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January 2017, Issue 182

unpan-ap@sass.org.cn

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2017 May Be the ‘Biggest Year for Political Risk Since the End of World War II’: Expert

India, Indonesia and Thailand to outperform Asia in 2017

 

 

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CHINA: New Rules on Cash Transactions Not Capital Control - Expert

China to Move Closer to Centenary Goals in 2017

China Issues Five-year Plan on Saving Energy, Cutting Emissions

China to Keep Monetary Policy Prudent, Neutral

China to Extend Family Doctor Services in 2017

China Eyes Boosting Legal Service for Going-global Initiatives

China's Local Governments Set Poverty Reduction Goals

Chinese Premier Stresses Renovation of Rundown Areas in 2017

China Plans to Develop Powerful Exascale Computer

China to Build More Welfare Facilities During 2016-2020

China to Seek Progress While Maintaining Stability: Premier

China to Take Proactive Employment Policies

JAPAN: Lawmakers Plan Bill to Ensure Visitation Rights After Divorce

Abe to Keep Putting Highest Priority on Economy in 2017

Abe Urges Business Leaders to Address Working Hours, Equality Issues in 2017

Gov't Plans to Submit Conspiracy Bill in Upcoming Diet Session

Govt to Submit Bill on Gambling Addiction

SOUTH KOREA: New Policies for 2017

Parliament Starts Debate on Constitutional Reform

Gov’t to Focus on Job Creation, Livelihood Stabilization

Acting President Calls for Enhanced Public Safety, Rule of Law

 

 

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CAMBODIA: Launching Action Plan to Eliminate Worst Forms of Child Labor by 2025

MYANMAR: Taking Measures to Ensure Sufficient Power Supply by Summer

Myanmar Legislators to Meet on Telecommunications Law

SINGAPORE: New Plans to Improve Industrial Energy Efficiency, in Fight Against Climate Change

Court Rejects Govt's Appeal to Invoke Anti-Harassment Law Against the Online Citizen

VIETNAM: New Laws to Ring in Significant Changes

Việt Nam’s Top Ten Domestic Events in 2016

National Blindness Prevention Strategy Approved

NA to Approve 24 Bills in 2017: Top Legislator

 

 

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INDIA: MP Plans to Develop 1,100 'Climate-Smart' Villages

Nagpur Will Become Wi-Fi Enabled City by March 2017

UP Govt Has Rolled Out a New IT Policy, Lucknow Is Being Developed as an IT Hub

Haryana’s IT Policy to Encourage IT Based Companies

Nagpur Smart City Project Launched

Pakistan: IT Park to Help Boost Exports

 

 

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AZERBAIJAN: To Prepare Debt Management Strategies in 2017

Azerbaijani Parliament Passes Tax Amnesty Law

2017 to Be Year of Economic Development for Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan to Report to IAEA on Sterilization Unit Launch Project

TURKMENISTAN: Position of Ombudsman Created

Turkmen President Says Important to Ensure Economic Stability

Turkmenistan Outlines Plans for Wheat Cultivation

UZBEKISTAN: Small Industrial Zone Planned for Launch in Syrdarya Region

 

 

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AUSTRALIA: Queensland Government May Dump Plans for 1am Lockout

Queensland Lockouts Laws Could Be Shelved

EPA Defends Mew Drinks Deposit Scheme in NSW

Plans for Australia to Adopt a 'Google Tax' Welcomed by Advocacy Group

FIJI: Education Ministry to Roll Out Parental Guidelines

Minister Outlines 2017 Trade Plans

 

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Davos 2017 Takes Place Amid a New World ‘Disorder’

World Bank Will Help Improve the National Statistical System for a Better Development Planning

 

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CHINA: Top Leadership Urges More Efforts to Ensure Food Safety

Xi Calls for Creativity in Strict CPC Governance

New Supervisory Body to Share Responsibility and Organization with CCDI

Vice Premier Urges Efforts in Rural Property Rights Reform

China Seeks Better Gov't Resource Allocation

China Establishes Technological Cooperation with 158 Countries, Regions

Senior Official Urges Law Enforcement to Counter Hidden Risks

Suggestions Pour in for Government Work Report

China to Reform Paid-use Mechanism for Natural Resources

Senior Chinese Official Urges United Front Work to Better Serve Development

Premier Solicits Public Opinions on Draft Government Work Report

CPC Stresses Loyalty, Professionalism of Judicial, Law Enforcement Staff

Senior Chinese Official Stresses Reform, Stability in Xinjiang

Senior CPC Leader Urges Systematic Selection of Officials

JAPAN: Student Grant System Should Help Motivated Youths Focus on Study

SOUTH KOREA: Intellectual Property Data Service Covers Patent Cases from 25 Countries

LX Corp. Seeks to Enhance Citizens’ Lives Through Government 3.0

Constitutional Court to Start Official Review of Impeachment Next Week

Opposition Party Pushes to Lower Voting Age to 18

Science Ministry to Promote Strategic Industries in 2017

Gov’t to Focus on Livelihoods, More Jobs, E-Gov't Services

 

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INDONESIA: Preparing to Set Up National Cyber Agency

MYANMAR: National Political Dialogues Begin in Southernmost Region

Parliamentary Candidates Allowed Canvassing for Votes Beginning on January 30

Myanmar Begins National-Level Political Dialogue in Southeastern State

MALAYSIA: Medicos No Longer Guaranteed Civil Service Employment

THAILAND: NLA Restores Patriarch Appointment Power to King

PM Invokes Special Article 44 Powers to Set Up Reform and Reconciliation Body

Policy-Making Panel to Be Set Up for Thailand's Eastern Economic Corridor Projects

VIETNAM: Stronger Cut of State Workers Needed to Improve Performance

Work in Unity and Make Nation Thrive: President

Courts Must Stringently Handle Corruption Cases: President

 

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INDIA: Digital Governance Will Bring Efficiency, Says Modi

Centre Launches App for Special Economic Zone Information

ONGC to Become Paperless Soon

 

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AZERBAIJAN: New Appointments in Taxes Ministry

Azerbaijan Names New Deputy Education Minister

New Appointment at International Bank of Azerbaijan

New Chair of VTB Bank Azerbaijan Supervisory Board Appointed

KAZAKHSTAN: Two Ministries Reorganized

TURKMENISTAN: New Appointment in Industry Ministry

UZBEKISTAN: Creates Department to Increase Standard of Living

 

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AUSTRALIA: Public Sector Union Says Centrelink System Lacks Integrity

Centrelink Mess Is What the Government Wants

Dump Single Agency Bargaining in the APS, Says Former Public Service Commissioner

TONGA: Making Fish Affordable as Part of National Fight Against NCDs

 

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The Key to Good Stock Performance? Keep Your Workers Happy

Censorship on Social Media: 2016 in Review

Davos Founder Criticizes Populism, Wants Urgent Reform on Capitalism

New Approach Needed to Tackle Rising Drug Prices

Prominent Leaders Add Their Support to World Bank Group’s Drive for Climate Action

APEC Seeks Material Innovators to Improve Manufacturing, Lives

 

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CHINA: Nutrition Program Benefits over 34 Mln Rural Students

Vice Premier Stresses Accuracy, Authenticity in Agricultural Census

Chinese City to Promote "Toilet Chiefs" for Better Management

China Seeks Better Mechanism to Prevent, Manage Natural Disasters

China Eyes Ocean Renewable Energy Development

Prosecutors to Intensify Supervision over Police Investigations

Chinese Vice Premier Underlines Crackdown on Counterfeits

JAPAN: Gov't Sets Sights on Improving Pay for Contract Workers

New Teaching Guidelines Must Improve Students’ Reading Comprehension

Japanese Technology Can Help Remove Dangerous Space Junk from Orbit

Environment for Enabling Settlement of Youth Key to Regional Revitalization

Make Concerted Efforts to Promote Work Style Reforms / Trimming Health, Nursing Care Costs Essential

SOUTH KOREA: Investing in ‘Hologram’ Technology

Gov’t 3.0 Offers Information on Taxes, Health, Finance

 

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THAILAND: PM Orders Tough Action Against Website Hackers

People Expect Backsliding in Battling Corruption, Implementing Road Map

VIETNAM: PM Urges Resolve in Facing 2017 Difficulties

Vietnam to Tackle Major Corruption Cases in 2017: Party Commission

Police Mull Automatic Fine Collection for Cars

 

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INDIA: BSNL to Lease 15,000 PoS to Push Digital Bill Payment

Now Add Money on Paytm Using 'United Payments Interface'

‘UDAY’ Web Portal and Mobile App Launched

India International Trade Fair Goes Hi-tech

Digital Workspace Helping Firms Improve Management Costs: Report

 

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UZBEKISTAN: Visa Abolition with 27 Countries Postponed

 

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AUSTRALIA: Causing Refugees 'Severe and Lasting Harm' - Human Rights Watch

Sydney Uni Predicts the Unpredictable in Quantum Computing Advancement

NEW ZEALAND: Parties Clash over Rising Road Toll

Govt "All Talk and No Action" on Electric Cars – Labour

Govt Told to Tax the Top to Help Struggling Youth

Calls for Leaders' Summit to Tackle Inequality

Government Heads Towards Ban on Microbeads

SOLOMON ISLANDS: Included in ADFD Clean Energy Project

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Five Resolutions to Simplify Your Tech Life

In 2017 Brands Aim to Predict What You Want Before You Know It

The Missing Stakeholder in Internet Governance – The Media

Why 2017 Will Finally Be the Year of the Smart Home: Consumers Figure It Out

Does Online Activism Work? Is Its Impact Positive for Society?

More Than 50 Internet Shutdowns in 2016

Internet Governance Outlook 2017: Nationalistic Hierarchies vs. Multistakeholder Networks?

How to Turn That Performance Review into a Raise

Global Growth Edges Up to 2.7 Percent Despite Weak Investment

Stronger Signals of Growth Momentum Picking-Up in Several Major OECD Economies

Gold Pushes to $1,200 — And a Much Scarier World Could Keep It There

Shocking Truth: 20% of Health-Care Expenditures Wasted in US and Other Nations

OECD Health Ministerial Statement - The Next Generation of Health Reforms

This Asia Market Was the Surprise Outperformer This Year

Asia Is All Business While the West Figures What to Do

 

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CHINA: Central Bank Advisor Calls for More Flexible GDP Growth Target

China's Expanding Manufacturing Activity Points to Stabilizing Economy

China Encourages More Use of Mobile Internet Service

China IPO Normalization Good for Real Economy: Experts

Workplace Safety Improves in China

Weibo, UNDP Partner to Promote Sustainable Development

Chinese President Eyes Shared, Win-win Development for Mankind's Future

SOUTH KOREA: Diplomats Show High Interest in E-Government Cooperation

Charity Fundraising Meets ICT

Mobile Payment on the Rise

Sharing with the World, Part 6: E-People

Directory of Open Data Startups Goes Online

Online Shopping Hits Record High in November

New Tech to Drive Economic Growth

KT Takes Global Lead in Fighting Disease Using Big Data

Korea to Increase Investment Related to 4th Industrial Revolution

 

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CAMBODIA: Postal Service to Launch E-Commerce in March

Bus Lines in Myanmar's Yangon to Be Replaced with New Ones

VIETNAM: Central City to Build Tunnel in 2018

Vietnamese Users Provided with Free 4G SIM Ahead of Official Launch

Việt Nam’s Top 10 ICT Milestones of 2016

Central City Should Be a World-Class Smart City

Gov’t Urges Developers to Balance Supply, Demand

HCMC to Expand E-Gov Services

PM Urges Efforts to Improve Growth in 2017

Online Marketing Essential for Enterprises in Digital Era

Ministries Urged to Move Online

VN Targets Completing Economic Reforms: PM

 

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INDIA: Mobikwik to Enable Utility Bill Payments Across India

Free-Wifi at Secunderabad and Hyderabad Railway Stations

IT Ministry, CAIT Sign MoU to Promote Digital Payments

Digital Economy Is Taking India to a New Era

Satisfaction of 4G Users High, Jio to Trigger More Tariff Cuts

'E-Wallets, Online Cabs Top Cashless Performers Post Note Ban'

MORTH to Launch e-Challan, m-Parivahan Apps During 28th Road Safety Week

Cloud Data Traffic to Grow 3.7 Fold by 2020

Mumbai Launches India's Biggest Public Wi-Fi Network with 500 Hotspots

India, U.S. Sign MoU in Cyber Security Cooperation

Sino-India Relations Deepened, Military Ties Healthy

U.S. Exploring New Partnership in Smart Cities in India

Estonia Launches E-Residency Programme in India

Kerela to Digitise 45,000 Schools Using ICT

86.4% Growth in Foreign Tourists Arrival on E-tourist Visa

SRI LANKA: Korea Eximbank Checks Feasibility to Create ICT Hub

NEPAL: Mobile Tower Expansion Intensified in Bhojpur

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Mastercard Rolls Out Artificial Intelligence Across Its Global Network

Road Map for Logistics and Trade to Up Azerbaijan’s GDP

E-signature Used in Azerbaijan to Be Recognized in EU

Microsoft, IITKM ink Deal on Goods Database in Azerbaijan

Over 1,000 People Benefit from Azercell’s Mobile Eye Clinic

Azerbaijan, UN Set Economic Co-op Priorities

UZBEKISTAN: Karshi-Dekhkanabad 90 km Railway Section Electrified

Uzbekistan's Economy Goes Up 7.8% in 2016

 

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AUTRALIA: Golden Era Ahead for Farmers

Australia's Big Data Push Belongs in Amateur Hour

2017 Should Be the Year of Privacy – Healthy Paranoia Obligatory

ACCC Seeks Industry Feedback on Broadband Access Services Declaration

Is This the Year LoT Standards Will Finally Make Sense?

New Zealand's Growing Wealth Gap 'Fracturing Society'

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Here's What Will Move Stocks in 2017

What Trump Gives with One Hand, He Could Take Away with the Other: World Bank

Reforms Needed to Rebalance Finance in the Western Balkans, Says New World Bank Report

Here's Why We Could See Earnings Rise 20% in 2017

Rising Home Values Aren't Enough to Shake Consumers' Memories of the Financial Crisis

World Needs to Invest $25 Trillion in New Oil Capacity Over Next 25 Years, Saudi Aramco's CEO Says

ADB Sells Dual-Tranche $3 Billion 3-Year and $1 Billion 10-Year Global Benchmark Bonds

ADB Operations Reach a Record $31.5 Billion in 2016

ADB Partners with EFL to Add More 'Green' Buses on PRC's Urban Roads

ADB, ICC Academy Partner to Provide Online Trade Finance Certification

 

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CHINA: SOE Poverty Relief Fund to Invest 5 Bln Yuan in 2017

Baidu, CITIC Approved to Set Up China's First Independent Direct Bank

China's Forex Reserve Drop Narrows in 2016, Pressure Remains

JAPAN: Tax Revenue Shows Signs of Leveling Off

Start-Ups Run by Women Getting More Govt Loans

Government to Subsidize Farmers’ Costly Food Safety Certification Efforts Ahead of 2020 Games

Funds from Dormant Bank Accounts Can Be Put to Good Use — Carefully

SOUTH KOREA: Revenue Increase Heightens Calls for Fiscal Expansion

Debt in Public Sector Exceeds W1,000tr in 2015

BOK to Keep Accommodative Monetary Policy in 2017

South Korea Has Fastest Growing Government Debt in G-20

 

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INDONESIA: Pertamina Allocates 6.6 Bln Dollars of Operation Budget for Next Year

MYANMAR: State Counselor Stresses Effective, Transparent Use of Peace Process Fund

Myanmar’s Banking System Makes Gradual Progress on a Long Journey

Myanmar Calls for Contributing to Peace Fund

SINGAPORE: Launching 50 Mln SGD Program to Improve Airport Operations

Ahead of Budget 2017, NTUC Calls for Support to Help Workers Transition into New Economy

VIETNAM: Invests 5.93 Bln Dollars to Boost Power Grid Capacity in 2016

Speed Up SOE Equitisation: PM

 

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INDIA: DigiDhan Abhiyan Enrols 1 Crore Rural Citizens for Digital Payments

Helical IT Solutions to Raise $2 Million in Second Round of Investment

 

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AZERBAIJAN: State Social Protection Fund’s Budget for 2017 Approved

Banks in Azerbaijan to Issue Loans in Non-cash Form

Customs Revenues of Azerbaijani State Budget Up

KAZAKHSTAN: Inflation Hits 8.5% in 2016

UZBEKISTAN: Government to Channel 84.8 Billion Soums Towards Modernization of Outdoor Lighting Systems

Tax on Property of Individuals Go Up from January 1

 

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AUSTRALIA: Share Market’s Highest Close in 20 Months

Social Media Campaign Reveals Misery of Centrelink Debt Recovery

Shares to Rise on Open, Dollar Flat

FIJI: $11b Total Investment

2016 Share Trading Drops

RBF Records $718.8m Increase in Fiji's Exports

NEW ZEALAND: Top Tax Tips for the Year Ahead

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Early Movers: MYL, LMT, GD, GPOR, AMZN, WMT, PBR & More

From Samsung to Apple: The 2016 Year in Review in Tech

Too Old? Not a Tech Geek? The ICT Sector Welcomes You

Collaboration in a World Where Everything Is Connected

New World Bank Tool Helps Map Solar Potential

 

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CHINA: Service Sector's Opening-up Critical to Sustainable Growth in China - Scholar

Huawei Ushers in Era of Intelligent Phone - Business Head

JAPAN: Firms Focus on IoT Expansion in China

SOUTH KOREA: SK Telecom Pledges to Lead Industry 4.0

KT Targets Small Businesses with Budget Network Security Device

KOICA to Expand Collaboration with Private Sector to Boost ODA Financing

 

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MYANMAR: Grants 4th Telecommunication Operator

THAILAND: Employers Now Required to Pay Compensation to Retiring Staff

Importance of Fintech and IoT to Grow Further in 2017

Ministry to Encourage Farmers to Grow Herbs

VIETNAM: PM Emphasises Key Role of EVN in National Grid

Samsung to Invest Additional 2.5 Bln USD in Northern Vietnam

Hi-Tech Agriculture Rides Strong Wave of Domestic Investment

Railway Sector Asked to Develop Sustainably in 2017

SMEs Urged to Build Brands

 

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INDIA: Larsen & Toubro Set to Convert Pune into Smart City, Gets Letter of Intent

Google's Pichai Offers Internet Training for Small Indian Companies

Google's Sundar Pichai Launches 'Digital Unlocked' for Small Indian Firms

Samsung Sets Up "Smart Class" in 373 Navodaya Schools

250 Indian IT Firms to Showcase Products at Hyderabad Event

Amazon India to Empower Tribal Entrepreneurs in Gujarat

3 Companies That Rely Heavily on Mobile Apps

Microsoft Acquires Simplygon to Boost 3D Innovation

PAKISTAN: Alibaba Group Eyes e-Commerce Platform

 

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AZERBAIJAN: To Put 95 State Properties for Privatization

Bakcell Announces the New Positioning Called “See What Is Possible”

Azerbaijan to Put 71 State Properties for Privatization

KAZAKHSTAN: 140,000 People Legalize Hidden Property

UZBEKISTAN: More Than 2 Trillion Soums Utilized Within Financial Improvement of Enterprises

 

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AUSTRALIA: Materials Sector Boosts Share Market

FIJI: Mixed Performance in Various Sectors

NEW ZEALAND: National Instruments Industrial LoT Lab Unites Rivals

Apple Must Face Claims of Monopoly in IPhone App Market

NZ Superfund Invests in Companies That Profit from Coal

 

 

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2017 May Be the ‘Biggest Year for Political Risk Since the End of World War II’: Expert

 

Brexit. The U.S. Election. Italy's Referendum. Politics shook up markets and the world in 2016. However one expert suggests how the political risk factor could escalate even further in 2017. "I think that this year is probably the biggest year for political risk since the end of the World War II," Brian Klaas, fellow in Comparative Politics at London School of Economics, told CNBC Wednesday. "I think because there are so many moving parts at once, that it's going to be very difficult to control them." Even though they happened in 2016, events like Brexit and the U.S. Election could trigger more questions and uncertainties for the world going in to 2017. Not only are leaders and investors waiting to see what kind of "Brexit" the U.K. will get in its negotiations with the rest of the European Union and the outcome of several key elections in 2017; but the world is in limbo over what will happen when Donald Trump takes to the White House.

 

"You're going to have probably unrest in the U.S. – people are not just going to roll over and accept some of the changes that are occurring. You're having a president who is extremely willing and I would say reckless at poking a sleeping dragon in China, on the global stage," said Klaas. Expanding upon the U.S.' relations with other countries, Klaas went on to add that a global re-balancing of power that involves Russia and the U.S. becoming a lot friendlier, could create "so much volatility and change in the rest of the world, that it would actually potentially become extremely disruptive and create risks elsewhere that were not anticipated."

 

Markets response to political change

Despite 2016's turbulence, the markets rallied on the prospect that Trump would boost inflation and help support the U.S. economy – even though a win by Hillary Clinton was initially priced in. "I think since the Trump election, what we've had is an increasing tendency by the market to price in all the positives and completely discard any potential negatives that come along with a Trump presidency," Vasileios Gkionakis, head of global FX strategy at UniCredit, told CNBC Wednesday. "My view on Trump is basically there are a lot of unknown unknowns for the Trump presidency, but I may be wrong about this thing, and it could turn out to be something fantastically good for the U.S.," said Gkionakis, adding that the market had not "stopped to take a breather" and reassess the chance that something may go wrong. While politics are expected to be part of the overall market picture in 2017, Michael Livijn, chief investment strategist at Nordea, told CNBC via email that long-term risk premiums were determined more by factors such as economic growth, company profits, valuation and yield levels.

 

"True, politics is part of picture, but in the case of 2016, I think that in relation to miles written about the U.K. referendum, and especially the U.S. election, real impact was less than the height of the headlines. It took the markets three days to shake off Brexit, three hours to shake off Trump and three minutes to dismiss the Italian referendum," Livijn added. "Since the focus is so great on politics at the moment, I for one think that focus will continue during this year, especially in Europe. But again, how much is "noise" and how much is real impact?" "In that sense, perhaps part of the risk is that markets are too focused on politics, and decides that an outcome in some political event is bad, and we get a sell-off. Question then is if it was the political event or markets themselves that caused the correction?"

 

As investors prepare for another year, Nordea's Livijn said that investors should start the year with an overview of their portfolio, to ensure that it's consistent with their strategic allocation. "When that is done, go out and face the new year. It will be a year of political events, but also a year filled with economic data, reporting seasons, central bank meetings, yields fluctuating and numerous things we haven't even thought of! Those short-term drivers, and how you interpret them, will guide your tactical allocation (if you have one)."

From http://www.cnbc.com/ 01/04/2017

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India, Indonesia and Thailand to outperform Asia in 2017

 

When it comes to Asia's growth outlook, the south still reigns supreme. India, Indonesia and Thailand are seen as the region's best performers of 2017 thanks to healthy fundamentals, economists told CNBC. An external backdrop of tighter monetary policy in the United States—the Federal Reserve is expected to hike interest rates three times this year—and slowing global trade in anticipation of a protectionist stance from Washington also works in the favor of these three nations. "Export-dependent economies such as Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and even China are unlikely to see a rebound this year. Our advice is to look at locally-driven economies like India and Indonesia, where debt levels are relatively low, there's positive credit impulse and strong domestic consumption," said Frederic Neumann, managing director and co-head of Asian economics research at HSBC. While the bank retains a cautious view on Asia's overall outlook, warning that regional growth will likely to slow at the margin in 2017 rather than accelerate, these three countries are still seen as a bright spot.

 

Thailand's benchmark SET index was Asia's second-best performer last year, up 20 percent, boosted by the recovery in oil prices since 35 percent of the stock market is leveraged towards oil, pointed out Kelvin Tay, regional chief investment officer for southern APAC at UBS. Investors were also relieved that Thailand's monarchy succession ended up being a benign and steady process, noted Vishnu Varathan, senior economist at Mizuho Bank. In October, fears were widespread that the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and subsequent mourning period would result in a power struggle and spark both economic and political damage. Meanwhile, the Indian and Indonesian currencies, which suffered wild swings against the greenback in 2013 when the U.S. central bank first indicated it would hike rates, are now predicted to be relatively stable even as the Fed tightens its taps. Neither the rupiah or the rupee will see a re-run of 2013's taper tantrums this year, predicted Neumann.

 

Game-changing tax reforms in both countries also made both nations a favorite among investors. Indonesian President Joko Widodo launched a tax amnesty program in July last year that collected around $7.7 billion in government revenue as of Dec. 20, a major coup for the leader's plans to ramp up infrastructure spending. Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's demonetization program that began in November is also aimed at widening state coffers and promoting digital payments. Wellian Wiranto, economist at OCBC, was particularly bullish on Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest economy. "Its domestic consumption serves as an important buffer [to external risks]. While its relatively shallow financial markets mean that it remains a hostage to global capital flows volatility, policymakers have exhibited commendable finesse in preserving currency stability without resorting to measures that might spook markets." Furthermore, investment growth, a key indicator of economic health, is set to tick up to 5.6 percent this year, from 4.5 percent in 2016, according to DBS. Ultimately, the biggest factor that could weigh on Asia's outlook is how Chinese demand holds up, warned Varathan.

From http://www.cnbc.com/ 01/03/2017

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CHINA: New Rules on Cash Transactions Not Capital Control - Expert

 

China's new rules on cash transactions and overseas transfers are not capital control, an economist with the central bank said, dismissing concerns about tightening restrictions on capital outflows. Banks will be required to report all yuan-denominated cash transactions exceeding 50,000 yuan (around 7,100 U.S. dollars) to the People's Bank of China (PBOC), down from the current level of 200,000 yuan, said a document released by the central bank on Friday. Cross-border transfers more than 200,000 yuan by individuals will also be subject to the report process. In terms of foreign currencies, the report threshold remains at the equivalent of 10,000 U.S. dollars for both cash transactions and overseas transfers. The policy stoked worries that the government is trying to impose capital control in a disguised form. "It is not capital control at all," central bank economist Ma Jun said.

 

Ma explained that the responsibility of report will be assumed by financial institutions, and there will be neither extra documentation nor official approval procedures for businesses and individuals. "They will not feel any change," Ma added. The current each person's annual foreign exchange purchase quota of 50,000 U.S. dollars is unchanged, and normal activities, ranging from business investment and operation abroad to individuals' overseas trips and study, will not be affected, Ma said. The PBOC has said the move aims to improve monitoring of money laundering, financing for terrorists, graft and tax fraud, instead of targeting common business activities. In fact, world's major countries also have similar rules, Ma said, citing that transactions worth 10,000 U.S. dollars or more are subject to reporting in the United States, Canada and Australia. Regulators in those countries can even adopt stricter rules if necessary after obtaining legal authorization, Ma said.

