ISSUE 78
January 2006
 
 
   
    Kenya: NSSF Seeks Meeting with Civil Service Head
Nigeria: Obasanjo Outlines Requirements for Civil Service Promotions
   
    Hong Kong: Yue Set to Head Civil Service
India: Chhattisgarh PSC Cancels State Civil Service Results
Phillipinnes: EO 366 Promotes Quality Government Service - DBM's Relampagos
India: Result Woes for Civil Service Candidates
Australia: Public Policy, Private Benefits
India: MP Wins National Civil Service Kabaddi Title
Tonga: Public Servants in Tonga Threaten to Sue Government
   
    Ireland: Ministers Office Staff Cost Taxpayer 2.5m a Year
UK: Action to Defend Civil Service Jobs and Services
UK: Ministers Cut Back on Civil Service Jobs
Cyprus: New Personal Data Protection for Civil Service Forms
   
    USA: News from Civil Service Employees Association
Trinidad and Tobago: PNM: People Unfriendly Government
 
   
   

Africa: Occultism in African Governance
Burundi: Good Governance Minister Attacks Graft in Burundi
Africa Good Governance Program on the Radio Waves

   
    Pakistan: View - The Year of Drift - Dr. Hasan-Askari Rizvi
India: India Open to Discuss the Issue within Constitutional Framework
Afghanistan: Afghanistan Presents 5-year Development Plan at London Conference
Philippines: Commentary: For Public Welfare and Good Governance
China: Rules Published on Options for Senior Managerial Officers
   
   

UK: Strategy & Management: Corporate Governance - Convergence on Principles, Not Rules
Switzerland: Opening Pandora's Box: Governance for Genetically Modified Forests

   
    Jordan: IT Panel Holds Meet on E-governance - Oman
   
   

Strengthen Governance at All Levels: DG, FAO
WSIS - U.N. to Hold Consultations on New 'Net Governance Body'

 
   
    Ghana: Join Fight Against Corruption
Kenya: Dragon of Corruption Too Fierce to Confront?
   
   

China: New Effort to Stamp out Chinese Corruption
Indonesia: VP Too Embarrassed to Talk About Corruption
Pakistan: Government Determined to Wipe Out Corruption from the Country: Speaker NA
Australia: Back to Taws on Ethics
Phillipines: Search for Public Service Exemplars On
Brunei: Anti-Corruption Books Distributed to Belait Schools

   
    UK: Papers Mull US Corruption Scandal
Czech Republic: Corruption Worsens, Goods Offer Improves in 2005 - Poll
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Finci: Experience of Poland's Civil Service Could Be Helpful on BiH's Road to European Integration
Ireland: Civil Servants Vote Not to Strike
United Kingdom: Civil Service 'Bible' Review Needed
   
   

Syria: Syria to Try Former Vice President Khaddam for Treason, Corruption
Israel: Sharon's Son Quits Over Corruption Trial

   
   

USA: The Story Behind Jack Abramoff and the Beltway Bandits

 
   
   

India: India to Set Up Diaspora Knowledge Network
South Korea: South Korea Promotes Open Source Uptake
China: China Launches E-government Portal
Vietnam: Vietnam Unveils E-government Portal
India: E-Government Champions Training Program
India: E-government Pays Attention to Phishing
Kazakhstan: Kazakhstan Attended Singapore Conference on E-government

   
    Ireland: Northern IrelandI Firm Wins Contract for European Survey
UK: UK Reaches Online Government Target
UK: UK Government Is Top Employer of IT Contractors
UK: Local e-Government Minister Launches Local Directgov Programme's Complete End to End User Journey
   
    USA: US Agencies Fail to Meet E-gov Goals
USA: South Carolina Campaign Information Available Online
USA: IT Outsourcing Market Set to Grow in US
   
   

Finders Keepers
Is CRM Dead?
The Avian Flu Case Study: A Pioneering Tutorial for Using Business Intelligence in the Public Sector
Metadata Among 2006 IT Priorities

 
   
    Ghana: Wolokollie Declares Intention for Speaker
Monrovia: With Six Days to Inauguration: Ellen Approves 10 Cabinet Nominees - Others Still Under Scrutiny
   
    IIndia: Enhance Tax GDP Ratio to 15 Per Cent: ASSOCHAM
Japan: Tanigaki Urges BOJ Caution in Ending Loose Policy
Malaysia: Public Bank Keen to Expand into China
India: Centre Can't Do Much to Push Growth
   
    Czech Republic: Fastest Growth in 10 Years Slices Czech Budget Deficit
Greece: Closer Watch on Public Spending
Poland: Poland's Gilowska Named Finance Chief, to Cut Deficit
Poland: Polish Government Delays Presenting Country's Euro Convergence Plan Till Jan 17
Romania: CEC Privatization Could Be Deferred for Two Years
 
   
    Tanzania: Tardy Privatization of TRC Harms Economy
   
    Philippines: Country's Public Education Still in Crisis
   
    Romania: State to Keep Control over Romanian Lottery
   
    USA: Daniels Continues to Make Case for 'Privatization'
Chile: Hochtief Realizes Public-Private Partnership Project in Chile
Bolivia: A New Path for Bolivia
USA: Governing in the Fast Lane
 

NSSF Seeks Meeting with Civil Service Head

The Board of Directors of the National Social Security Fund met yesterday morning and demanded a meeting with Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura over the sacking of managing trustee Naftali Mogere. A board member, Gerishon Onditi, said the Board rejected reasons advanced to it by Labour PS Nancy Kirui as to why Mogere was dismissed. "We felt as a board that the reasons were not valid, leave alone the move being undertaken in total violation of the NSSF Act," said Onditi. Onditi, the Executive Director of the Federation of Kenya Employers, said that the board then resolved to write to the head of the civil service, demanding an audience on the sacking. "The PS merely told the board that she was under instructions to communicate Mogere's sacking and that she too was not aware of other reasons for the dismissal," Onditi told The Standard on telephone.

"As far as we are concerned, the Government did not follow the law. In any case, we as a board had not detected any misconduct by Mogere and we were satisfied with his work until we were taken by surprise with the changes," he said. He said it was the feeling of the board that Mogere be reinstated immediately for continuity. "At that meeting with Muthaura, we expect to be furnished with details as to why the laid down procedures as per the NSSF Act signed by President Kibaki last year giving powers to the Board to hire and fire was not observed in Mogere's case," said Onditi. The board will also seek an audience with Labour minister Newton Kulundu on the same issue. COTU secretary general Francis Atwoli who is also a Board member confirmed the meeting took place.

"We are not defending Mogere in case he messed behind our back. But our concern is the manner in which he was sacked with us as his employers being left in the dark. That is why we insist for details and a possible reinstatement," said Onditi. Acting managing trustee Ms Rachel Lumbasyo was not allowed to attend yesterday's meeting. "We won't have allowed her to attend our full board meeting given that her appointment has not been gazetted," Onditi said. Atwoli, however, said Lumbasyo was allowed back into the meeting. "It is true we have met and among the issues we have discussed include Mogere's sacking" said the unionist. While confirming Mogere's sacking, Kulundu said the trustee's dismissal was in the public interest. The minister was responding to protests from the NSSF board.

From EastStandard, January 4, 2006

Obasanjo Outlines Requirements for Civil Service Promotions

President Olusegun Obasanjo has said that federal character, seniority in service and the ability to pass the requisite civil service examination would henceforth be the main determinants for promotions. Speaking at the swearing-in of seven new permanent secretaries in Abuja yesterday, Obasanjo said that those occupying top gover-nment positions must also be "reform-minded". He said that government had in the past only consid-ered seniority and federal character to fill vacancies and promote civil servants, but noted that henceforth these must be in addition to academic performance. He said that while examinations and interviews were now mandatory, government would invite consultants and those that have knowledge of management to handle the tests.

The president also raised the 'vital issue' of loyalty in service, and charged the permanent secretaries to ensure that their performance and efficiency was matched by loyalty."Loyalty to the service, loyalty to the Head of Service, loyalty to the Head of Government and loyalty to the nation that brings all this about. "To me, there is no 99.9 per cent loyalty. It has to be total. If you cannot give total loyalty, then you should look for another job. "You have heard of something they call military loyalty. If that means total loy-alty, then there is no other thing except military loyalty," he told the audiences, which include all his service ministers, the secretary to government and the head of service

From allafrica.com, January 5, 2006

 

Yue Set to Head Civil Service

The government is poised to announce a reshuffle that will likely see a new civil service chief appointed when Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology John Tsang leaves for a new job, sources said Wednesday. Current civil service boss Joseph Wong is expected to take over as commerce chief, effectively sidelining him, while Tsang's current deputy, Denise Yue, will take up a key political appointment as secretary for the civil service, sources said. According to government sources, Chief Executive Donald Tsang has made the recommendations, and it is now up to Beijing to give the final seal of approval - which could be as early as this month. "It may take a little bit more time for the new appointments to be made public as Denise has never held a politically appointed position like a policy secretary," a government source said.

The reshuffle came about because John Tsang is likely to be the new director of the Chief Executive's Office. That post will mean a pay cut, but it will pave the way for him to become the next chief secretary for administration, a post currently held by Rafael Hui, who is expected to step down at the end of Chief Executive Donald Tsang's term in 2007, a government source said last week. For Yue, it will be a promotion. She is currently permanent secretary for commerce, industry and technology. "Donald chose her because she's very popular among the 500 civil service administrative officers [directors]," a government source said. An executive councillor, who declined to be named, said Wong does not have cordial relations with the powerful civil service unions. "Denise is capable, popular, has the know-how and is able to communicate with people. These are qualities that the chief executive is looking for," a government source said.

Wong, 57, has been at the helm of the civil service since 2000, and before that was secretary for education and manpower for five years. Last year, the Court of Final Appeal granted the government a HK$10 billion reprieve with its decision that the cuts made in civil servants' salaries in 2002 were legal. Wong's subsequent promise not to cut salaries further was greeted with skepticism within the service. As far as John Tsang is concerned, his appointment as director of the Chief Executive's Office was given the blessings of central leaders during the chief executive's duty visit to Beijing last week.

It was his handling of last month's World Trade Organization talks that drew the attention of Beijing. "[John Tsang's] outstanding performance in the WTO also earned him praise from President Hu [Jintao]," a government source said last week. The job of director of the chief executive's office is to represent the chief executive at meetings with politicians, Election Committee members and the local media, the source said. The director's post has been vacant since Lam Woon-kwong resigned in January.

From TheStandard.com.hk January 5, 2006

Chhattisgarh PSC Cancels State Civil Service Results

Chhattisgarh Public Service Commission (CGPSC) today cancelled the results of state civil services (preliminary) examination, ordering fresh valuation of answer papers citing ''technical flaws''. Commission secretary Manohar Pandey told newspersons here that the decision to cancel the results, which were announced earlier, was taken after ''technical flaws'' were detected in the model answers and scaling system. ''It has now been decided to conduct fresh valuation of answer sheets. It will start very soon,'' he said, adding, however that he was not in a position to say when the results would be declared. Chhattisgarh PSC had found itself in the middle of a controversy after the commission posted on its website the model answers of state civil services (preliminary) examination 2005, the results of which were officially announced on December 19.

The candidates, who had appeared in the examination, were taken aback after finding that there were numerous factual mistakes in the model answers posted on the website. One of the model answers described the sunflower as the national flower. There were also discrepancies in scaling process as a large number of candidates who appeared for a particular subject had passed the examination. Besides, there were also complaints about results leaking to the media much before it was officially announced. As the mistakes in model answers became public, candidates who appeared in the examination took to the streets and staged a demonstration in front of the PSC office, forcing the authorities to deploy heavy police force. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Raman Singh had also said he felt the need for streamlining the functioning of PSC to ensure more transparency.

From newswenindia123.com, January 6, 2006

EO 366 Promotes Quality Government Service - DBM's Relampagos

Davao City (10 January) - "We, as government employees, should restore our commitment of a quality government service for our clienteles", said Mario Relampagos, Department of Budget and Management undersecretary in the Arena XI 2nd General Assembly held yesterday (Jan. 9). Relampagos elaborated on Executive Order 366 or the "rationalization of the government". EO 366 is the transformation of the various government agencies for a more effective government service by means of eliminating redundant and obsolete functions of government employees, he said. "Ten days after the position of an employee is declared redundant, the agency is to submit the list of affected names and their positions to the Civil Service", Relampagos explained.

"The Civil Service is tasked to find other work for the eliminated employees so that they would be employed soon. But then if the employee will object to such arrangements, he/she can opt for the regular retirement with the incentives", he added. Furthermore, the Medium Term Expenditure Framework appropriated a P145 M budget until 2010. The DBM undersecretary is calling out to government agencies to "work within the budget given and have discipline in managing the resources".

From PIA Information Service, January 10, 2006

Result Woes for Civil Service Candidates

Raipur, Jan. 8: The fate of more than 2,700 students hangs in balance after the Chhattisgarh Public Service Commission (CPSC) cancelled the results of the civil service preliminary examinations held last December. The CPSC has ordered re-evaluation, a move that irked students' organisations as well as two members of the commission who had been crying foul over irregularities in the evaluation process. The decision to cancel the 2005 results was taken in a marathon meeting on Friday. Chandrashekhar Sahu and Khelanlal Jangade, the two members, were not invited in the meeting, which was chaired by CPSC chairman Ashok Darbari. "We were not invited for reasons best known to the chairman. I had raised my voice against irregularities in the evaluation of answersheets. But no heed was paid. Even while announcing the results, the meeting of the commission was not convened according to the norms and only a few people took the decision," Sahu told The Telegraph.

Sahu met chief minister Raman Singh on Friday and offered to put in his papers. "Since the credibility of the commission has been affected, the image of the government, too, is at stake," Sahu said, adding that he cannot work in a system where students have lost faith in the CPSC. On December 6 last year, 60,559 students had appeared in the preliminary examination. The commission, as charged by Sahu, declared the results in a hurry on December 19. A total of 2,716 candidates were declared qualified for the mains. Students' organisations have reacted strongly to the development. "It was no less than an irony that the students who failed in the examination were jubilant while a pall of gloom descended on those who passed," said Sanjay Joshi, the state president of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the BJP's student wing.

The ABVP functionary demanded the dismissal of the CPSC chairman as well as re-examinations. Not to be left behind, the National Students' Union of India (NSUI), has also demanded Darbari's ouster. President of the NSUI's state unit, Vikas Upadhyay, said the commission's credibility could be restored only through action against the "guilty" officials. Darbari, who was summoned by both the chief minister and Governor (Retd) Lt Gen. Krishna Mohan Seth yesterday, declined comment. CPSC secretary Manohar Pandey sought to give a clarification, saying the irregularities were due to some technical snags in the computers used in the evaluation process. Pandey, however, refused to fix responsibility on examination controller B.P. Kashyap as has been demanded by the students' unions.

From Telegraphindia.com, January 8, 2006

Public Policy, Private Benefits

The workplace policy of encouraging the participation of women in the public sector is bearing fruit - more women are being promoted to top management positions. That trend is starting to affect the gender balance in business as smart private-sector organisations tap into this considerable talent pool. Jennifer Westacott is the private sector's newest recruit. She left her position as the director-general of the New South Wales Department of Planning last September to run KPMG's NSW government practice. She is part of a generation of women who are taking on some of the most challenging and important public-sector roles at state and federal levels. Westacott rejects notions that their success is due simply to policy intervention. "They are all very talented, and the amount of people coming across to the private sector shows it," she says. (http://www.brw.com.au/freearticle.aspx?relId=16451).

From brw.com.au, January 12, 2006

MP Wins National Civil Service Kabaddi Title

Madhya Pradesh Civil Service (MPCS) won the All- India Civil Services Kabaddi Championship brushing aside the challenge of Regional Sports Board, Mumbai by 19-17 in the finals at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Fatorda here today. Bangalore claimed the third spot defeating the hosts Goa 11-8. Ashok Mishra and Rajendra Yadav, both of MPCS, were adjdudged as the best catcher and rider respectively. Goa's Sandeep Kalgakar was adjudged as the best all rounder. Earlier in the semi-finals, Mumbai beat Goa, while MPCS edged out Bangalore to set up the title clash. The championship was organised by Goa's Directorate of Sports and Youth Affairs under the aegis of the Central Civil Services Cultural and Sports Board, New Delhi. Goa Chief Minister Pratapsingh Rane gave the prizes.

From webindia123.com, January 15, 2006

Public Servants in Tonga Threaten to Sue Government

The Public Service Association in Tonga says it is prepared to sue the government as well as take strike action if its members grievances are not addressed. The PSA has already issued a notice of strike action for next week by teachers if their concerns about appointments are not looked at. The PSA assistant secretary, Mele 'Amanaki, says teachers who took part in the public servants' strike are being overlooked for promotion and some have been transferred to the outer islands. Ms 'Amanaki says the discrimination is against the Memorandum of Understanding which ended the strike last year. The MOU stated that no one would be disciplined or discriminated against over the strike. Ms 'Amanaki says it is not just teachers who are affected.

"Last year we have submitted two letters to the cabinet reporting some grievances of discrimination that has happened in some of the ministries and they didn't respond to that. Based on the reply, if they still breach the MOU we will take it up together with the others. It's different ministries. We are prepared to take this up to court."

From Radio New Zeeland, January 18, 2006

 

Ministers' Office Staff Cost Taxpayer 2.5m a Year

Civil servants working in the constituency offices of ministers cost the Exchequer 2.5 million each year, according to the latest official figures. Some 82 public servants are attached to the constituency offices of the 15 ministers, some of whom have been seconded from the respective departments. These are as well as the civil servants working in the ministers' private offices in their departments and the 63 civil servants and press advisers working in press offices. However, the figures also include those who would be employed on a permanent basis in constituency offices by ministers, in their capacity as TDs. The figures were released on foot of a parliamentary question submitted by Westmeath Fine Gael Deputy Paul McGrath.

From examiner.ie, January 2, 2006

Action to Defend Civil Service Jobs and Services

Members of the PCS civil service workers' union in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have voted for strikes over job cuts, office closures and other issues. Union leaders were expected to call a two-day strike for the end of January at a meeting taking place as Socialist Worker went to press. The PCS's 90,000 members in the DWP do vital jobs in Britain's job centres, benefits offices, processing and call centres. The government wants to cut up to 40,000 jobs across the DWP as part of its civil service jobs cull. It has already cut 15,000 jobs, leading to a serious decline in the level of services workers are able to deliver. Phil Pardoe, of the PCS's DWP group executive, told Socialist Worker, "The members have clearly voted for action. Frontline job centre staff understand how awful things are and have voted accordingly. "Other parts of the DWP where they are not experiencing the same cuts probably didn't show the same level of support for striking. "But I am sure that now the union has called a strike it will be supported across the board. We have to involve the maximum number of union members in the action and keep up the momentum after next week's strike."

From socialistworker.co.uk, January 14, 2006

Ministers Cut Back on Civil Service Jobs

The number of UK civil servants fell last year as ministers took steps to streamline bureaucracy in the face of criticism over public sector spending. Figures released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the number of civil service employees fell by 3,000 to 567,000 in the third quarter of 2005. This follows five years of steady civil service job growth, with employment experts predicting that this figure is set to fall further in 2006. '2006 will see the public jobs bonanza on the wane while the bulk of public sector employees will no longer enjoy the relatively rapid pay rises of recent years,' said John Philpott, chief economist at human resources group the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

'Although ministers are fully justified in getting to grips with public sector payrolls and efficiency as part of their overall effort to improve public service delivery, this will inevitably make life difficult for public sector managers already facing mounting trade union discontent over job cuts, pay curbs, and a tougher stance on tackling the sector's relatively high rate of absenteeism.' Nevertheless, while overall civil service employment fell in the 12 months to October 2005, most of the cutbacks occurred at local and regional government level, with central government employment rising by 42,000 over the year.

Overall public sector employment did increase over the same period, rising by 72,000 to 5.83 million, although this rate of growth was significantly lower than the 115,000 new jobs created in 2004. Health and social work and education saw the largest increase in the number of new employees over the year, rising by 45,000 and 25,000 respectively. Nevertheless, with the rate of public sector growth slowing, the private sector job market is now looking healthier, with employment increasing by 249,000 in the 12 months to October, more than three times the rate of public sector increase. The public sector accounted for 20.2 per cent of total UK employment at the end of the third quarter.

From Monsters and Critics.com - Glasgow,UK, January 13, 2006

New Personal Data Protection for Civil Service Forms

After two years of deliberation, the House Finance Committee has completed legislation concerning application forms for the appointment or promotion of public servants. The amendment takes into consideration today's living conditions and will adapt with provisions for the protection of personal data. The application form, which had remained essentially the same since the years of colonial rule, is being altered so candidates will no longer have to include personal photographs and will be given special guidance in completing important parts of the form, such as education and experience. Information will also be included involving the rights of appointment for EU citizens, and candidates will not have to submit personal data, such as marital status, religion, salary or details of their spouse and parents. Concluding the meeting, Committee Head Aristos Chrysostomou stated that it "was not in the Parliament's favour that it took nearly two years to complete the examination of such an application form."

From cyprus-mail.com, January 17, 2006

 

News from Civil Service Employees Association

Response of CSEA President Danny Donohue to Governor George Pataki's 2006 State of the State Address

Albany, NY - (01/04/2006; 1430)(EIS) - "Governor Pataki laid out an ambitious national agenda in his state of the state address. He offered some impressive, far reaching ideas, but it's hard to imagine accomplishing all of them in a year, particularly when there are very real issues that must be addressed such as the crisis in our public health care facilities, quality care in human services, and continuing pressure on our education system."

