ISSUE 73
August 2005
 
 
   
    Barbados: Barbados Must Address Its Public Debt Burden - IMF
 
   
    Ghana: Ghana Public Sector Reform Would Be .... - Dr Nduom
Mozambique: Government Releases Survey On Good Governace And Corruption
Liberia: ECOWAS Set to Probe Corruption Reports in Liberia
African Parliaments Resolve to Fight Corruption
   
    Pakistan: Corruption Impacts Investments in Pakistan: IMF
   
    Jordan: Jordan to Host 'Excellence in Public Service' Conference
United Arab Emirates: UAE Signs United Nations Anti-Corruption Convention
Yemen: Anti-Corruption Organization Planned, UNDP Suggests Long Road Ahead
 
   
    Botswana: Study Blames Public Service
Kenya: Civil Servants Welcome 14 Per Cent Pay Award
Kenya: Kenya Gives Civil Servants 14 Percent Pay Rise
   
    ADB Funds Mekong Civil Servants Training with 3 Million USD
ADB Boosting Development Management of Mekong Civil Servants
South Korea: Revisions Proposed to Civil Servants' Code
   
    Canada: Civil Servants Up In Arms over Proposal to Cut Jobs
United States: Courts Provide Delays in Civil Service Overhaul
   
    Bilateral Agreement to Facilitate Exchange of Civil Servants
 
   
    India: International Conference on e-Gov To Be Held in Lahore in December
India: 3rd International e-Governance Conference in December
   
    Oman: Geographic Information System to Revolutionise E-governance
e-Statergies Initiatives in the Middle East
 
   
    Trade Offices Show U.S. Commitment to Boosting African Economies
   
    Japan: Japan Plans to Maintain Spending in Next Fiscal Year's Budget
   
    France: French Privatisation Won’t Help Government Finances Much
Greece: Debt Gallops Ahead
 
   
    Kenya: Kenya Passes New Privatisation Law
South Africa: Public Private Partnerships to Be Scrutinised
   
    Singapore: IE Singapore Launches Forum for Private-public Sector Partnerships
India: WB Ready to Ffund Public-Private Partnerships Here
   
    Ireland: Managed Services in Public and Private Sectors: A TIF Seminar
   
    A21 Conference: "Reinventing Accountability for the 21st Century"
 

Barbados Must Address Its Public Debt Burden - IMF

The International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Article IV Consultation on Barbados released last week has expressed concerns about Barbados' high level of public debt. It declares that a key challenge for Barbados in maintaining and sustaining strong economic growth going forward will be to address macroeconomic imbalances, including a high level of public debt, large fiscal and external current account deficits and declining international reserves. While welcoming the Government's efforts to reduce the public sector deficit over the past two years, the IMF was still concerned that the "primary deficit was among the highest in the region and public debt will rise steadily in the absence of fiscal consolidation".

Alarm bells - Barbados' external current account deficit rose from seven per cent of GDP in 2003 to 10.5 per cent of GDP in 2004, reflecting a broad-based import structure related to the rapid increase in private sector credit and the expansion in economic activity. Capital inflows also declined with the cessation of privatisation receipts from abroad. As a result, the balance of payments moved from a surplus to a deficit of 51.5 per cent of GDP in 2004, with gross international reserves (GIR) falling to 33 months of imported goods and nonfactor services. Against this background, they cautioned that the injection of fiscal stimulus in FY 2005/06, in the midst of a robust private - sector led recovery, could make the path to debt reduction more difficult.

The IMF was emphatic in its call for decisive fiscal adjustment to address the build-up of public debt and falling foreign reserves. It said that the country's public debt was way above the average for Caribbean and Latin American countries.
But it was not all bad news on Barbados' economic performance. The Executive Board of the IMF noted that it compares favourably with other Caribbean countries on social and economic indicators. Poverty rates are the lowest in the Caribbean. With a population of 272,000 it has a per capita income of US$15,700. The directors noted that Barbados was one of the better performing economies in the Caribbean during the '90s. Impressively, during 1993-2000 Barbados grew at three per cent, inflation was less than two per cent and public sector deficits were maintained at less than three per cent of GDP.

How did Barbados burden itself with high public debt? The economy was doing nicely until the events of 9/11 led to a recession in 2001/02. Barbados fell prey to the global slowdown of that period. With the country largely dependent upon tourism and financial services industries, the government felt obliged to address matters and so implemented a public investment programme to help revive economic activity. Combined with public sector wage increases, this contributed to a widening of the overall non-financial public sector fiscal deficit from about two per cent of GDP in FY 2000/01 to about 13 per cent of GDP in FY2002/03. As a result, the public sector debt-to-GDP ratio rose from 74 per cent in March 2001 to 87 per cent in March 2003. According to the IMF, the expansionary public investment programme, implemented to revive the economy after the recession of 2001/02, contributed to raising Barbados' public debt to a level far exceeding that of other regional countries.

Positive outlook - In spite of the ominous presence of a huge public debt mountain, the Barbados economy has staged a recovery of sorts via tourism, construction and communications, and 2004 was a year of increasing economic activity and low inflation. IMF Directors noted that growth prospects for the next three years remain favourable and the boost to growth from the build-up to the 2007 World Cup cricket games can only help the country's economy. Structural reforms have taken place in taxation, telecommunications and the public enterprise sector. Corporate and personal tax rates have been further lowered, in line with the reduction in these rates initiated in FY 2002/03. In telecommunications, the final phase of reform began in early 2005, and will involve the liberalisation of external telecommunications and the issuance of new licences for fixed telephone lines on a competitive basis. Legislation to corporatise the airport authority was also recently approved. Nod of approval - The IMF welcomed the government's plan to reduce public expenditure over the medium term. It recommends that the authorities complement these efforts with revenue measures as well as the rationalisation of the tariffs of major public enterprises, with a view to reducing subsidies to these entities.

While welcoming the authorities' efforts to promote private-sector participation in the provision of economic infrastructure and services, the IMF executive directors cautioned that expenditure commitments associated with these activities should be carefully monitored and accounted for in budget documents. The directors supported preserving the fixed exchange rate regime, noting its positive role as an anchor for price stability and investor confidence. They emphasised that going forward, the exchange rate peg will need to be supported by sound policies aimed at addressing the recent macroeconomic imbalances. They also welcomed the recent steps to slow growth of credit, and recommended further tightening to help arrest the decline in foreign reserves. However, they noted that while the banking sector appears well poised to absorb shocks, risks related to the large share of public debt held by domestic financial institutions will need to be monitored carefully.

Recommendations: The IMF has made a number of recommendations but has made it clear that the Government of Barbados is in no way obliged to subscribe to them. 1. There is a need to strengthen competitiveness by tightening the link between wage increases and developments in labour productivity, as well as accelerating productivity growth through structural reform. 2. Encourage the phasing out of the minimum deposit rate and consider issuing additional treasury bills through the Central Bank. 3. Make greater use of indirect monetary policy instruments and enhance competition in the banking system. This will facilitate the gradual phasing out of the minimum deposit rate and improve the efficiency of financial intermediation. 4. Put in place a more ambitious plan of fiscal adjustment to put debt on a firmly declining path, to reduce pressure on external reserves and provide a cushion in the event of negative shock. 5. Move forward with plans to divest its shares in the Gems hotel group and Insurance Corporation of Barbados, and set timelines for disposal of remaining state enterprises that did not serve public policy objectives. 6. Increase the cost of major public services, particularly water rates and bus fares. 7. Harmonise domestic and offshore tax regimes. 8.Ease capital market restrictions to encourage competition among financial institutions and allow institutional savers such as pension funds greater choice to diversify their portfolio assets. 9. Recommend against the imposition of surcharges on non-CARICOM imports. 10. Directors underlined the importance of structural reforms to encourage foreign direct investment, improve competitiveness and enhance Barbados' long-term growth potential.

From Jamaica Observer, Jamaica - August 26, 2005

 
 

Ghana Public Sector Reform Would Be .... - Dr Nduom

Ho - The Public Sector Reforms would be pursued to their logical conclusion by government. "Indeed the President is eager to have the programme stand to his credit when he leaves office," Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom, Minister of Public Sector Reforms, said during an interaction with Civil Servants from the Greater Accra and Volta Regions in Ho on Monday. He said President Kufuor would supervise and preside over all deliberations and implementation of the programme. "This Friday, August 5, the President is giving the Ministry of Public Sector Reforms (MPSR) a unique opportunity to present to Government the President and all his Ministers, recommendations to reform the Public Sector with emphasis on the Civil Service," Dr Nduom said. He said once the recommendations were discussed and adopted by the Ministers, the necessary financial arrangements would be put in place for the implementation of the programme.

