April 2013, Issue 137

unpan-ap@sass.org.cn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaders Call for Urgent Action on Global Learning Crisis

World Bank Launches Initiative on Migration, Releases New Projections on Remittance Flows

Countries Back Ambitious Goal to Help End Extreme Poverty by 2030
APEC Pursuing Long-Term Plan for Infrastructure Investment

 

 

 

 

CHINA: Releasing First National Water Report
China Starts New Plan to Boost Flight Numbers
VAT Reform Set to Go Nationwide in August

Draft Rule on Protecting Personal Data Gets Push

Li Calls for Policies to Encourage Spending

JAPAN: Govt to OK Electoral Reform Bill

Govt Considers Bill to Protect Natl Secrets

Gov't Must Keep Economic Promises: BOJ Chief

Govt Submits Bill to Rezone Lower House Constituencies

Diet Enacts Bill Allowing Online Campaigning in Elections

SOUTH KOREA: Govt. to Announce Measures for Real Estate Market as Early as Monday

New Law Increases Foster Child Lessens Adoption

Rival Parties, Gov't Discuss Follow-up Measures to Real Estate Policies

MONGOLIA: The Cabinet Announced a Housing Policy
N. KOREA: Citing Economy, Nuclear Power as State Goals

 

 

 

 

MYANMAR: Media, Ministry-sponsored Bills Could Go Together: Official
MALAYSIA: Announces Establishment of Eastern Sabah Safety Zone

SINGAPORE: Master Plan to Develop the Country into Global IP Hub

THAILAND: To Reform Cyber-Crime Law

VIETNAM: To Replace Analogue TV with Digital One by 2020

Employment Bill Aims to Facilitate Restructure

Committee Debates Changes to Land Law

 

 

 

 

BANGLADESH: Yet to Receive Tech Details of TAPI Gas Pipeline Project

Cabinet Set to Approve Draft of Amended Labour Law

SRI LANKA: Govt. Implements Measures to Prevent Kidney Disease, Bans Import of Agrochemicals

Sri Lanka to Bring New Petroleum Exploration Law, Regulator

MALDIVES: Govt Decides to Compile a SIM Card User Policy

NEPAL: Social Project Aiming to Create Employment, Educational Opportunities in War-affected Rural Nepal Wins Clinton’s Social Venture Challenge

PAKISTAN: Senator Welcomes IP Gas Pipeline Project

New World Strategy Aims to Eradicate Polio by 2018

 

 

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Approves ICT Action Plan

ICT Financing Rules Approved in Azerbaijan

Minister: Azerbaijan Tax Policy Provides Good Basis for Undertaking Efficient Economic Policy

Azerbaijan Developing New E-Government Program

Azerbaijan’s Communication Ministry Signs Grant Agreement in E-Government Project

KAZAKHSTAN: Developing Concept of State Regulation of Entrepreneurship by 2020

Investment Projects Worth over $51 Billion Will Be Implemented in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan to Develop Long-term Strategy for Development of Mining and Metallurgical Complex

TURKMENISTAN: Approving Statute on Study Abroad

UZBEKISTAN: Senate Approve Amendments to Law on Regulation of Parliament’s Legislative Chamber

Top Uzbek Prosecutor Offers to Pass Law on Responsibility of Officials for Rights Violations

Uzbek Govn’t Approves New Forms of Tax Reports

Traffic Safety Law Takes Effect in Uzbekistan

Amendments to Law on Regulation of Parliamentary Legislative Chamber Come into Force in Uzbekistan

 

 

 

 

Promotion of Pacific Plan Central to Public Ownership in Niue

South Australia Unveils New ICT Roadmap

Australian Initiative to Help Pacific Women Gets Underway in Canberra

ANZ: ICT Strategies Take Centre Stage

NEW ZEALAND: GCSB's Role to Be Formalised in New Legislation

SOLOMON ISLANDS: Government Committed to Quality Education

 

 

 

 

Famine Forecasting Systems Still Failing to Spur Action

Region Moving Toward Unified Connectivity Framework

 

 

CHINA: Political System Advances with the Times

Liu He Appointed NDRC Deputy Head

Official Axed Over Water Pollution Scandal

Transplant System Will 'Ensure Fair Allocation'

China Pushes Local Agencies on Corruption Probes

Premier Stresses Foresight in Economic Policymaking

Central Gov't to Spend Less on Travels, Vehicles, Receptions

JAPAN: New System Aims to End Waiting Lists for Day Care

Civil Servants 'Must Be Policy Experts'

SOUTH KOREA: Defense Ministry to Beef Up Cybersecurity Forces

Gov't Forming Investigation Team to Bring Order to the Capital Market

Gov't to Push for Anti-Corruption Bill for Civil Servants

Gov't to Turn Irregular Public Workers into Regulars by 2015

Special Committee on Judicial Reform Launched

 

 

INDONESIA: To Curb Corruption with Crowdsourcing Portal

Indonesia’s President Joins Twitter, Attracts 1 Mil Followers

Indonesian City Police Urged to Use Twitter and Facebook

CAMBODIA: PM Vows to Bring Greater Prosperity to His People

MALAYSIA: Expanding E-procurement Service

PHILIPPINES: To Enhance E-procurement System

The Philippines Beefs Up E-budgeting System

Philippine Agriculture Department Boosts Transparency with Open Data Portal

SINGAPORE: New Returning Officer Appointed to Replace Yam Ah Mee

Singapore to Remove Pensions for Administrative Officers

THAILAND: Civil Servants Fight Planned Change to Pension Fund

 

 

BANGLADESH: Judges’ Salary Hike Govt Stance Irks SC

Hamid Elected President Unopposed

PAKISTAN: PPP to Make Next Govt in Punjab Barki

IT Ministry to Acquire Google Services

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Services of the Processing Center Will Be Temporarily Unavailable

Azerbaijani President: State Official Should Serve as an Example in Society for Every Citizen

New Education Minister Appointed in Azerbaijan

KYRGYZSTAN: Deputy Interior Minister Appointed

KAZAKHSTAN: National Investors Council Created

TURKMENISTAN: Law Enforcement Bodies Reshuffled

 

 

AUSTRALIA: AEC Seeks E-Voting System

Govt Plans Data Agency to Support Education Reforms

FIJI: To Establish Accountability and Transparency Commission - AG

Pacific Leaders Return to Fiji to Discuss Democracy Progress

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Govt Rejects Political Parties Reform

O'Neill Vows Greater PNG Transparency

SOLOMON ISLANDS: Centers to Connect Government to People

Anti-Corruption Network Describes Entitlements to MP's as Outrageous

 

 

 

New Tools Sought for Facilitating International Data Transfers Between EU and Asia-Pacific

World Bank Group President Calls for a World Free of Poverty

OECD Develops New Tool to Help Schools Improve

Global Information Technology Report 2013

How Asia Is Teaching the West to Tame and Prevent Financial Crises

Cyberdefense a Major Part of Asian Security

ADB's 46th Annual Meeting to Focus on Empowerment

 

 

CHINA: Changes Gasoline Pricing Mechanism

China Maps Out Blueprint to Harness Yellow River

Chinese Government Pumps Funds into Rural Grid

China Steps Up H7N9 Monitoring

Transport Hubs Set to Ease Transfer Pressures

China Raises Threshold for Recognizing Theft

China More Transparent in Handling Epidemics

Higher Age for Retiring Urged

Funds to Focus on Boosting Value in 2013

JAPAN: Government to Keep Add-on Corporate Pension Funds

Japan to Start World's First LNG Futures Contract

BOJ's Kuroda Says Japan Market Conditions Improving

SOUTH KOREA: Gov't to Enhance Support for Small Exporters Hit by Weak Yen

Park Instructs Government to Ensure 'Crime Does Not Pay'

Science Ministry to Create 400,000 Jobs by 2017

Gov’t Holds 1st State Policy Coordination Meeting

 

 

INDONESIA: President Urges Speeding Up Efforts to Achieve MDGs Target
Indonesia’s Healthcare Spending Set to Expand

Indonesia Moves to Cut High Logistic Distribution Cost

Indonesia Partners with World Bank for Sci and Tech Capacity Building

MALAYSIA: Launching GIS Portal for Youth Welfare and Development

PHILIPPINES: Pushing for More Transparency in Extractive Industries

SINGAPORE: Polyclinics Launches Mobile App for Asthma Care

Singapore Tops International e-Government Rankings

THAILAND: PM Cleared of Asset Concealment Charges

Thailand Introduces Social Media Analytics Tool

Integrating Communication Technologies to Fight Forest Fires in Thailand

Thai Air Force and ICT Ministry Collaborate on Disaster Management

VIETNAM: Government Steps in to Toll Road Debacle, Preventing Double Tariffs

Ministry Tightens Controls Over Farm Produce Imports

 

 

BANGLADESH: Can Expand Technical Capacity on Sea Issues ISA

SRI LANKA: Launching First South Asian 4G Mobile Service

NEPAL: ICT Expo from April 9

Nepal Close to Reaching MDG Targets, but Much Remains to Be Done

PAKISTAN: Govt Using Latest Technology for Food Security

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Seeing Virtualization Technology Boom - Expert

High-Tech Park Construction Starts in Azerbaijan

Int'l Forum on Water Technologies Starts in Baku

KYRGYZSTAN: Deputy PM - Cooperation Should Be Priority for Region

KAZAKHSTAN: Energy Efficient Micro-District to Appear in Astana in 2013

 

 

Women with Disabilities Need to Be Included in the 2015 Development Agenda

AUSTRALIA: Researchers Develop 3D Mapping System to Protect Cultural Heritage Sites

Commonwealth Secretary-General Thanks Australia for Leadership on Commonwealth Reform

FutureHealth Forum Australia Showcases Connected Care

FIJI: Women Played an Integral Part in the Success of Environmental Conservation

Report Calls for Improved Inter-ethnic Relations in Fiji

Pacific Ministers Concerned at Fiji Developments

Fiji President Opens Pacific Aid Consultations

SOLOMON ISLANDS: Skills Shortage in Solomons - World Bank

 

 

 

Global Economy Is Improving but Europe Lags Behind, Says OECD

Global Mobile Subscriptions Reach 6.3 Billion in 2012

Developing Countries Need to Harness Urbanization to Achieve the MDGs: IMF-World Bank Report

Remarkable Declines in Global Poverty, but Major Challenges Remain

World Bank Support to Build Safety Nets in Low-income Countries

Asia Pacific IT Spending to Reach US$740bil

Better Connectivity Vital to APEC Growth Outlook

Asia's Future Prosperity Requires Major Change in Energy Use

Developing Asia's Growth Steps Up to 6.6% in 2013

Goods Flow in Region Faster, More Reliable

Strong Domestic Demand Drives Increasing Growth in East Asia Pacific

APEC Growth to Gradually Accelerate: Analysis

APEC Provides Boost to World Economy, Says Gita

Powering the Pacific's Future a Challenge, but Progress Is Clear – ADB

 

 

CHINA: Economy Steadily Regaining Growth

China's Online Sales Surge in 2012

Experts Say Growth to Rebound

Wide Wealth Gap Damps Chinese Confidence in Future

China's 1st Online Land Auction Nets 159 Mln Yuan

China Needs to Rebalance Economy: Economists

E-commerce Takes a Big Toll

Cooperation 'Needed for Internet Security'

Policy Loosening 'Likely' to Prompt Economic Growth

Income Gap Widening in China

JAPAN: Jobless Rate Up to 4.3%; Prices, Manufacturing Fall

Survey: Metabolic Syndrome Costs Average 90,000 Yen a Year

Over 80% Do Not Feel Economy Improving Under Abe Kyodo Poll

SOUTH KOREA: Education, Housing Burdens Dent Korea's Economic Potential

S. Korean Economy to Remain Bearish This Year

Supplementary Budget to Revive Economy, Help Ordinary Citizens

 

 

INDONESIA: Jakarta to Roll Out E-application System for Building Permits

PHILIPPINES: Growth Strong but More and Better Jobs Required

Philippine Province Launches Eservices Facility

SINGAPORE: Government's Open Data Enable App Development

New Homes in Singapore to Be Pre-wired with Optical Fibre

THAILAND: Sharing Satellite Data for Agricultural Use

Thai Hospitals Introduce Healthcare Apps

Thailand Launches Voice Recognition App for Traffic Data

VIETNAM: HCM City Funds Updates for Government IT Infrastructure

Environmental Pollution Costs 5.5 Pct of Vietnam's GDP: WB

 

 

BANGLADESH: Dhaka Issues Smart Cards for Workers in S Arabia

INDIA: Wi-Fi on Howrah Rajdhani

Maharashtra Farmers Sell Products Online

E-payment for Scholarships Soon

E-payment of Road Tax in Haryana

Aadhaar Card Can Be Used as ID Proof

Kerala Integrates E-payment with E-procurement

SRI LANKA: To Promote as a Research Destination

Sri Lanka’s SME Apparel Exporters Are to Be Linked to Global E-system

Dialog Sri Lanka Mobile Broadband Base Grows 44-Pct

PAKISTAN: Mobile Phone Users Make Over 192.9bn Minutes Voice Calls Per Year

Mobile Phone Penetration Showing 10.3pc Healthy Growth

Special Scholarship Fund for Students

80pc of Mobile Subscribers Will Be in Developing Countries by 2017

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Broadband Access Rate Up Over 20 Percent

“ASAN” Service Starts Issuing Digital Signatures

Azerbaijani Postal Operator Offers E-Signature Service

Azerbaijan Aimed at Serious Development ICT Sector

IT-Projects’ Concessional Financing Conditions Defined in Azerbaijan

Minister: Azerbaijan Launched E-Visas Issuing Procedure

Azerbaijan Expects ICT Export Growth

High-Tech Parks to Be Tax-Exempt in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijani IT Company Attains New Status in Scope of Infrastructure Solutions’ Virtualization

Windows 7 Most Popular Operating System in Azerbaijan: Report

Number of Broadband Internet Connections in Baku to Hit 400,000 by Year-End

New State Program on Regions’ Socio-Economic Development Be Developed by Late 2013

Azerbaijan to Bolster Cyber Security

KAZAKHSTAN: Railway E-Tickets to Be Introduced

Kazakhstan Enters Top 50 Countries in Network Readiness and Cellular Communication Rates Index

 

 

Economic Growth to Slow in Pacific: ADB

Pacific Growth Eases as Gains from Large Projects Fade

AUSTRALIA: Implement New Passport Issuance System

Victorian Government Delivers Broadband for Health

NEW ZEALAND: EQC's IT Systems Frozen

IMF Praises Direction of Its Economy

New Zealand Post Integrates Customer Interactions

 

 

 

Tax Burdens on Labour Income in OECD Countries Continue to Rise

Aid to Poor Countries Slips Further as Governments Tighten Budgets

International Financial Institutions Agree to Share Data to Improve Development Outcomes and Lay the Groundwork for the Post-2015 Development Agenda

New World Bank Study Finds Large Gender Gaps in Access to Formal Banking

WB Confronts US$260 Billion a Year in Global Economic Losses from Lack of Sanitation

ADB Assistance Tops $21.5 Billion in 2012

 

 

CHINA: Spending More on Rural Poverty Relief

Chinese Climate Finance Gap to Exceed 1 Trln Yuan by 2015

China's Central Bank Sees Uncertainty in Inflation

440 Bln Credit Line for Building Smart Cities

China's Railway Infrastructure Investment Up 28%

Report Urges Fast Reform of Financial System

China Allocates Fund to Support Spring Farming

Reform Set to Broaden Yuan Range

Gov't Sets to Cut Public Spending

JAPAN: Expectations High for Radical Policy Shift from New BOJ Chief

BOJ to Double Money Supply to Get Japan Out of Slump

Aso Defends Monetary Policy, Weak Yen

SOUTH KOREA: Gov't Offers Cuts in Tax, House Supply to Boost Property Market

Pres. Park Stresses Timing for Supplementary Budget

Public Firms' Huge Debts to Dent Fiscal Health

MONGOLIA: Central Bank Cuts the Policy Interest Rate by 1.0 Percentage Point

Mongolian Inflation Slows Below 10% for First Time in Two Years

 

 

THAILAND: PM Reassures Parliament About Transparency of Spending Loans

Water Project Loan on Track, Ministry Says

VIETNAM: New Regulation Requires Notification of High Value Transactions to Central Bank

 

 

INDIA: Nabard Injected Rs 7,881 Crore for Rural Economy in Madhya Pradesh

NTPC Signs Rs.1870 Crore Loan Agreement with Domestic Banks

SRI LANKA: Govt Presents Rs 404b Revised Budget; Elections to Cost Rs 14b

Sri Lanka’s Financial Sector Strengthened in 2012- CB

Central Depository System Launched

Sri Lanka State Borrowing from Banks High in February

PAKISTAN: Govt to Bear Medical Treatment Expenses of Reshma Zardari

Mobile Banking with 1.4mn Accounts Showing Remarkable Surge

 

 

ARMENIA: Public Debt About 38 Per Cent of GDP

AZERBAIJAN: First IPO to Be Launched by End of 2013

Azerbaijan’s Strategic Currency Reserves Hit $48 Billion

UZBEKISTAN: ADB to Lend $837 Million

 

 

The European Union Gives 11.6 Million to the Pacific Region in Support of Its Economic and Public Finance Management Reforms

AUSTRALIA: Government Flags Further IT Cuts

Feds Award $300m Less in ICT Product Contracts

NEW ZEALAND: Govt on Track for 2015 Surplus - English

 

 

 

Private Sector Inputs Help to Guide APEC’s Initiatives

Opening the Services Sector Offers Big Gains, Say APEC Officials

 

 

CHINA: Industrial Profits Rise 17.2 Pct

Chinese Liquor Maker's Net Profit Jumps 61%

China Takes on Steel Overcapacity

China's Non-manufacturing Sector Grows in March

Economic Recovery Buoys Building and Service Sectors

Private Firms Lead China's Investment Overseas

China Sees Fewer Foreign-funded Firms,Higher Investment

SME Development Index Climbs in Q1

China Targets Food Industry Shortcuts

JAPAN: Trading Firms Boosting Presence in Medical Fields

Japanese Manufacturers' Confidence Improves: Survey

Firms to Promote E-Books at Libraries

Japanese Firms Boost Exports of Coal-fired Thermal Power Systems

SOUTH KOREA: 48% of Companies Want Discretion on Retirement Age

Gov’t to Bolster Robot Industry

25% Conglomerate Heads Likely to Be Exempt from Salary Disclosure Plan

 

 

INDONESIA: SMS Service for Health Launched in Indonesian Province

MYANMAR: Private Daily Newspapers Published in Myanmar for First Time in 50 Years

SINGAPORE: Private Educators Providing Better Quality Programmes

VIETNAM: Legislators Cut Enterprise Income Tax

SME Development Fund to Be Established

 

 

NEPAL: Next Budget Will Boost Private Sector FM Koirala

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Non-Oil Sector to Fetch 80 Pct of GDP by 2020

Strong Growth of Non-Oil Economy to Support Azerbaijani Sector Liquidity

Azerbaijan Sees Significant Growth in Non-Oil Sector – Minister

ASAN Service to Run Mobile Centers in Azerbaijani Regions

Azerbaijan Is Big and Great Place for Development of Tourism Sector

 

 

Smaller Pacific Economies Performing Well as Regional Growth Slows - ADB

AUSTRALIA: Many Companies Risk Missing the Internet Wave

NSW Govt Opens Innovation-Booster Program for SMEs

ACCC Launches Online Education Program for Small Business

Australian State Launches Website for Indigenous Businesses

NEW ZEALAND: Big Chance for Small-Medium Business

Growing Funding Network Gives Support to Tech Start-Ups

 

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Leaders Call for Urgent Action on Global Learning Crisis

 

At an unprecedented gathering of heads of global development agencies and ministers from 8 developing countries that account for nearly half the world’s 61 million out-of-school children, leaders called for urgent action to remove the barriers to achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG2) of universal primary education by 2015 and to close the gap between rich and poor in learning access and outcomes. An estimated 250 million children worldwide are unable to read and write. One in 5 young people ages 15 to 24 has not completed primary school and lack the basic skills necessary for life and work. The 8 developing countries participating in the Learning for All Ministerial are Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen. “We must have greater ambition in educating children around the world. We need to get all children into school but we need more than that – we need to make sure they are learning,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group. “Countries need a workforce with the skills and competencies necessary to create jobs, fuel innovation, and drive inclusive economic growth. Addressing this global learning crisis is essential to ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity.”

 

The meeting is part of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative, which gathers a broad spectrum of world leaders and advocates who aspire to use the transformative power of education to build a better future for all. "We are here to identify concrete actions to ensure that all children and young people have access to school and quality learning by the year 2015,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “We are here for the hundreds of millions who do not have the right opportunities to learn. There is no more valuable investment than education. It takes bold financial decisions - but they are bound to pay off, for individuals, society and our world.  We must prove that we can pool our resources and muster our will in the sure knowledge that educating children now will pay dividends to whole societies for generations to come.”

 

New analyses of these 8 countries’ education challenges, prepared for the ministerial meetings in a series of reports to the UN Special Envoy for Global Education and coordinated by the Center for Universal Education at Brookings, show that even countries at very different stages of development face a set of common barriers to education access and quality. The greatest gaps are among children from marginalized socio-economic groups, particularly girls, in fragile and conflict-affected states, in slums and remote communities, from ethnic minorities and lower castes, and children with disabilities.  Giving these children a quality education will require targeted and innovative efforts to mitigate the leading causes of disadvantage.  Special efforts to promote girls’ education, such as providing conditional cash transfers and other financial incentives, have proven highly effective in increasing the number of girls in school.

 

"Inequality in education has become the civil rights issue of our generation. With less than 1,000 days to go before the deadline to achieve education for all, pioneering action is needed to make sure that every child goes to school. It is not acceptable that every day 61 million children don’t receive an education because they’re born into poverty, made to go to work instead or forced into child marriage,” said the Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education. “Today’s meetings should precipitate a clear course of action to put countries back on track to schooling their young, placing the needs of the most marginalized at the heart of the global education agenda. Working together - the UN, the World Bank, the Global Partnership for Education, civil society and the governments of countries with large out-of-school numbers - we can take bold strides to help children around the world achieve their potential.”

 

The analyses also point to alarmingly low or even declining levels of learning as access to education has expanded in recent years.  At the meeting, the World Bank also unveiled the first 20 country diagnostic reports produced through the World Bank’s new Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER) initiative. The SABER data and analytic tools will help countries put effective policies and systems in place to measure student performance and address other barriers to learning, such as teacher policies, and enable them to benchmark their progress against other countries. A number of leaders at the meeting noted that the MDGs do not focus on the quality of education and learning, and this should be a priority for the post-2015 development agenda.  The UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda will deliver its report on 30 May.

 

Accountability was also highlighted by leaders as a key constraint.  Accountability must be strengthened at all levels, for example ensuring that teachers get paid  creating mechanisms of social accountability through parents’ associations,  and ensuring that education budget information is publicly accessible at the community level. Leaders also stressed the importance of additional funding to scale up successful learning initiatives, especially in domestic budgets as well as in more and better coordinated external support delivered at the country level, including through the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), and the United Nations agencies. “With the support of the international community, we launched a far reaching program aimed at guaranteeing access to free basic education for all Haitian children,” said Laurent Lamothe, Prime Minister of Haiti. “In post-earthquake Haiti we faced not only the collapse of school infrastructure and over 500,000 children with no access to education, we also had an acute shortage of qualified teachers. Our program has now provided school access to 1.3 million children, constructed 800 new schools and recruited and trained 8,500 school teachers.”

 

 “Investing in education helps realise every child’s potential – so strengthening education is the single best investment we can make in long-term poverty reduction, especially for girls.” said Peter Baxter, Director General of the Australian Agency for International Development. “Education is a top priority for Australia’s aid program, and we will provide $880 million in funding for education this year.” Since 2000, the Bank has invested $29 billion in education, including more than $15 billion from IDA.  New commitments for education totaled $3 billion in FY12, with $2.25 billion for basic education. In 2010, the Bank pledged an additional $750 million in IDA financing for basic education over five years to help the poorest countries reach the education MDGs. As of April 1, 2013, the Bank had provided $882 million in additional financing against the pledge, exceeding its commitment a full two years ahead of schedule.

From http://www.worldbank.org 04/18/2013

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World Bank Launches Initiative on Migration, Releases New Projections on Remittance Flows

 

The World Bank today announced the establishment of the Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD), envisioned to become a global hub of knowledge and policy expertise on migration issues. KNOMAD was initiated in response to the rapid growth in migration and remittances over the last decade. Nearly one billion people – that is, one out of every seven persons on the planet – have migrated internally and across international borders in search of better opportunities and living conditions, with profound implications for development. Remittance flows to developing countries have more than quadrupled since 2000. Global remittances, including those to high-income countries, are estimated to have reached $514 billion in 2012, compared to $132 billion in 2000.

 

"Migration and remittances offer a vital lifeline for millions of people and can play a major role in an economy's take-off. They enable people to partake in the global labor market and create resources that can be leveraged for development and growth. But they are also a source of political contention, and for that very reason deserving of dispassionate analysis,” said Kaushik Basu, the World Bank’s Chief Economist and Senior Vice President for Development Economics, as he participated in an event to mark the launch of KNOMAD. “The World Bank has played a critical role in migration and remittance research and KNOMAD will be critical in taking this agenda forward."

 

Established with the support of Switzerland and Germany, KNOMAD aims to generate and synthesize knowledge on migration issues for countries; generate a menu of policy choices based on multidisciplinary knowledge and evidence; and provide technical assistance and capacity building to sending and receiving countries for the implementation of pilot projects, evaluation of migration policies, and data collection. The program will  focus on a number of key thematic areas: improving data on migration and remittance flows; skilled and low-skilled labor migration; integration issues in host communities; policy and institutional coherence; migration, security and development; migrant rights and social aspects of migration; demographic changes and migration; remittances, including access to finance and capital markets; mobilizing diaspora resources; environmental change and migration; and internal migration and urbanization. It will also address several cross-cutting themes, such as gender, monitoring and evaluation, capacity building, and public perceptions and communication. Drawing on global expertise, KNOMAD’s outputs will be widely disseminated and will be available as global public goods.

 

According to the latest edition of the World Bank’s Migration and Development Brief, issued today, officially recorded remittance flows to developing countries grew by 5.3 percent to reach an estimated $401 billion in 2012. Remittances to developing countries are expected to grow by an annual average of 8.8 percent for the next three years and are forecast to reach $515 billion in 2015. Given that many migrants send money and goods through people or informal channels, the true size of remittances are much larger than these official figures. The top recipients of officially recorded remittances for 2012 are India ($69 billion), China ($60 billion), the Philippines ($24 billion), Mexico ($23 billion) and Nigeria and Egypt ($21 billion each). Other large recipients include Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Lebanon. As a percentage of GDP, the top recipients of remittances, in 2011, were Tajikistan (47 percent), Liberia (31 percent), Kyrgyz Republic (29 percent), Lesotho (27 percent), Moldova (23 percent), Nepal (22 percent), and Samoa (21 percent). “The role of remittances in helping lift people out of poverty has always been known, but there is also abundant evidence that migration and remittances are helping countries achieve progress towards other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), such as access to education, safe water, sanitation and healthcare,” said Hans Timmer, Director of the Bank’s Development Prospects Group.

 

However, the high cost of sending money through official channels is an obstacle to the utilization of remittances for development purposes, as people seek out informal channels as their preferred means for sending money home. The global average cost for sending remittances was 9 percent in the first quarter of 2013, broadly unchanged from 2012. The Brief also discusses efforts to feature migration and remittances in the Post-2015 Development Framework that is currently being discussed as we approach 2015, the target date for reaching the MDGs. “Migration is a defining issue for global development,” said Dilip Ratha, Manager of the World Bank’s Migration and Remittances Unit and head of KNOMAD. “This underscores the need for an initiative such as KNOMAD, which will generate evidence-based research to facilitate constructive debate and discussion on migration issues with the aim of developing practical policy options for sending and receiving countries.”

 

The East Asia and Pacific region received an estimated $109 billion in remittances in 2012, about $5 billion lower than the estimate we made at the end of 2012, due mainly to a downward revision of inflows to China by the same amount. The first half of 2012 saw a substantial decline in remittances to China, which may be a reflection of fewer funds being channeled through officially recorded remittances into investments such as property, as the government seeks to dampen the overheated real estate market. Nevertheless, remittance inflows to the region were an increase of 2.5 percent over the 2011 value of $106 billion.  Remittances to Eastern Europe and Central Asia are estimated to have declined by 3.9 percent to about $40 billion in 2012, partly due to the depreciation of the euro against the US dollar (lowering remittances in dollar terms). Continued strong growth in oil-exporting Russia underpinned buoyant remittances to Tajikistan and Ukraine, while weak conditions in the Euro Area depressed remittances to Romania, Russia and Serbia.  With officially recorded remittance inflows of about $6.5 billion in 2012, the Ukraine is the largest recipient in the region, followed by Russia ($5.7 billion), and Tajikistan ($3.7 billion). As economic conditions improve in Europe, and growth in Russia remains robust, officially recorded remittances to the region are expected to rebound in 2013-2015, exceeding the pre-crisis peak in 2014 and reaching US$52 billion in 2015.

 

The Latin America and Caribbean region saw a slight increase in remittances in 2012 to $62 billion, still more than $2.5 billion below the peak reached in 2008. Mexico, which received $23 billion in 2012, accounts for 56 percent of total remittances to the region, followed by Brazil ($4.9 billion). The US is the largest source of remittances to the region, accounting for 73 percent of the total inflows in 2012. Although the potential impact of immigration reform currently being considered in the US remains unclear, improvements in the US housing market and faster job creation this year are projected to underpin strong growth in officially recorded remittances to Latin America in 2013-2015, rising to over US$81 billion in 2015. With remittance inflows of an estimated $49 billion in 2012 (an upward revision of about US$2 billion from previous estimates), the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region experienced the fastest expansion of remittances in 2012, growing by 14.3 percent over 2011. Egypt, which accounted for over 40 percent of total remittance inflows to the region, has seen a six-fold increase in remittances over the last eight years, making it the largest recipient in the region, ahead of Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan and Tunisia. Although Egypt has a large stock of highly skilled expatriates in the US, the UK and Europe, about two-thirds of its migrants are working in oil rich countries within the MENA region. Remittance flows to the MENA region are expected to grow by 5-6 percent, rising to $58 billion in 2015.

 

Officially recorded remittance flows to South Asia are estimated to have increased sharply by 12.8 percent to $109 billion in 2012. This follows growth averaging 13.8 percent in each of the previous two years. India remains the largest recipient country in the world, receiving $69 billion in 2012. In addition to large numbers of unskilled migrants working mainly in the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, India also has a large skilled diaspora the US and other high-income countries. Flows to Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal have also been robust, helped by strong economic growth in the GCC and India. Remittances to the region are projected to remain buoyant in the coming years, reaching $140 billion in 2015. Remittance flows to Sub-Saharan Africa have been recovering from the contraction associated with the global financial crisis, but growth has been modest. In 2012, the region is estimated to have received about $31 billion in remittances, only about a 1 percent increase over 2011. Nigeria is by far the largest recipient of remittances in the region, accounting for about 67 percent of the inflows to the region in 2012, followed by Senegal and Kenya. Zero growth in flows to Nigeria in 2012 is partly attributable to the feeble labor market recovery of its major remittance source countries in Europe, the UK in particular. Remittance flows to Nigeria and the rest of the region are expected to grow significantly in the coming years to reach about $39 billion in 2015.

From http://www.worldbank.org 04/19/2013

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Countries Back Ambitious Goal to Help End Extreme Poverty by 2030

 

After a decade of sustained economic growth and falling poverty in developing countries, the World Bank Group has a “historic opportunity” to help end extreme poverty within a generation, the Development Committee said at the close of the 2013 World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings.  The ministers backed the goal put forward by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim to reduce the number of people living on $1.25 a day to 3% or less of the world’s population by 2030, said Chairman Marek Belka. “We have set an expiration date for extreme poverty. With commitment, cooperation, and the vision of leaders from around the world, we have great faith that we can make it happen,” said Dr. Kim. The goal includes fostering income growth and “shared prosperity” for the bottom 40% of every country – which will entail reducing inequality, promoting gender equality, and creating opportunities for all citizens. “Ministers unequivocally supported Dr. Kim’s vision and stated that we can count on the World Bank Group as a partner in the endeavor of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity,” said Belka. With just a 17-year window, reaching these goals “will be hard work,” said Dr. Kim.

 

It will also require that developing countries keep growing quickly, and that some of the poorest countries in the world reduce poverty at a much faster rate than they have to date. The Bank Group will have to pay “special attention” to these countries, and to the world’s fragile and conflict-affected situations. In its communiqué, the Development Committee urged countries to back IDA, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, especially in support of the world’s fragile states. Ministers also called on the Bank to step up support for the Millennium Development Goals, which promote human development, such as health care and education, and enable countries to grow more quickly.  “We call for a robust IDA17 replenishment with strong participation from all members,” the Committee said. “Investment in people, especially in health and education, is the right thing to do, both from a moral and a strategic perspective,” said Dr. Kim. To speed progress in reducing poverty, the Bank won support for its plan to develop a “science of delivery” to promote data-gathering, evidence-based development, and improved public services in developing countries.

 

“We will bring the urgency of the task to the world every year by reporting on our progress, country by country, on the rate of extreme poverty around the world as well as the changes in the income of the bottom 40% in each country, the people who are vulnerable to slipping back into poverty in event of losing a job or suffering a health crisis. We will learn every year where we are making progress and where we are not,” said Dr. Kim. The Development Committee called on the Bank Group to help countries in the Sahel and Horn of Africa build resilience to crisis by “deepening its commitments on infrastructure, job creation, social reintegration, agricultural production and food security.” The ministers also addressed concern over climate change by encouraging the Bank to support countries that want to catalyze low-carbon growth and climate resilience in cities, scale-up climate-smart agriculture, and phase-out fossil fuel subsidies, “with due regard to affordability of energy for the poor.”

From http://www.worldbank.org 04/20/2013

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APEC Pursuing Long-Term Plan for Infrastructure Investment

Infrastructure that can facilitate increased trade flows and development is critical to ensuring that growth is balanced and sustainable. This is prompting APEC member economies to pursue viable mechanisms for improving infrastructure investment in the region. Their task was put into context by Vice Finance Minister of Indonesia, Mahendra Siregar, on Monday before a gathering of APEC officials, experts from international financial institutions and private sector representatives in Surabaya. “The capacity of the region’s existing infrastructure to support the supply chains that businesses depend on is a challenge and increasing pressure on the export-oriented strategy that has been key to the growth of many APEC economies,” Siregar said.

 

“More robust infrastructure investment can reduce barriers to trade such as transaction and logistics costs, and open new avenues for accelerated growth that can help to raise living standards across the region, he explained.” According to the Asian Development Bank, more than US$8 trillion in investment is needed to meet the Asia-Pacific’s infrastructure demand by 2020. This includes energy, transport, communications and other critical infrastructure to improve connectivity in the region and drive sustainable growth. “Promoting infrastructure development and investment is one of the main deliverables of APEC economies in 2013,” noted Ambassador Yuri Thamrin, Chair of the APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting. “But meeting the region’s infrastructure needs is not something that can be completed in a short time.”

 

“We are looking to develop a multi-year plan to achieve effective growth and durable results,” Ambassador Thamrin said. “In particular, we aim to put forward an infrastructure investment framework on connectivity as well as a set of APEC guidelines on delivering bankable projects.” More robust private sector financing is essential to meeting the region’s infrastructure needs but this requires strong public support. “Many APEC economies are developing public-private partnerships to promote infrastructure development but these are complex to develop and execute, and have so far resulted in a small number of completed projects,” said Thamrin. “Creating a synergy between all channels within APEC is crucial to delivering concrete initiatives that can help to build capacity, foster an enabling environment, develop a solid project pipeline and address project finance in an effective way.”

