, packages are offered simply to reduce public service numbers and many people have taken them, resulting in a loss of experienced senior public sector workers. Public Service Association general secretary Jan McMahon said the public sector had been decimated over the past decade. "We can't afford the loss of any more experienced staff," she said.

From South Australia Advertiser, Australia, 03 December 2002

Public Service to Slash Admin Jobs

More than 1200 jobs will be cut from Queensland's public-sector workforce under a plan for government departments to share administrative staff. State Cabinet on Monday approved the Shared Service Initiative, under which seven clusters of departments will share centralised finance, human resources, property, facilities-management, document and records-management units. Departments and agencies currently use their own corporate services units. Under the Shared Service Initiative, to be implemented by July 2006, three major clusters will service 20 government departments. Two minor clusters will be set up to service smaller agencies such as the Office of the Governor and the Queensland Audit Office. The two largest departments, Education Queensland and Queensland Health, will retain their own units. Treasurer Terry Mackenroth last night said the new system would cut down on duplication and reduce administration costs, freeing up more money to pump back into services for the community. "Obviously through the economies of scale we can achieve with this initiative, not as many staff will be needed to provide the same level of service," Mr. Mackenroth said. About 1250 jobs would be cut by July 2006, but Mr. Mackenroth said no bureaucrats would be forced to leave.

Surplus administrative staff who wanted to continue working in the public service would be given work outside the corporate services environment within their own departments or other agencies. Queensland Public Sector Union assistant general secretary Brett McCreadie said the decision meant a cloud would hang over the homes of 5000 bureaucrats during Christmas as they waited to see if they would have a job next year. "This shows how mean and nasty the Government has become," Mr. McCreadie said. "In their desperate attempts to recover their budgetary position, they're happy to ruin Christmas for thousands of families." Opposition Leader Mike Horan said Cabinet's approval of the scheme just a week before Christmas was "a nasty present to be leaving in the stockings of Queensland's public servants". "People should be under no illusions - these job cuts are being made because the Beattie Government cannot afford to pay the wages of the public service," Mr. Horan said. Liberal Party state leader Bob Quinn said the new system was an attempt to reverse an alarming trend of unsustainable growth in the public service. "The Government has allowed the public service to grow substantially in the past few years and now is looking for ways to trim it back because the growth in expenditure has outstripped the growth in revenue," Mr. Quinn said. The Shared Service Initiative was recommended after a review of corporate services under the Aligning Services and Priorities Program.

From Brisbane Courier Mail, Australia, by Chris Jones, 17 December 2002

Be People-Friendly, Sarawak Civil Servants Told

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George han has urged the Sarawak Civil Service to be more people-friendly to ensure that the government policies are implemented on the right track. Dr Chan, who is also the Sarawak Finance and Public Utilities Minister, said this approach, to win the "heart and mind" of the people, could cut back on unnecessary red tape. "Such good governance will ensure that policy-makers give and receive the right feedback and information from the public to help improve customer services," he said at the ministry's Clients' Day and community service project held at the Wisma Bapa Malaysia's car park, Petra Jaya here. He said the public's positive attitude and response to government programmes would also ensure that projects did not stall due to lack of public feedback. The civil servants should not be too rigid and instead exercise discipline and ethics when executing their duties apart from practising teamwork, he said. At the open day, Dr Chan joined the ministry's staff to wash cars for the public with all the proceeds to be chanelled to charity bodies.

From Bernama, Malaysia, 14 December 2002

Civil Servants on Better Ground

Aggrieved civil servants have a better chance of winning legal battles if they acquire the services of lawyers employed by the Attorney General's Office. But, the worry is despite knowing this, some public service administrators are shying away from seeking help from the legal advisory service and this is not to their advantage. Opening the Attorney General's Conference 2002 at The Naviti Resort yesterday, Solicitor General Nainendra Nand said, "such a move by civil servants results in bad or wrong decisions being made." "Often the matter is challenged in court by the aggrieved party. We are then called upon to defend action where our advice had not been taken." Mr. Nand said this in many occasions resulted in the aggrieved party losing the case, which the Attorney General's office would have won. "More often not the taxpayers ends up footing the bill for the bad decision taken by the administrator," he said. "That is why I sincerely hope that public servants around the country who make decisions will take heed of this and consult a lawyer before taking decisions in the future." Mr. Nand said acquiring the services of Attorney General's office lawyers was not hard because the office boasted the services of close to 40 lawyers.

From The Fiji's Daily Post, 12 December 2002

Corrupt Public Servants (Forfeiture of Property) Bill

The 166th Report of the Law Commission on 'The Corrupt Public Servants (Forfeiture of Property) Bill', which also contained a draft Bill on the subject as well as its main features, was laid on the Table of the House on October 27, 1999. The Report was examined in consultation with legal experts who have expressed their opinion that instead of enacting a separate legislation it would be appropriate if the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 is amended in such a way as to make it more deterrent. It was felt that it would be a better way to achieve the objective of rooting out corruption. This information was given by the Union Minister of Law and Justice, Shri K. Jana Krishnamurthi in a written reply to a question from S/Shri Kripal Parmar and B.J. Panda in the Rajya Sabha today.

From Press Information Bureau, India, by Rajya Sabha, 16 December 2002

Civil Service Unions in Accord After Pay Talks

Civil servants and the government have reached an agreement on a new mechanism for pay adjustments while not ruling out a salary cut next year. A first round of talks between civil servant groups and the government went through smoothly yesterday. "We have agreed not to rule out a pay cut," Secretary for the Civil Service Joseph Wong said. "Of course, having taken into account other spending cut measures." The government has, over the past two decades, used private sector pay trends to determine civil service pay. Wong said a new mechanism would be established if pay adjustments became inevitable. "We have agreed on a legal and rational pay adjustment [mechanism] should it be necessary. We also agreed on the setting up of a mechanism for pay adjustment and the government would follow this mechanism," he said. Senior Non-expatriate Officers Association chairman Paul Pang said a pay adjustment mechanism was necessary. "We will not accept government cutting civil servants pay simply by talking it over," Pang said. "The government said it will fully consult the civil servants on whether to use new or existing mechanisms for pay adjustments, and we will co-operate with the government." The deficit cannot be solved in one step, he said, adding that government should not target civil servants. Federation of Civil Service Unions chairman Leung Chau-ting was satisfied with the meeting. "Civil servants can't afford to take a 6 per cent cut this year, and yet another 6 per cent cut next year.

There has to be an indicative [mechanism] accredited by all, or civil servants will not accept any pay adjustment," he said, adding that the government would set up a committee soon to work on the new mechanism. Disciplined Services General Union chairman Stephen Wong warned the government not to impose a pay cut. "If the government decides on its own to cut our salaries next year, our relationship would be broken." Lau Kam-wah, a representative of the staff side of the police force council, said they had ``heard about [pay adjustment] long time ago''. "We are absolutely willing to talk to the police force management and find a way to cut spending," Lau said. He warned that if the government kept changing its policy, it could cause a flood of resignations and, since police officers aged between 45 and 55 could resign at any time, Hong Kong's law and order could be adversely affected. Chinese Civil Servants' Association vice-president Wong Ho said a pay cut was the last resort and the government should first call on department and bureau heads to cut spending. "If, after all other options [were] exhausted, [and] a pay cut was still necessary, civil servants would understand," he said.

From The Standard, Hong Kong, by Matthew Lee, 13 December 2002

Civil Servants Split $8m Backpay Today

Retailers around Fiji are expecting their cash registers to start ringing in Christmas from today when Fiji's 18,000 civil servants share $8 million in back pay. Most retailers said the festive season so far had not translated into the spending normally associated with the season. Suva Retailers Association president Himmat Lodhia said sales should definitely increase from today. "When we started off the Christmas sale at the beginning of the month, sales were average," Mr. Lodhia said. "But we are expecting sales to double or be higher because import figures are expected to rise." Mr. Lodhia said individual retailers would be raking in the cash but was not in a position to say how much money change hands over Chrsitmas and New Year. One shop owner in Suva said Christmas sales for the past two years "have not been like before". "I think parents instead of buying children presents spend more on groceries and save money for the back to school sale," he said. Another shop owner who sells clothes said she had done "okay" so far. "A lot of my customers are coming to buy clothes, mostly summer wear because it is getting warm and evening wear for parties and cocktails." She said women spent more than men on clothes and accessories. "It gives them a sense of belonging and puts them in the festive spirit." A Indian sweets dealer who sells from a "bean cart" said business was booming "because of lot of teenagers are in town buying bean, peanut and mango skin". "Before I used to make about $25 a day but now I make about $50." The bean cart seller said he hoped to collect enough money by Christmas to buy a cooler to store cold confectionaries like ice blocks. "Ice blocks and sun pop will sell quicker because children cannot afford to buy expensive stuff." Most major supermarkets in Suva and other urban centres will open for extended hours until Christmas Eve.

From Fiji's Daily Post, 19 December 2002

Health, Power Lead Corruption List in India

According to the perception of the public, the most corrupt sector is found to be police followed by health, power, and education. However, on the basis of actual experience of the common man, the most corrupt sector is found to be health sector, followed by power and then education. A large number of poor people seek health services in India, and since most have to pay bribes, this sector ends up as the most corrupt out of the 10 sectors surveyed. The survey also reveals that the least corrupt sectors in India are railways and telephone. India ranks among the top 30 most corrupt countries in the world out of 102 surveyed. This is based on business-class perception. To formulate a policy and implement a programme to combat corruption a national survey based on hard data has been carried out after experience-based opinion poll from recipients of public services, the common man. The World Economic Forum Survey ranked India 45th out of 49 countries on the honesty of its officials. The Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International has depicted India as becoming more corrupt in recent years. This study looks at the prevalence of corruption in 10 sectors - Education, health, police (law and order), power, telephone (communications), railways (transport), land and building administration, judiciary, taxation and ration (public distribution system).The total estimated outflow due to corruption in these sectors in a year is Rs 26,728 crore. This works out to about 10.5 per cent of the total compensation of Rs 235,496 crore made to public sector employees in a year. Of this, the North zone contributes 39 per cent (Rs 10, 449 crore), the East zone contributes 28 per cent (Rs 7,421 crore), South contributes 22 per cent (Rs 5,867 crore), and West contributes 11 per cent (Rs 2,992 crore). In the health sector an estimated bribe of Rs 7,578 crore was paid, and 25 per cent of the people surveyed had paid bribes. In the power sector, an estimated bribe of Rs 5,764 crore was paid by 18 per cent of the people who interacted with the sector. In education sector palm-greasing touched a high of Rs 3,552 crore. In the judicial sector, a small percentage of population paid a bribe of Rs 2,510 crore.

Interestingly the 'speed money' disbursed in the Public Distribution System was a 'low' of Rs 1,210 crore only. In police the bribe takers accounted for Rs 1,803 crore, even though only 4 per cent of the surveyed population interacted with keepers of our laws. The sector wise comparison of total financial outflow leads to several interesting revelations. What is most damaging is that the total outgo due to corruption in the health sector is close to 40 per cent of the GDP contributed by it. Power stands next with outflows totaling 14.23 per cent of its contribution to the GDP. Education follows with outflows of 5.9 per cent. Corruption in telecom results in outflow of 3.5 per cent of its contribution to the GDP, while the railways sector has outflows of 1.99 per cent. The metros are responsible for a substantive 18 per cent (Rs 4,932 crore). The urban contribution is 56 per cent (Rs 14,927 crore) and the rural contribution is 44 per cent (Rs 11,801 crore). Health, power, and education sectors contribute the largest quantum of corruption: Rs 7,578 crore, Rs 5,764 crore, and Rs 3,552 crore respectively. Although total outgo in payments made by lower strata is relatively lower, the social impact is still very high given their lower earnings. Rs 1,200 crore flows out annually from the lowest urban SEC compared to Rs 2,698 crore from the rural SEC. Perceptions also vary according to zones. While Health is perceived to be the most corrupt sector in the East, police is perceived to be the most corrupt sector in the West. Ration in the South and power in the East are perceived the most corrupt. Health and power sectors are perceived to have the maximum impact on society taking into consideration their extent of interaction with the public. Region wise corruption scores reveal South and North urban sees railways as the least corrupt sector. In the East, especially in the rural East, health sector clearly dominates other sectors in the corruption front. In West police, power, and education are seen as most corrupt. North sees power, police and health as most corrupt. East sees health, police and education as the most corrupt, while South sees police health and ration as the most corrupt. The overall impact of corruption on common man can be only be calculated depending upon the level of interaction of the specific sector with the public.

This is reflected in the overall impact score of two extreme values - health and police sectors. Overall, corruption score of police is the highest, yet its impact is relatively low because of the low interaction of a common man with this sector. Therefore, per se, although the corruption in Police sector may be very high, but it does not impact the common man so much as not many people interact with this sector. On the other hand, the corruption score in health sector is the second highest but its impact score is the highest, due to the high level of interaction of a common man with this sector. Thus, corruption in this sector impacts the common man the most given that maximum people interact with this sector. The extent of public interaction is maximum in the health sector, followed by power, ration, education, railway, telecom, land administration, taxation, police, and judiciary. Thirty-two per cent of the respondents have interacted with the health department, followed by power (30 per cent), and ration (28 per cent). Judiciary has an interaction level of 3 per cent while police has an interaction level of 4 per cent. Perception on the existence of corruption in a sector varies significantly from actual level of interaction. For example, police was perceived to be the most corrupt department, and hence has the highest corruption score of 6801. But only 4 per cent of the respondents had interacted with the police (highest interaction is for health at 32 per cent).The overall impact of a sector depends upon the extent of interaction as well as the extent of corruption in that sector. Hence, even though the overall corruption score of taxation is the highest with a score of 6801, its overall impact is amongst the least. Education follows taxation in overall corruption levels, and then come health, telecom, power, police, land administration, judiciary and railways. But, in terms of the overall impact, health comes first, followed by power, education, ration, police, railways, land administration, telecom, taxation and judiciary. In this perspective, health and the power sectors become the sectors responsible for largest quantum of corruption in the society.

The health sector has an overall impact score of 1,671 while that of power sector is 1,305. Further, the impact on the poor is profound given their lower earnings although total outgo in payments is lower than the rich. Health sector - The percentage of people affected by corruption in health sector is about 8 per cent of the entire population of India. Payment of money through hospital staff is the dominant irregular process encountered for admission, followed by direct payments being made. Payments made for admission to hospitals are higher in the South. The dominant corruption after getting admission is non-proper care by doctors and nurses and also in terms of non proper medicine, food etc.. Twenty-five per cent of those who have interacted with the health sector talk of money being demanded and it is especially high in the South (38 per cent). The key actors leading to corruption in this sector across zones are allegedly doctors (77 per cent) followed closely by hospital staff (67 per cent). Power sector - The percentage of people affected by corruption in power sector is about 5.9 per cent. Improper supply of electricity and payment of excess bill were the key corruptions faced. About 50 per cent respondents who had interacted with the power sector in the past one year had to pay bribes to the office staff. Of these, 50 per cent, in most cases (67 per cent) money is directly demanded. About every second person having interacted with the power sector has to make repeated visits to the office just to get their complaint registered or addressed. The incidence of this experience was much higher in West zone (72 per cent). The key actors in corruption in this sector are linesmen (37 per cent), officers (24 per cent), meter readers (23 per cent), and billing clerks (22 per cent). Education sector - The percentage of people affected by corruption in the education sector is about 5.3 per cent. The key process that seeds corruption in this sector is the admission process. The study shows that 18 per cent of those who interacted with this sector, got admission through irregular process. This trend was the strongest in South (39 per cent) and lowest in East (6 per cent). The two main dominant modes of corruption in the admission process are donation (57 per cent), and use of an influential relative (19 per cent). Receiving donations is a custom strongly rooted in the South zone (70 per cent).

Ration sector - As many as 4.76 people have been affected by the corruption in the ration sector (PDS). Instances of corruption were cited such as money being demanded for new cards and faulty (less) weighing for different items. About 17 per cent claim to have paid money due to corruption. The average amount paid was about Rs 274 per annum. This translates into an outflow of Rs 1,210 crore per annum. This outflow was higher in the East (Rs 710 per annum) and lower in the North (Rs 54 per annum). Police sector - Two per cent people are affected by corruption in the police sector. Fifty-three per cent have said that political intervention has been the key corruption faced. Fourteen per cent have pointed out that money has been demanded for making an FIR and 50 per cent admit having paid. However, this is lower in the West (36 per cent) and the metros (39 per cent). The duty police officer (54 per cent) is seen as the chief beneficiary. Other beneficiaries are the investigation officer, officer in charge, and clerk in the police station. Railways sector - The percentage of people affected by corruption in the railways sector is about 3.3 per cent. The study does not reveal any dominant corruption faced. However, about 15 per cent talk of paying money for corruption directly or indirectly to the railway department. The ticket checker (55 per cent) and the clerk (36 per cent) are the key beneficiaries. Land Administration - The percentage of people affected by corruption in land administration sector is just about 3 per cent of the total population. There are two main forms of corruption faced in this sector. The first is waiting for a long time for getting documents and the second is an offshoot of the money involved in various activities such as mutation, services, and tax. On an average, 36 per cent talk of money being demanded. This incidence is the strongest in the North (58 per cent). In 59 per cent of the cases money is directly demanded. The key beneficiaries of corruption in this sector are perceived to be Surveyors (45 per cent), revenue officers (30 per cent), and Tehsildars (23 per cent). Telecom sector - About 3.12 per cent of the population is affected by the corruption in telecom sector. This figure is significantly high in view of the fact that a very small fraction of our population has access to telephone lines. The study does not reveal any dominant type of corruption. To some extent, money has to be paid to linesman for installation or for restoration of faulty line when phone goes dead. About 26 per cent people talk of money being paid.

The incidence of this form of corruption is somewhat higher in South (37 per cent). The linesman is seen to be the key beneficiary by about 78 per cent of those who interacted. Taxation sector - The percentage of people affected by corruption is taxation sector is about 0.66 per cent. Surprisingly, this sector has garnered a lower corruption score as compared to the other sectors. In the North zone and metros, over 50 per cent of those who have interacted claimed to be paying income tax. On the other hand, Municipal tax (>>80 per cent) features strongly in the West and South. The key corruption faced is 'paying for getting reduced or corrected assessment'. However, only about 11 per cent talk of paying money. The tax officer (44 per cent) and the clerk in tax department (35 per cent) are the key actors in the corruption in this sector. Judiciary - The percentage of people affected by corruption in judicial sector is about 1.29 per cent. The key form of corruption prevalent in this sector is predominantly paying money to the court official. To add to justice seeker's misery, money sometimes needs to be paid to the public prosecutor and even the opponent lawyer. Forty-three per cent talk about having paid money. This figure is slightly lower in the West (35 per cent). The key beneficiaries of corruption in this sector include Court employees (44 per cent) and the judicial officials, public prosecutor / opponent lawyer at about 15 per cent. Interestingly, the higher the interaction with a sector, the lower is the percentage of people having paid money for corrupt in that sector (except for health). Health is the sector with the highest public interaction and also has the highest percentage of people having to pay money due to corruption. It is therefore, no surprise that the largest quantum of corruption outgo occurs in this sector. It can be inferred that corruption is higher in sectors, which assume higher importance for a particular set of people. The North and Urban areas where agriculture is the primary source of income, land administration assumes a great importance. Interestingly, the average outflow of money for corruption in this sector is the highest in the North and rural areas only. Food procurement is a major problem in the East, which has the highest proportion of poor people in India. The average outflow of money for corruption in ration sector is among highest in East. South zone basks in the glory of the highest number of educated people. The money outflow for corruption in the education sector is also the highest in this zone.

Though the interaction with the public with police, judiciary, land administration, and taxation are low, nearly one third to half of those dealing with these sectors have to face instances of corruption and the per capita outgo due to corruption is also high. The Transparency International Corruption Perception Index 2002 ranks 102 countries in terms of the degree of which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians. Of the 102 countries surveyed, seventy countries - including many of the world's most poverty stricken - score less than five out of a clean score of 10. Corruption is perceived to be rampant in Indonesia, Kenya, Angola, Madagascar, Paraguay, Nigeria, and Bangladesh, countries with a score of less than two. Countries with a score of higher than nine, with very low levels of perceived corruption, are predominantly rich countries, namely, Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Iceland, Singapore, and Sweden. India has a score of only 2.7 out of 10 and ranks 71st amongst 102 countries in 2002. India's score has declined from 2.9 in 1999 to 2.7 in 2002. The survey also reveals that there is a very high correlation between Corruption Perception Index and Human Development Index. The delivery of services in sectors like health, education, power, public distribution system have a strong impact on the quality of life; a very logical correlation between CPI & HDI. Corruption lowers investment and hinders economic growth and human development by limiting access to basic social services as well as increasing the cost of their delivery. It also increases poverty, subverts the financial system, and undermines the legitimacy of the state. Thus, corruption is anti-poor, anti-development, anti-growth, anti-investment, and inequitable. Adverse effects of corruption on growth have been statistically corroborate from cross-country data. A one standard deviation improvement in the Corruption Index is estimated to be associated with an increase in the investment rate of about 3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product. Methodology A detailed structured questionnaire was prepared. ORG-MARG conducted the field survey with participation of Transparency International India. The survey sample was scientifically identified to bear the best possible representative character across the country in the North, South, East, and West zones. The results were also analysed according to the urban, rural, and metro populations.

From EconomicTimes.com, 20 December 2002

Public Servants' Super Draining $6.5m Each Day

The NSW Government's superannuation fund, which pays the state's 180,000 retired public servants, continued its slide in the first four months of this year, losing another $1 billion. Having posted a $2.25 billion loss on its investments last year, State Super has now lost more than $6.5 million a day, every day, for the past 16 months, a report has shown. And according to the Budget mid-year review, released by the Treasurer, Michael Egan, on Monday, the Government expects even worse to come, with unfunded superannuation liabilities hitting $13.7 billion by June. The mid-year Budget review predicts that investment returns for 2002-03 for State Super will be zero, although this appears optimistic, given that losses over the past 16 months have been about minus 10 per cent. Details of State Super's low investment returns have emerged a fortnight after the Auditor-General, Bob Sendt, tabled his last report of the year, in which he said State Super's administration costs per member had ballooned, and were nearly 5 times what they were in 1996, when the structure of the fund was changed. However, the Treasurer's office said the ballooning costs were partly explained by a two-thirds drop in membership. Mr. Egan said Government liabilities did not stop at super, and Government debt was just as important. "In June 1995 net financial liabilities, which add debt and unfunded super together, were $32.7 billion. At June 2002 they had been slashed to $24.2 billion as a result of seven years of surpluses and canny debt management. "They are expected to fall further to $23.8 billion by June 2006."

Mr. Egan insisted that just reporting super liabilities would seriously misrepresent changes in taxpayers' liability. The Opposition spokesman on Treasury, George Souris, said the latest figures on State Super's investment losses showed that unfunded liabilities were $1 billion higher than the $12.68 billion when Labor came to office in 1995. The first round of losses in investment were revealed in State Super's annual report, tabled in Parliament last month. This showed that the total amount of State Super's assets in 2001-02 fell by $3.95 billion, while the fund increased its investment in international equities from 25 to 33 per cent of its portfolio, despite offshore market volatility. Public sector superannuation schemes are extremely complex, but it is important to differentiate between State Super, which is Australia's largest fund and is known as a defined benefit fund, and First State Super (FSS), which is an accumulation fund. State Super holds the retirement assets of about 180,000 retired NSW public servants, including teachers and nurses. As a defined benefit fund it pays a guaranteed set benefit to its members, and has been closed to new members since 1992. It guarantees members set payments. However, if the fund's investment performance is bad, the Government must cover the liability. FSS, on the other hand, is not guaranteed by the Government. The investment strategy is chosen by its members, and if it does not perform well the member pays the price.

From Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, by Paola Totaro, 25 December 2002

'Amakudari' Still Rife in Civil Service

More than 300 senior government officials who retired in the 12 months to Aug. 15, 2001, were hired by foundations, according to an annual government report released Thursday. Many of the foundations have ties with the ministries and agencies at which these officials worked. The report relates to 1,273 bureaucrats at the senior assistant level and above who retired during the 12-month period. Of this total, 1,136 found new jobs, it says, and 315, or 24.7 percent of the total, were hired by foundations. Another 202, or 15.9 percent, became self-employed. Profit-making corporations hired 183, or 14.4 percent, while aggregate corporations hired 146, or 11.5 percent. This year's report is the third of its kind compiled by the government. It features an expanded scope, covering senior assistants as part of a civil service reform drive. According to the report, the number of civil servants who obtained posts at institutions connected to their former ministries and agencies - the practice known as "amakudari" - was roughly the same as in previous years. Amakudari is widely viewed as a source of corruption, as retired public servants typically try to obtain favors from governmental offices on behalf of their new employers. The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry recorded the largest number of retired officials during the year, at 321. Of these, 103 were hired by foundations with strong ministry ties. The Finance Ministry had the second-largest number of retirees, at 289. Of these, 287 found new jobs, 14 of them at aggregate corporations and special corporations.

From The Japan Times, 27 December 2002

Anti-corruption Drive in China Fruitful

China's anti-corruption campaign has achieved noticeable results in recent years thanks to the Communist Party's determination to fight the scourge and also the effective work of its anti-corruption body - the Party's Central Discipline Inspection Commission. China's anti-corruption campaign has achieved noticeable results in recent years thanks to the Communist Party's determination to fight the scourge and also the effective work of its anti-corruption body - the Party's Central Discipline Inspection Commission. "The Party has always taken a clear-cut stance on combating graft and building a clean and honest government," retired official Liu Liying told China Daily. Liu Liying, now 70, stepped down from the post of commission deputy secretary at last month's 16th Party Congress. She is known as a staunch fighter at the forefront of China's anti-corruption crusade. The concerted efforts of the whole Party and people have helped check the growing tendency of corruption in some Party and government organs and this has been welcomed by the Party and the public, Liu said. In recent years, a lot of effort has been put into exploring and improving the Party's work style and enhancing its discipline work to build a clean and honest government. A considerable number of corrupt officials have been ferreted out and disciplined or punished in the courts, Liu said. Liu revealed that, between October 1997 and September 2002, more than 861,900 cases were filed by discipline inspection and supervision organs at different levels across the country, and 97 per cent of the cases have been wound up. As a result, 137,711 people were expelled from the Party and 37,790 of them were also punished in the courts. Among them, 98 were leading officials at or above provincial and ministry level while 28,996 were senior officials at county level, Liu said. These people include former Vice-Chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee Cheng Kejie, former Vice-Governor of Jiangxi Province Hu Changqing, former Governor of Yunnan Province Li Jiating, former Deputy Governor of Hebei Province Cong Fukui, former Vice-Minister of Public Security Li Jizhou and former Shenyang Mayor Mu Suixin and Deputy Mayor Ma Xiangdong. "The sentences meted out on these corrupt officials have sent a strong message that the Party is firmly determined to root out corruption, no matter who has committed it," Liu said.

China has also carried out institutional reform to prevent corruption from happening and get rid of it at its very root, said Liu. The anti-corruption drive provides a necessary condition and serves as an important guarantee for the country's reform and social stability, Liu pointed out. "If we had failed to curb corruption in recent years, the course of reform and opening-up would have faced severe setbacks," she said. Nonetheless, we should remain sober-minded as the task of fighting corruption is still arduous, she warned. That is why the 16th Party congress defined anti-corruption in its political report as "a major political task of the whole Party" and warned that failure to combat corruption would seriously harm the flesh-and-blood ties between the Party and the people and could even deprive the Party of its ruling position and lead it to "self-destruction." Liu said: "I understand this as a warning to corrupt officials - whoever dares defy the law will be solemnly and thoroughly investigated and prosecuted in spite of his or her position or rank." The Party's resolve will further enhance people's confidence in the anti-corruption drive and boost the morale of the discipline inspectors, she added. As a leading anti-corruption official, Liu demonstrated an iron will and admirable investigative prowess, which won her fame as a female Bao Gong (a legendary 11th-century imperial judge well-known for his uprightness and integrity). While winning respect and honour from the Party and the public, Liu has also, from time to time, had to face slander and even threats from some people who were being investigated for their wrongdoing.

On the other hand, although she tried hard to keep a low profile, her position and work often aroused interest in the media, including overseas. "It is natural that overseas media organizations pay close attention to China's fight against graft, and some of the stories concerning me are relatively objective and understandable," Liu said. "However, I have to point out that there have been some reports that seriously distorted the facts and wantonly attacked our country's anti-corruption campaign," she said. She cited one example from the Hong Kong-based Ming Po, which carried an article on April 3 last year saying that Liu's son was severely punished in the courts for taking bribes in the case of Ma Xiangdong. "This is a sheer fabrication," she said. For a time, some other newspapers quoted the Ming Po story, which, needless to say, damaged the reputation of Liu and her family. After her son filed a lawsuit against the newspaper in Hong Kong, the newspaper published an apology on September 10 last year, acknowledging that its previous report "was neither true nor based on facts" and it took back the story "without reservation." The newspaper also wrote letters of apology to Liu and her family. Liu said: "It's good for the overseas media to report on China's anti-corruption campaign. We are making serious and honest efforts. But it's no good fabricating stories based on rumours and even worse to vilify the Party's determination to root out corruption." (China Daily news)

From People's Daily Online, 08 December 2002

 

Civil Service Applications Ban Challenged

A nationalist Assembly member tonight threatened to pull the Equality Commission into a row over a ban on civil service job applications from the Irish Republic. SDLP equality spokeswoman Patricia Lewsley confirmed she was also seeking a meeting with the head of the civil service, Nigel Hamilton, after it emerged applicants from the Irish Republic were barred for the top post in the Department of the Environment. The Lagan Valley MLA argued: "The exclusion of southern citizens from top civil service posts is a disgrace." At a time when Catholics are under-represented at the top levels of the civil service, you would think that they would be doing their best to open up the civil service but instead they are trying to illegally shut out southerners. "This is totally unacceptable and we will be raising it with the Equality Commission." SDLP leader Mark Durkan and former devolved ministers Brid Rodgers and Sean Farren have branded the ban "ridiculous". Former finance and personnel minister Sean Farren said that during his term of office he set up the review of the senior civil service which recommended an end to the ban on applicants from the Irish Republic. He said: "I couldn't change this prohibition myself as it's the responsibility of the Westminster Government but I was able to and did challenge its legality. "I sought an opinion from the civil service's own legal advisors. It unambiguously concluded that the prohibition of Southerners was illegal. "I want to know why the civil service is taking advantage of the suspension of devolution and ignoring its own legal advice. I also want to know why I am good enough to be a minister but not a senior civil servant." Both Mr Farren and Mrs. Rodgers, who served as agriculture minister on the Stormont Executive, were born in the Irish Republic. Mrs. Rodgers noted: "I was born in Co Donegal and am an Irish citizen." "For three years I served as a minister in the Northern Ireland Executive. "I cannot understand how on the one hand it is possible for me to serve as a minister but I could not apply to work as a senior civil servant for a minister." This is a ridiculous state of affairs and runs entirely contrary to the guarantees of equality and parity of esteem in the Good Friday Agreement." The SDLP has also demanded that in addition to dropping the ban, the competition for post of permanent secretary in the Department of the Environment be re-run to allow applications from the Irish Republic.

From U.TV, UK, 03 December 2002

Prize Day at Institute of Public Administration and Management

The first students to graduate from the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM) received their diplomas this month. Twenty-three students obtained a Diploma in Public Administration at the end of a two-year, day-release course. They are mid-career executives in the public service. Four students received prizes for academic excellence and for contributing to the welfare of their colleagues. Following a practice adopted in leading European schools of public administration, a patron was presented to the graduating class, a distinguished figure in the field who can serve as a role model for the graduates. Albert J. Tabone, a pioneer in the training and education of public officials, was named patron of the graduates. The IPAM is a joint venture between the University and the public service. It offers a portfolio of training and education programmes to individuals from across the public sector, as well as fostering research. Since October, the Institute has collaborated with the Department of Public Policy in running the course leading to the degree of Master of Arts in Public Policy. The Institute services the core course, as well as offering students the opportunity to specialise in public management. In January, for the third year running, a group of academics and graduate students from the School of Public Policy at the University of Birmingham will be the Institute's guests during a study visit on the theme of governmental reform.

From The Times of Malta, 01 December 2002

Mazzella, Public Administration Should Become More Efficient and Sensible

Rome, Italy - "The public administration must become more efficient and close to the requirements of the citizens". Minister of Public Administration, Luigi Mazzella, said this commenting on the Communications Plan 2003. He explained that "ideal" office should be "a great place of innovation between the public administration and the citizen, in other words: capable take on and develop as good as possible the three dimensions of public services: access, offer and interaction". The Department of Public Administration has commissioned a research, carried out by ISPO (Public Opinion Research institute) focused on the expectations and the wished of the public. Some of the most mentioned 'expectations' are "accessibility', efficiency and innovation. The public offices should be capable of dealing with requests - the report underlines - in an easy and quick way, but, at the same time, they should have punctual and competent information and communication about the services and the procedures to follow". Furthermore the citizens hope for "an actual simplification of the language and the bureaucratic procedures and training and competences of the employees". Finally, the more younger members of the public stress the importance of ICT (Information Communication Technology)".

From AGI, 4 December 2002

23 New Graduates in the Public Service

Twenty-three officers from various Ministries within the Public Service recently graduated with a Diploma in Public Administration from the University of Malta. To obtain this academic qualification the public officers have undergone an intensive two-year part-time attachment with the University's Institute of Public Administration and Management. All public officers attending this diploma course were sponsored by the Public Service through the Staff Development Organisation (SDO), in line with its training and development strategy. Whilst congratulating the new graduates for their achievements, the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Mr. Joseph R. Grima, said that "the Public Service is committed to training and development of all employees, as a means to acquire the necessary skills to enhance the level of customer service and provide a more professional approach in all interactions with the government and the public. Moreover, the development of leadership and management skills are key to the Public Service's remit to be more productive and efficient in all areas of operation." Mr. Grima also spoke about the work being conducted by SDO, which is constantly collaborating with the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM) to provide specialised training programmes attuned to the Public Service's change agenda. Last month, SDO also sponsored another intake of 23 public officers to undertake a Diploma in Public Administration. Furthermore, for the first time this year the Department of Public Policy of the University of Malta is offering a master's degree in Public Policy in collaboration with IPAM. In conclusion, Mr. Grima encouraged the new graduates to further their studies and thanked Dr Edward Warrington, Director of IPAM, for providing the necessary supervision and guidance during their studies. Mr. Grima also thanked the graduates' respective heads of department for their cooperation in supporting the academic training of public officers.

