ISSUE 72
July 2005
 
 
   
    UN Report to Leave ICANN's Balls Intact
Finnish President Calls for Faire Globalization as UN Development Meeting Continue
Net Rules Too Hard for United Nations
MP Welcomes United Nations Indecision on Internet Policy
 
   
    Africa: Bush: Aid Yes, Corruption No
Africa: Donors Return as Africa Confronts Corruption
Liberia: Anti-corruption Plan Causes Rumpus in Political Circles
Africa: World Bank Chief Urges Integrated Approach To Aid; Fighting Corruption Vital, Wolfowitz Says
G8 Summit Statements - Africa - A Historic Opportunity
Liberia: Liberian Government Agrees to Pay Four Months Salary Arears, But Civil Servants Remain Adamant
Uganda: IMF Warns Government Over Corruption
Nigeria: US Works Out Way to Help Curb Corruption
   
    Pakistan: Politics Holding up Reforms in Pakistan
East Timor: World Bank warns East Timor of Potential for Corruption
   
    Georgia: Justice Minister Calls for Creation of Permanent Civil Service
Serbia and Montenegro: Statement by IMF Staff Mission to Serbia and Montenegro
   
    Egypt: Egypt Consider Privatizing Public Services
   
    Brazil: Corruption Scandal Makes the Left Stumble in Brazil
Brazil: Brazilian Corruption Scandal Threatens Lula
Honduras: Honduras Wins Aid Pact Tied to Human Rights, Anti-corruption Efforts
   
    Ethics, Science and Human Rights Come Together
US Senate Committee OKs World Bank Corruption Bill
 
   
    Liberia: Liberian Civil Servants Stage Protest Strike over Pay Arrears
Tanzania: All Civil Servants to Get Pay Rise, Says Minister
Nigeria: Obasanjo Clears Air on Retrenchment
Nigeria: Major Labour Crisis Looms in Federal Public Service
Liberia: Civil Servants Begin Three-day Strike to Demand Pay Arrears
Liberia: Civil Servants Go-Slow Gaining Momentum
Liberia: Civil Servants Strike Holding... But Government Warns Against Such Action Without 'Permit'
South Africa: South Africa Needs People-centred Government, Says Minister
Kenya: Civil Servants Union Now Withdraws Suit
Cameroon: Screening Of Civil Servants Intensifies
Namibia: Progress in Public Service Gender Balancing
   
    Nepal: Bureaucracy Becoming Disloyal to Government'
Indonesia: Civil Service Salary Likely to be Increased Next Year
Nepal: Government Bans Unions in Civil Service
China: Public Servants in China Must be Recruited Through Examination
Hong Kong: Civil Servants Lose $10b Pay-cut Battle
Fiji: State Defers Civil Service Reforms
Hong Kong: Hong Kong Government Wins Landmark Ruling on Civil Service Pay
Japan: Ministry Faces Onerous Task of Actually Reducing Civil Servants
Nepal: Government Bars Formation of Civil Servant Unions
Malaysia: PSC Asked to Look into Career Planning for Civil Servants
Nepal: Civil Servants on Road Against Government
Nepal: Civil Servants' Unions Dissolved
Malaysia: Private Sector Preferred, Fewer Non-Malays in the Civil Service
Nepal: Government Introduces New Civil Service Act 2062
   
    Malta: Chief Civil Servant Wants Better Service
United Kingdom: Ministers 'Interfering in Civil Service Recruitment'
United Kingdom: Civil Servants Number Rise 30% Since Devolution
   
    United Arab Emirates: Ministry of Finance and Civil Service Bureau Hold Workshop on Human Resources Management System
Iraq: Constitutional Awareness for Female Civil Servants
   
    USA: OMB, Lawmakers Spar over Bid to Overhaul Civil Service
USA: Civil Service Changes Alter Disciplinary Procedures
USA: Administration Unveils Civil Service Plan
USA: White House Issues Civil Service Reform Proposal
 
   
    Uganda: Uganda Improves Financial Management
Uganda: Uganda Moves Toward E-government
Rwanda: Government to Constitute New ICT Body
   
    Bangladesh: 232 Acres Land Qcquired: ICT Village to be Set up at Kaliakoir: PM
Bangladesh: ICT Sector's Development and E-governance
   
    Europe's Governments to Up Spending on IT
United Kingdom: Launch of e-Government National Awards 2005
   
    UNESCO and UWIDEC Launch Online Course on Local e-Governance in the Caribbean
USA: International Symposium on Local E-Democracy Will Take Place July 26-27, 2005 in Minneapolis
USA: OMB Asks Lawmakers to Loosen Up on E-gov Funding
   
    Tapping into E-government Initiatives
E-governance Toolkit Available for Developing Countries
 
   
    South Africa: Caught Between Paradox of Policy, BEE
Kenya: EU Welcomes Kenya Procurement Law, Seeks More Reforms
   
    China (Taiwan): Tax Reforms Will Solve Budget Deficit Problem, Lin Says
South Korea: 1 Million Poor Workers to Get Goverment Subsidies
   
    Greece: Radical Overhaul of Tax System
Slovakia: Has Economic Reform Gone Too Far, Too Fast?
Slovakia: Minister Unveils Draft Budget; Education Tops Expenditures
Italy: Siniscalco: Good Reduction of Public Spending
   
    Haiti: Inter-American Development Bank Approves $50 Million Soft Loan to Haiti for Urban Rehabilitation
 
   
    "Africa is Capable of Supporting Most of its Own Investment Oppotunities" - says CTO CEO
Nigeria: Privatisation Council Endorses Oil And Gas Policy
Rwanda: Rwandan Government Cashes in Some 35m Dollars From Privatization
   
    Malaysia: Public Private Partnerships Is the Way Forward
Asia: Mekong Development Forum in Tokyo to Focus on Infrastructure Partnerships
Bangladesh: BB Governor Says: Policy Reforms to Boost Private Sector
Bangladesh: Privatisation Regulations Report Awaits Law Ministry's Opinion
   
    EU: EU Aspiration Drives Power Reform in Romania and Bulgaria
Ukraine: Paper Says Ukrainian Privatization Slowing Down in 2005
Turkey: Turkey on Privatisation Drive Says Finance Minister
   
    Increase in Private-public Partnerships Helps Boost WTO Affiliate Membership
 

UN Report to Leave ICANN's Balls Intact

A sneak preview of the UN's report into internet governance has revealed that ICANN will retain its position as the lead technical body for the Internet. However, the organisation's dreams of becoming a quasi-governmental body overseeing the future of the internet have been dealt a heavy blow. Chairman of the UN's Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG), Nitin Desai, spoke at ICANN's bi-annual conference in Luxembourg this morning and said that 70 to 80 per cent of Internet governance did not concern ICANN at all.

Don't miss IT's Showtime! Playing right now are world-famous IT stars sharing their cutting-edge thinking with you. With near-DVD quality, filmed by a real documentary crew, it's like being right in the front row of our best IT events. But with IT's Showtime, you can also access what you want, when you want it.

Ready for what's ahead in IT? Switch on the best in IT events now! He highlighted the threats of cybercrime and spam as examples of where a broader forum, including existing international organisations such as the UN, would be making the key decisions. He also outlined a brand new forum in which ICANN would play a role alongside other major players such as WIPO and the ITU. That forum would not have decision-making powers but would supply a single source of authoritative advice to the UN.

The news has not come as a surprise to ICANN with insiders saying the report - which should be published on Friday and officially handed over to Kofi Annan on Monday - was pretty much what they expected. The report, while outlining that the "names and numbers" of the internet will be almost exclusively left under ICANN's control, gives four scenarios for the wider public policy issues thrown up by the internet. Head of the report Markus Kummer told those assembled these ranged from "status quo plus" up to heavy government involvement. The report, after a period of public comment, will go to a Prep-Com3 conference in Geneva in September and finally end up at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis in November, where the world's governments will decide how they wish the future of the Internet to proceed.

After the meeting, Nitin Desai told The Register that it was simply a matter of things having changed. "The system is changing. It is no longer just a technical or academic network. But the scientists' culture has remained and that somewhat anarchic approach no longer works. There are over a billion people using the system now. You can't expect governments to just stand there." Desai provided other examples of where the internet has stretched far beyond the original approach taken by technologists across the globe. "Many standards are now created by commercial companies. Look at the music industry - that has been completely changed by the Internet - and maybe soon the film industry will be too. I don't care about the system working behind the Internet because I just type what I want into Google. Search engines are replacing the DNS function in that sense." However, the process itself has been a great success, he explained. "People are less suspicious of each other. And governments have learnt that they should not get involved in technical and operational matters. Again, the main concerns are things like cybercrime and spam - none of these are to do with names and address."

As for the recent statement by the US government that it intended to maintain control of the root zone file, Mr Desai was careful to avoid inflaming the situation. "What we have to look at is the internet of five years' into the future. I do not expect to see this [root zone file ownership] resolved soon. But before now the US government has exercised its responsibility fairly. I have no criticism of what has happened in the past. It did so much earlier helping to build the infrastructure." The big push, in Desai's mind, is to extend the internet to the world, rather than focus on the already sophisticated system in the West. "The growth from now on will be in developing countries -where English is not the first language, not even the second." But the "great advantage" to the Internet is its universalism, Mr Desai said, so it looks as though ICANN need not worry about its future.

Paul Kane of CENTR, an organisation that represents many of the world's top-level domains was pleased with the news. "I am delighted to hear that the WGIG committee has recognised that ICANN should focus on its core technical functions of names and numbers, and leave the public policy processes to wider international discussion groups," he told us. "This is something we have been arguing for for years." And so it seems that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers - our old friend ICANN - is going to do exactly what it says on the tin.®

From Register, UK, by Kieren McCarthy - July 13, 2005

Finnish President Calls for Faire Globalization as UN Development Meeting Continue

As the United Nations main development body continued the ministerial segment of its 2005 policy session, the keynote speaker called for more equitable and sustainable globalization in order to achieve the goals in poverty alleviation and institutional reform that will be the focus of the upcoming UN World Summit in September. "We can and must reform globalization," said the President of Finland, Tarja Halonen, as she opened the second day of the three-day High-level Segment of the Economic and Social Council. Development, security and human rights strengthened the potential for more equitable and more sustainable globalization, she said.

The interplay between globalization and development was the fundamental notion behind the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, which was set up by the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) and which she co-chaired with President Benjamin Mkapa of the United Republic of Tanzania, she said. The nation-State still remained the most important actor in globalization, she said, while efficient multilateralism and jointly-agreed rules were vital to efforts to minimize its disadvantages, and corporate social responsibility in globalization should be highlighted more clearly.

ECOSOC President Munir Akram of Pakistan said that, in its discussions of these issues so far, the Council had demonstrated that it could build real coalitions for action on the economic and social front. Addressing a press conference on the sidelines of the meeting, he said the key decision-makers in the high-level segment were focusing squarely on the internationally-agreed development goals and related policies and problems, and that put ECOSOC in a good position to build consensus for real action on the development agenda at the September Summit. He described the discussions so far as having been excellent, in terms of their depth and sincerity and level of commitment, on the part of both developed and developing countries. There was a new spirit, he said, which had been manifested in the European Union's decision on official development assistance (ODA), in the Group of 8 industrialized nations' decision on debt. Of course, there was a long way to go and the challenges were monumental, but if the new spirit continues it will ensure success in September.

The focus in ECOSOC had very much been on action and implementation, he said. From the opening session yesterday and the concurrent deliberations in several round tables, it seemed that ECOSOC was well on the way to re-establishing itself as a forum, a platform, which could bring together all the relevant actors in the international community. In the high-level segment, there were Heads of State and governments, as well as approximately 50 ministers. There were also representatives from the business sector and civil society.

From Harold Doan and Associates (press release), CA - July 4, 2005

Net Rules Too Hard for United Nations

A Group set up by the UN to come up with a global plan for managing the internet has been unable to agree on who should do the job or how it should be done. The Working Group on Internet Governance instead came up with four rival models for overseeing the web and sorting out technical and public policy questions. In a report to be submitted to the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis in November, the group also proposed creation of a permanent forum to carry on the debate.

To understand the problem, "you must recognise that the internet was set up largely by academicians for limited use, but has grown beyond anyone's wildest expectations, with nearly one billion users today", working group executive co-ordinator Markus Kummer says. At issue for the world body is who runs the internet and how it can better serve the world. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has long pressed industry, government and private interest groups to try to narrow the digital divide and ensure that people in poor nations have greater access to the internet.

The internet is now loosely managed by various groups. The internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), for example, manages the domain name system and is under the control of the US government. Helping set technical standards are the International Telecommunication Union, an international organisation, the private-sector-led internet Engineering Task Force, and the academically oriented World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Among the governance options put forward by the group are continuation of the current system, creation of a world body on public policy issues arising from the work of ICANN, and creation of a body to address a broader range of public policy issues. A fourth option is to create three bodies, one to address policy issues, one for oversight and one for global co-ordination. The group also recommends a co-ordinated global effort to combat spam, or junk email, and urges that law enforcement authorities respect the right to freedom of expression when they crack down on internet-related crime.

From Australian IT, Australia - 19 July 2005

MP Welcomes United Nations Indecision on Internet Policy

The UN working group can't agree on the future of the Internet, except that it should be no single body running it. The Internet, which grew up in a state of anarchy, looks set to continue on its unconstrained path after a UN working group failed to agree on a strategy to move the Internet forward. The news, has been welcomed by one of the UK's more tech-savvy MPs. The group reported on its findings last week and decided that the most important issue is that no single company or organisation should be allowed to dominate the Internet. Four possible ways forward have been proposed.

The report says that "no single government should have a pre-eminent role in relation to international Internet governance". However the Bush administration's position, announced last month, is that the US should retain its key interest in controlling the development of the Internet. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has long pressed industry, government and private interest groups to ensure that people in poor nations have greater access to the Internet. But while Annan has fought for the rights of the poorer nations, others have been fighting to retain the status quo.

Labour MP and spokesman on the Internet, Derek Wyatt, welcomed the stalemate. "We should be eternally grateful that the UN has failed to reach agreement, it's the last thing we want," he told ZDNet UK. "It would be singularly inappropriate for that mid-20th century body, which is badly in need of a total refit, to take on anything as radical as Internet governance." Among the governance options put forward by the UN group were a continuation of the current system; creation of a world body to address public policy issues stemming from the work of the ICANN; and creation of a body to address a broader range of public policy issues. The fourth option is to create three bodies, one to address policy issues, one for oversight and one for global coordination. The group also recommended a coordinated global effort to combat spam and urged that law enforcement authorities respect the right to freedom of expression when they crack down on Internet-related crimes.

From ZDNet UK, UK, by Colin Barker of ZDNet News and Declan McCullagh of CNET News.com - July 18, 2005

 
 

Bush: Aid Yes, Corruption No

Copenhagen - United States President George W Bush made clear on Wednesday that African leaders should not expect American aid unless they make efforts to fight corruption. Bush said helping Africa overcome poverty and disease is a top priority, but added he expects "good governance" from leaders on the continent. "We've said we'll give aid, absolutely, we'll cancel debt, you bet, but we want to make sure the governments invest in their people," Bush said on Wednesday during a visit to Denmark on the way to the G8 summit in Scotland. "We expect there to be good governance on the continent of Africa. I don't know how we can look our taxpayers in the eye and say it's a good deal to give money to countries that are corrupt." Later on Wednesday, Bush will fly to Scotland to attend the three-day summit of the G8 leaders, where Africa will be a major topic.

Bush plans increased spending in Africa - Last week, Bush announced plans to spend $1.2bn to cut malaria deaths in Africa. He also proposed doubling US spending to $400m to promote education of girls in Africa and said he wanted Congress to approve $55m over three years to improve legal protection of women in Africa against violence and sexual abuse. Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen echoed Bush's comments at a joint news conference. "I feel a strong obligation to focus more on Africa," he said and added he will make an official visit to the continent in October. "The president and I share the view that the upcoming G8 summit should focus on how to make poverty history in Africa," Fogh Rasmussen said, and said the European Union and the US should dismantle "trade-distorting agricultural subsidies". "I urge the G8 to do their part in creating a new balanced and fair trade to benefit Africa," he said.

From News24, South Africa - July 6, 2005

Donors Return as Africa Confronts Corruption

Lagos - One of Dora Nkem Akunyili's lowest moments as a corruption fighter came when her son told her not to visit his boarding school. Obumneme Akunyili, 13, did not want anyone to know that she was his mother. It was not out of shame. Since becoming Nigeria's top food and drug regulator in 2001, his mother had broken the back of an illicit trade that had flooded Nigeria with fake medicines. She had taken on importers, distributors and an array of officials willing to risk Nigerian lives for a bribe. But her son feared what might happen should her enemies track him down. So for years, he told everyone that his mother was his aunt. "That caused me a lot of pain," Dora Nkem Akunyili said. "He denied I was his mother. But the young boy saw the danger." In Nigeria, even children understand corruption's menace. Increasingly, so do the donors that have poured more than $400 billion into African nations since 1980 and watched too much of it vanish into a sinkhole of fraud, malfeasance and waste.

After years in which disappointed donors turned away from Africa - foreign aid to the continent reached a 17-year low in 1999 - the billions are beginning to flow again. In May, the world's richest nations agreed to write off $40 billion in loans owed by the world's 18 poorest nations. All but four are in Africa. But this time, the rules are different. As leaders of the Group of 8 industrialized nations gather this week in Scotland, in a summit meeting billed as a turning point for Africa, a new approach to aid reigns. This time, the efforts of reformers like Akunyili will be scrutinized to see whether poor nations can handle fresh infusions of money. No African nation points up the challenge quite like Nigeria. Awash in oil and gas that has flooded its treasury with $300 billion in the past 20 to 30 years, Nigeria remains utterly destitute, in no small part because of corruption. Lagos, home to 15 million of Nigeria's 137 million people, is among the world's most troubled cities, replete with open sewers, foul tap water and garbage-strewn roads. Corruption has not only robbed Africa of money to help lift some of the world's poorest people out of poverty. Around the world, it also stalls economic development and tarnishes people's faith in government and, often, democracy.

This year's G-8 host, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, wants to double global aid to Africa to $50 billion a year by 2010. Although he appears unlikely to reach that goal, aid is on the upswing: The European Union and the United States propose to double their assistance during that period. And though the United States devotes less of its wealth to foreign aid than other G-8 nations, it has tripled aid to Africa since 2000. But these new contributions are increasingly dependent on proof that recipients are controlling corruption and governing wisely. The United States holds one of the most blunt positions: "Countries like ours are not going to want to give aid to countries that are corrupt or don't hold true to democratic principles," President George W. Bush said last month after meeting with President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa.

This tough-love approach is one measure of the turnabout in the approach to foreign aid since the Cold War, when both sides showered cash on African allies with scant regard to how much was stolen or wasted. Still, setting the good-governance bar - and deciding who clears it - is up to the donor. Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University economist who wrote a December 2004 report to the United Nations on fighting poverty, said that at least two dozen poor nations, many in Africa, are well-enough run to manage a rapid infusion of aid. The Bush administration's Millennium Challenge Account, a $1.5 billion annual fund set up to promote economic growth in poor countries, says only seven impoverished African nations qualify, with another six on the verge. There is ample fodder for pessimists and optimists alike. On the positive side, a growing number of African nations are edging away from crime and autocracy. Ghana, which marked its first peaceful democratic transfer of power in 2000, is often cited as a regional model of reform. Tanzania's president, Benjamin Mkapa, claims that an anticorruption campaign has led to a four-fold increase in government revenue in the decade since the nation's first multiparty elections. Zambia is trying its former president, Frederick Chiluba, for stealing $488,000 in state funds, even though he handpicked the successor whose government has charged him.

Yet a study in May by the World Bank found that between 1996 and 2004, the quality of governance declined in as many African countries as it improved. Nigeria is one of many nations where aid has been wasted. Excluding World Bank loans, which in some years totaled as much as $1 billion, Nigeria took in $3.5 billion in aid from 1980 to 2000. That was a few hundred million less than what Sani Abacha has been accused in news reports of stealing in the five years he ruled Nigeria as a military dictator before his death in 1998. Dismayed, donors pulled back or out. Aid in 1999 totaled half the 1990 level. Later audits revealed scores of botched projects financed with hundreds of millions of dollars in international loans. Nigeria's government never even cleared the site for one $18 million construction project. Millions were spent on paper mills that never produced any paper. Eighteen projects costing $836 million were never completed; another 44 either never operated or were quickly shut down, Nigeria's Finance Ministry reported. Of 20 other projects started between 1985 and 1992, more than half had little impact or were unsustainable, the World Bank concluded.

But with the 1999 election of Olusegun Obasanjo, donors' enthusiasm reawakened. Obasanjo's anticorruption credentials seemed impeccable: He helped found Transparency International and backed a program by African leaders to review each others' adherence to democracy and good governance. Since his election, aid to Nigeria has doubled. Writing off its $32 billion in international debt, once unthinkable, is now considered possible. Yet Obasanjo's first term ended with little progress. "He wanted a second term, and he believed that if he took the anticorruption war too seriously, they would make sure he didn't get a second term," Jibirin Ibrahim, a political scientist and director of Global Rights, a Nigerian pro-democracy group, said of corrupt officials. "Which was a strategic mistake, because these people were able to further entrench themselves in the system." Now, with two years left in his second term, Obasanjo's crusade appears to have regained steam. His education minister was arrested for bribing legislators. His housing minister was fired for selling government property at cut-rate prices. And the police inspector-general was led away in handcuffs on charges of money laundering.

Some early initiatives also appear to be bearing fruit. Oby Ezekwesili, a senior presidential aide, said that the government had saved $1.3 billion since the start of 2003 by insisting on competitive bidding in awarding contracts. But the list of unfinished business is formidable, including removing the constitutional guarantee of immunity for the nation's most senior officials, opening government records to the public and disclosing officials' wealth. Other obstacles remain. Although Obasango's first act as president was to establish an anticorruption commission, the office has secured only two corruption-related convictions among the 85 people it has charged. Mustapha Akanbi, a retired judge who heads the commission, said he suspects some judges have been paid off to toss out cases.

Government officials have also resisted change. After investigators uncovered bribes to a hospital medical director, Akanbi said, the health minister refused to fire him until Akanbi complained personally to the president. When Akunyili took over as director of Nigeria's National Agency for Food and Drug Administration four years ago, perhaps four-fifths of her agency's regulators were corrupt, she said in a recent interview. Even worse, two in three drugs sold publicly were either unregistered or unsafe for consumers. Every few weeks, Akunyili's agency made a show of burning heaps of fake drugs collected at airports, seaports, illegal factories and distributing houses. A spot check last year showed the impact: Only one in eight drugs was unregistered. Major pharmaceutical companies have now returned to Nigeria, and other African nations have agreed to lift their bans on Nigeria's drugs. Akunyili has been showered with awards, but her family is pressing her to quit. Seven months after she took office, 10 armed men invaded her home, leaving only after learning that she was not there. In December 2003, gunmen attacked her car. A driver in a nearby bus was killed. One bullet went through Akunyili's blue headdress, grazing her skull. "It's like a war," she said. "They are fighting back."

From International Herald Tribune, France, by Sharon LaFraniere of The New York Times - July 5, 2005

Anti-corruption Plan Causes Rumpus in Political Circles

Monrovia - The Liberian government and several prominent politicians have reacted angrily to an anti-corruption plan drawn up by international donors, branding it a threat to the West African nation's sovereignty. The Liberia Economic Governance and Action Plan (LEGAP) was drafted by donors - including the United Nations, the European Union and the Economic Community of West African States - to address the "systemic and endemic corruption" which they believe is handicapping Liberia's economic resuscitation after 14 years of civil war. A draft seen by IRIN in mid-June envisaged limiting the government's authority to grant contracts, ring-fencing key sources of revenue, placing international supervisors in key ministries with veto powers, and bringing in judges from abroad. It also suggested that key state enterprises, such as the port of Monrovia, the international airport and the state-owned fuel distribution company should be farmed out to international managers.

Liberian Information Minister William Allen said that the transitional government, set up after a 2003 peace deal and charged with shepherding the country to elections on 11 October, had severe reservations about the LEGAP proposals, particularly putting key decisions in the hands of foreigners. "We are not going to agree to the idea of foreigners coming to Liberia to take over statutory responsibilities that Liberians should handle," Allen told IRIN in an interview on Monday. "The fact that one Liberian is not performing does not mean that there are not others who can perform". He said Gyude Bryant, the head of the interim government, was preparing a response to the LEGAP which would be ready within the next fortnight. "Chairman Bryant also intends to discuss the plans with some African leaders," Allen said.
A senior source in the Liberian government told IRIN that Bryant would discuss the plan at this week's African Union (AU) summit in Libya, which has brought many of the continent's 53 heads of state together. The two-day meeting in the Mediterranean seaside town of Sirte was due to end on Tuesday.

"The matter will be on the agenda of the ongoing AU summit. We firmly believe that this plan... will erode Liberia's sovereignty," the source said. Other West African leaders supported Bryant's view, he added. One source in West Africa close to the international donor community told IRIN recently that several African governments were uneasy about Liberia surrendering so much authority to its financial backers, fearing this might set a precedent that could then be applied to other countries with a bad reputation for corruption. Back in Liberia, it is not just those currently in power that have criticised the proposals of the international community. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a former UN official who came runner-up to Charles Taylor in 1997 and has declared her intention to run in the 2005 elections, was damning in her evaluation of LEGAP.
"The document is a financial receivership and it is a challenge to Liberia's sovereignty. Every Liberian including myself will reject and oppose it outright," she told reporters last week. Another high-profile figure joining the anti-LEGAP chorus is Amos Sawyer, who served as interim president from 1990 to 1994 during the early stages of Liberia's civil war. He said the proposals would turn the country into "a quasi-trust territory... (with) expatriate management."

Hijacking sovereignty? But Abou Moussa, the acting head of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), stressed on Monday that LEGAP was not about the international community taking over as trustees. "The document is not intended to take away or hijack the sovereignty of Liberia, but for a constructive engagement between the government and its international partners," Moussa told a press conference. "As far as the UN is concerned, we are not in favour of trusteeship," he said. " (But) we can not close our eyes when things are going wrong".

The international donor proposals have found some backing among ordinary Liberians, many of whom are angry about rampant corruption in the transitional government while they still have to live without running water or mains electricity almost two years after the war ended. Top officials cruise the battered capital Monrovia in flashy jeeps, but the government has yet to pay 18 months of salary arrears to civil servants. "I know how to classify this government. It's the worst Liberia has ever had," said Darline Zuahtyu, who lives in a ramshackle hut in the city, not far from Bryant's fortress-like seafront villa. Most of the callers to Monrovia's commercial radio stations commenting on LEGAP have also voiced their approval of the plans to bring more transparency to government spending and ensure that aid money does not dry up.

Much of Liberia's basic infrastructure was destroyed during the 1989-2003 conflict and the United Nations aims to spend US $760 million over the coming year to maintain a 15,000-strong peacekeeping force in the country. But donors have repeatedly warned that funding for reconstruction will be withheld if politicians continue to squander the cash or pocket resources designed to help the country's estimated three million population. The Roman Catholic Church has also waded into the fray, voicing its support for LEGAP. "The plans would help Liberia recover from economic paralysis. Liberia has been plagued by economic and political corruption, mismanagement and ineptitude for too long," it said in a statement at the weekend. And not everyone in the transitional government, composed of representatives from the former warring factions as well as civilians, shares Bryant's dislike of the proposals.

Vambah Kanneh - one of the founding members of the main rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and now transport minister - told reporters that the LEGAP plan was the best framework for tackling corruption. "There is no reason why the government and some Liberians should reject this document when it intends to stamp out corruption for the good of ordinary Liberians," Kanneh said. UN officials and diplomats have stressed that the action plan to fight corruption would be a negotiated deal, not an imposed one. Moussa, the acting head of UNMIL, said on Monday that private talks between the donors and the transitional government were continuing. Information Minister Allen said a new version of the plan was on the table, but he declined to detail recent changes to the draft. "Some time ago we a received document... but it was later withdrawn by the senders and now there is a revised document which we are carefully studying," he said.

From Reuters AlertNet, UK - July 5, 2005

World Bank Chief Urges Integrated Approach To Aid; Fighting Corruption Vital, Wolfowitz Says

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz has called on the G8 countries to provide more financial assistance to Africa and other parts of the developing world but says more cash must be only one part of a broad approach to fighting poverty, reports the Globe and Mail (Canada). "There is skepticism and, in some cases, justifiable skepticism, that large increases in aid won't necessarily deal with the problems of poverty, and by themselves, they won't." Wolfowitz said yesterday in an interview before the G8 summit in Scotland. Wolfowitz said that increased financial assistance must be only one component of "an integrated approach" that includes fighting corruption, expanding the opportunities for trade and improving the climate for private-sector investment in developing countries. He said that it is essential to adopt a country-by-country approach that balances all of a nation's needs. "You just can't expect to improve education by putting money into schools if you don't pay attention to roads and water," he said, noting that in some African countries, HIV-AIDS is the main health problem, while in others, it's malaria.