From http://www.apec.org 04/15/2013

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CHINA: Releasing First National Water Report

 

The first national report on China's water conditions was released Tuesday by the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR) and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The nationwide survey covered river conditions, water conservancy projects, water consumption, river development and management, and water and soil conservation in 2011.China has 45,203 rivers each covering an area of at least 50 square kilometers, totalling 1.51 million kilometers in length. Some 2,865 lakes with a regular surface area of over 1 square kilometer took up 78,000 square kilometers, the report said. The capacity of 98,002 reservoirs amounted to 932.31 billion cubic meters and the total installed capacity of 333 million kilowatts were generated by 46,758 hydropower stations. The irrigation area reached 1 billion mu (66.8 million hectares), according to the report.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 03/26/2013

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China Starts New Plan to Boost Flight Numbers

 

China's top civil aviation authorities on Sunday began implementing a new program to increase flight number by 8.3 percent during the summer and autumn in the world's fastest growing air market.The new flight season program, which remains effective from March 31 until Oct. 26 this year, will greatly boost the aviation transport capacity, particularly in aviation hubs like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, according to a statement by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) on its website.The rescheduled plan opens 75 more domestic air routes and an additional of 28 international courses, along with three more routes linking the mainland with Hong Kong or Macao.The implementation of the new plan will increase China's weekly domestic flight number for 32 domestic airline companies to 48,552, up 8.3 percent from previous year, according to CAAC.After the adjustment, China now has 4,582 flights carried out by domestic airline companies to 117 international cities every week and another 4,870 flights operated by international air carriers between 36 Chinese cities and 114 cities in 55 countries per week, according to CAAC.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 04/01/2013

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VAT Reform Set to Go Nationwide in August

 

The reform program to replace the business tax with a value-added tax will be expanded nationwide on Aug 1 in pilot sectors, Premier Li Keqiang said during a key meeting on Wednesday.The expanded pilot program will also include enterprises in the radio, film and television industries, alongside those in the transport industry and some modern service sectors, Li said during an executive meeting of the State Council.The companies will pay a value-added tax, which can be deducted along the supply chain, instead of a business tax to avoid duplicated taxation and to benefit from a lower tax burden.As a vital step in fiscal reform, VAT has achieved remarkable results in easing the tax burden on smaller businesses and promoting economic transformation, Li said.

 

The nationwide expansion will eliminate policy differences between pilot and non-pilot regions. The program will help cut 120 billion yuan ($19.37 billion) in levies for companies in the pilot sectors in 2013.The VAT reform was first introduced in Shanghai in January 2012 and was later expanded to other cities and provinces."The earlier-than-expected expansion sends a signal that the government is speeding up fiscal reform," said Liu Shangxi, deputy director of the Research Institute for Fiscal Science under the Finance Ministry."The new leadership is ready to 'walk the walk', rather than just 'talk the talk'," Liu said, quoting a comment Li made during his first press conference after he took office in March.In addition, Liu said the 120 billion yuan tax reduction was only a conservative estimate, and the true benefit for companies will be several hundred billion yuan.

 

In 2012, the VAT reform program helped cut 42.6 billion yuan in taxes for companies in the pilot areas, according to the Ministry of Finance.Also at the Wednesday meeting, Li said the pilot sector will be expanded to rail transport, the postal service and telecommunications "when the time is right".Liu said the expansion is likely to take place as early as the beginning of next year. "Some may think the pace of reform is not fast enough, but we should not forget that these steps are being taken amid an economic slowdown and lower fiscal revenue."Premier Li said with the pilot expansion, the central government will study to better allocate the division of fiscal revenue between central and local governments.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/11/2013

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Draft Rule on Protecting Personal Data Gets Push

 

Experts are calling on legislators to draw up a personal information protection law as soon as possible to provide a safe online environment under a real-name system.Under a proposed regulation published on the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology's website last week, people who apply for fixed-line phone service or buy wireless Internet cards would have to present their identity cards.The move follows the adoption of a real-name registration system for cellphone users about three years ago.The proposal, on which public opinion has been on since April 10 and will continue through May 15, aroused discussion among experts on how to protect privacy in an era of big data.Zhou Hanhua, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' law institute, said it is important that China creates a law to protect personal information or the invasion of privacy on the Internet will get more serious.

 

Although the top legislature published a decision on improving the protection of personal information at the end of 2012, "it is far from enough". Zhou said.The legislative document is not a special law in particular to deal with problems of privacy protection in cyberspace, he said."We just have a legal framework and some basic principles, but all of them are difficult to enforce and cannot threaten enterprises," Zhou said.Telecom companies that do not register and protect users' personal information would be fined up to 30,000 yuan ($4,848) under to the ministry's draft proposal.Only if the personal information protection proposal becomes law will the problem of privacy disclosure be addressed, Zhou said.He told China Daily that some people's online information on certain websites, such as those of medical centers, banks and media companies, have had serious leaks, and what the public knows about the problem might be only the tip of the iceberg.

 

"Collecting users' data and selling the information to others is of great interest to enterprises, which is why many online operators and Internet company employees are still ‘stealing' information," he said.So it is a "must" to establish the law, making clear what personal information is and outlining punishments for online industries that reveal it, he added.Li Yuxiao, a professor at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, echoed Zhou's sentiments, saying the first priority is to define "personal information".Currently, many netizens provide lots of information online when registering an account and shopping on the Internet, but they do not know whether the information is necessary and how it is being used, he said."We need a rule that can not only help netizens understand what kind of information should be presented, but also supervise Web enterprises to legally use what they get from users," he said.

 

Both experts participated in the United States-China Internet Industry Forum in Beijing last week and expressed their concerns over the country's Internet privacy leaks.They said cooperation with the US on personal information protection should be done carefully.The US prefers self-regulation in the online industry, "but that is not suitable for our country", Zhou said, adding that China needs a strict legal provision instead.In addition, the two countries have a different understanding of personal information, "so reaching an agreement on the definition of privacy is vital to establish cooperation", Li added.Zhang Yaoming, deputy director with the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council, said protecting netizens' personal information in a real-identity environment is difficult, and China has not found a good way to do so."We cannot deny the real-name system brought benefits for us, such as the ability to crack down on online crimes, but the development of the system has a long way to go," he added.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/16/2013

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Li Calls for Policies to Encourage Spending

 

Premier Li Keqiang called for better efforts to ensure growth and boost domestic consumption, as the State Council met to review the economy's performance and map out its policy focus in the coming months. The State Council met two days after the release of quarterly GDP figures, which some observers described as below their expectations. The National Bureau of Statistics reported on Monday that GDP growth in the first quarter was 7.7 percent year-on-year, compared with 7.9 percent in the fourth quarter, and 7.4 percent in the third quarter of 2012.Li said first quarter growth was at a "reasonable level". While pointing out the general steadiness of the economy's progress and positive signs in the urban job market, the premier acknowledged "new contradictions" and that there is still room to tap the country's potential in industrialization and urbanization.

 

The premier said China is at a critical period in its transformation from an economy primarily led by manufacturing and exports to one driven more by services and domestic consumption. The State Council expressed readiness to make greater headway in reforms, while keeping macroeconomic policies largely steady. It stressed that greater effort must be made to combine the use of "proactive fiscal policy", which often means government-planned investment in public projects, and "prudent monetary policy", which means caution in the overall management of credit supply. Five near-term tasks were mapped out by the State Council. The first is to introduce more consumer-friendly policies to encourage people to spend more on medical care, personal development during retirement and cultural interests. In the meantime, adequate funds will sustain the development of urban roads and rail transport, as well as public environmental facilities.

 

Second, the country's agricultural base should be protected so that an ample supply of farm products can help it steer clear of risk from abrupt price rises. Third, more is to be done to improve the general welfare by providing jobs, medical care, financial support to students from low-income families and government subsidized housing units. Fourth, reforms will reduce the number of official approvals, adjust the tax system and pricing practice for key production materials, further liberalize interest rates, move toward renminbi convertibility in the capital account and open up service industries. Fifth, the State Council also highlighted the need to control the risk of local government indebtedness. Jin Liqun, chairman of the board of supervisors of China Investment Corporation, said on Wednesday that economic growth may remain moderate for the next five years — lower than 8 percent year-on-year — as the advantage of abundant inexpensive labor recedes.

 

"China's economy should depend on creating more jobs by upgrading its industrial structure. Excessive reliance on investment in infrastructure construction is unsustainable," said Jin, who was also former vice-minister of finance. The new leadership faces more challenges from social equity issues, an enlarged wealth gap and employment pressure, and a modest growth pace indispensable to solve those problems, he said. Jin said the shadow banking system and increasing local debt are worrisome. Over the next decade, a growth rate of 7 percent may be acceptable by the government, said Ma Jun, chief economist in China with Deutsche Bank."Labor costs will continue to rise because of the persistent decrease of the labor population. The Chinese labor force is predicted to fall by 200 million in the next 30 years," Ma said. Giordano Lombardo, deputy CEO of Pioneer Investments, an Italian investment bank, said Chinese manufacturing is moving toward the upstream industrial chain, which "is an inspiring improvement".

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/18/2013

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JAPAN: Govt to OK Electoral Reform Bill

 

The government has decided to approve a bill to revise the Public Offices Election Law at a Cabinet meeting scheduled for April 12 and submit it to the Diet, government sources said Friday. The Council on the House of Representatives Electoral Districts on Thursday compiled a proposal on rezoning lower house electoral districts and recommended it to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The government intends the pass the bill at the House of Representatives in late April. According to the plan, 42 of 300 single-seat constituencies in Tokyo and 16 other prefectures will be rezoned. By doing so, the vote-value disparity ratio--which currently stands at a maximum of 2.524--will be reduced to 1.998. The Supreme Court previously judged an acceptable ratio to be less than 2. This is the second time rezoning single-seat constituencies has been recommended since 2001 after the current system, which combines single-seat constituencies with the proportional representation formula, was introduced in 1994.

 

The council's proposal is based on the electoral system reform law enacted last November. Under the proposal, the number of single-seat constituencies in Yamanashi, Fukui, Tokushima, Kochi and Saga prefectures will be cut from three to two. No new single-seat constituencies will be created. In Tottori Prefecture, the nation's least populous prefecture, two constituencies will be rezoned. The new Tottori Constituency No. 2 will be the least populous with 291,103 residents. Nine constituencies with smaller populations in eight prefectures will be rezoned, as will four constituencies with populations more than twice that of the new Tottori constituency in three prefectures. The council has set three rezoning standards: a vote-value disparity ratio of less than 2.0, no creation of enclaves and no separation within administrative areas such as cities, wards and towns. Party discussions on election system reform began after a Supreme Court ruling in March 2011 that stated the vote-value disparity in the 2009 lower house election was in a "state of unconstitutionality."

From http://the-japan-news.com 03/30/2013

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Govt Considers Bill to Protect Natl Secrets

The government is considering legislation aimed at safeguarding confidential information linked to diplomacy and national security, a senior official has said. The legislation will stipulate severe penalties for offenders, sources familiar with the matter said. The government is likely to submit the bill to the Diet after the House of Councillors election this summer, a source said Friday. The plan for the legislation was unveiled by Yosuke Isozaki, special adviser to the prime minister, at a meeting of experts held to discuss a proposal for creating the Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council. The previous government led by the Democratic Party of Japan considered a similar national security bill, but failed to submit it to the Diet before the party was ousted from power in national elections last December. The bill reviewed by the DPJ-led government proposed penalties harsher than the prison term of up to one year stipulated in the National Civil Service Law for offenders who leak certain confidential information.

From http://the-japan-news.com 03/31/2013

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Gov't Must Keep Economic Promises: BOJ Chief

 

Japan’s new central bank chief says he expects the government to keep its end of the bargain in the bid to fix the country’s flagging economy, after he unleashed a flood of easy money. Bank of Japan Gov Haruhiko Kuroda said the central bank and the government had agreed that they share responsibility for reinvigorating the country’s torpid economy, which included fiscal restructuring. “We strongly expect the government to move on that front,” Kuroda told an economic symposium on Friday. “It is vital for the government to clearly show the future course of fiscal consolidation and steadily make progress to reform fiscal structures,” he said. At his first central bank policy meeting as governor last week, Kuroda unveiled plans to speed up the printing presses, doubling the amount of money in circulation over the next two years. He said he would achieve this by boosting purchases of riskier assets such as exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and real-estate investment trusts, as well as vacuuming up longer-term government bonds.

 

The bank pledged to meet a 2% inflation target within two years, a key aim of a government that is intent on reversing the years of falling prices that have cast a 15-year shadow on Japan’s faltering economy. Almost immediately, the medicine kicked in, with yields on benchmark 10-year government bonds crashing, driving investors into equities on the hunt for a return on their money. But in recent trading sessions long-term interest rates, which were reasonably stable, have been volatile, with Kuroda admitting the BoJ’s bulk purchases had disturbed the market equilibrium. “If such purchases by the bank were regarded as monetising government debt, the JGB market might start to be destabilized, raising long-term interest rates in a manner inconsistent with the real economy,” he said. This made it even more important for the government to get itself into better fiscal shape, he said.

 

“This might not only offset the effects of monetary easing but also have negative effects on Japan’s financial system and its economy as a whole,” he said. Years of ineffective pump-priming by successive governments have left Japan with a mountain of debt around twice the size of its economy. Its aging citizens are increasingly drawing down on their savings—much of which is tied up in government bonds—shrinking the pool of money the state can readily tap to fund the growing social security costs associated with that ageing. Kuroda said he would not limit his easing program to two years if the economy still needed a boost after that time and if the 2% inflation target had not been hit by then. “It is not appropriate to say that the monetary easing will only last for two years,” he said. “Obviously, there will be both upside and downside risks to economic activity and prices going forward. “The bank will examine those risks carefully and will not hesitate to make adjustments as appropriate, should circumstances warrant,” he said.

From http://www.japantoday.com 04/13/2013

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Govt Submits Bill to Rezone Lower House Constituencies

 

The Yomiuri Shimbun The government on Friday submitted to the House of Representatives a bill to rezone lower house electoral districts by slashing five single-seat constituencies. The bill to revise the Public Offices Election Law was approved by the Cabinet earlier in the day. The government and ruling parties aim to pass the legislation during the current Diet session. If the bill is voted down in the opposition-controlled House of Councillors, the ruling coalition is expected to push for it to be passed again in the lower house by at least a two-thirds vote, which would cause the bill to become law in line with the Constitution's Article 59. Should the upper house fail to vote on a bill within 60 days after the lower house passes it, the bill can also become law if the lower chamber passes it in a second vote. As the current Diet session is scheduled to end on June 26, the ruling parties aim to pass the bill in the lower house by April 26.

 

The legislation was drawn up based on a rezoning proposal that the Council on the House of Representatives Electoral Districts submitted to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in March. In a review of the 42 electoral districts in Tokyo and 16 other prefectures, the proposal calls for reducing the number of single-seat constituencies in five prefectures--Yamanashi, Fukui, Tokushima, Kochi and Saga--from three to two in each. Under the plan, the number of single-seat constituencies would decrease from 300 to 295. Based on the 2010 national census, the current vote-value disparity ratio stands at a maximum of 2.524-to-1. The envisaged rezoning would lower the ratio to 1.998-to-1, below the threshold of 2-to-1 that was previously judged acceptable by the Supreme Court. A series of high court rulings across the nation have judged the lower house election in December unconstitutional due to glaring vote-value disparities. The government and the ruling camp apparently want to enact the bill before the Supreme Court rules on the issue, which is expected to happen this autumn.

From http://the-japan-news.com 04/13/2013  

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Diet Enacts Bill Allowing Online Campaigning in Elections

 

The Diet on Friday passed a bill allowing online campaigning for future elections. The bill, which is an amendment to the 1950 public offices election law, proposed that online campaigning and online voting start with this summer’s House of Councillors (upper house) election. It was passed by the lower house last week. The bill enables election campaigns to use any form of SNS, such as Facebook, Twitter and home pages. The use of email will be restricted to parties and registered candidates only. The bill was one of the first issues Prime Minister Shinzo Abe mentioned after he was elected last December. He said that removing the ban on election campaigning over the Internet would lead to higher voter turnout. That election saw voter turnout fall to a record low 59.3%. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Friday that he hoped the new bill would get young people interested in politics. To date, electoral laws that predate the Internet era treat anything appearing on a screen as akin to a leaflet, which means it falls under restrictions on how many fliers any nominee can produce. Candidates and their supporters have not been permitted to Tweet, use Facebook, update their websites or even send emails during the official campaign period. They spend two frenetic weeks driving and walking around their districts doing little more than shouting out their names.

From http://www.japantoday.com 04/20/2013

 

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SOUTH KOREA: Govt. to Announce Measures for Real Estate Market as Early as Monday

 

The new government is expected to announce its first set of comprehensive measures for the real estate market as early as Monday. The Finance Ministry, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, and the ruling Saenuri Party will hold a high-level meeting on Monday where they will decide when to announce the measures according to the outcome of their discussions. The comprehensive measures are expected to be aimed at reducing transfer and acquisition taxes for home buyers and easing regulations to provide more loans for jeonse deposits. Transfer taxes for unsold and newly built houses, which were temporarily cut in the past, may be reduced under the new measures. Discussions are underway to extend the cut on acquisition taxes to the end of the year, which is originally set to expire in June. The government also plans to ease regulations for those who plan to buy low cost housings supported by the government and need jeonse money deposits by lowering interest rates of related loans by a percentage point. However, easing the debt-to-income and loan-to-value ratio is expected to be excluded from the new measures due to mounting household debt.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 03/31/2013

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New Law Increases Foster Child Lessens Adoption

 

Adoption of abandoned babies won’t be as easy as it has been. An amended law dictates that without the registration of the biological mother, the court’s grant, or the family background, the child cannot be adopted. It has been in effect since August last year. Left with no choice, financially challenged single moms have turned to the church’s Babybox instead. The number of abandoned newborns in a Babybox in front of JooSarang church in the Gwanak district in southwestern Seoul has been increasing for three years, the church said Sunday. The figure was four in 2010, 37 in 2011 and 79 in 2012, according to the Seoul city government. Obviously the change in the law led the rise in number, said a church official and a city official. The babies in the Babybox have been put up for adoption through domestic adoption agencies, the city official said. But the new law made it illegal to do so. Single moms have nowhere to turn to but the church, the church official explained.

“Most single mothers wrote in letters that because of the new law, they had no choice but to leave the child at the church. They said ‘please put up my child for adoption.’” But the reality is stacked against the hope for the moms. After regular check-ups in a hospital, every child who was in the box is put in foster care, not transferred to adoption agencies, said the city official. Another problem is that there are not enough people to take care of the increasing number of babies, according to a church official. “There is only one city official responsible for the job. Taking the babies to the hospital and attending to them is in no way a one-woman job.” Seoul City is struggling with the situation as well. An official Cho Hyun-ok from Women and Family Policy department said that they have asked for a government subsidy of 3.6 billion won ($ 3.1 million). “Childcare centers are getting full, and it’s all on city’s budget. That’s why we have asked for the government subsidy.” “Also, Seoul Metropolitan Children’s Welfare Center is taking the abandoned babies nationwide. Other regions should take responsibility, too,” she added.

From http://www.koreatimes.co.kr 04/14/2013

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Rival Parties, Gov't Discuss Follow-up Measures to Real Estate Policies

 

The ruling Saenuri Party, main opposition Democratic United Party and the government have discussed follow-up measures to real estate policies that the government unveiled earlier on April first. The rival parties and the government agreed on the need to do away with floor space standards for homes to qualify for tax breaks from capital gains and acquisition taxes. Among those who attended Monday’s discussions were Saenuri Party’s chief policymaker Na Seong-lin, DUP’s chief policymaker Byun Jae-il, Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok and Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Suh Seoung-hwan. But the participants agreed that in the event the government decides to lower the 900 million won ceiling for the acquisition tax break to homes worth more than 600 million won, they would hold further discussions on whether to get rid of the floor space standards. Earlier on April first when the government unveiled its real estate policies, the government said it would reduce the capital gains tax and the acquisition tax for homes whose total floor area is below 85 square meters. The rival camps and the government will convene another discussion on the real estate policies on Tuesday and will finalize the follow-up steps.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 04/15/2013

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MONGOLIA: The Cabinet Announced a Housing Policy

23.8% of the entire population and 40% of the Ulaanbaatarers live in apartments with heating and running water. Therefore, the need for more affordable apartments for regular citizens is vital for improving quality of life. The new riches have been investing into the real-estate sector instead of investing in production, services industries or as savings in banks shooting up the price for per square meter. Since 2005, the average apartment price for per square meter in Ulaanbaatar quadrupled from 350 – 500K MNT to 1.6 – 2 million MNT. One of the main missions for the government is to solve air pollution by solving housing problems. The cabinet charged the Minister of Economic Development and Minister of Construction and Urban Development to organize a 8%  + 1% annual rate 20 year mortgages to the qualified population. The Prime Minister Mr. Altankhuyag stated that the mortgage will not be only limited to the public servants, but to all those who have stable income. Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Bank of Mongolia and the government on mortgage policy.

From http://www.business-mongolia.com 04/13/2013

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N. KOREA: Citing Economy, Nuclear Power as State Goals

 

North Korea says the state goals of the Kim Jong-un era are to revive its economy and guarantee regime safety through nuclear power. In an all-members meeting Sunday, the North's Workers Party's Central Committee unanimously agreed to build a strong nation through a strong economy and nuclear power. The committee said this guideline will help to decisively strengthen war deterrence and national defense without additional defense costs, and in turn shift the focus to the economy and improving the lives of North Koreans. It also said nuclear weapons are not a political or economic bargaining chip, and North Korea, as a nuclear power, will not respond to meetings that demand it unilaterally abandon its weapons. Meanwhile, North Korea’s Supreme People's Assembly will convene in Pyongyang on Monday. With tensions escalating on the Korean Peninsula, attention is drawn to what kind of message the assembly will send out to South Korea and the United States.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 04/01/2013

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MYANMAR: Media, Ministry-sponsored Bills Could Go Together: Official

 

The Myanmar Press Council (Interim) can submit its media law to Parliament in parallel with the government’s information ministry-drafted printing and publishing bill, deputy minister Ye Htut said. The deputy information minister disclosed the information during a meeting with members of Myanmar Printers and Publishers Association and Myanmar Publishers and Distributors Association in Yangon Saturday. “The press council can send us its drafted media law as they have promised earlier. Otherwise, they can also forward it to Parliament directly. They have the right to do so, according to the constitution. If the government-drafted printing and publishing draft law and their media law are to be submitted simultaneously, it is up to the Parliament’s Joint Bill Committee. And the decision will be made by Parliament,” Ye Htut said. The government formed a 29-member interim press council on September 17 last year to draft a media law in cooperation with the information ministry. The press council planned to submit the law to Parliament during its upcoming session.

 

“The printing and publishing bill is now in the hands of the joint bill committee. This draft law will not stop as some people say. Before a forthcoming parliamentary session of the Union Assembly, the committee can reconsider the draft law. Now, those in attendance at the meeting can give suggestions by April 20,” Ye Htut said. While the interim press council is drafting a media law, the Ministry of Information publicised a printing and publishing bill on February 27 in state-run newspapers. But the draft law drew severe criticism from journalist, civic and political organisations for the inclusion of points that imply to restrict press freedom. They also demanded the withdrawal of the draft law. Myanmar Printers and Publishers Association chairman Dr Tin Tun Oo, who is a major supporter of the information ministry-drafted press bill, said “I am happy with the current press bill because it gives lesser restrictions than the 1932 and 1962 press laws. As for me, I want the press bill to be sent to Parliament through the joint bill committee. When the law comes into force, I will respect and follow it as a duty-conscious citizen.”

 

Dr Tin Tun Oo is the publisher of Pyi Myanmar News Journal. He and Khin Moe Moe bought 51 per cent shares of Myanmar Consolidated Media, which publishes Myanmar Times Journal, in December 2005. Dr Tin Tun Oo used to run but failed the elections in 2010 representing Pazundaung Township Constituency in Yangon. No representative from Myanmar Journalists Association, Myanmar Journalists Union, Myanmar Journalists Network as well as the interim press council, was invited in the Saturday meeting. They represent media people and journalists. “When it comes to the mass media, news and messages will be valuable if we send them to the people and accept their feedbacks. So I want to suggest that if media-related laws are drafted, they should be sent to the press council,” said Pyone Cho from ’88 Generation Peace and Open Society, who attended the meeting.

From http://www.asianewsnet.net/ 04/08/2013

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MALAYSIA: Announces Establishment of Eastern Sabah Safety Zone

 

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced Monday the establishment of an Eastern Sabah Safety Zone (ESSZONE) to ensure the security in the eastern Malaysian state. Speaking at the Police Day Celebrations held at the Police Training Academy (Pulapol) in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, the prime minister said the setting up of the zone, which came into effect immediately, would cover 10 districts of the state, including Lahad Datu, Kudat, Semporna and others. This came after the standoff, which lasted more than a month in the state, following the intrusion of the region by Filipino armed militants in early February. The militants, who are followers of the former Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, landed in Sabah's eastern coast to stake the claim on the land, resulting in clashes between Malaysian security forces personnel and the militants.

 

Local media reported that a committee under the country's Home Ministry will manage the safety zone and will be headed by the chief minister of Sabah and assisted by a chief executive officer. Malaysian security forces have been conducting operations in the state over the past weeks to flush out the militants from the area. The self-proclaimed Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, representing the Sultante of Sulu in the Southern Philippines, claimed the royal Muslim clan is the rightful owner of the state and is now demanding recognition from Malaysia. The Sultanate had ruled a region in eastern Sabah from the late 17th century before the rights over Sabah were transferred to Britain. The state later became part of Malaysia after the country gained independence from Britain. According to local media, Malaysian Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein earlier said the Home Ministry had been working closely with the Philippines' National Intelligence Coordinating Agency ( Nica) to exchange intelligence about the standoff.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 03/25/2013

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SINGAPORE: Master Plan to Develop the Country into Global IP Hub

 

SINGAPORE: A new 10- year master plan aimed at developing Singapore into a global Intellectual Property (IP) hub was unveiled Monday. The master plan, which was formulated by an IP Steering Committee, was revealed by the Ministry of Law after the government accepted the committee’s recommendations. The committee, which is led by MediaCorp chairman Mr Teo Ming Kian, was formed in May 2012 after the government identified IP as a key driver of global economic growth. Among the recommendations outlined in the master plan includes a call for Singapore to be an international hub for IP transactions and management. The committee also recommended boosting the quality of IP filings as well as IP dispute resolution in Singapore. To achieve these outcomes, the committee said that Singapore should develop skilled manpower resources networked to the region and beyond, as well as create an environment suitable for IP activities to strengthen Singapore as a vibrant IP hub.

 

There is also an increasing need to have ideas and knowledge to move up the value-added chain in the economy, said Mr Teo. "We have gone through the phases of the labour intensive, skill intensive, capital intensive sorts of economic development. To get to the next level, you really need knowledge, you really need to exploit ideas. And this is where I think the committee feels that Singapore has a role to play," he added. He also said that Singapore’s strong legal and financial system was an advantage. "We are well trusted because we have rule of law. We have (the) consistency of policies to protect properties, tangible or otherwise. We are a very effective and efficient business and financial centre... I don't think there are many other countries who can lay claim to (having this combination of factors)."

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 04/01/2013

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THAILAND: To Reform Cyber-Crime Law

 

The Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) unveiled the plan to reform the country’s computer crime law which is expected to be announced by the next three years. ETDA CEO Surangkana Wayuparb said the agency is preparing a public hearing, hoping to attract widespread participation in the revision of the law that has been used for five years since its first implementation. According to her, the reform and public participation are expected to bring balance between rights and freedom to the new law. People are concerned about the balance between freedom of speech and the exercise of authority to keep the right to privacy. This has pointed to the problem that the current law cannot cope with cyber-crime and the cyber-environment, she added. "Thai people generally still do not have awareness [of cyber-crime issues] or realise the need for information security, which is a new phenomenon. Meanwhile, other countries’ governments have better realisation and awareness on information security, which is a sensitive issue involving a balance between security and the liberty of people as a whole,” said Surangkana.

 

The draft revision is expected to be completed in the next six months, and the ETDA will conduct a public hearing afterwards before seeking the cabinet’s approval. According to Wayuparb, the agency had conducted focus groups to address five key areas: freedom of speech; law enforcement; consumers and victims; hard-core security versus professional security; and evaluation and revision of computer crime law. The research aimed to balance and develop the law to protect against threats, the country, and all those in the cyber-security environment. Moreover, the new law will heighten the level of cyber-security awareness in the country and the region. The National Cyber Security Committee has been set up to cope with increasing major threats such as hacking. The CEO expressed concern over the lack of understanding in information security among Thai organisations, compared to their regional peers. "There is a need to invest in this area,” she said. “The agency has developed a lab to provide knowledge to the police to improve their understanding of digital evidence and solve the problem of law enforcement.”

 

The overall revision of computer crime law is expected to take three years, and will involve the development of best practice and a code of conduct to encourage the law’s use against new threats and cyber-crime from the Internet in order to create the right balance between public liberty and the right to protection and privacy, she added. For example, it will cover the rights of Internet users, especially students that develop their own blogs and websites to disclose private information, a practice that is open to abuse and often very dangerous in the online environment. The agency will therefore announce an authentication framework to reduce risks for users and protect them by asking them to provide their ID number when entering a public domain on the Internet. The ETDA was established as an academic agency with the key mission to enhance the value of electronic transactions and promoting the development of technology laws as a tool to drive the economy and to improve people’s quality of life. Thailand has three laws - the computer crime law, the e-transaction law and the data protection law - related to information technology and cyber security. They are variously under amendment and/or subject to approval for implementation and enforcement.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 04/19/2013

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VIETNAM: To Replace Analogue TV with Digital One by 2020

 

Vietnam plans to replace analogue television with the digital one from now till 2020 with the hope that it would bring better-quality picture to the audience, minister of information and communication Nguyen Bac Son told local Vietnam News on Monday. Accordingly, the plan will be implemented in four stages, under which digital TV will take over the analogue one nationwide. In phase 1 from now till 2015, five largest cities including capital Hanoi, northern Hai Phong port city, central Da Nang city, southern Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho city, will switch analogue to digital TV. In the following phases, groups of provinces nationwide will undertake the plan, with remote provinces in the north and central region being in the final fourth stage that will conclude by 2020. Under the transition project, the government will support poor families to buy set-top boxes to decode digital TV signals, while budget for the program will come from the public telecom fund and auction of TV frequencies, said the information official.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 04/08/2013

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Employment Bill Aims to Facilitate Restructure

 

A law on employment should help develop the country‘s labour market and human resources in order to meet the demands of economic restructuring and socio-economic development to 2020. This opinion was unanimously agreed by lawmakers who were meeting for the third working day of the 17th session of the National Assembly's Standing Committee. NA deputies said that the employment bill would apply to all Vietnamese citizens aged 15 years and above who had the ability and needed or wanted to work. They agreed with regulations on policies to create jobs for labourers, such as a credit fund for job creation; support for creating jobs for youths and rural labourers, labourers wanting to work under contract abroad and for labour market development. Deputies backed most Government's proposals, including the State labour programme.

 

The programme would be implemented by the Government with an aim to create jobs temporarily for rural labourers through projects such as new rural and infrastructure development for poor and island communes. The programme would attract labourers who were not skilled, poor or from rural or ethnic groups. Implementation of unemployment insurance policies would be regulated by the Government. Many deputies said the Government should review unemployment policies implemented over the past three years.  They said unemployment insurance should be regulated under the employment law instead of the social insurance law, meaning that articles relating to unemployment insurance should be moved from the social insurance law to the employment law. The bill also added that labourers who had no labour relations into the category could be involved in the unemployment insurance service.

 

NA Social Affairs Committee Chairwoman Truong Thi Mai said the expansion of those involved in unemployment insurance would be a necessary measure in efforts to ensure social security because nearly 70 per cent of the country's total labour force had no labour relations.  "Measures are needed to attract them to participate in the unemployment insurance service with an aim to improving security in their jobs in the context of the developing labour market," said Mai.NA Vice Chairwoman Tong Thi Phong said: "The role of social security in employment policies was very important in order to prevent risks for labourers." Employment policies should target sustainable jobs for labourers, create equal chances to every person in society and improve working condition and income for labourers, Phong said. Deputies also discussed natural disaster reduction and prevention bill and revised the science and technology law.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 04/12/2013

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Committee Debates Changes to Land Law

 

The National Assembly Standing Committee yesterday discussed in detail revisions to the country's Land Law, after receiving feedback from nearly seven million voters and organisations. Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Nguyen Minh Quang commented that many of the public were angry about the lack of clarity in land clearing regulations. He called for more detailed guidance when land is being revoked, especially if it is for the purposes of national defence or socio-economic development projects. Chairman of the NA's Law Committee Phan Trung Ly agreed, and said that while land must be revoked to make way for developments that will benefit the country and its people, it should not be cleared if it will only aid private projects benefiting a select few. Chairman of the NA's Economics Committee Nguyen Van Giau said land would continue to be revoked to make way for key national projects approved by the National Assembly, as agreed by the Prime Minister. Developments in the areas of industry, export processing and high-technology are particularly prioritised for land.

 

Land clearances for new urban areas, resettlement and student housing and Official Development Assistance projects can all be listed as acceptable, he confirmed. Chairman of the NA's Finance and State Budget Committee Phung Quoc Hien said there should be a stronger legal mechanism in place to ensure that these socio-economic development projects are beneficial to the nation. He warned however that enterprises should not be punished for benefiting from projects, as their investments are crucial to Viet Nam's growth. Regarding the much criticised land compensation laws, Ly said the legal processes and compensation mechanisms for different types of land project clearances should be fair and clear. Deputy chairman Huynh Ngoc Son agreed and said that the process must be different for land revoked in emergency cases to aid national defence. The NA's Economics Committee suggested that when the investors and land users fail to reach an agreement on compensation prices, an independent land price consultancy should step in to set the sum.

 

Local authorities will also participate in the settlement of compensation prices to ensure that both local people and investors benefit and projects go ahead without delay. Another item discusses was that of land-use rights. More than 800,000 people said that local people's committees should be granted full authority in deciding how best to utilise local land without requiring the Prime Minister's approval. Minister Quang said transfers of land-use have not been implemented strictly and legally in many locations, and many projects have left swathes of land deserted, wasting valuable plots which could be used for farming. Chairman of the NA's Science, Technology and Environment Committee Phan Xuan Dung said land use rights should be made more specific to make people understand the law and avoid violations. President of the NA's Ethnic Council Ksor Phuoc argued that ethnic people often lack basic land-use rights while they are in desperate need of arable lands due to shifting cultivation. The standing committee agreed to look into this matter further. Quang confirmed that the drafting board would continue collecting the opinions of the public and experts in regards to the new draft of the law before submitting it to the National Assembly next month.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 04/18/2013

 

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BANGLADESH: Yet to Receive Tech Details of TAPI Gas Pipeline Project

 

Despite its keen interest to join the four-nation Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, Bangladesh is yet to get any technical details of the region’s mega energy scheme. The four-nation TAPI is a US$7.6 billion gas pipeline project proposed to be built from Turkmenistan to India via Pakistan and Afghnistan. The pipeline will supply 90 million cubic metre gas per day (mmcfd) from Turkmenistan to participating nations in the project. Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a promoter and guarantor of the project. Following a proposal from the ADB last year, Bangladesh responded positively to join the project and asked the lending agency to send technical details. “But we’re yet to receive a reply from the ADB. The letter was sent through Economic Relations Division (ERD),” said a deputy secretary of the Energy Ministry. However, Prime Minister’s Energy Advisor Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury at a function on last Friday (Apr 12) said that Bangladesh has been pursuing all the possible options to increase its primary fuel sources. Joining the TAPI project is also being considered.

