ISSUE 80
March 2006
 
 
   
    South Africa: Policy Speech of the Office of the Premier of the Eastern Cape, The Honourable Mrs. Nosimo Balindlela, Eastern Cape Legislature
   
    India: Urban Transport Policy Draft Ready
India: National Institute of Public Policy in the City
Australia: New Indigenous Welfare Policy Criticised
   
    Iran: Institute on Religion and Public Policy to Launch Iran Program
   
    USA: Policy Forum on Teacher Pay
USA: Public Policy Group Accuses Companies of Funding Adware
Canada: CAB Names New Senior V-P, Policy and Public Affairs
   
    Summary of the 4th World Water Forum
 
   
    Nigeria: Encouraging Good Governance
Ghana: Ghana Is Aiming at Scoring High Marks in Governance
Ghana: Women in Local Governance Fund Launched
   
    Nepal: Korea to Assist Nepal's Bid for E-governance
India: Bangalore One Offers e-Governance
Cambodia: Cambodia PM Pledges Better Governance at Donors Meet
Bangladesh: Bangladesh 2015: Crossing Miles...
India: US Needs India for N-management
India: Kashmiri Leaders to Discuss Self-governance in Pakistan
China: Transparency of Governance
   
    United Arab Emirates: Working Group Starts to Create Action Plan for Good Governance in Arab Countries
   
   

Cayman Islands: Bermuda: Independence by Any Means; Governance as an Obsession

   
   

UNEP Governing Council: Strengthening the Scientific Base of Environmental Governance is Essential
Poor Water Management Limits Access to Safe Water: Report

 
   
    Kenya: National Anti-Corruption Campaign Launched
South Africa: Corruption and Neglect Lead to Township Riots Against ANC
Swaziland: Cut the Civil Service, Says IMF
Ethiopia: Ethiopia Develops Civil Service Reform Program
   
   

Australia: Corruption Blamed for Rainforest Destruction
Kazakhstan: Head of Kazakh Civil Service Affairs Agency, British Ambassador Met
Nepal: Karki Informs of Plan for Women in Civil Service
Asia: Government to "Vaccinate" Kids Against Corruption

   
    Ireland: Ireland Needs to Improve Anti-corruption Measures, Report Finds
UK: Blair Rejects New Panel to Probe Ministers
   
    Dominican Republic: DR's Anti-narcotics Chiefs Admit Corruption Hampers War Against Trafficking
   
    World Bank's war on corruption
Survey: Bulgaria, Romania Think Corruption won't be Reduced after EU Entry
 
   
   

Nigeria: Higher Education and Reform in Nigeria
Morocco: Morocco to Roll Out E-procurement System

   
    India: Where Are India's Thought Leaders?
India: Go Open Source For E-Governance: NKC
Philippines: Filipino Government to Reassess ICT Projects
Hong Kong: Hong Kong To Launch One-stop-shop Portal
China: Chinese Politicians Urged To Set Up Blogs
Philippines: U.N. Report Cites RP's E-government Readiness
   
    Scotland: Scottish Students To Get Virtual Work Experience
UK: UK Councils To Get IT Test Lab
   
    Qatar: Gulf Energy Signs Agreement with Microsoft
Dubai: Dubai eGovernment's Website Attracts 167 Percent more Visitors During 2005
   
    United States of America: Microsoft, Government Partnerships Solve Challenges for Citizens in the Americas
USA: Security Scores High on US Agenda
   
   

Knowledge Management Works, Here's How
Google Dodges Knowledge Management Question

EU Reaches Out to Ease Language Barriers

 
   
    Cameroon: Cameroon to Host Francophone Financial Agency`s Headquarters
   
    India: Governor Buta Singh Cost Bihar Rs 8,752cr
Taiwan: Card Debt Unlikely To Alter Nation's Ratings, Fitch Says
India: Indian Infrastructure Ffinance Reforms a Model for Emerging Market: Fitch
   
    Italy: Public Finance: Visco Says Quarterly Report Was Due February
Austria: APS: Kommunalkredit: No. 1 in Public Finance Reports Strong Growth
Slovenia: Almunia Warns About Long-Term Public Finance Sustainability
 
   
    Zambia: Former Zambian President Calls for Partnership in Poverty Reduction
Malawi: Private Sector Wants Share from Subsidy
   
    Pakistan: Government Following Multi-pronged Policy Fowards Socio-economic Uplift of FATA: Khalil
Thailand: PTT Defends 'Legal' Privatisation
   
    Bulgaria: Public-Private Partnership Projects Evaluated in Bulgaria
Turkey: CityTransport in Istanbul Going Private
   
    Mexico: Mexico's Secretary of Tourism Forges Unique Partnership with Expedia and United Nations Foundation to Protect World Heritage Sites
USA: BASF Forms Public-private Partnership with CIMMYT, Part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)
 
Policy Speech of the Office of the Premier of the Eastern Cape, The Honourable Mr.s Nosimo Balindlela, Eastern Cape Legislature

Honourable Members of this House, Members of the Executive Council, People of the Eastern Cape, I am privileged to stand before you today in renewal of my accountability to this House for service delivery to the poorest of the poor in this awe-inspiring Province.

Madame Speaker, I am delivering this speech at the back of the very recent and greatly successful local government election, at which again the ruling party has received a resounding mandate from the people of our country and Province to deploy all efforts and resources to bring our people closer to the realization of sustainable livelihoods. Most significant is the marked increase in the number of women elected as Councilors, as a direct result of the "Get the Balance Right" campaign. This makes real the consensus from the 50th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (27 February - 10 March 2006), where it was affirmed that women's equal participation is a necessary condition for women's and girls' interests to be taken into account and is needed in order to strengthen democracy and promote its proper functioning. It is therefore imperative that in this year which marks the 50th Anniversary of the symbolic gesture of South Africa's Women's struggle and resilience, we maintain a sharp and diligent focus on women's economic participation, and general welfare. Each of the Policy Speeches that will be tabled in this House will unveil plans for amplifying government's commitments in this regard.

Please see link below for the full version of speech: http://www.ecprov.gov.za/news_article.asp?id=146

From ecprov.gov, 22 March, 2006

 

Urban Transport Policy Draft Ready

New Delhi - The Centre has finally come out with a National Urban Transport Policy dealing with alternative means of public transport. The draft document, prepared by the Urban Development Ministry, has been circulated among other Ministries for their opinion and views, Urban Development Minister S. Jaipal Reddy told mediapersons on Tuesday. The document commends Metro rail for big cities and favours multi-modal transport systems for smaller ones. It envisages making bus systems more attractive. It focuses on the need to consider different technologies and determine their suitability for different cities, said Mr. Reddy, speaking on the sidelines of a conference `Alternative technologies for public transport.'

"Even in the big cities where we will encourage Metro, BRT [Bus Rapid Transport] and Metro will not be mutually exclusive," he said. He rued the importance attached to car prices in public policy matters. "Whenever the budget is presented, the focus is on excise duty on cars. We need to think more about public transport." He asserted that under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission, the Government would encourage the setting up of mass transport systems in 63 cities. Mr. Reddy said Indian cities were facing growing congestion and deteriorating air quality due to the growing number of private vehicles. Economic activities were hampered due to reduced mobility and the impact on oil consumption as well as on foreign exchange outflows was rather severe.

From hindu.com, March 22, 2006

National Institute of Public Policy in the City

The national institute of public policy, a public-private partnership initiative is likely to be set up in the city near the ISB. The institute with global standards would be set up in collaboration with Harvard University and Johns Hopkins, and in association with people like Rajat Gupta of McKinsey and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen.The Government of India, Andhra Pradesh government and Bill & Milinda Gates Foundation would contribute Rs 25 crore each to the proposed Rs 100-crore corpus for the public policy institute. The proposed institute is expected to focus on training and research in a range of areas of public policy covering public health and public services among others. Many noted personalities like Satyam Computer's chief Ramalinga Raju and Rajat Gupta, the chairman of ISB, is expected to contribute to the institute.

From andhracafe.com, March 13, 2006

New Indigenous Welfare Policy Criticised

A radical government plan to overhaul Aboriginal welfare and link community behaviour to benefits and funding for health and education is doomed to fail, critics say. In a controversial experiment - the brainchild of indigenous leader Noel Pearson - communities that tackle alcohol and drug abuse will get incentive payments. Trials in Cape York communities in far north Queensland will link school attendance with family payments and young people will face a lower dole if they fail to look for work or study. But, in a move that is sure to raise the ire of many indigenous people, communities that volunteer for the experiment will receive extra funding for health and education. Prime Minister John Howard said any change that instilled a sense of responsibility in parents was a positive one. "It is obviously something that would have a lot of practical challenges but, as a concept, what Mr Pearson is getting at is good," he told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

"Anything that instills a greater level of responsibility in all parents - I am not just talking about Aboriginal children. "I don't think it is something that if you are serious about, you should limit it to Aboriginal children," he said. But some sections of the indigenous community have already raised major concerns over the proposal, particularly over plans to increase public funding to communities that put their hand up for the trials. "If (indigenous communities) need money for health and housing, that is not something to be bargained off," Geoff Scott, from the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, said.

And training and education in remote indigenous communities were meaningless without the jobs to warrant them, he said. "Most people don't see training and education as relevant because the jobs aren't there." Ultimately, this proposal would fail, Mr Scott said. "It's like passing a knife through a bowl of marbles - we'll go back to where we were before." But new Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough said it was time to put an end to "sit down" welfare. "I have seen first hand the destruction of the current welfare sit down money - as it's referred to in the indigenous communities," he told Sky News.

From theage.com.au, March 10, 2006

 

Institute on Religion and Public Policy to Launch Iran Program

Project Will Provide Much-needed Information and Analysis on Regime - Washington, D.C. - Institute on Religion and Public Policy President Joseph K. Grieboski today announced the establishment of its Iran Project and the appointment of Dr. Bijan Sepasy as the Program's Founding Director. With a newly elected president who is more hostile toward the West than any of his predecessors and a resumption of nuclear development activities, Iran poses a great threat to global security and interests. These recent developments have made the need for timely and accurate information on Iran a critical necessity for global policy analysts and makers.

The Iran Project of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy will fulfill the vital need for information on Iran, including specific reporting on the Islamist militant government. The project will provide in-depth analysis of Iran's actions and the implications for United States and international policy using a subscription service with briefing reports and analysis synthesizing various sources. The main objective of this project is to enhance the understanding of Iran's policy-making process and politico-Islamist system. By conducting a thorough analysis of the regime's behavior, the Project will develop a series of recommendations that can assist policy makers when strategizing on ways to counter the regime's disinformation campaign and enhance the practical support to the Iranian people in organizing and demanding their basic civil rights.

The project does not lend itself to statistical analysis but does support identifying trends and tabulating of events. The project will provide a weekly survey of developments together with an analysis of the following: * Iranian government and Majlis: Analysis of sessions and measures adopted. Analytical review of Iranian local media reporting on day-to-day activities of the government and parliament; * Domestic Political Events: Assessment of student movements, labor unrest, and the activities of major political factions; * Iran Geopolitical Interference: Iran's activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the monitoring of Iranian regime-owned television channels, radios and newspapers in Farsi, Arabic and Dari languages; * Key Military, Revolutionary Guards and Basij activities: Intentions and moves made by the all branches of the military; * Commercial activities: Tracking business activities, both military and oil related, with European countries as well as Russia, China, Iraq.

Dr. Bijan Sepasy, Founding Director of the Iran Project, has thirty years of experience in international geopolitical development and monitoring of US foreign policy, specifically toward Iran, the Middle East and Central Asia. Dr. Sepasy has a deep institutional knowledge of pre-and post-revolutionary Iran. "I am very pleased to announce that the Iran Project will launch on April 1, 2006," Mr. Grieboski declared. "This program will provide a much needed source of information on Iran at this critical time. Under the leadership of Dr. Bijan Sepasy, the Iran Project of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy will provide the United States and the worlds with unique options and information on the regime in Iran." More information on the Iran Project of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy can found at the Institute's website at www.religionandpolicy.org.

From payvand.com, March 06, 2006

 
Policy Forum on Teacher Pay

Representative Jay Kaufman will explore the question of offering incentive pay for public school teachers at his monthly public policy forum, Open House, 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., Thursday, March 23. The forum, "Rethinking teacher compensation: incentive pay for public educators," will take place at the National Heritage Museum, at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Marrett Road (Route 2A) in Lexington.

As policy-makers, politicians, and the public have grappled with the critical question of how to reform and improve the commonwealth's education system, one issue inflames the debate whenever and wherever it arises: the question of incentive pay for teachers. The practice of paying employees more if they achieve certain designated performance goals is commonplace in many businesses, but has been both fervently championed and adamantly contested in the context of public education. In their 2005 State of the State addresses, 20 governors spoke of teacher compensation as one of their major education policy issues. Nine of these 20 specifically mentioned performance-based or merit pay. The issue raises many questions, some of which go to the heart of what it means to be a public education teacher and what the culture of this profession has been in the past and promises to be in the future.

http://www2.townonline.com/woburn/localRegional/view.bg?articleid=454801

From Townonline.com, March 25, 2006

Public Policy Group Accuses Companies of Funding Adware

To stop companies who continue to fund the spread of unwanted and potentially harmful Internet advertising software, a nonprofit public policy group Monday began naming names of what it calls some of the biggest offenders. The Center for Democracy and Technology, based in Washington, D.C., issued a report Monday that identified 11 companies who pay to place their online ads via software, known as adware, that has become the Internet's scourge: Altrec, Club Med Americas, GreetingCards.com, LetsTalk.com, NetZero, PeoplePC, PerfectMatch, ProFlowers, True.com, uBid and Waterfront Media. All the companies advertise through one particular adware distributor, 180solutions Inc., which the nonprofit group accuses of using unscrupulous business practices. In January, CDT filed two complaints with the Federal Trade Commission to put an end to the "illegal and deceptive practices" by the company, one of the world's largest developers of Internet advertising software.

Daniel Todd, president and co-founder 180solutions, said advertisers can be sure his company shows ads in a way that's fair to the more than 20 million consumers who actively use its free software. He added that 180solutions recently improved its fraud detection and now monitors its distribution network more closely. It also hired an unnamed auditing company that next month will release a report he expects will confirm that consumers are content with its business practices. "We're comfortable it will make all our business partners satisfied with the efforts we've put in place," he said. "Our advertisers don't make money unless our consumers buy from them. That's the ultimate measure." After having targeted companies that distribute adware, the CDT now is trying to cut off the revenue they receive from companies who advertise with them. Those companies often work through agencies and other middlemen to get as many people as possible to see their ad and click on it, but have no knowledge of how the ads are actually distributed.

"These advertisers see the benefits of advertising with these companies that engage in unfair and deceptive practices, but they haven't seen the downside," Ari Schwartz, CDT's deputy director, said during a teleconference with reporters. "They count the click-throughs but they have not been counting the number of people who are disappointed with their brand." Adware can take the form of pop-up windows and can clog computers, slow performance and threaten privacy. CDT worked with Internet consultant Ben Edelman to identify 20 companies whose ads are served by 180solutions adware and then contacted 18 of them to see if they had an adware policy "that would prevent the placement of their ads through companies that engage in unfair and deceptive practices."

"We did not demand that the advertisers use a particular policy nor did we stipulate what such a policy should include," said today's report, "Following the Money: How Advertising Dollars Encourage Nuisance and Harmful Adware and What Can be Done to Reverse the Trend." Eleven companies failed to respond and are named in the report. Two others did not have a policy but enacted one after consulting with CDT. Five others responded that they did have policies despite their ads being shown by 180solutions. One of those companies, eHarmony, replied that it relied on standards set by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, but that organization does not have specific guidelines for adware advertising. "Thus, while eHarmony relies on IAB standards, the IAB seems to put the onus back on eHarmony to stipulate adware advertising policies. To CDT's knowledge, eHarmony has not taken this step," the report said.

Netflix, one of the largest online advertisers CDT contacted, was another company that showed up in Edelman's research despite having a policy that prohibits the display of ads through any adware or spyware program. But those policies are worthless unless they are enforced. The Netflix example proves the problem many large companies face today in enforcing their policies throughout the intricate web of players who distribute ads, which can include agencies, affiliate networks, adware makers, distribution affiliates and distribution affiliate networks. "Some companies have instituted detailed auditing processes to address this concern, but more emphasis must be placed throughout the advertising industry on policing advertising networks and dealing only with trustworthy affiliates," the report said. Schwartz believes the adware-financing model is "willfully convoluted," with advertisers ignorant of where their money ends up, and he wants them to be more vigilant.

"There are a number of companies out there not taking this seriously enough and we hope this report will help raise the stakes on that," he said. The latest report will be shared with the FTC and state attorneys general in New York, Washington and Texas but it will not likely lead to another complaint filed with the government, Schwartz said. FTC commissioner John Leibowitz said at an Anti-Spyware Coalition public workshop last month that he would urge the commission to take a closer look at the adware market and name companies that did business with unscrupulous distributors.

In addition to the warnings, CDT also handed out some compliments. The Interactive Travel Services Association has cut down on the number of adware related to its industry since it established a new policy that allows business only with vendors that follow best practices in installation of adware, labeling of ads, and uninstall capabilities. Major League Baseball, Dell and Verizon also have established policies that prohibit or discourage the use of nuisance or harmful adware in serving ads, CDT reported

From InformationWeek.com, March 20, 2006

CAB Names New Senior V-P, Policy and Public Affairs

Elizabeth Roscoe will join the Canadian Associatoin of Broadcasters as Senior Vice-President Policy & Public Affairs, an expanded public affairs portfolio for the Association. She takes the position effective April 10. In announcing the appointment, Glenn O'Farrell, CAB CEO & President, noted that Roscoe is well-known and highly-respected by many CAB members who have interacted with her when she served as an executive with the Canadian Cable Telecommunications Association (CCTA), on industry organizations (CWC) or through her political activities. Reporting to O'Farrell, she will be responsible for all aspects of the CAB's government relations strategies, communications initiatives and public policy activities.

A seasoned executive, Roscoe has been closely associated with public policy, broadcasting policy, CRTC regulatory proceedings and political activities throughout her career. Most recently, Elizabeth served as a volunteer member of the five person transition team created specifically under the leadership of former senior bureaucrat and industry CEO, Derek Burney, to advise Prime Minister Harper through the transition period and prepare the Conservative government to assume power following the federal election.

Other highlights of her career include:
- Most recently, Executive Director, Partnership Development, Carleton University which involved creating corporate partnerships and managing million dollar fundraising activities;
- Prior to that, Senior Vice-President, External Affairs, at the CCTA responsible for
government relations, communications and public affairs. Elizabeth had previously worked at the CCTA from 1991-1995 as Senior Vice-President, Public Affairs and Regulatory Development;
- Vice-President Government Relations, Shaw Communications with overall responsibility for Shaw's approach to policy and regulation from 1996-1999;
- President of Advance Planning and Communications, a consulting firm specializing in
strategic planning, public affairs, and government relations;
- Chief of Staff to the Honourable Barbara McDougall in the Finance, Privatization and Status of Women portfolios and, prior to that, Executive Assistant to the Honourable Michael Wilson.

Roscoe is a recognized leader and high level strategist in the areas of politics, government relations, strategic communications and public policy development. She has spent considerable volunteer time involved in industry related organizations, including serving as Chair of the Media Awareness Network.

From broadcastermagazine.com, March 17, 2006

 

Summary of the 4th World Water Forum

The 4th World Water Forum convened in Mexico City, Mexico from Thursday, 16 March to Wednesday, 22 March 2006. The Forum is the largest international event on freshwater, and seeks to enable multi-stakeholder participation and dialogue to influence water policy-making at a global level, in pursuit of sustainable development. For more: http://www.iisd.ca/ymb/worldwater4/html/ymbvol82num15e.html

From iisd.ca, March 25, 2006

 
 

Encouraging Good Governance

Legitimacy in Nigeria is not an immediate concern for the people as long as they receive a benefit. Those under the counterfeit jurisdiction of this regime hope that things are getting better. The predatory politics and violent methods of the Godfathers are criminal. Everyone understands this. But does legitimacy give constitu-tionally elected governments the right to pay for political favours by using the people's money. Vote buying becomes a means of increasing the scope of governmental power and legitimises policies that can find no constitutional justification. As long as those in power offer the benefits that come with power, few people complain, except, of course, those who are being fleeced.

Public officials must be answerable for government behaviour, and responsive to the entity from which their authority is derived. The efforts towards promoting accounta-bility in governments build the capacity to undertake economic reforms, implement them successfully, and provide citizens with an acceptable level of public services. Criteria ought to be established in Nigeria to measure the performance of public officials, and oversight mechanisms set up to make sure the standards are met.

What we had so far since 1999 is that public officials display arrogant attitudes and have no regard for the populace they are governing. The citizens must participate in the governmental affairs as they stand to benefit. Participation refers to the involvement of citizens in the development process. Benefi-ciaries and groups affected by the project need to participate so that the government can make informed choices with respect to their needs, and social groups can protect their rights. There should not be harmony among those governing and the governed. There are ways of encouraging the participation in project. They might be summed up as follows: Improving the interface between the public and private sectors, em-powering local governments by letting them initiate and take ownership of projects and using NGOs as vehicles for mobilising and reaching project beneficiaries.

A country's legal - environment must be conducive to development. Government that thrives on disobedience of legal orders is bound to have legitimacy questions when taking deci-sions. A government must be able to regulate itself via laws, regulations and policies, which encompass well-defined rights and duties, mechanisms for their enforcement, and impartial settlement of disputes. Predic-tability is about the fair and consistent application of these laws and implementation of government policies. The on-going trend in the country as it relates to legal disorders calls for concern. Strict adherence to the rule of law automatically leads to transparency in government.

Transparency refers to the availability of information to the general public and clarity about government's rules, regulations, and decisions. It can be streng-thened through the citizens' ´ right to information with a degree of legal enforceability. Transparency in government's decision-making and public policy implemen-tation reduces uncertainty and can help inhibit corruption among public officials. Corrupt deals come in many forms and can distort the allocation of resources and the performance of government in many ways. The impact of corruption on a country's economic health will obviously depend on what bribery is buy-ing. Generally, however, cross-country research suggests that high corruption levels are harmful to economic growth.

When corruption is associated with organised crime, legitimate business is discouraged, the allo-cation of resources is distorted and political legitimacy is com-promised. Corruption has a pervasive and troubling impact on the poor since it distorts public choices in favour of the wealthy and powerful, and reduces the state's ability to provide a social safety net. Examples abound as so many federal agencies in Nigeria have been riddled with corruption. Research on corrup-tion and the quality of govern-ment's institutions has been made possible by data sets prepared by proprietary firms that provide information to companies deciding where to invest.

Although the methodologies behind the preparation of these data series are not always transparent, they are generally based on the opinions of people knowledgeable about the coun-tries in question, such as inves-tors, scholars, bankers and finan-cial analysts, etc. Scholars' use of such data is justified by the claim that they have withstood a market test, but the proprietary nature of the information means that it is not. Because the corrup-tion indices are highly correlated with other measures of bureau-cratic efficiency, such as the level of red tape and the quality of the judiciary, we are unable to measure the marginal effect of any one of these measures, holding the others constant. The data however, support the claim that the level of red tape is a function of the prevalence of corruption, not reduced by the payment of bribes.
Corruption is a symptom of other underlying prob-lems.

It is not an independent variable. Corruption seems to be harmful to economic growth, but the magnitude of the effect is unclear. Furthermore, because corruption is tied to other features of government structure, reducing corruption without a more fundamental change in the behaviour of public institutions is unlikely to be successful in promoting growth. Although an honest and functional govern-ment furthers growth, growth will not necessarily cure a corrupt government. A growing pie may imply that there are more rents to divide. Corruption may be more tolerable if the pie is growing since everyone can receive some benefits, but for that very reason it may be more likely spread. Government policy can control the risks and benefits of corruption.

Domestic anti-corruption policy can increase the benefits of being honest, increase the probability of detection and punishment, increase the penalties levied on those who are caught and reduce corrupt opportunities. Within a country, the incentives for corruption are influenced by such things like; the level of benefits and costs under the control of officials, the formal laws defining corruption, bribery and conflicts of interest and controlling campaign finance spending, the credibility of law enforcement in acting against both those who pay and those who accept bribes, the conditions of civil service employ-ment, incentive systems in the civil service, the extent of auditing and monitoring within government, the ability of citizens to learn about government activities and file complaints, the level of press freedom and the freedom of individuals to form non-governmental organisations, the level of active political opposition, this list falls into several broad categories that reforming countries should consider. For Nigeria to stand up as the giant of Africa, we hould endeavour to be serious on governance so that we can be regarded as a true giant. The third term bid should please be thrown into the trash can.