There is new recognition by African leaders of their responsibilities "to deal with their own problems, to tackle fundamental issues of development, including the very difficult issues of governance and combating corruption," he said. Economic development cannot be divorced from political development, particularly when it comes to issues such as corruption, said Wolfowitz. "To the extent that corruption is an obstacle to development . . . one of the best tools for combating corruption is public exposure and, obviously, that requires a press that is free to criticize" government.

Wolfowitz agreed that the political picture in Africa is far from rosy, particularly in Zimbabwe, where the government of President Robert Mugabe has launched a brutal relocation policy, forcing tens of thousands of impoverished people from their homes in the cities to the countryside. "I think that what's going on in Zimbabwe is terrible — terrible from many points of view, including its effects on Zimbabwe's economic-development prospects. And I think people should speak out." But he said that Mugabe's tactics represent "the old way of doing business," and that elsewhere in Africa governments are making wise use of foreign aid to improve the lot of their citizens. In particular, he praised Nigeria for making progress in fighting corruption and showing increased transparency in where its oil revenues go. He is also hopeful that Nigeria is close to an agreement with Switzerland that will allow for the return of several hundred million dollars of wealth stolen by former Nigerian president Sani Abacha from the country's coffers.

The Associated Press further reports Wolfowitz said Tuesday that phasing out agricultural subsidies in rich nations would be an important part of tackling poverty in the world's poorest ones. He said poor farmers lose their opportunities to become self-sufficient because of subsidies and market barriers. "Then you're sort of guaranteeing handouts and permanent dependency, which is not what aid should be about," he said. He said subsidies cost taxpayers and consumers more than $200 billion a year. "You're not going to eliminate them overnight, but at least let's start moving in the right direction," he said. Xinhua News Agency also reports, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said on Tuesday that phasing out agricultural subsidies in rich nations would be an important part of tackling poverty in the poorest countries.

Dow Jones adds the World Bank President stressed the importance to fighting poverty of both trade and aid, but he warned against becoming too focused on having foreigners invest in poor countries. "I think experience in successful developing countries says the bulk of those come from domestic private investors, not foreigners," he said. While domestic and private investors sometimes have the same needs, he said, "I think it's important that we keep our eye on the whole ball and not just think about what might look like the interest of large multinational corporations." Agence France Presse and AFX write Wolfowitz called on the world's richest nations gathering for a summit in Scotland to come to the aid of the world's poorest as a "moral obligation". But aid alone will not transform the developing world's fortunes, he told reporters before leaving to attend the Group of Eight summit starting Wednesday in Gleneagles. "The World Bank needs to convince taxpayers in the US and other countries to contribute to development," said Wolfowitz. "It's not just a matter of moral obligation but also a matter of self-interest," he said. "It's not healthy for any country in the world when a whole region is left out of the development process."

Les Echos (France) also reports that Wolfowitz said he was in favor of the Millennium Development Goals, and he approved the target that the international community has set itself to double aid resources. "Dedicating 0.7 percent of GDP to aid is desirable," Wolfowitz said. To find the resources to meet this target, Wolfowitz is not opposed to the French proposal of levying a tax on airline tickets. "As the president of the World Bank, I am always interested in ways to find funds," he said. Rich countries have not yet explained how they intend to reimburse the World Bank's International Development Association after they agreed to cancel $40 billion in debt for the poorest countries. The Globe and Mail adds Wolfowitz would not comment specifically on countries such as the United States or Canada, which have declined to commit to that level of aid. "I don't work for the US government," Wolfowitz said. "It's not my responsibility to defend or explain their positions. I welcome the fact that there has been an increase in US development assistance and, specifically, US assistance to Africa.

From noticias.info (press release), Spain - July 6, 2005

G8 Summit Statements - Africa - A Historic Opportunity

1. This is a moment of opportunity for Africa. Its leaders have embraced a new vision for the continent's future which recognises their leading role in addressing the continent's challenges and realising its opportunities.
2. There are now just ten years in which to take the action needed for all developing countries to meet the Goals agreed at the Millennium Summit in 2000. We should continue the G8 focus on Africa, which is the only continent not on track to meet any of the Goals of the Millennium Declaration by 2015.
3. Important progress has been made. In the past five years, more than two thirds of sub-Saharan African countries have had democratic elections. Inflation is a fifth of levels a decade ago. Growth in sixteen African countries averaged over 4% in the past decade, higher than in any major developed country. 24 African countries have now signed up to have their progress reviewed by their peers. And the promotion of good governance, peace and security and economic development is at the heart of the African Union (AU) and its programme, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
4. The G8 has focussed on issues of importance to Africa at every Summit since the late 1990s.

Building on Progress: A Renewed Commitment to Africa

5. Further progress in Africa depends above all on its own leaders and its own people. We welcome their commitment to take responsibility for developing their continent, and to promote good governance and take action against corruption in their countries. We want to help them ensure that reforms in Africa gain momentum: today we renew our own commitment to support countries and people making such efforts.
6. We have therefore agreed a set of further measures designed to help Africa build the successful future all of us want to see, many of which will be applicable to other poor countries. These actions must be undertaken in a co-ordinated and coherent manner. Better governance, stability and peace are necessary for the private sector to grow and create jobs; a growing private sector creates more revenue for investment in health and education; increased numbers of healthy, well-skilled people will improve capacity for governance. These mutually-reinforcing actions should accelerate the self-sustaining growth of Africa and end aid dependency in the long term.
7. Our commitments today build on Africa's own efforts, set out in the AU and NEPAD strategies and programme; and on the G8's past and present commitments. Progress on the Africa Action Plan, agreed at Kananaskis, has been reviewed by our Africa Personal Representatives. We have also noted the conclusions of the recent report of the Commission for Africa. Other countries are willing to share their experience of successful economic development, including in Asia, and we recognise that South-South co-operation can make a significant contribution. In some areas we intend to strengthen our support for what is already working; in others a reinforced effort is required.

Peace and Stability

8. Peace is the first condition of successful development. We support Africa's efforts to build a peaceful and stable Africa. We will help Africa's fragile states to emerge successfully from crisis and conflict. We support African initiatives to prevent, mediate and resolve conflicts and consolidate peace, in the spirit of the UN Charter. And we back the African Union and the other African institutions which must continue to develop their capacity for promoting lasting peace and stability on the continent. In this regard, we are progressing with our Sea Island commitment to train and, where appropriate equip, some 75,000 troops by 2010 to take part in peace support operations worldwide, with a sustained focus on Africa. We commend and will continue to support the African Union's mission in Sudan (Darfur), just as we are contributing to UNMIS's operation in southern Sudan.
9. We will enhance our support for the development of Africa's capacity to resolve conflicts and keep the peace, consistent with our national laws, by:

(a) Providing co-ordinated technical assistance to the African Standby Force and helping to establish planning elements at the African Union HQ and its regional brigades.
(b) Supporting the AU in developing its ability to deploy unarmed military observer missions, civilian policing operations and gendarmerie/carabinieri-like forces as part of stabilisation and peace support operations.
(c) Providing support, including flexible funding, for African peace support operations including transport, logistics and financial management capacity.
(d) Countering terrorism in Africa, including through co-operation with the AU Anti-Terrorism Centre in Algiers.
(e) Supporting efforts from regional and international organisations to reinforce African capacity to promote peace and stability.

10. We will also help Africa prevent conflict and ensure that previous conflicts do not re-emerge, by:

(a) Working in partnership with the AU and sub-regional organisations, including by providing resources to develop their planned Continental Early Warning System and implement the AU Panel of the Wise to address and mediate conflicts before they erupt into violence.
(b) Enhancing the capabilities of the AU and African sub-organisations, building on the existing G8 Action Plan for Expanding Global Capability for Peace Support Operations,as well as commitments from the Evian and Kananaskis Summits. To support this, we will work to promote within our respective governments mechanisms for more effective and flexible crisis response and promote faster, more comprehensive and coordinated partner responses engaging ourselves, the UN, key regional organisations and other partners.
(c) Maximising the contribution of local and multinational companies to peace and stability including through working with the UN Global Compact and developing OECD guidance for companies working in zones of weak governance.
(d) Working to implement UN sanctions regimes more effectively by improved co-ordination of existing monitoring mechanisms and more efficient use of independent expertise.
(e) Acting effectively in the UN and in other fora to combat the role played by 'conflict resources' such as oil, diamonds and timber, and other scarce natural resources, in starting and fuelling conflicts.
(f) Improving the effectiveness of transfer controls over small arms and light weapons, including at inter alia the review conference of the UN Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons in 2006, and taking effective action in Africa to collect and destroy illicit small arms. Development of international standards in arms transfers, including a common understanding of governments' responsibilities, would be an important step towards tackling the undesirable proliferation of conventional arms. We agree on the need for further work to build a consensus for action to tackle the undesirable proliferation of conventional arms.
(g) Working in support of the UN Secretary General's proposed new Peace Building Commission.

11. We will give greater attention and resources to reconstruction and reconciliation in post-conflict countries by:

(a) Providing rapid and flexible multilateral and bilateral debt relief for post-conflict countries, where appropriate.
(b) Allocating grant financing for reconstruction needs, including the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) into civilian society of former combatants.

12. We will work urgently with other partners to improve the timeliness, predictability, effectiveness and availability of humanitarian assistance by:

(a) Helping to fund sufficiently the urgent needs of millions of Africans caught up in the humanitarian emergencies identified by the UN in Africa, especially in the so-called 'forgotten humanitarian crises', so that co-ordinated emergency funding is available in time to save lives at risk.
(b) Working with the UN to improve the tracking, reporting, and co-ordination of the resources provided for humanitarian emergencies.
(c) Supporting the UNSG's work to strengthen the international humanitarian response system. The G8 members are working with the Secretary General to improve the speed of response, efficiency, responsibility, accountability and transparency of humanitarian assistance operations on the ground, while respecting the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence of humanitarian assistance. (d) Working with the African Union to promote the increased engagement of African Governments to ensure that there is safe and unimpeded access to the population for humanitarian personnel, and to support, address and resolve humanitarian crises.

Promoting Good and Responsive Governance

13. We welcome African institutions' engagement in promoting and enhancing effective governance, including NEPAD's strong statements in support of democracy and human rights. Well-governed states are critical to peace and security; economic growth and prosperity; ensuring respect for human rights and promotion of gender equality and the delivery of essential services to the citizens of Africa. We will support African countries' efforts to make their governments more transparent, capable and responsive to the will of their people; improve governance at the regional level and across the continent; and strengthen the African institutions that are essential to this.

14. In response to this African commitment, we will:

(a) Help strengthen the AU and NEPAD, including through: - support, including flexible funding, for the African Union and other pan-African institutions such as the Pan-African Parliament; - support to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), while respecting African ownership, such as through contributions to the APRM Secretariat Trust Fund; - appropriate and co-ordinated support to African countries in the implementation of their good governance national strategies, including their country action plans for implementation of APRM recommendations.
(b) Support greater transparency in public financial management, including revenues, budgets and expenditure, licences, procurement and public concessions, including through increased support to capacity building in those African countries that are taking credible action against corruption and increasing transparency and accountability.
(c) Support African partners in signing and ratifying the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and provide support towards the implementation of the AU Convention.
(d) As part of our work to combat corruption and promote transparency, increase support to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and countries implementing EITI, including through financial and technical measures. We call on African resource-rich countries to implement EITI or similar principles of transparency and on the World Bank, IMF and regional development banks to support them. We support the development of appropriate criteria for validating EITI implementation. Transparency should be extended to other sectors, as the G8 is doing in pilot projects.

(e) Call on African countries to implement the African Charter on Human and People's Rights and its protocols in order to encourage respect for the rights of ethnic minorities, women and children.
(f) Work vigorously for early ratification of the UN Convention Against Corruption and start discussions on mechanisms to ensure its effective implementation. Work to establish effective mechanisms, consistent with the provisions of UNCAC and previous G8 commitments, within our own administrations for the recovery of assets, including those stolen through corruption, taking into account final disposal of confiscated property where appropriate, and to return assets to their legitimate owners. We encourage all countries to promulgate rules to deny entry and safe haven, when appropriate, to officials and individuals found guilty of public corruption, those who corrupt them, and their assets.
(g) To further protect the international financial system from illicit corruption proceeds, we encourage all countries to require enhanced due diligence for financial transactions involving politically exposed persons. In addition, we urge all countries to comply with UN Security Council resolution 1532 to identify and freeze the assets of designated persons.
(h) Reduce bribery by the private sector by rigorously enforcing laws against the bribery of foreign public officials, including prosecuting those engaged in bribery; strengthening anti-bribery requirements for those applying for export credits and credit guarantees, and continuing our support for peer review, in line with the OECD Convention; encouraging companies to adopt anti-bribery compliance programmes and report solicitations of bribery; and by committing to co-operate with African governments to ensure the prosecution of those engaged in bribery and bribe solicitation.
(i) Take concrete steps to protect financial markets from criminal abuse, including bribery and corruption, by pressing all financial centres to obtain and implement the highest international standards of transparency and exchange of information. We will continue to support Financial Stability Forums ongoing work to promote and review progress on the implementation of international standards, particularly the new process concerning offshore financial centres that was agreed in March 2005, and the OECD's high standards in favour of transparency and exchange of information in all tax matters.

Investing in People

15. Life expectancy is increasing in every continent except Africa, where it has been falling for the last 20 years. We will continue to support African strategies to improve health, education and food security.
16. To unlock the vast human potential of Africa, we will work with Africa to create an environment where its most capable citizens, including teachers and healthcare workers, see a long-term future on the continent. We will work with committed national governments to assist in creating that environment.
17. The core aims for education and health are stated in the UN Millennium Declaration. We support our African partners' commitment to ensure that by 2015 all children have access to and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality, and have access to basic health care (free wherever countries choose to provide this) to reduce mortality among those most at risk from dying from preventable causes, particularly women and children; and so that the spread of HIV, malaria and other killer diseases is halted and reversed and people have access to safe water and sanitation.

18. We will work to achieve these aims by:

(a) Working with African governments, respecting their ownership, to invest more in better education, extra teachers and new schools. This is made more crucial by the number of teachers dying from AIDS. As part of this effort, we will work to support the Education for All agenda in Africa, including continuing our support for the Fast Track Initiative (FTI) and our efforts to help FTI-endorsed countries to develop sustainable capacity and identify the resources necessary to pursue their sustainable educational strategies. Our aim is that every FTI-elected country will develop the capacity and have the resources necessary to implement their sustainable education strategies.
(b) Helping develop skilled professionals for Africa's private and public sectors, through supporting networks of excellence between African's and other countries' institutions of higher education and centres of excellence in science and technology institutions. In this respect, we look forward to the outcome of the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society taking place in November in Tunis.
(c) Investing in improved health systems in partnership with African governments, by helping Africa train and retain doctors, nurses and community health workers. We will ensure our actions strengthen health systems at national and local level and across all sectors since this is vital for long-term improvements in overall health, and we will encourage donors to help build health capacity.

(d) With the aim of an AIDS-free generation in Africa, significantly reducing HIV infections and working with WHO, UNAIDS and other international bodies to develop and implement a package for HIV prevention, treatment and care, with the aim of as close as possible to universal access to treatment for all those who need it by 2010. Limited health systems capacity is a major constraint to achieving this and we will work with our partners in Africa to address this, including supporting the establishment of reliable and accountable supply chain management and reporting systems. We will also work with them to ensure that all children left orphaned or vulnerable by AIDS or other pandemics are given proper support. We will work to meet the financing needs for HIV/AIDS, including through the replenishment this year of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria; and actively working with local stakeholders to implement the '3 Ones' principles in all countries.
(e) Building on the valuable G8 Global HIV/AIDS vaccine enterprise, increasing direct investment and taking forward work on market incentives, as a complement to basic research, through such mechanisms as Public Private Partnerships and Advance Purchase Commitments to encourage the development of vaccines, microbicides and drugs for AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other neglected diseases. We note continuing work to explore establishing an International Centre for Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology centre in Africa to help research into vaccines for the diseases that are afflicting the continent.
(f) Supporting the Polio Eradication Initiative for the post eradication period in 2006-8 through continuing or increasing our own contributions toward the $829 million target and mobilising the support of others. We are pleased that the funding gap for 2005 has been met.

(g) Working with African countries to scale up action against malaria to reach 85% of the vulnerable populations with the key interventions that will save 600,000 children's lives a year by 2015 and reduce the drag on African economies from this preventable and treatable disease. By contributing to the additional $1.5bn a year needed annually to help ensure access to anti-malaria insecticide-treated mosquito nets, adequate and sustainable supplies of Combination Therapies including Artemisin, presumptive treatment for pregnant women and babies, household residual spraying and the capacity in African health services to effectively use them, we can reduce the burden of malaria as a major killer of children in sub-Saharan Africa.
(h) Helping to meet the needs identified by the Stop TB Partnership. We also support the call for a high-level conference of Health Ministers for TB in 2006.
(i) Implementing the G8 water action plan agreed at Evian, in partnership with the AfDB initiative on rural water and sanitation, including through increasing aid in this sector; maintaining political momentum and commitment on the water issue; and reinforcing co-ordination and monitoring mechanisms.
(j) Reconfirming our Sea Island commitment to help countries that are willing to make a political commitment to develop comprehensive food security and famine prevention programmes.

Promoting Growth

19. Private enterprise is a prime engine of growth and development. Enhancing governance and the rule of law will attract more and broader private investment, including FDI, which is the basic condition for inclusive growth. African countries need to build a much stronger investment climate: we will continue to help them do so, including through the promotion of a stable, efficient and harmonised legal business framework (noting the work of the OHADA business legal unification process and the improvement of the investment climate through the OECD/NEPAD Investment Initiative) and increased access to finance including strong support for the development of micro-finance in Africa. Partnership between the public and private sectors is crucial.
20. Investment is needed in sustainable agriculture, which is the most important economic sector for most Africans. African governments have made a commitment to invest 10% of their budgets in agriculture. We will strengthen our support for their commitment.
21. An ambitious and balanced conclusion to the Doha Round is the best way to make trade work for Africa and increase African countries' integration into the global economy. The Hong Kong Ministerial in December will be a critical step towards a successful outcome of the DDA in 2006. Our separate statement on the DDA gives more details of the potential benefits. The World Bank estimates that completing these negotiations could lift 140 million people out of poverty.

22. We agree:

(a) To increase our help to developing countries to build the physical, human and institutional capacity to trade, including trade facilitation measures. We are committed to granting additional support for trade capacity building to assist LDCs, particularly in Africa, to take advantage of the new opportunities to trade which will result from a positive conclusion of the DDA. We call on the IFIs to submit proposals to the annual meetings for additional assistance to countries to develop their capacity to trade and ease adjustment in their economies;
(b) To provide resources and training to help African producers meet current and new health and safety standards for food exports and other products. We will encourage our national standard setting and regulatory bodies to work with African exporters and national authorities, and we will support African nations in playing their full part in the relevant international standard setting bodies, in order to facilitate African export to our markets.
(c) To support African efforts to increase South-South trade and regional integration, to improve specialisation and create more jobs and prosperity;
(d) To improve the utilisation of our preference schemes by ensuring that rules (particularly rules of origin) are transparent and simple to follow and do not inadvertently preclude eligible developing countries from taking advantage of those schemes. We support the efforts underway by the World Bank and others to address concerns regarding trade preference erosion. We further agree to report back on progress to future presidencies.

23. Infrastructure and supply-side weaknesses often prevent the poorest countries from exploiting their trading opportunities and need to be addressed. To boost growth, attract new investment and contribute to building Africa's capacity to trade we will:

(a) Continue our work to build an international infrastructure consortium involving the AU, NEPAD, World Bank and African Development Bank (AfDB), recognised by NEPAD as the lead infrastructure agency, to facilitate infrastructure investment, including in cross-border infrastructure, in Africa. This should achieve more effective and larger-scale infrastructure activity to back Africa's priorities, and to identify and overcome project development, financing, and business environment constraints, recognising the comparative advantages of different donors and the private sector.
(b) Support investment, enterprise development and innovation, for example through support to the AU/NEPAD Investment Climate Facility, the Enhanced Private Sector Assistance with the AfDB, and other appropriate institutions, to invest in SMEs and microfinance, and through actions by the relevant International Financial Institutions and African governments to increase access to financial services through increased partnerships between commercial banks and micro-finance institutions, including through support for diversification of financial services available to the poor and effective use of remittances.

(c) Support a comprehensive set of actions to raise agricultural productivity, strengthen urban-rural linkages and empower the poor, based on national initiatives and in cooperation with the AU/NEPAD Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and other African initiatives.
(d) Encourage best practice in responsible investment through African private sector networks, including support to the UN Global Compact. (e) Welcome the growing market for fair-trade goods and their positive effect in supporting livelihoods and increasing public awareness of the positive role of trade in development.
(f) Support youth employment in Africa for both men and women, including vocational education and training relevant to market demands.

Financing for Development

24. Successful development requires sustained and consistent progress across the range of areas we have identified: strengthened peace and security, better governance, improved healthcare and education, enhanced growth, access to markets, and capacity to trade. Implementation will require access to additional resources for Africa and other developing countries. Some of this can and should come from developing countries' domestic resources, FDI and other private flows and increased trade. This will increase as developing country economies grow. The primary responsibility for this lies with developing countries themselves. Additional resources will also come from remittances and donations from private individuals in developed countries, and we welcome our citizens' generous response to appeals for the Tsunami, Sudan and other emergencies. Some of this financing can come from environmental initiatives. Support for peace and security is also relevant to building the foundation for development. We invite the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD to pursue its work on the way different flows to developing countries are taken into account.

25. A substantial increase in official development assistance, in addition to other resources, is required in order to achieve the internationally agreed development goals and objectives, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration (the Millennium Goals) by 2015, as we agreed at Monterrey in 2002. Fulfilling this commitment is needed in order to consolidate and build on recent progress in Africa, to stimulate the growth that will increase other resources and to enable African and other poor countries over time to reduce their aid dependency.
26. G8 countries and other donors have made substantial commitments to increase aid, through a variety of means, including traditional development assistance, debt relief and innovative financing mechanisms.
27. The commitments of the G8 and other donors will lead to an increase in official development assistance to Africa of $25 billion a year by 2010, more than doubling aid to Africa compared to 2004.

28. As we confront the development challenges in Africa, we recognise there is a global development challenge facing the world as a whole. On the basis of donor commitments and other relevant factors, the OECD estimates that official development assistance from the G8 and other donors to all developing countries will now increase by around $50 billion a year by 2010, compared to 2004.
29. The G8 has agreed a proposal to cancel 100% of outstanding debts of eligible Heavily Indebted Poor Countries to the IMF, IDA and African Development Fund, and to provide additional resources to ensure that the financing capacity of the IFIs is not reduced, as set out in the statement of 11 June. We welcome the agreement in principle by the Paris Club aimed at achieving a sustainable exit for Nigeria from its debt problems.
30. These substantial extra resources will be focused on countries where they will make a difference, to accelerate progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Goals, and help us to achieve the objectives set out in this statement. We will focus aid on low income countries, which are committed to growth and poverty reduction, to democratic, accountable and transparent government, and to sound public financial management, although aid is also important to respond to humanitarian crises and countries affected by or at risk of conflict.
31. It is up to developing countries themselves and their governments to take the lead on development. They need to decide, plan and sequence their economic policies to fit with their own development strategies, for which they should be accountable to all their people.
32. We need to support sound development strategies with better aid, to ensure it is used most effectively. We will implement and be monitored on all commitments we made in the Paris Declaration on aid effectiveness, including enhancing efforts to untie aid; disbursing aid in a timely and predictable fashion, through partner country systems where possible; increasing harmonisation and donor co-ordination, including through more programme-based approaches.

Partnership and mutual accountability: Gleneagles and beyond

33. We need an effective mechanism to take forward our high-level strategic dialogue with Africa, focussing on the results of our joint efforts. We acknowledge the productive role played by the Africa Personal Representatives and the Africa Partnership Forum. We agree that the APF should be strengthened. We recommend that the APF meet twice yearly at an appropriately high level, reviewing progress by all the partners involved in this joint undertaking not only by the G8 but also by Africans and other development partners. We encourage the APF to develop a process for monitoring, reporting and reviewing progress against milestones and benchmarks and to enable corrective action to be taken. There should be sufficient support for the APF to enable effective follow up, including by the G8, on implementation between meetings, working with AU/NEPAD, OECD/DAC, ECA and other organisations.

Conclusion: from Gleneagles to New York and Hong Kong

34. Through our agreement today and the previous G8 commitments we will continue to support the efforts of African countries to build lasting peace and prosperity. Many of the proposed measures have a wider applicability to the developing world as a whole and are consistent with the vision set out in the UN Secretary General's proposals. We call on other world leaders and institutions to work together to achieve a successful UN Summit in September that will take forward this agenda, building on the impetus that we have created today.
35. We also call on other world leaders to join us in ensuring a successful WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong in December, leading to the conclusion in 2006 of the Doha Development Round with an agreement to a trade package that has the potential to help lift millions out of poverty. It is in all our interests that we succeed.

Harold Doan and Associates (press release), CA - July 8, 2005

Liberian Government Agrees to Pay Four Months Salary Arears, But Civil Servants Remain Adamant

Workers vow not to report to work until government heed their demand and pay their log over due salary arrears owed them.
The National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) has again provided another version as to why it has not paid civil servants salary arrears. An Information Ministry statement issued Sunday said, "The NTGL doubted the size of government's payroll and therefore authorized an audit of the payroll. The civil servants were invited and participated in the audit exercise." The statement further said that Government agreed, with the suggestion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to do stock taking of debt and adopt a strategy for debt clearance because of the size of the domestic arrears. "The fact that not all of the debts were known," the statement continued, "it was necessary to catalog all Domestic arrears, audit them, and verify that goods were supplied and services were rendered before payment could be made." The statement noted that the cataloging is complete, and the final report of the payroll audit is due at about now. "However, the initial findings of the payroll audit are alarming with thousands of ghost names, but the details will be made known when the final report is out," the Information Ministry statement said.

The Information Ministry noted that in an attempt to reach a resolution on this matter, the government and the leadership of the civil servants held several meetings, including the one of 9 July under the chairmanship of Chairman Bryant. The statement furthered that after nearly four hours of discussions, government confirmed "That it acknowledges arrears are owed to civil servants and that these arrears were accrued prior to the NTGL taking office. "That the government proposes to pay civil servants 4 months arrears between now and December 2005, the first payment will be made at the end of August 2005; that is because the government has scheduled to pay June and July salaries for 26."

The Information Ministry, also a part of the meeting, said that government appealed to the civil servants to go to work and if the preliminary finding of the payroll audit report shows potential for significant savings, government is committed to paying additional arrears based on savings and revenue flow. The Ministry of Information admitted that because the absence of civil servants from work has led to significant revenue losses. Meanwhile, the leadership of the Civil Service Association said talks with the government to resolve the salary arrears crisis and end the week-long strike has failed. According to the association's president, Jefferson Elliot, the NTGL has failed to address their grievances. He said the Civil Service Association has now formed a coalition with civil society organizations. Civil servants are demanding that government immediately pay 8 of their 17 months salary arrears up front beginning the end of July.

Mr. Dan Sayia of the Civil Society Organizations and Ms. Joyce Freeman of Seaman's Port and General Workers Union of Liberia said they were using the "wild cat" approach by encouraging their members to stay home beginning today Monday. Beginning the second week of the civil servants strike action, government offices in Monrovia were virtually empty Monday as civil servants heeded to the call of the association to say away from work. They civil servants have vowed not to report to work until government heed their demand and pay their log over due salary arrears owed them.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by James West of Liberian Observer, Monrovia - 12 July 2005

IMF Warns Government Over Corruption

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned the government of Uganda over what it described as "slow" progress in addressing governance issues and the anti-corruption strategy in the country. While announcing the approval of disbursement of $2.9 million (about Shs5 billion) as part of the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF), the IMF Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, Mr Takatoshi Kato, said, "There is a crucial need to improve governance and reduce corruption in Uganda. There have been improvements in certain areas, most notably reforming the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), but progress in addressing governance issues has been slow. In this respect, the authorities should vigorously implement the anti-corruption strategy." Decrying the country's growing administrative costs, the IMF urged Uganda to spend more on enhancing investment instead. "It will also be important to create sufficient space for productive investment through capping the growth in recurrent spending, especially on non-priority public administration outlays," said the chairman's statement. The country is currently witnessing the growing number of districts, which will hike the cost of administration both for the central and local governments.

