May 2014, Issue 150

unpan-ap@sass.org.cn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summit Commits to Concrete Actions to Turn Around Ocean Health and Secure Food Security for Millions of People

OECD Countries Commit to Work Towards a Climate Deal for 2015

ADB Urges Asia to Use Fiscal Policy to Make Growth Inclusive

Creating Global Data Standards for Cross-Border Control

APEC Advancing Blueprint for Improved Regional Connectivity

APEC Ministers Issue Statement on Advancing Gender Equality

 

 

 

 

CHINA: Legislature Adopts Revised Environmental Law

China to Maintain Policy Continuity, Stability

China Unveils Tighter Regulation on Commutation

China's New Trademark Law to Take Effect in May

New Rules Designed to Ensure Fairness

China Releases 1st National Security Blue Book

China Issues First Capital Market Guideline

China Releases Report on Cultural Development

Chinese Cities Expected to Ease Property Regulations

JAPAN: Business Lobby Plans Corporate Governance Rules

Swift Decision-Making Process Must Be Achieved Through University Reform Bills

Constitution to Be Reinterpreted

SOUTH KOREA: Court Rules Midnight Ban on Online Games Constitutional

Gov’t to Strengthen Law on Sailor Employment

National Assembly Passes Controversial Pension Bill

S. Korea to Eliminate Nearly a Third of Trade, Investment Regulations

 

 

 

 

Dynamic Markets in Southeast Asia Need Good Policies for Sustained Competitiveness and Shared Growth, Says OECD

CAMBODIA: Parliament Passes Judicial Reform Laws amid Opposition Boycott

MALAYSIA: Government Prioritises E-Government, E-Learning and Healthcare IT in 2020 Vision

SINGAPORE: Sector-Specific Data Protection Guidelines Up for Public Feedback

Singapore Adjusts Policy to Strengthen Social Safety Nets

Singapore Government Tables Bill to Amend Radiation Protection Act

THAILAND: Constitution Temporarily Suspended

Commerce Ministry Announces Plan for Provincial Rice Trading Centres

VIETNAM: Ministry Okays Textile Growth Plan

Viet Nam Targets More FDI with New Legal Framework

New Regulations Target Multilevel Marketing

 

 

 

 

BANGLADESH: Comprehensive Trade Policy for Economic Growth Stressed

Bangladesh to Introduce Guidelines on Outsourcing Arrangements for Banks

INDIA: Consultation for National Multisectoral Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Non Communicable Diseases

 

 

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Top Official Says Azerbaijan Needs to Mull New Draft Law on Defamation

Azerbaijan’s Successful Development Model Example of Thought-Out Economic Policy

Action Plan for Azerbaijan 2014-2016 Launched

Summit of Ministers Calls for More Global Co-operation in Transport Policy

KAZAKHSTAN: Introducing New Rules for Vehicle Inspection

UZBEKISTAN: Law on Openness Government Bodies and Governance Enters into Force

Uzbekistan Plans to Maintain Sustainable Economic Growth in Medium Term

 

 

 

 

New Strategies Needed to Give Pacific Youth Jobs

AUSTRALIA: Government Reinforces ICT Modernisation Reforms

FIJI: ADB to Carry Out Upscaling Operations

NEW ZEALAND: Cyber Security Tsars Lay Down Rules for Network Operators

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: New Law to Help Strengthen Political Parties

SOLOMON ISLANDS: Political Parties Integrity Bill Likely to Pass into Law

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHINA: Rule of Law Essential for Faith in Petition System

Chinese Vice Premier Awards Cultural Exchange Envoys

Salary of Civil Servants Below Average: Report

Lower-level Chinese Officials to Conduct Criticism

China Sets Up Organ for Income Distribution Reform

China Reforms Recruitment Practice in Public Institutions

Senior Leader Urges Officials to Recognize Problems

JAPAN: Central Bank Must Keep Guard Up, Increase Cooperation with Government

Ruling Parties to Establish Cybersecurity Headquarters

 

 

INDONESIA: President Shares Milestones in Open Government Journey

Indonesia Capital City Government and Google to Monitor Civil Servants’ Performance

Indonesia Installs Top Businessman as Economic Chief Minister

Indonesia Government to Upload Leadership Meetings on Youtube for Transparency

CAMBODIA: Ruling Party Sweeps Elections for Municipal, Provincial, District Councilors

PHILIPPINES: Government Promotes Open Government with National Citizen Engagement Portal

SINGAPORE: PM Reshuffles Cabinet to Push Policy Changes

Constructive Politics Crucial for Singapore: Tony Tan

President Tan's Speech Affirms Govt's Shift Towards Social Sector: ESM Goh

THAILAND: Smart Country Project Brings Efficient E-Services to Citizens and Civil Servants

National Unity Gov't Proposed as Way Out of Thai Political Crisis

 

 

BANGLADESH: Govt Plans Cyber Security Department

INDIA: E-Governance Projects to Be Speeded Up in Government Departments

New-Government Care: Key Reforms That Can Shape India's Future

 

 

KAZAKHSTAN: Prime Minister Reprimands Three Vice Ministers

TURKMENISTAN: To Create Commission on Improvement of Constitution

 

 

Pacific Civil Societies Call for Renewed Commitment to Decolonisation in the Region

AUSTRALIA: Govt Services to Face Massive Security Challenge - CSIRO

Australia Dissolves Whole-of-Government CIO Role

16,000 Public Service Jobs to Go as Federal Agencies Face Budget Chop

Australia Plans Whole-of-Government Open Source Cloud-based Content Management System

NEW ZEALAND: Reinforcing Open Government Roadmap

SOLOMON ISLANDS: New Taskforce Established to Prosecute Environmental Crime

 

 

 

What Heartbleed Teaches Governments About Cybersecurity

Action Needed to Protect Telco Infrastructure from Climate Change

Countries Must Improve Resilience to Disasters or Face Mounting Costs, OECD Says

United Nations Agencies Report Steady Progress in Saving Mothers’ Lives

Fogarty Supports Groundbreaking Projects Through New Technology Initiative

APEC Expands Data Privacy System to Protect Consumers

ADB Makes Performance Gains in Key Areas in 2013

Asia's Future Growth Depends on Boosting Knowledge and Innovation

ADB President Says Innovative Solutions Are Key to Asia's Changing Needs

APEC Boosting Tax Reform to Drive Tourism Growth

APEC Cracking Down on Medical Product Fraud

APEC Pursuing Continuity and Innovation Balance

APEC Tackling New Food Security Challenges

Enhancing Innovation and Workforce Skills

 

 

CHINA: Adding 3 Mln New Jobs in Q1

China Sees Increasing Invention Patents

Vice President Calls on the Youth to Work for 'Chinese Dream'

Xi Urges Continuing Efforts to Improve Work Style

Chinese Think Tank Studies Int'l Business Corruption

China to Promote Innovative Securities Businesses

China Goes Local to Soften Hit from Property Downturn

JAPAN: Easing Mixed Treatment Restrictions Would Expand Options for Patients

Abe: Nation Needs More Flexible Working Style

Govt Sets Numerical Targets for Anti-Disaster Measures

SOUTH KOREA: Gov't Launches Comprehensive Safety Inspection

Telecom Ministry to Crack Down on Pirate Phones

Gov't to Overhaul Disaster Manuals

Govt to Develop Long-Range Ship Identification System

Corporate Watchdog Mulls Regulating Pre-contract Unfair Biz Practices

 

 

Indonesia, Australia Government & World Bank Release New Disaster Mapping Software

Indonesia: City Improves Situational Awareness of Firemen with GIS Data Capture App

SINGAPORE: Government Turns to Innovative Technology Startups with IDA Labs and Accreditation

New Programme to Train Data Protection Officers

THAILAND: Government Launches Mobile App to Enhance Road Safety

 

 

BANGLADESH: Professionalism Key to Promoting Press Freedom

INDIA: New Mobile App to Track Train Schedules Launched by Railways

Next Big Opportunity in Technology Lies in Innovation: Datawind

Govt-Commissioned Report Hails Gujarat Model

Novel Scanning Solution to Provide Easy Access to Work Teams Without PC

India Wins UN Public Services Award

SRI LANKA: E-waste Management Week Begins Today

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Telecommunication Infrastructure to Be Thoroughly Checked

Issue of Reducing Inter-operator Connection Cost to Be Resolved in Azerbaijan

KAZAKHSTAN: Proposing to Enhance Cooperation in “Green Economy” Sphere

 

 

New Approaches Needed to Increase Employment in Pacific Island Countries: World Bank

AUSTRALIA: ICT Skills Shortage, What Shortage?

Australia Government Launches National Ballistics System for Police to Target Firearm Crime

NEW ZEALAND: Largest City Drives Open Data Release to Host First Civic Hackathon

 

 

Global m-Education Market 2014-2018: Advancements in ICT Have Resulted in the Emergence of Virtual Classrooms

Make Growth Socially Inclusive for Improved Well-being and Stronger Economies – OECD Report

Countries Commit to Automatic Exchange of Information in Tax Matters

Global Economy Strengthening but Significant Risks Remain, Says OECD in Latest Economic Outlook

Expanding Services Trade Offers Major Opportunities for Growth and Jobs, OECD Says

OECD Ministers Reinforce Commitment to Building Resilient Economies and Inclusive Societies

Social Safety Nets Expand but Can Do Better at Reaching the Poorest

Education Plays Key Role in Advancing Women, Girls, and Communities, Report Says

Supertel Hospitality Announces Additional Information on Distribution of Subscription Rights

Inside ICT Survey 2014

Cybercrime in Focus at ICT Talks

Post 2015 Development Agenda Must Tackle Inequality, Environment Goals

Slower Growth Compels Further Economic Reform: APEC Business Advisors

APEC in Qingdao to Advance New Growth Drivers

Asia-Pacific Business Leaders Urge APEC to Accelerate the Process for Achieving a Free Trade Area in the Asia-Pacific Region

Economic Development a Triumph of Working People in East Asia Pacific

Skills Key to Future Regional Growth

APEC Boosting Electric Vehicle Development

Accelerate Asia-Pacific Integration

APEC Key to Global Trade Progress

Empowering Women for Asia-Pacific Prosperity

 

 

CHINA: Drop Cold War Mentality on Cyber Security

Economic Belt to Drive Development Westward

President Xi Urges Sound Values for Chinese Youth

Premier Li: China Has Solid Foundation of Sustained Growth

China's Economy Stable, Trade Negative

China Should Adapt to New Norm of Growth: Xi

Chinese E-Commerce Giant Provides Subsidies for Exporters

Job Search in China Remains a Struggle

Faster Reform Eyed to Limit Slowing GDP

JAPAN: Overhauling Public Pension Fund

Online Retailers Looking for a Change in the Sales Tax System Before They Raise White Flag

Closing Japan's Gender Gap Could Boost GDP 12.5%: Report

Delay in Receipt of Pension Benefits to 75 a Possibility

Fujitsu Cuts Response Time to Cyberattacks by 97%

SOUTH KOREA: GDP to Hit 4% Growth in 2014, 2015 - OECD

Updated Health Care Coverage for Geriatric Dementia

S. Korea Ranks 33rd in Per-Capita GDP: IMF Data

Mobile Banking Users Top 50 Mln

Medical Insurance Info Goes Online

 

 

INDONESIA: Claiming Progress in Economic Development Plan

CAMBODIA: Urging Support for Tourism

PHILIPPINES: Government Reveals ICT Priorities - Health IT, White Space, Cloud

The Philippines Government Makes Hazard Maps Available for Yolanda Rehabilitation

SINGAPORE: Much Work Needs to Be Done in Healthcare

Singapore Can Learn from Japan on Aging: PM

Singaporeans Will Benefit from Good Education and Economic Policies

THAILAND: Government Consolidates Mobile Services with New App Centre

Thailand Government & Microsoft to Deploy Cloud Across All Schools for 8 Million Students

VIETNAM: Ha Tinh Urged to Spotlight Development

VN Faces High Risk of Cyber Attacks

Party Central Committee Adopts Culture Resolution

Programme Aims to Create E-Commerce Payment System

 

 

BANGLADESH: Info Management System on Cards for Tracking Aid Flow

BD Could Be Mighty Player in Global IT

Govt Picks 160 Youngsters in 1st Batch to Develop as IT Leaders

INDIA: EPFO to Provide All Benefits Through E-Mode by September

New Leap in UP in E-Governance: Driving Licenses Will Be Provided Through Online Applications

Cloud Services Business Is Expected to Reach $556 Million in 2014

India Set to Record Highest Ever Foodgrain Production

MALDIVES: Govt to Launch Sea Ambulance Service in Late May

 

 

Connectivity, Regional Cooperation Key to Growth in Central Asia and Beyond

AZERBAIJAN: ICT Sector Share in GDP to Reach 9% by 2020

President Aliyev: Freedom of Speech Guaranteed in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan, Japan Sign Intergovernmental Agreement on Cooperation in ICT

E-Signature Tariffs Decrease in Azerbaijan

Global Financial Crisis Creates Serious Obstacles to Youth Employment

E-Documents in Azerbaijan Can Now Be Signed Online

Azerbaijan’s Economic Stability to Be Ensured in Coming Years as Well

Azerbaijan Develops Encryption Software for Protecting E-Documents

Another Favorable Offer from Azercell for Mobile E-Signature Users

Azerbaijani Servicemen to Hold Discussions with German IT Experts

Azerbaijan's Population Exceeds 9.5 Million People

KAZAKHSTAN: Innovative Economy - Factor of Sustainable Development Under Globalization

Global Development Trends

TURKMENISTAN: Medium-Term Economic Prospects Remain Favorable

 

 

Energy Poverty and Access to Electricity in the Pacific

Report: Social Media Best Practices in Government

AUSTRALIA: Government Launches E-Learning Programme to Support Mental Health of Veterans

Australian IT Industry Facing a ‘Digital Leadership Vacuum’

‘Digital Revolution’ Driving Rise in ICT Jobs Demand

Slipping Australian Education Under Threat from Reduced ICT Spending

NEW ZEALAND: Government Opens Up Geographic Data Online

New Zealand Government to Modernise Unified Portal with Faster Online Access and Responsive Design

Some Facts About Net Neutrality

 

 

Top Earners Capturing Growing Share of Total Income in Many Countries, Says OECD

World Bank to Support Modernization of Value Added Tax (VAT) Administration

 

 

CHINA: Strengthening Rural Financing

China Yuan Strengthens amid Down Trend

China Establishes New Financial Think Tank

China's April Fiscal Revenue Rises 9.2 Pct

SOUTH KOREA: To Extend 20 Bln Won to Firms with Ties to N. Korea

Korea May Face Difficulty in Staying Resilient to Risks: BOK Head

Gov't to Mobilize Diverse Budgets to Better Deal with Future Disasters: Minister

 

 

MYANMAR: Getting More Support from World Financial Institutions

Myanmar New Tax Rate Comes into Force in 2014-15

World Bank Grants 80 Mln USD for Community Development in Myanmar

PHILIPPINES: Government Rolls Out Cash Management System to Save Close to US$10 Million

SINGAPORE: Higher Healthcare Subsidies for Pioneer Generation

VIETNAM: Govt to Control Prices of Low-cost Apartments

 

 

BANGLADESH: DSE Demands Tk 50b Budgetary Allocation

Bangladesh Bank Withdraws BDT29.59bn from Market

Govt Mulling Bringing Payment of House Rents Under Banking Channel

High Corporate Tax Hinders Telecom Growth

INDIA: Finance Minister to Review Annual Performance of Public Sector Banks and Financial Institutions Tomorrow

SRI LANKA: World Bank First for SL in Risk Financing in South Asia

More Financial Assistance for Places of Worship - President

NEPAL: Budget Could Exceed to Around Rs 650 Billion for FY 2014/15

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Banks' Assets Grow by Almost a Quarter in a Year

Azerbaijani Gov't Allocates More and More Money to Youth Policy

Azerbaijani Government’s External Borrowing Hits $ 12 Bln

Foreign Investments in Azerbaijan’s Fixed Capital Increase by Quarter in a Year

KAZAKHSTAN: Seeking Economic Diversification, Fast Growth in ADB Deal

Foreign Investments in Kazakh Economy Reach $ 180 Bln in 2013

TURKMENISTAN: Profitable Part of State Budget Hits 112 Percent

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Flaging Major Changes to Foreign Aid Spending

Budget 2014 Predictions: Australia's Overseas Aid

Australian Government to Spend US$46m on Safer Streets Programme

NEW ZEALAND: Govt Awards $20m in Research and Development Funding

New Zealand Forecasts 2014-15 Surplus in Budget That Bears Striking Difference to Australia's

 

 

Employers Tackle ‘Unpredictable’ Skills Mismatch in ICT Sector

ICT Market Sees Big Loss from Political Instability

More Public-Private Partnerships Can Help Meet Development Challenges

Opportunities for SMEs to Play Larger Role in Global Value Chains

AQT Launches a Directory of Technological Solutions for the Manufacturing Sector

 

 

CHINA: Big Data Reveals Trend of Auto Market

Best Days Ahead for China's Internet Firms

Li Calls for West China to Welcome New Firms

China's Manufacturing Weakens, but at Slower Pace

China Has World's 3 Largest Companies: Forbes

China to Boost Production-oriented Service Industries

Report: Japanese Entrepreneurial Spirit Down by Half from 1997

Japan Firm’s Illicit Kickback Payments Harm Nation’s International Reputation

Govt Eyes Tax Below 30% for Companies

Smaller Businesses Must Aggressively Seek More Market Opportunities

Continue Pushing Corporate Reform to Ensure Nation’s Economic Growth

One-Third of Public Interest Firms Survive Strict Reforms

Corporate Tax Rate Cut Needed to Strengthen Firms’ Competitiveness

Diversification Brings Firms Higher Earnings

80% of Small Firms Pass on Tax Hike

SOUTH KOREA: Fifth Largest Supplier of High-Tech Goods to U.S. - Report

S. Korea to Help Companies Advance into Emerging Markets Through FTAs: Minister

Gov't to Inject 50 Bln Won into loT Industry

 

 

MALAYSIA: GDP Growth Proves Favorable Investment Environment

SINGAPORE: Government Improves Ease of Doing Business with Revamped Web Site

Singapore Minister Highlights Use of Robots in Construction Industry

Government Committed to Helping SMEs

Government to Call for S$1.2b in New ICT Tenders

THAILAND: ICT Market Sees Big Loss from Political Instability

Junta Says No Intention to Hinder Businesses; Says Focus on Growth

VIETNAM: Electronics Sector in Need of Support

Vietnam Offers Tax Favor to Violence-Hit Enterprises: PM

 

 

BANGLADESH: Negative Campaign Against BD RMG Sector to Invite Stern Actions

Tax to Double for New Industries in and Around Dhaka: NBR

INDIA: The Rise of Women Scions in Family Businesses

Public Sector Banks to Sell Off Bad Loans to Asset Reconstruction Companies

Indian IT Companies Like TCS, Infosys and Wipro Tap Africa’s New-fangled Fad for Technology

Web-based Public Delivery System for Recognition of Travel Trade Service Providers

SRI LANKA: IT/BPM Achievements Shortlisted for Global Outsourcing Award

 

 

Kyrgyzstan, Microsoft Agree to Cooperate in Sphere of School and High Education

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Govt Document Verification Service Claims Private Sector Players

SMEs to Be Part of Australia’s Cloud Revolution: Turnbull

FIJI: Made Raises Fiji’s Competitiveness - PIPSO CEO

 

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Summit Commits to Concrete Actions to Turn Around Ocean Health and Secure Food Security for Millions of People

 

A Summit that brought together more than 600 ocean stakeholders, including 80 ministers from across the world, ocean science experts, business leaders, philanthropy and heads of international organizations – committed to a set of concrete actions responding to the urgency for restoring productive, resilient oceans that drive broad-based blue growth and deliver food security. The Global Oceans Action Summit for Blue Growth and Food Security – a joint initiative of the Government of the Netherlands, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Bank – found unprecedented convergence around the urgent steps needed to tackle the key threats to the world’s oceans: climate change, overfishing, habitat loss and pollution. Actions focused specifically on improving governance, enhancing sustainable financing, building partnerships for action and sharing knowledge on successful solution implementation.

 

The Summit called for:

-A stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal on oceans as part of the post-2015 Development Framework

-Much stronger recognition of the escalating impacts from climate change on oceans and ensuring ocean health is incorporated into the international processes and events heading towards the 2015 UNFCCC conference of parties in Paris

-Eliminating harmful fisheries subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity and instead incentivizing approaches that improve conservation, build sustainable fisheries and end illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

-Strengthening the mandate of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations and their financing and accelerating ratification of agreed mechanisms for improved fisheries practices, better conservation and less pollution, including the Port State Measures Agreement

-Investing in small and medium scale fisheries and local communities as vital stewards for blue growth and support to sustainable supply chains

-Building on existing partnerships like the Global Partnership for Oceans, the Global Island Partnership and 50in10 to build global momentum and scale up successes   

-Sharing of knowledge, experiences and solutions through information and communications technology that can enforce and monitor in real time and connect communities globally

 

The Chair of the Summit, H.E. Sharon Dijksma, Minister for Agriculture of the Netherlands said: “This week the world community has shown courage and boldness in The Hague to move ahead and take action on ocean health and food security. What’s needed now is decisive action from the international community to put solutions into practice.” Árni M. Mathiesen – Assistant Director-General of the FAO said: “This Summit has put an accent on action and the route to navigate on oceans, fisheries management and aquaculture is much clearer than before.” World Bank representative Valerie Hickey said: “This Summit has presented the way forward for a new type of growth – blue growth which is sustainable, equitable and takes the value of the ocean’s ecosystem services into account. Together, we can restore ocean health at the speed and scale necessary to drive broad-based blue growth, secure food security and turn down the heat on climate change. We have the set of actions needed – let’s move on them now.”

 

More than 10 new commitments for cross-boundary partnering announced at the Summit included:

-Mauritius, the Seychelles and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to start work on a certification scheme for specific fish species in the Indian Ocean.

-Rockefeller Foundation and the Netherlands pledging funding support to WorldFish and FAO to produce a Roadmap for the Future of Fish.

-A tripartite collaboration program between the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries in Indonesia, the Netherlands Government and Wageningen University for enhancing the availability and accessibility of safe fish products and reduction of food waste.

-The International Sustainability Unit of the Prince of Wales’ Charitable Foundation launched the development of financing guidelines for fishery recovery.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 04/25/2014

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OECD Countries Commit to Work Towards a Climate Deal for 2015

 

The OECD’s 34 member countries today affirmed their common resolve to work towards a deal on combating climate change at the COP21 talks in Paris in 2015. OECD accession countries Colombia and Latvia joined the statement issued at the Organisation’s annual Ministerial Council Meeting, attended by finance, economy, trade and other ministers. Describing climate change as one of today’s greatest economic challenges, ministers or representatives of the 36 countries agreed to step up efforts to achieve the economic transformation necessary to deliver sustainable growth, including through incentivising private investment in low-carbon infrastructure, fostering green goods and services and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. Full OECD Ministerial Statement on Climate Change here. Climate change could lower world GDP in 2060 by at least 0.7 to 2.5 percent, according to new preliminary OECD estimates included in a synthesis report on New Approaches to Economic Challenges released following the meeting.

 

“Cutting net emissions to zero in the second half of the century is a tough call but there is no way out if we are to achieve the 2°C target while simultaneously supporting the economic recovery,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “There are as many opportunities as there are difficulties, but governments must make sure tomorrow’s technologies are not obstructed by yesterday’s regulations.” The ministers also asked the OECD to work with its partner agencies in energy and transport – the International Energy Agency, the Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Transport Forum – to look at ways to help member countries to better align their economic, social and environmental policies towards low-carbon growth. The statement precedes the high-level United Nations Climate Summit in September and the 20th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lima in December. Any commitment made at the 2015 Paris talks would come into force in 2020.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 05/07/2014

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ADB Urges Asia to Use Fiscal Policy to Make Growth Inclusive

 

Asian governments should use their fiscal policy more adeptly to combat the widening income gaps that are undermining decades of successful poverty reduction in the region, high-level panelists at the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) 47th Annual Meeting said today. “With inequality rising almost everywhere in Asia, governments need to urgently expand and improve their public investments in inclusive growth,” ADB President Takehiko Nakao told the seminar titled, Leveraging Fiscal Policy for Inclusive Growth. Other panelists at the seminar were Paul Gruenwald, Chief Asia-Pacific Economist at Standard & Poor's Ratings Services; Marios Maratheftis, Global Head of Macro Research at Standard Chartered; Manuel Rodrigues, Portugal’s Secretary of State of Finance; and Naoyuki Shinohara, Deputy Managing Director at the International Monetary Fund.

 

More than 80% of Asia’s population live in countries where inequality is worsening, meaning that many are being left behind even as globalization, technological progress, and market reform have led to strong economic growth. The speakers at the seminar discussed a range of issues including taxation to boost social and other spending, whether existing government programs are adequate to promote equality, and how to best balance spending to help the poorest without compromising fiscal sustainability. Policies on both spending and revenue such as antipoverty programs and progressive taxation can promote inclusive growth. But among fiscal policy tools, government expenditure, more than taxation, has a tangible effect on boosting equality. Public spending on education and health services improve the well-being of the poor and augment their productive capacity. Targeted subsidies and transfers protect the most vulnerable and deprived segments of society while better public infrastructure can make it easier for the poor to access good education and healthcare, delegates heard.

From http://www.adb.org/ 05/02/2014

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Creating Global Data Standards for Cross-Border Control

 

APEC members promote the use and benefits of global data standards for cross-border control and supply chain management at the first of a series of capacity building workshops held in Qingdao, China on Friday as part of the Second Senior Officials’ Meeting. “Production networks that span multiple economies are prevalent in our region,” said John Larkin, Chair of the Committee on Trade and Investment. “This makes standardized product identification codes and data infrastructure across multiple economies increasingly important for effective and efficient border management and supply chain performance.” The goal of the APEC workshop was to look at how global data standards are already being used and what benefits there are for increasing trade facilitation and efficiency of border control. Today, complex supply chains mean a product is sourced from multiple suppliers and raw materials throughout the region. Global data standards can assist with product traceability. For example, if hazardous lead paint is detected in a shipment of wooden toy products, relevant government agencies can use global data standards to identify the supplier source of the tainted paint and launch a product recall.

 

“This is accomplished by scanning the bar code on the product or the GTIN number, a global data standard known as the Global Trade Item Number, that contains the product information,” explained Kent Krul, US Department of Agriculture, who shared best practices from the United States at the APEC capacity building workshop in Qingdao. “Ideally, one data element encoded in this bar code unlocks where the raw materials came from, who the suppliers were, and where the product was manufactured,” added Mr Krul. Aside from assisting with safety or counterfeit products, global data standards can also expedite trade for low-risk goods. For example if the product repeatedly is a low-risk product and has been previously inspected with no issues, it can more easily be fast-tracked and released without inspection based on the detailed data provided. The Hong Kong Intra-Asia Visibility Pilot between China; Hong Kong, China; and Chinese Taipei is an example of innovative work to begin streamlining data standards for customs management in the APEC region.

 

“Before a container leaves, Chinese Taipei Customs will inspect it and install a RFID e-seal. The global data standard for product identification is shared with Hong Kong, China customs through uploading to a cloud-based visibility network,” explained Anna Lin, Vice-Chairman, Sub-Committee on Infrastructure Support, Hong Kong Logistics Development Council. “Before the container even arrives in Hong Kong, China, the product information allows customs officials to ascertain what, where, when and why from data associated with the product, providing better risk profiling,” added Ms Lin. This same process and sharing of data occurs as the container moves on from Hong Kong, China and crosses the border into China. The pilot shows the benefits resulting from the use of global data standards in assisting cross-border supply chain management and the ability to track products from the source to destination in real time.

 

“As a next step on the project, a Trade Policy Dialogue in August will focus on policies to promote the adoption of global data standards in economies and how APEC can work toward mutual compatibility of data standards,” said Vega Wong, Assistant Director-General, Trade and Industry Department, Hong Kong, China, co-project overseer of the APEC project, which is funded by Hong Kong, China and New Zealand. “From these policy recommendations, next steps might be to launch a possible APEC pathfinder project to encourage economies to realize the benefits of global data standards and move towards compatibility across the region,” added Charlotte Kempthorne, Policy Officer, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, also co-project overseer.

From http://www.apec.org/ 05/12/2014

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APEC Advancing Blueprint for Improved Regional Connectivity

 

APEC member economies are drawing up a new regional connectivity blueprint to bring diverse markets, businesses and people closer together to facilitate trade and investment for delivering greater long-term growth across the Asia-Pacific. Coordination between APEC Senior Officials, technical experts and the private sector to flush out the blueprint’s details was at the top of the agenda during working-level discussions over the past week in Qingdao. APEC Trade Ministers are deciding the next step as part of their two-day meeting which opened here on Saturday. “The connectivity blueprint is a major deliverable of APEC 2014,” said Tan Jian, China’s APEC Senior Official who is currently administering the initiative. “The blueprint will guide our cross-cutting efforts to promote regional economic integration and encourage growth in the economy. It will also help us better understand where gaps lie and how best to address them.”

 

Emphasis is currently on the stocktaking of initiatives underway within and between APEC economies to address the region’s changing physical infrastructure needs and deeper institutional and people-to-people linkages. Inputs are also being gathered from regional and global organizations on what can be done to strengthen the implementation of these cross-cutting initiatives. “This is a strategic undertaking that involves lots of moving parts and priorities,” said Dr Denis Hew, Director of the APEC Policy Support Unit which is leading the connectivity blueprint’s preliminary fact-finding and analytical work. “It’s important that the physical and soft components of efforts to improve connectivity within the region complement and reinforce one another.”

 

“Well-defined targets, timeframes and review procedures are absolutely critical to the successful implementation of the blueprint and for the delivery of meaningful results,” added Dr Hew whose team is also responsible for proposing the methodology of tracking and benchmarking the progress of APEC policy commitments. Together, APEC economies are striving to achieve a ten per cent improvement in supply chain performance by 2015, based on time, cost and uncertainty. The further simplification of customs and immigration procedures, harmonization of industry regulations and standards, and cutting of administrative costs for things like permits and shipping containers are moving this process along. An APEC Multi-Year Plan on Infrastructure Development and Investment, to be implemented through 2016, is also breaking ground. Focus areas include the showcasing of public-private partnership infrastructure projects, recommendations for bankable PPP delivery, including legal and regulatory enhancements, and the establishment of new PPP centers to promote these arrangements. 

 

“The integrated world we operate in today means that infrastructure in one economy, whether it be roads, ports and airports, or something like energy and information technology systems, is, in essence, part of a much larger whole,” noted Dr Alan Bollard, APEC Secretariat Executive Director. “It’s important that gaps between diverse economies be addressed to keep everyone moving in a positive direction and maximize new trade opportunities.” “The development of an APEC connectivity blueprint is proving to be a real eye opener in terms of identifying the scope of the region’s human capital requirements and how much further we need to go to facilitate trade flows and value-adding economic activity,” Dr Bollard concluded. “This is laying the groundwork to drive cross-border education and skills training, for example, and promotes greater productivity and innovation that will bring growth up to more desired levels.” The APEC Ministers’ Responsible for Trade Meeting will conclude on Sunday.

From http://www.apec.org/ 05/17/2014

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APEC Ministers Issue Statement on Advancing Gender Equality

 

APEC Ministers concluded the APEC Women and the Economy Forum on Friday in Beijing by issuing a statement on advancing gender equality and greater economic empowerment for women in the Asia-Pacific.

The statement outlines a course of action for the region in the following areas:

Women and green development

Women and regional trade and economic cooperation

Policy support and women’s economic empowerment.

“We are focused on supporting the five pillars of women’s economic empowerment,” said Song Xiuyan, Chair of the 2014 APEC Women and Economy Forum and Vice Chairperson of the National Working Committee on Children and Women under the State Council, China and Vice President of the All-China Women’s Federation.

 

“This means improving access to markets and capital as well as promoting skills development and capacity building, women’s leadership, and more effective use of innovation and technology,” added Song. Training women to use information technologies and e-commerce to start their own businesses as well as encouraging girls to study science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields and the development of a regional women’s entrepreneurial network are among some of the initiatives. “APEC will also work on integrating gender responsive programs and policies as a cross-cutting issue across all other APEC initiatives including our work in human resource development, small and medium enterprises, e-commerce and transportation,” said Dr Alan Bollard, Executive Director at the APEC Secretariat.

 

Limits on women’s participation in the workforce across the Asia-Pacific region cost the economy an estimated US $89 billion every year, according to the United Nations. Over the past years, APEC’s Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy has been working with APEC economies to implement initiatives to help the region fully realize the potential economic contribution of women. The APEC Women and Economy Forum 2014 in Beijing and its initiatives to close gender gaps and promote inclusive growth coincided with the 23rd World Economic Forum on East Asia in Manila 21-23 May 2014 on leveraging growth for equitable progress.

From http://www.apec.org/ 05/26/2014

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CHINA: Legislature Adopts Revised Environmental Law

 

The Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, on Thursday voted to adopt revisions to the Environmental Protection Law.With 70 articles compared with 47 in the original law, the revised Environmental Protection Law, the first change to the legislation in 25 years, sets environmental protection as the country's basic policy.The new law says that economic and social development should be coordinated with environmental protection and encourages studies on the impact environmental quality causes on public health, urging prevention and control of pollution-related diseases.It says that the country should establish and improve an environment and health monitoring, survey and risk assessment mechanism.The law gives harsher punishments to environmental wrongdoing, and has specific articles and provisions on tackling smog, making citizen's more aware of environmental protection and protecting whistleblowers.

 

It says citizens should adopt a low-carbon and frugal lifestyle and perform environmental protection duties, and nominates June 5 as Environment Day.The public is encouraged to observe environmental protection laws and make their own efforts in this regard, including sorting their garbage for recycling.The revised law will go into effect from Jan. 1, 2015.Decades-long rapid economic development and a large population have left China with serious pollution problems.A report issued in April showed that nearly 60 percent of monitored areas in China had "very poor" or "relatively poor" underground water quality last year. Another report issued jointly by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Land and Resources on April 17 showed that about 16.1 percent of the country's soil is polluted.

 

On April 11, more than 2.4 million people in Lanzhou, northwest China's Gansu Province, were affected by tap water that contained excessive levels of benzene.China has "declared war" against pollution and pledged to fight it with the same determination the country battled poverty, according to the government work report submitted to the annual session of the National People's Congress in March.The country's Environmental Protection Law has not been revised since it took effect in 1989.The amendment was adopted after four readings. It is rare in China for a law or amendment to go through three readings and not be passed, highlighting the importance of the legislation in the country's pursuit of sustainable development.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/24/2014

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China to Maintain Policy Continuity, Stability

 

China's economic growth in the first quarter was generally within expectation, and the country will maintain continuity and stability of its macro policies, the central leadership of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) said on Friday.Fiscal and monetary policies will remain as they are, and the country will nurture good development prospects and a transparent macro policy environment, said a statement released after a meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, chaired by its general secretary Xi Jinping.While sticking to the basic principles of stable macro and flexible micro policies, timely adjustments should be made in accordance to changing conditions of the economy so as to realize economic and social development goals for the year, said the statement.It said the fundamentals of the economy remains unchanged, adding that economic growth in the first quarter was generally stable and within the proper range, with positive changes in economic structure.However, downward pressure in the economy still exists, some difficulties cannot be underestimated, and a high level of attention should be given to hidden risks, said the statement.Growth in China stood at 7.4 percent year on year in the Jan.-March period, slowing from 7.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/25/2014

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China Unveils Tighter Regulation on Commutation

 

The Supreme People's Court (SPC) on Tuesday made new regulation on commutation of sentences and probation following a string of cases of convicts bribing their way out of jail.The new rule will safeguard equity and fairness in decisions to commute a sentence or grant release on probation, said Gong Ming of the SPC.According to the regulation, hearings are required when it comes to remission for criminals convicted of taking advantage of one's position, organizing mafia-style groups or disrupting financial order and financial fraud.Hearings are also requires when warranting remissions to criminals who have made significant contributions to police investigations, or to those whose submissions are rejected by procuratorate organs, it added."It's good for the courts to receive feedback from jails, convicts and inmates when granting commutation or probation," said the SPC spokesman Sun Jungong.Submissions of commutation and probation should be made public and subsequent verdicts by the courts must be published on their official websites, according to the regulation.

