ISSUE 76
November 2005
 
 
   
    South Africa: Civil Service Sections Each Need Ethics Officers
Namibia: Civil Service 'Bloated, Yet Inefficient'
South Africa: Public Servants Do Not Like Mondays, Says Auditor-General
   
    Nepal: Civil Service Ordinance, a Ploy to Make Bureaucracy Submissive
China: Ban Bias in Civil Service Recruitment
New Zealand: Civil Service Pay Should Be Reviewed
Kazakhstan: Kazakhstan Civil Service Agency Chair Met the UN Assistant Secretary General
Fiji: Fiji Public Servants to Get COLA Payment
India: Tamil Public Servants Urged to Boycott Election Duty
Vietnam: Minister Outlines Plan to Improve Skill, Efficiency of Public Servants
China (Taiwan): Civil Servants' Pensions May Include Pre-1987 Service
   
    Italy: Government Website Awarded EUROMED Award
Ireland: First Ever Woman Gets Top Civil Service Job in European Commission
Ireland: Community Sector Larger than Civil Service?
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Electronic Solutions for Improvement of Civil Service Efficiency in B&H
Greece: New Public Servant's Code
   
    United Arab Emirates: UAE and Morocco Discuss Cooperation in Civil Service
   
    Jamaica: Changes to Civil Service Establishment Presented to House
Argentina: Insulza: Private Enterprise and Public Policies Key to Job Creation
USA: Public Servants Becoming Masters Is a Concern
Canada: Civil Servants' Language Lessons Tops $120M
Canada: Public Servants Fight for Billions Feds Took from Pension-fund Surpluses
 
   
   

South Africa: Tuks Management Not Satisfied with Elected SRC
Nigeria: Good Governance Will Address Cries of Injustice - Primate Uranta

   
   

Bangladesh: SAARC Focus on Disaster Management
India: India Leading Student-sending Nation to US
India: Disaster Management Authority for the State Soon: Azad
Australia: Uni Dumps Stake in Management School

   
   

Finland: Finnish Management Institute Gives Lacklustre Marks to Presidential Candidates
Greece: Greece to Host 1st Iinternational Conference on Net Governance

   
   

Oman: OWSC Implementing GIS Technology for Wastewater Management
Bahrain: Reform-minded Arab Business Leaders Take on Governance, Religion, Education

   
   

USA: Public Can Have Say on CALM Management Plan
USA: Wal-Mart to Pilot Wireless Industrial Vehicle Management System
Canada: Qwest Energy Management Appointment
Dominican Republic: DR Will Host Conference on Disaster Management

   
   

Father of Management
Forum to Be Set Up on Internet Governance
ITU Refuses to Accept Net Governance Agreement

 
   
    Sao Tome and Principe: Sao Tome President Says under Investigation in Oil Corruption Probe
Ghana: Corruption - The Cause for Our Demise
Angola: Corruption Probe Pursues Malawi Vice President
   
   

Indonesia: Indonesia Needs 15 Years To Be Corruption-Free
India: Former Officer to Move Court on "Corruption"
Bangladesh: Donors' Stance on Corruption

   
    Ireland: New Group Formed to Campaign Against Corruption
Finland: Pertti Torstila Earmarked as Top Civil Servant of Finland's Foreign Ministry
France: Sign Up for Civil Job: Chirac to Rioters
Isle of Man: Civil Service Pensions Row Nears Breaking Point
   
   

Israel: Sharon Embroiled in Corruption Scandal
Yemen: Noticeable Progress in Civil Service Reform

   
   

Brazil: Denying Corruption, Brazil's Ffinmin Sstands Ground
USA: Ethics Scandal Could Bolster Stem-cell Foes
Venezuela: A Culture of Corruption that Remains from Years and Years Ago
Cuba: Castro Launches Do-or-Die Anti-corruption Drive

   
    World Bank Head Urges Developing Countries To Fight Corruption, Improve Health Care
 
   
    Tunisia: Tunisia Slated Over Net Controls
Tanzania: Tanzanian Government Uses OSS for Localisation
   
    Republic of Korea: Korea Still No 1 in Broadband
Australia: E-government Strategy Faces Delay until 2006
Thailand: E-government Venture Stalls
Azerbaijan: Regional e-Government Training and Resource Centre Launched in Azerbaijan
   
    Scotland: NHS 24 Buys Knowledge Management System
Ireland: Knowledge Management Becomes the Key Process for Companies Whose Revenue Relies on the Intelligence of Their Work Force
UK: e-Government National Awards 2005
Ireland: E-Government Entails Leveraging Information Technology in Implementing New Processes to Fundamentally Improve Government Services
Turkey: Turkey Plans E-government Portal
Ireland: Irish Local Authorities Opt for E-procurement
EU: Half of EU Citizens and Businesses Visit Government Sites
EU: EU Aims to Improve Transparency
Moldova: Moldova Tops "E-Government 2005" Rating
   
   

United Arab Emirades: AUD Highlights Importance of Intellectual Capital & Knowledge Management
Lebanon: Lebanon to Roll Out E-procurement System
Kuwait: Kuwait, Singapore Assert Cooperation in E-government Projects
Oman: Oman's Civil Status Record System Selected Best E-government Project

   
    USA: INPUT Predicts Federal Knowledge Management Spending Will Reach $1.3 Billion By FY10
   
   

UN Debut for $100 Laptop for Poor
Electronic Document Management Simplified
Government Websites Fail to Meet Standards

 
   
    India: Taxing Concessions
India: Government May Exclude PSUs from RTI Act
Republic of Korea: Environment Policies Focus on Green Growth Potential
   
    Italy: Public Finances: ConfCommercio, Recovery but ECB Rate Danger
UK: UK Public Finance Boost for Brown
   
    USA: Voters to Decide on Unique Fee
   
    HM Treasury Makes New Senior Appointments
 
   
    Ghana: Why Ghana Opted For SAP
Nigeria: Minister Calls for National Road Fund
   
    Japan: Japan Post's Private Units Will Need Business Leaders
India: India and US Formalise Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture
   
    Serbia- Montenegro: GDP Growth Revised Upwards by IMF
Malta: MIM Concerned over Fuel Surcharge, Pensions Privatization
Latvia: Riga - a Dynamic City of Change in the Baltics
Romania: Romania Wins International Arbitration with Noble Ventures, Inc
   
    Israel: Histadrut Threatens Public Sector Strike
   
    USA: American Water Receives Award from National Council for Public-Private Partnerships; Partnership Pays Dividends for Buffalo Water System
 

Civil Service Sections Each Need Ethics Officers

An ethos is required to ensure that the capacity and credibility of the administration is not eroded, writes Perran Hahndiek. Recently, President Thabo Mbeki, writing in the ANC's online journal, termed corruption a cancer representative of a society that had lost its anchor. This is perhaps indicative of the growing concern among prominent figures in the ANC government and elsewhere that the standard of ethics prevalent in the public service is undermining the integrity of the state, service provision and the fight against poverty. It would appear that such concerns are well founded. Investigations into the conduct of public servants - such as the pilot project conducted by the Auditor-General into two government departments in the Limpopo province - would suggest that, despite the efforts of the government over the past decade and the establishment of ethics regulations and guidelines, impropriety in the administration appears increasingly endemic.

Conflicts - The auditor-general found that about 2 800 officials, including 22 senior managers, failed to request permission to do paid work outside the public service and had not disclosed conflicts of interest. Moreover, 81 government employees - who were directors or members of private companies - supplied goods and services to the departments at which they were employed. Government efforts to transform the public service, foster an ethos of accountability and responsiveness - the principles set out in the constitution - have centred on developing a net of regulations and guidelines.

The Public Service Regulations of 1999 (as amended 2001) are paramount in this regard. Chapter Two of the regulations stipulates that, among other things, state employees must recuse themselves from any official action which may result in improper personal gain. In addition, employees may not, without approval, undertake remunerative work outside their official duties. Chapter Three requires senior officials to disclosure their financial interests annually to the Public Service Commission. Employees who fail to disclose or who knowingly provide inaccurate or misleading information are guilty of misconduct. These regulations are in line with international practices and, aside from a few minor anomalies in the regulations and the absence of post-tenure restrictions (which the government is considering), provide a solid framework for combating impropriety.

Yet, for the regulations to be effective and prevent unethical conduct, implementation and monitoring mechanisms need to be tightened. As the chairman of the commission, Prof Stan Sangweni, noted in a parliamentary media briefing earlier this year: "The public service has made progress in ensuring that there is a basic ethics infrastructure to promote and maintain sound professional ethics. However, more attention is still required at the level of implementation to ensure that a culture of professional ethics is entrenched." There have been several shortcomings in the implementation of ethics regulations, particularly with regard to disclosure of financial interests. Statistics published by Transparency International (2005) reveal that the submission of disclosure forms to the Public Service Commission have been average at best. In 2000, only 62% of designated officials, at both national and provincial level, submitted the required documentation.

By 2003 this figure had improved, though the number of outstanding forms, especially at provincial level, remained problematic. One of the reasons for this low level of compliance may be that the disclosure regulations have yet to be enforced.Although specific penalties for non-compliance are still to be formulated, considering the regulations have been in place for a number of years it could be argued that officials should be sufficiently familiar with the requirements for those who fail to comply to be charged with misconduct.

Capacity - A related concern is the lack of capacity in the Public Service Commission. An Idasa study into the implementation of ethics laws (2003) found that the commission was under-resourced, with one official responsible for monitoring disclosure forms for 3 000 employees. A possible solution to problems of capacity may be to adopt a decentralised approach to ethics management, with departments being given greater responsibility for ensuring that employees observe the regulations. This approach would likely involve each department appointing an ethics officer to provide employees with training and advice, monitor compliance with the regulations and support Public Service Commission initiatives.

Whatever the strategy in terms of tightening disclosure and other ethics regulations, it is important that they are implemented effectively. "Batho Pele" - the government's drive to create a people-centred administration - rests, in part, on the maintenance of set principles and the prevention of impropriety.Ultimately, though, a high regard for the public service is an ethos which cannot be built solely on government regulation. Nevertheless, if minimum standards of conduct are not adhered to, the capacity and credibility of the administration will erode. For public officials, in their interaction with the citizenry, are at the coalface of delivery and central to the state's effort to bring about a better quality of life.

From The Mercury- Durban, November 3, 2005

Civil Service 'Bloated, Yet Inefficient'

Government's failure to implement performance management to improve public service delivery has resulted in a bloated, yet inefficient, civil service. Presenting a paper at last week's Cabinet retreat at Swakopmund, business leader Harold Pupkewitz told the meeting that skills, knowledge and good attitude lacked in the public service, although conditions of employment were "generally very attractive". The Wages and Salary Commission (Wascom) in 1996 recommended that Namibia have a smaller, better paid, more professional, more efficient and professional public service. Pupkewitz said the wages were increased but the performance-management monitoring was not implemented.

"The net effect has been that Government now absorbs over 36 per cent of Gross Domestic Product and is not generally providing the required levels of service either efficiently or productively," Pupkewitz told the meeting behind closed doors. Given the size and resources of the Government and parastatals, he proposed that the two be used as training ground for technical and managerial talent who could then be fed into the private sector. Pupkewitz said there were good political reasons behind the growth in public service with the appointment of hundreds of former Swapo fighters, but a lot of questions on how Government money was spent on development.

He also expressed anger at the high levels of abuse and corruption in the public service.
"The misuse of Government property, the time wasting, the belief that a Government job is a sinecure, the running of business during working hours, theft of Government property - and so the list goes on - must stop, and stop now. This does not take money, just the will to stop the rot. This must come from the political leadership," he said.
He complemented President Hifikepunye Pohamba for his anti-corruption crusade, stating that it was a vital precondition for the country's development.

From allafrica.com, November 9, 2005

Public Servants Do Not Like Mondays, Says Auditor-General

Monday was unsurprisingly the most common day for public servants at six government departments to take sick leave, an investigation by Auditor-General Shauket Fakie discovered. Mondays were the day for between 26% and 36% of all sick leave taken by employees in the departments of defence, correctional services, South African Police Service, justice, national treasury and home affairs, Fakie's report on the management of sick leave tabled in Parliament yesterday said. The cost of sick leave at these national departments and 10 provincial departments representsL about 1,5% of the total basic salary expenditure during the three-year period from 2001 to 2003. During this period, government employees used about 12,6-million sick-leave days at an estimated cost of R3,3bn.

"Employees exceeded their allocated sick-leave days by 133038 days," Fakie said. The worst-offending department in this period was home affairs, where the average number of sick leave days for an employee each year totalled 9,13 days - or 162648 days, which cost the department R36m or about R2027 an employee a year. More than 3098 days' sick leave were taken by 119 home affairs employees over a two-year period without any evidence of a medical certificate having been produced. Next in line was correctional services, with an average 9,04 sick days for each employee, giving a total number of 952160 sick-leave days taken at a total cost to the department of R263m.

Public servants are allowed 36 working days' sick leave with full pay in a three-year cycle. "In this context it is also not hard to understand why the department has such a poor track record when it comes to service delivery," said the Democratic Alliance's deputy home affairs spokesman, Marius Swart. In another report on the state-owned State Information Technology Agency, Fakie found that the total IT expenditure of national departments for 2004-05 amounted to about R2,7bn, of which 71% was paid to contract workers, 18% for IT acquisitions and 11% on maintenance and consumables.

From Business Day, 15 November, 2005

 

Civil Service Ordinance, a Ploy to Make Bureaucracy Submissive

A former secretary of the government, on Sunday, flayed the recently promulgated civil service ordinance, labeling it as a government ploy to make the bureaucracy submissive to its "unjust activities". Speaking at a program organized by Martin Chautari, Dr Bhola Nath Chalise, former secretary at the ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, said, "The recently unveiled civil service ordinance aims at making civil servants submissive to every unjust activity of the government."

Stating that the provisions set in the ordinance are meant to handpick desired persons to higher posts of bureaucracy, Chalise, said, "This is a clear manifestation that the government does not want to be transparent in its activities." He also accused government of "creating terror" among civil servants. Promulgating a civil service ordinance some two months back, the government had set new provisions like sending secretaries into the reserve pool and putting restrictions on the formation of civil servants' union, among others.

From Kathmandu Post, November 6, 2005

Ban Bias in Civil Service Recruitment

For the first time in their short history, the recruitment examinations for central government offices are truly open to all qualified citizens irrespective of where they live. Until last year, more often than not, one had to be a registered permanent resident of Beijing in order to become a public servant. This may sound outrageous to outsiders. It makes many wonder whether they are recruiting for the central people's government, or government of Beijingers. But that has been the case, year after year. It is good to see the back of such an insane stipulation. The Ministry of Personnel and the Organizational Department of the Communist Party Central Committee deserve credit for ordering its removal, though it is long overdue. But obviously more has to be done to make the annual civil service recruitment drive respectable.

Yang Shijian, 36, who applied to sit the exams but was barred because of his age, has filed a law suit at a Beijing court against the Ministry of Personnel for the latter's violation of his right to equal opportunities in employment. Based on the 1994 Provisional Regulations on the Recruitment of State Public Servants, the ministry's online registration programme is set to automatically disqualify all applicants over the age of 35. Yang, a law student, believes this rule is in conflict with the Constitution's promise of equality and the right to work for all citizens. It is beyond our authority to interpret the laws. Still, we find Yang's case to be of significance. It reminds us of the unsettling magnitude of age discrimination in present-day China.

The age of 35 has become an ominous watershed for job-hunters. Examine any advert or attend any job fair and the chances are the overwhelming majority of recruiters, no matter whether they are academic institutions, government agencies or businesses, will automatically reject applicants above the age of 35. Such people are usually the most productive workers. They are old enough to make sensible judgments in their careers as well as personal lives, but young enough to create and absorb new concepts, and translate bold ideas into action. There are 400 million Chinese citizens between the age of 35 and legal retirement ages. Retirement ages in China usually are 55 for women and 60 for men although the ages may also vary in accordance with one's gender, health and administrative seniority. Denying them jobs infringes on their constitutional right to employment. The rule ruins lives, harms the economy and sows seeds of instability.

But, most of all, it is immoral. Even if there is any legislative basis for such discrimination, it must be eliminated, as soon as possible. The Ministry of Personnel should set a good example for all employers in terms of its recruiting practice. The recruitment examinations are a test of its credibility when it talks of equal opportunities and criticism of discrimination. We are waiting for the ministry to explain why a 36-year-old is not qualified to serve the public.

From China Daily, November 7, 2005

Civil Service Pay Should Be Reviewed

A call for the pay rates of senior civil servants to be reviewed. The Civil Service is having to look overseas to fill vacancies as large numbers of staff quit. Public Service Association national secretary Brenda Pilott says it is widely accepted that the pay rates are not high enough. She says it has been addressed in relation to chief executives, but it is now time to look at pay rates of other senior civil servants. The available jobs range from policy formulation to economists and government planners.

From NewstalkZB, November 10, 2005

Kazakhstan Civil Service Agency chair met the UN Assistant Secretary General

Chair of Kazakhstan Civil Service Agency Zautbek Turisbekov and the UN Assistant Secretary General, director of the Regional Bureau for Europe and CIS Kalman Mizsei discussed further cooperation in state administration system development and anticorruption efforts. The UN Plenipotentiary in Kazakhstan Yuriko Shodji attended the meeting held November 8 as well, Kazinform refers to the press service of Kazakhstan Civil Service Agency. The parties considered the progress of joint project realization "Kazakhstan state administration reforms backing." Kazakhstan NGOs along with the foreign experts carried out researches and held the meetings to upgrade government services quality and implement "one stop shopping principle." The project outcomes have been positively assessed by the Government's interdepartmental working group and applied by the country's Justice Ministry when initiating integrated service centers. The sides came to agreement to continue the project on elaboration and introduction of state organs' service standards and the UN extra financing up to USD 300 000.

From Kazakh Information Agency, November 11, 2005

Fiji Public Servants to Get COLA Payment

The Fiji government has given an assurance that it will definitely pay the Cost of Living Adjustment awarded to all public servants by the permanent arbitrator last month. The chairman of the public service commission, Stuart Hugget, has told Radio Legend that they are working with the ministry of finance to find the almost 20 million US dollars to make the payment. Mr Hugget says he is dealing with the matter with urgency and the payment will be made quickly once the details are worked out. Mr Hugget's announcement comes a day after the Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions said it would take industrial action if both the Cost of Living Adjustment and payments due under the Performance Management System are not paid by the end of this month.

From Radio New Zealand International, November 10, 2005

Tamil Public Servants Urged to Boycott Election Duty

An organization called "Peoples Force" in Jaffna district called all Tamil public servants to ignore election duty on the presidential poll scheduled to be held on November 17 and to observe the day as mourning. Boycott posters are seen in public places throughout the Jaffna district, civil sources said. Sinhala political parties are not sincere in addressing the Tamil national question meeting the legitimate aspirations of Tamil people. Tamils should show to the international community and Sinhala leaders of the south that they are not interested in the forthcoming presidential election, appeal said. I is the duty of Tamil people and Tamil public servants to boycott the presidential poll. It is meaningless for Tamil public servants to perform election duty in Jaffna district, the appeal further stated.

From Tamilnet, October 13, 2005

Minister Outlines Plan to Improve Skill, Efficiency of Public Servants

The Home Affairs Ministry has responsibility for Viet Nam's public servants and its Minister, Do Quang Trung, wants inspectors appointed to monitor their performance. Trung discussed his proposal with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper. What difficulties would the inspectors have to cope with? Some of their difficulties could be tackled immediately. But the mission and duties of the inspectors should be defined by a Government decree. Their task would be to check that public servants are efficient. It's a way to encourage public servants to do their jobs better. It could be construed that the need for the inspectors has arisen because managers have had difficulties with the discipline of their subordinates. Can you explain how this has happened? Inspectors will help improve the work ethic and discipline of public servants. The lack of discipline in an office leads to poor performance. It's time to fix the problem.

Will the inspectors have the power to discipline those found violating office rules and regulations? Sanctions are part of many legal documents, including the Law to Prevent and Fight Corruption or the "Anti-Corruption Law" and the Civil Servants Ordinance. But the authorisation of any punishment will be the prerogative of the office managers, not the inspectors. Would a team of inspectors burden the State? Everything has its pros and cons. But we should focus on the positive. For example the story of learning and testing. When students know they have to take a test, their motivation to learn improves. Similarly, inspections would make public servants work better. Administrative reforms are described as a breakthrough. But the process is very slow, even the public inspection programme. Why? Yes, administrative reform is slow.

If we had quickened the pace, social development would have also developed much faster and our Gross Domestic Product would have been much higher than 8.4 per cent. Administrative reform however has delivered many achievements. The law-making process at this sitting of the National Assembly has been much quicker than at previous meetings. This is a result of administrative reform. Thorough administrative reform should take place throughout the entire country. If we want to build a state governed by law and a strong market economy, it's necessary to have a complete legal system. This is the central task of the National Assembly.

Institutional reform should be thought the essence of the administrative reform programme, including institutional structures and public finance. You have participated in the reformed programme for the past 10 years. Yet complaints about administrative work are heard at all National Assembly meetings. What is your response? I'm doing what the people want me to do. I have tried hard but I'm not happy with the results. I have to carry responsibility for the slow progress. The way ahead is fraught with difficulties and challenges and we have to exert even more effort in doing our duty.

From Vietnam News, November 12, 2005

Civil Servants' Pensions May Include Pre-1987 Service

The Ministry of Personnel will introduce a proposal to end a resolution made by the former administration to allow civil servants to include the length of their service with the opposition Kuomintang before 1987 as part of their civil service entitled to government-paid retirement pensions and high interest rates on their saving deposits. The proposal came after President Chen Shui-bian (???) and other leaders of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, while campaigning for DPP candidates running for local posts in next month's elections, blasted some senior officials of the former KMT government for receiving high retirement pensions. Responding to inquiries from DPP legislative whip William C.T. Lai, Minister of Personnel Chu Wu-hsien said the Examination Yuan did mete out a set of administrative decrees in 1971 to allow KMT officials to include their service with the KMT as part of their civil service later.

Those decrees were revoked by the Examination Yuan in 1987 after the inauguration of the Democratic Progressive Party. Many Examination Yuan members agreed that the resolution should be revoked to prevent DPP officials from demanding the same treatment. However, the Examination Yuan later passed another resolution allowing civil servants to count their service with the KMT before the decrees were revoked in 1987 as part of their service eligible for retirement pensions paid by the government. Chu said Examination Yuan members will meet on Thursday to discuss whether to approve the proposal. Once the resolution is revoked, civil servants who had previously worked with the KMT would no longer receive full pensions that cover their service with both the government and the KMT. Describing the resolution as unjustifiable and unreasonable, Chu said the move is necessary in response to what he called "public demand for social justice".

Because of that resolution, many former KMT officials, such as former Examination Yuan President Chiu Chuang-hua, former Control Yuan vice president John H. Kuan, and Taichung Mayor Jason Hu were able to retire with higher pensions than some of those who had worked longer with the government. Chu also claimed that Taichung Mayor Jason Hu, who is running for reelection against his DPP rival Lin Chia-lung (???), it not entitled to pensions for a senior civil servant who had worked with the government for 25 years. Hu had been a student in England for 10 years; he said he was also working with the KMT as a secretary and a liaison officer during that period. Hu reportedly once told his friends and reporters that he was a "voluntary worker" of the KMT while studying in England. According to the resolution, only "full-time" KMT officials were entitled to such preferential treatment, he said. Chu said he hopes the resolution would be revoked as soon as possible, so that his ministry will have a basis for processing similar retirement applications filed by some former KMT officials.

From Taiwan News, November 15, 2005

 

Government Website Awarded EUROMED Award

Rome, Italy - The Italian government's official website (www.governo.it) was awarded the 2005 EuroMediterranean prize in Bologna. The award is promoted by the Italian Public Communications Office and Afro-Mediterranean associations. "[The website] is outstanding and in keeping with EU standards: it carries newsletter, press review and online press conference services" reads the award committee's motivation.

From AGI, November 3, 2005

First Ever Woman Gets Top Civil Service Job in European Commission

For the first time in EU history a woman has been appointed secretary-general of the European Commission, as Brussels on Wednesday (9 November) reshuffled its top civil service posts. The current head of the environment directorate, Irish Catherine Day will take over the secretary-general post from another Irish compatriot, David O'Sullivan, in a commission move to increase mobility among senior staff. Administration commissioner Siim Kallas told a press conference in Brussels that the mobility shuffle aims at achieving a better gender and geographical balance in 2006. "The current gender balance in commission staff is not in favour of the ladies. But it will be better. We used to have three women as directorate-generals, and now there are five. Soon there will be six, and then seven," he said.