From di-ve.com, Malta, 6 December 2002

PM Hails 'Historic' Civil Service Collective Agreement

Valletta, Malta - Wage rise will cost government about Lm2 million a year - The Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami on behalf of government signed the latest civil service collective agreement. The social partners representing the public service attended to this morning's signing of the new collective agreement. The wage rise given under the new civil service collective agreement will cost the government about Lm2 million a year. Under the agreement, public sector employees will receive a minimum Lm2.50 a week wage rise in 2003 and 2004. The increases will include cost-of-living adjustments. The Armed Forces of Malta employees and the police were also included in the collective agreement. The agreement is backdated to January 2002 and lasts until the end of 2004. On Wednesday, in parliament during his reply to the budget speech, the Prime Minister insisted that government concluded the collective agreement in a short period through an open dialogue with the social partners. Speaking following the signing of the agreement, the Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami described the agreement as a historical one since government found the assistance and cooperation of all the trade unions as they understood the increases have to be reasonable.

From di-ve.com, 05 December 2002

Former Ministers Hit Out at Civil Service Employment Bar

Two former ministers of the Northern Ireland Executive who were born in the Republic of Ireland have branded a prohibition on citizens from the south applying for civil servant posts as "misgovernance". A recently advertised post for a £185,000-a-year job as the Permanent Secretary in the Department of the Environment is not open to applicants from the Republic of Ireland. Former Minister for Agriculture in the NI Executive and SDLP deputy leader Brid Rodgers, who was born in County Donegal and is an Irish citizen, said: "I cannot understand how on the one hand it is possible for me to serve as a minister but I could not apply to work as a senior civil servant for a minister. "This is a ridiculous state of affairs and runs entirely contrary to the guarantees of equality and parity of esteem in the Good Friday Agreement." Former NI Executive Finance Minister Sean Farren of the SDLP said that Catholics and women continued to be "seriously underrepresented" in the senior ranks of the civil service. Dr Farren said that as Minister for Finance this was something that he had strived to change and he remained determined to "end the closed shop and open up the civil service for everyone to apply on an equal basis". However, while a review of the civil service had recommended the end of this prohibition, this cannot be changed without a ruling by the Westminster government. Dr Farren pointed out that the review "unambiguously concluded that the prohibition on southerners was illegal." He said: "I want to know why the civil service is taking advantage of suspension and ignoring its own legal advice. I also want to know why I am good enough to be a minister but not a senior civil servant." A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Civil service Finance and Personnel Department confirmed that at present only British Nationals are eligible for employment in the Northern Ireland Civil Service. He said: "The Northern Ireland Civil Service continues to apply the normal rules on nationality in the same way that they were applied under devolution. The Westminster Government is committed to changing the law on nationality with a suitable legislative opportunity occurs." Mrs. Rodgers, however, called for the competition for Permanent Secretary to be re-run and added that under the SDLP's 'Direct Rule Watch' initiative the party were "determined to hold the civil service to account".

From North-Ireland, UK, 03 December 2002

Is IT Embedding "Spanish Practices" in the Public sector?

In the UK substantial funds have and are being pumped into the Public Sector to enhance the use of IT, especially the web-based technologies, which interface public services with the Public. Some of these very expansive (and expensive!) projects involve outsourcing of services and personnel into external enterprises to run the services. Services such as the Fire Service and elements of the National Health Service such as the Hospital Consultants in particular, have a number of "old fashioned" and traditional practices. These are deeply embedded in the their working practices. They would prefer to keep them so. Consider for example the current practice where full time fire brigades will not share call centres with other emergency public services. The Hospital Consultants, a major bastion of practices which have changed little since the introduction of the National Health Service fifty years ago, resent their work or rather the scale, time and quantity of their work being reviewed and monitored by Hospital and Hospital Trust Management. These are purely illustrative, high profile instances of old fashioned and unproductive practices. They doubtless exist elsewhere. It would be a revealing and highly contentious publication if they could be documented and explained. When it comes to automating and improving services through the implementation of IT in the Public Sector, how many of these practices are removed through the implementation of technology. Without knowing the details, one can confidently answer "none or very few." Purely because such technology projects would have lead to high profile disputes surrounding the implementation of the technology. The projects would have been stalled and delayed for reasons beyond the conventional reasons for problems with large Public Sector projects, which tend to revolve around planning and scope. To what extent does the technology further embed the "old fashioned" practices? Probably, substantially making the cost of reform more expensive. External IT providers like to steer clear of these contentious issues. It will neither enhance their reputation in the Public Sector nor generate further projects if they become embroiled directly or indirectly in disputes which involve the reform of working practices in the Public Sector. Where personnel are outsourced to an external enterprise as part of the contract, they have no incentive to bring about reforms, indeed the employment legislation under "tupe" effectively prohibits such steps. So Public Sector Technologists, Central and Local Government, lets have some examples to contradict this notion?

From IT Directors, 03 December 2002

Civil Servants Reject Benchmarking

The country's largest public sector union, the Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU) has voted overwhelmingly against adopting the controversial Benchmarking Report. The CPSU represents over 11,000 civil servants and its rejection of the report could spell disaster for the Government as it embarks on another round of partnership talks. Around 80pc of the union's members voted against it. The head of the union, Blair Horan, says the rejection reflects the growing unease amongst its members about the bias towards higher pay for senior civil servants. The union represent a large number of lower grade civil servants. The report recommended pay increases of 8.5pc for most clerical staff and higher increases of between 11pc and 14pc for more senior staff. However he said industrial action would not take place unless there was a genuine attempt to redress the imbalances in the next round of pay talks. The rejection by the CPSU follows on from a similar stance adopted by the Irish Nurses Organisation which represents over 1,500 public health nurses.

From Business & Finance, 05 December 2002

Whitehall Manages a Better Mix in Public Service

Diversity is desirable. A workforce rich in different ethnic groups, with an equal proportion of men and women and a liberal smattering of eccentrics, is good for business. Diverse employees are better able to relate to diverse customers, more productive and more interesting than Identikit ones. With this in mind, companies have enthusiastically created "diversity managers" and launched campaigns to recruit minority candidates. Yet the results have been mixed. Investment banking is a case in point. Most investment banks have embraced the cause of diversity with enthusiasm but the industry is still plagued by discrimination cases. In many large organisations, women continue to account for fewer than 10 per cent of managing directors. One way forward for such companies could be to learn from the public sector. For the past two years, the civil service has sought to broaden the representation of ethnic minorities and women at senior levels. Statistically at least, it is working. According to Museji Takolia, senior adviser on diversity strategy and equal opportunities at the Cabinet Office, women now occupy 2 5 per cent of the senior posts in the civil service, compared with 17.8 per cent in 1998.The upper echelons of the civil service have historically been filled with male establishment types. A high proportion of senior civil servants are recruited on the fast-track scheme; 40 per cent of fast-trackers have traditionally come from Oxford and Cambridge universities. Now, this proportion is being managed down. "We currently receive applications from about 89 institutions and from every university in the UK," says Mr. Takolia. At the same time, he says, teams of mixed assessors have replaced one-to-one interviews. Interview questions have been combed for anything that might give some applicants an unfair advantage - enquiries about gap year activities may favour better-off candidates, for example. Broader targeting and neutral interviewing have been supplemented by other initiatives, such as "Elevator Partnerships", in which senior women act as mentors to women lower down the system, and by Pathways, a two-year programme run in conjunction with coaching group The Change Partnership.

Pathways aims to boost the eligibility of ethnic minorities to join the senior civil service; a rigorous selection process identifies 20 participants from the pool of existing civil servants. The ideal candidate is on the cusp of great things but needs a little encouragement. "Pathways is based on the notion that people need courage to put themselves forward for senior posts," says The Change Partnership's Robin Linnecar. "It is not a question of capability but confidence." Accordingly, much of the programme is focused on elevating individuals' opinion of their own abilities. Participants are coached by The Change Partnership and mentored by senior civil servants. Every second month they are taken on weekend workshops to allow networking within the group and to hone talents such as leadership skills and interview technique. Malvinder Singh, an accountant in the customs and excise division, says the Pathways programme has made him more self-aware and helped crystallise his career aspirations: "It's given me the tools and direction to get to the senior civil service, I know where I am, where I want to be in two years' time and how I'm going to get there." He is moving into a new position as head of the development and accounting resources team in the Treasury. Pathways is designed to be self-perpetuating: participants also work on projects aimed at improving diversity. As a result, the participants themselves become agents for change, says Tony Montez, a workshop leader and tutor of leadership and organisational behaviour at Ashridge Management College. In addition to raising the number of women in senior positions, Pathways has also improved the representation of ethnic minorities in the civil service, from 1.6 per cent in 1999 to 3 per cent this October, meeting a target originally set for 2004.The success of the initiatives can also be measured in terms of the reaction of participants. Mr Singh says the broad range of opportunities in the civil service helped dissuade him from moving on to the private sector. Programmes such as Pathways are engaging the entire senior civil service community, he reports. "A critical mass of awareness is being developed," Mr. Singh says.

From Financial Times, UK, 11 December 2002

Blair Tells Party to Accept Public Sector Diversity

Tony Blair yesterday warned his party that it had to accept greater diversity in the provision of public services - and greater involvement of the private sector - if public services were to be reformed. In an interview with the Financial Times, he said bluntly that if Labour forgot the lessons of 18 years of opposition and tried "to slip back into the old ways, we'll go back into the old state - which was opposition". There could be no turning back on the government's drive to increase the diversity of schools, hospitals and universities, he said, or the introduction of a degree of competition over who provided services. That, he said, was "completely fundamental to developing the public services that we want for today's world".His comments came as the government faced backbench rebellions on university top-up fees and foundation hospitals and as the unions were stepping up their opposition to public/private partnerships. Provision, the prime minister said, should be "as diverse as it needs to be and can be". That meant city academies, specialist schools, comprehensives "that aren't any of those things but will still be run in different ways", faith schools and even charter schools - publicly funded independent schools. In healthcare there would be foundation trusts, NHS hospitals run far more flexibly, and diagnostic and treatment centres, some of which would be supplied by the private sector. In healthcare, he said, "the only thing that matters is that it is based on NHS principles, free at the point of use to the patient. Outside of that, our duty is to get the best possible service". That meant getting rid of the old rules and ways of working that suppressed "a genuine entrepreneurial spirit" that was "waiting to be liberated" within the public sector.

But it also meant getting rid of dogmatic arguments about using the private sector, some parts of which were capable of delivering to a "public service ethos". "There are lots of different ways in which we can involve some of the disciplines and innovation of the public sector, at the same time as keeping completely the ethos of public service." Mr. Blair said he accepted that there was an argument about that within the Labour party. "But we have got to win it. This for me is completely fundamental to everything that today's Labour party is about. For someone like Bill Morris [the TGWU general union's general secretary] to say there's no difference between Labour and Conservative is an absurd thing to say. "Labour was the western government investing most in public services, but was doing it differently because it was "prepared to deal with the world as it really is". Mr. Blair insisted there was good evidence that schools, hospitals and other public services were improving. Progress felt slow because services were catching up with years of under-investment and the Conservatives, who opposed the extra investment, had to argue that the money was not delivering, "otherwise their goose is cooked". In time, "a critical mass" of people would recognise real progress was being made. He compared his position, however, to that of Margaret Thatcher in 1984 amid the miners' strike, challenges to her industrial relations' laws, and significant industrial restructuring. It did not feel then, he said, like a completed process. "You would not have been sure that two or three years later that would have happened. "I think we will be in the same position if we keep up with reform. We must not fall for this idea that the Labour party, at its most testing time, should slip back into the old ways. And that is the same with the fire dispute, with public service reform, and it's the same with questions to do with the universities."

University funding had to be reformed or Britain's top universities would fall behind those in developing countries such as China and India, who had realised that world-class universities were "the cutting edge of their technological and industrial advance". On the firefighters, he said, the government would stand firm. It was the union, not the government, that decided it wanted to change the 25-year-old pay formula, he said, but by doing so had itself raised the issue of modernisation. "What we are saying is if you want to change the existing formula, then the basis on which we pay you more is modernisation of the service." The strike, he said, had made "transparent to everyone" that that was needed. But before discussing changes to working practice, the union had tabled a 40 per cent claim, and "no government could give in to that, and I don't think anyone really expects us to" Labour's "mission" was to take the 1945 settlement over public services and re-engineer it for today's world. The electorate had voted for Labour in 1997 and 2001 "because they thought we were a different type of Labour party and that is our basic trust with them". The prime minister hinted that the government had accepted different universities would be freed to charge different levels of fees - and that individuals would have to pay back only what they had borrowed to meet university costs, rather than face a broader graduate tax that could see successful students paying back more. "It cannot be sensible any longer to treat all universities and all university courses as if they were the same," he said, "because they are not." In a clear swipe at the Treasury's preferred graduate tax option, he added that individuals currently paid back only their actual loan "so it would certainly be a change of principle if we were to make you pay for somebody else's university education".

From Financial Times, UK, 09 December 2002

Rigorous New Vetting Measures for Civil Servants

The Northern Ireland Office has announced they will be introducing tough new security measures following the discovery of an alleged IRA spy ring within the Northern Ireland Office. The Security Minister Jane Kennedy announced yesterday the government would be instigating a thorough and comprehensive review of security vetting arrangements in Northern Ireland due to "recent events". Ms Kennedy said: "Our aim is to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place to protect national security while at the same time meeting our human rights and other statutory obligations." Clearly recent events have given the issue of security vetting an added focus and the Review will need to take into account the results of current enquiries. "However, the SDLP's deputy leader Brid Rodgers voiced her concerns over the move and said the party would be approaching the government and the Equality Commission over the announcement. She added: "The folly of republican attempts to penetrate the NIO is clear. Not only did it play right into the hands of the anti-Agreement politicians who wanted to collapse the institutions, it is also threatening to hinder the creation of a civil service representative of all parts of the community." Last month it was revealed that the police had broken up a suspected IRA intelligence gathering operation in Belfast, which involved searches of premises at Stormont and the Northern Ireland Office. Four people, including Denis Donaldson, head of Sinn Féin's administration at the Northern Ireland Assembly, were charged after police seized documents in raids on republican homes. Speaking yesterday the Security Minister said: "There are often difficult balances to be struck in this area which is why the government attaches particular importance to the Review addressing all aspects of what is a complex and sensitive issue."

From North-Ireland, UK, 13 December 2002

Holyrood Civil Servants Miss Out on Bonuses

Senior civil servants involved in the building of the Scottish parliament have missed out on four-figure pay bonuses awarded to other mandarins. One hundred civil servants, including those from departments widely considered to be underperforming, have received bonuses of up to £3,000. However, no one involved in the troubled Holyrood project will receive an extra penny in their pay packets. It was revealed yesterday that the original £40m estimate for the building is now estimated at £325m. A Scottish parliament spokeswoman said: "I can confirm that none of the senior civil service staff on secondment to the parliament is due to receive this pay award." MSP Margo Macdonald, a prominent critic of the new parliament building, said: "I would have blown my top if anyone involved in this project had received any of these bonuses." The payments to others have provoked accusations that civil servants were receiving them despite soaring hospital waiting lists, poor exam results, and an economic slump.

From Scotland on Sunday, UK, Murdo Macleod, 14 December 2002

Public Service Reform 'Will Fail' without Community Powers

Tony Blair's ambitious plans to reform Britain's public services will fail unless local people are given real powers to run their schools and hospitals, a leading think tank argues today. Regular referendums, new citizen panels and "neighbourhood focus groups" should be used across Britain to ensure that local people can share in the success and the failures of their local services, according to the Social Market Foundation. Phil Collins, the foundation's director, says that all political parties have failed to live up to their commitment to introduce real devolution of power. "The more citizens are actively involved in the process by which services are provided, the more citizens understand the difficulties and trade-offs involved, and the better the services turn out to be," he writes. "Truly responsive public services can be had only when citizens are actively involved in their production." Mr. Collins cites a series of opinion polls which show that people who use public services believe they are working, while non-users believe they are close to collapse. A survey in the Observer found that 41% rated their local NHS as good or very good. The figure fell to 15% when people were asked what they thought of the NHS nationally. The foundation proposes eight ways to turn people from being "passive consumers" to "active participants". These are: a) Regular use of local referendums and town meetings to adjudicate on contentious issues; b) Use citizens' panels and focus groups to decide how local services should be run; c) Develop commissions and consultation panels to "generate and focus public opinion"; d) Allow local people to determine the most important performance indicators; e) Set up "project committees" with residents and local officials to work out which services are needed for the future; f) Expand the use of schools councils; g) Beef up the role of home-school liaison officers to reach out to parents; h) Devolution should be granted as of right. Mr. Collins concludes: "The government will have to rethink its whole outlook to delivery if it is serious about improving public services. "Unless people share responsibility, including, crucially, the responsibility for failure, it will be near impossible to achieve real change. Government alone cannot build a new, healthy, educated, civic, modernised Britain. "The rebuilding of civic relationships on the ground should be the starting point of the process of public service reform."

From Guardian, UK, by Nicholas Watt, 27 December 2002

The Public Service: Critical to Malta's Prosperity

In a long-ranging interview with the head of the public service, Joseph R. Grima, Malcolm J. Naudi is briefed on the latest results of the change process and the public service's key role in ensuring that the EU screening and negotiating process was completed in record time - Change in the public service has moved from the back office to more visible, front office initiatives, Joseph R. Grima, permanent secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister, told The Sunday Times last week. This change "is not a programme that we began with a target date on when we would end it. Change is ongoing; it will forever be," he pointed out. In a long-ranging interview, the head of the public service outlined the major changes that have occurred in the past decade and pointed to the direction of the public service of the 21st century where public-private partnerships (PPPs) will ensure a leaner, more efficient public service. "The performance of the public service is critical to the vitality of Malta's prosperity," Mr. Grima affirmed. "It is critical that the public service delivers. "Quite rightly, there is criticism that we should try to reduce bureaucracy because it's a cost. With globalisation, competitiveness is critical and the induced costs of the bureaucracy impinge on the country's competitiveness. "This message is sinking through but until you reach the last one in the public service, it will take time. We embarked on a revolution by evolution." Mr. Grima outlined this gradual, but inexorable change that has swept the public service. "Our point of departure was to put in place mechanisms to motivate our people. I have no illusions that we have achieved perfection, but definitely, we have moved a long way. "The initial change programme focused on the back end: restructuring 60 career streams to put more emphasis on merit in promotions, performance agreements for top management positions, and reducing the number of salary scales from 96 to 20. "Today all permanent secretaries, directors-general, directors and assistant directors are appointed on performance contracts for a specified period: three years for the top three posts and assistant directors for five years. They have targets, which they have to reach, and, when it comes to the closure of that contract, a fresh call is issued. "There is no automatic renewal.

They have to reapply. They have to submit an achievements report with their application - what they delivered during the term of the performance agreement - and they have to compete. We do have some directors who are not reappointed - not many. This, obviously, is not pleasant. "It is not always a reflection on the individual because since it is based on competition it is a question of having at that particular point in time a competitor who happens to be better than the one who was last incumbent in the post. Many have difficulty accepting this." Those who fail to be reappointed revert to their last substantive appointment, carrying on their duties in that grade." In the area of promoting executive performance, Mr. Grima said there are three phases: "You cannot do these revolutions overnight. This has been a constant, gradual, steady evolution - change without any shocks. "Initially, even to introduce the concept of applying for a position at the top, competing with others who are your juniors, was a radical departure from the culture we were accustomed to. It has been accepted. That was phase one. "In phase two, you have some who would not be reappointed to their position. Most of them are reappointed but there are a few who find a competitor who takes their position. "I think there is going to be a third phase where, within the early part of a contract, say after a year or 18 months, you terminate a contract without even allowing the contract to continue to the end." Mr. Grima explained that the responsibility for performance appraisal has been delegated to permanent secretaries: "I do the appraisal of the individual permanent secretaries, while the permanent secretaries would do their own directors-general and directors. There is a direction from the centre here that they would have to try to produce a bell-shape distribution of the performance awards. "We have up to 15% performance bonus. So you have an exceptional few who get the full 15%; you have the bulge where you have the average; then you have a few who have a very low award. We issue guidelines to help directors-general and permanent secretaries to carry out these appraisals. "This guideline has been identified, unsolicited, by the World Bank. It's on their Website as a model as to how performance appraisals should be conducted in top positions. It's been there for 12 or 18 months: www1. worldbank. org/publicsector/civilservice/individual.html."

With this change under its belt, the public service, according to Mr. Grima, differs from what it was 10 years ago in three areas: "It is more focused on results; it is more customer-oriented; and more meritocratic. Today I believe that the public service is more modern (and) enterprising than it was in the past. I think that we have embraced change as an abiding philosophy." Looking at some figures, Mr. Grima said 36 per cent of directors appointed in 2002 were in their 30s; 14 of the 111 directors currently in post (12 per cent) are women. Young graduates who join the public service now have a fast track for advancement: "They join at middle management posts as principals (and) can compete for promotion to senior principals after only two years in the public service, when they become eligible for a headship post. "We try to get the best people - not all of them because the country needs them in different sectors. The public sector has to capture, say, 20-25 per cent of the best brains the country can offer because then we can deliver." With 30,000 employees in the public service, excluding those in the military and the parastatal industries, Mr. Grima believes that in terms of numbers Malta compares very well with other countries. "It's not as heavy or as disproportionate as one would think. I have compared the public service particularly with the European Union countries and even other candidate countries. "I don't think we can say we are the best numbers relatively speaking. We are on the high side. But we are not above the normal sizes for a public service. With this Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative, I think we can fare even better. We would still show them on our books, but the truth is that they won't be in the core business of government." Mr. Grima pointed to the UK, which has shed all its industrial grades in the past half-century. "When the UK talk about the reduction in the public service, you will notice that it is all in the industrial grades. If you look at Malta, from independence to today, you will find that the numbers of administrators and managers in the public service are very much the same - a horizontal graph that runs across the many years. "So, I think that PPP is going to make a difference because in time those are functions that might migrate out of the public service and, eventually, when the current employees go to the private contractor, because he will want them with him, they will automatically move out." PPP creates the environment for industrial employees to deliver, through the encouragement of flexibility, initiative and increased productivity. "We have this huge swath of about 8,000 employees in the industrial grades, performing tasks that are no longer the core business of government, on functions which could migrate out to either local government or the private sector."

The public service has two main roles: to give impartial, professional advice without fear or favour to the government of the day; and to deliver the services it is responsible for efficiently and effectively where they are required. There have been three thrusts to the reform programme: decentralisation from the centre to individual government departments; devolution from the central government to the local councils; and privatisation. The turning point in service delivery, according to Mr. Grima, came in 1999 with the introduction of the quality service charters. "What we were saying was that we had to deliver a quality service to the public. We now have 41 charters. As opposed to past initiatives, we tried not to impose from the centre; we tried to persuade public officers to buy into the idea, to get involved." All departments and sections that have launched charters are, in turn, regularly audited by a new unit, the Internal Audit and Investigations Directorate, within the Cabinet Office at the Office of the Prime Minister. Set up two years ago, in line also with EU requirements for an internal auditing function to also monitor funding, the internal auditors go and scrutinise the individual sections or departments with the charter and compile a detailed questionnaire. "The report is then sent to the permanent secretary who is responsible for the particular chartered section and he has to see it through. The auditor then goes back after six months to see whether the changes promised have been introduced." Tied up with the quality service charters is the new e-government customer care initiative, launched last month. A clearing house has been set up within the Quality Service Charter Support Unit to channel all inquiries from the new Website, servizz.gov.mt, to the respective ministry or department. The system has been piloted through the local councils.

For the past few months, staff in the councils have been able to channel inquiries from the public to the appropriate department. "We have gone one better now. Over the Internet anybody, everywhere, can access this customer care system, either from home or even from abroad." Finally, Mr. Grima paid tribute to all those in the public service who contributed to the smooth completion of the screening and negotiating agenda that enabled Malta to be cleared for EU membership. "Without their effort, we would not have completed the process in record time. Mr. Grima explained that the task was tackled through the designation of lead ministries for each of the 31 Chapters in the EU acquis or body of rules and regulations. "In 1999 we designed a master database in which we captured all the projects we anticipated we needed to do over the next three years. We classified them under three broad headings: the EU-related projects; the improved service delivery measures, like the quality service charters, the one-stop shops, e-government; and ministry-specific projects, like welfare reform and education. "The individual ministries had to report progress every three months. In the case of the EU, we would issue a report. The EU Cabinet Committee under the Prime Minister's chairmanship would monitor the progress. We would go away for a day to Girgenti. Each individual ministry would go there in turn and report progress. We would see where there are the slippages and we would make sure that we would remedy matters. "The end result was that we managed this conclusion: the positive report on Malta. It was an achievement for the public service as well, that it managed to deliver when it was put to the test."

From The Times of Malta, 22 December 2002

Anti-Corruption Chief Calls Interior Ministry for Reforms

Secretary of the Anti-Corruption Bureau Kakha Ugulava called Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili for the urgent reform in the ministry. The National Security Council discussed today the activity of the law enforcement agencies. Ugulava said that the law enforcement bodies do not implemented recommendations of the Anti-Corruption Bureau. "Before the appointment on the post of the Interior Minister [last November], you vowed to carry out fundamental reform in the ministry, but nothing has been done so far," Kakha Ugulava told the Minister at the National Security Council's meeting. Koba Narchemashvili responded that extreme lack of finances hinders reforms. The Interior Ministry is one of the most corrupted governmental bodies in the country.

From Civil Georgia, UK, 21 December 2002

 

New Project to Evaluate Civil Service

Muscat - Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Matter Al Azizi, civil service minister, has said a new project for performance evaluation of civil service employees was expected to be implemented during the upcoming years. He said the new project would be more appropriate to the changes in the organisation and structure of civil service. A local Arabic daily yesterday quoted the minister as saying that the new project would be in line with the targeted goals to improve performance and accomplishment through monitoring, analysing and evaluating employees' performance.

From Times of Oman, 14 December 2002

18,000 More Civil Servants in Israel

Cutbacks, public sector style: Central Bureau of Statistics figures show a 2.3% increase in the number of public sector employees. The number of public sector employees continues to rise in Israel, especially at government ministries, despite promises of cutbacks made by the country's leaders. In contrast, the wave of lay-offs in the business sector continues. Central Bureau of Statistics figures show a 2.3% increase in the number of public sector employees in January-September 2002. The monthly average number of public sector employees was 790,900, compared with 772,900 in the corresponding period in 2001, a net increase of 18,000 employees. The number of business sector employees fell by 2.2% in this period, to a monthly average of 1.62 million, compared with 1.65 million in the corresponding period in 2001, a net contraction of 30,300 employees. The business sector continued to shed employees in July-September 2002. The number of business sector employees fell 2.2%, a loss of 4,500 people. The number of public sector employees rose by 2,000 during this period.

From Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il, by Zeev Klein, 25 December 2002

 

States Deal Differently With Local Fiscal Crises, National Study Finds

Ohio - If there's one thing the 50 states have in common when dealing with local government fiscal crises, it's that they tend to get involved after the fact. Some states take a hands-off approach, believing in local control or lacking the human or financial resources to get involved, says Dr. Beth Walter Honadle, director of Bowling Green State University's Center for Policy Analysis and Public Service. Other states, including Ohio, have clear definitions of a fiscal crisis - inability to pay employees or vendors, or to make debt payments, for instance - and an elaborate system for intervention when one occurs. Still others tread a middle ground. Regardless of the role they play, states can learn from each other's experiences, says Honadle, a professor of political science at BGSU who recently completed a national study of the roles states take in dealing with local governments' fiscal crises. In a telephone survey conducted between April and August of this year, she talked to 61 members of the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers, a group of high-ranking financial officials in the best position to know their states' roles. Her findings will appear in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Public Administration devoted to local government fiscal crises. Officials surveyed were asked how their states predict, avert, mitigate and prevent the recurrence of a local fiscal crisis. States generally aren't proactive, the responses indicated, but they do commonly provide technical assistance to local jurisdictions. Recent local-government fiscal crises were reported by 36 states-a higher number than she had expected, Honadle said. One notable exception was Oklahoma, whose state auditor told her that the question wasn't applicable because his state doesn't have local government fiscal crises.

In Oklahoma it's a felony to have a budget out of balance, so any elected local officials whose budget goes into the red would go to jail. While states don't have enough staff to work directly with all the jurisdictions within their borders, they generally do feel obligated to help local governments-especially the small, rural ones-and make sure the locals follow the rules, Honadle said. The states try to provide technical advice, training and education, sometimes through statewide associations representing local governments, she added. States tend to get more heavily involved to aid economic development; to protect their bond rating, if necessary, or if "cleaning up" a situation after the fact is perceived to be more costly than preventing it. "The greater the financial stake the state has in it, the more likely they are to get involved," Honadle noted. Among the possible state responses to a crisis is legislative action, whether locality-specific special legislation or reform legislation to remedy a situation or conditions across the board. Calling legislative reform "a healthy thing," Honadle said Arizona, California, Colorado and Minnesota have passed laws to prevent crisis-causing conditions from recurring. "It's often a last-ditch effort" when the state intervenes, she said, but Ohio is among the exceptions. Ohio's system includes fiscal "watch" and "emergency" designations that are determined by various measures. The "emergency" category entails appointment of a seven-member oversight commission, which must approve a plan prepared by the jurisdiction for getting out of the emergency. The state provides fiscal supervision all along the way. Ohio's system is "one of the very best monitoring programs for local governments" not only in the United States, but in the world, Honadle said.

From AScribe - The Public Interest Newswire, 4 December 2002

Civil Service Change Weighed

Akron mayor, staff tweak point system in attempt to balance eligibility factors - An Akron address will be worth more than a college degree to those trying to join the Akron safety forces if proposed changes for bonus points are approved. Mayor Don Plusquellic and his staff tinkered with the schedule of extra points available for candidates taking civil service tests in hopes of seeing more minorities end up higher on the eligibility lists. The theory is that the changes will level the playing field for some inner-city minorities who might do well on the written test but lose their spot on the list because they cannot afford to attend college. "We are trying to put into place a different system of points that highlight and emphasize those things that are important," Plusquellic said. While nearly everyone agrees that something needs to be done, the plan has its critics who say it doesn't address the reason that too few minorities are taking, and passing, the civil service tests. The new proposal is to make residency worth the most bonus points - 15 - while restructuring the education points to reflect the viability to the job. It also would boost the maximum number of bonus points available to a candidate from 20 to 25. Under the revised system, a candidate for firefighter, for example, could earn seven bonus points for certification as an emergency medical technician and paramedic, compared to three bonus points available for a general college education. Previously, both were worth 10 points to the candidate - and the college points were awarded even if the candidate only enrolled for a handful of classes. The proposed changes were introduced Thursday during a special meeting of the Civil Service Commission. The commission is expected to meet again next Thursday to vote on the only change the three-member commission needs to approve - elevating the residency points. In another component to increase minorities in the safety forces, Plusquellic is proposing to provide as many as 16 scholarships annually to graduates of Akron schools for emergency medical technician and paramedic training.

The goal is to prep a pool of candidates for the firefighter test in the interim period between graduation and age 21 - the age at which firefighters are first eligible to be hired. "Fifty percent of the kids in the Akron Public Schools are African-American, so obviously the numbers should reflect that," Plusquellic said. "And I think the residency should help." Akron has about 219,000 residents, and 29 percent are minorities. The police force employs 502 - 356 white men, 88 African-American men, three men of other ethnic backgrounds, 29 white women and 26 African-American women. The fire department, meanwhile, has 376 employees, of which 77 are minorities. Not everyone is convinced that the changes will accomplish the goal the city is trying to reach. Akron Police Capt. Daniel Zampelli told the Civil Service Commission on Thursday that bonus points didn't even play a factor in the low number of minorities making it onto the eligibility list when the last police test was conducted roughly a year ago. Bonus points only are awarded to those who pass the test. Of the 89 minorities who took the test, only 16 passed. That's roughly an 18 percent passage rate as compared to the 50 percent passage rate for nonminorities, Zampelli said. "We believe the effect of these changes on the candidate pool will be negligible," Zampelli said. Doug Bjerre, president of Akron Firefighters Local 330, said he likes the scholarship idea and is holding out hope that the changes in the points will have a positive effect. Still, he's not convinced it's enough, either. He said the city needs to explore why firefighters are leaving the department and try to figure out why interested candidates won't come out to take the Akron test. He said he suspects that one factor that works against the city is its requirement that its police officers and firefighters move into the city within a year of hiring. "I really don't think the problem is preference points," Bjerre said. "There are other issues there. How do you find out why people don't take a test?"

From Akron Beacon Journal, by Julie Wallace, 6 December 2002

Commissioners Court Holds Public Workshop About Civil Service Status for Employees

Montgomery County officials, employees and voters will have the opportunity today to learn what civil service status for county employees could mean for them. The Deputy Sheriff's Association of Montgomery County circulated a petition to county employees earlier this month requesting the county be given civil service status. After garnering signatures from more than half of the county's approximately 600 employees, the association turned the petition in to the County Clerk's office, forcing Commissioners Court to take a vote on the issue within 30 days, according to state law. Association President Leldon Hamilton spoke during commissioners' Nov. 18 meeting, and it was decided that a meeting be held for county employees, officials and voters to educate them on the civil service system. That meeting will be held at 5:15 p.m. today in the San Jacinto Room at the Lone Star Convention & Expo Center, located at 9055 Airport Road in Conroe. If Commissioners Court decides to vote against the civil service system, state law requires that voters decide the issue during the next election. "We will make a request for commissioners to adopt the civil service status, which we hope they will do, or (commissioners) will have to put it up for a voting referendum," Hamilton said. County Judge Alan B. Sadler said he believes voters should decide whether civil service is a good idea - not commissioners - making Monday's meeting all the more important for voters to attend. Civil service is a complicated system that has its pros and cons, said county Human Resources Director Diane Bass. "It takes a lot of power away from elected officials and department heads, which could be a pro or a con," Bass said. "I have heard the war stories that if you have an employee who has been with the county for a long time, and they become very unproductive, you have a very hard time getting rid of them."

Hamilton said the reason civil service is so attractive to the association is that it offers a "reasonable expectation of employment based on good behavior." The civil service status would affect the employment, promotional and disciplinary process for all county employees except those working in the district attorney's office, auditor's office and juvenile probation. "The main thing that it does is if you are brought up for discipline or termination, you have the right to review it," Hamilton said. Many other jurisdictions, including Harris County and the Conroe Police and Fire departments, operate on civil service status. Based on its population, Montgomery County does not qualify for civil service status for only the sheriff's department -- it must be approved for all county employees. According to data from the Texas Association of Counties, of the 15 counties in the state that were eligible for civil service status in 1999 based on population, nine had enacted the system. If the system is enacted, a three-member Civil Service Commission would be appointed by Commissioners Court and could include county employees and citizens, but no commissioners. In addition to reviewing discipline and termination complaints, the commission would be responsible for adopting and enforcing rules regarding the definition of a county employee; selection and classification of county employees; competitive examinations; promotions, seniority and tenure; layoffs and dismissals; disciplinary actions; and grievance procedures, according to the Texas Local Government Code. Current county employees would not be required to complete any new tests or applications to retain their present position. Monday's workshop is expected to include speakers who are familiar with the civil service system and officials from other counties that have already enacted the system.

