ISSUE 77
December 2005
 
 
   
    Republic of Botswana: Pursue Public Service Reform Aggressively Sebetela
   
   

China (Hong Kong): MC6 Shows HK Civil Service's Efficiency
Republic of Korea: More Women Pass Public Service, Bar Examinations
Bermuda: Whistle-blower Says Civil Service Is Riddled with Incompetence
India: Book on Biotechnology in India Released
China: Credit Cards for Civil Servants toSpur Transparency
Phiippines: Mandatory Clearance for Retiring Public Officials

   
    Ireland: Civil Service To Face 'Pro-Irish' Claims In Court
UK: Civil Service Jobs Shock
   
    United Arab Emirates: Federal Civil Service Approves a Number of Decisions
   
    USA: Swansboro Board Thanks Longtime Public Servants
USA: Public Servants Adapt Holiday to Work Time
Jamaica: Corruption Law Dismissed as 'Populist' Legislation
 
   
    Botswana: Good Governance, Panacea against HIV/AIDS
Nigeria: 'Governance Is Nigeria's Greatest Problem
Ghana: Danida Promotes Good Governance in Ghana
   
   

India: Buta Admits Good Governance Was Lacking in Bihar
Pakistan: Kashmiris Welcome Musharraf`s Plans of Self-governance: Sikandar
India: CM Sings E-governance Praise
China: WB Approves 200-million Dollars Credit for Governance Reforms in Bangladesh
India: Microsoft to Invest $1.7 Billion in India; Push E-governance

   
    Russia: Standard & Poor's Raised Its Corporate Governance Score on "Southern Telecommunications Company" PJSC
   
   

UAE:The Foundation of Good Governance - Says UAE Paper
Yemen: Corruption is Common in Arab Countries, MPs

   
   

Bolivia: Commission Releases 1 Million Euros to Support Democratic Governance
The Netherlands Antilles: Autonomy, Good Governance Go Hand-in-hand, Says Saleh
Canada: Senior Canadian Official to Leave UN
USA: Non-Profits Unscathed by Corporate-Governance Crackdown
Trinidad and Tobago: Gender and Governance

   
    ActionAid Wants Better Governance against Fighting HIV/AIDS in Asia
 
   
   

South Africa: SA Corporate Ethics 'Worrying'
Angola: Code Of Ethics In Food Trade In Preparation
Nigeria: State House Tasks Civil Service on Pension, Entrepreneurship
Republic of Botswana: Government Aware of Civil Service Concerns
Nigeria: Civil Service Must Keep Pace with Reform - Obasanjo

   
   

Republic of Korea: MBC Suspends Producers for Breaching Ethics
Republic of Korea: Ethics Apply to Internet Use Also
Kazakhstan: Kazakhstan-American Civil Service Partnership Outlooks Discussed Today
China (Hong Kong): Civil Servants Urged to Improve Service
Malasia: Civil Service Told To Take Criticisms Positively

   
   

UK: Ethics Watchdogs Should Not Be Poodles
Ireland: Civil Service Move 'A Joke'

   
   

United Arab Emirates: Federal Civil Service Approves a Number of Decisions

   
   

USA: The Ethics of Bird Flu
Canada: Allan Cutler Says He Was Cleared in Ethics Probe

 
   
    Kenya: Challenges as E-government Takes Root
   
    Republic of Korea: E-government System Emerges as Promising Export Item
Vietnam: 3rd E-government Symposium Kicks Off in Da Nang
   
   

Ireland: NI Firm to Conduct EU E-government Study
UK: The 2006 Waseda University E-government Rankings Released
UK: Ian Watmore Confirms for the E-government National Conference & Awards, Jan. 25th
UK: E-Government: The Next Steps to Benefit the Citizen
Turkey: TUSIAD and TBV Host E-government Conference

   
   

United Arab Emirates: UAE E-government Progress Most Impressive in the World, Says UN
United Arab Emirates: Finance Ministry To Launch New E-Government Programme
Kuwait: Kuwait's E-Government Initiatives Gain Momentum with Oracle

   
   

USA: Networking: Capturing Baby Boomers' Knowledge
USA: Survey Shows a Lack of Confidence on E-government Projects
USA: Knowledge Support Cell Makes Preparations for Multinational Experiment 4

   
   

Government Business Intelligence and Translation
Poised for New Roles in the Future
The UNWTO Education Council Holds Successful Conference on Knowledge Applications for Competitive Destinations

 
   
    Malawi: Gondwe, Kampanje Differ on Illegal Account Culprits
South Africa: Limpopo Wants R346m 'Legalised'
   
   

Afghanistan: World Bank Provides Grant Support to Institutional Building Efforts
India: M Govinda Rao: Regional Disparities - Whom to Blame?
Vietnam: 21st APEC Technical Working Group Meeting to Open in Ha Long

   
    Czech Republic: Public Finance Reform to Be Further Deepened - Government
Romania: State Aid to Support only Priority Fields
Ireland: Banks Could Face 5 Million Euros Fines for Cold Calling

Romania: Revenues from Privatization to Be Used for Infrastructure
   
    USA: Turnbull Asks for Pay Raises for Governor, lt. Governor
Brazil: Healthy Surplus, Faster Growth:S&P Formula For Brazil...
 
   
    Nigeria: Postal Sector Reforms and National Economic Development
   
   

Japan: Public Lender Reform
India: Private Secor Participation in Defence Sector
Pakistan: Hafeez Seeks Cabinet Approval to Spend 10pc Privatization Revenue on Poverty Reduction

   
    Russia: Russia Could Create IPO Mechanism for State Companies
Romania: Foreign Affairs Minister: U.S. Bases-a blank check for Romania
   
   

Saudia Arabia: Saudia's Desalination Sector Poised for Privatization
Yemen: First Yemeni Hotel Institute to Open
Israel:Community Centers Launch Campaign against Privatization

   
    USA: Laboring for Social Welfare Limited by An Open Economy
USA: Idea of Public-private Rec Center Introduced
   
    India-U.S. to Forge High-tech Global Partnership
 

Pursue Public Service Reform Aggressively Sebetela

Parliament - Palapye MP Boyce Sebetela has called on government to be more aggressive in pursuing public service reform. He said Monday when contributing to a discussion of the public service management chapter of the mid-term review of National Development Plan (NDP) 9 that ministries need powers to fire and hire as a measure of improving service delivery. Sebetela argued that permanent secretaries need more administrative powers because currently, they appear helpless as the Office of the President and the ministry of finance and development planning are the supreme authorities. Perhaps time has come to treat permanent secretaries as chief executive officers . The Palapye legislator decried the fact that, even junior officers traveling abroad need to send forms to the Office of the President.

That, he said, could be done at the ministerial level. The Office of the President and the finance ministry, he added, could devise mechanisms to keep them accountable. Sebetela also called on the government to rethink the way the civil service is being rewarded. Public service salaries are far below of those of other countries such as Mauritius, South Africa and Namibia, whose economies were performing relatively well as is the case with Botswana.

He linked the government cost overruns and project delays to what he called refusal to reward the civil service well. Until a proper salary structure is in place the government will not get what it wants, he argued Parallel progression and scarce skills were inadequate to solve the problems in the civil service. A re-look of the entire pay structure and competitive salaries are the only medicines of keeping the morale of public servants high. Concerning the Botswana Institute of Administration and Commerce, Sebetela said its status must be changed significantly. He said BIAC must be turned into a parastatal because failure to do so would mean the institution would never retain seasoned lecturers.

Tonota South MP Pono Moatlhodi called for a review of the Remote Area Service Allowance (RASA) arguing that he did not understand the logic behind delisting of some villages in the remotest parts of Botswana such as Seronga and Malesha. He said RASA motivated civil servants working among communities far away from developments. The law maker contended that, productivity and the ideals of Performance Management Systems (PMS) would never be realised until civil servants were happy. South East North MP Olebile Gaborone was not happy about the regular and long meetings which civil servants were always said to be attending. He welcomed the idea of retreats as they could help improve productivity. Serowe South MP Pelonomi Venson urged the minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration to increase police visibility in her constituency. She said her area has become a haven for criminals.

From Republic of Botswana Gov, December 23, 2005

 

MC6 Shows HK Civil Service's Efficiency

The success of the WTO Sixth Ministerial Conference has reinforced Hong Kong's image in the international arena as Asia's World City and enhanced the city's civil service's reputation as one of the most efficient in the world, Secretary for the Civil Service Joseph Wong says. In his letter to all civil servants today, Mr Wong said that throughout the conference, Police showed diligence and professionalism in maintaining law and order and in taking measured and robust action against the sometimes violent protesters. "Our world-class police force has demonstrated once again their outstanding performance in handling a crisis situation.

At the same time, thousands of civil service colleagues from other bureaus and departments also worked tirelessly round the clock in support of the conference. "Planning for this mammoth exercise started many months ago and involved many bureaus and departments. Their contribution was instrumental to the success of the conference. I would like to express my deepest appreciation to all of them. "I am sure our civil service will continue with the fine tradition of serving the community with dedication and commitment," he added.

From news.gov.hk, December 24, 2005

More Women Pass Public Service, Bar Examinations

More Korean women are holding high-ranking government and judicial posts as an increasing number of women pass the national bar and civil servants recruitment exams. The Civil Service Commission, the government's human resources management agency, said Friday that 95 women passed this year's state-run exam designed to select mid-level civil servants, accounting for 44 percent of the total 216 exam passes. The figure is up 5.6 percentage points from 38.4 percent recorded in 2004. As more women are now preparing for state exams, it is quite natural that a growing number of them are making it through the tests, a commission official said, adding that the trend would probably continue in coming years. The commission said that five out of nine successful candidates who applied for education-related administrative positions were women, while they took half of 14 available spots in the field of international trade and administration.

Fifty-three women are expected to work in various government offices as general administrators, accounting for 47.3 percent of the total 112 successful candidates. About 41.3 percent, or 27 out of 65 exam passers applying for finance and economy-related posts, were women. Beside those recruited through the state exam, various government agencies are increasingly recruiting more private experts, such as professors and corporate executives, to fill up high-level government positions, according to the commission. It said that the government is adopting a competitive recruitment system to select more qualified and competent personnel as in the private sector. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice said that 323 women passed this year's bar exam, accounting for 32.3 percent of the total 1,001 successful candidates, up from 24.4 percent in 2004. A total of 246 women succeeded in passing the exam last year

In South Korea, only those who qualify in the bar exam can receive a license to practice law, while people in other advanced countries usually go to law schools and practice in the legal profession. The country is set to introduce the three-year American-style law schools by 2008 in which people with various academic backgrounds can receive practical legal education. The government has been seeking to revamp the current exam-oriented selection system that has failed to link the education in law and the judicial system, and provide the public with more diverse and affordable legal services.

From Korea Times, December 23, 2005

Whistle-blower Says Civil Service is Riddled with Incompetence

The Civil Service is riddled with incompetence and insubordination, according to a former Government administrator. In a damning indictment of how Government is run, the whistle-blower claimed that inexperienced 'yes' men were hired and promoted ahead of impartial but effective officers. And the allegation was backed up by a current civil servant who claimed that incompetent officials were given top posts after currying favour with Ministers. But the source added that Government was also being hampered by another group within the service anti-Progressive Labour Party workers who deliberately gave bad advice to Ministers in an effort to see the current administration fail. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the former civil servant, who worked in Government over a period of three decades, said that the service became increasingly political after the Progressive Labour Party came to power in 1998.

He accused former Premier Jennifer Smith of taking over control of the hiring and firing of administrators and then promoting 'yes' men.
"The Premier shifted responsibility for both Personnel and Management Services to the Cabinet Office portfolio," the source said. "Personnel Services oversees the Government recruitment process and the wages that are paid to Civil Servants. Management Services deals with the organisation of Government. So the Premier had the power to shape the Civil Service, both in terms of its organisation and its personnel, more or less as she wanted. All she had to do was get the compliance of those involved.

"Some civil servants were scared to say no. Some just didn't want the aggravation that would follow not going along with the programme.
"People in the Civil Service were bound to feel personally caught up in the PLP's historic victory. But instead of then settling down to carrying out the PLP's policies with neutral professionalism, many of them seemed not to want to get off the political bandwagon. They wanted to help the PLP get on with creating the New Bermuda.
"Very quickly, the Civil Service divided itself into those prepared to go 'the extra mile' for the PLP, and those who wanted to do things the way they had always been done.

"A lot of PLP political people didn't know, from simple inexperience, what the role of a civil servant was, and how they were meant to interact with the political part of the Government. They took any sense of caution on a civil servant's part as a dragging of heels. Simply put, it worked out that the ones who wanted to be cautious, and wanted to preserve their neutrality, were penalised and did not get on in life. The ones who were willing to say yes to anything were encouraged, and did get on in life. "Individuals found themselves under pressure to resign. It was widely believed that Leo Mills, for example, found himself cut out of the loop in the Cabinet Office and resigned. The Premier's secretary was supposed to have been put in the same position and resigned.

"There has been quite a rapid process by which Civil Service friends of the PLP have been moved to the head of the queue, and the cautious have been sidelined or retired. "There has been a number of appointments to senior Civil Service positions which seem to have bent the rules the new Permanent Secretary of Transport, for example, didn't work his way up in the service, as would have had to be the case pre-PLP. "The man designated as head of Marine & Ports Services was forced to resign and lost a long court case over it. The man who got the job seemed to come out of nowhere. The woman who became the head of Government Information Services had no experience in the news business at all that I know of.

"If you put that together with the PLP's determination to do business with 'people who look like me', as the phrase has it, you can see that there has been a sea change in the way the Government works." A current member of the Civil Service also took a swipe at the organisation, which currently employs about 2,500 people. The source, who did not wish to be named, told the Mid-Ocean News: "It's fair to say that there's a fair amount of disillusionment within the service at what is seen to be a less than professional attitude by many ?although not all ?senior civil servants who do wear their political stripes on their sleeve," the source said. "In one way they have the experience but they do not always give the best advice for the simple reason that they do not want this Government to succeed. In saying that, it's also true to say that, since 1998, there has been a number of people who have been hired or promoted who just don't have the necessary level experience to do the job."

When asked about the allegations, former Cabinet Secretary Leo Mills, who took early retirement from the top post a few years ago, would only say that it was essential for the Civil Service to operate with complete impartiality. "It would be a woeful mistake for individuals to allow their political allegiance to come between their duty," Mr. Mills said. "If the Civil Service was seen to be corrupt in any way, it would have disastrous consequences for the whole country. Current Cabinet Secretary John Drinkwater could not be contacted by press time last night.

From Royal Gazette, December 23, 2005

Book on Biotechnology in India Released

Bangalore: A book empirically based on examination of Agricultural Biotechnology in India was released here today by the Centre for Public Policy of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIMB). The book entitled 'Science, Agriculture and the Politics of Policy' examined the intersections of globalisation, technology and politics with a focus on Bangalore and Karnataka, a part of India which has seen a massive growth in biotech enterprises. It also dealt with experimentation with GM cotton and a contested policy debate about the role Biotechnology should play in economic development.

The book written by Prof Ian Scoones of the Institute of Development Studies of the University of Sussex, asks what does this new suite of technologies mean - for society, for politics and for the way agriculture, food and rural livelihoods were thought about? Could Biotech deliver a second Green Revolution, and so transform agriculture and rescue the countryside and its people from crisis and poverty? Or was it more complex than this? Through a detailed case study, the book aimed to discuss, question and refine these broader debates, locating an understanding of Biotechnology firmly within an understanding of society and politics.

Prof Scoones was an agricultural ecologist by training whose research has focused on the intersections between science, policy and local knowledge in the context of development. Commenting on the book noted Agricultural scientist and Chairman of National Commission on Farmers Prof M S Swaminathan said the release of book was timely as the country was currently engaged in preparing a national Biotech policy. It showed the way how advances in Biotechnology, particularly in genetic engineering, could be mobilised for public good without associated ecological, economic and social harm.

From newkerala.com, December 21, 2005

Credit Cards for Civil Servants to Spur Transparency

A new credit card that is tailored for public servants was issued to employees of two government departments yesterday in an attempt to make spending more transparent and reduce corruption. The first batch of the cards, co-issued by the Bank of China and China UnionPay, were given to employees of the Shanghai Foreign Affairs Office and the Shanghai Municipal Exchange and Cooperation Office. "The cards will streamline the reimbursement procedure for civil servants who spend on duty," said Fan Xiangyu, a BOC official. "More crucially, they will help boost budget supervision and counter corruption." Government employees, especially those on business trips, often spend their own money on work-related items and later file an expense report. Some officials pad their expense reports with invoices for personal goods, a practice the cards were designed to stop.

The new card allows people to spend as much as they like and the government pay the bill later, making every transaction clear. Fan, however, didn't say how many public servants received the cards yesterday or how many are expected to get them in the future. In May, nine government agencies, including the People's Bank of China, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Public Security, issued a circular promoting the use of bank cards among government bodies at all levels to strengthen budget controls and clean up government. "This special credit card does facilitate our business trip spending, but it is not completely accepted throughout the country," said an official surnamed Wang of the Shanghai Foreign Affairs Office. He expressed his hope the card will become more widely accepted so that government officials will be able to use them on all business trips.

From Shangai Daily, December 22, 2005

Sison: Mandatory Clearance for Retiring Public Officials

The proposed bill requiring all retiring government officials to go through a mandatory clearance system for purposes of accountability gained support from different sector and government offices. House Bill 711 is now being deliberated on by the House Committee on Civil Service and Professional Regulations chaired by Rep. Francis L. Nepomuceno. Representatives from Civil Service Commission (CSC), Commission on Audit (COA), and even from the Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK) expressed support to the passage of the bill.

Lawyer Zita Abuda of the Office of the Ombudsman said the bill would resolve the policy conflict between the CSC and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). Abuda said the GSIS issued a memorandum circular in 2001 stating that clearance is no longer required for the payment of benefits or compensation to government employees who retired or are separated from the service. Dominador Tersol, representative of COA, said their office is now requiring certificate of clearance from retiring or resigning employees or those separated from the service.

Annie Geron, representative of PSLINK, said her group welcomes the early passage of the bill but suggested instituting measures against abuse, saying that retiring officials may become subject of trumped up charges as a form of harassment. Abuda said the Office of the Ombudsman has already advised heads of the agencies to require the retiring official to post a bond so that his or her benefits can be released even before the resolution of the case. If the official would later be found liable, the bonding company should press the claim against the offender. Rep. Judy Syjuco (2nd District, Iloilo), author of HB 711 said this bill will require retiring government officials to secure a certificate of honorable dismissal before they are given all the benefits a retiring official is entitled to receive. Syjuco said a certificate of honorable dismissal shall be issued to any retiring government official by the CSC, Office of the Ombudsman and Department of Justice (DOJ) upon completion of his or her accountability clearance and clearance of no pending criminal, civil or administrative case.

Civil servants, numbering about 1.6 million, stand to benefit from two proposals being tackled by the Committee on Civil Service and Professional Regulation headed by Representative Francis "BlueBoy" Nepomuceno (1st District, Pampanga). These legislative proposals seek to grant a five-day leave of absence, with pay, to government employees in case any member of their immediate family dies, and to establish a post-service entrepreneurship program to afford employees better economic opportunities after working for the government. The first measure, House Bill 793 filed by Rep. Harlin Cast. Abayon (1st District, Northern Samar), seeks to accord government employees five working days commutable leave of absence, with pay, in addition to existing leave benefits, in case any of their immediate relatives, such as parent, spouse, brother, sister, son or daughter passes away.

In a recent meeting of the Committee, Sylvia Angelique Umbac of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) expressed her reservation on the proposal, saying that numerous leave benefits are already granted to government employees and that such may be detrimental to government service. She explained that aside from the existing sick, vacation and special leave benefits, female employees are also allowed 60 days maternity leave and up to ten days leave with pay for those who suffer violence at the hands of their partners, and for male employees, paternity leave of seven days.

However, she acknowledged that the proposed additional five-day leave could be allowed as long as it is not commutable. "It could be availed of, but not convertible to cash," she said. Annie Geron of Public Service Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK) opined that the five-day leave may be allowed as it will be availed of only when there is death in the family. She also agreed with the CSC representative that the said leave must not be commutable. The other proposal, which seeks to establish a post-service entrepreneurship program for government employees who have been in the service for at least ten years, is embodied in House Bill 964 filed by Rep. Lorna Silverio (3rd District, Bulacan). The author, in her explanatory note to the bill, said that the program would develop government employees to become entrepreneurs and thus remain productive citizens after they leave or retire from public service.

Umbac of the CSC said that her office does not pose any objection to the measure. "As long as (it will not pose any) conflict of interest that will affect the quality of work of government employees," she said of the bill. She also informed the body that the CSC is conducting a pre-retirement counseling program as a continuing human resource innovation for those who are retiring from the government service. Geron of PSLINK and Niel Santillan of the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) also said that the policies pertaining to the proposed entrepreneurship program must be laid clear so that the operations of the office will not be affected. Silverio replied that conflict of interest rule may be inserted in the bill. She added that the bill encourages government agencies to establish cooperatives to provide an outlet for their employees entrepreneurial skills.

But these, she said, should not hamper the delivery of effective and efficient public service. Jerry Clavesillas of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) also agreed with the bill's objectives, adding that developing this new core of entrepreneurs is consistent with the DTI's goal of making every Filipino engaged in entrepreneurship. Melvin Abanto of the Small Business Guarantee and Finance Corporation (SBGFC) said that the bill is also consistent with his office's mandate to support the development of new entrepreneurs. He said that government employees' entry into entrepreneurship will expand the sector. He suggested to involve the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) in the program saying that the pension fund may be tapped as one of the loan sources for business activities of employees. Rep. Silverio suggested creating a technical working group to thresh out the issues and concerns raised by the resource persons.

From SunStar Panpanga, December 21, 2005

 

Civil Service To Face 'Pro-Irish' Claims In Court

The Northern Ireland Civil Service is facing legal action, amid accusations it is wedded to "Irish- only policies" which discriminate against Protestants and unionists. Ulster Unionist peer Lord Laird of Artigarvan is preparing a High Court challenge to decision taken by the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure (DCAL) and Department of Social Development (DSD). He believes he has evidence of an institutional bias against Protestant culture operating at the heart of both departments. "Once and for all, this pro-Irish, anti-British policy in the Civil Service has to be stopped," said Lord Laird. "If it's an Irish festival or cultural activity, they throw money at it. If it's British they do what they can to block it." The peer's legal team has confirmed to the News Letter its view that he has a case worth investigating. It is assessing the prospects for a judicial review in the High Court of at least one recent decision by the two departments to fund the Ardoyne festival in the summer.

From Birmingham Post, December 22, 2005

Civil Service Jobs Shock

A high-profile drive to move civil service jobs out of London has resulted in just 60 posts coming to Birmingham. The relocation policy was a centrepiece of Gordon Brown's 2003 Budget. The Chancellor announced that Sir Michael Lyons, the former Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council, had been appointed to review Whitehall departments and see how many positions could be transferred to the regions. Mr Brown declared: "Public sector jobs transferred to regions and nations could exceed 20,000, to the benefit of the whole country." Costs would fall, saving money for the taxpayer, and local economies would benefit, he said.

From Birmingham Post, December 22, 2005

 

Federal Civil Service Approves a Number of Decisions

Abu Dhabi -The Federal Civil Service Commission approved in its meeting today a number of appointments at the Heath Ministry and promotions at the Education, Health and Public Works Ministries. The meeting Chaired by Saeed Al Ghaith, Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs, further agreed to extend the services of some employees of the Ministries of Agriculture and Fisheries and Health and approved study leave for a number of employees at the Health Ministry as well as training courses for some of the staff at the ministries of Information and Culture and Health.

From Emirates News Agency, December 11, 2005

 

Swansboro Board Thanks Longtime Public Servants

Swansboro - In an emotion-filled meeting, Swansboro commissioners said farewell to longtime Mayor Paul Edgerton and Police Chief Harry Pugliese, both who served the town for 16 years in their respective positions. Town Manager Larry Faison presented Pugliese with a framed resolution thanking him for his years of service and dedication to the town as well as a portrait of the town board. Pugliese choked back tears as he tried to make a farewell speech. "When you work with a bunch of people like the town of Swansboro, you have to be successful," he said. Before that, Onslow County Clerk of Superior Court Betty Gurganus swore in commissioners Jim Allen for his second term in office and John Lister for his first term and the new mayor, David Russell, who formerly served as a commissioner.

The main order of business was approval of rezoning on a six-acre parcel of land for construction of upscale condominiums or townhouses at 1143 Hammocks Beach Road. Commissioners approved the rezoning from MHP to R-6, which includes high-density residential or multifamily residential units. Kathy Vinson of PCR Investments made the request to rezone for the company, which has not bought the property yet. The land that fronts N.C. 24 and Hammocks Beach Road at one time had been proposed as an assisted living facility, but that project died last year for lack of financing.

"The projected target market is current and soon-to-be retirees, including local residents and those who are interested in relocating to the Swansboro area," Vinson said. PCR Investments doing business as The Hammocks at Port Swansborough intends to keep the "village character of Swansboro" in mind when designing the proposed project. No cost estimate or price range of units was given because the project is still in the property acquisition process. Allen had asked what would happen to the people who now live in the mobile homes.

Jeff Gillette, a representative of PCR Investments, said their leases had expired and they were living month to month. Everyone had been notified to move, and the company is prepared to help those who need it in finding alternative locations, he said. Before voting to approve the rezoning, Faison advised the board that once the property was rezoned the owners could build anything approved within the R-6 zoning designation, and not necessarily what they propose. The rezoning request passed unanimously.

From Daily News, December 21, 2005

Public Servants Adapt Holiday to Work Time

For people in public service, the Christmas celebration isn't always on Christmas Day. Sometimes, it isn't even with the ones they love most. Armed forces personnel and their families, police officers, firefighters and medical professionals often find that their work schedules conflict with the holidays. Lisa Eichhorn, Dot Cochran, Louis Kent, Jason Anderson, Byron Herring and Dennis Lyles know what it's like to have to adapt their holiday celebrations to the circumstances surrounding them. For Mrs. Eichhorn, separation from her husband at Christmas time has been the norm in recent years. In the 23 years of they've been married, Mrs. Eichhorn and their three sons, Aaron, Garrett and Zachary, have spent six Christmases without her husband Leonard, an AH-64D pilot at Fort Rucker. He's been deployed three of the last four Christmases.

We don't focus on the fact that he's gone, said Mrs. Eichhorn last week as she looked forward to Christmas with her husband at home. You can't dwell on it. Whether Daddy's there or not, it's still Christmas.Mrs. Eichhorn said the responsibility of preparing for and carrying on the Christmas celebration falls to the wife of a deployed soldier, and the weight of that responsbility can be hard to bear. There's no easy time for a husband to be gone, she said, pointing out that when their spouses are gone, military wives become particularly cohesive and help each other through the difficult days, weeks and months. Last year, the Eichhorns were in Germany. We were overseas and they were deployed. All of the spouses were left behind,she remembered.

To cope, the spouses in Mrs. Eichhorn's husband's company came together and ate dinner. The adults played cards and the children played video games. We had a ball, she said. Mrs. Eichhorn said she, like other military wives, try to make the holidays as fun and as normal for the children as possible. Of course, she said the internet makes keeping in contact much easier now and she's thankful that her husband's unit had access to computers. Technology is a beautiful thing, she said. We could IM (instant message) or call him. She also made sure that she always filled a stocking for her husband and sent it to him. We would send him candies and cookies and perishable items that he could share, she said.

Mrs. Eichhorn said she's enjoying the Christmas season this year and is looking forward to her brother's visit to Enterprise. She said it will be the first time in five years they've been able to be together at Christmas. Just being back in the States is exciting for us, she said. Yet, the holiday is bittersweet. It's the first year without one of my children, she said of son Garrett, who's in basic training for the Marines. I don't know how I'm going to handle it. Dot Cochran said she's going to have to handle Christmas just as she did Thanksgiving. We're just going to have to carry on, she said. Her husband Jerry is in the National Guard and his unit is deployed to Iraq. The long separation from her husband marks a milestone in more than 20 years of their marriage.

We've never been separated at all except at during his summer camps, Mrs. Cochran said. This year is especially hard because the Cochrans have a new grandson, Hunter, born to their daughter and son-in-law, Vicki and Tracy Bedsole. Mrs. Cochran said the family can't wait for her husband to see Hunter, but that won't be until at least the end of January. In the meantime, Mrs. Cochran said the family will celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 and talk to Jerry by email. She and her husband also have web cams so they can see each other when they talk by way of the internet. We're planning on talking to him on Christmas, said Mrs. Cochran, a police dispatcher for the Daleville Department of Public Safety. We'll celebrate, and then we'll celebrate again when he gets home. This year, we're just going to have Christmas twice.

Louis Kent is thankful that he will be home for Christmas this year. Last year, Kent, a member of the Alabama National Guard's 1193rd Personnel Detachment, was in Kuwait. Kent's wife Kim and their sons Wesley, 10, and Charlie, 8, had to celebrate Christmas without him. She celebrated and sent me pictures, said Kent, who has been deployed twice in recent years. Kent recently returned from his deployment and was recognized at the Enterprise City Council, where Mayor Kenneth Boswell welcomed him home and back to work. Kent said he's glad to be back for the holidays because being away from the family for Christmas is difficult. However, Kent's regular job often keeps him away from home on holidays like Christmas. An Enterprise police officer for the past seven years, Kent said he has to work on Christmas about every other year. It's just something you have to accept with what you do for a living, he said.

Kent said he usually knows his schedule well ahead of time, so his family's Christmas celebration is planned based on that. Fortunately, his parents live in Daleville and his wife's in Dothan, so getting together with them at Christmas is not too hard even if he has to work. We schedule it around work, he explained. We'll have it early if I have to work the night shift, or late if I work the day shift. Sgt. Jason Anderson said the EPD officers try to help officers spend as much time as possible with their families on Christmas because they understand that it is a special time for families. We try to l et the guys go home and do dinner or lunch on Christmas, but if we've got calls, they've got to answer the calls, he said, noting that, unfortunately, domestic disturbance calls are usually on the rise during the Christmas season.

Enterprise Fire Chief Byron Herring agreed that responding to emergencies is still the top priority on Christmas Day but the department also recognizes the importance of family time on that day. Firefighters work 24-hour shifts with 48 hours off in between. Herring said the families of the firefighters who are on duty on Christmas day are welcome to come to the fire stations for a visit. The can come and spend some time at the station, Herring said. Sometimes they come and bring some turkey or another meat and some vegetables and they have a meal together, he said. Herring said firefighters, like police officers, realize that they must be available no matter the day or time. If you serve the public, you're going to be working that type of schedule, he said, explaining that while firefighters might put some of their routine work on hold for Christmas day, they will keep equipment ready to respond to fire calls.