The imbalance between old and new member states on key EU positions will also be addressed by appointing several deputy directorate-generals from the new states, in time for them to acquire experience before any future reshuffles of director general posts. "Merit must come first, and be the most important principle for these appointments," Mr Kallas said on the matter of certain countries' lack of representation on the list of department heads. The new line-up of top EU civil servants also puts British or Irish officials in four of the most influential posts. David O'Sullivan, a liberal and free-marketeer, will head the commission's trade directorate-general, with an increasingly powerful and politically sensitive portfolio under trade commissioner Peter Mandelson.

French influence in Brussels will diminish with the exit of Francoise Le Bail, president Jose Manuel Barroso's spokeswoman. Francois Lamoureux, the French director-general in charge of transport, will also lose his job, but with a prsopect of becoming an advisor to Mr Barroso down the line. A Frenchman has taken over as new director-general of agriculture, but French officials complained that the common agricultural policy is run by DG trade rather not DG agriculture. Wednesday's decision on staff mobility applies to officials who have held their current post for the maximum allowed of five years in 2005, or whose nationality coincides with that of the commissioner on the same portfolio.

Commission staff rules state a director-general must be of a different nationality than the commissioner under whom he or she works, with a rotating scheme in place to reduce the holding by certain countries of key departments. First preparations for the re-organisation of the staff organigram were made by the former commission president, Romani Prodi, with the introduction of a 'code of conduct' on top jobs to stave off suspicions of nepotism and abuse.

From EUObserver, November 9, 2005

Community Sector Larger than Civil Service?

According to the University of Ulster, several hundred of the 30,000 community based jobs in Northern Ireland could be endangered if the British government fails to access a minimum of 120 million Pounds set aside for Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein MEP, Bairbre de Bruin:

"The promotion and empowerment of the community sector must be a priority for the British Government if that sector is to be able to carry on its vital work of peace building and reconciliation. Without wishing to be alarmist, it is increasingly clear that if PEACE III funding is not secured then many community organisations and projects involved in peace building and reconciliation will find themselves in a precarious financial position. I have witnessed at first hand the invaluable work undertaken throughout the Six Counties (Northern Ireland) and the border region".
But Jim Allister MEP of the DUP questioned the size (larger than the NI civil service) and effectiveness of the sector:

"I was astounded at the figures released yesterday by the University of Ulster showing that more than 30,000 people work for community organisations in Northern Ireland and the neighbouring counties within the Republic of Ireland. I wonder who all is funded within the community sector and what are these people doing to ensure there is a meaningful benefit to the communities in which they work."

From sluggerotoole.com - Mick Fealty, November 9, 2005

Electronic Solutions for Improvement of Civil Service Efficiency in B&H

Around 500 participants, mostly civil servants and ICT experts from BiH have opened today the Second eGovernment Conference in BiH, entitled Domestic solutions for eGovernment. This two-day conference was opened in the newly-reconstructed Big Parliamentary Hall of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The organizers are Agency for Civil Service and UNDP in BiH, together with the leading industry partners in the field, from BiH. The Conference was held at the Great Hall of the B&H Assembly Building. © UNDP BiH The goal of this conference is to spur development of civil service in terms of the ICT usage as a tool for increasing effectiveness and efficiency of the civil services. Due to that, it is necessary to present the solutions applied in local institutions to the participants of the conference.

"Information and communication technologies (ICT) are irreplaceable tool for development of civil service and its functions. We can see very often that in some countries people go to elections electronically, via internet, citizens pay their taxes from their homes. Also, every citizen in European Union, using the state web site can ask for some documents to be delivered to his home address. Information technologies are, what is obvious very useful tool for increasing the efficiency of the entire society and the state civil service, and that is why the Agency for civil service and UNDP want to initiate the development of this segment of social governance, by organizing such conference", said Mr. Jakob Finci, director of the Civil Service Agency of BiH at the opening of the conference.

The importance of ICT usage was emphasized by Renzo Daviddi, Head of the Economic and Political Sector of the European Commission delegation in BiH and Zlatko Lagumdzija, MIT Center director, underlining the importance of creation of ICT usage culture while employing the local knowledge and potentials, existing in BiH at the same time as well. UNDP Resident Representative in BiH, Mr. Jens Toyberg-Frandzen said that today's effective and efficient public institutions cannot operate without the use of modern technologies. "Governments throughout Europe and beyond are actively ensuring that e-Governance is the norm. The process of public administration reform and implementation of eGovernment systems is irreversible. It is a process that cannot be fought; one which every government institution must embrace and harness", said Mr. Toyberg-Frandzen.

One of the conference goals is to connect local companies offering ICT products and services for informatization of the civil service with the civil servants responsible for these issues on all levels of government in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Insufficient usage of ICTs very often is not the consequence of financial problems but of lack of ideas at the side of information technology staff and heads of units at the institutions. In that sense, this conference will help create ideas and increase interest for implementation of advanced ICT solutions in B-H institutions, at all state levels.

The Agency for civil service of BiH and UNDP want to initiate the development and efficiency of the state service, but also to improve the level of services and satisfaction of the entrepreneurs and citizens as consumers of these services as well. The conference invited heads of B-H institutions and their assistants to participate in the conference and see the presentations of the best European practices of ICT usage so the level of government services to citizens and entrepreneurs could be improved. The ICT staff employed in the state institutions will have the opportunity to gather information of the diverse domestic ICT solutions. Emphasizing the motto "Let's buy domestic!" the organizers want to present the best home-made electronic solutions. Just one day before the conference started, more than 460 people from BiH applied via internet to participate the conference. This shows that the interest for this kind of event in BiH is big, what additionally implies the need to enhance the electronic government in BiH even more.

From see.oneworld.net, November 10, 2005

New Public Servant's Code

The new public servants' code will be submitted in Parliament by the end of the year according to statements made by Minister of Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Prokopis Pavlopoulos after the meeting he had with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to brief him on the issue and the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) conference. Mr. Karamanlis during his visit to Japan, that was completed yesterday, had characterized the discussion on the imminent government reshuffle as wrong issue and expressed the belief that changing ministers regularly is counterproductive.

From Macedonian Press Agency, November 14, 2005

 

UAE and Morocco Discuss Cooperation in Civil Service

Saeed Khalfan Al Ghaith, Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs and Chairman of the Civil Service Council, met here today with Mohammed Bu-Saeed, Moroccan Minister in chrage of Public Sector Modernisation, who is currently on a visit to UAE. The meeting, attended by Abdul Rahman Al Rostmani, Director General of Civil Service Bureau, discussed means to enhance cooperation in all fields, particularly civil service.

From wam.org, November 20, 2005

 

Changes to Civil Service Establishment Presented to House

An update on changes to the Civil Service Establishment for 2005 has been presented to the House of Representatives. Finance and Planning State Minister, Fitz Jackson who moved the resolution for the changes to the Civil Service Establishment Order, 2005 to be affirmed by the House, yesterday (November 1), said the Order reflected changes in at least three areas - salaries and allowances, established posts and abolished posts. Mr. Jackson said the changes made between the 2004 and the 2005 Order represented a less than one per cent increase.

The State Minister also informed that the major increases were related to the creation of 86 posts for immigration officers to fill urgent needs in the immigration and passport division of the National Security Ministry. Mr. Jackson said other major changes occurred in the restructuring of the Industry and Tourism Ministry, staff strengthening in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the restructuring of the Public Gardens and Zoo Division of the Agriculture Ministry and the reallocation of staff between the Finance and Planning Ministry and the Cabinet Office. This, he said, was in addition to the modernisation of the Mining Division of the Land and Environment Ministry, the opening of a new Embassy in the Chinese Republic and the implementation of an Accrual Accounting Structure in the Transport and Works Ministry. Over the period the Justice Training Institute and the Court Reporting Schools in the Justice Ministry were also merged.

Minister Jackson said in all, some 185 new posts were created, 92 posts upgraded, 159 reclassified, 135 retitled and 144 abolished from the Establishment over the period. Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Audley Shaw said while there was no difficulty with the resolution, queried whether the recently announced amendment to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the Government and the Trade Unions for some $2 billion to be paid over to public sector workers had been effected. Mr. Shaw said although the MOU had not yet come to an end, the payment reflected some four per cent of the wages of public sector workers and the Opposition was concerned as to whether the amounts were being paid out expeditiously.

Responding, Mr. Jackson pointed out that the increased MOU payments did not represent a one time payment but would be made over the financial year which would end in March of 2006. He emphasized that all public sector workers would realize the increase in their regular remuneration over the period. "The payments are being made but not all at once," he stressed. The Civil Service Establishment Act requires the Minister responsible for the Civil Service to provide an annual update on changes to the Civil Service Establishment to the House of Representatives.

From Government of Jamaica, November 3, 2005

Insulza: Private Enterprise and Public Policies Key to Job Creation

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, said at the opening of the Fourth Summit of the Americas today that for decent jobs to be created in the region, economic growth, macroeconomic balance and open markets are essential. "We have made important strides with these policies," Insulza said, citing positive rates of growth, a substantial reduction in deficits and inflation, and the conclusion of numerous bilateral and regional trade agreements, most recently the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA).

Referring to the central theme of the Fourth Summit - "Creating Jobs to Fight Poverty and Strengthen Democratic Governance" - Insulza recognized the importance of free markets and private economic initiatives in generating employment, but also underscored the role of public policy. He recalled that in the 1980s, "distorted ideologies" at times led to a disparagement of the role of government in distributing wealth and providing essential social services. Recognizing the value of public policy does not mean limiting the capacity of businesses or individuals to generate wealth, Insulza stressed. "On the contrary, the creation of an economic and social climate conducive to investment and private enterprise through clear rules that eliminate fear, that open up markets, that cut back on bureaucracy as much as possible, and that afford private initiative the opportunity to achieve growth must be the unavoidable basis for our governments' public policy."

The Secretary General recognized that the largest number of jobs will always be created through private initiative, but cautioned that market forces alone are insufficient to guarantee a just distribution of wealth and to meet basic social needs. "The time has come to recognize that fighting poverty and inequality also calls for clear, targeted public policies managed by governments endowed with resources and technical skills," he said. "The fundamental task for policy and politicians is to solve people's problems and not create new ones, as often happens in our countries." Insulza noted that in 2004 the region had its best economic year in two decades and that the prospects for 2005 and 2006 are favorable. Still, he said, there is a "palpable sense of uncertainty," a natural consequence of the financial crises the region faced in the first years of this decade.

"From the people's point of view, there are two key questions: First, will we be able, this time, to maintain a pace of growth that will prevent our region from continuing to lose standing in the world economy, in the face of other developing regions that, in recent decades, have had much higher rates of growth? And, this time, will the benefits of our growth and our democracy actually benefit the more than 200 million poor, half of them destitute, living in our region today?" In his remarks to the Heads of State and Government of the 34 OAS member states, the Secretary General also talked about the need to enhance good governance, noting that in recent years the region has experienced "serious problems regarding political stability and the quality of public administration." In order to improve public policy, Insulza said, "we must first of all expand and strengthen freedom in the Americas."

"Overcoming unemployment and poverty presupposes freer societies, in which all people are fully able to speak out and participate, with more justice, transparency, greater freedom of expression and association, and full respect for gender equality, and with respect for the diversity of original peoples, compatriots of African descent, the most vulnerable groups, and the millions of migrants and displaced people," he said. The Secretary General underscored the role of the Inter-American Democratic Charter as a tool to help the region "forge a community of free nations, whose governments not only develop democratically but also govern with full respect for the rule of law, guaranteeing the human rights of their citizens at all times."

"The Charter is not simply an agreement among governments; it is also a victory for our peoples, and as such, it must be adhered to unconditionally," Insulza said. He noted that the Democratic Charter, the launching of negotiations to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas, the adoption of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption and the formation of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission are among the significant achievements of the Summit of the Americas process. The President of Argentina, Nestor Kirchner, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and the President of the Inter-American Development Bank, Luis Alberto Moreno, also spoke at the opening ceremony.

From Harold Doan and Associates, Nov 4, 2005

Public Servants Becoming Masters Is a Concern

As Californians head to the polls today, it's fair to say that this election, at its core, is about the power of public employee unions. Although only one of the measures on the ballot - Proposition 75 - focuses directly on that issue, all four of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's initiatives touch on the topic in one way or another. The public-sector unions and their $100 million campaign have, with a little help from the governor himself, managed to paint him as a man who hates teachers, nurses, firefighters and other government employees. That characterization, unfortunately, has succeeded in blurring the outlines of the debate. One need not hate public employees or even dislike them to be legitimately concerned about the influence their unions have on public policy and on our lives.

I have such concerns - even though I love my parents, one of whom was a public school teacher and principal, the other a university librarian. I have a brother who is a social worker and a sister who worked in a veterans hospital. My feelings for them, however, don't make me any less bothered by the fact that public employee unions have tied our government in knots and hampered the delivery of services to those in need. My first vivid, up-close experience with this fact came when my eldest son entered kindergarten. A few weeks into the term, we learned that the drinking fountain on the wall outside his classroom, the one facing the little playground with a slide and sandbox, was not working.

The pipes that drained it had long since filled with debris, mostly sand, forcing the trough to overflow whenever the fountain flowed. To fix it, one needed only to loosen two nuts and pull off the clogged, u-shaped trap, empty it and then put it back into position. It was a 10-minute job that anyone who has ever wrestled with a clog in the kitchen or bathroom could do. As it happened, we did not need to rely on an amateur, because we had a professional plumber handy. The father of one of the boys in the class volunteered to clear the clog that was keeping the sink from working. The principal said no. Though she was a professional woman with a college education and years of management experience, she did not have the authority to allow a parent to fix a clogged pipe on the campus she was supposed to be running. The job was on a list of repairs at district headquarters, we were told, and a district plumber would be sent out in due time. Parent volunteers were not allowed to do jobs that district employees were hired to perform.

That small incident opened our eyes to the maddening role that public employee unions can play in our lives. Having thought of ourselves as progressives and having a deep respect for the work that unions have done in protecting workers from abuse in the mines, in factories, in the fields, my wife and I grew disturbed at the way the public employee unions, whose members are hardly in danger of abuse at the hands of their employers, were tainting that legacy. Covering state politics and public policy, I have since seen the unions oppose reforms designed to help poor and minority students get a better education. I have seen them push for rules that prevented school districts from saving money by using private companies to serve food in the cafeteria or pull weeds in the yard, money that could have been used to hire tutors for struggling students.

I've watched as lawmakers passed legislation and approved contracts that made low-income housing for the poor more expensive, prohibited college students from volunteering to clear brush from streams and blocked the state from using private engineers to design new highways. I saw the unions push for pensions that could not be sustained and for lifetime health benefits that would be the envy of any private-sector worker. The public employee unions, meanwhile, have grown increasingly militant in their tactics. Unlike private-sector unions, which ultimately have to be concerned about the financial health of their employer, public employee unions have no such constraints. Public agencies rarely go bankrupt. Our public employees might be good people. And their unions have every right to represent their narrow interests. But that doesn't mean the rest of us shouldn't be concerned about what happens when the people who used to be called public servants instead become the masters.

From Sacramento Bee, Daniel Weintraub, November 8, 2005

Civil Servants' Language Lessons Tops $120M

Training public servants to speak French is costing the federal treasury more than $120 million every year. The cost estimate, contained in documents newly released to The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, places a price tag on an endeavour that the federal government has acknowledged is not working. "Although no firm data are available, it is estimated that direct costs of OL (official languages) training in the federal government is in the range of $60-$70 million per year," says the research report dated Jan. 24, 2005. "These costs do not include replacement or lost productivity costs associated with the time employees spend on training, which could easily double this amount." The training is going almost exclusively to anglophone or allophone public servants learning French. In 2003-04, less than four per cent of the 4,656 students taking official languages training were learning English.

The draft research document, entitled Official Languages Training and Testing Model of the Future: Options and Research Findings, states: "Notwithstanding this level of expenditure, there is widespread perception that the current delivery model is not working as well as it should." The view is shared by official languages commissioner Dyane Adam. Her annual report last spring found that "the quality of bilingual services delivered to the public is at a standstill." Adam's report, which summarized 35 years of progress under the federal Official Languages Act, noted that support for bilingualism remains strong, with approximately 80 per cent of Canadians supporting the right of citizens to receive federal government services in their own official language.

But, added the report, "Support is somewhat low when the question asked refers vaguely to 'bilingualism on a national scale' or refers to the resources this requires." Since 1977, up to half of Canadians polled believe too much effort has gone into bilingualism, said Adam. Her report did not provide a dollar figure for the cost of official bilingualism, of which public service training is only a small component. Previous government estimates of the amount spent training bureaucrats to speak a second official language each year were in the $50-million range.

From canoe.ca, November 13, 2005

Public Servants Fight for Billions Feds Took from Pension-fund Surpluses

Canada's public-service unions went to court Tuesday in a bid to force the federal government to repay billions of dollars they say were taken from their pension funds. In the late 1990s, the federal government changed the laws on surpluses in pension funds, allowing it access to the money. The unions claim the money was, in fact, stolen from the funds. According to the unions, the federal government in 1999 helped itself to massive pension fund surpluses from three groups of workers - the RCMP, the military and the public service. More than $30 billion was transferred to the government's general revenues. Now the unions want the government to pay it back. One of the plaintiffs in the case is the Professional Institute of the Public Service (PIPS). Its president, Michele Demers, says the federal government got into financial difficulties during the 1990s when it slashed jobs, put a freeze on wages and increased pension premiums.

She says the pension fund was never supposed to be used to help the government out of a financial jam. "It seems that, every time the government is in a straightjacket with respect to expenses and deficit and debt, the first ones to suffer are public-service employees," Demers says. According to Demers, a massive pension-fund surplus should mean an increase in benefits for retired public servants, and lower premiums for current employees. José Aggrey, president of the Canadian Association of Professional Employees (another plaintiff in the case), says employers in the private sector don't have access to surplus pension money, and neither should the federal government. "They grabbed it, and it's up to them to find a way and a means of reinstating the pensions for the employees," Aggrey says. Lawyers in the case are representing 18 organizations with a combined membership of more than 300,000 employees. The unions expect this to be a long, drawn-out battle. The government isn't commenting on the case.

From CBC Ottowa, 15 November, 2005

 
 

Tuks Management Not Satisfied with Rlected SRC

The management of the University of Pretoria has ordered the reconstitution of the recently elected student representative council (SRC) for not having enough black members. "The representation does not comply with the requirements of the SRC constitution," the university said on Monday. It said the 17-member SRC comprises representatives of three student parliamentary structures. Each of the three structures (the Hatfield student parliament, the Mamelodi student parliament and the faculty student parliament) nominated members to serve on the SRC executive committee. According to the SRC constitution, at least one of the three faculty representatives on the SRC should be white and one black, and "gender sensitivity" should be ensured.

But the faculty student parliament nominated only white members. "This means that neither the SRC nor the decisions made or actions taken by the so-called SRC since October 27 can be recognised." The Freedom Front Plus Youth said the management decision has barred student representation on the university's board, senate and other institutional forums meeting this week. One such meeting would discuss the possible reappointment of the current rector. "If the university succeeds in their tactics, students' voices will not be heard in this crucial matter," youth leader Jan-Hendrik Kay said in a statement.

The SRC will not allow management to infringe upon students' right to representation, he added. "We are not here to play the colour games of the university management but to manage student interests." He accused the management of double standards, saying the Mamelodi representatives on the executive committee are all black. "The Tuks SRC represents all students, and these students do not see themselves as white or black," Kay said. "The SRC is representative of all student communities' interests, and is determined to address the needs of Tukkies students. Needs do not know colour." He also accused management of having written an SRC constitution without the approval or participation of students.

The university said the identification of members of the Hatfield and Mamelodi student parliaments to serve on the SRC took place under the constitution, and was not contested. Representatives of the Hatfield student parliament on the SRC included six FF+ members. The instruction for the SRC to be reconstituted is in no way aimed against any individual, student political party or ideology, it said. "Efforts to construe the matter as a plot against the FF+ are malicious and devoid of any truth. "The university management remains confident that elected student leaders will act in the interest of the entire student community and ensure appropriate representation of the Tuks student body at all levels."

From Mail & Guardian Online, November 7, 2005


Good Governance Will Address Cries of Injustice

A religious leader in Riv ers State, Primate Albert Magnus Uranta has said that only good governance would address the cries of injustice by geo-political zones in the country. Uranta who is the primate of Renaissance of God Reconstructionist Congregation noted that with good governance and present strength of the country, all geo-political zones would have cause to smile. Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Weekend Tide in Port Harcourt recently, Primate Uranta declared, "I don't want Nigeria to split because I believe in North, South and East geo-political zones. The cleric cautioned those agitating for the split of the country, wondering why Nigerians should seek for the division, adding that the task before every Nigerian is to look for good governance so as to make every geo-political zone happy.

According to him most Nigerians were either born in Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo which is outside their immediate places pointing out that Nigerians must learn to be patience and supportive to the government to enable it achieve its set objectives for the benefit of the people. He lauded the reforms put in place by the present administration in the country, which he said, were aimed at turning around the economic, social and political fortunes of the country. Primate Uranta who told The Weekend Tide that he contested election into the Rivers State House of Assembly on the plateform of the defunct Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP), noted that the problem with Nigerian politics is the introduction of Politics of bitterness.

On the agitation for resource control, the clergy said there was nothing wrong for any zone to demand for the control of resources gotten from the zone. According to him, the infamous one million man match in Abuja during late Sani Abacha's regime exposed the level of injustice against Niger Delta zone which sparked off the restiveness among youths of the area. However, he appealed to Nigerians to shun violence in making demands so as to enable the government find solution for such demands

From The Tide Online, November 19, 2005

 

SAARC Focus on Disaster Management

The 13th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation began here in Dhaka with the leaders of seven countries giving leadership to one fifth of world population emphasising the urgent need for their deep committment to ensure the South Asian Freed Trade Area Agreement come into force in January next year and for evolving effective system on disaster managment, combatting of terrorism and alleviating poverty in the region. The seven SAARC nation leaders addressed the inaugural session of the 13th SAARC which was differed twice earlier as it came to a reality yesterday at the Bangladesh China Friendship Conference Centre in Dhaka.

Lyonpo Sangaya Ngedup, Prime Minister of Bhutan, Shaukat Aziz, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Gayendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev the King of Nepal,Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India,m Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, President of the Maldives, and President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga addressed the 13th SAARC summit under the Chairmanship of Bangladesh Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia. Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz who Chaired the 12th SAARC summit in Islamabad the handed over the Chairmanship of the SAARC nations to Bangladesh Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia at the 13th SAARC summit.

The leaders of SAARC nations, as they meets in the aftermath of two natural disasters which claimed thousands of lives in the region, emphasised the need for better mkechanism to deal with natural disasters. All the leaders were united in calling a collectinve action by the seven SAARC countries to effectively face human tragedies in the form tsunamis and earthquakes that hit the region within the past one year. Indian Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh laid a solid footage for the regions attempts to combat terrorism saying that 'no member country should allow its territory to be used against the interests of another member country'.

"There should be zero tolerance for cross-border terrorism and for the harbouring of hostile insurgent groups and criminal elements", Indian Premier Dr. Manmohan Singh said. The Prime Minister of Nepal also emphasised the need to liberate the region from the clutches of terrorism as his country has been the victim of senseless terrorism for nearly a decade. Bangladesh Prime Minister Begum Kaleeda Zia proposed that Summit proclaim the coming decade from 2006 to 2015 as the SAARC Decade for Poverty Alleviation. The leaders of SAARC nations awarded the first ever SAARC award posthumously to late Ziaur Rahman one of the founders behind visionary of SAARC as the summit returned to its birth place after 20 years.

From Ranil Wijayapala in Dahaka, November 13, 2005

India Leading Student-sending Nation to US

For the fourth consecutive year, India leads the nations in sending the maximum number of 80,466 students to the United States, the US Embassy here said. The embassy, quoting a report released in Washington today, said this indicated a one per cent incraese over the previous year's enrolments. 'Open Doors' 2005, the annual report on international academic mobility, published by the Institute of International Education (IIE), with support from the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, said all the five leading countries accounted for 47 per cent of all international students in the US.