The IMF's new grant brings the total disbursements under the PRGF arrangement to $16.6 million. The body however commended the Uganda government for maintaining its commitment to sound financial policies to ensure continued macroeconomic stability and robust economic growth. "In particular, [government] is to be commended on meeting its overall fiscal targets in 2004/05, although the accumulation of new domestic arrears remains an issue," the statement added. After a review of the country's economic performance under the three-year PRGF and the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP), the IMF Executive Board also granted Uganda's request to extend the PRGF arrangement through December 31, 2005, and to waive the non-observance of the quantitative performance criterion relating to the accumulation of new domestic budgetary arrears under the commitment control system.

Investment - It said that to avoid crowding out private investment and export activities, the government should continue with the process of budget deficit reduction by stepping up domestic revenue collection and improving prioritisation of recurrent expenditures. In his June 9th Budget speech, Finance Minister, Dr Ezra Suruma, announced drastic measures including a hike in VAT as a measure to raise domestic revenues up to 16 percent. IMF welcomed the move saying, the revenue enhancing measures and the envisaged reduction in the deficit announced in the budget for 2005/2006 "are important steps in the right direction." Additionally, it said the "revenue effort should be supported by continued implementation of reforms at the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA)," and that it would also be important to create sufficient space for productive investment through capping the growth in recurrent spending, especially on non-priority public administration outlays. "It will be important to ensure that inflows of foreign aid are allocated to the most economically and socially productive purposes," the statement said.

Economic growth - However, the body noted that maintaining high economic growth and making further inroads in alleviating poverty still remain a challenge, adding that, "This will require persevering with the stabilisation effort and improving the investment environment by lowering the cost of doing business and squarely addressing governance issues." The IMF also commended the government for maintaining a "sound monetary policy aimed at keeping inflation low" and welcomed the commitment to strengthen public expenditure management and improve the quality of government. However, it said the government needed to "strictly enforce regulations and control the accumulation of domestic arrears." It said the Bank of Uganda (BOU) should continue to undertake foreign exchange sales as appropriate for sterilisation purposes, as over reliance on open market operations with treasury bills would keep interest rates at unduly high levels and crowd out private investment. It further commended BOU for its vigorous supervision, saying it had contributed to the healthy state of Uganda's banking system. It said additional policy steps that are envisaged, including the introduction of a credit reference bureau, should further improve the functioning of the banking system and deepen access to credit. It said the government should expedite efforts to divest interests in Uganda Development Bank and install a private management team.

EA Community - On the East African Community (EAC), IMF said the creation of the EAC Customs Union should help promote intra-regional trade. However, it said that would be important to reduce the common external tariffs over time as means of fostering greater international competitiveness and minimising potential problems with trade diversion. "The authorities should ensure that the proposed establishment of export-processing zones meets international best practices," Kato said.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Peter Nyanzi of The Monitor, Kampala - July 11, 2005

US Works Out Way to Help Curb Corruption

As part of its contribution to assist Nigeria stamp out corruption in its public life, the United States yesterday in Abuja said that it is working out modalities to stop prominent Nigerians facing trial for corruption from entering the US. The decision is purely meant to discourage corruption which reports say is presently rampant among Nigerian public officers. US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. John Campbell who disclosed this yesterday said that visas earlier issued by the United States to them and the adult members of their families would be revoked. Campbell who spoke at the opening ceremony of a special training organised for the staff of Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) relived with satisfaction a phase in the life of the US when corruption was endemic in the country.

Said he: "anybody who knows the history of US will understand that we had wrestled with corruption in the 19th century popularly called the golden age. "Our public life was then characterized with corruption. It was the angry citizenry and the free press which was exposing corruption that assisted in fighting the malaise," adding that corruption was a clog in any nation's struggle towards enthronement and consolidation of democracy and good governance.

His exact words: "the government of Nigeria is putting commendable effort on eradication of corruption from public life. This has received the strongest support from my government. We have a mutual legal arrangement and we are in the process of getting at the big fish [prominent Nigerians] which the Chairman of ICPC referred to. "We are in the process of revoking their visas to travel to the U.S. "The revocation will include adult members of their families. This measure is to support what the Nigerian Government is doing. "We have sent three veritable investigators to help in this training programme. They will remain with us for some months. "Nigeria and the United States are partners in a pilgrimage for the establishment of real democracy underpinned by the rule of law. "Democracy and the rule of law are threatened by corruption," he added.

While welcoming the ambassador and members on his delegation to the opening of the training programme, Justice Akanbi said the Federal Government of Nigeria had taken giant strides in its fight against corruption. He said, "Those days people said we were only catching small fishes [average Nigerians]. "But today, we have caught big fishes and they are standing trials in court". The special training programme is being sponsored by the US Department of Justice. It is one of the several assistances rendered by the United States' Government to ICPC since it was established by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Iseoluwa Ige of Vanguard, Lagos - July 7, 2005

 

Politics Holding up Reforms in Pakistan

Political factors have held up reforms in Pakistan's key sectors while tension between the provincial and local governments has slowed down human development, a World Bank report has said. "Political factors were the major reason why outcomes were less than satisfactory in sectors such as power, civil service reforms, and oil and gas," the bank said in a report on Poverty Reduction Support Credit. Continuing tension in Balochistan and the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan could affect growth and investment in the future, the News reported, quoting the study.

Pakistan has just completed the first phase of a series of three one-tranche $300 million soft-term loans of the bank. The next one is due shortly. The bank said delays in implementation, poor institutional capacity and adverse external shocks, such as international oil prices, were the biggest risks to reforms. "The growth could fall short of the ambitious targets set in the Poverty Reduction and Strategy Paper due to security concerns that limit investments or adverse weather conditions that impact agricultural production," the report said. The bank said continuing political tension between the provincial and local governments could come in the way of achieving human development targets. Pakistan lags behind nearly all South Asian countries in education and health.

The report highlighted politically difficult decisions that could not be implemented, such as a regionally differentiated tariff regime. The bank termed performance of the power sector as less than satisfactory. "Less progress has been achieved in the key areas of the power sector action plan, such as corporate governance, revenue enhancement, corporatisation and private sector participation, due to the delay in notification of tariffs for the unbundled entities," the report said. In the telecom sector, the bank termed the achievements as highly satisfactory. Pakistan has made rapid strides in deregulating the fixed line market and increasing competition in the mobile phone segment. "Progress in civil service restructuring has been slow. A broad civil service reform strategy was formulated and a Civil Service Reform Unit created (in November 2003) to oversee the reforms. "But there has been little concrete follow-up action on the plan to create an elite National Executive Service or on the creation of a district service to (ensure) further devolution," the report said.

A Pay and Pensions Committee was constituted in 2004 to examine compensation reforms for civil servants. But a preliminary assessment of the measures announced in the 2005-06 budget suggests that the government has decided against adopting the key reforms recommended by the committee, the report said.

From Hindustan Times, India, by Indo-Asian News Service - July 11, 2005

World Bank warns East Timor of Potential for Corruption

The World Bank has offered a sober assessment of East Timor's future, warning in a new report that the world's youngest country risks becoming corruption-ridden and resource-dependent. The report, released this week, came as Mari Alkatiri, East Timor's prime minister, reshuffled his cabinet in an effort, he said, to better address "poverty alleviation" and other issues. But the report highlights what remain serious long-term issues confronting the country of 800,000, left in ruins in 1999 by the Indonesian military as it withdrew after a United Nations-organised vote for independence.

Revenues from oil and gas fields from the Timor Sea between it and Australia have begun flowing. But in its "country assistance strategy" for the next three years, the World Bank warned that few inroads had been made in developing other sectors and per capita gross domestic product had declined to $366 in 2004, making East Timor one of Asia's poorest countries.

East Timor, the bank said, "is at a juncture where it can consolidate gains and create conditions for sustained growth and poverty reduction or descend down a path of poor governance, continuously increasing poverty and inequality and, possibly, renewed conflict". Corruption, the bank said, "is an area of growing concern". The government had adopted a "statist style" and had "not yet succeeded in engaging constructive critics". And "internal fault lines" including falling income, rising poverty, high youth unemployment and corruption were now greater threats to stability than the remnants of pro-Indonesian militias behind much of the mayhem in 1999.

In a swipe at international aid efforts, the bank said programmes to build East Timor's capacity to deal with its problems had "not yet met with desired success". In a written response to the report, Mr Alkatiri defended his government's record on corruption and other areas. "Control [of] the corruption is not only a preoccupation of the World Bank . . . We always try to attack our problems with the best laws and practice(s)," he said.An example, he said, was the decision of East Timor to create a "petroleum fund" to manage income from its natural resources.

From Financial Times, UK, by Shawn Donnan in Jakarta - 27 July 2005

 

Justice minister Calls for Creation of Permanent Civil Service

Minister of Justice Kote Kemularia has called for the creation of a permanent civil service and an end to the current system whereby new ministers bring in whole new teams of officials. Speaking at a conference on Thursday to discuss regulation of the country's civil service, Kemularia took a stand on behalf of public servants forced to leave their jobs after new directors had arrived in their institutions. He argued that public servants who are not engaged in politics should not be dismissed merely because political appointees are rotated.

"The concept of the public servant is important," said Kemularia. "Ministers come and go, as do [parliamentary] deputies, since they hold a political position, but other public servants should not change ... Public servants should have a defender. We should bid farewell to those cases when an individual comes to power and brings an entire group of people with him." "A minister should make some changes, but he should rely on the people already in the ministry, their experience and their knowledge," he added. Referring to competitions held in state institutions to select new employees, Kemularia commented, "It will be a positive step if we are able to create a united commission and general competition conditions are set."

NGOs discuss regulation of civil service - NGOs attending Thursday's conference on regulation of the civil service complained that Georgia does not have adequate regulating legislation and suggested several measures to develop better regulations. The conference participants, who were brought together to discuss a new concept of public service developed by the United Nation's Association of Georgia, gathered under the auspices of a project to reform public service in Georgia that was begun in October 2004.

"Today, regulation of the law is scattered in different pieces of legislation and it should be gathered into one comprehensive law. We talked about the first version that will be presented and we have agreed on the working rules," said the UNA's Head of Parliamentary Procedural Issues Khatuna Gogorishvili, stressing that the main objective should be to restore public trust in civil servants.

According to UNA Transparency and Governance Programs Director Zviad Devdariani, the group studied the current legislation regulating civil service in Georgia and incorporated the views of different governmental, non-governmental and media representatives before preparing its preliminary draft for comprehensive legislation. "We were trying to identify what kind of problems exist in the legislation and how the laws could be improved," said Devdariani. Gogorishvili volunteered to create a united group of NGOs and governmental organizations to engage in further discussions and to present a draft of the proposed legislation by the Autumn Parliamentary Session.

Currently, the sphere of civil service is regulated by three different laws. Despite the fact that Georgia adopted a law on civil service in 1997, which has undergone significant changes since then, the sphere is regulated primarily by the Labor Code and by the law on Unacceptability of Influence and Corruption in Public Service. According to Gogorishvili, this system is inefficient. According to the head of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, Ana Dolidze, the civil service code should comprehensively cover issues of salary and conditions of dismissal of public servants by protecting their rights.

From Messenger.ge, Georgia, by Nino Kopaleishvili - July 22, 2005

Statement by IMF Staff Mission to Serbia and Montenegro

The following statement was issued today in Podgoriza by an International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission: "The IMF mission visited Podgoriza from July 23-26 to review economic developments and the implementation of the government's economic program. The mission met with the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Vice President of Parliament, several Cabinet members, representatives of the Central Bank, enterprises, and unions. Against the background of favorable economic developments, the implementation of the program seems broadly on track. The mission urged the authorities to take decisive steps to improve the competitiveness of the economy and to maintain a prudent fiscal policy to ensure macroeconomic stability.

"Economic developments have been broadly favorable. Various indicators suggest a continuing modest growth in the economy. In particular, the tourism industry is likely to have another good year. Inflation has remained at about 3.5-4 percent on a 12-months basis, and preliminary data for the first 5 months point to an improving current account deficit, albeit it remains at an unsustainably high level. The confidence in the banking sector is strengthening, as indicated by strong growth in deposits. However, competitiveness is of some concern.

"The mission commended the authorities for the good execution of agreed economic policies so far, in particular the budget, but challenges remain. Looking ahead, it is important that the government continues to maintain a conservative fiscal stance during the rest of the year and in 2006, and makes further progress towards lowering the size of the public sector. To lower current spending and create room for capital outlays, civil service reform and reductions in public employment should be stepped up and wage increases kept moderate. Furthermore, to ensure a well-prioritized use of the large privatization revenues, evaluation, prioritization, and medium-term planning of investments needs strengthening. To reinforce financial supervision, the Banking and Insurance Laws should be submitted to Parliament making good use of the existing institutional experience and capacity of the Central Bank. "Specifically, the mission sees three main near term challenges for economic policies.

• To boost growth, competitiveness needs to be strengthened. As productivity remains modest, pressures to increase the minimum wage can be problematic, because many other wages, including the whole public sector wage structure, are linked to the minimum wage. Apart from potentially adverse consequences for competitiveness, this would put pressure on public finances. As the public sector wage bill is already too large as a share of the economy (close to 10 percent of GDP), real increases in the average wage would need to be financed by cuts in the level of public sector employment. Competitiveness can also be boosted by measures linked to increasing productivity. In this, workers training and retraining programs to equip people with the necessary skills in the work place, and improving the business climate to attract more private investment are important. Furthermore, broadening the agenda for privatizations should help in this.

• A wise use of the large privatization revenues remains a challenge. To further stabilize the current account, the government should continue to reduce the fiscal deficit. In this context, higher investment spending requires commensurate cuts in current spending. Furthermore, to ensure that money is well spent, it is important to prioritize investment projects according to economic return and to assess their medium-term impact in terms of future spending commitments. Technical capacities in this area need to be strengthened.

• A fiscally sustainable clearance of arrears is another difficult issue. The government has prepared an inventory of spending arrears, but a program commitment to agree on a strategy for their reduction has not yet been done. While it is commendable to use the privatization revenues to reduce debt, the government needs to be cautious about the demand impact of such steps and arrears reduction needs to be properly accounted for in the budget. Any pressures to increase the wage bill makes this task even more difficult."

From Harold Doan and Associates (press release), CA - July 26, 2005

 

Egypt Consider Privatizing Public Services

Egypt's government is preparing plans to privatize services provided by the public sector in an attempt to curb corruption and bribe, reports said Wednesday. Daily al-Ahram said the government is exploring ways for private companies to offer services that are provided at present by the public sector. The paper quoted administration official Imad Hassan, who is in charge of the Egyptian government's electronic programs, as saying the aim of the project is to improve efficiency and the level of providing the services and curb corruption and bribe in the public administration. He said the government will offer 590 types of services to be assumed by the private sector, such as handling the payment of traffic fines, renewing car and driver's licenses, payment of phone bills, taxes, custom fees and collection of sales taxes.

From Washington Times, DC - July 13, 2005

 

Corruption Scandal Makes the Left Stumble in Brazil

The president announces new measures against corruption, as the government falls on credibility polls. A month after the left-wing Worker's Party (PT) of president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was accused of bribing senators in exchange of support for its initiatives, the political climate in Brazil has grown more tense. Lula seems determined to fight what he has called a "historic problem" in the largest South American nation. On Jun. 30, the president introduced new anti-corruption bills, including one that would allow for the prosecution of public servants who accumulate wealth or assets that cannot be explained by declared income, as well as the creation of internal investigation units in every federal ministry.

The measures were part of Lula's response to the biggest crisis he has faced since taking office in October 2002. The leading left-driven government in Latin America had enjoyed stable support from most Brazilians after steady economic growth and the implementation of successful social programs. But a month ago, Roberto Jefferson - a member of the Brazilian Labour Party (PTB) and a former Lula ally - denounced the government disbursed up to $12,000 U.S to Liberal Party (PL) and Progressive Party (PP) members in exchange for their backing in the legislative branch. The allegations came after Jefferson himself was accused of participating in another case of corruption involving the federally-managed post office.

Though Jefferson has not provided any evidence to back his allegations, the scandal has taken a toll on the nation's economy and politics. The publication of Jefferson's accusations in Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper caused an immediate devaluation of the Brazilian real, which started improving only a few days ago. Opinion polls showed Lula was not being significantly affected by the scandal until Jun. 22 when, according to Ibope, the president's favourability fell six points in one week. On Jun. 26, another Ibope survey showed 61 per cent of respondents thought Jefferson's accusations were true. Other polls reveal Brazilians have started to believe the government led by a former shoeshine boy and metal worker is contradicting its first commitment to eradicate corruption. In a Sensus Institute survey, 27.1 per cent of respondents chose corruption as the number one reason for "not feeling proud" of Brazil.

Lula - who is seeking re-election in 2006 - addressed the nation on television and reminded the public that over a thousand people accused of corruption have been imprisoned under his mandate. On Jun. 30, he ordered the investigation of new fraud accusations made by Jefferson against Furnas, a unit of the state-owned electricity provider. Though Jefferson has stated Lula was not involved in the PT bribery, his cabinet is already undergoing major changes due to the scandal. Chief of staff Jose Dirceu - one of the president's closest allies - resigned on Jun. 16 after being accused by Jefferson of ignoring the payoffs to congressmen. Dirceu - a former guerrilla member who lived in exile in Cuba before returning to Brazil in 1975 under a false identity - was the biggest leftist icon in the government, and a major asset in Lula's 2002 victory. Analysts say Dirceu's resignation might cause a shift to the right in Lula's administration. The chief of staff was considered the leader of the left-wing inside the government. He helped reform the PT and convinced radical leftists to adopt more centrist policies. However, Dirceu was also the strongest opponent of the open-market ideologies backed by finance minister Antonio Palocci. Now with Dirceu gone, it is believed that Palocci - who enjoys a good reputation in the United States - will gain power and influence within the administration.

The balance between left and right that has made Lula's government viable has also been the biggest problem for the PT. The fact that the party secured only 91 of the 513 seats in the Chamber of Deputies - and 14 of 81 seats in the Senate - forced the PT to seek odd alliances to guarantee support in the legislature. The PT, based in leftist ideologies, united with the most conservative parties in Brazil, the PL and the PP - the latter created by well-known followers of the 1964-1985 military dictatorship. These alliances have caused many divisions within the PT, which is also why opposition leaders usually underline that the biggest discrepancies of the government in the National Congress are always among members of the ruling party.

The promise of a new era in Brazilian politics under the leadership of a charismatic figure has stumbled with this crisis. The National Congress is in charge of three investigations for corruption in the government, a fact that has kept the legislative agenda on hold for more than four weeks. Meanwhile, Brazil remains a country with major violence and poverty issues. A recent official study revealed that 53.9 million of Brazil's 180 million inhabitants live on less than $60 U.S. a month. The country's wealth gap is so extensive, that one per cent of the citizens has more wealth than half of the total population. Lula has said his socialist government's promise of equal opportunities cannot be fulfilled in a one-term presidency. The next few months will be critical to see if his party survives the current storm, and manages to win the presidential election again next year.

From Angus Reid Global Scan, Canada, by Gabriela Perdomo - July 4, 2005

Brazilian Corruption Scandal Threatens Lula

Rio de Janeiro - The "workers' dream" could be coming to an end in Brazil only two and a half years after President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva's government came to power with sweeping support for his agenda to fight poverty and stick up for the lower class. A number of officials from Lula's Worker's Party have been linked to a corruption scandal, and even though Lula has not been directly tied to wrongdoing and remains a popular figure, questions have surfaced as to whether he can effectively govern within a wounded party. Lula is one of the few high-ranking officials who haven't been linked to the scandal, which involves allegations that the party bribed members of Congress with amounts as high as 12,000 dollars on a monthly basis for political support. But some suspect Lula isn't completely innocent, including respected sociologist Helio Jaguaribe. "Either Lula knew all about it and then he simply has to be punished," Jaguaribe said. "Or he will go down in history as a fool who didn't know what was going on in his own cabinet."

The government has consistently denied the corruption allegations, which were mainly brought forward by Roberto Jefferson, the president of the government-allied Labour Party. Other politicians have since come forward with allegations. Brazil's well-informed Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper said Friday, however, that Lula has already decided not to pursue re-election in October 2006.

Lula has apparently entered negotiations with the Social Democratic Party, trying to assure his opponents he will not seek a second term if they agree to not pin him with corruption allegations. But questions remain in Latin America's largest country about whether putting down the scandal will be that easy. "Since the return to democracy, no crisis has so affected the trust in the parties and the democratic institutions," said history scholar and author Boris Fausto. Disappointment and outrage over the corruption scandal have not only erupted among the educated elite, but have also reached Brazil's masses. Rio de Janeiro's inhabitants regularly complain about the government and its politicians while waiting in line at bakeries, banks and supermarkets. "This country has no future, only corrupted politicians get somewhere," taxi driver Ze Maria said.

Meanwhile, Lula is becoming increasingly isolated as the scandal has eroded his cabinet. Jose Dirceu, the head of the cabinet and one of Lula's advisers, was one of many politicians who resigned from the government. According to media reports Friday, Lula is expected to lose two of his most important supporters by Sunday, both of which have been muddied by the scandal. Brazil's Minister of Communication Luiz Gushiken was expected to resign Friday, while the Workers' Party would decide over the fate of Jose Genoino, its leader, during an emergency meeting over the weekend. Lula's own leftist party has accused him of forgetting his social obligations. Some opposition politicians have not excluded the idea of an investigation.

Before leaving to the G8 summit in Scotland, Lula made a last attempt to salvage his political future by initiating cabinet reforms. Three ministers have already been replaced, and two more are to follow Friday, according to media reports. All three of the new ministers that were named to the cabinet Wednesday are from the centre-right coalition partner, the Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement, the country's largest. The reform aims to strengthen the party's role in the government and consolidate the coalition. The Workers' Party only has 91 seats in the country's 513-seat Chamber of Deputies. But commentators have said that the reforms may not be enough to save Lula. "The reform is as if Lula is trying to extinguish a fire in the Amazon forest with a water can," columnist Eliane Cantanhede wrote in Folha de Sao Paulo.
Several scandals have also emerged concerning state institutions such as post offices and the central bank. All allegations are being examined by congressional committees, but observers predict that the scandal's reach will continue to grow.
"The revelations are exploding one after the other with a terrible speed," the O Globo newspaper pointed out.

From Monsters and Critics.com, UK - Jul 8, 2005

Honduras Wins Aid Pact Tied to Human Rights, Anti-corruption Efforts

Last month Honduras became to second country to receive aid under the controlversial Millennium Challenge Account program when it signed a five-year $215 million funding deal. The Millennium Challenge Account gives grants to countries committed to respecting the rule of law and reducing corruption. The program has recieved a great deal of criticism for its slowness in distributing funds. So far only Madagascar and Honduras have qualified for aid under the plan, though officials say that aid pacts have been approved and are likely to be signed this summer by Nicaragua and Cape Verde. According to the terms of the deal, Honduras will use its Millennium Challenge grant funds to improve the productivity of its farmers and upgrade roads to increase rural accessibility. As part of the award, Honduras must continue its commitment to battling corruption and improving the country's economy and legal systems.

Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere with an extraordinarily unequal distribution of income and massive unemployment, is nevertheless experiecing a high rate of economic growth. The country is banking on expanded trade under the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and on debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative according to the CIA World Factbook. GDP per capita stands at around $2,800 using purchasing power parity and most of the country's trade is with the United States. Lately Honduras was placed new emphasis on building its tourist industry and some say the country has the potential to follow in the footsteps of fellow Central American country, Costa Rica, where ecotourism has become one of the most important industries.

From Mongabay.com - July 10, 2005

 

Ethics, Science and Human Rights Come Together

UNESCO has issued a draft declaration it says will be the first ever to commit governments to take a position on the ethical and human rights dilemmas raised by modern research. "Every culture, even those most critical of technological advances, must develop a response - be it supportive or controlling - to the emergence of new technologies(...) To do nothing is to make a decision," states an accompanying memorandum.

The draft declaration, released on 24 June, is intended to provide guidance on how to draft laws that regulate ethics and human rights in science. It urges states to consider ethical questions from a 'human rights perspective': at its heart is the statement that the welfare of the individual should have priority over the interests of society or governments. It stresses, for instance, the importance of obtaining prior informed consent from participants in scientific research, and that community or third-party consent should never be a substitute for the consent of the participating individual. It also highlights the importance of access to scientific and technological information, particularly in developing countries, and says governments should promote the sharing and free flow of scientific information. With regards to preserving biodiversity and indigenous knowledge, especially in developing countries, it emphasises the importance of people being able to access their local genetic resources and traditional knowledge systems.

Carolyn Stephens, a lecturer in ethics, human rights and public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Health, told SciDev.Net that the declaration "is especially important in these times when many marginalised peoples all over the world have no support and think the world is simply exploiting them for medical science". The declaration encourages governments to set up ethics committees to assess scientific developments, help keep the public informed and encourage public discussion of bioethics issues. Although guidelines on ethical and human rights issues exist, this is the first time the two subjects have been combined in a single document aimed at governments, says the director of UNESCO's division of ethics of science and technology, Henk ten Have. As an example, he points out that the Helsinki Declaration on research ethics is adopted only by the World Medical Association, a professional organisation.

Common international standards would benefit developing countries in particular, ten Have told SciDev.Net, as they tend to have weak ethics regulation systems. The draft declaration will be submitted for approval by all 192 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) member states in October. Ten Have does not expect the final text to differ significantly.

From SciDev.net, UK - July 12, 2005

US Senate Committee OKs World Bank Corruption Bill

Washington - The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted on Tuesday to approve a bill seeking to help countries root out corruption involving World Bank and other multilateral loan projects. The bill, a project of Foreign Relations Chairman Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican, would set up a trust fund to help poor countries combat corruption on their own. "In some cases, the countries bearing the cost of prosecuting corruption related to the multilateral development banks are the countries that can least afford such costs," the bill, approved in unanimous vote, read. The legislation also seeks to strengthen whistle-blower protections, upgrade independent auditing standards, and monitor revenues gained from extractive industries projects.

Lugar has led an investigation into allegations of corruption in projects funded by five multilateral banks - the World Bank, African Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Asian Development Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The United States cannot dictate to the banks, but as their dominant shareholder, it has considerable clout in what goes on there. The legislation takes the form of instructions to the U.S. representative on the banks' boards.

Reuters AlertNet, UK - 26 July 2005

 
 

Liberian Civil Servants Stage Protest Strike over Pay Arrears

Monrovia - An estimated 65,000 civil servants in Liberia's transitional government Tuesday stopped their work in protest over Monrovia's decision to renege on a promise to pay salary arrears owed them by the government of exiled former president Charles Taylor. "Government is continuity, it is the responsibility of the present government to settle salary arrears owed by the Charles Taylor administration," the president of the civil servants association Jefferson Elliot told journalists in Monrovia. He said the Taylor government owed civil servants up to 16 months' in back pay.

The protest move came as transitional government chairman Gyude Bryant said in a press statement that he had been advised by the International Monetary Fund not to pay the arrears, but rather channel the money to other needy areas. Bryant's statement came shortly before his departure for the Libyan capital Tripoli to attend the African Union summit. The transitional government had earmarked 9 million U.S dollars in the just-ended budget period in order to settle the salary arrears.

Meanwhile in a separate development, the National Elections Commission (NEC) has moved the date for the start of political campaigning up by some two weeks to August 15 to give political parties contesting the October 11 polls more time to win voters. The earlier campaign start decision was prompted by a plea for additional time by the 30 registered parties who complained that the previous September 1 to October 8 campaign period was too short. NEC chairperson Frances Johnson-Morris made the announcement Monday at the certification of the last six parties to register for this year's polls.

From Monsters and Critics.com, UK - July 5, 2005

All Civil Servants to Get Pay Rise, Says Minister

Salaries for civil servants will be raised by between 8.34 and 12.5 per cent, the government said yesterday. Minister in the President Office (Civil Service Management) Dr Mary Nagu told parliament that doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants and engineers would pocket a bigger chunk of the increment. The minimum wage for civil servants currently stands at 60,000/-. Dr Nagu broke the announcement when she tabled the 2005/2006 budget estimates for her ministry. She said the increment was in line with the government`s policy of improving workers` salaries to enable them to work efficiently and diligently.

The government has set aside 681.897 billion shillings or 23.7 per cent of its budget this financial year. The allocation is an increase from 551.15 billion shillings last year. The minister said the minimum wage for civil servants was raised from 17,500/- in 1995/1996 to 60,000/-. This year, minimum wages were raised to 80,000/- per month. "This is an increase of 242.9 per cent, while inflation rate has gone down from 35 per cent to 4.4 per cent," she said. The minister said that, on average, civil servants` salaries had been increased by over 300 per cent from 31,200/- per month in 1995 to 132,483 last year. She said the increment had attracted many people to seek employment or choose to remain in the civil service. Dr Nagu wants parliament to approve 204,858,023,800/- for recurrent and development expenditure for her ministry.