Dr Nduom said next year's Budget would take care of providing Information Communication Technology (ICT) facilities generally in the public sector institutions including the Civil Service. Dr Nduom said the recommendations the MPSR would table at the ministerial meeting included a centralised training and education in the Civil Service to give everyone a fair opportunity for training for his or her work; creation of a Senior Civil Service, equipping the Civil Service Training Centres and Government Secretarial Schools and putting everyone in the Public Service on the Ghana Universal Salary Scheme (GUSS) to remove discrepancies in salaries between the Civil Service and other services to promote equity and consistency in pay administration. The others were quantifying over a period of time, benefits regarding housing, utilities and transportation into cash payment to make for better pay and pension and improving wages and salaries over a period of time in a sustainable way. He said the reforms of the Civil Service were vital for efficient delivery and performance of Government business and enhancing private sector vitality. "We must all be prepared to change our attitudes to work so that we can present a better image of the Civil Service," he said.

Mr Smart Chibagatia, Executive Secretary of the Civil Servants Association (CSA), hinted that the proposed pension reforms held great promise for those under Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) Pension. Referring to the new pension, he said, "if it takes off it can march with Cap 30 but later it will be more than Cap 30." He advised Civil Servants not to resort to discussing their grievances on the radio; they should rather channel their misgivings to their leaders. Mr Chibagatia said the CSA Leadership was negotiating with the Government to adjust their salaries by August this year.

From GhanaWeb, Ghana - August 1, 2005

Government Releases Survey On Good Governace And Corruption

The Mozambican government is to release this Wednesday, in Maputo, the findings of a national survey on good governace and corruption, as part of its public sector global reform. The idea is to assess the public view on good governance, corruption, and the quality of services rendered by the public sector. The surveyors interviwed families, public service officials, and private companies, to gather information that should help the government work out policies and programmes to improve governance, and look into the achievements and challenges posed on the country's social and economic life.

The survey was conducted by a consultancy company selected through a public bidding, that worked in coordination with a technical committee of the Public Sector Reform Technical Unit (UTRESP), that was set up on porpose, which included the public sector, private companies, civil society organizations,the National Assembly the Mozambican parliament), academic instituitions, and the international community, among others.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, Maputo - August 3, 2005

ECOWAS Set to Probe Corruption Reports in Liberia

Abuja - ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) will soon set up a transparency commission to investigate and check incidents of corruption and financial misconduct in the interim government of Liberia, ECOWAS Executive Secretary Mohamed Ibn Chambas affirmed here Monday.

Chambas told journalists that allegations of corruption against officials of the interim government were "genuine". He said ECOWAS was so disturbed by the development that it sent an audit team, comprising representatives from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria, Serious Fraud office of Ghana and the Anti-corruption of Sierra Leone, to Liberia. He said the team was in Liberia for two months and had made their recommendations to the Chairman of ECOWAS. "You can be sure that their recommendations on good financial governance, accountability and probity would be taken very seriously," Chambas assured.

According to him, one of the recommendations was for the establishment of an institutional arrangement for fighting corruption and economic malfeasance in the country, just like what is operational in Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. He said ECOWAS would soon approach the three countries for "technical people" to return to Liberia to work with the government in creating similar institutions to fight corruption on a permanent basis in the country.

From AngolaPress, Angola - August 2, 2005

African Parliaments Resolve to Fight Corruption

African parliaments have resolved to tie African leaders to fighting corruption. Adopting a communiqué of the just-ended roundtable on the interface between regional parliamentary bodies/assemblies and the Pan African Parliament (PAP) held at Lusaka's Hotel Intercontinental, the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) ECOWAS Community Parliament, East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) and PAP delegates stated that most often, African leaders were seen on television preaching against corruption even when they did not believe in the fight itself.

An Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament delegate Alice Teniboom said it would not augur well for the conference to just recognise President Levy Mwanawasa's call on parliamentarians to build upon the unequivocal commitment on the fight against corruption in Africa instead of committing all African presidents to fighting the scourge. "In Africa we see these leaders on television, whether they believe it or not, preaching against corruption. We have to tie them and those nations that have not signed the AU convention against corruption must be made to ratify it," she said. "We should commit our leaders to fighting corruption. Let's put them in."

The conference resolved that parliaments would intensify their oversight role, restore public trust in the institution of Parliament, and attain the goal of good governance.They resolved to establish links between the Millennium Development Goals, New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and its equivalent regional development programmes along with programmes of the African Development Bank. The conference agreed to enhance the parliamentary oversight function on electoral processes in view of the fact that elections were organised by the executive. "In this regard, African parliamentarians through regional parliamentary bodies/assemblies and the Pan African Parliament should adopt Africa-wide election observation strategies and mechanisms that facilitate consensus building and minimise election related conflicts and contestations," they resolved.

Closing the conference, SADC PF chairperson and Speaker of the National Assembly of Zambia Amusaa Mwanamwambwa said parliamentarians had reaffirmed their position that Africa must place legislatures in the central role of regional integration to deal directly with challenges and opportunities for sustainable development and the prosperity of ordinary peoples of Africa. "I am honoured to have participated in this landmark parliamentary meeting to review and focus on our roles of addressing Africa wide areas of concern on poverty reduction, HIV/AIDS, debt, NEPAD, conflict and peace building and cooperation among ourselves," he said. "The peoples of Africa whom we represent are one and their fundamental needs and concerns were common, namely peace, development, trade across borders, combating HIV/AIDS, wars, corruption and human rights abuses."

Speaker Mwanamwambwa said it was imperative that the African parliamentary voice should be taken on by the Pan African Parliament at the international level through fora such as the International Parliamentary Union and the forthcoming Speakers' Forum to be held at the UN in New York in September 2005. He said President Mwanawasa's gesture to engage Southern region leaders to transform the SADC PF into a SADC Parliament presented a challenge to all legislators. Speaker Mwanamwambwa said regional executives and legislators both had a role in endeavours for continental unity and cooperation. "If we could defy our respective colonial legacies and geographic locations, the foreign language groupings, cultures and religions we belong to, and be here in one room to discuss continental unity and cooperation, then there is nothing that will stand in our way to achieve this noble goal," he said. "Everyday, in our respective, we hear complaints from farmers and cross border traders who do not understand why they need to get visas and permits just to cross over and graze their herds or sell their produce." Speaker Mwanamwambwa challenged parliamentary leaders to accelerate the pace of involving parliamentarians in regional and continental issues without looking back.

AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Larry Moonze of The Post, Lusaka - August 11, 2005

 

Corruption Impacts Investments in Pakistan: IMF

Islamabad - Corruption continues to be a major problem in Pakistan, where enforcement of contracts, financial obligations, bankruptcy laws and interpretation of tax laws remain difficult, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says. Pakistan's educational and human development indicators had remained weak, resulting in a workforce often ill-equipped with the skills necessary for value added productions, the IMF said in its latest working paper made available to Dawn. There was much room for improving physical infrastructure of the country, the current state of which contributed to high costs of doing business, it noted.

According to IMF, some impediments to domestic and foreign investment - political and security risks - could not easily be removed or offset with right economic policies but that should be viewed as challenge to do more and better than elsewhere in the region. IMF senior resident representative in Pakistan Henri Lorie and senior economist in the IMF Resident Mission Zafar Iqbal are the authors of the working paper.

The World Bank's investment climate surveys also suggest that Pakistan is behind India, China and even the Philippines in terms of providing an enabling environment for investors. "Clearly, further progress can be made in Pakistan. For instance, property rights remain weak, because of (factors including) poor land records; there is still too much government intervention with market mechanism in case of some key commodities; red tape is still excessive, particularly at provincial level; labour regulation has hindered functioning of formal labour markets and employments; corruption remains a problem," the document says. Pakistan ranked 129 out of 146 countries in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index 2004.

From IANS, India - August 10, 2005

 

Jordan to Host 'Excellence in Public Service' Conference

Under the title "Excellence in Public Service," a regional conference gathering experts in public sector reform will take place from Sept. 18-19. During the conference, participants will look into dimensions of excellence such as improvement of service delivery, restructuring and development of the public sector, merit-based human resources policies, accountability and transparency, in addition to leadership and partnership between the public and private sectors.

Experts from the Kingdom, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Ireland, Singapore and the US will take part in the event. They will present models, case studies, best practices and lessons to acquaint participants with efficient tools and insight that they can use in their organisations to support and foster reforms. Besides, the conference will feature ideas and approaches in service delivery, human resource management and development, public-private partnerships, excellence awards, transparency and ethics.

During a press conference yesterday, Walid Al Turk, chairman of Excellence Inc., which is organising the event in cooperation with the Public Sector Development Administration and King Abdullah II Award for Government Performance and Transparency, said the conference will focus on building a culture of excellence among both individuals and institutions. He said, the conference, to be held under the patronage of HRH Prince Feisal, is an opportunity to build on Jordan's experience in implementing the vision of His Majesty King Abdullah to take tangible steps towards administrative, social, economic and political reform and development. Turk said that Minister of State for Public Sector Reform Taysir Smadi will outline the latest achievements and the role of Jordan in public sector reform in a press conference next week. Yasera Ghosheh, coordinator for the King Abdullah II Award for Government Performance and Transparency, highlighted Jordan's achievements in regards to transparency in government performance, referring to the role of the award as a valuable incentive to encourage and reward excellence in public sector reform.