 

Bangladesh is now running a shortage of 500 million cubic feet gas per day (mmcfd). Dr Tawfiq, however, did not give any details as to how Bangladesh is pursuing the TAPI project. The mega pipeline project recently came to the forefront of the discussion after the start of the Iran-Pakistan pipeline project. The USA has been opposing the Iran-Pakistan pipeline project and supporting the TAPI project. Energy Ministry officials said they have sent the letter to ADB in order to learn about the technical details of the project so that they could asses its viability for Bangladesh. Because, they said, the proposed pipeline is a distant one for Bangladesh. “It’s about 2000-2500 km away from Bangladesh where the pipeline will reach the Indian border town of Fazilka in Punjab state. If we want to join the project, we’ve to think about the cost of long-distance pipeline project,” said the Energy Ministry official. “That’s why, we wanted to know about the technical details of the project,” he added. 

 

Under the present proposal, the TAPI's length will be total 1,680 km -- 144 km in Turkmenistan, 735 km in Afghanistan and 800 km in Pakistan -- to bring the pipeline to the Indian border. The pipeline’s length will increase if the project is extended to Bangladesh. Of the 90 mmcmd (million cubic metre per day) of gas pumped through the pipeline, India and Pakistan will get 38 mmcmd each, and Afghanistan 14 mmcmd. Turkmenistan's largest gas field Galkynysh, having a reserve of 16 trillion cubic metre, will supply the gas through Herat and Kandahar in Afghanistan, Quetta and Multan in Pakistan to Indian border town of Fazilka. Indian company GAIL will import Turkmenistan gas for India, once the pipeline becomes operational in 2018. The gas will be supplied for a 30-year period. In October last year during the Petrotech 2012 Conference in New Delhi, Turkmenistan’s acting Minister of Oil & Gas Industry and Mineral Resources Kakageldy Abdullaev had told reporters that there was a request from Bangladesh to join the project. He had said it requires official note for this, which will be considered by all the four governments of TAPI project. International oil company Shell is also interested in the project, and Bangladesh is seeking to join TAPI as a buyer. Also, South Korea's state-run Korea Gas Corp (KOGAS) has voiced interest in the TAPI project.

From http://www.unbconnect.com 04/15/2013

 

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Cabinet Set to Approve Draft of Amended Labour Law

 

The Cabinet is set to approve the draft containing an amendment to the Labour Law-2006 in principle tomorrow (Monday). Talking to UNB, Labour and Employment Secretary Mikail Shipar on Sunday said the workers, who have completed their jobs over 15 years, will get more gratuity as per the amendment. Earlier, workers used to get annul gratuity equivalent to a month's basic salary. Now, they will get annual gratuity equivalent to a month and a half'w basic salary - a 50 percent increase. Terming the draft amendment "labour and environment-friendly", he said it attached priority to safety. The amendment made it mandatory to form a safety committee and make it effective for factories with 50 or more workers, he said. As per the amendment, workers will have to inform the director (labour) if they intend to form or join trade unions at their factories. Earlier, they had to take permission from their owners, said the secretary.

 

As per the amendment, workers will be terminated from their jobs and be deprived of getting their salaries if they attack and ransack their factories. Under special power, the government can reconstitute the existing minimum wage board under any circumstance, says the draft law. After getting approval from the Cabinet, the draft Law will be sent to Law Ministry for vetting and then it will be sent to parliament soon for its passage. According to the ministry sources, the government on November 2005 formed a 35-member committee, led by State Minister for Labour and Employment Munnujan Sufian, to recommend relevant avenues for amending the Law. The latest draft was approved at an inter-ministerial meeting on April 18, where it was decided to forward it to the cabinet on Monday for approval. 

From http://www.unbconnect.com 04/21/2013

 

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SRI LANKA: Govt. Implements Measures to Prevent Kidney Disease, Bans Import of Agrochemicals

 

The government yesterday launched a programme to implement recommendations made by the World Health Organization (WHO) to prevent the kidney disease. The Minister of Health Maithreepala Sirisena launched the programme at a ceremony held in Medawchchiya yesterday. An inter-ministerial committee appointed to implement the WHO recommendations had taken several decisions following the committee's meeting yesterday with the people in North Central Province, where the prevalence of CKD is high, to obtain their views and suggestions. Accordingly, the Ministry of Agriculture has decided to ban the importation of three pesticides- Chlorpyrifos, Propanil and Carbaryl with immediate effect and reduce the use of triple super phosphate fertilizer. The Ministry said the decision to ban the pesticides was taken based on the suggestions and advice of experts who have studied the situation regarding the pesticides use by the farmers in the area.

 

A joint research project conducted by the government and the WHO found that the high prevalence of chronic kidney disease in the country's main agricultural production regions caused by fertilizer and pesticide use. The report of the study concluded that a combination of factors that are toxic to the kidneys including nephrotoxic agrochemicals, arsenic and cadmium cause the disease. The Ministry has also decided to impose a 10 percent health insurance cess tax on pesticides. The income generated by the added levy will be used for the welfare of kidney patients. Under the measures implemented, printed and electronic media advertisements on pesticides will be banned and the mixing of pesticides will strictly be banned. The public, especially the farming community will be enlightened on the safe usage of chemical fertilizer and pesticides.

From http://www.priu.gov.lk 04/09/2013

 

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Sri Lanka to Bring New Petroleum Exploration Law, Regulator

 

Sri Lanka will introduce a new law on oil exploration and incorporate a separate entity to regulate upstream petroleum activities, minister Keheliya Rambukwelle said. Sri Lanka's Petroleum Resources Development Secretariat will be incorporated into an independent regulatory body with responsibility to prepare government policy on petroleum exploration and production. It will also regulate and manage upstream petroleum activities. Minister Rambukwelle said the government was earlier planning to amend a 2003 law but the legal draftsman had recommended that a completely new law be drafted due to the scope of changes that were required. The law will incorporate the latest international developments in petroleum resources regulation.

From http://www.lankabusinessonline.com 04/18/2013

 

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MALDIVES: Govt Decides to Compile a SIM Card User Policy

 

Government has decided to compile a SIM card user policy for SIM cards issued by Maldivian telecommunication companies, due to the frequent misuse of unregistered SIM cards that threaten national security, Acting Transport Minister Mohamed Nazim said Wednesday. The decision was made following deliberations on a paper presented by the  Transport and Communication Ministry at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting. It was also decided that this policy would require every SIM card to be properly registered. Minister said the SIM cards that have already been issued would have to be registered under the new regulation. Nazim said such a policy would facilitate the Police in conducting investigations and avert threats to national security.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv 04/10/2013

 

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NEPAL: Social Project Aiming to Create Employment, Educational Opportunities in War-affected Rural Nepal Wins Clinton’s Social Venture Challenge

 

A social project which aims to create employment opportunities so that family members in Nepal do not have to separate to go overseas looking for jobs was one of the winners of the Resolution Project’s Social Ventures Challenge, held for the first time with the Clinto Global Initiative University. The project titled”Creating Sustainable Employment And Educational Opportunities In War Affected Rural Area In Nepal”, by Sahadev Rai was among the 35 Resolution SVC winners, selected from over 300 applicants. Rai’s project hopes to reduce poverty and help improve the educational facilities in the area. Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of former U.S President Bill Clinton, announced the 35 Resolution SVC winners which range from managing the flow of medicine to rural health clinics in Peru to a mentorship program for at risk high school students in California.

 

As part of the Resolution Project’s work with Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U), 35 SVC winners were selected during CGI U’s 2013 meeting at Washington University in St. Louis on April 7. Chelsea Clinton hosted the Resolution SVC Announcement Ceremony, where a total of $100,000 was awarded for social ventures aimed at addressing some of the most pressing problems in the world today. “The Resolution Project has shown that socially-responsible young entrepreneurs who want to create a positive change no longer have to wait for tomorrow, but are capable of leading today” said Chelsea Clinton, board member of the Clinton Foundation. “The social ventures funded by Resolution at this CGI U show the tremendous work of students who are dedicated to finding solutions for some of the world’s most challenging issues.”

 

Student finalists presented their projects to a panel of judges, who selected 17 ventures for the inaugural Resolution SVC with CGI U. The winning teams were announced in the ceremony hosted by Chelsea Clinton and Resolution co-founders, Oliver Libby and George Tsiatis. The Resolution Project has already awarded 63 Resolution Fellowships to young social entrepreneurs with ventures across the globe aimed at tackling some of today’s toughest challenges. Today’s SVC winners will join this Fellowship program, which provides students with seed funding to launch their social ventures, hands-on mentorship and robust support from a team of more than 200 Resolution volunteers, and access to Resolution’s global network of young social entrepreneurs.

From http://www.nepalnews.com 04/18/2013

 

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PAKISTAN: Senator Welcomes IP Gas Pipeline Project

 

Senator Col Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi (Retd)of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Pakistani Senator said multi-billion-dollar Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project would help Pakistan overcome its energy crisis. Talking to IRNA, Senator asked the countries of the region to join the project to bring economic stability in the whole area. "This is really a good project which would greatly help Pakistan to overcome its energy crisis," said the politician. The parliamentarian went on to say that Pakistan and Iran are tied in the eternal bond of friendship and the gas pipeline project would further strengthen this relationship. "We have the highest regards for Iran. we share the same religion and culture with Iran," he added. Tahir Hussain Mashhadi expressing his views said that Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline is a welcoming project and would bring the two friendly countries more close to each other. "We are in need and Iran is helping us by providing gas," said the lawmaker. Replying to a question he said that the project should be further developed and the countries of the region should also become part of the project. "Other countries should also benefit from Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project," he opined. The Senator said that Iran is an independent country. "Iranians are brave people and we must appreciate the way they stood up for their rights," he added.

From http://www.brecorder.com 04/04/2013

 

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New World Strategy Aims to Eradicate Polio by 2018

 

ISLAMABAD: A new global plan aims to end most cases of polio by late next year, and essentially eradicate the paralyzing disease by 2018 if authorities can raise the $5.5 billion needed to do the work, health officials said. Part of the challenge will be increasing security for vaccine workers who have come under attack in two of the hardest-hit countries. And the plan calls for changing how much of the world protects against polio, phasing out the long-used oral vaccine in favour of a pricier but safer shot version, Khaleej Times Reported. Intense vaccination campaigns have dropped cases to a historic low, a good opportunity for what is being called the `endgame' strategy for this paralyzing disease, noted Dr. Rebecca Martin of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. `We have a chance now, with the fewest cases in the fewest places,' she said, joining officials from the World Health Organization, Gates Foundation and Rotary International to discuss the strategy that will be finalized later this month.

 

Officials acknowledged that financing the six-year plan upfront will be difficult given tight government budgets. The money would cover vaccinations as well as the monitoring required to be sure polio really is gone. Last year, authorities counted 223 cases of polio worldwide, down from 650 the year before. Once a worldwide scourge, vaccinations began in the 1950s, and were successful enough in developed countries that a global fight for eradication began in 1988. Now polio remains endemic in parts of just three countries Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria where all but six of last year's cases occurred. Other countries remain at risk, as travellers can spread the infectious disease to the unvaccinated. Recent killings of vaccine workers in Pakistan and Nigeria have made the anti-polio campaign more difficult, but it has not stopped and it will not, said WHO polio director Dr. Hamid Jafari. Despite the attacks, those countries made progress against polio last year, he said. The new strategy says countries also must deal with a smaller but real risk: polio cases caused by the vaccine itself. The highly effective oral polio vaccine contains live, weakened virus that can occasionally regain strength and cause the very disease it was intended to prevent. A shot version of the polio vaccine is made of a killed virus that poses no such risk. The polio-free US switched to the shots over a decade ago, but 144 countries still use the oral vaccine. The new strategy calls for them to begin phasing out oral vaccine in 2016.

From http://www.brecorder.com 04/05/2013

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Approves ICT Action Plan

 

President Ilham Aliyev approved the Action Plan on the Year of Information and Communication Technologies in Azerbaijan last week. 2013 was declared the year of information and communication technologies in Azerbaijan in accordance with a presidential decree on January 16. Under the presidential order, the Communications and Information Technologies Ministry is the coordinator of relevant activities. The Cabinet of Ministers of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic is assigned to provide realization of the activities related to the development and use of information and communication technologies in the territory of the autonomous republic and implementation of the measures to form e-government. Azerbaijan's Cabinet of Ministers is charged to work out the issues pertaining to the action plan.

 

Outlined goals

According to the action plan, it is planned to develop an ICT strategy, improve the registration procedure of the national domain .az, and significantly reduce fees for telecommunication services and internet access. The action plan will be implemented in four main areas: implementation of organizational measures, improvement of the legal basis and management, strengthening the capacity of the ICT sector and development of information society and human resources. The plan provides organization of the functioning of the State Fund for ICT Development, the High Technologies Park, Information Security Center, Virtual Qarabag ICT center, IT University, as well as an increase of the number of provided e-services and the range of users, improvement of the quality of broadband services, transition to digital broadcasting, and introduction of phone number portability. The action plan also includes measures on increasing the number of e-kiosks in the Azerbaijani regions in order to increase the range of e-service users, measures on copyright protection on the Internet, development of distance education, introduction of an electronic queue and distribution of apartments. Creation of Wi-Fi zones in public areas, protection of children from harmful content online, improvement of the personnel potential in the ICT sector, conduct of national and international ICT forums, conferences and workshops are also envisioned by the plan. Creating and operating a website on the ICT Year as well as conducting a first nationwide research and practical conference on cyber security is expected in April or May. According to the ICT Ministry, in 2012, ICT revenues exceeded $1.7 billion, which is 18 percent more than in 2011. This rate in previous years was 25-30 percent and the main task is to maintain the figure at 20 percent. If this pace is maintained, earnings from the sector will reach $8-9 billion by 2020.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 04/01/2013

 

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ICT Financing Rules Approved in Azerbaijan

 

Azerbaijan's state IT development fund will provide financial support for promising 'start-ups' in the domestic scientific and technical industries. President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree to approve the regulations on the State Fund for IT Development under Azerbaijan's Communications and Information Technologies Ministry. The decree defines rules on the use of the fund's resources. The ministry said Wednesday that the regulations specify issues of stimulating activity in the ICT sector of Azerbaijan, as well as allocation of concessional funding to issue loans and grants to ICT companies. The main tasks of the Fund will be the implementation of the state policy on development and support of small enterprises in the scientific and technical fields, providing them with direct financial assistance and personnel training, which in turn will help to create new jobs. According to the ministry, these regulations provide opportunities for attracting internal and external capital to the Fund's projects. Potential financing sources of the fund are the state budget, the fund's revenues, dividends from securities acquired by the fund, donations of domestic and foreign legal entities and individuals, as well as grants and credits received from foreign countries and international organizations. Each Azerbaijani citizen may avail of the advantages of the fund. Financial aid to enterprises will be arranged through contests. Businesses can borrow small, medium and large loans. The amount of small credits ranges from 10,000 to 50,000 manats (up to over $63,000) for a three-year term, while medium credits are worth 50,000 to 500,000 manats and provided for a period of up to five years; large loans are allocated in the amount from 500,000 to 1 million manats for ten years. The annual interest rate should not exceed 5 percent.

 

The maximum grant available is up to 300,000 manats, provided for a period of 36 months. The amount of small grants is designated at 10,000 to 100,000 manats, while medium grants could be from 100,000 to 200,000 manats and large ones -- from 200,000 to 300,000 manats. The state fund will be audited every year in order to ensure the transparency of financial transactions. Earlier the communications ministry said that initial funding of the state fund envisioned in the 2013 state budget amounts to 15 million manats. 2013 was declared the year of information and communication technologies in Azerbaijan in accordance with a presidential decree on January 16. The Azerbaijani president also approved the Action Plan on the Year of Information and Communication Technologies in Azerbaijan last week. According to the action plan, it is planned to develop an ICT strategy, improve the registration procedure of the national domain .az, and significantly reduce fees for telecommunication services and internet access. According to the ICT Ministry, in 2012, ICT revenues exceeded $1.7 billion, which is 18 percent more than in 2011. This rate in previous years was 25-30 percent and the main task is to keep the figure at 20 percent. If this pace is maintained, earnings from the sector will reach $8-9 billion by 2020.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 04/04/2013

 

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Minister: Azerbaijan Tax Policy Provides Good Basis for Undertaking Efficient Economic Policy

 

Azerbaijan's tax policy pro­vides a good basis for undertaking an ef­ficient and competitive economic policy in the region, Minister of Taxes Fazil Mammadov said in an interview to The Business Year magazine. Mammadov said there are certainly sev­eral areas such as e-auditing, the taxation of e-commerce, and transfer pricing that are new for Azerbaijan, and therefore, these areas are high on the government's reform agenda. "In the medium term, we are working on the advancement of an IT-based tax adminis­tration, the improvement of the Ministry of Taxes' management system, and the es­tablishment of a long-term strategy based on international experience and global standards," he said. According to Mammadov, this strategy will cover the pro­vision of a vast range of electronic services, the improvement of IT, and knowledge -based tax administration management, ensuring transparency and high efficiency. "Azerbaijan's taxation service can be compared to our European coun­terparts, both in terms of management systems and level of digitalization," he said. Mammadov underscored that the Ministry of Taxes is striving to establish a highly com­petitive, investment-attractive, simple, still transparent and stable taxation sys­tem in Azerbaijan.

 

"Attracting foreign in­vestment to the national economy is an integral part of the economic development strategy of Azerbaijan," Mammadov said. "What makes our country particularly interesting for FDI is the open-door policy undertaken by the government toward foreign investors." According to him, the country enjoys political stability and legal guarantees are in place to protect investments. "Our advantageous strategic location provides direct access to Central Asia and the Cas­pian basin region, thus enabling our par­ticipation in international trade initiatives such as the Silk Route and the North-South Transport Corridor," Mammadov said. He said that EU enlargement is also in the country's national interests, and, therefore, Azerbaijan actively participates in the EU's regional programs, including the Eastern Partnership. Additionally, according to Mammadov, the country has com­petitive local manpower in the country. He said the country has passed important laws and regu­lations with regard to the protection of the rights and interests of investors. "Property rights, equal opportunities for both lo­cal and foreign entrepreneurs, and the free repatriation of profits, as well as laws on investment activities and the protec­tion of foreign investment are crucial," Mammadov underlined. He said Azerbaijan has signed agreements on the avoidance of double taxation, and on the encouragement and reciprocal protection of investments with many countries. "Our economic potential and advantageous geographical location foster the interest of foreign investors who seek to make long-term investments in Azerbaijan's economy," he noted.

 

According to him, the share of foreign investments constitutes more than half of the funds [$120 billion] invested in the country's economy over the last 17 years. This makes Azerbaijan the country with the highest FDI index per capita in the region. Nowadays, Azerbaijan accounts for 70% of the economy of the South Caucasus, Mammadov said. "Our economy is integrating into the global economy,; the country is wholly open to the import of high technology," Mammadov said. Over the last 10 years, according to the minister, the country has achieved significant progress in reducing the tax rate, modernizing the tax management system, and enhancing and applying new information technologies. Mammadov underscored that this has helped us build effective control mechanisms as well as a flexible taxation system capable of coping with the chang­ing and rapidly growing volume of the economy. According to him, the cooperation with the World Bank and the EU in various projects also contributes to the moderniza­tion of Azerbaijan's tax system. "In 2012, we started establishing cooperation with the Inter­national Anti-Corruption Academy, and we're looking forward to deepening our relations. Moreover, we closely cooperate with the tax administrations of leading countries, particularly those in Europe," the minister added. Mammadov noted that the country is constantly reforming our tax laws and regulations in order to harmonize them with European standards. "The process of harmonizing our national legis­lation with European legislation is well un­derway. Azerbaijan was the first country in the CIS to achieve remarkable success in areas such as the digitalization of the tax administration and the introduction of taxpayer services," he said.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 04/05/2013

 

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Azerbaijan Developing New E-Government Program

 

Azerbaijan's Communications and Information Technologies Ministry is developing a draft state program on the development of e-government for 2013-2015. The draft program will be presumably submitted to the Presidential Administration by the end of April, the ministry said. The new program is continuation of the state program on developing the ICT sector in Azerbaijan in 2010-2012. The program is aimed to create the e-government, develop the methods of management by means of implementing modern information and communication technologies in state bodies, providing e-services, as well as taking comprehensive measures to provide simplified and free access of citizens and organizations to such services. The e-government project, which mostly covers the government sector, is an integral part of the broad "electronic Azerbaijan" idea. The establishment and development of the e-government in Azerbaijan will encourage fruitful work of the state bodies, guarantee its transparency and reduce bureaucracy. The goal of the e-government is to reduce poverty, provide suitable conditions for the population's prosperity and address the issues reflected in the state program on poverty reduction and sustainable development in 2008-2015. 2013 was declared the Year of ICT in Azerbaijan and the ICT University was established under a presidential order on February 2. President Ilham Aliyev also approved the regulations on the State Fund for IT Development and the Action Plan on the Year of ICT in Azerbaijan. According to the action plan, it is planned to develop an ICT strategy, improve the registration procedure of the national domain .az, and significantly reduce fees for telecommunication services and internet access.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 04/17/2013

 

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Azerbaijan’s Communication Ministry Signs Grant Agreement in E-Government Project

 

On Thursday the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies of Azerbaijan signed a grant agreement worth $3.7 million with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea on the creation of training centres under the e-government project in Azerbaijan. The project includes the creation of 15 training centres in the regions. These will be established in Ganja, Nakhchivan, Sumgait, Mingachevir, Barda, Lankaran, Gazakh, Zagatala, Imishli, Gabala, Goychay, Shirvan, Shamakhi, Guba and Sheki. They will be equipped by South Korean experts. Training will be conducted for civil servants. Long distance education is also planned to be launched. The E-government project is a part of a larger Electronic Azerbaijan project. The establishment and development of electronic government in Azerbaijan will lead to the enhancement of fruitful activities of public bodies and ensure their transparency and reduce bureaucracy. Creation of electronic government is aimed at reducing poverty in the country, creating appropriate conditions for the well-being of all citizens and implementation of the State Programme on Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development in Azerbaijan in 2008-2015.

From http://en.trend.az/ 04/18/2013

 

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KAZAKHSTAN: Developing Concept of State Regulation of Entrepreneurship by 2020

 

The government of Kazakhstan is developing the concept of state regulation of entrepreneurship by 2020, First Deputy Prime Minister - Minister of Regional Development Bakytzhan Sagintayev made this statement at a meeting of the Council of Entrepreneurs under the President on Wednesday. "An integrated concept of state regulation of entrepreneurship by 2020 is under development which will be submitted for approval by late August 2013. Its purpose is to ensure the balance of interests of the state, business and consumers and the regulatory activity of the state," Sagintayev said. He said the state regulation of business should be "cheap and efficient for business and the state". "State agencies before introducing requirements for the business will have to substantiate them and back up cost estimates. Ineffective regulation will not introduced," Sagintayev said. As of Jan.1, 2013, the share of small and medium enterprises in the country's economy was 17.8 per cent. Some 2.5 million people are engaged in this area. Sagintayev noted that 20 out of 31 presidential orders on business development have already been completed.

From http://en.trend.az/ 04/11/2013

 

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Investment Projects Worth over $51 Billion Will Be Implemented in Kazakhstan

 

Kazakhstan's Sovereign Welfare Fund "Samruk-Kazyna" is planning to implement 83 investment projects worth more than $ 51 billion in the future. "To date, the fund via its principal subsidiaries is engaged in the implementation of 100 investment projects worth more than $81 billion. Now, the possibility of realization of other 83 investment projects worth $51.7 billion is being considered now," the fund reported. According to the report, currently, much attention is paid to investing in areas with high growth potential: alternative energy, chemical and petrochemical industry, transportation, infrastructure, engineering, information technologies, innovative projects and the transfer of advanced technology. Besides creating large industrial enterprises in traditional sectors, the fund focuses on the development of new activity directions of its subsidiaries related to the development of medium and small projects with the direct participation of entrepreneurs.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 04/17/2013

 

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Kazakhstan to Develop Long-term Strategy for Development of Mining and Metallurgical Complex

 

The Kazakh government will develop a long-term strategy of mining and metallurgical complex, Kazakh Deputy Prime-Minister, Minister of Industry and New Technologies Aset Issekeshev said addressing a meeting on the development of mining and smelting complex. The meeting was attended by representatives of government, leadership of the Sovereign Wealth Fund "Samruk-Kazyna", "Atameken "Union" National Economic Chamber and national companies. "The basis for the development of the industry development strategy for the future is to become a master plan until 2030," Issekeshev said. The master plan for the development of mining and metallurgical industry until 2030 was developed in 2012 and it consisted of more than 4,000 pages of analytical data. The document contains in-depth analysis of legislation and government regulation of the mining and metallurgical complex, mineral raw resources, the current state of the industry and its scientific and technological potential, as well as activity of major enterprises. According to Issekeshev, a set of measures is supposed to be implemented in three stages: in 2013-2014, in 2015-2020 and 2026-2030.

From http://en.trend.az/ 04/19/2013

 

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TURKMENISTAN: Approving Statute on Study Abroad

 

President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov approved the statute on citizens of Turkmenistan studying in higher and high special schools in foreign countries. The document was adopted "in order to regulate the procedure of obtaining education by citizens of Turkmenistan in higher and high special education institutions of foreign states in accordance with the law of Turkmenistan 'On Education''. The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Justice of Turkmenistan are ordered to prepare and submit to the Cabinet of Ministers proposals on the respective amendments to the national legislation. The President stated at a governmental meeting that the provisions reflected in this decision should be implemented without delay in the educational system, 'Neutral Turkmenistan' newspaper reported on Saturday. "The government will continue to pay maximum attention to the development of science and education, to create all the conditions necessary for the youth for receiving modern education at the level of international standards in order to create a highly educated broad-minded young generation, which will contribute to the supply of the national economy with qualified specialists," Berdymuhamedov said. Turkmenistan began to recognize foreign diplomas relatively recently; almost at the same time the Academy of Sciences and postgraduate study were restored. This year secondary schools of the country are switching to the 12-year education system.

From http://en.trend.az/ 04/20/2013

 

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UZBEKISTAN: Senate Approve Amendments to Law on Regulation of Parliament’s Legislative Chamber

 

The Uzbekistan Senate approved amendments to the law 'on regulation of the Legislative Chamber of the Republic of Uzbekistan', providing expansion of the role of factions of political parties at all stages of the legislative process. It was noted during the discussions that the main tasks of the Legislative Chamber today include further democratisation of the legislative process, activating and enhancing the role and responsibility of political party factions in parliament for the legal provision of the reforms and consideration of interests of different groups and social layers. Political parties must try to implement their statutory and program goals and objectives more actively and defend the interests of the electorate through the adoption and implementation of legislation, using mechanisms of parliamentary control. According to the innovations, the bills in the future will be considered not only by the responsible committee, but also by all party factions. The relevant committee doesn't have the right to make a decision on the bill without the opinions of the party factions. Moreover a representative of the committee should inform members of the chamber about the views of different factions while considering the bills at meetings of the legislative chamber. New amendments envisage more democracy and a transparent mechanism of distributing received drafts empowering the Kengash of the legislative chamber to appoint in a collegial way a committee responsible for their preliminary consideration. It is expected that the law will increase both the professional activity of MPs and the role of the political party factions and MP groups in preparation of bills and other regulations having a positive impact on the quality of adopted documents and further democratisation of the legislative process. In accordance with the established procedures, the bill approved by the Senate is directed to the president for confirmation.

From http://en.trend.az/ 03/29/2013

 

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Top Uzbek Prosecutor Offers to Pass Law on Responsibility of Officials for Rights Violations

 

As a legislative initiative Uzbek Prosecutor General Rashidzhon Kadyrov proposes to submit a bill to the parliament, aimed at increasing the responsibility of public officials for violations of the law on the human rights protection. Kadyrov said this in the Senate - the upper house of the parliament while hearing a report on the state and measures to further strengthen the prosecutor's supervision of compliance with the existing legislation to ensure the rights and freedoms. The Attorney General stressed that the consistent democratization of the judicial system and the liberalization of criminal legislation have significantly changed the content and form of the prosecutor's office's activity and strengthened its advocacy functions. The work still does not fully meet the current requirements to ensure the legal framework, institutional mechanisms in the protection of the citizens' interests. "There are cases when the officials, state bodies ignore the requirements of the laws on the human rights protection, do not take measures after getting the citizens' appeals, complaints, as well as abuse while resolving the issues affecting the economic, social, labor, and other interests of the citizens," Kadyrov said.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 04/01/2013

 

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Uzbek Govn’t Approves New Forms of Tax Reports

 

Ministry of Finance and State Tax Committee of Uzbekistan adopted a joint resolution, which updated 17 forms of tax reports. According to the resolution, the state bodies approved forms of tax for income of legal entities, tax for accomplishment and development of social infrastructure, tax for income of individuals, tax for added value, excise tax, tax for use of entrails, bonus for commercial disclosure, tax on use of water resources. They also approved new forms of tax reports for tax of property of legal entities, land tax for legal entities, tax for petroleum consumptions, diesel fuel and gas for automobiles, single social payment and insurance fees of the citizens to off-budget Pension Fund, mandatory payments to Pension Fund, Road Fund, etc.

From http://www.uzdaily.com/ 04/02/2013

 

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Traffic Safety Law Takes Effect in Uzbekistan

 

A new edition of the law 'On traffic safety' inUzbekistan came into force defining a priority of protection of citizens' lives and health, their rights and interests, as well as the environment and the basic principles of traffic safety provision. The law was adopted by the Legislative Chamber of Parliament in November 2012, has been approved by the upper house, the Senate, in late March. The law was published in the media on Thursday and according to the final article, came into force on the date of publication. In particular, the law is supplemented by the norms relating to the right of drivers and pedestrians to contact the correspondent authorities with suggestions on amendments and on installation of traffic signs, road marking, traffic lights, the state of the road surface and other proposals on traffic safety issues. Representatives of citizens' assemblies and public organisations have the right to submit to local public authorities, as well as specially authorised public bodies, proposals on conducting measures and improvement of legal acts and regulations in the field of traffic safety and to participate in events on accident prevention. According to the new articles of the law, requirement to the state of automobile roads significantly increased. The responsibility for the roads compliance with the requirements of the normative documents in the traffic safety field at the design stage is laid on the project executor and during construction and reconstruction on the executor of the works. The responsibility for ensuring the road's compliance with the statutory requirements is laid on the legal entities and individuals in whose competence these roads belong.

From http://en.trend.az/ 04/12/2013

 

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Amendments to Law on Regulation of Parliamentary Legislative Chamber Come into Force in Uzbekistan

 

Amendments to the law on 'Regulation of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan' envisaging the expansion of the role of factions of political parties at all stages of the legislative process came into force in Uzbekistan. The law was adopted by the lower house of the Uzbek parliament on March 13, 2013 and approved by the Senate on March 18. It was finally approved by the president and published by the media on Friday. It comes into force from the date of publication according to the final article of the document. According to the innovations made in the law, the bills are planned to be considered not only in the committee, but in fractions of political parties. The committee is not entitled to make a conclusion without the opinions and proposals of party factions. The views and proposals of factions of political parties (MPs' groups) on the bill must be voiced at the meetings of the Legislative Chamber while considering the bills. A more democratic and open mechanism of distributing the received bills is also ensured. It is expected that the law will positively affect the quality of the received documents and further democratisation of the legislative process.

From http://en.trend.az/ 04/19/2013

 

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Promotion of Pacific Plan Central to Public Ownership in Niue

 

Promoting the Pacific Plan to all levels of society is central to generating a sense of public ownership of the Pacific Plan. This was a key message highlighted during Pacific Plan Review consultations held in Niue this week. At the Review team’s first general public consultation to date, a small but vocal group of Niue citizens voiced the view that the Pacific Plan should be better promoted among all citizens, not only among government officials. Former Niue MP and Public Service Commissioner, Esther Pavihi, said there was a need for greater understanding of the Pacific Plan among the general public. She also noted that the regional Plan could support national interests. “But the issue of regionalism versus national interests and the role of the Pacific Plan in addressing this remains unclear,” she added.

 

During the public consultation, there was general interest in what the Pacific Plan had achieved since it was adopted by Forum Leaders in 2005, and how those achievements had impacted on Niue as a Smaller Island State. Several participants suggested that a regional mechanism was needed to ensure decisions made at the highest regional level on the Pacific Plan were measurable. They also proposed that those making such decisions should be held to account for them. The Pacific Plan Review team in Niue, comprising country official  Redley Killion, deputizing for Review Chair Sir Mekere Morauta, KCMG, and consultant Dr Nick Poletti, also meet this week with Members of Parliament, heads of Government departments, representatives from the private sector, and civil society organisations, culminating in a final meeting with members of Cabinet and the Premier,Toke Talagi. Next week, the Pacific Plan Review team will head to the Solomon Islands for their next series of consultations.

From http://www.pina.com.fj 04/12/2013

 

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South Australia Unveils New ICT Roadmap

 

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill is leading the charge on ICT reforms for the state – with a new strategy canvassing “across-government” innovation – but with a closer scrutiny of spending programmes. Doing more with less is the mantra for the state’s “South Australia Connected – Ready for the Future” position paper. This paper, being circulated across communities and industry, crystallises core policy reforms for 2013-2014. While short on detail about technologies-of-choice, this paper seeks community and industry feedback. It one of one several documents refining South Australia’s reforms for ICT innovation and service delivery. Details can be found at SA Plan. During an ICT Strategy launch, Premier Weatherill said that technology contributes significantly to the state’s economy. In South Australia, there are more than 22,000 ICT workers – comparable in employment terms with the hospitality and financial services industry. The state government hires nearly 8 per cent of these ICT workers. The annual spend on ICT goods and services is more than US$500 million (AU$ 500 million). This annual spending is a significant outlay, noted Premier Weatherill. It requires a more astute, cost-effective and innovative approach to the way money is being spent. The government’s strategy document cautions against big bang ICT spending projects.

 

Premier Weatherill said that being “ICT-savvy” is part of developing good policy, better services, greater efficiency, and more prosperity. Between 2013-2014, the South Australian government is rolling out several new projects – building on previous initiatives. Among these, a real‑time Adelaide Metro information service is being offered across Adelaide City. Metro commuters, using desktop browsers or smartphone apps, will be able to track bus, tram or train timetables across designated stops. An ambulance Mobile Connect SA service is being enhanced. This service uses high‑speed connections to state-wide ambulances. This offering is supported by real‑time access to incident details and critical patient data. The project, when fully operational, improves inter‑agency mobilisation and communication during emergencies. Moreover, CareConnect – SA Health’s strategy, previously called CareConnect, is streamlining state‑wide electronic health record management programmes. This initiative helps integrate citizen health records across public hospitals, health professionals and health services. Previous projects have included a multi‑award winning internet portal to access government services and information. Additionally, an on-line registration EzyReg service is enabling customers to renew motor vehicle registration.

 

EzyReg users can access a secure, on‑line payment system through a desktop or smartphone. During 2011-12, almost 300 000 renewals were processed on‑line, offering nearly US$550,000 (AU$550 000) in staff savings. Insights about South Australia’s ICT reforms come under the spotlight at the Annual FutureGov Forum being held Tuesday 28th May (Wellington). Chris Dalton, currently with the Department of Premier and Cabinet, is a panellist at the May forum. He shares insights about citizen engagement and participation for South Australia, together with Australian, US, and New Zealand officials.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 03/28/2013

 

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Australian Initiative to Help Pacific Women Gets Underway in Canberra

 

The Advisory Board of the Australian Government's ten year initiative to improve the conditions of women across the Pacific has held its first meeting in Canberra. The $320 million program, announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the Pacific Islands Forum in Cook Islands last August, aims to improve the political, economic and social opportunities of Pacific women. AusAID's Deputy Director General and the Chair of the Board, James Batley, says the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development initiative has started slowly but will gather pace in the next few years.