From IPPMEDIA - Guardian, United Republic of Tanzania, by Juma Thomas, Dodoma - July 1, 2005

Obasanjo Clears Air on Retrenchment

President Olusegun Obasanjo said yesterday that Federal Government was determined to ensure that civil servants who might be affected by the impending down-sizing of the country's civil service were trained at government expense to arm them for life-after-public service employment.The President, who spoke through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Obong Ufort Ekaette at the 35th annual conference of the civil service commissions in the federation in Umuahia also promised that all benefits due to those to be affected would be paid before their final disengagement. However, Governor Orji Uzor Kalu who also spoke at the opening ceremony disagreed with the Federal Government and urged it to suspend the plan of trimming the workforce, arguing that the strategy would be counter-productive in the long run as it has the capacity of worsening the employment problems facing the nation. According to the President, the committee which he set up to look at the civil service rules, financial regulations and other relevant documents pertaining to the public service has already submitted an interim report which recommended the "right-sizing of the workforce and the restructuring of work structures."

Other essential thrusts of the civil service reforms include restoring the professionalism of the civil service, rationalising, restructuring and strenthening institutions, privatising and liberalising the sector, tackling corruption and improving transparency in government accounts and joint venture companies, as well as reducing waste and improving efficiency of government expenditures. His words: "It is gratifying to observe that the reforms are yielding positive results as reports reaching me show that government ministries and extra-ministerial establishments are begining to insist on the application of due process in all their activites." "The due process mechanism continues to yield value for money and I am happy to note that one of the topical issues to be discussed in this conference is the continued application of due process in the management of the human resources in the public service. Government is determined to pursue the reform process with a human face in order to ensure that those who might be affectd by the restructuring process are trained at government expense and adequately armed."

The president also spoke of the need to strengthen government institutions in order to establish a firm foundation for sustainable democracy so as to arm the nation for the challenges and opportunites presented by a fast globalizing world, adding that the crucial and central place of the federal and state civil services in driving the regeneration efforts cannot be overemphasized. But while arguing against the proposed reduction of the work force, Governor Kalu observed that Nigeria has enough resources to take care of its people, adding that "all we need is sincerity of purpose, trasparency, proper planning and collective enterprise." He however welcomed the reform programme of the federal governmnet as it concerns the civil service stressing that by embarking on the reform, government has acknowledged that there was something fundamentally wrong with the service.

In his address, the chairman of the civil service commission, Ambassador Ahmed Al-Gazali urged civil servants to begin a process that would lead to the elimination of subjectivity, restoration of self-confidence and ability to deal with matters objectively, noting that it is only by so doing that the pride of the service could be restored. He also reminded chairmen of civil service commissions that they have a responsiblity to bring about the realization of government policies by the quality of persons employed and promoted in the service.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Vincent Ujumadu of Vanguard, Lagos - July 6, 2005

Major Labour Crisis Looms in Federal Public Service

A major labour crisis is looming in the federal public service as many ministries are unable to pay workers salaries owing to a short fall in their recurrent expenditure budgetry allocation. Already workers have become restive vowing to reject payment of part salary in any form. Two days ago (Wednesday), workers in the Ministry of Solid Minerals held their permanent secretary, Mr. Aboki Zahwa hostage for hours to protest plans to pay them part salaries. It was learnt that the Ministry of Labour and Productivity, has notified the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation of the potential labour crisis which non-payment or irregular payment of salaries may generate.

Similarly, employees of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity have also given the ministry and ultimatum to pay them their full salaries. The ultimatum expires today. A competent source in one of the federal ministries attributed the imminent wage crisis to the short fall in the recurrent budget allocation to ministries and parastatals by the Federal Ministry of Finance. The source confirmed that the short fall in the allocation have been a usual occurrence since July last year. The general secretary of the Nigeria Civil Service Union, Chief Nathaniel Nwauzor confirmed the development, warning that it could lead to a major labour crisis. He said: " It is a shock to us that government functionaries could condescend so low to pay half salaries. It is not acceptable to us. We have told our members not to accept this arrangement". Chief Nwauzor said: " An employer has a duty to pay workers at the end of the month". He said the problem in the Ministry of Solid Minerals has been brought to his notice and that the union would back any action taken by the workers.

Union leaders also confirmed that workers in federal establishments are being owed salaries due to the short fall in recurrent financial allocation. The non-payment of full salaries has also affected the finances of the unions as ministries have been unable to remit union dues to the respective unions. The Ministry of Labour, our source confirmed, warned that the nation may be toying with the industrial peace it has enjoyed in the last few years, if the Federal Ministry of Finance fails to remit the allocation due to the ministries and parastatals.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Funmi Komolafe of Vanguard, Lagos - July 8, 2005

Civil Servants Begin Three-day Strike to Demand Pay Arrears

Monrovia - Civil servants in Liberia began a three-day strike on Wednesday to demand 18 months of salary arrears, dating from 2002 and 2003, when former president Charles Taylor was still in power. Jeffersen Elliot, the president of a trade union representing 50,000 government employees, said Liberia's transitional government had allocated US $9 million in its 2004/2005 budget to pay off these arrears, but this money appeared to have gone missing. "This is a struggle for survival and we will not stop our strike action until the government pays our arrears of 18 months," Elliot said. "We are demanding a full explanation from Gyude Bryant's government as to why the US $9 million in the last budget for our arrears has been diverted."

The trade union leader said that if the present three-day stoppage failed to persuade the government to cough up, his union would stage a series of wildcat strikes. Junior government employees earn between 500 and 700 Liberian dollars (US $9 and $13) per month. Most civil servants stayed at home on Wednesday forcing several government departments to remain closed all day. The Foreign Ministry stayed shut and most junior employees failed to show up at the Executive Mansion where Bryant, the chairman of the transitional government, works.

Officers of Liberia's new UN-trained police force were on guard at key public buildings to prevent striking workers from interfering with the few senior government officials who did report for duty. The civil service strike began days after Liberia's transitional parliament rejected the government's US$ 80 million budget for the financial year which began on 1 July. The current power-sharing government and nominated parliament were put in place to guide Liberia back to democracy after a peace deal in August 2003 ended 14 years of civil war. However, international donors have complained about rampant corruption in the administration and have proposed placing stringent external controls on revenue collection and government spending to prevent more aid money being wasted. Presidential and parliamentary elections on 11 October are due to return this West African country to constitutional government.

From Reuters AlertNet, UK - July 6, 2005

Civil Servants Go-Slow Gaining Momentum

The Federation of Trade Unions and The Union of Civil Society Organizations said that they will cooperate with the Civil Servants Association in demand for their salary arrears. Civil servants began a go-slow action Tuesday in demand for salary arrears owed them by government. The action which witnessed several government parastatals paralyzed seems to be the beginning of non-violent protest actions by starving civil servants in an attempt to persuade government heed to their demands.

Prior to the advent of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), the Charles Taylor led government owed some civil servants up to two years salary arrears. The transitional government promised to liquidate the debt owed civil servants. However, last week at a news conference at the Executive Mansion before his departure to attend the African Union summit in Libya, Chairman Bryant said he was advised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) not to honor any domestic or foreign debt. As such the funds (US$9 million) allocated in the budget for the payment of civil servants salaries were diverted to other purposes.

As the go-slow gains momentum, two civil society organizations have joined the Civil Servants Association to carry out an indefinite say home action. In a joint press briefing, the two groups, The Federation of Trade Unions and The Union of Civil Society Organizations said that they will cooperate with the Civil Servants Association in demand for their salary arrears. The head of the Civil Servants Association, Mr. Jefferson Elliot said they are taken aback by transitional chairman Charles Gyude Bryant's recent statement concerning the International Monetary Fund's alleged involvement in the settlement of the civil servants salary arrears. He said they would not cut off the stay home action until government accounts for the last budget passed by the transitional legislative assembly for the settlement of the civil servants salary arrears.

Meanwhile, transitional legislative assemblyman, Dr. Mohammed Sheriff has challenged the IMF to confirm or deny recent pronouncements by Chairman Bryant that it advised the government not to pay civil servants salary arrears. The NTLA assemblyman said it was necessary to speak on the issue because Chairman Bryant was not the spokesman of the IMF. Addressing reporters at the Capitol, Dr. Sheriff demanded an explanation on the US$9 million allotted in the last fiscal budget to settle salary arrears.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by James West of Liberian Observer, Monrovia - July 6, 2005

Civil Servants Strike Holding... But Government Warns Against Such Action Without 'Permit'

A strike action called by the leadership of the Civil Servants Association of Liberia (CSA), for all civil servants in the country on Tuesday , seems to be holding this time around. Even though the Liberian government came out to warn against such action and asked that all civil servants return to work yesterday, that has been ignored as they concerned government employees continued their stay-home action. The strike was observed to have taken full effect yesterday, as requested by the CSA president, Mr. Jefferson Elliot, for what he claimed to be "government's refusal to pay the 17 months salary arrears owed civil servants." Our reporters who visited several government ministries and agencies including the ministries of Education; Finance, Transport, Commerce, Gender, National Defense, Bureau of Immigration & Naturalization (BIN), among others, observed that the premises had all been deserted but with officers of the Liberia National Police deployed at the entrances barring people from entering. Speaking to The INQUIRER about their action, the CSA president, Jefferson Elliot said the strike is a non-violent action, only intended to draw government's attention to the plight of civil servants who continue to work for government but have been denied their just emoluments.

He described a recent statement made by NTGL Chairman Gyude Bryant that he has been advised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) not to prioritize the payment of civil servants arrears as false and unbelievable. Mr. Elliot said the IMF, as an international institution, does not control the administration of any government, adding, "How can someone be advised how and when to feed his own child?" Quizzed as to how long the strike will continue, the CSA prexy said the strike will last for three days only to urge Chairman Bryant to settle their arrears, but warned saying, "if Bryant and his NTGL refuse to comply with our demand, our next step will be a 'Wild Cat Strike', meaning that we will stop all government vehicles from plying the various streets of Monrovia and other parts of the country where the strike is already gaining momentum."

Mr. Elliot said, unlike previous calls for such actions that did not receive massive support, "based on our information, this ongoing strike is being observed in Grand Bassa, Margibi, Rivercess and other parts of Liberia in collaboration with the Federation of Labor Union, the Dock Workers Union of the National Port Authority (NPA), the Seafarers Association of Liberia and other civil society organizations in the country." In the draft national budget for the fiscal year: July1, 2004 - June 30,2005 (#7101), the amount of US$9 million was allocated for the payment of civil servants salary arrears but this money according to Chairman Bryant, has been diverted to the country's health sector and what he called "other areas of priority." Meanwhile, a Political Science student of the University of Liberia, Mr.Augustine D. Jones has threatened to institute legal action against the NTGL Chairman for the US$9 million allocated in the national budget for the payment of civil servants salary arrears. Mr. Jones has challenged Chairman Bryant to provide concrete reason why he was advised by the IMF not to pay those who have been making sacrifices over the years when in fact the money was allocated in the national budget and approved by the National Legislature.

In a related development, the youth representative to the National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA), Rufus Neufville has begun a three-day hunger strike in solidarity with the civil servants of Liberia.Rep. Neufville said, he is yet to believe that the IMF, an international institution, which is known for its credibility will ill-advise Chairman Bryant not to pay those who continue to make sacrifices for the survival of their country. He has threatened to resist the approval of the proposed fiscal year budget, which is before the assembly. Meanwhile, the government last Tuesday warned against staging such action without permit. In a press release issued by the Information Ministry, the government urged the workers to report to work today. Below is the full text of the press release:" "The National Transitional Government of Liberia has issued a reminder to the public-at-large that anyone wishing to stage any public demonstration must first of all get a permit from the Ministry of Justice.

"Whereas the NTGL intends to respect the people's right to Freedom of Assembly as guaranteed under our Constitution, it is also important to note that Government will not tolerate any behavior that infringes on the rights of others. "According to an Information Ministry release, Government is concerned over reports that some Civil Servants have chosen to forcibly stop others from going to work thereby violating those individuals' rights to Freedom of Movement and Freedom of Association. The NTGL is calling on all security forces and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) to be on full alert and to ensure that persons who wish to work are not denied access to their places of employment. "The release added that persons who have grievances were free to seek redress under the law, but such redress does not include the right to interfere with the rights of others. "Meanwhile, Government is calling on all Civil Servants to report to work as usual Wednesday. " .

LTA Responds To Forest Concession Review Committee's Recommendation The Liberia Timber Association (LTA)says its attention has been drawn to an article published in The INQUIRER Newspaper on June 29, 2005, that the Forest Concession Review Committee has recommended the cancellation of all forest concessions in the country. In a press release issued as a reaction to that recommendation, the LTA notes "We want to make it clear that we reject this recommendation because it does not have equitable and legal foundations. A concession agreement between the Government of Liberia and any company is a legal contract and the procedure for the cancellation of these agreements must be in keeping with the Liberian laws.

"The fact that the recommendation for the cancellation of all forest concession agreements comes at the time when there are discussions about placing Liberia under a United Nations Trusteeship raises many concerns about a pattern that shows no regard for the laws of Liberia and the Sovereign authority of the Liberian People." In concluding their press release, the LTA appealed to Chairman Bryant to meet with the Association and all concessionaires before considering any decision on this recommendation so that his actions may be in the best interest of the Liberian people.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa , by Morison Sayon & Jennie Fallah of The Inquirer, Monrovia - July 8, 2005

South Africa Needs People-centred Government, Says Minister

Governments succeed only if they use public service delivery to structure a society in which social justice can prevail, Minister of Public Service and Administration Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi said on Wednesday. Addressing public-sector managers at the fourth annual Service Delivery Learning Academy in Cape Town, she told them they are the engines that drive that service delivery. "As public officials, we owe it to the people of our country, the people of our region and even the people of the world to bring about a socially just and democratic society as fast as possible." She urged them to keep their sights on building a people-centred state capability. "It is through the best possible provision of education, health, police services and others that we will build a country in which each individual will have the opportunity to develop to his or her full potential." The learning academy, run by Fraser-Moleketi's department, is a three-day event designed to showcase "best practice" in the public service and to allow the several hundred public servants attending to share experiences and ideas.

From Mail & Guardian Online, South Africa - July 13, 2005

Civil Servants Union Now Withdraws Suit

The Union of Kenya Civil Servants has abandoned a suit it filed against the Government over suspension of workers who participated in a recent strike. Union of Kenya Civil Servants secretary general Alphayo Nyakundi and second deputy secretary general Martin Ogoda at the Nairobi Law Courts yesterday. The union dropped a suit it had filed against the State. Yesterday, lawyer Otiende Amollo told the High Court his clients received a letter from Ministry of Labour, outlining the formation of a committee to look into issues of dispute between them. Given the new development, they had opted to withdraw the case against the Government, he said. He told Justice John Nyamu they had no intention of "standing on the path of negotiations between the Union and the Government." "I have instructions to withdraw this matter in its entirety to enable them participate in the committee."

The State embraced the move, saying it had no objection, sending the two parties back to the drawing board. According to the letter dated July 6, the minister decided to constitute a committee under the Trade Disputes Act to look into the contentious issues. "The committee is expected to lay ground for the negotiations between the Government and yourselves as directed by the Industrial Court ruling on this matter," said the letter in part. It asked the union's Secretary General, Alphayo Nyakundi, to submit names of two people to represent the union at the committee meetings to facilitate the launching and the minister's appointment. The committee is expected to complete its work within 14 days from the date of its appointment (July 11) and report to the minister, Mr Newton Kulundu.

Last week, the union promised to withdraw the case against the Government to allow investigation by a tripartite committee. This was after Kulundu raised concern that the committee would not discuss the plight of 1,100 workers suspended by the Government for taking part in the strike. Thereafter, an agreement was reached at a meeting between the minister, union officials and the Directorate of Personnel Management at the ministry's offices. Last month, the union moved to court after some civil servants received letters from the Directorate of Personnel Management. The letters ordered them to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against them for failing to be at their workstation during the strike.

In the suit, they were also seeking to quash the award of the Industrial Court delivered by Justice Charles Chemmuttut two months ago. They had dismissed it as "fatally flawed" and asked the High Court to compel the Industrial Court to again hear the dispute between them and the Government. They further took issue with the verdict that sent them home empty-handed, saying "a person who is not a judge of the Industrial Court" rendered it. At the Industrial Court, the unionisable employees were demanding a 600 per cent pay hike.

From Standard, Kenya, by Judy Ogutu - July 11, 2005

Screening Of Civil Servants Intensifies

The exercise is expected to help flush out ghost workers and cleanse the public service. How many civil servants will fall victim to the on-going census exercise, is the question on every lip. Not so long from now, the answer to this burning question will be provided by the ministry of the Economy and Finance. Initiated by the Prime Minister's office and executed by the Ministries of the Economy and Finance and that of Public Service and Administrative Reforms, this years census aims to flush out ghost workers from the State payroll and rectify certain abnormalities in the public service.

It is not the first time such an exercise is being organized for civil servants. But from the look of things, results hitherto obtained have often fallen short of expectation. As a result, many questions remain unanswered. One, how much has been lost so far and how much is being lost today? How many civil servants are there today and how many of them earn undue salaries? How much does the State expect to plough back from the census? What sanctions awaits culprits? How effective will it be? These questions require to be addressed and quickly too. In effect, many civil servants who have left for greener pastures elsewhere continue to see their salaries flow into their accounts. Some are dead but their salaries continue to flow. Many have been removed from their posts, but continue to earn duty allowance. Some are said to be even earning double salaries.

Unlike in the past when the census was organized globally, this year's census is being carried out ministry by ministry. This makes it easy to identify culprits. In this light, civil servants are regarded to present justification documents such as:: Decision of assumption of duty, Absorption Decision, Certificate of effective presence, latest pay slip, birth certificate, and qualification papers. There is every evidence that those who are out of the country would not have time to flow in and do the census. But as experience has shown in the past exercises, there is need for follow up.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Lukong Pius Nyuylime of Cameroon Tribune, Yaounde - July 21, 2005

Progress in Public Service Gender Balancing

The Public Service Commission (PSC) says it has made "remarkable strides" in employing disadvantaged groups in the public service. Although the process has appeared to be slow, the PSC says it has played a influential role in making this happen. In its 2004/05 annual report, the PSC notes that it has also seen to the improvement of gender balancing, but it has been unable to provide statistics on the employment of physically challenged persons due to a lack of valid data. "The PSC has also advocated its belief that all offices, ministries and agencies must make a concerted effort to employ disabled people and to this end has encouraged them to specifically invite disabled people to apply for vacancies and ensure that their buildings have wheelchair access," notes the report.

The report, submitted to the National Assembly this week, indicates that including political office-bearers, the NDF, Police, Prison Service and the Electoral Commission, 74 756 people were employed in the public service by the end of March. According to statistics provided, between April 1, 2004 and March 31 this year, the PSC appointed 4 215 disadvantaged people to non-management positions compared to only 67 advantaged people (this excludes appointments in the NDF, Nampol, the Prison service and regional councils). In management positions, 31 posts were awarded to disadvantaged people compared to only five to advantaged people. Of the appointments made in non-management positions during this period, 58 per cent were women while in management positions it was as much as 72 per cent.

But during the same period, the public service also lost 2 024 personnel, mostly resignations - the largest number from the former Ministry of Basic Education (926). This was followed by the Ministry of Health (358) and the Ministry of Agriculture (148). By far the largest number of people who had to be discharged from duty for medical reasons came from the former Ministry of Education at 49. In total 89 people were discharged from the public service on medical grounds between 2004 and 2005. During the period under review, 14 employees were put on suspension - nine from the Ministry of Finance. The reasons for the suspensions ranged from bribery, fraud and gross negligence to intimidation and threat towards a supervisor and a single case of rape. The Ministry of Basic Education had the most employees charged with misconduct, which led to five being transferred, five demoted and 19 discharged. The Ministry of Health dismissed 19 employees during this time - eight of whom are appealing their dismissal. Currently, 142 foreigners are employed on contract within the civil service - 118 of them in the Ministry of Health.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Lindsay Dentlinger of The Namibian, Windhoek - July 15, 2005

 

'Bureaucracy Becoming Disloyal to Government'

Kathmandu - Minister for General Administration Krishna Lal Thakali said that civil servants have returned to the pre-February 1 mindset after the lifting of emergency rule. Speaking at an interaction on "Management of Grievance in Civil Service" here on Tuesday, Thakali said, "Civil servants were very loyal during the emergency rule, but they are now gradually becoming disloyal to the government."

The reason behind the change in civil servants' attitude, Minister Thakali claimed, was the outcome of their perception that the present government would collapse in the near future. "Administrative mechanisms are effective only when the government is stable," he added. Admitting the failure of government mechanism to evaluate civil servants, Madhav Prasad Ghimire, Secretary at the Ministry of General Administration, said, "We have failed to implement and follow the governing civil service laws." Expressing concern over the ineffectiveness of the bureaucracy, Shyam Prasad Mainali, joint-secretary at the Ministry said, "We are facing grievances not only from civil servants.

From Kathmandu Post, Nepal - July 5, 2005

Civil Service Salary Likely to be Increased Next Year

The government is considering a raise for civil servants and members of the Indonesia Military (TNI) and National Police next year, despite the burden on the state budget from skyrocketing global oil prices. If it materialized, it would be the first raise for civil servants, soldiers and police officers since 2003, when the government introduced the 13th month salary but suspended annual pay increases.

State Minister for Administrative Reforms Taufik Effendy said on Tuesday the government would prioritize raises for lower-ranking civil servants and TNI/police members. There are about six million of civil servants, including teachers, plus 500,000 TNI soldiers and 125,000 police personnel. A new civil servant receives about Rp 575,000 (US$60) a month in basic salary, while a top-echelon official makes Rp 1.8 million. Taufik stopped short of announcing the amount of the proposed raises, which he said would depend on the condition of the budget and the approval of the House of Representatives. However, a source at the Vice Presidential Office said the raises would not exceed 20 percent.

Minister of Finance Jusuf Anwar said the government was still discussing the idea with the House, which has also proposed a drastic increase in the allowances for its 550 members. "The government hopes to improve the welfare of civil servants and members of the TNI and police. But the plan must be realistic and workable," he said. Jusuf said the government could afford the raises. "This is no problem for the government. Our cash flow is safe." The government will spend Rp 75.6 trillion this year for the fuel subsidy due to soaring global oil prices. Jusuf said the government also disbursed Rp 7 trillion to pay the 13th month salary of civil servants and TNI/police members. The minister did not comment on the House members' proposal for larger allowances, saying he had not received the proposal. "Of course the government expects to improve the welfare of the general public. We will hear the proposal tomorrow (Wednesday)," Jusuf said. The House is seeking an additional Rp 15 million to Rp 30 million for its members, reportedly to allow lawmakers to spend more time with their constituents.

From Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Government Bans Unions in Civil Service

Kathmandu - The Cabinet meeting, on Wednesday, passed a Civil Service (Amendment) Ordinance, imposing bans on professional organizations in the civil service. It has also changed promotion procedures at the top level of the bureaucracy. According to a cabinet source, the draft ordinance, which is likely to receive the royal seal early next week, has exempted doctors, engineers and rangers from such a ban. The source also revealed that the draft ordinance has changed the basic criteria for promotion of joint secretaries to the secretary's post. "Consideration of seniority has been removed from the criteria," the source said, "Instead, leadership quality and work performance will be the sole criteria now." The source also added that the existing provision of recommending 50 percent more names than the vacant seats by the promotion committee has been changed to three times more, giving the cabinet vast discretionary power. The cabinet has overtly rejected the Public Service Commission's suggestion that twice as many names could be recommended for the post.

In another significant change in the existing law, the ordinance has proposed a provision where secretary-level positions will be created automatically if any secretary is transferred to the reserve pool. This provision comes as a move to legitimize the government's four-month old decision to dump seven secretaries in the reserve pool for an indefinite period. The existing Civil Service Act bars the government from keeping any civil servant in the reserve pool for more than a month. If a secretary is transferred to the reserve pool, the vacant seat will be filled by another secretary unlike in the present system of deputing an officiating secretary," the source further said.

The ordinance also provides for "contract-based" appointments in the lower-level (clerks and messengers/peons) positions. The employees appointed after promulgation of the ordinance will be denied life pension, but will receive a lump sum allowance on retirement. Such a system existed during the Panchayat era, which was abolished after 1990. The cabinet has rejected the erstwhile Sher Bahadur Deuba government's policy decision to provide special reservations for women, janajatis and dalits in government services. The Deuba government had decided to reserve 20 percent seats for women and 10 percent each for janajatis and dalits in government service. Instead of reservation, the ordinance has left open space for "positive discrimination" for these backward sections of society.

From Kathmandu Post, Nepal, by Yuvraj Acharya - July 8, 2005

Public Servants in China Must be Recruited through Examination

Beijing - All candidates applying to work in Chinese government departments at various levels now must pass a comprehensive examination before they take those jobs, said Zhang Bailin, Chinese personnel minister here Wednesday. The examination includes a written test and a face-to-face interview, said Zhang at the China Reform Forum. An average of 100,000 persons are selected across China each year. There are six million public servants working for the Chinese government, said Zhang. China's first law on pubic servants was passed last April. China has pushed forward the reform of the public servant system. The job of public servants is no longer an "iron bowl" now, said Zhang. From 1996 to 2003, the Chinese government dismissed over 16,000 public servants. Public servants are free to leave their jobs whenever they find them uninteresting or unsuitable. In the past seven years, 30,000 public servants quit their jobs. The development of the public servant system will help build a service-oriented government, he said.

From Xinhua, China - July 13, 2005

Civil Servants Lose $10b Pay-cut Battle

Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal has granted the government a HK$10 billion reprieve with its decision that cuts in civil servant salaries are legal. Secretary for Civil Service Joseph Wong subsequently promised Wednesday not to cut salaries further, a pledge greeted with bitter disappointment by civil servants who warned that the morale of public officers, described as ''already shattered'' would fall further. Had the decision not gone with the government, it would have had to pay back HK$9.6 billion to civil servants since the wages were cut in 2002.

Civil servants had used provisions of the Basic Law, which came into effect in 1997, to challenge the legality of laws that cut wages by up to 4.42 percent in 2002 and twice by 3 percent in 2004 and 2005. Dismissing fears that the judgment may affect the morale of civil servants, Wong said the government believes civil servants will continue to perform their duties and serve the public as they have always done. But, he added, there is no room for further pay reductions. ''The pay level of civil servants has returned to the level it was in 1997,'' he said. ''I want to reiterate that the government will not adjust the pay of civil servants to below the current level.'' Wong said the government will continue to review fringe benefits for civil servants in accordance with the law.

Senior Assistant Solicitor-General Michael Reid Scott, who led the legal challenge in his private capacity, and former police senior inspector Bernard Lau charged that the government had reneged on a promise made in the 1984 Joint Declaration, which encouraged civil servants to stay on after the handover. He said after the ruling that public servants have "sacrificed their chances for alternative careers" because of the "false promise'' of no alteration to conditions of service. "It [the judgment] upholds public policy. It does not uphold constitutional law,'' Scott said. Francis Carroll, representative for the Overseas Inspectors' Association of the Police Force, said the Civil Service Bureau had handled the issue "atrociously." He said "the Civil Service Bureau enforced what it wanted to achieve by steamrolling legislation.'' There was no consultation on the issues and "we never agreed to a pay cut.'' Scott said the government has been spending HK$30 billion a year on ``infrastructure projects we don't need'' while making welfare cuts and reducing taxes.

"The whole approach is upside down. The government is giving money to people who don't need it and taking it away from people who do," he said. Senior Non-Expatriate Officers' Association chairman Peter Chan said his members will respect the court's ruling. "We are disappointed, but we will respect the ruling, as well as the public's interest," he said. Legislative Council public service panel chairman Tam Yiu-chung, of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, welcomed the judgment. He hopes civil servants will work with the government to tackle the budget deficit. Tam said he does not believe the lawsuit will affect cooperation between civil servants and the government.

``I think a number of civil servants have reached a consensus with the government concerning the 3 percent pay cut in 2004 and another 3 percent in 2005. But some of them did not agree with this direction,'' he said. ``I hope the government can now stabilize the civil service teams.'' Liberal Party chairman James Tien said the ruling illustrates that the Legislative Council had acted within the Basic Law when it passed the bill to cut salaries. He said the government has more flexibility in the use of its funds because it no longer faces the prospect of having to compensate civil servants. "The government has saved more than HK$9 billon, and I hope it can do more to alleviate poverty and help single-parent families," he said. Unionist Legislator Lee Cheuk-yan urged the government to negotiate with employees ahead of any future pay adjustments. "We hope that the government will learn a lesson from this and openly discuss in good faith any further pay adjustment," he said.

