January 2013, Issue 134

unpan-ap@sass.org.cn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Intl Telecom Regulations Treaty Drafted
International Bank Regulators Agree on Rules to Ensure Banks Have Enough Cash in Market Crises
Laws to Protect Internet Freedom Required
Asia 'Must Adjust for New Financial Regulation'
Asia to Be Nucleus of Economic Growth

 

 

 

 

CHINA: Issuing White Paper on Medical, Health Services
Birth Policy to Be Strictly Enforced in HK
China Amends Law to Boost Care for Elderly
China Stays Committed to Peaceful Development
Foreign Investment Record as Shanghai Bucks National Trend
Beijing, Shanghai Start Visa-Free Transit Policy
Legal Action Launched Over Polluted Water
China Maintains Family Planning Policy: Official
Cabinet Approves Science Infrastructure Plan
JAPAN: Ministry Likely to Reduce Livelihood Protection Benefits

Govt Plans Emergency Checks of Aging Ports
SOUTH KOREA: Seoul to Launch Car-Sharing Service Next Month
Parties Agree to Set Lower Tax for Food

S. Korean Elderly Forced to Work from Poor Post-Retirement Policies

Gov’t to Increase Thermal Energy Generation

 

 

 

 

CAMBODIA: Parliament Passes Law to Set Up Supreme Defense Body
MYANMAR: Parliament Revokes National-Convention-Related Law
Myanmar Lower House Urges to Build Lasting Peace in Kachin State
PHILIPPINES: Controversial Reproductive Health Act to Come into Force
Philippine President Signs Historic Bills into Laws
Govt Unveils “Smarter Philippines” Programme
Philippine President Signs Law Promoting Welfare of Domestic Workers
SINGAPORE: To Launch New Car Carbon Emission Scheme

More Property Cooling Measures Announced

THAILAND: New Law on Cybercrimes to Deal with New Techno

VIETNAM: Ministry to Introduce New Food Labelling Standards

Prime Minister Approves 2013 Audit Plan

 

 

 

 

BANGLADESH: Cabinet Clears National River Protection Commission Bill
Important Laws of Military Regime to Stay
New Law Offing to Ensure Food Safety in Country Minister
INDIA: Launching Pilot CCTNS Project
India to Enact Law to Contain Flood Damage
Urban Renewal Mission Extended Till March 2014
India Plans ‘181’ as National Helpline Number for Women
Panel Submits Report on HR Policy for E-Gov Projects
SRI LANKA: Targeting 7.5 Percent GDP Growth in 2013

Govt Focuses on a 19th Amendment to the Constitution

Parliament Passes Code of Criminal Procedure Bill

 

 

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Diplomatic Success Confirms Force of Impact and Balance of Foreign Policy
Azerbaijani Governments Approves Item Registration Rules
Broadband Internet Development Project to Be Adopted by Month End
Period of State Registration of Real Estate Rights to Be Reduced in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijani Communications and IT Ministry Announces Plans for 2013

Azerbaijani Economic Development Ministry to Prepare Economic Development Plan

KAZAKHSTAN: Making Amendments to Counter-Terrorism Law

Kazakh President to Voice Priority Tasks

TAJIKISTAN: Parliament Ratifies Agreement on WTO Accession

TURKMENISTAN: Law on Mass Media Comes into Force

 

 

 

 

New Intl Telecom Regulations Treaty Drafted

FIJI: Final Version of Its Draft Constitution Released
New Draft Constitution Solid: Fiji AG

NEW ZEALAND: EU Endorses NZ Privacy Laws

Boost for Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme

NZ Govt Mulling Rules to Make Foreign Investors Pay "Fair" Tax

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Departments List Priority Areas

MP Gives New Vehicles

 

 

 

 

Asia-Pacific Commits to Improving Health Data Systems

Asia Pacific Banking System Outlook Broadly Stable

 

 

CHINA: Approving Committee for Choosing Military Legislators
More Regions to Reform Migrant Education System
China to Reform Re-Education Through Labor System
Statistics: 95% of Corrupted Officials Keep Mistress
Chinese Counties Lack Child Welfare Agencies
Chinese Society Lacks Trust: Experts
China to Combat Fraud in Academician Election
JAPAN: Education Reform Body to Be Set Up in Mid-Jan.
SOUTH KOREA: Public Servants' Pay Increases by 2.8%

Gov't Payroll Increases Sharply Under Lee Admin.
Reconstruction Bureau to Get More Staff, Chief to Be Upgraded

 

 

INDONESIA: To Increase Transparency with an Online Programme
MYANMAR: Vowing to Continue Reform in 2013 as Third Step
MALAYSIA: To Build a United Front Against Corruption
PHILIPPINES: Province Adopts E-Accounting System
The Philippines Improves Emergency Loan Processing System

The Philippines Introduces E-payment System in E-procurement

SINGAPORE: GIC to Have New Chief Investment Officer

Community Policing System Extended to 6 More NPCs

VIETNAM: Politburo Appoints Commission Heads
Residents Can Rate Civil Servants Online in Vietnam

Civil Service Hiring Is Corruption Free: Report

 

 

BANGLADESH: Cabinet Forms Committee to Determine Suitable Salary, Allowances for Judicial Service Members

INDIA: Cash Crimes Govt Eye on 103 NGOs

More Policy Reforms in Next Couple of Months

SRI LANKA: Parliament to Vote on Chief Justice Impeachment

Government Is Committed to Protect Democracy – President

MALDIVES: Govt Decides to Shun Parliament Committee

Govt to Cooperate with Committee Barring CoNI Probe

NEPAL: Govt in Favour of Formation of Truth and Reconciliation Commission

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Opposition Party Reshuffled

KYRGYZSTAN: New Deputy Minister of Social Development Appointed

Kyrgyzstan Appoints New Head of Border Service

KAZAKHSTAN: Interior Ministry Reshuffled

New Ministry to Be Established
New First Deputy Head Appointed to Kazakh Ruling Party

Kazakhstan to Establish Agency for International Development

TURKMENISTAN: Government Faces Personnel Changes
Turkmenistan Appoints Head of Turkmengaz and Petroleum Minister

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Opening Up Government for Citizen Engagement
Labor 'to Consider Feedback' on Draft Anti-Discrimination Laws

FIJI: Political Parties Find Decree Severe

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Constitutional Democracy

 

 

 

Science and Development Highlights of 2012

Beyond ICT: The Newest Digital Revolution

New Funding for Climate and Forests Protection
IFC, Other Development Institutions Pledge to Work Together to Address Job Creation
Modern Food Supply Technology 'Key to Affordable Food'

Asia Community Service Concerned Over Job Security for the Disabled

Management World Asia Reveals Innovative New Revenue Generation Through Digital Service Delivery

 

 

CHINA: To Monitor Students' Fitness Nationwide
Support System for Elderly with One Child Considered
Legislators Support Setting Up Independent IPR Courts
Management of Associations Highlighted for Reform
Forced Confessions Banned in Police Investigations
Water Monitoring to Be Made Public
China Vows Upgraded Protection for School Children
Ministry Boosts Orphan Care by Private Agencies
Schools Ordered to Hire Security Guards
Labor Unions to Give More to Needy Workers

China Urges Aid for Vagrants During Winter

First Undersea Fiber-Optic Cable Links Mainland, Taiwan

JAPAN: Govt to Aid Rebuilding of Tsunami-hit Houses

Govt to Launch Fund to Fight Global Warming

Exhibit Features Houses Built for Disaster Reconstruction

Govt Panel Restarts Social Security Talks

Govt to Train Experts to Deal with N-accidents

SOUTH KOREA: Gov't to Support O'seas Construction Deals

Gov't to Expand Agro Supply Ahead of Holiday

Land Ministry Counters Audit on River Project

Survey: S. Korea 5th Most Innovative Nation

Ministry Holds Anti-disaster Inspections

Burden on Younger Generations to Support Seniors Forecast to Grow

 

 

INDONESIA: City Deploys Traffic Control System

Jakarta to Launch E-Payment System for Public Transport
MALAYSIA: Local Council Launches Online Portal for Ratepayers

SINGAPORE: MSF to Focus on Better Organising Its Delivery of Social Services

Singapore to Auction 4G Spectrum Bands by Mid-year

Singapore Raises Subsidies for Childcare

VIETNAM: Ministry of Defence Launches e-Portal

 

 

BANGLADESH: PM Stresses Science, Technology-Based Education

Renewables the 99.9 Percent Solution

Govt Focuses on Nutrition-Based Programmes Minister

People Must Be Involved in Public Initiatives
Govt Mulls ECA Loan to Set Up Power Plants

SRI LANKA: Govt Allocates More Funds for Rehabilitation of Ex-LTTE Cadres

NEPAL: Govt Preparing to Introduce Handicraft Villages in Five Regions

 

 

KYRGYZSTAN: National Bank Launches New Financial Tool to Decrease Commercial Risks

KAZAKHSTAN: Kazmunaigas Exploration Production Completes Share Buy Back Programme

TURKMENISTAN: Taking Measures to Secure Gas Supply in Winter

UZBEKISTAN: To Change Tax Base on Excess Profits from Goods Sale in 2013

Uzbekistan Legally Liquidates Credit Unions

Punishment for Economic Crimes Mitigated in Uzbekistan

List of Subsidised Jobs Revised in Uzbekistan

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Fast-Tracking Support for BYOD

FIJI: Pro-Actively Preparing for Disasters - Minister

NEW ZEALAND: 21st Among 60 Nations for Globalisation

New Zealand to Push for Trade Liberalization at Davos Meetings

Govt Ignores UN Recommendation of Work-Hour Limit

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Body Aims to Help Indigenous Business-People
Concept Key to Rural Development

TONGA: Speeds Up Its Business License Registration Process

Tonga Adopts Catastrophic Risk Insurance Program

 

 

 

Social Media: Five Predictions for 2013

Internet Freedom Threatened

Local Software Can Spur Development, Says UN Report
Best Broadband Cities in the World

Evidence Lacking on mHealth Effectiveness in Poor Countries

WB Urges Developing Countries to Safeguard Economic Growth, as Road Ahead Remains Bumpy

Globe Hits Rival for Network Traffic, SMS Bogdown
Global Collaboration Needed to Fight Neglected Diseases
Electronic Arts Should Make a Much Bigger Push in Asia

Asian ICT Projects Get Fresh International Funding

Asia-Pacific PC Market Contracts for First Time in 2012

 

 

CHINA: 100m New 3G Users Seen in 2013
China Service PMI Hits 4-Month High in Dec
E-Commerce Service Sector Expands 83% in 2012
Smart TVs Become Smarter but Still Early Days for the Technology

'Building of Large Intestine' Becomes Internet Hit

China's Internet Users Reach 564 Mln
China 2012 Growth Eases to 7.8%

JAPAN: 75% of Latest University Grads Secure Jobs

Single-person Households Seen Rising to One-third in 2015

Welfare Recipients Hit Record of 2.14 Million

SOUTH KOREA: Youth Population Predicted to Be Cut in Half in 50 Years

S. Korea's Economic Freedom Ranks 34th Place
60% of Loans to Unemployed Become Overdue

97% of Public Still Backs Govt's Green Growth Vision

Seoul’s Population Drops for 2nd Year

S. Korea GDP Grows 2% in 2012, Lowest in 3 Years

 

 

CAMBODIA: Trade Target Surpassed

PHILIPPINES: Gov't Mulls of Taxing Online Stores

The Philippines to Introduce Personal Controlled Health Data

Philippine City to Computerise Land Titles

SINGAPORE: Intelligence Software Brought into Classroom

Singapore Labor Market to Be Even Tighter Next Year: Minister
Primary Schools to Receive New Teachers Twice a Year

Singapore Hospital Introduces Communication App for Intubated Patients

THAILAND: University Introduces App to Derive Insight on Foetuses

Thai Government to Optimise Smart ID to Connect with Farmers

VIETNAM: Launching E-Customs Procedures
EVN Ensures Electricity in 2013

 

 

BANGLADESH: E-commerce Week Begins
INDIA: Challenges and Opportunities in e-Governance

India's Educational Dilemma in 21st Century

About 42 Pct Decline in Self Employment in India - Survey

E-Gov Road Map for Varanasi Civic Body Ready

Government Shuts Out Top Global Network Vendors from Rs 21,000 Crore Fibre Optic Venture

India Setting Up National Cyber Security Architecture

India Drafts Agenda to Spread IT Literacy

SRI LANKA: Apparel Group Takes Millennium IT Communications Solution

NEPAL: Telecom Mobile Service Obstructed Across Country

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: E-service Application for Licensure in the ICT Field Integrated into “E-Government” Portal

Azerbaijani Communications Ministry Promises Continuous Operation of Network and Communication Centres During Holidays

Some 11,000 People Visited www.b2b.az Portal Services in 2012

Azerbaijani Communications Ministry Announces Promising Directions in Connection with Announcement of 2013 as Year of ICT

Over $ 131 Mn Allocated to the Development of Broadband Internet
Bakcell Intends to Launch 4G Network in Azerbaijan in 2013

Minister: Mobile Number Portability Service to Be Introduced in Azerbaijan No Later Than April

Over 325 Million Manat Invested in Azerbaijan’s IT Sector in 2012

Nearly 90% of Tax Declarations in Azerbaijan Submitted Electronically

TAJIKISTAN: Internet Providers Told to Unblock 131 Websites

TURKMENISTAN: GDP Ups by 11.1 Per Cent in 2012

UZBEKISTAN: To Create ‘e-Government’

 

 

New Players, Challenges Vision, Reconfiguring Regionalism in the Pacific

Human Health in Pacific to Feel Impact of Warmer Future
Regional Cooperation in Pacific Oceanscape

AUSTRALIA: ICT Integration Underway
Female Graduate Pay Gap Doubles: Report

Laying the Groundwork for G-Cloud in Australia

Trade Deficit Grows on Rising Imports

Aust Gov Launches Mobile App for Seniors

Most People Happy with Their Job: Survey

WA Still Australia's Economic Powerhouse

FIJI: ADB Skeptical About Its Growth Figures

Push to Give Fijians in Remote Areas Equal Access to Telephones and Internet

NEW ZEALAND: Christmas Boosts Electronic Card Spending

Telcommunications Cable Cuts Prices

NZ App Users at Risk of Cyber Attacks - Survey

PALAU: Secured Transactions Registry Goes Online

 

 

 

$37.7 Million in Contributions to Strengthen Governance and Economic Growth

Global Telco Revenues Hit $2trn but Growth Slow
Global Mobile Ad Revenue to Reach $11.4B in 2013

IMF Asks Experts to Design Fiscally Suitable Pensions in Asia

ADB Prices $1 Billion 7-Year Global Bond Issue

 

 

CHINA: Telecom Sector Revenue Rises 9.2%
Telecom Income May Expand 8%
4.5b Yuan Earmarked for Rural Teachers in 2012
$3.44 Billion Allocated to Needy Chinese
JAPAN: Ministry to Subsidize Local Road Repairs

Govt Approves 13.1 Trillion Yen Extra Budget for Fiscal 2012

Newspapers Call for Lower Tax Rate for Publications

SOUTH KOREA: Gov’t Cuttings Costs to Help Park Execute Campaign Promises
Finance Minister Discusses Economic Cooperation Measures with Vietnam
Gov't to Invest 2.2 Tln Won into Science and Technology R&D Projects

Finance Minister Says Gov't Prepared to Deal with Currency Volatility

 

 

THAILAND: Banks Join Regional Peers in Showing Strengths

VIETNAM: PM Outlines Banking Targets for 2013

Climate Change Costs Vietnam 15 Bln USD Annually: Survey
Government Aims to Rescue Ailing Property Market

 

 

INDIA: Government Tightens Tax Recovery Norms

Indians Spend 20 Lakh for School Education - Survey

Government Likely to Reduce Number of Centrally Sponsored Schemes to 59 in Budget

SRI LANKA: Govt Allocates Rs. 1.2 Billion to Repair 900 Small Tanks

MALDIVES: Finance Ministry to Meet Offices Over Budget Constraints

Maldives State Reserve Shrinks to MVR4.9 Billion

Finance Not Working to Recover Funds Lost Through Incompetence Auditor General

NEPAL: Govt, UNICEF Sign $144 M Country Programme Action Plan for 2013-17

Govt, IFC Sign Deal for Policy Reforms to Enhance Business Growth

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Field Tax Audits Bring Over $780 Million to State Budget in 2012

Azerbaijan Mortgage Fund Increases Level of Drawing Funds from Capital Market

TURKMENISTAN: Stabilization Fund Grows Due to State Budget Surplus

Turkmen State Budget’s Profitable Area Stands at 159.3 Per Cent

UZBEKISTAN: Finance Ministry to Increase Its Stake in Bank of Rural Construction

Accounting of Pensions and Benefits Automated

 

 

FIJI: Rebut ADB Claims

NEW ZEALAND: Novopay Omnishambles Costs $500,000 - MP

 

 

 

Private Sector Can Help Improve Business Climate

 

 

CHINA: 360Buy Will Split Daily Deals Businesses
Chinese Private Firms May Offer Mobile Services Directly to Users
JAPAN: 70% of Retailers Require Early Delivery

SOUTH KOREA: Samsung Electronics' Sales Reach New High for 5th Straight Quarter

NHN Chat App 'Line' Reaches 100 Million Subscriber Mark

S. Korean IT Firms Top 10 Tln Won in Royalty Payments in 2012

 

 

INDONESIA: To Give Tax Incentives to Green Cars Production

SINGAPORE: SMEs May Face Challenging Year Ahead

THAILAND: No Wage-hike Fund for Employers, Says Finance Minister
VIETNAM: More Ha Noi Enterprises Declare Taxes Online

PM Urges Industrial Expansion

 

 

PAKISTAN: Private Sector Credit Posts 62pc Decline

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: List of Potential Shareholders of First Private Credit Bureau May Expand

Azerbaijan’s Non-Oil Sector Provided 50 Per Cent of Tax Levies in 2012

KYRGYZSTAN: Small and Medium Business Hits 40% of GDP

TAJIKISTAN: National Bank Issues Licence to First Private Credit Bureau

TURKMENISTAN: Financial and Banking Sectors Face Personnel Changes

 

 

NEW ZEALAND: Small Business - Tips for Riding Out 2013

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New Intl Telecom Regulations Treaty Drafted

A new global telecommunications treaty was agreed to on 13 December, during the World Conference on International Telecommunications 2012 (WCIT-12) convened by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialised agency for ICT, in Dubai. Attended by nearly 2000 delegates from 193 member states of the ITU, the WCIT-12 was called to review the 24-year-old International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), the current binding treaty to facilitate international interconnection and ensuring efficiency and public usefulness and availability of information and communication services. The new draft of the treaty sets out general principles for ensuring the free flow of information around the world, and includes new provisions emphasising efforts to assist developing countries and the right to freedom of expression over ICT networks, and promote accessibility of ICT technologies for persons with disabilities. The treaty also contains a resolution to create a single global number for access to emergency services, and new text mandating greater transparency in the prices set for mobile roaming. In a statement released at the end of the conference, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, Secretary General of the ITU, said, “This treaty contains many gains and achievements including increased transparency in international mobile roaming charges and competition, an extremely important win for consumers.” “Information and communication technologies can now play a greater role in driving sustainable development, in particular with new Articles that provide recommendations for dealing with the growing scourge of e-waste and promoting greater energy efficiency.” The treaty, however, has only been signed by 89 nations. Disagreement over provisions granting governments greater control over the internet led to 55 countries either refusing to sign or reserving the right to sign later. USA, UK, Australia and Canada are among the nations refusing to sign. Opponents object to proposals which would give governments greater powers to control international phone calls and data traffic. Several states also maintain that attempts in the treaty to control spam email can be used by governments to censor content in the name of attacking spam. The regulations of the new treaty will come into force in January 2015.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 12/28/2012

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International Bank Regulators Agree on Rules to Ensure Banks Have Enough Cash in Market Crises

International banking regulators agreed Sunday on global rules meant to ensure banks keep enough cash in hand to survive future market crises, and gave banks until 2019 to comply fully. The rules will require banks in future to hold enough cash, and assets such as equities, corporate and government bonds that can easily be sold, to tide them over during an acute 30-day crisis. The body that oversees the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, which sets international rules, said Sunday that they will have to hold 60 per cent of that amount when the rules start being phased in on Jan. 1, 2015; that will increase by 10 percentage points every year until the standards take full effect at the beginning of 2019. The oversight body's head, Bank of England governor Mervyn King, said after regulators met in Basel, Switzerland, that the timeframe ensures the new standards "will in no way hinder the ability of the global banking system to finance the recovery." The hope is that it will prevent lenders from becoming over-reliant in future on help from central banks, which have stepped in over recent years to keep the financial system flush with cash. King said that "the vast majority" of the world's biggest banks "already hold liquid assets well above the minimum required by this standard." The rules are part of wider efforts to prevent another shock to the financial system like that prompted by Lehman Brothers' 2008 collapse, which led to taxpayer-funded bailouts of banks in the U.S. and Europe. They are part of the so-called Basel III package of reforms. That package will require lenders to increase their highest-quality capital — such as equity and cash reserves — gradually from 2 per cent of the risky assets they hold to 7 per cent by 2019.

From http://ca.news.yahoo.com/ 01/06/2013

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Laws to Protect Internet Freedom Required

With social networking site Facebook boasting of 1 billion members globally and micro-blogging site Twitter claiming millions, opinion was divided on whether the freedom of expression was under threat in the digital age. "Censorship of content should be the last resort as curbing a particular content online actually amplifies its spread over the internet," said Sunil Abraham from Centre for Internet and Society. He was speaking at a panel discussion organised by London based Index on Censorship and the Editors Guild of India on the issue at the India International Centre Tuesday evening. "The government has refused to amend Section 66(A) of the IT Act which is used to curb free speech on the net," said Guild chief TN Ninan who moderated the debate. "The law treats digital media differently than the print media," he said. Director of Free Speech Debate, Oxford University, Timothy Garton Ash said, "There was no threat to the freedom of speech as Internet was actually an opportunity for spreading freedom of expression." India with the large number of net users could act as swing state between two extremes of China which is trying to control the net and the US which champions free speech, he said. "The question is what are the legitimate limits of free speech rather than asking for unlimited speech," said Ash. Ajit Balakrishnan, CEO and founder of online portal rediff.com, said "there was a sense of powerlessness among nation states as only local laws applied to any such violations." He said the Internet was not so democratic as it sounded as the actual numbers of users who posted content on Facebook were just 8-9 million while the rest just watched. The same was with Twitter with just 7-8 per cent users actually posting messages. Kirsty Hughes, CEO, Index on Censorship, said "freedom of speech was universal" while noting a "worrying trend that increasingly governments were moving to control the Internet."

From http://www.guardian.co.uk/ 01/16/2013

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Asia 'Must Adjust for New Financial Regulation'

The global financial landscape is changing, largely thanks to tighter regulations coming out of the US and Europe. Rules such as the Dodd-Frank Act, which includes restrictions on banks' riskier activities, and Basel III, which requires banks to hold a minimum level of capital in order to withstand any losses, are set to impact Asia. But many analysts argue that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work in the region, given it has many capital markets at different stages of development. Paul Smith, Asia-Pacific managing director at the CFA Institute in Hong Kong, said the region has to adjust and the best it can hope for is that China can lead Asia in terms of being able to push back against some of this regulation.

From http://www.bbc.co.uk/ 01/17/2013

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Asia to Be Nucleus of Economic Growth

The world economy has witnessed unprecedented changes and undoubtedly the changes in South Asia are going to influence the global economy like never before and Asia will be the nucleus of economic growth. Talking to a high level delegation of Indian importers and exporters here Sunday, Vice President SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) Pak chapter Iftikhar Ali Malik said that at this appropriate time SCCI is now also designed to be a global platform and will help forge new business alliance across the region and abroad and help image building of South Asia as a region of great potential for trade and investment. He said that the world today has now become a global village. The integration of business and multinational firms has made the world a smaller place to live in, he said and added distances and time are no longer the constraints for business across the globe. He said a business in UK may have its operational department in Pakistan. Its Human Resource Department in India and its help support in Sri Lanka. Iftikhar Ali Malik said with the rapid advancement of technology, the need for sustainability and survival has become crucial perspective for firms throughout the world as competition grows gruesome. He said that current global crunch has become a setback for countries throughout the world especially in developing and transition economies. Therefore, regional co-operation is one of the most important phenomena today which he added has now become inevitable as the process of globalization is still at large. He said that SAARC region should emphasis on joining hands in trade, agriculture and economic activities which must refrain animosities for the region. The Vice President said that he was confident that deeper and sustained interaction between the governments and the private sectors stakeholder,would compliment the ongoing inter-governmental efforts in SAARC to expand,develop and promote trade among the South Asian countries. Leader of Indian delegation Parampal Singh thanked Iftikhar Ali Malik for extending maximum co-operation for having one on one interaction with pak counterparts and facilitated for holding meetings with chambers besides hosting a sumptuous lunch in their honour at his residence.

From http://www.brecorder.com/ 01/20/2013

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CHINA: Issuing White Paper on Medical, Health Services

The Chinese central government on Wednesday issued a white paper on the country's medical and health services, noting that medical and health care systems covering both urban and rural residents have taken shape. The white paper, "Medical and Health Services in China", was released by the Information Office of the State Council, or China's Cabinet, saying that China has kept advancing the reform of its health care system to ensure that every resident has access to safe, effective, convenient and affordable services. The paper revealed that the health of the Chinese people is now among the top in developing countries with an overall life expectancy of 74.8 years in 2010, 72.4 years for males and 77.4 years for females. The mortality rate of children under five has kept dropping from 34.9 per thousand in 2002 to 15.6 per thousand in 2011, attaining ahead of schedule the UN Millennium Development Goal in this regard, the white paper said. The infant mortality rate had went down from 29.2 per thousand in 2002 to 12.1 per thousand in 2011, it said. By the end of 2011, medical and health care institutions around China totaled 954,000, an increase of 148,000 over 2003. Licensed doctors (assistants) reached 2,466,000, or 1.8 per thousand people, as compared with 1.5 per thousand people in 2002. The seven-part white paper revealed that Chinese residents went to the medical institutions for medical treatment 4.6 times on average annually, 11.3 of every 100 people were hospitalized.

The paper said although China has made remarkable achievements in the development of its healthcare undertakings, they still fall far short of demands from the public as well as economic and social development. It became an issue of major importance for the Chinese government to provide better and more accessible medical and health services to the public, it said. By 2011, more than 1.3 billion people had joined the three basic medical insurance schemes that cover both urban and rural residents of the world's most populous country, the white paper said. Chinese government has strived to make access to basic public health services more equitable by providing all residents with a free package of 41 basic public health services in ten categories, including health record, health education and preventive inoculation. As one of the most notable and influential undertakings of China's healthcare work, national immunization program has been implemented, the white paper said. China has signed treaties with the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) contents or special TCM cooperation agreements with over 70 countries, and cooperation in TCM application in foreign countries, and more than 160 countries and regions around the world have access to the TCM, the white paper said. The TCM acupuncture and moxibustion has been recognized as a masterpiece of the intangible heritage of mankind, and the Huangdi Neijing (Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor), Bencao Gangmu (Compendium of Materia Medica) and other TCM treatises have been included in the UNESCO Memory of the World, according to the white paper. The Chinese government had sent medical teams to 73 countries by 2011 since its first abroad medical team was sent to Algeria in 1963, and 56 Chinese medical teams are currently working in 53 countries including Algeria, Tanzania, Morocco and Zimbabwe.So far, about 900 Chinese medical team members have been awarded honors by the recipient countries, and 50 members died during their service abroad, the white paper added.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/26/2012

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Birth Policy to Be Strictly Enforced in HK 

The Food and Health Bureau in Hong Kong reiterated Friday that all public hospitals will not accept any bookings by pregnant non-local women for delivery in Hong Kong starting Jan. 1. According to the zero quota policy promulgated earlier, for pregnant women from the Chinese mainland with their husbands being Hong Kong permanent residents, or Hong Kong residents who came on One-way Permits and have made bookings at local private hospitals for delivery in 2013, their identity and their marital relations with their husbands will be subject to stringent verification. The Immigration Department, the Office of the Licensing Authority, and other law enforcement agencies will boost interception and enforcement actions against pregnant mainland women whose husbands are not Hong Kong permanent residents. The measures include strengthening immigration examination of all pregnant women from the Chinese mainland, combating the illicit agencies helping them come to Hong Kong to give birth, and enhancing inspection and enforcement against unlicensed guesthouses.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/29/2012

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China Amends Law to Boost Care for Elderly 

China's top legislature on Friday adopted a bill to amend the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly in order to improve care for people ages 60 and up. The bill to amend the 16-year-old law was passed following a vote by lawmakers at the conclusion of a five-day bimonthly session of the National People's Congress Standing Committee. President Hu Jintao issued an order to publicize the amended law containing 85 articles, which will replace a version of the law from 1996 and take effect from July 1, 2013. The legislation came amid government efforts to find comprehensive solutions to issues facing the elderly population, as the number of Chinese senior citizens has grown rapidly in recent years. The amended law says China considers it a long-term strategic task to actively confront the challenges posed by an aging society. Efforts shall be made to boost people's awareness on adapting to an aging society and urge the public to care for and help the elderly, it says. "These clauses carry significance for China in devising and carrying forward a national agenda on the aging population on strategic fronts," legislator Yu Jianwei told reporters. China was home to over 184 million people over the age of 60 by the end of 2011, who accounted for 13.7 percent of the population, according to official figures. Yu said China's elderly population is expected to exceed 200 million in 2013. Statistics also show that China has more than 33 million disabled or partially disabled elderly citizens, and caring for them will be an increasingly pressing issue.

The amended law says governments at all levels should incorporate work regarding the aging population into the overall economic and social development plan and ensure that funds are available. In addition to urging family members to care for the elderly, the law stipulates that the government will ensure a basic living and basic medical care for the elderly through the pension mechanism and healthcare scheme. The government shall provide basic living, healthcare, housing and other services to poverty-stricken elderly, and it will support those elderly who are disabled but have no supporters to rely on. The amended law says local governments will roll out measures that encourage organizations or individuals to offer elderly-care services, while improving supervision over nursing homes for the aging population. Moreover, government authorities should thoroughly consider the needs of the elderly in urban and rural development project plans, with an aim of creating a safe, convenient and comfortable environment for them, according to the law. Many of China's current development projects are designed based on the needs of the young population and are inconvenient for the elderly, said Dang Junwu, deputy chief of the China Research Center on Aging. "Some six- or seven-story apartment buildings in cities just have no elevators," he said, offering an example. China should move to make its public facilities more elderly-friendly, according to experts.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/29/2012

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China Stays Committed to Peaceful Development

Chinese leaders have in recent months reaffirmed China's commitment to peaceful development, which has become the country's strategy. Whether in the form of highlighted content of the report of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), or the theme of Chinese President Hu Jintao's New Year address, the promise by the Chinese leadership to adhere to peaceful development indeed testifies to Beijing's sincerity in helping build a better world. Any one familiar with Chinese history knows that aggression or expansion has never been in the blood of the Asian nation, which has deep-rooted belief in maintaining harmony between different elements of the universe. Aside from its peace-loving cultural tradition, China also has a more realistic motive to stay on track of peaceful development. Despite its status as an import engine of the global economy, China still has a long way to go before the majority of its people could enjoy a life standard comparable to that in developed countries. As noted by many scholars and observers, the need for a peaceful international environment has never been stronger as China strives to further boost development amid the unstoppable trend of globalization. On the much-hyped Chinese military spending, a topic frequently used by biased critics and ill-intended politicians to fan the flames of China-phobia, the basic fact is that China, with its vast territory, a long borderline and complicated geopolitical surroundings, is justified to keep moderate growth in defense expenditures, not to mention that China's current defense expense-to-GDP ratio is dwarfed by many countries.

China, which advocates peaceful solutions to international disputes, has walked the talk. Whoever that suspects a rising China could be a global danger is advised to check the country's record to see whether China has ever been the first to attack. If still unconvinced, China's persistence in opposing hegemony and power politics serves as another clue. While making clear its adherence to peaceful development, China has been taking concrete steps to address concerns over China's increasing global influence by trying to establish a new mode of inter-power relations and a more equitable global partnership of development. Meanwhile, a peace-loving China will not hesitate to take necessary actions when its core interests are infringed upon, as said by Chinese generals and senior diplomats. World peace and stability is high on the New Year wish list for many, especially those caught in armed conflicts. China will continue to work with other members of the international community to make the world a better place.

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

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Foreign Investment Record as Shanghai Bucks National Trend

SHANGHAI attracted a record amount of foreign investment in 2012, bucking the trend of shrinking foreign direct investment nationwide, powered by growing financial services and the number of business headquarters. The city took US$15.2 billion in FDI in 2012, up 20.5 percent from a year earlier, the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce said yesterday. That compared to a 3.6 percent decline in China in the first 11 months of last year from the same period in 2011, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. "Investment in the service industries made up 83.5 percent of the city's total FDI, highlighting the city's enhanced economic focus on the service sector," the commission said. Investment in the financial sector in Shanghai surged 70 percent from the previous year, while investment in headquarters of multinational companies jumped 30 percent from 2011. By the end of 2012, the city was home to 265 investment companies and 403 regional headquarters of multinational companies, leading all other Chinese cities. Shanghai has issued a package of new policies, including subsidies and duty exemptions, to encourage more MNCs to set up corporate headquarters and research and development centers. Management resources Wang Xinpei, deputy director of the commerce commission, said the city aimed to use the policies to encourage foreign-funded companies to divert their management and innovation resources to Shanghai in order to transform the local economy amid the global recession.

Shanghai's growing attractiveness in aspects ranging from quality of life to the business environment has drawn entrepreneurs and foreign companies to settle in the city, Shanghai Daily found in a survey on 26 top regional officials of multinational organizations and enterprises in December. "Shanghai has evolved into a modern, cosmopolitan metropolis, providing not only a good environment for residents to work and live, but also a strong and sound infrastructure for businesses to thrive and prosper," Andrew Au, CEO of Citi China, said. Shanghai ranks first among 25 global financial centers in attracting FDI, both in the number of projects and the amount of capital invested, PricewaterhouseCoopers said in a report in November. The city came fifth in terms of economic clout, but improvement is needed in the quality of life, such as the environment and education, to retain talents, according to the report.

From http://www.shanghaidaily.com/ 01/01/2013

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Beijing, Shanghai Start Visa-Free Transit Policy

Travelers from 45 countries can now benefit from a 72-hour visa-free stay policy in Beijing and Shanghai, a move that could attract more transit visitors. On Tuesday morning, a Chinese Australian surnamed Zhou became the first visitor to benefit from the policy after he arrived at Beijing Capital International Airport. Zhou knew about the policy when he booked his flight tickets. He decided to stay in Beijing for two days before flying to Rome, Italy. Tourists holding third country visas and plane tickets can now apply for a transit without visa at Beijing's international airport. Foreign visitors are not permitted to leave Beijing to other Chinese cities during the 72 hours, and have to depart from the capital city. The 45 countries were listed in accordance with the numbers of inbound overnight visitors in Beijing from 2009 to 2011. The same policy also took effect in Shanghai where visitors can submit applications at Pudong and Hongqiao airports.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 01/02/2013

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Legal Action Launched Over Polluted Water

The Handan Winter Swimming Association took legal action on Wednesday against the company responsible for a toxic chemical spill that threatens drinking water supplies to thousands of homes in North China. The public interest lawsuit was submitted to Handan Intermediate People's Court in Hebei province. If accepted, Tianji Coal Chemical Industry Group in Changzhi, Shanxi province, could be forced to pay compensation to the affected Handan residents, plus 10 million yuan ($1.6 million) to the city government to cover the costs of dealing with the fallout of the spill. "The court will decide whether to take the lawsuit by next Friday," said Sun Guanglin, a Handan lawyer representing the association, adding that the action is the first public interest litigation filed since the amended Civil Procedure Law took effect on Jan 1. "We are confident in the case — the facts are clear," Sun said. Calls to the court and Tianji Coal Chemical went unanswered. The spill from a loose drainage valve led to at least 9 metric tons of aniline flowing into the Zhuozhang River and another 30 tons seeping into a nearby disused reservoir, according to an initial investigation by Shanxi provincial authorities. Water samples showed aniline levels in the river reached 72 milligrams per liter after the accident. Aniline is a clear or slightly yellow liquid and can cause liver and kidney damage in humans. Shanxi authorities have said no casualties — human or animal — were reported, but a senior Handan official who did not want to be named said dead fish had been found on Friday near the Yuecheng Reservoir.