 

Presenter: Brian Abbott

Speaker:James Batley, the deputy Director General of the Australian aid agency, AusAID

 

BATLEY: We looked at what is the broad shape of the initiative. We looked at what are the early activities that we've been looking at, and we had a really good discussion about what are the key things that AusAid needs to keep in mind as we take this work forward.

ABBOTT: Did they confirm your priorities that some of the worst problems were high levels of domestic violence and sexual assault and trying to increase the economic empowerment of women across the Pacific, and also trying to get more women into parliament?

 

BATLEY: There's no doubt that I think there's a broad consensus that there's a whole cluster of problems affecting women in the Pacific, so certainly it's amongst the world's worst statistics in terms of violence against women, domestic violence and sexual assault. But equally as you point out, the level of political representation of women in Pacific parliaments is in fact the worst in the world. And you can equally point to the area of Pacific economies where fewer women are employed in salaried jobs than men. There was amongst the members of the advisory board a strong sense that these issues needed to be addressed in a connect way.

ABBOTT: There is something like 32 million dollars available each year to try and help solve these problems. How do you decide on priorities?

 

BATLEY: We can't just impose a template across the Pacific. It's really important to look at what is the situation of women country by country, what are the key challenges for instance in Papua New Guinea, what's the situation in Vanuatu, in Tonga and in Samoa and so on, and to really tailor your response and your activities with a really good understanding of what is the country by country situation.

 

ABBOTT: Were there actual priorities set for projects?

BATLEY: We've been working up individual country work plans on a rolling basis. They have been circulated and discussed and there at a very detailed level, and indeed the first three of those are on the AusAid website; that's for Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Cook Islands. And over the course of the next few weeks we'll be completing more of those individual country by country work plans.

 

ABBOTT: So some of the 32 million dollars for the first of the ten year project is actually being spent in the region?

BATLEY: We've always thought with this initiative that it is an initiative that will start modestly and will build up over time. One of the issues in the Pacific is while people understand there's a problem, there's really not a lot of good data out there. And there's not necessarily a lot of experience of how to address these problems in the best way. When you're talking about changing social attitudes for instance, that's a very tricky area of work. And I think one of the great values of this advisory board is the sort of advice they can give us in how do we approach this problem for instance through the lens of the Pacific churches? What can they bring to this discussion? Or alternatively how would one engage traditional leaders and chiefs in this discussion? So I think a lot of this work, this analysis needs to be gone through in the initial phases of the initiative. That's not to say there's not work that's happening already. One of the really practical ideas that we've been keen to implement as part of this project and that's underway already is to just improve the condition of marketplaces where in these marketplaces in the Pacific, 80 per cent of the vendors are women, and it's a key part of women's ability to engage in the economy to earn incomes and to support their families, whether it's through better lighting or better toilet facilities or perhaps better rules that govern the working of the marketplace, all of which can assist the vast bulk of vendors who are women.

 

ABBOTT: James there are high hopes for this initiative of the Gillard government. Would it be under threat if there was a change of government in Australia come election day on September 14th?

BATLEY: That's not for me to speculate on, obviously as a public agency AusAid implements the policies of the government of the day. Certainly though I think what was significant at last year's Forum meeting was not just the Australian government's initiative, but that was in the context of a gender declaration by all leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum. So all of the leaders last year acknowledged the scale of the problem for women in the region, and they all committed themselves to addressing that.

From http://www.pina.com.fj 04/12/2013

 

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ANZ: ICT Strategies Take Centre Stage

 

Federal and state governments – in Australia and New Zealand – are refining their ICT strategies. These road-maps clarify just how the ICT dollar will be spent this decade – while delivering faster, cost-effective and improved services to citizens. Broadly, the focus is on corporate governance, modernising technology infrastructure, boosting service delivery, and engaging with the industry at the outset. More recently, South Australia unveiled its ICT strategy, with its ‘South Australia Connected – Ready for the Future’. South Australia is not immune from pressures worldwide to do more with less with the spending dollar, this strategy notes. The focus is to stay “connected,” and policy planners must innovate to address the needs of information-savvy citizens.

 

In New South Wales,

The NSW Government’s ‘ICT Strategy 2012’ seeks to bring NSW out of the “dark ages and into the 21st century.” This strategy cautions there are no “easy or quick fixes” to how the ICT dollar is spent. This state aims to use its annual AU$2 billion ICT spending programme more effectively. The goal is to increase competition, manage time and resources, and tackle the costs and risks of embracing new platforms.

 

In Victoria,

The Victorian government’s ‘ICT Strategy 2013’ observes that portfolio management is one panacea to helping agencies avoid unnecessary investment, while freeing up resources. Where practical, agencies may reuse and share ICT systems and contracts rather than develop new solutions. Plans are under-way to establish a single common register of ICT business systems. This register identifies sharing opportunities as an alternative to developing new systems. Victoria is exploring a mix of in-house, managed and outsourced service delivery. Planners are focusing on staying cost-effective, responding to changing needs, and leveraging available market expertise and opportunities. The Queensland Government’s ‘ICT Strategy 2012’ seeks to work more closely with the ICT industry. This collaboration reinforces partnering with the private sector, while identifying new ways to do business. This engagement involves teaming up with solutions providers to support government initiatives.

 

At the federal level

The Australian Government’s ‘ICT Strategy 2012-2015’ offers a comprehensive roadmap for reform. This strategy aims to use ICT to simplify and integrate government services, while keeping communications private and secure, especially for citizen data. The focus is on innovation and a strategic use of ICT, while harnessing the full potential of a digital economy and new technologies, including cloud services. The federal government wants to engage more openly with citizens and the industry. It aims to create, generate, share, manage, and efficiently use information resources.

 

Other more broad-based strategies include

The Tasmanian Government’s ‘ICT Strategy 2012’ The states of Western Australian, Tasmania, and Northern Territory have ICT strategies as well — however, not as detailed as the Eastern seaboard states. Across the Tasman, in New Zealand, the government has its own version of a strategy, ‘Government ICT Directions and Priorities’. The New Zealand strategy is currently under scrutiny. Plans are under-way to refine this roadmap further — while building on what the administration has delivered to date. Cloud computing is under closer investigation — including cost-savings this platform delivers. Adding to these strategies, the Australian and New Zealand governments have also appointed government chief information officers (GCIOs). These GCIOs add gravitas to how strategies are implemented, while ensuring that technologies-of-choice match agency-wide needs, are cost-effective, and deliver the biggest bang for the buck. States with GCIOs (or equivalent) include Queensland, NSW, South Australia, and a more recent addition in Victoria. The Federal government, on the other hand, has split the role of GCIO into two under the auspices of the peak agency AGIMO. These roles incorporate the Australian Government Chief Technology Officer, and GCIO — with a sharing of responsibilities.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 04/16/2013

 

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NEW ZEALAND: GCSB's Role to Be Formalised in New Legislation

 

The GCSB's role in ensuring the security of New Zealand's telecommunications networks is to be formalised in new legislation, the Government has announced as part of its overhaul of legislation around the spy agency. Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams said the changes to the Telecommunications (Interception Capability) Act 2004 will update requirements for telecommunications network operators to have specialised eavesdropping equipment available for use by police, the SIS and the GCSB. Other changes to the Act mean network operators will be obliged to engage with the GCSB on network security, "where it might affect New Zealand's national security and economic well-being".Those security requirements are about ensuring telecommunications networks do not contain any unauthorised ability to copy or divert data, are safe from unauthorised access, and do not allow others to carry out espionage or disrupt services. The new law effectively formalises what the GCSB had been doing anyway, officials told reporters this morning.

 

Ms Adams said the changes "will not in any way alter the authority of police or intelligence and security agencies to intercept telecommunications, or reduce the checks and balances on how these agencies can access and use private communications information". "These matters are dealt with under separate legislation." Meanwhile, officials have given an assurance that information collected by the GCSB when it assists the SIS or police will not be shared with foreign governments or their agencies. Media were given a technical briefing this morning on the Government's overhaul of the GCSB Act which is being done in response to concerns GCSB surveillance of New Zealanders done in support of the SIS and police over the last decade may not have been legal. The new legislation will expressly allow the bureau to eavesdrop on New Zealanders when assisting those agencies or when it is conducting information assurance or cyber security functions. However, the ban on spying on New Zealanders remains when the bureau is conducting its foreign intelligence operations. Officials said any involvement by New Zealanders in matters it is investigating as part of its foreign intelligence operations will be referred to police or the SIS for further investigation.

 

However, that investigation may include those agencies obtaining a warrant allowing them to use the GCSB's advanced eavesdropping capability. Officials also gave an assurance that the GCSB, which works closely with its US, British, Australian and Canadian counterparts, would not share any information gathered from New Zealanders with overseas agencies. A briefing paper explaining the legislative changes was to be published by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet sometime today. As part of those changes, the State Services Commissioner's role in running the appointment process for the GCSB director and newly created deputy director roles will be formalised. Labour Leader David Shearer and Greens Co-Leader Russel Norman last night attempted to force Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee to initiate an inquiry into how current GCSB director Ian Fletcher was appointed. However the vote on Dr Norman's motion was drawn at two votes each and was therefore effectively defeated. Prime Minister John Key who is committee chair and who shoulder tapped old family friend Mr Fletcher for the job recused himself from the vote.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz 04/17/2013

 

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SOLOMON ISLANDS: Government Committed to Quality Education

 

The Solomon Islands National Government stated that it is committed to ensuring all citizens have equal access to quality education. The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development (MEHRD) aims to achieve this commitment in its new three years National Education Action Plan (NEAP) 2013-2015 document. The document noted that education is both an individual and collective phenomenon and a human need and a development process that must be well articulated and planned so that citizens have equal access to better education. The ruling NCRA Government like any other governments before and in the future by default inherits both the institutional commitment and responsibility to educate all its citizens as part of a commitment to lifelong learning. Because of this reason, the Ministry has taken the arduous task to come up the new NEAP 2013-2015 – a continuation from the previous plan 2010-2012.

 

The new plan has a clear focus and that is to deliver better education for citizens as well as benefiting teachers. The plan is founded on the common idea of human development for social existence and societal continuity and changes in Solomon Islands. The document has noted that although education in Solomon Islands is a political responsibility, it is also a nationwide commitment and undertaking that involves multiple stakeholders in society such as NGOs, Churches, Private groups and donor partners. The document highlighted that the Ministry of Education is committed to take on board any new challenges and implement the plan to promote the provision of quality education for all Solomon Islanders.

From http://www.solomontimes.com 04/12/2013

 

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Famine Forecasting Systems Still Failing to Spur Action

 

Further scientific improvements to famine forecasting will do little to save more lives without reforms to the way in which the humanitarian community uses them, according to a report published today (5 April). Despite being preventable because of sophisticated early warning systems, famine crises continue to be deadly. This is because warnings are systematically ignored by donor governments, agencies and governments in affected countries, says the report, published by Chatham House, an independent think-tank based in London, United Kingdom. "The question we are asking in the report is why early warning systems — which have dramatically improved over the last 20–30 years — are good at predicting crises but bad at triggering preventive action," says the author, Rob Bailey, a senior research fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, which is based at Chatham House.

 

The report, 'Managing Famine Risk: Linking Early Warning to Early Action', draws on experiences from recent famines in the Horn and Sahel regions of Africa, where little action was taken regardless of warnings being issued months ahead, as SciDev.Net revealed in 2011.  A food crisis is a "slow-onset disaster", it says, that allows plenty of time to anticipate the problem and take precautionary action. But while the warning side of this equation works well, the precautionary actions side commonly fails for a variety of reasons, and the report offers recommendations to help bridge the gap between early warnings and responses. While governments in affected countries should focus on building capacity and reducing vulnerability among at-risk groups, humanitarian agencies need to improve their preparedness by taking initiatives such as arranging for emergency supplies, it says. "A mechanism that can provide funding early on in a crisis, in response to risk factor triggers for a drought event, is one of the things donor governments need to think about," says Bailey.

 

Donor governments can achieve this by encouraging pooled funding mechanisms, the report says. Although early warning systems are fairly advanced for some regions because of technological innovations including satellites, mobile phones, and other information and communication technologies, the report suggests that many governments still need to invest in early warning systems at the national level."It is often the case that the most vulnerable communities do not have access to information in a form they can access and use," explains Bailey. But he cautions that it is easier to focus on improving early warning systems than it is to address some of the institutional and political failures that prevail in the humanitarian system. "Unless we start dealing with [the political failures] we are not going to get better at preventing famines," he warns.

From http://www.scidev.net 04/05/2013

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Region Moving Toward Unified Connectivity Framework

 

APEC member economies are moving toward the establishment of a unified connectivity framework to lower business costs, bring people together and enhance the region’s economic resilience. APEC Senior Officials and an assembly of economic experts helped to articulate a vision for improving the integration of member economies at an APEC connectivity symposium on Tuesday in the port city of Surabaya. APEC Trade Ministers and Senior Officials will have an opportunity to explore the issue further during their meetings here later this week. “Connectivity is about going beyond bringing down walls and towards building better bridges between our economies, businesses and people,” said Ambassador Thamrin, Chair of the APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting. “The lowering of tariffs among APEC economies and globalization of production has increased the importance of strengthening connectivity in the region,” he explained. “Our aim is to formulate a unifying framework that promotes better physical, institutional and people-to-people linkages.”

 

Initiatives that can help to facilitate the movement of people, goods, services, information and energy in the region are among APEC economies’ focuses. This includes a pursuit of mechanisms that support greater infrastructure development and investment which is needed to ensure long-term growth. “Reducing and eliminating barriers to trade through the harmonization of processes, standards and regulation is a key component of efforts by APEC economies to improve connectivity between them,” added Dr Alan Bollard, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat. “The progress that has been made in implementing their agenda for enhancing supply chain performance and creating a more fertile business environment across the region offers a foundation for further work in these areas,” he said. The next step will be to explore ways to establish a connectivity framework that brings each of these elements together in a coherent way and is guided by a set of goals and timelines.

From http://www.apec.org 04/17/2013

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CHINA: Political System Advances with the Times

 

The Chinese political system should continue reforms, said Song Luzheng, a political scholar residing in France and research fellow at the Shanghai Chunqiu Institute, during an interview with China.org.cn at the 5th World Forum on China Studies at the Shanghai Exhibition Center on March 23."The current political situation in China resembles that in UK after the Glorious Revolution," said Song. "It means that a general frame has already been established and there will be no revolutionary changes in the future." The Chinese political system just needs further reforms for amelioration, he pointed out.Unlike expanding voting rights in the UK, China will take its own development road towards a more comprehensive and transparent political institution, Song said. That is to say, more ordinary people from various social groups will be incorporated into the central leadership, and government reform will become more institutionalized, he explained.Compared with western countries and Arabian states, Chinese political system has many advantages.

 

Western powers change both leaders and ruling parties regularly, while Arabian states neither change leaders nor ruling parties, and China just alters leaders not ruling parties, Song illustrated.However, western countries suffer from prolonged economic crisis and Arabia lacks stability, while only China enjoys a prosperous economy, Song said. The Chinese political system ingeniously combines the flexibility of western systems with sustainability and stability from Arabian institutions to create its own distinct advantages, he added. Right now in China, direct elections have been instituted at the lowest country levels. Different levels of government are employing different means and more effective political styles are being explored, Song said. Western political systems face many challenges, Songs warned. In a post-Cold War era, many westerners erroneously believe that western politics have reached a state of perfection and no longer need political reform.However, the Chinese political system constantly improves itself, Song argued. "We should conduct adjustment policies no matter what great accomplishments we have achieved," he said.

  From http://www.china.org.cn/ 03/29/2013

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Liu He Appointed NDRC Deputy Head

 

China's State Council has appointed Liu He as deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), according to a statement issued by the council on Wednesday.Liu served as the deputy director of the State Council's Development Research Center before the switch.Sun Zhigang, a former NDRC deputy head, was appointed deputy head of the newly founded National Health and Family Planning Commission.Chen Baosheng was appointed vice president of the Chinese Academy of Governance, and Li Jianhua, former vice president of the academy, will no longer hold this position, the State Council announced.

According to the statement, Zhang Yali will serve as a vice director of the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, and Zhou Laizhen will become a vice head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China.Also, Xie Fuzhan, the newly elected governor of central China's Henan Province, will no longer head the Research Office of the State Council, the statement said.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/03/2013

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Official Axed Over Water Pollution Scandal

 

An official of a county environmental protection bureau has been removed from his post after his whitewashing of pollution in north China's Hebei Province triggered outrage nationwide. According to the CPC Committee of Cangxian County, Deng Lianjun, secretary of the leading Party group of the Environmental Protection Bureau of Cangxian County, was relieved of his position on Friday afternoon. Reports on China Central Television earlier this week featured Deng claiming that the red appearance of water in the wells of Xiaozhuzhuang Village in Cangxian County does not mean it is unfit for drinking."Some water appears red because there are red materials in it. For example, if you put a handful of red beans into water, the water will turn red, and if you cook rice with red beans, the rice will also become red," Deng said when a journalist asked whether the red water in Xiaozhuzhuang could meet national standards or not.

 

Deng's response has been put under the spotlight and sparked outrage after being broadcast on television and the Internet. Villagers blame the underground water pollution on Jianxin Chemical Plant near the village. But the plant is licensed for discharges, according to the environmental protection bureau, and a principal of the plant claimed that local environmental departments examine sewage from the facility every year, with results proving the water could meet the standards. However, villagers said they had taken water samples for testing, and the results showed that the water samples contain aniline and nitrobenzene, a poisonous oily water-soluble liquid. Earlier in January, a poultry farmer surnamed Zhou reported the death of around 700 chickens on his farm, attributing the disaster to the animals' drinking of the red underground water. According to villagers, shallow local groundwater began to turn red in 2002.

 

 In the beginning, they only found the red tint in a 30-cm-deep puddle, but later the water in a 400-meter-deep well began to turn pink as well. Since then, people in Xiaozhuzhuang have only been able to use purchased purified water for drinking or cooking. According to the local government, Jianxin Chemical Plant was built in 1988. Its main product was metanilic acid, but the plant halted production in 2011.The government didn't disclose why the plant halted production. The county government has launched a team to investigate the pollution, and villagers have been warned against drinking shallow groundwater or allowing livestock to do so.

  From http://www.news.cn/ 04/07/2013

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Transplant System Will 'Ensure Fair Allocation'

 

The top health authority is set to issue a regulation ordering mandatory use of a computerized organ allocation system by hospitals in a bid to ensure transparent and fair allocation of organ donations, according to a senior official. Huang Jiefu, former vice-minister of health, told China Daily in an exclusive interview that the regulation will enhance the efficiency of organ sharing and save more needy patients' lives. Huang, head of the organ transplant committee of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, made the comments in response to concerns over fairness after reports said that only one-third of the nation's public organ donations had been allocated by the system."Organ allocation is in fact life allocation, and people won't donate without fair practices," he said. Wang Haibo, director of the China Organ Transplant Response System Research Center at the University of Hong Kong, said the policy was developed after research based on dozens of countries' allocation policies and several discussions with Chinese experts and officials.

 

"We are looking forward to the coming regulation being forceful and strong enough to better supervise donated organ procurement and allocation," he said. The computerized allocation system will automatically rank all waiting patients according to medical factors like disease severity, waiting time and distance from donors, then quickly single out the best recipient."All out-of-system allocations will be banned, and hospitals caught with irregularities will face punishment including suspension from practice or even license revocation," he noted. Wang was on the national organ donation expert committee that drafted the regulation. China has so far realized at least 700 public organ donations from the deceased, according to Gao Xinpu, a division director of the National Organ Donation Management Center under the Red Cross Society of China.

 

The Red Cross and the National Health and Family Planning Commission operate a national organ donation system to facilitate organ donations after death and to ease a serious shortage of organs for transplant. Gao said equipment limitations and poor awareness were the main reasons that only one-third of donations were allocated by the system. However, the other two-thirds were allocated according to similar principles, he pointed out. According to Gao, hospitals that detect donors and obtain donations are now favored during the allocation. "With matching recipients, the hospital that procures organ donations should at least have one organ harvested and transplanted for its own patient," he said. The other organs donated are allocated first in the city and then the province.

 

But Gao stressed that putting all organ donations through the allocation system will become standard procedure."That should be regulated by the health authority and requires a matching mechanism to facilitate supervision by the Red Cross," Gao urged. He was concerned whether the coming mandate would hurt hospitals' enthusiasm, as they might fear that the organ donations they procure could be used by other hospitals."More time and caution is needed for related issue planning and implementation," he said, pointing out that China's organ donation system was just getting off the ground and scaled up nationwide after a three-year trial in various regions. Regarding the inconsistency between local practice and national policy, Wang Haibo said the policy should not simply be altered based on individual preference. The suggestion for policy revision should be subjected to review and approval by the China national organ donation expert committee. Men Tongyi, a leading kidney transplant surgeon at Qiaofoshan Hospital in Jinan, Shandong province, agreed, adding that step-by-step progress is more practical. He conceded that they had not yet turned to the system for allocation."The provincial Red Cross is now in charge of the allocation and sharing of organ donations within Shandong," he said. Of the nearly 100 kidney transplants performed in the hospital last year, 13 were deceased public organ donations, procured by the hospital and others.

 

Li Peng, a doctor at the procurement center of the General Hospital of Guangzhou Military Command of the PLA, thought otherwise."We've long been waiting for such a regulation," he said. Without the system, "how can we ensure fair allocation and bolster public willingness to donate", he noted. When asked by donor families if the organs only go to the rich and powerful, "I can firmly say 'no' and show them the system", he said. The first to use the system, the hospital has performed nearly 40 public deceased organ donations since 2011 involving about 100 organs, he revealed. Nearly half went to other hospitals and some even went outside Guangdong via the system. However, "we never received one from others", he complained. He urged quick introduction of the regulation to address the problem, which he said is caused primarily by poor awareness and hospital-based organ allocation.

 From http://www.news.cn/ 04/12/2013

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China Pushes Local Agencies on Corruption Probes

 

China's top procuratorial organ on Friday demanded local organs investigate cases of official corruption in a determined manner and brave any obstacles.In a teleconference, the Supreme People's Procuratorate said efforts should be focused on cracking major cases that carry high significance for the country's corruption fight.Local procuratorial organs have been urged to target those areas and aspects most prone to embezzlement and bribery, including construction projects, and thoroughly investigate those corruption chains, according to a statement on the meeting.It said they should actively collect and check clues, including paying more attention to information exposed via online scrutiny.

 From http://www.news.cn/ 04/13/2013

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Premier Stresses Foresight in Economic Policymaking

 

Premier Li Keqiang has underlined the importance of foresight in economic policymaking, calling for focusing on economic transformation and upgrading through deepened reform.Li made the remarks while chairing a seminar on macroeconomics, foreign trade, finance and real estate attended by scholars and entrepreneurs.Li said the Chinese economy had a smooth start this year, but the country still faces a complex situation due to instability and uncertainty in the domestic and international environment."To better grasp the curve of the economy, it is imperative to strengthen foresight," Li said, adding that this will be crucial for the sustained and sound development of the economy.Li said macroeconomic decision-making requires both keeping a steady footing and eyeing long-term economic upgrades.While effectively coping with short-term problems and maintaining reasonable growth, more efforts should be made to improve the quality and benefits of development, with a focus on promoting economic restructuring and upgrading, expanding employment and increasing people's incomes, he said.

 

He said the impetus for sustained development lies in deepening reform, urging targeted policies to cure not only "symptoms" but deeply-rooted problems in the Chinese economy.If interim measures have to be carried out, they should not set up barriers for promoting market-oriented reform and development in the future, he said.Li called for making long-term effective policy arrangements to unleash the dividends of reform and boost the sustained development of the economy.The premier said he hopes scholars and experts can advise the government and foster a societal environment conducive to deepening reforms and promoting economic upgrading.Scholars and experts from multiple universities and research institutions, as well as entrepreneurs from different sectors, attended the seminar, which was the first of its kind to be organized by China's new government since its inauguration.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/14/2013

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Central Gov't to Spend Less on Travels, Vehicles, Receptions

 

The central government will spend less on overseas visits, vehicles and receptions this year amid China's frugality efforts, authorities said on Thursday.The central government will use 7.97 billion yuan (1.28 billion U.S. dollars) on such items in 2013, down 126 million yuan from its actual spending in 2012, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said.The budget will include 2.14 billion yuan for traveling overseas, 4.40 billion yuan for the purchase and maintenance of government vehicles and 1.43 billion yuan for official receptions, according to the MOF.In 2012, the central government spent 111 million yuan more than its original budget on such items.The over-spending last year was caused by the State Post Bureau setting up postal monitoring institutions at levels below provinces, according to an official with the ministry.The MOF will strictly follow the central government's requirements to cut waste, the source added.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/18/2013

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JAPAN: New System Aims to End Waiting Lists for Day Care

 

The problem of long waiting lists at child care facilities has long attracted criticism of the government. To address this situation, the government decided to include a new system for childcare from fiscal 2015 in last summer's comprehensive reform of the social security and tax systems. The government plans to improve the nursery school situation by injecting 700 billion yen annually, using revenue from the planned consumption tax increase. In 2001, the administration of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi developed "strategies of zero nursery school waiting lists" and promoted measures, including the easing of regulations covering the number of children accepted at child care centers. With the deregulation, the number of spaces at accredited day care centers rose to 2.24 million, an increase of about 280,000 over 10 years by fiscal 2012. In urban areas, the number of noncertified, but approved by municipalities, child care facilities has also increased.

 

However, applicants have focused on accredited centers as noncertified facilities tend to be more expensive than accredited facilities despite having less room and fewer day care staff. Additionally, the number of women who continue to work after having children is increasing due to an increased availability of maternity leave. The difficult labor environment has also led to an increase in the number of households with both parents working. Under these circumstances, the percentage of families with preschool children using day care centers has increased annually, reaching 34 percent in April last year. The government estimates there are about 400,000 children requiring child care. Under the new system, each municipality will establish child care facilities after calculating the number of children whose parents want to enroll them in these facilities. The new system will have all such children accepted. The government anticipates waiting lists at child care centers will end within about five years of implementing the new system. As the system will not kick in until fiscal 2015--taking seven years to eliminate waiting lists--the lack of day care facilities will continue. Calls for the government to strengthen measures to decrease the number of children on waiting lists have come from the government's regulatory reform council and other entities.

From http://the-japan-news.com 03/31/2013 

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Civil Servants 'Must Be Policy Experts'

 

National civil servants need to be experts in policymaking to protect national interests, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a speech Wednesday. "The world is entering an era of severe competition," Abe told a group of new national civil servants at the opening of their joint job training program. "If you, the leaders of policy planning, are not specialists in the field, we will not be able to protect the nation's interest." The prime minister also urged them to be proactive in their duties, referring to the playing style of Shigeo Nagashima, the former star of the Yomiuri Giants who will be given the prestigious People's Honor Award. A total of 535 new national public servants hired for general management positions at government ministries and agencies are taking training sessions in Tokyo.

From http://the-japan-news.com 04/04/2013

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SOUTH KOREA: Defense Ministry to Beef Up Cybersecurity Forces

 

The defense ministry said it plans to beef up its cyber-security forces to cope with the North's increasing asymmetric cyber strategies. The ministry also reaffirmed that it will gain wartime operational control from the United States in December 2015 as planned. Our Kim In-kyung has more. Report: The Defense Ministry briefed President Park Geun-hye on Monday and introduced its plans to strengthen cyber security. The ministry told the president about its plans to revamp its control tower for cyber policies and develop a military response scenario against cyber-attacks. It also plans to sharply increase the number of cyber-warfare forces and reinforce cooperation with the U.S. to develop measures against cyber attacks. The briefing comes after computer networks at South Korean media and banks crashed in late March in an apparent hacking attack. A defense ministry official said the ministry plans to cooperate with the U.S. on cyber policy, technology and information. The cyber attack response scenario will include defense and offense policies against potential enemies in times of war and peace.

The ministry also plans to create a customized deterrence strategy against threats of weapons of mass destruction by North Korea. It will formulate detailed three-step response measures to deal with nuclear threats, imminent use of nuclear weapons and actual use of nuclear weapons. The official said it plans to complete the draft for the deterrence strategy by early July, utilize it during the Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercise in August, and finalize it with the U.S. in October. The ministry also reaffirmed its plans to take over wartime operational control (OPCON) from the United States in December 2015 and develop an alternative combined-defense regime which will replace the Combined Forces Command. The defense ministry plans to reach an agreement on the concept of the new combined defense structure at the Korea-U.S. Military Committee Meeting in mid-May in Washington D.C. and finalize the new structure at a meeting of defense chiefs at the annual Security Consultative Meeting scheduled for October in Seoul.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 04/01/2013

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Gov't Forming Investigation Team to Bring Order to the Capital Market

 

The government will set up a joint investigation team to crack down on crimes that disturb order in the capital market, including stock price manipulation and black market dealings. Our Bae Joo-yon has more. The Justice Ministry briefed President Park Geun-hye on Friday and vowed to bring order to the market economy. The ministry unveiled plans to form a joint government investigation team to swiftly probe major stock market crime and crack down on intellectual property rights’ violations and technology leaks. The envisioned team will also look into major black market crimes, including illegal money lending and the production and sale of fake oil. The team will also strengthen investigation on fake tax invoices in a bid to bring the underground economy into the legitimate economic arena. In a bid to boost crime prevention and expand social safety nets, the ministry will form task forces on eradicating what the Park administration has deemed the nation's four major evils: sexual violence, school violence, domestic violence and adulterated food. The ministry will also establish an investigation bureau on crimes involving women and children in four major district prosecutors’ offices, including the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office. The ministry’s briefing comes as prosecutors are set to launch investigations from next month on embezzlement, bribery and other scandals involving senior public officials.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 04/05/2013

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Gov't to Push for Anti-Corruption Bill for Civil Servants

 

The government will push to enact a tougher law on public officials involved in irregularities as part of an ongoing effort to root out corruption in the public sector that is critical for regaining the trust of the people, the anti-corruption agency said Monday. During its briefing on its 2013 policy plan to President Park Geun-hye, the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (ACRC) vowed to submit a bill, tentatively named the "Anti-Corruption and Conflicts of Interests Act," to the National Assembly before June.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr 04/08/2013

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Gov't to Turn Irregular Public Workers into Regulars by 2015

 

The government will give irregular workers in the public sector semi-regular positions by 2015 as part of efforts to eliminate discriminatory labor practices and improve working conditions, the labor ministry said Monday. With announcing the results of its fact-finding survey concerning irregular workers in the public sector, the ministry vowed to draw up a list of temporary workers who carry out duties "on a constant and continuous basis" and make them semi-regular employees with no limit on the contract period.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr 04/08/2013

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Special Committee on Judicial Reform Launched

 

Rival political parties have launched a parliamentary special committee on judicial reform. In the committee’s first plenary session on Monday, the ruling Saenuri and main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) appointed Saenuri lawmaker Yoo Ki-june to lead the committee. Saenuri lawmaker Hong Il-pyo and DUP legislator Seo Young-kyo were named the administrator for each party. The two parties discussed the scope of the agenda to be discussed by the committee, but failed to reach an agreement in light of differences. The ruling party wants the committee to discuss prosecution reform, such as abolishing the Central Investigations Department of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office and introducing a year-round independent probe team. However, the opposition insists the scope of the discussion be limited to the establishment of an anticorruption system and that the prosecution reform be discussed by the parliamentary legislation and judiciary committee.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 04/15/2013

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INDONESIA: To Curb Corruption with Crowdsourcing Portal

 

Open Government Indonesia launched recently a corruption reporting portal called “Lapor” which aims to encourage citizens to file corruption complaints and other fraudulent conduct done by those in the Public Service. Open Government Indonesia (OGI) is part of a multilateral initiative called Open Government Partnership, which aims to secure concrete commitments from governments around the world to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. OGI is composed of the following members: the Presidential Work Unit for Development Monitoring and Control of development , the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology , National Development Planning Agency, the Commission Information Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Administrative Reform and Bureaucratic Reform , the National Secretariat of the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency, Centre for Regional Studies and Information, Indonesian Centre for Environmental Law and Transparency International Indonesia. The portal is simple and Intuitive making it easy for users to navigate the website. To file a report, users can register either through their Twitter or Facebook account or send the report via SMS to 1708 (applies for local residents only). In addition, OGI also took advantage of Indonesia’s high mobile penetration rate by enabling users to download the portal’s mobile app version available in Android, BlackBerry and iOS platforms. Furthermore, users can look up and share the reports made by other people, and also view the corresponding responses from the concerned government agency or from the team managing the portal regarding the complaints.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 04/18/2013

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Indonesia’s President Joins Twitter, Attracts 1 Mil Followers

 

Twitter yesterday welcomed Indonesia’s President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono , or more popularly known as SBY, on to the popular microblogging site and thanked him for his initiative to engage citizens online. Since its launch, the President has gained over 1 million followers, making him the third most popular South East Asian Leader on Twitter, just behind Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and Malaysian Prime Minister Dato Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak. According to Julian Aldrin Pasha, the presidential spokesperson, the President will put his own initials at the end of the tweets to let people know the tweets are from him. However, there will also be a team who will help the President manage the account from time to time. "He is aware of the critics in the social media. The consequences have been thought thoroughly. He is willing to respond to the dynamics in Twitter that sometimes there is information not based on the real facts,” he said.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 04/18/2013

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Indonesian City Police Urged to Use Twitter and Facebook

 

Indonesia’s Tangerang Metro Police required all police subprecincts and their officers to create Twitter and Facebook accounts in a bid to improve citizen engagement and services to the public. Tangerang Metro Police Chief Sr Comr Wahyu Widada said on April 17 that social media have potential to help police share and receive information directly with citizens. “Technology continues to develop and many of our community’s members use social networking sites to communicate and share information with one another. So why don’t we? The police should also use these sites for similar purposes,” he said. Engaging with residents closely would help on-duty officers or those on standby to be ready for immediate follow up on any incidents or information can be sent to them by locals instantly, he added. “Community members can inform officers via Facebook or Twitter about traffic congestion, accidents or even crimes, which would allow officers to follow up the information on the spot,” Widada said.

 

He believed that social media like Twitter and Facebook would help the development of interactive communication between the police and civil society as community members could deliver the latest updated information. “We will mobilise all our officers to open accounts on popular social media sites so that they can feel closer to the community. Residents who need information from the police can also ask directly and get a quick response,” he said. The Tangerang Metro Police may follow the step taken by Jakarta Police’s Traffic Management Center (TMC), whose Twitter account @TMCPoldaMetro and Instagram’s Tmcpoldametro are considered the most reliable sources of moment-to-moment information on the state of traffic in the capital. Tangerang is a city located in Banten Province — 25 kilometres west of Jakarta. It is considered an industrial and manufacturing zone on the Java island and home to over 1,000 factoris. It has population of about 1.8 million.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 04/19/2013

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CAMBODIA: PM Vows to Bring Greater Prosperity to His People

 

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said he had set a vision that his country will be among countries with upper middle income by the year of 2030. He made the remarks during a recent interview with Xinhua on the eve of his official visit to China, where he would also attend the Boao Forum For Asia Annual Conference. He said Cambodia has laid out strategies and action plans to achieve an annual economic growth of 6-7 percent in the long run, and cut the poverty rate by more than 1 percent each year "Now the poverty rate among Cambodian people is 19 percent, and we will reduce the poverty rate to the lowest as we can," he said. "This year, Cambodia will move forward from a low-income to a lower-middle income country." Hun Sen, 61, has been in power for 28 years and is expected to be re-elected as prime minister for a new 5-year term.