From Middle East North Africa Financial Network, Middle East - August 9, 2005

UAE Signs United Nations Anti-Corruption Convention

The United Arab Emirates Wednesday signed the UN anti-corruption convention. Abdulaziz bin Nasser Al Shamsi, UAE's permanent representative to the UN, signed the document for his government. The 71-article agreement regulates all aspects related to the fight against corruption and defines forms of relationship with signatory parties. An official source at the UN legal department said the UAE has become the 125th country so far to sign the convention in addition to other Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Jordan, Djibouti, Algeria and Egypt. Countries are bound by the Convention to render specific forms of mutual legal assistance in gathering and transferring evidence for use in court, to extradite offenders. Countries are also required to undertake measures which will support the tracing, freezing, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of corruption.

From WAM - Emirates News Agency, United Arab Emirates - August 11, 2005

Anti-Corruption Organization Planned, UNDP Suggests Long Road Ahead

Sana'a - Presidential Office Director Ali Al-Anisi has announced state plans to establish an independent organization to fight corruption and draft anti-corruption law. “Civil organizations should take responsibility for the fight against corruption by heeding legislation to counter money laundering, promoting internal auditing in government agencies, and issuing comprehensive job descriptions,” said Al-Anisi. Speaking at the opening of a workshop for the National Institute of Administrative Sciences on August 21, Al-Anisi said that corruption was an international problem, made possible by the absence of legal accountability, transparency and surveillance. The irresponsible practices of government bodies hold the development process back and threaten the peace and stability of any community, Al-Anisi said. He pinpointed
two forms of corruption, the financial and the administrative, which he described as making the task of combating corruption difficult for the government to execute alone.

The workshop was attended by 50 participants representing the government, private companies and Yemeni universities. Speaking at the same event, Hamoud Al-Soufi, Minister of Civil Services and Insurance, said that dealing with corruption was of paramount importance, and that management policies should focus on systems of reward and punishment as a potent weapon in their armory to confront corruption. The German deputy ambassador praised the efforts of the Yemeni government in facing up to the realities of corruption in a transparent and serious manner, saying that Yemen was putting the prevention of, and the fight against, corruption, at the top of its list of priorities.

True state of affairs - The recently released 2005 United Nations Development Program report launched by the Arab Regional Office of the UNDP, brings into sharp focus the extent of the problem in Yemen. The report described administration practices as worsening due to increasing corruption. Lack of administrative competence or, in other words, qualified administrators, as well as low wages, meagre bonuses and salaries, rigid centralism, inconsistency in administrative procedures, failure to provide job descriptions, the absence of a system of reward and punishment, all were cited in the report as key factors encouraging bribery, and the forging of accounts, records, audits, and accountability reports.

Low income is another major contributing factor to corruption. According to a report published by the Yemeni Rai News website and another by the Yemen Observer in its previous issue, Yemen was classified as the poorest country in the Middle East. Employment in the public sector was seen to be obtained through nepotism, favoritism, personal relations, special ties and contacts and bribery. The Yemen Observer was told by civil service job applicants who preferred to remain nameless, that due to fierce competition in the public sector, applicants resorted to unethical means of securing a position, particularly those who did not meet employment criteria. Accountant A.Abulalim, working for a private company, says that corruption is not confined to the public sector: “Since the work laws concerning the private sector are not enforced by the government, business owners seize the opportunity to exploit their employees either by paying them less than they are entitled to or by not paying them for overtime and extra work.”

Khaled Ishaq, a communications analyst at the UN Development Programme (UNDP), explained there had been a change in mentality since 1988 as poverty had increased. “People can't make ends meet on a legitimate salary, so they find ways to supplement their income, so taking bribes has become more expected.” As a result, the UNDP report said, Yemen is infested with corruption, from petty back-handers, such as a policeman demanding 100 Yemeni rials (just over US $0.50) to overlook a traffic offence, to major abuses of power, such as the acceptance of bribes for contracts in the oil sector. Corruption even permeates the education system, where students frequently have to pay their teachers for graduation certificates. Low public-sector salaries encourage the practice. The UNDP is reported by UN news service IRIN, as having identified “two chief areas of concern - the oil sector and employment. The really big corruption is the sell-off of the country’s natural wealth for private benefit, where it’s oil or jobs. The oil industry has to be fully transparent in exploring, exploiting and marketing this country’s largest source of revenue.” The UNDP report points out that corruption is a major investment disincentive, with the absence of law enforcement further discouraging investors. One businessman told the Yemen Observer that he regretted not investing his money abroad as he now finds himself subjected to blackmail, and unprotected by legislation.

The state of Yemen’s judiciary - Where legislation fails to protect, it can also hinder progress. “The Yemeni government makes seemingly well-planned laws, but when it comes to their application they are confronted by laws, particularly those pertaining to justice.” So said the 2005 UNDP report. Evidence for the failure of the judiciary in Yemen is found in lengthy legal proceedings and delays in reaching verdicts, and the questionable validity of trial proceedings, according to the report. It described the judicial system in Yemen as “weak”. One reason is the presence of under-qualified and under-trained judges. A lack of court and public prosecution office performance vigilation and observation are also cited, along with insufficient protection of judges by the government.

How Yemen Fairs Compared to its Neighbors - The UNDP report detailed Yemen’s economic performance according to several indicators. Yemen occupies the 16th spot in the Index of Public Accountability (IPA), compared to the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, which jointly occupy position 32 in the same index. The Index of Quality Administration positions Yemen at 33.5, compared to the 48th spot jointly taken by the countries of the Middle East, and position 37 which is occupied by the North African countries. The Index of Government Quality has Yemen at number 22.5 and the Middle East and North African countries at number 37.
The index of low-income countries places Yemen at number 28.

The Transparency International (TI) annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI), published in October 2004, placed Yemen at 112 out of 146 countries surveyed that year, down from 88 the previous year. Yemen scored 2.4 out of a best possible 10, compared to 2.6 in 2003, ranking it below only Sudan and Iraq in the Arab world. The report said that average income per capita was US$564.89 in 2003, adding that Yemen was witnessing a deterioration in standards of education and health, while a growing population slowed down the economy.

Signs for Optimism - IRIN says in a report: “Recent surveys suggest that institutional corruption is widespread in Yemen… But recent developments suggest that Sana’a is taking the problem more seriously following a number of judicial and political reforms. At the same time, development agencies are working with the Yemeni government to tackle the issue.” Government steps to eradicate corruption have, however, provided some encouragement: “It signals that Yemen is aware of the problem and committed to make it a more desirable country for outside investment, which is essential for development,” the UNDP report stated.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh has recently announced further changes and new appointments in the Higher Judicial Council, which monitors the performance of judges, after 22 were dismissed for abuse of power and a further 108 were forced into early retirement. Last month Saleh ordered a further crackdown on corruption when he established two committees, one to investigate abuses in the oil sector, and the second to check the misuse of public office for recruitment in the education sector. Recent noises from the government may signal some kind of light at the end of the tunnel, but it is clear that the road ahead is fraught difficulties.

From Yemen Observer, Yemen, by Khalil Al-Buraihi & Abdul-Aziz Oudah - August 27, 2005

 
 

Study Blames Public Service

A study has blamed the public service in Botswana for government's failure to create employment, attract foreign direct investment and the slow growth of the economy. The Botswana Confederation of Commerce, Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM) study acknowledges that though the country has made strides in the political, social and economic levels, unemployment remains "unacceptably high, and the economy is very narrowly based".

The study points out that other countries such as Mauritius that followed a development path similar to that of Botswana have either low or relative unemployment levels. Such countries have no poverty and no threats to economic confidence like Botswana. The BOCCIM study argues that the Botswana economy is besieged because when the diamond-led economy generated funds, the government set up a structure to distribute the narrowly generated wealth for the benefit of the entire society. Moreover, government used a model of state structures to distribute wealth rather than providing incentives, or concentrating its funds on creating an enabling structure for wealth creation by a well-diversified business sector. "In doing so, government chose a model otherwise labelled the African, which generally puts socio-political considerations to economic ones. The result: a large civil service being interposed, more or less like a sponge, between the primary income generator (mining) and the rest of the business sector," the report reads in part.

The negative results of the model, the report states are business unfriendly regulation, mismatches between education system and the requirements of an entrepreneurial economy. Other negative attributes are occasional obstructive behaviour common to large bureaucracies, says the report. "The set-up produces poor quality GDP growth: in National Product calculation, the spending by general government (including civil service salaries) equates with production. This leads to apparent differences between GDP size and growth performance on paper, and what is seen in reality in terms of economic performance and employment generation outside the public sector. Hence if a civil service is not very small, and very efficient, it acts less as a producer and more as a sponge- and GDP is effectively overstated," says the report. At another level, the report says that where government is large, it can become the main bottleneck in areas such as creating employment and it may absorb potentially productive funds and in some cases deploy such funds inefficiently.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Stryker Motlaloso of The Reporter, Gaborone - August 2, 2005

Civil Servants Welcome 14 Per Cent Pay Award

Civil servants yesterday welcomed the 14-per cent pay increase the Government announced on Thursday. The union said, however, that it would continue engaging the Government in "meaningful" negotiations to improve the terms of service. Secretary-general Alphayo Nyakundi of the Union of Kenya Civil Servants told the Press at the Ufundi Co-operative Union headquarters, Nairobi, that the latest pay offer - announced by Public Service minister William ole Ntimama - had taken care of the lower cadres, mostly union employees who had been ignored in previous increases. The increase, to be backdated to July 1, is set to benefit civil servants and employees of the Teachers Service Commission in job groups A to N. The most senior civil servant to benefit will now earn an additional Sh4,075 a month.