China, the second largest sending country with 62,523 students, also had a one per cent increase in enrolment after experiencing a decline of five per cent last year. Republic of Korea was third with 53,358, Japan was fourth with 42,215 students and Canada fifth with 28,140 students. In 2004-2005, the number of international students enrolled in US higher education institutions remained stead at 565,039, marking the sixth year in a row that the US hosted more than half a million foreign students. Asia continued to be the largest sending region.

From WebIndia 123.com, November 14, 2005

Disaster Management Authority for the State Soon: Azad

The Chief Minister Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad has said that the State Government would frame a Disaster Management Authority soon to be ever ready to face any eventuality like earthquakes, snow-storm or other calamity with proper management and compatibility. Addressing a largely attended Press Conference at Banquet Hall here today, Mr Azad said that the first priority of the government is to make sufficient arrangements for construction of temporary sheds, community halls, pre-fabricated housing structures, so that every person in quake affected areas who does not posses shelter should be properly accommodated in these temporary shelter places before on set of winter. Mr Azad said that administration has been given clear directions for giving top priority to construction of shelter sheds as the winter is approaching fast and weather conditions getting severe day by day.

The Chief Minister said that the employees who have been posted in the quake affected areas for undertaking the work of relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction, if found committing dereliction of duties would be dealt with severe hand and even cases for termination initiated against them. Mr Azad who visited earthquake areas of Poonch district today also gave a resume of relief and rehabilitation measures under implementation there, he said that more than 3800 tents, 23,000 blankets, 4000 tarpatline, 800 kitchen sets, 4 DG sets and 1000 sweaters have been dispatched to Poonch area by the Divisional Commissioner Jammu while as about 3000 quintals of rice, atta and wheat, 38000 ltrs of k.oil have been distributed amongst the affected people, he said.

The representatives of Bhartiya Jain Sangthan also spelt out the details of the working of their sangthan for disaster management purpose in various areas, hit by natural calamities in the country. The representative said that 870 pre-fabricated hutments would be erected in quake affected areas for providing shelter to the affected families. They said these structures are likely to be completed by 15th of December 2005 and more than 10,000 people are expected to be accommodated in these shelter houses.

In reply to a question, Mr Azad said that while Accountability Commission would be strengthened and given a free hand in dealing with the complaints registered with it and booking the dishonest and corrupt elements who so ever may be or belonging to any political party, "my Government would henceforth weed out corrupt elements from the society by taking stern action well in time without wasting a minute. He asked the administration to come out of the old hangover and take best advantage of the opportunity being given to them to mend their ways. "While corruption and malpractice would not be tolerated in its any form, honest and disciplined officials would be encouraged," he asserted.

The Chief Minister appreciated the employees for showing their positive response in government's efforts to create work culture for the benefit of people and the state. He said besides improving the quality of functioning in the government departments, the time schedule for working has also be increased to ensure better results. Mr Azad said that he has started reviewing thoroughly each and every Ministry to take stock of its functioning and evolve a pool-proof strategy for addressing the issues relating to the betterment of people and the state. He said he has already reviewed the functioning of departments two Ministries so far and the process will continue unabated.

Appreciating the forces for rendering timely help to the people during the hour of need in the quake affected areas, saving large number of human lives and providing befitting relief, medical care and other facilities to the people, the Chief Minister said that a silver lining in dark cloud of this natural calamity was the realization of people that the forces are their real friends, protectors, saviors and the epitome of maxim "a friend in need is a friend in deed" has been well recognized by the people in general and in border areas particularly.

In reply to another question, Mr Azad said that those who advocate reduction of extra forces in the state should also talk about giving guarantee that no person would be killed in a cool blooded murder attempts. "While asking for such things they should also stand guarantee for stoppage of violence in its all farms", he lamented. In reply to a question with regard to surrender and rehabilitation policy, the Chief Minister said that there should be complete change in mind set and surrender by any person should not be just to pretend that he has shun the violence but actually he might be indulging in abetting violence and other anti-national activities in disguise, he added.

From Jammu & Kashmir Newsline (Online), November 12, 2005

 

Uni Dumps Stake in Management School

The University of Sydney has walked away from Australia's oldest management school after much speculation about its dissatisfaction with the institution. Since 1999 the university has jointly run the Australian Graduate School of Management with the University of NSW. The arrangement was due to be renegotiated by December, but yesterday the university's senate voted unanimously to pull out, validating long-running rumours that it no longer considered the operation viable. The announcement is likely to embarrass the University of NSW's incoming vice-chancellor, former Fairfax chief Fred Hilmer, who was dean of the management school from 1989 to 1998. The partnership has cost tens of millions. Last year the universities contributed $4.6 million, and this year payments were scaled back to $1.8 million.

A spokeswoman for the University of NSW said the school, founded in 1977 and owned entirely by the university for the first 22 years, was intended to be self-sufficient by next September. But now the university "will make whatever financial contributions necessary to ensure [the school] meets its missions and goals". When the University of Sydney invested in the operation, its own graduate school of business was suffering a sharp decline in student numbers. Recently, the students have returned and it has gained international accreditation for its postgraduate programs. The withdrawal will pave the way for the school to offer its own MBA.

The Herald understands that the University of Sydney will also explore graduate programs that include elements of the MBA, through its government and law faculties. In a statement yesterday, the University of NSW said the Australian Graduate School of Management "has reported surpluses for the last two years and is on track to report a surplus this year (year to date surplus $1.75m)".

From The Sydney Morning Herald, November 12, 2005

 

Finnish Management Institute Gives Lacklustre Marks to Presidential Candidates

Top marks eluded Finland's presidential candidates in a test carried out by the Finnish Employers' Management Development Institute (FEMDI). The test was commissioned and printed by Suomen Kuvalehti, a weekly magazine, in its Thursday issue. In first place came Matti Vanhanen, the prime minister and candidate of the Centre Party, with three stars out of the maximum five - an average rating. Sauli Niinistö of the Conservative Party was awarded two stars while President Tarja Halonen, the incumbent from the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was given only one star, the lowest possible rating. The FEMDI has rated 4,000 leaders over the past few years. Only 9 per cent have scored as poor marks as the three presidential candidates. Each rating is based upon appraisals by 4 to 6 people who have worked with the test subject. Further, self-analyses are used, but President Halonen refused to supply hers.

From NewsRoom.com, November 3, 2005

Greece to Host 1st international Conference on Net Governance

Greece will host the 1st international conference on Internet Governance next year, Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis said on Wednesday. The decision was taken during the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), currently underway in Tunis. A total of 150 countries, 60 national leaders, ministers and non-governmental organisations - totalling some 25,000 participants - are currently discussing the impact of the digital revolution and ways to bridge a "digital gap" in the world. The Greek minister chaired the assembly of the summit. Speaking to reporters he said Athens was steadily moving towards implementing an action plan agreed to at the international conference.

From Athens News Agency, November 22, 2005

 

OWSC Implementing GIS Technology for Wastewater Management

OWSC, with its vision to'Build and Operate' world class waste water system in the governorate of Muscat, is implementing state-of-the-art GIS (Geographical Information System) technology to manage the waste water assets. This implementation will be one of the major milestones of OWSC's overall information system framework. GIS is a technology that is extensively used to view and analyse data from a geographic perspective. This technology links locations to information and various other environment-related thematic layers.

This will assist OWSC to address the requirement of integrated approach to manage wastewater assets more efficiently and effectively and thus in turn serve the needs to Muscat community. For successful implementation of this technology, comprehensive master plan is being prepared for which a multinational company named Rolta has been appointed. The teams of consultants from Rolta along with OWSC staff are working towards implementation of this technology by the end of 2005. Active participation and support is expected from external departments. The spatial data available with these departments can be integrated with assets management system which can be effectively used for waste water network management, planning and to satisfy the needs of OWSC customers by providing value-added services in a very short period of time.

From Times of Oman, November 7, 2005

Reform-minded Arab Business Leaders Take on Governance, Religion, Education

Nobody ever said that reforming the Arab world would be easy, or that it would be smooth sailing to make the political, educational, economic, and administrative changes that would allow the next generation of young Arabs to compete and prosper in the global economy. The leading pan-Arab grouping of activist senior business people, the Arab Business Council (ABC), came face-to-face with those challenges this week at their annual meeting here in Bahrain. The ABC's core discussions of the technical transformations needed to spur sluggish and antiquated economies and make them more competitive repeatedly veered into talk of politics, terror, religion and youth. In a fitting symbol of the parameters of its substantive discussions of the political, economic, nationalistic, and religious dimensions of Arab societies, the gathering found itself framed chronologically between the ongoing violence of young French men of Arab origin and the terror attacks against three hotels in Amman, Jordan.

These complexities, however, seemed only to stimulate and whet the appetite of this unusual group of Arab businessmen to accomplish their mission in fields beyond their usual purview of making money through private enterprise. ABC President Shafiq Gabr of Egypt described the mission as being a catalyst for change and lobbying for effective policies on the pan-Arab challenges of unemployment, political participation and democratization, education, human development, corruption, as well as peace and stability. The two-day gathering of 180 senior business, government, media and academic leaders included the usual range of panel discussions and presentations on technical issues, including benefits and burdens of free trade agreements with the U.S., the role of the mass media, and the impact of national competitiveness councils being set up in half a dozen Arab states.

The new element this year - just the third year of the ABC's existence, after it was launched under the aegis of the Geneva- and Davos-based World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2003 - was the strong focus on three related issues: the mindset and education of young Arabs, who make up a majority of the population; the route to transforming paternalistic Arab political orders into more democratic and accountable governance systems; and the crucial role of religion, whether the roles of religious leaders and political mass movements, or the actions of small groups of terrorists who have used the language and symbols of Islam. Judging from this gathering's focus and tone, the broad reform wave that continues to lap at the shores of the Arab world has fully grasped two important points: political, economic, and education reform must happen simultaneously, not sequentially, and, religious sentiments that are expressed through peaceful political movements must be engaged through democratic politics, rather than violence or denial.

In a closing communique that reflected the gathering's concern about extremist and some violent trends among Arab youth, the ABC called on Arab governments to make the fate of the 180 million young people in the region their top priority. "The most urgent issue is reform of education systems to provide young people with the skills required by modern economies," the ABC stressed. "If equipped with these skills, young people can be the driving force of an Arab economic resurgence that will create jobs to sustain growth in future generations." ABC members called on the business community to work with educational authorities to improve curricula, develop better vocational and technical training, encourage entrepreneurship, and help young Arabs shape their identity and values.

The ABC also issued a range of recommendations that mirror and expand exhortations of previous meetings. These included suggestions that Arab governments increase transparency, accountability and the rule of law in public institutions, with budgeting and public procurement as priorities; steps should be taken to develop an independent, commercially strong Arab media (an ABC-WEF Arab Media Initiative will focus on developing an honest and effective ratings system to help create a robust media market); all those genuinely committed to a democratic process should be included in the political system, and at the same time moderate Islamic leaders should engage extremists in religious debate; more Arab governments should recognize the value of measuring competitiveness as a tool for boosting accountability and transparency, and support the development of National Competitiveness Councils; and, Arab governments and the private sector should enhance regional integration through trade liberalization and not rely on bilateral trade arrangements.

"The key is clearly youth and education," said Ged Davis, managing director of the WEF's Center for Strategic Insight. "To unlock the great potential of Arab youth requires competitive economies in the region. What underpins competitiveness is the transparency and accountability of institutions, a vibrant media, a liberal trade regime and a modern education system that prepares students appropriately and ensures they have the right skills. These are the priorities for Arab countries - for both government and business in the region." Gabr added: "Arab governments should realize that the existing education systems don't work. I would like to see in the next 24 months a true revolution in the whole Arab education system."

Gabr underscored the need for Arab countries to eliminate illiteracy, calling for "unconventional reforms that allow us to leapfrog conventional changes and make up for the lost decades of Arab development." More information on the gathering and the final communique can be found on the WEF Web site (www.weforum.org). The participants started talking about the role of religion in society from the opening session, where they were given the findings of a new public opinion poll on religious dimensions of education, unemployment and the rule of law in Arab countries. The poll, by the leading American group Zogby International, asked citizens in six Arab countries across the Middle East for their views on education, business and the importance of Sharia law.

A majority of citizens polled in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) said Sharia law should be applied to businesses, although they agreed that further interpretation is needed to allow businesses in the Muslim world to integrate into the global economy. Citizens differed substantially on whether they would trust a popularly elected Islamic government to abide by the rules of a democracy. Asked whether they would trust an elected Islamic government to follow these rules, 72 percent of Saudis and 70 percent of those in the U.A.E. said yes, while just 36 percent of those in Lebanon agreed. Christians in Lebanon were most skeptical - just one in five said they believe an Islamic government would abide by the laws of a democracy.

The WEF's Middle East director, Sherif al-Diwany, said: "Education, rule of law and employment are all key issues for the future development and integration of the Arab world in the global economy." The survey also found a striking split between various Arab states on the quality of the education systems in their home countries. Egyptians are particularly skeptical that their education system is working. Just 15 percent said they believe their current system prepares young people for successful careers in today's global economy. In Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., 56 percent of polled residents believe their systems are working properly.

A majority of respondents in most nations, except Lebanon and Jordan, called for applying Islamic Sharia law to business operations. In Lebanon, the majority overwhelmingly rejected this view while, in Jordan, it was the position of a plurality. Majorities or pluralities in every nation also expressed the opinion that Sharia law requires further interpretation to allow businesses in the Muslim world to integrate into the global economy. This was a majority view in most states, while a 40 percent plurality of Egyptians and a 43 percent plurality of Jordanians also favored further interpretation of Sharia.

From Daily Start Regional, November 11, 2005

 

Public Can Have Say on CALM Management Plan

People in the Shark Bay area are being urged to get involved in the future planning and management process of the area. The Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) has released an issues paper and a 'have your say' brochure designed to promote discussion of the issues. CALM's senior planning officer, Paul McCluskey, says Nanga, Dirk Hartog Island and parts of South Peron, Carrarang Station and Murchison House Station are among the new areas that will come under the new management plan. "We've already got an existing terrestrial reserves plan for some of the area in Shark Bay, but there's been some recent purchase of land and we want to incorporate some of the planning for those additional areas," he said.

From ABC North West, November 15, 2005

Wal-Mart to Pilot Wireless Industrial Vehicle Management System

I.D. Systems, Inc. has entered an agreement with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. to deploy I.D. Systems' Wireless Asset Net industrial vehicle management system at a Wal-Mart distribution center in Texas. The deployment will serve as a pilot program for Wal-Mart to evaluate the benefits of the system on material handling vehicle operations, productivity, safety, and maintenance. Wal-Mart is the world's largest retailer, with fiscal 2005 revenues in excess of $285 billion.

"Establishing our industrial vehicle management technology as a best practice in challenging operational environments like Wal-Mart's is, very simply, what we do. Our team has worked hard and is well equipped to demonstrate how our solution can help improve Wal-Mart's management of material handling vehicles," says Rick Muntz, I.D. Systems' executive vice president of sales, marketing, and customer satisfaction.

The Wireless Asset Net consists of intelligent wireless devices installed on powered industrial vehicles (such as fork trucks and pallet movers), a patented communication infrastructure, and client-server software for access control, utilization analysis, real-time location tracking, and many other functions. The system is designed to improve industrial workplace safety and security by restricting vehicle access to trained, authorized operators and by providing electronic safety inspection checklists.

The system is designed to reduce maintenance expenses by automatically uploading vehicle data, reporting vehicle problems in real time, scheduling maintenance according to actual vehicle usage rather than on a calendar basis, and helping plant management determine the optimal economic time to replace equipment. The system is also designed to help improve productivity by ensuring equipment is in the proper place at the right time and by providing management with unique reports on vehicle utilization.

From Telematics Journal, November 14, 2005

Qwest Energy Management Appointment

Qwest Energy Investment Management Corp. ("Qwest Energy") announced today, the appointment of Mr. Stephen McCoach, Chairman, to the management position of Managing Director, CEO of Qwest Energy RSP/Flow-Through Management Corp., Qwest Energy IV Flow-Through Management Corp., Qwest Energy 2004 Flow-Through Management Corp., Qwest Energy 2005 Flow-Through Management Corp., Qwest Energy 2005-I Flow-Through Management Corp. and Qwest Energy 2005-III Flow-Through Management Corp. These companies are the general partners (collectively, the "General Partners") of Qwest Energy's oil and gas flow-through offerings. Mr. Hugh Cartwright has resigned from his positions as director and CEO of the General Partners to focus on the development of the broader application of a successful Bond/RRSP Finance business and other businesses. Mr. Cartwright remains a director of Qwest Energy.

"After 3 years of dedicated service to the development of Qwest Energy's flow-through business, Mr. Cartwright has decided to pursue the creation of other finance business opportunities," commented Stephen McCoach. Mr. McCoach also stated, "Hugh has made many valuable and instrumental contributions to the overall growth and success of Qwest Energy's flow-through business, and on behalf of the executive management team, I wish him the best in the development of his new business ventures."

"Qwest Energy has attracted high level management executives who are experienced and committed to ensuring its continued growth and success," commented Hugh Cartwright. "Qwest Energy's proven and successful business model, coupled with exceptional investor returns, ensures an exciting future. While still a member of the board of Qwest Energy, I will miss being a daily part of such a tremendous executive management team." About Qwest Energy: Qwest Energy is a leading oil and gas investment management company focused on identifying and delivering exceptional Canadian based oil and gas investment opportunities to Canadian investors.

From CCN Matthews, November 11, 2005

DR Will Host Conference on Disaster Management

The Dominican Republic will host this upcoming January the International Natural Disaster Conference. The activity will be attended by heads of state and ministers from Central America and the Caribbean, as well as state governors from of the United States that have been impacted by natural disasters. This high-level meeting will be sponsored by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL). On the other hand, foreign minister Carlos Morales Troncoso informed that the Dominican Republic will temporarily chair for a one-year period the Rio Group, composed of 19 nations.

From Dominican Today, November 7, 2005
 

Father of Management

When management guru Peter Drucker penned his memoir in 1979, he gave it a characteristically modest title: Adventures of a Bystander.
Yet Drucker, who died Friday at 95, was hardly a bystander. His ideas, propounded over a 70-year, 39-book career, were widely adopted by corporations, governments and non-profits worldwide. They made him one of the most important social theorists of the past century.
Drucker was known principally for his prescience and ability to make management theory an engaging topic. He foresaw the knowledge-based economy as far back as the 1950s and convinced companies to rethink their relationship with their workers.

But what put him even higher in the pantheon of 20th century thinkers was his vision for why his theories mattered. Good management, he believed, was not principally about improving third-quarter profits but about building a better world. Societies with well-run public and private institutions would be healthier, wealthier and more just. These views were informed by a youth in Austria, where he witnessed the rise of Nazism in Germany. They are equally relevant in today's world, where faith in large institutions is eroding as a result of greed, corruption and widening divisions of wealth.

Sadly, perhaps, Drucker's largest following was not in the USA but in Japan, where he was revered. At home, his legacy was mixed. Some companies, particularly in high-tech industries, adopted his once-radical idea that employees should be seen as assets and empowered. But late in his career, Drucker grew increasingly disgusted with companies that tolerated outrageous executive pay and saw mass layoffs as a virtue rather than an occasional necessity. Despite his financial success and worldwide acclaim, Drucker lived a simple life and continued to teach long after it was necessary. His modest brilliance seems a bit quaint in today's world of the self-aggrandizing, multimillionaire CEO. Perhaps that's all the more reason he needs to be rediscovered.

From USA Today, November 14, 2005

Forum to Be Set Up on Internet Governance

Negotiators agreed to set up a forum to continue discussions on Internet governance, a spokesperson of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which is being held in Tunis from Nov. 16-18, said on Wednesday. After last-minute negotiations, participants agreed to establish an Internet Governance Forum (IGF) to further discuss all Internet issues, Florence Lambert told a news conference. The IGF, which Greece has offered to host sometime in 2006, will have an initial five-year term to talk about net issues including spam, cyber crimes and other related problems, according to the final text of the agreement. Under the authorization of the Commerce Department of the United States, the Internet has been run by a nonprofit American company - Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), since 1998.

Developing countries argued that the Internet should not be under the control of one single country while the United States refused to give up its dominant role, citing the net has been functioning well ever since its outset. The agreement on the Internet governance cleared the way for the three-day Tunis summit, which is designed to find solutions to bridge the digital divide between rich and poor nations. Over 10,000 delegates from 173 countries, including about 50 heads of state and government leaders, business leaders, technology experts and civil society representatives participated in the summit.

From People's Daily Online, November 17, 2005

ITU Refuses to Accept Net Governance Agreement

The ITU has refused to accept the internet governance consensus reached after torrid negotiations during its own summit process, further damaging its credibility in eyes of the net community. Speaking at the closing press conference for the World Summit in Tunis, ITU secretary-general Yoshio Utsumi said that while it would continue to discuss issues in the newly created Internet Governance Forum (IGF), an increased "regionalisation" of the internet would mean the ITU will be called upon to take over in five years' time. "The internet need not be one Net controlled by one centre," he said. "Regionalisation has already started and I suspect in a few years, the simile of the internet will be a quite different one."

As an example of this "regionalisation", Utsumi, a Japanese national, brought up the controversial topic of China's efforts to create a form of intranet within its country in order to more easily control access to information. "In China, they have already started on a Chinese address not provided by the so-called global ICANN system yet." Claiming that domestic networks were "more efficient and economical", he then tried to draw a parallel to the existing telephone system, saying: "Telephone networks are made up of regional, domestic networks united together in agreement of the ITU framework. A similar situation may start with the internet." And, in that case, "the role that the ITU plays for the international telephone network will be called upon."

The statement is a depressing pointer to the fact that the four-year debate on net governance, which ended in agreement on Tuesday with only hours to go, may have achieved very little. Utsumi effectively said that the international consensus reached was the wrong one. It is the second time recently that the outgoing head of ITU has made a major blunder with regard to net governance. At the end of September's PrepCom meeting in Geneva, Utsumi told the assembled world governments that the ITU was ready to take over running of the internet.

It was this bold and unthinking statement that lent much of the power behind the subsequent lobbying for the existing infrastructure to be retained - a view that eventually prevailed. There are very strong historic reasons why people do not wish the ITU to be involved with the internet in anything but an advisory role. If it were up to the ITU, the internet as we know it - a vast, cheap, interconnected network - simply would not exist. In the early days of the net, the ITU saw the network as an extension of the international telephone network that it oversees. It foresaw - and heavily pushed - the image of a network where governments and telephone companies controlled the means of access, something that would have resulted in enormous connection charges and greatly reduced individual freedom on the Net.

In many ways, the ITU is the antithesis of the culture borne up through the dedicated engineers and academics that created the Net and for that reason the organisation will remain public enemy number one in many people's eyes. Utsumi's comments will not only uphold that view but strengthen it because they come after an exhaustive discussion process that clearly rejected the notion of ITU control. It will now be up to the new head of the ITU, to be chosen in just under a year's time, to try to repair bridges if the ITU is to have any credibility within the internet community.

From The Register, November 21, 2005

 
 

Sao Tome President Says under Investigation in Oil Corruption Probe

The president of the west African island nation of Sao Tome and Principe said he is under investigation as part of a probe into alleged corruption in the attribution of oil prospecting blocks in an offshore zone shared with Nigeria. Legal authorities in the former Portuguese colony began in September to look into claims that certain oil firms were illegally favoured in the process, which was delayed for months amid a dispute between President Fradique de Menezes and opposition groups.

'No one escapes, not even the president. From what I have been told, they have been asking people if they have information about the involvement of the president,' de Menezes told Portuguese daily newspaper Diario de Noticias. 'There are many accusations, many complaints that are investigated, some go to trial, and then no wrongdoing is found,' he added. The blocks were allocated in June for a total of 283 mln usd to be shared 60-40 between Nigeria and Sao Tome.

From Forbes.com, November 16, 2005

Corruption - The Cause for Our Demise

The Director of the Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA), Dr Joseph Abbey, has said a determination to stamp out institutional corruption and not debt relief was the solution to the economic problems of developing countries. "In spite of 20 years of debt forgiveness by the G8 states to the poor countries, developing countries across the world continue to owe over 260 billion to the rich nations and 14 African countries owe at least 40 billion dollars of this debt," he said. He therefore urged African governments, including Ghana, who have managed to get some of their debt cancelled, not to pride themselves with debt cancellation as though it were a feat, saying that "we can only pride ourselves with our ability to generate wealth in our countries and pay all our debts."