Herring has been a firefighter for many years and he said families just learn to adapt to the schedule. You know well in advance whether you are going to be working so you have to plan ahead,said Herring, who now has two grown children. If I was working Christmas day, then we had our Christmas on Christmas Eve. Sometimes, plans do get interrupted, he said, however. I remember one year we had a pretty bad fire that morning and had to calle everybody back in, even those who had worked on Christmas Eve, he remembered. Most couldn't go home until that afternoon. Herring said though it's hard, under those circumstances, families understand.

Capt. Dennis Lyles remembers that he was making his final rounds about 6:30 a.m. last Christmas morning, just before he and those on his shift were about to get off, when the fire alarm sounded. Firefighters had to respond to a house fire. Fortunately, a new shift was coming on duty soon so they were relieved after a while and still got to enjoy most of the day with their families at home. You just never know, Lyles said. This year, I'm working Christmas, so we'll be having our Christmas on Christmas Eve. Lyles has two children, 17 and 13. They've grown up in this so they don't know any other way, Lyles said. Every now and then, we have off Christmas Eve and Christmas day. We can be halfway normal then. Fortunately, Lyles said his family and his in-laws live nearby, so it's not hard to visit all of them.

Lyles also pointed out that firefighters work so closely that they become a family as well. They often cook at the fire station and the Christmas meal is usually special. We've got some pretty good cooks up here, he said. And the ones that are not good cooks, their wives are. Lyles said it's fun for the firefighters who don't have young children anymore to get to share in some Christmas happiness with the small children of fellow firefighters. The kids will come up here and bring what Santa brought them, he said. It's nice to watch the little ones.

From Southeast Sun, December 23, 2005

Corruption Law Dismissed as 'Populist' Legislation

The Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA) has dismissed the Corruption Prevention Act as unworkable, and the commission that polices it as under-resourced and unlikely to be given the proper tools by government to carry out its job. Jones... the thing is not working
The criticism was levelled by JCSA president Wayne Jones in the wake of reports that more than 5,000 civil servants were flouting the law by failing to file declarations or filing late.
Jones implied that the legislation was enacted as a face card to appease those calling for action on corruption in government. "It is a populist approach to government that I see taking place here," said Jones, speaking Thursday with the Sunday Observer. "People jump up and talk about corruption in the public sector, so you have a knee-jerk reaction. But, the thing not working. It can't work the way it is structured. It just cannot work."

The Corruption Prevention Commission, last week, tabled its latest report in the House of Representatives, pointing to the increasing numbers and percentage of public servants who are failing to meet the requirement for annual declaration of assets. The report, which covered the period January 2004 to March 2005, showed that the level of non-compliance had fallen seven points to 31 per cent in 2004, compared to 24 per cent in December 2003. Last year, some 16,964 civil servants were expected to declare their assets to the commission, but 5,286 failed to comply. In 2003, the non-compliant numbered 5,254 of some 15,536 expected declarants. The numbers also show that the majority of civil servants are complying with the law, but Jones insists that the legislation is prejudicial and itself is the cause of the breaches.

"We don't believe that the act is presented in a way that allows for easy compliance. It is just too onerous on the people," said Jones.
"It appears as though society, through the legislature, is saying that it is the civil servants, or public servants, alone who are corrupt. But, no corrupt act can take place with one party. It needs at least two parties and I don't see anything happening to deal with that," he said. Jones was referring to what he described as a lack of sanctions against persons who offer bribes to public servants, including the police, customs officers and employees of land agencies. Government, according to the 2004 labour force survey, currently employs just over 120,000 people.
The JCSA president charged that most corrupt practices take place either in the revenue services or the regulatory agencies, but notes that there is no structure in place to police them.

"We have to look at how we are facilitating corruption. We have to look at the system itself and I don't see an emphasis being placed on that. So, in effect, the system is aiding and abetting corruption where it occurs," Jones concluded. He also suggested that the government was in no position to provide the corruption commission with the tools it needs to do its work. "They are not going to get the level of staff capable of treating with 20,000 declarations. It is not going to happen. This is something that has to be highly technologically driven. They are not going to get the financial and other material resources to drive that. I can guarantee them that. If they even get it for one year, it is not sustainable," Jones added. He claimed that the move was "just an attempt to appease the natives". "And you end up now with the people who are supposed to be doing the work are the ones complaining. It is not the people in the streets who are complaining, it is Justice (Chester) Orr and his team who are complaining."

Orr, chairman of the Corruption Prevention Commission, himself has acknowledged the limited powers of his team, and has requested changes to the legislation allowing his commission the authority to apply sanctions directly. For now, it is the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who has final say on whether to prosecute the breaches reported by the commission. In the past two years, the commission has referred 334 cases to the DPP, but only 14 were placed before the courts. Prior to the law coming into force in 2001, the JCSA had raised concerns about the structure of the bill and pointed out then that some of the concerns, if not addressed, could contribute to a situation similar to what is now occurring. "For example, the sheer numbers make it absolutely ridiculous," Jones said. "We seem to be net fishing." The JCSA, he said, was never allowed to make a submission to the Joint Select Committee of Parliament which looked at the draft bill in 2000, although the association was promised that its views would be taken on board, eventually.

"To this day, we have not had that opportunity," Jones insisted. "Every time we speak, we have to speak via the media. The first time we did it, the Prime Minister went to Parliament and said that we were late. The next time we spoke the Attorney General, AJ Nicholson, said that we had every opportunity and we didn't take the opportunity." He said the JCSA wrote the clerk of Parliament about being scheduled, and she responded that they would get a date to make submissions. But, according to Jones, "that date hasn't come yet". He is also peeved that each time the commission issues a report, he has to beg for a copy. The JCSA has requested of the secretary of the commission, the proposed amendments from the 2003 report, but has not yet received them.

The law infers, he said, that the public sector worker is guilty until proven innocent, and that civil servants were burdened by the number of documents they had to produce to comply with its provisions. "You need to provide your bank balances and savings with other institutions, including credit unions and building societies, and you need to declare the information on your household, which includes your spouse and your adult children," he said. "We live in a society where not very many of us know down to the 't' what our spouse and our partners have, worse our children."

From Jamaica Observer, December 11, 2005

 
 

Good Governance, Panacea Against HIV/AIDS

Botswana is reputed to have achieved remarkable success in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In this brief interview with Science Reporter, Onche Odeh, the Minister of Health of Botswana, Professor Sheila Tlou, who is in Abuja for ICASA 2005 shared some of the secrets behind the country's success story . Excerpts: Could you please share with us the magic behind Botswana's remarkable success in the fight against HIV/AIDS? To tell you the truth, from the beginning Botswana had strategies in place. Since the country regained its independence, we had to start everything from the scratch and one of the things we ensured was to put in place a very good health system. This was followed by putting in place good health facilities.

So when the issue of HIV and AIDS came up, it was just a question of drawing up an action that would see these health facilities put into good use. We were able to fashion out services within the various health facilities that could help in the prevention of further spread through cross-infection. However, we realised that it is capital intensive so we thought about ways of sourcing these funds. It was at this point that the government decided to put more money into HIV and AIDS and so it was decided that 25% of the country's budget be dedicated to health. Beyond the provision of funds, what do you think should form the bedrock of the fight to vitiate the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa?

Like I have always said, the basic ingredients for a successful fight against HIV/AIDS are political will and commitment. That was greatly responsible for the success in Botswana as we have a president that has the political will and drive. This enabled us to expand our HIV/AIDS prevention programmes to cover all the rural areas. There must also be zero tolerance for corruption. All monies meant for HIV/AIDS programmes must be used for the programmes they were designated for. What are some of the challenges you faced on the road to this success?

Stigma was the most knotty challenge we faced in Botswana. But soon after the president and his ministers started coming out to declare their status and preach against stigmatization, it died. I tell you, now in Botswana, the stigma is so reduced that you could see an infected village woman openly advising people on what to do not to get infected. This was actually triggered by the fact that many people died of it. In fact, you now see a situation where a Botswana woman would say she is not breastfeeding her baby because she is HIV positive. What should be the principal focal areas for African leaders in the fight against AIDS?

Their strategies should be enshrined in four areas. These are political will and commitment, prudent spending, zero tolerance to corruption and most importantly, good governance. They should also involve the civil societies in this fight. What advise do you have for the leadership of the Nigerian government being a country identified to have a relatively high national prevalence? The four ingredients I mentioned earlier should be applicable to Nigeria. It was President Olusegun Obasanjo and other African leaders that sat here in Abuja in 2002 and arrived at a recommendation that every country in Africa should dedicate a minimum of 15% of their budget to health. Let's all do it and the continent would have a lot to benefit from it.

From Daily Independent, December 07, 2005

Governance is Nigeria's Greatest Problem

From insecurity to poor governance and flawed electoral process, from corruption to executive lawlessness, Nigeria is beset by obstacles hindering growth and development. Outgoing Executive Director of Centre for Democracy & Development (CDD), Dr. Kayode Fayemi, spoke with Abimbola Akosile on issues of national concern. You are leaving CDD for another vocation. What is the major reason for this transition?

I wouldn't call it transition. It is a continuation of what I have always done. CDD is about entrenching the core values of democracy and development in West Africa and helping to build the capacity, help people across the board. Having worked in the last nine years on training and capacity building, I believe I have acquired a range of skills to be able top affect the lives of the people in my own community. Our politics is local. If it does not affect the lives of the people in the community that has given you life, it would not drive the desired development.

How long were you with CDD and can you outline your rise in the organisation? Well, I started CDD. I am the founding pioneer Director of CDD. It (CDD) was something that we started with a couple of academic activist colleagues of mine because we felt life at the barricades was not enough to transform politics. It is important to be able to agitate for change and prevent bad policies and politics. But beyond that, we felt at the time that we needed an intellectual edge, we needed a bridge between academia and activism. And we needed to provide that change without losing our activist edge, in politics, in development, in governance.

That exactly is the genesis of CDD. From that small beginning of not having anything at all (we started with a budget of $10,000), we decided to put together an organisation that now has an annual turn-over ranging from between N300 - N500million. Since we are not a profit organisation, we invested that in a variety of ways. You can generally be described as an activist, a broadcaster, a civil society person, writer, lecturer, and now politician. Which vocation has been the most challenging to you? I think for me, politics is not my profession. Politics for me is a vocation. My profession really is academics. Activism is in me. I cannot sit back and watch people suffer, and that is the reason why I have been an activist all my life. Journalism, writing, academics, are what I do. That has been my life.

How many published works do you have and what has been the main thrust of your writings, especially your last book (Out of the Shadows)? If I can recall, maybe I have published works ranging about a hundred. I have published articles, monographs, occasional papers, about a hundred. Out of that, about seven of them are books. My last book is really an admixture of an auto-biography and a reflections on the struggle for democracy and freedom in exile. 'Out of the Shadows' tells the story about my growing up as a young kid in Ekiti and Ibadan (Ekiti and Oyo States respectively), going to school studying abroad, facing the challenges of life in an external environment and my experience in activism.

The scope of my writing is looking at the issues of security, governance, democracy, and constitutionalism. I have a background in security studies. Most of my writings are in the area of democratic governance from the security perspective. How do you ensure professionalism in the Customs? How do you ensure that the security forces are accountable to the elected authorities in the various African countries? That was the main thrust of my writings. I have written about constitutionalism, and even a little bit of poetry. Writing is a hobby for me and it is something that I do fairly well. CDD operates in the United Kingdom, Accra (Ghana), Lagos and Abuja. What are the similarities in the scope of work between the branches, as regards development?

On similarities of our scope of operations in the various offices, our vision was to have an institution that is a reference intellectual response for democratization in West Africa and Nigeria. When you say we need to improve democracy in Nigeria and you research for materials, a number of things that would come from that research would be attributed to the works that you get materials from. Whether you go our head office in the UK or the regional office in Accra, what you get is how to deepen our fragile democratization process and how to ensure that in doing that, we recognize the nexus between democracy and development, and the role we are supposed to play in that nexus. During your tenure at CDD, what notable changes were you able to bring about or effect, to bring the organisation to its present level; and what structures are you leaving behind to ensure continuity?

Well, for me really. CDD is about building an institution where the greatest challenge in the non-governmental sector relates to our ability most of the time, particularly in this continent, to build an institution that would survive its founder. Because in the sector, it is very difficult for founders to move on. And these are foundational challenges that are not unique to the civil society sector. If you have and organisation and you have built it, and it gets to the level where it is, it becomes an obsession of sorts and you begin to believe that if you are not there, everything becomes difficult.

One thing that I have done as the Director of CDD to ensure that everything functions, even when I am not there, is to take the pain to hire those professionals who are dedicated to the vision of the organisation, and to the core values that would espouse the organisation. Core values of integrity, of professionalism and feminist principles, to ensure gender equality in everything that we do. In terms of participation at our activities, to ensure that what we do are easily accessible to beneficiaries.

One other challenge that we face in this sector is the challenge of building an independent base that could self-generate resources. One criticism that you hear about civil societies is that we are donor-driven, but we ignore the fact that our government takes its own fund from the same source, the DFiD, UNESCO, USAID. People believe in what we do. We also have alternative sources of funding for the work of the organisation, that is what our Ilishan-Remo (Ogun State) project (conference center) is all about. We develop resources that people can use and that can be ploughed back into the work through the publications that we produce.

The second legacy is ensuring corporate governance. Effective and accountable corporate governance is at the heart of what we do. CDD is not an organisation where the Director or founder is the all in all. We have a corporate structure where serious minded people are actively engaged in the activities of the organisation. They proffer alternatives and solutions to some of the things we need to push and for me, this is the heart of CDD. It is not an organisation built around the Director.

It is an organisation with core values and it would be difficult for anyone, no matter how highly placed to subvert the process. It is so important that we entrench these ideals. We do not want a situation where the organisation folds up when the director leaves. That was why it took us almost a year to find another director. I knew I was leaving in December 2005. I had wanted to leave much earlier but the board decided that we needed to find someone who is equally up to the task. The third challenge is funding of the organisation. Funding is a major challenge and I have made up mind that I would not leave CDD until there are enough resources for whoever is replacing me to work with, until other funds come in.

How do fund your activities and at also ensure neutrality and non-interference in your activities from donors? We have always heard that NGOs are donor-driven but I tell you that, CDD is not donor-driven. We take resources, we have a variety of actors and supporters, including the European Union, which is giving us a lot of funds to monitor the reform agenda. We take resources from Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Swedish International Development Agency and its Canadian counterpart, OSIWA, Oxfam, Comic Relief in UK.

We have a diverse and extensive funding base when it comes to external supporters. But that also cannot undermine the core principles that are set out. We even have a code of conduct, which determines who we receive money from, the terms and conditions under which we receive money from them and the accountability and transparency process that we put in place to justify the expenditure that we have might have incurred while using these funds. We have had cause to reject funds although I would not like to go into details on the organisation we rejected funds from. All our funders have given us relatively our leeway. Of course they have their interests, yes, but, one of the reasons why they support CDD is because of our integrity and they know that we cannot just pander to the wishes of any funder. We can discuss and negotiate what are our interests, what are the funders' interests, how do we synergise all interests without undermining the overall product that comes out at the end of the day.

We are not going to take money because you want us to bash the government. We are not government-bashers. We are not going to take money because you want us to promote a particular agenda that your country has. And we are not going to take money because you want us to do things that we consider morally reprehensible. We will not take money from you because you want to improve your image in the Niger-Delta for example. We will take your money because we have something concrete that we want to do. CDD has been actively involved in budgeting issues. What is your current focus or policy thrust?

Primarily, we have been very involved with governance issues, particularly in Nigeria. We have been involved with governance issues from a wide variety of angles. We have been involved with constitutional reform, traditional justice and human rights violation and improving the administration of justice in the country. We have been involved in monitoring budgets performance. In fact, one of the major projects I am leaving behind which is starting early next year is taking budget monitoring beyond the federal level, to the States and local levels.

We have been involved in working with offices like Budget Office, the Due Process office, the office of the Presidential Adviser on policy monitoring and programmes. We have always had the vision to move this to state levels, to monitor performance performance at the local levels. We will be starting a major project on this next year. We have just received significant funding from EU on this, after extensive negotiation with them; just to further the work we have done on gender budgeting and improving parliamentarians perspectives on the budget process itself.

Those are areas we have worked on. We have also worked on the area of security. Our people forget that security is important. We have worked with the intelligence, presidential committee on security network, the Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution. Whatever we do in terms of raising an advocacy around a particular issue, we also want it to have a policy dimension. And that is what you find in a lot of work that CDD does. CDD does not just criticize government officials on performance, we also provide resources through the research we have made on such issues that affect the developmental agenda.

We do not believe that government is inherently bad, but that it faces capacity challenges, which we may be able to provide due to the extensive nature of our network, which is beyond Nigeria. But even within Nigeria, there are things that we have been able to provide to government. That was what we did when we helped government set up the Oputa Commission on human rights, and worked with them in developing various aspects of the work that they had to do. The important thing is that we should have partnerships where we ought to have partnerships, we should criticize government where it is necessary to do that. Because ultimately, it is about improving government and about improving Africa. That is the greatest thrust of the work that we do here. You have mentioned governance, human rights violations, security. What other grey areas have you been able to identify in Nigeria's governance process, and how do we tackle those grey areas?

There are many grey areas. We do a lot of electoral work. But we do not just do this in Nigeria. My colleagues and I have just returned from Liberia. We have been very active in the Liberian peace process, in the comprehensive peace agreement that we have signed together with a couple of colleagues. Since then we have been active in the reform of the security sector in Liberia because without security, we cannot have development. If we don't solve the crisis of our youth combatants, if we don't solve the crisis of proliferation of small arms, if we don't solve the crisis of governance in Africa, we cannot begin to address governance questions. We cannot begin to address holistic democratization reform and that involves countries.

But also at the level of ECOWAS, CDD has played a very active role. We are one of the few organisations recognised by ECOWAS, seen as belonging to a core membership of regional think-tank that provide advice, that provide support, that provide intellectual resources to the ECOWAS Secretariat. I served myself on the management reform committee. And with the African Union as well, we provide policy support to institutions. Our reach goes beyond Nigeria. CDD is not a Nigerian organisation, though we have a heavy Nigerian component. It is a very pan-African institution, that is driven by the notion that none of the challenges that we face in Africa can be solved on a country by country basis. We need a regional approach because the problems we face are not country-specific. The challenge of developing Africa is regional.

There are several Civil society networks in Nigeria. Would it have been better if all these organisations coalesce into a giant network to avoid duplication of efforts and achieve greater impact? The truth of the matter is that I actually do not believe that we have enough civil societies, so-called in Nigeria. We clearly do not have enough civil societies working in the socio-economic area. We do not have enough working in service delivery, direct service delivery. Maybe because of the resources available in the health sector, many organisations following the money that is in HIV/AIDS in order to access the funds.

For me, networks are necessary but networks cannot replace or substitute organisational focus and cause. Since some organisations have developed their expertise in a particular field, it would be very difficult for it to be driven by a network. Rather than replacing or duplicating the work that their members do, networks can make their members active and relevant. Networks are only networks if they have active membership base that provide legitimacy to the network. We in civil society, we are very good at criticizing. We are now criticizing an alleged plot which has not even manifested itself. There is no evidence that this plot is real that Mr. President wants to be the President for the third time. Many of us are up in arms right now, raising hell about it. Including civil societies, whom some of their heads must have done more than two terms as heads of whatever organizations they claim to belong to. Some have been there for eight years or more. We cannot. Charity begins at home. We have a responsibility.

We need a lot of soul-searching in the civil society too. We should have a code of ethics, as I have always advocated. Not one imposed on us by outsiders, but a self-driven peer-mechanism review that enables us to call ourselves to order. We need to police and monitor ourselves. We should subject ourselves to the same public scrutiny we give government. We need to become a beacon for the rest of the society. To you, sir, what is Nigeria's greatest problem and how do we tackle it?

Governance is Nigeria's greatest problem, nothing else. We have the capacity, we have the resources. In fact we are blessed. I have never seen a country as blessed as Nigeria. But if we do not tackle the governance problem, we are going to be able to deal with the crisis of developing in Nigeria. And I don not believe we can tackle the challenges that we face by unitary federalism. Government has to be brought nearer to the people. We must see all politics as local to face our challenges. Institutions are important to ensure sustainability. You cannot decentralise and devolve to the local level without empowering the people. The institutions need to be brought to the local levels. There is also a need and basis for government to support wealth-creators, not leeches who claim to execute projects while feeding fat on government patronage and nothing else. We need to strengthen the institutions of state and our oversight functions.

From All.Africa.com, December 07, 2005

Danida Promotes Good Governance in Ghana

Participants at this year's Support to Civil Society programme, a component of the DANIDA Good Governance and Human rights Programme, (GG&HR) have expressed great satisfaction at the work of Danida in the country. GG&HR flows from an agreement between the Governments of Ghana and Denmark, based on shared objectives of both countries. This includes Ghana's Poverty Reduction Strategy and the Danish Embassy's prior support to various good governance activities in the country. The GG&HRP aims at enhancing participation, ensuring human rights, equity, transparency and accountability and sustainable growth, within a decentralized democratic environment. The implementation of the programme which began in 2004 has four components which focus on support to the multi donor efforts to decentralization and key governance and human rights institutions as well as civil society organizations.

A five-year agreement was subsequently signed between Ibis Education for Development and the Royal Danish embassy for Ibis to take up the responsibility of implementing the support for civil Society Organizations. After the five years, a civil society governance fund is expected to be established leading to a successful implementation, dissemination, monitoring and advocacy. In all 63 organizations from the Northern, Upper East and Upper West, Brong Ahafo, Central and Volta regions were funded with a maximum amount of ?0 million each, to carry out their planned activities.

Speaking at a review meeting in Accra, the PPLG Programme Director of Ibis West Africa, Mr. Bjarne H. Pedersen, observed that the programme was not known much to government functionaries at the district and regional levels. "Most of the actors who are known to be the owners of the programme looked up to Ibis for information on the programme." Mr. Bjarne said it was a challenge for Ibis to manage the heavy logistical demands regarding communication among all stakeholders. He explained that although monitoring and organizational assessment of the organizations has been labour consuming, it was necessary to allocate as much time as possible to each organisation to enhance the quality of engagement. "We at Ibis are looking forward to achieving many more results in future through a close partnership with the organizations benefiting from the Support to Civil Society Governance Fund, and through collaboration with other players in human rights and good governance issues."

From allAfrica.com, December 19, 2005

 

Buta Admits Good Governance Was Lacking in Bihar

In an oblique reference to the erstwhile Rashtriya Janata Dal government, Bihar Governor Buta Singh Thursday admitted that the state had missed "good governance" and reaffirmed the newly installed National Demcocratic Alliance regime's commitment to ushering in a new era of development with a "humane face". "Bihar missed good governance. People were fed up with kidnapping, extortion and violence in rural areas. A large number of businessmen and entrepreneurs had to wind up their activities and new investment was not forthcoming," the governor said in his address to the joint sitting of the two Houses of Bihar legislature.

Stressing the need for re-establishing the "rule of the law", the governor said, "A slack and casual administration cannot achieve this goal and the new government will accord top priority to revitalising the administrative machinery." In his five-page address, Singh said the government did not only aim at achieving "physical development, but development with a humane face for which it is important to link development to social justice. It is important for the light of development to reach all sections of the society". He said the depressed sections, the socially and economically deprived among the minorities and women would get fullest attention of the government in development. Amidst a walkout by the two-member Samajwadi Party legislatature group, whose leader Deonath Yadav accused the governor of having "murdered democracy" by getting the 13th Assembly dissolved, Singh reaffirmed the government's commitment to infrastructure development.

From Rediff.com, December 01, 2005

Kashmiris Welcome Musharraf`s Plans of Self-governance: Sikandar

Kashmiri leadership on both sides welcomed president General Pervez Musharraf proposals of self-governance and expulsion of troops from Kashmir stated prime minister Azad Jammu and Kashmir Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan. Talking to foreign media men in Kashmir House Islamabad Thursday he said while hailing contribution of Pakistan Army, religious and political parties in relief activities in earthquake stricken areas after the massive earthquake that Indian government behavior regarding delay in opening of crossing points at LoC unveiled its designs towards the Kashmiri people.

He said that immediate and large scale assistance from Pakistan proved that Pakistan and Kashmir are not separate from one another and added that President General Pervez Musharraf had visited quake torn areas just after the quake and know whereabouts of the affectees while he went on say that Indian president Abdul Kalaam despite being a Muslim had visited quake affected areas of Occupied Kashmir after 45 days of the earthquake. He alleged India of violating human rights in occupied Kashmir and said that India only wants to scores points by issuing statements but he added that India has indeed no sympathy with Kashmiris affected by earthquake and it has not done anything practically.

He clarified that Jihadi organizations didn't take any action against citizens but they only act against Indian Army he further said that there would be no dispute if the core issue of Kashmir is solved. "General Musharraf is a bold person and Kashmir issue could be solved during his tenure but India have to show sincerity in this regard" , he said. Replying a query he said President General Pervez Musharraf always discussed the things with Kashmiri leadership and he added that Kashmiri people support all their proposals in this regard.

From PakTribune, December 01, 2005

CM Sings E-governance Praise

Inaugurating the two day sensitisation workshop on national e-governance plan at State Guest House today Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh expressed confidence that the workshop would pave the way for expeditious setting up of a system promoting efficiency and transparency in Government activities. Pointing out that efficient and transparent delivery of service is an important element to any Government, the Chief Minister also stressed on computerization of Government activities and setting up of communication network between Government offices as well as bridging gap between the Government and people.

Taking note of the fact that the workshop specially targeted political leaders and key policy makers of the State to acquire knowledge on 'e-governance plan' he highlighted indispensability of political leaders to contribute their mite in smooth implementation and success of National Employment Guarantee Programme in Manipur. Significantly, though the opening day session was meant for Ministers, MLAs and political leaders only Education Minister Francis Ngajokpa was present while legislators seen on the occasion include FPM's L Ibomcha, M Bhorot of the BJP and Congress MLA Dr Maniruddin.

Thanking experts of National Institute for Smart Government and Department of Information Technology, govt of India for their initiative in conducting the workshop, the CM emphasized on necessity to upgrade existing telecommunication link upto district headquarters and beyond. Appreciating the gestures of the National experts and calling upon NISG, Hyderabad officials to sustain active assistance and guidance he assured State government's attention and maximum effort to overcome infrastructural shortcomings. The workshop is a joint venture of NISG and Department of Science and Technology, govt of Manipur. Science and Technology Minister Ngamthang Haokip presided the inaugural programme while NISG's Chief Executive Officer J Satyanarayana and General manager Piyush Gupta addressed the technical session.

In his presidential address, Ngamthang Haokip hailing the Central Government for drafting and implementing the National e-governance plan at the national level also expressed hope that such a programme would lighten burden of governance in terms of funding and expertise. He also desired that political leaders take opportunity of the two day workshop to not only understand NEGP activities but make important contribution with valuable suggestion.

From Sangai Express, December 01, 2005

WB Approves 200-million Dollars Credit for Governance Reforms in Bangladesh

The World Bank (WB) has approved a 200-million US dollars Development Support Credit (DSC) to implement a program of core and sectoral governance reforms in Bangladesh. This is the third tranche of the DSC, which is designed to assist the government in addressing key governance constraints, by strengthening public expenditure and budgetary management, improving public procurement, modernizing tax administration and enhancing the efficiency of public services, local daily The Financial Express reported on Saturday. According to the daily, the WB had earlier expressed concern over lack of transparency in public sector expenditure in Bangladesh. However, it approved the latest funding after the government said it was developing guidelines for more bureaucratic openness.

The DSC also targets sectoral governance reforms in banking and state-owned enterprises, energy sector and the government's trade liberalization agenda. "The governance reforms supported by the DSC are designed to improve social service delivery to the poor and improve the investment climate to enhance economic growth, exports, and jobs. Creating economic opportunity through sustainable growth and access to services is key to reducing poverty in Bangladesh, and the DSC supports both," WB Country Director Christine Wallich was quoted by the daily as saying. "Improving governance is a critical challenge for Bangladesh and is very much at the heart of the DSC," Praful Patel, Vice President South Asia Region of the WB was quoted as saying.

"We hope the reforms will reduce the scope for corruption, and, in turn, build more effective government institutions and improve public service delivery, giving long-term benefits for all Bangladeshis," he said. The DSC builds on Bangladesh's recently Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS), which emphasizes economic growth, job creation, social service delivery and safety nets for the poor. Combating corruption, restoring law and order and making governance work for the poor are also accorded priority in it. Accordingly, the DSC credit is designed around the three pillars strengthening governance, improving the investment climate and infrastructure to speed economic growth and empowering the poor.

From People's Daily Online, December 03, 2005

Microsoft to Invest $1.7 Billion in India; Push E-governance

IT major Microsoft is to invest $1.7 billion in India and also partner the government in pushing e-governance and help add value to the manufacturing sector. "The investment will be made over a four-year period. It is meant to create a digitally inclusive society, strengthen the local knowledge economy and make India a major hub for our research," Microsoft boss Bill Gates announced at a press conference here Wednesday that was attended by IT and Communications Minister Dayanidhi Maran. This is the second big-ticket investment by an IT major in a week. Intel Corp, the world's largest chip maker, said Monday it would bring in more than $1 billion over five years in expanding its operations in India and in local technology companies.

Microsoft has also signed agreements with the government's Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) and the National Institute for Smart Governance (NISG), Gates said. The software giant will collaborate with the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council (NMCC) to launch a competitiveness enhancement programme for India's manufacturing, he added. Welcoming the initiatives, Maran said India regarded these as indicative of "the value Microsoft attaches to its development and R&D activities in the country as well as its recognition of the accelerating pace of growth of the ICT (information and communication technology) sector here". Earlier, while delivering a lecture on "Realising India's Potential", Gates held that "a lot of amazing and fantastic things" had happened in India since his visit three years ago, and presented a four-point mantra to enable the country to consolidate its place in the global arena.

"India has a huge role to play on the world stage. For this, you need to focus on four key areas: literacy, productivity, digital inclusion and innovation," he told a packed audience comprising corporate honchos, industrialists, bureaucrats, service officers and a cross section of society. During the day, Gates met Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and called on Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Enterprises chief Anil Ambani to discuss his company's broadband expansion plans. Gates, who arrived here Tuesday on a four-day visit, has already met Maran, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss and ruling United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi. He will also visit Chennai and Bangalore. "We are extremely bullish on India," Gates said at the press conference. "Over the next three years, we will see our employees rising from 4,000 to 7,000. This is on a fairly conservative basis and is evidence of the role we see for India in our overall plans," he added.