A schedule obtained by the Nation shows that the officer has moved from a maximum of Sh29,285 to Sh33,360. In this job group are mainly provincial administrators. The lowest cadre, job group A, is earning Sh5,685, an extra Sh700. The maximum pay here is Sh5,721. Diploma holders who join in groups G and H will get between Sh8,730 and Sh13,680. Those in group B will earn a minimum of Sh5,721 and a maximum of Sh5,793, up from Sh5,015. Staff in group C are to earn between Sh5,796 and Sh6,288, up from a minimum of Sh5,085, while those in D will get between Sh5,877 and Sh6,948 compared with the previous minimum of Sh5,155. Group E staff, earning a maximum of Sh6,755, will now take home Sh7,710 and those in group F a maximum of Sh8,430, up from Sh7,375. Group G staff move from a minimum of Sh7,665 to a maximum of Sh12,645, and group H from a minimum of Sh8,965 to Sh13,680. Job group J staff have moved from a low of Sh10,045 to a high of Sh15,600. Group K will earn a minimum of Sh15,235 and a maximum of Sh23,520, L from Sh17,235 to Sh26,280 and M from Sh20,135 to Sh30,840.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Samuel Siringi of The Nation, Nairobi - August 13, 2005

Kenya Gives Civil Servants 14 Percent Pay Rise

The Kenyan government has announced a 14-percent salary increase on average for civil servants to avert further strikes which threatened to cripple the east African nation's operations last month. Public Service Minister William Ole Ntimama told a news conference Thursday that the adjustments will see the lowest paid civil servant take home 9,000 shillings (about 120 US dollars) per month, up from 5,000 shillings (about 67 dollars). He said the government will spend 2.1 billion shillings (about 28 million dollars) to implement the new salaries.

"The pay increase will take effect from this financial year. We had included the increment in the budget and did not act as a result of a recent strike called by the civil servants," said the minister. Ntimama said this is the second phase of harmonization of terms and conditions in the public service. The minister noted that it was very unfortunate that the civil servants went on strike yet they had been assured that the program is ongoing and their salaries are going to be reviewed annually. He reiterated that the government is going to uphold its part of the bargain. A section of civil servants were sacked last month for taking part in the strike called by the Union of Kenya Civil Servants on June 2 to demand 600 percent pay increment. The minister of state in charge of public services had threatened that those who took part in the strike would be sacked.

From People's Daily Online, China - August 11, 2005

 

ADB Funds Mekong Civil Servants Training with 3 Million USD

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a technical assistance (TA) package totaling about 3 million US dollars to help train civil servants in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) member countries. ADB said Monday in a report that it will contribute 800,000 US dollars toward the TA, which will be cofinanced with 1.5 million Euros (about 1.923 million dollars) from the government of France, and 350,000 dollars from the New Zealand Agency for International Development.

The TA will promote economic growth and social development by supporting the second phase of the Phnom Penh Plan for Development Management (PPP), which has helped build badly needed human capacity in the GMS over the past two years. The PPP has been imparting knowledge and skills to middle and senior-level GMS civil servants to support the enhanced design and management of development programs at national and subregional levels. "The quality of development decisions and effectiveness of development administration depends heavily on the ability of civil servants to effectively lead and manage the development process," said Sukhdeep Brar, an ADB Senior Education Specialist.

The second phase of the PPP aims to train an additional 600 civil servants from the six GMS countries through demand-driven learning programs. The GMS Economic Cooperation Program began in 1992 to promote closer regional economic ties and cooperation among the countries sharing the Mekong River, which comprise Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

From People's Daily Online, China - August 8, 2005

ADB Boosting Development Management of Mekong Civil Servants

Manila - ADB will help boost the efficiency and effectiveness of development management in Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) member countries through a technical assistance (TA) grant package approved totaling about US$3 million. ADB will contribute $800,000 toward the TA, which will be cofinanced with Eur1.5 million (about $1.923 million) from the Government of France, and $350,000 from the New Zealand Agency for International Development.

The TA will promote economic growth and social development by supporting the second phase of the Phnom Penh Plan for Development Management (PPP), which has helped build badly needed human capacity in the GMS over the past two years. The PPP has been imparting knowledge and skills to middle and senior-level GMS civil servants to support the enhanced design and management of development programs at national and subregional levels. Since its inception in late 2002, it has delivered more than 20 demand-based learning programs benefiting more than 400 GMS officials. In addition, a Learning Resources Center was established in ADB's Cambodia Resident Mission to promote GMS awareness and knowledge, and a PPP fellowship program, which sends promising alumni to programs of higher learning in respected international institutions, was launched.

A Journal of GMS Development Studies was also launched to provide a platform for sharing research, reviewing development literature, and fostering debate, as well as a PPP web site. "The quality of development decisions and effectiveness of development administration depends heavily on the ability of civil servants to effectively lead and manage the development process," says Sukhdeep Brar, an ADB Senior Education Specialist. "Relevant and qualitatively superior skill sets, superior leadership attributes, updated sector and thematic knowledge, and modernized know-how on cutting-edge management tools and concepts will contribute to the makings of a professional and committed cadre of GMS civil servants."

The second phase of the PPP aims to train an additional 600 civil servants from the six GMS countries through demand-driven learning programs. A GMS Distinguished Speaker series, featuring some of the world's leading figures in development, research, and governance, will be conducted. A PPP alumni program that will encourage lifelong learning activities will be established, intellectual capital development through joint research activities will be supported, and the existing PPP network of educational institutions serving as capacity building partners will be expanded. The TA will also continue to support activities that will generate awareness and interest in the PPP, such as the PPP newsletter and web site. The TA will be carried out over about two years to March 2007. The GMS Economic Cooperation Program began in 1992 to promote closer regional economic ties and cooperation among the countries sharing the Mekong River. It comprises Cambodia, People's Republic of China, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

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

Revisions Proposed to Civil Servants' Code

The Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption announced yesterday that it would soon submit to the National Assembly revisions to an anti-corruption law that deals with civil servants' code of conduct. According to the revised version of the law, civil servants will no longer be allowed to recommend or introduce civilians to officials of state-invested companies or organizations, which are under the central government's supervision. Senior officials will also be disciplined for giving "unjust" orders to their subordinates. Currently, while subordinates have the right to refuse "unjust" orders, their superiors go unpunished for such behavior.

The revised bill also increases prize money for those who report corrupt civil servants by up to 2 billion won ($1.97 million). Civil servants who report receipt of bribes will be awarded up to 20 percent of the reported bribe's value with the maximum award standing at 200 million won. Reporting of minor incidents of corruption can be rewarded financially, up to 50 million won. A broader range of civil servants will be affected by the revised laws, increasing from the current 400,000 who work for the central government to 1.2 million, which includes those working for organizations under the central government's supervision.

From Joongang Ilbo, South Korea - August 5, 2005

 

Civil Servants Up In Arms over Proposal to Cut Jobs

Ottawa - Union leaders reacted angrily yesterday to news that the federal government is in the final stages of a two-year study that proposes to eliminate thousands of jobs across the public service in a bid to save as much as $4-billion a year. "I have not been consulted at all on any of this, so I'm pretty pissed off," said Michèle Demers, the president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, the union that represents many of the employees who would be affected. Ms. Demers said implementing such an approach would be a "doomsday scenario" for public servants because those who remain would likely be saddled with an increased workload. "Obviously there's a lot of angst," she said.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada also condemned the study yesterday, demanding meetings with government officials to discuss its possible implications. Federal officials yesterday confirmed that the study had been done at the request of Reg Alcock, the President of Treasury Board. The study, reported in The Globe and Mail, said at least 41,000 employees are in jobs that could be eliminated, though many would be transferred to new positions in a new agency tentatively called the Shared Services Organization. But federal ministers said the idea has not yet gone to cabinet and that government jobs will not be slashed with a "chainsaw." Transport Minister Jean Lapierre was surrounded by MPs from the Gatineau region, where thousands of civil servants work, as he was asked about the document.

"There's not one job that is threatened by the study. My colleagues won't allow the government to cut jobs with a chainsaw," Mr. Lapierre said. "It's an internal study that has not even made its way to the desk of Reg Alcock. We're talking about a document that is lying around somewhere in Treasury Board. It contains a number of scenarios, but it's not a policy of the government, and it's not even a recommendation made by the upper reaches of the Treasury Board." Mr. Alcock is on holidays and was not able to comment. His spokeswoman said he has not yet been briefed on the study's findings. Concerned federal public servants inundated their union leaders with calls yesterday, requesting details on the Treasury Board and Public Works proposal to cut jobs in individual departments in four areas: information technology, financial officers, human resources and office supply management. That work would then be handled by a new shared services department using fewer staff, in order to avoid duplication and save between $2-billion and $4-billion a year.