 

Recalling his political career, he said he joined the army when he was 18 and became foreign minister at the age of 27, very young compared with other leaders at that time. At the age of 29, he became deputy prime minister and foreign minister and at the age of 32, he became prime Minister. "Until now, I have held the post of prime minister for more than 28 years- -one of the longest serving prime ministers," he said. He said he has all along enjoyed full support by the party and the majority of Cambodian people. "I do only good deeds, if our party and I do bad deeds, no one votes for us," he said. He said his party, the Cambodian People's Party, has a culture called "the art of sharing," and they use that concept to mobilize capitals and other resources to dig canals, built roads, schools and hospitals for the people. He said that as a competent leader, one should not be frustrated in face of difficult tasks. "We cannot lose self- control in decision making in politics or other matters," he said. He attributed his successes in leadership to the people's support, the competent people working with him and the correct political platform of the Cambodian People's Party.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 04/04/2013

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MALAYSIA: Expanding E-procurement Service

 

The Government of Malaysia is expanding its flagship e-procurement system called e-Perolehan (eP) by opening more eP centres nationwide to improve efficiency and transparency in government spending. The e-Perolehan initiative is a project under the Multimedia Super Corridor initiative. The system transforms the manual procurement practice into an electronic, internet-based practice. Through the system, suppliers and contractors can receive, manage and process orders or payments from Government agencies through transactions done electronically on the Internet. Likewise, it enables Government agencies nationwide to procure goods and services from their suppliers electronically. Since its launch in 2000, the system has transformed the government-to-business procurement landscape by leveraging on ICT to allow the Government to achieve greater productivity, cost efficiencies and transparency.

 

Dato’ Mohd Shafiq Bin Abdullah, Project Director of the e-Procurement unit at the Ministry of Finance, told FutureGov that as of 2012, the total amount that has been transacted through the eP system is RM15.485 billion (USD 4.9 billion), while savings for Government procurement through eBidding is RM26 million (USD 8.3 million). At present, apart from the three eP centres at the Procurement Division of the Ministry of Finance in Putrajaya, Sabah, and Sarawak, the public may now visit 16 eP centres in other states. The eP centres have been expanded to provide advice and assistance to suppliers in all aspects of the Ministry of Finance licence registration, as well as acquisition transactions with the government. The centres provide free trainings and learning programmes to suppliers so they can familiarise themselves with the e-Perolehan system. To view a complete directory of eP centres, please refer to this link.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 04/22/2013

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PHILIPPINES: To Enhance E-procurement System

 

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Philippines, will implement new membership types for its Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS), allowing users to access additional features. "The Aquino administration remains committed to improving openness and transparency in governance through our digitization efforts," said the DBM Secretary Florencio Abad. . Registered suppliers will be subjected to additional fees, which will allow them to access additional user features such as electronic bidding and electronic payment, he added. Two new membership schemes will be introduced. They are Blue Membership and Platinum Membership.  For the Blue Membership, suppliers will be charged PHP 3,000 (US$ 73) per annum for access to extra features. The Blue members will be able to download PhilGEPS documents and print their own PhilGEPS registration certificate as well as one additional contact user for the organisation.  Users of the system have long requested for this feature to ease the transaction process, usually done personally at the PhilGEPS office or through postal service.

 

For Platinum Members, PHP 5,000 (US$ 121.87) will be charged annually and exclusive PhilGEPS features will be enabled. These include the uploading of eligibility documents and their products catalogue in the system, direct access to a list of consultants, and online bid submission. Other features that will soon be available to them include e-payment, bid documents, and registration fees. The e-payment will help facilitate electronic and cashless payments for purchases at the virtual store.  "By allowing government agencies to conduct all phases of the procurement process online, we can ensure that public spending is more efficient and, at the same time, open to scrutiny. These efforts to further digitise procurement processes, in the spirit of transparency and accountability, would allow us to avert corruption, collusion and other transaction irregularities," Abad added.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 03/28/2013

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The Philippines Beefs Up E-budgeting System

 

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the Philippines is pushing ahead the digitisation of budget processes to be done by 2014 as part of supporting the public financial management reforms. DBM Secretary Florencio S Abad addressed this message during the 1st Quarterly Membership Meeting and Seminar of the Philippin Association for Government Budget Administration (PAGBA) held at the Sarabia Manor Hotel.  Abad said that budget submissions will be done electronically starting from 2014, and there will no longer be manual. This digitisation process will help save seven working days for the DBM. “We are currently installing a government integrated financial management information system to enable real-time information on financial transactions,” said Abad.  At the same event, he added that the DBM is also expanding its government e-procurement system towards online bidding.

 

“Next year, we will issue agencies vouchers so that all procurement of common-used supplies can be traced in the government procurement system,” Abad said. The DBM has recently launched an e-payment facility early this year, which has marked the first time in the history of this archipelago country to have this online payment solution for the government. “This will allow us to pay online when we procure supplies through the Landbank of the Philippines,” Abad added. The online payment in the government e-procurement is expected to be the starting point for other services that the government will provide including birth certificates, passports, licenses, among others, according to him.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 04/04/2013

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Philippine Agriculture Department Boosts Transparency with Open Data Portal

 

As support to President Aquino’s call for transparency, the Department of Agriculture launched its open data portal called DAAN (Department of Agriculture Accountability Network) website which aims to promote public awareness of its community-focused projects and activities nationwide. The portal provides a library of the agency’s on-going and completed projects nationwide. It also details their fund allocations and cumulative disbursements, completion period, percentage of accomplishment and other relevant data, including regularly updated photos, which were provided by the attached agencies, corporations and regional field units of the Department of Agriculture. In addition, as part of its efforts to enhance the portal, the agency has also started mapping the projects through GPS. Mapped projects include farm to market roads, irrigation, post-harvest facilities, production support facilities, market related infrastructure, post-harvest equipment and machines as well as other major projects nationwide. Furthermore, users are encouraged to post their comments on the projects so as to help the agency improve its project management activities.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 04/19/2013

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SINGAPORE: New Returning Officer Appointed to Replace Yam Ah Mee

 

Mr Ng Wai Choong, a Deputy Secretary (Policy) in the Ministry of Finance, has been appointed as the new Returning Officer, according to a notice published in the Government Gazette. SINGAPORE: A new returning officer has been appointed to replace former People's Association Chief Yam Ah Mee, according to a notice published in the Government Gazette. Mr Ng Wai Choong, a Deputy Secretary (Policy) in the Ministry of Finance will take over the supervision of the elections effective on Monday. A veteran civil servant -- he has served in the Ministry of Trade and Industry and in the Ministry of National Development. He is also a board member of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), the Singapore Totalisator Board, and A*STAR. Mr Yam Ah Mee, who oversaw four elections in two years and became an internet sensation, has left for the private sector.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 04/01/2013

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Singapore to Remove Pensions for Administrative Officers

 

The pensions for Singapore's administrative officers and judicial appointment holders, and a long-term retention package will be introduced instead for administrative officers, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said on Monday. A gratuity plan will be introduced for judicial and statutory appointment holders. The new retention package was introduced with the aim of retaining officers for leadership and policy continuity within the public service, following a review by the Public Service Division. The change will affect about 300 administrative service officers, judicial and statutory appointment holders, the Public Service Division said. Retired officers will not be affected. In another change, the officers and appointment holders will receive a National Bonus instead of the current Gross Domestic Product Bonus, similar to the changes to the salaries of political appointment holders.

 

The National Bonus is linked to the socio-economic progress of average and lower-income citizens, as well as the growth of Singapore. A review of the salary packages for Singapore's political office holders, like the ministers and lawmakers, was carried out in 2012 by an independent committee. The president, prime minister and other government ministers received pay cuts as changes were announced to the way their salaries and remuneration packages were calculated. The said then that civil servants as well as judicial and statutory appointment holders are pursuing professional careers in the public sector, and that competition for talent is keen. The committee felt they should be paid market-competitive salaries.

 

"In carrying out the review, the Public Service Division also maintained the policy that civil service salaries should lag, and not lead, the market even though they take reference from the market. PSD looked at multiple sources of data and also engaged Mercer, an international expert on remuneration issues," Teo said. Teo said on Monday that PSD completed its review and it concluded that current salaries are at about the right level and will be maintained. Teo said that the government would continue to regularly review the salaries of the administrative service and judicial and statutory appointment holders. Singapore has one of the cleanest government in the world. It adopts a system where the civil servants receive transparent but competitive salaries. The salaries for the ministers are among the highest in the world but they have few hidden benefits.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 04/09/2013

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THAILAND: Civil Servants Fight Planned Change to Pension Fund

 

State officials in Chaiyaphum threatened yesterday to stage a rally against the government's moves to amend laws relating to the Government Pension Fund (GPF), as they fear changes would affect their benefits. About 1,000 government officials from 12 provincial agencies held a meeting yesterday and launched an official appeal for the government to not cut their benefits. The Cabinet is due to meet today at Chaiyaphum Park Hotel to consider the changes. Sa-ngiam Thonglamun, who represented 50,000 GPF members in Chaiyaphum, said they were against the amendment as it would not be fair to them. "If our proposals do not get a response, we will take our protest to the Finance Ministry," he said. Sa-ngiam said the government had already lost up to Bt60 billion of GPF funds on the stock market over the past few years and that this amendment would further cut benefits of 700,000 members nationwide.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 04/09/2013

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BANGLADESH: Judges’ Salary Hike Govt Stance Irks SC

 

The Supreme Court has fixed Tuesday for hearing a government petition over the implementation of raising the salary and other allowances of its subordinate court judges as recommended by the Judicial Service Pay Commission (JSPC). A 6-member bench of the Appellate Division, headed by Chief Justice M Muzammel Hossain, on Monday passed the order when Attorney General Mahbubey Alam filed a time petition during the hearing of a pending contempt of court case against the finance secretary over non-implementation of the apex court order on JSPC over the Masdar Hossain Case, known as the judiciary separation case. The apex court on March 14 asked the government to increase the pay scale of the lower court judges by 30 percent instead of the 20 percent proposed by the government.

 

Passing the order, it had also asked the government to submit a report on compliance over the implementation of the pay scale by April 15 (Today). Expressing dissatisfaction at the government’s dillydally in implementing the order, the Appellate Division told the Attorney General that when there is government’s good wishes it is seen that the decision is made in the morning and an ordinance is promulgated in the evening. It said such attitude towards the highest judiciary cannot be taken easily as the government is not complying with the court order. On July 19, 2012, the SC asked the government to fully implement by October 1 the recommendations of the JSPC formed in June 2007 in the light of the historic Masdar Hossain Case that separated the judiciary from the shackles of the executive.

From http://www.unbconnect.com 04/15/2013

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Hamid Elected President Unopposed

 

Abdul Hamid was elected uncontested the country’s 20th President on Monday, raising a hope that he will take effective initiatives to resolve the country’s long-drawn political crisis. Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad made the announcement at 11 am after scrutinising the validity of Hamid’s candidature. The Election Commission also issued a gazette notification declaring Hamid as the President. “Abdul Hamid Advocate, father late Haji Md Tayebuddin of Kamalpur at Mithamoin under Kishoreganj district has been elected for the post of President of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh as per the declaration of the Election Commissioner following the section 7 of President Election Act 1991 and sub-rule 6 of rule 12 of the President Election Rules 1991,” reads the gazette notification. Earlier, on Sunday, Awami League Parliamentary Party (ALPP) nominated Abdul Hamid as an Awami League candidate to contest the president election scheduled for April 29.

 

A delegation of ruling Awami League, on behalf of Hamid, submitted three nomination papers to the EC on Sunday, the last date for filing the papers. As no other candidates submit nomination papers by the deadline, Hamid was declared the President unopposed by the commission today (Monday), the day of scrutinising nomination papers. On April 9, the CEC announced the schedule for the president election. As per the constitution, the tenure of the President is five years since the day of taking oath.  Since March 14, Speaker Abdul Hamid has been discharging as acting President as per the Constitution. Born in 1944 in Kishoreganj, Hamid was elected MP from Itna-Mithamain-Ashtagram for the 7th time, bearing the testimony of his popularity as a public figure. Hamid, also a veteran politician, discharged his functions as parliament Speaker twice.

 

The post of President fell vacant on March 20 following the death of late President Zillur Rahman while undergoing treatment at a Singapore hospital. Zillur Rahman, one of the country’s most revered politicians, took over as the 19th President in 2009 after the Awami League-led grand alliance assumed office through a landslide victory in the December 2008 general election. About Hamid’s taking charge as the head of state, senior Awami League leader Tofail Ahmed on Sunday told reporters that Abdul Hamid as the new president will be acceptable to all. Claiming that various political parties supported Hamid in his run for the presidency, he had further said, “You’ve seen various parties paid compliments to Abdul Hamid through their speeches and statements. They’ve demonstrated he (Hamid) is worth of being the President.” Tofail hoped that Hamid will be able to sincerely work for people if he is elected the country’s 20th President.

From http://www.unbconnect.com 04/22/2013

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PAKISTAN: PPP to Make Next Govt in Punjab Barki

 

LAHORE: Pakistan Peoples Party Punjab finance secretary and candidate for NA-121 Aurang Zeb Barki Thursday claimed the PPP will eliminate terrorism and massacre from Punjab by forming the government after winning the elections 2013. Addressing different corner meetings at Samanabad and Sabzazar here on Thursday, he said the PML-N had failed to overcome crimes in the province, however, the PPP had potential to successfully maintain law and order situation. He said no tsunami would come now only "Awami" (public) revolution would come as people would vote only to the PPP in the elections. He said it was an honour for the PPP that first time in the history, a democratic government had completed its tenure. He added that the PPP had ensured continuity of the democratic process in Pakistan after introducing important amendments in the Constitution.

From http://www.brecorder.com 04/12/2013

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IT Ministry to Acquire Google Services

 

KARACHI: Ministry of Information Technology Sindh is to sign memorandum of understanding with Google Pakistan to acquire Google applications and to improve IT skills of the Sindh government employees’ skills and efficiency. In a meeting with Sindh Minister for I.T. Mian Zahid Hussain, the Country Consultant Google Pakistan, Badar Khushnood on Saturday has given a presentation of Google’s services to the minister and Secretary IT Muhammad Yousuf. Additional Secretary, Ali Nawaz Chachar and other senior officers of the ministry were also present on the occasion. Badar in his presentation demonstrated a number of Google facilities and advised the ministry to acquire Google’s various facilities and services for improvement of Sindh government’s efficiency and put the Sindh government to the track of high technology and automation. He said that Google’s educational services are free for everyone while nominal fee is charged for exclusive and customized services.

 

The Minister on this occasion asked the Google’s country chief to provide Google apps free of charge for three years to the Sindh government’s employees while the rest of the services on highly discounted rates, says a release here Monday. Badar assured the minister to send the request to the headquarters and hopefully will get the positive response. Ministry of IT has shown interest in acquiring Google services in Google drive, Google Apps, Google Cloud (Virtual services through mobile phones) and Gmail. Badar said that Google is doing a lot for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and has given $1 million for the flood victims and setting up a PASHA Fund. Regarding blocking of YouTube he said that all the anti-Islam content could only be banned by the YouTube when the YouTube Pakistan would be launched, for which he said government of Pakistan would have to formulate laws. The Minister has shown keen interest in acquiring the Google services for the improvement of Sindh government’s functionaries and appreciated the gesture of Google Pakistan.

From http://www.brecorder.com 04/15/2013

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AZERBAIJAN: Services of the Processing Center Will Be Temporarily Unavailable

 

Azericard processing center, which is in 100-percent ownership of the International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA), is starting the technical renewal of the system, according to a report of the center released on Friday. In this regard, on April16, from 00:00 to 06:00, AzeriCard processing center will fully stop functioning. The works on the software updating are planned and carried out a few times a year. The update does not include any changes in the user interface, and is carried out to increase the capacity and data throughput of the system, which, in turn, will allow the center to continue to create new products for users. For technical reasons, the work of ATMs, POS-terminals, cards, and e-commerce systems will be temporarily suspended. At present, Azericard network serves 1,500 ATMs, about 30,000 POS-terminals and two million cards. Today AzeriCard serves 30 banks. There are 43 banks in Azerbaijan.

From http://en.trend.az/ 04/14/2013

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Azerbaijani President: State Official Should Serve as an Example in Society for Every Citizen

 

Fight against corruption and bribery is actively underway in Azerbaijan, President Ilham Aliyev said addressing a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers on the results of socio-economic development in the first quarter of 2013 and the upcoming challenges. "This fight is underway comprehensively. Corruption and bribery is one of the biggest challenges for society, and it is our deepest wound. We must not only learn, but also apply the experience of developed countries in this field. I have repeatedly expressed my thoughts in this regard, and I want once again say that mere punishment, administrative measures are insufficient to achieve our goal. Of course, there must be punishment as well, and law enforcement authorities should continue their efforts in this direction. Administrative measures are also taken and will be taken," President Aliyev underlined. However, expanding and applying of institutional measures, conducting and continuing of systemic reforms will provide even better opportunities in the fight against corruption and bribery, he said. "We should narrow the existing ground for corruption and bribery. The "e-services" and "e-government" projects are a very important step in this direction," President Aliyev said. He said that official-citizen contacts in this direction should be minimized. "Again we should at most apply the experience of developed countries. Therefore, more attention will be paid to the development of ICT sector in Azerbaijan. Very serious steps were taken in this direction in the last few months. Among them I would like to note the activity of ASAN Xidmet. This service is expanding its activities. Thousands of people have already turned to ASAN Xidmet. I think that by the summer of this year, it will cover all districts of Baku. At the same time, big cities- Sumgait and Ganja will also be covered. The next year, I believe, the service should cover all other regions," he said. Along with this, state officials' responsibility should also increase, he said. "State officials serve and should serve the people. I expressed my thoughts on these issues. State officials should serve as an example for every citizen in the society. They should serve as an example of modesty, accuracy, and service to the motherland. State officials should be the chosen people. Their professionalism and moral qualities should be at top level. Official-citizen relations should be based on respect," President Aliyev underlined. He said principles of social justice should be fully applied in the society. It is required by our basic law - the Constitution.

From http://en.trend.az/ 04/16/2013

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New Education Minister Appointed in Azerbaijan

 

Mikayil Jabbarov has been appointed as Education Minister by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's decree. Mikayil Jabbarov has been dismissed as the director of the Administration of Icherisheher State Historical-Architectural Reserve under the Cabinet of Ministers. Education Minister of Azerbaijan Misir Mardanov has been dismissed by another presidential decree. Mikayil Jabbarov was born in Baku on Sept.19, 1976. He graduated from the Faculty of International Law of the Baku State University. He got a degree of Master of Law at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento and a Master of Economics at the Azerbaijan State Economic University. He is member of the New York State Bar Association. He began his career in 1995 in the banking sector, and in 1999-2002 worked as a lawyer in the private sector. In 2002-2003, he was Advisor to the Economic Development Minister, in 2003-2004 - President of the Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Foundation (AZPROMO). He was appointed as Azerbaijani Deputy Economic Development Minister on Feb.20, 2004. On March 6, 2009 he was appointed as the head of the Administration of Icherisheher State Historical-Architectural Reserve under the Cabinet of Ministers.

From http://en.trend.az/ 04/19/2013

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KYRGYZSTAN: Deputy Interior Minister Appointed

 

Furhat Usenov was appointed the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Kyrgyzstan, KirTAG reported with reference to the press service of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic on Wednesday. The corresponding decree was signed by the Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Jantoro Satybaldiev.

From http://en.trend.az/ 03/27/2013

 

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KAZAKHSTAN: National Investors Council Created

 

A National Investors Council has been created in Kazakhstan. President Nursultan Nazarbayev said at the Council of Entrepreneurs meeting this week: "In 'Strategy - 2050' we denoted domestic business as the main source of domestic investments. Correspondently, I think it is important to strengthen the role and status of our Council. I decided to convert it to the National Investors Council of the Republic of Kazakhstan." According to him permanent working groups led by co-chairs will be established under the new status of the Council. The Ministry of Regional Development is to be determined as the main working body. "I am instructing the Government to introduce new draft regulations and proposals on the Council's composition over a month. Today, together with you, we have identified and discussed new problems. The position of the state is supporting domestic entrepreneurs. This is the first economic goal. I believe that Kazakh businessmen will support these initiatives and increase the contribution, “the head of state said.

From http://en.trend.az/ 04/11/2013

 

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TURKMENISTAN: Law Enforcement Bodies Reshuffled

 

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has made personnel changes in the law enforcement bodies at a meeting of the State Security Council, Turkmen media reported on Thursday referring to the presidential order. According to the reports, first rank lawyer Yusup Ovezgylyjov was dismissed from the position of prosecutor of the Abadan town of Akhal velayat (province) and was appointed as Deputy Prosecutor General of the country. The previous Deputy Prosecutor General Khudainazar Nazarov was dismissed from his post as his term of office expires. This corresponds to Article 16 of the Law on 'Turkmen Public Prosecutor's Office'. According to another presidential order, Police Colonel Allamyrat Hajiyev was dismissed from the post of Deputy Interior Minister for shortcomings in his work. According to the Turkmen Dovlet Khabarlary state news service, the results of the military and law enforcement bodies for the first quarter of this year, as well as a number of issues related to the further strengthening of the material and technical base were considered at a meeting of the State Council. In particular, Interior Minister reported the measures to prevent offences, to maintain public order in the country and to ensure fire safety. The president gave instructions to improve the work to ensure fire safety and to enhance road surveillance officers' work to monitor road safety. The prosecution bodies reported on the work as of the first three months of this year to consider the citizens' complaints, Neutral Turkmenistan newspaper reported. 'Focusing on the need for the most responsible approach to solve the tasks of the prosecution bodies and ensure the rule of law, the Turkmen president urged that each case be thoroughly examined and to thwart any attempt of violating the existing national legislation', the article said.

From http://en.trend.az/ 04/04/2013

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AUSTRALIA: AEC Seeks E-Voting System

 

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has gone to tender for an electronic voting system to be used for commercial elections, but not for political elections. The request for tender, issued late last week, states that the AEC is facing growing demand from its commercial clients to have online ballots. The AEC said this was especially strong when it came to voting for enterprise agreements. "For the AEC to remain competitive with other election service providers, new methods of voting, such as electronic voting, need to be implemented to meet the changing client expectations," the AEC said in its statement of requirements. The system will need to be able to manage yes/no ballots in multiple formats with up to 100 questions, allow secure and anonymous online votes, allow users to log in to vote with an approved identifier, generate emails to voters, be able to compare postal and electronic votes to prevent duplicate votes, prevent the ability to cast an informal vote, count the votes, archive votes and logins, and keep a backup. The system must be compatible with the AEC's internal systems, and must work on Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Chrome, and Opera.

 

The sytem will use the AEC's infrastructure, and the security standards must comply with Defence Signals Directorate requirements. The commission has said that the system will need to be in place by the end of 2013. The AEC specifically stated that the system will not include functionality for parliamentary elections, elections to office, or polling place electronic voting machines. There have been a number of trials of electronic voting for parliamentary elections, notably in the 2007 federal election and the 2011 New South Wales state election, and the ACT has used electronic voting extensively for its elections. Following the 2007 federal election, where electronic voting was tested with both the Australian Defence Force and for a number of vision-impaired voters, the AEC found that the trials were a success, but the combined cost of both trials was AU$4 million, with a per-voter cost of AU$2,597, compared to the AU$8.36 cost per voter in the 2007 election, generally. Due to the high cost, a parliamentary committee looking into electronic voting, recommended that trials should not be continued for future federal elections, but according to a Parliamentary Library background note published in October last year (PDF), the AEC is still looking at developing assisted telephone voting methods for blind and low-vision voters.

From http://www.zdnet.com 04/04/2013

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Govt Plans Data Agency to Support Education Reforms

 

The Federal Government plans to establish a new organisation that will collect, analyse and research data required to boost the performance of schools. The Australian School Performance Institute was announced following the weekend release of the government’s National Plan for School Improvement. The Government said the Institute would enhance national data accountability, and help it evaluate which schools were performing and which initiatives were working to lift results. In response to the Gonski Review of school funding, the government is proposing an additional $14.5 billion investment over the next six years. However, the plan requires funding support from the states. “This new money comes with new ways of working to ensure every child in every school reaches their full potential,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard told journalists. The government has also flagged the development of a national education data program that will help improve national data quality, consistency and collection. “There must be complete transparency about how schools are striving to improve and how well they are doing,” Gillard said. The government also plans to deliver additional information on its My School website, including the level of teacher expertise, the number of specialist teachers, and staff attendance and turnover.

From http://www.itnews.com.au 04/15/2013

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FIJI: To Establish Accountability and Transparency Commission - AG

 

Accountability and Transparency Commission will be set up by the Fiji government in the next three months. Fiji’s Attorney-General and Minister Responsible for Elections Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the commission would enforce the code of conduct of public office holders. Speaking at a public meeting on the draft constitution in Suva yesterday, he said the establishment of the commission basically meant that the President, Prime Minister, ministers and senior civil servants would need to disclose all their assets and liabilities. “In three months time, you would be able to know how much money I earn, whether I have a house or not, whether my wife has a house or not and whether any of my children has any properties,” Sayed-Khaiyum said. He alluded to the 1997 Constitution that said parliament must make a law regarding code of conduct for public office holders. "No parliament did, unfortunately. We're working on one now and we hope to implement that in three months time." The draft constitution states that the commission shall consist of a chairperson and two other members appointed by the President following consultation with the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice. Sayed-Khaiyum said all disclosed information would need to be updated every six months.

 

“You will also know how much money I have in my bank. If for example, you see that my bank balance is $5000 (US$2,317) on the first of January and by 30 June, my bank balance goes up to a million dollars and my grandfather did not give me any money. Where did I get the money from?” He said the office of the commission could investigate how the minister had that much money, he had one house and within two years, he had got three homes and he was taking 10 holidays to Paris. “This commission investigates complaints against permanent secretaries and all persons holding public office. This commission has got a lot of powers.” Sayed-Khaiyum said the commission would give protection to whistle-blowers as well. “So if somebody comes along, say it's my secretary. She sees that I get a lot of visitors from a particular company bidding for government contract. Every time they leave, there is a pile of gift on my floor or desk.” He said she might feel uncomfortable about it and report it to the commission. “The commission first of all must give her protection. She needs to be protected otherwise, I could victimise her. “Now, this is what you call a high grade of what we used to have the Ombudsman's office but this gives it a lot more teeth." Sayed-Khaiyum said the commission would be independent in functioning because they may be investigating the Prime Minister, President or senior civil servants.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 04/05/2013

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Pacific Leaders Return to Fiji to Discuss Democracy Progress

 

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully will this week chair the first meeting of Pacific leaders on Fiji since the Fijian military-led government rejected a draft constitution early this year. “This will be an important visit in advance of the Forum Leaders Meeting in the Marshall Islands in September. Like New Zealand, the Pacific Islands Forum believes in continuing to engage in dialogue with Fiji to encourage acceptance of internationally recognised democratic norms,” McCully said in a statement Wednesday. In January, McCully said that the rejection of a draft constitution by the Fijian government was a major step backwards for the Pacific island nation. Police had reportedly confiscated copies of the draft document and destroyed printer's proofs. New Zealand had helped to fund Fiji's Constitutional Commission and has offered technical expertise to prepare for the country's transition from military rule with elections in 2014. Fiji leader Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama seized power in a military coup in 2006, and since then, New Zealand and other member states of the Pacific Islands Forum have implemented sanctions against the coup leaders and members of the military. The Ministerial Contact Group (MCG) is a mechanism set up by Forum leaders in 2008 to monitor developments in Fiji and comprises representatives of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group (MCG) last met in Fiji in May last year.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 04/11/2013

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Govt Rejects Political Parties Reform

 

Papua New Guinea's cabinet has rejected a proposal by the nation's registrar of political parties that would force small parliamentary parties to amalgamate with larger ones. Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said the proposal by registrar Dr Alphonse Gelu that parties with five members or less be forced to join larger parties was considered and rejected in its current form by cabinet on Wednesday. “It is a bit too premature to put limits on memberships of political parties,” O'Neill said. “Our government feels that in our democracy there is a necessity that any person or group of people that wish to establish a political structure that they feel serves their interests must be allowed to do so. That means parties with one or two members must be allowed to continue to exist on the floor of parliament. That is the prerogative of the members of parliament and the electorates that they represent." Dr Gelu laid out strict recommendations for party registration - including that a party have 2000 members throughout the country and at least K100,000 kina(US$46,000) in funds.

 

He also made a recommendation to increase penalties for non-compliance on financial returns. O'Neill said his government is considering “streamlining” how parties are funded relevant to their size. “In terms of government funding, we're going to streamline that a bit which will be relevant to the size of political parties," he said. “We feel parties need to develop their policies a bit and develop their programs, then they must clearly articulate it to the nation and the electorate - that can only happen if we give them the necessary resources that they require to do so. “In terms of government direct funding to the political parties, of course limits of numbers will be set. But in terms of freedom to establish a political party, that can be carried out by any citizen of this country.” O'Neill said the proposals were referred back to Dr Gelu to carry out further consultation among parliamentarians and former election candidates. According to the PNG electoral commission, there are currently 21 political parties and 16 independents in PNG's 111-member, single House of Parliament.

From http://www.pina.com.fj 04/12/2013

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O'Neill Vows Greater PNG Transparency

 

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, has told Australian business leaders he is determined to transform his country's economy. Speaking at the Australia PNG Business Forum in Port Moresby, O'Neill said his government aims to tackle corruption and law and order to deliver better services to his people. He says he is in the process of implementing the biggest budget in PNG's history, including a 50 per cent boost in spending on health and education. O'Neill has acknowledged the waste and fraud in government programs in the past. “Our record in actual delivery on these government-funded programs since independence is simply not good enough,” he said. "There has been far too much wastage, far too much red-tape and inefficiency at all levels of government, and far too much fraud and blatant misuse of these funds." O'Neill says he is determined to deliver $6 billion worth of infrastructure in the next five years. The Australia PNG Business Forum is the peak business event of the year. Australia's new Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affair, Matt Thistlethwaite, says Australia has more investment in PNG than it does in China.

 

“The relationship between Australian business, PNG business and our governments is at an unprecedented level; $16 billion worth of investment by Australians in the PNG economy. So I'm really struck by the level of optimism in the PNG society and economy at the moment. I think there's a wonderful opportunity to enhance cooperation for Australians to work with PNG and its government to ensure that the money does go down to a level where all Papua New Guineans can benefit." ANZ Bank's chief economist Warren Hogan, who was among the 300 Australian business leaders at forum, says PNG has huge potential. Hogan says PNG could potentially attract investments worth $194 billion by 2030.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 04/16/2013

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SOLOMON ISLANDS: Centers to Connect Government to People

 

The Solomon Island Government’s policy to build Economic Growth Centers (EGC) at strategic locations around the country is aimed at fostering meaningful engagement between the government and rural communities. Addressing thousands who gathered at Sunday’s ground-breaking ceremony at Tatamba sub-station in the Gao-Bugotu constituency in Isabel Province, Minister of Rural Development Lionel Alex said the re-establishment of Tatamba into an Economic Growth Center is vital to narrow the existing gap between the government and people of Isabel. “Rebuilding Tatamba means restoring your confidence in your government by increasing government presence and bringing government goods and services closer to you,” Mr Alex told the gathering. With work on Tatamba set to kick-off soon, the Government believed the growth center will provide opportunities for people to make choices on what is best for their communities in terms of economic activities and social services for people. Tatamba was a run down sub-station located on Provincial Government land which previously hosted basic services such as health, education, agriculture, a fisheries center and served as a major sea port for the people of Gao-Bugotu.

 

The Government has identified the area and since has held successful consultations with Provincial Government authorities, chiefs and community leaders who wanted Tatamba to be turned into a growth center. The transfer of the EGC policy responsibilities to the Ministry of Rural Development in December 2011 has since prompted the Ministry to oversee the implementation of EGC’s throughout the country including Tatamba. Since then, the Ministry has actively pursued the policy initiative and identified Tatamba as a suitable site for the people of Gao-Bugotu and Isabel as a whole. Minister Alex said the development of EGC’s throughout the country is a rural development initiative that can truly address people’s development aspirations if everyone understands the benefits of development within their reach. Thousands of people throughout the Gao-Bugotu constituency have traveled to Tatamba to witness the ceremony which was launched by Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo, Minister Lionel Alex, Minister for Culture and Tourism and MP for Gao-Bugotu Hon. Samuel Manetoali and Isabel Premier James Habu last Sunday.

From http://www.solomontimes.com 04/12/2013

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Anti-Corruption Network Describes Entitlements to MP's as Outrageous

 

Anti-corruption Network Solomon Islands has called on the parliamentary Entitlements Commission to immediately revoke the huge increase in entitlements for members of parliament. In a media statement, the Network Chairman Leslie Kwaiga describes this year's parliamentary entitlements as 'outrageous.' Media reports say the increases include SBD$400,000 (US$54,700) terminal grant on completion of a four year term next year, an increase of SBD$300,000 (US$41,000). There are also increases in M-P's Discretionary Fund, Fuel allowance and per diem for overseas travel, among others. Kwaiga says the decision to increase the Parliamentary entitlements was done contrary to the Constitution of Solomon Islands. He says Section 69 (B) of the Constitution clear states what must be taken into account when considering an increase to entitlements of MPs. But he says the Commission, in coming to its conclusion for the awards has failed to consult widely with the communities,nor take into account the prevailing circumstances of the state of economy of the country.

 

In addition, the Anti-corruption Network chair criticised the commission for failing to consider changes in the retail price index and other relevant indicator showing the cost of maintaining the standard of living that Parliamentarians might reasonably be expected to enjoy. He said the huge increase in MP's entitlements is nothing more than greed and empire building by the leaders. "It's a shame on the leaders who are serving themselves without the slightest care for the people of this country." Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Entitlements Commission Johnson Siapu has defended the increases as genuine. Siapu said the increases were made after thorough considerations of submissions from MP’s and the government caucus. SIBC News understands this year’s entitlements were approved by three members of the Commission, Siapu as chairman, Finance Minister Rick Hou and Public Accounts Committee Chair Douglas Ete.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 04/18/2013

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New Tools Sought for Facilitating International Data Transfers Between EU and Asia-Pacific

 

The Article 29 Working Party, a committee made up of representatives from each EU national data protection authority, said that it was working with the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) – a group of 21 countries that includes Australia, Japan, Singapore and the US – in order to find a fit between two existing systems that govern data transfers in the regions. In a joint statement the Working Party and APEC said that businesses may be able to obtain a "common referential" to have their international transfers across the EU and APEC regions approved as part of the new tools. Current EU data protection laws prevent companies from sending personal data outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) except where adequate protections have been put in place or in circumstances where the destination country has been pre-approved as having adequate data protection. Only a handful of countries, including Argentina, Canada and Switzerland, have qualified as having adequate protection. The EEA includes all 27 EU member states, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

 

When a company wants to send personal data to other non-EEA countries, that company must ensure that adequate protections are in place, even when the transfer is from one group company to another. One mechanism open to companies to achieve those 'adequacy' standards is to put in place binding corporate rules (BCRs). Businesses that form BCRs agree legally-binding commitments with regulators over the transfer and processing of personal data outside of the EEA. APEC countries operate a voluntary certified system that is also aimed at ensuring data protection standards are consistent when personal data is transferred out of one of the member economies to another. The APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) is a relatively new development and operates where businesses submit their plans for governing data transfers to 'Accountability Agents' that are responsible for assessing and ultimately certifying whether businesses meet the standards set out in the CBPR. Those rules contain base requirements that relate to how personal data is collected and use and how secure the information is, among other things.