From The Standard, Hong Kong , by Teddy Ng and Albert Wong - July 13, 2005

State Defers Civil Service Reforms

The Government has decided not to pursue a public service reform proposal to contract deputy secretaries because it would cost around $19million to do so. Public Service Commission chief executive Anare Jale would not comment on actual cost but confirmed that contracting deputy secretaries would be an expensive exercise. "Cost is the main factor and that is why Government has deferred the contract basis of deputy secretaries," Mr Jale said. Not only would cost be a major factor in contracting the deputy secretaries, but Mr Jale said the Commission would want to see how effective contract basis worked in Fiji. "We have just gone through a one-year period of contract basis with the chief executive officers and we are looking at the good side of it before we can make a decision in contracting other officers," Mr Jale said. "The chief executive officers are on contract for five years and before we can contract the deputy secretaries, we need to see the result of the five year period." Mr Jale said it was best to learn from the contracting basis of the five-year period of CEOs before moving to the next level of deputy secretaries.

He said Government had also deferred the contracting of deputy secretaries to give them enough time to observe the process of contracting officers. "We also need time to see if the contract basis works and a period of five years in studying the progress is more than enough to see results," Mr Jale said. But the chairman of organising committee of deputy secretaries Saverio Baleikanacea said the reasons given for the decision was not justified. "Because of the decision, the PSC reforms are actually not complete and is only advancing in selected areas," said Mr Baleikanacea. He said the matter had been referred to the Fiji Public Service Association. FPSA general secretary Rajeshwar Singh said the union had written to the commission regarding the decision and was waiting for a reply.

From Fiji Times, Fiji - July 13, 2005

Hong Kong Government Wins Landmark Ruling on Civil Service Pay

Hong Kong - The Hong Kong government Wednesday won a landmark case which could have seen it forced to pay nearly 1.3 billion U.S. dollars in back pay to civil servants. Five judges in the territory's top court, the Court of Final Appeal, unanimously ruled the government was entitled to slash civil service pay by about 10 per cent over the past three years. If the ruling had gone against the government, it would have had to pay back an estimated 10 billion Hong Kong dollars - 1.28 billion U.S. dollars - to the territory's 200,000 civil servants.

A lower court earlier ruled that the government breached Hong Kong's Basic Law, its mini-constitution since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, by failing to uphold civil service pay levels. The government decided to cut civil service pay in stages from 2002 onwards to bring it into line with falling salaries during the post-handover economic slump. However, civil servants challenged the pay cuts, pointing out that the Basic Law contained a provision that their packages would not be reduced from their 1997 levels. Speaking after Wednesday's ruling was announced, Secretary for the Civil Service Joseph Wong said the decision put the government's right to cut civil service pay in 2002 "beyond doubt". "I always maintained the view that the government decision to reduce civil service salaries is lawful, reasonable and fair," he said. "I believe that the overwhelming majority of the civil service at the time accepted the government decision."

Government lawyer Michael Scott, one of two civil servants to bring the test case against the pay cuts, said the fight against the cuts could not be taken any further. "It is the end of the road," he said, saying he believed the top court had "ignored constitutional law" in reaching its decision based on its belief that the pay cuts were "good public policy". Felix Cheung, chairman of the Civil Servants General Union, said civil servants were "a little bit surprised" to learn that the ruling had gone against them. "We have won the case two times already in the Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal," he said. "I think civil servants are disappointed because of the result of the Court of Final Appeal but this is the reality and all civil servants have to face this reality." Hong Kong's civil servants have a reputation for being well paid and receive generous housing allowances as well as colonial-era funding for overseas education for their children.

From Monsters and Critics.com, UK - July 13, 2005

Ministry Faces Onerous Task of Actually Reducing Civil Servants

The internal affairs ministry is facing a Sisyphean task: slashing the number of civil servants on the nation's payroll. While cuts are being made, increased hiring in areas such as law enforcement has rolled back any progress. That has long been the trend in attempts to reduce the number of civil servants, leading to only a minor net drop in the number of central government workers over the years. Under the reform outline approved by the Koizumi Cabinet last December, the government agreed to cut its payroll by at least 10 percent, or about 33,000 people, from fiscal 2005 to 2009. And this year's "big-boned program" for structural reform leading to a leaner government contained a provision for "setting clear targets, such as net decrease targets," on the total number of civil servants.

The Cabinet approved the program on June 21. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, which oversees the central government's civil servants, is ultimately the one in charge of setting such targets. But since other ministries are expected to resist payroll cuts, the internal affairs ministry faces the unenviable task of setting targets that are realistic and convincing enough to assure taxpayers that the government is serious about the move. Taro Aso, minister of internal affairs and communications, pledged at a June 21 meeting of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy to work toward setting such targets. Still, he acknowledged that cutting personnel expenses won't be easy since the National Personnel Authority has had a say in setting salary levels for civil servants.

The government plans to compile belt-tightening guidelines by autumn that will include a personnel expenses structure based on a review of the salaries and total number of civil servants. Around that time, internal affairs ministry officials are expected to put together an indicator on numerical cuts. The ministry is expected to set net targets for reductions for the years between fiscal 2006 and 2009. For fiscal 2005, the reductions are nowhere close to what the Cabinet's reform outline had proposed.

In this fiscal year, 5,445 posts were cut. But 4,821 civil servants were hired, mainly in law enforcement. That's a net drop of 624 people, representing just 0.2 percent of all civil servants working in central government ministries or agencies, excluding the Self-Defense Forces and other special sectors. At that rate, it will take more than four years to achieve even a 1-percent net decrease in civil servants. The overall number of civil servants is agreed to at the end of each calendar year in negotiations between the internal affairs ministry and other ministries, which put in staffing requirements each summer along with fiscal budget requests. However, internal affairs officials said other ministries have so far agreed to cuts because personnel transfers among various bureaus and departments can make up for the reductions.

From Asahi Shimbun, Japan, by Akira Uchida - July 12, 2005

Government Bars Formation of Civil Servant Unions

Kathmandu - The government said Monday that government civil servants would not be allowed to operate unions. The provision was made in the second amendment of the Civil Service Act 2049 B.S. which takes effect from today. As per the amendment, no association or union of civil servants other than those specified by the government will be permitted. Civil servants could constitute professional associations as specified, for the development of their respective professions, according to the act that has now been amended through an ordinance.

Shedding more light on the amendment, Minister for General Administration Krishna Lal Thakali said at a press meet yesterday that the new provision had to be made after civil servants affiliated to associations constituted under the Civil Service Act began working as political party workers, and were not responsible towards the country and people anymore. He said that the amendement is aimed at ensuring quality service, boosting the morale of the civil servants and manitaining transparency.

Minister for Information and Communication Tanka Dhakal, defending the government move, said that sufficient efforts had not been made in the past to make civil service people-oriented and use it for the overall development of the country. The government spokesman expressed confidence that the latest decision taken by the government will help the civil service operate in a stronger, more people-oriented and value-based manner.

From Kantipur Online, Nepal - July 18, 2005

PSC Asked to Look into Career Planning for Civil Servants

Putarajaya - Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Monday asked the Public Services Commission (PSC) to look at the planning for promotion for civil servants to retain the best officers in the sector. He said many government officers with strong performance had left to join the private sector as they felt that the opportunity for them to progress further was limited in the civil service. "We must remember that in the increasingly competitive environment, the demand for quality workers is also becoming more competitive.

"If the civil service does not make any change in the management of its human capital, there is a strong possibility that its best employees would eventually be grabbed by the private sector," he said in his speech at the opening of the IX Conference of the Malaysian Public, State and Education Services Commissions, here. The text of his speech was read by his deputy, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. Abdullah said many young officers who had been highly motivated when they started their career had lost their interest when they saw that their career path was moving too slowly. As such, he said, among the preliminary measures that the PSC could take was to fill any vacancy created with the new officers."There is no need to leave a post vacant for too long, especially when there is a heavy burden waiting to be carried out. Young officers who are anxious to work must be sent to fill in the vacancies quickly.

Abdullah also stressed to the PSC on the importance of selecting civil servants who fulfilled the "3K" requirements namely qualification, capability and personality (kelulusan, keupayaan dan keperibadian). "These three requirements are critical in ensuring that those working in the civil service were trusted and respected. These requirements must be made the thrust in deciding on the selection of candidates," he said. Furthermore, he said, good academic qualifications alone did not guarantee that the workers were of good quality without being accompanied by skill, attitude and interest to serve the people.

From Bernama, Malaysia - July 24, 2005

Civil Servants on Road Against Government

Furious Civil Servants Protest Nepal Government's Ban on Trade Unions and Associations - Civil Servants are furious after the King's government imposed ban on formation of professional unions and associations through amendment in the Civil Service Act. They warned government of strong protest and they began it today with a protest rally at the middle of the capital city. Marking July 14, the day the amendment came into force, as the Black Day, the civil servants called the amendment against the International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions and UN Declaration of Human Rights 1948. And what I saw at the protest rally today looks like the decision would cost dearly for the government.

The Rally As I Witnessed - The rally was scheduled to begin from Sundhara and when I reached there, I saw a good number of policemen spread around the area. We waited there for about 15 minutes and heard people saying 'it would be difficult for the civil servants to come openly against the government because if they were arrested or recognized, they would lose their job'. I saw a lot of faces anxiously waiting around whom I recognized as civil servants – they were nervously wandering around. At last, a group of a dozen people took out black banners and started marching along the road. They didn't shout any slogans thus policemen didn't notice them until they walked around 50m towards them. A few more people joined from pedestrians and the policemen noticed soon. They came running and tried to seize the banners. I heard a few of civil servants humbly requesting the police to not to leave the banners, but policemen didn't listen. After losing both the banners, the civil servants started chanting slogans and in next 50m, they were joined by hundreds more. I went with them for about 10 minutes and then stopped as I heard from a policeman that there won't be any arrests.

Plain-Clothed Policemen - In between, I had an interesting incident. While walking along the pedestrians, I stumbled against a shot man who looked like carrying an umbrella wrapped in a newspaper. As I stumbled, I heard something on walkie-talkie and the man was plain-clothed policeman carrying one wrapped in a paper. When I mentioned the incident with photo journalists, they told me they had seen lots of such people in protest rallies. I remembered Kantipur Television news during journalists' protest around a month ago. The tv interviewed a person who claimed he was journalist and the very next day he was shown with his police uniform at another journalists rally. IT has become common for the rally-goers to see a good number of plain-clothed policemen.

What I Thought - The rally started nervously. People joined slowly today. They were hesitant to chant slogans at first. But once they go going, there were loud voices against the amendment and government. It was only political parties and journalists before doing much of the protest rallies. Now, civil servants joined in. A journalist friend of mine expressed during the rally - the movement for democracy is slowly taking the momentum.' It will grow more as the government will go on irking more people. I took that as a truth. It looks like a small ignition but the fire will grow certainly as already more than three dozens, 38 to be exact, government servants' unions have announced their protest. It looks to me that the ban is unnecessary (the government says 'they were more of sister organizations of political parties') and that will only backfire.

What Next? As some people close to the King have already publicly expressed - 'ban on political parties'. Is the government is stepping towards banning the political parties and tagging them 'anti-national element. Well, let's see, since the people at power are taking 'foolish decisions', it may be their next step.

From United We Blog, Nepal - July 22, 2005

Civil Servants' Unions Dissolved

Kathmandu - His Majesty's Government has in the second amendment to the Civil Service Act 2049 B.S. made a provision for the operation of no association or union of the civil servants in the country other than as specified, no matter whatever is written in the existing law of the Kingdom. According to the Act that was amended through an ordinance, civil servants can constitute professional association as specified for the development of their respective profession. Shedding light on the amendment, Minister for General Administration Krishna Lal Thakali said as civil servants are not labourers but a permanent governance the government has concluded that they don't require unions and associations.

The new provision had to be made after civil servants affiliated to associations constituted under the Civil Service began working as political party workers and were not accountable towards the country and people. He also said that the 2058 B.S. cabinet too had decided to dissolve the Associations and Union under Civil Service. On the occasion, spokesman of the government and Minister for Information and Communications Tanka Dhakal said in the past sufficient efforts were not made to make civil service people-oriented and use it for the overall development of the country. He expressed the confidence that the latest decision taken by the government will make civil service run in more stronger, people-oriented and values-based manner.

From Gorkhapatra, Nepal - July 18, 2005

Private Sector Preferred, Fewer Non-Malays in the Civil Service

The dearth of non-Malay civil servants may be attributed to many preferring private sector jobs instead of a career in the public service. While Chinese accounted for 29.7 per cent and Indians 9.8 per cent of civil servants in the 1980s, their numbers fell to 8.2 per cent and 5.2 per cent respectively in 2003. The numbers have, however, been encouraging since 2001, said Public Services Commission secretary Luey Puteh. "If the numbers of non-Malays applying is small, what can we do? The PSC is an appointing authority and we can't woo certain racial groups or we'd appear biased." The PSC, she said, could not conduct recruitment drives among non-Malays alone for the sake of neutrality. She said the drastic drop in the number of non-Malay civil servants since the 1980s was due to the retirement of the post-Merdeka batch of civil servants, who were not being replaced.

Luey said efforts to encourage non-Malays to join the civil service were best left to political parties or government agencies. She added that the PSC functioned as a recruiter, but approval was in the hands of the heads of department in the federal service. There had been a slight increase in the number of non-Malays applying of late for professional and managerial (Grade A) posts. More were also applying to be support staff, but the numbers have fluctuated in recent years. While few non-Malays look at civil service for jobs, many however succeeded. For instance, 5,668 Chinese applied for Group A federal posts last year, of whom 1,042 made the cut for interviews, with 564 or 54.13 per cent offered jobs. A similar pattern has emerged for other non-Malay applicants.

One reason few applicants turn up for interviews is that it can take up to three years before an applicant is called for an interview. "We have to wait for ministries or agencies to make a request," Luey explained. "Until then, we don't process the job applications. If one is lucky, there may be a post available sooner." Luey said the number of vacancies fell short of candidates because there were no new posts being created or applicants did not meet the stringent requirements. "If there are many applicants for few posts, we raise the bar in our vetting process. This can be difficult for applicants to understand. They think they are qualified and get upset when they find we have made vetting more stringent without telling them." The PSC only handled recruitment for about 30 per cent of all public sector jobs, but is the largest appointing body, Luey said. The rest are under the respective service commissions of the police, armed forces, Education, Legal and Judicial, state and local authorities. Luey said there were generally more applicants than vacancies in public service. Last year, 418,000 applied for vacancies but only 19,000 were hired. She cited an example where 18,000 applications were received for 10 vacancies for Customs officers.

From New Straits Times, Malaysia, by Deborah Loh - July 25, 2005

Government Introduces New Civil Service Act 2062

New provisions on scientific basis - After necessary amendment of the Civil Service Act-2049, the government has brought Civil Service Act 2062 through Ordinance to make the civil service sector more competent and service oriented, said Minister for Information and Communication Tanka Dhakal Monday. Speaking at a programme organised at the Department of Information, he said that civil service mechanism should be pro-people and result-oriented but the erstwhile governments had manipulated civil service for political gains. He said, "Civil service is like a permanent government but frequent changes in governments and unethical political interference affected the civil service." He said that the government has tried to correct the past mistakes in other sectors besides the reform in the civil service act. In this connection, a high level committee has been formed to study the problems of bonded labors, landless and squatters. Another separate high level committee has been formed to study and to eliminate the problems surfaced in supply process in the Kathmandu Valley.

Talking about the need of the reform in the existent Civil Service Act, Minister for General Administration Krishna Lal Thakali said that the act was reformed to make the civil service sector more responsible to make people feel impacts of good governance. "The reforms were made after extensive discussion and consultation with the administrators, government officials and stakeholders and the new act will address the challenges surfaced in the civil service sector," he said. He said that the changes were made keeping in mind the geographical, educational and cultural basis and the new act would help strengthen good governance by ending the anomalies seen in the civil service sector.

The new act has made new provisions including promotion, vacancies, new recruitment, transference, succession, punishment, perks and benefits, retirement and voluntary retirements through scientific basis. Minister Thakali said that the government has made a new provision of positive discrimination to promote women, indigenous people, dalits and differently able people. According to the new provision, the civil servants would be transferred not more than once in a year and they would be transferred to the different geographical regions from where they had served.

In a bid to make the promotion and grading procedures transparent, the concerned official will be able to see the annual work assessment form after evaluation from the committee, he said. Similarly, review committee has been formed to review on perks and benefits of the civil service employees in every three years. According to the new provision, the government would provide dearness allowance up to 75 per cent according to the market price hike and the allowance would be adjusted to the salary if the allowance amount equals to 25 per cent of the salary.

From Gorkhapatra, Nepal - July 18, 2005

 

Chief Civil Servant Wants Better Service

In an interview carried out by The Times of Malta, civil service recently appointed head Dr Godwin Grima stated that he is determined to make the service run better in the shortest time possible. Civil service is commonly referred to inefficiency and to workers leaving from work early to do a part-time job and other reasons. Regarding this problem, Dr Grima insisted that he is ready to get rid of this stigma and make the service work more efficiently. Dr Grima told The Times of Malta that he believes that managers should take calculated risks and policies should be challenged. Lately, managers were given a circular, urging them to complete their performance plans well in advance while a system of performance bonuses is being mapped out to entice workers to meet their targets. He already started working on several initiatives to make all the necessary changes in the service. He said that he wants to set up a board of directors in line with ministries. Other initiatives include the examination of the sick leave system, a review of all top structures, and the drawing up of a sexual harassment policy.

With regards to European Union policy, Dr Grima insisted, "we shouldn't be reacting to EU policy but we should make EU policy. We need to be pro-active." Dr Grima declared that he disagrees with the idea of the Malta Employers Association who last year called for a reduction of 12,000 workers. He said that this is not a solution and it is certainly not on his agenda. He believes that the civil service cannot operate on a one-size-fits-all policy and since tasks have changed the solution is to employ specific people for specific jobs. Regarding working hours, Dr Grima told The Times that managers should map out the required working hours according to the type of job. He stated that for example, it is not fair for street cleaners to work out in the sun in this temperature. He added, "the civil service needed to look at its client base and work accordingly."

From Maltamedia Daily News, Malta - July 4, 2005

Ministers 'Interfering in Civil Service Recruitment'

A civil service watchdog has warned ministers against "inappropriate" involvement in appointments to public bodies. Dame Rennie Fritchie on Wednesday highlighted previous concerns that there has been unrecorded activity by ministers in the late stages of appointments.nAnd publishing her latest annual report, she said there had again been "inappropriate involvement of ministers during the appointments process". The watchdog warned that this created "a risk that an accusation of political bias could be made". It has been recommended that while ministers should be involved in the early stages of the appointments process, they should not be offered a choice of candidates at the end.

Non-compliance - The report says that although in most cases departments are complying with the requirements of the appointments code of practice, a number of cases of non-compliance have been found. In addition to the inappropriate involvement of a minister in appointments, the report finds instances where 'local' versions of the commissioner's code of practice were being used inappropriately. It says performance appraisals are not being undertaken on a regular basis. Information on political activity is also being made available to the selection panel. There were also instances where a complete audit trail supporting the appointments process had not been maintained, with missing documentation on the decisions to accept or reject specific candidates and a lack of clarity on any discussions about potential conflicts of interest.

Fairness - The commissioner also noted that over the last decade much has been done by government departments to improve systems and processes, to publicise opportunities more widely and to encourage a wider, more diverse range of applicants. "Things have improved considerably and some departments have transformed their approach," she said. But Dame Fritchie said much still remains to be done to improve appointments practices. Fritchie called for a quicker appointments process with simpler forms and a fair, clear and consistent remuneration policy. She also urged better feedback for unsuccessful candidates and better induction and support for those who are appointed.

From ePolitix, UK - July 13, 2005

Civil Servants Number Rise 30% Since Devolution

The number of civil servants employed in the Scottish Executive's main departments has increased dramatically since devolution. New figures published today revealed a 30 per cent rise in core staff from 3367 in April 1999 to 4411 in June this year. Staff employed in the Executive's media and communications division have more than doubled from 41 to 91.
And the cost of special advisers has soared by 77 per cent from £398,062 to £704,790.

The Tories claimed the statistics showed government had now become Scotland's fastest growing industry. And they called for a halt in further expansion of "big government". Tory MSP Ted Brocklebank said: "These figures reveal the stark truth about government in Scotland. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger. "The gravy train is out of control. We have got to put the brakes on and then look to see if some of the functions of government are better carried out outside government." And he called for a change of the mindset which assumed government was the answer to people's problems. "The prevailing attitude just now is 'Government will sort it out'. There are tsars for everything; government meddles in everyone's lives; and there is very little genuine reform of public services. "Today's figures merely reflect the big government approach of Labour and the LibDems. Their first instinct is to legislate, regulate and interfere at every opportunity. No wonder our economy lags behind the rest of the UK when government itself is the biggest business of them all."

Written parliamentary answers from the Executive show staff in core departments rose from 3367 in 1999, the first year of devolution, to 3634 the following year, 3823 in 2001, 4123 in 2002, 4272 in 2003, 4392 last year and 4411 now. The numbers in the Executive's media and communications division climbed steadily from 41 in 1999 to 46 the following year, 57 in 2001, 72 in 2002, 90 in 2004 and 91 this year. And the bill for special advisers - politically-appointed spin doctors and policy experts - also increased each year. Ministers are allowed by law a maximum of 12 special advisers. The number of advisers employed has gone up from seven when Donald Dewar was First Minister in 1999 to ten under Henry McLeish and 11 now. But the costs of salaries, national insurance and pension payments totalled £398,062 in 1999/00; £560,843 in 2000/01; £676,895 in 2001/02; £602,449 in 2002/03; £596,555 in 2003/04; and £704,790 in 2004/05.

The Evening News revealed earlier this month that the cost of special advisers has risen by 20 per cent in just one year. Last year's £704,790 bill for the political appointees who work directly to First Minister Jack McConnell and his Liberal Democrat deputy compares with £596,555 the previous year - a jump of more than £100,000. Salaries last year amounted to £566,217, national insurance contributions to £65,806 and pension contributions to £72,767. The job of special advisers is to provide policy and presentational advice to ministers. They have a similar job description to civil servants, except special advisers are allowed to put the work of the Executive in a political context. And the Tories pointed out the special advisers were on top of the "vast" press team at the Executive and represented only part of the "spin machine".
But the Executive has insisted special advisers perform a useful role and the figures represent value for money.

From Scotsman, United Kingdom, by Ian Swanson - 26 July 2005

 

Ministry of Finance and Civil Service Bureau Hold Workshop on Human Resources Management System

The Ministry of Finance and Industry (MOFI) and the Civil Service Bureau (CSB) agreed on the need to train the administrative personnel of human resource (HR) departments on the implementation of the Human Resources Management System (HRMS), which is an offshoot of MOFI's e-government initiative. The recommendation came at a workshop conducted by MOFI and CSB recently to review the recommendations and goals of the assessment phase of the HRMS project, as well as introduce the preliminary services to be implemented under the project.

The workshop also stressed the importance of the involvement and support of heads of official HR departments for the project to ensure the application of best HR management practices in ministries and official bodies. According to Dr. Ali bin Abood, Director General of CSB, the assessment phase consisted of agreeing on a working plan to implement the HRMS, which will be implemented through an integrated electronic system, as well as review all the existing HR procedures implemented across the federal government bodies. Abood said that the HRMS project will introduce decentralization in the management of HR departments and as such achieve best results in areas of recruitment, personnel administration, career development and assignments. It will also provide integrated HR and payroll services to employees.'

He said that the workshop discussed several initiatives introduced by CSB. These include plans to develop and update HR organisation charts, train personnel to offer better services and do a study on an integrated HR plan to be implemented across the federal government. This year, Abood said, the federal government civil service law and employment chart will be posted on the government portal in order to raise awareness of the HMRS project, which is an important part of the e-government initiative. It is also a way to get government employees accustomed to using the internet for information on civil service legislation, he noted. The next step, Abood said, would be to offer information for government employees regarding their profiles and other related issues.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, by Dr. Ali bin Abood - July 12, 2005

Constitutional Awareness for Female Civil Servants

Baghdad - A series of workshops have been held in Iraqi ministries for female employees, aimed at raising awareness of the new constitution, so that they are able to make an informed choice when voting on it in October. "The workshops aim to help women understand how the drafting of the constitution will take place, explaining the basic fundamental principles: human rights, women's rights, federalism and legislation," director of the ICWRE, Jennan Mubarak, said. The workshops have been organised by local NGOs, the Iraqi Centre for Women's Rehabilitation and Employment (ICWRE) and the Civil Alliance For Free Elections (CVAFE). "We are focusing on women because a woman's vote is important and we need to increase awareness of her rights so she can vote correctly," Mubark continued.

There is to be a referendum on the proposed new constitution on 15 October, followed by a general election slated for December. A 55-member committee organised by the transitional government is currently drafting the constitution. The call for a new respect for women's rights began after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003. The new transitional Iraqi government is forging ahead with drafting basic laws ahead of a 15 August deadline. "Most Iraqi women have no knowledge of their rights under the constitution and this workshop is a good way for us to become more aware," ministry employee, Tagreed Ali, said. "Before the workshop I knew nothing about the constitution, now I understand many things and I can vote clearly," another government employee, Aseel Hadi said. A report will be submitted to the national assembly at the end of each workshop containing women's opinions on drafting the constitution and their rights. This will give some 2,400 women a chance to voice their concerns.

From Reuters AlertNet, UK - July 13, 2005

 

OMB, Lawmakers Spar over Bid to Overhaul Civil Service

Office of Management and Budget officials are "very concerned" about a provision in the fiscal 2006 House Transportation-Treasury appropriations bill that aims to withhold funding requested by the Office of Personnel Management to overhaul civil service. In its report on the bill, which was approved by the House last week, the Appropriations Committee said it was denying the $2.6 million the White House requested to explore allowing each agency to create its own personnel system. The panel instead instructed the Office of Personnel Management to "continue the implementation and refining of the new human resources management systems at the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security before bringing the system to other agencies and departments."

Although the language is nonbinding, it reflects the appropriators' wariness of the proposal, which OMB officials say is a top priority. In its Statement of Administration Policy, OMB criticized appropriators and said the spending reduction would "impede ... the President's management agenda." A spokesman for the committee said the language "speaks for itself" and attributed the provision to Transportation-Treasury Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Joseph Knollenberg, R-Mich.

The report language mirrors statements made by House Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., whose panel oversees the federal workforce. OMB officials have lobbied Davis to draft legislation to give each agency the authority to create its personnel systems, similar to the authority previously granted to the Pentagon and the Homeland Security Department. A Davis spokesman declined to comment directly on the appropriators' language but said Davis continues to believe: "Any decision to expand personnel reforms on a governmentwide basis should be based on the experiences of DHS and DoD. However, Chairman Davis remains open to working with the administration and is amenable to less extensive, common-sense reforms for other agencies."

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., a member of the Transportation-Treasury Appropriations Subcommittee, was approached by OMB about expanding the personnel flexibility to other departments, but he was not supportive and backed the report language. "It is important that we fully understand the implications of personnel changes before we expand their reach," he said. Federal employee unions praised the spending bill's language. One union advocate said she planned to approach Senate Transportation-Treasury Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Christopher (Kit) Bond, R-Mo., and ranking member Patty Murray, D-Wash., about including a similar provision in the Senate version. The American Federation of Governmental Employees, the largest federal employees union, remains staunchly opposed to the governmentwide proposal, which will be the focus of a Capitol Hill protest next week. Still, at least one lawmaker, Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who voted against the Transportation-Treasury appropriations bill, has met with OMB to discuss possible legislation. A Flake spokesman said he is still writing the bill and might introduce it this session.

From GovExec.com - by Alyson Klein of CongressDaily - July 8, 2005

Civil Service Changes Alter Disciplinary Procedures

With Civil Service Reform came a new model of progressive discipline for the state's nonrepresented employees and Washington Management Service employees. At first glance, when comparing the old rules with the new, you will notice how short the section on disciplinary actions is (two pages) compared to the section in the old rules (10 pages). But don't let the number of pages deceive you. Even though the new disciplinary chapter is brief, the old chapter also contained information on appeals, which is now a separate chapter. Overall, the new disciplinary system retains many of the same principles that have been used in state government for four decades. But some changes in the disciplinary system are highlighted below.

Reasons/causes for disciplinary actions - What was: Under the Merit System Rules, there was a list of causes for taking disciplinary actions.
The list included neglect of duty, inefficiency, incompetence, insubordination, indolence, conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, malfeasance, gross misconduct and willful violation of the published employing agency or department of personnel rules or regulations. If you fail to recognize or understand some of these causes, you are not alone. For instance, indolence? It means laziness. "Crimes involving moral turpitude" is old terminology that means, basically, a crime that involves vile or wicked conduct such as child pornography. Malfeasance means using your official position wrongfully - such as accountants who place state money in their own bank account. In the past, managers have had a problem with these categories, however: If the reason for taking the disciplinary action did not fit neatly into one or more categories, the disciplinary action could be and often was overruled.