From Empire Information Services, January 4, 2006

PNM: People Unfriendly Government

Party politics in TnT has finally "boil(ed) down to simple dis: Is dog eat dog and survival of the fittest." And the two major combatants are the people unfriendly ruling PNM government and the power-hungry opposition UNC. This unholy, polarized political scenario has promoted the PNM as a government by default. This is a valid conclusion to the extent that ethnicity (not race) dictates that the majority PNM supporters will not vote for "those people" in the UNC and vice versa, the majority UNC supporters will not vote for "those people" in the PNM. A "those people" political conundrum now exists in TnT and this conundrum is further exacerbated by the politics of fear (PNM) versus the politics of race (UNC) tug-of-war.

In other words, regardless of what the PNM government does or does not do, its political directorate is 100 per cent sure/confident that a certain percentage of the ethnic electorate will vote in its favour as opposed to the 'other' party. One ethnic group of party supporters will never vote for the 'other' party. That is the stark, raw nature of the political beast in TnT today. Only time will usher in an era of political maturity; forty-three years of putative political independence is just too short a time period for such sanity to occur. The fact of the matter is that this government by default syndrome has precipitated an "arrogance of power" mind-set in the PNM regime - a mind-set that is most evident and pronounced in the area of public policy action or more specifically, public policy in-action. In this regard, the PNM government has been missing in action (MIA).

Indeed, the human fuselage from the PNM government's public policy impotence, neglect and insensitivity has been strewn all over TnT. For example, it can be detected in the prolonged dry domestic taps in Belmont, Arima, Arouca, D'Abadie, Valencia, Spring Village, Caroni, Las lomas, Penal, Debe, Princes Town, Siparia, Moruga, La Brea, Morne Diablo, Fyzabad, La Romaine and Rio Claro- Mayaro. In addition, law-abiding, tax-paying residents of Central and Trinidad's north coast are not only "sick and tired" of begging this people unfriendly PNM government to clear drains so as to permit the free flow of water but they are also "sick and tired" of beseeching this government to repair "deplorable conditions of roadways in their area."

In the medical-care field, the chair person of the Commission of Inquiry into Public Health Care, Gladys Gaffoor, puts it best this way: "Poor patient care is the major source of complaints about the country's health care sector." In his own words, Health Minister John Rahael agrees one hundred per cent: "Too many public sector health care professionals in TnT have no compassion for the patients in their care." Diane Seukeran, Minister in the Ministry of Trade, has also publicly criticized and chastised the health care policy of the PNM government. After recounting that the government has been in power for the past three and a half years and, in spite of budgeting millions of dollars for several projects to improve health care, Minister Seukeran had to conclude that "the work has not been done."

The PNM government's people unfriendly, MIA-public policy in-action has been exposed to the fullest extent in the wake of recent million-dollar fires in Port-of-Spain and San Fernando. In the Port-of-Spain fire, "water problems again plagued fire officers" while in San Fernando, "inadequately equipped fire appliances, lack of water supply and a non-functioning hose-laying lorry that could have pulled water from the sea were all blamed for the buildings being razed." The fact of the matter is that this water supply cum antiquated appliances problem still remains and persists in the fire services department. How many more businesses owned by law-abiding, tax paying Trinbagonians must go up in smoke, PNM government?The fact of the matter is that in the abundance of "materialistic progress" and petrodollars in TnT, "12.4 per cent of the population exists on US$1 (TT$6.30) per day and a further 39 per cent of the population live on less than US$2 (TT$12.60) per day."

These Trinbagonians are the real public policy boboolee under the PNM. PNM is a people unfriendly government, by design not by accident. "Lack of caring" for the "least of these" in our society is the entrenched trademark of this uncaring, "unkind" PNM government. Instead of caring and maximizing the basic human needs (BHN) of the people, the PNM government decided in its ultimate wisdom to build a TT$850m stadium in Tarouba. And this public policy decision was taken despite the fact that the brutal, harsh reality of all the afore-mentioned human misery continues unabated compounded by the appalling inhumane condition of police stations, magistrates' courts and schools. This people unfriendly public policy decision is just a simple case of putting "legacies" before "people." The fact of the matter is that legitimate, people-oriented public policy decisions dictate that the permanent, macro interests of the "people" must supervene any scintilla of transitory, micro personal "legacies."

One inhumane and destructive addendum to the afore-mentioned list of human misery is that the legal/responsible profession of fishing and the livelihood of fishermen and their families have been placed on the PNM government's public policy extinction hit list. Indeed, the record clearly reveals that this PNM government is not only people unfriendly but also most vicious, antagonistic and vindictive towards the labour movement and its members/workers. This government treats this sector with utter contempt, disdain and uncanny belligerence. It is quite obvious to all and sundry that the Manning-PNM government has declared an all-out jihad against the labour movement in TnT. The non-implementation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) is prima facie evidence of such anti-people policy credentials.

In the midst of all this public policy human tsunami, the unbelievable and unconscionable response from this country's people unfriendly ruling PNM government is that it is "armed and well prepared" to contest the next general elections. Political survival and victory are its only paranoid obsessions and focus 24-7-365. Ergo, the PNM government is virtually nonchalant about the people's safety and protection from uncontrollable and ever escalating crime, kidnappings and mayhem. It is this wicked, anti-people and non-caring altruistic public policy posture that forced and compelled Minister of Housing, Dr. Keith Rowley, to corroborate his ministerial colleagues' (Rahael and Seukeran) on-target criticism and chastisement of the PNM government's "performance" thus: "We're spending more and more. (while the public is) getting less and less ('of the value for the amount of money being spent') in virtually every area" of the PNM government's people unfriendly public policy decision-making process.

The politics of fear suggests that Trinbagonians have been "bamboozled, hoodwinked and took' by the PNM government. The politics of fear has resulted in congosa, pappyshow and mammaguy people unfriendly public policy decisions by the PNM government. The fact of the matter is that under the PNM government, TnT is not a "failed state"; it is a non-state in people terms. The State has abdicated one of the basic functions of any democratic government, i.e. to protect the interests of the people - the multifaceted interests of the people. Moreover, parochial politics in TnT indicates that PNM is the problem; UNC is not the solution - "same khaki pants." At present, TnT is wrapped up in the swaddling clothes of a 15th century slave-plantation society superficially functioning in the era of 21st century putative independence. This is de jure Vision 00/00.

The inevitable conclusion that must drawn is that in the arena of public policy decision-making process and delivery, the PNM government has exemplified no "compassion for the poor, the afflicted and downtrodden." In general, TnT society is "living in jail" while 40 per cent is "living in hell." When the next general elections come around, the majority conscious electorate must indict the PNM government for unadulterated public policy malfeasance and ministerial recidivism. "The more things change, the more they remain the same." The fact of the matter is that Laventille was a ghetto in 1956; it is still a ghetto in 2006 - thus celebrating fifty long years of PNM's inhumanity.

In the final analysis, the politics of fear may lend real or imagined fulcrum to the credo: "Magnum Es PNM." Or it maybe the stark reality that "there is no question that Dr. Williams would have been ashamed of the PNM today, had he still been alive." Nevertheless, the political directorate of the people unfriendly PNM government needs to be cognizant of the admonition of the legendary Afrikan-American anti-slavery revolutionary Frederick Douglass: "The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress." According to Bob Marley: "You can fool some people some time but you can't fool all the people all the time." This is not political ex tempo. The PNM is not invincible. Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.

From Trinicenter.com, January 4, 2006

 
 
Africa: Occultism in African Governance

For several centuries, African leaders have always had recourse to occult manipulations by which they blindfolded their followers. For instance, that the UK-detained Governor of Bayelsa in the Niger Delta finally returned to Nigeria is no longer news, but what will remain a wonder in the annals of political history and world judicial records is the manner and ease of his escape, disguised as a woman with Israeli passport. Considering how he beat the U K security apparatus and got to his village before daylight, an American observer described it as simply 'magical'.

Yes to magic. This feat was not only magical in the grammatical sense, but vitally so in both literal and practical terms. A 'knowledgeable' African woman aptly noted on the morning of the man's return that the very dresses the escaping man wore must have been 'dressed' the way occult candles are oiled before Wicca rites. Well, this may only 'seem' magical to Europe and America, but virtually every African knows that with black and African arts, appearances and disappearances are possible. By the way, who doesn't know that African political leaders immerse themselves in such voodoo that even when they are oppressing their subjects, those pitiable folks will still remain their stoutest defenders? Diepreye's escape makes it doubtless that you need more than wits, money, smartness and the right connections to rule in the jungle.

Occult involvement and spiritism are vital tools in the kitty of most black African leaders, be they political, traditional or (sad to say) religious. I used to doubt this till I encountered two highly respected senior citizens, one in the Yoruba west, and the other a full-blooded Ngwa patriot from Aba, in the eastern part of the country. A 'business rival' of the Yoruba metaphysician/parapsychologist told me that this fellow was as cruel and fetish as himself save for the latter's learned posturing which had enabled him to warm his way into the political leadership of Nigeria. Up there, he screens political appointments, business meetings, international visitors, and even dictates to their Excellencies which days are 'lucky days', and which state functions to cancel. Does this remind you of things like astrology, kabala, ouija boards, tarot cards and water-witching?

Well, in Africa, till date, these arts have not developed to where mere incantations to some disembodied spirit or issuing of command to some invisible Bromius can facilitate the accomplishment of any feat. No, no, no. Instead, raw rituals, human sacrifices, and immolation are the only route still used to attain such magical flights like Diepreye's, endless court adjournments like Chief Nwude's whose fraudulent closure of a South American bank and investment of the hundreds of millions of dollars in Union Bank remained in court for an unduly long time (sometimes, the trial judge would be so ill he could not make it to court, or the prosecution witness withdrew from the case, or the defendant's lead counsel was absent, simply absent, and there was no sanctions, or just something!); political victories like that of the Ubas and Ngiges of Anambra, which ultimately require continuous carnage, actual sacrifice of human lives through social unrest; and the affliction of paralysis a nd cardio-vascular diseases on perceived enemies without any physical contact with the unlucky targets of such injuries.

This explains the bizarre scenario of headless corpses often seen littering the streets of major African cities, some of them having their vital organs cut off by their ritualistic murderers. Powers gained from these are used to cling to political office. The most astounding of this phenomenon is that the bewitched citizens are esoterically given the further burden of applauding and defending the oppressive leader that is taking them for a ride, just like Ikemefuna in Chinua Achebe's novel, Things Fall Apart, was made to carry the clay pot containing the fetish accompaniments down the narrow path where he was sacrificed by the very man he called father.

There is this story of a man that assumed office in a government agency in one of the western states of Nigeria, and froze on the seat in his very first day on duty. When his retired predecessor was contacted, he simply laughed it away, saying the new man was "only a woman", and not 'strong' enough to succeed him; that himself was only testing some of his powers. That was the end of the matter. The law does not recognize magic and witchcraft, but we all do. Then, there was also this near decimation of Federal forces who went to quell a minor uprising in the Niger Delta some years ago. It just couldn't be verified or conclusively investigated how pythons, mutant lions and other monstrous beasts appeared in the mangrove swamps of the Niger Delta to eat up armed men without the sound of a gun-shot, without the privilege of a gallant fight befitting trained soldiers.

In Nigeria of today, there are two enigmatic men who don't make it a secret that they respect and employ esoteric assistance for their welfare and progress. One is the Commonwealth heavy-weight boxing champion, Bash Ali. Mr Ali does not hesitate to pay tribute to what he cheerfully refers to as "Bendel Insurance", that is, the Benin-engendered occult powers with which any one in the world could be knocked out in a boxing or wrestling match with minimal effort from the possessor and server of the fetish. Even in television talk-shows, Bash Ali will only cap up all his boasts with obeisance to this black African art.

In the case of Diepreye's, one of his closest advisers (if not ultimate instructor and coach) is his fellow Ijaw indigene, simply referred to as Tuesday, a spiritualist. For avoidance of doubt, Ijaw take deep solace in the shelter of their local gurus rather than any outside philosophers. In 1991, my colleagues and I encountered a young soothsayer possibly in his mid-thirties who had been hired, housed and apportioned a place for a shrine behind the Asaigbene village on the banks of Taylor Creek, Nun river. Our investigations revealed that he came from a nearby community but had proven his mettle when it came to using voodoo to protect this snake-infested community. Another village covered by our voyage then was Kalama, where the juju priest uses a peeled coconut tied at the entrance of the narrow track leading to the village as closed-circuit television. He sees you, your dressing, and any companions, and confirms your name and mission before you arrive this tiny river-side settlement. Like Kalama, Kaiama, Omekwe-ama, Opruma and Opokuma, Diepreye's native Amassoma is no less 'powerful' when it comes to using the esoteric arts to protect and consolidate the conquests of their natives. (The means or victims of such 'conquests' matter very little in the liturgy of such societies).

Thus, Diepreye's Tuesday had since told the embattled Governor and his aides not to worry, that their Governor-General will soon return to Bayelsa to the astonishment and shame of his local 'persecutors' and meddlesome colonial masters. Of course, Mr. Tuesday gets more attention from the governor than any legal counsel or political advisers can ever dream of. In the small hours of the morning that Diepreye sneaked into Bayelsa, Tuesday was there beaming with smiles, sure to continue in the services of His Excellency with far better conditions of service than those impatient legislators that were already working to remove the Governor-General. Talk about conditions of service for occult -advisers of African leaders, and you remember the late Idi Amin Dada of Uganda whose spiritualist had a private helicopter and more pay than the Vice-President of their impoverished country.

Sickening as this is, it remains the most intractable problem of the Third World. The problem of inseparability of occult practice with leadership in Africa craves a study. Unfortunately, neither do our laws provide for such beliefs, nor does the average academic grant consider such outlandish subjects as Esoterism. Shouldn't we study esoterism to understand Africa's leadership problems?

Considering the toll unregulated practice of esoteric arts takes on human lives, and the sheer fact that you just can't regulate what you're not conversant with, an officially approved and sponsored course of study on the phenomenon will be highly beneficial. While not standing brief for those who deem it a necessary tool in governance, or my one-time Professor of Art, a Benin prince, who informed us in the late '80s he was going to get his 7th Doctorate Degree in Witchcraft from a South American University, I think an in-depth study of these arts, and their interface with governance can tame the wild and invisible forces that have turned African governments into a medley of trickery and blood sacrifices. It will make these disembodied spirits, or blind elements, obey ordinary orders, follow simple instructions as we see in simple magic, and heed to decrees and commands issued them by humans rather than demanding blood sacrifices and the organs of the ritually murdered. Where as the former engenders useful inventions in benignant climates, the latter spawns the ignoble but fast-growing industry of ritual killing now pervasive in Africa.

For instance, in China, in combination with certain soil types, these arts have been used to produce what I bought in the course of this research, called Miracle Chalk. It is a poison that tears down the nervous system of living things within a couple of minutes, as the target passes parallel lines drawn with the chalk. It is said to be "low" poisonous, whatever that means! But now, this is harnessed for good ends, as an insecticide, and not for homicide!

In the course of this research, I travelled to the Niger Delta region afresh, and felt the pulse of those who see these arts as an inheritance and their only succor in the face of the challenges posed by insensitive governments and household wickedness. At Aba, some of my respondents insisted that powers gained by esoterism are disarmed by lakes, rivers and oceans, and become ineffectual in transit across such terrains. In Asaba, adherents and inheritors of this phenomenon still hang simple calabashes tied with tender palm fronds at the entrance of their homes as booby-trap ( and how it works against their enemies!); and in the villages of Ugwunagbo, people still plant local species and variants of Aloe Vera as land-mines for any intruders to their premises armed with hurtful intentions. And does it work!

Don't let me fool you into believing that magic works alone or can ever be effectual without a combination of other sleight of hand and smart human moves. Let me also not hoodwink you into believing that magic (or the esoteric arts, to sound beautiful), can ever be successfully employed for positive ends without a counter-balancing (or commensurate payment in whatever currency demanded by the invisible facilitating agencies). In the course of time, the payment may be in form of an endless civil unrest, a war of attrition, the kind that has seized West Africa by the throat since the early 60s; when it seems to be abating in one country, it is only flowing into yet another like an evil tide. That is on the national/international level. What about the individual level? Two knowledgeable respondents I encountered in the Niger Delta area in the course of this research explained that any individual that employs the services of disembodied elementals pays via an annual ritual carnag e like a ghastly road accident or air crash, or a quarterly/monthly donation of a Living Thing.

The writer is an alumnus of the Universities of Benin and Lagos, and Dean, Ministry Training Center, Lagos, Nigeria. http//www.ministrytrainingcenter.net

From allAfrica.com, January 3, 2006

Good Governance Minister Attacks Graft in Burundi

Four pubic finance ministry personnel in Burundi have voluntarily confessed stealing government funds, according to Joseph Ntakarutimana, minister of good governance and public general inspectorate. The new government had warned corrupt officials in an ultimatum to agree on practical repayment terms with the authorities of the good governance ministry by 31 December 2005. But just two accountants and two cashiers confessed to Minister Ntakarutimana at the end of the three-month ultimatum. They admitted stealing about 3 million Burundian francs (roughly $3,000), the minister said.

A forced recovery plan is under consideration to deal with officials who will voluntarily report their shady financial dealings to the ministry, while the police will hunt and bring to court those whom Ntakarutimana calls the "big fishes" who are still hiding. The General Financial Inspectorate has already completed 100 corruption, embezzlement and misappropriation files on public officials in order to pursue them. The Corruption and Economic and Financial Malpractice Watchdog (OLUCOM, independent) says that more than 40 billion Burundian francs (about $40 million) went missing from public coffers during the past decade when civil war and the decline of public authority prevailed.

From AngolaPress, January 5, 2006

Africa Good Governance Program on the Radio Waves

The World Bank Institute (WBI) has launched an innovative program, "Africa Good Governance Program on the Radio Waves," to support local government capacity building and community empowerment via radio. The program includes radio broadcasts in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. By using innovative digital radio technology, the program is able to reach out to remote rural areas and help foster social inclusion and decentralization in the participating countries.

The program includes four different components. Three of these: Governing Municipalities without Corruption, Civic Participation, and Municipal Finance/Participatory Budgeting, are structured as formal capacity-building initiatives. The fourth component, Africa Municipal News Magazine, uses a magazine format and serves as an umbrella program to disseminate information, share experiences, and provide news to municipal stakeholders in the region. The three capacity-building initiatives use an interactive methodology that promotes active participation in the learning program. "We need to build on Africa's tradition of oral knowledge exchange using technology, which helps our voices and ideas be heard." says Frannie Leautier, Vice President of the World Bank Institute.

The goal of the learning programs is the elaboration of action plans by the participants (mayors, local public officials, members of local communities and representatives of civil society) that can be incorporated into ongoing reform work and have the potential to be replicated in other municipalities and countries. "The Bank is supporting African countries in strengthening governance and in developing more effective states. In this context, the role of local governments and the involvement of civil society in policy development and implementation are critical to reduce poverty and to deliver adequate services to the population." says Guenter Heidenhof, Lead Public Sector Specialist at the World Bank.

As part of this program, WBI has joined forces with the Municipal Development Partnership for Eastern and Southern Africa (MDP-ESA), the national associations of local governments, and with First Voice International. The first component of the program - Governing Municipalities without Corruption - started on July 14, 2005. The other components will start in early 2006, and run until June 2006. The program is currently broadcast in English, and there are plans to include local languages, French and Portuguese.

From The World Bank, January 6, 2005

 

View - The Year of Drift - Dr. Hasan-Askari Rizvi

Afghanistan, Great Britain and the United Nations will host a conference to renew the foreign community's commitment to peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan as specified in the Bonn Accord. Afghan President Hamid Karzai will present a proposed 5-year development plan to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and representatives of donor countries. The plan addresses security, governance and development challenges, and is expected to include Afghanistan's National Drug Control Strategy. The Bonn accord was adopted after the Taliban government was ousted in 2001. It outlined the war-torn country's first steps towards democracy, including the adoption of a new constitution and presidential and legislative elections that were carried out with extensive international help.

While the donors praise Afghanistan for its achievements, they complain about the resurgent opium production in the country. Their quid pro quo for opening the purse wider for Afghanistan could be a stronger commitment from the Afghan president to clamp down on poppy production. The European Union wants to see more progress on security sector reform, improvements in the rule of law and the consolidation of a fair and impartial administration of justice. The Europeans regard the country's trade in drugs as the biggest challenge to its long-term security, development and governance. should be part of the Karzai presentation. On Sep 13 the UN Security Council renewed the mandate of the International Security and Assistance Force in Afghanistan. She welcomed the adoption of Security Council resolution 1623 (2005) on 13 September, which renewed the mandate of the ISAF in Afghanistan.

From Ranil Wijayapala in Dahaka, January 13, 2006

India Open to Discuss the Issue within Constitutional Framework

India said it was open to any fresh idea of self-governance in Jammu and Kashmir brought to its notice through back-channel diplomacy but would discuss it only within the framework of its constitution. On Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's pronouncements on "self rule" and "demilitarisation" a senior Indian official here said there was no change in New Delhi's position as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had made it clear that there was already a popularly elected government in Jammu and Kashmir. About the question of autonomy, the official, who requested not to be named, said India had made it clear that it was prepared to discuss the issue within the framework of the constitution. "The question of autonomy is between the central and the state governments," he added.

He stated that India had a very clear position and a road map of engagement on Jammu and Kashmir. "There was no need to deflect from that path," the official said. He alleged that there was no end to the cross border infiltration and terrorism. "The phenomenon of cross-border terror hangs like a big question mark on the peace process." He, however, said there was no evidence yet on the involvement of Pakistani groups in Wednesday's attack on scientists in Bangalore in which one person was killed. "If it's not stopped, the public sentiment in favour of peace will evaporate," he said alluding to the Diwali-eve multiple terror strikes that rocked New Delhi two months ago. "We hope that there will be a determined effort on the part of Pakistan to dismantle infrastructure of terrorism," he added. Hoping that 2006 would bring improvement in bilateral relations, the official regretted that there was no "spectacular progress" in the relations although during the past two years, there had been significant improvement.