Explaining the security cooperation programme signed with CERT-In, Microsoft India chief Ravi Venkatesan said it would provide a "structured way for the government and us to engage in cooperative security activities in areas of computer incident response, mitigation of malicious attacks and collaborate educational activities to enhance computing safety and increase IT security awareness". This would benefit a broad audience, including government employees, students and the general public, he added. The e-governance agreement would enable Microsoft and NISG to "create a new class of applications and solutions that focus on optimising the delivery of government services in identified areas", Venkatesan pointed out. The pact on the manufacturing sector aims to "create knowledge networks amidst identified clusters across India to facilitate backward and forward linkages, key essentials for the sector", he explained. "The networks will additionally enhance access to markets, improve skills through relevant and focused training and provide for relevant and customised solutions," Venkatesan added.

From newKerala.com, December 07, 2005

 

Standard & Poor's Raised Its Corporate Governance Score on "Southern Telecommunications Company" PJSC

Southern Telecommunications Company (UTK? [(RTS: KUBN, KUBNP; OTC USA: STJSY), the principal fixed-line telecommunications provider for Russia's Southern Federal District, reports that today Standard & Poor's Governance Services raised its corporate governance score (CGS) on Southern Telecommunications Company to 'CGS-4+' from 'CGS-4'. At the same time, Standard & Poor's raised its Russia national scale CGS on the company to'CGS-4.6' from 'CGS-4.4'. The overall CGS on UTK is the result of four component scores on the global and Russia national scales of 1 (low) to 10 (high).

- Ownership structure and external influences - 4/4.2
- Shareholder rights and stakeholder relations - 6/6.3
- Transparency, disclosure, and audit - 5/5.4
- Board structure and effectiveness - 3+/3.9

According to Standard & Poor's, the upgrade reflects the fact that the controlling shareholder Svyazinvest, a government-controlled holding company, and the board of directors have taken active, albeit delayed, steps to improve management oversight and internal controls at the heavily indebted company. " A new management team has been appointed to tighten UTK's financial controls and improve profitability," said Standard & Poor's governance analyst Oleg Shvyrkov. "The executive appointments were welcomed by minority shareholders." Additional information on UTK's ratings can be viewed at the corporate site in the section Ratings and at the site www.standardandpoors.ru.

From Russianewire.com, December 05, 2005

 

The Foundation of Good Governance - Says UAE Paper

A UAE newspaper today lauded the decision taken Thursday by President H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan to activate the Federal National Council, FNC, saying announcement regarding FNC polls shows the country is heading in the right direction. Commenting editorially on the issue, the Dubai-based +Gulf News+ said:+Just as the country's geographical terrain is undergoing immense change, so too is the political landscape. The announcement by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan that half the members of the Federal National Council would be elected is of major importance both to the UAE and to the region. The FNC acts as a unicameral parliament and was established under the Provisional Constitution of the UAE in 1971. It is made up of 40 members from all seven emirates.

The announcement that half the seats on the FNC would be open to election gives a good indication of the course the UAE will take and sets down clear intentions about governance of the country in the 21st century. A by-law is to be issued by the presidential court regarding the election process, and this legislation will clearly indicate exactly how seats up for election will be contested. The real value to the country is not so much the actual act of voting, although that is welcome. The attractiveness of the process comes from the active involvement of the UAE's greatest resource its people. There will be even more interaction between the people and the leadership, to the advantage of the entire nation.

Again, to use the building analogy, this law is a crane that will help construct the building of a new era. The world is moving into uncharted waters, the Bush presidency and the Blair premiership are both entering their final years. China is becoming an ever-bigger presence on the world stage. Old certainties are fading and being replaced by new unknowns. Our leaders, who have brought this ship of state safely through turbulent waters, deserve all the help that the people can give as well as the full support of the country, the paper concluded.

From WAM.org, December 03, 2005

Yemen: Corruption is Common in Arab Countries, MPs

Sana'a - Yemen Loses $200 million from WB - Corruption and tyranny is pervasive in Arab countries, declared veteran Kuwaiti parliamentarian, Abdullah Al-Nibari while addressing a group of Yemeni and Arab parliamentarians in Sana'a. The World Bank (WB) organized last Wednesday a one-day regional workshop on Parliamentary Monitoring in Promoting Good Governance. According to its director in Yemen, the role of the WB is to bring concerned parliamentarians together to discuss ways to combat corruption. A group of Yemeni parliamentarians announced two weeks ago a new organization called, Yemeni MPs against Corruption an affiliate to Arab and International groups with the same mission.

In three subsequent sessions, eight speakers discussed the role of parliaments in fighting corruption and how parliamentarians could work together with NGOs and international organizations to improve monitoring and execution of UN anti-corruption accords. Speakers from Lebanon, Kuwait, Yemen, the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, and Egypt debated ways of improving parliaments counter-corruption roles in their respective countries. Charles D. Adwan, a Governance & Civil Society Specialist for the Middle East and North Africa at the World Bank, declared that the root of the problem lay not in legislation but in its implementation. Members of parliament are bodyguards of the law, he said. Adwan stressed the importance of activating the role of parliament and of laying down a clear definition of corruption.

Participants agreed that corruption was the use of a public position of authority to serve personal interests. Any progress in combating corruption, they said, helps in increasing investment opportunities and gaining international assistance. According to Mohammed Al-Taib, member of the Shura Council and chairperson of the workshop, the World Bank has held back some US $200 million allocated for Yemen, due to corruption. The Senior Rural Development Specialist of the World Bank office in Yemen described the role of the WB in assisting Yemen fight corruption by asking the government to make economic reforms. Faisal Abu Ras, a member of the Yemeni parliament and the parliamentary network of the World Bank singled out the reasons for corruption. Abu Ras, who resigned in September 2005 because of his exasperation at widespread corruption, said the absence of transparency and increased poverty are the major causing factors.

According to Abu Ras, the parliament was unable to safeguard the interests of the public and combat what he called a government of mass destruction. To combat corruption, we need active public monitoring," he said. Combating corruption, he said, would require measures such as setting up a national committee to coordinate efforts between all organizations involved in the battle. Jamal Al-Adimi, chairman of Transparency Yemen, added that the fight against corruption had become a part of the Yemeni government's lexicon. There is a draft law to tackle corruption, but unfortunately we have been unable to obtain a copy," Al-Adimi said. Participants emphasized that enforcement of the rule of law should be the first port of call, along with a clear strategy for fighting the disease.

From Yemen Observer, December 24, 2005

 

Commission Releases 1 Million Euros to Support Democratic Governance

The European Commission will provide 1 million Euros, under its Rapid Reaction Mechanism, to give urgent support to key actions in favour of democratic governance in Bolivia. In view of the challenges facing Bolivia in the run-up to the December elections and in order to support and strengthen democratic institutions in the post-electoral period, the Commission will support a number of measures to assist Bolivian efforts to consolidate national stability.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy said: The European Commission is pleased to demonstrate through this package the strong backing of the European Union for President Rodriguez and for the Bolivian people as they prepare for the elections which will take place on 18 December. I trust that all sides will participate actively and constructively in this important milestone in Bolivian democracy and I hope that all Bolivians will be able to respect the result and work together to tackle the important challenges of institutional and constitutional reform.

The coming months will be critical to the development of Bolivian democracy and EU support can contribute significantly to preserving and strengthening Bolivia's democratic institutions. A group of urgent and critical short-term actions has therefore been identified by the Commission for early implementation. The aims of the assistance, to be implemented through a number of partners such as local and international NGOs and international organisations, include:

- providing support to the Pre-Constituent and Pre-Autonomy Council which will prepare the way for key votes on 2 July 2006. - providing advice on the regional decentralisation process including offering examples from Europe's own diverse range of autonomous or federal models. - strengthening consultative processes and negotiation capacities within political parties and social movements. - facilitating provision of identity documents to indigenous people from remote rural areas. - supporting the role of local media in providing quality and objective information. Background- Since early 2003 Bolivia has experienced political instability yet succeeded in finding solutions within the democratic framework. The Commission and the EU Member States have been following developments there closely and are supporting efforts to achieve national stability based on a deepened and more effective democracy within a framework of coherent and structured actions.

From Press Releases - European Commission, December 01, 2005

Autonomy, Good Governance Go Hand-in-hand, Says Saleh

Caring for quality of governance is an absolute condition to realise individual responsibilities, stated former Governor of the Netherlands Antilles Jaime Saleh in a speech in connection with his appointment as extraordinary professor at University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. According to Saleh, countries in the Kingdom have to jointly subscribe to and execute central norms, especially where it concerns proper governance and respect for human rights. Constitutional changes primarily have to benefit the basic rights of citizens of all islands of the Netherlands Antilles.

Changing relations in the Kingdom should contribute to improving the quality of life of citizens, as well as quality of governance. Proposals that will benefit the quality of governance have to be built into the new structures, he stated in his speech at University of the Netherlands Antilles (UNA) last Friday. Saleh said sound government was a matter of mentality. All the involved parties have to comprehend that acting without integrity is unacceptable. Politicians have to set a good example, he stated, adding that an independent judge should be able to intervene in politicians actions.

Parliament, the legislative power, plays a vital role in securing democracy and should always be independent when dealing with the executive power, government. Saleh said this part leaves much to be desired. The coalition system is partly to blame for that, as it leads to the legislative and executive powers being more dependent on each other. It is important to make sure that the three powers don't become two powers, warned Saleh. There should also be a clear separation of the executive and legislative powers and the third power, the judiciary. It should be prevented at all cost that the executive and legislative powers can influence the judiciary, said Saleh. He suggested anchoring the position of the judiciary more securely in a law of a higher order, namely a Kingdom law.

Saleh questioned the value of autonomy if no proper content was given to cooperation in the context of increasing globalisation. He stressed that autonomy was linked to individual responsibility. But because the three countries in the Kingdom are bound by the Charter, they have to assist each other. He suggested more cooperation between the countries. The Constitutional Kingdom Law chair to which Saleh was recently appointed was established by Multi-Cultural and Social Cohesion Foundation. Former UNA Rector Prof. Dr. Valdemar Marcha has been appointed to the chair bearing the latter name. The chairs have been installed at University of Utrecht, the Netherlands.

From The Daily Herald.com, December 06, 2005

Senior Canadian Official to Leave UN

Louise Frechette, a Canadian appointed to the second-highest job in the United Nations in 1998, is joining an international think-tank in Waterloo, Ont., the UN said Friday. Frechette, a diplomat and deputy minister in the federal government before she became the UN's deputy secretary general, will start at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in April to co-ordinate plans for governance reform at the UN. A spokesman for Secretary General Kofi Annan said Frechette "has always valued her professional support and friendship and looks forward to continuing to work closely with her on the UN reform agenda over the coming months."

At CIGI, Frechette will head a two-year study of nuclear energy, including the political and economic effects and the dangers of proliferation. Annan views that area as "critical unfinished business," the spokesman said. Frechette headed the steering committee that sent the UN to Iraq. She offered to resign after a critical 2004 report on a bombing of the UN office in Baghdad in 2003 that killed 22 people. But Annan rejected her offer, saying she wasn't the only one responsible. CIGI studies international governance and multilateral system reform to "build ideas for global change" through research, conferences and publications, its website says.

From CBC News, December 16, 2005

Non-Profits Unscathed by Corporate-Governance Crackdown

Congress hasn't been quick to pass new laws regulating non-profit organizations, says Andrew C. Schulz, deputy general counsel for the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Foundations. Corporate scandals such as Enron and the subsequent federal reaction, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, have sparked Congress to consider similar legislation aimed at protecting the nation's non- profit entities, but it hasn't taken any action yet. Schulz's keynote speech exploring legislative action affecting nonprofits launched the third annual "Best Practices for Nonprofits" seminar Nov. 1 at the Holiday Inn, Syracuse/Liverpool. Schulz monitors legislative trends for the Council on Foundations and its 2,000 members - grant-making foundations and giving programs around the world. Congress hasn't passed any major nonprofit legislation since the 1960s. The 1969 tax law, passed in response to political involvement by the Ford Foundation, was the last major change in the tax code.

Currently, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have separate committees examining potential reforms regarding donations and the operation of private foundations as well as support organizations. A projected $300-billion annual gap in tax collection provides Congress with an incentive to examine nonprofits' tax exemptions, said Schulz. The 12, non-profit exemption provisions in the tax code would contribute only $6.8 billion over 10 years if eliminated entirely, he added. While Congress hasn't yet moved to enact nonprofit reforms, a panel composed of members of the nations non-profit organizations has worked to examine potential changes. The two-dozen member Panel on Nonprofit Sector convened last year at the urging of the Senate Finance Committee Some of the panel's recommended actions include a ban on felons serving as board members and a Sarbanes-Oxley style provision requiring a certain number of "outsiders" on a nonprofit's board.

The federal government has made some changes in response to inefficient tax deductions. Abuse of valuation of gifts has prompted the Internal Revenue Service to enact some reforms that require professional appraisals of gifts. Automobile donations were popular until recent changes capped deduction values at $500, unless the vehicle's sale price was greater than $500. Previously, donors were able to claim the fair market value of donated vehicles until a federal study showed that the charities only received eight cents for every dollar claimed by the donor as a tax deduction. Now, donors may only claim the actual sale value of the car as a tax deduction. A 1998 incident involving inflated values of Stradivarius violins donated to the Smithsonian Institution received wide media coverage, noted Schulz.

Schulz urged non-profit administrators to steer clear of any dealings that might arouse suspicion from the IRS. "Don't do it out of fear of the IRS," he said, "Do it because it's the right thing." Sponsored by Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC; TFG CPAs (formerly The Fagliarone Group, CPAs); and the Central New York Community Foundation, the third annual Best Practices seminar attracted 169 participants, says Cristina Hatem, marketing-communications director for TFG, CPAs.

From Blackenterprise.com, December 19, 2005

Trinidad and Tobago: Gender and Governance

In the past few months, a number of women have been elected to political office in countries in which one would not normally expect such events to take place. One is referring here to Germany, Liberia, and Chile where Michele Bachelet leads in the first round of the presidential race and seems certain to win in the final round. It is also possible that a woman would be elected President in Peru. It is not of course the first time that women have been elected to such offices in systems in which patriarchy remains dominant. We have seen this happen in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. But in each of these cases there was a "dynastic" or family dimension to their victories.

In the recent cases referred to above, the women won on their own steam, and what began as an aberrant and novel trickle, now seems about to become a norm. To radical feminists, not much has changed in terms of power relations the world over, notwithstanding the fact that in some jurisdictions, more and more women are outperforming men or at least are doing as well as they are in terms of incomes earned or occupational status, especially in public bureaucracies.

A number of Caribbean scholars have begun to take a hard look at our political systems using gender as their principal lens. The general conclusion of is that Caribbean societies and governance systems are patriarchal hegemonies in which there exist little or no "gender justice". The feminists have also accused (justly) male social scientists such as myself of ignoring the significance of gender in our analyses of the manner in which public policy is made and the impact of those policies.

As one Jamaican colleague, Wilma Bailey, argued, "in spite of their overall higher levels of participation and performance at the secondary and tertiary levels of Caribbean educational systems, the majority of women in the region continue to be positioned in the lowest levels of poverty, are underrepresented in the decision-making positions at the micro and macro levels of social and political institutions, and lack real autonomy. Prof Eudine Barriteau likewise argues that "the anglophone Caribbean state is a masculinist state. Its power relations affect the ways women's economic, political, social and personal activities are perceived and constructed."

Some feminists also argue that there is a mythologised assumption that the male is the head of the family, the provider and thus the controller of female sexuality. It is also argued that a great deal of the criminality and sexual violence that obtains in the society is in fact driven by the futile efforts on the part of many males to act out the script that they assume they are required to render as men. As Gabrielle Hosein observed in her presentation to Winston Dookeran's seminar last Sunday, all males do not have equal access to the state. Some femininists also see a link between our dysfunctional political systems and gender imbalances in our society, and argue that better governance will not be achieved unless women are allowed to occupy and uphold their "half" of the state.

Caribbean politics, they say, is too driven by phallic competition and notions of warriorhood. Women, they say, have a different epistemology, a different way of seeing and acting, a different biologically determined emotional intelligence which can transform our governance styles. There is the admission that many women are to be found occupying national offices in the Caribbean. We have had women as speakers, governors-generals, attorney generals, auditor generals, ministers, deputy prime ministers and so on. The complaint is that women are invariably coopted through the appointive process and given "soft", "house keeping" ministries in which they "make tea rather than policy".

Invariably, they are the beneficiaries of male patronage and goodwill rather than power brokers and power wielders in their own right. I agree with much of what is being asserted by my feminist colleagues. Women, as Mao Tse Dung once said, hold up half the world, and there is no earthly or heavenly reason why they should be frustrated in their efforts to secure parity in policy making. "Power sharing" is about gender as much as it is about ethnicity. Women cannot possibly do worse than their male counterparts. My question has to do with whether they can change what is assumed to be a universal political amorality.

When Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the new President of Liberia was asked what she brings to the political table as a woman, she replied, "sensitivity to human needs. Maybe that comes from being a mother and interacting with other women, many of whom carry the biggest burden in times of both war and peace." Marx used to say that having themselves been victims of capitalist exploitation, workers will not exploit other workers. He was very wrong and one has a feeling that President Johnson-Sirleaf will be just as mistaken in her belief that women can change Liberia or the world for the better. It may well be that it is a bit too late to change the world.

I also have to be convinced that there is a feminine as opposed to a masculine leadership style, the one consensual and the other hierarchical, and that if governance is cross-gendered, and made more "androgynous" (hermaphroditic), one is well on the way to changing the political morality which is now destroying the world. There might well be a feminine dividend to be achieved by having more women in politics. I however fear that globalisation and the triumphant march of impersonal capital, which respects neither nationality nor gender, will make it difficult to reap that dividend.

From Trinidad & Tobago Express, December 25, 2005

 
ActionAid Wants Better Governance Against Fighting HIV/AIDS in Asia

ActionAid's new report finds that it is the marginalised people across Asia who are leading the fight against HIV/AIDS and criticises the lack of political will and action by the more powerful ?national governments and international agencies. In the past year there were 1.1 million people who were newly infected with HIV/AIDS in Asia. While the pandemic is growing at a tremendous pace, governments across the continent have still to wake up to the enormity of the impact on their peoples as well as their economies.

Only one in seven of the HIV positive people in Asia have access to treatment. Lives of People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in the region have been made difficult and more importantly shorter due to the neo-liberal policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund which constrain national expenditure in the critical areas of health and education. A further barrier to greater treatment access is the patent regime of the WTO that puts profits of pharmaceutical companies over the lives of people.

According to the report most Asian governments still lack the political will to allocate adequate resources to fight HIV/AIDS comprehensively. In the budget announced by the Government of India in February 2005, National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) saw only 3 percent increase. Compounding the low levels of allocation was the poor record on actual expenditure ?between 1999 and 2002 almost 35 percent of NACP's budget remained unspent. The Royal Government of Cambodia spends about US $ 9,00,000 on HIV/AIDS out of US $20 million, the total expenditure for health sector. The report finds that some governments such as Thailand and Indonesia are starting to prioritise HIV/AIDS by increasing their budget allocations in recent years. ActionAid demands increased budget allocation for HIV/AIDS especially for treatment as well as the need for more voluntary counselling and testing centres.

Conditionalities imposed by the international financial institutions (IMF/WB) have also constrained any efforts by national governments to increase their expenditure on health which is needed to address the poor health infrastructure and systems. According to Dr. Sergio Spinaci of World Health Organization, It is not easy within present budgetary constraints to invest more in health, especially if you have a large proportion of the budget invested in debt repayments and a macroeconomic policy focused on containing even minor inflation and setting rigid spending ceilings for the social sectors.?In many countries private expenditure on health is much greater than public expenditure. For example in India private expenditure on health is 79 percent whereas government expenditure is 21 percent.

ActionAid's report demands the right to access comprehensive care and right to dignified life and also the inclusion of PLWHA in all policies to fight the pandemic. Further the report says no to TRIPS, to dosage and usage patents, and control of all drug prices in the market. The patent regime of WTO and its TRIPS programme imposed on the member countries of the region made the Anti Retroviral Drugs inaccessible to PLWHAs. Asia is facing this situation because of the initial high cost of the medicines, which was to the tune of US$10,000 for a year. In Thailand, before the TRIPS ratification, the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) succeeded in developing a generic version of the ddI (drug dinadosine), an antiretroviral drug against AIDS. When the new Thai Patent Act (TPA) came into effect in 1992, Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS), the multinational drug company, patented an improved formulation of ddI. The company was granted exclusive market rights and fixed its prices freely in compliance with the Thai pharmaceutical pricing system. Consequently, ddI became unaffordable for most patients. Yet the new ddI was not a real innovation and only offered slight improvement compared to the first ddI. However, because of the BMS patent, the GPO's project for production of a generic ddI was stopped.

Recent positive efforts at an international level such as the Global Fund to fight against AIDS, TB, and Malaria (GFATM) and WHO's 3x5 initiative to improve access to treatment are all severely constrained by the lack of funds from international donors. While global expenditure on HIV/AIDS has increased over recent years it still falls far short of what is required to halt the spread of the disease and provide universal access to treatment and care. Due to the extreme poverty in many parts of the region people are more vulnerable to the disease. In Asia the number of deaths among Adults and Children due to AIDS was between 5,20,000 whereas in North America, Western and Central Europe it was between 30,000 in the year 2003-2005. According to the report the risk of HIV/AIDS in disaster prone areas and at the time of emergencies is profound. After the 2004 Tsunami there is increased concern about the higher infection risk among the displaced people as well as the lack of preparedness to deal with these circumstances such as the lack of safe blood transfusion systems and shortage of condoms and clean syringes.

Even in the face of these above challenges as well as the stigma and discrimination they face, it is the individual stories of HIV positive people that provide the inspiration for a truly global fight against the pandemic. ActionAid's report highlights both the concerns as well as the initiatives of the positive people across the region. In the Janata Basti, Itahari, Nepal, and in Cambodia women are collectively fighting against stigmatisation by their communities and finding friends in their fight for survival. In Bangladesh a government official is continuing his lone effort in advocating HIV prevention. And in Pakistan, a boy of 14 is acting as an educator among his peers to create awareness about HIV/AIDS.

From OneWorld South Asia, December 28, 2005

 
 

SA Corporate Ethics 'Worrying'

The chairperson of an ad hoc committee on corporate governance on Monday expressed concern at the poor state of workplace ethics in South Africa at present. Ruling African National Congress Member of Parliament Barbara Hogan a former chairperson of the National Assembly finance portfolio committee and now chairperson of the joint ad hoc committee on corporate governance noted a report from Jacques Marnewicke of Business Unity South Africa (Busa) indicating a growth in economic crimes in South Africa's business environment. Hogan said: "We don't have a healthy ethical environment (in business) at the moment." Marnewicke, in a presentation to the committee, reported that 68 percent of 237 companies surveyed in a 2005 KPMG questionnaire part of a larger African continent wide fraud and misconduct survey expected an increase in fraud going forward while 64 percent considered fraud a major problem.

Economic crimes - He noted that the definition of fraud was a broad one and included economic crimes of various kinds, including bribery and corruption. Referring to a business ethics South Africa survey conducted in 2002 on behalf of Busa the merger of the Black Business Council and the Business South Africa among 53 JSE listed companies with 800 000 employees involving 421 telephonic interviews, he said that it had been found that internal communication of ethics policies by top management was "not at an acceptable level". There was also inadequate ethics education and training as well as poor maintenance of a theft-free environment. The latter problem particularly effected big organisations "in large buildings" which were not only the target of internal crime by also targeted by syndicates. The theft of laptops and cell phones was a key concern in these environments.

Whistle-blowing - It was also found in this survey that 25 percent of management and 33 percent of staff were not aware of codes of ethics in the workplace and that whistle-blowing hotlines were established in less than 50 percent of companies. He also noted that the recent PriceWaterhouseCoopers survey released recently showed that 83 percent of companies were subjected to economic crime among the 100 top companies surveyed, 60 percent of which were listed on the JSE Securities Exchange. Marnewicke acknowledged Hogan's concerns but indicated that the crime problem in corporate entities could not be seen in isolation from the broader problem of crime in South Africa. "We are not immune to that," he said.

He said it was unfortunate that white-collar crime was often seen as a "victimless crime" with perpetrators facing lenient sanctions. However, he believed there was a move away from plea bargains with individuals allowing, for example, stolen funds to be returned in exchange for no jail sentence. Companies were instead taking the losses and insisting on justice against perpetrators. There was also a move for companies not to take responsibility for individuals involved in crime but to allow that person to face the consequences of their action. Marnewicke also made the point underscored by the PWC that there was now greater willingness to report economic crimes by corporates.

From IAfrica.com, December 05, 2005

Code of Ethics in Food Trade in Preparation

Angola is working to set up a Code of Ethics in the Trade of Foodstuffs next year, aiming at regulating the behaviour of people involved in the commerce of eatables. The information is contained in a note from Codex-Angola, that states that the law, whose Bill has already been approved, will set the limits in the use of pesticides in foodstuffs, which will come under strict control of the National Committee on Food Code. The note states as well that from now on, all foodstuffs packets shall bear a clearly descriptive label in Portuguese. To the coordinator of the team that worked on the Bill, Lusukila Jean, the information label is of particular importance, especially when it comes to pre-packaged foodstuffs, as it should be consonant with Codex-Angola dispositions and norms. The Bill is just awaiting approval from the Cabinet Council to come into force in the country, the source said.

From AngolaPress, December 11, 2005

State HouseTtasks Civil Service on Pension, Entrepreneurship

State House, Abuja has pledged to continue to set examples for the Federal Civil Service through faithful implementation of policies and programmes of the administration. Permanent Secretary of State House, Mr. Stephen Oronsaye, who was speaking at the opening ceremony of a two-day workshop on pension planning and entrepreneurship organised for staff of the State House also tasked the civil service on pension planning and entrepreneurship. Mr. Oronsaye. who is also the principal secretary to the president assured that the workshop was interested in making them perform their functions satisfactorily. The permanent secretary, who was represented by the director, planning research and statistics at the Villa, challenged all staff to take full advantage of the knowledge that would be provided during the workshop for a beneficial future, whether in service or after leaving paid employment.

From The Tide Online, December 05, 2005

Government Aware of Civil Service Concerns

Government is aware and is currently addressing some of the public service officers concerns such as inconsistent promotions. Permanent Secretary to the President Eric Molale told the 63rd Botswana Civil Servants Association (BCSA) conference in Lobatse last week that issues such as lack of schemes of service sometimes hamper progress for some officers. Molale said governments aim is that departments should not take more than four months to draw up schemes of service. He noted that it has been proven worldwide that discomfort and discontent of workers were not caused by policies but by how policies are implemented. He said that under Performance Management System (PMS) and Performance Based Reward System, performance was more important than experience. Molale noted that despite criticism, PMS had started to yield good results in public service delivery.

He said he was concerned about inaccessibility of some permanent secretaries and directors of departments. He called on the ministerial consultative councils MCC to take up such issues. Molale also advised BCSA members to use MCCs individually or collectively to channel their problems and concerns. He also implored the BCSA executive to be visible next year so that it regularly meets with his office to discuss concerns of its membership. He further advised members to read and understand laws and regulations such as General Orders and the Public Service Act, saying they were meant to enhance their well being.

Molale also talked about Remote Areas Service Allowance (RASA), emphasising consistency between departments when paying it out. He noted that some officers, who are entitled to the allowance, do not get it while some who are not entitled to it, get it. Regarding BCSAs concerns that the pension fund does not allow public officers to borrow 25 per cent of the pensions to purchase houses, Molale said he could not commit himself but promised to investigate the issue. However, if it was an entitlement whose implementation government must facilitate. Molale said he would tour the country with the director of DPSM and permanent secretaries next year to meet staff and discuss issues of concern. BOPA

From Botswana Press Agency, December 12, 2005

Civil Service Must Keep Pace with Reform - Obasanjo

President Olusegun Obasanjo said on Thursday that the Federal Civil Service must strive harder to keep pace with his administration's reform programmes. The president, in a meeting with the Commissioners of the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC), said for civil servants to successfully meet current and future challenges, they must embrace the new reforms. The civil service must be part of those creating the wealth of the nation, he said. He urged members of the FCSC to be more reform-minded in order to implement required reforms in the civil service. He told them to take steps to attract more first class graduates into the service and suggested that merit should be the determining factor.

The president said government would study the report of the recent retreat on Creating More Efficient and Responsive Public Service organised by the commission on the way forward for the civil service. We are all in the same ship and have to reach the same shore together, he said and promised to support whatever would be required to ensure reform of the civil service. Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, said his office had been meeting with the FCSC while drawing attention to certain stringent and frustrating rules and regulations guiding the civil service. Chairman of the commission, Ambassador AI-Gazali, in his response, said his commission was not aversed to reforms and was prepared to ensure the success of the government's reform programme.

From Nigerian Tribune, December 12, 2005

 

MBC Suspends Producers for Breaching Ethics

Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation will suspend the producers of PD Notebook for violating journalistic ethics in the process of making a documentary questioning the authenticity of stem cell celebrity Hwang Woo-suk's results. The broadcaster said yesterday it had decided to suspend the producers Choi Seung-ho and Han Hak-soo and the details of their disciplinary punishment will be decided on Friday at an internal board meeting. Previously, PD Notebook claimed the customized cloned embryonic stem cells may have been fabricated and that the DNA of one cell did not match that of its donor's. A Sunday report made by television news channel YTN, however, showed interviews with former co-researchers saying the producers threatened them to say things unfair to Dr. Hwang.

Despite MBC's measures, political circles are still highly critical of the recent events related to the reporting and urged the broadcasting commission to be more strict in managing and auditing broadcasting companies. "The broadcasting commission should swiftly review whether or not PD Notebook violated broadcasting laws and take appropriate measures," said Uri Party lawmaker Jee Byung-moon. Choung Byoung-gug of the Grand National Party pointed out that various "disasters" have occurred at MBC since the appointment of President Choi Moon-soon. "Like some media have criticized, the producers of PD Notebook were cooperating with MBC's president and while they all expected problems to occur, they overlooked any preview procedures," he said.