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/01/2017

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China to Move Closer to Centenary Goals in 2017

 

As 2017 begins, a significant year on China's political calendar, the world is watching closely on how China moves toward its two centenary goals. Although China's development is in a period of strategic opportunities, the world's second largest economy is facing complex external and internal environments. Externally, people are concerned with the sluggish recovery of the global economy, lack of growth momentum, weak trade and investment, and the backlash against globalization, not to mention terrorist attacks and the refugee crisis. Internally, China's decades-long reform drive is now in a deep-water zone where easier reforms have been accomplished and remaining reforms are hard nuts to crack. In the face of the need to rebalance the economy, China is tackling problems regarding reform, development and stability.

 

Yet despite these challenges, Chinese people are more confident than ever that the country will realize its two centenary goals, pegged to the 100th anniversaries of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the People's Republic of China. According to the twin goals, by 2020 China's GDP and per-capita income should double from 2010 levels, and the building of a moderately prosperous society should be complete. By the middle of this century, China should become a modern socialist country that is "prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious." The Chinese people's confidence comes from the firm leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core. The core leadership is of vital importance to the country and the Party.

 

Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the ruling party led by Xi has contributed new thoughts to state governance by drawing up a four-pronged comprehensive strategy of building an all-round moderately prosperous society, deepening reform, advancing rule of law, and strict Party governance. In the economic sphere, Xi has promised extensive supply-side structural reform, including reducing pollution and phasing out excess capacity. The country is seeking progress while maintaining stability and adapting to the new normal of economic development, by pursuing innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development. In addition, State Council agencies have canceled or delegated administrative approval power on 618 items, meeting targets ahead of schedule in a bid to cut red tape and streamline governance.

 

Breakthroughs have also been made in judicial reform, fiscal and tax reform, state-owned enterprise reform, and in the military where a tiered command system including the Central Military Commission and five theater commands - replacing the original seven military area commands - was installed as part of the reform of the military organization and a culmination of Xi's military thought. The results are encouraging. Today, China is one of the world's fastest growing major economies and a top trading body. It boasts a strong military of over 2 million people and is the biggest contributor to international peacekeeping personnel among permanent members of the UN Security Council. It had seen its rural population living in poverty decrease from 770 million to 55.75 million between 1978 and 2015. An additional 10 million were lifted out of poverty last year, and China is aiming to lift all out of poverty by 2020.

 

Never before have the Chinese people been so close to realizing their dreams. In the meantime, the ruling Party's battle against corruption has gained crushing momentum, netting both "tigers" and "flies." Among the tigers felled by the campaign were Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee; Bo Xilai, former Party chief of Chongqing Municipality; Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong, both former top generals and vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission; as well as Ling Jihua and Su Rong, former vice chairmen of China's top political advisory body. As Xi once said: "All people are equal before the law and regulations, and the enforcement of such rules allows no privilege or exception."

 

Domestic progress aside, China is also moving closer to the center of the world stage. China hosted the G20 Hangzhou Summit and Beijing APEC economic leaders' meeting, prescribing remedies for global economic governance. Pressing flesh and brokering deals, Xi's busy globetrotting, which has already taken him to 51 countries in 24 trips over about four years, has brought China closer to its neighbors and distant friends alike, setting a new global agenda for peace, progress, prosperity and stability. In particular, the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by the Chinese president has been participated in by more than 100 countries and international organizations, while the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, with 57 member states, has started operation.

 

Xi's vision and efforts toward a fairer global governance system and a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation, as well as his busy globetrotting have helped China create an open, inclusive and responsible image on the international stage. The 19th CPC National Congress will convene in 2017. Altogether, over 88 million Party members will choose 2,300 delegates who will assemble in Beijing's Great Hall of the People in the second half of this year and elect a new Central Committee. It is expected that by then the CPC will further elaborate on how to rule itself, how to lead the world's largest developing nation to lift more people out of poverty and advance key reforms, as well as how to build a community of shared destiny for all humankind. 

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/02/2017

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China Issues Five-year Plan on Saving Energy, Cutting Emissions

 

The State Council, China's cabinet, issued on Thursday a comprehensive plan on energy conservation and emission reductions for the 2016-2020 period. The plan listed 11 detailed measures to push forward China's energy-saving and emission-reduction work, including reducing the coal consumption rate, promoting energy consumption in key areas, intensifying pollutant emission control, developing the circular economy, improving technological support, increasing financial policy support and enhancing management. According to the plan, China's total energy consumption will be capped at 5 billion tonnes of coal equivalent by 2020. This will translate into a 15-percent reduction of energy use per unit of GDP by 2020.

 

China's GDP grew 6.7 percent in the first three quarters of 2016, on track to achieve the government's goal, but the country is also confronted by challenges, including environmental degradation. Nearly 62 percent of 338 Chinese cities monitored by the Ministry of Environmental Protection suffered from air pollution on Wednesday. Coal is the main energy source in China, accounting for 64 percent of total energy consumption in 2015. Many Chinese cities have suffered from frequent winter smog in recent years, triggering widespread public concern. Emissions from coal are cited as a cause of the high concentration of breathable toxic particulate matter, known as PM 2.5, which causes smog.  

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/05/2016

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China to Keep Monetary Policy Prudent, Neutral

 

China's monetary policy will be kept prudent and neutral in 2017, said a central bank statement issued Friday, echoing the tone set at the Central Economic Work Conference. In the statement issued after a work conference, the People's Bank of China also promised better adjustments of the monetary floodgates to ensure stable liquidity. Financial services should accommodate the need to advance supply-side structural reforms, while strengthening support for national strategies such as capacity cuts, industrial restructuring and Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Coordinated Development, the central bank said. The bank also said it would deepen financial system reforms, and improve policies and other conditions for the internationalization of the RMB while guarding against financial risks. China will continue reform of the foreign exchange management system, further participate in global financial governance, and improve financial services and management, according to the statement.  

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/06/2016

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China to Extend Family Doctor Services in 2017

 

China is planning to extend family doctor services to 30 percent of its urban population and 60 percent of priority groups in 2017, according a top health official. In 2006, 22.2 percent of citizens and 38.8 percent of priority groups enjoyed contractual services from family doctors in cities that piloted the program, said Li Bin, head of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, during a national health conference. Priority groups include seniors, pregnant women, children, the disabled, patients with chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and tuberculosis, as well as those with severe mental disorders. The program is key to establishing a tiered disease treatment system, which means different medical institutions receive different patients according to the severity of their illnesses, Li said. The official called for efforts to ensure more convenient health services for residents who have signed contracts with family doctors, including easier transfer of patients with more advanced conditions to major hospitals as well as raising reimbursement ratios for medical expenses. To attract more family doctors, the government will also adjust doctors' service fees, increase their income and provide more opportunities for their promotion and advancement, according to Li. Family doctors, including general practitioners registered with grassroots health institutions, qualified doctors at township clinics and village doctors, provide basic medical care and other health services.

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/07/2016

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China Eyes Boosting Legal Service for Going-global Initiatives

 

A government circular published on Monday called for better legal services for overseas projects and those "going-global." By 2020, there should be a team of legal personnel in China with knowledge of international rules and a number of quality legal institutions, the circular proposed. The circular was jointly issued by the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Commerce, Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council. Against the backdrop of major national development strategies such as the Belt and Road Initiative, overseas legal service providers should help guard against investment risks in transportation, energy, communication and other infrastructure projects. Overseas legal service providers should help Chinese enterprises doing business in global markets with due diligence, risk evaluation, prevention and control, as well as defending their rights and interests. Overseas legal service providers also have roles to play in cross-border crime, narcotics, money laundering, anti-corruption and anti-terror operations.

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/09/2017

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China's Local Governments Set Poverty Reduction Goals

 

Several Chinese provinces have rolled out goals for poverty reduction at the ongoing local "two sessions" -- the plenary meetings of provincial lawmakers and political advisors. Central China's Hunan Province has made poverty alleviation a priority on the government agenda, vowing to lift 1.1 million people, 10 counties and 2,500 villages out of poverty in the new year. The provincial government said it earmarked nearly 6 billion yuan (870 million U.S. dollars) to help 1.25 million people shake off poverty last year. Henan, one of China's most populous provinces, plans to lift about 1 million rural residents out of poverty in 2017. The provincial government aims to eradicate poverty in the province by 2019. Over 5 million people lived below the poverty line at the end of 2014, about 3.5 million of whom had already been lifted out of poverty over the past three years. East China's Shandong Province also promised to eradicate poverty for about 2.42 million people by 2018. Last year, 1.2 million people in the province emerged from poverty.

 

Yin Li, governor of Sichuan Province in southwest China, said 1.07 million people were lifted out of poverty last year, and another 1.05 million will be in 2017. Yunnan Province has also planned to eradicate poverty for 1 million people in 2017. Northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region said 200,000 people will be aided to shake off poverty in the new year, in addition to another 210,000 people who were lifted out of poverty last year. Currently about 590,000 people live in poverty in the region, according to the regional government. China has aimed to eradicate rural poverty by 2020, lifting its remaining 55 million rural poor people out of poverty. The country's poverty line is 2,300 yuan in annual income. In order to win the war against poverty, local governments have adopted means such as e-commerce, financing, industry, relocation and improvement of infrastructure. The country expects to achieve its 2016 target of lifting 10 million people out of poverty and has set the same target for the new year.  

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/16/2016

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Chinese Premier Stresses Renovation of Rundown Areas in 2017

 

Premier Li Keqiang has called for more efforts to expedite the renovation of rundown urban areas and dilapidated houses in 2017, a State Council statement said Monday. This year, China will start renovating 6 million substandard homes, the same as the target set for 2016, according to Li, who stressed that the work should be initiated as soon as possible. Renovation of rundown areas will provide low-income urban residents with affordable housing. The country spent 1.48 trillion yuan (around 210 billion U.S. dollars) on rebuilding dilapidated homes last year. The premier promised more financial support, saying the government would strive to improve the quality and safety of the buildings, and ensure construction of supporting facilities. Compared with 2016, faster progress must be made in meeting the 2017 target for renovating rundown areas, Chen Zhenggao, minister of housing and urban-rural development, said Monday at a meeting. "The target should be met in advance, and no delay will be accepted," Chen said. He also said the renovation efforts should be in line with city planning and meet the requirements of environmental recovery and city repairing projects. Chen added that all bank loans for the renovation were repaid on time in 2016.  

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/16/2016

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China Plans to Develop Powerful Exascale Computer

 

China is planning to develop a prototype of an exascale computer, considered the next frontier of supercomputers, by the end of 2017, according to a developer Tuesday. "A complete computing system of the exascale supercomputer and its applications can only be expected in 2020, and will be 200 times more powerful than the country's first petaflop computer Tianhe-1, recognized as the world's fastest in 2010," said Zhang Ting, application engineer with the Tianjin-based National Supercomputer Center, when attending the sixth session of the 16th Tianjin Municipal People's Congress Tuesday. Exascale computers are capable of at least 1 quintillion (a billion billion) calculations per second. Zhang said that using the exascale computer for cloud computing and big data applications, China could spur ahead with many key innovation and high-tech programs. In June 2016, China revealed its fastest new supercomputer -- the Sunway TaihuLight -- with a peak performance of 124.5 petaflops, the world's first system to exceed 100 petaflops. China has been steadily building its supercomputing capacity, and independently developed all key technology including microprocessors. Zhang said the next-generation exascale computer will not only lead in calculation speed, but also in data transmission efficiency.  

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/17/2017

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China to Build More Welfare Facilities During 2016-2020

 

China will build more welfare facilities to provide care services for juveniles in need, including "left behind" children, the top economic planner said on Tuesday. The term "left-behind" describes rural children whose parents are away from home, usually working in the cities, left in the care of grandparents, other relatives or neighbors. China has 9 million left-behind children, mostly in underdeveloped central and western regions, according to a government census conducted last year. In the next five years, more child care facilities will be established in areas with populations over 500,000, according to the 2016-2020 plan on improving social welfare released by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). The plan said these welfare facilities will provide temporary guardianship for "left behind" children and children in trouble. 

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/17/2017

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China to Seek Progress While Maintaining Stability: Premier

 

China will maintain the basic tone of seeking progress while maintaining stability this year, said Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday. Addressing a plenary meeting of the State Council, which discussed a draft version of the government work report, Li said emphasis should be put on raising the quality and benefits of development and making supply-side structural reform the central theme. Li said the upgrading of the real economy should be promoted, and there should be no let up when improving people's well-being. The draft version of the government work report, which will be delivered at the National People's Congress in March, will be distributed to government departments and local governments to solicit opinions, according to a decision made on Wednesday. More opinions could help improve the government work, Li said. Li urged government departments and local governments to implement the key tasks in the first quarter to lay a solid foundation for the whole year's growth. More should be done to follow emerging changes in economic development and take targeted and effective measures accordingly, Li said. He also urged further deepening reforms to release market vitality and responding to social concerns more timely to ensure stable economic growth. On Monday, Li chaired a seminar to solicit opinions from representatives from the education, science and technology, culture, health, and sports sectors and members of the public on the draft government work report.

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/18/2017

 

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China to Take Proactive Employment Policies

 

China will take proactive employment policies from now to 2020 to create more jobs and support economic growth, the country's cabinet, the State Council said Wednesday. Employment is the top concern for livelihood and the fundamental support for economic growth, said a statement released after a State Council executive meeting presided over by Premier Li Keqiang, which passed the 13th Five-Year Plan for promoting employment. The government will offer more jobs by developing sectors such as advanced manufacturing, modern logistics, healthcare and elderly care and encourage labor-intensive companies to move to central and western regions and the northeastern area where jobs are needed, the statement said.

 

China will also continue to promote entrepreneurship to create more jobs, especially businesses related with the sharing economy. The government will reduce barriers to market entry and offer more supportive policies to encourage technical talents and migrant workers to set up their own businesses, the statement said. For those who have difficulty finding jobs, the government will offer public welfare positions and other support; for those laid off by overcapacity cut drive, more training will be taken to help them find new jobs. China also encourages enterprises to be more active in creating employment-facilitating information platforms and taking more professional training to help improve the efficiency and quality of the human resource market, according to the statement.

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/18/2017

 

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JAPAN: Lawmakers Plan Bill to Ensure Visitation Rights After Divorce

 

A multiparty group of legislators is preparing to submit a bill to ensure that children can continue seeing both parents in the event of their divorce. In Japan, divorce often means a child losing contact with one parent, the father in many cases, along with that parent’s relatives, because there is no joint custody under the law. Whether or not to allow the parent who does not live with the child to see the child, and how often, is basically up to the parent who retains custody. While the lawmakers’ move is a boon to civic groups such as The Parents and Children’s Network, consisting of parents and grandparents who cannot see their children and grandchildren after divorce of the children’s parents, the bill faces opposition from different civic groups—those helping women and children victimized by domestic violence. “If the bill makes it a prescribed course for children to see (the parent who does not have custody), it will hamper the recovery from damage caused to their bodies and minds, and risk their safety,” said Keiko Kondo, an executive member of one such group called Zenkoku Josei Shelter Net (nationwide network of shelters for women). Even if children were not directly victimized by physical violence, they can suffer indirectly by seeing the violence one parent has used on the other, and hearing verbal abuse, Kondo said.

 

For children who took refuge at a shelter with one of their parents victimized by domestic violence, seeing the other parent often takes a toll on their mental and physical health, with some of them becoming self-injurious or suffering insomnia, she said. The groups helping victims of domestic violence are also concerned that abusive parents, when seeing their children, might ask them the names of their daycare centers to find out where they live, and try to forcibly take them back. The women’s groups have held rallies inside the National Diet Building to lobby against the bill, which would require divorcing parents to agree in writing on visitation and child support payment. The prospective legislation would have spared a 41-year-old woman, who is a company board member, from being unable to see her daughter for three and a half years after her husband forcibly took the now 7-year-old girl and left the house with her in 2012. She said she asked a family court immediately to grant her visitation rights, but her husband prolonged the court procedures by saying he was too busy. The woman can now see her daughter periodically, but said, “I feel sad that I could not see my daughter grow during those years when court hearings were prolonged.”

 

Noboru Sasaki, leader of The Parents and Children’s Network, said it is “unreasonable that the separation of a husband and his wife entails the separation of a child and parent.” The prospective legislation “should stipulate standards for visitations so children can promptly receive the love of both parents” after divorce, he said. Sasaki’s group has been campaigning for the realization of joint custody in Japan. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry estimates the number of marriages at 635,000 and that of divorces at 225,000 in 2015. With divorce no longer a rarity in Japan, family courts have been handling an increasing number of disputes over custody and visitation. The lawmakers said their bill will include a clause that says “special consideration” must be given if domestic violence has been confirmed, such as preventing the abusive parents from seeing their children. Weeds, a civic group based in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, promotes visitation after divorce. Its leader Akira Haga said he hopes politicians make a decision on the issue by “giving top priority to how children will feel.” The planned bill is tentatively called “a bill to prevent severance of ties between children and their parents.”

From https://www.japantoday.com 12/23/2016

 

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Abe to Keep Putting Highest Priority on Economy in 2017

 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday he will continue to place his highest priority on the economy this year, aiming to pull Japan out of the deflation that has dominated the country’s economic narrative for the past two decades. “Our top economic policy is the swift enactment of the budget for the next fiscal year,” Abe said at a New Year press conference in Ise in Mie Prefecture, central Japan, after visiting the Ise Grand Shrine in the city earlier in the day. “Our mission is to solidly grow the economy while advancing ‘Abenomics,’” he said, referring to his administration’s economic policy package of aggressive monetary easing, massive government spending and structural reforms. Abe said the next ordinary Diet session will convene Jan. 20 and will be aimed at “opening up (Japan’s) future.” The prime minister said he is “not thinking at all of dissolving” the House of Representatives for an election, which he has the discretion to do at any time. Abe also said his administration will proceed with “new nation-building” in 2017 as Japan marks the 70th anniversary of its post-World War II Constitution, a document he has long sought to revise.

 

“Now is the time to look to the future, in anticipation of the next 70 years, and proceed with new nation-building,” Abe said. “We, who are living today, must learn from our predecessors of 70 years ago who built postwar (Japan), face our challenges head-on and fulfill our responsibilities for the future,” he said. Revising the war-renouncing Constitution, which was introduced while Japan was still under postwar occupation by the United States and has remained unaltered since, has been a long-standing goal both of Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party he leads. Gains by the LDP and like-minded lawmakers in last year’s upper house election pushed them past a legal hurdle required to formally consider a constitutional amendment. Hinting at a more self-reliant Japan, Abe said, “Our future is not something we are given by (other) people.” “We, the Japanese people, will carve it out with our own hands—now is the time when the grit (to do so) is needed,” he said. With a government panel continuing to debate possible responses to Emperor Akihito’s apparent wish to abdicate, Abe reiterated that the issue is “an extremely serious matter and must not be turned into political fodder.”

 

Noting that 2017 is the Year of the Rooster in the Chinese zodiac, Abe said he will continue to advance “proactive diplomacy, looking across the globe with a bird’s-eye view, this year.” Last month, Abe hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin for a summit in Japan. Sources have said Abe and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump may be planning a meeting in the United States at the end of this month, shortly after Trump’s inauguration. Japan’s largest opposition party also kicked off the year in Ise on Wednesday. Democratic Party leader Renho, who visited the Shinto shrine ahead of Abe, said she wants the party to emphasize its points of difference with the Abe administration this year. “Our views will differ greatly from Prime Minister Abe’s this year, too, and I want the public to see that,” Renho said. The Democratic Party and smaller opposition parties—the Japanese Communist Party, Liberal Party and Social Democratic Party—are expected to begin discussions before the end of the month to narrow down candidates and work out common policies eyeing the next lower house election, the timing of which is up to Abe alone.

 

“There could well be a dissolution of the lower house and a general election this year, (so) we’ll maintain and enhance our preparations for battle,” Democratic Party Secretary General Yoshihiko Noda said at his party’s New Year ceremony. Meanwhile in Okinawa Prefecture, which hosts much of the U.S. military presence in Japan, the governor vowed to continue a standoff with the central government over the relocation of a U.S. air base within the island prefecture. Making his first comments of the year Wednesday, Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga pledged to “use every possible method available to the prefecture” to prevent the plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, currently in the middle of a crowded residential area of Ginowan, to the less populated Henoko seaside area of Nago. The central government resumed stalled construction work at the Henoko site late last month after the Supreme Court ruled against Onaga’s move in October 2015 to block the land reclamation, which had been approved by his predecessor prior to his election in 2014.

From https://www.japantoday.com 01/05/2017

 

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Abe Urges Business Leaders to Address Working Hours, Equality Issues in 2017

 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged business leaders Thursday to push for fundamental reform of working conditions to limit long working hours and promote equal treatment of workers regardless of their employment status. “This year will be the year to implement bold working style reforms,” Abe said at a New Year’s celebration in Tokyo organized by three major Japanese business lobbies. “I request all of you to take the initiative and change working culture.” The government is seeking ways to curb excessive working hours following the suicide of a 24-year-old employee of advertising giant Dentsu Inc. due to overwork in December 2015, which began to draw public attention in the fall of 2016 and sparked criticism of illegally long working hours. Last month, the government drafted guidelines for a system of “equal pay for equal work” regardless of work status, stipulating that firms provide equal payment to nonregular employees for work equivalent to that of regular employees. Abe asked business leaders to raise wages this year to help the country’s economy escape from chronic deflation and “build a strong nation.” He also told the business leaders that Japan is expected to remain a “stabilizing force” globally amid rising uncertainty over the economic outlook with “many new world leaders coming in this year.”

 

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will take office later this month. The Republican said throughout his campaign that he would focus on putting “America First,” fueling concern that the world’s largest economy could shift to isolationist and protectionist trade policies. Trump has also vowed to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact, a U.S.-led free trade deal that Japan, the United States and 10 other Pacific Rim nations signed last year, on his first day in office. Sadayuki Sakakibara, chairman of the Japan Business Federation, known as Keidanren, said at a news conference following the celebration that he will work to reform working conditions alongside the government. “Limiting long hours and achieving equal treatment of regular and nonregular workers are the two pillars (of the Abe administration) and the key issues for the business community,” Sakakibara said. Calling the Dentsu case “a tragedy,” the chairman said that death from overwork should never happen again and asked executives to change their mentality and be determined to “eradicate punishing work hours.” Other corporate executives also expressed willingness to redress long working hours and change the country’s severe work ethics. The celebration attended by Abe was organized by the Japan Business Federation, the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Japan Association of Corporate Executives.

From http://www.japantimes.co.jp 01/05/2017

 

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Gov't Plans to Submit Conspiracy Bill in Upcoming Diet Session

 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a meeting of senior members of the ruling coalition Thursday that the government plans to submit to the Diet a bill aimed at punishing those who abet terrorism, an initiative that has previously drawn criticism as a potential vehicle for human rights violations. Several bills proposing the addition of a conspiracy charge to the existing law on organized crime have floundered in the past, amid concerns the change could encourage more invasive state surveillance and allow investigators to arbitrarily punish people who have not committed any crime. Abe said the government plans to submit the bill in the next ordinary Diet session to be convened Jan 20, according to an attendee at Thursday’s meeting between senior government officials and members of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito. The bill would aim to enhance Japan’s ability to ward off terrorism connected to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said. Under current Japanese law, people can be charged for inducing another person to commit a crime, or inducing someone to induce a third party to commit a crime.

 

The conspiracy charge proposed in the previously scrapped bills would punish those connected with the planning of serious crimes, even if they are not directly involved in the crimes’ commission. The Justice Ministry has held that such a change would better protect the public from serious crimes, while legal advocacy groups have said a change is unnecessary and could be used to crack down on civic groups. The government may try a new approach in the wording of the bill to address such concerns. “With (the Olympics and Paralympics) now just three years away, we must take every measure to prevent organized crime, including terrorism, in advance,” Suga said at a press conference. “We’re making final arrangements reflecting the opinions that have previously come up in the Diet,” the top government spokesman said. The government views the introduction of such legislation as a prerequisite for Japan to ratify the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, adopted in 2000. Suga pointed out that Japan is among a small minority of U.N. members—and the only member of the Group of Seven industrialized countries—yet to have done so.

From https://www.japantoday.com 01/06/2017

 

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Govt to Submit Bill on Gambling Addiction

 

The government is considering submitting a bill to the Diet early this year to introduce a basic law on gambling addiction prevention, according to sources. The law is expected to require gambling service operators, including municipal governments, to craft basic plans for toughening gambling regulations, the sources said. The move comes as a law that encourages the central government to lift a ban on casinos in the country went into force on Dec. 26. The planned law will cover not only casinos but also existing gambling services including pachinko and horse racing, the sources said. The central government aims to ease public anxiety about casinos and other gambling services by promoting addiction prevention measures comprehensively. It is expected to submit the bill to the ordinary Diet session scheduled to open on Jan. 20, the sources said. The government plans to draw up guidelines that gambling service operators can use to consider tougher restrictions. Possible measures include banning access to gambling venues by suspected addicts at the request of their families and restricting online purchases of horse betting tickets. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party, its coalition partner, Komeito, the largest opposition Democratic Party and other parties are also considering addiction prevention measures, respectively.

From http://the-japan-news.com 01/09/2017

 

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SOUTH KOREA: New Policies for 2017

 

Increased wages during maternity. Increased childcare. Extended applications for retirement at the age of 60. These are only some of the new policies that the government plans to enact in 2017. Let's find out what new policies and systems are scheduled to be put into action this year. Welfare policies will be some of the most noticeable ones. The government will increase wages for workers who use their maternity leave or who leave work due to miscarriages or stillbirths. It will be increased to KRW 1.5 million per month, from the existing limit of KRW 1.35 million. There will also be an increased subsidy of KRW 300,000 per person, from the current level of KRW 200,000, for small- and medium-sized firms that are categorized into a subsidy priority group when the firm grants childcare leave to its employees. Healthcare benefits will be extended to pregnant women and to those who gives birth to premature babies or to low–birth-weight babies. Also starting this year, when a pregnant woman receives medical treatment as an outpatient, she will get a 20 percent reduction in costs.

When a woman gives birth to a premature or low-weight infant, she will only have to pay 10 percent of the total medical bills over the following three years after the birth of the baby. When an infant is born after spending less than 37 weeks in the womb, or weighing less than 2.5 kilograms, the baby is considered either premature or to be low- weight. In the past, the parent had to pay 70 percent of the total medical costs. For women who are pregnant with twins, the government will also provide a support voucher of KRW 900,000, increased from the prior KRW 700,000. The government will extend support to two working parent families and to families who are unable to look after their babies all the time, too, so that they can benefit from infant child care services. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family extended the age range for its full-day childcare program from 3-months-old toddlers to 36-month-olds this year, where the limit used to be at 24-month-old children.

The government will also increase child rearing support for single-parent households with a low-income, to KRW 120,000 from the prior KRW 100,000. The age limit of the child for this support will be extended to under 13-years-old, which used to be 12-years-old. Child rearing expenses for teenage parents who are aged under 24 will be also raised to KRW 170,000 per month, from the prior KRW 150,000. The government also expand the criteria for its annual "national basic livelihood security" support for a four-person household by 17 percent, to KRW 4.47 million from last year's KRW 4.29 million. It also extended the monthly income criteria for a four-member family entitled for livelihood wages to KRW 1.34 million from KRW 1.27 million. Starting this year, senior citizens who live alone or those with disabilities, with an acknowledged monthly income between KRW 1 million and KRW 1.19 million, are also entitled to basic pension benefits.