From Conroe Courier, TX, by Sue Thackeray, 02 December 2002

Scotland Launches New E-government Programme

E-government in Scotland has taken a major leap forward with the unveiling of a GBP39.5m (E61.69m)programme of innovative public sector partnership projects. The Scottish Executive has announced details of 92 projects which will receive financial support under the second round of its Modernising Government Fund. The Fund is designed to help take forward projects that will improve public services through the use of information and communications technology and promote joined-up working. The successful bids include: * GBP5.4m (E8.43m)for the national rollout of a smartcard enabling young people to access a range of services * GBP4.7m (E7.34m) to support local authorities developing Citizen Relationship Management systems * GBP2m (E3.12m)to develop a data-sharing citizens portal providing the base for the further development of a citizens account, and * GBP4m (E6.24m) to help establish a national land and property database for Scotland. In April the Executive announced a doubling of the funding allocation for MGF2 to GBP30m (E46.87m) following an "unprecedented" response from councils wishing to submit proposals. Demand on the fund was initially GBP49.5m (E77.33m), which was later reduced by GBP10m (E15.62m) when bidders were encouraged to form partnerships, develop common projects and deliver economies of scale, the Executive said. Andy Kerr, Scotland's Minister for Finance and Public Services announced last month that an extra GBP30m (E46.87m) for customer-focused public services would be made available under the third round of the Modernising Government Fund, covering the period 2004-06.

From Europemedia.net, Netherlands, 10 December 2002

Public Service Employees Honoured at Head of the Public Service Award Ceremony

Gatineau - The fifth annual Head of the Public Service - Award ceremony was held today, honouring 232 public service employees for their individual and team accomplishments. In a ceremony at the Théâtre du Casino du Lac Leamy, 20 awards were presented to recipients in four categories: - Excellence in Service Delivery; - Valuing and Supporting People; - Excellence in Policy; and - The John Tait Memorial Award for Values and Ethics. "The achievements of those who are being honoured today epitomize the Public Service of Canada's finest traditions: vision, integrity, loyalty, energy and enthusiasm, the pursuit of excellence and a common commitment to government's role in our democratic society," said Mr. Ronald Bilodeau, Associate Secretary to the Cabinet. "As a Canadian, I am proud to present these awards to recognize the dedication of these women and men who work hard every day to provide the best possible service to Canadians." The winners were selected from among 137 groups and individuals nominated by public service employees at all levels, regionally and nationally. An interdepartmental committee chaired by Margaret Bloodworth, Deputy Minister, National Defence, selected the recipients. The Head of the Public Service Award program recognizes the commitment of men and women who, motivated by the desire to serve Canadians and accepting the day-to-day challenges of serving the public good, have performed at the highest level. The Head of the Public Service Award is one of three award and recognition programs administered by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. The other two awards are the Outstanding Achievement Award and the Awards of Excellence. The Head of the Public Service award is designed to recognize and reward federal government employees who demonstrate the qualities necessary to achieving the success of the Public Service of Canada in the future: team work, service, innovation, ethics and a dedication to valuing people. Refer to the following backgrounder for more detailed information on the 2002 Head of the Public Service Award.

From Canada NewsWire, 09 December 2002

Bush Announces Postal Commission; Privatization not a Goal, Officials Say

Saying that privatization is not a goal, the Bush administration Wednesday named a commission to look for ways to reform the Postal Service. The commission is charged with looking at every aspect of the agency's operations. The executive order creating the commission specifically calls for increased pricing flexibility to allow the agency to respond to market pressures. This is something agency officials have long sought. Under the current process, it takes nearly 18 months for the agency to propose and get approval for a rate hike. Universal service-the requirement that the agency deliver mail to every address in the country at a uniform price-will also come under scrutiny. It's at the heart of the Postal Service's financial difficulties. Mail volume has not grown recently-in fact, it dropped by 4 billion pieces last year-while the number of addresses the Postal Service must deliver to has increased annually by 1.7 million. The agency improved its financial outlook in fiscal 2002, losing only $676 million instead of the $1.35 billion it originally budgeted for. But most of those savings came by cutting 23,000 employees from the payroll through attrition. While the agency continues to look for ways to cut expenses, it is becoming increasing difficult to cover costs without additional revenue, according to Richard Strasser, the agency's chief financial officer. "New technology, declining volume, and continued expansion of the delivery cost base, combined with competition from the private sector, pose a fundamental challenge to the Postal Service," Treasury Undersecretary for Domestic Finance Peter Fisher said at a press conference announcing the commission. "The way I look at it, there are just two things that are out of bounds: We don't want the commission to come back and suggest that the existing business model should be left in place and the costs all rolled up on the taxpayer.

We also don't want them to come back and say that all of the existing costs should be rolled up on the rate payer." When asked how far the commission is willing to go on recommendations for the agency, including privatization, commission co-chairman James Johnson reiterated Fisher's remarks, saying virtually every option is on the table. Still, agency watchers took heart in Fisher's comment that privatization is not the administration's ultimate goal. "That was the single most important statement he made," said Robert McLean, executive director of the Mailers Council, the industry's largest trade association. "The value of the Postal Service to mailers is that we can send our materials to everybody everywhere. If privatized, that advertising vehicle goes away." And, McLean noted, with more than $11 billion in debt, it would be difficult to finance a privatization or find a buyer. Postmaster General John Potter welcomed the commission, saying it is complementary to the agency's ongoing efforts to become more efficient. Earlier this year, the Postal Service released a 400-page transformation plan, which called for several operational changes, but also suggested that policymakers take a look at the agency's long-term survival. The agency's largest employee union, the American Postal Workers Union, opposed the creation of a commission fearing that it is a precursor to ending universal service and moving closer to privatization. In an interview last week, the APWU President William Burrus said Congress, not a commission, is the place to debate fundamental changes to the nation's mail system. Johnson, vice chairman of Perseus L.L.C., a merchant bank and private equity fund management company, and former CEO of Fannie Mae, said the panel does not have any predisposed positions. Rather, it plans to take a thorough look at the agency's operations and the mailing business.

He added that now is the perfect time to do so. "The postal system is not broken," he said, but added that future challenges could turn into crises if they are not addressed soon. Johnson will co-chair the panel with Harry Pearce, chairman of Hughes Electronics Corp. Other commissioners include Richard Levin, president of Yale University; Dionel Aviles, president of Aviles Engineering Corp.; Don Cogman, chairman of CC Investments; Carolyn Gallagher, former president and chief executive of Texwood Furniture; Norman Seabrook, president of the New York City Correction Officers' Benevolent Association; former Rep. Robert Walker, R-Pa., chairman and chief executive of Wexler Group; and Joseph Wright, president and chief executive of PanAmSat, a company that provides global video and data broadcasting services via satellite. Dennis Shea, former deputy chief of staff to retired Sen. Robert Dole, was named executive director of the commission. The commission has a tight time frame. A final report is due to the president by July 31. Murray Comarow, the executive director of the Kappel Commission, which made a series of recommendations in 1968 that laid the groundwork for what became the modern-day Postal Service, said a commission typically requires two months just to get organized and then about a year to fully study the situation. Fisher, the Treasury undersecretary, said the administration would wait until it gets the final report before speculating on how hard it will push specific legislative changes. "We wouldn't be asking for a commission unless we thought there was a need for reform," he added.

From GovExec.com, by Matthew Weinstock (mweinstock@govexec.com), 12 December 2002

Reorganization Cuts 130 Civil Service Jobs at Parris Island

Beaufort, S.C. - The Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island will reassign, reclassify or fire about 130 civil service employees as part of a federally mandated reorganization. While most will be reassigned to other duties at the depot, as many as 23 could be out of work, officials said Monday. "It's kind of preliminary in the process to say exact numbers," said depot spokesman Ken White. "Some could compete for other jobs and get them." Workers in supply, motor transport and facilities maintenance departments will find out by mid-February about the status of their jobs. The changes are being made so the depot can adhere to a "most-effective organization" model determined by the Department of Defense, he said. "When that most-effective organization model is accepted, we have to implement that model," White said. "It's to ensure that we perform our mission at the most cost-effective and efficient level." Those who lose their jobs will be eligible for severance or early retirement if requirements are met, and will be enrolled in the Department of Defense's Priority Placement Program, which gives them a first shot a jobs for which they qualify at their previous grade level. Some will be eligible for placement in other federal agencies through the Interagency Career Transition Assistance Program, as well as normal unemployment compensation. More than half the employees who lose their jobs will be offered permanent part-time jobs of about 30 hours a week without losing their eligibility to enroll in the Priority Placement Program, according to the release. "They'll be doing a different job, but they'll be making the same amount of money," White said. The depot and the Corps are trying to minimize the number of people who lose their jobs because of the reorganization. "They've worked very hard to keep the impact, in terms of loss of jobs, to a minimum," White said.

From Columbia State, SC, 17 December 2002

Many Law Grads Can't Afford to Take Public-Service Jobs

Two-thirds of law students would not consider a job in public-interest or government service because the salaries are too low to pay their law-school debts, a new survey shows. With half of law-school students more than $75,000 in debt, and 1 in 5 more than $105,000 in debt, it is no wonder that a job with a well-paying law firm might be more attractive than working for the Justice Department or the American Civil Liberties Union. "I wouldn't be able to pay back my loans and would wind up on welfare," a respondent said. "Would love to but I don't think I can repay loans this way," another said. An analysis of salaries and law-school debt also showed that public-interest and government salaries do not keep pace with private-sector salaries, that law-school tuition has ballooned in the past decade and that programs to help repay debt are underfunded and poorly administered. The survey and report were conducted by the Partnership for Public Service, Equal Justice Works (formerly the National Association for Public Interest Law) and the National Association for Law Placement. "Talented lawyers are being precluded from joining public service by incredible student debt," said Max Stier, president of Partnership for Public Service and a former lawyer for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and a private law firm.

The survey covered 1,622 graduating law students from 117 schools. With in-state tuition at state law schools rising 140 percent and at private law schools 76 percent in the past decade, it is little wonder that 97 percent of the students borrowed money to pay tuition and that 58 percent had debts of $55,000 to $105,000. Compare that with salaries and the picture is even more bleak for government and public-service recruiters. Since 1991, the median starting salary for a private-practice lawyer jumped 80 percent, from $50,000 to $90,000. But median salary for government and public-interest lawyers increased just 37 percent, with median income for public-interest lawyers at $35,000 and federal-government lawyers ranging from $31,500 to $45,000. "This is a crisis we are facing in terms of enabling them to go into government service or nonprofit organizations," said David Stern, Equal Justice Works executive director. "Our country promises that equal justice is available for everyone, but the reality is that with these debts, very few lawyers could go into public service." The groups offer several solutions. One is a loan-repayment program to help public-service and government lawyers pay their debts. Such programs are authorized under federal law since 1990, but federal dithering delayed its implementation. Now that the program has been implemented, only eight lawyers in four agencies have taken advantage of it.

From Seattle Times, WA, by James V. Grimaldi, 15 December 2002

Marvelling: Civil Service Reform 3

After my last article on Civil Service reform, I was invited to a meeting by three gentlemen of the Civil Service. They were extremely competent proponents of Civil Service reform, even if like me, they believed that there would be considerable difficulty in persuading present-day Civil Service managers of the need for change. The fact is that I was most impressed by the competence of the three gentlemen involved, while being unsure that they would be able to solve the problems that exist within our system. We agreed on the need for the matter of experience and skills as an alternative to merely academic qualification. They too felt that in certain cases, experience within the system coupled with creativity should be given credit, so that people like the ones I mentioned, who had productive lives in the Civil Service without university degrees and who continue to serve in the private sector would be considered in the new era, where university qualification will be demanded as an entry requirement. Indeed, it was difficult to pinpoint any area of vital disagreement other than my original thesis about the Civil Service: it is neither civil (always with the exception of the Land Tax people), nor a service, and the fundamental problem is that it was not created to serve the interest of Bajans in general, but that of the British colonial. It is perhaps a bit strong to contend that they did not believe it was lacking in civility and service. It was they who pinpointed one of the cardinal sins of the system: that it considered itself as a counterweight to both the public and the politician. Put differently, one of the fundamental problems with the service is that it is somehow incapable of working with the public or the political elite without considering the relationship one of an adversary nature. This to my mind has to do with its post-colonial colonial (is this what one means by neo-colonial?) role. The Civil Service was meant to serve British colonial interests.

For this reason, it was quite in order to seek the opinion of the lowest category of Civil Servant, the newcomer, because at best his or her opinion would be so revised that it did not matter what the original opinion on an issue was (unless of course it was seditious). To reform this body, which essentially remains the same, is like reforming a lion. A reformed lion is a lion. It will never be a small cat, horse or a dog, however much we reform it. I think that the colonial Civil Service was more like an iron horse. The reformed Civil Service is much more likely to be an iron camel - an iron horse built by a committee - than a body that serves the interest of a small developing country like Barbados. The Civil Service is too large and involved in too many things in which it should not be involved. We need to rethink the role of the service in general, beginning not with the assumption that we need something like what we have, only reformed, but from a zero sum basis. We need to determine what we need to help the country function. While I agree with the fundamental British position that a country was too important to have politicians run it on their own, I do believe that since the people who elected them did so on the belief that they would do what they promised at election time - how can people be so naïve! - and that they should have at least a reasonable chance, with the help of the Civil Service of fulfilling any reasonable promises made. The Civil Service should be made to serve the needs of the people of Barbados. It should therefore primarily serve a research function, providing information on which the elected can make decisions regarding development. It should believe that the public is its primary constituency, its main client and that this must mean a certain courtesy to the public even in areas where the public can be a royal pain. It must also be a facilitator to business without the involvement of the service in business, either legitimately or otherwise.

The Ministry of Education should be a Ministry of Manpower Development not a bureaucracy which concerns itself with school buildings and the day to day running of the educational system. It is their research on which the system should be built. The Ministry of Finance should be the Ministry of Economic Research, not the ministry which collects taxes etc. The point I am making is not that we should abandon the Ministry of Education or Finance (although I sometimes do believe that we should), but that we should replace them with something that better serves to develop us, to give us an edge in a new world full of sharks with sharpened teeth. We continue to talk glibly about the need to change, about globalisation and about the FTAA. Who is to co-ordinate this change? This role will inevitably fall to the civil servant. How is it likely that a civil service, which has consistently dragged its feet with regard to internal change, will prove to be a good administrator of change? Again we talk about the need for the Single Market and Economy to be made operational, yet how do we hope to have a system function that runs contrary to the narrower interests of those who are supposed to make it function? Civil servants are most comfortable in their little cocoons. A true single market would mean that a Vincentian with the necessary qualifications could be our comptroller of customs, or that the chief of airport security could be a Surinamer or even Haitian. The built-in resistance to the movement of people will have to go if we are truly to have a Single Market and Economy. Can you see our Civil Service, or for that matter any other regional civil service supervising such change? Indeed, until we are serious about completely overhauling the Civil Service, not just reforming the iron horse, we are likely to be mired in the favourite regional pastime, talk without action.

From Barbados Daily Nation, by Orlando Marville, 14 December 2002

City Council Approves Transparency Bill

The local Legislative Assembly approved a freedom of information act for the capital on Tuesday, aimed at facilitating public access to government documents. Now awaiting a signature from Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the Transparancy and Access to Information bill proposes setting up a Transparency Council of citizens and officials from various government agencies. The three citizen council members will receive compensation while the government members will not. The council will determine which government documents should be made accessible to the public and arbitrate over cases of citizens denied access to files. In total, the bill received 55 votes in favor, while members of the mayor's center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution abstained on one article referring to resources for members of the Transparency Committee. Once the law is submitted to the mayor, he will have 10 days to sign, amend, or reject it. The bill will test Lopez Obrador's much heralded policy of opening government affairs to public scrutiny, which included his launching of an official website. Under current legislation, each citizen must provide documentation justifying their interest in government texts, the disclosure of which lies ultimately in the hands of oft-petty bureaucrats.

From TheNewsMexico.com, by Claudia Boyd-Barrett, 18 December 2002

Pyatt Attends Academy for Excellence in Local Governance

Mt. Airy Town Councilman David Pyatt graduated Nov. 17 from the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance, a program of the University of Maryland's Institute for Governmental Service, in cooperation with the Local Government Insurance Trust, the Maryland Association of Counties and the Maryland Municipal League. Pyatt attended a minimum of 12 separate courses over two years to fulfill the requirements to graduate from the certificate program. The graduation ceremony was held at Memorial Chapel at the University of Maryland, College Park, with more than 70 in attendance. A celebratory reception was held afterward at the University of Maryland Golf Club House. By providing enhanced educational opportunities, the Academy trains informed and responsible local officials to give Maryland jurisdictions the leadership needed to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Specific objectives are to increase understanding of local government and how it functions; to promote high ethical standards in public service; to provide an information base for more informed policymaking; to develop the capacity of local officials to govern effectively; and to recognize local officials for their educational efforts. To meet the requirements of graduation, municipal officials had to take courses in the structure of government, ethics, open meetings, conducting effective meetings, budgeting, and employment issues for elected officials. The graduates also had to take six elective classes and could choose from topics such as general local governance, planning and economic development, service delivery/personnel/administration, finance, and legal and risk management. For more information about the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance, contact Jeff Griffith, academy coordinator, at 301-403-4610.

From Mt. Airy Messenger, MD, 19 December 2002

 

Public Service Reform

Old uniforms - Even the police and prison officers have changed more than the firemen - Reforming public services is never easy. But it is possible. Compare, for example, the inroads made into the old ways of running the prison and police services, compared with the neanderthal world of the fire service. All three used to have a lot in common. Near-untouchable status stemming from public sympathy for their bravery and role in keeping society safe, for example, as well as the consequences: rigid shift patterns, grotesque levels of sick pay and early retirement, batty working practices, dogged resistance to outside involvement, especially in their trade union leadership, and a "canteen culture" of cynical, resentful intransigence. Life in police stations has changed a bit. Working time is more sensibly managed. There are fewer night shifts than day shifts, for example (it used to be the same). Civilian support staff, almost non-existent 30 years ago, now make up a third of the police service. They do specialist jobs such as taking fingerprints, running control rooms and handling paperwork. Policemen can be sacked for being incompetent. In the past that was possible only for corruption, violence or gross negligence. A baroque system of allowances (a special payment for handling decomposed bodies, for example) is being phased out. Although police rotas are still fixed a year in advance, it is much easier now for managers to jiggle them at short notice. The fire service, by contrast, offers no such flexibility. The shift pattern is archaic and cushy: two days, two nights, and then four full days off.

Staffing is the same at night as during the day, even though there are far fewer fires. There are too many fire stations, and in the wrong places: chiefly in city centres, when they should have followed the population shift to the suburbs. Firemen have steadfastly refused to learn basic first aid, claiming that this is a job for the ambulance service. That costs lives and limbs every year. Prison officers have not reformed nearly as fast as the police. But even here changes are under way. One reason is the growth of private prisons, which on the whole have managed to treat prisoners better than the state-run ones. That gives a useful competitive spur. Prison officers no longer resist all reform on principle. There is plenty that still needs to change with the police-fixing rotas a year in advance, for instance, is silly. There is far too much bogus sick pay and pretend early retirement, as well as dreadfully inefficient paperwork. But what has been achieved so far holds some lessons for the fire service. First, banning essential services from striking allows managers to bring in changes that might otherwise have been resisted. Second, there is plenty of room for flexibility and outside involvement. Not all fire engines need to be huge and ultra-modern; not every call-out needs the same full-scale response. Volunteer and part-time firefighters could do more-just as special constables do for the police force. No public service, even one with a claim to occasional heroism, has a right to the fossilisation of its privileges.

From The Economist, 21 November 2002

 

Knowledge Management is Key to Business

As risk management continues to attract increased attention, organisations are beginning to recognise how dependant success in this field is on effective knowledge management (KM). ICL's Integration Marketing Manager Tony Cross explores the various forms of risk that commercial enterprises must contend with, in turn explaining how knowledge management can help businesses overcome or avoid risks. We have entered an era in which organisations with globally recognised brands and reputations are facing legal action or even total collapse because of the misdeeds of senior executives. Others, once highly regarded for competence, are making headlines for large-scale project failure. As a result, it is no surprise that risk management has become a hot topic this year in organisations from all sectors and spheres. It would seem to be intuitive that good knowledge management leads naturally to the more effective management of risk. Better knowledge of influencing factors and the actions needed to cope with these can only help reduce the possibility of things going wrong. But as with anything else to do with KM, the challenge is in the detail. This article attempts to identify various types of risk faced by organisation and to demonstrate how KM approaches can be used to manage or mitigate these risks. But first, a word about risk. The popularly held view that risk is always a negative to be avoided isn't necessarily true or sensible. Risk is something all people face, and their different perceptions, evaluations and reactions to that risk help make the world a far more interesting place. Indeed, risk can be an opportunity. When an entrepreneur takes advantage of a gap in the market, or a stock market analyst identifies an organisation whose share price seems very low given its performance or the potential market for its product range, they weigh the risk of exploiting an uncertain situation against the benefit of winning and making a large amount of money.

The essential premise of capitalism is that those with capital, risk it through investment in order to obtain a return. Global trade runs on perceptions of risk and the action people take on the basis of these perceptions. In short, there is no return without risk-taking. When it comes to individuals, it's that same perception of risk - in going on a roller-coaster ride, doing a bungee jump, placing a large bet or facing rejection when asking out a member of the opposite sex - that provides the very frisson that is central to the experience. Those in the business of providing amusement parks take great pains to find ways to heighten the unconscious perception of danger, while at the same time also reaffirming to the rational mind that everything will be all right. Yet human beings are very bad at assessing risk in a rational way. We regularly witness the knock-on effects of media scares associated with relatively minor risks to the mass population, such as Mad Cow disease. Meanwhile, far more significant risk such as smoking or being run over by cars speeding in the residential areas (two of the top five killers in SA today) are often met with apathy. In the corporate sphere, those responsible for managing risk must strip away the impressions and perceptions surrounding it. Methods of risk evaluation and objective assessment of the situation must be found and allowed by plans for mitigating risk in order to ensure a positive business outcome. It is at this point that the tools and approaches associated with knowledge management become essential. To make a proper risk evaluation, you first need an appropriate and accurate input of information that can be understood and interpreted in the correct context - a discipline at the heart of KM thinking.

The risks facing organisation can be divided roughly into three categories:* Corporate risk - risk with a strong strategic element where the very future of the organisation or its ability to conduct business might be compromised.* Project risk - risk to successful outcomes in specific projects. These are essentially tactical in nature, although if projects are sufficiently large or important to the business's future, the impact may be more strategic.* Operational risk - risk faced daily in normal business, for example issues such as business continuity or operational compliance with legal or regulatory requirements. While corporate risk is often to do with external or large-scale threats, operational risk relates much more to internal process, quality, skills and leadership. Corporate riskOf these categories, corporate risk is currently the most topical risk area and certainly the one with the most potential impact. Where risk factors impinge on the very future of the organisation, the way those risks are managed becomes crucial to long-term survival. Corporate risks tend to come from two main areas: from the external environment and from the limit or problems associated with internal capabilities. It is external risks that are focused on by those charged with gathering market intelligence, such as competitor activities, new products or services on the horizon, innovations in pricing and delivery, or the impacts of national, regional or global trading conditions. Other external risk might include forthcoming legal or regulatory changes that might impact on the content or delivery of products and services, or impose substantial training or IT burdens. The standard tools for evaluating corporate risk Steepl analysis. Steepl is the breakdown of the external challenges, problems or opportunities presented by sociological, technological, economic, environmental, political and legal change factors. Such analysis is often supplemented by scenario planning - a powerful technique first used by Shell in the 1970s built around the promise of thinking the unthinkable. It works by constructing scenarios where current Steepl trends (usually constructed around unlikely but still feasible events, such as wars, currency collapse or major technological breakthroughs) are extrapolated to generate very different scenarios for future business environments. Use of such techniques enable Shell, which had devised contingency for the possible impact drastically lower oil prices, to fare far better than arch-rival BP, which was forced into dramatic retrenchment when oil prices did indeed collapse later than same decade.

To be successful, such processes need reliable and accurate information input. For example, market intelligence should be gathered from a good range of third-party sources, such as industry analysts, specialist media or from participation in industry forum, think-tanks and conferences. After all, the risk judgements made in Steepl analysis and in scenario planning workshops are only as good as the information the participants have to work with, and the tacit knowledge that the individuals involved have about market conditions that puts that information into context. A specific example of how KM techniques might be used to mitigate corporate risk is in the area of succession planning. This term has come to have a fairly narrow meaning - typically, the identification and 'grooming' of chief executives and other senior managers. But the demographic time bomb about to materialise in most of the western democracies, as the baby-boom generation reaches retirement age, has led to an expansion in the use of the term. One G8 nation, Canada, will lose 50% of its civil servants in the next 10 years and 70% of current senior civil servants in the next fife years. The situation in SA is not quite so dramatic, but many organisations (especially in more traditional market sectors such as manufacturing) will face this problem relatively soon. This situation brings issues around training, skills transfer and knowledge capture into play. In particular, transferring the tacit knowledge built up by workers over years of experience to new and a potentially smaller number of workers is a major challenge. Managing the situation successfully requires a whole raft of KM techniques to be deployed, including exit interviews, databases of expertise, improvements in information handling skills throughout the organisation and even wholesale redesign of business processes. One major change, for example, is that senior management is starting to recognise the tacit knowledge that their organisation lose when they choose to downsize the organisation through providing incentives for large-scale early retirement. Corporate risk does not just come from external influences. Internal factors are also a major factor, in particular if there is the potential for activities to embarrass the company and cause significant reputational risk.

The exposed malpractices that surrounded Enron provide but one example. One difficulty faced by companies is that traditional management information systems have tended to focus on performance data. Yet such methods are simply not good enough in an era where those responsible for corporate direction and communication between the business and shareholders, analysts and the media need continual, up-to-date and accurate information on what the organisation has been doing. Furthermore, communications plans need to include information about which people in a company have relevant expertise and who are accountable for specific business activity. This information and communications infrastructure, which ensures the visibility of people and business activity across all operations, is becoming a core organisational capability. Such visibility and transparency is also the cornerstone of corporate governance, another hot topic. In this are the debate has focused on the ethical structures in place within organisations, as well as on ensuring that appropriate skills and training are available to those in senior positions to ensure that they know what their responsibilities are. Again, however, the appropriate information infrastructure in terms of access to documentation and communication tools must be in place if training and ethical compliance regimes are to succeed. Support for corporate governance activity and an increasing awareness at a senior level of the need to better manage documentation such as contracts and communication between the organisation and customer and staff that may have important legal status, are also becoming a document feature of KM implementation programmes. Project risk - Most organisation conduct risk management within projects and it is certainly a feature of the most commonly used project and programme management methodologies such as Prince 2, which includes detailed processes for uncovering risk and for risk logging, monitoring and management. Risk therefore comes into the typical project manager's remit, as something to be measured, assessed and dealt with as a daily task.

The principles deploy by project and programme managers risk assessment is hardly new. In fact, the approach can be said to date back to 1654, when the mathematicians Blaise Pascal and Peirre de Fermat created the first mathematical probability model that enabled early approaches to assessment and qualification of risk. Today's project managers classify risk across two dimensions: the possible impact of the risk and the likelihood of it occurring. This enables efforts to be made to focus on either prevention or mitigation. For example, strenuous efforts might be made to prevent a low probability but high-impact event like an oil spill or chemical explosion, which may in turn lead to huge environmental and reputational damage. In this case, all efforts would be focused on ensuring the event does not occur. At the other extreme, there might be a high probability of a project being hit by delays due to bad weather, something that cannot be physically prevented. However, the impact on the project can be mitigated by taking some steps in advance, such as adding in contingency time and budget to allow for weather (based on reasonable predictions of likely delay) using particular materials or method less susceptible to weather-based delay, or finding ways to share the risk in some way which customers or suppliers. At the heat of project risk assessment is understanding: making assumptions plain, coming to an-depth understanding of the situation and making sense of the various influence as possibilities. The level understanding determines the degree to which impact and probabilities can be calculated and activities planned and directed towards mitigation or prevention. The gathering of information and gaining of knowledge about these risks is closely aligned to the following knowledge processes:* Gaining understanding of the requirements in any risk situation.* Identifying, acquiring and putting information to use.* Developing preserving and sharing relevant information, as well as personal knowledge and experience. In project-related knowledge management activity, we can define this as adding' knowledge steps' into the normal activities surrounding projects, for example building in debriefing sessions at the end of projects of getting project managers together to talk about their projects, the problems and risks that they have been facing, and what they have been doing about them. In project-related KM a major part of our efforts have tended to address documentation issues. Often there is no central repository for project materials.

In many cases, there is not even a formal log of ongoing or closed projects. As a result, even though project reports may have been written and stored, complete with details of lessons learnt, these can often not be accessed by those in the organisation who would benefit most from reading them. Building in new or improved 'knowledge steps' at the start of a project, at a project review stage and at project closure can go a long way in 'de-risking' projects and improving effectiveness in project delivery. Techniques can include using creative, no-blame techniques for end of project assessment such as after-action reviews or storytelling, supported as appropriate by document sharing technologies. This approach should always be informed, particularly in service organisations, by the view that risk is, at least in part, a good thing. Most service organisations make their money from accepting and managing a degree of risk on behalf of the customer, who in turn gets significant benefit from this transfer of risk to suppliers. This is what justifies a fair margin for the service. Of course, this depends on whether the customer appreciates and values this risk transfer. Often the risks are not spelt out in advance and many may even be unknown to the customer. Therefore, any service organisation that can use prior knowledge of similar situations to demonstrate successful risk management may be able to gain significant commercial advantage over apparently cheaper rivals that fail to demonstrate the same depth of understanding of what might go wrong, and what they might do about it. It also follows that if organisations manage project risk with an open evaluation of risk, this may provide a significant differentiator in a crowded marketplace. As a result, projects need proper risk support, including training of project, programme and bid managers, together with the right technology and information infrastructure to support project-related knowledge processes. In practical terms, this is an important prerequisite to moving away from unsophisticated approaches such as using shared drivers for project documentation storage and hoping that will be enough, towards a much more process and technology-aware, knowledge-friendly approach, as described above.

Operational risk - Everyday operational business may not seem especially risky, but it is in this area that the battle for growth, profit and the organisational survival is won or lost. It is also here that day-to-day issues such as the ability to respond to customer demand or meet legal or contractual operational requirements such as health and safety or other rules and data protection regulations can make or break a business.This where many KM disciplines come into their own in business setting. Issues such as quality of induction - how quickly individuals can obtain the knowledge they need to be effective in a particular business environment and the ability to share informal, tacit knowledge and insight whether about customers, products, procedures, technologies or the local of expertise - become critical. The main KM input to de-risking daily operations is two-fold:* Ensuring that the environment properly supports tacit or informal knowledge sharing in order to help people perform at their best.* Ensuring that the formal information infrastructure meets the needs of operational business. ICL classes operations as having three central elements:* Design* Planning, execution and control* Improvement Design is about the way organisations decide to produce and create products and services and get them to customers, as well as the design of the products and services themselves. Through learning from the past and involving knowledgeable people, incorporating best practice and previous lessons learnt, appropriate risks can be accommodated right from the start. The possible risks in design are too many to list, but include the impact of poor quality, building in flexible relationships and features, and incurring cost that are untenable. Planning, execution, and control are more about day-to-day working and ensuring materials, people and capacity satisfy customer demands. Knowledge sharing and working in supported learning teams allows people to understand and take action when the probability of risks being realised increases.

Risks surface constantly, be they petrol delivery driver strikes, large customers going out of business or the wrong part being delivered at a time critical stage, but the right support and culture can help people to cope with the results .Improvement is the third area of operation and is essential whenever organisations have competitors seeking to gain an advantage. It includes KM disciplines around 'knowing what you know' and developing understanding about what is going on internally within the organisation. It also includes applying intelligence techniques to find out and evaluate competitor activity and allows companies to take more control, putting them in a better place to dictate the rules of play, rather than being constrained by them. The above are core practices for knowledge management, aimed at improving organisational effectiveness and efficiency by increasing the 'yield' from knowledge assets. But there is one major additional operational area where KM has a significant input: business continuity. The events of 11 September 2001 made many companies aware of the need for a proper risk assessment of business continuity, a phrase that has tended to mean the particular area of disaster management and in particular physical security such as system integrity and backup/restoration procedures. But there is a big KM issue here, too, concerning whether people have the skills and knowledge to handle a disaster situation. Organisations must consider whether there are processes around knowledge and information in place to minimise operational risk to the business. There is no point in having back-up technology in place with the people and process aspects have not been thought through. Putting it all together - It is clear, therefore, that knowledge management disciplines are closely linked with the management of risk in an organisational setting. In particular, KM can make a difference in the following areas:* Technology and information infrastructure - information management disciplines and technologies have a lot to offer, from Intranets and communications/collaboration software to document management, search tools, taxonomies and so on. Proper access to information and expertise assists the process of understanding risk, without which proper risk management is impossible.

This is particularly true in project contexts where access to information about previous projects (especially failure or problems overcome) might have significant impact on assessments made and, consequently, on decisions on pricing, contingency level or the setting of deadlines;* People, skills and culture - the issues around skills, behaviours and motivation, which are at the centre of KM thinking, are also at the heart of risk management. The challenge is to change thinking, which in turn leads to change behaviours. For example, government departments are faced with a massive document and records management challenge in order to meet deadlines for freedom of information, seen by many as essentially and technical information management matter. But given that the potential impact may be embarrassment to ministers a senior civil servants if wrong or misleading information is collected and made available, it is clear that there are also significant cultural and behavioural issues to consider;* Knowledge processes - in all situations, the quality of information available on which risk decisions are based depends heavily on which knowledge processes are embedded in corporate, project and operational practices. The challenge runs across identifying, obtaining, using and sharing risk information and having appropriate decision-making and learning processes in place. Of all of these aspects, we believe that the most important are the process and cultural elements. Ultimately, the vision for any risk management strategy must be to create an environment in which knowledge is systematically and consciously used to assess, exploit, prevent and mitigate risk. There is other name for this: the learning organisation. The end goal of any KM practitioner must be to help create or develop a business climate through which the organisation is able to learn from both its own internal activities - whether corporate, project or operational - and from the external environment. The lessons learnt must then be applied to improve efficiency, effectiveness and, ultimately, profitability.* ICL provides solutions in the area of knowledge management with Information Builders' iWay integration software and WebFOCUS business intelligence solution.

From ITWeb, South Africa, by Tony Cross, 28 November 2002

Mandela launches AIDS Drug Campaign

Johannesburg, South Africa - Former South African President Nelson Mandela has launched a new drive to bring costly AIDS drugs to his country's poor, saying government inaction and public apathy were sentencing millions to death. The campaign, organised jointly by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the South African Medical Association (SAMA), will provide free anti-retroviral treatment to 9,000 public sector patients. "It is a threat to everything and to everybody," Mandela said at Tuesday evening's launch. "It has destroyed our most valuable resource: our people." Called "Tshepang" or "have hope," the programme is a fresh challenge to South Africa's government, which has resisted efforts to provide anti-retrovirals, arguing they are dangerously toxic and prohibitively expensive. President Thabo Mbeki has also questioned the link between HIV and AIDS - a view that has permeated discussions on the issue within the ruling African National Congress. No senior government official attended Tuesday's launch. The Health Ministry said in a statement that while it welcomed "in principle" new treatment initiatives, it needed more information about the project before commenting on it.