Lawmakers also launched a group to support Dr. Hwang yesterday. Composed initially of 42 members from several political parties, the legislators said they would try to help Dr. Hwang by creating constitutional and legal guidelines so the scientist can focus on his studies.
Meanwhile, at Seoul National University, women pledging to donate their ova for research purposes left bouquets of mugunghwa, or rose of sharon ? Korea's national flower ? for the scientist with letters of encouragement. The gesture was an extension of one occurring online on Hwang fan sites where women volunteering to be donors are represented as mugunghwa flowers. Dr. Hwang, however, was not present to receive the flowers as he is reportedly in poor health. Quoting Dr. Hwang's personal physician and colleague Curie Ahn, National Intelligence Agency official Kim Chang-ho said yesterday in a cabinet briefing that Dr. Hwang is suffering from a stomach ulcer and that his physical condition is worse than that of mere flu symptoms.

From JoongAng Daily, December 07, 2005

Ethics Apply to Internet Use Also

Heard a joke from a senior journalist friend at an year-end party. "The only topic we can write about with peace of mind is about three hos and one jang," he said. When I failed to understand he added, "ho-ui, ho-sik, ho-saek (dress well, live well, be sensual) and jangsu (live long)."
He meant that there is no problem when journalists write about the happiness of the petit bourgeois, but if they write about topics like politics and ideologies, there is a high chance of their being stoned, so it is better not to. It was a comment that deplored our dreary society where people attack others without hesitation if they have conflicting opinions. In the past, this was a tendency normally seen in politics. Judging from the on-going debate about Dr. Hwang Woo-suk's stem-cell research, it seems that this bad trait of politics has now spread to the field of science also.

Ultimate responsibility for the attacks lies with the "PD Notebook" program of the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation. The producers of the program tried to raise the issue of scientific ethics but themselves ignored journalistic ethics. They did not confirm facts and even lost their sense of balance. They were strongly criticized for that. It even provoked the criticism that the media had assaulted science. So, does violence provoke more violence? It is no exaggeration to say that the criticism against MBC has almost reached the level of violence. Internet users claim they will start a campaign of boycotting products made by the companies that buy advertisements on PD Notebook or the MBC News. What have those companies done wrong to consumers?

The ratings of MBC have gone down because of what the broadcaster did wrong, and if advertisers decide that the effectiveness of advertising on MBC is low, it is only natural for them to pull their ads on their own judgment. Praising companies that stopped advertising on MBC because of public pressure as "national companies" and encouraging people to buy their products is a very immature response.
Of course there are people who are fired up and say that the media company that damaged our national interest should disappear. The psychology that MBC deserves such punishment because it did wrong is understandable. But are such actions rational and reasonable? Suddenly, I am reminded of a phrase that I heard back in the dark days of living under authoritarian rule: "If criticism is oppressed, praise should be reserved."

Who knows whether a reaction like this will surface against another report in the future? In this regard, this is not just a problem of MBC's. And those who compete with MBC should not be happy because MBC is shaking. This should be seen as a crisis of the media as a whole, although it was provoked by MBC. Frankly, irresponsible criticism and low slander can easily be ignored. Twisted comments and ill curses can also be ignored. But if these are moved to the physical world from the Internet, they turn into violence. The level of violence will increase and the media have to be cautious to avoid all forms of violence.

The journalistic spirit of risking danger and challenging taboos and sanctuary will be put to a harsh test. In order to be an enduring reporter who is not criticized, it is natural to think that the best way is going in the direction of "what is good is good." Even now, it can't be denied that there are journalists and producers who sigh in relief saying "Thank God the (PD Notebook) informer didn't come to me."

With issues that the domestic press may fail to report while they are busy looking left and right, the foreign press might scoop them. The
domestic press would then be put in the position of having to follow their reports. The domestic press also tends to put public opinion and national emotions before journalistic principles or reason. "The law of people's emotion" can be stronger than any other law.
The problems of the press are not just problems of media companies. In this Internet age, the press is not simply the function of just media companies and journalists. Every single person that surfs the Net, writes comments or uploads statements is no different from a journalist. Therefore, the notion that the press needs to become sound and fair is a comment that is applicable to Internet journalists also.

From JoongAng Daily, December 17, 2005

Kazakhstan-American Civil Service Partnership Outlooks Discussed Today

Today a meeting has been held between Chairman of the Agency on Civil Service Zautbek Turisbekov and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of USA to Kazakhstan John Ordway, Kazinform has learnt from the press service of the Agency. The two officials discussed the perspectives of cooperation between Kazakhstan and USA in enhancing the efficiency of the civil service and in the fight against corruption infringements. The sides have agreed on participation in development of the Eurasian Centre of Civil Officers of Kazakhstan, Central Asian countries and Transcaucasia initiated by the President of Kazakhstan. The officials also studied the activity of the Agency in the sphere of fight against corruption, observance of the Code of Honour of the Civil Servants and introduction of the international quality management system (ISO) into the work of public bodies.

From Kazinfomr, December 01, 2005

Civil Servants Urged to Improve Service

Chief Executive Donald Tsang says civil servants should strengthen inter-departmental cooperation, and adopt proactive and innovative measures to improve service delivery. In a short video shown at the Civil Service Outstanding Service Award Scheme's prize presentation tonight, Mr Tsang encouraged civil servants to continue to offer the best service with dedication and professionalism. Officiating at the presentation, Secretary for the Civil Service Joseph Wong commended the winning teams for their excellent services. The award scheme is an annual scheme organised by the Civil Service Bureau to promote a customer-oriented culture. The 2005 scheme attracted 137 entries from 45 departments. Twenty-seven teams from 17 Government departments have won Team Awards. Eight departments have won Service Enhancement prizes while three departments won Best Public Image Awards. A list of winning teams is available.

From News.Gov.HK, December 02, 2005

Civil Service Told to Take Criticisms Positively

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Monday advised members of the civil service to take criticisms positively to help build an organisation of international status. He said constructive criticisms should motivate them to give their best service to the people who are now more mature and knowledgeable. "We (civil servants) must understand that we are also customers, and we always hope to receive responses and service that are the best," he said at the presentation of the Prime Minister's Quality Awards (AKPM 2005) here Monday night.

He said the civil service should, therefore, become an organisation that is "customer-oriented" whose decisions reflected the wishes and interest of the people. Besides, he said, efficient and speedy service would give satisfaction to the people and create positive competition between departments and agencies within the government. Abdullah was apparently referring to Cuepacs' response to Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Samsudin Osman's remarks on Sunday that the public sector's quality of service was lagging because of the attitude and work performance of civil servants. Cuepacs president Datuk Nordin Abdul Hamid was quoted in The Star Monday as saying the union was very disappointed with the statement which he claimed would demoralise the civil servants.

From Bernama.com, December 06, 2005

 
Ethics Watchdogs Should Not Be Poodles

The good chaps view of behaviour in public life is dead. This is not because the chaps have become bad. The vast majority have not. But the old conventions have broken down. The boundaries between the public and private sectors, between politicians and civil servants, between secret and open government, and between confidentiality and disclosure have become blurred. The number of regulators and codes on ethics and propriety has grown since the first report, in spring 1995, of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (then chaired by Lord Nolan).

It is still often unclear what is acceptable. First, about memoirs by former officials, after the books by Sir Christopher Meyer and Lance Price; secondly, the departure to the private sector of Lord Birt, adviser to Tony Blair, after arguments about lack of accountability and conflicts of interest; and thirdly, the Government's unusually public disagreements with the Standards Committee and the Public Appointments Commissioner. There are rights and wrongs on both sides.

The Public Administration Committee of MPs was in full moralistic blast at Sir Christopher and Mr Price for their indiscretions. But politicians have also been at fault in naming civil servants. The Radcliffe rules on memoirs, nearly 30 years old, need updating, not only for a less discreet era but also to distinguish between politicians and civil servants.

The other two rows highlight the problems caused by the end of a monolithic civil service and the involvement of more outsiders, whether as politically appointed special advisers or contract civil servants, both arising because ministers wanted more freedom in filling senior posts. Ministers do not like ethics regulators limiting their role, but Whitehall's rejection of key proposals of the standards committee led its chairman, Sir Alistair Graham, to say yesterday: The Government's stance will not help public concerns about mistrust and cronyism to go away, nor heal the underlying perception that the Government has a lack of interest in ethical standards issues. Baroness Fritchie, the Appointments Commissioner, deplored the failure to improve the governance of, and increase public confidence in, the appointments procedure.

These tensions are unhealthy for democracy and the task of rebuilding trust in government. Are the regulators merely advisory or should they have more clout? They are being examined by the Public Administration Committee. There is a strong case for having fewer regulators and distinguishing more clearly between those involved in the processes of government, advisers like the Standards Committee and investigators of specific allegations. This should not mean the abolition of independent ethical watchdogs: we need grit in the machine. But, while not surrendering flexibility in appointments, the Government should recognise that clear rules and transparency are in its interest.

From Times Online, December 16, 2005

Civil Service Move 'A Joke'

Civil servants who have applied to move from one part of rural Ireland to another under the government's decentralisation scheme have been told that they must first spend up to eight months in Dublin for training. This latest twist has led to a row between the government and trade unions over subsistence payments for staff who have to spend time in the capital. Unions say the proposed payments are pathetic and unacceptable. Decentralisation, announced two years ago, was designed to move civil servants out of the capital, but a high number of state employees want to move from government offices already located outside Dublin. This situation, previously described as farcical by unions, has now descended further into chaos. Many of the civil servants based outside Dublin who want to move will first have to come to the capital for extended periods to be trained.

Tom Geraghty, of the Public Service Executive Union, said: This is nonsense. People who applied to decentralise did so for family and quality of life reasons. Now they are being told they have to leave their families and go to Dublin, the most expensive city in the country, and stay there for months. He said proposed subsistence expenses were not enough. We received an offer last week from the Department of Finance, one of the first bodies to move, and the money is nowhere near agreed rates. It's a joke and it's ridiculous. We are not going to accept it and the government will have to rethink this one because no third party will support it and we will take it to arbitration if it comes to it, he said.

Civil servants who are forced to leave their homes for work reasons are entitled to subsistence rates of between 60 and 70 Euros a night. The department is believed to have offered staff two rates: 90 Euros a week for non-homeowners and 150 Euros for homeowners. The department said the offer was an initial one and the matter is still under negotiation. Training is an important aspect of the work in the period preceding the move to Tullamore in order to ensure that those decentralising can function effectively upon decentralisation, it said. So far the controversy is limited to the Department of Finance. It has asked staff who are due to move to Tullamore next July to come to Dublin for training now.

Geraghty says this is likely to become an issue across the board as government plans to move up to 10,000 employees proceed. A total of 131 posts in the finance department are to be transferred to Tullamore. Sixty-six employees from various departments have applied for the posts but only 10 have been received from the department's Dublin office. Many of the remaining 56 already work outside Dublin. The number of staff requesting a move from one rural-based location to another has created difficulties for the whole programme. The prospect of a row over training and subsistence payments adds a new level of disruption.

Almost half of the civil servants who have applied for a transfer under the plan live outside the capital already. About 7,212 civil service jobs are being moved from Dublin, but a mere 3,741 people working there have applied to move. A further 3,094 civil servants based in rural Ireland have indicated they would like to move. Impact, the trade union, has estimated that decentralisation will cost about 60m Euros a year. As criticism mounts, the government has slowed the process down. Brian Cowen, the finance minister, said recently that the original deadline of 2006 has been moved to 2010.

From Times Online, December 04, 2005

 

Federal Civil Service Approves a Number of Decisions

The Federal Civil Service Commission approved in its meeting today a number of appointments at the Heath Ministry and promotions at the Education, Health and Public Works Ministries. The meeting Chaired by Saeed Al Ghaith, Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs, further agreed to extend the services of some employees of the Ministries of Agriculture and Fisheries and Health and approved study leave for a number of employees at the Health Ministry as well as training courses for some of the staff at the ministries of Information and Culture and Health.

From Emirates News Agency (WAM), December 11, 2005

 

The Ethics of Bird Flu

President Bush's cabinet members are coming to Minnesota soon to discuss the state's plan for a bird flu pandemic. President Bush unveiled a federal plan more than a month ago calling for billions of dollars to invest in vaccine research and production. Some public heath officials in Minnesota and around the country have criticized the federal government's plan. They say it doesn't not addresss the ethical challenges a flu pandemic would pose. Minnesota officials say they plan to talk about ethics at some point, they're just not sure when.


St. Paul, Minn. ?State officials say they will talk about ethics before a bird flu pandemic hits. But it's not as easy as calling a simple meeting. Harry Hull, the state's epidemiologist, says the discussion will have to consider questions of life and death that most people have never had to ponder. "We've got a very difficult situation here," Hull says. "How can we get through it and to maximaize the number of people that's going to survive, to provide the best care that we can to people, realizing that we don't have the best resrouces that we do?"
But so far there's no discussion planned. No one has written up a list of topics to talk about. And no state agency is clearly in charge of the issue. That's what happened in Canada before the SARS outbreak of 2003.

Dr. Ross Upshur says when severe acute respiratory syndrome - SARS - hit, Canadian officials didn't have guidelines covering the ethical considerations of a pandemic. So he wrote them, and has now adjusted them for bird flu. Upshur, a researcher at the Joint Center for Bioethics in Toronto, had heard that governments were struggling to prepare for the ethical questions raised during a pandemic. "Our point is if you have some plan in place for the communities affected so they have some trust in the process, particulalry where their individual interests may be possibly compromised, then you have more trust in the process when the time comes," Upshur says.

Upshur's guide is meant for audiences around the world. It's designed to adapt to fit to their needs. There are some constants, like the duty of governments. For example, if public health departments enact a quarantine, they should clearly explain its justification to the public. And the government should take care of people under quarantine, Upshur says, "because what you're going to be asking individuals to do is ask them to restrict their interests for the greatest common good. And in those circumstances it's imperative that they be supported. So if people stay home, there has to be some way to arrange for them to be cared for - for them to have food."

Upshur says different communities will make different decisions about how to distribute scarce resources and that's OK. But they should make those decisions transparent. For instance, take the matter of flu shots. There's disagreement about who should get influenza vaccines during normal flu season. In different countries the decisions are based on different priorities. In the U.S. and Canada vulnerable populations are first in line. That includes older people, those with compromised immune systems, and kids under two years old. Upshur says in Japan, however, kids get the shots before anyone else. University of Minnesota bioethicist Jeffrey Kahn says deciding who gets care will be the hardest. "What counts most? What you will contribute in the future? What you contributed in the past? Should we try to save the most people possible? Which are the values that we think are the most important?" he says. He says the standard we use now for treatment may need to change, including who gets a flu shot.

"Now maybe in the coming pandemic it won't be that group that's most vulnerable. But we seem to be committed to treating the vulnerable first. And if that's our commitment, then we should honor that and figure out who those people are and they should be the first in line." Many of the obvious questions come from the doctors' offices or hospitals. But in the workplace there's a whole different set of ethical considerations. Does business shut down in the event of a pandemic? Should employees have to come to work? What role does the government play in any of that? The state's plan for a flu pandemic includes shutting down schools and public gathering places. So far it offers little guidance for the private sector. So businesses are on their own to decide what to do.

When contacted by Minnesota Public Radio, most private corporations didn't want to discuss their response plans to a pandemic or even talk about their company's preparations. None planned to shut down regional operations and send employees home in the event of a bird flu outbreak. Toro officials said they would wait for the governor to give them directions in an emergency. A representative from Cargill said the company is more concerned with its international employees and keeping them safe. Chris Terzich, who is in charge of emergency management for Wells Fargo banks, heads up an emergency planning group of area businesses called the Minnesota Information Sharing and Analysis Center. The group recommends something called "social distancing" in a pandemic.

"The closer people are and the more time they spend in that close proximity, the more significant their chances of transmitting something like the flu would be. So you have to take and consider that in a workplace environment and look for opportunities to spread people out," Terzich says. Terzich's group recommends moving desks, or staggering work shifts. That's one of 10 steps the group suggests for working through a pandemic. He estimates that company's will have to do business with absentee rates of up to 30 percent. "To look at it as 'we'll simply shut our doors and go home until it's over,' I don't think anybody is talking in that way, unless they happen to be a very unique business, a custom business, that can do that," Terzich says.

Terzich says many businesses provide essential services and would do more harm by shutting down. It's part of his groups's job to figure out just what those essential services are. Bioethicist Jeffrey Kahn at the Univerity of Minnesota's Center for Bioethics balked at the idea of social distancing at work. He says expecting people to come to work during a pandemic could hasten the spread of a disease as contagious as bird flu. "If we knew there was a way to prevent that from happening, wouldn't it be worth losing two weeks of productivity in the state or even the country to prevent that serious level of illness or even death?" he says. Kahn says he wouldn't go to work. It wouldn't be worth putting his family at risk. It's probably not an issue for him, since his employer, the U of M, is already planning to shut down if there's a pandemic outbreak of disease. In the meantime, private businesses don't have a clear response plan to an outbreak of bird flu. And it seems that many are waiting to get word from the government about what they should do.

From Minnesota Public Radion, December 02, 2005

Allan Cutler Says He Was Cleared in Ethics Probe

No sooner had the Conservatives unveiled a candidate meant to epitomize accountability, than leaked documents showed Allan Cutler was once investigated for a possible breach of ethics. A former civil servant best known to Canadians as the man who first exposed the federal sponsorship scandal, Cutler's candidacy was announced at his new campaign office in Ottawa South. "Allan Cutler is a genuine hero," Harper told supporters Monday, heaping praise on the retired bureaucrat credited with blowing the whistle on bid-rigging and political interference in the now-defunct sponsorship scheme. But before the cheers had a chance to even die down, the shine was threatening to rub off the would-be star Tory candidate. According to leaked documents obtained by CTV News, after his retirement, Cutler was the subject of a federal ethics probe.

After leaving a job, retired civil servants are forbidden from dealing with their former departments for one year. But Montreal-based ARI Financial claims Cutler offered to help them retain the management of the government fleet of vehicles. According to a letter the company sent Public Works, "We were left with the impression that he could leverage the information and knowledge he has acquired as a public servant to our advantage." When Cutler, 56, wound up working for a competing bidder, ARI demanded an investigation. When asked about the probe, Cutler told CTV News he did nothing wrong. "No, I never said leveraging information. I offered to help them with my experience in bidding to governments," he said, noting that a Public Works investigation concluded he had not been in a conflict of interest. Defending his candidate, Harper accused the Liberals of mounting a smear job.

"Jean Chretien and his people tried to discredit Allan Cutler,'' Harper said. "Now Paul Martin and his people are trying to do the same thing, discredit Allan Cutler. And why? Remember this. They really only have only one regret about the sponsorship scandal - they regret that they got caught.'' But the allegations aren't just coming from the Liberals. Lawyer Allan Riddell, who ran as a Conservative in Ottawa South last time Canadians were called to the polls, says the party promised to him $50,000 to step aside for Cutler. "I stand by that," Riddell told CTV News, reiterating his claim that the cash offer was made to cover expenses incurred seeking the nomination for this year's vote. But Harper sharply denied the suggestion. "The party does not have an agreement to pay Mr. Riddell these expenses, and Mr. Riddell has not been paid anything to date," he said, explaining that the party's national council had decided Riddell was not an "acceptable'' candidate. Harper did not elaborate, however, other than to say Riddell's last campaign was "troubled.'' Cutler, who now works as a teacher and consultant on government ethics, is running on the Conservative ticket in the riding of Ottawa-South. His chief political opponent for the Jan. 23 vote is Liberal David McGuinty - the brother of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

From CTV.ca, December 06, 2005

 
 

Challenges as E-government Takes Root

The use of information and communication technology (ICT) is taking root in Kenya. Following the launch of e-Government Strategy Paper in early 2004, efforts to provide the public with Internet sevices and development of content is beginning to bear fruits. Early this month, the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communications, James Rege, said the country was better placed to manage Internet than many others in the continent. "Kenya is the second country in Africa with an F-Root server for the region; this means that in addition of the A-Root server, Kenya can now manage the Internet easily," he said. The root server system is the way that an authoritative master list of all top-level domain names (such as com, net, org, and individual country codes like .co.ke) is maintained and made available. All over, ICTs are re-defining the world's social, economical and the political landscapes.

Quality service - For Kenya to remain competitive in the emerging information age, it must develop a better and functioning administration of service delivery. This is a great challenge - how do you guarantee quality of service across age, geographical boundaries and incomes? But by using the Vsat technology in a pilot programme sponsored by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), communities in eight districts can now access Government information and other strategic resources. "The programme was started jointly by the Planning ministry and the UNDP under the umbrella of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (Adaf). We have eight districts with computers, they have also been empowered through the Internet to collect information and forward it to the ministry," says Stephen Wainaina, director of Economic Planning at the ministry.

This is changing things for better. "Previously, it was a big problem to provide information if it originated far away from Bungoma. But it is now easier for me to provide this information to any corner of the country," says Luke Atema of the Bungoma library. Garissa is yet another district where the grassroots people can access information on the government system, KenInfo. "This is a project that is geared towards monitoring the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) and other development indicators. UNDP is responding to some of the challenges that were implied in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Programme (PRSP)," said Paul Mwangi, a UN volunteer in Garissa. "So, what we are doing is building the capacity of the people, especially the Government staff, devolve development in computer skills and connecting the districts to the Internet via our Vsats," he said.

ICT initiatives - The e-learning initiative at the Kenyatta University, connected to over 2000 institutions and has about 20 million subscribers worldwide, has been training students in computer literacy, Internet connectivity and improving infrastructure. The New Partnership for African Development (Nepad) says e-schools project provides an excellent opportunity for skills and knowledge acquisition for the 21st Century. President Kibaki launched the project in Isiolo in September. Both the Kenya Ports Authority and the Kenya Revenue Authority have computerised to speed up service delivery and enhance transparency. But the accelerated pace of change has been turbulent. Initially, some users of the current online system at the port of Mombasa resisted the change, but with time, they have come to appreciate the benefits of the technology. The use of electronic communication technology in the health sector, or the e-health, has greatly improved the quality of services especially in the rural areas.

The Ministry of Health and an NGO, AfriAfya, are working to provide services to all Kenyans through an improved access to health information. "AfriAfya tries to harness the potential of modern ICTs for health. We recognise that communication is a very powerful tool in behaviour change," said Paul Mbanga, the organisation's community development officer.


Transforming governance - Over five million Kenyans now have mobile phones and the affordable SMS provides great opportunity to patients and health workers. The need for clear land records cannot be over emphasised. The Government is bringing an end to the manual maintenance of land records, which are liable to manipulation. "This project is based on a wider project in the ministry, the Kenya slum up-grading programme. The purpose of the project was to document those who were physically on the areas," said James Wang'ombe, project co-ordinator at the Lands ministry. Yet with all these undertakings, the road to transforming the future government and governance in Kenya has just began. "Kenya has 2 per cent of the world's of telecommunications where as everyone else is already saturated in the European countries. That means there is plenty of room for growth. We have just completed the ICT policy document," said Rege. However, the path to e-governance is not an easy one, there is considerable financial investment required and people opposed to change must be convinced. But implementing e-government enhances transparency and accountability, gives opportunity to all and helps to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.

From Standard, December 27, 2005

 

E-government System Emerges as Promising Export Item

The government is gearing up efforts to promote its acclaimed e-government service abroad in a bid to assist domestic companies seeking to advance into overseas e-government service markets. The e-government service market offers huge business opportunities for domestic companies because it involves the whole gamut of computing-related areas. However, private companies often find it difficult to have an access to overseas markets. Bidders are required to meet requirements of public institutions. Related policy formulation and implementation and system build-up are expected to come together as well. Capitalizing on international reputation, e-government service is enjoying boom overseas. Well-built IT infrastructure of Korean companies has prompted the government to get involved in activities to promote e-government service abroad. In 2004, Korea was ranked fifth among countries worldwide in e-government readiness set by the United Nations.

In an effort to help companies interested in exporting e-government technologies, the Ministry of Public Administration and Home Affairs established a team exclusively in charge of international business in the area in April 2004. The main responsibilities of the team include handling inquiries from various countries having interest in the nation's e-government service and setting up a Korean pavilion to promote e-government service at international events. Toward this goal, the ministry organized an e-government workshop jointly with the United Nations in May 2005 and participated in more than a dozen of the international events on e-government service.

On the strength of active support from the government, Korean companies?exports of e-government service technologies amounted to $85.2 million for a total of 10 contracts so far. Importers of Korean e-government service include a U.S. port administration system, the center for small and medium-sized companies of Indonesia and the Saga city of Japan. Currently, negotiations for 42 contracts valued at $847 million are underway. The centerpiece of Korea's e-government service is the government e-procurement system (GEPS) of Public Procurement Service (PPS), an online portal site for public procurement. The GEPS is evaluated as one of the top examples of an integrated one-stop shop used by all government agencies and institutions in procuring public utilities and goods and transacting other businesses. Its annual transaction volume stands at around 40 trillion won.

The biggest merit of the government e-procurement system is to help ensure transparency in the whole process of bidding. For these reasons, an increasing number of countries, particularly developing countries, are showing keen interest in taking ideas and concepts, as well as the technology and skills that are required for the system from the Public Procurement Service. For example, the PPS completed a feasibility study on an e-procurement project for the Pakistan government in September 2005 and is currently drawing up a plan to build a system.

The encouraging overseas sales of the e-government system have been also supported by a project to invite IT experts overseas and form a personnel network. The foreign IT expert invitation project served as an opportunity for Korea to build a personnel IT network overseas to help domestic companies?advances into overseas market, as well as publicizing Korea's upgraded status as an IT powerhouse. Since the Ministry of Information and Communication launched the project in 1998, a total of 1,555 experts from 84 countries participated in the invitational project. Through the personnel network formed through the invitational project, scores of overseas contracts bore fruit. They include Laotian on-line civil document issuance project, online citizens registry system and e-government project, both for Yemen and the computer network establishment for Laotian Science Technology and Environmental Agency. Korea is strengthening its IT diplomacy in line with its status as an IT economic powerhouse and is also strengthening its assistance to domestic SI companies to advance into overseas markets.

From Korean Overseas Information Service, December 13, 2005

3rd E-government Symposium Kicks Off in Da Nang

"E-city and state management computerisation" is the theme of Viet Nam's 3rd e-government symposium, which opened on Dec. 2 in central Da Nang city. At the two-day meeting, representatives from both local and international organisations shared experiences and discussed ways to further accelerate the application of information technology and mass communications to state management tasks with the aim of building an e-government in Viet Nam. Reports at the meeting mainly focused on software development, models of e-District and e-City and state management computerisation process. An exhibition displaying information technology products and solutions is also held on the sidelines of the symposium with the participation of representatives from both local and international corporations, including IBM, HP, Intel, Microsoft, Lac Viet and FPT.

From vnagency.com, December 2, 2005

 
NI Firm to Conduct EU E-government Study

A Northern Ireland (NI)-based consultancy firm has been awarded a ?50k sterling contract by the European Commission to survey e-government initiatives taken by 25 EU member states and Norway to measure their impact on citizens and highlight steps needed to further commercialise the opportunities available through the re-use and re-sale of public sector information. It is believed that data produced by the two-year study, which was awarded to NI firm Helm Corporation will enable the commission to test the effectiveness of the EU directive on the use of public sector information (PSI) and will consider how governments make information available quickly, effectively and cheaply. The project, entitled Measuring European Public Sector Information Resources, was awarded as a result of an open competition and Helm will undertake the study in combination with the Netherlands Public Administration consultancy Zenc.

Helm will analyse the findings by monitoring the evolution of the PSI re-use over time and putting that into context with certain key framework conditions (such as transparency, discrimination, charging principles and accountability), also allowing to measure the maximising of value from increased trading of PSI, where appropriate through macro-economic indicators. Damian Duffy, European director of Helm, commenting on the tender award, said: It tasks us to develop the essential methodology to obtain the data and to set up the system needed to produce it to a defined deadline that will enable the commission to determine what steps need to be taken to ensure that people can easily obtain the public sector information they require and that companies are able to explore new opportunities to access and market this information.

We will then carry out an in-depth analysis of the data and make recommendations for action by the commission that will help create a more open and competitive market for PSI, he adds. Formed in NI in 1990 Helm has grown to become a leading consultancy house for the public and private sectors in Ireland and the UK offering a wide range of services nationally and internationally in management consultancy, ICT, human resources, communications and a range of other such services. As well as offices across the North, the company has offices in Dublin, London, Bangladesh and Hungary. The company also has partner offices in various countries in Africa. Tracy Meharg, Invest NI's managing director of innovation and capability development, welcoming the company's latest success in Europe, said: Helm is an outstanding success story. It has harnessed public sector consultancy skills, developed in NI, to create a globally competitive business.

Another important feature of the company's business approach is the development of strategic alliances in target markets and business sectors. As a result, it is now recognised by agencies such as the EU, the Department for International Development and the World Bank as a first-line supplier of expert skills, she added. Helm has established a network of researchers in each of the 25 member states and Norway to undertake the study at local level. It will scan the relevant websites for public sector data in defined areas, such as business, geography, legal issues, meteorology, society and transport. Helm has also developed an online questionnaire and database for use by the researchers. The PSI directive is regarded as an important step in further European integration and is designed to change the way governments think and work. Feedback from the survey will enable the commission to pinpoint and tackle obstacles to opening up the market for public sector information.

From SiliconRepublic.com, 20 December 2005

The 2006 Waseda University e-Government Rankings Released

The Waseda University Institute of e-Government has released the result of its recently concluded 2006 Waseda University e-Government Ranking. Prof. Toshio Obi, Director of the Institute noted that the survey this year covered more countries, and added new categories that characterize an ideal e-government. A total of 32 countries (economies) were surveyed in this project. The top ten e-government in the ranking came from (1) USA, (2) Canada, (3)Singapore, (4) Japan, (5) Korea, (6) Germany, (7) Taiwan, (8) Australia, (9) United Kingdom, and (10) Finland. Areas surveyed in the e-government of each country included network preparedness, required interface functioning applications, management optimization, homepage situation, and the introduction of chief information officers (CIO). This year, efforts to promote e-government by each country were also analyzed.

The Waseda University e-Government Ranking is the very first endeavor from an Asian institute, to measure the development of e-government worldwide. Similar rankings had been carried out by universities and private companies in the United States and other European organizations in narrow terms. The team research from Waseda University Institute of e-Government, under the guidance of Prof. Obi, used new indicators and comprehensive parameters for measuring the latest development for more accurate evaluation of e-Governments worldwide. It also examined the co-relationship between national e-Governments and the economic and social activities in the countries involved.