For businesses, the 60-year-old retirement system will be applied across a wider range. In the past, the system was applied to businesses with more than 300 workers and to public organizations. Starting this year, the retirement system will apply to all businesses with fewer than 300 staff, except for workers with their own fixed retirement age, such as police officers or firefighters, or employees who work under contract. Even if a business sets the retirement age limit below 60, despite the legal standard, the retirement age is still considered to be 60. In the real estate sector, electronic contracts will be widely used across the country to replace paper-based contracts. People will be able to make a contract on their smartphones or computers when they purchase, sell or lease a property. Regarding the educational sector, the government will broaden its educational credit system from overseas universities. When a Korean university runs a joint or double-degree program with an overseas university, its students used to have to earn more than half of their total academic credits in Korea in order to receive a degree from the Korean university. From 2017, however, this will be reduced to one quarter of it. Students will still be able to get a double-degree from both universities if they study at the non-Korean university for three years and for one year at the Korean institution.

In the road and transport sector, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will ban the driving of unsafe or dilapidated old cars. In the past, the ban was applied to only select areas, such as along the Olympic Expressway or the Gangbyeon Expressway. This ban will apply to diesel cars that are registered earlier than 2005 and which have either failed to pass an overall vehicle examination or which did not take the examination. If drivers do not abide by the ban, they will face a fine of KRW 200,000. Finally, as for food safety and the customer's right to know, the government will expand the range of genetically modified food (GMO) notifications on food products. From February 2017, items requiring GMO notification will be expanded to include products that contain GMO ingredients after manufacturing or processing. In the past, the notification system only applied to products that used GMO as one of the five main ingredients. More information about the new systems and policies for 2017 is available in the booklet published by the Ministry of Strategy and Finance on Dec. 27. The booklet introduces a total of 242 new policies by sector. It's also available online (
http://whatsnew.mosf.go.kr) via computer, smartphone or tablet.

From http://www.korea.net 01/02/2017

 

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Parliament Starts Debate on Constitutional Reform

 

The National Assembly on Thursday officially kicked off discussion on rewriting the Constitution, 30 years after its last major revision in 1987, amid rising calls to change the way the nation is governed. A special committee, consisting of 36 lawmakers from ruling and oppositions parties, held an inaugural meeting Thursday morning, vowing to heed the public call for political reform, following President Park Geun-hye’s scandal and ensuing impeachment. At the top of their agenda is the current single-term five-year presidency, viewed by many as the root cause of the failures of many South Korean presidents -- including Park -- as it allows them excessive power. “The Constitution was revised in 1987, reflecting citizen’s aspirations for democracy, and it has played a key role in promoting basic rights and overthrowing the authoritarianism,” Rep. Lee Joo-young of the ruling Saenuri Party, the committee’s chief, said at the meeting. “However, there is now the need for amendment, as society has changed rapidly over 30 years.”

Though several attempts at amendments were made after the ninth revision, there had been a failure to reach consensus among political parties. The committee plans to hold a public hearing on Jan. 19 at the National Assembly to gather opinions from the public.  Although many agree the Constitution needs amendments, lawmakers are divided over the details. The ruling conservative party supports quickly revising some clauses pertaining to key political systems, including the nation’s presidential election system, while opposition parties demand for a more fundamental overhaul. “It will not be easy to reach a conclusion if we decide to review the whole Constitution. We should concentrate on the political structure and carry out the upcoming election under a new Constitution,” Rep. Ahn Sang-soo of the ruling Saenuri Party said. Rep. Lee In-young from the liberal Democratic Party of Korea opposed this suggestion, saying the committee should seek for a comprehensive amendment of the Constitution to check agendas such as basic rights and the economy. 

The bipartisan committee members also had differing opinions on whether it should take place before or after this year’s presidential election as well. The upcoming presidential race is expected to be held earlier than the original schedule of December due to the impeachment of President Park. If the Constitutional Court finalizes her impeachment, the nation has to select a new leader within two months.  Among those supporting a later Constitutional revision is a strong presidential candidate from the main opposition Democratic Party -- Moon Jae-in, who came up with a road map Wednesday to rewrite the Constitution in 2018, after the president is elected. Moon came under fire after a report containing plans to stop the amendment spread Tuesday. The policy paper published by the Institute for Democracy, the party’s in-house think tank, said the party should stop the formation of a coalition with other opposition parties, as this might threaten the presidential candidacy of Moon, hinting at its support toward him. Moon, who currently tops presidential polls denied the connections, while other parties strongly condemned him for seemingly plotting an unfair primary.

From http://www.koreaherald.com 01/05/2016

 

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Gov’t to Focus on Job Creation, Livelihood Stabilization

 

This year, more than 60,000 jobs will be created in the public sector. In addition to this, a total of KRW 17 trillion will be injected into 12 selected new industries. Various measures will be introduced to enhance the convenience and safety of public transport, such as more non-stop KTX trains, and to help achieve exports worth over KRW 510 billion. These are part of a policy briefing given by five government ministries on the theme of “a strong economy,” at the Government Complex-Seoul on Jan. 5. The five participating government organizations were the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, the Financial Services Commission and the Fair Trade Commission. To boost employment, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance will execute its budget of KRW 17.1 trillion in a swift manner and recruit 20,000 new full-time employees at public organizations. Among the planned recruits, 55 percent of them -- some 11,100 jobs -- will be employed within the first half of 2017.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Strategy and Finance Yoo Il-ho said in the briefing that, “Quality jobs in the public sector will be open in the first half of the year in order to contribute to solving youth unemployment.” During the briefing session, measures were announced to improve the convenience and safety of public transport. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport will begin operating non-stop, premium KTX trains on the Seoul-Busan route from this June. The new non-stop high-speed train will travel between Seoul and Busan within 1 hour and 50 minutes, more than 30 minutes faster than existing trains. The ministry is considering both the KTX and the Super Raid Train (SRT), which travels between Suseo and Busan and Mokpo. The ministry plans to operate autonomous shuttle buses that can carry up to 12 passengers in Pangyo and other downtown areas in the second half of 2017, and in Pyeongchang during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. It will continue to develop new engines of economic growth based on state-of-the-art technology, such as "smart construction," the use of big data in the transport sector and "smart" railway systems.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced policies that concentrated on exports and measures designed to respond to the fourth industrial revolution. The trade ministry will introduce various measures to boost exports and to achieve its export goal of selling KRW 510 billion overseas this year. To this aim, it will concentrate on supporting 80 selected firms that produce consumer goods and which have regular sales worth more than USD 0.1 billion a year, in order to help turn them into leading brands. The ministry will also focus on developing 12 selected new industries. The 12 new industries are: the Internet-of-Things-based home appliances; electric autonomous vehicles; robots; drones; biotechnology and healthcare; premium consumer gods; high-tech new materials; virtual reality (VR); augmented reality (AR); next-generation semiconductors; next-generation displays; and energy. Both the government and the private sector will inject KRW 17 trillion to ease regulations, establish platforms for conversion among sectors, and to create and strengthen the market in the early stages.

The ministry will expand investment to KRW 3.7 trillion in the research and development of new industries, up KRW 0.4 trillion from that of last year. It will also build 5,000 more "smart factories," of which currently there are 2,800. Among them, 500 plants will be built as clean energy smart plants that are equipped with Energy Storage Systems and Energy Management Systems. The Financial Services Commission will test operate the so-called “bio-pay system” within the first half of this year. The system is based on biological information, such as the veins on the palms of your hands and the iris. If the system is introduced, users can purchase things by touching their palms or having their iris scanned, without having to pay by cash or card. Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn urged the ministries in the briefing session to “put priority on job creation and actively support companies through tax support so that they can make more jobs.” He also emphasized the importance of deregulation, saying that, “Improving the investment environment based on deregulation can be a shortcut to creating more jobs. I hope the government ministries can make bold moves to advance regulations by reviewing all existing regulations in general.”

From http://www.korea.net 01/06/2017

 

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Acting President Calls for Enhanced Public Safety, Rule of Law

 

Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn on Wednesday called for continued efforts to enhance public safety and the rule of law at a time of national crisis in the wake of the impeachment of the president. During the New Year's policy briefing from seven government ministries and agencies, including the justice ministry, Hwang also stressed the need to stamp out "structural and chronic" corruption, voicing hopes that a new anti-graft law, effectuated last year, would be well enforced. "To establish the rule of law and public safety is not only the most fundamental factor in protecting citizens' lives and property, but also helps revitalize the economy by facilitating economic transactions and foreign investment," he said. The acting president also urged top officials to spare no efforts to "protect the basic order of liberal democracy and fundamentally block forces denying constitutional values and national security."

 

He was apparently referring to those, including North Korea sympathizers, who have been criticized for sowing division among South Koreans and undermining democratic values and institutions in the ideologically divided country. Touching on anti-government protests, Hwang instructed officials to ensure the "maximum" freedom of assembly, but stick to the principle of sternly dealing with any illegal, violent rallies. Over more than two months, hundreds of thousands of South Koreans have staged peaceful rallies every weekend across the country, calling for President Park Geun-hye to immediately step down over a corruption scandal. "It is very important to make sure that the rule of law and common sense -- rather than the logic of force or (selfish) interests -- take firm root in our society," Hwang said. On the issue of growing terror threats, Hwang ordered a meticulous review of the country's response system to ward off any attacks. Hwang, in addition, directed officials to strive harder to strengthen the country's capacity to deal with natural disasters, including earthquakes and their possible impact on nuclear reactors.

From http://www.koreaherald.com 01/11/2017

 

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CAMBODIA: Launching Action Plan to Eliminate Worst Forms of Child Labor by 2025

 

Cambodia on Thursday launched a multimillion-U.S.-dollar action plan to eliminate the worst forms of child labor by 2025, labor minister Ith Samheng said. The worst forms of child labor include working in hazardous environment such as in salt fields, brick factories, construction, agriculture and fishing sector. According to a government's child labor survey in 2013, some 429,380 Cambodian children, aged below 15 years old, involved in child labor and about 236,498 of them were in the worst forms of child labor. Ith Samheng said the government considered the elimination of child labor as a priority task and called on enterprises not to employ child labor. "The launching of the national plan of action on the elimination of the worst forms of child labor clearly reflects the government's high commitment in protecting children," he said during the launching ceremony. "The plan of action is a roadmap for the stakeholders to work together toward eliminating the worst forms of child labor by 2025," the minister added.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 12/29/2016

 

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MYANMAR: Taking Measures to Ensure Sufficient Power Supply by Summer

 

Myanmar authorities are taking measures to ensure sufficient power supply to Yangon region in the coming summer season with full voltage and un-interrupted power supply, the official Global New Light of Myanmar reported Thursday. A 300-megawatt power station is being built in Serikkyi Khanaungto township in the region and a power station vessel capable of generating 300 megawatts will be docked at Thilawa Terminal to supply electricity to the region, Daw Nilar Kyaw, Yangon Region Minister of Electric Power, Industry and Road Transportation was quoted as saying. Being a commercial hub of the country, electricity consumption in the region is increasing year by year. She called for efficient distribution of power, saying that the region faces 13.5 percent loss along its power grids. Charges for electricity in the region are so cheap that the ministry faced loss of 470 billion kyats (361.53 million U.S. dollars) each year, she said, adding that with the new power generating facilities, the ministry will suffer a loss of 900 billion kyats this year. According to the minister, Myanmar is also drafting a master plan to establish special economic zones, a seaport and a new international airport in the southern district of Yangon region and the master plan is being worked out with international organizations and experts to be submitted to the parliament in next March. Yangon region has a population of over 6 million.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 12/29/2016

 

 

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Myanmar Legislators to Meet on Telecommunications Law

 

MYANMAR’S PARLIAMENT is expected to discuss Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law on January 30, chairman Zaw Min of the Upper House’s bill committee said. on Monday. “Laws are important. This time it’s interesting as the section was suggested for discussion by the Commission for the Assessment of Legal Affairs and Special Issues to discuss,” Zaw Min said on Monday. “It’s likely to be discussed at the Parliament this time.” The Telecommunications Law has been criticised for infringing freedom of expression on social media outlets, following defamation lawsuits against bloggers, journalists and politicians under the section. The Upper House has about 15 bills remaining to be discussed; it has already discussed 33 bills. Out these, 16 have been signed and approved by the president. “They include a gems law. It has attracted a lot of attention. The country also needs it. Meetings were already made for the law. Section 66(d) is also important,” he said. The fourth regular session of the second union, lower house and upper house parliaments will resume on January 30. According to MPs, the coming parliamentary session will mainly focus on the National Planning Bill, Union Taxation Bill and Union Budget Bill for fiscal 2018. “Currently, we will mainly discuss the BE budget and other bills. We will have to deal with the 10 remaining bills, which have yet to be finalised from the previous session.  “We cannot discuss many things as there are only a few days left due to the Thingyan (water) festival,” said Kyaw Soe Lin, secretary of the Lower House Bill Committee. Speaker Mahn Win Khaing Than said on the final day of the previous session, on December 20, that the National Planning Bill, Union Taxation Bill, Union Budget Bill and other bills would be approved at the next regular session of the union parliament.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 01/18/2017

 

 

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SINGAPORE: New Plans to Improve Industrial Energy Efficiency, in Fight Against Climate Change

 

SINGAPORE: As part of Singapore's efforts to mitigate climate change, the Government will introduce new initiatives as well as enhance existing ones to improve industrial energy efficiency. The industrial sector is one of the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. There are also plans this year to amend the Energy Conservation Act, the legislation that governs energy use among energy-intensive companies, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli on Wednesday (Jan 11). Addressing about 40 industry sector representatives at his ministry's pre-Budget consultation session, Mr Masagos said Singapore has made good progress since the Energy Conservation Act was enacted in 2012. Since then, the Government and industry have worked together to develop basic energy management practices and appoint sustainability managers for all energy-intensive industrial facilities.  As a result, slight progress in industrial energy efficiency has been recorded, improving by 0.4 per cent in 2014. Still, that is lower than the 0.7 per cent target. “The achievement across the industry is quite varied. And we have to ensure now that the industry is more familiar with what they need to do,” said Mr Masagos. “Particularly in this case - putting in energy managers, putting in a reporting system. They are now more aware (of) what can be done; how efficiencies can be achieved.”

 

Mr Masagos stressed that there is room for improvement. He called on the sector to strive to achieve industrial energy efficiency improvement rates of one to two per cent annually - something that leading developed countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands have accomplished. Singapore formalised its commitment to reduce emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, when it ratified the Paris Agreement in September last year. It also pledged to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions, with the aim of peaking around 2030.  Mr Masagos said the agreement, which came into force in November 2016, is a prime example of the need for all stakeholders to work together to achieve global sustainability. At the consultation session on Wednesday, industry representatives from the private sector, academia and non-governmental organisations also shared feedback and best practices in achieving energy efficiency. One representative brought up the need to upgrade the skills of energy managers, as there is currently a lack of deep technical knowledge in the field. There were also proposals to encourage the sharing of expertise, as well as for financial incentives to be provided for small- and medium-sized enterprises. The ministry will provide more details of the initiatives it plans to roll out after the Budget is announced on Feb 20.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 01/11/2017

 

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Court Rejects Govt's Appeal to Invoke Anti-Harassment Law Against the Online Citizen

 

SINGAPORE: The Court of Appeal on Monday (Jan 16) ruled in a rare split decision that the Government cannot invoke an anti-harassment law that allows people to stop the publication of false statements against them. The case hinged on the legal question of whether the Government can be considered a person under Section 15 of the Protection from Harassment Act. The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) had sought to invoke the law to get socio-political website The Online Citizen (TOC) to take down statements made by inventor Dr Ting Choon Meng about a patent rights dispute. The court ruled 2-1, with Judges of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Andrew Phang agreeing that the provision applied only to human beings and not entities. The sole dissenting judge was Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who found that Section 15 did not distinguish between natural and non-natural people, and therefore applied to the benefit of both human beings as well corporations and the Government.

 

TEXT AND CONTEXT

In delivering their written judgement, Judges Chao and Phang agreed that the provision applied only to human beings and not entities. They acknowledged that, read on its own, Section 15 would appear to be broad enough to encompass entities such as the Government. However, they pointed to the context in which the law was enacted. Drawing attention to the "original Parliamentary intention" of the Act, the judges cited Law Minister K Shanmugam's speech during the second reading of the Bill. "It is clear that the minister’s focus was solely on human beings (as opposed to other entities)," they said. However, CJ Menon argued that Section 15 refers to falsehoods being made about "any person". He referred to the Interpretation Act, which defines the term "person" to include any company or body of people. "It does not seem to have been contentious that this could notionally include the Government," he noted. CJ Menon also cited Parliamentary debates to confirm his interpretation. When asked specifically by a Member of Parliament whether the term "person" included corporations, the Law Minister replied that the definition of "person" in the Interpretation Act indeed applied to the Act, the Chief Justice said. He added that Section 15 was enacted to deal with the mischief of false statements. "I can see no reason, based on my understanding of the purpose and object of the provision, to hold that … (Section 15) should be confined in its application to natural persons," he said.

 

MINDEF "ANYTHING BUT A HELPLESS VICTIM": COURT

However, Judges Phang and Chao added that even if they were to accept that the provision applied to entities like MINDEF, they would not have found it just or equitable to grant a Section 15 order. "MINDEF was anything but a helpless victim," they wrote. "It is a Government agency possessed of significant resources and access to media channels." MINDEF was able to put across its side of the story through traditional media as well as online, on its Facebook page, the judges said, adding that TOC had, in fact, published MINDEF’s statement in full and provided a link to it from the offending article. "Given all this, it is difficult to see what discernible impact the allegations and The Online Citizen’s publication of the allegations could have had on MINDEF’s reputation or public image." However, CJ Menon said that Dr Ting’s false statement was a serious one, alleging that MINDEF had behaved dishonestly, both in general and to the court. He added that the fact that TOC had published MINDEF's account was insufficient to correct his false statement. In these circumstances, the Chief Justice wrote that he considered it "just and equitable" to order for a remedy under Section 15.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 01/16/2017

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VIETNAM: New Laws to Ring in Significant Changes

 

The Civil Code, together with six revised laws on State Budget, Press, Pharmacy, Fees and Charges, Accounting and amendments (Article 6 & Annex 5) to the Law on Investment, will take effect next year. A brief outline of each piece of legislation:

 

Civil Code – Sex change operations recognised

Civil Code 2015 comprises 27 chapters and 689 articles. It defines 8 fundamental principles of civil law, creating a "legal corridor" to ensure that the civil rights of all citizens and legal entities as recognised by the Constitution and Law are respected, protected, and fulfilled. These rights, however, are restricted in line with the law in necessary cases for reasons of national defence or security, social order and safety, social morality and community well-being. Institutionalising the Party’s Resolutions and the 2013 Constitution, the Code adds general principles on the establishment, exercise and protection of civil rights. Accordingly, individuals and legal persons may freely and voluntarily undertake or agree to the establishment, exercise, and termination of civil rights and obligations, but not against or exceeding fundamental principles of the civil law. The 2015 Code creates a more comprehensive and specific legal mechanism to defend civil rights through competent authorities. The violation of and disputes relating to civil rights will dealt with in accordance with the law in the court or via arbitration. Notably, the Code recognises gender reassignments (sex change operations), which has been lauded as a progressive move, reflecting legislators’ efforts to keep up with international practices.

 

Press Law – Revealing information sources

The Law devotes Chapter II’s four articles to defining citizens’ rights to freedom of press and freedom of speech in the press. Apart from entities eligible to establish press agencies under the current law, some other entities have been added, including tertiary education institutions, which are eligible to establish science journals. To protect information sources and journalists’ professional activities, as compared with the current law, the 2016 Law states that press agencies and journalists may only reveal information sources when requested in writing by the procurator general of a People’s Procuracy or the Chief Justice of a court at provincial or higher levels for the investigation and trial of very serious criminal offenses. To heighten the role and civic responsibilities of journalists, in addition to provisions on journalists’ rights and obligations, the Law says that the Việt Nam Journalists Association must issue and implement regulations on professional ethics of journalists. New stricter stipulations on publishing corrections are also included as a means to protect the lawful rights and interests of agencies, organisations and individuals.

 

Law on State Budget – local deficits will be part of federal deficits

The new Law on State Budget, aiming to modernise administrative reforms, is of immense importance. Expectations are high that the State Budget Law would be a more, practical and effective tool in adapting to the trend of international integration. Composed of 77 articles arranged in seven chapters, the Law regulates the formulation, implementation, audit, account finalisation and oversight of the State Budget. It also sets tasks and powers of related agencies, organisations, units and individuals as they pertain to the State Budget. Under the Law, the State Budget must be managed in a unified, centralised, democratic, effective, thrifty, transparent and fair manner. For the first time, local budget deficit will be part of the central budget deficit, a move that aims at initiating more concerted efforts to combat overspending.

 

Law of Pharmacy – promoting market-based pricing

The Law on Pharmacy – 116 Articles arranged in 14 Chapters – introduces drug price management principles in line with market mechanisms, respecting the businesses’ right of self-valuation, which is expected to ensure transparency. The government will only intervene to stabilise the prices of essential medicines during abnormal price fluctuations that may have adverse socio-economic impacts. The Law also contains provisions that prioritise domestically-produced medicines in procurements using State capital, for health insurance, and for diagnostic and treatment fees collected by public health agencies. The Ministry of Health will also be given more responsibilities for developing drug production, both western and traditional herbal medicines. The new law also eliminates the need for five-year clinical trials before circulation of a drug, if the producer provides sufficient clinical data on safety and efficiency and the drug has been circulated at least in one country. This will help patients gain faster access to new drugs.

 

Investment Law –  15 ‘practical’ businesses

20 business lines considered ‘conditional businesses’ will be trimmed, while another 15 are added as “the practical situation calls for.” This move will also be in line with the Constitution which states that it is legal to operate in any business sector not precluded by law.

 

Law on Fees and Charges – decentralising pricing

The Law on Fees and Charges, passed by the National Assembly in November 2015, comprises 25 Articles into 6 Chapters. It states that 17 public service charges, including those for irrigation, road use tolls, port and station charges, vehicle inspection and securities operation, etc., which the State does not need to strictly manage will be shift to State-regulated pricing mechanism. The new mechanism aims to encourage participation of non-state service providers so as to reduce service costs and improve service quality, the National Assembly Standing Committee has said.

 

Law on Accounting – increasing professionalism

The revised Accounting Law – with 74 Articles in six chapters – was adopted by the National Assembly last November with a majority of votes. The Ministry of Finance has been tasked with devising a Code of professional conduct in the accounting field in line with international standards and Vietnamese practices, in a bid to improve accounting efficiency, enhance transparency.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 12/28/2016

 

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Việt Nam’s Top Ten Domestic Events in 2016

 

1. The 12th National Party Congress.

With the spirit of “Solidarity – Democracy – Discipline – Renewal”, the 12th National Party Congress was successfully held from January 20-28, 2016. The congress reviewed 30 years of renewal (đổi mới) and set out development orientations of the nation in the new period. The congress defined six key tasks in a bid to enhance the Party’s building and rectifying work and continue implementing reforms comprehensively and synchronously to build Việt Nam into a strong country with prosperous people, and a democratic, fair and civilised society.

 

2. The election of deputies to the 14th National Assembly and People’s Councils at all levels for the 2016-21 tenure.

The election of deputies to the 14th National Assembly and People’s Councils at all levels was organised publicly, democratically, legally, safely and economically, becoming a festival of the entire people. The success of the election laid a foundation for strengthening the organisational and personnel structure of the State apparatus and continuing to build a socialist law-governed State of the people, by the people and for the people, with the resolve to build an upright, active and serviceable government.

 

3. Overcoming difficulties, the economy continues to record fairly high growth.

Under the leadership and direction of the Government, the determination of the entire political system and the active participation of the business community, Việt Nam’s economy has continued to record fairly high growth despite difficulties caused by drought, saline intrusion, a maritime environmental incident in the central region and negative impacts from the global economy. The country has successfully maintained macroeconomic stability, curbed inflation, ensured the economy’s major balances and accumulated the highest-ever foreign currency reserves. Việt Nam’s business climate has seen remarkable improvements and the private sector has flourished, while the number of newly-established enterprises has increased rapidly.

 

4. Fight against corruption and negative phenomena stepped up.

Over the past year, many serious economic and corruption cases went on trial and a series of violations in personnel work were brought to light, with a number of senior officials disciplined. The 4th plenary meeting of the 12th Party Central Committee issued a Resolution on enhancing the Party building and rectifying work; and preventing and pushing back the degradation in political ideology, morality and lifestyle as well as signs of “self-evolution” and “self-transformation” within the Party. A range of specific and drastic measures were deployed, receiving a positive response from officials, party members and the people.

 

5. Bustling and effective foreign affairs.

Việt Nam’s foreign affairs have been promoted in 2016 with the successful hosting of the 7th Ayeyawady–Chao Phraya–Mekong Economic Co-operation Strategy (ACMECS) Summit (AMECS-7), the 8th Cambodia–Laos–Myanmar–Việt Nam Co-operation Summit (CLMV-8), and the World Economic Forum (WEF) on the Mekong region (WEF Mekong). The country actively attended regional and international forums and arranged many important bilateral visits. These activities affirmed Việt Nam’s consistent foreign policy and determination to promote intensive and comprehensive international integration, helping to maintain a peaceful and stable environment for national construction and defence.

 

6. Maritime environmental incident in the central region.

Wastewater discharged illegally from Taiwan’s Hưng Nghiệp Formosa Hà Tĩnh Steel Corporation seriously polluted the maritime environment of the central provinces of Thừa Thiên-Huế, Hà Tĩnh, Quảng Bình and Quảng Trị, causing severe impacts on production and daily life of local people. The Government, relevant ministries, sectors and localities worked hard to strictly handle violations and support affected residents. Formosa accepted full responsibility for the incident and agreed to compensate for the losses.

 

7. Heavy consequences caused by natural disasters.

A large-scale cold spell in northern mountainous provinces, continuous floods in the central region, drought in the Central Highlands and saline intrusion in the Mekong Delta caused severe impacts on production and daily life of local people in 2016. Administrations at all levels, sectors and the entire community helped in supporting affected people to stablise their production and lives, change production models and respond to climate change.

 

8. Việt Nam’s athletes inspire at Olympics and Paralympics.

At the Rio Olympics 2016 in Brazil, shooter Hoàng Xuân Vinh won the first-ever Olympics gold medal for Việt Nam after claiming the men’s 10m air pistol title and a silver medal in the men’s 50m air pistol. At the Paralympics 2016, weightlifter Lê Văn Công won the first Paralympics gold medal for Việt Nam, breaking the Paralympics and world records in the men’s up-to-49kg category.

 

9. Three more pieces of Vietnamese heritage honoured by UNESCO.

“The royal literature on Huế royal architecture” and “Phúc Giang School Woodblocks” were recognised as documentary heritage at the Memory of the World Committee for Asia and the Pacific (MOWCAP)’s 7th General meeting in May 2016. Meanwhile, the practice related to the Vietnamese belief in worshipping Mother Goddesses of the Three Realms was officially recognised by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage of humanity in December.