Details of the proposal, which calls for staff reductions through attrition rather than layoffs, were contained in documents released under the Access to Information Act. The documents were from Treasury Board and Public Works, with comments from Jim Alexander, the Treasury Board's deputy chief information officer, who led the study. Mr. Alexander said 41,000 public servants have been identified as working in those four job categories across the public service, but would not say how many of those jobs would remain if the change goes ahead. But some say such an overhaul is long overdue and expressed concern cabinet will back down in light of the public criticism. Linda Duxbury, a professor with the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University who has been aware of the Treasury Board study, said Canadians should be glad the public service is looking for ways to save money and avoid duplication. "It's not like this has been a stealth effort at change. They have a whole unit that has been working on this, a fairly sizable unit, for several years," she said. Conservative MP Guy Lauzon and NDP MP Ed Broadbent both expressed concern with Mr. Alexander's comment that there is an appetite inside government to move ahead with the plan and "learn as we go." The two MPs said it shows a lack of planning that will upset public servants.

From Globe and Mail, Canada, by Bill Curry and Daniel Leblanc - August 11, 2005

Courts Provide Delays in Civil Service Overhaul

When Congress approved the plan to overhaul the civil service system, federal unions hoped they could delay implementation in the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security and retain bargaining rights. At best, the unions want to maintain some of the status-quo features of federal job rules and prevent the spread of "reform" to other agencies. Unions were concerned about losing automatic pay raises to those based on performance ratings, as well as elimination of longevity pay raises and the impact of pay banding, that is lumping three or four civil service grades into one big pay band. But their only legal avenue was to challenge the impact on collective bargaining rights that Congress granted years ago. Now, thanks to a team of dogged union attorneys and union lobbyists and the misgivings of many rank-and-file feds, the unions are beginning to think that they have a real shot at delaying the changes until the White House and/or Congress is under new management.

Although many federal workers say they would welcome a private-sector style of merit pay, the vast majority say such a system - which often is based on the profit motive that drives the private sector -- cannot work in a service-oriented government. Although some politicians seem to agree that the new system will not work, the courts have concentrated on narrow interpretations of law and civil service rules. And they keep ruling in favor of unions that say the White House plan, which now includes "reforming" the entire civil service by 2010, is both unfair and a breach of contract with employees.

The administration suffered its latest cut with the late-Friday ruling by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of U.S. District Court in Washington. Unions had asked the court to strike down work rules changes proposed for the Pentagon and the DHS, which employ about half the white-collar federal work force. The judge, who was appointed by President Bush, said the sweeping White House-proposed changes simply go too far. The civil service reform plan was fast-tracked through Congress. But over the past few months, target dates have been upset repeatedly. That could convince politicians of both parties that doing nothing on this subject is wiser than doing anything.

L funds - The new Lifecycle funds of the federal Thrift Savings Plan are only 16 days old, but they already are showing distinct personalities. Thousands of feds have switched millions of dollars into one of the five L Fund options. The allocation of funds, among high-risk stocks, bonds and a Treasury fund, are based on the date the investor plans to start tapping his or her account. The so-called L Income Fund is for people approaching or at that point.

From Washington Times, DC, by Mike Causey - August 16, 2005

 

Bilateral Agreement to Facilitate Exchange of Civil Servants

Malta and the United Kingdom have signed a bilateral agreement aimed at facilitating the exchange of civil servants between the two countries in order to expose them to new work practices. The agreement, which was signed recently by Principal Permanent Secretary Godwin Grima and the director of the UK Talent and Corporate Development Group, will facilitate the exchange of civil servants for training and development. The Staff Development Organisation, within the Prime Minister’s office, is leading this initiative and the exchanges are expected to begin next year.

From Malta Independent, Malta - August 6, 2005

 
 

International Conference on e-Gov To Be Held in Lahore in December

The event would provide a platform for sharing and presenting e-governance experiences - New Delhi: Following its tremendous success in the previous two years, the Third International Conference on E-Governance (ICEG) is coming to Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Lahore, Pakistan this year. Scheduled from 9th to 11th December 2005, this is first time this highly successful international conference on e-governance is coming to Pakistan. Pakistan PM, Shaukat Aziz, is expected to inaugurate the summit. The conference was organized by Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi (India) in 2003 and by the University of Colombo, School of Computing (Sri Lanka) in 2004.

The ICEG conference in Pakistan will provide a platform for government officials, funding agencies, scientists and research students, from across the globe, to present and deliberate on their research findings, experiences, strategies, policies, technologies and case studies in the field of e-governance. The conference will deliberate on technology models, operational models, financial models, sustainability models and innovative change management techniques for successful adoption of IT in government. Announcing the dates of the conference, Dr Syed Zahoor Hassan, Vice Chancellor of LUMS, said, "Our vision is to be a pre-eminent academic institution, serving as a catalyst for economic prosperity and social development with a focus on management of resources. Hosting the Third International Conference on e-Governance is a step in that direction," he said. Oracle, the world's leading enterprise software company, will be a key sponsor and provider of resources in this year's conference as it did in the previous two conferences in 2003 and 2004.

From CIOL, India - August 24, 2005

3rd International e-Governance Conference in December

The Third International Conference on E-Governance (ICEG) is coming to Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Lahore has been scheduled to be held from December 9th to 11th. This is first time this highly successful international conference on e-governance is coming to Pakistan. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shaukat Aziz, will be the Chief Guest at the inaugural ceremony.

The conference was organized by Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi (India) in 2003 and the subsequent conference was organized by the University of Colombo, School of Computing (Sri Lanka) in 2004. The first and second ICEG conferences were inaugurated, by the President of India and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, respectively. The ICEG conference in Pakistan will provide a platform for government officials, funding agencies, scientists and research students, from across the globe, to present and deliberate on their research findings, experiences, strategies, policies, technologies and case studies in the field of e-governance. The conference will deliberate on technology models, operational models, financial models, sustainability models and innovative change management techniques for successful adoption of IT in government. Announcing the dates of the conference, Dr Syed Zahoor Hassan, Vice Chancellor of LUMS, said, "Our vision is to be a pre-eminent academic institution, serving as a catalyst for economic prosperity and social development with a focus on management of resources. Hosting the Third International Conference on e-Governance is a step in that direction," he said.

Oracle, the world's leading enterprise software company, will be a key sponsor and provider of resources in this year's conference as it did in the previous two conferences in 2003 and 2004. Oracle is a global leader in providing integrated e-government solutions to over 2000 governments in the world. According to Samina Rizwan, regional manager, SAGE -West, Oracle Corporation, "e-Governance is all about making citizen's and businesses' interaction with their governments easier, simpler and faster. By bringing this international conference to Pakistan, we hope to create better understanding of global best practices among the e-government stakeholders in Pakistan and to showcase Pakistan's capabilities in IT to the rest of the world." Over 500 delegates are expected to participate in the two-day conference that organizers hope will encourage papers based on the central theme of e-governance.

From India Infoline.com, India - August 24, 2005

 

Geographic Information System to Revolutionise E-governance

Muscat - Geographic Information System (GIS) is the latest information technology tool that promises to be the one-stop solution for administrators seeking to usher in e-governance. GIS is a documentation database that ties together disparate information sources and provides new ways to use them and is produced using a software known as Autodesk Civil 3D which creates photo-realistic renderings directly from three-dimensional modelling. In layman’s terms, GIS can be called as maps on a computer where each object is drawn as a point, a line or a polygon and the locations are stored in X and Y coordinates. The description of each of these locations is stored in a corresponding database, something like layers of information, which is stored separately but can be used together.

GIS is being used in many countries like the US and India in sectors like telecommunications, energy, hospitals, fisheries, agriculture, facilities and asset management, land management etc. For example, you draw a map of Ruwi. The tallest and the most prominent landmark in Ruwi is Sheraton Hotel. So you use GIS tools to place Sheraton Hotel on the map including the building’s physical properties like height, breadth etc. If you go straight down from the front of Sheraton Hotel, you reach Ruwi bus stand. In between, on both sides of the road, are the CBD and MBD areas; buildings like Muscat Securities Market (MSM); roads; cross roads; and a wadi. All these details, which are added in the map, are three-dimensional pictures.

Now, a guest at Sheraton Hotel, who wants to go for a meeting at Muscat Securities Market, can just log on to the computer and click on the map of Ruwi to find out how much time it will take for him to walk down the road. GIS will also tell him the weather conditions like the climatic temperature at that particular point of time in that area, what is the traffic situation and if he wants to drive it will also show him the route map, including the number of traffic lights and how many turns he has to take to reach the parking lot of MSM. All this can be viewed on the computer as if he is watching a video of Ruwi. In another situation, a real estate owner has come to the Muscat Municipality office because he has a new building coming up in CBD and wants to apply for a water connection.