Dr Abbey said this at a forum organised by the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition to discuss corruption and how it affects economic growth in Ghana. He said some experts had argued that more debt cancellation and foreign aid would lead to acceleration of economic growth in poor countries. "This has not and would not help African countries when the rich nations sit by and watch African political leaders in particular stash their personal Swiss accounts with loans and grants meant for development projects."

Dr Abbey argued that as long as development partners did not take concrete steps to ensure that the war against corruption in African countries was won, debt cancellation and more economic aid were not going to change the circumstance of the masses of African peoples. He also deplored the situation where big chunks of financial aid received from foreign development partners returned to their nations through exorbitant salaries paid to foreign consultants who are usually forced on beneficiary countries as conditionality for aid. Dr Abbey said corruption and exorbitant salaries of expatriates accounted for high capital flight into foreign banks but the debt burden remained for the poor Ghanaian taxpayer to bear.

"Africa accounted for the highest level of capital flight in terms of financial and human resources in the world and yet we have the lowest level of economic growth in the world," he said. "Corruption has been identified as the chief driver for high capital flight from Africa."
He noted that projects usually undertaken by governments of developing countries for which they require foreign aid and loans are sometimes too high, saying that developing countries needed to focus on little things that could be tackled by local investors in order to stop incurring more debt.
Dr Abbey said the situation where foreign aid was only given for the commencement of new projects while uncompleted ones remained and deteriorated also led to increased debt burden.

Dr Abbey said weak internal control systems and equally weak domestic institutions were as guilty as the perpetrators of corruption themselves for the economic conditions of developing countries. He said domestic institutions responsible for controlling spending of public funds needed to keep an eagle's eye on spending of funds for development projects that usually went into individual accounts. Dr Abbey said statistics at the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) indicated that 70 per cent of Ghanaians had been involved in corruption either as perpetrators or victims and 90 per cent had witnessed corruption without taking any action.

He said top of the list were public institution whom the people depended upon for justice including the Police Service, the Judicial Service, Customs, Excise and Preventive Service, Electricity Company of Ghana, Ministry of Education and Immigration Service. "Civil society organizations focused on anti-corruption activities should therefore take the challenge and demand more accountability on a regular basis from, not only government institutions, but also private contractors who win state contracts and therefore use state funds," he said.

From News in Ghana, November 16,, 2005

Corruption Probe Pursues Malawi Vice President

Vice President Cassim Chilumpha has been summoned to appear before a magistrates' court Wednesday in Lilongwe in connection with an on-going probe into alleged corruption, his Public Relations Officer, Horace Nyaka confirmed here Tuesday. "Yes, indeed the Veep has been summoned to appear before the Chief Resident Magistrate in Lilongwe tomorrow," Nyaka said. He said several officers from the National Police Headquarters in Lilongwe and others from the Southern Region Police Headquarters in Blantyre went to Vice President Chilumpha`s official Mudi House in Blantyre Tuesday evening for a brief interrogation.

Nyaka could not give further details but, according to the summons, the Vice President is under probe over his alleged involvement in a multi-million Kwacha scandal at the ministry of education. Over 190 million Malawi Kwacha (about $2 million) disappeared at the Ministry of Education as bogus payments to ghost contractors of schools. Some of the money was payment for uncompleted school blocks or school blocks that never existed. Chilumpha was Minister of Education at the time of the alleged scandal. He was earlier arrested by the administration of former president Bakili Muluzi on the same issue but he was subsequently discharged on a technicality.

But Director of Public Prosecutions Ishmael Wadi promised to resurrect the issue. Asked whether being a sitting vice president, Chilumpha was immune from prosecution, Attorney General Ralph Kasambara said it is only the president who cannot be prosecuted while in office. "It's just the president who is immune," Wadi insisted. Chilumpha, who still belongs to the former ruling United Democratic Front (UDF), has of late not been seeing eye-to-eye with President Bingu wa Mutharika. Mutharika quit the UDF to form his own Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) citing his erstwhile colleagues discomfort with his tough anti-corruption policy.


From Angola Press, November 17, 2005

 

Indonesia Needs 15 Years To Be Corruption-Free

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Indonesia needed at least 15 years to create a public life which is really free from corruptive practices. The president made the remark in a meeting with 500 Indonesian nationals at the auditorium of the Indonesian embassy in Busan, South Korea, on Sunday. The meeting was also attended by Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda, Trade Minister Mari Pangestu, Economic Affairs Coordinating Minister Aburizal Bakrie, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) and Indonesian Ambassador to South Korea Jacob Lumban Tobing.

At present, the government was really serious in combating corruptive practices and many high ranking officials such as governor, district heads and mayors as well as legislators who are also investigated following their alleged involvement in corruption. "Even it is a preliminary step, the eradication of corruption has actually a fruitful result and 78 percent of those suspected to be involved in corruption cases have been probed," the heade of state said. The president took Hong Kong as an example for that country`s success in combating corruption in 12 years. "I will send a team to Hong Kong to learn the way they eradicated the corruption," he said. At the beginning the president explained his activity in participating the APEC Summit which was regarded as a crucial forum to arrive at the joint declaration, namely creating prosperous people in Asia Pacific region through trade liberalization and investment.

From Antara News, November 21, 2005

Former Officer to Move Court on "Corruption"

A former senior Army officer is planning to approach courts over lack of response from the Centre to his complaint of corruption in the higher echelons of the Army. Brigadier R.P. Singh, accompanied by his family, told newspersons here on Saturday that he was "fixed and vilified" by several senior officers and given marching orders soon after he "exposed cronyism and graft." Court-martialled - Brigadier Singh alleged that the ruling hierarchyin the Army, instead of taking cognisance of his repeated complaints, took revenge, conducting two court martial proceedings, terminating his career and vilifying him as "the booze brigadier." His appeal to the Centre remained undecided for well over six months, the normal time limit for disposing of such petitions.

Brigadier Singh, who claims he is armed with tape-recorded conversations and videotapes, said the court martial proceedings were conducted after he crossed the path of a senior officer and refused to give certain business opportunities to persons close to him. Although some officers (whom he has named) declined to "fix" him, the top hierarchy, in place after 2001, found others willing to conduct proceedings against him, he said.

From The Hindu, November 20, 2005

Donors' Stance on Corruption

The government has been blowing hot and cold ever since the corruption issue received national and international attention. On the one hand, it has consistently tried to shrug off the Transparency International's assessment about the extent of corruption in Bangladesh; on the other, it has feigned to be serious about combating the vice that has been eating into the vitals of the country, in the face of mounting pressure from the donor countries and agencies. After a lot of foot-dragging, the incumbent government, as part of its electoral promises, constituted an independent anti-corruption commission (ACC) in the later part of the last calendar year. But many, looking at the very composition of the commission, had expressed doubt about the government's sincerity. They have proved themselves so far to be right.

More than a year has gone by since its birth. But the ACC has failed to make its presence felt by either design or default. There is no visible sign either to believe that it would start showing its teeth soon. Thus, a sense of frustration has gripped the people as well as the donors following some damaging developments inside the commission itself. The just-concluded three-day 'Poverty Reduction Strategy Implementation Forum PRSIF' held in Dhaka last week offered an opportunity to the donors, both bilateral and multilateral, to vent their frustration and anger over inaction to combat corruption and ask the government to take immediate actions. While asking the government to do the needful in the matters of reforms, law and order, terrorism and implementation of the anti-poverty plan at the PRISF meeting, they spent a lot of time highlighting the need for immediate actions against corrupt elements. The donors reportedly asked the government to take some very serious cases of corruption and prosecute the persons involved in those within the next few weeks so that the people and the international community as well could feel that the government was serious about dealing with graft cases.

A section of people who include civil society members and politicians tend to find the donors 'too nosey and interfering'. But they should not have any objection to the pressure that is now being built up on the government to show some results on its promised actions against all-pervasive corruption. True and decisive actions against corrupt elements in Bangladesh have always been difficult since the network of corruption is vast and extremely strong. Amassing wealth through illegal means is the prime objective of most politicians, bureaucrats and businesses. The trio has formed an evil nexus that is very much known to everyone. That is why most incidents of corruption are either deliberately ignored or go unrecorded. It has been rather a tradition in this country to file corruption cases against political rivals soon after the change of governments. Notwithstanding the merit of such cases, the governments, irrespective of their political identities, are found to be casual in pursuing those cases. This casual approach has led the people to believe that the graft cases are politically motivated.

In spite of the pressure from the donors, the incumbent government unlikely to pursue high-profile corruption cases right now. This was evident from the statement of the Bangladesh finance minister at the end of the PRSIF meeting. He said the government cannot interfere into the activities of an independent body like the ACC. Any major anti-graft action will have the potential to create serious resentment among a section of influential people both within and outside the ruling party and the party high command may not take such a risk when elections are not too far away. So, the ball goes to the court of the ACC to justify its existence as an independent anti-graft body. And it should start with a big bang. In the ultimate analysis, the government of the day stands to gain more from major anti-corruption actions by the ACC.

From The Financial Express, November 20, 2005

 
New Group Formed to Campaign Against Corruption

A group of people allegedly wronged by the instruments of the State have formed a new group to campaign against corruption. Anti-Corruption Ireland is hoping to raise money and take legal cases on behalf of the victims of misconduct by gardaí and others in positions of authority. The group includes Frank McBrearty Jnr, whom gardaí tried to frame in connection with the murder of Richie Barron in Co Donegal. Speaking at the launch of the organisation today, he said he hoped it would help people to stand up and speak out against corruption of all forms.


From Ireland Online, November 16, 2005

Pertti Torstila Earmarked As Top Civil Servant of Finland's Foreign Ministry

The Finnish ambassador to Sweden, Pertti Torstila, 59, has been slated to become the secretary of state of the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Finnish News Agency (STT) learned on Wednesday. Sources within the ministry told STT the government would propose Mr Torstila for the task, the top non-political job in the ministry, on Thursday. The final word is expected to be uttered by the president on Friday. Mr Torstila has been ambassador in Stockholm since 2002. His curriculum vitae also includes an ambassadorial posting in Budapest and a stint as head of Finland's permanent mission to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

He was widely considered the frontrunner for the secretary of state post already in 2003, when he said he could not consider the appointment after only a year as ambassador to Sweden. Arto Mansala announced in October he would retire as secretary of state. He turns 65 in November next year, right in the middle of Finland's six-month EU presidency. Mr Mansala has however expressed willingness to take on board other tasks in order to ensure the continuity of the presidency.

From NewsRoom Filnland, November 16, 2005

Sign Up for Civil Job: Chirac to Rioters

After 18 nights of mob rioting, French President Jacques Chirac delivered his first formal televised address to the nation, admitting that the republic is in the grip of a "serious malaise" and a "crisis of identity". Flanked by the French and EU flags, Mr Chirac gave a US-style presidential speech amid widespread consternation at his relative silence during the worst case of civil unrest in a generation. Calling on "sons and daughters of the republic" to remain true to their national values, he lamented the "poison" of racial discrimination and admonished irresponsible parents for failing to keep their children in line. But in a blow to his centre-right government opponent, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, Mr Chirac pointedly rejected any change to France's rigid model of ethnic integration.

With its ideological attachment to blind equality and exclusive notions of "Frenchness", this "integration" model rejects multiculturalism and has perversely resulted in separatism and entrenched disadvantage. Statistics are not even collected on the ethnic origin of French citizens. "It is not a question of entering into the logic of quotas," he said. What the rioting young people from the suburbs needed was not so-called positive discrimination but the same opportunities to find jobs, Mr Chirac said. "How many CVs are thrown in the waste paper basket just because of the name or the address of the applicant?" he asked.

Under the President's plan to revitalise the maligned suburbs and create more opportunities for young French people of migrant backgrounds, 50,000 civil service training jobs will be created. However, Mr Chirac made no mention of France's profound economic crisis or how the Government could create the conditions to reduce the country's high unemployment rate of about 10per cent. A small minority of French commentators, mainly from business groups, have urged bold macro-economic reform to open France's sclerotic economy. Along with a host of Anglo-Saxon critics of the French economic and social model, they have urged deregulation of the rigid labour market to create jobs for the disadvantaged community of an estimated five to seven million Arab and sub-Saharan African migrants and their children and grandchildren.

The fight against illegal immigration was a major theme of Mr Chirac's address. But his political opponents were quick to condemn the President's declaration as too little too late. "Jacques Chirac thinks that words are enough," said Socialist Party Leader Francois Hollande. Extreme right National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen went much further at a rally in front of an estimated 10,000 loyalists. Mr Le Pen condemned the admission of 10 million migrants as "wild insanity". The riots began in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois on October 27 after two teenage boys were electrocuted when they sought refuge in a power substation, believing they were being chased by police. More than 8000 cars have been burned across France.

From The Australian, November 16, 2005

Civil Service Pensions Row Nears Breaking Point

Protests could be held outside Tynwald as a civil service pension row reaches breaking point. Union representatives are holding briefings for politicians today (Nov, 15) ahead of the proposed civil service superannuation scheme being passed. They are calling for the scheme to be pulled until staff have been fully consulted and legal issues resolved. It has been confirmed a formal complaint has been lodged over the handling of the pension wrangle and a furious senior union member has hit out at the Civil Service Commission for the treatment of thousands of workers. The Government Officers' Association, which acts as a union for civil servants, is part of the UK union Prospect. Prospect national secretary Frank Allen said there is anger over how the situation has developed and he is calling on Tynwald members to stop the superannuation scheme going ahead.


From Isle of Man Today, November 15, 2005

 

Sharon Embroiled in Corruption Scandal

The Prime Minister's son, Omri Sharon, has pleaded guilty to lying under oath and falsifying documents, at the start of his trial in Tel Aviv over allegations of financial corruption in the ruling Likud Party. Omri Sharon was formally charged in August with using an illegal campaign financing scheme to help his father win the leadership of the Likud Party and, eventually, of the nation. Both father and son maintain that the Prime Minister knew nothing of the illegal scheme but Omri Sharon is now fighting to avoid prison and is also facing disqualification from the Israeli parliament. As Middle East Correspondent, Matt Brown, reports.

MATT BROWN: Inside the courtroom in Tel Aviv it got a little chaotic. Photographers and TV news crews swarmed around Omri Sharon, the son of the Prime Minister of Israel, as he sat down and shared a joke with those beside him. There still wasn't exactly order in the court, even as the judge took her seat. But the guilty pleas that followed will help to avoid the most unedifying spectacle otherwise on the cards - a full trial and a full airing of how the Prime Minister's son raised more than $1 million in illegal campaign funds and ploughed them into his father's 1999 bid to win the leadership of his Likud Party.

Ariel Sharon agrees with his son's assertion, that his father new nothing of his dealings. And what dealings they were. The prosecutors claim Omri Sharon, who is a member of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, exceeded the caps on campaign fund raising and he then effectively laundered the money by channelling the funds into a front company that paid for his father's campaign expenses. In the way of these things, Omri Sharon has struck a plea bargain and pleaded guilty only to lying under oath and falsifying company records. But he must still try to avoid jail time and outside the court, the Prosecutor Erez Nuriele, offered him little hope.

(Erez Nuriele speaking) "We'll present all our arguments to the court", he said, but he added, "From the beginning I can confirm that one of the parts of the punishment will be a prison sentence." Omri Sharon's lawyer, Dan Sheinman, says his client assumes full responsibility for his actions. But in a bid to keep the Prime Minister's son out of jail, he launched his public relations campaign with a political plea. By the sound of it, the lawyer wants the court to consider the illegal scheme a choice between the lesser of two evils.

(Dan Sheinman speaking) "Had the alternative been Ariel Sharon not running, he would not have been elected and think today, in retrospect, as 2006 approaches, what the national significance of that would have been", he said. "We aren't denying that Omri committed the felonies and he needs to pay the price for it, but the question of the price is very important. We think the penalty should be very moderate." Professor Peter Medding, a political scientist at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, says that sort of defence is unlikely to wash with the public.

PETER MEDDING: I don't think there'd be too many people out there who'd be saying well, you've got to the right deed by the wrong act and therefore we have to forgive them, or that the ends justify the means.

MATT BROWN: But the fund raising caps in the campaign finance laws might be seen as out of date, and the allegations and the guilty plea from the Prime Minister's son haven't exactly rocked the nation.

PETER MEDDING: I think that, you know, in this country there are just so many things in politics. There are so many issues, there are so many problems, there are so many major incidents, whether it's terrorism, whether it's peace agreements.

MATT BROWN: This country does have a crowded political agenda. But the state comptroller, a sort of ombudsman and auditor general rolled into one, warned earlier this year of what he called "the corruption of power". It is, he said, "more dangerous than any other threat to which the state is exposed."

From World Today, November 16, 2005

Noticeable Progress in Civil Service Reform

One of the most important elements of the Economic, Financial and Administrative Reform Program, which the Yemeni Government has been implementing since 1995 is the Civil Service Modernization Program. This program has been under implementation since 1999. The program was set up with the help of the World Bank (the Dutch are also in on this) to streamline the public service employment, with a view towards making it smaller and more efficient and to solve the problem of corruption, which has become a wide spread phenomenon that touched almost every sector in Government. With the payroll of those in public service, including the military and security organs reaching some 1,000,000, this represented an awesome burden on the Government Budget.

Having said that, it should be noted that the large amounts spent for salaries and wages for public servants did not give individual employees the remuneration that would provide for all the essential needs of subsistence in most cases and most employees suffered from despair and frustration, especially as salaries were not adjusted to meet the dwindling value of the Yemeni Riyal. Furthermore, as time went on, many government entities sought ways to circumvent the uniform pay scale that the government had put in effect since 1983, which is also the year that the Yemeni Riyal started to deteriorate (the exchange rate for the local currency was then US $ 1 = YR 4.55).

When unification was achieved in 1990, this merged the former civil services of both the former People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen) with that of the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) into one payroll. With the Government of the PDRY being the only employer under a formerly strict socialist regime, this inflated the public service payroll significantly. In addition, as a result of the Gulf War a large number of expatriate Yemenis returned from the Gulf states. As a result, the Government went on to add more employees to make up for the inability of the private sector to provide jobs for hundreds of thousands, who all of a sudden became unemployed, in order to reduce the social impact on the rest of the society. This obviously meant that government employment was no longer subject to actual work needs and proper criteria of selection. As a result the civil service had turned into a big, but largely inefficient apparatus, especially as most civil servants were in the low pay strata of the payroll, and could not be assigned to dutiful employment that allowed the Government to provide efficient and effective public services.

Without prejudice to the above, it goes without saying with government salaries and wages mostly insufficient to meet employees' needs for subsistence, let alone produce a dignified standard of living, corruption found its way through all the various sectors of Government. With the absence of transparency and accountability, it was not long before corruption set in and became an acceptable norm in public service. In the meantime, the Ministry of Civil Service was for sometime no more than an employment office that was primarily engaged in finding jobs for those who sought to enter public service, and there were a lot of these. The labor market was saturated with unemployed manpower, which grew from year to year, as the high birth rate of the population turned thousands of new people to the labor market each year, but the market could not absorb them.

Since the Ministry of civil Service was taken over by Mr. Hamoud Khalid Al-Soufi, the Ministry, with the help of donors, sought to confront all this accumulation of mismanagement of human resources. The Ministry of Civil Service carried out a comprehensive survey of government employees and worked to establish a central data base of all government employees. It also set out to determine the costs of this large number of employees to the Government and determine, how much of this large number is effectively working. This was no easy task.

With the full information known, it was easy to see where the reforms were needed and the requirements for restructuring, if the Government was to optimize the use of the manpower under its employment. However, it was also clear that any reforms in this field were bound to meet with substantial opposition. Many of the entities have over the years acquired their own mandates as to the management of their human resources and thus had their own pay scales and ability to hire and appoint staff as they pleased. After having identified all the deficiencies that public service was facing, the MCSP then introduced substantive and meaningful steps to reform the civil service. Thus, the creation of the Civil Service Fund to take on the surplus employment and the other ineffective employment such as the double employees and ghost employees. In addition, Biometrics was introduced to control the flow of government employees and to prevent a recurrence of double employment and all the other misuses of government employment.

By 2004, Mr. Al-Soufi and the Civil Service Modernization Project Unit, ably headed by Mr. Nabil Shamsan came out with a well designed law and strategy to deal with the problems of determining employment positions, salaries, wages and benefits. The Salaries, Wages and Employment Law (passed in July 2004) and the Salaries and Wages Strategy, now under consideration by the Government were the culmination of a number of efforts and based on a scientific and practical approach to human resource management. Moreover, despite the obvious increases that the new pay scales introduced by the Law and the strategy entailed, the ongoing restructuring and reengineering phases of the project would work to ensure that the new wages and salaries would not represent an increase in overall payroll costs, since these phases would help to reduce the number of government employees significantly, while at the same time streamline government organs to operate efficiently.

With all the fine work that the MCSP has undertaken in this regard, it would not be surprising that the MCSP would also find a way to introduce accountability so that all those who continue to abuse public service are confronted with the reality that honor and ethical conduct are fundamental to sound human resource management in Government and the real path to successful and efficient Government.

From Yemen Times, November 21, 2005

 
Denying Corruption, Brazil's Finmin Stands Ground

Brazilian Finance Minister Antonio Palocci denied on Wednesday he was involved in an illegal kickback scheme and fiercely defended his economic policies, which are under fire from within the government. Palocci, a favorite on Wall Street, also signaled that he had no intention of stepping down. He said he saw no sign that President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva intended to abandon austere policies that have helped stabilize Brazil's economy, Latin America's largest. Speculation had been swirling in the past several days that Palocci, architect of an investor-friendly fiscal path, might have to resign over the corruption allegations.

But Palocci said he knew nothing about a scheme to channel kickbacks from municipal contracts to fund the Workers' Party 2002 presidential election campaign when he was mayor of the city of Ribeirao Preto. The allegations, made by a disgraced former aide, are part of wider scandal over vote buying and illegal campaign funding that has engulfed the Lula government since June. "I met with many businessmen, asked them to collaborate, but I never was an intermediary for campaign funds for President Lula," Palocci told a hearing of the Senate Economics Commission.

Palocci, a 45-year former Trotskyite and medical doctor, said he was willing to defend himself before any congressional investigations. "I won't avoid any issue, I won't avoid any explanation of any event," he said. The hearing was brought forward from next Tuesday to calm jittery financial markets who fear Lula may replace Palocci with a less orthodox finance minister and increase public spending to boost his chances in a possible re-election bid next year. Palocci said the present policy would continue. "We think this is the time to consolidate Brazil's fiscal efforts. We have to place those fiscal efforts in a long term perspective. We are going to observe even bigger gains and faster growth," he said.

Palocci was attacked on a new front last week when Cabinet Chief Dilma Rousseff criticized his public spending controls. But a presidential palace official, who requested anonymity, told Reuters on Wednesday: "(Lula) is giving unconditional support for Palocci. As far as we can see he has not been seeking a replacement. I don't think he's working on that at all." Brazil's currency and stocks, which tumbled on Monday because of fears Palocci could be forced to step down, perked up with his testimony. He is liked by investors for building steady growth with low inflation in one of the world's leading emerging markets. Jose Carlos Aleluia, a leader of the Liberal Front Party, said before the hearing that the opposition did not want to force Palocci out. But "Palocci's situation is very serious because the accusations of illegal movements against him are great," he said.

From Reuters.com, November 16, 2005

Ethics Scandal Could Bolster Stem-cell Foes

An ethics crisis at one of the world's most successful human embryonic-stem-cell laboratories has plunged the controversial field into a new swirl of uncertainty, with U.S. scientists wondering if a political backlash will develop. The accusations surrounding Korean cloning expert Hwang Woo-suk of Seoul National University - the first scientist to grow stem cells inside cloned human embryos - has killed a spate of planned studies that sought to prove the cells' medical potential.

But the claims that Hwang may have obtained human eggs for his studies from women who felt pressured to donate are reigniting a long-smoldering debate in the United States over the ethics of paying young women for their eggs, which are difficult to obtain but essential to the production of stem cells tailored to individuals. Egg donation, which is generally safe but occasionally leads to serious and even life-threatening complications, has been a wedge issue in the stem-cell debates, linking feminists and other liberal thinkers to conservatives who favor tighter limits on stem-cell research.