From DailyTimes, January 01, 2006

Afghanistan Presents 5-year Development Plan at London Conference

Afghanistan, Great Britain and the United Nations will host a conference to renew the foreign community's commitment to peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan as specified in the Bonn Accord. Afghan President Hamid Karzai will present a proposed 5-year development plan to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and representatives of donor countries. The plan addresses security, governance and development challenges, and is expected to include Afghanistan's National Drug Control Strategy. The Bonn accord was adopted after the Taliban government was ousted in 2001. It outlined the war-torn country's first steps towards democracy, including the adoption of a new constitution and presidential and legislative elections that were carried out with extensive international help.

While the donors praise Afghanistan for its achievements, they complain about the resurgent opium production in the country. Their quid pro quo for opening the purse wider for Afghanistan could be a stronger commitment from the Afghan president to clamp down on poppy production. The European Union wants to see more progress on security sector reform, improvements in the rule of law and the consolidation of a fair and impartial administration of justice. The Europeans regard the country's trade in drugs as the biggest challenge to its long-term security, development and governance. should be part of the Karzai presentation. On Sep 13 the UN Security Council renewed the mandate of the International Security and Assistance Force in Afghanistan. She welcomed the adoption of Security Council resolution 1623 (2005) on 13 September, which renewed the mandate of the ISAF in Afghanistan.

From Pak Tribune, January 02, 2006

Commentary: For Public Welfare and Good Governance

As the Filipino people continuously banking on a strong FVR-GMA alliance founded on a platform of social reform, economic growth and political change. The government is confident that whatever consensus arose from the meeting will be for the good of the country. The Palace welcomes the unifying role of FVR in support of the administration programs for the common good and the welfare of the Filipino people. FVR has always been considered a staunch ally of the administration whose efforts at political consolidation and economic diplomacy fall squarely in line with the vision and goals of the Arroyo administration.

The public still believe that the meeting was in pursuit of greater political unity for broader pro-poor programs, a strong economy and political change. Meanwhile, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said his office is consistently calling on Congress to expedite the passage of the 2006 national budget, for what is at stake here is the President's pro-poor agenda and our full economic take off. Instead of dignifying unfounded allegations over the budget that could only further delay its approval, the Filipino people is urging our lawmakers to concentrate on their legislative work in the interest of public welfare and good governance.

From PIA Information Service, January 04, 2006

Rules Published on Options for Senior Managerial Officer

The China Securities Regulatory Commission Wednesday made public its provisional rules on options for senior managerial officers in a move to improve corporate governance and promote sustainable development. Under the rules, the total number of options to managerial personnel should not exceed 10 percent of the overall amount of the stocks of the listed firm involved, and listed firms should introduce share reforms before they are eligible for option schemes. China's ongoing share reforms aim to allow about two thirds of the shares of the listed firms to be floated through a package of compensation for minority shareholders.

Domestically listed Chinese firms had to promise two thirds of their shares will not be floated for an unspecified period of time when the country's stock markets were launched 15 years ago, which the commission said has proved to be a bad policy that should be done away with. The commission said the rules were formulated as part of the efforts to implement a package of decisions by the Chinese government for reform and opening-up of the country's capital market and its recent decision to improve corporate governance. The Chinese version of the rules, which contain seven chapters and 53 articles, are available on the official website of the commission.

From China.View, January 04, 2006

 

Strategy & Management: Corporate Governance - Convergence on Principles, Not Rules

Investors and corporate governance activists gathered recently in London to debate the pressing need both for a pan-European corporate governance approach and 'better regulation'. As part of the UK's presidency of the European Union, the government hosted a number of business debates towards the end of 2005. Better regulation, social dialogue, stakeholder engagement and corporate governance were all on the agenda for the UK presidency. Called a lame duck by many it culminated in Tony Blair's controversial compromise deal on the EU budget during December.

In mid-November hundreds of activist investors, corporate governance campaigners, representatives of think tanks and civil servants met at a Department of Trade and Industry conference in London. The aim was to discuss how, rather than whether, the EU and in particular the European Commission should proceed on encouraging principles and standards and delivering rules and directives on corporate governance.

The commission is developing what it calls a two-stage "action plan" on EU company law, following a number of public meetings and consultations. The first stage was launched after the corporate scandals at the turn of the millennium and was designed to restore confidence in the financial markets by enhancing transparency. At the DTI conference, the EU's commissioner for internal market and services, Charlie McCreevy, said the commission was approaching the end of the first phase of the action plan.

Soon, he said, stakeholders across the EU would be able to "get a clearer picture of a company's corporate governance practices", thanks to the EU's moves to encourage transparency in companies. The European Commission is to modify accounting directives, which will require companies to disclose both whether they follow a corporate governance code and where they depart from it. McCreevy says the EU is trying "to get the plumbing right" so cross-border shareholder voting can flow. He said he intended to submit a draft directive to the commission that would include these changes by the end of 2005. After the corporate scandals of the early 2000s, of which the meltdown of Italy's Parmalat in 2003 was one of the most recent, the commission issued a communication that improved auditing frameworks, clarified board responsibilities and encouraged director pay transparency and board director independence.

That Lisbon agenda... Now, says McCreevy, the commission wants to focus on encouraging two things. First, the economic competitiveness of EU companies, and, second, better regulation of the EU's companies, which have a total of more than 450 million customers. According to the World Bank, only two EU member states feature in the top ten list of the world's countries ranked on ease of setting up and winding up companies. This, says McCreevy, "is simply not good enough". "If we have a competitive internal market, our firms will have better chances of competing successfully abroad. Globalisation might then be perceived not as a threat but as an opportunity," he told the DTI governance conference in London.

On the point of better regulation of EU firms, the EU is focusing first on engaging with stakeholders on what better regulation means to them, but it also has a firm focus on cutting red tape and encouraging flexibility. This is something that is seriously holding back the Eurozone on competitiveness with Asia and the US, according to many commentators. Germany and, in particular, France, are held as the worst examples of countries held back by heavy regulation. Principally, the EU wants to move to a regulatory system for companies where legislation is the very last answer to a collectively identified problem. Legislation that curtails business flexibility will now be subjected to a "comprehensive impact assessment" before being taken any further, says the European Commission.

Better regulation has been a theme of the UK's EU presidency and something the UK government is seen as trying to push hard in Europe. Groups such as the Confederation of British Industry are concerned about the UK's competitiveness and have lobbied the government to push for the simplification of European rules. Delegates from the UK and across the EU at the DTI conference strongly expressed their support for such moves. However, trade unions and non-governmental organisations were not well represented and many have markedly different views on regulation, calling frequently for more, rather than less. This is particularly true on environmental issues, such as the impact of chemicals on human health.

An agreement to assess and authorise chemicals, known as Reach, has been passed in the European Parliament. It has been the subject of much controversy. Business says it will place huge costs on the European chemicals industry but excludes their foreign competitors, while NGOs such as Greenpeace say the bill is essential to safeguard human health. The result of the negotiations will be a test case for the EU's new attitude to business competitiveness, and may be an indication of whether the commitment to less red tape on business really goes all the way across the EU or is over-hyped when commissioners visit the UK and make speeches.

Five principles for success? David Pitt-Watson, chief executive of Hermes Focus Asset Management, an activist investor whose Focus funds regularly outperform the FTSE All Share index, said at November's conference that the European Union needed to follow five principles for corporate governance success. He said it needed: accountable companies, responsible owners, relevant information, independent monitors and open access to markets. But, he said, we cannot legislate for this from Brussels, or even possibly from a national government perspective. "We need soft laws, we need ethics", he claimed.He told the conference that over the past 15 years of UK corporate governance, regulations have responded to change in company practice, not the other way around, and that Europe cannot have "a single regime" for corporate governance, since it is a global issue. Some 30%-40% of EU company shares are owned by non-EU investors, many in the US.

Pitt-Watson says that if Europe does not "take a stand" on corporate governance principles it may be overrun by the US corporate governance model, "which is only about the integrity of capital markets, not about accountability and responsibility". Alan Johnson, the UK's Trade and Industry Secretary, told the conference that Britain and the EU must sell business ideas abroad, talking of an opportunity to tap markets in a world of changing demographics. He used salient predictions to make his point. Goldman Sachs predicts China's economy will outstrip America's by 2041, while Yemen could outstrip Germany in terms of population within 50 years. He said that "the businesses that think global are the businesses that will succeed".

Foreign takeovers of UK companies are a sign of faith in the UK's economy, Johnson contended, saying that the government's company law reform bill would save 250 million Pounds a year for UK business. The proposed changes to UK company law will abolish the need for company secretaries, clarify directors' duties, and make it easier for shareholders to hold directors to account. Investors can make demands for corporate information on company financial auditors, and the government is set to create a new crime of "recklessly" submitting false information in company accounts.

NGOs such as Friends of the Earth are unimpressed at such moves. In late November at the House of Lords, Friends of the Earth's director for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Tony Juniper, said the current company law review would make companies less, rather than more, accountable to wider stakeholders on important issues. Friends of the Earth is proposing its own bill, which seeks to impose on company directors a duty of care over the environment. But Johnson clearly disagrees. "Legislation should always be a last resort and never our first reflex," he concluded at the London governance conference. The tone appears to have been set, and corporate governance principles, rather than rules, seem like the way forward for the European Commission in 2006.

From the Ethical Corporation, January 04, 2006

Opening Pandora's Box: Governance for Genetically Modified Forests

Planting genetically modified (GM) or transgenic forest trees for wood production is now feasible on a commercial scale worldwide. What are the benefits? What are the risks? This became an open question two years ago on December 10, 2003, when the United Nations declared that every sovereign nation should decide on its own whether or not to use genetically modified forests for carbon sequestration.

Although feasible on a commercial scale, we are still in the early stages of GM technology for forest trees. Some of the major determinants shaping risks of commercial-scale use include type(s) of inserted DNA construct or transgene, but also 1) reproductive biology of the forest species, and 2) the forest production or silvicultural systems. To date, GM forest trees are being tested in small trials worldwide. Only China is planting GM forest trees on a commercial scale.

Central to the issue of GM forest trees is the question of biosafety. Will effective biosafety protocols eventually become available, or should we accept that escape of GM forest trees is inevitable and study ecological consequences instead? Here I present the argument for the latter and propose a public-private partnership for this purpose, a technology trust.

Commercial GM Forests: Predicting the Long-term Consequences

Each nation sanctioning genetically engineering forest trees must decide 1) what biosafety protocols should be considered, if any, and 2) weigh the consequences in the event that gene flow from GM forest plantations to the surrounding forest is not deterred. Two opposing schools of thought are emerging in response to these two queries. The first is the Biosafety Premise, which ascertains that effective biosafety protocols will eventually be possible for GM forest trees. The opposing view, the Ecological Premise, is that transgene escape into the indigenous forest is inevitable, so studying ecological consequences deserves a higher research priority than continuing research leading to better biosafety protocols. Each nation must also consider the lengthy timeframe inherent to forest policy. To quote poet Wendell Berry: "Invest in the millennium. Plant a sequoia." Here we are reminded that the impact of GM commercialization, whether harmful or not, will outlast a human life span and certainly extend well beyond the purview of regulatory oversight.

Biosafety Premise: Biosafety measures can prevent transgene escape from GM forest trees

In the U.S. and Canada, regulatory agencies now recognize that one set of regulations do not fit all plants. GM forest trees are only one of many examples that require customized guidelines. Consider the case of biocontainment zones commonly used for GM crop plants. The width of the biocontainment zone around the transgenic planting is usually determined by gene flow data collected experimentally, but the distance for wind-pollinated conifers occurs on the scale of kilometers that is too vast to be deterred by a biocontainment zone around the GM planting. Using detailed model simulations of pollen and seed trajectories in a turbulent atmosphere shows that escape of seeds or pollen beyond a 1-kilometer periphery of the transgenic planting has a 100% certainty. Biosafety for GM conifers will not parallel protocols used for GM agricultural plants.

At the heart of the biosafety issue for any GM forest species is the question of how to manage for long-distance dispersal (LDD). Preliminary model simulations show that, although local neighborhood diffusion (LND) accounts for roughly 99% of the seeds and pollen, the dispersal process of real interest is LDD, which accounts for dispersal of the remaining 1%. With long-distance dispersal, seeds and pollen are vertically uplifted above the canopy by updrafting air currents, where they are rapidly moved on the order of kilometers from the source. Transgene escapes via LDD pose the greatest risk of remote GM colonization for forest trees.

Models predicting LDD distances for Pinus taeda not only predict dispersal distances but also point to some testable hypotheses germane to developing biosafety protocols. Proponents argue that this type of research is too preliminary to be conclusive. Consider the following four caveats as indications of how much more research still remains to be done on GM forest biosafety.

1) Published LDD predictions and associated diffusion rates for GM colonies model dispersal from the GM source into a continuous forest canopy composed of the same species at the same age and height. This means that LDD predictions cannot be extrapolated accurately to the case where the GM planting is surrounded by a taller forest canopy at its periphery. Using old-growth forests as a biocontainment zone around a commercial transgenic plantation is an interesting but untested hypothesis for reducing transgene escapes. This complex scenario could be modeled using mechanistic approaches but reducing, not deterring, gene flow from GM trees is the likely outcome.

2) A lower volume of dispersed seeds and pollen corresponds to a drop in the absolute number of LDD escapes. If number of LDD escapes is the risk criterion, one could hypothesize that even leaky reproductive sterility methods can provide an acceptable biosafety protocol. Absolute suppression of reproduction may not be needed. If so, how low must diaspore volume drop before LDD escapes fall below an acceptable level? How does one determine the acceptable level? The leaky mitigation hypothesis can also be addressed using mechanistic models coupled with gene flow models. Here, too, the argument is for reduced gene flow, not an absolute deterrent.

3) LDD predictions are so specific to the mating system particulars of each forest tree species that this question must be considered on a case-by-case basis. To date, dispersal distance and colonization predicted for GM seedlings are specific to the mating system of one forest tree species, Pinus taeda.

But all forest trees are not wind-pollinated; some plantation species are insect-pollinated or even self-pollinated. Even among wind-pollinated pines, some require fire for seed dispersal. Age of reproductive onset varies widely among commodity forest species, as does the volume of seed and pollen dispersed each year. Many forest tree species produce a high number of empty seeds due to physiology or pest predation.

In any event, predictions of LDD numbers are sensitive to these input variables from each species' mating system, so generalizations from one commodity species may not apply to each species in question. Gene flow modeling is needed over a wider range of species.

4) Dispersal is only the first part of the gene flow equation. We still do not know much about actual gene flow via LDD at this time for any forest tree species. LND dispersal distance has a close corollary to average gene flow distances reported using organellar markers, so LDD, as a rare event, goes undetected in most experimental gene flow studies.

Escaped LDD pollen can travel long distances for many hours or even days, so it is subjected to harsh conditions during flight. What is the viability for LDD pollen? Is it capable of germination or even fertilization? Experimental data on viability along these intermediate steps are needed before dispersal distances can be translated into actual gene flow estimates.

Ecological Premise: Emphasis should be on ecological consequences, not deterring GM escape - Proponents here argue that gene flow from GM plants is inevitable so research funding should be directed away from developing sophisticated methods of mitigating transgene dispersal and re-allocated to the study of ecological consequences of transgene colonization. Similarly, Canadian regulatory agencies also view transgene escape in forest trees as inevitable, and once the escape of transgenes has occurred into feral forest tree populations, it cannot be reversed. If biosafety protocols prove futile given the scale of gene flow from certain GM forest commodity species then only two choices remain: 1) abandon the GM technology for forest trees; or 2) opt for deregulation of GM forest trees.

Indeed, some nations may decide that a moratorium on GM forest trees is the best fit. For others, pressure to deregulate GM forest trees will come from the market place if GM technology is viewed as a critical part of the portfolio for preserving national competitiveness in global markets. Plantations do provide a disproportionate share of the world's wood relative to the land area they occupy, so here the relevant ecological question becomes whether transgenic forest plantations, justified as a means of sparing timber harvests in more fragile forested ecosystems, will do harm to the very resource they purport to protect.

Despite market forces, deregulation must be balanced against the impact of transgene escapes on small family forests that surround larger corporate forest plantations. In the U.S., it seems doubtful that even the most affluent of the family forest owners will be early adopters of transgenic seedlings for their own forest regeneration, but with deregulation these owners will have to contend with the unknown consequences of transgene escapes coming from adjoining plantations. Transgenic effects of GM forest trees, once released, constitutes a Pandora's Box. Will the effects be beneficial, benign, or harmful? This unanswered question is troubling for those who seek deregulated use of transgenic pine plantations and the question is deeply disturbing to those who view the forest as symbolic of nature itself.a Studying ecological consequences of deregulation implies a short timeframe for detecting transgene effects, whether good, neutral, or bad. By favoring short timeframes for research, we must overlook evolutionary consequences as a criterion for decision-making. Consider the following example.

Pines, among the oldest seed plant lineage on earth, have persisted for nearly 200 million years. Few advocates of GM pine plantations in the 21st century have considered this decision from the perspective of evolution. Many pine species have an open-ended hybridization system, so conditions can favor indefinite persistence of transgenes in groups of neighboring or sympatric species, also known as species complexes. Species complexes with a reticulating, open-ended fate of hybrids, known as the homogamic hybrid system, occurs in several forest tree species.9 From this system, one can predict the conditions that will lead to a persistent fate for any transgene. A DNA construct or transgene escapes from a transgenic pine plantation into sympatric populations of a closely related species.

Interspecific hybrid adults are fertile and readily cross not only with the original parent species but are also capable of hybridizing with other related species. The transgene can persist indefinitely under two conditions: 1) if the transgene confers a positive selective advantage; or 2) if the transgene is selectively neutral within a large random-mating population. In some cases, deregulation will result in a sharp tradeoff between meeting global wood demand while ignoring unknown ecological (and evolutionary) consequences. A better alternative is proposed here: form a public-private partnership or a technology trust for studying ecological consequences of GM forest trees.

A Caveat to the Ecological Premise: A Technology Trust

An alternative to deregulation is to form a technology trust - a short-term regulatory solution for collecting data on risks and benefits. The technology trust, formed as a public-private research partnership has three parts: 1) a subset of transgenic forest field tests designated as long-term study sites for collecting relevant data for sound benefits and risk analyses; 2) a technology tax on transgenic forest field testing which carries a hold-harmless provision to the payee or protection against future liability claims; and 3) formalizing a federal gene conservation program as a hedge against molecular domestication of forests.

Relevant data on benefits and risks would be openly available and published in peer-reviewed journals. The technology trust would thus provide a platform for public dialogue about emerging technology. The proposed technology trust could be designed and run with scientific oversight from government, university, and private-sector research organizations.

The main advantage of a technology trust is that it provides experimental data. It protects national forests against risks inherent to molecular domestication on private lands. And it opens public dialogue on the risks and benefits associated with for-profit research in long-lived forests. The latter is important in the U.S. and other developed nations where private investment is funding the creation of novel GM trees at a rate that is outpacing biosafety and scientific assessment of ecological impact. In the case of the U.S., no platform for public dialogue has been formalized, yet this nation is the world's most powerful advocate for biotechnology advance.

In summary, using GM technology for forest trees is raising controversy but this is the least of genomics-based technology yet to come. Using a snippet of DNA inserted into chromosomes of naturally-occurring plants and animals is only the beginning, not the finish, of the controversy. Compare this recombinant DNA technology to the commercial potential of synthetic DNA genomes. With new technology looming in the future, now is the time to center dialogue on the real question behind the controversy of GM forests, a question which has no parallel in medicine or agriculture biotechnology: what are the limits to our biotechnology governance in the natural world? Will we protect fragile ecosystems at the interface with production forests? At the very least, a technology trust is essential for shaping the fate of the forest itself - and a necessary part of the portfolio for any nation deciding to go forward with the use of GM forests for carbon sequestration.

On November 10, 2005, the Global Justice Ecology Project and the STOP GE Trees Campaign announced the release of A Silent Forest: The Growing Threat, Genetically Engineered Trees, a 45-minute documentary narrated by Dr. David Suzuki, host of PBS The Nature of Things.

From checkbiotech.org, January 04, 2006

 

IT Panel Holds Meet on -Governance - Oman

The information technology committee held its first meeting of the year yesterday under the chairmanship of Ahmed bin Abdulnabi Macki, minister of national economy and deputy chairman of the Financial Affairs and Energy Resources Council, who is also head of the committee. The committee reviewed a number of topics in the agenda and adopted an appropriate decision on a number of issues including achieving basic infrastructure for e-governance and providing unified e-government network linking all government departments with modern IT technology. The committee also reviewed other projects in the framework of national strategy for Oman digital society and e-government. The committee discussed all necessary steps to be taken in future in order to achieve development of the country in IT fields.

From Times of Oman, January 2, 2006

 

Strengthen Governance at All Levels: DG, FAO

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) believes that it is time to strengthen the governance of the food and agriculture system at the global, country and local levels. Besides, there is a need to scale up public investment for agricultural and rural development in order to achieve the millennium development goals (MDGs). While the flagship Food Security Programme of 1994 is working on food security programmes, interestingly, the assistance has declined by 50% - from $514 billion to $2.2 billion. Hence, lending, which is an important criteria, has to be increased, according to FAO director general Dr Jacques Diouf.

''Public spending on research has fallen from 0.8% to 0.03%,'' Dr Diouf said. Much has to be done to translate research into concrete action. In the present scenario, only South America and the Caribbean are able to meet the MDGs. However, the FAO intends to increase support to the National Agricultural Research Systems for achieving the MDGs with proven technologies and research. Incidentally, there are around 850 million undernourished people of which 61% are in the Asia-Pacific countries.