From The Vanguard, March 02, 2006

Ghana Is Aiming at Scoring High Marks in Governance

Abubakar Sadik Boniface, Northern Regional Minister has told a gathering at Bole in the Bole Bamboi district that the NPP government was aiming at scoring a higher political mark as the "government of good governance and development" in Ghana. He said the NPP government had offered Ghanaians the sort of government that they want to live under and that at the end of the second tenure of office, the NPP would score political marks of more than 90 per cent for promoting peace, good governance and freedom of speech. The Minister was addressing a durbar of chiefs and people of Bole during the second day of his seven-day official tour of the western corridor district comprising Bole Bamboi, Sawla-Tuns-Kalba, West and Central Gonja District.

The tour was for the Minister to acquaint himself with the situation on the ground in the rural areas, and to explain to them government development agenda, and to see how best government could help improve lives in the rural community. Alhaji Boniface said HIPC funded projects alone throughout the country were some visible testimonies of the development that the NPP government had brought to the country within five years in office. He therefore, appealed to Ghanaians, irrespective of their political background to run to the "elephant", for their fair share of the national cake.

"If it is time for politics, that we run to our various political parties, but when elections are over, we are under one political leader, who will use our tax money to develop our community", he said. The Minister who spoke on a wide range of issues stressed the importance for peace to prevail in the Northern region, saying that if there was no peace, development would continue to elude in the North. The District Chief Executive for Bole Bamboi, Ms Elizabeth Salamatu Foregor, expressed concern about the influx of Fulani herdsmen in the district and called on the Minister to help solve the problem. Alhaji Boniface earlier visited Nuoyiri, a farming community near Bole and commissioned a 240 million cedi three-unit classroom block funded by HIPC for the community.

From Ghana Web, March 02, 2006

Women in Local Governance Fund Launched

The Ministry for Women and Children's Affairs , in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government and civil society organizations, has set up a fund named "Women In Local Governance Fund" mainly to support the election campaign of women, especially in the up-coming District Assembly elections in August this year. The fund that was launched in Accra Wednesday this week by Hajia Alima Mahama, MOWAC Minister was part of the activities to mark the International Women's Day celebration and aimed at encouraging the participation and election of women into the decision making process at the district assembly level. Hajia Alima in her speech stated that the establishment of the fund was one of the continuing efforts at increasing the participation of women in local governance and the rationale was to demonstrate that women themselves recognize the need to support processes for enhanced women's participation in decision-making.

According to her, a sense of mediocrity among women arising from females being relegated to the background during decision making from infancy while men took the community leadership positions, accounts for the low participation of women in decision making. "This persistent behaviour towards women has led to most women lacking confidence and many also lacking courage and the assertiveness to make decisions because they believe that they are not fit to make decisions or contribute to decision making", she added. She continued that lack of finances, support from spouses, partners, extended family and the wider community are the major hindrances to women's ability to contest political positions. This, she noted, has had a detrimental effect on the development of the country and has denied the country of the human resource potentials of women.

Assigning reasons for the need of women to participate in decision making and the up-coming district assembly elections, she stressed that having a critical mass of females in leadership positions was a human and democratic right and essential for sustainable development and growth of the nation's democracy. She warned that, "if the current low level of female leadership remains, it will take a while before the country achieves gender equality in participation in decision-making, meaning that women's interest will take a longer time to be fully considered in national debates." She mentioned that the government in line with its Affirmative Action Policy increased the number of women appointees to district assemblies from 3% to 35% and has also signed and ratified several regional, international conventions and treaties relating to women's rights as efforts to increase women's participation in decision-making and enhance their advancement.

To ensure the proper management of the fund for the benefit of all prospective candidates, the minister announced that there would be an independent fund manager, who will be selected by an open and transparent public procurement system. Also, there is an interim Board selected from among non-governmental and governmental organizations to manage the fund as well as develop modalities for support and capacity building for women in their performance as assembly members. As seed capital for the fund, two thousand women and men are expected to contribute 1,000,000 cedis each to raise two billion cedis. There was also fund raising at the function with the United States Ambassador to Ghana, Ms. Pamela Bridgewater pledging hundred million cedis on behalf of her country.

Mrs. Gifty Affenyi Dadzie, who chaired the function noted that statistical evidence in the country has shown a wide gap between males and females in top decision-making positions hence the establishment of the fund was a concrete step by women to propel their destiny and bridge the historic gender imbalances in the decision-making process. She lamented that though women constitute 51% of the population and 51.4% of the labour force, they are grossly under represented in both terms of cabinet and parliament, saying, "for the district assembly level, the situation is no better."

According to her, district, municipal and metropolitan assemblies should be of paramount interest to all those who believe in women empowerment due to the role they play in development, commending all those involved in the establishment of the fund. Mrs. Dadzie, who is a former President of the Ghana Journalist Association (GJA), appealed to the media to use their agenda-setting role effectively in support of women participation in the forthcoming elections to promote good governance in compliance with the GJA's new constitution. She called on all citizens to donate generously into the fund to increase the numbers of women at the district assemblies and urged that the fund should be judiciously and transparently managed to benefit all female candidates.

From Ghana Web, March 02, 2006

 

Korea to Assist Nepal's Bid for E-governance

The Korea IT Industry Promotion Agency (KIPA) Tuesday pledged to support Nepal's master plan to promote e-governance in the country. "We are interested to provide all the necessary assistance to promote the ICT sector in Nepal," Chang-hak Choi, Director General, Presidential Committee on Government Innovation told a seminar today. The seminar entitled "Korea-Nepal e-Government Symposium" was organised by the High Level Commission for Information Technology (HLCIT) of His Majesty's Government and Korea IT Industry Promotion Agency (KIPA).

Korea has emerged as one of the powerful ICT nations of Asia. Korea has reached the peak of progress in the ICT sector within a short span of time because of the effective planning and the strategy implemented by its government, said Choi. The government of Nepal is also working in the field of ICT through efforts being forged among the Ministry of Information and Technology, National Planning Commission, Nepal Telecom Corporation and the Computer Association of Nepal (CAN), said Atma Ram Ghimire, Member-Secretary, HLCIT.

He further added that the government has implemented few applications of ICT for Budget Control and monitoring and VAT system, which is being implemented by the Finance Ministry. According to him the government is planning to bring a three-year National Action Plan on IT and he said that Nepal has potential opportunities for Collaboration with the private sector of Korea. Atma Ram Ghimire also focused on the development and the progress of IT park in Banepa, Kavre, which is set to start within a few weeks. Bhim Dhoj Shrestha, CAN Executive Member said knowledge sharing was certainly a good idea. Agreeing with what the Koreans had to say he mentioned that the government should be firm and committed to invest on ICT infrastructure which will create the favorable environment for the development of ICT.

The development of ICT is directly linked with the overall development of the country so the government need to prioritise it. Timila Y. Thapa of DESIGNCO (Nepal) said that though it's a challenging Project everybody should come up with a high spirit to make this collaboration a success. While speaking at the same programme, Dambar Bahadur Khadga, member, HLCIT, HMG, said that the government has been thinking to provide computers at an affordable price to the citizens as its basic step for promoting ICT in the country. At the same time he said that this could be only possible with the assistance of friendly nations like Korea for providing the hardware accessories at subsidized price and with donor organisation like Asian Development Bank (ADB), UNDP and a few more.

From The Rising Nepal, March 01, 2006

Bangalore One Offers e-Governance

e-Governance projects have been planned for execution in all states across the country. The e-Governance division of the Govt of India examines the practical implications of IT related issues, with the aim of improving services to citizens. Since the launch of Bangalore One (B1) on April 2, 2005, the authorities have maintained a very low profile about activities. When asked to comment on this, Vipin Singh, director - Bangalore One, said, "Well, this requires process engineering. We have been very busy getting the implementation effective in every way possible, to make the functioning of all the services flawless. The intention was to get as many services up and running before we talk about it to the public. We are proud of our achievements so far, and we are sure to be able to answer the questions raised by citizens about the activities and services offered by B1."

Based on the concept of a "One-Stop-Shop" facility, Government of Karnataka (GoK) along with its Technology Partner - CMS Computers Limited, has implemented the e-Governance project called Bangalore One or B1. CMS Computers is the main partner; Ram Informatics Limited is the consortium member; and UTI Bank is the banker for the B1 project. The vision behind the B1 Project is "to provide to the citizens of Karnataka, all G2C and G2B One-Stop services and information about departments and agencies of Central, State and Local Governments in an efficient, reliable, transparent and integrated manner on a sustained basis, through easy access to a chain of computerized Integrated Citizen Service Centers (ICSCs) plus through multiple delivery channels like Electronic Kiosks, mobile phones and the Internet."

The government departments working closely with Bangalore One are, Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM), Bangalore Mahanagar Palike (BMP), Bangalore Police Service (BPS), Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), Regional Transport Office (RTO), Regional Passport Office (RPO), CellOne and the Department of Labour. Mobile service providers including Tata Indicom, Reliance, BSNL, Cellone and more recently - Spice, have joined hands with Bangalore One to help the customers pay their mobile bills easily.

Presently B1 has 14 centers across Bangalore city with locations at Jayanagar, Yeshwantpur, R T Nagar, Rajajinagar, Vijayanagar, HBR Layout, Air Port Road, etc. All 14 centers provide services from 8am to 8pm on all working days, and from 9am to 3pm on Sundays and holidays. Portal services are offered round-the-clock throughout the year. The centers offer services like payment of bills; registration of birth and death; receipt of applications for new telephone connections; collection of income tax and filing of returns; sale of stamp papers; providing of exam results; etc.

Satish Jorapur, project manager, CMS Computers, said, "Imagine being able to pay your bills for telephone, electricity, water, and for that matter anything, all under one roof and that too at the most convenient hours, maybe after office hours or before. Moreover we have been successful in maintaining zero waiting time for almost all the transactions so far." All B1 Service centers are equipped with an electronic queuing system and a help desk; they are manned by manager in charge of activities being carried out at the center. All proceeds are transferred to the UTI Bank on a daily basis. The e-governance projects have been initiated so as to make citizens feel that government services are equally accessible to one and all, irrespective of social or economic status.

From TechTree, March 02, 2006

Cambodia PM Pledges Better Governance at Donors Meet

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen pledged on Thursday to improve governance as his government sought more than $500 million from foreign donors demanding action against rampant corruption and mismanagement. Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge soldier who has led the impoverished Southeast Asian nation for 20 years, said that the National Assembly would soon pass an anti-corruption bill which has been talked about since the early 1990s. "We need to work on improving governance further if we are to make more of a dent in poverty. We have no room for complacency," Hun Sen said at the start of the two-day annual donors meeting in Phnom Penh.

Donors gave the government some credit for gains against poverty in the past year, thanks to a stronger economy on the back of agriculture, garment exports and tourism. But graft continued to plague the country ranked 131 out of 158 countries -- below Albania and Sierra Leone -- on Transparency International's 2005 corruption index. World Bank country coordinator Ian Porter told the meeting: "Corruption in Cambodia has been described variously as a disease, plague and cancer". The call for improved governance was echoed by U.S. Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli, whose government donated $60 million to Cambodia last year. "I think the government would agree that the overarching issue is corruption which impedes the development of this country," he told Reuters. "It's going to be a long battle."

Hun Sen said the anti-corruption bill was undergoing a final review and he expected parliament to ratify it soon. The Cambodian leader made a similar pledge to donors last year. Donors welcomed the improved political climate after Hun Sen patched up his differences with opposition rival Sam Rainsy, who returned from self-imposed exile in France last month. However, some rights groups noted the reconciliation came after pressure from foreign donors led by the United States, which had accused Hun Sen of using the law to crush the opposition. "Donors should not be lulled into thinking the situation has improved," the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission said. "This is a decade-old pattern: assurances by the government right before the donor meetings, followed by a return to the old ways afterward." Hun Sen has denied his reconciliation with Sam Rainsy had anything to do with the donors meeting, which ends on Friday.

From Reuters Foundation, March 02, 2006

Bangladesh 2015: Crossing Miles...

Bangladesh has lived in the shadow of poor imageries since its emergence as an independent country in 1971. For a long time, the country endured the derisive imagery of an international basket-case coined in the early 1970s when the country experienced a famine. For many observers, the image has seemed all too real as one witnessed in succession the political and economic upheavals of the 70s, autocratic rule of the 80s and the onset of bickering politics in the 90s. Less well-known has been the resilience of the people and a continuous under-current of national efforts, conscious or otherwise, which sought to take the country out of the shadow of famine. Only in the aftermath of the devastating floods of 1998, when national and international observers predicted a new famine but were astonished at the rapidity and the comprehensiveness of the turnaround of the national economy, did the realization dawn how far ground realities had moved beyond the 70s imagery.

The outcome was not achieved in a day: the freeing of import restrictions on irrigation equipment in late 80s giving an immediate boost to agricultural production, the impetus to rural infrastructure building by LGED from late 80s, far-reaching reforms in the food distribution system in the early 90s, the impetus to non-crop agriculture in the early 90s and the robust growth of these sub-sectors in the late 90s, the consolidation of the micro-credit network over the 80s and 90s, consolidation of safety-net initiatives in late 90s, and above all, the robust engagement of ordinary citizenry on all available opportunities, local and international, have played a part in bringing Bangladesh out of the shadow of famine. The 2000 IFPRI publication of the same name merely put the professional seal on a quiet transformation which had been three decades in the making.

The paradox of poor imagery and impressive achievements has continued into more recent times. While new imageries of corruption, poor governance and confrontational politics bedevil the country, it is instructive to see what else has been achieved. Uniquely for a country facing an extremely vulnerable ecology, Bangladesh has established a credible record of sustained growth within a stable macroeconomic framework. Growth rates have inched upwards from a low of 1-2% in the 1970s to 3-4% in the 1980s to 4-5% in the 1990s to over 5% in the current decade. It is not only macro data which confirm a credible degree of growth dynamism. A recent study on local business in seven towns shows more than doubling of firm capital over the start-up amount. Annual remittance flows are in excess of 4 billion dollars.

Poverty too has declined by an average of a percentage point a year since early 1990s. The burden of seasonal poverty which covered many parts of the country even as late as 1990 had by 2005 become restricted to the ecologically vulnerable parts of northern districts. Achievements on social indicators have been equally noteworthy. At a comparatively low level of development, Bangladesh has earned the distinction of a major decline in population growth rate which currently stands at an annual rate of 1.7%. Progress on MDG-related health and education targets have been equally astounding: notwithstanding widespread poverty, the country has graduated to the medium human development group of countries by UNDP's ranking.

Child mortality was halved during the 1990s, life expectancy has increased to 61 years, net primary enrolment went up significantly as did women's economic participation, gender parity has been achieved in primary and secondary education, and, major strides have been made on sanitation for all. Gender parity is not only at the level of students: the proportion of female primary teachers has risen from 2 percent at the time of independence to nearly 40 percent currently. On environment, depletion of tree cover has been reversed rising from seven to 15 percent through a focus on social forestry.

Infrastructurally, a focus on rural roads has succeeded in substantially banishing the curse of remoteness for the majority of villages. People have been on the move as never before and mobile telephony has revolutionized connectivity among ordinary citizens. Anti-poverty innovations such as micro-credit have gone on to win world renown. Vibrant non-government sectors as well as private sector bodies have worked side by side with the government to achieve the above. Against all odds, the democratic process has found roots though the road ahead is anything but assured.

It is true aggregate poverty rates remain dauntingly high. Pockets of extreme poverty persist. Inequality is a rising concern fuelled in particular by a quality divide in education. Women continue to face entrenched barriers and insecurities in their attempts to consolidate their gains on social and economic fronts. Governance weaknesses stand in the way of an acceleration in the growth process. But the discourse on poverty is no longer a discourse on the statistics of despair. Yesterday's dreams of sheer survival are increasingly giving way to new dreams of graduation, dreams which have already found roots in millions of hearts in the villages and in the towns, in the fields and in the factories, in offices and in homes across the length and breadth of the country.

Limits of economics - Bangladesh is already embarked on a journey of transformation. However, once the reality of economic dynamism is acknowledged, it is easy to see critical social and governance downsides which impinge on the quality and future of the change process. Three such downsides need to be highlighted. Growth with insecurity: While the growth process is certainly a credible one, it appears to be imbued with various insecurities which ultimately detract from the equitable and unhindered enjoyment of the fruits of growth. The insecurities stem from poorly developing governance norms, a growing concentration of economic power, lack of effective planning oversight over a rapid urbanization process, and, institutional weaknesses of grievance redressal mechanisms.

Insecurity can lead to concrete economic loss but also often translate into higher risks for all categories of economic transactions. Even where opportunity frontiers are expanding, not all the available opportunities are accessed on account of the insecurities of public spaces. This is particularly true for women. Not surprisingly, quality of the criminal justice system and access to affordable justice have become as important determinants of how well the poor and marginalized groups are accommodated in the growth process as much as trade and investment policies.

Widening choice, limited influence: The poverty literature of the 70's was replete with references to analytical categories such as inter-locked markets and personal dependence. These described a situation where the poor households were enmeshed in inter-locking ties of dependence on land, labour and credit markets. Three decades on, this situation of personal dependence has significantly weakened. The spread of high-yield agriculture and all-weather road infrastructure has largely done away with seasonal dependence. Possibilities of quick migration have greatly expanded the choice horizon of the poor. The lives of women have also been touched: female mobility is a conspicuous phenomenon and women's reproductive burden too has gone down.

However, while choice horizons have expanded, the political leverage of the poor over power structures and decision-making processes shows little evidence of any significant change. The electoral process is increasingly biased towards big money. Local governments, where the political scope of the poor is somewhat greater, remain weak bodies. Press is independent but media ownership is narrowly controlled by business and political elites. Poor do retain a political potential in the spontaneous mobilisational politics around specific local demands or grievances. But such mobilisational efforts rarely translate into long-term transformation of the institutional processes of policy-making.

Education and the new inequalities: Historically, education has been the great ladder for social mobility for the rural and poorer classes in Bangladesh. However, while major strides have been made towards universal primary schooling in recent times, an emerging quality divide is rapidly eroding the social mobility potential of education. The quality divide manifests itself firstly, in the increasingly large differences in achievement indicators between urban and rural schools, secondly, in the consolidation of a private sector elite education stream which is largely unconnected to the national system, and thirdly, in the proliferation of a sub-stream of religious schools which offers opportunities for poor children but include no national curriculum on basic education. The quality divides are not only fuelling new economic inequalities but also creating fertile grounds for social conflicts and asocial behaviour. An associated concern is the narrowing of interpretive focus across the three streams of madrassah (religious) education which stands at odds with the generally more tolerant social practice of religion.


While it is unlikely that there will be any slowing down of the private sector elite education stream, the quality divides within the public education system particularly between metropolitan centres and village and rural town schools is clearly an area for effective policy engagement. A paradoxical barrier to such engagement is the MDG-influenced discourse emphasis on summary indicators such as enrolment rates. A shortcut mentality has come to prevail amongst politicians and administrators, and indeed even within the electorate, which unwittingly militates against a more holistic engagement on such critical issues as teaching quality, service ethics, class-room environment, performance monitoring and system development.

Key lessons - There are a number of lessons from the Bangladesh experience which are of relevance to the wider struggle against poverty. A plurality of drivers: A key feature of the Bangladesh experience has been the plurality of drivers in the process of social change and the relative utilisation of the comparative strengths of each type of driver. Less a conscious strategy and more a contextual outcome, this multi-driver reality has provided the strengths for achievements so far but also pose new challenges in the task of scaling up efforts for accelerated poverty reduction. It is instructive to see how and when such a reality comes into play. In a fundamental way, the state in Bangladesh has been jurisdictionally aggressive but functionally pragmatic. Jealous on issues of power, the state has nevertheless demonstrated a

propensity to co-exist with or even accommodate a progressive series of functional actors, most notably NGOs, private sector, local governments and the media. The sociology of this process has been little examined but some important lessons can be highlighted. Take the NGO case. A rarely understood aspect of why NGOs came to be able to operate on such a social scale was the political intelligence of Grameen in defining its micro-credit clientele as informal groups. The emphasis on the category 'informal' served to create and nurture as it were a jurisdictionally-protected functional space in an institutional environment where the law on co-operatives had proved systematically inimical to viable growth of co-operatives. By terming them informal and thus rendering them outside the purview of co-operative law, micro-credit groups were able to develop their own rules of operation and eventually become a mainstay of NGO growth, and indeed, of similar initiatives by state agencies themselves. The consolidation of the micro-credit sector subsequently has been marked by one of the more successful examples of government-NGO partnership in the form of PKSF, the apex micro-finance funding organization.

A different set of insights emerge from the case of the private sector. Current discourse, particularly in elite and donor circles, tends to equate private sector with capital-based big business having organized voices in policy and political arenas. While the emergence of such an actor has indeed been a major development of the last fifteen years particularly in response to economic liberalization from the early 1990s, equally important has been the larger and longer transition, both through incremental reforms and physical connectivity, to a market economy from the late 1970s and the deepening of entrepreneurship across micro, meso and macro levels of society.

The local government case too is instructive. The macro establishment, both the bureaucratic and the political components, is inherently opposed to upfront devolution ideas. This is well-reflected in the reluctance to empower local governments financially or jurisdictionally. However, on the functional imperative of attaining MDG targets, one can see a pragmatic policy of administrative incorporation of local government bodies in many of these tasks, the most recent being the campaign on sanitation for all.

Contextualizing MDG attainment: The Bangladesh experience highlights the utility and significance of effective contextualization of MDG implementation. Two particular success areas have been in the adoption of social mobilization approaches and getting intermediate milestones right in the attainment of the goals of sanitation, child mortality, primary enrolment, gender parity, and tree cover. Social mobilizational approaches which creates effective partnerships of government, NGOs and local governments and which use campaign methods as well as specific incentives have brought major success in immunization, shunning of open space defecation, registering children in school including girl children, and spread of road-side forestry.

The example of sanitation merits a closer look. Key to success here has been the effective formulation of intermediate milestones. For much of the 1990s, the major transformation was a move from open space defecation to a fixed point defecation. Since then, the challenge has been to transform the fixed point hanging latrines into semi-sanitary ring-slab latrines. The coming challenge will be to transform the ring-slab latrines into water-sealed fully sanitary latrines. Interestingly, the ring-slab latrine has also proved to be a low-threshold technology. While the relevant state agency, i.e. Department of Public Health and Engineering supported by UNICEF, dispenses an ideal type costing around 30 dollars, local entrepreneurs have mushroomed who offer somewhat lower quality but usable products for as low as 7-8 dollars. The social mobilization approach too has innovated. The initial pre-occupation with technology gave way to an attack on cultural inhibitions and fostering appropriate behavioral norms such as washing of hands after use of latrines and ensuring that children too used the latrines. The mobilization of local government bodies has been particularly effective in addressing the issues of behavioral norms.

Example of the negative consequence of a failure to contextualize can also be cited. One of the areas where success has lagged is on the maternal mortality indicator. While there are deep-seated attitudinal problems here, one clear policy failure has been to promote skilled birth attendants (SBA) bypassing traditional birth attendants (TBA) located within the communities. The UNESCO emphasis on SBA rather than TBA bypassed the task of technically upgrading the culturally experienced TBAs and instead brought in inexperienced younger women who found less demand for their services. There are not only technical skill issues but also problems associated with superstitions and lack of knowledge. The contextualization challenge is also innovating on local monitoring systems utilizing existing institutional capacities eg. local health centres, local government bodies, NGOs, for effective pre-natal care. Another failure at contextualization is to project the anesthetic program as a case of specialists whereas an effective short-term training could enable locally-based health workers to assist on he matter.

Women's agency: 1st round victories, 2nd round challenges: Women in Bangladesh have won important first round victories of visibility and mobility. Female gains in primary and secondary education, access to birth control measures and micro-credit compare favourably with the situation in other developing countries. Social attitudes looking positively on women's economic participation too have become near universal. However, beyond these first-round victories of visibility and mobility lie new constraints and new areas of strategic challenge. Entrenched patriarchal attitudes and insecurities of public spaces serve to inhibit fuller engagement by women with the unfolding opportunities. At issue too are social attitudes which put low priority on maternal health. While women's economic participation has expanded, female labour productivity remains very poor.

A personality revolution: Perhaps the over-riding story of Bangladesh is one not found in the statistics at all. The poor of Bangladesh have undergone something of a personality revolution and become more assertive, pro-active towards opportunities, clearer on life-goals. This has not happened in a day. The egalitarian and democratic aspirations which underpinned the attainment of independence, a resilient outlook born of a continuous struggle with the vagaries of nature, the demonstration effect of mobility and livelihood opportunities, the return of competitive politics, all have played their role. The social reality may not have lost its oppressive features but the poor men and women of rural and urban Bangladesh are new protagonists on the scene and societal outcomes are very much open.