With a range of stem-cell bills primed for congressional action as early as January, the Korean meltdown could bolster those seeking stronger limits. "We're in danger of making women into guinea pigs for this research even before there are any treatments to be tested," said Marcy Darnovsky, associate director of the Center for Genetics and Society in Oakland, Calif., a pro-choice public-policy group that favors stronger oversight of egg donation and other biomedical technologies.

Ties severed - The imbroglio erupted a week ago when University of Pittsburgh biologist Gerald Schatten abruptly severed ties with Hwang, his collaborator of nearly two years, saying he had evidence that Hwang had obtained human eggs unethically. Schatten's charges resurrected dormant claims of two years ago, when a doctoral student in Hwang's lab told an interviewer from the journal Nature that she and another co-worker were among several women who had donated eggs. At the time, the student's statement alarmed bioethicists in Korea and abroad. It is a widely accepted principle in medical research that junior members of a research team should not be allowed to be volunteers in studies because such arrangements cannot be truly voluntary.

Concerns about Hwang's experiments were amplified by rumors that the woman had been paid for her eggs. Hwang quickly denied the story. And before long the student did, too, blaming her poor English for what she said was a misunderstanding. Schatten accepted those denials until Nov. 11, when he said he had evidence that Hwang had been dishonest with him. Hwang, who has been showered with millions of dollars in government grants, again denied wrongdoing last Monday. But the full explanation he promised has yet to be released.

This is not Schatten's first brush with scandal. Ten years ago, revelations about criminal practices at a University of California fertility program led investigators to Schatten, then at the University of Wisconsin. He had an arrangement to obtain eggs from the clinic in Irvine, Calif., where, it turned out, doctors were impregnating women with embryos made from other women's eggs and distributing excess eggs to researchers without institutional approval. One Irvine doctor was convicted on federal charges, and two others fled the country to avoid prosecution. Schatten was cleared of wrongdoing. Schatten's latest close call arose from his 2004 decision to collaborate with Hwang, who had just succeeded in growing stem cells from cloned human embryos, a "holy grail" accomplishment that for the first time proved the possibility of growing stem cells genetically matched to any patient.

For Hwang, whose English is marginal, Schatten served as an eloquent translator and link to the centers of scientific power in the Western world. For Schatten, whose stem-cell research had foundered, the deal offered a shortcut to the forefront of one of the hottest fields in biology and into the international media spotlight. With great fanfare, Hwang and Schatten last month launched an effort to distribute hundreds of customized stem-cell colonies to researchers around the world, including U.S. researchers who have been unable to gain access to such cells under restrictions imposed by President Bush in 2001.

Stunned researchers - The sudden collapse of that endeavor has stunned resource-hungry U.S. researchers, many of whom had been lining up to take advantage of the Korean's techniques and enviable funding. The evolving situation in Korea has renewed an unresolved debate in this country over the ethics of egg donation for cloning and stem-cell research. With current techniques, it takes dozens of eggs to make a single cloned human embryo, which is destroyed in the process of extracting the stem cells. That means that if the field of therapeutic cloning is to advance, a significant number of eggs will be needed to fuel the initial research and to satisfy the demands of patients. It is legal in the United States to pay women for their eggs, and in recent years at least two teams of stem-cell researchers in Massachusetts have done so.

Scientists at Advanced Cell Technology of Worcester, Mass., made the decision to pay women after an analysis by an ethics board created by the company, said scientific director Robert Lanza. He still thinks it is the right way to go, given the painful injections involved, the uncomfortable egg-suction procedure, and the approximately 5 percent chance of a serious case of hormonal overstimulation, which can require hospitalization. Others, however, say such payments cannot help but be coercive, especially for poor women who might feel compelled to take on those risks to make ends meet.

In April, the National Academies, which advises the nation on science, recommended against payments for human eggs beyond expenses incurred by the donors, in part because of the "sensitivities" inherent in the creation of embryos destined for destruction. But the report's impact remains uncertain as research institutions, fertility clinics and the biggest wild card of them all - Congress - mull the findings and the larger issues at hand. At least six stem-cell bills - including one that would allow broader use of federal funds for the research and another that would allow the creation of cloned human embryos but would ban payment for eggs - are awaiting action.

From The Seattle Times, November 20, 2005

A Culture of Corruption that Remains from Years and Years Ago

Opening a newspaper or turning on the TV, it is not hard to understand why many Venezuelans talk about the ongoing "media war" in their country. If you believed everything the media said you would think the Venezuelan President was a crazy, half-baked, tin-pot dictator who was threatening to steal people's homes in his forward march to totalitarian-style "communism," rather that a President whose mandate has already been ratified seven times in as many years ...and who is leading a process aimed at empowering and improving the lives of Venezuela's poor. But according to Servando Garcia Ponce, this should come as no surprise, because Venezuela is dealing with "media that have put themselves at the orders of the oligarchy, of the financial sector, the transnationals.

They are linked to them, they sustain them, they are helped ... by the US government who gives them money." Garcia should know, as he is on the frontline of this media war. Together with his brother and a group of other journalists, Garcia helped set up Diario Vea in September 2003 as the only daily pro-revolution newspaper in Venezuela. This move was vital, he told Green Left Weekly, because for "a bit over two years, the only available media carried disinformation. They manipulated information, both nationally and internationally, evading any real focus on the government of President [Hugo] Chavez and the Venezuelan political process, the revolutionary Bolivarian process."

"They denied the achievements, they were denied completely by the media", Garcia said. "They put themselves at the service of the coup in April 2002 [that attempted to overthrow the Chavez government], they fomented it, they proposed it, they protected the coup plotters, in all they collaborated and contributed to the development of the coup. The media, TV, radio and newspaper, all of them were part of the coup. "Afterwards, they supported a political strike aimed at the overthrow of Chavez [in December 2002 January 2003], where there was a total absence of information for the Venezuelan people."

In response, Garcia said, "bit by bit, alternative media began to form in the barrios [neighborhoods], in the states, in the regions. But there was a need for a national paper that circulated across the country, which could give information of what was happening in the country. From there came the idea, as an effort by a group of journalists, to start Diario Vea. We understood that it was essential that this revolution had a voice." With that the newspaper was born - one which now has a daily circulation of 80,000, making it the second most read daily in Venezuela.

It is perhaps no coincidence that Garcia and his brother - Guillermo Garcia Ponce, the current director of the paper - took up this challenge. Neither are young Turks when it comes to the battlefield, sharing between them a remarkably long and rich history of struggle as revolutionary journalists. Garcia recounted how he fought in the armed struggle against the government of Romulo Betancourt, resisted against the dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez, spent years in the underground or in jail, and at one stage was exiled to Mexico. Now, Garcia states, his work as a journalist is different, because "it is the first time we are in power." This is not to say, as much of the national and international media claim, that the government uses its power against the opposition media. "Here one looks at the TV and reads the newspaper and can see how they insult the president, how they foment conspiracies [against the government] and how they express themselves in all manners.

"But here there is no journalist in jail, whilst in the US a journalist is in prison for not revealing their source of information. There, there is no liberty of expression. In Iraq they have assassinated 78 journalists - more than 78 journalists dead as a result of the war pushed by the US government. By just visiting, anyone - a leader, a journalist from the US or any country - can see this. If Reporters Without Borders are sincere, they will realize there is no journalist in jail, no newspaper shut down, no TV or radio closed down [in Venezuela]."

That is why for Garcia, the foreign trenches in this media war are just as important as those at home, and the balance of forces has changed internationally. "Since Chavez was elected, there was a discreditation campaign abroad. Many people were wary of military figures; they did not have confidence in the military. But now many journalists ... such as yourself, other journalists from the US, England, France ... have come and they have realized what is happening here, and so the wheel is turning. Now it is seen [internationally] that the government of Chavez is a government that respects liberty of expression, which respects human rights, that is advancing a process in favor of the excluded masses. "So we see how the people of Latin America, and Asia, Africa and Europe, receive President Chavez, they receive him as a leader, as a man that is leading progress. With the help of the left and democratic media, people internationally are spreading the truth of what is happening here. They are playing the same role as Diario Vea."

That role is simple: reporting the truth - "It was necessary to accompany this revolutionary process with a voice that reflected the social missions. For example, Mission Barrio Adentro in collaboration with the Cuban doctors [which provided health care to the poor], the education missions ... which contributed to students with little resources being able to receive education. Mission Robinson, which has benefited 1.5 million illiterate people..." "These achievements were denied [by the media] in front of the public and the international community. Diario Vea plays the important role of transmitting this information, spreading it around."

This is not to say that Diario Vea is just a mouthpiece for the government. Within the pages of Diario Vea, one can find some of the most interesting debates on the weaknesses of the revolution, the challenges it faces and the internal problems the Bolivarian forces have to fight against. "This is a young revolution, it has a series of problems", explained Garcia, discussing why it is necessary to take up these issues. "Infiltrations, difficulties ... there exists a bureaucracy that in good part belonged to the previous Fourth Republic [the period of rule by two parties of the elite that was ended by the 1998 election of Chavez]. So of course there is sabotage, infiltrations and confrontations inside the Bolivarian forces. "The whole government is not marching forward, because there are bureaucratic sectors that are sabotaging the process. There is a culture of corruption from years and years ago that remains." Garcia said jokingly: "When Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas, well, within three or four years he was arrested and tried for corruption, so corruption has existed for 500 years ... we need to struggle against this ... and we are in this struggle."

From VHeadline.com, November 20, 2005

Castro Launches Do-or-Die Anti-corruption Drive

President Fidel Castro has mobilized an army of young Cubans on a crusade to stamp out rampant theft hobbling Cuba's state-run economy and shore up its communist society. "In this battle against vice, nobody will be spared," Castro warned on Thursday night in a speech to Havana University students. "Either we defeat all these deviations and make our revolution strong, or we die," the 79-year-old leader said. Castro railed against Cuba's "new rich" spawned by reforms that allowed limited private enterprise a decade ago after the demise of the Soviet Union plunged the island of 11 million into deep economic crisis. He vowed to eliminate differences that emerged in Cuba's officially egalitarian society between those who have access to hard currency - mainly cash remittances from relatives in Miami - and those who do not and struggle to make ends meet.

Castro, who has rejected Communist China's economic reforms as a model for Cuba, said his country would avoid the "blunders" made by Soviet leaders before their downfall. Current targets of his wrath are owners of small restaurants allowed to seat no more than 12 people, private taxis who drive gas-guzzling vintage 1950s American cars, and gas pump attendants accused of pocketing millions of dollars. A month ago, young social workers wearing black T-shirts took over Havana's gas stations after a pep talk from Castro. They sent employees home and began working the pumps. In his five-hour speech, Castro said authorities found half the cash from gas sales was being stolen. He said 28,000 young social workers were involved in the anti-theft drive, with another 10,000 ready to join up.

"I'm not theorizing. We are acting. We are marching toward a total renewal of our society," he said. "The work of these young people will put an end to a lot of vices, pilfering and sources of dishonest money for the new rich," he said. Castro said hard currency stores could be targeted next in the drive to stop stolen goods and also subsidized medicines being sold on the black market. He indicated that Cuba might revalue its currency again, a step taken in April that reduced the purchasing power of Cubans who receive cash from relatives the United States. In an effort to rein in capitalist practices, police last week raided farmers markets - Cuba's only free markets - shutting down stalls while inspectors checked papers, fined and arrested some of their owners.

The government controls farm production, but allows farmers to freely sell surpluses after they meet state quotas. The ruling Communist Party started rolling back post-Soviet reforms two years ago, restoring central control over state companies to rid them of corruption and capitalist tendencies. Cash-strapped Cuba had been bolstered financially by generous oil supplies from Venezuela and new export credits from China. But wiping out theft and black market activity will be an uphill battle as long as Cubans earn such low wages - an average $15 a month - one Cuba watcher said. "It is difficult to eradicate corruption when the incentives are so high," said Paolo Spadoni, a researcher at the University of Florida in Gainesville. "If you do not improve the general economic situation, it will easily revert in a few months."

From Reuters, November 18, 2005

 

World Bank Head Urges Developing Countries To Fight Corruption, Improve Health Care

Millions of people around the world are dying from preventable and treatable diseases, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said Monday at the High Level Forum on Health being held in Paris November 14th and 15th, urging developing countries to fight corruption and invest in better health systems, reports The Associated Press (11/14). "Every week in the developing world, 200,000 children under five die of disease, and 10,000 women die giving birth," Wolfowitz said at a news conference at the opening of a high-level forum on the Millennium Development Goals in the health sector. Development issues have topped the global agenda this year, with the G8 group of industrialized nations pledging $50 billion additional aid by 2010, including a doubling of aid to Africa. The UN world summit in September recommitted themselves to the Millennium Development Goals, which include reducing extreme poverty by half globally, ensuring universal primary education and stemming the AIDS pandemic by 2015.

Wolfowitz welcomed the promises of extra financing but said developing countries had to make sure the money was delivered effectively and tackle a shortage of health workers. "Developing countries also have to do better in terms of transparency and fighting corruption, and investing in stronger performing health systems which are the driving force behind effective health responses," he said. He cautioned against focusing on one disease at the expense of others. "We've (made) a big effort with some success in the last few years on AIDS, which is a good thing. I think the subject of malaria has been neglected," he said, adding that the World Bank was working to rectify the imbalance

In related news, Dow Jones and The Associated Press (11/14) note that Wolfowitz is meeting with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso Monday to discuss future financing of development projects around the world, including boosting aid and trade to the world's poorest countries. The Commission said the talks, part of Wolfowitz's second visit to European Union headquarters since taking up his post, will also include EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson and EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel. Reuters (11/12) writes that weeks away from a World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Hong Kong, Wolfowitz is expected to encourage Europeans to make concessions to ensure progress in the talks. Leading WTO members failed at meetings this week in London and Geneva to make headway on agriculture, industrial goods and services - the stickiest issues in the trade negotiations.

Wolfowitz was a key player in rallying industrial nations to agree to debt relief for poor nations - a pact that was sealed in September meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington. Failure to reach a deal in Hong Kong will harm millions of the world's poorest people, Wolfowitz has said. "There are few things that could be more helpful right now to the 1.2 billion poor people living on less than a dollar a day than the chance to have a decent job," said Kevin Kellems, senior adviser to Wolfowitz. "These international trade negotiations could help provide just that for many of them -- but only if those on all sides of the bargaining table are willing to do what it takes to make a difference and seize this opportunity," Kellems said. Wolfowitz will also meet with WTO chief Pascal Lamy and French President Jacques Chirac to push for progress in troubled world trade talks.

From Noticias.info, November 17, 2005

 
 

Tunisia Slated over Net Controls

Tunisia has again come under fire for its attitude towards media freedom. The North African country has been condemned for the way it filters websites in an academic study released to coincide with a UN net summit there. Human rights groups have already questioned the UN's decision to hold an information conference in Tunisia. In a separate development, the head of the media freedom group, Reporters Without Frontiers, said Tunisia had blocked him from entering the country. The secretary general of the group, Robert Menard told the BBC that he had been prevented by Tunisian security officials from leaving his aircraft seat, following his arrival from Paris.

'Effective and deceptive' - Mr Menard was planning to take part in the World Summit on the Information Society under way in Tunis. The conference is looking at ways of combating poverty through increased use of information and communication technologies. But the event has been dogged by reports of the harassment of journalists and civil society groups by the Tunisian authorities. The government of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali rejects any suggestion that it violates human rights or limits legitimate access to traditional or electronic media. But a study by the OpenNet Initiative found that nearly 10% of the 2,000 sites it had tested from within the country were blocked. They were mostly sites devoted to political opposition, human rights, pornography and tools to circumvent the country's controls.

The OpenNet Initiative is university collaboration between Toronto, Harvard and Cambridge. "Tunisia's internet filtering is focused, effective, and deceptive," said the report's co-author Derek Bambauer, who is a fellow at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. "These practices run counter to the goals espoused by the World Summit on the Information Society and highlight the challenges to freedom of expression from states determined to limit it." Tunisian authorities, the report states, use aggressive filtering tactics, not just to block pornography, but also the websites of political opposition groups, Western and Tunisian human rights groups, and the sites of Tunisians living abroad that are critical of the government of President Ben Ali. The Tunisians are also, according the OpenNet Initiative, blocking sites that tell people how to get around internet filtering.

Selective controls - Nart Villeneuve, director of technical research for the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, was involved in compiling the report. He has been in Tunis since Monday, monitoring the online situation. "I actually expected the Tunisians to lift the filtering during WSIS, and I was surprised they decided to keep it in place," he said. But it seems to be selective. Surfers in the UN-controlled area of the summit site are not experiencing many filtering problems at all. Just 100 metres away, in the Tunisian-controlled area of the summit site, people are having problems accessing certain sites. "Just walk out that door," said Mr Villeneuve, "and its filtered internet." Certain rights groups here have found their websites blocked since the start of the summit earlier this week. The OpenNet Initiative Report notes that Tunisia uses a commercially available product called SmartFilter to block access to certain websites. SmartFilter is made by a US company called Secure Computing.

'Tolerance and moderation' - A Secure Computing spokesman said the firm sells to service providers around the world without making any distinctions about whether they are government-owned or how they use its products. Saudi Arabia, among other Middle Eastern countries, uses the same product according to the report. Mr Villeneuve said Tunisia uses SmartFilter differently. In Saudi Arabia, an attempt to access banned online material will produce a "Forbidden Page" message. "Tunisia doesn't do that. Instead, it creates a fake error message telling you the page couldn't be found." In the end, Mr Villeneuve said, Tunisia's filtering does not have to be perfect.

"But when it's in place, it reminds the local population that there are consequences for trying to access certain types of content. So the filtering doesn't have to be 100% effective, it just has to get the message across for people to start self-censoring." In his opening speech yesterday, Tunisian President Ben Ali highlighted the great strides his country has made in making information technology, and internet access, available to the people. "Tunisia," said the president, "has always been a land of dialogue, tolerance and moderation."

From BBC News UK Edition, November 17, 2005

Tanzanian Government Uses OSS for Localisation

Tanzania, like the rest of Africa, is attempting to bridge the digital divide to create an information economy. And like many other African states, it is turning to open source to achieve this goal. Speaking at the World Summit on the Information Society conference in Tunis, Tunisia yesterday, Mark J Mwandosya, Tanzania's minister for communications and transport, says that challenges developing nations face include "inadequate infrastructure, high cost to access ICT facilities and lack of relevant local content".

Open source software is benefiting Tanzania in the latter challenge - that of relevant local content. "Tanzania is also spearheading the localisation of the key open source applications and operating Systems into Kiswahili," says Mwandosya. "This has resulted in what are referred to as the Jambo Open Office, and Klinux for word processing, and websurfing, respectively. These efforts should lead to inclusive access and enhancement of the cultural and linguistic diversity of the information society." While not elaborating on the details, Mwandosya says that the country has initiated ICT projects in a number of fields, including e-health, e-agriculture, e-post, e-business, e-commerce, e-government and e-education.

From tectonic.co.za, November 17, 2005

 

Korea Still No 1 in Broadband

Korea remains number one in per-capita availability of high-speed Internet service, according to a United Nation's Report that has been recently released. Apparently, 25 percent of Koreans have broadband, an increase of four percent from last year. There are several reasons for this, one being that Korea made a big push to modernize their broadband infrastructure in 1999 as a result of the Asia economic crisis. High-speed connections are considered a service just like water and power and most Koreans can obtain high-speed connections of at least six to ten MegaBits per second for about $20 per month. Dense population and a large percentage of online gamers also fuel broadband usage.

From techspot.com, Derek Sooman, November 14, 2005

E-government Strategy Faces Delay until 2006

Release of a new five-year federal e-government strategy, originally planned for late this year, is now likely to slip to early next year, according to government sources. While the Special Minister of State, Senator Eric Abetz, is still striving to release the strategy this year, a heavy and controversial legislative workload scheduled for the next parliamentary sitting is likely to frustrate efforts to secure all necessary signoffs and approvals by the end of the year. The strategy - whose release is now more likely in February or March next year - updates a previous document coordinated in 2002 by the now-defunct National Office of the Information Economy and overseen by then Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Senator Richard Alston.

Senator Abetz is also believed to have not yet decided the forum - which could include a press conference or seminar - in which to launch the strategy, which well-placed sources have described as "fairly ambitious". The e-government strategy will build on a raft of initiatives to boost the efficiency of federal government information and communications technology (ICT), including an open source procurement guide for agencies, a taskforce to combat skills shortfalls and the new streamlined 'Gateway' project management process. The strategy is expected to encompass existing and new initiatives to improve government service delivery to citizens and improvements to government operations.

It will primarily tackle the cohesion of approaches to online service delivery and collaborative efforts between agencies, rather than agencies' internal ICT processes. However, while the e-government strategy is unlikely to hit its hoped-for deadline of the end of the year, Senator Abetz' office is still targeting the final parliamentary sitting of the year - due to run two weeks from 28 November - to introduce a Bill to deliver a raft of electoral measures, some of which touch on the Internet. One is to enable a small-scale trial of e-voting over internal intranets to isolated groups of voters in overseas jurisdictions, such as Australian Defence Force personnel in Iraq or scientists in Antarctica, while another is requiring an individual to authorise electoral comment on Web sites in Australia. Sources conceded however, there was no certainty of the Bill being introduced to parliament - let alone passed - before the end of the year.

From Iain Ferguson, ZDNet Australia, 21 November, 2005

E-government Venture Stalls

TOT Plc is set to suspend talks with National Computer Services (NCC), a subsidiary of Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel), to form a joint venture to provide e-government services after failing to agree to terms. The negotiations began in the second quarter of this year and were expected to be concluded within a few months. TOT president Teerawit Charuwat said that under the initial plan TOT was to hold 60% of the joint venture with the remainder held by NCC. He said that a major deadlock in the talks was over the structure of the firm. TOT wanted it to be an independent company with no cross holdings in other firms to ensure management flexibility while Singapore Telecom wanted the entity to have tighter links with the shareholding companies.

``This was a condition we could not agree upon,'' Mr Teerawit said, adding that another area of disagreement between the two parties was over benefit sharing. TOT has made its final proposal to SingTel for consideration and is giving it until the end of the year to reply. In the interim, Mr Teerawit said that TOT was open to holding talks with other IT and telecom operators from Europe about forming a joint venture. He said the company saw good potential in e-government business, particularly on the back of the government's policy for all of its agencies to utilise it and the support of TOT's nationwide networks, customer services and personnel.

From KOMSAN TORTERMVASANA, Bangkok Post, 25 November, 2005

Regional e-Government Training and Resource Centre Launched in Azerbaijan

Knowledge creation and transfer on e-governance and e-democracy is one of the main objectives of the Regional e-Government Training and Resource Centre that was launched last week in Azerbaijan's capital Baku. The project, under which the Centre was created, is one of UNESCO's and UNDP's collective efforts to support the implementation of the Azerbaijan Government commitments made during a recent visit of the Director-General of UNESCO to this country.

The new Centre will provide comprehensive services to all stakeholders including parliamentarians, government institutions, as well as civil society, private sector and non-governmental organizations and guide them through various phases of the e-government initiatives. It will focus on creation and transfer of knowledge on e-governance and e-democracy and provide a platform for analyzing international and national experience in this area.

The Centre will also offer a series of training packages on key aspects of e-government and information technology to a wide range of audiences, such as civil and government authorities, school informatics teachers and educators. Training sessions on advanced system and network technologies will be provided to professional and technical staff from governmental and non-governmental institutions, which are involved in broadening and expanding local e-government networks.

While encouraging wide participation of citizens and local authorities in e-government through resource dissemination activities, the Centre will support the establishment of two "Citizen-to-Government Information Access Kiosks", as well as automated systems for local governors' offices on a pilot basis. The Centre will be based on the infrastructure and human resources of regional academies and centers, which have been reinforced by UNESCO and UNDP since 1996 through a variety of joint projects.

From portal.unesco.org, 24 Novmber, 2005

 

NHS 24 Buys Knowledge Management System

UK ebusiness solutions provider LSC Group has been awarded a prestigious contract for the provision of a knowledge-management system for NHS 24, the national health information, clinical assessment, advice and referral service for Scotland. The contract has been secured by a competitive tender and provides a solution that will create composite applications and federated searching across trusted data sources using Plumtree portal technology. It will allow approximately 1,000 NHS 24 staff and partner organisations to create and update information in a secure environment with workflow processes for content approval.