From Financial Express, January 5, 2006

WSIS - U.N. to Hold Consultations on New 'Net Governance Body'

The United Nations will launch the first round of consultations next month on creating a new Internet governance body, as agreed by delegates attending the global 'Net summit in Tunis last year. The U.N., which hosted the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in November, is welcoming all stakeholders to attend the consultations, which will take place in Geneva on Feb. 16-17, according to a statement published Jan. 11 by Swiss diplomat Markus Kummer, who had previously participated in the WSIS Working Group on Internet Governance.
The consultations will focus on developing "a common understanding among all stakeholders on the nature and character" of the proposed Internet Governance Forum (IGF) and to prepare for the first meeting of the new body, to take place in Athens, Greece, before year-end, the statement said.

Internet governance was, arguably, the most controversial issue at WSIS, threatening to undermine the entire summit. To defuse the heated war for political control of the Internet, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan proposed a temporary ceasefire of sorts by offering to create IGF. Government delegates in Tunis agreed to the proposal. Although the forum itself will have no oversight or decision-making function, some governments view it as an opportunity to sow the seed for a new Internet governance regime. Others, notably the U.S., view it in much the same way they viewed WSIS itself: a multilateral, multistakeholder, nonbinding body with a very broad mandate but with no real power - except to meet in Greece.

At WSIS and in talks leading up the summit, the U.S. government reiterated that it had absolutely no intention of relinquishing its unique position in managing this critical global infrastructure. President George Bush said the Internet must continue to be a private-sector-led initiative under U.S. government supervision. He was joined by several U.S. congressmen, such as Norm Coleman, and U.S. enterprises including IBM, Google and Microsoft, which spoke out in favor of maintaining the status quo. David Gross, Ambassador of Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and the person who had led the U.S. delegation, said in an earlier interview that the Internet is best served by the bottom-up private-sector approach and should continue to be run that way.

From Net Network World, January 12, 2006

 
 

Join Fight Against Corruption

The Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church, the Most Reverend Robert Aboagye-Mensah, has tasked the church in Ghana to join other civil society organisations in the country for a nationwide anti-corruption crusade this year. The Most Rev Aboagye-Mensah was delivering a sermon at the Wesley Methodist Cathedral at Cape Coast on the occasion of the 170th anniversary of the Church. He warned that the cancellation of the country's debts would be meaningless without a sustained war on corruption, laziness, malingering, lateness and other vices that undermined the proper management of the country's resources. "It's our responsibility as Christians to work closely with all stakeholders to ensure that corruption is minimised," he said.

He stated that if Ghanaians did not change their attitude towards work for the better it would be difficult to create wealth for the nation. He said Ghanaians should strive to achieve excellence in all their endeavours and cautioned against making "demigods" out of their achievements. "You should remember at all times that any time we make progress, it is God this year who has been gracious to us," he said. The Presiding Bishop urged Christians to renew their commitment to God and strive to know him better. "Serve the poor and the needy and also make disciples of all nations," the Most Rev Aboagye-Mensah said. Later the congregation marched through the principal streets of Cape Coast with brass band music and converged on the Castle where a short ceremony was held to commemorate the beginning of Methodism in Ghana.

From Graphic Ghana, January 26, 2006

Dragon of Corruption Too Fierce to Confront?

The police force has for a long time been rated by corruption watchdogs as the most graft-ridden institution in the country. The degree to which the vice has permeated the force has indeed been cited as the major contributor to its inefficiency, which has seen crime rate in the country spiral. This is why many lauded the director of the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission (Kacc) Aaron Ringera faulted the recruitment of police officers held last December after it unearthed massive corruption in the exercise and called for its cancellation. According to the KACC, report submitted to the police commissioner, Maj-Gen Hussein Ali, some applicants parted with between Sh40,000 and Sh70,000 and gave other favours to recruiting officers to secure a place in the police force.

It was argued that the stream of law enforcement in the country had been polluted at the source with corruption and admitting 3, 000 successful applicants to its training colleges would compromise its integrity and efficiency. KACC, which also presented video tapes it claimed contained footages of police officers engaged in various malpractices further recommended that the recruiting team which was made up of 175 officers be suspended to pave way for investigations into the scandal. However, none of the officers in the recruiting team was suspended even as the force hurriedly revoked admission letters for the successful applicants and began investigations. And now a preliminary report on the probe has dismissed the dossier handed over by Kacc as shallow and is requesting for more evidence that can implicate the officers of any wrongdoing.

The way this matter has been handled by KACC itself and the force raise several fundamental questions which need answers if the public is to believe that there is genuine commitment by the two teams to resolve the accumulated matter. KACC is mandated by law to investigate cases of corruption and present them to Attorney General for prosecution in case there is sufficient evidence to implicate any accused person. However, in this matter, the commission decided to throw the issue to the police, the very institution which it accused of corruption. What else did the commission need to complete its investigations, which began at the recruiting centres where they claimed to have witnessed malpractices in 80 per cent of the recruiting centres, to warrant for fresh investigations by the police? The commission should explain this malady in the case of the police force.

Since the commission was set up, it is yet to prove its invaluable relevance in the fight against corruption by solid deeds. The commission cannot count any profile case of corruption that it has conclusively investigated and presented to the Attorney General and has been successfully prosecuted or thrown out in a court of law. What Kenyans have witnessed is obsession with small fishes while big ones who swim in the ocean of corruption remain untouchable despite hue and cry from the public over the length at which the tentacles of the dragon that is corruption has grown.

Instead of proving its relevance by 'spilling blood' or 'slaying the dragon of corruption by its tentacles' as the government has continuously promised, KACC appear inclined to engage in political sideshows that have nothing to do with the war on the vice. In the case of massive corruption in the recruitment of police officers, the police is the accused institution and throwing the case for investigation by themselves is as good as dismissing the allegations that KACC itself came up with. The force demonstrated unwillingness to 'victimise itself' as Ringera expected by failing to send home the officers who presided over the exercise and even if more incriminating evidence were to be provided, their probe will yield nothing substantive. KACC should, therefore, take over the investigations itself and use the report it compiled and submitted to the force.

From Kenya Times, January 06, 2006

 

New Effort to Stamp Out Chinese Corruption

The Chinese Government is beginning the New Year with a new effort to stamp out corruption. It's set up a website for the public to blow the whistle on lawbreakers. But it isn't expected to bring real change, and it comes as the Government there further muzzles the media. China Correspondent John Taylor reports. JOHN TAYLOR: Corruption is estimated to cost China as much as much as $100 billion a year. No one knows for sure, of course. The Communist Government has for years tried to calm public outrage by punishing corrupt officials, and tens of thousands have been caught. A former cabinet minister was recently sentenced to life in prison for taking bribes.

Officials like Fu Kui from the Ministry of Supervision say corruption is evil. (sound of Fu Kui speaking) "Corruption undermines the social order, the image of the Government, as well as economic development. It is the common scourge of all mankind," he says. The Government has now launched a website for the public to report corrupt officials. The site is run by the Communist Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, and is sold as another step forward in curbing corruption. But Li Xinde, a freelance journalist and anti-corruption writer, doesn't think it will do much good. (sound of Li Xinde speaking) "I can't deny it's out of a good purpose," he says. "Actually, the Chinese Government has already launched a series of similar anti-corruption official petitioning websites and a call centre. But I think the key issue is whether these methods are being carried out practically and effectively, rather than how many and in what formality they are," he says.

For all the talk about stamping out corruption, Li Xinde says little is changing. (sound of Li Xinde speaking) "I would say I am not optimistic about it," he says. "On the one hand, we are strengthening the efforts to fight against corruption, and on the other hand, new corrupted officials keep coming up, even generation after generation at the same official position," he says. Some of the Government's efforts have been very theatrical. Last year more than 67,000 anti-corruption songs were composed and more than 24,000 singing concerts held, all to educate officials about self-discipline. What many experts say is needed is something off the agenda in China - real political reform - reducing government power, allowing the rule of law and a free media.

But reporters at a Beijing newspaper, known for some gutsy reporting on corruption and other politically charged issues, walked off the job last week. They were protesting against the removal of their editor, seen as part of efforts by the Government to tighten press controls. Li Xinde says deep change is needed for corruption to stop. (sound of Li Xinde speaking) "Political reform needs to hurry up. More effective methods need to be taken. Otherwise, it's just like stirring the soup to stop it from boiling, which only solves the problems on the surface," he says. But China faces a dilemma. While corruption may destroy the state, fighting it may kill the Communist Party.

From abc.net.au, January 02, 2006

VP Too Embarrassed to Talk About Corruption

Vice President Jusuf Kalla said he was too embarrassed to talk about corruption because Indonesia Transparency (TI) had categorized political parties in Indonesia as the most corrupt institution in the country whereas he was also the leader of the biggest political party, Golkar. "I actually feel really embarrassed to speak here because according to TI, political parties are the most corrupt institution in the country while I am the chairman of the largest political party, Golkar. In this capacity, I could be considered most responsible for the situation in Golkar," said Kalla. He was peaking at the launching of a book titled "Combating Corruption, a Road Map for Indonesia" here on Monday.

The Vice President said 2006 would be a year when people would think twice to engage in corruption because of the development of democracy in the country where every negative issue would be made known openly to the public. "Every single cent of my salary can even be calculated because everything is open in this democratic era," he said. In his address, Kalla said the president and vice president had no more power to defend themselves when they had to deal with judicial authority. He added that the present situation was very conducive to eradicating the corruption. Meanwhile, Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) deputy chairman Ery Ryanahardjapamekas admitted that the commission had mostly imitated what has been done by Hong Kong in its strategy to combat corruption.

The success of eradicating the corruption in Hong Kong, according to Ery, has its own legend around the world. At least four things the KPK has learned from Hong Kong in corruption eradication, namely capacity improvement, preventive measures, taking measures and mobilization of people's participation. The book was written by an attorney from Hong Kong, Ian McWalters, who also relates his experiences in fighting corruption in the country. The book launching was also attended by National Resilience Institute (Lemhanas) Governor Prof Muladi, former Coordinating Minister for Economy Rizal Ramly, Governor of Institute of Police Sciences (PTIK) Insp Gen Farouk Muhammad, House member Alvin Lie and a number of other officials.

From Antara.news, January 02, 2006

Government Determined to Wipe Out Corruption from the Country: Speaker NA

Speaker National Assembly Chaudhry Amir Hussain has said that government is determined to eradicate the menace of corruption from the country and urged all strata of the society to pinpoint the corrupt elements so that they could be dealt handedly according to law. Speaker NA stated this while talking to chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Lt. Gen. (Retd) Shahid Aziz who called on him at parliament house here on Tuesday. Speaker said that NAB had played a vital role in eliminating corruption from the country and added that the existence of corruption in the society was very unfortunate that had resulted halting the progress and prosperity of the country. "NAB has confidence of the masses and it will succeed in countering and rooting out the corrupt elements from the country," he added. The chairman NAB briefed the speaker about the functioning and organizational set up of NAB and said that NAB as an institution was rendering valuable services in eliminating corruption and getting back the looted money to the public exchequer.

Meanwhile, governor state Bank Dr. Shamshad Akhtar also called on the speaker at his residence and briefed the economic pace of the country. Speaker said that continuity in the policies of the current government had resulted in unprecedented pace of the economy and the country was on the right track and added that country's economic growth had restored the investors confidence and enhanced the pace of industrialization. The speaker maintained that economic policies of the government had ushered in bulk of opportunities of investment in various fields of the country and hoped that policy of merit and equal opportunities had attracted investors. The governor State Bank said that country economy had been geared up for the last six years and expressed hope that with consistency and continuity in government policies the momentum of present economic growth would be sustained in future. The governor further said that in order to meet the challenges of the WTO Pakistan needed to diversify its economy and expedite the process of economic liberalization and urged the local and foreign investors to come forward and make more investment in the country.

From Pakistan News, January 27, 2006

Back to Taws on Ethics

Stem cell scientists have been shattered by this week's confirmation that their poster boy, South Korean Hwang Woo-suk, is a fraud. Not Hwang alone, either. Many of his 24 co-authors on a landmark paper claiming to have cloned human embryos and created stem cell lines must have been accomplices. Storm clouds are gathering over Gerald Schatten, of the University of Pittsburgh, Hwang's co-author. The Korean president's chief science adviser, also a co-author, has resigned. Hwang may face criminal charges. It is one of the worst cases of scientific fraud in living memory.

Koreans wept. Scientists groaned. Patients felt betrayed. "I had pinned all my hopes on Dr Hwang after I heard that he had cured a dog with a spinal cord injury through stem cell treatment," paraplegic Park Seung-yoo told the Joong Ahn Daily. "I think about how I'm never going to walk again and I just want to die." But in Australia, dreams blighted, money wasted, reputations shattered and research tainted are just a spot of bother. It's business as usual. "It's sad, but the field will move on," says the chief executive of the Australian Stem Cell Centre, Hugh Niall. "If anything, it's going to stimulate more research." And his colleague Martin Pera, agrees: "I don't think it will interfere with the progress of this work."

Hang on, guys. When the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated in 2003, NASA didn't sweep up the mess and book the next flight. It launched a two-year investigation before it tried again. And that's more or less what Australia should do with plans to legalise therapeutic cloning: shelve them. What happened in Korea puts into question far more than the technology of therapeutic cloning. This has been delayed, but no doubt someone will eventually develop cloned stem cell lines. What Hwang's fraud has exposed is glaring systemic weaknesses involving this ethically controversial research, in which human embryos are created and destroyed for their stem cells.

First of all, its claims are consistently inflated by its practitioners. The first to clone an embryo, the American company Advanced Cell Technology, organised a media circus in 2001, which disgusted other scientists. A British group at the University of Newcastle was denounced by the journal Nature last year for rushing into print without peer review. Hwang is not the only stem cell scientist who wants to be a rock star. It's time for a bit of professional humility.

Second, journals such as Science, The New England Journal of Medicine and Scientific American are nakedly biased in favour of therapeutic cloning. That helps to explain why Hwang's faked results were not scrutinised carefully enough. "It is common knowledge that the bar for publication in this field often has appeared remarkably low, with even well-respected research journals seeming to fall over one another for the privilege of publishing the next hot paper," commented David Shaywitz, of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, this week. It's time for some scientific objectivity.

Third, it is dismaying how easily governments are seduced by Amazing New Biotechnology Projects. Hwang didn't have to spike the drinks of Korean politicians to get them to pour millions into his research. They issued a postage stamp in his honour and anointed him "supreme scientist". Elsewhere it is no different. From Australia to Singapore to Britain to California, penny-pinching pollies who slash welfare budgets turn into sugar-daddy spendthrifts when they hear the words "embryonic stem cells". It's time to pour a bucket of cold water over our besotted politicians.

Fourth, and saddest, the public simply does not understand what is at stake, either ethically or scientifically. After the exposure of Hwang's lies about sourcing women's eggs for his experiments, hundreds of young women volunteered to donate their own, oblivious to the risks. Even this week, at the nadir of Hwang's reputation, hundreds of demonstrating fans displayed "Biotechnology Is Our Future" banners. Sixty-nine per cent of Koreans actually think that this manipulative liar and charlatan should be given a second chance. Is the Australian public really better informed? It's time for an intelligent public debate.

Finally, the Hwang affair suggests that when it comes to ethics, Australian stem cell scientists are not the sharpest knives in the drawer. For years they have said, and the media has repeated, that human embryos are no more than blobs of jelly. The public believed this because they were high-minded and successful. But now their celebrity colleagues have been exposed as shameless frauds moved by vanity, peer pressure, complacency and greed, just like the rest of us. Their embryo technology is still bogged at the starting line while adult stem cells have done several laps. What credibility can the crass utilitarianism that underlies this research have now? It's time to go back to taws on stem cell ethics. Last month the Lockhart Review recommended that parliament legalise therapeutic cloning. In the light of what has happened in Korea, this would be a terrible blunder. It can no longer be business as usual for Australian stem cell research.

From The Weekend Australia, Michael Cook, January 12, 2006

Search for Public Service Exemplars On

The Civil Service Commission announces that the 2006 Search for Outstanding Public Officials and Employees is now open. It is intended to give due recognition to public service exemplars and high flyers in the civil service. The search is by virtue of Republic Act No. 6713, Administrative Code of 1987, and Executive Order No. 508, s. 1992, as amended by Executive Order No. 77, s. 1993. Three prestigious awards are at stake: the Lingkod Bayan Award, Dangal ng Bayan and the Pagasa Awards. Nominees may be career service and non-career service officials and employees of the government including appointive barangay officials and employees.

The Lingkod Bayan Awardee shall receive a gold medal and a plaque containing the citation and signature of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. On the other hand, the Dangal ng Bayan Awardee shall receive a trophy designed and executed by National Artist for Sculpture Napoleon V. Abueva. Both awards carry a cash prize of P100, 000.00, an automatic promotion or an increase in salary equivalent to the salary of the next higher position. The Pagasa Awardees shall each receive a gold (gilded) medallion, a plaque containing the citation and signature of the Chairperson of the Civil Service Commission, and P50, 000.00. Forms and other pertinent information to the Search may be obtained at the www.csc.gov.ph website or to the nearest CSC Office. Deadline for the filing of nominations will be on March 31, 2006.

From PIA, January 23, 2006

Anti-Corruption Books Distributed To Belait Schools


A ceremony to hand over educational books to school Principals and Acting Principals of government and non-government schools throughout Belait District on prevention of corruption was held yesterday morning at the conference hall of the Schools Department in Seria. The ceremony was the last programme of handing over the educational books after similar ceremonies had been carried out previously in the other three districts. Present as chief guest was the Deputy Director ofAnti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Awg Hj Wasil bin Hj Md Taib. The chief guest in his speech stated that the education on prevention of corruption was one of the projects run by the Community Relations Section and ACB Counselling Services with the cooperation of Curriculum Development Department commencing last year. The project also has support from BSP, BLNG; BSM and BST. The prime objective of the project is to implement pure moral values such as honesty, trustworthyness and sincerity in the soul of the students so it would become a daily life practice.

The education on prevention of corruption is also hoped to produce awareness and barricade corruption in the country, and this programme will be used as a continuous education system from this year onwards, Awg Hj Wasil further stated. "The education on prevention of corruption will be carried out within levels to create convenience to students studying and understanding the topics taught and the project is expected to be carried out throughout during the year 2011." "As an effort to create a more efficient learning on prevention of corruption, a few insights will be used among which are the introduction of computer interactive and singing educational songs on prevention of corruption," the chief guest added.

"A briefing session and training for teaching resource had been and will be carried out as a step to provide early exposure to those on the prevention of corruption before being delivered to the students." Meanwhile the Assistant Director of Curriculum Development, Awg Hj Matassan bin Hj Bungso in his speech noted that the absorption of education on prevention of corruption into the national curriculum at schools is in line with the country's aspirations to produce a clean, honest, trustworthy and `high integrity' population. He assured that "the Curriculum Development Department will constantly provide cooperation towards achieving its objectives". - Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin.

From Brunie.Direct, January 22, 2006

 

UK: Papers Mull US Corruption Scandal

The Independent and Daily Telegraph both carry the story of US lobbyist Jack Abramoff who faces corruption charges. The Independent suggests he is about to unleash a political scandal to match anything in US history, involving congressmen, senators and their aides. The Telegraph says he sought to win influence on Capitol Hill for clients by showering gifts on politicians. The favours were said to have included golf trips to Gleneagles, holidays and tickets to top sports fixtures.

Caviar ban - Many of the papers discuss the decision to suspend the worldwide trade in wild caviar in order to save the sturgeon. The Times says that to most of us caviar looks and tastes like pellets of black salt soaked in seawater. Despite this, it says, the attempt to curb sales will be like the attempt to ban beef on the bone during the height of the BSE panic. It recalls how shoppers were departing from compliant butchers with four ribs of beef concealed among the lamb chops.

Kennedy's survival - Some of the political correspondents believe Charles Kennedy is an even more endangered species than the sturgeon. The Daily Mirror has made up its mind that he is on the way out, despite being the most successful Liberal Democrat leader for 73 years. Merely surviving Hogmanay has been a considerable achievement, it says, but he will not see in 2007 as head honcho. The Sun says a bunch of grey figures are waiting to fight it out for the worst job in British politics.

Rocker's warning - The Morning Star says the miners' union wants the government to stop squandering energy sources. The plea comes after a Russia-Ukraine gas crisis unsettled many European countries and the EU. And finally, the Times says The Who's Pete Townshend has issued a warning to the iPod generation to turn down the volume, to preserve their hearing. The Sun says the Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood has a new addiction - stamp collecting.

From BBC.News, January 04, 2006

Corruption Worsens, Goods Offer Improves in 2005 - Poll

Czechs say that corruption and financial crime increased most steeply, while the offer of goods and services and the environment considerably improved in the Czech Republic in 2005, according to a poll conduced by the CVVM polling agency last December and released to CTK. About 50 percent of respondents also say that public safety, unemployment and welfare worsened last year, but not to such a high extent as reported in 2004. The country's economic situation was viewed less negatively than in 2004 when more people criticised it. On the contrary, agriculture and the health care system faced a sharper criticism as 45 percent of respondents say that the situation in these sectors worsened in 2005, which is more than in December 2004.

Over two-fifths of Czechs say that the political situation in the country worsened, while one-third of people experienced a lower living standard and a worsening of the transport system and the state of the judiciary and immigration. On the contrary, one-third of respondents say that the situation in culture and foreign relations improved in 2005. The education system, the economy, the Czech Republic's position in the EU and the human rights observance were most frequently assessed as unchanged last year, according to the CVVM poll. Compared to a similar poll from December 2004, the Czech economy, unemployment, living standard, welfare, political situation, education, military as well as science and research were assessed more positively in 2005. On the other hand, a higher share of respondents criticised the situation in health care, agriculture and transport, and pointed to the rise in corruption in 2005, compared to 2004.