The Bangladesh experience also holds a number of cautionary lessons. Politics and the perils of weak system development: The onset of parliamentary democracy in 1991 in Bangladesh has introduced new challenges of system development with implications both for the consolidation of a democratic polity and state capacity to address developmental goals. In many ways, the novelty of these challenges is not sufficiently appreciated by many who end up prescribing feel-good governance solutions. The administrative class has far deeper roots in the exercise of state-power than the political class a majority of whom assume offices with little or no training in statecraft or policy-making. A healthy transition on the politician-administrator interface has been anything but assured. Politicians often over-reach to overcome a sense of insecurity while administrators resist system change which could lead to a more productive distribution of administrative power. Such tensions have been compounded by authoritarian tendencies which have deep roots in the exercise of state-power and which are too readily adopted by democratic power-holders.

Two clear perils have manifested themselves: jurisdictional over-reach by parliamentarians, and, a 'spoils without standards' approach to administrative and other appointments. Unaided by any system development on their 'job description', MPs want to dominate all public institutions within their constituency, be it local government bodies, educational institutions or central government agencies. At the other end, appointments have narrowly come to be viewed as spoils of victory but an increasingly partisan political environment has neglected any system development which could inject a sense of standards within the process. Both of these systemic perils are compounded by a political culture of confrontation which shows little signs of abating.

Reversibility of achievements: A different category of peril is the reversibility of achievements. One of the notable success area has been in birth control. However, since the late 1990s, there has been an emerging concern on the plateauing of the total fertility rate (TFR) particularly among the poorer strata. Increased importance of temporary methods over permanent methods in family planning, health sector reform in the late 1990s which promoted a one-stop service centre in place of domiciliary (door-to-door) services may have contributed to the observed TFR plateauing. The policy lesson here is the importance of appropriate time sequencing of the intervention: clearly, an end to the social mobilisational approach was premature.

Reversibility has also occurred in the area of access to safe water. The near-universal access achieved via the spread of tube-wells has now come under question due to arsenic contamination of ground-water. The strategy is now having to be wholly re-oriented towards arsenic decontamination and a switch to use of surface water.The case of rural electrification provides another example of the danger of reversibility. Rural Electrification Board (REB), once touted as a role model, has fallen victim to a combination of inconsistent donor support, political interference, and policy failure on power generation.

From The Daily Star, March 06, 2006

US Needs India for N-management

The US needed India for better knowledge management in the field of nuclear energy as the R&D in this sector had slowed down in the US for the last three decades while Indian Nuclear Energy Programme was growing, according to Principal Scientific Advisor Government of India. "Any sector which is booming likes to pursue R&D. Automobile is one such sector in India. In contrast, any sector which is stagnant, doesn't like to do R&D," Chidambaram said at an awards function organised by the Indian Merchants' Chamber on "I said this to my American counterparts that for the last 20 years they have not built a nuclear reactor. Hence knowledge management becomes difficult when a sector becomes stagnant," he said. According to him, India's knowledge management in spheres like in nuclear energy sector was for growth. "This is why it is a good opportunity for India and US to collaborate in knowledge management of nuclear power. They need us as much as we need them. That is how international collaborations become sustainable" .

From The Financial Express, March 07, 2006

Kashmiri Leaders to Discuss Self-governance in Pakistan

Leaders of Jammu and Kashmir from across the divide will assemble in Islamabad on Friday to deliberate on the idea of "self-governance" floated by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf about a month back. The intra-Kashmir dialogue - Prospects of Self Governance in Jammu and Kashmir and Present Status of Cooperation and Communications Across the LoC - will see the leaders from various hues from both sides exchanging their views on the issue for three days. Among those invited for the conference from this side of the state are Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, JKLF chief Yasin Malik and CPM leader Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami, sources said in New Delhi on Wednesday.

The meet, organised by an NGO, is significant as it comes close on the heels of a round-table of Jammu and Kashmir leaders chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Islamabad. When contacted, Tarigami told PTI in New Delhi that he hoped this "intellectual exploration" by experts and political activists to seek fresh initiative for leadership of India, Pakistan and Kashmir will strengthen the ongoing peace process." He said it would be "unfortunate and tragic if the two great countries (India and Pakistan) do not work for some form of cooperative development for peace in the region. "We, the people of Jammu and Kashmir, have been the chief victims of the hostilities. We will like both leaderships to take fresh initiative so that all issues including J&K are settled in a manner which can ensure peace and development in the region as a whole," Tarigami said.

From Sify.com News, March 08, 2006

Transparency of Governance

Information release enables the public to judge government work, says a signed article in People's Daily. An excerpt follows: Although the topic of administration according to law has been stressed by the country again and again in recent years, there have been a lot of cases of government employees misusing their powers illegally. This is a cause of concern among some delegates who are attending the ongoing sessions of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Information disclosure is the solution some of them have used to stop such malpractice.

Putting them under the supervision of the public will help promote government departments and their employees to work in line with the law. After all, information openness, as a mirror that can clearly reflect their administration capabilities, will pose a severe test to government departments and their workers. The high frequency of press conferences hosted by the State Council Information Office, the regular briefings by the ministries of health, public security and other ministries and commissions, and the government's timely disclosure of information on unexpected events have all heralded its accelerated steps for information openness. From all this, people have felt the confidence and efficiency of a modern, civilized and law-governed government.

From China Daily, March 08, 2006

 

Working Group Starts to Create Action Plan for Good Governance in Arab Countries

The second global Working Group on 'Good Governance for Development in Arab Countries' convened in Dubai today to work out the standard approach to 'E-Government and Administrative Simplification' across the Arab World. The Dubai School of Government is hosting the two-day forum in co-operation with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and supported by the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP). In his opening remarks, Mr. Nabil Ali Al Yousuf, Arab Chairperson of the Forum and Executive President of Dubai School of Government, welcomed senior government officials and decision-makers from over ten different Arab countries in addition to OECD delegates and E-government knowledge experts from Europe and the United States.

Mr. Al Yousuf stressed the importance of the initiative that reflects the strong commitment from many Arab governments towards implementing good governance and e-Government projects to support development efforts in the region. He also stressed the importance of the group's next meeting scheduled for May 2006 in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm Al Sheikh and urged the participants to encourage the ministers responsible for government development in their countries to participate in this meeting which will review the initiative's achievements over the last year since its launch. Mr. Youssuf also expressed his satisfaction at the progress made so far.

Mr. Al Yousuf added, 'The aim of the forum is not only to focus on reviewing e-Government projects in the region, but also to encourage dialogue and an exchange of ideas and suggestions on new action plans to develop the principles of Good Governance and to further contribute to the simplification of administrative operations.' Mr. Al Yousuf was joined at the Forum Panel by Mr. Vincenzo Schioppa, Minister Plenipotentiary of Italy; Mr. Lee Chang-Kil, Director General, Head of the OECD Asia Centre, South Korea; Dr. Yasar Jarrar, Executive Dean of Dubai School of Government; Mr. Christian Vergez, Head of Division, Public Governance and Territorial Development, OECD; and Mr. Ragaa Makharita, Team Leader, UNDP. The panel set out the agenda for the meeting and reviewed the current status of e-Government and Good Governance for Development in Arab Countries.

Moving Forward - The first session on 'Update on the progress and status of the Working Group 2 Workplan', was chaired by Mr. Vincenzo Schioppa. He pointed out that the aim of this session was to inform participants of the progress of the activities identified in the WG 2 work plan presented at the first meeting of WG 2 in Dubai on September 2005 and give participants the opportunity to provide their input on how to move forward with the completion of the plan.

Mr. Schioppa and Mr Federico Basilica, Head of the Department of Public Administration, Prime Minister's Office, Italy, briefed the participants about the High-Level Seminar of E-procurement that was held in Naples, Italy on 30th - 31st January 2006. This was followed by a detailed briefing by Ms. Hala Makarem-Saab, Project Manager, OMSAR, Lebanon on the 'Overview and Results of the High-Level Seminar on E-procurement'. The first session also included the presentation of the answers to the 'Stocktaking Questionnaire' by the Jordanian, Palestinian Authority and Tunisian authorities. The discussions also included ways to move forward with the completion of WG action plan and how to report back on WG 2 activities at the next Steering Group Meeting that is scheduled to be held from 20th - to 22nd May 2006.

This morning also saw discussions on 'Administrative Simplification' during the second session. Mr. Sameh Bedair, E-government Programme Director of Egypt, chaired the workshop. He said that the aim of this workshop was to allow countries to first, present their experiences and challenges in reducing administrative burdens and simplifying the way government operates, in particular using Information & Communication Technology (ICT) tools. 'The workshop aims to brainstorm on possible key topics of common interest around which a High Level Seminar on Administrative Simplification and E-government can be organised,' Mr. Bedair said.

The second session included short presentations by selected Arab and OECD countries. The Second Working Group on 'Good Governance for Development in Arab Countries' met again to discuss country challenges on e-Government and to identify key efforts that need to be included in any Action Plans. Egypt, Bahrain and Lebanon participating in the pilot exercise, presented an overview of key elements of their future Action Plans for e-Government based on the challenges they are currently facing.

Detailed Discussions - The presentations were followed by discussions on the assessment and a draft action plan in view of its finalisation. Invited OECD countries' experts were given the opportunity to comment on the presentations and provide feedback in view of the preparation of a final draft of the Action Plan to be presented at the 2nd Meeting of the Steering Group Meeting in May. The Dubai School of Government was chosen by the Dubai Government to be the knowledge partner for this initiative. The objective of this forum is to provide executive decision makers with the necessary strategic tools and perspectives to identify suitable objectives understand potential hurdles and anticipate and overcome obstacles in both the development and design of realistic e-government strategies and their implementation.

The 'Good Governance for Development in Arab Countries', initiative was launched at a meeting of Arab Ministers hosted by Jordan on 6th - 7th February 2005, in the presence of King Abdullah II, Donald Johnston, Secretary General, OECD, and Mrs. Rima Khalaf Heinadi, Assistant Secretary General, UNDP. The Dubai School of Government is the first research and teaching institution established in the region that focuses on public policy governance. It was established in 2004 under the direction of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The Dubai School of Government collaborates and coordinates with other international schools of Government such as Harvard University's John F Kennedy School to launch research programmes and to encourage the global exchange of views and experiences relating to public and government policies, seeking to reinforce and develop the skills of the leaders and decision makers in the Arab region.

From The AmeInfo, March 06, 2006

 

Bermuda: Independence By Any Means; Governance as an Obsession

Bermudian Premier Alex Scott, of the Progressive Labor Party (PLP), has declared 2006 as the year for an independence dialogue; however in reality, this announcement simply marks an extension of his unremitting attempts to engineer a majority in favor of ridding the island of 397 years of British rule. As the new year commenced, the case for Bermudian independence has failed to attract a tidal wave of public backing. To Scott's dismay, this year has witnessed the successful mobilization of public support in favor of staging a referendum, which counters his goals for the process, and dampens his prospect for victory.

COHA's Position - As of now, Scott appears set on keeping the issue open, but simmering on the back burner, waiting for the mathematically precise moment when the island's sentiment on the issue of independence shifts, and the numbers begin to come up in his favor. While the Council on Hemispheric Affairs historically has supported every independence campaign in its purview where a majority of the people have called for independence, COHA, however, has taken the opposite position on Bermuda's independence, and has found that there are a number of disconcerting aspects to Premier Scott's driving quest to achieve it pretty much by any means. There is no doubt that in a democracy, elections should be an occasion for free and open dialogue regarding issues that profoundly affect the fate of a populace.

However, any such conversation must be accompanied by sufficient information and sound analysis, along with a detailed plan concerning how it will be achieved, rather than the incomplete and tainted proceedings that are being witnessed in Bermuda. What is needed is a commitment to resolve the issue once and for all - at least for this generation - and not let it lie, as John Randolph of Roanoke once remarked, like a mackerel lying on a dock under moonlight, stinking while it shines. The advocates of independence must come up with decisive arguments proving that independence will overwhelmingly benefit the nation and its citizenry, or must, in good conscience, surrender their fight. The issue must not get in the way of confronting enduring economic, social, and political matters that need to be solved in a timely fashion, if the island is to thrive: housing; public health; education; an overly narrow based economy; and the need to rehabilitate tourism.

Bermuda and the Case for Independence - Territories have traditionally sought a path to sovereignty when faced with a critical mass of reasons justifying this pursuit, including perceived emotional needs, compelling economic conditions, or dire levels of oppression that have triggered an upwelling of popular sentiment in its favor. Demonstrably, Bermuda suffers from none of these conditions. To the contrary, for a tiny territory of 20.75 square miles with a population of around 68,000, Bermuda enjoys all but complete sovereignty, save a few, but costly, functions like conducting its foreign affairs, and defense, now the responsibility of Great Britain.

Its citizens already enjoy one of the highest per capita incomes in the world (on a par with that of the U.S.) and low unemployment. Certainly its Premier and his cabinet members are well compensated for their services, receiving incomes many times the normal size of their U.S. counterparts, plus a limousine and driver. The island's highly developed economy derives its success mainly from foreign tourism, financial remittances, international business and financial services, with over 13,000 foreign companies registered in the country and more than 500,000 tourists visiting the island yearly. Such prosperous conditions on the island can in part be attributed to the fact that the island and its taxpayers are spared an array of administrative costs, due to the fact that Britain is responsible for Bermuda's external relations and defense.

From an economic perspective, a strong case can be made that independence may be irrelevant, or at least not be in Bermuda's best interest at this time, notwithstanding Premier Scott's picturesque, if Colonel Blimp-like, orotund rhetoric, that "Independence will bring us together under one flag, one theme, one commitment, one country, one abiding belief that this point of geography in the Atlantic is our nation." Such purple passages, reminiscent of Simon Bolivar, when he was courageously preparing to yank down the imperial Spanish flag, suggests that supporters of independence are adamant that it is time for Bermuda to stand on its own feet and take on the responsibilities of being a full-fledged member of the global community.

But remember, one is talking about an island with a population and size no larger than a small provincial city like Salisbury, on the eastern shore of Maryland, whose mayor is paid perhaps 25% of Scott's income. On an equally illusory level, The Premier uses the tortured logic that a move away from Britain would increase tourism to Bermuda because, among other factors, after the island eventually becomes a full UN member, it can look forward to hosting UN delegations and their families. Regardless of the optimistic vision of UN-related functions being staged in Bermuda and thus swelling convention revenues, there isn't the slightest indication that this would automatically result from independence, and certainly wouldn't be a predictable source of revenue.

Furthermore, some members of the business sector fear that a break from Britain could dissuade investors from continuing to consider Bermuda a stable commercial environment, which would have undeniable negative economic implications for the island. This apprehension is given some weight by the Association of Bermuda International Companies (ABIC), which represents all-told, 133 international companies maintaining a legal presence on the island, who are united in insisting that they must have the right to bring judicial appeals to the Privy Council in London. They see this as a key to preserving the stability required by those international businesses, whose corporate headquarters are at least nominally housed on the island.

For example, an anonymous CEO of an Irish company based in Bermuda, apparently warned Premier Scott that his company would not hesitate to return to Dublin if local conditions bred by the independence movement became sufficiently untenable for its corporate interests. Although foreign companies must realize that the issue of independence is fundamentally a Bermudian matter, and not for foreign multinationals to determine, their voice is difficult to ignore, considering that financial services now account for 60% of the island's GNP. Such economic factors undoubtedly color some of the public's attitudes towards independence.

Sentiment on Independence - Early last month, the Hamilton daily The Royal Gazette, conducted a telephone poll that showed that support for independence had risen from 16% last November to 24%. These results came directly after Scott announced that 2006 "is going to see the beginning of discussions on independence." Although this is the first indication in some months that public opinion in his favor has increased, it does not necessarily indicate that Bermudians have become pro-independence minded. Even though Premier Scott's advocacy of independence has heated up in recent months, he has not been able at any point to carry the populace with him, perhaps because his personal standards of objectivity and fair play have become casualties of the fray.

These personal shortcomings have been exacerbated by a persistent inability to provide adequate and balanced information regarding the costs and consequences of the island's breaking its ancient ties with the U.K. His inability to supply a cogent explanation as to why independence is at the top of his wish list for the island, when it is far from certain that the island's economy is well situated enough to confront the many transformations that simultaneously will arise if it is achieved, illustrates a clear lack of judiciousness and foresight.

Scott's Campaign and the Political Climate - In order for pro-independence sentiments to attain the requisite density, Premier Scott must reach out to the entire electorate, and clearly demonstrate that the benefits of cutting ties merit the rise of potentially negative consequences. His evidence must be unequivocal and must reflect benefits for the entire Bermudian society, as opposition to independence presently seems to be evenly spread among all social classes. As of now, fewer than 25% of those earning less that $50,000 a year support independence, while 26.3% of earners between $50,000 and $100,000, and 21.5% of those in the highest income brackets feel similarly. Historically, there has been a perception that the island's whites are far more resistant to independence, because they view such a change as a threat to their current privileged social and economic status vis-à-vis the black majority.

However, since the percentage of the black population opposing independence also exceeds 50%, such opposition deserves not to be seen simply as a racial or economic matter. Based on historical references, the leadership of the black majority PLP off-handedly maintains that many black Bermudians are not satisfied with the status quo. It is a matter of record that for much of the island's history, the fate of their respective racial communities in terms of wealth and political power was pre-ordained. As some PLP militants see it, independence would allow the island to move forward from its dark, racist past, and neutralize a profoundly bitter historical memory. While this is a topic that must be addressed, the race-based thesis cannot be easily validated, and the Premier has not committed himself to a plan that would necessarily lead to greater equity.

Bermuda Independence Commission (BIC) and its Report - The roots of the latest flare-up of the independence controversy largely can be found in the work of the Bermuda Independence Commission (BIC), which was convened on December 16, 2004 for the ostensible purpose of educating, informing and encouraging discussion and debate on the subject of independence. Theoretically, it was mandated to provide unbiased and accurate information considering all facets of the political spectrum, including the submissions of all of the island' political parties. In reality, little pluralism was displayed in the selection of the commission, the determination of its objectives, or the implementation of its findings.

What became perfectly clear was that the BIC was mainly a caricature of a professional inquiry, and was conducted in a manner in which seriousness of purpose and accountability could not flourish. Ultimately, BIC's work succeeded in making the issue of independence even more controversial. After months of allegedly carrying out its tasks, the BIC issued its report last September, provoking a wave of controversy over the body's flaming lack of balance and undignified behavior. One of the most egregious flaws in the preparation and release of the BIC report was its statement that the BIC had found no instance of a referendum being used to decide the issue of independence - which they later attempted to retract and minimize, by claiming that the statement was simply an editing error.

In addition, the exclusion of any references whatsoever of the UBP's own findings on the independence issue, signaled the inherent bias found in the commission's report. Instead, it only incorporated the PLP's submission. Former opposition leader Grant Gibbons said on September 16, "I was certainly surprised and disappointed to find that the UBP submission was not included in the final document whereas the PLP submission was." The decision to entertain only the findings of one of the island's two main political parties, at a time when independence is purported to be the major theme seizing the attention of the Bermudian public, is all but intolerable. The irony is further compounded, as Bermuda's civil society is in the midst of a discourse centering on the promulgation of more democratic institutions, although the Premier's response would hardly seem to validate this.

His statement claimed that the UBP submission was withheld because it lacked pertinence, as it addressed the referendum vs. general election question, which according to Scott lay outside of the report's purview. The BIC's seemingly partisan approach deserves to be seen as a chilling omen for the island's prospects of an even more open society. Without equivocation, it can be said that the BIC failed in creating a benign and non-controversial information bank that the public could use to educate itself on what would be the optimum future political status for the island. Instead, in pressing for independence, local Bermudian authorities repeatedly provided the public with a stream of obfuscations, all carefully guided to provide a positive side to independence and attempt to convince the public that it should be accomplished through the normal political process and not via referendum.

A prime example of this manipulation is the BIC's declaration that the final cost of independence can only be accurately determined on the eve of its introduction, leaving the electorate with no basis to calculate the costs and benefits that might arise from achieving independence. Critics of this approach would say that the decision-making process in a democracy is invalid if key information is denied to prospective voters before they go into the voting booth.

Premier Scott and the Bermuda Independence Commission Report - Despite this smoldering controversy, and rather hapless performance, Scott is convinced that the commission has done a superb job at informing the public regarding the compelling advantages of independence, and he continues to quote from it, despite the fact that it is widely known that the document is mortally flawed and little short of being worthless. In the Throne Speech drafted by the government and delivered by the Duke of York on November 4, Scott laid out a plan of action aimed at intensifying public education on the benefits of independence, largely based on information produced by the BIC's report. The goals of Scott's public access program will include government-staged gatherings across the island, as well as the establishment of a system to distribute information and exchange opinions via the government-run TV channel.

Scott does not propose any immediate action, noting that a timeline could not be given for when the independence issue would become the subject of a vote. In effect, Scott is saying that he will continue to roil the waters for independence for Bermuda, but will not take the plunge until he clearly sees victory at hand. The only definitive plan of action that Scott has promised, is the issuance of both a Green Paper (a discussion document) and a White Paper (a precursor to legislation), which would outline the government's plan for achieving independence. Former UBP leader, Grant Gibbons, questioned the necessity of both and claimed that the PLP was simply using the information phase as a device to drag out the discussion for as long as possible in order to avoid a premature vote on independence, which at this moment would most likely fail.

When faced with questions regarding the timeline for independence, Scott adroitly circumvents the matter, saying that he does not want to needlessly prolong the so-called information process, nor would he want to rush the public if it was felt that more time was needed. Such an approach gives a new definition to vertical self-interest in a democracy, and is certain to strain the coherence of the island's stability if this kind of logic becomes the order of the day. Manipulating the Cause Scott's passionate advocacy for the independence cause has taken him into the realm of the unacceptable. In public, he has demonstrated examples of intemperate behavior and, in order to make the semblance of a convincing case, he has been compelled to exaggerate the highlights of independence, while glossing over the unfavorable consequences of breaking formal ties with the U.K. What the PLP has done is to skewer balanced information on the independence question, while stressing tendentious interpretations and resorting to boorish and snarling intolerance when it comes to alternative points of view. Such deportment has raised questions about Premier Scott's sense of balance and fair play.

Some of his critics argue that there is good reason to believe that he is driven as much by personal ambition, political opportunism, and ego as by a prevailing sense of what is best for the island. One would like to believe that this whole flap is not about a larger chauffeured limousine, jacked up travel vouchers, or a higher salary than at present. Even under the status quo, the perks received by the Premier and his governing colleagues are far from modest. In fact, they usually can amount to far more than their U.S. counterparts, and those to be found elsewhere in the hemisphere. The case for independence, and how to get there, has often been based more on propaganda and by repellent ad hominem attacks against his adversaries, rather than upon respectable research and responsible public debate. Bermudians are not unaware of this fact. After the issuance of the demonstrably-biased BIC report, a poll taken on November 5 shows that 66.3% of Bermudians opposed independence. The fact that this percentage did not immediately change after the release of the report demonstrates that the impact of its findings on the public was minimal.

Searching for a Way Out - Bermuda's government must comprehensively address all of the new processes and responsibilities that would result from independence, and seek solutions that are specific and feasible, including both software and hardware inputs, political and technical consultancies that will be required, and the total score on the additional capital and operational budgets that independence will bring on. A cursory look at the Middle East, the now independent states of the former Soviet Union, and large parts of Asia and Africa, will vividly demonstrate that independence can bring on as many pains as blessings and sometimes bring on far more problems than it can solve. Scott must do better than coming forth with such canned jargon such as "the educational system should initiate programs that foster understanding, acceptance, appreciation and celebration of all ethnic cultures represented in society."

The Bermudian Premier and his cabinet colleagues, many of whom feel that they are underpaid with their over $100,000 a year salaries (Scott in fact, all told, earns $146,728) see this amount as defensible. This figure, however, is roughly three times the figures earned by many of their counterparts outside the country. Scott might want to emulate recently inaugurated Evo Morales of Bolivia, who cut his salary in half to $1,800 a month in that nation of over 9 million, one fifth of what Scott is paid on an island of around 68,000. According to Bermuda-Online, "[Scott's] annual salary as Premier in 2005/06 is at least $108, 452 plus at least $38,276 as a Member of Parliament (MP).

He is paid about the same salary and benefits as the Governor of Massachusetts. His chauffeur-driven official car, provided free as one of his perks, with an unlimited gas (petrol) allowance, is an over-sized Peugeot (too big for the general public to own) with license plate GP1. His other benefits include no limit on calls made from home, credit card for overseas travel (no maximum), health insurance, generous pension." The failure of both Scott and the BIC report to address the fundamental tasks associated with independence, throws further disgrace on the current tortured progression towards independence.

