ISSUE 47
January 2003
 
 
   
    Nigeria: Insights On Federalism And Resource Control
Kenya: Public Servants Who Must List Their Riches
   
    India: Strengthen Public-Private Partnership in Education: PM
India: Cabinet Likely to Approve Corporate Governance Policy
India: E-gov Market Grows 18% in 2002
China: Call for Innovation to Drive Knowledge-Based Economy
India: Giving e-Governance a Boost in India
East Asia: is it Innovation or Productivity?
Sri Lanka: 'Federalism will unite divided Sri Lanka'
Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka, Tigers to Discuss Federalism During Berlin Round
   
    UK: Study Reveals Bleak Picture of Rural Life
UK: Government Issues Safety Guidelines for Net
UK: Government Websites Not a Hit With the Public
UK: Milburn Set to Increase Local Control of Healthcare
UK: E-government Needs Tech-Literate Generation
UK: Chancellor Lays Path for Public Sector Pay Restraint
UK: Private and Public Sector Tourism Forums Announced
   
    USA: Private Partnership, Public Benefit
USA: Relaxed Clean-air Rules Met by State Suits
USA: Report Says Foreign Aid Must Be Tied to National Interest
USA: Senate Trims e-Gov Budget Request
USA: Field Leaders Seek Consensus on Public-Policy Agenda
   
    Huge Meeting of World Economists Discusses Globalization, IT
 
   
    Malawi: Donor Aid Tied to Good Governance
Zimbabwe: ZANU-PF Official Calls for Transparency in Zimbabwe's Maize Distribution
Ghana: Local Government Ministry Working To Attract Professionals
Ghana: People's Assembly Concept Mark of Good Governance
   
    Bangladesh: Bangladeshis Feel Improving Governance Key to Poverty Reduction, Cite Police and Courts as Top Reform Priorities
China: Beijing Recovers 1.3bn yuan in Anti-corruption Campaign
Philippines: Gov. del Rosario Affirms Plan to be Transparent
India: CM Naidu Goes Hi-Tech to Enforce Accountability
   
    UK: Local Government Must Take Lead - Goodway
   
    Iraq: Iraqi Professionals Discuss the Future of Local Government and Oil
   
    People Want Governance
World Economic Forum Launches Global Governance Initiative to Monitor Effort on UN Millennium Declaration Goals
Global Corruption Report: Journalists are Key to Fighting Corruption
 
   
    Kenya: Ministers, Senior Civil Servants to Lose Posts
Ghana: New Head Of Civil Service Appointed
Kenya: Anti-Corruption, Public Service Bills Top of Parliament's Agenda, Says Kibaki
Ghana: Towards Changing the Public Sector
Ivory Coast: Labour Minister Dismissed
Nigeria: PDP Guber Aspirant to Restructure Kogi Civil Service
Ghana: Government Committed to Changing the Public Sector
South Africa: Public Service Accountability Monitor Says Allpay Agreement Should Be Published
Nigeria: Encouraging Information Technology in Civil Service
Nigeria: Mass Retrenchment Looms in Federal Civil Service
Botswana: Civil Servants Comfortable With Dress Code Though Few Amendments Necessary
Nigeria: Roundtable on Public Service Reform
Nigeria: Supreme Court Frees Civil Servants to Join Parties
Ethiopia: Government Urges Speedy Civil Service Reform
Ghana: Government to Civil Servants' Rescue
   
    Hong Kong: More Civil Service Cuts Planned
China: Public Service Jobs May Start by Lunar New Year
Malaysia: Dr. M: Marked Change In Service Quality Of Civil Service
Malaysia: BN To Have Code Of Ethics For Its Members
China: China Cracks Down on Civil Service
Hong Kong: Taxes Up, Civil Service Cut as Hong Kong Tackles Deficit
Australia: Public Service Under Attack
Malaysia: Civil Servants Refusing Transfers May Be Corrupt- ACA Chief
Philippines: Iloilo Public Servants Can't Secure Loans; GSIS Blamed
China: Civil Service Workers Form Association
China: High Interest Rate for Civil Servants Deposits to Stay
Malaysia: Civil Servants On SSM Grades 41, 42 Eligible For RM300 Allowance
Malaysia: Make Concepts Into Working Plans, Civil Servants Told
   
    EU: European Commission Says Public-Sector Costs Undermine Economies
UK: Snoopers Can Target Civil Servants
UK: Fresh Row Looms Over Rights of New Public Service Recruits
Ireland: Shake-up Urged in Civil Service Practices
UK: MSPs Demand Overhaul of Civil Service
UK: Blair Heckled During Public Service Speech
Russia: Peter's Rank Table Reincarnated in Putin's New Bill
   
    Arab Region: Report Finds Rise in Petty Corruption
   
    USA: Vitali Wants Lawmakers Taken Out Of Public Service Announcements
Jamaica: Cabinet Secretary Says Public Sector Reform Paying Off
USA: Governor to Add Teeth to Ethics Law
USA: Harvard Boosts Aid for Public Service Study
USA: First Lady Urges Public Service on Holiday
USA: Women Urged To Consider Career In Public Service
Jamaica: Civil Servants Begin Classes to Prepare for Information Act
Jamaica: Public Sector Reform
USA: Bush Plans to Offer Civil Servants Performance Pay Incentive
 
   
    India:Cisco Partners with WB Government for SWAN to Drive E-governance Initiative
India: Digital Conversion: Watch How You Write
India: West Bengal Government Launches G2C Portal, to Set Up Info-Kiosks
India: TCS Plans Centre of Excellence in Kolkata
Singapore: Singapore President on High-Note Over Positive Partnership with AP
India: Government To Peddle E-governance Experience Abroad
China: Blind Government Advisor Submits Bill Online on Blind Education
Philippines: For Good and Effective Governance: World Bank Grant Supports Procurement Reforms
Thailand : E-Government: 'First Fight the Hackers'
India: Planning Commission Asks Department of IT to Cut Down Its Outlay by Half
India: E-governance Highest Growing Vertical in Indian IT: Nasscom
East Asia: Innovation: Key To Asia's Growth
China: China Gets Bigger Online Despite Censorship
India: India's E-Governance Market Grew 18% in 2002 to US$292.06 MLN
India: 2 Indian States Lead e-Government Revolution
Malaysia: Government to Review Public Sector Delivery System, Says Abdullah
   
    Uk: KPMG e-Government Survey
Bulgaria: Bulgarian Government Develops e-Government Plan
United Kingdom: Government Launches Internet Watchdog Campaign
Belarus: Belarus e-Government Portal To Be Launched
UK: Government Approves BBC Digital Curriculum
UK: Civil Servants Told to Stop e-Procurement
EU: E-Government Europe Summit
Netherlands: M-Government: More Than a Mobilised Government
UK: IT Governance Set High on Agenda
UK: Government Wants e-Services Take-up Boost
UK: Doubts cast over e-government take-up
Malta: Government Shelves Strategic Partnership Idea for Development of e-Government Services
UK: E-government Needs Tech-Literate Generation
Ireland: Irish e-Government Faces Content Deficit
UK: Global e-Government
Malta: Public Registry Certificates Now Available Online
   
    UAE: E-Government Strategies High on Agenda at ITP Road Show
Kuwait: BB Initiates e-Government Applications with KU Tuition Fees Payment
   
    USA: Jump Start Your E-Government Plans
USA: Arizona Among Top e-Government States
USA: Hispanic Firm Announces e-Government Procurement Services
Canada: City Of London Expands e-Government Initiatives With Cognos
USA: More People Can Now File Taxes Online
USA: SRA Supporting a Navy e-Gov Program
USA: OMB Launches Third e-Gov Project this Month
USA: Airmen can now file taxes online for free
USA: Web Site Allows Preparing, Filing of Taxes Free Online
USA: Idea Integration Completes SAP Integration for City Public Service of San Antonio
USA: Senators Seek to Restore Cuts in e-Gov Programs
 
   
    Ethiopia: Absence of Double Taxation Treaty Discourages Investment
Kenya: Kenya's New Finance Minister Vows to Restore Investor Confidence
Nigeria: World Bank Harps On Judicious Use of Facility
   
    Australia: Australia Property Boom $8bn Boost to State Budgets
China: Li Lanqing on Sound Fiscal and Taxation System
Afghanistan: BearingPoint and FreeBalance Deliver Financial Management System to Afghanistan
Pakistan: World Bank Assistance to Pakistan Focuses on Supporting Home-Grown Reforms
China: China Taxation Admin To Intensify Tax Evasion Crackdown
   
    Czech Republic: Budget Figures Surpass Estimates
Czech Republic: Public Finance Reform Plan's Hopes Dimmer
EU: EU to Censure States over Public Finances
Italy: Public Spending Law: 9.89 Billion in Payments and 8.44 Billion in Obligations on Hold
Malta: Why Public Finance is in Disarray
France: France Vows to Meet Deficit Target
EU: Commission to Improve Financial Management of Research Projects
Italy: Public Spending Law: Treasure, Effects Also in 2003-2004
EU: EU Reaches 'Political Agreement' on Interest Taxation
UK: Security Worries Hold Back UK Online Tax Returns
   
    Israel: Personal Taxation System Offers Breaks for New Immigrants and Returning Residents
Israel:Taxation of Securities
Iran: Ministry to Introduce Comprehensive Taxation Scheme in 6 Months
Iran To Do Away With Double Taxation in Trade With Portugal
   
    USA:White House to Push on Domestic Agenda
USA: Bush Plans to End Dividend Taxation
USA: Bush Targets Dividend Taxation
USA: Senators Support Telecom Tax Reform
USA: California Changes Mind on Online Sales Tax
 
   
    Nigeria: Our Justification for Opposing the Privatization of NNPC Subsidiaries - Nupengassan
Ghana: US Congressmen Oppose Water Privatization In Ghana
   
    China: Postal Service Sees First Step in Privatization
South Korea: Roh's Team Cautions On Privatization
India: Ministry Submits Info In Indian HPCL Privatization Review -PTI
India: Muthiah Advises Government To Go Slow On Corporate Governance
Malaysia: Malaysia's Corporate Governance Getting Greater Recognition
Singapore: Pillay Urges GLCs to Improve Governance
China: Post office Marks Privatization with Art Contest, Stamp Issues
   
    Czech Republic: Privatization Efforts Face Difficulty
Czech Republic: Central/Eastern Europe: Privatization Deals Hit Snags
Turkey: Turkish Government Sees $4 Billion Privatization Revenue In 2003
Russia: St. Petersburg Sues to Annul Privatization of Utility
Bulgaria: Bulgaria Presents Russia with New Privatization Plan for Energy Sector
   
    Iran: Ramezanzadeh: Government firm on expediting privatization
Israel: Industry Ministry Approves 5 Incubators for Privatization Pilot
Saudi Arabia: Privatization of Postal Sector 'a Big Success'
Iran: A Privatization of Moment in Iran
Iran: Privatization Must Go With Increased Competition in Banking Sector
Iran: Government to Speed Up Privatization Next Year
   
    USA: U.S. Postal Chief Says Privatization not Feasible
USA: Country View a Privatization Success Story
   
    Thirst for Privatization
 

Insights On Federalism And Resource Control

Nigeria - The Challenges of True Federalism And Resource Control In Nigeria is divided into two main parts. Part one deals with federalism whilst Part two extensively canvassed the notion of resource control as an ingredient of true federalism. The author in a rather pragmatic approach examines the principles of federalism as enunciated in the 1951 and 1954 constitutions. He agrees with leading constitutional lawyers and writers that the origin of federalism in Nigeria is traceable to the Macpherson Constitution of 1951. In chapter two, he, brilliantly highlighted attempts made through constitutional engineering in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions to achieve true federalism. With reference to section 134 - 136 of the 1960 constitution, he examines issues relating to fiscal autonomy and Resource Control. He exhaustively treated the call for Sovereign National Conference (SNC) in this chapter. Using the Constitutional Conferences of 1957 and 1958 as the main thrust of his argument, he rejects the notion of (SNC) in favour of a Constitutional or National Conference. Chapter three shows how successive military regimes succeeded in turning the country to a unitary state. The absolute power of the federal military government and the supremacy which that implied certainly did not allow for federalism to flourish. The author devoted the whole of chapter four to examining the division of powers between the federal government and the states. This is as enumerated in the constitution. Readers will readily be attracted to the bold and incisive treatment of Sharia Law and the 1999 constitution in chapter eight. Akpo Odje gave a lucid and scholarly scrutiny of the constitutional provisions and judicial pronouncements on the issue. Credit must be given to the author for the volume of materials and dept of research conducted in what is figuratively a virgin and totally unexplored part of our law. Full marks however must be given for his ability to effectively harness his knowledge of various aspects of law and weave them together to produce easily the best compedium in the subject matter.

The author's analytical review of the term "natural resources" in chapter nine and his indept discussion of the problems associated with control of natural resources set the tone for an exhaustive examination of the development and origin of crude oil in Nigeria. A masterly analysis of the Petroleum Act coupled with effusive comments on terms like continental shelf, territorial waters" and the principle of derivation under the 1979 constitution prepares the reader for what I consider to be the most comprehensive discussion of Resource Control. Chapter 10 gave the author the opportunity to highlight the glaring distinction between derivation and Resource control. This is quite understandable considering that many people are erroneously made to confuse the struggle for resource control as synonymous with agitation for abrogation of onshore/offshore dichotomy. The celebrated case of Attorney General of the federation V Attorney General of Abia State & 350rs presented a clear framework for addressing the issue. Chapter 13 titled "Resource Control and True Federalism In Nigeria is a fitting climax to the authors endeavour. Although it is not the last chapter of the book, it clearly represents the heart and soul of the whole enterprise. The thrust of the authors postulation here is simple "ie that a true federalism will guarantee resource control: Truly these are the twin concepts that form the focus of the book and indeed they complement each other. There are few lapses in the book which we must not ignore. Firstly the author did not build his discussion of Federalism on a theoretical or conceptual framework. One ordinarily would have expected an indept examination of both the concept and the types of federalism. Perhaps, it would have been easier at the end of his treatise to locate his analysis within the context of a given theoretical framework. The omission of this critical scholarly premise, though inexcusable, may not be unconnected with a desire to keep the book within manageable size. Secondly, the author would have been expected, even at the risk of delaying the publication, to ensure a thorough and scholarly critique of the Supreme Court judgment on the interpretation of section 162 (2) of the 1999 constitution. It is most evident that the book would have been greatly enriched by the author's commentary on the judgment. Prof. Azinge is the Director of Research, Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Abuja.

From AllAfrica.com, by Epiphany Azinge, 29 December 2002

Public Servants Who Must List Their Riches

All public officers beginning with the President down to the councillor must submit their declarations of wealth when the Public Officers Ethics Bill, 2003, becomes law. Others who must declare their wealth are the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Clerk and officers in the Parliamentary Service Commission in Job Groups P and above, the Bill, published yesterday, says. The Bill names various commissions which will ensure codes of ethics are strictly adhered to. It will be the responsibility of each commission to spell out a code of ethics, including in the military, which public officers will be expected to obey. When it becomes law, each public officer in service, or before employment, will be required to fill a form declaring wealth and liabilities. Civil servants in Job Group P and above will also be required to declare their wealth. In the Judiciary, the Chief Justice will lead other judges - both High Court and Appeal - as well as magistrates and officers in Job Groups R2, M4 and above and officers under the administration of the CJ in Job Groups H and above or their equivalent, in revealing their riches. In local authorities, councillors, public officers on salary scale 3 to 1 and officers under the administration of the chief officer in Job Groups H and above or their equivalent will be required to declare their wealth. In the teaching service, those affected will be the chairman and members of the Teacher's Service Commission, the secretary and deputy secretary of the TSC and public officers in Job Groups P and above.

Principals, headmasters, head teachers and graduate teachers in Job Groups P and above will also be required to declare their wealth. Co-operative societies' committee members and the two most senior public officers of a co-operative society who are not members of the committee will be required to do likewise as will public officers of a co-operative society in Job Groups H and above or equivalent. State corporations' board members, chief executives, managers, heads of departments and public officers under the administration of the chief executive in Job Groups H and above must also declare their wealth. Those targeted in public universities are members of the council and senate, vice-chancellors, their deputies, principals of colleges, registrars and public officers under the administration of a vice-chancellor in Job Groups H and above. In the disciplined forces officers of or above the rank of Lieutenant Colonel or corresponding rank and public officers under the Chief of General Staff in Job Groups H and above will be affected by the requirement. Accounting officers and those under them in Job Groups H and above will also have to declare their wealth. The officer will be required to indicate his income, including emoluments and income from investments for each year. Others are land, buildings, vehicles, investments and financial obligations. The declaration also includes a financial statement on the officer's spouse and dependant children under the age of 18.

From Daily Nation, Kenya, by Mburu Mwangi, 16 January 2003

 

Strengthen Public-Private Partnership in Education: PM

Seeking to strengthen public-private partnership in education, Prime Minister A B Vajpayee today sought introduction of innovative methods in the field by asking government educational - Asserting that introduction of economic reform-driven education was "an urgent imperative", Vajpayee said while government had considerably hiked spending on higher education, "it is obvious that the need far outstrips the provision. "We need to adopt innovative and flexible methods of leveraging the financial, managerial and teaching resources in the private sector". The Prime Minister suggested creation of a partnership between universities, national laboratories and the industry for enhancing India's research and development capabilities, calling it a "Golden Triangle". On educational reforms, he said "it baffles me that the central and state governments subsidise higher education even for those students whose spending on private tuition and pocket money is several times more than their college fees". "Yes, higher and professional education must remain accessible and affordable to the poor and the needy primarily through "merit-cum-means" scholarships. The scope of educational loans also needs to be vastly expanded. "But if we cannot make the rich pay fair value for education, how can we make it widely available to the poor," he said, pointing out that the fees in non-professional streams of higher education was "very low".

While Vajpayee laid the foundation stone for UGC complex through a remote, HRD Minister M M Joshi activated "UGC Infondt", an internet-based networking of Indian universities. Joshi announced that Department of Science was preparing to launch an educational satellite on behalf of the HRD Ministry to provide distance education and training to students and teachers. He also elaborated on a multi-pronged approach to focus on 102 students for integrated five-year programme relating to imparting of education in specialised fields like atomic energy, space, bio-technology, energy, oil exploration and communication. The Minister said few universities and colleges for undergraduate teaching on these lines should be identified and few national level institutions created in collaboration with research establishments like DRDO, ISRO, DAE and CSIR. He said the newly-launched "UGC Infonet" would be one of the biggest national networks exclusively dedicated for education by bringing all universities and colleges funded by UGC under a single information domain. Stating that there were 8.8 million students currently in the formal and non-formal systems of education, he said this would grow to 14 million by 2007-08 and stressed it was imperative that such steps were taken to meet the growing demand for quality education. Minister of State for HRD Rita Verma, HRD Secretary S K Tripathi, IT Secretary Rajeeva Ratan Shah and UGC Chairperson Arun Nigavekar were also present on the occasion.

From Outlookindia.com, UK, 28 December 2002

Cabinet Likely to Approve Corporate Governance Policy

Hyderabad - The Union Cabinet is likely to give on Thursday its nod of approval to a policy on corporate governance providing for establishment of a "Serious Fraud Office" to tackle white collar crimes. Disclosing this at the concluding session of CII Partnership Summit here on Wednesday, Union Finance Minister Jaswant Singh said he would be placing before the cabinet a report on corporate governance prepared by former Indian Ambassador to US Naresh Chandra. "We recognise the importance of corporate governance... The answers to India's problems lie in greater delivery and not in policies," he said in an extempore address at the session. Referring to fast-track reforms and a new policy of openness in his hitherto "conservative" ministry, Singh said it was decided to "outsource the functioning of the revenue department". On media projection of the Kelkar Committee's report, he said, "Regrettably, most of the attention is focussed on ups and downs of tax rates... Of course, I agree that tax rates have maximum sex appeal. But, what is more important is the administrative reforms and computerization."

Setting aside the prepared speech copy, Singh chose to speak extempore and quipped, "I have chosen to speak to you extempore at the cost of my job. My officials want me to read out from the prepared text so that I do not commit any blunder before presenting the Budget." Sharing with the captains of industry his vision for the country, Singh said it was a matter of "destiny" for India to lead the world and to attain this destiny was the "ultimate national interest". "The challenge before us is to convert country's inherent strengths, intellect, creativity and entrepreneural skills into recognisable and deliverable action," he said. The fulfillment promise, he said, was not possible unless there was creation of wealth, enhancement of production, continuous reforms and an ability to compete globally. Referring to the resilience of the Indian economy, the minister said, despite simultaneous adverse factors like the worst drought in three decades, global downturn and geopolitical uncertainties born out of the situation in the Gulf, the country had achieved consistent GDP growth, enhanced manufacturing activity, rise in exports and managed to keep prices at reasonable level. "It is difficult to find countries in world which can replicate this in the face of such adverse factors," Singh said, adding, "It is time that all of us collectively talk 'India Up' instead of talking 'India Down'."

From Economic Times, India, 08 January 2003

E-gov Market Grows 18% in 2002

The National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) today said the e-governance market in the country grew 18 per cent in 2002, touching Rs 1,400 crore in the process of becoming the fastest growing vertical in the domestic information technology market. Nasscom president Kiran Karnik said the market was gaining momentum but there were hurdles stalling the progress. Karnik said, to make e-governance a part of administration, the government must ensure that at least 3 per cent of the Budget was committed for e-governance and rewrite the tendering and bid evaluation process among other things, apart from coming out with a clear roadmap for the sector. "The recommendations, if implemented, can save up to Rs 500 crore every year in transaction costs and increase revenues by Rs 2,000 crore through better tax enhancement," he said. According to Karnik, the return on investments from all these measures will allow the government to spend at least Rs 10,000 crore per year on e-governance initiatives. Speaking on the occasion, R Chandrasekher, joint secretary in the department of information technology, said the draft e-governance policy was ready and the final policy could come out anytime after consultations with the concerned parties. Karnik said the National Institute of Smart Governance (NISG) should be made operational by the end of 2003 and all Class-1 officers of the government should be given compulsory training in the area of information technology. The process of tendering and bid evaluation should be rewritten and computerisation of land records should be completed in all states by the end of 2004, he added. Identification of core national projects that needed to be automated and rollout of national citizen identity cards should also become a reality by 2004, Karnik said. "By the end of 2005, citizen services should be offered online in all states and 50 per cent of all procurements should take place over the Internet."

From Business-Standard.com, 17 January 2003

Call for Innovation to Drive Knowledge-Based Economy

Members of the information technology (IT) industry, academia and government yesterday described innovation as the driving force in transitioning Taiwan into a knowledge-based economy. The five speakers discussed the issue at the Innovating Taiwan Summit sponsored by the Taiwan Thinktank, which has over the years published papers and reports on the island's economy and ways to strengthen it. "Many developing countries already have the capabilities to conduct labor-intensive manufacturing, and Taiwan can no longer compete with them," said Chen Po-chih, the think tank's chairman, during the conference's opening ceremony. "To maintain our competitiveness, we must concentrate on operations that those developing nations cannot do, and that is making innovative products supported by research and development (R&D) and talents, who make up the new knowledge economy." The meeting invited five speakers: Ko Cheng-en, management professor of National Taiwan University; Chang Chun-yen, president of National Chiao Tung University; Stan Shih, chairman of the Acer Group; Tsai Ching-yen, minister without portfolio; and Shih Yen-hsiang, deputy minister of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The panel was hosted by Chan Hung-chih, publisher of The Business Next magazine. The panelists addressed challenges facing Taiwan ¡X especially its accession into the World Trade Organization and the rise of mainland China ¡X and said innovation is vital in keeping Taiwan competitive. "The threats posed by mainland China will always be there. They won't disappear," said Shih, who has made Acer a world-class computer brand. "If you think lower cost is the biggest threat posed by China, you should see the talented people living there. I'd say ten years later the threats posed by China will be greater than those now."

To maintain their edge, Taiwan companies must develop innovative production and marketing techniques, Shih said. Specifically, he said Taiwan manufacturers must make their production processes more integrated, instead of focusing on divisions of labor. He also called on Taiwan businesses to first try out their international marketing campaigns in mainland China. "While the mainland may be viewed as a threat, it can also be viewed as an opportunity," Shih said. "Even though Taiwan is small, it can still hold key components that complete an integrated supply chain. We must be confident." Speaking from the perspective of the academia, both Ko and Chang urged universities and research institutes to be innovative as well. Citing Shih's theory of a "smiling face," which dictates that companies should put more resources into R&D and marketing, Ko said schools must train students for these two operations. "Meanwhile, in order to prepare the students for a more internationalized world, schools must teach them about the concept of global operations, or how to run a company's offices throughout the world," Ko said. "In addition, we must strengthen students' entrepreneurial spirit and encourage them to start their own businesses." Tsai and Deputy Economic Affairs Minister Shih said the government would continue to make policies that encourage innovation. They listed the Challenge 2008 project that seeks to devote 3 percent of the nation's GDP to research and development and sign up 6 million broadband users to make the island more digitized. Tsai also mentioned the tax incentives offered to local and international companies setting up R&D centers in Taiwan. "Some seven or eight companies have been approved to set up their centers," he said.

From China Post, Taiwan, by William C. Pao, 16 January 2003

Giving e-Governance a Boost in India

The e-governance market in India is gaining traction, but there are challenges which are stalling its progress, according to an analysis by NASSCOM, the apex industry association of software and service companies in India. The e-governance market is growing (by 18 percent last year) and is estimated to be Rs 1400 crores (US$290 million) in size in 2001-02. It is the fastest-growing vertical in the domestic IT market. NASSCOM's analysis of e-governance implementation undertaken in 10 key states revealed that the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are leading in terms of implementing projects at different citizen-government interface points. Others, such as Kerela, Gujarat, Maharashtra, MP, West Bengal and Rajasthan, are catching up fast. But, despite the islands of excellence, e-governance has not been able to make rapid progress due to several operational, economic, personnel, planning and implementation issues. E-Governance in India has also focused heavily towards investing in hardware and very little on developing software and services, which could maximize hardware investments. Addressing the media, Mr Arun Kumar, chairman, NASSCOM, said, "We have seen implementation of some excellent e-governance projects in few states which have won international awards and are benchmarked globally. The efforts should be to replicate these in other parts of the country to benefits the citizens.

The NASSCOM study is aimed towards clearly identifying the issues faced by this sector and defining the roadmap for e-governance adoption in the country." In addition to macro issues, NASSCOM's study has identified industry level issues, which are inhibiting private participation in e-governance projects. This includes the absence of a clear revenue stream offered by the government to the private sector, which is restricting private, sector investment in e-governance. There is also inadequate awareness among government officials at all levels with respect to appropriate tendering, raising RFPs, software pricing, bid assessment and IPR. The NASSCOM study has stressed that the government should first focus on bringing efficiency in governance through better use of technology. Some key imperatives for the government identified by the study include ensuring 3 percent of the budget is committed towards e-governance and the amount be spent in the ratio of 40:30:30 on hardware, software and services respectively. The government should also identify project champions who can push e-governance in government departments and states and also rewrite tendering and bid evaluation procedures to encourage private participation. The study suggests the government to clearly define an e-governance strategy and a roadmap with measurable timelines which are currently not present.

NASSCOM Recommendations: Phase I: By the end of 2003 - IT training should be mandatory for all Class I government personnel; - Tendering and bid evaluation procedures should be rewritten; - Fully operational NISG; - NIC role should be clearly defined; - Clear tenures for IT champions in Central and State levels. Phase II: By the end of 2004: - Build state wide area networks; - Ratio of PC:personnel to be 1:4 in all departments; - Identify core national projects that need to be automated; - Rollout national citizen ID cards- Computerization of land records in all states; - State funding from Center to be linked to e-gov spending. Phase III: By the end of 2005: - Citizen services offered online in all states; - 50 percent of all government procurement should be online; - Focus on developing applications for primary health, disaster management and education; - Accelerate Public Private Partnership when core infrastructure and procedures in place; - Secure multilateral funding to accelerate e-gov spending. Mr. Kiran Karnik said, "If the recommendations made in the study are implemented by the government, it could save up to Rs 500 crores in transaction process costs per year and increase its revenues by Rs 2,000 crores through better tax enhancement annually. Further, these measures will increase transparency, efficiency and accountability within the government. "ROI from all these measures will allow the government to spend at least Rs 10,000 crores per year on e-governance. However the government must give special impetus to e-governance. At present, it is accelerating, but has the other brakes on," he added.

From Asia Times Online, Hong Kong, 17 January 2003

East Asia: is it Innovation or Productivity?

Ten years after the report "East Asia Miracle", the World Bank has found a new catch-phrase for the region, "Innovative East Asia: the Future of Growth". World Bank President James Wolfensohn was in Tokyo recently to highlight the new study and to urge Asia's economies to "go beyond the imitative phase of development and into the innovative phase". "Unless East Asia moves toward a technological rather than a factory-intensive mode of production, it will experience slower growth in the future. It is crucial then that the countries of East Asia seize the initiative and begin laying the seeds for a more innovative, competitive future," he said. Should you have the deja-vu impression that such a message has come by way of Bangkok before, then you are not far wrong. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's government has been in this "innovative" mode for the past two years. And efforts have been put through to encourage businesses not to compete in areas of mass production, which is increasingly dominated by factories in China, but of niche production. The Thai government has identified niche products which Thai businesses ought to excel in. Fashion is one; food, health, entertainment and services with a human touch related to tourism are others. The government thinks that the one-village-one-product/Bt1-million village-fund programme, as well as industrial clustering, can nurture innovations. But really, is finding innovative-product winners a guarantee for the long-term success of a national economy?

The "East Asia Miracle" did not prove to be a miracle after all, and the notion was strongly disputed by economists such as Paul Krugman. Nor did Wolfensohn strike the right note this time when he said: "If you are going to be competitive in the market, before we get to the marvellously attractive issues of innovation, you have to say that the structural framework must be in place; you have to have proper legal systems, proper financial systems, protection of rights, strengthening of governance and regulatory bodies." True, these may be important economic platforms, which will help a country to thrive, but surely they have little to do with innovation. Such a word sounds upbeat in itself, but really, what should an economy strive for? The government can facilitate more innovation in society. But at least in an emerging economy such as Thailand our priority ought to be "productivity" as much as, or more than, "innovation". "Productivity" is a word that the World Bank might have naïvely played down, and one which the Thaksin government has paid insufficient attention to. It was productivity which Krugman in his pre-1997 assessment said was a key missing ingredient to the sustained growth of the East Asian economy. In his view there was no miracle at all, because "excessive investment" fuelled strong economic growth "but with little or no productivity increase".

The oft-quoted McKinsey report on selected Thai industrial sectors (telecoms, beer, retail etc) mentioned productivity as the one single key issue facing the future of the Thai economy. And the beauty of this report is that money alone does not guarantee increased productivity (though surely R&D would help), but rather sectoral liberalisation and a reduction in red tape. This was a recommendation that was based on rigorous analysis and not half-baked ideas. It transcends, perhaps, everything we had heard about economic policy in this country. Moreover, the Thailand Development Research Institute came out with a supportive recommendation at the end of last year that the government should pay attention to both policy and financial efforts in boosting the country's productivity, so than higher growth would be not only assured but sustained over time. And thus the new World Bank catch phrase "innovation" should not be taken for granted any more than the days of the "miracle". In fact it might lead Asian governments astray, because not everyone or every product can be innovative (or can afford to be), but they can always be more productive. Last but not least, the use of innovation has unjustly added to the bias towards the notion of "sunrise and sunset" industries. (Even the Federation of Thai Industries is caught up in this mode.) Actually, there should be no such thing as a sunset or sunrise industry, because every business can be made more productive, competitive and innovative.

From The Nation, Thailand, by Pana Janviroj, 22 January 2003

'Federalism will unite divided Sri Lanka'

"This country is already divided. This is the ground reality. The Sinhalese people have to be told this. There is no point in talking about history now. The Indo-Lanka Accord, the Banda-Chelva Pact and the Dudley Chelva Pact have recognized the separate distinct identity of the Tamils in the past. The Sinhalese have to be told that the divided country can be united by granting a federal solution," said Prof. S. K Sittampalam, a senior historian, speaking at a seminar on 'Federalizing the Sri Lankan State' in the University of Jaffna Sunday. "We have the same claim to this island as do the Sinhalese. The Tamils and Sinhalese are the common inheritors of the civilization that appeared on the island around 900 B.C," Prof. Sittampalam said. Dr. Rohan Edirisingha, senior lecturer in law in the University of Colombo, stressed the need for understanding the nature of unitary and federal systems and their basic features. He said that there is a lot of ignorance among the Sinhala people about the federal system of regional autonomy and that much needs to be done to educate them on the matter. "Many of them think that it could be a stepping stone to separation," Dr. Edirisingha said. He appealed for greater dialogue between Tamil and Sinhala intellectuals and opinion makers on the federalism during his presentation on Saturday. "The southern polity is not prepared to accept Sri Lanka as a pluralist state.

Therefore how do we 'sell' the idea of federalism to the (Sinhala) majority? Is there enough to get out of this ghetto mentality and accept Sri Lanka as a pluralist state?" asked Mr. V. T Thamilmaran, senior lecturer in law in the university of Colombo, in his presentation at the seminar Sunday. "Internal self-determination should guarantee a judicial mechanism to ensure and uphold real self rule and shared sovereignty. Otherwise a federal constitution based on the principal of internal self determination would be nothing more than a piece of paper. It would have no more value in its application than the paper on which it is written on," Mr. Thamilmaran said. "Internal self-determination should also guarantee territorial identity and strike a balance between the rights of individuals and the rights of a group, providing for a bill of rights charter in which special protection for the group should not be construed as a violation of the principle of equality," he added. Mr. Thamilmaran pointed out that Articles 2, 3, 4, 75, 76 and 82 of the Sri Lankan constitution preclude the possibility of setting up a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution for Sri Lanka. The two day seminar and workshop were supported by the Fredrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation (Germany) in Colombo.

From TamilNet, Sri Lanka, 19 January 2003

Sri Lanka, Tigers to Discuss Federalism During Berlin Round

Colombo: Sri Lanka's peace negotiators will discuss the structure of a federal State that will form the basis of a final settlement to the island nation's ethnic conflict when they meet in Berlin, the Government's chief negotiator said today. "I will have discussions with Dr. Balasingham on the structure of a federal system," said G. L. Peiris, who is also the Constitutional Affairs Minister, referring to the agreement reached in December with Tamil Tigers' chief negotiator to settle for a power-sharing arrangement based on federalism. Peiris said he will hold political talks with Dr Anton Balasingham on the sidelines of the fifth round of peace talks in the German capital from February 7 to 8. He said the talks shifted to Germany from the regular venue in Thailand because of the "fragile health" of Balasingham, 64, who is a diabetic patient with a kidney transplant. The peace talks limited only to two days instead of the usual four due to Balasinham's condition, will focus on human rights and humanitarian issues. Peiris and Balasingham are in a sub- committee appointed by the two sides to take up political matters. The Government and the LTTE entered into a ceasefire arranged by Norway in February and formal face-to-face talks opened in Thailand in September. Peiris said the former head of Amnesty International, Ian Martin, will be in Berlin to help both sides address human rights issues as they continue their peace process. After the Berlin round, the talks are scheduled to take place in Tokyo on June 16 and 17, where host Japan has arranged an international aid donors' meet, Peiris said.

From The Hindu, India, 29 January 2003

 

Study Reveals Bleak Picture of Rural Life

A bleak picture of life in the rural North-East emerges today from a study of the region's countryside. The State of the Countryside report shows that, compared to the rural areas of other regions, the North-East has: The highest level of joblessness and mortality rates. An ageing population with more people over 45 than in urban areas. One of the least qualified workforces. The lowest proportion of rural businesses per 10,000 population and use of the Internet. The lowest average weekly pay. The lowest numbers of farmers, partners, directors and managers in agriculture and horticulture. The least number of market towns - regarded as the economic and social engines of rural areas. The study was carried out by the Countryside Agency, whose North-East regional director Keith Buchanan said: "There are huge decisions to be made if we are to bring about the changes that will ensure a lasting revival of our rural economy." Prof Philip Lowe, director of the Centre for Rural Economy at Newcastle University, is also a national board member of the Countryside Agency with responsibility for the North-East. He said: "These regional statistics bring out the fact that we have a very weak rural economy in the North-East and significant investment is needed if it is to perform efficiently." National figures included the well-heeled rural parts of places like the South-East. But Prof Lowe said: "If there is any room for complacency at a national level there is none at a North-East level." But it is not all gloom. The region's rural landscape, much of its remote, and wider environment is relatively unspoilt and of high quality. This attracts better-off commuters who settle in places like the Tyne Valley and accessible parts of Weardale and Teesdale because they perceive rural living as offering a better quality of life. The average rural house price, at £92,312, is the second lowest of any English region. The North-East countryside is also a safe place to live. Compared with the rest of rural England, the region has the lowest rates of robbery, burglary, theft from vehicles and sexual offences. Thefts from and of vehicles and burglary rates are half those of North-East urban areas. Prof Lowe said an upturn in countryside fortunes was in the interests not just of rural areas but of the whole region.

He said that other parts of the UK and Europe showed that the most dynamic regions were those which had a prosperous rural economy. "The North-East should not rely on the model which says that if you pick cities up by the bootstraps the rest will follow and the assumption that it is a region mainly of big urban concentrations and industries and if we get that right the rest will prosper." As well as healing the cities we need market towns with buoyant economies and dynamic small businesses." Prof Lowe said that the North-East countryside was potentially a great asset for the region as a whole: "But that potential is far from being realised." There was a need for initial Government-led investment and a break from a dependency on the public sector which saw a third of the region's rural jobs come from public administration, health and education sectors Countryside Agency senior regional countryside officer Martin Shaw, said: "In both North-East rural and urban areas we are starting from a really low base and that is a big challenge. "We are not looking for miracle solutions. But we have to show what the picture is, and then we can begin to put it right. That is not going to happen overnight but there are some really exciting things happening in the North-East." What is being done? The report comes after the Government announced a £500m national Strategy for Sustainable Food and Farming and the publication of the North-East's own Rural Action Plan, which pledges to put rural affairs at the heart of policy-making. The plan has the backing of the Countryside Agency, Government Office for the North East, One North East, Association of North East Councils and the Regional Assembly. The North-East Rural Affairs Forum, made up of representatives from many different rural sectors, has the task of monitoring the implementation of the action plan. Countryside Agency North East regional director Keith Buchanan said: "Many of the initiatives being recommended in the wake of Sir Donald Curry's post foot-and-mouth inquiry are already central to our thinking in the North-East. Now we must ensure that change happens." Prof Lowe said: "The Government's new commitment to raise the productivity of the lowest performing rural districts is therefore welcome news which needs to be followed through with practical action and investment in the rural North-East." Initiatives already under way include the Countryside Agency's Market Towns and Vital Villages projects.

The Market Towns Initiative has seen "health checks" of 13 towns - Alnwick, Barnard Castle, Berwick, Crook, Guisborough, Haltwhistle, Hexham, Middleton-in-Teesdale, Morpeth, Rothbury, Seahouses, Stanhope and Wooler - and the development of three-year action plans. Village friends set up drop-in centre to offer help. One of the strengths of rural life over the years has been that of tight-knit communities of familiar faces. Whether this ideal has survived intact into the 21st Century is a matter for debate. But two friends have put caring and sharing at the heart of their village community. Marjorie Fenwick and Sheila Borthwick set up the Open Arms Group at Leadgate in County Durham as a drop-in facility offering help, comfort and friendship. The venture began on a one-day-a-week basis at Leadgate Cricket Club, with a small start-up grant from Derwentside Council. Then the Countryside Agency's Vital Villages Scheme, which supports projects that locals feel will make a difference to their communities, stepped in with a £22,000 boost. This has enabled the group to open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the cricket club from 9am to 2pm and to provide services such as meals for those who need such help. Sheila, 72, does the cooking, while the group is chaired by former nurse Margaret Jobling. Group co-ordinator Marjorie, 58, and a lifelong Leadgate villager, said that support was offered to people with anxiety or depression problems, disabilities, those who have just left hospital, or who were feeling isolated or lonely. "It is a group for people who need people. We are open to anybody who needs us, or a place where somebody is on hand to talk to or listen," said Marjorie. "This sort of facility is needed. Even young people get lonely. One of our rules is that of total confidentiality. We don't label anybody." The North East study findings are: Population - There has been a small increase in the number of people living in rural districts, rising from 9.4pc of the population in 1981 to 9.92pc.But much of the region's rural areas, especially in Northumberland, are among the most sparsely populated areas in the country, which has an effect on businesses and the provision of services.

The region's rural districts have an older population profile than urban areas with a lower proportion of people in the three younger age groups (0-14, 15-24 and 25-44) and a higher proportion in the two older age groups (45-64 and 65+). The region's rural population under 15, at 16.85pc, is the lowest in England while a third of North-East rural folk are over 45.Martin Shaw said: "There is a retirement factor with people seeing rural areas as a nicer place to be. But we need a better cross section of society and ways of attracting back or hanging on to younger people." Employment and Education - There are 4,257 full time and 3,083 part time farmers, partners and directors and 218 salaried managers who are engaged in agricultural and horticultural employment in the North-East. These are the lowest figures in these categories in England. Only 3.4pc work in agriculture and fisheries. But Martin Shaw said: "Agriculture does not employ many people but farming has a massive input into what makes the North-East special, which is its countryside. It is a managed landscape which attracts millions of tourist pounds." The region has the highest rural unemployment rate and one of the least qualified workforces in England. Average weekly pay is the lowest for the rural part of any region in the country. It is also lower in rural compared to urban districts in the North-East. The gross weekly rural pay in the North-East is £286.35, compared to £309.28 in urban areas. The national average is £322.47.The average rural house price in the North-East of £92,312 - almost half that of the South-East- is the cheapest in England apart from the North-West figure of £88,842.

But this conceals a wide range of prices in different rural parts of the region. Averages vary from £50,427 in Wear Valley to £130,887 in Castle Morpeth. Trends indicate that homelessness is a growing issue in the rural parts of the region, having risen by 62pc from 1997-8.Rural people in the North-East are healthier than their urban counterparts. But in comparison to the rural population in other regions, the rural North-East has the highest mortality ratio and the second highest incidence of low weight at birth. Market towns - Of the 1,274 market towns in England, 82 (6.4pc) are located in the North-East. They are predominately smaller in size than in other regions with half having a population below 5,000 people. Services and Rural Mobility - Overall the region's rural households have better geographical availability of supermarkets, secondary schools, libraries, job centres, as well as banks and building societies compared to the national average. Access to petrol stations is below the English regional average, but 75pc of North-East parishes have a bus service six or seven days a week - the highest percentage for English regions. But there are still parishes which have poor or non existent services with no permanent shop, post office, public house or GPs surgery. Business Health and ICT - There are 8,902 rural businesses, or 348 rural businesses per 10,000 population. This is the lowest figure for any English region. Countryside character and environment - Almost a third of the region is classified as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or national park. The North-East has the highest figure for unenclosed land and where the land is enclosed, stone walls and thorn or elm hedges predominate. Access to the countryside - The North-East has 10,370km of footpaths, bridleways and byways open to all traffic.

From ICNewcastle, UK, 2 December 2003

Government Issues Safety Guidelines for Net

Guidelines and campaign launched to protect children from online paedophiles - Providers of online services should offer alert systems and filtering mechanisms to protect children, according to best practice guidelines issued by the government to clamp down on internet paedophiles. The Models of Good Practice offer advice to providers of internet chat, instant messaging and other web-based services, to make them safer for children. The guidelines were drawn up by the government's Internet Taskforce on Child Protection, which includes representatives from government, the internet industry, child welfare organisations and the police. In a statement Home Office minister Hilary Benn said: "We are aware of the potential for paedophiles to misuse modern technology to abuse the trust that children place in them by attempting to 'groom' them through chat rooms. "We want to encourage parents to help their children protect themselves so they can surf safely." Nicholas Lansman, secretary general of the Internet Services Providers' Association (ISPA), said: "Just like the offline world, the online world has its hazards. "The publication of this good practice shows ISPA's and the government's commitment to making the UK the safest place for children to go online." The government has also launched a £1m 'safer surfing' advertising campaign to warn of the dangers of internet paedophiles, but without demonising the internet itself. A series of television adverts will run throughout January, supported by radio and online advertising, to encourage parents to make sure their children understand the dangers of communicating with strangers online.

From VNUNet, UK, by Rachel Fielding, 6 January 2003

Government Websites Not a Hit With the Public

The government is keen for people to use the internet to find out about its services and to this end plans to get all services online by 2005. But if figures from a recent poll are to be believed they have a long way to go to persuade most of us that the internet is the place to look. The survey, which was carried out by ICM on behalf of Hedra technology consultants. It found that just 14 percent of respondents would choose to deal with a public body online, with the majority - 41 percent - preferring to see someone in person and 29 percent opting to pick up the phone. This is bad news for organisations like Cima (the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority), which is in the process of redesigning its website to encourage more people to work out claims online before submitting them in order to cut down on the number of unsuccessful final applications. Just getting people to visit websites is an uphill battle as ICM found that over half of those surveyed (53 percent) had never looked at a government website. It seems that it isn't security worries that puts people off - just 34 percent said they wouldn't use such services online because they felt they were insecure. Instead poor, unintuitive design is the culprit for 53 percent who said they would visit government websites only if they were well laid out and easy to use. Meanwhile, a third of respondents (31 percent) claimed a site's looks didn't matter to them. Cost is the overwhelming factor that would have 81 percent of respondents streaming on to government websites. This huge majority said they would use the internet more if it saved them money. Perhaps the government needs to tot up the cost of phone calls, transport and work time lost when people telephone its departments or turn up in person, and compare those to the cost of using a website. If it can prove it's cheaper to use websites than rely on traditional contact methods, it could be on to a winner.

From PC Advisor, by Ursula Seymour, 10 January 2003

Milburn Set to Increase Local Control of Healthcare

Local communities will be given control of the organisations that buy care in the National Health Service under plans signalled yesterday by Alan Milburn, the health secretary. The move to make primary care trusts locally accountable marks a radical extension of the plan to give top-performing hospitals foundation trust status. It would mean the government giving up control of the purchasing side of the NHS as well as the supply side. From April onwards, primary care trusts will spend three-quarters of England's NHS budget. The plan was denounced by the Local Government Association as undermining the existing institutions of local democracy. Mr. Milburn revealed his intentions during questions in the Commons. Asked whether he would consider extending foundation trust status beyond hospitals to other parts of the NHS, Mr. Milburn said: "In time we will do that." An official at the Department of Health said: "There is no reason why primary care trusts could not have similar governance status to foundation trust hospitals." He said Mr. Milburn always intended to extend the foundation trust model to the rest of the NHS - and hoped other departments would take it up too. "This is about strengthening local public ownership, moving away from the central state model of public ownership," he said. "It is a model that can be applied elsewhere within the NHS. We would want to make sure primary care trusts could benefit from this form of modern public ownership." The official said that an unreported section of the strategy paper "Delivering the NHS Plan" already stated that "foundation trust status will also be available to high-performing primary care trusts". The official said there was an argument - made by David Hinchliffe, Labour chairman of the Commons health committee - for giving local people control of the commissioning bodies, rather than hospitals, to begin with. But he said: "You have got to start somewhere." He said it would be easier to persuade people to take part in running their local hospital - "something they can see for themselves" - than a purchasing body. Mr. Milburn would concentrate on getting foundation hospitals up and running before turning to primary care trusts. "This is a process. It is not a one-off change. There has to be a step-by-step approach," the official said. The idea of extending foundation status to primary care trusts will infuriate local councils, which believe they should provide the democratic link between the NHS and local communities.

From Financial Times, UK, by Krishna Guha and Nicholas Timmins, 15 January 2003

E-government Needs Tech-Literate Generation

Younger people are much keener to access government services online, so e-government success may not come in the short term, says new report - Public take-up of local government online services will remain low for at least the next 10 years, according to a new report. The research, commissioned by marketing communication consultancy Portfolio Communications, found that just 7 percent of adults have contacted their local council online in the past year and that the figure is unlikely to increase significantly until today's tech-literate younger generation grows up. The study, based on interviews with 1,000 adults representative of the entire UK population, revealed that over 40 percent of 18 to 34 year-olds would prefer to use the Web to access information from local government, compared to around 20 percent of 35 to 54 year-olds and just 10 percent of the over-55s. The research concludes that the government could easily find itself having to justify large investments without any evidence of mass support for e-services in the short to medium-term. In addition, considerable education will have to be carried out by local authorities to encourage take-up of e-government by their communities, particularly among older generations. The government itself admitted last November that public usage of the services currently available online is low, and aims to add take-up targets to its oft-quoted aim of getting all public services online by 2005. Mark Westaby, director of Portfolio, said: "Fast pay-back is a key driver of public sector services, but this research suggests that the trend towards use of online local government services is unlikely to increase dramatically until today's younger generation gets significantly older. Clearly, this is not going to happen for some considerable time, possibly a decade or longer. As a result it will be vital for government not only to ensure that online services are available, but also that local communities are educated about the benefits of using them and are fully incentivised to do so." The Portfolio study revealed that the telephone currently dominates as the main method for contacting local councils, regardless of age, sex, region or social status, the only exception to these trends being the use of direct debit to pay council bills. This suggests that local and central government should embrace the concept of contact centres and other telephony-based services to meet the clear demand for use of the telephone across all ages, regions and demographics, according to the report The research was carried out by ICM during November, 2002.

From ZDNet.co.uk, UK, by Graham Hayday, 17 January 2003

Chancellor Lays Path for Public Sector Pay Restraint

Chancellor Gordon Brown says inflation-busting pay rises in the public sector will not be tolerated. Brown said he wants the massive increases in spending on the public services, announced in last year's Budget, to be spent on improving schools and hospitals, rather than be used for pay hikes. He told the Times that millions of soldiers, teachers and civil servants are likely to get single-figure pay rises - in what is seen as a clear attempt to stop massive claims in the wake of firefighters' demand for a 40 per cent rise. He told the paper: "We must continue to have discipline in public sector pay. We will be looking at the reports of the review bodies over the next few weeks. We are doing this in an atmosphere of relatively low inflation, the lowest for 30 years or more. "You will see this reflected in the settlements we make."