From Ceskenoviny.cz, January 09, 2006

Finci: Experiences of Poland's Civil Service Could Be Helpful on BiH's Road to European Integration

Director of the Civil Service of the Republic of Poland Jan Pastwa, who is paying a three-day visit to BiH, held a lecture on Friday on the experiences and practices of the administration in Poland and on this country's experiences in the EU. According to him, Civil Service has a special significance for every country because its role is to enhance the functioning of the state and serve the citizens. Civil Service is very important on the road to European integration, because it fulfils the tasks set by the Parliament and other state institutions. Pastwa stressed that Poland has realized her primary goal with the admission into the EU, but that this objective was primarily subjected to the interests of the Polish citizens, because the process of European integration was conducted in the interest of the Polish citizens, and not the institutions.

This is why it is important to have a stable and strong Civil Service that fulfils these tasks. Poland has achieved its goal thanks to the Civil Service, said Pastwa. Director of BiH Civil Service Agency Jakob Finci declared that the visit of the Polish Civil Service Director is one of the steps BiH is taking to learn what must be done when she joins Europe. Each civil service in the EU is organized in a special way, and the BiH Civil Service Agency is trying to learn the best practices that are applicable in our country. Finci deems that the Poland's experiences, given that this used to be a socialist country, could be of great help for BiH.

From Fena.ba, January 20, 2006

Civil Servants Vote Not to Strike

Civil servants in Northern Ireland have narrowly voted against all-out indefinite strike action, the public service union Nipsa has confirmed. About 53% of the the 13,000 Nipsa members who voted were against the strike, with 47% in favour of the union's call for industrial action. The union's executive called for action over an "insulting" government offer giving most people a 0.2% salary rise. Nipsa's John Corey said the close vote was evidence of civil servants' anger. "This does not mean that civil servants accept the disgraceful way they are being treated on pay by direct rule ministers," he said. "This unfairness has been ongoing for the last three years and cannot continue.

"It is damaging the Civil Service very badly and destroying morale and motivation across all departments." Nipsa had accused ministers of discriminatory treatment of the Northern Ireland Civil Service compared with other public servants in Britain. In September 2004, civil servants in Northern Ireland accepted a pay officer from the government, narrowly voting against an all-out strike. It ended 10 months of industrial action which caused widespread disruption to the workings of government.

From BBCNews, January 31, 2006

Civil Service 'Bible' Review Needed

The Civil Service code - the "bible" for thousands of Sir Humphreys - needs a shake-up to bring it into the 21st century, Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell said. He announced a three-month consultation to draw up the revised code, which was first published 10 years ago. Sir Gus, who became Whitehall's most senior mandarin and head of the home Civil Service in September, also announced the first three reviews of Government departments to make sure the ministries are up to the mark. The Department for Constitutional Affairs, the Home Office and the Department for Work and Pensions will undergo "capability reviews" to assess them for "leadership, strategy and delivery". If they are found lacking in any of these areas, an "action plan" will be drawn up for change.

All ministries will eventually be subjected to the reviews. Sir Gus, speaking on a visit to St Albans, Hertfordshire, said: "The code is an anchor for the high standard of behaviour that I expect of civil servants. "It contains our traditional values - which have stood the test of time - but shapes them to have meaning for 21st century civil servants. "It needs to make sense in real-life situations and connect with all civil servants - wherever they might work and whatever they might do." The new code, which deals with issues such as the impartiality and propriety of advice to ministers, will include a "whistle-blower" clause, allowing civil servants to complain about alleged breaches direct to the Civil Service Commissioners.

From This is London, January 27, 2006

 

Syria to Try Former Vice President Khaddam for Treason, Corruption

The Syrian government will try on high treason charges former vice president Abdel Halim Khaddam, who has accused Damascus of involvement in the murder of Lebanese ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, and investigate him for corruption. The announcement came after Khaddam's explosive allegations that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had threatened Hariri before his death, which he made in an interview Friday on Al-Arabiya television. 'The Council of Ministers will take the necessary measures to try Khaddam for high treason, and to open an inquiry into corruption in a series of matters which will include seizing his assets,' the official daily newspaper Ath-Thawra said. The newspaper said the government announcement meant it would follow up on demands made by loyalist MPs, who called for Khaddam to be tried for treason and corruption.

Syria's ruling Baath party said Sunday it had expelled the ex-vice president for comments it described as 'slander which violates the principles of the nation'. Khaddam, long the architect of Syria's military and political domination of neighbouring Lebanon, accused Assad of threatening Hariri just months before his murder, dealing a fresh blow to the increasingly pressured Syrian regime. 'I will destroy anyone who tries to hinder our decisions,' Khaddam quoted Assad as telling Hariri during a meeting in Damascus. Khaddam, who broke his silence for the first time since resigning in June and was speaking from Paris where he and his family now live, said the meeting took place a few months before the February 14 assassination of Hariri.

The popular five time prime minister was killed in a Beirut bomb blast for which a UN probe has implicated Syrian intelligence. 'We must await the results of the investigation, but no Syrian security service could take such a decision unilaterally,' Khaddam said. Meanwhile, the UN commission of inquiry probing Hariri's murder asked to interview Assad, Khaddam and Foreign Minister Faruq Shara and was awaiting an answer from Syria, a spokeswoman said. She added that the commission wanted to meet Khaddam 'as soon as possible.'

From Forbes.com, January 02, 2006

Sharon's Son Quits over Corruption Trial

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's eldest son resigned his parliamentary seat today, ahead of a January 22 sentencing over charges of illegal fund-raising for his father's 1999 election campaign, a spokeswoman said. Omri Sharon pleaded guilty in November to falsifying corporate documents, perjury and violating party funding laws. Under a plea deal, prosecutors dropped charges of fraud and breach of trust but are demanding imprisonment on the other counts. The charges carry a maximum of five years in prison, but the sentence is expected to be lighter, possibly a suspended term or community service. Under Israeli law, a legislator convicted of an offence defined as one of "moral turpitude" loses his or her seat.

Although the court has yet to rule on that issue, Omri Sharon's spokeswoman Mirit Cohen said he did not wish to draw things out more than necessary. "He saw no point in waiting," she said. Omri Sharon oversaw parts of the campaign and fund-raising activities for his father's victory in the 1999 primary in the Likud Party. Prosecutors decided not to charge Ariel Sharon with involvement in the same scandal.

From Ireland On-Line, January 03, 2006

 

The Story Behind Jack Abramoff and the Beltway Bandits

The Republicans may dominate most of America's government, but their prospects in this year's midterm elections look increasingly dicey. George Bush has no shortage of familiar problems - from a botched war in Iraq to the fuss over wiretapping . But none has more potential to topple the conservative movement he leads than corruption. The case of Jack Abramoff - the super-lobbyist who pleaded guilty to sundry crimes this week - is a nightmare for the Republican establishment. To begin with, it is much easier to follow than most such scams. Here is a Beltway Bandit whose banditry was so obscene that it shocked even other Beltway Bandits. Abramoff charged various Indian tribes - innocent in the ways of Washington but newly enriched by casinos - around $80 million in lobbying expenses and used his ill-gotten gains to build an empire of influence.

Millions flowed to favored lawmakers in the form of Scottish golfing vacations, food and booze in swanky Washington restaurants (one of which Abramoff owned), tickets for sports events and sundry other perks. All the while, Abramoff celebrated his own amorality, referring to his clients as 'morons.' The Abramoff affair, the biggest corruption scandal for a generation, will surely entangle some Democrats. But most of those caught up in his affairs, however innocently, are Republicans. Tom DeLay, the former majority leader already under indictment in Texas for campaign-finance irregularities, was one of Abramoff's golfing buddies. Michael Scanlon, Abramoff's partner in crime, who has already pleaded guilty, used to work for DeLay.

There are also plenty of congressmen and senators scuttling to explain and return donations. The danger is that, as with the cronyism exposed by Hurricane Katrina, Bush and his lieutenants will claim this as a case of a few bad apples. In fact, the Abramoff affair is a case study of how the conservative movement has gone wrong. Abramoff originally arrived in Washington as one of the young conservative idealists who wanted to shrink government and drain the Washington swamp. He supported Newt Gingrich's crusade to get rid of the ruling Democrats' "culture of corruption." Nowadays, Abramoff, like so many other Gingrich revolutionaries, has been engaged in influence-peddling on an epic scale. Rather than trying to cleanse K Street, the capital's lobbying centre, the Republicans had a "K Street project" to conservatize the industry.

This has produced millions for the Republican Party. But much has been lost in the process. Gone is the enthusiasm on the American right for slimming government. Under the free-spending Bush, everybody has become a "big-government conservative." Gone, too, is any enthusiasm for term limits; indeed, most Republicans spend their time trying to gerrymander districts to keep them there for life. And there is little willingness to change. You might have imagined, for instance, that the fury about money going to build two "bridges to nowhere" in Alaska in the wake of Katrina would have scuttled the projects. But the bridges are going ahead. For the Republican establishment, Abramoff's plea is a final warning to clean house. In Bush's case this means not just purging the White House of cronies (he has less sway in Congress), but also vetoing spending bills.

The number of "pork-barrel projects" - ones that get around normal budget rules - increased from 2,000 in 1998 to 14,000 last year. The political cost of inaction could be high. Most Americans long ago made up their mind on the Iraq war and they actually agree with Bush on the wiretapping fuss. But there is no surer way of losing elections than sleaze. This creates an opportunity for the Democrats, though it is hard to see them taking it. Their party notably lacks a Savonarola, even a flawed one like Gingrich. Their main objection to pork is that it has been diverted to Republican causes, not their own. The man who has shown most enthusiasm for tackling corruption is John McCain, a Republican senator who has railed against Abramoff's ilk for years and tried (not always successfully) to change the rules to make the exchange of favours for votes more difficult. McCain, who still harbours presidential ambitions for 2008, may yet prove to be the big winner from the current mess.

From the Hamilton Spectator, January 07, 2006

 
 

India to Set Up Diaspora Knowledge Network

India today decided to create a Diaspora Knowledge Network to tap the expertise and skills of overseas Indians in the development process of the country. Under a decision taken at the fourth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the network would be utilised for exchanging knowledge between India and its diaspora so as to convert the 'brain drain' from the country to 'brain gain'. "The network will be a means to leverage the knowledge resources of overseas Indians for a meaningful and mutually beneficial contribution to the development of the country," said UNESCP additional director general Abdul Waheed Khan. The Information and Communication Technology can today enable such a network function for the benefit of India, he said at a session chaired by Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

The network would ensure that though highly qualified Indians leave home to pursue careers abroad, they could still contribute to the development of their country. Also, the skills acquired by overseas Indians during their stay abroad could be tapped as a 'brain gain', said Dr Khan. Under a roadmap outlined during the session, the Diaspora Knowledge Network would be a platform for dynamic exchange of knowledge between India and its diaspora. An appropriate information space would be designed for exchange and interaction. Knowledge management strategies would be formed to enable flow of knowledge and expertise from the overseas Indians to India and facilitate collective action.

From WebIndia.123, January 8, 2006

South Korea Promotes Open Source Uptake

Two state-owned financial institutions in South Korea are rolling out open source internet banking services, according to a report in the EFY Times. The projects, run by the Korea Post and the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation, are part of an initiative by the Ministry of Information and Communication to encourage the use of open source software among public bodies. "The ministry is fostering open source software such as Linux in order to end the monopoly by Microsoft. Linux system users have demanded the new banking system as well," said Korea Post official Oh Kwang-soo. "We believe that private firms will follow once our Linux online banking system proves successful," he added. The government said it plans to spend at least KRW100 billion (around EUR82 million) next year on promoting the adoption of open source software in the public sector.

From ElectricNews.net, January 4, 2006

China Launches E-government Portal

The Chinese government has officially launched its e-government portal, www.gov.cn, according to a report by the People's Daily Online. The site, available in both Chinese and English, provides a central resource where citizens and businesses can go to access the more than 10,000 government websites that are online. The site is divided into four sections: information on government affairs, online services for citizens, information for businesses and foreigners, and an area for interactive communication between government and citizens. All decrees and documents that have been released by the central government since 2000 have also been published on the site. The portal's editor, Zhou Xisheng, said the site aimed to improve the transparency and effectiveness of the government

From ElectricNews.net, January 4, 2006

Vietnam Unveils E-government Portal

The government of Vietnam has officially launched its e-government web portal, www.vietnam.gov.vn, reports online newswire VietnamNet. The site, which will be rolled out in a number of phases, will eventually facilitate online transactions between government agencies and citizens and businesses. As well as providing information on government management and publishing economic and social reports, the site will help government agencies to share information and promote the country to foreign investors and visitors from abroad. The site, which will be available in English from September, will also feature live question-and-answer sessions with government officials and, in the second phase, will allow citizens to lodge motions with the government. "The site will help build greater trust from local residents in the government through promoting policy transparency and openness, as well as in clarifying the accountability of government agencies," said Doan Manh Giao, head of the Government Office, which developed the website.

From ElectricNews.net, January 19, 2006

E-Government Champions Training Program

One of the critical factors responsible for the slow growth and uptake of e-Government Projects is the lack of champions who have the right skills, knowledge, aptitude and leadership qualities, occupying decision making levels and managerial positions. This, in turn has lead to the under-utilization of the exciting opportunities offered by the e-Government for improving quality of services to the citizens and businesses. The situation is further complicated by other problems like failure to conceptualize and design the appropriate financial, technical and business models, and lack of Project Management skills and capabilities within the government.

One of the critical factors responsible for the slow growth and uptake of e-Government Projects in India is the lack of champions who have the right skill sets, knowledge, aptitude and leadership qualities, occupying decision making levels and managerial positions. This is leading to several situations like failure to take advantage of the exciting opportunities offered by e-Government for improving quality of service to the citizens and businesses, lack of skill sets to conceptualize and design the appropriate functional, technical and business models and deficiencies in Project Management skills and capabilities.

From digitalopportunity.org, January 9, 2006

E-government Pays Attention to Phishing

London - Are you being 'phished'? Have you recently received emails from anyone claiming they are from your bank and want personal details of your account? If the answer is yes then you have been 'phished'! Email fraud, particularly "phishing" has been on the rise in Britain, so much so that banks and building societies have been forced to send out emails to customers warning them not to divulge account details and important personal information to anyone without proper verification. With people working longer hours and having access to computers all day, online banking has become the norm, where the identity of a customer is no longer verified by a signature, but with a password or confidential personal details like birthdays, addresses and pin numbers. Some 14 million people use online banking facilities in the UK.

Banks and building societies have taken recourse to sending out personalised letters to their customers warning them against divulging confidential details, and have devised their own methods of identifying themselves to their clients with various "proof of authenticity". Nationwide, one of Britain's largest building societies also promised their customers that they "would never ask for confidential details or security information such as account details or Pin numbers in an email". "Nor would they direct customers to websites requesting similar details, or give out customer information to any other company". Identity fraud, with cheats and thieves donning another person's identity to carry out online banking crime is rising rapidly, so much so that the government has sponsored a website to offer advice on various aspects of online security.

These include ways to stop viruses, how to block hackers, avoid spam email and safeguard against 'phishing'. John Hutton, Cabinet Minister responsible for e-Government, explained: "The internet has become an essential tool for businesses and consumers, and has brought enormous benefits to our everyday lives, but we all know there are risks too. That's why we're running the Get Safe Online campaign to make the internet a safer place to make financial transactions and exchange personal information". The government have also advised everyone not to discard banking papers, tax forms or any papers which include potential information which could be used in identity fraud in recycling boxes. They urge shredding of such papers to prevent cheats piecing together details. The www.getsafeonline.org website is sponsored by the British government as well as leading banks and businesses and offers tips on how to protect yourself against 'phishing scams' and how to shop safely online.

From dnaindia.com, January 13, 2006

Kazakhstan Attended Singapore Conference on E-government

Kazakhstan delegation consisting of reps of the Tax Committee and Customs Committee of the Finance Ministry, National Information Technologies JSC participated in the conference on e-government and trade promotion held January 24-27 in Singapore. The Forum under the aegis of the Asian Development Bank and foreign trade department of the Singaporean Trade and Industry Ministry welcomed the representatives of the customs and tax services of Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Singapore, Kazakhstan MFA's press service informs. The conferees got familiarized with Singapore's practice how to implement e-government (under tax reforms and customs modernization), create free economic zones and tax administration.

In the course of the trip Kazakh experts held talks with reps of the leading Singapore's information technologies companies like Crimson
Logic and NCS, with process of practical appliance of e-government in Singapore's state organs, particularly, in Information
Communications Development Agency and Public Revenue Agency, also visited customs checkpoints on the border with Malaysia.
At present National Information Technologies JSC as a national interdepartmental interaction operator has been involved in initiating web-portal of electronic Government of Kazakhstan in the framework of state e-government forming Programme.

From inform.kz, January 28, 2006

 

NI Firm Wins Contract for European Survey

A Northern Ireland consultancy has won a European Commission contract to carry out a survey of e-government initiatives across Europe. County Down-based Helm Corporation secured the STG250,000 contract to study e-government projects in the 25 EU member states and Norway. The two-year study will assess the impact of e-government initiatives on citizens and highlight measures needed to further commercialise the opportunities available through the re-use and re-sale of public sector information (PSI). Data produced by the study will also enable the European Commission to test the effectiveness of the EU Directive on the use of PSI, and to consider how governments can make information available quickly, effectively and cheaply. Helm has established a network of researchers in each of the 26 countries to undertake the study at a local level. The researchers will scan relevant websites for public sector data in specific areas such as business, geography, legal issues, meteorology, society and transport.

From ElectricNews.net, January 4, 2006

UK Reaches Online Government Target

The UK government has announced that local authorities have e-enabled on average 97 percent of their services. The statement, issued by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) in late December, noted that 3 percent of services were not moved online on account of "legal or operational" barriers to e-enablement. Local e-government minister Jim Fitzpatrick pronounced the figures to be "very satisfying" and said that the government's targets for online public services had been achieved. "The challenge for local government now is to ensure that this valuable work continues and that innovation and focus on the needs of local people continue to be at the heart of local e-government," said the minister. A national campaign will be launched early this year to raise awareness of online government services and to encourage citizen take-up and usage. The campaign will focus on the benefits of accessing council services over the internet.

From ElectricNews.net, January 4, 2006

UK Government Is Top Employer of IT Contractors

More than a quarter of IT contractors in the UK are now employed by the public sector, according to a survey by contractor services provider Giant Group. Over the last two years the Government has more than doubled its usage of freelance IT consultants, making it the largest employer of IT contractors in the country. The financial services sector, formerly the third-largest employer of IT contractors, is now the second-biggest user, according to the study. "The public sector has always been the poor relation in terms of its utilisation of temporary IT staff, but efficiency drives and increased scrutiny of major IT projects have persuaded civil servants of the necessity of bringing in private sector expertise," explained Matthew Brown, managing director of Giant Group. Brown warned, however, that the Government could end up competing with the financial services sector for the best IT staff in the future, as the Government continues to spend on IT and the City increases its security and compliance budgets.

From ElectricNews.Net, January 19, 2006

Local e-Government Minister Launches Local Directgov Programme's Complete End to End User Journey

The Local Directgov Programme is to unveil the technical web solution on 17th January, with an official launch event at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Lead Local Authorities London Borough of Brent and London Connects will be presenting the solution to partners and ICT managers, and with a Ministerial speech from Jim Fitzpatrick, Minister for Local e-Government, cutting a virtual ribbon to mark the official launch of the Programme's software. Other key note speakers will include: Julian Bowrey, Divisional Manager for Local e-Government at ODPM; and Ian Watmore, Head of the e-Government Unit at the Cabinet Office.

The Local Directgov Programme is a strong example of the effectiveness of joint working, and all English Local Authorities have been engaging with the Programme. Patrick Clark, Programme Manager of the Local Directgov Programme explains: "The Local Directgov Programme is building a robust technical solution which will simplify citizen access to all government services - both local and central. This unique technical solution will carry users from Directgov, straight to the specific Local Authority service page they require, via the Local Directgov application, in a single user journey which will appear seamless, based on specific links agreed with each of the 388 Local Authorities to increase accuracy."

Mr Fitzpatrick commented: "I believe the Local Directgov Programme is making a significant contribution to Local e-Government. It will prove an invaluable aid to Local Authorities, helping them to meet efficiency targets, increasing traffic to Local Authority websites and encouraging citizen take-up of those online services. When fully developed, it has the potential to revolutionise how citizens interact with government, offering a more customer focused, joined up approach. "Local and Central Government working in partnership has been an important factor in the success of Local e-Government. I recognise that much of the Local Directgov Programme's success so far has been due to the co-operation and efforts of Local Authority staff in meeting the requirements of the Programme. It is important that we continue to work together to provide an effective service for all citizens."

Dane Wright, IT Strategy and Service Development Manager, London Borough of Brent, Lead Authority for the Local Directgov Programme said: "The Local Directgov Programme will benefit both councils and citizens alike. The Programme will help Local Authorities to make their services more easily accessible, transcending physical boundaries via the internet and making the access of information more convenient. Through the Local Directgov Programme, users will be able to easily find all the information and services they require, enabling them to engage with both their own and other Local Authorities in a far more sophisticated manner." The Programme will continue to engage with all English Local Authorities from now until March 2006 to collect a further, fuller set of data and inputting it into esd-toolkit, in order to continue creating links between Directgov and Local Authority websites.