South Africa has almost five million people infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS, the world's highest case load. SAMA Chairman Kgosi Letlape said South Africa, particularly its medical community, could no longer stand by as millions died from the disease. "Treatment of patients is our responsibility. It is time we woke up," Letlape told Reuters on Wednesday. Mandela's foundation has donated 10 million rand ($1.08 million) for the project, which organisers say could cost as much as 80 million rand to get fully up and running. The vast majority of the country's AIDS patients are too poor to afford anti-retroviral drugs. Letlape said he knew demand would be immense. "We will be overwhelmed immediately." But organisers said the programme could demonstrate to the government that it was feasible to distribute anti-retrovirals. The programme will seek to negotiate cheaper drug prices from big pharmaceutical firms. AIDS activist Zackie Achmat, who is refusing to take anti-retroviral drugs for his own HIV infection until the drugs are made widely available, said the new programme could push both the government and drug companies to get serious about South Africa's AIDS pandemic.

From CNN, 4 December 2002

Minister On E-Government Crusade

Johannesburg - The framework for action reached by delegates at the e-Africa Workshop in October will come under the spotlight at a meeting of the Global Forum in Marrakech, Morocco this week. Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, minister of the Department of Public Service and Administration, will address the forum on Thursday to highlight SA's goals in implementing electronic government and to discuss the framework with her counterparts. The forum, to be hosted by the African Training and Research Centre in Administration for Development (CAFRAD), is designed to promote discussions in relation to public service, management and administration. Its focus this year is electronic-government. The meeting, which will be attended by government ministers from across Africa, is a follow up to the e-Africa workshop that was held in Johannesburg in October. The overall objective of the e-Africa workshop was to raise government officials' awareness and enhance their capacity and competence in the improvement of governance and public service management, through adequate and efficient use of ICT in support of efforts in institutional, economic and administrative reform programmes. Fraser-Moleketi, who is the chairperson of the e-Africa Committee, will present a paper focusing on the strengthening of public policies in order to foster partnerships between government, civil society and business. "It is important that African countries begin to implement the framework of action reached in Johannesburg in October 2002," she says. "During the e-Africa workshop it was noted that public services are fragmented, accessible during government-prescribed times, that turnaround times are slow and finally that the majority of people cannot access services. "We have an obligation to change this practice. Electronic government will work a great deal in speeding up the change and advancing our ideals of a better life for all citizens." Fraser-Moleketi will also address an e-Africa side event organised by CAFRAD with her Moroccan counterpart, Najib Zerouali. The side event aims to promote the framework of action in Morocco.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 11 December 2002

Biggest IT Project to Provide Free Online Learning

South Africa's biggest internet projects, ever undertaken on the African continent, aim to provide every student in Gauteng province - where Johannesburg and Pretoria are situated - and eventually the entire country, with free access to email, the internet and An Online Learning Curriculum. The project, known as Gauteng Online, is part of a wider plan by Africa's governments to use new technologies to accelerate social and economic development across the continent. Africa's top telecommunications people met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1995 and formed the African Information Society Initiative (AISI). They urged governments to keep up with the growing momentum of telecommunications worldwide and cautioned that African economies would suffer if they remained outside of the technology boom. The South African government hopes that getting school children computer literate will generate more jobs by creating an Information Technology (IT)-based economy. As the world becomes ever more technology dependent, computer literacy is seen as an indispensable skill that many South Africans are losing out on because of funding shortages. The department of education hopes to get some 250,000 school leavers into jobs within information technology (IT) by offering students from grades nine to 12 the chance to study for a certificate in information technology. Aletha Ling, executive director of MGX, one of the consortiums funding Gauteng Online says: ''The digital world is here to stayàand it is important we bring everyone into this world.'' The department of education launched the ambitious Gauteng Online scheme in Nov 2001 in partnership with six technology consortiums. So far, the project has only been in pilot stages and IBM, Sun/MGX, Mustek, NCD, Sahara and UNISYS and have provided 30 schools with 25 computers each as well as software and a training service for teachers.

The ultimate aim of the project is to create the technological environment needed for South Africa to compete with other countries looking to attract foreign investment. With the success of the pilot stage, the government is now spending R500 million (50 million U.S. dollars), alongside continuing contributions from private companies, to expand the project to cover 700 schools by the middle of 2003. Eventually, in four years time all 1.5 million schoolchildren in Gauteng will be connected to the rest of the world. Despite being criticised for being slow to realise Gauteng Online, the department of education is in no doubt: ''We believe that we are on track and are confident that we can deliver,'' says Labelo Maloka, spokesperson for the provincial minister of education in Gauteng. Gauteng education official, Ignatius Jacobs says: ''Within the next six years, the project will be running in all 29,000 schools in South Africa including private and farm schools. This will position our education system to achieve its objectives of the 21st century where the intelligence, talents, energy and enthusiasm of our learners will be utilised. We hope this will re-direct the energy and talents of learners from substance abuse and crime - thereby making them part of society's efforts to create jobs and build our economy''. Victor Schultze, managing director of Futurekids, a computer training initiative for children, says that computers are central to training a new generation of business minded youngsters. ''Computers and the internet are classroom resources that enable teachers to fulfill the new educational criteria - Part of the process is teaching problem solving which nurtures business skills and entrepreneurial thinking,'' he says.

But in spite of the optimism, the project was greeted with as many jeers as cheers. While few dispute that the world is heading into the information age, critics of Africa's move to keep up, say that technology is best suited to richer nations. Many schools in South Africa still do not have books, qualified teachers or electricity and the government has been accused of trying to fly before it can walk. Ronald Cilliers, a teacher at Jules High School in Johannesburg, says: '' Although I think it's an excellent scheme. It's a bit impractical. 25 computers (in each school) will not be enough à if the average school has 900 kids. Also telephone costs are high and networking the computers will be expensive.'' Tracey Stone, a teacher at Barnato Park High School in Johannesburg, takes an even tougher position. She says: ''It seems inevitable that the funds will dissipate in five to 10 years through theft and incompetence. It would be better if the education department paid for the learners to be bussed to centrally maintained computer labs.'' But Maloka hits back at critics saying that computer skills are key to giving students the right credentials to get jobs. He says that practical issues such as schools paying for extra security, the potentially high phone bill and maintenance of the equipment are ''challenges'' that will need to be looked at.

Professor Francis Kornegay of Wits University's South African Institute of International Affairs commented on the wider concept of Africa using technology to tackle its problems: ''The concept of e-governance is exactly what these African states need to tackle poverty, illiteracy and engender development. Information and communication technology is what these states need to hasten the pace of poverty reduction and eliminate illiteracy.'' But the key problem in the debate is sustainability. Schools have to keep up with the extra costs associated with rooms full of computers connected to the internet. In a partnership between the Finnish and South African government called Scope computers were donated to schools. But, Aaron Mbatha, a school principal in Johannesburg, says ''Since we've put in computers we've gone from paying R3500 (350 U.S. dollars) a month for full-time security to R7000 (700 U.S. dollars)''. And on top of these costs, schools will have to foot the extra phone bill. Judging by the reaction to schoolchildren with new-found access to computers, its money, schools better put their minds to finding. Grade 8 pupil, Lavy Mkhatshwa says: ''The first time I sat down at a computer I was scared. But after a week it was OK." Another student, Ngomane, a grade 10 student wants computers to play a part in her future. She says: - When I have learned all I need to know I will open a computer centre in the community where others can learn''.

From Inter Press Service, 27 December 2002

 

Microsoft and Uttaranchal sign MOU on E-governance

Uttaranchal today signed a memorandum of understanding with Microsoft to jointly develop and deploy an array of technology solutions for e-governance. As part of the agreement, Microsoft would invest its skills and transfer its expertise to the hill state where 3.80 lakh children would benefit from knowledge of IT in a span of three years. Microsoft would also set up two centres of excellence for e-governance in Uttaranchal based on its technologies. The MoU, a follow-up for the meeting between Microsoft Chief Bill Gates and Chief Minister N D Tiwari on November 12 in New Delhi, was signed by President, Microsoft-India, Rajiv Nair and Uttaranchal IT Secretary Amarendra Sinha. The MoU will forge a strategic partnership in the IT sector and includes the first Hindi IT lab of the country in Dehradun. Under the MoU signed in the presence of Tiwari and Chief Secretary Madhukar Gupta, the Uttaranchal Government would develop and execute a system integration project on Microsoft technology. The project, named as 'aarohi'(ascendant) by the Chief Minister, would focus on giving IT solutions for the coming 'ardhkumbha mela' in Hardwar. Uttaranchal's Department of Informataon and Technology (DOIT) would identify and appoint a core team to develop applications using the Microsoft net framework and other technologies. Speaking on the occasion, Tiwari described the MoU as giant leap forward for the overall development of the state and expressed hope that the agreement would help people of Uttaranchal in joining the IT revolution.

From Outlookindia.com, 4 December 2002

E-governance to Usher in Simpler Life for Indian Citizens

There are myriad reasons why the E-governance market is expected to become a hot bed of activity for the ICT industry in the future. The key among them is the fact that the Government and its agencies, continue to be the largest service providers in the country. As the need to make its services more cost competitive and efficient intensifies, the Government is likely to turn to IT for its day-to-day solutions. The other major reason is that the Government is yet to implement e-governance in a significant way. What this translates into is an untapped, high potential market which will soon be thirsting for the e-governance mantra. Here are some sizzling facts about e-governance: The Government spent about Rs. 2,500 crore on E-governance initiatives in 2001-02, according to a Nasscom study. During 2001-02, Government ICT purchases accounted for around 12 percent of the total market. By all accounts this was modest and lead to depressed market conditions. The good news is that as far as e-governance is concerned, the tide is expected to turn in the years ahead. "Smart", IT savvy and citizen-oriented Governments are now the order of the day, and India too is going to invest in making e-governance a priority. In fact, a long-standing recommendation of the Government to the states and its agencies that 1-3 percent of spending should go to IT is now, hopefully going to get some teeth. If implemented, this will unleash a huge revenue generation opportunity for Indian ICT vendors to supply their wares and boost the market. E-governance, which was once a subset of the IT Task Force's list of activities, accounting for a near 5-6 of a total of 108 recommendations, has moved to become the primary agenda. Already, around 19 Indian states (including Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu), and Government agencies have created e-governance blueprints and begun implementing projects that delight their customers. Most state Governments have established separate Departments of Information Technology and announced IT policies.

From India Express, India, 6 December 2002

CAS Promotes E-government Construction

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is making efforts to promote the development of the information industry by focusing on e-government construction, CAS President Lu Yongxiang said at a press conference in Beijing Saturday. The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is making efforts to promote the development of the information industry by focusing on e-government construction, CAS President Lu Yongxiang said at a press conference Saturday. Lu said that CAS, as the highest science institution with the most comprehensive research and development center in natural sciences and high-tech development in China, hopes to provide an international platform for research, exchange and cooperation on e-government. As an important aspect of the information industry, e-government construction can serve as a model for the hi-tech and management fields, Lu said. It can also bring about a deep change in government management style. According to information given at the press conference, the 2002 Chinese E-government Technology and Application Conference, featuring large exhibitions, will be held on Dec. 11.

From People's Daily Online, 07 December 2002

Teaching People to Be Employers

Can you really teach someone to be an entrepreneur? It is a job with highly individual traits such as ambition, optimism, risk-taking and a sense of urgency. Universities are focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship as the Government looks to small and medium enterprises to deliver jobs and economic growth. Professor Howard Frederick, director of the New Zealand Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Unitec, says you probably cannot teach people to be entrepreneurs. But part of the solution lies in education and training, he says. "In New Zealand there is an emphasis on management whereas at Unitec we teach people to be employers rather than employees." With the right programme students can learn new entrepreneurial skills. An entrepreneur takes innovation and gives it a commercial application, but it is rare that one person performs both roles. So what does that mean for New Zealand - counted in the Bartercard New Zealand GEM report among the most entrepreneurial countries in the world - and with its reputation for No 8 wire innovation? We may be so blessed but that has not translated into sufficient growth to sustain living standards on a par with Australia. Frederick's research for the New Zealand arm of the global GEM study shows New Zealand entrepreneurs often lack a sense of urgency about growth. "If the country is to get ahead ... we need to take entrepreneurship more seriously."

There are signs that the Government is taking it seriously, backing programmes to help innovative companies survive the start-up phase and grow. The University of Auckland Business School offers courses, as does Waikato University. But it is Unitec that has attached its educational brand most firmly to the study of entrepreneurship. Unitec's dean of the Business Faculty, Gael McDonald, hired Frederick to run the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship from his role as the Sir David Beattie Chair of Communications at Victoria University in Wellington. South African Pieter Nel was appointed head of the faculty's Management Innovation and Entrepreneurship school last year, after initiating masters and bachelors programmes at the University of South Africa. "New Zealand has lagged behind other countries in the study of entrepreneurship, which is established in other countries," said McDonald. "It is important that universities get out there working alongside business, as Unitec is doing with its business development unit." In New Zealand, entrepreneurship gained the academic respectability of degree status two years ago when Unitec launched its post-graduate Masters in Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship (M. BIE). Next year, Unitec will introduce undergraduate papers leading to a bachelor's degree, or B. BIE. Peter Mellalieu, associate professor of creativity and innovation, says the masters course started two years ago intending to teach entrepreneurship. "But when you look at high-growth entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, it is apparent you need to be identifying people with different entrepreneurial talents and then enhancing them," he says.

Start-ups frequently begin with a partnership between an innovator and an entrepreneur, but as a company grows a single entrepreneur might not be enough. The GEM report says natural-born entrepreneurs who have all the right character traits but no specific training do exist, but are the exception rather than the rule. "What we do is develop entrepreneurial strengths rather than try to patch up weaknesses," says Mellalieu. "We help people with, say, four out of seven or eight key entrepreneurial talents and show how to work within complementary teams. "But the traits that bring growth and create wealth - such as a passionate belief in their idea and a tight focus on seeing it through - can be a negative when they have to work together as a team." A team from Unitec's M. BIE programme recently competed in an international Students in Free Enterprise competition. Mellalieu says they developed a "stunning presentation, great concept, utterly focused and won the New Zealand competition". "But when we took the presentation to Europe, despite having professional mentors, everyone was burned out, falling out and the team had multiple goals. "It's called the Apollo complex, when you bring together creative individuals who want to succeed but end up neutralising ideas. "It is something we study here ... but in the aftermath we've looked at this practical example of what can go wrong." Unitec: New Zealand Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

From New Zealand Herald, 9 December 2002

Knowledge Management the Mantra

Most businesses have realised the value of KM. But how it can be applied and what benefits accrue to the enterprise are still areas where a lot of doubts exist. Classical definitions say KM helps an organisation to gain insight and understanding from its own experience. Specific KM activities help focus the organisation on acquiring, storing and utilising knowledge for such things as problem solving, dynamic learning, strategic planning and decision making. It also protects intellectual assets from decay, adds to the firm's intelligence and provides increased flexibility. IT giant Infosys Technologies recently added yet another feather to its cap by winning the prestigious Most Admired Knowledge Enterprises or MAKE award in the Asia region. In an interview, JK Suresh, principal knowledge manager, Infosys Technologies, discusses the significance of knowledge for today's corporations. How according to you has the concept of leadership transformed in the knowledge economy? In today's business environment, the role of knowledge has undergone a few significant changes. One, knowledge has acquired increased velocity measured both in terms of the rate of its creation and obsolescence, and the rate at which it moves around in the economy. Two, as products and services become increasingly knowledge-based, knowledge has become more fundamental to establishing competitive advantage; Three, the whole notion of intellectual property has moved centrestage. These changes in turn have two key implications for leadership, one an opportunity and the other, a challenge. The opportunity aspect is that the concept of market leadership has acquired a new dimension of `Thought Leadership'. The challenge lies in achieving a thought leadership position while leveraging intellectual property in a way that is both effective and appropriate.

These days one keeps on hearing the term 'knowledge corporation', do you think companies in India have really become more information savvy and realise the potential of KM techniques? As the traditional competitive differentiators have increasingly got commoditized, it has become clear that the effective use of knowledge is a key capability for ensuring corporate success. Thus, many progressive Indian companies have recognized the need to manage organizational knowledge formally so as to extract the best business advantage from it. In addition, as a part of their efforts to build an internationally-recognized brand, Indian companies have begun to realize the need to place explicit focus on thought leadership. How crucial you think is the organisational support to drive a KM initiative? Like any other corporate initiative, the success of a KM initiative depends crucially on the level of investment - in terms of resources as well as mind share - that the organization is willing to bear. At the level of resources, building the infrastructure for knowledge sharing requires investments in terms of people, process, technology and content which the organization must clearly commit. More importantly, since KM is about cultural change, senior management must constantly send the right signals by articulating the need for, and benefits of, knowledge sharing. What is your view of what KM can offer a company like Infosys, and how have you approached the issue conceptually? For companies like Infosys, KM offers significant benefits in two dimensions - the operational as well as the strategic. The constant and continuous innovation that characterize both the structural and functional aspects of the modern organization constitute important responses of the competitive corporation in the creation, development and sustenance of markets. A central tenet of KM is to raise the speed and quality of learning, decision-making and customer service at the level of the organization as well as the individual. By institutionalizing best practices existing in pockets, facilitating greater re-use, and helping better virtual teamwork. KM also raises the organization's ability to deliver higher quality and achieve faster time-to-market. Overall, it also reduces risk and makes the organization more robust to thrive in a changing environment.

Another facet of KM at Infosys has been the creation and nurturing of task and discussion groups, special interest clusters, communities etc across the organization offering potential possibilities of increased congruence with the larger strivings of the company, higher levels of business innovation and the evolution of strategic directions for the conduct as well as the content of business at Infosys. How can an enterprise tackle the cultural issues arising due to the adoption of KM culture across international offices, due to differences in national/linguistic/regional cultures? For us, the people dimension of KM has always been considered a principal component of a successful KM practice. This is of special significance in a knowledge-based organization such as Infosys, where experiential knowledge about processes, technologies, customers, products, projects and trends is continuously developed and exchanged in response to a variety of market and client demands, and in different contexts corresponding to roles, geographical locations, virtual teams and time zones. During 1999, while designing a people architecture for KM deployment at Infosys, a requirement of paramount importance was for a structure that would meld with even while overcoming any resistance arising from the cultural attributes related to the employees' work context, sharing behavior, willingness to contribute, etc. Given that collaborative development of systems and solutions in development centers spread across the world has been central to the company's business for long, it would be necessary for the structures and networks created over time for catering to this to be in consonance with any newly created structure for KM. Accordingly, the assignment of roles and responsibilities for KM implementation was so structured as to strike an appropriate balance between functions that need to be managed by a central group, and those that would be performed in a decentralized fashion. The finally accepted choice was for a facilitated and decentralized approach where, with significant ownership of KM activities vested with geographically distributed groups, a loose confederation of knowledge primes, coordinators and champions has been created with the central group for driving the movement. This has yielded rich dividends over the years in terms of participation, knowledge asset contribution, exchange and use almost uniformly across geographical divisions.

From Economic Times, India, by Manisha Singh, 10 December 2002

Showcasing Local Innovation

Down at Auckland's Viaduct Harbour, inside an eye-catching new building shaped like a silver fern, they're screening a repeating tribute to Kiwi innovation. But this isn't your standard documentary on an endless video loop. The show at the Carter Holt Harvey New Zealand Pavilion is played simultaneously on 70 monitors strung from aluminium poles. From any vantage point within the pavilion, there are several choreographed images to take in at any one time. This is video presentation on steroids - a celebration of innovation using innovative technology. Some of the screens use technology from Deep Video Imaging - the local company which has secured a US licensing agreement for its three-dimensional screen developments. Attached to the DVI monitors are flat-panel speakers from Auckland company Slab DSP, whose ground-breaking noise-reduction technology this year landed it a deal with Matsushita Avionics Systems, the international market heavyweight for in-flight entertainment. DVI and Slab are among more than 80 New Zealand companies featured in the "innovation vignettes" which appear in the pavilion's audiovisual show. The pavilion is Industry New Zealand's way of bringing a celebration of innovation to the masses. The Government's industry development agency has spent about $750,000 on the project and has convinced sponsors to contribute $650,000 more. Industry NZ northern region general manager Lance Wickman says the aim of the project is to enthuse both New Zealanders and overseas visitors about this country's innovation successes. Its Viaduct Harbour Avenue location - across the road from the America's Cup syndicate bases - ensures the pavilion is at the centre of the hype surrounding the regatta. Entry to the show is free, and Wickman says he expects 200,000 visitors to pass through the pavilion, which will be open until late March. About 20 per cent of visitors are expected to be from overseas. Once the America's Cup hoopla fades to a memory next year, Industry NZ hopes to take the pavilion - or at least a scaled-down version - on the road so the rest of the country can experience it. "If we're going to take the message to the world that we are serious contenders in business, then we've got to get New Zealanders to believe it," says Industry NZ marketing manager Julian Moore.

This shameless cheerleading of Kiwi enterprise - in a country renowned for its tall-poppy bashing - symbolises the recent Government-led push to champion business innovation. The Minister for Economic Development, Jim Anderton, has led the charge and is responsible for pumping up the Government's support structure for economic development through its agencies such as Industry NZ. As Anderton puts it: "Success will only be achieved by a commitment to partnership between all sectors, public and private, with a stake in unleashing development potential." He believes the pavilion is a statement to overseas visitors here for the America's Cup that as well as being clean and green, New Zealand is an "ideas-based nation". It is also about inspiring the locals, he says. "The more new innovators and entrepreneurs who decide to turn their dreams and ideas into businesses and jobs, the more likely it is that living standards for all New Zealanders will rise." Industry NZ's brief is to push economic growth by helping businesses to grow and encouraging new businesses. It runs the BIZinfo advice centres for small businesses and provides enterprise grants of up to $20,000 for small businesses undertaking specific projects. Contestable funding of up to $100,000 (matched dollar-for-dollar by the company) is also available for businesses wanting to develop a significant international market opportunity. The agency's business development advisers offer mentoring, grant application advice and work as business marriage brokers, helping to develop industry "clusters" - groups of companies which may be able to increase their collective clout by working together in training, infrastructure, procurement or marketing. Industry NZ is also charged with "supporting and celebrating" industry - hence its investment in the pavilion. The agency's chief executive, Neil Mackay, says the pavilion's aim is to change perceptions. "We need a strong enterprise culture in New Zealand, not just for economic growth and prosperity, but also to retain and attract talented people who appreciate this country as a great place to live, work and play." The next phase in the Government's innovation drive is its plan to merge Industry NZ with Trade NZ to create what it calls a one-stop shop for industry assistance. The merged body will have a budget of $160 million and is due to be launched in the middle of next year.

The union has the support of lobby group Business New Zealand, which believes the new body will be able to have a clearer focus on the development of the country's export capacity. The business community's willingness to contribute about $650,000 in sponsorship (and more through payment in kind) to the Industry NZ pavilion seems to indicate the private sector's enthusiasm for pushing the innovation message. One of the key enthusiasts for the pavilion - and innovation in general - has been Carter Holt Harvey's recently departed chief executive, Chris Liddell. Liddell said Carter Holt's naming rights sponsorship of the pavilion mirrored the company's own view of business. "To be the best in the world, we need to not only be competitive, but to be different. Innovation is at the heart of differentiation." While New Zealand has developed a culture, born out of necessity from our pioneering background, of practical innovation - the recent GEM report ranked us the sixth most entrepreneurial nation in the world - our challenge is to turn that entrepreneurial drive into thriving, enduring business success, says Liddell. He cites the i2b programme (ideas to business) set up at Carter Holt. "The belief behind this is that everyone is capable of having a great idea for a new business. The best ideas are developed into business plans by the idea generators and then once it's gone through a rigorous testing process, we get behind the winners." Liddell says in its first year the programme generated 512 ideas. In its second year that number shot to 1532. Two examples of the company's approach were the spinning-off of its human resources arm, now called Mariner7, and its IT support division, Oxygen Business Solutions. Formed last year, Oxygen's initial business objective was to drive down technology costs for Carter Holt subsidiaries. It has achieved a 7 per cent reduction in costs and increased user satisfaction by 17 per cent. The company has also picked up more than 20 new customers who have outsourced IT services to Oxygen. In September Mariner7 sold its psychometric testing product to Auckland recruitment management software company StaffCV, which has offices in Sydney, Kuala Lumpur and Chicago. While Carter Holt's strategy of aiming to extract value from its assets and intellectual property has not all been smooth sailing - a software-related subsidiary, Straightedge, dropped its plans to float through the New Capital Markets process this year - Liddell believes the country needs to emulate Carter Holt's i2b philosophy. * Over the summer the Herald will profile some of the innovative companies showcased through the Carter Holt Harvey New Zealand Pavilion.

From New Zealand Herald, by Simon Hendery, 11 December 2002

Telecom Reform Pays Off

Australian households were up to $878 better off in the year to June because of telecommunications changes, the industry watchdog says. An Australian Communication Authority's report said overall services had improved in the year, including performance in rural and remote areas, but customer satisfaction had declined. Authority chairman Tony Shaw said: "Telstra's performance in connecting telephone services has improved or remained stable in all the categories covered by the Customer Service Guarantee." The most significant change in Telstra's performance was in remote areas, where the percentage of faults repaired in CSG time frames rose by 11 per cent to pass the 90 per cent mark on an annual basis for the first time. The report included results of a study into the economic benefits from the introduction of full competition in the telecommunications industry five years ago. The study found that Australian households were between $595 and $878 better off in 2001-02 than they would have been without the changes. The authority's senior executive manager, Roslyn Kelleher, said benefits included 100,000 extra jobs nationally, a greater range of products and services such as phone banking, and reduced local and STD charges. She said the drop in customer satisfaction occurred because consumers now had higher expectations.

From The Age, by Susan Murdoch, 11 December 2002

Advani for More Government-Private Sector Cooperation

New Delhi - Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani on Wednesday sought greater private initiative in various fields now confined with the government, saying determined efforts were required to maximise the potential of government-private sector cooperation. Stressing synergisation of efforts by public and private sectors in fields like aviation and tourism, he said India had "infinite prospects and talent" at its disposal and "earnest efforts" by both public and private sectors were required to bring the country to the "forefront of the international community in the 21st century". Inaugurating a conference on the aviation and tourism strategy in a changing business environment here, Advani said the global environment had "considerably changed" in recent times and the private sector was now accepted with a positive frame of mind unlike in the past. Stating that India had tremendous potential in tourism and aviation sectors, he said effective steps to synergise efforts of the private sector and government would have to be made. Also a sense of optimism and confidence needed to be generated in the public mind to "remove the sense of despair, negativism, diffidence, self-flagellation and that we are inherently weak." Civil Aviation Minister Shahnawaz Hussain, in his address, announced that restructuring of four metro airports would be completed by October next year. The Ministry had earlier said the process would be completed by the end of the current fiscal. Hussain said "we are also considering a proposal for attracting private participation in the development of non- metro airports as well".

From Times of India, 11 December 2002

State Of E-governance: Centre Calls Secretaries Meeting

New Delhi: In an effort to accelerate the slow progress of e-governance initiatives in states, the minister of telecommunications and information technology Pramod Mahajan has called a high level meeting of state revenue and IT secretaries to discuss the implementation of various e-governance projects on a self sustainable basis. The conference of state secretaries being organised by the department of information technology (DIT) on Friday in Delhi, will discuss the roll out plan of e-governance projects in areas of land records, transport management, commercial taxes and integrated services. The budgetary support and financing of the e-governance projects will also be one of the crucial issues that will be discussed in the meeting. According to government sources, the state governments will be advised to go for private financing and work on models like build, operate and transfer whenever possible. "It is estimated that around 60 per cent of the funding for these projects can come from private sector or financial institutions. Govern-ment financing should be made available only if it is necessary," said a government source. A highly placed DIT official told eFE that the viability of these e-governance projects has already been established as some of the states had implemented these projects successfully. "The idea behind calling this conference is to demonstrate the successful projects to all states and to initiate the roll out of these projects in other states of the country," he said. Moreover, the conference would also help in coordinating between centre and state agencies to work on the projects together. The sources indicated that the Centre might extend fresh support to the state governments to roll out e-governance projects. "MIT along with National Informatics Centre (NIC) and Centre for Development of Advance Computing (C-DAC) has developed a few systems for e-governance that can be provided to the state governments on easier terms," sources said. Although the primary focus of the conference will be to set up the land record management system first, the state representatives will also work out the plan to initiate computerisation of judiciary, citizen database, civil supplies, municipalities and gram panchayats. Bhoomi-an online delivery system of land records in Karnataka will be one of the projects that will be showcased in the conference. Bhoomi is a self-sustainable e-governance project for the computerised delivery of 20 million rural land records to 6.7 million farmers through 177 government owned kiosks in Karnataka.

From Financial Express, Bangladesh, by Ashu Kumar, 11 December 2002

KT Wins Contract to Build E-government for Jakarta

KT Corp., Korea's biggest fixed-line telecommunication operator, said yesterday that it had won a $65 million contract to build an online data system for the Indonesian government. The deal would be the first time a Korean telecommunication firm has exported e-government technology. "KT has been selected as the main operator of the project that the government of Indonesia and the country's telecom firms are carrying out," a KT official said. "The contract will be signed Tuesday in Seoul." Syamsul Muarif, Indonesia's minister of information and telecommunication and head of the country's telecom firms, will be present at the signing ceremony, KT said. The project as planned will be carried out in three phases. KT, having grabbed the contract for the first phase, is expected to be the favorite for winning the other contracts, worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The project entails laying high-speed Internet networks and building related computer systems, through which the Indonesian government will distribute information and issue documents, KT said. During the first-phase project, which is scheduled to be completed by 2005, KT will establish and integrate telecommunications networks in Jakarta and other major Indonesian cities and develop application software. KT said it plans to develop related computer systems jointly with Korean system-integration service providers and software developers. The Indonesian government has designated e-government a state-sponsored project, putting the National IT Framework in charge of the mission. Considering that Indonesia, which consists of 13,000 islands, has been pushing for decentralization of its government, granting more autonomy to local authorities, other Korean companies will likely participate in setting up e-government systems for regional administrations.

From Joongang Ilbo, Korea, by Kim Jong-yoon, 16 December 2002

UNDP To Prepare Disaster Management Plan

Islamabad, Pakistan - To deal with the adverse impact of earthquakes and droughts in the country, t the United Nations Development Programme would formulate 'Disaster Management Programme' for the government of Pakistan . In consultation with the Emergency Relief Cell of the Cabinet Division, National Crisis Management Cell of the Interior Ministry and others concerned in the field the UNDP developing a National Disaster Management Programme with the objective to undertake a comprehensive review of the existing capacity of the governmental sector and civil society for disaster preparedness and management, and preparation of a full-scale project proposal for technical cooperation. It would also include a detailed plan of action for implementation which would lead to the establishment of a mechanism for a responsive early warning, preparedness, coordination and mitigation capacity in the country . In this regard, a study entitled, 'Report on Emergency Response Services in Pakistan' has already been undertaken on the status of emergency services and their capacity to respond to fires, explosions, traffic accidents, disasters caused by hazardous materials and other man-made disasters. Findings and recommendations of this study would also be included in the Disaster Management Programme being developed . United Nations Development Programme and the government of Pakistan have signed this project, which provides an umbrella for all stakeholders in disaster management, risk reduction as well as emergency response services . The project - 'National Disaster Management Programme' - is the first of its kind being undertaken for which the Bureau of Crisis Prevention and Recovery at UNDP Headquarters has allocated seed funds amounting to $55,000 .

The intervention is vital for Pakistan, which is located in a region prone to a wide range of natural disasters from drought to floods and from earthquakes to cyclones. Pakistan has been suffering from a major drought for the last four years extending to varying degrees all over the country . With the exception of drought years, Pakistan has also suffered almost every year from floods resulting from the monsoon rains. Pakistan regularly experiences earthquakes ranging from moderate to severe intensity. The coastal areas of the country are also prone to cyclones. A UNDP official said, "There is no comprehensive and integrated disaster management policy at the national level and the country also lacks a system for disaster prevention, preparedness and mitigation, which could reduce the loss of life and property in case of natural disasters." Disaster management is often seen as the provision of relief rather than the management of all phases of a disaster situation or the long-term management of risk . He observed that the situation calls for a comprehensive preparedness and mitigation strategy as well as a mitigation policy and a disaster management structure in order to better manage and coordinate activities of the various line ministries and departments and civil society. "There is also a need for research on traditional and current coping mechanisms and on sustainable community approaches to disaster management," said the UNDP expert.

From Pakistan News Service, by Naveed Ahmad, 23 December 2002

Unfinished Election Reform

The 16th presidential polls are over, but the final outcome is hours away as this edition goes to the press. So it seems appropriate to seize the moment to look back upon the changes in election trends and remaining tasks for further improvement. The National Election Commission officials acknowledge the latest campaigns were the calmest and cleanest in recent years. But an NEC tally shows the number of illegal practices tripled that of 1997, indicating the nation still has a long way to go in election reform. Gone from the latest campaigns were partisan accusations about flagrant vote buying and governmental influence peddling. In their place were numerous slanders and personal attacks in cyberspace. This appeared somewhat natural as the traditional mass stumping rallies gave way to media-based campaigns, such as televised debates as well as TV and newspaper advertisements. Outdoor gatherings were called "locust rallies," as they hopped here and there drawing small crowds. One good thing about these shifts in campaign practices was sharply reduced election expenditures. The Grand National Party and Millennium Democratic Party reported they spent 25.3bn won and 31.2bn won, respectively, on campaigns. If past experiences are any guide, actual amounts will be several times as much. But even the unreported expenses are peanuts compared with the trillions of won lavished in past elections. The phrase "astronomical sum" disappeared from election stories for the first time. A peek inside how Korean political parties raise and spend funds shows their backward financial operations. As local laws do not require parties to reveal who contributes or how much, they only have to disclose the total sum of contributions. The disbursement of raised funds is simply outrageous - booking gifts of money at weddings as an expense for "policy development," for example.