The Institute is also in charge of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Research Center of e-Governments in Japan and as requested by APEC, has been researching on e-governments of the member economies since last year as one of the strategic evaluations for e-APEC. It will continue monitoring and evaluating the development of e-government worldwide, as a way to contribute to the development of e-government worldwide, a tool for promoting the development of an information society, reinforcing international competitive power as well as strongly supporting citizen's lives. Detailed information on 2006 Waseda University e-Government ranking can be accessed at http://www.obi.giti.waseda.ac.jp/e_gov/

From egovmonitor.com, December 19, 2005

Ian Watmore Confirms for the e-Government National Conference & Awards, Jan. 25th

Government Chief Information Officer Ian Watmore who was last week appointed by Tony Blair as the head of the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit as from January, has re-confirmed that he will be attending the e-Government National Awards 2005 as its guest of honour on the evening of January 25th at the Savoy Hotel in London. ODPM Minister Jim Fitzpatrick has also confirmed that Neil Kinghan, the ODPM director-general for local government will be attending on the 25th January. Watmore is expected to continue to have managerial responsibility for the e-Government Unit and oversee the appointment of his successor as CIO, who will report to him. Now is the time to book your subsidised seat at the afternoon conference sessions at the e-Government National Conference 2005 - which takes place on January 25th at the Savoy Hotel in London, before the evening e-Government Awards ceremony.

Why should you attend? This conference is aimed at senior local and central government SROs, heads of service and CEOs/directors, who need a top-level briefing on the the central and local e-Government agenda & prime tactics for 2006-7 - and who want to take advantage of a high-value KPMG consultancy session on how best to plan to achieve e-Government targets. The conference is priced at a subsidised ?25 per person, and you can book online at: www.e-GovernmentAwards.org.uk. This conference will give you valuable insights which will benefit you, as you look towards the implementation of your own strategies, budgets and tactics for the coming year. Please book your seats by Christmas, to guarantee your place - seating is limited, and demand is strong.

The Agenda: e-Government National Conference & Awards 2005. Venue: the Savoy Hotel, The Strand, London. Date: 25th January 2006. Time: 1.30pm - 5.15pm. Conference delegate price: ?25 per person. Conference theme: e-Government strategies for central and local government 2006-7. This intensive, concise conference will set out the key strategies for central and local e-government and public sector IT, in 2006-7 and beyond. The conference will combine strategic vision & explanation of tactics from Cabinet Office and Office of the Deputy Prime Minister with an in-depth high-value consultancy session led by senior partners from KPMG.

> Registration & networking: From 1.30
> Session 1:
The Government IT strategy & what it means for public sector IT, e-Government services and IT suppliers - 2.10pm- 2. 40 pm [Speakers from Cabinet Office e-Government Unit]. This session will explain the impact on your organisation of:
- The Government's 'Transformational government' strategy (in service & deliverables terms) & what this mean for SROs in their own organisation / department / service.
- What the 'citizen centric' vision means for e-government services & targets in 06-07

> Session 2: Local e-government strategies for 2006-2007 - 2.45pm - 3.35pm [Speakers will include Julian Bowrey and Dr Peter Blair from ODPM]
- What the future holds - details of the plan for strategy in local e-government - what the steps & consultations are across 2006 & what this means for CEOs & other SROs in local authorities.
- The 2006 Local e-Services Take-Up Campaign: What this will mean for local authorities and central government & what they will need to do, to benefit from it.
- Overview of the ? million-funded 'Digital Challenge' for Local Authorities in 2006, and how to bid for funding from this programme.
- Summary of 2005 achievements in local e-Government and the outcome of the National projects. And... what will follow on from IEG after April 2006.

> Session 3: Consultancy session - Transforming Government: Helping it Happen John Machin, Partner at KPMG - 3.40 - 4.45
As the Government continues to focus on delivering improved services to citizens, the need for successful e-Government initiatives becomes increasingly important. To achieve Government's efficiency and service-related goals, what lessons can the public sector learn from the private sector?

Combining practical experience with progressive thinking, and drawing upon case studies from blue chip organisations, John Machin will discuss how you can Help it Happen? KPMG will also launch their Global Programme Management Survey 2005, which aims to highlight good practice and guidance on successful programmes.

> Networking: 4.45 - 5.15

> Awards dinner: 6.45 - 11.10

The evening e-Government National Awards 2005 are now fully sold-out (apart from seats reserved for finalist SROs) and are a celebration of the best teams in UK e-Government ?and the 95 finalists are detailed at this link. 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.com, Guardian Recruitment Solutions, TES Jobs, and O2.

From publictechnology.net, December 19, 2005

E-Government: The Next Steps to Benefit the Citizen

How often do people actually contact their local council? Most of the time, the answer is likely to be only when they feel they need to. North Cornwall District Council (NCDC) says that it wants to be more citizen-centric by encouraging citizens to register their details on the council's website, in order to receive information about the topics and services that interest them. Such information and services can then be communicated through a variety of channels, including email and SMS, amongst others, by using both an integrated content management solution (CMS) and customer relationship management (CRM) system.

David Witts the council's head of ICT says, Online consultations on subjects that interest the citizen will become commonplace and if it is easier to request a service via an online form. This method of communication will become very popular, and hence it will increase interaction via the website. Basically, if local Government provides an improved level of consistent service through the implementation of a CMS that benefits the citizen, then they are going to use it. Therein lies the challenge ahead!

When questioned about whether Councils are truly becoming citizen-centric, he replies: I would say that they definitely are. As the Government increases the pressure to improve and streamline services, firstly through e-Government and now the Gershon Efficiency agenda, it is challenging Councils to see how they can transact their business in more modern, efficient and effective ways. The obvious outcome is to transform the business, with the focus on the customer. Now instead of the citizen having to speak to many different departments about their issues, one call or one visit to the website satisfies their requirements (or it will do soon).

E-Democracy and Sharing Ambitions - Cornwall, in the shape of http://www.cornishkey.com, shares the same ambitions as those behind the http://www.dorsetforyou.com project. The portal will develop, Witts discloses, over the course of 2006. The plan is for this portal to become the focal point for citizens when they transact with local authorities in this south-western county. As with Dorset's own site, it will deliver a joined up A to Z of all of the 7 local councils' services, providing an integrated facility for advertising and public sector job applications.

With the different services and departments now maintaining their own content, their teams have taken over the accountability and responsibility for keeping it up to date and accurate, this therefore includes managing the quality levels of service delivery online. This means that the public, it is claimed, have more visibility of what their Council does through the information provided on its website. However, to increase the uptake and to strengthen accountability, there needs to be some good marketing behind the project in order to encourage more online interactions and consultations.

Witts believes that this could entice more people to get involved with local e-democracy, and to a degree this will depend on the quality of the interaction that they can have through the use of online polls, forums, and consultations. The Government would also like to see people vote online, and this is one of the main drivers behind the vision for e-government. Yet will this ever happen? Recent pilot projects, he says, dictate that this could be a while yet before it becomes a reality. Targets and the March Uphill - There are many Councils out there who've found the challenge of meeting the Government's targets an uphill struggle. Witts believes this is because the focus is heavily upon the implementation of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), So where Councils have not developed a strong relationship between ICT and the corporate business, they are struggling to gain adoption of the e-Government vision that it is more about business transformation to a citizen-centric future, than just a set of ICT-led projects.

The Government's targets can, however, be met through the use of websites such as the one used by North Cornwall District Council, by providing improved access to, and information about local authorities' services. The CMS, provided by GOSS - an Enterprise Content Management firm, has enabled the Council to shift responsibility for the maintenance of the website content from the ICT service over to those providing and managing a particular Council service area. Legislation is an important consideration for all Council and Government bodies. NCDC's website, like many other Councils?sites, enables it to comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOI). Witts says that this was the only way in which it could comply with the legislation, subsequently, all public documentation is now available online for the public to peruse.

NCDC: Managing Red Tape and Change - North Cornwall District Council is currently implementing the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework from the Office of Government Commerce, which according to Witts defines a particular change management process that NCDC intends to adopt. Witts says that the local authority also uses the Prince2 methodology for project and programme management. Thankfully, he claims, the Council has quite a few people who actually enjoy change and who help to drive it forward. Staff can be, in some organisations, reticent to change, so on the face of it this seems quite a refreshing and encouraging approach. This, he thinks, will facilitate the ambition to continually improve the delivery of information and Council services for the benefit of each citizen. Red tape is accepted as a business norm, and the council considers this as being part of the change management programme. It isn't seen as a problem at all, and the aim remains to encourage people to communicate with their council by registering online, which will also mean that their should be a reduction in the same information being sent out more than once.

Public Lessons from the Private Sector - At the end of the day Witts maintains it is about the following: - It's all about providing the right service; - At the right time; - And at the right cost to the right person. By encouraging online registrations the Council should be able to better target its services, while gaining a better understanding of what its citizens need. This will also enhance the creation of efficiencies and the effectiveness of NCDC's service delivery. Lessons, here, can be learnt from the private sector, based upon its own collective experiences of what does and does not really work well. Witts therefore feels that the public sector should not be afraid to ask the private sector some 'killer questions' like: How do we make this work and pay for itself from efficiency improvement?

The Next Steps in e-Government - Most of the finance for e-Government projects has resulted in a number of large-scale implementations of infrastructure, such as the various ICT projects. The aim has been focused on providing the appropriate levels of functionality to improve and deliver the real benefits of e-Government, and mainly this entails the quality of service delivery to the customer - the citizen. The following are just some of the systems that have been implemented: - Customer (citizen) Relationship Management (CRM); - Content Management (CMS);
- Electronic Document and Records Management (EDRMS).

The next challenge therefore involves changing the perception of citizens to what the Council offers, and the means in which the information and services are delivered. Witts therefore forecasts an increase in the number of local contact and call centres. This is considered to be a more joined up approach to local Government. Whether you see yourself as a citizen, as a local taxpayer, a constituent or a customer of the Council, the aim is to make the way the Council works more focused upon you. The focal point, he claims, will then become the Council as an outlet for service delivery rather than on the service itself. He also sees self-service via the web becoming more commonplace, and the CPA process will become the key, CPA is the incorporated indicator for measuring a Council's performance against Government criteria.

As with the Dorsetforyou project, and seemingly its Cornish equivalent, Witts believes that the trends will be more towards working in partnership with other Councils and third party organisations. This in itself could increase the efficiency gains, and make access to local information and service easier for the citizen. Witts says that the previous investment in the e-Government infrastructure should ease this along. So the question, Who delivers the service? will become less important.

So customer-centricity or citizen-centricity will be the core cultural change that everyone should see as a result of e-Government. However, when was the last time your Council sent you a questionnaire and asked you what you wanted to see beyond the fences of the party political agenda? Yet there is some significant evidence to demonstrate that people do want to use the web as a means of gaining access to Council information and services. So online polls, questionnaires and forums would thus be a very effective marketing tool to realise this noble aim. This will be enhanced by offering the customer - the citizen - the choice of how he or she would prefer to be communicated with. Hopefully, it will also revive local democracy too, through the stimulation of greater local Government transparency and accountability. By Graham Jarvis
Editor and Media Services Consultant, Email: editor@cimtech.org, Blog: http://www.media-insert.co.uk.

About GOSS Interactive - GOSS provides managed services and intelligent and enterprise-wide content management solutions. GOSS solutions are based on a sound understanding of your requirements and the technology we use to meet your customers? needs. Learn more about GOSS Brand Values at http://www.gossinteractive.com/index.cfm?articleid=678. To contact GOSS for further information, please call +44 (0) 1752 517 350 or email Sharron.Robbie@gossinteractive.com.

From responsesource.com, December 8, 2005

TUSIAD and TBV host e-government conference

Article Summary - The Turkish Industrialists and Businessmens Association and Turkeys Informatics Foundation TBV jointly sponsored the third annual e-Turkey congress in Ankara yesterday and presented awards to various organizations. Article: The Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TUSIAD) and Turkey's Informatics Foundation (TBV) jointly sponsored the third annual e-Turkey congress in Ankara yesterday and presented awards to various organizations. http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=29702

From Turkish Daily News, December 2, 2005

 

UAE e-Government Progress Most Impressive in the World, Says UN

A recently published report has placed the UAE among the top countries in terms of e-Government readiness. The UAE has posted one of the most impressive year-over-year gains among all the countries of the world in 2005. It advanced its ranking from 60 in 2004 to 42 in 2005, stated the report, e-Government Readiness Report 2005, from e-Government to e-Inclusion, published by United Nations Online Public Network and Finance, UNPAN. As with many other top gainers, it has done so due to a revamped national site that integrates information and services into a single gateway where its offerings can be easily located. The UAE national site was not only completely re-done but also re-branded, from http://www.uae.gov.ae, to the new ttp://www.government.ae., stated the report.

"This is a testimony to the UAE federal government determination towards openness, effectiveness and efficiency," said Dr. Mohammed Khalfan bin Kharbash, UAE Minister of State for Financial and Industrial Affairs and Chairman of Federal e-Government Steering Committee. He said the e-Government aims through the e-Portal to increase individual and cross-departmental collaboration, improve public interaction and involvement, and centralise content management for all government ministries and entities with decentralised eServices. The portal provides a self-service channel to deliver personalised information and to transact with the citizens, customers, employees, and partners. It is set to act and serve as a key tool to both reduce the cost of doing business and to increase revenue by facilitating interactions that are mutually beneficial to citizens and corporations.

The UN report praised the inclusion of the UAE government's ministries highlighting the Ministry of Education site, http://www.moe.gov.ae, which includes participatory features. "It was perhaps especially noteworthy because in addition to being re-branded it is one of the few government sites in the Middle East that offers an open-ended discussion forum," stated the report. The United Arab Emirates gateway to e-services an interesting feature on the UAE gateway http://www.government.ae is that the government entry site is organised by end-user, providing information, services, and transactions under separate sections for residents, business, visitors, and government. Impressive features on the site itself include up-to-date information, as well as registration and eTenders, which incorporate online bidding for public tenders. In addition, the government gateway provides clear access to two excellent portals, one of which is e-Dirham portal, http://www.e-dirham.gov.ae, for transactions, and the e-Forms portal, http://www.uaesmartforms.com, for online forms advancing its interactive presence.

From khaleejtimes.com, December 26, 2005

Finance Ministry To Launch New E-Government Programme

A three- day training workshop was held in the Ministry of Finance and Industry (MOFI) to orient representatives of state government ministries to the new E- government housing programme the Ministry intends to launch in early 2006. The new programme aims at establishing an interactive system with all clients - federal ministries, employees, and property owners - in order to streamline housing services. Saif Al Khatiri, Director of MOFI Housing Department, said the programme was in line with a federal government drive toward E- government. "Our aim is to minimize reliance on conventional communications means in favour of electronic transactions, for the sake of a more efficient, convenient and timely service", he explained. The new housing programme, being implemented in coordination with all Federal organisations, will allow fast processing of transactions related to government housing.

From Emirates News Agency, 26 December 2005

Kuwait's E-Government Initiatives Gain Momentum with Oracle

Momentum for Kuwait's e-government initiatives is increasing, to include the country's pact with Singapore to enhance online services, based on feedback from the Oracle Applications Day hosted for the country's government sector last week.Of the four key areas in e-business for government, Kuwait has made considerable strides in the areas of government-to-citizen and government-to-government interaction, with additional investment potential for government-to-business and government-to-employee initiatives as well.

During the one-day seminar, Oracle's government solutions experts highlighted ways in which e-government adoption can improve citizen services, increase visibility and accountability into public sector finances, boost human resources management capabilities, and enhance public services for citizens. Visiting speakers from the Abu Dhabi Department of Finance presented their experience with using Oracle to power the eGovernment transformation in Abu Dhabi. The event was highly interactive as the audience members sought to share their experiences and learn from each other.

'E-Government has moved from being a concept to a reality in Kuwait, and there is still considerable potential for private citizens, businesses, and public departments to further benefit from self-service opportunities and the transparency benefits that e-government can deliver. Oracle Applications Day for the Kuwaiti government sector highlighted the level of development so far and the ways in which we can further partner with both the public and private sector there for more accessible information and services,' said Ayman Abouseif, managing director, Gulf States, Oracle. Oracle Corporation's eBusiness solutions power most of the GCC government agencies. For example:

Oracle's fully localized Human Resources Management System and Payroll are deployed at Bahrain's Civil Service Bureau and Bahrain Pension Fund to service the entire Bahraini government employee population. Integrating those two major applications with the government-wide implementation of Oracle Financials at the Kingdom's Ministry of Finance and National Economy delivers an exceptionally powerful information backbone that enables the Bahraini government to best manage its resources based on accurate information that supports the decision-making process.

The UAE Ministry of Finance has deployed Oracle Financials to support the processes of budgeting, planning, and finance across the UAE federal government. Oman's Ministry of Civil Services has implemented Oracle Human Resources Management System and Oracle Payroll to serve all ministries and government agencies. The Omani government anticipates that the competency-based Oracle HRMS will aid it in its drive toward achieving Omanization goals. The Dubai E-Government initiative is based on a single instance of the Oracle E-Business Suite that spans across the entire government, supporting all its major back-office functions like budgeting, finance, purchasing and human resources management. Abu Dhabi Department of Finance has selected Oracle Financials to power its eGovenrment transformation, supporting its integrated budget planning cycle and strong financial controls.

In an effort to update its customer and partner communities on the latest technologies available, Oracle hosts more than 30 seminars and events annually in Kuwait. The company has provided e-business solutions and technology to a number of organizations in Kuwait, including Kuwait University, Kuwait Oil Company, Public Warehousing Company, Wataniya Telecom, National Bank of Kuwait, Kuwait Finance House, and MTC.

From ameinfo.com, December 5, 2005

 

Networking: Capturing Baby Boomers' Knowledge

A third of the aging baby-boom generation employees of Bruce Power, Canada's private nuclear power producer, are poised to retire in the coming years, taking decades of insights into complex nuclear reactor systems and steam generators with them. Like many other employers of sophisticated technical talent, the energy company is hoping to retain some of those insider perceptions through so-called knowledge networks, software and hardware solutions to capture, and keep, the vital information, experts tell United Press International's Networking. "Knowledge capture is becoming an important issue with the impending retirement of millions of baby boomers," said a spokesman for KANA Software Inc., based in Menlo Park, Calif., a maker of software to capture knowledge from workers. "According to one stat, beginning on Jan. 1, 2006, a boomer will hit the age 60 every seven seconds for the following 19 years."

Companies in the defense and aerospace industries - like Boeing - and major universities, including MIT, Stanford and Oxford, are also employing knowledge-management software, Jim Cooper, chief executive officer of Maplesoft, the Waterloo, Canada-based software developer, told Networking. One of the techniques that the software developers use to capture knowledge is the development of so-called intelligent technology platforms, which allow senior experts to share their thinking about crucial business operations and processes with younger employees over computer networks. That enables the next-generation workforce to retain much of the hard-won knowledge of their predecessors.

One developer, IBM, has developed so-called knowledge dashboards, which are accessible in real time over networks by new employees. Working with the Michigan Electric Transmission Company LLC, based in Caledonia, Mich., IBM is deploying a Web-based knowledge-management application that allows for open data exchange across the enterprise. The knowledge helps optimize operations and maintenance and enables the utility to respond more quickly to power outages along its 5,400 miles of transmission lines and 80 substations and other facilities.

The software network also serves as a data historian for the utility, maintaining information about how substations on its power generation network operate, something that only an engineer with decades of experience, working with the very equipment, would have had previously. There are also video archives and a human machine interface in the project, as the company develops an "intelligent network" that "will facilitate the company's ability to enhance system reliability, meet changing customer requirements and advance in an on-demand world," said Guido Bartels, general manager of IBM's global energy and utilities unit.

Other firms in heavy industries, like automotive or consumer products, like Honda, Procter & Gamble, 3M, New Balance, and even GE, are adopting software that helps support the management of a portfolio of products, processes and services from initial concept through design, launch, production and final usage. The network-based system "maintains a vault, which may be physically distributed but has a single, logical index to all the documents containing product, project and process information," said a spokesman for MatrixOne, a developer of knowledge capture technology, based in Westford, Mass. The software uses "workflow and authorization rules to give orderly access to information -- for stakeholders, such as designers and engineers," said the spokesman. "The various processes of new product introduction, production, service and retirement use a single source of product information."

The company recently received a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The patent defines a comprehensive software application that provides a secure, high-performance distributed library for cataloging, distributing, tracking, reporting and managing IP. This enables effective design reuse and the use of commercial components to meet the needs of increasing design complexity and faster time-to-market in advanced semiconductor design.

"This comprehensive patent demonstrates our commitment to helping create the innovations that can solve the increasingly complex product development problems faced by the global electronics industry," said John Fleming, senior vice president and general manager of MatrixOne's electronic business unit. Knowledge management has been talked about in industry for about a decade, but with the en masse retirements of baby boomers forthcoming, it is now taking off. Lawyers and law officers are embracing the technology. Two years ago, LexisNexis, the software developer, released a new Web-browser based knowledge-management application, and recently released version 3.2 of the software, Bob Sadowski, a spokesman for LexisNexis, told Networking. "This allows users to search the lexis.com service and a law firm's internal work product simultaneously, fully utilizing the intellectual property and collective expertise already residing within a firm," said Sadowski.

From UPI International, December 12, 2005

Survey Shows a Lack of Confidence on E-government Projects

Senior government information technology officials' confidence in the Bush administration's electronic government initiatives dropped significantly in 2005, according to recently released survey results. This year, only 15 percent of the respondents to the Association for Federal Information Resources Management's annual survey of the federal information technology community said they expected significant progress on the Office of Management and Budget's lines of business initiatives and e-government. Twenty-six percent did not expect to see any progress. In 2004, 44 percent of respondents had expressed optimism about progress, while 10 percent had expected none. The drop returns the percentage of officials foreseeing progress below that recorded in 2003, when about 18 percent of respondents said they believed they would see advances. The survey went out to more than a thousand senior agency IT officials in mid-November. Ninety-six of the questionnaires were completed, according to AFFIRM.

"The survey results show a precipitous drop in the percentage of respondents who indicate definite progress in this area," AFFIRM stated in a discussion section following the e-government question. Specific concerns about the initiatives included a lack of alignment with the budget cycle, the need for long-term support and inconsistent progress among the projects. Respondents also expressed waning confidence in the security of their agencies' IT infrastructures, with 68 percent stating that since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, their systems have become less vulnerable. In 2004, 72 percent cited progress. Forty-four percent of respondents said they believe that agencies' IT workforce skills gap has narrowed, while another 31 percent said the gap remains the same and 18 percent believed it has widened. Program management, and project and budget planning, have been cited as areas where federal technology staffs need work.

Nearly two-thirds of those participating in the survey said IT budgets would take a hit because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this year's natural disasters. Seventeen percent said they expected no change in budgets. AFFIRM also asked about the most critical challenges facing agency chief information officers. For the second year in a row, the alignment of IT and organizational mission goals ranked as the most important issue, followed by finding adequate funding for IT programs and projects, and the building of effective relationships in order to gain senior agency executives' support of IT initiatives. OMB did not respond to a request for comment on this survey, but late Monday released a report on e-government progress and goals for fiscal 2006. Over the coming year, the administration would like to see 90 percent of agencies make acceptable business cases for all of their IT systems, and would like 90 percent of the IT systems to be properly secured from attacks.

Top ten challenges: 2005 Rank DESCRIPTION 2004 Rank
1 Aligning IT and organizational mission goals 1
2 Obtaining adequate funding for IT programs and projects 3
2 Building effective relationships in support of IT initiatives with agency senior executives (agency head, CFO, etc.) 11
4 Hiring and retaining skilled professionals 5
5 Formulating or implementing an enterprise architecture 4
6 Unifying "islands of automation" within lines of business (across agencies) 8
7 Using IT to improve service to customers/stakeholders/citizens 2
7 Consolidating/virtualizing the IT infrastructure
9 Managing or replacing legacy systems 5
10 Developing agencywide IT accountability 7


Top ten critical technologies and solutions: 2005 Rank DESCRIPTION 2004 Rank
1 Internet/Intranet/Web applications 2
2 Security infrastructure 1
3 Wireless technology 3
4 Identity management/HSPD12 (smart cards, biometrics, etc.) 14
5 Service-oriented architecture
6 Internet/Intranet/Web infrastructure 8
7 Remote and mobile computing including personal digital assistants 18
8 XML and/or web services (including UDDI, SOAP, WSDL) 14
9 Security applications 14
10 Data warehousing/data mining 4

From GovExec.com, December 17, 2005

Knowledge Support Cell Makes Preparations for Multinational Experiment 4

This article is the first in a series of articles profiling several of the concepts under examination in the upcoming Multinational Experiment 4 (MNE4), an event which will bring together personnel from Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. Personnel from these countries, along with NATO, make up a multinational team of experts that recently helped prepare the Knowledge Support cell for MNE4. Knowledge support in a coalition environment was among the discussion topics as a multinational team of experts making final preparations for Multinational Experiment 4 (MNE4) met during the event's final planning conference earlier this month.

Scheduled for Feb. 20 - March 17, 2006, MNE4 will explore use of the full range of effects based operations (EBO) to influence the behavior of adversaries. While U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) from the United States is the overall lead for MNE4, coalition partners lead the specific concepts and processes being explored. The knowledge support (KS) cell for MNE4 is a collaborative effort involving Germany, as MNE4's knowledge base development (KBD) lead, and Canada, the lead for knowledge management (KM). "KS in MNE 4 is the vehicle which enables the effects based approach in distributed operations," said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Timothy Millen, USJFCOM Joint Experimentation Directorate's experiment director for MNE4.

"The KS team's innovative approach combines emerging concepts with the creative application of established best practice to create the best possible information environment. These efforts will provide invaluable insights that will have a direct benefit to the future war fighter." KBD is often misunderstood, according to Maj. Peter Hillermann of Germany's Bundeswehr Transformation Center. He's Germany's leader for KBD concept development in the experiment. He said it's not about building databases. "There is a basic difference between KM and KBD," Hillermann said. "KM governs and facilitates moving and storing knowledge, while KBD is about context and the content of the knowledge base. "We were tasked to develop the KBD concept after last year's MNE3, with the idea of helping commanders and their staffs gain a holistic understanding of the operational environment," Hillermann said. "KBD is one of the four functions of EBO. It's a continuous activity that provides the foundation that supports the planning, the execution and the assessment of EBO.

"Our approach is that a complex system, such as Afghanistan, cannot be explained with its elements and attributes alone," he continued. "It's more than that. It's the relationship between those elements and attributes and their interdependencies. That's what we want to give a practical representation of to coalition commanders." Lt. Cmdr. Leif Gundersen is part of Canada's KM team for MNE4. He said the KM concept for MNE4 goes beyond the technical aspects of information technology. The main concern is developing the practices and procedures that will allow a coalition to effectively organize, store and share knowledge. "Canada took on the role of developing the KM plan for MNE4. KM in one sentence is to govern and facilitate the flow of information," Gundersen said. "When you have knowledge available for people to use, how do they move it, where they store it? When they alter it, what do we do with those value-added products? We develop the rules that say what they can and can't do with it. That's all knowledge management. It's different from information security - it's the next step beyond it."

Gundersen said one of the themes of MNE4 is working in a collaborative environment. Information is compartmentalized in most government agencies. Someone may have information and is willing to share it, but no one else can get to it. "What we're working toward in MNE4 is a collaborative environment where everybody can see virtually all of the information. You can pull information from wherever you want with very few restrictions. All the information is available to everybody all the time." Gundersen said the KS cell has about 42 members, with a KM officer embedded in each of MNE4's main planning groups to ensure access when needed and to ensure the rules for KM are followed. "There are approximately 131 players in the experiment, along with a much larger control staff," Gundersen said. "It's quite easy to lose valuable information, so there's a rigid discipline for how you handle knowledge. Our KM plan, together with its annexes, is 75 pages long. It was developed by Canada as part of a multi-national effort."

Both Hillermann and Gundersen said the KS cell's purpose is to support MNE4's goal - proving the concept of operations for coalition operations. "It is not enough that pieces of information go to the commander's staff and gets pieced together there," Hillermann said. "The nature of knowledge today is too complex for that. "To execute EBO, you have to understand the whole system. Better understanding leads to better execution."

From USJFCom, December 28,, 2005

 
Government Business Intelligence and Translation

In a recent TIME Magazine article about Iraq there was a disturbing quote. It regarded the amount of captured documents that military intelligence could not analyze since they couldn't be translated. You should see the warehouse in Qatar where we have this stuff,?said a high-ranking former military official. We'll never be able to get through it all. This highlights the importance of translation to business intelligence and the public sector.

As I have pointed out in previous articles, there is a clear transformation afoot in the business intelligence space. One of the critical factors leading to this transformation is the convergence of structured and unstructured data as sources for analysis. In the past, business intelligence work had been fairly restricted to the structured data in relational databases. These databases could in some way be manipulated with OLAP tools or spreadsheets. With the advent of the Internet and the availability of very large amounts of unstructured data, mainly in text format, the world of business intelligence has now changed forever. And like the spoken word it captures, text comes in many different languages.

Most experts agree that there are close to six thousand different languages spoken worldwide today. Although many of these have no formal writing systems, they are legitimate languages used for communication. Even if we reduce the number substantially by limiting it to languages most relevant for international trade or politics, we are still dealing with hundreds of languages. From these languages, significant information may be captured and disseminated in the form of unstructured data sources. These unstructured data sources apply to analysts and knowledge workers. The federal government has been duly preoccupied with translation for two very different, yet equally important, reasons. One is outbound, or the need to disseminate government-produced information; and the other inbound, or the need to analyze information produced externally. The net result is that the translation effort in the federal government, while already considerable, will become much larger in the coming years.

Appropriately, significant attention has been paid to the need for translating foreign language chatter?to combat terrorism. But the current key driver, in terms of magnitude, is Executive Order 13166 (8/11/2000). This order requires agencies to provide meaningful access to government information for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) citizens. While federal agencies have worked hard to fulfill E.O. 13166, they will likely face increasing pressure from Congress and the White House to better serve the increasing number of LEP citizens.

What exactly is Executive Order 13166? It states …each federal agency shall examine the services it provides and develop and implement a system by which LEP persons can meaningfully access those services… and ...ensure programs and activities they normally provide in English are accessible to LEP persons and thus do not discriminate on the basis of national origin… These issues are handled in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. The IRS estimates that 76 percent of its LEP population is Spanish-speaking, after which the demand drops off significantly: Chinese (4%), Korean (2.5%), Vietnamese (2%) and Russian (0.5%). Hence, one can safely assume that the vast majority of the information made available by the U.S. government will be translated into Spanish.