"As (the government) did not give any warning (about the spill) for five days, the aniline has threatened the lives of Handan residents," Sun said. "We're just looking for justice." The spill was detected on Dec 31 but was only revealed to the public five days later when Handan authorities cut off water supplies because of safety concerns, prompting panic buying of bottled water in the city. The water supply was sourced from groundwater from Sunday to Tuesday. "With the water quality in Yuecheng Reservoir testing safe, the water supply shifted back to the reservoir on Tuesday night," Liu Donghua, a spokeswoman for Handan Water Supply Co, said on Wednesday. She said workers have tested the water quality hourly since Tuesday. Hou Risheng, chief engineer of the Handan environmental protection bureau, said at a news conference on Tuesday that testing showed the water in Yuecheng Reservoir is safe, but the five monitoring spots upstream of the Zhuozhang River had excessive aniline levels. On Sunday, Chen Jianwen, general manager of Tianji Coal Chemical, deputy manager Ren Yongjie and two other employees were sacked. Changzhi authorities say they will suspend operations at 112 chemical companies along the Zhuozhang River to eliminate potential hazards. China's coal-rich Shanxi province has been the scene of a series of accidents over the past week. On Jan 3, the Work Safety Committee of the State Council condemned a subsidiary of the China Railway Tunnel Group for covering up a deadly explosion at a railway tunnel project in Shanxi for five days. The accident killed eight people and injured five. On Monday, a gas explosion also killed seven people in a Yangquan Coal Industry mine in Jinzhong. Li Xiaopeng, acting governor of Shanxi, said at an emergency conference on safety on Tuesday that Tianji Coal Chemical and Yangquan Coal Industry had suspended their operations. He urged authorities to make work safety a top priority. "We have zero tolerance for coverups," Li said. Zhang Bao, mayor of Changzhi in Shanxi, where the aniline spill occurred, apologized for a five-day delay in reporting the accident to the provincial authorities on Monday.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 01/10/2013

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China Maintains Family Planning Policy: Official 

A Chinese official has said the country's family planning policy should be unswervingly adhered to. The policy should be a long-term one and its primary goal is to keep a low birthrate, said Wang Xia, minister in charge of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, at a national conference on Monday. The authorities will expand pre-pregnancy check services to reach all county-level areas across the country and ensure migrants' equal access to related public services this year, according to Wang. At present, such services are available in about 60 percent of county-level areas, covering more than 80 percent of the target population, according to the official. Efforts should also be made to rectify the imbalance in gender ratio, she said. Wang added that the birthrate in China was held at a low level in 2012.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 01/15/2013

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Cabinet Approves Science Infrastructure Plan

The State Council, or China's cabinet, has approved a plan on infrastructure construction for major science and technology projects for the next two decades. According to a statement released Wednesday after an executive meeting of the State Council, the Medium- and Long-Term (2012-2030) Plan on Infrastructure Construction for China's Major Science and Technology Projects aims to boost China's innovation capability, support major science and technology breakthroughs and accelerate infrastructure construction for major projects. The plan, focusing on cutting-edge research and the country's major strategic demands, highlights seven major fields, including energy, life, Earth systems and environments, materials, particle and nuclear physics, space and astronomy and engineering technology. The plan gives priority to 16 projects, such as setting up a deep-sea scientific observation network, as well as building high-precision gravity reading and research devices, the statement said. According to the meeting, which was chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, more efforts will be made to increase investment and create a system that enables coordinated innovation and resource-sharing in order to boost the efficiency of major infrastructure projects. The State Council also decided to make amendments to two regulations regarding the enforcement of Copyright Law and the protection of the right to information network dissemination. Another two regulations on the protection of computer software and new plant species will also be amended. According to the statement, the decisions were made to intensify a crackdown on intellectual copyright infringement, as well as combat the manufacture and sale counterfeit products. The State Council also decided to offer one-off living allowances to more than 89 million needy people before the Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb. 10 this year. The statement did not offer a precise amount for the allowances.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 01/16/2013

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JAPAN: Ministry Likely to Reduce Livelihood Protection Benefits

 

A welfare ministry subpanel called for a review of livelihood protection benefit standards in its report released Wednesday, paving the way for curbing benefits mainly for households of two or more people.According to the report compiled by a subpanel of the ministry's Social Security Council, the standard livelihood assistance--a part of livelihood protection benefits--will fall by 14 percent for households consisting of parents and two children.In reviewing the standard, the subpanel took into consideration real consumption for the average low-income household.The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will study a plan to reduce livelihood benefit standards for households of two or more from next fiscal year. The ministry is expected to reach a conclusion shortly.The subpanel compared livelihood assistance allowance standards paid to various households with the consumption of low-income households earning about 1.2 million yen a year, based on a 2009 national survey of family income and expenditure.The current livelihood assistance standard for households consisting of parents and two children is about 186,000 yen a month. However, this figure fell by 14.2 percent to about 159,000 yen when reviewed to reflect the real consumption of the average low-income household. The standard for households consisting of parents and one child dropped by 8.5 percent, while that for single-mother households decreased by 5.2 percent.Meanwhile, the standard for a single-person household aged 60 or older rose 4.5 percent to 77,000 yen from 73,000 yen. Standards for elderly couples also rose 1.6 percent to 108,000 yen from 106,000 yen.

Under the livelihood protection benefit system, assistance standards vary among municipalities depending on commodity prices in their respective areas. Standards in Tokyo's 23 wards, the highest in the country, are 22.5 percent higher than in local areas where the standards are the lowest. According to the report, however, such gaps are shrinking.A special committee of the council also presented on the day comprehensive measures to deal with the needy, including raising fines for those who illegally received livelihood protection benefits.The measures also focus on support for the long-term unemployed and others struggling due to low wages to prevent them from needing livelihood protection benefits. They include the establishment of comprehensive consultation counters at local governments and job assistance.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 01/17/2013

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Govt Plans Emergency Checks of Aging Ports

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry plans to conduct emergency checks of state-owned port facilities as part of its project to verify the safety of aging social infrastructure, ministry officials said.More than 500 of about 4,000 port facilities such as deep water piers and breakwaters are subject to the inspections. If problems are found, they will be fixed, the officials said.

 

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 01/21/2013

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SOUTH KOREA: Seoul to Launch Car-Sharing Service Next Month

 

Seoul City will launch a service next month that allows citizens without a car to rent vehicles for a short time at affordable prices.The city said on Friday that it has signed an agreement with two companies for the car-sharing service, which will be launched on February 20th with 492 vehicles at 292 parking lots throughout the capital.Citizens who wish to use the service may select a vehicle and make a reservation through the Internet, smartphones or ARS system. The service fee for a compact car is set at three-thousand-750 won per 30 minutes.The city has decided to exempt annual membership fees or provide discount coupons to those who scrap or sell their vehicles in order to boost the new service.

 

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

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Parties Agree to Set Lower Tax for Food

 

Tax policy leaders of the Liberal Democratic Party and its ruling coalition partner New Komeito have agreed to introduce a special lower consumption tax rate for foods and other selected items.LDP Tax System Research Commission Chairman Takeshi Noda and his counterpart at New Komeito, Tetsuo Saito, agreed Friday such a measure was necessary to help ease the impact of the planned consumption tax hike on low-income households.The consumption tax rate is scheduled to increase from 5 percent to 8 percent in April 2014 and to 10 percent in October 2015. New Komeito supports the implementation of a special rate at the time of the first hike, while the LDP favors a later introduction.The two parties will hold further discussions Monday to decide when the lower rate should be introduced and what items it should be applied to.The outcome of the talks will be reflected in tax system reform guidelines for fiscal 2013 to be adopted as early as Thursday.

 

"The introduction of a lower tax rate is inevitable," Noda told reporters after his meeting with Saito, indicating that an agreement had been made.The special rate will require a great deal of preparation, Noda said, adding that the ruling bloc needs to meet with retail and other industries to win their support.The LDP, New Komeito and the Democratic Party of Japan put off their conclusion on proposed measures to reduce the impact of the planned two-stage consumption tax hike on low-income households when the three struck a legislation deal on the increase in June last year.The three parties are expected to start their talks this week. But the major opposition DPJ remains opposed to the special rate.On Friday, Noda and Saito also agreed on income and inheritance tax increases. They discussed tax measures to reduce the impact of the hike on home and automobile purchases.A special lower rate clearly benefits consumers but poses problems such as decreased tax revenue, difficulty selecting items subject to the measure, and massive paperwork due to multiple tax rates.The government estimates tax revenue will increase by 12.7 trillion yen if the consumption tax rate is doubled to 10 percent for all goods and services. But the margin of increase will be trimmed by 2.5 trillion yen if a lower rate is applied to food, officials said.

 

Jan. 31 budget submission date

The government will submit on Jan. 31 a draft supplementary budget for fiscal 2012 to finance a 20 trillion yen economic stimulus package, a senior ruling party official said Friday.The ordinary Diet session is set to begin on Jan. 28. The draft will be discussed in the House of Representatives Budget Committee from Feb. 7 after policy speeches by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Finance Minister Taro Aso.The government and the ruling coalition led by the Liberal Democratic Party aim to win Diet approval of the extra budget on Feb. 15, the official said.

 

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 01/13/2013

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S. Korean Elderly Forced to Work from Poor Post-Retirement Policies

 

Data has shown that South Korea has a high employment rate for the elderly, surpassing that of Japan, where the population has been aging more quickly than others.According to a report on ageing populations around the world and related policies from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 41 percent of South Korea’s population aged 65 to 69 is employed. This was two-point-two times the average for other OECD countries and came in second after Iceland, where 47 percent of the elderly are employed.Japanese elderly from ages 65 to 69 have an employment rate of 36 percent, the U.S. 30 percent, and Canada 23 percent. European countries mostly had elderly employment rates in the 10-percent range.The high percentage rate seen in South Korea was mainly attributed to the lack of policies for the elderly after retirement, forcing them out into the workforce to survive.

 

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 01/13/2013

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Gov’t to Increase Thermal Energy Generation

The government says it plans to increase the supply of thermal energy by building more coal and liquefied natural gas-fueled thermal power stations.The Ministry of Knowledge Economy selected thermal power providers that will be included in the ministry’s sixth basic power supply plan to generate 15-point-eight million kilowatts more thermal energy by 2020.The ministry notified the selected thermal power suppliers of the results of its evaluations and is now collecting their opinions.The government said that it will decide whether to construct more nuclear power plants later after gathering public opinion. It noted the people's concerns about the safety of nuclear energy have not been dispelled and the launch of a new government is just a month away.The new liquefied natural gas powered plants will crank out five-point-06 kilowatts of energy, while the new coal-fired plants produce ten-point-74 million kilowatts.

 

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 01/21/2013

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CAMBODIA: Parliament Passes Law to Set Up Supreme Defense Body

 

Cambodia's National Assembly on Thursday adopted a long-awaited draft law on the establishment of the Supreme Council of National Defense (SCND). The parliamentary session was chaired by the president Heng Samrin. Eighty-five out of 97 lawmakers, who were present at the session, passed the draft law. The establishment of the SCND is made in accordance with the Constitution of Cambodia, which was promulgated in 1993. Moeung Samphan, secretary of state at the defense ministry, said in the session that the law is to ensure the protection of the Constitution, national independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, and to ensure the implementation of roles, duties, and obligations of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. In addition, he said, the body will oversee and decide on national defense policy and planning. According to the draft law, the SCND, which oversees the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, will be chaired by King Norodom Sihamoni with Prime Minister Hun Sen serving as his deputy. The body's members will comprise ministers in charge of the council of ministers, defense, interior, foreign affairs, and finance, and commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, it said. The law consists of six chapters with 11 articles.

 

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 01/24/2013

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MYANMAR: Parliament Revokes National-Convention-Related Law

 

Myanmar's parliament Wednesday revoked a national-convention-related law promulgated by the previous military government, according to the President's Office. The revoked law was defined as Law Protecting Systematic and Peaceful Transfer of State Duties and Successful Undertaking of National Convention Work from Undermining and Opposition. The withdrawal of the law came after a new state constitution draft was drawn up in 2007 through the holding of 14-year-long convention and approved through a national referendum in May 2008. Myanmar's constitutional national convention began in 1993 and concluded on Sept. 3, 2007. The new state constitution draft was endorsed through the 2008 national referendum and then a general election followed in November 2010, producing an elected civilian government, led by President U Thein Sein. The new government was sworn in to office on March 30, 2011.

 

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 01/16/2013

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Myanmar Lower House Urges to Build Lasting Peace in Kachin State

 

Myanmar's House of Representatives ( Lower House) Friday urged the government's central peace-making group and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) to reduce tension of conflict and embark on a path of building lasting peace, state TV reported. The House's three-point statement was released after a parliamentarian with the Kachin state's Myitkyina constituency U Thein Zaw submitted an important interim proposal to the ongoing session with regard to building peace in the state. The statement said the armed conflicts in Kachin state have brought daily misery and loss to local people. With no way out by holding arms to fight each other, the statement said the armed conflict could only be resolved through dialogue. The statement suggested that the current difficulties in arranging meeting for dialogue can be overcome by discussion on ( electronic) line to show transparency to the people and build mutual confidence. The government claimed that it has negotiated with the KIA for 11 times and the last talks took place in vain on Oct. 30, 2012 with the absence of military leaders from the KIA side to discuss important issues. The government said that after the failure of the last peace talks, the KIA stepped up attacks on government police outpost in Phakant since Dec. 18, 2012, blowing up Mandalay-Myitkyina freight train on Dec. 21 and storming Taungni militia outpost on Dec. 30. The government admitted that it had launched air strike against the KIA in the beginning of this year at point-771 hill and seized heavy weapons, arms and ammunition from the camp.

 

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 01/11/2013

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PHILIPPINES: Controversial Reproductive Health Act to Come into Force

 

Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III recently signed the controversial Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, a senior government official confirmed on Saturday. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said that Aquino inked the controversial bill into law on Dec. 21, and it will take effect 15 days after its publication in at least two newspapers of general circulation. "The passage into law of the Responsible Parenthood Act closes a highly divisive chapter of our history -- a chapter borne of the convictions of those who argued for, or against this Act, whether in the legislative branch or in civil society. At the same time, it opens the possibility of cooperation and reconciliation among different sectors in society: engagement and dialogue characterized not by animosity, but by our collective desire to better the welfare of the Filipino people," she said. The law, which will allow the government to provide fund for sex education and contraceptives, was passed after over a decade since the bill was first filed in Congress. The Catholic Church has been strongly opposing its passage.

 

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 12/29/2012

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Philippine President Signs Historic Bills into Laws  

 

Without fanfare, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III signed the reproductive health (RH) bill into law last December 21. It was signed together with the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act. The highly contentious RH law provides “universal access” to reproductive health services and supplies such as contraceptives. Unimpeachable administration sources confirmed to the Inquirer late Friday an initial report from House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II that the measure had been signed by Aquino in the Palace before the four-day long weekend began, four days after it was passed by both chambers of Congress amid staunch opposition from the Roman Catholic hierarchy and prolife organisations. The measure is now known as Republic Act No. 10354.

 

A member of the President’s inner circle, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, however issued an unequivocal confirmation to the Inquirer. “I think RH has been signed, but I’m not sure when,” said Abad in a text message at 9:17pm on Friday. A Senate staff member said by phone that Aquino said he did not want “fanfare, so that it won’t be a controversy anymore.” “It should be Malacañang (Palace) that should announce it, not us,” said the staff member of a senator who voted for the passage of the measure. The staff asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter. Earlier Friday, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte had been evasive when asked to confirm or deny speculations, which had been rife since last week, that the bill had been signed. “We haven’t been advised yet by the Office of Executive Secretary or OES (Paquito) Ochoa. Allow me to explain also what happens (when a bill is up for the president’s signature).

 

“When the president signs a bill into law, it gets sent to the Office of the Executive Secretary for the RA (Republic Act) number, and for processing,” she said, referring to the process in which a signed copy of the law would be stamped with a barcode and go through “other validation". The task of announcing the enactment into law of the controversial measure fell on the lap of Valte during her regular interview with state-run Radyo ng Bayan at noon on Saturday. Although Aquino signed the measure before the close of office hours on December 21, it took “some time” before the private office of the President and the Office of the Executive Secretary completed the process, said the administration sources.

 

Not to antagonise Church

“The reason the Palace is announcing it (Saturday) is because it took sometime to process it, and the Palace didn’t want to (antagonise) anti-RH people during the Christmas holiday season,” said one source. “The bill had to be processed after signing,” said the other source, saying that the process had been completed on December 27, giving Palace officials a day or two to announce it. The sources confirmed that the Aquino administration was trying to avoid yet another confrontation with the Catholic Church in the run up to Christmas. “The understanding was to announce it tomorrow, precisely, to avoid this (complication),” said the source. The source was referring to an agreement to allow the Palace to make the announcement ahead of the House of Representatives. This, however, had not been followed.

 

Aquino could not be reached for official comment. He and Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras are scheduled to return to the Palace on Saturday after a four-day vacation in the summer capital. House Majority Leader Gonzales confirmed the signing on Friday night, saying the measure officially became a law “without fanfare”. The president was credited for providing a belated push to the RH bill, which was facing stiff opposition in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. He certified the bill as urgent soon after it was passed on second reading at the House, allowing the Senate to pass it on second and third readings on the same day.

 

Cornerstone

The cornerstone of RA 10354 is the State guarantee on “universal access to medically-safe, non-abortifacient, effective, legal, affordable, and quality reproductive health care services, methods devices, supplies.” But it comes with the condition that they should not “prevent the implantation of the fertilised ovum as determined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).” It also defines “reproductive health” as the “state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and process.” “This implies that people are able to have a responsible, safe, consensual and satisfying sex life, that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to do so,” it adds. An apparent compromise with anti-RH bill lawmakers is the guarantee that “reproductive health rights do not include abortion, and access to abortifacients”. RA 10354 defines abortifacients as “any drug or device that induces abortion or the destruction of a foetus inside the mother’s womb, or the prevention of the fertilised ovum to reach and be implanted in the mother’s womb upon determination by the FDA.”

 

 From http://www.asianewsnet.net/ 12/29/2012

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Govt Unveils “Smarter Philippines” Programme

 

The Information and Communications Technology Office of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-ICTO) unveiled its upcoming flagship programme called “Smarter Philippines”, which aims to leverage ICT to boost the country’s economy by touching on several core industries. According to Alejandro Melchor III, deputy executive director for ICT industry development at the ICTO, the “Smarter Philippines” consists of the following components: Smarter Governance, Smarter People, Smarter High-Tech Industry, Smarter Computing, Smarter SMEs, Smarter Agriculture World Development, Smarter Environmental Healthcare, Energy and Transport, Smarter Disaster and Mitigation, Public Safety and Smarter Cities. “DOST with the ICT office intends to transform every aspect of society through technology innovation. Actually, Smarter Philippines is a new program that will fuel tremendous growth to the ICT industry and create tremendous demand for engineering, content development, and domestic ICT industry,” he said.

 

While the programme is yet to be launched, Melchor revealed that some of its components are now in operation in key areas such as disaster risk reduction, transparency and governance, and in bringing IT-BPO investments in cities outside of Metro Manila. For disaster risk reduction, DOST launched the “National Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH) Programme which aims to respond to the urgent need for a reliable flood warning system in all major river systems and watersheds in the country. It is designed to set up a more responsive disaster preparedness system to reduce loss of lives, and damages to properties due to rain-triggered natural hazards. Just last month, a mobile version of the programme was launched so that Filipinos can access information relevant to current weather conditions right on the palm of their hands. Meanwhile, under its Smarter Cities component, the government is pushing for its Next Wave Cities Programme, which seeks to create employment opportunities in the countryside by promoting different provinces as suitable BPO destinations.

 

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 01/04/2013

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Philippine President Signs Law Promoting Welfare of Domestic Workers

 

Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III has signed a law that promotes the welfare of household workers, a senior official said Wednesday. Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said that Aquino inked Republic Act No. 10361 or "An Act Instituting Policies for the Protection and Welfare of Domestic Workers" on Jan. 18 this year. "The law will take effect 15 days after its publication in the print version of the Official Gazette or a newspaper of general circulation," she said in a text message to reporters. The law provides the setting of a minimum wage and other benefits for some two million domestic workers in the country.

 

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 01/23/2013

 

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SINGAPORE: To Launch New Car Carbon Emission Scheme

 

SINGAPORE, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- A new Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme will take effect in Singapore starting from Jan. 1 next year, the Land Transport Authority said on Friday. The new scheme will cover all new cars, taxis and newly- imported used cars, it said. Car buyers are advised to look out for labels with the logo of the authority at showrooms under the mandatory fuel economy labeling scheme. The label is required to be put on cars that have been approved by the Land Transport Authority and provides the carbon emissions and fuel efficiency performance of the car model. Only cars that are approved by the authority under the fuel economy labeling scheme can be registered for use from Jan. 1. Low emission models will qualify for rebates under the Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme.

 

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 12/28/2012

 

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More Property Cooling Measures Announced

 

SINGAPORE: The Singapore government on Friday announced additional measures to cool the property market. The measures, which will take effect on January 12, include higher buyer's stamp duty, tighter loan-to-value limits, higher minimum cash downpayment for second and subsequent housing loans, as well as an introduction of seller's stamp duty for industrial properties. The package of measures is the seventh round of property cooling measures introduced since 2009. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said it is the most significant set of measures undertaken by the government so far. The government said previous measures had helped to dampen speculative buying, but demand for residential property remained firm and prices have continued to rise. Mr Tharman said investment demand from Singaporeans has been strong and those who are buying their second or more property accounted for half of the buyers for new units in the private residential market. He added: "I would say prices are running away from the fundamentals. Had we not intervened previously, I think we would be in serious trouble now, we would be in a real bubble now. "But what we are seeing is a continued gradual rise in prices and we don't intend that to continue because it will only mean that you get a more serious fall further down the road."

 

The measures tighten property ownership for investment, as well as on foreign buyers, according to the statement issued by the government. To discourage over-borrowing, financing conditions for housing have also been tightened. In addition, structural measures have been implemented to strengthen the policy intent of public housing and executive condominiums. The government said the additional buyer's stamp duty (ABSD) will be increased between 5 and 7 percentage points across the board. The ABSD will now be extended to permanent residents buying their first residential property and on Singaporeans buying their second residential property. Permanent residents will have to pay a 5 percent stamp duty on their first property, and foreigners 15 percent. For Singaporeans, they will have to pay an additional stamp duty of 7 percent for their second property. Potential buyers who already have at least one existing loan will also have to pay more cash upfront for their purchases and face tighter loan-to-value limits. The minimum cash downpayment for individuals applying for a second or subsequent housing loan will be raised from 10 percent to 25 percent.

 

The government said the new ABSDs and loan rules are temporary and will be reviewed in future, depending on market conditions. To further moderate the demand for HDB flats, the government has also introduced several new measures. It will tighten eligibility for loans to buy HDB flats. The Mortgage Servicing Ratio (MSR) for housing loans granted by financial institutions will be capped at 30 percent of a borrower's gross monthly income. For loans granted by HDB, the MSR cap will be lowered from 40 percent to 35 percent. To target the increasing number of permanent residents (PRs) buying property in Singapore, there will be an owner occupation requirement for those who buy resale public housing. Permanent residents who own an HDB flat will not be allowed to sublet their entire flat. Currently, there are about 2,300 PRs subletting their whole flat. PRs who own an HDB flat must also sell their flat within six months of purchasing a private residential property in Singapore. National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan explained that this is because the privilege of buying subsidised flats should be kept for owner occupation. There are also new measures to ensure that executive condominiums (EC) remain affordable for middle-income Singaporean families. The move follows a recent trend by developers building super-sized ECs and selling them for millions of dollars. Measures to address this include capping the maximum strata floor area of new EC units at 160 square metres and ensuring that sales of new dual-key EC units be restricted to multi-generational families. Developers of future EC sale sites from the Government Land Sales programme will only be allowed to launch units for sale 15 months from the date of award of the sites or after the physical completion of foundation works, whichever is earlier.

 

Private enclosed spaces and private roof terraces will be treated as gross floor area (GFA). The GFA of such spaces in non-landed residential developments, including ECs, will be counted as part of the "bonus" GFA of a residential development and subject to payment of charges. Mr Khaw said: "Hitherto the ECs units, size and pricing have been quite moderate and very much in keeping with what the market think, the target buyers can afford.  "But when they start exceeding 200 square metres and charging a couple of million dollars, one should legitimately ask how can a $12,000 income group, family afford such a unit." "So I think the best way to do so is what we have included in this package -- which is, once you limit the size of the EC that developers can build, that automatically will bring the price down," the minister added. For the first time, the government has also introduced a seller's stamp duty (SSD) on industrial property to discourage short-term speculative activity which could distort prices and raise costs for businesses. The SSD will apply to industrial properties and land bought and sold within three years of purchase. A rate of 15 percent will be imposed on industrial properties sold within the first year of purchase. This will go down to 10 percent for those sold in the second year of purchase, and to 5 percent for those sold in the third year of purchase. Finance Minister Tharman said authorities are not trying to engineer a market crash. The measures are designed to calm the market, so some of the temporary cyclical ones will be reviewed if things turn around.

 

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 01/11/2013

 

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THAILAND: New Law on Cybercrimes to Deal with New Techno

 

The Information and Communications Technology Ministry will speed up its submission of the draft amendment to the Computer Crime Act of 2007 for Cabinet consideration. ICT Minister Anudith Nakornthap said the amended version covered the issues stemming from new technologies. He made the remark yesterday at a seminar held by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and Nation Multimedia Group (NMG) to raise awareness of cybercrime. The Electronic Transactions Development Agency has also prepared a policy to prevent cybercrime, he said. The ministry has already established the National Cyber-security Committee. The ministry regards the fight against computer crime as a national priority, Anudith said.

 

The seminar was one the NBTC's National Cyber-security Awareness Day events set to run until Monday. The activities are aimed at increasing awareness of the crime threat via mobile devices, especially when people conduct transactions on smart phones. Suthichai Yoon, chairman of NMG, said third-generation wireless broadband and terrestrial digital TV would revolutionise the mass media by changing the ways people consume information and news. Information will come from four screens - TV, computer, tablet and mobile phone. The three holders of licences to use the 2.1-gigahertz spectrum are expected to launch 3G services next quarter. They are Advanced Wireless Network of Advanced Info Service, DTAC Network of Total Access Communication, and Real Future of True Corp.

 

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 01/25/2013

 

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VIETNAM: Ministry to Introduce New Food Labelling Standards

 

Deputy Minister of the Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Thi Xuan Thu has announced a raft of new measures to ensure food safety at a conference on agricultural product distribution. Under the plans, four food types will soon be sold with green labels to inform consumers that they meet the standards of the Good Aquaculture Practices (VietGAP) and were produced under the Food and Agricultural Products Quality Development and Control Project (FAQDC). The four categories will be: vegetables, fruit, pork and chicken. Speaking at the conference run by the Canada-funded FAQDC, Thu said the labels would also help ensure the food origins and hygiene, while preventing the appearance of fake VietGAP products, she said. The green labelled goods will be supplied to schools and retail distributors such as BigC and Co-opMart, accompanied by a large advertising campaign covering mass media, transportation means and retailers. Nguyen Van Thuan, an assistant to the project, said FAQDC had focused on assisting farmers through technical support and promoting consumption. Tran Duc Vinh, chaiman of the Yen My Co-operative in Thanh Tri District, said the project had helped change the traditional production process of local farmers. Currently, goods produced in the co-operative were sold at its four retail stores in the city and to four city-based companies. Thanks to this, profits earned by local farmers had increased by up to 20 per cent, Vinh said.

 

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 01/12/2013

 

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Prime Minister Approves 2013 Audit Plan

 

HA NOI (VNS)— The Prime Minister had approved the State Audit of Viet Nam's proposals to carry out 20 audits this year, said SAV's deputy inspector general Ngo Van Khanh at a press conference on Thursday. Khanh said that Petrolimex, Housing and Urban Development Corp, Viet Nam Bank for Social Policies, the Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the State Bank of Viet Nam and the State Securities Commission were among those included, and more would be added at a later date. The audits will focus on finance, banking, securities, the gold market, import-export, public asset management, land and housing, mineral exploitation and processing, and construction investment. In the first quarter, the management responsibilities of the State Bank of Viet Nam and the State Securities Commission in the gold and securities markets would be looked at for the first time, Khanh said. State auditors would also inspect several national programmes as well as the business performances of State-owned groups and corporations. The audits would aim to uncover violations and make recommendations to help relevant bodies streamline current policies and procedures.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 01/12/2013

 

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BANGLADESH: Cabinet Clears National River Protection Commission Bill

 

The Cabinet on Monday gave the final approval to the draft of the ‘National River Protection Commission Bill, 2013’ aimed at protecting the country’s rivers from encroachers and pollution.The approval was given at the regular weekly meeting of the Cabinet held at Bangladesh Secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.Briefing reporters after the meeting, Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said once the proposed law is enacted, it would be helpful for the government to take strong steps in protecting rivers, especially from river pollution and encroachment.Under the law, Musharraf said, a five-member commission will be formed for three years comprising one chairman and four members to be appointed by the government. The members of the commission will comprise river, environment, river engineer or river management experts, and lawyer having expertise on human rights issues.

 

After enactment of the law, he said, rules will be formulated widening scope for protecting other water bodies like khals, beels and haors; and at one stage initiatives would be taken to prevent erosion in coastal areas.The Cabinet meeting also approved a proposal for ratifying ‘Saarc Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disaster’ under which the Saarc member countries would be able to make mutual response quickly subject to any natural disaster. Besides, an integrated planning will be adopted to tackle natural disasters.Three separate reports –- one on the visit of a Bangladesh delegation led by Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister to Mauritius, Malaysia and Australia on November 21-28, another report on the participation of Bangladesh delegation led by Water Resources Minister to Rome on November 28-30 at the ‘Sixth Session of the meeting of the Parties to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes’ and other on the Commerce Minister’s visit to Czech Republic and Germany on November 19-23 -- were placed at the cabinet meeting. About manpower export to Malaysia on government-to-government basis, the Cabinet Secretary said Tk 40,000 would be required per person willing to go to Malaysia.The interested persons would be selected from union-level across the country on the basis of population and the ministry concerned will issue a circular in this regard on January 10.Cabinet members, advisers to the Prime Minister, State Ministers and Secretaries concerned attended the meeting.

 

From http://unbconnect.com 01/07/2013

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Important Laws of Military Regime to Stay

 

The cabinet on Monday on principle approved two proposals for keeping effective the 'important' ordinances promulgated during the martial law regimes. The ordinances promulgated between August 20, 1975 and April 9, 1979 and March 24, 1982 and November 10, 1996 were condoned through the nullification of the 5th and 7th amendments to the constitution by the Supreme Court. Total 91 ordinances were passed during the first military regime while 81 during the second one. The cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approved the proposal placed by Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs. Today's decision will be endorsed through enactment of law at the parliament later, Cabinet Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told reporters after the meeting.

 

From http://www.thedailystar.net 01/21/2013

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New Law Offing to Ensure Food Safety in Country Minister

 

Food Minister Dr Abdur Razzaque on Wednesday said, the government will promulgate a law, titled `safe food law`, to ensure food safety in the country, preventing food adulteration. He said the law will be made amending the existing ones, increasing the extent of maximum punishment for food-related offences, including food adulteration. Besides, he said, a food safety authority will be formed to ensure that the new laws, once made into laws, are in places when need be and applied properly in cases filed over food-related offences, including adulteration of food and mixing chemical with it. He made the disclosure while talking to the journalists after attending an inter-ministerial meeting, held today at Cabinet Secretariat in the capital.

 

He said, the meeting decided to make a time befitting law compiling all existing ones on food safety, including the five decades old `Pure Food Ordinance- 1959`, after amending and modernising the rules and clauses of the old ones, he said. The minister said, the meeting also decided to prepare a draft on forming a separate body, titled `food safety authority`, to implement the law and ensure security for safe food. The draft will be made taking opinions of concerned officials and employees of all departments and ministries dealing with food related matters, including food security and safety. Replying to a question, Dr Razzaque said, if needed the officials and employees of the ministries dealing with food related jobs will be placed under the authority and a draft proposal on this will be prepared and placed be an inter-ministerial meeting.

 

From http://www.unbconnect.com 01/23/2013

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INDIA: Launching Pilot CCTNS Project

 

New Delhi: Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde launched a pilot project of Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) this morning in New Delhi. It aims at creating a comprehensive and integrated system for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of policing. Launching the project,in Delhi, Mr Shinde said it will be extended to the entire country soon. The Home Minister added that zero tolerance level is needed to reduce any crime in the country. He said that important citizens services like online registration of complaints, tracking of FIRs and service requests will be launched by April, 2013. The project includes the creation of a nationwide networking infrastructure for IT-enabled state-of -the-art tracking system for investigation of crime and detection of criminals.

 

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 01/04/2013

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India to Enact Law to Contain Flood Damage

 

New Delhi: The government is considering enacting a law to contain flood damages in the country, Water Resources Minister Harish Rawat said here on Wednesday. Inaugurating the 16th meeting of the Ganga Flood Control Board, he said flood-affected areas in the Ganga Basin states are estimated at 204 lakh hectares out of which 94 lakh hectares has been provided a reasonable degree of protection. The Water resources Minister said the revised Model Flood Plain Zoning Bill is also being reviewed as the present Model Draft Bill for flood plain zoning is quite old. He also underlined the need for planning and management of water resources and structure like dams, flood embankments, tidal embankments in view of climate changes.

 

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 01/16/2013

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Urban Renewal Mission Extended Till March 2014

 

New Delhi: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved the continuation of Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) to sanction new projects and conduct capacity building activities till March 31, 2014. The projects will be sanctioned under the city modernisation scheme’s components – Urban Infrastructure and Governance (UIG) and Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT), an official release said. It added that new urban infrastructure projects in states and union territories (UTs) would be approved till March 31, 2014. It also said that new capacity building activities in Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and states have also been approved. “The proposal would enable provisions for creating urban infrastructure, particularly in small and medium towns, in all states and UTs. These projects would be subsumed in the next phase of the JNNURM for the 12th Five Year Plan,” it said.

 

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 01/18/2013

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India Plans ‘181’ as National Helpline Number for Women

 

New Delhi: The government was in the process to make available the ’181′ women helpline number to women across the country soon. “We will give single emergency number 181 to women across the country,” Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters here. The Telecom Ministry in December last released a three-digit number, 167, for women helpline in Delhi. The number, however, was changed to ’181′ as the Ministry felt that it would be easier to recollect. The Ministry’s decision to allocate the three digit number ’181′ to all states will be communicated to all the Chief Ministers so that it can be made a national helpline for women. After allocation of the emergency number, the state governments will be required to set up their call centers. “The Telecom Department will make available the number to all states, which are then required to set up call centers so that the number becomes operational across the country,” sources added.

 

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 01/21/2013

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Panel Submits Report on HR Policy for E-Gov Projects

 

New Delhi: An expert committee on HR Policy for e-Governance has recommended building internal capacity to manage technology- based government projects and explore opportunities of collaboration with private sector. The committee, headed by UIDAI Chairman Nandan Nilekani, in its report submitted to Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal recommended putting in place appropriate organisational structures both at Centre and states for the e-Governance programme and project management. The committee also proposed putting in place Electronic Services Division to be headed by Chief Information Officer in central ministries, Electronic Delivery of Services (EDS) Directorate in states and Union Territories and dedicated project teams for managing projects.

 

It has also recommended an enhanced role of NIC (National Informatics Centre) as a technology adviser to the government. It has suggested various policy interventions required to build internal competencies and growing internal resource pool in the government with institutionalised training and capacity building mechanisms. ”We need to take all these recommendation process to the government and then take it at the highest level for approval of the Cabinet,” the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), Secretary J Satyanarayana said.

 

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 01/22/2013

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SRI LANKA: Targeting 7.5 Percent GDP Growth in 2013

 

Sri Lanka targets a 7.5 percent growth in the country's GDP and an overall budget deficit reduced to 5.8 percent of GDP while maintaining inflation at mid-single digit levels in 2013. Reducing trade deficit from current 15.1 percent of GDP to 14.4 percent of GDP in 2013 and continuous improvement in productivity are some other goals set for 2013, the Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal said. The Governor yesterday presented the Bank's policy direction and work plan for the upcoming year "Road Map for Monetary and Financial Sector Policies for 2013 and Beyond" for the seventh consecutive year at a function held at the Central Bank premises. The presentation comprised an assessment of the macroeconomic developments in the previous year, policy direction for 2013 and for the medium term, particularly to ensure a smooth transition into the post-US$ 4,000 per capita era.

 

"2012 was an extraordinary year which, once again underscored the resilience of the Sri Lankan economy," the Governor said. "External and domestic challenges prompted the Central Bank to adopt strong measures to stabilize the economy and the economy adjusted swiftly to these measures allowing the Bank to relax the policy stance before the end of the year," he noted. Summing up the developments in 2012, the Governor observed that much needed stringent policy measures adopted in early 2012 to achieve macroeconomic stabilization and to curb rapidly rising domestic credit which led to higher than desired import demand combined with adverse weather also hindered economic performance in the past year. Consequently, economic growth declined to some extent, as expected, and it is projected that overall economic growth in 2012 would be about 6.5 percent.

 

"Central Bank's medium term macroeconomic framework has been carefully prepared to foster the expected growth path while giving priority to ensuring inflation is maintained at mid-single digits in the next five years," the Governor said in his presentation. In this year, the Central Bank will allow a flexible exchange rate to reflect market conditions. "The Central Bank intervention in supplying and absorbing foreign exchange directly, will be limited to reducing excessive fluctuations and maintaining external reserves at desired levels," it said. The monetary institution expects to reach a US$ 100 billion economy by 2016 and will adopt several policy measures on banks and non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs) which will have to play a critical role reaching the target.

 

Reviewing and amending the regulatory framework to facilitate the business models of banks and NBFIs, encouraging their consolidation, and identifying and regulating the risk profiles are some of the measures the Central Bank will take regarding the banks and NBFIs. The Governor said the Central Bank is in a position to steer the economy along a more stable and sustainable path while maintaining economic and price stability and financial system stability to support sustainable and inclusive growth this year.

 

From http://www.priu.gov.lk 01/03/2013

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Govt Focuses on a 19th Amendment to the Constitution

 

The government will focus on the need to amend the Constitution to add a 19th Amendment due to the recent conflict risen between the judiciary and legislature. Addressing the cabinet media briefing yesterday in Colombo, Media and Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said there is discussion in several government circles on the need to amend the Constitution and the government will have to make a decision. However, the country will be informed before such a decision is taken, the Minister told the media. The government dismissed the concerns that the impeachment of former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake will impact the foreign investments to the country. Minister Susil Premajayantha addressing the media briefing said there were similar concerns during the humanitarian operation but following the end of the war foreign investments increased.