What is: Instead of a list, the reason for taking disciplinary action now is "just cause." Simply stated, it means that agency management cannot discipline employees "just because" but must have good reasons to take actions against employees. However, those reasons don't have to fit into the old categories. Disciplinary actions - What was: Progressive corrective action has been the model for discipline in state agencies. What that means is, there were progressively harsher disciplinary acts taken in the hopes of motivating the problem employee to correct the problem. Discipline was divided into informal and formal corrective actions. Informal corrective actions include counseling, an oral reprimand or a letter of reprimand. The informal corrective actions, with the exception of the Letter of Reprimand, were not placed in the employee's personnel file, and such actions were not appealable. If an employee's misconduct continued, agencies would progress to formal corrective actions that included reduction in pay, suspension, demotion and dismissal. Steps could be skipped depending on the seriousness of the misconduct.

What is: Progressive discipline is still a part of the new disciplinary process. An agency "may dismiss, suspend without pay, demote or reduce the base salary of a permanent employee under his/her jurisdiction for just cause." So, what happened to the informal corrective actions? Agencies can choose to develop a corrective discipline policy to include "alternative formal measures that do not deprive an employee of pay, yet still help an employee address unsatisfactory performance." However, these actions will not be considered informal and will carry the same weight as disciplinary actions that impact pay. If the agency does not have a corrective discipline policy, the informal corrective actions are not part of the discipline process and as such are not subject to appeal. So what happens if an employee feels that there is not "just cause" for the disciplinary action that they receive? There will be more information on this topic in my next column.

From The Olympian, WA - July 18, 2005

Administration Unveils Civil Service Plan

Draft legislation would do away with General Schedule pay system - The Bush administration released a draft version of civil service reform legislation last week, another major piece of its government transformation project. In its current form, the Working for America Act of 2005 would phase out the General Schedule system, which the government has used for setting federal employees' pay and promotions. Occupation-based pay bands, each composed of four grades, would replace the pay schedule by 2010. The proposal would tie as much as 3 percent of workers' annual salary increases to some measure of worker performance. Pay-banding would allow government salaries for high-demand occupations to better reflect market conditions on local and national levels, said Clay Johnson, the Office of Management and Budget's deputy director for management. A recent annual Office of Personnel Management survey of the federal workforce shows that only 29 percent of workers say that differences in performance are meaningfully recognized.

The Defense and Homeland Security departments, which employ more than half of all federal workers, already use some form of a pay-for-performance system. But the administration's proposal would create reforms significantly less expansive than the ongoing changes at those departments, Johnson said. "We don't have that same need for urgent reaction in a domestic agency" as in DOD and DHS, Johnson said. "Most of what's controversial about what exists in DOD and DHS does not exist in this reform package," including limitations on collective bargaining. But federal employee unions disagree. "The broad pay proposal the administration wants to impose would largely mimic that which has been suggested for DHS," said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, in a statement. "If basic federal pay is going to be changed, then unions need the right to bargain over pay."

For civil service reform to work, managers will need to be adequately trained to evaluate their workers, Johnson added. "Employees tell us that we're not very good managers of people," he said. But congressional appropriators often cut training funding first, as they did recently in the House version of the DHS fiscal 2006 spending bill. Ensuring that managers are well trained in performance evaluations has long been the Achilles' heel of civil service reform, said Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University. "There are basic issues of trust here," he said. "The frontline workforce does not trust the management of their departments." There's also the matter of trusting the administration, Light said. Federal workers "are just as dissatisfied with the current system as Clay Johnson, but they're nervous about the political agenda that might be hiding behind all of these wonderful words."

Bush administration officials decided to release the legislation to the public in draft form after the unauthorized disclosure of an earlier draft to the media in June. The current version incorporates comments from federal agency officials and is meant to encourage debate, Johnson said. They say they will wait to push the legislation in Congress until lawmakers have less on their agenda, he added. The goal is to have the proposal become law by January 2007, he said.

Personnel reform PART of bigger picture - The Working for America Act of 2005 is part of a handful of measures proposed by the Bush administration that seek to change the way government works. The Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) is one key element of those reforms, said Clay Johnson, below, the Office of Management and Budget's deputy director for management. Without the description of federal programs' goals required in PART examinations, agency managers could not accurately evaluate federal workers, Johnson said. "We're much closer to having at least reasonably good performance measures for our programs, which means we can hold the senior person of that program accountable, which means he or she can hold the direct reports accountable, and so forth," he said. But linking PART statements to performance metrics would be a difficult task, said Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University. Agencies have already been formulating strategic goals for a decade under the Government Performance and Results Act with only uneven success in "converting mission goals into the kind of detailed strategic plans that could be converted into performance metrics," he said.

From FCW.com, by David Perera - July 24, 2005

White House Issues Civil Service Reform Proposal

The White House today revealed another major piece of its second term government transformation project by releasing a draft version of civil service reform legislation. In its current form, the "Working for America Act of 2005" would phase out the General Schedule system of pay and promotion by 2010, replacing it with occupation-based pay bands each composed of four grades. In addition, the proposal would link as much as 3 percent of workers' annual salaries to some measure of worker performance. Pay banding would allow government salaries for high-demand occupations to better reflect market conditions on both a local and a national level, said Clay Johnson, Office of Management and Budget deputy director for management. Today's 50-year old system was set up when the federal government mostly employed clerks and typists rather than professionals, Johnson said while speaking today with reporters. "We tend to treat [employees] like bureaucrats," but an IT professional and a doctor don't perform the same work, he added. The recent annual Office of Personnel Management survey of the federal workforce shows that only 29 percent of workers say that differences in performance are recognized in a meaningful way.

Agencies employing more than half of federal workers are already covered by some form of pay for performance system. But the proposed bill would create a set of reforms significantly less expansive than the ongoing changes at the Defense and Homeland Security Departments, Johnson said. "We don't have that same need for urgent reaction in a domestic agency," as in DOD and DHS, Johnson said. "Most of what's controversial about what exists in DOD and DHS does not exist in this reform package," including limitations on collective bargaining, he said, although federal worker unions disagree.

"The broad pay proposal the administration wants to impose would largely mimic that which has been suggested for DHS," said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, in a written statement. "If basic federal pay is going to be changed, then unions need the right to bargain over pay," she added. The proposal is one piece of a handful of White House measures to change the way government works. Reforming the civil service supports and is supported by those measures, which include the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART), Johnson said. Without the articulation of federal programs goals required in PART examinations, it would be impossible to accurately assess how well federal workers are doing, Johnson said. But now, "we're much closer to having at least reasonably good performance measures for our programs, which means we can hold the senior person of that program accountable, which means he or she can hold the direct reports accountable, and so forth," he said.

For civil service reform to work, managers will need to be adequately trained to evaluate their workers, Johnson added. "I don't think anybody would say we are good managers of people," he said. "Employees tell us that we're not very good managers of people." Training dollars are often the first to come under the red pens of congressional appropriators, however. But the annual dollar amounts involved are not staggering, Johnson said. They amount to hundreds of millions, "which is not zero, but it's not billions," he added. "This is not a fiscal challenge. This is a discipline challenge, a commitment challenge of holding people accountable." The time burden for managers and employees to craft performance goals and go through the evaluation process would not be burdensome, Johnson added. "Managers are spending time now managing," he said. "But in a lot of cases, they're not particularly effective at it. This helps make them effective at it."

Agencies would all face a 2010 deadline for implementing the new personnel systems, but OPM certification would be a necessary precursor, Johnson said. "OPM becomes a quality-assurance entity," he added. The White House decided to release the legislation to the public in draft form following the June leak of an earlier draft to the media. The current version has incorporated comments from federal agency officials and is meant to inform the debate, Johnson said. The act will not be introduced immediately into Congress, however. The Bush administration's goal is to have legislation passed by the end of the 109th Congress. But administration officials will hold off trying to push for it until additional space opens up on the legislative branch's busy agenda, he added.

From FCW.com, by David Perera - July 19, 2005

 
 

Uganda Improves Financial Management

The government of Uganda has announced the completion of the first phase of an integrated financial management system (IFMS) project, reports IT Web. The multimillion-dollar system, implemented by HP at six government ministries and four local government organisations, is designed to enhance budgeting, improve accounting and financial management, and enable departments to share information easily. "The system allows for increased access to information on financial and operational performance, internal controls to prevent and detect fraud, access to information on the government's economic performance, and the ability to demonstrate accountability to donors and the people of Uganda," said Professor Semakula Kiwanuka of the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Development. He said that the project would now progress to rollout phase, "which will include implementing the IFMS at a further 21 public sector sites and the setting up of a disaster recovery centre in Kampala."

From ElectricNews.net, Ireland, by Sylvia Leatham on Global e-government - July 6 2005

Uganda Moves Toward E-government

Johannesburg - Uganda's Ministry of Finance, Planning and Development (MoFPEP) and HP have announced the completion of the first phase of a multimillion-dollar integrated financial management system (IFMS). The system, which was implemented at six government ministries and four local government bodies, aims to support the improvement of public sector budgeting, financial management and accounting, and allow disparate departments and systems to share information seamlessly. "The system allows for increased access to information on financial and operational performance, internal controls to prevent and detect fraud, access to information on the government's economic performance, and the ability to demonstrate accountability to donors and the people of Uganda," says Professor Semakula Kiwanuka, minister of state at MoFPEP.

"Because the solution had to offer around-the-clock global availability and the capacity to accommodate multiple functions simultaneously, numerous critical factors had to be considered in the design," says Olivier Suinat, MD for Africa at HP. "These spanned the mission-criticality of the applications and database, the ability and availability of technical consultants to maintain the system, the training and transfer of skills to the government of Uganda personnel and the delivery of a total solution and services offering." Sub-contractors to the project included Oracle for treasury applications software, Computech Uganda for hardware infrastructure, venture Communications Uganda for networking infrastructure, RPC Data Uganda for application functional training and support, and UTL Uganda and MTN Uganda for telecommunication services.

"We are now looking forward to the roll-out phase, which will include implementing the IFMS at a further 21 public sector sites and the setting up of a disaster recovery centre in Kampala," says Kiwanuka. There are no definite plans for the system to be implemented in other countries. However, those involved in the project believe its success is a good guideline for African countries that wish to improve their financial management systems. "It is great to see such a successful capacity building for government services in Uganda, in line with Nepad's objective and the much-discussed recommendations for the G8 Commission for Africa report," Suinat says.

From ITWeb, South Africa - by Da,aroa Semme - July 5, 2005

Government to Constitute New ICT Body

As part of its wide information technology reforms, the government is soon set to replace the Rwanda Information Technology Authority (RITA) with the National Information Communication Technology (NICT) as the overseer in the execution of the Information Communication Technology (ICT) plan from 2006 to 2010. The ICT Advisor in the President's Office Pius Ndayambaje made the revelation during an ICT validation workshop on the implementation of E-Government Strategies and Action Plans for Rwanda at the Hotel Novotel Umubano. Ndayambaje said the new body would manage the implementation of the second phase of the ICT plan codenamed Electronic Government (E-Government) system which is due from 2006 to 2010.

"The Rwanda Information Technology Authority (RITA) was started in 2001 but during its five years of existence achieved only 26% of its plan, which was against government's expectations," Ndayambaje lamented. He said NICT would supervise RITA and other institutions with a view to strengthen them, while maintaining that RITA is a technical body. He said that the implementation of NICT is to supervise ministries because RITA authority was below that of ministries. He said that besides enhancing better communication, E-Government was a way of improving the government's administrative efficiency, effectiveness and productivity as well as information provision and service delivery to the public.

"E-Government is intended to improve the social and economic development of the society and that is why there should be a supervisory body (NICT) to coordinate the system where ministers will also play a big role," Ndayambaje pointed out. He disclosed that the first phase failed because of lacking enough information and human resources. He however expressed optimism that things would change in the second phase since there was strong political will and expertise, a factor affecting the E-Government system in other countries.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Francine Batamuliza of The New Times, Kigali - July 6, 2005

 

232 Acres Land Qcquired: ICT Village to be Set up at Kaliakoir: PM

The government has already acquired 232 acres of land in Kaliakoir of Gazipur district to set up an IT (Information Technology) Village. Prime Minister Khaleda Zia said this in Parliament in reply to a supplementary question of Moazzem Hossain Alal (BNP) during the PM's question-answer sesssion today. Replying to MA Hashem (BNP-Noakhali), she said the government is taking steps to introduce e-governance for the sake of accountability and transparency of the administration. The government wants to make access to information about the administration easy through the website in phases, the Prime Minister said. She said 'Geographical Information System' has already been set up in 28 districts by using modern information technology to strengthen the infrastructure of the primary education as well as its expansion, excellence and overall development. Khaleda said an ICT incubator has been set up at the BSRS Bhaban at Karwan Bazar for the rapid development of the software industry and to create a congenial environment for exporting software.

To encourage the investors of the ICT sector, the government has created a Tk 300 crore equity fund with the Bangladesh Bank, she said. She added that a roadmap of the ICT sector has been developed as per the National Information and Technology Policy that was approved in October 2002 for the development of the ICT sector. To gather realistic knowledge about the ICT at the field level, the government has introduced ICT internship for computer-educated unemployed youths, the Prime Minister said. An ICT Business Council has also been formed to encourage export of Bangladesh's ICT products in the world market, she said adding that a business promotion centre has been opened at Silicon Valley in California, USA. Khaleda further informed the House that a programme has been undertaken to train up teachers and students at the school and college level to expand the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) education at the grassroots level. Replying to a supplementary of MA Hashem (BNP-Noakhali), she said that a total of 175 upazilas have already been brought under the Internet network.

From The New Nation, Bangladesh - July 6, 2005

ICT Sector's Development and E-governance

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia stated Wednesday in Parliament a number of measures that the government had taken to strengthen the information communication technology (ICT) sector and for the adoption of e-governance. The same include acquiring of land for the establishment of an ICT village, the formation of an ICT incubator for the rapid development of the software industry, an ICT business council and expansion of ICT education at grassroots level. But notwithstanding such plans and programmes and declaration of government's policy supports, the realities in this sector and e-governance appear to be far from what are expected. This has been reflected in the recent reported ranking of Bangladesh in a lower position than previously among the countries of the world in respect of computer use and information communication technology (ICT) capacities.

The pattern of computer use in the country is seen as a very skewed one in favour of well-off private sector organisations whereas the mass use of the device appears to be a far cry. Earlier, inspiration was created by official pronouncements that the government would like to make computers available extensively at the grass roots level. The aim of such efforts, as the public pronouncements by the leaders of the incumbent government, time and again, do tend to suggest, is to swiftly enable computer proficiency among the greatest number of people. But follow-up actions have so far been few and far between. As a result, the country has been caught in an unwarranted digital divide. This situation is not compatible with the goal of making it a fully ICT capable country to harness its widest possible benefits.

The government needs to embark on projects to computerise itself very extensively and at the soonest. Presently, computers at government offices in many cases are more status symbols for officials than leading to any marked improvement in efficiency or services delivery. Desktop computers adorn the tables of high ranking government officials who seldom use them or are found not having the basic skills of operating them in some cases. The scene is the opposite in the lower ranks where work suffers due to the traditional methods of record keeping and noting through paper files that also spawn excess bureaucracy. Therefore, there is the pressing need for much pushing ahead with fast computerisation of government offices. The ones that have gone through such a transformation, even in a limited way, have already improved considerably. The others need to follow in the path and for this purpose budgetary and other forms of supports will be needed.

Data entry is only a small part of the highly prospective fields of exports in ICT products. Substantially greater gains can be made by a country like Bangladesh from making and exporting softwares. But this also calls for some appropriate internal developments to attain capacity and reliability as a software producing country. It is necessary, as a precondition, to develop a pool of capable software makers in the country. This task can be accomplished relatively easily and quickly by increasing the demand for software products in the home economy. Thus, the government should encourage widespread use of software locally, both to get the benefit of ICT for the domestic economy and to help the process of adding to the pool of skilled software producers.

Software production is also crucially linked to the quality of ICT education. The scope for receiving such education at public institutions will have to be increased manifold and the quality of that education also must be upgraded. As a long term strategy, the government should formulate and implement a pragmatic, dynamic nation-wide education policy. That will facilitate human resources development in IT through establishment of an ICT village at the earliest and the assistance of the non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) for development of the sector, particularly by giving them incentives to set up software companies in Bangladesh.

From Financial Express.bd, Bangladesh - July 8, 2005

 

Europe's Governments to Up Spending on IT

A report says Europe's central governments will up spending on new e-government initiatives this year, but warned the IT industry to keep enthusiasm under control. IDC said in a new survey that Western European central governments will spend 22 percent more on new e-government projects this year, with almost a quarter of individuals surveyed predicting a rise in the number of new initiatives. About 10 percent of central government respondents said that maintenance and e-government-related service spending would also grow.

Demand for outsourced services is also expected to rise, with some 28 percent of central government and 18 percent of local government executives indicating that the share of IT that they source from external providers will grow in 2005. Interestingly, the report also said that local government executives are more upbeat about the possibility of increased expenditure. However, the report went on to say that many government IT executives are more cautious now "compared to the first years of the e-government hype." "IT vendors that want to capture a share of this IS (Information Systems) budget need to promote offerings that target the needs of the fastest growing segments and build partner ecosystems that put them in the right channel," said Massimiliano Claps, program manager, public sector, IDC European vertical markets. Vendors looking to win business should focus on delivering low cost of ownership and high technical skills, which are the main criteria of e-government executives, IDC said.

Finally, the report claimed that system integrators will play a big role in the future of Western European governments' IT spending. Over one-third of respondents to the survey indicated that system integrators and consultants will be the primary source of IT for governments. Moreover, these executives said that they will buy about 30 percent of their software from system integrators as well. Earlier this year, IDC predicted that Europe will spend USD4.2 billion each year on e-government projects until 2008.

From ElectricNews.net, Ireland, by Matthew Clark - July 7, 2005

Launch of e-Government National Awards 2005

The e-Government National Awards 2005 are launched today, inviting nominations to be made, and will highlight the best services improving citizens and business transaction with councils, central government departments and other public sector organisations. The e-Government National Awards 2005 are supported by the Cabinet Office e-Government Unit, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Society of Information Technology Management. The Awards are organised by e-Government news service PublicTechnology.net, the Awards' platinum sponsor is KPMG and also a sponsor is Jobsgopublic.

The mission of good e-Government is to ensure that IT supports the business transformation of Government so that we can provide better, more efficient, public services. e-Government is a key tool in modernisation for central departments and local councils - and will impact on the lives of all UK citizens. These Awards highlight good practice which the whole public sector can identify with and learn from, thereby adding value to their own services and strategies. Cabinet Office Minister Jim Murphy and Ian Watmore, Government CIO and Head of e-Government will both be involved in the awards, which will be presented 25th January 2006 at the Savoy Hotel in London.

Murphy says: "e-Government is one of the most important ways the Government can deliver public services reform. We are committed to developing Government IT systems and services that make real and tangible improvements to the lives of British people and businesses. The e-Government National Awards are our way to recognise the best attempts to deliver on this commitment."

Watmore says: "The Cabinet Office e-Government Unit is proud to support the e-Government National Awards 2005 ". "For many government organisations, technology has fundamentally changed their relationship with citizens and businesses. Beyond simple putting services online this is the future of technology in Government – using IT to enable a wider transformation of the way Government works." "As the Head of the Government IT Profession I want to promote a greater sense of community amongst us all – we can begin building that if we start to share in each other successes and more importantly share knowledge and information. There are many innovative services being provided across the public sector which very often don't get the publicity and reward that they deserve. I hope that these awards can play a part in addressing that and I encourage your participation," says Watmore.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is urging senior figures at Local Authorities to make nominations for the e-Government National Awards 2005, in order to highlight their best practice in: 1) Efficiency - using electronic service delivery to improve the citizen experience of liaising with local government. 2) Take-up - delivering a high take up of an e-enabled service through effective service delivery and marketing.
3) Leadership - electronic joined up public services providing strong local solutions for local circumstances.

Christopher Histed, founder of the e-Government National Awards and CEO of PublicTechnology.net says: "The e-Government National Awards are the UK's highest level commendation for the best e-Government services, ones which through innovative online delivery or IT implementation have positively improved the lives of individuals, local communities, business and stakeholder groups." PublicTechnology.net is the leading online news service for those in the e-Government & public sector IT profession. "We expect the Awards to be a yardstick for UK excellence in innovative government services, including those enabling local communities to transact with their councils, national online government services for citizens or businesses, specific services for vertical industry sectors, and government services delivered online through intermediaries and the voluntary sector," says Histed.

Nominations are invited, online, from those involved in e-Government services, public sector IT, Councils, central government departments, the voluntary sector and other public bodies: To make a nomination go to: www.e-governmentawards.org.uk. Entry to the Awards is free. The closing date for the e-Government National Awards 2005 will be at the second week of October 2005.

From Online Recruitment, UK - July 19, 2005

 

UNESCO and UWIDEC Launch Online Course on Local e-Governance in the Caribbean

UNESCO and the University of the West Indies Distance Education Centre (UWIDEC) have launched an online course on local e-governance in the Caribbean. Stewart Marshall, the Programme Coordinator and Director of UWIDEC, said "Local governments, non-governmental organizations and communities must utilise the ICT if they are to be sustainable in the information economy". Alton Grizzle, the UNESCO officer responsible for facilitating the development of the course for the Caribbean, added that "using ICT in local governance can improve local management and administration, and also lead to greater participation and transparency in local government". Richard Escalante, the member of staff of IIR responsible for rewriting the course, explained that "the course on Local e-Governance in the Caribbean is designed to improve the knowledge, skills and capabilities of people in governmental and non-governmental agencies and organizations in the Caribbean in the use of ICT in governance and government. The course is based on a similar one originally written and successfully delivered for UNESCO by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) in Spain".

The course on local e-governance in the Caribbean does not assume any formal tertiary or higher education qualification, but it does assume that participants will have relevant post-secondary experience and training. The pilot version of the course runs for ten (10) weeks from September 19 to November 25, 2005. Full scholarships are available for this first offering, but it is anticipated that there will be considerable competition for places, so it is advisable to apply early, well before the applications closure date of July 22, 2005.

From ONU (Communiques de presse), NY - July 3, 2005

International Symposium on Local E-Democracy Will Take Place July 26-27, 2005 in Minneapolis, USA

Minneapolis, MN - The world's first global conference on local democracy in the information age, the International Symposium on Local E-Democracy, is happening on July 26-27, 2005 in Minneapolis, Minn., USA. Sponsored by the United Kingdom's Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the UK Local e-Democracy National Project, the symposium will explore leading e-democracy trends around the world the first day followed with field visits to area government and community e-democracy projects the next.

With over 25 speakers and attendees registered from around the world, the conference will cover a broad swatch of issues and perspectives relevant to all levels of governance with an emphasis on local communities, such as informed elections, e-government and democracy, and citizens online. Steven Clift, with Democracies Online and Conference Co-Chair states, "This is a unique opportunity for e-democracy and e-government leaders and practitioners to meet in person and share advice. These leaders are helping define democracy and citizen engagement in the information age." Field trip plans include visits to the "wired" chambers of the Minnesota State Legislature and community blogging efforts in the rural college town of Northfield, Minnesota. See e-democracy in action. Along the way, short presentations will bring E-Democracy.Org's Issues Forums to life as we travel through the "real" world.

The registration deadline is July 15. The fee for the conference is $125 US (~70 GBP, 102 Euros). The enrolled student rate is $75 US. Fees include symposium participation and optional field visits. A pre-conference event the evening on July 25 at a St. Paul Saints minor league baseball game is also in the works. A live conference audiocast with real-time listener chat and a post-conference video webcast is planned.

For more information visit: http://dowire.org/localedem. Media queries: Call Steven Clift +1 612 822 8667 or http://publicus.net/contact.html. Details on the 4.3 million GPB UK Local e-Democracy National Project are available at: http://www.e-democracy.gov.uk
Global case studies on e-democracy are also available: http://dowire.org/wiki/UK_highlights.

From PR Web (press release), WA - July 7, 2005

OMB Asks Lawmakers to Loosen Up on E-gov Funding

The administration once again is making its case to appropriators about why e-government is important to modernizing federal agencies. In identical letters to the House and Senate Appropriations committees chairmen, Clay Johnson, Office of Management and Budget deputy director for management, asked lawmakers to limit or remove any language that hampers agencies' abilities to spend money on cross-departmental projects. "[C]ertain provisions in various appropriations measures limit agencies' ability to contribute funding to the administration's e-government initiatives, which reduce duplication in IT investments, thereby saving taxpayer dollars, and improving service," Johnson wrote to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.). "I respectfully request your support for constraining the inclusion of riders that restrict the President's Management Agenda and the opportunities we have to manage Americans' tax dollars better." OMB and Sen. Cochran's office would not comment on the letter, a copy of which was obtained by GCN.

Johnson's plea comes after the House placed language in every agency appropriations bill that would restrict agencies' ability to reprogram funds for interagency projects. The Senate has not followed suit in its version of the appropriations bills, with the exception of provisions in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration section of the Commerce, Justice and State bill and a specific provision targeting two e-government projects in the Interior bill.

Johnson also asked lawmakers to withhold language that would harm the administration's initiative to compete commercial federal jobs with the private sector under OMB Circular A-76. Over the past few years, White House officials threatened to recommend Bush veto bills that included language that would shut down or severely limit competitive sourcing. The administration has had little luck in getting e-government funding restored, but has convinced legislators to remove anti-competitive-sourcing language.

From GCN.com, by Jason Miller - July 12, 2005

 

Tapping into E-government Initiatives

Singapore has secured a strategic partnership with Kuwait to assist the country in developing e-government strategies and formulate a technology master plan for its public sector agencies. While the parties concerned are not in a position to disclose the details of the agreement, Singapore says it is providing consultation support on e-government initiatives. Jordan is another country that worked with Singapore during the launch of its e-government initiatives. In 2004, the two nations used the World Economic Forum as the platform to sign the Singapore-Jordan Free Trade Agreement (SJFTA) and the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). The SJFTA is Singapore's first government-level agreement with a Middle Eastern nation and Jordan's first such initiative in Asia. The agreement aims to provide a platform for economic negotiations and partnerships between Singapore and Jordan.

The partnership covers a broad range of economic activities and it forms part of a broader framework on closer economic ties between the two nations. It also includes a technical support agreement that was signed in October 2003. "Singapore is keen to share ideas and work on e-government projects in the Middle East. As part of the year-long technical support agreement, the two countries have exchanged know-how on the planning and delivery of e-government systems," says Samantha Fok, deputy director, enterprise development industry group at Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA).

"In the IT realm, Singapore is renowned for its speed of adoption and robust technology infrastructures, fueled by the combination of close public and private sector co-operation. Many Singaporean ICT companies have demonstrated their expertise in vertical sectors like e-government, healthcare, logistics and financial services both locally and across other Asian countries. Through our talks with government officials from the Middle East, such expertise coincides with their vision of narrowing the digital divide and goals to develop vibrant business communities beyond traditional oil exports," Fok adds. Kuwait and Jordan are not the only regional countries the Asian IT hub wants to work with. Global research firm IDC claims the MENA region is now the third fastest-growing IT hotbed in the world, behind only China and India. It also forecasts the region's technology market to grow from US$6.9 billion in 2003 to US$13.4 billion by 2008 and Singapore is keen to secure a piece of the burgeoning market.

Singapore's senior minister Goh Chok Tong, who recently visited the Middle East, says the region has a significant business potential for his country's ICT companies in their bid to expand beyond local shores. "As proven in more developed countries, technology can undoubtedly serve as a key enabler for governments and businesses to achieve greater operational efficiencies. Evidenced by optimistic projections for IT spending in the next five years, the Middle East is no exception," he adds.

The Middle East and Singapore share many similarities in their goals and plans to improve access to ICT, bridging the digital divide and empowering local communities to use ICT for their own development, according to Fok. "Through such shared vision, we see strong commonalities to work together, to establish collaborative links and develop global alliances. More importantly, we are committed to incorporating ICT into the government sector, as well as businesses because we believe this will help to spur socio-economic development and will build a competitive edge for the countries," she enthuses. CrimsonLogic, which has been working with regional enterprises for the past five years, says it is currently involved in e-government projects in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Iran. "We are also actively exploring other nationwide projects relating to the judiciary, trade processing, e-government initiatives and security in Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Syria and the UAE," says V. Mathivanan, CEO of CrimsonLogic.