From PersonnelToday.com, UK, 17 January 2003

Private and Public Sector Tourism Forums Announced

NIO Trade Minister Ian Pearson has announced the setting up of two new bodies designed to boost the province's tourism industry at a meeting today with the Northern Ireland Tourist Industry Confederation (NITIC). The Tourism Strategy Forum and an Inter-Departmental Co-ordination Group on Tourism have been proposed as key to DETI's 'Tourism Strategic Framework' which has been devised in association with the private and public tourism sectors. The meeting also provided an opportunity for the NITIC representatives to inform the Minister about their current and future plans, covering the key cross-sectoral strategic issues and initiatives to develop tourism in Northern Ireland. Mr. Pearson said: "I believe that the planned shared approach involving both public and private sectors is an exciting and very pro-active step. Given the full commitment and co-operation of all interests, we can make Northern Ireland a competitive international tourist destination." NITIC chairman Denis Galway said the move would "help towards optimizing Northern Ireland's immense tourist potential". The government's 'Tourism Strategic Framework' sets out the basic plan for taking forward the shared approach across the public and private sectors to enable the tourism industry in Northern Ireland to develop over the next few years. The framework included three strategic priorities - co-ordination of government interests, private sector involvement and a shared approach. The government has said that the creation of NITIC goes a "considerable way" to meeting the involvement of the private sector through the establishment of a group drawn from key industry interests. The other two priorities will be met by the setting up of an Inter-Departmental Co-ordination Group and the Tourism Strategy Forum. The Tourism Strategy Forum will be chaired by the Minister and will normally meet twice a year.

From 4ni.co.uk, UK, 27 January 2003

 

Private Partnership, Public Benefit

Waltham - A local partnership will provide the public a chance to participate in free computer education and certification. Charles River Public Internet Center in Waltham and Burlington-based SkillCheck Inc. have recently announced a partnership that can potentially benefit thousands of individuals in the city. The series of Internet and Computing Core Certification courses are set to begin in mid-January and will allow an equal opportunity for all residents, rich or poor, to have access to information technology. "Employers, state boards of education and school administrators at the K-12 and college level all talk of having computer literate students and employees, but what does that mean and how can it be measured?" asked Jon Haber, president of SkillCheck Inc. "(This course) is the product of three years of research and development by experts around the globe to create a set of certification exams that measures the fundamental skills required to succeed in today's technological world." SkillCheck Inc. is an organization that specializes in technology certification and also manages the Microsoft Office Specialist program. The new courses will be beneficial to many members of the community, according to Carol Woolfe, director of sales and marketing at the Charles River Public Internet Center. "We are extremely excited to be able to provide (this) certification to the many individuals from the area that we train," said Woolfe. "In addition to providing facilities for people in our community to take the exams and become certified, we are also offering one of the first certification training programs in the area." Charles River Public Internet Center is a nonprofit, educational organization that was established in 1999. The mission of the group is to ensure that every member of the community has equal access to computers, the Internet and affordable education and training. The facility currently has 22 state-of-the-art computers at its 154 Moody Street location that are available for the public Monday through Thursday noon until 8 p.m. and Fridays noon until 4 p.m.

From Newton Daily News Tribune, MA, by Melissa Beecher, 27 December 2002

Relaxed Clean-air Rules Met by State Suits

White House is 'gutting' law, 9 attorneys general say. Washington - The Bush administration issued rules Tuesday to make it easier for industrial plants and refineries to modernize without having to buy expensive pollution controls - and immediately was sued by nine states charging that the changes undermine their efforts to protect public health. The Environmental Protection Agency regulations, which go into effect in March, amount to a major change in the way older industrial plants will have to deal with air pollution when they expand, make major repairs or modify operations to increase efficiency. While the administration called the new approach badly needed to remove barriers to innovation and increased productivity, the lawsuit - filed only hours after the changes became final - argues that new breaks given the industry amount to a "gutting" of the 1970 law that has been responsible for substantial air quality improvements over the past three decades. The more relaxed requirements "will bring more acid rain, more smog, more asthma and more respiratory diseases to millions of Americans," said New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, calling them "a betrayal of the right of Americans to breathe clean healthy air." Along with New York, eight other Northeastern states - Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont - joined in the lawsuit filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington.

Officials in the Northeast are especially concerned about the potential for increased industrial and power plant pollution because much of the chemical releases from coal-burning power plants and older factories in the Midwest and Ohio Valley drift eastward, making it harder to meet federal air quality standards in their states. The changes in the so-called "new source review" regulations have been in the works since the early weeks of the Bush administration. A wide range of industries lobbied heavily for an easing of the rules, arguing they keep companies from making needed improvements. The nine attorneys general, who filed the lawsuits, are all either elected Democrats or appointed by a Democratic governor, prompting EPA spokesman Joe Martyak to suggest political motives. "There are those who would reach the conclusion that this appears to be more of a political step than based on other reasons," he said. EPA and White House officials have maintained that the regulations - as they were interpreted and implemented in recent years - have kept companies from making some changes that would have cut pollution.

From Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WI, by H. Josef Hebert, 31 December 2002

Report Says Foreign Aid Must Be Tied to National Interest

U.S. foreign aid programs must be tailored to protect American national interests, taking into account a new global reality where "weapons, germs, drugs, envy and hate cross borders at accelerating rates," a new government report says. The report, prepared under the direction of Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, asserts that foreign assistance will become a key instrument of foreign policy in the coming decades. "For the United States to prosper and be secure, the world must prosper and be secure," the study said. It noted that President Bush's National Security Strategy, unveiled in September 2002, highlights the importance of foreign aid, designating development as the third pillar of American security, along with defense and diplomacy. Titled "Foreign Aid in the National Interest," the report focuses on several key issues of development assistance: promoting democratic governance and economic growth, improving health care, mitigating conflicts, providing humanitarian aid and accounting for private foreign aid. The report says democracy and good governance "are required to spur development and reduce poverty in poorly performing countries. It also is vital to U.S. security." While democracy has become the world's most common regime in the past quarter century, the report says there has been a "growing disenchantment with political leaders seen by their people as corrupt, self-serving or unable or unwilling to address economic and social problems." The report makes these other points: * A growing economy offers the only long-run hope for a reduction in poverty. U.S. foreign assistance can speed economic growth by providing better access to U.S. markets, encouraging foreign direct investment and facilitating worker remittances. * Most of the world's poor people live in or come from rural areas. "Raising agricultural productivity offers economy-wide benefits, such as making food cheaper for urban residents." * To deal with countries plagued by internal conflict, U.S. government agencies must invest in "strengthening the capacity of local institutions to conduct research on conflict -- and support local discussions about these issues." Without addressing the root causes, it will be extremely difficult to devise solutions. The report recommends a carrot-stick approach to the distribution of assistance funds, tangibly rewarding good performers while suspending assistance to countries that lack commitment to democratic and governance reforms. "The principles of U.S. foreign policy should extend into international development - meaning that international financial institutions should stop financing grossly corrupt, wasteful and oppressive governments," the study said.

From San Francisco Chronicle, CA, by George Gedda, 7 January 2003

Senate Trims e-Gov Budget Request

The Senate last week squashed the administration's request of $45 million for an e-government fund for fiscal 2003, and allocated just $5 million-the same amount as in 2002. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, introduced an omnibus spending bill that included the decrease. Lawmakers had authorized $45 million for the fund through the E-Government Act of 2002, but as Senate appropriators pared spending, the e-government fund came under the axe. The requested funds would have supported the 25 Quicksilver e-government projects. The House also appropriated $5 million for e-government under the Treasury and General Government bill. Should the Senate number stick, the administration's plans of spending $100 million on e-government between 2002 and 2004 would be in serious jeopardy. Lawmakers still would have to negotiate the bill in conference because of differences over who should manage the funds. The Senate wants the General Services Administration to manage it, but the House wants the Office of Management and Budget to dole it out, said a House Appropriations staff member. The staff member added the administration has not made a formal request to the Appropriations Committee to increase the e-government fund to the $45 million level authorized.

From Washington Technology, VA, by Jason Miller, 23 January 2003

Field Leaders Seek Consensus on Public-Policy Agenda

The addiction field can and should speak with a single voice on issues of mutual concern, such as the need for prevention and treatment services and the fight against stigma, leaders of 15 major field organizations agreed at a Jan. 13 meeting in Washington, D.C. The meeting was called to discuss both message development and collaboration on a broader public-policy agenda, and was convened as the result of informal talks among the leaders of groups like the Legal Action Center (LAC), the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), the Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC), and Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA). "We began to see that there was a need for dialogue about who we are, where we are going, and if there are messages and actions we can take jointly," recalled NAADAC Executive Director Pat Ford-Roegner. The groundwork paid off quickly during the January meeting, said LAC Director Paul Samuels. "We had agreement within the first five minutes," he said. The consensus statement adopted by the group was straightforward and designed to be noncontroversial, at least within the field: "Alcohol and drug addiction is a disease that can be prevented and treated. People in recovery from this disease can and do lead productive lives, and should not be discriminated against," the group stated. But the conversation strayed further, ranging from budget issues to concerns about the impact that President Bush's faith-based initiative would have on addiction training and certification standards. "Participants hope the consensus statement will enable groups across the entire ideological spectrum to work together, even if they continue to disagree on other points," said Samuels.

Two working groups emerged from the meeting: One, led by Samuels, will develop a public-policy agenda; the other, led by by Ford-Roegner and lobbyist Carol McDaid of Capitol Decisions, Inc., will craft messages to support the consensus agenda. The group plans to hold future meetings and aims to bring in other participants, both from within and outside the addiction field. "My sense is that we need to reach out very broadly from the beginning," said Samuels. "I think it would be very useful to get law enforcement, the faith community, labor, and the world at large involved." The research community, which has been very successful in changing public attitudes about the disease of addiction, also needs to be engaged, Samuels added. A Mixed History of Collaboration - The Jan. 13 meeting was hardly the first time the addiction field has tried to collaborate on policy issues. Various ad-hoc coalitions have been formed in the past around specific issues, and representatives from a number of Washington, D.C. based groups have worked together on appropriations issues for the past few years. However, over time the field has gained an unwanted reputation on Capitol Hill for a lack of cohesiveness and weak grassroots advocacy. "Some new people have come into the field and said, 'Why is this not happening?'" said Samuels. New ASAM Executive Vice President Eileen McGrath and NAADAC's Ford-Roegner were among those who brought an outsider's perspective to the policy discussions. "Eileen, myself, and others have a real can-do attitude, but we know [addiction] is a much tougher issue," said Ford-Roegner, who previously worked on issues such as AIDS and breast-cancer awareness.

The enthusiasm of new leaders like McGrath and Ford-Roegner, combined with the knowledge and experience of field veterans, is one reason why Samuels believes the time is right for addiction-field groups to overcome their differences and work for the common good. "The notion of working together has been picking up steam," he said. "It's a combination of the maturation of the field and the growing organization of the recovery community. It's not rocket science, but it could be a pretty important step forward for the field." "This needs to lead to a groundswell of people at the state and national level who want to see changes," added Ford-Roegner. "I think community-based advocacy is growing - through the Join Together Demand Treatment! grantees, the CADCA grantees, Faces and Voices of Recovery - and a lot of action in the AIDS community and breast-cancer issues came out of that." Ron Hunsicker, president of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, is hopeful that the field can present a united front on critical issues, but cautioned against overreaching. "It seems to me that it has to start being narrowly focused," said Hunsicker, who didn't attend the January meeting but forwarded comments to the group on behalf of NAATP. "We have to decide on one or two things we're all interested in and stay focused on that."

"One of the reasons these efforts have lost momentum in the past is that some of us represent treatment-delivery systems, and others represent advocacy groups, and we need to understand that and talk about it, or it won't work," he added. "I see no reason why we all couldn't agree on calling for a Presidential Commission on Addiction, for example, but if we get into spending issues then we'll spend all of our time talking about our differences." The meeting was attended by leaders of the American Association for Treatment of Opioid Dependence, ASAM, Brown University/Physicians Leadership on National Drug Policy, CADCA, the Employee Assistance Professionals Association, Faces and Voices of Recovery (formerly the Alliance Project), the Johnson Institute Foundation, Join Together, the Legal Action Center, NAADAC, the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, the National Latino Council on Alcohol and Tobacco Prevention, the Partnership for Recovery, the State Associations of Addiction Services, and Therapeutic Communities of America. In addition, NAATP, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, and the National Children of Alcoholics Foundation expressed their support and forwarded suggestions for the group to consider. For more information, contact Paul Samuels at the Legal Action Center: (212) 243-1313 or e-mail: PSAMUELS@lac.org.

From JoinTogether.org, by Bob Curley, 23 January 2003

 

Huge Meeting of World Economists Discusses Globalization, IT

Seven thousand economists from around the world examined the impact of globalization and information technology, during a weekend gathering in Washington. Economists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia, and Harvard universities say there is a direct relationship between technological advance and gains in productivity, also known as output per hour worked. Martin Feldstein, a likely successor to Alan Greenspan at the U.S. central bank, said the United States has done better than Europe in productivity and job creation in the past decade because of greater receptivity to innovation and a more flexible labor market. "Innovation is often frightening to people who have to learn new systems, particularly older workers for whom new computer technology may never be user friendly enough. Innovation can also be personally unpleasant for managers if it means firing workers and forcing others to take early retirement," he explained. "This business process innovation nonetheless occurred in U.S. firms because the general environment encouraged and supported change, while the individuals who drove change had strong incentives for doing so," Mr. Feldstein said. In the late 1990's the United States registered five consecutive years of 40 percent growth in investment in computer technology. Panelists said that investment accounted for almost all of the U.S. productivity gains in recent years.

Mr. Feldstein said unlike earlier periods of technological advance, recent changes are affecting middle-level managers more than blue-collar workers. "These productivity gains made possible by the new computer technologies have been concentrated in white-collar jobs. While earlier generations of technological change permitted automation and robots on the production process, the IT [information technology] revolution has brought productivity gains to management, sales, purchasing, accounting, design and other non-production activities. And that now is where most of the [new] jobs are, even in manufacturing industry," he said. But the situation is quite different in developing countries where labor is more plentiful and cheaper. Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University said productivity gains in developing countries are linked to education and a capacity to accept new technology. "There have been marked changes in technology leading to changes in the pace of productivity. And even if the new economy [characterized by IT and the Internet] has been hyped and has not meant the end of the business cycle as some people thought a couple years ago, it is quite clear that there have been changes in technology and changes in productivity. The point is that different countries are in different position to take advantage of these changes," Mr. Stiglitz said. He said that while Africa and Latin America lag behind in accommodating new technology, China and South Korea are clear winners. The panelists concluded that the years 1995 to 2000 represented a unique period of particularly rapid technological advance. This, they said, probably was a once only occurrence facilitated by the arrival of the Internet, the global communications system made possible by the marriage of computer and telecommunications technology.

From Voice of America, by Barry Wood, 6 January 2003

 

Donor Aid Tied to Good Governance

Lilongwe - Political and Economic analysts have warned that unless the United Democratic Front (UDF) proved to the donor community and civil society that government was serious about improving on it's ills, the hope of normalising relations between the development community and the state will continue to remain an unattainable dream. The warning comes amid calls from human rights and civil society advocates urging the government to bring the financial hiccups to normal by increasing or at least attracting donor funding inflows, This, they said can only be done by apologising to the nation and to our partners for the poor accountability, especially Denmark who pulled out of Malawi in July last year. The intransigence of the Malawi government to reform has led to other key donors withholding funding. More than 2/3rds of political analysts interviewed agreed that the UDF's desire to retain power at all costs was another position of contention. They feared that if passed, the third term bid for President Muluzi is likely to inflict grave damage on the country's fragile economy saying it will only mirror and highlight the governments' continued abuse of parliament and democracy in particular. Executive Director of Civil Liberties Committee (CILIC) Emmie Chanika took a swipe at the government, quizzing if it has addressed the shortfalls identified by the donor community. 'I am sure Denmark will wait until the third term issue is resolved before reacting because they know the UDF will continue breaching the principles of democracy,' said Chanika. She advised politicians to avoid making what she described as 'obscene, un-intellectual vibes'. Constitutional lawyer and law lecturer at Chancellor College (CHANCO) Fidelis Edge Kanyongolo in an interview with The Chronicle said should the UDF force the third term bill through, the donors will not be easily convinced. 'The Bill will reflect badly on our commitment to democracy and we should not expect to be assisted because we will have betrayed the ideals of democracy,' said Kanyongolo, adding, 'nobody can be cheated that people have been consulted to allow such a major amendment of the constitution.'

Another political analyst based in Lilongwe said: 'The UDF should change it's mode of running the affairs of the country, righting the wrongs that have been pointed out by those who assist Malawi financially. Otherwise it will be an exercise akin to squeezing water from a stone to convince them to resume assisting us. 'I personally feel that when donors say the ruling party should exercise fiscal discipline, stamp out corruption and uphold democratic principles they are doing Malawi a favour rather than whipping her to submission to their 'ulterior motives' as some politicians have made us believe.' He pointed out that the donor community is now focusing on the third term issue since, he said, it was a 'litmus test'that will determine if the ruling party has changed for the better on upholding democratic principles. He said that should the third term bill be tabled and passed, Malawi's already ravaged economy will undoubtedly be plunged into further turmoil with donors pulling out as was the case in the past when various key donors bemoaned the way the United Democratic Front (UDF) led government was running the country. 'We are desperately in need of donor aid taking into consideration the hunger situation currently being faced by many helpless Malawians. We want to get out of the economic hardships strait jacket,' further said another observer opting for anonymity. He added that the defeat of the open term bill was not meant to oust the incumbent President Bakili Muluzi from office but to maintain a semblance of democracy. The donor community has accused the ruling UDF of wholesale corruption and the diverting funds to unintended projects, especially by those in positions of public trust. Some instrumental donors like Britain and Denmark have already made their stance clear on the issue . Britain, who makes vast financial grants and other technical assistance towards the safeguarding of Malawi's democracy, last year withheld US$19 million intended for budgetary support while the Danes took US$87 million earmarked for Malawi back to their Central Bank in Copenhagen citing the numerous ills of the ruling UDF administration. The Nordic country contributed a staggering US$60million (K5.2 billion) into both budgetary and development aid support every year. The European Union (EU), currently whose presidency is headed by the Denmark, also withheld US$13 million and is still demanding a refund of US$6 million already disbursed because of irregularities in the tendering process.

Finance Minister Friday Jumbe has admitted that since Denmark cutoff her ties with the country, economic hardships have been steadily worsening. He said that the government was ready to negotiate with the Nordic country to ensure a huge financial gap is bridged. Some Non-governmental Organisations have demanded an explanation and an apology from the State President before trying to mend the fences. President Muluzi continues to remain 'mum' on the third term issue saying that it was not yet the time to bring it up again. He said rather, it was prudent for him and other UDF gurus to concentrate on issues of paramount importance such as HIV/AIDS, poverty reduction and hunger, among others. The president's silence has seen the emergence of two factions within the party; the pro-third-term and the anti-third term. The former, according to analysts, have enjoyed economic gain from the party president while the latter have fallen victim to the systematic purging from within the UDF camp. The latest victims being Jaap Sonke, a former cabinet minister who was stripped of his position and Joe Manduwa, also a one-time minister who was, at the time he declared his opposition to the third term the chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee looking into the abuse of office and fraud and corruption linked to the food security in the country. Manduwa was removed from the committee after it was felt he was getting too close to resolving the matter that brought hunger and distress to the nations rural poor. It was seen that he was willing to put the blame firmly on his own party colleagues. Muluzi, at public rallies has since practically declared their constituency seats vacant, further throwing the issue of participatory choice by the electorate in doubt. However, analysts argue that the odds are heavily tipped on the incumbent president coming out in the open to reveal his intention not to stand and to propose his choice of successor within the next few months. Presidential, Parliamentary and Council elections are expected to be held within the next 15 months. Political pundits indicate that Muluzi's delays could reflect badly on his party and the successor with a potential for a repeat of the Kenya scenario where the opposition fielded a single presidential candidate to remove what was perceive as a reluctant, oppressive and ineffective party from government.

From AllAfrica.com, by Mallick Mnela, 7 January 2003

ZANU-PF Official Calls for Transparency in Zimbabwe's Maize Distribution

A top ZANU-PF official has called for greater transparency in the distribution of the government's grain resources, echoing calls made by several NGOs and the opposition who have accused the ruling party of manipulating access to supplies. The call by Jabulani Sibanda, the ZANU-PF regional chairman in the southern city of Bulawayo, came after two clashes over the weekend between protestors and police outside government-controlled Grain Marketing Board (GMB) distribution depots. Thirty-four people were arrested following violence at the depot in Bulawayo on Friday, reportedly between "war veterans" and police. In a similar incident, four policemen had to be treated in hospital on Sunday after clashes between youths and police monitoring a food queue in Chitungwiza, south of Harare. "We want a transparent system and we want a local task force to distribute [food] to local people as they know the people better. They will know who received [supplies] yesterday," Sibanda told IRIN. "There should be a more transparent system because even if there is nothing to distribute, [without transparency] people will feel something is being hidden." Sibanda refused to elaborate on alleged problems with current distribution methods, but the online Sunday News quoted him as saying: "Maize is there but it is not reaching the intended consumers but instead the maize is being used by 'big fish' to spin money." He also reportedly accused the police of not investigating allegations of illegal maize sales after being supplied with addresses of offenders. However, the newspaper also reported that the chairman of the provincial task force alleged that Sibanda and his "war veterans and gullible party supporters" were hampering the work of GMB officials, and that he had allegedly dissolved the government task force putting himself and "war veterans" in charge. Sibanda denied the allegations.

The newspaper reported Nicholas Goche, the minister of state for security, as saying that a call at the recent ZANU-PF conference that war veterans be represented on local provincial task forces had been misconstrued to mean they should replace the existing task forces. Last year the Danish organisation, Physicians for Human Rights, the Bishop of the Catholic Church in Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Association alleged in separate statements that Zimbabwe's scarce maize supplies were being distributed on party lines in some districts. They said that in some cases residents had to produce proof of membership of the ruling party to be elible to purchase the staple food. Denying the allegations, press secretary in the Ministry of Information, Steyn Berejena, told IRIN: "The food is distributed by the government officials but people assume that civil servants are party people, which is not the case. The problem is, we have shortages. People are not branded, they don't have marks ... how do you tell which political party they support? "Some of these areas are undersupplied and demand is greater than supplies and when people go to the GMB they might not find grain available," Berejena said. Last month the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) questioned the government's claim that it had imported 600,000 mt of grain, saying that shortages on the ground did not reflect this. The World Food Programme (WFP) reported on Monday that beef, chicken, bread, flour, maize meal, milk, and sugar continued to be absent from supermarket shelves and fuel shortages were ongoing. In addition, soft drinks and cigarettes were now becoming scarce. There have been shortages of cash reported as well, with banks restricting amounts that can be withdrawn. WFP said its implementing partners had distributed just under 20,000 mt of food aid during December in 32 districts. Close to seven million Zimbabweans are in need of food assistance as a result of drought and the government's controversial land reform programme.

From Malawi Here, Africa, 06 January 2003

Local Government Ministry Working To Attract Professionals

The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development is in the process of attracting skilled personnel into the local government administration in order to strengthen governance at the grassroots level. The Ministry has realized that the major problem confronting local governance in the country is the non-availability of technocrats, especially, at the district and town council levels. The Sector Minister, Mr. Baah-Wiredu, stated this in an interview at Agogo in the Asante Akyem North District of Ashanti. According to him, the Ministry has begun serious discussions with professionals such as engineers, architects, lawyers, planning and budget officers, among others to sensitise them to take up employment with the local government sector.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 14 January 2003

People's Assembly Concept Mark of Good Governance

Mr. Ernest Akubuor Debrah, Brong-Ahafo Regional Minister said on Wednesday that the people's assembly concept is a mark of good governance in the successful execution of governmental policies for the orderly and accelerated development of the country. Speaking at Goaso in the Asunafo district of the region at a people's assembly, he noted that on assumption of office, the Government, among others had five main objectives of infrastructure development. These include the construction of new roads and rehabilitation of old ones, provision of electricity, inputs support and credit facilities, provision of educational facilities and establishment of agro-based industries. The Regional Minister explained that the achievement of these and other objectives could only be possible when good governance, which provides the enabling environment for industrial growth and smooth economic take off, was entrenched as part of the country's democratic system. He announced that a second High Court, after Sunyani, had been opened at Wenchi, and soon another would be opened at Goaso for the speedy administration of justice in the region. Mr. Debrah further explained a number of government policies, including the HIPC initiative, benefits being derived from the Health Insurance Policy, and the possible increase of fuel prices.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 17 January 2003

 

Bangladeshis Feel Improving Governance Key to Poverty Reduction, Cite Police and Courts as Top Reform Priorities

Dhaka - Most private citizens of Bangladesh believe that improving governance is critical for reducing poverty and are particularly concerned about law enforcement and the legal and judicial system, according to the results of a large-scale public opinion survey conducted in 2000-2001. In its newly released report, Bangladesh, Improving Governance for Reducing Poverty, the World Bank says that the results of the survey "do not just confirm well-known ills; they help establish priorities for reform." The report says that improving governance in the country is necessary to attract more investment-a fundamental requirement for achieving the kind of economic growth needed to meet the country's poverty reduction goals. "The data show that the breakdown of law enforcement-especially corruption in the police and long delays in the courts-is the top concern of both rank-and-file citizens and entrepreneurs," says the report. "Even though access to such social services as health care and education is often inequitable, that pattern of discrimination against the poorest is even more perceptible when the most vulnerable Bangladeshis seek the help of the police or the protection of courts." The report indicates that the survey responses could help determine priorities for reform. Regarding police reform, it suggests measures including reviewing and redressing such areas as pay, allowances, job security, and benefits; stopping politically motivated transfers of police officials; taking action against officers found guilty of corruption and other crimes; and instituting civilian oversight of police services.

The report notes that government has already embarked upon a program of legal and judicial reform, a central element of which is the separation of the judiciary from the executive. In addition, with the assistance of the World Bank, a computerized case classification and record management system is being introduced and modern case management techniques instituted with a view to substantially reducing the backlog of cases. Government is also developing a program to promote legal literacy and raise public awareness. To further improve the functioning of the system, the report suggests that standards for processing cases should be published and enforced and penalties for non-compliance introduced. Respondents to the survey also complained of widespread corruption in other areas and described having to pay bribes for such activities as registering the purchase and sale of property, receiving loans from financial institutions, obtaining clearances and licenses to do business, and receiving publicly provided services such as water and energy supply, health care, and education. There was a strong feeling that poor people had less access and more difficulties than wealthier people in all of these areas. "Taken together, these faults erode the confidence of citizens in their government and of outsiders in Bangladesh as a promising place to risk their capital," according to the report.

Among other measures, the report suggests that civil servants and service providers should be held accountable for the services they provide, independent regulatory entities should be established, and public-private partnerships encouraged to improve service delivery. It also says that currently government agencies have limited institutional capacity and try to do too much with too few resources, adversely affecting the quality of service delivery. The views of civil servants are in stark contrast to the opinions expressed by households and businesses. According to survey results, while civil servants believe that corruption is a problem, they feel that it is declining. They nonetheless agree that a key reason for poor service quality is the lack of accountability and distorted incentives whereby civil servant's rewards and punishment are not connected with the quality of service delivery. The survey, conducted in 2000-2001, covered 3,000 households, 1,500 business enterprises, and 1,500 civil servants. "In recent years, increasing use is being made of client-surveys throughout the world to motivate better public service delivery," according to the report. "Countries as diverse as Botswana, Chile and Singapore have put in place mechanisms that allow them to get systematic feedback on a range of policies and issues and use this information to provide feed-back to service providers and assess performance across agencies. Regular client-surveys should be encouraged and the information collected through such interventions should be published regularly and disseminated widely."

From World Bank Group, DC, 9 January 2003

Beijing Recovers 1.3bn yuan in Anti-corruption Campaign

Over the past five years, local procuratorates have recovered almost 1.3 billion yuan (about 157 million US dollars) from corrupt officials who abused their power for their own financial gain. Over the past five years, local procuratorates have recovered almost 1.3 billion yuan (about 157 million US dollars) from corrupt officials who abused their power for their own financial gain. Wang Shuangjin, director of the anti-corruption bureau of the Beijing municipal procuratorate, disclosed the information during a recent interview with Xinhua. According to the official, in 2002, the city set up a network aimed at dissuading officials from engaging in corrupt activities. The network has played an important role in detecting and interrupting crime through inter-departmental coordination. In the first 11 months of 2002, local procurators handled 62 major corruption cases involving one million yuan or more (about 120,000 US dollars), 79 cases related to government officials at the level of county magistrate, and 27 cases related to municipal officials. Almost 170 million yuan (about 20.5 million US dollars) was recovered in these cases.

From People's Daily Online, China, 14 January 2003

Gov. del Rosario Affirms Plan to be Transparent

Capitol, Tagum City - Underscoring his uncompromising stand against corruption in government, Governor Rodolfo del Rosario affirmed his administration is conscientiously spending every single centavo of taxpayers' money on worthwhile undertakings and that they are properly accounted for. Del Rosario, who is also the concurrent president of the influential League of Provinces of the Philippines and the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, made the assurance to promote public awareness on the prompt payment of taxes to raise essential revenues needed to fund important government programs and projects amid the burgeoning national budget deficit. "I assure my constituents that every single centavo of taxes you pay will be properly accounted for and will be utilized to intensify our various development programs and projects," he declared during the taxpayers' incentive promo 2002 raffle bonanza at the Capitol Ceremonial Hall earlier this month. He vowed to continue his development thrusts and programs utilizing the minimum basic needs approach as centerpiece of his administration "to be able to provide better lives to our people." Taxes return to the people in the form of basic services and vital infrastructures like farm-to-market roads, bridges, irrigation, post-harvest facilities and other projects.

A brainchild of the governor, the MBN approach to development has been implemented province-wide since 2000 in an ambitious bid to totally uplift the quality of life of the Dabaonons. Recognizing its mettle in promoting pro-poor local governance, the Asian Institute of Management named Davao del Norte as one of the top ten winners of the prestigious Gawad Galing Pook Award 2002 for its MBN Program as an outstanding local governance program. Also, under the stewardship of Del Rosario, Davao del Norte was awarded as the Most Outstanding LGU in Local Budget Administration (Provincial Category) by the Department of Budget and Management and the Philippine League of Budget Officers (PHILLBO), Inc. last November in Malacañang. Provincial Treasurer Regina Ricafort said the province launched the taxpayers' incentive promo raffle bonanza last year to entice the public to promptly pay their obligations to the government in order to improve revenue collection. Celestina Inguito of Carcar, New Corella won a colored TV for the first prize. Other major prizes include: a gas range for the second prize bagged by Ramon Pama of Casing-ang, Sto. Tomas, sewing machine as third prize won by Alexander Guetare of Maniki, Kapalong; mountain bike as fourth prize received by Feliciano Radical of San Isidro Carmen; and, a 2-burder gas stove as fifth prize won by Arthur Flores of Tuganay, Carmen. (PGO-IDD).

From Mindanao Times, Philippines, 17 January 2003

CM Naidu Goes Hi-Tech to Enforce Accountability

Hyderabad: Moving a step further in administrative reforms, Andhra Pradesh government is contemplating formulation of Performance Accountability Act to fix accountability at various levels and put in place a mechanism of rewards and punishments based on performance. Disclosing this while addressing a state-level workshop on performance-based budgeting in Hyderabad on Tuesday, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu said that employees would be made personally responsible for poor citizen service and performance evaluation would be done using scientific methods and online tracking system. Outlining his government's vision to use latest technologies to improve accountability, Naidu said plans were afoot to deploy digital cameras at all mandal headquarters to monitor developmental works right from the stage of their grounding. "We can monitor the quality and speed of the works and service standards in a virtual reality medium," he said. As a prelude to making public the draft budget for 2003-04, Naidu presided over the workshop to review performance budgets of various government departments. This is the second year in a row that the TDP government is throwing open the draft budget for public debate as part of efforts to make the budgetary exercise transparent. Naidu will release the annual fiscal framework in Hyderabad on Wednesday which would be followed by a series of open debates at district level aimed at eliciting public views on budgetary priorities.

From Indian Express, India, 21 January 2003

 

Local Government Must Take Lead - Goodway

In a speech to the British Property Federation annual conference at the Celtic Manor this morning (Monday, January 27), Cardiff Council Leader, Councillor Russell Goodway has argued strongly for more emphasis to be placed on local government's community leadership role and for more local powers to allow public-private partnerships to underpin local regeneration. Citing the Cardiff experience, Councillor Goodway, who is described in publicity for the event as 'the inspiration behind the transformation of Cardiff', said that local government's important role in the public-private partnership must be recognised for cities to harness their full economic and creative potential. "Cardiff's agenda and clear vision for change can be traced back to the development of the Cardiff 2020 strategy defined by the former South Glamorgan County Council just over ten years ago," he said. "That vision helped galvanise opinion in the city behind an agenda that would take Cardiff into the 21st century - an agenda that sought to provide the necessary infrastructure for change. And, more importantly, it was an agenda about partnership working and creating confidence in the city so that the Council could draw on resources and expertise, other than its own, to further the regeneration of Cardiff. "In Cardiff, we have had to recognise that cities are also becoming international players - sometimes competing with each other, sometimes co-operating, to attract international investment. We have worked closely with the Chamber of Commerce to develop 'one voice' for business and we have had to adopt a robust commitment to public-private collaboration.

"We now need to line up with other progressive European cities to develop a modern, pro-cities manifesto that can draw-in public and private investment to benefit the people who depend on cities as their homes and places of work. "That means more emphasis on local government's community leadership role and more local powers to allow public-private partnerships to underpin regeneration. "What I want to see is a clearer distinction made between, on the one hand, the role of the private sector in harnessing the creative potential of the market. And, on the other, the role of government in putting in place the infrastructure that will enable them to do that in the most effective way possible. Councillor Goodway also expressed concern at lack of local authority control over business rates. In response to questioning from leading academic urban economist and local government expert Tony Travers, the Council Leader argued strongly for the return of all business rates to local control. "At this point nearly forty percent of Cardiff's business rates go to support the rest of Wales for projects and development over which Cardiff has no control," he said. "The fact is that Cardiff has the power and potential to drive the Welsh regional economy forward. And we should receive the appropriate resources from the Welsh Assembly Government if we are to achieve this. Because at the end of the day, if Cardiff wins, Wales wins."

From News Wales, UK, 28 January 2003

 

Iraqi Professionals Discuss the Future of Local Government and Oil

The US said: two working groups, one dealing with local government, the other with the oil and gas industry, of the Future of Iraq Project met for the first time in Washington in late December under the auspices of the State Department. The local government working group, consisting of 15 Iraqi-born academics, businessmen and religious leaders, met December 18-19 for discussions on developing effective, accountable local government once Saddam Hussein's one-party structure collapses. The oil and gas working group brought together Iraqi-born oil and gas experts for discussions December 20-21 on managing the Iraqi energy sector in the post-Saddam era. Speaking to the Washington File December 23, Talib Al-Hamdani, political scientist, engineer and participant in the local government working group, explained how Iraq's Ba'athist regime began in the 1970's to usurp power from all levels of government. "What you have now is total central control from the top," he said, with most governors and mayors appointed by the Interior Ministry in Baghdad. "Local government figures are organs of the regime, drawn from the higher ranks of the Ba'ath Party, and lack any real power," Hamdani said. If Iraq is to transition to a more representative form of government, Hamdani said it is important to begin immediately strengthening the basic elements of day-to-day governance and ensuring officials are accountable to the local population. The working group agreed on the importance of re-introducing elected city councils throughout the country. "I really see local elections happening before elections to the major national bodies. Elections, particularly in the smaller cities, would be fairly easy to do. And it would give people valuable training, give life to civic society and encourage political debate," Hamdani explained. Hamdani said specific ideas on the role of local councils were being shared among the working group members. He predicted that the councils would have a voice in monitoring the effectiveness and integrity of state officials. "At first, there may still be many administrators appointed by a transitional authority, but from the very beginning we can make them also accountable to local city council," he said. "It would be the elected city council that would put demands on the bureaucracy and the technocrats and officials." "We need to lessen the degree of corruption.

There is wide corruption, so if you make any new appointee accountable to the local people, that will reduce corruption a lot," he said. In addition to local councils, Hamdani said other aspects of civic life need to be revived. "When the Ba'athist government came, they eliminated civic society. A dictator needs only the masses and him, nothing in between. So we need to return to trade unions, professional guilds that will elect their representatives and they will watch the government. The other side is the free press. We need to localize the press, so that each city or province will have its press to monitor the government," Hamdani said. The discussions also dealt with issues such as ensuring local government has revenue, the independence to manage its resources, and the means to account for its monies before local residents. An Iraqi religious figure, Abdulmajid Al-Khoei, offered his view on how to preserve the special status of religious seminaries, like those in Najaf, without imposing state management on religious institutions. Al-Khoei is son of a leading ayatollah who died in 1992 from persecution by the Ba'athist regime and secretary general of the Al-Khoei Foundation, which supports a Shia Muslim community in North London with schools and a mosque. The Al-Khoei Foundation carries on the late ayatollah's tradition of promoting separation of mosque and state while defending Shia rights and culture in Iraq. Iraq contains many diverse religious traditions within its borders. As free Iraqis discuss the possible institutional relationships between religion and state, Hamdani noted that local clerics are one of several social forces affecting the local community. "A governor in Basra is not dealing in foreign affairs or national security. A governor needs to deal with the tribes, the businessmen and with the religious community there. So we need to take their opinions into consideration because that is the work of local government," Hamdani said. Speaking to the Middle East Institute in Washington December 20, Abdulmajid Al-Khoei noted that developing a spirit of democracy would take years. "After all Saddam did to the people, democracy will take time.

It's not something you can switch on and off like a light." In the transition to greater democratic governance, he believed religious authorities and tribal authorities would be influential at the grassroots level. Hamdani felt this was particularly true in rural areas. The degree of success in developing local government and civic bodies that allow people to negotiate their needs and differences will be a good indicator of the kind of nation which will emerge from 30 years of dictatorship, Hamdani said. He underscored the value of beginning the process at the town and village level. "From here, we could take the next step for people to choose their representative to a central government or to write a new constitution," he said. Working Group Discusses the Oil Sector - The day after the conclusion of the local government meeting, Iraqi-born experts of the oil and gas working group began two days of discussions on the future of that industry. According to a press statement released at the conclusion of their discussions, a key objective of the group was to identify short and medium term priorities for the Iraqi oil and gas sector after a change of government in Baghdad and to determine the necessary components for a restructuring of the industry. "The aspiration of the group is a rehabilitated, globally connected oil and gas sector," it said. "Oil will remain the primary source of revenue and will play a pivotal role in the country's economic reconstruction. The group recognized the need to establish a favorable investment climate and attract international and inward capital in the reconstruction and growth of the industry. It saw the importance of introducing modern technology, know-how and management skills. As a practical matter the group discussed the priority first steps in re-establishing historic capacity," the statement concluded. The two working groups will reconvene in early 2003. They are among the sixteen groups of Iraqi-born experts that will be meeting regularly to examine issues of critical importance to the Iraqi people. Their work is facilitated by the Department of State through the "Future of Iraq Project."

From Arabic News, 2 December 2003

 

People Want Governance

Disillusionment with government is a world-wide reality - A recent international survey placed Kenyans at the top of the poll in terms of their optimism for the future. The success of the opposition alliance in smashing the ruling party's 39-year grip on power has rekindled Kenya's hope for the future - hope for better governance. Kenya's political turnaround is significant for democracy and for governance. It shows that despite four decades of political baasskap and corruption, hope of deliverance remained in the minds of the majority of Kenyans. It also indicates that dictators like Daniel arap Moi can be removed from power and that they are not ordained to rule indefinitely. In 1991, Zambians celebrated when Frederick Chiluba replaced Kenneth Kaunda as president after 27 years. Ten years of Chiluba, however, failed to reverse the terminal decline that Kaunda had inflicted on Zambia. Will Mwai Kibaki, who once served as Arap Moi's vice-president, succeed in reviving Kenya's slumped economy and in transforming its corrupt civil service? Closer to home, Zimbabwe's tragic situation cries out for governance and deliverance from tyranny. Although free elections in Zimbabwe would see the opposition MDC sweep to power, the damage caused by Mugabe's systematic rape of the country has so retarded it that tangible economic upliftment will take years. That is the shocking legacy of Mugabe's abuse of power. Although he died in 1986, Mozambique is still paying the price of Samora Machel's ruinous rule. While it now posts record economic growth rates, it is only progress to recover what once was rather than growth beyond that level. Although Kenyans are jubilant now, only time will tell whether they have exchanged one oppressive government for another. The history of post-colonial Africa in this regard is not encouraging.

As historian Basil Davidson stated in his book, The Black Man's Burden: Africa and the curse of the nation-state (1992): "The state was not liberating and protective of its citizens; on the contrary, its gross effect was constricting and exploitative " Disillusionment with governments is not peculiar to Africa. It's a worldwide reality. Only 40% of Americans bothered to vote in the 2002 mid-term elections. Germans are anything but enamoured with the Schršder government, which seems to know only how to raise taxes while the economy stagnates and 10% of Germans are unemployed. In Venezuela and Argentina, citizens seething with anger against their governments have taken to the streets in protest. Their plight is universal as governments serve themselves. It's become the purpose of their existence. From their arrogance and contempt for criticism, it is obvious that they see electorates only as a means to the gravy train as they pay lip service to good governance. With the emergence of sophisticated power blocs such as the EU, the whole edifice of government has become more powerful, self-serving and isolated from those it claims to represent. Ask UK residents how they see their relationship with the European Parliament in Strasbourg. It's simply another tax at the price of another slice of national sovereignty. Governments have become closed, cloned clubs. They no longer function as Abraham Lincoln envisaged - being of the people, for the people and by the people. Locally, the SADC is a case in point. It pays lip service to criteria like good governance, democracy and independent judiciaries, while it shelters rogues like Mugabe. Indeed, he enjoys protection and even favour from the SADC and the Non-Aligned Movement, while he terrorises and starves Zimbabweans.

At the ANC's national conference in Stellenbosch last month, Mugabe's brutal regime was actually praised for being "progressive", which is newspeak for advancement of collectivist baasskap. Consistent with this mockery of the ideal of good governance is Mbeki's decision this week to support Libya's election to the chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights, notwithstanding the Gaddaffi regime's involvement in international terrorism and its denial of human rights in Libya itself. How long has the euphoria of the 1994 election lasted in South Africa? The same survey that placed Kenyans on a high of optimism found Thabo Mbeki's ratings at an all-time low. By-election results reflect a huge decline in voter turn-out for the ruling party. It's probably one of the reasons it was anxious to avoid the snap election the IFP/DA recently threatened to call in KZN. The same mistake of not "liberating its citizens" is being made in the new South Africa as elsewhere. Worldwide, what people want is good governance. Instead, they are being dished out more government, more bureaucracy, more centralisation, more control, less freedom - and all for more money. Ninety percent of the taxes this government collects are spent on maintaining itself. Exacerbating the situation is the nanny-state socialism to which the ANC has always been partial. Doing nothing, as Edmund Burke warned over 200 years ago, is not an option because it facilitates the process of enslavement, in this case to big government. The solution lies, as Thomas Jefferson once said, in less government and in the devolution of power into the hands of the electors. Then, as is the case in the Swiss canton system, governance, rather than government, prevails. (Duncan du Bois is a DA Durban Metro ward councillor. He writes in his personal capacity).

From Natal Witness, South Africa, 24 January 2003

World Economic Forum Launches Global Governance Initiative to Monitor Effort on UN Millennium Declaration Goals

Davos - The World Economic Forum is launching a high-level Initiative to monitor progress in the global effort to implement the ambitious social, economic and environmental goals set forth in the United Nations Millennium Declaration and other documents. This endeavour, known as the Global Governance Initiative, will publish an annual report assessing efforts by and cooperation among governments, civil society, the private sector and intergovernmental organizations to meet targets widely agreed to by 189 governments. Among the goals are pledges to: Halve the number of people living in poverty by 2015; Ensure universal primary education by 2015; Halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and other major diseases by 2015; Fulfil commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and implement conventions related to the conservation of biodiversity; Halve the number of people suffering from hunger by 2015; Uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other agreements related to the rights of women and migrants, and ensure media freedom and the public's right to access to information; Ensure the implementation of arms control and disarmament treaties, and strengthen the role of the United Nations in maintaining peace and security.

The report will include an overall numerical score of progress in effort and cooperation during the preceding year in each of the above areas. It will also contain a discussion of the significant problems governments, civil society, the private sector and intergovernmental organizations face, and notable examples of progress during the previous year. The Initiative will include seven international groups of experts, each dedicated to evaluating the level of effort and cooperation among key actors in one of the above areas. The Steering Committee of the Global Governance Initiative will convene for the first time during the Annual Meeting 2003. The first report will be released in the name of the Steering Committee at the World Economic Forum's next Annual Meeting in January 2004. The Global Governance Initiative is intended to be an independent watchdog for the follow-up to the Millennium Declaration. The project will draw on expertise around the world to remind the international community of its commitments and constructively advocate greater partnership by all stakeholders. By spotlighting specific examples of successful programmes and partnerships, the Global Governance Initiative will spread awareness of the models that should be emulated - or avoided.

By publicizing ideas about what governments, intergovernmental organizations, businesses and civil society organizations can do to meet specific goals laid out in the Millennium Declaration and other documents, it will help bring about the realization of those goals. Further information on the Global Governance Initiative can be obtained by contacting Ann Florini, Project Director of the Global Governance Initiative and Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution at +1 202 797 6087 or Richard Samans, Director for Global Issues and Associate Member of the Managing Board of the World Economic Forum at +41 (0)22 869 1414. A partial list of participants is attached. The World Economic Forum is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world. The Forum provides a collaborative framework for the world's leaders to address global issues, engaging particularly its corporate members in global citizenship. Incorporated as a foundation, and based in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Economic Forum is impartial and not-for-profit; it is tied to no political, partisan or national interests. The Forum has NGO consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 28 January 2003

Global Corruption Report: Journalists are Key to Fighting Corruption

In short: The 2003 annual report on global corruption underlines the media's role in the fight against corruption, calls for better access to government-held information and states that companies are somewhat less likely to bribe now than before. Brief news:Transparency International, a globally known non-governmental organisation, released its second annual report on the state of corruption around the world, containing 16 regional reports. The "Global Corruption Report 2003": -·highlights the role of the media in the fight against corruption; -·underlines the importance of access to government-held information; -·calls on regulators to require companies to declare taxes and royalties paid to the governments where they operate; -·reveals that companies from leading industrial countries are seen as slightly less likely to bribe than before. The report takes note of the new British law that renders illegal not only the bribery of foreign government officials in line with the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, but also the so-called facilitation payments that are small payments aiming to make access easier to routine government services. The German parliament's upper house has held up twice a measure presented by the federal government in April 2002, on the creation of a Register of Unreliable Companies that would list companies caught paying bribes or otherwise engaging in corrupt activity. Italy passed a new law in late 2001 that severely impedes the work of investigative judges. As regards the countries that are candidates for EU membership, Hungary introduced mandatory asset statements for all public sector employees and adopted a law on corporate criminal liability in 2001. The Czech Republic and Slovakia adopted civil service laws that made property disclosures compulsory for civil servants, in March 2002. In addition, these two countries also adopted new laws on independent intra-governmental audit units in 2001. Accusations of corruption emerged over the privatisation of the Lithuanian oil company and Polish ambulance service employees who received payments for information about the death of patients.

From Euractiv, Belgium, 30 January 2003

 

Ministers, Senior Civil Servants to Lose Posts

Nairobi - All Presidential appointees of the Kanu regime are expected to hand in their resignations to allow President Mwai Kibaki make fresh appointments, a source at the Office of the President said yesterday. According to the source, the first people to lose their positions were ministers and assistant ministers of the former ruling party. "They lost their positions immediately the Electoral Commission of Kenya announced that the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) had won the elections," the source added. Those expected to hand in their resignations include all parastatal heads, Permanent Secretaries and all constitutional office holders. Accordingly among those expected to hand in their resignations are Chief Justice Bernard Chunga, Attorney-General Amos Wako and Commissioner of Police Philemon Abong'o. By yesterday, all the ministers and their assistants had cleared their personal effects from their offices awaiting the appointment of new ministers. But the Attorney-General was reported to be busy in his office yesterday morning discharging his duties as the legal advisor to the Government. Efforts to talk to him were not successful. Parastatal chiefs who still have contracts with the Government are also not spared. According to the Office of the President, those whose contracts are still valid may have them terminated. "There is a termination clause in their contracts," the source added.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by David Okwembah, 1 January 2003

New Head Of Civil Service Appointed

Dr. Alex Glover, a Chief Director of the Ministry of Manpower, Development and Employment has been appointed as the new Head of Civil Service. The appointment was made by President Kufuor in consultation with the Public Services Commission. A statement signed by the Presidency said Dr Glover Quartey holds a B.A. (Hons) degree in French Studies from the University of Ghana, Legon and a Diploma in Public Administration from the Institute of International Public Administration in Paris, France. He also holds a Masters Degree in Public Administration from the University de Droit, d'Economie et de Sciences Sociales de Paris and a Doctorate in Public Management from University of Paris, Val de Mame (PARISXII).