 

Data protection expert Rosemary Lee of Pinsent Masons MPillay, the Singapore joint law venture partner of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that work was ongoing in Singapore to establish its own regime on BCRs. However, she said that this would complement its efforts in helping to smooth arrangements for international data transfers between APEC and the EU. "Singapore’s participation in the development of tools for the CBPR System runs parallel to its efforts to develop a BCR regime under Singapore’s new data protection regulations," Lee said. New data protection laws, set out in the Personal Data Protection Act, are in the process of being brought into effect in stages in Singapore at the moment. The Personal Data Protection Commission was formed when the Act came into force in January, but the main provisions relating to the collection, use, disclosure and processing of personal data in the private sector do not become operative until mid-2014. In addition, new regulations for ensuring equivalent data protection standards apply to transfers of personal data outside of Singapore are currently being consulted on.

 

"Whilst cross-border transfers of personal data may be dealt with by contractual means providing appropriate safeguards, Singapore is also considering having binding corporate rules to govern such transfer of personal data for inter-corporate transfers," Lee said. "The proposal is to have these internal rules specify details such as the structure of the organisation’s group and its members, the data transfers or set of transfers carried out and the mechanisms adopted within the group to ensure compliance" "A primary impetus for adopting data protection law in Singapore is economic and this new data protection regime is intended to enhance Singapore’s reputation as an e-commerce and cloud computing hub," she added. "Many multinationals operate out of Singapore as an Asia-Pacific or South-east Asia base so it is a key concern to be able to facilitate and ease intra-group data transfers within Singapore's new data protection framework." The Working Party and APEC said that they will look to flesh out a "roadmap" for developing the new international data transfer tools over the coming months.

From http://www.out-law.com 03/28/2013

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World Bank Group President Calls for a World Free of Poverty

 

Calling for ambitious new goals to help the most vulnerable, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim today outlined a bold agenda for the global community toward ending extreme poverty by 2030 and promoting shared prosperity to boost the incomes of the poorest 40 percent of the population in each country. “We are at an auspicious moment in history when the successes of past decades and an increasingly favorable economic outlook combine to give developing countries a chance - for the first time ever - to end extreme poverty within a generation,” Kim said in a speech at Georgetown University. “Our duty now must be to ensure that these favorable circumstances are matched with deliberate decisions to realize this historic opportunity.”

 

Speaking in advance of the upcoming World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings, Kim observed that developing economies rebounded quickly from the crisis and are now in a fundamentally sound position, thanks to greater macroeconomic stability, a stronger rule of law, and increased investments in human capital and infrastructure.  Productivity growth in the private sector, the source of 90 percent of all jobs, is high. Kim noted that the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG), to halve extreme poverty, was achieved in 2010, five years ahead of time, after developing countries spent years investing in social safety nets and working hard to build the fiscal space and create the macroeconomic buffers to respond effectively if a crisis hit. 

 

To achieve the more difficult goal of virtually eliminating extreme poverty, Kim described three factors necessary: •First, to reach the goal by 2030 will require an acceleration of the growth rate observed over the past 15 years, and in particular sustained high growth in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. •Second, it will require efforts to enhance inclusiveness and curb inequality, and ensure that growth translates into poverty reduction, most importantly through job creation. •And third, it will require that potential shocks – such as new food, fuel, or financial crises and climatic disasters – be averted or mitigated. Noting that many global leaders, over many decades, have spoken about ending poverty, Kim recognized that to realize this vision will take a commitment from the entire global development community that matches the scope of the challenge, and he hailed recent calls from global leaders to take action.

 

“Recently a number of courageous politicians have committed to ending poverty in their countries, including Dilma Rousseff in Brazil and Joyce Banda in Malawi. Similarly, US President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron endorsed the vision of ending extreme poverty globally. These bold calls demand action,” said Kim. Kim pointed out that the date of 2030 is highly ambitious: “To reach the 2030 goal, we must halve poverty once, then halve it again, and then nearly halve it a third time—all in less than one generation.” Kim asserted that to meet global challenges, fighting extreme poverty alone is not enough: “We must collectively work to help all vulnerable people everywhere lift themselves well above the poverty line. At the World Bank Group we call this boosting shared prosperity.”

 

Though the World Bank Group’s efforts are especially focused on the countries with the fewest resources, Kim stated that the Bank Group’s work is not just in poor countries, and he called for the Bank and its partners to work toward the second goal of boosting the incomes of the poorest 40 percent of the population in each country. “Our work is in any country where there are poor people, or where people face economic exclusion. This goal will ensure we address the priorities of equity and inclusion more systematically in all of our strategic decision-making,” said Kim. Kim made clear that ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity are not goals which the World Bank Group itself will achieve.  “They are goals which we hope our partners – our 188 member countries – will achieve, with the support of the World Bank Group and the global development community.”

 

But Kim strongly asserted how the World Bank Group will be there to help, in at least four ways. •“First, we will use these goals to help us choose among competing priorities, as we identify the projects where we can have the most transformative impact. •Second, we will closely monitor and observe progress toward these goals, and will report annually on what has been achieved and where gaps remain. These yearly reports with extensive publicly available data will provide a clear record of progress. •Third, we will use our convening and advocacy power to continually remind policymakers and the international community what it will take to realize these goals. •Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, we will work with our partners to share knowledge on solutions to end poverty and promote shared prosperity.”

 

Kim noted that Friday, April 5 marks 1,000 days until the end of 2015, the deadline for achieving the MDGs, and while progress on the MDGs has been impressive, it remains uneven across populations and sectors.  Kim called on the global community to use these last 1,000 days to redouble efforts in areas where there have not been strong enough advances. “If we act today, we have the opportunity to create a world for our children which is defined not by stark inequities but by soaring opportunities. A sustainable world where all households have access to clean energy. A world where everyone has enough to eat. A world where no one dies from preventable diseases.” “A world free of poverty.”

From http://www.worldbank.org 04/02/2013

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OECD Develops New Tool to Help Schools Improve

 

The OECD has developed a new tool to help individual schools benchmark their students’ proficiency in reading, mathematics and science against the world’s top education systems. It will also give educators an insight into the learning environments at schools so they can consider ways to improve student learning. The pilot trial of this project, called in the United States the OECD Test for Schools, involved more than 7,000 15-year-old students in the U.S. across 105 schools in 22 states. The schools in the pilot were invited to participate based on interest; they were not meant to be a nationally representative sample of schools. Speaking at a workshop in Washington D.C., Andreas Schleicher, Advisor to the Secretary-General of the OECD on Education Policy and Deputy Director for Education and Skills, said: “In a global economy, the benchmark for educational success is no longer progress by state standards alone, but the best performing education systems internationally. With this new OECD Test, schools now have the tools to see themselves in the light of what the world’s educational leaders show can be achieved.”

 

The OECD Test for Schools is based on the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), conducted every three years involving over 70 countries and economies around the world. The new test enables individual schools to take the OECD Test for Schools (based on PISA) to see how they compare internationally. As a benchmarking tool, the following principles should guide the use of the OECD Test for Schools:•International benchmarking supported by the school assessment should be seen as a process. The information on students’ achievement, their engagement, and the teaching and learning environment at participating schools should stimulate further reflection and discussion among school staff and local educational authorities. •In the future, the OECD Test for Schools is expected to provide important peer-to-peer learning opportunities – locally, nationally and internationally – as well as the opportunity to share good practices to help identify “what works” in order to improve and make useful change. •The assessment should be considered a tool for school improvement, not a tool for developing rankings or league tables.

 

In the United States, schools can begin to plan their use of the test starting in September of 2013 (e.g. for the 2013–14 academic year) with the testing service providers that are accredited for this purpose. Schools and districts in the United States that are interested in the assessment and in signing up should visit: http://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisa-basedtestforschools/ In addition to the United States, schools from both Canada and the United Kingdom participated in the pilot. The OECD is engaging further with countries such as the United Kingdom and Spain to explore making the assessment available, and to identify the appropriate governance models and conditions.

 

The OECD Test for Schools provides descriptive information and analysis on the skills and creative application of knowledge of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics, and science, comparable to existing PISA scales (when administered under appropriate conditions). The assessment also collects contextual information from students and schools in order to report on the learning environment within schools and in classrooms, teacher-student relations and students’ attitudes towards and engagement in learning. The OECD Test for Schools and the main PISA studies are different assessments, however, and should not be confused. PISA provides participating countries with national and, in some cases, sub-national estimates of student performance. The United States has participated in PISA since the first cycle in 2000 and results from the 2012 cycle will be published on 3 December 2013.

From http://www.oecd.org 04/03/2013

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Global Information Technology Report 2013

 

Finland has toppled Sweden from the top spot in a ranking of economies that are best placed to benefit from new information and communication technologies (ICTs). Singapore came in second and Sweden third in the 2013 Networked Readiness Index, compiled by the World Economic Forum for its Global Information Technology Report. The Forum's report also shows that digitization has a measurable effect on economic growth and job creation. In emerging markets, a comprehensive digital boost could help lift over half a billion people out of poverty over the next decade. New technologies have already transformed sectors from healthcare to farming, case studies in the report show.

 

The Networked Readiness Index, calculated by the World Economic Forum, and INSEAD, ranks 144 economies based on their capacity to exploit the opportunities offered by the digital age. This capacity is determined by the quality of the regulatory, business and innovation environments, the degree of preparedness, the actual usage of ICTs, as well as the societal and economic impacts of ICTs. The assessment is based on a broad range of indicators from Internet access and adult literacy to mobile phone subscriptions and the availability of venture capital. In addition, indicators such as patent applications and e-government services gauge the social and economic impact of digitization.

 

The Nordic countries and the so-called Asian Tigers – Singapore; Taiwan (China); South Korea; and Hong Kong SAR – dominate this year's index thanks to their business-friendly approach, highly skilled populations and investments in infrastructure, among other strengths. Finland, which arguably has one of the best educational systems in the world, stands out as a digital innovation hub. It boasts the world’s highest number of patent applications per capita in the domain of ICTs), which are ubiquitous in Finland. Ninety per cent of Finnish households have Internet access, compared to about 70% in the United States and 85% in the United Kingdom. Among the top 10, the United Kingdom posts the biggest rank improvement to 7th place, above the United States, which slips to 9th place despite a performance essentially unchanged from the previous year. The BRICS economies, led by Russia (55th) continue to lag behind in the rankings. The report suggests that their rapid economic growth may be in jeopardy unless the right investments are made in ICT, skills and innovation. Down seven, China ranks 58th, followed by Brazil (60th), India (68th), and South Africa (70th).

 

In Europe, the NRI reveals the deep divide between the most advanced Nordic economies and countries in Southern, Central and Eastern Europe is remarkable – and alarming. Improving access to new technologies is not enough; creating better conditions for entrepreneurship and innovation is also crucial. Latin America, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa still suffer from a serious lag despite infrastructure improvements, an expansion of coverage and a push into e-government. Weaknesses in the political and regulatory environment, the existence of large segments of the population with a low skills base and poor development of the innovation system are all factors hindering Latin America's technological potential. In sub-Saharan Africa, costly access to technology, a low skills base and unfavourable business conditions are among the chief obstacles.

 

For those who lag behind, the incentives for digitization remain strong. An analysis by Booz & Company has found that ICT could help lift millions out of poverty. Digitization has boosted world economic output by US$ 193 billion over the past two years and created 6 million jobs during that period, according to the study. Using a Digitization Index that ranks countries on a scale from zero to 100, Booz & Company found that an increase of 10% in a country’s digitization score fuels a 0.75% growth in its GDP per capita. That same 10% boost in digitization leads to a 1.02% drop in a state’s unemployment rate. If emerging markets could double the Digitization Index score for their poorest citizens over the next 10 years, the result would be a global US$ 4.4 trillion gain in nominal GDP, according to the study. It would generate an extra US$ 930 billion in the cumulative household income for the poorest, and 64 million new jobs for today’s socially and economically most marginal groups. This would enable 580 million people to climb above the poverty line.

 

Broadband, 3G and the intelligent use of big data could also revitalize economic growth. Governments play a crucial role in supporting this digital development, from funding broadband networks to addressing complex issues such as privacy and security. The economy as a whole will eventually reap the benefits as remote rural areas are tied into the national network, resulting in new jobs and broader educational opportunities. For example, a study by Deloitte based on data from Cisco Systems finds that countries with a proportionately higher share of 3G connections enjoy greater economic growth than countries with comparable total mobile penetration but lower 3G penetration. For a given level of mobile penetration, countries that had a 10% higher 3G penetration between 2008 and 2011 experienced an increase in their average annual GDP per capita growth rate of 0.15 percentage points. Intelligent interpretation of big data could energize the economy and improve the performance of businesses by allowing them to accurately predict different outcomes rather than relying on a "fail and fix" approach. In 2011 alone, 1.8 zettabytes of data were created – the equivalent of every person on the planet writing three tweets per minute for 1,210 years. This massive resource could be tapped in numerous ways. For example, using big data and analytics to match people to jobs could help governments tackle unemployment more efficiently.

 

ICTs could improve healthcare, reduce medical errors, cut administrative costs and keep patients better informed. Adverse drug reactions, for example, are among the leading causes of death in the United States. Electronic drug prescription systems could check for adverse drug reactions and warn patients who have allergies or take multiple drugs. ICTs could also improve coordination of care for patients with complex chronic diseases and increase the uptake of preventive screening services. However, despite their tremendous promise, incorporating these technologies into daily use in healthcare has proven difficult, partly because of the significant upfront investments required, as well as the complex coordination between different players.

 

Europe risks losing out to the United States and Asia unless it boosts investment in its telecoms sector. However, relatively low growth, falling revenues and high dividends paid out to prop up stock prices mean that fixed and mobile operators are unable to come up with the necessary funds. Public funding and support for co-investment initiatives could be part of the solution. Management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company offers four additional ideas to unlock investment: 1.Allow players to consolidate so they can operate networks and use resources more efficiently. 2.Allow greater pricing flexibility so operators can charge more to customers who demand higher speeds and more services. 3.Restrict wholesale access regulation to a few basic services, and allow “regulatory holidays” on any investments in new generation networks; this gives operators a greater chance to recoup their investment. 4.Give operators more spectrum in which to operate so they have more options for extending network capacity

 

Landlocked Rwanda, which has limited natural resources, aims to fundamentally transform its agrarian economy into a knowledge-based one by 2020, using ICT. Investments in education, partnerships with foreign universities and the laying of fibre-optic cables have created a conducive environment. Services such as E-Soko, a mobile service that allows farmers to check market prices for their products, have already improved the daily life of many Rwandans. With the help of these new technologies, Rwanda intends to capitalize on its central location in Africa and act as a hub for banking, financial and outsourcing services. Embracing e-government: The Case of Colombia, Uruguay and Panama

 

Colombia, Uruguay and Panama have become champions of e-government and connectivity. In Colombia, Internet connections have tripled to 6.2 million in the last 2.5 years. In Uruguay, small and medium-sized tech enterprises helped lift technology exports from US$ 50 million in 2000 to US$ 225 million in 2010. Several challenges remain: public funds to build infrastructure are limited, and many people cannot afford Internet access. Nevertheless, e-government has already improved the lives of Latin Americans. More than 50,000 Colombians took part in designing the National Educational Plan for 2006-2015. In Panama, entrepreneurs used to need five days to set up a company. Now, thanks to PanamaEmprende, they can do it in 15 minutes.

From http://www.weforum.org 04/11/2013

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How Asia Is Teaching the West to Tame and Prevent Financial Crises

 

If you’re Cypriot and you need to pay April rent tomorrow, you’ll need to get creative. Your landlord might not be happy with the usual cheque since she won’t be allowed to cash it for a month. The government has also banned ATM withdrawals above 300 euros ($384) per day. A debit or credit card transfers would do — those are still legal, unless you’re trying to send funds across the border, in which case there’s a 5,000 euro ($6,522) cap. Such are the curbs on money movements the Cypriot government imposed to avoid a capital flight after announcing it would seize large chunks of bank deposits above 100,000 euro ($130,000) as part of a $13 billion bailout deal.

 

The move, which was sanctioned by the Eurozone authorities and the International Monetary Fund, startled a number of commentators. Capital controls? In Europe? Wasn’t that the stuff of autocrats who blame financial crises on Jewish speculators? Didn’t the IMF spend the 1990s excommunicating anyone who’d argue for limits on the free flow of capital from the Church of Sensible Economics Advisors Everyone Should Listen To? Yes. But the consensus on capital controls has gradually evolved since then. The IMF’s blessing of Cyprus’ curbs isn’t exactly unprecedented. The Fund has quietly supported (opens a PDF) a number of economic programs that included efforts to stem capital flights, including in Argentina in 2002 and, more recently, Iceland in 2008. A cursory look at IMF publications on capital controls over the past ten years shows that its economists have long stopped being the preachers of unfettered financial liberalization they once were.

 

The catalyst for such a change of heart was arguably the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998, where massive investment inflows (opens a PDF) enabled by rapid financial liberalization in a number of East Asian countries led to crippling capital flights and region-wide financial contagion once equity and housing bubbles popped. Alone among its neighbours, Malaysia embraced what was at the time nothing short of economic heresy and imposed a temporary and selective ban on transferring money out of the country. Despite the fact that Malaysia happened to be led by one of those Jewish-bashing populists at the time — as Paul Krugman, who changed his minds about capital controls around the same time, recalls — the move seems to have worked, allowing for a faster recovery and smaller drops in unemployment and real wages. Clearly, capital controls, if done properly, could help.

 

And that’s not the only page Western governments have been borrowing from Asia’s book. The idea of rules aimed at sheltering the whole financial system — as opposed to single institutions — from vulnerabilities and excessive risk also comes from there. Hong Kong, China, India and Singapore have been putting limits on things like how much leverage banks can take on and  loan-to-value caps on mortgages long before these so-called “macro-prudential policies” became the buzzword among economist and regulators in North America and Europe after our very own financial meltdown five years ago. (Hat-tip to the Financial Times for posting and discussing this paper on the topic from Standard Chartered.)

 

Despite weathering the financial crisis rather well and boasting better financial regulations than most, Canada has picked up that lesson too. Just think of the Harper government’s four rounds of mortgage-rule tightenings since 2008: that’s macro-prudential policy aimed squeezing excessive risk out of the housing market. Or just count how many times the world “macro-prudential” appears in any given speech by Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney. Now, none of the above means that capital controls are unquestionably good or that macro-prudential policies always work. Heavy handed or permanent curbs on money movements will always have dreadful effects, distorting capital flows, stifling financial innovation and potential starving productive parts of the economy of much-needed investment. And tight housing market regulations haven’t avoided a massive real estate bubble in China.Still, when it comes to economics, learning has clearly become a two-way street.

From http://www2.macleans.ca 03/31/2013

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Cyberdefense a Major Part of Asian Security

 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called defending against cyberattacks a major part of maintaining security in Asia, and said Washington is forming working groups with China and Japan to address the issue. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called defending against cyberattacks a major part of maintaining security in Asia, and said Washington is forming working groups with China and Japan to address the issue. "Some of the most serious cyber threats to businesses emanate from this region, and they threaten the entire global economy," said Kerry, who spoke Monday at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. "That is precisely why we have established a cyber working group with Japan and another with China, in order to insure that the Asia-Pacific will be part of the solution," he said.

 

Internet security is quickly becoming a major issue in international relations, specially in east Asia. When U.S. President Barack Obama met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, cybersecurity was one of the topics discussed, with Abe welcoming cooperation from the U.S. In comments made Saturday in Beijing, Kerry said he met with Chinese leadership. In addition to other security issues, the two sides "also discussed cyber security, and we agreed there also that we will create an immediate working group because cyber security affects everybody." The U.S. is setting up the working group as China has been repeatedly blame for cyberattacks against international firms. China, in response, has denied backing any hacking attacks, and instead called on other nations to cooperate on Internet security.

 

Major cybersecurity talks between U.S. and Japan are set for next month, according to Japanese media, including the possibility of tackling the issue under the countries' close military alliance. Japan's parliament, space agency, major weapons makers like Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and prominent firms including Sony have all fallen victim to online attacks in recent years. South Korea said earlier this month that its military will cooperate with U.S. forces to strengthen the country's defenses against online attacks. That announcement came after a massive series of cyberattacks paralyzed computer networks at several South Korean banks and broadcasters, with many in the country openly speculating that they were launched by North Korean hackers. Kerry's comments on Monday came as part of a broader public speech that addressed regional issues such as recent tensions with North Korea and the creation of a broad trade agreement with Japan. He has met with national politicians and heads of business in several Asian countries on his trip, including Japan's top leadership.

 

He also stressed the need to embrace environmental technologies and alternative sources of energy to address global warming, calling the issue "one of the most obvious shared challenges on the face of this planet." "To grow smart, we have to be willing to try new things," he said. Kerry repeatedly stressed that a new approach to environmental issues will also create business opportunities. Ten years ago, Chinese investment in energy-related projects in the U.S. totaled US$1 million, he said, a figure that grew to $9 billion last year. Kerry pointed out that Japanese leaders seeking to rebuild the country's northeast coast, much of which is still in shambles two years after being devastated by a major earthquake and tsunami, have turned to the U.S. for help and advice. But he also said the U.S. can learn from its main Pacific ally in environmental issues. "It takes the average Japanese household about three years to use as much energy as an American household uses in just one year. We have to do better," he said.

From http://news.idg.no 04/15/2013

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ADB's 46th Annual Meeting to Focus on Empowerment

 

Ministers and senior government officials, business leaders, fellow international institutions, and civil society representatives are set to gather in Noida, India from 2-5 May for the 46th Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which will focus on empowerment through development. The anticipated 4,000 participants, including global media, will discuss how vulnerable groups can better access economic opportunities and social services like health and education. Asia and the Pacific’s booming economies have seen a dramatic reduction in poverty over the past two decades but the region is still home to two thirds of the world’s extreme poor, and there has been a steep rise in inequality of incomes and access to basic services. This year’s Governors’ Seminar, Beyond Factory Asia: Fueling Growth in a Changing World, will examine the future role of factory-driven manufacturing in the region, alternative growth sources, and how individual countries can move up the production value chain to avoid becoming mired in a middle income trap.

 

Notable public and private sector officials expected to speak at the seminars include: Oliver Bolitho, Chair of Asia Pacific, Goldman Sachs Asset Management; John Chambers, Managing Director and Chair of global sovereign ratings committee, S&P; Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank; Santiago Levy Algazi, Vice President of Inter-American Development Bank and former Finance Minister of Mexico; Kittiratt Na-Ranong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance for Thailand; Amartya Sen, Professor of Economics and Philosophy, Harvard University; IMF Deputy Managing Director Naoyuki Shinohara; Takashi Tsukamoto, Chair of the Mizuho Financial Group; and John van Reenan, Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics. Seminars will look at the challenge of creating productive, meaningful jobs in Asia, the steps needed to quicken and deepen regional integration ― including South Asia’s fast expanding links to its Southeast Asian neighbors ― and the measures needed to mobilize more long term finance for Asia’s huge infrastructure needs.

 

Sessions will be held on development aid, and ways to boost falling levels of assistance; as well as how to improve the delivery of public services to poor and marginalized groups; and financing universal health care. The potential threat to Asia’s future growth from the ongoing economic slump in the US and Europe will come under the microscope, while a new ADB study on disaster risk management will look at how the region can better protect itself from increasingly severe and frequent natural calamities ― which have killed more than 70,000 people a year in the past decade and caused direct annual economic losses of around $35 million. Alongside the Annual Meeting, finance ministers and other officials of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the People’s Republic of China, Japan and Republic of Korea, (known as ASEAN + 3) will also hold discussions. The deadline for online registration is 20 April 2013. International media still looking to register are asked to contact Gilda Nanquil at gnanquil@adb.org.

From http://www.adb.org 04/16/2013

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CHINA: Changes Gasoline Pricing Mechanism

 

China will adjust prices of oil products every 10 working days to better reflect changes in the global oil markets, the National Development and Reform Commission said Tuesday. Previously domestic fuel prices were adjusted when crude oil prices in Brent, Dubai and Cinta changed by more than 4 percent over 22 working days. Meanwhile, the country's top economic planner announced that the retail prices of gasoline will be cut by 310 yuan (US$49.43) per tonne and diesel by 300 yuan per tonne starting Wednesday. The benchmark retail price of gasoline will be lowered by 0.23 yuan per liter and diesel by 0.26 yuan per liter.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 03/26/2013 

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China Maps Out Blueprint to Harness Yellow River

 

China will build three more large-scale reservoirs on the troublesome Yellow River, the nation's second-longest river, after authorities gave a green light to a harnessing plan earlier this month.After six years of programming, the State Council, or China's cabinet, has approved the Comprehensive Plan for the Yellow River Basin (2012-2030), focusing on solving the problems of the Yellow River from now to 2030.According to the plan, the three new reservoirs will be Heishanxia, Qikou and Guxian.The Guxian Reservoir is expected to completed around 2020. The Qikou reservoir will be built after Guxian and construction plans for the Heishanxia reservoir are still in the making.The newly approved plan will mainly focus on water and silt control, flood prevention, water and soil erosion prevention, water resource allocation and utilization, water resource and water ecology protection and the drainage areas' comprehensive management.The further development of the Yellow River, as well as programs for irrigation and shipping, are also part of the plan.

 

The Yellow River, known as China's "Mother River" and the cradle of early Chinese civilization, runs through nine provinces and autonomous regions and empties into the Bohai Sea in east China's Shandong Province.With a length of 5,464 km, the Yellow River waters 12 percent of China's 1.3 billion population, 15 percent of its farmland and generates about 14 percent of its GDP."The Yellow River lacks water resources and the water supply obtained from the river at present is beyond its capacity," said Chen Xiaojiang, director of the Yellow River Conservancy Commission of the Ministry of Water Resources.Statistics show that nearly 160 million tonnes of sand is washed into the Yellow River each year.Records have shown that the Yellow River dried up frequently between the 1970s and 1990s. In 1997, statistics from a hydrological station indicated that a 704-km section of river had dried up for 226 days.

 

The government, experts and other relevant organizations have taken action since 1999 to prolong the life of the river."The key to bringing the river under control is to control its water and sand," said Chen.The development, protection and management of the Yellow River will have strategic significance for the promotion of China's sustainable development and environmental protection efforts, Chen added.Because of excessive exploitation and a rapidly growing population in the past, the river has been plagued by droughts, water and soil erosion disasters in its middle and upper reaches, as well as sediment, floods and a rising riverbed caused by heavy silt in its lower reaches.So far, four water reservoirs have been built on the main stream of the river.Located on the upper reaches of the river, the Longyangxia and Liujiaxia reservoirs have helped to improve water management and electricity production, as well as reduce the number of ice-related natural disasters, on a section of river stretching between the Ningxia Hui and Inner Mongolia autonomous regions.

 

However, a shrinking riverbed and increasing silt in recent years have exerted a negative impact on flood relief efforts.The establishment of the Heishanxia Reservoir will help the two overburdened reservoirs regulate water and silt in the upstream section of river.The Guxian and Qikou reservoirs will extend the life of the previously built Xiaolangdi Reservoir and work with it to control sand and provide water for industries, cities, towns and agriculture in the middle section, as well as ensure safety in the downstream river section.All three reservoirs will help to relieve the burden on the Sanmenxia Reservoir, the first to be built in the river's downstream area. The reservoir has played an important role in protecting the lives and property of people in the provinces of Hebei, Henan, Shandong, Anhui and Jiangsu.

Another two reservoirs, the Haibowan and Hekoucun reservoirs, are under construction. The Dongzhong reservoir, which is still being planned, will help form a water and sand control system for the river.The reservoirs are expected to reduce the amount of silt washed into the river by half to 80 million tonnes by 2030, as well as prevent water levels from rising.

 From http://www.china.org.cn/ 03/31/2013

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Chinese Government Pumps Funds into Rural Grid

 

The Ministry of Finance said Monday that it has just allocated 10 billion yuan (1.59 billion U.S. dollars) to upgrade the electricity grid in rural areas.The funds will go to 25 provincial regions including Liaoning, Fujian, Jiangxi, Henan, Chongqing, Yunnan, Qinghai and Xinjiang, according to a statement on the ministry's website.Before this, the ministry had pumped 2.4 billion yuan into helping areas with little access to electricity in Inner Mongolia, Sichuan, Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiang, said another statement on the website on March 29.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 04/02/2013

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China Steps Up H7N9 Monitoring

 

Authorities in Chinese regions have ordered health institutions to step up monitoring of H7N9 bird flu as four more cases were reported Tuesday.Four people in east China's Jiangsu Province have been confirmed as being infected with the lesser-known H7N9 bird flu, bringing the total number of infections in the country to seven.Statistics on pneumonia cases caused by unknown reasons will be reported daily in Shanghai where two people died from the first known human infections of the bird flu strain, the municipal government said in a press briefing Tuesday.The city government will also set up an expert team to evaluate the severity and risk of the H7N9 bird flu, to step up research on the virus, and to closely watch the infections and people who have been in contact with them, it said.On Monday, the Shanghai Animal Disease Prevention and Control Center tested 34 samples of pig carcasses pulled from the Huangpu River running through the city and providing it drinking water.

 

It found no bird flu viruses.Thousands of dead pigs were retrieved from the Huangpu River last month, sparking huge panic as well as satire among the public over tap water safety.The health authorities in Jiangsu have designated 16 leading hospitals to accept new cases in a bid to offer better treatment and reduce the mortality rate.The health bureau in Beijing has ordered hospitals to include the testing of H7N9 bird flu in routine monitoring and to train hospital staff on how to treat pneumonia caused by unknown factors.Health authorities in Shandong Province have ordered morning tests of fever, cough and other respiratory symptoms at schools, nurseries and poultry farms.The four patients, from four cities in Jiangsu Province, are in critical conditions and under emergency treatment, the Jiangsu provincial health bureau said Tuesday in a statement.The four were confirmed as human infections with H7N9 avian influenza by an expert team summoned by the provincial health bureau, based on clinical observations, laboratory tests and epidemiological surveys Tuesday afternoon, the statement said.

 

No mutual infections were discovered among them.A total of 167 people who had come into contact with the four showed no symptoms of fever or respiratory illnesses, it said.The four included a 45-year-old woman from Nanjing, a 48-year-old woman from Suqian, a 83-year-old man from Suzhou, and a 32-year-old woman from Wuxi, it said.The woman in Jiangning district of Nanjing, surnamed Xu, fell ill with flu symptoms on March 19. She was transferred to a hospital intensive care unit in Nanjing on March 27 after her condition worsened, the statement said. She is a poultry culler.The woman from Shuyang county of Suqian City fell ill on March 19 and was transferred to a hospital intensive care unit in Nanjing on March 30.Tests by the Jiangsu provincial center for disease control and prevention found the two women positive of the H7N9 strain on March 30 and further tests by the Chinese center for disease control and prevention confirmed the results on April 2.The man from Wujiang district of Suzhou City became ill on March 20 and was admitted to a local hospital on March 29. He was first tested positive of H7N9 bird flu on April 1.The woman from Binhu district of Wuxi City fell ill on March 21 and was transferred to an intensive care unit of a hospital in Wuxi after her condition worsened on March 28. She was first tested positive of H7N9 bird flu on March 31.

 

On Sunday, three H7N9 bird flu cases were reported, two in Shanghai and one in Anhui, the first human infections of the bird flu strain. The two in Shanghai died and the one from Anhui is in critical condition and under treatment in Nanjing.It is unclear how the three got infected, and no mutual infections were discovered among them, said the National Health and Family Planning Commission Sunday. No abnormalities were detected among 88 of their closest contacts.The subtype of H7N9 bird flu virus has not been contracted to human beings before. The virus shows no signs of being highly contagious among humans, according to the clinical observation on the cases' close contacts.However, as only three cases of human infection of H7N9 have been found, relatively little research has been done on it. The expert team is working to study the toxicity and human-infection capacity of the virus, the commission said Sunday.There are no vaccines against the H7N9 bird flu virus either at home or abroad.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 04/03/2013 

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Transport Hubs Set to Ease Transfer Pressures

 

China has vowed to build 42 transport hubs by the end of 2015, with at least one in every province, autonomous region and municipality. Cities will be turned into traffic centers that make transferring between airlines, railways, buses and ships more convenient, according to a guideline published on the central government's website on Tuesday. The guideline, issued by the National Development and Reform Commission on March 7, requires the railway, civil aviation, road and water authorities to set up a joint mechanism to streamline transfers between different modes of transportation. Passengers will be able to travel conveniently through different transportation means by just "making one calendar, buying one travel ticket and paying once", according to the guideline. Apart from the capital cities of the mainland's 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, 11 other cities are also on the list of traffic hubs - including Lianyungang, Xiamen, Dalian and the "coal capital" of Datong in North China's Shanxi province.

 

Developing traffic hubs is an effective method to promote overall transportation efficiency, improve traffic services and cut logistics costs, the guideline said. Writing in the People's Daily on Monday, Minister of Transport Yang Chuantang said transport authorities will establish a "mega-transport" mechanism, under which railways, roads, water routes and civil aviation will be comprehensively planned and constructed. Yang also vowed to improve the transport authorities' work style and provide better services. During this year's session of the National People's Congress in March, the Ministry of Railways, established in 1949, was dismantled. Its administrative functions were absorbed by the Ministry of Transport, and China Railway Corp has taken over its commercial functions. The NDRC guideline encourages private investment in the construction and operation of transportation hubs.Wang Mengshu, deputy chief engineer of the China Railway Tunnel Group, said a shortage of funds is the most urgent problem facing the country's railway construction.

 

Rail tickets might be more expensive in the future since the railway authorities have run into deep debt, he said. High-speed railways and intercity railways should have stations built in downtown areas and be connected with cities' public transportation services such as subways and buses, according to the guideline. Gao Chao, a civil servant in Jinan, capital of Shandong province, said the high-speed railway station in Jinan was in the city's western suburban region, and traveling outside the city made him exhausted."I have two bus transfers before getting to the high-speed railway station from my home," he said. "If the railway station was built in the downtown area, it would be easier for the residents to travel."

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 04/03/2013

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China Raises Threshold for Recognizing Theft

 

A new legal interpretation raises the threshold for recognizing thefts as criminal cases to match economic growth and the increase in residents' income.The Supreme People's Court (SPC) and the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) on Wednesday jointly issued a legal interpretation on the handling of theft-related criminal cases.According to the new threshold, theft of money or belongings worth 1,000 yuan (161.3 U.S. dollars) and above can be recognized as stealing a "large sum of money", while the 30,000 yuan mark and above is classed as stealing a "huge sum of money." The 300,000 yuan mark and above is classed as theft of an "especially huge sum of money."In the previous legal interpretation, which was put forward by the SPC in 1998, the threshold for stealing a "large sum of money" was 500 yuan.According to the notice publicized by the SPC and the SPP explaining the new legal interpretation, the per capita disposable income for urbanites stood at 5,160 yuan in 1997, and for rural residents 2,090 yuan; which went up to 23,903 yuan and 7,724 yuan in 2012 for urbanites and villagers respectively, representing 4.6 and 3.7 fold increases.

 

The new legal interpretation includes harsher punishments for those who steal from medical patients and their families on the grounds that such thefts are more malignant than typical thefts.Medical care is quite expensive, if not unaffordable, for many Chinese.SPC spokesman Sun Jungong said stealing from the sick causes more dire consequences than stealing from the healthy and therefore deserves harsher punishments.Tougher penalties will also be meted out to those who have criminal records for theft; who organize adolescents to steal; who steal in places hit by disasters or man-made accidents; who steal from the disabled, the weak and childless elderly; and who steal disaster-relief money, among other scenarios.For the above-mentioned scenarios, the threshold for stealing "a large sum of money" can be 50 percent lower than the standard one.