 

Publicizing submissions and verdicts in warranting remission will put the whole procedure under the public supervision and further boost judicial transparency, Sun said.Official statistics show China has more than 600,000 cases of commutation and probation each year. However, along with the valid role of remission in helping convicts return to society, judicial corruption involving criminals using money and power to dodge punishment has grown noticeable in recent years.In one high-profile case, Zhang Hai, former board chairman of Jianlibao Group Co. Ltd., a Chinese beverage giant, used illegal means to have his sentence cut by five years in a second court trial and had his jail term further reduced by more than four years while he was serving the sentence.A total of 24 people were under investigation in the case, including 11 in the judiciary and prison service, three working in detention centers, one court official and two lawyers.Among them, three working in the prison, court and detention services have already been sentenced to up to six years in jail.To curb abuses of power, regular supervision and inspection will be conducted nationwide this year, Gong Ming said.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/30/2014

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China's New Trademark Law to Take Effect in May

 

China's revised trademark law, set to strengthen intellectual property protection and ensure a fair market for trademark holders, will take effect on May 1.An amendment to the law, which was passed by the country's top legislature in August, will raise the compensation ceiling for trademark infringement to 3 million yuan (about 500,000 U.S. dollars), six times the previous limit.The new law mitigates trademark holders' responsibility in providing proof of infringement, saying alleged offenders shall provide their account books or other materials for investigation. Otherwise, compensation could be determined according to amounts proposed by trademark holders.The legislation also says that trademark agencies cannot accept entrustment if they know or should know that their clients are conducting malicious registration or infringing on the trademark rights of othersThe law offers protection for well-known trademarks, giving owners the right to ban others from registering their trademarks or using similar ones.However, the words "renowned trademark" shall no longer be allowed in promotions or advertising.Sounds can be registered as trademarks as long as they are easily distinguishable and recognizable.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/30/2014

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New Rules Designed to Ensure Fairness

 

All parole and early-release hearings involving officials imprisoned on graft charges must be open to the public, the Supreme People's Court ruled yesterday.The move is designed to prevent "judicial corruption" in such cases, the court said, adding that the problem of guilty people bribing judges in order to secure reduced sentences or release on parole had become "quite acute."Therefore, all such hearings must be conducted in an open and transparent way to prevent underhand methods being used to influence the decision-making process, the court said. It added that they should be open to the public and members of parliament or other well-regarded people.The ruling applies to all cases involving corrupt officials and those involved in organized or financial crime.The public scrutiny will also help to prevent convicted criminals "using their personal influence or social connections" to get out of prison earlier than they should, the court said.

 

"Making announcements to the public will have the important effect of oversight for strictly standardizing sentence reduction or release on patrol for criminal cases involving officials," it said.In the past there were no clearly defined rules governing the process of sentence reduction or parole hearings.The top judicial body also said that some local courts misunderstood the existing rules on early release. Under current legislation, criminals can be considered for early release only after serving at least three years of their sentence.However, some lower courts interpret this to mean that after three years the original sentence must be reduced.The new rule will help to ensure equity and fairness in decisions to commute sentences or grant release on probation, said Gong Ming, an official with the Supreme People's Court.Besides cases involving corrupt officials and crime bosses, hearings will also be required when warranting remissions to criminals who have made significant contributions to police investigations, or to those whose submissions have been rejected by procuratorate organs, the court said.

 

"It's good for the courts to get feedback from prisons, convicts and inmates when granting commutation or probation," said Supreme People's Court spokesman Sun Jungong.Under the new regulation, submissions of commutation and probation should be made public and the courts' subsequent verdicts must be published on their official websites.Publicizing submissions and verdicts will put the whole process into the public domain and give a boost to judicial transparency, Sun said.There are more than 600,000 cases of commutation and probation in China every year.However, alongside the valid role of remission in helping convicts return to society, judicial corruption involving criminals using money and power to dodge punishment has grown noticeably in recent years.In one high-profile case, Zhang Hai, the former chairman of beverage giant Jianlibao Group, used illegal means to have his sentence cut by five years in a second court trial and by a further four years while serving his time.Three people linked to the case have already been imprisoned, while 21 others — including 11 members of the judiciary and prison service, three people who work in detention centers, a court official and two lawyers — are under investigation.Regular inspections will be conducted across the country throughout the year in a bid to crack down on such forms of corruption, Gong said.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/30/2014

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China Releases 1st National Security Blue Book

 

The Chinese government has released its first National Security Blue Book.The China National Security Research Report says, among other things, that terrorism here in China is taking on new characteristics.The report says with Chinese overseas interests expanding and strengthening, the risk of China facing more international terrorism is being intensified.The report warns terrorist activities are having an impact on Chinese nationals abroad.The Blue Book also says domestic terrorism in China is being influenced by international terrorism.Feng Zhongping, deputy director of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, says there are multiple domestic security threats."The threats include violent terrorism, employment, social and political stability, as well as environmental issues. But I think the biggest security threats are violent terrorism and social stability, which are of our biggest concerns."

 

The new analysis says there were 10 terrorist attacks in China last year.It notes that terrorist attacks here in China are on the rise, and are mainly targeting government institutions, the police and the army.The Blue Book also hails the establishment of the National Security Council as a strategic move to safeguard national security.The report says that on top of the NSC, new defense systems and effective early-warning mechanisms are also going to be needed to respond to terrorism.Feng Zhongping says China is facing serious concerns about terrorism."From the Tian'anmen terrorist attack to the Kunming and Urumqi railways terrorist attacks, we need to boost our capabilities when it comes to terrorism and crisis control. At the same time, we also need to eradicate the root of the terror attacks in the long run. I think the international community should be better coordinating when it comes to fighting terrorism."On top of terrorism, the new Blue Book also says this country is dealing with more cyber security threats and environmental security concerns.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/07/2014

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China Issues First Capital Market Guideline

 

China's cabinet, the State Council, on Friday unveiled the guiding principles of regulations for the capital market in coming years.The first guideline envisions a multi-tier capital market by 2020 with a proper structure, functions and regulations, high efficiency and inclusiveness.To boost the healthy development of the capital market, the guideline laid down nine targets that Chinese authorities will strive to attain in the coming years, including dealing with government-market relations,innovation and mixed ownership.The approval-based stock issuance system will be replaced by a registration-based one and the delisting regime will be improved.The guideline provides for diverse bonds to meet different investment needs and steps up supervision of the bond market. Approval of private equity issuance will be lifted and capital raised through private equity will be encouraged to fund small enterprises. The futures market will be diversified through resource commodity futures.Monitoring of systemic risks will be paramount and authorities will toughen the punishments for breaches of laws and regulations.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/10/2014

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China Releases Report on Cultural Development

 

Ministry of Culture on Thursday released a statistical communique on culture development in 2013, showing vigorous growth in the cultural industry.The document said the country has been improving public services on culture. By the end of 2013, the total collection of books owned by public libraries reached 749 million, up by 8.8 percent.A total of 116,274 electronic reading terminals were installed in the libraries, up by 14.6 percent, while the number of E-books reached 378 million.In the meantime, 206 million people borrowed books, a growth of 18.1 percent year on year.By the end of 2013, the number of performing arts troupes reached 8,180, an increase of 859 since the previous year, which employed 260,900 staff, up by 18,800, the communique said.The number of performances surged by 22.3 percent year on year, reaching 1.65 million last year, most of which were staged in communities, rural areas and other grass-roots units in over 100 cities in 20 provinces.

 

In 2013, the ministry strengthened performance evaluation at cultural industry parks where 43 animation enterprises were identified as leading enterprises by Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Finance and the State Administration of Taxation.By the end of 2013, the credit balance of cultural industry loans was 157.4 billion yuan (25.3 billion U.S. dollars), up by 36.3 percent annually. Seventy-seven cultural enterprises went public in the capital markets of Shanghai and Shenzhen, said the communique.By the end of 2013, business units in the national cultural market reached 226,584, hiring about 1.45 million people. Total revenue reached 136.7 billion yuan, with a gross profit of 35.1 billion yuan.In 2013, the central government continued to subsidize non-profit and public cultural projects such as free art museums, libraries, cultural centers and protection of intangible cultural heritage.Special funding from the central budget reached 4.6 billion yuan, up by 11.2 percent, according to the ministry communique.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/15/2014

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Chinese Cities Expected to Ease Property Regulations

 

At least six cities in China have loosened controls over the property market and more are expected to do the same as local governments are worried that sluggish home sales may drag on the economy.Zhang Dawei, chief analyst with Centaline, a leading property agent in China, told Xinhua on Sunday that policies once aimed at curbing excessive growth of the property market appear to be loosening across China."More than 30 cities nationwide are expected to loosen controls on the property market as the market will continue cooling in the near future," said Zhang.China's property market has been booming since 2003, and the government has been trying to rein things in by rolling out measures such as home purchase restrictions. After a decade of rapid growth, the overheated market has started to cool in 2014.According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the growth of new housing starts, a leading indicator of property investment, fell 27.2 percent year on year in the first quarter, while sales in residential areas contracted by 5.7 percent.

 

The slowdown has already taken a toll on local governments' fiscal revenues. Statistics released by the Ministry of Finance on Monday showed taxes related to the property market were contributing less to the growth of local fiscal revenue, with business tax for real estate down by 4.2 percent in April."In one to two years, this will have a tremendous negative effect on real estate investment and local governments' infrastructure investment, which relies heavily on revenue from the real estate sector," said Chen Wenzhao, an analyst with China Merchants Securities."The outlook for a housing price drop will affect people's willingness to buy properties, pressing economic growth to slow down," he added.The market slowdown has prompted local governments into action. Nanning, the capital city of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, became the first city to ease home purchase restrictions by allowing more non-residents to buy homes starting May.Nanning was later joined in efforts to loosen control on the market by cities including Wuxi, Ningbo and Tongling, and many more were reported to be considering similar relaxations.

 

The latest came on Thursday, when media reported that Tianjin was considering allowing residents to buy three properties, one more than it currently allows. The government did not confirm the report.In south China, an industry insider claimed in an online post last Sunday that Nansha District in the south China metropolis of Guangzhou will lift property purchase restrictions for Hong Kong and Macao residents.However, the housing administrative bureau of Guangzhou told Xinhua that it had not received applications from the district.The denial came days after Gaoming District in Foshan, a neighboring city, was pressured to abandon plans to relax restrictions on buying homes, saying the policy is "suspended due to objective reasons."Most local governments remain extremely cautious, as the central government has not yet made clear where it stands on local authorities' moves to loosen market control, said Hu Gang, a professor with the Administrative Management Department of Jinan University in Guangzhou."In this year's government report, the central government only said it will regulate housing differently in different cities in light of local conditions.

 

Although that leaves more room for local governments, it did not draw a line of what can be done and what cannot be done," explained Hu.He added that many cities are still exploring possible actions within the red line, and are testing the reactions of the public and the central government.Chen Sheng, executive director of China Real Estate Data Academy in Shanghai, believes that easing controls on the market will be a common practice among local governments."Especially in markets where the supply is more than demand, any administrative interference should be withdrawn," said Chen. "Otherwise, systemic risks will arise."According to Zhang Dawei, pressure to ease grips on the market will mount for cities that have overly large inventories while sales of residential areas have been dropping too fast in the first quarter."Cities where the housing price stops rising might also put forward policies to save the market. I think local governments will take all possible measures to adjust their regulations on the market," Zhang said.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/18/2014

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JAPAN: Business Lobby Plans Corporate Governance Rules

 

Japan’s most powerful business lobby, Keidanren, plans to introduce corporate governance rules that will require better disclosure, a person familiar with the matter said, but they will stop short of bolder reforms sought by many investors. The lobby, whose member firms include most of Japan Inc’s biggest names such as Canon Inc and Nippon Steel, will launch a study group later this year with an eye to announcing the new guidelines in 2016, the person said. The Keidanren’s rules will not require independent directors or any particular governance structure, reflecting its belief that such decisions should be left up to individual companies, the person familiar with the matter said. But they will demand companies give a detailed explanation on a set of important matters, such as why it has or has not employed independent directors or adopted a company with a committee governance structure, the person said.

 

As such, the guidelines will effectively incorporate only the “explain” portion of the “comply or explain” regulatory approach common in Britain and other parts of Europe, the person said. The move is an attempt by the conservative lobby to influence a growing debate in Japan over how to bolster corporate governance. Keidanren has traditionally opposed rules mandating independent directors and other reforms seen by some investors as vital to lifting Japan’s corporate performance and protecting the interests of shareholders. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is working on a governance code that will be part of an economic growth strategy to be announced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in June. The government also recently introduced a stewardship code aimed holding institutional investors more accountable and encouraging better communication with corporate boards. The rules will be applied to all of Keidanren’s roughly 1,300 members.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 04/28/2014

 

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Swift Decision-Making Process Must Be Achieved Through University Reform Bills

 

In an effort to carry out university reform speedily, the government has submitted bills to the Diet to revise the School Education Law and the National University Corporation Law. The bills are designed mainly to bolster the leadership of university presidents. The government is aiming for enactment of the bills before the current Diet session ends in June. Universities in Japan—national, public or private—have been widely criticized as taking too much time to make decisions and being incapable of flexible and expeditious management. To cope with the changing times, it is crucial for universities to improve their governance, enhance programs to produce well-qualified graduates and expand research activities. The revision bills focus on reexamining the authority of faculty councils. The current School Education Law defines a faculty council as a forum to “deliberate on important matters.”  This has been interpreted to mean the council’s authority extends to all matters related to university management, and the council has thus been regarded by many universities as a decision-making organization.

 

This has resulted in the ability of faculty councils to derail efforts by university presidents to implement drastic reforms if the councils oppose the changes. The revision bill would limit the faculty council’s role to expressing opinions when a university president makes a decision on important matters. It is reasonable for the bill to clarify legally that the power to decide on university management resides with university presidents and call for reform that would place authority in the hands of the top leader. If the presidents properly exercise their authority on personnel and budget matters and recruit proficient researchers, it will enhance the international competitiveness of universities. When it comes to private universities, different people in some cases serve as executive board directors of incorporated educational institutions, which are parent bodies for universities, and university presidents. In such universities, it is essential to establish a system under which decisions can be made smoothly. One notable provision of the revision bill for the National University Corporation Law calls for transparency in the election of university presidents.

 

The current law stipulates that a president shall be elected by a presidential selection committee comprising members from inside and outside the university. Actually, however, in many universities a preliminary election is held to reflect the opinions of faculty members and staff in final voting to select a president. If the selection of top university leaders is affected by an on-campus factional numbers game, it is questionable whether capable persons can be elected. Presidents of national universities, which became incorporated entities in 2004, are required to have strong management abilities. The method used to select presidents must be able to evaluate such abilities. It is understandable that the revision bill calls for working out standards on the selection of university presidents and making them public. However, if the package of legal revisions is achieved, authority would be concentrated in university presidents, and it would not be easy to replace them midterm, even in cases of mismanagement. Discussions should be deepened in the Diet about the creation of a system to prevent presidents from exceeding their authority.

From http://the-japan-news.com 04/29/2014

 

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Constitution to Be Reinterpreted

 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe officially announced Thursday that the government will start discussions on allowing Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense under limited conditions by revising, if necessary, the constitutional interpretation, kept intact for more than four decades. At a 35-minute press conference Thursday evening, Abe expressed the government’s determination to protect the lives of the people, saying he will promote discussions to establish a legal framework that will ensure a seamless response to various situations in terms of the nation’s security. The basic direction of discussions on revising the interpretation of the Constitution marks a major turning point for the nation’s security policy. Under the government’s interpretation of the Constitution adopted and kept since 1972, the country possesses the right to collective self-defense but is not allowed to exercise it.

 

Abe explained the necessity of being able to exercise the right to collective self-defense through presentation materials meant to better obtain the understanding of the public. One panel showed the need to protect U.S. transport vessels carrying Japanese civilians; another showed the duty to rescue civilians in remote locations by the Self-Defense Forces. Abe also stressed that discussions will be promoted to strengthen the nation’s response to “an infringement that does not amount to an armed attack,” or a so-called gray-zone incident. This may include a case in which an armed group disguised as fishermen land on the country’s remote islands.  Abe said: “The government will have discussions among the ruling parties based on opinions from the Cabinet Legislation Bureau. Based on the discussions, the Cabinet approval will be given to changes to the interpretation of the Constitution, if necessary, and to a basic direction for a legal system, for protecting people's lives and livelihoods.”

 

Abe’s announcement came after he received a report from a private advisory panel on security—the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security—earlier in the day.  The latest report submitted to Abe on Thursday says, “Considering the scale and speed of the changes [in the strategic environment], Japan is now facing a situation where adequate responses can no longer be taken under the interpretation of the Constitution to date in order to maintain the peace and security of Japan and realize peace and stability in the region and in the international community.” As for Paragraph 2 of Article 9 of the Constitution, concerning the maintenance of war potential, the report mentions two views. In one view, the paragraph “should be interpreted as prohibiting the maintenance of war potential that could be employed in the threat or use of force in order to settle international disputes to which Japan is a party but not the maintenance of force for other purposes, namely self-defense (regardless of whether it be individual or collective) or so-called international contributions to international efforts.”

 

Abe, however, pointed out that this view is logically inconsistent with the government’s interpretation of the Constitution to date and therefore the government is unable to adopt it. The other view is that the government’s “interpretation of the Constitution which excluded the right of collective self-defense from ‘the minimum extent necessary,’ while including the right of individual self-defense is inappropriate as it attempts to formally draw a line on ‘the minimum extent necessary’ by an abstract legal principle.” “It should be interpreted that the exercise of the right of collective self-defense is also included in ‘the minimum extent necessary,’” the report states. Abe said the latter view is more consistent with the government’s basic position and, therefore, the government will further study this view. Based on discussions between the ruling parties, which will begin on Tuesday, the government and the LDP plan to seek Cabinet approval on a new constitutional interpretation by the end of the current Diet session on June 22. Abe said he will not consider such a time schedule as a deadline.

From http://the-japan-news.com/ 05/16/2014

 

 

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SOUTH KOREA: Court Rules Midnight Ban on Online Games Constitutional

 

The Constitutional Court ruled Thursday that a law limiting children's access to online computer games after midnight is constitutional. In the ruling against a group of teenagers who enjoy online games, their parents and gaming firms, the court said the law has the "justifiable" purpose of protecting minors from Internet game addiction and "a proper means" to implement this aim.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr 04/24/2014

 

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Gov’t to Strengthen Law on Sailor Employment

 

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries will revise a law on the employment of sailors in an effort to enhance safety at sea. Under the revision, captains of ferries will have their licenses revoked if their passengers die in maritime accidents. In addition only first class ship operating officers would be able to serve as captains on passenger liners weighing more than six thousand tons. The current law stipulates second class officers are allowed to become captains of ships weighing three thousand tons and over. Meanwhile, third class officers can command passenger liners weighing less than three thousand tons.  Lee Jun-seok, the captain of the ill-fated Sewol, has a second class license and is qualified for sailing the ship under the current law. Following the sinking of the Sewol, the current rule has been questioned.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 04/25/2014

 

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National Assembly Passes Controversial Pension Bill

 

The National Assembly passed a controversial bill on pension allowances for senior citizens on Friday, finally allowing President Park Geun-hye to implement one of her key election promises almost a year and a half after taking office. The "basic pension" was one of Park's campaign pledges. Park had originally pledged to provide all citizens aged 65 or older with a monthly allowance of 200,000 won (US$194). She later scaled back the plan, citing insufficient financial resources.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr 05/02/2014

 

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S. Korea to Eliminate Nearly a Third of Trade, Investment Regulations

 

South Korea will remove nearly one third of government regulations on trade and foreign investment, and ease other restrictions that hamper investment, the government said Monday. Of the 62 regulations that currently apply to trade or foreign investment, 19 or 30.6 percent will be completely eliminated before the incumbent Park Geun-hye administration's five-year term ends in February 2018, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. The decision came at a public hearing chaired by Vice Trade Minister Kim Jae-hong on Sunday. "The hearing sought to remove all outdated, unnecessary or excessive regulations as long as they did not affect public safety or hygiene," the ministry said in a press release. The regulations to be removed include one that requires foreign investors to report any changes to the amount or nature of their investment. The proposed changes would cut the number of procedures involved in foreign investment to three from the current five, Kim explained, but the effect of the reforms may not be seen immediately.  "Regulations in the trade and foreign investment sectors are already mostly in line with international norms and global standards. We are looking to find regulations that are outdated or place unnecessary burdens on foreign investors," the vice minister told reporters. Such regulations also affect people and businesses in the exhibition industry, which currently require all newcomers to obtain an operation license from the ministry. They, too, are subject to a complete removal as such businesses are regulated under different laws, Kim said. In addition, the requirement of prior approval will be lifted for exporters of apples and pears to Taiwan. "The ministry will continue to find and reform unnecessary and excessive regulations to help create more jobs by regularly holding public hearings," it said. The ministry plans to hold weekly meetings on deregulation until mid-June. A meeting on energy-related regulations is scheduled for next weekend.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr 05/12/2014

 

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Dynamic Markets in Southeast Asia Need Good Policies for Sustained Competitiveness and Shared Growth, Says OECD

 

The Southeast Asia region, with more than half-a-billion people, is among the fastest-growing regions in the world but levels of growth and prosperity within the region remain uneven.  Good policies need to be implemented in the region to maintain strong growth and make it more inclusive, boosting productivity, reducing poverty, and avoid falling into the “middle income trap”. The OECD Southeast Asia Regional Programme, launched today at the 2014 OECD Ministerial Council, aims to support the region in achieving these objectives. Building on two decades of engagement with the region, the Programme will provide a strengthened platform for sharing good policy practices among policy makers in Southeast Asia and OECD countries, informing and supporting reform processes, both at national and regional level. The issues identified for initial focus include investment, SMEs, tax, education and skills, public-private partnerships for infrastructure, regulatory reform, trade, innovation and gender. The Programme will also benefit from the expertise of the Development Centre, which has Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam as members. An example of the OECD’s increased focus on the region is a new report, launched today: Revenue Statistics in Asian Countries: Trends in Indonesia and Malaysia. It provides for the first time internationally-comparable data comparing the situation in the two countries with trends in Japan and Korea and the average of the 34 OECD economies.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 05/06/2014

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CAMBODIA: Parliament Passes Judicial Reform Laws amid Opposition Boycott

 

Cambodia's ruling party- controlled National Assembly has unanimously passed three laws, designed to strengthen the country's judicial system, despite ongoing boycott of parliament by the main opposition party. The Law on the Organization of the Judiciary was adopted on Thursday, and the Laws on the Organization and Function of the Supreme Council of Magistracy and on the Statutes of Judges and Prosecutors were approved on Friday. Chheang Von, a senior lawmaker of the ruling Cambodian People's Party, urged all judges and prosecutors to be neutral, just and honest in deciding cases when the laws come into effect. Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said, "The laws will guarantee the independence of the judiciary, maintain discipline of judges, and assure the good functioning of the Cambodian courts.” The government said last month that the making of the three laws was a crucial start on legal and judicial reforms. "The laws will be a fundamental base for the government to achieve its vision in strengthening good governance and the rule of law," it said. Under the kingdom's constitution, the laws need to be finally reviewed by the Senate and signed by King Norodom Sihamoni before being promulgated.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/23/2014

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MALAYSIA: Government Prioritises E-Government, E-Learning and Healthcare IT in 2020 Vision

 

Malaysia’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit under the Prime Minister’s Department has highlighted deeper use of IT in government, education and healthcare in its 2013 Annual Report of the Economic Transformation Programme.

 

E-Government

In 2014, it aims to have 80 per cent of government services online and encourage the use of online services such as the myGovernment Portal. In the long run, all public-facing government services will be migrated online with the goal of “zero face-to-face interactions” by 2020, stated the report. It also targets to have a paperless government by replacing paper archives with digital ones. The Government will look into trends around cloud computing, Big Data analytics and cybersecurity.

 

Healthcare IT

The Malaysian Government plans to provide all healthcare facilities, patients and insurance companies with a single platform for expedient information-sharing to help improve the quality of healthcare in the country by 2020. The 1Gov*Net platform will allow healthcare providers to access applications that will increase their productivity while lowering costs and errors. The Government will also explore new models of adopting technologies at a lower cost of rollout to support the planned transformation of the Ministry of Health.

 

E-Learning

The Government looks to establish a “common knowledge platform for students and professionals to enhance teaching methods”. By 2020 it aims to have all 6 million students attending government primary and secondary schools in the country to be connected to high-speed internet through the 1BestariNet programme. The focus for 2014 will be to ensure quality delivery of internet access to schools and increase education content in the virtual learning environment provided by the Government. This will be supplemented by virtual training of teacher across all connected schools. Minister of Communication and Multimedia, Dato’ Sri Ahmad Shabery Cheek, highlighted that upgrades to broadband speed are a key enabler in reaching these goals. “We will work together with the respective ministries to explore ways on how ICT can further support Government service delivery and private sector efficiency, towards achieving the nation’s 2020 aspirations,” he added.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 05/15/2014

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SINGAPORE: Sector-Specific Data Protection Guidelines Up for Public Feedback

 

SINGAPORE: The education, social services, healthcare and photography sectors will have new guidelines to help them interpret and apply the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA). Proposed guidelines for these sectors were released by the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) for public consultation on Friday. This follows finalised guidelines for the telecommunications and real estate sectors which the PDPC released, also on Friday, after they were opened for consultation early this year. The Personal Data Protection Act takes effect in phases starting with the provisions relating to the formation of the Personal Data Protection Commission on 2 January 2013. Provisions relating to the Do Not Call Registry came into effect on 2 January 2014 and the main data protection rules will come into force on 2 July 2014. This allows time for organisations to review and adopt internal personal data protection policies and practices, to help them comply with the Act. Your doctor recommends you visit a specialist and you verbally agree. Can he share your particulars with the specialist for the purpose of the referral? The answer is "yes".

 

This and other scenarios will be addressed in guidelines to be worked on for the healthcare, education, social service and photography sectors to provide greater clarity on their obligations under the Personal Data Protection Act. Communications and Information Minister Dr Yaacob Ibrahim announced this when he opened the Personal Data Protection Seminar on Friday. Dr Yaacob said the guidelines will address sector-specific matters, such as the collection of personal data from patients seeking medical care as well as the collection, use and disclosure of personal data for admission into schools and coordination of timely provision of social services. The new sectors were picked as they handle high volumes of personal data. Leon Luai, head of clinical services and wellness at NTUC Unity's Family Medicine Clinic, said: "When we send blood samples to laboratories for test, we include quite a lot of information such as a patient's name, NRIC number, address and sex. "With the implementation of this Act, we need to be mindful of the information we are sharing with external parties. "Hence this is something we hope the commission can provide clearer guidelines on."

 

To comply with the Personal Data Protection Act, NTUC Unity will also implement non-disclosure forms, to be signed by all medical group staff and laboratories partners, and consent forms for patients. There are also concerns about the capability of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to cope with the Act. Stephen Lim, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry's chairman of technology committee, said: "SMEs, especially, face tight labour force - releasing people for training and also assigning people to continue implementing these processes. "Of course, big companies have no problems. If they are a big organisation, they must have implemented such procedures in many of their operations as well. "Even though SMEs are aware, the amount of help is not that available." The Personal Data Protection Commission will also introduce a two-day course to walk companies through key points under the Personal Data Protection Act. The first run of the course is expected to start soon. Recently finalised guidelines for the telecommunication and real estate sectors were released on Friday, with new scenarios added, following feedback. An example is the marketing of potential en-bloc sale. Estate agents, who have compiled a contact list from various sources including the Management Corporation to market a potential en-bloc sale, are required to obtain consent from the individuals on or before collecting and using their personal data, unless exceptions apply. Those with personal data-related complaints can consult the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) and the Singapore Mediation Centre. A Memorandum of Intent on this was signed on Friday by the Personal Data Protection Commission, CASE and the Singapore Mediation Centre.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 05/16/2014

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Singapore Adjusts Policy to Strengthen Social Safety Nets

 

Singapore government said on Tuesday that strengthening social safety nets will be a key area of focus for policy makers in what has been an obvious policy shift. The government released details on Tuesday of measures aimed at building a caring society, a theme outlined by President Tony Tan Keng Yam in a key address in the parliament on Friday. "Our philosophy is upstream prevention, providing more for those with less and sharing the risks of life's uncertainties so that no one has to deal with his problems alone," the government said an addenda statement. The Ministry of Manpower will boost support for the low-income and vulnerable such as training, job upgrading and career progression through various initiatives. It will also step up enforcement and promotion efforts to protect low-wage workers' basic employment rights, retirement and medical savings account contribution and well-being.

 

The Ministry of Communications and Information will establish a digital inclusion fund to ensure that as many Singaporeans as possible can access more media platforms and e-government services, the statement said. The government also said that it will give more support and funding to the social services sector. The moves could be, or at least close to, a policy shift. The city state and free trade hub has maintained a policy stance over the past decades to avoid becoming a welfare state in the Western sense. Leaders had said that Singapore could ill afford it. However, there seems to be a policy shift in recent years amid calls for more support for the poor and the elder generation who have worked hard to contribute to building the nation. An observer said on a local radio that a package rolled out by the government recently for the pioneer generations would be beyond imagination five years ago. Prime Minister Lee also reorganized the government in recent years to devote more resources to social efforts. "Underlying this is the spirit of a caring society, where we care for one another and share the fruits of progress with all," the government said in the statement on Tuesday.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/21/2014

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Singapore Government Tables Bill to Amend Radiation Protection Act

 

The government on Monday tabled a bill in Parliament to amend the Radiation Protection Act.

SINGAPORE: The government on Monday (May 26) tabled a bill in Parliament to amend the Radiation Protection Act. This follows Singapore's decision to accede to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 Amendments. The amendments to the Act are necessary for accession to the Convention, which is a key international legal instrument on nuclear security. It focuses on the physical protection of nuclear materials. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that Singapore would accede to the Convention during his visit in March to the 3rd Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague. The bill will provide for better regulation of the treatment of radioactive material and enhance safety for people exposed to radiation. The bill will also make it an offence to threaten to use nuclear material to cause death, serious injury or substantial property damage. It will also define a "nuclear offence" and will make such offences extraditable crimes. The jurisdiction to deal with a nuclear offence committed outside Singapore will also be extended. 

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 05/26/2014

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THAILAND: Constitution Temporarily Suspended

 

Thailand's National Peace and Order Maintaining Council (NPOMC) announced Thursday that the country's constitution was temporarily suspended. The announcement, following the military coup declared by army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, added that the constitution's section 2, which states, "Thailand adopts a democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State," will be kept, according to the NPOMC's spokesman Winthai Suwaree. The government was terminated, but the Senate and independent agencies will still be able to perform duties, Winthai said. The NPOMC is headed by Prayuth, with the supreme commander, chiefs of air force and navy, and police chief serving as deputies. The NPOMC ordered ousted caretaker prime minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan and 17 other cabinet members to report to it on Friday. The NPOMC also ordered educational institutes to be suspended from Friday to Sunday. Meanwhile, it ordered demonstrators of different political sides to stop rallying and return home. Political rallies with five people or more are banned, and those who defy the order could face prison time and fine.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/23/2014

 

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Commerce Ministry Announces Plan for Provincial Rice Trading Centres

 

With no more government price-support measures on the agenda, the Internal Trade Department said it would soon work with rice millers to open trading centres in each province.

"The department will not need to spend a huge amount of money to subsidise rice, but only set up facilities to encourage farmers and millers to meet in each province," director-general Somchart Soithong said yesterday before the Army took over the whole government. The Commerce Ministry also decided to cancel the latest sale of 210,000 tonnes of government rice through the Agriculture Futures Exchange of Thailand because the offers were too low.  Before the coup, millers in 19 provinces agreed with the department to purchase rice from farmers at the market price. The move is aimed at stabilising rice prices. For the second crop now being grown, farmers in the 19 provinces, mostly in the Central region, were not expected to suffer from bargaining, as the millers had promised to pay them the going price. The department reports that the current market price for white paddy rice is Bt7,000-Bt7,500 per tonne.

 

To prepare for the main crop, which will start to be harvested in October, the department will use the same method to ensure stable rice prices in the market. The department planned to call a meeting soon between millers and provincial officials to draw up plans for the rice-trading centres. Millers would be encouraged to purchase rice at the market price. To ensure low production costs for the new crop, the department said it would try to persuade farmers to switch to natural fertilisers instead of chemicals. Farmers need to cut production costs so that they can control their costs, as rice prices are no longer being propped up by the government. The department also insisted that food and consumer-goods prices were under control by the Commerce Ministry during martial law, although that now is unclear. Somchart said the department was closely monitoring goods price at present. If any traders unfairly raise prices, they could be subject to seven years in jail and/or Bt140,000 fine. If any hoard goods unreasonably, they would also be subject to five years in jail and/or Bt200,000 fine. Only powdered-milk producers want to hike retail prices because they face higher import costs, but the department has not yet allowed them to. It asked them to study carefully their cost structure to ensure a low cost of living for consumers.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 05/23/2014

 

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VIETNAM: Ministry Okays Textile Growth Plan

 

The Ministry of Industry and Trade has ratified the textile and garment industry development plan 2020, with a vision for 2030.The plan is expected to boost the industry's growth, said deputy minister Do Thang Hai at a meeting early this week. Under the plan, the industry aims to achieve 55 per cent localisation rate by 2015, which will increase to 65 per cent and 70 per cent by 2020 and 2030 respectively. During the 2013-2020 period, the industry plans an annual production growth rate of 12 to 13 per cent. Exports in the 2013-2015 period are expected to increase by 10 to 11 per cent yearly, increasing by 9 to 10 per cent in the 2016-2020 period, and by 6 to 7 per cent in the 2021-2030 period. The growth rate of the domestic market will be 9 to 10 per cent in the 2013-2015 period and 10-12 per cent in the 2016-2020 period, according to the plan. Labour-intensive textile and garment firms will be moved to the rural areas, while those specialising in fashion production as well as in the supply of related services will be placed in urban areas.

 

According to the Viet Nam Textile and Apparel Association, Vietnamese clothing products are being exported to 50 countries and territories. The US is the largest importer of Vietnamese textiles and garments, accounting for 48 per cent of the industry's total export revenue. Viet Nam's textile and garment exports have grown 15 to 17 per cent per year since 2007, said Nguyen Van Tuan, deputy head of the Viet Nam Cotton and Spinning Association and deputy secretary-general of VITAS. The export turnover is estimated to reach $40 billion in the 2020-2025 period, requiring 12 billion square metres of fabric and five million workers. Textiles and garments currently make up 13.6 per cent of the country's total export value. That percentage is expected to rise when the country signs trade agreements. The country is currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and the Viet Nam-EU Free Trade Agreement, which are expected to come into effect in the next couple of years. When these agreements are signed, Vietnamese garment and textile products will enjoy zero per cent tax rate in the US and EU. At present, the average tax rates are 17.5 per cent and 9.6 per cent in these two markets, respectively. Viet Nam's exports to the US and EU are still limited, according to experts. The US and EU markets spent $105 billion and $260 billion on garment and textile products respectively, last year. However, Viet Nam's exports accounted for only 8 per cent and 3 per cent of the US and EU market shares respectively.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 05/10/2014

 

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Viet Nam Targets More FDI with New Legal Framework

 

Viet Nam plans to improve its legal framework to create a favourable investment environment and help the state better manage these activities, said an official from the Ministry of Planning and Investment at a seminar in Ha Noi yesterday. Since economic reforms began in 1986, FDI has played an important role in international integration and economic development, deputy minister of planning and investment Dang Tien Dong said at the seminar. After Viet Nam entered the World Trade Organisation (WTO), FDI soared, but in 2011, registered FDI saw a year-on-year drop of 21.6 per cent to US$15.6 billion and disbursement of FDI reached only $11 billion – the same level as in 2010. Registered FDI in 2012 saw a slight increase of 4.8 per cent to $16.35 billion while disbursement of FDI dropped to $10.46 billion. There was a recovery in 2013 with total registered FDI of $22.35 billion, 36.7 per cent higher than in 2012. Disbursement of FDI also increased 9.9 per cent to $11.5 billion.

 

However, many experts said the recovery was not sustainable and growth in Viet Nam was lower than other regional countries. In the first four months of this year, FDI fell 41 per cent to $4.85 billion while disbursement of FDI continued to grow by 6.7 per cent to $4 billion against the same period last year. Additionally, almost all FDI projects in Viet Nam are small and medium scale. FDI projects with capital of $100-500 million accounted for only 1.51 per cent of the total, while those with capital of between $500 million - $1 billion accounted for 0.19 per cent and those with over $1 billion accounted for barely 0.2 per cent. Do Nhat Hoang, director of the Foreign Investment Agency, said that while Viet Nam had a strict licensing process for FDI, management of operations was not strict enough. Therefore, the country should reform administrative procedures, improve infrastructure, develop the support industry and focus on training a high-quality workforce, Hoang said. Dong said Viet Nam faced challenges in wooing investors, competing with regional and global rivals and simplifying administrative formalities.

 

To improve the investment climate and State agencies' capacity to manage foreign capital, participants agreed that obstacles in the way of investment procedures should be examined. Nguyen Anh Tuan, editor-in-chief of Vietnam Investment Review, said there were many issues when it came to enforcing the investment and enterprise laws, both promulgated in 2005. Some articles were not concrete or suited to reality, while several regulations did not match international norms or the country's commitments to integration into the global economy, noted Tuan. Director of the Central Institute for Economic Management Nguyen Dinh Cung said it was vital to restrict the withdrawal of business permits, adding that relevant agencies should only revoke the permits when necessary. Chairman of the Viet Nam Association of Foreign Invested Enterprises (VAFIE) Nguyen Mai said that various difficulties in managing foreign direct investment (FDI) enterprises would emerge if regulations on the establishment of such firms, especially those related to fields of business and minimum capital, were not specified.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 05/17/2014

 

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New Regulations Target Multilevel Marketing

 

The government has issued a decree on multilevel marketing with stricter regulations in a move to better manage the business model. Under the Decree No 42/2014/ND-CP, which will take effect from July 1, multilevel marketing firms must have a charter capital of at least VND10 billion (US$454,545). The firms are also required to have a collateral of VND5 billion ($227,272) in banks. The collateral will be used to pay the financial obligations of the firms in case the firms have to close down. The new regulation also bans multilevel marketing firms from direct selling as pyramid schemes besides banning the firms from requiring people to pay any money or buy the firms' unauthorised goods to participate in the firms' business. Multilevel marketing sales people are also not allowed to provide wrong or dubious information to cheat people. According to the new decree, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) will take responsibility of granting the business licences for multilevel marketing firms, instead of municipal and provincial departments of Industry and Trade as was done previously. Licensed multilevel marketing firms that have no operations or have stopped operations for 12 consecutive months will have their business licences revoked. According to the MoIT, after 10 years of presence in Viet Nam, the multilevel marketing businesses have attracted approximately 1 million participants by the end of 2013. There are approximately 90 multilevel marketing firms in the country, which are local, joint ventures and foreign-owned. A majority of the firms were producers and traders of food, cosmetics and house wear. The multilevel marketing business model is familiar in other countries; however, it is a relatively new business in Viet Nam. Many multilevel marketing firms including MB24, Tam Mat Troi and Cong Dong Viet have used the business model for scamming and manipulating consumers.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 05/17/2014

 

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BANGLADESH: Comprehensive Trade Policy for Economic Growth Stressed

 

Economists at a seminar on trade and investment on Wednesday highlighted the urgency for a comprehensive trade policy for accelerating the country’s economic growth.Despite many challenges, the country’s trade and GDP ratio, they said, raised to 50 percent in last fiscal from 19 per cent in early 90s. To sustain the growth and push the country’ GDP towards a steady growth, they also stressed the need for further liberalisation of the country’s trade regime. Dwelling on the country’s overall trade regime Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, who attended the meeting as the chief guest, equally emphasised on protection of local industries to consolidate the country’s industrial base. He pointed out the country is moving towards a positive direction and is likely to achieved the export target of US$ 30.5 billion, fixed for the current fiscal. The country achieved a 13 percent export growth during the first nine month (July-March period) of current fiscal (2013-14). The rate, the minister said, is at per with the government target.