From GhanaWeb, Ghana, 2 December 2003

Anti-Corruption, Public Service Bills Top of Parliament's Agenda, Says Kibaki

Nairobi - Two Bills which will clear the way for the resumption of donor aid will be brought before Parliament when it resumes, President Kibaki announced yesterday. Mr. Kibaki said the Government had already held consultations with international lenders who had shown a willingness to resume the suspended donor aid. "We have already started communicating with those countries who have in the past assisted Kenya and they have expressed willingness to resume assistance," the President said at State House, Nairobi, where he announced his new government. The Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Bill and the Public Service (code of Conduct and Ethics) Bills would be revived. The Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority formed in 1999 and chaired by Justice Aaron Ringera was annulled by the court after it was declared unconstitutional. It was replaced by the Anti-Corruption Police unit which is headed by Mr. Swaleh Slim. The donor community had insisted that the two bills be passed by Parliament and implemented by the government as a condition for resumption of aid. Said Mr. Kibaki: "The Bills will give powers to the Anti-Corruption Authority to prosecute those who have stolen public funds." He explained that the two Bills would be brought to Parliament and dealt with as a priority adding that was why he had convened Parliament earlier than usual. Parliament will convene on Thursday for the formalities of swearing in and electing the Speaker and the deputy. It would then break briefly before reconvening for business. The President was emphatic that members of the new government will be required to declare their wealth. These, he said, would include ministers, their assistants and senior civil servants.

However, he did not specify when this would be done. Mr. Kibaki stressed that the government was fully committed on its pledge to fight corruption and would not relent on the war against the vice. Mr. Kibaki also announced that government would embark on revitalising the pararatasls which he described as "a terrible phenomenon". None profit making ones, he said, will either be merged, sold, or abolished. He regretted that the parastatals had degenerated over the years into a liability to the tax-payer. "Once upon a time all of them such as Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya Posts and Telecommunications and the Kenya Power and Lighting Company used to make good money but now they have reached a point where they cannot even pay their own debts," he said. "Thoughts have been going on in my mind and we shall also share this with the ministers whether to abolish, reduce or sell them to the private sector," he added. Responding to questions from the battery of journalists at the press conference, Mr. Kibaki said his government would maintain the relationship with the other East African countries. He said the country would move to ensure that the common market for Eastern Africa was strengthened. A department would immediately be created in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to implement Comesa agreements. Mr. Kibaki also said his government was ready to assist international tribunals pursuing those implicated in war crimes. He was responding to a question over what the government was doing in view of allegations that a most wanted Rwanda genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga was being given sanctuary by powerful people in the country. He said that the issue would be pursued as per the law.

The Head of State emerged from State House to address a battery of journalists that had waited more than an hour at 2.35pm. The press conference which was covered live by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation was held at the lawns of State House. A jovial Mr. Kibaki was wheeled to the lawns as he exchanged pleasantries with the journalists before announcing his government. Contrary to tradition, the President was unaccompanied during the more than half an hour press briefing. Soon after the function, Mr. Kibaki caused laughter when he apologised to the journalists for not offering them tea but promised that the omission would not be repeated. Earlier, there was congestion at the gates as security officers sought clearance for journalists going to the function. This caused a huge traffic jam along the road leading to Gate D. The new State House Controller and Private Secretary to the President, former MP Matere Keriri mingled freely with journalists at the lawn and later responded to questions. Mr. Keriri told the press that the government would be very strict on extravagance in public spending. He said: "We have already started talking with the Auditor-General and the Central Bank and have told them that Mr. Kibaki's government will not allow careless expenditure and misuse of government resources in purchases done for fraudulent reasons." The officials he said, had been directed to stop payment for purchases that may have been done between now and the time Parliament was dissolved.

From AllAfrica.com, by Njeri Rugene and Mugo Njeru, 03 January 2003

Towards Changing the Public Sector

Accra - Government says it is committed to changing the perception that the public sector is not interested in making the private sector a pivotal element in effecting growth of Ghana's economy. Alhaji Mohammed Nuridine Jawula, Head of Administration, Ministry of Finance told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) Business Desk in an interview that a number of initiatives have been taken to ensure that the private sector is seen as a system without which the economy cannot grow. Alhaji Jawula said this at the presentation of certificates to 15 officials of the ministry who had gone through a computer training programme aimed at equipping them to cope with systems to help run the Public Financial Management Reform Programme (PUFMARP) among other things. He said the Ministry of Finance is committed to making its staff alive to meeting the needs of the private sector, and thus to deal with them accordingly. He said it was not true that the public sector deliberately stalls the private sector, adding that, "most of our payments and contract for jobs are to the private sector; and activities are done with the private sector even though there are some state bodies that could have been asked to undertake them." Alhaji Jawula was pleased that public sector officials are ready to be trained to meet the increasing demands of developing Ghana's economy. The PUFMARP is a government programme to improve financial management in the country. It is to establish a computerised and integrated Unix-based system with a central database accessed through a Local Area Network and a Wide Area Network. It operates a system that will be initially piloted in a total of the 67 sites involving eight ministries in Accra including the office of the President and regional ministers, 10 regions and two districts. This will be expanded later to cover all the remaining Ministries, Departments and Agencies. Mr. George Afriyie Gyamfi, IT Team Leader at the PUFMARP Secretariat in Accra said the office is happy to be able to be part of a changing process aimed at giving a new impetus to the public sector and help meet the dynamic needs of the Ghanaian economy.

From AllAfrica.com, 8 January 2003

Labour Minister Dismissed

Abidjan - President Kumba Yala on Monday dismissed Guinea-Bissau's Minister for Public Administration and Labour, Filomena Mascarenhas Tipote, but gave no reason for his move, news organisations reported. She has been replaced by Yala's political advisor, Tibna Sambe Na Wana, the Portuguese news agency LUSA said. Tipote had been foreign minister in the previous cabinet, which the president dissolved in mid-November 2002, along with parliament, accusing them of corruption and subversion respectively. Yala came to power in January 2000. Since then, the country has been wracked by crises, including a rebellion by members of the former military junta in November 2000, a coup attempt in December 2001 and the dismissal of several ministers in 2002.

From AllAfrica.com, 8 January 2003

PDP Guber Aspirant to Restructure Kogi Civil Service

Lokoja - The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flagbearer in Kogi State, Alh. Ibrahim Idris, has assured civil servants in the state that his administration would reverse the ugly situation on ground in the state where people are made to pay heavy taxes, levies from their salaries and wages. He stated this in a phone conversation with Daily Trust in Lokoja on Tuesday. Alh. Ibrahim, popularly known as Ibro, said "the whole thing looks very horrifying, how can you over-deduct peoples' means of livelihood without commensurate programmes to cushion the effect of their suffering? The PDP governorship candidate promised that the workers would enjoy their promotion with cash backing in the state. Alh. Ibrahim Idris revealed that when workers are not paid their entitlements such as annual leave bonuses, incremental rates, "then how do you expect the best from them in terms of loyalty and dedication to the service of the state. "Already we have set up a committee to look into all those problem areas with our workers and as soon as the report is ready, we are going to study it and come out with a blueprint that will stand the test of time, we intend placing them on special scale a little higher-than any other state in the North Central Zone," he said. He similarly appealed to the retirees in the state that their own case would receive his attention as soon as he assume leadership in the state. He said all those retired without benefit from the state service will have their case redressed.

The governorship candidate said he was going to run a transparent government. According to him, the state cannot afford to allow its capital flight to be highjacked by foreign contractors. Rather his administration would engage indigenes who have the know-how so that money can circulate among the people. Speaking on youth development, Ibrahim said a train-the-trainer programme would be evolved for the youths, while funds will be made available to those who intend to stand on their own. The governorship hopeful told our correspondent that situation where people are made to hate themselves on the basis of ethnic differences will become a thing of the past. "We would run a government based on everybody's ability and knowledge as all stakeholders would be adequately represented," he added. On infrastructure, he said his administration would combine development of the economic sector with human development, adding, "my friend when you give people edifices, all over the place and neglect as the necessities of life, it all amount to nonsense." Speaking on his chances against the incumbent Prince Abubakar Audu at the polls, Ibrahim said "my antecedents have brought me to this level where I emerged among other 18 aspirants. So people who know about the struggle for creation of Kogi State know my role and as such they will give us their supports." On rural development, Ibrahim said "as a rural man I know where the shoes pinches, I will bring a revolution to the rural areas that in less than six months people won't believe what we would put in place for them. I assure you that our people are for a good time as long as we are in office.

From AllAfrica.com, by Mamman Alhpena, 9 January 2003

Government Committed to Changing the Public Sector

Government says it is committed to changing the perception that the public sector is not interested in making the private sector a pivotal element in effecting growth of Ghana's economy. Alhaji Mohammed Nuridine Jawula, Head of Administration, Ministry of Finance told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) Business Desk in an interview that a number of initiatives have been taken to ensure that the private sector is seen as a system without which the economy cannot grow. Alhaji Jawula said this at the presentation of certificates to 15 officials of the ministry who had gone through a computer training programme aimed at equipping them to cope with systems to help run the Public Financial Management Reform Programme (PUFMARP) among other things. He said the Ministry of Finance is committed to making its staff alive to meeting the needs of the private sector, and thus to deal with them accordingly. He said it was not true that the public sector deliberately stalls the private sector, adding that, "most of our payments and contract for jobs are to the private sector; and activities are done with the private sector even though there are some state bodies that could have been asked to undertake them." Alhaji Jawula was pleased that public sector officials are ready to be trained to meet the increasing demands of developing Ghana's economy. The PUFMARP is a government programme to improve financial management in the country. It is to establish a computerised and integrated Unix-based system with a central database accessed through a Local Area Network and a Wide Area Network. It operates a system that will be initially piloted in a total of the 67 sites involving eight ministries in Accra including the office of the President and regional ministers, 10 regions and two districts. This will be expanded later to cover all the remaining Ministries, Departments and Agencies. George Afriyie Gyamfi, IT Team Leader at the PUFMARP Secretariat in Accra said the office is happy to be able to be part of a changing process aimed at giving a new impetus to the public sector and help meet the dynamic needs of the Ghanaian economy.

From GhanaWeb, 9 January 2003

Public Service Accountability Monitor Says Allpay Agreement Should Be Published

Grahamstown - The Rhodes-based government watchdog, the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) says the East Cape Department of Social Development should publish the three-year Service Level Agreement it signed with AllPay last year. In a statement issued yesterday PSAM researcher Vuyo Tetyana said this would serve to inform beneficiaries of the quality of service AllPay should be providing. "This agreement should include an indication of whether AllPay is obliged to provide toilets, shelters and access to drinking water to those queuing to obtain their grants." "These provisions are included in the Service Level Agreement entered into between AllPay and the Gauteng Provincial Government." He said the department outsourced the payment of social grants in the province to AllPay and Cash Paymaster Services at a cost of R180 million paid out of tax-payer's money. "Since then, there have been numerous reports in the media of gross shortcomings in AllPay's operations. Reports have ranged from poor customer service, inadequate communication of payment dates to inadequate staff training." "Despite this outsourcing arrangement, the head of the Social Development Department remains responsible for ensuring the effective delivery of welfare grants by AllPay". He said the PSAM welcomes the new Social Development MEC, Neo Moerane's, recent intervention in the AllPay saga and her threat to cancel the company's contract unless corrective action is taken. However, MEC Moerane should clarify the exact standards of service delivery that she now expects AllPay to meet. "The PSAM invites those members of the Eastern Cape public who have been adversely affected by AllPay's inability to administer grant payments to register their complaints to the Department of Social Development via the MyRights website http://www.myrights.org.za." "This will serve to keep the department informed of problems being experienced and will enable PSAM and other NGOs to monitor these problems," he said.

From AllAfrica.com, by Cecile Greyling, 10 January 2003

Encouraging Information Technology in Civil Service

Abuja - The importance of Information and Communications Technology, ICT, in modern management cannot be over-emphasized, and the Civil Service is no exception. The level of computer literacy in our public service is rather low, and what is all the more worrisome is that we seem not to be putting enough effort at ensuring at least some degree of computer appreciation in the entire civil service structure. The effort started at the top. Directors were sent on a two-week intensive course that included, among others, two hours of computer lesson each day. This was later extended to the level of Deputy Directors, and then Assistant Directors. Good as the said course may be, my observation in the offices of those who have gone for the course is not encouraging. Most of those who went for the course never had access to computers after the course. Those who did never bothered to touch the "monster", as the computers in their offices simply gathered dust. To make matters worse, no effort was made by those who have computers to allow their subordinates who are interested to have access to the machine, even if they are not interested in using the computers. The mass training program was limited to officers on Grade Levels 15 and above; it was never extended to officers on the lower rungs of the ladder that equally need the knowledge. Besides, a two-week training is not enough to make a neophyte computer literate. Training on a computer should be a continuous exercise, hence is best handled in-house where the trainees will have unrestricted access to computers. It will therefore be more appropriate if every ministry and extra-ministerial department establishes a computer- training center where staff will be trained on a continuous basis. Those who benefit financially from sending officers to private external computer centers for training are sure to oppose this view, as it amounts to blocking their "bread and butter". The proposed in-house center needs not be elaborate, neither does it have to be under any particular department. There can even be a center in each department, with computer literate officers (viz engineers and I.T. graduates) deployed to man the mini training centers, either from the ministry's existing computer-literate staff, or from a pool in the office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation. One way to ensure that civil servants take computer knowledge seriously is to make sure that their promotion depends on computer literacy.

From AllAfrica.com, by F. Johnson, 15 January 2003

Mass Retrenchment Looms in Federal Civil Service

As FG insists on implementing 60 per cent recurrent budget - A mass retrenchment in the public service now looms as the Federal Government hinted on Thursday that the exercise was inevitable in the face of shortage of funds. Dropping this hint while defending the Ministry of Finance's year-2003 budget proposal, the Permanent Secretary, Mrs. I. A. Iremiren, said the exercise had also become inevitable because the government was set to implement 60 per cent of last year's recurrent budget. defence of the Ministry of Finance before the House Committee on Budget, the Permanent Secretary, Mrs. I. A. Iremiren. Iremiren said if the over 213,400 workforce was not downsized, a time would come when 90 per cent of recurrent proposal, would be expended on salaries alone. But when asked why the ministry would not exceed the ceiling, Iremiren who its blamed it on lack of funds said she was not in a position to change the decision that had already been taken at the Federal Executive Council meeting. She, however, explained that downsizing of the workforce of the civil service would definitely solved the problem of lack of fund, but noted that it would result in large-scale unemployment. According to her, "there is need to restructure the workforce in the public service otherwise time would come when 90 per cent of the recurrent would be used to pay salaries." Speaking in the same vein, the Director-General of Debt Management Office (DMO), Akin Arikawe, said not only the civil service required restructuring, but the political superstructure such that political office holders could be made to work on part time basis.

However, a member of the committee, Abraham Laoshe (Ogun/Ad) while reacting to their submission said that the two officers had chosen a wrong place to advocate for the downsize of civil service workforce. He blamed the Federal Government for creating commission upon commission almost every other day, stressing that 70 per cent of these commissions or agencies budget went into payment of salaries. The representatives of the Nigeria Customs Service and the Federal Inland Revenue Services Deputy Comptroller- General Mpan Jang and Balami Mani respectively called for improved funding of the two revenue collecting agencies so that they could be able to meet their revenue target. They requested that their funds should be tailored on certain percentages of what they generated, stressing that as long as they depended on certain allocations from the budget it would continue to limit their performance. For instance, the deputy comptroller explained that while the fund for recurrent expenditure for Customs had been reduced from N1.15 billion to N690 million their revenue target was increase considerably. On the local transportation and transfer (LT&T) of the customs officers, he said N110 million was required this year, but N34 million was approved. The implication was according to Jane, was that since the customs is a revenue collecting agency, it required that officers should not stay too long on a duty post so as not to compromise. His FIRS counterpart however said that a draft bill that would review and restructure the tax law would be forwarded in the second quarter of this year to the National Assembly. The bill, according to Mani, would among other things specifies how the revenue collecting agencies' funding could be improve upon so as to improve their revenue drive.

From Daily Times of Nigeria, 17 January 2003

Civil Servants Comfortable With Dress Code Though Few Amendments Necessary

Civil servants have expressed satisfaction with the dress code required of them by government despite minor hitches encountered mostly by female officers. Officers interviewed by BOPA indicated that they are still comfortable with the code though a few amendments may be necessary to suit the current trends. The Civil Service General Order demands that male officers wear long trousers with a jacket and tie or shorts with socks, or long stockings and shoes. Male officers may also appear without a jacket but in trousers or shorts with long stockings. Attorney Nchunga Nchunga of the Attorney Generals Chambers felt that the dress code was satisfactory but supervisors needed to be flexible given Botswana1s extreme weather conditions. He said though the bulk of the code was borrowed Western culture, "it can still be implemented in a way that suits local conditions". He said as trends were changing, formality of the olden days could not stand the test of time and that had to be accepted. Nchunga said in court, for example, if one felt it was getting too hot, the individual could ask the judge to allow her or him to take off the jacket but not the gown, which is regarded as part of the court regalia. Nchunga noted that since the code "emphasises on being decent and presentable, may be it is time to amend it to clarify the dress code, especially for women".

However, a records officer in the same department, Kelly Letshwiti felt amendments were necessary because unlike men1s, women1s dress code was not standard. She said unlike men1s, formality for women was not well defined, adding that "these days the general order is really not being followed but instead conditions of work are considered." As a result, the general order must clarify and specify dress code for women, she said. Letshwiti said those with the responsibility to amend the law should consult women because "we need a comprehensive dress code". She said the weather was not the real issue because in all seasons people dressed to cover their bodies; and in winter people wear more clothes just to keep themselves warm. "We wear clothes to suit the season," Letshwiti said. However, officers at the Ministry of Agriculture hold a different view on the dress code. Montle Oratile felt that despite the scorching heat, officers should not have any problems since they work in air-conditioned offices, so the element of heat was not really a major problem. Oratile said because civil servants represented government, it was important they dressed in a manner that reflected their status. He felt that it was not necessary to amend the dress code because "if you are an officer, you must look like an officer, if you are a grounds man you must look like one. "It is not necessary for grounds men to wear a tie because their job does not demand them," he said.

From Republic of Botswana, 20 January 2003

Roundtable on Public Service Reform

The Government of Nigeria has embarked on an extensive programme of public service reform with assistance from the Commonwealth Secretariat. Representatives of Nigeria's Management Services Office and Secretariat officials began a week-long roundtable discussion in London on 20 January 2003 to review the country's plans for public sector reform and exchange experiences and ideas on refocusing the reform process. Also participating in the discussions at Marlborough House in London, the Secretariat's headquarters, are representatives of the Governments of Botswana and Uganda, two Commonwealth African countries with a history of successful public sector reform. The UK's Department for International Development is also participating. "Previous efforts at public service reform in Nigeria had not worked well, especially while the country was under a military dictatorship," said Mr. O O Oyelakin, Permanent Secretary, Management Services Office and Co-ordinator of Nigeria's public service reform programme. "At a meeting on the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) in South Africa last year, we became aware of how that country's reform programme had been assisted by collaboration with Commonwealth partners. We decided to tap into the Commonwealth Secretariat's resources to continue the process of redesigning our own reform programme." The Roundtable, hosted by the Secretariat's Governance and Institutional Development Division (GIDD) and the Government of Nigeria, aims to explore good practices in public sector reform and relate them to Nigeria's reform process.

Topics for discussion include leadership and the governance environment, improving financial management, human resources issues in public service reform, structure of government, performance improvement in the public sector, and oversight and accountability. "This meeting provides an opportunity to connect with countries in similar situations to ours, like Botswana and Uganda, which have already set up successful programmes," said Mr. Tunji Olaopa, Deputy Director and Technical Head of the Management Services Office. "South Africa has also indicated its willingness to contribute to the process, which is useful because its experience of emerging from apartheid has much in common with our own of emerging from military rule." The Roundtable forms part of a major programme of technical assistance in public sector reform provided by GIDD to Commonwealth member countries. The programme is funded by the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation, the Secretariat's development arm. Also participating in the Roundtable is Ladipo Adamolekun, Lead Public Sector Management Specialist with the World Bank, which also has extensive experience in this area. "We have learned that public service reform programmes work best when they are demand-driven, with the government firmly committed to the programme and maintaining a sense of ownership of the process," said Professor Adamolekun. "GIDD is doing an excellent job in hosting this Roundtable," he added. "It is a good example of the technical support and commitment one can find from the Secretariat." The Roundtable will conclude on 24 January with final remarks from Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Winston Cox. "At the conclusion of the Roundtable," said Mr. Oyelakin, "we aim to have a revised public sector reform plan with a sharpened focus, as well as a means of obtaining the resources to implement it. We will also be seeking the support of the President for the refocused process, which is a vital element of its successful implementation."

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 24 January 2003

Supreme Court Frees Civil Servants to Join Parties

Abuja - Civil servants are now free to join political parties of their choice according to a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court. This was one of the high points of the concurrent judgement of Justice Niki Tobi delivered last week when the apex court gave reasons for nullifying most of the provisions set out in the guidelines issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for associations seeking registration as political parties. Meanwhile, the Federal Government has approved new salaries for public office holders including judicial officers. The lead judgement of the Supreme Court prepared by Justice Emmanuel Ayoola was, however, not ready as he needed to make some corrections on it. In Justice Tobi's detailed judgement on the case, he ruled that guideline No. 5(b) which states that a person shall not be eligible to be registered as a member of political association seeking to be registered as a political party if he/she is in the civil service of the federation or a state, is unconstitutional because it "offends the provisions of sections 40 and 222(b) of the 1999 Constitution. He upheld the supremacy of the 1999 Constitution to any law or guidelines as guaranteed by Section 1 (3) of the Constitution.

His words: By Section 1- (3) of the Constitution, if any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution, the Constitution shall prevail and that other law shall to that extent of inconsistency, be void." In November 2002, the apex court while delivering its judgement on an appeal filed by INEC against the judgement of the Appeal Court which voided its (INEC's) guidelines, reserved reasons for its judgement till 24th January, 2003. The apex court, in its ruling, while nullifying most of the provisions in the guidelines, held that the electoral body was empowered to make guidelines for registration of new political parties subject to the provision of the 1999 Constitution. However, President Olusegun Obasanjo weekend assented to the "Certain political, public and judicial office holders (salaries and allowances, etc) Act 2002," which prescribed an annual basic salary of N1,405,882.00 for him, and a salary of N1,346,589.00 for the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN). The CJN's salary is next to the President's. The President is also to earn 300 per cent of his salary as severance gratuity when he leaves office. The Vice-President's salary is N1,212,629.00 while other Justices of the Supreme Court, and the President of the Court of Appeal will earn N990,884.00.

The rest are as follows: Justices of the Court of Appeal/Chief Judge of the Federal High Court/Chief Judge of the FCT, Grand Khadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal of FCT, President, Customary Court of Appeal, FCT Abuja - N777,150.00. Secretary to the Government of the Federation/ministers - N794,085.00. Ministers of state - N777,150.00. Chairmen Code of Conduct Bureau, INEC, Federal Civil Service Commission, National Population Commission, Federal Judicial Service Commission, Police Council, Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Federal Character Commission, National Judicial Council, Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission, National Assembly Service Commission and similar commissions as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly - N777,150.00. Members of the above named commissions - N771,346.00. Auditor-General of the Federation - N770,752.00. Chief Judges of State High Courts, Grand Khadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal of a state, President of the Customary Court of Appeal of a state - N798,172.07. Judges of courts of such category - N776,038.22 - The Act did not prescribe salaries or allowances for state/local government office holders, but it fixed the salary of chairmen of area councils in FCT at N454,156.00, vice-chairmen - N426,528.00, supervisory councillor in FCT - N404,650.00, councillor - N380,038 and secretary to the area council - N370,729. The President and the Vice-President are entitled to 250 per cent constituency allowance. The Act shall take retrospective effect from May 29, 1999.

From AllAfrica.com, by Lemmy Ughegbe, 28 January 2003

Government Urges Speedy Civil Service Reform

Addis Ababa - A radical re-shaping of the civil service within Ethiopia will ensure transparency and speed up democracy, the government said on Wednesday. In a statement released by the Ministry of Information, it urged the continuation of the much-welcomed civil service reform programme. However, the statement said that some government departments were failing to meet the required standards of the scheme, which was launched last September by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. "Ensuring the civil service reform programme is an important task that demands change of attitude," said the statement. "It needs the conviction of the leadership and employees that they are public servants and are duty bound to exercise transparency and accountability in exercising their duty." The government sees the reforms as a key tool in improving democracy and accountability in Ethiopia - a move that has been widely welcomed by the international community. Among the reforms is a civil service college where staff undergo intensive training in their role as government employees. The call follows a radical shake-up of the Addis Ababa city authority which was facing accusations of corruption. The prime minister dissolved the capital's ruling body on grounds of incompetence and replaced it with a caretaker government. The new administration took over on Friday and pledged to create jobs, alleviate the capital's chronic housing shortage and improve the environment. An estimated 40 percent of the population in Addis Ababa is believed to be unemployed.

From UN Regional Information Africa, 29 January 2003

Government to Civil Servants' Rescue

Accra - The government has moved to rescue civil servants regarding their housing needs following which the Ministry of Works and Housing has stepped up efforts at reducing housing problems facing civil servants on retirement. The Ministry is looking for 5,000 acres of land at diverse areas in the Kumasi metropolis to tackle this problem in earnest. This is another bid by the government to make housing affordable to retired civil servants, Mr. Asiedu Poku, the Metro Director of the Town and Country Planning Department, who disclosed this in an interview with the Chronicle, said the government intends to service the land to be acquired at reduced cost for people, particularly civil servants. The project is intended to assist public servants to acquire their own property, while in service while helping to reduce corruption in the civil service to the barest minimum, Asiedu Poku explained. The planning director, who lauded the government's initiative, said core houses may he developed on the serviced land for civil servants to buy.

From AllAfrica.com, by Sebastian R. Freiku Kumasi, 29 January 2003

 

More Civil Service Cuts Planned

The government is considering a second round of voluntary redundancies and pay cuts for civil servants next fiscal year. Secretary for the Civil Service Joseph Wong, speaking after a meeting with departmental consultative committees, revealed the new redundancy programme would be open to more categories of staff. "All staff grades and categories would be reviewed, which means directorate-grade staff would also be included," Wong said. However, disciplined services staff would be excluded. Civil service staff representatives expressed concerns about the possibility of pay cuts during the meeting. "The government has made no final decision on civil servants' pay adjustments. But when facing a serious deficit and with a targeted HK$20 billion spending cut, we cannot rule out the possibility of pay cuts," Wong said. Government sources said the administration would seek a massive reduction in civil service numbers through a series of measures. The sources stressed that despite pressure to trim the civil service by between 5 per cent and 10 per cent, the government would not lay off staff. They said redundancy packages would not be as generous as before. The Executive Council is due to discuss the move after Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa delivers his policy address on Wednesday. Federation of Civil Service Unions chairman Leung Chau-ting said the proposed measures were mild but expressed concern about the compensation for voluntary redundancy. "I hope the compensation packages offered in the second round is the same as the first," he said. "Otherwise, not many civil servants will be interested and it will end in failure." City University political science professor Sung Lap-kung urged the government to be careful when handling cost-cutting measures. "Civil servants might apply for voluntary redundancy in panic if the government pushed too hard, which would affect the stability of the civil service and public services," he said.

From The Standard, Hong Kong, 3 January 2003

Public Service Jobs May Start by Lunar New Year

Cabinet officials said yesterday that qualified unemployed workers may be able to begin new jobs under the public service employment expansion program by the Lunar New Year. The NT$50 billion public works expansion plan and NT$20 billion public service employment expansion plan proposed by the Cabinet would respectively create 40,000 and 75,000 jobs if enabling laws are passed by the legislature during its current session. As of yesterday, over 40,300 unemployed workers had registered for the public service employment plan through hot lines opened Saturday by the Council for Labor Affairs. Prospects for the passage of the two job creation plans have risen since opposition People First Party chairman James Soong said he supported the plans Tuesday, despite sharp attacks on the schemes by PFP lawmakers Monday. Former President Lee Teng-hui urged lawmakers of the Taiwan Solidarity Party to back the plans. Given the urgency of the two programs, Premier Yu Shyi-kun convened a meeting of the cross-ministerial Public Service Employment Expansion Promotion Commission yesterday. Yu thanked lawmakers for agreeing to put the two programs on the legislative agenda, said Cabinet Secretary-General Liu Shih-fang (¼B¥@ªÚ). Liu related that the meeting responded to questions about the project raised by opposition legislators by approving a detailed work plan that set up strict procedures for planning projects, selecting job applications and supervising implementation. Agencies which administer or subcontract public service projects under the program will be required to appoint special managers to supervise each project. CLA employment service centers will also send inspectors to monitor working conditions, according to the cabinet plan. CLA chairwoman Chen Chu said that the hot lines were opened under a NT$4 billion initial budget passed by the Employment Stabilization Fund December 4. The ESF funds will be able to fund 24,201 new jobs during the first six-month period of the program out of a total of 75,000 planned jobs. "We respect the legislature's powers and right to monitor implementation and hope that the Legislative Yuan can approve the additional NT$20 billion budget to sustain this program," the CLA chairwoman said. "We cannot take care of all of the unemployed, even if both the NT$4 billion and the NT$20 billion budgets passed, so we must put first priority on the most needy," Chen said.

Priority will be given to workers who have been unemployed for over a year, have a high number of family dependents, have low education, have never received pensions or unemployment insurance payments or have special circumstances, such as being of indigenous peoples. Chen said the commission will balance the distribution of jobs among government agencies and among urban and rural areas, with priority on areas with relatively high unemployment rates. Of the 24,201 positions, 8,729 jobs will be opened by projects which should receive final approval by the commission today, said Council for Economic Planning and Development vice chairwoman Ho Mei-yueh. The Ministry of Interior will offer 3,885 jobs, while the CLA will employ 2,445 workers and the Council of Agriculture 1,995. Another 15,430 jobs should be provided by projects which require more consultation with local governments, she said. The CLA will send the names of applying unemployed workers who match the priority rankings to the agencies running the projects within 10 days. Depending on how fast the agency begins the programs, eligible workers may be called by employment service centers to begin work before the lunar new year, Chen said. The CLA will notify jobless laborers who do not meet the priority rankings within seven days and, whenever possible, will refer qualified workers to employment training or try to match them up with other job opportunities. CEPD vice chairman Chang Ching-sen said that specific planning for the proposed NT$50 billion public works expansion plan awaits legislative approval of the special law that would enable funding by lifting the public debt ceiling. But Chang said the projects will all be public works plans that have already been vetted and approved by the Cabinet as part of the "Challenge 2008" six year development plan that would be implemented in advance of the original schedule. Chang said that the potential impact on employment and boosting domestic demand will be key factors in project selection.

From eTaiwan News, Taiwan, by Dennis Engbarth, 2 December 2003

Dr. M: Marked Change In Service Quality Of Civil Service

Kuala Lumpur - Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Monday he saw significant changes in the service quality of the civil service after being at the helm of the country's administration for 21 years. The Prime Minister said: "I've never been satisfied with anything but I am quite satisfied with their standards, improvement and quality. If not, Malaysia will not have developed like this." He was speaking at a media conference after the fourth Public Service premier assembly where he also opened the Management Technology Centre of the National Institute of Public Administration (Intan) here. "The civil service had constantly improved its performance and efficiency. If we see any area that needs to be given attention, we'll act specifically to improve it. "Yes, there is bureaucracy everywhere. Although there is bureaucracy in Malaysia, it is not as bad as in some countries. In England, an approval to repair a house takes two years and to start a project up to 13 years," he said. Dr. Mahathir said it took 14 years to build the fifth terminal at the Heathrow Airport in London. "We are not as bad as that. We are quite efficient," he said. On the collision between "RSS Courageous," an anti-submarine ship of the Singapore Navy and Dutch-registered "ANL Indonesia," a container vessel, near Pulau Batu Puteh waters on Friday night, Dr. Mahathir said: "I don't think it could have been avoided, ships collide. "But one of the problems of this big container ship carrying 6,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUS) travels at 21 knots. When it has to turn to avoid something, it takes a long time. That's how crashes happen," he said. He said ships at sea should maintain a certain distance between one another. The captains of the two ill-fated ships should have monitored the radar screen closely. Replying to a question on "forward defence," Dr. Mahathir said Malaysia never had any intention to go to war with any country. "We don't (wage war) but it is the press that keep asking us. We have to respond and I didn't say Malaysia wants to go to war," he added.

From Bernama, Malaysia, 6 January 2003

BN To Have Code Of Ethics For Its Members

Kuala Lumpur - The Barisan Nasional (BN) will have a code of ethics to supervise its state assemblymen and members of parliament to ensure that they toe the line and abide by all the decisions made by the BN leaders, Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Tuesday. The prime minister said that the draft code of ethics would be discussed at the next BN supreme council but did not mention the date. "In future, all state assemblymen from the BN component parties will be subjected to this rule and will abide by the BN stand at all times," Dr Mahathir, who is also the BN chairman, told reporters after chairing the BN supreme council meeting, here. Earlier, BN secretary-general Tan Sri Mohamed Rahmat, had said that the coalition would prepare a code of ethics for the BN members as currently there was no uniform code to supervise them and they were only subjected to their respective party discipline. The move stemmed from the abstention by two Penang MCA state assembly members, Tan Cheng Liang (Jawi) and Lim Boo Chang (Datuk Keramat) last November from voting against a DAP motion to defer the Penang Outer Ring Road (Porr) project. They were later suspended indefinitely by the MCA but Dr Mahathir announced Tuesday that the BN would decide when to lift the suspension. "After discussion, we (decided that we) need not enhance the punishment but must fix the (suspension) period. Many BN members feel that we need to have clear rules on the responsibilities of BN elected representatives. "We agreed that they must all support the BN government and have the same stand," he said. He said that it was the BN's responsiblity and no longer the MCA's to determine the duo's suspension period.

From Bernama, Malaysia, 7 January 2003

China Cracks Down on Civil Service

China announced yesterday that it would phase out a jobs-for-life system for the country's 30m civil servants, signalling the intent of Beijing's newly chosen Communist government to squeeze greater efficiency out of its bloated bureaucracy. The announcement by the Ministry of Personnel sounds the death knell for a lifelong tenure system that guaranteed most government officials a salary, pension, medical insurance, education for their children and other perks - regardless of their performance. Over the next five years, the government will put into place a system under which civil servants work according to contracts and can be dismissed if they fail to perform in line with a set of transparent goals, officials said. In reality, a previous cast-iron guarantee of lifelong employment for government officials evaporated some years ago, with about 17,000 civil servants being dismissed over the past six years and 22,000 resigning. Nevertheless, the formalisation of a more Darwinian code for China's mandarins is expected to pave the way for considerable changes in the attitude of government officials towards their jobs. High-handed, aloof and inefficient behaviour by officials towards ordinary citizens is still the norm in most parts of China. In places such as Shenzhen, a boomtown on the border with Hong Kong, such reforms have already begun, along with a rudimentary feedback system that allows the local administration to consider public opinion on the performance of government departments. It is too early, local officials say, to judge whether this has been a success. A more common reform, also practised at some central government bureaux in Beijing, has been to recruit through an examination and interview system, rather than purely through appointment by superiors. Administrative reform is expected to be one of the priorities of a new line-up of national leaders selected during the 16th congress of the Communist party in November last year. Hu Jintao, who replaced Jiang Zemin as general secretary, and Zeng Qinghong, head of the main training centre for party officials and a close associate of Mr Jiang, are known to be interested in furthering reforms to create a more efficient, accountable and transparent government. But western-style democracy is still off-limits.

From Financial Times, by James Kynge in Shenzhen, 8 January 2003

Taxes Up, Civil Service Cut as Hong Kong Tackles Deficit

Hong Kong's chief executive has announced plans to increase taxes and cut the size of the civil service in an attempt to wipe out the territory's growing fiscal deficit. In his annual policy speech, Tung Chee Hwa said the deficit has reached a "critical stage" that threatens to undermine Hong Kong's financial strength if the Government does not change the way it taxes and spends. Tung is beginning his second term as leader of the former British colony. The former shipping magnate says he plans to cut the size of the civil service by 10 per cent within four years. Tung also announced unprecedented pay cuts of 10 per cent for himself and 16 of his ministers and closest aides.

From ABC Online, 8 January 2003

Public Service Under Attack

Opposition Leader Colin Barnett said high lead readings missed by the Department of Environmental Protection were a symptom of deeper problems in the State's public service. The DEP has been accused of failing to recognise high levels of lead in air tests done last June at Forrestdale Primary School. Local residents suspect the nearby Brookdale liquid waste treatment facility, which has accepted hazardous waste outside its licence conditions but with ministerial approval, of polluting the area. "It is very easy for the Government of the day to blame the individual public servants involved," Mr. Barnett said. "And yes, they are responsible. However, you also have to ask the question - where was the management of those personnel and what is happening within government departments in this State?" Acting Premier Eric Ripper said that both the consultant and DEP were at fault for not reacting to the high lead readings. But he said that the Minister and the Premier or Acting Premier were ultimately responsible for mistakes the Government made. "What you have had is inexplicable and astonishing mistakes in government departments for which ministers take responsibility and for which ministers are implementing appropriate remedial action," Mr. Ripper said. He confirmed the Government's pledge of independent air sampling and blood tests for children in the area. Residents' group spokesman Paddy Cullen said the Government was not serious about getting to the root of the problem because it was doing the minimum amount of testing. He said that a fuller range of toxins needed to be looked for through urine tests and hair samples. The Community and Public Sector Union-Civil Service Association said successive State governments were responsible for creating the situation, which had eroded public confidence in the department. Branch secretary Toni Walkington said budget cuts, restructuring and government policy that promoted out-sourcing were reasons the DEP could not cope with its regulatory and investigative roles. "Successive governments have not addressed the real issue of funding the DEP adequately," she said. "We are now urging this Labor Government to bite the bullet and do something about it. "Otherwise the WA community will continue to be victims of environmental pollution."

From The West Australian, by Andrew Gregory, 8 January 2003

Snoopers Can Target Civil Servants

Politicians now have the right to pry into the personal lives and political opinions of tens of thousands of public sector employees across the UK - without the workers even knowing about it. The Observer has obtained an internal civil service memo which warns that since Christmas elected representatives have been allowed access to 'sensitive personal data' about their staff. Civil liberties groups last night expressed concern about what they said was an assault on workers' privacy. The document, dated 9 January 2003, was circulated to civil servants at the Department of Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland. It deals with the implications of the Data Protection Act 1998. It says: 'The purpose of the Order is to allow sensitive personal data to be disclosed to elected representatives, i.e. MPs, MLAs, MEPs, acting on behalf of constituents, without seeking the individual's explicit consent.' Veronica Bintley, the senior civil servant in Belfast, who drafted the memo, then goes on to define what 'sensitive personal data' actually are under the Act: 'Race or ethnic origin; political opinions; religious beliefs; trade union membership; health; criminal activity.' A DEL spokesman in Northern Ireland confirmed that the Order applies not only in the Province but also Britain. He denied that it could be used by MPs, Assembly members in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales and members of the European Parliament to gain information about a civil servant's private beliefs and lifestyle. 'This data will only relate to matters concerning the civil servant's work in a given department. If, for instance, Joe Bloggs writes up a memo to a Minister on an issue concerning an MP, acting on behalf of a constituent, everything that this civil servant has written from a report to a comment on a Post-it, will be disclosed to that politician,' the DEL spokesman said. But a number of civil servants said they were worried about the powers of access the Order gave to politicians. One Northern Ireland civil servant who did not wished to be named described it as 'a charter for snoopers and interfering busybodies'. Brice Dickson, the head of the Human Rights Commission in Northern Ireland, said: 'Given the political sensitivities in Northern Ireland of holding political opinions and religious convictions, the idea of giving politicians access to those views could be very seriously damaging to the individuals concerned.'

From Guardian, UK, by Henry McDonald, 11 January 2003

Iloilo Public Servants Can't Secure Loans; GSIS Blamed

A ranking Iloilo provincial official has blamed the Government Service Insurance System for the failure of many employees here to secure loans and other benefits from the GSIS. Melba Sullivan, provincial treasurer, said the GSIS suspended the granting of loans to government employees for the failure of the provincial government to remit P1.2 million in membership contributions in 1997. However, Sullivan explained that in 1977, the Department of Budget and Management was mandated to remit to the GSIS the contributions of employees of provincial governments by deducting the amount from their share of the Internal Revenue Allotment. It was only in 1998 that the task of remitting these contributions to the GSIS reverted back to provincial governments as provided by Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Autonomy Code, according to Sullivan. Besides, she added, the GSIS has yet to bill the provincial government for the contributions of employees. "It is difficult to pay the amount without prior billing. The GSIS should substantiate first the billing so we could pay them," Sullivan stressed. "I already informed the GSIS to furnish me the bill. However, they (GSIS) said they could not prepare the bill because they lost their master list of Iloilo provincial government employees," she added. According to Sullivan, the provincial government has surplus savings which would enable it to pay the GSIS the unremitted contributions. Meanwhile, in a radio interview, Rep. Arthur Defensor, also former Iloilo governor, confirmed Sullivan's claim. He said the GSIS should have asked the DBM to remit the employees' contributions as mandated by law.

From Manila Times, by May E. Joven, 15 January 2003

Civil Service Workers Form Association

The Ministry of Civil Service yesterday announced the formation of a civil service workers association, skirting existing legislation which bans Taiwanese civil servants from forming unions. Wu Rong-ming minister at the Ministry of Civil Service, told the Taiwan News yesterday that "this is a great leap for the country toward modernization of the ministry. It is regulated that civil servants such as the military, civil servants and teachers are not allowed to form unions. But since Article 14 of the Constitution states that every citizen is free to form associations, civil servants shall not be deprived of this right." Since President Chen Shui-bian implemented the Association Law for Civil Servants on July 10 2002, the Ministry of Civil Service is the first governmental department to form such an association. According to Minister Wu, the association law took 10 years to prepare. Articles in the Association Law for Civil Servants allow associations to "give advice" and "negotiate" with departments regarding issues concerning employees. Minister Wu explained that with the intermediary of the association, employees could negotiate and make recommendations to their departments through a collective voice. "However, departmental heads are not allowed to take part in the associations in order to prevent them from interfering in the functioning of the associations." The marked difference between unions and associations is that association members are not allowed to organize strikes. "Compared to other countries that allow civil servants to form similar associations, the ability of these associations is also restricted," Wu said. Unlike regular workers, civil servants must obey the orders they receive and they do not have many chances to express their opinions, explained minister Wu. "But they are also people who need to have this kind of right," he added. Minister Wu saw the significance of the new association as "a symbol of modernization and institutionalization of the working environment in governmental departments. Second, these associations can give pressure to the departments of their participants through the administrative process. Wu predicts that soon many more associations will be formed by civil servants in other governmental departments.

From eTaiwan News, Taiwan, by Taijing Wu, 16 January 2003

High Interest Rate for Civil Servants Deposits to Stay

Taiepi, Taiwan - The Examination Yuan decided yesterday to maintain the high interest payments on the pensions deposited by retired government employees, but agreed to scrap lump sum pension payments to retirees. A total of 339,000 former government employees currently enjoy the preferential interest rate of 18 percent per annum on their deposited pensions. An additional 500,000 retirees can also deposit a portion of their retirement payments for the same high interest rate. Lee Ching-hsiung, a member of the Examination Yuan from the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), last year called for the interest rate to be slashed as normal people have interest rates of less than 2 percent at banks. He said the high interest rate should be cut for social equality. But the Examination Yuan has now officially decided to keep the system intact after conducting a careful study. Chu Wu-hsien, secretary general of the Examination Yuan, explained that the favorable interest rate was set according to regulations governing the retirement of government employees as well as teachers at public schools and servicemen. Many people decide to join the government based on the compensation packages, including the retirement benefits. He said it would be inappropriate to recklessly change the system without complementary measures to avoid hurting those who rely on the interest payments for their living expenses. The wide discrepancy in the interest rates became a focus of attention only because Taiwan's unprecedented weak economy has dampened companies' capital investment, caused a monetary glut at banks and driven interest rates to record low levels. Chu pointed out that the government has already implemented a revised retirement system and those who took up government posts after July 1, 1995 do not qualify for the high interest rate.

Other officials said that the number of people eligible for the high interest rate will continue dwindling every year and the problem will disappear on its own. Yet TSU lawmaker Chen Chien-ming expressed regrets about the Examination Yuan's decision to keep the high interest rate. He said the TSU will ask the Control Yuan to investigate the continuous payment of high interest to retirees by the Examination Yuan and the Executive Yuan. He also asserted that TSU lawmakers will sharply cut the budget for the Examination Yuan when the legislature reviews the 2004 budget of the central government. Chen urged the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to join the TSU to fight for social justice. He said the DPP should not believe that backing the high interest rate would lead to 600,000 ballots from retired government employees in the 2004 presidential election. He said the DPP's support for the high interest rate is bound to cost it votes from a large number of workers, farmers and nonpartisan voters. At the meeting yesterday, the Examination Yuan also decided to eliminate the measure allowing retired government employees to take a lump sum pension payment, as the government is planning to implement a national annuity system. In order to cut costs, the Examination Yuan will also study a plan to push up to 55 the age of retirees who qualify for monthly retirement payments. It will scrap the current practice of giving an additional five months' pay to those who voluntarily retire upon reaching 55. Furthermore, the age will gradually be lifted to 60 for retirees who are entitled to the monthly pension payment. Statistics compiled by the Examination Yuan show that 18 percent of retirees from government agencies choose to take the lump sum payment while 82 percent prefer to draw a monthly pension payment until the end of their lives.

From China Post, 17 January 2003

Civil Servants On SSM Grades 41, 42 Eligible For RM300 Allowance

Putrajaya - Civil servants on Grades 41 and 42 in the Management and Professional Group of Sistem Saraan Malaysia (SSM) are eligible for RM300 monthly Fixed Civil Service Allowance in their 10th year of service in that grades, the Public Service Department (PSD) said Tuesday. Its Public Relations Officer, Hasniah Rashid, said according to the Service Circular No 4, 2002 on implementation of the SSM for Federal Government Employees, the allowance is paid to those who are in their 10th year and above of service in the stated grades or equivalent to it. "The RM300 monthly allowance will be paid automatically to civil servants effective on their first day in the 10th year of service on grades 41 and 42," she told BERNAMA when asked to explain on the payment of the Fixed Civil Service Allowance for civil servants on Grades 41 and 42. According to Appendix C8 Article 3 of the Fixed Civil Service Allowance, the period of service taken into account to be eligible for the allowance does not include the duration of unpaid leave. The SSM, which came into force on Nov 1, last year, offers better remuneration for almost one million government employees. It was implemented as an option to Sistem Saraan Baru (SSB), introduced in 1992,to replace the service scheme under the Cabinet Committee Salary Report implemented since 1976.

From Bernama, Malaysia, 21 January 2003

Make Concepts Into Working Plans, Civil Servants Told

Kuching - Civil servants in Sarawak have been urged to take up the challenge to turn concepts into working plans in efforts to make the state a success story. Sarawak Deputy State Secretary Datu Salleh Sulaiman said today that they should find ways to add value when discharging their duties so as to make an impact on society. "Because the development requirement of the state is so high, these officers, in their leadership role, must not be complacent but should take the challenge to make the civil service better and more sophisticated for the next generation," he said when adjourning the Competency Level Evaluation workshop jointly organised by the Public Service Department and Sarawak government here. About 300 senior officers from state government departments and agencies in Sarawak attended the workshop to discuss issues pertaining to the newly implemented Sistem Saraan Malaysia (SSM) service scheme. He said only 11 of the estimated 19,000 civil servants in Sarawak did not opt for the SSM scheme, including four who failed to do so because of disciplinary problems.

From Bernama, Malaysia, 19 January 2003

 

European Commission Says Public-Sector Costs Undermine Economies

Pedro Solbes, the European Union's commissioner for monetary and economic affairs, issued a strongly worded warning to Germany, France, and Italy yesterday to act on their burgeoning budget deficits. He indicated that "unsound" levels of public expenditure in the EU's largest economies and delayed structural reforms seriously undermine the bloc's economic potential and leave it unable to close the gap with the United States. Three years ago in Lisbon, the 15 European Union member states promised to turn the bloc into the world's most competitive economy by 2010. Today, far from catching up with the United States, the EU is unable to pull its weight in the global economy should growth across the Atlantic falter. A series of reports released yesterday by the European Commission show that economic growth in the EU is likely to remain sluggish for the foreseeable future if governments do not reel in growing public-sector costs and continue putting off vital structural reforms. Pedro Solbes, the EU's commissioner for the economy, yesterday warned the three largest euro-zone economies, Germany, France, and Italy, that they cannot "spend their way out of the slowdown," adding that short-term benefits of expansionary budgets would be outweighed by medium-term costs.

Solbes yesterday gave Germany four months to present a program for reducing its budget deficit from 3.8 percent of gross domestic product in 2002 to under 3 percent this year, as required by the Stability and Growth Pact underpinning the euro. This is the second warning for Germany and could lead to financial sanctions if other EU governments endorse it, although Solbes downplayed the threat yesterday. "We're asking Germany to reach a situation below 3 percent next year. If this [does not] happen, we have to apply the regulation of the treaty, [and] the regulation of the treaty does not imply any kind of immediate fine. There's a second recommendation, and that is a long process. But I think it is excessively too early to start speaking of these kinds of questions today," Solbes said. Germany, which itself had pushed for as strict a stability pact as possible in 1999, now has a foreign-debt level that exceeds the 60 percent-of-GDP limit allowed by the treaty. The European Commission's analysis savaged the entire substructure of the German economy, describing it as "highly vulnerable" to external shocks and unable at this point to generate durable growth. It also notes "a need for urgent reforms" in the labor market and social-security and benefit systems, as well as recommends a reduction of the regulatory burden on the economy.