 

For pickpocketing, the new legal interpretation provides it can be stealing any personal belongings in public venues or public transit vehicles, not necessarily stealing from "pockets."In recognizing multiple thefts, it has changed from at least "three burglaries or pickpocketing on three occasions in one year," to "three thefts and more in two years."Additionally, the legal interpretation gets tougher on theft of cultural relics. Thefts targeting a large sum of or precious antiquities, even foiled, will be recognized as criminal offenses.According to SPC statistics, there were 190,825 and 222,078 first-trial theft cases in 2011 and 2012 respectively, representing 22.72 percent and 22.51 percent of all first-trial criminal cases of the respective year.The new legal interpretation will come into effect on April 4.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/04/2013

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China More Transparent in Handling Epidemics

 

Experts have praised China for its increased transparency in handling public health incidents, after the emergence of the lesser-known H7N9 bird flu, which has killed six people since the deadly strain was exposed a week ago. The Chinese government has been credited with timely releases of information about the H7N9 bird flu, whereas in 2003, authorities were criticized for initially trying to cover up an epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which claimed the lives of several hundred people on the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan. "China has learned a lesson from the past in dealing with public health emergencies," said Prof. Wang Yukai of the Chinese Academy of Governance."The government's response to the disease is completely different from 10 years ago, when information disclosure systems were not established."The reported 16 human infections, all in east China's Yangtze River Delta, have touched a raw nerve in society, but there has not been excessive panic. Information about H7N9 was made public by the National Health and Family Planning Commission the day after the first infection was confirmed on March 30, though the determination process took days.

 

Since then, the commission has kept updating information on new infections on its official website, detailing the patients' ages, location and medical measures adopted. It has also given the public tips on prevention."Over the past decade, the Chinese government has formulated a series of plans for handling infectious diseases and food safety incidents," according to Wang. A regulation for dealing with public health emergencies came out in May 2003, when the country was at a critical stage in combating SARS. It led to the promulgation of China's Emergency Handling Law in August 2007.Moreover, a regulation concerning government information disclosure took effect in 2008, requiring the government to be more transparent in releasing information, Wang noted."The government drew lessons from the handling of SARS," said Ma Huaide, vice president of the China University of Political Science and Law. If the government covers up epidemic information, rumors will spread quickly, which is not conducive to social stability and epidemic control, Ma said. The government's increased urgency in making timely releases of information following public health incidents has also been attributed by experts to the increasing awareness of the public and their demand for the rights of knowledge, expression and supervision. The Internet has also sped up the spread of information.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/06/2013

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Higher Age for Retiring Urged

 

China should adjust its family planning policy and raise the retirement age to address the issue of its aging population, the former national social security fund chairman said on Sunday.Dai Xianglong, who resigned from the position in March, also said at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference in Hainan province that a wording change in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) implied the central government has a nuanced attitude toward its long-standing family planning policy."Some say the State should allow parents to have a second baby if one of them is a single child. I think this kind of minor change will take place in the next two years," Dai said.Current family planning policy allows a second child if both parents are single children.Dai also suggested raising the retirement age, which is now 60 for male and 55 for female public sector employees.Under the current policies, 14.3 percent of the population was 60 years old in 2012, and the ratio is expected to reach 50 percent by the middle of this century.

 

Meanwhile, the fertility rate fell to a low of 1.181 by 2010, according to the sixth national census.Whether the aging population is a pressing problem for China's economy is a subject of continuing debate. The National Bureau of Statistics announced in January that the ranks of the labor force aged 15 to 59 had declined by 3.45 million last year to 937 million.Dai added that the aging population is a natural result of the economic development, and the problem will not affect China's economic growth.Qin Shuo, editor-in-chief of China Business News, said that although a small aging population is tolerable and can be addressed by lifting the retirement age, a serious aging population would hurt the economy."Policymakers should realize that China's moderate population growth is mainly the result of economic growth and improved livelihoods, not strict family planning policies," Qin said.The sixth national census showed the population was lower than previously estimated, and no academic research suggests China's population will surpass 1.4 billion.

 

Whether there is a huge gap between China's social security fund and the demands of a rapidly aging population is also a source of concern. Dai said China should utilize more national assets toward expanding national social security reserves."The total social security fund is 3.7 trillion yuan ($596 billion), which is less than 5 percent of China's GDP. So it is impossible to rely solely on the fund," he said.The pension system should be based on the National Council for Social Security Fund and contributions from corporations and households, Dai said.The assets under the council have realized an annual return rate of 8.4 percent in the past 12 years, higher than the inflation rate during the period, Dai said.The national pension fund reported a 7 percent investment return in 2012, its best performance in three years.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/09/2013

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Funds to Focus on Boosting Value in 2013

 

After a tough year for private equity market players in China, with the volume and value of deals plunging, funds will be more focused on value creation in 2013, according to a report released in Shanghai on Wednesday.According to the report by Bain & Company, entitled China PE Survey 2013, about 40 percent of respondents said they would focus on value creation capacity in 2013 instead of multiple expansion and profit gains, which used to be considered major contributors to returns.The report was based on a survey that polled 18 funds, a mix of Chinese, Asian and global companies.Deal exits continued to decline in 2012, down 38 percent from 2011 with a corresponding 46 percent decrease in value, mainly due to sharp declines in the initial public offering market, which in turn fell by 61 percent from 2011, the report said.As many as 70 percent of funds surveyed expect more exits in 2013, the report said.

 

China's growth is slowing sharply as factors that acted as a tailwind for GDP export conditions - strong capital flows, favorable export conditions and a growing labor force - are now reversing and beginning to weigh the economy down, said Vinit Bhatia, partner and head of private equity practice with Bain China."This economic slowdown is forcing a shift in the deal investment thesis like never before to profit growth versus multiples expansion, and this requires funds to really step up their differentiated value creation capabilities," said Bhatia.Analysts said portfolio management would gain increasing importance for funds in China, a natural trend that has been observed in relatively more mature market such as in the US.The private equity market is relatively young in China and portfolio management may face challenges, but enhancing value creation capability will benefit investors and companies in the long run, said Michael Thorneman, managing partner and head of Bain China.The difficulty of finding attractive new deals with reasonable valuations in the short term as well as challenges to existing portfolio companies are the two major drives for funds to focus on existing portfolio, added Kiki Yang, Partner, co-head of private equity practice at Bain China.

 

Trade sales and sponsor-to-sponsor, or secondary, deals gained importance as exit channels, and will likely broaden and deepen in the year ahead, she said.Zhu Lei, an analyst with Aijian Securities Co Ltd, said more than half of the more than 100 enterprises that withdrew initial public offering applications in the past few months have shareholders that are private equity or venture capital funds."IPOs are no longer one of the major considerations for private equity investors to exit their portfolios as the channel has been frozen, and no one is sure about when it will be reopened," said Zhu.Buyout deals were the only deal type that did not decline in value or volume in 2012, the report said.In a sector-to-sector view, financial services and information technology were the most active sectors for private equity in 2012, whereas Bain found that healthcare and consumer products would be the sectors of highest interest in 2013."I think an obvious change in the private equity market is that investors are attaching more importance to value creation," said Yin Hao, a Suzhou-based private equity professional.Although 2012 was not as good as previous years, the outlook for China's PE market over the next five to 10 years is positive because it has something fundamental to push forward development, said Bain's Bhatia.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/11/2013

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JAPAN: Government to Keep Add-on Corporate Pension Funds

 

The welfare ministry will allow well-performing "kosei nenkin kikin" add-on corporate pension funds to be maintained under a draft bill unveiled Monday. Although the add-on system had been planned to be scrapped under the previous administration, led by the Democratic Party of Japan, the ministry changed course after the Liberal Democratic Party ousted the DPJ from power in last December's House of Representatives election. The LDP has called for pension funds that perform strongly under the program to remain. At a meeting of its Social Security Council's working group on the pension system on Monday, the ministry presented a set of draft bills, including one to revise the "kosei nenkin" corporate employee public pension insurance act to encourage troubled pension funds to dissolve. It aims to submit the bill during the ongoing session of the Diet, or parliament, through June and put it into effect in April next year. Under the kosei nenkin kikin add-on program, about 560 funds across the country manage kosei nenkin public pension assets on behalf of the government. About 40 percent of the funds, however, have shortfalls in reserves for the public pension assets, reflecting the sluggishness of the Japanese stock market over a long period. Under the revised law, kosei nenkin kikin funds with reserve shortfalls for the proxy portion would be encouraged to disband in five years after the law takes effect. It would allow funds to continue if their total assets are 50 percent or more larger than the needed public pension assets managed for the government. Only about 10 percent of existing funds are expected to meet the condition. Funds would be urged to disband or transform themselves into other corporate pension systems if their total assets are less than 50 percent of the needed proxy assets.

From http://the-japan-news.com 04/02/2013

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Japan to Start World's First LNG Futures Contract

 

Japan is preparing to create the world’s first futures trading contract for liquefied natural gas in a bid to stabilize the commodity’s price as demand soars, an industry ministry official said Tuesday. Japan and neighboring South Korea are the world’s two top buyers of LNG with East Asia accounting for about 60% of global demand, but the region also tends to pay higher prices with shipping costs expensive and rates varying from place to place. In Asia, the price for LNG is index-linked to oil, which means buyers tend to pay far more than those in North America, where price is determined on the basis of supply and demand. Big price differences for LNG—natural gas that is temporarily liquefied for easier storage and transportation—underscored the need for its own trading contract, the industry ministry official said.

 

Tokyo wants to make the contract a reality within two years, he added. “We want to create a system that serves as a new indicator, reflecting the true supply-and-demand conditions of LNG and to stabilize its price,” the official said. The contract would be traded at the Tokyo Commodity Exchange, with Japan saying it hopes to encourage gas users in South Korea and Taiwan to take part in the market, and later U.S. gas suppliers. Tokyo has racked up growing current account deficits due to ballooning energy costs after it was forced to turn to pricey fossil-fuel alternatives in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima atomic crisis. The accident led to the shutdown of nuclear reactors which once supplied about one-third of Japan’s power. A weaker yen has also jacked up the cost of imported fuel which is usually priced in U.S. dollars.

From http://www.japantoday.com 04/03/2013

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BOJ's Kuroda Says Japan Market Conditions Improving

 

Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Monday Japan’s financial system is stable and capital markets have been improving due to a decline in risk aversion and expectations for domestic policy. Kuroda reiterated the BOJ’s commitment to achieving its 2% inflation target within two years, if not sooner, and that some economic indicators suggest that inflation expectations are starting to pick up. The BOJ stunned global financial markets earlier this month, promising to inject about $1.4 trillion into the economy in less than two years by buying government debt and risk assets to end 15 years of deflation. Kuroda’s assessment of financial markets may do little to comfort investors who are worried that the size of the BOJ’s debt purchases could distort financial markets.

 

“Our financial system is stable overall, and monetary conditions are accommodative,” Kuroda said, according to a summary of his speech. “A decline in risk aversion among global investors and expectations for domestic policy are helping markets improve.” Kuroda also said Japan’s economy has bottomed out and is showing signs of improvement as domestic demand and overseas economies improve. The BOJ took more aggressive easing steps to lower longer-term rates, but the size of the BOJ’s purchases has caused yields to rise and bond futures to fall due to worries that other institutional investors will be crowded out of the market. The BOJ will buy 7.5 trillion yen ($76 billion) of long-term government bonds per month, roughly 70% of newly issued government debt. Kuroda said he expected monetary policy to change expectations by influencing longer-term rates and asset prices, which will help end deflation.

From http://www.japantoday.com 04/16/2013

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SOUTH KOREA: Gov't to Enhance Support for Small Exporters Hit by Weak Yen

 

The government plans on front-loading this year's budget allocated for small exporters in a move to support firms suffering due to the weak yen. The government held a meeting of economy-related ministers on Monday and finalized measures to counter the prolonged descent of the Japanese currency. The Korea Finance Corporation and the Industrial Bank of Korea will first provide more liquidity at lower interest rates to smaller firms hit by the weak yen. The government plans to spend over 60 percent of its budget allocated for small firms during the first half of the year, providing liquidity for exporters through loan programs by state banks and guarantees by the Korea Credit Guarantee Fund and Korea Technology Finance Corporation.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 04/01/2013

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Park Instructs Government to Ensure 'Crime Does Not Pay'

 

President Park Geun-hye on Friday called for sterner punishment for crimes involving rich and influential people, such as stock price manipulation, saying that law enforcement should be carried out stringently so as to ensure that "crime does not pay."  "There have been many cases so far where those who commit crimes avoided punishment or got away with light punishment just because they are rich or influential. This has increased the people's frustration and distrust in our judicial system and worked against national unity," Park said during a home ministry policy briefing. Park said the government should deal more sternly with crimes by those in "social leadership" positions, especially stock manipulation and embezzlement of company funds. She also said that ill-gotten gains from financial crimes must be fully traced and forfeited.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr 04/05/2013

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Science Ministry to Create 400,000 Jobs by 2017

 

South Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning announced that it will create 400-thousand jobs by 2017 through the convergence of science and information communication technology (ICT). Minister Choi Moon-ki said during a policy briefing at the presidential office Thursday that the ministry will create 130-thousand jobs in the science and technology sector and 260-thousand jobs in the ICT sector. To meet this goal, the ministry plans to strengthen cooperation between the industry and academia, nurture new internet-related projects in the transportation and distribution sector, expand software education and create a fund to support Korea’s cultural products. It will also come up with development plans to resolve social issues such as noise between floors in mass housing, food safety, and environmental hazards through science and technology. In addition, it will gradually scrap mobile phone membership fees and nurture security projects for ICT networks as the country’s new growth engine.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 04/18/2013

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Gov’t Holds 1st State Policy Coordination Meeting

 

The government has held a state policy coordination meeting for the first time since it was launched in late February. In the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, the ministers discussed 40 key state tasks, including bills on economic democratization and ways to ease loan-related burdens on low-income earners. They also devised measures to raise the employment rate to 70 percent and encourage convergence among industries and businesses. The prime minister said that the state policy coordination meeting will serve as a key consultative body in discussing the management of state affairs.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 04/19/2013

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INDONESIA: President Urges Speeding Up Efforts to Achieve MDGs Target

 

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday requested all shareholders to accelerate the efforts to achieve MDGs goals within the time ahead of the deadline in 2015, local press reported. President Yudhoyono made the statement in his speech at the opening of MDGs award ceremony in Bali. "Let's use the rest of this (about) three years left as good as possible to speed up and strengthen the achievement of the targets. Please do not make the efforts become slower because of the talks on frame works post 2015 has kicked off," he was quoted by investor daily as saying. President Yudhoyono pushed all the shareholders to set up a better coordination mechanism to achieve the eight targets of MDGs. The MDGs target comprised the efforts to achieve people welfare, including in the sector of education, health of mother and child, prevention of contagious disease. Ahead of the deadline to achieve MDGs in 2015, the United Nations appointed President Yudhoyono, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to compose new agenda post 2015. The talks over the issue had been done in New York, the United Kingdom and now in Bali from March 26 to 27.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 03/26/2013

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Indonesia’s Healthcare Spending Set to Expand

 

Indonesia’s healthcare expenditure is predicted to reach US$60.6 billion in 2018 with a growth of 14.9 per cent over the 2012-2018 period on account of faster growth in age groups above 35 years, urbanisation and an increase of lifestyle-related diseases such as cancer and diabetes, says research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. Hannah Nawi, Frost & Sullivan’s Healthcare Practice Associate Director for Asia Pacific, said Indonesia’s median age was 28 years and that age groups beyond 35 years were projected to grow faster than the average from 2010 to 2014. “Urbanisation and a slowly ageing population will the drive demand for healthcare in Indonesia,” Hannah said recently. She added that increasing chronic and lifestyle-related diseases, including cancer and diabetes, especially in big cities in the country, would also play a large role in the increasing public demand for healthcare services in the next few years.

 

“In terms of the healthcare burden, once you are a cancer patient, you’ll be in treatment for life. The same goes for diabetes,” Hannah said, adding that it could put a strain on healthcare institutions. Separately, the head of the Indonesian Hospital Association (PERSI), Sutoto said that the national healthcare system under the Social Security Providers (BPJS) Law would also play a significant role in increasing the country’s total healthcare expenditure. The health insurance, which will cover 121.6 million people as of January 1, 2014, will be made available in stages for all eligible Indonesians through 2019. “Many hospitals questioned their readiness ahead of the implementation of the BPJS next year, when in fact it actually opens more opportunities for the healthcare industry, especially for private hospitals,” Sutoto said. “Around 86 million low-income people who have no access to healthcare services, will be able to receive hospital services by the time it is implemented, and the government will pay their premiums,” he added.

 

The country, however, still faced a lot of challenges in fulfilling the increasing demand for healthcare services, Nitin Dixit, Frost & Sullivan’s healthcare senior industry analyst, said.  “The first challenge is the uneven distribution of resources. The hospital, the doctors, the entire healthcare infrastructure is unevenly distributed,” Nitin said. Sutoto said that the country’s doctor-to-people ratio was only three doctors per 10,000 people, much less than Malaysia, which has nine doctors for every 10,000 people and Cuba, which has 64 doctors for 10,000 people. “We have a total of 73 medical faculties across the country, but yet we are still lacking doctors, especially specialist doctors,” he said. He also said that hospitals should start recalculating their service costs and make it more efficient ahead of the BPJS, as the government would apply an equal healthcare tariff across all healthcare institutions to ease insurance claims. “We urge all hospitals to reduce their costs and make it more efficient ahead of the BPJS,” Sutoto said. “At the same time, we hope the government assists us and lowers taxes, as well as electricity and water tariffs for hospitals, as we will have to provide more third class rooms for low-income people,” he said.

From http://www.asianewsnet.net/ 03/31/2013

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Indonesia Moves to Cut High Logistic Distribution Cost

 

Indonesia is making efforts to tackle high logistic cost that has long plagued the country's manufactures, mainly through constructing more infrastructures and creating regional logistic pools and logistics hubs to secure availability of logistics in nearest locations. Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan said Wednesday that high logistic cost was caused by limited infrastructure available in the country, particularly in the eastern region, adding it has led to the high disparity of growth between eastern and western regions. Citing as an example, the minister said that cargo transport firms usually charge extra fees on logistic cargo shipment to the eastern region since their ships may return unloaded, thus leading to higher cost for logistic distribution to the eastern region than to the western region. "Such a problem also hinders investors from investing in eastern region. It would eventually slow down the growth in eastern region," the minister said.

 

The minister added that logistic distribution problem would harm the competitiveness of Indonesian products in both domestic and international markets. To address this problem, he said, his ministry has been actively developing national logistic system and improving the regions' connectivity as well as inter logistic hubs. "It was conducted through traditional market revitalization, construction of regional distribution centers and development of network that connects each logistic hub located in each economic corridor," the minister said. According to data released by the ministry, logistic cost accounts for 24.64 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) that reached 1,800 trillion rupiah (185.6 billion U.S. dollars) in 2011. Indonesia was ranked the 59th in the results of Logistic Performance Index survey conducted last year, below Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

 

Sofyan Wanandi, chairman of Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo), an organization joined by manufacturers operating in Indonesia, said earlier that logistic cost in Indonesia made up of up to 17 percent of overall industrial cost, adding that it was the highest in Asia. "In Malaysia it was only 8 percent, while in Japan it stood at 5 percent. This is what the government should address by constructing more infrastructures," he said. The Indonesian government is in its great efforts to build infrastructure projects to facilitate investors interested in investing in the largest economy in Southeast Asia that recorded high growth of above 6 percent amid global crisis in the last few years. The government has allocated 363 trillion rupiah (37.4 billion U.S. dollars) to finance the construction of new airports, seaports, toll roads, power plants and more infrastructure necessities in a program called MP3EI until 2014. It expects great participation of private sector in carrying out the project construction as it needs huge funds and resources to accomplish the program that began in 2011.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 04/10/2013

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Indonesia Partners with World Bank for Sci and Tech Capacity Building

 

The World Bank is working together with the Indonesian Government to build up the country’s science and technology capacity as part of its USD 95 million Research and Innovation in Science and Technology Project (RISET). RISET aims to create an enabling policy environment for Research and Development (R&D) in science and technology, to improve the capabilities of public R&D institutes, and to improve science, technology and innovation human resource capacity. “Improving human resources and national capabilities in science and technology is a key pillar in Indonesia’s masterplan to accelerate and expand its economy. Shifting from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based economy will bring Indonesia up the value chain in a wide range of sectors, with the help of homegrown innovation and a vast pool of human resources,” said Stefan Koeberle, World Bank Country Director for Indonesia.

 

“The World Bank will support Indonesia in making this transition by sharing extensive global knowledge in strengthening public science and technology institutes, as well as training and managing advanced human resources,” he added. The World Bank identified seven state institutes involved in the project, namely: the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI);the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT); the National Nuclear Energy Agency (BATAN); the National Institute for Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN); the National Geospatial Information Agency (BIG); the National Standardization Agency (BSN); and the Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency (BAPETEN). In addition, RISET will also support provincial R&D agencies in the six economic corridors identified under Indonesia’s masterplan: Sumatra; Java; Kalimantan; Sulawesi; Bali-Nusa Tenggara; and Papua-Maluku Islands.

 

According to Dandan Chen, World Bank Senior Economist for East Asia and Pacific Region and project team leader, a large part of RISET will also involve providing fellowships to raise the academic credentials of hundreds of Indonesian researchers, especially those in science and engineering discipline. “Citing official statistics, less than five per cent of all researchers in Indonesia’s state science and technology institutes hold PhDs. Less than 15 per cent hold masters degrees, while the majority hold bachelor’s degrees or lower,” Chen said. Around 400 researchers will benefit from upgraded knowledge and skills acquired through degree or non-degree training, and thousands from strengthened industrial and global knowledge exchange.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 04/16/2013

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MALAYSIA: Launching GIS Portal for Youth Welfare and Development

 

The Malaysian Youth Development Research Institute launched a GIS-based portal which aims to help organisations effectively plan and implement their youth development programmes more efficiently. The portal provides users with access to 49 types of interactive maps based on the following categories: number of youth associations, number of sports centres, involvement of youth in society clubs, engagement of youth in deviant behaviour, economic well-being, overall health and other social and psychological indicators. The Primary data was derived from a study conducted by the Youth Development Research Institute of Malaysia (IPPBM) where more than 20 per cent of the respondents are young people from 78 districts. Meanwhile, secondary data was collected from repositories of various authoritative agencies in the Malaysian Government and other concerned stakeholders. The agency hopes the portal can serve as a catalyst that will influence policy and human resource development in country. In addition, it also hopes to eventually increase the provision of funds allocated to youth development by presenting the data to policy makers.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 04/17/2013

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PHILIPPINES: Pushing for More Transparency in Extractive Industries

 

The Philippine government is pushing for greater transparency and accountability in the payment and collection of revenues in the country's extractive industries, a senior government official said Thursday. Secretary Elisea Gozun, the presidential assistant on Climate Change, said the country is currently working to comply with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) to make sure that companies engaged in extractive businesses pay the right taxes and revenues for the benefit of the people. She said that the government, along with the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, and Bantay Kita, a non-government organization, has formed an interim multi-stakeholder group that will steer all the necessary activities leading to the Philippines' filing of an application for EITI Candidacy.  "We hope that this (participating in EITI) will lead to improvements to tax collection processes, as well as enhance the thrust and stability in the extractive industries," she said. EITI, launched by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2002 at the World Summit for Sustainable Development, is an international multi-stakeholder group that sets standards for transparency in extractive industry payments and receipts. It aims to strengthen governance by improving transparency and accountability in extractive industries. The first EITI international board was established in October 2006. Currently, there are 37 countries participating in the EITI, 20 of which are already compliant, and 17 are candidates. 

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 04/04/2013

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SINGAPORE: Polyclinics Launches Mobile App for Asthma Care

 

SingHealth Polyclinics (SHP), and Integrated health Information Systems (IHiS) under Ministry of Health has today launched a mobile app for asthma care management called “AsthmaCare Buddy”. The new mobile app is the first of its kind in the region to provide asthma patients with key information on the disease and easy to use tools to pro-actively manage their condition and live a healthy lifestyle on the go. “AsthmaCare Buddy is part of SingHealth and IHiS’ efforts to extend care for chronic disease patients beyond the clinic walls, to patients’ homes anytime and anywhere,” said Benedict Tan, IHiS CIO for SingHealth.  Two years ago, IHiS started developing its first mobile health diary for rheumatoid arthritis patients. The development has continued to cover for diabetes, renal disease, before the most recent one— asthma patients, according to him. 

 

“These applications have enhanced doctor-patient communications and care at SingHealth institutions, and we will continue to develop applications for more chronic diseases,” he added. The AsthmaCare Buddy app will give people suffered from asthma clear instructions on what to do when they experience the various conditions of their disease.  It allows users to take control of their asthma management through close monitoring and recording of their disease condition. Tools, such as the peak flow meter record, asthma check assessment and action plans, will enable the users to review their asthma patterns and progress at home. They can share their management progress with their doctor.

 

The app features three key sections:

• Action Plan: it will guide the patient using colours of the traffic-lights on what to do to control his or her asthma depending on the assessment done in Asthma Check. Red prompts the user on medicines and dosages to take when he or she is having an asthma attack. Yello when the user feels the onset of asthma; and the green when he or she is well.

• Asthma Check: it features a health diary with simple questions for the user to input information on his asthma condition, and teh readings from his peak flow meter assessment.

• Record: translates the data entered into graphs on the mobile phone, which the user can show the doctor at his next clinic visit.

 

The record and graphs help provide the doctor a more comprehensive view of the progress of the patient’s medical condition between his clinic visits, as well as to facilitate diagnosis and effective treatment. The app also comes with spatial location information to the nearest General Practitioners and is now available for free from the App Store for iPhone and iPod Touch. Work is under way for Android version.  Statistics show that asthma effects about 10% of the Singapore population aged between 18 to 65 years, and SingHealth Polyclinics see more than 17,000 patients with asthma yearly.  “Patients with asthma are prescribed a variety of inhalers and medicines to take, and in varying doses depending on their condition at any point in time,” said Dr Tan Ngiap Chuan, Director of Research from SingHealth Polyclinics.

 

Chuan explained that during the asthma attack on orset of an attack, many patients get confused about their medication and doses, and would eventually under or over medicate. “This affects the severity of the attack and recovery time,” he said and added that the app will help inform the patients of what to do exactly, once they choose red, yellow or green for their condition. “All information they need is at their fingertips,” he said. For Chuan, the challenge is how to motivate the patient to avoid asthma triggers and take medication daily on a long term basis, to control the disease and prevent attacks. “AsthmaCare Buddy empowers the patient to better manage the disease and is highly motivating with the graphs in the health diary giving him immediate and objective feedback on how well the patient is managing his or her asthma,” he said.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 04/02/2013

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Singapore Tops International e-Government Rankings

 

The Waseda University Institute of e-Government in Japan released its ninth annual international e-government rankings of 55 countries last week. Retaining its position from 2012, Singapore topped the rankings this year, followed by Finland and USA. Factors such as Singapore’s new e-citizen portal, along with the high coverage of fibre-based broadband, upgrades to mobile government, and OneInbox (a secured platform allowing citizens to receive government letters electronically) led to Singapore’s high rank. Asian nations constitute 40 per cent of the top ten countries this year. Taiwan is ranked eighth, up from tenth in 2012, and Japan has moved from rank eight to rank six. South Korea remains in the top ten at rank four, down from its third position last year. Australia, however, moved from its seventh position in 2012 to 11th this year.

 

The 55 nations included in the study are assessed on seven criteria: national portal, presence and mandate of the government CIO, e-services provided to citizens (such as e-voting and e-tax), promotion of e-government, network infrastructure, digital inclusion, and use of ICT for improving internal processes of the government. The 2013 study identified open data and national ID card programmes as new trends this year. Trends identified in 2012, including cloud computing, mobile technology, social media, and cybersecurity, remained popular amongst governments. These annual rankings by Waseda University are led by Dr Toshio Obi, Director of Institute of e-Government, in collaboration with the International Academy of CIO. Organisations such as the United Nations, International Telecommunication Union (ITU – the UN’s ICT agency) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) contributed to the assessment.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 04/02/2013

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THAILAND: PM Cleared of Asset Concealment Charges

 

Thailand's Lady Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was on Thursday cleared of asset concealment charges involving 30 million baht (1 million U.S. dollars) in loaning provided to a firm owned in part by her spouse several years ago. The National Anti-Corruption Commission made a unanimous decision to lift the charges against Yingluck and ruled that she had by no means purposedly concealed her assets, nor falsified her personal wealth report filed to the anti-graft agency a few months after she was named prime minister following 2011's general election, according to Commissioner Klanarong Chantik. The woman leader had loaned 30 million baht to a little-known Ad Index Co., owned in part by her husband, Anusorn Amornchat, between 2006 and 2007. The NACC found documented evidence pertaining to transactions of the money and payments of the interest for the loan over the last several years and concluded that the woman leader had no intention to hide her wealth, he said. Yingluck's loan for her spouse's firm was divided into two batches with one amounting to 10 million baht and the other 20 million baht. If otherwise found guilty of asset concealment charges, nevertheless, the woman leader would probably have been impeached by law and banned from politics for a five-years time.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 04/04/2013

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Thailand Introduces Social Media Analytics Tool

 

The National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (Nectec), Thailand has recently launched a social media analytics tool called “Social Sensing” (S-Sense) to evaluate product popularity among the Thai netizens. Chai Wutiwiwatchai, Head of Nectec’s speech and audio technology laboratory said S-Sense has been developed as a tool for Thai research market via social media, as an alternate replacement to the global technology.  Social media analytics have captured 10% of the Thai research market over the past three years due to the popularity of social media. Thailand has total of 18 million Facebook users, ranking the 13th country in the world, and 1.5 million Twitter accounts.  According to Wutwiwatchai, the S-Sense uses the unique ability in natural language processing and artificial intelligence to analyse Thai slang or jargon to increase the accuracy and understand the feeling when that particular slang is used.

 

“Only a few tools can analyse language sentiment. Most mainly analyse the number of users and keywords,” he added. The development of S-Sense was in partnership with Google, Obvoc, ThoughtBuzz, ZocialEyes, ThotMedia, and Cloud’s marketing unit which provided social medial analytical tools. Wutwiwatchai said that the laboratory is looking to work with cloud service providers to offer the analytical tool through web services to accommodate small medium enterprise in getting data at affordable prices. Nectec Researcher Alisa Kongthon said that S-Sense work to collect, monitor, analyse and process data through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the popular webboard on what are popular things netizens have been talking about. “The result accuracy will be about 85%,” she said.

 

The S-Sense tool can be appllied for business use, as it provides a customised system that can be installed in the internal systems of the company to analyse employee sentiment and plan business strategies. Advertising and media agencies can leverage this tool to enhance customer relations and product development. The tool can assess brand and product popularity in most sectors such as telecommunications, consumer goods, and banking. A mobile application of S-Sense will be launched this month at Thailand Online Expo 2013 between 25 - 28 April. Consumers can now check the social media mood at http://pop.ssense.in.th

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 04/05/2013

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Integrating Communication Technologies to Fight Forest Fires in Thailand

 

Thailand’s Science and Technology Minister Woravat Auapinyakul yesterday announced the plan to integrate activities and communication technology to fight against forest fires affecting the Northern areas of Thailand. “We will use unmanned aerial vehicles, satellite images, Skype and smartphones for reporting fires, coordinating efforts to extinguish them and facilitating rehabilitation,” he said during his trip to the northern province to monitor the haze crisis and to launch the public campaign. Recently, smog has spread widely over Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son causing many residents in the affected areas to wear face masks and sunglasses to protect their eyes and noses. The Ministry of Science and Technology already assigned Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency to explore technical solutions to solve the problem that is disrupting transportation and deterring tourism in the North.

 

Auapinyakul added that air pollution from fires could seriously harm children whose lungs would not grow properly. As part of dealing with forest fires, the ministry has launched the pilot phase of the “Hunt the Smog” project to reward anyone who takes a photo of a forest fire and sent it to the authorities. A reward of THB 500 (US$ 16.95) in cash will be given away to anyone who submit the picture. If the picture leads to the arrest of arsonists, the reward will jump to THB 5,000 (US$ 169.49). If it is among the first 10 submissions, the reward will double to THB 10,000 (US$ 339). He added that the authorities found that most forest fires have been started by people. “We will take tough action against those lighting fires in forest zones to clear land for farming. Fires cause smog, which endangers the health of others,” the minister said. Violators will face a fine of up to THB 50,000 (US$ 1695) and up to six years in jail.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 04/08/2013

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Thai Air Force and ICT Ministry Collaborate on Disaster Management

 

The Ministry of ICT and Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF), Thailand have announced a new collaboration and transfer of knowledge programme under a single umbrella as part of its disaster management preparation and plan. MICT Minister Anudith Nakornthap presided over an MOU signing ceremony between the RTAF and MICT, which involved the state telcos, TOT and CAT Telecom, the Electronic Government Agency (EGA), the RTAF’s Directorate of Information and Communication Technology (DICT), and the Royal Thai Air Force Academy (RTAFA). The collaboration is aimed at leveraging ICT network readiness for disaster management. Both agencies will dedicate human resources, facilities, and relevant equipment to set up communities’ ICT Learning Centre and a Wi-Fi network in the RTAF premises. The relevant agencies in the MOU will foster study and research on the use of ICT and space technology, as well as to partner on cybersecurity related issues. “This collaboration will show the government’s determination to integrate resources and effort in fostering the effective use of ICT for the benefit of the citizens,” said Gp Captain Nakornthap.

 

According to the MOU, the DICT and RTAF will share facilities and equipment and a state-of-the-art radar system currently in production. In case of a disaster, the RTAF will allow the use of the airfield, enabling the use of video down-link systems, and help broadcast warnings from the National Disaster Warning Centre and the Meteorological Department — the two agencies under the MICT — via the RTAF’s communication network. In return, the MICT will equip the RTAF with satellite images, GIS data, and the use of government’s satellite network as a back-up for the RTAF in rescue and rehabilitation activities during the disaster. TOT and CAT Telecom will allow the RTAF to leverage their network infrastructure outside the RTAF’s coverage to facilitate the video down-link system. The two telcos will also provide the RTAF with leased line service and backup data centre at a reduced rate. The EGA will connect the RTAF with its Government Information Network (GIN) both for the RTAF’s headquarters in Bangkok and its branches in the countryside. The EGA will also provide other services it has to the RTAF.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 04/22/2013

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VIETNAM: Government Steps in to Toll Road Debacle, Preventing Double Tariffs

 

The Government will spend about VND800-900 billion (US$43 million) to buy toll collection rights at four stations from investors in National Highways 1 and 18 to prevent drivers from paying overlapping tolls. The Phu Dong, Hoang Mai and Thach Ban toll stations on National Highway 1 and the Bai Chay station on National Highway 18 were set up to collect toll fees until the end of next year so that those who invested in building the roads under the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) contracts could have their capital returned. However, since motorists must now pay road-use fees to fill the new road maintenance fund, the BOT tolls would force them to pay a second fee. Dinh Quan Toll Station collects fees to cover investment for the highway stretching from Duc Trong District to Da Lat City in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong. But it is situated in neighbouring Dong Nai Province's Tan Phu District.