 

The minister was addressing the seminar titled ‘Trade and Investment for higher growth’, jointly organized by the Policy Research Institute (PRI) of Bangladesh and the Department for International Development (DFID) of UK at the PRI headquarters in the capital.Terming trade as the engine of growth Tofail said the country desperately needs to diversify its export products as well exploring new markets to have a vibrant export growth.Presenting a keynote paper at the seminar PRI executive director Ahsan H. Mansur said that the country achieved the real GDP growth target in fiscal year (FY) 2010-11 but failed in FY12 and FY13. “The growth targets for the last two years were ambitious and required bold initiatives to break away from the 6 per cent growth rate recorded in the 5-year period preceding the sixth 5-year plan”, he said.He observed: "We must take a hard look at the real issues of infrastructure, strengthening institutions dealing with dispute resolution, skill development for the workers and quality of health and education to attract investment including foreign direct investment."

 

PRI chairman Dr Zaidi Sattar presented another keynote paper on trade policy for boosting the manufacturing sector. He said trade policy orientation needs to change in order to support high manufacturing growth.He said it is high time for removing various tariff and non-tariff barriers to ease the trade, especially with the neighbouring India, and give domestic consumers some relief.Accelerating manufacturing growth will require a comprehensive trade policy regime that is globally competitive. He noted, import-substituting industries catering to the domestic market cannot create jobs for the two million people, being added to the job market every year. “But export oriented industries can help substantially in this regard,” he said. Despite Bangladesh exports worth $27 billion to over 150 nations in FY 12-13, 80 per cent of exports went to USA and Canada in North America, the 27 member countries of the European Union and Japan.  He suggested that BRICS, Australia and South Korea would be foremost in the list of fastest growing RMG markets for Bangladesh, with market size of $23 trillion.

 

Dr. Khurshid Alam, PRI operations director presented another keynote paper at the seminar on “Special Economic Zones as Catalyst for Investment.” Dr. Selim Raihan, professor of Economics at the University of Dhaka said, “There is a need for a comprehensive, strategic trade policy in the country.” The trade policy should be open for all and must not be based on any lobbying, he said. The country has ‘comparative advantages’ in many goods, but the country lacks in ‘competitive advantages’, said the prominent trade specialist of the country. Yousuf Abdullah harun MP, former president of FBCCI chaired the seminar.

From http://www.theindependentbd.com/ 04/24/2014

 

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Bangladesh to Introduce Guidelines on Outsourcing Arrangements for Banks

 

The central bank of Bangladesh is going to introduce guidelines on outsourcing arrangements for the banks to avert risks and monitor compliance with regulatory requirements. “The central bank has already published draft guidelines on outsourcing arrangements seeking opinions from the stakeholders by May 15,” a senior official of the Bangladesh Bank (BB) told BBN in Dhaka. He also said the BB will finalise the guidelines, to be introduced for the first time in Bangladesh, based on the opinions by the stakeholders. Generally, the banks should only outsource the activities which can be effectively supervised by them and compliance with legal and regulatory requirements can be monitored, according to the   draft guidelines. The banks shall not, however, outsource core management functions that require effective involvement of Board and senior management, including Internal Audit, Control, Compliance and Treasury functions, ‘Know Your Customer exercise for deposit accounts, Credit evaluation and sanctioning.

 

“Sub-contracting by the third-party service provider of material outsourcing arrangements both in the case of local and foreign is not allowed,” it noted. It also said the banks must develop criteria that enable them to assess, prior to selection, the third-party service provider’s capacity and ability to perform the outsourced activities effectively, reliably and with high standard, together with any potential risk factors associated with using a particular service provider. “Outsourcing relationships should be governed by legally enforceable written contracts that clearly describe all material aspects of the outsourcing arrangements, including the rights, responsibilities and expectations of all parties,” the draft guidelines said. It also said the banks should take appropriate steps in respect of service providers to protect confidential information of both the bank and its clients from intentional or inadvertent disclosure to unauthorised persons.

 

The banks should establish a comprehensive outsourcing risk management programme for an ongoing monitoring and controlling of all relevant aspects of outsourcing arrangements and procedures guiding corrective actions to be taken when certain events occur. “When engaging service providers in a foreign country, banks should take into account and closely monitor government policies and political, social, economic and legal conditions in those countries, during the due diligence process and on a continuous basis after employing the service provider,” it noted.

From http://www.businessnews-bd.com/ 05/06/2014

 

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INDIA: Consultation for National Multisectoral Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Non Communicable Diseases

 

World Health Organization in collaboration with Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is organizing a consultation for development of National Multisectoral Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Non Communicable diseases on 22-23 May, 2014. The objective of the consultation is to develop a National Multisectoral Action Plan with detailed activities and timeliness based on the endorsed strategies. The main focus is on defining the roles of various stakeholders and discussing the next steps in implementing the action plan for prevention and control of NCDs. It aims to bring together stakeholders at national and sub national levels, research institutes, academia, civil society and international agencies on one platform with regard to National Action Plan. Shri Lov Verma, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India will address the consultation whereas the opening remarks will be presented by Mr Anshu Prakash, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Dr Nata Menabde, WHO Representative to India will also address the consultation on 22nd May, 2014.

 

The progress in National Response to NCDs will be presented by Dr Mohammad Shaukat, Deputy Director General, MoHFW on National Programme on Cancers, Diabetes, CVDs and Stroke(NPCDCS) and Dr Damodar Bachani, Deputy Commissioner, MoHFW on National Monitoring Framework and Action Plan for NCDs. On 23rd May, 2014 plenary discussion on group presentations and framing recommendations will be done by Shri Manoj Jhalani, Joint Secretary, MoHFW. Shri C . K. Mishra, Additional Secretary(Health), MoHFW , Shri Anshu Prakash, Joint Secretary, MoHFW and Dr Fikru Tullu, WHO Country Office for India will present the concluding session: Synergizing proposed activities of National Multisectoral Action Plan with the ongoing 12th Five Year Plan. The burden of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) is a major barrier to socioeconomic development of country and needs a whole of society to develop a Nation Multisectoral Action Plan to address the growing burden of NCDs through health promotion, prevention of exposure to risk factors and provision of appropriate healthcare. The National Steering committee for NCDs has recently endorsed the core strategies to deal with the NCD epidemic in India.

From http://pib.nic.in/ 05/21/2014

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Top Official Says Azerbaijan Needs to Mull New Draft Law on Defamation

 

A free, pluralistic press, corresponding to world standards, has been formed in Azerbaijan, according Ali Hasanov, the head of Public and Political Issues Department of Azerbaijani Presidential Administration. Hasanov made these remarks in an article published in a book, the publication of which has been timed to coincide with the conference titled 'Heydar Aliyev and a new model of society'. The conference, which was held today, May 7, is organized by the ruling New Azerbaijan Party on the 91st anniversary of the birth of Azerbaijan's national leader Heydar Aliyev. Hasanov noted in his article that considering the current conditions, the discussion and adoption of the new draft law on defamation, facilitation of journalists' activities and ensuring their full safety have been put on the agenda. He noted that officials and the journalistic community, studying the developed democracies' experience in this area, are working together to implement this law in Azerbaijan.

 

"The state has created the necessary conditions for an independent and comprehensive development of the media. About 40 daily and over 200 weekly newspapers are published in the country," Hasanov underscored. "More than 80 magazines covering the scientific and practical, socio-political, socio-economic issues, the problems of children and women, and entertainment, are published." He also noted that about 20 news agencies in Azerbaijan are constantly covering the developments in the country and in the world. "About 100 newspapers and magazines are published in the regions," Hasanov added. He also said the scope of cable television's activities has also broadened in the recent years, adding that currently there are ten republic-wide, one satellite, 14 regional and 14 cable TV channels, as well as 14 radio stations in Azerbaijan. Hasanov also stressed that in 2014 Azerbaijan will complete the transition to digital television. "Over 50 journalism organizations are registered in Azerbaijan, and about 30 organizations are engaged in the development of freedom of speech and information, increasing the economic independence of the press, protection of journalists' rights, widening the media's possibilities in obtaining information, regulating the relationship between media and society and other issues," he noted.

 

Hasanov added that during the years of Azerbaijan's independence, the number of independent commercial companies engaged in distribution of print media has increased. "Currently, there are 23 print media distribution companies in the capital and the regions," he noted. Hasanov underscored that the state policy in the area of freedom of speech and information, development of independent media, strengthening the material and technical base, improvement of the journalists' professionalism and other areas, has quickly given positive results. "Thus, since 2009 there haven't been any cases involving arrests of journalists for slander and insult, or in general in connection with professional activities," Hasanov noted.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/07/2014

 

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Azerbaijan’s Successful Development Model Example of Thought-Out Economic Policy

 

Today, in different parts of the world, in influential international structures, on various prestigious events, people talk about Azerbaijan's development model, Azerbaijani example, "Azerbaijani phenomenon", Head of the Public and Political Issues Department of Azerbaijani Presidential Administration, Ali Hasanov said. Hasanov made the remarks at the 'The Business Year: Azerbaijan - 2014' edition presentation ceremony on May 14. "As it is known, in 2013 'The Business Year' company declared Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev 'President of the Year' in the world," he said. "The main reason is a significant contribution made by the president in Azerbaijan's dynamic development, the country's presence in the global geopolitical space, ensuring peace and security in the global arena as a member of the UN Security Council. A significant contribution to the development of the information and communication technology sector, the Internet in Azerbaijan, region and the world after launching the first telecommunication satellite Azerspace into orbit, as well as the services in the transformation of Azerbaijan into the center, hosting the important international social, political, economic, humanitarian forums, conferences, sporting events can be also mentioned.

 

Obviously, each of these reasons is an important factor stipulating the country's identity in the modern history of Azerbaijan." While speaking about a national example, national identity, Hasanov takes six directions as a basis. "The first direction is that Azerbaijan is an independent country, conducting an independent domestic and foreign policy in accordance with national interests," he said. "Electing Azerbaijan member of the UN Security Council in 2012 with the support of 155 countries in terms of strong competition and strong resistance attempts, as well as active participation in the system of international relations with major world powers can be cited as a good example," Hasanov said. "The second direction is that after joining a rapid socio-economic development stage in 2003, Azerbaijan presented a new development model to the world," he added. "The Azerbaijani economy has grown by more than threefold for the last ten years," he said. "The poverty and unemployment have also been minimized. A new social and economic infrastructure has been formed. Our country and society have been modernized.

 

 Azerbaijan has turned into a transport and logistics center in the region. It began playing a significant role in ensuring energy security in the region and Europe. It became a member of the space club by launching its own satellite into orbit. Azerbaijan showed the world by its experience that even such a small country, 20 percent of which is occupied and which has more than one million refugees and internally displaced persons, can achieve desirable development and progress. This is achieved as a result of the thought-out economic policy while global giants suffer from economic regress. Azerbaijan has also become famous due to the world-known brands and companies. Today SOCAR with over $20 billion worth of investments made in Turkish economy and holding its position in the economic system of the European developed countries in terms of fierce competition, is in line with BP, Statoil, Shevron and other transnational energy giants." He said the 'ASAN Xidmet' Service is known throughout the world as an Azerbaijani brand, while the use of this progressive practice has become a topic of discussion in some countries.

 

As for the third direction, Hasanov said that over the last ten years, Azerbaijan has turned into an inter-cultural and inter-civilizational dialogue space and introduced its tolerance and humanism model to the world. "Baku, which hosts the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, International Humanitarian Forum and other similar prestigious events, has acquired the status of an international humanitarian center in Eurasia. In this field it is necessary to particularly note the tireless activity of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and its head, Azerbaijan's First Lady, UNESCO and ISESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mehriban Aliyeva," Hasanov said. He went on to add that the Heydar Aliyev Foundation has gained considerable credibility and trust both in the Azerbaijani public, and in the world for its important contribution to the dynamic development of society, indispensable merits in promotion of Azerbaijani culture in the world, full support for preserving the world's cultural heritage and loyalty to the principles of humanism and social justice.

 

"With its humanitarian mission, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation has brought a kind of innovation in addressing important issues on the national and global scale, which, of course, must be characterized as another model of Azerbaijan. For this Mehriban Aliyeva has been awarded the 'First Lady of the Year' by the 'The Business Year' company," Ali Hasanov stressed. Talking about the fourth direction, Hasanov said that over the past years the Olympic movement has gone big scale in Azerbaijan, adding that a large, modern sports infrastructure has been created in Azerbaijan. He went on to say that the Azerbaijani athletes achieved great victories at major international competitions, held in various parts of the world. Hasanov also stressed that the fifth direction is Azerbaijan's recent transformation into a center of regional and global level. "As we know, Azerbaijan, which is located at the intersection of the East and West, has a favorable geographic and geo-strategic importance. But throughout our history we have not been able to use this advantage for the national interests and the interests of the people," Hasanov said. "Only after the national leader Heydar Aliyev's coming to power for the second time in 1993, this factor, along with the energy factor, became one of the main levers of Azerbaijan's political line.

 

As a result of the policy pursued by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev throughout the last ten years, Azerbaijan has gained a status of a regional and global center." Talking about the last - the sixth direction, Hasanov said that over the years of its independence, Azerbaijan defined the tactics of using income from energy exports. "The revenues were directed at the national development, and the growth of the welfare of the Azerbaijani people," he said. "The policy of turning oil capital into human capital, education of future generations, developing the sense of being the country's future owner in them, is being successfully implemented. The steps taken by President Ilham Aliyev in this sphere, and the youth and education policy attract the world's attention," Hasanov said. Hasanov stressed that thus throughout 20 years of its independence, particularly during Ilham Aliyev's presidency, Azerbaijan has demonstrated its example and identity in all areas, adding that the country has presented itself to the world as a strong, independent, modern, and steadily developing country. "Today, exactly this factor attracts the attention of international organizations, individual states, research centers and media to our country. 'The Business Year' company's consecutive 4-year cooperation with Azerbaijan is aimed at familiarizing the entire world with this model," Ali Hasanov said.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/14/2014

 

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Action Plan for Azerbaijan 2014-2016 Launched

 

The 'Action Plan for Azerbaijan 2014-2016' was today launched in Baku by the Council of Europe (CoE) Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland and Fikrat Mammadov, Minister of Justice of Azerbaijan. The action plan, adopted by the Committee of Ministers on April 16, is a tool designed for assisting Azerbaijan in its efforts to bring its legislation, institutions and practice in line with European standards, according to the CoE website. It will promote projects in a number of human rights areas, including freedom of expression and media, freedom of assembly and the fight against corruption.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/20/2014

 

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Summit of Ministers Calls for More Global Co-operation in Transport Policy

 

Ministers of Transport from around the world have called for more international co-operation to create transport systems for the needs of a changing world. "Global transformational change is a characteristic of our age", ministers from the 54 member countries of the International Transport Forum (ITF) state in a declaration agreed today at their Annual Summit in Leipzig, Germany. Noting the impact of megatrends like demographic change, digitalization, shifting trade flows and climate change, the ministerial declaration states: "In this environment of transformation, policymakers are facing greater levels of uncertainty in decision making, with the speed, nature, intensity and timing of change in recent years occurring beyond what has been expected." "The reality of governing in this interconnected world requires greater emphasis on international and regional co-operation as well as information sharing, and suggests that policymakers should work together more effectively to adopt common policy responses." "While adapting to these global economic and societal phenomena, transport itself is also a driver of change, as innovation in the sector opens new frontiers. In this way, transport is itself defining new landscapes of opportunity for a greener and more inclusive economy and society." Ministers in their declaration also issued a "call for development as appropriate of international standards for implementing new technologies alongside agreed safety and privacy protocols."

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/22/2014

 

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KAZAKHSTAN: Introducing New Rules for Vehicle Inspection

 

Kazakh president signed the law "On road traffic", which provides for new rules of inspection.The document will come into force in October, the press service of the Kazakh Ministry of Transport and Communications reported."In particular, the law exempts from passing mandatory inspection of vehicles with a manufacturing date that does not exceed four years (including the year of release). The law also provides for the abolition of paper forms for passing technical inspection, and the fact that its passage will be confirmed by the query into a single information system of compulsory inspection of motor vehicles and their trailers," the ministry said.The changes also touch upon the list of the documents, necessary for passing technical inspection. Thus, in accordance with the new rules, the document for payment of the transport tax is not required: it is needed only to show the vehicle and the certificate of state registration (technical certificate).It should be noted that the new law establishes liability for the improper conduct of the owner/operator maintenance involving an accident. The order also tightens the responsibility of inspectors.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/14/2014

 

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UZBEKISTAN: Law on Openness Government Bodies and Governance Enters into Force

 

A law "On openness of activities of the government bodies and governance" entered into force in Uzbekistan. Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis of Uzbekistan passed the law on March 11, 2014 and the Senate approved it on April 10, 2014. President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov signed the document on May 6, 2014.The document was published in the national media of the republic on May 6 and in accordance to the final article of the law, it enters into force from the date of publication. The goal of the law is to regulate relations in openness of the activities of the state bodies and administration, the first article of the document said. The adopted law establishes the legal framework of access of individuals and legal entities to information about the activities of government bodies and governance, provides a guarantee to receive this information.

 

The main principles of openness of public bodies and administration are accessibility, timeliness and reliability of information provided, openness and transparency of their activities, freedom to seek , receive and disseminate information on activities of public authorities. The information about the activities of state bodies include the normative-legal acts that establish the legal status of state agencies and departments, the acts adopted by government agencies, information about the progress of their performance, information about developed normative-legal acts projects by government agencies, the normative-legal acts on the implementation of state and other programs, on the implemented public events, on the interactions with other government agencies, individuals and legal entities, as well as foreign and international organizations.

 

Information about the activities of government bodies are also considered information on key indicators; including socio-economic development, characterizing the state of the industry related to the activity sphere of government agencies and the dynamics of its development, information on open tenders and the auctions organized by government agencies, information on job vacancies, and plans to hold public collegial meetings of government agencies. The law limits access to the information about activities of government agencies if this information is classified in accordance with the law as the information constituting state secrets or other secrets protected by law.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/07/2014

 

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Uzbekistan Plans to Maintain Sustainable Economic Growth in Medium Term

 

The government of Uzbekistan intends to maintain sustainable economic growth in the medium term (2015-2018) at the level of 7 to 8 percent, according to the published materials of the Tashkent International Investment Financial Forum. It is planned to maintain the growth rate of industrial production in Uzbekistan at the level of 8 to 9 percent per year, agricultural production - 5 to 6 percent, and the service industry - 14 to 17 percent, the forum's materials said. Moreover, the growth of investments in fixed capital are planned to be maintained at the level of 9 to 11 percent. The government of Uzbekistan intends to achieve planned volumes by carrying out an active industrial policy aimed at structural transformation and rapid growth in the share of the processing industry. The main factors ensuring Uzbekistan's high economic growth also include the use of modern innovative technologies, modernization and development of industrial infrastructure, intensification of production in the agricultural sector by using new water-saving and productivity technologies. At the same time the country's government intends to continue its policy to further liberalize the economy and improve the business environment for the development of small business private entrepreneurship, attracting foreign investments, stimulating and supporting exports.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/23/2014

 

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New Strategies Needed to Give Pacific Youth Jobs

 

The World Bank is calling for urgent new strategies to increase job opportunities for young people in the Pacific where half the population is under 24 years old. It is the highest youth population of any region in the world and in some Pacific countries it is estimated almost two in three young people are not working or studying or training. A new World Bank report, "Wellbeing from work in Pacific Island countries", says this increases their risk of poverty and the risk of social unrest in a country. Tobias Haque, the World Bank's economist for the Pacific Islands and lead author of the report, told Pacific Beat that although action can be taken at home, more should be done to allow people from the Pacific to work in the region's larger economies, such as Australia and New Zealand. "The reason there's a shortage of jobs is very much related to the geography of those countries - they are very small markets, they're a very long way away from large markets and that fundamentally constrains the role of natural private sector growth and job creation," he said. "So what's important for people in these countries is that they have better access to those markets where the private sector is larger and more vibrant and the opportunities for them to play a more productive role are far more common and far more easily available. Part of the solution is to allow people of the Pacific to access a broader range of labour markets and that means some of the larger economies in the region."

 

Haque says a key recommendation from the report is that donors and governments work hard to ensure people have basic literacy, numeracy and behavioural skills so Pacific islanders are employable in labour markets, either locally or internationally. He says Pacific nations are on track to benefit from the significant increase in remittances and gross domestic product that results from greater mobilisation. "I think that's front and centre of policy makers' attention at the moment and it very much should be," he said. "There was a report recently that identified the New Zealand seasonal workers scheme as one of the most effective development interventions ever evaluated. So I think it's important that this movement continues and I think there's every reason for optimism when it comes to there temporary schemes.

From AUSTRALIA NETWORK NEWS 05/12/2014

 

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AUSTRALIA: Government Reinforces ICT Modernisation Reforms

 

The Australian Government has weighed in with full support for key technology platforms driving the business of government. These include a broader adoption of cloud computing, big data, and digital platforms through to 2017. The administration’s just-released Report of the National Commission of Audit May 2014 canvasses a digital cloud first approach to whole-of-government IT procurement. Among the recommendations, this report, delivered by an influential National Commission of Audit, requires agencies to be proactive about digital and cloud-first operations. With a focus on cost-savings, and large-scale cut-backs in Canberra, the commission acknowledge the role of technology to deliver wide-spread savings, while reducing duplication, and streamlining services.

 

Cloud-first policy

Despite the rhetoric of cloud adoption, the commission notes the Commonwealth remains slow to adopt cloud computing. “A reliance on bespoke, legacy systems, concerns about security and privacy of placing public data in the cloud, and general risk-aversion all impede progress.” Drawing on the banking sector, the commission notes a “cloud-first” policy can initially target low-risk, generic ICT services. Over three to five years, this may progressively reduce ICT costs, as cloud computing becomes a “default option.” The commission proposes the Department of Finance establish a whole-of-government cloud computing provider panel. This panel is designed to confirm the viability, capability, and costs of using large-scale cloud computing providers. The focus is ensuring that access to cloud service providers remains competitive, viable, and offers appropriate levels of security.

 

Big data

The Commonwealth holds large amounts of data. But this information is not being used to its best effect. “Some agencies collect data in the natural course of their operations and tend to focus more on collection, rather than analysis and wider use.” The government’s massive data repository is often rarely connected, has duplicates, varies in quality, and is not supported by consistent standards. “The value of data holding to the whole-of-government is rarely articulated.” Moreover, there is little, or no effort to fully examine data holdings, or assess the value of existing data. Agencies can prepare plans that make better use of data, and source innovation from outside government. The government’s Data.Gov portal holds just 3,164 datasets. This compares with 10,000 datasets in the UK, and around 200,000 datasets in the US. Despite this showpiece, there is insufficient access to public data, including disability, aged care, job seekers, and the socially-disadvantaged.

 

The Australian Public Service needs to improve its capacity for data analytics. This involves analysing large datasets, in real-time, and being able to share insights, identify anomalies, and allocate resources, as and where needed. With a renewed focus on big data, planners need to identify and prioritise projects, spanning key service delivery bodies. These include the Department of Human Services, Australian Taxation Office, and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

 

Digital by-default

Like the UK, the Australian government may support a “digital strategy by default.” This strategy can be supported, more aggressively, under the auspices of the Department of Human Services’ MyGov on-line offering. This portal offers access to information from Medicare, Centrelink, child support, health, veterans’ allowances, and disability insurance. But boosting access to digital services involves a more “ambitious strategy.” The administration plans to ensure that every interaction, occurring more than 50,000 times a year, will be done on-line by 2017. Government correspondence is also expected to be available digitally, over the next four years. Australia’s slow uptake of “digital government” is attributed to fragmented arrangements involving multiple agencies, and a policy disconnect. The commission proposes that core expertise be consolidated, under a single team. This can be led by a chief digital officer, a role more likely filled by a private sector leader, with the nous to deliver digital transformation programmes.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 05/02/2014

 

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FIJI: ADB to Carry Out Upscaling Operations

 

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) stands ready to ‘Upscale its Operations in Fiji”. This was the assurance conveyed to the Fijian delegation by the President and Management of the ADB. As a shareholder of the Bank, the Bank is ready to work in partnership with Fiji in its development effort. The delegation was led by the Permanent Secretary for Finance Filimone Waqabaca and accompanied by Permanent Secretary Strategic Planning, National Development and Statistics Pita Wise and supported by senior officials of the Ministry of Finance, Reserve Bank of Fiji and Ministry of Strategic Planning, National Development & Statistics. The delegation had the opportunity to meet with the President and also senior officials of the Pacific Operations Department. At the meeting, the President and Management were updated on the political and socio-economic developments in Fiji. The President commended the impressive progress made to date and assured the delegation of the Bank’s support.

 

The Bank is currently in the process of finalizing its Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) by end of October. The CPS will be prepared in consultation with the Fijian government on priority areas that can be considered for funding and supported by Technical Assistance (TA). The 24th meeting between the Governors of the 14 Pacific Island Countries with the management of the Asian Development Bank was held last week. The meeting was chaired by Tuvalu’s Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Maatia Toafa. This was an opportunity for Pacific member countries to raise issues of common interest directly with the President, Takehiko Nakao, and senior management of the Bank. In his opening remarks, Minister Toafa emphasized key areas requiring further support and partnership from the Bank including accessing climate change funds, exploring financing modalities for disaster rehabilitation and recovery, private sector development, and identifying and harnessing opportunities for regional integration and cooperation. President Nakao acknowledged that issues raised are consistent with the findings from the Mid Term Review of the Bank’s 2020 Strategy. He reiterated the Bank’s commitment in supporting the development of Pacific member countries. The Fijian delegation also had the opportunity to hold a bilateral meeting with representatives from the Bank of Montreal who made a presentation on the service they provide on reserve management. The delegation will be involved in Constituency Meetings in the weekend.

From MINFO 05/06/2014

 

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NEW ZEALAND: Cyber Security Tsars Lay Down Rules for Network Operators

 

New Zealand's two leading communications security agencies have defined the new working environment for network operators in the country. Guidance (pdf) released recently follows the controversial passage into law of the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act (TICSA) last November. Among other matters, the law established new obligations on network operators to report details of their operations and infrastructure. The guidance fleshes this out, saying network operators are required to engage with Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) through the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) about changes to their networks. "The GCSB will work cooperatively and collaboratively with network operators on how the GCSB and network operators will interact to fulfil each otehr's responsibilities inder TICSA," the guidance says. The guidance defines the term "network operator" and the process for operators to register as well as their notification requirements. These focus on identifying and addressing risks arising from the "design, build or operation of public telecommunications networks and their interconnection to other networks both domestically and overseas".

 

Network operators may apply for some employees to be granted "Secret" level security clearances from GCSB to allow risk information to be shared. The guidance suggests those staff should be citizens who have lived in New Zealand for at least 10 years. Network operators must notify GCSB when changes to their networks are proposed and GCSB may need to be involved ahead of any network infrastructure purchases. "These requirements are to ensure GCSB has sufficient time to consider proposals and take action if needed," the guidance says. The guidance does not deal with obligations under part 2 of the Act, which came into effect on 11 May, requiring networks to be open for lawful interception. New Zealand, along with Canada, the UK, Australia and the USA, is part of the "Five Eyes" signals intelligence alliance of English speaking countries.

From http://www.zdnet.com 05/12/2014

 

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: New Law to Help Strengthen Political Parties

 

A revision to the Organic Law on Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates is now being prepared to strengthen political parties, Papua New Guinea Registrar of Political Parties Dr Alphonse Gelu says. The revised Organic Law on Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates is expected to be tabled in the next session of Parliament. “It’s a very good bill,” he said yesterday. “National Executive Council has already approved it. The main thrust of the revised Organic Law is strengthening political parties. There are provisions that we’ve included. “One of the outcomes that we can see about this particular law is that is it a product of what the registry has learned since 2001. “On the issue of party-hopping, members of political parties will still have the opportunity to join other parties but there are certain conditions we’ve applied there. “At the same time, political parties are asked that when it comes to nomination of candidates, they have to endorse candidates in at least 10% of the number of seats in Parliament. “So if you endorse 60 candidates, 10% of that must be women. This is how we are trying to help the plight of women in PNG.

From THE NATIONAL 05/22/2014

 

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SOLOMON ISLANDS: Political Parties Integrity Bill Likely to Pass into Law

 

The government of Solomon Islands says its Political Parties Integrity Bill is "very close" to finally becoming law. The bill passed its second reading, despite lacking a quorum, and parliament will work through its details this week. The bill aims to promote solidarity in parliament by providing for 'the registration, administration and development of political parties to promote integrity in their operations'. It also seeks to 'make consequential amendments to the National Parliament Electoral Provisions Act'. Earlier incarnations of the controversial bill included a clause to prevent MPs from changing allegiance mid-term. The bill was amended in February to exclude this clause, but a number of MPs still see it as an anti-defection measure. Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo has denied this. “It's designed to develop legislative mechanisms that provide for registrations and setting up standards and requirements for the development of political parties,” Lilo told parliament last week. The prime minister's director of governance Calvin Ziru told Pacific Beat the primary objective of the bill is to improve political stability. “Prime Minister Lilo has introduced a bill that focuses by-and-large on strengthening first and foremost political parties,” he said.

 

“So he's correct in saying this isn't an anti-defection piece of legislation it's intended to improve political party integrity by providing means for registration and also the governance of political parties in Solomon Islands.” Ziru says the bill would create a more established party system and solid base, that should decrease the risk of defection. “That's the rationale that the government is taking for this proposed law,” he said. This bill is expected to be just the first step in many to combat corruption in Solomon Islands. “There's a lot more work to do, we're strengthening political parties there's also various other reforms that need to be thought about by the next government that will all simply complement this legislation,” Ziru said. “[But] it's a very good start indeed, very good legislation for us to pass.”

From RADIO AUSTRALIA 05/26/2014

 

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CHINA: Rule of Law Essential for Faith in Petition System

 

The rule of law should be highlighted in advancing China's ongoing reform of its petition system, an important channel for the public to vent their grievances but one many regard as riddled with factors endangering social stability. Apart from channelling public discontent, petition letters and visits by wronged or maltreated citizens are also unique ways for Chinese officials to learn about people's real lives and seek ways to remedy misdoings and ensure justice. China unveiled a plan in a key policy document of the Communist Party of China published in November to reform its petition system to answer public's complaints in a more timely manner. In response, the country has ushered in a set of rules in recent months, vowing rule of law in handling petition cases, cracking down on illegal confinement of petitioners, expanding petition channels online, and diverting lawsuit-related petition cases to courts to better redress public grievances. The government also vowed to improve assessment of local governments regarding the handling of petitions, by placing more stock in the effectiveness of settlements rather than the number of petitions handled. To guide citizens to make complaints in an effective, stepwise and legal way, the government made public a regulation on Wednesday, forbidding petitioners from filing their complaints directly to higher levels of government without first going through local authorities.

 

Despite the efforts, however, there are still hard nuts to crack in the ongoing reform. The biggest one is the perception that filing petitions works better than seeking legal justice and that accessing superior officials has more tangible effects than lower-ranking ones, beliefs fueled by public mistrust of government and judiciary. Guaranteeing people's well-being and governance by law are the groundwork to prevent and defuse disputes. Instead of intercepting petitioners to prevent them from raising grievances with their superiors, local officials should intercept the problems by attending to people's needs and performing their duties within the legal framework so as to settle issues at an early stage and the grass-root level. Those found to have showed indifference or hampered people's interests in petition handling, refusing or delaying petitions, should be seriously punished. Solving public complaints within the legal framework and transferring more cases from the government agency handling petitions to courts is a path that the country must take. Rule of law is essential if the reform is to restore the true nature of the petition system, which is designed to help authorities to hear people's voices, ensure social justice and cement ties with them.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/24/2014

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Chinese Vice Premier Awards Cultural Exchange Envoys

 

Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong on Monday presented awards to foreign agencies and friendly personage that have contributed to cultural exchanges between China and the world.Liu said the winners of Cultural Exchange Contribution Award have disseminated excellent Chinese culture to the world and promoted mutual understanding and friendship between Chinese people and people around the world.She said China has attached great importance to cultural exchange and cooperation with other countries.After the award ceremony, Liu attended the opening concert of the 14th Beijing Arts Festival at the concert hall of the National Center for the Performing Arts, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of China-France diplomatic ties.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/29/2014

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Salary of Civil Servants Below Average: Report

 

The average income of Chinese civil servant is a little below the citizen's average, according to an April survey by Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).The average annual salary of a civil servant was 46,207 yuan (7383 U.S. dollars) in 2012. Financial professionals earn the most among all the social professions, almost twice as much of the average salary for Chinese workers.The report shows the average annual income of civil servants is not only far behind those in finance or IT, but also relatively low compared to those in similar social services such as education and public health."It is high time China raised the general income standard, especially for low income households," said Zhang Chewei, co-author of the report and vice dean of institute of population and labor economics with CASS. In some places, the salary for basic-level civil servant has not been raised since 2006.The public are concerned that despite relatively low salaries, civil servants enjoy a substantial package of welfare funded by public budget such as housing subsidies.Since the Communist Party of China launched a national campaign against bureaucracy and excessive official expenditure in late 2012, many civil servants' off-the-books income has suffered and some are considering a change of job.A senior officials with the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security in March that any rise of salary would be skewed toward civil servants in remote regions and those at grass-roots level.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/02/2014

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Lower-level Chinese Officials to Conduct Criticism

 

Chinese officials at and below the city and county level are required to conduct criticism and self-criticism sessions starting in late May, according to a circular released by the Communist Party of China (CPC) leading group of the "mass-line" campaign.According to the circular made public on Sunday, CPC officials are ordered to identify their work-style related problems and participate in intra-Party sessions of criticism and self-criticism.Criticism and self-criticism at intra-Party sessions, or democratic meetings, are part of the CPC's ongoing "mass line" campaign dedicated to removing undesirable work styles among officials and forging closer Party-people ties.Launched in June 2013, the campaign has now entered its second phase, which is scheduled to run from January to September and target more low-level departments and leadership.Heads of Party committees are required to take the lead in exposing their own shortcomings at intra-Party discussions, and all members of a Party committee must criticise one another while listing their own problems, the circular said.Such discussions should last for no less than one-and-a-half days.Also according to the circular, officials are expected to examine their own personal integrity, use of power, self discipline, and whether they work efficiently and can address the people's real needs.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/04/2014

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China Sets Up Organ for Income Distribution Reform

 

The State Council, China's cabinet, said on Wednesday that it has approved the establishment of an inter-ministry joint conference mechanism to coordinate income distribution reform.The mechanism, led by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the top economic planning body, includes the ministries of education, science and technology, public security, civil affairs, finance, human resources and social security, according to a statement on the website of the central government.Other ministries or departments in charge of land and resources, taxation, housing, state-owned assets supervision and administration are also members of the regime, according to the statement.The joint conference, chaired by head of the NDRC, will be tasked with coordinating all work in deepening income distribution reform, such as in conducting policy studies, making policies and reform plans, and coordinating ministries involved in the reform.