We should primarily focus, however, on the need to analyze information from external sources in other languages. This is the more relevant factor for business intelligence. While there are numerous important tools for text mining almost independently of language, there must also invariably be some level of translation necessary to help knowledge workers do their job. (Though we are focusing on the English language, this commentary applies to any other mother tongue.? Because we have a long way to go, this area offers a very significant opportunity for learning. We should briefly examine the translation industry. In many ways, the U.S. translation business is a cottage industry. While it is expected to be a $5.7 billion business by 2007, the industry is comprised of thousands of individual translators. This also includes over 9,000 mainly small companies.

The translation industry was relatively unknown in the U.S. until September 11, 2001. Since then, the PATRIOT Act required the CIA Director to investigate the prospect of creating a National Virtual Translation Center. The federal government's needs for translating foreign languages are currently addressed through contract services to support the war on terror. These needs may vary from year to year, but emphasis on languages like Arabic, Urdu, Pashto and Dari are obvious, given our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The three main types of sources for translation are web content, voice, and documents. Most federal agencies seem to use three main translation approaches. Whereas some agencies have employees translate the necessary documents, other agencies with contract certified individual translators or companies, often using the GSA Schedule. (The Federal Supply Schedule 738 II, Language Services, provides contract support for translation, interpretation, and language training and/or educational material. The top five customers for the GSA Language Schedule are: the Department of Defense, the Department of the Interior, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Justice and the Social Security Administration.)

Lastly, some agencies, such as the CIA, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Department of State, are increasingly using automated translation software. The FBI Languages Services Section, for example, has built the Law Enforcement & Intelligence Agency Linguistic Access System (LEILA). This is now operated by the National Virtual Translation Center. LEILA provides a web interface to a comprehensive database of language specialists, including detailed information about language skills and experience. Furthermore, LEILA is accessed by a number of law enforcement, intelligence, homeland security and defense agencies. Such agencies include the DEA, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS) and the CIA.

While there is still a long way to go, a great deal of progress has been made since the beginning machine translation. This is evident from an old, yet appropriate, anecdote stated in the beginning of automated translation. When the English sentence, The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,?was converted to Russian, it read, The vodka is good but the meat is rotten. Today, the industry has actually produced very sophisticated machine translating software. Some of this software was developed by large U.S. manufacturers in response to the need for non-English user manuals. Other tools have been developed to serve international institutions like the European Union, which must translate documents into the national languages of its member countries. Finally, other software addresses the need of bilingual nations, such as Canada (French and English) or Belgium (French and Flemish), to maintain truly bilingual national platforms for all public affairs.

We have only begun to address the issue of translation in the federal government. Earlier this year, a special interest group tried to sue the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over its E.O. 13166 translation policy. Similarly, a bill pending before the United States Senate would create the position of a foreign language director—or czar”—to oversee a national foreign language strategy. Where does this ultimately leave us in terms of business intelligence? The fact is that text mining has become a critical need in business intelligence, particularly in the federal government. As the volume of unstructured text increases exponentially, so will our need to translate between English and numerous other languages. I will discuss this topic further in future columns.

From B-eye, December 8, 2005

Poised for New Roles in the Future

Just as management theories have been proposed in the past and refined in present times, it is highly likely that more will emerge in future. Management is a field of study that not only refers to a function, position or rank but also the people who discharge that function. It encompasses activities that managers in organisations conduct and/ or skills that managers employ in performing their duties. Following is a brief overview of the different eras of management philosophy that have dominated mainstream management thought. Ancient Thoughts - History reveals that the term management was not specifically used until the late 19th century. Nevertheless, approximately 2,500 years ago, a Chinese general known as Sun Tzu authored Sun Tzu's Art of War.

In that book, Sun Tzu identified the requirements for inter-organisational communication, hierarchy and staff planning - all of which are essential activities in management. Later, two eminent Greek philosophers, Socrates and Aristotle, propounded the principles of management and the nature of executive power. Much later in 1532, Machiavelli of Italy authored a book titled The Prince, which promulgated the practical, though somewhat controversial, use of power. Classical Theories - During the Industrial Revolution era of the 1700s, there arose a breed of new management writers, notably from Europe and the United States, who upheld the classical management viewpoint that control can be attained via reasoning and science.

Subsequent decades also saw various other management approaches being proposed by different writers and researchers. In the early 1900s, different writers advocated principles that would guide managers to establish the formal structure of organisations and how to administer organisations in a rational manner. To summarise, classical management theory is a collective term for a set of ideas proposed by individuals such as Henri Fayol who came from various backgrounds in different countries. In other words, this theory assumes a universal approach driven by the search for higher productivity, establishment of work standards, formal managerial training and functional organisation. Classical management thinking tends to view a worker as being motivated mainly by monetary rewards.

The well-known classical management concept of bureaucracy was submitted by Max Weber. His bureaucratic form of organisation consists of characteristics such as rules, hierarchy, specialisation, impersonality and appointed officials. Bureaucracy permits a great deal of administration precision and predictability. Another classical management theory, scientific management, was put forth by Frederick W. Taylor. Scientific management has a great impact on organisational practice, with the aim of enhancing efficiency by prudently planning workers- movements in the most efficient manner, efficient motions, efficient tools, optimum working arrangements and rewarding financial incentives.

Human relations theories - Human relations theories are significantly distinctive from the classical management theories. The former are based on the belief that organisations could be made more efficient and productive through better human relations between management and its staff. Elton Mayo believed that managers must not only be concerned with the economic motivation of employees but, at the same time, must also take care of their needs for social acceptance, belonging and identity so as to enrich their scope of jobs and make them more satisfied with their jobs. On the other hand, McGregor's Theories X and Y take cognisance of the complexity and potential of human beings, while Abraham Maslow's motivation theory outlines human needs at work, which comprise physiological, security, love of belonging, self-esteem and self-actualisation needs.

Contemporary Theories - Amongst all the contemporary management theories, there are three approaches which merit special discussion, namely Systems Theory, Contingency View and Total Quality Management. Systems theory: In recent times, efforts have been focused on the analysis of organisations as systems? with a number of interconnected sub-systems. The classical management approach had focused so much on the technical requirements of organisations that Bennis (1959) called it organisations without people. On the other hand, the human relations approach's strong emphasis on the psychology of human needs prompted Bennis (1959) to dub it people without organisations. The systems approach strives to reconcile these two management approaches.

Contingency view: The contingency approach has been applied in recent times to substitute simplistic principles of management and, at the same time, to integrate many management theories. This approach maintains that there is no single best way to manage at all times. There is no singular universally applicable approach, but different circumstances require different approaches. Total quality management: Of late, there has been a quality revolution occurring in both the private and public sectors. Total quality management expands the term customer?beyond the traditional definition to comprise everybody associated with the organisation, either internally or externally, including employees and suppliers as well as customers. The aim is to establish an organisation committed to continuous improvement or kaizen.

Future Perspective - We are now witnessing the emergence of a new economy that is based on information and knowledge. It is characterised by the process of globalisation, technological upheavals in the areas of ICT, growth and decline among job seekers, workforce diversity, changing societal expectations, a new work environment, a new entrepreneurial spirit, more demanding customers and quality consciousness. The manager of the future is expected to encounter the challenges posed by these new developments. Therefore, there is a need for a new breed of managers with multi-skills who are able to fulfil all their managerial roles pursuant to the requirements of the circumstance so as to deal with these challenges. In addition, the task of management is to take cognisance of the emerging trends, re-engineer to exploit their full potential and put into action both strategic and tactical plans to take advantage of these new opportunities. Hence, it is anticipated that future management trends will shift towards knowledge management, global management as well as change management.

From The Star Online, December 18, 2005

The UNWTO Education Council Holds Successful Conference on Knowledge Applications for Competitive Destinations

The UNWTO Education Council held a groundbreaking conference at the General Assembly in Dakar, Senegal. Focusing on the concept of ‘Knowledge Applications for Competitive Destinations the event stimulated substantial debate from a large audience of Member Countries and Affiliate Members. Lively discussion was achieved by the organizers innovative approach of creating four panels, each comprising a mix of Member Country representatives, affiliates and Education Council members.

Conference chair, Professor Chris Cooper (The University of Queensland, Australia) said that: "The aim of the UNWTO Education Council conference was to showcase the role of knowledge management in tourism to UNWTO Members and ensure that UNWTO Members were fully aware of the possibilities of knowledge management to deliver competitiveness to the tourism sector. From all points of view, the conference was a big success, with strong presentations from international experts and excellent informed discussion".

The main message from the conference was the need for knowledge to underpin innovation and competitiveness of destinations, particularly in terms of balancing new product development with sustainability and the needs of the developing world. This was stressed by Mrs. Rejoice Thizlondi Mabudafhasi, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, South Africa and reinforced in a strong message on the imperative of harnessing knowledge as a tool to assist tourism in poverty alleviation by Mrs. Young, Shim Dho, Tourism and Sports Ambassador, Korean National Tourist Organization, Republic of Korea.

Following the opening ceremony, the panels clearly illustrated the application of knowledge and knowledge management as an instrument of public sector tourism policy. The first two presentations focused on knowledge-based techniques of destination management. The first by UNWTO's Dr. Eduardo Fayos-Sola outlined the UNWTO.Sbest Programme for Excellence in DMOs as a new tool for assessing excellence in destination management. The second by Dr. Angelika Liedler, Director, International Tourism Division, Federal Ministry of Economics and Labour, Austria, presented Austria's Destination Management Monitoring Project. Both these approaches lie at the forefront of applying knowledge for excellence in developing competitive destinations and stimulated substantial discussion from the floor.

The conference panels focussed on contemporary destination management utilising new knowledge management approaches. For example, Assistant Professor Dr. Maria D. Alvarez and Professor Dr. Meral Korzay, from Bogazici University, Turkey discussed the role of knowledge for the strategic positioning of destinations to culturally different markets. A new approach to destination management, known as the 'visitor experience value chain approach' was presented by Professor Donald E. Hawkins and Ms. Milena Nikolova, George Washington University, United States of America. A destination specific presentation was provided by Dr. Francois Bedard, Universite du Quebec a Montreal, Canada on the destination management system: a powerful instrument of knowledge management for destinations - the case of BONJOURQUEBEC.COM. Other presenters focused on key issues of destination management including Professor Peter Burns, University of Brighton, United Kingdom on the role of public awareness programmes; Professor Pauline J. Sheldon and Dr. Nina Mistilis, University of Hawaii, United States of America on knowledge management for tourism crises and disasters; and Professor Rodolfo Baggio, Universita Bocconi, Italy on technology and tourism destinations.

These presentations stimulated debate on the fact that knowledge management has been neglected by the tourism sector, yet it can provide deep and meaningful insights for public sector tourism organizations, specifically in terms of positioning, quality and efficiency of destinations. In particular, knowledge management provides an effective tool to achieve the goals of public sector tourism organizations, to formulate tourism policy, and to improve destination competitiveness. However, discussion from a number of participants also stressed the need for tourism knowledge to be made more accessible to governments and industry a point stressed by one of the industry discussants, Mr. Randall M. Williams, President and CEO, TIAC, Ottawa, Canada. The government of Andorra for example has taken a strong lead in this area and the approach was outlined in the opening by Mr. Jesus Ramirez Palomo, Commercial and Tourism Attache, Embassy of Andorra in Spain.

From The Star Online, December 18, 2005

 
 

Limpopo Wants R346m 'Legalised'

Polokwane - Limpopo is preparing to legalise R346.5m worth of unauthorised expenditure made by various officials between 1999 and 2002. The money was spent on unapproved or unbudgeted projects, in violation of government financial guidelines. Limpopo finance spokesperson Freddy Greaver emphasised that there had been no corruption or fraud in the expenditure. "No money was squandered. The money was all spent on legitimate projects. "Officials failed, however, to get proper legislature approval for the expenditure. "They failed to budget for the projects and did not have the proper technical permissions to spend the money," said Greaver. The Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) prohibits the government from simply writing off unauthorised expenditure, and demands that officials account for every cent of taxpayer funds they spend.

This will be second time around - The PFMA also requires that no taxpayer funds be spent unless the expenditure has been properly planned, reviewed, and approved by public participation processes managed by the legislature. Limpopo is seeking to legalise the R346.5m expenditure since 1999 by seeking formal legislature approval through the passing of the 2005 Limpopo Second Unauthorised Expenditure Bill. Limpopo already has legalised unauthorised expenditure of R1.8m between 1995 and 1998 by passing the 2005 Limpopo First Unauthorised Expenditure Bill.

From news24.com, December 5, 2005

Gondwe, Kampanje Differ on Illegal Account Culprits

Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe has said government will not probe and punish culprits in the 3,000 bank accounts that different ministries and departments irregularly opened with various commercial banks, a view contrary to Accountant-General Reckford Kampanje's.
Gondwe said in an interview last Tuesday that his ministry has decided to concentrate on the central payment system instead of wasting time and resources on the investigations.
He said government has finalised closing the accounts and that all financial transactions from ministries and departments will now be channelled through the centralised payment system.

We have to open a new chapter and start an efficient system that controls expenditure. I cannot be looking back and waste time on things that probably are dry and fruitless. I must look at the future, said Gondwe. He added: If we start doing the investigations on those accounts, it will take years; our job is to [rectify the problem]. In November this year, Secretary to Treasury Patrick Kabambe and Accountant-General Kampanje told Nation Business Review that they had uncovered close to 3,000 illegal government bank accounts. Kampanje said last month that he had instructed his officers to work with the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) to investigate and identify those responsible so that action should be taken.

He said the Public Finance Management Act does not allow any government official to open an account without the knowledge and signature of the Accountant General. After the investigations have been done, whoever was involved in the opening of these accounts will be taken to task according to what the law says, said Kampanje. But in a follow-up interview on Monday this week, Kampanje said the decision to conduct the investigations or not will be determined in January.

What we have done is that we've sent a list of bank accounts which must be closed after reconciliation with the commercial banks. After the reconciliation, we'll ask the banks, through Reserve Bank, to give us a list of all those government accounts. When we get them and find out that there are some which are not on our list, we'll conduct the investigations, said Kampanje. Kampanje, however, said it was not all the 3000-plus accounts which are fraudulent, saying there are some which are bonafide and others which were opened without passing through his office. We have established two task-forces that are looking into the issue [with] the one on reconciliation expected to report to me on Friday, said Kampanje. While agreeing with Gondwe that time and resources will be wasted if the investigations were to be conducted, the top fiscal accountant said government has not decided on the course of action yet. Kabambe said in last month's interview that government had decided to close the accounts after realising that the accounts were a breeding ground for fraud.

We believe these accounts were a breeding ground for fraud where people took advantage to swindle government money. Therefore, we have decided to have only five bank accounts, and all transactions will be channelled through these accounts, issuing of cheques will be done by the Accountant-General, said Kabambe. The bank accounts to be opened are Current, Personal, Donor Financed, Public Debt and Advances accounts, according to Kabambe. He said Malawi Defense Force, Malawi Police Service and the State Residences will continue running their own bank accounts because they conduct sensitive businesses.

From nationmalawi.com, December 15, 2005

 

World Bank Provides Grant Support to Institutional Building Efforts

The World Bank today approved a US$80 million grant to support the implementation of the Government of Afghanistan's medium-term development strategy. The Second Programmatic Support for Institution Building (PSIB II), the second of a series of similar operations, aims to deepen, broaden, and sustain the reforms underway in the areas of public administration and fiscal management. The program supported by the Grant is at the core of the Government's objective to build an accountable and effective state: this is critical for successful poverty reduction, says Jean Mazurelle, the World Bank Country Manager for Afghanistan. Now, this Grant will help the Government to finance and implement its policies, notably to extend its programs throughout the country, ,develop its capacity on a sustainable basis, beyond the initial steps of state building, and support broad based growth.

The Government has made significant progress in implementing important economic reforms since the World Bank financed the first Programmatic Support for Institution Building project in July 2004. Notable among these achievements are improvements in fiduciary standards, adoption of modern civil service, budget, and procurement laws, and initiation of a significant merit-based recruitment process. Economic growth has been strong, reaching 8 percent in 2004, and is projected to reach 14 percent in 2005, while inflation and the exchange rate have remained under control. Results are also visible in education (school enrollment has increased from 1 million in 1999 to almost 5 million in 2005) and health (outpatient visits have tripled over the last year and massive vaccination campaigns have reduced polio cases).

While recognizing the challenges facing Afghanistan and its Government, this Grant builds on encouraging signs of progress toward stronger Government capacity and sound economic management says Stephane Guimbert, World Bank Economist and team leader for the project. Further institutional strengthening is critical to improve the delivery of services to Afghan people and develop the accountability of the Government to its citizens. In addition to its focus on the core institutions of public finance management and public administration, the PSIB Grant also supports the implementation of reforms that lead to a more efficient allocation of fiscal resources in the areas of human development, health and education in particular, and private sector development. For more information on the World Bank's activities in Afghanistan, visit: http://www.worldbank.org/af . For more information about the second Programmatic Support for Institution Building Project, visit: http://www-wds.worldbank.org/servlet/WDS_IBank_Servlet?pcont=details&eid=000104615_20051018114411

From reliefweb.int, December 23, 2005

M Govinda Rao: Regional Disparities - Whom to Blame?

The focus on reducing fiscal deficits as part of fiscal adjustment has not helped matters much in poorer states - There is considerable concern among the policy makers about growing regional disparities in the country. Although time series of comparable gross state domestic product (GSDP) estimates do not exist, the available evidence shows significant increase in regional disparities coinciding with economic liberalisation. Attempts to understand this phenomenon are few, despite its potential dangers to the long-term growth and stability of the country. The common perceptions are that, first, the disparities have increased after structural adjustment in 1991 and, second, productivity in the poorer regions in the country is low and it makes little sense to direct investments to these regions in the interest of accelerating economic growth.

An analysis of distribution of per capita GSDP among the non-special category states shows steadily increasing inequalities and this is attributed to the introduction of structural adjustment in 1991. However, the accentuation in inequalities actually started from the mid-1980s and not in the 1990s and the data from 1990-91 according to the base of 1993 essentially show continuation of the trend rather than any accentuation (see graph). Thus, economic liberalisation has benefited the states with stronger manufacturing and service sector bases and better access to markets than the states that are predominantly agricultural.

In a planned economy, the volume of investment and its regional spread are determined by the government and, therefore, given the endowment of natural resources and nature and quality of institutions, the pattern of regional growth is largely determined by the volume of investment. Investment may be made either directly by the central government or through transfers to states, besides by the private sector. In India, it is difficult to trace the incidence of direct spending by the central government. However, an analysis of investment in central enterprises shows that in 2003-04, despite repeated pronouncements on regional equity in successive five-year plans, the states with below average per capita incomes with a population share of 45 per cent accounted for only 29 per cent of the stock of capital and 41 per cent of the total employment in central enterprises in 2003-04. The story of Bihar is even more telling. The poorest state, with about 8.2 per cent of the country's population, received just 2 per cent of the capital stock and accounted for about 1 per cent of employment. Even the investment made in the poorer regions has not had the desired forward linkages because the freight equalisation policy denied any forward linkages, and, although this policy has been given up, it is not possible to reverse the past investment decisions.

If planning did not help to place the poorer states despite being well-endowed with natural resources, on a level playing field, the transfer system failed to enable them to harness them for development. The transfer system, particularly those by the Finance Commission, has had some equalisation, but it did not entirely offset the fiscal disabilities from low taxable capacities. This is because, in the very nature of their methodology of taking the base year numbers and making projections therefrom, they have imparted the bias. The tyranny of the base year?was to condemn the poorer states for low expenditures assessment because they incurred low expenditures in the base year. At the same time, there have been several invisible sources of regressive transfers from inter-state tax exportation, output and pricing decisions and even from priority sector lending.

The focus on reducing fiscal deficits as part of fiscal adjustment has not helped matters much in poorer states. In fact, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar tried to contain revenue and fiscal deficits by drastically compressing expenditures. In Bihar, relative to GSDP the average revenue deficit for 2000-03 was less than 2 per cent and the average fiscal deficit was 4.6 per cent and in Uttar Pradesh the respective figures were 3 per cent and 5 per cent. The average revenue and fiscal deficits for major states were 3.2 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively.

Not surprisingly, average per capita aggregate as well as developmental expenditures in low-income states in 2003-04 were, respectively, Rs 2,577 and Rs 1,511, and these were almost 45 per cent and 42 per cent lower than those of above-average income states. In Bihar, development expenditure at Rs 1,076 was virtually one half of the average of major states by (Rs 2,034). This is indeed a precursor to increasing disparities. Thus, despite all policy interventions and impressions to the contrary, development spending in poorer states has continued to be significantly lower.

Often, it is contended that larger transfers of resources to these states or making public investment in them would be wasteful. As these states have failed to even protect property rights and the law and order situation is worrisome, even the private sector has shied away from these states in spite of bountiful natural resources. There is considerable evidence of low levels of governance. In the absence of effective governance, the rate of return on crime is high, and naturally, there is a strong nexus between politicians, bureaucrats, and criminals. The solution, however, does not lie in bypassing these states and the stability of Indian federalism lies in finding solution to these problems. Improving overall governance in these states is urgent and both the Centre and states will have to work towards this end.

The critical issue is that alongside improving governance, it is necessary to significantly augment spending on both physical infrastructure and human development in these states. Surely, there is no credible evidence to show that the capital-output ratio in these states is higher and, therefore, increased spending in these states may be desirable for both growth and equity. Infrastructure spending could improve overall productivity and help to accelerate growth and reduce poverty, which is concentrated in these states. Increase in human development, vocational training and improved access to markets could, in addition, increase mobility and which may improve the capital-labour ratio further. Thus, the strategy works both in augmenting scarce capital and providing the environment for excess labour to move into places where it can be productively employed. Indeed, adopting this strategy is imperative from the long-term perspective of the country.

From business-standard.com, December 7, 2005

21st APEC Technical Working Group Meeting to Open in Ha Long

The 21st Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Finance Ministers?Technical Working Group ( TWG 21) meeting is scheduled to open in Ha Long Bay, northern Quang Ninh province, on Dec. 7 under the chair of the Finance Ministry. The three-day meeting will be attended by representatives from 21 APEC member economies, international financial organisations and APEC business institutions. At the meeting, delegates will discuss ways to improve the effectiveness and stability of public finance in the globalisation process, according to the Finance Ministry. To this end, they will work out measures to improve the efficiency and sustainability of public finance in the context of globalisation, and enhance the transparency and financial responsibility for public spending management.

Concerted efforts to promote capital rotation and reduce imbalance will also be high on the agenda of the meeting. At TWG 21, the Finance Ministry is scheduled to propose new contents for the coming APEC Finance Ministers Meeting (AFMM) 2006 process, including measures to further increase the effectiveness of the process, strengthen the collaboration between the AFMM process and the APEC summit, and scale up dialogues with the private economic sector. Seminars on budget management initiatives, experience and policy exchanges, and support for developing countries in the region will also be organised.-Enditem

From vnagency.com, December 12, 2005

 

Public Finance Reform to Be Further Deepened - Government

Prague - The government today approved a Finance Ministry analysis according to which the public finance reform has to be further deepened and the trend of mandatory spending development changed so as to secure enough funds for EU- cofinanced projects between 2007 and 2013. Another important step is a joint planning of national and European money spending and change of priorities in public budget spending, with cofinancing the most important item, the Government Office press department staff told CTK. The Finance Ministry says money to go for project cofinancing will grow from CZK 5.3 billion this year to CZK 24.6 billion in 2008. The ministry said the project cofinancing will never top 2 percent of public budget spending.

EU leaders have failed to agree on the budget for 2007-2013, with a compromise agreement to be possibly reached this week or next. The government okayed a Finance Ministry proposal that the state budget deficit next year be largely covered by bond issues on Czech and foreign markets up to CZK 65.2 billion. Next year's budget deficit is put at CZK 74.4 billion. Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka told reporters after the cabinet meeting that in Jan next year a bond programme will be submitted to parliament according to which the projected deficit of the state budget should be covered in 2006. The Finance Ministry has submitted the bill on covering the deficit by the issuing of bonds with maturity exceeding one year to avoid any risks for the state in case of problems on the financial market.

At end-Dec 2006, state debt will amount to CZK 775.9 billion. Bonds will start to be issued in early 2006. The ministers put off until their next meeting discussion of a proposal of the Industry and Trade Ministry to spend at least CZK 700 million from the state budget next year to remove environmental damage caused by mining activities at state-held companies Diamo and Palivovy kombinat Usti, the press department has said.

From Prague Daily Monitor, December 14, 2005

State Aid to Support Only Priority Fields

State incentives permitted by the legislation in force will be granted on the basis of priorities which will be established within the next week. Priorities will be established relying on a strategy to be elaborated by a special commission headed by the Deputy Prime Minister Gheorghe Pogea. The decision of the creation of the commission was made in yesterday's government session. The commission will include representatives of the Ministry of European Integration, of the Ministry of Public Finance and of the Competition Council. Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu said that some of the activity fields considered priorities were agriculture and the development of rural areas, research and development and the small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Romania is preparing to align to the regulations of the European Union and to use state aids as instruments for the stimulation of various fields of activity, said Tariceanu. "We do not want state incentives to be granted on subjective criteria but on the principle of priority, added the head of the government. Romanian authorities also intend to establish by the end of March 2006 an action plan for the state aid strategy.
Competition is one of the most sensitive issues in view of the European accession of Romania. Last week the European enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn warned central authorities about anti-competition clauses in Romanian regulations in the ruling of minimum tobacco price, fiscal facilities to certain companies and the pharmacy law.

From Bucharest Daily News, December 23, 2005

Banks Could Face 5m Euros Fines for Cold Calling

Banks could be fined up to 5m Euros if they fail to comply with new rules banning them from cold calling customers with offers of loans, it emerged today. Following a 10 month consultation period, the Financial Regulator has decided to outlaw unsolicited contact over fears that vulnerable clients can be exploited. And as part of the new consumer protection code, to be enforced from July 2006, credit card firms will be barred from upping people's borrowing limits without their permission. Firms found to be persistently breaking the rules could face multi-million euro fines while individuals who are operating outside of the code of practice could be fined up to 500,000 Euros. Mary O'Dea, consumer director with the Regulator, said the measures would help prevent pressure selling and allow consumers to control and reduce debt.

We believe the introduction of this code is the foundation on which a fair deal for consumers will be built, she said. The Code followed 10 months of consultation with consumer groups, the public, finance houses and industry representatives. Ms O'Dea said: It covers all aspects of a firm's interaction with consumers. Before entering into a relationship or transaction with a potential or existing customer we will require the firm to find out as much about that customer as it needs to know in order to provide the right product. We will require the firm to sell a suitable product and to know why that product meets a particular customer's needs. Finally, if any problems arise later on, the firm must deal with their customer in an open and fair manner.

The Code will come into place in July 2006 subject to discussions with Finance Minister Brian Cowen. It is hoped the new rules will force finance houses to act purely in the best interest of their customers while stimulating competition by encouraging a level playing field. Lenders will have to guarantee the suitability of certain products and offers for clients while new measures must also be introduced to ensure consumers are better informed about insurance policies sold as part of loans. Credit houses will also be required to improve the information given on the full cost of consolidating a variety of loans into mortgages.

From iol.ie, December 12, 2005

Revenues from Privatization to Be Used for Infrastructure

All revenues generated from privatisation will be collected within an Infrastructure Development Fund, said Premier Calin Popescu-Tariceanu and the Public Finance Ministry (MFP) leadership. "We agreed upon creation of an infrastructure development fund, where all revenues resulted from privatisation are going to be collected. The money are to be used exclusively for the funding or co-funding of Romania's infrastructure projects", Prime Minister said. The Executive' s head underlined that the infrastructure projects are not focused solely on road infrastructure, but on the health system and schools network, as well. Finance Minister Sebastian Vladescu added that it is possible to use a part of the money resulted from privatisation for establishing Pillar II of the pension system.

From ACT Media News Agency, December 12, 2005

Turnbull Asks for Pay Raises for Governor, lt. Governor

Gov. Charles Turnbull asked the Senate this week to pass legislation raising the salaries of the governor and lieutenant governor for the first time in 15 years. Under the proposal, the governor's salary would increase $55,000, or 69 percent, from $80,000 to $135,000 a year - putting the Virgin Islands governor in the top 10 of salaries of governors nationwide. His pay rate currently is one of the lowest for governors in the United States. The lieutenant governor's salary would increase $45,000, or 60 percent, from $75,000 to $120,000 a year. The increases would be retroactive to Oct. 1, the first day of Fiscal Year 2006.

Turnbull sent the bill to Senate President Lorraine Berry with a letter explaining why it is necessary. The governor and lieutenant governor's salaries are set by statute, and the only way that they can receive raises is by legislative action. The letter, dated Monday, states that the governor and lieutenant governor last received salary increases 15 years ago. Since then, a number of government employees' salaries have surpassed those of the top executives.

"Currently the salaries of the governor and the lieutenant governor are much lower than those of the heads of the departments and agencies they supervise," Turnbull's said in the letter. "Moreover, they are lower than some middle management government employees. Additionally, they are also very much lower than those of the heads of the various semiautonomous and independent agencies and instrumentalities of the government." Turnbull wrote that the raise would reflect those of people in similar positions and the increase in cost of living.

Currently, more than 125 employees of the V.I. government, its semi-autonomous and independent entities, and financing and business arms make as much or more than the governor. Each member of Turnbull's Cabinet makes a salary of $85,000. Several attorneys working for the V.I. Justice Department and Territorial Public Defender's office earn more than $80,000. Superior Court judges are paid $100,000. Top administrators of the territory's hospitals, the University of the Virgin Islands and the V.I. Water and Power Authority receive salaries up to $150,000. Several administrators of the newly established Waste Management Authority earn salaries of $85,000 and higher. All members of the Casino Control Commission make $80,000 - except for the chairman, who makes a salary of $85,000. Several top officials in Government Employees Retirement System, the Economic Development Authority and Government Development Bank receive salaries that top the governor's. Fourteen employees in the governor's office make more annually than he does.

V.I. Public Finance Authority Director of Finance and Administration Kenneth Mapp is paid on a contract at $100 an hour - which could add up to more than $200,000 a year based on a 40-hour work week. At $80,000 a year, the V.I. governor's salary is one of the lowest in the United States. The only states and territories with lower-paid governors are Maine, Arkansas and the Northern Mariana Islands. If the proposed increase passes, the V.I. governor will make as much as the Massachusetts governor and will be in the nation's top 10. Turnbull proposed this same increase for his salary - plus raises for senators - in late 2002. The 24th Legislature quietly passed the measure in its last session. The proposed raises stirred up a firestorm of protests territorywide, disrupting Turnbull's second inauguration ceremonies in 2003. The loud public outcry led him to veto the measure.