In slightly kinder terms, France and Italy were also warned that they are close to breaching the 3 percent budget-deficit ceiling this year. France's debt levels hover dangerously close to the allowed 60 percent, whereas Italy's debt is already at more than 100 percent of its GDP. According to a commission forecast, the German economy cannot expect to grow by more than 1.5 percent this year, and growth in France and Italy is also unlikely to be above 2 percent. Solbes yesterday also implicitly criticized the recent attempts by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to try to balance his books by raising taxes. "We think that it's always better to reduce expenditure to try to reduce public deficit. Of course, the utilization of increased taxation depends very much on the point of departure of the fiscal burden in every member state," Solbes said. Elsewhere, Solbes had noted that fiscal pressure has already reached dangerously high levels in the three countries singled out for criticism. Looking ahead, Solbes admitted that the more flexible U.S. economy will outperform the EU for the foreseeable future. Worse still, he also raised the prospect of a European recovery being delayed for months, if not longer, pointing to deteriorating consumer demand, increasing oil prices, and the strengthening of the euro. The situation is complicated by tensions over Iraq, whose effects on the EU are "impossible to predict."

From Radio Free Europe, Czech Republic, 10 January 2003

Civil Servants Refusing Transfers May Be Corrupt- ACA Chief

Kangar - Civil servants refusing to go on transfer should be investigated as they may be involved in corrupt practices in their present workplace, Director-General of Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) Datuk Zulkipli Mat Noor said Monday. The Public Services Department (PSD) was studying the ACA request that officers with opportunities to commit corrupt practices be investigated in the event they refused to go on transfers after a certain period in their present workplace, he said. Speaking to reporters after attending the opening of the national level Management Integrity Committee secretariat meeting here, Zulkipli said the Malaysian Civil Service should be strong without any element of corruption. Zulkipli, who is also the national coordinator of the committee, said the supervisory role it had played at ministries and departments since 1998 had strengthened public service management in the country. He said the ACA would be receptive to any information even that conveyed via the Internet and would investigate it professionally. The ACA had assigned a work target of opening at least 10 new investigation files this year for each of its 260 odd probe officers, he said. The two-day meeting opened by Perlis Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim was attended by 100 representatives from 25 ministries and 13 from state governments.

From Bernama, Malaysia, 13 January 2003

Fresh Row Looms Over Rights of New Public Service Recruits

Efforts by Downing Street to improve its relations with the trade unions have suffered an early setback, after secret talks failed to settle a row over how public service workers should be treated by private sector employers. The dispute over the treatment of new recruits to local government services that are contracted out means a row which dominated last autumn's Labour conference is about to re-erupt, with unions considering strike action. It is understood that senior officials from the GMB, TGWU and Unison unions have held negotiations with Pat McFadden, Downing Street's new link man, Ian McCartney, the pensions minister who has taken on a union liaison brief, and John Reid, Labour party chairman. The talks followed a meeting in December with Tony Blair, at which the prime minister listened to their concerns. However, union leaders are braced for disappointment ahead of a meeting on Thursday with Nick Raynsford, local government minister, and employers. Some union leaders were prepared to water down their demands, asking for new recruits to be employed on "favourable" terms by private operators in comparison with their colleagues transferred from the public sector. This compared with earlier demands that they be treated "no less favourably". But the government has refused to budge on this crucial issue, sticking to the term "broadly comparable", a more general phrase that private operators have agreed to and are not prepared to give up. John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB union, is disappointed that so little progress has been made since the Labour party conference, when the prime minister appeared to offer the unions an olive branch. A GMB insider said business protests had scuppered hopes for stronger worker protection. "We'd seen a lot of positive movement in recent weeks and were hopeful of realising a resolution. But it seems Downing Street got cold feet." Local authority employers expected no dramatic changes to a draft code on the rights of local government workers. The code is to be presented to union officials and representatives of business and local government by Mr. Raynsford at Thursday's meeting.

From Financial Times, by Christopher Adams and David Turner, 14 January 2003

Shake-up Urged in Civil Service Practices

A shake-up in competition procedures for civil service jobs is proposed in a document circulated by Government officials to public sector unions yesterday. Strong commitments to industrial peace and changes in work practices are also sought in the confidential document, which has been seen by The Irish Times. The document is based on several months of negotiations between unions and the Government on a programme of change and modernisation in the public service. Unions must sign up to such a programme before receiving full payment of the increases, averaging 8.9 per cent, recommended by the benchmarking body in July. The draft document circulated yesterday, and which is to be the subject of further negotiations this week, proposes extending use of open recruitment to the civil service. At present only jobs at executive officer level and below are subject to open, public recruitment. In recent years, the document suggests, a skills shortage in certain areas of the civil service has become "clearly evident". "Greater use of open recruitment and improved competitive promotions are fundamental to the ongoing development of a modern and dynamic civil service." The 36-page document seeks improvements in services to the public in a range of areas, including the health service and local government. These would include longer opening hours for public services. It seeks commitments to a "stable industrial relations climate", an end to nine-to-five working for some staff and a breakdown of tradition al demarcation lines.

From Irish Times, Ireland, by Chris Dooley, 15 January 2003

MSPs Demand Overhaul of Civil Service

Plans aimed at persuading civil servants to change entrenched attitudes and become more responsive to the needs of the Scottish Parliament are to be considered by a Holyrood committee. According to Murray Tosh, convener of the parliament's procedures committee, mutual attitudes have remained "disappointingly static" in spite of the challenges of devolution. Mr. Tosh, who is also deputy presiding officer, believes the relationship between the civil service and the parliament is operating largely as it did with the Westminster parliament before devolution and needs to be investigated by MSPs and ministers. He has put forward a series of amendments to a draft report on an investigation into the operation of the parliament which will be considered next week. The report follows an inquiry into whether the parliament has embraced the principles set out by the cross-party Consultative Steering Group (CSG) set up before the parliament came into existence in 1999. Mr. Tosh is calling on the committee to insert a number of recommendations into the report which will highlight the need for the civil service to think of its relationship with the parliament and its committees in "progressively positive and creative terms". His comments underline the views of a number of ministers and MSPs who believe the civil service generally has been reluctant to respond to the changed ways of working demanded by devolution.

If Mr. Tosh's proposals are approved, the committee will state in its report: "At present, the relationship between the civil service and the parliament appears to be operating largely as it did with the Westminster parliament before devolution. "While the volume of contact between the Scottish administration and the parliament has increased, it appears to us that the nature of contact, and the mutual attitudes of the civil service and the parliament, have remained disappointingly static. "We consider that immediate action is required to improve the quality of the relationship between the civil service and the parliament, one which is more in keeping with the CSG's and the parliament's principles." Mr. Tosh, a Tory MSP for South of Scotland, will propose to the committee at its meeting on Tuesday that the report calls for a more open and relaxed relationship between committees, and MSPs and the civil service, and that "we expect the civil service to take a more pro-active role in developing future relationships." His proposals add: "In particular, we envisage a civil service which is much more open to the parliament and its members and also much more self-confident in its dealings with the parliament than at present."

Civil servants should be able to assist MSPs generally in their parliamentary work and should not regard itself as working exclusively for ministers, Mr. Tosh states. Mr. Tosh wants the committee to call on the Executive and parliament to set up a steering group to bring forward a "practical agreement" that would allow a new relationship between the civil service and parliament. He said last night that his committee, which had already discussed the issue, believed there was a need for an agreed level of scrutiny and accountability. Donald Gorrie, a Liberal Democrat MSP, and member of the procedures committee, said yesterday there was a general feeling among members that things had to change and that there was room for improving relations between civil servants and the parliament. He said: "For some civil servants, devolution was a great culture shock. They were faced with having to answer a lot of questions and letters from MSPs and demands that they come before committees. A lot of them are still steeped in the ways of Westminster and many of us feel they must change."

From Scotsman, UK, by David Scott, 17 January 2003

Blair Heckled During Public Service Speech

Students are unhappy with the new proposals - A peace protester has shouted down Tony Blair during a speech billed as an attempt to re-focus attention on government plans for public service reform. The prime minister was mid-way through the lengthy address spelling out his vision, and the logic behind moves such as the proposal to allow English universities to charge up to £3,000 for courses, when the man stood up and started shouting. The heckler, a member of the audience at South Camden Community School in London, demanded that Mr. Blair answer questions about Iraq. But the prime minister retorted to applause that he had spoken about Iraq over recent days and now wanted to talk about public services. The man had to be led away before Mr. Blair was able to return to his theme, telling his audience that he wanted to move secondary education "beyond the comprehensive era". Pioneering - He seemed to go to great lengths to reassure left-wingers that he was trying to achieve the same purpose that Labour has always espoused - equality of opportunity. He compared the challenge of reform that the party was now facing with the pioneering spirit of the Labour government of 1945 that introduced the National Health Service. The main theme of Mr. Blair's statement was to defend plans to introduce top-up fees in 2006, which will enable universities to charge different fees up to £3,000. He will be keen to see off an expected rebellion when the higher education proposals reach the Commons. The measures, part of a shake-up of higher education in England, will mean students will not have to pay until they graduate, and begin to earn at least £15,000. Private input - But students and academics warn the plans could lead to a "two-tier" system and could saddle students with increased debt.

Mr. Blair argued that if the party fails to improve education and the NHS, those who can afford to will go private, leaving the majority dependent on low quality public provision. He said the only way to keep middle class parents and patients committed to public services is by offering choice. The "one size fits all" view of public services was out of date and this meant there needed to be a willingness to use private companies and to challenge the view that services must be identical for everyone. Mr. Blair insisted that the "pursuit of excellence in public services is fundamental" and he urged the party not to "waste this precious period of power" 'Damaging shibboleth' - "The greatest sadness is when people describe the pursuit of excellence as elitism," he said. "It is surely in the nature of things that some parts of a service perform better than others. "But it is the oldest and most damaging shibboleth in the left-wing book that levelling down is the route to equality and social justice. "In fact it is excellence within a public service that provides a spur to greater achievement and the levelling up of the whole service." Mr. Blair said more funds were needed to allow more students to go to university "and we need to expose the myth that somehow at present we have an egalitarian nirvana where all students and universities are treated the same and benefit the same - this is emphatically not the case". "Our deal means a bigger subsidy from the taxpayer to universities. No parents need to pay fees at all, maintenance grants come back for the poorer students, fees are converted into loans and only paid back when the student has graduated and the loans are interest free. "The only thing we ask in return is that for those universities that are at the top end and receive most taxpayers money, they find some of any additional income they need - over and above state funding - in higher fees from their students who after all are getting the huge benefit of a top-class education." Some 180 Labour and opposition backbenchers have already signed a Commons motion against top-up fees.

From BBC, UK, 23 January 2003

Peter's Rank Table Reincarnated in Putin's New Bill

Despite the sabotage from the Agrarian-Communist factions, the State Duma has passed at its first reading one of the bills of primary importance to President Putin - the draft law on the system of civil service in the Russian Federation. Adopting this bill is the first stage in creating a fundamentally new hierarchy, similar to the 18th century Rank Table, introduced by Peter the Great. According to the explanatory note attached to the bill, it must determine the legal and organizational foundations of the civil service system in the Russian Federation. It is suggested that the country will have four types of civil service - a federal civil service, a military service, a law enforcement service and also a state civil service in the subjects of the federation. The definition of a civil servant will be unified - this will be a term describing everyone receiving a salary from the federal or a regional budget. The term state civil service is described in the new draft law for the first time ever. This is the ''professional activity of Russian citizens aimed at providing the execution of powers of the Russian Federation, federal bodies of power, bodies of power of the subjects of the Russian Federation, persons taking constitutional posts in the federal centre and the positions instituted by constitutions, statutes and laws of the federation subjects''.

The bill, approved after the first reading on Friday is just the first step in the realization of the federal program called 'Reform of the civil service in the Russian Federation in 2003-2005' signed by Putin on November 21. It is obvious that after the framework draft law is approved, the Duma will face the major task of adjusting the already existing laws - in particular the bill on the police force and the bill on military service. The minimum and maximum age of joining and leaving the civil service must also be determined. Apart from that, for the first time since the 1917 revolution the law divides all civil servants into class and diplomatic ranks. In other words, Putin intends to recreate the famous rank table established by Peter the Great. It is interesting that the obvious parallel has not been drawn by the journalists but by the deputy chief of the presidential administration Dmitry Medvedev. Approval of the framework reform bill has met no serious objections from the Duma deputies. Only the communists and agrarians voted against the bill. They did so together and communist deputy Vasily Ivar has expressed their unanimous opinion on the subject: the proposed bill does not match the population's demands.

The deputy then said that there is only one document today that is demanded by the people - and this is the Code of the Builders of Communism, the one used in Lenin's personnel selection, and thus, the communists voted against the new initiative out of ideological prejudice. The return to the class rank system for them is almost the same as returning to monarchy. Not every mind can contend with the table of ranks and the double-headed eagle together with the Soviet anthem, red stars on the Kremlin towers and Lenin's mummified body in the Mausoleum. In any case, the votes cast by the communists and agrarians proved of little consequence for the approval of the bill after the first reading. It was supported by 260 deputies, with just 104 voting against. Satisfied representatives of the Kremlin administration have told the press that the draft law On the Fundamentals of the State Civil Service in the Russian Federation, describing in detail one of the four fields of official activity, would be submitted to the parliament in the nearest future. The bill is now in the development stage. The other three bills have not yet been formulated in an acceptable way for the parliamentarians.

From Gazeta.ru, Russia, by Anton Brazhitsa, 27 January 2003

 

Arab Region: Report Finds Rise in Petty Corruption

Transparency International issues damning summary - Corruption among senior state officials and politicians in the Arab world was rampant in 2001-02, although incidences of grand corruption declined, according to a damning new report from Transparency International, the world's leading anti-corruption NGO. In its analysis of corruption in the Arab world, the Global Corruption Report 2003, released Wednesday, argues that a decline in real income due to global recession has seen a rise in petty corruption in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The prevalence of grand corruption has decreased in the region only because of "reduced opportunities for 'commissions' as a result of an economic recession," the report states. "Global slowdown, reduced investment in emerging markets and a fall in oil prices has resulted in declining capital investment and a slump in construction and arms procurement." The report argues that in a widespread climate of authoritarian rule in the MENA region, the root causes of corruption have failed to be addressed, and unless far-reaching political reform is initiated anti-corruption strategies are unlikely to succeed. The 2003 report is a follow-up to Transparency International's 2001 report, which for the first time mapped the global fight against corruption, highlighting business, political, civil and financial standards and practices in different world regions. The 2003 edition reveals that corruption remains endemic and systemic worldwide, not just in developing countries, and that the key to fighting that corruption remains the prompt and accurate flow of information between the public, media and activist groups. It focuses on the need for greater access to information in the struggle against corruption while exploring how civil society, the public and private sectors and the media use and control information to combat or conceal corruption.

Peter Eigen, chairman of Transparency International and a former World Bank official, writes that on a global level "the corrupt are running out of places to hide," and both the media and the public "are increasingly calling businesses and politicians to account." In the Middle East, however, the report claims that the media are less able to expose corruption due to conflicts of interest: "Many TV stations are owned by government ministers whose conflicts of interest are not addressed," he wrote. "Journalists in the region continue to face imprisonment for criticizing the political leadership, and most of the region's legislatures have yet to draft, pass and implement freedom of information laws." The report cites numerous incidences of imprisonment, torture, and murder of journalists in many MENA regions. The survey also highlights the fact that the international community's efforts to curb corruption in the MENA region were hampered by strategic and security interests. It suggests, for example, that America pressure to effect Palestinian Authority reforms and anti-corruption measures was dictated more by Israeli policy and the desire to remove Yasser Arafat from office rather than a deep regard for transparency or good governance. It also states that international donors could do more to fight corruption by imposing stringent conditions on donations. "In February 2002, donors committed more than $10 billion in aid to Egypt for 2002-04 but, as in the past, transparency did not feature among the conditions attached to the package."

Two key factors behind corruption in MENA countries, according to the report, are the lack of institutional reforms accompanying economic liberalization programs. "The granting of private licenses for providers of mobile phone networks … failed to put in place impartial and effective regulators in Algeria, Lebanon, Syria and Tunisia," the survey states. "This explains the wide levels of discretionary powers enjoyed by private providers and state officials, which often degenerate into corruption." Although the report is positive in reflecting the fact that all MENA governments acknowledge that corruption is an impediment to good governance, it goes on to cite examples of state procurement and corrupt practices in Egypt, Syria, Algeria, Iran and Israel. Fewer opportunities for "commissions" appear to have caused a decline in cases of grand corruption in the Arab world in 2001-02, the report says. In Lebanon, for example, the decline in the prevalence of grand corruption was due to expenditure on capital investment contracting sharply as a result of budgetary constraints. "'Commissions' in the post-war reconstruction program traditionally exceed 20 percent of the contract's value," the report states. On the other hand, it claims that petty corruption in the region has risen as real incomes have fallen because "public servants attempt to compensate for the loss in purchasing power by demanding more bribes. Independent evidence tends to confirm that petty bribery (baksheesh) has been rising." The report cites a study by the Index of Economic Freedom that registered an increase in corruption by low-ranking officials in Algeria, Lebanon and Tunisia.

The most obvious conclusion the survey reaches details the impact corruption has on foreign direct investment, which for many Arab countries is considered vital for encouraging economic prosperity. In particular, it attributes private sector involvement in corruption in MENA countries to "systematic collusion between public and private sectors," and points out that differentiating between the 'public' and 'private' domains is difficult "since power is exercised by networks of families and individuals with parallel stakes in politics and business." Saudi Arabia is a prime example of this "where entire businesses are monopolized by princes and their affiliated partners in the private sector." Efforts at reform are being made among some business confederations but it remains marginal due to government control of many such groups. The Moroccan Confederation of Employers and the Lebanese Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, however, have implemented codes of ethics on corporate governance. Despite the massive, systemic level of corruption in the MENA region the Global Corruption Report highlights, public awareness of corruption and its consequences on society is on the rise, with more and more NGOs promoting transparency attempting to build on that awareness. In Morocco, Transparency Maroc, and in Lebanon La Fassad (No Corruption) both offshoots of Transparency International consistently work to promote clarity at all levels of society. In Yemen, an NGO Forum for Civil Society actively fights corruption and an unofficial watchdog group in Bahrain, the Bahrain Transparency Society, was set up in January 2002.

From Daily Star, Lebanon, by Ramsay Short, 23 January 2003

 

Vitali Wants Lawmakers Taken Out Of Public Service Announcements

Harrisburg, Pa - Roughly $2M In Taxpayer Money Spend On Those Ads Last Summer - A state representative wants the House rules to be changed to prohibit lawmakers from using legislative accounts to pay for television ads. House leaders of both parties said the televised public service announcements are an effective way for members to inform their constituents about how to get help with a problem. But Rep. Greg Vitali of Delaware County said they amount to extra campaign advertising during election years by incumbents in contested races. Vitali wants his proposal to be included when the House rules are adopted Tuesday. That vote will come after new members of the Legislature are sworn in. Aides to both parties said that about 70 House members spent roughly $2 million in taxpayers' money last summer to run cable-TV announcements featuring members of the House running for re-election in November. A spokesman for House Majority Leader John Perzel said members should have the option of using their accounts for the ads if they wish.

From WGAL, 07 January 2003

Cabinet Secretary Says Public Sector Reform Paying Off

Cabinet secretary and head of the civil service, Dr Carlton Davis, said the public sector reform programme has been yielding tangible results, with the eight executive agencies now contributing $1.2 billion to government revenues, compared to $72 million in the 1998/1999 fiscal year. "What we are seeing in respect of the executive agencies is greater improvement in customer service, greater accountability and a more business-like approach to management," Davis said. The public sector reform programme was launched in 1996 with assistance from the World Bank and up to November last year, $1.1 billion had been spent on the programme, with the World Bank providing $866 million and the rest provided by the Jamaican Government. "We experimented with various managem+ent schemes over the years, including the setting up of statutory bodies in an effort to bring greater efficiency to the public sector and the results were not encouraging in several instances," Davis recalled. He stressed, however, that the present reform process was geared at making the state more enabling and facilitatory of private sector expansion. He stressed that this was particularly important given the constraints facing the government on the fiscal side - with over 62 per cent of the budget going to debt servicing - and with the retreat of the state from investment in the economy. After education, security, health and debt payments, very little is left in the government's budget to do other things, "so you have to depend on private investment for the jobs and economic expansion", Davis stressed. "Your state agencies have to operate at the highest levels of efficiency to facilitate private business to get on with the job of boosting production and exports," he added. In its executive agency programme, the government had carefully chosen certain key agencies whose work had a major impact on business and investment, such as the National Land Agency (NLA), the Customs Department, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), the Office of the Registrar of Companies (ORC), the Administrator General's Department (AGD), among others.

Highlighting just one example of an executive agency whose work significantly impacts on business, Davis cited the Registrar of Companies which became an executive agency in April 1999. During the last fiscal year, the ORC had registered a 96 per cent customer satisfaction rate, compared to a 50 per cent customer satisfaction rate in the pre-executive agency years. Additionally, prior to becoming an executive agency, it took an average six weeks for new companies and business names to be registered. But since 1999, the time for the registration of new companies has been reduced to two working days and, one working day for the registration of business names. In 2001 the ORC, in association with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), also began a project to re-engineer the ORC's internal business processes to be able to accommodate online service capability. And in January last year, the agency successfully put 10 million pages of company records online. At the end of the last fiscal year, subscribers to the ORC's website could view images of company documents online, rather than having to come into the office. Davis believes that it is efficiencies and improvements like those demonstrated at the ORC that will enable the private sector to improve its own performance and its ability to create jobs and bolster investments in the economy. The government's public sector reform programme has also won praise from the World Bank which pledged to "continue supporting" public sector reform". The World Bank, in its paper on 'Improving Governance, Efficiency and Effectiveness in the Public Sector', said: "The government is also implementing a forward-looking Public Sector Modernisation Programme with support from the Bank ... Service delivery responsibilities are being transferred from different ministries to executive agencies with increasingly positive results, in terms of increased customer handling, reduced response times and to 20-30-fold increases in revenue..."

From Jamaica Observer, 15 January 2003

Governor to Add Teeth to Ethics Law

Gov. Sonny Perdue will propose legislation as early as Thursday that would create unprecedented ethics standards for all state officials - even the lawmakers he will ask to enact them. The new governor's legislative allies said Tuesday he will seek legislation to expand greatly an executive order he issued Monday, hours after taking office, that imposed new rules on the behavior of state employees under his control. While the executive order covers at least 90,000 of Georgia's 103,000 state workers, it does not apply to other elected officials, including legislators, or their employees. The legislation being drafted would exempt no official from new ethics requirements, a key lawmaker said. "Our intent is to introduce legislation that will affect members of the General Assembly, the constitutional officers and members of the executive branch," said Sen. Bill Stephens (R-Canton), the governor's floor leader in the Senate. "The intention is to create an ethical atmosphere across state government, so it gives people faith that decisions are made impartially, as much as possible." Stephens and other lawmakers said the governor's aides and legislators are piecing together the ethics package. Legislators have resisted previous efforts to strengthen their ethics rules, and how Perdue plans to overcome that historic resistance is not known. Perdue's press secretary, Kimberly King, would say only that the governor would send the proposal to the Legislature on Thursday. Perdue is acting quickly in his first week in office to address a series of ethical missteps in state government that have drawn attention during the past year. A poll conducted recently for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed that nine of 10 Georgians rank ethics reform as a priority for the governor and the General Assembly. Ethics advocates applauded Perdue's initiatives. The effort confirms, they said, the governor's intention to enact what he described in his inaugural address as "the most comprehensive ethics reform in Georgia's history." "We're delighted to see the new governor take the leadership on this," said Bill Bozarth, executive director of Common Cause Georgia. "We look forward to some significant ethics reform overall as the Legislature rolls out and begins to consider legislation that extends the spirit of this executive order." The legislation Perdue's staff is preparing follows a broad executive order that covers employees of most agencies in the executive branch.

The governor lacks the authority to extend the ethics rules to workers in agencies run by other statewide elected officials: the state school superintendent, the agriculture, insurance and labor commissioners, the attorney general and public service commissioners. Nor could he apply the rules to the legislative and judicial branches and their employees. The executive order contained a number of incongruities. Perdue actually relaxed a key ethics rule put in place by his predecessor. Former Gov. Roy Barnes barred employees from accepting gifts, other than meals, from lobbyists and others; Perdue allows them to accept any item, including meals or travel, worth as much as $25. And while Perdue prevents judicial nominees from giving the governor political contributions, his order does not address donations from people he appoints to dozens of state boards and commissions. Still, Perdue has created some of the toughest ethics rules in Georgia history. In addition to limiting gifts, Perdue's order puts unprecedented restrictions on lobbying the governor and other state officials, prohibits state employees from helping relatives get government jobs or promotions, and requires employees to disqualify themselves from decisions that present even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Barnes' ethics rules also addressed nepotism and conflicts of interest. As with the Barnes guidelines, Perdue's ethics rules apparently cover the vast majority of state employees, several current and former state officials said Tuesday. At least 90,000 state workers from about 20 agencies would be required to follow the rules or risk disciplinary action. Because the rules were imposed by executive order, rather than by law, violators would not face criminal prosecution, but they could be fired. State workers take seriously ethics rules set by the governor, said Bobby Kahn, who was Barnes' chief of staff.

After Barnes issued the ban on gifts four years ago, "there was an awareness of it, there certainly was," Kahn said. "The days of [free] sports tickets and such and trips being handed out really ended with that executive order." Perdue's rules - and the legislation he will propose - would put Georgia's ethics standards closer to those of a large number of other states. His executive order made Georgia the 44th state to prohibit or restrict the ability of state officials to hire or promote family members. And it made Georgia the 27th state to place restrictions on officials who begin lobbying as soon as they leave elected or appointed government posts. Perdue could not impose such a ban through an executive order, but he did direct state employees not to speak with lobbyists who had left state positions within the previous year. Lobbyists would feel much of the sting of Perdue's executive order. It says the use of lobbyists "will not be required or preferred as a way to obtain access" to state officials. And it says state employees will "strongly encourage" lobbyists seeking meetings with the governor or his staff to bring his or her client along to the meeting. Several veteran lobbyists said Perdue's rules are unrealistic. "As a practical matter, at the end of the legislative session, when the paper is really flying, it ties the administration's hands when they can't talk to the lobbyists who are writing the legislation," said Neill Herring, a lobbyist for environmental and labor groups. Lobbyist Rusty Kidd, who represents vending and tobacco companies among other clients, said he understands that Perdue would want to "slow down everyone coming into his office wanting something." But, Kidd said, "It might take some refining. I'm not sure about the mechanics." Perdue's ethics standards have been evolving since his surprise election Nov. 5. Just this month, he accepted two trips to National Football League playoff games from Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, whose team plays its home games in the state-owned Georgia Dome. Perdue's aides said the trips were proper because he had not taken office yet.

From Atlanta Journal Constitution, GA, by Alan Judd and Nancy Badertscher, 15 January 2003

Harvard Boosts Aid for Public Service Study

Harvard University yesterday boosted the stakes in the national financial aid competition, announcing a $14 million fund to cover costs for aspiring teachers, public health workers, and other graduate students headed for low-paying public service careers. The move makes Harvard the first in the nation to establish a university-wide financial aid program to encourage public service, and could trigger similar moves at other top universities, said Terry Hartle, a senior vice president with the American Council on Education. ''It's a very significant development,'' said Hartle. ''The best universities are highly competitive - for everything, including students. Harvard has always taken pride in having its students go into public service, and this will allow more of them to do so.'' The new Presidential Scholars fellowships will start next fall and will benefit about 300 students over the life of the program, giving them as much as $30,000 on top of the full tuition relief and other financial support they receive as fellowship students. Recipients could include medical students who plan to practice in underserved areas, social scientists doing population research, and teachers earning master's degrees. ''I believe these steps represent a significant move toward the ultimate objective of drawing more young people into public service, and making possible careers of many different kinds for the most talented young students,'' said Harvard president Lawrence H. Summers during a phone conference with reporters yesterday. As he prepared to become president of Harvard, he said, ''I was very struck by the fact that there was substantially more and easier financial aid available to you if you wanted to come to Harvard to be prepared to be an investment banker or a lawyer, than if you wanted to be a scientist or a teacher. It seems to me that that was something that was very important for us to address.'' Along with the new grants, which do not require repayment, Harvard is announcing a new low-interest loan program for all its graduate schools, as well as a fund-raising strategy that encourages donors to add to the public-service grant pool.

Like any major change in financial aid policy by an Ivy League institution, Harvard's announcement is likely to induce ripples of reaction at other elite universities. Two years ago, for example, Princeton stopped requiring undergraduate students to take loans as part of a financial aid package, and started giving them grants to make up the difference. Stanford, Yale, Harvard and others have also increased their undergraduate aid in recent years to compete harder with each other. Since arriving at Harvard, Summers has said that universities should find more ways to support public service; a year ago he called for Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government to give one of its public service awards to a uniformed military officer. But educators at Harvard and elsewhere are often frustrated to see idealistic students take private-sector jobs because they owe so much money upon graduation. In national surveys, significant numbers of students say they want to pursue careers in public service after graduate school but are dissuaded by the prospect of a heavy debt load and low salary, said Hartle. More are likely to be deterred in the next few years, he said, as state and federal governments face large budget shortfalls, probably freezing salaries in the public sector. ''It's not simply how much you borrow, but your debt relative to how much you'll be earning,'' he said. ''Someone who borrows $20,000 to become a radiologist isn't going to have a problem, but someone who borrows $20,000 to become a Head Start teacher is.'' Other universities have made smaller-scale efforts to reward students for their public-mindedness. In Boston University's graduate programs for social work and theology, the tuition rate is discounted, to $19,890 and $11,360 respectively, compared to $27,000 for most graduate schools. At Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where the tuition is $26,500 for the two-year master's degree program in public policy, the average graduate left school last spring almost $50,000 in debt - even though half the students received outright grants from the university, and the average grant was $14,000 per year.

When they left Harvard, many of those graduates were competing for prestigious federal internships with starting pay of $40,000 or less, said Joseph McCarthy, senior associate dean and director of degree programs. ''If a consulting firm comes along and says, `Why not work for us for a few years? You'll start at $120,000,' it can be a sore temptation,'' McCarthy said. ''This is part of trying to level the playing field.'' The new aid will funnel $14 million in grants to top students in eight of Harvard's graduate schools, which will administer the grants separately, according to their own requirements. The program excludes the law and business schools, which have their own relief programs for students who plan to work in the public sector. To ensure that students do not receive the public service grants and then take a lucrative job after graduation, Harvard officials said, the grants will be targeted to students who are admitted to specialties and programs with a specific public service mission and a consistent record of graduates entering the public sector. The university will also begin offering low-interest loans, for as much as the full cost of a student's attendance, in partnership with Citibank. Unlike federal loans, they will be available to international students as well as those from the United States, and are expected to save students between $1 million and $4 million each year. Harvard and Citibank will share financial risk for the loan program. Harvard's announcement came on the same day the College Board unveiled recommendations on financial aid in Washington, D.C., urging more need-based aid and stronger support for ''students who enter and remain in certain key occupations and those who serve in high-need areas.'' A spokesman for Yale University declined to comment on Harvard's announcement; he said officials are reviewing the details of the plan and will release a statement later. Henrik Dullea, Cornell University's vice president for university relations, was traveling yesterday and had not seen the Harvard plan, but said it sounded like good news for students.

From Boston Globe, MA, by Patrick Healy and Jenna Russell, 16 January 2003

First Lady Urges Public Service on Holiday

First Lady Laura Bush urged area youngsters Friday to use the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday for public service even if it meant cleaning their rooms. "Instead of taking a holiday for Martin Luther King's birthday, why don't we all work together to make our community better," she told schoolchildren gathered at a city library named after King. Mrs. Bush suggested ideas like being "especially kind" to family members, lending a hand to teachers and tidying their rooms. King "wanted justice for everyone in our country, he wanted equal rights for everyone in our country and he wanted to achieve those goals with nonviolence," Mrs. Bush said. "Our country is so much better because of the life of Martin Luther King and because of the choices he made the choice to be nonviolent and the choice to literally give his life for civil rights." Her comments came as anti-war protesters were mobilizing in Washington and around the country for rallies, timed to coincide with the King holiday weekend, protesting a possible war with Iraq. Mrs. Bush a former librarian and the city's Democratic Mayor Anthony Williams spent part of the morning reorganizing bookshelves at the library to kick off a series of weekend public service projects in the city. She spoke to about 40 kids, ranging from preschoolers to third-graders.

From ABC News, 17 January 2003

Women Urged To Consider Career In Public Service

Oklahoma City - Organizers of a program on women in politics and government hope it will encourage college women to consider careers in public service. Oklahoma ranks 49th in the nation in the number of women in state government, a drop from the 1980s when the state ranked 38th. Only one of one-hundred-one state representatives and six of 48 state senators are women. Cindy Simon Rosenthal, a political scientist at the University of Oklahoma, says Oklahoma is not a state that has reached out to women candidates. The second annual National Education for Women's Leadership Oklahoma is scheduled in May at OU. Organizers hope to encourage young women to take roles as community activists and lobbyists or to run for office.

From KTUL, OK, 20 January 2003

Civil Servants Begin Classes to Prepare for Information Act

Civil servants in the Office of the Prime Minister started attending classes on Tuesday to prepare for the implementation of the new Access to Information Act. The classes, which will run for four months at the Management Institute of National Development (MIND), is the first in a series of training for Government personnel. Speaking at the opening session, Information Minister Burchell Whiteman told the civil servants that there was a need to improve the relationship between the citizen and the state in relation to the flow of information. "I have no doubt that the work here today can, and will make a difference to the quality of life of Jamaicans including yourselves... We must remove the gatekeeper and the gatekeepers' mentality. Knowledge is power and we must seek to ensure that each citizen is empowered to make an effective contribution to his or her own development," Whiteman said. The Access to Information Act was passed seven months ago, despite strong opposition from several quarters. It seeks to promote accountability and transparency by giving public access to official documents in government bodies subject to exempt provisions. "There are not that many areas of exemption in the act and there is the possibility for persons to make amendments to the act every two years", Whiteman continued.

At the same time, he stressed that the training programme was not to be viewed as "an end in itself" and that some continual assessment of the act's impact should be done. "Let us find a way of evaluating the impact of the outcome of our work. Are people making better choices (with the added information) and is it reflected in, for example, social indices and the reduction of inter-personal violence?" Oliver Clarke, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) agreed with Whiteman and charged the trainees to aid in the fulfilment of the Act. "This one act can do more for modernising the Jamaican society and strengthen democracy here than virtually any other bit of legislation. You (civil servants) are the pioneers that will presumably change the Jamaican society and it will happen if you have the will but it will not happen if you do not." During the four-month training programme more than 400 workers will be trained from various government agencies. The sessions were scheduled to continue yesterday at the Management Institute of National Development (MIND), and will include: * the fundamentals of change management;* the ATI legislation; and records/information management.

From Jamaica Observer, 24 January 2003

Public Sector Reform

Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Carlton Davis, is reporting with satisfaction, that Government's Public Sector Reform Programme has been yielding 'tangible results'. After six years of operation of the programme in its current phase and the expenditure of $1.1 billion, the eight executive agencies created have contributed $1.2 billion to revenue in the 2001/2002 fiscal year compared to $72 million in the 1998/1999 fiscal year. Success is more than increased revenue from a handful of converted agencies. There are hundreds of agencies and departments in the public sector. Numerous studies have been done on rationalising the sector and improving efficiency. The Orane Report of 1999, for example, made sweeping recommendations for cost reduction and the improvement of efficiency in the public sector. It is against such standards that we would have liked to see independent verification of 'tangible results' on a time line. The reform process, the latest of many such efforts, was also intended to improve customer service to the public. And, as the Cabinet Secretary puts it, the overarching objective behind public sector reform is to make the State more enabling and facilitative of private sector expansion. How well has this overarching objective gone? While the State is controlling more and more of the country's resources as a percentage of GDP through taxation and domestic borrowing, the enabling environment remains elusive, if growth figures are an index.

According to Dr. Davis, over 60 per cent of the Budget is now going to debt servicing. The major part of the remainder goes to financing the public sector wage bill rather than in delivering quality enabling service. The greater accountability and more business-like approach of executive agencies, including control over budget and staffing, should assist in a shift of resource use. The country should soon have greater access to Government information by which to make informed judgements about these and other matters. The Access to Information Act, which was passed in June last year, is set to come on stream. An Access to Information Unit has been set up in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and last Tuesday a training programme was launched for some 400 public sector workers. The Access to Information Act, as we have always argued, will be only as good as the people who deliver the information to satisfy public demand. The OPM and the Ministry of Finance have supplied the first batch of trainees. There are thousands more in the Public Service who will need to be trained to handle the provisions of the Act. Decentralised concurrent training has to be the way to go if the Act is going to become operational in all areas this year.

From Jamaica Gleaner, 28 January 2003

Bush Plans to Offer Civil Servants Performance Pay Incentive

White House - President Bush wants to start offer some federal workers incentive pay based on performance. In his 2004 budget, Bush will propose a two percent raise for all one-point-eight (m) million civilian federal employees. On top of that, officials say he will ask Congress to approve 500 (m) million dollars for a "human capital performance fund," to be prorated to government agencies. Agencies would submit plans on how they'll reward high-performing or critical workers. They wouldn't be allowed to use their shares of the fund for across-the-board raises. A supporter says the plan intends to create a "culture of achievement" in the federal work force. But the president of the largest federal employees union opposes creating what he calls a "slush fund" for chosen workers.

From Associated Press, 25 January 2003

 
 

Cisco Partners with WB Government for SWAN to Drive E-governance Initiative

Kolkata - Networking major Cisco Systems on Wednesday said it has partnered with West Bengal Government to provide technology and solutions for a Statewide Wide Area Network (SWAN) to drive e-governance initiative. The network is the backbone of West Bengal's e-governance initiative to provide voice, video and data communications on a converged Internet Protocol-based network, a company release said here.In the first phase, the network spans between state secretariat and all 17 district headquarters, it said, adding the "network would allow the state government to adopt a comprehensive e-governance policy to make the transition from IT aware government to IT-enabled government." The network is aimed at increasing efficiencies and drive down communication costs for the government, it added. In addition to providing real time data transfer and aggregation for the various departments, it would also provide multiple modes of communication. "For citizens it would bring a single point of sourcing wide variety of information such as land records, telemedicine and job, among others," the release said. Commenting on the initiative, Manoj Chugh, President India and SAARC of Cisco Systems, said, "E-governance has been viewed as an important vehicle in enhancing the administrative efficiency and effectiveness to improve the provision of public services using IT."

From Economic Times, India, 2 December 2003

Digital Conversion: Watch How You Write

If you've been trying hard to convince yourself that your six-year-old's undecipherable scrawl doesn't matter since it'll be just a matter of years before he punches on the keyboard of a PC, think again. Seems like the world may revert to using a pen (only we'll now call it a stylus) and notebook called the Tablet PC. As you jot on the screen of the computer with your electronic pen, its handwriting recognition function converts what you've written to text - provided of course your handwriting doesn't resemble "chicken scratches". Sanjeev Mathur of Microsoft has a reason why people might go back to scribbling on a pad (the tablet or computer screen) - it's convenient and you can even recline and jot down notes. "On a flight for instance, a Tablet PC is just the gadget you would need. You wouldn't need the space a laptop and it's keyboard needs - you can recline on your chair and jot your notes on the tablet just like you would on a notepad," says Sanjeev Mathur of Microsoft. Karthik Padmanabhan, marketing manager, Microsoft India, thinks it will be just a matter of 18-20 months before all notebook PC users will shift to the Tablet PC. Though priced rather highly at about Rs 1.5 lakh, this new gizmo in computing, is set to catch the fancy of the affluent in the country. Launched first in India by Hewlett Packard and its strategic partner Microsoft, the Tablet PC runs on Windows XP Tablet PC edition operating system. The Compaq Tablet PC TC1000 is wireless-enabled. When used as a tablet, the Compaq Tablet PC captures digital ink as it flows from an electronic pen onto the PC screen, much like the way a pen and paper work. Of course, if you need the keyboard, all you need to do is snap on a lightweight, removable keyboard and convert the Compaq Tablet PC into a notebook. Japanese technology major Toshiba has launched its Tablet PC in the Indian market at a price tag of Rs 2 lakh.

The Tablet PC is the ultra-portable version of its existing Portege laptop, and is called Portege 3500. The company says its Tablet PC doesn't need add-ons such as docking stations to run, and has Intel Pentium III chip. Already software applications are being created with the Tablet PC in mind. CMC has created the Versatile Computerized Operations for Police Services (VCOPS) for Andhra Pradesh - a functionally and hierarchically integrated enterprise-wide IT tool for enhancing the performance of state police units in crime control, law & order and administrative operations. "The digital-ink-related features of the Tablet PC have been exploited to bring out mobility for the application on Police Operations," says Ramanan of CMC. At the scene of a crime, a cop with a Tablet PC could jot down his report, that would be converted immediately into text and made accessible for any other investigators of the crime. "The focus of the Integrated Information System is to computerize the activities of crime, administration and support services across the state in an integrated fashion so as to enable the division heads and senior officers to obtain information at the touch of a button that may not have been previously, or easily accessible by them," Ramanan explains. Similar medical applications have started coming up, so that doctors can jot down their medical report on a Tablet PC. Many companies are right now gung-ho about the Tablet PC. Padmanabhan says Microsoft's goal is to get not just notebook users, but all information workers such as doctors, lawyers, salesmen, journalists switch to the Tablet PC.

Says Jayant Murty, group marketing manager, Intel: "Just like all other mobile PCs, the Tablet PC requires high performance and versatile power-management features to maximize anytime, anywhere computing and connectivity." Intel's Mobile Intel Pentiun III Processor- M is what the company's promoting for the Tablet PC. But Ramanan adds a note of caution: "The success of the Tablet PC will depend on the number of applications that are available for the Tablet PC from the various IT vendors in the country. With the kind of projects that CMC is into there is definitely scope for providing an interface for the Tablet PC." There are, in fact, many applications in the educations and finance sectors that have been coming up. "Students in most of the premium business schools are now using the Tablet PC," says Padmanabhan. In the banking sector, ICICI is al set to fill in applications forms on the Tablet PC.CMC meanwhile, has plans to provide a Tablet PC interface for their Insurance Product - Genysis. "There are further plans of having some data exchange between the two applications Genysis and Vcops after both applications have a Tablet PC interface," says Ramanan. There are a number of products that CMC has also developed in the transportation, e-governance, banking, securities, mining and utilities/energy areas. "Our R&D group is looking at advantages of integrating the Tablet PC to increase productivity/functionality in all these products," Ramanan added. So are we heading back to the future?

From Economic Times, India, by Sobha Menon, 5 January 2003

West Bengal Government Launches G2C Portal, to Set Up Info-Kiosks

West Bengal government today launched its comprehensive e-governance portal, developed by Tata Consultancy Services, to enable citizens access information on government departments and make online payment applications. The portal - wbgov.com - would provide services including viewing and downloading of government tenders, departmental forms, examination results, direct communication with government, agricultural, health and education services. The government would also open information kiosks, to be run on franchisee basis throughout the state to enable citizens access the services through internet. Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattcharjee, who inaugurated the portal in the presEnce of TCS chief executive S Ramadorai, said "our aim is to reach every village. We want to build up G2C interface with eight crore people in the state." While the citizens would only be able to access information in the 'take off' phase, submitting applications online and making financial transactions would be possible in the 'consolidation and expansion' stages, he said. Speaking on the occasion, Ramadorai said the application service provider (ASP) project was taken up by TCS and WEBEL on cost and revenue sharing basis on a 70:30 ratio. About the info-kiosks, he said about 80 units would be licensed in the first phase with 50 per cent of those being in the metropolis. While information would be available free of cost to citizens, those accessing through kiosks, would have to pay internet charges. Besides accessing information, citizens would be able to pay taxes and other bills once the payment gateways were put in place. E-education, online health services and other services like poverty alleviation schemes, housing, other schemes of the government, etc would also be provided at a later stage. Bhattacharjee said the government has also asked TCS to undertake e-governance projects for improving efficiency in seven governmental departments. Ramadorai said the company, which had earlier executed similar e-governance projects for governments of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi besides Malaysia, would stress on increasing the 'touch points' for the ASP project and imparting proper training to kiosk owners. Private kiosk owners, he said, would have to pay a license fee of Rs 40,000 per annum to the government. On the revenue potential of the project, he said "world over ASP models are still in an experimental state. The business model will be developed once the services are accepted well by citizens".

From Outlook India, India, 8 January 2003

TCS Plans Centre of Excellence in Kolkata

Kolkata - Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) plans to set up a centre of excellence in IT affairs here soon. TCS Chief Executive Officer S Ramadorai told newspersons here today that the organisation had a plan to increase its presence in the state soon. The Chief Minister and his team were very enthusiastic about promotion of the growth in the IT related services. He said the company had received two plots of land in the Salt Lake City, near here, to set up its new units. TCS had been operating in the state since 1976 and had recruited a large number of people from different engineering and allied institutions. The Chief Executive Officer said the company would recruit nearly 2,000 people soon for manning its different projects. Ramadorai was talking to newspersons after launching of the Comprehensive e-governance portal for the state government for interactions between the government and the masses through the modern system.

From The Hindu, India, 8 January 2003

Singapore President on High-Note Over Positive Partnership with AP

Singapore President S R Nathan on Wednesday hoped that the "partnership for development" between his city state and Andhra Pradesh would continue to grow beyond the " Hitec City Phase-III - Cyber Pearl" - a joint venture 500,000 sq.ft office accommodation project between the state, L&T and Singapore based construction company Ascendas. Nathan expressed his satisfaction over the friendship after a computer aided presentation by IT principal secretary J Satyanarayana at Cyber Towers at Hitech City. The Cyber Pearl is slated to be completed by the first quarter of 2004. Nathan who led a delegation to the CII Partnership summit which concluded here today, went round Cyber Towers after the computer aided presentation. In his presentation, Satyanarayana told the visiting dignitary that the state expected to ensure a software export of US $ 800 million this financial year. Last year, the exports stood at $589 million, he said. He touched upon the state government's several IT initiatives including E-Seva, Online Trade Process (OLTP) and e-governance. Tourism Minister T Srinvasa Yadav was the minister in waiting for the dignitary.

From Newindpress, India, 9 January 2003

Government To Peddle E-governance Experience Abroad

New Delhi: Encouraged by the goodwill earned by private infotech companies of India in the overseas market, government departments are also looking for opportunities to prove their prowess in the sector. The idea is to capitalise on e-governance experience to help other developing countries implement similar projects. In what could be the beginning of this initiative, India is expected to enter into an agreement with Egypt and South Africa to help their government agencies roll out Community Information Centers (CIC) and Grameen Sanchar Sevak (postman with a mobile phone) projects. Government sources told eFE that India has been receiving inquiries from other developing countries seeking help in similar projects. "For instance, there has been a high level discussion with the officials from Egypt for the CIC project early last year and we are expected to enter into an agreement soon," a senior official of the ministry of communication and information technology said. Similar tie-ups are also expected with the government of South Africa during the visit of Indian minister for communication and information technology Pramod Mahajan next week. T

he minister along with the chief whips of all political parties will be on an official visit of Egypt and South Africa from January 11 to 19. "A key aspect of the visit is the meeting with key principals in government and industry in both the countries in an effort to give a new vision to bilateral relations by strengthening India's acquired global status as an 'IT and Telecom power'. Projects like CIC will help India gain leadership position in the sector," said a ministry official. During the visit, the minister will have discussions with the Egyptian minister for communications and IT Ahmed Nazif. In South Africa, the delegation is expected to meet the President, deputy president and the deputy speaker of the South African parliament. The South African market is the 20th largest market for IT products and services worldwide and there are roughly 3,000 IT companies in South Africa. IT constitutes 3 per cent of its GDP. Indian companies with a significant presence in South Africa include TCS, Infosys Technologies and iFlex Solutions. The total value of electronics and computer software exports from India to South Africa rose from Rs 75.39 crores in 1999-2000 to Rs 173.52 crores in 2001-2002. Exports of electronics and computer software to Egypt increased steadily from Rs 16.41 crores in 1999-2000 to Rs 18.06 crores in 2001-2002.

From Indian Express, 10 January 2003

Blind Government Advisor Submits Bill Online on Blind Education

Xia Rongqiang, the first blind member of the advisory body to east China's Fujian Province, submitted his bill via the Internet urging a bigger budget for blind people's education. Xia is a member of the Fujian Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. For the first time online delivery of bills to the committee's upcoming annual session was allowed, and Xia's bill was the first such submission. Xia said his election to the committee showed that disabled people in China enjoyed equal rights on discussing political affairs. Xia is principal of a blind school in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian, which is affiliated to the Hadley School for the Blind, an institute aiming to help educate the blind internationally. The Hadley School has branches in more than 100 countries and regions all over the world, but Xia's school is the only one in China and Asia.

From EastDay.com, China, 10 January 2003

For Good and Effective Governance: World Bank Grant Supports Procurement Reforms

Manila - A grant agreement of US $294,000 that will help Government carry out procurement reforms has been signed between the Philippine Government and the World Bank. The grant, Institutionalization of Procurement Oversight Agency and Capacity Building, was signed by the Department of Finance on behalf of the Government, and will be implemented by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the Government agency responsible for improving the country's public expenditures management through more effective expenditure systems, including procurement reform. The Grant is being funded from the Bank's Institutional Development Fund (IDF).*In response to the Government's request, the grant will help prepare and complete implementing rules for the recently passed Procurement Law; establish a procurement oversight agency; develop and implement a training program for procurement officials; and transform the Procurement Service under the DBM into a corporate entity. These activities were identified by the Government, the Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank in their joint country procurement assessment. The Government and the two multilateral agencies recommended reforms to address problems in public procurement of goods, supplies, materials and consulting services. Included in the list of problems identified by the agencies were the confusing web of procurement regulations, delays, collusion, lack of transparency, excessive use of discretionary criteria and lack of competition. These usually lead to graft and corruption and translate in increased cost of doing business for both the Government and the private sector.