After that he has to run to the electricity department with another application for power supply. Finally, he has to go to Omantel for a landphone application. Besides the tiresome job of running around to all these departments, it may take anything between three to six months to get approvals for all these facilities. But with GIS, one person with access to the map of that particular place will log in to the system and he will be able to find out how many underground cables are there, the texture of the soil, whether a road is above the cables, the possibility of disturbing the existing infrastructure to lay new cables and pipes etc. Not only can the applications be cleared faster and efficiently, the coordination between various departments will also be easier and quicker. The system will also update itself, for future reference, on the new cables laid and the work done.

These are just two of the endless possibilities offered by GIS and it can be adopted by anyone who wants to conduct e-governance, whether it is a government or private organisation. At a micro level, an organisation can, with the help of barcodes, keep tabs on the numbers of computers installed in each section, the persons using the systems, the number of tables and chairs used, the company from which the furniture was bought, the average lifespan of the furniture etc. The system will automatically give updates and render the managerial tasks easy. Any information that is associated with a location can be used in GIS like physical objects, characteristics of the land and human factors. Physical properties can be houses, streets, fire hydrants, rivers, landfills etc., while characteristics of the land may include soil type, geology, elevation etc. Human factors can mean government boundaries, property ownership, demographic information like crime events etc.

Usually you start out by knowing one information and then you ask GIS to show you the other. For example, if there is a fire in one particular place, the fire-fighting personnel just have to type out the name of the area where the fire has started and then ask the system to show the shortest route to that place with the least number of traffic lights, traffic jams etc. It can even give information about how many people live in that building which caught fire, how many are office-goers and how many are housewives and how many electrical points are there and their load capacities etc. There are four main labour-intensive activities involved in GIS. First of all data capturing like keying in, digitising, scanning and converting of information into electronic format. Data storage and manipulation, which involves file management, editing and documentation is the second step while the third is data analysis. The fourth GIS function is data display like maps, reports, interactive displays which involves queries etc.

From Times of Oman, Oman, by Visvas Paul D. Karra - August 7, 2005

e-Statergies Initiatives in the Middle East

At a recent roundtable, government delegates from the Middle East joined tier-one IT vendors to explore how regional authorities are utilising technology to deliver services via the internet in order to improve the overall efficiency of the public sector. The attendees delved into the concept of e-government, how it is transforming public services and businesses, leading to greater adoption of technology by the region’s citizens. The “Strategies for e-Government in the Middle East” roundtable, held at the British Embassy in Dubai, drew many conclusions about the priorities of e-government. The topics under discussion included the need to relieve the government of service burdens so they can focus on policies and regulating the state; the importance of support for projects from top national leadership; the need to weigh the costs and benefits of any project and the forming of close public-private partnerships to open societies and change values. The need for bespoke solutions for each country was also a critical point raised during the debate.

“The priorities differ from country to country; no one size fits all. Qatar is focusing on e-services, like Dubai, because of the nature of their constitution and the nature of their country. If you look at Egypt, you find they are focusing on driving economic growth and FDI (foreign direct investment). In Bahrain, the priority is unemployment, so we find various issues of e-government are being addressed in terms of the real needs of individual countries,” says Yasser Zeineldin, regional public sector director for Microsoft South Gulf. The Emirate’s initiative is not intended to be a replication of other programmes in the region, but involves the deployment of a complete and unique technology infrastructure designed to specifically support its e-government plans.

Driven by the vision of H.H. Sheikh Humaid Bin Rashid Al-Nuaimi, Supreme Council member and Ruler of Ajman, the aim of the development is to improve day-to-day operations of the various government departments. The project is also expected to bring in transparency and improve government-to-government interaction. Dubai launched its e-government portal, the first of its kind in the Arab world, in 2001. Representing 24 government departments, the project aimed to provide official online services for citizens and visitors through one site and was adapted from approaches taken by similar global projects to cater specifically for Dubai’s needs.

“The establishment of e-government in Dubai and the introduction of the e-Dirham on the federal level were the two main moves to achieve such goals. Now citizens and businesses are able to use various tailored services online and make payments in a secure environment. The availability of these services and the improvements in online service delivery are what have made the UAE an e-government champion in the Arab World,” says Newman. In Dubai, the principle behind the Emirate’s e-government initiative is that it should follow a customer-centric model, with government departments transforming their services not just for their own benefit, or to be in line with procedures and policies, but to deliver the services and information the customer wants, according to Mahmood Ahmed Al Bastaki, business process re-engineering consultant for Dubai’s e-government.

The common goals of promoting employee productivity, and thereby reducing budget deficits, combined with the need to drive economic growth by attracting both foreign and local investors, are forcing regional nations to increase their IT budgets. In order to overcome the hurdle of technology investment, regional governments are keen to share best practices and learn from the experiences of one another. In this co-operative environment, Bahrain’s launch of the Middle East’s first solution centre, which showcased the importance of open standard technologies, provides support to e-government initiatives across the entire region. Bahrain is the first government in the Middle East to join a growing number of governments around the world that are adopting open standards for their e-government initiatives.

The open standards approach yields benefits for e-government projects not only in Bahrain, but also in the whole region as the solution centre will be linked to a network of IBM e-government centres worldwide and will provide strategic resources and practical advice and experience to teams working in the public sector throughout the Middle East. It will establish a strong link with European and other governments and offer access to best practices and experience from around the world. As connectivity booms in the region and the internet rapidly becomes widely accepted, the Bahrain e-government centre will form an important step for the continuing integration of the strong, but disparate efforts countries in the Middle East have made in the direction of e-government.

Since traditional Islamic public law, referred to as Siyassa, depends on a consultative approach to making political decisions, international academics, such as John Strawson, professor of Islamic Law studies at the University of East London, believe the legal system could serve as a powerful driver for e-government, making the Middle East as a whole more e-government-friendly than some Western cultures and possibly serving as a means of return to traditional Islamic values. “There is nothing in Siyassa that would forbid or limit the use of a computer for consulting the public; on the contrary, any effort to determine the will of the people is encouraged.”

From India Infoline.com, India - August 24, 2005

 
 

Trade Offices Show U.S. Commitment to Boosting African Economies

Agency for International Development promoting growth throughout continent - The four trade development offices operated by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Nairobi, Kenya; Gaborone, Botswana; Accra, Ghana; and Dakar are a prime example of the Bush administration's commitment to expanding trade and economic development across Africa, says Lloyd O. Pierson, USAID's assistant administrator for Africa. Pierson made that point while briefing reporters on the importance of the USAID trade hubs at the recent African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum in Dakar. It was at that venue that the fourth hub - located in Dakar - was announced. "We are not talking just exports to the United States," Pierson told reporters while speaking of the trade hubs, "although that is important. We are also talking about what we can do to do a better job of economic development within the continent -- on a country basis, on a regional basis, and on a continent-wide basis. "What we will see as a result of all these activities," he said, "will be jobs, jobs, and jobs," along with the social responsibility and community activity that responsible businesses "bring with them when they get involved."

Pierson said that through the hubs, USAID is greatly increasing its number of public-private partnerships - which now stands at 105 in Africa. "To show the aggressiveness" of this program, he said he had signed seven new public-private partnerships in the preceding three weeks. As part of these arrangements, he explained, private sector organizations enter into agreements with USAID to participate in a broad array of health, education, and development programs that promote social responsibility and help the community. "We want the economic development. We want the jobs. But we also want the social responsibility of what a business or corporation can bring to the community," Pierson told the reporters.

A key part of that, he said, is being a good corporate citizen. Pierson reminded his audience that in many African countries the unemployment rate is "staggering," both in rural and urban areas, and so the need for economic development is urgent. "The more we can do to spur economic development - income, jobs, community activities - â-oe then the better that community is going to be," he said. "The best way to help the poor is to make them not poor - so that is part of the approach that we are doing" through the trade hubs. Pierson said the public-private agreements run the gamut, including an agreement with the Nike Foundation in Ethiopia, a cashew agreement in Mozambique, and an agreement with a diamond merchant in Angola. Pierson was joined by representatives from three of the USAID trade hub offices and by USAID's AGOA advisor.

Lisa M. Yarmoshuk, who represented the southern Africa trade hub in Gaborone, said that besides doing what Pierson described, her trade hub staff, like those of her colleagues, is concentrating on improving and streamlining transportation and customs issues across its region. "As we have heard, getting product to market, getting inputs for product development - there are a lot of inefficiencies" that add needless time and costs to trade. She said her staff, along with the other hubs, is concentrating on opening "transportation corridors" to make the flow of products more efficient within and across borders. Additionally, she said, the trade hubs also work in a multipronged approach to help eliminate customs and trade barriers on key trade routes - whether they are inside or outside their region.