 

Minister Premajayantha also rejected the statement by the United States that the explanations given by Sri Lanka on the impeachment are not satisfactory in terms of protecting democracy. "They can express their opinions. Prof. G.L. Peiris has explained government's actions according to our Constitution after studying the issue in depth," the Minister said. The Minister, also rejecting the call made by the International Jurists Commission to reinstate the impeached Chie Justice, said the Sri Lankan government works according to the country's Constitution.

 

From http://www.priu.gov.lk 01/18/2013

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Parliament Passes Code of Criminal Procedure Bill

 

Parliament yesterday passed the Code of Criminal Procedure (Special Provisions) Bill. The Bill received 110 votes in favor and 33 against and passed by the House with amendments. The main opposition United National Party (UNP) and the Marxist party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) decided to vote against the bill. The Code of Criminal Procedure (Special Provisions) Bill presented to the parliament on October 11 last year by the Justice Minister would enable the police to detain a person who has been arrested without a warrant for 48 hours before producing the suspect in court.

 

Environment Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said during the debate on the Bill titled ‘Code of Criminal Procedure (Special Provisions) Bill’, that such detention would be warranted only in case of 15 offences outlined in the Penal Code. Murder, culpable homicide, kidnapping or abduction to murder or with intent to confine a person, rape, theft and offences committed with the use of explosives, an offensive weapon or a gun are some of them. Following a fundamental rights petition filed against the legislation before the Supreme Court last year, the court has held that Clause 8 of the Bill was inconsistent with the Article 13(2) of Constitution and should be approved by a two-third majority.

 

From http://www.priu.gov.lk 01/23/2013

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AZERBAIJAN: Diplomatic Success Confirms Force of Impact and Balance of Foreign Policy

 

Azerbaijan's diplomatic success confirms the force of impact and the balance of the country's current foreign policy, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said in an interview with Azerbaijani and foreign media following the summary of 2012. Speaking of diplomatic success, Mammadyarov named the activity in the UN Security Council, and participated in the working meeting of G-20 (Group of Twenty) foreign ministers in Mexico. He added that this can be regarded as an increase of the world developed countries' interest in Azerbaijan and the country's leadership in the region. Mammadyarov said that the country's position in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict settlement has been strengthening every year. "Such prestigious international organizations as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement have adopted various resolutions this year, which recognized Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and sovereignty," he said. Speaking about Azerbaijan's membership in the UN Security Council, the minister said that this allowed the country to increase the number of partners by new countries in Africa and Latin America, and opened the way for new cooperation in the economic, political, cultural and humanitarian spheres. Azerbaijan was elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2011. The membership in the UN Security Council has further strengthened Azerbaijan's position in the international arena, and increased the number of countries supporting the country's positions at the international level, Mammadyarov said.

 

The minister stressed that Azerbaijan also took part in the meetings on hot spots of the world, in terms of politics and security in the Middle East, particularly, in Palestine, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, Yemen. "During its presidency in October 2013, Azerbaijan will contribute to preserving peace and security in the world, continue its efforts to ensure equity," Mammadyarov said. Speaking about the cooperation with international organizations, Mammadyarov has touched upon the cooperation with UNESCO. "As it is known, Azerbaijani First Lady is UNESCO's Goodwill Ambassador," he said. "Mehriban Aliyeva conducts important work to develop the relations between Azerbaijan and UNESCO. Azerbaijan has been recently elected as vice-president of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage, and a number of other senior positions of this organization. It has been fully supported by member-states. On Dec. 21, with the adoption of a document on the protection of cultural heritage in the occupied territories, upon Azerbaijan's initiative at the seventh session of the UNESCO, the country has created the foundation for a broader discussion on the protection of cultural heritage in the occupied territories and the adoption of certain mechanisms their solutions". The fourth meeting of the heads of the Azerbaijani diplomatic missions abroad was held on September 21. Addressing the diplomats, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has set new tasks for them. The efforts are being exerted to implement them. These efforts will be continued in 2013, the minister said. "Azerbaijan's diplomatic success confirms the force of impact and the balance of the country's current foreign policy," he said. "The achieved results set new challenges for us and create the opportunities in terms of implementing Azerbaijan's long-term interests. Further improvement of Azerbaijan's credibility and possible impact, the effective use of the achieved positions and diplomatic building are the main challenges for us."

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/30/2012

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Azerbaijani Governments Approves Item Registration Rules

 

The Azerbaijani government approved registration rules for intellectual property items, the Cabinet of Ministers told Trend on Monday. A statement on the protection of intellectual property rights and the inclusion of products in the registry will have information about the rights of owners, the existence of intellectual property rights and the description of goods. It will also have information about products that are pirated and counterfeit. If this is confirmed, the applicant will be responsible for the compensation of damages caused by the delay of the goods to the owner or other interested individuals and the costs of customs. According to the rules, the Customs Committee reviews the application within one month from the date of its receipt and makes a decision to include the items into the registry or exclude them. The committee must be immediately informed of the changes in the application or in the attached documents. The registry includes the registration of a number of goods, descriptions of goods, information about copyright holders, the item registration date and the date and registration number of the letter about the registered goods sent by the committee to the customs bodies. Given the time specified by the terms of protection of the rights of holders; the applicant's eligibility is determined up to five years from the date of the Customs Committee's decision on item registration. If an applicant appeals, the period is extended upon the committee's decision.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/07/2013

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Broadband Internet Development Project to Be Adopted by Month End

 

Approval of the project on development of broadband Internet in Azerbaijan is expected by the end of the month, Aztelekom Production Association (PO) of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies of Azerbaijan told Trend on Friday. The document is currently being finalized by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, and the final cost of the project will be determined upon its approval. 291 million manat is allocated from the State Oil Fund budget for 2013 for implementation of this project that will contribute to expansion of broadband infrastructure and deployment of multimedia services in regions of Azerbaijan on its base. Gradual transfer of the regional telecommunications operator nodes to Next Generation Network (NGN), alternative routing of optical telecommunication lines and construction of high-speed IP-based lines of MPLS networks over DWDM networks are considered within the project. The necessary conditions for the transport of traffic from private providers will also be provided. The possibility of using GPON technology to bring the optical lines to the end users in large cities is under consideration. The possibility of application of CDMA 1x EV-DO and WiMAX standards for provision of broadband services coverage for people living in remote communities is also being considered. To date, about two thousand kilometers of fiber-optic communication lines have been laid across the regions of Azerbaijan within the development project for broadband Internet, of which 570 kilometers were laid by commercial providers.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/13/2013

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Period of State Registration of Real Estate Rights to Be Reduced in Azerbaijan

 

The Azerbaijani State Property Committee plans to automate the process of mortgage deal registration, cancellation and recognition of rights, the State Committee said on Friday.

The committee's proposals on transferring these services to e-format were submitted to the State Agency for Public Services and Social Innovation. As of 2012, the State Committee carried out a number of activities according to the national plan for open government development and the national action plan on combating corruption approved by the president on September 5, 2012. The plans, covering 2012-2015, aim at ensuring the continuity of measures in combating corruption and governance, increasing transparency in the activity of public bodies, management in accordance with modern standards and supporting the principles of open government. The State Committee approved the work plan for 2013 to implement the national plan. At present, according to the plan, appeals and complaints are registered by using an automated electronic document system and e-mail office@emdk.gov.az. The committee plans to organise training in 2013 to prevent conflict of interest. The amendments to the law on the state real estate registry were prepared to implement the National Action Plan to combat corruption for 2012-2015. The amendments envisage reducing the period for extracts in connection with the registration of rights to real estate (except for initial registration) from 20 to seven working days, extracts from the state register in connection with the limitation of property rights from five days to one reducing the number of property units from 15 to 10. The electronic queue system was introduced for the convenience of citizens. A preliminary agreement on the automated online payment integration with KapitalBank was reached to pay fees and state fees. Currently, the certificates on restrictions and appeals on property registration returned from the secondary market are issued in electronic form. According to the committee, the process of using e-services began on May 1, 2012. As of January 1, 2013, the number of appeals to the state committee in electronic format has reached 1560.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/18/2013

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Azerbaijani Communications and IT Ministry Announces Plans for 2013

 

As 2013 has been declared the Year of ICT in Azerbaijan, it will be marked by launching Azerspace, the country's first telecommunication satellite, Azerbaijani Communications and IT Minister Ali Abbasov told media today. He said the satellite has already been delivered to the cosmodrome at Kourou, and its launch is scheduled for February 7. The second major project will start this year and lasts for three years. This will be to develop broadband Internet financed by the Azerbaijani State Oil Fund. The main goal of the project is to bring the indices on broadband connections to the level of developed countries. 2013 will be also marked by the transition to digital broadcasting. Analogue broadcasting will be stopped by late 2013. He stressed that the Ministry's plans are to ensure the e-government's portal is developed as a 'single window' principle. E-services rendered to citizens will be further expanded together with the ASAN Service centre. Abbasov added that the decisions taken in 2012 to create regional innovation zones and industrial parks will be developed in 2013.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/21/2013

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Azerbaijani Economic Development Ministry to Prepare Economic Development Plan

 

The Azerbaijani Economic Development Ministry will prepare an action plan in various areas of economic development in 2013 under Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's orders it was announced at a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers chaired by the president last Tuesday and dedicated to the results of socio-economic development in 2012 and objectives for the current year. This decision was taken at the ministry's board meeting, it was reported on Saturday. The action plan will cover measures to expand the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in connection with the announcement of 2013 as the Year of ICT in Azerbaijan. 'The plan also includes measures to preserve macroeconomic stability, develop the non-oil sector, accelerate the implementation of state programmes, continue industrialisation, execute infrastructure projects and improve the business environment. 'It would also strengthen public financial support for entrepreneurship in the country, increase self-sufficiency in food products, improve the situation with providing the population with public utilities, expand the production of competitive products and enter the foreign markets and other issues', a statement said. Minister Shahin Mustafayev said that the share of private sector in the country's GDP rose to 83 per cent. "Azerbaijan's GDP increased by 2.2 per cent in 2012, GDP per capita increased to 5.884.5 ($7.490.5). GDP growth was achieved through the non-oil sector," Mustafayev said.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/21/2013

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KAZAKHSTAN: Making Amendments to Counter-Terrorism Law

 

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed the Law "On amendments and additions to some legislative acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on counter-terrorism", the Kazakh presidential press service said on Saturday. "The head of state signed the Law "On amendments and additions to some legislative acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on counter-terrorism" aimed at improving the legal foundation of the state counter-terrorism system," the report says. The President submitted the document to the Parliament on Nov.1, 2012. It envisages amendments and additions to the Criminal Code, the Penal Code, the Code of Administrative Offences and ten laws. The law was adopted given prevailing tension, radicalization of some part of population, as a consequence, the growth of terrorist activity in the country, the President said. The law envisages clear demarcation of powers and competences of the state and local authorities in combating terrorism, legal regulation of effective mechanism to organize and coordinate their activities, clarifying conceptual framework and eliminating collisions in the legislation. According to the developers, the rules of law "will also help reduce the social base of terrorism, increase public confidence in the authorities and increasingly involve civil society in the counter-terrorism process".It envisages review of the key concept "terrorism". The law provides a fundamentally new definition of terrorism as an ideology of violence and practice to influence decision-making by government authorities or international organizations by making a threat of committing violence and (or) other criminal acts, frightening the population and aimed at detriment of the individual, society and the state. Antiterrorist commissions headed by governors of regions, cities and districts are envisaged to be established in regions for prevention of terrorism.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/05/2013

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Kazakh President to Voice Priority Tasks

 

On Monday, the Kazakh President will announce new challenges faced by the state until 2050, official representative of The Social Communication Service Altai Abibullayev said today. "As the Kazakh President stressed at a meeting of the political council of the people's democratic party "Nur Otan", the expanded government meeting chaired by the president will be held on Jan. 21", Abibullayev said at a briefing in Astana on Friday. "The president will announce the new challenges faced by the country in Kazakhstan's new political course until 2050." Special attention at the governmental meeting is expected to be paid to measures aimed at maintaining the current pace of economic growth, the development of transportation infrastructure and the assurance of the country's compliance with key global trends such as development of the "green economy" and the third industrial revolution.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/18/2013

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TAJIKISTAN: Parliament Ratifies Agreement on WTO Accession

 

The Lower House of the Tajik parliament during its regular session in Dushanbe has today ratified an agreement on the accession of Tajikistan to the World Trade Organisation, Avesta news agency reported on Wednesday. Earlier, on Dec.10, 2012 Geneva hosted a meeting of the WTO General Council, during which Tajikistan was accepted into the World Trade Organisation. Following the meeting which was attended by President Emomali Rahmon, the following documents were signed: the Protocol on Accession of Tajikistan to the WTO and report of the working group on the Republic's accession to the WTO. After ratification of the agreement, Tajikistan became a full member of the World Trade Organisation 12 years after the start of the negotiation process. Until today, the WTO included 157 world countries and Tajikistan will become the 158th member of this organisation.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/09/2013

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TURKMENISTAN: Law on Mass Media Comes into Force

 

The law 'On mass media' has come into force in Turkmenistan establishing regulations for collection, dissemination of information, determining rights, obligations and responsibilities of individuals, journalists and entities, as well as regulating their activities, an official Turkmen source said on Monday. The article of the law states that the right to establish a mass media institution belongs to state administration bodies, local executive authorities and local self-government, political parties and other public associations, legal entities and Turkmen citizens who have reached the age of 18, or their associations. The state guarantees the right of mass media for freedom of expression. 'No one can prohibit or prevent the media from disseminating information of public interest', the law says. Turkmen citizens have the right to use any form of mass media to express their opinions and beliefs, search, receive and disseminate information. The new law also guarantees free access of Turkmen citizens to the reports and materials of the foreign mass media. Turkmen government policy is based on the principles of banning: media censorship except in cases stipulated by the country's legislation; creation of bodies for preliminary control of information; influencing entities, preparing and distributing information and pressurising journalists to present incorrect and biased information in the media. The law also noted that the liability grounds for media abuse are: using information of the media which happens to be state or other secrets protected by law; an appeal to the violent change of constitutional order, propaganda of war, violence and cruelty, racial, ethnic or religious hatred, discrimination or intolerance, distribution of pornography and other criminal acts.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/07/2013

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New Intl Telecom Regulations Treaty Drafted

A new global telecommunications treaty was agreed to on 13 December, during the World Conference on International Telecommunications 2012 (WCIT-12) convened by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialised agency for ICT, in Dubai. Attended by nearly 2000 delegates from 193 member states of the ITU, the WCIT-12 was called to review the 24-year-old International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), the current binding treaty to facilitate international interconnection and ensuring efficiency and public usefulness and availability of information and communication services. The new draft of the treaty sets out general principles for ensuring the free flow of information around the world, and includes new provisions emphasising efforts to assist developing countries and the right to freedom of expression over ICT networks, and promote accessibility of ICT technologies for persons with disabilities.

The treaty also contains a resolution to create a single global number for access to emergency services, and new text mandating greater transparency in the prices set for mobile roaming. In a statement released at the end of the conference, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, Secretary General of the ITU, said, “This treaty contains many gains and achievements including increased transparency in international mobile roaming charges and competition, an extremely important win for consumers. Information and communication technologies can now play a greater role in driving sustainable development, in particular with new Articles that provide recommendations for dealing with the growing scourge of e-waste and promoting greater energy efficiency.” The treaty, however, has only been signed by 89 nations. Disagreement over provisions granting governments greater control over the internet led to 55 countries either refusing to sign or reserving the right to sign later. USA, UK, Australia and Canada are among the nations refusing to sign. Opponents object to proposals which would give governments greater powers to control international phone calls and data traffic. Several states also maintain that attempts in the treaty to control spam email can be used by governments to censor content in the name of attacking spam. The regulations of the new treaty will come into force in January 2015.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 12/28/2012

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FIJI: Final Version of Its Draft Constitution Released

 

The chairman of Fiji's Constitution Commission says he hopes to clear up any confusion surrounding the draft constitution by releasing a final version of the document to the public. The chairman of Fiji's Constitution Commission says he hopes to clear up any confusion surrounding the draft constitution by releasing a final version of the document to the public. Professor Yash Ghai said he made the decision after soft-copy versions of the document were leaked. "There's been confusion as to whether those versions are accurate," he told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program. Professor Ghai denied he was the source of the leaks. "We have been sharing documents with others and people at workshops and so on. There was also a so-called earlier leak as a result of that workshop." He said the commission had tried to be as transparent as possible. "So we have shared our working documents with many people."

 

Printed copies of the draft were seized by police last month. Professor Ghai has said proofs were burnt in front of him when he told police their actions were illegal. Land Forces Commander-Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga said printed copies were destroyed because it was illegal for the commission to print them once the final draft had been presented to the President. Professor Ghai said Colonel Tikoitoga had misinterpreted the decree. "Nowhere is there anything in the decree to say that the commission cannot distribute [the draft]."

 

From http://www.radioaustralia.net.au 01/02/2013

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New Draft Constitution Solid: Fiji AG

 

Fiji’s new draft constitution which is being amended by the government's legal team is one that will be enduring and not need amendments within three, five or 10 years. Confirming this on Wednesday this week, Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the draft constitution would be something that was appropriate for Fiji's future. “The government legal team is working on the draft constitution. “It will be ready in time for the deadline that was set by Prime Minister. It needs to be ready before the Constituent Assembly sits and that will be in February,” Sayed-Khaiyum said. He said the government's position was that it needed to put in place a constitution that was drafted based on the principles highlighted by the President and that was what the legal team was working towards.

 

“We will put a constitution that enshrines those values and principles as the president said that it's not the time for political point scoring whether internally internationally, or regionally,” Sayed-Khaiyum said. He said it was essential to focus on the job of ensuring that Fiji had the fundamental principles of democracy enshrined in the constitution. “I think it is also critical to ensure we have a smooth transition to parliamentary democracy. The process in Fiji is lot bigger than any individual. We are focused on putting up a new draft; there is a lot of work to do to elections,” Sayed-Khaiyum said.

 

From http://www.pina.com.fj 01/17/2013

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NEW ZEALAND: EU Endorses NZ Privacy Laws

 

The European Union (EU) has endorsed privacy protection laws in New Zealand – noting these provide “adequate protection” for the management of data for member states. Twenty seven EU members can now send personal data to New Zealand (NZ) for processing – without the need for extra controls. New Zealand is just one of five countries outside Europe to gain this endorsement for the management, handling, and sharing of consumer data, according to officials. EU members include Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. The EU recognition offers a spin-off for Kiwi businesses offering ICT and financial services. These include the processing of off-shore data, cloud computing, call centre management, and financial transactions. Judith Collins, New Zealand’s justice minister, says protecting personal consumer data remains a worldwide concern. “This decision reinforces that New Zealand’s regulatory and legal system is amongst the best in the world.”

 

New Zealand’s trade minister, Tim Groser, notes this decision gives the country “significant competitive advantage” over other countries trading with the EU. “This decision reinforces that New Zealand is a safe place to do business in, and with,” he observes. “It will allow New Zealand businesses who deal with personal data to confidently assure their current and future European customers that information will remain adequately protected as it flows from any of the 27 EU member states to New Zealand for processing.” This assurance is now backed by New Zealand’s laws – while meeting the data protection standards under the auspices of the European Commission.

 

From http://www.futuregov.asia 12/21/2012

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Boost for Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme

 

The Ministry of Health says its rheumatic fever prevention programme will be substantially expanded this year. The Budget in May 2012 allocated $12 million towards the throat-swabbing programme, doubling the money dedicated to it. The ministry says as at December 2012, about 34,000 children in Northland, Counties Manukau, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Lakes District health board regions have been through the programme. Some 1100 children have tested positive for the group A streptoccocus bacteria that causes rheumatic fever and can permanently damage the heart. The Chief Medical Officer for Health, Don Mackie,says the new money will allow another 44,000 children to be swabbed by the middle of this year.

 

From http://www.radionz.co.nz 01/06/2013

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NZ Govt Mulling Rules to Make Foreign Investors Pay "Fair" Tax

 

The New Zealand government is considering proposals to curb "excessive" tax breaks for foreign investors and to bring the tax code into line with global investment regulations, Revenue Minister Peter Dunne announced Monday. Proposals from the Inland Revenue agency would strengthen the taxation of highly leveraged investments by foreigners, Dunne said in a statement. The proposals outline changes to the thin capitalization rules, which are intended to prevent non-residents from using excessive interest costs to reduce their tax liabilities. These had been ineffective in some cases, said Dunne. The two main proposals were to extend the rules from single non- residents to groups of non-residents who act together to operate businesses in New Zealand; and to disregard some shareholder debt when calculating the global indebtedness of the foreign investor. Under current rules, this debt could be included and used to justify a high level of indebtedness in New Zealand, which could then be used to offset tax liability.

 

The two proposals would recognize the growing role of private equity investors, who often had high interest costs, but were not subject to the existing thin capitalization rules, he said. The proposals were expected to leave most foreign investors unaffected as they were already subject to the thin capitalization rules and had relatively low levels of debt. They were also designed to limit any effects on investors who used third-party debt, such as debt from an unrelated bank. "The tax laws relating to foreign investment are a delicate balancing act. We want to ensure that a fair amount of tax is paid, but do not want to discourage investment," Dunne said. "On the other hand, the proposals in this paper represent one step more towards ensuring that non-resident investors pay their fair share of tax." The proposals are open to public submissions until February 15.

 

From http://www.globaltimes.cn 01/14/2013

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Departments List Priority Areas

 

THE government has received all department priorities that aim to deliver better service in priority areas in the next three years. An executive meeting last Thursday saw all parliamentary leaders, departmental heads, provincial administrators, heads of statutory bodies and senior government officials provide at least three priorities from each department in the government’s effort to deliver to basic areas of need in the country. This was part of the Alotau Accord where the government, under Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, agreed to ensure services were directed to basic areas of need in the country. An individual performance agreement was given to them as a commitment to staff priorities. It will be signed by the governors and ministers before being compiled and endorsed by the prime minister on behalf of the ministers, committing the government to deliver the priorities. These priorities were written into the agreements where each of them will be assessed on their performance every year for the next three years.

 

In his remarks, government Chief Secretary Manasupe Zurenuoc told the senior public servants that the Alotau Accord had placed its main concern on developing the lives of the people through total commitment and loyalty by the leaders to the priorities identified. “Despite this solid growth for more than a decade, most of the MDG targets and indicators are either stagnant or declining,” he said. “Performance on our social indicators is not effective with the 13 years of positive economic growth. As a country, we have little or, if not, nothing to show on the ground. People are still not seeing the tangible benefits to their lives. This trend if not arrested now is more likely to exacerbate further the current conditions. But we have a chance to reverse this trend now through the Alotau Accord. All of us have a role to play to achieve these priorities,” Zurenuoc said.

 

From http://www.thenational.com.pg 01/21/2013

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MP Gives New Vehicles

 

LAW and order is one of the five pillar development priorities of the government and needs to be addressed promptly, Moresby Northwest MP Michael Malabag says. Malabag, who is also health and HIV/AIDS minister, said this on Monday when presenting two new vehicles to police in his electorate. The vehicles, which were bought last year through Malabag’s district services improvement programme funds, were presented to the Waigani and Gerehu police stations. The minister said law and order was important for development and he would continue to support the work of police in the electorate. “Now that you have the vehicles, you should not have any excuses not to attend to complaints,” Malabag said. He told police officers who gathered to witness the event that there were many reports in the media about police brutality. “We have to change that image in the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary,” he said. “Once you wear the blue uniform you must be proud. You serve the government of the day and the Constitution. The government needs you more than ever.”

 

Malabag added he would also provide a new vehicle for the Hohola police station and fund police posts for Baruni and Tatana villages in his electorate. Outgoing NCD metropolitan commander Supt Peter Guinness thanked the leader for his assistance to the police in the electorate. Guinness said the presentation was an important occasion for police in the electorate because it came at a time when they were down with logistics and needed vehicles. “We have been driving old vehicles for a very long time,” he said. Guinness said vehicles were expensive items and urged the station commanders and their subordinates to look after them properly. “I don’t want to see these vehicles being used for other purposes than police work,” Guinness said. “The public must report to my office if they see policemen abusing these vehicles,” Guinness told Malabag the electorate was short of manpower and proposed to identify and encourage Grade 12 leavers  to enlist for police training so that they could police their community. Malabag said it was a good concept and he would look into it.

 

From http://www.thenational.com.pg 01/23/2013

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Asia-Pacific Commits to Improving Health Data Systems

Strengthening the gathering of population data will improve the delivery of health services and the quality of life in most developing Asian economies, a conference has heard. This argument emerged during the High-level Meeting on the Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) in Asia and the Pacific held in Bangkok, Thailand, earlier this month (December 10-11). Possessing documents such as birth certificates and registration papers would also allow people to access public services, search for jobs, cast votes, claim inheritance, obtain a passport, buy property and open bank accounts. "The high-level meeting recognised that a majority of countries in Asia and the Pacific have inadequate systems," says Haishan Fu, director of the statistics division at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). A study presented at the conference by Lene Mikkelsen, a health information specialist at the University of Queensland, Australia, revealed the uneven development of CRVS systems in the Asia-Pacific. Of the 41 Asian countries covered by the study, only nine have systems capable of producing data that are reliable, timely and useable for all planning purposes, Mikkelsen says. Ten countries have systems that are 'functional' but that require attention in some areas, and the rest either have dysfunctional or weak CRVS systems.

 

According to Fu, senior health and civil registration officials from 23 member countries made commitments to strengthen CRVS systems in the Asia-Pacific region and in their respective countries. They would do so by supporting and implementing the provisions of the 'Make Every Life Count: Regional Strategic Plan for the Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in Asia and the Pacific', which was passed during the two-day meeting, she says. As part of the regional plan, the countries agreed that over the period 2012-2020, they would invest in, formulate and enforce plans to upgrade their CRVS systems, and use the resultant statistics to drive policymaking. Fu says this is important because the CRVS system within each nation is the responsibility of several ministries rather than only one. It is therefore crucial that heads of government make CRVS a national priority, she argues. "When those different ministries talk, they will realise where the gaps and problems are. Once those [issues] are identified, countries can start defining national improvement plans," she says. Fu also says that more funding has to be given to CRVS systems and notes that the "present deplorable situation" regarding CVRS in the region is due to a lack of funding and coordination among agencies. The two-day meeting in Bangkok was organised by ESCAP in collaboration with the WHO and other UN and civil society partners.

 

From http://www.scidev.net/ 12/28/2012

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Asia Pacific Banking System Outlook Broadly Stable

Hong Kong, January 21, 2013 -- Moody's Investors Service says that the broad credit outlook for banks in the Asia Pacific region in 2013 is stable on the expectation that they will remain largely insulated from the negative credit pressures affecting their peers in many Western economies. "We consider that this stable outlook is driven mainly by the region's economic resilience; its relatively accommodative monetary policy; and the banks' own strong liquidity when compared to global norms, as well as their relatively robust capital buffers," says Stephen Long, the Managing Director for Moody's Financial Institutions Group in Asia Pacific. Long was speaking on the release of Moody's "Asia Pacific Banking Outlook 2013", which examines the trends for 14 banking systems in the region. On an individual basis, a total of 11 show stable outlooks, while the Philippines exhibits a positive outlook, and India and Vietnam negative outlooks. "For the region, in terms of specifics, we consider that the economic recovery from the troughs reached in mid-2012 will continue in much of the region in 2013. At the same time, interest rates will remain low, making an asset quality shock unlikely during this year in most Asian countries," says Long. "In addition with liquidity, the vast majority of Asian banks are ready to adopt Basel III capital standards, which are being implemented in much of the region in 2013, even though some Asian regulators have announced delays." The report further examines six key themes for banks in Asia in 2013, including: the expectation that the modest cyclical deterioration apparent, in asset quality should fade by mid-year; the consideration that the region's very low interest rates -- while providing further reassurance that an asset quality shock is unlikely -- are also creating longer-term risks; and the expectation that Chinese banks although will avoid a hard landing, longer-term issues remain unresolved.

 

In addition, the report argues that Asian banks are well-placed to meet the capital standards of Basel III; the banks will carry on with their overseas expansion, though at a more moderate pace than that evident in 2012; and while the region's regulators will focus on ensuring that new-generation capital instruments meet Basel III requirements, they will still refrain from seeing any urgency in pressing ahead with broader resolution tools that could impose losses on creditors. In terms of individual banking systems, the report says that with the Chinese banks, the risks of a systemic crisis materializing in 2013 are low. And while loans to real estate developers and to local government financing vehicles (LGFV) will remain sources of long-term asset quality concerns, Moody's sees the risks of significant distress in 2013 as contained, respectively by a recovering real estate sector and the Chinese government's active management of the LGFV refinancing process. With Japan, the credit conditions for its banks will remain stable despite a generally weak economic outlook. The major banks will continue to take advantage of their relatively strong financial profiles and the retreat of European banks by expanding overseas, both in terms of their loan books and in terms of strategic investments. For banks in several export-related economies, such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Korea and Thailand, macroeconomic recovery will mean that any cyclical rise in non-performing loans (NPLs) will be modest.

 

However, tightening liquidity (except for Korea, where Moody's expects loan-to-deposit ratios to continue to decline) will remain a feature as these banks' dollar loan books will keep outstripping deposit gathering in their own currencies. The outlook for banks in Australia and New Zealand remains stable as these economies continue to exhibit good growth prospects in the near-term, driven by ongoing resources-sector investments in Australia and earthquake reconstruction in New Zealand. With the positive outlook for the Philippines, Moody's says its banking system will remain relatively immune to global shocks and continue to benefit from steady credit growth. Indonesia shares many of these positive attributes, but Moody's stable system outlook includes more policy uncertainty, as well as greater risk of asset quality pressures due to relatively rapid recent loan growth. At the other extreme, Vietnam and India have negative outlooks. The Vietnamese system is in much worse shape than India's and there is a reasonably high probability that the government will need to step in and take measures to address the issue of high NPLs, or face the negative economic consequences of a banking system that cannot support credit growth. And in India, impaired loans are yet to peak among public sector banks. While the government is likely to remain supportive, relatively high inflation and modest fiscal capacity mean that policy options are constrained.

 

From http://www.moodys.com/ 01/21/2013

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CHINA: Approving Committee for Choosing Military Legislators

 

China on Friday approved the composition of an electoral committee of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), which will choose new national legislators from the military. Legislators of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee approved the formation of the PLA electoral committee submitted by the Central Military Commission (CMC). CMC Vice Chairman Fan Changlong acts as the committee's director. Xu Qiliang and Zhang Yang are deputy directors. Chang Wanquan, Fang Fenghui, Zhao Keshi, Zhang Youxia, Wu Shengli, Ma Xiaotian, Wei Fenghe, Du Jincai, Wu Changde, Qin Shengxiang and Liu Bin are members of the electoral committee. The electoral committee will choose new NPC deputies from the PLA. The deputies will serve a term of five years. The first annual session of the 12th NPC will convene on March 5, 2013, according to a decision adopted Friday at a meeting of the 11th NPC Standing Committee.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/29/2012

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More Regions to Reform Migrant Education System

 

More Chinese provinces and municipalities have announced education reforms that would allow children of migrant workers to enter senior high schools and sit college entrance exams locally. Educational authorities in Ningxia, Shanxi, Hubei, Sichuan, Gansu, Henan, Shaanxi and Jiangsu announced in recent days their respective plans to ensure that children following their migrant parents to cities can enjoy the same rights in education as their urban peers. The announcements came after 13 other provinces and municipalities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong, published similar plans amid nationwide cries for fairer educational opportunities for children of migrant workers. China currently has more than 250 million migrant workers living in cities. An estimated 20 million of their children have migrated to the cities, while some 10 million are left behind in their rural hometowns. China's household registration system used to confine kids to attending schools in their home provinces. A 2003 regulation amended this by allowing migrant workers' children to receive the country's nine-year compulsory education in cities where their parents work. However, children of migrant workers continued to face the problem of having to return to their hometowns for further schooling when they were about to enter senior high schools or at times of college entrance exams. In early 2012, the Ministry of Education asked Chinese cities to formulate plans regarding further education and college entrance exams for migrant workers' children.

 

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

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China to Reform Re-Education Through Labor System

 

The Chinese government will advance reforms for its controversial re-education through labor system this year, according to a national political and legal work conference held on Monday. The system allows police to detain people for up to four years without an open trial, leading experts to argue that it contradicts high-level laws, including China's constitution. No further information on the reforms has been made available. Public criticism of the system has mounted following two recent cases. Last month, a court in southwest China's Chongqing municipality rejected an appeal from Ren Jianyu, a 25-year-old village official who was sentenced to two years in a re-education through labor camp in September 2011 for spreading "negative information" and inciting the subversion of state power. Related story: Court rejects village official's labor camp appeal. Last August, a woman in central China's Hunan province was sentenced to 18 months in a labor camp after demanding tougher penalties for seven men who were convicted of abducting, raping and prostituting her 11-year-old daughter. Tang Hui, a crusading mother who petitioned courts and local government officials for tougher penalties for her daughter's captors, was released within a week following complaints from academics, state media and the public. According to the Bureau of Re-education Through Labor under the Ministry of Justice, 160,000 people were imprisoned in 350 re-education through labor centers nationwide as of the end of 2008. Jiang Wei, a senior official in charge of judicial reforms, said last October that the necessity of the reforms had been recognized and a related plan was being formulated.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 01/07/2013

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Statistics: 95% of Corrupted Officials Keep Mistress

 

One researcher has stated that most of the corrupted officials who were caught red-handed last year, kept mistresses. Yet this fact presents only one aspect of the Chinese officials' image crisis, Procuratorial Daily reported yesterday. "In 2012, the image crisis haunting China's officials formed a hazard and had an increasingly negative impact," said Tang Jun, director of the Crisis Management Research Center at Renmin University. "In this era of new media, the depth and extent of information communication have changed, posing a huge challenge to maintaining both the officials' and government's image." Tang and his team are set to release a research report entitled "Official Image Crisis 2012," which focuses completely on those civil servants who have been "caught in the act." "In 2012, more than ten sex scandals involving government officials were exposed online," Tang said, "According to our statistics, among all the corrupted officials caught in 2012, 95 percent had mistresses and more than 60 percent kept concubines; all of these [statistics] are worsening the general official image." Interestingly, he added, a sex scandal is the easiest way to make an official step down. In China, an official's sex scandal always leads to the exposure of other possibly corrupt and illegal doings on his part. "This kind of scandal doesn't only occur in China," Tang said, "But in many other countries, it doesn't [directly] relate to the official's political ethics and will seldom lead to other, bigger problems."

 

Tang Jun explained that the normal nature of any scandal's progress sees it evolve from being exposed online, which turns it into a popular juicy news item, to being followed by a public outcry for justice. This public anger then in turn forces the disciplinary department to investigate and this inspection will then often find more illegal evidence to take down the relevant official. In 2012, as the Chinese public was becoming increasingly dissatisfied, the time to take down another official was approaching faster than usual. For example, Chongqing official Lei Zhengfu was taken down only 63 hours after his sex video was leaked online. In the report, Tang summarized that the village official, the grassroots official, the senior official, the law enforcement official and the quasi-official personnel, are the five high-risk groups. The five image crises are: Sex scandals; the flaunting of huge wealth (e.g. by wearing expensive watches or purchasing numerous houses); the wrong-doings of relatives (even if the official himself does nothing wrong); the increase of "accidentally and unexpected" involvements (like a smear campaign or just because of sharing the same name with another official); and the rise of the so-called "fake official" (e.g. faking to be police in order to rob a bank, or playing the senior official in order to gain online fame). Tang Jun continued that nowadays the public has lost much of its trust in officials and government, due to more and more incidents. The corrupted officials have left a bad taste in the public's mouth as well as created the impression of social injustice. For this reason precisely, many hold hatred toward them, as well as carry the presumption that all officials are guilty of engaging in illegal acts – even without any hard evidence. Tang said he hopes his team's research report can signal a small warning to the officials of various departments, and help them take a long, hard look at themselves and their own actions. He added that under the new circumstances, the government needs to actively guide the public in learning how to resolve tension and conflict and to improve the government image as well.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 01/09/2013

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Chinese Counties Lack Child Welfare Agencies

 

Government-funded child welfare agencies have been established in only a minority of China's county-level regions, an official with the Ministry of Civil Affairs has revealed. Only 64 such agencies are available in counties across the country, the unidentified official told Xinhua on Wednesday. The comments come with many orphans potentially facing transfers from privately operated orphanages to state-backed institutions. The ministry on Sunday announced a month-long nationwide inspection of orphanages run by individuals and private operators after a fatal fire at one such operation in central China's Henan Province. If these orphanages do not meet the requirements of accommodating orphans, the children should be sent to child welfare agencies, a statement issued by the ministry said. According to statistics provided by the ministry, China has some 615,000 orphans although the figure fluctuates each year. Around 109,000 of these orphans live in government-funded agencies, with the rest being fostered by relatives or private orphanages. Besides the 64 child welfare agencies in counties, there are 9 such agencies funded by provincial-level governments and 333 by prefectural-level governments in the country. More than 800 social welfare institutions also have departments for children. The official said that family foster care had been promoted in recent years as a better option than orphans growing up in child welfare agencies. They added that China's child welfare networks remain imperfect, and that regulations need to be revised to lower overly stringent requirements for adoption. The government's database holding national information on reported and transported orphans also needs to be improved, according to the source. The Ministry of Civil Affairs has urged its departments across the country to mobilize communities and villages to collect information on the conditions of non-government orphanages as part of the inspection campaign. On Jan. 4, a fire at an unregistered orphanage run by Yuan Lihai in her home in Henan's Lankao County killed seven people. Yuan, 48, had taken care of orphans and abandoned children since 1986, using money earned working as a street vendor.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 01/10/2013

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Chinese Society Lacks Trust: Experts

 

A survey designed to measure how trusting people are indicates that many Chinese do not trust others, experts from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) said. The Chinese public was given a "trust score" of just 59.7 points out of a total of 100, according to the results of the CASS survey conducted among residents in seven cities, including Beijing, east China's Shanghai, south China's Guangzhou, central China's Wuhan and southwest China's Chongqing municipalities. The survey showed that residents in China's central and western regions tend to trust others more than their eastern counterparts. It also indicated that Chinese tend to be more trusting of government departments than business organizations. Yang Yiyin, one of the survey's organizers, attributed the lack of trust to migration, China's transformation from a planned economy to a market economy and declining "family culture." "People are more concerned about trust, especially in a transformative period when a new system of trust has not been established," said Yang. Food safety scandals, government corruption and publicly highlighted tragedies like the death of Wang Yue, a toddler who died after being run over by a minivan and ignored by passersby in south China's Guangdong Province in October 2011, have led to public calls for greater moral education. The CASS survey also measures Chinese people's feeling about justice, happiness as well as their mentality and psychological health. Findings of the survey show that 44.7 percent of a total of 51,100 effective respondents are satisfied with their life, a drop from 47 percent in 2011.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 01/12/2013

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China to Combat Fraud in Academician Election

 

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) said Wednesday it will fiercely combat fraud in the election of academicians. The CAS, one of the country's top think tanks, said the election will focus on candidates' academic qualifications and their commitment to ethics. Punishments will be handed out to those involved in election fraud, including falsifying applications and using influence to gain votes, the CAS said. According to regulations, no more than 60 academicians will join the academy during this year's election, which kicked off earlier this month. The CAS will also more closely scrutinize the academic achievements of candidates who are officials or entrepreneurs, in a move to restore its reputation after it was hit by a series of election crises including excessive bureaucratism. Academician is the highest academic title conferred upon Chinese scientists and experts working in scientific and technological fields. The title of academician is a lifelong honor.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 01/16/2013

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JAPAN: Education Reform Body to Be Set Up in Mid-Jan.