According to DBM Secretary Emilia Boncodin, the Government has taken several steps to reform public procurement, among which are the consolidation and streamlining of the different procurement rules and procedures through the issuance in 2001 of Executive Order 40, and the development of the Government Electronic Procurement System. "This grant is timely as it would help us institutionalize the reforms identified in the Procurement Act and would help professionalize Government procurement practice through continuous training programs and enhanced capacity-building measures," Boncodin said. "We strongly support these important reforms that should speed up projects and reduce waste and corruption in Government procurement," says World Bank Country Director for the Philippines, Robert Vance Pulley. "This potent new weapon in the fight against fraud and corruption will ultimately benefit taxpayers and the poor, who presently foot the bills for higher-than-necessary costs and delayed services arising from inefficient government procurement practices," he continued. To illustrate how procurement reforms could help the poor, Mr. Pulley elaborated, "Under the World Bank-assisted Social Expenditure Management Project, the Department of Education and the DBM introduced more competitive and transparent procurement of textbooks, school desks and chairs. The reforms translated in Government savings of up to US$20 million, out of an estimated bidding of US$50 million. This meant more textbooks for schoolchildren and better quality of content and paper." Another example Mr. Pulley cited is the significant savings of about US$4 million (out of the $10million bidding) similarly accrued to the government as a result of improved and transparent competitive bidding procedures for textbooks in the Department of Education as it implemented another World Bank-assisted project, the Third Elementary Education Project.

Specifically, the IDF grant will support the preparation of a plan for the establishment of a procurement oversight organization formed from the merger of the procurement functions of the Procurement Policy Board under the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Infrastructure Committee of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA). Under the Procurement Act, the new set up will enable the centralization of the procurement oversight function to only one agency, thereby creating a more accountable body. Another key element of the country's reforms is capacity building by professionalizing the cadre of staff and officials engaged in public procurement. This activity will be initiated through a formulation of an improved incentive system of training/skills upgrading, staffing, compensation to support the procurement function of both national and local government units. This grant forms part of the Bank's current grant portfolio in the Philippines of $37.8 million covering about 50 ongoing and approved grants. Of the 50 grants, seven - including this one - are being funded under the IDF. Other trust fund facilities managed by the World Bank include the Japan Policy and Human Resource Development, Japan Social Development Fund, Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) Trust Fund, Development Grant Facility and others. * The Institutional Development Fund (IDF) is a World Bank grant facility designed to finance quick, action-oriented, discrete, generally innovative, upstream capacity-building activities that are identified during (and closely linked to) the Bank's policy dialogue and economic and sector work, and which are identified by the Government as priorities within the Bank's Country Assistance Strategy. The IDF focus for assistance is in two priority areas: (a) financial accountability and public oversight to help governments better manage their resources, and (b) legal and judicial reform to support the rule of law. For more information, please visit the following: www.worldbank.org.phhttp://www1.worldbank.org/publicsector/anticorrupt/

From World Bank Group, 14 January 2003

E-Government: 'First Fight the Hackers'

The government should make doubly sure of the security of its e-government and e-procurement networks from hackers before promoting them heavily, a security guru warned yesterday. Prinya Hom-anek, president and chief executive officer of the Advanced Certified Information Security Professional Centre, said the government needed to do more to create awareness of network security and educate staff in preparation for full-scale implementation of e-services, especially e-government and e-procurement. "It's not good timing to promote e-procurement without encouraging awareness and knowledge of security. It's very dangerous and opens possibilities of being hacked," he said. A blueprint is needed of the steps to eliminate security gaps so that government agencies know how they should prepare their network systems and how they can protect their information and services from unwanted penetration, he said. The government as a user should require application service-providers offering e-procurement services to check their applications and systems for protection from hacking, he urged. E-procurement application samples should not be put online; they should be encrypted, he said. The authentication process during a procurement session must have at least 128-bit encryption using Secure Socket Layer technology, he added. "At the moment many websites, both private and public, provide authentication services without encryption technology, which means when users log in to the service they're vulnerable to being hacked and having their passwords easily sniffed out," Prinya said. There are many types of hacked patterns over the network included intrusion (attacks from outside the organization), destruction, denial-of-service, destruction, spam, mail-boom, forgery, harassment (person use internet to abuse or to attack the others), virus, and hack threat.

Denial-of-service and hack threat are two key types of hacking that have potential to grow as much as in this year in Thailand. Websites of large organizations are the main target of attacking. "Last year, there were about 36 websites of government agencies and more than 50 website of private sectors had been attacked, this figure shows that we are unawareness on network security as much as enough. Most of attacked source is from north Asia (25%), especially mainland China, USA (19%), and Singapore (19%)," added Prinya. Komain Pibulyarojana, director of Thai Computer Emergency Response Team (ThaiCERT), as an organization under National Electronic and Computer Technology Centre (Nectec), which focusing on security, said that during 2001 to 2001 there were about 580 serious cases. They are included spam mail 288 cases, port scan and probe 140 cases, virus, worm, and trojan 97 cases, and others (hack, attack,..) 55 cases. Currently, Thailand has expertise with security certification about 10 persons while Hong Kong has the most number of security human resources in Asia region about 732 persons, following with Korea with 249 persons. The total number of expertise with security certification in Asia region is about 1,594 persons, while it is about 10,000 persons in worldwide. However, there are screen virus service, called GITS Mail Cleaner, for government websites that provided by Government Information Technology Services (GITS). Government agencies who apply for service will be protected virus from outside. In last year, GITS Mail Cleaner service reported that there were 60,000 to 70,000 times that 23 websites of government agencies attacked by virus. "If government starts e-procurement without establishing the network security and without concerning on educating the network security knowledge, e-service might be worst for people," concluded Prinya.

There are many hacking patterns over the Internet, including intrusion (attacks from outside the organisation), destruction, denial of service, spam, mail-bombing, forgery, harassment (using the Internet to abuse or attack someone), viruses and hacking threats. Denial of service and hacking threats are two key types with the potential to grow this year in Thailand. Websites of large organisations are the main targets. "Last year 36 websites of government agencies and more than 50 of private companies were attacked, and this figure shows that we are careless of network security. Most attacks emanate from north Asia (25 per cent) - especially mainland China - the US (19 per cent) and Singapore (19 per cent)," Prinya added. Komain Pibulyarojana, director of the Thai Computer Emergency Response Team (ThaiCERT), a security organisation under the National Electronic and Computer Technology Centre (Nectec), said that in 2001 and 2002 there had been 580 serious cases: 288 involving spam, 140 port scans and probes, 97 viruses, worms and trojans and another 55. Thailand has 10 security experts; Hong Kong has the most in Asia with 732, followed by South Korea with 249. Asia as a whole has 1,594, among some 10,000 worldwide. We have, however, the GITS Mail Cleaner virus-screening service for government websites, provided by the Government Information Technology Services. It reported 60,000 to 70,000 attacks on 23 government websites in the last year. "If government starts e-procurement without establishing network security and teaching people about it, e-service could be the worst thing that ever happened," Prinya said.

From The Nation, by Asina Pornwasin, 15 January 2003

Planning Commission Asks Department of IT to Cut Down Its Outlay by Half

New Delhi - Planning Commission is understood to have asked Department of Information Technology to scale down its annual plan outlay by fifty per cent for the fiscal 2003-04 by about Rs 600 crore. The Commission directed the department during a meeting between the plan panel and DIT recently to revise the outlay to Rs 600 crore against Rs 1200 crore sought by the department, official sources said.

From Indian Express, 15 January 2003

E-governance Highest Growing Vertical in Indian IT: Nasscom

E-governance market grew by 18 per cent last year touching a marke tsize of Rs 1400 crore besides becoming the highest growing vertical in the domestic IT market, according to the latest findings of Nasscom. Kiran Karnik, president, Nasscom, said the market is gaining traction but there are challenges which are stalling progress. To make e-governance a part of administration, he said government must ensure that three per cent of the budget is committed towards e-governance and rewrite the tendering and bid evaluation process among other things apart from charting a clear roadmap for it. "If these recommendations are implemented, it could save up to Rs 500 crore in the transaction process costs per year and increase its revenue by Rs 2000 crore through better tax enhancement annually", Karnik said. The return on investment from all these measures will allow the government to spend at least Rs 10,000 crore per year on e-governance, he said. Speaking on the occasion, R Chandrasekher, joint secretary, department of IT said the draft e-governance policy is ready and the final policy could come out anytime after the initial consultations and interactions with related people. Giving a phase-bound timeframe, Karnik said during phase one National Institute of Smart Governance (NISG) should be made operational by the end of 2003 and all class I government officers should be given IT training compulsorily. More identification of core national projects that need to be automated and roll-out of national citizen ID cards also should become a reality in this phase. By the end of 2005, citizen services should be offered on line in all states and 50 per cent of all procurement should be over the internet, the recommendations said.

From Hindustan Times, India, 16 January 2003

Innovation: Key To Asia's Growth

Tokyo - East Asia's future as one of the world's most dynamic, resilient and interdependent economic regions could be realized, if it follows through on an institutional reform agenda and embraces technology and innovation - and with it, investments in education and knowledge. This could breathe new life into the region's development prospects and speed the transition of a number of countries into the ranks of developed nations. This is the future of innovative growth according to a new World Bank study, Innovative East Asia: The Future of Growth. The report, released today in Tokyo, states that while before, resource inputs were the principal sources of past growth, the future in East Asia rests on the emergence of an environment that promotes innovation. In particular, the research points out that East Asia's successful model of development - one that yielded three decades of spectacular growth and with that growth, poverty reduction - is likely to be less effective in the future, with diminishing returns. It cites factors such as Asia's major exports being transformed into low value-added commodities, and emerging competition both from lower cost producers and from mega-global contract manufacturers as reasons for the diminished effectiveness of the "Asian model." The only way forward, the report urges, is that East Asia's industrializing economies go beyond the imitative phase of development, and into the innovative phase, moving up the product value chain and extending their reach into services - both of which call for a deliberate focus on innovation as the major source of growth.

World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn, who was in Tokyo to launch the report, commented, "Unless East Asia moves toward a technological, rather than a factor-intensive, mode of production, it will experience slower growth in the future - and with that slower growth, diminished chances to bring millions out of poverty, to give millions a chance of a better life, a better education, a better future." He continued, "It is crucial then, that the countries of East Asia, even as they struggle with the challenges of today's immediate priorities and pressing concerns, seize the initiative and begin laying the seeds for a more innovative, competitive future." Innovative East Asia: The Future of Growth is the main output of a three year research project, initiated at the request of the Government of Japan, on the future directions of economic change in East Asia, with emphasis on how the approaches to development in the region might evolve in the early 21st century. It seeks to identify the choices available to East Asian economies as they attempt to resume and sustain rapid growth in a changing, more competitive, and more integrated world environment. Commented Former Vice Minister of Finance for International Affairs Mr. Haruhiko Kuroda, "While underscoring the continued importance of sound policies and good institutions, the study coversa broad agenda that includes regional integration and innovation essential for East Asian countries to maintain their momentum of economic growth. I hope that this research will present a new and insightful perspective on study on the development of East Asia - a region that has demonstrated unprecedented economic growth."

According to the research, revival will depend upon:·retaining the strengths of the past - macroeconomic and political stability, openness to trade, high savings and investment rates and human capital development;·overcoming the weaknesses of the present - financial fragility, corporate governance, regulatory oversight, legal framework, exchange rate management, and social protection; and developing/strengthening innovative capabilities to meet the challenges of the future. The study discusses the various policy measures needed for this transformation, and focuses on: economic conditions in the region; national reforms to overcome existing weaknesses; cooperation as a means to strengthen the regional economy; and initiatives needed to foster the capacity for innovation. The report notes that a number of interrelated developments at the global and regional levels suggest a future quite different from the past. Global integration is increasing, facilitated by freer trade, which is yielding a much more competitive environment and challenging once protected domestic markets. At the regional level, the economic performance and relationship of Japan with neighboring countries, and the Chinese economy's emergence as a competitor and a promising market are two important factors shaping the economic landscape. World Bank Economic Adviser and main author of the report Mr. Shahid Yusuf, added: "The technological revolution continues apace, and the organization of production is being transformed by the rise of foreign direct investment and by the emergence of international production networks that bring together component suppliers, assemblers, supply-chain managers, and buyers in dynamic relationships. East Asia must adapt to these changes - or run the risk of being left behind."

From World Bank Group, DC, 16 January 2003

China Gets Bigger Online Despite Censorship

Beijing - The number of Chinese Internet users surged past 59 million last year and should rise by tens of millions more this year, the government says. China's online population grew by 13,3 million people in the six months ending December 31 to 59,1 million, according to the China Internet Network Information Centre. It said that gives China the world's second-biggest population of Internet users, after the United States. China has aggressively promoted Internet use for business and education, though it tries to block access to foreign sites run by news media and human rights groups. Authorities have imprisoned people who use the Internet to spread criticism of communist rule or appeal for political change. CINIC, whose latest survey results were reported on Thursday by the official Xinhua News Agency, said it expects China's online population to rise by 46 percent by the end of this year to 86,3 million. The survey, carried out twice a year, is the most widely watched set of figures on China's Internet, though results can differ widely from surveys carried out by commercial and academic researchers. If the latest figures are accurate, they suggest that China has passed Japan, which a United Nations report last year said has 58 million Internet users. The United States has 140 million users. Web surfers in China are overwhelmingly young, male and single, according to CINIC. People aged 18 to 24 are the largest age group, at 37 percent of the total. Women accounted for 41 percent of Internet users. There are 371 000 websites in China, as well as 179&nbps;000 websites registered using its ".cn" domain-name suffix, according to CINIC.

From Independent Online, South Africa, 17 January 2003

India's E-Governance Market Grew 18% in 2002 to US$292.06 MLN

New Delhi - India's e-governance market grew by 18 per cent last year to Rs 14 billion (US$292.06 million), according to the latest findings of software companies' association Nasscom. Kiran Karnik, president of Nasscom, said the market is gaining speed but there are challenges which are stalling progress. To make e-governance a part of administration, he said the government must ensure that three per cent of the budget is committed towards e-governance and rewrite the tendering and bid evaluation process. "If these recommendations are implemented, it could save up to Rs 5 billion in the transaction process costs per year and increase its revenue by Rs 20 billion through better tax enhancement annually," Karnik said. The return on investment from all these measures will allow the government to spend at least Rs 100 billion per year on e-governance, he said. Speaking on the occasion, R. Chandrasekher, joint secretary at the department of IT, said the draft e-governance policy is ready and the final policy could come out anytime after the initial consultations and interactions with related people. Giving a phase-bound timeframe, Karnik said during phase one the National Institute of Smart Governance [NISG] should be made operational by the end of 2003 and all class I government officers should be given compulsory IT training.

From Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, UK, 17 January 2003

2 Indian States Lead e-Government Revolution

New Delhi - Emerging sector grew by 18% in 2000-01 to $532 million, or 12% of the total spending on information technology - Andhra Pradesh and Kerala are ahead of other Indian states in bringing the benefits of information technology to the masses through e-governance, a recent study has shown. And e-governance, which refers to online billing and record-keeping by local and state authorities, is a growing business in India. The emerging sector grew by 18 per cent in 2001-02 over the previous period to 14 billion rupees (S$532 million), according to the study conducted by the National Association of Software Manufacturers (Nasscom). It made up 12 per cent of the total expenditure on information technology in 2001-02, with most of the money being spent on hardware and networking. 'There are seven states with serious interest in e-governance,' Nasscom chairman Kiran Karnik told journalists last week.' These include Andhra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh,' he said. To encourage the growth of e-governance, Nasscom recommended a budgetary commitment of 3 per cent from state governments while calling for more involvement by the private sector. It also suggested greater expenditure on software in the future. Andhra Pradesh's E-Sewa (e-service) scheme, in which more than two dozen paperwork procedures are available across single counters, has proved to be a major success.

And the state capital, Hyderabad, driven by Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu - who is impatient for progress - hopes to make these largely urban-based service centres trickle down through the countryside within two years. Hyderabad is clearly ahead of other state capitals in its plans for, and implementation of, e-governance. On a visit to the city some months ago, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said that of the 14 chief ministers he had met in India, Mr. Naidu had impressed him the most. 'I am excited to see a lot of progress and the way India is competing all over the world. It can make unique contributions in this exciting digital decade,' he said. 'India is emerging as a leader in e-governance. It has a special role to play in the digital revolution sweeping across the globe.' While there is a clear differentiation between the more competitive, investor-friendly and IT-savvy states of the south and west, and states in the north, there are signs of a new beginning in some northern areas of the country as well. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) will launch an e-governance 'scheme' this month for registering births and deaths, which is currently a time- consuming process. The MCD also plans to put park and community hall bookings on line, and to expand its services further. 'Once the system is fully operational, citizens would be able to deposit property tax, factory and licence dues on the Net as well,' MCD commissioner Rakesh Mehta told journalists.

From Straits Times, Singapore, by Nirmal Ghosh, 22 January 2003

Government to Review Public Sector Delivery System, Says Abdullah

Putrajaya - The Cabinet Committee on National Competitiveness, which held its first meeting here Thursday, will review the status of the public sector delivery system to enhance Malaysia's competitiveness in attracting domestic investment and foreign direct Investment (FDI). Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the committee recognised the importance of having an efficient public sector delivery system to attract investments into the country. He said a review would also be done on matters pertaining to the competitiveness of the private sector such as longer stay for expatriates and skilled foreign workers. "We will decide on appropriate policies, procedures and strategies to improve the public sector delivery system and introduce new policies to improve the system," he told reporters after chairing the meeting, here. Abdullah said the committee saw a need to streamline the efficiency of the public sector delivery system, especially in areas related to land procedures where the approval of land conversion, transfer of land titles and subdivision of land would be made easier. Abdullah said that since land matters involved the state governments, the committee had decided to have special meetings with them to impress upon them the importance of getting things done and ensuring that there would be fast track procedures. "Otherwise, they will not know why there is a need for approval of land titles or subdivision of lands to be undertaken quickly.

They must be made to understand that they have something to do to increase the competitiveness," he said. He said measures would also be taken to standardise procedures among the state governments, local authorities and technical departments of government agencies so that matters like the issuance and approval of various licences for companies and approval of Certificate of Fitness (CF) could be done quickly. The Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (Mampu) had been asked to come out with a standardised procedure and the various government authorities would also be briefed on the need to speed up the processing of applications. Abdullah said it was important that the public and the private sector know what were the important things to be done to enhance Malaysia's competitiveness in the global economy and as such, the committee would continue to monitor the implementation of the proposed policies and strategies. Abdullah said the private sector expected expatriates to be allowed to work for a longer period in this country. The International Trade and Industry Ministry would decide on the appropriateness of having additional expatriates posts for companies and also the duration, he said. On foreign skilled workers, Abdullah said that while importance would be given to trained local workers, the committee was supportive of the proposal for longer stay for foreign skilled workers but the matter would have to be studied deeper.

Abdullah said a study would also to be undertaken on Research and Development (R&D) incentives such as additional grants for training and infrastructure expenditure, which are all important for the country's competitiveness. He said the committee also agreed to study package incentives, such as the possibility of lengthening the pioneer status, and incentives on investment tax allowance. "We have to fine-tune this before making recommendations to the Cabinet," Abdullah said. He was happy to note that at as of December 2002, there were 69 operational headquarters of foreign companies in Malaysia, 109 international procurement centres, 473 regional offices of non-financial sector and 872 representative offices in Malaysia. To a question, Abdullah said the problem of security relating to the concerns expressed by the private sector was also discussed at Thursday's meeting and the police had been asked to address the problems such as cases of highway robbery of goods and smuggling activities. Abdullah said foreign investors' main concerns in the country were mainly related to approvals like those pertaining to land and licences and also for their personnel to work here.

From Utusan Malaysia Online, Malaysia, 23 January 2003

 

KPMG e-Government Survey

Our enthusiasm for e-government appears to be on the rise according to a new survey released by KPMG Consulting. In a repeat of its February 2001 study, KPMG's research shows that two-thirds of Brits would now like at least one local service available for interaction online. Initially looking at levels of connectedness, the new figures reveal that half the British population now has access to the Internet at home or work. This level is up significantly from the 44% mark of last year. More folk have access at home than at work still in 2002, with only nearing a quarter of the population getting online from their workplace. The data also shows that a further 27% of those without online access at home or work predict they will be online in three years' time. Such a shift would bring overall Internet access up to 63% by 2005. Residents are increasingly looking forward to a wired local government. When asked about preferences in their choice of media for dealing with the services in the near future (3 years time), respondents viewed new media favourably. The most popular option emerged as being via a traditional call centre (30%), followed by via the Net (19%), a local office (15%) and through the Post Office (10%). Respondents' vision for an electronic future was perhaps clearer when questioned as to specific activities. When asked which activities they would be prepared to do electronically, nearly three fifths (57%) of all adults thought they would choose to carry out a local government activity electronically. The study also reveals that just over a third claimed that they would vote in a local council or general election (38%); apply for/renew a passport (37%); book an appointment with a GP (37%);get health information via NHS Direct (37%); renew their car tax (36%); notify their council of a fault (35%); or renew their TV licence (34%). Less encouragingly, a third (31%) stated that they would not expect to interact electronically at all. The KPMG research was conducted by MORI, interviewing 2,028 adults aged 16+ in their homes during February 21 to 26, 2002. Comparisons were made with the 2001 KPMG e-Government survey, conducted by MORI between February 15 and 20, 2001.

From Daily Research News Online, UK, 2 December 2003

Bulgarian Government Develops e-Government Plan


The Bulgarian government has drafted a strategy document on the implementation of a 'one-stop-shop' for citizens to access information on public services and as a further step forward for the country's participation in the Interchange of Data between Administrations (IDA) programme - an initiative of the EU. Ministers feel that the strategy is one of the most important parts of the government's modernisation programme, which is to make the government and its various departments more easily accessible for citizens and businesses. More than eighty specialists from NGOs, international and Bulgarian IT companies, the state administration, the media and the academy helped design the strategy, and its implementation is to be monitored by an inter-governmental council. The IDA programme aims to construct a trans-European telecommunications network between the various European administrations. The Bulgarian cabinet had jointly signed a memorandum last November committing it to launching an e-government system by the end of 2005.

From Europemedia.net, Netherlands, 1 December 2003

Government Launches Internet Watchdog Campaign

The government has launched a 1 million Pounds advertising campaign aimed at highlighting the danger of paedophiles on the internet. The campaign, which aims to stop paedophiles from contacting children online, will also try to make parents and youngsters aware of how to surf the web safely. There will also be a new set of guidelines for Internet Service Providers (ISP's) with measures including the provision of clear warning information, and ways for children to report problems online. Welcoming the broadcasting of the new campaign in Northern Ireland, SDLP assembly member Patricia Lewsley said: "This campaign is a welcome move in raising awareness of the dangers of allowing children to use online chatrooms without supervision. Parents do not let their children speak or meet with strangers face to face but they also need to be as vigilant in terms of internet safety." Hopefully these advertisements will give parents some helpful hints on how to ensure that their children can safely benefit from the internet as a learning communications resource. "Children also need to be educated on internet safety measures such as never disclosing their phone number or address online and bringing an adult if they are meeting someone they have met through a chatroom." According to research published last year, around five million youngsters under 16 are estimated to have private access to the internet, and nearly half of 16-year-olds use chatrooms. The 1 million Pounds television, radio and website campaign is being broadcast throughout January.

From North-Ireland, UK, 6 January 2003

Belarus e-Government Portal To Be Launched

President Lukashenko of Belarus has signed a decree on the creation of a "national legal internet portal". According to the decree, the portal is to become the main governmental e-resource on legislation and the government's "Information Programme". The portal will be created under the authority of the National Centre for Legal Information of the Republic of Belarus. The portal is aimed at providing citizens with information about legislation and to improve governmental judicial activities. It is hoped that the creation of the national legal internet portal will raise the country's international standing, and will also attract more investment to Belarus.

From Europemedia.net, Netherlands, 7 January 2003

Government Approves BBC Digital Curriculum

The BBC gets the go-ahead to produce its digital curriculum, subject to a wide range of conditions. Will rivals respond with legal action? The BBC's controversial digital learning plans have finally been approved by the UK government - a move that is certain to enrage some commercial content producers. Culture secretary Tessa Jowell announced on Thursday that the BBC would be allowed to go ahead with BBC Digital Curriculum, its £150m scheme to produce online educational material for a wide range of subjects. However, the BBC will be subject to 18 conditions, which the government claims will ensure that its offering is distinct and complementary to online educational content produced by the private sector. The Digital Curriculum has been fiercely fought by a number of small companies that already offer educational material on the Internet, who fear they will be driven out of business as a result. "I've listened to the concerns of commercial providers of digital learning resources about the impact Digital Curriculum will have on the market. The industry is a rapidly expanding one. There is room for everyone," said Jowell in a statement announcing the decision. "These conditions will prevent the BBC from dominating this market but it's right that it should play an important role in a competitive and growing market for digital learning resources," she added.

These conditions include obligations on the BBC to "innovate continually" and make use of its archive of existing content, and to work closely with the Department of Education and Science's online content advisory board. In addition, the BBC will have to give unlimited access to third parties who wish to produce companion guides for its online content. All advertising promoting the Digital Curriculum will also have clearly refer to Curriculum Online - the government's own Internet-based curriculum for schools - and to other sources of online educational content associated with it. The BBC will also have to produce annual plans for the Digital Curriculum scheme as well as an annual report on its performance -- which will be conducted by the BBC governors. The service will be reviewed after two years, to ensure it is keeping to the conditions laid down by the government. A report in The Guardian this week claimed that companies such as Channel 4, Pearson and Granada were likely to seek a judicial review of the BBC's charter if the Digital Curriculum was approved by the government.

From ZDNet.co.uk, UK, by Graeme Wearden, 9 January 2003

Civil Servants Told to Stop e-Procurement

Other departments must 'hang fire' until OGC finishes its own project - Government departments have been asked to put any e-procurement projects on hold until the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) has completed the implementation of its own system. OGC spokesman Martin Day told vnunet.com that all government departments had been asked to "hang fire" on e-procurement developments until the OGC had finalised its plans. The OGC has invited tenders to supply it with an e-procurement system covering its £40m annual spending, which Day said would be used to help evaluate which available systems would be suitable for a wider roll out. The variation in the sophistication of procurement systems used across government departments makes it harder to share information about good and bad suppliers, according to Day. "The ultimate aim is to have a system that, with a little development, can be used by all departments, enabling them to share information for the first time," he said. "Our own project will give us the chance to evaluate what is out there." Tenders for the OGC system must be submitted by 20 January. The project, which will see the system introduced for 390 staff across five sites, is due to be completed by the end of June.

From VNUNet, UK, by Gareth Morgan, 10 January 2003

E-Government Europe Summit

The second annual e-government Europe summit will take place in Noordwijk aan See in the Netherlands from 3 to 5 March. The event is aimed at representatives from European, national, regional or local government with responsibility for e-government planning and services. It intends to bring together decision makers from across Europe to explore strategies and technologies for the next generation of online government services. Top management figures from a cross section of government bodies will offer insights into implementing e-government programmes. Key issues to be examined during the conference include: - successful knowledge management; - moving from technology-led to citizen-led; - overcoming the challenge of interoperability; - knowledge management; - improving communication and efficiency. Activities at the summit will take the form of keynote presentations, discussion groups and workshops, which will address specialist subject areas and set objectives for participants. For further information, please consult the following web address: http://www.egovernmenteurope.com/html/event.htm

From Cordis News, EU, 15 January 2003

M-Government: More Than a Mobilised Government

Despite its infancy, mobile government (m-government) is a growing and important set of complex strategies and tools that will change completely the roles and functioning of traditional governance. In advocating the existence and importance of mobile government, there are two basic facts to be considered: * There are more people who do not have access to PCs than there are people who do not have a cell phone or other wireless device, which will make government and services available more to mobile customers as a group than to PC users, even as m-government is considered a subset of e-government. * Computers generally do not travel with citizens, but information and public services can: m-government provides for instant availability of services and information, helping frequent travellers and people on the move to access government. When travelling overseas, citizens will not have to rely on unsafe internet cafes, as mobile coverage exists in vast majority of countries globally. Mobile government also means that a citizen does not have to go and search for kiosks, or even get a connection to the house. People now carry a mobile government access terminal with them wherever they go. Mobile Service Delivery The basic condition for mobile government to operate is the existence of regulated mobile operators. In this first phase, governments (either as enablers or as inhibitors) not only regulate mobile markets but also assess the affordability of m-government information and services, as well as, over the long-term, develop perspectives on core values and principles, on the basis of which m-governments will operate. M-government vs. e-government: the distinctions Mobile Government does not mean only taking current (e-)government services and delivering them via mobiles, although, on the other hand, no one should understand m-government as an omnipresent solution to every need and want of public administration.

Some aspects of governmental activities should be solved only by e-government, e.g., infrastructure for inter-departmental e-communication and faster information flow (physical infrastructure for data transfers) - a primary target for e-government, which is hard to substitute by m-government. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between e-government and m-government provisions: a typical example is that of wireless connection within governmental buildings, where civil servants can have data always accessible, no matter what office they are in, with only their mobile devices - either PDAs or notebooks. As the case concerns immobile property and only wireless access to data, I tend to favour e-government. However, a different situation would be the use of PDAs for remote inspection purposes, where a civil servant carries not only the device itself, but also all the necessary data. From a citizen perspective, mobile government stands for new front-end access to public services that have been made available specifically for mobile devices or adapted from existing e-government applications. Uniform access to all governmental applications through a single gateway (a central public administration portal) is often-debated strategy of e-government on global scale. Through a single electronic form or transaction, citizens are able to solve issues that generally involve more departments or public administration bodies. However, it is very important to distinguish between information to be shared with anyone, and transactions of confidential nature. The implementation of seamless and horizontal borderless government solutions would definitely bring more added value to public services, but with rising concerns over privacy - especially if we come back to mobile phones, and therefore to m-government - we will have to face a major issue: citizens will demand that information travelling across different state/federal departments is compartmentalised, so that every institution or department gets only the piece it is entitled to get.

This necessitates a complex integration and allocation matrix or scheme with separated needs and wants, and related personal/institutional representatives. In a short time, the majority of mobile devices will get the functionalities of personal computers and personal privacy will be of the highest priority to every individual. From a global technical perspective, what needs to be most fully harmonised is an interconnection between different mobile technology standards, so that mobile government can be easily accessible anywhere on the planet. Measuring the success of m-government In order to reach mass adoption of m-government, leading to closer and more intimate communication with citizens, it is recommended to focus on technologies that have emerged that have become widespread and accepted. Only success stories and measurable results justify extra spending for progressive projects and continuous technology upgrades. Think big, start small. Governments need to prepare a complex strategy with justified individual steps and programmes; ad-hoc planning works only in the very short term. Return-on-investment models and cost/benefit analyses should not be filled simply with financial data. To save money and be more efficient in internal administration are partial objectives for governments, whose core business is actually to serve citizens: the financial benefit of better services that are more accessible to citizens is hard to calculate, but leads to indirect gains, e.g., in a higher appreciation of tax-collection, because citizens who are in close and intimate contact with their governments realise the importance of mutual benefits and obligations. On the other hand, the existence of m-government and its applications does not on its own guarantee results. Despite the global character of mobile technologies, a nation's and its citizens´ needs and wants differ significantly, which leads to final recommendation of this part: governments should proactively consult with the public and take their opinions into account over implementation of m-government strategies.

From Europemedia.net, Netherlands, 16 January 2003

IT Governance Set High on Agenda

IT governance is set to be one of the key issues on the IT agenda in the coming year. The collapse of Enron and WorldCom, as well as the regulatory force of the stock exchange's Turnbull report, have made companies more aware of the need for comprehensive corporate controls, which must include IT controls. "Because of the critical dependence on IT of most companies, we cannot have corporate governance ignoring IT," said former IT director of Blue Circle Industries, Roger Ellis, whose forthcoming conference, IT Governance for IT Leaders, outlines the task ahead for IT directors. But IT directors, with IT budgets currently under siege, may not be giving sufficient priority to IT governance. "IT directors have so much pressure on them, governance is not a burning issue unless it is a corporate burning issue," said Ellis. "It is the board which is driving governance." IT Governance for IT Leaders, supported by Computer Weekly, takes place on 29 January at the Royal Society, London. Tel: 01494-837857.

From CW360.com, UK, 16 January 2003

Government Wants e-Services Take-up Boost

Awareness of online government services remains low - The government is pinning its hopes on a new initiative this Spring to drive take-up of public services, because efforts so far have failed to boost numbers. The Office of the e-Envoy admitted that as far fewer people than expected have used online government services, the next round of its emphasis will be to dramatically improve use. "The e-Envoy Office is planning a major campaign in the spring to get people online. "The 'Online Nation' campaign will encourage people to try online services and, if they already have, inform them about the wide range of things they can do online," said a spokeswoman. Two-thirds of government services available online are information-based, but between now and 2005 there will be more transaction-based services appearing, which should increase use, according to the government. A recent survey of 1,000 UK citizens found that only seven per cent of people had contacted their local authority online over the last year. Mark Westaby, director at Portfolio Communications which commissioned the survey, said a lack of understanding of the benefits of using the web to find information, pay bills and deal with local authorities could hold back e-government. "The government has a big job to do in education, or the adoption of online services could take decades rather than a few years," he said. "If the government is investing £350m to put e-government in place it should put some money into informing people," he said.

From VNUNet, UK, 17 January 2003

Doubts Cast Over e-Government Take-up

A new study has suggested that the public are not likely to adopt e-government services en masse until at least 2013, casting some doubt over the government's self-imposed deadline of having all public services online by 2005. The research, conducted by Portfolio Communications, found that only 7% of the 1,000 respondents had attempted to access government information or contact their local council via the internet during 2002, and suggests that there is likely to be no significant change anytime soon. However, net-savvy youngsters have indicated that they want to use the internet to access government services. Four out of ten 18 to 34 year olds said they would prefer to use the web as a means of using public services, making them twice as likely to use e-government sites as 35 to 54 years olds. Just one in ten over-55s expressed an interest to use the internet in this manner. Portfolio concludes that the younger generation needs to get older before significant take-up of e-government services will occur.

From NetImperative, UK, by Chris Lake, 7 January 2003

Government Shelves Strategic Partnership Idea for Development of e-Government Services

Valletta - It will instead enter into specific alliances with different companies for different projects - Government has shelved the idea of searching a single strategic partner for setting up e-Government services and will instead enter into specific alliances with different companies for different projects, it was announced on Friday. In 2001, the Maltese Government issued an international request for proposals for the establishment of a strategic partnership for a period of not less than seven years for the design, development, implementation and potential operation of e-Government services. Following an extensive evaluation process, the Government, following the recommendation of the adjudication team, in January 2002 chose the Compaq-led consortium to as the preferred consortium for the strategic partnership. Negotiations commenced in March 2002 with the Compaq consortium, which became the HP (Hewlett Packard) consortium in May 2002 following the Compaq merger with HP, and were concluded in October. "Following consideration of the recommendations of the negotiation team, the Government has now concluded that it will not continue with it efforts to establish a strategic partnership with the HP-led consortium or with any other third party", the Government statement said. It explained that conclusion reached by Government was not a reflection on the role played by the HP-led consortium throughout the negotiation process, with the consortium showing "a genuine commitment to participate in this partnership and to bring value to Malta through its participation".

"To the contrary, the rationale underpinning this decision was based primarily on the rapid technological advancements in the field of e-Government and of the positioning of the ICT industry itself." "Instead of entering into one single holistic partnership, the Government decided that it is much more advantageous to adopt a vertical approach and enter into 'best of breed' partnerships and 'twinning alliances' with major international firms on specific e-Government related initiatives." "These partnerships will be explored and entered into with the primary aims to gain access to cutting-edge e-Government technology, proliferate the information society in Malta and overall to strengthen the indigenous ICT industry", the statement added. The Maltese Government, it said, also believes that the recently adopted outsourcing policy in the e-Government programme was a great success and the local ICT (Information and Communication Technology) private sector proved that it can meet even the most stringent ICT development quality standards. In this respect, Government will be accelerating its outsourcing efforts with a view to engender further the local private sector in sync with the objective of establishing Malta as a regional ICT centre of excellence, the statement said. "Government will be striving to attain vertical partnerships of excellence with major multinational ICT players such as HP itself whilst ensuring that the local ICT industry is an active player in the path towards the attainment of a first class e-Government model in Malta", it concluded.

From di-ve.com, Malta, by Charlot Zahra (c_zahra@di-ve.com), 18 January 2003

E-government Needs Tech-Literate Generation

Younger people are much keener to access government services online, so e-government success may not come in the short term, says new report - Public take-up of local government online services will remain low for at least the next 10 years, according to a new report. The research, commissioned by marketing communication consultancy Portfolio Communications, found that just 7 percent of adults have contacted their local council online in the past year and that the figure is unlikely to increase significantly until today's tech-literate younger generation grows up. The study, based on interviews with 1,000 adults representative of the entire UK population, revealed that over 40 percent of 18 to 34 year-olds would prefer to use the Web to access information from local government, compared to around 20 percent of 35 to 54 year-olds and just 10 percent of the over-55s. The research concludes that the government could easily find itself having to justify large investments without any evidence of mass support for e-services in the short to medium-term. In addition, considerable education will have to be carried out by local authorities to encourage take-up of e-government by their communities, particularly among older generations.

The government itself admitted last November that public usage of the services currently available online is low, and aims to add take-up targets to its oft-quoted aim of getting all public services online by 2005. Mark Westaby, director of Portfolio, said: "Fast pay-back is a key driver of public sector services, but this research suggests that the trend towards use of online local government services is unlikely to increase dramatically until today's younger generation gets significantly older. Clearly, this is not going to happen for some considerable time, possibly a decade or longer. As a result it will be vital for government not only to ensure that online services are available, but also that local communities are educated about the benefits of using them and are fully incentivised to do so." The Portfolio study revealed that the telephone currently dominates as the main method for contacting local councils, regardless of age, sex, region or social status, the only exception to these trends being the use of direct debit to pay council bills. This suggests that local and central government should embrace the concept of contact centres and other telephony-based services to meet the clear demand for use of the telephone across all ages, regions and demographics, according to the report - The research was carried out by ICM during November, 2002.

From ZDNet.co.uk, UK, Graham Hayday, 17 January 2003

Irish e-Government Faces Content Deficit

A report on the state of e-government in Ireland has concluded that public bodies suffer from a lack of direction and staff when it comes to their Web presence. IQ Content, the company that authored the study, said that many of Ireland's e-government initiatives faced significant implementation issues, most of which relate to content on government Web sites. Within the IQ Content survey, about 75 percent of the responding public sector agencies said they are experiencing difficulties implementing their e-government strategies. About 40 percent of respondents said that a lack of strategic vision was their biggest problem, while about 20 percent said they lacked the necessary human resources. "The technology is there -- the government has spent a lot of money putting the technology in place to make e-government services work," said Morgan McKeagney, managing director of IQ Content. "This is a human issue." McKeagney said that many government departments do not have the processes and structures in place to keep Web sites up-to-date, and mangers within those departments seemed to have little understanding of how much time is required for workers to maintain Web sites. "The government is good at putting simple things like press releases up, but most departments have difficulty with anything more," said McKeagney. "They [government agencies] are producing a lot of material in terms of reports and briefings, but there seems no processes to make this material available on-line," he said. "They lack a strategic vision in terms of content. They need to ask themselves what they want to do, what it will take to do it."

According to McKeagney, many of the government departments would be able to overcome their on-line content problems with enhanced processes, but more staff will eventually be required despite the hiring freeze currently in place. Indeed, IQ Content's report said that 75 percent of public sector Web sites are managed by just one person, and in most cases this person spends less than half their time on Web-related activities. In addition, despite the massive amount of material created by the various government agencies, the creation of content that is easily consumable by the public remains a problem. According to the report, content creation, content management and accessibility are all problematic, with 95 percent of respondents citing difficulties creating and managing Web site content as a problem, and 85 percent admitting accessibility is an issue for end-users. Despite these criticisms, the report looked favourably on e-government in Ireland in general, citing the many successful technological implementations, such as the Revenue Online service, OASIS, BASIS, Reach and the eCourts and eTenders systems. The IQ Content survey said that 75 percent of respondents have a clear idea of what e-government is about and its implications for their organisation. Moreover, 65 percent of organisations consider their e-government implementations to be either on or ahead of schedule.

From Electric News Net, by Matthew Clark, 20 January 2003

Global e-Government

The adoption of e-government in the UK is not likely to take off for at least ten years - The majority of politicians in Germany have an on-line presence - The adoption of e-government services by the UK public is not likely to take off for at least another ten years, according to a new study by Portfolio Communications. A study of 1,000 adults found that a mere 7 percent had accessed local government services on-line in the past year, and Portfolio concludes that the figure is unlikely to increase dramatically until the younger generation gets substantially older. According to the research, only 10 percent of people over the age of 55 would prefer to access information from local councils via the Internet, compared to around 20 percent of 35- to 54-year-olds and over 40 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds. The most popular means of communicating with local government is currently by telephone, the study says. The NHS network is to undergo a STG45 million upgrade that will bring broadband to all hospitals, GPs and NHS trusts in the UK. The upgrades, to be completed by BT and Cable and Wireless by March 2004, will give every GP at least a 256 Kbps fixed-line connection, while Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities will get 2 Mbps connections. Among the benefits expected from the upgrade, which will be funded by the NHS Information Authority, are the electronic transfer of prescriptions between GPs, hospitals and pharmacists; shared access to electronic patient records; digital imaging; and distance learning.

The vast majority of politicians in Germany have an on-line presence, according to Europemedia.net, citing research carried out by political analysts Politikerscreen. Topping the poll for the best Web site was Rolf Schwanitz, SPD Member of Parliament for Vogtland/Sachsen, while Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder ranked 323rd out of 603 for a site lacking in content. Indeed, many of the sites were found to be outdated. Among the various states, 100 percent of parliamentarians in Berlin, Brandenburg and Thuringia have an on-line presence, while 78 percent of Bavarian politicians have an active presence on the Internet. The government of Serbia is attempting to bring its courts system on-line, reports KableNET.com. The Belgrade administration is planning to introduce a new IT system in its commercial courts by February 2003, aimed at increasing efficiency in the legal system, improving officials' access to legal information and reducing fraud. The new system, which will be linked to the administration's central infrastructure through a joint computer network, is part of Serbia's wider e-government mission to modernise the administration and implement Internet technology. Malaysia has issued a statement calling for all 35,000 government suppliers to use its "ePerolehan" e-procurement system from now on. The system, when fully functional, will enable suppliers to the government to give quotations, obtain tender documents and submit bids on-line. The Ministry of Finance said suppliers risked losing out on government-related business opportunities if they did not start using the system, which was launched last year.

In fact, nearly all suppliers to the government have registered with ePerolehan, but fewer than 18,000 electronic catalogue items have been uploaded to the system. The Internal Revenue Service in the US has launched an initiative that allows eligible taxpayers to file their tax returns on-line for free. The Free File program, available on the Web site of the IRS, provides free access to tax preparation software from 17 companies. Last year, about 35 percent of tax returns were filed electronically, and the IRS is hoping to increase this figure to 80 percent by 2007. The IRS says that at least 60 percent of taxpayers, around 78 million people, should be eligible for a free e-filing service this year. "We're opening up a whole new world of convenience to millions of taxpayers who have told us 'we would like to e-file, but we can't afford to,'" said Robert Wenzel, acting IRS commissioner, at the launch of the initiative. Also in the US, 16 scholars have been awarded grants of USD15,000 each to research and report on issues that could improve e-government or performance management in the public sector. The recipients of the grants, which were allocated by the IBM Endowment for the Business of Government fund, must submit a research report on their selected topics within six months, for publication and distribution by IBM. Among the winning research topics were "E-Government in Rural Communities", "Advancing m-Government for State Emergency Management" and "Developing Integrative Technologies to Support E-Government".

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 22 January 2003

Public Registry Certificates Now Available Online

E-shore delivers first e-government service developed by private company - Minister for Home Affairs and Environment Dr. Tonio Borg on Thursday launched an online application which will allow the public to order Public Registry Certificates over the Internet. The service which is available at certifikati.gov.mt is another in a series of government services which have become accessible online over the last months. Speaking at the launch Minister Borg noted that the request for certificates continues to grow every year and is now above 100,000. The possibility of ordering these certificates online is an important step in making this process more efficient, he stated. Minister for Justice and Local Government, Dr. Austin Gatt, responsible for the e-government initiative, also addressed the press and pointed out that this was one of the most important e-government applications to go online. He stated that the service should not only prove popular with the Maltese living in Malta but also with many emigrants outside of Malta who now have a simple way of ordering certificates. He also noted that this was the first e-government service which was developed by a private company and that although it was a complex application was developed in a very short period. "This is in line with Government's declared policy of working closely with the local ICT sector in order to make Malta a center of excellence for ICT" he concluded. The application was developed by e-shore, one of the leading Internet development companies in Malta, and recent winner of the 2002 Web Awards with the Airmalta web site. E-shore CEO Keith Fearne commented that "e-shore is proud to have delivered the first e-government service application developed by private enterprise". The solution was developed with very tight deadlines and to tough guidelines. Since it was the first time this has happened it was a bit of a learning experience for everyone, but the full co-operation of the respective departments, the Ministry of Justice and Local Government and MITTS ensured that this project was completed on time and to spec. We also are proud to have proved that the local IT sector can deliver if asked to and hope that more projects will be entrusted to the local industry so that we can continue to grow our expertise."

From di-ve.com, Malta, 24 January 2003

 

E-Government Strategies High on Agenda at ITP Road Show

Dubai - ITP Events are kicking off 2003 with the E-Government Roadshow. Sponsored by Intel and Microsoft, the roadshow will be staged in Dubai, Riyadh and Amman, responding to the clear need for the Public Sector in the Region to have the necessary discussion environment to assess their future E-Government strategies and to keep abreast of the latest technology advances. The Road Show in each of the host cities, Dubai, Riyadh and Jordan has been endorsed by business leaders and international experts and will provide a platform for pro-active debate and interaction between government representatives, domestic and multinational businesses and e-commerce leaders locally and globally. "We are delighted with the quality of speakers" Said Michael Crawley, Manager, ITP Events. His Excellency Fawaz H. Zu'bi will be addressing the delegates in Jordan, while Salem Al Shair, Dr. Saeed Al Dhaheri and John E. Davies, Intel VP, Sales and Marketing Group will be speaking at the Dubai, and Riyadh events respectively." The Half-day programme will provide an invaluable mix of education on all relevant disciplines, with a key focus on strategies & case studies. Microsoft and HP are just some of the top international experts featured who will be travelling with the Road Show, assisting delegates to evaluate their technology needs and illustrate how to acquire the skills to construct an effective infrastructure. Delegates will also have the opportunity to discuss their experiences and requirements by taking advantage of these specialist advisors who will be on-hand to problem solve specific issues within all governmental departments. The sessions will highlight the vast range of products and services on offer from the world's leading vendors and consultants. "We have found that strategies and rationale discussed at these Road Shows are further enhanced by the panel discussion in the form of a Q&A session" continued Crawley. "Many subjects come up that the delegates wish to further their understanding of, and sometimes challenge. These Q and As are facilitated by David Cass, Editor at large for ITP and former BBC anchorman. The Q and As are integral to the Road Show, and help to underline the tremendous learning experience that these events bring to these regions." The E-Govt. Roadshow will be in Dubai on February 22nd February at the Fairmont Hotel, In Riyadh on 24th February at the Riyadh Sheraton hotel and Amman on 26th February at the Amman Sheraton.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 14 January 2003

BB Initiates e-Government Applications with KU Tuition Fees Payment

Kuwait City - Adding a new achievement to its recent e-banking spurs, BB runs first to introduce to KU students community online payment of tuition fees. This new service provided by BB through its payment gate BeeClear to its clientele of KU students allows customers to pay the registration fees from any place in the world any time 7/24, by simply signing on KU's www.studentonline.com. The new service involves many features. Conveniently available, it allows students to save time and effort, especially that most of them happen to be outside Kuwait at this time of the year. Furthermore and knowing that there are 18-20 thousand students registered with 13 colleges, the service will help ease the pressure on the university administration and the students. KU Students who are Non-BB Customers - KU students who are not customers of BB can avail of the service by simply opening an account with the bank, making them readily able to use the service as well as other banking and non-banking services available on BB website www.beeebank.com. Through an account opened with BB, students will have access to other university-related services. Fee payment service is only a starting point of many future services that can be accomplished via this facility. A Safe and Secure Environment - An executive officer of EXETER GROUP (undertaking KU's electronic project) once stated that BB stands as one of the most successful Arab banks in the information technology and electronic banking, providing through its payment gate BeeClear, a safe and secure environment to its customers to perform various online payment transactions.

This pioneer project, involving EXETER, BB and KU, EXETER GROUP was also quoted as saying, is a vivid exemplary implementation of the e-government. This is particularly true given the fact that KU is regarded as a good performer in this area and a winner of the Electronic Excellence Award from the e-Government Conference- 2002. The company stated that KU and BB, in association with the EXETER GROUP acting as consultant, provide for the first time at the Arab university level the Online Real Time service, which means that withdrawal from an account and depositing with another occurs instantly. The E-Government - This step, on the other hand, highlights BB's readiness to be the payment gate for the various government entities, which will inevitably require this type of gates featuring the highest standards of security and safety of data. These are truly the features of Burgan Bank BeeClear. This step also signifies the importance of the electronic banking services, which can help ease burdens on the government departments particularly at seasons such as the students rush for registration for the various courses, and paying late registration fees.