Deplorable is the lack of decent bookkeeping while handling huge cash flows, including taxpayers' money in the form of state subsidies. So it was only natural the election watchdog came up with a plan for public management of campaigns earlier this year. The government, while shouldering almost all public expenses for voting and campaigning, seeks to obligate parties to sharply enhance the transparency of financial operations. Specifically, the new system calls for: revealing the identities of contributors giving 1 million won or more; unifying the parties' bank accounts into one during the campaign season; and using credit cards for financial settlements. The proposal for the so-called "complete public election management system" is not without some problems, though. For instance, it would sharply increase the mandatory deposits for presidential candidates to 2bn won from 500m won, in a bid to check random candidacy. Unfortunately the move could block the entry of promising but financially challenged political hopefuls. The NEC's draft revision also limits the benefits of state-financed TV ads and speeches to parties recognised in parliament as "negotiating bodies", leaving little room for smaller or new political groupings. But the two major parties refused to accept even the seemingly favourable proposal placed before them in the National Assembly. In bipartisan unity, which is extremely rare in strife-ridden domestic politics, they strangled the reform bill even before it could be put to a vote. In short, the political establishment welcomed the swelled subsidies but rejected any new restriction deemed unfavourable for them in this year's elections.

The opposition GNP was particularly negative toward low-cost, media-driven elections, citing the need for direct voter contact. Come to think of it, however, politicians are largely the same everywhere. A case in point was the US legislation of the McCain-Feingold bill aiming to regulate "soft money" campaign contributions. Money-driven politics and illegal fund-raising have been at the root of all social and political evils, including corruption, but cash-hungry politicians cannot scratch their own proverbial backs. And here arises the need for concerted endeavors by civic activists, news media and other pressure groups, analogous to America's Common Cause. Better still, the new president might as well come up with an initiative for overall political reforms, including electioneering. He is advised to launch a blue-ribbon committee comprising figures from various walks of life for this purpose. The proposed panel could touch such other essential issues as more democratic and less bureaucratic operation of political parties. This is especially imperative, considering the public's contempt for political circles has long been a bottleneck in national development. Elected officials are supposed to serve the constituents instead of reigning over them, and increase the people's welfare instead of enriching the politicians themselves. This simple theory can be put into practice only when the flow of political money becomes transparent. Also, elections are meant to find better ways of state administration and to reach popular consensus, rather than set off rude clashes and defections between rival forces. Political reforms are urgent to make elections genuine celebrations of democracy.

From The Korea Herald/ANN, 23 December 2002

 

E-government Strategy Comes Under Fire

Local authorities critical of 'patronising' strategy paper - The government's national strategy for e-government, launched last week, has received a mixed response from local authorities. The document outlines the issues local authorities should consider when formulating their e-service strategy. It includes a checklist of questions they should ask their organisation, and details of the national framework that has been created to support them. Speaking at the launch, local government minister Christopher Leslie said e-government was central to plans to modernise public services. "People expect a great deal from their council and those expectations are rising. To meet them, councils have to seek and consider more effective ways to deliver customer-focused services and lead their communities. Public services need to be more accessible, more convenient, more responsive and more cost-effective," Leslie said. But one local authority head of IT, who wished to remain anonymous, said colleagues in the sector have criticised the strategy paper as patronising. Although £675m of funding to support development of e-services and to fund pathfinder schemes around the country was announced in July, the strategy document offers too little detail on how funding will be apportioned.

He said the document is too focused on policy and displays little enthusiasm for IT, despite recognition at the highest level that technology will be key to underpinning the new e-services on offer. Last month Prime Minister Tony Blair acknowledged the UK's poor record on delivering e-government, telling a summit in London that "too many services live in the technological dark ages". Trade body Intellect welcomed the strategy paper, but described the 2005 deadline as a red herring. Nick Kalisperas, e-government programme manager, told vnunet.com that the focus needed to be on creating online services that people wanted to use. "The devil will be in the implementation and making sure enough is done to encourage partnerships," he said. Kalisperas admitted that public sector IT directors were under pressure to hit the 2005 deadline. "It's easy to get hung up on 2005 but while it's a way to focus minds it should not be seen as the be all and end all of e-government." The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which is responsible for coordinating local government strategy, has also launched a new website to help local government transform the services they provide. Designed and supported by IT services company Capita, www.localegov.gov.uk offers guidance on best practice, discussion forums and practical tools.

From VNUNet, UK, by Rachel Fielding, 4 December 2002

Global e-government

Most Irish public sector professionals say a lack of strategic direction is a barrier to e-government - Harrow residents can text complaints to London authorities - A soon-to-be-published survey of Internet professionals in the public sector in Ireland highlighted some of the practical problems of implementing e-government policies. According to the study, by Web content specialists iQ Content, 75 percent of those surveyed said the main barrier to introducing e-government strategy was a "lack of strategic direction." Seventy-seven percent cited content authoring as the most significant problem associated with managing their Web sites, while 33 percent said they lacked a clear understanding of what e-government meant for their organisation. A recent IDC survey of public sector organisations in Western Europe claims that budgetary constraints are not expected to cause major IT spending decreases beyond the short term. The study suggests that local governments are more optimistic than central agencies and that educational institutions also have a positive outlook on their IT budgets, especially in France, the UK, and the Netherlands. Most of the organisations surveyed said they were interested in investing in security technologies, systems infrastructure software, collaborative technologies and knowledge management applications and database/datawarehouse solutions. Many public sector agencies already have or plan to implement mobile solutions, and, in the area of new technologies, many agencies plan to invest in voice over IP and IP VPNs (Virtual Private Networks). KableNET.com reports that half of all schools in Wales will have a broadband connection by March 2003, according to the Welsh Assembly e-minister.

Under the Broadband Wales programme, the Assembly is hoping to provide a 2Mb connection for every primary school and an 8Mb connection for every secondary school. Andrew Davies, economic development minister and e-minister, has announced that he has signed an agreement with 22 local authorities to join the UK's Lifelong Learning Network, a programme that is expected to accelerate the uptake of broadband in Welsh schools. Davies also provided an update on the STG20 million Dawn 2 programme for providing broadband to every GP, hospital and health service trust in Wales. He said that around two-thirds are already on the network but considerable work is needed to ensure that the remainder are connected. Residents of the London Borough of Harrow can now report problems via text message, according to Government Computing News. The service is being tested in South Harrow in a six-month pilot under the auspices of the New Harrow Project, a programme aimed at making council services more efficient. Residents and businesses in South Harrow are able to use their mobile phones to instantly inform the council of such problems as failed street lights, abandoned cars and potholes. The text messages are routed into Harrow's internal office systems, processed and passed on to the relevant department. The US Department of State has reportedly granted visas to 105 foreign nationals whose names appear on terrorism watch lists due to a backlog in a name-checking system used by federal agencies. The Visas Condor system was developed in November 2001 to process visa applications and to automatically check them against terrorist suspects named in FBI and CIA databases.

A study by the US general accounting Office found that by April 2002, the FBI had a backlog of approximately 8,000 unchecked names from the State Department. Of the 38,000 applications subsequently processed by the Condor system through 01 August, around 280 names matched those on anti-terrorism lists. However, visas were issued to about 105 of those individuals because the backlog in the name-checking system allowed misspelled or duplicate names to slip through. Two-thirds of Internet users in Canada say they would vote on-line in federal, provincial and municipal elections if they could, according to a study by marketing and social research organisation NFO CFgroup. Fifteen percent of those who expressed an interest in on-line voting did not vote in the last federal election. Almost 90 percent of respondents who were in favour of on-line voting said it would be more convenient than voting in a polling station, while 75 percent thought on-line voting would be more cost-efficient. The main reasons cited that would discourage Internet users from voting on-line were concerns about privacy and about the security of the voting process. The Inter-American Development Bank says it is to issue a USD17 million loan to Jamaica for the improvement of its Internet access and e-government services, according to a report in the on-line edition of the Jamaica Observer. Part of the loan will be used to provide 60 low-income communities throughout the country with access to the Internet. The money will also go toward upgrading e-government services so that businesses and citizens will be able to pay their taxes on-line and to obtain export and import permits through government Web sites.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 4 December 2002

Successful Pricing Management

At the recent 2002 GfK Annual Conference, Professor Dr. Hermann Diller, marketing expert and holder of the Chair of Economics at the Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, spoke on intelligent pricing management. According to Professor Diller, 'Instead of just thinking about price-conscious consumers, attention should be paid to consumers who are prepared to pay extra for something special'. That is exactly what companies are doing, which operate a successful pricing strategy. Price champions succeed in keeping the prices of their branded products high, or even in increasing them, without losing market share. In Prof. Diller's opinion, pricing is one of the most important tools of marketing strategy, even if it is not often effectively used. It includes simple price setting, and also variations in prices and products, packaging strategy and bonus programs. According to Prof. Diller, a successful pricing policy requires pricing intelligence; that means a database to facilitate decision-taking, which comprises knowledge of customer price awareness and also of competitors' pricing. According to the results of a survey carried out in association with the GfK Group in March and April this year, Prof. Diller demonstrated that among consumers there are different types and strengths of price awareness, There were for instance big differences among consumers in how high prices could go, even within the same product groups. Additionally there were differences in price thresholds - that is the price points at which there were significant changes in the way prices were regarded. In Prof. Diller's opinion, these variations offer huge scope for intelligent pricing concepts. Prof. Diller also sees many opportunities for intelligent pricing management, as a large proportion of consumers are willing to pay extra if that allows access to contemporary brands and services with appropriate quality guarantees, innovative products, together with upmarket and other useful features.

Additionally traditional concepts such as 'special offers' and other special price-based promotions are important. This is because, Prof. Diller thinks, there are many consumers who like such offers and utilise opportunities to make unplanned purchases. Bonus programs, which have recently been becoming steadily more common, may in Prof. Diller's opinion in future form innovative and promising tools for generating customer loyalty. Many customers like them. Also a large proportion of customers, although admittedly only in certain product groups, like the opportunity to haggle on prices in the shops. In Prof. Diller's view, successful pricing management can take a large variety of forms. For instance, it is possible to be present in all price groups and price segments, in order to exploit fully the price sensitivity of a large variety of consumer groups. A further option would be to attract new customers by a strategy of continuous product innovation. Packaging, for instance multi-packs or increasing pack quantities, also provides an opportunity to increase prices, and even to aim for increased sales. Many regional operators, according to Prof. Diller's comments have also found success by expanding into higher-priced markets. Manufacturers of brands based in the territory of what used to be East Germany have for example taken this route. Other price champions have achieved their present position by giving priority to existing customers and to customer loyalty, with the objective of reducing price awareness. Others have been particularly successful as a result of working closely with the retail trade and have sometimes succeeded in increasing market share despite increasing prices.

From Daily Research News Online, UK, 04 December 2002

E-Europe Action Plan Drives Improvement and Savings in Public Services

Driven by the EU's eEurope Action Plan and national modernisation programmes, public sector organisations are engaged in a transformation process that is expected to foster better services for citizens while reducing spending in public services. 'Agencies must improve quality, accessibility, and the responsiveness of service delivery and grow efficiency and effectiveness of internal processes,' said Massimiliano Claps, Research Analyst with IDC's European Vertical Markets group. In terms of IT budget expenditure, results of a recent IDC survey suggest that local governments are more optimistic than central agencies, especially in the UK, where local councils are currently investing significant funds to develop electronic front and back end solutions. Education institutions also have a positive outlook on their IT budgets, especially in France, the UK, and the Netherlands. Security technologies, systems infrastructure software, collaborative technologies and knowledge management applications and database/datawarehouse solutions attract the attention of most organisations for future investments. Industry specific solutions are also very important, particularly to local government agencies. The adoption of security technology is very high in the public sector across all surveyed countries, due to the increasing reliance on network solutions and virtual systems to interact with constituents, patients and students and the sensitivity of their records. Many public sector agencies already have or plan to have mobile solutions, wireless networks and rich media video streaming for education institutions.

From Cordis News, EU, 4 December 2002

IDC Predicts E-government Spending Boom

Good opportunities for local service providers, says analyst - E-government projects will boom over the next 12 months, with services companies and outsourcers likely to benefit, according to research from analyst IDC. Progress on e-government has been patchy, with the UK lagging behind other European countries in terms of sophistication of services and readiness. But IDC predicts that e-government spending in the UK will grow by 23 per cent over the next 12 months to €518m (£331m). James Weir, senior research analyst at IDC, told vnunet.com that e-government opportunities are bucking the trend in a flat IT services market. "This is one area where IT service providers are seeing real growth on the consulting and systems integration side," he said. "In the last year the focus was on communicating with citizens and the front-end to services. This year it's much more of an outsourcing play." And while the big consultancies such as EDS and IBM Global services stand to grab the lion's share of central government contracts on offer, IDC believes that local government projects will offer a good opportunity for smaller IT services companies. "Cost and a good track record is important, as is proving that you can provide these solutions in a standardised way," said Weir. Meanwhile, the government has published a national strategy for local e-government to support local authorities in getting services online by 2005. This follows concerns that a common framework, and support from central government, is key to offering services that make a real difference to citizens. "Central government in the UK is quite sophisticated in its use of outsourcing and procuring IT services, but local government isn't," explained Weir. "Offerings have been very patchy. Some boroughs were doing exciting things such as full transactional services, but others have been dragged kicking and screaming into offering online services."

From VNUNet, UK, by Rachel Fielding, 27 November 2002

MSN Partners with UK Government

The UK Government has entered into a unique partnership with Microsoft to promote online public services and information through the company's MSN internet portal - the country's most popular website. The landmark initiative sees the addition of a new Public Services channel on MSN, providing its users, currently standing at over 11m per month, with quick access to a selection of content from UK government websites. The new service is the result of a collaboration between Microsoft and several government departments, including the Department of Health and Office of the e-Envoy. It follows a pilot project which, since July this year, has seen information from the UK Online citizens portal delivered via MSN's instant messaging software. The arrangement marks the first significant implementation of the Government's new strategy, outlined in its recent UK Online Annual Report, to promote the use of third-party "intermediaries" as delivery channels for e-government. The MSN channel should also help to build up the traffic and awareness of e-government services, an area which has now become a priority in the light of independent reports which have placed the UK near the bottom of the international league table for citizen take-up of online services. This was reaffirmed by Microsoft's Public Sector Industry Manager Jenny Duff, who commented that the company's intention was "to ensure that as many people as possible find and use health and government services through the internet." According to Microsoft, no financial arrangement has been made with the Government in providing the new channel, although a "two-way agreement" and "defined boundaries" exist over the choice of content that appears on the site, with MSN retaining editorial control. MSN will not, for instance, be publishing government news in the style of the UK Online portal - conscious, perhaps, that this could be seized upon by its critics. Nigel Tilley, who is heading the project at Microsoft, said a range of more localised and transactional e-government services would be made available via the MSN channel in the future. One of the issues Microsoft is studying is possible integration with the Government Gateway, the UK's flagship e-government project which it developed with the Office of the e-Envoy, with MSN serving as a channel through which services such as online tax self-assessment could be accessed. The realisation of these plans may be just 12 months away, Mr. Tilley said.

From Europemedia.net, Netherlands, 10 December 2002

Government Plots to Save Pots on Consultants

Public sector gets tips on value for money from management consultants - The UK government has revamped its best practice guidelines aimed at helping the public sector to get better value for money from management consultancies. The guidelines have been drawn up in conjunction with the National Audit Office, the Management Consultancies Association and the Institute of Management Consultancy. The intention is to set out a number of proven 'must do' principles for public sector buyers and private sector suppliers. The guidelines cover the entire procurement cycle, from initial negotiations through to project completion, and update previous best practice guidelines published in 1999. They will continue to be monitored and updated. A spokesman for the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), the government's commercial specialists within public sector purchasing, said: "The guidelines needed changing as there tended to be a perception that the public sector could be dealt with as any other company in the private sector. "But there are major differences. The public sector is much more about service delivery than profit making. "The public sector also tended to think that management consultancies could wave a magic wand and come up with answers, but what they can do depends on the information they are given. "The guidelines have been put together to show what both sides require." They identify two main principles for project success: the need to allocate responsibilities appropriately between departments; and a requirement for suppliers to work towards common goals with their public sector clients. Advice to public sector firms includes: "Do not be defensive, the consultants are there to assist your organisation," and "Do not be afraid to provide too much information." Mark Woods, OGC's director of collaborative opportunities, who worked on the development of the statement, said: "In my experience, one of the key reasons why contracts of any sort fail is because both parties fail to understand how the other side works. "This document is a major step forward in helping to eliminate those kinds of misunderstandings." The guidelines also complement the current re-competition of OGC's 'catalogue' of approved consultancy service suppliers to the public sector. This seeks to deliver overall value-for-money savings of around 10 per cent on public sector spending on all aspects of consultancy.

From VNUNet, UK, by Jo Ticehurst, 11 December 2002

Public 'Tuned Off by E-government'

Some government websites are out of date - Websites that give details on services such as transport, housing and education need to be more accessible and convenient to members of the public, says an influential group of MPs. They found that information on some government sites - including the Downing Street website - was out of date or inaccurate. They also called for better published information on the take-up of electronic services by the public. The critical assessment of the government's progress in making services available on the web was made by the House of Commons public accounts committee. The MPs said that people needed to be able to obtain information from a single source, and websites needed to be designed around specific services. 'Disappointed' The office of the e-Envoy - the man in charge of getting government services on the net - had made "limited progress" in reporting departments' progress in putting services online. The committee's Tory chairman Edward Leigh said: "I am very disappointed at the pedestrian progress in implementing the committee's previous recommendations. "In particular we need to much better published information on take-up by the public. "Where take-up figures are available they often tell a depressing tale of low usage. "This suggests the government sites are failing tests of accessibility and convenience." The government allocated £1bn to try to get all public services - which can be transacted electronically - available online for citizens and businesses by 2005.

Tax returns More than 800 central and local public sector bodies with over 3,000 websites provide information about their roles and responsibilities. "By accessing the UKonline government site, the public can now link to the most relevant central body's website for their enquiry," the committee said. "However, people are most interested in services, such as how to obtain support or care for an elderly relative, which is often the shared responsibility of a number of organisations. The committee concluded: "More websites need to be designed around specific services that cut across organisational boundaries so people can access all the information they need on services such as transport, housing and education from a single source." The MPs found that the public were "reluctant" to use some services like being able to submit tax returns to the Customs and Excise site - only 2,500 out of 1.65m VAT registered traders had signed up to do so. "People are only likely to use online services if they are easier and more cost effective to use, more accessible and more convenient," said the committee. "Simply converting conventional processes to internet-based applications will not realise the significant improvements in efficiency which IT can make possible." The MPs found that the Downing Street website did not have a complete up to date list of ministers. "On 12 June, the UK online site had as the latest 'hot topic' information on the Budget, nearly two months after the event," they said.

From BBC, 13 December 2002

E-government Progress Stalling

Fewer than half of local authorities in the UK expect to hit the 2005 deadline for online public services, and 15 per cent have said they will not even try. According to the IT trends in local government report from public sector IT body the Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm), almost a third of local government services are now available online, compared with 25 per cent in 2001. But information overload, funding issues and resistance to change are continuing to hold back progress. However, progress reports by local authorities submitted to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) - as a prerequisite for receiving second-round £200,000 funding - have suggested a far more encouraging state of readiness. A spokeswoman from the ODPM told vnunet.com: "The majority of local authorities have indicated confidence in hitting the 2005 deadline. Where they are experiencing difficulties, further support and assistance is being provided." But Brian Westcott, editor of the Socitm report, urged the government to set targets relating to take-up of services, and said the focus needed to be on delivering and marketing innovative services that deliver real benefit to consumers. "The government was right to set the deadline because it got everyone going, but why try to do everything for the sake of 2005?" he said. "In Chester where I live you can pay your council tax on the website but only two of the 100,000 inhabitants have done it." In a statement the ODPM said: "The report is limited in scope as it is based on the views of IT managers rather than of those responsible for implementing the e-government strategy. "Ultimately, we are encouraging e-government to improve the quality of service and competitiveness of GB plc. "The ODPM does not have specific targets for service take-up, but it is in line with the ODPM's own Public Service Agreement targets, and we will be having a greater push on take-up in the coming years." The statement also criticised the report's findings - based on questionnaires completed during July - for being dated and for failing to reflect the growing confidence of local authorities in their ability to achieve the target. "It is based on a survey carried out some time ago, before either the national strategy for e-government, or the national projects, were announced. "It is in local authorities' best interest to achieve the 2005 target, since it will bring them the benefits of modernising government as quickly as possible," the statement said. The Socitm report also warns that a lack of clarity surrounding funding would stall projects. Councils estimate that delivering e-services will cost over £2bn in total, but do not know how almost half of this will be funded.

From VNUNet, UK, by Rachel Fielding, 16 December 2002

Government Target in Doubt

The government's digital deadline is under threat, according to Office of the eEnvoy director of security Dr Steve Marsh, who believes a "miracle" is needed in order to have all government services online by the end of 2005. The deadline, which was originally set at March 2005 but since moved to the end of that calendar year, relates to the Prime Minister's directive to enable full online access to vital services. But while around 70% of government services are online, mostly these sites just provide information, as issues relating to security are still very much at large. Marsh believes the government should make important services a priority, in the event that all government services will not be available via the internet by that time. Marsh also indicated that UK consumers have a big problem with trust, when it comes to the government, suggesting that they "trust the government less than anyone other than a foreign country". Last month, a Taylor Nelson Sofres report identified the UK as one of the worst countries for the take up of e-govermemt services. Just 13% of adults accessed online services in the twelve months to September, compared with 57% in Sweden.

From NetImperative, UK, by Chris Lake, 16 December 2002

Malta Has Much to Teach UK About E-government, British High Commissioner Says

"Malta has much to teach us about e-government," said the British High Commissioner Vincent Fean while announcing an initiative in local government co-operation between Malta and the United Kingdom. This initiative stems from a discussion between the Justice and Local Government Minister Austin Gatt and the British Minister for Local Government Rick Raynsford about strengthening bilateral co-operation in the Council of Europe and in the European Union context. He said that in July 2000 the UK and the Maltese Government agreed the UK/Malta Europe Action Plan to meet requests from the Maltese Government to share experiences from the UK's membership of the EU. The UK Government is aware that the final decision on EU membership rests with the people of Malta and with them alone. The UK will naturally respect their decision, said Mr. Fean. This initiative, he continued, is intended to ensure that Malta's local council executive secretaries have a clear picture of how British county councils work in an EU context. The British High Commissioner said that the UK Government is working closely with the Maltese Government through the Action Plan on the implementation of the EU acquis in other key areas, such as justice and home affairs, rural development and environmental protection.

From di-ve.com, Malta, 18 December 2002

Government Websites are 'Online Domes'

The research sampled 600 internet users. Government websites will become "online Millennium Domes with just as few visitors" if urgent action is not taken, researchers have warned. Fewer than one in 20 internet users regularly use government websites to access public services, a survey has found. Less than a third of the population has even visited one of the 3000 government websites, although nearly two thirds of us now have internet access. The research by public sector IT consultants Hedra comes weeks after an influential group of MPs said government sites needed to be more accessible and convenient to members of the public. The government allocated £1bn to try to get all public services - which can be transacted electronically - available online for citizens and businesses by 2005. More than 800 central and local public sector bodies with over 3,000 websites provide information about their roles and responsibilities. 'Online Millennium Domes' - But without urgent action, the money - including a further £5bn earmarked for e-enablement - could go to waste, according to Hedra, whose survey sampled 600 internet users. "In particular, the government's current approach has not yet reached key socially excluded groups, who are among the greatest users of government services such as social security benefits and pensions," the report said. Not a single respondent over 65 or from social groups DE told researchers they regularly used the internet to access government services.

Hedra warned that government websites could turn out to be a series of "online Millennium Domes with just as few visitors" unless they were better designed and financial incentives introduced immediately to increase traffic substantially. Chairman Stuart James said: "The government needs to look carefully at ways of driving more traffic to its sites, such as discounts on taxes, like those already available to those who pay council tax by direct debit." 'Out of date' - Earlier this month the House of Commons public accounts committee found that information on some government sites - including the Downing Street website - was out of date or inaccurate. The office of the e-envoy - the man in charge of getting government services on the net - had made "limited progress" in reporting departments' progress in putting services online, the committee said. The MPs found that the public were "reluctant" to use some services like being able to submit tax returns to the Customs and Excise site - only 2,500 out of 1.65m VAT registered traders had signed up to do so. The MPs found the Downing Street website did not have a complete up to date list of ministers. "On 12 June, the UK online site had as the latest 'hot topic' information on the Budget, nearly two months after the event," they said.

From BBC, 27 December 2002

Government Well Wide of SME Online Target

The UK government has been forced to backtrack on its internet policy after it fell short of its target to get small firms online. Announced in 1998 by the then small business minister, Patricia Hewitt, the target was for 1 million SMEs to adopt the internet as a business tool by the beginning of 2003. But new figures have revealed that only 490,000 SMEs are buying, selling and marketing products and services online, according to a report in today's Times newspaper. The government announced the target at the height of the dot-com boom as part of its strategy to make the UK the "best place in the world for e-commerce". But the new figures show that the number of small firms using the web as a business tool actually dropped by 50,000 in 2001. The Times said the revelations had caused the government to change tack on its online targets, now focusing on the 'quality' of internet use rather than the number of businesses online. Elizabeth Grant, head of UK online for Business, the government-backed organisation charged with promoting the web to small firms, told the Times: "Numbers are not important. "It is a question of what the businesses are doing differently. We thought [trading] was the be-all and end-all and the ultimate utopia. It is an indicator but it is not the only game in town." UK online for business is looking at new targets using different gauges of success, but small business groups said they were reluctant to back this type of goal setting. The Times quoted an FSB spokesperson as saying: "The technology was massively over-hyped. Business felt pressure on them to get on to the internet but they weren't told why they needed it."

From Business Europe, UK, 23 December 2002

 

E-government Portal System Under Review

The content advisory board of Dubai e-Government reviewed the progress of its portal's new content management system and discussed ways of standardising content to make it more customer-centric and user-friendly. The meeting chaired by Ayesha bin Beshr, DTCM web site developer, focused on devising ways to publish integrated content on the portal in a cost-effective manner. It was attended by representatives of 24 departments. "The standardisation of content for easy integration with the www.dubai.ae portal is a significant aspect of Dubai e-Government's task. "The proce-ss has been accelerated with the adoption of a more advanced content management system (CMS) as part of the overall revamp of the portal," said Anas Haddad, content manager, Dubai e-Government. Haddad said the portal now offers 110 e-Services, which have been classified according to the nature of users, whether business, individual or people with special needs. To ensure easy access and retrieval, the services have been categorised under various channels including business, educational, employment, health, residents, legal, security and tourism. E-services have also been packaged into clusters for easy access to related services. Haddad said the board discussed portal's key elements, which facilitate decentralised content management, allowing each department the freedom to manage its own content, while remaining an integral part of the portal. The advisory board meeting is held at a time when some departments have already revamped their offerings in accordance with uniform e-Government portal standards, while others are gearing up to go live with the first compliant services.

From Gulf News, United Arab Emirates, 18 December 2002

 

Business Engine Announces Webcast On IT Governance Best Practices

San Francisco - Educational Panel For Maximizing Return On Investments - Business Engine, the leading provider of enterprise services automation software applications, today announced a live Webcast panel discussion on 'IT Governance Best Practices: Maximizing Return on IT Investments'. The Webcast, presented in collaboration with Business Finance Magazine, a leading resource for over 50,000 senior finance executives, will take place on December 4, 2002 at 8:00 am PST. Registration is free for senior finance and technology executives at: www.bfmag.com/webcasts/index39.cfm?referrer=MPR. In today's market of continuous budget cuts and corporate accountability, IT organizations are faced with increasing pressure to deliver higher priority initiatives with fewer resources. Attendees will learn how financial executives are increasing their visibility and control across their portfolio of IT investments to maximize return. There are four panelists: - Marvin Balliet, CFO of Global Technology & Services at Merrill Lynch, will provide a detailed look at Merrill Lynch's IT governance challenges, solution, and results - Jeremy Grigg, a Research Director at Gartner specializing in the business management of IT and a former CFO, will share industry best practices for IT governance - John O'Neil, CEO and chairman of Business Engine, will speak to proven best practice solutions, and - David Blansfield, publisher of Business Finance Magazine, who will moderate the session. Research as reported in The Chaos Chronicles from The Standish Group in 2001 shows 31.1% of projects will be cancelled before they ever get completed.

Further results show a staggering 52.7% of projects will cost 189% of their original estimates. "The need to justify corporate IT spend, and provide Line-of-Business sponsors with up-to-date information on progress against schedule, spend and quality has never been greater," says John O'Neil, CEO of Business Engine. "Business Engine has the best practice experience and tools enabling CIOs and CFOs to gain top-down control and align strategy with execution, identify ways to free investment capital from the bottom 20% of projects, while at the same time providing transparency to business decision makers, and the means to control project costs and delays." About Business Finance Magazine - Business Finance is a monthly magazine written for senior executives, chief financial officers, treasurers, finance directors, and department managers. Founded in 1995 as Controller Magazine and renamed Business Finance in September 1998, the editorial content focuses primarily on corporate finance, with attention also given to management issues and technology topics. Business Finance provides practical insights, strategies, and financial forecasting tips that are applicable in industries as diverse as software services, manufacturing, mining, agriculture, education, real estate, and retail. For more information visit www.businessfinancemag.com.

About Business Engine - Founded in 1987, Business Engine solves portfolio project, resource and financial management issues for large global IT, engineering and R&D organizations. 430 blue chip customers use Business Engine products, including market leaders from the aerospace and defense, financial services, and pharmaceuticals industries such as Boeing, Deutsche Bank, Elan, Ericsson, Fidelity, Honeywell, Merrill Lynch, Pharmacia and Siemens. New customers won in 2002 include Capital One, GE Card Services, Lloyds Bank, Tesco and Raytheon. The company's flagship product, The Business Engine Network™, (The BEN™) is a collaborative software solution that provides managers the visibility and control they need to continually balance their portfolio of projects and assets - people, time and money - against value, risk and capacity. Business Engine is headquartered in San Francisco, California, and has offices throughout the United States, Belgium, England and India. Privately held, key investors in Business Engine include Broadview Capital Partners, Deutsche Bank Capital Partners, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, NSE Ventures, Oak Investment Partners and Technology Crossover Ventures. For more information, please visit www.businessengine.com.

From Internet Wire, 02 December 2002

Mexican Officials Promoting Prison Factories to U.S. Companies Looking to Cut Costs

Prison officials in northern Mexico say their inmates are manufacturing furniture bound for Texas - despite U.S. laws that ban the importation of goods made with prison labor. And they'd like to contract with more American companies to produce all kinds of goods. One official said prison shops would even label their products to hide their origin. Prison officials in Mexico's northern states are pointing to inmate workshops as a way to stem the loss of business as foreign-owned assembly plants abandon the border zone in search of cheaper labor in Asia. Convicts already do work for Mexican companies. But prison labor is strongly criticized around the globe on the grounds it undercuts unions, steals jobs from law-abiding workers and poses risks of human rights abuses. Many countries, like the United States, bar imports of products made by prisoners. The prison director for Tamaulipas state, Manuel del Riego, said Clint Hough of Austin, Texas, is the first foreign businessman to accept the state's offer of its inmates' services. Del Riego said Hough has been buying furniture made by prisoners for more than a year. Inmates at the Ciudad Victoria prison said Hough ordered chairs for a Texas restaurant chain as well as dining room furniture. Hough, interviewed at the prison, would not confirm that he takes the furniture across the border. ''That I would really rather not discuss because I'm afraid U.S. Customs would ruin it,'' he said.

Wiping sweat from his brow with a towel, Hough later denied ordering furniture from the prison at all, and said he merely teaches prisoners design and finishing techniques. ''You don't want to cause problems for people because the U.S. Customs can be narrow-minded in its views,'' said Hough, 49. ''So it's really important that this not be reported.'' Del Riego said 150 foreign companies, including many in the United States, had expressed interest in setting up production lines at the 11 prisons in Tamaulipas. ''Companies will save tons of money,'' he said. On average, Mexican inmates earn the minimum wage of 45 pesos a day ($4.50), half what free workers along the border make. Companies hiring prison labor also save on health insurance, retirement and other benefits. Inmates in neighboring Nuevo Leon state now work solely for Mexican companies making such things as T-shirts and charcoal, ''but we're open to foreign companies and would be happy to have one,'' said Ediberto Gutierrez, a prison administrator. Baja California officials say they are in talks with the Tijuana trade association that represents foreign-owned assembly-for-export plants, known as maquiladoras or maquilas for short. The border states have plunged into recession with the exodus of maquilas, which had fueled an economic boom in the region since the government in the 1960s allowed mostly U.S.-owned companies to take advantage of Mexico's cheap labor. ''I guess people are going to have to commit a crime to get a job, because there are hardly any jobs left in Mexico,'' said Raul Lescas, a researcher at Mexico's Labor University in Mexico City. Rolando Gonzalez, president of Mexico's maquila association, said his group turned down the offer of prison workers because the group's businesses must follow ''fair trade practices.'' Del Riego, however, said there's no need for companies to worry. ''Our products don't say they are made in prison.

They put a fancy tag on them and say they are made in a faraway country,'' he said. While Mexico permits prisons to produce for companies, U.S. law bars the importation of convict-made goods ''no matter what the circumstances,'' said Paula Keicer of the U.S. Customs Service in Washington. Keicer said officials were not aware of prison-made furniture being imported across the Texas border. She said records of imports are confidential and could not discuss whether Hough was bringing furniture into Texas. Inmates at the Ciudad Victoria prison said Hough hired them to make 60 straight-back, hardwood chairs for a Corpus Christi, Texas, barbecue chain and three dining room sets. Covered in sawdust, Serafin Hernandez Jr., a convicted drug smuggler who oversees the operation, said Hough promised up to $1,000 for that order, to be split among the 10 prisoners who built the furniture. ''He calls me each week and asks how things are going or tells me, 'I need two more chairs, a bedroom set,' and we get everything ready for when his trailer comes,'' said Hernandez, 32. About a dozen prisoners wielded buzz saws, hammers and power drills in a yard surrounded by towering rock walls topped with razor wire. Heavily armed guards watched from a tower as the burly men transformed mesquite and pine into rocking chairs, dining room tables and benches. Ovidio Silva, 38, who was convicted of killing a man while running drugs, said he earns $20 a week, most of which he sends to his family. ''This really changed me,'' said Silva, whose biceps are covered with tattoos of bikini-clad women. ''People tell me I even walk differently now - like an educated man.'' Silva said he wants to open a furniture business when he finishes his 11-year sentence this month. ''I'm never coming back here again,'' he said. ''Actually, I will be back - but this time it'll be to shop.''

From MSNBC, 4 December 2002

Kissinger To Head 9-11 Commission

President Bush Wednesday named former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to head a new independent investigation of intelligence failures before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The announcement came as the president signed the bill authorizing the commission, which the White House resisted until just two months ago. "Dr. Kissinger will bring broad experience, clear thinking and careful judgment to this important task," Mr. Bush said at a signing ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. "Mr. secretary, thank you for returning to the service of your nation." Kissinger, 79, served as national security adviser under Presidents Nixon and Ford and secretary of state under Mr. Ford. He won the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States has a broad mandate, building on the limited joint inquiry conducted by the House and Senate intelligence committees. The independent panel will have 18 months to examine issues such as aviation security, diplomacy, terrorist financing and border problems, along with intelligence. Mr. Bush called on members to report back sooner than in 18 months time, saying the nation needed to know quickly how it can avoid terror attacks in the future. "The sooner we have the commission's conclusions, the sooner we can act on them," he said. However, Mr. Bush did not set as a primary goal for the commission to uncover mistakes or lapses of the government that could have prevented the attacks. Instead, he said it should try to help the administration learn the tactics and motives of the enemy. "This commission will help me and future presidents to understand … the nature of the threats we face," he said in a ceremony with survivors, families of victims, and advocates of the bill, including lawmakers.