The Vehicle to Reach Independence - If a murky scenario characterizes the political climate regarding Scott's pro-independence campaign and his attempt to control public debate on the issue, an equal degree of doubt exists concerning the proposed methods for deciding the independence question. As a methodology for achieving independence, Premier Scott continuously has insisted upon a general election, which would involve the normal open selection of candidates for individual parliamentary seats, with the victorious candidates then debating independence as a regular legislative item. The Premier justifies the logic behind this strategy by arguing that the pattern around the globe has been to resolve the independence process by means of a general election. However, both the United Kingdom and the United Nations are on record as supporting the referendum approach.

Following the September 2004 Overseas' Territories Consultative Council meeting in London, the former Junior Minister responsible for the United Kingdom's overseas territories [like Bermuda], Bill Rammell stated, "The move to independence is a fundamental step, and increasingly in the UK, major constitutional issues of this kind are being put to a referendum." United Nation's Resolution 1514 (XV) of 1960 states, "...irrespective of what constitutional option is chosen by a non-self governing territory in respect of its future constitutional status -- be it free association with the administering power, or another state, by integration with another administering power or full independence -- the decision must be determined as a result of a free and voluntary choice by the people of the territory. This must be clearly expressed through an informed and democratic process. The most transparent process is through a referendum."

In 1995, when Former Premier Sir John Swan attempted to put the issue to a vote by means of a national referendum, a powerful PLP boycott led to a mere 58% turnout, out of that figure, 73% voted against independence and only 25% in favor. The PLP leadership's chief motivation at the time appeared to be that of self-interest, namely whether or not the staging of a referendum would give tactical advantage or whether it would be of benefit to the party, instead of raising the question regarding which approach would be the proper vehicle to better sound out islander sentiments on the subject of going it alone. The PLP's blockade frustrated the referendum proposal, which then brought on Swan's precipitous decision to resign. The former UBP leader, Gibbon, has noted that "The PLP believes that using a general election to decide this issue will help them reach their goals. What we don't understand is how this benefits the people."

Yet for all the evidence of a widespread negative reaction to what his critics insist is Scott's overt political opportunism, more Bermudians apparently would still vote in favor of the PLP candidate slate than for the UBP, if a general election were held tomorrow. This is the key to comprehending Scott's stance on the referendum issue: The electorate is unable at this time to meaningfully distinguish the focus on independence from that of political party preference.

The UBP's Stance for a Referendum - The UBP says it is not against the idea of a vote on independence, but it nevertheless strongly opposes the rancorous tactics utilized by the Scott-led drive to achieve it, and the plan to use a general election rather than an up or down referendum. Aside from many UBP members' strong beliefs against the inadequate yield that independence will bring, why should they be against it, because they most likely will win the referendum on the question. For the UBP, independence rises above party politics and must be decided based on personal preference. From its own perspective, the UBP sees the referendum as a more democratic approach to the process, because the public will be encouraged to focus directly on a single burning issue. While Premier Scott has presented anything but a compelling dialectic to support the necessity of a general election, the UBP has offered, for its part, a comprehensive defense for holding a referendum. Specifically, the UBP cites four benefits, which would derive from utilizing a referendum.

First, voters can by-pass politicians and political parties. Second, a referendum is the purest form of electoral democracy, and as it directly expresses the will of the people is normally held only during critical events in a country's history. Thus such a transformative issue as the adoption of a new constitution would seem to require a referendum's use. Third, referendums are traditionally relied upon when the citizenry is being called upon to have a personal say regarding a fundamental question that will undoubtedly have a momentous impact on their own fate. Lastly, the choice between a referendum and a general election is the choice between an individual's ability to decide upon an issue, rather than simply voting for elected officials to make decisions for them. A potentially important new dynamic on the island's political landscape occurred when Wayne Furbert took over as the new leader of the UBP.

Several days after his January 16 selection, Furbert responded to a Bermuda Sun question regarding how he would vote in a hypothetical referendum, stating; "Right now I would vote 'no' to independence. That presumably might change if the U.K. became more intrusive in its policy towards Bermuda, if there was more interference. Right now, the country is satisfied with the status quo. If the people want independence, we will feel it." Furbert might have addressed other areas of concern, such as the new expenses that would befall an independent Bermuda. These could be due, for example, to the island's bond rating dropping, producing enhanced costs of debt servicing, and which could conceivably bring on a financial crisis where none existed before.

His comments seem to misfire before a public which, to all outside scrutiny, remains vehemently opposed to independence and now prepared, if called upon, to make their voices heard through a referendum. Furbert offers continuity on the official UBP stance - that independence is an issue that should be decided based on conscience, rather than party politics. On February 15, Furbert called for a radical overhaul of Bermuda's political system. His platform included fixed General Election dates, a referendum on independence, the installation of parliamentary recall mechanisms, and bipartisan parliamentary committees. Civil society now figures in the debate as well, in the form of a relatively new group Bermudians for Referendum (BFR) group. On February 2, they succeeded in obtaining 15,523 signatures (301 more votes than the PLP received in the 2003 elections) - or 52.67% of the number of all valid votes cast in that election - on a petition requesting a referendum.

At first, however, and in keeping with his indifference to the wishes of the majority on the island, Premier Scott found their request not worthy of public response. According to Mike Marsh, spokesperson for the organization, "Because the Premier has not responded within the time that we asked him to respond [7 days] my comment is simply that Bermuda is no longer a democratic society." The group is prepared to bypass the Premier and proceed to press for a referendum. However, on February15, Marsh stated that a Constitutional change would be required in order to assure that the Government would be obliged to act upon it. "If we were to have a referendum on Independence we need to know how binding it would be. The law needs to be changed so people would have a voice in their own democracy," he said. "It seems to be possible that the Premier could just ignore a referendum. He seems to think he has it all his own way."

Since the seven day deadline,the Premier has responded to Marsh's claims, stating that he would respect the results of a referendum on independence, yet there has been no mobilization on his part for executing such a referendum. Marsh commented in The Royal Gazette, that it would be foolish to hold a referendum on the same day as a General Election - an option being considered by the Premier - saying that the issue would get buried under party politics and spin. And he dismissed suggestions that more people would vote in a referendum if it were held on the same day as an election. He pointed out that, according to the Initiative & Referendum Institute, a referendum held over a number of days would give voters ample opportunity to get to the polls.

The Future of Bermuda - While it is not for us to try to do an explication de texte on whatever intentions may lie behind Premier Scott's and his colleagues' fervent pursuit of independence, particularly by means of a general election, there is more here than meets the eye. Two issues are particularly troubling in the face that Bermuda presents to the world. In examining the findings of Bermuda-Online, which is associated with The Royal Gazette, the overwhelmingly black PLP governing party has demonstrably made little effort to create in itself a biracial political force that accommodates diversity and pluralism on the island. At the same time, the opposition UBP, whose leadership position was recently awarded to Wayne Furbert (a black Bermudian), has done a much more credible job at integrating the party than has been the case with the PLP, as evidenced by the numbers furnished below.

According to Bermuda-Online, the PLP offered a candidate slate with 35 black candidates, and only one white candidate, while the UBP list included 23 black and 13 white candidates. Before independence can even be reasonably considered, continued economic prosperity must be assured, and a dependable post-independence economic infrastructure envisaged, along with detailed plans for its implementation. Thus, Scott's task is set: if you think you can make a winning case for your position, then bring about independence without killing the golden economic goose, and recognize that there is more involved with independence than enjoying being referred to as Prime Minister rather than Premier. In addition, a majority of the population must be assured that there exists a true consensus before the tiny island can seriously even consider undertaking any change of this magnitude. The success of the BFR campaign offers one approach to potentially solving the independence question once and for all.

For the Premier, his time is running out. He must promptly reply to his constituents on the matter of a referendum. This may have to mean the end of the year of independence dialogue (also known as "buying time"), as Bermudians prepare to decide the future of their island, even if it means maintaining the status quo. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being "one of the nation's most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers."

From Net News, March 02, 2006

 

UNEP Governing Council: Strengthening the Scientific Base of Environmental Governance is Essential

At the recent 9th Special Session of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, held in Dubai from 7-9 February 2006, many speakers highlighted the importance of strengthening the scientific base of global environmental governance. UNEP reported on its work and outlined findings from recent assessments, including the annual Global Environmental Outlook (GEO), One Planet, Many People, and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

IHDP Research Contributes to Global Assessments - Researchers from the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change community have regularly contributed to these global and regional environmental assessments. For example, the IHDP core science project Land-Use and Land-Cover Change (LUCC) developed four global scenarios and as many as 30 sub-global assessments for the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. IHDP researchers are also chapter authors for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports.

Global Environmental Governance: A Controversial Issue, and another IHDP Research Topic - In addition to the named assessments, multidisciplinary social science research can shed light on processes of global change negotiations. Researchers of the IHDP core science project Institutional Dimensions of Global Environmental Change (IDGEC) are exploring these international negotiation processes in order to better understand why some institutional responses to global environmental change are more efficient than others, and why some institutions contribute to the problem rather than the solution. The question of international environmental governance, which was also raised at the UNEP Governing Council, is of high relevance. Countries should follow the polluter pays principle, and clear environmental goals have to be set. For the effective implementation of such goals and principles, the institutional architecture of international environmental governance has to be reformed and strengthened. Although countries such as the US remain to be reluctant towards a strong global environmental organization, the issue continues to be negotiated.

Further Items on the Agenda: Chemicals, Energy, Early Warning, Water - UNEP's Governing Council was held back-to-back with the International Conference on Chemicals Management, and a draft decision on the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management was adopted. Further important themes discussed at the Governing Council include energy and environment, with a call for a new global sustainable energy policy that addresses climate change and provides access to energy. The value of using the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism for capacity building and technology transfer to developing countries was emphasized. Also, water, as well as monitoring and early warning were on the agenda. All these themes represent further research topics within IHDP, a programme dedicated to promoting and coordinating research, capacity building and networking on the human dimensions of global environmental change.

From Informationsdienst Wissenschaft, March 09, 2006

Poor Water Management Limits Access to Safe Water: Report

Almost one-fifth of the world's population lacks access to safe drinking water due to mismanagement, limited resources and environmental damage, according to a UN report. Water-borne diseases killed more than three million people in 2002, the UN's World Water Development Report found. "Water is power and those who control the flow of water in time and space can exercise this power in various ways," the report said. "It is often claimed that clean water tends to gravitate towards the rich and waste water towards the poor." In sub-Saharan Africa, access to clean water increased to 58 per cent in 2002 from 49 per cent in 1990. The UN body's Millennium Development Goals aim for 75 per cent. An estimated 2.6 billion people - about 40 per cent of the world's population - do not have basic sanitation. Better leadership from national and local authorities, the private sector and civil society is need to improve the situation, the report says.

Deforestation, overgrazing and unmanaged lakes can all aggravate drought, said Salif Diop, head of the water unit in the early warning and assessment division of the UN Environment Program. Drought in Kenya and other parts of eastern Africa is creating a hunger crisis, but Africa isn't the only continent affected by poor water management. In China, water pollution cost an estimated $1.97 billion in lost industrial income in 1992, the report said. Poor land use can also lead to natural disasters, 90 per cent of which are water-related, according to the UN. Highlights of the 584-page report were presented to journalists on Thursday. The full report will be presented at the Fourth World Water Forum in Mexico City next week. It was compiled by 24 UN agencies.

From CBC News, March 09, 2006

 
 

National Anti-Corruption Campaign Launched

President Mwai Kibaki says he will be asking Parliament to amend the Public Officer Ethics Act to allow for public scrutiny of assets and liabilities of public officials and other leaders. Speaking Thursday at Kenyatta International Conference Centre when he officially launched the national anti-corruption campaign, President Kibaki reiterated his personal commitment to eradication of graft. He reassured Kenyans that he will not waver in his focus on the implementation of the Government's stated policy of zero tolerance to corruption. "As your President, I would like to emphasize that I shall not waver nor shall I relent in my stated commitment to eradicate corruption," the President said. He urged all Kenyans to be wary of those seeking to politicize corruption, saying under his Government there will be no selective prosecution of corruption cases.

Said President Kibaki: "Whatever your station in our socio-economic and political life, you must be held accountable for your actions." Citing the setting up of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission as an independent institution to spearhead the war against corruption, President Kibaki said the Government has undertaken unprecedented measures aimed at wiping out corruption. The President pointed out that at no time in the country's history has there been so many corruption cases heard by courts as it is today. "We have set up anti-corruption courts to speed-up the hearing and determination of corrupt cases," President Kibaki said. As the Government wages war against corrupt officers within its ranks, President Kibaki called on wananchi to play a more active role in this national endeavour.

Noting that corruption networks are complex and involve discreet actions by the perpetrators, the President said the fight against the vice should be all-inclusive and not surrendered to any particular institution. "Corruption is a problem that we must all combat together as a nation. Let us therefore focus our efforts beyond public officers and bring on board all our people right up to the grassroots level," the President said. Following the launch of the campaign against corruption, President Kibaki urged the National Anti-Corruption Steering Committee to be more aggressive in implementing its work programme so that the policy of zero tolerance to corruption can succeed. "You should not fear to discharge your duties even in the face of threats and intimidation from the perpetrators of this vice," he added.

The President said the Government will continue to take firm measures to ensure that the recommendations on all cases of corruption made by oversight committees of Parliament, various Auditor General's reports and the reports of ad-hoc investigative committees are conclusively implemented. He pointed out that the launch of the campaign comes at a time when the Government has stepped up measures against those adversely mentioned in corruption related investigations. "Recently, Kenyans have witnessed bold steps by the Government against those involved in corruption," the Head of State said. Noting that the war against corruption cannot succeed without appropriate weapons and ammunitions, President Kibaki said the Narc Government has continued to undertake serious legal, economic and social reforms to ensure good governance.

"In the last three years my Government has instituted major reforms geared towards creating an appropriate legal and institutional framework for fighting corruption," the President said. He said the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission and the rest of the Government's anti-corruption apparatus have also now been fully constituted and are fully operational. To give the fight against corruption additional impetus, President Kibaki said the capacity of all Government agencies to handle large prosecution cases is being strengthened. "We are also continuously reviewing our laws to ensure that the Government is able to deal effectively with corruption cases," the Head of State said. In this regard, the President said the Government will be presenting to the next session of Parliament an amendment of the Public Officer Ethics Act 2003 to make declaration of assets and liabilities open to public scrutiny.

Moreover, President Kibaki said additional measures are being taken to put in place a robust programme of asset recovery and restitution in line with international standards of freezing of assets, restitution and vesting in the aggrieved country. He said besides putting in place the legal and institutional framework for fighting corruption, the Government has made commendable progress in dealing with corrupt individuals. "For example, Kenyans will recall the bold actions taken by the Government against corrupt procurement and forest officers in the year 2003," he pointed out. The President once again assured wananchi that the Government will not relent as it seeks to ensure greater probity, transparency and accountability, saying the enhanced transparency is resulting in the proper management of public resources leading to the improved performance of the economy.

Appealing to the institutions charged with the task of spearheading the war against corruption to expedite investigations and prosecution of graft cases, the President also called on all Kenyans to support these institutions. "This is only possible if people are made aware of how corruption affects them in their daily lives. It is the only way to mobilize people effectively in fighting the vice," the President said. He expressed satisfaction that the National Anti-Corruption Campaign Steering Committee continues to undertake its mandate seriously to empower Kenyans to say "NO" to corruption. "I urge the committee to reflect on the dynamism of corruption and crime in general and embark on initiatives that will quickly create an environment that is hostile to corruption and bring the positive participation necessary to heal our society, restore integrity and speed up economic recovery," he said.

The President noted that the programme of activities launched today will go a long way in mobilizing Kenyans to reject corruption and those who are corrupt. He assured the committee that his Government will provide the necessary support to ensure that the National Anti-Corruption Campaign becomes a success story. Speaking at the function, the Minisiter for Justice and constitutional affairs Martha Karua reiterated that in prosecuting those involved in corruption, the government shall uphold the rule of law. She said, "We shall follow due process in the ongoing investigations and prosecutions of corrupt cases in the country. No one will be condemned unheard." Ms Karua further called for the formation of civilian oversight committees upto the grassroots, so that those denied services due to failure to bribe can resort to the committees for redress.

The chairman of the National anti-corruption campaign steering committee the Rev. Mutava Musyimi lashed out at those who appealed for support of their respective ethnic committees when charged with corruption. Saying this was a hollow call, the Rev. Musyimi wondered why this invocation of ethnic protection is not made with regard to similar heinous crimes such as murder, robbery and others. He also asked Kenyans to desist from glorifying ill-gotten wealth saying it was unfortunate that some people who enriched themselves through corruption had risen to iconic status and even gotten elected to positions of authority to garnish their respectability. He urged Kenyans to guard against such a tendency as it made popular the notion that in pursuit of wealth the end justifies the means.

From KBC, March 30, 2006

Corruption and Neglect Lead to Township Riots Against ANC

Riot police patrol the streets, mobs have burned down the homes of local councillors and government offices lie wrecked and abandoned. The streets of Khutsong township, strewn with broken glass and burnt tyres, bear vivid witness to the revolt against the African National Congress that is sweeping its former strongholds. The movement that liberated South Africa from apartheid could once rely on the automatic support of places like Khutsong. About 90 per cent of the people would vote for the ANC. Yet scarcely anyone from Khutsong voted in local elections yesterday. For the first time since apartheid's demise, the ANC was unable to campaign or win more than negligible support in a township of 170,000 people. Instead Khutsong boycotted the polls and forcibly prevented the ANC from campaigning, turning their streets into a party "no-go" area.

The root cause is the incompetence and corruption of ANC-run councils across South Africa. Officials steal money set aside for the poor, corrupt mayors stuff municipal posts with relatives, and services and housing are neglected. On the fringes of Khutsong thousands live in shacks of cardboard and corrugated iron. In all, 12 million South Africans, more than one quarter of the population, still live in shacks rather than houses. "The government can go to hell as far as we are concerned," said one 25-year-old resident, who turned his anger on President Thabo Mbeki. "Even Mbeki is not welcome here. It's too late for the president to come here. His car will be pelted with stones." The spark for the revolt was the decision to redraw provincial boundaries, moving Khutsong from Gauteng province, South Africa's richest, to North West, one of its poorest.

Residents feared that once they were handed over to a new and cash-strapped local government, provision of housing would grow even worse. Riots have broken out every week since December. Yesterday parts of the township resembled a battleground, with government buildings singled out for attack. Local council offices have been looted and stripped bare, the public library gutted by fire. Police helicopters hover overhead and armoured cars patrol the streets, scenes reminiscent of the township revolt against the apartheid regime 20 years ago. Then repression from a white supremacist regime drove the ANC underground. In Khutsong today its councillors are again leading underground lives, having fled the fury of their constituents.

Of the township's 17 councillors, 13 have seen their homes go up in flames. "The mob ran amok," said Papi Tselane, 44, the councillor for ward seven. "Everything was burnt. Everything my family has was destroyed. All we have left is what we are wearing." The ANC ran a new slate of candidates in the election but three of Khutsong's polling stations were petrol bombed yesterday. Asked if he supported the township's transfer to the new province, Mr Tselane said: "As a loyal member of the ANC, I have to toe the line. The movement has spoken." Khutsong's people are no longer willing to show the same unquestioning obedience. "We're not voting until such time as the ANC starts listening to the people," said one protester. "These councillors were selfish and failed to support the community." The ANC still enjoys immense popularity and the party will win these elections nationwide. No one has been killed in Khutsong and the riots are not as serious as those under apartheid. But across South Africa the townships are serving notice they can no longer be taken for granted.

From News Telegraph, March 02, 2006

Cut the Civil Service, Says IMF

Government has been advised to shed excess in the bloated civil service and do away with the huge wage bill. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said there was need to privatise some public enterprises in an effort to 'jerk up' the dwindling economy and promote the spirit of private enterprise development. "To achieve the fiscal adjustment, IMF emphasised the need for expenditure controls and reforms in the civil service, public investment, and fiscal revenue areas. They noted that weak expenditure controls, including at the line ministry levels, had contributed to the rising fiscal deficits and payment arrears," it was stated in the IMF 2005 Article IV Consultation Report. Moreover, directors of the IMF welcomed the country's authorities' intention to reform the public expenditure management system and encouraged the authorities to seek technical assistance in this important area.

"Directors urged the authorities to follow through with measures to rightsize the civil service and rationalise the government structure, in line with their civil service reform programme," the report reads. Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the Swaziland National Association of Civil Servants (SNACS) said the privatisation policy should be discussed by the government and the workers if it is to succeed. He said he was less surprised at the IMF's decision because they were owed by government and hence trying to give a direction out of the financial problems. "But we know they are shylocks and their comments show it. The IMF report does not need to be implemented as is. It should be discussed by the relevant stakeholders. It is a pity that when they talk about retrenchments they do not think about the HIV and AIDS situation in the country," he said. Secretary General of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) Jan Sithole said neither government nor the IMF was fair in their positions.

"As workers we are concerned that the IMF has been showing these warnings for a long time, but government chose to undermine the report. Our government even declined to avail the report to workers despite an outcry that it should have been made public. "Having been made aware of the report they went ahead and endowed themselves with 125 percent salary increment and further approved exit packages of ministers to the total of E900 000 each. MPs were similarly offered exit packages exceeding E100 000. When workers asked for an increment they then talked about the IMF report which said they should downsize the civil service. As long as there is this unequivocal looting of resources, we will not shut our mouths but continue to register our concerns," he said. He also said the creation of a new ministry was a blunder by government amidst the terrible economic problems. Sithole also criticised the IMF report saying he does not believe the answer to the economic problems was to retrench workers.

From The Swazi Observer, March 29, 2006

Ethiopia Develops Civil Service Reform Program

The ministry emphasised the necessity of consolidating and sustaining efforts to implement the Civil Service Reform Program further to achieve even better results. The Ministry of Information urged government executive institutions both at the federal and regional levels to prioritise the implementation of the Civil Service Reform Program and deploy maximum efforts to register yet better results in the future, the Ethiopian News Agency reported. In its weekly statement sent to the Ethiopian News Agency on Friday, the Ministry said the fact that the country registered a double digit growth over the last successive years testifies to the correctness of the development policies and programs of the government.

According to ENA, the ministry however said it is inconceivable to achieve any positive results by providing best development policy and program without enhancing executive capacity. In this regard the implementation of the Civil Service Reform Program is moving in promising manner, according to the ministry. The ministry said As observed in the six-month performance report of executive offices that were submitted to the Council of Ministers, it was concluded that unless the Civil Services Reform Program is adopted as part of the regular duty, it would be impossible to achieve any meaningful change for the better. The ministry emphasised the necessity of consolidating and sustaining efforts to implement the Civil Service Reform Program further to achieve even better results.

From EITB, March 03, 2006

 

Corruption Blamed for Rainforest Destruction

Asian logging companies are openly defying the law and cutting down Papua New Guinea's rainforests, thanks to corruption and government inaction, a new report alleges. A Washington environmental group, Forest Trends, linked loggers, mainly from Malaysia, to Papua New Guinea's political elite. It described working conditions as "modern-day slavery" and said forests were effectively being logged out. While the Government had policies, laws and regulations to ensure sustainable timber production, these were not being enforced, the report said. It identified "a political vacuum with no demonstrated government interest in controlling the problems in the sector". The president of Forest Trends, Michael Jenkins, said landowners needed funding and advice to fight loggers in the courts. "Papua New Guinea's legal system does exist outside of political control, and the courts have a track record of ruling against illegal logging."

The report summarised the findings of government-commissioned independent reviews of the timber industry between 2000 and 2005. It is dominated by Malaysian interests and focused on round-log exports - mainly to China, Japan and South Korea - with many of the logs processed in China sent on to Europe and North America. Forest Trends' program manager for finance and trade, Kerstin Canby, said corruption had devastated rural living standards and ignored the basic rights of landowners. "There are a few logging operations in the country which are deemed beneficial to both local landowners and the country, but they are lost in a sea of bad operators," she said. "The Government needs to support these companies, or risk having the international community boycott all of PNG's exports."

From Sydney Morning Herald, March 02, 2006

Head of Kazakh Civil Service Affairs Agency, British Ambassador Met

Today the chief of the Kazakhstan Agency for Civil Service Affairs Zautbek Turisbekov has held talks with the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to Kazakhstan Paul Brummel. The parties discussed prospects for bilateral cooperation in training the state service personnel, improving the quality of state services and e-government implementing, the Agency's press service reports. They shared opinions on various aspects of the Agency's activity in preventing corruption and perfecting civil servants' wage system.