 

The organ is also equipped with the power to monitor, track, assess and review the process of the reform before reporting to the State Council.The establishment of the organ is widely seen as a boost to the reform which is complicated and involves a wide range of government departments.The statement quoted an unnamed official of the NDRC as saying that the joint conference regime was set up to implement related principles set by party leaders at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee in November.China will enhance regulation of income secondary distribution through taxation and focus on increasing the share of work remuneration in primary distribution, according to a key document adopted by the plenary session.The joint conference would also carry out a central government guideline, published in February 2013, to reform income distribution mechanisms amid growing public concern over the widening wealth gap.It has been a key policy objective for the central government to step up reforms in the income distribution system to narrow the wealth gap and achieve common prosperity.The National Bureau of Statistics reported in January 2013 that in 2012 China's Gini coefficient, a widely used measure of income distribution, was 0.474, in which zero equals perfect equality.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/14/2014

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China Reforms Recruitment Practice in Public Institutions

 

China's cabinet, the State Council, has released new rules on recruitment and promotion in public institutions.According to a statement of the State Council's Legislative Affairs Office on Thursday, part of current human resource practices in public institutions are vague and no exit mechanisms are in place.Public institutions must make their job openings accessible to all, except for those positions appointed by the government, predetermined by certain policies or involving state secrets.A series of dubious appointments to public institutions have led the public to question whether job opportunities are only for the wealthy or those with powerful parents.The new rules stipulate that public institution employees must compete for promotions, and the promotion should follow the procedure of publishing post qualifications, examining candidates, and evaluation, among other steps.Official statistics show China's 1.11 million public institutions hold some 31.53 million state-funded jobs with stable incomes and benefits. Reforms of public institutions has invited competition and created contracted posts.The new rules clarify the terms of such contracts, the length of probation periods and scenarios whereby contracts can be dissolved, among other regulations.Employees in public institutions should be paid according to performance and their salary should rise in accordance with economic growth. Social security should also cover these employees.China set out a plan and detailed timetable for the reform of public institutions in 2011. The new rules will go into effect on July 1.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/15/2014

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Senior Leader Urges Officials to Recognize Problems

 

A senior leader of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has called on Party officials to deal with problems that surface during the Party's development undertakings.Liu Yunshan, a Standing Committee member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, asked Party officials to stay alert to problems, face problems head on, and to address them, at an orientation session of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee on Thursday.Liu urged Party officials to carefully study President Xi Jinping's important remarks, saying Xi has shown acute awareness of problems and resolve to tackle them.Officials should have keen eyes in discovering problems while advancing reforms and development, learning from past practices and lessons, as well as considering domestic situations against the big international pictures, he said.Furthermore, Party officials should take responsibility to solve problems, Liu said, urging them to prioritize significant problems that may affect long-term development of regions or organizations; outstanding problems that threaten stability of reforms and development, and nascent problems corroding Party members' ideology and work styles.He also advised Party officials to keep learning in order to build their problem-solving capacity, and to delve into the very grassroots communities so as to find pragmatic solutions.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/15/2014

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JAPAN: Central Bank Must Keep Guard Up, Increase Cooperation with Government

 

It is reassuring that the Bank of Japan has shown confidence in bailing the nation out of deflation. But at all costs it must not let its guard down. The central bank must further reinforce its cooperation with the government. At its policy board meeting Wednesday, the central bank decided to maintain its policy of monetary easing of “a different dimension,” which was adopted in April last year. The bank also released its semiannual Outlook for Economic Activity and Prices Report, in which it estimates the outlook for economic growth and the consumer price index, as well as its first outlook for fiscal 2016. Last April, the central bank adopted a target of achieving 2 percent inflation in two years. In its outlook report, the bank estimates that the nation’s core consumer price index, excluding the impact of the consumption tax hike on April 1, will rise 1.9 percent in fiscal 2015 and 2.1 percent in fiscal 2016. The report can be seen as the bank’s scenario for pulling the nation out of deflation, in accordance with the target.

 

Central bank Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda said at a press conference Wednesday that the nation is “on a steady track” to achieve the 2 percent inflation target. By showing the central bank’s strong resolve to achieve the target, it also aims to enhance the effect of its policy decision. But the central bank’s estimates may be too optimistic, which is worrying.  Private research organizations have given a median forecast of 1 percent growth in the core consumer price index for fiscal 2015, only half the increase predicted by the central bank. Also, more than 70 percent of economic research organizations expect the central bank to take additional monetary easing measures by August. It further needs to be noted that three members of the nine-member policy board expressed opposition to the wording in the outlook report concerning the timing for achieving the 2 percent inflation target.

 

Behind these critical opinions is uncertainty about the nation’s economic outlook. The financial burden on ordinary households has increased as one month has passed since the consumption tax rate was raised from 5 percen to 8 percent. We cannot dispel concern that there will be a fall in consumer sentiment and that real consumer prices, excluding the effect of the consumption tax hike, will be pushed down. Price increases in recent months have mostly stemmed from “detrimental price increases” that will pull down the overall economy. The yen’s weakness has markedly pushed up the purchase prices of imported raw materials, and power companies have had to raise their utility rates because they must import more fuel for thermal power generation since all nuclear reactors remain halted. The central bank must examine the effect of its policy measures properly, and take additional appropriate measures if necessary.

 

However, the market will often overreact when expectations abound for the central bank to take additional monetary easing measures. To avoid sending the market into disarray, the central bank needs to communicate detailed information to the market. Needless to say, the central bank’s monetary policy alone cannot fully bail the nation out of deflation. It is essential for the government to promote an effective growth strategy and realize a sustainable growth led by the private sector. The bottom line is that the government needs to create the kind of environment that will help private-sector companies seize new business opportunities, through such measures as drastically easing regulations. The key to the elimination of deflation lies in the acceleration of innovative actions taken by private companies to produce goods and services that consumers will want to purchase, even if they have relatively higher costs.

From http://the-japan-news.com 05/01/2014

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Ruling Parties to Establish Cybersecurity Headquarters

 

The ruling parties plan to submit a bill aimed at establishing a government cybersecurity headquarters and obliges ministries and agencies to provide information about cyber-attacks they are subjected to, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned. The bill, which the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito plan to submit at the current Diet session, would be the first basic law on cyberdefense stipulating the government’s duties on cyberdefense. According to the bill, the headquarters will be headed by the chief cabinet secretary. The aim of the bill is to reinforce the nation’s defenses against cyber-attacks ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, according to sources. Currently, there are two government organizations in charge of measures against cyberattacks: the Information Security Policy Council, which is chaired by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, and the National Information Security Center, which is the council’s secretariat. As the council is set up by the prime minister with no laws concerning its establishment, the council is not authorized to carry out investigations at ministries and agencies nor to issue recommendations to them. Therefore, some experts argue that the current system is inadequate for detecting problems or developing preventive measures against cyberattacks on government offices, as the council has no mandate if a ministry is reluctant to reveal damage in such cases.

From http://the-japan-news.com 05/15/2014

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INDONESIA: President Shares Milestones in Open Government Journey

 

Indonesia’s national efforts in driving open government has been led by the Open Government Indonesia (OGI) initiative which serves as a catalyst for public service delivery reform. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono shared key milestones in Indonesia’s open government journey at the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Asia Pacific Regional Conference last week. Indonesia is currently the lead chair of OGP, after starting off as a founding member of the movement in 2011. The President outlined initiatives in three key areas of open government - fiscal and data transparency, public service reform and citizen engagement.

 

Fiscal and data transparency

The country has opened up budget information to “allow citizens to exercise greater oversight on budget transparency”, he noted. “Our Open Budget Index score has risen from 51 in 2010 to 62 in 2012, making Indonesia one of the highest in Southeast Asia.” One Map Indonesia and Indonesia Data Portal enable data transparency at a national level. One Map serves as a “single authoritative reference” for all types of government maps - it highlights the importance of having one standard geoportal of information, the President said. Indonesia Data Portal enables free, integrated access to citizens to all government data. The Portal aims to help the Government “deliver better public services, achieve greater economic development, catalyse innovation, and promote good governance and social accountability”, he emphasised.

 

Public service reform

Indonesia launched the Open Government Indonesia Public Service Competition in 2012 which measures government agencies’ level of openness to the public. It drives agencies to “innovate and create practical ways for the public to participate in open government processes”, Yudhoyono revealed. 34 ministries delivering 62 public services have been invited to participate in the competition.

 

Citizen engagement

The President highlighted the use of technology to facilitate two-way communication between governments and citizens. The President himself is active on Twitter (@SBYudhoyono) and Facebook with close to 5 million and 2.7 million followers, respectively. In his experience of managing citizen engagement through social media, the lesson he learnt is that the Government must be “ready to face criticisms and suggestions”, while also welcoming support through these channels. Inspired by the wide use of social media in the country, the Government has improved its LAPOR (meaning ‘to report) programme. Through this, the administration has been able to narrow time lapses in responding citizens’ complaints and queries. Another initiative known as Solusimu - meaning ‘your solution’ - provides a comprehensive channel for citizens to submit innovative ideas. “This is one of the means for the Government to reach out to various remote locations across the archipelago. I am pleased to mention that some of the submissions have proven useful for policy-making,” Yudhoyono added.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 05/14/2014

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Indonesia Capital City Government and Google to Monitor Civil Servants’ Performance

 

Jakarta Provincial Government plans to collaborate with Google to develop a system for better monitoring of civil servants’ performance in the Indonesian capital. Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaya Purnama (or Ahok as he is commonly known) shared that he has spoken with Google to build a tool that will track civil servants’ position and monitor their performance. Ahok has emphasised that technology plays a crucial role in ensuring transparency in government. He expects such a system to help improve productivity of public sector officials in the Jakarta Government. Moreover, Ahok has also pointed to a possible collaboration with Waze, a community-based traffic and navigation app acquired by Google in 2013, which has proven popular among Indonesians. He shared that to maximise the benefits from this app, data from the Jakarta Government’s database should be integrated with the data collected by Waze. This would allow the government to respond to any reports of traffic congestion in real-time and analyse traffic conditions. It would also be useful for emergency and disaster management, he added.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 05/15/2014

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Indonesia Installs Top Businessman as Economic Chief Minister

 

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday officially installed one of the richest men in the country, Chairul Tanjung, as coordinating minister for economy at the State Palace.Tanjung replaces Hatta Rajasa who resigned last week for competing the July presidential polls, as running mate of presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto from the Indonesian Great Movement Party. Tanjung, 51, is chairman and founder of the CT Corporation and head of the National Economic Committee (KEN), the presidential economic advisory body. The CT Corporation is a holding company with interest on banking and media. Tanjung only has limited time to perform jobs as President Yudhoyono's cabinet is to end in October when the country would have a new president.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/19/2014

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Indonesia Government to Upload Leadership Meetings on Youtube for Transparency

 

The Provincial Government of Jakarta, the capital and largest city of Indonesia, will be uploading videos of its leadership meetings on YouTube to improve transparency. Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, Jakarta Governor who will soon run for presidency, announced last week that the leadership meetings of Regional Working Units (SKPD) and Jakarta Provincial Government Land Acquisition Team (TPUT) will be uploaded on YouTube. According to Jakarta Vice Governor Basuki T Purnama, who has been publishing many of his own meetings, this move aims to provide transparency to the citizens, so they can accurately assess the government’s performance. Currently, the Jakarta Provincial Government’s Youtube account has uploaded 1720 videos of various activities, which have gathered close to 20 million views.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 05/22/2014

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CAMBODIA: Ruling Party Sweeps Elections for Municipal, Provincial, District Councilors

 

The ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of Prime Minister Hun Sen swept 2,543 out of the country's 3,333 seats in the 2nd elections for municipal, provincial, and district councilors on Sunday, according to the preliminary results issued by the CPP. The main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) of Sam Rainsy won only 769 seats, the results showed. The royalist Funcipec Party got 20 seats as the League for Democracy received one seat only. The official results will be publicized on May 30. Mao Sophearith, a member of the National Election Committee, said the non-universal poll was cast by 11,443 sitting commune councilors--typically along party lines--for the municipal, provincial, and district councilors. "The atmosphere of the elections was smooth, and there was no any reports of violence," he said. CNRP's president Sam Rainsy said Sunday afternoon that the party was "very satisfied" with the results because it won only 579 seats in the first elections five years ago. "We will use our elected councilors to promote democracy to the grassroots," he told a news conference.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/18/2014

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PHILIPPINES: Government Promotes Open Government with National Citizen Engagement Portal

 

The Philippines Government will be launching a National Feedback Mechanism soon as part of its commitment to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) which it has been a founding member of since 2011. “Envisioned as a link between government and civil society, it will serve as an online platform where citizens will be able to engage government by launching petitions or making queries online,” Said Secretary Edwin Lacierda, Presidential Spokesperson of the Office of the President, The Philippines. The new platform will provide avenues for citizens to contribute to policy making and monitor the implementation of major programmes and projects by the Philippine Government. “Citizens play an enormous role in checking government activities. With a structured avenue for communication, organisations and citizens’ groups will find it easier to work with government toward our common goal of improving our country,” said Lacierda. Since 2011, the Philippines has launched several online portals including Open Data Philippines, Budget ng Bayan by Department of Budget and Management, and the Official Gazette by the Presidential Communications Operations Office to make documents and information that affect people’s lives available to the public. This new portal was among highlights at a forum of the Knowledge for Development Centres (KDCs) held April 23 to 25 in the Philippines. KDCs comprise of 15 universities, policy and research institutions in the Philippines, in partnership with the World Bank Group. The forum is supported by the Government of Australia.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 04/29/2014

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SINGAPORE: PM Reshuffles Cabinet to Push Policy Changes

 

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong promoted two of his cabinet members to full ministers on Tuesday as part of a leadership renewal to push policy changes. "Singapore is going through an important transition," Lee said. "I am strengthening the cabinet line-up to address our priorities and challenges, and see Singapore through our next phase of development." Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin and Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, both introduced into the cabinet after entering politics by running the general election in 2011, will both be promoted to full ministers from May 1. Wong, concurrently minister of state at the Ministry of Communications and Information, will also be promoted to Second Minister for Communications and Information. Sam Tan, currently a senior parliamentary secretary in the Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth, will be appointed minister of state. In addition, Lam Pin Min, a doctor, will be appointed minister of state at the Ministry for Health.

 

It was the third round of changes in cabinet appointments since the general election in 2011. Previously, Chan Chun Sing, who started his political career in 2011, had been promoted to full minister in September last year. Lee said that Singapore is going through a transition with efforts such as upgrading workers' skills and raising productivity; promoting sports and culture and engaging the youth; strengthening the social safety nets through policies and enhancing support for the elderly and the medical support. "These major policy shifts require good political leadership, close coordination across ministries, effective ground implementation, and strong support from Singaporeans," he said. Lee said the appointments were part of his "government's continuing leadership renewal efforts." "I expect to do further reshuffles from time to time, to ensure that we always have the best team for Singapore," he said. Singapore's pro-government newspapers recently started reporting on new faces that are believed to be likely candidates in the next general election to be held by the second quarter of 2016.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 04/29/2014

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Constructive Politics Crucial for Singapore: Tony Tan

 

SINGAPORE: President Tony Tan Keng Yam said it is crucial to maintain constructive politics in Singapore, that puts the nation and people first. Vigorous debates on the challenges the country faces must continue, and Singapore has to be prepared to take necessary and bold decisions for its future, he said in his address on Friday evening as Parliament re-opened after its traditional mid-term break. "Sometimes these debates will stir great passions, but we cannot allow our differences to pull us apart," said Dr Tan. "So while we may have differing views, all sides must take a long-term perspective for the common good." He said the government has also moved to address urgent needs in housing and transport in recent years, and slowed the inflow of foreign workers while maintaining jobs for Singaporeans -- these plans reflect the country's determination to adapt, improve and upgrade, he said. But amidst those changes, Dr Tan added, Singapore will always be a small country constantly navigating dangers and threats in an uncertain world. This is why the country needs effective diplomacy, and a strong Singapore Armed Forces and Home Team. Dr Tan said NSmen have the spirit and resolve to defend the nation, and deserve Singaporeans' support and recognition. He said the Committee to Strengthen National Service will propose ways to do that. 

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 05/16/2014

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President Tan's Speech Affirms Govt's Shift Towards Social Sector: ESM Goh

 

SINGAPORE: Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, referring to President Tony Tan Keng Yam's speech in Parliament on Friday, said it was an affirmation of the government's dramatic shift towards the social sector. He stressed that economic growth, cost-of-living, infrastructure, transport and other hard issues are not being deemphasised. In his Facebook post on Saturday, Mr Goh said these are bread-and-butter issues. He said the shift means the social sector is playing catch-up. He added there is much to do as social issues will define Singapore's politics as the country approaches its 50th birthday. Mr Goh said he is heartened that the government will focus more on people, on individuals and their families. This contrasts with the constant drone on statistics of growth and physical development. Mr Goh stressed that for Singapore to be an endearing home, the yin and yang of development must be in balance and harmony. The two forces, he added, are complementary and interconnected. The cold, hard efficiency of development must be balanced by the warm, soft embrace of government. The yin-yang model of development, he believes, is the right one to take Singaporeans as individuals and as a country into the future.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 05/17/2014

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THAILAND: Smart Country Project Brings Efficient E-Services to Citizens and Civil Servants

 

Thailand’s Smart Country project is making headway as Phuket Province (population, 600,00) launched its THB 95 million (US$2.9 million) Smart Province project, shared Permanent Secretary of Thailand’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT), Surachai Srisarakham. The Smart Province project in Phuket, scheduled to be completed in 2015, will bring one-stop service centres where residents can access information and use digital services with a swipe of an ID card. The Smart Country project will link local government offices, police stations and private enterprises with a single network which will be used to share and access information in a secured manner, explained Srisarakham. Among the benefits he highlighted that residents will be able to access public services online, faster and more efficiently. Government agencies will be moved towards paperless offices to create a more efficient workplace. Provinces can save up to THB 4 billion (US$123 million) as they move towards electronic voting for elections. Srisarakham revealed plans for free public WiFi in Phuket which will allow residents to access public records when connected to the network, and will also support the booming tourism industry in Phuket. Emphasis is also placed on use of IT in enabling rural areas to access education of comparable quality to that available to students in urban areas like Bangkok. The Smart Province pilot has been completed in Nakhon Nayok Province. The plan is to expand the project to the rest of the country; however, this may take more time than expected given the recent changes taking place in the central government, Srisarakham added.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 05/09/2014

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National Unity Gov't Proposed as Way Out of Thai Political Crisis

 

In bid to solve Thailand's chronic political conflict, a former leading government whip has proposed the setting up of a national unity government under the leadership of an elected Member of Parliament (MP) as interim prime minister. Amnuay Klangpa, a five-time member of parliament (MP) of the Pheu Thai (for Thais) Party, core of the current caretaker government, has called on all parties to compromise on their different principles, sacrifice their partisan interests and return to nationwide polls through which the "national unity government" could be set up. Unlike persistent demands of anti-government protesters for the installation of a "neutral" but non-elected premier, Amnuay said his proposal is substantially democratic and could work only if all parties are willing to compromise for the good of the country. "It's time for all parties to make sacrifices, bury the hatchet and stop their disputes once and for all. They should instead prepare themselves to contest a new election and finally join hands to set up a national unity government," Amnuay said. He said that under such unity government, there should be no opposition bloc in parliament and all parties, which may have candidates elected to the lower house, could sit on a post- election Cabinet of ministers.

 

"The national government should be headed by an elected legislator in accordance with the Constitution and run the country entirely on provisional basis which may only last a three- to six- months time during which national reforms are to be completed as currently demanded," Amnuay said. According to the former government whip, a group of 20 elected lawmakers should be represented by one person to sit on the post- election Cabinet under the leadership of a premier who is to be picked from among the elected MPs. Besides, the premier may name several non-elected persons as members of his Cabinet who should represent varied political activists, including those from the anti-government and pro- government demonstrators, and other members of the public outside parliament, Amnuay suggested. Importantly, he said, the national reforms should not last longer than six months because, he said, most MPs already have had experiences in rewriting and amending legislations in order to meet varied demands of those pushing for the reforms. Amnuay said that it would take three months to six months for the MPs to institute reforms based on inputs from various political and socio-civic groups.

 

Immediately after the reforms have been instituted, the premier should dissolve parliament and call a snap election in a 45- to 60- days time in accordance with the constitution so that a fully- active, post-election government will be set up, he suggested. Finally, the ruling powers will be returned to the people to decide for themselves who should be given the leading role in the running of a newly-reformed country, he said. The ex-government whip said a large number of ex-MPs of various parties, including the Pheu Thai Party, had tacitly and informally agreed to his proposal. "My proposal obviously abides by democratic rule, no matter how much it might compromise the principles and partisan interests of some political parties," Amnuay said. He added that he will continue to persuade his colleagues and the Thai public to support his proposed "national unity government" with an elected MP as caretaker premier as opposed to the "non-elected and neutral" premier espoused by the opposition. But it remains to be seen how soon the new election will eventually take place although the Election Commission has tentatively scheduled it for July 20. The poll agency has had difficulties meeting with the caretaker government anywhere in the Thai capital to discuss the election issue since the anti-government protesters have forcibly stood in the way.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/17/2014

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BANGLADESH: Govt Plans Cyber Security Department

 

The government plans to set up a separate ‘Cyber Security Department’ to deal with the fast growing cyber crimes that have emerged as a threat to the national security and financial services, reports BSS. The cyber security department will have a Computer Response Incident Team (CRIT) which will work as a trouble shooter to address the computer related cyber crime incidents. “With the advancement of digitization of financial system, introduction of various e-Services and e-Commerce the cyber crimes have emerged as a threat for ensuring uninterrupted online services,” Information and Communication (ICT) secretary Md.  Nazrul Islam Khan told the news agency. He said setting up of a separate cyber security department has become inevitable because of frequent cyber attacks on the websites and online system. The ICT Division is making a proposal relating to establishment of a ‘Cyber Crimes Department’ for submitting it to the relevant authorities, Khan added. “The government cannot sit idle at a time when cyber attacks may cause huge losses of a large section of people who are now fully dependant on internet as well as online services,” he added.

 

The ICT secretary said the existing ICT Act, 2013 will also be amended taking opinions from lawyers, judges, police, journalists and victims to make the law suiting to the needs of the time. “We’ve already launched a cyber security programme aimed at creating awareness among the computer and internet users about cyber crimes and its protection,” Khan said, adding that opinions have also been sought from the cross section of people about the Cyber Security Act’ 2013 for plugging the loopholes if any. Cyber Security Project director Billal Hossain said the programme titled ‘National Level Cyber Security and Enhancing Awareness on ICT Act,’ formally inaugurated on May 10 will organise seminars, meetings and road shows in 64 districts and 128 colleges and 73 universities to create awareness among the computer and internet users about cyber crimes and ICT Act. “Taking global scenario about the fast growing cyber crimes into consideration there is no other alternative but to create awareness among internet users about it,” he said. The internet users who have accounts with the Yahoo and Gmail are sharing important documents and information with each other through e-mail, but they do not know that their documents and information are being leaked and there is no security to it, Billal said.

From http://www.theindependentbd.com/ 05/17/2014

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INDIA: E-Governance Projects to Be Speeded Up in Government Departments

 

Soon, Central Government departments could have a Chief Information Officer for IT adoption and to fast track e-governance projects as a part of the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP). This will also include several other initiatives such as cloud implementation for all mission mode projects (MMPs). At a recent meeting of the Apex Committee on NeGP, it was also decided to fast-track the adoption of ‘e-office’ for independent movement of e-files. The meeting was held under the chairmanship of Ajit Seth, Cabinet Secretary. Senior officials from the Planning Commission, UIDAI and Ministry of Communication and IT attended the meeting. It was also decided in the meeting that a workshop on cloud platform would also be organised by Department of Electronics and IT (DeitY) for all departments of ministries.

 

The workshop will explain the features, capabilities and the way forward for implementing cloud by default, the note said. Apart from these, it is learnt that DeitY will organise a workshop on the new e-initiatives in e-governance, such as Mobile Seva, e-Pramaan and e-Taal, for all ministries, departments and the Planning Commission. The representatives of UIDAI said that as almost 60 crore Aadhar numbers have been issued, it would be appropriate if it could now be a unifying and unique identity in all e-governance initiatives. The DeitY Secretary also clarified that linkage of UID in MMPs, wherever required, has been suggested as a key component in the ‘e-Kranti’ concept note. The committee also suggested that a standard mechanism should be established for expeditious replication of e-governance projects across the country.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 04/23/2014

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New-Government Care: Key Reforms That Can Shape India's Future

 

BANGALORE: In every election in India, the masses are always puzzled as to what the next government would focus. Will they focus on policies rather than personalities or they would deal with the vacuum left by the earlier government, this is the common notion by all. So, let’s have a look at the key reforms which the next government should take up for the development of the country, as compiled by M Ramachandran for Business Standard. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission: As per the latest census, the urban population of India has increased from 286 million in 2001 to 377 million in 2011.  With the massive increase in urban population, there is a requirement to improve the urban infrastructure and the service delivery systems.  Keeping these specific objectives in mind, the central government launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission in December 2005.

 

The aim of the mission is to encourage reforms and fast track planned development of identified cities (such as cities with a population of more than 1 million as per the 2001 census). The JNNURM which earlier was allocated just seven years, starting from this year it should be extended to at least ten years to witness the complete reforms along with the new budgets allocations and with clearly stated objectives. And also it should focus more on urbanization than on cities. In that way, it would be able to implement successfully. So, the new Government should focus on a developed urban policy like this.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 04/30/2014

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KAZAKHSTAN: Prime Minister Reprimands Three Vice Ministers

 

Kazakh Prime Minister reprimanded three vice ministers for inappropriate execution of presidential orders, Kazakhstanskaya Pravda newspaper reported on May 5.Karim Massimov reprimanded Vice Minister of Finance Ruslan Daulenov and Vice - Minister of Economy and Budget Planning Madina Abylkasymova for delay in implementation of the government's law-making activity plan and Vice - Minister of Regional Development Serik Zhumangarin for the weakened control over the implementation of the monocities development program.In total, the Kazakh Government received 33 recommendations concerning presidential orders execution.Earlier Presidential Administration introduced a new format of work to strengthen control over the execution of the president's instructions and increase accountability of political officials. This format has to ensure effective implementation of the Strategy "Kazakhstan-2050" and joining the top 30 developed countries. Analytical groups and a new monitoring system were created in the structural units of the Administration.Weekly meetings have taken place since April where management of Prime-Minister's Office, deputy ministers, executive secretaries, deputy regional governors and heads of national companies report on the ongoing work on the implementation of the presidential orders.Following the meeting, the Government receives information on quality and time of the implementation of the presidential instructions and recommendations on punishment of state employees and officials.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/05/2014

 

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TURKMENISTAN: To Create Commission on Improvement of Constitution

 

Turkmenistan will set up a commission on improvement of the constitution in accordance with a decree of the country's president. Turkmen parliament's chairperson Akja Nurberdieva was instructed to review the organizational issues, Turkmen government said Saturday, May 17. Turkmenistan's government also said the president announced the decision to set up the commission at an expanded meeting of the cabinet of ministers. This measure is being taken to develop and generalize the scientifically and practically grounded proposals on improving the country's main law - the constitution - with respect to harmonizing the national legislation with the international standards, according to the decree. "Drawing the meeting's attention to the significance of holding constitutional reforms in the country, the president stressed that such a need arose long ago," Turkmen government said. The president also said the constitution should reflect large-scale socio-political transformations taking place in the country. "It is planned to create a position of a plenipotentiary representative on human rights as part of the upcoming reforms," he said. "It is also necessary to expand the powers of self-government bodies."  "Particular attention should be paid to strengthening the judicial protection of the human rights and freedoms," the president added. "It is necessary to improve the mutual responsibility of the individual and the state." "The main purpose of holding the constitutional reforms is to strengthen the state sovereignty," he said. "These reforms will allow determining the new directions of the country's socio-economic development and creating the civil society." The first stage of reforms was conducted in 2008. The basic law was amended and changed. A new edition of the Constitution was approved. Then the need for constitutional reforms was connected with increasing the rates of ongoing socio-economic reforms and a transition to the market relations. "President Berdimuhamedov emphasized that the country is currently entering a market economy," according to the government. "The principles and values ​​of the civil society are being realized."

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/17/2014

 

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Pacific Civil Societies Call for Renewed Commitment to Decolonisation in the Region

 

Pacific civil societies are calling on all Pacific Islanders across the region to renew support for decolonisation of Pacific communities still under colonial rule. A joint Pacific Regional Non-Governmental Organisations Alliance (PRNGO) made the call today to free indigenous peoples in Guam, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Tokelau and West Papua so they can chart their own future. PRNGO spokesperson and Pacific Council of Churches official, Peter Emberson urged Pacific islanders in all walks of life to stand up, speak out and actively engage in the struggle. “The right of people in non self governing territories, whose countries are ruled by colonial administrations, to determine their own political future, and we call on our Pacific peoples in all walks of life to stand up, speak out and be actively engaged in their struggle,” he said. Emberson said it is also the duty of colonisers or administering powers to prepare the indigenous people in these territories to exercise their right to self-determination which is also mandated by international law.

 

“The peoples of our non self governing territories have not given up. They have been repressed, their rights taken away, they have been tortured and killed, imprisoned, and pushed to the margins of political and economic life but they are not backing down,” Emberson said. PRNGO's fresh calls for self-autonomy coincides with the United Nation’s special committee on decolonisation Pacific Regional seminar hosted by Fiji that opened at Nadi today. Rapa Nui or Easter Island (which is governed by Chile) is seeking admission to the UN list of Non Self Governing Territories whilst West Papua (regarded a province of Indonesia) is seeking re-enlistment to the Non Self Governing Territory List. The theme of the Nadi meeting is to accelerate implementing the 3rd International decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2011-2020). The seminar is held under the auspices of the Special Committee of 24 and will review the situation with respect to 17 territories being considered by the Special Committee in June and then referred to the UN General Assembly when it convenes.

From ISLANDS BUSINESS 05/21/2014

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AUSTRALIA: Govt Services to Face Massive Security Challenge - CSIRO

 

A report published today by the CSIRO suggests that as Australia moves its public services infrastructure online and into the cloud, the potential for security breaches through as-yet-undetected vulnerabilities such as Heartbleed could allow online attackers to wreak digital havoc over government networks. The report said that hackers could soon use similar vulnerabilities in computer security to shut down energy grids, disrupt public services and steal vast amounts of private data worth billions of dollars, unless institutions "take measures today to ready themselves against future Heartbleed-like threats". The report, Enabling Australia’s Digital Future: Cyber Security Trends and Implications, looks at how a far greater number of future attackers could cause widespread disruption and financial losses by hacking into Australia's digital services and infrastructure, including public services like patient health records and taxation data.

 

It suggests that the damage from these cyber threats could be "immense", with the potential for the government's healthcare system to be defrauded to the tune of AU$16 billion by 2023; disabling energy grids at critical times and hacking public-sector databases to leak or sell confidential data. "Despite recently being ranked second in the Asia-Pacific region when it comes to cyber-security capabilities, we need to recognise that our increasing reliance on digital services leaves us potentially vulnerable at unprecedented scales," said James Deverell, director of CSIRO Futures, who spoke today at the CeBIT technology conference about the report's findings. "The sheer complexity and interconnectedness of different elements of our digital economy means we can expect rapid exponential growth in the number, speed and severity of breaches — far beyond what any single organisation can tackle on its own," he said.

 

According to the report, the Australian Bureau of Statistics' Personal Fraud Survey indicated that over the 12 month period from 2010-2011 Australians lost AU$1.4 billion as a result of personal fraud. The report also also highlights the recent cyber attacks against government entities. "In 2011-2012, there were more than 400 cyber incidents against government systems requiring a significant response by the Cyber Security Operations Centre. During the same period, there were reports of 26 'serious cyber threat incidents' to inner Victorian agencies," the report said. For Deverell, the more the Australian government moves its digital infrastructure online to drive its public services, the more exposed Australians will be to potential security threats. "The more we rely on digital services for our basic needs like healthcare and energy, the more drastic the consequences of any breach may be," said Deverell. "As we begin to develop and embrace these services, it's in our national interest to ensure they're designed with simplicity and transparency in mind from the very start," he said.

 

The report calls on businesses, public-sector organisations and everyday Australians to embrace more open disclosure and work together when a breach occurs, work to simplify digital systems, invest in new systems to verify and protect an individual's digital identities from theft or fraud. "As shown recently in the international response to the Heartbleed exploit, collaboration and open disclosure are essential when tackling threats that cross networks, industries and national borders," he said.

From http://www.zdnet.com 05/05/2014

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Australia Dissolves Whole-of-Government CIO Role

 

The role of the Australian Government Chief Information Officer (AGCIO) will be dissolved, announced Chris Dale, Assistant Secretary of the Government Network Services Branch, Department of Finance, this morning. Responsibilities are being taken over by Rosemary Deininger, First Assistant Secretary of the newly created Efficiency, Assurance and Digital Government Cluster in the Department. This follows the resignation of the last Government CIO, Glenn Archer, earlier this year, then under the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) in Department of Finance. Deininger will be responsible for “whole of government ICT policy and investment and will chair ICT governance bodies such as the Australian Government’s Chief Information Officer Committee”, Dale shared.

 

This announcement was made as part of Dale’s overview of key initiatives set out in the current administration’s E-Government and Digital Economic Policy. One of the five key initiatives in this Policy is a “reboot of whole-of-government ICT leadership”. Deininger now oversees the Digital Government Strategy, Digital Government Investment and Assurance and Efficiency Improvement divisions. The role of the Australian Government CIO had also been restructured in December 2012 when whole-of-government ICT functions were split between the AGCIO and Australian Government Chief Technology Officer, who continues to be in charge of the Technology and Procurement Division in Finance.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 05/07/2014

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16,000 Public Service Jobs to Go as Federal Agencies Face Budget Chop

 

Some of the public service's worst nightmares are starting to come true with reports of 16,000 public service jobs to be slashed and 70-plus government agencies to be merged or abolished in Tuesday's Australian Federal budget as part of Tony Abbott's move toward smaller government. The Australian Financial Review says the government will also put other agencies on notice in foreshadowing deeper consolidation later in the year. Those earmarked for abolition now range from the obscure Whitlam government Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation, to the more contemporary Council of Australian Governments Reform Council. The budget will also reportedly announce the axing of 16,000 federal public servants instead of the government's pre-election target of 12,000 positions. This would be, in effect, an extra 1500 job losses, as it takes in the 14,500 positions that the Coalition said it had discovered were being cut by Labor efficiency dividends. Among the organisations being targeted for sell-off by Treasurer Joe Hockey are Defence Housing Australia and the Royal Australian Mint, which could be sold to raise funds if supported by a scoping study.

 

These actions alone could raise more than $1 billion, according to a report carried by News Limited. Privatising these entities was recommended in the National Commission of Audit - a document brutal on the bureaucracy which the Community and Public Sector Union estimated would cost at least 25,000 public service jobs. While many political observers have been debating which of the audit recommendations would be implemented, the latest news suggests the Coalition will take many of the public sector related suggestions on board. Major Canberra cultural institutions are in the crosshairs as well, with the budget reportedly making the National Library and National Gallery share the same administration office. Muesums Australia national director Bernice Murphy said: "A proposal like this has enormous consequences for the institutions involved. Museums today, especially our national institutions, are complex multi-functional businesses that have so many strands to their operation. It would be unthinkable in business terms I believe, that if you had a very successful institution you would take its administrative services away and give those to another business. I think there is a contradiction here in that this government wants much more support from the private sector but if you merge functions and erode individual identities you in fact threaten those institutions ability to entrepreneur their cultural abilities to the highest standard.” The National Water Commission and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency will also reportedly be scrapped. The report said agency consolidation would save $470m across four years.

From AAP 05/12/2014

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Australia Plans Whole-of-Government Open Source Cloud-based Content Management System

 

The Australian Government is planning a whole-of-government Content Management System (GovCMS) using open source Drupal software hosted on public cloud, Government Chief Technology Officer, John Sheridan announced. GovCMS will support more effective service delivery through the web channel and enable agencies to focus on higher-value activities that are more aligned with their core missions. Sheridan emphasised on the use of cloud services as an important step towards simplifying ICT, and eliminating duplicated and fragmented activities across agencies. The use of open source for GovCMS will enable sharing of code, modules and applications, and is expected to reduce development costs. “We expect all code and modules developed for use in the open source platform would be made freely available for all Government agencies (and the wider open source community) to freely utilise modules developed for the chosen open source platform,” states the draft Statement of Requirements as one of the objectives of GovCMS.

 

The system also looks to deliver cost savings to agencies as multiple government agencies use a common and scalable cloud-based platform to host websites. It also aims to reduce compliance costs for individual agencies and make it easier for agencies to comply with standards and policies in security, accessibility, privacy and digital design standards. The platform must be able to withstand “large scale and prolonged Distributed Denial of Service attacks” and must have a disaster recovery plan, adds the document. The Department of Finance aims to have GovCMS go live in September 2014. The feasibility study has found that between 182 and 437 government websites can be migrated to the GovCMS platform in four years.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 05/12/2014

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NEW ZEALAND: Reinforcing Open Government Roadmap

 

With a global reputation for transparent government, the New Zealand administration is fast-tracking its investment in open data and improved access to information. This is supported by an ambitious new project, being launched in July 2014, that modernises the New Zealand.govt.nz site. This project involves 36 core agencies, and Crown entities that deliver key services. These encompass social welfare, immigration, transport, education, health, the environment, and conservation. This revamped site, currently in beta, will offer highly-intuitive access to government information, to enable citizens to access on-line services more easily. This all-of-government initiative is led by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA). It supports transparent and open government reforms, and better online access to core services. New Zealand’s open government initiative reinforces digital reforms, according to Laura Sommer, DIA’s Wellington-based project lead for digital information. She told FutureGov that demand remains high for improved access to on-line services. A re-designed central government site offers the ability to source and manage information in an interactive, and more intuitive environment, directly from the desktop, or mobile devices. Details about this project are available at Beta.govt.nz and the Web Toolkit site.

 

Fact-check usage

“We want to bring customers right into the site,” Sommer says. “We’re developing new ways to locate information, restructure content, and make better use of evidence-based reporting tools.” Agencies and Crown entities, linked to this site, are already able to “fact-check” content, track traffic and usage, and will be able to streamline their data analytics and information management capability. Collaborative development with agencies is critical to success. “This is because we’re talking about all-of-government programmes,” adds Sommer. “So we find that a co-creative co-design model is really important.”