 

10. Việt Nam welcomes 10 million foreign visitors.

In 2016, Việt Nam’s tourism sector welcomed a record number of 10 million foreign tourists, up 25 percent year-on-year, and served 62 million domestic visitors. The tourism sector’s total revenue reached VNĐ400 trillion (US$17.6 billion) in the year. This marked an important milestone in Việt Nam’s tourism development process, towards the target of becoming a leading tourist destination in the region and a spearhead economic industry of the country.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 12/31/2016

 

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National Blindness Prevention Strategy Approved

 

Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc has approved the national strategy for blindness prevention until 2020, with a vision to 2030. The strategy aims to help more people access blindness prevention services, improve early eye disease detection and treatment, and help people with eye diseases access eye rehabilitation services to prevent the diseases from developing into blindness. It aims to reduce the number of diseases that can cause blindness and eliminate the main causes of blindness. The objectives of the strategy include reducing the blindness rate to 4.5 per 1,000 people by 2020 and to less than 4.0 by 2030; increasing the rate of people receiving cataract surgeries to more than 2.5 per 1,000 people by 2020 and 3.5 by 2030. The percentage of diabetes patients that have access to eye disease treatment and monitoring will be increased to over 45 per cent by 2020 and over 75 per cent by 2030. The strategy also aims to increase the percentage of students with refractive errors that are detected early, have access to treatment, and receive refractive services and refractive correction glasses. To reach the objectives, the strategy will raise awareness and responsibility of authorities at all levels, of organisations and individuals on blindness prevention and on the effects of blindness on health. The strategy hopes to develop and complete blindness prevention policies, control the main causes of blindness, strengthen and consolidate the eye care service network as well as ensure equal access to eye care services for children, women, the elderly and the disabled.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 01/11/2017

 

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NA to Approve 24 Bills in 2017: Top Legislator

 

The National Assembly plans to pass 24 bills and debate 14 other draft laws in 2017, along with considering many important policies, stated NA Chairwoman Nguyễn Thị Kim Ngân in a New Year interview with Vietnam News Agency. This year, the NA will supervise the implementation of policies and law on food safety for 2011-16 and State administrative reform in 2011-16, said the top legislator. She underlined that the major task for the political system is to continue implementing Resolution of the 12th Party Congress and the Constitution 2013. Along with deciding important issues of the country, the NA will conduct more effective supervision, creating an obvious change in operation of the State agencies from central to local levels, ensuring the law is strictly observed. In terms of external affairs, the NA leader said that the NA has assigned its Committee for External Affairs to coordinate with the Economic Committee and other agencies to prepare the NA’s plan of action to suit new generation free trade agreements. The Law Committee was asked to work with the Committee for External Affairs in designing the programme on the amendments, supplements and completion of legal regulations to match the domestic situation and Việt Nam’s international commitments. The NA will also boost ties with parliaments of other countries, while expanding relations with potential partners, contributing to safeguarding national sea and island sovereignty and national interests, she said. The top legislator affirmed that the NA will work to ensure its positive engagement in multilateral parliamentary forums, including the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), while broadening parliamentary consultations to improve mutual understanding and trust for effective collaboration in dealing with common issues. In 2017, the NA will increase foreign affair activities to serve the country’s international integration, she said, noting that in the second session of the 14th NA, the NA Standing Committee announced a resolution on the formation of the Việt Nam Parliamentary Friendship Union.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 01/13/2017

 

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INDIA: MP Plans to Develop 1,100 'Climate-Smart' Villages


BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh has embarked on an ambitious plan to develop 1,100 'climate-smart' villages with an aim to prepare farmers to manage the climate change risks timely and ensure good productivity. "The government has been planning to develop 1,100 villages as climate-smart villages in a period of next six years," state Farmer Welfare & Agriculture Development Department Principal Secretary Dr Rajesh Rajora told PTI.
He said 100 villages in each of the 11 agro-climatic zones of the state would be taken up under the plan, which would incur a cost about Rs 150 crore every year. "The work is being taken up under the National Agriculture Development Programme (NADP) and Indian National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture," he said. In these villages, the farmers would be encouraged to go for short duration variety of crops, in addition to using drought-resistance seeds. "The focus would be on integrated agriculture, which comprises animal husbandry, fisheries, in addition to traditional farming. Agro-forestry would also be adopted in these villages," Rajora said. Agro-forestry conserves and protects the natural resources as it helps water retention and stops soil erosion. 

He said integrated nutrients management would also be implemented to help in soil fertility and plant nutrients supply through optimisation of all possible sources of organic, inorganic and biological components. "In addition, the integrated pest management, zero tillage, raised bed gardening techniques and micro-irrigation would also be introduced in the climate smart villages. This would help farmers to increase the productivity amid all challenges of climate change," he said. Zero tillage technique is a way of growing crops time and again without disturbing the soil through ploughing, another agriculture expert said. "The micro-irrigation systems like drip and sprinklers would not only reduce the water use but also lessen the use of fertilisers and energy," he said.

From http://www.siliconindia.com 01/0212017

 

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Nagpur Will Become Wi-Fi Enabled City by March 2017


NAGAPUR: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis today said that Nagpur will become Wi-Fi enabled city by March 2017. Fadnavis was here to inaugurate the public Wi-Fi system under the Smart City project. Union Minister for Road Transport and Shipping Nitin Gadkari too was present for the function. He said, Nagpur will take shape of 'Smart and Safe' city by March 2017. "Around 4000 surveillance cameras have been installed in the city. This will help police in obtaining information about accidents and criminal activities and also help in real time planning of traffic movement," said the CM. Similarly, digital kiosks will be installed at city bus stops, wherein the passengers will get location of the buses, seating arrangements and timings on screen, said Fadnavis. He said, "Various government services will be available online for citizens as digitalisation initiatives have been implemented in city and by the end of this year, Nagpur is set to become digital city of the country.

From http://www.siliconindia.com 01/02/2017

 

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UP Govt Has Rolled Out a New IT Policy, Lucknow Is Being Developed as an IT Hub

 

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has said that it has always been the endeavour of the State Government to ensure that unemployed youth of the State get jobs nearer to their homes so that they do not have to go far away in search of employment. The State Government has rolled out a new IT Policy with this in mind and the State capital Lucknow is being developed into an IT hub. The Chief Minister expressed his gratitude towards the founder of HCL Shiv Nadar as he had chosen Lucknow to be his ‘karma bhoomi’, which has lead to many jobs for the youth. The Chief Minister made these statements at a programme organised by the HCL at the IT City where he was addressing freshers who have lapped up jobs in this institute. He told the gathering of youngsters that the institute stood on a land which was once a farm, but due to the active efforts of the government today HCL IT City proudly stands here. This IT City was developed in very less time, the Chief Minister pointed out while expressing hope that this place would too emerge as a centre of excellence in the IT field in coming days. He also informed the freshers about various schemes and projects of the State Government like the Agra-Lucknow Expressway, Lucknow Metro Rail, Dairy development, International Cricket Stadium, Amul Milk Plant, Cancer Hospital, new RoBs, bridges, 1090 women power line, ambulance services and the Samajwadi Pension Scheme etc. He added that the Samajwadi Government has done real work and has also maintained a balance between the urban and rural areas. He also exhorted the youth to walk with him shoulder to shoulder as they have to jointly work in the next three-four decades. The Chief Minister also went around the HCL IT City campus. Also present on the occasion were Political Pension Minister Rajendra Chowdhary, Principal Secretary Navneet Sehgal, Special Secretary to the Chief Minister, GS Naveen Kumar, HCL officials and around 200 freshers.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 01/02/2017

 

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Haryana’s IT Policy to Encourage IT Based Companies


The Haryana Government has decided to implement its new Information Technology (IT) Policy to encourage IT based industries and generate employment opportunities. Haryana Chief Minister, Manohar Lal said this in a meeting with representatives of Indian Cellular Association in New Delhi. The representatives of the Association assured the Chief Minister of setting up new units in the State. The Chief Minister said that the State Government gives assistance to industries for setting up of their units in the state and generate employment opportunities. He said that Enterprises Promotion Policy 2015 has been implemented to realise the vision of Make in India programme and promote industries in every sector. In terms of ease of doing business, Haryana has become the favourite destination of entrepreneurs. He said that major area of Haryana falls under National Capital Region. Therefore, Haryana is most feasible state for investment in IT industry. Also, an IT cluster could be set up near Kundli-Manesar-Palwal Expressway, he added.


In the meeting, the representatives of the Association put forth their demands before the Chief Minister and sought relaxations related to their sector, which included land for setting up of industrial units and demand related to VAT. The Chief Minister assured the representatives that the State Government would provide better environment to entrepreneurs. He said that a new National Highway would be proposed from International Airport, Delhi to Katra, Jammu via Jind passing through Amritsar under which 200 kilometers land of Haryana would be developed as commercial site. Besides, regional connectivity service would be started to connect cities of Haryana with air services which would provide congenial environment to business and industries, he added.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 01/03/2017

 

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Nagpur Smart City Project Launched

 

Maharashtra government recently launched the Nagpur Smart City Project with an ambition to project Nagpur as the model city of smart cities in the nation. It was launched by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis with Union Minister of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari on the advent of New Year. The state government is keen to set a benchmark with its ambitious plan to install 1,200 km of optic fibre, 4000 CCTV cameras across the Nagpur city,136 Wi-Fi hotspots and over 100 digital kiosks and smart streets. Tech-advancement in Nagpur enabled the citizens to get glimpses and bits of the launch programme, live. “With an integrated infrastructure, IT backbone, most advanced cameras, we are committed to make Nagpur safe and smart city by March 2017,” said Fadnavis on the occasion. In Mumbai, two lakh e-challans have already been issued to offenders for traffic violations. “We are creating systems with minimum human intervention to avoid delays and for a transparent process and administration. All construction maps will be available online soon. This way, we will change entire administration into Smart and E-administration,” he added.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 01/03/2017

 

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Pakistan: IT Park to Help Boost Exports

 

Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecommunication Anusha Rehman Tuesday said the information technology software park being set up in the federal capital would help boost exports from the country. Approval for the software park, which would be established by Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) in collaboration with Korea Exim Bank, had already been obtained, she said while speaking at the IT Awards 2016 ceremony. She said the information technology (IT) sector was facing many challenges. The government would help IT, telecom and software companies to improve the volume of export, she added. Anusha said the Exim Bank was investing $50 million for the IT park in the capital. The park spreading over an area of 45 acres would help promote the IT industry, local software experts, attract international companies to the local market, and increase IT exports by an estimated $120 million, she added. Some 150 IT companies, she said, would be accommodated in the software park. She said two IT parks would be established in Lahore and Karachi also. She said the PSEB was doing valueable work and the new IT park would only further add to their efforts in strengthening Pakistan's IT industry. The main purpose of the IT park would be to drive companies in developing more hardware and software solutions, thus boosting the country's IT export, she added.

 

Anusha said, "I am confident that with this resolve and under the visionary guidance of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, we shall make Pakistan a digital Pakistan." The minister said the Incubator in Islamabad was going to start work next month with the efforts of PTA chairman in which 3000 interns would get IT training, 30 per cent of them would be female. After Islamabad the incubators would be established in Peshawar, Quetta, Karachi, Lahore and backward areas of Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Balochistan, she added. The minister said the Google team had expressed its will to work with the youth of Pakistan as they were very vibrant, intelligent and challenging. "Our main agenda is to digitalize Pakistan. Over 60% of 200 million people of Pakistan comprise of young people and they are the main strength and we are here to groom them and convert them into entrepreneurs to make them productive citizens of the country," she added. She said the actual volume of software extorts was four time more than the amount recorded by the State Bank of Pakistan. According to a survey, Pakistan's IT export revenue was Rs 2.7 billion while as the SBP it was Rs 500 million, she added. Anusha said," With our USF arm we are launching projects worth multi-billion to pass on the benefits of telecommunication and broadband services to the underserved and unserved masses." The awards were distributed among 10 IT exporters, including NETSOL, Systems Limited, S&D Global Pakistan, Teradata,, TRG. MTBC, Ovex Technologies, Global Payments Leader, LMKR and Mentor Graphics Pakistan. Inbox at a glance, Infotech and NIFT were declared the top three IT domestic businesses while top three `IT startups' were SYNERGY-IT, Venture dive and MD Vision.

From http://www.brecorder.com 12/30/2016

 

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AZERBAIJAN: To Prepare Debt Management Strategies in 2017

 

The Cabinet of Ministers of Azerbaijan will prepare a draft of medium- and long-term strategies of public debt management in 2017. This is stipulated by the decree of President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev on the approval of the draft state budget for 2017. According to the decree, the Cabinet of Ministers is entrusted with preparing of the draft and submitting it to the president within six months. As of October 1, 2016, Azerbaijan’s external debt amounted to $7,650.7 million (12,402.6 million manats), which is 20.1 percent of the country’s GDP. The main part of the funds borrowed for implementation of various projects is attracted from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency and other international financial institutions. About 17.7 percent of the debt is formed due to the placement of securities in international financial markets. According to the Azerbaijani state budget for 2017, 1,641.8 million manats will be spent on the repayment of the public debt, which is 133.3 million (7.5 percent) less than in 2016.

                                                   From http://en.trend.az/ 12/29/2016

 

 

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Azerbaijani Parliament Passes Tax Amnesty Law

 

Azerbaijan’s Parliament at a plenary session Dec. 30 passed the “Law on Regulation of Taxpayers’ Liabilities as of Jan. 1, 2017,” which provides for cancellation of the tax debts of the country’s citizens. In accordance with the law, two types of tax liabilities will be written off: all the interest accrued for non-payment of the debt and a part of the financial sanctions. If 30 percent of a financial sanction is paid in January 2017, the remaining 70 percent of the sanction will be written off. If 50 percent of a tax penalty is paid in January-February 2017, the remaining 50 percent of the sanction will be written off, and if 70 percent of a financial sanction is paid in January-March 2017, the remaining 30 percent of the sanction will be written off. In total, tax liabilities in Azerbaijan amount to 1.527 billion manats. Of this amount, the interest charged for the late payment of taxes amounts to 386.4 million manats and financial sanctions total 237.1 million manats.

                                                   From http://en.trend.az/ 12/30/2016

 

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2017 to Be Year of Economic Development for Azerbaijan

 

The official website of the World Economic Forum has published an article by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev headlined “Azerbaijan's economic priorities for 2017.” Trend presents the article. Azerbaijan's success today is an outcome of comprehensive, specific and targeted efforts of the past few years. Implementation of globally important projects in various sectors of the economy, including energy, not only made our country more capable, but also facilitated regional and international cooperation. In this regard, delivery of Azerbaijani natural gas to European markets via the Azerbaijan-led and Azerbaijan-initiated Southern Gas Corridor Project will substantially contribute to strengthening Europe's energy security. In the context of this project, 87% of the work for the development of the Shah Deniz 2 gas-condensate field, 72% of the work for the expansion of the South Caucasus Pipeline, 60% of the work for the construction of the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) and 30% of the work for the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) have been completed. It is noteworthy that Shah Deniz is one of the largest gas fields in the world with proven reserves of at least 1.2 trillion cubic metres. We also launched major projects to further strengthen Azerbaijan's transit potential. This year, construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is scheduled for completion. The implementation of this project will consequently decrease the transportation time of the goods from China to Europe from between 25 to 30 days to 12 to 15. Meanwhile, all the construction works on the Azerbaijani segment of the north-south transport corridor were finalized last year. Thus, Azerbaijan is turning into a crucial transportation hub. Today, priorities for our economic policy are further diversification of the economy, while developing the non-oil sector.

 

Construction of industrial parks and zones are underway to ensure development of the industry sector. In 2018, several factories will open in the Sumgait Chemical Industrial Park with investments amounting close to $2 billion. Production of cotton, tobacco, hazelnuts, tea, silkworm cocoons and other export-oriented products will increase and the number of agro parks and large farms will expand. In order to ensure development of an information sector, the quality of services and the country's potential as an information transit corridor will further progress. The initiation of the electronic visa and the introduction of tax-free systems, as well as the recent hosting of large-scale events, such as the European Games and Formula 1 racing, significantly contribute to the development of tourism in the country. Our achievements are tangible and visible, but we face challenges as well. The ongoing global economic crisis affected Azerbaijan's economy too, decreasing income and leading to a 10.1% devaluation of the national currency during the past year. Nevertheless, we are successfully overcoming these challenges through relevant measures. To ensure more sustainable development, a strategic roadmap has been adopted; comprehensive structural, institutional, monetary, financial and other reforms have continued; tax and customs management has improved; and transparency is ensured in all the areas. As an example, customs collections increased by 53%, despite a decrease in trade turnover over a period of 10 months in the past year.

 

Azerbaijan's strength is not only in its economy: Azerbaijan is a multi-ethnic country. The representatives of different ethnic groups and faiths have been living here throughout centuries in an atmosphere of peace, mutual understanding and dialogue. A spirit of tolerance has always prevailed in Azerbaijan and 2016 was even named as the year of multiculturalism. Our country has already turned into a well-known host of global events on the dialogue between civilizations, religions and cultures. The 7th Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations, successfully held in Baku in 2016, is a good example to that end and a vivid manifestation of the world's attitude towards the spirit of multiculturalism in Azerbaijan. The official visit of Pope Francis to Azerbaijan last year is particularly notable. During this historical trip, the head of the Roman Catholic Church sent very clear messages to the world. His valuable thoughts on multiculturalism in Azerbaijan reflect not only the reality but also the appreciation thereof by the leader of the World Catholics. Azerbaijan is also very successful in sports, alongside all these other areas. The most modern Olympic sports complexes and other relevant facilities have been constructed in the capital city and the provinces. State support and modern infrastructure have substantially increased the interest of youth in sports. Athletic success at major sporting events is a good tradition now and Azerbaijani athletes proved this again at the Rio Olympics. In terms of medal count, our athletes won 18 medals and were ranked 14th in the world, 7th in Europe, 2nd among the post-Soviet states and first among Muslim countries.

 

Azerbaijan is also a world-known host in this sphere. In 2015, the first ever European Games and in 2016 the Formula 1 Grand Prix, with 500 million viewers from all around the world, took place in Baku. The attention of the international sports community will once again be focused on Azerbaijan this year during the Islamic Solidarity Games 2017. While strengthening international cooperation in sports, these events will also significantly increase the number of tourists visiting Azerbaijan, thus contributing to the development of the tourism sector. I'm sure that 2017 will be the year of economic development for Azerbaijan. We will continue to implement efficient economic reforms. At the same time we will increase spending for socially-oriented initiatives. The diversification of our economy is almost complete. Now almost 70% of our GDP comes from outside of the oil industry. Our main target today is to diversify our exports. Measures taken in 2016 will lead to implementation of this goal. Azerbaijan is already ranked number 37 in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitive Index (Number 1 in the Commonwealth of Independent States) and we are determined to strengthen this progress.”

 From http://en.trend.az/ 01/13/2017

 

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Azerbaijan to Report to IAEA on Sterilization Unit Launch Project

 

Azerbaijan’s National Center for Nuclear Research CJSC will submit a final report to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) until late January 2017 regarding obtaining licenses for the purchase and maintenance of the isotopes needed to launch the sterilization unit, the nuclear research center told Trend. Three licenses are needed to use the isotopes. The first license for their purchase and maintenance has already been obtained, and it is planned to obtain the other two licenses for the import and transportation of the isotopes until the end of January 2017. During this period, the nuclear research center will have to submit a report to the IAEA to obtain the licenses and indicate in this report the place where the isotopes will be purchased, and after that, the isotopes will be produced and transported to Azerbaijan within the subsequent three months. The work on the construction of the sterilization unit has been carried out by the Institute of Isotopes of Hungary. This institute carried out the final test work on commissioning of the sterilization unit. Sterilization unit will be located in Azerbaijan’s settlement of Qobu (20 km away from Baku) on a plot owned by the National Center for Nuclear Research CJSC. Sterilization unit makes it possible to apply the method of gamma radiation to kill microbes, which in turn increases the shelf life of agricultural products (grains, meat, dried fruit, potatoes, etc.), medicines.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 01/18/2017

 

 

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TURKMENISTAN: Position of Ombudsman Created

 

A law on Ombudsman entered into force on Jan. 1, 2017, in Turkmenistan. The document determines the rights, duties, basic directions, authorities and guarantees of activity of the authorized representative for human rights in Turkmenistan. This position is established in line with the country’s Constitution in order to provide state guarantee for the protection of public rights and freedoms of humans and citizens, their observance and respect by public authorities, local governments and their officials, said the Turkmen parliament’s decision published earlier.

                                                   From http://en.trend.az/ 01/02/2017

 

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Turkmen President Says Important to Ensure Economic Stability

 

President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov instructed the Turkmen officials to develop a new national program for social and economic development during a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers, reads a message from the country’s government. Berdimuhamedov noted the importance of ensuring the stability of economy and investment activity in Turkmenistan, sustainability of the national currency, as well as increasing the exports and the reserve monetary fund. He said the main goal in banking sector is to keep inflation at a level not exceeding the specified parameters and provide the economy with necessary funds by regulating the money supply and controlling its circulation. Turkmenistan has embarked on a policy of gradual transition to the market economy, which is reflected in the country’s constitution. A number of measures have been implemented in Turkmenistan, such as the denomination of the national currency and switching to international accounting standards.

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/14/2017

 

 

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Turkmenistan Outlines Plans for Wheat Cultivation

 

Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has given an instruction to produce 1.6 million tons of wheat in 2017, the Turkmen government said in a message. Turkmenistan started to cultivate wheat in the years of its independence and the country has been exporting the surplus of the harvest since 2011. The planted area covers 760,000 hectares. In 2016, 1.6 million tons of bread-grain was cultivated. Turkmenistan was awarded with a special prize by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations for achievements in the field of food security.

  From http://en.trend.az/ 01/17/2017

 

 

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UZBEKISTAN: Small Industrial Zone Planned for Launch in Syrdarya Region

 

The portal of Regulation impact assessment system has published the draft decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan "On establishment of small industrial zone in the city of Yangier of Syrdarya region" for public comment. The purpose of the adoption of this document is to further the development of the industrial potential of the city of Yangier, the creation of favorable conditions for attracting investments in the creation of small businesses, new industries for the production of competitive products, efficient use of road transport and engineering infrastructure, creation of new jobs and increasing incomes. According to the project, it is planned to create a small industrial area in the city of Yangier. The main activities of the industrial zone are:- accelerated development of small business, employment, raising the entrepreneurial income of the population of Syrdarya region;- implementation of projects on creation of new modern industries in the field of textile, footwear and leather, environmentally safe chemical, food, electrical industry, production of building materials, deep processing of fruits and vegetables and other areas; - ensuring complex and effective use of production and resource potential of the Syrdarya region; -localization of production of high-tech products based on local raw materials through establishing close cooperative ties and development of industrial cooperation between enterprises of the Republic.

 

According to the document, the operation term of the industrial zone is 30 years with the possibility of its subsequent extension. Primarily small businesses will be engaged in the industrial zone. The selection of projects on creation of production facilities and location of the investors in the industrial zone will be carried out by the Council for the coordination and management of activities of the small industrial zone in the city of Yangier. The functions of operational management of small industrial zone are to be entrusted to the Deputy khokim of Syrdarya region on economic and social development, and the Group for business development and business environment of Syrdarya region. The participants of industrial zones will be exempt from paying: - land tax, profit tax, property tax, tax for accomplishment and development of social infrastructure, single tax payment for microfirms and small enterprises, obligatory deductions to the Republican road fund and off-budget fund for reconstruction, refurbishment and equipping of general schools, professional colleges, academic lyceums and medical institutions under the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Uzbekistan; - customs payments (except fees for customs clearance) for equipment, raw materials, materials and spare parts, as well as steel and building materials imported for own production needs within the framework of the implementation of projects on the lists approved by the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

 

Thus, the above benefits are provided for a period of 3 years, under conditions when investments are not less than 2000 times of the minimum wage. If the annual revenue of industrial zone participant is less than 1000 times of the minimum wage, provided benefits shall be canceled with the restoration of obligations on payment of taxes, customs and obligatory payments in the relevant accounting year in the manner prescribed by law. In the case of sale or donation of equipment, raw materials, materials and components, as well as steel and building materials, delivered with the use of customs privileges during three years from the date of importation, customs duties are levied in full in the manner prescribed by law.

From http://en.trend.az/ 01/05/2017

 

 

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AUSTRALIA: Queensland Government May Dump Plans for 1am Lockout

 

The Queensland government may dump plans for a 1am lockout in city pubs and clubs if shorter trading hours and drink restrictions are shown to have reduced violence.The government will consider whether its “one-way door” policy in entertainment precincts, due to be introduced in February, is unnecessary in light of a pending justice department review of data on late-night assaults.It is weighing up whether a strengthened identification scanning and banning scheme run by licensed venues, as well as other options, are a viable alternative, the Courier-Mail reported.This follows recent negotiations between the government and venue operators, amid an anti-lockout campaign by music scene advocates including the prominent construction company chief and live venue owner Scott Hutchinson. The justice department is analysing assault numbers since the winding back of late-night trading hours from 5am to 3am and the banning of high-alcohol shots after midnight last July.The deputy premier, Jackie Trad, said she understood it was a “passionate issue” but the government would “not preempt the research data” on the first six months of those changes, due in coming weeks.

 

Trad did not rule out scrapping the lockout.“The government has honoured an election commitment by introducing laws that reduce the hours when alcohol can be served after midnight,” she said. “All the evidence in Australia and overseas shows that reducing the service of alocohol after midnight is the most effective measure to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence.” Hutchinson, who had vowed to bankroll a campaign to trigger a youth vote backlash against the government in the next state election, said its newfound openness to alternatives to a lockout was “wonderful news”. He said the lockout would kill the live music scene and he was aware of local musicians who had already moved to Melbourne in anticipation of its effect.

“If [the government is] able to admit their mistakes, it’s a good thing,” he said, adding he was among those who had held talks with the government in recent months. “I think it’s certainly heading in the right direction [but] we just don’t know what they’re going to give us. Ultimately we’d like music to have the same rights as gambling, which is 24/7 at the casinos.

 

“But we’re making some progress, which is great to see.” To protest against the social effects of a lockout, Hutchinson commissioned an artwork by Los Angeles-based Jonathan Zawada, Blackout in a Glasshouse, and installed it last month in the Brunswick Street mall, at the heart of Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley party precinct. Hutchinson said Brisbane’s music scene was already under pressure from inner-city gentrification and the government should be following the lead of cities overseas like Berlin and Amsterdam and take steps to foster that local culture.

Acting opposition leader, Deb Frecklington, said speculation about the government scrapping a 1am lockout, if true, amounted to “a backflip of epic proportions”.She called on Annastcaia Palasczuk to “come back from holidays, hose down the speculation and rule out the 1am lockout laws once and for all”. “The 1 February start date has not yet been scrapped,” Frecklington said. “What we have is the wannabe premier Jackie Trad trying to cash in on Annastacia Palaszczuk’s absence by grabbing a headline, all the while refusing to guarantee that the lockout will go. “The LNP opposition has tirelessly pressured the Palaszczuk Government to scrap these bad laws. Laws that would punish the majority for the sins of a few. Laws that would have devastated the state’s hard-fought reputation as a world-class cultural and entertainment destination. Laws that would have cost thousands of jobs.