He pledged his administration will "continue to act on the lessons we've learned so far to better protect the people of this country. It's our most solemn duty." The commission's creation is part of a bill authorizing intelligence activities in the 2003 budget year. Though most details of the legislation remain secret, lawmakers say it provides the biggest-ever increase in intelligence spending in an attempt to fix some counterterrorism weaknesses - such as a lack of information-sharing, experts in certain key languages and attention to traditional, human spying. The bill requires a database of known or suspected international terrorists. Two of the Sept. 11 hijackers were placed on a State Department watch list in the weeks before the attacks, but other agencies were not notified. It also establishes a new center to help intelligence agencies quickly translate foreign languages; provides millions for the study of languages key to national security; and calls for a standard way for all agencies to spell names from other alphabets. Unlike the signing ceremonies earlier in the week for bills creating the Department of Homeland Security and a new federal commitment to terrorism insurance, Wednesday's signing was a low-key affair. Like the Homeland Security Department, the independent commission was an idea to which Mr. Bush's support came late. The White House held that only Congress should investigate, arguing that an independent probe could distract administration officials from anti-terrorism efforts. The change of heart came in September, as family members of Sept. 11 victims applied pressure and congressional hearings began to uncover intelligence and law enforcement failures.

Mr. Bush insisted only a bipartisan group should be able to compel testimony and documents, fearing that one-party subpoenas would lead to ineffective finger-pointing and allow the panel to be used merely to score political points. The 10-member commission will be evenly divided between Republican and Democratic appointees. It will take at least six members, in most cases, to approve subpoenas. Kissinger was born in Germany in 1923 and his family emigrated to the United States in 1938. He served in a counterintelligence unit in the United States Army and then attended Harvard University, receiving his doctorate in 1954. Prior to entering full-time government service, Kissinger taught at Harvard, did work for the Rockefeller foundation and Rand Corporation and served as an advisor to numerous government task forces concerned with foreign policy, military matters and arms control. In 1969, President Nixon named him national security advisor, a position he held until 1975. During that time, he was the architect of U.S. foreign policy. His notion of "triangular diplomacy" informed relations with Soviet Russia and Communist China, which culminated in arms control talks with Moscow and Mr. Nixon's visit to China in 1972. He also worked to secure peace after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Kissinger helped coordinate American efforts in Vietnam, winning the Nobel peace prize in 1973 for negotiating the Paris treaty that ended American involvement in the conflict there.

However, critics of Kissinger blame him for proposing controversial moves such as the Christmas bombing of Hanoi, and the secret bombing and subsequent invasion of Cambodia. From 1973 to 1977, Kissinger also served as the nation's secretary of state. Since leaving government, Kissinger has written several books and remained a popular speaker around the world, often appearing in television interviews as a commentator on foreign policy issues of the day. However, criticism of Kissinger's policies in Southeast Asia and Latin America has not ebbed. In a series of articles in 2001, writer Christopher Hitchens accused Kissinger of war crimes for the bombing of Cambodia, for his failure to head off Indonesia's conquest of East Timor in 1975 and for his alleged support for a coup against Chilean president Salvador Allende on Sept. 11, 1973. In April, when Kissinger was visiting London, a Spanish judge asked British authorities to deliver a warrant to question Kissinger over the disappearances of Spanish citizens under Latin American dictatorships. The warrant was not served. Kissinger currently heads Kissinger Associates, Inc., a lobbying and consultant group.

From CBS News-Politics, 27 November 2002

Officials Research Benefits of E-government at Masie Center

Saratoga Springs - Officials from the city and county spent Tuesday looking at examples of e-government and brainstorming what services they'd want to see in an ideal electronic municipal world. More than a dozen people were scattered in a conference room at the high-tech Masie Center on Washington Street for the day-long conference on what e-government is and its benefits to a community. ''Technology is coming. There will be e-government,'' said Elliott Masie, the president of The Masie Center, who led the conference. ''The question is will it be good e-government or stupid e-government or bad e-government?'' Whether that means paying a parking ticket online, finding out who's in jail or getting property information, attendees saw examples of e-government in work from Blacksburg, Va. and Tampa, Fla., among other places. Mayor Ken Klotz, who had discussed putting on the conference with Masie for more than a year, said online building permit applications and broadcasts of council meetings on the Internet were among the e-government uses that most interested him. The real challenge, Klotz said, will be figuring out how to implement all the ideas that are out there. ''My question is how do we get from here to there?'' Klotz said. Masie and Klotz said they'd both look to other municipalities in the region who have created e-government services to see how they've put them together. Klotz said he'd already e-mailed officials in Blacksburg to learn more about their site. Deputy Accounts Commissioner Debbie Harper, whose office processes the various licenses that people go to City Hall for, said the city's Web site was updated to include information on how to get the various permits. Also, she said, the department is looking to make forms available online. The conference looked at how e-government can increase the productivity and efficiency of government, provide access to information, increase citizens' knowledge and agency cooperation, extend democracy and create readiness. But participants also touched on the problems that can arise from e-government: privacy concerns and opposition from workers who fear job losses. Masie also worries about what happens to people without computers and how not to lose the personal touch in the digital world. ''A lot of e-government sites don't have a sense of humor,'' Masie said.

From The Saratogian, NY, by Lawrence Ferchaw, 11 December 2002

Italian Solution Provider DeltaDator Streamlines e-Government Processes With Savvion Business Process Management System

Santa Clara, CA - Integration Of Savvion's Process Management Engine With Civilia Web Software Enables DeltaDator To Streamline Operational Performance For Its Public Administration Clients - Savvion™, Inc., the company that knows business process, today announced that DeltaDator S.p.A, a leading Italian IT consultancy and solution provider, has integrated Savvion's business process automation and management system into its new public administration software suite, Civilia Web. Established last year through the merging of six major Italian technology players, DeltaDator provides comprehensive IT solutions to more than 5,000 customers throughout Italy. With branch offices in eight cities, DeltaDator serves small and medium enterprises, with a specialized focus on the banking, GIS, and public administration sectors. The company's Civilia Web software suite enables public institutions to optimize management of their processes, including general affairs, human resources, and demographics. With the additional automation and management capabilities provided by the embedded Savvion business process management system (BPM), DeltaDator can quickly build automated systems that streamline its clients' unique business processes while providing real-time monitoring features to support future process innovations. "We were searching for a process management system that was extremely powerful, open, and reliable and that was easy to integrate with DeltaDator software solutions and our customers' existing systems," said Dr. Giorgio Dossi, Director of Public Administration Market at DeltaDator. "After significant analysis, Savvion's business process system emerged as best in class.

By integrating Savvion's flexible process optimization solution with our Civilia Web software, we can offer public institutions both the technology and expertise they need to achieve their innovative e-government goals." "Savvion technology partnerships enable us to significantly increase our growing customer base worldwide by enabling companies to embed our proven process automation and management system into complementary software solutions," noted Dr. M.A. Ketabchi, Savvion founder, CTO and Chairman. "We're excited to be breaking new ground for Italian public institutions through our OEM relationship with DeltaDator, a customer who is clearly Savvi-on e-government process automation and management." Savvion solutions enable companies to optimize operations by automating and managing consistent, repeatable business processes. Savvion addresses the business technology imperative to establish an enterprise process architecture, a critical step to achieving true process improvement and management. At that point corporate process becomes a manageable corporate asset. Savvion systems give managers unique real-time visibility into their ongoing business operations, not just with metrics and reports, but also by providing a framework that empowers companies to innovate while managing change. About DeltaDator - DeltaDator S.p.A. is the leading IT solutions provider in Italy. Established last year through the merging of six major Italian technology players and owned by Sequenza S.p.A, DeltaDator serves small and medium enterprises, with a specialized focus on the banking, GIS, and public administration sectors. DeltaDator provides comprehensive IT solutions to more than 5,000 customers throughout Italy, leveraging its eight branch offices and its breadth of experience to deliver innovative custom solutions that provide clients with a highly competitive edge. For more information, visit www.deltadator.it.

From Internet Wire, 11 December 2002

Government Partners with Private Sector in a Major Initiative to Bring Accessible Broadband Applications to Canadians

Industry Minister Allan Rock today announced a $60 million initiative in partnership with Mitel Networks Corporation and March Networks Corporation as part of a $240 million project to make Canada a powerhouse in Internet-enabled communications. This investment will create affordable, accessible and practical broadband applications to benefit Canadians. "This is the kind of partnership - building on Mitel Networks' and March Networks' combined track records of great ideas - that is helping to make Canada one of the most innovative countries in the world," said Minister Rock. "It clearly demonstrates the Government of Canada's strong commitment to taking bold steps to encourage development in our IT sector - with resulting social and economic benefits." Because of the Government of Canada's confidence in the capabilities of the Canadian information technology industry, it has entered into an innovative partnership to seize the opportunities available through next - generation broadband networks. Equalling this challenge requires a world-class partnership of proven experience and a strong track record in research and development, along with the required financial resources. Through Technology Partnerships Canada (TPC), the Government of Canada is making a strategic investment of up to $60 million with Mitel Networks Corporation and March Networks Corporation to launch an aggressive research and development program. Terry Matthews, Chairman of both Mitel Networks and March Networks, noted that "the opportunity presented by broadband is immense in terms of both how this core technology can enhance the way Canadians work and live, and in our ability as a nation to build communications tools that are highly exportable and widely adopted.

Mitel Networks and March Networks have invested heavily during the last two years to be the first to market with high-value broadband applications. We are pleased that the Government of Canada is sharing in our vision." "This strategic investment creates the potential for 900 jobs for the region; in addition to the growth spawned by the broadband technology cluster, which will benefit IT researchers, universities and small and medium business across the region, that is great news indeed," said Jeffrey Dale, President and CEO of the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation (OCRI). Minister Rock further emphasized that Technology Partnerships Canada is helping Canadians develop innovative products and processes that increase economic growth, create high-quality jobs, and support sustainable development through investments. OCRI is a not-for-profit, member - supported organization working to foster the development of a globally competitive knowledge economy and enhance a superior quality of life in Canada's capital region. Technology Partnerships Canada, a key instrument of Canada's Innovation Strategy, makes conditionally repayable strategic investments in great Canadian ideas that are the currency for success in the 21st century. TPC's critical and timely investments for research and development promote innovation, commercialization, sustainable development and increased private sector investment, while enhancing the quality of life for all Canadians.

From Canada NewsWire, CA, 11 December 2002

E-government is a Great Idea for City, County

Kudos to Elliott Masie and Mayor Ken Klotz for initiating a conference about how government can use electronics to meet the needs of citizens. The fancy word is e-government. The goals, simply put, are to increase government productivity and efficiency of government, provide access to information, increase citizens' knowledge and agency cooperation, extend democracy and create readiness. Technology is out there for the taking. The trick is using it, and Elliott Masie of Saratoga Springs is a master of that. He graciously agreed to give more than a dozen local leaders a sample of what they can be doing to better serve their communities through e-government.Rather than reinvent the wheel, Masie has put Klotz in touch with other communities that are ahead of the curve on e-technology. The possibilities are limited only by imagination and, perhaps, budget constraints - although it is cheaper, for instance, to e-mail forms rather than paying postage. And record-keeping on computers is infinitely more flexible and accessible than on paper. The city's Web site is a good step in the direction of using technology to link constituents to their government. The accounts department, for instance, wants to figure out how to make the various licenses people apply for available online. Masie acknowledges that not everyone has a computer and worries that the personal touch could get lost in a digital world. With those caveats in place, we eagerly look forward to exciting e-progress in our city, towns and county.

From The Saratogian, NY, 13 December 2002

Brazil CBD Engages In Board Changes To Lift Transparency

Sao Paulo - Brazil's biggest supermarket chain Companhia Brasileira de Distribuicao SA is engaging in a number of management changes to lift transparency and improve corporate governance. CBD Wednesday said the Sao Paulo-based group's controlling shareholding family would no longer engage in the day-to-day running of the company but remain on the board of directors. Abilio dos Santos Diniz is leaving CBD's so-called executive management team, which handles the daily running of the company's stores. Diniz, who is a director of the board, will become chairman next year. He replaces founder Valentim dos Santos Diniz, who will become honorary chairman of the board of directors. The company said such moves would help further open the company to market professionals at senior levels. As a part of these changes that will take place in the first quarter of 2003, Augusto Marques da Cruz, current executive vice president of administration and finance, will become executive president. He will handle the day-to-day running of the company. CBD will also create three committees to look after finance, development and marketing. The Diniz family will sit on these committees, increasing the interaction between the board of directors and executive management, the group said. Later on a conference call to discuss the board changes, Diniz backed total sales guidance for 2002 of 11.5 billion reals ($1=BRL3.78), a rise of 16.6% from a year ago. The number of stores in operation should rise to 500 from 443, the company said. (By Anthony Dovkants, Dow Jones Newswires; 55-11-3145-1478; anthony.dovkants@ dowjones.com, Terry Wade, Dow Jones Newswires; 5511.3145.1479; terry.wade@dowjones.com).

From Yahoo Headlines, 11 December 2002

Bush to Sign e-Government Act

President George W. Bush this morning will sign the Electronic Government Act of 2002, a bill that earmarks $345 million over the next four years for federal technology projects, according to the White House Press Office. The measure, which was passed by Congress last month, establishes an e-Government Fund that starts at $45 million in 2003 and ramps up to $150 million in 2006. A new agency, the Office of Electronic Government, will oversee the account, placing a priority on inter-agency projects with government-wide applications. It will be lead by a presidential appointee and operate under the auspices of the Office of Management and Budget. The legislation was first introduced by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D.Conn.) and Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.). It passed the Senate by unanimous consent, but changes made in the House version, including reducing the overall funding levels, produced a compromise version. In announcing the proposal, Lieberman laid out the problem with Washington's current approach: "At this early stage, e-government is a loose knit mix of ideas, projects, and affiliations - often uncoordinated, sometimes overlapping, and too frequently redundant in their costs," he said. Other provisions of the bill include: The new legislation also: Authorizes funding for improvement of the federal Internet portal, Firstgov.gov, so that on-line government information and services are organized "according to citizen needs, not agency jurisdiction." Requires regulatory agencies to conduct administrative rule-makings on the Internet, and federal courts to post court information and judicial opinions on their Web sites Allows agencies, scientists, policy makers and the public to have access over the Internet to non-sensitive information about where federal funds for scientific research are spent. Improves recruitment and training for federal IT professionals. Establishes "significant new privacy protections" for personally information kept by the government.

From InternetNews.com, 17 December 2002

E-government Projects Aim to Simplify Paperwork for Feds

Some of the administration's e-government initiatives will put pay and other human resources information online, making life much easier for federal employees, an Office of Management and Budget official said Friday. At least six of the administration's 24 e-government initiatives will put electronic training, travel, records management and payroll resources at workers' fingertips, according to Mark Forman, associate director of information technology and e-government at OMB, speaking at an e-government conference on Friday. The initiatives aimed at federal workers will also include a one-stop recruitment center and information on simplifying the acquisitions process. The goal is to "simplify and unify" internal agency procedures that have become inefficient, Forman said. New hires would no longer have to fill out 15 or more forms asking for overlapping, redundant information, he said. And workers could complete training from their desks, which would cost less than if agencies sent employees to courses outside the agency. "What we envision, is a suite of human resources applications that cover the entire life cycle of government employees," said David McClure, vice president of e-government at the Council for Excellence in Government, a good government group. The "life cycle" for employees begins with recruitment, where a centralized online "recruitment center" will provide personnel offices with the tools they need to hire candidates and job seekers with the latest information about job openings.

Once hired, workers who needed a security clearance could move through the system more quickly, Forman said. Other initiatives would create a standard e-payroll system across agencies, reduce the amount of paperwork employees have to fill out for government travel, and make the acquisition process less cumbersome. The initiatives will eventually give federal workers access to all of the financial planning resources and other tools needed to complete work rapidly, Forman said. While technology to implement the envisioned initiatives is not completely in place, Forman said he is impressed with the progress he has seen. Getting project managers to agree on a basic vision for the projects was work enough, he added. Forman praised leaders of the e-payroll initiative for narrowing down their search for software providers to four potential vendors. Forman also praised golearn.gov, an online training site that more than 20,000 employees used in the first two months after its launch in July. But a lot of work remains before the programs are up and running, McClure cautioned. "The concept is great, but the implementation is difficult," he said. Forman said that he will encourage project managers at different agencies to coordinate with one another and work as a team to develop a business model that cuts down on costs by sharing resources among the agencies. Good teamwork and support from agency executives will be the key to making the e-gov initiatives work, he said.

From GovExec.com, by Amelia Gruber (agruber@govexec.com), 13 December 2002

Row Forms Over Federal E-Government Projects

Congressional investigators say the Bush administration is light on project details. A White House official says best practices are being followed. The investigative arm of Congress and the chairman of the Senate panel that oversees federal IT policy are criticizing the Bush administration for how it's implementing its showcase E-government initiatives. A 70-page report, requested by Senate Governmental Affairs Committee chairman Joseph Lieberman, contends that an Office of Management and Budget task force selected 24 interagency E-government initiatives without first reviewing complete business plans for each project. The initiatives are aimed at improving government services by integrating diverse agency operations using IT. The GAO also said the OMB task force failed to collect the information upfront needed to monitor each project's implementation. But the administration's point man on IT, Mark Forman, says, "The GAO is working off an inaccurate benchmark." Forman is associate director for IT and E-government at the White House Office of Management and Budget. "Despite the importance that OMB attached to collaboration and customer focus in its E-government strategy, fewer than half of the initiatives' initial business cases addressed these topics," says Linda Koontz, the GAO's director of information-management issues. The agency pointed out that only eight of the 23 initiatives' business cases delineated risk mitigation and collaboration strategies and only nine defined customer needs.

All 23 did identify expected benefits the initiatives will offer. The report elicited a rebuke from Lieberman. "It troubles me that OMB decided upon its signature E-government initiatives without considering the very factors that it has identified as essential to successful E-government," says Lieberman, D-Conn., who relinquishes his chairmanship next month when the GOP regains control of the Senate. But, says Forman, "We used a commercial E-strategy best-practice approach. It's all documented in both the president's FY03 budget and E-government strategy, including the use of a rigorous multiattribute scoring algorithm to pick initiatives that met the strategic criteria. This is the same approach that is in the key textbooks for E-strategy." Forman says the 24 initiatives aren't new systems, but consolidations of redundant and overlapping projects that were under way or proposed. "They were the 24 initiatives, out of an original list of over 300, that reflected the best opportunities to simplify convoluted government initiatives, reduce redundant paperwork burden, and save money by consolidating redundant efforts within 18 to 24 months," he says. "This approach was explained in detail in the E-government strategy, available at the OMB.gov Web site." The GAO report noted that the OMB didn't provide GAO with all the facts it requested. Forman explained that OMB policy isn't to release internal budgeting documents drafted before decisions are made because they don't reflect ultimate spending decisions. The GAO maintains that, based on the data it has received, the OMB can't assure its initiatives are on schedule or achieving their goals without accurate cost, schedule, and performance information.

From Information Week, by Eric Chabrow, 20 December 2002

Move to Open Government Electronically

The federal government, with its tangle of agencies and regulations, has never played particularly well on the Internet, where fast-flying facts prevail. As things now stand, conducting a search of federal databases on topics like toxic waste or the safety of frozen pizzas can be a frustratingly complex task. Toxic waste is handled by a half-dozen different agencies, all of which run their own Web sites and adhere to different policies about posting reports. And frozen pizzas are inspected by two different agencies - the Food and Drug Administration for cheese pizzas and the Department of Agriculture if the pies have meat toppings - each with its own approach to record keeping. Until now, separate agencies have had neither motive nor means to collaborate on making their information and services easier to use online. In the next year, though, a new Office of Electronic Government is to start removing information barriers between federal agencies to give the public easier online access to data and services. That is the mandate of the E-Government Act, which President Bush signed last week. The new office is charged with organizing the various services, rules and reports issued by the government in ways that make sense to the public. The law, which was written by Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, allocates $45 million to an e-government fund this year. That fund will grow to $150 million in four years. The new law's goals have broad support, even though some experts question whether breaking those barriers could undermine the independence of federal agencies and create unprecedented invasions of individuals' privacy. But few would argue that the current hodgepodge of federal Web sites does not need an overhaul. "Most people don't know what federal agencies do," said Darrell M. West, who studies government Web sites as director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University. "We've had a real Tower of Babel in e-government in which each agency designs its own site." But he noted that some government employees fear the implications of the new e-government push. "This is consistent with the Bush philosophy about homeland security - not having unions, running in a more corporate style," Professor West said. "This could be a device to drive that agenda."

One provision in the new law, for example, is for a "digital tech corps," which allows technology workers from corporations to work for government agencies in an exchange program. And while government employees are accustomed to working regular business hours, e-government services would operate around the clock. The requirements of the new law create more work for federal agencies as well. In the past, agencies arbitrarily decided what information to post on their Web sites. Now, they must establish public comment periods and take public opinion into account when deciding what information to publish online. The law also requires agencies to conduct a "privacy impact assessment" every time they buy new technology systems. That assessment would require an agency to go through a checklist to determine whether the technology could lead to abuses of personal information. Even with this requirement, the push under the new law to link government databases is a concern to some government watchdogs. One provision of the bill encourages the creation of a single software protocol that for the first time would enable disparate government computer systems to communicate. That could allow the compilation of dossiers and databases not previously practical. "At a certain level, that's good government," said James X. Dempsey, the deputy director of the nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington. "The flip side of it is, some of our privacy protections have been almost accidental, in that information was difficult to find." Advocates of privacy rights have become particularly touchy about the notion of linking government databases in light of the Defense Department's proposed Total Information Awareness program, which, among other measures, would enable the government to monitor every American citizen's bank transactions, tax filings, driving records, credit card purchases, medical records, telephone calls and e-mail exchanges in the name of fighting terrorism.

And yet, if members of the public disapprove of the actions of federal agencies, the E-Government Act provides new ways to complain. Under the law, every regulatory agency must establish a Web site to collect and post public comments on every rule it considers. For example, if the Federal Aviation Administration were considering a new rule about air travel, members of the public would be able to comment on the rule by e-mail messages and to read comments from others. "You can complain about government using technology for surveillance, but government can also use it to become more accountable," said Steven Clift, editor of the Democracies Online Newswire. The requirement to collect public comments online could bring changes to the cultures of regulatory agencies, which typically receive comments only from small groups of highly specialized lawyers who represent consumer groups and regulated corporations. "To have government be the host of this sort of deliberation is a significant step forward for e-democracy," Mr. Clift said. "It creates transparency around those attempting to politically influence rules and regulations," he said, noting that under the traditional system, "you don't know where your comments go, and you don't know how your comments compare to those of other people." The law also places the executive branch far ahead of Congress in terms of a uniform approach to the Internet. Members of Congress decide how to run their Internet operations office by office. Consequently, some Congressional Web sites are comprehensive, and some only spotty. Some members communicate with constituents well online, but many do not. Despite requests from public interest groups over the last few years, members of Congress have opted not to post much information online - which means the public does not have a searchable database of members' voting records or Web access to the independent analysis of bills from the Congressional Research Service. "E-government for Congress is missing," Mr. Dempsey said. "They are cutting themselves off."

From New York Times, by Rebecca Fairley Raney, 23 December 2002

 

E-gov XML Committee Formed

A global standards consortium on Dec. 5 announced the creation of a new technical committee devoted to e-government XML standards, and its membership includes several U.S. federal experts and officials. The e-Gov Technical Committee of the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) will bring together government officials from around the world to talk about common e-government needs. The recommendations that the committee develops will be submitted to the OASIS working groups developing the standards. The officials leading the U.S. E-Government Strategy and Federal Enterprise Architecture want to take full advantage of the possibilities that XML brings to online services. But the number of different XML standards, or schemas, is challenging. The OASIS effort will help in several ways, and the U.S. government will fully support it, said Mark Forman, associate director for information technology and e-government at the Office of Management and Budget. "Perhaps most important, setting global standards for e-government and e-business should enable significant reduction in government's burden on citizens, businesses, and government employees," he said in a statement. "Better standards should also improve security and cut the cost of government IT purchases." OASIS formed the committee to help ensure that XML schemas and emerging technologies relying on XML, such as Web services, are not developed solely for private-sector needs, according to the organization. The committee members will also help spread the best practices and standards identified by OASIS into government use. The chairman of the committee is John Borras of the United Kingdom's Office of e-Envoy, and includes representatives from the U.S. General Services Administration and the Navy; the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation; the government of Ontario, Canada; and the U.K. Ministry of Defense. It also includes software developers, such as BEA Systems Inc., Booz Allen Hamilton, Entrust Inc., Fujitsu Ltd., the Logistics Management Institute, Microsoft Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc., and webMethods Inc. The committee is open to anyone, and the first meeting will be held next week at the IDEAlliance Inc. XML 2002 conference in Baltimore.

From FCW.com, by Diane Frank, 6 December 2002

Global E-government 11 December

US anti-terrorism e-mail alert system is put on hold due to information overload | Schwaebisch Hall in Germany is switching from Microsoft to Linux - A US government e-mail system to alert banks to terror-financing suspects was put on hold after just three weeks due to an overload of information, according to a report on the Dow Jones newswire. The new system was designed to make the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, the sole source of information for banks about the FBI's continually updated list of terrorism suspects. However, both banks and investigators complained that the new system overwhelmed them with frequent "urgent" alerts because the FBI was funnelling requests to the system as individual agents produced leads on investigations. The Treasury Department has issued a statement vowing to fix the e-mail alert system as soon as possible. The US is lagging behind other nations with regard to the adoption of biometric technology, according to a panel discussion at the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas. Stewart Mann, chief executive officer of EyeTicket Corp, said it would take longer for the US to integrate biometric technologies, due to added complexities in the wake of September 11 and disagreements over which types of technology were the most effective. The panel also predicted a shake-up in the biometrics industry in the next few years, as hundreds of small companies will likely consolidate into a dozen or so large vendors. The on-line edition of Government Executive Magazine reports that the winners of this year's Grace Hopper Government Technology Leadership Award for the improvement of services included New Mexico and Alaska. New Mexico's Integrated Database for Environmental Assurance involved the state's Environment Department consolidating all of its information on environmental permitting, compliance and enforcement into a single database that is soon to be made accessible to the public. Meanwhile, Alaska's Federal Health Care Access Network was recognised for its provision of telemedicine services to remote Alaskan communities, whereby local health care practitioners can submit medical records for expert advice from physicians via the Internet.

Microsoft has launched a new public services channel for UK citizens on its MSN portal. The channel, which retains the MSN branding, brings together information on topics including health care, education, tax, retirement planning and travel. The portal also provides numerous links to various government departments, mainly routed through the UK Online portal, UKonline.gov.uk. An experimental text messaging service by Rushmoor Borough Council in Hampshire, UK, has proved a success, reports E-Government Bulletin. The council ran a ten-month trial of Infotxt, which was set up in collaboration with text messaging specialist CouncilFlow to provide information to Rushmoor residents, particularly young people, about local leisure activities. By the end of the trial, around 600 subscribers had signed up for the service, mostly aged under 25. Following the pilot's success, a re-launch of Infotxt will begin in February 2003. Meanwhile, three other councils have committed to running similar projects with CouncilFlow. The government of the Bavarian state in Germany has been accused of wasting millions of euro on an on-line project, according to Europemedia.net. In an annual report, the Bavarian Audit Commission said that major aims of the state's "Bavarianet" project, such as the integration of different networks and the standardisation of voice and data communication, "have not been achieved." The report said the state had also failed to integrate government bodies, police and firefighter networks. Over five years, the Bavarian state has spent more than EUR180 million on the project, over EUR8.5 million of which has been wasted through mismanagement, said the commission. Elsewhere in Germany, the city of Schwaebisch Hall in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg is to replace its Microsoft software with open-source Linux programs. In a move aimed at saving it more than EUR100,000 a year, the city says it wants to have Linux installed on its 400 PCs by the end of 2004. Schwaebisch Hall is the first German city to stop using Microsoft programs under a recent agreement between Germany's Interior Ministry and IBM that will see the main sponsor of Linux in the corporate world deploy open-source technology in municipal and national agencies throughout Germany.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 11 December 2002

Global E-government

The UK government is sticking to its target of providing all services on-line by the end of 2005 - The Internet will play a key role in South Korean elections According to Government Computing News, the UK government has said it is sticking to its target of providing all services on-line by the end of 2005, in spite of intimations to the contrary. Speaking at a recent conference organised by the London Internet Exchange, Dr Steve Marsh, the Office of the e-Envoy's director of security, said, "government departments are planning a miracle for the fourth quarter of 2005 -- the implementation graph has a very interesting shape towards the end." However, an OeE spokesperson told GCN that Marsh was presenting a positive message, pointing out that 73 percent of services were expected to be on-line by the end of this year. The spokesperson said the OeE was expecting, rather than hoping for, the "miracle." The UK's NHS Information Authority (NHSIA) is rolling out its new e-mail and directory service, NHSmail, to ten hospital trusts, according to Kablenet.com. Currently, there are around 7,000 separate e-mail systems within the NHS, and only half of the 1.2 million NHS staff have their own e-mail address. The NHSmail system, which has undergone a number of successful trials, will allow health care teams working on the same projects to share e-mails and diaries. The new system also features an electronic calendar, so registered NHS staff can record appointments, set reminders and plan meetings. There are plans for NHSmail to be rolled out nationally in 2003. The US federal government has launched a Web site aimed at making scientific research more accessible to the public. The site, www.science.gov, has compiled information from ten government agencies and 14 scientific and technical organisations into a searchable, user-friendly database. Visitors to the site, which is free to use and does not require registration, can search for technical reports, journal citations, databases and fact sheets, among other resources. The site is also broken down into 12 categories, from applied science and technologies through health and medicine to natural resources and conservation. The site has had thousands of search requests since its 01 December launch.

The Internet will play a key role in this week's presidential election in South Korea, reports the Financial Times. South Korea has the highest broadband penetration in the world, making the Internet a key medium for communicating with voters and in particular with the younger segment of the electorate. "The Internet is as powerful as television in reaching young people in Korea," says Huh Un-na, the head of Internet campaigning for the ruling Millennium Democratic party. The two major parties in South Korea have sophisticated Web sites where the thousands of "Netizens" who visit every day can compare policies and personalities, watch video clips of speeches and send messages to candidates. However, South Korea's election regulator has complained that it is unable to police all of the campaign material, both official and unofficial, on the Web. In addition, candidates and their supporters have been accused of sending out mass e-mails and mobile phone messages, in violation of election rules. On-line newspaper JoongAng Ilbo reports that KT Corp, Korea's largest fixed-line telecoms operator, has secured a USD65 million e-government contract with the Indonesian government. KT says the project involves building a broadband network and related computer systems as part of Indonesia's e-government strategy. The first phase of the plan, due to be completed by 2005, will see KT establish and integrate telecoms networks in Jakarta and other major Indonesian cities and develop application software. KT pointed out that the deal is the first time a Korean telecoms firm has exported e-government technology. Three hundred local government units (LGUs) throughout the Philippines are to participate in a nationwide e-government scheme. The "e-LGU" project, which is being funded by the national government and being managed by the National Computer Centre and the Department of Science and Technology, aims to grow e-government at the local level in a cost-effective manner. Among the e-government objectives of the initiative are the monitoring of overdue taxes using automated revenue systems, the improvement of records management and an increase in the availability of information for citizens.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 18 December 2002

 

Banker Cautions on Adoption of Corporate Governance Pattern

Nations and establishments have been enjoined to fashion out their pattern of corporate governance in a bid to ensure vibrancy and efficiency, as copying from others would only serve to defeat such objectives. The call was made recently in Lagos by the managing director of Wema Bank, Tunde Lemo while deliverying a lecturer on "the Role of Professionals in Corporate Governance" at the second induction of new members of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria (ICSAN). Lemo stated that the principles of corporate governance are universally the same , but the practice varies from country to country. He said the purpose of corporate governance was to establish a community of interests among all organisational participants, to promote organisational rationality and resolve conflicts. He emphasised that the Companies and Allied Matters Acts (CAMAS) was enacted by the federal government to bring uniformity in the process of corporate governance in the country. Lemo maitained that each organisation could adopt a practice that best ensure its ultimate effectivenessness in line with its situations. According to him, opinions differ on what the content and boundaries of corporate governance should be; for some, the essence is the exercise of power by share holders, for others, it is the formal structure of board and corporate effectiveness yet others believe that the focus should be the social responsibilities to the wider society. " It is intriguing that the essence of corporate governance is so much taken for granted that it is very easy to overlook the fact that enduring success of an organisation as well as its sudden death is often directly linked to governance", Lemo said. In his welcome address, the registrar of the institute, Mr. Dele Togunde, described the induction as a celebration of integrity, an affirmation of nobility and indelible contribution to posterity by the profession of chartered secretaryship and Administration. He further charged the graduands that it takes personal courage. resolve and sacrifice to uphold the intergrity of the profession and shareholders interest, stressing that it is a challenge to the roles of secretaries to be pro-active and assertive. In his speech the president of the institute, Erastus Akingbola cautioned that as qualified professionals the graduands were going to face more challenges in the days and years ahead and urged members to put in their best wherever they found themselves. The president of the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria, Professor Wole Adewunmi who was the special guest of honour at the occasion charged members of the institute to defend their qualifications by proving to people that they earned it.

From Daily Times of Nigeria, by Suleymon Abdulkreem, 10 December 2002

Nigeria, Sweden Hold Talks on Double Taxation

Discussions between Nigeria and Sweden on double taxation are to be concluded in January, Sweden's deputy head of mission in Nigeria, Mr. Fredrik Kirst, has said. Kirst told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja at the weekend that an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation had become necessary because such taxes were having adverse effects on the operations of Swedish companies in the country. He said it was unfair for the companies to be taxed on their profits in Nigeria as well as in Sweden and that any agreement on the issue would encourage more Swedish companies to invest in the country. NAN reported, however, that in spite of the taxation, business links between the two countries increased in the first half of the year with Swedish exports to Nigeria valued at 116 million dollars and imports from Nigeria at 33 million dollars. Kirst said Sweden's exports to Nigeria increased by more than 558 per cent compared to the corresponding period in 2001, while import from Nigeria, increased by 11 per cent. Nigeria and Sweden in April signed an agreement on the promotion and protection of investments when Vice-President Atiku Abubakar visited the country.