 

Manage content

Tech-savvy citizens, used to navigating commercial sites, expect the same look-and-feel from government sites. Mobile apps, social media, and dash-board features improve information access for people on the move. “There are other aspects, like social media, mobility, and real-time access that remain critical to creating an open interface, and connecting more readily with citizens.” By mid-year, the New Zealand site will offer faster search and browsing capability.

 

Make design responsive

“We want to ensure that what we design is usable and accessible, especially on websites,’” Sommer says. “Apart from a highly-responsive design, people should be able look at what government is presenting online via any device.” New Zealand’s online presence focuses on a user-centred design. It will be “open by default,” nurture trust and security, and support collaborative development, and common capability. At DIA, Sommer leads a Digital Engagement team, tasked with improving the government’s online presence. This approach supports a “customer at the centre” strategy. Among its features, a re-designed site offers all-of-government information based on users’ needs, with plain English content and features that are easy to understand.

 

Improve security

The goal is helping citizens interact safely and securely with government online. A Domain Integrity Project is examining the current state of agencies’ web presence, and security management mechanisms. Plans are underway to streamline the security of critical infrastructure. Moreover, an online engagement service, that has guidance and a community-of-practice, will help agencies actively connect with end-users and other agencies. This helps inform about services and policy development. Share governments’ digital project updates at the 3rd Annual FutureGov Forum New Zealand being held Wednesday 6th August in Wellington.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 05/09/2014

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SOLOMON ISLANDS: New Taskforce Established to Prosecute Environmental Crime

 

Solomon Islands police, prosecutors and several Government Ministries have formed a new high level taskforce to crackdown on environmental crime. The taskforce was created during a forum to discuss the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed by companies engaged in logging, mining and other extractive industries, held last week. The forum was a joint initiative between the Landowner’s Advocacy and Legal Support Unit (LALSU) of the Public Solicitor’s Office and the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force. LALSU Senior Legal Officer, Tearo Walenenea, explained that the initiative is a response to an increase in allegations of environmental crimes and growing frustration over inadequate civil remedies. “Logging without development consent, logging close to streams, or failing to rehabilitate a log pond are all crimes under our law, yet these laws are rarely enforced,” Walenenea said. Representatives from RSIPF, ODPP, the Ministry of Forestry and Research, Ministry of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification, Immigration, the Participating Police Force (PPF), Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources , Central Bank, Company Haus and others participated in the forum, highlighting the importance of inter-agency cooperation in combating environmental crime.

 

Acting Assistant Police Commissioner, Gabriel Manelusi, welcomed the group by reminding participants, “together we share the resources of this beautiful planet and together we share the responsibility.” Chief Immigration Officer, Chris Akosawa told the forum that cooperation is critical to achieving results. “We are dealing with people who have money. If one agency stands up, the companies will go through another. We need to stand united,” Akosawa said. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Ronald Bei Talasasa, said relevant agencies should prosecute all environmental offenders, treating illegal actions by landowners and companies equally. “Are the people now saying that the criminal law is only there to protect the rights of those who have the money, the logging companies? We need foreign investors. Yet maintenance of the rule of law is a prerequisite to economic prosperity,” Talasasa said. The forum was told that when environmental crimes are not prosecuted, angry landowners often resort to criminal activity themselves.

 

“What happens if we are not sensitive to the desires, to the cries of victims, to those who find life in their own surroundings, to those who rely on the reefs, to those who rely on the forests, and see before their own eyes that according to their interpretation wrongs have been done and have not been addressed,” Talasasa said. “There is no excuse for violence, or taking the law into your own hands, but we need to apply justice fairly.” The taskforce will focus on prosecuting test cases and assisting to develop training for investigators and prosecutors. “The ODPP is there waiting. Should LALSU bring about a complaint through the police, the office is there waiting. As long as we have breath the office remains alive to continue with its Constitutional mandate and responsibilities,” Talasasa said. The PPF added its support, informing the forum of its own recent parallel project. “PPF recently initiated the Environmental Crime Awareness Project in 2013. We are looking at developing the knowledge and processes around environmental crime issues,” PPF Superintendent Eric Grimm said. A key focus of the PPF project will be the creation of an environmental crime manual, with the assistance of forum stakeholders. Participants in the forum acknowledged the importance of foreign investment, but cautioned that Solomon Islands must attract and support lawful companies and lawful practices.

From SOLOMON TIMES ONLINE 05/01/2014

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What Heartbleed Teaches Governments About Cybersecurity

 

“All government agencies and enterprises should run a quick inventory of all their servers and PCs, such as those that host web sites, email and chats,” said Angel Averia, President of the Philippines Computer Emergency Response Team (PhCERT). “Computers that are running with OpenSSL implemented more than two years ago and have not been upgraded since may not be as vulnerable. However, those running OpenSSL versions later than the first implementation of Heartbleed should be deemed to be vulnerable and appropriate action must be taken,” he added. The Malaysia CERT (MyCERT) has since notified relevant parties in government about the threat and released two alerts on how to mitigate the problem, Megat Muazzam Abdul Mutalib, Head of Department at MyCERT told FutureGov.

 

The most recent advisory by MyCERT explained the impact of the Heartbleed vulnerability and provided a step-by-step guide to fix it. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been working with other agencies to analyse their systems to identify where they have the Heartbleed vulnerability and implementing response without disrupting critical operations. According to a recent update by DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate, Deputy Under Secretary for Cybersecurity, Phyllis Schneck, “[We have] enabled our network defences across the Executive branch to detect someone trying to use the exploit and in many cases to block those attempts. We have begun scanning government networks for this vulnerability to ensure that we know where it exists.”

 

The Department has also issued technical alerts and mitigation steps through the National Communications and Cybersecurity Integration Centre and engaged with industry partners to discuss the threat posed by Heartbleed. DHS, through the Multi State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), reached out to State and local governments via the MS-ISAC community to address the Heartbleed issue. Gary Coverdale, Chief Information Security Officer at the California County of Napa (and a member of MS-ISAC) said, “The big takeaway is to test your sites as well all partners’ environments, remediate, and then be aggressive in changing all passwords associated with those sites”. Coverdale also suggested that State and local agencies, as a public service, should reach out to its local constituents providing education and tools to test sites - such as banking and purchasing - as well as encourage the public to change passwords to protect themselves.

 

Chong Rong Hwa, Senior Malware Researcher, FireEye said that organisations should adopt a patching strategy to prioritise fixing the servers and devices depending on its exposure risks. “Due to the severity of information exposure, system owners should also consider resetting of administrator and user passwords, reissuing of SSL certificate, conducting of security assessments, as well as auditing systems and network hygiene.” Open source software has been known for the effectiveness of finding and fixing bugs since the large community of users and developers can spot and deal with security holes. This is commonly known as the Linus’ Law: “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”. Some have started to question the validity of this principle after the report on Heartbleed.

 

“The fact that the bug was found, and more importantly, rapidly fixed, actually proved the validity and truism of Linus’ Law,” explained Harish Pillay, Global Head for Community Architecture and Leadership, Red Hat. “Linus’ Law does not, however, state when bugs will be found, if they will ever be found or even who will fix the bugs. It is not constrained by time or person,” he continued. “One thing stands true - that the Linus’ Law has been proven repeatedly over the years. For example, a six-year-old Linux kernel critical bug that was reported in 2004, was fixed in 2010.” “What I love about the open source community and Red Hat’s role in it specifically, is that we rally together to fix issues as they come up. The tremendous amount of engineering talent in the community enables collaboration which transcends commercial interests and cuts across the entire ecosystem for the well being of the software we all love and use,” added Pillay. [He answers government’s queries on trends and misconceptions around open source in another recent article here.

 

One of the questions that came up from this incident is: whose responsibility is it to ensure the security of an organisation’s IT infrastructure and software, noted Averia of PhCERT. “It is costly for government agencies to develop and maintain a testing capability to determine if a piece of software is safe to use. The alternative is to check if the software or hardware has been tested for vulnerability and certified. Governments can also engage other organisations equipped to do the testing,” he said. “An expensive proposition perhaps, but with the growing use of technologies and increasing dependence on information systems, plus the fact that government agencies amass data about citizens, especially of those who transact with them, such investment may be well worth it,” Averia concluded.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 04/25/2014

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Action Needed to Protect Telco Infrastructure from Climate Change

 

The role of ICT in driving increased greenhouse gas emissions has been well documented. However a new report produced under the auspices of the United Nations' International Telecommunication Union argues that the ICT sector needs to prepare to adapt to climate change in order to preserve vital communications infrastructure from both the short- and long-term impacts of global warming. "ICT sector responses to climate change involve actions aimed at mitigating its effects... monitoring climatic trends... and adapting to its impacts (e.g. by helping to reduce the vulnerability of various sectors, strengthening networking, decision making and resource access for adaptation)," states the ITU report, Resilient pathways: The adaptation of the ICT sector to climate change. However, the report adds that "much less is known" about "adaptive strategies that the ICT sector itself could adopt to better prepare for, respond and adjust to more frequent and intense climatic impacts".

 

Speed of innovation, smaller infrastructure than sectors such as energy and logistics, and "reliance on a combined network instead of individual structures" are all factors in favour of ICT when it comes to adapting to climate change. However, the growth in frequency and impact of extreme weather-related events, such as heat waves, flooding, extreme winds and landslides, and a rise in sea level can still disrupt ICT services and degrade comms infrastructure, increasing operational costs and cutting revenue. "The magnitude of climate change impacts, coupled with the increasing pervasiveness of the ICT sector in the global networked society and the growing reliance on its services, evidence the urgency of re-thinking and adjusting... to reduce the sector’s vulnerability to climatic impacts, to improve its responses to short- and long-term effects, and to benefit from business opportunities that may arise with change," states the report. ICT needs to adopt the "notion of resilience" and take a holistic sector-based approach. Backbone networks require redundancy and comms infrastructure should be decoupled from the electricity grid as much as possible. Backup power generators or solar-powered batteries should be deployed at mobile towers, the report argues.

 

Measures to increase the robustness of telco infrastructure can also include running cables underground wherever possible, or replacing some vulnerable sections of wired networks with low-powered wireless. The telco sector needs to undergo a "comprehensive assessment" of its resilience to current conditions and predicted future climate conditions. The ITU report advocates that new standards be developed for the ICT sector to promote increased resilience. "Available evidence suggests that climate change will cause unavoidable impacts that will affect the ICT sector both directly and indirectly. Within this context, adaptive practices will increasingly become part of the 'new normal' for business operations around the world, including those of the ICT sector," the report concludes.

From http://www.computerworld.com.au/ 04/29/2014

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Countries Must Improve Resilience to Disasters or Face Mounting Costs, OECD Says

 

Smarter planning for natural and man-made disasters that increases collaboration between countries and encourages households and businesses to take more responsibility would improve resilience and reduce future economic losses, a new OECD report says. Boosting Resilience through Innovative Risk Governance estimates that earthquakes, social unrest, industrial accidents, terror attacks, pandemics and other disruptive events cost advanced and emerging nations around USD 1.5 trillion in damages and economic losses over the last decade, more than double what they cost over the previous 10 years. Without action, these costs could rise further as climate change, higher concentrations of people and assets in risk-prone areas and closer economic links between countries mean the impact of such events spreads more quickly across borders and business sectors. “Major disruptive events are happening more frequently and our ever-denser cities and interconnected economies mean the costs are getting higher all the time,” said Rolf Alter, Director of Public Governance and Territorial Development at the OECD, launching the report at the OECD Forum in Paris. “Smarter risk management to improve our resilience to shocks is the only way to lessen the impact on societies and economies.”

 

Economic losses due to disasters in OECD and BRIC countries, 1980-2012

 

The report identifies weaknesses that risk driving up future losses. These include lapses in maintenance of protective infrastructure, a failure of regulatory reform to keep pace with new risk patterns, deficiencies at some private-sector providers of key infrastructure like energy and insufficient investment by individuals to protect assets. It finds that one country’s failure to properly manage a major risk can have a serious impact on others. Governments should take action to raise public awareness and reduce over-reliance on the state for covering the cost of disasters, the report says. It suggests making better use of financial incentives to encourage businesses and people to protect against risks, and more national and international coordination and data sharing as a way to lessen disaster costs. OECD ministers will discuss the report during the Organisation’s annual Ministerial Meeting on 6-7 May in Paris with a view to formally recommending their governments act on it. On top of the tragic loss of life from recent disasters, earthquakes in Chile and New Zealand in 2010 and 2011 cost 10% and 20% of annual GDP respectively. Japan’s 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster contributed heavily to a 0.7% economic contraction that year and reverberated around the world economy by disrupting industrial supply chains.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 05/04/2014

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United Nations Agencies Report Steady Progress in Saving Mothers’ Lives

 

New United Nations* data show a 45% reduction in maternal deaths since 1990. An estimated 289 000 women died in 2013 due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth, down from 523 000 in 1990. Another World Health Organization (WHO) study, also published today in The Lancet Global Health, adds new knowledge about why these women are dying. Global causes of maternal death: a WHO systematic analysis, finds that more than 1 in 4 maternal deaths are caused by pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, HIV, malaria and obesity, whose health impacts can all be aggravated by pregnancy. This is similar to the proportion of deaths during pregnancy and childbirth from severe bleeding. “Together, the two reports highlight the need to invest in proven solutions, such as quality care for all women during pregnancy and childbirth, and particular care for pregnant women with existing medical conditions,” says Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director-General, Family, Women’s and Children’s Health, WHO.

 

They also underscore the importance of having accurate data.

"Thirty-three maternal deaths per hour is 33 too many," said Tim Evans, Director, Health, Nutrition and Population, World Bank Group. "We need to document every one of these tragic events, determine their cause, and initiate corrective actions urgently."

Steady progress

Trends in maternal mortality estimates 1990 to 2013 includes new data which were not captured in the last set of global estimates in 2012, as well as improved methods of estimating births and all female deaths.

 

Eleven countries that had high levels of maternal mortality in 1990 (Bhutan, Cambodia, Cabo Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Maldives, Nepal, Romania, Rwanda, Timor-Leste) have already reached the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of a 75% reduction in maternal mortality from the 1990 rate by 2015. Based on these latest trends however, many low- and middle-income countries will not achieve this goal. Sub-Saharan Africa is still the riskiest region in the world for dying of complications in pregnancy and childbirth. “A 15-year-old girl living in sub-Saharan Africa faces about a 1 in 40 risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth during her lifetime,” says Dr Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “A girl of the same age living in Europe has a lifetime risk of 1 in 3300 – underscoring how uneven progress has been around the world.”

 

Despite advances in the last 20 years, there has been too little progress in preventing adolescent pregnancies, abortions, maternal deaths, sexually-transmitted infections and HIV, and there are significant gaps in availability, quality and access to comprehensive sexuality education and services for young people, especially in low-income countries. “More than 15 million girls aged 15 to 19 years give birth every year – one in five girls before they turn 18 – and many of these pregnancies result from non-consensual sex,” highlights Ms Kate Gilmore, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). “Relatively simple and well-known interventions, like midwifery services and gender-based violence prevention and response, can make a huge difference if scaled up and coupled with investments in innovations, especially in the area of contraceptives.”

 

New information on causes of death

A related WHO study of causes of more than 60 000 maternal deaths in 115 countries shows that pre-existing medical conditions exacerbated by pregnancy (such as diabetes, malaria, HIV, obesity) caused 28% of the deaths.

Other causes included:

severe bleeding (mostly during and after childbirth) 27%

pregnancy-induced high blood pressure 14%

infections 11%

obstructed labour and other direct causes 9%

abortion complications 8%

blood clots (embolism) 3%

Strong health systems – with facilities that have adequate health workers and equipment and medicines – are key to delivering quality health care to save the lives of women and their newborn babies.

 

“The new data show a changing profile in the conditions that cause maternal deaths; reflecting the increasing burden of noncommunicable diseases in women throughout the world. Ending preventable maternal deaths will require both continued efforts to reduce complications directly related to pregnancy, and more of a focus on noncommunicable diseases and their effect in pregnancy. Integrated care for women with conditions like diabetes and obesity will reduce deaths and prevent long-lasting health problems,” says Dr Marleen Temmerman, Director, Reproductive Health and Research, WHO, and co-author of the study.

 

Better data needed to save lives

A major challenge in addressing maternal deaths is the lack of accurate data. Although knowledge on the number of women dying and the reasons behind their deaths is improving, much remains unrecorded and unreported. In many low-income countries, maternal deaths go uncounted and frequently the cause of death is unknown or not recorded correctly, particularly when women die at home. This is consistent with general global trends: only one-third of all deaths worldwide are recorded and fewer than 100 countries record the cause of death using WHO’s International Classification of Disease.

 

As a result, it is often hard for national health programmes to allocate resources where they are needed most. This is why the United Nations Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health is calling for better measurement of maternal and child deaths. The Commission requires that “by 2015, all countries have taken significant steps to establish a system for registration of births, deaths and causes of death”. There is growing consensus worldwide that ending preventable maternal deaths can be achieved by ensuring that every woman has access to quality health care. Global and national targets beyond 2015 will be important for tracking progress in reducing maternal deaths and ensuring that maternal health continues to be a global development priority.

 

Highlights from Trends in maternal mortality estimates 1990 to 2013:

Maternal mortality has declined: In 2013, the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) was 210 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births, down from 380 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births in 1990 (a 45% reduction). Faster progress needed: The global reduction of MMR has accelerated, with a 3.5% annual decline from 2000-2013, as compared with 1.4% between 1990 and 2000. However, at current trends, most countries will not achieve the MDG target of a 75% reduction in MMR from 1990 to 2015. An average decline of 5.5% or more every year since 1990 is needed to meet the target on time. Ten countries carry most of the burden: Ten countries account for about 60% of global maternal deaths: India (50 000), Nigeria (40 000), Democratic Republic of the Congo (21 000), Ethiopia (13 000), Indonesia (8800), Pakistan (7900), United Republic of Tanzania (7900), Kenya (6300), China (5900) and Uganda (5900).

Somalia and Chad have the highest risk: The highest lifetime risk of maternal death is in Somalia and Chad where women face a 1 in 18 and 1 in 15 lifetime risk respectively.

About the maternal mortality estimates

 

* Trends in maternal mortality estimates 1990 to 2013 is published by the Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-Agency Group (MMEIG) which includes the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Population Division (UNPD) and the World Bank Group. The estimation process was done in collaboration with an academic team from the National University of Singapore, Singapore and University of California, Berkeley, United States of America. On 2 May, The Lancet published Global, regional, and national levels and causes of maternal mortality, 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. WHO and its partners welcome these efforts to confirm the quality of UN interagency monitoring for Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 05/06/2014

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Fogarty Supports Groundbreaking Projects Through New Technology Initiative

 

In an effort to increase the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in global health interventions and address technical expertise gaps among scientists in developing countries, a new NIH initiative has awarded $1.6 million over three years to five institutions. The first round of grants from Fogarty’s Global Health Research and Research Training eCapacity Initiative will support the efforts of former and current grantees to establish education programs designed to teach trainees to incorporate ICT resources into their research and research training activities. The awards will fund projects to train researchers in seven countries and target a wide range of public health issues, including trauma, infectious diseases, mentoring and research skills, biostatistics, data sharing and management, software programming and research ethics. The goal is to develop adaptable ICT users whose research activities continue to evolve as technological changes take place. “As low- and middle-income countries become increasingly wired, it’s crucial that we leverage opportunities for telemedicine, mobile health applications, distance learning and online research efforts,” said Fogarty Director Dr. Roger I. Glass. “These new eCapacity grants will provide a powerful catalyst for our grantees to discover how these technologies can foster innovation, ultimately leading to the creation of cutting-edge education and data collection tools.”

 

The University of Pittsburgh will establish a trauma information system in Colombia that will eventually be expanded to Paraguay and Guatemala. An award going to Johns Hopkins University will fund a similar initiative in Uganda designed to strengthen electronic capacity in training related to disability and injury. A team at Cayetano Heredia University in Peru will capitalize on advancements resulting from an earlier Fogarty-supported informatics network, while promoting and increasing ICT use in Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa. Grantees from Tulane University will improve upon existing Fogarty-funded distance education and mobile health platforms in Argentina and Peru, with the intent of producing novel telediagnostic and research applications. Finally, the University of Washington will launch a collaborative project with the University of Nairobi that aims to build institutional capacity in Kenya by training and mentoring researchers in a broad range of ICT applications, including geographic information systems.

From http://www.newswise.com/ 05/08/2014

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APEC Expands Data Privacy System to Protect Consumers

 

Japan has become the third APEC economy to be accepted into the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules System, strengthening the protection of consumer data as it moves around the Asia-Pacific and reducing regulatory compliance costs for businesses in the region. The announcement was made by the APEC Electronic Commerce Steering Group which administers the voluntary, certification-based system that promotes a consistent baseline set of data privacy practices for companies doing business in participating APEC economies. “E-commerce continues to develop rapidly to meet rising product and service demand among the Asia-Pacific region’s 2.8 billion consumers,” said APEC Electronic Commerce Steering Group Chair Lourdes Yaptinchay. “Complementary regulatory policy that limits costs to businesses while protecting data privacy is critical to facilitating this process.”

 

“Building the capacity of APEC economies to implement the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules System is a priority area of collaboration between us,” explained Yaptinchay. “The inclusion of Japan in the system is another indication of progress towards its region-wide adoption. It also underscores the system’s viability as a model for global interoperability among privacy regimes.” The APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules System was created by regional officials and technical experts within the APEC Electronic Commerce Steering Group, in coordination with the private sector, and endorsed by the region’s Leaders in Honolulu in 2011. The system requires firms in participating economies to develop their own internal business rules on cross-border data privacy procedures. These must comply with the system’s minimum requirements based on assessments by an independent public or private sector body, also known as an accountability agent.

 

Entry into the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules System is determined by a joint oversight panel within the APEC Electronic Commerce Steering Group which examines applicants’ domestic laws and regulations, and APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules System enforcement plans. Japan submitted its application for participation in the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules System in June 2013. Its approval follows that of the United States, the first APEC economy to join the system in 2012, and Mexico which was accepted last year. “There is still much work ahead to ensure that consumer data flows efficiently and securely across borders,” concluded Yaptinchay. “The lessons and experiences of the growing number of participants in the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules System will boost to our efforts to achieve these ends and promote increased trade and economic growth in the region.”

From http://www.apec.org/ 05/01/2014

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ADB Makes Performance Gains in Key Areas in 2013

 

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) made further operational and organizational improvements in 2013, including increasing success rates for completed projects, said an ADB performance review released today. “The latest corporate assessment, which is the first to apply an updated results framework through to 2016, shows further encouraging headway in many areas of our work,” said Kazu Sakai, Director General of ADB’s Strategy and Policy Department. “This report and the midterm review of Strategy 2020 will help further strengthen our development effectiveness.” The Development Effectiveness Review 2013 — the 7th annual corporate results report — tracks recent development progress in Asia and the Pacific, assesses ADB’s performance, and identifies areas for improving ADB-supported operations and its organizational management. As well as high success rates for completed operations and above-target outputs and outcomes in many core operational areas, ADB also improved its human resource management and business process efficiency.

 

Recently completed operations in ADB’s developing member countries resulted in 75,000 households receiving electricity, water supply upgrades to more than 860,000 homes, sanitation improvements in nearly half a million homes, and microfinance loans to 831,000 borrowers, most of them women. ADB also stepped up support for disaster risk management and risk reduction, and the nearly $900 million in aid pledged to the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan set a new ADB record for disaster recovery assistance. However challenges also remain, including cost and time overruns for a large number of successfully completed operations, design and implementation difficulties in some projects, a fall in funds disbursed and direct value-added cofinancing, and insufficient alignment of operations with some of the priorities of Strategy 2020, ADB’s blueprint for development. ADB has already taken steps to tackle the problems by implementing project readiness filters to hasten project start up times and streamlining procurement processes, among other measures. The latest Development Effectiveness Review 2013 reinforces findings from the midterm review of Strategy 2020, which emphasizes the need to address cost and time overruns, improve procurement, expand cofinancing, and strengthen support for public-private partnerships. On Asia and the Pacific’s development progress, the report notes that the region has already met the Millennium Development Goal for halving extreme poverty and is well on track to attain the targets for access to basic education and gender parity in education.

 

But vulnerability to poverty has grown and progress has been slow in reducing under-nutrition, expanding access to improved sanitation, cutting maternal and child mortality, and curbing carbon dioxide emissions. The region remains home to two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor and there are 1.6 billion people living on an income of less than $2 a day, leaving them highly vulnerable to slipping back into extreme poverty. This year, the Development Effectiveness Review report is accompanied by the inaugural issue of the Together We Deliver report, which contains 10 stories from ADB-supported projects with clear development impacts, ranging from all-weather roads in India that connect rural villages to community hospitals, training schools and other facilities; a water supply and sanitation project in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic; to a coal mine methane development project in the People’s Republic of China which transforms hazardous methane gas from coal mines into clean energy.

From http://www.adb.org/ 05/03/2014

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Asia's Future Growth Depends on Boosting Knowledge and Innovation

 

Shifting from low-cost manufacturing to economies based on knowledge, innovation, and high-end services is imperative if developing Asia is to sustain its high growth rate, experts said today at an Asian Development Bank (ADB) seminar. The seminar, Innovative Asia: Advancing the Knowledge Economy, took place at the 47th Annual Meeting of ADB’s Board of Governors being held here from 2-5 May. “Asia’s emerging economies can reach - and go beyond - middle-income levels by becoming knowledge-based economies like Japan, the Republic of Korea, and Singapore. Systematic investment in new information and communication, manufacturing and other technologies is needed for these countries to create and innovate themselves,” Bindu Lohani, ADB’s Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development said in advance of the seminar.

 

Developed economies have spent time and resources to move up the value chain. By drawing on best practices and latest technologies, Asia can leapfrog by, for example, shifting to smart energy grids, cloud computing, 3D manufacturing, and mobile rather than fixed-line communications. At the same time, growing regional trade and the likelihood that the region will account for half of the global middle class and 40% of the global consumer market by 2020 means it is well placed to assimilate those technologies. To do that, developing Asia needs to increase investment in research and development, perhaps by pooling their investments, to create innovative, competitive industries. Public funding may be needed to help companies start up. Higher education and training need to be significantly improved to generate the skills and critical thinking processes vital to a modern competitive economy. In addition, governments need to put in place mechanisms and adopt policies that enable innovation and creativity to flourish. This includes protecting intellectual property rights, providing adequate financing options, and nurturing more flexible labor markets.

 

As well as Vice-President Lohani, speakers at the seminar included Tateo Arimoto, Professor and Director of the Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Program at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Japan; Dan Breznitz, Munk Chair of Innovation Studies at the University of Toronto; and Joong-Kyung Choi, former Minister of the Ministry of Knowledge Economy in the Republic of Korea. Joining them were Sujatha Ramdorai, academic and member of India’s National Innovation Council; and Tatang Akhmad Taufik, Deputy Chairman for Technology Policy Assessment in Indonesia's Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology. ADB will release a full study on knowledge economies called Innovative Asia: Advancing the Knowledge Economy later this year.

From http://www.adb.org/ 05/03/2014

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ADB President Says Innovative Solutions Are Key to Asia's Changing Needs

 

Asia and the Pacific is the most dynamic region in the world. Yet, poverty remains the biggest challenge. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will sharpen its operational focus to better help its clients overcome challenges, ADB President Takehiko Nakao said today in his opening address to the 47th Annual Meeting of ADB’s Board of Governors. “There are still many challenges to tackle – traditional ones and emerging ones. As the largest development institution based in Asia, ADB must also transform to meet these challenges with reforms and innovative solutions,” he said. The region’s economy has performed well and this has translated to much-reduced poverty, defined as less than $1.25 per day. But this threshold is well over 10 years old and cannot even support a minimum standard of living in today’s Asia and the Pacific, he said. More than 1.6 billion people in the region live on less than $2 a day. They remain vulnerable to sudden, unexpected shocks such as job loss or crop failure.

 

A huge infrastructure gap, environmental degradation and climate change, and the untapped potential of regional cooperation and integration also need to be addressed. Meanwhile, middle-income countries, which now comprise the majority of countries in the region, face additional problems such as rapid urbanization, aging populations, environmental challenges, and how best to avoid becoming mired in the middle-income trap. ADB’s midterm review of its long-term strategy, Strategy 2020, adopted 10 strategic priorities for ADB to better support client countries in dealing with these issues: (i) poverty reduction and inclusive growth; (ii) environment and climate change; (iii) regional cooperation and integration; (iv) infrastructure development; (v) support to middle-income countries; (vi) private sector development and operations; (vii) knowledge solutions; (viii) financial resources and partnerships; (ix) delivering value for money; and (x) organizing to meet new challenges.

 

President Nakao outlined in his address how ADB will put these priorities into concrete actions. To strengthen its support for inclusive growth, ADB will expand its operations in education, health, social protection, and inclusive business. ADB will continue to address climate change, putting increased emphasis on adaptation efforts in addition to mitigation, promote regional integration not only through improving cross-border connectivity but also through trade facilitation, and work on financial sector links. The President emphasized the importance of good infrastructure such as roads, power, and water in promoting inclusive growth. “Such infrastructure is essential for people to go to hospitals and schools,” he said. “It also improves access to jobs and markets, thereby helping more people out of poverty.” ADB will support the efforts of middle-income countries to improve productivity, mainstream innovations, catalyze private sector financing, adopt international best practices, and integrate into the regional and global economy. In addition to being a project financier, it will become a more active project developer and expand support for public-private partnerships to mobilize more private sector investment and improve the delivery of public services.

 

ADB will strengthen its knowledge work and knowledge sharing. Many countries are interested in learning from the best practices ADB has developed through operations in other countries. Resident missions will play a crucial role in coordinating various departments and provide services to clients as “One ADB”. Given the region’s huge financing needs, ADB will seek ways to enhance its financial capacity and support for poverty reduction. To this end, it has proposed combining the lending operations of its Ordinary Capital Resources (OCR) with those of the Asian Development Fund (ADF). If approved, the proposal “would allow us to increase our lending capacity, and enhance support for low-income countries while reducing the burden on ADF donors,” the President said. “It would also better position ADB to respond to any future financing needs including for natural disasters and economic crises.”

 

To improve efficiency and ensure value for money, the Bank will streamline its processes and boost the effectiveness of its on-the-ground operations. ADB will also work to attract and retain highly skilled staff to solve problems and help clients in the best possible way. “I will ensure that we have the staff skills needed to respond to the region’s needs today, and tomorrow,” the President said. ADB’s Board of Governors has been gathering between 2 May and 5 May in Astana, Kazakhstan, the first time for ADB to hold the meeting in the country.

From http://www.adb.org/ 05/04/2014

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APEC Boosting Tax Reform to Drive Tourism Growth

 

Tax reform that eases burdens on tourism and travel services companies and consumers is needed to support development within the sector and deepen its contribution to economic growth in the Asia-Pacific as demand for international travel increases within the region. Progress towards more effective taxation regimes was made in recent discussions between tourism ministry officials from APEC economies and industry representatives in the historic Andes Mountain town of Cusco, the gateway to Machu Picchu. This pursuit is part of broader efforts to advance services trade in the region that will be in view during the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting on 17-18 May in Qingdao, China. “International travel and tourism is on the rise in Peru and across the Pacific but there is an opportunity for much greater industry growth,” said Magali Silva Velarde-Alvarez, Peru’s Foreign Trade and Tourism Minister, who will be at the table in Qingdao. “Lifting impediments on service providers, including opaque taxation regimes and unnecessary costs that are ultimately passed on to consumers, is needed to unlock the region’s market potential. APEC economies are now working actively to address this.”

 

APEC’s 21 member economies welcomed 355 million international tourists last year, propelling an industry that employs about 125 million people, according to World Travel and Tourism Council data. Tourism is expected to deliver more than USD650 billion to the APEC region’s economy in 2016, when Peru will host APEC. Member economies could gain up to 57 million additional international tourism arrivals by that time, creating 2.6 million new jobs, based on the adoption of policy changes in areas such as taxation, the World Tourism Organization reports. “Tax levels and how they are applied, for example, through air passenger duties, are major determinants of the cost of international travel which greatly influences demand,” explained Javier Guillermo, Lead Shepherd of the APEC Tourism Working Group. “When a tax regime is improperly structured, it can result in unprofitable air routes and service reductions, and weigh on the ability of travel and tourism companies to operate.”

 

APEC economies have launched a new joint project to promote tax reform within the industry. “We will gauge the impact of current taxation measures and simulated modifications to them over time, in relation to travel and tourism demand, revenues and job growth,” noted Molina. “Our goal is to determine how to achieve more transparent, fair and equitable tax regimes to reduce barriers to tourism development.” “The recommendations we put forward for tax reform, based on our project findings, must be relatively simple to understand so that unintended consequences such as new financial and administrative costs for businesses and travelers are avoided,” Molina added. “At the same time, a one-size-fits-all approach is unsuitable given the diversity of the region’s taxation systems and tourism sectors.” The project will draw on business and consumer interviews and surveys, primary data collection and onsite assessments of issuing authorities in a cross-section of APEC economies. The findings will be examined by the region’s Tourism Ministers when they meet in September 2014 in Macau, China.

From http://www.apec.org/ 05/08/2014

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APEC Cracking Down on Medical Product Fraud

 

APEC member economies are moving ahead with a joint multi-year initiative to improve the integrity of medical product manufacturing and security of distribution chains across borders to combat fraud in the world’s largest consumer market. Discussions between senior administrative authority officials, technical experts and industry representatives over the last week in Qingdao opened the door to greater alignment of policies safeguarding pharmaceuticals, medical devices and biomedical goods in regional and global supply chain networks, which they agreed is critical to the protection of public health. “There is considerable variation in medical product manufacturing, distribution, and import-export practice requirements, not to mention differences in the oversight of things like internet pharmacies which are proliferating,” said Dr Ryan MacFarlane, Co-Chair of the APEC Life Sciences Innovation Forum. “Regulatory gaps, in and across economies, create opportunities for bad actors to interject unregulated products into the marketplace.”

 

“Our priority is to improve access to safe medicines,” Dr MacFarlane explained. “The only way for us to ensure medical product quality and safety and that international shipments flow in a robust, secure way is through the establishment of a seamless regulatory environment based on global standards and the type of far-reaching policy coordination we are pursuing now.” APEC economies are working towards regulatory convergence for medical products by 2020, as agreed to by APEC Trade Ministers who will meet this weekend in Qingdao. The focus is on stocktaking existing regulatory approaches and the use of public-private partnerships to drive the formulation and implementation of regulatory best practices. This is supported by capacity building training in areas like surveillance and monitoring of the movement of products not meeting established requirements.

 

“Keeping a lid on medical products that don’t meet required specifications, that are misbranded, adulterated or are counterfeit is a challenge for us all,” said Mark Paxton, a compliance expert from the US Food and Drug Administration’s office of Drug Security, Integrity and Recalls who heads the initiative’s oversight committee. “What we’re asking each other is, “what are the holes and what do we need to do to fill them to increase assurance levels about product quality, safety and efficacy?” “We are sitting down with regulated stakeholders in the medical products and the logistic sectors to work out solutions that are based on international best practices and make sure that they are informed enough to meet them,” Paxton added. “At the same time, we’re trying to keep compliance costs in check by encouraging the adoption of global data standards to avoid undermining product innovation and increasing prices for consumers.” Private sector representatives underscored the importance of maintaining the right regulatory balance and offered views on advancing this process. 

 

“The goal is to have economies adopt common global data standards for medical products moving through the supply chain,” said Kate Clemans a senior trade director with Crowell & Moring International. “If you have a little tweak in your product verification requirements, suddenly you’re out 30 per cent in terms of compliance costs,” noted Clemans who is an advisor to the APEC Life Sciences Innovation Forum Co-chairs. “These numbers can get very big, very fast. Regulatory harmonization is a route to reducing the cost of compliance for companies in the sector, which ultimately boosts trade, economic growth and patient welfare,” she concluded. Regulatory authorities will provide an update on the progress of their implementation work and identify next steps during an APEC High Level Meeting on Health and the Economy in Beijing in August.

From http://www.apec.org/ 05/12/2014

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APEC Pursuing Continuity and Innovation Balance

 

Senior Officials from APEC member economies are now meeting in the port city of Qingdao to deliver new breakthroughs in the promotion of trade and economic cooperation and design frameworks for the sustainable development and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific. Li Baodong, Chair of the APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting and Vice Foreign Minister of China, provided insight into how this is being advanced in his opening speech and articulated a desire to realize early returns based on the APEC China 2014 framework and priorities. Collaboration between APEC economies is focused on “Advancing Regional Economic Integration,” “Promoting Innovative Development, Economic Reform and Growth,” and “Strengthening Comprehensive Connectivity and Infrastructure Development.” Together, APEC’s 21 member economies account for about half of world trade and 60 per cent of total gross domestic product.      

 

“In the coming days, we will improve cooperation initiatives, design outcome frameworks and further consolidate consensus,” Vice Minister Li said. “We will lay a solid foundation for a successful APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in November.” “We should give attention to both global trends and pragmatic demands by member economies,” he explained. “We should also try to strike a balance between continuity and innovation.” APEC Senior Officials are addressing the next step towards the realization of a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific, a goal endorsed by APEC Economic Leaders. This involves improving information-sharing between participants in free trade agreements and regional trade agreements. Advancing the multilateral trading system, global value chains, innovative development, economic reform and growth, and an APEC blueprint on connectivity are additional subjects for discussion over the next two days.