From ITP.net, United Arab Emirates, by Angela Prasad - 18 July 2005

E-governance Toolkit Available for Developing Countries

A toolkit to help policy makers and senior executives in developing countries on how and when to start successfully e-government projects was recently published by UNESCO and India's National Informatics Centre (NIC) as a contribution to promote transparency in public administrations and democratic processes. The toolkit, that is available on CD-ROM, aims to demystify the concepts behind e-government and strengthen the understanding of all those involved in the planning and execution of e-government projects. The toolkit offers an action framework involving all stakeholders in developing countries including parliamentarians, government executives, institutions as well as non governmental organizations and guide them through various phases in their e-government initiatives.

In addition to a conceptual overview, the toolkit includes chapters on e-readiness , the preparation of an e-government action plan, advice on how to build human capacity, develop infrastructure and build partnerships and discusses the issue of legislation and regulatory frameworks. Recommendations on the creation of a national portal a single entry point for e-government elements are also included. Finally the toolkit includes guidance on how to develop performance indicators for e-government plan and to assess the usability of government portals / websites.

The toolkit includes a number of case studies which exemplify successful e-government initiatives, the challenges faced and the way they were addressed. The toolkit comes as one of the contributions to the implementation of the Plan of Action adopted at the World Summit on the Information Society (Geneva, Switzerland, December 2005) that calls for implementing government strategies focusing on applications aimed at innovating and promoting transparency in public administrations and democratic processes, improving efficiency and strengthening relations with citizens. One of the actions proposed is to develop national e-government initiatives and services, at all levels, adapted to the needs of citizens and business, to achieve a more efficient allocation of resources and public goods.

From digital opportunity channel, India - July 24, 2005

 
 

Caught Between Paradox of Policy, BEE

Parastatals often fall foul of legislation governing the management of finances when trying to comply with the requirements of government's black empowerment policy, says minerals and energy department director general Sandile Nogxina.He says that state-owned enterprises experience competing demands between different government policies. Whereas the Public Finance Management Act requires that procurement be based on price, expertise and track record of a bidding company, empowerment policy often overrides all these demands because black people were excluded from the economy under apartheid and not able to compete on this basis.

The Public Finance Management Act, promulgated in 1999, lays down strict financial management rules for national and provincial departments, state-owned enterprises and other government entities. Accounting officers can be held personally liable for negligent financial management and for wasteful expenditure or other losses. The act provides for heavy penalties, including fines and imprisonment of up to five years. Nogxina says that state-owned enterprises experience competing demands between different government policies and laws, especially with regard to procurement. "The question is how to synchronise empowerment with these other rules, some of which were crafted before the adoption of the empowerment framework and policy." "The national treasury and public enterprises departments, as well as the Development Bank of Southern Africa, are devising rules to guide state-owned enterprises given the current paradox," says Nogxina.

Public enterprises is also working on a protocol for corporate governance and a procurement framework for state-owned enterprises to address conflicts in mandates. Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin has said that mechanisms were being sought to "address the overlapping roles and responsibilities (between government and parastatals) and the provision of conflicting mandates for state owned enterprises". The protocols and new rules are likely to be incorporated into planned state-owned enterprises' "compacts" with government, under which parastatals will bind themselves to implementing government policy. State-owned enterprises such as Eskom, Denel and Transnet will be held more tightly accountable and compliant with government policies in terms of the shareholder compacts, expected to be released by Erwin in September or October.

Nogxina's comments come in the wake of the Oilgate saga which involves state-owned liquid-fuels producer PetroSA entering a R15m contract with black empowerment company Imvume Investments to supply oil condensate. Imvume donated R11m to the ruling African National Congress and PetroSA had to pay Glencore, another R15m to secure the condensate. Nogxina says that it is unlikely that PetroSA will use Imvume's services again. Apart from this, general compliance by state-owned enterprises regarding the act is good, as is clear from the findings of the auditor-general. "Where the act's corporate governance rules are infringed, the department is very quick to act," Nogxina says. This has been the case with the dismissal of the board of directors of the Central Energy Fund.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by linda Ensor of Business Day, Johannesburg - July 11, 2005

EU Welcomes Kenya Procurement Law, Seeks More Reforms

Nairobi - The European Union welcomed on Monday Kenya's move to introduce a new procurement law to fight corruption, but said without improvements in the management of the budget process it would not disburse a delayed loan. The EU and other donors such as the International Monetary Fund have demanded the passage of the Public Procurement and Disposal Bill 2005 to curb corruption in procurement of goods and services in government departments.

The bill is expected to be passed this week after legislators discuss amendments, before being forwarded to President Mwai Kibaki for his approval. "It (the bill) has technically passed, it has gone through the second reading and is now awaiting amendments," Kenneth Mwangi, director of public procurement at the finance ministry, told Reuters. He said the critical amendments to be introduced in the law are those that favour small Kenyan companies when in competition with more established foreign firms for a tender. Public procurement has been one of the biggest avenues of graft in Kenya with senior government officials and politicians setting up their own firms or supporting cronies to win tenders at hugely inflated prices while receiving kickbacks in return.

Mwangi said the new law aims to streamline procurement procedures through a new Public Procurement Oversight Authority and would introduce stiff penalties for offenders. Under the new legislation, officials, including ministers who are suspected of any wrongdoing, will be suspended pending investigations as opposed to the current practice where officials remain in their jobs as investigations are held. "It will really fight procurement-related corruption. The public will get value for money," he said. The government is keenly waiting for the passage of the bill to unlock 125 million euros in budgetary support from the EU withheld from 2004, because of the country's failure to fight graft. "It is positive news because it will improve the government's procurement system," Guy Jenkinson, EU's economic advisor in Nairobi told Reuters. "It is not the only thing remaining (for release of budgetary support), but it is the most significant."

Jenkinson said another condition for the EU was Kenya's adherence to guidelines on Public Expenditure Management - or how the government formulates its budget to target anti-poverty efforts, implements and reports on it to the public and donors. At the moment Kenya has met only four out of 14 globally accepted benchmarks on public financial management and Jenkinson said the EU wants Kenya to meet at least six benchmarks as a condition for disbursement of the budgetary support. "What we want is improvement on fiscal transparency so that the use of government own money and also our money is efficient to help fight poverty," he said. The EU would also watch whether parliament will pass a privatisation bill demanded by donors like the World Bank, he added.

From Reuters South Africa, South Africa, by David Mageria - July 18, 2005

 

Tax Reforms Will Solve Budget Deficit Problem, Lin Says

The only solution to the government's budget deficit is to reform the tax structure, Minister of Finance Lin Chuan (??) said at a forum held at Academia Sinica yesterday. The tax reform plan will cover the establishment of a minimum-tax scheme and a "green tax," as well as making adjustments to other forms of taxation such as income tax, business tax and inheritance tax. The two main issues concerning the proposed tax structure are equity and economic growth, Lin said. The goal of taxation is to evenly redistribute wealth among the public, Lin said.

The government has been operating on a budget deficit since 1991, with the figure amounting to NT$337.3 billion (US$10.5 billion) this year, according to the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS). The exception was in 1998, when the government saw a surplus after the release of state-owned stocks into the market, which created revenue accounting for 23.8 percent of that year's GDP, while expenditures amounted to 23 percent, Lin said. So far, the government's debt has reached a total of NT$3.99 trillion, DGBAS said. Increasing tax rates to solve the deficit problem is no longer enough; the fundamental solution is to overhaul the current taxation structure, Lin said.

The budget deficit is the result of the government creating too many business incentive plans and tax premiums for certain industries, as well as loopholes in tax laws, according to Chen Tin-an (???), director of the private Chunghua Public Finance Association (??????), who also attended the forum yesterday. A new tax structure is needed to support the country's future development, Chen said. The minimum-tax scheme is a transitional plan aimed at promoting sustainable tax redistribution among the public, said Ho Chih-chin (???), dean of the economics department at National Taiwan University. The influence of changes in income-tax rates on the nation's tax revenue is small, while a value-added tax would have a more significant effect, Lin said. In regard to the conception that inheritance tax is "stealing from the poor to aid the rich," Lin said that some of the policies are too loose, and they should be tightened.

From Taipei Times, Taiwan, by Rudy Chen - July 5, 2005

1 Million Poor Workers to Get Goverment Subsidies

As many as 1 million of Korea's working, low-income individuals are expected to receive government subsidies in the form of an income tax aid package in 2008. The Ministry of Finance and Economy (MOFE) is considering the adoption of the earned income tax credit (EITC), a refundable tax credit for low-income workers outside the social safety net.

The EITC scheme is designed to offset the payroll and income tax burdens of the working poor through tax benefits and to motivate them to keep working by providing an incentive to work. Under the scheme, low-wage workers exempted from income taxes will get a certain amount of the refundable tax credit from the government. For those having to pay income taxes, when the tax credit exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who claim and qualify for the credit. For example, if a salaried worker pays 200,000 won ($192) in income taxes a year, and is entitled to a tax credit of 1 million won, the worker will be able to receive the difference, or 800,000 won, in tax refunds from the government under the new tax benefit system. The EITC is received as a refund from the government and the amount of the EITC will vary according to a family's earnings and the number of children. The government's consideration of the EITC in 2008 is based on the results of a joint study by the Korea Institute of Public Finance (KIPF) and Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs of the effectiveness of the new system in the country.

According to a report based on the joint study, it will take at least two years to introduce the EITC to wage earners because the new scheme needs an upgraded taxation infrastructure to accurately assess real income of households and individuals. Therefore, the government is expected to adopt the EITC from 2008, under which wage earners having children and earning less than around 150 percent of the monthly minimum living cost set at 1.13 million won will take advantage of the financial aid system. It is estimated that if the government applies the system to those earning less than 150 percent of the minimum living cost, as many as 1 million Korean wage-earning households will be able to benefit from the new system.

The report suggests that the government expand the EITC to small independent business owners whose incomes are difficult to be assessed around three years after the system is firstly introduced to wage earners. "To introduce the EITC, it is essential to upgrade a taxation infrastructure to accurately assess real income of individuals and households," KIPF official Kim Jae-jin said. "Given the current system, it is impossible to apply the EITC to all households at the same time,'' he added. ``Since it is difficult to assess the earnings of those with low incomes under the current system, it is desirable to implement the system step by step." The report pointed out that currently, the tax authority has the income records of only 74 percent of wage earners' income and 29-49 percent of small independent business owners. The introduction of the EITC is the main part of the MOFE's long-term tax reform plan pursuing an income-based equable taxation system, which was introduced in March. The EITC was first implemented in the United States in 1975, and many advanced nations, including Britain, Australia and New Zealand, have adopted the system for the working poor since then.

From Korea Times, South Korea, by Kim Jae-kyoung - July 12, 2005

 

Radical Overhaul of Tax System

The pending income tax reform currently being drafted by the Ministry of Finance reflects the government's intention to begin a radical overhaul of the country's taxation system. The conservative prime minister feels that the changes in the labor market, work hours and aspects of the social security system are very important but nevertheless still fall short of ensuring a high growth rate for Greece's economy. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis believes that reforming the tax system — currently full of loopholes that allow tax evasion — will constitute a tonic for overall growth. The government is mulling introducing a single 25 percent income tax rate, but that decision has not been finalized yet. Therefore, it would be premature to limit the analysis to that specific measure. Nevertheless, it is certain that any reform of the income tax system will require the government to strike a balance between the tax system's incompatible goals, namely boosting growth while also redistributing wealth.

The dilemma concerns all tax sectors and is bound to spark debate within the government and among the public. That said, all sides must go beyond theoretical concerns and drill to the bone of tax system needs. For, unfortunately, in practice, high tax rates have failed to ensure the fair redistribution of wealth. In truth, they have encouraged tax evasion and acted as a counter-incentive to labor. Moreover, taxpayers often find the current system complex and incomprehensible, as well as it being costly to monitor. Its cost is too high, its redistributive effect is insufficient, and its contribution to economic growth is minimal. The tax reform plan currently being drafted by Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis aims to remedy these deficiencies. For the plan to succeed, conservative policymakers will have to be cautious and imaginative. There are many examples where the reduction in tax rates led to higher revenues as the drop curbed tax-evasion and increased taxable economic activities. Greece has to tread a similar path. We must finally realize that the country needs a system that will encourage labor, productivity and investment; a system that will seek to multiply sources of revenue by increasing the number of transactions and not by imposing cash-oriented measures that end up harming those who cannot disguise their activities.

From Kathimerini, Greece - July 11, 2005

Has Economic Reform Gone Too Far, Too Fast?

Slovakia - In a recent television debate between Czech Prime Minister Jirí Paroubek of the Social Democrats and Mirek Topolanek, the leader of the opposition Civic Democrats, Slovakia was cited as an example 22 times. For the former, the so-called Slovak tiger serves as a cautionary tale; for the latter, it's an economic model. So what is life like in a country that has embarked on reforms in many critical areas of life, reforms that seemingly await the Czech Republic in the not-too-distant future?

Czech society is in a state of apprehension, knowing it cannot avoid fundamental reforms forever and yet aware that they will hurt. That is why we watch our eastern neighbor with such interest. It has now been two years since Slovakia began its struggle to curb unemployment and health-care costs. The European Union and the World Bank both praise the government of Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda. The Slovak finance minister, Ivan Miklos, was named "Finance Minister of 2004" by the U.K.-based Euromoney magazine, which cited his tax reforms, including the introduction of a flat corporate and income tax, as successes. While the Czech Cabinet recently approved more money for the ailing health sector, Slovakia's health-care reforms have halved its recent Sk 9 billion, (Kc 7 billion/Euro 232 million) public-health debt. With the Czech political right eyeing power - the ODS currently leads opinion polls and a general election is slated for next year - it increasingly looks to Slovakia for inspiration. In early May, Topolanek organized a conference on the theme of flat taxes - and one of the lecturers was the Slovak finance minister. The head of the reform team in the health ministry in Bratislava, Petr Pazitny, is advising the ODS on its health-reform program, Blue Chance.

When it embarked on its reforms, Slovakia was in a unique situation. Years of poor governance under former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar led to a coalescing of opposition forces. Most had had enough of state coercion, corruption, intimidation and the country's increasing international isolation. A center-right coalition led by Dzurinda formed a government following a 1998 general election. The government enjoyed 60 percent approval ratings, a level not seen since the first post-independence Meciar government. Today, after two years of reforms, only one-third of the population says it trusts the government, according to polls. Its supporters praise it chiefly for successful EU accession and its foreign policy. In contrast, a poll by the Institute for Public Affairs shows that two-thirds view the government's economic and social reforms negatively.

"I sided with the reforms and with this government for a very long time," says the editor in chief of the largest Slovak daily, Sme, Martin Šimecka. Since the introduction of the new 19 percent flat income tax, Simecka's net monthly salary is some Sk 5,000 higher. Even so, his initial enthusiasm has evaporated. "I acknowledge that, without the reforms, we would long since have been up the creek. But I also see the price that we are paying for them. It seems too high." The hopes that united people against Meciar and behind the new government have been replaced by apathy, disillusionment and frustration. The reforms have produced the greatest societal changes since Slovakia gained independence in 1993. The reforms truly affect everyone, but not all are benefiting. "Entrepreneurs and richer people are making money from them. The lower strata of society, however, are paying for them,"Simecka says. "They were imposed too harshly and insensitively."

Youth exodus - "Thanks to the flat tax, my family and I are better off. I estimate that my [net monthly] salary has risen by Sk 8,000," says Jaroslav Gocaltovský, the mayor of Revuca, a small town of 14,000 people where Gocaltovský has served three terms. But he hastens to add: "One-tenth of the population is truly rich. Another 20 percent are, like myself, earning decent money. One-third has no problem. But [the rest] now live in poverty." It is busy at Revuca's unemployment office. The head of the office, Ondrej Kvetko, is one of the few people here who is unequivocally happy both with the current government and its reforms. "I think that they're good, that they are heading us in the right direction," he says. The flat tax has raised his net income by about Sk 3,250 a month. His office has 6,700 people listed on its books as unemployed, exactly one-third of the district's labor force. The number considered to be in material need - those who are eligible for social benefits on top of their unemployment benefits - is 3,500, close to half. This group consists mainly of Roma, whose living standards have fallen drastically since the reforms.

"Social policy used to be based on mass handouts … the system motivated no one to find work: a family with children lived better on benefits than if one member of the family had a job with average pay. That isn't the case anymore; any form of activity is better than being on benefits," Kvetko says. At the same time, he sees the downside of the reforms. "That isn't, however, the case in our district, which has an unemployment rate of 28 percent. There really isn't any work here." The workforce of the largest company in the region, Slovenske magnezitove zavody (Slovak Magnesite Works) in Jelsava, has shrunk by two-thirds since the early 1990s. New investors are not rushing to this poor region. Revuca is, then, a prime example of what many in central and eastern Slovakia say: the reforms are good mostly for those in Bratislava, the wealthy capital. The combined pressure of the social reforms and minimal opportunities has given rise to an unwelcome trend: people are leaving en masse to find work in the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany and Britain.

Which way to market? While a recent increase in Slovak value-added tax (VAT) means that the cost of basic foodstuffs in Slovakia is now comparable to the Czech Republic, the average Slovak earns one-third less than the average Czech. Unemployment is twice the rate of the Czech Republic's. Within Slovakia the dichotomy deepens: life in the Bratislava region - in terms of pay and job opportunities - is completely different than life in central and eastern Slovakia. The situation in the regions is exacerbated by the sizable - 30,000-strong - Roma community, whose chances of making a living for themselves are much diminished.

Last year, the Slovak government's chief initiative was to launch its tax reform. In essence, its first goal was to shift the tax burden away from direct taxes (on income) to indirect taxes (on consumption). Secondly, it exchanged a progressive income tax ranging from 12 to 38 percent to a flat 19 percent corporate and income tax. According to Finance Minister Miklos, the reform's chief contributions are that those who benefit most are those who earn the most and those who earn the least (roughly Sk 7,250 per month in income is tax-free). The tax system is simpler, and tax remittance has increased. And, importantly, foreign investors are showing more interest in Slovakia as a result of the flat tax.

The reforms' basic maxim - that net income from employment should outweigh social assistance benefits - sounds ideal. But people without an education and without any prospect of finding work were driven into poverty by the changes. The income of a four-member family consigned to living off state support of approximately Sk 9,000-11,000 a month was reduced by half. And people find it difficult to secure work in districts where every third person is without a job. Moreover, despite the tax reforms, unemployment has not fallen. Indeed, at 18.1 percent, the national jobless rate is now one percentage point higher than before the reforms' introduction. The most common billboard along Slovakia's roads and city streets these days promises a "carefree old age": pension reform. Since January, Slovaks can send half of their mandatory 18 percent deductions for pensions to private pension companies. The level of public interest is surprisingly high: 850,000 people have taken this option and five of eight companies now have the 50,000 or more policy holders that they need to operate.

"The reforms are for the elite, not for us," a worker says, casually, as he exits the gates of the Jelsava factory. A whole shift of workers is, like him, clocking out. They certainly aren't a communicative bunch, either waving their hands without a word or snapping: "I won't talk to you about work nor pay." Perhaps they have good reason to keep quiet since security guards immediately appear. "No interviews or cameras here," they tell us. Only one says how the flat tax has affected him: "I used to [take home] Sk 15,000; now I get Sk 12,000."

Idol of reform - While the Czech and international media are praising the Slovak changes, the domestic press is increasingly critical. And the criticism is far from being restricted to the left-of-center Pravda newspaper. Stories of people who are worse off than before (mainly Roma, the handicapped, pensioners and low-income earners) also feature in Simecka's Sme, a right-of-center paper.

"The only thing that matters now is money. The guarantor of the reforms is Finance Minister Miklos, but he sees the world too much through economic indicators," Simecka says. "At our paper, we too have a lot of young fellows - economists - who only notice GDP (gross domestic product), the budget deficit, and how real wages have risen. But where's the life in all of that? Reform should only be a way of ensuring that people live better. But in Slovakia, it's become a false idol. I sometimes have the feeling that the politicians are pushing through these reforms not so much for the people, but for themselves, for their reputations in the world." Nevertheless, he says, "When I criticize the reforms, I'm not criticizing their essence - theoretically, they are OK - but they shouldn't be imposed so toughly. But there's no danger of that happening with you lot (Czechs)," he says. "Your starting position is much better. But be careful about one thing: Reform, but don't go crazy about it. We have gone crazy."

From Czech Business Weekly, Czech Republic - July 18, 2005

Minister Unveils Draft Budget; Education Tops Expenditures

Slovakia's public finance deficit should reach 2.9 percent of GDP next year, according to a draft state budget presented yesterday by Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš. The draft budget covers the period between 2006 and 2008. Planned expenditures are estimated at Sk327.2 billion. Income is predicted to reach Sk265.6 billion. The draft state budget would direct most of its money to education, health care, transportation and the social sector, the Hospodarske noviny daily reported. Retirement pensions should increase by 4.5 percent in 2006, while real wages should lift by 3.9 percent. Household consumption should increase by 4.5 percent.

How the government will spend its reserve, totaling Sk5.4 billion, is open for discussion. The Finance Ministry proposed that Sk600 million be used to fill the gap between elementary and secondary school teacher wages and the national average. The ministry estimates that in 2006, the national monthly income average will be Sk18,300. The ministry also wants Sk400 million put toward science, research and innovation as part of the so-called Minerva programme. It wants Sk200 million put toward a cultural sights renewal programme as well. Heated discussions over the draft budget are expected, especially over the distribution of the remaining Sk4.2 billion of the cabinet's reserve.

From Slovak Spectator (subscription), Slovakia - July, 28 2005

Siniscalco: Good Reduction of Public Spending

Rome - Finance Minister Domenico Siniscalco defended the importance of his financial and economic programme document (Dpef) speaking today in the lower house. He replied to those who criticised its vagueness that the goal of "these tables is providing the basis for a reliable financial law". Moreover, this document is designed to respond to the EU recommendations with regard to the general objectives.

However, the most important objective for the minister is the reduction of public spending, which has partially been achieved: indeed "primary spending dropped from 43.9pct to 43.4pct, while current spending dropped from 39.4pct to 39.3pct. That might seem a limited result and I'm not completely satisfied with it. However, we can't say that the 2pct ceiling for public spending has not proved useful, if we take into account that social spending is not included in this threshold value". "Of course, economy is not at its best, but we are approaching next year with record-low unemployment and inflation rates. This document is not starting from scratch but is an important sign of continuity with what has already been done in the fields of reforms and public spending control".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy - Julu 28, 2005

 

Inter-American Development Bank Approves $50 Million Soft Loan to Haiti for Urban Rehabilitation

A $50 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank will finance an urban rehabilitation program to help improve living standards and access to government services in Haiti's nine departmental capitals and in the Port-au-Prince commune of Carrefour. The program will build administrative and service civic centers in all the participating urban areas to house different government offices under a single roof. In densely populated Carrefour it will also improve access to water and social services, trash collection and public markets, as well as ease traffic congestion and create public parks. "The program's components address pressing priorities for urban areas in Haiti, such as rehabilitating public infrastructure, promoting economic activity and delivering essential services," said IDB project team leader Martha Preece. "The main goal is to start what will be a long process of recovery from decades of neglect. In addition, it will strengthen the presence of the state in cities across the country." While no single operation will solve Haiti's plight, Preece added, the new program is part of a broad strategy supported by the international community to help Haitians revive their economy, revamp their public sector and restore and improve social services.

The urban rehabilitation program will specifically complement other recently approved IDB loans as well as ongoing projects involving transportation infrastructure, job training, local development and economic governance. The new program draws from lessons learned from IDB-financed urban renewal projects in several Latin American countries. During the design phase it also benefited from technical advice provided by a Canadian consulting firm with extensive experience in urban planning in Haiti. Commune of Carrefour - With a population that has tripled to 600,000 in the past two decades along a short stretch of the RN-2 national highway, Carrefour links the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince with the Grand' Anse, South and Southeast departments. In this traffic-choked urban commune without cross streets or public parks the program will finance various projects aimed at improving the quality of life of its inhabitants, using a combination of strategic investments in infrastructure and services.

Four public markets will be built to replace some of Carrefour's rundown retail facilities, which are plagued by overcrowding, insufficient maintenance, the accumulation of waste and the lack of running water and restrooms. The new markets will be managed by their occupants and supervised by the commune. Five public water sources fed by artesian wells will be installed at strategic points in or near the four public markets. The sources, which will include public toilets and clothes washing facilities, will be operated by user associations, a system that has proven to work in Haiti. Trash collection will be reorganized by placing large dumpsters in areas that generate great amounts of solid waste and small bins along the main roads. The metropolitan trash collection service will be reinforced with extra trucks.

A new complex in central Carrefour will house the offices of a dozen government agencies and public enterprises that are currently in leased buildings widely separated throughout the area. The center, which will be equipped with generators and water tanks and wired for information and communication systems, will have additional services such as bank branches and restaurants. Three cultural and recreational centers will be built and equipped near the public markets, providing residents access to libraries, video collections and multipurpose rooms. Five public parks will be opened on vacant land on the seaside and other smaller lots to create green areas and sports playing fields.

The program will also finance the construction of a shelter for girls and teenagers, targeting those doing unpaid housework, street children and sexually exploited minors, who will receive health care services including education and treatment for HIV/AIDS and venereal diseases. Carrefour's collector roads will be improved in order to ease traffic congestion and provide greater access for trash collection trucks and public transportation.

Departmental Capitals - The program will also finance the construction and equipment of administrative and service centers in Cap Haitien (North), Cayes (South), Fort-de-Liberte (Northeast), Gonaives (Artibonite), Hinche (Central Plateau), Jacmel (Southeast), Jeremie (La Grand' Anse), Miragoane (Nippes) and Port-de-Paix (Northwest). Cultural and community services will also be provided at the centers, including public libraries and youth activities and games. The buildings will be equipped with electricity generators, water tanks and wells. These investments are expected to improve the access to administrative and social services for the growing population of Haiti's departmental capital cities as well as to save money currently spent on renting office space.

Program Execution - The program will be carried out by a technical executing unit within the Office of the Prime Minister, which will coordinate the efforts of the government agencies, public sector enterprises and institutions that will be involved in the various components. In order to ensure quality and continuity through the program's completion, a project management firm will be hired to support the technical execution unit. Resources will be earmarked to cover operation and maintenance costs of the common areas of administrative and cultural centers, the shelter for girls and the recreational facilities during the first two years of operations. The program will also finance technical assistance and training for the national and municipal providers of government services and for the groups that will manage the public markets and the water sources in Carrefour. The loan is for 40 years, with a 10-year grace period, and an annual interest rate of 1 percent during the first decade and 2 percent thereafter.

IDB support for Haiti - The Inter-American Development Bank has the largest portfolio of loans in execution in Haiti. Including the new one, it holds $430 million to finance programs in sectors such as basic infrastructure, transportation, agriculture, water and sanitation, primary education, job training, community development and small productive projects on a national scale. It is also supporting public finance and economic governance reforms. Other loans totaling $150 million are in advanced stages of preparation for rural development, environmental management, flood prevention and access to credit for small and medium-size enterprises. In order to speed up program execution and disbursements, the IDB has streamlined its procedures, increased its flexibility and strengthened its Port-au-Prince office to better respond to Haiti's evolving needs. The IDB coordinates its activities closely with other donors and multilateral institutions to support the priorities of Haiti's Interim Cooperation Framework, which include economic recovery, the improvement of basic services and the transition to a new, democratically elected administration.

From Harold Doan and Associates (press release), CA - July 8, 2005

 
 

"Africa is Capable of Supporting Most of its Own Investment Opportunities" - says CTO CEO

Africa is capable of playing a more dynamic role to fund, support and attract public and private investments in its infrastructure, alongside any help it may get from the international community, said the Chief Executive Officer of the CTO at an international Conference on business opportunities in Africa held in London early this week. Speaking on a panel with a number of international financial experts, Dr. Spio-Garbrah noted that through a mixture of public taxation, pooling and securitisation of a range of idle African public sector assets, investments by viable African public and private enterprises, as well as contributions by African financial institutions, the Continent is capable of doing more to fund viable projects than is the case today. Citing his previous experience as a Minister of Communication and of Education in Ghana, Spio-Garbrah said that African governments have been able to mobilise more taxes, as Ghana has done through the installation of a Value Added Tax regime and a Ghana Education Trust Fund, which today raise more than $200 million and $50 million, respectively, for various projects, including in infrastructure throughout Ghana. He reminded the audience that African telecommunications projects such as fibre-optic cable project alongside the western and southern coasts of Africa, as well as the African Regional Satellite Communication project (RASCOM) have involved considerable equity funding by African telecom institutions in order to leverage foreign partnerships and investments.