From This Day, Nigeria, 08 December 2002

Public Finance in the Shrinking Nigerian Economy

In the most recent months, the Federal Government of Nigeria, FGN, has received a lot of flak for its apparent inability to spend more on its capital budget and less on its recurrent budget. The street economic wisdom which informs the criticism of the FGN has its inspiration from the recent statement by the Resident Representative of the World Bank, in Nigeria, Dr. Tomlinson which roundly condemned the FGN for spending in 2001 80% of the country's foreign exchange earnings of 15 billion US Dollars on running the nation's day to day administrative structure. Mallam Adamu Ciroma, the Minister of Finance did not help matters when he stated flatly in a recent ministerial press briefing that some 92% of the FGN's expenditure is recurrent. But the question which is not raised and answered in all this is whether the FGN can really do any better than what it is doing at the moment. In 2001 the Nigerian economy shrank. This is what the IMF and World Bank have recently told us. But the Nigerian economy has been shrinking, very visibly, ever since September 26, 1986 when the infamous Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, was foisted upon her. For a shrinking economy suffers increasing neglect of its own human and material resources in local production. In fact, its industries close shop as the economy is taken over and bubbles with the buying and selling of dumped and imported bric-a-brac from the rest of the world. And this is presently what the SAP has done to Nigeria. It has de-industrialised Nigeria and returned her to the colonial status of the importer of finished goods and exporter of raw materials. So, quite contrary to what many of Nigeria's official, private and academic economists tout all over the place, the SAP has yet to come to an end in Nigeria. It has been at work in Nigeria since September 26 1986.

It is still at work today in Nigeria. And it will continue to be at work in Nigeria until the Naira becomes autonomously commercial convertible. Indeed, what the IMF and the World Bank currently tout the world over as the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper on Process, PRSP, is nothing more and nothing less than the SAP in a new linguistic garb. For, every economic programme has its own unique payments standard. And the unique payments standard and signature of the SAP is the floating rate currency board payments standard for non-convertible currency economies only. The Naira is non-convertible and is still the victim of the SAP/PRSP. The aim of the SAP in Nigeria has been to roll back and dismantle the infant-industry barricades which the FGN had erected since the early nineteen seventies for the protection of Nigeria's emerging industrial culture. Afterall if Nigeria succeeded to increasingly use more of her human and material resources to provide much of what she needs of goods and services, her very sizeable market would be lost to the rest of the world. But this was certainly not acceptable to the imperial West. And that is why the World Bank dispatched the sleek technocrat from Pakistan in the person of Dr. Ishrat Hassain to sell the pill of de-industrialisation to Nigeria in the name of liberalisation, deregulation and privatisation. The deed was done on September 26 1986 and the rest has been the past seventeen years of the history of the Nigerian economy that is shrinking into nothingness. So the question raises .itself. Is the expenditure pattern of the FGN likely to be more capital than recurrent when the Nigerian economy is shrinking into nothingness? The evidence on the ground tells us that it is likely to be more recurrent than capital. The reasons for this are as follows. First, as the Nigerian economy has been casualising and down sizing its industrial labour force over the past seventeen years, through the SAP urban industrial policy of Nigeria, so has the FGN been forced into becoming the omnibus and social employer of last resort of Nigeria's labour resources.

The SAP kills the Nigerian private sector which it touts to be the engine of growth of the Nigerian economy. Consequently, the recurrent expenditure of the FGN must grow exponentially as the SAP shifts the social responsibilities of the Nigerian private sector to the FGN. Second, the financial structure which the SAP encourages in Nigeria is centred on public sector borrowing and discriminates against the Nigerian private sector. This is why the ratio between commercial and industrial savings in Nigeria has since 1986 hovered around 9 to 1. But experience tells us that it will take the threshold savings ratio of 1 to 3 between commercial and industrial savings to transform Nigeria into the medium to long-term and industrial economy. And this can only be so when the FGN does not occupy the centre of the Nigerian savings mobilisation and distribution structure. The Nigerian savings structure must therefore be sanitised of FGN's debt notes. Third, the linch-pin of the SAP and PRSP in Nigeria is the floating rate non-convertibility of the Naira. In the emergent days of Nigeria's industrialisation of the nineteen-seventies, the management of Nigeria's international reserves and the Naira exchange rates were in official hands. But after September 26 1986, private banks took control over the management of Nigeria's international reserves and the Naira's exchange rates. And ever since it has not been well with the economy in terms of the local use of labour and material resources in production. And, naturally, the FGN has increasingly been saddled with the greater social responsibility to employ more and more of Nigeria's bulging labour resources. It follows, therefore, that the floating rate currency board payments standard does impose heavy burdens on the lean finances of the FGN. This is why it must devote more of its earnings on the recurrent expenditure of employing and keeping labour that it does not really need. In sum, the problem with the finances of the FGN is that the SAP overburdens it with the social responsibilities which the Nigerian private sector has failed to carry. So, if we must expect a better ratio between the recurrent and capital expenditure items of the FGN's budget, the SAP must be brought to an end in Nigeria as the Naira must be made commercial convertible.

From AllAfrica.com, 16 December 2002

 

China to Accelerate Building of Public Finance System: Finance Minister

The macro-economic policies and measures adopted by the Chinese government since 1998 have produced tangible outcome and China will accelerate the building of a public finance system that meets the needs of a socialist market economy, Chinese Finance Minister Xiang Huaicheng said Tuesday. Delivering a speech on China's macro-economic situation and public finance reform at the China Forum of the 16th World Congress of Accountants, which opened in Hong Kong early Tuesday, the finance minister said the pro-active fiscal policy under implementation in China comprises three main aspects. Firstly, to increase fiscal expenditures through issuing additional treasury bonds for investments in improving infrastructure, with emphasis on agriculture, afforestation, irrigation and water conservancy, communication and telecommunications, environmental protection, the improvement of urban and rural power grids and urban public utilities. Secondly, to stimulate and guide the domestic demand for investment and consumption and to support foreign exports through tax policy adjustments, such as temporary suspension of regulatory tax for fixed assets investment, corporate income tax exemption for investment in equipment, restoring collecting income tax on interest and raising value-added tax (VAT) drawback rate for some exported goods. Thirdly, to increase the income of low-income residents in urban areas through the adjustment of the income distribution policy. "The above macro-economic policies and measures adopted by the Chinese government have produced tangible outcome," he said. Against the background of global economic slowdown, China maintained a fast growth, with its growth rate all registering above 7 percent from 1998 to 2001.

Xiang projected the Chinese economy will grow faster in 2002 than in 2001. The finance minister said the Chinese government has always paid close attention to the fiscal and economic sustainability. In 2001, China's fiscal deficit accounted for 2.7 percent of the GDP and the ratio of the outstanding debt to the GDP stood at 16.3 percent, well below the internationally recognized safety line, he said. Given China's current overall economic strength, deficit and debt at this levels are manageable, and China's debt service capacity has continued to strengthen, he added. However, he stressed that China has taken pre-emptive actions by closely monitoring the changes of relevant indexes and adopting measures to prevent fiscal risks. Speaking about the public finance reform, Xiang said the Chinese government has implemented all-dimensional and fundamental reforms in the system of revenue, expenditure and macro-economic management. He said China's fiscal reform has witnessed breakthrough developments, with the state revenue growing by 2.14 times, or an average annual growth rate of 17.7 percent, and the ratio of state revenues to the GDP up from 11.2 percent in 1994 to 17.1 percent in 2001. The finance minister noted the Chinese government will continue to actively push forward a whole range of fiscal reforms, thus accelerating the building of a public finance system. He said that China will continue to improve and optimize the taxation system and to push forward steadily the reform of implementing fee-to-tax conversion. China will draw on international experience to improve and deepen the reform in fiscal expenditure management on a pilot basis and to seek better fiscal macro-management, Xiang said.

From EastDay.com, 19 November 2002

PFC's Public Issue Hits Ministerial Roadblock

New Delhi - Power Finance's proposal to return 60 per cent of the Rs 1000 crore equity to Government on par followed by a public issue as part of financial restructuring appears to have hit a road block with power ministry having some reservations. With this the corporation's plan to initiate the process of public issue, that could be made more attractive with reduced equity base, from January have gone awry, sources said. Apparently not satiated with the proposal for government to buy back equity worth Rs 600 crore on the face value, the ministry officials are believed to be exploring the possibilities of the premium that could be accompanied on the buy back. As a result of this, the power ministry has not yet forwarded the proposal to the finance ministry for approval and it seems unlikely that the profit making corporation could make any progress on the proposed financial restructuring. While PFC chief A A Khan, who had earlier gone on record about the proposed restructuring with a tentative schedule, could not be contacted for comments, sources said the PFC was following the example of financial institution under the Ministry of Finance which went public in the recent past.

From Times of India, 6 December 2002

Public Bank, Finance, Top Pick In Sector

Kuala Lumpur - Public Bank Bhd.'s (P.PBB) recently announced plans to take its finance company Public Finance Bhd. (P.PBF) private, along with the group's favorable third-quarter earnings, make the two stocks a good bet in Malaysia's ho-hum banking sector, analysts say. Five analysts who spoke with Dow Jones Newswires say they have a buy recommendation on Public Bank and Public Finance shares, and that the two stocks are expected to outperform the broader market in coming months. These same analysts are staying neutral on Malaysia's overall banking sector, citing moderate growth for the industry this year and the next due to shrinking net interest margins amid stiffer competition. Other factors damping the sector include the possibility of a cut in the country's base lending or prime rate, and the likelihood of more mergers and layoffs, as more banks are expected to merge with their respective finance companies in line with the central bank's call to consolidate further. Bank Negara Malaysia, the country's central bank, has the option to cut interest rates if there are further signs of a slowdown in the global economy. For the moment, however, central bank governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz has said interest rates are at an "appropriate" level. Since the start of the year, the benchmark Kuala Lumpur Composite Index has fallen 12.5% to 629.22 points at Friday's close. The KLSE's Finance Index has fallen 13% during the same period, under performing the two stocks. Public Bank, which ended at 2.22 ringgit ($1=MYR3.80) Friday, has risen 11% for the year to date, though it has fallen 5.9% on profit-taking since announcing plans on Nov. 7 to take its finance company private. The rise has been even more pronounced for Public Finance, whose shares have surged 51% since the beginning of the year. The shares have also succumbed to some profit-taking, and have also fallen 5.9% since Nov. 7, to end at MYR7.20 Friday.

Undemanding Valuations A Draw - Analysts say that by taking its finance company private, Public Bank will be in a much stronger position to negotiate during the next round of mergers, expected in three to four years time, when the current 10 core banking groups are expected to be reduced further. The first round of consolidation for Malaysia's financial institutions ordered by the central bank took place in 2000, when 54 banks were reduced to 10 banking groups. Public Bank emerged as the fourth largest among the 10 anchor banks. The next round of consolidation, however, is expected to be largely market driven, analysts say, as 10 banking groups are still too many for the limited Malaysian market. "The group's commendable performance may perhaps outpace its peers in gaining market share, while the proposed privatization of Public Finance would provide 20% earnings (net profit) enhancement (in 2003)," said analyst Mazhar Mazlan at Mayban Securities. As reported recently, Public Bank's net profit rose 16% on year to MYR196.3 million for the third quarter to Sept. 30. For the first nine months of the year, net profit grew 13% to MYR587.2 million, putting the group well on target to meet analysts' full-year consensus net profit forecast of MYR788.3 million. As for Public Finance, net profit for the three months ended September rose 27% on year to MYR76.9 million, while nine-month net income was up 13% to MYR209 million. More importantly, despite the recent rise in share prices, valuations for Public Bank and Public Finance are undemanding, making both stocks a good buy at current prices, analysts say. With a forward 2003 price-to-earnings ratio of 14 times and a price-to-book value of 1.3 times, Public Bank is an attractive buy, they add. "Public Bank deserves a premium valuation because the group would emerge leaner and stronger post-consolidation," said Mayban's Mazhar, who has a fair value for Public Bank shares at MYR2.80, based on Public Bank's 2003 earnings-per-share forecast of 15.9 sen. On Nov. 7, Public Bank announced plans to take its finance company private via a share swap involving an issue of 406.2 million Public Bank shares, on the basis of three Public Bank shares for every one Public Finance share.

Public Bank also announced a 1-for-4 bonus issue of up to 1.3 billion shares after it completes taking its finance company private, and a net dividend of MYR1 a share for Public Finance shareholders before the share swap. Public Bank is expected to take its finance company private some time next year but hasn't indicated a timeframe yet. Some market observers say this could happen in the first half of 2003, after the central bank issues merger guidelines for banks and their respective finance companies, likely in the first quarter of next year. "The (Public Bank-Public Finance) merger will also allow the group to tap a wider current account deposit base, which will lower its funding costs in future," Kuala Lumpur-based Affin-UOB Securities said in a research report. While the deal is seen as fair for Public Bank shareholders, analysts say Public Finance shareholders are in for a windfall. At MYR8.23 a share - analysts' estimate of the implied value of Public Finance shares, based on the share-swap deal and MYR1 net dividend - Public Finance would be valued at a price to net tangible asset or NTA of 1.8 times, a 20% premium to the average price/NTA of 1.5 times for recent similar transactions among financial firms. However, analysts note that Public Bank's move to take its finance company private may have a dilutive effect that will worry some shareholders, given the shares that will be issued. "However, we are not concerned as the longer term outlook of this (move to take Public Finance private) is positive and in the right direction," OCBC Research said in a recent report. Friday, Public Bank's foreign shares Friday fell 0.8% to end at MYR2.42 while Public Finance's foreign shares closed unchanged at MYR7.30. Due to the 30% cap on foreign ownership of domestic banks, a few Malaysian banks have separate listings for foreign shares, which foreign investors are allowed to trade. (joe.edwin@dowjones.com).

From Yahoo Headlines, by Joseph Edwin, 01 December 2002

China Bank Reform Cost Estimated At $373B: Goldman Sachs

An urgently needed government bailout of China's state banking sector could cost $373 billion, or around 30% of the country's expected 2002 gross domestic product, according to a senior Goldman Sachs analyst. China's efforts to address bad loans have been inadequate, and swift but costly government intervention is needed to clear the balance sheets of state-run commercial banks, Fred Hu, Goldman Sachs Asia managing director, said in a recent research report. "Despite favorable conditions, one can't hope that Chinese banks can grow out of their bad loan problems...the scale of NPL problems in China is too large and time is too pressing..." he said in the report. "In other words, these banks are technically insolvent (and) sooner or later, the government must step in to assume the bulk, if not all, of the cleanup costs." China has been grappling with trillions of yuan in bad loans built up in its state-dominated banking sector because of excessive lending to loss-making state-run enterprises. But the delay in improving the banks' assets also is holding up other seriously needed reforms - such as interest-rate liberalization - which are needed to support China's increasingly market-driven economy. In the report, Hu said that the efforts of the past five years have failed to drive forward reforms at the required speed. The report also called into question official claims that progress is being made in sorting out the banking sector. Goldman Sachs estimated the nonperforming loan ratio of the country's four major state-owned commercial banks at 40%, rejecting People's Bank of China figures released in September that put the ratio at below 23%. The report said Goldman Sachs's figures exclude a 1.3 trillion yuan ($1=CNY8.28) bad-debt transfer in 1999-2000 which removed many of the loans issued before 1998 when the banks were under direct government orders to lend to the state sector.

Recommends Aggressive Bank Recap - The country's four major banks are Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China (Q.AGB), China Construction Bank (Q.CCB) and Bank of China (Q.BCH). In 1999, those banks transferred CNY1.3 trillion to CNY1.4 trillion in nonperforming loans to four asset management companies. After three years of trying to work out those loans, the four agencies said they had achieved a cash recovery rate of only 22.6% by the end of September. The urgency of the issue has prompted policy makers to consider a second transfer of bad loans to the asset management companies. But the Goldman Sachs report warned that structural impediments stand in the way of the banks' efforts to resolve bad assets. "China's underdeveloped legal system, ineffective bankruptcy and foreclosure procedures and lack of a liquid secondary market are all formidable obstacles to quick NPL resolution," Hu said in the report. Hu recommended aggressive recapitalization and restructuring of the banking sector ahead of a 2006 opening of the sector to foreign competition under agreement with World Trade Organization. China entered the global trade body last December promising to gradually removal barriers to foreign investment in its financial services sector. "Speedy resolution of NPLs and recapitalization... inevitably puts pressure on China's fiscal position (but) it is time for a "Big Bang" substituting the piecemeal measures taken so far for a more aggressive, more comprehensive and accelerated reform strategy," the report said. (Phelim.kyne@dowjones.com).

From Yahoo Headlines, by Phelim Kyne, 11 December 2002

A collapse of Fiscal Balance

Japan faces a clear and present danger in public finance, epitomized by a crushing debt load equal to 140 percent of its gross national product. In this light, changes to the tax code for fiscal 2003, proposed by the ruling coalition last week, fall far short of expectations. It is essentially a patchwork of tax cuts and tax hikes that, on balance, fails to convey a clear message. What is lacking is a long-term vision for revamping the tax system. The coalition parties would have done well to tell the nation forthrightly about the gravity of the crisis and present a credible game plan to combat it. Specific tax changes for the next fiscal year and beyond should have been proposed along the lines of such a long-range strategy. The tax package was originally aimed at keeping the runaway budget deficit under control. To that end, tax cuts were to have been offset by tax hikes over five years. Now this policy of fiscal balancing has all but collapsed. The key reasons for this are conventional wisdom and weak leadership - Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has left almost everything to tax gurus in his party. Generally, the package favors business over the consumer. For example, companies that spend for research and development will receive tax credits while the special spouse deduction for married workers will be scrapped. Also, taxes on tobacco and liquor (low-malt "happoshu" beer) will be raised. The proposed R&D tax break, designed to spur investment in growth-oriented sectors, is necessary. Scrapping the extra spouse deduction, although it means a de facto tax increase, makes sense in view of the need to streamline the convoluted system of income deductions and broaden the tax base. And raising the "sin tax" is no big deal. These proposals, however, have one drawback in common: the lack of a coherent scenario for tax reform.

The Finance Ministry's long-term plan to balance tax cuts and hikes - a plan aimed at securing an essential degree of fiscal discipline - was conceived as part of such a scenario. Now it appears all but dead amid mounting calls for an economic stimulus. The expectation is that the tax cuts will spur growth and boost tax revenue along the way. The question is how effective they really will be. The multiplier effect of a 1.8 trillion yen tax break in a 500 trillion yen economy will be a drop in the bucket, particularly when the economy is caught in a deflationary quagmire. The dilemma is that without a stimulus, however minimal, the slump will worsen, thus cutting further into tax revenue. The budget gap is appalling. The fiscal 2002 general-account budget, including supplementary spending, is more than 80 trillion yen; by contrast, the revenue estimated for the same year is only 44 trillion yen. The revenue-to-spending ratio, now slightly above 50 percent, has continued to drop since 1990 when it peaked at 86 percent. In the United States and Britain, the ratio is more than 90 percent; in major European countries it is about 80 percent. The severity of Japan's fiscal crisis is also evidenced by the ratio of budget deficit to GDP. At about 7 percent, it is more than twice the figures for the U.S. and European states - where the ratio is less than 3 percent. Italy offers a successful example of deficit reduction. Italy slashed the share of the deficit to less than a third in five years - from more than 10 percent in 1993 to less than 3 percent in 1998 - through a combination of spending cuts (pension benefits, social security payments) and tax increases.

The problem for Japan is that it cannot follow Italy's example. Italy could pursue budget austerity because its economy was inflationary. Japan's deflationary economy does not allow for any major spending cut or tax increase. On the other hand, the bloated budget deficit precludes a major tax cut or a large increase in public investment. The prospect of fiscal bankruptcy would send government bond prices into a tailspin. So what can be done to put the fiscal house in order? Certainly there is no panacea. The only sensible way would be to draw up a long-term program of fiscal reform and put it into action steadily. For that, politicians from the prime minister on down must tell the nation candidly that such a program inevitably includes bitter medicine - tax hikes - and do their best to win public acceptance. The tax package, to be sure, includes plans to broaden the tax base and secure fairness in the tax burden, such as restructuring part of the corporate income tax as a size-based levy and closing loopholes in the consumption tax. These plans, however, represent only tiny steps toward addressing the ongoing crisis. There is still a long way to go before fiscal health can be restored.

The Japan Times, 18 December 2002

Governance Panel Against Rotating Auditors

The Naresh Chandra committee on corporate governance, which is due to submit its report to the finance and company affairs minister this week, is against the concept of auditor rotation in Indian companies. According to government sources, the committee has shot down such a proposal. It has also ruled out the need for an oversight board on the lines of the one that exists in the United States and has instead recommended an alternative mechanism to check accounting frauds. The committee's recommendations, to be posted on the finance and company affairs ministry, would come as a big reprieve for auditors who feared compulsory rotation could potentially destroy the gains of acquiring knowledge about companies businesses during a period of time. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) had cited arguments against the setting up of an oversight board and had suggested ways to strengthen its disciplinary committee. The institute, which is a regulator of the chartered accountancy profession, has asked for multiple benches to effectively deal with errant auditors. Sources also said the government would soon take decisions to recast the disciplinary committee of ICAI by including retired high court judges and eminent persons. For ensuring a quick disciplinary action, the government is also devising ways to ensure that disciplinary cases do not get stuck at high courts. "An appellate tribunal can be set up to avoid delays," said a source. Sources pointed out that there was no concept of rotation of auditors even in developed countries like the United States, United Kingdom or Japan. But with increasing criticism of ICAI's regulatory mechanism, the department of company affairs was considering a proposal for compulsory rotation of auditors. The ICAI council too had discussed the issue but did not take any decision. While the Naresh Chandra committee noted the arguments in favour of appointing new auditors by companies every 3-5 years, it felt such a change would not result in any tangible benefits. Also, with several regulators already in existence, it felt that an accounting board was not required in the Indian circumstances.

From Business Standard, India, 17 December 2002

Public Finance Attractive with Dividends

Public Finance (RM7.40) sprang a pleasant surprise on shareholders when it announced a net interim dividend of 15.8 sen per share. This will go ex on Dec 24 and be paid on Jan 13, 2003. Surf88: We believe the interim dividend would be in lieu of final dividend for 2002 and on this basis, Public Finance would be almost matching the tax-exempt payout of 16 sen per share in 2001. In any case, we had not expected a 2002 dividend in view of the proposed privatisation which comes with a special net dividend of RM1 per share. The latest development hence further enhances the attraction of Public Finance. Incorporating the latest and special dividends and the privatisation offer of 3 Public Bank-local (RM2.30) shares for 1 Public Finance share, the theoretical value of Public Finance would be raised to RM8.06 based on Monday's closing price for Public Bank-local. Overall, we would maintain BUY on Public Finance which trades at implied 8% discount to its theoretical worth. From another angle, it offers a superior entry to Public Bank-local at implied valuation of RM2.08 per share, about 10% below the prevailing market price.

From Star, Malaysia, 13 December 2002

Public Bank, Public Finance Offer Free Astro DMS to Their Customers

Kuala Lumpur: If you are a Public Bank or Public Finance customer, you can sign up for a complimentary Astro Digital Multimedia System (DMS) in conjunction with the new year festivities. It said in a statement that the offer is for individuals/joint accountholders aged 18 years and above between Dec 2, 2002 and Jan 13, 2003. Customers with multiple banking relationships with the banking group may redeem up to two free Astro DMS sets on per account basis. Those wishing to take up the offer are required to make an upfront payment of RM299. This will be credited into the customer's Astro Billing Account as an advance for the monthly service subscription fee. Customers may choose any of Astro's programme packages ranging from a minimum of RM44.95 up to a maximum of RM99.95. They must also maintain the Astro subscription for at least 24 months.

From Daily Express, Malaysia, 11 December 2002

Karnataka Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Bill, 1999

The Centre has sought certain clarifications from the State Government of Karnataka over Karnataka Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Bill, 1999 after obtaining necessary comments from the Ministries of Information and Broadcasting, Environment and Forests, Textiles and Finance. The comments of these Ministries have been forwarded to the Karnataka Government on February 9, 2002, April 3, 2002 and October 1, 2002 respectively for certain clarifications, which are still awaited from the State Government. This information was given by the Union Minister of Law and Justice, Shri K. Jana Krishnamurthi in a written reply to a question from Shri K.K. Javare Gowda in the Rajya Sabha today.

From Press Information Bureau, India, by Rajiya Sabha, 16 December 2002

CFO Code Calls for Champions of Integrity

Chief financial officers will now be required to be "competent", "tough-minded", and have the "highest level of honesty and integrity" under a new code drawn up by the body which represents the CFOs of Australia's top-listed companies. Laying out 10 governing principles, the Group of 100 code requires CFOs to observe the rule and spirit of law, disclose to company boards any conflicts of interest and exercise good faith in preparing financial statements. Developed in collaboration with the recently established governance research unit at Monash University, the code says CFOs should also: "Observe the principles of independence, accuracy and integrity in dealings with board, audit committees, board committees, external and internal auditors and other senior managers within the organisation and other relevant bodies external to the organisation." While principles calling for greater honesty and integrity could be considered ambiguous and even givens for most occupations, Tom Pockett, president of the G100, said the code would give "greater clarity that the CFO is responsible for those rules". "CFOs should be the champions of good corporate governance throughout an organisation and in the wider business community in Australia. "What we're trying to do here together with the other statements about corporate governance is to make it harder for corporate misconduct to survive in an organisation," he said. In releasing the code in Sydney yesterday, Mr. Pockett said the code would drive home the message that finance officers need greater freedom - from the chief executives - in providing the true picture of a company's financial position. "They need autonomy and access to the board," he said. When asked if the code was a veiled attempt to shield CFOs from the upsurge of public anger following recent corporate scandals in Australia and the US, Mr. Pockett said: "Is this a reaction? It could be perceived that way but the Group of 100's members wanted to make a statement on how they wanted to go forward." Mr. Pockett said he hoped the code would be included under the new listing rules which are expected to be finalised by the ASX's Corporate Governance Council next March. He also noted Australian companies listed in the US could use the code, in response to the recently passed Sarbane-Oxley Bill in the US requiring companies to have codes of conduct for their CFOs. Australian Institute of Company Directors chief executive John Hall welcomed the moves to grant financial officers greater autonomy, but said a simpler way would be for the Federal Government to follow the US in making CEOs and CFOs sign off on their accounts.

From Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, by Scott Rochfort, 16 December 2002

Chinese Premier Urges Better Fiscal Management

Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji has called for further reforms of the country's financial system and introduction of an proactive financial policy at a meeting with participants in a national conference on fiscal work which opened in Beijing Wednesday. Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji has called for further reforms of the country's financial system and introduction of an proactive financial policy. At a meeting with participants in a national conference on fiscal work which opened in Beijing Wednesday, Zhu said reforms of China's financial and tax system underway since 1994 helped regulate income distribution among the central government, enterprises and individuals, ensuring a steady increase in the country's fiscal revenue. The premier said the national fiscal revenue increased by 159.5 billion yuan (19.3 billion US dollars) annually from 1994 to 2001.It is expected to grow by some 180 billion yuan (21.8 billion US dollars) this year. China has adopted an proactive fiscal policy and a stable monetary policy since the 1998 Asian financial crisis. Long-term treasury bonds valued at 660 billion yuan (79.8 billion US dollars) have been issued during the past four years. Meanwhile, governments at all levels have used a total of 239 billion yuan (28.9 billion US dollars) to guarantee the basic livelihoods of people whose incomes were below the national average. Some 406.6 billion yuan (49.2 billion US dollars) have been spent to increase wages for public servants and staff working in state-owned institutions since 1999. During the past four years, the central government also helped to improve tax management in rural areas. According to Zhu, fiscal management reforms in government departments have played significant roles in preventing corruptionin recent years. The premier said it was important to increase fiscal incomes while reducing costs, to adjust and improve the fiscal budget, and avoid extravagance and waste, in order to better develop fiscal management in China. Fiscal revenue up 12.4 percent - China's fiscal revenue grew a year-on-year 12.4 per cent during the first 11 months of this year, Finance Minister Xiang Huaicheng said at the national fiscal workshop. The country's fiscal revenue, excluding debt income, stood at 1,648.8 billion yuan US$198.7 billion) during the January-November period - an increase of 182 billion yuan (US$21.9 billion) or 12.4 per cent on the same period of last year.

Fiscal expenditure excluding debt repayment reached 1,691.1 billion yuan (US$203.7 billion) during the period - an increase of 240.7 billion yuan (US$29 billion) or 16.6 per cent compared with a year ago. "The fiscal revenue accounts for 91.5 per cent of the year's budget, while the expenditure accounts for 80.1 per cent of the budget,'' Xiang said. During the 11 months, the country's debt income was 495.8 billion yuan (US$59.7 billion), while the government spent 205.4 billion yuan (US$24.7 billion) repaying debt. "Next year, China will continue to carry out a pro-active fiscal policy,'' Xiang said. "Expanding domestic demand is a long-term and basic foothold for China's economic development, while the implementation of pro-active fiscal policy is an important measure, he said.China will continue to issue a certain amount of long-term treasury bonds to fund the construction of projects already underway and major State projects. Xiang did not say how many construction treasury bonds would be issued next year. But insiders said they would be worth 140 billion yuan (US$16.9 billion). According to Xiang, China will continue to adjust the expenditure structure next year. "The State will increase its input to social security, raise employee salaries and increase income for the lowly paid people,'' he said. It will also further increase expenditure on agriculture. "Agriculture is the base of China's economic development,'' Xiang said. The government will expand the "fees-for-tax'' reforms in the countryside to increase rural people's incomes and step up its efforts to improve the work and living conditions in those areas. With an aim of ensuring a stable increase of fiscal revenue, China will beef up tax collection next year, Xiang said. The government will continue to clear the present tax preferential policies, he said. Local governments will not be allowed to offer preferential tax policies without authorization from the central government. The present tax system should also be improved so loopholes can be blocked up. Xiang said China will severely punish those who try to obtain tax rebates by cheating the government.

From People's Daily Online, 26 December 2002

 

Hungary Says EU More Willing to Accept Its Tax-Break Terms

The European Union is more willing to accept Hungary's request to start using a new form of tax incentives for foreign investors on Jan. 1 rather than making them retroactive, Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said. The tax break for investors, along with direct payments to farmers and budget issues, is among the last disputed areas as Hungary and nine other mostly East European candidates look to wind up entry talks before an EU summit late next week. "They haven't accepted the Hungarian position yet, but there is a growing sense of understanding" that regulations shouldn't be enacted retroactively, Kovacs said. The tax breaks helped Hungary attract about 24 billion euros ($24 billion) of foreign investment since the country shed communism in 1989. Companies such as General Electric Co., International Business Machines Corp. and Audi AG, the luxury car unit of Volkswagen AG, are among the biggest investors. The EU has also moved closer to letting Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia supplement farm subsidies from their own budgets, partially offsetting restrictions on EU aid in the first nine years of membership, Kovacs said. "Not long ago, they didn't even want to hear about this, then they accepted a more modest supplement and now they even boosted that," Kovacs said. "This is where we got the furthest." The four countries are presenting a joint position on direct payments to farmers and are also seeking to raise the level of payments in the first year and to shorten the transition period, Kovacs said. The EU initially proposed to phase in farm payments over a decade after the new members join in 2004, starting at 25 percent of what farmers in the current 15 member states get. Under that plan, aid would rise 5 percentage points annually to 40 percent in 2007 and 10 percentage points annually for the next six years.

From Bloomberg-Politics, by Balazs Penz, 4 December 2002

Italy Starts Europe's Largest Government Asset-Backed Debt Sale

Italy, seeking to reduce its budget deficit, started selling its record 6.6 billion-euro ($6.6 billion) of bonds using state-owned property as collateral, said a banker involved in the sale. The current sale, the largest securitization of European government assets, is the second time in less than a year Italy has sought to raise money by selling debt backed by real estate. The government raised 2 billion euros through a similar sale in December last year. Among the bonds on offer, Italy started selling 1.925 billion euros of 2.4-year, AAA-rated securities, paying 0.27 percentage point more than the three-month euro interbank offered rate, or Euribor, the banker said. Three-month Euribor, a benchmark for corporate borrowing, was recently 2.989 percent. It also started selling 1.327 billion euros of 1.4-year securities rated AAA paying 0.2 percentage point more than Euribor. ABN Amro Holding NV, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro SpA, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc.'s Schroder Salomon Smith Barney are managing the sale.

From Bloomberg-Politics, by Cecile Gutscher, 4 December 2002

Brown Backs Down in Row Over Europe Tax on Savings

Prospects of a Europe-wide tax on savings being introduced in a year's time moved a step closer yesterday when Britain dropped a demand that had been blocking talks. After 12 years of discussion on a plan to stop investors evading taxes on the interest on savings, a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels moved towards a deal that could be struck next week. The scheme, due to start on 1 January 2004, is designed to crack down on thousands of EU citizens who hold savings in accounts in another member state, avoiding tax on the interest their cash earns. Germany is a particular loser from the present position, with many residents crossing borders to open bank accounts. After yesterday's talks, three smaller countries - Luxembourg, Austria and Belgium - were still holding out. At the heart of the deadlock is a dispute over how to combat tax evasion. One option is for countries to impose their own withholding tax on interest earned by foreigners and to share revenue with the saver's home country. The other is for them to exchange information automatically with tax authorities in depositors' home countries. Britain won backing for the automatic exchange option but Austria, Luxembourg and Belgium said they would only follow suit if nations including Switzerland, not an EU member, agreed to do the same. Until yesterday Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, rejected a compromise under which the Swiss could protect their banking secrecy and impose a withholding tax.

Mr. Brown has now backed down and endorsed a plan that would see withholding tax on accounts in Switzerland fixed at 35 per cent. Information would only be exchanged on a request based on suspicion of fraud or money-laundering. A British official said: "Clearly we would like the Swiss to go further but the price the Swiss are having to pay is a high withholding tax of 35 per cent." The Treasury says its strategy has been based around the desire to prevent a withholding tax being forced on London, with damaging implications for the eurobond market. The original proposal from the European Commission allowed nations the option of choosing between a withholding tax or an exchange of information. One EU diplomat said the British change of heart reflected "a bit of realism creeping in". But the agreement could still fall at the final hurdle. Luxembourg and Austria say they will not exchange information unless the Swiss do so. In the meantime they want to levy a withholding tax at the lower rate of 15 to 20 per cent. "We can't accept that money will flee outside the EU's frontiers," said Jean-Claude Juncker, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg. There are also doubts the UK's dependent territories, such as Jersey, will fall into line.