 

The government plans to establish an organization tentatively called the "headquarters for implementing the revitalization of education" directly under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as early as mid-January, it has been learned.The envisioned body is intended as a reinstatement of the Education Rebuilding Council that was launched in October 2006 under the first Abe Cabinet, which lasted from September 2006 to August 2007, according to government sources.As revamping the nation's education system is one of Abe's priority policies, the headquarters will discuss such matters as a review of the existing 6-3-3-4 schooling system from the primary to university education stages, they said.The body will comprise the prime minister; Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga; Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hakubun Shimomura and about a dozen academics and professionals, including university professors and business leaders, the sources said.The new headquarters will devise a set of proposals, including those involving legal revisions, concerning items the Liberal Democratic Party included in its campaign platform for the latest House of Representatives election, they said.According to the sources, some of the proposals will be:

-- A review of the local boards of education system.

-- A review of the university entrance exam system.

-- Strengthening steps to combat bullying in schools.

 

The Education Rebuilding Council created under the first Abe administration consisted of Abe, who served as chairman, the chief cabinet secretary, the education minister and 17 leaders from various fields.Based on its recommendations calling for a review of the "pressure-free education" policy, the first Abe government revised three education-related laws in June 2007. These included requiring teachers to renew their licenses and a provision mandating publicly operated schools have vice principals.The administrations of the two prime ministers who followed Abe, Yasuo Fukuda and Taro Aso, had a successor body to the Education Rebuilding Council, a "consultative council on revitalization of education," but it was abolished after the launch of the administration led by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in 2009.

 

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 01/07/2013

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SOUTH KOREA: Public Servants' Pay Increases by 2.8%

 

Public servants’ pay will increase by two-point-eight percent and salaries for those who are in their mandatory military service will jump by 20 percent in 2013.The South Korean government revealed on Thursday its plans to increase its pays to employee by an average of two-point-eight percent.Along the lines, the annual salary for the South Korean President will rise by three-point-three percent to 192-million 550-thousand won, while the Prime Minister’s salary will be 149-million 280-thousand won. Ministers will be paid 197-million 770-thousand won in 2013.

 

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 01/03/2013

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Gov't Payroll Increases Sharply Under Lee Admin.

 

The incumbent administration aimed at shrinking the number of government employees during its term, but it appears the government payroll has instead sharply expanded. The Public Administration and Security Ministry said there were a total of 615-thousand government employees as of late last year, up roughly ten-thousand from 2007.Four-thousand workers were added to complement the auxiliary police and combat police forces. Regular police troops were also bumped up by one thousand and probation officers by 300.Ninety-five officials were hired to staff the maintenance office for new government buildings in the Sejong administrative city, while 26 officials were added to the Foreign Ministry as more embassies opened overseas. Finance Ministry employees also increased on the heels of a new law on cooperatives. An official of the Public Administration and Security Ministry explained the government tried its best to keep employee numbers from rising. The official said the police force was expanded to keep public order against frequent crimes in the final days of the administration.

 

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 01/07/2013

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Reconstruction Bureau to Get More Staff, Chief to Be Upgraded

 

The government plans to strengthen the Fukushima reconstruction bureau, a branch of the Reconstruction Agency, to accelerate recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake.It will reorganize the bureau to become a more powerful base for supporting rehabilitation in Fukushima Prefecture. It also plans to increase the number of staff, which is currently about 40. The head of the new organization will be upgraded from deputy director general level to bureau chief.The reorganization aims to help the Fukushima branch of the agency be more effective as a front-line decision-making authority for the area's reconstruction. The move is being initiated following instructions from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who considers the bureau as more than a mere branch of the agency, saying it is "one of two head offices."

 

Abe intends to accelerate progress in reconstruction efforts by reorganizing the system so that requests made by affected areas can be dealt with quickly.Abe visited Miyagi Prefecture on Saturday to get a better grasp on the actual situation in disaster-hit areas. He inspected a shipbuilding plant and a seafood processing facility in Ishinomaki, both of which were destroyed by tsunami on March 11, 2011.In Iwanuma, he inspected a construction site for a group of residents who are awaiting relocation to higher ground. In Watari, he talked with victims living in temporary housing units.Abe's visit to areas affected by the disaster was his second, following the first to Fukushima late last year. Abe told reporters, "I'll compile a budget for the next fiscal year based on the concept that revitalization is impossible without reconstructing these affected areas."

 

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 01/14/2013

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INDONESIA: To Increase Transparency with an Online Programme

 

The Semarang Education Agency (SEA), Indonesia will relaunch its School Operational Aid (SOA) online programme to increase transparency and prevent the misuse of funds at local elementary and junior high schools. The SOA online programme was first launched three years ago and will relaunch again on January 16, said Head of Education Office of Semarang, Bunyamin yesterday. "We have disseminated information on the programme and on the technical supervision of the SOA online programme," he added. According to him, the programme will cover all 346 state-run elementary schools and 41 state-run junior high schools in the municipality as well as hundreds of private schools. The online service includes information such as a recapitulation of each schools’s SOA proposal, decrees approving the proposals, and details on the funds received by each schools, he added. The Mechanism for the SOA fund distribution have been restored to the system initially put into place three years ago, when the funds were sent directly to recipient schools. However, the policy was previously changed, resulting in the SOA funds were sent through respective regency or municipal administration budgets. That was why the online programme was also halted, said Bunyamin. The SOA online programme can be accessed through the website of the SEA (disdik-kotasmg.org).

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 01/03/2013

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MYANMAR: Vowing to Continue Reform in 2013 as Third Step

 

YANGON, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar vowed to continue reform in the year 2013 in the administrative sector as the third step of its series of strategic reform to promote national development. It was so announced by President U Thein Sein in the year-end of 2012. Taking office in March 2011, the elected civilian government carried out political reform as the first step, which covered national solidarity and prevalence of peace and stability to ensure public security, enhance international cooperation, introduce a clean government with good governance and flourish the multi-party democratic system. It worked for national reconciliation, making achievements to some extent. As the second step of the reform, the government launched economic reform, promulgating a new Foreign Investment Law and building special economic zones and industrial zones for national development.

 

Now the government has placed emphasis on administrative reform in its third step when it turned to 2013. Pointing out the weak points that some government officials ignored the voice of the people, not taking enough transparency and timely and effective action on matters presented by the people, and corruption is in existence, President U Thein Sein called for the reform in the administrative sector. To be a clean government with good governance, the Myanmar government is forming committees at the township level to make joint discussions, joint decision and take joint leadership in implementation. Coordination between the central government and regional or state governments has been called for to carry out effective undertakings and cooperation urged to face up to the difficulties and challenges, especially in cracking down on bribery and corruption.

 

Meanwhile, the government is simultaneously drafting the National Comprehensive Development Plan which covers the next 20 years and the Comprehensive Development Vision for the next 25 years with the help of Japanese and ASEAN economists. Priorities have been given to policies for increased productivity, job opportunities, free market, price stability and foreign trade and investment. The government's Planning Commission, headed by U Thein Sein, approved a 10-point basic framework for economic and social reforms which cover finance and taxation, the monetary sector, relaxation of regulations on trade and investment, undertakings for private sector development, health and education, agriculture and food sufficiency, the governing system and transparency, mobile communication services and internet system, infrastructural development and programs for emergence of effective and efficient governing system. Myanmar has announced it will host the country's first Development Cooperation Forum in the third week of January to seek better approach for national development.

 

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 01/01/2013

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MALAYSIA: To Build a United Front Against Corruption

 

More than 150 government-linked agencies (GLCs) and private corporations across Malaysia have signed the corporate integrity pledge as an assurance that their operations are free of corrupt practices, said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). MACC deputy chief commissioner (prevention) Sutinah Sutan said those who had signed the pledge included multinational corporations, GLCs, state government agencies, small and medium enterprises as well as several other private organisations. “We are happy to see more companies coming forward and at the same time, would like to welcome others willing to seek help on practising good governance. “The signing of the pledge is vital to ensure there is no fraud or graft in their procurement processes and other aspects,” she said after witnessing a signing ceremony between the State Agriculture Development Corporation (SADC) of Perak and MACC at the Perak state secretariat building. In his speech, Mentri Besar Zambry Abdul Kadir commended SADC for being the first government agency in Perak to sign the pledge and further hoped that more agencies will follow the lead of SADC. “It is always better to address issues relating to bribery and misuse of power at the early stages.”

 

 From http://www.asianewsnet.net/ 12/31/2012

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PHILIPPINES: Province Adopts E-Accounting System

 

The Department of Public Works and Highways in the province of Leyte has fully adopted the Commission on Audit’s electronic New Government Accounting System (e-NGAS) as part of the local government’s efforts to eliminate red tape and financial irregularities. The e-NGAS aims to provide both central and local government offices with a modern and sound governance-enhancing accounting system. Its basic features include accrual accounting, recognition of depreciation, responsibility accounting, project monitoring, enhanced chart of accounts and security control to ensure data integrity.  Its other features include the automatic computation of unit cost and material based on the “moving average method;” on-line information on inventory item’s reorder point and number of days to consume; automatic computation of depreciation based on the straight line method. On demand, the e-NGAS generates financial statements and other reports such as trial balance (pre-closing and post-closing), statement of income and expenses (condensed and detailed format), balance sheet (condensed and detailed format), statement of cash flow, and statement of government equity. According to district engineer Maria Margarita Junia, with the full shift to the e-NGAS, the provincial government can now process its financial reports faster. Furthermore, it will minimise opportunities to manipulate financial figures and allow fast turnaround time for budget requests and allocation.

 

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 01/03/2013

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The Philippines Improves Emergency Loan Processing System

 

Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), the Philippines has improved its efficiency of faster loan processing thank to its new system called Wireless Automated Processing System (GW@PS) kiosks. The GW@PS kiosks is a more reliable database and online systems that has helped facilitate maximum of 50,000 emergency loan applications daily for members affected by typhoon ‘Pablo’. Compared to the loan process in 2009 as the result of super typhoon ‘Ondoy’, the number of emergency loan application processed per day was at over 17,000 transactions on the peak day only. The GSIS—the state pension fund continues to update its database to reflect the current premium and loan remittances of its members, and works closely with its technology partners to form multiple task forces to deal with the inconsistencies of the members’ records. The GSIS granted nearly PH 7 billion (US$ 171.2 million) in emergency loan in 2012 which already benefited over 390,000 members. Most GSIS members file their loan applications via the GW@PS kiosks for faster processing. With an online and paperless facility of the GW@PS kiosks, the GSIS credits the loans to members’ account via their Unified Multi-Purpose ID’s e-Card within three to five days. Currently, there are over 700 GW@PS kiosks nationwide located at the GSIS branch offices as well as the provincial capitals, municipal halls, and selected Robinsons malls across the archipelago. The GSIS has recently granted emergency loans to members living or residing in seven villages in Infanta, and in the municipalities of Alabat and Unisan, all in Quezon province. For more information on the emergency loan programme and locations of the GW@PS kiosks, members can log on to www.gsis.gov.ph

 

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 01/09/2013

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The Philippines Introduces E-payment System in E-procurement

 

The Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS), in partnership with the Land Bank of the Philippines, introduced a new e-payment system which seeks to enhance transparency in how the government agencies transact and do business with its suppliers. The PhilGEPS is the central portal of all public procurement activities that provides both government agencies and suppliers a more open, transparent and competitive environment. The new e-payment system allows government agencies to pay for procured items through the PhilGEPS portal at any time of the day. In addition, it reduces the time needed to complete purchasing transaction, which normally involves a tedious process of completing financial documents. According to Budget and Management Secretary Florencio B. Abad, the new system will help agencies ensure a quicker and more efficient procurement system, as well as boost the Aquino administration’s overall transparency campaign. “The establishment of the e-Payment system effectively brings us to the realm of cashless transactions, where procurement activities can be tracked and accounted very quickly and accurately,” he said. “The development of this online payment facility is particularly important for liquidating expenses that are charged against public funds. Because every step of the process can now be tracked and monitored, we can begin to close off all avenues for irregularity and, ultimately, establish better accountability across government.” Abad revealed that with the PHILGEPS e-Payment facility, LandBank can now offer similar e-Payment services for other government services, such as license applications with the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and clearance applications with the National Bureau of Investigation.

 

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 01/21/2013

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SINGAPORE: GIC to Have New Chief Investment Officer

 

The Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) said on Friday it has named Lim Chow Kiat as its next group chief investment officer, effective Feb. 1. Lim will succeed Ng Kok Song, who is retiring after 42 years in the management of Singapore's foreign reserves. Ng was appointed chief investment officer in 2007, where he integrated the sovereign wealth fund's investment strategy at the portfolio level across the public and private markets. Ng will still play an advisory role at the wealth management firm after his retirement. Lim, 42, is currently GIC's deputy group chief investment officer. He joined the sovereign wealth fund in 1993 after graduating with first class honors in accountancy from Nanyang Technological University.

 

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 01/05/2013

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Community Policing System Extended to 6 More NPCs

 

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Police Force will implement its Community Policing System (COPS) at six more Neighbourhood Police Centres (NPC) across the island. Minister at the Prime Minister's Office S Iswaran made the announcement at a community event on Sunday. The six NPCs are at Bishan, Punggol, Sengkang, Woodlands East, Woodlands West and Clementi. Mr Iswaran, who is also the Second Minister for Home Affairs, said this is part of the second phase of the COPS rollout. The COPS system was introduced in May last year in Tampines and Bukit Merah East. It is a nationwide transformation of front-line policing strategies which aims to improve the way in which the current NPCs work with the community. Under COPS, NPCs will be strengthened with additional resources for tackling local crime concerns and enhancing community engagement. Over the next three years, the Police will progressively implement COPS across all 35 NPCs in Singapore. Mr Iswaran said the Police's experience with the rollout of COPS during the first phase has been positive. Residents have been pleased with the increased Police presence. Many have also come forward to take a more active role in partnering the Police, for example through joint patrols. The West Coast Protectors was also launched on Sunday. It is a new Residents' Watch Group jointly formed by the Clementi NPC and the Clementi constituency. So far some 300 volunteers have signed up to be Protectors.

 

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 01/06/2013

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VIETNAM: Politburo Appoints Commission Heads

 

The Politburo of the Communist Party in Vietnam has assigned Nguyen Ba Thanh and Vuong Dinh Hue, both members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (PCC), to the positions of head of the PCC Internal Affairs Commission and head of the PCC Economic Commission, respectively. Nguyen Ba Thanh currently works as Party secretary of Danang City and is a top leader in all affairs of the city. Vuong Dinh Hue is currently the Minister of Finance. He previously served as Auditor General of the State Audit of Vietnam for more than five years. The PCC Internal Affairs Commission and the PCC Economic Commission were established by the Politburo in late December. The PCC Internal Affairs Commission is a consultancy agency for the Central Committee regarding policies and strategies related to internal issues. It will also serve as a standing unit for the Central Steering Committee for Anti-Corruption. The PCC Economic Commission serves the same purpose, but in relation to economic issues. The assignment was made via Decision 655 following the resolutions of the fifth and sixth meetings of the Communist Party Central Committee.

 

 From http://www.asianewsnet.net/ 01/04/2013

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Residents Can Rate Civil Servants Online in Vietnam

 

An online rating system for civil servants of Da Nang City in Vietnam was launched on 19 December, enabling residents to evaluate their experiences with government officials. Residents can submit their evaluation through the government’s recently released website on administrative reforms, developed by the ICT Service Centre, under the Da Nang Department of Information and Communications. The People’s Committee (the executive arm of the local government) has published the names and photographs of all 2,700 local civil servants on the website. Local residents can log into the website using a code given to them by state agencies they have contacted for administrative affairs and evaluate the civil servants on different criteria such as service attitude and quality of work. Residents can rate their satisfaction with each public servant by giving them from one to five stars. The government will use the ratings from the public to improve performance of civil servants at work. According to a local news agency, any employee rated poorly three times or more a week must submit a report to their superior giving possible reasons that have led to such a rating. The public assessment will also be a factor in deciding bonuses and promotions of civil servants.

 

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 01/08/2013

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Civil Service Hiring Is Corruption Free: Report

 

The Ha Noi People's Committee found no cases of corruption in civil service hiring in the past two years, according to a report published yesterday. The report effectively denied rumours that a person seeking employment with the city would have to pay up to VND100 million ($5,000). The report stated that civil service recruitment from educational institutions in all districts and communes during the review period was conducted transparently and equitably in accordance with the law. Recruitment boards took special measures to prevent corruption such as allowing candidates to draw lots for examination topics and examiners. Recruitment councils asked local police to investigate 536 cases and found 43 candidates using fake diplomas to seek employment. Recruitment at educational institutions in 2012 filled 6,315 positions out of 6,748 opened for recruitment, the report said.

 

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 01/12/2013

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BANGLADESH: Cabinet Forms Committee to Determine Suitable Salary, Allowances for Judicial Service Members

 

The Cabinet on Monday constituted a committee comprising a number of ministers including Finance, Law and Agriculture, to determine the suitable salary and allowances for the members of Judicial Service. The Finance Minister will head the committee while other ministers will cooperate with him. The approval to the committee was given at the regularly weekly meeting of the cabinet held at Bangladesh Secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair. Briefing reporters after the meeting, Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said the cabinet also approved the draft of the `President’s (Remuneration and Privileges (Amendment) Bill, 2013’ that seeks to increase the President’s discretionary to taka two crore from existing taka one crore.

 

He said it also approved the draft of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker’s (Remuneration and Privileges) (Amendment) Bill, 2013 that seeks to increase the Speaker’s discretionary fund to Tk 10 lakh from existing Tk 4.5 lakh. Bhuiyan said the cabinet gave its nod to two draft laws to give enforcement to some Ordinance that were promulgated during August 20, 1975 to April 9, 1979  period and during March 24, 1982 to November 10, 1986. He said a total of 172 ordinances were promulgated by military governments during August 1975 to April 1979 and March 1982 to November 1986 as there was no parliament during those periods. These ordinances were later brought under legal framework through the 5th and 7th amendments of the constitution.

 

The Cabinet Secretary said that following the 15th amendment of the constitution, the 5th and 7th amendments were scrapped and as a result the ordinances that were legalised through these two amendments became ineffective as void ab initio. But, he said, practically some of the ordinances have effectiveness in the functioning of the government and to bring those ordinances under legal framework the cabinet approved the two proposed laws. Bhuiyan said the cabinet also approved the draft of Waqf (Amendment) Bill, 2013 that seeks to bring discipline in the Waqf administration. The proposal for setting up `Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited’ for the implementation, running , and maintenance of Mass Rapid Transit – MRT under the Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority also received the cabinet’s nod. It also endorsed the `Dhaka Bus Rapid Transit Company Ltd’ for the implementation, running and maintenance of Bus Rapid Transit – BRT from Shahjalal International Airport to Gazipur. Cabinet members, advisers to the Prime Minister and State Ministers concerned attended the meeting while secretaries concerned were present.

From http://www.unbconnect.com 01/21/2013

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INDIA: Cash Crimes Govt Eye on 103 NGOs

 

The government is keeping a close watch on the activities of 103 NGOs and 24 international donors on the basis of information that they may have undertaken suspicious monetary transactions. The development is significant in view of increasing reports of money laundering and terror financing through NGOs and foreign donors. "127 such entities have been placed on the suspect list. Their activities are being strictly monitored in view of reports that they are being used by criminals and terror groups to bring money into the country for funding anti-national activities or money laundering," said a top government official. "The MEA and RAW have been asked to gather more information on suspicious international donors. The MEA has been instructed to sensitise international donors to the misdemeanours of many NGOs that receive funds from them."

 

"The I-T department has also been asked to step up monitoring," the official added. Sources also told HT that the government is mulling appropriate legislative amendments, so as to devise a mechanism to regulate domestic funding. Existing provisions do not require the registration of donors. The Economic Intelligence Committee, chaired by the finance minister, is expected to take up the issue. The government is also likely to come up with certain alterations in the law, so as to ensure that foreign NGOs do not exert undue control over their Indian subsidiaries. This step has been necessitated by reports that many international NGOs are using their Indian arms to bring in funds that may be used by entities in activities inimical to India's interest. However, the government is handling the issue with care because many genuine NGOs are engaged in bonafide charitable work.

 

From http://www.hindustantimes.com 01/07/2013

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More Policy Reforms in Next Couple of Months

 

DAVOS: Asserting that India continues to be a "very good" investment destination, Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath today said the government would roll out more policy reforms in the next couple of months. Nath also said stress and distress are in Western economies, not in India. He is leading the Indian delegation at the World Economic Forum ( WEF) annual meet here. "Policy reforms will continue and we will roll out more (reforms) in next couple of months," Nath, who is also in charge of Parliamentary Affairs, told PTI here. In response to a query on whether the government would continue with policy measures for economic reforms on top of the recent decisions, he said" "Yes we are continuing." Nath, who was instrumental in pushing the FDI reforms in the Parliament last month, stressed that the country is an attractive investment destination.

 

"India continues to be a very good investment destination and we have no stress or distress in our economy. The stress and distress lie in the western countries today. India is adapting to growth realities and the US and Europe are in distress," the Minister said. In recent months, the government has unleashed a wave of reforms to bolster the sagging economic growth, which is expected to be around 5.7 per cent in the current financial year ending March 31, 2013. The major reform measures include liberalisation of FDI norms in multi-brand retail and aviation sectors and partial de-regulation of diesel prices. Besides, steps have been initiated to keep subsidies under control.

 

From http://economictimes.indiatimes.com 01/23/2013

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SRI LANKA: Parliament to Vote on Chief Justice Impeachment

 

Sri Lanka's parliament will vote on the impeachment of chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake on January 11 after a two day debate, the state information office said, despite a court order nullifying the findings of a parliamentary committee. Opposition party representatives had walked out of a party leaders meeting over the refusal of the ruling coalition to accept a ruling by the Supreme Court, Sri Lanka's Daily Mirror newspaper said. Sri Lanka's Supreme Court had earlier given an interpretation saying a parliamentary committee that found the Chief Justice 'guilty' on several impeachment charges was not a lawful tribunal. Meanwhile a hearing on the court of appeal over the parliamentary select committee commenced Monday with Counsel Romesh de Silva making submissions. The parliamentary committee from which the opposition out had not accorded due process to the chief justice and had not followed the basic principles of natural justice petitioners had told court. The state information office said the president has also appointed a four member committee to review the parliament select committee's decision. The names had been withheld on their request, the website said.

 

From http://www.lankabusinessonline.com 01/07/2013

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Government Is Committed to Protect Democracy – President

 

The government acts according to the constitution with respect to the laws and committed to protect democracy and promised to take action against corruption regardless of the status of corrupt individuals, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said. "We safeguard and honor the democracy. We honor the laws of the country and work according to the Constitution. But according to the Constitution if a person commits fraud the government is prepared to remove that person regardless of their post or status," the President said.  Speaking at the opening of South Asia's largest fishery harbor in Dikkowita on Friday, the President said corrupt individuals would be dealt with sternly irrespective of the position they held. The President pointed out that Sri Lanka managed its economic growth despite the global downturn and some people not happy with the country's development are trying to bring an uprising similar to the Arab uprising in Libya.

 

"During the time when people were losing jobs and banks were closed, we managed to keep our banks open and keep our people employed," he said adding that as a result percentage wise Sri Lanka has the largest government sector. The President also called on the people to support his government to eradicate the drug menace as they united to wipe out terrorism.  The Dikkowita Fisheries Harbor, constructed at a cost of Euro 51 million with the support from the Government of Netherlands, is the largest fisheries harbor in South Asia. The Harbor was constructed to replace inadequate berthing facilities at various locations in the Negombo lagoon so that local fishermen can get to open water without having to negotiate the Hamilton Canal. The new harbor consists of two terminals for local and international operations and is designed to handle a daily catch throughput of 125 metric tons of fish.

 

The harbor basin with a depth of more than six meters could berth 500 vessels in both piers. The harbor has facilities for bunkering shipping vessels with four ice plants, cool rooms, and fuel sheds, a large fish processing area, a large canteen, a fish net repairing facility and remote control operated boat lifting facility. In addition it has an office building, a fish auction hall, crew quarters, a ship repair slip, parking space for large containers and vehicles, a wastewater treatment plant and a special waste disposal system. The new harbor is equipped with modern conveyer belts to minimize post-harvest loss and to ensure high quality exports. Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Ministers Basil Rajapaksa, Felix Perera, Deputy Ministers Susantha Punchinilame, Sarath Kumara Gunaratne, Duleep Wijesekara, and Ambassdor of Netherlands Basr Van Noordemme participated in the occasion.

 

From http://www.priu.gov.lk 01/20/2013

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MALDIVES: Govt Decides to Shun Parliament Committee

 

Cabinet members, officials of the government and members of the security forces will not attend the Parliament's Government Accountability Committee with immediate effect, President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik said in a letter to the Parliament Speaker on Sunday. In the letter sent to the Parliament Speaker Abdulla Shahid, President said that government officials will shun the Committee until the Speaker can ensure that the actions of Parliament and Committees are in line with the constitution and the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure.

 

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv 01/20/2013

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Govt to Cooperate with Committee Barring CoNI Probe

 

Spokesperson of the Government Ahmed Thaufeeg said the decision to shun the committee in relation to its probe into CoNI’s report has been made as it is reviewing the report in violation of its mandate. “Legal experts and the Parliament’s Counsel General have also said the Committee is reviewing the CoNI report outside of its mandate. So the government will not partake in anything unlawful,” Thaufeeg explained. In the letter sent to the Parliament Speaker Abdulla Shahid, President had said that government officials will shun the Committee until the Speaker can ensure that the actions of Parliament and Committees are in line with the constitution and the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure. The letter was sent after the committee publicized information provided by some high ranking officials of the security forces in relation to the probe into CoNI report during closed door meetings.

 

Despite President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik's decision that officials of the government and members of the security forces will not attend the Parliamentary Committee, Acting Transport Minister Mohamed Nazim and Education Minister Dr Asim Ahmed had attended the committee on Tuesday. The Ministers presence had been requested in connection with the ongoing protest in Noonu Atoll Maafaru since December 30, 2012 over the alleged failure of the government to provide basic services to the people of the island. Thaufeeg explained that the Ministers had attended the committee meeting as their presence had been requested in relation to the Maafaru issue.

 

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv 01/22/2013

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NEPAL: Govt in Favour of Formation of Truth and Reconciliation Commission

 

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha has said the government was in favour of formation of Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to investigate the cases of human rights violations recorded during the conflict. “Government is committed to punishing the guilty and ensuring justice to the victims,” state-owned news agency RSS quoted Shrestha as telling media persons in Bara on Monday. Informing that maximum efforts are being made for constituting a government of national consensus, he underlined the need of ending the existing political crisis by holding the Constituent Assembly election by May. Consensus among the political parties is a must to prevent the nation from witnessing an accident, he said. Prior to this, Minister Shrestha visited the Bara Stadium and pledged to help upgrade it. Minister Shrestha was here in course of visiting the local bodies.

 

From http://www.nepalnews.com 01/15/2013

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AZERBAIJAN: Opposition Party Reshuffled

 

On Monday, the chairman of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, MP Gudrat Hasanguliyev signed several orders on new appointments and the creation of new structural units, the press service of the party reported. Secretariat for Relations with World Azerbaijanis and the Turkic World was created in the party, and Yashar Kalantarli was dismissed from the post of secretary for organizational work and appointed secretary of the new structure. Bunyamin Gambarli was appointed to the position of secretary for organizational work.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/07/2013

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KYRGYZSTAN: New Deputy Minister of Social Development Appointed

 

Erik Kuykeev has been appointed as deputy minister of social development of Kyrgyzstan, KyrTag reported on Thursday with reference to the website of the Kyrgyz government. Kyrgyz Prime Minister Jantoro Satybaldiev signed the corresponding decree. By another decree of the head of the Government Kiyalbek Mukashev has been dismissed as Deputy Minister of Social Development of the Kyrgyz Republic. Earlier Kuykeev served as Chief of Social Development Department of Mayor's Office of Bishkek.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/10/2013

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Kyrgyzstan Appoints New Head of Border Service

 

Tokon Mamytov has been appointed the head of Border Service of Kyrgyzstan, KyrTAG reports on Friday with reference to the Kyrgyz President's press service. According to the report, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev signed a decree on appointment on Jan.18, 2013. Tokon Mamytov is lieutenant-general and head of Security and Defence Committee.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/18/2013

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KAZAKHSTAN: Interior Ministry Reshuffled

 

The Interior Ministry of Kazakhstan made a number of appointments in its department, the Ministry's website reported. "Eight people have been appointed to the leading positions by an order dated Dec.26," the report says. Thus, Police Colonel Mukhitov Kairat Bolatovich has been appointed as the Chief of the Operative Planning Department, Police Colonel Eshimov Zhanatbek Akylbekovich has been appointed as Chief of Department Staff, Lieutenant Colonel Mankeshov Shyntas Zhalgasovich has been appointed as Deputy Chief of the Security Department, Police Colonel Ponomarev Sergey Vasilevich has been appointed as Chief of the Legal Department, Police Colonel Abdyshev Mukhtar Anuarovich has been appointed as Deputy Chief of Department Staff, Major General of Police Dosumov Serimzhan Tuleuovich has been appointed as Deputy Chairman of the Administrative Police Committee, Police Colonel Suynbaev Serik Koysarievich has been appointed as Deputy Chairman of the Administrative Police Committee and Police Colonel Uteulin Berik Mukhambetkalievic has been appointed as Deputy Chief of Interior Affairs Department of the West Kazakhstan region.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/27/2012

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New Ministry to Be Established

 

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev ordered to establish the Ministry of Regional Development, twitter-account of presidential press-service reported. "The head of state ordered to establish the Ministry of Regional Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan", the press-service said.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/16/2013

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New First Deputy Head Appointed to Kazakh Ruling Party

 

Bauyrzhan Baibek was appointed to the post of the first deputy chairman of Kazakh People's Democratic Party Nur Otan, Kazinform reported. Such decision was taken at the party meeting on Thursday following a proposal of Baibek candidature to this post made by the Kazakh President and chairman of Nur Otan Nursultan Nazarbayev. Bauyrzhan Baibek earlier served as deputy head of the Kazakh Presidential Administration. Former first deputy chairman of Nur Otan Bakhytzhan Sagintayev was earlier appointed to the post of Regional Development Minister.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/17/2013

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Kazakhstan to Establish Agency for International Development

 

An Agency for International Development (KAZAID) will be established by a decision of President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan, website of Akorda reported. "Now work is underway to establish an agency for international development (KAZAID). It will provide technical assistance to our neighbors and other countries," President Nazarbayev said. He also said that Kazakhstan launched formation of Regional Center of Multilateral Diplomacy in Almaty. Sixteen representatives of organizations, programs, funds and specialized agencies of the UN with regional and sub-regional status will function in the center.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/21/2013

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TURKMENISTAN: Government Faces Personnel Changes

 

Turkmen government has seen a number of personnel changes made by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the Turkmen government reported. According to signed documents, Rozymyrat Seyitkulyev is dismissed from position of the deputy chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers on Transport and Communications (deputy prime minister) for the shortcomings in the work. Akmyrat Egeleev, previously in charge of construction matters is now appointed to the aforementioned position. By another decree, Shamukhammet Durdylyev has been appointed the new deputy prime minister for construction. He previously served as the governor (mayor) of Ashgabat city. The mayor of Turkmen capital is now Redzhepgeldi Nurmammedov. Mele Gurbandurdyev is appointed the Minister for Road Transport. Rustam Kutlyev is now the Chairman of the State Service of Maritime and River Transport of Turkmenistan. The transport sector acquires strategic importance for the local economy. Turkmenistan plans to complete construction of its section of the "North-South" by the year end. The agreement on the project between Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran was signed in 2007. This project may provide optimal access for European and Asian countries to Central Asia and the Persian Gulf. Shipping services are also of significant importance. International sea port of Turkmenbashi is to become a major transit point for corridors of "East-West" and "North-South" crossing the country and is a subject for a planned major reconstruction. Another important for Turkmenistan project is being undertaken in the field of telecommunications and communications. French Thales Alenia Space started construction of the first national satellite, scheduled for launch in 2014. It is the region's first satellite to be launched by Turkmenistan and will contribute to a significant breakthrough in the field of telecommunications, the Internet, mobile communications. According to official data, currently, the large factories and plants, around two thousand large objects worth nearly $ 35 billion are being constructed in Turkmenistan.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/12/2013

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Turkmenistan Appoints Head of Turkmengaz and Petroleum Minister

 

Turkmen oil and gas industry has seen a number of personnel changes made by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the Turkmen government reported. By president's decree Kakageldi Abdyllaev is appointed the Chairman of Turkmengaz state concern. He previously served as Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources. By another decree, Muhammetnur Halylov has been appointed the new Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources of Turkmenistan. The former head of Turkmengaz Sahetmyrad Mammedov is dismissed "for the shortcomings in the work". Turkmenistan is one of the key suppliers of natural gas in the Caspian region to China, Russia and Iran. Amongst the discussed projects are additional gas pipeline to Russia (the Caspian gas pipeline - through Kazakhstan), to Europe (Nabucco - by the Caspian Sea through Azerbaijan) and to India (Trans-Afghan pipeline through Pakistan). Turkmengaz implements the following activities: the development of gas and gas condensate fields, gas and gas condensate production, processing of natural gas, transportation of gas, gas condensate and LPG, export of gas, as well as gas distribution within the country. The Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources of Turkmenistan provides centralized management of field development and rational use of mineral resources, as well as implementation of the unified state policy in this area. Alongside, the Ministry is responsible for undertaking analytical work and preparation of long-term plans as well as programs for the development of oil and gas sector. The Ministry coordinates activities and determines the strategy of oil and gas complex.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/12/2013

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AUSTRALIA: Opening Up Government for Citizen Engagement

 

Mick Chisnall, Executive Director of the Government Information Office, Australian Capital Territory, explains the government’s moves towards an integrated service agenda through recent ICT initiatives. Over the past year, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government has begun efforts to restructure the ACT Public Services (ACTPS) into a single ‘one-government’ organisation. The government has also launched several initiatives in open government and shared services. Mick Chisnall’s talks to FutureGov about the reorganisation and the new services being launched.

 

Reorganising government

The release of the ‘Governing the City State: One ACT Government – One ACT Public Service’ report in February 2011 recommended that all administrative units within ACTPS be replaced with ‘directorates’ under a unified ACTPS organisation. The subsequent reorganisation also led to the creation of the Government Information Office (GIO) in the ACT government. “My role is a new one,” says Chisnall. “We moved from disparate departments into a single one-government structure, whereby departments affected became directorates reporting to one organisational structure within the APS (Australian Public Service). That’s a very significant move towards an integrated government service agenda”. This new structure helps the ACT government manage several challenges it faces today. The reorganisation also raised new challenges for the traditional, Westminster-style ACT government: “Many of the issues that we struggle with don’t fit into the machinery of government structure,” Chisnall explains. “For example, when we design a new suburb, we have to consider not just the land aspects but transportation, educational, and environmental aspects too. The government needs to respond to these challenges with a concerted cross-directorate, cross-government approach.”

 

Open = Engaged?