BB's Services at KU - BB enjoys a very close relationship with KU. This distinguished association was further consolidated with BB being awarded the KU tender, since it is the only bank in Kuwait providing such a unique service, represented in the mobile service through its well-equipped trucks serving as a moving bank where all forms of ATM services are available to individuals. Through its "B Everywhere" service, BB provides all banking services students need on the campus. The bank's trucks drive in the university campus according to a pre-set schedule in agreement with the KU. The schedule, which will be operative within days, considers the most suitable times for the students as well as the geographic dimension, as to ensure full coverage of the various faculties at Shauwaikh, Khaldieya, Adiliya, Hawali and other areas. While the university will be open most of the year, the service will be available during the fall, spring and summer period, to ensure that uninterrupted service is provided to students whom BB seek to attract as prospectus customers particularly after graduation. Service with Excellence - "B Everywhere" is a unique service of BB nation-wide. It is also the first of its kind at the Middle East region, representing a qualitative spur in the way customers can be approached reaching them anywhere anytime. "B Everywhere" services include cash withdrawal, transfer between accounts, US$ withdrawal, utilities bill payment in addition to K-net and GCCNET.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 23 January 2003

 

Jump Start Your E-Government Plans

The U.S. Small Business Administration has launched its SBAExchange Pilot Program - an electronic purchasing tool designed to facilitate small business e-procurement opportunities and improve the efficiency and accountability of current government procurement processes. The mission of the SBAExchange is two-fold; to reduce costs and improve efficiency and accountability of procuring goods and services by federal agencies from small businesses, and to help small businesses participate in an e-procurement system that requires little or no technical expertise or equipment investment. The SBAExchange is an online tool that allows agencies to award simplified acquisitions up to $100,000 (including micro-purchases) to small businesses. Purchases and payments are made electronically with government-wide commercial purchase cards. Government agencies will be able to use SBAExchange to award purchases over $25,000 that have been posted in Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps), provided the notice states that the award will be made electronically. The program is designed to help small businesses compete for purchases that are currently being obtained through other contracting methods. To participate, small businesses must obtain an Internet-based Supplier Web Site from the SBAExchange. Through the Supplier Web Site a small business receive: · A fully hosted, supplier branded, e-commerce website; · Exposure to federal buying authorities, large federal prime contractors and other large buying officials; · An electronic catalog; · A centralized order management system for receiving and processing Internet- based orders from federal, state, local and commercial buying authorities; · A management system for tracking new business, creating and submitting quotes and; · Assistance in managing the new site. SBA plans to kick-off this pilot program nationally on March 30, 2003 when agencies can begin awarding transactions through the system. In order to ensure a successful launch in March, the small business electronic catalog development period began on October 30, 2002. The U.S. SBA entered into a contract with NEXGEN Solutions, Inc. build the national e-procurement system so that small businesses can participate in conducting e-business transactions with a relatively low cost of entry and little or no technical expertise. The annual cost to participate in the SBAExchange Pilot Program is $1,500. Additionally, a transaction fee of two percent will be added to all orders.

From InternetNews.com, by Patricia Fusco, 3 January 2003

Arizona Among Top e-Government States

Washington is the top state when it comes to using digital technology to improve the function of state government. But, according to The Digital State Survey, Arizona is not too far behind. The survey, conducted by the Center for Digital Government and The Progress & Freedom Foundation, gave second- through fifth-place rankings to Kansas, Wisconsin, Arizona and Maryland. The survey began in 1997, when only six states provided Internet access to at least half its workers. In 2002, three-fourths of the states did so. For more information on the Center for Digital Government, visit its Web site at http://www.centerdigitalgov.com.

From Phoenix Business Journal, AZ, 6 January 2003

Hispanic Firm Announces e-Government Procurement Services

Dulles - Technica Corporation, a network systems integration firm, introduced SolantisGX, a Web-based procurement source, servicing the growing IT requirements of the federal government. SolantisGX will initially offer higher-end products generally harder to procure than those offered by traditional government web services focusing on computer workstations, desktop software and peripherals. Product categories include high-end optical and gigabit ethernet switches, anti-theft, encryption, authentication, virtual private networking, and firewall equipment. In 2003, Technica plans on adding thousands of additional products from dozens of first and second-tier product manufacturers. The Web service features the largest government-wide acquisition contract (GWAC) available to federal agencies today. Known as SEWP III, this contract has a 10-year record of success and now one of the most popular of government contracts in existence today. In the past year, SEWP III has supplied over $1B in orders to federal agencies, predominantly defense and homeland security related, to locations worldwide. Technica Corporation was awarded a five-year SEWP III contract on September 30, 2002. Technica Corporation was co-founded by President and CEO, Miguel Collado. Company revenue is expected to exceed $40M in 2003. Mr. Collado is a Hispanic-American who served on the U.S. Navy's USS Nimitz.

From HispanicBusiness.com, 8 January 2003

City Of London Expands e-Government Initiatives With Cognos

Ottawa - Facing down a backlog of reporting requests, the City of London, Ontario needed an IT solution that would unite disparate data sources from across all City departments and provide users with a self-service environment for reporting and analysis. With Cognos (Nasdaq: COGN; TSX: CSN) the world leader in business intelligence (BI), the City has enabled employees to gain detailed insight into finance, human resources, police services, and other city services like social services and welfare. "With Cognos, we are seeing an accurate and complete view across all departments. The ability to spot trends and inconsistencies in data has resulted in significant time and cost savings for the City and has greatly improved our ability to forecast budget and allocate resources," said Brian Whitelaw, systems administrator, City of London. "The City of London has an established reputation among Canadian municipalities as being a leader in IT innovation and with Cognos we continue to expand and invest in our e- government initiatives." The City is currently working on implementing Cognos BI in the police services division. Through analysis of dispatch, trial, incarceration, and parole data the City will be able to determine how police services can be improved and if appropriate resources are being assigned to each case. "Cognos delivers a single, end-to-end business intelligence framework that meets the diverse needs of customers across the public sector, with the security governments require to protect sensitive data," said Dave Laverty, senior vice president, global marketing, Cognos. "The City of London is one of a number of Cognos' public sector customers engaged in innovative ways to improve the speed and quality of service to the public."

About the City of London: The City of London is located in the heart of South West Ontario, conveniently equidistant from Toronto and Detroit. It has a population of over 330,000, and has many diverse businesses such as Finance, Automotive and Medical. It is also the home of the University of Western Ontario, one of the top universities in the Province. London is an ideal place to live, with an excellent economy and a high standard of living. About Cognos: Cognos 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, 8 January 2003

More People Can Now File Taxes Online

While tax day may seem a long way off, now is the time to think about how you will file. Thursday, the federal government unveiled a new way for you to get free help in figuring your tax return, plus a way to file it. A web site at irs.gov will direct you to private companies that will do your taxes for you online and send the forms in to the IRS for free. "Once you experience the ease and benefits of e-file, I personally guarantee you that you will never go back to the old way of filing your taxes," said IRS commissioner Robert Wenzel. The government estimates as many as 78 million Americans would benefit from the service. That's more than half of all filers. Much of the online service is targeted to those who have simple returns, making less than $28,000 a year. But the idea is to bring some order to the explosion of online services offering to do your taxes for a fee. "It's a burden enough to pay taxes, without making it a complex as we do and require people to pay for the privilege, if you want to call it that," said Mitch Daniels of the Office of Management and Budget. If you are worried about putting so much personal information online, the government says you shouldn't. The IRS says it is putting strict requirements in place, to make sure taxpayer privacy is protected. Last year one third of all taxpayers filed electronically.

From Ohio News Network, OH, by Tom Walker, 17 January 2003

SRA Supporting a Navy e-Gov Program

The Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC) announced Jan. 21 that it has awarded SRA International Inc. a six-year, $9 million contract in support of MSC's electronic government program. The contract calls for SRA to provide systems development and integration services, technical studies, business process analysis, and systems security solutions. It builds on a relationship the Fairfax, Va.-based company has had with MSC since 1997. SRA has worked on designing, implementing and maintaining an Electronic Commerce Center so that the command's internal logistics and acquisition and accounting systems interface with those of its business partners. The Electronic Commerce Center is helping MSC collect more accurate data and reduce manual processes. Under this latest task order, SRA will support the MSC eGovernment implementation plan by providing: * Systems integration and other technical services for the implementation of electronic invoicing and order processing systems and design. * Implementation of systems security solutions to ensure secure electronic transmission of sensitive government data. SRA will perform operations, maintenance and system administration of the MSC Electronic Commerce Center and develop enhancements and upgrades to current systems. MSC provides ocean transportation of equipment, fuel, supplies and ammunition to sustain U.S. forces worldwide.

From FCW.com, by Matthew French, 21 January 2003

OMB Launches Third e-Gov Project this Month

The Office of Management and Budget and the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday launched another of the 25 e-government initiatives: an online rule-making portal, Regulations.gov, where citizens and businesses can find and comment on agency rules. Regulations.gov follows the IRS' launch of a free tax-filing portal and the Office of Personnel Management's consolidation of government payroll service providers to four from 22. The three efforts are part of OMB's Quicksilver program. "The intent is to change the world-let democracy see what's in government and get involved easily," said Mark Forman, OMB associate director for IT and e-government. "This is clearly a positive step in that direction." Project managers designed the rule-making portal with components from four agencies. The Government Printing Office and the National Archives and Records Administration supplied the front end, which lets users find proposed and final rules. EPA and the Food and Drug Administration put together the back end, which lets users send comments about proposed rules to the correct agency. "This really is a great example of agencies working together," said Oscar Morales, online rule-making project director. Users can search by agency or by key word, and the comment forms are tailored to agency requirements, Morales said. EPA plans two more modules for the portal. One would merge other rule-making sites and bring in agencies that do not have an online presence for rules. The other module would push the services to employees' desks for easier regulatory analysis, said Linda Fisher, EPA deputy administrator. "Regulations.gov will make it quicker and easier for the public to search and comment on several hundred regulations without having to be an expert in how government is organized," Fisher said. "Every controversial decision the government makes is enhanced by timely public input."

From GCN.com, by Jason Miller, 24 January 2003

Airmen can now file taxes online for free

St. Louis - The Treasury Department, Office of Management and Budget and the Internal Revenue Service in Washington launched a new Web site Jan. 17 featuring private-sector partners who will allow eligible taxpayers to prepare and file their taxes online for free. A substantial number of citizens will be able to use this service. President Bush proposed free online tax filing last February as one of his e-government initiatives. Less than one year later, millions of Americans will benefit from free online tax filing services if they are eligible. Treasury, OMB and IRS officials have made this possible through a public-private partnership with some tax software companies known as the Free File Alliance. According to information found on the IRS Web site, Free File is an easier, faster and secure way for citizens to file taxes and will also allow Americans to get refunds in half the time, said officials. "No one likes paying taxes," said Kenneth W. Dam, acting treasury secretary. "It's too confusing and time consuming. The launch of this new Web site is great news for millions of Americans. Free File makes it easy. Now they can save time, money and get their refunds in half the time by filing their taxes online for free." Each FFA member company sets taxpayer eligibility requirements for its own program.

These requirements will differ from company to company. Generally, eligibility will be based on factors such as age, adjusted gross income, state residency, military status or eligibility to file a Form 1040EZ or for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Taxpayers can review the list of companies, found on the Free File section of the IRS Web site, where eligibility requirements are shown company by company. The primary candidates for Free File are those taxpayers who prepare their own taxes and still file paper returns. Last filing season, the IRS received nearly 85 million paper returns, while nearly 47 million e-filed returns. "Free File puts e-file within reach of more taxpayers than ever," said acting IRS Commissioner Robert Wenzel. "They'll soon discover what the 47 million taxpayers who e-filed last year already know: e-file is quicker, e-file is more accurate, e-file is the best way to confirm the IRS received your return, and it's the fastest route to a refund." E-government is an integral part of the president's management agenda to make it easier for citizens and businesses to interact with the government, save taxpayer dollars and streamline citizen-to-government transactions. A copy of the president's e-government strategy, which includes information on each of the e-government initiatives, is available on the OMB Web site. A Free File initiative fact sheet, which includes list of the FFA members and frequently asked questions, can be found on the IRS Web site at www.IRS.gov.

From The Beam, DC, 24 January 2003

Web Site Allows Preparing, Filing of Taxes Free Online

Today the Treasury Department, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Internet Revenue Service (IRS) launched a new web site featuring private-sector partners that will allow most taxpayers to prepare and file their taxes online for free. A substantial majority of citizens will be eligible to use this service at www.irs.gov or through www.firstgov.gov. President Bush proposed free online tax filing last February as one of his E-Government initiatives. Less than one year later, millions of Americans will benefit from free online tax filing services. Treasury, OMB and IRS have made this possible through a public-private partnership with a consortium of tax software companies, the Free File Alliance, LLC. Free File is an easy, fast and secure way for citizens to file taxes and will also allow Americans to get refunds in half the time. The efficiency of E-file saves taxpayers and the IRS money. "Simply paying taxes is burden enough without the extra costs in time and professional help that too many Americans have endured until now. The advent of free, fast filing for a substantial majority of taxpayers marks a great breakthrough for the President's agenda to make the federal government put the needs of the citizens first," said Director of the OMB Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. "Free File puts e-file within reach of more taxpayers than ever. They'll soon discover what the 47 million taxpayers who e-filed last year already know. E-file is quicker. E-file is more accurate. E-file is the best way to confirm the IRS received your return, and it's the fastest route to a refund," said IRS Acting Commissioner Robert Wenzel.

Each Free File Alliance member company sets taxpayer eligibility requirements for its own program. These requirements will differ from company to company. Generally, eligibility will be based on factors such as age, adjusted gross income, state residency, military status or eligibility to file a Form 1040EZ or for the Earned Income Tax Credit. The agreement requires the Alliance, as a whole, to provide free services for at least 60 percent or 78 million of the nation's taxpayers during each filing season. As of Jan. 16, 2003, the industry has exceeded that requirement. The number may fluctuate throughout the filing season as Alliance membership an offers change. The primary candidates for Free File are those taxpayers who prepare their own taxes and still file paper returns. Last filing season, the IRS received nearly 85 million paper returns and nearly 47 million e-filed returns. E-government is an integral part of the President's Management Agenda to make it easier for citizens and businesses to interact with the government, save taxpayer dollars and streamline citizen-to-government transactions. A copy of the President's E-government strategy, which includes information on each of the E-Government Initiatives, is available on the OMB web site at www.omb.gov.

From Hillsboro Argus, OR, 24 January 2003

Idea Integration Completes SAP Integration for City Public Service of San Antonio

Jacksonville, Fla.- Idea Integration, the e-business consulting and systems integration solutions unit of MPS Group, Inc. (NYSE: MPS - News), today announced it has completed the SAP ERP and Utilities implementation for City Public Service of San Antonio, Texas, the second largest public utility in the country. City Public Service (CPS) is the gas and electric utility provider for San Antonio and the surrounding area. Idea was selected by CPS to implement SAP's R/3 and the Industry Solution for Utilities - Customer Care and Services (IS- U/CCS) for all of CPS's back-office and front-office systems (including its call center). The SAP solution was integrated with four major systems - CPS's geographic information system (GIS), mobile data system (MDS), outage management system (OMS), and Logica's Work Management Information System (WMIS). Idea also implemented SAP's Business Warehouse, incorporating core R/3 and utility business requirements. "The level of integration that we achieved among all of our systems is outstanding," stated Gary Schaub, senior vice president of finance and administration for CPS. "The Idea team established and maintained communication and teamwork with the CPS staff throughout the life of the project, which began in August 2000. We are pleased with the outcome of the creation and integration of our state-of-the-art systems." "The mission of the CPS external project was to replace an antiquated legacy system and provide an information system that enables CPS to better serve its internal and external customers," said Michael Brooker, vice president of SAP strategic projects for Idea Integration. "We accomplished this objective, and, as a result, continue to work with CPS on additional initiatives that are integral to the services CPS provides."

From Yahoo News, 28 January 2003

Senators Seek to Restore Cuts in e-Gov Programs

A pair of senators are pressing for restoring federal spending for online government services. Governmental Affairs Committee ranking Democrat Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Montana Republican Conrad Burns asked Senate Appropriations Committee leaders Monday to replace $45 million in cuts made to funds earmarked for the provision of electronic government services. "The legislation will improve management of electronic government initiatives, enhancing access to government information and services over the Internet and better utilizing information technologies to improve government's efficiency and effectiveness," Lieberman and Burns wrote in a letter to Sens. Ted Stevens, R-Ala., and Robert Byrd, D-W.Va. President Bush requested the funding in his fiscal 2003 budget. Lieberman spearheaded legislation to authorize funding for e-government initiatives over the next six years, which the Senate approved in November. The current budget for 2003 passed by the Senate allocates $5 million for e-government projects.

From GovExec.com, 28 January 2003

 

Global e-Government

Survey finds that UK government Web sites are failing to attract visitors - The US government could spend over USD5 billion on e-government initiatives by 2007 - Norwich is set to become the first city in the UK with a high-capacity broadband network, according to Government Computing News. Norfolk County Council has secured a grant of STG3.4 million from the East of England Development Agency to establish a publicly owned broadband network for the city. One major advantage of the new network is that the council will be able to bring public sector sites within a virtual private network, making it easier for different departments to exchange information, says Tim Anderson, e-government officer for Norfolk. The network is also expected to boost economic development in the region and to make high-speed Internet access available to SMEs at a reasonable cost. It is hoped that the network will be up and running in 2004. A recent survey on the use of e-government by the British public found that government Web sites are largely failing to attract visitors. A study carried out by ICM for IT consulting firm Hedra claims that less than 3 percent of Britons regularly access government information on-line and only 33 percent have ever done so. Not one person over the age of 65 who responded to the survey said they regularly accessed government Web sites. In addition, half of the respondents who receive social security benefit said they would make more use of government Web sites if they were more user-friendly.

Meanwhile, a survey by KPMG Consulting found that two-thirds of Britons would like to see at least one local service made available on-line. In a survey of 2,028 adults that questioned attitudes towards a future wired local government, 19 percent said they would be prepared to interact with the government via the Internet, while 30 percent would prefer to deal with government services via a call centre. When asked about the types of activities they would be prepared to carry out on-line, 38 percent said they would vote in a local council or general election, 37 percent said they would apply for or renew a passport, while 36 percent would be prepared to renew their car tax. However, around one-third of those surveyed said they would not expect to interact electronically with government at all. In the US, a recent study claims that e-government outperformed off-line government and the private sector in terms of customer satisfaction. According to the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), e-government scored an average of 73.5 points out of 100 for customer satisfaction, ahead of overall off-line government (70.2 points) and the private sector (73.1 points). Government Web sites outperformed all of the ACSI e-business indices, including news and information sites (73 points), search engines (68), portals (68), and the overall e-business sector (68.7). E-government sites that were measured in the index include the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Women's Health, the State Department, NASA, and the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Public Health and Science. The US federal government could spend over USD5 billion on e-government initiatives by fiscal 2007, according to a report by market research firm Input. The research company estimates that overall e-government spending will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 12 percent between 2002 and 2007. The Office of the Secretary of Defense is expected to lead the way with a projected spend of USD778 million on e-government in 2007, compared to USD453 million spent in 2002.

The Treasury Department tops the list of civilian agencies due to spend money on e-government, with an estimated USD400 million to be spent in 2007, compared to USD212 million spent last year. Other top e-government spenders are NASA and the departments of Health and Human Services, Transportation, Justice and Commerce. Meanwhile, a report on the GovExec.com Web site says that measures aimed at stimulating the economy, accelerating the deployment of broadband, preventing digital piracy and protecting on-line privacy are some of the key policy items for the high-tech sector in the 108th US Congress, according to industry lobbyists. Other issues likely to feature on the high-tech agenda for Congress include cybersecurity, education policy, federal procurement, visas for foreign workers, the disposal of high-tech equipment, Internet taxation and employee stock options. High-tech lobby group the Information Technology Industry Council ranks its most important policy objectives as economic stimulus, the deployment of high-speed Internet access and anti-piracy measures. New Zealand's project for on-line land conveyancing has entered its second phase, reports KableNET.com. The Landonline project, which will begin to be rolled out nationwide in late January, will make it possible for registered users, expected to be mainly land professionals, to lodge survey plans and retain title dealings on-line. The chief executive of Land Information New Zealand (Linz), Russ Ballard, claims the project is a world-first. "There are other countries with electronic records, and some that have implemented electronic lodgement, but none has combined the two services with survey-accurate digital data via the Internet," said Ballard.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 08 January 2003

 

Absence of Double Taxation Treaty Discourages Investment

Addis Ababa - Despite a strong action taken by the Ethiopian government to maximize the number of Ethiopians investing in the country, absence of a double taxation treaty between Ethiopia and the US remains to be a matter of concern for Ethiopian-American citizens who are already investing in the country. Because the American tax law stipulates that any one with American citizenship should pay income taxes regardless of where he/she lives, Ethiopian-American citizens investing in Ethiopia are subjected to double taxations both in Ethiopia and America, and this, according to Zemedeneh Negatu, Managing Partner, Ernst and Young, Ethiopia Office, is potentially affecting Ethiopian-Americans. The U.S, in a bid to eliminate double taxations from its citizens working outside the U.S, had so far signed the treaty with more than 60 countries in the world. In case of Ethiopia, however, though negotiations were started ten years before, according to Abi Wolde Meskel, General Manager, Ethiopian Investment Authority, the treaty has not yet been ratified. In an interview with Addis Tribune, Zemedeneh said, around 20 Ethiopian-American legitimate businesses are currently subjected to double taxations whereas, basically, they have to pay taxes in host countries [in this case Ethiopia.] The problem, according to him, will get even worse as more Ethiopian-Americans would come to invest in Ethiopia not only as corporate business firms but also as American companies.

Asked why the treaty has not yet been signed, Zemedeneh said it was because perhaps not many Ethiopian-Americans are here that the issue was not attracting due attentions. Besides, the problem might not significantly affect individual Ethiopian-Americans investing in Ethiopia. "As an individual, it may not be significant, but as a company, it is a potential impediment and disincentive," he said. If the Ethiopian government's agenda is to attract more Ethiopians in diaspora to come and invest in the country, it should start looking into issues. Negotiations should also continue as Ethiopia must be among those countries, he said. "We need to start looking ahead as to what the potential impediments are, as this is a forward-looking issue." The other area, which Zemedeneh believes it is discouraging "Ethiopians by birth" not to come and invest in the country is the reservation for them to be involved in the banking sector. Article 270/94, which was amended last year in favor of Ethiopians in diaspora, has a tendency of generalizing "Ethiopians by birth" with foreign investors when it comes to investing in the banking sector. "We are not arguing that foreign investors should be allowed to be involved in the sector. We are talking about "Ethiopians by birth" not foreigners and we should be allowed to bring in our knowledge, technology and know-how for the benefit of the development of the sector," he said, adding that expatriate Ethiopians have to be treated as Ethiopians in this regard.

He said he personally brought up the idea when article 270/94 was debated in the parliament and officials then said they would look at and revise the issue. "I don't understand why we are not allowed. There are other mechanisms [if it is to protect local businesses] than denying access for us. I don't really know the reason." Abi Wolde Meskel told expatriate Ethiopians gathered for the second face-to-face discussion with government officials last week that the issue was brought to the attention of the Council of Ministers for further discussions and he is hoping that they [expatriate Ethiopians] would soon be allowed to be involved in the sector. This will not only discourage Ethiopians in Diaspora but will also undermine the development of venture capital fund with local businesses, according to Zemedeneh. "We could not be involved in venture capital fund, which will also include investing in the areas of telecommunication, electric power and road building as they fall under the category of financial sector." Zemedeneh urged the discussion between expatriate Ethiopians and government officials to continue in a more structured and organized way that happens every year in order to bring about a sustained solutions for problems surrounding the issue.

From AllAfrica.com, 10 January 2003

Kenya's New Finance Minister Vows to Restore Investor Confidence

Nairobi - The finance minister in Kenya's new government is vowing to restore investor confidence in a country crippled by decades of corruption and government mismanagement. At his inauguration on December 30, Kenya's new president, Mwai Kibaki, promised that his first priority would be to tackle the country's economic problems. "My government will embark on policies geared to economic reconstruction, employment creation and immediate rehabilitation of the collapsed infrastructure," he said. Few people were therefore surprised when Mr. Kibaki last week gave the key post of finance minister to David Mwiraria. The two men are close friends. Decades ago, they were schoolmates at the prestigious Makerere University in Uganda. Mr. Mwiraria also boasts a solid financial resume. He has worked as a consultant for the World Bank, and headed the common market department of the East Africa community, a political and economic body composed of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. As the opposition's shadow finance minister for the past five years, he was a strong critic of the financial policies of the previous KANU-led government of Daniel Arap Moi. The finance minister told VOA, his government has ambitious plans to correct the wrongs of the past. "The first thing we want to do is to stop wastage of public funds through fraudulent payments, to improve revenue collections by stopping corruption and to improve our relations with donors." he said. Things were not always so bad in Kenya. In 1971, the country's economic indicators were about the same as Singapore's, and the average income was around $420 a year. But in the years since then, persistent corruption under the long ruling KANU party gradually drove most international investors away. The corruption, combined with the Moi government's refusal to seriously fight it, led the International Monetary Fund to suspend its loans to Kenya of $500 million a year. The suspension, which was imposed two years ago and remains in force, has dealt a crippling blow to the economy. Mr. Kibaki and his National Rainbow Coalition have inherited a country that is virtually bankrupt.

The average Singaporean now earns 14 times as much as the average Kenyan, whose annual income is now around $350 dollars, one-fifth less than it was in 1971. Mr. Mwiraria said he and his staff are already taking steps to boost the economy and restore donor and investor confidence in the country. They are working on privatization plans for giant state owned organizations, such as the Ports Authority, Telekom Kenya and the Social Security Fund. The firms are thought to have earned a lot of money, but many Kenyans believe that most of it, millions of dollars every year, went into the pockets of KANU leaders, not the state economy. Mr. Mwiraria said ending this kind of corruption is essential, if Kenya's economy is going to be rebuilt. "Our government is really working hard to bring back good governance, to stop corruption, to introduce a code of ethics among the civil service and the government," he said, "and, in this way, we believe donors will start cooperating with the government." Though it has only been in power since the end of December, the new government's determination to fight corruption is already attracting attention. Analysts say donors and potential investors have begun responding positively to the finance minister's plans. "I think the Kenya government's relations with donors will undoubtedly improve. There is considerable good will on the part of donors, as there is on the part of Kenyans and investors generally," said Robert Shaw, an economist at the Nairobi-based Institute of Economic Affairs. "Where we need to be a little bit wary is that, we should not be expecting too much from donors immediately. The government machinery itself is very, very run down. It has been run down and politicized for a number of years now. So, even with the best will in the world, it is going to take quite a lot of effort to implement some of these things." Mr. Mwiraria said his ministry is already in talks with the IMF and the World Bank to restore financial assistance to the country. He said he expects significant progress soon, possibly in the next three months. If Mr. Mwiraria succeeds in negotiating the return of foreign aid and investments, he will be hailed as a hero in a country that has not had a hero in a very long time.

From Voice of America, by Alisha Ryu, 10 January 2003

World Bank Harps On Judicious Use of Facility

Lagos - World Bank has advised that proceeds from the Bank's facility should be used for intended development projects, in line with the Article of Agreement without any non-economic or political consideration. World Bank Country Director, Dr. Mark D. Tomlinson, who gave this advice at the Bank's Joint Procurement Financial Management and Disbursement Workshop, therefore said that "borrowers must ensure that sound project pronouncement and financial management systems are in place to generate timely and reliable financial information. Also, Tomlinson said the periodic financial and procurement reports for each lending operation be submitted regularly to the Bank for review. In addition, the country director noted that independent validation of such reports be carried out throughout regular external audits. He said this is because "accountability affects the World Bank's relationship with its external investors and its ability to borrow, as well as borrowers credibility with the World Bank and with other stakeholders." However, Tomlinson said it is necessary to support project management by a financial management and procurement system, which is capable of producing "timely, understandable, relevant and reliable financial information that will enable management to plan, implement, monitor and appraise a project's overall progress towards the achievable of its objectives." Tomlinson stated that, according to the World Bank, the strengthening of public sector financial management capacity in Nigeria requires a two-way approach: at the macro-level, working with the government at all levels in addressing the main issues identified for improvement in Country Financial Accountability Assessment (CFAA) and the Country Procurement Assessment Report (CPAR) reports in the aim of establishing practices and standards on a par with international benchmarks; and at the project level, working with the borrower in ensuring that appropriate procurement, financial management and disbursement arrangements are put in place prior to project effectiveness.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Kunle Aderinokun, 22 January 2003

 

Australia Property Boom $8bn Boost to State Budgets

Australia's state governments are set for an $8 billion-plus windfall this financial year as booming stamp duty revenue from the property market helps underpin spending plans. The NSW government is the major beneficiary as it prepares to go to the polls in March, seeking a third term. The associate director of public finance ratings at international credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's, Brendan Flynn, yesterday said soaring stamp duty collections had helped several states reduce debt, deliver healthy budget surpluses and, in some cases, offset looser purse strings. "Every year for the last few years stamp duties in particular have been greater than expected, but governments realise that what comes today can go tomorrow," Mr. Flynn said. NSW expects stamp duty revenues to exceed budget projections largely because of the continuing boom in real estate, although it is factoring a softening in the property market into its future revenue estimates. The Carr government yesterday pledged to cap its election commitments as it prepares to contest the election for what would be a record-breaking third term. NSW Treasurer Michael Egan said promises made in the countdown to the March 22 election would be restricted to recurrent spending of $800 million over four years. Mr. Egan said the government could then still deliver a $6.5 billion annual public works program and maintain a "sufficient capital buffer" for unforeseen expenses and meet forward surplus projections "While some of this can be prudently committed prior to the elections, it is also important that a sufficient capital buffer be maintained to meet demands down the track," Mr. Egan said. The Reserve Bank of Australia is concerned that the property market is overheated, and some economists see some risks that spending plans may eventually need to be monitored more closely if revenues, including stamp duty, fall.

Mr. Flynn said the states did not appear to be factoring a continuing bonanza into their forward estimates. "Overall most of the states have been benefiting from higher than expected stamp duty, but they have all been fairly responsible with what they've been doing with it as well," he said. "It can't go on forever. The size of the growth we've seen in the last few years has been phenomenal. To their credit, though, the states realise this." NSW is now expecting taxation revenues above budget projections, due primarily to the strength of the property market. This financial year, stamp duties on contracts and conveyances - the largest single component of stamp-duty revenue - are projected to be $281 million more than the $3.119 billion bonanza for 2001-02. Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria are sticking by forecasts made last year that the super-strong windfalls in stamp duty revenue will start to fall, although the impact of the strong housing market in the past six months will become clearer as updated figures are released. The NSW opposition says that without the property boom, the government would face a $785 million deficit, rather than its projected surplus of $86 million for 2002-03. In its half-yearly budget review, NSW attributed an upward revision in its projected revenues for 2002-03 to the strength in the property markets. The windfall helped offset an increase in budget-time spending estimates. Access Economics senior economist Alan Tregilgas said the main short-term challenge for NSW would be if the property bubble burst. "Each year they've thought it would stop, but it hasn't," he said.

Other states also expect that an easing in the housing market will lead to less robust growth from this source of revenue. In Victoria, the government pulled in $2.07 billion from stamp duty on land transfer and mortgages in 2001-02 - about $800 million more than the budget estimate. It has forecast that stamp duty revenue will fall by 13.5 per cent to about $1.8 billion this financial year as the property market slowed. Queensland expects its stamp duty revenue to slump more than 8 per cent, to $1.58 billion, in this financial year, from $1.73 billion in 2001-02. The final figure for last year came in ahead of the projection in the budget, and this year's figure may also be revised in the forthcoming mid-year budget statement. Tasmania, too, has been conservative in its forecast for 2002-03. It is on track to meet the forecast of $53.3 million. The Tasmanian government received about $80.4 million in stamp duty on conveyancing and mortgages in 2001-02, about 46 per cent above what was forecast after help from one-off projects. South Australian stamp duties are running ahead of budget but the figures will not be known until the Rann government publishes its mid-year budget review in January. The government had expected a sharp fall this financial year, after the first-home owners; grant sent them bounding ahead in 2001-2002. The previous year's Liberal government budget had allowed for stamp duty on conveyances of $241.9 million but the result was $354.4 million. Other property stamp duties, including mortgages, leases and cheques, realised $72.8 million. Total stamp duties raised about $772 million. This financial year, the government is seeking $286.6 million for conveyance duty and $727.6 million from all stamp-duty receipts.

From Australian Financial Review, Australia , 3 December 2003

Li Lanqing on Sound Fiscal and Taxation System

Chinese Vice-Premier Li Lanqing says the fiscal and taxation system should be further improved to meet the needs of the socialist market economy. Speaking at a national conference in Beijing on fiscal and taxation work, Li Lanqing stresses that a sound fiscal system is an important part of building the socialist market economy, and for meeting the demand to transform the functions of government departments. He says China should further deepen reforms in fiscal management based on China's national conditions. He also urges enhancing reform of the taxation system and establishing a sound mechanism that embodies state policy and caters to the requirements of the state budget. The vice-premier points out that China will crack down hard on tax crimes.

From People's Daily Online, 26 December 2002

BearingPoint and FreeBalance Deliver Financial Management System to Afghanistan

New Financial Management System Will Help Afghanistan Manage the Government Operating Budget and some of the over $4 Billion in Foreign Project Related Aid - BearingPoint, Inc. (NYSE:BE), one of the world's largest business consulting and systems integration firms, today announced that it has assisted the Islamic Transitional State of Afghanistan to successfully install and operate the Afghanistan Financial Management Information System (AFMIS), as part of a $3.95 million contract to help the government upgrade its accounting system. The two-year project, financed by the World Bank, is viewed as a critical step to ensuring accountability for processing and reporting the Government's operating budget, which is largely financed by international contributions. An estimated $4 billion in international aid is expected to flow to the Islamic Transitional State of Afghanistan; some of which AFMIS will help track as the system's coverage grows to include grants for donor-funded projects. "This project is an essential step in developing the governance infrastructure necessary to support the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan," said Michael Vlaisavljevich, a managing director with BearingPoint's International Public Services practice. "The ability to accurately and efficiently manage these funds will help the Afghan government provide much-needed food, housing, healthcare, education, roads and utilities to its people." BearingPoint is serving as the project's program manager, responsible for the design and operation of the core accounting system for the Ministry of Finance. In addition, the company is providing systems integration and financial management services. The system will be implemented in two phases, with the immediate phase creating the capability of electronically recording expenditures, producing checks, and generating disbursement reports. BearingPoint will also assist the Ministry of Finance to recruit and train employees on the new system.

The project recorded its first milestone event on November 23rd, when the Treasury Department of Afghanistan successfully completed its first month of computerized operation, producing some 4,700 checks through a system designed by FreeBalance, Inc. of Ottawa, Canada. Alan Pearson, the BearingPoint project manager, also presented the first-ever electronic check to Dr. Ashraf Ghani, Minister of Finance, during a ceremony in Kabul. As scheduled, the full system is expected to be functioning in March 2003, six months after project initiation. BearingPoint employees will continue to help maintain the system after that date. FreeBalance, a subcontractor to BearingPoint on the project, has been selected to supply its FreeBalance eFinancialsTM software and provide associated professional services as a foundation for the new financial management system. The government-specific software includes an allotment process, commitment accounting, basic cash management and payment control capabilities. "FreeBalance is proud of the important role we are playing internationally and delighted to have the opportunity to work on this critical project in Afghanistan," said Michael McTaggart, vice president of eFinancials at FreeBalance, Inc. "We have developed unique software and global expertise that enable us to rapidly deploy government solutions in countries in transition." About BearingPoint, Inc. - BearingPoint (NYSE:BE), formerly KPMG Consulting, Inc., is one of the world's largest business consulting and systems integration firms dedicated to aligning business and systems to empower Global 2000 companies and government organizations. Providing business and technology strategy, systems design and architecture, applications implementation, network infrastructure and managed services, BearingPoint's 17,000 employees worldwide help clients deploy business systems to access information on a timely basis, empowering them to create value in their enterprises. BearingPoint's corporate headquarters is in McLean, Virginia. For more information, visit the Company's website at http://www.BearingPoint.com. About FreeBalance Inc. - For close to two decades FreeBalance has been providing advanced, innovative software solutions to government agencies worldwide. Since the company's inception in 1984, FreeBalance has grown to be a premier provider of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software designed to automate the core business and financial functions of government.

FreeBalance eFinancials TM is an integrated financial and material management system built specifically to satisfy the special information requirements of the public sector. FreeBalance eFinancials TM consists of a series of dynamic modules that can be assembled to form a fully integrated, GAAP-compliant management system. FreeBalance Inc., named as one of Federal Computer Week's Top Ten Companies to Watch, is headquartered in Ottawa, Canada, and Washington, D.C. FreeBalance clients include the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of the Army, State of California, New York State, Government of Canada, and the Province of Ontario. This press release may contain forward-looking statements relating to our operations that are based on our current expectations, estimates and projections. Words such as "expects," "intends," "plans," "projects," "believes," "estimates," and similar expressions are used to identify these forward-looking statements. These statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions that are difficult to predict. Forward-looking statements are based upon assumptions as to future events that may not prove to be accurate. Actual outcomes and results may differ materially from what is expressed or forecasted in these forward-looking statements. As a result, these statements speak only as of the date they were made and we undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Our actual results may differ from the forward-looking statements for many reasons, including: the business decisions of our clients regarding the use of our services; the timing of projects and their termination; the availability of talented professionals to provide our services; the pace of technological change; the strength of our joint marketing relationships and the actions of our competitors. In addition, these statements could be affected by domestic and international economic and political conditions. For a more detailed discussion of these factors, see Exhibit 99.1 in our Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2002.

From CanadaIT.com, 7 January 2003

World Bank Assistance to Pakistan Focuses on Supporting Home-Grown Reforms

Islamabad - The World Bank Group's Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) for FY-2003-05 focuses on supporting Pakistan's home-grown reforms through a program comprising advisory and analytical services; institutional capacity building; and demand driven lending. This was stated in the recent issue of Pakistan Country's Update of the World Bank. According to the reports, around 15 percent of the public investment programme, has been financed by the Bank, in its fifty years partnership. During this period, the World Bank has approved 242 loans, amounting to $13 billion, of which 146 are interest free IDA Credits (ie carries only a service charge of less than 1 percent with maturity of 35 years). The Bank accounts for around 23 percent of the country's total external public debt, the report added. It further said that over 85 percent of Bank funds have been used for expanding and rehabilitating physical infrastructure in the following areas: Indus Basin Irrigation and Drainage System; WAPDA and telecommunications network; primary education and health facilities all over the country; national highways system and provincial roads; water and sanitation in major cities, towns and rural areas; Karachi Port; gas production, transmission and distribution; and oil production and refining. The remaining 15 percent have been balance of payment adjustment loans in support of structural reforms in the areas of banking system; energy sector; fiscal and financial management; and public sector management. The World Bank's net disbursements to Pakistan have increased substantially over the last few years. The Bank disbursed $860 million in FY-02 the highest ever disbursed in its fifty-year history in Pakistan; and almost all consessional-IDA terms). The report added that the World Bank Group's Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) for FY-03-05 focuses on supporting Pakistan's home-grown reforms through a program comprising advisory and analytical services; institutional capacity building; and demand driven lending.

This programme revolves around the following key pillars - Strengthening macroeconomic stability and government effectiveness: The Bank is supporting the government's efforts to restore fiscal sustainability, maintain internal and external debt at sustainable levels, and improve the overall governance environment and effectiveness at the federal, provincial, and district levels. To this end, the Bank has had a significant programme of analytical work and financial assistance including. Advisory support to the Government's Poverty Reduction Strategy, and following analytical studies: the Development Policy Review, the Country Financial Accountability Assessment, and the Country Procurement Assessment. The Bank has recently provided over one billion US dollars, as fast disbursing financial assistance to support federal and provincial structural reforms (Structural Adjustment Credits-1 & 2,and Provincial SACs for Sindh and NWFP). The on-going investment Project for Improvement in Financial Accounting and Auditing (PIFRA) is supporting major institutional and policy reforms in the government's accounting and auditing functions, the report added. It further said that in future, the Bank will further its support in these areas, through (i) continued analytical assistance to the Government's Poverty Reduction Strategy, undertaking Federal and Provincial Expenditure Reviews, District Assessment; and (ii) financial assistance to support: Federal and Provincial economic reforms; implementation of the first stage of the Central Board of Revenue functional re-organization and the fundamental cultural change through a Tax Administration project; and extension of modernization of the government's accounting and auditing functions to district governments through a follow-on-operation- PIFRA-II. For strengthening the enabling climate for Investment, the Bank Group's assistance to strengthen the investment climate in Pakistan includes a combination of analytical work and financial assistance targeted at key sectors. These include the Analytical studies including: the Private Sector Strategy, Investment Climate Study, and Oil and Gas Sector Policy report. In addition, Bank's on-going IBRD/IDA assistance is supporting: (i) banking-sector reforms including privatisation through the Banking Sector Restructuring Credit, and Technical Assistance for the State bank, (ii) power sector reforms and investments through the Ghazi Barotha Hydropower Project, and (iii) policy and institutional reforms in rural sector through the National Drainage Program Project and On-farm Water Management project for NWFP.

The future Bank assistance includes: (i) continued analytical and advisory support for oil and gas, power sector, rural and water sector through studies such as: Oil and Gas Sector Policy Report; trade Policy review; Rural Factor Market Study; and Water Resource Management Study; and (ii) continued financial assistance for privatisation, and banking reforms through Adjustment Credits, and support to the transport sector and the National Highways Authority (NHA) reforms through an investment credit which is likely to be considered by the Bank's Board in 2003. For supporting pro-poor and pro-gender equity policies, the Bank is supporting the core objectives of the government's poverty reduction strategy by promoting educational and health, supporting pro-poor, community driven development, and targeted poverty alleviation programs. To provide the knowledge base on poverty in Pakistan and for future dialogue and assistance in this area, a major piece of analytical work - The Poverty Assessment- was undertaken in FY02. Similarly, a comprehensive Country Gender Assessment report is expected to be completed next year, which would provide the basis for Bank support for pro-gender equity policies in the country, the report added. The report further said that the Bank has recently provided budgetary support, of about $200 million, in the form of Provincial Adjustment Credits to support major reforms in two provinces- NWFP and Sindh- thus enhancing the provincial governments' fiscal capacity to increase pro-poor expenditures, especially in education and health sectors. The Bank's assistance for rural and urban sector development emphasizes community-driven, poverty targeted projects, such as the on-going Poverty Alleviation Fund Project- PPAF and the Community Infrastructure Projects (CIP) in NWFP and AJK. These projects aim to empower rural and urban poor by providing them with access to resources and services, such as micro-credit, community-driven infrastructure, and capacity building. The Bank will continue this approach in the future through follow-on projects such as PPAF-II, and Community Based Infrastructure Projects in other provinces, the report added.

From Daily Times, 7 January 2003

China Taxation Admin To Intensify Tax Evasion Crackdown

Beijing - Administration of Taxation officials said Tuesday. Tax evasion deprived government coffers of about 35 billion yuan ($1=CNY8.28) in revenue last year, administration Deputy Director Cui Junhui said at a press briefing. Excluding customs duties and agricultural tax, total tax revenue in 2002 totaled CNY1.7 trillion, an increase of 12% from 2001. State Administration of Taxation Director Jin Renqing said that he expected tax revenue growth to slightly exceed gross domestic product growth this year, but didn't specify a figure. China posted an 8% year-on-year increase in GDP in 2002 and is expected to record at least 7% GDP growth this year. China urgently needs higher tax revenues to help offset an expected record budget deficit of CNY309.8 billion in 2002, fueled by increased spending on social services and infrastructure projects. The tax administration has prioritized a crackdown on tax evasion as one of several methods of boosting tax revenue, including blocking existing tax loopholes. "We're going to continue to investigate (tax evasion) cases, especially...the most significant cases," Cui said. "We are determined to investigate and prosecute anybody, whoever he or she is (and) we are going to bring him or her to justice no matter what kind of people they are."

Cui said that tax fraud investigators will pursue both foreign and domestic taxpayers regardless of their size or status. China's battle against tax evasion last year bagged high-profile cheats including film star Liu Xiaoqing and multimillionaire tycoon Yang Bin. Liu was arrested June 20 on charges of evading CNY14.6 million in taxes since 1996. Authorities raised CNY6.6 million earlier this month from the sale of 18 of Liu's confiscated apartments and houses. Yang, the former chairman of Euro-Asia Agricultural (Holdings) Ltd. (Q.EAA), was placed under house arrest for alleged business malfeasance late last year shortly after North Korea appointed him to head a new special economic zone centered on the reclusive Stalinist state's border town of Sinuiju adjacent China's Liaoning province. Jin warned that public figures should be particularly conscientious in fulfilling their tax obligations. "We have conducted this kind of investigation not because they were celebrities but because they were involved in tax evasion activities...(but) celebrities have gained much more in terms of trust and benefit from society so they should return what they should return to the general public," he said. (By Phelim Kyne, Dow Jones Newswires; 8610 6588-5848; Phelim.kyne@dowjones.com).

From Yahoo News, 14 January 2003

 

Budget Figures Surpass Estimates

Economists say new numbers do not affect need for finance reform - The government has reported better-than-expected state budget figures for 2002, but economists remain downbeat about the current state of public finances. According to the Finance Ministry, last year's state budget deficit - the gap between what the government receives in revenue and what it spends on public services - was 45.7 billion Kc ($1.5 billion). The figure was almost 15 billion Kc lower than the government's estimate last fall of 60 billion Kc for 2002. In all, the state received 705.04 billion Kc and spent 750.76 billion Kc last year. Revenue included 20.6 billion Kc in privatization earnings from the National Property Fund and 17.3 billion Kc in Russian debt repayments. The Finance Ministry said the numbers were the result of higher corporate tax collections (which were about 20 billion Kc better than expected), improved retail sales over Christmas (which brought in more VAT revenue) and 3.1 billion Kc in savings from lower interest rates on the public debt. Economists welcomed the news but they stressed the figures should not weaken the government's resolve toward fiscal reform. See related story, A8. "The figures are definitely positive, but it doesn't change the urgent need for public finance reform," said Martin Kupka, chief economist at CSOB, the nation's largest bank.

That view was echoed by Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who said Jan. 5 that reforms were necessary if the government wants to maintain the welfare state. Helena Horska, an analyst at Ceska sporitelna, stressed that the figures do not include full 2000 and 2001 losses at Ceska konsolidacni agentura (CKA), the state-owned agency that covers debts from state companies. Most of the losses repaid last year were from 1999, she said. Before the August 2002 floods, which affected a number of public spending plans, the government had planned to pay off more than 200 billion Kc in CKA losses in time for this country's entry to the European Union in 2004. That prospect, however, now appears increasingly unlikely. "The picture is less optimistic when you start to look closely at the figures," Horska said. Horska added that the corporate tax revenue figures are not as impressive as they look on paper. She said the state will be forced in the spring to pay back a substantial amount in tax receipts, because taxes paid last year were calculated on overly optimistic forecasts of corporate earnings. Nonetheless, Kupka said he expected higher tax receipts in 2003 because of improved economic conditions for companies in the second half of this year. (Ben Schiller's e-mail address is bschiller@praguepost.com)

From Prague Post, Czech Republic, by Ben Schiller, 8 January 2003

Public Finance Reform Plan's Hopes Dimmer

Finance minister Bohuslav Sobotka's proposals to reform public spending received a major body blow last week when the government decided not to commit itself on the budget reform package until March. In what could be the death knell for hopes to reduce massive government spending anytime soon, the Cabinet last Wednesday set up a government commission that will be led by Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, to examine aspects of the reform package. Spidla is known to be reluctant to implement far-reaching spending cuts. Many in the Social Democratic Party (CSSD), including Spidla and Labor and Social Affairs Minister Zdenek Skromach, fear that spending cuts will go against their party program and cost them the support of core voters. Economists and political analysts fear the only decisions that will be taken by Spidla's commission will be to implement cosmetic reforms. That, they warn, could postpone the Czech Republic's adoption of the single currency euro and harm the economy. Sobotka prepared the reform proposals in the months leading up to the end of 2002 with a team of economists that included former finance minister Pavel Mertlik (now chief economist at Raiffeisenbank), Petr Zahradnik of Conseq Finance and economist Ondrej Schneider. The two proposals he presented to the government last week involved a more modest package that would reduce deficit spending to 4.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2006 and a more ambitious package of cuts that would bring the deficit down to 3.7 percent in the same year.

The approved budget deficit for 2003 is Kc 111.3 billion ($3.7 billion), or nearly 5 percent of GDP. In the end, neither package was adopted. "Sobotka's proposals would definitely be a first step in the right direction, and now is the right time to reform public spending if the Czech Republic wants to join the eurozone at the same time as its Central European neighbors," said Martin Kupka, chief economist at Ceskoslovenska Obchodni Banka (CSOB). "If this first step is not realized and followed up by other steps, such as pension reform, this could hinder GDP growth in future years and negatively affect the crown." Foreign investors could shun the crown if they are concerned by the fragility of public spending reforms and the date for adoption of the euro is in question, Kupka said. They could choose instead to back the currencies of neighboring countries set to adopt the euro earlier. A similar warning was aired by Czech National Bank (CNB) deputy governor Oldrich Dedek at a conference on the euro last Thursday. While Dedek insisted that the Czech Republic had to find a favorable exchange rate at which to join the eurozone, being left behind by countries like Poland, Hungary and Slovakia in moves to join the euro would damage the Czech economy. The CNB, he said, advocated spending cuts now to make the 2006 deadline for paring down the government deficit in readiness for early adoption of the euro. The Maastricht criteria for adoption of the single currency sets a maximum of 3 percent of GDP for the government deficit. Economists have repeatedly warned that it will take around three years to gradually reduce spending to reach that target.