The joint project with the EU for the development of the Eurasian civil servants training centre was highly appreciated. The centre established with the participation of the British Council is purposed to upgrade qualifications of the civil servants of Kazakhstan and adjacent states on the ground of the leading foreign practice and involving the highly skilled teachers. An importance of Great Britain's participation in realizing Nursultan Nazarbayev's initiatives stated in his Message to the nation was emphasized. The British party backed the motion to enter into closer cooperation with its educational establishments to exchange practice, train and organize probations.

From Kaz Inform, March 09, 2006

Karki Informs of Plan for Women in Civil Service

On the occasion of the 96th Women's Day, a seminar was organised here today by Civil Servant Wives Association. The speakers of the seminar emphasised on the equal opportunities for women in civil service sector and demanded quota reservation for women. In the seminar on 'Role of civil servant women's association for women empowerment', the speakers pointed out the need of women's involvement in policy making and initiation of various programmes to end domestic violence. Inaugurating the seminar, chief secretary of the government Lokman Singh Karki said that the association should reach at the rural areas for women empowerment and for this the assistance of government, NGOs and INGOs is necessary.

A proposal would be submitted at the Council of Ministers for women empowerment and to provide equal opportunity to women in civil service, he informed ahead. Representatives of the UNFPA Junko Sajaki said that no development is possible without women's participation and the stress should be given for equality of sexes and the discrimination in sexes should be abolished. Health secretary Ram Chandra said that the overall development of the nation is impossible without women's involvement. Presenting working papers on 'Domestic violence against women', counsellor Anita Khadka Karki said that the laws on beating, physical and mental torture, sex exploitation, home violence, polygamy should be formulated and the women themselves should be aware on these matters.

Presenting working paper on 'Need to increase the number of women in policy making', joint secretary of the Public Service Commission, Dr. Niranjan Prasad Upadhyaya said that works for women's overall development should be done from beginning stage and some quota should be reserved for women in civil service. Members of the association, Mrs. Dhenu Laxmi Singh and Mrs. Nirmala Ghimire said that monitoring system should be there for government commitment and the concept to watch women should be changed. The programme was presided over by the chairman of the association Mrs. Sunita Karki.

From The Rising Nepal, March 09, 2006

Government to "Vaccinate" Kids Against Corruption

Having realized it's an urgent task to foster noble probity among its new generation, the Chinese government has launched anti-corruption education among kids. "Anti-corruption should be an indispensable part of moral education in colleges, secondary and primary schools," said Xu Subin, deputy director with the Discipline Inspection Committee of Hangzhou, the capital city of east China's Zhejiang Province. He said such education has already been carried out in all primary and elementary schools in a major urban district for a year in Hangzhou, and was to be spread to all schools beginning last September. The educational departments of many other cities have begun trial anti-corruption education among kids.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) launched the campaign in some big cities and provinces like Beijing, Tianjin, Zhejiang, Hubei, Shaanxi, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, in the second half of 2005. The Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee issued an outline for the establishment of an anti-corruption work mechanism, saying that anti-corruption education should be oriented towards "the whole Party" and "the whole society." Senior leaders, including President and Party General Secretary Hu Jintao and chief Party discipline inspector Wu Guanzheng, have also articulated the specific requirements of this task in speeches and reports. In a survey conducted in 2003 among more than 200 first-grade middle school students in Hangzhou, the students were asked "What is the major temptation around you." "Money" and "position promotion" were the two most popular answers, with many regarding the position of class monitor as one "superior."

Survey outcome has made educational departments and government sense the emergency of extending anti-corruption education among kids. "The function of school and education should not only promoting scientific knowledge and advanced culture, but also nurturing healthy and scientific values", said Ren Jichang, headmaster of Hangzhou Xuejun middle school. Although anti-corruption education classes have encountered criticism as "making kids take pills for the adult's disease," more people have been aware that corruption has become a public social "villain" globally, and it's essential to build an effective prevention and punishment mechanism of corruption, by ways of education and monitoring. Hou Jingfang, director of the Zhejiang provincial education bureau, said that youth with anti-corruption notions will be the most valuable resources for our country and government.

From China View, March 12, 2006

 

Ireland Needs to Improve Anti-corruption Measures, Report Finds

An international anti-corruption report has highlighted the fact that Ireland places no obligation on public officials to report corruption and keeps no record of the number of officials disciplined for accepting corrupt payments. The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) also said the introduction of higher fees for using the Freedom of Information Act sent the wrong signal to the public. "Ireland has a solid framework for dealing with proceeds of corruption and instrumentalities... bearing in mind this generally positive assessment, the evaluation team was of the opinion that there is still room for improvement in particular areas." Greco was set up by the Council of Europe, the 46-member body which is also responsible for the European Curt of Human Rights. Its evaluation team visited Ireland last March and met representatives of nearly 20 different organisations, including the gardaí, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Revenue Commissioners and the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

From Irish Examiner, March 01, 2006

Blair Rejects New Panel to Probe Ministers

Prime Minister Tony Blair rejected calls on Thursday by Westminster's standards watchdog for an independent panel to investigate any allegations of misconduct by government ministers. In his annual report, the watchdog's chairman Alistair Graham said he could not understand why Blair had not already changed the rules, especially given the controversy surrounding Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell. But Downing Street disagreed. "In the end, the argument which in the prime minister's view outweighs all is that the person who takes the ultimate decision is accountable to parliament and to the electorate," Blair's spokesman said. "Even if you have an independent figure, that is no guarantee that the decisions will not be criticised by certain sections of the media," he added. Blair cleared Jowell last week after an investigation by the country's top civil servant Gus O'Donnell into whether she had broken the ministerial code of conduct over her the business dealings of her husband David Mills.

But Jowell has remained under pressure despite Blair's support and the Conservative party have continued to demand a further investigation. The idea of an independent investigator was originally proposed by the Committee of Standards in Public Life in 2003. On Thursday, its chairman Graham said the current "ad hoc" system had come to the end of the road. "I am puzzled why the Prime Minister has not acted on this issue," he said. "At regular intervals he has been faced with allegations of breaches of the Ministerial Code in which he and his government have become the centre of a media storm. "This leads to immense pressure on a minister, whose future will often depend on the vagaries of an ad hoc investigation."

FINAL DECISION - Instead, Graham proposed a system where facts surrounding an allegation would be independently investigated but the Prime Minister would still continue to make the final decision on the minister's future. Graham said the controversy surrounding Jowell and previous inquiries into former ministers Peter Mandelson and David Blunkett showed the system did not work. He said an independent panel should be appointed early in a government's term, with those selected approved by all parties. The current system was damaging public trust, he believed. "The present system is demonstrably redundant and leads to a loss of public confidence and damage to the standing of the government," he said. Cabinet secretary O'Donnell was called in last week to investigate Jowell's conduct after her husband received $600,000 (345,000 pounds) to pay a mortgage on their home. Mills, a tax lawyer, is under investigation in Italy over the money, which Italian prosecutors say may have been an illegal payment from Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Jowell was cleared after she said she was not aware of the payment. Blair said the inquiry had shown she did not break the ministerial code of conduct.

From Reuters, March 09, 2006

 

DR's Anti-narcotics Chiefs Admit Corruption Hampers War Against Trafficking

The country's authorities in charge of fighting drug trafficking admit that corruption is one the main stumbling blocks to control narcotics trafficking in Dominican Republic, as the U.S. State Department report indicates. National Drugs Control Agency (DNCD) director Ivan Pena said that no institution is free of corruption. "Yes that's clear, we are not exempt (from corruption), what we have to be is stronger and solid (the institution) and to identify where the corruption is and to attack it, and this will allow that we could reach our objective which is to eradicate drug trafficking in Dominican Republic," he said. The official affirmed that corruption is a phenomenon with so many facets which makes it seem uncontrollable, "and I think that in the measure in which the institutions are reinforced, we can win over this ill."

He said that he feels satisfied when the United States shows its satisfaction with the fight which is carried out in the country against drug trafficking. In the same manner, the presidential Adviser in narcotics topics, Marino Vinicio Castillo, also affirmed that the Dominican institutions continue being vulnerable to drug trafficking's influence. He said that the years between 2000 and 2004 were favorable for drug trafficking in the country, because "it filtered into all the institutions." "I have been speaking about this for ten years now and there is also corruption that prevents the fight against drug trafficking. What we are doing now is improving the interventions and working to improve this," he said. The officials spoke with reporters during a mass to mark the National Police's 70th anniversary.

From Dominican Today, March 29, 2006

 

World Bank's War on Corruption

How can anyone question a global campaign against corruption? Graft scoffs at rule of law, dilutes a nation's wealth and market forces, degrades the environment, and frustrates citizens. And yet, such a new campaign at the World Bank, championed by president Paul Wolfowitz, deserves close scrutiny. After nine months at the helm of an institution which lends $20 billion annually to relieve poverty in poorer nations, a controversial architect of the Iraq war has found a new cause. "Corruption is the biggest threat to democracy since communism," Mr. Wolfowitz says. His big priority is to reduce graft in the countries where the bank does business and ensure that the bank itself is clean. For instance, he's staffing up the bank's "integrity" unit, in part to clear a backlog of several hundred cases of alleged misconduct and corruption relating to bank projects and operations. That effort has encouraged more willingness to report suspect cases.

He's also using loans as leverage to prompt change. A sampling so far: The bank has held up $800 million in loans to Indian health programs, canceled road contracts in Bangladesh, and frozen loans to Kenya - all because of graft concerns. Here's to the passion and cause of the Wolfowitz campaign, and to the signal his measures send. But, as with the White House's vision for transforming Iraq, the challenge with the World Bank's cleanup crusade lies with its execution - and, perhaps, unrealistic expectations for change. In ramping up the antigraft effort, Wolfowitz acknowledges "turbulence" among staff. The loan-witholding decisions have been criticized as arbitrary, and made without input from senior managers (some of whom have left). A bank official says the campaign is still a "work in progress."

At the same time, there's a matter of balance. Just how high will Wolfowitz set the bar? Corruption is widespread. The bank shouldn't put itself on a trajectory not to lend at all (which could turn weak states into failed states), or to lose sight of its main purpose: to alleviate poverty. Using loans to fight corruption should be just one tool in a wider effort by international bodies to tackle this deep, long-term problem. Poor countries need a variety of incentives to overcome such problems as low salaries for civil servants, who use bribes to supplement their income. In his new book, America at the Crossroads, Francis Fukuyama concludes that domestic pressure is the most effective force for longterm, institutional reform. (That argues for the bank's decision to freeze most loans to Kenya, in concert with Kenyans protesting graft.)

For external pressure to work, he says, the incentive must be huge (such as the lure of membership into the European Union) and must reward already proven reform. Wolfowitz should be commended for a more vigorous approach to graft. But if he wants to make headway, he'll have to build up bank morale. And while it's right to aim for aboveboard bank projects, clear and consistent criteria are needed for freezing loans or canceling projects. Most important, he must watch to see that he's striking the right balance between fighting corruption and fighting poverty. Going head-to-head with bribes and favoritism is not just a moral battle, but a logistical one.

From The Christian Science Monitor, March 07, 2006

Survey: Bulgaria, Romania Think Corruption Won't Be Reduced After EU Entry

The citizens of Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia do not expect a corruption decrease after their EU entry, shows a survey of the Austrian Agency for European Policy, the online edition of the Austrian newspaper Der Standart reports. The polled had to answer the question whether they expect that the level of corruption would be reduced five years after the EU entry of the three countries. 54 percent of the Bulgarians answered with "no", 57% of the Romanians gave the same answer. The Croats are the most pessimistic ones- 66% of the polled said they did not expect less corruption. Most of the Bulgarians, Romanians and Croats think that in the last few years corruption has increased in comparison to the time before the collapse of the "Iron Curtain". For example, 84% of the Romanians and 74% of the Bulgarians share this view. The survey also showed that most of the citizens of the three countries think that the EU entry will lead to a considerable rise in prices.

From Focus English News, March 06, 2006

 
 

Higher Education and Reform in Nigeria

Being excerpts of a paper presented at a convocation lecture at the University of Port Harcourt by Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, yesterday.
Let us now examine the new windows of opportunities available for higher learning in Nigeria. The Obasanjo administration has instituted more politics and institutional reforms in higher education than the combined governments of the previous two decades. Among its more notable actions are institutional audits of all universities and associated parastatal bodies, revocation of the Vice Chancellor's former privilege of personally selecting 10% of student intake each year, reconstitution of all university Governing councils with broader representation, the licensing of new private universities, exemption of university staff from public service salary scales and regulations and a 180% increase in funding of the university system that raised per student allocations from the equivalent of USD 360 to USD 970 per year, (Saint, Hartnett and Strassner, 2003; The report of the Nigeria Committee on University Autonomy, 2001).

As laudable and commendable as these steps are, they may nonetheless represent the initial broad strokes of reform. There remains a need to deepen the process through a closer examination of sustainability, internalization of these changes and the buy- in of the affected persons within the university system, without which it cannot be said to be reform. In other words, how do these steps transform into more qualitative outputs - better students, better research, better life - for our communities and indeed the whole world as the university system is itself connected via an umbilicus of production of functional knowledge for the good of society - a context which has given rise to the term knowledge economy.

A knowledge economy - Knowledge has become the most important factor for economic development in the 21st century (World Bank 1990), which has precipitated another round of development rethinking. Knowledge increasingly constitutes the foundation of -a nation's competitive advantage (Pater 1990). This is evident in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries where investments in the intangibles that make up the knowledge base of a country's economy which include research af1d development (R&D) higher education and information communication technology) are substantial. It is a thing of great regret that developing countries, including Nigeria, are not enjoying this advantage. In 1996, OECD countries accounted for 85% of total R&O investments; China, India, Brazil and East. Asia represented 11%; and the rest of the world only 4%.

Advanced economies enjoy the fruits of a self- promoting cycle in which the benefits of research help produce the wealth and public support needed to enable continuous growth. Nigeria, with a population of over 130 million people, (It is my fervent hope that the National Population and Housing census coming up in 12 days time will end for good this propensity for approximation of our population !) which forms 20% of the population of the sub-region has less than 20 scientists per one million persons engaged in research. This compares poorly with 168 in Brazil, 459 in China, 158 in India, and 4,103 in the USA (World Bank 2002a: Table 5.11). This illustrates the fact that at a time when the rest of the world is heralding the emergence of a global knowledge based society, Africa has the weakest higher education system in the world. The earlier visions of higher education articulated in the 1960s and 1970s had been thwarted, hence the urgent need for a revisioning exercise.

Windows of Opportunities - Mr. Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, Distinguished ladies and Gentlemen, given this scenario, what then are the chances for the emergence of a knowledge economy with this dismal picture? The answer probably lies in university autonomy. University autonomy is indispensable to the expansion of democratic space within the ivory tower. You would recall that universities were self - governing institutions up to 1972. This status was however lost to militarization of the polity. The conscious return to university autonomy by the Obasanjo administration is a right step in the demilitarization of the academia and the cultivation of a spirit of collegiality which could enhance its primary business of teaching, research and community service (Obasanjo, 2000) pg 30 of CVC. However, autonomy like freedom is not absolute. Institutions of higher education must evolve realistic strategic plans aimed at mayjmizing opportunities. There must be departure from a culture of dependency and largesse to a proactive one which empowers institutions to assert themselves in the areas of research, training, funding and social responsibility. At. the core of this new challenge is access to adequate financial. resources. A creative way by which institutions of the new 'Century have addressed this, is through endowments.

Endowments provide new financial support base for the enhancement. of teaming in a sustainable manner. Fuelled by the processes of globalization is the emergence of what is termed the marketisation of higher education, which is characterized by closer partnerships.. with outside clients and other knowledge producers. This places a greater onus on faculties to access external sources of funding for better institutional governance, leadership and planning, (Subotzki, 2000; 7). Under teaching and learning, we have started witnessing a movement away from traditional pedagogy and conventional curricula to one that is responsive to employers' demands and which is in tune with the dictates of the labour market. Some of our universities are also pursuing knowledge coalitions with other institutions that possess comparative advantage in aspects of teaching and research through higher education link programmes. In essence, increased collaboration between sodal movements and university and with the private sector is the contemporary challenge that all universities must explore if higher education is to transcend to higher learning and to remain relevant to the deepening of a knowledge based economy in Nigeria.

This creates opportunities for endowments and the sharing of resources such as technical and human expertise. Universities that want to make the most of their autonomy would do very we\l to form these kinds of strategic alliance. Endowments have become very successful means of generating resources. The endowment of Harvard is in the region of USD26b, white our own University of Ibadan started from a humble N250,OOO to over N1, 000, 000,000 at present (Shettima, 2006). Perhaps, the only significant financial reform yet to be tapped is student cost- sharing. Nigeria, in my personal view, may not avoid this obvious reality for long. Whenever this choice comes alive, . do hope our universities would not forget the dangers to academic excellence that may crop up in a desperate pursuit of financial self-sufficiency. I agree that there may be many guardians who can afford to pay the fees of their wards, but the system must provide safety nets through needs - based scholarship for the indigent who cannot afford to pay. All these steps demand a rethink of the way we do business, our attitude to opportunities. It in fact calls for a new kind of leadership.

A new kind of leadership - Leadership is inspiring oneself to inspire others.. A person is a leader not necessarily because he or she possesses power or the ability to coerce others into doing what they would not necessarily do, ,but a person is a Leader when that person can inspire or motivate others to see a vision they never thought possible. A leader must be able to model the way and challenge a process, to show that things must not be business as usual A leader is not concerned about being popular or being .liked but about being respected. A leader must have positive values that put the aspirations of others first. A leader must espouse the values of transparency, accountability and service. A leader must demonstrate the power of possibilities. Militarism had created bosses rather than leaders in al[ sectors of development. Then we had hierarchies of power. But for us to effective[y respond to change, we must build hierarchies of imagination. This means that opportunity is not about who has the most influence but who is best positioned to utilise it.

The VC as CEO - Management is made easier when you have professors who have acquired leadership skill[s through the system. Professor Don Baridam, for instance, has been in this university for 26 years. This is very important for an understanding of the challenges of running the university effective[y. In addition, the management must also have a shared vision and entrepreneurial skills which could inspire and motivate others within the system. In the private sector for instance, every member is expected to know and internalize the vision, mission and values of the institution. Do our students, lecturers and administrators know our vision, mission and values? The Administration needs to reinforce the confidence of the community in the system, by first publishing the rules and applying the rules fairly but firm[y in a[l avenues such as students' admission and relations, award of contracts and research grants. Vice Chancellors and other senior members of the administration should be encouraged to attend short - term courses on leadership and management.

Indeed, these socio - economic challenges faced by higher institutions of today demand creative leadership. Endowments, for instance would not come on a platter of gold. Such processes must be led by persons of integrity with excellent fund raising skills and mentoring capacity. The institution in turn must demonstrate its ability to use resources in a transparent and accountable manner." The starting point of achieving this lies in internal democracy. Information about opportunities for personal and institutional growth must be shared in an affirming manner for all whether senior or junior members of faculty and administration.

Cultivating the total person - A related challenge is the need for renewed effort by university system oward building the total person. I have always been amazed by the desire of guidance and counseling to pigeonhole the ambitions of young people and to table their abilities .as ,either belonging to ,the sciences, .arts or the social sciences. Toe human mind is a lot more complex than we know and therefore defies simple compartmentatization. I may consider myself a victim" of such a system. I, had. a,... counselor ~ who took one look at my grades and concluded that I was science bound. J have since discovered that though I have a degree in quantity surveying, my true interest lies in the arts: Alan Greenspan, the recently retired financial Guru of the American central reserves and indeed our own Akintota Williams, doyen of accounting in Nigeria, who studied music, have a passion for music and are patrons of the Arts. The opportunity to do this probably increased their imagination and their ability to excel in their main careers.

I would 1ike to see for example a faculty that encourages students in hard sciences to take minors in literature or music or fine arts; students from political science doing minors in biology; students from architecture taking courses in sociology and gender studies. I believe that a connect between the science and the arts would help revive the culture of reading which regrettably, has faded away from our youths. When the culture of reading is poor, it would inevitably affect the quality of scholarship and learning. This invariably leads to quick - fixes to acquiring knowledge, through examination malpractices labeled as ‘sorting 'expo', 'chips' 'missiles' and 'rank xerox'.

There are two functional aspects of knowledge that I believe everyone should have: A sense of history and a sense of economics. We have realized this early in the FCT and we are reviewing curriculum to ensure that every secondary school child is taught economics and history, in addition to civics and family education. I was dumbfounded the day a young chap came into my office and saw a picture of the Premier of northern region and Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello on a mantle, and asked me 'is this your grandfather?'.

It saddens me that many of our youths today would not recognize the portrait of any of our nation's founding peers, nor their invaluable contributions to the growth of our country. It could have been Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe or Chief Obafemi Awolowo or Madam Margaret Ekpo or Chief Festus Okotie - Eboh or Isaac Boro and that young man would still have not got it right. My fear is that we may lose a whole generation of youth who do not have a sense of history or citizenship. I doubt if people of my generation had had an education devoid of history whether we would be where we are today. The moral being that the human mind is a total whole and for human beings to be very relevant they need to have some working knowledge of the whole world around them.

Bonding with the community Only 10% of those desirous of admission into our institutions of higher education get in the door. The teeming number outside are young and restive people whose energy if not immediately channeled to productive activities may be USU. We must create social responsibility platforms where research adds value to the lives of communities. I have a1ways subscribed to the feminist methodology of research which demands that we always give something back to the community in which we conduct researd1. This could be by way of knowledge sharing, through ploughing - back the result of the findings or linking the community with ~icy arenas in political or economic spheres, where needed intervention may be obtainable. Institutions of higher learning should engage local governments to support research into community development by faculties. This, however, demands increased synergy across existing academic departments and administration.

The starting point of community - building is bonding within the academic community. I believe that is the reason why compared to other universities, Uniport has not witnessed a sing\e instance of cultism for the past 6 years. A management, which does not erect barriers between it and its internal public, is perforce, stronger in bridge - building and team spirit. In my days students looked at their lecturers as gods and that is as it should be. However, with great power, comes great responsibility. I first heard this phrase watching the Spiderman series with my children. Indeed, power must be tempered with responsibility lest it tips over. The entire academic community must see itself as a protector of the interest of students. A situation where students especially females are made to buy their freedom through sexual gratification is very tragic. We all must acknowledge that the virtue of higher learning cannot thrive in an atmosphere poisoned by sexual harassment. Academic mentoring and team building through a change in pedagogy is a necessary reform. Character building sororities and fraternities should be supported to evolve on our campuses to serve as formidable peer support mechanisms. There must be a symbiotic partnership. While lecturers and administrators must not abuse the trust reposed in them, students a(so should not abuse the freedom given them.

The need for mentoring cannot be overemphasized with the menace of HJVIAJDS which is siphoning away our strongest - the youth. Sometimes our resistance to change is born out of the fear of the unknown+ We just do not know what is available or how it would impact us. Consider how long it is taking government to convince motor cycle operators to wear crash helmets, or for motorists and their passengers to wear safety belts. This is jn spite of graphic advertisements of fatal accidents on our roads. This is not to talk about resistant behavioral lifestyles that fuel the spread of the dreaded HIV IAIDS.

An opportunity that needs to be explored is e-governance, because the institutions of the future are those that are in synch with information and communication technology. I was delighted to see that University of Port Harcourt has an active website, complete with information on enrolment and alumni participation. I would, however, love to see a historical page with rationale for endowments in the privilege of not only surfing the web for information and data, but also accessing their result. It is also imperative to monitor the number of 'hits' i.e. visits to the website, as a measure of effectiveness.

Change as the only constant - Charles Darwin tells us, "it's not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change." The institutions of higher education are no doubt potential veritable engines of change with the possibilities of transforming society. We all must remember as the Vice Chancellors told us at the of their 18th annual seminar in this same historical city in 2000, that: Academic freedom within the law should be respected. But (it also) needs to be managed responsibly by individual academics and institutions, (Proceedings of 18th annual seminar of the committee of vice chancellors, 2000). When we realize that the resilience of a nation in spheres of development is driven by higher education it. would" be easier far us, to agree that the Nigeria of our dreams, with improved standard ,of living enjoyed by citizens, must be driven by higher learning.

As generally acknowledged, tertiary institutions by tl1eir nature, playa very significant role as drivers of change.. The potential of such institutions to Facilitate critical though, world class research and serve as a reservoir of knowledge is unquantifiable. It was Winston Churchill who in his famous address to Harvard University in. 1943 observed that, the empires of the future will be empires of the mind. Undeniably, education - format, non - format and informal is indisputably the most effective way to shape the values, attitudes, behaviors and skills which will make it possible to function effectively in an integrated world society www.bic-bahai.org. In this context, Nigeria's place in the 21st century will be I determined by the capability of our tertiary centres of .teaming to embrace change. The quality of our .output must be trust worthy. Since the certificate which we earn at the end of our studies places character above learning, it is my desire, that. individuals and institutions would give both virtues commensurate levels of commitment.