A key aspect is the incorporation of geographic information to enable efficient searching for the most appropriate location of care for the patient and provide directions to it. This is particularly important for the more remote and rural areas of Scotland, involving long distances and challenging geography.NHS 24 delivers high quality healthcare advice and health information", said Director of Development Dr Chris Stewart. "It is critical to be fully aware of all health services in each patient's locality, including geographical proximity and accessibility."
NHS 24 is the main gateway to out-of-hours care in Scotland, linking patients with local primary care services, A&E departments and the Scottish Ambulance services.

From BJHC.co.uk, November 21, 2005

Knowledge Management Becomes the Key Process for Companies Whose Revenue Relies on the Intelligence of Their Work Force

Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/c27085 ) has announced the addition of Integrating Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning to their offering. In today's knowledge economy where the knowledge of the work force constitutes the majority of an organization's "capital," developing and retaining business knowledge and talent stand at the forefront of business issues. Organizations have been pouring money into both knowledge management (KM) and learning and development programs to help employees tap into the knowledge assets of the organization. Unfortunately, this dual focus has often resulted in a confusing array of overlapping knowledge resources. How do employees know where the best knowledge is?

When faced with a problem or issue, employees need answers or expertise - whether they come from communities of practice, learning management systems, expertise locator systems, best practices repositories, training courses, online learning or mentors. The integration of KM and organizational learning (OL) allows employees to learn what they need, when they need it and to improve organizational performance. Getting there takes leadership, an implementation strategy, strong partnerships among vested business and service providers, effective technology enablers, and measures to track business impact. Discover how best-practice organizations have integrated these disciplines to create knowledge-enabled work processes in the 15th KM benchmarking report, Integrating Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning.

In addition to qualitative and quantitative data concerning key findings, this report has in-depth case studies of best practices at: Accenture Ltd., Aerotek Inc., Defense Acquisition University, IBM Corp., and Turner Construction Co. Topics Covered - Sponsor and Partner Organizations: A listing of the sponsor organizations in this study, as well as the best-practice ("partner") organizations that were benchmarked for their knowledge management and organizational learning activities. Executive Summary: A bird's-eye view of the study, presenting the study focus, the methodology used throughout the course of the study, key findings, and study participants. The findings are explored in detail in the following sections. Study Findings:An in-depth look at the findings of this study. The findings are supported by quantitative data and qualitative examples of practices employed by the partner organizations. Partner Organization Case Studies: Background information on the partner organizations, as well as their innovative knowledge management and organizational learning practices.

Summary - For years, organizations have been pouring money into both knowledge management (KM) and organizational learning (OL) and development programs to help employees tap into knowledge resources. Unfortunately, this dual focus has often resulted in a confusing array of overlapping knowledge sources as well as time spent justifying the existence of both areas. How do employees know where the best knowledge is? Do they care which "brand" it falls under? When faced with a problem or issue at work, employees need answers or expertise, whether they come from communities of practice, learning management systems, expertise locator systems, best practices repositories, training courses, online learning, or mentors.

As we progressed through its study of the integration of KM and OL programs, I was reminded of what I saw on one of the ubiquitous late-night cooking shows. On these shows, the object is to create a wonderful gastronomic experience for the eater in the most efficient manner possible. What struck me is that during the episode, the chef puts together precisely measured ingredients that are close at hand and uses seemingly "perfect" tools and expertise to whip/grate/sear/broil them into a delicious result. When I try it at home my goals are the same--an efficient process that delivers a delightful dining experience - but my results rarely are. Why? Because I do not have all the right tools, have not pre-measured or prepared my ingredients, and jump from cabinet to cabinet looking for things. Similarly, many organizations have the best intentions with their KM and learning programs - an efficient process with positive business outcomes--but are not achieving them because the programs are not working together to combine the ingredients, tools, and expertise in one location for employees to use.

On the flip side, this study's best-practice organizations have mimicked these expert chefs in creating their knowledge-rich environments. They started with a goal in mind - "the business of the business" - and put together the ingredients, tools, and recipes they needed to make it happen smoothly and successfully. With strategic planning, effective business partnerships, content management/learning management systems, communities of practice, marketing, and infrastructure support, these organizations have taken the time to prepare a truly wonderful knowledge-rich environment for their employees.

I hope you will find this report, which examines how seven best-practice organizations developed their integrated learning and knowledge environments, as useful and enlightening as we found it. Using their insights, coupled with previous KM research, this benchmarking study offers suggestions, models, and tools for organizations that wish to improve the business performance of their organizations by integrating the KM and OL efforts. For more information visit http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/c27085

From Business Wire, November 4, 2005

e-Government National Awards 2005

The e-Government National Awards 2005, will be presented on 25th January 2006 at a black tie dinner at the Savoy in London. The Awards recognise and praise the best strategies, achievements, teams and individuals in UK e-Government. The Awards are supported by the Cabinet Office e-Government Unit, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm), and SOLACE (Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers). Platinum sponsor is KPMG, and also sponsoring are Jobsgopublic, Entrust, futurate, Guardian Recruitment Solutions, and TES Jobs.

From PublicTechnology.net, 17 November, 2005

E-Government Entails Leveraging Information Technology in Implementing New Processes to Fundamentally Improve Government Services

Subject: Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/c27166) has announced the addition of E-Learning Course - e-Government to their offering. The e-government course aims to increase the employees' knowledge of the fundamentals of e-government and the strategies the government can adopt to better serve the public, business constituencies and the strategies the government can adopt for inter-departmental transactions as well. As the Internet usage across the world starts to grow, more and more governments are beginning to use the Internet as a medium to transact with the public, business sector and also within the government. E-Government entails leveraging information technology in implementing new processes to fundamentally improve government services.

The objectives of e-government might vary from country to country but are likely to involve effective customer service, cost reduction, global positioning, and national development. The course is designed to be very interactive and appealing and covers all fundamentals of e-government and provides case studies on e-government implementations done by various government bodies. Target Audience: The course is targeted at all government entities who are planning to implement e-government initiatives and need to educate their employees to aid in change management.

Objectives: The e-government course aims to increase the employees' knowledge of the fundamentals of e-government and the strategies the government can adopt to better serve the public, business constituencies and the strategies the government can adopt for inter-departmental transactions as well. The course also provides the learner a detailed look at the various strategies and also contains case studies of e-government implementations across the world. It is suggested that the user also takes the courses on Internet Technologies and e-commerce and Internet Security and Privacy along with this course to obtain a comprehensive view.

Expected Duration: 4 hours. The e-Government course is segmented into 7 modules. Each module is around 40 minutes. The course includes a glossary and study guide. -0- *T I. E-Government Essentials II. G2C: Strategies III. G2C: Case Studies IV. G2B: Strategies V. G2B: Case Studies VI. G2A: Strategies VII. G2A:Case Studies *T. For more information visit http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/c27166 .

From tmcnet.com, November 7, 2005

Turkey Plans E-government Portal

Singapore-based CrimsonLogic has secured a deal that will pave the way for the rollout of Turkey's e-government programme, according to a report in the Bangkok Post. The SGD40.2 million (EUR20.1) project will involve the construction of an e-government portal for the Turkish government. The portal aims to provide a single point of access to e-government services for Turkey's 70 million citizens, along with its 30 government agencies. "The project will help transform Turkey's public administration into being more citizen- and business-centric and facilitate Turkey's entry into the European Union," said Leong Peng Kiong, CrimsonLogic's acting chief executive officer. The gateway will "lay the groundwork for Turkey's participation in future pan-European e-government services that require interoperability with services of EU nations," he said. Turkish company Oyak Technologies will act as the local partner for the deal.

From electricnews.net, November 9, 2005

Irish Local Authorities Opt for E-procurement

Local authorities in Ireland are adopting new technology to help communicate more easily with their suppliers. A new solution, already implemented by Kerry County Council, allows suppliers to submit their annual quotes online using dynamic e-forms through www.LAQuotes.ie. The solution was developed in-house by the local authority, and during an initial three-week test period, received 107,000 quotations from 1,300 suppliers. It has since been adopted by eight further local authorities around the country, with plans to extend it to others in 2006. "Requesting and processing quotations from suppliers is a major task for all councils, who each have their own unique forms for seeking such information as road-making materials, concrete products, plant hire and haulage," said Catherine Carmody, e-procurement project manager, Kerry County Council. "As a result of moving to a standardised online process, we have delivered major benefits for internal workflows, process management and [it] has led to a faster and more efficient system."

From electricnews.net, November 9, 2005

Half of EU Citizens and Businesses Visit Government Sites

Around half of EU citizens and businesses who used the internet in the first quarter of 2004 obtained public sector information online. According to figures released by Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities, 45 percent of citizens aged 16 to 74 who accessed the internet in this time period used it to get information from government websites. Finland had the highest level of such access at 62 percent of internet users, followed by Denmark (56 percent) and Luxembourg (55 percent). On the enterprise side, 51 percent of businesses with net access used it to obtain information from public sector sites, with the highest level of access in Sweden (94 percent). Sweden, Finland and Estonia recorded the highest levels among businesses for downloading government forms. The study also noted that services to citizens among the 25 EU Member States were most developed in the UK, Sweden and Austria, while services for enterprise were most advanced in Denmark and Estonia.

From electricnews.net, November 9, 2005

EU Aims to Improve Transparency

The European Commission is making lists of expert groups that influence the legislative process available online, as part of an attempt to increase transparency in its decision-making. The preparation and implementation of policies at EU level is increasingly reliant on expert advice, and the EU aims to improve transparency in this process by publishing online a searchable Register of Expert Groups. The register, which contains about 1,300 formal and informal advisory bodies, provides basic information on the activities of each group and details of their composition, although no information on individual experts is given due to privacy reasons. The project is part of a wider Transparency Initiative by the EU, whose aim is to "increase openness and accessibility of EU institutions, raise awareness over the use of the EU budget and make the Union's institutions more accountable to the public."

From electricnews.net, Sylvia Leatham, November 23, 2005

Moldova Tops "E-Government 2005" Rating

Moldova improved three times its international rating for digital development in the last five years. At present, it is the most advanced state in the Independent States as regards the access to information and public services on the Internet. Moldova ranks the 57th in the E-Government 2005 rating published by Taubman Center for Public Policy of Brown University. According to the Global E-Government 2005 report, in the last five years our country improved three times its position in the ranking that includes 169 states, outrunning all the CIS countries. For instance, the next CIS countries in the ranking are Ukraine that places the 93rd and Russia that takes the 109th position.

Minister of Information Development, Vladimir Molojen, who represents our country at the World Summit on the Information Society, told the special correspondent of REPORTER.MD that the main problem Moldova confronts while building an information society is the digital divide between the rural and urban area. He specified that 96 percent of the Internet users live in the cities, while the villages have limited access to the world network. According to Molojen, this problem will be partially solved by the SALT program of implementing information technologies and communications in the education system, which envisages a computer and software network in the schools from the country. He also said that now all the rural schools in Moldova are connected to the Internet, but admitted that some institutions have by only one computer.

The ranking's authors assessed the web presence of each state, especially the quality of the web pages of the Governments, accessibility to information, database, publications, online services and other criteria. Taiwan, Singapore and the US share the first three positions. According to the statistical data, the number of Internet users in Moldova was of about 450,000 persons at the end of last year.

From moldova.org, 21 November, 2005

 

AUD Highlights Importance of Intellectual Capital & Knowledge Management

The American University in Dubai (AUD) has hosted this year's International Conference on Intellectual Capital and Knowledge Management (ICICKM 2005) that commenced its activities at AUD campus on November 21, 2005. This two-day conference acts as a networking opportunity for professionals and academics to share their views and perspectives on the subject of Intellectual Capital and Knowledge Management. Dr. Khalid Khawaja, Chair of AUD's IT department said: "I am positive that this event will help enhance the understanding of Intellectual Capital and Knowledge Management in the region and will encourage individuals and organizations to get acquainted with what the latest technologies have to provide in these areas."

The Conference is chaired jointly by Doctor Yousif Asfour formerly chair of IT Department at AUD, and Doctor Jamal El-Den of the American University in Beirut. Professor Dan Remenyi of Trinity College Dublin is the Program Chair responsible for the academic content in the papers presented. Mr. Joseph Hanania, Managing Director, HP Middle East, delivered the key note address where he shed light on the significance of intellectual capital and knowledge management. Following the keynote address, the conference split into various workshops or 'streams' that concentrated on Knowledge Management and Intellectual Capital vis-à-vis their applications on an individual and management level within a corporate organization. Speakers discussed these subjects in context to the different commercial as well as organization environments. One of the highlights of the Conference was the knowledge café which allowed participants to both network with each other and share ideas on a number of subjects. This technique has proven very popular at Conferences and it may easily be adapted by conference participants for use in their own environments or institutions.

From The Strategiy.com, November 21, 2005

Lebanon to Roll Out E-procurement System

The government of Lebanon is implementing an e-procurement system for five ministries, it was announced at the recent World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia. The system is being rolled out with technical assistance and an e-government grant of USD498,000 from the Development Gateway Foundation, in partnership with the Italian government. The Development Gateway Foundation is a non-profit organisation whose mission is to help developing countries make the most of the internet. The e-procurement system, which will see the five ministries posting tenders on one website, aims to cut costs by streamlining procurement processes and creating a more competitive bidding environment. The Lebanon's Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform (OMSAR) is the agency that has been charged with implementing the e-tenders system.

From electricnews.net, Sylvia Leatham, November 23, 2005

Kuwait, Singapore Assert Cooperation in E-government Projects

Kuwaiti Minister of Communications and Minister of Health Sheikh Ahmad Al-Abdallah Al-Sabah and Singaporean Minister of Information, Communications, and the Arts Lee Boon Yang on Friday asserted cooperation in implementing the electronic government project in Kuwait. The two sides held a meeting on the sidelines of the World Summit on Information Society, which was attended by Kuwaiti Ambassador to Tunis Suhail Shuhaibar and members of the Kuwaiti delegation. Undersecretary of Civil Service Commission Mohammad Al-Roumi told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) after the meeting that talks touched on a number of issues related to cooperation between the two countries in the field of the electronic government.

He added that the two sides also discussed establishing a public authority to follow up with implementing the e-government project in Kuwait, noting that the two sides discussed all points of view regarding this matter and the Kuwaiti efforts to implement this part of the project. Al-Roumi noted that the two sides also discussed outcome of the second phase of the summit, which finalizes its works today, in addition to the latest technological discoveries presented to the summit. The Kuwaiti delegation is led by Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sabah and includes Kuwaiti Ambassador to Tunisia Dr. Suhail Shuhaibar, Undersecretary of Civil Service Commission Mohammad Al-Roumi, Assistant Secretary-General for Ministerial Council Ali Al-Sheridah, Undersecretary for the Ministry of Communications Abdulmehsin Al-Mazidi, and the Undersecretary for Ministry of Planning Khalid Al-Khamis. (end) nm.

From kuna.net, November 5, 2005

Oman's Civil Status Record System Selected Best E-government Project

The Sultanate's Civil Status record system has won the prize for the best electronic government application project in the Arab world. This was announced at a ceremony held to honour the winning projects in a world summit for the information society, which was held in Tunis yesterday. Mohammed bin Zubair, adviser to His Majesty the Sultan for economic planning affairs and head of the Sultanate's delegation to the three-day world summit for the information society, made a tour of an IT and telecommunication exhibition held on the sidelines of the summit.

From Times of Oman, 18 November, 2005

 

INPUT Predicts Federal Knowledge Management Spending Will Reach $1.3 Billion By FY10

Katrina-highlighted weaknesses spur OMB and Congress to push agencies to develop more information sharing processes and systems - U.S. Federal Government spending on knowledge management solutions is expected to increase 35 percent over the next five years to reach $1.3 billion by fiscal year 2010 (FY10), according to a report released today by INPUT, the authority on government business. Recent information lapses highlighted by Hurricane Katrina will cause OMB and Congress to be even more focused on getting agencies to move forward with the development of information-sharing processes and systems.

"The mere possibility that improved information sharing between and within federal, state, and local agencies could have resulted in a more efficient disaster recovery after Hurricane Katrina, or potentially prevented September 11, provokes an extremely unpleasant opportunity cost analysis," said Chris Campbell, senior analyst, federal market analysis for INPUT. "As a result, the integration of fully developed knowledge management solutions will stand out even more as a necessity rather than a luxury." Knowledge management systems will begin to focus on tying all of an agency's information together and making it available in a manner that is supportive of the agency's management or mission performance process. A large part of knowledge management systems will be focused on enabling communications so that an agency can tap into its greatest knowledge base, its employees. The Army's knowledge management initiative, centered on the Army Knowledge Online Management (AKO) program, is a strong model for other agencies.

Vendors must be able to aid agencies in establishing and implementing a protocol that dictates how data will be collected, stored, and organized, as well as which employees will have access to certain types of information, and in what manner the information can be used. "Agencies will look for vendors to help them revamp their knowledge management process, making it imperative for vendors to focus on knowledge management as a complete process, not just a software or hardware fix," added Campbell. "The key consideration for vendors
when dealing with agencies is to consider them as one enterprise and develop solutions that will address knowledge management requirements at an enterprise level." INPUT's Federal Knowledge Management MarketView report is available to INPUT Network(TM) members subscribing to the Federal Market Analysis program. For more information on the subscription program, visit federal.input.com.

From PR News Wire, November 9, 2005

 
UN Debut for $100 Laptop for Poor

A prototype of a cheap and robust laptop for pupils has been welcomed as an "expression of global solidarity" by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The green machine was showcased for the first time by MIT's Nicholas Negroponte at the UN net summit in Tunis. He plans to have millions of $100 machines in production within a year. The laptops are powered with a wind-up crank, have very low power consumption and will let children interact with each other while learning. Children will be able to learn by doing, not just through instruction - they will be able to open up new fronts for their education, particularly peer-to-peer learning," said Mr Annan. He added that the initiative was "inspiring", and held the promise of special and economic development for children in developing countries.

Green machine - The foldable lime green laptop made its debut at the World Summit on the Information Society, which is looking at ways of narrowing the technology gap between rich and poor. Nicknamed the green machine, it can be used as a conventional computer, or an electronic book. A child can control it using a cursor at the back of the machine or a touchpad on the front. It can also be held and used like a handheld games console and can function as a TV. "The idea is that it fulfils many roles. It is the whole theory that learning is seamless," said Professor Negroponte, who set up the non-profit One Laptop Per Child group to sell the laptops to developing nation governments.

"Studies have shown that kids take up computers much more easily in the comfort of warm, well-lit rich country living rooms, but also in the slums and remote areas all around the developing world." There has already been firm interest in the machines from governments, though no laptops have yet been manufactured. Professor Negroponte said he had asked the most enthusiastic countries, Thailand and Brazil, not to give written commitments to buy the machines until they had seen the working model, likely to be produced in February. There has also been interest in the machines from five manufacturers and three big brand name technology firms, but no firm commitments had been made.

Big name supporters - The laptops will be encased in rubber to make them durable and their AC adaptors will act as carrying straps. They have a 500MHz processor, with flash memory instead of a hard drive which has more delicate moving parts, and four USB ports. They link up and share a net connection through "mesh networking". Plans for the global domination of the children's laptop are ambitious. "The initial plan is to start with countries that are big and very different to each other," said Professor Negroponte. "We are launching with six countries initially, then six months later, as many countries as possible." Those include countries in the Arab world, two Asian, one sub-Saharan, and South American nations. The project also has some big name supporters on board, including Google, and media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

But it will rely on open-source software so that support for local content and languages can easily be built. Although the laptops will initially be available to government only, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is in talks with commercial manufacturers to make it available on the open market. To take part in the initiative, governments have to commit to buying a million machines for around $100 each. Mr. Annan urged leaders and stakeholders at the summit to do their utmost in ensuring that the initiative was fully incorporated into efforts to build an inclusive information society. "We really believe we can really make literally hundreds of millions of these machines around the world," Professor Negroponte said, as costs continued to drop. He added that it was critical that children actually owned, instead of loaned, the machines. To overcome the potential problem of secondary "grey markets" for the machines, Professor Negroponte said the idea was that they would be so ubiquitous and prominent it would deter potential re-selling. "I hope there would be community pressure so it does not appear in the secondary market. The technology is in it so that the machine is disabled if not connected to the network after a few days," he added.

Sharing and collaborating - Technical breakthroughs have already driven the prototype design, but every technical breakthrough in the next five years would mean costs would continue to fall, he said. Michail Bietsas, MIT's director of computer systems told the BBC News website that laptops benefited primarily from mesh networking, as a way of sharing scarce net connections. One computer with a wi-fi or 3G net modem, for example, would share the connection with others in a classroom. He explained that the display did not have a backlight or colour filters that more pricey LCD laptop displays used, so saved power. Instead, bright LEDs are used which reduced power consumption by a factor of 10.

The screens are dual-mode displays so that the laptop can still be used in varying light conditions. Although children will be able to interact with each other through the machines, education was still the priority for the laptops. But by using mesh networking, the vision is for children to interact while doing homework, and even share homework tips on a local community scale. Collaboration will also be encouraged by using open-source software, which the children could develop themselves and use in local communities. "Every single problem you can think of, poverty, peace, the environment, is solved with education or including education," said Professor Negroponte. "So when we make this available, it is an education project, not a laptop project. The digital divide is a learning divide - digital is the means through which children learn leaning. This is, we believe, the way to do it."

From BBC News UK Edition, November 17, 2005

Electronic Document Management Simplified

Computers are good at handling organised data such as databases. They contain facts. However, the essence of an organisation-its concepts, ideas and insights-are found in documents and not databases. A document contains real information. The style of presenting the information gives value, meaning and insight into the information contained. Unfortunately, a document is unstructured information. This is because it can be in any format-a letter, e-mail, form, spreadsheet, memo, photo, report, sound, animation or video. It may be in the form of paper or microfilm, an e-mail or a scanned image stored on a hard disk. Electronic Document Management (EDM) is a computer-based technology used to manage electronic- and paper-based documents. It is a step forward in the quest to create a paperless office, and is part of document management technologies that ensure a document's availability anywhere, anytime in the desired format.

Diverse tech base -- Electronic Document Capture (EDC): This includes scanning, optical character recognition (OCR) and image or document conversion technologies. - Electronic Document Management System (EDMS): This locates, manages, displays, distributes, indexes and provides version control for a large collection of electronic documents in an organisation. - Web Content Management (WCM): It focusses on data collected on Web forms and through e-mail to ensure accurate handling of information. - Work Flow Management (WFM): It supports an orderly flow of documents. In the case of many documents, especially legal ones, policy decisions are created only after they are approved by a higher hierarchy. Such documents must reach the right person at the right time in the right order. - Knowledge Management (KM): Relevant information is required so that managers can take proper business decisions and gain a business advantage for their company.

Why EDMS ?
IDC estimates that offices worldwide produce 7.5 billion documents a year. Executives spend 45 % of their time working with documents, while 90 % of the companies do not know how much money they spend on producing and maintaining documents every year. Document management is critical because it generates and enhances business value. For some industry verticals, the documents themselves are the final product e.g. for the print media, their books, magazines and/or newspapers are a direct source of revenue. For many businesses, documents provide support for their core product or service e.g. documents of lawyers, insurance companies, consultants, government agencies, etc. Document management enhances organisational communication because they contain important concepts, ideas, info about business deals, and terms and conditions of settlement or agreement. It enhances business processes and is a major component of organisational memory.

Document management is not done for the sake of the documents but for the benefit of the users to help them achieve their business objectives. It puts the user in control of knowledge which exists in the organisation. It merely structures and organises the documents so that they are available when they're needed in the proper format.

Benefits of document management - - You know the status of the work. This improves workload management. The status of all work already done or currently being done can be known at any point of time. - There is less duplication and accumulation. A document can be quickly distributed or retrieved from across the network and routed to the proper individual depending on the priority, content or workload. - You can do a content search. An EDMS lets you locate the proper document every time by providing full text search. A user can specify words, phrases, expressions, criteria, etc. which are then searched against the index. - There is information sharing. Any document, be it text, graphics or multimedia based, can be shared across the Internet or the company intranet if required.