If the government opts for a deficit of 4.9 percent in 2006, the country would have difficulty making the grade on this key Maastricht criterion until 2009. "It's quite clear that Sobotka produced a rational reform package under the influence of well-known economists," said Vaclav Zak, editor-in-chief of the political bi-monthly Listy. "I am concerned that Spidla has taken over because he doesn't really have that great an understanding of economic issues." "Spidla is reluctant to make huge cuts and unless his advisers can make him understand the need for reform, I fear there will be little or no reform," he added. Resistance to the package is also coming from MPs. All the party's MPs and members seem divided over the issue of whether to reform or adhere to CSSD pre-election promises (see editorial, page 8). "A large number of the party's MPs are completely against the idea of extensive reform because they feel that this would lose them the next election," said Kamil Janacek, chief economist at Komercni Banka (KB). "In reality this means they have opted for the short-term interest of keeping their seats and in return have sacrificed the long-term financial stability of the country." "As the commission set up to examine the proposals contains people from the trade unions or with strong ties to the unions, we can expect very little in the way of support for Sobotka's reforms," he added. Spidla is also apparently reluctant to take any major steps until after the election of a new president to replace Vaclav Havel. The odds are currently on Parliament failing to elect a new president, necessitating direct elections for the job, which could take months to arrange as the Czech Constitution would have to be amended. So a decision on reform could be indefinitely postponed. "I understand the Social Democrats' reluctance to go against their pre-election promises and postpone any decision, but unfortunately their promises do not reflect the economic realities of the Czech economy," Kupka said. "Unless they realize that, we will be stuck with cosmetic and meaningless cuts in spending."

From Prague Business Journal, Czech Republic, by Nick Carey, 13 January 2003

EU to Censure States over Public Finances

The European Commission is to slap the wrists of three of its largest members over for their lack of progress in improving their public finance. In a draft document due to be approved at its meeting in Strasbourg tomorrow, the Commission will reportedly castigate Germany, France and Italy for having made the "least effective follow-up" to their commitments on economic policy. The censure comes less than a week after the Commission said Germany must begin taking action on cutting its budget deficit by May or face hefty fines. The state's deficit breached the EU's 3pc limit last year and may do so again in 2003. A pay deal negotiated last week with public sector union Verdi, which represents three million workers, is likely to put further pressure on the Exchequer finances. The document summarises the progress of EU countries in implementing economic policy guidelines agreed with the Commission. Denmark and Sweden emerge as star performers overall, following by a middle group that includes Ireland, Belgium, Greece, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal and the UK. Lagging behind are Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria and Finland. On France, the paper said that while it "appears" not to have breached the 3pc limit in 2002, it is targeting "no sufficient decline" in the deficit this year.

From Online.ie, Ireland, 14 January 2003

Public Spending Law: 9.89 Billion in Payments and 8.44 Billion in Obligations on Hold

Rome - The Italian Finance Ministry has enacted a decree blocking spending, putting 9.89 billion euro in payments and 8.44 billion euro in obligations by the public administration on hold. These figures come from a table accompanying the decree which was recently sent to Parliament and reduces the issuance of securities by state administrations to 85 percent of cash funds and reduces spending obligations to the same percentage. The block in obligations primarily concerns the Finance Ministry (for about 3.3 billion euro), the Defense Ministry (1.172 billion euro) and the Education Ministry (805 million). As to payments, 3.63 billion euro in payments by the Finance Ministry, 1.166 billion by Defense and 1 billion by Education were put on hold.

From AGI, 14 January 2003

Why Public Finance is in Disarray

The latest annual report by the auditor general on public accounts, covering the year 2001, was laid on the Table of the House of Representatives on Monday. There is no doubt that the office of the auditor general is becoming more inquisitive, more investigative and more efficient. It is progressively investigating every nook and cranny of the administration, as evidenced by the fact that the latest report runs to 410 pages, compared to 220-odd pages that make up the reports for the two preceding years. The more one digs into this report, the more one finds out that various sensitive areas of the administrative civil service do not go by the book and could not care less. It is not enough that these sectors are ignoring established rules and regulations. This state of affairs has prevailed in spite of repeated admonitions by the auditor general and the watchdog role of the press. The first 'audit concern' highlighted in the last annual report refers to the old chestnut relating to the conciliation (or lack thereof) between the public account held at the Central Bank and the Treasury Books. This reconciliation exercise has not been held since June 1992, which, incidentally, was the same year when the present minister of finance took control of his ministry. Year after year, the auditor general referred to this "critical shortcoming". The latest report stated that monies "held in trust, received or paid by the government, at December 31, 2001, amounted to Lm7,085,177 as accounted for in the Treasury Books. However, the Central Bank statement of the public account ended with a closing balance of no less than Lm16,048,465, as on the same date".

The discrepancy does not represent small beer and raises the ominous question as to who has been responsible for this ongoing situation and why no prompt disciplinary steps were taken to regularise matters in the span of eight years. Yet another prime concern of the auditor general, which has become a regular feature of his reports, relates to arrears of revenues due to the government. These have been accumulated with the years and amounted approximately to Lm404 million as at December 31, 2001. This is an area where significant improvements would have been registered, considering the inefficient procedures for the collection of debt, weak enforcement procedures for the settlement of fines imposed, and lack of correct documentation. The auditor general has confessed that the balance of arrears of revenue reflects approximative figures because not all revenue collecting sources submitted their returns. Some returns are incomplete or are themselves made up of approximations. Some arrears are time-barred. The auditor general noticed that there is "clear evidence" that the gross amount of arrears due to the social security department "is unrealistic and unreliable". To cap it all, a number of departments did not submit any return. This amounts to a terrible official indictment of the way government finances are managed. The wonder is how the National Audit Office can find its way through this shambles. The indictment is not restricted to the manifestly inadequate book-keeping. It goes far beyond. It relates to non-compliance with standing regulations, inadequate record keeping, payment vouchers not covered by VAT receipts, disregard of inventory regulations, and delay in remitting receipts to the public account held at the Central Bank which affects the liquidity of the government, besides increasing the risk of abuse.

The auditor general highlighted a range of irregularities whose nature and effect warranted a mention, even though these were not consistently encountered. These included a lack of accountability and non-existence of the basic elements of stock control; weak internal controls, including segregation of duties, double payments being made out of public funds as a result; and poor utilisation of ad hoc computerised facilities. The latter leads to a situation where revenue collection is not effective. Four departments/sections failed to submit the relevant information to the National Audit Office with the result that planned audits had to be aborted. This was in flagrant breach of Section 108(5) of the Constitution. The report meticulously examines the operation of all ministries and departments and exposes several irregularities and misdemeanours. The ministry of finance, for example, does not keep a petty cash book as stipulated by the General Financial Regulations. At the ministry of education, the National Audit Office examined 122 vouchers in the course of their audit. Sixty of these (49 per cent), relating to 48 suppliers, were not covered by a fiscal document. A total amount of Lm32,000 is not covered by a VAT receipt. This may result in VAT collections not being passed on to the VAT department. The ministry of economic services was in breach of the provisions of financial rules and regulations when it failed to remit immediately to the Central Bank money that was being collected. The control issues raised at the Department of Information, and calling for improved management systems, referred to the disregard of procurement regulations, an unreliable inventory ledger and inaccurate stock records.

Of the total revenue arrears due to the government at the end of 2001, amounting to Lm404 million, no less than Lm73.3 million were due from the government departments and parastatal bodies. There are several reports of non-compliance with standing transport regulations and references to the lack of proper record-keeping of vehicle log books, attributed to far too many departments; to lack of control over the use of vehicles and consumption of fuel; and to the drawing up of purchase orders after the respective purchases were made. One does not know whether to weep or cry at this state of affairs which seems to be endemic in the general service. It certainly raises the legitimate question as to whether or not the high-faulting talk about quality service charters to certain government departments is about fact or fiction! The due diligence exercised by the auditor general raises serious questions about the apparent lack of accountability at the top levels of the civil service and, even more so, about the fact that Maltese taxpayers never, ever, hear about disciplinary measures against defaulters who are in breach of the provisions of the constitution, let alone standing finance legislation.

From The Times of Malta, by J.G. Vassallo, 17 January 2003

France Vows to Meet Deficit Target

Paris - French Finance Minister Francis Mer said the government would meet 2003 public finance commitments, which include a deficit at 2.6% of gross domestic product (GDP). The government also expected economic growth this year of 2.0%-2.5%, Mer said during New Year's greetings to the press. France "must prepare a progressive reduction of its deficit. We can no longer allow a mountain of debt to pile up," Mer said. France, Germany, Italy, and Portugal have all been warned by the European Commission to reduce public deficits that have approached or breached the EU ceiling of 3.0% of GDP. Mer also told reporters 2003 would be a year of structural reforms covering decentralisation, pension plans and the national health service known as social security. He warned however that "the international (economic) context will remain uncertain until we manage to resolve, I hope peacefully, the crisis in Iraq. "Globally, I restate my confidence in the capacity of our economy - which is fundamentally healthy and competitive - to resume a sustained rhythm of growth once international uncertainly has been lifted."

From Business Day, South Africa, 17 January 2003

Commission to Improve Financial Management of Research Projects

The Commission has adopted an action plan aimed at improving and clarifying the financial management of shared cost research projects. The plan follows observations by some Directors-General in 2001 and was requested to address 'the complexity of financial management of indirect actions through simplification and enhanced consistency between the different systems currently in place and through improved contract management.' To improve organisational coordination, an inter-service group on the financial management of contracts is set up to ensure that contract interpretation is consistent and to facilitate the exchange of best practices. A network of correspondents reports directly to the inter-service group on specific issues. For projects funded under the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5), the Commission will remind contractors of the possibility of financial audit and ask them to inform their partners of their responsibilities regarding the requirements of the contract. The Commission will also inform contractors of common problems identified during financial audits so that the same mistakes are not repeated. The verification of cost claims is identified as another area for action. 'Desk audits', carried out when cost statements are submitted, will be increased and random sampling of cost claims will be made for each project. The number of full financial audits will be increased by some DGs. New rules for participation and a new contract structure for the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) should simplify the management of shared cost projects. The new contract does not impose cost categories and permits more flexibility for the consortium to manage its research project. A compilation of frequently asked questions focusing specifically on rules for participation and contractual issues will be posted on the FP6 website. If overclaims are still found to exist, sanctions exist to protect the Community's financial interests. In addition, recovery orders, as provided for in the Treaty and the Rules for Participation, will be incorporated into the model contract.

From EU Business, UK, 16 January 2003

Public Spending Law: Treasure, Effects Also in 2003-2004

Rome - The corrective measure in terms of GDP guaranteed in public accounts in 2002 following the decree to block spending is equal to 0.2-0.3 percent and will have similar effects in the following fiscal years. This was reported in a report which accompanies the Economy Ministry decree which has been presented to Parliament. The effects of the spending limitation contained in the manoeuvre "can be estimated in a correction between 0.2 and 0.3 pct of GDP both in terms of requirements and the net national debt." According to the Treasury for the following fiscal years (2003 and 2004) "we can reasonably foresee pulling forward effects which can be measured on the same level as the limits to the commitments automatically involving a reduction in past residue which will produce positive effectives in the same years."

From AGI, 13 January 2003

EU Reaches 'Political Agreement' on Interest Taxation

The EU's finance ministers ended a decade-long row over a Union-wide rule on taxing income from cross-border savings on 21 January. The political deal seeks to combat tax evasion, and the Member States agreed to crack down on investors who attempt to escape taxes by depositing money in banks abroad. The ministers agreed to a compromise under which Luxembourg, Austria and Belgium can maintain their time-honoured tradition of bank secrecy. However, the new regulations require these countries to withhold tax on savings interest earned by citizens of other EU Member States. These countries would then transfer 75 per cent of the proceeds to the investors' countries of origin. The withholding tax will amount to 15 per cent after 2004, 20 per cent after 2007, and 35 per cent after 2010. Non-EU member Switzerland would apply the same rates. The Union is trying to persuade the US, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Andorra and San Marino to adopt "equivalent measures". Under the deal, the other EU countries would transfer investor details to the national tax authorities starting in 2004. The agreement is expected to lead to higher taxes in Europe at a time when the Member States are struggling with the slowest growth rate in a decade. Meanwhile, taxation experts believe investors may soon find loopholes. Europe's taxes are already among the world's steepest. In the wake of the deal, the secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Donald Johnston, said Europe had endangered a global effort to crack down on tax havens by allowing three EU Member States to keep their banking secrecy. He said the agreement would damage the OECD's own efforts to promote greater financial openness worldwide.

From Euractiv, Belgium, 22 January 2003

Security Worries Hold Back UK Online Tax Returns

Security and usability concerns are holding back Brits from filling their tax returns online. That's the main conclusion of a survey into public attitudes to government e-services, commissioned by firewall vendor Check Point. It found that only seven per cent of 200 people polled intended to complete their tax return online. Of the 93 per cent who preferred traditional paper returns, just under half (43 per cent) named security as the reason. Concerns over the reliability of Internet connection (32 per cent), difficulty with Government Gateway online registration (10 per cent) and the lack of an Internet connection at home (five per cent) were also named as reasons for paper submissions. The Government is keen to drive online tax returns but despite a high profile advertising campaign, figures for self-assessment returns submitted online look like they will closely mirror last year's disappointing figure of 75,449, less than one per cent of the population. The deadline for online tax returns this year is Friday (January 31). Around nine million people (nearly half of all Internet users in the UK) used their credit card to make an online purchase last year, according to Check Point. The company argues that many of those who happily pay for goods online can be persuaded to fill out tax returns on the Net if the government does more to build confidence in e-government.

From Security Focus, by John Leyden, 30 January 2003

 

Personal Taxation System Offers Breaks for New Immigrants and Returning Residents

As of yesterday, Israel implemented a personal taxation system that comes to replace the previous territorial method. The change spreads the Income Tax Commission's net over revenue Israeli residents receive from foreign sources that, until now, were not part of the Israeli tax base. The new system is of particular significance to new immigrants who will receive income from foreign sources in the future and who, until now, had paid taxes only on funds that were transferred directly to Israel. In order to not to overburden this population during the transition period to the new taxation system, legislators have inserted certain breaks for such individuals. The breaks covered below come in addition to the tax credit points granted to immigrants. Some of the benefits are also being granted to returning residents - citizens who have returned to Israel after living abroad for three consecutive years, during which time they were not considered Israeli residents. Passive income - For the first five years after a person becomes an Israeli resident for the first time, he will enjoy a tax exemption on income from interest, dividends, pensions, royalties and rent that is not revenue from a business. The exemption applies to income from foreign sources owned by the individual before he became an Israeli resident. An individual who has been in Israel as a resident for between 5 and 10 years as of January 1, 2003, will be exempt from paying tax on income from the aforementioned sources until the end of 2003. Returning residents will also receive this exemption, as long as the source of the income is an asset acquired during the sojourn abroad as a foreign resident. Foreign currency deposits - An individual who became an Israeli resident for the first time will be exempt from tax on interest income from foreign currency deposits in a banking institute for 20 years.

The exemption is conditional on the closing of the deposit for a fixed term of no less than three months, within 90 days of the transfer of the funds to Israel, as well as other conditions. The exemption will apply only to deposits of funds owned by the individual abroad before his immigration to Israel. Business income For four years from the date a person first becomes an Israeli resident, he will be exempt from tax on his income from a business he had abroad, provided he owned the business for five years before he first became an Israeli resident. This benefit is applicable to income from a business he had, whether he continues to be involved in it or is eligible to receive income from it. Capital gains - An individual who became an Israeli resident for the first time will be exempt from tax on capital gains from the sale of a property owned by him overseas before he became an Israeli resident, provided the property is sold within 10 years of the date on which he became an Israeli resident. Partial exemption will be granted to those who sell such properties after more than 10 years, depending on the time frame. A returning resident will also receive this exemption on an asset purchased during his sojourn abroad as a foreign resident, if the asset (including rights in a foreign company) does not grant him direct or indirect rights to an Israeli asset. Pensions from abroad The amount of tax payable on a pension from a foreign source, received by an immigrant pursuant to his work abroad, will be no greater than the tax he would pay on that pension in the country in which it is paid had he remained a resident of that country.

This break has no time limit. A pension that was tax exempt for five years in accordance with the passive income regulations stated above will be taxable under this regulation from the sixth year onward. This break on pensions applies to any pension received by an individual, salaried or self-employed, in periodic payments, and refers to pensions stemming from deposits made by the individual into a foreign pension fund from his wages while working abroad. In certain cases, an individual who became an Israeli resident for the first time will be eligible for discounts on taxes in 2003 and will pay 15 percent tax on interest from a foreign security, 25 percent tax on dividends from foreign securities, and 15 percent on real capital gains from the sale of foreign securities. Groups of individuals eligible for discounts: l Anyone who turned 60 after January 1, 2003. l Anyone who turned 60 on January 1, 2003, or before then will be eligible for the discount as long as he was 50 or older when he became an Israeli resident for the first time. If he was 40-50 years old at the time, the discount will apply only to foreign securities derived from assets outside Israel and owned by him before his immigration. l Anyone who turned 60 on or before January 1, 2003, as long as 20 years have passed since he became an Israeli resident for the first time. l Anyone who has been an Israeli resident for less than 10 years. l Anyone who has been in Israel for less than 20 years since he first became an Israeli resident will be eligible for the discount on foreign securities derived from assets outside of Israel that were owned by him before his immigration. Accountant Vered Tannenbaum heads the new immigrant section in the Planning and Policy Department of the Income Tax Commission; Attorney Nava Namir heads a team in the International Taxation Department.

From Ha'aretz, Israel, by Vered Tannenbaum and Nava Namir, 2 December 2003

Taxation of Securities

A summary of the rates of tax on different kinds of securities under the new taxation rules. 0.5% - transaction tax on sales of stocks, options, warrants and rights in January-June 2003. 1% - transaction tax on shares in the second half of 2003. The tax will be abolished at the end of the one-year transition period. 5% - transaction tax on options (Tel Aviv 25 index, Tel Aviv banks index, dollar and euro options) in the second half of 2003. 10% -tax on nominal capital gains on securities and nominal interest on shekel investments (short-term loans, shekel bonds, short-term deposits). The capital gains tax on the sale of bonds and short-term loans will not be levied in 2003. From January 2004, the capital gains tax will be levied on securities issued after May 2003. 15% - tax on real capital gains, and on CPI- and dollar-linked interest (CPI or dollar-linked bonds, savings plans, etc.). The capital gains tax will not be levied on sales of bonds in 2003. From January 2004, the capital gains tax will be levied on bonds issued after May 2003. 15% - tax on foreign securities from 2006. Until then, capital gains on these securities will be taxed at the current rate of 35%. 25% - tax on profits from off-floor hedging deals (non-marketable options, etc.). A 15% tax will be levied on real profits from TASE-traded options and contracts. 25% - tax on dividends, the same as the current rate. Mutual funds. There will be a three-way division as follows: Funds liable to tax, that pay tax themselves on their capital gains; Exempt funds, that do not pay tax themselves, but whose investors pay tax when they sell their units; Mixed funds, that do not pay tax on securities traded in Israel, but do pay tax on securities traded overseas. The capital gains on securities will be calculated according to the base price, which will be either the purchase price of the share before the tax reform came into effect, or the share's average price in the last three trading days in 2002, whichever is the higher.

From Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il, Israel, 2 January 2003

Ministry to Introduce Comprehensive Taxation Scheme in 6 Months

Tehran - Ministry of Economy and Finance is to discard economic code next year, replacing it with a new comprehensive taxation scheme in six months for formulation of taxes in tune with nature of dealings, ceiling of income and classification of the tax payers. Minister of Economy and Finance Tahmasb Mazaheri told IRNA on Tuesday that the policy was a kind of economic reforms for identification of tax payers, do away with underground economy and raise tax revenues in proportion to the size of dealings, obviating any tax evasion emanated from illegal trade of economic codes. "Unfortunately, certain people were openly selling the economic codes last year by putting them on ADs and continued exercise of the practice would create extra costs leading to the failure to receive taxes thus harming the national economy," regretted Mazaheri. In the past year, the government initiated digit codes to all economic entities, including industry owners, businessmen, traders, private and state-run companies and the like, that signed contracts for extension of services and trade of goods in a bid to identify and gauge exact amount of income and devise proportional taxes. The strategy led to abuses and illegal trade of the codes later, prompting authorities to find a sound system for substitution.

From IRNA, Iran, 31 December 2002

Iran To Do Away With Double Taxation in Trade With Portugal

Lisbon - Visiting Iranian Finance and Economic Affairs Deputy Minister (International Affairs) Mohammad Khazaei here on Tuesday voiced Iran's readiness to sign an agreement with Portugal to avoid double taxation in trade with Portugal. Khazaei, at a meeting with the Portuguese Secretary of State for Fiscal Affairs Vasco Valdez to discuss ways and means of enhancing mutual economic relations, stressed that Tehran is keen to enhancing customs cooperation and joint investments with Lisbon. Khazaei told IRNA that in the meeting both sides agreed to promote investments through establishment of joint committees and finalize an agreement to this effect. The director of the Iranian Investments Organization further said that he had briefed Valdez on the advantages of investing in the Islamic Republic, and that he had voiced Tehran's readiness to host mutual talks between Iranian and Portuguese investors and industrialists toward this end. Khazaei said Valdez welcomed Iran's proposal to expand bilateral economic ties and announced Lisbon's readiness to expedite development of these ties. Khazaei is visiting Portugal as part of the entourage of Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, who arrived here on Tuesday for talks on issues of mutual interest.

From IRNA, Iran, 8 January 2003

 

White House to Push on Domestic Agenda

As President George W. Bush Tuesday unveils his economic stimulus package, the administration wants Congress to rein in domestic spending as it gears up for what some critics say will be a costly war with Iraq. The president in the past two months has refocused his attention from the war on terrorism back towards the ailing U.S. economy, which has shown few signs of recovery. The Bush White House has an ambitious domestic agenda whose funding may be complicated by the pending conflict with Iraq, which has an uncertain price tag. The White House was unwilling to discuss how much it believes a potential war with Iraq could cost, though former Bush economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey said the price tag could top $200 billion. White House Budget Office Director Mitch Daniels put the cost somewhere between $50 billion and $60 billion. The Congressional Budget Office's estimated the cost of deploying troops to the Gulf would be between $9 billion and $13 billion, and that prosecuting the war would cost between $6 billion and $9 billion a month. The cost of an occupation following combat operations would vary from about $1 billion to $4 billion a month, the CBO said. "Well, clearly, anything dealing with Iraq is such a hypothetical, I'm not in a position to address what a potential cost could or could not be. But regardless of any decisions that are made on Iraq, the economy needs a boost," said White House Press secretary Ari Fleischer on Monday. Historically, Bush could face a parallel with the administration of President Lyndon Johnson, who in the 1960s fought both the war in Vietnam and a war on poverty at home. Brookings Institution Senior Fellow William Gale said Johnson likely overstressed the federal budget by doing so. The White House said Monday that the president plans to ask the U.S. Congress to hold the line on spending. Congress will take up the appropriations bill in the next two weeks that was left unfinished when the 107th Congress adjourned. "They've already agreed on an aggregate cap of $750 billion for all domestic discretionary spending for the 11 remaining appropriation bills," Fleischer said. "So the president is encouraged by the fact that they have already agreed to a cap that the administration supports for the upcoming appropriation cycle for 2003."

The Congressional Budget Office estimated a $157 billion federal budget deficit in 2002, the result of a slump in tax revenues coupled with double-digit spending growth. The CBO predicted a $147 billion deficit in 2003. "Our administration is concerned about deficits, and the way they deal with deficits is you want to control spending. And I hope Congress lives up to their words," said Bush on Monday after a meeting with members of his Cabinet. "When they talk about deficits, they can join us in making sure we don't overspend." "The president's approach is that what creates surpluses in our country and in our government's coffers is growth, that without growth, there are deficits," Fleischer said. "In times of growth, we have surpluses. And that's what history has shown. And so the current deficit is caused as a result of the recession." The Bush White House said it remained committed to approval of its core domestic items that were the hallmark of the president's 2000 campaign. Most of the measures were stalled in the Democratically controlled U.S. Senate in the last session. Those items are a prescription drugs program, Medicare reform, Social Security reform, education reform and a ban on cloning. Bush's request to Congress comes as he is set to announce his economic stimulus package during a speech at the Chicago Economics Club on Tuesday, the same day the Republican-controlled 108th Congress convenes. The plan will likely include aid for cash-poor states, tax incentives for businesses, expanded unemployment benefits and acceleration of the president's tax cuts approved last year. Reports estimate the cost of the plan at between $300 billion and $600 billion over the next decade. Democrats offered up an alternative plan which seeks 26 additional weeks of unemployment benefits for the jobless, refundable income tax rebates of up to $300 per person or $600 per working couple and increased aid for cash-strapped states. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities said the nation already faces tremendous long-term fiscal challenges.

The retirement of baby boomers, rising health care costs and tax cuts enacted in 2001 if made permanent will exert tremendous pressure on budget, the group said. On prescription drugs for seniors, the White House on Monday told United Press International that Bush remains committed to passage of a strong bill that would provide relief for seniors. Deputy Press Secretary Scott McClellan said Bush wants seniors to have more choice while limiting out-of-pocket costs. Republicans backed a bill in the last session with an estimated $340 billion price tag that would have provided a government-administered program with drug subsidies for low-income beneficiaries. The House had passed a drug bill that would have cost $320 billion over 10 years and would have been administered by private drug companies. On Social Security, the White House said Bush "remained committed" to reforming the decades-old entitlement system. Bush has supported giving younger workers the option of placing a portion of their Social Security into stocks or mutual fund accounts. The Bush White House declined to go into detail about the administration's efforts to begin revamping the system. Political analysts believe Bush has opted to delay reforming Social Security until 2004 because it had essentially become a political albatross. Privatizing Social Security would have little support among an American public skittish about the stock market in the wake of declining stock values and a slew of corporate scandals in 2002, experts said. On education Bush said Saturday that he would seek an additional $1 billion for the Title I program in the 2004 budget, bringing the funding for the program up to $12.3 billion. He also said he would seek more than $1.1 billion for federal reading programs, up $75 million from the 2002 budget. McClellan said education reform has seen historic funding increases under Bush, more than 43 percent since 2000 while implementing bold reforms. The state governments, however, are upset over what they consider a lack of funding for student testing, teacher quality and performance enhancements. The White House also said Bush wants the new Congress to act quickly to ban cloning as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigates claims by a company that it has produced the first cloned human infant.

From United Press International, by Kathy A. Gambrell, 7 January 2003

Bush Plans to End Dividend Taxation

Move to broadly alter investing - The elimination of taxation on corporate dividends, as President Bush was expected to propose Monday, could provoke sweeping changes in the way companies raise money and in the ways Americans and investors based overseas invest their money in U.S. companies. It could make American corporations less likely to go broke in bad times, while at the same time making it more expensive for states and cities to borrow money. Wall Street could see a boom in fees as companies rush to issue preferred stock, a relatively obscure security that could become the most popular way for many companies to raise money from investors. Overseas-based investors might find American shares less attractive as a result of the tax change, particularly if they could not take advantage of the tax breaks under their countries' tax laws. They could see American stocks trading at prices that reflect tax advantages not available to them. For investors in the United States, the saving would be likely to accrue only to those who held their stocks in taxable accounts, as opposed to retirement accounts such as 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts. That could make such retirement accounts less popular, or at a minimum, make investors less likely to use them for their stock investments. Tax-sensitive individual investors in the United States have long purchased municipal bonds, issued by state and local governments, because interest on the bonds was exempt from federal income tax, and often from state income tax as well. "The principal attraction of muni bonds is that the interest income is exempt," said Robert Willens, a tax analyst at Lehman Brothers. "If dividends were exempt, and you also had the potential of capital gains, some stocks would look a lot more attractive than muni bonds."

The existence of another investment that offers tax-free income would likely mean that muni-bond issuers would have to pay higher interest rates when they borrowed money. Another impact on many states would stem from the fact that their income tax laws follow the federal statute. Thus the states would lose tax revenues from investors who received dividends, increasing the budget pressures on the states. President Bush is expected to propose increased federal aid for state governments, which would offset that impact to some extent. Because stock dividends would become more attractive to investors, all interest income could become somewhat less attractive. That could mean that investors will demand higher rates than they otherwise would on everything from savings accounts to corporate bonds and even Treasury bonds. But those impacts would be relatively small, and could be overwhelmed by other trends in the economy. The proposed elimination of all taxes on dividends goes well beyond what had been expected, and helped to send U.S. stock prices up Monday, with some of the largest gains coming among companies that pay relatively high dividends. Interviews with several tax experts Monday also indicated that the legislation, if it is approved by Congress, will have to address issues concerning extraordinary dividends and holding periods to get the dividend income tax free. Corporations now pay a low tax rate on dividends received from other companies, a fact that led to a series of tax strategies that Congress legislated against. "I expect these laws to have the various anti-abuse provisions in them, as they do now for corporations," said Robert Gordon, the president of 21st Securities, which specializes in tax strategies for investors. "If they don't, there will be some great opportunities from this, but I can't believe the government will be that obtuse."

Congress may also have to consider what to do about investors who have borrowed money - whether through margin accounts or otherwise - to buy or hold shares that pay dividends that are now to become tax-free. Currently the interest on such loans can be tax deductible, but that probably would change. A related issue concerns capital gains and losses. "A lot will depend on how the proposal deals with extraordinary dividends," said David Hariton, a tax partner at Sullivan and Cromwell, a large law firm, referring to large dividends, defined as being equal to or greater than 10 percent of a share's value. Hariton said that without rules to prevent it, "a shareholder could buy stock, receive a large tax-free dividend, and then sell the stock for a capital loss that offsets a capital gain." Rules that prevent companies from doing such things "might have to be extended to the individual level," he said. Dividends are defined as money paid to shareholders by companies from their profits. Shareholders include holders of common stocks and of preferred stocks. The investment advantages of common stocks that pay dividends would be increased, but not enough to fundamentally alter the investment climate. High-dividend paying stocks would be more attractive, but the most important investment criterion would continue to be the outlook for the company's profits. Preferred stocks, at their simplest level, promise the investor a certain payment every year, just as a bond does. Currently preferred stocks have relatively little appeal to most individual investors.

From International Herald Tribune, France, by Floyd Norris, 7 January 2003

Bush Targets Dividend Taxation

Chicago - President Bush yesterday called for a halt to the double taxation of dividend income, half of which goes to senior citizens, as part of a sweeping, $670 billion package to stimulate the economy. "I proposed a bold plan because the need for this plan is urgent," Mr. Bush told the Economic Club of Chicago. "And I urge the Congress to act swiftly and pass this bill." The president's plan includes an extension of unemployment benefits and an acceleration of Mr. Bush's 2001 tax cuts, allowing 92 million taxpayers to keep an average of $1,083 more of their income this year. It also raises the child tax credit to $1,000 from $600 and eliminates the so-called marriage penalty by increasing the standard deduction for couples to twice that for single filers. Democrats called the bill a giveaway to the rich. They said their own economic stimulus package - about one-fifth the size of the president's - is less likely to exacerbate deficits. "He's speaking the rhetoric working Americans are so eager to hear but offering only words to distract from his big, new tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans," said Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, a Democratic presidential hopeful. The biggest component of the package by far entails ending double taxation of dividends, a move estimated as being worth $364 billion over 10 years to taxpayers. Seeking to blunt Democratic arguments that the cut is a sop to the wealthy, Mr. Bush said it will help sustain a lot of ordinary senior citizens. He said even Americans who do not receive dividends will benefit because the cut will invigorate the stock market and create jobs, two lagging components of an otherwise growing economy. "As it is now, many investments are taxed not once, but twice," the president said. "First, the IRS taxes the company who owns the profit. Then it taxes the investors who received the profits as dividends. "The result of this double taxation is that for all the profit a company earns, shareholders who receive dividends keep as little as 40 cents on the dollar. "Double taxation is bad for our economy," he said. "Double taxation is wrong. Double taxation falls especially hard on retired people."

Emboldened by the Republican takeover of the Senate, which was sworn in yesterday, Mr. Bush demanded immediate enactment of many aspects of his 2001 tax cuts, which were originally scheduled to phase in over a decade. For example, he called for acceleration of an income-tax cut scheduled for 2006. It would be retroactive to Jan. 1. "If tax relief is good enough for Americans three years from now, it is good enough for Americans today," he said, drawing applause from 2,300 business leaders. "By speeding up the income-tax cuts, we will speed up economic recovery and the pace of job creation." But Mr. Bush was not willing to speed up elimination of the death tax, which is scheduled to linger until 2010. Asked by The Washington Times why this aspect of the 2001 Bush tax cut is not "good enough for Americans today," a senior White House official said Mr. Bush had to prioritize his list of measures to stimulate the economy. Dozens of Democrats helped pass the 2001 Bush tax cut, but they appeared determined to water down the new economic-stimulus package in the Senate, where Republicans claimed their one-vote majority yesterday. The House, which has been controlled by the GOP for all of Mr. Bush's presidency, is expected to pass virtually every aspect of the new package. "My key concern is twofold," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. "There is no stimulus in the stimulus plan, and secondly it is grossly unfair. "Clearly, what the president has laid out today is wrong," he said. The Democrats' $100 billion stimulus package includes rebates of $300 per person or $600 per working couple this year, tax cuts on equipment purchases for small businesses and unemployment assistance. It does not cut taxes on stockholders.

The White House does not expect to enact 100 percent of yesterday's package, especially with the 2004 presidential race already heating up and a crowded field of Democratic challengers increasing their rhetoric against Mr. Bush. That's one reason why Mr. Bush decided last month to propose a larger package than he had been contemplating, when he planned to merely reduce the double taxation of dividends. "Americans today are paying about a third of their income in taxes," the president said. "All of this puts pressure on [a] family budget and therefore clouds our economic future." Mr. Bush also proposed to help small businesses by allowing them to write off equipment purchases of up to $75,000, triple the current limit. And he called for a retroactive extension of unemployment benefits that ran out Dec. 28. Because the Democrats also called for such an extension - as well as smaller tax breaks for businesses - White House officials do not expect many Americans to view the competing plans as opposites. They consider it a measure of Mr. Bush's influence that Democrats who once talked of rolling back the earlier tax cuts are now pushing cuts of their own. Mr. Bush also emphasized that the economy began to decline while Bill Clinton was president and has since recovered from one of the shortest and shallowest recessions in history. In an effort to pre-empt Democratic criticism, he also said his economic stimulus plan will reduce deficits, not enlarge them. And he tried to put the onus on Democrats by saying they can keep deficits down by reining in spending. "The Congress must also understand this: The American people deserve and expect spending discipline in Washington, D.C.," he said. "With spending discipline and with pro-growth policies, we will expand the economy and help bring down this deficit."

From Washington Times, DC, by Bill Sammon, 8 January 2003

Senators Support Telecom Tax Reform

Utah senators gave initial approval Wednesday to legislation that would shift some of the local tax burden from residential phone customers to cell phone users. The Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee unanimously advanced Senate Bill 23, which would grant authority and set limits on local telecommunciations taxes. Most cell phone users in Utah cities could see a hike in their local taxes under the plan, while customers with basic traditional phone service could see decreases. The bill carries a delayed effective date of July 1, 2004. "You understand, this is not the state imposing a tax," said sponsoring Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo. "This is trying to bring tax equity to telecommunications at the municipal level." Bramble is chairman of the committee that endorsed the measure on a 5-0 vote. SB23 is the product of two years of negotiations between industry and cities. Representatives from both groups testified Wednesday in support of the bill, which they said was a good-faith compromise effort to treat phone customers equally, regardless of whether they used wireless or hard-wired equipment. Consumer groups were not part of the task force working on the issue but did have opportunity to provide input. Bramble, who said he is unaware of organized opposition to the bill, predicted it would pass the Senate and House without many bumps. For years, cell phone customers escaped the municipal franchise tax imposed on residential and business consumers with land-line phones.

That started to change in the late 1990s, when some cities began imposing taxes on the monthly bills of cell phone users. Worried that taxes on cell phones would develop without a consistent policy, the Legislature capped the tax at $1 per month. Under SB23, the tax would change to a flat rate of up to 4 percent, meaning the tax could double to $2 for consumers with monthly plans costing $50. Land-line phone owners, meantime, would see the maximum franchise tax rate decrease from the current 6 percent to 4 percent. Other changes in the law expands the tax for phone-service options, which could offset some of that drop. Generally, those with basic land-line service would see a tax break. "We're not pretending that it's revenue neutral as to every consumer," said Roger Tew, lobbyist for the Utah League of Cities and Towns. "But there is a strong feeling that all telecommunication should be treated equally as far as municipal tax policy." Unaddressed by the legislation is the different tax treatment of phone customers in unincorporated county communities. Counties do not have power to levy the franchise tax, and thus phone customers escape the levy entirely. The cell phone tax is imposed based on a customer's billing address. Bramble said the discrepancy between county and city taxation of phone customers needs to be dealt with by future legislation.

From Salt Lake Tribune, UT, 23 January 2003

California Changes Mind on Online Sales Tax

Pay up. Everything's changed - A Report in today's Mercury News said that governor Gray Davis has changes his mind about making California online firms pay sales tax. That's a U-turn, reports the paper, forced by a budget shortfall of $34.6 billion, and a reversal of his previous view on tax. He's quoted as being "adamantly" against an Internet tax plan but now it looks that realities have scratched the surface of his diamond-like resistance to such plans. A bill that was kicked out by Davis three years ago meant any company that had bricks and mortar in California should charge for goods bought online by citizens of the state. But the bill faces deep opposition by outfits such as the American Electronic Association, which claims it would put its Californian members at a disadvantage.

From The Inquirer, 30 January 2003

 
 

Our Justification for Opposing the Privatization of NNPC Subsidiaries - Nupengassan

The strategic importance of the Refineries, Petrochemicals, Depots and Products Pipelines to the transformation of the industrial base of the Nigeria economy must be given due recognition in policy determination and or shift. Since the electricity and energy sector could not guarantee steady power supply, power back up through oil and gas products from the petroleum sector has been highly supportive to generate electricity and water, and forestall low capacity utilization in industry and business recession. Privatization as being canvassed is an offshoot of globalization, which lays more emphasis on contract and casual staffing, job expansion rather than promoting gainful employment. This is happening on the heels of high rate of graduate unemployment and ineffective poverty alleviation measures. The so-called capable Nigerians and foreign technical partners that have signified interest in taking over the companies so far privatized have only shown concerns for their economic gain without demonstrating the political will to make socioeconomic impact for national interest and development. Instead of making "man- the center of development, their preoccupation is- undue money making. The privatization of African Petroleum Plc, Unipetrol Nigeria Plc, and National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company of Nigeria Plc left sour taste in the mouth of our members. Majority of our members lost their jobs in the process without just cause*o New staff engaged to replace them were employed through labour contractors with anti -labour pre-condi tions* The 10% Share of privatized companies reserved for workers were sold to increase the core investor's participation. The workers lost all round.* The provision in the law on privatization, which prescribe that no core investor should own more than 40% equity was breached as some even have up to 70% now and run the companies as personal estate or as Sole Administrator.

In actual fact, economic revolution cannot be realized without proper strength to compete in the global and enlarged regional markets largely dominated by the highly and technological advanced multi-national and mega corporations that have the mastery and intrigue in stagnating and retarding the less develop and developing countries through indirect infiltration of international finance clubs. This strength can only be strategically acquired through Nigerianization. The super powers have continued to retard economies to perpetual status of net-importer of economic and industrial goods, by collapsing the technology that has supported their pace of development and their backward integration objective. If Nigeria allowed the NNPC privatization, the Refineries, Petrochemicals and Product Pipelines would be acquired and collapsed abruptly as scraps to the advantages of newly set-up ones while shortfalls will be imported from the home countries of the operators. The consequence can only be imagined. The existence of NNPC as wholly owned and managed Nigerian corporation has been able to give Nigerians the opportunity to demonstrate potentials and competence to the fullest in the oil industry. If the thrust of our social and economic policy is to promote and enhance the development of indigenous manpower and entrepreneur, then steps must be aligned to that direction. Nigeria cannot make a breakthrough unless we develop a guided socioeconomic secrecy through aggressive initiative by local manpower. Our Oil industry, especially the downstream sector is the feasible sources to create an upset to compel the acceptance of our economy in the league of developing nation. Present Status of NNPC:* NNPC no longer depends on Government subvention. With persistent drive and aggressiveness, NNPC now pays its 26 billion Naira per month for its allocation of crude at the international price of $1 8 per barrel.

The local refineries utilize part of the crude with the existing plant capacity utilization, while the balance is sent out to other refineries to supplement local shortfalls. The current situation in NNPC is a symptom of very hopeful national self-reliance that should be encouraged. The management of NNPC had since 1999 been showing that NNPC has a lot of potentials and opportunities to embark and implement creative business polices to widen its revenue base and to prepare the corporation for the challenges ahead.*The NNPC has also been rendering financial assistance running into millions of dollars to the Federal Government as regards The loan for government's equity share in a South African sugar company, The loan for oil exploration to the Sao Tome and Principe etc.*Further to its self-sufficiency, NNPC has consistently maintained its philosophy as a worthy supporter of public good. The Corporation's donation of NlOO million to victims of Lagos Bomb Explosion Appeal Fund, the relief materials to victims of Kaduna riots, is just a tip. The All Nigeria Secondary School Quiz Competition that culminated into award of university scholarship to students is also notable.* NNPC has since 1999 ensured improvement in the regularity of Turn Around Maintenance of the four (4) 445,000 bpd nation's refineries. Apart from the Port Harcourt Refinery II with 150,000 bpd, the other 3 ageing refineries is scheduled to be overhauled and rejuvenated to achieve a substantial capacity utilization in order to increase local production and reduce import. The Socio Economic and Political Benefits of NNPC - The Last 3 years: Has ensured steady supplies and availability, of petroleum products. Has ensured that consumers are not compelled to pay above a reasonable economic rate. Has encouraged genuine Nigerians who have the means and the know-how to come into the business so as to further promote true Nigerianization, galvanize employment and income generation capacity and as a poverty reduction strategy.

Has eliminated or minimized corruption and inefficiency hitherto experienced in the corporation during Military regime. Has improved the quality of life, business approach and value systems. Has demonstrated better organizational reforms and symptoms of recovery and a true path to prosperity. Our no prejudice perception, evaluation and assessment of the performance of NNPC and its subsidiaries in the last three years are based on the public responses to our surveys. The inference drawn shown that NNPC has comparatively improved public confidence in the economy and the polity in relation to the performance in other government corporation and parastals. This has considerably enhanced the public rating of the current civilian administration. NNPC has indeed served as a major factor for ensuring cohesion and national unity. Conclusion and Recommendations Privatization of NNPC Refineries and other Subsidiaries. We strongly oppose and vow to resist vehemently the ongoing attempt by the Federal Government through the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) to privatize the country's refineries and other NNPC subsidiaries. We also note that the government plan if not checked will lead to a massive job losses, arbitrary price increases of petroleum products, mortgaging of our national and strategic assets, loss of revenue, and putting our economic mainstay in the hands of a few individuals who are masquerading for foreign neo-imperialists with the attendants implication on national security. It is the height of insensitivity and unpatriotism to sell our entire viable oil corporation whereas other oil producing nations are strengthening theirs to effectively compete with privately own companies. Stories from other countries Abroad: India owns refineries completely managed by a National Company Integrated Oil Company, independent and devoid of government interference; others are*SASOL (South Africa).

From Vanguard, Nigeria, by Jonathan Akinlaja & Kenneth Narebor, 7 January 2003

US Congressmen Oppose Water Privatization In Ghana

Thirty-nine US Congressmen are up in arms against the privatization of urban water supply in Ghana. In a letter to US Secretary to the Treasury, the Congressmen said "most Ghanaians earn less than $2 a day and the rising cost of water forces families to make impossible trade offs between purchasing food, clothing, medicine, paying school fees, or buying a bucket of water". The letter urged the US Treasury Secretary to instruct the Executive Directors of the IMF and the World Bank to oppose the current "Private Sector Participation" proposal being promoted for the urban water supply in Ghana. "We also urge you to instruct the US Executive Directors to oppose loan conditions in Ghana mandating increased cost recovery for water. These conditions have already raised the price of water for the poor in Ghana. Ghana should receive loans that do not have onerous conditions". The Congressmen reminded the Treasury Secretary of a statement he made at the Global Millennium Water initiative symposium that "water is life. Nothing is as essential or as fundamental to us as water" but said "unfortunately we believe that the IMF and World Bank policies in Ghana have in fact been counterproductive to that goal. Clean and affordable water is becoming less accessible for the vast majority of Ghanaians".

From GhanaWeb, 10 January 2003

 

Postal Service Sees First Step in Privatization

MOTC's Directorate General of Posts formally becomes Chunghwa Post Corporation Limited - Taiwan's Directorate General of Posts under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications was yesterday formally transformed into a state-owned firm, Chunghwa Post Corporation Limited. This was done in line with the government's efforts to privatize public enterprises in order to upgrade operational efficiency. Tsai Tui, MOTC Executive Vice-Minister stated at an inaugural ceremony that the restructuring of the organization would not affect the rights of customers who patronized that post office prior to the restructuring. The restructuring integrates the former 27 units of the Directorate General of Posts into 15. The MOTC has also offered preferential pension terms encouraging senior employees to retire or resign voluntarily to trim the postal staff. However, approximately 300 members of the postal labor union expressed concerns about their interests and rights after the restructuring by staging a demonstration yesterday in front of the building that housed the former Directorate General of Post on Chin Shan South Road. But Tsai assured postal workers that their rights and interests would not be compromised in the reform process. He said that it was clear from the placards at the demonstration that the MOTC was being taken to task, but the protestors should ask themselves whether or not their goals were same as the MOTC's. He urged the demonstrators to consolidate their efforts to make the new firm better and to back the goal of a brighter future for the company by working hand-in-hand with the new management. Citing the success story of Chunghwa Telecom Corp.'s restructuring as an example, Tsai said the transformation will benefit the postal service and its staff in the long run. "The new company will have greater freedom and flexibility in personnel management, procurement and business operations. It will be able to offer many new services at cheaper costs. In the long run, the transformation will be a boon," he said. Meanwhile, the MOTC has unveiled a package of regulations for recruiting professional managers from the private sector to head Chunghwa Post Corporation. Chang Chia-juch, MOTC administrative vice minister will serve concurrently as chairman of Chunghwa Post for the time being.

From eTaiwan News, Taiwan, by Taijing Wu, 2 December 2003

Roh's Team Cautions On Privatization

Seoul - The transition committee for South Korea's president-elect Roh Moo-hyun hopes to take a "cautious and flexible" approach toward the privatization of key transport and utility companies, the JoongAng Ilbo reports. "Forcing privatization to meet self-imposed deadlines won't do any good as these companies provide public services," an unnamed official at the transition committee is quoted as saying. The committee's view would be at odds with that of the current administration, which has so far emphasized speedy privatization of state-run companies, the newspaper says. The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy plans to sell in the first half one of Korea Electric Power Corp.'s (KEP) five power generation units, set to be sold as part of the government's privatization program, it reports. Newspaper Web site: http://www.joins.com - By So-Eui Rhee, Dow Jones Newswires; 822-732-2165; so-eui.rhee@dowjones.com

From Yahoo News, 7 January 2003

Ministry Submits Info In Indian HPCL Privatization Review -PTI

India's disinvestment ministry has made a submission to Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee's legal review of the privatization of Hindustan Petroleum Corp. (P.HPE), news agency Press Trust of India said Tuesday. Disinvestment Minister Arun Shourie said his ministry had submitted information to Sorabjee, who is studying the planned privatization of the state-run oil company, the report said. Shourie didn't say when Sorabjee's legal view is expected to be given. The investigation comes after some lawmakers objected to the privatization on the grounds it was acquired and nationalized through an act of parliament in the 1970s and mustn't be sold without amending the act. Separately, regarding the privatization of Engineers India Ltd. (P.ENI), Shourie said its privatization hasn't been deferred but may be delayed, PTI said. Disinvestment Ministry officials have said Engineers India can't be privatized ahead of HPCL and Bharat Petroleum Corp. (P.BPE), as it could be stripped of all its contracts that mainly come from government-owned oil companies. On the stalled disinvestment of another major company, National Aluminium Co. (P.NAL), PTI quoted Shourie saying, "it is where it was." Due-diligence from Nalco came to a halt in October when Nalco's workers prevented a body of officials from one interested company from entering their plants in the southeastern state of Orissa. -By Dow Jones Newswires; +91-11-2461 9427; djn.in@dowjones.com

From Yahoo News, 7 January 2003

Muthiah Advises Government To Go Slow On Corporate Governance

New Delhi - Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry's (Ficci) new president AC Muthiah has advised the government to go slow on the implementation of corporate governance code and criticised it for selling off the profitable public sector undertakings (PSUs). Talking to FE, Mr. Muthiah said the government should junk the strategic sale method for disinvesting profit-making PSUs and instead adopt the public offer route. On the stricter norms for corporate governance, he said: "Our business environment is not as mature as that of the US. We should go slow on this or else it would be difficult to attract professional and good independent directors in the board." The creation of Serious Fraud Office (SFO) will complicate business environment and create a "fear psychosis", he said adding he would present his disinvestment formula to Ficci's steering committee for endorsement. "Let us not make too much of corporate governance. In the Indian context, there is a plethora of investigative and regulatory bodies and disclosure requirements end up becoming a recipe for harassment. We are a developing country and there should not be a rush for proto-typing the US regulations. In fact, if you have too stringent regulations company boards will not get competent people to become independent directors," he added. Stating that government must get out of "the business of managing business," Mr. Muthiah said: "Oil PSUs like ONGC, HPCL, and BPCL are valued assets. The government should off-load its stake through public-offer and not through strategic sale. The strategy of strategic sale of these jewels will only lead to creation of monopolies." "The strategic sale methodology should be reserved only for loss making PSUs," he said. Business synergies like merger and acquisition (M&A) would drive strategic sale of loss-making PSUs, he added, citing the case of Paradeep Phosphates Ltd. Stating that the Indian economy was robust, Mr. Muthiah said the main concern was the fiscal deficit and the proposed "Fiscal Responsibility Act" must be enforced. Ficci will press for investment allowance, cut in corporate tax and withdrawal of maximum alternate tax (MAT) and dividend tax to boost the industrial growth, he said.