 

“We’re now arriving at the mid-point of the China APEC year,” Vice Minister Li noted. “What we should do now is fulfill the historic mission to bring more strength to regional partnership and openness, inclusiveness, mutual benefit and win-win process.” “We should attach high importance to relevant conclusions and recommendations, improve our initiatives and bring our work on cooperation to an even higher level,” Vice Minister Li continued. “We should spare no efforts to promote relevant cooperation with the aim of getting an early harvest.” “As the saying goes, once an outline is laid out, everything will fall into its right place,” he concluded. The Second APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting will continue through Thursday. The APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting will follow on 17-18 May.

From http://www.apec.org/ 05/14/2014

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APEC Tackling New Food Security Challenges

 

APEC member economies are deepening public-private collaboration to improve industry production and supply chains to ensure access to safe, high quality food supplies across the Asia-Pacific, the world’s largest agricultural marketplace. Agricultural officials and industry representatives from the region, who met this week in Qingdao, underscored the importance of advancing innovative development within the sector to keep pace with changing regional and global conditions and meet long-term food security requirements. APEC Senior Officials are addressing related policy avenues here through Thursday. APEC economies account for about forty per cent of the world’s population which is expected to jump from 7.2 billion today to 9.6 billion by 2050, according to the United Nations. It is estimated that food production will need to increase by 70 per cent to meet demand at that time.

 

“Population growth and increasing domestic consumption as incomes around the region rise, characterized by a shift to more protein-rich diets, are compelling the public and private sectors to work together to meet the food needs of tomorrow.” said Dr Han Jizhi, Chair of the APEC Policy Partnership on Food Security. “Industrialization and urbanization are intensifying but arable land and water resources continue to decrease and environmental pressures are mounting,” Dr Han noted. “The changing global landscape poses grave challenges to food production and access. If these are not properly addressed, the implications for food security in the region could be severe.” APEC economies are working with the private sector to promote sustainable agricultural and fisheries development practices and facilitate investment and infrastructure growth. The APEC Policy Partnership on Food Security was created by the region’s Leaders in 2011 as a channel for the sharing of industry data, best practices and policy ideas to support these objectives. It is now implementing an "APEC Food Security Roadmap Towards 2020."

 

New seed varieties, better cultivation and enhanced irrigation and fertilization have greatly increased production capacity. Improving conditions for agricultural technology exchange, the adoption of better post-harvest management systems to reduce food losses and wastage, standards development and more barrier free supply chains are particular APEC focus areas. “We are pursuing a comprehensive approach to public-private cooperation to boost food production capacity and ensure that food supplies move across the region efficiently, cheaply and safely,” Dr Han concluded. “Our aim is to keep prices in check and boost the health and nutrition of the people in our region.” APEC Ocean-related Ministers will meet in Xiamen, China on 27-28 August. It will be followed by a gathering of APEC Food Security Ministers in Beijing on 18-19 September.

From http://www.apec.org/ 05/14/2014

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Enhancing Innovation and Workforce Skills

 

As the Asia-Pacific wrestles with sustaining economic growth, policy researchers offered recommendations this week in Qingdao to enable APEC members to capture higher-value added growth through transforming into innovation and knowledge-based economies. The recommendations were presented at the APEC Study Centers Consortium Annual Conference which held in-depth and extensive discussions focusing on the priorities of APEC 2014. APEC Senior Officials meeting in Qingdao were briefed on the outcomes on Thursday. “Innovation and human resource development are part of the key priorities of APEC China 2014,” said Dr Liu Chenyang, Chair of the APEC Study Centers Consortium 2014. “These two critical factors will help upgrade middle income economies to high-income status and provide new growth drivers in the region.” There are more than 50 APEC Study Centers hosted by universities and research institutes around the APEC region. They undertake research, disseminate information and facilitate discussion on APEC-related issues, initiatives and processes to support APEC’s vision and goals.

 

Researchers at the conference analyzed some of APEC economies’ challenges in terms of innovation and labor issues, and offered recommendations to the region’s policymakers. “One of the bottlenecks in the region’s human resource development is the problem of labor talent mismatch,” said Dr Tereso S. Tullao, Director of the Angelo King Institute, Da La Salle University in the Philippines. “This talent mismatch is partially a result of the costs associated with educational institutions realigning their curriculum to respond to a rapidly evolving business environment,” explained Dr Tullao. “Tailoring academic programs to meet specific industry needs can also create rigidities in skills and may be counterproductive in the long-run as the curriculum becomes out-of-date by the time graduates exit universities.” Dr Tullao recommends that schools produce graduates that are trainable and flexible critical thinkers more suited to the changing technologies and varying demands of the workplace.

 

Dr Nam Sang-yirl, Research Fellow at the Korean Information Society Development Institute, commended APEC’s Telecommunications and Information Working Group for achieving the Brunei Goal of tripling internet access from 2000-2005 and targeting universal access to broadband by 2015. The Brunei Goal was endorsed by APEC Leaders in 2000 to promote greater innovative development. Although information and communications technology access and infrastructure has expanded significantly in the region in the last decade, some critical gaps exist across the region when it comes to technology utilization,” explained Dr Nam. “APEC will need to focus on reducing the gap in the actual use and application of information technologies, which does not immediately increase after internet access is introduced,” he noted. Computer literacy and software training will be required to close this gap. This is an area the APEC’s Telecommunications and Information Working Group can play a key role, Dr Nam concluded.

From http://www.apec.org/ 05/15/2014

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CHINA: Adding 3 Mln New Jobs in Q1

 

China's employed population in urban areas increased by 3.44 million in the first quarter of this year, with the unemployment rate remaining low, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said on Friday. The figure was slightly higher than the same period last year, although in the Jan-March period the country's economic growth dipped to its lowest level since the third quarter of 2012. By the end of March, the country's registered urban unemployment rate stood at 4.08 percent, almost flat compared with that of last year, said ministry spokesman Li Zhong at a press conference. China also worked to improve rural employment, as 7.27 million workers in rural areas were employed in local enterprises and arrangements were made for 6.49 million workers to work in other regions in the first quarter. Nine provincial regions, including Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing, raised their minimum wage standards, with average increases of 13.2 percent. By the Spring Festival, the Chinese government had retrieved delayed wages of 10.89 billion yuan (1.77 billion U.S. dollars) for over 1.5 million migrant workers, Li said. In the first quarter, labor security supervision organizations investigated 93,000 illegal cases, inspected 398,000 employers and urged employers to sign contracts with 536,000 employees, retrieving salaries of 14.29 billion yuan and social insurance worth 250 million yuan. Gross revenue of social insurance funds increased 18.8 percent year on year to 912.13 billion yuan, while gross expenditures totaled 730.73 billion yuan, up 18.5 percent from a year ago, Li said. The revenue of pension funds totaled 63.67 billion yuan in the first quarter with expenditures at 39.41 billion yuan. China's social insurance funds contain five parts, including basic pension funds, basic medical insurance, unemployment insurance, work-related injury insurance and maternity insurance. China announced in February it will establish a unified national pension system that covers both urban residents and rural dwellers. By the end of March, 496.69 million people had been included in the system, with nearly 30 percent starting to enjoy the benefits. Pension incomes of corporate retirees were also lifted this year, with an average increase of ten percent to improve livelihood for retirees.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/25/2014

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China Sees Increasing Invention Patents

 

China saw major progress in invention patent applications and grants as the country aims to forge an innovation-powered economy.The State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) accepted 156,000 invention patent applications in the first quarter of 2014, up 10.6 percent year on year.The portion of such applications in all the accepted patent applications expanded to nearly 40 percent in the first three months.According to a joint survey conducted by the SIPO and the National Bureau of Statistics, every 10,000 people owned an average of 4.2 invention patents at the end of March, 0.2 more than at the end of 2013.The SIPO director Shen Changyu said intellectual property creativity in China is improving notably and the number of patents, trademarks and copyrights, is growing at a fast speed.The survey also showed that patented inventions play an important role in enhancing profitability in major industrial enterprises.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/28/2014

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Vice President Calls on the Youth to Work for 'Chinese Dream'

 

Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao called on young people to work for the "Chinese dream" on the country's Youth Day, which fell on Sunday.In a meeting with a group of award-winning young people, Li said he hoped young Chinese would have faith in the Communist Party of China and socialism with Chinese characteristics.He urged them to integrate their personal dreams with the bigger dream of the Chinese nation's revival and work hard to realize their dreams.Li also called on all young people to learn from role models and develop upright values and virtues.The Chinese Youth Day was established in December 1949 to commemorate the beginning of the May 4th Movement in 1919, a student protest that grew out of dissatisfaction with the Treaty of Versailles settlement. It is regarded by China as a patriotic movement against imperialism and feudalism.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/04/2014

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Xi Urges Continuing Efforts to Improve Work Style

 

President Xi Jinping on Friday called for effective measures to prevent the ongoing campaign that aims to improve work style of officials from turning into "half-cooked rice."The campaign should not be reduced to a mere formality or conducted in a perfunctory way, Xi told Lankao County officials in central China's Henan Province.He said this while attending a meeting of standing committee members of the local Party committee, held to discuss problems and mistakes among the members and ways to solve them."Fighting formalism with formalism will have negative effects," he said. "Healthy work styles are created through fostering resistance to disease and dispelling pathogenic influences."The President urged adherence to firm Communist beliefs and promotion of officials who do their work in an earnest, rather than superficial way.Each case concerning unhealthy work style, especially those reported by grassroots citizens, should be dealt with and solved, Xi said, while calling for a mechanism to ensure the long term effectiveness of the campaign.The achievements already made during the campaign show that harmful work styles can be recognized and straightened out, despite their varied forms and complicated causes, Xi said.As part of the second round of the CPC campaign, each of the seven Standing Committee members of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee has been allocated a county to supervise. Xi, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, paired with Lankao County.Xi called on county officials to use their power fairly and strive to bring more benefits to the people.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/10/2014

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Chinese Think Tank Studies Int'l Business Corruption

 

The Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, a Chinese think tank, issued a report "Going Global: Research on International Business Anti-Corruption Rules" on May 13, the first report of its kind in China.As an increasing number of Chinese enterprises become engaged in international business, corruption poses one of the greatest obstacles in their overseas expansion. While some corruption cases can be attributed to business leaders' ethical integrity, others stem from a lack of awareness of international rules and practices. Hence, it is imperative for Chinese enterprises to learn more about international anti-corruption rules and conventions, the report said.The report translated into Chinese the ICC Rules on Combating Corruption and ICC Anti-corruption Clause, two primary texts on anti-corruption issued by the International Chamber of Commerce, one of the world's largest business organizations.

 

The report also commented on areas where the international community and Chinese enterprises diverge in rules and practices. For instance, Chinese companies usually keep two account books, while the international community is against this practice. Though cash payments are often adopted by Chinese companies, this is rarely the case in foreign businesses."Due to a lack of understanding of the international environment and code of conduct, Chinese enterprises have taken some 'detours' that could have been avoided, one of which is corruption in business. The introduction of the anti-corruption rules has also been made possible because of the high level of attention paid by both the international community and the Chinese government." said Chen Yulu, president of Renmin University of China, member of the Monetary Policy Committee at the People's Bank of China, and dean of the RDCY, during the press conference for the report on Tuesday.

 

Harold McGraw III, chairman of the ICC, said in his speech that "corruption exists and it exists everywhere" and that the ICC endeavors to make sure that "companies have the ability to conduct business in an ethical way." The introduction of the ICC anti-corruption rules will help promote enterprises' self-discipline and eventually enable them to contribute to the global growth agenda, he said.The research on anti-corruption rules was carried out jointly by the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, the International Chamber of Commerce, the China Chamber of Commerce, and the Bank of China.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/14/2014

 

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China to Promote Innovative Securities Businesses

 

China's Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) announced on Thursday that it has issued a guideline to stimulate innovation in securities businesses.Securities institutions should support the real economy while exploring new services and products, the guideline said.They should also give priority to help medium-sized, small and micro enterprises and the modern service industry, while improving competitiveness of the securities sector, the commission said.The guideline urged full use of the market in upgrading business operations and encouraged the spirit of initiative.The CSRC warned of financial difficulties ahead and stressed the importance of risk controls.The guideline set three main targets. These are building modern investment banks with broader channels and cross-border banking, supporting new products in asset management, bulk stock, derivatives and private equity, as well as upgrading supervision with easier access.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/16/2014

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China Goes Local to Soften Hit from Property Downturn

 

China will increasingly manage its property sector at a local level as it seeks to avoid sparking either an abrupt slowdown that undermines the economy or another surge in prices, according to government economists involved in policy discussions.After increasing at double-digit rates through most of last year, home prices started cooling in late 2013 as a sustained campaign to clamp down on speculative investment and easy credit gained traction.Annual growth in average new home prices slowed to an 11-month low in April, official data showed on Sunday. Existing home prices dropped from a month earlier in 22 of 70 cities in April, compared with 14 in March.Data last week showed property sales dropped 6.9 percent in the January-April period from a year earlier in terms of floor space, and fell 7.8 percent in terms of value.Authorities know a severe property crunch could worsen a build-up of debt, but also that a blanket easing of restrictions could set off another round of credit-fuelled house price rises.

 

"There is no sign that the central government will relax property controls on a nationwide scale even though the economy is slowing," said Zhao Xijun, deputy head of the Finance and Securities Institute at Renmin University in Beijing."The pressure is mainly on local governments, because some of their debts are maturing and they need to repay."Local governments rely heavily on revenues from land sales to fund debts that official data show total 17.9 trillion yuan ($2.9 trillion), so price falls and slowing sales have sparked concerns about their ability to service their debts.The economists expect restrictions on property introduced over the past five years to largely remain in place, particularly in major cities, but with some local authorities given leeway to support their markets.Some smaller cities, including the eastern city of Tongling in Anhui province and Ningbo, the coastal city of eastern Zhejiang province and the southern city of Nanning in Guangxi, have started to loosen home purchase rules.Back in 2012, Beijing forced governments in areas including Wuhu, Foshan and Chengdu to retract plans to ease controls on real estate, but there has been no such response this year.

 

"They (policymakers) are still watching. Property prices have started to fall but they still don't see any serious problems," said a senior economist at a government think-tank in Beijing."The bottom line is that a property slowdown doesn't trigger financial risks," said the economist, who spoke on condition of anonymity.President Xi Jinping has said China should adapt to a "new normal" of slower growth as the government pushes market-based reforms to cut debt levels in the economy and generate more sustainable long-term growth.The cooling real estate market helped drag annual economic growth to an 18-month low of 7.4 percent in the first quarter, and a sustained fall would risk China missing its economic growth target for the first time in 15 years.Standard Chartered said official figures showed 17 months stock of apartments in first-tier to third-tier cities, which cover China's major metropolises, including Beijing and Shanghai."The momentum is clearly negative.

 

This downturn appears worse than previous episodes - the scale of oversupply is likely to be larger, and policy makers are understandably more hesitant to step in with immediate support," Standard Chartered economists said in a report.The government is still trying to deal with the hangover of a 4 trillion yuan stimulus package implemented in 2008-2009, which insulated China from the global crisis but also created piles of local debt and record house prices."It's natural to relax controls if property prices fall. Our purpose is to curb price rises and we should relax if prices no longer rise," said Zhu Baoliang, chief economist at State Information Centre, a top government think-tank."I don't think property prices will rise further. On the contrary, the downward pressure is big."Last week the central bank called on banks to speed up the granting of home loans to first home buyers, although that is seen having only a limited impact.

 

"We doubt that banks will rush out with mortgages," analysts at Bank of America/Merill Lynch said in a research note."Even a meaningful increase in mortgage supply shouldn't fundamentally change the worsening property market conditions."Many economists believe that if the economy slows further, the central bank will cut banks' reserve requirement ratios around the middle of the year. That would support activity, but it is a broad-brush policy that authorities can't fully control."We need to keep liquidity relatively loose to help safeguard economic growth," said Li Huiyong, chief economist at Shenyin & Wanguo Securities in Shanghai."But money has no label and we cannot rule out the possibility that money will drive up property prices, even though it has yet to lead to improvement in the economy."

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/19/2014

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JAPAN: Easing Mixed Treatment Restrictions Would Expand Options for Patients

 

The government has decided to expand the scope of exceptions to the ban on so-called mixed treatment. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has started work on concrete proposals at the instruction of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. We urge the government to act on this as soon as possible, so patients will have better access to advanced medical treatments that are effective in dealing with their ailments. Mixed treatment is defined as a combination of medical practices covered by public health insurance—such as examinations and medication—with those that are not. The health ministry bans these mixed treatments, fearing they would be of dubious efficacy or safety. It is a safe assumption that there are many patients who suffer from intractable or rare diseases and wish to try treatments already in common use abroad but which do not yet have regulatory authorization in Japan.

 

However, under the current legal framework for mixed treatments, if patients use unauthorized drugs, other treatments used together with the drugs will be excluded from public health insurance—including fees for medical examinations and hospital expenses. As a result, patients are forced to pay 100 percent of medical costs. It is understandable that many people criticize the current system, decrying the excessive financial burden it forces on patients. Today, there are only about 100 types of treatment and practices authorized as exceptions to the ban, including heavy ion therapy—a method of advanced radiotherapy for cancer—and genetic testing for familial Alzheimer’s disease. The health ministry plans to add some unauthorized drugs, including certain anticancer agents, to the list of exceptions, with the proviso that only patients suffering from serious conditions would be subject to the exception. The ministry is also discussing the addition of regenerative medical treatments involving the cultivation of human cells and tissues and treatments using unauthorized medical equipment to the list. There are several benefits expected from an expanded scope for mixed treatment authorization. Patients, for example, will have greater options for treatment, and it is anticipated that doctors will work more proactively in trying new treatments.

 

The government’s Regulatory Reform Council has proposed plans for a system to make mixed treatments available to more patients. Under the plan, mixed treatment would be available to patients if they reach an agreement with doctors. The plan would cover a greater range of patients than plans proposed by the health ministry. There is, however, one significant point of concern over the reform council plan: doctors could receive patient consent for mixed treatments without providing a thorough explanation. There are limits to the amount of medical information patients can obtain on their own. We must avoid a situation where patients are compelled to undergo medical treatments that lack sufficient scientific grounding for their efficacy. Establishing a clear yardstick for deciding which medical treatments warrant deregulation is a key issue for the government. One idea is to allow the use of drugs confirmed effective and safe through clinical tests performed in other countries. Allowing medical treatments on the basis of recommendations by domestic or foreign institutions is another potential option. We urge the government to establish a framework for easing regulation of mixed treatments, which gives patients and their interests top priority, while at the same time giving safety the scrutiny it requires.

From http://the-japan-news.com 04/23/2014

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Abe: Nation Needs More Flexible Working Style

 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered relevant Cabinet ministers to review the practice of long working hours, and to begin to study a system that enables a variety of working styles, at a joint meeting between the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy and the Council for Industrial Competitiveness on Tuesday. In the face of a shrinking working-age population brought about by a low birthrate, the government hopes to activate the labor market and promote economic growth. “To grow sustainably, we need flexible styles of working so that all citizens can display their abilities to the maximum extent,” Abe said at the meeting, where he called for a review of the labor system to enable working styles that are adapted to people’s circumstances, such as raising children or caring for infirm family members. Private-sector members of the councils called for a new labor management system that meets the prerequisites of the Labor Standards Law based on results, not working hours.

 

Specifically, certain highly skilled employees who want to work independently would be given individual discretion over their working hours and how to carry out their jobs. Companies could award compensation based on achievements in predetermined job duties. The system is envisioned to apply to workers earning at least ¥10 million per year and who want to participate. Companies would strive to understand working conditions in detail and be aware of workers’ health to prevent unreasonable workloads. A system similar to this already exists. Known as the “Japanese version of the white-collar exemption,” it allows employees making over a certain income level to freely determine their working hours in exchange for eliminating overtime pay. The first Abe administration wanted to introduce this system, but backed off after it was criticized as being tied to wage restraints. “I would like you to investigate a framework for a new working-hours system that befits work styles evaluated based on results, not time,” Abe said at the meeting.

 

In addition, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry proposed utilizing flextime, which allows workers to choose when they begin and end work, as well as telecommuting, in which employees work from home without coming into the office. Since such systems could not be applied in all cases, the government also intends to examine further working styles that are not bound by limitations on working hours. Other proposals made at the meeting included promoting men’s work-life balance, making it compulsory to take paid leave and expanding job training for irregular employees. The government’s interest in reforming the labor market has been spurred by the relentless decline in the working-age population due to the low birthrate. Lifetime employment, where workers stay at the same company until retirement, is the mainstream in Japan

 

In this system, salaries increase as workers accumulate years of service. In many cases, workers must work long hours or be reassigned to other workplaces at the convenience of the company. Entrenchment of uniform working styles makes it difficult for women to work, as their actual availability for work duties is sometimes limited by child-rearing or nursing-care responsibilities. Without a variety of working styles to choose from, environments that are friendly to women, young people, the elderly and other workers cannot be created, which makes it difficult to achieve sustained economic growth. The government intends to make activating the labor force a pillar of its new growth strategy, expected to be compiled in June. “We need a system that makes it easy to manage working time and time for living, but it’s important to establish conditions so people aren’t compelled to work long hours,” Hisashi Yamada of the Japan Research Institute said.

From http://the-japan-news.com 04/24/2014

 

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Govt Sets Numerical Targets for Anti-Disaster Measures

 

With the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake in mind, the government has compiled two draft plans, one stipulating how to promote the nation’s countermeasures to prepare for disasters and reduce damage on a long-term basis, and the other setting concrete numerical targets for such measures. Assuming a Nankai Trough earthquake off the Pacific coast or a massive quake with its focus just beneath the Tokyo metropolitan area, the draft clearly states concrete numerical targets such as the completion rate of sea embankments and the percentage of buildings equipped for quake resistance. The government will officially decide on the plans as early as the end of this month and reflect them in budgets for the next fiscal year and thereafter. The two plans—a basic plan on making Japan disaster-ready and disaster resistant, and a 2014 action plan concerning numerical targets of respective measures—will be compiled based on the basic law to make Japan more resilient against disasters, enacted in December. Respective drafts were announced at a meeting of a relevant expert panel Wednesday and largely agreed upon by the panel. The basic plan will be reviewed by the Cabinet every five years, while the action plan will be compiled every fiscal year and will be decided by a group, comprising the prime minister and all Cabinet members, tasked with promoting measures to make the nation resilient against disasters.

 

Setting such basic policies as a departure from excess concentration of population and industry in the Tokyo metropolitan area, the draft of the basic plan lists 15 categories related to land and society that are vulnerable to disasters, including “administrative functions, police and fire fighting,” “housing and urban areas” and “energy.” As necessary measures to address these problems, it stipulates such measures as enhancing information and telecommunications networks, building road networks to enable drivers to take detours in the wake of major disasters and boosting the oil supply system. Concerning measures against tsunami, the draft of the action plan includes a goal to raise the completion rate of sea embankments from the current 31 percent in fiscal 2012 to 66 percent by fiscal 2016, in accordance with a Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry plan. In the wake of the March 11, 2011, disaster, supply networks for food and industrial products were severed, resulting in a shortage of commodities in disaster-hit areas and the Tokyo metropolitan area.

From http://the-japan-news.com 05/16/2014

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SOUTH KOREA: Gov't Launches Comprehensive Safety Inspection

 

The Office for Government Policy Coordination has announced comprehensive safety inspections will be launched throughout Korea starting Wednesday. The main targets for the safety check will be transportation including ships, trains and aviation as well as bridges, public facilities, nuclear power plants and buildings handling harmful chemicals. The government said businesses will have two weeks to conduct their own internal inspection. On May 9 a joint team comprised of police and national and local government authorities will carry out the safety inspections. The government will report the results to the Cabinet late next month, and will draft a safety master plan and improve the disaster management system based on the findings. 

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 04/23/2014

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Telecom Ministry to Crack Down on Pirate Phones

 

South Korea's telecom ministry said Wednesday it will seek a law revision to slap fines of up to 100 million won (US$96,311) on those using mobile phones under borrowed names, a practice used widely in crimes and illegal activities to evade investigation. The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning said it hopes to establish legal grounds by June to punish any activities related to using or inducing, advertising, and mediating the use of such "pirate" phones, with possible penalties also including a prison term of up to three years.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr 04/23/2014

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Gov't to Overhaul Disaster Manuals

 

The government has decided to revamp its disaster-related manuals following criticism over its initial response to the sinking of the Sewol ferry. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport will first review all accidents from various transportation modes to see if the current manuals in place have been effective. Based on the results, the ministry will revise the manuals. The land ministry said it aims to minimize damage in major disasters by making sure government workers clearly understand their roles in the event of an accident.  In the revised manuals, specific roles will be delegated to each worker, such as reporting to the manager or making a call to 119, in order to hold the workers accountable for their actions. The ministry said it will also launch a mobile application within the year to offer quick access to the revamped manuals. Starting Monday, the government will carry out comprehensive safety inspections at some four-thousand facilities including bridges, dams, tunnels and construction sites. The government will inspect disaster-response systems at the sites as well. The government will also look into companies commissioned with safety inspection and supervision to see if there has been any negligence in following basic rules and instructions.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 04/28/2014

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Govt to Develop Long-Range Ship Identification System

 

The Korean government will develop a system to identify ships from a long range in an effort to crack down on illegal Chinese fishing boats and prevent maritime accidents. The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said they will jointly develop the system starting in 2015. The system will take three years to develop and cost 12-billion won. The system will utilize long-range radio frequencies allowing authorities to confirm a ship's authorization from up to ten kilometers away in around ten minutes. The government is also planning to link the coast defense monitoring system to the current maritime radar system to boost surveillance on illegal fishing boats. Authorities estimate illegal Chinese fishing boats cause 580-billion won in damages to Korea every year. 

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 05/05/2014

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Corporate Watchdog Mulls Regulating Pre-contract Unfair Biz Practices

 

South Korea's antitrust watchdog plans to regulate unfair business activities taking place before a final contract is signed, such as the unauthorized use of technologies and unilateral cancellation of supply contracts, its head said Monday. In an interview with Yonhap, Fair Trade Commission Chairman Noh Dae-lae said the watchdog is considering toughening its crackdown on what he calls the "chronic ills" that usually result in damage to smaller and less powerful suppliers.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr 05/12/2014

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Indonesia, Australia Government & World Bank Release New Disaster Mapping Software

 

Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) and the Australian Government, through the Australia-Indonesia Facility for Disaster Reduction and the World Bank - Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (World Bank-GFDRR) have recently released a new version of software that can predict the social and human impact of natural disasters. At the launch of the Indonesian Scenario Assessment for Emergencies or InaSAFE 2.0, a free and open source software, the Head of BNPB Dr Syamsul Maarif said that the tools will help improve disaster preparedness in Indonesia by providing a new way to combine scientific hazard information and community knowledge on disaster risk. “It enables production of realistic natural hazard impact scenarios for better planning, preparedness and response training activities, by incorporating a range of natural hazard information, such as earthquake, volcanoes, tsunami or flood; and exposure data, such as the spatial distribution of population, roads or critical infrastructure,” he said.

 

Australia’s Minister-Counsellor for Development Cooperation in Indonesia, Jean-Bernard Carrasco, said InaSAFE 2.0 includes the ability to work with road data, including a capability to download roads maps directly from the online mapping tool OpenStreetMap (OSM). The new functions could help when planning possible evacuation and emergency response routes. “With the help of Australian Government agency Geoscience Australia and the Australia-Indonesia Facility for Disaster Reduction, over 1.3 million buildings in Indonesia have already been mapped in OSM and this data is being incorporated into InaSAFE”, said Carrasco. The updated software is compatible with the free and open source Geographic Information System QGIS 2.0, and allows users to import spatial data from remote sources and create custom impact map templates. The World Bank-GFDRR is facilitating use of InaSAFE across the world in Africa and to countries such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan. InaSAFE 2.0 is free and open source software that provides disaster managers around the world with a simple but rigorous tool for evidence-based disaster planning.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 05/05/2014

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Indonesia: City Improves Situational Awareness of Firemen with GIS Data Capture App

 

The Department of Building and Fire in Bekasi, Indonesia’s most populated suburb city with a population of over 2.3 million, has deployed a new GIS data capture application that allows firefighters to update and share information in the field. With the new mobile GIS application, firemen and field officers can collect first-hand data and update it in real-time on the go. This increases the visibility of department heads to make more informed decisions on deployment and improves situational awareness for other firefighters on site or on the way to the site. The application also allows users to edit, measure, query and display spatial data. The Department is responsible for protecting and securing the safety of its citizens. Besides fire control missions, the Department also has to prevent any kind of disasters, maintain infrastructures and provide related counsels in a timely way.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 05/21/2014

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SINGAPORE: Government Turns to Innovative Technology Startups with IDA Labs and Accreditation

 

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) officially launched the first two IDA Labs, that will serve as spaces for the community, industry and government agencies to come together to generate new ideas, develop new technologies and test out proof of concepts. Along with this a new Accreditation@IDA programme was also launched to help innovative Singapore-based technology start-ups position themselves as qualified vendors to potential government and large enterprise buyers. One of IDA Labs’ aims is to strengthen technology capabilities of IDA and support innovative technology deployment within government agencies. Public officers will be able to get hands-on with technology and experiment with new technologies in a collaborative work environment. It also provides a secure environment for testing products from local startups for feasibility of use within a government environment and allows various stakeholders within the ecosystem to test the solutions for interoperability. IDA Labs is partnering with Red Hat to provide users of the Labs with advice from Red Hat experts and the open source community. Labs and Red Hat will organise an international challenge to discover projects that are user-friendly and design-centric while meeting functional requirements.

 

Intel will be providing R&D resources, technologies and technical expertise to users of the Labs. HP and Cognizant will also be providing software testing tools and accreditation best-practices and methodologies for the programmes. Explaining how the public sector benefits from the two programmes, Steve Leonard, Executive Deputy Chairman of IDA, told FutureGov, “In order to do something new, we have to reach into areas that are less familiar. To serve citizens better, we need to find new ways to help government do that.” Lee Wan Sie, Deputy Director of IDA Labs, added, “We’ve been talking to government agencies and they are very excited to be able to connect with this network of startups and talent. This programme is bridging what government needs and what the community is interested and can provide.” In line with the Accreditation programme, government agencies’ procurement process is being reviewed to facilitate access to the innovation these pre-qualified companies can provide. The Singapore Government will be introducing initiatives to streamline and ease government procurement from the accredited companies. A framework is also being developed to enable the accreditation status to be considered as an alternative to the current financial grading used as an indicator in government tenders.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 04/25/2014

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New Programme to Train Data Protection Officers

 

SINGAPORE: The National Trades Union Congress' e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) and Straits Interactive on Thursday launched a training programme for data protection officers (DPO). In a joint statement, they said the objective of the programme is to equip companies with the competencies to approach and manage data and privacy protection, and policies. As part of the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), which will be enforced on 2 July, all organisations are required to designate one or more individuals to be responsible for ensuring that the organisation complies with this Act. Gilbert Tan, CEO of e2i, said: "The introduction of the Personal Data Protection Act has implications on the way companies do business and how they market to customers. "Companies, especially SMEs, will need skilled PMEs to take on the role of DPO so as to implement and comply with the PDPA. "To meet this industry need, we partnered Straits Interactive to deliver a hands-on training programme that allows prospective DPOs to quickly acquire new competencies by using a practical approach and borrowing from best practices." Straits Interactive is a company which provides personal data protection and Do Not Call (DNC) Registry solutions. The four-module training programme is open to SMEs to send their local workers who will be appointed as a DPO, or who have been designated to help their companies comply with the Act. The DPO training programme, which costs S$4,999, will receive 50 per cent funding from e2i. 

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 05/15/2014

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THAILAND: Government Launches Mobile App to Enhance Road Safety

 

The National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (NECTEC), a statutory government organisation under Ministry of Science and Technology in Thailand, has launched a mobile application to reduce the risk of road traffic accident. According to NECTEC, recent statistics have shown that Thailand has the second highest global road accident rate per 100,000 citizens. The mobile application, now available on Android and iOS platform, aims to promote safe driving among road users as well as public transportation. The free application known as ‘SafeMate’ uses the accelerometer sensor on the smart phone to analyse the driver’s behaviour in real time. The app alerts drivers when it detects dangerous movements such as sudden braking and swerving. To encourage motorists to change their driving habits, users will be given a score at the end of the trip, their average and maximum speed, as well as suggestions on how they can improve their driving styles the next time they are behind the wheel. Users can also share this information on their social networks.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 05/08/2014

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BANGLADESH: Professionalism Key to Promoting Press Freedom

 

Professionalism both among journalists and owners can play a key role in promoting press freedom in a young democracy like Bangladesh, a discussion here was told on Sunday.   Speakers at the seminar said money should not be the only criterion to get permission to launch a media organisation. The authorities, they said, should check how far an applicant for a TV station or any other media organisation is committed to the profession of journalism and free flow of information. The discussion was organised by Commonwealth Journalists Association, Bangladesh (CJA,B) in collaboration with Management and Resources Development Initiative (MRDI) at Dhaka Club to mark the World Press Freedom Day.  Presided over by CJA,B President Farid Hossain, the meeting was addressed by former Information Minister Dr. Mizanur Rahman Shelly, ex-Chief Information Commissioner Muhammad Zamir, CJA president emeritus Hassan Shahriar, Secretary General of BFUJ Abdul Jalil Bhuiyan, MRDI executive director Hasibur Rahman Mukur and senior journalists Chapal Bashar, Nadim Quadir, Saiful Huda, Mainul Alam, Julhas Alam and Humayun Rasheed Chowdhury. CJA,B secretary general and editor of Bhorer Kagaj Shymol Dutta moderated the discussion. Dr. Shelly underlined the importance of free flow of information in helping democracy take root in Bangladesh. He said when tolerance is expected from the government, the accountability of journalists to society is equally important. He said it has now become a fashion for many wealthy businessmen to own a media house as part of expanding their influence in society. Dr. Shelly referred to the obstacles journalists face in carrying out their duties with integrity. “Yes, there’re challenges and odds in exercising freedom of press,” he said.

From http://unbconnect.com/ 05/04/2014

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INDIA: New Mobile App to Track Train Schedules Launched by Railways

 

Now rail users can get information on expected arrival and departure timings of a particular train on their mobile phones besides tracking its its position on a real time basis. Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS), the information and technology arm of railways, has launched a new mobile application which can be used for various enquiries including train timings, a senior Railway official said. CRIS has enhanced the train enquiry system by developing the mobile app and a desktop application on Windows 8 platform for train enquiries with support from Microsoft, he added National Train Enquiry System (NTES) is railways’ back-end system which provides information to the public about train schedules on a near real time basis through various interfaces like nationwide unique rail enquiry number 139, website (trainenquiry.com), mobile interfaces, touch screens, enquiry counters and display boards at stations.

 

An interface of NTES website along with a mobile version of it was launched in September 2013 earlier which has proved to be quite useful for train passengers, said the official. Among the many features of the new mobile app is the ‘spot your train’ feature which offers information such as its current position, expected time of arrival and departure at a particular station. The ‘Train Schedule’ feature provides complete schedule of a train with all stoppages enroute and its scheduled arrival/departure at the station, distance and day count. In “Trains between Stations” query, one can find out the list of all types of trains available between any two stations on railway network. The mobile App also has “Cancelled Trains” option which displays all trains marked as cancelled. It displays trains which are cancelled through the entire route as well as trains which are cancelled on partial route. Besides, it also provides features for query on rescheduled and diverted trains. The App has been launched for Windows 8.0 phones and will be further developed for other mobile platforms.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 04/26/2014

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Next Big Opportunity in Technology Lies in Innovation: Datawind

 

CHANDIGARH: The next big opportunity in technology lies in innovation and servicing the lowest strata of the society with customized products for their needs, Datawind CEO Suneet Singh Tuli said here. Tuli, the man who created the cost-effective Aakash tablet, said, "This will be the key game changer for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) companies and entrepreneurs and bring a new revolution in this field. There is tremendous untapped potential at lower sections of the society which, ICT companies from the region can tap and reap huge profits." Speaking at an interaction organized jointly by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Consulate General of Canada, Chandigarh, here yesterday, Tuli envisioned bridging the growing gap between the number of mobile Internet users and the number of cell phone users. "Anything and everything around bringing this huge gap low is also an opportunity for all to grab," he said, according to a CII release.

 

Of the estimated 50 lakh tablets sold in 2013, Datawind sold about 10 lakh units, the release said quoting Tuli. He is confident that his company can make tablets at the lowest rate. "Our product, with the same specifications, is almost 40 percent cheaper than the next cheapest model in the market," Tuli pointed out. He said the company has sold more units in Mexico as compared to India but still India is the main market in terms of opportunity. Rajani Alexandera, Consul General of Canada, Chandigarh, said, "We should look at the best practices followed in both India and Canada, and should take advantage of them."The Canadian Consulate General in Chandigarh will showcase the exceptional contribution of Punjabi immigrants in Canada, Alexandera said adding that over the past century and more, Punjabis have moved and settled all over Canada, and now they are the largest group among people of Indian origin. "There are many inspiring stories of professional and personal journeys by Punjabi Canadians, and in 2014 we will showcase five of these. The first in the series would be of Suneet Tuli," she said.