 

“For two years Queenslanders and licensed venues have been under a cloud of uncertainty with Labor’s nanny state lockout laws and all they’ve been handed today is more ambiguity and mixed messages.” The Palaszczuk government, under pressure from Katter’s Australian party crossbenchers, had deferred the lockout, which was part of its platform to tackle drink-fuelled violence at the last election in response to a number of highly publicised fatal assaults. The New South Wales premier, Mike Baird, last month announced a relaxation in that state’s lockout laws that would extend closing hours to 3.30am and the lockout to 2am if entertainment was provided. Queensland venue operators have proposed the Palaszczuk government at least delay its introduction of a lockout for another 12 months in exchange for venues upgrading their scanning facilities, the Courier-Mail reported. The government is still consulting on how a mandatory banning regime would work, including how venues – some of which have complained of a reluctance by magistrates courts to order bans on offenders – would enforce it.

From https://www.theguardian.com/ 01/02/2017

 

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Queensland Lockouts Laws Could Be Shelved

 

The Queensland Government has said that if the first stage of its plans to reduced late-night violence proves effective, the second stage of changes, which include 1am lockouts, may not be introduced. Speaking earlier in January, Queensland’s Acting Premier Jackie Trad said that the Government was expecting an interim report into the first six months of its alcohol restrictions and that it would then “make a decision in the interests of Queenslanders based on the Queensland experience.” The second stage of the alcohol restrictions is due to be implemented on 1 February and other Queensland Ministers have backed the possibility of either delaying or completely ditching stage two. Minister Grace Grace said: “We have now had a good six months of the reduced hours and we find that reducing the hours of alcohol consumption goes a long way to reducing the number of alcohol-fuelled violence incidences. I am well aware of what the licensees’ views are of the lockout laws but let’s wait for the report, let’s see what the report says and then the government will consider that when it is received. “This is a package of solutions and the government is looking forward to the report to see how all of this is working.” Our Nightlife Queensland Secretary Nick Braban told The Shout that he was “hopeful” the 1am lockouts would not go ahead.

 

“This is definitely positive, there is nothing set in stone yet, but we are hopeful that there will be some good news in the interim report that is coming from the evaluation team and is looking at the package so far. But there is still a lot of behind the scenes politics going on as well," Braban said. “We are pretty hopeful though, it is an election year and they will definitely want to clear the decks.” He added: “You’d like to think they wouldn’t come out and say this kind of thing unless there was some sort of movement. I think it will hinge on the police data of the first six months, if that is flat or continues trending down, then that should give them the necessary breathing space to say ‘we don’t need to bring in the lockouts’.”The LNP Opposition has opposed the lockouts in Queensland and Acting Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington labelled the possible ditching of the lockouts “a backflip of epic proportions”. She added: "The LNP Opposition has tirelessly pressured the Palaszczuk Government to scrap these bad laws. Laws that would punish the majority for the sins of a few. Laws that would have devastated the state’s hard-fought reputation as a world-class cultural and entertainment destination. Laws that would have cost thousands of jobs." Frecklington also called on Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to "come back from holidays, hose down the speculation and rule out the 1am lockout laws once and for all". The first stage of alcohol restrictions were introduced in Queensland on July 1 last year and saw 3am last drinks in entertainment districts, while suburban pubs, bars, hotels and clubs had a 2am last drinks introduced. Shots and other ‘rapid-consumption drinks’ were banned from sale after midnight across the state.

From http://www.governmentnews.com.au/ 01/10/2017

 

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EPA Defends Mew Drinks Deposit Scheme in NSW

 

With the upcoming introduction of a new Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) in NSW due for in June 2017, a peak body for the convenience industry has voiced concerns over the timeframe of the rollout. Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) CEO Jeff Rogut urged the government to “consider a staged implementation of the CDS”. With the state Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) due to appoint a CDS scheme co-ordinator and collection network operator in April 2017, Mr Rogut said this would leave only a short time for implementation of the scheme. “This leaves an eight to ten-week timeframe to roll-out the scheme, including striking contracts with third-party collection points, and physically installing the infrastructure necessary to ensure the scheme is effective,” he said. Speaking with C&I this week, Mr Rogut went further to say that the EPA has not been forthcoming in answering questions put to the organization by AACS regarding details of the rollout, and that he had addressed his concerns directly to the NSW Premier’s office. “From today, there are about 25 weeks until the CDS is due to commence on the 1 July 2017,” he said. “At this point a multitude of critical and significant details remain unknown, including [that] no scheme co-ordinator and no network operators have been appointed; no infrastructure is in place for the collection of containers; there has been no indication as to the quantum of the levy which will be imposed upon Beverage Manufacturers who produce containers; [and] no formulas have been proposed as to how the refund on containers, collected by Material Recycling Facilities (MRFs), largely from council kerbside collections, will be calculated, other than via some mass estimation approach.”

 

“We hold grave fears that the CDS will from the outset be tainted as inadequate and flawed, and from its very outset, the public will be disillusioned and lose confidence in the scheme, as has been seen in other poorly managed rollouts, like for example, the NBN.” C&I put these concerns to a spokesperson for NSW EPA, who said that the NSW Government was committed to rolling out the container deposit scheme from 1 July 2017. “While this is a tight timeframe, the Government believes that this is an important initiative that should not be delayed,” she said. “The final collection network will be determined by the Network Operators who are currently in the final stages of a competitive tender process. “Network Operators will be required to establish collection infrastructure that meets minimum access requirements to ensure that people in NSW have access to collection sites. “These requirements are based on population, opening hours and remoteness and it will be up to network operators to determine how best to meet these requirements.” According to the EPA, so far more than 50 organisations have expressed interest in providing collection point services, and registered to do so. The list included organisations that have multiple sites, including charities, local government, recyclers, property owners and managers, hotels, pubs and other private businesses, and will be passed on to the network operators. The spokesperson said the network operators “are being finalised now as part of a competitive tender process”.

 

The EPA said it expected there will be at least 430 collection points rolled out across the state, with the cost of the scheme to be covered by beverage suppliers. “The costs [of the CDS] will be proportionate to the amount of containers collected, as beverage suppliers will only be required to pay the refund amount on the containers that are redeemed not on every container sold,” the spokesperson said. “The fee structure will be determined by the scheme coordinator and network operators, and is subsequently an element of the competitive tender process now underway for those positions.” The South Australian Government has run a successful CDS since 1977, as well as a kerbside recycling program from the early 90s. According to the NSW Government CDS discussion paper, evidence from South Australia shows that schemes like this “can substantially reduce drink container litter volumes”. “The CSIRO marine debris project, which audited litter on beaches and offshore waters all around Australia, found that South Australia has less plastic bottle and aluminium/steel can litter than any other state.” CDSs are also slated for implementation in Queensland and Western Australia in 2018.

From http://c-store.com.au/ 01/12/2017

 

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Plans for Australia to Adopt a 'Google Tax' Welcomed by Advocacy Group

 

One of the biggest critics of multinational tax avoidance has welcomed the Coalition’s proposed “Google tax”, saying a similar tax in the UK looks likely to increase corporate tax payments by billions for the British government. The Tax Justice Network – the group behind the push to review the petroleum resource rent tax regime – says the government’s clampdown on multinational tax avoidance is necessary because the OECD’s base erosion and profit-shifting project has failed. The Turnbull government plans to introduce a so-called “diverted profits tax,” colloquially called a “Google tax”, to impose a 40% penalty on profits artificially diverted from Australia by multinationals. It is designed to target entities with annual global income of $1bn or more that shift profits to offshore associates through related-party transactions with insufficient economic substance that reduce the tax paid on profits generated in Australia by more than 20%. The move follows public outrage about the profit-shifting behaviour of some of the biggest global companies with operations in Australia. In April 2015, senior executives from Google, Apple and Microsoft used a Senate inquiry to fiercely defend corporate structures that allowed most of the revenue from their Australian operations to be taxed in lower cost offshore jurisdictions.

 

At the time the treasurer Joe Hockey was warning Australia was “losing control of our destiny from a taxation perspective” because of “holes” in the tax treatment of multinational corporations. He flagged a so-called “Google tax” in the budget similar to the diverted profits tax in Britain, which requires multinationals to pay a rate higher than the company tax rate on profits sent offshore. The Turnbull government released an exposure draft of the bill in November. The Tax Justice Network has welcomed the bill in its submission. It says the only effective way to end many of the tax-minimising strategies of multinational enterprises is to accept the economic reality that they operate as unitary firms, rather than separate entities. “By continuing to accept the fiction of separate entity, the OECD base erosion and profit shifting project failed to deliver on the G20 request to reform the rules so that multinational enterprises could be taxed ‘where economic activities occur and value is created’,” says its submission, seen by Guardian Australia. However, it also says it is concerned that the 20% tax reduction threshold in the proposed diverted profits tax (DPT) may be too high, because a multinational enterprise with profits of $100m in Australia would be permitted, under such as threshold, to avoid up to $20m before being caught by the DPT.

 

“Given the threshold test does not require the ATO to take action, but allows them to – provided they have cause to believe the test of the transaction lacking economic substance applies – a lower threshold allows the ATO more ability to take action,” the group says. “It means if a transaction is entered into that obviously lacks economic substance, the ATO will have the option to take action. “The ATO will still need to assess the amount of revenue to be recovered against the cost of the ATO taking action. Thus a threshold of 10% tax reduction would seem more suitable.” The group says the ATO should also be able to take action against transactions that result in a $5m tax reduction if they lack economic substance, even if this is below a lower 10% threshold. The diverted profits tax should be applied up to seven years after the corporate taxpayer has lodged their income tax return for the relevant year, the group says. It would also like the DPT to apply to a wider group of multinational enterprises than the government is proposing. The government currently wants to target multinational enterprises with annual global income of $1bn or more. The Tax Justice Network would prefer a lower annual income threshold of $200m. “However, [we] accept that at this point in time the measure be targeted to very large multinational enterprises,” the group says. The diverted profits tax will start from income years beginning on or after 1 July 2017 if the bill passes parliament.

From https://www.theguardian.com/ 01/16/2017

 

 

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FIJI: Education Ministry to Roll Out Parental Guidelines

 

EDUCATION Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy has requested that parents refer to the parental engagement framework guideline which will be rolled out by the ministry this week. With the new academic year beginning today, Dr Reddy advised parents to be actively involved in their children's education from the first day. "Speak to your child about their feelings, expectations, issues affecting them and their plans for the year,"he said. "Support your child mentally, emotionally and morally so that he/she is fully prepared for their educational demands. "Moreover, learn about the calendar of events of the school and plan well in advance for important dates." Dr Reddy also urged school heads to ensure all needy students were identified at the earliest and timely intervention given. "Ensure that all existing students receiving the transport assistance from 2016 continue to receive vouchers from day one and processing of new applications are given urgent attention so that all other approved applicants get their vouchers a day after submitting their applications." Dr Reddy said the first day or week of school was extremely vital for all children and it was imperative for all stakeholders to be prepared to render all support and guidance to children.

From http://www.fijitimes.com/ 01/16/2017

 

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Minister Outlines 2017 Trade Plans

 

BOOSTING our agricultural exports and further developing Fiji as a market will be a key focus for the trade ministry this year. And while our agricultural exports may have faced setbacks from natural disasters last year, Minister for Trade Faiyaz Koya has remained positive about this year's performance. "Something that is important to us is that most of our exports are agricultural exports, mostly to Australia, New Zealand and our Pacific Island neighbours," he said. "The cyclones, the floods do affect us, but we are very resilient and the agriculture ministry has been hard at work trying to recover. "I still need to sit down with the Minister for Agriculture and have talks to see how we might be able to assist." Fiji's agriculture sector was hard hit by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston in February last year with damage pegged at more than $208 million. The sector suffered a further damage worth $11.7m after flooding associated with tropical depression 04F last December. Mr Koya, however, highlighted the need to increase value adding into our agricultural products to further boost exports. "It's not just trade in agriculture but it's also value adding into agriculture and its products so we can export them," he said. Mr Koya said the ministry continued to identify new and different markets not only for trade but also for investment.

 

"This is also one of the reasons we do our trade and investment missions," he said. " It's not just about trade, it's also about investment to get people to come and invest in Fiji. "We are always looking for different markets. "Traditionally it is Australia and New Zealand, but we are always looking for new markets." Mr Koya outlined other initiatives, which included promoting the island of Vanua Levu as a potential investment area. "Vanua Levu is a tax-free zone entirely and it's a great place for somebody who wants to invest on a large scale in agriculture and other things," he said. "Every trade mission we take outside, we see if we can try and get investors in or also alternatively to see whether there is a market available for us." Mr Koya added his ministry and the Agriculture Ministry were looking into Fiji's organic status. "We must remember our products are pristine," he said. "Our organic status that we are now looking at is another thing that is very important to us because it will bring us great money," he said. "That will be the next level for us because it will fetch a lot of money for us and for people who are interested in it." The Trade Ministry manages the Made in Fiji, Fijian Made campaign. Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Inia Seruiratu earlier highlighted that his ministry was focused on recovering quickly from natural disasters and returning seriously into production.

From http://www.fijitimes.com/ 01/16/2017

 

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Davos 2017 Takes Place Amid a New World ‘Disorder’

 

Business and political leaders across the world are getting ready for this year's Davos edition, but the political context in which they will be meeting is completely new. Following the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. and the British vote to leave the EU, companies are taking a more "defensive" approach. At the same time, experts believe that China will strengthen its influence as a world power as the U.S. takes a more protectionist view. "Corporations, if you will, I think they are going to be on the defensive potentially on the back foot at Davos for the first time in a long time," John Studzinski, vice chairman of Blackstone, told CNBC on Tuesday. According to Studzinski, there has been a "drastic policy shift from 2008, which was very much an international financial crisis to today where you have people and governments focusing on challenging the status quo and going from big international concerns to pure domestic populist issues." A surge in support for populist views was evident in 2016 and populism continues to dominate market concerns going into 2017. The surprising votes in Britain and the U.S. caused some market turmoil, but above all they raised uncertainty regarding their next policy directions.

 

For example, the intention of President-elect Trump to withdraw from a trade agreement signed with Asian Pacific countries raises uncertainty for companies that were set to increase business with those countries. In Europe, businesses from the retail sector to banking are unsure how their current partnerships with U.K-based firms will be, and vice-versa, once the U.K. government begins its exit negotiations. "Market volatility this year is much more driven by uncertainties driven by the new cast of leadership that the world has been presented with," Studzinski said. Upcoming elections across Europe could alter the political landscape. The Netherlands, France and Germany have elections scheduled in the coming months but more ballots could be called in 2017 across the EU. Mark Malloch-Brown, senior adviser at Eurasia, described the current global environment as a new world "disorder" with new influencers shaping the present and future.

 

"The story of 2017 is going to be China's growing influence and ascension of its power," Malloch-Brown told CNBC on Tuesday. Data released Tuesday showed that the Chinese economy is performing above expectations. Producer prices rose to a five-year high in December. "The fact that president Xi is opening Davos is a strong statement that China sees himself as front and center on the world stage today," Studzinski of Blackstone added. Xi is the first ever Chinese president to attend the World Economic Forum at Davos. Studzinski also recognized that political parties could no longer rely on voters backing the status quo. "We have to be very honest about this. Donald Trump was elected because he was Donald Trump. Marine Le Pen might be elected because she is Marine Le Pen…Donald Trump wasn't elected because of his policies, he was elected because he was an interesting, changing-agent, personality and perceived leader," Studzinski said.

From http://www.cnbc.com/ 01/10/2017

 

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World Bank Will Help Improve the National Statistical System for a Better Development Planning

 

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved an International Development Association (IDA) grant of $2.5 million to support the national statistical system of Comoros. Parallel funding from the Government of Comoros and its development partners, including the UNFPA, AfDB, AFD, UNICEF and GAVI is $1 million. From 2011, the three-island state of 770,000 population started to undertake major reforms to improve the statistics system and set up an autonomous and independent National Institute of Statistics and Economic and Demographic Studies (INSEED). However, the national statistical system of Comoros is still facing many challenges in terms of data collection, processing and dissemination. INSEED sets up the National Strategy for the Development of Statistics for 2015-19 to significantly improve the statistical system. This project will support the Strategy, and specifically the implementation, analysis and dissemination of the fourth Population and Housing Census, the implementation of the 2018-2019 Household Poverty and Living Standards Survey and will focus on building human capacity, particularly in processing National Accounts and price statistics, and upgrading the infrastructure in terms of IT equipment and software.

 

“Without recent and accurate data about the social, economic and demographic situation of the country, we cannot properly plan the development. Improving the national statistical system is crucial to a low-income and fragile state such as Comoros that is also facing limited resources and connection with the rest of the world. This project is thus directly aligned with the Country Partnership Strategy for 2014-2017,” said Nadia Belhaj Hassine Belghith, Task Team Leader of this project. The current available national accounts are based on the 1968 System of National Accounts (SNA) and the consumer price index only covers the capital city of Moroni. The national accounts do not properly capture the large informal segment of the economy while GDP estimates are based on rough assumptions and extrapolations. The Consumer Price Index measures are inaccurate and the inflation rate does not reflect on-the-ground reality in the different islands. The lack of quality and timely economic data not only affects the accuracy of economic performance assessments, but also compromises policy planning. This is further hampered by the lack of updated and comparable socioeconomic, demographic and poverty statistics, which adversely affects the targeting of social programs.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 01/10/2017

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CHINA: Top Leadership Urges More Efforts to Ensure Food Safety

 

China's top leadership has called for more efforts to ensure food safety, noting there are still many problems despite an improving food safety situation. More efforts should be made to ensure food safety for the public, said President Xi Jinping in his latest instructions on the country's food safety work. The president called for the most rigorous standards, the most stringent regulation, the most severe punishment and the most serious accountability for improving food safety control. He stressed administration under the law, enhancement of work at the grassroots level and the professionalism of food safety inspectors, and demanded a comprehensive food safety system from farm to table. Premier Li Keqiang said in recent instructions that food safety is an important hallmark for building an all-round moderately prosperous society and should be given a more prominent position this year.

 

Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli presided over a meeting of the State Council's food safety commission on Tuesday, which laid out measures to ensure food safety this year. The vice premier said deeper problems affecting food safety have not been fundamentally solved and called for stricter management of food safety. Zhang demanded quick improvement of the food safety standard system, which will be integrated with international standards, and the most stringent regulation to ensure no systemic or regional food safety risks. Zhang also demanded relevant authorities move quickly to screen for risks and work to ensure food safety during the coming Spring Festival and "two sessions" -- the plenary meetings of national lawmakers and political advisors. Vice Premier Wang Yang also addressed Tuesday's meeting, which was attended by officials from relevant departments and experts with the State Council's food safety commission. 

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/03/2017

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Xi Calls for Creativity in Strict CPC Governance

 

The anti-corruption battle must go deeper, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Friday, calling for strict governance of the Communist Party of China (CPC) systematically, creatively and effectively. Xi, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks at the seventh plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), which opened Friday. The guidelines established at the sixth plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee should be implemented in a comprehensive manner, Xi said, adding that new practices must be guided with renewed understanding. The values of Communists must be upheld, and ideals and belief should be firmed with cultural confidence, Xi said, stressing the need to maintain the seriousness of political life in the Party and strengthen intra-Party supervision. The president said efforts should be made to address both symptoms and root causes of corruption, comprehensively strengthen discipline and to constantly improve work styles. The meeting was chaired by top graft buster Wang Qishan and attended by leaders including Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli.

 

ANTI-GRAFT ACHIEVEMENTS IN 2016

"Managing and running the Party is not only linked to the fate of the Party itself, but is also related to the future and fate of the nation," Xi stressed, adding that the Party should address this issue with greater resolution, efforts and courage. "Only by managing the Party soundly can we successfully lead the people in handling major challenges, hedge against major risks, overcome major obstacles and solve major contradictions, achieving one victory after another," Xi said. Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, "comprehensively and strictly governing the Party" has been included in the strategic blueprint, and efforts have been made to manage the Party stringently and carefully, according to Xi.

 

Nothing is off-limits in the anti-corruption efforts, and zero tolerance has been shown toward corruption, Xi said, underscoring that the spread of corruption has been curbed and corruption cases that directly impact people's direct interests have been dealt with. Thanks to the concerted efforts of the entire Party, the Party's discipline has been strengthened, Xi said, adding that "the spread of corruption has been effectively contained and the battle against corruption has gained crushing momentum." "The objective of ensuring officials do not dare to be corrupt has been basically achieved," Xi said, concluding that a new atmosphere is emerging in the political life within the Party.

 

ARDUOUS TASKS AHEAD

Strict and comprehensive governance of the Party, despite achieving remarkable progress since the 18th CPC National Congress, remains an arduous task, Xi stressed. Implementing frugality rules is a "tenacious" and "protracted" battle, Xi said, calling for unwavering resolution. The battle against corruption will not relax one bit, and the "zero tolerance" principle will not change, Xi said, calling for "resolutely winning the battle of justice against corruption". Xi called for advancing reforms to the state supervisory system, and urged discipline inspection commissions at all levels to strengthen self-supervision and accept intra-Party and social supervision to build a reliable team of cadres.

 

Xi also called for treating both root causes and symptoms in advancing strict and comprehensive Party governance. Xi stressed adhering to the values of Communists and improving one's political conscientiousness. Party members are confronted with "choices between public and private interests, righteousness and self-interest, virtue and vice, hardship and indulgence," Xi said, adding that it is political conscientiousness that determines their choices. Unshakable ideals and beliefs stem from cultural confidence, Xi noted, adding they must be grown and nourished in traditional Chinese culture, revolutionary culture, and socialist advanced culture. Xi also ordered Party members and cadres to stay away from vulgarity. Rather than catering to vulgar taste, they should elevate themselves spiritually to be people of integrity, prudence, and rectitude.

 

Xi said senior officials of the CPC should take the lead in practicing strict intra-Party political life, always act with a correct political direction and stick to the Party's political stance and principles. Xi urged Party officials to conform with the CPC Central Committee both in thoughts and actions, as well as to implement the CPC Central Committee's major policies without reservations. Xi also underscored the importance of persistence in strengthening intra-Party supervision, urging Party organizations at various levels to be bold and serious in Party supervision and "cracking hard nuts." Xi asked officials to be candid, frank and sincere. Wang said studying Xi's remarks is "an important political task for the entire Party," asking authorities to maintain a sound intra-Party political environment and prepare for the 19th CPC National Congress to be held this year. 

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/06/2016

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New Supervisory Body to Share Responsibility and Organization with CCDI

 

China's state supervisory commission will share responsibility and organization with the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the Communist Party of China, an official said Monday. Xiao Pei, vice minister of supervision, made the comments at a press conference after a plenary session of the CCDI concluded on Sunday, explaining the two bodies will share institution and staff. The Ministry of Supervision also currently shares responsibility and organization with the CCDI. The country's supervisory system will be put into four tiers: national, provincial, city and county, Xiao said, noting that it is a major political system reform. China's top legislature last month endorsed a pilot program to reform the supervisory system by setting up powerful supervisory commissions with full coverage of all official staff.

 

According to the pilot, the new supervisory commissions will integrate government supervision departments and corruption prevention bureaus, as well as divisions for handling bribery, dereliction of duty and prevention of duty-related crimes under the people's procuratorates. Xiao said the new commissions are powerful anti-graft bodies, which will supervise not only functionaries in Party organs and legislative, administrative and judicial bodies, but also members in non-Communist parties and the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce. In addition, the commissions will supervise executives in state-owned enterprises and government-sponsored institutions as well as those in mass organizations. 

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/09/2017

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Vice Premier Urges Efforts in Rural Property Rights Reform

 

The interests of farmers must be protected in reforming the system of collectively owned rural assets, and a market economy-oriented approach should be used in the reform, Vice Premier Wang Yang said Tuesday. The reform is an important step to improve the nation's basic rural operation system and protect farmers' rights, Wang said at a meeting on the topic, adding that the reform should be pushed forward in an orderly manner. A clearly defined, well-functioning and strongly protected property rights system in rural areas should gradually be established to promote development of the Chinese rural economy and sustained growth of farmers' incomes, Wang said. Strong leadership is needed in this wide-reaching reform, and verification of assets owned by villages should be carried out in an all-around way, he said.

 

Reforming collectively-owned rural operating assets through share-holding cooperatives should progress in an orderly manner starting from small-scale pilot schemes, respecting the will and innovation of farmers, Wang said. In China, rural collective assets consist of resource assets such as land, forest, hills and grassland; operating assets such as buildings,machinery, rural infrastructure and enterprises; and non-operating assets such as those used for education, science, technology and other public purposes. China is promoting the reform to help farmers increase incomes and reduce the urban-rural income gap. Prior to the reform, farmers were only owners of operating assets in name, which they could not operate or profit from, experts said.  

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/10/2017

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China Seeks Better Gov't Resource Allocation

 

Chinese authorities want to allocate public resources in a more efficient, transparent and fair way. In a guideline released on Wednesday, the Communist Party of China Central Committee and State Council pledged breakthroughs in government allocation of resources to address problems such as over-reliance on administrative measures. Categorizing the resources into three types, the guideline gave detailed plans with regard to natural, economic and non-profit state assets. The Management of natural resources should be based on property rights to compensate rights holders for use of public resources, according to the guideline. Public natural resources include land, mineral deposits, rivers, forests, uncultivated land, sea, uninhabited islands and mudflats that are owned by the state. Without proper regulation, such resources could easily be recklessly exploited, leading to irretrievable damage. The guideline requires registration of all natural resources to improve the paid-use mechanism in land, water, mineral and sea resources. The country will also explore paid use of state forests, grassland and uninhabited islands.

 

The state capital structure will be optimized to focus on national security and public welfare, strategically important industries, major infrastructure and businesses with core competence. To clear obstacles for reforms of the state-owned businesses, a more fluid mechanism should be built to push for state asset securitization and allow inefficient asset to exit the market. There are currently more than 100 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) directly regulated by central government, while many more are under administration of local authorities. These enterprises are considered the backbone of the economy, but their inefficiency, their monopolies in many areas, and their unchecked spending have long been a source of public complaints. In recent years, the SOEs have speeded up efforts to integrate their businesses and resources. The State Council guideline said China will build a market-oriented exit mechanism to weed out incompetent companies and accelerate disposal of inefficient state asset. Businesses will be encouraged to sell state asset at market price via securities and equity trading platforms, the guideline added.

 

For non-profit state resources such as education and healthcare, the guideline specifies that a list of such public services would be used to ensure equal and fair access to them. China will actively introduce a competitive mechanism to build a service supply system led by the government, supported by social forces and supervised by the public, the guideline pledged. Under the precondition of supporting a national unified market, China will encourage regions to explore innovative measures in urbanization, SOEs, regional financial markets, property taxes, health and elderly care. To simplify access to public resources, China will integrate public resource platforms and foster a unified exchange system, the guideline said. The move is the latest of government efforts to streamline administration and let the market play a bigger role in resource allocation.  