This proposal comes a week after Turnbull ended a two-year reduction in salaries of executive branch employees making more than $40,000 a year. Turnbull and Richards were included in those salary reductions - with Turnbull's salary lowered to $74,400 Richard's salary to $71,250 - and they only recently started receiving their full statutory salaries. Government House spokesman James O'Bryan Jr. did not return Daily News telephone calls Wednesday seeking comment and background about the raises. A number of senators said Wednesday that they support giving the governor and lieutenant governor a raise, but they do not agree with the amount or the way that the proposal came about.

Sen. Terrence Nelson said that he believes that the governor's salary is too low because the chief executive's position should be better paid. Commissioners appointed by the governor should not be making more than the chief executive, he said. Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone identified the same problem and said he will support the bill when it makes it way through the legislative process. He said he wants to pass legislation that would ensure that no government employee receives a higher salary than the governor. Sen. Celestino White Sr. supports increasing the salaries - but not retroactively - and described the current salaries of the governor and lieutenant governor as "embarrassingly low." White said, however, that the argument that subordinates are being paid more than the governor is flimsy and that the governor's new salary should be set by comparing the Virgin Islands with other jurisdictions.

"When the governor decided to make the increases, he argued that there are members of his Cabinet being paid higher than the governor. But the governor sets those salaries," White said. Sen. Roosevelt David said that he had not yet seen the bill so could not say how he would vote on it. In principle, he said, public servants should be well-compensated for their work. "Quite frankly, I think government officials are underpaid," David said. Sen. Ronald Russell said that he needs to see justification for the raise and hopes to learn more about the issue. "I feel an increase is appropriate, but going from $80,000 to $135,000 is a big stretch," Russell said. Russell and other senators are likely to get the chance to take their time with the proposal. White, who is the majority leader, said that he plans to make a motion to send the bill to the Finance Committee at today's Senate session. He said it would not be right to special order the bill to the Senate floor today.

Sen. Craig Barshinger said that he does not support raising the governor's salary because he does not think that Turnbull has done anything to deserve such a large increase. Barshinger said that, for example, progress has not been made in key areas like public education. "I think the governor's performance has been satisfactory or status quo," Barshinger said. "I think this is a big jump, and I'm not in favor of an increase of this magnitude."

From virginislanddailynews.com, 15 December, 2005

Healthy Surplus, Faster Growth: S&P Formula For Brazil...

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva reached office with a resounding victory at the polls in 2002, and at the time, a sizeable chunk of Brazilian public opinion felt more than a bit uneasy about that turn of events. The biggest concern was not knowing with any degree of certainty what would happen on the economic front, considering that Lula and his leftist PT party had spent the previous two decades preaching a far different approach than what was then in place a strategy introduced by his predecessor Fernando Henrique Cardoso, that included privatizations, spending cuts and high interest rates to keep inflation in check.

To the surprise of most observers in Brazil and abroad, the Lula administration not only retained those policies, but pushed even further on the conservative side, increasing the primary surplus for example. Ironically, relying on the previous administration's formula, which Lula and his PT (Workers Party) criticized so vehemently in the past, provided the current administration with what amounts to its only success story, amid what has so far proven to be an ineffective government on most fronts.

Ever since it became clear that Lula and the PT would stick with the previous government's economic game plan, the president and his cabinet, particularly finance minister Antonio Palocci, have been the target of open criticism from both opponents, who point to the administration's unabashed about-face on previously held positions, and PT members, who aim their condemnation directly at Palocci. Theirs has been a continuous barrage of so-called friendly fire for reneging on long-held Workers Party beliefs.

In November, the latest chapter of this very public clash over economic policy featured former mines and energy minister and newly-installed federal chief of staff Dilma Rousseff on the attack. She had barely arrived at her new cabinet position, replacing the once powerful Jos? Dirceu ?who stepped down and was then thrown out of Congress by his peers because of corruption allegations ?and she went on the offensive against Palocci. Her key point was that the primary surplus should not be hiked from its current level of 4.25 percent of the GDP, as Palocci had been proposing. Instead, according to Rousseff, more funds should be made available for the government to invest.

2006 is an election year, so a proposal to increase spending comes as no surprise. But Palocci was determined to say no. Already in a difficult position politically, as he also faces corruption charges relating to his activities as mayor before joining the federal cabinet, Palocci nearly stepped down because of Rousseff's open criticism. It took a great deal of work to keep Palocci in place, by both government and opposition leaders, who saw the government's most vital pillar seriously threatened should the helmsman be lost.

All the excitement this debate generated in Brazil hardly registers with someone whose evaluation of what goes on in the country is a key element in any serious assessment of Brazil and its performance made throughout the globe. David Beers heads the sovereign risk evaluation sector of one of the world's premier ratings services, Standard & Poor's, and after following events in Brazil for a number of years, he sees the debate over the surplus and whether or not to hike spending in a much different light.

To Beers, the fact the Brazilian government has made a point of producing a primary surplus is one of the main reasons the country's risk assessment has improved in recent months. At the same time, he points to Brazil's growth rate, which may not reach the 3 percent mark for 2005. It is lagging behind most emerging economies and he says it must improve before the country earns a triple B?rating, or investment grade.

Clearly, the right?formula as far as Beers is concerned is to maintain, perhaps even increase the percentage of GDP of the primary surplus, and at the same time speed up economic growth. That's the part that could hardly go over well with Dilma Rousseff, because if revenue can't be freed up from the primary surplus to increase spending, the only other way of coming up with money to invest is to cut government expenses. And that's something the Lula administration has shown no skill or desire to pursue.

David Beers visited Brazil in November, and was interviewed by InfoBrazil publisher Adhemar Altieri: InfoBrazil Sovereign risk assessment is a topic that tends to rub Brazilians the wrong way. They generally don't agree with the way Brazil is rated. Does that get back to you at S&P, and how do you deal with it.

David Beers I don't think it gets to us in that sense, because it's just part of what we do, and it is not unique to Brazil. Each country has its own history and experience, and often people don't fully appreciate what we as rating agencies do. Whether people agree or disagree with our conclusions, we find that when we can be specific in making comparisons, especially with numbers, it helps people understand a little better.

IB Brazil's rating has progressed lately. What are your thoughts on where Brazil is at, and where it still needs to go.

Beers The credit rating that we have on Brazil is BB- (double B minus). We raised that in 2004, and we also changed the outlook to positive, which means that over the next couple of years it is certainly possible that the rating will be raised again. What's driving that, more than anything else, is the robustness of the macroeconomic framework. One of the remarkable changes in recent years is that even with the new administration that reached office in 2003, that framework has remained intact in Brazil. In many ways it has actually been strengthened. By signaling recently a positive outlook for Brazil, we think that trend can continue even as we approach the next presidential elections, and beyond that into the next administration.

IB What are some of the specifics that have made a difference when you assess Brazil

Beers From a fiscal policy perspective, the most important item is the primary budget surplus, because of Brazil's legacy of high debt and a very short-term structure of the debt. It's the only way in which the debt burden will fall. If you stick with it. particularly at the level Brazil is pursuing, slowly but steadily the debt burden will come down. That process has been unfolding over the last two or three years and we expect it to continue.

IBIn a country like Brazil, pursuing a primary surplus of the current magnitude generates friction. The government is drawing friendly fireas its own members call for more spending. Does S&P follow that type of debate within a country, and what do you look for

Beers Yes we do follow it, and we have a slightly different take on it first of all because we're less caught up in the near term excitement in the run up to an election. This is always a time marked by a huge increase in political rhetoric, and that is of course happening now in Brazil. The positive side is that we can step back and look at the bigger picture. As somebody who has looked at Brazil over many years, what is striking to me is that the political system now in place has more in common with other democratic countries across the credit spectrum than ever before. Hopefully, what we see will be validated going into the next administration. We see an economic policy consensus in Brazil that is broader and deeper now than it has ever been in the recent past. This suggests that whoever the next president turns out to be, there is going to be a substantial degree of continuity, particularly on the macro side. That gives us a lot of comfort from a credit rating sense.

IB What you've just described is a significant change for Brazil

Beers Yes, especially when you consider the tumultuous history of Brazil in the last 30 or 40 years, with hyperinflation and a variety of different economic strategies, a default, debt restructuring and also extended periods under non-democratic rule. When democracy came back to Brazil, many people inside and outside the country were very pessimistic. Some even felt that if the military couldn't turn things around, how could a democracy make things work

IB A democracy that now features thirty political parties

Beers Exactly, and an unbelievably convoluted and complicated Constitution. So obviously there are challenges in Brazil, and probably the biggest one is still the disappointing rates of economic growth. But it is also quite remarkable that in a relatively short space of time, Brazil has been able to achieve a fairly vibrant scenario. While people are very critical, they take this process seriously and people will be voting in the next election because they think it matters. Despite political scandals, the system looks robust, and it is creating a more stable economic framework than in the past. We always wish this was happening faster, but let's not lose sight of the fact that Brazil has progressed pretty far and has the potential to progress faster going forward.

IB Just three years ago when Lula was about to win the election, the risk assessment for Brazil moved sharply higher. So your expectation at that time was much like that of many Brazilians, who weren't sure what to expect

Beers Actually we were less pessimistic than the market consensus at that time While there were obvious risks, we thought the new government was more likely to pursue something closer to the policies of their predecessors than most people expected, and that turned out to be true. In a new democracy, a first significant change of government is an important hurdle, and 2003 of course was the first time a center-left administration took over in Brazil, with the PT entering the government. This was a key development because once people realize that the continuity factor outweighs the distinctiveness of each party, it makes a huge difference. I think this helps explain why Brazil is a more stable place now than in the past.

IB Even though it has progressed, Brazil still rates worse than countries that appear to have bigger problems, like Colombia for example, what's the rationale there

Beers Colombia always comes up in Brazil, but the reputation of Colombia as a country run by narco-terrorists is belied by the fact that it has a democratic government. For all its tumultuous past, it has enjoyed a history of fiscal and financial stability that only recently became the norm in Brazil. Colombia never had to restructure its debt or deal with hyperinflation and it has a functioning domestic long-term bond market that issues local currency paper in its domestic market for 10 years. Brazil is still in this interesting transition where anything over a year or even 18 months is thought of as long-term. That small example helps explain why Colombia is still slightly more credit worthy than Brazil. The good news is that Brazil is closing that gap.

IB What about Brazil in the context of its main competitors globally for foreign investment, China, India, Mexico, the BRIC countries.

BeersChina is almost in a class by itself. It is the emerging market par excellence, because in the space of a generation it abandoned communism and suddenly, literally, an economy of a billion people entered the global marketplace.

IB China's foreign reserves are bigger than Brazil's GDP

BeersTrue, and last year they received US$60 billion in foreign direct investment, which is by far more than any other emerging market country, including Brazil. China really stands alone among emerging markets in terms of its ability to attract sheer volumes of foreign investment, and there is a mistaken view in Brazil and other areas that somehow this is happening at their expense. What China has shown is that the larger market from Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is enormous, if governments are prepared to open their doors and accept it. Brazil and India still maintain a number of restrictions and obstacles that complicate foreign investment. China today is the best advertisement I can think of for the sheer benefits that come with FDI. One hopes the message that there is a real link between growth and levels of FDI will get through. I think it is slowly getting through in India and Brazil.

IB When you look at the political situation in Brazil, with corruption accusations dragging on for months, how much weight does that have in your considerations?

Beers The question we ask ourselves is how destabilizing is this likely to be. Brazil is not the first country with scandals in terms of illegal money funding political parties. This happens in developed countries and also in a surprising number of emerging market countries. The issue for us is to what extent is it going to blow the larger economic policies off course. We don't think it is going to be that destabilizing or weaken the broader policy consensus that we see developing in Brazil, which we think will survive both the uproar over the scandal allegations now, or the coming election next year.

IB Finance Minister Antonio Palocci has come under pressure lately, and part of the pressure has to do with the desire by some in government for more spending to happen. How does S&P consider that particular point? Do you wait to see what happens, or will you assess it from what you have seen so far?

Beers In some ways we have already answered that question because we changed the outlook on Brazil's rating to positive on November 8th in the middle of the current debate. In a way we are signaling how we think this debate is going to go. If anything, the government has been over-performing on its fiscal targets. We don't know exactly how this pressure to spend will be resolved, but we are certain that the commitment to the underlying targets, especially the primary surplus target, is pretty firm and we think it is going to continue.

IB During your visit, you've been hearing questions about Brazil and investment grade status. Realistically, how far away is Brazil from that, and what does it need to accomplish to get there?

Beers This desire to get an investment grade rating has actually been building, beginning with the end of the Cardoso administration. It's good that this issue of investment grade rating is on the agenda, because it helps to focus in a very tangible way on the things Brazil needs to do. Investment grade is not an impossible target, other countries have done it, and some others have not, while some that started out better than Brazil have now fallen down.

IB But is it a feasible objective?

Beers The tools to get there are in the hands of this government, but probably more importantly, the next administration will inherit them. Over the next four or five years the priority for Brazil will be persisting with the current macroeconomic framework, even trying to strengthen it further. If Brazil can, against its past, stay on the path of stability, with policies that continue to reduce the debt burden, that is going to pay a lot of dividends, of which an investment grade rating could be the icing on the cake at the end of the road. It'll show up in terms of a more stable rate of economic growth, lower inflation and gradual improvements in living standards. Those are very tangible things, worthy objectives for any government to aim for.

IB Observers here often conclude that Brazil has a tougher time progressing where ratings are concerned, precisely because it is a democracy. You can't expect, for example, regulatory correctness from China, because it is not a democracy and certain standards cannot be easily demanded there. But they are expected from Brazil because in a democracy, society will apply pressure. This at times makes Brazilians believe they are getting the short end of the stick when ratings are published. What are your thoughts on that?

Beers My response is look at the record, look at the facts and judge for yourself. It is not difficult to see that there are real differences and weaknesses in Brazil relative to some of the higher rated sovereigns who, by the way, without exception in the BBB (triple B) category, are all democracies. China is rated higher and it is not a democracy but, as you mentioned before, it has more foreign exchange reserves at the moment than perhaps a large segment of the current value of Brazil. So it has an extraordinary balance sheet strength that offsets some of the political and economic risks. If you look at our ratings there isn't a correlation among emerging markets countries between their political system and their rating. The issue for us is, for any government, are they pursuing policies that will make it more or less likely that they're going to pay their debt on time and in full. Democracies are loosely correlated with improving creditworthyness, so in that sense too, Brazil should take some comfort that this system is one that should help them strengthen their position over the long term.

IB Would you say that people who watch these ratings take these transition stage difficulties into consideration when they look at Brazil's standing?

Beers We certainly do. In any transition to democracy the early years are the most difficult ones, particularly when you are also dealing with some of the economic legacy. Brazil was carrying some heavier baggage, because along with the politics there was economic mismanagement both under the military and democratic governments. That has made it even more challenging to break with the past. Credibility is something that has to be built. It requires a certain amount of attention and nurturing and then it gets cumulative and stronger. It's a virtuous cycle.

From infobrazil.com, December 12, 2005

 

Postal Sector Reforms and National Economic Development

The postal sector is one of the core infrastructure sectors of the economy. Improved efficiency and customer responsiveness in this sector has the potential to stimulate growth, to promote globalization and to facilitate the rise of e-commerce. Across the organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) of which Nigeria is a member, traditional state owned and regulated public utility industries have been transformed by reforms, which have fundamentally changed the way these industries are regulated. The former reliance on State control and regulation has given way to greater reliance on competition and market forces, which has lead to greater focus on efficiency, innovation and meeting the needs of consumers.

Nigeria has witnessed reforms in key sectors of its economy, which has visibly led to improved efficiency, unfortunately, to date, these reforms, have largely bypassed the postal sector. The postal sector in most OECD countries remains dominated by a state owned vertically integrated monopoly still protected from the forces of competition. Interestingly however, Nigeria seems set to join the League of Nations who have carried out postal reforms with the recent advertisement by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and the secretariat of the National Council on Privatization (NCP) asking qualified firms and organization to apply for advisory functions. Postal sector reforms comprises integrated actions designed to organize an important sector of the national economy so as to ensure a healthy balance between free competition and the provision of Universal Postal Service.

Postal sector reforms also covers the modernization of the public post, their independence, self-financing and customer focused policies. A successful reform depends on the availability of outside resource and on government's willingness to make it a national priority.
In the GATS service sectoral classification list, postal and courier service are listed as sub sectors of communication services, a sector which also includes telecommunications and audiovisual services. In the UNCPC, these services are classified in a post and telecommunications sector, reflective of a long-standing but increasingly outdated tradition of postal and telecommunication services being offered by a single state monopoly. As the introduction of competition and other reforms have taken hold in the telecommunication sector, one of the first changes has usually been to allocate postal and telecom services to separate entities with the postal services entities retaining monopoly rights more commonly than their telecom counterparts.

For the most part, public postal service providers are State owned and have a monopoly on most types of mail delivery services. Courier services, usually parcel delivery or expedited mail service, are often supplied by the postal monopolies but not reserved exclusively for them. Courier services are normally supplied by privately owned companies who compete with one another and with state postal service providers. However, the competitive environment for public postal services is changing as private service suppliers begin to expand into the correspondence market particularly in segments such as business-to-private bulk mailing and direct mail advertising, which is an increasing popular form of corporate marketing strategies.

Although corporatization and privatization of postal service monopolies is beginning to take hold, only a few countries such as Finland, New Zealand and Sweden have fully ended monopoly rights in their market for supply of public postal services. A variety of significant postal sector reforms are, however underway. For example a uniform plan for postal reforms is being implemented in the European Union and postal reforms legislation has been debated in the United States and the United Kingdom. Most often, consideration of liberalization centers on where to draw line between reserved and non-reserved services. One of the important challenges to postal and courier services, both public and private, is competition from other communication services such as facsimile, electronic mail and data networks particularly the business top business segment.

In 1996, faced with the changing postal environment, the Universal Postal Union and the World Bank undertook a comprehensive study on international postal sector reforms. The main objective of the study was to review major postal sector reforms and extract key policy related messages for countries considering reforms. The study examined the postal service of six countries that have implemented postal reforms: Australia, Canada, Chile, Singapore and the United Kingdom. In addition, it gathered information on reforms in many other countries including Papua New Guinea and Tanzania. As a result the key policy messages that have emerged in the study are based on the experiences of about 35 countries.

According to the UPU study, physical mail accounted for nearly 20 per cent of the worlds communication market as a whole in 1995. Fax and telephone accounted for 75 per cent and electronic mail just over 5 per cent. The study further stated that the share of physical mail is expected to decline by 26 per cent with electronic mail expected to gain significant upward volume during the said period. The decline in the presence of upward forecasts for physical mail volumes reflects the fact that the total communication market is growing at a faster rate than the postal market.

The UPU cites economic factors, which however vary greatly depending on region and socio economic environment as the foremost determinant of letter traffic volumes. It ranks as second various postal factors such as quality of service. It described these and other factors such as population growth and education as having a greater impact than technological factors and the substitution of other means of communication (such as electronic mail and internet) when the population as a whole is taken into account. It is noteworthy to observe that the relation between postal and courier services is that the latter represents a subset of postal-type service i.e. the express mail and parcel delivery service that are usually removed from (or often were never subject to) the exclusive purview of national postal monopolies. It might be anticipated that the range of services removed from the reserved status may grow.

Also a trend for liberalization may become palatable as new means of electronic communication make it incumbent on postal services to adapt structures and practices to lower cost and offer more price competitive and efficient services. Despite this gradual opening up to competition, the characteristics of the postal service suppliers are still fairly similar in most countries. A national public postal service monopoly on mail items up to a certain weight level remains the most common market structure for the service although a gradual erosion of the scope of monopoly and the development of the postal-type services outside the monopoly areas, have taken place.

In exchange for monopoly privileges, national regulation commonly holds national postal suppliers responsible for providing universal services in the form of homogenous and reasonable rates, accessibility of letterboxes, a dense network of postal offices and for meeting and improving upon certain standards of quality services. One interesting feature to point out is that while most low-income countries have postal monopolies with fairly broad reservation of services to them, the lower market share attributable to the national suppliers would seem to indicate that on a de facto basis, their suppliers already face significant competition. Since private courier companies often provides services that are more dependable, faster and cheaper than those offered by national postal services suppliers, the postal suppliers have been increasingly concerned about losing market share in the growing international mail market to private companies.

Moreover, as trade barriers have fallen, courier service suppliers seek to take larger shares, the effects of the impending competition seems not only to be with private companies but also among national postal suppliers for bulk mail. Since 1874, international regulation of postal services has been conducted under the auspices of the UPU, an international organization comprising over 189 members. Its members are considered to constitute a single postal territory within which they guarantee the free circulation of mail. They negotiate agreements and other instruments that collectively address issues that arise in the course of members responsibilities for effecting cross border transit of mails. The Universal Postal Convention sets the basic UPU principles and guidelines for the exchange of letter post mail and to a lesser extent for express mail. Other UPU agreements and guidelines apply to parcel post and financial services such as postal and money orders.

The Universal Postal Convention defines general guidelines on international postal services and regulations on the operations of letter post mail. These include the rates called terminal dues that country pay each other as compensation for processing and delivering in-bound mails, the method of calculating terminal dues, the maximum and minimum weights, the size limit of letter post mail and the conditions for acceptance. The representatives of UPU members (i.e. national postal services) may also enter into bilateral agreements to exchange express mail and plurilateral agreements to exchange all categories of international mail under conditions more favourable than might be possible in negotiation at global level.Legal and regulatory controversies are arising as competition in postal service markets becomes more common and economically significant. In Nigeria, private operators had for long called for the overhaul of the present law governing the sector, the Nigerian Postal Service Act No 41 of 1992.

Private operators in Nigeria have consistently argued that the Act confers NIPOST with an undue advantage over others. It is the contention of the private operators that it was an anomaly to make a competitor, a sector regulator. Significantly, NIPOST role in UPU places them in the position of being, at once, regulators and competitors. Of particular concern are two provisions of the 1989 Universal Postal Convention. Article 25 of the convention permits postal administrators to refuse to handle mail brought into the country by private suppliers and another provision providing that terminal dues rates need not be directly related to costs. Regarding the role of NIPOST and other national public service monopolies in some jurisdictions, the national monopoly is responsible for extending licences to courier service suppliers while at the same time offering its own express mail or parcel delivery services in competition with suppliers.

Postal administrators of some countries may impose regulations to control pricing and ground handling that may function to give a working advantage to the monopoly postal service supplier in services in which it competes with other courier services. For instance, in Nigeria, as with some other jurisdictions, taxes and concessions fees applied to courier service suppliers are imposed directly by the national postal service provider. In other cases, the scope of courier service commitments may be limited to certain full range of courier services that are not reserved exclusively to the national service supplier. However, there are also instances in which the scope of services that courier service suppliers are permitted to undertake can be broader than usual, encompassing some services most typically reserved to the national postal supplier such as delivering periodicals, selling postage stamps, handling certified and registered mails or renting post office boxes.

Customs practices and procedures can most significantly affect trade in courier services, for example, if a jurisdiction has no custom clearance policy that recognizes courier services as such. This may require them to be treated under time-consuming procedures designed for regular cargo, if unaccompanied, or under passenger type allowance for value and weight, if accompanied. Another example would be customs procedures offering very limited time periods available for clearance, a practice that can defeat the very customer service objectives offered by express mail suppliers to guarantee customer service every day at all hours. It should be noted however, that many national efforts aimed at customs reforms and streamlining more generally, are helping to address some of the issues raised here with respect to courier services. It is also noteworthy that courier services often encompass some components of other service industries such as road and air transport. Commitments undertaken by courier services may be affected by market access limitation in these other industries especially as it relates to the aviation sector.

In conclusion, the Obasanjo administration should be commended for the vigorous efforts it has so far taken in reforming the key sectors of the economy. However, government needs to put in place a level playing ground for the proper implementation of regulatory policy. One way of achieving this will be the setting up of an independent and impartial Postal Service Commission to regulate the activities in the postal sector just as the NCC does for the telecom sector. Once done, one can then rest assured that the postal sector will witness significant boom in business as well as an appreciable contribution to the gross domestic product of the economy just as has been the evident case in the telecom sector where over five million jobs have been created in the last four years.

From thisdayonline.com, 21 December, 2005

 

Public Lender Reform

The government and the ruling parties have cobbled together a framework for reforming eight public financial institutions. The plan will wholly privatize the Development Bank of Japan and Shoko Chukin Bank, scrap the Japan Finance Corporation for Municipal Enterprises and integrate the remaining five lenders into one lending organization. The specifics of the disposition of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) have been left to further government debate for final decisions by the end of the current fiscal year. The makeover blueprint as a whole can be lauded as a radical overhaul of public lending. Reform of the three bodies to be privatized or abolished has been long overdue.

The agreement offers another demonstration of how things have changed from the days when reform of these bodies was mired in the syndrome of "all talk and no action." This is one good outcome from the Liberal Democratic Party's big win in the Sept. 11 Lower House election. Yet consolidating the public lenders into one new entity will not solve all the problems. The two institutions singled out for privatization should be turned into purely private businesses, rather than special corporations legally controlled by the government. Bureaucrats at the ministries supervising these institutions apparently want to make them special corporations. Their aim is to maintain their involvement in the management and secure cushy post-retirement jobs at these organizations.

But this formula would not put these lenders on an equal competitive footing with commercial banks. It should be noted that the new postal savings company to be created through the privatization of Japan Post will not be such a special corporation. Since the debate on public lending restructuring among government and ruling party policy-makers focused on the organizational aspect, no consensus has been reached on many issues, such as how the new entity should deal with loans to small businesses. In Japan, capital for starting a new business is hard to come by. The risk-averse commercial banks tend to be reluctant to provide financing to entrepreneurs. This situation has caused the proliferation of easy-money lenders that charge exorbitant interest rates. Public lending still has a role to play in supplying credit for small businesses.

However, politicians broker loans for their connected companies from public lenders. Such loans sometimes become uncollectible. The government lenders are also criticized for taking business away from regional banks and credit associations. In some cases, other means to make money available, such as loan guarantees, are more efficient than lending from a state-affiliated lender. The basic principles for the reform include a ban on employment of retiring bureaucrats for "top management" posts at a government-backed financial institution. But this is a vague phrase open to interpretations. The ban on amakudari should cover all management posts at public lenders, including directors as well as the chief executive. The future of the JBIC will be mapped out by a panel of experts under the supervision of the chief Cabinet secretary, according to the announced plan. The corporation's operations related to yen loans to developing countries would be best separated and integrated into the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), an independent administrative body specializing in development aid.

The expanded JICA could then be put under a new government aid agency. This agency would be created by integrating the aid-related divisions of the ministries concerned - mainly the Foreign Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry--and placed under the direct supervision of the prime minister. Financial aid for foreign countries should be planned and provided under a clear vision and strategy for the greatest possible international impact. Only six years have passed since the JBIC was created through a merger between the Export-Import Bank of Japan and the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund. It would not make sense to reorganize the JBIC again for another half-baked reform. The framework of public lender reform has been worked out. But it only represents a first step. We hope policy-makers will hold serious discussions on key issues as they put flesh on the bones of the plan.

From asahi.com, December 12, 2005

Private Sector Participation in Defence Sector

The Government has examined the recommendations contained in Part-I of the Report of the Kelkar Committee, which was submitted on April 05, 2005. The recommendations contained in Part - II of the Report of the Committee, which was submitted on Nov 10, 2005 are under examination. Out of a total of 40 recommendations in Part-I of the Report of the Committee, 26 recommendations have been accepted; eight recommendations have been accepted with some modifications; and the remaining six recommendations require further deliberations. The concerned Wings/Departments/Service HQs have been directed to initiate action on the recommendations accepted by the Government for implementation.

In May 2001, in order to promote private sector participation in defence Production the Government opened the Defence Industry sector up to 100 % for Indian private sector participation with Foreign Direct Investment permissible up to 26 % both subject to licensing. A very large number of Indian private sector companies are already working with Defence Public Sector Undertakings and Ordnance Factories and supplying input materials to them. In addition, Ordnance Factories are manufacturing Stallion vehicles for the Indian Army under license from M/s Ashok Leyland Limited and LPTA (Lorry Passenger Truck All-terrain) under license from M/s TELCO. Several other companies in the private sector like M/s Larsen & Toubro Limited, Tata Industries, Volvo India, Tractor India etc., have also shown interest to work with Defence PSUs and Ordnance Factories. Government policy is to encourage such public-private partnership. This information was given by the Defence Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee in a written reply to Prof Mahadeorao Shiwankar and Shri Asaduddin Owaisi in Lok Sabha today.

From Government of India, December 1, 2005

Hafeez Seeks Cabinet Approval to Spend 10pc Privatization Revenue on Poverty Reduction

Federal Minister for Privatization and Investment Abdul Hafeez Sheikh said a proposal, vis-a-vis spending 10 percent of the revenue generated through the privatization of public sector organizations for poverty alleviation in addition to other funds, will be presented in next cabinet meeting for the approval. "I would like to suggest that the 10 percent of the revenue generated through the privatization of public sector organizations should be spent on poverty alleviation in addition to other federal government funds, which has been spent or would be spent," he said while talking to Online.

It is clearly explained in Privatization Commission's laws that 10 percent of the privatization income would be spent on poverty alleviation and infrastructure development while the rest of the remaining income will be spent on repayment of foreign loans," Hafeez observed. However, he said, the government includes the additional funds, already spent for the said purpose, in the 10 percent privatization funds. Hafeez opined that the funds earmarked in federal government budget or under other programmes for the same purpose should be excluded from the 10 percent privatization funds for poverty alleviation. In reply to a question, Hafeez said that Ministry of Privatization has no objection if foreign companies taking part in privatization process are getting financing facility locally. He vowed to take all out efforts to accelerate the privatization process and said privatization of Pakistan Steel Mill would be finalized during the first quarter of 2006.

From paktribune.com, December 7, 2005

 

Russia Could Create IPO Mechanism for State Companies

The Russian Economic Development and Trade Ministry is considering creating a special mechanism for the initial public offerings (IPO) of government stakes on stock markets, a ministry official said Thursday. Speaking at a two-day federal investment forum, Anna Popova, a ministry department director, said the mechanism would apply to the companies included in the privatization list, particularly, Russian state-owned oil major Rosneft, truck manufacturer KAMAZ, and the Far Eastern Shipping Company. She said the ministry would formulate the mechanism, which will enable private individuals to purchase company stock, in the first half of 2006.