The ACT government is also working on a number of Open Government initiatives. Chisnall elaborates: “We’re seeing a strong push from the new Chief Minister towards open government. The provision of government information is now the default rather than the exception.” The data.ACT portal and the Open Government web site give users access to datasets of government information, as well as government reports and results of enquiries under Freedom of Information legislation. The ACT government is also the first in Australia to release a summary of their Cabinet outcomes online. Chisnall believes that there is more to Open Government. “Open government is attitudinal and cultural. A move towards openness requires a degree of soul-searching, cultural change and dealing with issues. We’re on the path to that.” Chisnall, however, adds a cautionary note. “It is easy to say that government information is a public asset, but there are other considerations to take account of. You have to make sure that while you’re releasing as much information as you possibly can, you’re not breaching privacy regulations and important commercial confidences, or raising security issues.”

 

The government has been making consistent use of social media platforms to engage citizens. The GIO launched a Virtual Community Cabinet in which a five-person cabinet responds to tweets which use the #actvcc hashtag. Additionally, emergency services are also taking advantage of the ability of social media platforms to communicate with a large percentage of the population very quickly. At the same time, Chisnall adds, “We have to understand the difference between what I call the ‘Fire Brigade’ message and ‘Fred the Fireman’ message. One is an authoritative message from the government and the other might be an opinion from an individual. Understanding the correct way of thinking about the differences between those two is very important.”

 

How many web sites is too many?

“Regardless of whatever structure the public service might currently have, fundamentally, we have to maximise the service to our citizens,” Chisnall says. The ACT government is enhancing and modifying the services it provides to make them more citizen-centric. “The ACT government has developed nearly 200 websites. We accept that it’s confusing for the public. It represents the way we understand ourselves, but not the way the community does. So, as a first step, we created an open government website to focus access to certain types of information and our efforts towards openness.” The ACT government is rolling out the Single Public Face project to make the government’s presence in cyberspace more citizen-centric. The project creates common templates which all ACT government websites will follow to be more consistent, accessible and engaging for citizens. Additionally, the government rolled out ‘Mobile Canberra’ to make the government more responsive to the changing needs of citizens of Canberra, and intends to engage mobile and app developers to enhance mobile access to government services and information.

 

Shared Services success

The ACT government uses shared services to provide a range of corporate services to government directorates and offices. “The ACT runs one of the most successful shared services organisations in Australia,” says Chisnall. “I believe that any move towards shared services should be done with very strong business acumen, with a realistic view of chances of success, and an enormous respect for the organisations that are going to be affected and integrated. Changing the culture of organisations is a long-term and often complex exercise that requires a very good business case to be successful.” In addition to enhancing savings and reducing duplication within the government, shared service ventures can also provide a good integrative structure for citizen-centric services. Chisnall says, “If one is not dealing with 20 different ways of doing things in order to provide an integrated service, it’s a whole lot easier to make that service coherent.” The new administration has made a good start in working through the recommendations of the ‘One ACT Government’ report and developing ICT solutions to challenges it faces. These initiatives are already successfully enhancing government transparency and citizen engagement, and more efforts are expected in the future.

 

From http://www.futuregov.asia 01/09/2013

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Labor 'to Consider Feedback' on Draft Anti-Discrimination Laws

 

JULIA Gillard says her government could make changes to controversial proposed anti-discrimination laws, as independent Rob Oakeshott added his voice to those opposing the draft legislation. Amid a storm of protest over an exposure draft prepared by Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, which if implemented would make offensive conduct illegal, the Prime Minister said her government would examine all criticisms of the plan to overhaul national anti-discrimination laws before proceeding with any changes. “We would not have gone down an exposure draft route if we didn't want people's feedback. So we'll get the feedback and we'll consider it,” she said in Canberra. “We put out there what we thought was most worthy of consideration, so we are not starting from a blank page. But we put it out there for feedback and we will consider the feedback.” Mr Oakeshott today joined crossbench colleague Tony Windsor in criticising the proposal, saying it should not be illegal to offend another person. “If legislation appeared that looked like the exposure draft, I don't think it would pass the parliament,” he told The Australian. “As politely as possible, I'd tell Nicola Roxon to go back to the drawing board.”

 

Mr Oakeshott said he agreed with many of the criticisms of the exposure draft that had been made, including those by media organisations. “This is one of those time where there needs to be some reflection on some of those comments that have been raised,” he said. Earlier, Mr Windsor said he had “real concerns” with the exposure draft, and was receiving a lot of correspondence on the issue. “Well I guess the general thing that's coming through is that our forebears fought for freedom of speech and you know, to be able to make comment and commentary and discriminate in certain circumstances,” he told the ABC. Tony Abbott said he was pleased at the growing criticism of the proposed legislation. “We've been expressing deep concerns about this ever since the government made these announcements,” Mr Abbott said. “We do not need any additional restrictions on free speech in this country.”

 

From The Australian 01/22/2013

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FIJI: Political Parties Find Decree Severe

 

The new Political Party (Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosure) Decree 2013 came into effect on Friday whereby existing 16 political parties in Fiji have been given 28 days to meet up with the criteria of the new Decree. The Political Parties Decree highlights political 'naivety' and lack of basic understanding of political party functions and organization by the author of the Decree, said United People's Party (UPP) leader Mick Beddoes. Beddoes said the new Decree was 'draconian' and ' counterproductive' to encouraging political activity which was an essential part of any thriving democracy. Minister for Elections Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said this decree required a full disclosure of the assets, income, liabilities, donations and other financial information of both the political parties and the politicians. However, Beddoes said that the Decree was consistent with the Governments 'do as I say, not as I do' approach and it was laced with ulterior motives in its design. He said the UPP would certainly have difficulty complying with the 5,000 members in the next 28 days, Beddoes told radio station Fiji Village on Friday.

 

Beddoes said that this Decree would disenfranchise certain sectors in Fijian communities such as union leaders and others from being activate participants in Fiji's political process. National Federation Party general secretary Pramod Rae said he was in doubt whether his party would be able to comply with the Registration of Political Parties Decree. The severity of the new political parties decree was a sign of the government's fear, said Labor Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry. He said the time limit set to satisfy various requirements for the re-registration of current political parties was designed to prevent them from re-registering. In the meantime Fiji's Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) party with the largest following was yet to make a decision on its new leader. SDL was being led by former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase who was serving a one year sentence after being convicted of six counts of abuse of office and three counts of discharge of duty when he was the former director of Fijian Holdings Limited (FHL).

 

The hearing date for Qarase's appeal against sentence and conviction has been set for Feb 25. However, under the new political party registration decree 2013 any person who has been sentenced to six months or more would be disqualified to be a member of a party. SDL executive member Pio Tabaiwalu said their party hoped that Qarase's appeal would come out positive but if not then they would be forced to make a decision.

 

From http://www.globaltimes.cn 01/18/2013

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Constitutional Democracy

 

After the government of national reconciliation and reconstruction and after peace has been made by the feuding parties of political divide that formed after the tumultuous events of Aug 2, 2011, one question alone remains unanswered. Is the parliament supreme or is the Constitution supreme? Prime Minister Peter O’Neill maintains, as he told Australian audiences when he visited last November, that parliament is supreme. He argues now, as he did when he dethroned Sir Michael Somare in an unprecedented move on Aug 2, 2011, that the majority of the people’s representatives voting and moving in one direction or the other constitutes the will of the people and that parliament and every other institution in the land must submit to the will of the people. Up until Aug 2, however, it was held that the Constitution of PNG is the embodiment of the people’s will and that all institutions within the political boundaries of PNG, including parliament, executive government (cabinet) and the courts (judiciary) are created by the Constitution and are subject to its direction.

 

Yes, parliament can make changes to the Constitution by a majority of its members but the amendments themselves are subject to processes dictated by the Constitution. The Constitution makes provision for revocation or annulment of any laws that are passed by parliament that are ultra vires the Constitution. They are held to be beyond the power of the Constitution and, therefore, invalid. In the world today, there are democratic governments where parliament is supreme such as the government of England. There is no written constitution that directs the British parliament but its body of laws are derived from custom over generations that are acceptable by the common man (called common law) and rules pertaining to land holding. This is called a parliamentary democracy and parliament and its deliberations are held to be supreme and hold sway over any constitution. The United States also practices democratic government, which is to say there is government by the majority of the people. But the American system holds its constitution supreme and so it is called a constitutional democracy. The PNG democracy, although modelled closely upon the British Westminster parliamentary system, decided to take for itself a written constitution and made it supreme.

 

In the preamble to the Constitution, the people of PNG, united in one nation, paying homage to the memory of their ancestors and acknowledging those traditional wisdoms and customs do establish, adopt and give to PNG the Constitution under which all institutions of state come to flower. There is much wisdom in having a constitutional democracy as opposed to a parliamentary democracy because PNG does not have a body of uniformly recognisable and acceptable customs and traditions over generations such as was available to England. Although a schedule in the Constitution calls for the development of an underlying law based on custom, it has never been attempted and, most likely, never will. Parliament and the system of government itself was borrowed and imposed upon a people for whom the concept was foreign. Laws, rules and regulations for the conduct of such a government had to be stipulated in a document that could be held to be supreme, respected and which dictates would be final. That is the Constitution. One other important tenant for a constitutional democracy, which is perhaps this system’s most distinguishing factor in the United States, is also relevant here and, perhaps, more so.

 

The constitution protects certain, what the US constitutional fathers referred to as, “inalienable rights” of all people. This means that the government cannot, by majority edict, impose its will upon a minority or even upon an individual. The constitution protects the individual’s rights over majority rulings. A constitutional democracy is democratic because of its foundations of popular consent and majority rule and it is constitutional because the power of the majority to rule is limited by a supreme law. In the PNG context, and taking the Aug 2 actions into account, the supremacy of the Constitution must prevail. Otherwise, a majority of parliament, driven by emotions and self-interest, can derail almost anything. It can throw out the Constitution, write and give to the country a new constitution favourable to it and vote for itself such terms and conditions as it pleases. It would, in effect, by a group performing the role of the one dictator which this country is not. A constitutional democracy protects against that form of tyranny by the majority and that is most definitely the way ahead for PNG.

 

From http://www.pina.com.fj 01/18/2013

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Science and Development Highlights of 2012

 

The year was marked by one of the most anticipated global environmental meetings in 20 years: the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The summit was a major step towards hammering out a development roadmap to follow after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in 2015. SciDev.Net analysed the key milestones, from the launch of UN's draft negotiating document, 'The Future We Want', the ambivalent welcome of the document by the scientific and engineering communities, to the splits over what the final document should contain that lingered until the close of the summit. In the run-up to the summit scientists waited anxiously for new developments and struggled to highlight the importance of science for the Rio+20 negotiations. And while some were sceptical over the summit's final declaration and what it would achieve, there was also real progress ahead of the summit and on its sidelines. This included the launch of a global alliance to study planetary changes, the appointment of a high-level panel to advise the UN on approaches to development post-MDGs and an announcement by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon of a new international scientific advisory board set up to offer him guidance on science-related issues. While scientific communities said the final agreement lacked adequate recognition of the importance of science in achieving sustainable development, they continue to work on the issues after the summit. Progress continued with the launch of a network of universities, research centres and technical institutions to provide practical solutions for major sustainable development challenges laid out in the Rio+20 agreement.

 

Climate change, disasters and conflicts

We saw moves towards solving the other two major challenges awaiting the international community in 2015: agreeing on a binding climate change deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol and a new disaster reduction framework to supersede the Hyogo Framework for Action. There were calls for more disaster relief funding, the need for more linked-up action to avert growing disaster risk and more research on how ecosystems can be used in disaster prevention. As if natural disasters were not enough to worry about, 2012 also saw human conflict undermine science, for example in Kenya, Mali, Nigeria and Syria. But there were also calls for better use of research for peacekeeping and human rights, innovation for humanitarian relief in conflict zones, as well as new ways of taking conflict into account in development and aid efforts, and novel ways of detecting and removing land mines from former war zones.

 

High technologies and cutting-edge science

Development and application of cutting-edge science and novel technologies gathered pace and left environmentalists and, in some cases, policymakers, behind. Controversial trials of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands and Malaysia were criticised for their deficient risk assessment: decisions to release GM insects into the wild should be made more openly and based on better science, a review said. Yet the releases of GM mosquitoes continued, this time in Brazil, where tests showed that releasing millions of GM insects into the wild can cut the number of disease-carrying mosquitoes. New results showed that the Cayman Islands trial had also been successful at slashing mosquito numbers. Meanwhile, emerging fields focusing on high-tech climate engineering (geoengineering) and redesigning living organisms (synthetic biology) saw developments affecting low-income countries. These included calls for developing countries to be involved in geoengineering discussions, as well as increase their participation in research on synthetic biology, a field that more than 100 NGOs believe urgently needs stronger international oversight. UN nations that gathered in October at the 11th Conference of Parties (COP 11) to the Convention on Biological Diversity, in Hyderabad, India, called for more science-based information about synthetic biology and geoengineering, as well as increased precaution relating to work in these fields. Another frontier close to being opened up is the complex process of mining at the bottom of the deep seas, some of it in a quest for valuable rare-earth minerals used in information and communication technologies (ICTs). The world's first such mine was expected to begin operation this year in the Pacific, despite strong opposition from environmental campaign groups and claims of scientific faults in the project's environmental assessment. Others maintained that despite concerns over adverse impacts, deep marine mineral exploration is set to become a global industry. Yet, in December, the project was unexpectedly halted for financial reasons. But while all eyes were on this Pacific project, others made headway. India joined the deep-sea mining race, which it sees as a strategic aim. And another operation, planned to start in 2014 in the Red Sea, promises riches to Saudi Arabia and Sudan, which lost most of its oil fields when South Sudan seceded in 2011.

 

Latin America and the Caribbean

There were ups and downs in 2012 in Latin America and the Caribbean, with research and development being on the receiving end of both incentives and threats. The threats were primarily in the shape of budget cuts, for example in Brazil, but also came from a declining interest in science careers. Science also appeared in danger of being sidelined in two nations: in Colombia, scientists urged the government to offer more support to science and technology, while the Peruvian government dropped a plan to create a science ministry. Other challenges came from internal political conflicts such as that in Paraguay, debates over the use of mining royalties in Colombia to fund science and Brazil's new Forest Code that is designed to regulate land use and preserve wild habitat. But laws and tax incentives were also introduced to stimulate science and innovation, for example in Chile. A science tax in Venezuela is raising money for research and development, but critics say the government has too much control over what research is done. In Latin America, ICTs and social media have generated specific applications to aid the spread of knowledge and educational content. There are also attempts to assess the use of ICTs in disaster warning and to monitor disease outbreaks. Surveys showed increasing concern for biodiversity loss and botanic gardens around the world linked up to try to restore ecosystems. The fight against Chagas disease had a boost in 2012, with funding secured for new therapies (article in Spanish) to be tested in the region and with the genome of one of the disease's insect vectors decoded by a team including Argentinian, Brazilian and Uruguayan scientists. Earthquake science was also in the spotlight. Experts highlighted the need to speed up work on a reliable system for predicting potential aftershocks after a major earthquake and a new technique for building low-cost earthquake-resistant homes was successfully tested in Peru.

 

Sub-Saharan Africa

Africa witnessed attempts to boost the role of science in the development agenda. One of these was the creation of a high-level panel of scientists to review and propose improvements for Africa's science and technology roadmap. Another development was the decision by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa to turn to science and technology to encourage trade and investment in the region. Despite being battered by years of bad governance and international isolation, Zimbabwe seemed to be on the path to reviving science as one way to address its many socioeconomic challenges. The country announced that it would allocate US$1.5 million a year to research, development and commercialisation of innovations. It has also decided to focus on nanotechnology as a route to new drugs. Meanwhile, the Kenyan government's decision to ban the import of GM food upset scientists, with some warning that this could damage biotechnology research. And there is still a widespread mistrust of biotechnology among farmers and the public, leading to low adoption of innovations geared towards improving food security. Science journalism seemed on an upward swing in Africa in 2012. Two regional science journalism networks were launched, one for East Africa and one for West Africa. Both networks aim to bridge the gap between science, policymakers and the general public. And there have been calls for a science news service for Africa and for more science on Senegalese TV and in Ghana.

 

The Middle East and North Africa

The winds of change are still blowing in the Middle East and North Africa. After two years of the Arab Spring, the region is still politically unstable, but science is now widely seen as being key for development. Egypt became the first Arab Spring country to get an elected president, one who has ambitious plans for science. In addition, a new constitution voted in during December enshrines funding for science as the responsibility of the state for the first time. Also, a non-governmental initiative was launched in Egypt to try and change science, technology and innovation laws that may be impeding socioeconomic development. Seeking more alliances to boost their science sectors, countries such as Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia are starting initiatives to open up collaboration with other developing countries, while the Arab Science and Technology Foundation has launched a scheme to fund innovation in the Arab Spring countries. The Organization of Islamic Countries Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation also announced a survey designed to spur innovation in Islamic countries. On the other hand, science is still suffering from political instability: one of the region's most important research institutions, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, had to leave its Syrian base due to intensified fighting in the country, and renewable energy project DESERTEC is at risk after industrial partners pulled out and key governments lost interest.

 

South Asia

Drought loomed over tracts of South Asia in 2012, due to below-average rainfall. Poor monsoon rains raised irrigation concerns in the region, as parts of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka faced diminished ground water reserves that affected sowing patterns. The continuing fight against polio along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, one of the few remaining reservoirs of the virus anywhere in the world, caught global attention. Scientists gained crucial leads in identifying the genetic structure and transmission patterns of polio strains in the region. And Pakistan's efforts in the battle against the disease won acclaim. There were further reasons for hope. In November, Pakistan launched a new science policy that focuses on development and innovation. And India hosted the first summit of the region's science academies, where the academies' leaders agreed to set up a regional network to foster science collaboration on common challenges. The region also got a new learning platform that aims to share 'climate-smart' agriculture practices, as well as a new cloned goat that gives the world-famous pashmina wool. Meanwhile, fierce debates continued over GM crops and whether the Himalayan glaciers are melting.

 

South-East Asia and the Pacific

One of the region's biggest stories was the scandal in Thailand over plagiarism by a senior government science official. Supachai Lorlowhakar was charged with plagiarising his doctoral dissertation at Chulalongkorn University, sparking further investigations, retraction of his PhD and, finally, conviction for forgery. Countries in South-East Asia have demonstrated growing interest in electric vehicles for mass public transport. The Philippines led the way by launching a 21-vehicle fleet of e-jeepneys in March and ended the year by unveiling that it is to introduce 100,000 tricycle taxis. The Philippines also led the region in banning the use of plastic bags and others have now followed suit. But one expert expressed concern over the unscientific way that local governments are copying the total ban. In the south Pacific, a coconut genebank in Papua New Guinea is at risk from a disease outbreak and scientists raised concerns over tuna overfishing. We also had a brief look at two internationally isolated countries: North Korea and Myanmar. A report revealed North Korea's agroforestry practices, which some hoped would lead to further science links with the international community, while Myanmar's recent reforms have so far not done enough for science and education. Policy announcements and recommendations pointed the way to improved collaborations in science and education between the region and Australia, China, the European Union and other Pacific rim countries.

 

China

China signed a deal to develop new tuberculosis vaccines, which should help to boost the number that get out of the lab. It also said it would start producing the world's first hepatitis E vaccine. The country became a powerhouse in nanotechnology research as well as the world's second largest research funder, after the United States but ahead of Japan. It also managed to balance its scientific output across different disciplines, reflecting more closely the way most advanced economies carry out science, and it improved its performance in innovation.  Chinese scientists examined the genetic changes that have been introduced to maize over centuries of artificial selection and gained insights that may help them improve the crop in the future. Researchers in China also identified a rice gene that could improve the quality and yield of this staple crop and eased some of the fears surrounding the spread of genes from GM rice. And, at a major conference in China, scientists launched a global monitoring system in response to the spread of deadly stem rust fungus among wheat crops in Africa and Asia.

 

Yet, current crop yields seem to be stagnating. And the country is at high risk of drought, though it is also relatively well placed to deal with the drought. Global warming could even improve crop yields in some of its northern areas. China kept increasing its global muscle as a science powerhouse, most notably, by promising to boost links with Africa. President Hu Jintao pledged to expand China-Africa collaboration in science by maintaining successful research programmes and supporting new initiatives in agriculture, health, water, forestry and meteorological technologies, as well as capacity building. The country hosted a major meeting of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS), where it pledged US$1.5 million for TWAS, and the president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences took over its presidency. The meeting also saw TWAS's name being — somewhat controversially — changed to The World Academy of Sciences. The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) outlined how China and South-East Asian nations should work together on innovation.

From http://www.scidev.net/ 01/03/2013

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Beyond ICT: The Newest Digital Revolution

 

The history of human social development is, to some extent, the history of human scientific and technological progress. Humanity achieves scientific and technological progress by pushing its physical and mental limits and breaking away from the restrictions of time and space. This has been true in times both ancient and modern. Our ancestors built beacon towers and invented the wheel, while we have ubiquitous Internet connection and vehicles capable of reaching outer space. In the course of our scientific and technological development, two epoch-making inventions have been the steam engine and the computer. The steam engine ushered in the industrial age by providing far more power than what manual labor and beasts of burden could generate. The computer brought us into the information age through data processing capabilities that far outperform the human brain. The past century has witnessed several waves of progress made possible by information technologies, including those used for communications (telegraphy, telephony, and broadcasting), home entertainment (radio, TV), computing, and the Internet. Information technologies drive economic growth worldwide and reshape the way people live and work. At present, we are evolving from a "society on wheels" to a "society on the network." However, information systems are still regarded as aid tools and support systems, keeping the digital and physical worlds somewhat parallel and compartmentalized. Now, as the digital and physical worlds begin to merge, the development of the Internet of Things has proven to be an effective catalyst of information-based developments and is sure to bring groundbreaking changes to all of humanity. Beyond information and communications, the increasing integration of the digital and physical worlds will lead to a new digital revolution. British philosopher Karl R. Popper divides human society into three parts: the physical world, the mental/psychological world, and the world of products of the human mind (also known as the world of objective knowledge). In the future, the physical world will be married with the digital world to form a new world. This integration will bring tremendous changes to the way we live and work, the way businesses operate, and the way society functions — a new age of digital citizens, digital enterprises, and digital society.

 

•Heavy reliance on networks will usher in an age of digital citizenry. Nowadays, the ways in which people communicate, acquire information, study, have fun, shop, make friends, and pair-bond are quite different from what we saw just two decades ago. People not only have more means to stay connected and obtain information, but have exceeded the constraints of their physical location or time zone. With the developments in this short time span, rather than waiting days or even months for letters to arrive, people now contact others in real time via email, instant messaging, and social networking. Likewise, people can read the news online anytime, anywhere, rather than clinging to their TVs or radios. Wikipedia and other interactive platforms allow people to easily find answers to their questions, without having to wade through voluminous encyclopedias or wait for office hour-working librarians. Internet users exceeded 2.4 billion in 2012, over 34% of the world's population, with this figure growing roughly 8% each year. There are also as many as 1.1 billion smartphone subscribers right now, an increase of 42% over 2011. However, this is just the beginning. As digital lifestyles are adopted, digital citizenry will shape the behaviors of next-gen consumers, changing the way people live, and shaking up numerous industries. For example, traditional video sales and rental stores are disappearing, and the 244-year old Encyclopedia Britannica is no longer printed. It is very likely that in the next few decades, children will ask why the word newspaper contains the word paper in much the same way as our children today ask why the media is still referred to as the press.

 

•The age of digital business is drawing near, as seen by our commercial dependence on networks for production and operations. Network developments have significant influence on business activities. Which business today can even continue to operate if its network fails? E-commerce is booming and extending its reach into every consumer buying decision, whether involving digital content (e-books and digital music), cars, or home appliances, or even small items like snacks and slippers. In 2012 alone, electronic retail sales worldwide totaled $1.1 trillion. Information technologies will be further applied to enterprise production and operations. Rather than being tools or support components, ICT will become integral to production, decision-making, customer relationship management, service provisioning, marketing, and logistics. ICT will be employed in the building of end-to-end systems that work in real time, playing a role in each and every link, from idea generation to product conceptualization to precision marketing to efficient operations to on-time delivery. In other words, digitization will become a key characteristic of the future enterprise. A borderless internet gives rise to a digital society. Thanks to the boundary-free nature of the Internet, a large number of borderless virtual communities and societies have come into being. A plethora of these communities will combine to form a digital society that transcends borders, cultures, and races. Facebook is home to over one billion users (or netizens), making it the third largest "citizenry" in the world. This type of digital society, which mirrors while extending beyond the physical world, will undoubtedly impact many aspects of social administration and transformation, including politics, economy, law, culture, news & media, security, and ethics, among others. As a communications tool and support system, information technologies have significantly changed the way in which people live and work over the past few decades. They also spawn new economies and industries while reshuffling traditional ones. No doubt, the increasing integration of the physical and digital worlds will have a more tremendous impact on society. Such integration will direct ICT development in a way that can better serve society. Smart infrastructure presents opportunities for further ICT development. Technologically-speaking, ICT innovations mainly fall into five groups: mobility, broadband interconnectivity, social networking, cloud computing, and big data processing. The objective of these innovations is to transform the physical world into a smart world underpinned by smart ICT infrastructure, making the latter key to advancing information-based development.

 

•From big data to "big” wisdom, the IT systems of carriers and enterprises are evolving from post-processing support systems to real-time business systems. This transition marks a fundamental change in how IT functions. We are living in what may be the “big bang” of information. In 2012, up to 2.4 zettabytes of data (that’s 2.4 billion terabytes) was generated globally; it would take as many as three trillion DVDs to store all this data. By 2020, the amount of data generated is expected to grow fourteen-fold. This data will have two major sources. The first is from the huge amount of transactions between enterprises and between enterprises and consumers. The second is from countless interactions on the Internet, social networks, enterprise service networks, and the Internet of Things. Social networking will be particularly pervasive; it will be emblematic of all applications, not just for social networking utilities like Facebook. Typically, big data has four characteristics: variety, volume, velocity, and value. Velocity and value are most important. By combining the analytical capabilities of the human brain to determine behavioral patterns and the data processing capabilities of computers, we can quickly analyze big data and leverage digital assets to develop valuable diagrams that show relationships, intentions, consumption patterns, interests, and mobility. From big data to "big" wisdom, IT systems will be capable of understanding not only the present preferences of customers but also their future tendencies. This will make social administration, corporate decision-making, and individual lifestyles smarter and more logical. Therefore, IT systems for both enterprises and carriers shall no longer function as post-processing support systems. Rather, they will become real-time business systems that facilitate business operations, a transition that marks a fundamental change in IT.

 

•As traditional IT enterprise architecture is no longer capable of processing the huge volumes of data being encountered, an Internet-oriented cloud computing architecture is needed. The rebuilding of data centers will prove the basis of supporting big data. Over the past two decades, most enterprises have applied client-server architecture for their IT. Although these systems were constantly upgraded, their technical architecture was not, making each upgrade repetitive and not transformative. With client-server, the server primarily stores small volumes of enterprise transaction data, leaving most data scattered across employee PCs (clients). As Internet technologies have continued to develop, data has begun its migration from the PC to the cloud, causing a sharp spike in data volume for the latter. The need to store such vast volumes is exactly what is driving innovations in computing and storage architectures, and giving rise to the emergence of cloud computing architectures that feature virtualization, parallel computing, distributed storage, and automation, making for a dramatic change over the traditional architectures. In fact, this new push is considered the third major wave of IT transformation after those related to the mainframe and client/server architecture. Presently, traditional enterprise IT architectures are no longer capable of processing the voluminous amounts of data that they take in. To answer this need, an internet-oriented cloud computing architecture is required. This architecture will form the basis of both big data and "big" wisdom.

 

•Low-bandwidth networks are hindering information-based development and user experience improvement. A ubiquitous Gigabit network is a prerequisite for any digital society. To lay the foundation for a Terabit-network society, next-gen research is needed. As public and private clouds develop, the amount of data they carry is sure to mushroom, as the analysis of data is more effective when its storage is centralized. To drive this migration, ubiquitous networking with greater bandwidth is required to support data upload and data usage. Ubiquitous broadband makes cloud computing accessible. Devices across the entire industry chain, including content creation devices (video cameras), cloud computing devices that process information, and terminals where information is generated and consumed (PCs, tablets, etc.) all now support high-definition video, even smartphones that cost only $150. However, the global network, which has an average bandwidth of only 3.1Mbps, is still unable to support high-definition video, leading to the aforementioned hindrances to user experience. Therefore, we must accelerate the construction of Gigabit networks to enable seamless ultra-broadband access, the basis for building a digital society. We must also intensify our research into and innovation efforts for technologies such as next-generation mobile access, next-generation digital subscriber line (DSL) access, passive optical network (PON) access, next-generation Internet, and all-optical networking (AON). This focus on future networks will lay a solid foundation for building a Terabit-network society.

 

•To support evolution from a "hard" pipe to a "soft" pipe, we should develop programmable, scalable, application-agile, automatic, and open intelligent networks. Software-defined networking (SDN) will lead to the development of next-gen network architectures. Technologies are enablers of network development. In the past two decades, driven by advancements of technologies from time-division multiplexing (TDM) towards all-IP, networks have undergone three different revolutions: analog to digital, fixed to mobile, and narrowband to broadband. At present, All-IP networks are undeniably the mainstay for telco and enterprise networks. However, as networks grow, with information flowing in and out in uncertain directions and technologies being upgraded rapidly, it is important that networks be flexible, intelligent, scalable, and automated. Equally important is a change in how we think about network architectural design. The core concepts for cloud computing development, such as virtualization, software decoupling from hardware, centralized resource pool scheduling, automatic deployment, high scalability, and on-demand service provisioning, provide valuable references for network development. Introduction of these concepts into the design of network architectures and products can form the concepts of SDN, including forwarding and control element separation (FORces) to centralize network control and resource scheduling, software decoupling from hardware to virtualize network functions, network function development of cloud-based architecture to realize automatic deployment and high scalability, and application-aware network development to improve network capabilities, among others. By adopting these concepts, we can lead the developments of next-generation product architectures and network architectures, establish an intelligent application-aware network that can intelligently schedule traffic, improve user experience and network utilization, support traffic-based operations, and generate new revenue streams.

 

•Intelligent terminals will not just be tools for communications; they will become extensions of our own senses. Terminals of the future will be context-aware and have intelligent sensory capabilities. What makes a terminal intelligent is far more than just its CPUs and operating system - It also relates to its sensory capabilities. By using various sensors (compasses, accelerators, gyroscopes, barometers, global positioning systems, light sensors, microphones, cameras, touch screens, temperature sensors, and infrared instruments), we can extend the human sensory and nervous systems in the form of intelligent terminals,  bringing us one-step away from true brain-machine interaction. These intelligent terminals will be context-aware, and able to both sense and predict behavior through features such as auto-completion. By combining cloud-based big data analysis capabilities with context-aware terminals, we can provide personalized and intelligent services that realize true human-machine interaction, enabling a dramatic improvement in the user experience. To respond to the ICT transformation being driven by the integration of the physical world and digital worlds, Huawei has developed a pipe strategy that covers cloud-based data center infrastructure (used for information storage and processing), infrastructure networks (used for information transmission and delivery), and intelligent terminals (used for information creation and consumption). Huawei has also set up its 2012 Laboratories, dedicated to researching next-generation technologies, while developing a SoftCOM (Software Defined Network + teleCOM) network architecture development strategy.  Huawei will openly partner with industry peers to raise information society to a new level.

 

From http://www.telecomasia.net/ 01/04/2013

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New Funding for Climate and Forests Protection

 

Washington, January 10, 2013 – In a boost for global efforts to combat climate change and tropical deforestation, Finland, Germany, and Norway have each announced new financial contributions totaling approximately US$180 million to the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), the World Bank administered facility that was set up to compensate developing countries for reductions in carbon dioxide emissions achieved by preserving their forests. “Forests continue to be lost as efforts to get the world on a greener, low-carbon growth path struggle to increase in speed and scale to meet the climate challenges ahead,” said Rachel Kyte, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development. “We are therefore very pleased with the continued commitment of the donor community to support FCPF’s groundbreaking work to curb forest loss.” The new contributions to the FCPF bring the Facility’s capitalization to approximately US$650 million and guarantee the continued support for efforts by developing countries to reduce the loss of forest cover and the associated emissions of greenhouse gases while preparing for results-based payments. “I am excited to see the Carbon Fund getting ready to pay countries and large jurisdictions for verified emission reductions,” said Hans Brattskar, Norway’s Special Envoy for International Climate Policy. “REDD+ needs to move from planning to large scale action already in this decade if we are to maintain the two degree goal. The Carbon Fund will bring countries and companies together to create early demand for forest carbon with strong safeguards.” The FCPF consists of two funds: The Readiness Fund (about US$260 million) currently provides grant financing to countries to develop their national strategies for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), and put in place the systems and institutions for implementing these strategies. The Carbon Fund (US$390 million) will provide payments upon verification that emissions have been reduced from large-scale REDD+ programs undertaken in countries which have made progress in becoming ready for REDD+.

 

“The additional German commitment is meant to be an encouragement to all countries that recognize the many benefits of forests for sustainable development, including local livelihoods, conservation of biodiversity and climate mitigation,” said German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Dirk Niebel. “This is why we are increasing results-based support to those that are actively assuming responsibility for halting and reversing forest loss in the crucial years before we hope to have in place a global REDD+ mechanism in 2020.” The majority of the new funds will go to the Carbon Fund, the leading multilateral results-based REDD+ financial mechanism at scale. The result will be larger incentives paid to developing forest countries until 2020. Norway is providing an additional NOK600 million (approximately US$100 million) to the Carbon Fund. Germany is contributing an additional EUR46.2 million to the Carbon Fund and EUR10.2 million to the Readiness Fund (a total of approximately US$74 million).  Finland is contributing an additional EUR4 million to the Readiness Fund. The FCPF Readiness Fund has been operational since 2008 and the Carbon Fund since 2011. The FCPF brings together 54 countries and organizations, including 36 forest countries and 18 financial contributors, to support the implementation of REDD+ at the national level.

 

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 01/10/2013

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IFC, Other Development Institutions Pledge to Work Together to Address Job Creation

 

Washington, D.C., January 14, 2013—A new study by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, finds that much-needed jobs in developing countries can be created at a faster rate if policymakers and development institutions make it a priority to remove the key obstacles to growth that private-sector companies face. The study, “Assessing Private Sector Contributions to Job Creation,” concludes that four obstacles pose a particular challenge to job creation in the private sector: a weak investment climate, inadequate infrastructure, limited access to finance for micro, small, and medium enterprises; and insufficient training and skills. Removing these obstacles can significantly increase job creation. The study was released today as a companion report to the World Bank’s World Development Report 2013 on Jobs which was released last October.  In a joint communiqué issued at the launch, 25 leading international finance institutions immediately pledged to work together to address job creation, and learn from each other’s experience. About 200 million people are unemployed globally. The World Bank estimates that 600 million jobs must be created by 2020, mainly in developing countries, just to keep up with population growth. The answer lies with the private sector, which provides nine out of every 10 jobs. “Joblessness is a global crisis that is especially urgent in the poorest countries,” said Jin-Yong Cai, IFC’s Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer. “As the world’s largest development institution focused on the private sector, we believe that job creation offers the surest path out of poverty. Promoting it in developing countries is a top priority for us.”

 

Other key findings include:

·Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) generate the most jobs in developing countries but they are also less productive, pay less, and do not offer as much training and development opportunities for employees. Smaller companies are also often most affected by obstacles to job creation, meaning they are unable to grow to their full potential.

·Access to finance is a key constraint for MSMEs—easing it can result in significant job creation. For instance, IFC provides financing to a large network of financial intermediaries in emerging markets, which in 2011 financed 23 million MSMEs, which in turn employed over 100 million people.

· The largest numbers of jobs are created within companies’ supply and distribution chains. For example, an IFC loan to an Indian cement manufacturer helped the company expand and create more jobs. For every job created within the company, more than 20 were created in the supply and distribution chains.

· Lack of power is the most significant constraint in lower-income countries. Providing companies with reliable power could boost annual job growth by at least 4 percent.

· Women and youth face specific employment challenges. Legal barriers, lack of access to finance, and cultural norms often force women to work in jobs that pay less and are less secure. Young people are almost three times more likely to be unemployed. They also are more likely to work in informal jobs.

 

The study found that 45 million people enter the work force each year. Yet more than a third of companies studied across the globe were unable to find employees with the skills that they needed. “IFC and the World Bank Group have a number of programs that focus on closing the skills gap,” said Roland Michelitsch, an IFC Manager and the study’s lead author. “But the potential to do more exists—not only for us but also for other development institutions, policymakers, and the private sector itself.”

 

From http://www.ifc.org/ 01/14/2013

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Modern Food Supply Technology 'Key to Affordable Food'

 

The modernisation of farm-to-market supply chains is important for increasing farmers' income, alleviating poverty, cutting food waste and improving the affordability of food staples, according to the authors of a book. The Quiet Revolution in Staple Food Value Chains: Enter the Dragon, the Elephant, and the Tiger is a joint project by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) that was launched last month. Thomas Reardon, a professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics at Michigan State University, United States, and one of the book's authors, says that the study also has lessons for South-East Asian and Pacific island states. He says that all three countries have found ways to modernise the value chains of these staple crops. He adds that the changes had been introduced at the grassroots and brought about mainly by mobile phones, the use of improved crop varieties and technological changes related to rice milling and potato storage. Reardon says the rapid rise of modern cold storage facilities for potatoes, which enable them to be supplied out of season, had led to more stable prices and higher incomes for farmers. These facilities have also helped cut the amount of food wastage along the supply chain. According to a World Bank study which the authors cited between 30 per cent to 40 per cent of the food costs is due to the food wastage in the supply chain. But wastage is not a significant problem, according to the ADB-IFPRI study.