From http://www.siliconindia.com/ 05/04/2014

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Govt-Commissioned Report Hails Gujarat Model

 

A central government-commissioned report has praised the Gujarat model of e-governance implementation in pollution control as the model to be emulated by other states. On May 6, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi pulled out the report, commissioned by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), which also hails the land-related interventions in his state. The department, which is part of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, had roped in global consulting firm Accenture to study best practices in Indian states that can be used as a model for other provinces to enable India to move up the ladder in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings. Modi was quick to pounce on the report within hours of it being uploaded on the department’s website to address his critics, which included Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal, who have repeatedly attacked the Gujarat model of development. During his 3D rallies, Modi pointed to the report and attacked both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul for “abusing Gujarat” and suggested they read the report. Armed with Accenture’s report, BJP decided to take the attack into the enemy camp and said, “The Commerce Minister (Anand Sharma), who himself does not spare a chance to abuse Gujarat, may also like to comment on this report that has come out under the auspices of his own ministry.”

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 05/07/2014

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Novel Scanning Solution to Provide Easy Access to Work Teams Without PC

 

A new line of network scanners from Kodak Alaris provides organizations with a central scanning solution that allows users to efficiently capture information from documents and route it into key business processes without the need for a dedicated PC. Until now, many organizations have been unable to automate some paper-based business processes because a PC isn’t appropriate for the work location (e.g. employees in a particular department don’t require PCs). In other instances, employees may have PCs but it’s preferable that they are limited to performing specific tasks. The KODAK Scan Station 700 Series is ideal for either scenario. The KODAK Scan Station 700 Series connects directly to a network and sends data to multiple destinations simultaneously, including network drives, printers, FTP sites, email, portable USB drives and Microsoft SharePoint. It is designed to meet the needs of small businesses or branch offices of larger organizations in a variety of industries, including healthcare, finance, legal, government, travel and insurance.

 

“The KODAK Scan Station is helping a bank enhance customer relations by allowing tellers to quickly capture documents and access core functions of their business application on the touch screen without leaving the customer,” said Tony Barbeau, General Manager of Kodak Alaris’ Document Imaging division. “The Scan Station also helped the bank meet stringent requirements for user interface and document transfer security. Plus, the integration capabilities allowed the bank to create and distribute a simple application to use on the Scan Station in all of its branches.” Unlike traditional scanners or other multifunction devices, the standalone Scan Station 700) integrates network connectivity and imaging functionality to make scanning more accessible in a shared environment. The large, easy-to-navigate touch screen offers a customizable, intuitive user experience that promises fewer user mistakes and a quicker path to proficiency. A remote administration utility allows administrators to manage, configure, and maintain multiple scanners from a single location.

 

In addition to the standard user interface of the Scan Station 700, the Scan Station 720 EX model extends the solution’s feature set with an integration-friendly architecture. The 720 EX allows select Alaris partners to develop and install highly specialized business applications to automate information processes with even greater efficiency. Other unique features of the Scan Station 720 EX include a built-in fax modem and output to the KOFAX Front Office Server. The Scan Station 720EX design allows third-party applications to add value to existing capture processes, offering a powerful, customizable approach to elevate end users’ information management capabilities. Select partners can create these applications to easily look up projects, confirm deliveries, provide feedback and check the status of projects in the system, saving time and reducing administrative costs for the end user.“Companies can save both time and money with the Scan Station 700 Series, which connects easily to other systems and is designed for either individual or multiple users. It adv nces the value proposition of document management by delivering many improvements across a variety of business processes,” said Will Hebert, Kodak Alaris’ Portfolio Business Manager for Document Imaging.

 

The Scan Station 700 and 720EX support additional accessories for greater versatility and ease of use, including the KODAK Scan Station Keyboard and Stand Accessory, the KODAK Legal Size Flatbed Accessory and the KODAK A3 Size Flatbed Accessory. Kodak Alaris offers essential services that provide customers with the initial training and ongoing technical and business support they need to ensure robust and worry-free configuration and optimal operation of the Scan Station 700 Series. Scan Station 700 service plans and tailored expert services include Startup Assistance, Network Scanner Training, ongoing support and the latest product improvements. Kodak Alaris offers comprehensive maintenance and support plans and Professional Services that allow customers to maximize their investments.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 05/15/2016

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India Wins UN Public Services Award

 

The mobile seva initiative of Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) has won the 2014 United Nations Public Service Award. The award has been given in category of promoting whole of government approaches in Information Age. The United Nations Public Service Awards is the most prestigious international recognition of excellence in public service. It rewards the creative achievements and contributions of public service institutions that lead to a more effective and responsive public administration in countries worldwide. Through an annual competition, the UN Public Service Awards promotes the role, professionalism and visibility of public service. The Mobile Seva initiative is lead by Dr. Rajendra Kumar, joint secretary (e-Governance), DeitY.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 05/16/2014

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SRI LANKA: E-waste Management Week Begins Today

 

The National E-waste Management Week declared by the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) commences today under the theme 'E-waste free Sri Lanka'. The inauguration ceremony will be held at the BMICH today with the participation of Environment and Renewable Energy Minister Susil Premajayantha as the Chief Guest. CEA Director General Dr. Saranga Alahapperuma said the aim of this is to draw the attention of the people on the importance  of safe disposal of e-waste and to facilitate their collection. He said all its district and provincial offices including the Head Office will be kept open 24 hours during this week for the people to handover e-waste. "We have also allocated one district for each and every private company partnered with us. Their sales outlets will also be kept open for the public to handover the e-waste. We are determined to collect over 200 metric tons of e-waste during the week from May 26 to June 2. We have reserved the hot line number 0719 692005 and email ewastecea@gmail.com for the public to obtain information about this program or to get details of the closest e-waste collecting points from their location," Dr. Alahapperuma said.

From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 05/26/2014

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AZERBAIJAN: Telecommunication Infrastructure to Be Thoroughly Checked

 

Azerbaijan's telecommunication infrastructure will be thoroughly checked in the near future as part of the preparation for the first European games, to be held in Baku in 2015, Azerbaijani Minister of Communications and High Technologies Ali Abbasov told the media on May 6. "Work in this area includes improving the quality of telecommunication services for the upcoming European Games," he added. "We have asked some technology companies to check our communication services by using special standards," the minister said. "The inspection will be held within one or two months. Afterwards, the relevant measures will be taken." A decision was made at the 41st General Assembly of the European Olympic Committee in Rome to hold the European Games in Baku for the first time in its history. The Games will be held in Baku on June 12-28, 2015.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/06/2014

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Issue of Reducing Inter-operator Connection Cost to Be Resolved in Azerbaijan

 

The issue of reducing tariffs for the inter-operator connections in Azerbaijan will be resolved soon, Azerbaijani Minister of Communications and High Technologies Ali Abbasov told the media on May 6. "The negotiations on this issue among mobile operators in the country are at the final stage," he said. "This issue is being regulated according to the decision of the ministerial board." "I am optimistic in this regard," he added. "The operators have already completed the negotiations on introducing the single low tariffs for inter-operator connections. Afterwards, they will be able to further reduce the tariffs for end users." In general, the mobile communication tariffs in Azerbaijan correspond to the market realities and one cannot influence them as this may adversely affect this field. "Nevertheless, there is a possibility of reducing certain tariffs for mobile services in Azerbaijan," he said.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/06/2014

 

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KAZAKHSTAN: Proposing to Enhance Cooperation in “Green Economy” Sphere

 

Kazakhstan proposes to strengthen the cooperation in the spheres of "green economy", energy saving and alternative energy under the SPECA program (the United Nations Special Program for the Economies of Central Asia), the country's Minister of Economy and Budget Planning, Erbolat Dossayev said. The minister made the remarks during his meeting with the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Shamshad Akhtar. During the meeting, Dossayev pointed out that throughout twenty years Kazakhstan have been committed to the goals and tasks of the UN, including ESCAP, which is the most dignified inter-governmental forum of all the regional commissions. "Kazakhstan cooperates with the UN commission in various spheres. The country participates in the ESCAP programs on the following issues: environmental protection, natural resource management, investment cooperation and trade development. Kazakhstan's ministries are in close contacts with ESCAP and regularly participate in its annual sessions," Dossayev stressed.

 

The minister also pointed out that the SPECA program of the UN is one of the important aspects of cooperation between Kazakhstan and ESCAP. "Solving of the current problems through the working groups of SPECA will increase the existing potential of our countries. Therefore, the SPECA program plays an important role in expanding the economic cooperation between the Central Asian countries," Dossayev added. The SPECA program is important for the Central Asian countries in solving the crucial global economic problems and it can contribute to cooperation between these countries, according to Kazakh minister. The minister believes that this program can also play an important role in creating incentives for the economic development and promotion of the integration of Central Asian countries into the European and Asian economy. Dossayev expressed interest in strengthening cooperation in such promising areas as "green economy", energy saving and alternative energy. The minister underscored that Kazakhstan has focused on a significant reduction in carbon emissions and efficient use of the country's precious natural resources.

 

To this end, the government of Kazakhstan has adopted a long-term concept of transition to a "green economy." Shamshad Akhtar, for her part, assured that ESCAP also welcomes the expansion of cooperation with Kazakhstan and supports this country's intention to switch to the principles of "green economy." The SPECA program, worked out by the UN in 1997, was put forward at the initiative of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Initially, this program was intended only for Central Asian countries. Currently, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Afghanistan participate in its implementation. SPECA's goal is to assist the abovementioned countries in intensification of mutual cooperation, stimulation of their economic development and their integration into the economy of European and Asian countries. From the UN side, the SPECA program gets organizational support and expertise from the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE).

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/04/2014

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New Approaches Needed to Increase Employment in Pacific Island Countries: World Bank

 

New strategies are needed to address growing employment challenges in Pacific island countries, says a report released today by the World Bank. The report, “Wellbeing from Work in the Pacific Island Countries”, warns that increasing employment opportunities, especially for women and youth, will be critical for the sustainability of Pacific island economies, as populations grow, the number of young people increases, and people increasingly concentrate in urban areas. Over half of Pacific Islanders are under the age of 24 – the highest youth population of any region in the world. Meanwhile in some countries up to 58 percent of young people are estimated to be out of work, not in education or in training.  This increases their risk of poverty and countries’ risk of social unrest. “The 10 countries studied in the report are all among the world’s 50 smallest and most remote nations, which poses distinct challenges for job creation,” said Tobias Haque, Economist for the Pacific Islands at the World Bank and lead author of the report. “Innovative solutions are needed from governments and partners if economies are to meet the employment aspirations of Pacific people.” The report offers four key policy recommendations to increase employment opportunities and the wellbeing people can expect from work:

 

Look beyond business-environment reforms. Business-environment reforms alone are unlikely to address employment challenges in smaller Pacific countries given the constraints to private sector development arising from smallness, dispersal, and isolation. A broader range of policy measures must be considered. Increase opportunities for international labor mobility. Easing regulatory barriers to mobility between small Pacific countries and larger regional economies, and investing in transferrable skills and education for Pacific workers could provide significant wins for development. Embrace urbanization while managing the risks. Urbanization presents opportunities for achieving economies of scale in production, supporting employment creation. Sound urban administration and broad access to urban services and infrastructure can help harness the employment-creation benefits of urbanization, and facilitate women’s access to employment. Leverage public spending to create high quality employment opportunities. Ensuring that public sector employment is productive and sustainable is often a more appropriate goal than reducing the number of public sector jobs. Donor agencies and governments should also work to ensure that the domestic economic impact of public expenditure is maximized to support local employment creation.

 

The report specifically highlights the important role that international labor mobility has played in providing productive work and critical income for thousands of Pacific Islanders, and outlines significant potential for expansion and improvement of the Australian Seasonal Worker Program. “The ability of Pacific Islanders to work overseas provides a “win-win” scenario for both sending and receiving countries,” said Haque. “Migrant workers can access higher incomes in Australia or New Zealand than would ever be possible at home, while remittance flows are providing critical income for many Pacific island economies. At the same time businesses in Australia and New Zealand have also benefitted from access to a productive, highly reliable workforce.”

 

The report estimates that remittance flows from an expanded Australian scheme, if it became comparable in size, proportionally, to New Zealand’s Recognized Seasonal Employer (RSE) program, could provide the equivalent of 10 percent of GDP across participating countries – which is 60 percent of these countries’ current aid flows. This would provide vastly significant gains for development and a major boost to living standards for participating households. “The expansion of temporary worker schemes could provide very significant economic benefits for participating countries, especially if they could reach the region’s more remote and poorer nations, and offer women greater opportunities to take part,” Haque added. New Zealand’s RSE and the Australian Pacific seasonal worker schemes provide opportunities for Pacific Islanders to undertake seasonal work in areas where labor is scarce, particularly in the horticulture industries.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 05/09/2014

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AUSTRALIA: ICT Skills Shortage, What Shortage?

 

Offshoring has decimated the local ICT jobs market. Australia now has a large and increasing oversupply of ICT professionals, not a skills shortage as widely touted over recent years, according to a new report. Contrary to what we have been constantly told over recent times, there’s no skills shortage in the ICT sector, with the latest indicator of supply and demand clearly showing that there’s actually an oversupply of ICT professionals in the Australian market. In fact, the latest Clarius Skills Indicator reveals that, for the March quarter, a slowdown in new IT systems investment and a sharp increase in offshoring information services to Asia have significantly swelled the oversupply of ICT professionals. According to the Clarius Group – which includes ICT recruiter Candle - there was an oversupply of 1,800 professionals in the three months to the end of March, compared to surpluses of 1,500 and 1,200 for the September and December quarters last year respectively. And, there was still an oversupply of 500 ICT managers in the March quarter, unchanged since December last year. Meeting demand for professionals in the ICT sector, however, may pose difficulties for the future. Clarius reveals that attracting students to ICT related courses remains a problem, with the recent downturn in opportunity and offshoring accelerating the situation.

 

Despite this, Clarius says that universities are pushing hard to attract candidates. On the oversupply in the market, Clarius Group CEO Kym Quick says growth in offshoring IT services accelerated during 2013, up by a “staggering 20%” over the year, but that there are signs the project and employment tide is turning. “Monthly imports of computers and similar devices were much stronger in the first two months of 2014 compared to last year signalling a step up in IT sector investment. Business and governments across the board have reduced investment in new technology and IT. Australian businesses took advantage of the high Aussie dollar which underwrote their use of foreign suppliers of ICT services. But we’re beginning to see a lift in project activity in the first half of 2014. Industry sectors showing positive signs include the transition by business and government to Cloud and mobility solutions, particularly in banking, finance, and health, digitisation and app development. There is also an increase in demand for data centres, and due to the demand for space which is expensive in all CBDs, there will be further opportunities in rural and outer suburbs.”

 

According to Quick, app development is driven by demand for smartphones, tablets, smart watches, in-car technology and in-flight technology. “Australia has always been an early and enthusiastic adopter of new technology and the markets for these devices are driving demand for skilled developers, designers and engineers.” Quick also says that Clarius has found that digitisation is starting to overtake many other projects as companies try to outpace or keep up with competition in their particular markets. On a state-by-state basis here’s the market picture for ICT professionals for the March quarter from Clarius:

 

ACT

• Candle has had a 34% in job opportunities in the March quarter for senior positions including project managers, business analysts, architects and senior developers for a variety of federal government projects

• Most demand is for contractors but this may be offsetting jobs lost by retrenched public servants

• Telco’s and other large vendors supplying government departments are ramping up projects.

 

NSW

• In NSW demand is increasing in Continuous Integration and Release Engineers in the Financial Sector, specifically in core banking and financial trading

• Infrastructure Engineers in the IT consulting space with high level design experience across Exchange and Active Directory are in demand as consultancies engage in large scale projects with various NSW Government Departments

• Skills in project management have been in high demand this quarter – a good sign that large and more complex projects are getting off the ground.

 

Queensland

• Queensland’s healthcare sector has been the most active with sought after skills being PHP developers, help desk, web designers, architects, systems testers, business systems analysts  and specific SAP skills

• While further opportunities will arise in health, management services, consulting and in cloud based expertise, the move to offshoring and outsourcing has adversely impacted the industry 

• Salaries remain flat with contractor rates reducing by about 10 per cent in 2013. Hours have reduced from 40.0 to 36.25 hours for some. Clients are looking at flexibility to reduce costs.

 

South Australia

• Most activity in South Australia is coming from state and local government and in education. Demand has slowed in the construction and SME sectors

• The contract market is improving while the permanent market remains consistent

• The market has seen an increase in business analyst work, help desk support and in the development space – both in infrastructure and programs

• Two significant IT roll outs are taking place in 2014 – deployment of the SA Health EPAS project in the Royal Adelaide and Queen Elizabeth hospitals. Both will need more contractors, largely in the development space.

 

Victoria

• The market is starting to move across a range of skills requirements with a continued increase in the demand for software developers particularly with .Net skills

• The most activity is at the top end of the market in the Telco, Healthcare, Insurance and Education (Tertiary) sectors

• Other skills categories in demand are data analysis and SQL reporting – SSRS, network engineers for VMware and Cisco, and Citrix Cloud based technologies

Victoria has seen a slight increase in higher level roles signifying some recovery.

 

Western Australia

• WA has not experienced a resurgence in ICT opportunities in 2014. While a number of oil and gas projects are proceeding, many are behind schedule

• Mining is slow, but with the Roy Hill mine and some smaller projects outside of iron ore, demand may start to grow in the latter parts of 2014

• Business is particular about who it hires in the project management space due to the diverse range of demands. There’s a large pool of professionals resetting their rates following long term mining contracts

• Demand for back-end help and service desk staff with experience remains high as is demand for SharePoint and .Net developers.

From http://www.itwire.com 05/06/2014

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Australia Government Launches National Ballistics System for Police to Target Firearm Crime

 

Australia Department of Justice has launched the Australian Ballistics Information Network (ABIN), the latest-technology ballistics matching system to track illegal firearms. Launched by the Federal Minister for Justice Michael Keenan, the system will be accessible by all Australian policy agencies from July. “CrimTrac‘s new $9.6 million ABIN provides national capability that is equivalent to a ‘fingerprint’ system for guns and assists police to link guns to the crooks who use them,” said Keenan. “ABIN will link local and national incidents involving a firearm”. Keenan was joined at the launch by NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services Stuart Ayres, CrimTrac CEO Doug Smith and NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione yesterday in Sydney. “The ABIN will give police the edge in the fight against gun crime by increasing the speed they can match ballistic evidence and link firearms to both suspects and crimes, no matter which state or territory the crime took place,” Keenan said. “This will link the Integrated Ballistics Identification Systems (IBIS) already in use by the Australian Federal Police, NSW Police Force, Queensland Police Service and South Australia Police, and allow for the input of ballistic data from all states and territories. With all Australian police agencies sharing electronic ballistic information through the ABIN, we will have a capability to store, analyse and share evidence to solve gun-related crime nationwide,” Keenan said.

 

New South Wales Minister for Police and Emergency Services Stuart Ayres said firearm related crime in Australia, and particularly in New South Wales required a national law enforcement response. “Modern policing demands a constant ability to adapt and respond to changing crime types and crime groups and this cross-border operating model will get us closer to those offenders using illicit firearms,” Ayres said. NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said the ABIN will have a significant impact on the way Australian police agencies investigate gun-related crime by linking ballistic evidence from incidents involving firearms both locally and nationally. “Since the NSW Police Force acquired the IBIS in 2000, we have had 636 ‘hits’ or ballistic matches, providing over 1200 links to crimes and crime evidence,” Scipione said. “While it has been an invaluable tool in investigating gun-related crime, like all technology, the IBIS has its limitations – the information it outputs is only as good as the information that is input. With all Australian police agencies sharing electronic ballistic information through the ABIN, we will have a capability to store, analyse and share evidence to solve gun-related crime nationwide.”

 

CrimTrac CEO Doug Smith said Australia does not currently have a system for police to nationally match ballistic evidence. “Many Australian police agencies currently use a manual process to match ballistic evidence, which is both time consuming and resource intensive,” Smith said. “A national ballistic matching system will increase the capability of all Australian police agencies to investigate firearm-related crime. Once again, CrimTrac is helping us break down information-sharing barriers to better target serious and violent offenders in our community,” Smith said. CrimTrac is the Australian Government Agency responsible for delivering national information sharing services between state, territory and federal police agencies. Since coming to Government the Coalition has introduced a range of measures to make Australia safer and more secure, including:

 

# introducing Anti-Gang Squads in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia to detect and disrupt national and international criminal gangs

# opening the Anti-Gangs Intelligence Coordination Centre within the Australian Crime Commission to collate federal and state law enforcement intelligence on criminal gangs

# strengthening unexplained wealth laws to crackdown on criminals who flout their criminal activities, and

# using proceeds of crime to fund crime prevention projects under the A$50 million (US$46 million) Safer Streets Programme which delivers measures such as CCTV and security lighting in entertainment and commercial precincts of local communities.

“Now, this new network of gun crime intelligence increases the capability of all Australian police agencies to investigate firearm-related crime,” Keenan said.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 05/23/2014

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NEW ZEALAND: Largest City Drives Open Data Release to Host First Civic Hackathon

 

New Zealand’s most populous city, Auckland, will be hosting its first civic hackathon, HACKAKL:Transport, bringing local government together with community members to innovate, problem-solve and create better communities with open data. Auckland Council aims to become the world’s most liveable city and transport services are seen as a key enabler of this goal. While Auckland Transport (AT) has a set of service improvements underway, it realises that its customer experience and connection with users of its services will drive the growth of its services. The hackathon is supported by AT in conjunction with AUT University and software house Propellerhead. It brings together members of the community who are interested in utilising open government data to develop fresh ideas that will help improve Auckland. A key goal of the event is to establish a community that will drive the civic hacking and open government agenda in Auckland. Roger Jones, General Manager of Business Technology at AT, said, “This is a great opportunity for AT to open itself up to new ideas and innovation.” As the event approaches, AT will publish a beta application programming interface or API that will open up a wide range of the organisation’s data, including real-time bus information, geo-coding, road and congestion data. The event highlights open source as key to supporting the evolution and democratisation of open data. The organisers have set up a community GitHub where collaborators can store, access and improve source code.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 05/09/2014

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Global m-Education Market 2014-2018: Advancements in ICT Have Resulted in the Emergence of Virtual Classrooms

 

m-Education is the ability to provide educational-related content on smartphones and tablets. Educational-related content refers to all the digital learning content provided on personal devices. m-Education service providers deliver learning solutions using the latest tools and technology, providing users with rich media and graphic-based learning. Since this form of learning is cost-effective and helps enhance employees' efficiency and productivity, many educational firms across the globe are replacing the traditional forms of training with m-education to improve their geographical presence. The analysts forecast the Global Mobile Education market will grow at a CAGR of 20.65 percent over the period 2013-2018. The Global Mobile Education market can be divided into seven segments: E-books and E-courses, Game/Simulation-based Tools, LMS/Authoring Tools, Distance Tutoring, Collaboration Tools, Test Preparation and Assessment. The report, the Global Mobile Education Market 2014-2018, has been prepared based on an in-depth market analysis with inputs from industry experts. The report covers the Americas and the EMEA and APAC regions; it also covers the Global Mobile Education market landscape and its growth prospects in the coming years. The report also includes a discussion of the key vendors operating in this market. The study was conducted using an objective combination of primary and secondary information including inputs from key participants in the industry. The report contains a comprehensive market and vendor landscape in addition to a SWOT analysis of the key vendors.

 

Key Topics Covered:

01. Executive Summary

02. List of Abbreviations

03. Scope of the Report

04. Market Research Methodology

05. Introduction

06. Market Landscape

07. Geographical Segmentation

08. Key Leading Countries

09. Buying Criteria

10. Market Growth Drivers

11. Drivers and their Impact

12. Market Challenges

13. Impact of Drivers and Challenges

14. Market Trends

15. Trends and their Impact

16. Vendor Landscape

17. Key Vendor Analysis

18. Other Reports in this Series

 

Companies Mentioned:

Amazon Inc.

Apple Inc.

Barnes & Noble Inc.

Blackboard Inc.

Google Inc.

Microsoft Corp.

Pearson plc

Sony Corp.

From https://ca.finance.yahoo.com/ 04/29/2014

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Make Growth Socially Inclusive for Improved Well-being and Stronger Economies – OECD Report

 

Inequality – now at its highest level in decades in many countries – undermines economic growth and well-being, says a new OECD report. But policies to tackle the widening gap between rich and poor will only succeed if they also look beyond income and address better access to high-quality education, health care and public infrastructure, it adds. The wealthy have overwhelmingly captured the benefits of growth.  The average income of the richest 10 percent of the population in OECD countries was nine and a half times higher than that of the poorest 10 percent in 2010, compared with a level seven times higher 25 years ago. In the United States, the richest 1 percent took 47 percent of total income growth between 1976 and 2007, compared with 37 percent in Canada and around 20 percent in Australia and Britain. The gap between rich and poor has widened even faster since the financial crisis. The report reveals the links between income, education and health. Data from 14 OECD countries show that at the age of 30, people with the highest education levels could expect to live on average 6 years longer than their poorly educated peers.

        

“All on Board: Making Inclusive Growth Happen” provides evidence of the consequences of inequality, sets out a framework for action and allows governments to assess how policies impact different social groups in different ways. The report is part of an Organisation-wide effort to develop an inclusive agenda for growth and well-being, and is a natural offshoot of the OECD New Approaches to Economic Challenges (NAEC) project to reflect on the causes of the crisis and the lessons for policy. The Inclusive Growth initiative pioneers a multi-dimensional framework that explores new ways of combining strong growth with a better distribution of benefits and outcomes. “Inequality undermines societies and damages economies,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “It is not enough to put in place policies that harness growth, we must also ensure that the benefits of growth are shared by everyone. This is one of the most pressing challenges we face today.”

 

Xavier de Souza Briggs, vice president of Economic Opportunity and Assets at the Ford Foundation, a central partner of the OECD’s work on inclusive growth, said: “This important new research adds to a growing body of evidence that economic inclusion is strongly associated with longer and stronger periods of growth. Put simply, reducing inequality is not only a moral imperative, it’s an economic one.” The report says economic and social policies should be designed to foster both equity and growth. Investing in skills and education, for example, can have far-reaching impact on these twin objectives. Local government has a key role to play, particularly by investing in quality housing, public transport and in providing training for disadvantaged groups.

 

The report acknowledges that sound structural policies are a precondition for sustained growth, employment and poverty alleviation, but that there are trade-offs. For instance, reducing regulatory barriers to domestic and foreign competition as well as stepping-up job search support and labour market activation programmes can lift the incomes of the lower middle class faster than the overall rise in GDP per capita through the positive effect on employment. However, a tightening of unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed reduces disposable incomes at the bottom end of the distribution, an indication of the importance of combining reforms of unemployment income support with a strengthening of active labour market policies. The report argues that promoting inclusive growth can also help restore citizens’ trust in governments. Today, fewer than one in two people in OECD countries have confidence in their nation’s political leadership.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 05/05/2014

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Countries Commit to Automatic Exchange of Information in Tax Matters

 

Bank secrecy for tax purposes is coming to an end as countries and major financial centres commit to automatic exchange of information between jurisdictions. The Declaration on Automatic Exchange of Information in Tax Matters was endorsed during the OECD’s annual Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris by all 34 member countries, along with Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and South Africa. The Declaration commits countries to implement a new single global standard on automatic exchange of information. The standard, which was developed at the OECD and endorsed by G20 finance ministers last February, obliges countries and jurisdictions to obtain all financial information from their financial institutions and exchange that information automatically with other jurisdictions on an annual basis.

 

“Tax fraud and tax evasion are not victimless crimes: they deprive governments of revenues needed to restore growth and jeopardise citizens’ trust in the fairness and integrity of the tax system,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said. “Today’s commitment by so many countries  to implement the new global standard, and to do so quickly, is another major step towards ensuring that tax cheats have nowhere left to hide.” The OECD will deliver a detailed Commentary on the new standard, as well as technical solutions to implement the actual information exchanges, during a meeting of G20 finance ministers in September 2014. G20 governments have mandated the OECD-hosted Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes to monitor and review implementation of the standard. More than 60 countries and jurisdictions have now committed to early adoption of the standard, and additional Global Forum members are expected to join this group in the coming months.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 05/06/2014

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Global Economy Strengthening but Significant Risks Remain, Says OECD in Latest Economic Outlook

 

The global economy will strengthen over the coming two years, but urgent action is still required to further reduce unemployment and address other legacies from the crisis, according to the OECD’s latest Economic Outlook. “Advanced economies are gaining momentum and driving the pick-up in global growth, while once-stalled cylinders of the economic engine, like investment and trade, are starting to fire again,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said while launching the Outlook during the Organisation’s annual Ministerial Council Meeting and Forum in Paris. “But with the world still facing persistently high unemployment, countries must do more to enhance resilience, boost inclusiveness and strengthen job creation. The time for reforms is now: we need policies that spur growth but at the same time create opportunities for all, ensuring that the benefits of economic activity are broadly shared,” Mr Gurría said (read the full speech).

 

GDP growth across the 34-member OECD is projected to accelerate to a 2.2% rate in 2014 and 2.8% in 2015, according to the Outlook. The world economy will grow at a 3.4% rate in 2014 and 3.9% in 2015. Among the major advanced economies, recovery is best established in the United States, which is projected to grow by 2.6% in 2014 and 3.5% in 2015. The euro area will see a return of positive growth after three years of contraction: 1.2% in 2014 and 1.7% in 2015. In Japan, growth will be dented by the launch of much-needed fiscal consolidation measures, and is expected to hover at 1.2% in 2014 and 2015. The BRIICS  (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa) are projected to see GDP growth of 5.3% this year on average and 5.7% in 2015. China will again have the fastest growth among these countries, with rates just below 7.5% in 2014 and 2015.

 

The Outlook draws attention to a range of positive developments as well as significant downside risks. Investment and trade are both showing signs of picking up, but growth will remain moderate by past standards. Financial conditions are improving in the advanced economies, but tighter credit and supply side bottlenecks are damping growth in emerging economies. Unemployment has begun falling from the historic levels seen in the wake of the crisis, but more than 44 million people are projected to still be out of work across the OECD area at end-2015, 11½ million more than before the crisis. The OECD highlights a series of policy requirements for further strengthening the recovery. Monetary policy needs to remain accommodative, especially in the euro area, where a further interest rate reduction is merited, given low and falling inflation, and in Japan, where asset purchases should continue as planned. In the US, where the recovery is more firmly based, asset purchases by the Federal Reserve should be gradually phased out during 2014 and policy rates should start to be raised during 2015.

 

With financial fragilities persisting in Europe, the OECD said it is urgent to improve the health of the banking sector, complete the establishment of a fully-fledged banking union and sustain momentum for further reforms. The comprehensive assessment of euro area banks must provide reliable estimates of capital needs and be followed by swift recapitalisation, or if necessary, resolution. The planned slower pace of fiscal consolidation in the US and some euro area countries is seen as warranted, given past efforts, but strong consolidation should proceed steadily in Japan, where the burden of public debt is very heavy and still growing. More ambitious structural reform programmes are needed to create jobs and boost growth in advanced and emerging countries alike.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 05/06/2014

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Expanding Services Trade Offers Major Opportunities for Growth and Jobs, OECD Says

 

The services sectors offer tremendous opportunities to stimulate growth and jobs worldwide, but much more can be done to reduce the existing barriers to international services trade, according to new OECD research. Services generate more than two-thirds of global GDP and are the top source of employment in most major economies. But the services sector’s share of global trade is far below its share of the wider economy. This under-performance is largely attributed to the various legal and regulatory obstacles slowing international services trade. The OECD’s new Services Trade Restrictiveness Index (STRI), released during the Organisation’s annual Ministerial Council Meeting, provides a unique and comprehensive snapshot of services trade restrictions across 18 sectors in 40 leading economies, representing over 80% of global services trade.

 

“As G20 economies seek to achieve 2% growth above trend over the coming five years, services markets could be an important contributor to future growth,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said. “The new Services Trade Restrictiveness Index will help countries benchmark their performance while enabling negotiators to target critical trade bottlenecks. It will also help governments detect barriers and the scope for reform, and it will allow businesses to better identify requirements in order to enter foreign markets.” The Index is based around two key elements: a comprehensive on-line regulatory database of the laws and regulations impacting services trade in all countries and sectors covered; and a series of composite indices that quantify restrictions across five standard categories, with values between zero and one. Complete openness to trade and investment gives a score of zero, while being completely closed to foreign services providers yields a score of one.

 

Key findings:

Average levels of restrictiveness are significant, with very wide variations around the average, meaning that there are very real opportunities for most countries to move towards best practices. Across all countries, air transport, legal services and accounting services stand out as highly restricted, while rail transport has a lower average level of restriction, but the widest dispersion around the average. Strong network services are crucial for facilitating trade, so reform in these areas potentially brings large benefits. Foreign equity limitations are common in backbone infrastructure sectors, while national licensing requirements and restrictions on the movement of people often restrict professional services trade. Public procurement regulations are particularly important for construction services.

 

Even modest reforms offer significant benefits: reducing services trade barriers increases imports, but can also increase exports by twice or more, depending on the sector. Modest reforms can increase exports by 3-7%, while lowering import prices by as much as 10%. No country is amongst the three most or least restrictive in all sectors – demonstrating that all countries have areas where reform is possible. “Our aim with this new Index is not to prescribe reforms for countries,” Mr Gurría said. “The Index provides the information governments need to identify areas of regulatory under-performance as well as best practices elsewhere. Whether reforms are undertaken, domestically, multilaterally or not at all, is for governments to decide. But we certainly hope that, based on this new evidence, they will take action to reduce existing barriers and tap on the tremendous opportunities that expanding services trade offers for growth and jobs.”

From http://www.oecd.org/ 05/07/2014

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OECD Ministers Reinforce Commitment to Building Resilient Economies and Inclusive Societies

 

OECD ministers today closed two days of discussions aimed at building resilient economies and inclusive societies. Chaired by Japan, the OECD’s Annual Meeting at Ministerial Level saw the launch or reinforcement of a number of major projects such as the OECD Southeast Asia Programme and the New Approaches to Economic Challenges initiative. Other topics covered included promoting economic growth and well-being that is also environmentally sustainable; development as empowerment and strengthening the multilateral trade system and global value chains. Describing the meeting as “highly productive”, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said the Ministers had given the OECD Secretariat “a lot of homework”. The organisation would, he added, continue to promote “better policies for better lives”. Ministers from the 34 OECD member countries were joined by ministers and representatives from Colombia, Latvia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 05/07/2014

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Social Safety Nets Expand but Can Do Better at Reaching the Poorest

 

Social safety net programs have grown exponentially around the world in recent years, but more than two-thirds of the world’s 1.2 billion poorest people –those living on less than US$1.25 per day—are still not covered, says a new World Bank report. According to The State of Social Safety Nets 2014, more than 1 billion people in 146 low- and middle-income countries benefit from social safety net programs, yet 870 million of the world’s poorest people remain uncovered. Social safety net programs include cash and in-kind transfers targeted to poor and vulnerable households, with the goal of protecting families from the impact of economic shocks, natural disasters, and other crises; ensuring that children grow up healthy, well-fed, and can stay in school and learn; empowering women and girls; and creating jobs.

 

“On average, developing countries spend 1.6 percent of their GDP on social safety nets. This is low compared to other public policy measures such as fuel subsidies, which do not target the poorest. More can be done to reach the world’s poorest people,” said Arup Banerji, the World Bank’s Director for Social Protection and Labor. “There is a strong and growing body of evidence that social safety nets are one of the most cost-effective ways for countries to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity.” The report is the first in a series of studies that will monitor and report on the growth and coverage of social safety nets in the developing world, highlight promising innovations, and review important policy and practical developments in this area. The growth of social safety nets has been bolstered by mounting evidence of their impact on reducing poverty, improving maternal and child health and nutrition, boosting school attendance and learning outcomes, and promoting sustained economic growth. Over the past three years, a total of 53 new impact evaluations on social safety nets have been completed, most of them in Africa. Robust evidence continues to mount on the merits of social safety nets, notes the report.

 

In terms of global social safety net coverage, the report shows that countries at lower levels of income face the greatest gaps in reaching the poorest people: 

In low-income countries, where 47 percent of the population is extremely poor, social safety nets cover less than 10 percent of the population.

In lower-middle income countries, social safety nets reach about one-quarter of the extreme poor, but the remaining half a billion of the poorest people remain uncovered.

The situation is best in upper-middle income countries, where about 45 percent of the extreme poor are covered by social safety nets.

The report notes that the expansion of social safety net programs, particularly in the form of cash transfers, is particularly evident in Sub-Saharan Africa. For example, 37 African countries currently have unconditional cash transfer programs, almost double the number four years ago. Globally, the number of countries with a conditional cash transfer program increased from 27 countries in 2008 to 52 in 2013. Similar trends are notable for other types of safety net programs such as public works.

 

Available data on combined spending on social safety nets in low- and middle-income countries amounts to US$337 billion. Despite the positive trend, the report also notes that developing countries’ spending on social safety nets is still disproportionally low. In the Middle East and North Africa, average expenditures on fuel subsidies are 4 times higher than those for social safety nets. Similar spending patterns are observed in India, Cameroon, Malaysia, Ecuador, Indonesia and Bangladesh. “Three countries –India, China and Brazil—have the largest social safety nets programs in the world, and account for almost half of global coverage. Lower-income countries are learning from their experience,” said Banerji. “This new data shows that, if safety nets are done right, it is possible to close the gap on coverage and reach all of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty across the world.”