Reform wish to reiterate, i.5 not limited to government alone. Reform is about change: when the individual, families, communities and institutions are reformed; invariably the nation's drive towards positive change is achieved.We must trust one another to do our bits. We need the values of the game of golf. Gotfy as Dele Otojede, a Pulitzer Prize winner, reminds us is constructed around an honour system. There are no referees, no supervision and no score ,keeper. The game relies entirely on the players' integrity, to penalize themselves when their bolls soil out of bounds, to not improve an unfavorable lie even though no one is looking, to declare their score, though they are the only ones who know what that score is.

The moral here is the dominance of the rote of taw, that mechanism that must be respected by everyone- high and low~ It is only when we all recognize that the good society, which we all aspire to, will be built, as it has. been built elsewhere, by men and women who act to challenge the process and take it upon themselves to sacrifice a little bit of their individual desires for the common good. Accordingly, I trust that organizations such as the Macarthur Foundation, Carnegie, other partners and stakeholders, would continue to support this great institution.

From, The Tide Online, March 10, 2006

Morocco to Roll Out E-procurement System

The government of Morocco has agreed to roll out an e-procurement system, in partnership with the Italian government and non-profit body the Development Gateway Foundation. The project includes a new procurement management system and a national public tender website to increase access to government contract information. The objective of the system is to streamline public procurement processes, increase competitive bidding and save money for Moroccan taxpayers. Technical assistance and seed funding for the project will come from the Development Gateway's e-Government Grants Programme, which is a partnership with the government of Italy. The World Bank will provide additional funding. "We aim to reduce government contracting costs while helping small and mid-size Moroccan firms gain easier access to procurement opportunities," said Rachid Talbi El Alami, Morocco's minister delegate to the prime minister, in charge of general and economic affairs.

Source ElectronicNews.net, March 15, 2006

 

Where Are India's Thought Leaders?

Is India producing original thought leadership on human resources and innovation? Where are the Indian business leaders who can inspire innovation and build a long term competitive edge? How many Indian businesses are using the current outsourcing boom to lay the foundations for their long term success through innovation and knowledge? Some of the larger companies are, that is well known. But how many businesses are just too busy getting on with the job? If too many are just coping with current demands, just getting on with the job, then they are laying shaky foundations for the future.

It must be tempting for business and government leaders to feel either confident or overwhelmed by demand. After all, positive indicators for the Indian economy are a stable 8-per cent annual growth, rising foreign exchange reserves of more than $150 billion, a booming capital market with the "Sensex" just short of the 11,000 mark, flowing foreign direct investment in excess of $10 billion and a 25 per cent surge in exports. What a great success story!

But it would be potentially tragic for the Indian economy in the long term if current leaders felt that they had got it all, or that they had too much to do or that the current success story will just keep on flowing. Busy as these leaders are, they must use the good times to find time for innovation, because without this leadership, where will the Indian economy be in 10 or 20 years time? We often debate whether "what you know" or "who you know" are the most important for success, yet in many ways this is a false debate. After all, to succeed in business you need both; but to truly succeed long term you need to build an innovation and knowledge driven organisation. Today, it is the ability that a company has to assimilate and act on change that will determine its fate. Dr Sattar Bawany is the leader for Mercer's Singapore Global Information Business and he urges organisations to develop an innovative knowledge driven culture through:

introducing and managing innovative thinking; promoting "intrapreneurship"; training and support for information sharing; creating a climate pro knowledge and innovation. As Dr Bawany says "If a knowledge management system is right for your company, the benefits seem endless," but he also warns that in order to see results a company should have the proper training, technology and employee cooperation. One of the challenges most organisations face is getting employees to share knowledge. Many of us believe "knowledge is power" so we hang on to it. A key here is to ensure that there are obvious benefits in sharing what you know. Communication is essential to show that knowledge sharing helps us all become more productive. This sharing of knowledge can only happen in a climate of trust, so senior management must earn that trust and demonstrate the benefits.

Too many organisations see technology as the "driver" of knowledge management, but like all management the real driver is people. Technology is the enabler in many cases, but people are central to the process. There is a tendency for too many senior management to have a form of blind faith in technological solutions without thinking through the people processes. Dr Bawany points to a key benefit: "When knowledge management is implemented effectively, encouragement is given to the free flow of ideas, which in return fosters innovation and a high retention rate for employees." So, how do you promote innovation? The challenge for Indian business management is to open its mind and the minds of its key people. Many of us are risk averse and do not readily share information and knowledge. A good way to get this happening is to communicate and publish stories about role models who do openly share knowledge, or to provide success stories and best practice examples. You might need to do this again and again, over some time, before the light goes off and your people pick it up.

Then you will need to address reward strategies, processes and systems, how to support people with ideas, how to build innovation groups and so on. But it all begins with communication. This strategy also helps ensure you get the best out of the people you already have on the payroll. India must be recruiting more than any other country right now, but the problem has got to be a "competence gap" - can you find more and more people with the competence you need? This is another good reason to generate innovation from inside, so that the people you already have develop with your business. For many CEO's these issues of human resources and organisation building are the hot points today. While these CEO's look further afield for talent, they also have to focus on those already on the payroll and ensure that these people become more valuable over time. It comes back to the communication ability of the CEO, enthusing their leadership team, encouraging innovation, appealing to partners and customers and selling the message of knowledge sharing at all levels. Too many are not well equipped or well trained for this communication role.

We need a new wave of Indian management thinking on these key issues of human resources, internal communication and innovation. We need Indian CEO's who have the ability to get the message across, to describe the present and paint the picture of the future. In other words, CEO's who can communicate in a way that inspires. You will not do this with detailed power point presentations and endless statistics, because this communication has to draw on a passion for innovation. Just consider how these issues really took off in the US during good economic times of the 1960s and 70s, with the emergence of thought leaders, research and extensive dialogue across innovation and management.

For many CEO's in the US, the task of motivating others and capturing the spirit and soul of innovation took as much as 50 per cent of their time. They made speeches, talked to groups small and large, went back time and again to their staff, went on the media, took every opportunity to get their message across. Is this focus on communication for change happening among contemporary Indian CEO's, too? The emphasis for these leaders in the US was on how to build their own ideas and approaches, instead of just borrowing from the world. Is this happening today in India? Is India producing original thought leadership on human resources and innovation? If this leadership is not happening, India will be wasting a unique opportunity to use current growth for future success.

From Domain-B.com, March 10, 2006

Go Open Source For E-Governance: NKC

If the recommendations of the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) are accepted, India will surely be on its way to adopt a `free software community' model for its country-wide e-governance programmes. According to Economic Times, open source is all set to usher in a real IT revolution in the country. The NKC has sent in a list of 10 recommendations of the special group on e-governance to the prime minister, Manmohan Singh. Open source, as a cost-effective tool, can greatly augment the proliferation of the use of IT in the society. And, when it comes to the rural development and community-based initiatives of the government, OSS comes particularly handy as a means to bridge the digital divide.

Recently, at the LinuxAsia 2006, open source leaders from around the globe expressed their concern over development of software applications in local languages, which is a must for overall IT penetration in the society; and OSS has a lot to contribute here. Besides, there are certain sections, particularly in the government, who advocate mandatory sharing of source code by proprietary software makers. A recent projection by International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts annual growth of 25.9 per cent for the Linux market, which is set to grow from $20 billion to more than $40 billion by 2008. Linux has entered the segment of business-oriented solutions in storage and server markets, particularly in Asia-Pacific. On the whole, the scale seems to be tilting on the side of open source.

From EFY Group, March 06, 2006

Filipino Government to Reassess ICT Projects

The government of the Philippines is set to re-evaluate all of its existing and proposed e-government projects, reports newswire INQ7.net. The chairman of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), Virgilio Pena, said that a technical working group would assess all government ICT initiatives, with a view to re-distributing unused resources. For 2006, PHP1 billion (around EUR16 million) has been allocated to e-government spending by the Department of Budget and Managements (DBM). Among proposed new projects are a PHP200 million e-accounting system for DBM, an integrated government financial system, the modernisation of the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority, and an overhaul of the anti-cybercrime unit of the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation.

From EgovernmentNews.com, March 01, 2006

Hong Kong to Launch One-stop-shop Portal

The government of Hong Kong is about to revamp its e-government service offerings into a one-stop-shop web portal, reports Dutch newswire InfoWorld. The new portal will combine information currently contained on the Government Information Center website with around 200 services that are available on the e-government citizen services site ESDlife. The new portal will be rolled out in four stages. In the first stage, more than 100 public services will be made available online for the first time, including services from the Immigration Department, the Transport Department and the Inland Revenue Department. In stage two, 30 existing ESDlife services will be brought under the auspices of the portal site. Stages three and four will involve private-sector participation, anticipated by 2007, and a mature public private partnership (PPP), expected in 2008.

From EgovernmentNews.com, March 15, 2006

Chinese Politicians Urged to Set Up Blogs

China's lawmakers are being encouraged to set up and maintain blogs, or web logs. Delegates at the annual sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) - major political events in China - can apply to start their own online journal, which will be hosted on the People's Daily website at blog.people.com.cn (available in Chinese). Although 5,000 deputies and committee members are eligible to post blogs, only eight have so far taken up the offer. "We hope such blogs will help the NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members to better communicate with the public," Tang Weihong, the manager of the blog site, told the People's Daily Online. "The public wants to know what the NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members are doing. Many deputies and members are also willing to tell the people about their work." The move is being seen as an effort by lawmakers to stay in touch with the electorate and to embrace a technology that is sweeping the country: it is estimated that around 16 million Chinese citizens have their own blog.

From EgovernmentNews.com, March 15, 2006

U.N. Report Cites RP's E-government Readiness

The United Nations 2005 Global e-Government Readiness Report cites the Philippine government's online presence at http://www.gov.ph "for being on par with the best in the world." Although the country only placed 41st in its e-Government readiness index, the UN has good words for the Philippine portal: "Among the many notable features, the dedicated e-Services section illustrates that one can simply but effectively integrate information across departments and provide a single space for the users to find them." It also commended the site's wireless access provision using Short Messaging Service (SMS), Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) and Pocket PC. "Perhaps especially noteworthy, however, is the 'Issuance for Comments' section on the national site homepage, which invites the user to partake of the policy-making process by providing feedback," it added.

The Philippines' ranking in the new global index is also an improvement from last year's performance. In 2004, the country ranked 47th in the survey. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), which conducts the annual survey, ranks the 191 member-states of the UN according to a composite index based on its assessment of government websites, telecommunications infrastructure and human resources. It assesses more than 50,000 features of the e-government websites of these countries. "We hope that this survey will urge member-states to come up with new and innovative approaches for bridging the prevalent access-divide for the marginalized communities and in ensuring that new technologies become an effective tool in building an inclusive society for all," said Guido Bertucci, director of UNDESA's division for public administration and development management.

In 2005, 179 out of the 191 UN member-states were online and UNDESA noted the individual country's efforts in strengthening its online presence and "venturing into more mature areas of e-service delivery." For the Philippines, the UN assessment noted that its government portal has covered most of the basic functions and is also developing transactional facilities. It specifically mentioned the Department of Finance website which offers everything from e-services and e-bidding to basic participatory features. "The country needs to fortify sites at the ministerial level, which are good but far from matching the quality of its national site," it added. It may also be noteworthy to mention that vis-a-vis its neighbors in Southeast Asia, the Philippines ranked ahead of Malaysia (43rd), Thailand (46th), Brunei Darussalam (73rd), Indonesia (96th), Vietnam (105th), Cambodia (128th) and Myanmar (129th), although it is way behind Singapore (7th).

"It is very fortunate that the UN recognizes the country's efforts in terms of e-government. Through this, we were able to gain good stature in terms of providing government content online," said Angelo Timoteo Diaz de Rivera, commissioner for e-government development of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) and concurrently director of the National Computer Center (NCC), in a statement. De Rivera stressed, though, that the government has to work harder to ensure that its e-government efforts translate into better public service. He said one area that the Philippines has to improve on is its infrastructure, which, according to the NCC, is causing "constraints in the proliferation of e-government in the country."

While the Philippines has a score of 0.5721 in the e-Government readiness index, its infrastructure score is only 0.0840. According the UN report, the Philippines only has 4.4 Internet users and 2.8 PC owners per 100 people, or an Internet user and PC index of 0.065 and 0.034, respectively. Meanwhile, the country has 4.12 telephone lines and 26.9 cellular phones per 100 people, or a notably higher telephone index of 0.0396 and cellular index of 0.2257. Television ownership and online population are also higher with 11 TV sets and 7.7 online population per 100 people - or a TV index of 0.114 and online population index of 0.111.

In contrast, Singapore, the leading Southeast Asian country in the global survey, has an e-government readiness index of 0.8503 and an infrastructure index of 0.6448. It has 50.9 Internet users and 62.2 PC owners per 100 people, or an Internet index of 0.754 and PC index of 0.760. As in the past, the United States and Western European countries garnered the top slots in the global rankings. The US and Denmark maintained their status as the top two countries on the list, with an average e-government readiness index of 0.9062 and 0.9058, respectively. The Republic of Korea, one of only two Asian countries in the top 15 last year, also maintained its 5th position, while Singapore improved its ranking to 7th from 8th in 2004. Japan surged to No. 14 in this year's rankings from 18th the previous year, making it the third Asian country in the global top 15. The other countries in the top 15 are Sweden, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Finland, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Iceland.

From newsflash.org, March 15, 2006

 

Scottish Students to Get Virtual Work Experience

The Scottish Executive has launched a virtual work experience project for schoolchildren, according to UK e-government newswire eGov Monitor. The 3D computer program, which was tested at a school in Dunfermline and will be made available to all Scottish pupils by August, simulates a number of workplace environments and allows pupils to carry out interactive tasks in the virtual workplace. The project was devised by the Highlands and Islands branch of advisory body Careers Scotland, in partnership with BT and number of private and public sector agencies. "What excites me about this project is the way in which gaming technology and broadband have converged to help the pupils of today prepare for the challenges of tomorrow," said Bob Downes, director, BT Scotland. "And because it's virtual, it can beam a variety of workplaces into rural Scottish schools, where remoteness might otherwise preclude pupils from experiencing the full range of work on offer in our larger towns and cities."

From ElectronicNews.net, March 03, 2006

UK Councils to Get IT Test Lab

The UK's National Computing Centre (NCC) is partnering with Microsoft and Dell to create an IT proof-of-concept laboratory where local authorities can test-drive IT solutions. The centre, to be built at the NCC's Manchester office, will enable UK councils to test and assess new IT solutions, transfer knowledge and skills, and share IT best practice. The laboratory's aims are to help create cost and efficiency savings and to facilitate the transformation of local government business processes. The councils will be able to get independent advice from NCC consultants on the best applications and platforms to support them in their e-government efforts. "We believe local authorities, on average, can save up to 90 percent of their current IT management costs by optimising their infrastructure and managing it more effectively. A primary objective of the laboratory is to help them understand how," said Nigel Bates, the UK's head of Local and Regional Government.

From ElectronicNews.net, March 15, 2006

 

Gulf Energy Signs Agreement with Microsoft To Develop Tech Solutions for Energy City Qatar Project

Gulf Energy, a global consortium of energy consultants and investors, and the promoters of the multi-billion dollar Energy City Qatar project, on March 7, 2006 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Microsoft Corporation at a special ceremony coordinated on the sidelines of the ongoing Global Energy Forum in Houston, Texas. The MoU provides for the development and implementation of a new generation of advanced enterprise-level solutions to form the necessary technology infrastructure required for the groundbreaking Energy City Qatar project.

Located within the prestigious Lusail development in Doha, Energy City Qatar will become the Middle East's first integrated business energy centre, consolidating a range of industry and marketing services under one roof, attracting investment from significant global players in the hydrocarbon value chain and leading the development of the hydrocarbon industry. Acting as technology advisor, Accelerator Technology Holdings, a company aimed at helping identify, invest in and build best-of-breed ventures in the ICT value chain in the Arab world, is a co-signatory to the MoU.

Commenting on its significance, Sheikh Mohammed bin Ahmed bin Jassem Al Thani, Minister of Economy and Commerce, State of Qatar, said: "The State of Qatar is one of the fastest growing economies in the region and we are open to and are promoting all new ventures and strategic partnerships that would contribute positively to our growth. Thus, we welcome this agreement between Microsoft, a world leader in technology, and Energy City Qatar, an integrated centre for the energy business. We are confident that it will have a positive impact on our economy." The MoU, forms part of the strategy of Energy City Qatar to enter into global partnerships with specialist providers.

Commenting on the agreement with Microsoft, Mr. Esam Janahi, Chairman of Gulf Energy said: "Energy City Qatar has been conceived as the Middle East's first integrated energy business centre for the oil and gas industry in the region. It will be the most advanced centre of its type, wholly dedicated to serving the world's major oil and gas companies. "Access to technology will be a key business enabler and driver at Energy City Qatar, and our association with Microsoft is a reflection of our resolve to create a highly advanced technology infrastructure for this project." "We are confident that our association with Microsoft will be a major contribution towards developing Energy City Qatar into a technology-smart city."

Announced in 2005, Energy City Qatar is a landmark project that will become the region's first integrated energy business centre for above-ground resources, leading the development of hydrocarbons. It also aims at playing host to secondary and tertiary economic activities that will in turn contribute to the economic and social development of the region, which currently accounts for over three quarters of the world's proven oil reserves. "Microsoft is very pleased to have signed this MoU with Gulf Energy. Microsoft works closely with a large number of global and local partners in the oil and gas industry, which gives us the insight and understanding of the business and technology requirements of this vital sector in the world economy," said Marisé Mikulis, worldwide oil and gas industry manager, Microsoft Corporation.

"Microsoft is also one of the leaders in the development of the digital workstyle/ lifestyle and automated environments. We plan to provide companies and individuals working and residing in Energy City Qatar access to state-of-the-art, integrated solutions and services, enabling them to achieve their innovative objectives and visions. We look forward to working with Gulf Energy to realize their vision of Energy City Qatar and to contributing to this important element of Qatar's drive to become a world-class hub for the energy industry" added Mohammad Hammoudi, Country Manager, Microsoft Qatar. The signing of the MoU between Gulf Energy and Microsoft closely follows the recent appointment of Gulf Finance House as lead financial advisor, and PFC Energy as lead strategic advisor for Energy City Qatar.

Dr. Fawaz H. Zu'bi, Chief Executive Officer, Accelerator Technology Holdings and former Minister of Information and Communications Technology in Jordan, said: "By its very nature, the energy sector is extremely technology intensive - be it subsurface imagery, knowledge management, or fundamental supply chain and enterprise management. As an integrated energy business centre, it is essential that Energy City Qatar provide its tenants and clients not just with access to state-of-the- art technology but also with advanced technology customisation facilities. It is here where global technology leaders such as Microsoft will play a pivotal role in shaping the value proposition of Energy City Qatar."

The first phase of Energy City Qatar will be developed at an investment of US$1.6 billion. Gulf Finance House, in partnership with Kuwait Investment Company and Abu Dhabi Investment House, recently concluded a US$276 million private placement aimed at raising equity for the project. The proposed clusters that will comprise the first development phase of the project include business centres for oil and gas producers, infrastructure and downstream companies, shipping and trading agencies, service industries, and information providers.

Energy City Qatar - Feel the Energy - Energy City Qatar (ECQ) is a pioneering development that will be the Gulf's first hydrocarbon industry hub. ECQ will be a single point of access to markets and expertise, the Middle East home for global players in the hydrocarbon value chain. Developed by Gulf Energy, ECQ aims to attract the industry leaders in O&G production, IOCs, NOCs, support services, infrastructure and downstream activities, shipping and trading, market and resource data, intellectual property and energy trading. ECQ has the full support of Qatar's Government and aims to lead the way in hydrocarbon above-ground resource development.

ECQ forms part of the major new city development, Lusail, which is being developed by Qatari Diar Real Estate and Investment Company.
In addition to major business and entertainment districts, this development will be home to up to 200,000 residents. Qatar is the most progressive, business friendly and the fastest growing economy in the Middle East. Home to the world's third largest natural gas reserve, Qatar has a stable and maturing political environment, a free press and best in class internationally recognised regulatory environment.

The Seoul Times, March 03, 2006

Dubai eGovernment's Website Attracts 167 Percent more Visitors during 2005

Dubai eGovernment, the region's most advanced digital governance project, initiated by the Government of Dubai has announced that its pioneering portal, www.dubai.ae, has received record responses from the public during 2005. The user traffic to the portal increased by an overwhelming 167 per cent last year, with the number of visitors to the site going up by 115,777 from 69,286 in January 2005 to touch 185,063 visitors in December 2005. The DeG's portal offers an integrated online eService window for various Departments of Government of Dubai, where people can conduct their transactions and interface with the government round the clock and across all geographies.

Salem Al Shair, eServices Director, Dubai eGovernment said: 'The response to our innovative portal from Dubai residents and visitors reflects their awareness of using the eService to get their work done especially with an innovative, secure and transparent portal like www.dubai.ae .' The percentage of international visitors using the website grew more than three-fold from 13.28 per cent in March 2005 to 47.74 per cent in December 2005. This was as a result of the enhanced position in tourism that Dubai achieved in the world. The number of new visitors accessing the portal more than doubled during the year, from 18,959 in January to 48,365 in December 2005 while repeat visits increased three-fold from 4,562 in the first month of the year to 12,893 by December end.

The portal also saw a steady increase in the average number of visitors accessing its online services throughout the year. From a low average of 2,235 daily visitors in January 2005, the number more than doubled to 5,969 by the end of the year but rose three-fold in September, reaching the highest average of 6,538 visitors per day. 'The marked increase in number of people adopting eServices through the portal is an indication the ever reducing gap between state-of-the-art infrastructure, quality of eServices and the expectations of the people using the services,' added Al Shair.

Al Shair also stressed on the role played by the portal in easing the daily lives of people and of businesses in Dubai, as the service provides then with the highest standards in security and reliability. The UAE, with a total of 1.9 million Internet users or 34.7 per cent of the total population, has been named as one of the world's top countries in terms of e-government readiness in a recent report published by the United Nations Online Public Network and Finance (UNPAN) agency. It states that the UAE has posted one of the most "impressive year-over-year gains" among all the countries of the world after moving up from a ranking of 60 in 2004 to 42 in 2005.

The Seoul Times, March 03, 2006

 

Microsoft, Government Partnerships Solve Challenges for Citizens in the Americas

GLF Americas event will highlight new models for access to technology and connected government services around the globe. Microsoft Corp. today announced plans to formalize its global commitment to the partnerships for technology access (PTA) initiative, part of the company's ongoing efforts to help governments and local industry build knowledge-based economies in underserved countries and regions. In her address to the 200 political, business and academic leaders from Canada, Latin America and the United States at the Microsoft® Government Leaders Forum (GLF) -- Americas in Washington, D.C., today, Gerri Elliott, corporate vice president of Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft, highlighted the critical role that public-private partnerships can play to solve challenges faced by governments and their citizens around the world.

"Governments tell us they want to develop partnerships to help their citizens, local industries and communities accelerate social and economic development," said Elliott. "Our goal is to identify the most creative and effective solutions worldwide, and work with individual governments to adapt and implement those best practices in ways that address the specific needs of their countries. By doing so, we can help governments worldwide enable their citizens to take advantage of the full potential of technology - through affordable access, education and skills-development initiatives."

Elliott showcased a number of pioneering initiatives that are changing the way governments think about delivering services to citizens around the world. These deployments include a collaboration with global solution provider Voxiva to deliver a citizen security application for a township in Argentina, and continued uptake of the Microsoft Solutions Sharing Network (SSN).

Driving Affordable PC Purchasing Through Micro-Financing - Microsoft's PTA is an innovative initiative drawing on the expertise of government, technology organizations and financial institutions. The partnerships are designed to put a PC purchase within reach of underserved citizens and small-business owners, through creative financing program anchored by existing in-country government programs. Each program is customized according to the specific government programs in place and the needs of the citizens in that country, making the program both affordable and relevant. Program trials have been run in several countries, including Egypt, Lebanon and Mexico. The results so far have been very encouraging, demonstrating market growth and synergy with governments' economic development goals.

In Mexico, for instance, Microsoft is working collaboratively with hardware vendors; a local Internet service provider; local construction companies; and INFONAVIT, a government agency chartered with promoting home ownership among working Mexicans by facilitating access to credit for families that would otherwise not qualify for a home mortgage loan. Through the partnerships for technology access initiative, the Mexican government has extended its existing program to promote home ownership among modest-income workers to include a PC purchase. Eligible home buyers are presented with the option to acquire a PC when they purchase their new house, and the cost of the computer is amortized with the 25-year home loan.