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/11/2017

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China Establishes Technological Cooperation with 158 Countries, Regions

 

China has established cooperation ties in science and technology with 158 countries and regions in the world, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology Friday. The ministry said that a total of 111 intergovernmental agreements on science and technology cooperation had been signed, and the nation had taken part in more than 200 intergovernmental organizations devoted to boosting such cooperation. A stable intergovernmental cooperation mechanism, which covers major countries, regions and international organizations, has taken shape, contributing to the improvement of the nation's capability in science and technology cooperation, according to the ministry. Statistics from the ministry also showed that some 70 offices of science and technology had been set up in Chinese embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions in 47 countries, regions, international organizations and multilateral mechanisms, with 146 diplomats.

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/13/2016

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Senior Official Urges Law Enforcement to Counter Hidden Risks

 

A senior Chinese official urged all judicial and law enforcement agencies to improve their capabilities to ensure a safe and stable social environment for the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to be held this year. Meng Jianzhu, head of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the CPC Central Committee, made the remarks during a central conference on political and legal work held on Thursday and Friday. Meng asked the agencies to improve their political alertness and capabilities of prediction and early warning. Judicial and law enforcement agencies should detect hidden dangers and risks and employ effective measures, to protect national political security, especially the security of the regime and system, Meng said. He also called on the agencies to strive to raise the credibility of the judicial system, to make the public feel safer and more satisfied.  

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/13/2017

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Suggestions Pour in for Government Work Report

 

More than 100,000 suggestions have been submitted in response to an online call to “Share your thoughts with Premier Li”. The aim of the initiative, launched on Dec 20, was to gauge which issues were of most concern to internet users from home and abroad in the lead up to the upcoming two sessions. Online readers were invited to offer suggestions on 15 topics ranging from employment, housing, environment to government reform and urbanization. As of Jan 13, a total of 106,881 suggestions had been submitted. Among those environment, education, diplomacy, trade, and medical reform were the top five topics foreign internet users were most interested in. Some of the best suggestions have been submitted to Premier Li Keqiang and the drafting group for the government work report. In last year’s government work report, 93 work deployments were outlined in accordance with suggestions from internet users. This year’s event has involved more media outlets, with gov.cn, the official website for the Chinese government and 26 media outlets co-launching the activity. As of Jan 13, the top ten media outlets that prompted the most effective suggestions were cctv.com, toutiao.com, people.com.cn, xinhuanet.com, Tencent, ifeng.com, chinadaily.com.cn, China.org.cn, ce.cn, and yicai.com. This is the third consecutive year Gov.cn has launched the activity, which provides the public with an online channel to voice their opinions and suggestions to the State Council. The public have until the end of this year’s two sessions to participate.  

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/14/2017

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China to Reform Paid-use Mechanism for Natural Resources

 

The State Council on Monday released a guideline on reforming the paid-use mechanism for natural resources as the government seeks more efficient and rational use of the national wealth. By 2020, China aims to have a paid-use mechanism that features a clear description of property rights, improved rules and better regulation for natural resources, according to the guideline, which was approved by Premier Li Keqiang. Public natural resources include land, mineral deposits, water, forests,sea and islands. Without proper regulation, such resources could easily be exploited, leading to irretrievable damage. The guideline detailed major tasks for managing such resources, pledging to expand the paid-use system to cover land for public service and state-owned agricultural use, while fees for the use of water resources will be strictly collected.

 

The paid-use system for mineral deposits will be further improved, the guideline said, and the mechanism will be tested on state forests and grassland. The government will also establish a system on the use rights for uninhabited islands and gradually widen the scope for transferring resources. The government is currently exploring how to allocate public resources in a more efficient, transparent and fair way. Last week, the Communist Party of China Central Committee and State Council promised to address problems such as over-reliance on administrative measures. Management of natural resources should be based on property rights to compensate rights holders for the use of public resources, authorities said.

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/16/2016

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Senior Chinese Official Urges United Front Work to Better Serve Development

 

Senior Chinese official Yu Zhengsheng on Monday urged united front departments to better serve the development of society and economy. A member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, Yu said officials of CPC united front departments should resolutely safeguard the authority of the CPC Central Committee with comrade Xi Jinping as the core. At a nationwide conference on united front work, Yu told officials to implement the CPC Central Committee's policies concerning united front work, and consolidate wisdom and strength for the upcoming 19th National Congress of CPC. Yu, who is also chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, fully endorsed the united front work last year, stressing that the work should support social and economic development, and safeguard social harmony and stability. Yu called on united front work officials to provide businessmen from the non-public sector with confidence in development, and consolidate and develop social stability in Xinjiang and Tibet. Services and management for the ethnic migrant population should be done well, the official said. Yu also called for better platforms to utilize non-Communist figures. Sun Chunlan, head of the Department of the United Front Work of the CPC Central Committee, presided over the conference, saying the Internet could be used to assist united front work through innovative work measures and solutions, and strengthen the guidance of public opinions. 

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/16/2016

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Premier Solicits Public Opinions on Draft Government Work Report

 

Premier Li Keqiang on Monday chaired a seminar to solicit opinions from representatives of education, science and technology, culture, health, sports sectors and of common people on the draft government work report. Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli also attended the seminar. Eight representatives gave suggestions on how to improve the report, which will be deliberated at the annual session of the top legislature in March. Li said with the joint efforts of the government and people from all walks of life, China achieved outstanding economic and social progress in 2016. The purpose of the government's work is to improve the lives of the people, thus, the government must listen to all opinions and understand the concerns of the people, Li added. The premier called for the full implementation of the policies of the central economic work conference, promoting the coordinated development of the economy and society, better satisfying the people's demands and expectations, and addressing the people's top concerns.

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/17/2017

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CPC Stresses Loyalty, Professionalism of Judicial, Law Enforcement Staff

 

A document issued by the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee called on all judicial and law enforcement workers to be loyal to the Party and improve their professionalism. The document, published on Wednesday, said the country's judicial and law enforcement staff should protect social stability, and promote social justice and fairness. It stipulated that such workers should have clear political beliefs, high professionalism, commitment and discipline. Judicial and law enforcement professionals should adhere to the rule of law with Chinese characteristics, follow the correct political direction and stay absolutely loyal to the Party, the document said. It further said that the CPC's political code of conduct must be strictly observed, and that systems will be established to offer training programs and supervision to guarantee Party loyalty.

 

The document pledged to improve professional standards for judicial and law enforcement personnel, saying their professional history will be taken into consideration for all promotions, payments and honors. Judicial and law enforcement workers should strive to use more technology, the document said. It outlined the code of conduct and work style of relevant workers, as well as guidelines for their social activities. Any acts that go against the public's interests, or are deemed a dereliction of duty, will be addressed. The document said that judicial power will be put under stricter supervision and that corruption, abuse of power and other misconduct will be punished. Moreover, the document pledged better protection for professionals in this sector and strict punishments for any obstructions of justice.

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/18/2017

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Senior Chinese Official Stresses Reform, Stability in Xinjiang

 

Senior official Yu Zhengsheng has urged Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) to deepen reform and play its role in ensuring social stability and lasting peace in the region. Yu, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, made the remarks during an inspection to Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region from Monday to Wednesday. Yu, who is also chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, visited farms, companies, communities and enterprises and spoke with officials and people from all walks of life about reform, development and stability of the XPCC, which is an economic, semi-military institution stationed in Xinjiang. To establish and improve the role of the XPCC is a CPC Central Committee strategic arrangement, in addition to strengthened frontier governance, he said, calling on the authorities to fully comprehend the importance of deepening reform under the current circumstances.

 

He called for efforts to enhance the Party's core leadership, improve the administration of the XPCC, reform its fiscal management system and that of state-owned enterprises, and improve its ability to maintain stability and defend frontiers. A sound environment should be created to promote reform and protect the interests of all staff, as well as to enable the XPCC to better undertake its role, Yu said. He stressed the importance of improving the economy and people's quality of life, and facilitating communication among various ethnic groups. Yu also pledged to continue to crackdown on the three forces of separatism, terrorism and extremism to maintain social stability.  

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/18/2017

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Senior CPC Leader Urges Systematic Selection of Officials

 

Senior leader of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Liu Yunshan on Wednesday called for improved Party building and for officials to be selected and promoted in an orderly manner. Liu, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, made the remarks during a meeting attended by leading officials of the Party's organization departments from across the country. He stressed the importance of discipline when selecting and promoting officials, saying that candidates should be selected and promoted in a precise and methodical manner to ensure a clean political environment. Liu also called for better work toward the election of delegates to the 19th National Congress of the CPC to be held this year, as well as local leadership transition. He asked organization departments to practice strict intra-Party political life and strengthen intra-Party supervision, focus on "key minorities" and promote "comprehensively and strictly governing the Party." He said Party building and organization work should be improved in this regard to support the 19th National Congress of the CPC. Liu asked organization departments to be loyal to the Party, be impartial and upright, and improve their professionalism and skills. The meeting was presided over by Zhao Leji, head of the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee.

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/18/2017

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JAPAN: Student Grant System Should Help Motivated Youths Focus on Study

 

The government plans to create a scholarship system with no repayment obligation for students at universities and other types of schools in low-income households. The system is intended to support students who have the desire to advance to higher education but would have to abandon their hopes due to financial difficulties. The system should be made to work effectively. The system is expected to be fully introduced in fiscal 2018. Monthly grants will be paid to students attending universities, junior colleges and vocational schools, and will range from ¥20,000 to ¥40,000 depending on factors such as whether the student lives at home or away from home, or attends a private, national or public school. Among member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, it is said that only Japan and Iceland have no grant-in-aid scholarships sponsored by the government.

 

The number of people from households exempt from paying residential tax who wish to receive higher education is estimated at about 60,000 in each grade level across the nation. Among them, about 20,000 students will be eligible to receive the scholarships. High schools nationwide are expected to endorse students based on academic achievements and extracurricular activities as well as motivation and family situations. Some students struggle to improve their academic performance because their parents cannot sufficiently pay educational expenses. The academic ability of students also varies widely among high schools. It stands to reason that decisions on whom to recommend will be left to people on the ground and not determined by establishing unified criteria on academic performance. High schools are encouraged to evaluate students comprehensively and select students with a desire for learning.

 

The number of students struggling to pay school and living expenses has risen while the rate of students moving on to universities has exceeded 50 percent. The average annual tuition for private universities is ¥860,000, and even national universities require ¥540,000 in annual tuition. The costs weigh on parents. Half of all university students who enroll in regular daytime programs receive a certain amount of student financial assistance. Currently, there are only two types of national financial assistance for students: interest-bearing loans and interest-free loans. Through the Japan Student Services Organization, an independent administrative agency, 1.32 million people receive such financial aid. The average debt of students at the time they graduate from university is ¥3.1 million. Many students become non-regular employees and find it difficult to repay their loans. The number of students who have fallen three months or more behind in their payments amounts to 170,000. People, particularly in low-income households, tend to refrain from taking out loans out of concern over the burden of future repayments. It is significant to create such a new system also from the standpoint of equal opportunities in education.

 

Starting in fiscal 2021, ¥22 billion will need to be raised annually to fund the scholarship system. To win public understanding of “investments for the future,” it is essential to verify certain criteria such as the academic achievements of scholarship recipients after entering their prospective schools. After the new system is launched, students can receive interest-free loans together with the scholarships. It is vital to develop an environment that will allow students to concentrate on their studies and avoid spending too much time on part-time jobs. From next fiscal year, the interest-free loans will include a mechanism to allow the amount of payment to vary according to the income of students after they graduate from university, college or vocational school. Other measures, such as further extending the repayment period, will also be needed. Universities are also being asked to cooperate in expanding the range of tuition exemptions for students. Policies to support motivated youths are desired at multiple levels.

From http://the-japan-news.com 01/02/2017

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SOUTH KOREA: Intellectual Property Data Service Covers Patent Cases from 25 Countries

 

The KIPRIS, an intellectual property rights information service, has expanded the scope of its database on international patent. Launched in 1996 by the Korean Intellectual Property Office, the KIPRIS service, an acronym for “Korea Intellectual Property Rights Information Service,” allows anyone to access information on intellectual property, free-of-charge. The platform has so far provided information on patents owned by 12 countries, including the U.S., China, Japan, Russia, Taiwan, Australia, France and Germany. Starting Dec. 15, the database has expanded its scope to 13 more countries -- Austria, Denmark, Israel, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Colombia, the Philippines, Poland, Slovenia and, Switzerland, as well as several countries in Eurasia. With this addition, the service offers about 78.1 million cases of patent data from a total of 25 countries. “With the latest update of patent data, we expect that this will allow Korean companies better access to information on intellectual property and help them to make inroads in other potential markets outside of Korea,” said an official from the Korean Intellectual Property Office. “Given that data is a crucial element in the upcoming era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Korean Intellectual Property Office will continue to work to create easier and faster access to information on intellectual property, information, in particular, which pertains to technological innovation.

From http://www.korea.net 12/20/2016

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LX Corp. Seeks to Enhance Citizens’ Lives Through Government 3.0

 

South Korea’s state-run land information provider LX Corp. is operating a number of services to boost the public’s access to information about land as part of a government-led initiative, the company said Thursday. Government 3.0 refers to a government-launched initiative aimed at improving people’s lives and supporting small entrepreneurs by making available land-related data. The most notable service is the LX basic land information map, which allows citizens to access real estate information based on satellite images. The firm said the service has been helpful for potential entrepreneurs looking to start one-man businesses. The monthly view count of the map averages about 500,000 views, the firm said. LX Corp. has also been offering a “road name address helper service” through its official website since last September. The service was designed to help the public transit from the land parcel-based address system to the new road name-based one, implemented in 2014. Other services include a mobile application, dubbed the Land Alert-e app. It shows the location of drug stores, hospitals, shelters and other safety-related venues in the region, alongside information related to land, including ways to avoid real estate fraud. 

From http://www.koreaherald.com 12/22/2016

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Constitutional Court to Start Official Review of Impeachment Next Week

 

South Korea's Constitutional Court said Monday it will start the official review of the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye next week. The National Assembly voted on Dec. 9 to oust Park from office over a corruption and influence-peddling scandal involving her and her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil. The top court said its preparation procedure will be complete this week after it receives the results of the prosecution's investigation into the case.  The court has around six months to come up with a final ruling. If her impeachment is confirmed, South Korea has to hold a presidential election within 60 days. 

From http://www.koreaherald.com 12/26/2016

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Opposition Party Pushes to Lower Voting Age to 18

 

The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea on Tuesday declared a legislative push to lower the minimum voting age to 18, effective from this year’s presidential election. “We shall lower the voting age to 18 before the next presidential election. Among OECD member states, Korea is the only nation stipulating voting rights at 19,” floor leader Rep. Woo Sang-ho said in a party meeting. The liberal party, the largest in South Korea’s unicameral parliament controlling 128 of the 300 seats, will push to revise the election law to lower the age limit and grant voting rights to compatriots living overseas, he said. Currently, 33 member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development grant suffrage to those 18 years and older, with Austria at the age of 16. Several bills intended at grating suffrage to 18-year-olds are pending at the National Assembly, proposed by opposition lawmakers.

 

Previous attempts to lower the age fell through due to the opposition from the conservative ruling party. Recent polls show a deepening political divide of South Korean voters, with the young leaning left and the old leaning right. “It is embarrassing that those 18-year-olds are not granted voting rights in a country where massive candlelight vigils are held in such a peaceful manner. Those opposing the bill are opposing the calls of the citizens,” Woo added. For overseas residents, the party insisted on advancing the introduction of an overseas voting system, scheduled for 2018, to this year‘s presidential election.  The upcoming presidential election could take place earlier than the scheduled date in December, depending on the outcome of the impeachment trial of President Park Geun-hye, which kicked off Tuesday. If the Constitutional Court finalizes her ouster, the nation has to elect a new leader in two months. 

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 01/03/2017

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Science Ministry to Promote Strategic Industries in 2017

 

South Korea's science ministry said Friday it will nurture key strategic industries through helping aspiring entrepreneurs and scientists cope with the fast-paced industrial transformation, dubbed the "fourth industrial revolution." In a policy plan briefing to Prime Minister and Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn on its policy direction for 2017, the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning said it will secure various intelligence information technologies that characterize the fourth industrial revolution. The ministry designated 10 sectors, including the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, which are forecast to generate business opportunities and profits in the future. "The ministry will push forward these ambitious policies with an aim to lead the intelligence information society through innovation of science technology," ICT Minister Choi Yang-hee told reporters.

The goal of the projects is to boost the local economy by turning innovative ideas into businesses through science and technology, while generating business opportunities by converging different industries, the ministry said. In an effort to help scientists, the ministry said it will provide research funding of up to 30 million won ($25,000) per person to 1,000 young scientists this year. It will also continue to foster startups in 2017, including providing young jobseekers with an opportunity to work at venture firms for first-hand experience in launching a business. The ministry will continue to nurture 17 centers across the country that provide various kinds of support for aspiring entrepreneurs. There are concerns that the centers, a centerpiece of the "creative economy" policy initiated by President Park Geun-hye, are at risk amid a widening influence-peddling scandal surrounding the president and her confidante.

In an effort to overcome such worries, the ministry said it will invite more private experts and capital to match up with local startups and venture firms. Startups that lack an overseas marketing network can receive assistance from the ministry, which will provide legal and accounting services to tap strategic markets in Southeast Asia and East Europe. Also, the ministry said it will set up special funds with 150 billion won to help startups and venture firms in the science and technology sectors. The funds will be focused on establishing infrastructure for basic science and new-growth sectors, and on assisting venture firms. The ministry said it has newly allocated a budget worth 3.4 billion won for developing new medicines and another 2.4 billion won in developing medical instruments. The budgets are part of the ministry's effort to nurture the bio industry, which is viewed as the nation's next growth engine after IT.

From http://www.koreaherald.com 01/06/2017

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Gov’t to Focus on Livelihoods, More Jobs, E-Gov't Services

 

The government will create more than 10,000 jobs in the public sector in order to revitalize the economy. It will strive to boost the convenience of people's lives by achieving its goal of creating future-forward online government services, and by achieving its goal of fully realizing "Government 3.0" services as they become embedded in people's day-to-day lives. The Ministry of the Interior announced its annual policy plan at a government policy briefing on Jan. 11, and the theme of the meeting was “safety of the people, law and order.” The ministry will create more than 10,000 jobs in the public sector, which includes public safety, education and welfare. To help workers manage both work and home more easily, the ministry will also create on a large scale more part-time positions. To this end, it will create 3,600 jobs in the field of security and public safety, such as police officers, maritime police and firefighters. It will also recruit 630 special education teachers in kindergartens, and create 3,600 jobs in the social welfare sector. In the case of Terminal 1 at Incheon International Airport, which needs a heightened level of security, the ministry said it will create more jobs in the arrivals hall, customs, the quarantine area, and at general employment and welfare centers, aiming to create more than 100 part-time jobs.

 

The ministry will also concentrate on realizing its goal of developing "Government 3.0" online services so as to make people's lives more convenient. One such service is the so-called “one-stop moving service” that will be introduced this year. It will help people update their home address automatically after moving. All they need to do is to visit one local district office to register the new address, and that will enable them to change their new address all at once. The government will expand online "Government 3.0" services that target multicultural families and non-Korean residents. The ministry will establish a “multicultural migrants service center” where people can receive all sorts of support services at one place. In the past, non-Korean residents used to receive support services from different organizations, separately, including multicultural family support centers, support centers for foreign workers, social integration programs and foreigner support centers. Another area of improvement will be e-government. To mark the 50th anniversary of the introduction of online government services, the ministry will create a new, intelligent e-government that is equipped with new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, and which will make use of big data. It will integrate and connect the existing 280 kinds of administrative e- government services into the new system, and adopt a so-called “digital one pass” so that users can use all government services by simply logging in with one single ID. The government will also introduce various verification measures, such as finger prints and iris scans, rather than the existing certificate verification system.

From http://www.korea.net 01/13/2017

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INDONESIA: Preparing to Set Up National Cyber Agency

 

Indonesia is now preparing to set up an agency aimed to tackle fake news and rumors that rampantly spread through social media and internet messaging applications and protect state institutions from being intruded by hackers. The setting up of the agency, namely National Cyber Agency (BCN) was to address the president's aim to curb discussions on sensitive issues and the circulation of fake news and rumors that may split the society. Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Security Politics and Legal Affairs Wiranto said that BCN would cooperate with the existing cyber-watcher institutions run by defense ministry, national intelligence agency and police cyber security. Wiranto said that establishment of BCN was necessary to curb the sprawling untrue information, slander, and spreading hate among the public that could jeopardize the nation's unity and stability. "Democracy endorses freedom of speech, but people must abide by the law," Wiranto said in his office on Thursday. The senior minister, who is a former military commander, said that related ministries and institutions were now preparing the formation of officials in charge of BCN operation. BCN and other institutions will coordinate to monitor news circulated online and information spreading through internet-based communication mechanism. The idea to establish BCN initially came up in January 2015 when President Joko Widodo attached the importance to establish a supreme institution in strengthening the capabilities of vital state institutions from being hacked by foreign parties. The plan was cancelled in mid last year due to limitation of state budget to finance the institution's operation. President Widodo raised up again the idea in a cabinet meeting last month to address government's focuses in combating terrorism and fake news and rumors among the society this year. Widespread of fake news and rumors through the social media has entered a considerable degree as 130 million people are active internet users in Indonesia.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com 01/06/2017

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MYANMAR: National Political Dialogues Begin in Southernmost Region

 

Myanmar's first regional national political dialogues between the government, armed groups and political parties began in Tanintharyi region, southernmost of the country, on Thursday, an official of the Joint Cease fire Monitoring Committee (JMC) told Xinhua. The dialogues will take place in three districts of the region, namely Dawei, Myeik and Kawthaung separately until Jan. 17 and the dialogue for the whole region will be finalized on Jan. 23-25. The regional national political dialogues for other two regions such as Kayin state and Nay Pyi Taw Council area will follow. The outcome of all regional dialogues will be submitted to the Second Panglong Peace Conference in next February in accordance with the National Cease fire Agreement (NCA). The Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), chaired by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, on Dec. 30, formed three supervision committees for holding political dialogue at national level for Kayin state, Tanintharyi region and Nay Pyi Taw Council Area respectively. Under the working process of political dialogue at the national level and principles on the dialogue included in the framework of political dialogue, race-oriented political dialogue will be held in Kayin state, region-oriented political dialogue be in Tanintharyi region and subjected-oriented political dialogue, also known as civil society organizations (CSO) Forum, be in Nay Pyi Taw Council Area.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 01/05/2017

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Parliamentary Candidates Allowed Canvassing for Votes Beginning on January 30

 

Parliamentary candidates who are planning to run in the by-election to be held on April 1 can start canvassing for votes from January 30, the Union Election Commission (UEC) has said. The voting campaign period has been designated from January 30 to March 30.  The UEC said that candidates must follow a code of conduct for political parties and candidates. The commission decided on the campaign period at a coordination meeting at its office on January 3. The 60 days campaign period starts at 6 am on January 30 and ends at 12 midnight on March 30. Parliamentary candidates are not allowed to canvass for votes from  midnight on March 30 until the by-elections are finished on April 1. Parliamentary candidates must take down election campaign posters no later than 12 midnight on March 30. The by-elections are for 19 vacant seats – nine seats for Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House Parliament), three for Amyotha Hluttaw (Upper House Parliament) and seven for State Hluttaw (Parliament). The candidates, from 24 political parties including independents, total 95.

From http://www.elevenmyanmar.com/ 01/12/2017

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Myanmar Begins National-Level Political Dialogue in Southeastern State

 

Myanmar began holding the first national race-oriented political dialogue Wednesday between the government, armed groups and political parties in Hpa-An in the country's southeastern Kayin state. The dialogue involving Kayin National Union (KNU), KNU/KNLA (Peace Council) and Democratic Kayin Buddhist Army (DKBA) will last until Friday. The three armed groups are among the eight signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) initiated with the government on Oct. 15, 2015. Myanmar's first region-oriented national political dialogue had begun separately in three areas of Tanintharyi region, southernmost of the country, early this month and the dialogue for the whole region will be finalized on Jan. 23-25. The subject-oriented political dialogue will follow in Nay Pyi Taw Council area. The outcome of all regional dialogues will be submitted to the Second Panglong Peace Conference expected by February this year. The Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), chaired by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, on Dec. 30 last year formed three supervision committees for holding political dialogues at national level for Kayin state, Tanintharyi region and Nay Pyi Taw Council Area respectively. Under the working process of political dialogues, race-oriented political dialogues are to be held in Kayin state, region-oriented political dialogues in Tanintharyi region and subject-oriented political dialogues, also known as civil society organizations (CSO) Forum, be in Nay Pyi Taw Council Area.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 01/18/2017

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MALAYSIA: Medicos No Longer Guaranteed Civil Service Employment

 

EXCLUSIVE: PETALING JAYA: Permanent employment for doctors, pharmacists and dentists in the civil service is no longer guaranteed. The Government has started issuing jobs on a contract basis for them since last month as announced in Budget 2017. According to the Health Ministry, if doctors successfully completed their housemanship within the three years of contract, they would have another two-year contract for compulsory service as a medical officer. Pharmacists will be hired as provisionally registered pharmacists (PRP) for one year, with a maximum contract offered for two years and for the compulsory service thereafter, one year, with a maximum contract offered for one year. There is no compulsory internship for dentists and compulsory service for them is one year, with a maximum contract offered for three years. Health Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Dr Chen Chaw Min said from last month, 1,219 candidates had been offered jobs on a contract basis by the Public Service Commission.

 

“Permanent appointments will be based on their merit during housemanship training and recommendation by the Health director-general,” he said in an e-mail to The Star. The move, he said, is expected to reduce waiting time for housemanship training and compulsory service. Dr Chen said competent staff who fulfilled specific requirements will get permanent posts but they may not immediately get the posts until there are vacancies. Their salaries will be backdated to the date of appointment once the posts are available, he said. He said for government scholars who have not been offered permanent posts in the ministry upon completion of their compulsory service, they could seek jobs in the university and military hospitals and the private sector. He also said that for this year, the ministry planned to take in 9,300 candidates – six batches of intakes which will involve 5,425 candidates for house officers (housemen), three batches (1,921) for dental officers and four batches (1,954) for pharmacists. He added that housemen will enjoy the same benefits received by permanent house officers as stipulated in a 2008 circular on contract of service with additional advantages.

 

Those under this “modified contract” will have full-pay medical leave up to 90 days, and the extension of medical treatment for parents in government hospitals and clinics, he said. But only those who are appointed as permanent medical officers and have obtained their confirmation in service are eligible to apply for government housing loans, he said. The monthly basic pay of a houseman is the same as the grade category UD41 of the permanent service which is RM2,947, while a dentist (grade UG41) gets RM2,844 and a pharmacist (UF41) RM2,740. With allowances, they could get RM4,000. On the criteria for a permanent medical officer post, Dr Chen said doctors must fulfil the service requirements, including attaining a good level of competency and performance of at least 85% in the yearly performance review during their house­man­­­ship training or compulsory service. The permanent posts would also be given to the best talents who have the potential for specialty training and are willing to serve at any place in the ministry’s facilities during their tenure, he added.