Scott Allen, USAID's hub manager and regional trade advisor in Nairobi, said all of the hubs are working to "find the nexus" between key issues like trade policy, capacity building, trade facilitation, and customs issues. "As we promote competitiveness, not just trade â-oe we also try to mainstream key issues with regard to gender, HIV/AIDS, environmental issues," Allen said. The East African hub, he added, also focuses on public relations and information dissemination. Pointing to the inefficiencies cited earlier by Yarmoshuk, he said it takes 60 days to ship a large container from Kenya's port of Mombasa to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. "For those of you familiar with the United States, think of a container on a truck moving from Seattle [in the state of Washington on the West Coast] to Des Moines [in the state of Iowa in the Midwest]. If that took 60 days, there would be a revolution" in the United States, he said. That distance is customarily covered in the United States in two days.

Touching on West Africa, Andy Cook, the director of the USAID trade hub in Accra, said his staff is focusing on expanding trade in five commodities: industrially manufactured apparel; handicrafts, with an emphasis on home décor; fish and seafood; shea [a fat used in food, soap and candles]; and cashews. "In these areas," he said, "we work directly with African entrepreneurs and companies, and in most of these areas we find that facilitating them to attend trade shows in the United States is a very good way to bring them to the attention of U.S. buyers." Additionally, he said the hub is also working with regional organizations such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to help smooth trade across the region and unify sanitary and phytosanitary standards so that goods can be exported to the United States.

Amanda Hilligas, USAID's African Growth and Opportunity Act advisor, told reporters that while AGOA has been a big success across Africa, future efforts must concentrate on achieving diversity in U.S.-Africa trade. As part of that effort, she said, "we are launching national strategies in Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho, and Namibia" to help those countries diversify their exports away from a heavy concentration on apparel.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Charles W. Corey of Dakar, Senegal (Source: US Department of State) - August 24, 2005

 

Japan Plans to Maintain Spending in Next Fiscal Year's Budget

Japan's government plans to maintain spending in next fiscal year's budget and also seeks to curb an expansion of public debt, the biggest in the industrialized world. The Cabinet today approved the next fiscal year's budget outline which proposes general expenditure at 47.5 trillion yen, compared with this year's 47.3 trillion yen, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement. General expenditure is spending excluding debt-servicing costs and tax subsidies to local governments. The outline also proposes a 3 percent cut in public work spending.

Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has departed from the country's longstanding policy of spending trillions of yen on bridges, roads and airports to create jobs in rural areas and spur growth since he came to power in April 2001. He has pledged to curb the expansion of the world's biggest public debt, which is projected to reach 151 percent of gross domestic product by March 2006. Ministries and government agencies will submit their budget requests to the Ministry of Finance by Aug. 31, following the budget outline. The government usually releases a final budget proposal on Dec. 20 each year. Japan's fiscal year starts on April 1.

Koizumi earlier this week called for an election on Sept. 11 after lawmakers from his own party joined the opposition to reject the premier's plans to sell the state-owned postal service. Parliamentary debate on the sale of Japan Post has delayed other legislative business. The government usually drafts its budget outline for the following year by the end of July.

From Bloomberg - August 10, 2005

 

French Privatisation Won’t Help Government Finances Much

Paris - France’s rush to raise billions of euros by selling stakes in key companies and using some of the money to pay off debt will have little effect on precarious government finances, economists say. In two months, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin’s conservative government has speeded up the tender for selling stakes in three motorway companies and sold shares in Gaz de France and France Telecom. It is expected to open the partial privatisation of electricity company Electricite De France (EDF) in the autumn. Including the motorway companies, Villepin has overseen more privatisation in his short spell as prime minister than his predecessor Jean-Pierre Raffarin did in three years. Villepin is expected to raise around 20 billion euros ($25.21 billion) compared with around 13 billion euros by Raffarin. The government, which has promised to improve the economy and French confidence by the end of the summer, has said 10 billion euros of the money raised from the motorway companies’ sale will be used to pay off public debt. But France’s outstanding obligations stand at around 1,100 billion euros, or some 65 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), so the sum will make little difference to public finances, economists say.

Drop in the Ocean - “Reducing the debt is a good thing...But it’s a drop in the ocean,” said Olivier Gasnier, senior economist at Societe Generale, adding that health and social costs will continue to weigh on public finances over the longer term. The government has said the motorway money will reduce interest charges France faces next year by 650 million euros. It has not yet said how this will be done. France is over two-thirds of the way through its 111 billion euros debt issuance program for this year. Faster economic growth achieved through structural reforms, not privatization’s, will lead to long-lasting debt reduction, economists say. “(Privatisation) is a way for France to become a little bit less indebted,” said Nicolas Claquin at HSBC CCF. “But it’s a short-term measure. Over the medium- to long-term it’s more structural reforms that are needed.” Although it will not change the fiscal reality much, using privatisation money to pay off the debt may help the government make a political point, economists say.

Living beyond our Means - Finance Minister Thierry Breton, facing European Union pressure to bring debt under the EU limit of 60 percent of GDP, has warned several times that France is living beyond its means. He has said that for the first time next year, taxes on household income will only cover interest payments on public debt, leaving no money to prepare for the future or public services. He also set up a commission to look at ways to improve public finances and start a national debate to make French people aware of the need for careful fiscal management in the face of an aging population. “On a political level, (using privatisation money to pay off debt) is showing the other EU countries the government is trying to do something and showing the French public that something needs to be done,” said Dominique Barbet, at BNP Paribas. The government has also promised to get the budget deficit under 3 percent of GDP, the EU limit, from around 3.7 percent in 2004. But economists point out that privatisation revenues will not help France meet the budget deficit goal since such revenues cannot be used for such purposes under EU rules.

From Financial Express, India - August 8, 2005

Greece: Debt Gallops Ahead

State has borrowed 31 billion euros in ‘05 to service loan needs - With one of the highest levels of public debt in the European Union, Greece has been borrowing money at faster rates than planned so far this year in a bid just to stay afloat and service ballooning loans. Recent data from the state accounting office show that the government has borrowed 31.5 billion euros so far in 2005, against a targeted amount for the entire year of 33 billion euros. Given the unexpectedly higher debt, the Finance Ministry now looks more likely to borrow about 38 billion euros for 2005. One of the main reasons for the overshoot in borrowing is the expiration of old debt that needs to be refinanced. Among the factors on the Finance Ministry’s side is the current low interest rate environment. Additionally, the euro has helped make Greek government bonds more attractive to the international investment community.

Public debt currently approaches 200 billion euros or about 110 percent of the amount the Greek economy produces per year. Olympic Games-related spending in the last few years has added to the country’s debt woes. The Finance Ministry has set an ambitious plan to slash debt with the aid of revenues from its privatization plan. For 2005, the government has said that it expects to earn 1.6 billion euros from state sell-offs. The target looks well within reach given the healthy privatization revenues racked up so far this year. The sale of a 16.4 percent stake in state owned-lottery group OPAP last month raked in 1.26 billion euros alone.

Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis has said that the public debt can be managed without any negative repercussions for social spending. However, given that interest payments already budgeted for will derive the budget of some 31.5 billion euros this year, the cost appears to be already weighing on the broader economy. Last year, 29.8 billion euros went toward interest expenses. State officials insist that the targeted reduction of public debt can still be achieved. Deputy Finance Minister Petros Doukas stresses that the only way for the state to get on top of its debt is by slashing expenditure.

From Kathimerini, Greece - August 10, 2005

 
 

Kenya Passes New Privatisation Law

Kenya's parliament passed a new law aimed at speeding up its long-delayed privatisation programme, a key condition demanded by donors. The Privatisation Bill 2005 and a procurement law, passed last week, were demanded by donors who say the two laws would help to curb corruption in the government. "We have passed all the major legislation requested by the donors. I can say that this was the last hurdle," Mutua Katuku, Kenya's deputy finance minister told Reuters. The new law aims enhance the transparency in the privatisation programme and speed up the process which has been static since the new government of President Mwai Kibaki took power in 2002.

Privatisation was dogged with accusations of corruption under former President Daniel arap Moi, with influential politicians and top government officials accused of selling companies cheaply to their friends and cronies. The corruption allegations and pressure from Kenyans and trade unions worried of job losses and ceding of national assets to foreigners prompted Kibaki's government to be more cautious. Members of parliament urged the government not to rush the privatisation because a new law had been passed. "We should be cautious not to sell our heritage to foreigners, because ordinary Kenyans cannot afford to purchase shares in those firms. We should privitise for ourselves not for donors," said James Magara, an opposition MP.

Kenya's Finance Minister David Mwiraria assured legislators that the government would be selective in the process.
"This will not be a blanket privitisation of everything the government has interests in," Mwiraria said. "We will ensure firms providing essential services such as the Kenya Airports Authority and the Kenya Power and Lighting Company will only be partially privitised, because the government must keep control over such essential services." Kenya has so far baulked at selling large strategic firms, but has lined up the fixed line telephone company Telkom Kenya, the state run electricity generating company Kengen and the National Bank of Kenya for privatisation soon. Donors have welcomed the passage of the public procurement bill which is now awaiting presidential assent. Public procurement has been one of the biggest sources of graft in Kenya, with senior government officials and politicians often set up their own firms to win tenders at hugely inflated costs or help cronies in return for kickbacks.