From UK-The Independent-Europe, by Stephen Castle, 4 December 2002

Sharp Improvement in Public Finances

The Exchequer Figures for the end of November - published this evening - confirm that a sharp improvement in the public finances occurred last month. An extra €4 billion in tax receipts was collected, but spending growth was still running 17.7% ahead of last year. As a result, the Exchequer ended the month with a surplus of €1 billion. The surplus is a major boost to Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy on the eve of his sixth budget which is expected to include increases in taxes on cigarettes, petrol and alcohol, as well as modest improvements in tax credits. Government expenditure is running 17.7% ahead of last year at €27.2 billion, down from 19.6% at the end of October but still ahead of the budget day target of 14.3%.Today's figures from the Department of Finance will bolster Charlie McCreevy's resolve to stick to his guns when it comes to the budgetary forecasts he makes. Against all odds, today's Exchequer Figures reveal a sharp turn around in the Government's coffers in November. A total of €4 billion in extra tax receipts were collected. Over €1.5 billion of that came from Income tax, and another €600 million from Corporation taxes. The net result is an Exchequer surplus of €1 billion compared to a deficit of €439 million reported at the end of October. Today's figures are a timely boost for the Minister in advance of the budget. There has been no shortage of speculation about what the budget might contain. No changes in income tax rates, modest improvements in tax credits, social welfare increases in line with the rate of inflation are all on the cards. It is expected that the largest rises in social welfare will again go to the elderly as the Government set a target of €200 for the old age pension by 2007.There has also been a lot of speculation about a sizeable increase in excise duties on cigarettes. This has been fuelled by statements from Government Ministers.

But precisely how much will be levied on cigarettes is still a closely guarded secret. Speculation has ranged as high as €2 a pack although many might argue that such a large increase could backfire because it would encourage smuggling of cigarettes to get around the tax hike. Increases in the cost of petrol and diesel are also rumoured to be included in the budget. One proposal suggested that a five cent increase in road fuels could be used to help fund road improvements. The Minister has already said that if he has any extra leeway in the budget he will use it to provide extra resources for what he termed 'hard capital'. It is understood that this refers to the roads building programme, where 22 projects due to start in 2002 had to be postponed due to a lack of finance. Other budget newsIn other budget news, as indicated in the Book of Estimates the threshold for the Drugs Refund Scheme is to be raised €5 to €70 each month. This means those entitled to refunds must pay an extra €5 each month for their medicines. In a statement, Health Minister Micheal Martin said the measure would raise an extra €7.2m annually, but that he would be introducing measures to protect the less well off. More generic drugs will be used, and there would be tighter policing to prevent invalid claims. And a spokeman for Communications Minister Dermot Ahern has denied that the government has approved a 30% increase in the TV licence fee. Today's cabinet meeting, he said, did not discuss the issue, no decision has been made, and the licence fee would not be part of the budget.

From RTE Interactive, Ireland, 4 December 2002

Sobotka Team Proposes Big Cut in Public Finance Deficit

Four-year strategy drafted as economic growth slows - The Czech Finance Ministry is proposing the government cut the public finance deficit to 3.7 percent of GDP by 2006 from an estimated 5.7 percent this year, a ministry source said on Friday. The target, more ambitious than the center-left cabinet's current goal of bringing the deficit to 4.9-5.4 percent of GDP in 2006, is part of a four-year fiscal reform strategy slated to come up for government debate this month. The Czech Republic has been under pressure to undertake a major overhaul of its deficit-ridden public finances to meet the strict fiscal criteria for joining the euro currency a few years after EU entry, expected in May 2004. The plan, drafted by a team of economic advisers to Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, aims to slash the underlying public finance deficit to 5.2 percent in 2004. It would then bring it down to 4.2 percent in 2005 and 3.7 percent in 2006, the ministry source told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Though it is a sharp improvement over current forecasts, Sobotka's plan still foresees a deficit above the 3 percent ceiling required for euro entry. The underlying public finance deficit is expected to rise to 6.3 percent of GDP in 2003, net of one-off privatization income and covering of past losses stemming from post-Communist bank and industrial corporate restructuring. This measure is largely compliant with EU methodology. The Finance Ministry is proposing to overhaul the social welfare system by cutting payments and benefits and raising tax revenues by increasing excise taxes and value-added tax. This would permit a cut in corporate income tax from the current 31 percent. Details of the plan are expected to be published in mid-December. Without the reforms, the ministry has warned the fiscal deficit would rise to 7.2 percent of GDP in 2004 and remain above 6.5 percent until 2006 when the current center-left coalition government's term ends. Rapidly rising social spending, with the increases mandated by Parliament, have been the main factor pushing Czech public finances deeper and deeper into the red. But the proposal is likely to run into stiff resistance within the Cabinet, headed by old-style leftist Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla and including ministers who have steadfastly opposed sharp cuts in social benefits.

Meanwhile, Czech economic growth will record its slowest pace in three years in the third quarter as consumer demand, trade and tourism took a big short-term hit from the floods, which swept through central Europe in August. Fifteen analysts in a Reuters poll predicted on average last Thursday that gross domestic product (GDP) would rise a meager 1.2 percent year-on-year in July-September, a marked slowdown from 2.5 percent growth in the second quarter. This would be the slowest quarterly growth since the country pulled itself out of a two-year recession in 1999. The Czech Statistical Bureau (CSU) will publish the GDP data Wednesday, just eight days before the Czech central bank (CNB) policy makers are scheduled to meet to consider lowering interest rates. The predictions ranged between 0.1 percent and 1.9 percent, a sign of high uncertainty weighing on the financial markets. "I am probably more bearish than most, but it's very difficult to see what the impact of the floods is going to be," said Jeff Gable, an economist at Deutsche Bank whose prediction of a mere 0.1 percent growth was the lowest in the survey. Analysts said the dent from the floods would be short-lived and the economy would likely pick up steam next year, and central bank economists estimated the floods would shave off just 0.2-0.3 percentage points of full year GDP growth in 2002. Economists in the Reuters poll saw the Czech economic expansion slowing to 2.2 percent on average from 3.3 percent in the whole of 2001 as the dent from the floods combines with flagging export performance. Notwithstanding the floods, the export-dependent and very open Czech economy has been held back by dull demand in key markets in the European Union and a sharp appreciation of the crown earlier this year, which has squeezed businesses. Weakening growth is widely expected to prompt the central bank to consider a further quarter point cut in borrowing costs on Dec. 18 after a flurry of rate cuts since January as inflation pressures remain largely absent, many analysts said.

From Prague Business Journal, 9 December 2002

EU Impasse Over New Savings Taxation Rules

European Union governments remain split in a long-running dispute over new rules on savings taxation ahead of a make-or-break meeting on Wednesday. Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg are still resisting a deal to break a 12-month deadlock over the controversial issue, despite further progress in talks with Switzerland. Caution over the latest Swiss offer has also been expressed by larger governments such as France and Italy. Negotiations between the three countries, Denmark, the holder of the EU's rotating presidency, and the European Commission are set to continue on Tuesday in an attempt to find a solution before Wednesday's meeting of finance ministers. People close to the talks said EU countries were so divided, only ministers could resolve their differences ."It will take an act of political will to bridge the gap," one EU diplomat said. Unless all EU countries and Switzerland strike a deal before the end of the year, the proposals to fight fraud and evasion by harmonising rules on savings taxation will collapse. After negotiations last Friday with the European Commission and Denmark, Switzerland agreed to make further small concessions. It is understood Bern has drafted a list of circumstances under which it would exchange information on non-residents' savings with EU governments. The extra information, similar to that provided by Switzerland to the US authorities, meets one of the EU's chief demands. Bern's concessions fall short of opening up its secretive banking system by automatically exchanging information on savings held by EU residents in Swiss bank accounts. The offer is also less than that agreed by 12 EU governments, which will automatically exchange information with each other in 2004.However, Switzerland has promised to levy a withholding tax of 35 per cent on EU residents' savings and pass on 75 per cent of its proceedings to EU governments. Bern's offer is conditional on the imposition of the same tax by Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg. The three governments have so far refused this, but negotiations are under way to push for a compromise. "We are in the horse-trading zone," a person close to the negotiations said. One of the options could be to lower the rate of the withholding tax to be levied by Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland. However, such a proposal could be opposed by France and Germany. Concessions to the three dissident governments in other areas are also possible. The Austrians have already asked other EU governments to prolong restrictions on the flow of heavy traffic through the Alps. Belgium is known to be keen to see progress on other tax issues. Luxembourg, where the financial services industry accounts for a substantial portion of GDP, could be more difficult to persuade but might give way rather than be left isolated. Tomorrow's meeting will also see a written report from the UK, which is expected to confirm that its dependent territories - the Channel Islands and the Caribbean - will move to automatic exchange of information in 2004.

From Financial Times, by Francesco Guerrera, UK, 10 December 2002

Public-Finance Reform Debate Splits CSSD

Sick Pay, Other Benefits at Stake; Experts Call Changes Vital for Euro - As the Finance Ministry sketches out its four-year public spending proposals, politicians are lining up for a battle that could decide the shape of social policy in the years before the country joins the euro currency zone. The debate is also expected to set the future direction of the ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD). The proposals - announced officially Dec. 16 but leaked extensively in recent weeks - include restrictions on sick pay and welfare benefits, the elimination of mortgage tax relief, cuts in corporate taxes, layoffs at government ministries and measures to fight tax evasion. The Cabinet is due to discuss the changes in January, ahead of a vote in the Chamber of Deputies early next year. The Finance Ministry said the changes could lead to a net benefit to the budget of at least 60 billion Kc ($1.9 billion) during four years. It said the proposals will also allow the government to cut the public deficit to between 3 and 4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2006. The deficit will reach 5.7 percent this year. Economists say the proposals are long overdue and essential if the country is to adopt the euro in 2007 or 2008. Under the Maastricht Treaty rules for euro adoption, the public deficit must be no higher than 3 percent of GDP. In addition, a failure to arrest the growing deficit could affect confidence in the country on the financial markets and among the foreign business community. "Sooner or later they will understand that the country is in trouble. They will realize that any delay in these proposals will lead to greater damage over the long term," said Daniel Munich, deputy director of the Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education at Charles University (CERGE).

Party could slow reforms - But analysts said Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka will have a tough time pushing the changes through Parliament because of resistance within his own party. "I think at the moment a majority of the deputies from the Social Democratic Party are against the reform, because [the changes] are clearly opposed to their electoral manifesto, and in some topics, they run against the government's program," said Kamil Janacek, chief economist at Komercni banka and a former deputy minister for labor and social affairs. Janacek said that Zdenek Skromach, minister for labor and social affairs, is leading the lobbying against the proposals and that changes in social spending would likely cause the most disagreement. Union leaders have also voiced concern, particularly over the proposed cuts in civil servant numbers. "Mr. Skromach insists on keeping the social allowances at the current level. It is clear that Mr. Skromach is the center of the anti-[reform] wing," Janacek said. Vladimir Prorok, a political science professor at the Prague Economics University and an analyst for the CSSD, said the proposals threaten to split the CSSD into two camps: one supporting fiscal restraint and early adoption of the euro and the other supporting current social spending levels and adoption of the single currency later, possibly in 2010. "There will be a big battle, because it is a question about the future of the Social Democratic Party," he said. Difficulties not new - CSSD has been at this crossroads before. In 1999, then-Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik tried to pass similar public finance reforms, only to be beaten back by members of his own party.

But Janacek said Sobotka has a better chance of passing the measures than Mertlik did because such international institutions as the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union have all recently given their support. Martin Kupka, chief economist at CSOB bank, said this country's imminent entry to the EU - scheduled for May 2004 - had also added focus to the issue. The EU extended an entry invitation at its Dec. 12-13 enlargement summit in Copenhagen. The closer we are to membership of the European Union and membership of the eurozone, and the worse our fiscal position looks, the better is the position of those who want serious fiscal reform," Kupka said. Prorok said CSSD's coalition partners - the Freedom Union (US-DEU) and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) - are also likely to support the proposals, as is the country's second-largest party, the Civic Democrats (ODS). Prorok said that Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla is ideologically opposed to the changes but that Spidla is likely to support reform for the sake of his political survival. "If Spidla wants to keep the coalition, he has no choice but to support Sobotka," Prorok said. Minister will need strength - Like a number of economic experts, Kupka praised Sobotka for his reform efforts, which he said showed a new open-mindedness at the ministry toward reform. But he added, "We will have to see if Sobotka is strong enough to push his conclusions through Parliament. Because as the old proverb says: The way to hell is always paved with good ideas." Ingrid Ludvikova contributed to this report. Ben Schiller's e-mail address is bschiller@praguepost.com

From Prague Post, Czech Republic, 18 December 2002

 

Top Tax Officials Go to U.S. to Calm Investors

A high-level Income Tax Commission delegation left yesterday for the United States to calm investors' nerves about the forthcoming tax reform, which comes into force on January 1, 2003. Led by Income Tax Commissioner Tali Yaron-Eldar, international taxation unit head Yaron Shidlo and Yaron-Eldar's adviser Moshe Asher, the delegation will meet with members of the Israeli and Jewish communities as well as with American investors in Israel. The visit, which was kept secret over the past few days, was decided on after the commission received reports that the reform was causing great concern among three groups: Israelis living or working in the U.S.; Jewish and non-Jewish Americans investing in Israel; and Jews wishing to immigrate to Israel. The concerns center on the taxes these three groups will have to pay as a result of the reform, in which Israel will adopt a personal international taxation system rather than the current territorial taxation. The delegation will stress that the reform will not affect profits accumulated prior to January 1, 2003, that new immigrants will not be affected in any way by the reform and that there will be no dual taxation in Israel and the U.S. after implementation of the reform. Meanwhile, the Income Tax Commission has stepped up preparations for the implementation of the reform next month. On the basis of recent estimates, the commission expects revenues of around NIS 1 billion from the capital markets in 2003, with around NIS 200 million coming from taxation of stock market gains. Revenues for 2004 are expected to climb to around NIS 1.5-2 billion and in the following years to around NIS 2 billion per annum. The revenues from taxation of the capital markets will initially be lower because of partial implementation of the reform in its first year. The revenues from the capital markets are expected to finance the cut in taxes on labor.

From Ha'aretz, Israel, by Moti Bassok, 08 December 2002

Lahoud Stresses Transparency in Privatization Program

President Emile Lahoud of Lebanon stressed the importance of transparency during meetings Tuesday on cellular privatization and the banking sector. Lahoud received Telecommunications Minister Jean-Louis Qordahi at Baabda Palace to discuss the next steps in the cellular phone privatization process "based on the need to enhance the state's resources and preserve its rights." Lahoud also chaired a meeting with Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, the chairman of the Banking Control Commission, Walid Alameddin, and the president of the Banks Association, Joseph Torbey. Lahoud praised the association's help in reducing debt costs.

From Daily Star, Lebanon, 18 December 2002

 

State E-tax Plans Worry Taxpayer Groups

California will expand government-provided services for online tax filing next year, despite opposition from tax preparation companies and taxpayer groups. The state's Franchise Tax Board voted Tuesday to provide residents with online versions of all major state forms by next year. Currently, only the 540EZ form--the state equivalent of the federal 1040EZ for the simplest tax returns--is available for direct online filing. The state's 540A will be ready in an online version by next January, according to Tax Board spokesman John Baird, with the 540 form online by summer, for those filing under an extension. Each form will let taxpayers enter information, perform basic calculations and submit data to the state electronically. But the forms will not include advice on deductions or other matters. "It's going to be straight 'fill in the blanks,'" said Barret. "There won't be any advice at all." The online version of 540EZ became available last year. Previously, California taxpayers who wanted to file electronically had to use software or an online service for a commercial tax-preparation provider, such as Intuit's TurboTax division. California legislators and administrators have lobbied to increase state-provided services, saying they will make efficient, timesaving services available to more taxpayers. Similar arguments have been made on a federal level in support of proposals for the Internal Revenue Service to offer some form of electronic tax forms. Such plans were put on hold earlier this year, when the Bush administration approved a plan that basically codified existing programs instituted by private tax preparers to offer free electronic filling to low-income taxpayers.

Tax companies and taxpayer advocates argue it's a dangerous precedent for the government to get involved in providing tax preparation service. Even something as seemingly innocuous as an online tax calculator can become a tool that can be used against taxpayers, they argue. "I think simplicity should be the watchword" for government-provided online forms, said Pete Sepp, vice president of communications for the National Taxpayers Union. "It should be as close to doing data entry online as possible. Otherwise, you run into a situation where e-filing becomes another way to deny taxpayers the deductions they're allowed." About two dozen states offer electronic tax forms, but California would be by far the largest state to offer all its major forms for online filing. Sepp said the state services could set a precedent for federal plans. "As long as the states are to remain these laboratories of democracy, anything they cook up at that level may eventually take hold in Washington," he said. Intuit spokesman Scott Gulbransen said cooperation between private tax preparers and government has worked well on the federal level and for most states and ought to be the model for California. "At a time when the state of California is facing a $21 billion budget deficit, you have to wonder why they're spending money to duplicate services already offered by the private sector," he said. "We feel the private sector has been doing a good job of ensuring that all taxpayers have access to the benefits of electronic filing."

From News.com, by David Becker, 27 November 2002

Bank-Holding Company PNC Adopts New Corporate-Governance Guidelines

Pittsburgh - PNC Financial Services Group Inc. Monday said it has adopted a new set of corporate governance guidelines and added three new seats to its board .In a press release Monday, the Pittsburgh-based bank-holding company said it named Major General J. Gary Cooper, Richard Kelson and Anthony Massaro directors. There are now 16 members on the board. Cooper, 66 years old, is chairman and chief executive officer of Commonwealth National Bank. Kelson, 56, is chief financial officer for Alcoa. Massaro, 58, is chairman, president and chief executive officer of Lincoln Electric Holdings Inc.The company said that under the new guidelines, non-management directors will meet periodically with the chairman of its nominating and governance committee presiding. Also, PNC's audit committee will continue holding separate sessions with PNC's management, internal auditors and independent auditors. The company said the moves were in response to the developing corporate governance landscape and in anticipation of new listing rules for the New York Stock Exchange. Since Enron Corp.'s collapse last year and a wave of other scandals, companies have faced a surge in questions about auditor independence, ethics, control and other corporate-governance issues.

From Miami Herald, FL, 02 December 2002

Bush Reshuffle Puts Dividend Tax on Agenda

The first President George Bush followed the Carter administration in examining "double taxation" of dividends in the US but both failed to act. It seems the current president may be returning to the old theme. Whether this weekend's changes in George W. Bush's economic team make reform more or less likely is an open question. Yet Glenn Hubbard, chairman of the council of economic advisers, has been an advocate of reform - and he at least is keeping his job. The unequal tax treatment of dividends causes economic distortions. Rather than improving during the past decade, things have deteriorated, most notably with the 1997 reduction in the top rate of capital gains tax from 28 per cent to 20 per cent. Tax on corporate income combined with tax on individual income means that the effective tax on dividends can be as high as 60 per cent. Meanwhile, debt interest repayments are paid out of companies' pre-tax income. Virtually all other countries at least partially offset double taxation. US pension funds do not pay income tax, and some other groups have the same advantage. But private investors suffer the double whammy. This partly explains the difference between the dividend yield of 1.7 per cent on the S&P 500 and the 3.18 per cent on the FTSE Eurotop 300 - and for the decline in the dividend-payout ratio to 35 per cent of trend profits. The taxation of dividends leads to (at least) four economic distortions. These include a bias in favour of retaining earnings for investment or acquisitions and a bias in favour of share buybacks and against dividends. It has also added to corporate governance problems and has led to a bias in favour of debt over equity financing. As recent experience confirms, firms have a tax-induced incentive to retain earnings for dubious investments and acquisitions and to take on excessive leverage in the process. Part of the reluctance of mature technology companies to prefer share buybacks over dividends is that they need to offset the massive shareholder dilution that comes from stock option grants. Meanwhile chief executives, up to their eyeballs in stock options, have little incentives to pay dividends.

Richard Berner, chief US economist at Morgan Stanley, says that eliminating the double taxation of dividends will lead to improved capital allocation and corporate governance.* With the tax excuse removed, a company would have to either pay out a significant proportion of its earnings as dividends or have an adequate explanation of the benefits of their investment or acquisition plans. Meanwhile, while earnings can be of dubious quality, a dividend cannot be faked. Paying dividends may also encourage a shift to restricted stock grants, which are a more transparent way of aligning management and shareholder interests than stock options. With single digit returns, dividends may look more attractive to investors but options may appear less so for managers. "If the objective is improved capital allocation, then reform should focus on the tax at the corporate level," said Mr. Berner. "If that is not politically palatable, then combine relief at the corporate level with some relief for individuals." Of course, tax cuts have to be paid for, and the departing Bush economic team has already succeeded in undermining the long-term fiscal outlook. However, a tax cut at the corporate level could partially pay for itself as investors pay income tax on increased dividend income. Reducing the effective tax rate on dividends could provide a boost to the stock market. Glenn Hubbard's view, expressed in his academic writings, is that the evidence supports the contention that taxes paid on dividends are capitalised in share prices.** Hence reducing future taxes could provide an immediate boost to shares, though it is hard to say to what extent. Improved capital allocation would also bring benefits over time. A final problem is that Congressional attention may be focused on the perceived need for fiscal stimulus, rather than on improving the efficiency of the tax system. Perhaps the administration's new economic team will be able to lead the debate. But there are reasons why an obviously sensible reform has been so long in coming. * Benefits from Eliminating the Double Taxation of Dividends, Morgan Stanley, October 2002. ** The Share Price Effects of Dividend Taxes and Tax Imputation Credits, by Trevor Harris, Glenn Hubbard and Deen Kemsley, Journal of Public Economics, March 2001. andrew.balls@ft.com

From Financial Times, by Andrew Balls, UK, 09 December 2002

Consider the Effects of Taxation

Taxes change behavior, economic transactions - We need government, and that means taxes. But when we think about government spending, and the taxes needed to finance its spending, we should also think of the effects of taxation. Suppose I hire you to repair my computer. The job is worth $200 to me and doing the job is worth $200 to you. The transaction will occur because we have a meeting of the mind. Now suppose there's the imposition of a 30 percent income tax on you. That means you won't receive $200 but instead $140. You might say the heck with working for me - spending the day with your family is worth more than $140. You might then offer that you'll do the job if I pay you $285. That way your after-tax earnings will be $200 - what the job was worth to you. There's a problem. The repair job was worth $200 to me, not $285. So it's my turn to say the heck with it. This simple example demonstrates that one effect of taxes is that of eliminating transactions, and hence jobs. But politicians have what we economists call a zero elasticity vision of the world. They think people will behave after taxes just as they behaved before taxes and the only effect of a tax is to bring in more revenue. How in the world can tobacco companies survive and remain profitable in the wake of punitive taxes, penalties and court settlements? The answer's easy. Corporations do not pay taxes, penalties and settlements. They are merely tax collectors. In the case of tobacco, the punitive taxes, penalties and settlements are shifted forward to consumers in the form of higher prices - thus, government has punished smokers much more than tobacco companies. If the government made a similar attack on the beef industry, it would be out of business. Why? There are many substitutes for beef that consumers would turn to, whereas there are few substitutes for tobacco. Imposition of oppressive taxes on goods having few substitutes is standard fare for government. King George III did it with what our ancestors called the Intolerable Acts (Stamp Tax, Tea Tax and others). But not for long. Americans of that day hadn't learned the lessons of submissiveness and compliance. They rebelled.

From Charlotte Observer, NC, by Walter Williams, 07 December 2002

Brazil: Palocci confirmed as Finance Minister

President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has confirmed that Antônio Palocci will be his finance minister, the first official appointment to his cabinet. He has also named Marina Silva environment minister. Palocci, a longstanding member of the workers party (PT), is a pragmatic fixer, who masterminded Lula's successful presidential campaign. He now heads the team overseeing the transition to the new government. Palocci's has won over much of the investment community in recent weeks by repeatedly emphasising the need for a prudent fiscal and monetary policy. He also won brownie points with investors when, as mayor of Ribeiro Preto, he privatised the municipal telephone company in the face of strong opposition from his own party. He is a doctor specialising in public health issues and is also the vice-president of the PT. He is not popular with leftwing petistas and has a strained relationship with the party's president, José Dirceu. The fact that Lula picked Palocci as his first minister shows that the President-elect will not be dictated to by the Left. Marina Silva, also a PT member, is a former senator for the Amazonian state of Acre. She is a longstanding environmental campaigner and is particularly interested in the issues of forestry and indigenous rights.

From Latin Trade, 11 December 2002

 

The Private Sector And Nigerian Economy

The pivotal role of the private sector in the economic development process has long been recognized. There is an increasing awareness of the strategic role of the private sector as the engine of economic growth and development as government's predominance in economic activities is giving way to a situation where the private sector is the prime mover. The rapid growth of the newly industrialized economies for instance, has been underpinned by high levels of private sector activity and growth of manufactured exports. This in turn has stimulated demand in the economy. In Nigeria, the Organized Private Sector, (OPS) therefore, has an important role to play in facilitating industrialization particularly through: promotion of entrepreneurship to widen and strengthen the national managerial base; and attraction of foreign investment capital through joint ventures and collaborative trade agreements; as well as adoption and adaptation of new manufacturing technologies to evolve product varieties and improved manufacturing processes. The way forward would be for the Nigerian industrialists and businessmen to identify and explore appropriate strategy, not only to remain in business, but to respond to the policy shift of a private-led industrialization in the new millennium. Given the vast human and material resources of the nation, the prospects of economic development are very high. The creation of an industrial culture in Nigeria cannot depend solely on the effort of governments and on the dominant-role of the public sector, as is the current situation. Apart from the past experience of suboptimal performance of state-owned enterprises, the management of public sector companies presents some inherently structural problems.

The private sector initiatives which usually induce competition, cost-consciousness and profit-motivation must be involved before a meaningful economic development can be achieved. There is, therefore, need to identify roles, policies and actions of the key players in the economy, as no entity can singly ensure the achievement of such objective. In the past, as there was no clear-cut policies and demarcation of roles, the public sector tended to compete rather than complement private sector efforts. Under the current initiatives, there is need for a balanced and symbiotic relationship between both sectors so that the economic development process can be accelerated. Three years of democratic rule have since gone by, and it is gladdening to note that the interfaces and cooperation required to jump -start the process of national recovery are taking place. If our collective goals of economic growth and development, political stability and social progress are to be realized, we need to find some means of fostering closer collaboration between the institutions of State and vital players in our national life such as the :OPS. Nigeria is fast becoming a dumping ground for all kinds of goods, a development that is threatening the very survival of many local industries. Legislative remedies to this problem are presently being considered, and the urgent-input of OP S in this regard is advised, considering the need to strike the delicate balance between trade liberalization and national economic interests. In this new dispensation, therefore, government's role should focus on providing policy leadership and direction, incentive framework, social overhead capital, law and order, political and macroeconomic stability, as well as effective implementation of policy measures.

In addition, government has to provide basic and efficient infrastructure like roads, electricity, communications, as well as other economic infrastructure; appropriate legal frame work to aid efficiency in business activities, engender competition and conflict resolution; efficient and effective civil service with high quality technocrats for regular monitoring and fine-tuning of policy; adequate security for lives and property by expanding and equipping the police force with modern weapons to combat crimes; and above all, transparent leadership in governance. Also, government must demonstrate high-level commitment to policy consistency and implementation. The private sector must be creative and imaginative to remain competitive especially in this era of globalization and liberation. Economic development all over the world is becoming increasingly influenced by technology. Technological innovation has become an important means of establishing new industries, and for the private sector to remain competitive, they must invest in technology. Technological research and utilization as production for export constitute the key areas in which the private sector faces challenges of relevance in the national economy. Moreover, for Nigeria to remain relevant and active in world trade, our industries must be efficient and effective by adhering strictly to the standards set by the global community in industrialization. Economic development in Nigeria, as in many other developing countries, is being confronted by a lot of challenges- The major sources of these challenges remain the economy itself and developments in the world market, especially globalization. The Nigerian economy has been going through a lot of changes which have serious implications on efforts at industrializing the country. In particular, the recent policy focus at deregulating and liberalizing the economy to pave way for the private sector to reach the commanding heights of the productive sectors poses certain fundamental challenges.

The private sector should cooperate with the government to confront these challenges for the overall economic development of the country. Nigeria undoubtedly possesses sufficient resource base to be truly industrialized and sustain economic growth and development. There is no doubt about the huge potentials of this country as an economic giant, considering its enormous natural and human endowments. For one, Nigeria is not only the biggest African country in terms of landmass and population, it is also the largest black nation on earth with all the political goodwill and privilege which such a historically significant status can muster. More specifically, Nigeria is abundantly blessed with a sprawling carpet of fertile land, rich vegetation, benigh weather, a rare variety of natural resources. Foremost among these are its vast quantities of hydrocarbons and solid mineral, especially crude oil and natural gas. These two alone, which rank among the world's most commercialized natural resources in the second half of this century, provide an indication of Nigeria's enormous wealth, currently and potentially. For instance, Nigeria is the sixth largest producer in the elite league known as Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries [OPEC], whose members account for over two-thirds of the world's total supply of this commodity. Also, the country\s estimated reserves of natural gas run into billions of metric tones, and serious exploitation of this resource is only about to begin with the completion of the Liquefied Natural Gas [LNG] project. For a better appreciation of the import of all this in terms of revenue earning capacity and potential, it is worth mentioning that Nigeria, to date, the World Bank reported that the country has realized over US$200 billion from crude oil sales.

For a country that could boast of such tremendous amount of resources, it is however disheartening to note that very little of the past earnings have been put to productive use. In fact, a cursory look at the country's present economic state tells a glaring tale of a huge paradox- a paradox of achieving so little with so much. Let us pause briefly to take a look at some countries, which have certain economic attributes in common with Nigeria. A comparative exercise on this score will provide further insights on the strength or weakness of our economic performance. This should also help define the nature of the economic blueprint expected from the government, since one never really realizes how well or poorly one is faring unless when compared with his peers. No doubt, we are all aware of the profound economic feat recorded in South East Asia within the last two decades by the so-called Asian Tigers, i.e. South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and others. Notwithstanding the various problems currently besetting these economies, I believe they still qualify as role models for developing countries particularly from Africa. The private sector should co-operate with the government in harnessing the country's numerous human and material resources. The government as pointed out before should provide the enabling environment for the private sector to operate. This would be facilitated by early resolution of identified bottlenecks and adoption of certain remedial measures and appropriate strategy. The entry point would be role-sharing and meaningful collaboration among the public and private sectors. To take over the commanding height of the economy, the private sector leadership must be committed, confident and demonstrate exemplary leadership. They must develop for effective team building communication, motivation, delegation and conflict management.

From AllAfrica.com, by Willy Nwoko, 02 Dec 2002

Intel in Onne Port May Be Experimenting With Port Privatization

Tucked away in Onne, a suburban town in the Rivers State Capital of Port Harcourt is a port facility which the Nigerian Ports Authority is operating in a 21 years Joint venture Agreement. The other organisation is the INTEGRATED LOGISTIC SERVICE (INTELS). Under the JVA agreement, the NPA provides land and port facilities for the use of INTELS. On their part, INTELS bring their contract service agreements with oil producing and service companies. These include construction and transportation. The profit sharing ratio from the joint venture is 10% to the NPA and 90% to INTELS. That by implication puts the NPA in the position+ of a subordinate; a junior partner. Opponents of the privatisation plans for the Nigerian Ports Authority had better redoubled their efforts. What I am looking at in the Port of Onne is not a mirage, but a semblance of a shift from an all time policy of not privatising NPA. I am aware of the vehemence with which government spokesmen have stood up for privatisation as much as the intensity with which serving staff through their unions have resisted it. This clandestine implementation of a controversial policy is nothing short of an oblique approach to privatisation. INTELS agreements with the NPA which allows them the right to develop and maintain port facilities, build jetties and Quay and use same, no longer makes the NPA, the exclusive owner and administrator of the Port in whatever light the Ports Act is viewed. INTELS originally belonged to Late General Shehu Ya'Adua with no Joint Venture Agreement with the NPA at Onne. With his demise after a long political struggle, some of his financial holdings changed hands. One such holding in particular was believed to be INTELS which subsequently found their way to the NPA in a lucrative Joint Venture Agreement. It is hard to say how much the Federal Government wants to be disturbed about events in Onne perhaps because, to review the agreement under which INTELS functions in Onne, will require more than merely issuing an administrative fiat.

Lawyers may have to be called in to read and decode the small print clauses, which few laymen hardly bother to read. The current true owners and who their sponsors in the NPA are, will make interesting disclosures. Not long ago, the House of Representatives mandated its committee on Aviation Privatisation to investigate the Joint Venture Agreement between the Aviation Ministry and Air wing Aerospace Limited. It is my suggestion that a similar mandated be given to the House Committee on NPA Privatisation to look into the Joint Venture Agreement between the Nigerian Ports Authority and Integrated Logistic Services (INTELS) and confirm that the privatisation position of the government has to been compromised. One pregnancy, eight babies, not done - Do you remember Mrs Nkem Chukwu of 1998? You may not. I did to until I read a story only a few weeks ago, hidden in an inconspicuous corner of a foreign scandal sheet. That year, the world was aroused to a lot of concern and curiosity over this Nigerian woman resident in Texas USA who gave birth to EIGHT babies from one pregnancy. It was a Guinness Book of records event and an award winning accomplishment. Nkem's pregnancy was so phenomenal that doctors contrived that she should be suspended upside down so that she could ease the weight and pressure brought about by her over-crowded womb. She spent two months of her pregnancy in that extraordinary suspended position. When finally from December 8th 1998 the babies started coming, she felt greatly relieved. The last one arrived five days away from Christmas. Doctors were particularly excited about Nkem's experience and worked beyond their normal call of duty to save her life and all her eight children.

Gifts and congratulatory messages were showered on her from every part of the world for making history. Unfortunately, one of the babies, the smallest of the octuplets died. Her name, significantly, was ODERA. That in Igbo translates literarily to "the course of destiny will not change." Nkem Chukwu, who had been unusually generous with her womb four years ago and must have believed that she was destined to be a mother of EIGHT, has just presented her seven surviving babies (five girls and two boys) with another sibling. By that singular act, she has restored to her possession the original EIGHT children intended for her. My source was completely silent on Mr Chukwu, which can be interpreted in a thousand and one ways. Whichever direction your thoughts lead you, do not omit to congratulate both parents as well as the new child Ifeoma Chukwu for putting Nigeria in the limelight so faithfully and complimentarily. When she does ever decide to come home, which is to advisable now, she should engage the services of personal security guards to protect the children from child thieves. These thieves abound in Nigeria. Any lone of the kids will be good material for ritual offering. She may also seek counselling on her future baby making plans considering that in Nigeria, feeding and educating one child are beyond the capacity of thousands of families. Those children must live long enough to appreciate what their mother has done for them, and how unique they are in a part of the world where infant mortality is ravaging many families who are denied access to good or free health delivery service. I wish Nkem and her Octuplets, healthy, joyful and enduring lives as she begins to give her body a deserved rest.

From AllAfrica.com, by Harry Nwana, 4 December 2002

Private Sector Engine of East Africa's Economy

The private sector needs to be boosted in order to successfully develop the economies of the East African Community. This recommendation was made at a meeting of experts held at the Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF) hall, chaired by the MP for Ilala, Iddi Simba. It came up wh