- There's better communication. Notes can be annotated to record ideas, suggestions or changes. - Long-term storage and digital archiving is possible. There is no question of a document getting lost or misplaced. Documents are protected by online security. Disaster recovery can be done quickly. Archiving means moving outdated, old and inactive files from primary to secondary storage. The EDMS searches for them in archives and restores them as and when required. - There are no filing problems. Also, there is less requirement of office space, people to maintain files, investments in file cabinets, folders and paper. The business value of EDMS includes reduced storage investments, centralisation of documents, faster and quality decisions due to organised and quicker document availability, knowledge sharing and business continuity. The system can be effectively applied to various industry verticals such as BPO, IT, BFSI, legal, education, government and manufacturing.

From Financial Express, November 7, 2005

Government Websites Fail to Meet Standards

The vast majority of public service websites in Europe are failing to meet international e-accessibility standards. That's according to a report released by the UK EU presidency, which shows that a mere 3 percent of public service websites are fully meeting the terms of the minimum accessibility requirements as stated by World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) guidelines. E-accessibility promotes the participation for all in the knowledge-based economy. With the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) quickly becoming an essential part of the economic, educational and social life of European citizens, there is growing concern about whether new ICT products and services are fully accessible, especially to elderly people and people with disabilities. E-accessibility has been highlighted as a key priority by the European Commission in its "i2010: European Information Society 2010"; for the next five years the Commission aims to promote an inclusive Information Society.

The latest estimates of internet usage in the European Union show that nearly 48.1 percent (222 million of the 460 million population) have access to the internet. Estimates also show that 39 million of the EU population are disabled and that by the year 2020 some 25 percent of the population will be over 60. The report surveyed 436 public sector websites, 70 percent of which completely failed to meet one or more of the guidelines. A further 17 percent "marginally failed" to meet the minimum criteria, while an additional 10 percent managed to meet some, but not all, of the international guidelines.Most of the websites fell down in the area of providing suitable text alternatives for images on their sites, with a large number of websites also failing to fully explain the relationship between frames on a website.

In a bid to improve the poor performance of public sector websites, the report makes a number of recommendations, which include setting a clear target for making all public sector websites in the EU conform with all accessibility standards by 2010. The report also suggests the sharing of best practice and having a harmonised approach to e-accessibility across member states. The survey was carried out by a partnership led by the Royal National Institute of the Blind and also comprising AbilityNet, Dublin City University and Socitm Insight supported by the Royal National Institute of the Deaf.

From electricnews.net, Deirdre McArdle, November 25, 2005

 
 

Taxing Concessions

The burden of Finance Minister P Chidambaram's constant efforts to raise tax revenue need not fall heavily on the entire middle class if he directs his attention towards the sectional tax sops handed out by his ministry. These today add up to a whopping one-seventh of total tax collections. A recent study by the Delhi-based National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) has estimated that Rs 54,560 crore of tax sops are being given out each year. This works out to 1.6 per cent of GDP, which is higher than the 1.2 percentage point hike in collections that the Twelfth Finance Commission wanted the tax department to achieve by 2009-10. In other words, to reach his decade-end target, Mr Chidambaram needs to do nothing more than just remove the plethora of concessions given at the moment. Such concessions are becoming increasingly difficult to finance at a time when populist expenditures are rising sharply.

That apart, there is the larger issue of whether such incentives even achieve what they are supposed to. A study by the economic think tank ICRIER, for instance, examined the impact of different variables in attracting investment to Asian countries and found that India's market size, the availability of skilled labour and electricity were statistically more significant than fiscal incentives. A similar conclusion was arrived at by the global consulting firm McKinsey at around the same time. Indeed, the NIPFP points out that if fiscal concessions actually made the kind of difference they were supposed to, there would be a lot more of investment in the north-east of India than there is today. Similarly, if, as a study shows, nearly 60 per cent of the income of organisations registered as charities comes from business activities, there is little justification for giving them handsome tax incentives. On agriculture, the NIPFP finds that if only a very small proportion of farmers are taxed (those with over 8 hectares of land), it can yield a tidy sum.

Apart from the issue of whether tax sops are yielding the desired results, the other important aspect is the distortions they cause. There is already enough literature on how SSI concessions have ensured that the segment has never matured. Similarly, the NIPFP estimates that customs and excise exemptions, which add up to around Rs 4,000 crore, have given rise to a huge maze of red tape, as each and every exemption needs to be monitored and certified, and in all probability, also has to be facilitated through "speed money". Most organic chemicals, for instance, can be imported at a duty of around 20 per cent, but some users can bring them in at a zero rate.

But in order to avail themselves of this, the units have to be certified to show that they fall within the relevant category, and then another certification is required to show that the imports have been used for the purpose intended. This, in fact, is one of the reasons why customs formalities in India remain complex and cumbersome and India stays high on the list of corrupt countries. Removing the maze of tax concessions will do three things - increase collections, raise efficiencies, and reduce corruption. Surely this can outbalance the adverse fallout of antagonising specific lobbies which had managed to secure the concessions and exemptions in the first place.

From business-standard.com, November 7, 2005

Government May Exclude PSUs from RTI Act

In a bid to provide a level-playing field to public sector undertakings, including banks, the Government may exclude all commercial enterprises from the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The issue is also likely to be taken up in the meeting between finance minister P Chidambaram and bank CMDs here on November 18. Today in Sify Finance. Bharat Desai, CEO of Syntel, sees India as a key market for his company's growth. Read and listen to his interview.

The RTI Act has posed major problems for PSUs, especially for Government-owned banks and insurance companies. The Act gives undue advantage to private sector banks as the RTI Act does not cover them while their public sector counterparts are. The RTI Act accords the public right to seek any information pertaining to business models, products, and customers from public sector entities. This is posing huge problems to public sector banks and is distinctly putting the private sector banks in an advantageous position vis-à-vis the former.

In addition, public sector banks may even lose a large number of depositors to the private sector banks. Customers and other depositors would naturally prefer the private sector banks to the public sector ones as their account and other details would be well secured with the latter. Meanwhile, Indian Banks' Association's (IBA) is seriously considering taking legal recourse to sort out the issue. | Read more Finance news. |

According to the RTI Act, issued by the ministry of personnel, public grievances and pensions, Information means any material in any form including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advice, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contract reports, papers, samples, models data materials held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force but does not include file noting. Many of these, of course, fall within the domain of commercial decisions.

From Sify Finance, November 12, 2005

Environment Policies Focus on Green Growth Potential

The Korean government will strengthen the role of its environmental policies in boosting the country's green growth potential which is lagging behind those of other advanced nations. The Ministry of Environment is seeking to formulate a set of environment policy measures to support South Korea's endeavor to achieve sustainable economic growth while preserving its natural environment. Green growth potential refers to capacity of which a country can achieve economic growth with environmentally friendly policies and consumption patterns that reduces environment pressures arising from development. Over the past 40 years, South Korea has been pursuing growthoriented economic development policies, largely disregarding environmental conservation and management.

It has accomplished rapid economic growth but its policies have resulted in the degradation in the natural environment and the destruction of ecosystems. The country ranked below average this year in the green growth index, measurement of the economic growth potential of environmental sustainability, according to the Korea Institute of Public Finance. Korea ranked 18th among 30 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) with a score of 5.74. Its green growth index fell short from the OECD average of 7.02, showing that the country is in the slow lane among OECD economies in terms of environmental standards and government and corporate attitudes to environmental malpractice.

In light of Korea's comparatively low green growth potential, the government has begun to recognize that it is urgent to come up with effective policy tools that improve environmentally sustainability growth, enhance performance for pollution control and eco-system management and promote environment as an engine for new economic development, a ministry official said. "We will try to secure more budgets to provide incentives to corporations that practice environmentally sustainable business practices," the official said, adding that the ministry considers introducing green taxes that requires the polluters pay more for the social and ecological consequences of pollutants they emit.

The country has also led an international effort to achieve a win-win solution between environmental protection and economic growth across the globe, as today's environmental problems transcend national borders with wide-ranging impacts. It hosted the Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific in March under the theme of "achieving environmentally sustainable economic growth," which was a great opportunity for Korea to increase its presence in the international community.

From Korea Times, November 17, 2005

 

Public Finances: ConfCommercio, Recovery but ECB Rate Danger

Signs of recovery for 2006, even if under the EU average, but Italian public finances brings the danger of a corrective manoeuvre in 2006 if the ECB raises interest rates. Thus argues the 'Centrostudi di Confcommercio' in its predictions for 2006. "Either it finally gets going - writes Confcommercio -, as in Germany, with a broad programme even if unpopular, but that aims at a deep revision of the system and a rebalancing of the use of available resources or the country also in the short term, as in the medium-term it will remain anchored to a fragile model and, for this, without real prospects of growth. Italian GDP will remain stead at up 0.2 pct this year and up 1.3 pct in 2006 and 1.1 pct in 2007. Exports support these timid signs of growth, with a rise in 2006 (up 2.9 pct) and 2007 (up 2.4 pct) due to the weakening of the euro. Less comforting is the performance of internal demand with a growth of family consumption of 0.8 pct next year and 0.7 pct in 2007, a performance slowed by oil prices.

Better, however, are business investments (up 2.5 pct and up 2.1 pct) thanks to the improvement of the productive context. The economic situation in Italy continues to be characterised by inflation under control and strongly conditioned by the effects of oil prices, and persistent imbalances on the public finance side. And there is no comfort in this area. In the second quarter of 2005 there are three critical points: "a growth in current spending, including that relative to interest; a decrease in tax income, also less due to the effects of a single payment and a doing away with the primary advance". This last figure, which in the first quarter of 2004 was 1.5 pct, in the first quarter of this year fell to 0.1 pct. In this context, "there are also dangers connected to a change in ECB fiscal policy. The possible rise in interest rates whose figure should at least in 2006, be more gradual than what has been done by the Fed may have negative consequences on Italy's deficit in consideration of a stock of debt that is particularly high. Presumably therefore in the course of 2006 corrective actions will be necessary to bring the deficit/GDP relation within the figures agreed in Europe."

From AGI, November 5, 2005

UK Public Finance Boost for Brown

The UK's public finances are healthier than expected, posting the highest cash surplus for October since 2001, official figures have shown.
Last month there was a public sector net cash repayment of 4.96m Pounds - boosted by a surge in corporation tax receipts.
And the public sector current budget was in surplus by £4.1bn, compared with a 0.4bn Poundsdeficit in October last year. The figures should give a boost to Chancellor Gordon Brown ahead of his pre-Budget report on 5 December. Both figures were much better than analyst expectations - and left public sector net borrowing for the financial year to date at £20.89bn, almost 5bn Poundslower than at the same time last year. October's improvement was driven mainly by a 23.4% surge in corporation tax receipts, the Office for National Statistics said. Economists suggested the surge came as a result of record profits from oil companies operating in the North Sea.

Budget boost - They said the deficit for the fiscal year may not miss Mr Brown's forecasts by as much as previously expected. Earlier this year the Chancellor predicted that borrowing for the 2005/06 financial year would fall to 31.9bn Poundsfrom 36.8bn Poundsrecorded for the previous year. "For the first time for many months, the Chancellor and the Treasury will be able to get away with predicting that his target of a PSNB (public sector net borrowing) of 31.9bn Pounds in 2005-06 is attainable," said Angus McRone, senior analyst at the Centre for Economics & Business Research.

But he warned: "We believe that October's public sector borrowing figures, fortuitously timed for the Chancellor, will be followed by less good figures in the months ahead." The current budget - which excludes government investment and is the figure used by Mr Brown to assess whether he is sticking to his 'golden rule'- is meant to be in balance over the economic cycle as a whole. But many economists believe that, although Mr Brown may reach this target in the year to April, he will have difficulty meeting his rule when the new economic cycle starts next year.

From BBC, November 21, 2005

 

Voters to Decide on Unique Fee

Two years ago, the average Ironton resident had never even heard the phrase "municipal fee." Since then, hardly anyone has been able to forget it and Tuesday's ballot will offer a refresher course. Revenue stream - The concept itself, charging Ironton households a set fee each month to help the city generate some much-needed revenue, has taken countless forms since first proposed by Mayor John Elam. City council considered a $3 version, and a $5 plan, and $7, $10, $15 and probably several combinations in between. Each time, the fee was voted down. Voters will have the chance to change that Tuesday at the polls. Residents will be asked to OK a $10 per month fee that would automatically expire Nov. 30, 2008. If adopted, the fee would generate approximately $500,000 a year, most of which is needed to bridge the city's gap between revenues and expenses. Ten percent of the money would go tothe Ironton Port Authority for economic development.

"Without it, it's going to be difficult, if not impossible, to manage next year's budget," Mayor Elam said recently. Elam projects the City of Ironton will be broke six months into next year without some sort of revenue fix. That is why some officials have pushed for the fee, despite many questions that swirl around the legalities of it and what to do if the voters say "no thanks." Legalese - Perhaps the biggest question is simply: Can council adopt a fee just to generate revenue? "The city solicitor has told council that it was legal," council chairman Jim Tordiff said. The legal opinion offered initially indicated that there was nothing in the Ohio Revised Code, state law or the constitution that would prohibit it.

The fee would be the only one of its kind in the state, as far as most sources are concerned. Ironton did have a fee of just a few dollars in the late 1990s that passed audits and the city currently has a floodwall fee and a fire fee to which some have compared the municipal fee. Dr. Sam Staley is not so sure these comparisons apply. Staley is a public finance expert and senior fellow at The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, a non-partisan research and educational institute that looks at government, economics and other policy issues. Staley called the fee, as it was explained to him, questionable and said he "strongly suspects it would be illegal."

"If what the government body is doing is using a fee to raise general revenue that is going into the general fund to be used for some future purpose then that is a tax," Staley alluding to strict laws that regulate how taxes are levied. "A general fee to raise revenue for government is in all intents and purposes a tax. It sounds to me like they are circumventing the public will (since an income tax was defeated at the polls)." For it to be a true "fee," the plan must be to fund a specific service and the revenue has to have specific uses under that plan, Staley said. "There has to be a plan for spending the money," he said. However, if the voters OK the fee as a charter change, it still has some public policy and finance concerns, but not nearly as many legal concerns, Staley said.

"Legally, it is not as much of a problem because the courts have been pretty deferential to decisions of the voters," he said. A Columbus-area attorney who specializes in cases involving city finance disagreed with Staley, saying that unless it is clearly prohibited by law, then a council could pass a fee that wasn't income based. The attorney refused to allow his name to be published, however. To the polls - Election Day could create more questions. What happens if the voters nix the fee? Can council still adopt a similar plan or would that go against the voters' will? That too is rather murky.

"If it is within their authority to pass such a fee, then I seriously doubt that, in all circumstances, that the authority of council is absolved or disqualified just because the voters vote one way or the other," said James Lee, a spokesperson for the Ohio Secretary of State's Office which oversees elections and ballot issues in the state. At least two attorneys agree with Lee's assessment that council could adopt the fee, regardless what happens at the polls, though the attorneys declined to comment specifically without further research.

Without knowing all the specifics, Lee said it is impossible to know for sure what the ramifications would be if council passed the fee if it had been voted down. "Ohio law gives a lot of authority to municipalities, especially when talking about a charter city. It is known as home rule and it has a pretty broad reach for locally elected officials," Lee said. "Once a legislative authority passes something - on a state, county or local level - in order to get such a thing taken off the books usually requires some action in courts." First, voters will have their say when they visit the polls Tuesday.

From Ironton Tribune, November 5, 2005

 

HM Treasury Makes New Senior Appointments

HM Treasury has announced that following a Whitehall-wide competition, Mark Neale has been appointed Managing Director of the Treasury's Budget, Tax and Welfare Directorate. He will take up his appointment on Monday 12 December. Dave Ramsden, currently Director of Budget and Tax Policy, will be appointed the Treasury's Chief Macroeconomist and Director of the Macroeconomics and Fiscal Policy Group. He will take up his appointment shortly after the Pre-Budget Report. The Prime Minister, on the recommendation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has appointed Jon Cunliffe as Second Permanent Secretary to HM Treasury, in recognition of his work in the G7, EU and other international fora. Jon will remain the Managing Director of Macroeconomic Policy and International Finance. His appointment to Second Permanent Secretary takes place with immediate effect.

Mark Neale, aged 48, has spent the last two years leading the Home Office's work on tackling organised crime, including the creation of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, and development of the Government's counter-terrorism strategy. Previously Mark was responsible for welfare reform as Director for Children and Housing at the Department for Work and Pensions, and was Finance Director of the Employment Service. He spent the early part of his career in the Civil Service Department and the Department for Education and Science before heading the Treasury's Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland team from 1995 to 1998.

Dave Ramsden, aged 41, has been Director of Budget and Tax Policy since January 2004. Dave joined the Treasury in 1988 and has worked on a wide range of macroeconomic and microeconomic policy issues relating to the UK and European economies including fiscal and tax policy and the public finances, the business sector and labour markets. He played a leading role on the UK's policy agendas for the EU stability and growth pact and economic reform and, from 2001 to 2002, he was a member of the EU's Economic Policy committee. Between 1999 and 2003 he led the Treasury's work on the Assessment of the Five Economic Tests and 18 EMU studies. This analysis was the basis for the Government's decision on UK membership of the single currency. Dave was awarded the CBE in the 2004 New Year's Honours for his work on EMU.

Jon Cunliffe, aged 52, will remain Managing Director of Macroeconomic Policy and International Finance, G7 Deputy and the UK Government's representative on the EU's Economic and Finance Committee, Chairman of the International Monetary and Financial Committee Deputies and the the HM Treasury representative to the OECD's Working Party 3. As before, the Permanent Secretary, Nicholas Macpherson, and the Managing Director MPIF will share responsibility for being the HM Treasury representative on the Monetary Policy Committee.

The Treasury's Budget and Public Finance Directorate will be renamed the Budget, Tax and Welfare Directorate (BTW), reflecting its role in delivering the Budget and in directing policy on tax, transfer payments and employment. The Treasury's Public Sector Finances team will transfer from BTW into the new Macroeconomics and Fiscal Policy Group (MFPG), part of the Macroeconomic Policy and International Finance Directorate. In his role as head of the Treasury economics profession, Dave will report to Professor Sir Nicholas Stern, Head of the Government Economic Service.

From PublicTechnology.net, 17 November, 2005

 
 

Why Ghana Opted For SAP

Ghana's Decision To Implement Structural Adjustment Program (Sap), 1982-1992. Ghana's interaction with the IMF and the World Bank dates back to the late 1960s when the National Liberation Council (NLC) toppled Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's first president, in a bloodless coup d'etat. The NLC became pro-IMF and revised Dr. Nkrumah's state-oriented policies. In the 1970s, intense resistance from domestic social forces compelled successive leaders to rescind their decisions to implement rigorous neo-liberal economic reforms. Between 1983-1992, however, the military government of the PNDC turned around and accepted Structural Adjustment Program (SAP).

SAP involves both economic and political dimensions. They both contain specific sets of prescriptions linked to the conditional loans of the IMF and the World Bank. The economic dimension involves such market-oriented policies as trade liberalization, privatization, and fiscal discipline. The political dimension, on the other hand, involves a process where government is structured in favor of the governed -democratization. This essay, however, focuses on the economic dimension of SAP.

From NewsinGhana, November 2, 2005

Minister Calls for National Road Fund

Works Minister Adeseye Ogunlewe has restated the need for the establishment of a National Road Fund. The fund, to be managed by the private sector, would be utilised for maintenance of local government, states and federal roads if established. Ogunlewe made the call (Monday) in Abuja in an address at the 14th Annual Conference of Directors of Civil Engineering (Highways). Our correspondent reports that the theme of this year's conference is "Public/Private Partnership in development of road infrastructure." Ogunlewe observed that public and private partnership approach in road construction and maintenance had become the universal standard worldwide. "We must encourage our country to move along that path; we must give out our major roads to private managers and operators through concession to rehabilitate, maintain, build and operate," he said.

He stated that the three tiers of government could not fund road construction and maintenance through the normal allocations from the federation account. "There is a compelling need to find alternative sources of funding," he said. He said that Roads Funds Management Authority should be funded through fuel levy as road user charges of at least 3 per cent of the pump price of petrol. "This is what is happening in countries like Ghana, Botswana and South Africa," he said, adding that other user charges from other sources must also be introduced. In a keynote address, the permanent secretary, Dr Hakeem Baba Ahmed, decried the decay of road infrastructure in the country. He disclosed that it would cost Nigeria between N600 and N800 billion to adequately construct and maintain federal highways. "It is only in Nigeria that highway construction is the exclusive preserve of government," he said. Director, Planning and Design, Federal Highways, Charles Uniugbe said the conference would provide a forum for highway engineers to deliberate on issues affecting the development and management of the national road network.

From The Tide Online, November 10, 2005

 

Japan Post's Private Units Will Need Business Leaders

When the gigantic Japan Post takes its first steps toward privatization in October 2007, the reins should be held by people who have had experience heading private businesses, Heizo Takenaka, who doubles as minister in charge of postal privatization and minister of internal affairs and communications, said Friday. "We're talking about an enormous company with 260,000 employees. I think it's natural to seek someone with experience at the top," rather than secondary leaders, such as a vice president, Takenaka said in a group interview. The managers of the privatized postal services will be expected to make the mail, savings and life insurance operations as profitable as possible. Meanwhile, an independent committee that reports to the internal affairs ministry and the Financial Services Agency will make sure its operations do not encroach excessively on the businesses of other banks and insurance companies, Takenaka said.

One of Prime Minister Junichiro Koziumi's faithful deputies, who has been successful in cleaning up the bad loans at the banks and in fighting for Japan Post's privatization, the former economic and fiscal policy minister has so far taken heavy hits from his critics both in and outside of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. But even his most scathing critics have admired the 54-year-old academic-turned-politician for his composure in the face of what has been at times nasty name-calling - like "traitor" and "agent for U.S. vulture funds." Takenaka has said his role in the next 11 months of Koizumi's term as LDP leader will be to serve as the "minister for small government." This means supervising the postal privatization process, giving local governments more discretion in managing tax revenue and downsizing the entire government apparatus.

But his largest challenge by far will be cutting the total number of public servants by 5 percent over five years. That 5 percent - roughly 5,000 officials in the central and local governments - should not be a 5 percent cut across the board throughout government, according to Takenaka. "I believe an all-around cut goes against the spirit of reform," he said. Personnel in "some areas should be slashed, while other (sections) need more people," he said. His new job as head of internal affairs is likely to give Takenaka strong influence in the planned cuts to the public-service payroll. The Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy is expected to draft an outline later this month to put bureaucrats' salaries on par with those in the private sector. Public servants are ensured lifetime employment, unless they are convicted of breaking the law. The bureaucrats, who passed tough exams and survived harsh competition to get their jobs, are expected to fiercely resist the job cuts once talk shifts to who will be laid off - what Takenaka called "the specifics" of downsizing.

From Japan Times - Mayumi Negishi, November 5, 2005

India and US Formalise Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture

India and the United States today signed a joint declaration formalising an India-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture (KIA) on agricultural education, research and commercial linkages. The KIA was announced by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and US President George Bush during former's visit to the United States in July this year. The joint declaration was signed here by Dr Mangala Rai, Secretary, Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE), and Director General of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Dr J B Penn, Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the presence of Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.

''We want to capitalise on complementaries and harness coherent synergies, we wish to maximise positive inter-action to derive more than the sum total out of this Initiative not to serve for the betterment of our two countries but the other countries of the world also,'' said Dr Rai while signing the Initiative. Dr Penn said, ''India and the US have more than 50 years of relationship in agricultural research and the signing of this Initiative is to re-energise the decades-old relationship and created a Board for joint efforts in this sector with representatives from academia, public and private sector of each country.'' The objective of the Initiative is to re-energize the agricultural relationship between the two countries through collaborative efforts by promoting teaching, research, service and commercial linkages to address contemporary challenges.

A key feature of the Initiative will be a public-private partnership where the private sector can help identify research areas that have the potential for rapid commercialisation, with a view to developing new and commercially viable technologies for agricutlural advancement in both countries. The declaration provides for the creation of a Board made up of eight members from academia, government and the private sector in each country to recommend specific projects and funding sources. Dr Rai will co-chair the Board with U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service Administrator Ellen Terpstra. The Board plans to hold its first meeting in December in the United States followed by a meeting in India early next year before the visit of President Bush in February 2006.