From http://www.thestar.com.my/ 01/19/2017

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THAILAND: NLA Restores Patriarch Appointment Power to King

 

THE NATIONAL Legislative Assembly (NLA) yesterday passed an amendment to the Sangha Act, paving the way to return power to the King to appoint the Supreme Patriarch. With the passage in the assembly, the legal amendment will soon be submitted to HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn for royal endorsement. The NLA yesterday passed the bill in one hour after three consecutive readings with a final vote of 182 in favour and six abstentions. The amendment revises the current act by giving the monarch sole discretion to select the appointee for the country’s top ecclesiastical post. The meeting was chaired by NLA President Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, while PM’s Office Minister Ormsin Chivapruck, who oversees the National Buddhism Office, attended the meeting on behalf of the Cabinet. Ormsin waived the Cabinet’s right to consider the amendment for 30 days before the reading to allow the NLA to “proceed smoothly”. Pol General Pichit Khuande-chakupt, who chairs the NLA committee on religions, arts, culture and tourism, proposed the change to the 1992 Sangha Act on the grounds that the country should return to long-practised traditions.

 

The 1992 Act’s Article 7 stipulates that if the position of Supreme Patriarch is vacant, the prime minister with the Sangha Supreme Council (SSC) would nominate the most senior monk of the rank of Phra Racha Khana, the penultimate highest ranking, as the next Supreme Patriarch subject to royal endorsement. However, Article 7 has never been implemented since the last Supreme Patriarch was appointed by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1989, three years before the stipulation came into force. During discussions, NLA members said the law created a “lingering problem”, referring to the potential vacancy in the post. The current candidate is Somdet Chuang, who is also known as Somdet Phra Maha Ratcha Mangkhlachan, who has been nominated by the SSC. However, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has refused to submit Somdet Chuang’s name for royal endorsement, saying the abbot must clear “all allegations”, including his ownership of an illegally imported antique car and close relations with the fugitive former abbot Phra Dhammachayo of the controversial Dhammakaya Temple. NLA member Somchai Sawaengkarn said that the 1992 law created confusion whether the SSC or the prime minister should have the principal authority to nominate the Supreme Patriarch. He added that the monarch having sole discretion not only followed tradition but had been stipulated by previous versions of the Act. The 1992 Act also gave great weight to the seniority of the nominee, which could discount the qualifications of candidates, Somchai said. Another NLA member, Tuang Untachai, said the 1992 Act could be deemed to reduce the King’s rightful power under the constitution, which stipulates that the monarch maintains the right to grant royal titles and decorations, which should include the Supreme Patriarch.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 12/30/2016

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PM Invokes Special Article 44 Powers to Set Up Reform and Reconciliation Body

 

PRIME Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday invoked Article 44 in his capacity as head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to set up a new structure to expedite reform and reconciliation this year. The premier said during his weekly press briefing at Government House that reconciliation would not focus on an amnesty or those who have fled the country. It would seek to resolve differences and prevent conflicts in the future, he said, without giving further details. Prayut revealed the new structure, which he drew up, last week. It is the first time that reform, reconciliation and national strategy development work will be placed under the same directive of a new strategic body on reform and reconciliation, and the PM will chair it also. Other committees will be set up below it to help oversee and implement each area of work. Under the lead of the supreme body, the national reform preparation committee will take over work of the National Reform Steering Assembly when it dissolves four months after the charter is activated. National strategy work handled by concerned bodies will then be handed to the 20-year national strategy preparation committee, while work on reconciliation will be handled by the military, and other bodies will be transferred to the reconciliation committee.

 

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said on Monday that all committee members would be appointed this month so the panels can start working. Wissanu said there were plans for the work, especially reconciliation, to take place at the start of this year as the government originally expected the charter to be promulgated last November, and it would have had one year to work on it. But he could not say whether the committees would finish the work before the government ends its term. If they did not, the work would be forwarded to the new government. Another Deputy Prime Minister, Prawit Wongsuwan, said he would be in charge of reconciliation, and would invite political parties and groups for talks. “We want to find a resolution for all – how we can live together in peace,” Prawit said. “We will find the best way out to deal with past incidents but this will have nothing to do with the legal process.  “I expect to do this before the election as I want us to be able to live together. Some agreements may be needed. “Everything must have a rule to follow, so does reconciliation. I will try to achieve that but have no idea yet to what extent I can. But I want to see it happen,” he said. Asked about an amnesty for people who committed offences for colour-coded mobs, Prawit said the legal process would be upheld. “I said, no [amnesty],” he added.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 01/11/2017

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Policy-Making Panel to Be Set Up for Thailand's Eastern Economic Corridor Projects

 

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said Tuesday he will soon set up a policy-making committee for Thailand's Eastern Economic Corridor(EEC) projects. Prayut said he will exercise his absolute power under Article 44 of an interim constitution to set up the policy-making committee as well as a working committee to streamline and promote the EEC development projects. The EEC projects, located in the country's eastern seaboard areas, including Chachoengsao, Chon Buri and Rayong provinces, call for the construction and expansion of logistic and transport systems primarily designed to support export-bound manufacturing industry and export industry via Laem Chabang deep-water port and U-tapao airport. Prayut said that the existing infrastructure in those areas was yet to be developed and expanded to better serve the EEC projects, in which foreign investors will certainly be tempted to invest. The sought-after foreign ventures in the EEC projects could probably materialize as soon as within this year, if those committees managed to have them fruitfully implemented, he said.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 01/17/2017

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VIETNAM: Stronger Cut of State Workers Needed to Improve Performance

 

Deputy Prime Minister Trương Hòa Bình has requested the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) to press ahead with reducing the size of its workforce and eradicating family member employment and appointments to promote staff performance. He made the requirement at a meeting on Monday reviewing the ministry’s activities this year and setting tasks for 2017. He pointed out the sector’s shortcomings, including sluggish administrative reforms and workforce streamlining. While the administrative apparatus is still cumbersome, the sector has failed to precisely assess the performance of its cadres, civil servants and public employees. Many cadres, civil servants and public employees still lacked a sense of responsibility and haven’t fulfilled their tasks, he said. Bình asked the MoHA to continue overhauling regulations on the recruitment and use of civil servants and public employees, adding that inspection must be increased to eliminate the appointment of ineligible persons even when that appointment is in line with procedures. The sector must strongly reform the management of its staff and implement the Politburo’s resolution on reducing State workers to promote the quality of cadres, civil servants and public employees. Anyone who performs poorly or does not fulfil their missions must be replaced, the Deputy PM stressed. In his report, MoHA Deputy Minister Trần Anh Tuấn said the sector had continued close management and control of its workforce and reduced staff members in accordance with the Politburo’s Resolution No 39. Good performers in this regard include the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and the provinces of Quảng Ngãi, Lạng Sơn, Cao Bằng, Sơn La, Thanh Hóa, Quảng Nam, Nghệ An, Cà Mau and Hà Giang, and Hải Phòng City.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 12/28/2016

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Work in Unity and Make Nation Thrive: President

 

On the threshold of a New Year, President Trần Đại Quang called on all citizens to unite and work hard for a prosperous country and a better life for everyone. Addressing the nation on the eve of 2017, he highlighted some of the nation’s achievements in socio-economic development and international integration, and outlined opportunities and challenges that lay ahead. He noted that 2016 was the first year that the Party, people and army were implementing the Resolution adopted at the 12th National Party Congress, which charted the path ahead, setting crucial targets and identifying key tasks for the 2016-2020 period. In the context of a slow global economic recovery and many “complicated changes,” Việt Nam had overcome great difficulties in the first and second quarters of the year to regain momentum for recovery and development of production and business while maintaining macroeconomic stability. While the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate fell short of the set annual target, it remained among the highest in the region, he said.

 

Enhanced standing

 “We have firmly and persistently fought to protect the country’s independence, sovereignty, unification and territorial integrity, and maintain peace and stability. External relations and international integration have been deepened and expanded, contributing to enhancing Việt Nam’s position and prestige in the global arena.” But there are challenges facing the country, including the risk of not being able to sustain macroeconomic stability, poor growth quality, slow pace of restructuring in major industries and sectors and low labour productivity compared to other countries in the region and the world, according to the President. He also spoke of the hardships faced by people in remote areas and regions hit by floods, drought, saltwater intrusion and environmental pollution. Referring to “complicated developments” in the East Sea, the President stressed that seas and islands are a sacred and indispensable part of the country. Firmly safeguarding national independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity is the responsibility and duty of each Vietnamese citizen, he said. While Việt Nam’s rights and interests in the East Sea are recognised and protected by international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the country must resolutely and persistently fight to defend national independence and sovereignty, while maintaining a peaceful and stable environment for national development. All disputes must be dealt with via peaceful means on the basis of respect for international law, he said.

 

Constant vigilance

"Building and safeguarding the country in the new situation requires that the entire nation and political system, with the people’s armed force playing the core role, prepares well in all aspects, maintains high combat readiness and avoids falling into a passive mode or being taken by surprise in any situation." He stressed that strengthening the implementation of national defence and security tasks along, including comprehensively strengthening the armed forces, was a critical factor in effectively working for socio-economic development, international integration, and protection of national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. "Việt Nam has proactively and actively brought into play the diplomatic guidelines set by the 12th National Party Congress. Despite complicated regional and global developments, the external affairs sector has taken appropriate and synchronous measures in a timely manner," the President said. He said Việt Nam continued to be a bright example of political stability and development potentials. The nation has pushed ahead with cementing and deepening friendship and cooperation with other countries and partners towards common sustainable development, he said.

 

Apart from playing an active role in building the ASEAN Community, Việt Nam fulfilled its duties as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, UN Economic and Social Council, and UNESCO Executive Council. A Vietnamese diplomat was elected to the UN International Law Commission. The country also actively participated in and made significant contributions to multilateral forums, winning the appreciation of international friends, he said. On the fight against corruption, wastefulness and other negative phenomena, Quang noted positive outcomes with serious corruption and economic violation cases brought to light. However, those results had not met set requirements and the public’s expectations, he said. For this, it would be necessary to build and implement tight management and supervision mechanisms to prevent and deter corruption, the President said. He stressed that corrupt elements must be dealt with strictly without being affected by pressure from any organisation or individual, and judicial authorities must coordinate closely with relevant agencies in other countries to promptly arrest criminals hiding abroad, ensure the law’s effectiveness and serve as a deterrence to others. The President extended his best wishes to people and soldiers nationwide and overseas Vietnamese on the occasion of 2017 and the upcoming traditional Year of the Rooster.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 01/01/2017

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Courts Must Stringently Handle Corruption Cases: President

 

Courts must work more closely with police investigations, the State procuracy and other relevant agencies in cases of corruption and violations of economic laws, President Trần Đại Quang said yesterday. At a meeting held by the Supreme People’s Court in Hà Nội, the President, who also chairs the Central Steering Committee for Judicial Reform, said that if new crimes and new suspects come to light in the course of trials, criminal proceedings must be launched against them as soon as possible in order to punish culprits and recover stolen State assets. He asked the courts to enhance judicial co-operation with other countries and make use of foreign assistance to improve their capacity. They should also actively participate in multilateral judicial mechanisms to which Việt Nam is a party, especially mechanisms within ASEAN. Other sectors, ministries and localities need to strengthen co-ordination with courts at all levels in handling cases and verdict enforcement, he added. President Quang applauded efforts by courts at all levels to carry out judicial reforms and fulfill targets and requirements assigned by the National Assembly, thereby helping to ensure security, protect the socialist rule of law, and create a stable environment for the country’s socio-economic development and international integration. The Supreme People’s Court reported that courts across the country dealt with 93.4 per cent of cases in 2016. The rate of verdicts and decisions overturned or amended due to the courts’ faults was 1.27 per cent, down 0.08 per cent from 2015. Many serious cases were tried in a timely manner, strictly and in line with the law, it said, adding that most civil and administrative cases were brought to trial within the regulated period of time. At the meeting, President Quang presented the appointments of 80 high-level judges.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 01/13/2017

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INDIA: Digital Governance Will Bring Efficiency, Says Modi


GANDHI NAGAR: Identifying India's strength in its demography, democracy, and demand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday stressed the need for digital-based governance to bring efficiency in the country's decision-making process and to boost the economy. Calling "democracy" India's biggest strength, he said: "Some people say democracy cannot deliver effective and fast track governance, but we have seen in last two and a half years, it is possible to deliver quick results as well." Inaugurating the eighth edition of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit here, Modi said that the digital economy had "played key role" in transforming hardship-based governance to system-based governance, discretionary-based administration to policy-based administration, and informal economy to formal economy. "Digital technology has played a key role. I often say that e-governance is easy and effective governance. We need quality driven governance." "Online process brings speed and openness and decision making. We are working to adopt and absorb newer technology to bring transparency and end discretion," said Modi. He, however, did not make any mention of demonetisation in his half-hour speech. Modi said that India has registered excellent growth, despite the global slowdown. "We have become sixth largest manufacturing country in the world, up from the ninth. Our growth of manufacturing has registered nine pct in 2015-16. This is much higher than the five-six pct growth in previous three years," he said. He said that the government was further rationalising its policies and procedures to make it convenient for business and growth.

"India is bright spot in the global economy. World Bank, IMF and other institutions have projected even better growth in the coming days. In 2014-15, India contributed 12.5 per cent of global growth. Its contribution to global growth is 68 per cent higher, than its share of the world economy," Modi told delegates from 12 countries and industry captains present on the dais.

 

According to the Gujarat government, investors and office-bearers from over 100 countries were to attend the eighth edition of the biennial event, being held here from January 10 to 13, with the central focus of "Sustainable Economic and Social Development". Over 74,000 people have said to have registered for the summit. Modi said that in last two and a half years, his government "had worked relentlessly to realize India's potential and to set rise in economy". "There is sufficient improvement in key micro economic indicators, GDP growth, fiscal deficit, inflation, current account deficit, foreign investment. India has become fastest growing economy," he said. Modi said that India's food processing industry is expected to increase almost five-fold in next 10 years, India is now the emerging IT hub, it produces the world's second-largest number of scientists and engineers, while the entertainment industry "is making waves worldwide". Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said that the summit was not mere a summit but had become an identity.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 01/11/2017

 

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Centre Launches App for Special Economic Zone Information


NEW DELHI: The government has launched a mobile app called 'SEZ India' that provides detailed information about the country's special economic zones, an official statement said on Sunday. Launched earlier this month under the Centre's e-Governance initiatives, "the app would help the SEZ units and developers to find information easily and track their transactions on SEZ Online System," a Commerce Ministry release here said. "Developers and units can now file all their transactions digitally through SEZ Online system and track the status through the SEZ India mobile app," it said. The app, which is available on android platform, has four sections - SEZ Information, SEZ Online Transaction, Trade Information and Contact Details. The SEZ online transaction is a dynamic submenu that tracks the Bill of Entry and Shipping Bill processing status, besides doing verification. "The app also helps the Importers/Exporters track the status of Bill of Entry/Shipping Bill integration and processing," the statement said.

From http://www.siliconindia.com 01/17/2016

 

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ONGC to Become Paperless Soon

 

ONGC is moving ahead in digitisation by awarding the contract for the implementation of enterprise-wide paperless office solution in ONGC. and the project has been awarded to M/s L&T Infotech with IBM’s Filenet and BPM as the Technology platform. The project has selected M/s KPMG as the Project Consultant. The project covers all work centres of ONGC and will be rolled out in phases with first phase going live at Mumbai by end May 2017. The company already has a robust digital system in place and has been credited with the biggest ERP roll-out in Asia when it launched Project ICE in the year 2003. This new initiative, along with systems like e-tender, invoice monitoring system, grievance management and vigilance portal is another corporate governance milestone and one more step towards promoting transparency. The project was held on January 10, 2017 at New Delhi and Shashi Shanker, Director – Technology & Field Services, termed this project as one of the biggest initiatives towards a digital India.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 01/17/2017

 

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AZERBAIJAN: New Appointments in Taxes Ministry

 

The heads of two new departments have been appointed in the Azerbaijani Taxes Ministry, said a message posted on the ministry’s website. According to the message, head of tax audit and operational control department Togrul Guliyev has been appointed director general of the tax legislation control department. Vugar Ismayilov has been appointed director general of the department of control over fulfillment of tax obligations, established under the main department for the analysis of tax crimes and the tax debt collection, the message said. Earlier, he served as the head of the main internal security department. Zeynalabdin Mammadzade has been appointed director general of the internal security department, established under the main internal security department. Earlier, Mammadzade served as the head of the main department for the analysis of tax crimes and tax debt collection.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 01/08/2017

 

 

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Azerbaijan Names New Deputy Education Minister

 

Matin Eynullayev has been appointed Azerbaijan’s third deputy education minister under the decree of the country’s President Ilham Aliyev, the ministry told Trend Jan. 12. Prior to this appointment, there were two Deputy Education Ministers: Jeyhun Bayramov and Firudin Gurbanov.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 01/12/2017

 

 

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New Appointment at International Bank of Azerbaijan

 

Jalal Orujov is appointed to the position of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of the International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA). The appointment was undertaken according to the initiatives on creation of the new professional management team. Jalal Orujov has extensive experience in the field of banking technology and card processing and will be responsible for the development of online-banking in the IBA. He graduated Azerbaijan State Economic University and worked at the Central Bank of Azerbaijan Republic and various companies in financial sector. He worked as a CEO of processing center Milli Kart since 2006. Before his appointment to the IBA he held position of CTO at Unibank. The IBA held the extraordinary general shareholders’ meeting on January 10, 2017. By the decision of the shareholders Khalid Ahadov was elected to the position of the Chairman of the bank. The new management team is aimed on achieving costs optimization, increase of efficiency in short terms by restructuring steps and successful recovery of the IBA by the end of the year. The first steps in this direction are already taken.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 01/17/2017

 

 

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New Chair of VTB Bank Azerbaijan Supervisory Board Appointed

 

Mikhail Oseevskiy, deputy president and deputy chairman of the management board of Russia’s VTB Bank, has been appointed the head of the Supervisory Board at the bank’s Azerbaijani subsidiary VTB Bank Azerbaijan, said the message from the bank on Jan. 19. Currently, VTB Bank Azerbaijan’s Supervisory Board also includes Deputy Chairs Rashad Rasullu and Anna Shumeyko, as well as Dmitriy Popov, Sergey Tsarev, Museyeib Aliyev and Gorkhmaz Aghayev. Shareholders of VTB Bank Azerbaijan are the VTB Bank PJSC and Ata Holding OJSC. VTB Bank Azerbaijan renders services to corporate business customers, small businesses and private clients.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 01/19/2017

 

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KAZAKHSTAN: Two Ministries Reorganized

 

Kazakhstan’s Ministry of National Economy and Ministry of Health and Social Development have been reorganized in line with President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s decree, the presidential press service reported Jan. 5. The powers of the Ministry of National Economy to form the state policy in the sphere of migration and regulate migration processes were transferred to the Ministry of Health and Social Development. Meanwhile, some of the powers of the Ministry of Health and Social Development were transferred to the Interior Ministry – the Ministry of Interior will coordinate and implement the state policy in the sphere of migration, monitoring, analysis, and forecasting of migratory processes. The president ordered the government to create a migration service committee under the Interior Ministry and develop a concept of the country’s migration policy for 2017-2021 until April 1, 2017.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 01/05/2017

 

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TURKMENISTAN: New Appointment in Industry Ministry

 

Amanberdy Tuyliyev was appointed as deputy industry minister of Turkmenistan, according to the decree of the country’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. It was earlier reported that the Turkmen Industry Ministry, along with the Academy of Sciences, Energy Ministry and the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, are entrusted with creating a number of enterprises by 2020 in line with the Turkmen state program on the development of domestic electronics industry and implementation of measures on import substitution. This involves creation of capacities for the production of semiconductors, units for processing solar energy, photovoltaic equipment, various kinds of electronic automatic equipment, light fixtures, including LED lamps, electric meters, etc. for the population. Work is being carried out to create a joint venture for the production of energy-saving LED lamps and light fixtures.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 01/05/2017

 

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UZBEKISTAN: Creates Department to Increase Standard of Living

 

Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan has adopted a resolution on the creation of information and analytical department of the government on the issues of integrated socio-economic development of the regions of the country. The document released Jan. 10 in Uzbekistan envisages that the department’s specialists, who work in the Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan, regions of Uzbekistan and Tashkent city, are authorized representatives of the government at the respective area. The department will operate under the Uzbek prime minister and is subject to the first deputy prime minister. The competence of the department includes the issues of execution of legislative acts, the interaction with the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan, local administrations of regions, districts, cities and the capital of Uzbekistan, information and analytical work, the development of programs for socio-economic development, as well as monitoring and control of their implementation. Analysis of the socio-economic development of the regions of Uzbekistan, increase of the quality and standard of living in the country, interaction and dialogue with the country’s population are the priority tasks of the department.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 01/10/2017

 

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AUSTRALIA: Public Sector Union Says Centrelink System Lacks Integrity

 

The Community and Public Sector Union has said the Centrelink debt recovery system has left the Australian public with a 'bad taste in their mouth', in response to the Coalition continuing to claim the system is 'working well'. Assistant national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) Michael Tull has said there is no way the government can declare the Centrelink automated debt recovery system is working well, as the automated data matching tool has left the Australian public with a "bad taste in their mouth". Speaking on ABC RN Breakfast on Thursday, Tull said it is clear the system, which has sent some letters demanding money repayment in error to welfare recipients, is not working properly and that it "lacks integrity". "Firstly there's the very high error rate; then there's the people forced into debt repayment plans even when they know they don't have a debt; then there's the fact that Centrelink doesn't have enough staff to deal with this workload," Tull said. Appearing on behalf of the union representing public sector staff, Tull explained that the high error rate in letters sent to welfare recipients -- flagged previously by Minister for Social Services Christian Porter as only 0.16 percent -- has seen the impact flow on from Centrelink customers into the staff dealing with complaints. "I think everybody understands now that there is a very, very high error rate," Tull said. "The other issue that goes with that is that every time staff are forced to deal with one of those cases, it drags them away from other work that needs to get done and it's having knock-on effects so customers elsewhere aren't getting the service they need.

 

"Underpinning all of this is Centrelink is an agency that has been run into the ground and the government has cut 5,000 jobs out of the place -- it's had a terrible impact on the service standards -- and now they're trying to get this compliance work done on the cheap. "There's no way this can be said to be working well." The Department of Human Services (DHS) announced in December it had implemented the online compliance system in July and said that it was finding approximately AU$4.5 million that had gone awry each day. With this, the federal government hopes to improve the nation's Budget by AU$2.1 billion over the next four years. The new system automatically compares the income people declare to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) against income declared to Centrelink. When it detects a disparity, Centrelink automatically issues a debt notice and that debt comes with a 10 percent recovery fee. One large error in the Centrelink system is that it was incorrectly calculating a recipient's annual income, basing a recipient's yearly salary on their fortnightly pay rather than taking the annual total from each individual fortnight's sum. "The government is using a crude and blunt tool, creating a dragnet effect, one that's roping in tens of thousands of people who haven't done the wrong thing and that's giving people the impression that the government's turning an agency -- Centrelink, that has a duty to help people -- actually turning it into the arm of a debt collection agency," Tull added. "That's leaving people with a bad taste in their mouth." According to Tull, 36 million phone calls made to Centrelink went unanswered last year, which he noted was prior to the government's letter-sending initiative.

 

The automated process, which Tull explained used to be performed by staff, has been leaving staff under more pressure, and has extended the impact the system has had on the Australian public."This scheme is an absolute nightmare for thousands of Centrelink customers who've done absolutely nothing wrong, and the staff who are bearing the brunt of this mess," he added.Tull's comments came in response to those made on Wednesday by Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge.Also speaking on ABC RN Breakfast upon his return from leave, Tudge held firm the government's view that the system was working well, confirming the Coalition has no intention of suspending, let alone scrapping, the issue-plagued system."There's an important principle here that we're trying to implement and that is to ensure that there is great integrity in the welfare system because after all, the welfare system constitutes a third of the budget," he said."We want to make sure that people get the welfare entitlements that they're entitled to and no more and no less. Consequently we do have a robust compliance system in place and in the last six months alone, we've recovered over AU$300 million to the taxpayer through that process."So the system is working and we will continue with that system."

 

Last week, Independent Member for Denison Andrew Wilkie said he had personally received over a hundred complaints from citizens who have recounted "deeply disturbing" stories about their experience with the Centrelink debt recovery system, and that the thought of having to pay back demanded money has driven some people to contemplate taking their own lives.In addition, claims have been made by individuals who have previously received welfare that they can prove they do not owe money to Centrelink, despite being contacted by a debt recovery agency, not just by Centrelink.Michael Griffin, a filmmaker from Brisbane, told ABC earlier this year that in the space of 12 months he earned AU$26,000 in the nine months he worked, and claimed Newstart -- financial assistance provided by Centrelink while looking for employment -- for the three months he was jobless.Griffin said that at the time he declared his earnings correctly, however the letter he received from Centrelink shows the system took his AU$26,000 and divided it over 12 months, showing incorrectly that he earned AU$1,000 a fortnight for the entire year. Despite this, Tudge said on radio he was not even aware of individuals who are completely convinced that they don't owe money but have been given a debt notice. "When a debt notice is issued to them, if indeed it is, they have a further opportunity to provide further information and then they have a third opportunity again if they want to appeal it to the tribunal. So, there are three opportunities for individuals to update their records if a discrepancy is identified," Tudge said in response. Earlier this week, the Commonwealth Ombudsman Colin Neave opened an investigation into the Centrelink fiasco, with a spokesperson telling ZDNet that Neave is aware of the concerns raised and has commenced an own-motion investigation into the matter. Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim said on Friday, however, that no investigation into the matter has been opened by his office.

From http://www.zdnet.com/ 01/12/2017

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Centrelink Mess Is What the Government Wants

 

The mess created by the Australian Government's bid to automate the search for people who are cheating on their welfare entitlements shows no sign of disappearing, with ministers standing by the methods used. These methods have been shown to be generating false positives by many media organisations but the government refuses to budge. The view of many is that this is typical political behaviour: make a mistake and then refuse to own up to it. But a different theory appears to be more logical: Malcolm Turnbull and his ministers are refusing to budge because they want a situation of this kind to exist. Yes, this is not a cock-up, this is an intended outcome. An examination of the news that has wiped the Centrelink bungle from the headlines provides some illumination: it is all about ministers shoving their snouts into the trough and spending public money as though it was going out of style. One could argue that this is standard fare as far as Australian politicians are concerned. True, but additionally the recent news of this disgusting display of entitlement comes at a time when public funds are low and predicted to go even lower. Hence the Centrelink bungle. It does one thing: it scares the bejesus out of anyone who is contemplating an application to Centrelink for welfare to which they are rightly entitled. The horror stories of people who have been forced to repay money in the latest bungle is enough to keep many others at bay.