"Our challenge is to provide not just a house, but to provide Mexican families with additional benefits, like access to technology," said Victor M. Borras, general manager of INFONAVIT. INFONAVIT, together with Microsoft, plays an important role in the improvement of access to technologies to Mexican citizens, contributing to local growth and economic development.

Creating Partnerships That Deliver Better Government Services for Citizens - Emergency response is another important area where Microsoft technology is helping make government services more efficient and effective. Voxiva, a provider of ASP-hosted solutions for health and human services, has partnered with Microsoft to deliver Voxiva CitizenNet(TM) to the citizens of Pergamino, Argentina, a city of 70,000 outside Buenos Aires. Voxiva CitizenNet enables the public not served by a traditional "911" emergency response system to report crimes or other incidents through any type of phone. Data is automatically captured by the system (phone number, address, time and date) directly from the caller (category of report, description of incident). Once an electronic incident report has been created, it is then filtered for routing and action. Critical emergencies receive immediate operator attention, while nonessential calls are managed according to their priority. Voxiva CitizenNet also provides real-time analytical tools that allow the authorities to develop crime and incident maps, monitor crime rates, and manage response times and success rates.

"Voxiva focuses on helping governments and local authorities implement high-value but cost-effective solutions that improve public safety and citizen participation," said Justin Sims, CEO, Voxiva. "Pergamino's adoption of Voxiva CitizenNet is our first deployment in Argentina. It will provide a great example to other municipalities here that are serious about reducing crime rates and improving responsiveness to public concerns."

Partnering on Solutions That Deliver Better-Connected Government - Addressing the critical need for governments to adopt or modernize their connected government strategy, Microsoft showcased the Illinois Department of Central Management Services' (CMS') Knowledge Management solution as an example of how technology can increase efficiencies for government operations. CMS deployed a solution based on SSN that consolidates procurement resources from all agencies into one central location, leading to more intelligent public procurement and saving millions of taxpayers dollars.

"By launching our Knowledge Management platform, the state of Illinois has revolutionized its procurement process because our purchasing experts can better negotiate and reduce costs by making informed decisions," said Paul Campbell, director of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services. "Knowledge Management could enhance procurement in government nationwide because it helps to deliver better contracts, stronger negotiating strategies and real-time pricing information that ultimately achieves the best value that taxpayers expect."

Other customers seeing results from the SSN program are the University of Southern California, the Local Government Computer Services Board of Ireland and the National Association of Counties, all of which have worked with Microsoft to create efficiency in public service, increase their responsiveness, and cut down on the cost of their own regulations.

Microsoft's connected government strategy is unique in that it brings together the functional infrastructure of government with a core technology infrastructure that enables governments to achieve the following: -- Agile and responsive delivery of policy advice and service
-- Strengthened transparency and accountability; -- Enhanced ability to function effectively in a global context; -- Efficient administration. M
icrosoft has published a new white paper that identify capabilities fundamental to government operation, highlighting the challenges governments will face in the next decade and describing how to enable seamless delivery of services across functions, agencies and jurisdictions. The paper is available at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/events/glfamericas.

The Microsoft Government Leaders Forum is a two-day event for government, industry and academia across the Americas to explore the use of information and communication technologies. The GLF provides a forum for government delegates to formulate successful strategies in key areas relating to connected government, digital learning, employability skills and the transition to the knowledge economy. Keynote speakers at this year's event include Gerri Elliott, corporate vice president of Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft; Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates; the Honorable Madeleine K. Albright, former secretary of state, United States (1997-2001); Luis Alberto Moreno, president, Inter-American Development Bank; and the Honorable Bob Rae, Former Premier, Ontario, Canada.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential. Microsoft is a registered trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries. The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

From Yahoo.News, March 14, 2006

Security Scores High on US Agenda

The US Budget for fiscal 2007 is heavily weighted in favour of IT projects devoted to homeland security and the "war on terror", according to a study by government market analyst firm Input. Nearly half of the new funding allocated for IT is going to the Department of Homeland Security, which has been given a 21 percent increase in its budget to more than USD4.4 billion. In total, federal agencies plan to spend USD64.3 billion on IT next year, a 3 percent rise over this year's IT spend. Funding for cybersecurity has also risen, with a new budget allocation of USD5.2 billion. "The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) acknowledges that while reporting tools for the Federal Information Security Management Act and systems training remain solid, more work is needed in security product and systems evaluation and response initiatives," said James Krouse of Input. "In addition, more focus will be placed on how agencies identify and manage risk."

From ElectronicNews.net, March 01, 2006

 

Knowledge Management Works, Here's How: Gaps in Information Flows Have Constrained Both SSI Demand and Supply of Credit

Today, the worth of a business depend more on its intellectual capital than on physical. Globalisation of supply chains, rapid technological advances, superior returns on intellectual capital, growing importance of knowledge-intensive industries make KM a strategic tool. Integration of SMEs with regional, national and global supply chains require bridging the gaps between what supply chains need and efficiency of SMEs' KM system, besides their capability. In developing countries, a majority of SMEs suffer from market failures due to insufficient provision for integrated, reliable, relevant and solution-oriented business information. SMEs need support for effective linking with global markets, both for inputs and outputs.

Businesses leveraging knowledge resources make decisions faster and closer to point of action. It also helps in mitigating risk, exploiting business opportunities and better understanding of market signals. The explosive growth in flow of information has transformed the basic tenets of SSI development strategy. Protection, developmental initiatives in terms of provision for infrastructure and credit and fiscal incentives are now proving to be less efficient and helpful in sustainable growth of SSI units. Structural changes in the economy, import liberalisation, fierce competition and increasing quality consciousness make run-of-the-mill units less viable. This is reflected in poor financials of SFCs and steep decline in number of SSI accounts with public sector banks from 32 lakh in mid-1990s to 17 lakh in FY 2005.

Gaps in KM have resulted in both supply-side and demand-side constraints in growth of SSI. Supply-side constraints include information asymmetry on viability and return on investment in SME projects raises the risk of adverse selection for banks. Very often KM in banks is confined to compilation of data. Contextualising and converting the data into actionable-knowledge is required for evaluation of knowledge-intensive, innovative, new product oriented projects. Credit assessment in such ventures has to be driven by knowledge, not tangible security. Though banks have rating modules, their decisions are biased towards tangible security. Consequently, credit flows to knowledge-based SMEs remain tight.

Demand-side constraints information infirmities that aggravate the uncertainties about cost patterns and return on investment, choice of technology, scale of production and business viability, which discourage capital investment by entrepreneurs. SMEs mostly do not have the resources and expertise to access and transform information into intelligent insight. Despite their potential , the lack of enabling environment hampers global connectivity for their products. Many countries have instituted KM strategies for their SMEs. Portugal's development of an informational portal for SMEs envisages on-line access to SMEs for addressing their specific needs. Working closely with MNCs generate positive impact for potential SME-suppliers. Inflow of FDI can have beneficial developmental effect with more and better linkages between MNCs and SMEs, eg, automobile component manufacturing SMEs in our country.

Well-developed SMEs attract FDI inflow, which further strengthens MNC-SME linkages. Large FDI inflows to China with progressive integration of SMEs there with international manufacturing system has greatly helped in transforming the country into a global manufacturing powerhouse. To move ahead, an integrated knowledge network and information super-highway for SMEs that links all relevant information sources are basic needs. Promotional, developmental and financing institutions, industry associations, chamber of commerce etc have to commit resources and assistance to make the KM strategy tangible and economically viable. The gaps in knowledge management are affecting investment in the sector. Low capital accumulation affects employment generation, long-term competitiveness, production capability and SMEs' access and integration into globalised supply chains. These require substantial investment. The world over it is the SMEs, which play a major role in innovation, revitalisation of economy and creation of new jobs, but propelling SME-growth in India requires a sound Knowledge Management strategy for the sector.

From Financial Express, March 03, 2006

Google Dodges Knowledge Management Question

Analysis: The line between enterprise search and knowledge management is a fine one, says the search giant, but it won't be drawn on where it sees the future of its Enterprise business. Google has hinted that it could create an extremely powerful corporate knowledge management or information management platform by integrating products such as its search appliances with its other search and communications applications. Speaking at the launch of Google's latest Mini search appliance on Thursday, product marketing manager Arvind Desikan admitted that integrating different Google enterprise-class search technologies together, such as the Enterprise Desktop Search and Google Enterprise Toolbar, would benefit business customers. "The more things we have integrated, the more useful it will be," he said.

But Desikan would not be drawn on whether Google is planning to develop its enterprise search tools to compete with entrenched knowledge management vendors such as the UK's Autonomy. "I won't speculate on the way this is heading. Basically, we are looking to take what Google did for consumers to the workplace," he said. Knowledge management is a term that was extremely popular back at the turn of the millennium but suffers from a lack of a standard definition - with different vendors and analysts disagreeing on what it really means. At a basic level, knowledge management is about businesses managing internal information more effectively, including the tacit or unstructured information that resides with specific individuals.

Although Google may not have a knowledge management platform per se, its search products are being used by several large enterprises for extremely complex information management projects, according to Desikan. "We appear to have served the knowledge management needs of several large companies to date, including BA and Schlumberger," he said.

In a recent research report, Knowledge Management Enables the High-Performance Workplace, analyst group Gartner claimed that nearly all large organisations have implemented knowledge management to support at least one critical business process. "While human knowledge may be an organisation's most valuable asset, much of this knowledge is never shared. Harnessing critical knowledge and using it to create a common vision and objectives can move an organisation closer to realizing a high-performance workplace," the report stated. Commenting on whether Google has plans to push into the knowledge management arena, Desikan added that the line between search and knowledge management was a fine one. "It is a matter of semantics. Knowledge management is essentially about giving users the right information at the right time."

One sign that Google's enterprise search competitors may be feeling the heat was market leader Autonomy's decision to acquire competitor Verity in November, for around £300m. The combined companies will be better placed to fight any strong moves by Google into the knowledge management arena as a result. Speaking to ZDNet UK sister site silicon.com recently, Mike Lynch, chief executive of Autonomy, said that he is intent on developing far more intuitive network searches within the enterprise.

Last month, Google announced a partnership with consultancy BearingPoint, formerly KPMG Consulting, to help the search giant cater to the search needs of specific industries, like pharmaceuticals, banking, high-tech and aerospace. "Search as an application is becoming more and more in demand from within the enterprise," said Chris Weitz, managing director of BearingPoint, at the time. "Our research has shown that users already use Google all day long and they want to continue to use it in other ways. We are going to extend it into parts of the enterprise it currently does not go."

From ZDNet UK, March 03, 2006

EU Reaches Out to Ease Language Barriers

A new EU project aims to ease linguistic difficulties for EU citizens who are not resident in their own state when communicating with the government of another state, reports the European Commission's eGovernment Observatory. A pilot project known as HANDS (Helping Answers Decision Service) will soon see public bodies in the UK, Belgium, Germany and Italy offer an online communication service to users. Accessing the service via government websites, EU citizens will be able to submit questions in their own language, using everyday speech. They will then receive a reply in their own language, including any relevant documentation that they might need, along with pointers to contact relevant public bodies for more information. This kind of communication is enabled through the project's use of advanced Natural Language-Processing technology. The 18-month, EUR850,000 project is being funded by the EU's eTen programme, which promotes cross-border e-services among EU member states.

From ElectronicNews.net, March 01, 2006

 
 

Cameroon to Host Francophone Financial Agency`s Headquarters

Yaounde, Cameroon, 03/25 - Cameroon is to host the regional training Council of Higher Institutions in charge Public Finance in French-Speaking Sub-Saharan Africa, CREFIAF, official sources said here Friday. Foreign Minister Laurent Esso and CREFIAF Chairman, David Etame Massoma signed the hosting agreement at a ceremony Thursday witnessed by the Canadian High Commissioner (Ambassador) to Cameroon, Gilles Savaria. CREFIAF, which was established in 1997, groups 23 Higher Institutions of public finance control in French-Speaking Sub-Saharan Africa. It seeks to improve the capacity and status of the institutions in promoting transparency and efficiency in the use and management of public funds.

From angolapress-angop.ao, March 25, 2006

 

Governor Buta Singh Cost Bihar Rs 8,752cr

Startling facts about fiscal profligacy during the President's Rule in Bihar have come to light in a white paper that is currently under preparation in Patna by the state finance ministry. The Bihar government's record on debt has never been inspiring, but the paper clearly shows that it was not (NOT) during the Lalu Prasad -Rabri Devi rule that most excesses were committed. The paper notes that between 1991 and 2004, the Bihar government's debt rose and amounted to Rs 23,900 crore for the entire 13-year period. However, between March 2004 and March 2006 (the period between former Chief Minister Rabri Devi demitting office and the first three months of the Nitish Kumar government), Bihar's debt added up to Rs 8,752 crore over a period of around 24 months.

Bihar's debt was Rs 10,501 crore in 1991 and stood at Rs 34,401 crore in March 2004. This figure rose to Rs 39,344 crore in March 2005, and is expected to touch Rs 43,153 crore by the end of March 2006. This means Governor Buta Singh ran up bills worth Rs 8,752 crore in two years that Bihar could not and has no means of paying. The current figure of Rs 43,153 crore Bihar currently owes is unsustainable unless the gross state domestic product (GSDP) grows at 5% for the foreseeable future. The alternative is a permanent debt servicing burden on public finance. Officials repeat the conventional wisdom - bifurcation of Bihar was the worst thing that happened to the state because the new state ended up being burdened with roughly 75% of the debt while accounting for only 60% of total production and with a much lower per capita income than Jharkhand.

Interest on debt increased from 11% of revenue expenditure in the late 1980s to 26% in 2003-04 (before declining to 21% in 2004/05(RE) for a variety of reasons including central policies), as a share of GSDP to nearly 6% and accounting for nearly 40% of the total increase in public expenditure. Officials said that since the mid-1980s till around 2004, expenditure on social services remained at a little over 30% of total spending. By contrast, the share of general services, which include debt service and pension expenditure, grew steadily from about 25% to 43% of total spending. Economic services were cut by over half to 16%. Irrigation and rural development spending virtually halved from 23% to 10% of total spending. Expenditure on agriculture fell even further by nearly two-thirds to under 3%. Bringing out a white paper on finance was one of the committments made after the Nitish Kumar government took office. Last month, Finance Minister Sushil Modi said in the Bihar assembly that a white paper on the mismanagement of finances by Bihar would be made public "next week."

From business-standard.com, March 28, 2006

Card Debt Unlikely to Alter Nation's Ratings, Fitch Says

James McCormack, head of Asian sovereign ratings at Fitch Ratings, was in town yesterday and spoke with 'Taipei Times' staff reporter Amber Chung about the risk to the nation's sovereign rating posed by rising consumer debt and cross-strait tensions. Taipei Times: Will spiraling credit and cash card bad debt shake the nation's finance sector and dent economic growth? James McCormack: We don't expect the credit and cash card bad debt problem in Taiwan to be as bad as it was in South Korea, as the level of bad debt grew faster than here, which is good news.

From the sovereign ratings perspective, the bad loan issue may not be the factor driving our ratings. It is more likely to be a factor in changes to ratings of individual financial institutions. But the problem could be something that will affect Taiwan's economic growth negatively, and that is something we need to look at closely and may lead to downward revision of our growth forecast. Consumers may have to change their borrowing behavior to borrow less and save more, and the downside of that is a possible consumption contraction, or a consumer credit crunch, which would in turn affect economic growth. Fitch's forecast for Taiwan's economic growth this year is 4 percent, and there is a likelihood for downward revision when we look at the risk of weakening consumption and decelerating export growth in the second half of this year, as the US economy is expected to slow down.

TT: Are you concerned about a proposal to lower the interest rate cap to 12 percent from 20 percent? McCormack: We don't think the proposal is a good one and we disagree with the proposed measures, which run counter to market principles. When a government interferes in the market directly, it often gets an end result that is an unintended consequence. Legislation that distorts the behavior of market participants by attaching inappropriate interest rates could result in debt burdens that people and enterprises would not otherwise incur, or push people to borrow from other sources like underground lenders as banks tighten lending. Debt could grow faster than it [normally] would and this uncertainty causes concern to ratings agencies. The bad-debt issue should be resolved in the market through ways like resolution with creditor banks. Capping interest rates is not a solution at all.

TT: Would such action impact on the nation's sovereign ratings? McCormack: Probably not. We focus on the government's ability to repay its own debts, to which our ratings refer. It is difficult to draw a link between the capping of interest rates on consumers and the government's debt burden. It is not a good policy backdrop for the economy but we don't rate the policy environment and do not see necessarily a deterioration in public finance in this matter. Fitch gave Taiwan A+ in its sovereign rating with a stable outlook, the same as South Korea's A+, higher than China's A and beneath Hong Kong's AA-. Taiwan has a fundamental strength in its external sector as a net external creditor, which means the rest of the world owes Taiwan money. This is a fundamental support to Taiwan's ratings. Also, Taiwan is strong in balance of payments, including positive export earnings, foreign income earnings and foreign exchange reserves.

Negatives include weakening public finance, as we expect a continued increase in government debt this year. ... The outlook this year could be less rosy as the risk of bad debts could dent Taiwan's economic growth, while government debt is highly likely to go up. Political risk in Taiwan's relations with China is another risk we need to be aware of and factor in when reviewing ratings. TT: Could the recent tensions in the Taiwan Strait lead to a downgrade in Taiwan's ratings? McCormack: The event [the government's announcement to cease the operation of the National Unification Council and guidelines] constrained the ratings, actually, which means that Taiwan's ratings might be higher if the issue was not overhanging the country.

This is a negative issue as we can see from the responses from the US and China, but not big enough for Fitch to alter fundamentally the risk profile. The situation has not become unmanageable. Fitch will review Taiwan's sovereignty ratings around July and we have not seen substantial issues that would drive the ratings higher or lower so far. We will closely watch the credit-card issue to see how it's resolved and if the government is leaning toward intervening in the market. If they do, this will give us less confidence in Taiwan's policymakers and the economic policy environment.

From taipeitimes.com, March 22, 2006

Indian Infrastructure Finance Reforms a Model for Emerging Market: Fitch

Mumbai: Recent efforts adopted by the Indian government to develop its infrastructure plans and reforms of its local government are showing positive results despite the slow implementation, says Fitch Ratings. These efforts have resulted in the country's move towards an emerging market model for its infrastructure finance, and a more sophisticated domestic bond market. "There are hopeful signs that India will become an emerging market model for both the decentralisation of governmental responsibility as well as for the creation of sustainable financing for infrastructure projects," says William Streeter, managing director and head of international public finance, Japan and Asia Pacific, in a special report titled, India's Public Finance Outlook: Towards an Emerging Market Model.

In the report Fitch further notes that India's central government infrastructure development plans and local government reforms provide a very supportive platform for these efforts. Some of these measures include financial incentives to local governments for participating in the reforms. Nevertheless, despite the push from the government, Fitch notes that the implementation of these reforms has been slow. In the report, the agency also notes that recent financing experiments by several key Indian states - using a variety of pooled and conduit financing techniques through state-owned corporations - hold much promise as proto-types for the sustainable financing of infrastructure projects in India. "If these financing structures are adopted properly by more states, they will also promote diversification of India's domestic bond market," says N Raju, associate director, Fitch India. Raju adds that a few of the larger cities and local government corporations have also begun entering the bond market on a standalone basis.

With India's rapid urbanisation, there is an ever increasing need to provide basic infrastructure, particularly water, sanitation, roads and solid waste management. "The financial resources required to expand these basic amenities are enormous, resulting in a yawning resource gap that cannot be met from traditional central and state government grants and loans," says S. Nandakumar, director at Fitch India.

Recognition of this funding gap has resulted in a nearly universal acceptance that the private sector can and should play a larger role in the financing of infrastructure in partnership with the public sector, whether actively as a project sponsor or passively as an institutional bond investor. According to Fitch's report, the latter role carries greater promise for enhancing the existing supply of capital for infrastructure, provided that structural provisions meaningfully enhance the credit quality of proposed debt instruments so as to engage the country's domestic debt market.

For states and urban local bodies to access domestic capital markets for their infrastructure projects, fundamental changes in their governance and financial position are required. These include improvements in local budgeting, revenue collection and accounting methods, voter participation in project planning and approval, policy coordination between levels of government, and increased financial transparency to regulators, rating agencies, investors and the public. The agency says that reliable local government revenue streams will eventually reduce or eliminate over-reliance on governmental guarantees or subsidies. A copy of the special report titled, "India's Public Finance Outlook: Towards an Emerging Market Model," will shortly be available at the Fitch website. Fitch Ratings is one of the three large global credit rating agencies, which rates over 5,300 banks and financial institutions, including some 1900 insurance companies, more than 2000 corporates and 96 sovereigns as well as public finance, sub-sovereigns and structured finance transactions.

From domain-b.com, March 20, 2006

 

Visco Says Quarterly Report Was Due February

(AGI) - Rome, Italy, Mar 27 - Leading DS party member Vincenzo Visco today said "someone should break it the premier that the quarterly outlay reports requested by Prodi was due for submittal last February since it concerns Q4 2005", the latter report, according to Visco "is extremely relevant in that it incorporates balance at close of 2005, hence providing a test for the reliability of 2006 forecasts. We demand that it be submitted immediately". "Unfortunately - says Visco - this isn't the first time that the government breaches regulations on accounting transparency; for one, the 2006 planning and outlook report was submitted with a 2 month delay; the July to September quarterly outlay report due for submittal November 20 last was submitted a the beginning of March". Visco concludes by asking "Finance Minister Tremonti to have the Ministry's website updated to make up for the absence of very important information such as the quarterly outlay reports for the first nine months of 2005 as well as the Ministry's 2005 general economic report 2005". (AGI) .

From agi.it, March 27, 2006

APS: Kommunalkredit: No. 1 in Public Finance Reports Strong Growth

Vienna - CEO Platzer Presents Annual Accounts for 2005: Growth in all Fields of Business /Continued Expansion Also in Central and Eastern Europe - Kommunalkredit, Austria's No. 1 in public finance, succeeded in further strengthening its position and moved up to 8th place in the ranking of Austrian banks. This is confirmed by the Group's key figures for 2005, which Dr. Reinhard Platzer, Chairman of the Executive Board, presented on Tuesday. "Once again, we are able to report substantial growth in all our fields of business. The performance of our holdings has also been highly satisfactory." Asked about the strategic orientation of the Kommunalkredit Group, CEO Platzer underlined, "We will maintain our niche-market orientation as a provider of finance for the public sector. Demand for Maastricht-compliant financing solutions will be high both in Austria and at the international level. Building on our know-how and our specialization in this area, we will be able to conquer additional market shares, above all in Central and Eastern Europe." As CEO Platzer pointed out, this approach is being supported by the new majority owner, Osterreichische Volksbanken AG.

A capital increase by EUR 78.6 million at the beginning of 2006 generated a great deal of additional momentum for further growth. Moreover, participation capital of EUR 150 million is to be issued in the course of 2006. The going-concern value of the Company has increased by a factor of 21 since 1990 and gone up by 78 since 2004 alone. The international operations of the Kommunalkredit Group have also been expanding at a fast pace, not least through the establishment of Dexia Kommunalkredit Bank in March 2005. The Group has positioned itself as the market leader in Slovakia through its holding in Dexia banka Slovensko and moved up to third place in the Polish market through Dexia
Kommunalkredit Polska. Other successful entities of the Group include Kommunalkredit International Bank, headquartered in Cyprus, Limassol, and the head offices - some of them of quite recent origin - in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

In 2005, markets showed a lively interest in Kommunalkredit Covered Bonds, a funding instrument developed by Kommunalkredit in 2003 and rated Aaa by Moody's. At the beginning of 2006, Kommunalkredit placed its fourth jumbo-format bond issue with a total volume of
EUR 1 billion. The Key Figures for 2005 - Kommunalkredit Group: Total assets increased by 43.8 to EUR 20.4 billion, which represents the highest rate of absolute growth ever achieved in the history of the Kommunalkredit Group. Two thirds of the Group's total assets are accounted for by its international financing operations. Loans and advances to customers within the core target groups (public entities,
utilities, infrastructure) grew from EUR 7.6 billion to EUR 9.7 billion.

In the year under review, funds for refinancing were raised almost exclusively within the framework of Kommunalkredit's "Debt Issuance Programme" (programme volume: EUR 14 billion) and the "Commercial Paper Programme" of Kommunalkredit International Bank. Kommunalkredit Covered Bonds, rated Aaa by Moody's, were placed successfully, including jumbo-format transactions. The after-tax profit exceeded the previous year's value of EUR 32 million by 33.4. The Executive Board of Kommunalkredit will propose to the Annual General Meeting on 31 May 2006 that a dividend of EUR 23.98 per share, i.e. 33(dividend of 19 plus a 14 bonus) be distributed for the business year 2005. The cost/income ratio of 44.4 and the return on equity of 20.1 (before tax) and 17.4 (after tax) are highly satisfactory by both national and international standards and reflect the sound cost and income situation of Kommunalkredit.