 

Chairman of Tan Phu District People's Committee Ngo Sy Bang said that each day, over 170 local vehicles had to pay tolls at the station, even though they would not use the BOT road. He complained that enterprises looking to invest in the district's industrial zone were hesitating due to the cost. The BOT road investor has set up two other toll stations in Lam Dong Province.  At a meeting about the relocation of Dinh Quan Toll Station on Tuesday, Truong Van Vo, vice head of Dong Nai Province's National Assembly deputy group, said that last October, the Transport Ministry agreed to close the station in last year's fourth quarter. However, it remained operational and the fee had even increased. The ministry attributed the delay to the fact that Dinh Quan Station was responsible for collecting 55 per cent of the revenue from the whole BOT route. Closing it would mean investors might not recover all their capital. A representative from the investor said at the meeting that it was seeking a new location for the station, such as the border between the provinces, and expected to complete relocation by the third quarter.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 04/05/2013

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Ministry Tightens Controls Over Farm Produce Imports

 

Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat has called for stricter control over imports of farm produce, particularly their origin, to ensure all the goods meet food safety standards. Concerning the quality of local farm produce, the minister instructed relevant agencies to adopt drastic measures to ensure food safety and hygiene at all stages. He noted at an online workshop on the quality of agro-forestry and fisheries products yesterday that it was essential to praise those who conformed with regulations while punishing those who did not do so. Food safety and hygiene awareness among officials as well as farmers remained low while related regulations were not effective enough to stop violations. In 2012, agriculture and rural development departments in 46 localities discovered 961 units violating regulations, accounting for 18.7 per cent of the 12,000 trade and production sites inspected.  Inspectors found that 6.8 per cent of samples inspected contained unacceptably high levels of pesticide. The ministry decided to punish more than 5,900 cases of violations last year with total fines of more than VND10 billion (US$476,000). Most violations concerned the use of banned substances in cattle-feed and failing to provide a clean environment for aquaculture. The ministry targeted to cut the contamination rate of plant-origin products by 10 per cent this year in comparison with 2012, Phat said.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 04/05/2013

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BANGLADESH: Can Expand Technical Capacity on Sea Issues ISA

 

ISA Secretary General Nii Allotey Odunton has said Bangladesh can expand its technical capacity on sea-related matters by hosting one of ISA’s annual workshops.  Odunton said this when Bangladesh Ambassador to USA Akramul Qader presented his credentials as the Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the International Seabed Authority (ISA) at its headquarters in Kingston, Jamaica on Wednesday, according to a message received here on Thursday. The ISA Secretary General suggested that Bangladesh submit a detailed proposal as per the ISA directives and assured Ambassador Qader of duly considering Bangladeshi candidates for scholarships. Odunton welcomed the Bangladesh Ambassador and accepted his credentials.

 

Ambassador Qader pointed out that as an ISA Council member Bangladesh has been actively involved in the framing of laws that would govern future exploration and exploitation of deep seabed resources. Expressing Bangladesh’s interest to take part in deep seabed mining projects as an individual contractor or in partnership with other countries, Qader said Bangladesh would like to host an ISA sponsored workshop in the near future. He also sought the Secretary General’s support for scholarships to Bangladeshi experts in marine scientific research under the ISA endowment fund. Established in 1994 as an autonomous international organisation under the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the ISA is mandated by the United Nations to administer all exploration and exploitation activities in the deep seabed area where precious living and non-living resources are located.

 

As per the UNCLOS provisions the deep seabed resources are the common heritage of mankind and therefore the benefits of their exploitation are to be equitably shared by all nations. The Bangladesh envoy congratulated Odunton on his remarkable accomplishments since taking the office of ISA Secretary General in 2008 as well as on his reelection last year. The ISA Secretary General also thanked the government of Bangladesh for appointing its Permanent Representative to the Seabed Authority.

From http://www.unbconnect.com 04/04/2013

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SRI LANKA: Launching First South Asian 4G Mobile Service

 

Sri Lanka's Dialog Axiata, a unit of Malaysia's Axiata said it had launched commercial fourth generation mobile services in Colombo, making it the first in South Asia. Dialog's service is based on frequency division - long term evolution standard (FD-LTE) technology requiring paired bandwidth for separate uplink and downlink channels. Dialog last week bought 10MegaHerts of paired spectrum or 20MHz of raw bandwidth in an 1800MHz band auction from the regulator for 3.2 billion rupees allowing it to launch the service.  "It is indeed an honour and privilege to lead Sri Lanka’s mobile industry in to the 4G era with the launch of Dialog’s 4G Mobile service in the city of Colombo," group chief executive Hans Wijayasuriya said.

 

"The progressive spectrum management policies of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka has once again ensured that Sri Lankan consumers will enjoy the region’s most advanced suite of Mobile, Fixed and Nomadic 4G LTE Services." Dialog's fixed access unit, Dialog Broadband Networks, launched fixed fourth generation services in December 2012 using time division - long term evolution (TD-LTE) which originally evolved in China and does not require paired bandwidth. Dialog said its 4G mobile services will deliver peak data speeds of 50Megabits per second on FD-LTE 1800MHz band 3 compatible mobile devices. These included Samsung Note II LTE – GT-N7105, Samsung SIII – LTE, LG Optimus LTE, Sony Xperia V LTE and the Huawei Ascend P1 LTE and the Huawei E398U dongle. Dialog said it will sell the dongle at 16,000 rupees and will also offer Huawei E3276S dongle later in April.

 

"Dialog will continue to invest aggressively in building a world class portfolio of Broadband Services for our customers based on Mobile and Fixed LTE, 3G HSPA+, Wi-Fi and Fibre Optic Connectivity," Wijayasuriya said. "We are singularly committed to supporting the Government of Sri Lanka in its vision of empowering all Sri Lankan citizens with broadband connectivity, and accordingly we will ensure that our broadband services are available across Sri Lanka and affordable to all." Director general of Sri Lanka's telecommunications regulatory commission Anusha Pelpita told LBO last week that spectrum had been kept affordable to allow cheaper services and spectrum sharing had also been allowed. Dialog operates Sri Lanka's largest mobile service with 7.8 million subscribers.

From http://www.lankabusinessonline.com 04/02/2013

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NEPAL: ICT Expo from April 9

 

Branding Expo 2013, 6th ICT Info-Trade Fair is going to be held at Bhrikutimandap, Kathmandu from April 9 to 13. Information Communication Technology (ICT) Association of Nepal is organising the event with an aim to promote the latest products related to information technologies along with disseminating information to the public about it. The five-day event will also offer special discounts to this year’s SLC appeared students, said the organisers. Similarly, the expo has also offered discounts up to 20 percent on the software to the customers on bookings at stalls.

From http://www.nepalnews.com 04/05/2013

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Nepal Close to Reaching MDG Targets, but Much Remains to Be Done

 

The National Planning Commission (NPC), the United Nations Country Team in Nepal and other development partners on Friday marked what they called "vital moment in history’s largest and most successful anti-poverty push" – the 1,000 remaining days to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). A joint statement issued by NPC and the UN said Nepal is likely to achieve many MDGs targets such as reducing the proportion of people below national poverty line, achieving 100 per cent enrollment in primary education, reducing child and maternal mortality, and access to improved drinking water facilities. However, targets related to achieving full and productive employment, reducing hunger (stunting and under-weight children) and improving the environment will be difficult to achieve. Extra efforts are also required to ensure that progress is equitably distributed to reduce disparity between geographical locations and social groups.

 

“We have 1,000 days to close the gaps that remain for the Millennium Development Goals in Nepal – 1,000 days to accelerate action,” Terence D. Jones, UN acting resident coordinator said. “The UN family will continue its cooperation with the Government and other partners to step-up collective efforts and re-energize the global movement to free people from extreme poverty and to address other critical human development issues,” he further added. Vice Chairperson of the National Planning Commission, Deependra Bahadur Kshetry, noted that “Nepal has made great progress since the Millennium Development Goals were set, but we still need to work together to reach all MDGs before 2015”.

From http://www.nepalnews.com 04/05/2013

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PAKISTAN: Govt Using Latest Technology for Food Security

 

Speakers at a daylong workshop on Monday said that the government is introducing innovative technologies to ensure food security for its rapidly growing population at affordable prices. The workshop on "Incorporating Agricultural Service Providers into Demonstration and Dissemination Activities in Rural Pakistan" was held at National Agriculture Research Centre (NARC). "Focus of the government to ensure food security for its rapidly growing population at affordable prices, through technological innovations," said Member, Natural Resources Division, Dr. Nadeem Amjad while speaking on the occasion. He said that Agriculture sector is viewed as an engine of growth for economy, so the government was involved in utilizing technological applications to enhance its produce. He was of the view that technologies and innovations generated in research laboratories remain futile unless they are adopted by the farmers.

 

A number of innovative technologies could not reach the destiny of effective demonstration and dissemination in Pakistan. He said that the government was strengthening private sector to help farmers use these technologies as was done in case of laser land leveling, tillage, high irrigation systems, quality seed, agro-chemicals and combine harvesting services. However, the outreach of such services, throughout Pakistan is grossly inadequate and needs more attention he said. Adding development of private sector is also necessary for achieving and sustaining green and improved national economy especially under the challenges of population growth and climate change. On the occasion, Dr. Abdul Majeed from International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas expressed the hope that the participants will get knowledge and share their ideas during the workshop as well as during field work. Dr. Ajay Jha, Colorado State University said that an action plan would be finalized while Dr. Curtis Swift, USDA also spoke on the occasion and said that this workshop would provide an opportunity to share technical knowledge and experience.

From http://www.brecorder.com 04/15/2013

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AZERBAIJAN: Seeing Virtualization Technology Boom - Expert

 

A boom in the development of virtualization technology is being observed in Azerbaijan, Russian Naumen company's executive Andrey Milovanov told the press in Baku on Thursday. Virtualization technology creates a virtual version of hardware platforms, operating systems, storage devices, or network resources. According to Milovanov, today virtualization technology is new not only for the Azerbaijani ICT market, but also for the markets of the CIS countries overall. The process of the development of virtualization technologies is becoming increasingly popular. Milovanov said the development of this segment of the ICT market may be underway with some delay due to certain reasons. "At present, virtualization technology is acquiring more popularity in Azerbaijan. I believe the development of infrastructure management technology will mark the next step. This sphere is an innovation both for Azerbaijan and other CIS countries," Milovanov said. Azerbaijan's market, according to him, will inevitably go through the stages of development, although with some delay. For example, if one compares it with the Russian market, where the boom of virtualization technologies has subsided, Azerbaijan is observing the peak of its development. "The Azerbaijani market of information technologies has great potential and growth prospects. Azerbaijan is a priority country for us, amongst the CIS countries, as can be seen from frequent visits of our specialists to the country. We are working at the level of large institutions, one of which is the International Bank of Azerbaijan. There are also other companies we are negotiating with," Milovanov said. The company's future plans for the Azerbaijani market include expanding the partner network, and negotiations are being held with local ICT companies to that end. There is also a possibility of opening Naumen's offices in Azerbaijan. This issue, according to Milovanov, will gain relevance in 2014. In this regard, the company has engaged the necessary resources for the study and analysis of the ICT market of Azerbaijan. Naumen is the leading Russian software solution developer for business and state bodies. Naumen renders services on developing, implementation and support of the software projects based on its own solutions. The company cooperates with Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Kazakh and Uzbek ICT companies.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 04/12/2013

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High-Tech Park Construction Starts in Azerbaijan

 

The Azerbaijani Communication and Information Technologies Ministry reported that work on the construction of a high-tech park has started in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree last November to establish High Technology Park in the country. The park supposed to be a territory, which has the necessary infrastructure, logistics, management structures for the preparation of new and high technologies, research in the field of energy efficiency, space and telecommunications, information technologies and communications. According to the ministry, formation of the structure and defining of the sphere of activity are envisaged in the frame of works, which expected to complete by late this year. High-tech park will be located near the capital and a relevant place of 20 hectares was allocated by the state for this purpose. In the future, local and foreign IT-companies will be involved in the high-tech park's activity. Research companies, startup projects developers, production enterprises will be based in the park area. The park's residents will enjoy favorable conditions. Earlier in April, the government passed a decision on which participants of the high-tech parks will be tax and customs duty-exempt for seven years. One of the issues under discussion is to allow developers to operate outside of the park, to create conditions for development of the enterprises in the regions. Azerbaijan is determined to strengthen the development of its economy, to transform it in to the innovation economy based on the high technologies. ICT field plays one of the leading roles in the non-oil sector of the country's economy and the budget revenues it generates have been increasing year-on-year. Earlier, Deputy ICT Minister Elmir Velizade said the creation of high-tech parks would encourage young programmers and promote the software market of Azerbaijan. 2013 was declared the Year of ICT in Azerbaijan and the ICT University was established under a presidential order on February 2.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 04/12/2013

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Int'l Forum on Water Technologies Starts in Baku

 

International Water Technologies Forum kicked off in Baku on Friday. The forum is held in parallel with the Caspian International Water Technologies (CATEF-2013) exhibition. CATEF 2013, which is the only event in the Caspian region for presenting the latest achievements in water technologies, was organized at the initiative and with the support of Azersu. Organizational partner is Iteca Caspian LLC. Deputy Prime Minister Abid Sharifov read out a congratulatory message of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to the forum participants. Forum covers a number of topics, including innovative technologies for potable water, ecological and innovative technology of sewage and storm water, the scope of utilization products; rapid assessment methods and comparative analysis of water sources, innovative management techniques in water, wastewater and storm water, drainage of wetlands technology and artificial reservoirs, and creation of environmentally healthy zones. The exhibition also demonstrates drinking water supply, waste water treatment, rain water disposal systems, construction of micro tunnels, measuring devices and control technologies for the analysis of drinking water, pumps, pump systems, protection of drinking water sources, construction machinery and equipment, drilling rigs, information and communication technologies, geothermal technology, water desalination, water supply and sanitation, as well as other latest technologies. Over 200 delegates, including representatives of government, industry and housing and communal services, national experts, executives and environmentalists of large industrial enterprises, representatives of supplier of eco-technologies and eco-services, industry research and project institutions, associations and non-governmental organizations are attending the forum.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 04/12/2013

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KYRGYZSTAN: Deputy PM - Cooperation Should Be Priority for Region

 

Cooperation should be a priority for the region, First Deputy Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Djoomart Otorbaev said at a meeting of the World Economic Forum (Davos Forum) 'Strategic Dialogue on the Future of the South Caucasus and Central Asia' in Baku. The forum is being held today, Monday. "We are present at a unique forum today," Otorbaev said in his speech. According to him, South Caucasus and Central Asia should be dynamic and more ambitious. Speaking about the dynamics of the region, Otorbaev noted that the total GDP of the five countries of Central Asia is smaller than Singapore's. In Kyrgyzstan he said, there is a great potential for human resources, gold reserves and large hydro assets. The Deputy Prime Minister noted that last year Kyrgyzstan commissioned a superhighway to China and became a transit country. "China brings great opportunities to our region and we would like to connect the countries of the former USSR and China," - he said. According to Otorbaev, Kyrgyzstan today is already cooperating with China and has relations with Russia and Belarus. It established a visa-free regime with 70 countries, but the country aims to enter larger markets.

From http://en.trend.az/ 04/08/2013

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KAZAKHSTAN: Energy Efficient Micro-District to Appear in Astana in 2013

 

An 'Energy efficient micro-district' project is planned to be implemented in 2013, a statement posted on Thursday on the official website of Prime Minister of Kazakhstan says. "The National Chamber of Housing and Communal Services and its partners are planning to realise an energy efficient micro-district in Astana in 2013 under the modernisation programme of housing and communal services. “A new model of efficient management of the infrastructure of the district which will reduce the cost of energy resources, will be tested within the scope of the project," chairperson of the Chamber Board Saltanat Rahimbekova said. According to her, the system assumes optimization of the resources for heating modernisation of the housing fund by means of a local merger of houses into micro-districts where energy modernisation is planned. This project in Astana is planned to be tested first in the Almaty district. The National Chamber was established in 2012 by specialist associations such as the Association of Water Supply and Drainage Enterprises 'Kazakhstan Su Arnasy', the Association of Managers and Service Companies of Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan Association of Heat Supply Organisations and Association of Development of Housing and Communal Services 'Sary-Arka'.

From http://en.trend.az/ 04/04/2013

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Women with Disabilities Need to Be Included in the 2015 Development Agenda

 

The integration of women with disabilities in the 2015 development agenda is weak in the Pacific region says Ms Bridget Leduc, Gender Advisor of the Secretariat if the Pacific Community. Speaking at the opening of the Pacific Women with disabilities conference held at the Ramada Plaza in Noumea, New Caledonia,Leduc emphasized that the social and economic integration of women with disabilities requires much more than infrastructures and services. “If we want women with disabilities to have equal opportunities to fulfill their aspirations and be active members of society, we need to work harder to change people’s mindset about women, and about people with disabilities.” Leduc told the 50 women with disabilities representing the Pacific Disability Forum (PDF) member Disabled Persons Organization, partners and organization from across the Pacific countries. Leduc said that instead of focusing on people’s disabilities, we may want to adopt another perspective and look at their capacities.

 

“There are many women in the Pacific islands, with or without disabilities, who are capable, who contribute to their society, and who work hard to shape the future for their children.” Pacific women with disabilities had the opportunities to discuss issues relating to 2015 Development Agenda including women economic participation and economic empowerment, violence against women and access to justice, sexual and reproductive health and gender, climate change and disaster risk reduction. The outcome statement from the Pacific Regional Women with Disabilities Forum will be presented at the PDF General Meeting on April 12.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 04/10/2013

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AUSTRALIA: Researchers Develop 3D Mapping System to Protect Cultural Heritage Sites

 

Australian researchers developed a mobile laser 3D mapping system called Zebedee to preserve some of the country's oldest and most culturally significant heritage sites, CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, announced on Saturday. According to a statement from CSIRO, this new joint research initiative between CSIRO and The University of Queensland aims to collect detailed 3D maps of historic sites of Moreton Bay. With the assistance of Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services, the research team has collected data from a number of heritage sites including the 19th century Brisbane River defences at Fort Lytton and Peel Island's leper colony buildings. At the core of the technology, developed by CSIRO's Autonomous Systems Lab in Brisbane, is a laser scanner that swings back and forth on a spring to capture millions of detailed measurements. Zebedee gives researchers the ability to reliably map an environment in 3D by simply walking through it.

 

This technology is ideal for cultural heritage mapping, which is usually very time consuming and labor intensive, Dr. Jonathan Roberts, director of CSIRO's Autonomous Systems Lab, said. "It can often take a whole research team a number of weeks or even months to map a site with the accuracy and detail of what we can produce in a few hours." "Zebedee has allowed us to capture a detailed record of several key cultural heritage sites ranging from those which are fragile and risk of damage through natural disasters to those which are remote and difficult to get to," said Professor John Macarthur, dean and head of the School of Architecture at The University of Queensland.

From http://www.globaltimes.cn 04/14/2013

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Commonwealth Secretary-General Thanks Australia for Leadership on Commonwealth Reform

 

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma has commended Australia for its leadership as the current Commonwealth Chair-in-Office, a two-year position taken on by the host nation of each Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. “The 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth chaired by Prime Minister Julia Gillard was a watershed moment in agreeing on a roadmap of reform for the Commonwealth. Thanks to Australian leadership as Chair-in-Office in the last 18 months, we have rapidly achieved the ambitious modernisation of the Commonwealth expected by our leaders," Sharma said. The Secretary-General was commenting following his call on Prime Minister Gillard in Canberra on 12 April. The Secretary-General customarily calls on the Chair-in-Office once each year to provide a progress report on the Commonwealth Secretariat's work on behalf of all 54 member governments. “Australia's Prime Minister took the lead by being the first to table the new 'Charter of the Commonwealth' in Australia's Parliament, following its signature last month by HM Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth. Meanwhile, almost all of the reform recommendations of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, which Commonwealth Heads of Government adopted at the Perth summit, have already been implemented or are on track to being implemented soon. We are close to the finishing line of giving full effect to the agreed recommendations of the Eminent Persons Group.”

 

The Secretary-General added: “The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group is giving practical effect to its revised mandate to become a more active and positively engaged custodian of core Commonwealth political values. The Commonwealth's profile is being steadily raised with a significant uplift in public visibility about its values and principles. And our member governments collectively are on the verge of adopting a new Strategic Plan for the Commonwealth Secretariat. It will make the Secretariat tightly focussed on core strengths and more effective as an intergovernmental body in the years ahead," Mr Sharma said. The Secretary-General also updated the Prime Minister on other major new work being taken forward from the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. This includes an expert group examining improved access to climate finance for small and vulnerable states, a high-level advocacy group on small states' debt, and a study into options for improving and easing the movement of Commonwealth citizens across borders between Commonwealth member states. “The Chair-in-Office has led the Commonwealth in raising our profile, maintaining an ambitious pace of reform, and encouraging progress towards stronger adherence to the Commonwealth's core values and principles. We are deeply appreciative of Australia's continued Commonwealth leadership at political and official levels,” the Secretary-General concluded. During the Secretary-General's visit to Canberra, he also met the Australian Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peter Varghese, and the Director General of the Australian Government Overseas Aid Programme (AusAid), Peter Baxter.

From http://www.pina.com.fj 04/15/2013

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FutureHealth Forum Australia Showcases Connected Care

 

The industry’s flagship FutureHealth Forum Australia held 17th April in Sydney, offered a first-hand look at how public and private healthcare providers are integrating ICT platforms to deliver connected care. Speakers shared insights from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Canada – with a closer look at connecting technology with people and processes across the healthcare system. During a keynote address, New South Wales’ Minister for Health Jillian Skinner said that connected healthcare is about “connecting people with vital health information.” This connectivity supports ground-breaking reforms across the healthcare system. An astute use of technology directly benefits patients, clinicians, medical practitioners, as well as front-line staff across public and private hospitals. Australia’s health landscape is being transformed with a wide-spread use of e-health services. These services now deliver quality care, Minister Skinner said. E-health services incorporate mobile communications, electronic medication management, electronic medical records, as well as fully-integrated clinical information systems.

 

New South Wales will spend nearly US$1.5 billion (AU$1.5 billion) over the next 10 years on e-health reforms, Minister Skinner said. She added that there is an increased use of mobile apps to track and manage personal information involving patients and care-givers. High-speed, fast-access broadband supports telehealth across cities, as well as regional and remote areas. Clinicians now use digital information management, imaging, and voice recognition technology to manage hectic, and fast-changing schedules. Dale Potter, Chief Information Officer, at the The Ottawa Hospital said integrated healthcare delivers quality services at this 1,200-bed Canadian hospital. A care management system now meets changing patient needs – while adapting to dynamic hospital conditions. Care management tools help practitioners collaborate and spend quality time with patients. Moreover, integrated care helps track patient flow, while streamlining access to specialised resources.

 

The Ottawa hospital also uses iPads and mobile devices for anywhere, any-time healthcare. Mobile apps enable physicians to move freely between dispersed sites. They can access patient and related medical information, more readily from personal devices. Peter Fleming, CEO, National e-Health Transition Authority NEHTA offered insights into Australia’s national Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records (PCEHR) initiative. This programme fast-tracks the delivery of e-health services –while delivering connected care nationally. More than 2,000 healthcare organisations are now registered in the PCEHR system. The total tally of PCEHR users peaked at 107,822 during April 2013. The roadmap for excellence was charted by Professor Cliff Hughes, CEO, Clinical Excellence Commission. He said healthcare incorporates a complex system – with a “mind of its own” that needs to be fed, nurtured, and developed. Excellence in healthcare involve stakeholders being mindful of governance. They also need a detailed knowledge of health and IT systems, and how the pieces can be integrated with clock-like precision.

 

Interoperability between systems remains crucial to quality care, according to Ann Larkins, CIO of the Melbourne-based Barwon Health in Victoria. Process redesign involves buy-in from clinicians at the outset, Ms Larkins noted. Moreover, data elements must be standardised – with “incremental development” that best matches an appetite for change. Barwon Health uses a unique patient identifier for standard messaging between systems. It also taps into data warehouse “live reporting” features, while amalgamating data from peripheral clinical systems. FutureHealth Forum pooled the experiences of front-line healthcare providers. A popular interactive discussion table format connected end-users and solutions providers during independent and lively conversations.This forum was supported by a dedicated technology showcase. Delegates gained insights into the emerging role of digital hospitals and connected platforms. Other solutions showcased included BYOD, mobile communications, e-records management, information security, analytics, telehealth, and integrated patient care.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 04/19/2013

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FIJI: Women Played an Integral Part in the Success of Environmental Conservation

 

Women played an integral part in the success of environmental conservation projects in Fiji's Northern Division. Tui Macuata, Ratu Aisea Katonivere, told religious leaders that the needs of women were a central consideration in the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the province. “We based the MPA concept on a simple fact – Levu na ika, marau o Nau (If the fish supply is plentiful, Mum is happy),” Ratu Aisea said. “We know that if our mothers are happy, families are happy and the village is happy.” He was responding to a question from Susana Evening, representative of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Suva. Evening had asked Ratu Aisea whether women had been involved in provincial conservation projects. “Many times the women just sit at the back of the hall and remain silent and do not take part in the processes,”Evening said. “I’m interested to know whether the women of Macuata took part in the creation of the protected areas.” Ratu Aisea said it was important for traditional leaders to include all members of the community – including women – in discussions about communal welfare and projects.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 04/04/2013

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Report Calls for Improved Inter-ethnic Relations in Fiji

 

A new report on Fiji's inter-ethnic relations says decrees and constitutional clauses for equality are not enough to force change in the country. Professor Vijay Naidu is the author of the report released by London-based Minority Rights Group and Fiji's Citizens' Constitutional Forum. He has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat steps need to be taken to end the i-Taukei domination of institutions, including police, military and the public service. “You talk about institutions, you know our Fiji military is still 99 per cent ethnic Fijian," he said. "Over the last six, seven years, that composition has not changed at all. In the public sector you have a predominance of ethnic Fijians, both generally and at the upper echelons where up to 90 per cent are filled by ethnic Fijians.” Naidu says the necessary change could take up to 10 to 20 years to achieve and is dependent on political will. “One of the interviewees said you can't decree these things from the top, that it's likely to take some time before an ethnically blind society can be established here,” he said.

 

However, he says there have been some positive developments and the country has by no means remained “static.” “There have been numerous changes,” he said. “We no longer have ethnically exclusive schools... there's no open assertion of ethnic exclusivity with respect to the educational institutions from primary school upwards.” Naidu is hoping the report, Fiji: The Challenges And Opportunities For Diversity, and its recommendations will inform the interim government's approach to policy-making. “What we want to do is provide evidence for policy making," he said. “Often policies are made with no reference to any evidence that might be available.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 04/11/2013

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Pacific Ministers Concerned at Fiji Developments

 

Ministers from the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) expressed concern about the Fiji government’s recent actions Friday and stressed elections scheduled to be held next year must be free and fair. A ministerial contact group led by New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully visited the Pacific nation for the first time since May last year to assess progress towards holding the first popular vote since a coup in 2006. The group said much work had been done but noted the regime of military leader Voreqe Bainimarama had failed to stick to an agreed “roadmap” to democracy. “Ministers expressed concerns about departures from Fiji's previously announced roadmap process and emphasised the need for a constitution-building process that enjoyed the support of the people of Fiji and the respect of the international community,” they said in a statement. The PIF suspended Fiji in 2009 after Bainimarama failed to honour a vow to hold elections.

 

Last month, he scrapped plans to hold an assembly to review a proposed new constitution, saying he wanted opinions directly from the people since opposition parties could not be trusted. It followed his ditching in January of a draft constitution prepared by an academic panel in favour of a version prepared by the regime. The original draft, never officially released, was believed to have called for the military, a key player in the four coups the Pacific nation has endured since 1987, to stay out of politics after the 2014 elections. In February the government issued a decree imposing restrictions on political parties and 14 of the 17 opposition parties were deregistered. McCully said the PIF ministers held "very professional constructive discussions" with members of Bainimarama's government. “Look this is a long road, the elections are a long (way) away, well over a year,” he said. “There is a lot of water to travel under the bridge and we look forward to maintaining our engagement and ... (will) be watching the events over the coming days.” Bainimarama has announced he plans to run in the 2014 elections.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 04/15/2013

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Fiji President Opens Pacific Aid Consultations

 

Fiji's President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau opened a regional consultation on HIV and AIDS in Nadi today. The consultation forum attended by Government, legal, human rights and health leaders from Pacific nations is to review laws and policies that are blocking progress on HIV and AIDS issues in the region. Attended by representatives from seven Pacific nations (Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu), Ratu Epeli said the initiative was important to the small island States which impacted on human rights-based health programme  initiatives and the rights of people living with HIV. “This consultation to discuss the review of laws and policies hindering access to HIV services for people living with HIV and key populations is one of the steps agreed to in the ESCAP regional framework which I chaired some years back,” Ratu Epeli said. “As the first countries in the Asia Pacific region to hold the consultation, we are again showing our leadership and commitment to effective responses to HIV and to the human rights of those living with or vulnerable to HIV. It is, therefore, incumbent upon us, the participants at this consultation, together with our UN partners, to ensure objectives of this consultation are fully met.”

 

The meeting has been seen as an example to other countries in the region that will soon be holding similar consultations. United Nations AIDS Pacific co-ordinator, Tim Rwabuhemba said punitive laws, policies and practices hamper access to HIV-related services across Asia and the Pacific. “Almost all Pacific nations have laws and policies which contribute to the obstruction of rights of people living with HIV and key affected populations,” Mr Rwabuhemba said. “Many have laws and practices that effectively criminalize people living with HIV and key affected populations, mitigate or sustain violence and discrimination against women and sexual minorities and impede HIV-related treatment access.” The meeting is a follow up to commitments made at the United Nations General Assembly (2011) and through the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (2010, 2011) to review laws and policies that adversely affect the successful delivery of HIV services to people living with HIV.

From http://www.pina.com.fj 04/17/2013

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SOLOMON ISLANDS: Skills Shortage in Solomons - World Bank

 

With seven out of ten Solomon Islanders under the age of 29 and the working-age population set to increase by 30 per cent in the next decade, expanding employment and livelihood opportunities for Solomon Islanders is critically important, according to a new World Bank report, Skills for Solomon Islands: Opening New Opportunities. The report which is launching this week in Honiara explores the demand for skills in current job opportunities in Solomon Islands and finds a mismatch with skills supplied in the labour force. The report proposes practical actions to orient the supply of training to the economic opportunities available at home and overseas. It says with new and emerging economic opportunities available for Solomon Islanders, in natural resources, tourism, small enterprise, and labour migration, increasing employment and livelihood opportunities is particularly important for women, youth and rural Solomon Islanders.

 

Local firms report they could add over 50 percent more jobs, given the availability of employees with the right skills, yet by one measure only about 20 percent of 15–24 year old Solomon Islanders are employed, and over 40 percent of youth are inactive. The report reveals that constraints to growth begin with basic skills. Literacy and Educational Experience surveyed in Solomon Islands in 2007 and 2010 indicated that rates of functional literacy are as low as 17% in major provinces, creating a need for second chance education for those who have missed out on basic education in early years. “Current initiatives supported by Solomon Islands Government, civil society and employers will help address the skills gap – such as efforts to improve the quality of basic education and the development of a National Qualifications Framework”, says Anne Tully, the new World Bank Country Representative to Solomon Islands.

 

She noted that, “Girls and women’s participation in education, training and employment opportunities in Solomon Islands is limited by socio-economic factors, with a notable gender gap in rates for primary school intake, transition, completion, literacy, and employment.” The report shows that more actions are needed across a range of areas, from expanding early childhood education to literacy training, to services supporting the transition from school to employment, and coordination of labour market data within government and with employers. Training preparation for labour migration would help assess overseas employment opportunities which are important to the future of many Solomon Islanders. The report supports the Government’s National Human Resource Development and Training Plan, coordinated by the Ministry of Development Planning and Aid Coordination (MDPAC). Implementing the Plan will help orient the supply of skills in Solomon Islands to demands from employers and enterprise.

 

The report identifies key actions to include:

# development of the National Qualifications Framework,

# improved linkages between training providers and employers including at provincial level,

# increasing second chance education to gain literacy and livelihoods skills,

# non-formal training pathways relevant to informal and village livelihoods, and,

# incentives for workplace training and reduced barriers for women in training and enterprise

 

The report finds that jobseekers need skills, the right motivation and expectations, and work-ready behaviours such as problem-solving, communication and attitudes to meet employer needs. As formal employment is limited, more financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills training could expand the informal and self-employment livelihoods opportunities needed by the majority of Solomon Islanders. Author of the report, World Bank Human Development Specialist Stephen Close, is visiting Honiara this week to meet with government agencies, civil society, employers and development partners to discuss the report’s key analysis and messages, to examine which recommendations are most useful for current policy and action in Solomon Islands.

 

Discussions will focus on the following key questions:

# What is the ‘skills mismatch’ in Solomon Islands?

# Does it matter, and is it a constraint to growth and development?

# What are practical actions Solomon Islanders can take to close the gap and open new opportunities for all Solomon Islanders?

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 04/03/2013

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Global Economy Is Improving but Europe Lags Behind, Says OECD

 

Global economic activity is picking up, but the continuing crisis in the euro area is delaying a meaningful recovery, the OECD said in its latest Interim Economic Assessment. The Assessment, presented in Paris by Chief Economist Pier Carlo Padoan, says that the G7 economies are expected to grow at an annualised 2.4 per cent rate in the first quarter of 2013 and at a 1.8 percent rate in the second. It notes that financial markets are out-pacing real activity, which has been held back by weak business and consumer confidence, and highlights the risk that asset prices may rise beyond levels justified by fundamentals. “The global economy weakened in late 2012 but the outlook is now improving for OECD economies,” Mr Padoan said. “Bold policy action remains necessary to ensure a more sustainable recovery, particularly in the euro area, where growth is uneven and remains slower than in other regions.” The OECD projects that the euro area’s three largest economies – Germany, France and Italy – will grow by 0.4 per cent during the first quarter and by an additional 1 per cent in the second, but points to a renewed divergence between growth in Germany and the euro area economies.

 

The German economy is expected to grow by 2.3 per cent in the first quarter and by 2.6 per cent in the second. The French economy is expected to see a 0.6 per cent contraction in the first quarter followed by a 0.5 per cent rebound in the second. In Italy, real GDP is expected to drop by 1.6 per cent in the first quarter and by an additional 1 per cent in the second. Weak growth and low confidence are expected to com‌plicate efforts to bring down high unemployment rates across much of Europe. “The employment situation continues to deteriorate in many countries, making it all the more urgent to implement the labour and product market reforms that can stimulate growth and create jobs,” Mr Padoan said. Growth in the United States was held back by one-off factors in the fourth quarter of 2012, but the economy is expected to see a rebound of 3.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2013 before returning to moderate growth of 2.0 per cent in the second.  Canada is set to grow by 1.1 per cent during the first quarter and 1.9 per cent during the second.

 

Growth in Japan is projected to accelerate from previous low levels to a 3.2 per cent pace during the first quarter and 2.2 per cent in the second, while the United Kingdom is expected to grow by 0.5 percent during the first quarter and 1.4 percent in the second. Monetary stimulus remains necessary but needs vary across countries. “In the United States, the commitment of the Federal Reserve to keep policy rates low until labour market outcomes improve substantially is well judged, but the need for further exceptional monetary measures is waning, while in Japan more aggressive policy action is required to escape deflation and achieve the Bank of Japan’s new 2% inflation target,” Mr Padoan said. “In the euro area, there is still some scope to ease monetary policy further, given weak demand and inflation well below the ECB’s objective, while further action is needed to repair the transmission mechanism.”

From http://www.oecd.org 03/28/2013

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Global Mobile Subscriptions Reach 6.3 Billion in 2012 

 

Global mobile subscriptions saw a 9% rise in 2012 to 6.3 billion year-on-year, boosted by the growth in expanding markets in India and China, according to a new report from Ericsson. The latest Ericsson Mobility Report revealed that overall mobile subscriptions in