 

The authors explain that the different stakeholders in the value chain have already tried to minimize the waste particularly helpful are the post-harvest facilities. They found that waste from farm harvest to retail sale in cities is only seven per cent for potatoes and up to two per cent for rice. Meanwhile, the advent of mobile phones has allowed farmers to cut out traditional brokers or middlemen and deal directly with wholesalers, millers and even supermarkets and so get better profit margin for their produce, the researchers say. In addition, the researchers found that rising labour costs have encouraged farm mechanisation, as well as the use of technologies such as improved seed varieties and herbicides to increase production and income to offset these increased costs. They also found that investments in food supply technology are mainly led by the private sector with the role of government — apart from in India — being generally limited. Lourdes Adriano, head of the ADB's Agriculture, Rural Development and Food Security Unit and another of the book's authors, says that governments must invest in food supply infrastructure and research to ensure affordable food for the more than seven billion people currently on the planet. She says that research will be crucial to make crops and those involved in the food chain more resilient to climate change.

 

From http://www.scidev.net/ 01/18/2013

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Asia Community Service Concerned Over Job Security for the Disabled

 

KUCHING: Asia Community Service, a non-profit organisation providing services to people with special needs, has expressed concern about employment security for OKU (people with disabilities) workers following the recently enforced minimum wage. Chief executive officer Khor Ai-Na said the new policy – despite being implemented to ensure a decent pay for every employed individual – might force some employers to lay off workers with special needs. “Should this happen, it will be indeed very demoralising for OKU and their families,” she said in a media statement yesterday. Khor noted: “OKU have perpetually been marginalised in receiving equal opportunities especially in the areas of education, training and employment. “We are grateful for the Elaun Pekerja Cacat (EPC) from the Social Welfare Department which has been a great incentive for OKU to receive gainful employment. “There are many OKU with diverse needs and heath conditions who are not able to hold competitive jobs in the open market. Moreover, they are handicapped further by the lack of accessible transportation and non-conducive work environments.” As such, she was pleased that non-government organisations (NGOs) had taken several initiatives to provide services for this population through supported employment and sheltered workshops. NGOs nationwide, according to her, have created a substantial workforce in the community, enabling OKU to be an asset rather than a liability to society. “Needless to say, with funding constraints and limited resources, many NGOs are already struggling to comply with the minimum wage order for staff working with the OKU.” Hence, she hoped that the government would consider an increase in the work incentive allowance (EPC) so that OKU could also cope with the rising costs of living. “Also, the government should allow an exemption from this minimum wage order for all NGOs that employ OKU in their organisations or sheltered workshops. “We also hope that the government will enforce the one per cent employment policy of OKU for both the public and private sectors so that OKU can be securely employed.” Besides stimulating the market economy, Khor believed that keeping OKU in the workforce would enable them to enjoy a meaningful role and lead a dignified life in society. “This is not just a social responsibility but a social obligation of the nation.” For details or the role and function of Asia Community Service, visit its website www.asiacommunityservice.org.

 

From http://www.theborneopost.com/ 01/11/2013

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Management World Asia Reveals Innovative New Revenue Generation Through Digital Service Delivery

 

As the availability of high-speed broadband across Asia creates boundless opportunities for service providers to generate new revenue streams through the delivery of digital services, TM Forum announced today that the focus of its Management World Asia conference and expo is aimed at helping service providers across the Asia Pacific region transform their business operations in order to manage the complex end-to-end value chain of digital service delivery and harness a wealth of new opportunities. With 19 C-Level keynotes from leading regional service providers taking a hard look at overcoming the challenges of delivering innovative products and services, Management World Asia, held March 12-13 at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, addresses the most critical challenges facing businesses today with essential case studies, unique insights, inspiration and boundless networking opportunities. Industry leaders from Celcom Axiata Berhad, DST Communications, Groupon Travel Asia Pacific, Hong Kong Broadband Network Ltd., Indosat, Mobilink, MTS India, PT XL Axiata, QNET, Robi Axiata, Research in Motion and Starhub, and over 40 additional speakers will tackle important topics for the Asia Pacific region, including:

•Transforming business models to capitalize on new digital services

•Turning data into dollars through effective customer analytics and enhanced customer experience

•Identifying practical techniques to monetize and manage disruptive technology

 

“In order to succeed, service providers must learn how to refine their business models to exploit future services, develop innovative new digital services, adopt and expand cloud computing services, and bolster revenue assurance programs,” said Martin Creaner, president and CEO, TM Forum, who leads off the conference with a keynote on March 12. “TM Forum’s Management World Asia is a unique and valuable opportunity for the region’s already successful leaders to come together, offer their insight and show others how to succeed in a highly competitive market.” TM Forum’s Management World conferences and expos stand apart by offering expert keynotes, sessions, unrivaled networking opportunities, and TM Forum’s renowned Training and Certification programs. Upcoming Management Worlds include:

Management World, Nice, France, May 13-16

Management World Americas, San Jose, Calif., Oct. 28-31

Please contact TM Forum’s event sales team at eventsponsorship@tmforum.org; Carine Vandevelde (+44 207 193 8678); or Vanessa Lefebvre (+34 605 165 449) to discuss Management World Asia sponsorship packages that are right for your company and your budget. Register now for Management World Asia and receive maximum savings.

 

From http://finance.yahoo.com/ 01/16/2013

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CHINA: To Monitor Students' Fitness Nationwide

China will carry out fitness monitoring for school children nationwide from 2013 in a bid to boost students' physical health, Minister of Education Yuan Guiren said on Monday. The monitoring will be conducted by a third-party institution and the monitoring result will be released to the students' parents timely, Yuan said at a meeting on addressing the sports work in schools. Sports work concerns children's physical and mental health, and their lifetime happiness, said Yuan. He urged that schools must guarantee the class hours of physical education, and should not occupy PE classes with any excuses. For schools and regions where students' health keeps declining for consecutive three years, they will undoubtedly be vetoed in evaluation of educational qualities, the minister said. China has tried a series of measures in recent years to promote physical education in schools. However, the physical health of school children remains worrisome. Official statistics shows that overweight and poor eyesight have become apparent problems among school children. About 67.33 percent of students aged between 13 and 15 and 79.2 percent of students aged between 19 to 22 have vision deficiency.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/25/2012

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Support System for Elderly with One Child Considered

Lawmakers are considering establishing a support system for elderly people who have only one child, according to an article written into the latest amendment to the law on senior citizens' rights. Experts view this proposal as a positive response to the cries from people who have lost their only child and face increasing challenges as they age. "The nation will establish and perfect the support system for the elderly in family planning households," said the draft amendment to the Law on Protection of Rights and Interests of the Aged. The draft was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislative body, for discussion on Monday. It has been revised based on the first round of talks by legislators in June. China's family planning policy has played a positive role in boosting the country's economic and social development, said Shen Chunyao, deputy secretary-general of the NPC Standing Committee and a member of the NPC Law Committee. However, he urged fellow legislators to pay attention to the changes that the family planning policy has brought. "Due to factors including diseases, accidents, crimes and natural disasters, some children who are the only child in their families die before their parents," Shen said. "Their deaths have a huge effect on their parents, even grandparents." That trauma creates financial, psychological and social difficulties for childless parents in their daily lives, he added. The number of parents who lost their only child is growing in China, he said. An estimated 80,000 youths aged 15 to 30 die annually.

 

Zhang Xingxian said her daughter's death in 2006 was "an upheaval" in her life. Zhang, 65, lives with her 70-year-old husband in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province. "My daughter was a healthy and happy girl until one day she caught a fever and then fell unconscious and left us three days later," Zhang recalled. Her daughter died from acute cerebellitis. Zhang, overwhelmed by the pain of losing her 26-year-old daughter, was diagnosed with breast cancer one year later. "My daughter was my spiritual support and when she left, she took everything away from me," she said. Zhang's husband, 70, has had high blood pressure and heart disease for years. "As we have lost our only child, nursing homes will not let us in because we don't have a legal guardian to sign for us," she said. "We are living in fear every day because we don't know who will be the last to die and who can arrange the funeral and affairs after our deaths," she added. Guo Ping, an assistant research fellow at the China Research Center on Aging, said the new amendment, if passed, will act as a "legal basis" for giving more support to elderly parents whose only child passed away. "Once articulated in law, government departments can stipulate more detailed policies to help these parents," he said.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/25/2012

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Legislators Support Setting Up Independent IPR Courts

Chinese legislators on Wednesday voiced overwhelming support to a separate court system dedicated to cases involving intellectual property rights (IPR). The idea was introduced in a Tuesday report delivered by Chief Justice Wang Shengjun to the ongoing bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC). Currently, different divisions within Chinese courts handle civil, administrative and criminal IPR proceedings respectively, which often result in a waste of resources or conflicts between different procedures. To address the growing number and complexity of IPR cases, Wang suggested setting up independent IPR courts outside the existing system. Chen Sixi, a member of the NPC Standing Committee, noted that the precedents on setting special maritime courts and military courts are successful and the experience may work for IPR issues. Establishing IPR courts may help promote judicial services as well as improve credibility of the court system, Chen said during Wednesday's panel discussion. Independent IPR courts are the only solution to conflicts between procedures, according to Dai Yuzhong, a member of the Committee for Internal and Judicial Affairs under the NPC Standing Committee. Other suggestions included optimizing the administrative management on IPR protection and engaging more experts to help judges on technology issues in IPR cases. From 2008 to June 2012, Chinese courts received 226,753 IPR-related cases and concluded 208,653, said the Chief Justice, adding that China had 2,731 IPR judges working in 420 regular courts by June.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/26/2012

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Management of Associations Highlighted for Reform

Legislators on Tuesday suggested better management of professional associations, which are expected to shoulder part of administrative duties during a proposed trial reform period. A draft decision was submitted to the ongoing bi-monthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) on Monday to authorize south China's Guangdong province to suspend or adjust 25 governmental examination and approval items set by national law. According to the draft, 15 government approval items targeted for suspension will be handed over to qualified professional associations outside the government. The government should not interfere with matters that can be managed by social entities, said Rita Fan Hsu Lai Tai, a member of the NPC Standing Committee, during Tuesday's panel discussion, adding that the function of the government is to supervise their operation. Legislator Tang Tianbiao said industrial associations need to improve their ability to administer qualifications for professionals and enterprises. When such associations are not independent, they may perform more poorly than government agencies, warned Zhu Yongxin, a member of the NPC Standing Committee. Zhu said most industrial associations operate just like the government, urging prompt efforts to strengthen the management of such associations. The draft received wide support during the discussion, with many legislators calling for further reduction of administrative items to enhance efficiency and reduce costs. Since 2001, the government has made six attempts to clean up the administrative approval system, which has caused unnecessary government intervention in small business, power abuses and corruption. Figures from the State Council, or China's cabinet, show that a total of 2,497 administrative approval items have been rescinded or adjusted in the past ten years, accounting for 69.3 percent of the total number of items.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 12/26/2012

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Forced Confessions Banned in Police Investigations

Chinese police have been banned from administering corporal punishment while collecting evidence in a revised regulation on the handling of administrative cases. The revision, released on Friday by the Ministry of Public Security, aims to standardize investigation procedures of administrative cases. The regulation features a provision that bans extorting confessions through illegal means, such as torture, violence or threats, saying evidence collected in these ways should be excluded from trials. Police organs should use audio or video devices to record the evidence collection process or content if necessary, it stipulates. Suspects' interrogation should be conducted in a venue with monitoring devices, and necessary food and time for rest should be ensured during the process, under the regulation. Its revised form also standardizes the use of administrative compulsory measures by the police, such as property seizure or administrative detention. It clarifies that family members of those whose personal freedom is restricted should be informed of the public security organ which imposes the penalty as well as the reason, location and duration of the forced measure. The revised regulation took effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

 

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

 

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Water Monitoring to Be Made Public

The top water authority has ordered companies to make public the results of their monitoring of drinking water quality, after a serious case of pollution affected the water supply in Shanxi and Hebei provinces. The Ministry of Housing and Rural-Urban Development, in charge of water supply urged all water supply enterprises to set up a system to release information on water quality and be supervised by the public by the end of 2013, Xinhua News Agency reported. Water supply enterprises need to have the capacity to examine all quality indicators, which increased from 36 to 106 since July 1, 2012. Tons of aniline from a chemical plant in North China's Shanxi province leaked into the Zhuozhang River on Dec 31, affecting a downstream city in neighboring Hebei province. Handan, the affected city suspended its water supply on Saturday, but the water supply was gradually restored on Sunday after it switched its water source to groundwater.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 01/08/2013

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China Vows Upgraded Protection for School Children

A national meeting of social security organs' chiefs from around China on Wednesday called for efforts to make schools safer for children. At least one full-time security guard will be posted at each of the country's middle and primary schools, and kindergartens, according to the meeting. Comprehensive plans should be put in place to improve security inside and around school grounds. The meeting also called on government compounds, enterprises and public organizations to boost their security.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 01/09/2013

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Ministry Boosts Orphan Care by Private Agencies

 

The Ministry of Civil Affairs vowed to strengthen supervision and support for individuals and private institutions that look after orphans and abandoned children. The pledge follows a fatal orphanage blaze in Lankao, Henan province, that claimed seven lives, including six children. The ministry stressed that individuals and private organizations can run centers only if they are jointly managed by local civil affairs departments, a report on the ministry's website said on Thursday. The ministry also plans to announce building specifications for orphanages and care centers. For private institutions, civil affairs departments should provide basic subsidies to cover care costs. They should also encourage donations, it added. There are 615,000 orphaned and abandoned children in China, but less than 18 percent reside in institutions. The ministry has launched an inspection safety drive, dispatching three working teams to six provinces on Tuesday. Wu Fuxiang, who heads the child welfare division of the Ministry of Civil Affairs' department of social welfare, said on Thursday that his team in Shanxi province has been working around the clock to check private care centers. The ministry approved 900,000 yuan ($144,500) to Lankao's civil affairs authorities for the construction of a child care home in December, according to Dong Hui, deputy head of the Henan Provincial Civil Affairs Bureau's social welfare department. Dong said inspection of unregistered foster families and private care centers for children started on Jan 5.

 

"We are asking private orphanages to remove potential safety risks in their buildings, to make sure all qualified organizations are under government management and supervision and persuade those who are not qualified to send children to care homes," Dong said. She admitted that there are not enough public welfare institutions, as only about 20 out of 158 counties have care homes. There are about 50,000 orphans and abandoned children in Henan but only 5,600 live in institutions, she said. Lankao county will open its first public home for children in August, and it may mean a role for Yuan Lihai, the owner of the unlicensed orphanage gutted by the blaze. "Construction on the new orphanage will be completed in June, and it will open in August. It will cover an area of some 1,700 square meters," Bian Heping, deputy director of Lankao Civil Affairs Bureau, said. He declined to give further details when approached by China Daily. Yuan could work at the new institution, Bian was quoted as saying in a report by Caixin Media. Six children and an adult paralyzed by polio perished on Jan 4 in the fire at an unlicensed orphanage owned by Yuan, a 48-year-old street vendor. Yuan has been looking after abandoned children since the 1980s. However, she did not live with the 18 children in the orphanage. Eight of them were left unattended in the two-story apartment when the fire broke out as Yuan took other children to school. A 10-year-old boy remains in intensive care in a hospital in Kaifeng, which administers Lankao.

 

"The boy is still in a coma and is on a respirator," a hospital official said. Wang Yongxi, director of the Kaifeng Social Welfare House, said on Thursday that the 10 children who survived in the fire now are temporarily settled there. Wang said social workers have provided one-on-one counseling. "One of our social workers was moved to tears after one child ask her whether he could call his mother," he said. "Their health is good and they are calm," he said. "Five of them are attending a nearby primary school." Children playing with fire caused the blaze, the local government said on Tuesday. The county’s top civil affairs official and other five local officials have been suspended from their posts pending further investigation. Sun Lisheng, the county government's publicity official, said the investigation "will take time"."It’s still not clear if Yuan will be held legally responsible for the accident," he said. Yuan was rushed to hospital over the weekend after suffering a heart attack. "She is still in a serious condition as she is suffering heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes," said Du Peng, Yuan’s son. Du became emotional as he recalled his mother’s love for the children. "Her heart is with the dead children," he said. Du said Yuan hopes that the survivors can live in the new orphanage in Lankao. "She can apply for a job there so she can see them every day," he said.

 

Bian said Yuan can keep those children on the condition that she registers her orphanage and follows legal procedures. Yuan has been taking care of orphans and abandoned children since 1986, raising money by selling snacks, helping local dealers sell construction materials, and receiving allowances from the local government. Han Yusheng, a law expert at Renmin University of China, said Yuan faces punishment of up to seven years in jail if she is found guilty of death by negligence. "Regardless of the legal status, she should be responsible for their safety," he said. Han said Yuan's record of looking after children will be taken into account. In a related issue, a report on the website of the People's Daily said reporters tried to call the Ministry of Civil Affairs 15 times earlier this week, but failed to get any response. Wang Laizhu, spokesman for the ministry, went to the newspaper's headquarters in Beijing to explain that many of his colleagues were at a meeting when the phone calls were made to discuss how to cope with the aftermath of the accident. As a result no one was there to reply to the questions, he said. The ministry pledged to improve communication with the media by providing training for its staff. The report on Wednesday criticized the ministry’s bureaucratic approach in emergencies and published a list of conversation records between its reporter and the ministry's several departments, including the ministry's publicity office. The report triggered a public outcry.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 01/11/2013

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Schools Ordered to Hire Security Guards

Responding to an attack last month by a knife-wielding man who injured 23 young students, top law enforcement officials said schools and kindergartens now must have at least one full-time security guard. A campaign will be launched that targets crime in areas around schools and kindergartens, the officials announced at a meeting in Beijing on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the infrastructure, food, fire and transportation safety around schools and kindergartens will be examined, the People's Daily reported. The announcements followed an attack by a 36-year-old villager who injured 23 students in a primary school in Guangshan county, Henan province, on Dec 14. Min Yongjun is alleged to have stormed into the school and stabbed the students. Local authorities later said Min was found to have "limited criminal capacity", which means Min has mental problems but could still control his actions, Xinhua News Agency reported on Monday. The Wednesday meeting did not specify the funding source for security guards, and that caused schools in poor areas to worry. "Right now we are struggling to pay the wages of two substitute teachers, not to mention a full-time security guard," said Ma Guanghui, principal of Mengda Baojie Primary School in Xunhua Salar autonomous county in Qinghai province. "Hiring a security guard would definitely be a good idea. But it is not possible for us right now unless the authorities can help solve the funding problem," he said in a phone interview. Beijing municipal authorities started requiring schools and kindergartens to hire security guards in 2010. The capital city's education commission has pledged to provide funding for kindergartens with financial difficulties.

 

However, primary and middle schools, especially those for children of migrant workers in Beijing, have to pay security guards with their own money. Zhang Gezhen, principal of Mingyuan School in Haidian district in Beijing, said his school for migrant children has four security guards. "The wage bill of security guards is a considerable expense for the school as we had to rely on tuition for all expenses. I hope the authorities or non-government organizations will help cover the expenses," he said. By the end of 2013, Shanghai will provide all its schools and kindergartens with monitoring devices and security personnel, the municipality's education commission said on Thursday. Since last year, Shanghai has been working to improve security in schools and kindergartens. Each school and kindergarten will have three or four security personnel, who will receive training from a professional security company. Schools and kindergartens are also required to strengthen monitoring, and to equip their campuses with alarms and monitoring systems. By the end of last year, a total of 13,655 security personnel had been allocated to 3,290 middle and primary schools and kindergartens, according to the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission. A remote control security network has been established by the education and public security authorities, linking the city's 13 districts' schools and kindergartens. By the end of this year, the rest of the schools and kindergartens in the city will also have finished the security upgrade work and joined the citywide network.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 01/11/2013

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Labor Unions to Give More to Needy Workers

Chinese labor unions will likely give more than 4 billion yuan (637.84 million U.S. dollars) in aid during New Year visits paid to needy workers, the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) said Sunday. Labor unions nationwide will deliver greetings and relief funds to migrant workers, temporary workers and workers who are in poverty because of illness before and during the upcoming Spring Festival holiday, the ACFTU said. The funds will be provided to the poorest workers and those who have the most urgent needs, the ACFTU said. ACFTU data indicates that China currently has 4.96 million needy working households, an increase of 40,000 from the end of 2011. Of the households, 839,000 are migrant worker households, according to ACFTU data.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 01/13/2013

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China Urges Aid for Vagrants During Winter

China's Civil Affairs Ministry on Tuesday urged local governments to take initiatives and offer prompt aid to vagrants and beggars to help them survive the winter weather. Dou Yupei, vice minister of civil affairs, said at a national video meeting that efforts should be made to "ensure vagrants and beggars get prompt assistance and prevent deaths caused by exposure to extreme cold or hunger." More temporary shelters should be built in venues visited by vagrants, beggars or migrant workers. Also, local shelter management authorities should provide round-the-clock services to those in need, he said. Dou asked staff at shelters nationwide to improve services and offer "standardized and civilized aid." Dou also asked local civil affairs departments to closely monitor changes in the weather and improve the aid service network by encouraging people from various sectors to help the disadvantaged. Community neighborhood committees, social workers and volunteers could be mobilized to give emergency aid to vagrants and beggars if needed. Also, sanitation workers, bus or taxi drivers and security guards on night shifts could provide information as to the whereabouts of vagrants and beggars. The comments came in the wake of two recent tragedies in central China's Henan Province in which a migrant worker and a homeless person, respectively, were found dead under overpasses in cold weather. Much of north China has experienced extreme cold temperatures in the past months.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 01/15/2013

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First Undersea Fiber-Optic Cable Links Mainland, Taiwan

An undersea fiber-optic communications cable directly linking the Chinese mainland and Taiwan was officially put into service on Friday. It is the first communications cable linking both sides of the Taiwan Strait. The operation of the "direct communications link," which came after both sides formed direct mail, trade and transport links, means mainland-Taiwan communications will no longer rely solely on international cables. The move has been widely hailed by telecommunications circles and authorities from both sides as "a significant step forward in promoting cross-Strait peace and development." Connecting Fuzhou, capital of Fujian Province, and Tamsui, Taiwan, the cable stretches 270 kilometers, the shortest distance between the mainland and Taiwan. The cable, "Cross-Strait Fiber-Optic 1," was jointly constructed by mainland telecommunications companies China Unicom, China Mobile and China Telecom and Taiwan-based FarEasTone, Taiwan Mobile, Taiwan International Gateway Corporation and ChungHwa Telecom. Cable-laying work began on Nov. 6 last year. Two ceremonies were held simultaneously on Friday in Taipei and Fuzhou to mark the official launch of operations. The cable incorporates the most advanced transmission technologies. It is expected to largely enhance cross-Strait communications and free both sides from their reliance on international fiber-optic communications cables, said Chang Xiaobing, board chairman of China Unicom. "Today, a happy occasion is observed on both sides of the Taiwan Strait," said Lin Join-sane, chairman of the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation in Taipei. According to executives of Taiwanese telecommunications firms, the cable is significant in promoting cross-Strait exchanges by offering a more convenient and more stable means of communication, and it will also bring new business opportunities to the island's telecommunications sector.

 

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 01/19/2013

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JAPAN: Govt to Aid Rebuilding of Tsunami-hit Houses

The government will provide financial aid for the rebuilding or relocating of houses in inland areas hit by the March 2011 tsunami, Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshitaka Shindo said Sunday.The government will earmark about 100 billion yen in tax grants to local governments under a planned supplementary budget, Shindo said on a TV talk show.The aid is expected to cover about 40,000 houses, and will cover loan interest payments and other costs, Shindo told reporters after appearing on the show.The government has already been providing financial assistance for the relocation of tsunami-hit houses in coastal areas.

 

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 01/17/2013

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Govt to Launch Fund to Fight Global Warming

The government plans to launch a public-private fund to combat global warming, Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara said Friday.At a news conference, Ishihara announced an initiative for achieving a low-carbon society and said the government aims to increase the scale of the related fund, the core of the initiative, to 100 billion yen in the future.Under the initiative, the government will support measures to simultaneously fight global warming, revive the economy and revitalize local regions.The ministry will propose funding for the promotion of low-carbon buildings for the planned fiscal 2012 supplementary budget and will include projects related to the initiative in its fiscal 2013 budget request.

 

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 01/12/2013

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Exhibit Features Houses Built for Disaster Reconstruction

An exhibition featuring houses built to provide support for victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake in Rikuzen-Takata, Iwate Prefecture, is currently being held through March at a gallery in Minato Ward, Tokyo.Architect Toyoo Ito, 71, and his fellow architects proposed the "Minna no Ie" (Home-for-all) housing concept as a place where disaster victims could get together and discuss reconstruction.So far, five such houses have been completed in disaster-hit areas.Ito and his colleagues told the story of how construction began on a Rikuzen-Takata house, which was completed in November, at the Japan Pavilion of the Venice Biennale's 13th International Architecture Exhibition held from August to November.For their work, Ito's group received the top Golden Lion award for best national participation.

 

For the latest exhibition, named "Architecture. Possible here? Home-for-all," Ito's team reconfigured their work. Against the backdrop of an about 26-meter-wide panoramic photo of Rikuzen-Takata, about 120 model houses are displayed on a foundation made of logs made from cedar trees destroyed by the tsunami. The models illustrate the difficulties the group faced in designing the house."In Japan, architects can't get involved in reconstruction projects," Ito said. "I felt my own responsibility as an architect for being excluded from society."Visitors can view the exhibition for free at Toto Gallery Ma in Minato Ward until March 23, except on Sundays, Mondays and national holidays. The exhibit will be open on Monday, March 11, for the second anniversary of the disaster.

 

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 01/19/2013

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Govt Panel Restarts Social Security Talks

The government on Monday resumed discussions on reform of the country's social security system.The National Council on Social Security System Reform, a panel of experts established last year, met for the first time since last month's change of government.The council will come up with recommendations by Aug. 21 on how the social security system, including pension and medical care for elderly people, should be.At Monday's meeting, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his Cabinet is fully committed to building a secure society. The Cabinet is determined to push ahead with comprehensive social security and tax reform as agreed by his Liberal Democratic Party, its partner New Komeito and the major opposition Democratic Party of Japan, he said.The national council was established based on an agreement reached by the three parties last year when the DPJ was in power. Its 15 members, many of whom are scholars, have been gathered to discuss pension, medical care, nursing care for the elderly and ways to address the low birthrate.The council held two meetings including its first in November before discussions were suspended in December due to the House of Representatives election in which the LDP took power.

 

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 01/22/2013

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Govt to Train Experts to Deal with N-accidents

The secretariat of the Nuclear Regulation Authority plans to train experts to improve the nation's ability to deal with severe accidents involving nuclear plants, officials said.Officials unveiled the plan Monday at a meeting to check progress on efforts to implement proposals from government and Diet panels. These panels investigated the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.Yotaro Hatamura, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo who headed the government panel, said, at the time of the nuclear disaster, neither the government nor TEPCO had experts specializing in predicting how accidents could unfold.NRA secretariat officials said the organization will train its experts and nuclear plant inspectors to prepare them for serious accidents.

 

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 01/23/2013

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SOUTH KOREA: Gov't to Support O'seas Construction Deals

The government has set about to help support domestic builders achieve beyond their target overseas construction orders of 70 billion dollars for this year.The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said it dispatched on Saturday a support delegation headed by Vice Minister Han Man-hee to Kuwait and Qatar where a high number of construction orders is expected.The team consists of private builders and officials from nine public agencies including the ministry, the Korea Land and Housing Corporation and Hyundai Engineering and Construction.Orders worth 70 billion dollars are scheduled from Kuwait this and next year while deals totaling 30 billion dollars are expected through 2014 from Qatar, which successfully bid to host the 2022 soccer World Cup.

 

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 01/14/2013

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Gov't to Expand Agro Supply Ahead of Holiday

The government will begin to expand its agricultural, livestock and fisheries supply by 50 percent later this month in an attempt to prevent surging inflation ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday in February.Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan chaired a meeting of inflation-related ministries on Friday and discussed measures to stabilize the supply of holiday items and winter vegetables.Officials decided to double the agro-fishery supply from January 28th to February eighth in consideration of unstable crop prices resulting from the heavy snow and bitter cold.Around 17-thousand tons of 16 items including rice, apples, pears, cabbage, beef and pollack will be released every day during that period.As for vegetables, the Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corporation will release three-thousand tons of its reserves and the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation will assist with an additional five-thousand tons if necessary.

 

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 01/18/2013

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Land Ministry Counters Audit on River Project

The government ministry in charge of the four rivers' renovation project has strongly rejected the results of an audit by the Board of Audit and Inspection deeming the project flawed.The Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs Ministry held a news conference Friday morning and argued there is no problem with the safety or function of the river weirs as pointed out by the state auditor.The auditor's report said the project was riddled with problems in all areas of design, construction and expected effects.A ministry official explained that the weirs, a key structure in the renovation, were built on bedrock and iron plates and that so-called "sheet files" were installed around the plates to prevent water from seeping into the sand. He says there's no safety concern with the weirs.

 

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 01/18/2013

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Survey: S. Korea 5th Most Innovative Nation

South Korea has again ranked in the top tier in a survey on state-led innovation.In the Global Innovation Index 2013 released by U.S. firm General Electric, Korea retained last year's ranking of fifth in the world after the U.S., Germany, China and Japan.The poll surveyed over three-thousand corporate executives in 25 nations including a hundred South Koreans.Ninety-five percent of the surveyed Korean executives viewed innovation in a positive light considering it a key to corporate success.

 

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 01/18/2013

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Ministry Holds Anti-disaster Inspections

A two-phase joint government inspection will begin Monday in the aim to prevent large-scale accidents and disasters amid the continuing cold wave.The Public Administration and Security Ministry says the inspection through February 26th will cover all vulnerable areas including cultural properties, transport facilities, construction sites and energy facilities such as petrochemical industrial complexes.The inspection will especially check disaster prevention and response systems and the maintenance and status of firefighting, electricity and gas facilities.The Security Ministry hosts the event but other related ministries and agencies will take part including the Korea Gas Safety Corporation and the Korea Electrical Safety Corporation.The first phase of inspections have already been conducted in cooperation with provincial governments earlier this month on sites heavily used by the general public including the metro, traditional markets and large business establishments.

 

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 01/21/2013

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Burden on Younger Generations to Support Seniors Forecast to Grow

Anchor: Statistics show that three economically-active South Koreans are currently supporting one elderly citizen. The burden, however, is forecast to grow to two people per one senior in ten years. Our Kim Soyon tells us more.Report: According to research by the Mirae Asset Retirement and Pension Research Institute released Tuesday, South Korea’s old-age dependency ratio is estimated at 16-point-seven percent this year. This means 100 working people between the ages of 15 and 64 are currently supporting on average about 17 senior citizens 65 and older, or roughly six working people are supporting one senior.But the research indicated that the burden shouldered by working South Koreans is actually larger, considering most Koreans up until their early 20s do not work. Also, given the nation’s average retirement age, people in their late 50s and early 60s are often not economically active. Experts say that three young working Koreans aged between 25 and 49 are already supporting one elderly Korean.The research predicted that when someone who is 25 years old now reaches 35, two young workers in their mid twenties to late forties will have to sustain one senior. Worse yet, the economic burden will be larger since they will be supporting their children as well.The growth of South Korea’s old-age dependency ratio is among the fastest in the world due to its low birthrate and aging population.

 

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 01/22/2013

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INDONESIA: City Deploys Traffic Control System

 

Medan Municipal Administration (MMA), Indonesia on Tuesday has deployed Area Traffic Control System (ATCS) at 19 major intersections in Medan City, the North Sumatra Capital. The MMA prepared the budget of IDR 7.3 billion (US$760,000) from the city and the state’s budget to cover the equipment and operational costs. Medan Mayor Rahudman Harahap said the ATCS’s equipment would help manage traffic across the city’s thoroughfares. "I believe this equipment will help road commuters plan their journeys," he said. According to him, the MMA planned to further install the ATCS’ equipments at other intersections. Medan is the fourth largest city in Indonesia.

 

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 01/04/2013

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Jakarta to Launch E-Payment System for Public Transport

 

The city administration of Jakarta, Indonesia will be launching a simplified electronic payment system in the city’s Bus Rapid System as part of its on-going efforts to develop an integrated public transport system. According to Jakarta Vice Governor, Basuki T Purnama, the e-payment system, which is called e-Money or money card, is expected to improve commuting experience in the city by providing commuters with a fast and convenient way to settle payments in Transjakarta stops. "Commuters will no longer have to queue at ticketing booths. They simply have to swipe the card on a sensor machine at busway stops to enter the buses.”  The money card will be issued to support the e-ticketing system where users can top-up their respective cards located in various Transjarkarta stops. In order to support the project, the government is planning on forging partnerships with major banks such as Bank Mandiri, Bank Rakyat Indonesia, Bank Central Asia and Bank Negara Indonesia to implement service so that commuters can directly top-up their card from their own bank accounts. "The money card will also allow us to have an efficient financial management system in place as it can help us control certain financial aspects of revenue and costs thereby enabling us to identify certain irregularities or budget leaks as they occur,” he said. The Governor expects all 216 Transjakarta shelters to be equipped with facilities supporting the e-ticketing system by March 2013.

 

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 01/07/2013

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MALAYSIA: Local Council Launches Online Portal for Ratepayers

 

Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ), Malaysia has introduced new online service portal called ‘Gerbang Perkhidmatan’ to improve efficiency in disseminating information to citizens, handling complaints and provide better services to local ratepayers. Council President Datuk Asmawi Kasbi said that ‘Gerbang Perkhidmatan’ will also help increase the staff’s level of professionalism and quality of service. "The programme consists of three service levels, which are a call centre, the InC2/OCS Counter and My@MPSJ online hub," he added. The call centre started the operation on July 26, 2012. It is operated by 10 council officers who respond to complaints and enquiries. 'InC2 Counter’ is a one-stop service that allow citizens to settle their assessment tax, licence applications, and pay bills and fines. 'The My@MPSJ online hub allows citizens to access all online council services after completing virtual registration steps. "Ratepayers will slowly get used to this online transaction," Kasbi said.

 

He also added that the Council has been constantly expanding online services while reducing the number of physical counters from sixteen to nice since 2010. "Revenue collection online such as the bill payment kiosk, only hub, bank and post office has seen an increase of 13 per cent or MYR 6.6 million (US$ 2.18 million), while business transactions via the My@MPSJ hub has increased MYR 3 mil (US$ 995,353 )," Kasbi said. According to him, the new initiatives helps reduce cost while providing a more conducive and convenient environment for the staff and citizens. A new mobile application, ‘Mymobile’ would be launched later this year for citizens to use it to pay bills, he added. The launch event welcomed Deputy Selangor State Secretary (Development) Datuk Mohamad Roslan Sakiman who congratulated the MPSJ on being a pioneer in introducing these programmes for citizens. "This should be made an example for other local councils to ensure a fast and efficient service for the public,” he said.

 

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 01/17/2013

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SINGAPORE: MSF to Focus on Better Organising Its Delivery of Social Services

 

SINGAPORE: Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said his ministry will focus on how to better deliver social services to the people. This comes after Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam announced that Budget Day this year will be on February 25. Mr Chan spoke to reporters on the sidelines of a community event on Sunday morning. He noted that beyond adjusting and tweaking some of the policies, it is important to assess how these policies can be systematically implemented across the ministry's entire span of social services. He added that announcements will be made by his ministry in the lead-up to Budget Day. Mr Chan said: "The focus is not just on the policies alone, of course that we will do, but the focus is also to make sure that we organise ourselves better so that we prepare the ground and set up the social service infrastructure for the many years to come so that in time to come when our social needs increase, when we have more social challenges, we have what we call the social service infrastructure in place to deliver the help to the people in need."

 

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 01/13/2013

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Singapore to Auction 4G Spectrum Bands by Mid-year

 

SINGAPORE, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) said on Wednesday that it is scheduled to auction the spectrum that is available for 4G, or Long Term Evolution (LTE) services in the middle of this year. The total 4G spectrum bands comprise 150 MHz of spectrum in the 1800 MHz band and 120 MHz of spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band for auction. The IDA had allowed the telcos to deploy 4G systems and services using their existing spectrum rights. All three mobile operators here, including SingTel, M1 and Starhub, have all deployed LTE services, with planned nationwide deployments by 2013. According to the agency's timetable, the "newly-allocated spectrum rights will commence on 1 July 2015 for spectrum in the 2. 5 GHz band and 1 April 2017 for spectrum in the 1800 MHz band," upon expiration of the existing spectrum rights. Once successfully bidded, the new licences will run until June 30, 2030. Meanwhile, the agency has also set aside 40 MHz of the spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band for new mobile operator, but if there will be no new entrant, the 'set-aside' spectrum will go back to the main auction. "Despite the new spectrum rights commencing some 2-4 years later, IDA is holding the spectrum reallocation exercise now, to give operators more certainty in their 4G investments.” it added in a statement. The three operators here have deployed the LTE services one after another this year when the widely anticipated iPhone 5 was launched. The 4G service is said to provide more innovative services with data transfer rates that would potentially be several times faster than existing 3G data plans.