Notes to editors - The Local Directgov Programme, led by Brent Council and London Connects, and supported by the ODPM, is an extension of the successful Directgov Programme (www.direct.gov.uk) which currently provides the citizen with direct online access to a wide range of Central Government services, and has already established itself as the fourth most visited government website, with over 2 million users every month. The technical solution will enable users to identify the service that they are searching for in Directgov and will seamlessly refer them onto the Local Directgov application which will carry the user straight to the single most relevant web page on a Local Authority website, for the service they have requested. Whilst some other portals currently provide a similar service on a county-wide basis, most of these rely on a search engine technique, which is less reliable or accurate. The Local Directgov Programme is the only website which can link users to all English Local Authorities.

From egovmonitor.com, January 17, 2006

 

US Agencies Fail to Meet E-gov Goals

Government agencies in the US have not yet achieved the goals set down under the E-Government Act of 2002, according to a new White House study, reports ZDNet. The "Expanding e-Government" report says that so far only four federal agencies have successfully implemented the e-government plans: the National Science Foundation, the Department of Labor, the Department of Transportation, and the Small Business Administration. Of the 26 agencies evaluated, nine were deemed to have an "unsatisfactory" status, while the remainder achieved "mixed results." The four top-rated agencies achieved good results in three areas: being able to justify and manage their IT investments, "with benefits far outweighing costs"; achieving less than 10 percent variation on cost, schedule and performance; and enabling citizens and government decision-makers to find information "easily and securely".

From ElectricNews.net, January 4, 2006

South Carolina Campaign Information Available Online

Candidates running for constitutional offices in the state of South Carolina in the US are now able to file their campaign finance information electronically. Candidates can upload their campaign contribution and expenditure information, which is then made available for public viewing on the state's official website, www.SC.gov. The new method replaces a time-consuming procedure that involved filing paper forms with the South Carolina State Ethics Commission. Visitors to the site can conduct a search of filings by candidate or contributor name. "Putting this information on the internet for every South Carolinian to see is another important step forward in realising our goal of creating a more open and accountable government," said Governor Mark Sanford. The system is the first element in a move to create a comprehensive electronic filing system for the State Ethics Commission. An upgraded system that will include additional disclosure and reporting capabilities is tentatively scheduled for launch in early 2007.

From ElectricNews.net, January 19, 2006

IT Outsourcing Market Set to Grow in US

The US federal IT outsourcing market is expected to increase from USD12.2 billion in fiscal 2005 to USD17.6 billion by fiscal 2010, according to a report by market research firm Input. The almost 8 percent annual growth rate will be driven in part by the Office of Management and Budget's Lines of Business (LoB) initiatives. The LoBs include human resources management, financial management, grants management, case management, federal health architecture and IT security, and agencies will need to keep spending on outsourcing in order to meet the OMB's targets in these areas. "While not strictly centered on IT, the six initiatives will require entire business processes to be transferred from agencies [to other agencies specially designated as Centres of Excellence]," said Chris Campbell, senior analyst, federal market analysis for INPUT. "As a result, agencies will focus on transitioning major programmes out of their agency to a shared service provider."

From ElectricNews.net, January 19, 2006

 

Finders Keepers

Keeping Found Things Found is a multi-year project at the University of Washington Information School by Professors William Jones and Harry Bruce, with Susan Dumais of Microsoft Research. The team is studying the various ways people attempt to make interesting Web pages they've found easily accessible later. With $500,000 in National Science Foundation support, the KFTF team identified techniques like sending an email including the URL to ourselves or adding a link to a personal Web site, in addition to the more obvious methods like bookmarking a page, saving a local copy, or even printing it out and adding it to a huge pile of paper documents (likely never to be read again).

Bookmarking a favorite is the most common technique for making a Web page re-findable. The next most common behavior is to do nothing at all and expecting that the page will be found again in the future through a search engine (which is the most common way of finding things in the first place). Bookmarking is not only more reliable, it also allows for additional organization that facilitates finding favorite sites again. With a little bit of bookmark organization, you can arrange things in a taxonomy of folders and subfolders for finding them later. Arranging your stuff is formally known as Personal Information Management (PIM) or, by some, Personal Knowledge Management (PKM). Today we may recognize it as a problem in Personal Content Management (PCM).

When you come across a piece of content, there are things you can do to make it "yours" within copyright and fair-use limitations, in order to improve your ability to do your job or pursue your career or other interests. Top KM gurus like Jerry Ash, Tom Davenport, and David Gurteen all tout the power of PKM. Professor David Karger of MIT has developed Haystack, a powerful personal semantic-Web tool for organizing everything in your information universe. But let's return to the relatively simple problem of making a Web page re-findable. It seems a problem crying out for tagging with a little metadata, the way del.icio.us lets you tag your bookmarks. Since bookmarking is the leading way to make a page re-findable, the added value of del.icio.us-type tagging, plus the participation in a community of taggers who share your interests, appears to be an obvious plus.

Even bookmarking has its foibles, though. (Don't worry, tags may help here too.) What if a bookmarked site disappears into a 404 black hole? You could save the page with an online service like LookSmart's FURL. The FURL toolbar can be added to your browser to provide one-click saving of a Web page to your FURL account. FURL offers some limited categorization tools, which let you share documents with others, but you will probably want your own categories. Or you could protect yourself by saving a local copy, using advanced tools like InfoSelect or NetSnippets to capture the page and add organizing metadata. Don't forget to add the original URL and the date you cached a copy so you can get the current version easily, if there is one. Some tools will do this for you. Then you can use desktop search tools from Google, Apple, Microsoft, or others to re-find your stuff.

As I mentioned, search engines are the most common way people find sites of interest in the first place, and often the place they turn to re-find those sites later. In their work on Keeping Found Things Found, Jones and Bruce asked test subjects what they called the "Google Question": "Suppose that you could find your personal information using a simple search (fast, effortless to maintain, secure and private). Can we take away your folders?" Thirteen of fourteen respondents said "No." And the fact is that not only does Google want to help you organize your content, they want to know how you are doing it. But there must be a better way, especially for companies that want to keep their knowledge and content organization to themselves, locked securely behind their firewalls.

The new Memetic Web initiative proposes that you reuse your existing taxonomies or keyword lists by creating meme IDs with your own memespace and taxospace prefixes. You then simply tag a saved Web page with your meme IDs and they can be precisely re-found with any search or desktop search engine. Tagging with unique IDs from your existing knowledge organization scheme greatly increases the return on investment in such classification schemes. Knowledge workers in a corporate environment with a shared controlled vocabulary can leverage that vocabulary as they categorize found documents.

The folks behind Memography (I'm a principal, not incidentally) plan to develop tools for capturing Web pages and automatically inserting meme IDs, original URL, and date captured, to keep the found things as richly valuable as the original documents. In the meantime, unless you are heavily armed with corporate and personal content management tools, you will just have to print out favorites - like this column - or send yourself an email with the URL to keep your content found.

From EContent, January 03, 2006

Is CRM Dead?

Alive or dead, CRM is vastly changed from the acronym we once thought we knew. With the acquisition of Siebel by Oracle, many of us are pondering the question, "Does this mean that CRM as we know it is dead?" As a long-time industry watcher and former analyst, I actually do look at this deal as a potential endpoint in the evolution of a model that has developed over the past 15 years or so. But I also see it as further evidence of the sea change taking place in the overall enterprise applications market, which despite challenges and the potential changing of the "old guard," is in fact undergoing a bit of a renaissance - especially when it comes to bringing powerful new capabilities to the masses of business users and empowering customers to betterserve themselves.

Customer relationship management or CRM as a model has it roots in three primary areas: call center systems, help desk applications and sales force automation, or what some have called the "front-office functions." In the mid-1990s several platform providers like Siebel and Clarify (now Amdocs) emerged, driven primarily by acquisitions, to offer consolidated functionality across the entire front-office, while the "back-office" providers like SAP and Oracle generally remained focused on areas like finance, supply chain management and as it emerged, e-business.

In a way, the consolidation of front-office and back-office functionality under one umbrella - like we see with the Oracle-Siebel deal and saw before that with the PeopleSoft-Vantive deal - has been a long time coming. The benefit of having one database and common set of end-user tools is attractive. Plus, the return on traditional, stand-alone CRM investments has been mixed at best, especially when it comes to large-scale deployments. I know of several global organizations that have spent more than $100 million on CRM projects and are still uncertain what real value they have received!

It's (still) about the customer - Despite its name, one can argue that the greatest shortcoming of CRM is that it never really was about directly helping customers. Solutions were sold to executives running call centers or sales organizations as a way to wring out inefficiency, force standardized processes and gain better insight into the state of the business. In particular, what most CRM and CTI systems provided was a way to track customers, route and facilitate inbound communications and report on the progress of various marketing, sales or support activities.

But what these solutions generally did not address was the need to help organizations resolve customer problems, answer their questions faster or help customers solve their own problems. For this reason, we have seen a slow but steady shift in focus and investment from automating core internal front-office functions to streamlining edge processes like online customer support, product returns or account management.

In parallel, there has been a recent wave of innovation powered by Internet standards, open source software and on-demand delivery models, as well as a renewed interest in areas like knowledge management and what some are calling service resolution management or SRM. As defined by leaders in this sector like Knova Software, SRM aims to improve access to corporate knowledge by breaking down silos, simplify the authoring and capture of new content and provide more consistent answers across all sales and service channels.

Other innovators who are filling the gaps inherent in "old-school CRM" include e-commerce and personalization pioneer ATG; RightNow with its innovative on-demand customer support and self-service offerings; e-billing and online account management specialist Netonomy; Genesys and Talisma with their customer interaction management solution platforms; and content optimization specialist SafeHarbor. At the same time, several vertical solution providers like Astute Solutions and Chordiant have created next-generation applications which fill industry-specific requirements.

A new model for CRM v.2 - What is the future of CRM - or CRM v.2 if we decide that CRM v.1 is, in fact, dead? First, there must be a core driven by business rules and even knowledge management, rather than just a database. Second, solutions must address all modes of interaction, whether with an agent or salesperson, on the Web via self-service, or peer-to-peer via user forums and other collaboration techniques. Third, solutions must be adaptive, by applying analytics and personalization approaches, so that organizations can anticipate customer needs, proactively push out solutions, recommendations or offers based on who the user is, their skill level, what their preferences are, etc. More generally, the on-demand delivery model appears to be here to stay, although we feel that all deployment options should ideally be supported. The use of open source and developer source-based components such as those from Jive Software are also gaining momentum, especially for multi-channel "edge" functions like customer forums or enterprise instant messaging.

For the design center, we look for CRM v.2 to be simpler to use, more open and more adaptive. It also must be inherently multi-channel, as Gartner's customer interaction hub model suggests. The customer adaptive solutions theme announced at Siebel CustomerWorld also seems on the right track. And there is the argument being made by Greg Gianforte at RightNow that on-demand delivery coupled with open source infrastructure may be the most efficient way to bring these types of applications to market, a view that has a lot of merit.

So, while CRM as a model is continuing to evolve, as a market it is definitely entering a phase where "big-bang" deployments are likely to be the exception, and ways to more efficiently reach underserved users and improve responsiveness via add-ons like user forums, a self-service knowledge base or customer analytics become the focus. Solutions will also need to be integrated, if not as part of one platform, at least in terms of common standards, and a common focus on the customer rather than only customer processes. The future of CRM as a viable approach and market depends on it!

From CIO.com (author: Allen Bonde), January 03, 2006

The Avian Flu Case Study: A Pioneering Tutorial for Using Business Intelligence in the Public Sector

For the Public Sector, this hypothetical avian flu case study provides an excellent business intelligence tutorial. When participants at the April 2004 E-Gov Knowledge Management Conference reflect on the event, they must think we were truly prescient. It was late 2003 when we were planning the conference. I had committed to teaching a tutorial on building knowledge management environments. While looking for a case study for discussion, I read some of the headlines coming out of Asia regarding the avian flu. After noticing these stories, I decided to pick a potential avian flu crisis as the case study for our tutorial. In February the Washington Post carried many similar stories like "Bird Flu Strain Is Discovered in Chicken Flock in Delaware" and "Maryland Bans Live Poultry Sales as a Precaution."

This was long before the first cases of transmission to humans appeared in Thailand and Vietnam. Once this happened, the specter of human-to-human transmission started to emerge. When the threat of a pandemic began capturing national attention and the problems of a vaccine - or lack thereof - arose, it seemed to be old news to our group. Clearly, we had been examining this problem at least a year earlier.

The process of the case study is interesting because it mimicked what might happen in real life situations. For the tutorial's purposes we created a fictitious government organization called the National Emergency Center for Knowledge Sharing (NECKS), which was responsible for "disseminating accurate and timely knowledge to all agencies involved in addressing emergency situations." NECKS' logo - pun intended - was a chicken with its neck outstretched in apparent expectation of the axe; and its motto was "Saving our necks together by sharing our common knowledge."

The fictitious scenario we presented was straightforward. Three cases of avian flu in humans appeared in Delaware. This generated significant concern at both the state and local levels. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was informed and the Secretary of Health and Human Services briefed the President. Key questions were asked and answers were needed to address the problem and take an appropriate course of action. Consequently, NECKS was ordered to assist in generating relevant knowledge for the agencies involved in dealing with the actual emergency. The exercise began with a mock phone call from the White House to NECKS where the director answers, "Yes, Mr. President. We'll get right on it." The "President" has just asked a series of critical questions that demand answers, in the form of business intelligence, in order to determine a course of action:

- What do we know about avian flu?
- Who are the experts?
- What populations are at-risk?
- Where are they?
- What measures need to be taken?
- What might be the economic impact?
- How do we identify and contact the necessary authorities in the at-risk locations?
- What do we tell them?

The first module basically set the stage. Many questions had to be asked. What is avian flu? What do we know about it? Is there a vaccine? Who is affected? There are underlying themes of tacit knowledge, knowledge spaces, content management, concept searches, taxonomies and others. We introduced an "Avian Flu Knowledge Space" that had been developed by using the web, as well as large agricultural and health care research sources. This also allowed us to demonstrate the use of search engines, federated searches and concept search tools to start navigating the knowledge space.

The second module focused on finding the sources of expertise on "avian flu." Who are the experts? Where are they? What are the criteria that qualify them as experts? Their identification, vetting, contacting and collaboration included themes of communities of practice, best practices and collaboration. These allowed us to show the results of queries to the avian-flu knowledge space; identify people involved with the issue; establish qualifying criteria for being deemed as "expert" (i.e., authors, speakers at relevant conferences, faculty teaching related topics, researchers in relevant firms); develop a list of expert resources; set up a collaboration vehicle; and even show a video clip of one expert addressing the topic.

Next, we moved on to address the question: what populations are at risk? After asking this, there were the logical follow-up questions to consider: Where are they? What are their characteristics? This again allowed us to use query tools, document navigators, summarizers and begin introducing geospatial processing to address the question of location, the where dimension. We were able to introduce the concept of the data mart, OLAP tools and queries and visualization techniques as we built a small data mart with data from both Census 2000 and the National Agricultural Census. We did this to show statistics on poultry production by county and the location of chicken farms. We were also able to compute ratios of chicken per person in high-density counties.

This allowed us to project these queries on maps to identify the location of populations at risk by capturing business intelligence about poultry industry labor statistics, its density and where there was a high concentration in these locations of very young and very old people, since these were the populations most vulnerable to the virus.

What is the economic impact? This was the next question to tackle. Identifying the economic impact followed from analyzing the same sources and available information. We looked at demographics, labor statistics, poultry industry figures and inventory of farms. After completing this, we extrapolated the potential economic impact as reflected in the gross domestic product of a county or state if there was a need to undertake a massive destruction of poultry. Again, visualization on maps was very helpful. This showed queries, such as income from sales of chicken or the median income in affected counties.

Then, we addressed the question: How do we identify and contact the necessary authorities in the at-risk locations? This raised a number of additional related questions: Who are they? Where are they? What do we tell them? How do we tell it to them? How do we get ready to assist? These questions, in turn, introduced themes like leadership, storytelling, learning, collaboration and security. Here we relied on the excellent resource provided by the federal, state and local editions of the Yellow Book (Leadership Directories) to quickly prepare contact lists with names, titles, telephones, and electronic as well as postal addresses.

Lastly, we were ready to take action. The crux of the matter was determining what measures needed to be taken. And these, of course, come in several categories, such as medical, economic, security, transportation, security, communications and press relations, among others. As the need to work with local authorities and the themes of leadership and lessons learned emerge, we again needed to demonstrate knowledge management tools. This had to be done to investigate what was done in other countries/incidents, obtain recommendations from experts and identify resource sites on the Internet. Essentially, the avian flu provided us with an excellent case study for a business intelligence tutorial. Hopefully, we have learned enough to help when we are actually confronted with a real pandemic.

From B-Eye, January 05, 2006

Metadata Among 2006 IT Priorities

What technologies will agencies be implementing this year? According to GCN's exclusive survey of federal, state and local readers, metadata will play a key role in several critical IT initiatives. Data warehousing, service-oriented architectures and Extensible Markup Language all rank high among the IT projects that agencies will be embarking on or expanding in 2006, and all rely on metadata to enable information sharing, gathering and organization.

"There will be a lot of focus on the technologies that support the movement of data back and forth between agencies," said Payton Smith, public sector director at the research firm Input Inc. of Reston, Va. "If you've got a collaborative environment where multiple agencies will be using the same systems, how do you make sure the information is in the right bucket?" The answer, increasingly, could be metadata.

In fact, Input identified several software categories it expects federal agencies to procure this year, and several are data-intensive, including document/content management and knowledge management. GCN's readers seem to be thinking along those lines, too. Thirty-five percent of respondents to our survey, a larger share than for any other technology, said they'd be implementing records management systems this year. Records management is closely aligned, and often overlaps with, document and knowledge management projects.

Going beyond mere data, agencies predictably said they would continue working on security technologies and new communications systems, including wireless networks, voice over IP and video conferencing. What about Microsoft Windows Vista, arguably the most anticipated technology launch of this year? In a separate question, readers said they were in no hurry to roll out the new operating system. Assuming Vista comes out around July, as Microsoft has indicated, only 4 percent of respondents said they'd deploy it this year. Instead, 25 percent said 2007 will likely be the year Vista appears in their agencies; another 20 percent said they are eyeing 2008.

From GCN.com, January 09, 2006

 
 

Wolokollie Declares Intention for Speaker

A member of the incoming House of Representatives, Mr. Dusty L. Wolokollie has declared his intention to contest for the position of Speaker. Announcing his intention over the weekend, Mr. Wolokollie who is representative-elect for District Number 4, Montserrado County , said, "time, circumstances and events over the years have tested and prepared him for the level of leadership he is now asking his colleagues of the house to confer on him." He said, he sees himself as a reflection of the Liberian mosaic in the nation's fight for justice, equality, peace and democracy as well as a reflection of the Liberian dream of oneness, hard work and effort. Mr. Wolokollie who won on the ticket of Unity Party of President-elect Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, said he did not arrive at this decision lightly, stressing that he is coming to the position with a wealth of experience both in the public and private sectors.

Recounting on the role he played over the years as a social advocate, the Speaker-aspirant said he has served on the frontline in the Liberian people's quest for freedom, justice, democracy and a better Liberia . According to him, as president of the St. John's High School in Grand Cape Mount County as well as the University of Liberia Student Union respectively, he did not waver in seeking the Liberian people's interest, adding, "also as president of the Liberia People's Party (LPP), we pursued the path of freedom and democracy. This is the profile, experience and weight we intend to bring to the office of the Speaker." Mr. Wolokollie then used the occasion to call on his fellow representatives-elect to join and rally around him in what he called "this historic quest to restore our country's dignity and revive the vitality of the honorable House of Representatives." He assured his colleagues that he will uphold their trust and confidence when elected, stressing that with his experience, he will fight to bring respect to the honorable body and achieve Liberia 's development agenda.

The Montserrado County representative-elect holds a BA Degree in Economics from the University of Liberia and a Master of Arts Degree in Development Economics and Public Finance in June 1983 from the New School for Social Research in New York City , State of New York , United States of America . He once served as Assistant Minister for Administration at the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs from 1981 to 1982 and Senior Economist at the same Ministry. He represented the Ministry on the Economic and Financial Management Committee (EFMC) Secretariat along with other colleagues from the Ministry of Finance, the Bureau of Budget and the National Bank now known as the Central Bank of Liberia .

From 1998 to 2002, he worked for the International NGO, the International Foundation for Education and self help (IFESH) as program Manager for Training and Technical Assistance. Meanwhile, four legislators-elect were denied travel to Accra , Ghana to participate in the World Bank organized legislative orientation. Those stopped from traveling to Ghana with their colleagues are Montserrado County Representative-elect Edwin M Snowe, Jr., Bong County Senator-elect Jewel Howard Taylor, Nimba County Senator-elect Adolphus Dolo and Grand Gedeh County Representative-elect Kai Farley. According to reports they were stopped because their names are on the United Nations Security Council Travel Ban list.

From Allafrica.com, January 3, 2006

With Six Days to Inauguration: Ellen Approves 10 Cabinet Nominees - Others Still Under Scrutiny

The NEWS has credibly learnt that the President-elect, Mrs. Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf has given the green light to the appointment of ten cabinet ministers in her incoming government. The information comes within just six days of her historic inauguration as the first female President of Africa's oldest Republic, Liberia slated for January 16, 2006. A well-placed Unity Party source hinted this paper Monday that Mrs. Sirleaf's approval of the ten names for senior cabinet positions was made following the submission of several names by Vice President-elect Ambassador Joseph N. Boakai, Chairman of the Transitional Presidential Appointment Committee. "Please don't ask me to disclose the identities of those who have been selected to serve in the new cabinet because I'm not the President-elect nor her spokesperson to officially inform the press on this issue.

Besides, this is not the appropriate time to make such a pronouncement," the source pleaded. Mrs. Sirleaf, who is also Africa's first President-elect, is expected to announce the names of some members of her cabinet as well as heads of public corporations and autonomous agencies including the Central Bank of Liberia during her inaugural address or immediately following the ceremony. Notwithstanding, our source named the Ministries of State for Presidential Affairs; Lands, Mines and Energy; Defense; National Security; Justice; Finance; Planning and Economic Affairs as areas where the heads have been named. "The prospective officers already know themselves, but are keeping their fingers crossed pending official pronouncement from Mrs. Sirleaf," the source maintained.