From TVNZ, New Zealand - August 11, 2005

Public Private Partnerships to Be Scrutinised

Johannesburg - ForgeAhead, in collaboration with Siemens Business Services (SBS), is to host an executive public private partnership (PPP) thought leadership forum on 18 and 19 August at the Emerald Casino and Resort in Vanderbijlpark. The aim of the forum is to study examples of PPPs at national level and to determine the benefits governments and citizens derive from the formulation of such partnerships. Specifically, the SBS and Department of Labour partnership will be examined.

The forum is part of ForgeAhead's ICT in Government series of programmes. The programmes aim to increase knowledge transfer between the public and private sector to create a better environment for implementing ICT to improve service delivery by government. To prompt critical thought regarding PPPs, ForgeAhead will question the value that such partnerships provide to government service delivery and the citizens it serves. ForgeAgead says PPPs have become a major focus within governments in Africa, but it must be determined whether or not sufficient evidence of benefits and confidence in PPPs exist.

In preparation for the event, ForgeAhead is conducting research on the status of PPPs in national government as well as satisfaction and perception surveys. The results of the research will be presented at the forum. The post-event research report, which will incorporate the original research as well as data gathered during the event, will be presented to forum research partners.

The forum programme will provide guidelines to the formation of PPPs, funding, as well the implications of black economic empowerment on partnerships. The programme also explores the impact of PPPs on community development and improved service delivery as well what happens when contracts end. The forum will benefit public sector officials by enabling them to use the knowledge gathered to develop appropriate agreements with any suitable vendor, not only SBS partners, says Angel Olebogeng Selebano, ForgeAhead PR and media executive. The forum programme is available from the ICT in Government Web site or from Phelia Fourie at phelia@forgeahead.co.za

From ITWeb, South Africa by Damaria Senne - August 8, 2005

 

IE Singapore Launches Forum for Private-public Sector Partnerships

IE Singapore has launched a new platform for public and private sector organisations to come together to discuss global investment opportunities and other areas of cooperation. The Singapore Public-Private Partnership Forum (SPPPF) is the first of its kind here where private sector companies can explore the pool of projects offered by international organisations such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. It comprises a series of six seminars a year, each focusing on a different market or region where partner international organisations are active in. The inaugural seminar, focusing on investment opportunities in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, was held on Thursday.

Representatives from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank shared information on the economic climate in Central Asia, the investment opportunities available in the two markets, as well as the various investment instruments and programmes available to investors. An MOU was also signed between Kazakhstan's Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Singapore Business Federation to promote trade and business between Kazakhstan and Singapore. Over the next few months, IE Singapore will be organising seminars covering the Mekong Sub-Region, Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

From Channel News Asia, Singapore - August 24, 2005

WB Ready to Fund Public-Private Partnerships Here

New Delhi - India has achieved “some islands of progress” through public-private partnership (PPP) in infrastructure which is visible in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab, according to the World Bank. In a presentation made to the Planning Commission, the World Bank (WB) has acknowledged that “PPPs have begun to make a contribution in India” and it is willing to fund such projects, besides providing technical assistance for capacity building. Positive observations by the WB assume special significance, as the government is facing an acute resource constraint in meeting large infrastructural requirements.

Pointing at major cramps in the implementation of PPP model, it has stressed the need to streamline sectoral policies and strengthen regulatory frameworks. One of the suggestions of the Bank is to establish PPP cells in line agencies or administrative ministries. It is expected that the issue will be discussed during WB’s president Paul Wolfowitz proposed meetings with top government officials including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and finance minister P Chidambaram on Friday.

Quoting one of its reports, it has said that the achievements of Gujarat, AP and Punjab in terms of institutional frameworks for PPPs was significant. Both states have been able to enact framework laws, establish administrative units and organised funding for PPP preparation. The magic potion in building a robust PPP framework suggested by the WB includes, legislation, specialised funds, model contracts, information dissemination and guidance. Besides agriculture, financial assistance for agriculture, irrigation and water projects will also be sought during Mr Wolfowitz’s visit. The government is committed to accelerate agriculture growth to 4% from the current level of 2%.

The Planning Commission will make a presentation, highlighting government’s agenda for the agriculture sector to Mr Wolfowitz, who is visiting India for the first time after taking charge as World Bank chief. Major points include setting up a national fund for strategic agricultural research, rejuvenation support systems in extension, credit and delivery system of inputs, initiating steps for water management and stepping up investments in irrigation projects.

From Economic Times, India, by Rajeev Jayaswal - August 18, 2005

 

Managed Services in Public and Private Sectors: A TIF Seminar

Ireland's outsourcing market is maturing fast, marked by major new deals like BT Ireland's agreement on voice and data services for Bank of Ireland. Attendees will hear details of this and other real-world implementations at a September TIF seminar. For organisations considering entering or altering a current outsourcing relationship, the "Managed Services in Public and Private Sectors" seminar offers an important opportunity to explore the practical issues involved. The managed services market in Ireland is expected to be worth EUR400 million during 2005, according to research figures from iReach, representing a rise of 9 percent over last year. Hosted by the Telecommunications and Internet Federation's Outsourcing Services Industry Group (TIF) and sponsored by BT Ireland, the breakfast seminar will provide important insights into this growing market.

Key speakers include representatives from Bank of Ireland and Eastern Health Shared Services, two organisations who have agreed significant managed services deals for voice and data services. Introducing the morning event is Maurice Mortell, CEO of Data Electronics Group and chair of the TIF outsourcing group. He explains that, while public and private sector bodies may have different reasons for exploring outsource relationships, both are encouraged by the positive managed services experiences that are now emerging. "Many organisations are coming to realise something that's always been our view, which is that IT should be a service, not an asset," he said. "Why put massive investment into IT capacity that isn't your core business? Strong testimonials are now coming back from customers who are doing managed services and are happy with these relationships. There's also better understanding now about what's the best way to get into a managed services relationship, to make sure it works for both parties."


Partners, not buyers and sellers -
Modern managed services relationships are a very different animal from the traditional outsourcing agreements of years ago. Historically, outsource relationships for services like IT infrastructure and support were not flexible arrangements. The focus for both parties was on price, and there was little scope to change the terms of the deal after signing, even if those changes would benefit the client. In later years of the agreement, the relationship could often break down over the issue of cost, leaving both parties dissatisfied.

Today, outsource relationships are more like partnerships than simple buyer-seller arrangements: both parties take the long view, and work together to see how technology can help the organisation deliver on its long-term strategy. "If a client has a 5 year or 7 year plan, they need to share that with their managed services partner," said Gary Cobain, General Manager for BT Solutions at BT Ireland. He explains that the service provider is also encouraged and expected to bring its wider expertise to bear. BT, for example, would have extensive experience in delivering managed services for financial services clients globally, and in relationships like that with the Bank of Ireland, BT Ireland draws on this knowledge. "Companies providing managed services today are looking to go beyond the service level agreement," he explains. "It's a long-term relationship and the values and cultural fit of both organisations need to be considered."

The September forum promises to give attendees the chance to explore these and other key issues that can influence the success or failure of a managed services relationship. Tommy McCabe, Director of TIF, notes that there is marked buoyancy now in Ireland's outsourcing market, and both service providers and customers stand to benefit. "What was very much a fledging market a year or two ago has matured significantly," he notes. "This is evident in the continued increase in outsourcing tenders observed in the public and private sector, as well as a greater understanding in the market of what outsourcing is. As an industry, though, we must continue to work on market education, particularly at a board level, informing the decision makers of the benefits of outsourcing and indeed how to start the outsourcing process." The "Managed Services in Public and Private Sectors" breakfast seminar will be held from 7.30am to 9.45am on 22 September in the Clontarf Castle Hotel in Dublin. For more information ring or e-mail Carolyn Duomeni, tel. 01 605 1528, or book online at the Events section of www.tif.ie.

From ElectricNews.net, Ireland - August 12, 2005

 

A21 Conference: "Reinventing Accountability for the 21st Century"

The A21 conference, "Reinventing Accountability for the 21st Century", is being held in London October 3-5, 2005 to promote international dialogue between business, civil society and government. The public and private sector often partner to meet needs around the world. How well is it working and what needs to be in place to assure quality leadership, judicious use of resources and overall accountability?

According to conference planners, "As many of last century’s most extraordinary accountability innovations are themselves beginning to face crises, new accountability challenges continue to emerge, impacting on and demanding a response from business, governments and civil society organizations, both nationally and internationally." "At all levels of society, from local neighborhoods to the UN, from business and public sector joint ventures to trans-national initiatives, the emergence of unaccountable public private partnerships with a lack of clarity as to who is in charge, who can be held to account, and who will pay the price, is fast becoming a global challenge."

"This two-day international event and training day will convene people working in business, civil society and the public sector to explore innovative approaches to building accountable leadership and organizations in the 21st century." "Reinventing Accountability for the 21st Century will give business, politicians, civil society and public bodies the indispensable opportunity to consider and anticipate – and ultimately innovate and change - the future of accountability."

From PNN, VA, by laurakujawski - August 26, 2005