 

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 01/16/2013

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Singapore Raises Subsidies for Childcare

 

Singapore government announced on Wednesday that it is giving more subsidies to lower and middle- income families for child and infant care services. Under the new framework, which will take effect on April 1, families with a gross monthly income of 7,500 Singapore dollars (6, 148 U.S. dollars) and below will receive an addition subsidy ranging from 100 Singapore dollars to 540 Singapore dollars for each of the children. All parents will continue to receive the current basic subsidy of 300 Singapore dollars a month for childcare or 600 Singapore dollars for infant care services, respectively. Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing announced the new framework on Wednesday, saying that up to two thirds of the households in Singapore will benefit from the new framework. It also puts Singapore "comfortably" in the top half of OECD ( Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, in terms of affordability of pre-school services.

 

The subsidies will cover a large part of the costs, as the median cost of a full-day childcare program in a public housing estate is about 615 Singapore dollars. The new subsidy framework will increase the cost for the government by 105 million Singapore dollars and bring the total government spending in this area to about 360 million Singapore dollars. Singapore's total fertility rate rebounded slightly from a record low of 1.16 in 2010 to about 1.2 in 2011. The very low fertility rate, foreign manpower and immigration have been among hot topics of discussion in Singapore recently. The government announced a comprehensive package of incentives worth a total of 2 billion Singapore dollars earlier this week to raise its total fertility rate, including giving priority to parents with children in selecting public housing units, assisted reproduction, a week of paid paternity leave and healthcare subsidies. (1 U.S. dollar = 1.22 Singapore dollars)

 

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 01/23/2013

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VIETNAM: Ministry of Defence Launches e-Portal

 

The Ministry of Defence of Vietnam launched its first online portal on 12 December. The Ministry will use the portal as an integrated information and communication channel about the Ministry in different forms including text, audio and video files and graphic images, in Vietnamese, English and Chinese. The launch of the portal is part of the process of modernisation of the military in Vietnam, demonstrating the development and reform efforts in administrative procedures of the Ministry. At the inauguration ceremony in Hanoi, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan said that the portal will raise awareness and understanding of Vietnam’s defence among its citizens as well as people across the world. The portal is also intended to help the Ministry connect better with other government agencies and departments. Nhan asked the Ministry to run a defence and youth forum through the portal to help the younger generation of Vietnam understand the importance of the responsibilities entrusted to the Vietnam People’s Army, which will raise interest and help the army attract high-quality human resources.

 

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 01/03/2013

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BANGLADESH: PM Stresses Science, Technology-Based Education

 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday said her government has put emphasis on science- and technology-based education to cope with the fast-changing developed world. “It’s not possible to take the country forward without having proper knowledge on science and technology. That’s why we’ve laid emphasis on vocational and science– technology-based education,” she said. The premier was inaugurating the academic building of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University and several under-construction infrastructures on the university campus. Awami League presidium member Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, chairman of Bangladesh University Grants Commission (UGC) Prof AK Azad Chowdhury and Dean of Social Sciences Faculty of the university Prof Dilip Kumar Nath, among others, spoke at the function held with Vice Chancellor of the university Prof M Khairul Alam Khan in the chair.

 

Finance Minister AMA Muhith, Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Faruk Khan and PM's adviser Dr Syed Modasser Ali were present. The previous Awami League government laid the foundation of the university along with 12 others across the country in 2001. But work on the university remained suspended during the tenure of the past BNP-led alliance government. Assuming office in 2009, the present Awami League government resumed work on the university. Academic activities at the university began from the 2011-2012 academic year with 160 students enrolling in six departments, officials said. In the academic year 2012-2013, a total of 520 students got admitted to 11 departments, they said. The Prime Minister handed over the keys of transports of the university to its authorities urging them to make it an institution of international standard. “This place is the birthplace of the Father of the Nation. So, you have to maintain the international standard,” she said.

 

She mentioned that with the establishment of the university, the students of the area can now pursue higher education without going far away. She also said the government had set up several other universities in different parts of the country for the same purpose. Hasina also said the main aim of the government is to provide better services to people, and the government is working to that end. While inaugurating the regional office of Bangladesh House Building Finance Corporation, the premier requested the Finance Minister to take steps to provide house building loan to the people residing outside Dhaka at a lower rate. “The lower income group people would be benefited if the loan is provided for them with 2-3 slots,” she said. After the country’s independence, Hasina said, Bangabandhu first inaugurated the regional office of the House Building Finance Corporation here in 1973. But after the assassination of the Father of the Nation, the subsequent government shut it down in December 1, 1975. “Now, we’ve resumed the activities of the office after 37 years,” she said. The Prime Minister also inaugurated Gopalganj regional passport office and laid the foundation stone of the Jatiya Mohila Sangstha Complex building before returning to Dhaka.

 

From http://www.unbconnect.com 01/19/2013

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Renewables the 99.9 Percent Solution

 

A combination of wind and solar power and sophisticated energy storage systems could keep a power grid fully supplied between 90 and 99.9 percent of the time, at costs comparable with today’s fossil fuel and nuclear mix, according to a new study from Delaware in the United States. Computer simulation measured the performance of inland and offshore wind farms and photovoltaic cells, backed up by battery and fuel cell storage, under the lowest cost conditions, for a 72 gigawatt grid system (one gigawatt will typically provide power for about 750,000 to a million US households). Researchers from the University of Delaware and Delaware Technical Community College will report in the Journal of Power Sources for March 2013 that they tested 28 billion combinations of renewable energy systems and storage, under four years of real load and weather data from a working commercial system.

 

“These results break the conventional wisdom that renewable energy is too unreliable and expensive,” said Willett Kempton of the University of Delaware, one of the team. “The key is to get the right combination of electricity sources and storage - which we did by an exhaustive search - and to calculate costs correctly.” Power demand and supply is an engineering headache: demand fluctuates according to hour, day of the week, the weather and the season, while wind power is vulnerable to calm weather and solar power is not supplied at night. Storage costs are huge, and increase with the need to store for each extra hour. So right now, most electrical generators burn more fossil fuel to meet extra demand. “The common view is that a high fraction of renewable power generation would be costly and would either often leave us in the dark or require massive electrical storage,” say the researchers. But they found quite a different result. They tweaked their computer model and varied the conditions where they could: they found that consistent wind power could be obtained if the turbine fields were dispersed at distances greater than 1,000 kilometres.

 

Health savings

They exploited not just hydrogen fuel cells and batteries for storage, but also grid-integrated vehicles: electric cars and trucks which when not being driven also served as sources for the grid. They calculated the cost of renewable electricity generation without subsidies from either state or federal government, and when they made comparisons with fossil power, they factored in the external health and other costs of fossil fuel pollution. The researchers worked with the prices for 2008, and with the projected costs of power for 2030, and they did not allow for any future advances in renewable technology. They found that the cheapest solution was to generate far more power than consumers could demand. If they generated 180% of the necessary load, renewable sources could supply all that the grid needed for 90% of the time. If they generated 290%, then they could rely on renewable resources 99.9% of the time: that is, for all but nine hours a year. And renewable energy, on this model, is the least-cost option, or close to it. “At expected 2030 technology costs, the cost-minimum is 90% of hours met entirely by renewable,” the team report. “And 99.9% of hours, while not the cost-minimum, is lower in cost than today’s total cost of electricity.”

 

From http://www.unbconnect.com 01/20/2013

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Govt Focuses on Nutrition-Based Programmes Minister

 

The government is prioritising nutrition-focused programmes under the Country Investment Plan (CIP) to ensure people’s food security, said Food Minister Abdur Razzaque on Monday. “Despite the availability of cereals, the country is still lagging behind in nutritional aspects, and the future planning for food security will encompass issues such as community nutrition and surveillance,” he said. He was addressing a stakeholders meeting, titled ‘State of Food Security and Nutrition in Bangladesh 2011’, jointly organised by Statistics Division of the government and Brac in association with Helen Keller International, at a city hotel. Razzaque said the government has been able to expand social safety net programmes significantly and raise the storing capacity of public food warehouses to ensure people’s access to food. The government is also optimistic about reducing the underweight rate of under-five children to 33 percent meeting the Millennium Development Goals 2015. Presided over by Brac executive director Mahbub Hossain, the programme was also addressed by Statistics Division secretary Nojibur Rahman, Helen Keller International vice president Nancy Haselow and European Union ambassador and head of delegation William Hanna.

 

From http://www.unbconnect.com 01/21/2013

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People Must Be Involved in Public Initiatives

 

Deputy Speaker Shawkat Ali on Monday said power belongs to people and they must be given access to power by involving them in public initiatives. “We can ensure the continuity of power if the government could pursue the problems of people,” he said while addressing a sharing meeting on policy briefs and advocacy issues at the Parliament Members Club. He emphasised the need to take more steps for resolving problems being faced by people to maintain continuity of power. The Deputy Speaker also underlined the need for maintaining regular contact by lawmakers with the people of their respective constituencies to enquire their wellbeing. “We need to go to the people’s door on moral ground, not only for political purpose. I personally become enlightened whenever I go to the people of my constituency,” he added.

 

Shawkat Ali, who was elected MP from Shariatpur-2 constituency, said the continuity of democracy and practice of democracy at all tiers of the society should also be maintained. The Institute for Environment and Development (IED) organised the function in collaboration with USAID, The Asia Foundation, and the UKaid. The function was addressed, among others, by BM Mozammel Haque MP, Ashraf Ali Khan Khasru MP, Dabirul Islam MP, Shahin Monowara Haque, Chemon Ara Begum MP, Russell Pepe, chief of party of PRODIP-TAF, Numan Ahmed, executive director of IED, Mazeda Shawkat Ali, executive director of NUSA, and Sheela Tasnim Haq, director of PRODIP-TAF. Robaet Ferdous, a Dhaka University teacher and Jyoti Chattopadhyay, project coordinator of IED, made two separate presentations on policy brief presentation and Jonoudyog and advocacy issues respectively. Bhorer Kagoj editor Shyamal Dutta moderated the function.

 

Russell Pepe said the PRODIP project works to assist in advocacy and lobbying for preparing policy, implementation and monitoring through local and national organisations to discharge the responsibilities of the lawmakers. Other speakers put emphasis on encouraging “Jonoudyog” (public initiative and implement those in assistance with the elected representatives, including the lawmakers. The IED carried out survey in Thakurgaon-1, Shariatpur-2, Netrakona-2 and Kishoreganj-4 constituencies and brought different recommendations to reduce poverty and promote education in the respective areas.

 

From http://www.unbconnect.com 01/21/2013

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Govt Mulls ECA Loan to Set Up Power Plants

 

Dhaka, Jan 22: The government plans to make use of Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) loan to set up state-owned big power plants. Power Development Board (PDB), the state-owned generation authority, has decided to fund 225 MW-Sikalbaha, 225 MW-Bhola, 250- MW Barapukuria and 300-450 MW-Ghorasal power plants . “The initiative is good enough if we compare it with the rental and quick rental power projects, even though the cost would be more than the World Bank's or Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s debt. But, we would able to install big power projects through the initiative,” Mirza AB Azizul Islam, former finance adviser to the caretaker government, told The Independent. He said if both the PDB and the bidder follow the PPR properly, it would help set up big power projects in the future. The PDB has decided to set up 13 big power stations to generate 3,210-MW combined capacity electricity. But most of them have been delayed due to funds crunch.

 

Besides, work at the five large power projects with a combined capacity of 3,700 MW are getting delayed due to lack of funds. The government, however, has undertaken these projects under joint venture and with private investment.“Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) is not like ‘Supplier’s Credit’. It provides financing services such as guarantees, loans and insurance to these companies to promote exports in the country. The ECAs’ primary objective is to remove the risk and uncertainty of payments to exporters,” Islam said. The ECAs take the responsibility and remove the risk of the exporter for a premium. The ECAs also underwrite the commercial and political risks of investments in overseas markets that are typically deemed to be high risk, he added.

 

According to the power division, the government has formed a high-powered committee to tackle funds crisis in the power sector as it needs about USD 18 billion, USD 2 billion and USD 4 billion, respectively, for generation, transmission and distribution sectors to install the 13,000-MW power projects and to supply it to the end users. “Over the last three years, we’ve made serious efforts in the small oil-based power stations for quick recovery from the ongoing crisis. Now we are putting in efforts into the base-load plants with this credit,” a senior Power Division official said. He said, “Following Article 98 (8) and 98 (12), we selected three Chinese ECAs, although six to seven companies took part in the tendering process.”  Meanwhile, Summit Group, the country’s single largest power producer in private sector, is facing serious funds problem as the World Bank has refused to offer Performance Risk Guarantee (PRG) against its three IPP (independent power producer) projects. The fate of three power projects has thus become uncertain and the government’s plan to add 2000 MW more power into the grid by 2014 hit a roadblock.  “Funds crunch have also hit other power plants; 450-MW Siddhirganj, 360-MW Bheramara, 225-MW Bhola, 150-MW Sylhet, 150-MW Chandpur, 150-MW Sirajganj, and 150-MW Khulna plants have already missed their deadlines and added to the overhead costs,” he said.

 

From http://www.theindependentbd.com 01/23/2013

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SRI LANKA: Govt Allocates More Funds for Rehabilitation of Ex-LTTE Cadres

 

The government has increased the allocations for rehabilitating the former LTTE cadres from Rs. 300 million to Rs. 500 million. Minister of Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms Chandrasiri Gajadeera said. The Minister revealed this addressing a ceremony held in Vavuniya Cultural Centre yesterday to release a batch of former cadres of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). A group of 313 former cadres were reintegrated into the society yesterday to mark the Hindu cultural festival Thai Pongal that falls today. The former LTTE cadres undergoing rehabilitation receive vocational training during their rehabilitation program to learn skills that could find them employment once they are reintegrated into the society. Of the over 11,600 former rebel cadres surrendered to the military at the end of war in 2009, only a few hundred remain in rehabilitation camps now. Commissioner General of Rehabilitation, Brigadier Darshana Hettiarachchi said that they have designed a mechanism to monitor the progress of those who have reintegrated into society with a plan to monitor their post-rehabilitation, to restore their livelihood and explore employment opportunities.

 

From http://www.priu.gov.lk 01/15/2013

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NEPAL: Govt Preparing to Introduce Handicraft Villages in Five Regions

 

The government is preparing to establish handicraft villages in all the five development regions of the country, RSS said. The Ministry of Industry preparing to established handicraft villages at the premises of the Kailali-based office of the Cottage and Small Industry Development Committee (CSIDC) in Far-Western Development Region and premises of Surkhet-based office of the CSIDC in Mid-western Development Region, spokesperson of the Ministry, joint secretary Yam Kumari Khatiwada said. Similarly, feasibility study has been carried out for establishing villages in the Western Development Region, Eastern Development Region and Central Development Region, said Khatiwada. The Ministry had decided to forward construction works for establishing handicraft villages within the current fiscal year with an objective of further promotion of handicraft industry and to ease the exhibition of handicraft goods. The Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), the Federation of Nepalese Cottage and Small Industry (FNCSI) and Nepal Handicraft Federation are also supporting members for the establishment of such villages.

 

From http://www.nepalnews.com 01/18/2013

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KYRGYZSTAN: National Bank Launches New Financial Tool to Decrease Commercial Risks

National Bank of Kyrgyzstan launched a new financial tool to decrease commercial risks, KyrTAG reported on Wednesday referring to the Bank spokesperson, Sofia Balakina. "The National Bank launched this tool - refinancing credit - to expand range of products aimed at ensuring liquidity of the banking system", Balakina said. According to National Bank's statement, at the moment refinancing credits are available for commercial banks via conducting credit auctions. The terms of granting and amount of the credit are being determined by the National Bank's Monetary and Credit Regulation Committee.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/16/2013

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KAZAKHSTAN: Kazmunaigas Exploration Production Completes Share Buy Back Programme

JSC KazMunaiGas Exploration Production ("the Company" or "KMG EP") announces that on the 31 December 2012 the share buy back programme is completed, the company said. An aggregate amount is about US$263 million. "During the whole period of the buy back programme commenced on the 11th of October in 2011, the Company has repurchased 19,461 ordinary shares and 14,386,605 GDRs for an aggregate amount of about US$263 million. As announced earlier, the Board of Directors had approved the buyback programme of its common shares and global depositary receipts (GDRs) up to an aggregate value of US$300 million," the company's press release says. Shares and GDRs were purchased at the market price. Announcing a share buyback programme in 2011, the Board of Directors noted that the current market prices of its shares and GDRs do not reflect the true underlying value of the business and its considerable potential based on the current resources, opportunities for business development and stable financial position. KMG EP is among the top three Kazakh oil and gas producers. Its overall production in 2011 was 12.3mt (an average of 250 kbopd) of crude oil, including the Company's share in Kazgermunai, CCEL and PKI. The total volume of proved and probable reserves, as at the end of 2011, was 226mt (1.7bn bbl), including shares in the associates of about 2.1 bn barrels. The Company's shares are listed on the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange and the GDRs are listed on the London Stock Exchange. The Company raised over US$2bn in its IPO in September 2006. The international rating agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) confirmed KMG EP's "BBB-" corporate credit rating in December 2011.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/07/2013

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TURKMENISTAN: Taking Measures to Secure Gas Supply in Winter

 

Turkmenistan has taken additional measures to secure gas supply to settlements of the country during winter season, the national TV channel Altyn Asir reported on Saturday. This issue was discussed at an expanded government meeting. According to the report, president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov ordered to keep under constant control all matters related to safe operation of gas pipelines, uninterrupted supply of natural fuel to companies, institutions and organizations and, above all, social facilities. In the second half of 2012, BP in its report on the global energy sector stated that domestic consumption of Turkmenistan last year was 25.0 billion cubic meters of gas, which is ten percent more than the previous year. According to the report, 59.5 billion cubic meters of gas were produced in 2011, which is 40.6 per cent more compared to 2010. Turkmenistan's proven gas reserves in 2011 totaled 24.3 billion cubic meters, which exceeded estimates for 2010 in the amount of 13.4 trillion cubic meters. As reported by local media on Saturday, the Turkmen leader drew attention to improvement of the structures responsible for prevention and elimination of emergency situations, and asked to make sure that during New Year celebrations transport and communications system would work "very clearly, smoothly and seamlessly." Mentioning the New Year celebrations, the President instructed to pay special attention to maintenance of good order, as well as road safety, throughout the country. "Stressing that New Year is one of the brightest holidays, the national leader made relevant instructions so that nothing could overshadow the good, joyful mood of turkmens," Neutral Turkmenistan newspaper reported.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/30/2012

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UZBEKISTAN: To Change Tax Base on Excess Profits from Goods Sale in 2013

Uzbekistan has changed the tax base for the tax on excess profits derived from sale of copper cathode and cement, the Uzbek State Tax Committee reported with reference to the decision of the president. In particular, the excess profits tax will be charged during sale of copper cathode at a price varying between over $4.350 per ton and "cut prices", earlier reaching more than $4.200. The tax for excess profits from the sale of all types of cement, except white cement and cement, produced through alternative fuel (coal), is set at a price exceeding 105,000 soums per ton compared to 95,000 soums per ton earlier. The settlement price is set for companies selling polyethylene granules to determine the tax base for excess profit at $ 1.325 million soums per ton compared to 1.2 million soums in 2012. The settlement prices for natural gas and clinker remained unchanged, equaling $160 per one thousand cubic meters and 80,000 soums per ton. The tax rate on excess profits remained at the level of 50 percent of the taxed base. According to the established order, the payers transfer a part of the excess profit, remaining at their disposal, to the special investment accounts from which the funds are spent as agreed with the Ministry of Economy and Finance to approved investment projects, the service of attracted loans, as well as modernization and technical reequipment of primary production. According to the approved state budget for 2013, Uzbekistan plans to raise 294.5 billion soums through excess profits tax compared to 250 billion soums in 2012. The official exchange rate on December 28 is 1984.00 soum / $ 1.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 12/30/2012

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Uzbekistan Legally Liquidates Credit Unions

In Uzbekistan, the law "On amendments and additions to some legislative acts of the Republic of Uzbekistan", providing, in particular, the abolition of the law "On credit unions" has entered into force. According to the introduced changes the concept of "credit union" is also excluded from the Law "On the Central Bank", "On microfinance" as well as from the Tax Code and other legislative acts. The law "On amendments and additions to some legislative acts of the Republic of Uzbekistan" was adopted by the Legislative Chamber of the Uzbek parliament in November and approved by the Senate in early December of last year. The law was approved by the President and published in the media on Friday. According to the final article of the law, it will come into force from the date of publication. Establishment of credit unions was undertaken in Uzbekistan since 2002 as an addition to bank credit facilities used to finance entrepreneurship activities. Credit union was considered an organization created by natural and legal persons on the basis of a voluntary equal membership for provision of loans. Members of the credit union could be legal entities and individuals (at least 50), who made equity contributions to the statutory fund. Under the law "On credit unions", they operated under license of the Central Bank. The minimum share capital was initially set for credit unions in the amount equivalent to $10,000; by the end of 2011 - 100,000 for the CU created in Tashkent, and 50,000 for the CU created in other locations. In 2002, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has provided the government with a loan of $20 million to support credit unions in the framework of the development of microfinance in the country. In July 2011, the Central Bank has suspended the operation of credit unions associated with the involvement of public deposits.

 

The ban has been associated with abnormalities in the existing credit union activities, endangering the timely and complete return of deposits. Failure to comply with these requirements results in liability in accordance with the law. According to local analysts, the Central Bank was not satisfied with the interest rates on deposits in credit unions that were several times higher than in banks. As a result, by the end of 2011 100 of the 120 operating credit unions were shut down. Under the law "On microfinance" institutions providing microfinance services are banks, microcredit organizations, pawn shops and other lending institutions. Organizations providing microfinance services are providing these services at their own expense. In 2006, the law "On microcredit organizations" - legal entities engaged in microfinance in the form of micro-credit, micro-loans, micro-leasing and providing other microfinance services, was accepted. According to the law, the sources of funds for provision of microfinance services are equity capital, funds provided by investors, including foreign loans to banks, state trust funds, grants and loans from international financial institutions and non-profit organizations.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/05/2013

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Punishment for Economic Crimes Mitigated in Uzbekistan

Individuals who committed crimes under several articles of Uzbekistan's Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code may be exempt from criminal liability in the case of their admitting their guilt, reconcile with victims and undo the damage created. This is provided by the law 'On amendments and additions to some legislative acts of the Republic of Uzbekistan', which came into force late last week. Payback period of conviction fees has also been significantly reduced. The court may eliminate the previous conviction in the absence of major damage to the state after serving at least a quarter of their sentence. According to the law articles, major damage is the damage equal to 500 minimum monthly wages (MW). At present the amount of minimum wage in Uzbekistan stands at 79,590 soums. These measures are provided for those convicted of hiding foreign currency, false entrepreneurship and bankruptcy, concealment of bankruptcy, violation of customs and antimonopoly legislation, tax evasion and employment activities without a licence and illegal collection, dissemination or use of information, defamation of a competitor. Earlier cancellation of a criminal record was possible after serving at least a half the sentence. According to the changes introduced to the Uzbek Criminal Code, criminal cases on embezzlement by appropriation or peculation, causing property damage by fraud or abuse of confidence, improper attitude towards protection of property, intentional destruction or damage of property committed against a legal entity or its employees who does not have a government stake in the share capital will be initiated only at the request of the head, owner or manager of the economic entity. Furthermore, employees of banks and other financial institutions will not be held criminally liable in cases when business actors do not fulfil contractual obligations to them for rendered services relating to business and other commercial risks, including issued loans.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/07/2013

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List of Subsidised Jobs Revised in Uzbekistan

A joint decree of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Finance, according to which the list of industries, institutions, jobs, professions, positions and performance, entitlement to pension with reduction of a generally established age by 10 and five years being revised down, has come into effect in Uzbekistan. In particular, those working on a number of coke, coke-pitch, termoanthracite and chemical recovery industries, mercury converter stations, production of electronics and radio equipment, pulp and paper and wood industries and in industries for agrochemical service of agriculture lose the right to preferential pensions. Certain changes were made concerning industries as well as manufacturers, jobs, professions and positions. In particular, the right to preferential pensions of those working in certain light and food industries, ferrous and non-ferrous metallurgy and chemical industry have also been partially revised. According to the document, employment at 10 of 18 food processing plants would no longer give the right to privileged pensions and of 11 manufacturers previously envisioning this right in the light industry, only five are left. Certain categories of workers have faced changes in access to privileged pensions. In particular, if previously manual welding welders were entitled to a pension on favourable terms regardless of place of work, now the right to preferential pensions is provided only to those employed in metalworking, as well as construction, renovation, modernisation, renovation of buildings, construction and other objects.

 

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/14/2013

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AUSTRALIA: Fast-Tracking Support for BYOD

 

The Melbourne-based Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital is ramping support for bring-your-device (BYOD) technology for hundreds of clinicians, visiting medical officers, and staff at dispersed locations. FutureGov in an exclusive conversation with the Hospital’s CIO, Nuno Goncalves. The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital is Australia’s leading provider of eye, ear, nose and throat care services. Located in the busy district of East Melbourne, this hospital has developed an international reputation for specialist clinical care, research and training, spanning more than a century. The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital hospital has a history going back to the gold-rush days in Victoria. It was launched in the 1800s to meet demand from settlers for quality, but affordable care. Launched as “one-bed” infirmary to treat diseases of the eye and ear amongst Melbourne’s underprivileged, today this hospital provides healthcare across a broader demographics and income groups. Affectionately called the “Eye and Ear” by locals and staff, this hospital is one of Australia’s first facilities to fast-track support for personal bring-your-own-devices at work. These devices include smartphones, iPhones, iPads and tablets.

 

Supporting staff on the move

The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital annually handles more than 180,000 outpatient cases. It uses a pool of visiting medical officers (VMOs), clinicians, medical practitioners, care professionals, and specialists to support operations at the central office, and other satellite facilities. Nuno Goncalves, CIO, says the hospital is boosting support for mobile devices to enable staff to manage patient care, while more readily accessing information from personal devices. This mobile device support was first launched in June 2012. This service is now being extended to all hospital staff that use personal tablets, smartphones and laptops with built-in wireless data viewing capabilities. “To my knowledge, this is one of the first such projects to be rolled out at a government-funded public hospital,” says Goncalves.

 

Mobile devices come equipped with secure browsing capabilities. Once a mobile device is accredited by the ICT department, an end-user can use a smartphone or tablet to view patient history and supporting data. This access is especially useful in an emergency, or at intensive care wards. The hospital’s mobile support is available to anyone that wants to take up this service, says Goncalves. Between 40 to 45 per cent are already registered for BYOD services in some form. This support is helping teams work better, and in a fast-paced environment. Based on current demand, more mobile devices will be securely integrated with back-office information management systems. “No medical data is actually stored on a mobile device,” notes Goncalves. “We are mindful about the security and privacy aspects. Devices accessing information systems have to be certified before-hand by the hospital’s ICT department.”

 

Services available within BYOD are the same as those previously offered for remote access. These services are being provisioned wirelessly, with built-in security and authentication features. Support for mobile devices is helping modernise the hospital’s outpatient service delivery programme. This initiative enables VMOs and other staff to more readily access patient data while on-site, or at other satellite locations.

 

Slashing cost of running in-house systems

One added benefit is that the hospital is recording a drop in the cost of running on-site computer systems, including allocating mobile devices that belong to the hospital’s inventory. “By allowing clinicians to bring in their own devices, we can manage the cost of running on-site personal computers or laptops,” says Goncalves. He adds that the demographic slice of 20- to 30-year-olds is much more open to mobile devices and applications. “It’s a matter of time before we see more wide-spread use of BYOD in healthcare.” Integration is being provided between personal devices and back-office medical information. This integration is enabling staff to more readily view patient data that reside in back-office systems. Increasingly, virtualisation technology is enabling VMOs to access apps on iPads and other devices. Demand for mobile support is driven by the need to more readily access information in a fluid environment. Eventually, this access will incorporate electronic records, medical imaging, and other decision-support systems.

 

Mobile devices: a permanent fixture

Personal mobile devices are now a permanent fixture across hospitals, according to Katerina Andronis, chairman of the Melbourne-based Health Informatics Society of Australia. “Hospitals are under increased pressures to start providing support for mobile devices,” she says. Andronis was previously CIO at Melbourne’s Peter McCollum Cancer Centre. She observes that hospital will increasingly provide BYOD support. “But its widespread adoption is still limited by perceptions surrounding security,” she comments. There is a myth that if clinicians bring their own devices to work and use them, CIOs will raise the network security flag. “Some CIOs remain unaware about the security implications surrounding BYOD.” To tackle security concerns, hospitals need to refine BYOD security policy. “One participating hospital has set up a system in which clinicians’ devices are automatically linked to the hospital’s clinical system as soon as clinicians walk in through the door,” Andronis says. “When they leave, they remain connected through a virtual private network.”

 

Integrating BYOD with hospital systems

Among the remaining challenges, hospitals still may not be able to offer a comprehensive view of patient data, directly to a clinician’s mobile device or personal clinical information system. Moreover, not all patient data is captured in an electronic format. Most existing hospitals, and some new hospitals that are now being built, function using a mix of electronic and paper based tools. Within a hospital network, not all electronic information is stored in a single place. Patient and clinical data is typically spread across multiple patient, clinical and specialty systems. These repositories of data may not be fully integrated, and would have evolved organically. To successfully embrace BYOD, and reap the rewards, hospitals need well-defined plans that incorporate mobile support at the outset. This support complements the needs of complex and fast-paced hospitals in the 21st century.

 

From http://www.futuregov.asia 01/10/2013

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FIJI: Pro-Actively Preparing for Disasters - Minister

 

Fiji suffered less damage from Cyclone Evan last month because of better preparation, says the minister for national disaster management. Fiji suffered less damage from Cyclone Evan because of better preparation, says the country's interim Minister for National Disaster Management. A state of disaster was declared after Evan hit the Pacific island nation last month, causing widespread damage to several cities and forcing thousands of people to flee their homes. Lieutenant Colonel Inia Seruiratu says preparations began as soon as the cyclone watch was started by the Fiji Weather Service. He told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat Fiji is putting less emphasis on recovering from disasters, and more on minimising the risk of damage. Lieutenant Colonel Seruiratu says it's not just luck that saw Fiji escape with less damage than Samoa.

 

"It is a need for us to shift from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention," he said. "We need to be proactive, and we need to do a lot of planning and we need to do a lot of analysis because if we prepare, well then obviously, the cost and the damage can be minimised." Fiji authorities are still working to restore electricity and water supplies in the cyclone-damaged Western Division and some island communities. In Samoa, Cyclone Evan killed five people and displaced more than 4,000 thousand before hitting Fiji. At least 12 people are still missing in Samoa in the wake of the devastating cyclone.

 

From http://www.radioaustralia.net.au 01/07/2013

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NEW ZEALAND: 21st Among 60 Nations for Globalisation

 

New Zealand has been ranked 21st in a 60-country globalisation survey conducted by consultants Ernst & Young. The survey ranks Hong Kong as number one and Iran at the bottom. Australia was ranked 24th and the United States 25th. Ernst & Young's report draws on the international consultants' globalisation index, which measures the world's 60 largest economies according to their degree of globalisation, relative to their gross domestic product, and a survey of 750 senior business executives worldwide. The index comprises five main categories - openness to trade, capital movements, exchange of technology and ideas, labour movements, and cultural integration. Broadband penetration would be the key to New Zealand climbing further up the index, Ernst & Young said. "We expect New Zealand to climb up into 12th position by 2016, helped by an exceptionally strong performance in technology, where it will top the ranking on broadband penetration." New Zealand performed better than the global average in terms of movement of goods and services, movement of capital and finance, exchange of technology and ideas, and cultural integration.

 

But the country performed slightly lower than average for advanced economies, with a poor score in the movement of labour category. New Zealand's overall ranking has not changed from 2011. Since then, the country has improved on broadband penetration, from 25.7 per cent to 30 per cent of the population, and internet subscriptions, 86 per cent to 88.8 per cent. Ernst & Young said globalisation was increasing among a majority of the world's 60 leading economies, despite weak growth in 2012 and an uncertain economic outlook for many markets this year. While most forecasters thought global GDP would be 3 per cent to 3.5 per cent in 2013, with a modest increase in subsequent years, the index suggested that globalisation would continue to advance, driven primarily by technology and the cross-border flow of ideas. Improved globalisation scores in the past 12 months came from medium-sized, rapid-growth markets such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines, as well as smaller European countries including Belgium, Slovakia and Hungary.

 

Ernst & Young's chairman and chief executive, Jim Turley, said globalisation would continue to define the business landscape, with increasing levels of cross-border trade, capital and labor integration. "Despite the highly volatile economic backdrop, the trend for greater integration and closer co-operation continues to outweigh the threat of protectionism for the majority of the world's markets." Turley said respondents pointed to the increasing challenges of operating in some Bric (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies as well as slowing growth in some of these markets. "Nearly half of the survey's respondents expect an increase in protectionism in the Bric countries."

 

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz 01/23/2013

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New Zealand to Push for Trade Liberalization at Davos Meetings

 

New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser will be pushing for greater international trade liberalization when he attends a series of meetings in Europe this month. The focus of the tour would be the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, from January 23 to 27, along with meetings in Geneva, Groser said in a statement Monday. "The forum gives New Zealand a valuable opportunity to engage with the world's top decision-makers on how to get the global economy back on a path of stable growth and higher employment, as well as a chance to discuss the implications for New Zealand," he said. He would also attend an informal meeting of trade ministers in Davos to discuss the outlook for the multilateral trading system and preparations for the ninth World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference later this year. "It is critical that leaders continue to explore ways to keep markets open and to achieve further trade liberalization. Stimulating trade through liberalization and regional integration provides an important engine not only for global economic recovery but also for economic growth, poverty reduction, and development," Groser said.

 

He would also meet with counterparts to discuss progress on New Zealand's trade agenda and his bid to become director-general of the WTO. Before travelling to Switzerland, Groser would speak at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Policy Dialogue on Aid for Trade in Paris, and attend the launch of the OECD-WTO Trade in ValueAdded Database on Jan. 16 and 17. He would then attend the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture in Berlin, which would focus on the future of the global agri-food industry.

 

From http://www.globaltimes.cn 01/14/2013

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Govt Ignores UN Recommendation of Work-Hour Limit

 

The Government has ignored a recommendation by the United Nations for legislation to dictate a maximum number of work hours to reduce the risk to workplace health and safety. Today, Acting Labour Minister Christopher Finlayson would not comment on introducing the statutory work-hour limit, despite the call from the United Nations more than eight months ago. Instead, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said the Government was intent on improving workplace health and safety with a review of regulations already underway. In May last year The UN's Economic and Social Council cited significant impacts on health and safety for the motivation behind the recommendation for new legislation. New Zealand is one of the worst-ranking OECD nations in terms of the percentage of the population that works "very long hours".An OECD report found 13 per cent of New Zealanders (20 per cent of men and 7 per cent of women) worked more than 50 hours a week compared with an average of 9 per cent for all other countries. "Evidence suggests that long work hours may impair personal health, jeopardise safety and increase stress," the OECD report says.

 

Mr Finlayson's office referred questions on work hours to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which reiterated the Government's policy that "employment legislation provides flexibility".A ministry spokesman said work hours were regulated by health and safety provisions for employers to ensure workplaces were safe. The spokesman said the Government had "set an ambitious target of at least a 25 per cent reduction in fatalities and serious harm injuries by 2020".An independent taskforce reviewing workplace health and safety is due to report back to the Government in April 2013. Opposition labour spokeswoman Darien Fenton said the Labour Party supported statutory working hours limits only for dangerous industries. Ms Fenton said the "by agreement" clause of the 40-hour week under the Minimum Wage Act made it "effectively meaningless"."Labour is concerned about weak regulation when it comes to health and safety and working hours," she said.

 

Truck drivers and forestry workers were two industries where Ms Fenton said "long and dangerous hours contribute to deaths and injuries". "Labour's policy at the last election was to introduce industry bargaining where issues like working hours could be agreed across an industry or, if not agreed, arbitrated based on the standards in collective agreements already existing," she said. "My view ... is that unless the Health and Safety Taskforce, which the Government has set up to look at our appalling health and safety record, comes to grips with the need for more, not fewer workers' rights ... all their good work will be wasted."

 

Hours we work

13 per cent of New Zealanders work "very long hours", more than 50 per week

9 per cent is the OECD average of those who work more than 50 hours per week

20 per cent of New Zealand men work "very long hours"

7 per cent of New Zealand women work "very long hours"

1758 hours a year are worked by New Zealanders

1749 hours a year are worked on average by those in OECD countries

 

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz 01/17/2013

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Body Aims to Help Indigenous Business-People

 

A new business organisation has been launched in Papua New Guinea to advocate for the needs of indigenous business-people. The Indigenous Business Council has received a stimulus package of $500 million to train and encourage indigenous Papua New Guinea to begin formal sector businesses. While hundreds of thousands of indigenous Papua New Guineans work in the informal sector - which includes market stalls - 90 per cent of formal sector businesses are owned by foreigners. Indigenous Business council secretary, Sarah Haoda Todd, says since independence indigenous business-people "have been in slumber." "Lots of business opportunities have come and passed us by," Ms Todd told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat. "Traditionally we are socially responsible people. We take care of all the other social obligations and its important to have finances in our homes these days."

 

Ms Todd says her organisation has been very successful in negotiations with the O'Neill government. She says the beginning of her own business career was difficult, with the loan application for her cleaning business being rejected three times by a bank before being approved. Fifteen years later, the business now employs over 300 staff. "Hopefully because of the government backing and the availability of finances we just want to make sure that people...have some insight on what the difficulties and impediments might be in business," Ms Todd says. "I just went in there blindly but actually learnt some of these things along the way."