He could not confirm whether these appointments include some members of the opposition. However, the President-elect has persistently assured that her government will include the opposition. But the "Iron Lady" has emphasized that such appointments would be based on competence, good human rights record, and corruption free, among others set standards. Meanwhile, the vetting process continues of potential applicants for consideration for the over 400 public offices. Although the source did not reveal the names of the ten nominees, the News believes that the following could not be afar from the real stuff.

Minister of Finance: This pivotal job will require an individual of substantive orientation and training in the area of public finance and fiscal management. This individual, in order to be effective, must have the unfettered support and backing of the President. A good knowledge of the workings of the international financial community, especially multilateral financial institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the African Development Bank Group (ADB), preferably hand-on working experience. Given this background, this paper believes that two persons in the Unity Party can handle this position. The first is Miatta Beyslow. Ms. Beyslow is a former Vice President of the National Housing & Savings Bank under the leadership of Mr. Hilary Dennis, in the mid '70s and early '80s. She left and joined the African Development Bank and rose to the position of Division Chief for the Disbursement Department, responsible for the release of loan proceeds from loans approved by the Bank group. She is a long time friend and confidant of Mrs. Sirleaf. Beyslow later honorably retired from the bank after over ten years. Her experience, education, training, and proximity to the President-elect, make her a suitable candidate.

Dr. J. Mills Jones: Dr. Jones is a twenty-five year veteran of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which he joined in 1979 following a stint at the Ministry of Planning and Economics Affairs. At the IMF, he rose to the position of Advisor to the Executive Director. He later joined the World Bank as Alternate Executive Director for the twenty-two-member constituency including Liberia. Dr. Jones ranked second in the search conducted for a Central Bank Governor in 2004. The search panel comprising representatives of the IMF, the World Bank, the United States Treasury, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL). A holder of a doctoral degree in Economics, Dr. Jones came home early last year to serve as Executive Director of the RIMCO, the implementation and coordination mechanism of the Result Focused Transitional Framework (RFTF). Unlike his colleagues, he has worked in the Government, rising to the position of Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Planning & Economic Affairs.

Richard Tolbert: Mr. Tolbert is a long time resident of Wall Street, America's premier address for bank and corporate finance professional and careerists. The son of former President-pro tempore, Frank E. Tolbert, this young Liberian is currently serving as Vice President of Paine Webber/Chase. His appointment could restore confidence of the financial markets in our country, and make borrowing terms and conditions affordable. This, however, may not be the case because Liberia cannot do any commercial borrowings, because the country's credit worthiness is so poor. An insider told The News that Mr. Tolbert was one of the major financial contributors to Mrs. Sirleaf.

Antoinette Sayeh: A senior economist at the World Bank, Dr. Sayeh has been with the World Bank for the last twenty-two years, serving in various capacities including Desk Officer, Country Economist, etc. The daughter of one of Liberia's prominent foresters, Mr. Anthony Sayeh, Ms. Sayeh holds a PhD. in Economics. Her appointment to this prestigious position will make Liberia the second country in West Africa, which has looked to the World Bank for a Finance Minister. The first was the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which appointed Ngozi, then a Vice President of the Bank, as Finance Minister. One common draw back which exists in the case of the three persons, is that almost all of them have never worked in the public service, and have not lived in this country for at least the last twenty-three years. However, at a recent meeting with heads of radio stations and newspaper editors, the President-elect disclosed that women would occupy some of the most senior positions of her government. Our speculation and analysis continue for the other positions in our subsequent edition.

From allafrica.com, January 10. 2006

 

Enhance Tax GDP Ratio to 15 Per Cent: ASSOCHAM

New Delhi: The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) today asked the Finance Ministry to enhance its tax GDP ratio to over 15 per cent, which had earlier fallen to 9.3 per cent in 2003-04 from 10.6 per cent in 1987-88, in order to help India get over its major public finance crisis. The paper, 'Reforming Management of India's Expenditure', brought out by ASSOCHAM and the Economic Management Institute (EMI), highlights that out of its total budgeted expenditure of Rs 5,14,344 crore for the fiscal 2005-06, almost 12 per cent will go waste in terms of subsidies extension in areas of food, fertiliser and petroleum products as its targeted audience hardly gains out of it.

ASSOCHAM President Anil K Agarwal suggested that a 15 per cent GDP ratio is necessary given the current public finance crisis India is currently facing as the combined fiscal deficit of the central and state governments alone adds up to 9.4 per cent of GDP. As a consequence of the continuing high fiscal deficit, the combined outstanding liability of the central and state governments have risen from 67.8 per cent of GDP at the end of 1990-91 to 75 per cent of GDP at the end of 2000-01 and to 87.1 per cent at the end of 2003-04. Including the debt of public enterprises, total public debt is now 107 per cent of GDP with contingent liability from loss making public enterprises alone adding up to 12 per cent of GDP. ''The Finance Ministry, therefore, needs to save money through elimination of distortions and leakages in its expenditures and raise additional rupee through taxation,'' Mr Agarwal said.

The budgeted expenditure of Finance Ministry for 2005-06 is Rs 5,14,344 crore, of which the fertiliser subsidy will be Rs 16,254 crore, food subsidy - Rs 26,200 crore and petroleum subsidy will work out to be Rs 3,644 crore. The Chamber has further said that out of the budgeted allocation of Rs 18,854 crore for public enterprises, equity investments will account for Rs 14,040 crore, loans for Rs 4,812 crore and grants for Rs 2 crore. ''The entire equity investment and loans of Rs 3,554 crore are meant to help public enterprises in financing their investments during 2005-06. Out of this, Rs 1,258 crore is meant for meeting shortfall in resources of public enterprises, financing revival schemes of public enterprises and financing voluntary separation scheme and statutory dues of public enterprises, and also to enable public enterprises implement voluntary retirement schemes. The chamber, is its Paper, has suggested that public enterprises be encouraged to borrow directly from the market on commercial terms and revised and updated 'General Financial Rules' with focus on greater delegation of authority to administrative ministries in managing their financial affairs.

From newkerala.com, January 3, 2006

Tanigaki Urges BOJ Caution in Ending Loose Policy

Japanese Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki on Monday urged the Bank of Japan to use caution in determining when to end its ultra-loose monetary policy, even though he expects the nation's economy to shake off deflation in 2006. "It is a fact that deflation still continues in a moderate form, but I think Japan can emerge from deflation some this year," Tanigaki said after giving a speech at the Japan Society in New York. The latest central bank data show Japan's core consumer price index rose 0.1 percent in November from a year earlier, signaling an end to seven years of deflation. The rebound in prices, along with a recovering economy and surging stock market, has bolstered expectations the BOJ would soon ditch its ultra-loose monetary policy, known as "quantitative easing," by mid-2006.

"There is a need for (the BOJ) to make a careful assessment of data. It should not rush things," Tanigaki said when asked when he thought the BOJ might switch policy. While the BOJ uses the core CPI as its main gauge for policy, the government has urged it to refer to a wider range of data, such as the GDP deflator. The government is wary that a premature reversal of the BOJ's accommodative stance could ruin Japan's chances of a full-fledged economic recovery and hamper its own efforts to trim public debt. Asked about the recently volatile yen, Tanigaki simply repeated the government's mantra that currency rates should reflect fundamentals and move in a stable manner.

"As the G7 statement has said, foreign exchange should reflect fundamentals and move in a stable manner ... The G7 approves of governments taking appropriate action when moves are out of line with those conditions," Tanigaki said to a group of reporters. "I do not comment on specific levels, but basically we will determine policy within that G7 position," Tanigaki added. Officials are concerned that a rapid rise in the yen could hurt Japanese exporters and dampen the strong business recovery of the past year, but Tanigaki and other officials have so far not shown any urgent desire to intervene. The dollar was last quoted at around 114.75 yen <JPY=>, recovering from an earlier fall to three-month lows around 113.78 yen.

Financial markets will be watching for any comments from Tanigaki on dollar/yen during his week-long visit, especially as he is due to meet U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow on Wednesday. Tanigaki's meetings with various high-profile officials, including outgoing Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, is expected to bolster his political profile ahead of an election for the head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party - a job that carries with it the prime ministership. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi steps down in September. Tanigaki, in his speech on Monday, also addressed the issue of consumption taxes, set to be a crucial and controversial issue in Japan's leadership election. Tanigaki, a proponent of plans to raise the rate from its current 5 percent, said debate was needed on the issue.

"Given the present state of public finance, it is clear that it will be next to impossible to accomplish fiscal consolidation by just reducing expenditures," he said in the speech. "We will have to engage ourselves in public debate ... on reforming the entire tax system including the consumption tax, while of course closely monitoring trends in economic activities," he said. The consumption tax has remained a politically thorny issue, especially since the last rise in 1997 was followed by a deep economic recession that led to the downfall of then Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. But most economists say Japan will eventually need to raise the tax to tackle swelling public debt. Japan is burdened with the biggest pile of public debt in the industrialized world, amounting to roughly 150 percent of its gross domestic product.

From Reuters, January 10, 2006

Public Bank Keen to Expand into China

Public Bank Bhd, which announced yesterday record profits for another year, signalled its intention to venture into China. The bank, with the second largest amount of loans in the country, wants 100% stake in a bank in China but will consider owning less if there are synergies to be found with a joint-venture partner, according to managing director Datuk Seri Tay Ah Lek. "We are looking at directly expanding into greater China,'' Tay told a media conference to announce Public Bank's 2005 financial year results. He said Public Bank was ready to venture into China but would not use unit JCG Finance Co Ltd, now known as Public Finance Ltd, for the purpose. Public Finance has an asset base of HK$4.4bil but must have an asset base of US$6bil in order to qualify.

Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow - "It will most probably be through a direct acquisition,'' he said. Although Public Bank has sufficient asset base to qualify for a branch in China, it must satisfy other conditions before it may be considered. Funding any acquisitions in its China move can be through a number of ways, given the bank's strong capital base and it might consider issuing a hybrid Tier-1 capital. Plans for such an expansion was unveiled after the bank announced it had recorded a net profit of RM1.45bil, or 44.23 sen a share, for its financial year ended Dec 31, 2005, compared with a net profit of RM1.27bil, or 39.5 sen a share, a year earlier. Revenue rose to RM5.9bil from RM5.04bil while pre-tax profit crossed the RM2bil mark for the first time in its history to RM2.05bil from RM1.85bil.

The bank also announced a final dividend of 20 sen a share less tax and a special dividend of 15 sen a share less tax. Including an interim dividend of 20 sen a share, total dividend for the year was 55 sen a share less tax. Total dividend payout amount to RM1.3bil. "Total assets surpassed the RM100bil mark to stand at a record RM111.6bil, which is two-and-a-half times the group's asset size of RM45.3bil at end-2000,'' Public Bank chairman Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow said in a statement. Public Bank's net interest income and net Islamic banking financing income expanded by 7% to RM2.89bil. Other operating income grew 24% to RM918mil as a result of higher sales of unit trusts following the launch of seven new funds. The bank's loans grew by 20%, or RM11.2bil, to RM68.1bil at end-2005. Its loans had been growing at or above 20% each year since 2001 and that had enabled the group to become the second largest lender in the country with a 12% share, Teh said.

"The group's lending activities continued to be focused on the retail sector, with consumer loans for the financing of residential properties and vehicle hire-purchase as well as commercial lending to SMEs accounting for 72% of the group's total loan portfolio and 76% of total new loans approved of RM27bil in 2005,'' he said. Public Bank has forecast loans to grow in the "high teens" in 2006, mainly due to the huge growth in the bank loans base over the past few years. Tay said loans for the purchase of vehicles, which account for 25% of the bank's loans at RM16.7bil, would see "stable growth" this year and would be linked to car sales, which are expected to rise marginally this year. He said the bank should also see "steady growth" in residential property loans, which account for 26%, or RM17.8bil, of the bank's loans base.

Tay said Public Bank, which had made a bid for Asia General Holdings Ltd (AGHL) along with Southern Bank Bhd (SBB), was still interested in buying a life insurance company. "Life insurance in Malaysia is relatively untapped and there is a business case for an insurance arm,'' he said. With SBB having aborted the RM2bil acquisition of AGHL after failing to obtain approval from Bank Negara, Public Bank senior general manager Leong Kwok Nyem said the bank now "intends to make a go at it (AGHL)''. On the outlook for Public Bank, Teh said it would continue to record "satisfactory performance" in 2006, adding that the implementation of the new accounting standards was expected to have a positive impact on the bank's bottom line. "The Public Bank group's strong lower-cost deposit structure will provide it with the capacity to remain competitive in the lending business,'' he said. "Rising interest rates will also be a positive for interest margins, as loans re-price faster than deposits in the rising interest rate environment.''

From Malaysia Star, January 24, 2006

Centre Can't Do Much To Push Growth

Few finance ministers have the comfort of a booming economy as they sit down to frame a Budget. As finance minister P Chidambaram starts penning his third Budget, his hands have been strengthened by three straight years of robust growth, and one that is spread across sectors. The challenge will be to sustain the almost certain 7% plus growth that India is sure to get this financial year and perhaps accelerate it to 8%. There's little the Budget can do to spur growth, is what most economists feel. "The Budget won't have much to do with growth," says Saumitra Chaudhari, chief economist at rating agency Icra. M Govind Rao, director of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) underscores the point, insisting that undue importance is given to the Budget and the government.

"The growth has happened in spite of the government and the Budget can do precious little on that front." Perhaps, but there's no denying that it's the economic growth that is giving North Block an extremely favourable environment in which to frame the Budget. Undoubtedly, the single most significant advantage that Chidambaram has is the oodles of confidence in the Indian economy both within and outside the country, which economists call unprecedented. "The environment is very, very positive," exults Chaudhari. Sure it is. Latest figures on the index of industrial production show that industry grew 8.4% in April-October and, within that, the manufacturing sector grew 9.1%. Capital goods, which reflect the investments being made, grew 16.6%. it's not just industry which is feeling upbeat. Consumer confidence is also high and people are spending more. Proof: the 13.2% growth in the consumer goods sector in April-October.

"There is a feeling that we can do it and this is driving investment and consumption," says S S Bhandare advisor, economic and government policy at the Tata Strategic Management Group who feels this is the most important factor for economic growth that needs to be nurtured. More importantly, the growth has come with moderate inflation, which is ranging at slightly below the 5% mark, something that hasn't been there for many years, Bhandare points out.But the advantages are considerably set off by pretty severe handicaps. The main one, of course, being the state of the exchequer. Management of public finances has not been good at all, says Ashima Goyal, professor at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research. She certainly has a point, if the figures relating to public finance up to November are seen.

On the face of it, expenditure has increased only by 10% while revenue receipts are up 16%. But look at the quality of expenditure. Revenue expenditure (on salaries and other running expenses) has increased 11% on the non-Plan account and 39% on the Plan account. Capital expenditure (on asset creation) has fallen under both heads - by 28% on the non-Plan account and 18% on the Plan account. Even accepting the argument (though it's not entirely tenable) that much of the revenue expenditure is on essential social sector schemes where current expenditure is high, this still shows a certain undesirable skew in expenditure patterns. The worrisome fiscal situation, something about which the Prime Minister has often expressed concern, will certainly put pressure on finances needed to fund physical infrastructure, the crippling lack of which will inhibit growth.

Notwithstanding what the economists may say, there's no denying that government spending is still crucial for infrastructure projects. Though, as Bhandare points out, infrastructure investments are hampered equally by policy, Goyal has an equally strong case for increased government spending in the sector. There are other wild cards too that Chidambaram will have to keep in mind. Global oil prices, currently fluctuating around rather high levels, is one. If they continue to rise that could spook growth. And if the government still refuses to pass on the burden to consumers, that will throw both the oil marketing companies and the exchequer into a tailspin.

There's also the global slowdown that's expected in 2006. India may not be as dependent on the global economy as many other countries but its exposure is certainly higher than it was a decade back. With export markets going into a probable slump, there will be demands for sops and concessions from exporters and export-oriented industries. Perhaps a case of the enviable situation not being so enviable after all?

From Daily News India, January 10, 2006

 

Fastest Growth in 10 Years Slices Czech Budget Deficit

The Czech Republic on Monday posted a 2005 central government budget deficit of 56.4 billion koruny, safely below the maximum approved by Parliament, as the fastest economic expansion in 10 years and higher tax rates bolstered revenue. The shortfall, equal to $2.3 billion, compared with a deficit limit of 83.6 billion koruny approved by lawmakers, the Finance Ministry said. Revenue totaled 866.5 billion koruny, compared with the projected 824.8 billion koruny; spending was 922.9 billion koruny, compared with the planned 908.4 billion koruny.
The country, which has been an EU member for 20 months, must keep squeezing its budget deficit if it is to adopt the euro in 2010 as it hopes to do. But it now appears the government can afford to increase spending before elections in June, as faster-than-expected economic growth and higher taxes are producing more revenue than expected.

A large increase in spending in December "illustrates the efforts to include the maximum items in the budget at the end of the year," said Michal Brozka, an economist at Raiffeisenbank in Prague. "Behind the lower-than-drafted deficit, there's merely the favorable development on the revenue side." The Czech economy grew 5 percent in the first nine months of 2005. The year's budget - 37.3 billion koruny less than the 2004 budget - had been drafted on the assumption that economic growth would be 3.6 percent. The government put aside about 25 billion koruny in 2006 reserve funds, the ministry said, as stricter rules for public tenders delayed some investment projects. The reserve money was included in 2005 spending under national methodology, which EU rules exclude.

When off-budget funds and municipal and regional budgets are included, the 2005 shortfall was 4.2 percent of gross domestic product, compared with 3 percent of GDP in 2004. "It's a very good result, the smallest shortfall since 2002," Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said. "The public finance performance in 2005 under the European Union methodology was the best since 1997." Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek's fiscal policy, which does not include spending cuts, has been criticized by the central bank and some economists because the government would find it difficult to help the economy in a slowdown or recession. "Stabilization of public finances through higher taxation works in the short term, though it's harmful in the long term," Zdenek Tuma, governor of the Czech National Bank, said in an article Monday in the Hospodarske Noviny. "Short-sighted utilization of the Czech economy's good performance to increase state spending could threaten the desired stabilization of public finances, and finally, it could jeopardize the euro adoption by the planned date."

From International Herald Tribune, January 3, 2006

Closer Watch on Public Spending

Undeterred by the fact that it amassed more public revenues than expected last year, the government is working on a draft law to form an independent team of investigators to check on the finances of state bodies, sources told Kathimerini yesterday. The government hopes the checks will lead to the reduction of waste and corruption in the civil service. Currently, inspectors look into the finances of prefectures, regional authorities, ministries and the office of the Greek president. These bodies are responsible for spending some 6 percent of the state budget. However, sources said that a bill now in the hands of Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis proposes to empower a new inspectorate to look at the books of public utilities, local government offices and public services.

The bill is due to be submitted to Parliament next month and is expected to give the new Public Finance Inspectors the power to check not only if money is being spent legally by the various bodies but also if it is being spent appropriately, and whether the organizations are monitoring their own expenditures. Alogoskoufis has made it clear that cutting back on public waste is a significant tool in Greece's battle to reduce its deficit. Although buoyed by the news yesterday that the increase in public revenues for 2005 came in at 6 percent rather than the projected 5 percent, the government shows no sign of letting up in its efforts to tidy up public spending. The new body will have the power to take temporary measures, such as suspending civil servants, in cases where inspectors believe there is some form of mismanagement. They will also be able to put an end to practices that appear to be damaging a public body until a full investigation is conducted.

From Kathimerini, January 3, 2006

Poland's Gilowska Named Finance Chief, to Cut Deficit

Poland named Zyta Gilowska as finance minister, turning to the opposition party's former deputy leader to cut the budget deficit and smooth the country's path into the euro. Gilowska, 56, replaced Teresa Lubinska, who was ousted by the ruling party after calling for a higher deficit and higher fuel taxes. Gilowska, vice chairwoman of the opposition Citizens' Platform until last May, was also appointed deputy prime minister. The two-month old minority government of the Law & Justice party is pledging to trim the shortfall below 3 percent of gross domestic product from the current 4.5 percent to qualify for the euro as early as 2010. "It's been my firm determination to establish order in public finances and I have always fought against any waste of money,'' Gilowska, an economics professor, told a Warsaw press conference today. ``Public spending has to be disciplined and rational.'' Gilowska's former party attempted to set up a coalition government with the Law & Justice party after elections in September, though talks collapsed amid differences over economic policies and power sharing.

Budget Cuts - The Law & Justice government under Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz agreed last month to cut the 2006 deficit to 30.5 billion zloty ($9.7 billion), compared with 32.6 billion zloty set by the previous government. The budget bill will be voted by legislators Jan. 14. ``Financial markets should show a positive reaction to Gilowska as finance minister because she's known for her strong views on social spending,'' said Jacek Wisniewski, chief economist at Raiffaisen Bank in Warsaw. Poland's $264 billion economy grew an annual 3.7 percent in the third quarter, faster than 2.8 percent in the previous three months, the Central Statistical Office reported Nov. 29. Full- year growth for 2005 is estimated by the government at about 3.5 percent and this year's budget assumes the pace will accelerate to 4.3 percent.

Marcinkiewicz reiterated today he is expecting the economy to grow faster than the target rate and said Gilowska will help the government fulfill its economic program by overseeing all economic ministries as deputy prime minister. Gilowska ``has outstanding expertise in public finance and is very well known for her restrictive views on state spending,'' President Lech Kaczynski said at a televised ceremony in Warsaw today. Former finance chief Lubinska criticized Tesco Plc and other retailers opening hypermarkets in Poland for creating low- skilled jobs and driving out smaller shops. She also called for an increase in the deficit. Lubinska, 53, will continue to be employed by the government, Marcinkiewicz said, without saying what job she will have.