The CTO CEO suggested that notwithstanding what African could do for itself, "the international trade and financing architecture needs urgent structural adjustment". He was of the view that the debt forgiveness that was being promised by the G8, if it took early effect, could release much needed funds for investment in critical infrastructure. He agreed with other delegates who argued for international bilateral and multilateral institutions to support medium and small-size enterprises in Africa with grants rather than loans, as has been done for more than a decade now for non-governmental organisations and civil society bodies. However, he suggested that there are a number of simple steps African public and private sector institutions should take to more fully harness the Continent's potential, and to make better use of existing African institutions, such as the African Development Bank, the African Export-Import Bank, the Africa Project Development Facility, African Management Services company and many others already in existence. In the telecom sector, he pointed to a number of countries whose regulatory agencies have mobilised sizeable amounts of money for rural communications infrastructure, through Universal Service Funds, but which are yet to put these funds to productive use. He felt, for example, that mobile cellular companies that have made tremendous profits in the African telecom sector in the last few years should plough back a reasonable percentage into the rural areas, to enable Africa to gain faster access to knowledge.

Other personalities on the financing panel included Trevor Manuel, Minister of Finance of South Africa, Peter Voicke, former Managing Director of the World Bank and Executive Vice President of the IFC, Nkosana Moyo, Managing Director of Actis, Barbara James, Managing Director of the African Venture Capital Association, Kimberley Wiehl, Secretary General of the Berne Union, and William Kaleema, Chairman of the Uganda Investment Commission. Earlier, the conference had received statements from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and President Festus Mogae of Botswana. Earlier Spio-Garbrah had participated in a breakfast roundtable dialogue on the challenges for scaling up ICTs chaired by Denis Gilhooly of the UN ICT Task Force, which included presentations from senior representatives of Microsoft, Oracle, Sisco, the Japanese government and NEPAD.

Held at the Guildhall of the City of London, the conference was attended by some 150 delegates representing African governments and the private sector, and officials of governments, development agencies and international financial institutions from Europe, Asia and the USA. Dubbed "Bending the Arc: the Business of Attaining the Millennium Development Goals in Africa", the conference was organised by the secretariat of the New African Partnership for Development (NEPAD), the United Nations, and the African Business Roundtable.

From Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, UK - July 6, 2005

Privatisation Council Endorses Oil And Gas Policy

A major step towards the process of deregulating the oil and gas sector of the nation's economy was taken on Monday when the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) endorsed the National Policy on Oil and Gas. The policy proposes among other things a National Petroleum Directorate (NPD), a Petroleum Inspectorate Commission (PIC), the National Oil Company (NOC); the National Petroleum Resource Centre (NPRC) as well as a Petroleum Product Distribution Authority (PPDA). The policy, which covers all aspects of the oil and gas industry, is geared towards securing for the country maximum sustainable value from the strategic industry. The NCP said the policy also contains recommendations on how to revamp the operating agreements, contracts and memorandum of understanding (MoU) governing the operations of the upstream sector.

Also, it examined the operations of the refineries, pipelines, depots and retail outlets and recommended full deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry. THISDAY checks revealed that the vexed issue of increasing local content was thoroughly examined in the new policy while due attention has been given to the gas and petrochemical sub sector with a deliberate design to encourage private sector participation in the sector. Issues of corporate social responsibility, health, safety and environmental responsibilities of all stakeholders, as well as the need to review, amend and harmonise the various laws and regulations governing the industry with a view to producing an all-encompassing petroleum legislation for the nation was also well articulated in the document.

Vice President Atiku Abubakar had, while inaugurating the Oil and Gas Sector Reform Implementation Committee (OGIC) in April 2000, charged the committee to articulate and produce a policy document that would not only stand the test of time, but would afford the nation the opportunity to benefit maximally from its vast oil and gas resources. Under the new policy, some new institutions are to emerge in the oil and gas industry to take care of perceived lapses inherent in the current system. Mr Chigbo Anichebe, Head, Public Communications Division of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), said the action is in line with the objective of government to subject sectoral policies to detail scrutiny and determine to what extent such existing policies could be reviewed, restructured or modified before the sector could be effectively privatised.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Onwuka Nzeshi of This Day, Lagos - July 6, 2005

Privatisation to Continue, Says Semakula

Privatization will continue during the new financial year to maintain the economic growth rate, the investment state minister has said. Prof Semakula Kiwanuka said much of the high economic growth rate the country has enjoyed over the years is due to privatisation. "We privatised most parastatals after realising that they can be effectively managed outside government hands. We are ready to move into the final phase of privatisation," he said. This was during the closure of an Enterprise Uganda organised exhibition for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) at Garden City Exhibition Hall in Kampala recently. Kiwanuka was represented by Longino Tisasirana, the assistant commissioner for economic development policy and research, in the finance ministry. He said the Government would continue encouraging the emergence and growth of SMEs and ensure they access loans. Ten firms, which had completed the six-month training, got certificates.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Ricks Kayizzi of New Vision, Kampala - July 5, 2005

Rwandan Government Cashes in Some 35m Dollars From Privatization


Excerpt from report by Mansur Kakimba entitled "government nets 17bn Rwandan francs from privatization" published by Rwandan newspaper The New Times website on 8 July. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning has so far raised over 17bn francs (about 35m dollars) under the privatization programme that was started in October 1997, Business Times has established.

According to the June 2005 report, various parastatals have been either wholly or partly sold to the private sector. The report further indicates that a total of 1.4 bn Rwandan francs (2.4m US dollars) is expected from the companies under liquidation and those in the advanced phase of privatization like; Ituze Tourism Village, RWANDEX (for which the government intends to sell its 51 per cent shareholding), Wisumo Sawmill and Mulindi Tea factory. Kibuye Guest House, Kiyovu and Regina hotels were once privatized but the buyers violated the contract of sale, they will now be re-privatized. [Passage omitted]

Meanwhile, a report availed to Business Times indicates that giant telephone company, Rwandatel, is the latest company to be privatized, with the government selling all its shares of twenty million dollars, a 99 per cent shareholding, to TERRACOM. The remaining 1 per cent shareholding, worth 24.2bn Rwandan francs, is owned by SONARWA, CSR, RWANDEX and TABARWANDA.

From Black Enterprise, NY - July 8, 2005

 

Public Private Partnerships Is the Way Forward

Kuala Lumpur - Public Private Partnerships will be the way forward as it will allow governments to better utilise its resources to initiate and drive broad-based development, Minister in the Prime Minister Department, Datuk Mustapa Mohamed said. Todate, he said Malaysia had benefitted a lot from public private partnership (PPP), which it had practised over the past 20 years from the time Malaysia Incorporated Policy was introduced in the 1980s. Then, Malaysia expanded the concept of privatisation to cover not only the divestment of equity holdings but also to include the development of new projects, mostly on Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) basis, he said.

Privatisation has contributed towards the increased efficiency and productivity as resources were optimised, had wide-reaching impact on the public and enhanced efficient delivery of services, he said. Privatisation coupled with the PPP can be regarded as an alternative to the conventional approach in undertaking development projects and the delivery of public services, he said in his keynote address at entitled: "Delivering Better Services For the Citizens," at a half-day seminar here.

The seminar on Public Private Partnerships was jointly organised by UK Trade Investment, Economic Planning Unit of Malaysia, British High Commission and International Financial Services London. Citing the development of the Federal Government offices in Putrajaya through the Build-Lease- Transfer method, he said it had enabled the government to gain early usage of the new office buildings in exchange of lease payments over a 25-year concession period. "The PPP approach recognises that both the public and private sector have certain advantages relative to the others in the performance of specific task. Hence, by allowing each sector to do what it does best, public services and infrastructure can be provided in the most economically efficient manner," said Mustapa.

Through this partnership, operating efficiencies, management skills and financial acumen of the private sector can be capitalised, he said, adding that PPP also encouraged quick delivery of infrastructure and public services compared with the conventional method. By nature, he said PPP deferred the need for capital repayment by the government, thus allowing it to optimise financial resources towards a broader range of priorities. PPP, he said, introduced valuable management techniques to the public sector thus expanding the ability for greater efficiency. "It really takes two to tango, and the sooner both public and private sector learn the steps (for further cooperation), the better it is."

In Malaysia, Mustapa said five key points were considered before embarking on PPP projects, namely detailed evaluation, long-term cost to government must be lowered and public service delivery must be expedited as a result of PPP. Others were future financial commitments by the government, to be considered in the form of repayment for capital works and maintenance as these would impinge on public sector expenditure. "Last but not least, possible mis-match between short term borrowing and long term repayments, particularly in Malaysia where long term borrowing such as a 30-year loan tenure for project financing is less common, compared to certain developed countries," he said. On the latest addition to PPP initiative in Malaysia, he said there were ways for private sector financing to enable contractors carry out government infrastructure projects. "These include possible Build-Lease-Maintain-Transfer methods for the construction of police stations and living quarters valued at RM2.5 billion," he said.

From Bernama, Malaysia - July 6, 2005

Mekong Development Forum in Tokyo to Focus on Infrastructure Partnerships


Manila - About 80 major private sector companies from Japan and other East Asian countries are expected to participate in the 2nd Mekong Development Forum (MDF) in Tokyo on 14-15 July. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) in infrastructure development will be the main topic of the Tokyo MDF, organized jointly by ADB and the Government of Japan. The event, which builds on the knowledge generated by the 1st MDF last year in Paris, will showcase emerging models of infrastructure PPPs that have been tried in fiscal, economic, and political environments similar to that of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). Over the next five to ten years, the estimated need for infrastructure investment in the GMS is in the range of $10 billion-$15 billion. Government budgets and official development sources alone will not be enough to meet the requirements. Greater involvement of private sector, within and outside the GMS, is crucial.

At the forum, examples of infrastructure projects in the transport, power, and water sectors of the GMS countries with strong potential for public-private partnerships will be presented. Participants will also discuss mechanisms and instruments to mitigate investment risks and enhance the viability of private sector participation. The forum will be preceded in the morning of 14 July by a half-day symposium, organized jointly by ADB's Japanese Representative Office and Department of External Relations to give expert perspective on the challenges facing the subregion.

At the GMS Summit in Kunming, People's Republic of China (PRC), earlier this week, the GMS leaders witnessed the signing of important agreements in areas such as transport, power trade, animal disease control and telecommunications. However, they noted that real progress in these and other critical areas of regional cooperation will depend upon the broadening of partnerships with donors and the private sector. "Development is a shared responsibility; it is also a shared opportunity," says Liqun Jin, ADB Vice President. "History has shown that, through effective cooperation and partnership, the public sector's development goals and the private sector's commercial objectives can both be met. Indeed, this is the only way to achieve our mutual goals." GMS is one of the world's fastest growing subregions. During the last few years, the GMS member countries - Cambodia, PRC, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam - posted GDP growth at an average of over 6% despite outbreaks of SARS and avian flu, and escalating oil prices. In 2004, all six countries continued to demonstrate robust growth ranging from 6% in Cambodia to 7.5% in Viet Nam. Strong growth is expected to continue in 2005.

GMS is also Asia's most rapidly integrating subregion. Notable progress in the development of transport networks and economic corridors along the subregion's east-west and north-south axes is transforming GMS into a more integrated and competitive economic grouping. The GMS is expected to be fully interconnected by 2012 not only through the transport links being developed under the GMS program, but also through the adoption of standardized arrangements on the movement of goods and people across borders. In support of this, the summit leaders early this week agreed that the GMS countries will complete the signing of all the remaining annexes and protocols of the GMS Cross-Border Transport Agreement within this year. A strategic goal of the GMS transport infrastructure is a seamless, region-wide logistics system. The GMS transport infrastructure will thus be supplemented by regional telecommunications and power networks.

Telecommunications development will facilitate the rapid adoption of intelligent transport systems, which are the basis of recent advancements in logistics. Regional cooperation in power will lead to cheaper, more reliable electricity - a critical factor in the region's productivity, competitiveness, and growth. A recent study conducted by ADB, JBIC, and World Bank shows that infrastructure development is fundamental to supporting the processes of growth and to help the poor access basic services, which can improve their lives and income opportunities. At its best, infrastructure can draw poverty reduction, service provision, and growth together in a reinforcing cycle.

From Harold Doan and Associates (press release), CA - July 7, 2005

BB Governor Says: Policy Reforms to Boost Private Sector

Speakers at a seminar yesterday underscored the need for joint collaboration of public and private sectors for achieving faster economic growth, as well as human resource development in the country. They also said aid can facilitate private business by way of infrastructure services and enhance its efficiency. Financial Management Academy (FIMA) organised the seminar on Aid and Public-Private Partnerships in Bangladesh at its auditorium.

Governor of Bangladesh Bank Dr Salehuddin Ahmed said several policy reforms in various sectors have been introduced in the country to boost the role of the private sector. "The reform measures have been taken for agricultural development, faster growth of small and medium enterprises and human resource development especially to give benefits to the poor," he mentioned. Dr Ahmed asserted that transparency, efficiency and accountability are as important to the public sector as it was to the private sector for the economic growth of the country. Citing India and Sri Lanka, for example, he said that Bangladesh was doing better in terms of poverty alleviation than any other least development countries (LDC) and there was even talk as to whether the country should still belong to this group of LDCs as the poorest among the developing world. Comptroller and Auditor General of Bangladesh Asif Ali and Director General of FIMA Mesbah Uddin also spoke in the seminar.

From The New Nation, Bangladesh - July 5, 2005

Privatisation Regulations Report Awaits Law Ministry's Opinion


A privatisation regulations report has been sent to the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs for seeking its opinion, Privatisation Commission (PC) sources said. "We hope that the law ministry would give its opinion soon and the report would then be sent to the authorities concerned for final approval," said a high PC official while talking to the FE. Earlier, a move was taken to revise the privatisation regulations on allowing ministries to sell their loss-making enterprises without involving the PC. Prime Minister's Office (PMO) informed the PC last year about the government's plan to revise the regulations to give back all listed loss-making SOEs to respective ministries for disinvestment, sources said.

But the PC had opposed the move saying that it would not only trim down its authority but also affect the entire privatisation process.
Meanwhile, the PC official said it has no plan to offload shares of any oil company for some strategic reasons. The government has no plan to privatise any oil company, the official said. Earlier, the government planned to offload all its shares in four of the six state-run petroleum companies through inviting international tenders. The PC also made modality to sell the shares, but it was stopped later.
The companies are Padma Oil, Eastern Lubricants, Standards Asiatic Oil and the Meghna petroleum, which are operated under the Petroleum Act 1974. The PC sources said the PC is currently busy making documents on disinvestment of state-owned Rupali Bank, and it has no other plan to privatise any public enterprise in the near future.

From Financial Express.bd, Bangladesh - July 8, 2005

 

EU Aspiration Drives Power Reform in Romania and Bulgaria

"These sectors are among the last bastions of state ownership in their economies and have proved the most difficult to reform. Privatisation presents some of the few remaining opportunities for both Russian and Western energy multinationals to acquire significant assets before both countries join the EU, in 2007 or 2008. The governments of both Bulgaria and Romania have adopted privatisation programmes that aim to transform their run-down power plants into modern, efficient and, most importantly, competitive players in European energy markets. The main impulse has been the need to increase the competitiveness of their economies in order to meet the conditions for joining the EU.
The two countries differ as regards the structure of their power-generating sectors:

Thermal power plants produced 54% of Bulgaria's energy in 2003, while the share of nuclear power, although in relative decline, is still important (23% of total power generation). Hydroelectricity accounts for 30% of Romania's production, nuclear power 9% (to increase to 18% by 2006) and thermal the rest, with lignite-burning plants contributing 25%. Privatisation. Production, distribution and transmission of electricity have been separated in both countries. The need for investment in this sector is huge. The Romanian government estimates that 10 billion euros (12 billion dollars) are needed in the next decade, while the investment needs in Bulgaria have been evaluated at about 7 billion euros. To attract interest from significant players, both governments have decided to privatise by selling controlling 51% stakes to strategic investors:

In Bulgaria, distribution has been completely privatised, while transmission will remain in the hands of the National Energy Company until 2007. Seven of its power plants have been sold already and the government intends to sell the remaining power units by the end of 2007. Romania has privatised two of its distribution companies, and a new law adopted in March sets out detailed targets for the privatisation of all remaining power generating and distribution companies.

The support of international financial institutions has been secured for parts of these programmes: World Bank involvement in Bulgaria includes an energy efficiency project offering partial credit guarantees, loans and technical assistance (approved in March). A third programmatic adjustment loan worth 150 million dollars and approved in June aims to further the large-scale privatisation programme, improve the business climate and deepen the financial sector. In Romania, the World Bank has agreed to provide a partial risk guarantee securing the privatisation of the Banat and Dobrogea Electricity Distribution Company, bought by Italy's utility giant ENEL. In addition, support for the restructuring and modernisation of the power sectors is a major priority in the lending strategy in Romania and Bulgaria of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Foreign involvement - Power companies in Bulgaria and Romania have attracted interest from most of the significant players in regional and global markets: ENEL, CEZ (Czech Republic), EVN (Austria), Mitsui and J-Power (Japan), Eon Energie (Germany), International Power Global Development (United Kingdom), Dalkia International (France) and AES (United States) were among the bidders in May for three Bulgarian power plants. The Varna and Rousse assets were awarded in May to UES of Russia, and the Bobovdol plant to PPC of Greece. UES paid 500 million euros, two or three times more than some of its competitors were willing to offer, in order to secure a foothold in the EU energy market. CEZ, which aims to become the leading electricity company in the region, EVN and Eon bought Bulgaria's three regional distribution companies in 2004. The same companies have been involved in the Romanian privatisations; CEZ, ENEL, Eon and Areva (France), among others, own assets there.

Institutional development - Market infrastructure and regulatory agencies have been formed in Bulgaria. In Romania, a National Regulatory Authority for Energy (ANRE) has been set up; an electricity market operator (OPCOM) will complete its trials on July 1, and will evolve from its current status as a compulsory energy exchange into a voluntary one by 2007. Both countries joined Europe's Union for the Coordination of the Transmission of Electricity in 2003 and have plans to increase the number of connection nodes and total energy transmitted via this network. The gradual opening of the Romanian electricity market since 2001 reached 55% by end-2004 (the natural gas market was 50% open), with completion due by 2007. Liberalisation has been slower in Bulgaria, where 22% of the market is to be free by the end of 2005.

Macroeconomic background - Both countries' recent economic performance has been very good, with levels of growth averaging 4.5-5.0% in the past four years: In Bulgaria, unemployment has fallen, from 19.8% in 2001 to 12.0% in 2004, and the IMF projects low inflation in 2005 (4.0%). However, the Fund has identified as a weakness the exposure of the private sector to external debt (Bulgaria's currency, the lev, is managed through a currency board). In Romania, unemployment is low at 7-8%, but inflation is yet to be brought under control: it was 11.9% in 2004, but the central bank hopes to bring it down to 7.0% in 2005, taking the first steps in a strategy of shifting to inflation targeting with a view to joining the EU and the euro in due course. FDI. The investment climate remains a concern in both countries. The latest pre-accession EU reports have highlighted red tape, a lack of judicial independence and the awkward organisation of the commercial courts as major obstacles to business that remain to be tackled:

The past few years have seen a marked increased in the amount of foreign direct investment (FDI) going into Bulgaria: two-thirds of all new investments in the country were made in the recent past and FDI now reaches 9.2% of GDP (compared with 5.6% in Romania and 4.4% in the Czech Republic). Net FDI inflow amounted to 1.6 billion euros in 2004 and a similar amount is expected in 2005; CEZ, EVN and Eon rank among the top five investors. Romania attracted 4 billion euros of net FDI inflow in 2004, but with most of its power plants yet to be privatised, this is expected to increase in the next few years.

Outlook - The drive to meet EU requirements linked to the accession process has been decisive in modernising the power sectors. These positive trends are now in danger of slowing down, as doubts are raised over the enlargement process in the wake of the 'no' vote in the referendums for the EU constitutional treaty in France and the Netherlands . However, Sofia and Bucharest have declared that they are pressing ahead with their preparations to join the Union as scheduled. In the past few years, Bulgaria and Romania have made major efforts to open up to foreign competition and create the institutional conditions for an attractive business environment. The prospect of EU entry in the near future has also been a major incentive for multinational companies to purchase assets.

From Portalino, Italy - 11 July 2005

Paper Says Ukrainian Privatization Slowing Down in 2005

Privatization in Ukraine is continuing, but at a much slower pace, the official Ukrainian cabinet newspaper has said. This is due to a parliamentary ruling and continuing work on an inventory of plants and buildings, it added. It also said that a resolution on facilities subject to priority privatization in 2005 has been drafted. The following is the text of the article by Vitaliy Chepizhko entitled "Denationalization continues" published in the Ukrainian newspaper Uryadovyy Kuryer on 6 July; subheadings have been inserted editorially:

Previous violations during privatization - In order to assess the work of the State Property Fund of Ukraine in the first five months of the current year, it is necessary to at least briefly analyze the results of privatization in the country during all previous years. These are the words with which the chief of this agency, Valentyna Semenyuk, opened public hearings entitled "The results of the work of the State Property Fund of Ukraine in five months of 2005 and tasks for the future".

If it is done from a formal quantitative side, it can be stated that more than 96,000 facilities changed their form of state ownership in the course of reform of ownership by way of privatization. The sum transferred to the state budget came to 18bn hryvnyas [about 3.6bn US dollars]. But, to put it mildly, the qualitative side of denationalization was dissatisfactory. The State Property Fund is making an inventory of state property which partially remained on the balance sheets of privatized enterprises. It is already known that some facilities were denationalized with violations of legislation in force and without the consent of the SPF [State Property Fund] of Ukraine. Valentyna Semenyuk gave an example of 515 hostels. Unconsidered privatization policy in previous years resulted in loss of state control over entire like the oil and gas industry and metallurgy. Corporate property management is inefficient. Large-scale work on claims is under way in this area.

Slower pace of privatization in 2005 - As to the results of the first five months, the actual sum of dividends transferred by companies established with state participation as of 1 June 2005 equaled 700.6m hryvnyas [about 140m US dollars], making 131 per cent of the plan for 2005. There were 341 facilities that changed their state ownership form during this period, and the communal form of ownership of 1,440 facilities was changed by local privatization authorities on the basis of contracts with local administrative authorities.

The total number of share packages of OJSC [open joint-stock companies] offered for sale at stock exchanges and the FSTS [First Securities Trading System association, better known as PFTS] as of 22 June 2005 was 145. The number of packages sold at the market was 10. The budget income from selling share packages was 514.97m hryvnyas [over 100m US dollars]. By the way, participants of the hearings and the fund's board are placing their great hopes on developing the sale of share packages on stock exchanges. Provisions should be made for portfolio investors to come to the Ukrainian stock exchange. Share offers on these markets should be increased through the enterprises whose shares have been partially sold to strategic investors, while their substantial amount is still owned by the state (for example, energy sector companies). The same is applicable to enterprises whose privatization has already begun, but packages have not been offered to strategic investors. It is feasible to sell the share of 5 to 25 per cent of state (corporate) enterprises working efficiently enough in state ownership, to portfolio investors. This will set up additional control by professional portfolio investors over the enterprises with prevailing state ownership share and will promote the development of the stock market.

As of 22 June 2005, over 669m hryvnyas [over 130m US dollars], which is just 9.7 per cent of funds revenues planned for the current year, had been transferred to the state budget through state property privatization and other receipts. One of the reasons is suspension of all privatization processes in accordance with the resolution adopted by the Supreme Council [parliament]. "Taking into account the fact that temporary restrictions for privatization of some facilities are still in force, fulfilment of planned tasks remains problematic," Semenyuk said. Meanwhile, the SPF has prepared a list of facilities for priority privatization in 2005; the relevant resolution has been drafted and sent to the Cabinet of Ministers for consideration.

Judicial consideration of privatization issues - Of course, the issue of reprivatization was not ignored during the hearings. For example, for implementation of the resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers dated 11 June 2005 N 440 "On measures related to recognition of the contract on sale and purchase of share package of the OJSC Kryvorizhstal to be invalid", the fund established a tender commission for developing the terms and conditions for the repeat sale of the share package in Kryvorizhstal. Valentyna Semenyuk said that the decision had been adopted with regard to this enterprise and the fund would fulfil it.

Revision of privatization contracts will generally be carried out on the grounds of the purchaser's failure to fulfil contracted investment obligations and violation of the legally determined privatization procedure. The list of privatized facilities subject to return to state and communal property consists of 194 such facilities. As the result of the work on appeals carried out by the fund's headquarters in 2003-2005, six sale and purchase contracts were annulled by court decisions for failure to fulfil the provisions stipulated in these contracts. Judicial cases on termination or recognizing as invalid contracts with regard to 16 enterprises (OJSC Black Sea Shipbuilding Works, OJSC Kryvorizhstal, OJSC Nikopol ferroalloys plant and others) are being considered.

From Black Enterprise, NY - July 9, 2005

Turkey on Privatisation Drive Says Finance Minister

Mian - Turkey intends to speed up the sale of state owned or controlled companies to earn income that will allow the country to slash its foreign debt, Turkey's finance minister, Kemal Unakitan, said on Tuesday. The Turkish minister made the announcement at the Euro-Mediterranean Laboratory, a conference hosted by the Milan Chamber of Commerce, that is being attend by leading business and political leaders from Italy and its Mediterranean neighbours. An example of the government's privatisation drive was the sale earlier this month of a 50 percent stake in the telecommunications company, TurkTelekom, to a consortium including Italy's Telecom Italia and the Saudi registered company, Oger Telecom in a 6.55 billion dollar deal.

The government has now "drawn up a broad plan for the privatisation of [Turkey's] banks," Unakitan said. The Turkish minister who cited the fact that Turkey had reduced inflation from 69 percent in 2002 to nine percent in 2004 as evidence of the the country's economic progress, reiterated Ankara's ambition to join the European Union. "The Turkey of the future will be better than the one we have today and it will be a strong and respectful member of the European Union," he said. Unakitan also urged Italian companies to invest in Turkey where according to new legislation, "we will not make any distinction between Turkish and foreign investors." "We have trimmed the scale of the bureaucracy allowing a company to become operational in a matter of days," he said. The two-day conference ends on Tuesday.

From AKI, Italy - July 12, 2005

 

Increase in Private-public Partnerships Helps Boost WTO Affiliate Membership

The WTO has seen a surge in its Affiliate Membership with 23 more companies and institutions joining the Organization in June, among them the international meetings association Meeting Professionals International (MPI). Eleven of the new members approved by the Organization's Executive Council are from Europe, seven from the Americas, two from Africa and one each from Asia and the Middle East. "This big increase in membership demonstrates that the private sector is recognizing the power of increasing public-private partnership, following the shift in WTO strategy towards becoming a more result-oriented international organization," said Affiliate Members' Chief Executive Officer Antonio de la Morena. "It shows the Organization is now seen as a true leader of world tourism, not only by the sovereign states - five more of which will join WTO this year - but also by the private sector."

"Reinforcing the representation of the private sector and civil society is a priority of the Organization, an objective in line with the general guidelines laid down by the United Nations, which invites its specialized agencies to expand the role of representatives of civil society," said Mr de la Morena. Mr de la Morena said he was particularly pleased to see media companies joining the Affiliates, with TTG Italia among the three latest new members from Italy. The others are the leading non-governmental organization Istituto Cooperazione Economica Internazionale (ICEI) and the University of Molise. Others from Europe are: European Cities Tourism, Tourism Promotion Services (Serena Hotels) and the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development from France; Travel Media Applications, which specializes in information and communication technologies (Greece); the Turiba School of Business Administration (Latvia); Izmir University of Economics (Turkey); air transport facilitation company Route Development Centre (UK), and the Danish association HORESTA which represents the country's hotel, restaurant and tourism sector. Another new member is the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), which manages the Blue Flag campaign for safe beaches in Europe as well as supporting nature protection in Europe and other continents.

From the Americas, there are fair organizer Expo Mundial de Turismo and leisure park and accommodation group Grupo Xcarret (Mexico); the Nevada Tourism Commission and event organizers World Tourism Consultancy (USA); the Quebec Tourism Industry Corporation (Canada), the Northeast Tourism Integration Foundation (Brazil), and Proexport, which specializes in the international promotion of tourism (Colombia). New members from Africa are the Kenya Tourist Board and the Tabasheer Travel & Tourism Agency (Sudan); from the Middle East the Middle East Automobile and Tourism Club (Saudi Arabia); and from Asia the Papua New Guinea National Cultural Centres Trust.

During its meeting in Nessebar, Bulgaria, the Executive Council also unanimously approved the strategic marketing plan for WTO Affiliate Members for 2005-2007 presented by the Chairman of the Affiliate Members Committee, Andre Vallerand, representing Tourisme Montreal. Mr. Vallerand announced his intention to stand for re-election to a second two-year term as Chairman of the Affiliate Members at the forthcoming session of the WTO General Assembly in Senegal. Chairman of the WTO Business Council Mr Carlos Vogeler of RCI Europe has also announced to run for the top post of the WTO Affiliate Members. The WTO currently has more than 300 Affiliate Members grouped into three councils: the Business Council, the Education Council and the Destination Council. The strategic marketing plan aims to increase membership to 500 by the end of 2007.

From e-Travel Blackboard (press release), Australia - July 3, 2005