 

From http://www.radioaustralia.net.au 01/21/2013

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Concept Key to Rural Development

 

EAST New Britain has recognised that the only way to bring social and economic development into rural hinterlands of Gazelle Peninsula is through the public private partnership concept. The provincial executive council last Friday approved K47 million for the upgrading and maintenance of roads within the Toriu integrated project that would be sourced from the national government. The council was also briefed on the status and progress of the road upgrading and maintenance works by contractor KK Connection Ltd. Works and transport chairman Joseph Barau said in 2007 and 2008, the company began construction at Anasanga to Pondo but, in recent years, sections of the road had to be reconstructed because of lack of maintenance. He said the roads were now well maintained but proposed that future maintenance with government support should be carried out regularly to ensure the road was accessible in all weather conditions. Barau added that the contractor also recognised the government’s objectives to connect East and West New Britain and develop the Pondo growth centre to reach out to the rural communities in western Gazelle.

 

KK Connection became involved with the missing link section of the New Britain Highway when it was awarded the contract to construct the road between Malasaet and Alakasam. It was currently working on 14km of the road. Barau said the PEC had also approved the Vunapala­ding-Malasaet to Toriu road part of the New Britain Highway. He said about 137km of roads were proposed to be constructed, upgraded and maintained and if the government did not plan and budget for them in the near future, it would become a burden to the provincial government. Barau said the project was approved by NEC under the tax credit scheme, which meant that the deve­loper could submit claims to the national government and be paid under the exemptions. However, the Internal Re­venue Commission said it was not aware of the claims by KK Connection, which was now experiencing financial difficulties to maintain the roads and was seeking assistance from the provincial government.

 

From http://www.thenational.com.pg 01/23/2013

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TONGA: Speeds Up Its Business License Registration Process

 

Acquiring a business license in Tonga will now be easier under a new Business License Registration Regulation. It comes as part of parliament’s amendments to the Business Registration Act last year. The new regulation will make business licenses permanent, and removes the previous requirement of annual re-registration. License registration fees have also been made cheaper, $115 (US$66) compared with the previous fee of $138 (US$79). According to the Ministry of Commerce and Tourism the changes in the Business Registration process is in preparation for a new online service that will enable licenses to be registered online. On-line application fees will be halved of manual applications fees of $100 (US$57 million). According to Distaquaine Tu'ihalamaka from the Ministry of Commerce, Tongan businesses with 2012 Business Licenses will benefit greatly from the new regulations because it would make the process cheaper and a permanent license would get rid of costly annual $115 (US$66) re-registration fees.

 

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 01/10/2013

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Tonga Adopts Catastrophic Risk Insurance Program

 

Tonga is among five Pacific nations to adopt a Pilot Catastrophe Risk Insurance Program that was launched in Sydney, Australia on 18 January. The pilot will test whether a “parameter” determined insurance plan involving insurance companies could help Pacific Island nations respond quickly with immediate funding if a natural disaster were to occur. The Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Pilot was set up by the five Pacific nations in conjunction with Japan, the World Bank and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community SPC. World Bank Contact, Laura Keenan said the insurance policy would be based upon the parameters of a natural disaster such as the wind speed of a tropical cyclone or the ground motion of an earthquake. The parameters would be determined by an independent third party reporting agency and a “catastrophe risk model” developed by a leading catastrophe risk modelling firm AIR Worldwide. Laura Keenan said that pay outs would be quicker as former methods of surveying determined losses could take up to several months even years.

 

“Under this program, pay outs can be made quickly, usually within 2 to 3 weeks after a disaster.” Reinsurance companies would underwrite the portfolio of catastrophe risk insurance policies placed by the World Bank. Pacific nations would access earthquake and tropical cyclone catastrophe coverage from insurance companies at an attractive price. Minister for Finance and National Planning, Lisiate ‘Akolo said “This project will allow us to better respond immediately to phenomena like tropical cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis.” Director of the SPC Applied Geosciences and Technology Division, Dr. Russel Howorth said “This is an excellent opportunity to see whether insurance might work for Pacific island countries and to explore options for financing disaster responses in the future”. The four insurance companies that joined pilot are: Sompo Japan Insurance, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance and Swiss Re. The Five Pacific nations involved are Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands.

 

From http://matangitonga.to 01/22/2013

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Social Media: Five Predictions for 2013

When you think of social media these days, you probably think primarily of Facebook and Twitter, and perhaps Instagram. But while those services have massive -- and growing -- user bases, they're of course not the only games in town. The world of social media is filled with other services, and millions of people get a daily fix without ever going near Facebook or Twitter. There are big general networks like Tagged, and plenty of smaller, purpose-built ones like Path or celebrity-focused ones like Lady Gaga's Little Monsters. There's even a revamped MySpace. So what does 2013 hold in store for the world of social media? Only time will tell, naturally, but CNET put on its prognosticator's hat and took a stab at a few predictions for the year ahead.

 

1. MySpace relaunches; no one cares

If all goes as planned, sometime in the next few months a fully revamped MySpace will launch, attempting to lure in a hip, young audience with a media-centric theme and an ownership that includes celebrities like Justin Timberlake. The company knows it will never again be as big as it once was, but launch it will. And the collective response will be crickets. Though MySpace's new senior management knows they can't compete with Facebook as people's primary social network -- they expect that it will be integrated with both Facebook and Twitter and focus on music -- it's still hard to understand why anyone needs a new MySpace. After all, Facebook, with its Spotify partnership, already makes it easy to listen to and share music. And Facebook and Twitter both give musicians easy ways to connect with fans. So the entire rationale for relaunching a beleaguered brand whose raison d'etre has been superseded by bigger, stronger rivals, is hard to figure. And users will come to the same conclusion. Though there may be a little bit of excitement as Timberlake and others lend their names and glamour to the new MySpace, that will quickly wear off as everyone realizes no one cares.

 

2. Twitter-Instagram photo rivalry continues to develop

A major 2012 story, which just happened to take place in the closing weeks of the year, was the intensifying battle between Twitter and its former ally Instagram. Twitter had seemingly hoped to buy the photo-sharing service itself, but saw its hopes dashed as Mark Zuckerberg swooped in with what turned out to be $715 million worth of cash and stock and bought Instagram for Facebook. In the process, Twitter lost its shot at a huge amount of revenue potential, not to mention being able to bring tens of millions of passionate and committed new users instantly into the fold. In the wake of the Facebook-Instagram acquisition, Twitter began rolling out a set of fresh features that seemed intended to mimic the Instagram experience. That effort included making relevant photos show up atop Twitter search results; creating a more consistent mobile experience; and, then, most important of all, releasing its own photo-filtering tools. But Instagram still boasts some significant advantages over Twitter when it comes to photo-sharing and creating and sharing artistic photography. Perhaps the most obvious is the extremely passionate -- and fast-growing -- community it enjoys. Still, Twitter has its own massive user base, and the potential to leverage it as its tools improve. Twitter needs to make its mobile photo experience even better and more focused than it is. It might even find that one way to attract more photographers is to add a photo tab to the current set of tabs: Home, Connect, Discover, and Me. To date, Twitter has released eight free filters, and that number will have to increase and get closer to Instagram's 18. That would help Twitter users see photo-sharing as a major part of what they choose to use the service for. Twitter is a force to be reckoned with, but the key question is whether it can work rapidly enough to catch up to Instagram before it's too late.

 

3. Tout breaks out

In some circles, Tout is already a household name. The video-sharing service, which lets users quickly create and share 15-second clips, has become a favorite of athletes, news stations, and others. But many people have yet to even hear of it. That could change in a big way in 2013. Though the company doesn't seem to spend much on marketing, it has a loyal fan base, which uses the service consistently and smartly and are known to see their Twitter followings go up at faster rates than normal Twitter users. And why not? If a picture's worth a thousand words, then a short video must be worth far more than that. Tout is easy to use, and it's easy to embed a tout in a tweet, and who doesn't think a short video can say more than 140 text characters? So far, though, despite being the service of choice for things like basketball star Shaquille O'Neil announcing his retirement, Tout has yet to break through. This could be the year that changes, as more and more people realize the value of creating and sharing 15-second videos. It turns out you can say a lot in 15 seconds, and as people learn that, they'll have a service at the ready to help them get their messages out.

 

4. Bigger bucks for Twitter

Almost since its inception, despite its rapid growth, Twitter has had to fend off questions about its financial prospects. It was always seen as a great service, but few could see how it would make money. Now its critics are quieting down as it has beefed up its advertising platform. But investors have put $1.16 billion into Twitter, according to Crunchbase, and it's certain those VCs want the microblogging giant to step up its revenue machine. And soon. How does it do that? It can continue doing what it began to get good at in 2012: getting brands involved, and deeply involved at that, while not making users unhappy by watering down the service with ads. Plus, it could develop easier ways to place ads. Google became a financial juggernaut when it answered that problem, in part with self-service ads, and brands wanting to place ads on Twitter would surely like to have an easier experience. As well, Twitter needs new ways to make sales. Fortunately, the company appears to take these challenges very seriously, and is investing real time and energy into how to take the next step. One advantage it has over Facebook is that mobile is just as good a platform for advertising on Twitter as the Web. That could bode very well down the line.

 

5. Facebook buys RockMelt?

Facebook has built a platform that offers users almost any tool you can imagine, from timelines to chatting to photo-sharing to groups, and so on. But one thing it doesn't have is its own browser, either for the Web or for mobile. Google, of course, has a browser, Chrome, that it leverages to gather data on what people are looking for, to boost advertising, and generally to keep millions of users tied to Google in ever more ways. While Facebook could build its own browser -- and could conceivably be doing so -- it could choose instead to buy one that's already developed and that has already proved attractive to users, as well as one that was created specifically to integrate well with Facebook. To those who follow such things, that browser is RockMelt. Built as the browser for social, this Chromium-based tool is designed to easily work with Facebook and Twitter, yet it can also browse the Web normally. Its special sauce, however, is surely the way it seamlessly integrates social elements of Facebook. As far as anyone knows, RockMelt's not for sale, and there's been no public indication that the company wants to sell, or has interest in selling to Facebook. But then again, RockMelt and Facebook share investors (Andreessen Horowitz), public relations firms (Outcast), and a sense that Facebook is at the heart of the social experience. Bringing RockMelt in house would give Facebook a browser of its own, and one that might come at a reasonable price. Why would Facebook want to have a browser? Because it would suddenly have access to far more information about users' behaviors, and could potentially keep users inside an all-Facebook fence, and away from its competitors, especially Google. Plus, RockMelt has an iPad version.

 

From http://news.cnet.com/ 01/02/2013

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Internet Freedom Threatened

The Internet, the last bastion of freedom, is under threat. Dubai was home to the UN’s Internet regulation talks in December to discuss proposals for greater online security. The EU and United States were first to dismiss the idea of the UN gaining control of the Internet. Providing information, economic and media to the global world, there is significant pressure from political groups to stop the Internet being governed. ICANN is the Internet domain name controller; a stake held private company which works effectively, for the US government. Whilst talks were under way in Dubai, it was not surprising that Russia and China both endorsed the UN to take control of the Internet in order to relieve the US of their Internet hegemony. With strong opposition from the US and the EU, the talks seem to have grinded to a halt. If the UN were to assume the power of internet regulation and control, it could cause widespread criticism and condemnation for communications and civil liberties. Possible tariffs for streaming data and connecting countries would seriously damage international trade and undermine developing countries that rely heavily on the Internet as a source of trade. Though such implications might cause panic, there is still hope that greater talks and consideration will occur before Internet governance is ever implemented. Political power and economic tariffs are not the only reasons for Internet censorship. British Ministers recently rejected an automatic porn block, instead they favoured emphasising the need for parents to control their child’s content through parental privacy filters.

 

The expansion of the Internet and the ease at which sites can be accessed is cause for concern; horrific and brutal content is freely accessible while fears that the growing rate of mobile users amongst children effectively allows them to access all content, unchallenged. An automatic Internet porn block would see people opt into pornography which some groups have criticised as censorship and a threat to democracy and civil liberties. The nation is particularly divided on this issue of protecting children whilst maintaining civil liberties. The EU voted on the ACTA agreement in mid 2012; in short the proposals would see online piracy tackled with the creation of a governing body able to regulate the Internet. Critics have slammed the proposals due to the somewhat shady and unclear nature of the treaty with much of it still secret from the general public. Japan is the only country to have ratified the agreement, with the US and Europe signing the treaty and the latter ultimately rejecting it on the grounds of democracy. Recent online piracy has resulted in the blocking of the Piratebay by Internet providers, at great cost to themselves. Loss of revenue and breach of copyright have spurred western governments into action, with the Finnish government recently charging a nine year old girl with piracy and confiscating her Winnie the Pooh laptop for downloading a single hit song by a Finnish artist. Whatever your stance on piracy, censorship has come to Britain at last and the unanswered question lingers, will the Internet remain free commercially and accessibly in the future?

 

From http://platform-online.net/ 01/08/2013

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Local Software Can Spur Development, Says UN Report

Local software production and development can spur economic growth in Africa and other developing economies, says a report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development. The 'Information Economy Report 2012' shows that information and communication technology (ICT) software and services are dominated by the developed world but developing economies are catching up. It says that piracy, poor ICT infrastructure and inadequate protection of intellectual property rights are some of the major challenges hindering ICT software development and service expansion in developing regions such as Africa. However, for Africa and the Middle East the biggest challenge to the software industry is limited access to venture capital. The report urges governments in developing countries — significant buyers of software — to help the software sector by putting in place policy measures to facilitate the development of affordable ICT infrastructure and introducing legal frameworks to protect intellectual property rights. Enhanced access to ICTs in developing countries is widening opportunities in areas including health, education, governance and business creation and expansion, according to the report. "Software production can contribute to the structural transformation of economies — that is, wean them away from dependence on low-technology goods and on a limited number of products for export," the report states. Kenya and South Africa top the continent in supplying software and services for domestic consumption, with areas of focus being smartphones and tablets, as well as mobile applications driven by mobile broadband Internet services.

 

"Software development is strategic for Africa's development as it offers a lot of opportunities," said Aida Opoku-Mensah, director of the ICT and Science & Technology Division of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), at the launch. "Adapting software to local contexts helps firms to manage resources better, obtain information more efficiently and [set up] cost-effective business operations," she said. Software development in African nations also creates market opportunities for developers and boosts learning, innovation and job creation in those countries, she explained. Opoku-Mensah tells SciDev.Net that there is an encouraging trend in Africa of local ICT software development and use of services, particularly in countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa. Ethiopia has taken the lead in Africa in adapting software developed elsewhere into local languages, for instance it turned English software into Amharic and Tigrinya with UNECA's assistance, according to Opoku-Mensah. UNECA is working with partners and governments to adapt other software from industrialised countries into local languages, she said. Daniel Adinew, an Ethiopian software engineer who developed a computer operating system called EthioNux, says that locally developed software helps to minimise dependency on foreign firms, which may place restrictions on the use of their products. He adds that increasing software development can also stimulate the manufacturing of computer hardware.

 

From http://www.scidev.net/ 01/08/2013

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Best Broadband Cities in the World

The latest Net Index city statistics revealed that Hong Kong has the highest average broadband speed, followed by Vilnius in Lithuania and Bucharest in Romania. According to the Net Index website, which uses data from millions of recent test results from Speedtest.net, the Hong Kong central district has an average real-world download speed of 46Mbps. This is significantly higher than the global average of 12.64Mbps. The latest Ookla Net Index statistics list the following cities as the top broadband cities in the world.

1.Hong Kong Central District – 45.93Mbps

2.Vilnius, Lithuania – 41.41Mbps

3.Bucharest, Romania – 35.58Mbps

4.Singapore, Singapore – 35.47Mbps

5.Taipei, Taiwan – 34.57Mbps

6.Seoul, South Korea – 34.50Mbps

7.Constanta, Romania – 34.16Mbps

8.Iasi, Romania – 33.95 Mbps

9.Tokyo, Japan – 33.37Mbps

10.Sofia, Bulgaria – 32.83 Mbps

 

In South Africa Edenvale is currently ranked as the area/city with the highest average broadband speed, followed by Midrand and Sandton.

1.Edenvale – 6.73 Mbps

2.Midrand – 5.94 Mbps

3.Sandton – 5.73 Mbps

4.Paarl – 5.19 Mbps

5.Johannesburg – 4.42 Mbps

6.Brits – 4.35 Mbps

7.Worcester – 3.91 Mbps

8.Randburg – 3.54 Mbps

9.Pretoria – 3.43 Mbps

10.Boksburg – 3.42 Mbps

 

From http://mybroadband.co.za/ 01/14/2013

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Evidence Lacking on mHealth Effectiveness in Poor Countries

Mobile phone technology is frequently heralded as a solution to many health challenges facing the developing world, but two systematic reviews have found that evidence to back such claims is still largely non-existent. There is a lack of rigorous studies in low- and middle-income settings — where experts agree that mobile health (mHealth) initiatives have tremendous potential — according to the reviews, led by Caroline Free from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom, and published in PLoS Medicine today (15 January). For example, just three out 75 trials that aimed to assess whether mobile technology interventions for healthcare consumers could change health behavior or improve disease management were conducted in developing countries. And none of the 42 trials of interventions designed to support communication among healthcare providers or between health services and patients were done in the developing world. Mobile phones are thought to be able, among other things, to help manage disease; facilitate drug adherence in tuberculosis patients; speed up diagnosis of HIV and malaria; monitor outbreaks of polio; take and transfer medical images to doctors; and provide an advice hotline for rural health workers. Previous studies have found mobile phone text messaging to improve adherence to HIV treatment in Kenya, as well as their failure to do so in Cameroon.

 

But the new reviews found that for disease management, the only two mHealth applications with sufficient evidence of benefit are ones related to adherence to antiretroviral therapy and smoking cessation. And while certain interventions designed to support healthcare providers modestly improved aspects of clinical diagnosis and management, others were less successful. For example, the use of mobile technology–based photographs for diagnosis sometimes resulted in incorrect diagnoses, compared with face-to-face treatment. And text message-based appointment reminders were better than no reminders, but were no better than reminders sent by traditional routes such as telephone or mail. "Our systematic review shows there is good evidence that text messaging interventions can increase adherence to anti-retroviral medication and can increase smoking cessation," Free, a senior lecturer in epidemiology, said in a press release. "The effects of mobile phone based interventions appear promising in some other areas, but further high quality trials are required to establish their effects." The reviews call for additional rigorous tests of mobile health interventions, especially in low- and middle-income settings where the control group of 'standard care' might be very different from the standard care available in high-income countries.

 

From http://www.scidev.net/ 01/15/2013

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WB Urges Developing Countries to Safeguard Economic Growth, as Road Ahead Remains Bumpy

Four years after the onset of the global financial crisis, the world economy remains fragile and growth in high-income countries is weak. Developing countries need to focus on raising the growth potential of their economies, while strengthening buffers to deal with risks from the Euro Area and fiscal policy in the United States, says the World Bank in the newly-released Global Economic Prospects (GEP) report. "The economic recovery remains fragile and uncertain, clouding the prospect for rapid improvement and a return to more robust economic growth," said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. "Developing countries have remained remarkably resilient thus far. But we can't wait for a return to growth in the high-income countries, so we have to continue to support developing countries in making investments in infrastructure, in health, in education. This will set the stage for the stronger growth that we know that they can achieve in the future.” Last year developing countries recorded among their slowest economic growth rates of the past decade, partly because of the heightened Euro Area uncertainty in May and June of 2012. Since then, financial market conditions have improved dramatically. International capital flows to developing countries, which fell 30 percent in the second quarter of 2012, have recovered and bond spreads have declined to below their long-term average levels of around 282 basis points. Developing-country stock markets are up 12.6 percent since June, while equity markets in high-income countries are up by 10.7 percent. However, the real-side of the economy has responded modestly. Output in developing countries has accelerated, but is being held back by weak investment and industrial activity in advanced economies. “From hopes for a U-shaped recovery, through a W-shaped one, the prognosis for global growth is getting alphabetically challenged. With governments in high-income countries struggling to make fiscal policies more sustainable, developing countries should resist trying to anticipate every fluctuation in developed countries and, instead, ensure that their fiscal and monetary policies are robust and responsive to domestic conditions,” said Kaushik Basu, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at The World Bank.

 

The World Bank estimates global GDP grew 2.3 percent in 2012, compared with last June’s expectation of 2.5 percent. Growth is expected to remain broadly unchanged at 2.4 percent growth in 2013, before gradually strengthening to 3.1 percent in 2014 and 3.3[1] percent in 2015. Developing-country GDP is estimated to have grown 5.1 percent in 2012, and is projected to expand by 5.5 percent in 2013, strengthening to 5.7 percent and 5.8 percent in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Growth in high-income countries has been downgraded from earlier forecasts, at 1.3 percent for 2012 and 2013, firming to 2.0 percent in 2014 and 2.3 percent by 2015. Growth in the Euro Area is now projected to only return to positive territory in 2014, with GDP expected to contract by 0.1 percent in 2013, before edging up to 0.9 percent in 2014 and 1.4 percent in 2015. Overall, global trade of goods and services, which grew only 3.5 percent in 2012, is expected to accelerate, expanding by 6.0 percent in 2013 and 7.0 percent by 2015. “The weakness in high-income countries is dampening developing-country growth, but strong domestic demand and growing South-South economic linkages have underpinned developing country resilience – to the point that, for the second year in a row, developing countries were responsible for more than half of global growth in 2012,” said Hans Timmer, Director, Development Prospects Group, the World Bank. Downside risks to the global economy include: a stalling of progress on the Euro Area crisis, debt and fiscal issues in the United States, the possibility of a sharp slowing of investment in China, and a disruption in global oil supplies. However, the likelihood of these risks and their potential impacts has diminished, and the possibility of a stronger-than-anticipated recovery in high-income countries has increased. Although fiscal sustainability in most developing countries is not an issue, government deficits and debt are much higher today than in 2007. “To assure resilience to downside risks, developing countries need to gradually rebuild depleted fiscal and monetary buffers, and improve social safety nets and food security,” said Andrew Burns, Manager of Global Macroeconomics and lead author of the report.

 

Regional Highlights

Growth in the East Asia and Pacific region slowed to an estimated 7.5 percent in 2012, from 8.3 percent in 2011, largely due to weak external demand and policy actions in China to contain inflation. Growth in the region, excluding China, slowed less quickly due to robust domestic demand. Economic activity throughout the region accelerated toward the end of the year as global financial markets stabilized and policies in China became more accommodative. Regional GDP growth is projected to pick up to 7.9 percent in 2013 before stabilizing at around 7.5 percent by 2015, with China’s economy expanding at 8.4 percent in 2013, before easing to 7.9 percent by 2015. Ex-China, regional growth is forecast to average 5.9 percent over 2013-2015 on strong domestic demand and intensified global trade flows. GDP growth in Europe and Central Asia is estimated to have slowed sharply to 3 percent in 2012 from 5.5 percent in 2011 as the region faced significant headwinds, including weak external demand, deleveraging by European banks, summer drought and commodity-price induced inflationary pressures. Growth slowed most in countries with strong economic linkages to the Euro Area, while it was relatively robust in resource-rich economies that have benefited from high commodity prices. GDP growth in the region is projected to rebound to 3.6 percent in 2013 and 4.3 percent by 2015. Medium-term prospects for the region will critically depend on progress in addressing external (large current account deficits) and domestic (large fiscal deficit, unemployment, and inflation) imbalances, lack of competitiveness, and structural constraints. In the Latin America and the Caribbean region GDP declined to an estimated 3 percent in 2012 (from 4.3 percent in 2011) because of a marked slowdown in domestic demand in some of the largest economies in the region and a weak external environment. Growth in Brazil, the region’s largest economy, expanded only an estimated 0.9 percent in 2012. A more accommodative policy environment, stronger capital flows (notably FDI) and more robust external demand are expected to lift regional growth over 2013-2015 to an average of 3.8 percent. Labor and tax reforms underway in some of the larger economies, and a drive to boost infrastructure investment should help address some of the structural issues that have constrained growth in the region.

 

Growth in the Middle East and North Africa region continues to be affected by political uncertainty and unrest in several countries. Regional GDP is estimated to have grown by 3.8 percent in 2012 (following a 2.4 percent decline in 2011), mostly due to a pickup in Libyan oil output and continued robust expansion in Iraq. Growth among regional oil importers, however, remained sluggish at an estimated 2.5 percent in 2012 (2.4 percent in 2011) due to weak exports and tourism, together with country-specific problems, including a poor harvest in Morocco, fiscal difficulties in Jordan, and continuing uncertainty and weak reserves position in Egypt. Regional GDP growth is projected to slow to 3.4 percent in 2013, rising to 4.3 percent by 2015, assuming an easing of the current uncertainty and domestic unrest, a strengthening of tourism, and a recovery of the region’s exports as global demand continues to firm. In South Asia, growth weakened to an estimated 5.4 percent in 2012 (7.4 percent in 2011), mainly due to a sharp slowdown in India, where GDP growth (measured at factor cost) is forecast at 5.4 percent in the fiscal year ending March 2013. Weak global demand exacerbated region-specific factors, including subdued investment growth, electricity shortages, policy uncertainties, and a weak monsoon. Regional GDP is projected to grow by 5.7 percent in the 2013 calendar year, and by 6.4 and 6.7 percent in 2014 and 2015, respectively, driven by policy reforms in India, stronger investment activity, normal agricultural production, and improvement in export demand. Growth in India (at factor cost) is projected at 6.4 percent in the 2013 fiscal year, rising to 7.3 percent by 2015. Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa remained robust at 4.6 percent in 2012. Excluding South Africa, the region’s largest economy, GDP output expanded 5.8 percent in 2012, with a third of countries in the region growing by at least 6 percent. Robust domestic demand, still high commodity prices, increased export volumes (due to new capacity in the natural resource sector) and steady remittance flows supported growth in 2012. However, the expansion was curtailed by domestic factors, including earlier monetary policy tightening (Kenya and Uganda), protracted labor disputes (South Africa), and political unrest (Mali and Guinea Bissau). The region is projected to grow at its pre-crisis average of 5 percent during 2013-15.

 

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 01/15/2013

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Globe Hits Rival for Network Traffic, SMS Bogdown

As phone calls and text messages failed to reach their destinations over the last few days, Globe Telecom put the blame squarely on its main rival for causing the network traffic. “Our network is not experiencing any difficulty in handling SMS traffic across networks. As far as our technical monitoring is concerned, there were no incidences of failed connections with other telco companies, whether on calls or text messages,” said Globe Head of Corporate Communications Yoly Crisanto. “Our technical group reported that our network’s integrity using both the modernized as well as the remaining legacy infrastructure is uncompromised and currently performs at its peak. There may be times when non-Globe subscribers may experience difficulty sending texts to our network but the problem may have to do with their transmitting home network,” she added. Crisanto cited the case of PLDT-owned Sun Cellular’s link congestion which is affecting inter-operator SMS traffic. “There is an ongoing negotiation with Sun to upgrade their links to better serve Globe customers,” she said further. The company issued the statement in response to allegations that it had difficulty processing text messages from other networks. “We urge the public not to heed negative statements and advisories that are contrary to the actual situation on the ground,” said Crisanto. “Our messaging platform is performing well, especially in light of our current modernization program, whether we receive from or send to other networks.”

 

From http://newsbytes.ph/ 01/18/2013

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Global Collaboration Needed to Fight Neglected Diseases

Developed countries and emerging economies must join forces to support research into new drugs for neglected diseases, according to research by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi). Their study, presented at a conference last month (13 December), found that only 3.8 per cent of drugs approved between 2000 and 2011 were for neglected diseases, such as sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis and Chagas disease, which in total account for more than ten per cent of the global disease burden. "In the last decade, there has been some progress in drug development for neglected diseases, but not enough has been done," says Bernard Pécoul, executive director of DNDi. "Only 1.4 per cent of total clinical studies are dedicated to neglected diseases, but they make up 11 per cent of the global disease burden." Neglected diseases are most prevalent in Africa, Brazil and India, and often have the greatest impact on the poorest people, he says. "What is needed is more commitment from the affected countries to respond to the needs of their populations," Pécoul says. He lists Brazil, China and India as countries that have sufficient resources and says they should be setting up a sustainable way of financing such research and making the regulatory environment more amenable to delivering new drugs for neglected diseases. But he adds that such countries also need financial support from developed countries with strong R&D in the sector — support that is currently lacking.

 

The French government recently announced that a proportion of its new financial transaction tax will go towards global health R&D, which could generate an estimated US$2 billion a year. MSF and DNDi welcomed the move. "Sustainable funding is key for research and development," Pécoul says. "To be sure that we'll have a new drug or vaccine in the future, we need ten years of investment, so France's mechanism is an excellent initiative." Pécoul adds: "We hope other EU countries will follow suit and place drug development high on the agenda, but we also need strong support from regulatory authorities to help stimulate and streamline the development of new products for neglected diseases". Policy Cures, an independent group providing research and analysis into drugs for neglected diseases, also called for more funding and better cooperation between developed and developing countries in a September report on EU investment in neglected diseases. Javier Guzman, its director of research, tells SciDev.Net that novel funding tools like the financial transaction tax are needed. "Neglected diseases R&D can't rely on a few funders or traditional financing mechanisms such as aid funding. Other avenues should be explored," he says. He says that each developed country should put at least 0.01 per cent of its GDP towards research into these diseases, as suggested in a WHO report last year, and that endemic countries must also participate in this global effort.

 

From http://www.scidev.net/ 01/21/2013

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Electronic Arts Should Make a Much Bigger Push in Asia

Video game consoles like Sony's Playstation 3 and Microsoft's ( MSFT ) X-Box 360 are in the last stages of their product cycles, and this has led to a decline in sales for video game developers like Electronic Arts ( EA ). EA reported a 19% year-on-year decline in packaged goods revenue in its last earnings announcement. This might be attributed to the fact the EA is waiting for the next generation consoles, Playstation 4 and X-Box 720, to develop video games specifically designed for the platforms. Since the product cycle hasn't refreshed after 2005, the company has decreased the number of games released per year from 36 titles in fiscal 2011 to 22 in 2012, and plans to release just 14 titles in 2013. While the number of titles and the subsequent sales might increase with the launch of the next generation consoles, we believe that the company might currently be missing out on a big revenue opportunity in Asia. EA earns just 7% of its net revenues from Asia, a surprising fact, given that Japan alone accounts for 15% of the world's video game sales.

 

How Can Electronic Arts Capitalize on Asia?

According to data compiled by Nintendo, Electronic Arts published the best selling games in Europe and U.S. through the first nine months of 2012, for all platforms. Sports games topped the charts with FIFA 13 for Playstation 3 and X-Box 360 in pole position in Europe, followed by last year's version, FIFA 12 for Playstation 3. In the U.S., Madden NFL 13 was at the top for both major platforms. However, looking at the chart for Japan, not a single title published by Electronic Arts shows up in the top 20. Japan is a region Electronic Arts should work on tapping, especially by promoting its sports-based games like FIFA 13. Soccer is very popular in the country, and Japan's national team won the last continental competition, the AFC cup, in 2011. English and European soccer leagues are also popular in Asia and has a huge fan base due to extensive television coverage and marketing. Also the fact that Electronic Arts has an exclusive licensing agreement with soccer's governing body, FIFA, and other regional bodies like the English Football Association Premier League Limited, give it a big edge over competing titles like Pro Evolution Soccer.

 

Electronic Arts is currently trying to promote FIFA Online in Japan and Korea, particularly through its FIFA Online franchise. The company reported a 9% increase in Asia revenues for the six months ending September, but the overall contribution from the region is still small compared to the contribution from North America and Europe. Electronic Arts could boost revenues by as much as 20%, if it is able to bring Asian revenues to even half the level of North American revenues. Electronic Arts has a gross profit margin close to 60%. However, high research and development costs and selling, general and administrative expenditures lower cash flows. R&D costs are around 30% of revenues for the last four years and SG&A consumed around 25% of the revenues. We expect these figures to remain roughly the same in the coming years. However, gross profit margins might increase due to the fact the Electronic Arts is shifting to an online sales structure. Digital revenues accounted for 33% of Electronic Arts's total net revenues in the September quarter of 2011. In 2012, they accounted for 46%. While the exact margin for digital revenues is not provided by the company, the management has suggested that they offer higher margins, and we agree with this view. Zynga ( ZNGA ), which is entirely focused on digital revenues, has margins around 70% and can be used as a benchmark for Electronic Arts. We expect gross profit margins to approach 70% by the end of our forecast period.

 

From http://www.nasdaq.com/ 01/10/2013

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Asian ICT Projects Get Fresh International Funding

Research groups and organisations in Asia recently received a boost in financial aid to be able to conduct researches that have an impact on ICT growth in the region. APNIC (Asia Pacific Network Information Centre), one of the regional Internet registries, said the Information Society Innovation Fund (ISIF Asia) has received A$330,000 (US$346,700) in fresh funds to support 11 project teams in the region. The funds were contributed by different aid agencies, including International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), Internet Society (ISOC), Dot Asia, and APNIC. The funds are to be distributed to the project teams in the form of grants through ISIF Asia, a programme that supports research and development in ICT to further the growth of ICT in the region.

 

Small grants

Supporters of ISIF Asia consider the infusion of the new funds this year as significant as the programme has suffered from fund drought in previous years. "The ISIF Asia programme had limited resources during 2011 and 2012, and could only give awards to innovators in the region. It is really exciting to be able to provide more substantial support again," said Dr. Philip Smith, director, Learning and Development, APNIC. With the new funding, APNIC remains helpful that the researches can help improve ICT growth in the region, particularly in developing economies. Though the grants are small, they are nevertheless enough seed funding to create an impact, said Canada's IDRC.

 

Seed funding

"The small grants mechanism allows us to achieve many things. More than a decade of experience in seed funding for ICT for development initiatives has proved it is possible to spur on local innovations with inspiration from broader global ICT trends, and the impacts on society," said Phet Sayo, program officer, IDRC. "At IDRC, we are interested in building research fields, including ICT for development, and the emerging field of open development. Seed funding enables us to learn about the trends, ideas, and actors in the region." The recipients of this year's ISIF grants submitted proposals based on the programme's focus researches. These year's projects per research category are the following:

 

Innovation on access provision

- Smart Phones for the Deaf Blind, Bidirectional Access Promotion Society (India)

- A Cloud Based Application Measuring and Controlling Electricity Used for Indonesian Houses, Binus International University (Indonesia)

- Pacific Islands Schools, Connectivity, Education, and Solar (PISCES) Project, iSolutions (Micronesia)

Code for the common good

- Real-time Hepatitis Reporting and Surveillance System in Low-Resource Settings using ICT and Mobile Phones, UM Healthcare Trust (Pakistan)

- Driver Distraction Management Using Sensor Data Cloud, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Dhaka (Bangladesh)

Innovation on learning and localisation

- Integrated Maternal and Child Healthcare Delivery and Training for Community Health Teams, Access Health International (Philippines)

- Developing Mobile Based Application to Support Pregnant Women, Yagiten Pvt. Ltd. (Nepal)

- Building Low-Cost Telecommunications Infrastructure in Myanmar: Localization and Training of a Practical Guide, First Myanmar Korea Group Co. Ltd. (Myanmar)

 

Rights

- Internet Rights are Women's Rights, Point of View in partnership with Association for Progressive Communications (India)

- Promoting Women's Rights and Safety Online: Addressing Electronic Violence Against Women (eVAW), Foundation for Media Alternatives(Philippines)

- Sinar Project, Transparency Internal Malaysia (Malaysia)

Teams are expected to work on their projects within six to 12 months, and then share their final technical reports.

 

From http://news.idg.no/ 01/18/2013

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Asia-Pacific PC Market Contracts for First Time in 2012

IDC’s preliminary results showed that the Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) PC market declined 2 percent in full year 2012 to reach 121 million units, recording a full year contraction for the first time.

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Ongoing weakness in the global economy finally caught up with the region, affecting demand across both consumer and commercial segments. Mature markets in the region were impacted by distractions from smartphones and tablets as well, further hurting PC shipments there as a result. In 4Q12 specifically, the market came in 4 percent below IDC’s initial forecasts with a 5 percent year-on-year decline, as channels across the region remained distracted with clearing out existing Windows 7 inventory before bringing in new Windows 8 stocks. “Initiatives such as Ultrabooks and Windows 8 haven’t reinvigorated the PC market as much as the industry had hoped,” said Avinash K. Sundaram, senior analyst for client devices research at IDC. “In light of this softness, IDC expects growth to remain muted in the upcoming years. However, we also must not forget that this is still a more than $60 billion market in the Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) region alone.”

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Lenovo remained in the lead in 2012 as it continued to expand beyond China in the region, making particularly strong strides in India. Internal re-organization activities kept HP busy for much of the year, though its recent efforts at regaining partner confidence helped the vendor arrest some of the decline. Dell, meanwhile, made a strategic choice to shift its focus towards higher valued products. Asus persisted with its strategy of targeting lower tier cities in emerging markets with entry-level SKUs to steadily gain ground across the region.

From http://newsbytes.ph/ 01/20/2013 

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CHINA: 100m New 3G Users Seen in 2013

CHINA will add an estimated 100 million new 3G subscribers in 2013, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The number of broadband Internet users will increase by 25 million, Miao Wei, minister of industry and information technology, said at the ministry's annual meeting yesterday. The ministry enhanced industrial supervision this year by allowing more private capital to enter the market, lowering service fees and improving service quality, Miao said. By the end of November, the number of mobile phone users exceeded 1.1 billion, with 220 million 3G users and broadband Internet users at 174 million.