Bloomberg, January 7, 2006

Polish Government Delays Presenting Country's Euro Convergence Plan Till Jan 17

Polish government will asked European Commission for a delay in presenting country's euro convergence program, as it plans to present it on January 17, MinFin spokesperson Marcin Mazurek told PAP. "The government will not discuss the program today," Mazurek said. "We will ask the European Commission to extend the deadline by a week." "It means we will present it on January 17," he added. In the new version of the convergence programme, the Finance Ministry assumes an increase of mid-year inflation from 1.5% this year to 2.5% in 2008 as well as gradual deficit reduction to 1.9% within three years. In the case of deficit, the forecast is based on the assumption that pension funds means make a part of the public finance sector.

EURO PAP, January 10, 2006

CEC Privatization Could Be Deferred for Two Years

The board of administration of the Romanian Savings Bank (CEC) has been asked by the privatization commission to present a two-year strategy based on the possibility of privatization not taking place. If the business plan presented by the CEC board persuades the commission that the restructuring and development of the local bank without the involvement of a strategic investor are feasible objectives, the privatization could be postponed. Sources from the Ministry of Public Finance (MFP) say the board of CEC and the privatization commission will meet next week. CEC president Eugen Radulescu confirmed that the board he heads was elaborating a business plan for the period up to 2008 which does not depend on privatization being carried out. The CEC official does not exclude the possibility of the commission asking the board to elaborate a strategy based on several scenarios.

At the beginning of the year the Minister of Public Finance Sebastian Vladescu said he was not happy with the preliminary takeover offers and was still analyzing the best option for the privatization of the Romanian Savings Bank (CEC). The privatization of CEC is no longer an urgent priority for the government and the opinion that the state should remain involved in the Romanian banking system, as has happened on other markets in Central Europe, appears to be gaining ground. Sources from the banking market claim that authorities are considering keeping the bank for some time and investing in the consolidation of its position, which has weakened in the last two years. The government's document calling for offers for the privatization of the bank includes an option for the Romanian state to interrupt the process at any time.
Initially the deadline for the submission of binding offers was November 28, 2005, but this was subsequently postponed indefinitely, until the completion of the privatization of the Romanian Commercial Bank (BCR).

BCR president Nicolae Danila suggested the state may have jumped the gun by selling BRD too early, before re-capitalizing it. The seven investors participating in the tender had submitted preliminary offers by October 21 but media reports suggested that none exceeded 300 million euros, despite experts' estimate that the stake in CEC on sale could raise 650 million euros. The seven investors bidding for CEC are Erste Bank, the National Bank of Greece, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA, Dexia Bank, EFG Eurobank, OTP Bank and the consortium composed of Raiffeisen International Bank and Raiffeisen Zentralbank Oesterreich Aktiengesellschaft. The strategic investor which would buy CEC will have the possibility of taking over up to 75% of the capital but no less than 50% plus one share, according to the bank's privatization strategy adopted by the government. Currently, CEC is being reorganized. Its services and products portfolio is being developed to take better advantage of its large rural distribution network in areas which other banks have difficulty penetrating.

CEC registered a net profit of 870,000 euros in the first nine months of 2005, which it expects to reach one million euros by the end of year, Radulescu stated earlier this month. The CEC official's forecasts rely on the spectacular growth of the credit portfolio whose monthly progression rate is 50 million euros. At the end of September, total credits had reached 417 million euros and were estimated to have reached two billion euros by the end of last year, representing at least a threefold increase compared to 2004. Radulescu expects credits to be boosted by the completion of the bank's computerization process. Over 700 branches are to be connected to the central CEC unit through a system in which the bank has already invested 8.5 million euros. Experts say CEC is a good acquisition opportunity because it is the last large bank to be privatized in Romania and buying a bank of comparable size on the market would be very difficult and even more expensive.

From Bucharest Daily News, January 18, 2006

 
 

Tardy Privatization of TRC Harms Economy

The long awaited economic benefits expected to arise from privatization of Tanzania's railway system are no longer in sight. The single-gauge track was laid down ninety years ago during German colonial rule, and reached the shores of Lake Tanganyika in 1914. It was then mainly used to transport migrant labourers and cash crops from the interior to international markets. Old age, coupled with lack of proper and consistent maintenance since independence, has drastically reduced its economic value. Of late, the northern link line joining Kibaha and Arusha has been rendered a white elephant as it fails to compete with all weather tarmac roads. Worst, the rolling stock is now outdated, thus making operations inefficient.

Official estimates show that about Tsh.70 billion is urgently needed to revamp the railways, hitherto managed by the public parastatal, the Tanzania Railways Corporation (TRC). The state was ill prepared to raise this amount of financing, hence the resort to privatization.The recent discovery of nickel in Kigoma region has attracted an investment worth USD 500m, but mine development is said to have been hindered by delayed privatization of the railways. The central railway-line also traverses virgin land with untapped agricultural potential. Before April last year, PSRC had already pre-qualified Rites Consortium of India and the Great Lakes Railways Consortium as preferred bidders seeking to run TRC on a concession basis. The two firms were ultimately required to submit technical and financial bids for final selection. The bids were received on April 13 last year.

The Great Lakes Railways Consortium's technical bid was then rejected due to failure to meet terms and conditions of the concession. Subsequently, it challenged the selection in court. However, in June last year, the lost bidder withdrew the case unconditionally at the Commercial Division of the High Court. As of now, the Indian Consortium is awaiting government's nod, having offered USD100m (over Tsh.100bn) as concession fees for 25 years. Traditionally, the development expenditure of TRC had been borne by donor countries, notably Germany, England and Canada, but since 2000, they have remained on the sidelines to pave the way for privatization. The president of the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA), Mr. Elvis Musiba, said that poor and outdated infrastructure is hurting the economy.

According to Musiba, a number of investors have already made decisions to start exploring for minerals, but they wanted a reliable infrastructure that could withstand the hauling of minerals in bulk to outlet points. Malaysian investors have also shown interest to invest in planting 700ha of palm oil trees in Kigoma region. The Central Railway line also serves the landlocked countries of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire. The intended major rehab of the system would reduce costly and sporadic accidents while allowing timely delivery of goods. TRC's 2,700 kilometres long rail, infrastructure, engines and tracks need major repairs to improve safety standards, which have deteriorated over the last century. In June 2002, 288 passengers tragically died when the train they were travelling in suffered mechanical impairment, sped backwards uncontrollably ramming into a cargo train in Mpwapwa district, Kigoma Region.

Mr. Musiba was commenting on the state of infrastructure development as well as improvement and the general view on the business environment during the ended year 2005. 'Infrastructural problems are not well addressed, and this is partly because of the bureaucrats' attitude of mind which is resistant to changes,' he said. According to him, the stumbling blocks facing the Tanzanian business community are well known to all stakeholders, and, unfortunately, frequent dialogue has so far failed to get to the bottom of them. Mr. Musiba said that the business community through the Tanzania National Business Council (TNBC) had even labeled all problems facing business people as red, green and yellow, but yet the pace at which those problems were being addressed was not satisfactory. In November last year, the TRC appealed to the government to hasten its privatization as the corporation's operations were fast deteriorating at an estimated rate of 20 percent a year for lack of funds. TRC has been experiencing an average of 40 broken railway sections and 100 locomotive failures every month, and breakdowns were frequent.

From Allafrica.com, January 3, 2006

 

Country's Public Education Still in Crisis

Senate President Franklin Drilon said public education in the country continues to be in crisis having a budget gap of P10.5 billion. Speaking over the Grand Centennial Alumni Homecoming of Baluarte Elementary School in Molo, Iloilo City last December 30, 2005 the Ilonggo legislator lamented the lack of government support to education. Drilon cited that education should have been given importance by the government as it is the key to personnel advancement, people's advancement and the nation's advancement. Drilon disclosed that the country lacks 10,500 classrooms which if constructed would cost around P4.6 billion. Schools also lack 1.2 million desks which amount to P720 million and 12,000 textbooks costing around P1.2 billion.

The country's schools, he said, also need additional 12,000 teachers to achieve the 1:40 teacher-student ratio. The need for additional teachers require P1.2 billion budget a year. To note, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo submitted to Congress a P1.05 trillion budget for the year 2006. However reports say the proposed budget focuses on socioeconomic renewal and fiscal health. The P1.05 trillion budget is 14.7 percent higher than the year 2005 budget of P918.6 billion and accounts for 17.6 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). "Despite the programmed increase in the budget next year, we look forward to fully financing it, at the same time bring down the budget deficit to P124.9 billion from the current year's target of P180 billion"; the President said in her budget message. Relative to the country's GDP, the budget deficit is down to 2.1 percent compared to 3.4 percent this year. Government projected revenues for 2006 are expected to reach P968.6 billion, P874.3 billion or 90.2 percent of which will come from taxes while the remaining P94.3 billion will be derived from non-tax sources such as fees and charges, income, privatization proceeds and foreign grants.

From News Today Online, January 4, 2006

 

State to Keep Control Over Romanian Lottery

The sale of stakes owned by the government in the Romanian Lottery and the National Printing House represents only a "partial privatization" and the state will maintain its full control over the two institutions' activities, according to the Ministry of Public Finance (MPF). The transfer of the 20 percent stake in the two companies, the initiation of public secondary offers and the offer of shares to employees of the two companies are obligations stipulated by the Romanian legislation, specifies the MFP in a release. According to the ordinance draft for the privatization strategy of the two institutions, 32 percent of the social capital of the Romanian Lottery and the National Printing House will be sold.

20 percent of the stock will be allocated to the Proprietatea Fund (the fund created for the compensation of the victims of abusive expropriations under communism). Another five percent will be sold by secondary public offers. The remaining seven percent of the stock to be sold will be offered to the current employees of the two companies, but also to those retired and to the members of the administration boards through an association to be created to this effect. The draft law also stipulates that the two companies will become limited liabilities in which the Romanian state will continue to hold a majority participation of 68 percent of the social capital.

From Bucharest Daily News, January 8, 2006

 

Daniels Continues to Make Case for 'Privatization'

In his first State of the State address last January, Gov. Mitch Daniels announced a moratorium on state approval of school construction projects. This triggered debates across the state over "local control," but it also did something else. It ignited local conversations about spending by government in places like Hobart and Middlebury and Vincennes, where school corporations were responsible for some of the bigger increases in the local tax rate. The result? "The Department of Local Government counts $87 million that came out of proposals that had come to them," said Gov. Mitch Daniels last Wednesday. "$87 million! And those are the ones they know about. These are the ones that were slimmed down. As of today, no proposal has been rejected."

"What we know but we don't know the number for was that many more the pencils were sharpened before the proposals came," Daniels said. "That's exactly what I hoped would happen. We're still home rule people around here. We're not interested in telling people what the right dollar amount or what the right school size is. But if you're above the national average, then think twice. Up to this point it is having an effect. It didn't slow anybody down. Nobody was smacked down."

In Daniels' home school district (and also mine) - Washington Township Metropolitan Schools in Indianapolis - some $19 million was cut, some coming out of money budgeted for a swimming pool. I mentioned to Daniels how I wish the school district had explored teaming up with the Jordan YMCA across the street to build a joint public-private acquatics facility, to which he responded, "I hope sometime while I'm governor, two school corporations build an athletic facility together and share it." "We're trying to get that kind of thinking going," Daniels said. But, this isn't necessarily new thinking.

A dozen years ago, when Stephen Goldsmith was mayor of Indianapolis, he called upon a couple of Mitches Daniels and Roob - to serve on something called SELTIC, which stood for the Service Efficiency and Lower Taxes for Indianapolis Commission. Fast forward the tape a dozen years and, it is Roob who now heads the Family Social Services Administration. He explains, "The same three players are in place, just operating in different positions." It's Gov. Daniels and off in the wings at Harvard University is Stephen Goldsmith, the unsuccessful 1996 Republican candidate for governor who would have brought the concepts of "privatization" to state government eight years ago had he won. The three of them are again taking some of the same concepts Goldsmith used in Indianapolis to the state.

SELTIC's mission was to review every function performed and service provided by city and county government. As described by Sheila Kennedy and Ingrid Ritchie in their book "To Market, To Market: Reinventing Indianapolis," SELTIC was charged with three essential goals: to determine whether a function should be performed by government at all; the real cost of that function to government; and if the service were still to be provided by government, how might it be done more efficiently. Roob will be in the news a great deal in 2006, with his plans of privatizing state services like the Fort Wayne Developmental Center, which houses 200 patients and has a history of abuse and neglect. There are efforts elsewhere, such as the Indiana Department of Corrections, to shift functions such as cooking meals to the private sector with significant savings.

Kennedy and Ritchie contend in their book that while privatization is "first and foremost a commitment to fiscal prudence," Mayor Goldsmith cut the local government workforce by 62 percent saving $149 million, but shifted the jobs and functions to the private sector which cost taxpayers $290 million. They also say that Goldsmith left Indianapolis deep in debt. And it was fascinating that while mayors from across the nation came to study Goldsmith's Indianapolis experiment in public/private competition, it was not widely trended by his Hoosier counterparts. Like Goldsmith, Daniels doesn't care much for the term "privatization." But as the FSSA and efforts to lease the Indiana East-West Toll Road move forward, Gov. Daniels tries to make the case for new thinking, just as he did with school construction.

"It shouldn't be scary at all," he said. "A huge percentage of state government servies are delivered privately now. We don't build all our own roads, we hire private companies to do it. We don't clean our own buildings. Think of the single biggest program that state government runs - Medicaid. Almost all of it is privatized." Medicaid also poses the biggest challenge to state government, reining in its costs, which were estimated to increase by 10 percent a year by the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute. The last biennial budget Daniels signed pegged the increases at 5 percent, putting Roob in a sensitive performance perch.

The irony here is that the progressive conservative Daniels drew on the liberal New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. He was quoted in David Osborne's book "Reinventing Government," and recalled by Gov. Daniels as saying, "the job of government isn't to deliver services itself, but to make certain they are delivered effectively." Daniels explained, "To me this is purely practical, to look at every service to see if this is the best way to get this done. Now, the State Police will always be full-time, 100 percent employees of state government. But any good business today asks itself, what are our core competencies. And on the other things, hire someone where that's their core competency. When I was at Lilly, it was a very well managed company but I started asking, 'Why are we doing laundry? Why are we running buses? Cooking food? We're here to discover miracle drugs and find a way to manufacture them.'" For Gov. Daniels, it comes down to this: "When you get a competition going, you usually get a better price for taxpayers."

Decatur Daily Democrat, January 4, 2006

Hochtief Realizes Public-Private Partnership Project in Chile

In Santiago de Chile, one of the country's most important toll highways was opened to traffic, three months ahead of schedule. The Vespucio Norte Express, as it is called, links Chile's north and south highways. A consortium in which Hochtief PPP Solutions GmbH has a 45 percent share will operate the 30 kilometer long northwestern section of the beltway around Chile's capital until 2033.

Hochtief Construction AG was one of the main contractors. The project has an investment volume of EUR 520 million, which will be refinanced through tolls over the 27-year operating period. Upon expiry of the concession contract, the road will be transferred to the ownership of the Chilean state. With an anticipated 75, 000 vehicles a day in 2006, rising to some 150, 000 a day in 2020, Vespucio Norte Express will be one of the most heavily frequented roads in Chile. The northwest of Santiago de Chile is the fastest growing part of the capital and is seen as a center of real estate and industrial development in the city.

From Construction and Maintenance News, January 5, 2006

A New Path for Bolivia

Newly elected President Evo Morales promises to break with 20 years of U.S.-imposed conservative economics. Late last year, Bolivians made history, for their own country and for all of Latin America, when they elected, by a wide margin, an Aymara Indian as their next president. The victory of Evo Morales signals many things here, but first and foremost it marks a broad popular rejection of two decades of conservative economic policies imposed on Bolivia from Washington. The vote brought to the ballot box a wave of public anger that has been exploding in Bolivia's streets for more than five years.

The poorest nation in South America, for two decades Bolivia has been the unwilling lab rat for a set of economic experiments known as the "Washington Consensus." These policies have included giving control of national resources to foreign corporations and economic belt-tightening that hits the poor hardest. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund - both Washington-based and dominated by the United States - made the adoption of these policies a condition of receiving critical foreign aid.

In Bolivia, one government after another has dutifully followed those orders from Washington. The nation's economy, however, has only gotten worse. Five years ago, Bolivians began to take to the streets to demand reversal of those policies, winning one major victory after another. In 2000, the citizens of the city of Cochabamba stood down government troops to take back their public water system from the U.S. corporate giant, Bechtel, reversing a privatization forced by the World Bank. In February 2003 in the nation's capital, La Paz, mass protests that included national police, forced the government to drop plans for a tax increase on the poor, a program initiated under IMF pressure.

In October 2003, Bolivians took to the streets again to block a mistrusted government plan to export the nation's gas to California. After soldiers killed more than 50 protesters, the president backing the plan was forced to resign, setting up the chain of political events that eventually led to last month's early elections. Morales and his Movement Towards Socialism party have played a key role in many of these protests. Recently he told his supporters, "We will change the economic models that have blocked development for the people." That change begins with Morales' plans to take back control of the nation's vast gas and oil reserves and renegotiate all the nation's contracts with foreign oil companies. The economic battle that led to Morales' huge victory is less a debate between left vs. right ideology than about the staggering gap between Washington economic theory and Bolivian economic reality.

Time and time again, Bank and IMF officials proclaimed that privatization and austerity would deliver huge leaps in economic growth, new jobs and skilled management of the nation's resources. Time and time again, however, Bolivia's economy contracted and faltered. Austerity translated into tax increases on people earning $120 per month. Privatization produced huge leaps in water prices and backroom deals that made foreign companies the owners of the nation's resources at bargain prices.

If the economic prescriptions handed down from Washington had worked, Bolivians would likely have embraced them. I have lived here among Bolivia's poor for eight years. Ideology, left or right, is generally a luxury that poor people can't afford. They are more interested in practical things. Do they have water? Are there jobs? Do they have any economic hope for the future? The Washington Consensus has been rejected soundly here - first in the streets and now at the polls - not because of ideology but because it just plain failed to deliver the goods after a 20-year opportunity to do so. I knew that Morales might well be on his way to the presidency last October, when I spent five days in a small Quechua Indian village. One sunny afternoon I sat with the village leader. I asked him if the coming election was big on people's minds.

"No, we are really more worried about whether it will rain soon." I asked him if people were excited about Evo Morales and the prospect of electing an Indian as president. "Well, he is really just a politician." Then I asked him whether the people of the village would vote. "Oh yes, we will vote. All 400 of us will walk together 45 minutes to the place where we vote and we will all vote for Evo." On Dec. 18, Bolivians by the millions marched distances short and far to give Morales the biggest mandate of any president in half a century. Now Morales will seek to turn that mandate into a new economic course, including a reversal of the market fundamentalism brought here from the north.

To be sure, there are many in Washington who would love to see Morales fail. He rose to political prominence here as leader of the nation's coca growers and has been a nemesis of the U.S. government's "war on drugs." For months U.S. officials have been pounding out the message that he and the social movements that back him are pawns of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuban President Fidel Castro. But, as the United States claims to be fighting a war in one part of the world to support the cause of democracy, it will now need to demonstrate whether it means those words here, with a clear democratic choice not to its liking. Last month Bolivians chose a new course, whether those in Washington agree with it or not.

From Sacremento bee, January 8, 2006

Governing in the Fast Lane

For a year, Gov. Mitch Daniels has been at the controls of an accelerating locomotive, driving Indiana's state government toward change.
Some Hoosiers are on board. Others fear derailment. The governor is "still frustrated with the pace, even though other people, including the legislators, feel like we're holding on by our fingertips to stay on this train speeding down the track," said Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Yet Brinegar said the governor's blurring pace of changing the way government works in his first 12 months in office - Daniels' anniversary is Tuesday - is a fresh, welcome attitude in the Statehouse. On Wednesday, Daniels will deliver his second State of the State address, giving his annual report on what's been done so far and what he plans to do next.

Daniels said his changes are favored by Hoosiers. "I believe that we have a solid and growing coalition for change in this state," he said. "The record of these 12 months shows that Indiana chose to do that over and over and over again. That is not always easy to do." But not all are applauding. "I'd rank him as willing to go where everyone else fears to tread. I don't think change for the sake of change is a good thing," said House Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend. "He made a lot of changes, but whether they were improvements is questionable."
In his first full day as governor last year, Daniels ended collective bargaining for state employees. In his eighth day, he used his first State of the State address to seek a one-year tax increase on higher-income Hoosiers in order to balance the state's budget - an increase his fellow Republicans, who control the Indiana General Assembly, promptly rejected.

Before he'd even hit the half-way mark, he'd pushed through daylight-saving time, the twice-yearly time change that Hoosiers had resisted for three decades, and sparked a statewide debate that hasn't ended yet on which time zone counties should observe, Central or Eastern.
He stood by Bureau of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Joel Silverman, who closed 27 license branches, drawing the wrath of lawmakers and motorists. Now, Daniels is starting 2006 by calling for more change. When he speaks to Hoosiers statewide Wednesday night, he'll push hard for his Major Moves transportation project, which calls for leasing the Indiana Toll Road, possibly to a foreign company; raising the tolls there; and making new highways, including the long-planned I-69 extension from Indianapolis to Evansville, toll roads. He'll call for cuts in school administrative costs to move more dollars to the classroom, and more freedom for local governments to consolidate. And he's widely expected to call for the elimination of some political fiefdoms, such as township assessors.

From Indianapolis Star, January 8, 2006