With two double-A ratings (Aa3 by Moody's and AA- by Fitch), Kommunalkredit - alongside Dexia-Kom - is the best-rated Austrian Bank not covered by a public guarantee. The shares held by Investkredit are taken over by Osterreichische Volksbanken AG retroactively as of 1 January 2006. Thus, the new ownership structure is as follows: 50.78 held by Osterreichische Volksbanken AG, 0.22by the Austrian Association of
Municipalities, 49 by Dexia Credit Local. Dexia Kommunalkredit Bank Group: Dexia-Kom (the "successor" to Dexia Kommunalkredit Holding) reported consolidated total assets of EUR 4 billion in its first year of operation. Owing to the steep increase in total assets, net interest income grew by more than 30 to EUR 34.1 million. As of 31 December 2005, the pre-tax profit for the year stood at EUR 7.5 million.

Rated AA2 (Moody's) and AA (Fitch) by the international rating agencies, Dexia-Kom is the best-rated bank operating exclusively in Central and Eastern Europe. The key figures online: www.kommunalkredit.at/kennzahlen. Press statement and photographs for downloading: www.kommunalkredit.at/kommunal/. Enquiries to be addressed to: Kommunalkredit Austria AG, Cornelia Schragl-Kellermayer, Tel.: +43-(0)1-31-6-31-532. mailto:c.schragl@kommunalkredit.at www.kommunalkredit.at www.dexia-kom.at - ANP Pers Support, het ANP is niet verantwoordelijk voor de inhoud van bovenstaand bericht. ANP Pers Support is een joint venture van het ANP en PR Newswire.

From persupport.nl, March 21, 2006

Almunia Warns about Long-Term Public Finance Sustainability

European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia has repeated European Commission's recent assessment that Slovenia will face problems regarding long-term sustainability of the country's public expenditure. The well-known effect of the aging population makes it clear that the Slovenian public finance system needs reforms to face that challenge, Almunia said in an interview for the STA on Friday, 17 March. In its February assessment, the European Commission stated that the country has to take concrete measures to reduce public expenditure. Almunia moreover commented on the sale of the state's stake in the country's largest bank Nova Ljubljanska banka (NLB) to the Belgian banking and insurance group KBC, by saying that the EU does not differentiate between private- and state-owned companies.

"All companies, regardless of their owners, must respect the rules of the free market, the principle of free flow of capital and the rules of competition," he pointed out. He moreover said that the Commission deals with "companies and markets", when being asked whether the European Commission prefers private or publicly-owned companies. Almunia attended the conference "Entering EMU and adopting the euro: Slovenia on its way to introducing the euro", and met PM Janez Jansa before wrapping-up his visit to the country. The commissioner also claims that the budgetary situation in the EU and the eurozone is getting better, caused by the 2005-amended Stability and Growth Pact and a surge of economic activity in the eurozone.

Economic growth will speed up, regardless of the recent rise of interest rates for the eurozone, he said, adding that several eurozone members are expecting an even larger than the anticipated 1.9% growth. Almunia sees structural problems as the biggest threat to the economy's growth. To increase our capacity to grow, we must speed up our structural reforms, as the fiscal policy in the eurozone is no more restrictive as in other places in the world, Almunia claimed. He cited the United Kingdom, which has managed to outpace the average growth rate in the eurozone, besides having higher interest rates and a budgetary deficit, similar to that of the eurozone. He believes the reason for that lies in the country's more flexible and robust economy, a consequence of important reforms in the past.

After speaking to the STA, Almunia met representatives of the parliamentary finance and monetary policy committee, parliamentary economics committee, and the EU affairs committee. He said that the Commission has placed individual EU countries into three brackets regarding their long-term sustainability of public expenditures, with Slovenia falling into the highest-risk category. He also called for simplifications to be made to Slovenia's tax system. The country must also continue to strive for a consensus on the necessary economic and social reforms, he told the MPs. Source: Slovene Press Agency STA

From Slovene Press Agency STA, March 27, 2006

 
 

Former Zambian President Calls for Partnership in Poverty Reduction

Zambian former president Kenneth Kaunda called here on Monday for a public-private partnership in alleviating poverty and providing care and treatment for those infected with HIV/AIDS, stressing joining hand of civil society and the government is key to supporting the weak and vulnerable. When he graced the two-day Civil Society Conference on Positive Living at Mulungushi International Conference Center, the former president said that the positive living has been of virtue in the African tradition. Kaunda however said that positive living should not only be for those living with the virus but for everyone, adding that the converse of positive living would entail gender violence and abuse of women and girls.

Data indicates that the highest rate of HIV infections and deaths are in the southern African region. "Ignoring such statistics would be at the peril of Zambia and the region at large, " he said. "The Civil Society Conference on Positive Living would bring out positive ideas to mount an effective response against the AIDS pandemic." The former president appealed to leaders, sports personalities, civil society, churches, traditional leaders, and the private sector to be actively involved in public awareness campaign as well as in providing care to the infected. He further urged the government to take the lead in the efforts for resource mobilization among people to effectively deal with the AIDS pandemic and provide necessary assistance to orphans. Kaunda also acknowledged the important role that the media carry on their shoulders in disseminating information on the activities that the government and the civil society implement.

From Xinhua, 17 March, 2006

Private Sector Wants Share from Subsidy

Fertiliser and seed companies have proposed a partnership with government in the distribution of subsidised inputs this year.
The proposal is contained in a position paper on the impact of the 2005/06 fertiliser subsidy on companies, prepared by Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs (CNFA) in collaboration with eight input suppliers. Due to be launched this Thursday at a stakeholders conference in Lilongwe, the paper says a "Public-Private Partnership" would ensure efficiency and equity in the administration of input subsidies which government embarked on in 2005. "It is a win-win approach that allows all to use the best of modern agriculture technology to reduce, and ideally, eliminate the chronic food insecurity in Malawi," reads the paper. CNFA - an international NGO that promotes agricultural businesses - came up with the position paper following a meeting by private sector input suppliers on February 21, 2006.

The input suppliers convened the meeting following concerns that government had sidelined them from taking part in the distribution of fertiliser subsidised under the 2005/06 budget. They say that government's decision to subcontract its own firms in the distribution exercise has resulted in a loss of business by about 70 percent. The paper says among the benefits of private sector involvement are the sharing of import costs amid government's budget constraints, increasing of distribution outlets, easing congestion and promotion of fair competition.
It recommends that government must fully commercialise its sick babies - Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) and the Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFFRFM) - to allow them compete with the private sector in administering the subsidy.

Under the 2005/06 subsidy, government opted to distribute the fertiliser through SFFRFM and Admarc, a move the private sector claims created unfair competition and undercut their margins. It says the proposed "Public-Private Partnership" would adequately address the objectives of government, the private sector and farmers in dealing with the country's perennial food insecurity crisis in the most efficient manner. Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe said last week government opted to use Admarc and SFFRFM because it was not sure if the private sector had the capacity to distribute the fertilisers without delays. He said the private sector "messed" government up by causing delays in the distribution of fertiliser and seed under the 2004/05 subsidy. Gondwe also denied not giving the companies some business under the 2005/06 subsidy.

From Nationmalawi.com, March 28, 2006

 

Government Following Multi-pronged Policy Towards Socio-economic Uplift of FATA: Khalil

Peshawar - The NWFP Governor, Khalil-ur-Rehman has said that the government is following a multi-pronged policy towards the socio-economic uplift of the people of FATA and bring a pleasant change in their life and for this purse apart from the infrastructure development, education and health sectors are the focal point in its strategies in this respect.

Talking to a 41 - member group of the participants of Air War Course of the Karachi based PAF Air War College; comprising group captains and wing commanders, who called on him at Governor°s House here on Saturday, the Governor said, almost Rs. Ten billions are being spent through different packages in the area for this purpose and the pace of implementation is upto the mark. The education development, he remarked, is the crux of every solution required to resolve the problems and meet the challenges being faced by the people as well as the government in FATA and encouraging aspect is that it is also the major demand of the respective people as well. Therefore, the Governor said, we are also sparing no efforts to come up to their expectations. The participants who were led by Air Vice Marshal, Muhammad Ateeb Siddiqui, also included delegates from Nigeria, Jordan, Iran, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Yaman and Turky while the Secretary to Governor, Arbab Muhammad Arif was also present on this occasion.

In response to a point, the Governor said, FATA itself is blessed by Nature with tremendous mineral resources with marbles and copper at the top and almost 40,000 millions tones of merely copper are available and concrete initiatives are underway to make best utilization of this hidden natural wealth on scientific lines. In this connection, he said, apart from the initiatives underway through the government is encouraging not only the public-private partnership but direct private investment is also being promoted simultaneously. So much so, he added, certain foreign concerns are also taking keen interest to invest especially in the mineral sector in the area.

Responding to another point, the Governor said, quite a good headway has already been made to promote and encourage positive trade and business activities in the area and to get rid of the stigma of smuggling and drug trafficking. In fact, he said, both the smuggling and drug trafficking are the international problems and our role and achievements in this connection are appreciable and encouraging. As far as law and order situation is concerned, he said, government have been coming down on all types of criminals with heavy hand to ensure peace and harmony in the area, which, he said, is also must for making the development activities more meaningful and purposeful.

Meanwhile, during a briefing, the participants of the course were informed about the salient features of the prevailing socio-economic indicators in FATA. They were told that implementation on the US Aid funded education development programme is the most success story of the private public partnership in FATA. As far as economic uplift strategies of the government are concerned, he said, skill development, mineral exploration as well as agriculture and irrigation development are the top most priorities of the government. As far as development programmes are concerned, it was stated, ten different packages, costing almost Rs. 1. 30 billions are under implementation only in those areas which have recently been made accessible; which are over and above from the routine annual development programme and other major packages. In response to a point, they were further informed, that not only the administrative system of the line nation building departments have been decentralized right to the agency level but effective monitoring system for the development activities have also been ensured in the shape of agency councils and the Governor°s Inspection Team. Besides, it was added, a proposal to look into the possibility to conduct monitoring of the development schemes through a private firm is also under the active consideration of the government.

From onlinenews.com, March 26, 2006

PTT Defends 'Legal' Privatisation

PTT Pcl insists that it had followed and met prescribed qualifications before it was privatised and had its shares floated on the Thai stock market. PTT President Prasert Bunsumpun said privatization of the former state-owned Petroleum Authority of Thailand into PTT Public Company Limited, along with floatation of its shares on the stock market, strictly adhered to the state enterprise law. Mr. Prasert's comments were made as civic groups are planning to pursue legal action against several state enterprises whose shares have already been offered on the Thai bourse, while some are planning to list soon. Their actions came after the Supreme Administrative Court on Thursday ruled against the EGAT listing, causing concern that other organisations would now face different standards. Activist Rosana Tositrakul, who petitioned against the EGAT privatisation, said Saturday that several civic groups now plan to file lawsuits in bids to take back privatised firms which are involved with benefits of the people. She said that conclusion on the plans would be made soon.

From bangkokpost.com, March 26, 2006

 
Public-private Partnership Projects Evaluated in Bulgaria

The Economy Ministry received 167 projects for the public-private partnership programme, which started on January 20 this year. Regional administrations participate with 109 projects. The other applications come from non-governmental organisations, Focus news agency reported. The programme's total budget is one million euro. Nearly 250 000 euro come from the national budget. This is the first grants programme which the Economy Ministry will carry out in its role of Executive agency for the PHARE programme, ministry representatives said. This programme aims at providing financial aid for improved business climate in Bulgaria. One way to do this is through the encouragement of public-private partnerships. The programme is a part of the project for increasing the competitiveness of Bulgarian companies. Grant-schemes for developing public-private partnership will aid two economic spheres. One of them is the development of public-private projects and the second is modernisation of centres for attracting potential investors. Financial resources for each project will vary between 5 000 and 25 000 euro. These funds will cover maximum 75 per cent of the overall project value. The remaining amount needs to be provided by the project beneficiary.

From sofiaecho.com, March 28, 2006

City Transport in Istanbul Going Private

Article summary - Leading bus transportation firms will be competing with each other for the privatization of public bus transportation routes in Istanbul. Two leading firms in the sector, Varan and Ulusoy, have mobilized. Article - Leading bus transportation firms will be competing with each other for the privatization of public bus transportation routes in Istanbul. Two leading firms in the sector, Varan and Ulusoy, have mobilized resources after a privatization bill was passed by Parliament and approved... http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=39107

From Turkish Daily News, March 26, 2006

 
Mexico's Secretary of Tourism Forges Unique Partnership with Expedia and United Nations Foundation to Protect World Heritage Sites

Acapulco, Mexico - Today at a press conference at Tianguis Turistico, Mexico's largest international travel fair, the Secretary of Tourism for Mexico and the Mexican Tourism Board signed a letter of intent with the founding partners of the World Heritage Alliance, Expedia Inc. and the United Nations Foundation, to jointly promote and preserve World Heritage sites throughout Mexico. With this signing, the Mexico's Secretary of Tourism becomes the first national tourism secretary in the world to sign a letter of intent with the World Heritage Alliance. Together, the partners will educate travelers and the travel industry about the importance of responsible tourism and World Heritage conservation; encourage community-based sustainable tourism development in and around World Heritage sites; and promote the beauty and significance of Mexico's cultural and natural World Heritage sites around the globe. "With 25 sites, Mexico has more valuable historic, environmental and
cultural treasures inscribed on the World Heritage list than any other country in the Western Hemisphere.

The government of Mexico has invested resources to preserve these World Heritage sites, create tourism services and generate more jobs for local communities," said Mr. Rodolfo Elizondo Torres, Secretary of Tourism for Mexico. "These World Heritage sites provide a wide variety of unparalleled travel experiences for people coming from around the globe, but it is only through a public-private partnership like this that can we ensure that tourism in Mexico contributes directly to the conservation of our most cherished national icons." "The Secretary of Tourism, the Mexico Tourism Board, and Expedia, Inc. are showing thoughtful leadership in their commitment to World Heritage and responsible travel to preserve Mexico's cultural and natural treasures for years to come," said Timothy E. Wirth, President of the UN Foundation. "This is a true partnership, which can serve as a model for how countries, companies, and the United Nations can work together in service of shared economic, cultural, and environmental goals."

"As a leading global travel company, Expedia, Inc. is thrilled to work together with the Secretary of Tourism for Mexico, the Mexico Tourism Board, and the UN Foundation to promote responsible tourism to Mexico's irreplaceable World Heritage sites," said Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO, Expedia, Inc. "We encourage our visiting travelers and travel industry partners in Mexico to join our efforts as we promote and protect Mexico's most beloved places." Earlier this month at an event in Cancun, Mexico, Expedia and the UN Foundation introduced the World Heritage Alliance to industry, governmental, and non-governmental organization (NGO) partners from throughout the Yucatan region, presenting the vision for collaboration in the area and throughout Mexico. Since then, leading travel partners have been in discussions with the World Heritage Alliance about how they can promote and preserve World Heritage sites in the Mexican Caribbean through responsible tourism. In addition to working with the travel industry, the World Heritage Alliance will also work on the following specific activities related to Mexico's World Heritage:

-- World Heritage Trips to Mexico on Expedia.com: Expedia.com will launch a new World Heritage vacation package to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, on the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, later this spring. This trip will be added to the other Mexican World Heritage vacation packages currently available on Expedia.com: Fortified Town of Campeche, and Chichen Itza and Uxmal. As with all other featured World Heritage trips, profits from the Mexico destinations featured on http://www.expedia.com/worldheritage will be donated to the Friends of World Heritage Fund at the United Nations Foundation.

-- Training Programs on World Heritage and Responsible Tourism: Beginning later this spring, the World Heritage Alliance will offer training
courses for staff at Expedia and its travel partners in Mexico to help employees at concierge desks, activity desks or in any customer service
role to promote World Heritage and responsible tourism to travelers. The training program will feature interactive learning, booklets, and live seminars, and participating partners will be provided unique World Heritage Alliance marketing and promotional materials that will enhance
travel experiences.

-- Community Development Program in Sian Ka'an: The World Heritage Alliance will be working closely with local tourism businesses around
Sian Ka'an to provide tools and resources to help them better prepare for increased tourism. Expedia, Inc. intends to send employees to Sian
Ka'an later this spring as part of a knowledge-sharing program to aid with tourism planning. Additionally, Expedia.com's new Sian Ka'an World Heritage trip will feature sustainable tour opportunities provided by Community Tours Sian Ka'an, a local Mayan-owned sustainable tourism cooperative.

"We're proud of the rich history, nature, and traditions that Mexico and its people offer to visitors worldwide," said Magdalena Carral, CEO, Mexico Tourism Board. "This partnership with the World Heritage Alliance, along with the many governmental efforts already in place, will continue to help to build awareness and responsible travel to our many World Heritage sites." "Tourism to World Heritage sites, if carried out responsibly, can provide valuable opportunities for local communities and for site conservation," said Francesco Bandarin, Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. "I am delighted to welcome Expedia into the circle of companies who are actively supporting World Heritage conservation. Such support - from countries, companies, and individuals - is vital to UNESCO in helping to build a broader base for heritage conservation."

About the World Heritage Alliance The UN Foundation and Expedia, Inc. created the World Heritage Alliance in the fall of 2005. The World Heritage Alliances aims to: -- Inspire Travelers to Explore and Experience More Trips to World Heritage sites are currently available through
Expedia.com(R), as well as the Expedia.co.uk, Expedia.fr, Expedia.it, and Expedia.de web sites. The profits from the designated World Heritage trips booked on the Expedia(R) web sites will be donated to the Friends of World Heritage; -- an initiative with the UNESCO World
Heritage Centre; -- for investment in local community projects at World Heritage sites in need, like Sian Ka'an. Expedia.com is currently
offering 11 trips -- accessible by visiting http://www.expedia.com/worldheritage .

-- Promote Economic Development Expedia and the UN Foundation will donate combined resources, as well as Expedia employee time and talent to support locally owned tourism enterprises in Sian Ka'an, Mexico, a large, natural World Heritage site on the eastern coast of the Yucatan peninsula. These tourism enterprises will contribute to local community development and help conserve the site's natural environment. Sian Ka'an is the first to benefit from the World Heritage Alliance's economic development efforts; -- with other sites to follow.
-- Encourage Public Awareness and Involvement Through the Friends of World Heritage initiative and web site, individuals have the opportunity to learn more about and support World Heritage conservation, sustainable tourism and local development. To encourage individual donations, Expedia and the UN Foundation will match donations, up to $50,000 from each partner, made through the Friends of World Heritage web site, http://www.friendsofworldheritage.org. These resources will be directed, along with the designated World
Heritage trip profits, into local economic development projects at key World Heritage sites.

-- Engage the Travel Industry Together, Expedia and the UN Foundation want to engage the international travel industry to join the World Heritage Alliance. Broad industry participation is vital because new partners bring expertise, financial resources and other assets that can further the program's goals. More information on how the travel industry can get involved with the World Heritage Alliance is now available at
http://www.worldheritagealliance.org.

About the UN Foundation: The United Nations Foundation (UN Foundation) is a public charity created in 1998 with businessman and philanthropist Ted Turner's historic gift to support United Nations causes. The UN Foundation promotes a more peaceful, prosperous, and just world through the support of the UN. Through its grant-making and by building new and innovative public-private partnerships, the UN Foundation acts to meet the most pressing health, humanitarian, socioeconomic, and environmental challenges of the 21st century. In one of
its largest projects, the UN Foundation works with UNESCO and other partners to preserve and support World Heritage sites by encouraging economic development that vest local residents in the preservation of the sites. For more information, visit http://www.unfoundation.org .

From prnewsfire.com, March 28, 2006

BASF Forms Public-private Partnership with CIMMYT, Part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)

Clearfield® agreement first step in providing African maize farmers with innovative, easy-to-use technology to control Striga (witchweed) in maize. * Maize production losses in Africa due to Striga are estimated at €1.2 billion annually. Research Triangle Park, NC, March 28, 2006 - BASF and CIMMYT, the international maize and wheat research center, have signed a development and commercialization agreement for a new CLEARFIELD technology. Under license from BASF, CIMMYT will introduce the CLEARFIELD trait into maize germplasm adapted to eastern and southern Africa to the benefit of millions of smallholder farmers whose maize harvest is devastated by the parasitic weed Striga.

This novel public-private partnership includes cooperation between BASF, CIMMYT, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), local public research systems and seed companies to provide CLEARFIELD maize genetics to African farmers. Local seed companies will produce commercial CLEARFIELD maize seed, which will be treated with StrigAway™, a novel seed coating to control Striga. Striga is a parasitic weed that attaches to the roots of the host plant and does damage before the plant has emerged. Striga causes yield losses ranging from 20 to 80 percent. In contrast to crop spraying, StrigAway™ seed coating is highly effective against Striga because it protects the plant throughout the entire growth process. StrigAway is also ideal for smallholder farmers in agriculture because it is easy to use and does not require sophisticated equipment or training.

Due to ineffective control measures, Striga has infested over 40 million hectares of maize in Africa, resulting in damages of over €1.2 billion a year. Maize is the most important food crop in sub-Saharan Africa and thus plays a major role in providing food security. "This partnership with CIMMYT, AATF, local researchers and local seed companies enables BASF to offer African farmers a new, effective Striga control solution. The unique nature of Striga has rendered many other interventions ineffective. StrigAway offers farmers in affected areas the opportunity to realize consistent yield improvements and contribute to poverty reduction and increased food security," said Emmanuel Butstraen, Group Vice President, Global Strategic Marketing, BASF Agricultural Products Division.

"Striga affects primarily smallholder and poor farmers, so they will benefit the most from this novel technology", said Masa Iwanaga, CIMMYT Director General. "And it is through the combined engagement of all partners - CIMMYT, BASF, AATF, local researchers and seed companies - that the technology can be made available to improve people's food security and lead to more sustainable use of resources for future generations, a clear contribution to sustainable development." "Linking poor smallholder farmers with technologies that improve their ability to produce food and working with these farmers to ensure that their productivity is increased is only possible through collaborative partnerships with organizations committed to these farmers," said Mpoko Bokanga, Executive Director AATF.


CIMMYT is an internationally funded, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and training related to maize and wheat throughout the developing world. It grew out of a pilot program in Mexico in 1943 between the Mexican government and the Rockefeller Foundation. The Mexican-based organization, part of the CGIAR research network, works with national and international partners to create, share, and use knowledge and technologies that increase food security, improve the productivity and profitability of farming systems, and sustain natural resources.
The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) is a private not-for-profit organization dedicated to increasing the productivity of resource-poor farmers in sub-Saharan Africa by providing them with greater access to proprietary farming technologies and know-how.

The foundation is registered as a charity under the laws of England and Wales. It was incorporated in the UK in January 2003 and registered in Kenya, its host country, in April 2003. AATF is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. The CLEARFIELD™ Production System has been used extensively since 1995. The system matches carefully selected advanced seed varieties/hybrids with custom-designed imidazolinone herbicides.

All current CLEARFIELD varieties and hybrids as well as those that will be developed using this technology are recognized as non-GMO by international authorities. At the present time, BASF possesses the world's largest portfolio of non-GMO herbicide tolerant traits and has established relationships with over 100 seed companies throughout the world. This strategy of worldwide alliances supports the program with an unmatched offering of seed alternatives to meet the specific local needs and preferences of individual growers.


StrigAway and the CLEARFIELD production system are registered trademarks of BASF.
With sales of around four billion Dollars (€3,298 million) in 2005, BASF's Agricultural Products division is a leader in crop protection and a strong partner to the farming industry providing well-established and innovative fungicides, insecticides and herbicides. Farmers use these products and services to improve crop yields and crop quality. Other uses include public health, structural/urban pest control, turf and ornamental plants, vegetation management, and forestry. BASF aims to turn knowledge rapidly into market success. The vision of BASF's Agricultural Products division is to be the world's leading innovator, optimizing agricultural production, improving nutrition, and thus enhancing the quality of life for a growing world population. Further information can be found on the web at www.agro.basf.com.


BASF is the world's leading chemical company: The Chemical Company. Its portfolio ranges from chemicals, plastics, performance products, agricultural products and fine chemicals to crude oil and natural gas. As a reliable partner to virtually all industries, BASF's intelligent system solutions and high-value products help its customers to be more successful. BASF develops new technologies and uses them to open up additional market opportunities. It combines economic success with environmental protection and social responsibility, thus contributing to a better future. In 2005, BASF had approximately 81,000 employees and posted sales of more than €42.7 billion (approximately $50.4 billion). Further information on BASF is available on the Internet at www.basf.com.

From Webwire.com, March 28, 2006