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said Wednesday that the ministry planned to hold the Rosneft IPO and sell a part of the government stake to a strategy investor to get $15 billion. According to Popova, Russian companies will be able to raise $50 billion in investment in the course of a year using the stock market mechanism. Popova also said the new measure would enable Russia to gain Western managerial experience along with financial funds.

From RIA Novosti, December 1, 2005

Foreign Affairs Minister: U.S. Bases-a blank Check for Romania

Foreign Affairs Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu said in an exclusive interview with Bucharest Daily News that the establishment of U.S. bases on Romanian territory brings credibility and will attract investments. The minister compared the new partnership with the United States and EU accession with warm coats during winter, saying Romania needs both of them and does not have to choose only one.
The minister said that American investors had hesitated to come to Romania due to the slow process of privatization, which did not happen in other countries, such as Poland or Hungary.

Ungureanu considers the government's laborious efforts are not properly recognized by the mass media and by public opinion mainly because of a great problem of communication inside the government. Thus very few people know that the ministers and their teams work like Benedictine monks, Ungureanu said. He gave the example of the contract closed by Interior Minister Vasile Blaga with EADS, whose political value has not been properly acknowledged. Another subject Ungureanu drew attention to was the need for the Trans-Dniester conflict to be solved, as it is a source of instability, located less than 200 km from Romania's border.

What are Romania's achievements in 2005 in foreign policy which you are most proud of? We are getting close to the end of the year and I can say that, indeed, there are achievements that make me proud. The quality of the foreign policy is really significant and determines me to continue the projects I have initiated. A sketch of this year's successes for Romania's foreign affairs begins in April, 2005, when Romania signed the Accession Treaty to the European Union in Luxembourg, which was probably the most important moment of our recent history and the most important accomplishment of a choice we made, as a country and as a society, in the last 15 years. I also have to mention the successful term Romania has had as a member or the Security Council in 2004 and 2005.

It is a remarkable moment as the Security's Council agenda in October included tough issues, such as Kosovo, Georgia, the Middle East, Iraq and the most important African problems. We have successfully promoted the first resolution of the Security Council proposed by Romania on cooperation between the UN and regional organizations, a resolution we adopted on October 17 this year. I would say that another really notable achievement of this year was the pragmatic renewal, without inhibitions, of our relations with the Russian Federation, first of all as a result of my visit to Moscow and the visit of Defense Minister Serghei Lavrov to Bucharest.

Important steps were also made in our relations with Ukraine, although, for sure, there are still matters that we have to work on, and the same goes for the Russian Federation. If I have to describe our accomplishments in a few words, I have to say that they placed Romania in a different register of roles, on a regional and international level. We have become a valued partner in the region for states whose opinion and collaboration we value and who now value our opinion and collaboration. That is why I can state that the visibility gained this year by subjects such as relations with the Republic of Moldova, Trans-Dniester, or the extended region of the Black Sea, on the agenda of both the EU and NATO represent, in great measure, discreet but incontestable achievements of Romanian foreign policy.

You recently said a summit of the Black Sea will be organized for debate on the "tough subjects of the region." What are these subjects?
We will tackle subjects that can be called "soft security," such as a safer and more transparent administration of the border, facilitations of exchanges in the region, as well as the ecological dimension and the decrease of trans-border felonies. The summit's agenda will also include environmental matters, the improvement and coordination of natural or human provoked crises, as well as the development of the regional infrastructure, which will increase the economic value, insufficiently acknowledged, of the Black Sea region.

How will Romania's intervention develop in the Trans-Dniester problem, in your opinion? Do you believe that Romania, together with the European Union, Ukraine and the United States might contribute to signing an agreement with Russia for the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Trans-Dniester? We are very interested in how the conflict in Trans-Dniester will be solved, as it is a major source of insecurity located less than 200 km from our eastern border and it is also a factor of regional instability. Romania is not taking part directly in the negotiations aimed at finding a solution. But we are not a static actor, either. This year we initiated consultations with all those involved in the negotiations and this way we want to reach a common understanding of the principal positions, help avoid misunderstandings and eliminate preconceptions and inhibitions.

At the same time, we are trying to help the development of EU policies on themes relating to the Republic of Moldova, including the Trans-Dniester conflict. Regarding the withdrawal of the troops from the area, the solution is the completion of the commitments made by the Russian side ever since the OSCE summit in Istanbul, in 1999. At the same time, the area has to be demilitarized, which means the current "peace keeping operation" has to replaced by a new formula, adapted to international demands. Some euro parliamentarians recently said that if they were to vote now on Romania's accession, they would vote for a delay. How long do you think it will take them before they change their voting intention?

So far, the evaluation reports the European Parliament has made about Romania, and the approval on the Accession Treaty have showed it is a real supporter of Romania's accession to the EU. At the same time, in a parliament with 732 members, such as the European Parliament, it is understandable that there are some critical voices, especially in a European political context affected by a certain feeling of "enlargement tiredness." On November 22 we had a meeting and a very open dialogue with members of the EP's Foreign Affairs Commission and with those of the Romania-EU Mixed Parliamentary Committee, when we had a very detailed and constructive debate on Romania's process of accession. This way we gained additional proof of the EP's support. Moreover, the positive vote on the Moscovici report is also such a proof.

Tell me a few things about the Francophone Year that officially began in September this year. What will it mean for Romania? From all points of view, it is one of the most important events of the calendar of 2006. On one side, from the point of view of image benefit, it will be a successful project, if it is properly administrated. We had a good start; we named a state secretary who has the position of governmental commissioner. His name is Cristian Preda, he is well known in the academic field for his political expertise. His team is formed of diplomats who know what the Francophone community means.

I hope that in September 2006, when the highest point of the Francophone Year will take place, the summit to which 63 state and government leaders have been invited, not only our administrative capacity will be obvious, but also the importance we give to the French culture and language, as a cultural vector and to the multilateral collaboration with states that share our respect for Latinity and for European civilization.
I will not hide from you the fact that we have some worries and fears because, at least from a logistical point of view, organizing the summit and the other activities for this event, we need an optimum use of our resources. We have funds, but we cannot waste them. The number of people we can hire for such a project is rather small. It is a complex event that does not only involve the participation of the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Many other institutions are taking part, such as the Culture Ministry, art unions, national theaters, as well as the Education Ministry, through schools and universities.

What about at a political level, what will this event mean for Romania? First of all, a sum of bilateral relations in a multilateral context, of direct dialogues with traditional partners. The case of France and Canada, I do not even think we have to mention. Or Bulgaria, which is also a Francophone country. But also with states whose contacts with Bucharest are rare, sporadic or do not exist. Romania is in a continuous search for a specific political and economic identity, an identity that we cannot define other than through these kinds of favorable circumstances.

Often journalists and political analysts speak about the necessity for Romania to choose between the European Union and the United States, saying that it is "torn" between this two coordinates. Do you think such a choice is real? To think that Romania is torn by options is false. Romania at one time had a difficult choice to make in 1990-1991, when in its attempt to define its interest with courage, it had to choose between East and West. But that moment passed, we do not have to choose between a better West and a worse West. (...) Once the option has been taken, it does not need to have any shades.

I said it once and I do not think I was wrong: whoever thinks this way has a psychoanalytical dilemma, which should not be solved by a politician, but a psychoanalyst. Because this kind of question, "Who do you love best, your mother or your father?" involves treatment and a case history. It is not necessary to apply such rules of therapeutic conduit in Romanian foreign affairs. Romania is at the outskirts of the civilized world. We can say this straight. It is on the outskirts of the civilized world when talking about the Europe-center significance that civilization involves. The values we respect are the same as the values respected in Luxembourg. The faults we condemn are the same vices condemned in France, Norway or Ireland. At the Oriental border of this civilization the limit of the European Union and of NATO overlaps. In other words, Romania is included in this setting twice.

So during your visits in the European Union you never encountered criticism due to President Traian Basescu's obvious preference, or at least an attitude perceived as favorable to the United States? The problem was not addressed this way, but otherwise, "If you imagine your national security warranted by a strong and consistent alliance with Washington, can you tell us that you have the same confidence in the European defense and security dimension?" Our invariable answer is, "Yes." Otherwise, we would not strongly want to become members of the European Union, taking into consideration that this 'club' has its own strict rules. I repeat: foreign policy does not have such national problems. On the contrary, it is very pragmatic. How do we feel better? With more shields. You have to imagine politics as a winter. The temperature is cold, is very low. Outside it is very cold. When you have more warm coats on you, you feel better. We cannot go outside naked and then yell out loud that we feel good in our innocent nudity. It is false. This is not how things happen in politics. You have to put on coats and these coats are represented by our strategic partnerships.

The contract with the United States for the bases on Romanian territory was signed this month. When exactly will these bases be established in Romania? It is a bilateral political agreement which will settle the framework and principles of the presence and activities on Romanian territory of U.S. military forces. The American facilities will have small dimensions, a flexible structure and increased mobility.
After signing and ratifying the agreement, it will be completed with a series of technical arrangements. When this process is over, we will be able to talk about when the military facilities will become operational.
Tell me, please, how do you comment on Russia's negative reaction to the establishment of U.S. bases in Romania? I will give you a very precise and, hopefully, clear answer: our relations with the Russian Federation are not maintained through the mass-media.

However, can you please comment on its reaction? Our relations with the Russian Federation are not maintained through the mass-media. Nevertheless, the Russian Defense Minister Serghei Ivanov expressed his negative reaction through the mass-media... That's his business, not ours. Nothing has been said so far about the money, the investments, the Americans will make in the bases on Romanian territory. What can you tell us about this aspect? Always such things involve infrastructure, small investments. If you are thinking about investments in pipes, in electric cables, sheds, you should be sure that such investments will exist. They are not going to stay in the open air. Those who will immediately benefit will be the local communities around these bases. We had such examples, in Mihail Kogalniceanu and Babadag, where the schools were renovated, the streets were repaired, and trees were planted along the streets. It is something natural to create a minimal infrastructure for such situations.

Many Romanians expect a better life from the Americans' arrival. What do you think the Americans will bring us? Much more credibility. Politically, it is an amount of credibility which very few other foreign policy gestures can bring. Secondly, it is an exact photograph of our bilateral relations with the United States. Something like this can only be done in a country that you are very confident in, in whose democratic system you believe, whose democratic strength you have bet on, in whose values you believe. It is an enormous investment of trust. It is like saying, "Yes, it is worth going into this house because you will be properly treated and the people respect the rules, the ally is loyal, he does not wait for you to turn your back to mind his own business." It is a blank check for Romania.

And if we look at our pockets, we will shortly see results. Of course, shortly does not mean tomorrow. Some of the niche investments will improve. And I have to tell you something else. American investors hesitated quite a lot about coming to Romania. They did not hesitate in Hungary's or in Poland's case. We and the Czech Republic are in the same situation, as such investments were made rather late in the Czech Republic, after 1996-1997, when the privatization process was speeded up. In Romania, the privatization process started very late. (...) Romania has been targeted more by European investors than by U.S. investors.

Doesn't this good relationship with the United States envisage bigger risks, also? The risks existed anyway. Let's not lie to ourselves by saying the risk is a decimeter higher or lower, in comparison with the risk we took in 1991-1992 when we took this path. And if we talk about risks, imagine what it was like in 1999, when the risk meant taking a firm decision of loyal partnership in NATO. We should not use the risks as a measuring unit, but the benefits. To measure things in risks means not recognizing the daylight just because there is a cloud covering the sun.

"The government has a great problem of communication" - Although you are a member of the Liberal Party, your name never appears in scandals or in commentary on differences inside the party or the coalition. How do you manage to do this? First of all, because I am aware of my position in the government. And what I defend as a Foreign Affairs Minister is the sum of national interests. Under these conditions, to play an internal role before finding consensus on foreign policy themes is not appropriate. Secondly, there is a perfect consensus on our foreign policy objectives in the party and inside the coalition. My conduct is faithful to these principles. How are these differences inside the coalition seen outside, from what you saw during your visits abroad? Nobody gives them an exaggerated dimension. We have greater internal sensibility than our external partners when talking about political marriages or about complicated dynamics of the opposition parties.
We have a very sensitive skin. But outside something completely different matters.

For example? The way the government works. The way the Parliament works. How quickly we can adopt the expected measures by half way through next year. But many times these internal differences delay or slow down objectives and progress in applying reforms.
It might, if we did not have a responsible government. And you should be convinced that, and I am not saying this for propaganda purposes, at the government's level, there is absolutely no disturbing factor. There can be differences and contradictions on some matters, but the relationship between the Democratic Party and the Liberal Party takes place only on a political level, and its effects are not visible in the government. More than other government members, I have to interact with all of them, the European Integration Minister, the Justice Minister or the Interior Minister, for example. And I can tell you that there is no political pebble that can block the government's activity.

In a recent interview Marko Bela said the government's activity is much better than the image it has in the media and in public opinion. Do you agree with his point of view? To a great extent, I agree with him. I admit it is a secret source of frustrations. The government is working well, it does not have gaps, but it has a great problem of communication. It is a government mostly formed by professionals; I am not saying technocrats, but professionals. They are people with good intentions, whose honesty is well known. It is a government that has not been attacked by any corruption scandal; it is not involved in any internal problem.

Besides Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu in the Patriciu case. We cannot say that there was corruption involved in this case. But we can say it was a scandal. I am talking about cases where judicial decisions were taken. From this point of view, the government is literally unstained. I do not remember ever having such an amount of transparency in former governments. The efforts are admirable, but are not known. It is work carried out in trenches, there is nothing explosive about it. I do not know if it can be considered news the fact that Interior Minister Vasile Blaga, for example, managed to sign, after harsh negotiations, a new contract with EADS. Who understands the political value of this strictly commercial action? It is difficult, you need attention for this, and you need to find the precious stone in a pile of uninteresting things. We have a government that works efficiently.

Otherwise, and I am telling you this without any kind of triumphalist attitude, because I am not praising the government I belong to, the EU report in October would have found us guilty. But in nine months we managed to clean the Augean stables. It is incredible, believe me, I am telling you this with all responsibility. What has been done in the justice system is admirable. What it has been done in internal affairs is admirable. What has been done in foreign affairs is unusual. What has been done in other sectors, agriculture, environment, even transport, are matters which very few people observe. Not to mention all the work carried out. In the Health Ministry, where Eugen Nicolaescu is minister, attempts are now being made to improve the situation. There are reform steps which have begun to be visible. It does not mean the work ends with us. We cannot work miracles. What we have done so far is beyond many people's imagination. And many times we have been told this in Brussels.

What is the solution for the communication problem you talked about earlier? I do not know. What we should not do is go out and praise ourselves. We will probably continue working in a Benedictine style, like monks. We will see who saves our skin in the end. History will recognize us. What do you wish for Romania in 2006? I wish for a good result in mid 2006, a positive answer, in accordance with our expectations for 2007. I wish for a positive EU monitoring report, but, after the monitoring report, I wish for a kind European Parliament, that will recognize our progress and say, "Yes, the investment in this country is worth it."

I wish for a quiet year from the point of view of foreign affairs because our activity this year, beyond what may seem only frenzy, meant repositioning Romania on a map of interesting points. And you saw that all the important visits took place in one year and this is unusual, for the president to go to Washington, to Moscow, to London and so on in only three months. And the same with the prime minister, who made Bucharest, at one point, the gravitational center for Eastern leaders, as the Russian Foreign Affairs Minister came here, as well as the Ukrainian and Georgian Foreign Affairs Ministers and so on. Plus the visit of Condoleezza Rice at the end of the year. But this is not enough. I hope for this year to be quiet in the areas around us. The region has a destabilizing potential that few people can feel. Kosovo is a problem and we have to get involved. We have to draw attention to the danger all the time. Trans-Dniester is a problem. These matters give us some concerns and, after talking about the European Union, I also have to tell you about these areas, where I hope next year will be a quiet one, with battles fought exclusively with the weapons of diplomacy and with a political tact.

From Bucharest Daily News, December 23, 2005

 

Saudia's Desalination Sector Poised for Privatization

Privatizing state-owned assets is high on the agenda of the government of Saudi Arabia. Over 20 sectors have been identified for divestment, including desalination services, the aviation sector, road management, seaports, postal services, municipal services, education, health and social services, railways and oil refining. But the privatization in the desalination sector is a high priority as the Kingdom's demand for desalinated water has increased markedly over recent years. About 70 percent of the Kingdom's drinking water is currently sourced from desalination plants.

The Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) has signed contracts with legal, strategic, financial and technical advisers to develop a comprehensive plan for the privatization of the state-owned water company with a deadline for completion as early as 2008. The Saudi law firm, Prima Law & Consultations Office and Freshfields International, a leading national legal consultant, won the legal-consultation contract for the privatization of desalination sector.

"The privatization of the desalination sector in Saudi Arabia will be the largest of its kind in the world as the Kingdom is producing over 25 percent of the world's total desalinated water. The project will be also the largest part of the privatization program in Saudi Arabia since its assets amount will be over SR100 billion, exceeding the total amount of SR60 billion that the government had spent on the targeted sector," said Prima Law President Prince Abdul Rahman ibn Saud Al-Kabir during a press conference held last week in Riyadh. "Our law office in a joint venture with the reputable law firm of Freshfields has won the legal consultations contract after a tough competition with many world-leading law firms of which four only were qualified and short-listed for the final competition and award."

"The awarded legal consultations contract shall address key aspects of dealing with the rules and regulations of the SWCC; the entire government laws and regulations that may conflict with the privatization; and the relations with all stakeholders and competent authorities," Prince Abdul Rahman added. "The government's efforts toward updating, reviewing and modernizing its laws and regulations are greatly appreciated as they pave the way and help prepare other public sectors for privatization. It is premature to speak of the modus operandi that might be used or set in place for this purpose or the privatization of SWCC, though this is what we intend to do with other technical, strategic and financial consultants to come up with the ideal approach for the overall privatization project," Prince Abdul Rahman added.

"There will be an action plan which we in Prima Law and Freshfields are developing for coordination among the various consultants of the project. The plan that has already crystallized shall tackle key tasks and responsibilities for each party and mandate maintaining constant communications on highest levels among all relating parties. The role of Prima Law is essential and might be indispensable as we have the international and country-specific knowledge and expertise," Prince Abdul Rahman added. The legal consultants will continuously coordinate and work with their counterparts in the technical, strategic and financial areas as no single consultant can work separately. Our legal approach will be submitted and presented to SWCC as early as Saturday," Prince Abdul Rahman added.

"The first stage of the four consultants' action plan is to focus on gathering information from all consultants for which the strategic consultant will be responsible. After receiving answers from SWCC on questions raised by the consultants, an overall perspective can be then developed and a consolidated study can be conducted. The study will consider different aspects, contingencies, relations with government agencies, the impact of this project on other laws, the obstacles that may arise from the process and possible solutions. Opinions and approaches from the four major consultants will be reviewed, studied and reported for final analysis," Prince Abdul Rahman added.

From menafn.com, December 10, 2005

First Yemeni Hotel Institute to Open

SANA'A- Yemen's first hotel training center, the National Hotel and Tourism Institute (NAHOTI), is to open in Sana'a next April.
It is hoped that the two million Euros project, funded by European Union, will give a vital boost to tourism services in Yemen. Last week, a meeting was held stakeholders to discuss the Public-Private Partnership structure to be adopted by the NAHOTI project. The meeting was attended by Abdullah Jobari, the deputy minister for technical education and vocational training, Nabil al-Faqih, the deputy minister for Culture and Tourism as well as officials from the European Union and representatives from the planning ministry and private sector.

Jobari praised the efforts of the EU in supporting the tourism sector to cope with the requirements of development in Yemen, and called on the private sector to contribute to carry out tourist projects. Kai Partale, Senior Consultant at the European Commission for the project, reviewed the current state of the project, including the training of the staff who will work in the institute. The participants discussed the best means of running the institute in accordance with the international standards. Al-Faqih, in a statement to the Yemen Observer, said that the meeting was to discuss support for the project through the establishment of a consultative committee in the institute.

The meeting recommended sending a suggestion to the planning and international cooperation ministry to set up a trusteescouncil for the institute. Soon, the steps of financially running the institute will be discussed, and maybe the institute will be ran by international companies or the Yemeni private sector, Al-Faqih said. He added that the institute is first of its kind in Yemen, saying that the goal of setting up the institute is to improve the tourist services sector, and to equip young people in Yemen with the necessary modern hotel skills.

Alwan al-Shaibani, the chairman of the Yemeni Union for Hotels, said that the private sector should be active partner in the project, as it would be the first beneficiary from the gradates of institute. The private sector should participate in the management of the institute and suggestion of curriculums, he said. Partale said that the project intends to strengthen the institutional capacity of Yemen's vocational training system through the construction of a new training institute. He added that it includes the introduction of a demand driven education within the six key occupations: front office, housekeeping, food and beverage, food production, tour guiding and tour operation, as well as strengthening existing performance capacity by improving the trainer's qualifications, curricula and training materials.

From Yemen Observer, December 10, 2005

Community Centers Launch Campaign Against Privatization

Directors of 180 community centers announced Tuesday that they intend to launch a campaign against a new treasury plan that could result in the privatization of the Association of Community Centers. The head of the campaign, Director of the North Jerusalem Community Center Yohanan Bechler, said Tuesday that Accountant-General Dr. Yaron Zelika insists on promoting the privatization process despite public objections to the move, as well as explicit statements made by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Finance Minister Ehud Olmert against the privatization of community centers. According to Bechler, the privatization process has in fact been launched, since the association is not receiving new projects and has been denied new budgets.

The protest campaign will include the establishment of information booths in shopping centers, malls and community centers next week. Organizers hope to sign up 100,000 people to the petition "Israel is with the Community Centers. Where are Olmert and Sharon?" Other measures will include placing billboards on highways and holding demonstrations near the Prime Minister's Office and the treasury in Jerusalem. A third of Israel's 180 community centers operate in large cities, mostly in poor neighborhoods; 42 operate in development towns and 32 in Arab communities. Very few centers operate in wealthy areas such as Ramat Hasharon. The centers offer money-making activities such as after-hour classes and summer camps, as well as non-profit activities such as clubs for the elderly and meetings for the disabled.

The profitable activities aim to balance out non-profitable ones; the association also balances the budgets of community centers in poorer areas with revenue generated at centers in richer areas. The association fears that once profitable community centers are privatized, community centers in poorer areas would be required to make similar cuts in their expenses, thus left with dwindling resources for their operation. Those who oppose the privatization fear that tendering out the services provided by the Association of Community Centers would compromise the range of activities they provide. According to the association's director-general, Yair Geller, "the current move would be devastating for the weak sectors and we therefore believe that the education minister, who knows and appreciates the work done by the community centers, would not approve the dismantling of the association."

From haaretz.com, December 20, 2005

 

Laboring for Social Welfare Limited by An Open Economy

By speaking out loudly against the rise of economic inequality and the spread of poverty in Israel, newly elected Labor Party leader Amir Peretz has brought about a major shift in the country's public agenda, away from the security matters that have dominated debate in Israel for so long. Some unspecified anti-poverty measures were supposedly in the pipelines before, but now politicians of all stripes are trying to outdo each other in demonstrating their concern for the country's social welfare. Pundits and policymakers are trying to figure out in which direction Peretz would take the Israeli economy if he is called on to form the government after the general election next March, or if, as is more likely, Labor becomes the junior partner in a government formed by Ariel Sharon. In particular, speculation has been rife about whether Peretz would lead Israel back to the supposedly "socialist" policies of the country's first decades.

In fact, Israel's economic regime never bore any resemblance to those of the Soviet bloc countries former finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu's insinuations to the contrary notwithstanding. Israel's brand of dirigisme, or statism that is, of direct government intervention in the workings of a basically market-driven economy was much the same as that practiced in Western European countries such as the United Kingdom in the immediate postwar period. What differences existed were mainly the products of history and of the somewhat unique problems faced by the nascent Jewish state. Peculiar to the Israeli scene were the semipublic, trade union-run industrial enterprises and social services. They originally were developed to compensate for the private sector's inability to generate sufficient employment, and for the British Mandate's failure to go beyond the colonial minimum in the provision of health and education services.

The employment and housing needs of the mass of immigrants that poured into Israel during its early years could in no way have been met by private, profit-oriented initiatives. So the state had to step in. At first it did so by setting up industrial plants and constructing housing itself. Later, after awakening to its lack of business expertise, the government subsidized private entrepreneurs to do so, conditional on them undertaking to provide a certain number of jobs in localities where the need for them seemed most acute.

While Israel's government established a large number of state-owned enterprises, unlike its Western European counterparts it did not indulge in widespread nationalization of existing ones. Perhaps the most prominent case of state ownwership has been Israel's main commercial banks, of which it has recently been divesting itself. But their nationalization happened not by design but literally by default, in the wake of the bank-shares crash of 1983.

As the economy grew, these tools of the government's development policy establishing state enterprises, allocating cheap bank credits, offering made-to-measure protective tariffs and export subsidies, and resorting to the occasional arm-twisting outlived their usefulness. Their drawbacks, on the other hand, became more and more evident: industrial inefficiency, political interference and even outright corruption. But because this system provided opportunities for political patronage and out of fear of job losses, it was slow to be dismantled. Both management and employees at many of the state-owned firms strongly opposed any reform that would weaken their position.

Netanyahu's onslaught on these remaining bastions of dirigisme was nominally pursued in the name of economic efficiency. However, it seems at least in part to have been driven by the finance minister's vision of Israel as an American-style capitalist economy, as well as by his wish to weaken whatever power the trade unions still wielded. Because privatization coincided with the growth of income inequality in Israel, many have conflated the two. As they see it, privatization is a main cause of the spreading poverty and rising inequality in Israel, along with tax cuts for the rich and the sharp reduction in old-age pensions, child allowances and unemployment benefits. Peretz earned his political spurs as the militant head of the by-now much-weakened Histadrut, Israel's central trade-union federation. From that position, he fought many of the government's privatization decisions, defending the well-entrenched workers of state monopolies who, together with the Histadrut apparatus, formed his political base.

But while he could be expected to backpedal on some of Netanyahu's welfare-cutting measures and stop part of the proposed privatization of government services, it is highly unlikely he would roll back the reforms of the last two decades and try to restore the old interventionist system. Nothing in his recent public pronouncements suggests this is the path he intends to follow. Furthermore, his bringing into the Labor Party of Avishai Braverman the highly successful president of Ben-Gurion University in the Negev and former World Bank economist who was courted, or at least coveted, by Sharon's newly formed Kadima party suggests that Peretz will not embark on any starry-eyed wild course.

Ultimately it is economics, more than any ideological or political consideration, that will constrain Peretz's freedom of action. Unlike in its early days, Israel today has an open economy, with much of its growth in recent years driven by exports and financed by business investments from abroad. Such reliance on foreign markets, whose reactions a small economy cannot control, imposes a strict discipline on the policies a country can pursue. This is a dilemma that all social democratic parties have to face, unless they are willing to sacrifice growth by withdrawing from the market economy.

If Peretz comes to power, or shares enough of it to influence Israel's economic policies, he could be expected to follow a path parallel to that trodden by Lula da Silva, another statesman with a proletarian background. Like the Brazilian president, Peretz will stick to the capitalist market system, but he will try to temper its iniquities with a social welfare net, the easing of the transition for downsized workers, and similar measures aimed at protecting and supporting the weakest segments of society. Such an agenda may seem pedestrian and, in contrast to much that has transpired of late in Israel's political arena, lacking in drama. But in fact, it will require a major shift in priorities. Considerable portions of the budget now spent on the settlements and national defense will have to be reallocated to pay for increased expenditures on infrastructure, education and social services. This budgetary restructuring is bound to be opposed by those who will be adversely affected by it. But this is the only manner in which Israel's perennial problems of social cohesion and immigration absorption can be dealt with under the rules of the game of today's world.

From forward.com, December 2, 2005

Idea of Public-private Rec Center Introduced

Someone is testing the waters in Douglas County to determine if there is interest in conducting a feasibility study for a recreation center through a public-private partnership. During the Douglas County Commission meeting Wednesday night, Commission Chairman Charles Jones said he had been approached recently by someone making that inquiry. He declined to identify the person or give any more details. Jones did say the person had apparently approached other entities in the county about the matter and would probably go public about the proposal soon. Jones and Commissioners Bob Johnson and Jere McElhaney said they would be interested in listening to a proposal.

Otherwise, commissioners spent most of their meeting as if they were in a language class. They said they would like clearer language in certain areas of the chapter on transportation, streets and roadways in Horizon 2020. The chapter was initially brought before them to approve certain amendments. Horizon 2020 is a planning and development guide used by the county and the City of Lawrence. Commissioners also said they wanted wording changes that would make the document more inclusive of the county. Language clarification also was requested in Horizon 2020's chapter on industrial- and employment-related land use. The document had been approved by the Lawrence City Commission during a Tuesday night meeting. Commissioners said they had no problem with the policies outlined in the document but that they would like to know specifically how the new wording differs from the earlier wording.

From ljworld.com, December 8, 2005

 

India-U.S. to Forge High-tech Global Partnership

India and the United States have agreed on the importance of forging a global partnership in the field of high technology. In the fourth meeting of the U.S.-India High Technology Co-operation Group (HTGC), co-chaired by India's Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and U.S. Under-secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security David McCormick, the two sides agreed to take concrete steps to make the HTGC more result-oriented. The meeting had sessions on strategies aimed at increasing bilateral trade in defence technology, information technology, bio-technology and nano technology. The two countries agreed to expand the public-private partnership by addressing their legitimate concerns, evolve strategies to ensure that licensing could become more effective, transparent and predictable for India, and to focus on key trade sectors that are affected by tariff and non-tariff trade barriers.

They also agreed to a detailed action plan that will further promote high-tech cooperation. It was noted that the completion of the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) lays the foundation for future co-operation in the areas of civil space, civil nuclear power and high technology trade. The HTGC also included a dialogue on strategic trade and export control in which both delegations reviewed recent developments in their export control policies and procedures. The US applauded India's recent developments to strengthen its export control system and underlined the importance, on both sides, of continuing to implement steps that promote high technology co-operation.

Both countries underlined the need to concentrate on promotion and outreach activities and pledged to work together to organise events geared to these objectives. They agreed to hold another meeting in 2006 and stressed the need to implement the action items developed during the sector-specific breakout sessions as soon as possible. The HTCG was formed in 2002 and focuses on addressing a wide range of issues relevant to creating conditions for more robust bilateral high-technology commerce, including tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade and export licensing requirements for sensitive commodities.

From newkerala.com, December 2, 2005