 

The report also notes that countries are moving from fragmented programs to integrated social protection systems. New strategies, better institutional coordination, and innovative administrative tools are emerging worldwide. For instance, the Cadastro social registry in Brazil is helping to collect data on 27 million people  and then linking it to more than 10 social programs, enabling policymakers to see who benefits from which programs and who does not, so they can better target programs to reach the people most in need. Currently around 68 countries have a national social protection strategy in place that outlines such systemic approaches, up from just 19 in 2009. In addition, 10 countries have now introduced institutional bodies to coordinate social protection programs across sectors and ministries.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 05/13/2014

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Education Plays Key Role in Advancing Women, Girls, and Communities, Report Says

 

Girls with little or no education are far more likely to be married as children, suffer domestic violence, live in poverty, and lack a say over household spending or their own health care than better-educated peers, which harms them, their children, and communities, a new report by the World Bank Group finds. Some 65 percent of women with primary education or less globally are married as children, lack control over household resources, and condone wife-beating, compared with 5 percent of women who finish high school, Voice and Agency: Empowering Women and Girls for Shared Prosperity finds. The report distills vast data and hundreds of studies to shed new light on constraints facing women and girls worldwide, from epidemic levels of gender-based violence to biased laws and norms that prevent them from owning property, working, and making decisions about their own lives.

 

Across 18 of the 20 countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage, girls with no education were up to six times more likely to marry than girls with high school education, it finds. Nearly one in five girls in developing countries meanwhile becomes pregnant before age 18, while pregnancy-related causes account for most deaths among girls 15-19 in the developing world—nearly 70,000 die each year. “The persistent constraints and deprivations that prevent many of the world’s women from achieving their potential have huge consequences for individuals, families, communities, and nations,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “Expanding women's ability to make decisions and take advantage of opportunities is critical to improving their lives as well as the world we all share.”

 

“If the world is going to end extreme poverty and ensure that prosperity is shared by all, we have to have the full and equal participation of women and men, girls and boys, around the world,” Kim said. He launched the report here today with Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Despite recent advances in important aspects of the lives of girls and women, pervasive challenges remain, frequently as a result of widespread deprivations and constraints. These often violate women’s most basic rights and are magnified and multiplied by poverty and lack of education. In all regions, better educated women tend to marry later and have fewer children. “Enhanced agency—the ability to make decisions and act on them—is a key reason why children of better educated women are less likely to be stunted: Educated mothers have greater autonomy in making decisions and more power to act for their children’s benefit,” World Bank Group Director for Gender and Development Jeni Klugman said. “Educated mothers have greater autonomy in making decisions and more power to act for their children’s benefit.”

 

In Ethiopia, one-year-olds whose mothers had a primary school education along with access to antenatal care were 39 percent less likely to have stunted growth, for example, while in Vietnam infants whose mothers had attained a lower-secondary education were 67 percent less likely to have stunted growth. Voice and Agency, which builds on the 2012 World Development Report, focuses on several areas key to women’s empowerment: freedom from violence, control over sexual and reproductive health and rights, ownership and control of land and housing, and voice and collective action. It explores the power of social norms in dictating how men and women can and cannot behave—deterring women from owning property or working even where laws permit, for example, because those who do become outcasts. In 128 countries, laws treat men and women differently—making it impossible, for example, for a woman to independently obtain an ID card, own or use property, access credit, or get a job.

 

Key facts:

Gender-based violence is a global phenomenon, and in most regions no place is less safe for a woman than her own home: More than one in three women have experienced violence, the vast majority committed by their husbands or boyfriends. That's 700 million women—close to the total population of Sub-Saharan Africa. Girls are increasingly completing school and university, but their work choices remain restricted, by laws and/or social norms that dictate whether and what work is appropriate. Foregone costs in terms of productivity and income can be huge.Many women lack sexual and reproductive rights: Data from 33 developing countries reveal that almost one third of women cannot refuse sex with their partners—rising to more than seven out of 10 Nigerian, Malian, and Senegalese women—and more than 41 percent across those 33 countries say they could not ask their partner to use a condom.

 

Each year, almost one in five girls under 18 in developing countries gives birth: South Asia accounts for almost half of teen pregnancies in the developing world. In developing countries, pregnancy-related causes account for most deaths among girls aged 15-19—nearly 70,000 die each year. The lifetime opportunity costs of adolescent pregnancy, measured in terms of lost income, range as high as 30 percent of GDP in Uganda. Women and girls face a major gap in access to and use and ownerships of ICT. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 32 million fewer women have access to the Internet than men. In South Asia, 25 million fewer women have access, and in the Middle East and North Africa, 18 million. Poverty increases gender gaps: Girls living in poor households are almost twice as likely as their richer peers to marry young. Intimate partner violence is also more frequent and severe in poorer households across such diverse settings as India and Nicaragua. Women’s groups and collective action play a pivotal role in building momentum for progressive reform. Strong women’s movements are associated with more comprehensive policies on violence against women. And when more women are elected to office, policy-making increasingly reflects the priorities of families and women and results in greater responsiveness to citizen needs.

Urgent agenda

 

Policymakers and stakeholders need to tackle this agenda, drawing on evidence about what works and systematically tracking progress on the ground. This must start with reforming discriminatory laws and follow through with concerted policies and public actions, including multi-sectoral approaches that engage with men and boys and challenge adverse social norms. Expanding opportunities and amplifying the voices of women and girls isn’t a zero-sum equation, because gender equality conveys broad development dividends for men and boys, families, and communities. Conversely, constraining women’s agency by limiting what jobs they can do or condoning gender-based violence can cause huge economic losses and hinder development efforts. Increasing school enrollment and achieving gender equality in enrollment are longstanding development goals. Ensuring enrollment through upper secondary levels for girls is even more critical. Equally vital is what happens at school: Both girls and boys leave school literate and numerate and that the values of the school system promote gender equality and protect children from abuse.

 

Progress on the sexual and reproductive health front tends to involve multi-sectoral actions: access to contraception is critical, alongside raising awareness, life skills training, mentoring and peer group training, and activity clubs and sports. Women’s land rights—which support women’s agency—can be strengthened by progressive legal reforms and improved governance. Mandatory joint-titling helps and statutory, customary, and religious regimes should be harmonized, with clear consent requirements for land transfer or sale. More and better data are needed to measure progress and to hold governments and development agencies, such as the World Bank, to account. Recently agreed international Core Gender Indicators are a valuable basis, alongside agreed statistical indicators and guidelines for measuring violence against women. More rigorous evaluations of what works are also needed, particularly around collective voice, normative change, and program design, the report says.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 05/14/2014

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Supertel Hospitality Announces Additional Information on Distribution of Subscription Rights

 

Supertel Hospitality, Inc. (NASDAQ: SPPR), a real estate investment trust (REIT), today announced additional information on its previously announced rights offering. The company previously set the close of business on April 24, 2014 as the record date (the "Record Date") for the distribution of subscription rights for common stock of Supertel. Each subscription right will entitle its holder to purchase one share of common stock of Supertel for $1.60 per share. Supertel is issuing at no charge to the holders of its common stock and 6.25% Series C Cumulative Convertible Preferred Stock, or the Series C Preferred Stock, transferable subscription rights to purchase shares of common stock of Supertel. Each holder of common stock will receive one subscription right for each full share of common stock owned by that holder as of the close of business on the Record Date. The holder of the Series C Preferred Stock will receive 3,750,000 subscription rights, equal to the number of shares of common stock into which the Series C Preferred Stock may be converted as of the Record Date.

 

This press release shall not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any security, nor shall there be any offer or sale of any security in any jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to the registration or qualification under the securities laws of any such jurisdiction. A registration statement relating to rights offering and the sale of common stock of Supertel has been filed by Supertel with the Securities and Exchange Commission, but has not yet become effective. The subscription rights may not be exercised or transferred nor may offers to exercise or transfer be accepted prior to the time the registration statement becomes effective. The offering of common stock of Supertel in the rights offering will be made only by means of a prospectus, which is a part of such registration statement. Supertel presently expects to distribute the subscription rights to its shareholders, including instructions on how to exercise the rights, as soon as practicable following the time the registration statement becomes effective.

 

About Supertel Hospitality, Inc.

Supertel Hospitality, Inc. (NASDAQ: SPPR) is a self-administered real estate investment trust that specializes in the ownership of select-service hotels. The company currently owns 66 hotels comprising 5,843 rooms in 21 states. Supertel's hotels are franchised by a number of the industry's most well-regarded brand families, including Hilton, Choice and Wyndham. For more information or to make a hotel reservation, visit www.supertelinc.com.

 

Forward Looking Statement

Certain matters within this press release are discussed using forward-looking language as specified in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, and, as such, may involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause the actual results or performance to differ from those projected in the forward-looking statement. These risks are discussed in the Company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

From http://finance.yahoo.com/ 05/15/2014

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Inside ICT Survey 2014

 

Welcome to the Inside ICT Survey! Our vendor specific survey is now in its 6th incarnation (and Potentia is 10 years old!). In April we surveyed 140 ICT Technology business leaders, in 140 organisations across New Zealand with the intention of tracking the business strategy, hiring intentions and human capital experiences of those businesses. Why only vendors? Well they’re in the business of ICT: they sell, build, integrate and support technology both here and overseas. ICT forms a reasonably large part of GDP and has crept into the 4th spot for export earnings in New Zealand – meaning that ICT is still the only top-5 non-primary earner New Zealand has. We know the ICT industry is vital to New Zealand’s future; and it’s now being recognised and lauded within the corridors of power as being an important area of growth in New Zealand.

 

We decided to make some changes to the survey this year; one of which includes discontinuing the regional comparisons. In the past, it was apparent that comparing regions often only resulted in very small differences; and those differences were primarily attributed to the bulk of buying in Wellington being by Government organisations. As we know this to be the case, further commentary on this is not of real value to our readers. Therefore, we are treating New Zealand as a whole and have looked at world trends and economic forces, along with noting historical shifts. This year we opted to make the contracting market the special area of focus. In a buoyant employment market – and no one could debate this right now, contracting goes through a natural surge. Projects are initiated, employees are aware their skills are in demand and employers take extreme measures to alleviate their hiring challenges. Now is the time of growth in contracting, so it’s an opportune moment to check the temperature and intentions of contract hirers. In support of this, and given that most New Zealand hirers have a hybrid hiring strategy, the number of organisations hiring both contract and permanent (instead of exclusively one or the other) has surged from 33% in 2013 to 41% in 2014.

From http://www.scoop.co.nz/ 05/21/2014

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Cybercrime in Focus at ICT Talks

 

A meeting of Caribbean Commonwealth officials with responsibility for ICT will bring the region’s eGovernance and cybercrime issues squarely into focus. The Caribbean Stakeholders’ Meeting on the Importance of ICTs and their Impact on Regional Development takes place in Port-of-Spain from today to Wednesday. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar will deliver the feature address at the opening ceremony for the high-profile three-day regional meeting, which aims to strengthen the region’s capacity for cyber security and online government services delivery. It is being convened by the Commonwealth Secretariat, in partnership with the Ministry of Science and Technology, Organisation of American States (OAS), International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Microsoft and the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU).

 

The ITU, OAS, CTU and Microsoft are active partners in the Commonwealth Cybercrime Initiative (CCI), an international programme started in 2011 to support member states in the implementation of robust cyber security programmes. The 53 member countries of the Commonwealth share similar legal systems and institutional structures, and have a long history of active collaboration on issues and concerns related to cybercrime and the Internet. Bernadette Lewis, Secretary General of the CTU, will deliver the welcome address at the ceremony and greetings will be delivered by Rupert Griffith, Minister of Science and Technology, Anthony Ming, ICT Adviser to the Commonwealth Secretariat, Cleveland Thomas, ITU Caribbean representative, and Riyad Insanally, representative of the T&T Office of the OAS. Conference delegates are expected to discuss the impact of cybercrime on social and economic development, with a view to identifying next steps in implementing e-Governance and infrastructure initiatives in identified countries. Cybercrime is a global multibillion dollar industry with untold impact on Caribbean economies. The conference will also identify and address the major infrastructure components required to deliver government services online.

 

By investing in electronic governance, governments across the world are saving money, delivering more effective services, and competing more effectively in the global economy.  Infrastructure is a critical component to successfully implement e-governance strategies. “An efficient, effective and secure public service is essential for economic investment and development as well as for deepening citizens’ participation in policy and service delivery,” a release from the CTU quoted Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Deodat Maharaj as saying. “The Commonwealth is uniquely positioned to bring together the major regional players in ICT for development. This meeting presents a significant opportunity for collaboration by a range of stakeholders on issues that have a direct impact on citizens’ lives.”

From http://www.guardian.co.tt/ 05/26/2014

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Post 2015 Development Agenda Must Tackle Inequality, Environment Goals

 

The post-2015 global development agenda will need to deal with unfinished business, including ongoing poverty, and tackle newer concerns like rising inequality and climate change, delegates at an Asian Development Bank (ADB) Annual Meeting seminar said today. “We still have a herculean task ahead of us to address myriad existing and new development challenges,” Bindu Lohani, ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development said in advance of the seminar. “In Asia and the Pacific, we need to ensure that economic growth benefits everyone, that both girls and boys have equal opportunities, and that we are environmentally responsible.” The seminar was one of a number being held at ADB’s 47th Annual Meeting of its Board of Governors gathering here between 2 May and 5 May.

 

Progress has been mixed on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set in 2000 to tackle eight key development challenges by 2015. A recent regional report by ADB and its partners, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), shows no country will achieve all the goals by 2015. Asia and the Pacific has slashed extreme poverty by more than half, well ahead of the 2015 target but is still home to 1.6 billion people who live on $2 a day or less and almost three-quarters of the world’s underweight children. Meanwhile about 600 million people in the region have no access to electricity and 1.7 billion still lack improved sanitation, leaving much work still to be done on several MDG measures.

 

The seminar discussed lessons from MDG achievements and setbacks in Asia and the Pacific, as well as how to shape an effective new development agenda after 2015. In particular, participants considered ways of expanding financing options to support a more ambitious future program. ADB, UNDP, and UNESCAP have proposed 12 new goals including eliminating income poverty, hunger, and malnutrition. Other goals relate to gender equity, decent jobs, better planned urbanization, disaster risk reduction, governance, and environmental responsibility. It is expected that the post-2015 global development agenda that succeeds the MDGs will combine both deprivation and inequality on the one hand and environmental issues on the other, into a common set of goals for sustainable development.

From http://www.adb.org/ 05/04/2014

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Slower Growth Compels Further Economic Reform: APEC Business Advisors

 

A Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific that includes all APEC economies is a beacon on the horizon but it could be time to better define this policy said Dr Alan Bollard on Monday as he addressed a plenary of APEC business advisors in Santiago. With less than two weeks before APEC Trade Ministers meet in Qingdao, China, the APEC Business Advisory Council gathered in Santiago, Chile to agree on a set of recommendations to help keep the economy on track. During the plenary, ABAC members heard an analysis of the regional economic outlook, how APEC can help the World Trade Organization reduce trade barriers and identified pathways to a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific to improve market access and export growth. The need for greater economic reform was a further point of emphasis.

 

ABAC members agreed with the APEC Policy Support Unit’s regional economic trends analysis and recognized that even though APEC economies are forecast to grow in 2014, there is a cause for some concern. “Medium-term GDP forecasts for APEC economies have actually been revised down from 5 percent to between 4 and 4.5 percent over the next five years,” explained John Denton who chairs ABAC’s Finance and Economics Working Group. “The consequence of that downward revision in growth would actually translate into a USD4 trillion deficit in economic outlook for APEC economies over the medium-term. “It’s an alarming figure in its own right and one that reinforces the need for policy reforms to promote greater regional integration and connectivity to improve economic growth and development which are the priorities for the APEC Business Advisory Council,” Mr Denton confirmed.

 

In particular, Chile has experienced a slowdown in the growth of its economy since last year. To address this issue, the government has deepened the liberalization of free trade and commerce, pursued economic reforms and investments in education. “The new cycle is driven by a slowdown in the prices of some raw materials, heavy investment in human capital and supporting the development of new industries,” said Rafael Guilisasti, Vice President of Viña Concha y Toro who is an ABAC member in Chile. “Investments in education bring a lot of opportunity for our economies, particularly exchanges between universities to narrow the gap for our future to prepare human resources.”

 

Members met with the APEC Mining Task Force Chair, Rodrigo Urquiza, to advocate for policies that would improve the environment for investment in the mining industry, a key sector for Chile and other APEC member economies. APEC Secretariat Executive Director Dr Alan Bollard provided an update to ABAC members on the APEC agenda, including joint work to move towards negotiations for a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific. He also sought to gather input from the business community to deliver to APEC Senior Officials who will also meet in Qingdao later this month. “Innovative, inclusive and sustainable growth is guiding our strategy this year, particularly as it relates to progress being made on economic and regulatory reform that is required to achieve our goals by 2015,” said Dr Bollard. “We are very open to ideas coming from ABAC on how to invigorate, develop and take next steps in the area of regulatory reform.” President Michelle Bachelet will address ABAC members on Tuesday, 6 May. The meeting of APEC Ministers Responsible Trade, also known as MRT, will take place in Qingdao on 17-18 May. APEC Senior Officials will gather there on 14-15 May.

From http://www.apec.org/ 05/06/2014

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APEC in Qingdao to Advance New Growth Drivers

 

Trade Ministers, Senior Officials and technical experts from APEC economies, the world’s largest regional economic grouping, are meeting in the port city of Qingdao, China over the next ten days to spur more open, integrated and productive markets needed to capture new growth opportunities and narrow employment and wage gaps across the Pacific Rim. Talks will culminate with the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting on 17-18 May, hosted by Minister Gao Hucheng of China’s Ministry of Commerce. Advancing the negotiation and implementation of comprehensive, high quality trade agreements, improving coordination between their participants and moving towards the realization of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific are points of focus. This is consistent with the framework and priorities of cooperation within APEC during China’s year as host economy. They include “Advancing Regional Economic Integration,” “Promoting Innovative Development, Economic Reform and Growth,” and “Strengthening Comprehensive Connectivity and Infrastructure Development.”

 

APEC economies’ Senior Officials, hosted by Li Baodong, Chair of the APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting and China’s Vice Foreign Minister, will chart the next step for regional economic cooperation and building of technical capacity vital to aligning policy regimes across diverse economies on 14-15 May. Decisions will draw on actions taken by officials and technical experts from working level fora which are addressing issues ranging from preparatory requirements for free trade agreement negotiations, to the harmonization of medical product quality and supply chain regulation, electric vehicle standards development and increasing food security. “Recovery in the Asia-Pacific is progressing but growth remains uneven and its medium term trajectory has dropped a notch due to sluggish trade and factors like reduced productivity,” concluded, said Dr Alan Bollard, APEC Secretariat Executive Director. “APEC economies recognize that there are no quick fixes and taking a long view in their policy calculations.” “Our task is to ensure that the policies we put in place and the agreements we negotiate to lower trade barriers and boost domestic consumption-based growth are complementary, inclusive and keep us all moving in a positive direction,” Dr Bollard concluded. “The discussions taking place between APEC economies in Qingdao are key to driving this process.”

From http://www.apec.org/ 05/08/2014

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Asia-Pacific Business Leaders Urge APEC to Accelerate the Process for Achieving a Free Trade Area in the Asia-Pacific Region

 

Asia Pacific Business Leaders will urge APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade, who will be meeting in Qingdao, China next week, for APEC to accelerate the process towards making a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) a reality by taking concrete steps ten years after it was first presented by ABAC to APEC Leaders here in Chile. Over the last ten years APEC has taken incremental steps to realize an FTAAP notably with the endorsement of possible pathways to an FTAAP which includes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Regional Comprehensive Partnership (RCEP) and the Pacific Alliance. ABAC efforts have thus been largely directed at ensuring that there is eventual convergence of these pathways into an FTAAP. Tony Nowell, Chair of ABAC Regional Integration Working Group, sums up ABAC´s expectations: "In order to achieve regional economic integration we need the Bogor Goals to be achieved by 2020; to achieve the Bogor Goals we need FTAAP and to achieve FTAAP we need one or more of the negotiating pathways to be successfully completed. Quality, ambition and comprehensiveness need to be the goals driving such negotiations if they are to meet business needs."

 

ABAC sees the TPP as close to completion but needs further political direction if momentum is to be maintained. The RCEP needs to adopt a quicker pace and level of ambitions that would increase alignment with other pathways to FTAAP. ABAC believes that an FTAAP should converge around the highest standards from each of the pathways. “Given these developments and the approaching 2020 deadline for achieving the Bogor Goals, ABAC now sees the need for APEC to provide more “top-down” direction in the FTAAP process,” said Ning Gaoning, ABAC Chair 2014. “This should comprise further articulation of the overall vision, robust economic analysis of possible gains and a dialogue with stakeholders aimed at increasing transparency and identifying business needs. We would therefore welcome concrete steps by APEC to the realization of an FTAAP such as developing a feasibility study, road map and timeline.”

 

“Since ABAC first introduced the FTAAP concept, it has become more apparent over the years that the dominant business model today of global value and supply chain – responsible for achieving greater efficiency and productivity to make goods affordable to more people of all income levels and thus improving the quality of their lives – can only succeed if the friction that impede the movement of goods and services across border are reduced or eliminated,” said Ning. “The FTAAP is the most effective and comprehensive mechanism for addressing the causes of this friction.” Ning said that the free flow of trade and investment in goods and service, good infrastructure, and strong financial market mechanisms are among the key elements that determine the extent of participation of economies in the global value chain. Much of ABAC´s effort this year has therefore focused on developing recommendations to help economies fulfill these elements and in the process laying the foundation for a comprehensive, high quality FTAAP.

 

Because of the important role of services in APEC economies and in the Global Value Chains, ABAC has undertaken initiatives as identifying the services sectors role in the GVC; mapping business organizations engaged in services liberalization; promoting the efficient movement of temporary workers around the region; and engaging with APEC official on services issues. On investments, ABAC has developed tools designed to provide guidance and promote dialogue between governments and private business. It will be asking Ministers to support a proposal to establish a high level group of investment experts with the purpose of providing objective advice on the development and use of quantitative indicators as a useful tool to promote confidence in and socialize the value of indicators of investment performance.

 

Meeting the region’s massive infrastructure funding needs would require the greater participation of the private sector and in tapping new sources. ABAC has also developed an Enablers of Infrastructure Investment Checklist which it is urging APEC economies to utilize as a platform for increased dialogue with the business community. ABAC will be presenting these and other recommendations in more detail when it participates at the Ministerial Meeting in Qingdao. ABAC was created by APEC Leaders in 1995 to be the primary voice of business in APEC. Each economy has three members who are appointed by their respective Leaders. They meet four times a year in preparation for the presentation of their recommendations to the Leaders in a dialogue that is a key event in the annual Leaders Meeting.

From http://www.apec.org/ 05/08/2014

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Economic Development a Triumph of Working People in East Asia Pacific

 

As rapid economic development has pushed the percentage of people working in most East Asian countries to among the highest in the world, policy makers should enact labor regulations and social protection policies to benefit all workers, including those in the large informal economy, according to a new World Bank report, East Asia Pacific at Work: Employment, Enterprise and Well-Being. In the last 20 years, East Asia Pacific saw rising productivity amid a brisk structural transformation, with large movements of people into cities and higher output in agriculture, manufacturing and services. Countries that were poor a generation ago successfully integrated into the global value chain, taking advantage of low labor costs. In most countries in the region, the share of the population working or seeking work, including women, is higher than other countries with similar income levels.

 

“The unprecedented economic development in East Asia Pacific has provided jobs and lifted millions of people out of poverty and has been a triumph of working people,” said Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank East Asia and Pacific Regional Vice President. “It’s time to consolidate growth by adopting social policies that protect people, rather than any particular sector, location or profession. When well-designed, those policies should make sure social protection and labor regulations benefit the most vulnerable workers in society.” As the region’s economic growth is moderating and labor costs are rising, constraints of the region’s current labor market and social protection policies are becoming a more pressing issue. Though relatively strong on paper, those policies are often poorly enforced, driving more people – especially women, young people and those with fewer skills, such as janitors and caterers – into unprotected, unregulated and untaxed jobs, or even unemployment.

 

Modest, nationally financed unemployment packages, for example, can help employers avoid costly severance schemes, lower labor taxes and encourage business to become formal, according to the report. Thailand’s universal health care policy, for example, is a form of social insurance that has already lowered out-of-pocket costs for patients and led to wider use of medical services. The report, a follow-up to the Bank’s World Development Report 2013: Jobs, contributes to a relatively small body of empirical evidence on the impact of employment policies and reform options in East Asia Pacific. The region’s diverse emerging economies – ranging from mostly rural to urbanizing to small, remote islands – defy a one-size-fits-all approach. Economic and demographic changes in the region, as well as its relatively short labor history, present urgency and opportunity for countries in East Asia Pacific to adopt a new, lower-cost social protection model than countries in regions with long-established policies.

 

“Business as usual is not an option,” said Bert Hofman, Chief Economist of the World Bank’s East Asia and Pacific Region. “The consequences of not taking more action to ensure welfare gains from work will increasingly threaten social cohesion and, as growth moderates, will constrain productivity and limit gains in living standards.” Current employment policies, the report says, have failed to help most workers, favoring prime-aged men in salaried positions at the expense of women, youth and those with low skills. Empirical evidence shows that rising minimum wages in Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand disproportionately reduce employment opportunities for women and young people. Across the region, more than 30 percent of people ages 15 to 24 are completely left out – they have neither a job nor receive an education or training. That creates labor market segmentation and exclusion, as well as a higher risk of social unrest and violence. Meanwhile, rising wages for skilled workers, which benefit from the current policies, have led to higher inequality in some countries.

 

To keep the region on the right track, the report recommends that countries look beyond the labor market and focus on fundamentals, such as policies that ensure price stability, encourage investment and innovation, and support a regulatory framework that enables small- and medium-size enterprises, which employ most people in the region. “Top-down industrial policies are less viable in today's increasingly integrated and rules-based global economy,” said Truman Packard, one of the report’s lead authors. “Instead, policy makers should look at reforms across a number of policy arenas and enact policies that protect all working people, even if they work for themselves or hire others to work for them.” The region’s diverse economies, of course, call for different policy priorities. For the many countries that are still mainly agrarian, the report recommends that policy makers focus on boosting agricultural productivity and encouraging non-farm enterprises.  For urbanizing economies, such as China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, the report suggests that governments focus on making cities work better by boosting infrastructure and improving services.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 05/08/2014

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Skills Key to Future Regional Growth

 

Enhancing labor skills as a key element for overcoming the middle-income trap in developing Asia-Pacific economies was proposed at an APEC policy dialogue held in Qingdao on Saturday. Delegates discussed how developing economies stuck in the middle-income trap typically achieve initial growth by successfully mobilizing inputs based on low-cost advantages, but with rising costs and eroding competitiveness, they then fail to make the leap to the next phase of development. “Building on APEC’s successful work over the years on economic integration, trade and investment liberalization and structural reform, APEC is well-positioned to help developing economies avoid the middle income trap and graduate into high-income status,” said Tan Jian, APEC Senior Official from China. Policy ideas and analyses presented at the dialogue focused on innovative pathways for APEC emerging and developing economies to overcome this trap.

 

“Avoiding the middle-income trap is in essence, a test of an economy’s ability to innovate and upgrade,” said Professor Huang Yiping of Peking University. “Successful economies such as Japan, Korea, Chinese Taipei, and Hong Kong, China, were all manufacturing-based economies that employed large numbers of workers during their early stages of development, although they went on different development paths once they reached the middle-income levels,” explained Professor Huang. “Early engagement in labor-intensive manufacturing development provided an opportunity for continuous on-the-job training and human capital accumulation.”

 

Dr. Alfred Schipke, Senior Resident Representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for China, echoed the importance of human capital in ensuring continuous improvement in total factor productivity and driving technological progress. According to Professor Huang, some economies ‘stuck’ in the middle-income trap relied heavily on a resource-based economy such as oil or agricultural exports for their initial growth spurt. This pathway did not provide the opportunity for human capital accumulation and on-the-job training. However, enhanced workforce education could help such economies overcome this barrier. In addition to the shortage of available talent, other key barriers that prevent economies from climbing out of the middle income trap include the failure to implement structural reforms, growing income inequality, lack of adequate infrastructure and institutional gaps.

 

“APEC has set goals and made good progress on structural reform, connectivity, infrastructure and ease of doing business,” said Eduardo Pedrosa, Secretary General of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council. “However, APEC could consider establishing an APEC-wide education initiative and targeted goals to address this middle-income challenge.” Developing human resource talent and generating university-level graduates is a long-term goal that requires public investment early on during an economy’s initial growth stage, long before an economy reaches middle-income status. This could facilitate an economy’s transformation to the next stage of development towards an innovation and services-based economy. “During the dialogue, APEC economies that have transformed to high-income status shared some of the ingredients of their success. Middle-income economies analyzed some of their challenges, providing a foundation for further discussion,” concluded Dr Alan Bollard, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat.

From http://www.apec.org/ 05/13/2014

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APEC Boosting Electric Vehicle Development

 

Increasing demand for fuel-efficient, greenhouse-gas reducing vehicles is prompting APEC economies, the world’s largest producers and consumers of automobiles, to adopt international standards to support the production and use electric vehicles and avoid regulatory divergences in the Asia-Pacific region. Trade officials, standards experts, manufacturers and power grid representatives, convened at an electric vehicle standards capacity building workshop in Qingdao, agreed that electric vehicles are the way of the future for the automobile industry. But they noted that economies should work to align and harmonize regulations and international standards for the market to become mainstream.

 

This is in line with APEC economies’ priority to strengthen comprehensive connectivity and innovative development, economic reform and growth, which is being taken forward by APEC Senior Officials through Thursday in Qingdao. “The introduction of electric vehicles into regional and global transportation networks presents a unique set of safety, design and performance requirements not previously addressed in an internal combustion vehicle world,” said John Larkin, Chair of the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment.” “Our goal is to ensure that economies can turn to an APEC resource when considering the development of regulations or standards related to electric vehicles,” Larkin explained. “This will help them satisfy public safety and environmental considerations while lowering barriers to greater regional and global trade.”

 

“Sustainable auto industry development will have a significant impact on the economic future of the Asia-Pacific and is one of our key long-term objectives,” added Wang Fuchang, Chair of the APEC Automotive Dialogue, a public-private forum that is shepherding the integration and growth of the sector. “Electric vehicles are important to achieving this end.” “A key supporting component for all electric vehicles is their electric charging systems,” continued Wang, who is also a senior industry official within China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. “This is opening up the need for significant infrastructure development, above all battery charging systems, and exposing interoperability gaps in electric power grid and plug requirements between economies.” Questions about what constitutes an electric vehicle remain a matter of debate and is indicative of the challenges to greater regulatory convergence, delegates noted. Whether hybrids like the Chevy Volt or Toyota Prius qualify as electric vehicles or are limited to models that are one hundred per cent electric such as the Nissan Leaf varies across economies.

 

Building awareness about the impediments that multiple international standards in the regional marketplace bring to bear and the benefits of deeper regulatory cooperation and standards alignment is the first step towards improving electric vehicle access and usability, delegates concluded. They also addressed the importance of using renewable sources of energy to power electric vehicles. A roadmap is now being discussed within APEC to facilitate the adoption and implementation of international standards pertaining to electric vehicles. It includes a recommendation to establish an APEC Electric Vehicle Interoperability Center to help economies ensure that electric vehicles can interface with electrical and charging infrastructure across the region.

From http://www.apec.org/ 05/14/2014

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Accelerate Asia-Pacific Integration

 

Trade Ministers from the 21 APEC member economies are gathered in the port city of Qingdao intent on putting trade and economic activity across the Asia-Pacific on a more even and robust growth path amid shifting regional and global conditions. Opening the proceedings, Minister Gao Hucheng of China’s Ministry of Commerce described the need for resilience to build on the progress achieved by APEC economies over the last 25 years in promoting trade and investment liberalization and the implications this has for the future direction of the global growth. “The recovery of the world economy is picking up, however, there are still many instabilities and uncertainties,” said Minister Gao who is chairing the meeting. “More risks are gathering.” “It is urgent for APEC members to demonstrate enough wisdom and courage to continue to firmly support the multilateral trading system and accelerate the Asia-Pacific economic integration process,” Minister Gao exhorted. He pointed to the region’s role in “shouldering the responsibility of powering the global economy.”

 

Together, APEC economies account for about half of global trade and 60 per cent of total gross domestic product. Under the APEC 2014 theme, “Shaping the Future Through Asia-Pacific Partnership,” Trade Ministers are discussing the next step for APEC in sustaining momentum in the multilateral trading system. World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo briefed Ministers on post-Bali Package developments and ways to advance and conclude the Doha Development Agenda. Trade Ministers are meanwhile charting a path for strengthening regional integration and how emerging free trade agreements and regional trade agreements can move APEC economies towards the realization of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, a shared goal endorsed by APEC Leaders. They are also pursuing actions to meet rising connectivity and infrastructure demands while boosting productivity and new economic opportunities for businesses and people in the region.

 

“The Asia-Pacific has become the region where global value chains and supply chains are most closely knitted,” Minister Gao explained. “However, the development differences between the members have yet to be bridged. The interconnectivity in human resources, infrastructure and organizations is still weak.” “We should actively carry out economic and technical cooperation and focus on bottlenecks in regional interconnectivity and infrastructure development, and discuss new approaches and new thinking for economic innovative development, reform and growth,” he concluded. “As long as we work together and carry forward the partnership of openness, inclusiveness, cooperation and win-win, have in depth communication and work closely, we are sure to achieve positive, practical and constructive outcomes.” The APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting will continue through Sunday.

From http://www.apec.org/ 05/17/2014

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APEC Key to Global Trade Progress

 

International trade is gradually improving and there is renewed energy in the multilateral trading system, which APEC member economies are driving forward, but sustained efforts are needed to boost trade flows to desired levels and put the world economy on a path to more robust growth and prosperity. This was the assessment provided by APEC Secretariat Executive Director Dr Alan Bollard and World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevêdo in a joint press conference along the margins of the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting that concludes on Sunday. “The Asia-Pacific region has of course seen very high growth, driven by very high trade growth, but over the last few years there has been much less trade growth,” explained Dr Bollard. “Ministers are talking about some big topics to give direction from the top down.” The implementation of the WTO agreement on trade facilitation is now a focus within APEC. Member economies are working together to build global capacity for this based on their experience in simplifying customs procedures and cutting unnecessary administrative costs for moving goods across borders.

 

As a result of measures like these, trade transaction costs in the APEC region dropped by ten per cent between 2002 and 2010. Reductions during the 2007-2010 period alone saved businesses nearly USD 60 billion. It is estimated that global trade could increase between USD 350 billion to USD1 trillion annually through the adoption of comparable initiatives under the trade facilitation agreement. “We have to try to finish the work that will put the agreement in place,” declared Azevêdo, who briefed Trade Ministers earlier on the state of play for multilateral trading system development. “On the conclusion of the Doha Round, we have to move from a discussion about general concepts into one that is more specific, more focused in a solution finding motif,” he added.

 

Azevêdo explained that APEC economies’ historic role in advancing global trade offers lessons for achieving greater progress. “In 1993, President Clinton hosted the APEC summit in Seattle and a few months later, we were able to conclude the Uruguay Round,” said Azevêdo. “Then, in 2001, the APEC summit in Shanghai allowed us to launch the Doha Round a few months later.” “Last year, when I was here, in October for the APEC summit, it was the outcome of that meeting that gave another push that allowed us to conclude the trade facilitation agreement and the Bali Package a few months later,” he continued. The next step in supporting this process and further combating protectionism has been a point of discussion among Trade Ministers this weekend.

From http://www.apec.org/ 05/18/2014

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Empowering Women for Asia-Pacific Prosperity

 

APEC Ministers responsible for empowering women in the economy, together with private sector leaders, are gathered in Beijing to develop policies to ensure women achieve their full potential through green development, regional trade cooperation and policy support. Opportunities for greater women’s entrepreneurship and involvement in trade through mobile-based smart technology and electronic commerce, and steps to advance this process are among the issues being addressed by delegates at the two-day APEC Women and the Economy Forum that concludes on Friday. “Women are important producers of both material and cultural wealth, and are also key drivers of development,” said Shen Yueyue, Vice Chairperson of China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and President of the All-China Women’s Federation. “More efforts are needed to facilitate achievement of women’s full potential, particularly through skills and capacity building, inclusive growth and cooperation network building.”

 

Around 600 million women currently participate in the labor force across the 21 APEC member economies. But just over 60 per cent of women in the region work in formal economic sectors and productivity within this demographic is still largely untapped. In China, women constitute 46 per cent of the workforce and only 21 per cent of businesses there were women-owned in 2012. “Actions are being taken in China to help women realize their full potential and enhance their economic empowerment,” said Song Xiuyan, Chair of the 2014 APEC Women and Economy Forum and Vice Chairperson of China’s National Working Committee on Children and Women under the State Council. “We'd like to share experiences with and learn from other APEC economies.” Mobile technology and e-commerce platforms offer new ways for women to start their own businesses while balancing family life, delegates noted. Mobile app development and online stores are among the range of new and attractive options.

 

“Today women have a better environment for growth,” said Diane Wang, representative from the APEC Business Advisory Council, China, and Founder and CEO of DHgate.com, a leading online marketplace for goods manufactured in China. “We have seen many women in China start their own businesses on an e-commerce platform to access international markets and micro-finance,” Wang explained. “APEC can help women better leverage these new e-commerce and mobile technologies.” Delegates identified areas where greater policy action is required and coordination between economies can support their adoption. “When we look at business opportunities, I don’t think there are boundaries anymore,” said Lois Brown, Parliamentary Secretary to Canada’s Minister of International Development. “E-commerce offers exciting new ways for women, even my own daughter, to start their own global online businesses.”

 

“There is much we can do on the policy side to facilitate women entrepreneurship in e-commerce, from making it easier to start a business with one-stop shop licensing to