The areas of collaboration are expected to include agricultural research on sustainable agriculture and marketing systems, the use of new information and communication technologies, implementation of international food safety and sanitary and phyto-sanitary requirements and other priority areas as determined by the Board. The Board will coordinate efforts to reach the objectives of the Initiative by bringing together and working with individuals possessing extensive experience in scoping innovative international partnerships and higher education agricultural programming. Such individuals will represent a diversity of expertise in teaching, research, service and marketing drawn from throughout the stakeholder community, including the private sector.

Agriculture departments of both the countries anticipate that this Initiative will be coordinated through group participation hereafter referred to as the ''Knowledge Initiative Board'' consisting of two Co-Chairs and seven individuals selected by USDA and seven by the Ministry of Agriculture. Indian Agriculture Ministry and USDA also anticipate that the Board will develop its observations and findings in a report that will be delivered to both USDA and the Ministry of Agriculture of India in 2006.

From webindia123.com, November 12, 2005

 

GDP Growth Revised Upwards by IMF

Mr. Harald Hirschhofer, Resident Representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Serbia and Montenegro said in Statement that Growth projections for 2005 and 2006 were revised upward to 4.8 percent and 5.0 percent, respectively, amid improving export performance, strong domestic demand and growing investment activity by local and foreign companies

More specificaly , Mr Hirschhofer said that An IMF mission led by Ms. Piritta Sorsa visited Belgrade and Podgorica from October 20-31 and made good progress in discussions under the sixth and final review of the Extended Arrangement. Discussions will continue in the forthcoming weeks on a number of issues, including the composition of fiscal spending, monetary policy measures, and wage bill growth in public enterprises in Serbia. Further meetings are also required with the Montenegrin government to firm up understandings about the privatization agenda envisioned for 2006.

"In Serbia, discussions were held against the background of broadly favorable economic developments. Growth projections for 2005 and 2006 were revised upward to 4.8 percent and 5.0 percent, respectively, amid improving export performance, strong domestic demand and growing investment activity by local and foreign companies. The current account deficit is improving, but remains high at about 10.6 percent of GDP and inflation is too high. External debt dynamics remain of concern with external debt amounting to about 60 percent of GDP. "The key policy challenges for Serbia remain to reduce the current account deficit and inflation by strengthening competitiveness and investment, while constraining consumption. The mission made good progress on discussing the following policies to achieve that:

- Next year's public sector surplus will rise to 2.3 percent of GDP, but the structure of spending is still under discussion. This is to be supported by prudent wage increases in the public sector.

- The government prepared an impressive set of measures to reduce permanent, non-discretionary public spending by one percentage point of GDP next year, and to improve its quality. These still need to be anchored in supporting legal actions along with the 2006 budget. The measures include improving the quality and efficiency of the healthcare system, reforming the army and adjusting its operations to the requirements outlined by the currently finalized Strategic Defense Review, further reducing subsidies to inefficient enterprises, and ending transfers to the Development Fund.

- Monetary policy and prudential regulations will be tightened to address the fast growth in lending, in particular consumer lending, and its risks. It is of key importance that the planned new Banking Law will be passed by Parliament. Discussions continue on the exact measures to be undertaken.

- The exchange rate policy remains appropriate. Competitiveness can be improved by restructuring and privatizing state enterprises, greater competition in the economy, improving the investment climate, and increasing the efficiency of public administration.

- Structural reforms need to continue. The work of the Privatization Agency to prepare auctions and tenders of socially owned enterprises has been proceeding well. Its agenda now needs to be broadened towards privatizing spun-off units from the large public enterprises. The government is making efforts to overcome remaining obstacles.

The strong interest by top international firms to participate in the tender for the NIS privatization advisor reflects the importance of this industry, its regional opportunities, and the excellent privatization prospects. Measures to continue the restructuring in public enterprises are still being discussed."

From reporter.gr, November 2, 2005

MIM Concerned over Fuel Surcharge, Pensions Privatization

Issuing its reactions to Monday's budget speech, the Malta Institute of Manage-ment said it was particularly concerned about the hike in the fuel surcharge and the capping in certain sectors, and about the privatisation of the pensions system. The institute insisted that although part of the increase in the surcharge was due to the steep rise in international oil prices, this rise could have been absorbed better had the inefficiencies at Enemalta and in other government departments and agencies been better controlled. It was pleased, however, that these inefficiencies were to be tackled through the review of public sector work practices that had been announced. The institute added that it would have expected a more appropriate approach to the purchasing of oil in the case of a country such as Malta, and it encouraged the government to accelerate the process of introducing alternative energies.

The MIM also referred to the fuel surcharge capping practice as "discriminatory" in that the measure had been introduced only for certain business sectors. The institute also expressed grave concern over the privatisation of the pensions system which, it said, could spur growth in the financial services sector, but might not be in the best national interest. The institute described the beginning of the tax reform process and the changes made to property tax as positive measures, but added that it would have liked to have seen more drastic measures introduced and, as such, called on the government to accelerate the reform process as much as possible. Concern was expressed over the fact that the National Committee for the Conversion to the Euro still had to embark on appropriate information campaigns regarding the impact of euro adoption and on the need to prepare Malta's businesses for the eventuality.

"Malta needs to meet the Maastricht criteria and to absorb its past mistakes," the MIM added. "The government has introduced certain measures it thinks will propel Malta to meet its objectives. MIM insists that under the current circumstances, and with the measures introduced, Malta has to continuously review its economic conditions and the government should be ready to review such measures if indications of any negative impact arise." The MIM called on the government to review its tourism strategy in that there are factors to consider that indicate the five-star tourism niche might not be the most appropriate for Malta.

It also encouraged the government to create appropriate structures to put Air Malta in a position where it can mitigate the effect that the introduction of low-cost airlines might have on the national carrier, while at the same time encouraging more low-cost airlines to operate to and from Malta. While the institute saw strides being taken in education, it called for more encouragement of private training service providers which, it said, would reduce the burden on the university, generate economic growth and give room to wider education. VAT discrimination and the current system of accreditation were hindering the development of private education, the MIM states. In this connection, the scholarship scheme announced in the budget speech was applauded as a good example for future initiatives.

From Independent Online, November 21, 2005

Riga - a Dynamic City of Change in the Baltics

Riga, the capital of Latvia, is widely recognised as the Baltic business capital and one of the main economic centers of the region. The city as a junction point between Western Europe and the emerging Eastern markets is a powerful attraction for business activities in Europe. Furthermore, in the 14-15th centuries when Riga became a significant trade centre of the Hanseatic League, the city achieved special rights by the adjoining states to transport goods along its Daugava river further to the East. Today, Riga is also recognised as an important transit centre as a result of its harbour, international airport and well-developed rail and road networks. This well-developed transportation infrastructure facilitated Riga's position as the major industrial and business centre in the Baltic region.

Latvia – rising star of the Baltics - Latvia, as a former occupied state of the former Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) since 1940, gained its independence in 1991 after the dissolution of the USSR. As a legacy of the USSR's influence in Latvia, the Russian minority amounts for around 30% of the population. Latvia joined both NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004

Latvia's objective of EU membership was always at the top of its foreign policy. After the signing of a free trade agreement with the EU in 1994, followed by the more comprehensive Europe Agreement in 1995 which came into force in 1998, the basis of Latvia's pre-accession partnership with the EU had been established. Latvia started accession negotiations in late 1999 and made good progress towards its goal of EU accession which was acknowledged by the EU Commission's pre-accession reviews in 1998 and 1999. In February 2000, eight chapters of the EU's acquis communautaire, relating to SMEs, research, education, external relations, the EU's foreign and security policy, competition policy, statistics, culture, and audio-visual policy were negotiated. Another eight were opened for negotiations during late 2000: industrial policy, European monetary union, freedom to provide services, free movement of capital, company law, fisheries, transport, health and consumer protection. All chapters 31 chapters were successfully negotiated by the time of Latvia's accession to the EU in May 1st 2004.

Geography - Latvia is in Northern Europe and borders the Baltic Sea, between Estonia and Lithuania. Its area is 64,589 sq km of which 63,589 sq km is soil and 1000 sq km is water. Its neighbours are: Belarus 141 km, Estonia 339 km, Lithuania 453 km, Russia 217 km. Its coastline is some 531 km. Its maritime claims gives it a territorial sea amounting to some 12 nm with an exclusive economic zone of 200 nm and a continental shelf provision of 200 m depth, or to the depth of explotiation. Latvia's climate is generally wet with moderate winters for the region. It has a generally low plain with its lowest point being the Baltic Sea (O m) and the highest, Gaizinkalns (312 m).

Meeting with Latvia's Mayor - I met the Mayor in his office in downtown Riga in September 2005 together with his press secretary, Laila Spalina who was there to assist with background information. The meeting centered on the discussion of the Mayor's plans for the development of Riga and how, Latvia's joining the EU in May of last year had opened up avenues for confident public-private-partnership projects to assist in the redevelopment and modernization of the city. At our meeting, Mr Aksenoks was quietly confident of his wide-ranging development plans for Riga. Riga is the capital of Latvia, a new EU state in the Baltics which has a population of some 2.3 million. Riga itself has around 1 million inhabitants, making it the natural heart of Latvia and the largest city in the Baltics. As the city's new Mayor, Mr.Aksenoks, the former Minister of Justice of Latvia, exuded the warmth and confidence of Riga's proud inhabitants in the future growth of their city.

Mr. Aksenoks explained that the new development plan, now at its second reading and which was due to be accepted in October 2005, would map the city's development though to 2018. According to Mr.Aksenoks, the plan would focus on solving the city's existing infrastructure challenges as well as catering for those of the future. What is PPP - how does it work? We discussed the concept and origins of PPP. To explain, PPP, or 'public-private partnership'is as system that provides for a service previously run solely by the public sector to be effected through a partnership between the government/ public body and one or more private sector organisations. It is a variation of 'privatisation'. However, unlike a full privatization setup, where a new venture is expected to work like any other private business, the public body, or government continues to participate in some way. PPP is also referred to a P3. Usually, the private sector organisation, or consortium incorporates a special company called a "special purpose vehicle" (SPV) to construct and service the asset.

The PPP company, or organisation is usually made up of a building contractor, a maintenance company and a bank lender. However, it is the SPV that signs the contract with the government and with subcontractors to build the facility and then maintain it. A good examply of a PPP scheme would be a hospital facility financed and built by a private developer and then leased to the hospital authority, or the state. The private developer then acts as the building owner/ leasor and provides the usual maintainance and non medical services while the hospital itself provides medical services. The deal for the PPP company is that it has a guaranteed market/ buyer for its services, or facility.

The UK Underground- PPP in action - For example, since January 2003 the London Underground has operated in PPP mode. All infrastructure is maintained by private companies but the Underground is still owned and operated by the state Transport Authority. The London Municipality engaged the American Bob Kiley (who had PPPed the New York Subway using public bond finance) to develop the London Underground along PPP lines.

PPP in Central Europe - In Central Europe, Hungary has a good track record of successful PPP initiatives. It delivered the M5 motorway in 2003 which was followed by the M6. The M6 deal was financed in the international markets with the co-operation of a number of City law firms. A Model for Successful PPP -Generally, there are three main criteria that a country's legal system must deliver to provide for a successful PPP initiative: A strong private law framework that is respectful and that provides for the enforcement of deals struck between the public and private sectors. PPPs are heavily contract-reliant and the PPP investor needs to know that it can rely on its negotiated deal being enforced in court. A clear and transparent procurement regime. The private sector will not compete unless it is sure that it is doing so on a fair basis. Strong finance and securities laws that allow the revenue stream fundamental to PPP to be achieved for the benefit of the project lenders.

In most Central and Eastern European countries - in particular, the new EU states, these criteria are largely met to the satisfaction of potential PPP investors as EU procurement procedural standards are applied generally. However, the use of PPPs as a model for public procurement requires a large change in the way the public sector is required to think and the experience of the new PPP-implementing countries is that this change can be achieved only with clear, high-level political support. The key to PPP is the commitment of the decision-making politicians.

The Way Foward for PPP - The joining the EU has brought the prospect of significant financial subsidies for public infrastructure development. For the period 2004-06, more than €8bn (5.5bn Pounds) has been available to the new accession countries. This, together with international confidence in the security of the new EU states, provides a good platform for PPP initiatives in 2005. Riga Municipality and PPP - In the view of Riga's Mayor, the rapid and dynamic modernization and development of the City could be best achieved through innovative PPP projects and as such, those international private concerns willing to join with the municipality for the projects were warmly invited. Some of the key, current areas for PPP projects were identified as follows:-

Corporate Service Sector - PPP investors and entrepreneurs would be welcomed by the municipality to join with it for the development of large-scale conference centres and hotels so as to cure the current insufficiency of these facilities for the international business market wishing to use Riga's key location as a base for business and conference activities. Daugava & the Old City - The river Daugava which adjoins Riga, has a special traditional significance for its inhabitants and as such the municipality's important development objective was to unify the old city with the Daugava. This would be achieved by the relocation of the separating road to an underpass and to put in its place, promenades and walkways joining the old city with the river.

City Bypass Highways - To ease traffic congestion, there was a need to expand city road traffic capacity by moving the traffic flow from the city to around it. These city bypass highways would redirect through-flow traffic from the inner city and free up traffic congestion in the centre. They could operate with Park and Drive establishments. Increasing Traffic Capacity to and from Riga Centre - Riga's traffic capacity needs could be addressed by the building of two bridges crossing the river Daugava. One of the bridges may be optionally a tunnel for the city's north side (a high priority) which is estimated as a 600 million EUR project.

Public Transport System - An important part of the municipality's development plan for the city involves the modernization of its public transport system to include the implementation of low floor/ fast tram systems and also the rebuilding of the existing tram lines for more capacity. Entrepreneur Zones - The city administration is keen to establish entreprenuer zones - the allocation of areas within Riga for particular development purposes (eg., housing, supermarkets, green areas, etc.) so as encourage entrepreneurial planning.

Recreation - The development of Mezaparks, Riga's 'garden city' within a city, home of with some of the most beautiful residential buildings of old. A public conference is planned to take place in Riga on September 2005 for its development for recreation and residential purposes. The council is keen to maintain this beautiful part of Riga for leisure and recreation and in that respect is interested in joining with private concerns for its development as there are only currently two suitable, modern resorts for family entertainment and recreation in Riga - Livu aquapark and 'big' LIDO. The council is particularly keen to develop large-scale indoor recreation centres which can be accessed by families all the year round.

Waterways/ Riga Harbour - There is strong interest to move the harbour away from the main city area, leaving that area for office/ conference centre and residential housing and the interest of private developers for this project. Development Territories - The territory of Lucavsala is lacking in basic infrastructure (eg., water supply) is in need of development and PPP investment is welcomed. Education - The network of schools is well developed in Riga, however, the buildings need renovation . and modernization and up-to-date facilities (especially IT equipment; sports equipment and swimming pools). There are pressing needs for day care centres/ kindergartens and in all these area PPP investment is warmly invited.

Healthcare - The responsibility for the administration of hospitals and emergency care facilities is split between the state and the municipality. A concession agreement between the parties would enable the rationalization of these healthcare services. For hospitals, as many occupy premier locations in the Riga centre and could do with a rationalization of functions for more efficiency, the city development plan envisages hospitals to be moved out of the centre to the suburbs by the merger of some smaller ones with the larger ones in the suburbs for reasons of costs efficiency. Furthermore, the area vacated could be used for the development of hotels and conference centres (which are key needs for the city). The Ministry of Health could offer PPP investors the considerable experience in the merger/rationalization of hospitals.

Residential Homes - At present there are 10, 000 families waiting for flats and there is a pressing need for the construction of low-cost housing for low-income families on a 'build for rent' basis. Culture - There are plans to build a new National Library; an Acoustic Concert Hall and a Modern Art Exhibition Hall. City Green Areas - Riga city green areas are in need of development and modernization and the city's current priority is the redevelopment of these 'green' areas. PPP Investors/ Riga Law Firms and Consultancies - The Mayor, was keen to point out that private concerns, especially from Britain and the other larger EU countries, with competency in any one of the development areas above and who were able to bring a financing package for a relevant PPP project engagement would be warmly welcomed. Additionally, suitable experienced law firms and other consultancies in Riga are encouraged to join with the municipality in its efforts to attract well-qualified PPP investors for its development plans for the city.

From mondaq.com - DrJur. Edward , November 7, 2005

Romania Wins International Arbitration with Noble Ventures, Inc

The Romanian State scored a major arbitration victory before the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) within the World Bank in Washington. Noble Ventures, Inc. submitted its claim under the bilateral investment treaty between the United States and Romania to arbitration under the ICSID Convention in August 2001. Noble Ventures` claimed as much as USD 353 million in damages from Romania, challenging Romania's treatment of Noble Ventures and its investment in Combinatul Siderurgic Resita S.A. (CSR) following the steel company's privatization. ICSID award was communicated to both sides on Wednesday, October 12, 2005 in Washington, at 15.00 hours (22.00 hours, Bucharest time) and dismissed Noble Ventures claims for disbursements. The Romanian State shall only bear the expenses with taxes, fees and other court-related costs, according to the order for splitting the arbitration costs.

The team of lawyers that successfully represented the Romanian State before ICSID includes Florentin Tuca (Managing Partner with Tuca & Asociatii), Cornel Popa (Partner with Tuca & Asociatii), Cristina Metea (Senior Associate with Tuca & Asociatii), Levana Zigmund (Senior Associate with Tuca & Asociatii). The outcome of the arbitration in Washington has brought back the smile and scattered the concerns of the authorities in Bucharest, the success being ensured, to a great extent, by the teams of lawyers, along which legal experts, accounting experts and experts in the steel industry have worked in a file comprising tens of thousands of pages. The case covered very complex international law matters (particularly issues related to expropriation, standard of fair and equitable treatment, investment protection etc.) as well as relevant Romanian law matters (privatization, fiscal law, bankruptcy and insolvency, contract law, companies' law, employment etc.).

"It is a very important success for the Romanian State. We have been waiting the decision of the arbitration court in Washington with optimism and emotion at the same time. We haven't lost hope that ICSID decision would be favorable to the Romanian side and, indeed, our efforts, as lawyers defending the Romanian State interests materialized in a huge success. Of course, we can be but happy about this result; however, it is desirable that in the future, the State authorities make higher diligences in order to prevent similar law suits which may result in significant losses", said Florentin Tuca, the coordinator of the Romanian team of lawyers in Resita file and currently the Managing Partner of Tuca & Asociatii. Resita case reached ICSID in 2001 and the Arbitration panel was formed in 2003, by a German arbitrator, Mr. Karl-Heinz Bockstiegela, chairman, a British arbitrator, Mr. Jeremy Level, and a French arbitrator, Pierre-Marie Dupuy.

First, the Americans required damages worth USD 200 millions. Later, their claims escalated to USD 447 millions and then stopped at to USD 353 millions. This amount would have represented the aggregated amount of profits which were to be realized within an unspecified period pursuant to the investment made by Noble Ventures, says Cornel Popa, Partner with Tuca & Asociatii, who worked in this file. The defense strategy was unfolded in Washington by a team made of more than 15 Romanian and American lawyers, who used about 30 witnesses from among the Romanian authorities, four Romanian legal experts and one English legal expert, a British company expert in the steel industry and an American company specialized in accounting expertise, says Cornel Popa. "We have been better prepared. The Canadian law firm, a small one, although specialized in this kind of litigations, brought almost all its lawyers to the court but only one has actually took part in the hearings. He was actually outnumbered by our lawyers" adds Popa.

Background information: Tuca & Asociatii is one of the major players that entered the Romanian legal market. The eight partners are among the "veterans" of Romanian legal consultancy, as they have been active on this market since its emergence. Tuca & Asociatii team numbers over 40 lawyers and it has a very strong litigation department, specialized in complex litigation and international arbitration files.
***
Noble Ventures, a company specialized in consulting services in the steel industry, has purchased from the Romanian State, in 2000, an equity of 94.4% of CSR shares, the total value of the transaction, investments included, amounting to USD 85.25 million. The privatization contract was terminated in December 2002, based on one of its clauses setting forth that the privatization was subject to cancellation in the event of failure by the investor to pay two consecutive installments. Resita plant was then taken over at the symbolic price of EUR 1, in the beginning of 2004, by the German company Sinara, the distributor of the largest pipes producer of Russia, TMK Group.

From mondaq.com - Alina Nicolae, November 16, 2005

 

Histadrut Threatens Public Sector Strike

The Histadrut labor federation declared an industrial dispute in the public sector yesterday, a legal precursor to taking industrial action. After a two-week cooling-off period, the public sector may take action, including an all-out strike. The Histadrut said it decided to call for the strike to protest the government's economic policy, and because it had not signed a new collective wage agreement in the public sector. Jihad Akal, acting head of the Histadrut's trade union division, said the union heads considered the action necessary to protest the deteriorating relationship between employers and staffers in the public sector, imposing structural changes such as privatization while ignoring the effect on workers.

The state was allowing public sector employers to manipulate their power "and was using legislation to harm public sector workers in various ways," Akal said. As an example, he pointed to a new "flexible" working pattern among some divisions that allowed the civil service to dismiss permanent staff members quickly and with no consultation with workers' representatives. In addition, the government had taken no steps to renew the public sector wage agreements since the last agreement was frozen in 2001, the union official said. Akal also pointed to the recent move to make veteran public sector workers pay contributions toward their pensions, which up until now had been noncontributory. Uriel Lynn, head of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, slammed the Histadrut's threat of public sector industrial action. "The Histadrut is misusing its power to strike and creating a superfluous drama in an attempt to shock the economy, before the government has even begun discussions on the budget," Lynn said yesterday from London.

From haaretz.com-Haim Bior, November 2, 2005

 

American Water Receives Award from National Council for Public-Private Partnerships; Partnership Pays Dividends for Buffalo Water System

American Water, the nation's largest private water company, today announced that it has received the 2005 Public-Private Partnership Award from the National Council for Public-Private Partnerships (NCPPP). The NCPPP awarded American Water the honor in the "Service" category for the company's innovative work with the City of Buffalo's water system. Services provided by American Water to the City of Buffalo include repair and maintenance of the distribution system; water treatment and pump station operation; residuals management; customer service; billing and collections; and water meter repair and installation.

After six years of working with American Water, the City of Buffalo has recognized $21 million in savings through operational and financial improvements. The American Water-City of Buffalo partnership has made significant improvements to the city's water system, including the complete automation of customer records, the design and construction of a brand new customer service center and a new computerized maintenance and management system. "A profound change has taken place in how water business is conducted in Buffalo as a result of our partnership with American Water," said Mayor of the City of Buffalo, Anthony Masiello. "Buffalo's initial goals of rate decrease and stabilization during the first five-year contract were achieved."

Additional improvements resulting from the partnership include an initial water rate reduction of 8%, held for five years; improved water quality and reduced turbidity by 450%; an innovative labor contract resulting in no voluntary staff reductions and a 26% increase in productivity; and the implementation of multiple community projects, with the focus on helping disadvantaged Buffalo residents. "The partnership between American Water, the City of Buffalo and the unions has resulted in truly remarkable achievements. Our industry-leading internal systems and procedures, coupled with Buffalo's willingness to proactively modify its practices, have lead to substantial cost reductions, measurable performance improvements, and superior service to citizens. This is the ultimate goal of partnership," said James R. Campolong, Project Manager of American Water. "We are proud to receive the NCPPP Award, and we share this honor with our friends and colleagues of the Buffalo Water Board," he continued.

Each year, the NCPPP recognizes organizations that have successfully completed unique and innovative public-private partnerships, illustrating the best practices and applications in the field. A leader in operations and maintenance of water and wastewater facilities, American Water began working with the Buffalo Water Board in 1997. The city tapped American Water to upgrade, operate and maintain its aging water system, requiring the implementation of water-industry standards and a benchmarking process to measure and enhance performance.

The 2005 NCPPP Awards ceremony will take place at the 2005 Annual Meeting and Awards Banquet, held on November 16 at the Hilton Alexandria Old Town in Alexandria, VA. With a history of over 100 years, American Water provides high quality water, wastewater, and other related services to over 18 million people in 29 states and 3 Canadian provinces. Employing approximately 7,000 and reporting over $2 billion in revenue, American Water is an integrated part of RWE's water division, which includes Reading-based Thames Water. More information can be found by visiting www.amwater.com.

From Businesswire.com, November 1, 2005