From Financial Express, by Rajeev Jayaswal & Rashmi Das, 8 January 2003

Malaysia's Corporate Governance Getting Greater Recognition

Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia's efforts to enhance corporate governance are beginning to win greater recognition and a foreign fund management company has regretted its decision to pull out from the country, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Tuesday. The company, a major pension fund from California, had admitted that it was wrong in its assessment of Malaysia in the past, he said at the Malaysian Business Corporate Governance Award 2002 presentation here. "They (pension fund managers) contended that their earlier decision to downgrade the Malaysian capital market was done in ignorance," he said. His speech was read out by the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yasin. Abdullah said,"And, of course, more recently, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) in its review of Malaysia admitted that our decision to peg the ringgit was right and had contributed to our stability. "How did all these august bodies manage to get it so wrong? It is easy to blame it on pure and simple ignorance." He called on Corporate Malaysia to be on guard against those who, in their quest for profits, took advantage of the situation without considering whether their actions could wreak havoc on a nation's economy. "We must therefore be pro-active, do all we can to tell the world that our corporate culture is different from theirs," he said. Abdullah pointed out the financial scandals that had rocked the United States and Europe over the past 18 months were proof that no one region had "a monopoly" on dishonest corporate behaviour. Turning to Malaysia, he said amendments were made with regards to the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange's (KLSE) rules governing the conduct of listed companies and moves were taken to enforce them. He cited that the KLSE had taken action against 207 companies for breaching its listing requirements from July 1, 2001 to June 30, 2002. "Those who violate the laws will continue to be hauled up and in the event of criminal breaches, should be prosecuted without fear or favour," he stressed.

From Bernama, Malaysia, 14 January 2003

Pillay Urges GLCs to Improve Governance

Both spirit and letter of corporate governance code should be observed, he says - Government linked companies (GLCs) often win awards for their annual reports but their corporate and share performance are not always superior, said Singapore Exchange (SGX) chairman J Y Pillay last night. Speaking at the 29th Annual Report Awards (ARA) dinner, Mr. Pillay, also chairman of the Council on Corporate Disclosure and Governance (CCDG), was driving home the point that companies need to go beyond merely observing rules and codes or publishing a transparent annual report to examining their governance practices closely. 'While GLCs figure prominently in ARA awards, I have not seen conclusive evidence that their performance as companies, or the price of their shares, with some notable exceptions, is decidedly superior. Indeed, I have come across reports that argue otherwise,' he said. 'I am not sure that the share-price performance may be attributed to predatory, short-term traders, distorting fundamental values by riding on the quarterly-reporting system. Rather, listed companies should closely examine their governance practices to ensure that both the spirit and letter of the code of corporate governance is observed.' This year's best annual report award for main board companies was again won by a GLC, Keppel Land. In fact, another GLC, DBS Land (which in 2000 merged with Pidemco to become CapitaLand) won the award so many times that it was barred from contention after 1998. This has been lifted and CapitaLand won a commendation award this year.

Inter-Roller Engineering won the award for Sesdaq companies while the Agri-food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore and Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore were joint winners for the statutory board category. But Mr. Pillay pointed out that good annual reports are just one aspect of corporate governance. 'We should be careful in drawing inferences from the ARA competition. Annual reports are, undoubtedly, a vital source of information to shareholders, employees and the market. They are an important link in the chain of corporate governance. But one event in the governance calendar does not constitute the sum and substance of corporate governance.' Good corporate governance will bring benefits to companies over time, although there is no convincing empirical evidence to show that it will boost stock prices, he said. 'Good governance forces companies to open up, become less bureaucratic, spark fresh ideas, and to execute initiatives decisively. Companies become more productive, thereby benefiting their employees, shareholders, customers and themselves.' Mr. Pillay also called for a broad culture of corporate governance to take root. 'Corporate governance is not just a matter of observing the codes and rules.

Good governance has to seep into the culture of society, the marketplace, and businesses.' Of the 459 eligible companies listed on the SGX, a total of 422 annual reports or 91.9 per cent were considered for preliminary screening for the latest ARA competition. Of these, 25 or 5.9 per cent were shortlisted. Nineteen were from the main board while six were from Sesdaq. Many of the shortlisted companies, however, were the same ones as previous years, observed Chew Heng Ching, chairman of this year's ARA committee and president of the Singapore Institute of Directors. The level of non-mandatory disclosures for Sesdaq companies remains markedly behind those on the main board. Mr. Chew also called for annual reports to provide more detailed remuneration disclosure of directors and key employees such as the CEO and the CFO beyond the requirements of the SGX, explanations for key performance indicators and other statistics, as well as more discussion on risk management strategies and corporate social responsibilities and environmental initiatives. 'Investor relations disclosures remain inadequate. Many companies do hold investor meetings and disseminate information to groups of analysts.' 'However, most companies shy away from disclosing these activities from the investing public at large and their shareholders in particular. Such disclosures would afford investors a better insight into the attitudes of management with regards to or in connection with transparency,' he added.

From Business Times, Singapore, by Wong Wei Kong, 16 January 2003

Post office Marks Privatization with Art Contest, Stamp Issues

The Chunghwa Post Co. Ltd. recently held an art contest for kids and an exhibition of the winning paintings to encourage an appreciation for fine arts on the part of Taiwan's younger generation and promote the new corporation to the general public. The state-run Directorate General of Posts became a corporation Jan. 1 and was renamed Chunghwa Post. One of the activities held to publicize its new status, the "Little Sun" art contest was an opportunity for children to show off their creativity by painting scenes set in Taipei's Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Taichung's Feng Le Park or the Lotus Pond in Kaohsiung's Tsoying area. More than 20,000 paintings were entered in the contest and arranged in categories based on the young artists' education level. Judges selected 1,260 paintings for awards and chose 462 of these for display on the sixth floor of Taipei's Chinese Postal Museum, where the public can enjoy them until Feb. 16. In addition to the winning paintings, visitors to the museum can also peruse souvenirs for postal life insurance on the same floor, which is the museum's special exhibition hall. The museum opened in 1964 at its original location in Taipei County's Hsintien. Since 1984, however, its home has been a 10-story building in Taipei City, with the first seven floors open to the public. The first floor houses the entrance hall and an operating post office. The seventh floor contains a postal library. Each floor, from the second to the sixth, is used as an exhibition hall where interested visitors can come to learn about the history of postal services in Taiwan, China and the world. These floors house two history galleries, a postal-service gallery and a philatelic gallery and boast artifacts dating back to the time of Liu Ming-chuan (1836-1896). Liu was stationed in Taiwan from 1885 to 1891, during the aftermath of the Sino-French War - a conflict between the two powers over what is now Vietnam. As Taiwan's first provincial governor, he developed transportation, promoted agriculture, built schools and, in 1888, established the Directorate General of Posts in Taipei. Prior to this, Taiwan's postal system was divided into official deliveries and private ones.

The government mail-delivery system was established in Tainan in 1877 and employed stamps carved out of huge wooden blocks. Liu rearranged the previous system and set up stations at each crucial stop on the transportation line. In 1895, after China ceded the island to Japan, Taiwan was home to an historic yet short-lived experiment in democracy when the local inhabitants objected and proclaimed an independent republic. Although the republic lasted just 150 days before the rebellion was put down by Japanese troops, the young nation had time to issue eight locally printed stamps. The so-called Taiwan Republic, which was also known as the Taiwan Democracy or Black Flag Republic adopted as its emblem a seated tiger, and this is the main feature distinguishing the stamps. For this reason, they are known in Taiwan as tiger stamps, whereas Western philatelists know them simply as the Black Flag Republic issues. The first stamp issue took place in July of that year, with the second and third in September. They can also be distinguished by the papermaker's name, Dorling & Co., as a watermark. The name of the young republic was taken from the black flags used by rebel leader Liu Yung-fu to rally his troops for battle, first against the French and then against the Japanese. Liu issued the stamps to raise much-needed funding for the nascent republic. The museum includes a look at the history of stamps issued by the ROC post office. In the past few decades, several series of stamps have been printed to commemorate national and local traits.

There are also issues that focus on certain themes such as environmental protection, public health, economic development and the impressive collection of ancient Chinese artifacts at the National Palace Museum. Stamps are even used to capture the island's natural and architectural beauty, such as Tzuen Tower around Sun Moon Lake in central Taiwan, Taroko National Park and the Tung Hai University church in Taichung. Chunghwa Post kicked off 2003 by issuing a number of stamps along five themes. The office issued a Souvenir Sheet Jan. 1 marking its establishment as a company and a series of commemorative stamps observing the one-year anniversary of Taiwan's entry into the World Trade Organization. There are also plans for postage stamps with themes of mountains, fruits and caring hearts. The WTO stamp bears the organization's seal and the image of a single candle, surrounded by colorful lines, to symbolize this first birthday. It includes a map of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu in white on a green-and-blue background. The overall design of the stamp is meant to convey Taiwan's atmosphere of vitality. Stamps featuring Mount Nanhu, which borders Ilan, Hualien and Taichung counties, were released Jan. 23 as part of a series on Taiwan's mountains. The first and second sets, featuring Mount Jade and Mount Hsueh, were issued in 2001 and 2002. With a peak of 3,742 meters, Nanhu is the highest mountain in Taroko National Park and the fifth highest on the island. It is the origin of the famous Lan Yang Stream that flows through Ilan County.

The postage stamps featuring Mount Nanhu include stunning views of the main peak, spring on Wuyen Peak, snow on the adjacent Mount Chungyang chien, and Nanhu's glacial cirques, which are semicircular crater-like amphitheatres. On Feb. 24, the state-run postal company will issue stamps on the theme of Taiwan fruit. Wax apples, kumquats, lemons and coconuts will all be featured. Among these, wax apples, lemons and coconuts are specialities from in the southern county of Pingtung. The region's wax apples, sometimes called black pearls, are popular throughout the island. A top-quality wax apple can fetch over US$10 in Taiwan's bustling fruit markets. Kumquats are a specialty of the northern region, especially Ilan County. Taiwanese people have for many years been using this fruit to make preserves, sauce, tea and throat lozenges. The Council of Agriculture has chosen the small fruit with the golden peel for promotion as a specialty product. Some people believe that the kumquat is an auspicious symbol. According to the company, Taiwan is an island that produces fruit all year round - many of which are not only sweet and juicy, but also quite unique. This will be the fourth time stamps have been issued on this theme. Some other fruits that have found their way to Taiwan stamps are litchi, plum, guava and pomelo, which is a citrus related to the common grapefruit.

From Taipei Journal, Taiwan, 23 January 2003

 

Privatization Efforts Face Difficulty

Analysts pessimistic about pace of asset sales in 2003 - Last year was not a good one for the government's privatization plans - a host of important deals fell through. But will 2003 be any better? Analysts are not holding out much hope. "I think 2003 will be less successful than 2002," said Radomir Jac, an analyst at Commerzbank. "Last year we had the privatization of Transgas, which meant that the privatization receipts were actually quite high. But I don't expect anything like Transgas this year." The National Property Fund (FNM), the agency that holds the state's corporate assets, successfully sold monopoly natural gas pipeline operator Transgas to German energy concern RWE Gas in February last year, bringing in 4.1 billion euros (129.2 billion Kc/$4.3 billion) for the government. However, other important privatizations faced serious setbacks. The government abandoned selling power producer CEZ at the beginning of the year. In September, Agrofert, the preferred buyer for a majority stake in petrochemical giant Unipetrol, backed out of a deal for that company. And in November, a consortium of Deutsche Bank and Danish telecom TDC pulled out of an arrangement to buy dominant fixed-line carrier Cesky Telecom (CT). In all, the failed sales cost the government as much as 270 billion Kc ($9 billion) in lost or delayed revenue. Analysts said the government will have a tough year ahead because many of the same issues that derailed deals last year are still obstacles now. Without a radical change of approach from the state, some said, it is unlikely that any of the three major privatizations will be completed this year. Eva Novakova, a spokesperson for the Finance Ministry, said the government would release a new plan for privatizing both CT and Unipetrol by the end of January; the plan is likely to include valuations on the companies, conditions on how potential buyers can restructure the companies and a timeline for completing the sales.

But Novakova said the ministry will not announce any plans for CEZ until the Anti-Monopoly Office (UOHS) has given its final verdict on a government plan to merge the power producer with eight regional distributors. UOHS announced a decision on that plan last December, but CEZ is currently appealing the ruling, saying that it puts too many restrictions on its future activities. The Finance Ministry is also likely to push for CEZ and CT to pay dividends during the course of 2003, to give the state some of the revenue that it lost when the sales failed last year. Unipetrol sale - Of the three major privatizations, Jac said the sale of Unipetrol was the most likely. "It is the smallest and easiest of the three," he said. The government announced last year that it would hold a tender to pick a new adviser to the company's privatization and that a tender for the sale would take 12-18 months. MOL, Hungary's leading gas distributor, and Rotch Energy, from the United Kingdom, have both expressed interest. It has not yet been decided whether Unipetrol will be privatized as a whole or subsidiary by subsidiary. A plan to be introduced to the cabinet by Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka advocates the former. Miroslav Zajicek, a senior research fellow at the right-leaning economic think tank Liberal Institute, said the government needs to be flexible if it wants to finalize the deal. "If the government really wants to complete the privatization of Unipetrol this year, it can do it," he said. "But it needs to stop putting so many conditions on the sale." Zajicek added that the government should hold a tender based on price, rather than on what he called favoritism. In the case of the last tender for Unipetrol, Rotch Energy lost to Czech company Agrofert even though Rotch had bid a higher purchase price for the government's 67.6 percent stake.

Commerzbank's Jac said the sale of CT is unlikely because there are few foreign companies currently interested in acquiring telecom operators, and telecom valuations have fallen sharply from the heady days of the late 1990s. "I would expect reasonable progress with Cesky Telecom, but I am skeptical about a sale," he said. Novakova said the government is currently looking for ways to cover the lost revenue from the failed sale of CT last year. "Cesky Telecom will affect the discussion of the privatization plans in two ways," she said. "It is likely that some shares will be sold earlier and that there will be cuts to the National Property Fund's expenses." CEZ stakes - According to a report in the newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes, the Finance Ministry is considering selling a 16 percent stake in CEZ, its remaining 3 percent stake in Transgas, and shares in mining companies Severoceske doly, Sokolovska uhelna and OKD. Novakova added that plans for these sales would be part of the Finance Ministry's announcement at the end of January, though she refused to specify which companies are likely to be on the sales block. The ministry also hasn't said whether the sales would be made directly, to strategic investors, or via a listing on the stock exchange. Among the National Property Fund's other assets are controlling interests in the national airline CSA, struggling railways operator Ceske drahy, and the Nova hut steelworks, which is in the process of being sold to Dutch group LNM Holdings. Officials at CSA have said repeatedly that a privatization is currently out of the question until at least 2004 because of the recent problems in the airline industry. (Ben Schiller's e-mail address is bschiller@praguepost.com )

From Prague Post, Czech Republic, by Ben Schiller, 8 January 2003

Central/Eastern Europe: Privatization Deals Hit Snags

Two major privatization deals have fallen through in the Czech Republic in recent months. In Bulgaria, two key state property sell-offs were suspended last year due to alleged irregularities. Another sale of state assets has run into trouble in Romania. What's going on? It has happened with varying degrees of speed and been done in different ways: Privatization is meant to fill state coffers with cash and transform lumbering state monoliths into sleek, competitive companies, banks, or factories. It's a win-win situation, that is, as long as you're not a worker laid off as part of downsizing. All over Central and Eastern Europe, privatization has been a key pillar of the postcommunist economic transition. But recent months have seen several major sell-offs in the region stall or fall through. Long-running Czech plans to sell the government's stake in telecom giant Cesky Telecom collapsed at the end of November amid a price dispute between bidders and minority shareholders. That followed the collapsed privatization of Unipetrol, a large Czech petrochemical group, after the local buyer couldn't come up with the money and backed out. And earlier plans to sell the power sector in one vast chunk fell through when the prospective French buyer refused to raise its bid. In Bulgaria, the government found buyers for stakes in the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company and tobacco giant Bulgartabac. But late last year both sales were suspended amid corruption charges. And Romania in December couldn't find any bidders for the country's largest bank, BCR, a sale that is a key part of an agreement between Romania and the International Monetary Fund.

So what's going on? Is the region losing its allure, or is it a temporary glitch? Analysts say there's one factor affecting all countries in the region: the slowdown in the world economy, particularly in Western Europe. Western firms now have less money to spend, and governments in the region simply took too long to put some of their property up for sale. Gabor Hunya is a regional expert at the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies. "Mergers and acquisitions - those kind of business takeovers that privatizations are - in fact...declined [by] one-half last year worldwide, compared to the peak two years ago. So it is a worldwide tendency that international mergers are not taking place as frequently as before, and it's also about the tendency that companies in difficulties are more cautious in expanding to new territories," Hunya said. Another factor is that many of these countries are reaching the tail end of privatization. What is left is now proving tougher to sell, or was expected to take a long time to privatize, like countries' energy sectors. Hunya said that, to put it simply, there aren't enough buyers around. "It's a matter of supply and demand, so for the time being it seems that certain facilities, like telecom companies, second-rate commercial banks, like steel plants, are in oversupply in comparison with the demand for such companies. Because, what is the demand side? The demand side is the major telecom companies in the world. Just think of Deutsche Telecom, of the worldwide problems of this branch, of overcapacities in the steel sector, and so on," Hunya said. But there's good news, too. Perhaps the surprise is that Central and Eastern Europe did so well last year under tough conditions. Michael Marrese is vice president and head of economic research for emerging Europe at JPMorganChase bank in London.

He estimated that governments in the region managed to privatize around two-thirds of what they had planned. "There's no doubt that the slowdown in Europe and the slowdown in equity markets and in company evaluations worldwide hits Central and Eastern Europe, there's no doubt about that - 100 percent. Now, in that very negative environment, did we see still bidders for a number of companies - In Romania and Bulgaria? The answer's 'yes.' In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, something like natural-gas [companies were] sold at very high prices, higher than expected," Marrese said. So, there's no danger the region is losing its allure, analysts say. There were concerns late last year that rising wages might prompt some foreign manufacturers to move away from the Czech Republic in search of cheaper labor costs. But there's no sign yet of a mass exodus. And in any case, Hunya said, rising prosperity can only increase the allure for investors interested in privatization deals. "Most of the privatization deals refer to the consumer-market-oriented companies, like banks or telecoms, and so on, and in case of higher purchasing power, actually, the demand for the products of these companies is actually on the increase rather than the decrease," Hunya said. Despite the setbacks, some privatizations are being relaunched and others are going ahead. The Czech government is currently reinviting bids for Unipetrol. Bulgaria hopes to sell DSK, the last bank in state hands, by March. And at least two major foreign investors are vying for a stake in the Polish steel group PHS, which is slated for privatization this year. Tomos Packer, a regional analyst with the London-based World Markets Research Centre, said the Bulgarian government will be keen to press ahead in privatizing Bulgartabac, particularly as it harshly criticized its predecessor for failing to do so. "I think in 2003, as a matter of credibility, the Bulgarian government will have to get this sale of Bulgartabac on track. They've pretty much staked their reputation on the fact that they could sort it out," Packer said. Analysts say other governments, particularly the Czechs, are likely to take more time, perhaps waiting for economic conditions to pick up.

From Radio Free Europe, Czech Republic, by Kathleen Knox, 9 January 2003

Turkish Government Sees $4 Billion Privatization Revenue In 2003

Istanbul -Turkey will generate $4 billion in 2003 through the privatization of state-owned companies and industries, deputy prime minister Abdullatif Sener said Monday at a press conference. Sener said Turkey has generated $8 billion privatization revenues in the past 17 years, and his government aims to achieve half of this in 2003 alone. The 2003 privatization list includes long-term candidates such as the state petrochemicals company Petkim (C.PPH), the state refiner Tupras (C.TPT), and Turkish Airlines (C.THY). Sener said an unspecified stake in Petkim will be offered as a block sale to a strategic investor in the first quarter of 2003. Similarly, an unspecified Tupras stake will be offered in the second quarter, along with a stake in the state tobacco and liquor monopoly Tekel. The sale of a stake in Turkish Airlines is due in the third quarter. There was no stock market reaction to the plan, as investors recalled many ambitious privatization plans in the past that failed to achieve their targets. Around 1410 GMT, the IMKB-100 share index was at 10298 points, up 0.9% on the day. In the short term, Iraq uncertainties and the global economic glut are raising doubts about the viability of Turkish privatizations.

Privatization has been an alien concept in Turkey as the political and legal system has no sympathy for private enterprise taking over traditionally state-owned sectors. Moreover, Turkey hasn't yet ensured an investment environment that would attract foreign direct investors. While Turkey's International Monetary Fund backed economic reform program is an attempt to ensure a safe investment environment, the program itself has been on hold since Oct. 2002 as Turkey hasn't fulfilled all its reform commitments. The undelivered pledges include a privatization plan for Tekel, and 30,000 layoffs from state companies. Sener said the new plan may affect 64,000 jobs, but said these workers would be ensured pension rights. On the positive side, Turkey's Justice and Development Party government, which took over after the November general election, has a parliamentary majority that can override any legal obstacles through new legislation. Sener also said the government will privatize the Istanbul Stock Exchange and the Istanbul Gold Exchange. On the long-standing privatization of the state telecommunications monopoly Turk Telekom, Sener said valuation of the company is still continuing. (By Selim Atalay, Dow Jones Newswires; +90212 2313355; selim.atalay@dowjones.com).

From Yahoo News, 13 January 2003

St. Petersburg Sues to Annul Privatization of Utility

The city of St. Petersburg is suing to overturn the 1992 privatization of electric company Lenenergo, threatening to mire the reform of the lumbering electricity industry deeper in political intrigue. The St. Petersburg city administration, which is led by an old adversary of President Vladimir Putin, has filed a lawsuit challenging the utility's partial privatization, St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Anna Markova said Monday. The suit cites procedural violations, she said. Markova said Lenenergo's property would be returned to the government if the St. Petersburg arbitration court rules in favor of the city administration. "The property would be transferred to the federal government. Let the feds decide what to do with it later. There is no conflict between the city and Lenenergo," she said. St. Petersburg owns no shares in Lenenergo, the utility that heats and powers the city and the surrounding region. Lenenergo is controlled by state power monopoly Unified Energy Systems. Both German utility E.ON and Finnish Fortum own minority stakes in the company. "The entire [power] industry is being reformed right now, and as a result [Lenenergo's] assets could be lost forever. This cannot happen," Markova said without elaborating. "We think this lawsuit will be very serious," she said. Russia's regional heads are seen as fierce opponents of national power reform, which will see UES broken up into separate grid and generating companies and prices freed up.

The carve-up is one part of a government scheme for bottom-up reform of public utilities that aims to spark the renewal of a major industry and spare Russians the heat and power cuts that have crippled some cities and towns this winter. But that weakens a favorite political lever of regional leaders - cheap electricity for constituents. Many have reluctantly signed off on the reform, but a few opponents remain despite Kremlin efforts to rein in rebellious regional governors and force them to back it. Putin's Kremlin has launched a fresh round of economic reforms, but is now loath to take on remaining opponents before December 2003 State Duma elections. St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, who was a rival of Putin from the 1990s when they were both senior bureaucrats in the St. Petersburg administration, is seen as one of Russia's most powerful regional chieftains. His sometime political ally, flamboyant Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, has already struck a deal under which power distribution grids belonging to UES's Moscow subsidiary Mosenergo will be transferred to the city government in the reform. In return, the city will give some of its own utility assets to Mosenergo successor companies. But analysts said the real price was the influential mayor's backing for draft legislation that is needed to set the complex electricity reform measures in law. The bills passed a first reading in October after Luzhkov's allies agreed to back them. Its crucial second reading has been delayed several times, and centrist legislators have said they doubt it will pass this month. St. Petersburg has already built distribution grids that bypass Lenenergo's power lines.

From Moscow Times, Russia, by Konstantin Trifonov, 13 January 2003

Bulgaria Presents Russia with New Privatization Plan for Energy Sector

The Bulgarian government has presented Russia with a new plan for privatizing the Bulgarian energy sector. According to the Bulgarian cabinet's press office, the plan would provide tax breaks for Russian energy companies working in Bulgaria. The plan is expected to be examined at a meeting of the joint Russian-Bulgarian commission on privatization at the end of April. According to the Bulgarian government, a number of branches of the country's economy are currently undergoing a profound economic crisis, which can only be overcome with the help of foreign investment.

From Rosbalt, Russia, 24 January 2003

 

Ramezanzadeh: Government firm on expediting privatization

Tehran - The government is expediting its 'logical' drive for privatization despite infrastructural bottlenecks and bureaucratic maze and is firm on proceeding with the program. "Executive operations for privatization and ceding the shares of state-run companies got off to a sluggish start at the beginning of the current Iranian year (on March 21, 2002) and has gained momentum in recent months; and the trend is justifiable," said government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh in his weekly press briefing on Wednesday. The government plans to vigorously follow its privatization program next year and spend its revenues on implementing development and infrastructural projects, said the government spokesman. The 107-billion-dollar budget bill, devised by the State Management and Planning Organization (SMPO) for the next Iranian calendar year of 1382 (March 21, 2003-March 20, 2004), envisions borrowing and selling participation bonds to spend the revenue on development projects. It is widely believed - by certain SMPO officials - there are discrepancies in the bill and the government would not be able to meet the set targets despite borrowings and sale of the partnership securities. The 1382 budget authorizes over dlrs two billion borrowing for full implementation of semi-finished development projects as well as raising the output in manufacturing and production sectors.

From IRNA, Iran, 01 January 2003

Industry Ministry Approves 5 Incubators for Privatization Pilot

Three more incubators are in the final stages of the approval process. Assessment: 55% of incubator projects received outside funding. The Ministry of Industry and Trade incubator administration has approved five incubators to operate under the privatization pilot model. Three more incubators are in the final stages of the approval process. The five incubators are: Orit Technological R&D Center Ltd. in Ariel; Initiative Center for the Negev in Beer Sheva; Meytag Technology Incubator in Katzrin; Ofakim Innovative Technologies; and NGT in Nazareth, established as the first incubator in the Arab sector. The three incubators for which privatization is pending are Target Technology Center in Netanya; Nitzanim Initiative Center in Yavne; and Patir R&D Ltd. in Jerusalem. Outside investors must pledge an incubator at least $300,000 in investment a year for three years, regardless of the number of projects at the incubator. They must also pledge to finance five projects a year for three years. The total commitment is $2-2.5 million. The incubators budget has been $135 million a year for the past five years, which is likely to grow following the start of the privatization pilot program. Technical Incubators Program director Rina Pridor told "Globes" that the ministry carefully examines investors interested in participating in the privatization of the incubators. Several investors were found to lack the financial resources to ensure follow-on investments in the incubators, or lacked the necessary know-how. She said Israeli and foreign investors received the same consideration in the approval process. However, one condition is that the incubators must operate in Israel. Pridor said preliminary assessments of the incubators' activities in 2002 showed that 55% of incubator projects received outside funding, slightly fewer than in 2001, but not a level that could be called a collapse. The incubators' record year for external financing was 2000, when 75% of projects received funding from outside sources.

From Globes (www.globes.co.il), by Sapir Peretz and Gilad Nass, 9 January 2003

Privatization of Postal Sector 'a Big Success'

Riyadh - The privatization of the postal services has been running successfully, with some 100 agencies set up by the private sector, according to a senior official in the Ministry of Posts, Telephones and Telegraphs. Dr. Khaled Al-Otaibi, director general of posts, said the number of inhabitants served by each postal employee increased from 2,200 to 2,244 since the launch of the privatization program. The percentage of delivery mails within 48 hours also went up from 74 to 78 percent. "We are looking forward to making the maximum use of modern technology, particularly through the Internet, which helps in tracing the mail from receiving to delivery," Dr. Al-Otaibi said in his preface to the annual statistical report of the directorate general of posts for the year 2001. He said the postal department handled 939 million local and international mails, besides 1.54 million express mails and over 665,000 parcels. The total postal coverage reached 6.264 towns and villages across the Kingdom through 461 government-run post offices, 185 branch offices, 72 private post offices, 770 postal agencies and 97 express mail centers. According to the director general, the privatization scheme has contributed to the growth of the private sector. He said private post offices earn 15 percent commission from the sale of ordinary and commemorative stamps. Their earnings also include 20 percent commission for franking letters and 100 percent of the charges for subscriber boxes. The business has turned out to be lucrative, since each agency handles at least 1,000 boxes. He said the overseas mail constitutes 54.5 percent of the total mail service. The statistics revealed that the volume of mail was declining with the switchover to the e-mail as the means of communication.

From Arab News, by Javid Hassan, 10 January 2003

A Privatization of Moment in Iran

After about a year of deliberations, on January 8 the Iranian Deputy Minister of Economic and Financial Affairs, Mehdi Karbassian, announced his government's decision to privatize all Iranian banks, excluding the National Bank of Iran (Bank-e Melli Iran). If fully implemented, this economic initiative will have a major long-term impact not just on Iran's economy, but also on its political system. Prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution, all major banks (some 15 units) were privately owned institutions, excluding the National Bank of Iran and the Sepah Bank (Bank-e Sepah). As part of the politically motivated economic plan aimed at eliminating big business, the revolutionary regime confiscated all large enterprises, including the private banks, which were subsequently merged into a few super-large government-run banks. For the same reason, the Iranian private sector lost its right to establish banks. That law remained in effect until about year ago despite the introduction of an economic liberalization plan in the second half of the 1990s. Under heavy pressure of economic realities, ie, the clearly-evident inability of the public sector to run the financial institutions and the inefficiency of the public banks, the Iranian regime had to accept a degree of private banking about a year ago. As a result, the Central Bank of Iran authorized the establishment of a few financial institutions with limited banking functions, mainly in the form of savings companies operating at the city level. Facing numerous economic difficulties caused mainly by the mismanagement of the Iranian economy since 1979, the devastating impact of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) and various economic sanctions, the Iranian government has had to accept its inability to continue the existing economic system. The latter is characterized by a very large public sector in control of about 80 percent of the economy directly or indirectly through various foundations benefiting of all the available public resources, including funding, but run by the ruling elite as private corporations.

Attached to this, there is an elite-created post-revolutionary big business in practical monopoly of all the major economic activities taking place in the private realm. High and growing unemployment, officially about 15 percent, but unofficially close to double it, low investments, rising prices and rampant corruption have been just a few major outcomes of the post-1979 economic policy. Given this undesirable situation, with a weakening impact on the Iranian regime's legitimacy, the Iranian government has sought to address some of the economic problems over the past few years. Its two major objectives have been to stop capital flight from Iran to safer places such as the United Arab Emirates and Western countries and to encourage both domestic and foreign investments. Added to accelerating the privatization of small and medium-size public enterprises, which began in the early 1990s to a limited extent, the government has been successful in a few areas. They include the stabilization of the value of Iran's currency (rial), the elimination of the multiple exchange rates, an increase in Iranian foreign exchange reserves (about $15 billion in January 2003) and a decrease in its foreign debt to about $6.5 billion. While being far from ideal, the achieved degree of financial stability was a major domestic factor in the repatriation to Iran of about $7 billion of Iranian capital held mainly in the United States, apart from a growing concern about the safety of financial assets of Middle Eastern businesspeople in the United States and Europe in the post-September 11 era. In such an economic environment, the Iranian government made its bank privatization decision. According to Karbassian, it has already determined the "necessary framework" for transferring the public banks to the private sector, but he did not elaborate.

However, he added that the only remaining barrier to implementing the privatization plan was to decide on "a method of transfer", which he predicted to be determined "in some days". He added that Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's cabinet would most probably finalize all the privatization plan's details in the next Iranian month beginning on January 21. Afterwards, the government would take "a practical measure to achieve this objective", ie, to implement the plan. It is not yet clear when the actual privatization will begin. Nor is it clear whether the banks will be privatized as they are now or as they were before 1979, which requires their division into their forming units. Yet it is almost certain that there should not be a mad scramble for their purchase on the part of would-be buyers unless the Iranian government addresses certain deficiencies that detract from their attractiveness. Thanks to years of mismanagement, Iranian banks have various major financial difficulties, including the following ones, in addition to an economically insensible number of personnel. Reportedly, many of them have been operating at loss for a long time. By and large, they suffer from large debts and gigantic bad loans granted to many publicly owned economic entities, various foundations and many influential individuals with strong ties to the top echelon of the Iranian regime. These loan-holders are either unwilling or unable to pay their debts due to bankruptcies or shortages of funds.

dditionally, many existing restrictions on the free movement of capital inside Iran and between that country and its foreign economic partners as well as foreign currency restrictions impede banking transactions. Nevertheless, if everything goes well, the privatization of banks will have a fundamental impact on the Iranian economy. By addressing the absence of a reliable and predictable financial sector independent from the Iranian government and accountable to private investors, this initiative should help remove a major barrier to the growth of the Iranian private sector whose growth has been retarded by the Iranian regime since 1979. As well, a large private banking system will likely accelerate the slow-paced privatization of the gigantic public sector by providing a reliable source of capital for privatized enterprises. If fully implemented, the privatization initiative will weaken the practical economic monopoly of the Iranian ruling elite despite the wish of its planners. As a growing number of Iranians question the legitimacy of their political system, any weakening of its economic basis will have an inevitable accelerating impact on the Iranian people's desire for a fundamental change in their country's political system. (Dr. Hooman Peimani works as an independent consultant with international organizations in Geneva and does research in international relations.)

From Asia Times Online, by Hooman Peimani, 10 January 2003

Privatization Must Go With Increased Competition in Banking Sector

Tehran - 'Iran News' on Tuesday focused on the recent announcement of Iran's Minister of Economy and Finance Tahmasb Mazaheri that Iranian banks are soon to be privatized and sold to interested investors in the Tehran Stock Exchange Privatizing government sectors is imperative in all fields of the Iranian economy, including the banking sector, highlighted the English-language daily in its editorial. But just privatizing for the sake of doing so will not solve the problems. Denationalizing of government sectors must be accompanied with increased competition in the banking sector, it added. However, the daily stressed, so long as the government controls, mandates and dictates its terms and conditions to the banks, there will no real competition among the sectors. Private banks will suffer disadvantages since state-run banks will not be eliminated from the scene and remain a force and rival to private sector banks, pointed out the daily. Furthermore, the Mostazafan and Jaanbazan Foundation (MJF), the largest state-owned foundation in Iran which has enormous financial resources, is also considered a powerful rival to private sector banking in the country, the article added. Another area of ambiguity about the genuineness Mazaheri's statement is whether the government will allow the top executives of these privatized banks to emerge from the private sector or whether the government actually intends to pick the directors of these banks itself, it pointed out. Last but not the least, the fact that the government controls the hard currency rate of exchange will create many problems and crises for the non-public sector. In addition, the daily added, the decision-making process will be unclear and negatively affected in the future taking into account that the private sector has major concerns and lacks the requisite confidence regarding a fixed rate of hard currency. In light of the above-stated facts, it is insufficient for the government to just announce that plans to privatize the banking system are underway, pointed out the paper. The devil is in the details and the public expect the country's economic officials to be accountable and answer the legitimate questions raised on this subject by the experts as well as the public at large, the daily stressed in conclusion.

From IRNA, Iran, 15 January 2003

Government to Speed Up Privatization Next Year

Tehran - Deputy Head of the State Management and Planning Organization for Legal Affairs Gholam-Reza Tajgardun said here Tuesday that government is to speed up the privatization process in the next Iranian year of 1382 (starting March 21). Tajgardun told IRNA that note four of Article 88 of next year's budget bill stipulates ceding affairs to non-government sector and unconditional privatization. He said the part of the note relating to the education sector calls for schools' management by private sector.

From IRNA, Iran, 21 January 2003

 

U.S. Postal Chief Says Privatization not Feasible

Washington - Plenty of companies might be eager to deliver the mail on Wall Street or the Loop in Chicago, but few would fancy making deliveries to places off the beaten path, the head of the U.S. Postal Service told a presidential panel on Wednesday. Postmaster General John Potter told the nine-member commission charged with modernizing the 228-year-old agency that it had recently considered privatization and concluded that no business would covet delivering just a few pieces of mail each day to each American household. Potter said there were parts of the Postal Service that were commercially desirable but "there are some segments that no one in their right mind would want." The postal service delivers mail to 139 million locations across the country and adds nearly 2 million new addresses each year. Fifteen percent of locations receive the bulk of the mail, subsidizing losses on the remainder, Potter said. "When we thought about a privatized model, we came to the conclusion that that is inconsistent with the mandate of universal service," he told the first meeting of the commission that was appointed by President Bush in December. The Bush administration, pushing for the first major overhaul of the postal service since the 1970s, has urged the commission to propose a new mail pricing system and consider all options, including privatizing or even eliminating Saturday mail deliveries.

Mail volume continues to drop - "I hope you will look around the world where governments have privatized large portions of the delivery mechanism," U.S. Treasury Under Secretary Peter Fisher told the panel. The Treasury Department is providing staffing and funding to the commission. The postal service has been lobbying Congress for more autonomy to set mailing rates and began overhauling its operations under a plan unveiled last year, cutting 23,000 jobs and consolidating sorting facilities. Despite announcing on Tuesday a $1 billion profit for its first fiscal quarter after three money-losing years, the postal service faces long-term pressure from e-mail and commercial package delivery services. Mail volume continued to drop in the agency's 2002 fiscal year, falling to 203 billion pieces from 207 billion pieces in the previous year. The service warned last month it may have to apply for another rate increase in April following one last year. The post office said in November it had been overpaying its pension plan and wanted to apply the excess cash to its operations, but that requires Congressional approval. "There is not a current crisis today in the postal service," said Harry Pearce, chairman of Hughes Electronics Corp. who is co-charing the commission with James Johnson, a former chief executive of mortgage finance company Fannie Mae. "But the future, given the (financial situation) ... could be very different if we don't find a new vision for the postal service and examine a new business model," said Pearce. "It's a daunting challenge."

From Forbes, by Christopher Doering, 9 January 2003

 

Thirst for Privatization

With more than 1.1 billion people worldwide lacking access to safe drinking water, governments are increasingly turning to the private sector for help - The World Bank, in 1998, called privatization "a defining feature of the last two decades." Popular candidates for early privatizations included telecommunications and electric power utilities. Water and wastewater utilities soon followed, haltingly at first and then with greater momentum. If water was, as the Financial Times's John Barham suggested in 1997, "the last frontier in privatization around the world," it was a frontier that was being aggressively explored. That year, World Water and Environmental Engineering noted "a seemingly irreversible and rising tide of private sector involvement in the provision of water supply and sewage treatment services all around the globe." By the end of 2000, at least 93 countries had partially privatized water or wastewater services or were in the process of doing so. Privatizers appeared in all regions of the world. They included local, provincial, or national governments in North America's three countries, 23 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, 20 in Europe, 30 in Africa and the Middle East, and 17 in Asia and the Far East. Private water companies now serve vast numbers of consumers. The two largest companies, Suez and Vivendi, each provide water and/or wastewater services to 110 million people. Pragmatism, rather than ideology, drives most privatizations. Although impressed by the successes of Margaret Thatcher's government in the United Kingdom, many subsequent privatizers do not share her conservative philosophy. Indeed, even staunchly communist governments are privatizing. Cuba has formed a joint venture with a Spanish water company to develop and operate drinking water systems for three cities over the next 25 years. China has signed contracts for the construction and operation of three water supply systems and has contracted out the operation of at least 20 other water and wastewater facilities.

Vietnam has given two Malaysian-led consortia long-term contracts to build and operate a water pipeline and two treatment plants for Ho Chi Minh City. First and foremost, developing countries are turning to the private sector out of sheer, desperate need. More than 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and almost 2.5 billion lack adequate sanitation. Although estimates of the costs of providing universal access to water and sanitation facilities vary widely, they inevitably exceed current or planned public expenditures. The World Water Council estimates that annual investment must increase to US$75-billion from US$30-billion. Governments that cannot on their own finance or build the necessary infrastructure are increasingly calling on the private sector for help. Although governments in the developed world have greater resources and face far more manageable demands, many are nonetheless attracted to private capital. Private sector investment obviates governments' needs to borrow or to raise taxes, reducing their financial and political liabilities. It frees up public capital for competing uses. It moves financial risks away from the public purse. It is also likely to be used more efficiently than public infrastructure spending, reducing overall capital costs. Many governments privatize to increase the effectiveness of their water and wastewater systems. Whether they are struggling to provide rudimentary service, to stem water losses, or to comply with advanced health and environmental standards, they turn to firms whose many years of experience and large investments in research and development have enabled them to develop a degree of expertise rarely found in the public sector. Governments that privatize also want to improve the economic performance of their utilities.

The pursuit of job creation or other social goals has left many public utilities over-staffed and inefficient. Free from public-sector practices that hinder productivity and innovation, and able to take advantage of expertise and economies of scale, the private sector enjoys greater latitude to pursue efficiencies. Disciplined by competition (increasingly, not only for the market but also in the market) and capital markets, it has powerful incentives to do so. Privatization may correct other inefficiencies as well: those associated with the underpricing of water and wastewater services. Politicized decision making in the public sector distorts the relationship between prices and costs and encourages subsidies to various interest groups. Shifting responsibility to the private sector often allows governments to discontinue subsidies. In a fully competitive, or alternatively, a well-regulated system, competition or regulation set prices that better reflect costs. Governments have fewer reasons to oppose accurate pricing - the private providers take most of the heat for price increases - and, in any case, have little authority to interfere with the markets' or regulators' decisions. Privatization also allows for the de-politicization of environmental and health regulation. Governments that own, operate, and finance water and wastewater utilities cannot properly regulate them. All too often, conflicts of interest prevent them from enforcing compliance with laws and regulations. Privatization reduces those conflicts, freeing regulators to regulate and increasing the accountability of all parties.

Enforceable contracts further increase accountability. Contracts with specific performance criteria provide governments with powerful tools to compel compliance. Contracts can guarantee water quality, maintenance levels, and capital expenditures. They can require financial assurance. And they can include financial penalties for non-compliance. For the above reasons, governments in the developing and developed worlds alike have come to accept that their core function is to "steer rather than row." Rather than owning, operating, and financing water and sewage works, they are setting policy. Rather than providing services, they are regulating them. The results of this shift have often - but not always - been impressive. The owners, operators, funders, and regulators of Canada's water and wastewater systems have much to learn from other jurisdictions' experiments with privatization. And they have no shortage of reasons to conduct experiments of their own. Across the country, thousands of facilities fail to comply with laws and standards. Many are inefficiently run: Some are grossly overstaffed; others are staffed by insufficiently trained operators. Many are in need of costly upgrades. Water charges are insufficient to cover these costs. Clearly, many systems would benefit from the capital investment, expertise, efficiency, and accountability that privatization can bring. (Elizabeth Brubaker is executive director of Environment Probe. This article is excerpted from Liquid Assets: Privatizing and Regulating Canada's Water Utilities, published by the University of Toronto's Centre for Public Management. E-mail: ElizabethBrubaker@nextcity.com).

From National Post, Canada, 9 January 2003

Country View a Privatization Success Story

Waterloo - County supervisors Brian Quirk and Leon Mosley can hardly agree on anything. But they agreed on one thing 6 1/2 years ago. They both had serious doubts about bringing in a private company to manage Black Hawk County's Country View care facility. And they agree on at least one thing today. Privatizing Country View's management was a good thing. For the county, for the staff and for the residents there. As the two senior members of the Board of Supervisors, Democrat Quirk and Republican Mosley were both in office when Continuum Health Services was hired in mid-1996 to manage Country View. Mosley voted against hiring Continuum. Quirk supported it, though he was the most skeptical of its backers and the swing in the board's 3-2 vote to hire the Ankeny-based company. "Going into it, I was not a Continuum fan," Quirk said. "I was going to resist and fight." By his own admission, he was the most confrontational during Continuum CEO Tim Mortenson's initial presentations in early 1996. "Fast-forward about a month, I kind of bought into the philosophy," Quirk said. "This was after a lot of close-door sessions with Sonia (Johannsen, former county supervisor) and I battling back and forth, and some others who are experts in the health field. ... Their goal was to bring some stability to the 220 employees, the 168 clients, and to try to decrease employee grievances and stuff like that." The goal "wasn't to find a $50,000 department head. It was to bring some normalcy to the facility," Quirk said. "I switched because (Mortenson) talked a good game, and he certainly backed it up. "We weren't willing to close the place down. We had clients and 220 employees. This seemed to be a good compromise. Continuum and Tim knew health care in that kind of setting. They knew how to do it." Quirk acknowledged that Continuum has rotated administrators at Country View. "It's the nature of the beast," he said. "Regardless of which person you have in there, they're very committed. Tim has to train them, Tim has to make sure they know the regulations."

Rotating within the system of Continuum-managed facilities keeps them fresh. Quirk also said the succession of Continuum administrators has been far less contentious and stressful than the firings, litigation and state-imposed facility citations and fines under which some of the previous county-employed administrators from 1987-91 had departed. "Any time you have a 24/7 facility you're going to have problems," Quirk said. "Personally, I've had close friends, I've had family members, at Country View, where prior to '92 I wouldn't have done that. "I believe in what they're doing," he said. "I'd be a hypocrite if I worked to keep that facility" as a county official, and personally tried to get friends or family to go elsewhere. 'No more trouble' - Mosley voted against Continuum because of cost concerns and fearing ongoing problems. "At first, I thought it was going to cost us a bunch of money," he said. "I figured instead of having Continuum, hire a person and have the board have total control over that person to make sure the place is run properly." However, he said, "Ever since we've had Continuum I've been thoroughly pleased and happy. So my fears were unfounded. "Number one, no more lawsuits, no more trouble," Mosley said, referring to the administrative turnover and state fines from 1987-92. "Everything seems to be working fine out there. As far as I'm concerned, it's running smooth now. I really appreciate that, because (prior to Continuum) that was the one place I had to go whenever we had a problem. I was called out there all the time." Those calls have stopped, he said. Country View came back on the radar screen recently amid a mini-tempest over finding adequate liability insurance coverage. Those costs tripled, with the annual premium topping $100,000. Once again, as was the case five and 10 years ago, rumblings of sale, further privatization or closure came up, though they were quickly quashed. "We don't favor closing the facility down; we're not in favor of privatizing anything else at this time," Quirk said.

At least one employee suggested it's time for Country View to assert itself, instead of waiting for some future crisis. "I think the biggest need I see is being more involved in the community," said Steve Kohl, a program coordinator in the mentally retarded unit. "People in this facility can work at supported jobs in the community," Kohl said. "Assembly jobs, janitorial jobs, mailing." There's a number of jobs residents perform on site, such as the regular disposal of outdated confidential county records. The facility could use more volunteer help from the general public, said former County Supervisor Craig White, who put in a lot of time at the facility during his one term on the county board. Crumbling sidewalks need to be fixed, and a relatively steep incline at the entrance needs to be corrected for elderly and people using wheelchairs. "One of the things I'm going to follow through on for next year with volunteers for is a shelter," White said, a secure outdoor area for residents to enjoy outdoor activities and possibly a gazebo. "Just some things to make it more like home. Because it is these people's home," White said. Where the heart is - Continuum's administrator, Sherri Niles, knows it is the county-employed 225-member staff that makes Country View a home for its 167 residents. While the general public hardly gives Country View a conscious thought, she said staff members can't get it out of their minds, at or away from the facility. They make roughly as much as a telemarketer or packing house worker. But there's a difference beyond the numbers behind the dollar sign on the paycheck. "It's not easy to shut this off when you go home," Niles said. "Most of the people here will tell you it's a 24/7 proposition, and they're in it knowing that's the way it is. "Not necessarily working here in the building every single day," she said. "But I bet if you polled them, they'd tell you they think about the place at least two to three times even on their day off." It's the residents that are on their minds. "If they've got somebody in critical condition," Niles said. "If they've got somebody that's going out.

There may be a new staff member that doesn't know Jane likes to have her fork on the right instead of the left, and she needs a green glass to be happy in life. Those are the things that are important." Photographs are an important, popular item with residents. Not just any pictures. Polaroids. The kind that instantly develop, they can see right away and can be posted on bulletin boards. In rooms. Under coffee-table glass in community rooms. It's an affirmation of home and family, just the same as any family album. "We're a unique facility in that a lot of our residents have been here for a very long time," Niles said. "And so, this is their home. This is their family. This isn't the long-term care they came to at the end of their life. This is their home and their family. The majority of our staff has been here a long time, and are very committed to taking care of our residents." That includes activities like taking residents shopping, or for music-in-the park outings, or to the National Cattle Congress fair. "Residents look forward to that for weeks and months before that happens. And wouldn't it be sad if they never got a chance to do that after they came here? It says something about the fact our staff is committed to do the extra stuff," Niles said. "If you ask any of them, I bet the number one thing they tell you is they want to make a difference," she said. "They like taking care of people that can't take care of themselves. You laugh together, you cry together, you go through the births, you go through the marriages, you go through the divorces. You go through the deaths. "And it's very important to have that kind of feeling, (like) in the old days when it was still family taking care of family. We still have that, even if our names aren't the same. The feeling is still the same. They belong to me. They're my residents. I take responsibility for taking care of them. It's very important to me," Niles said. "I can say it. I mean it. But it's the people on the floor that actually enact it. Every single day."

From Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier, IA, By Pat Kinney, 14 January 2003