 

And this is the reason why the government wanted such a system in place: less money for welfare bludgers means more money for government ministers to spend, spend, spend. The principle appears to be that all Australians are equal, but government ministers are more equal than others. I have little experience of Centrelink, but a recent visit with my son, who wanted to put in an application for any allowances to which he was entitled, showed clearly that this is not the most efficient outfit in the country. When the computer systems there could not be used to input his application, he was casually told to go back and do it at home. Back home, the form filling took the better part of two hours as the application repeatedly got stuck, each time offering the insane advice that one should try later as the system was experiencing some difficulties. Such issues, plus the fact that one often has to wait four hours or more to speak to a human being at Centrelink, have served to keep many away from ever contacting the organisation. But the government apparently is not content with stripping Centrelink of funds to make it incompetent to this extent. So it has devised an automated system that will put the fear of Moses into young and old who have been dealt a rough hand in life and ensure that they do not try to ever apply for welfare. New applicants to Centrelink will thus be kept to a minimum. And there will be plenty in the trough for poor pollies to dip their snouts and keep foraging.

Just one more indication that the myth of public service is just that – a myth.

From http://www.itwire.com/ 01/13/2017

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Dump Single Agency Bargaining in the APS, Says Former Public Service Commissioner

 

The Australian Public Service (APS) should dump its single agency bargaining approach to negotiating pay and conditions and re-introduce centralised bargaining, believes a former Public Service Commissioner, as the bitter three-year pay dispute between unions and the federal government grinds on for tens of thousands of public servants. While a number of government departments and agencies have signed enterprise bargaining agreements, many larger ones are holding out for a better deal, notably Human Services, the Australian Taxation Office and Immigration and Border Protection. The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) says that around two-thirds of APS workers remain without an agreement, with little possibility of back pay. Australian National University Professor Andrew Podger, who was Public Service Commissioner between 2002 and 2004, backs an APS-wide approach to bargaining because he says single agency bargaining has had serious, negative consequences for the public service which have outweighed the promised benefits, chiefly around flexibility. “This has caused very serious damage to the integrity of the whole pay system in the Public Service with tangible impact on mobility within the service, serious management problems for agencies affected by machinery of government changes, justified complaints of unfairness across and within agencies, and unknown impacts on attraction and retention of the skills the APS requires,” Prof Podger told the 2016 senate inquiry into APS bargaining.

 

Prof Podger says single agency negotiations have created pay disparities for similar jobs  in different departments and agencies and has also damaged staff morale and caused resentment. “What’s happened is they’ve all gone their different ways and none of them have been able to focus on the market,” says Prof Podger. “Strict central rules led to different pay rates, not because they are useful but because they are forced to be there.” He argues that these differences have affected mobility between departments and caused problems attracting the best talent, intensified for departments that have suffered deep budget cuts and may not have the resources to match pay rates. “It really is making it very hard for the Department of Social Services to recruit a good person from Treasury [for example] and that’s silly. Treasury jobs aren’t more important than jobs in top policy positions in DSS or Education etc,” he says.

“The very areas where you want to actually improve their performance are often the ones that are having the most difficulties.” He advocates “a serious market-based approach” and service-wide employment conditions, because the skills across most departments are similar.

Dr John O’Brien from Sydney University Business School’s Work and Organisational Studies agrees that a centralised bargaining system would be “far more efficient” and says most public sector bargaining in the states and territories is already centralised. “The current system is operationally decentralised but controlled from the centre,” Dr O’Brien says. “Wage disparities reflect the capacity of each agency to pay.”

 

Research and reports

Pay inequalities within the APS and their impacts have long been the subject of fierce debate.

A 2010 report Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration, said wage disparities had “increased significantly both within and between departments and agencies” since APS wages and conditions were devolved in 1997. “Anecdotal evidence suggests that growing disparity in wages and conditions across agencies has discouraged mobility and reduced the sense of a unified APS with a strong career structure,” said the report. It said that the APS classification profile had changed dramatically, reflecting the changing nature of work and the changing labour market. One of its key recommendations was that the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) should take over Australian government policies for agreement-making, classification structures, APS remuneration and workplace relations advice. The APSC’s 2016 Remuneration Survey revealed a 10 per cent disparity for similar work at every level in the APS in the salary range between the 5th and 95th percentiles. The gap reached 30 per cent or more for the Senior Executive Service; 26 per cent for graduates and 22 per cent for the lowest classification (APS

1).

 

Machinery of government complications

Machinery of Government changes when whole departments or parts of them have merged have thrown differences in pay and conditions in the APS into stark relief. For example, when Indigenous Affairs moved into the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Border Force joining Immigration.Could these complications be an argument to retain single agency bargaining? Prof Podger says not, though he admits it takes ‘a couple of years’ to disentangle.

“It would be a tricky process of transition to narrow these differences over time,” he says. “No cuts [to pay and conditions] but maybe a freeze or slow increases until these things are a little bit more aligned.” Dr O’Brien says centralised bargaining would probably need to be preceded by a round that attempted to reduce wage disparities before it was introduced. 

 

Public V private

A gap has also opened up regarding pay for similar skills and experience between the APS and the private sector, making it harder to attract outside talent. Prof Podger says the private/public sector gap may be felt differently depending on pay grades. He says public servants’ pay is probably above the market at the lower end of the pay scale, around APS1-4, and below the market at the higher end, above EL1. But he adds that most people are rising up through the public service to reach senior levels so it is internal fairness that matters most. As well, it may be necessary to be in line with the market to attract bright graduates in the first place. Pay is not the only issue, of course, when considering public service recruitment. “I think we forget often that people really are motivated to serve the public,” Prof Podger says. “It’s exciting and interesting work. People feel as if they’re having an influence and doing things that are good for the public. Pride in work is important for retaining staff. “Sadly there is still too much denigration and lack of respect for the public service from the likes of IPA [Institute for Public Affairs Australia].”

 

Market forces and flexibility

Prof Podger believes that the federal government needs to pay much more attention to market labour forces, linking this to departments which are having retention and recruitment problems, possibly involving extra strategies. He believes that it is more important for agencies to study the labour market than having strict rules on single agency bargaining, which he says were supposed to increase flexibility but had instead delivered differentiation in pay and conditions and made the government less flexible. But he says a whole of APS bargaining system would still need extra flexibility in order to attract good candidates to specialised roles or into areas of skill shortages, such as ICT, project management, policy and research or finance. Individual contracts could be offered in a limited number of cases, with clear agency policies and APSC checks on pay rates and merit-based recruitment to prevent abuse. “Agencies need some discretion or there’s a problem,” he says. But Prof Podger qualifies that reflecting market forces more closely in the APS may not translate into higher pay or better conditions for public servants. “It won’t be easy. It might not be more generous. Its disciplines would be a different set of disciplines. You would be talking seriously about the attraction and retention of the skills you need, [though] productivity would still be there.”

 

Productivity

Pay rises in the APS have been tied to productivity offsets for many years, but Prof Podger believes this has blinded successive federal governments on both sides to what is most important: having the workforce needed to do the job. He says efficiencies and productivity can be pursued via workplaces changes, mostly technological, without totally wedding them to pay rates. “Certainly, you want the unions to agree to the new technology and change work arrangements required by the new technology but you still want to go back and see that the pay rates ought to reflect what the market requires. There could be a reduction in staff.” Dr O’Brien calls the emphasis on productivity trade-offs in the public sector “a zero sum game” but says that bargaining cannot be separated from the efficiency dividend, which makes bargaining even more difficult. He says that even past public service commissioners – with the exception of the current ‘hardliner’ incumbent John Lloyd – have pointed this out. “Wage increases equals staff losses or a freeze on appointments or decline of services,” Dr O’Brien says.

 

Breaking the APS industrial relations deadlock

Asked who or what could break the current APS bargaining deadlock, Prof Podger says it will not be easy, given the government’s intransigence. The Union may also need to shift a little, he says suggesting the CPSU takes a “more careful look at market conditions and total remuneration” and shelves calls for domestic violence leave, relying on the discretion of individual managers instead. But he did not blame the union for being jumpy about the government trying to remove some points out of EBAs and into policy, where they could ultimately be changed. “Given the rhetoric coming from the likes of the IPA, taking super outside [EBAs] would understandably be seen as a threat,” Prof Podger says. “The government needs to loosen its wage outcome policy. This is unlikely that a below inflation wage adjustment is sustainable. Direct negotiations between the unions (coordinated by the ACTU) and government could lead to negotiated parameters for bargaining. Again unlikely!”

Dumping single agency bargaining would also free up agency heads to do other work. Prof Podger says: “The system has required a very high transaction cost across the APS, requiring enormous effort by management in every agency, most of whom lack the specialist knowledge needed to get the best remuneration outcomes.”

From http://www.governmentnews.com.au/ 01/13/2017

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TONGA: Making Fish Affordable as Part of National Fight Against NCDs

 

The Tongan Government through the Ministry of Fisheries has kick-started an initiative to sell fish at an affordable price to locals to ensure people are eating healthy food. Radio Tonga News reported last week that the Ministry of Fisheries sold six tonnes of fish at the Tuimatamoana wharf, to offset the hike in the price of meat such as chicken and mutton during the festive season. CEO of Fisheries, Dr Tu'ikolongahau Halafihi told Radio Tonga News this was the second shipment of catch partially offloaded in Tonga as part of an agreement with a Taiwan fishing vessel to provide part of their catch to be sold in local market. Fish was sold at between TOP$2.50 to TOP$7 a kilo (US$1.10 – US$3.08) to ensure locals can afford to buy fish. This is part of the Ministry's initiative to make affordable healthy food for Tongans as the country fights against rising non-communicable diseases. The Ministry of Agriculture is also working on amending the island kingdom's Food Act to ensure proper labelling of all food items sold in shops. If approved, Tonga's Food Authority will work with businesses to make sure all food items are properly labelled with instructions of ingredients and other necessary information. Metuisela Falesiva of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food told Radio Tonga News they hope the amendment to come into effect soon will ensure that locally produce food items are safe for consumption.

From http://www.pina.com.fj/ 01/09/2017

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The Key to Good Stock Performance? Keep Your Workers Happy

 

Corporate culture apparently pays off, as stocks of companies with happy employees have been outperforming the market throughout the bull run. Since 2009, companies named on Glassdoor's "Best Places to Work" list collectively have topped the S&P 500 by more than 100 percent. The list is meant to recognize leading companies based on overall employee job satisfaction, sentiment toward career opportunities, compensation, work-life balance and approval of company leadership. Since the annual list has been issued in 2009, more than 150 U.S. companies have been recognized from a variety of industries including retail, technology, manufacturing, energy, media and entertainment. In order to qualify for consideration on the list, at least 75 employees of a company must submit reviews on a scale from 1 to 5. The average score this year was 3.3. The economic link between employee satisfaction and the company's productivity, sales and reputation also exists by contrast. A portfolio of the 30 lowest-rated public companies on Glassdoor broadly underperforms the market by nearly 30 points.

 

"No matter how we looked at the numbers, Best Places to Work winners were also great financial investments," said Glassdoor's chief economist, Andrew Chamberlain. Companies that have repeatedly shown up on Glassdoor's Top 10 over the past five years are: Bain & Company, Facebook, LinkedIn, Boston Consulting Group, Google-parent Alphabet, Adobe, Nestle Purina PetCare and In-N-Out Burger. Bain has been in the top five since the list's inception in 2009 and has been the number one winner three times. Clorox, Forrester Research, Keller Williams Realty, Microsoft and Lululemon all made the list for the first time this year. The top three publicly traded companies on the list for 2017 with their stock price appreciation since Jan. 1, 2009, through Dec. 1 of this year are Google (392.4 percent), Adobe (349.7 percent) and Facebook (201.1 percent). In comparison, the S&P 500 rose 153.59 percent during the same period. According to Glassdoor, there were consequential labor market trends in 2016 that could reshape company culture in the New Year. In today's hiring market, Glassdoor points out that employers are focused on creating attractive compensation packages. Health insurance, vacation and paid time off, and 401(k) plans are key for employee satisfaction.

From http://www.cnbc.com/ 01/01/2017

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Censorship on Social Media: 2016 in Review

 

Censorship comes in many forms. Most often, when we talk about it at EFF, we’re talking about the measures that governments take to restrict their citizens’ freedom of expression or access to information. Online, that can mean blocking websites, restricting the right to anonymity, or shutting down the Internet, among other things. But as our speech increasingly takes place on social media platforms—like Facebook or Twitter—so has our thinking about censorship. And while we still believe that companies have a right to restrict content on their platforms, we also believe that they have a moral obligation to consider the implications of doing so. Companies should do their best to uphold the spirit of free expression and minimize harms that their policies might have to innocent users.

 

Onlinecensorship.org—a joint project of EFF and Visualizing Impact—launched at the end of 2015 to document social media censorship and hold companies accountable for their actions. In the past year, we’ve learned a great deal about how users perceive and are impacted by censorship on a number of platforms, as well as what types of content are commonly taken down. One of the more interesting things to emerge from our research is just how seriously this kind of censorship can affect social media users. Several years ago, when EFF was just beginning to look at this issue, companies like Facebook were much smaller, making it easier to suggest that users simply find another platform on which to express themselves. Today, companies like Facebook and Google have integrated their services across so much of the web that leaving isn’t so easy.

 

In Onlinecensorship.org’s most recent paper, we highlight some of the most egregious examples of content takedowns on social media from 2016, including the censorship of the iconic Terror of War image, and the bizarre account deactivation that occurred as the result of sharing a cat photo. In addition to these examples, 2016 saw the emergence of new trends, most notably the censorship of live videos. In July, the police shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota hit national headlines, in part because Castile’s partner, Diamond Reynolds, had managed to livestream the incident...until Facebook cut her off. Although the company later apologized, similar censorship incidents occurred throughout the year. As we move toward a new year, we will continue to monitor content takedowns through Onlinecensorship.org (where we’ve recently revamped our user survey to include more platforms) and keep you informed. This article is part of our Year In Review series. Read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2016. 

From https://www.eff.org/ 01/02/2017

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Davos Founder Criticizes Populism, Wants Urgent Reform on Capitalism

 

Global economic growth of around 3 percent is insufficient to solve the world's greatest challenges, according to the executive chairman of the World Economic Forum. Klaus Schwab's annual pre-meeting press briefing on Tuesday ahead of next week's annual World Economic Forum (WEF) gathering in Davos, Switzerland, focused on the need for global participants to pay greater heed to coordinating economic and social imperatives. "Without economic development, social progress is not possible and without social progress, economic development is not sustainable," claimed Schwab, following on from his assertion that "economic activities always have to be coupled with social responsibility." Addressing the recent surge of global populism and quest for inward looking responses to the world's problems, the executive chairman who co-founded WEF's predecessor organization in 1971, warned that populist solutions alone are insufficient. "Every simplified approach to deal with the global complex agenda is condemned to fail," Schwab stressed.

 

"The problems we face technologically, economically,socially and politically are so tremendous, such that sustainable solutions require a systemic, holistic approach .... And particularly the collaboration of all global stakeholders, united in one mission - improving the state of the world," he concluded. Schwab described the annual Davos meet – which is often viewed dismissively as an elite hobnobbing playground for the world's business, political and media leaders – as a "global multi-stakeholder summit" in which situations including the humanitarian crisis in Syria and the progress of the COP21 agenda on climate change would be addressed. "Every market economy will produce winners and losers but the system will only be sustainable if there is enough solidarity between the winners and losers," the WEF co-founder warned as he emphasized the need to make market capitalism more inclusive. Schwab also announced the donation of 500,000 Swiss francs ($490,000) he has personally won through a series of awards towards a new fund aimed at supporting the younger generation in their search for "action-oriented solutions for tomorrow." "We are at some kind of a turning point of history – we need new concepts, we do not have the solutions or the intellectual concepts for everything which we confront," he outlined. "We have to be modest and provide the young generation with the possibility even more to make a contribution."

From http://www.cnbc.com/ 01/11/2017

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New Approach Needed to Tackle Rising Drug Prices

 

The proliferation of high-cost medicines and rising drug prices are increasing pressures on public health spending and calling into question the pharmaceutical industry’s pricing strategies. Governments need to work with the industry and regulators to define a new approach to the development and use of new health technologies that encourages innovation while also delivering more affordable and value for money treatments, according to a new OECD report. New Health Technologies: Managing Access, Value and Sustainability says that pharmaceutical spending is increasingly skewed towards high-cost products. The launch prices of drugs for cancer and rare diseases are rising, sometimes without a commensurate increase in health benefits for patients. For instance in the United States, the launch price of oncology drugs per life-year gained has been multiplied by four in less than 20 years - in constant terms - and now exceeds USD 200 000.

 

Payers, such as insurers or public health providers, are also increasingly struggling to pay for high-cost medicines targeting very small populations, which are expected to proliferate with the development of precision medicine. On the other side of spectrum, new treatments for hepatitis which are very effective and cost-effective in the long-term but target a wide population, are unaffordable to many who would benefit in almost all OECD countries because of their high budget impact. The prices paid for technologies must reflect their real-world health benefits compared to alternatives, and be adjusted based on evidence about their actual impact. Payers must be equipped with the necessary powers to adjust prices and withdraw payment for ineffective technologies. A rebalancing of the negotiating powers of payers and manufacturers is needed, says the report. This could be through increased transparency and co-operation between payers and international joint procurement initiatives, as tested in Europe and Latin America. Pricing agreements, which link the final price paid to the actual performance of the drug, as used in Italy and England, may also be effective if management and administration costs are controlled and the clinical data and evidence collected made widely available to the scientific community.

 

The report, which will be discussed at an OECD meeting for Ministers of Health on “The Next Generation of Health Reforms” in Paris on 17 January, highlights other challenges facing the adoption of new technologies. Investment in R&D to treat neglected diseases, such as HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis, fight antimicrobial resistance and address dementia has also become less attractive as their profitability is lower. The incentives for private investment in these areas should be strengthened. Many biomedical technologies are today approved and adopted based on limited evidence of their safety and effectiveness. Assessment of their performance in real world conditions is rare. This compromises safety, is wasteful and no longer sustainable. More efforts are also needed to harness the potential of health data more effectively. Use of personal health data creates major opportunities for health system improvement, research and disease surveillance, but requires the right governance frameworks to realise these benefits while managing the privacy risks. For further information or comment, journalists should contact Valerie Paris, Senior Policy Analyst at the OECD’s Health Division and main author of the report (tel. + 33 1 45 24 80 29).

From http://www.oecd.org/ 01/16/2017

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Prominent Leaders Add Their Support to World Bank Group’s Drive for Climate Action

 

The World Bank Group today announced that a group of prominent leaders will add their support to its efforts to drive climate action that will deliver on the Paris climate change agreement.

 

The three global leaders are:

Kofi Annan, founder and chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation, former UN Secretary General and Nobel Peace Laureate.

Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Vice Chair of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy.

Feike Sijbesma, CEO and Chairman Managing Board of the Life Sciences and Materials Sciences  company Royal DSM and co-chair of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition.

"We are delighted to work with this group of distinguished leaders from both the public and private sector," World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “They will help us spur innovation and drive climate action to where it's needed the most."

 

The announcement of the three Climate Leaders follows the Paris Agreement coming into force in late 2016 alongside increased commitment from the World Bank Group to help countries meet their national climate targets through its Climate Change Action Plan. The Climate Leaders will work closely with President Kim to drive climate action through advocacy across government, business, finance, and civil society.

 

Kofi Annan:

“Climate change is the most emblematic challenge of this age of globalisation. We cannot refuse that challenge. We have the duty to bequeath a world where all of mankind lives in peace and harmony with nature. As an African proverb says: the earth is not ours, it is a treasure we hold in trust for our children and grandchildren. We must be worthy of that trust. By working together we can defeat the menace of global warming.”

 

Christiana Figueres:

“I am honored to be joining distinguished colleagues to support the World Bank Group in moving forward on the world’s climate commitments. The Paris Agreement remains the universal underpinning of the collective global commitment to solve the climate crisis and create lasting prosperity for everyone. I welcome the continued commitment from President Kim and the World Bank Group to ensuring this happens, and look forward to our journey together in the months ahead.”

 

Feike Sijbesma:

“Addressing climate change is urgent and critical to all of us. The longer we take, to move to a low fossil carbon economy, the higher the costs for future generations and those already at risk today. Effective and inclusive carbon pricing can facilitate and speed up this transition. A rapidly growing movement of organizations, including thousands of companies, sees climate action as both an inevitable opportunity and moral responsibility. It is an honor to support the World Bank Group’s climate agenda, which targets key climate-induced risks and challenges to development for all.”

Form http://www.worldbank.org/ 01/16/2017

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APEC Seeks Material Innovators to Improve Manufacturing, Lives

 

APEC is on the lookout for young researchers in the Asia-Pacific who are developing technologically advanced materials that stand to radically boost next generation manufacturing and people’s quality of life across the region. Nominations are now being accepted for the 2017 APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education, whose theme, New Material Technologies, spotlights cross-border innovations led by scientists from APEC economies under 40 years of age. Examples range from ultra-light, durable fibers, to super adhesives and sealants, to pollution-reducing and self-healing substances. Materials like these could reinvigorate production and supply chains, including growing numbers of small businesses that underpin them, and herald the arrival of new and improved goods and services. Among others, they may include biosensors that enhance medical monitoring; highly energy efficient homes and automobiles; brighter, more reflective road signs, bicycles and clothing that make travel at night easier and safer; and fast biodegrading packing material, trash bags and diapers.

 

The focus of the award program, also known as the ASPIRE Prize, was announced by Viet Nam as Chair of APEC in 2017. “The introduction of advanced materials is crucial to strengthening research capacity among Asia-Pacific economies and the region’s 3 billion people,” explained Tran Quoc Khanh, Viet Nam’s Deputy Minister of Science and Technology. “These new avenues for scientific discovery provide scientists with building blocks to engineer materials with unique and innovative properties.” Each APEC economy may nominate one individual for the ASPIRE Prize. Nominees must be from the region and under 40 years of age. The impact of their work will be screened against scholarly publications and must involve cooperation with peers from other APEC economies. Relevant academic disciplines in 2017 include materials and biomaterials science; life sciences; polymer chemistry; biomedical, chemical and mechanical engineering; solid-state physics; nanotechnology; and novel materials and technologies.

 

“Many scientific challenges such as energy and food security, environmental protection and public health are perpetuated by the limits of known materials,” noted Christin Kjelland, Chair of the APEC Policy Partnership for Science, Technology, and Innovation, which administers the annual ASPIRE Prize. “We want to learn from those who are making the impossible possible to ensure economic and social progress in APEC and beyond,” added Kjelland, who also serves in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the United States State Department. The ASPIRE Prize will be awarded in Vietnam in 2017. Wiley and Elsevier, publishers of scholarly scientific knowledge, are sponsors of the initiative. The winner will receive USD 25,000 in prize money. “The field of material sciences holds a rich range of applications in various fields," said Mark J. Allin, Wiley’s CEO. “We are excited to learn how early career researchers in the Asia-Pacific are opening up new channels for scientific collaboration in the region and across various sectors.” “Young scientists in the region are critical to tackling the world’s most pressing challenges and most promising opportunities, which are interdisciplinary issues that know no borders,” concluded YoungSuk “Y.S.” Chi, Chairman of Elsevier. “Recognizing their work is one way that we can help to encourage further breakthroughs that will be necessary for sustainable human progress and global prosperity.”

From http://www.apec.org/ 01/18/2017

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CHINA: Nutrition Program Benefits over 34 Mln Rural Students

 

More than 34 million rural students have benefited from the Chinese government's rural nutrition program since 2011, according to the Ministry of Education. The program was launched on a pilot basis to address malnutrition in rural areas, and the government began to allocate three yuan (0.43 U.S. dollars) a day per student to supplement their diets with nutritious meals. This was increased to four yuan from 2015. The program has been expanded to cover 1,502 counties in 29 out of the Chinese mainland's 31 provincial regions, according to the ministry. [ Prevalence of anemia among the students dropped by 8.9 percentage points from 2012 to 2015, data from the National Institute of Nutrition and Health under the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention show. The students' physical fitness has improved and their academic performance also been enhanced along with their nutrition, the ministry said. Education Minister Chen Baosheng said the government aims to expand the program to cover all poverty-stricken counties.

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/01/2017

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Vice Premier Stresses Accuracy, Authenticity in Agricultural Census

 

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang urged accuracy and authenticity in data collection of the country's third national agricultural census that began on Sunday. During an inspection in a village in Gaoliying Township, northeastern Beijing, Wang said on-site registration lies at the core of agricultural census and all the work should be done with meticulous attention. Census takers should ensure no repetition or omission, with information accurate and complete, and original data authentic, Wang said. Wang also highlighted information privacy to protect surveyed farmers and businesses. The census is scheduled to finish by the end of March, involving 5 million census takers, more than 200 million rural households and over 3 million businesses and other market entities.  

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/01/2017

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Chinese City to Promote "Toilet Chiefs" for Better Management

 

The northwestern Chinese city of Xi'an, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, is to appoint "toilet chiefs" this year, the city tourism bureau said Sunday. The city aims to make all public toilets and those in restaurants and entertainment venues meet national standards in terms of sufficient numbers, and cleanliness. All public toilets should also be free of charge. The city will attempt to contract management of toilets to private enterprises and individuals, with cleaning companies maintaining toilets more professionally. The condition of toilets will be included in the assessment of tourist attractions and restaurants. China is in the midst of a three-year "toilet revolution," building 33,500 new toilets and renovating 25,000 by the end of the year, according to the National Tourism Administration.

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/08/2016

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China Seeks Better Mechanism to Prevent, Manage Natural Disasters

 

Chinese authorities plan to improve the country's capacity to cope with calamitous events. In a guideline published on Tuesday, the CPC Central Committee and State Council warned of a "complicated and severe" situation with regard to natural disasters. Insufficient information sharing, lack of prevention planning and poor public awareness are among the fields that need improvement, the document pointed out. A shift in priority from relief to prevention is required to improve disaster management, from divided efforts to comprehensive preparation, and from mitigating damage to addressing risk. Resource coordination must be improved, and responsibilities between central and local authorities further clarified. Regular education can help increase public awareness. Social and private organizations will be encouraged to participate in disaster management. Cooperation with international communities and increased financial support will further reduce risks. China has suffered some of the world's worst natural disasters, which come in many varieties from extreme weather to geological events and cause huge losses of life and property. From 2011 to 2015, an average of 310 million people were hit by disasters each year, according to the China National Commission for Disaster Reduction.  

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/10/2017

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China Eyes Ocean Renewable Energy Development

 

China's maritime authority has issued a five-year plan on developing ocean renewable energy, stipulating measures to develop relevant technology and utilize island renewable energy. The plan, issued by the State Oceanic Administration and made public on Thursday, said efforts will be made to promote the application of marine renewable energy and make better use of island renewable energy by carrying out evaluations and developing technology and equipment. The plan also said basic research and innovations in key technology related to marine renewable energy will be encouraged. The foundation for ocean energy development will be reinforced, and resource assessment and building of public service platforms in the South China Sea and island regions will be the focus, according to the plan. The plan also mentioned opening-up and international cooperation measures in relevant fields. According to the plan, ocean renewable energy includes energy generated from sea tides, waves, temperature differences and biomass.

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/12/2016

 

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Prosecutors to Intensify Supervision over Police Investigations

 

Chinese prosecutors will improve supervision of criminal investigations by the police authorities to ensure better due course of the law and human rights. Procurator-General Cao Jianming told chief prosecutors at a national meeting on Saturday that the Criminal Procedure Law should be properly implemented and all procuratorial agencies should improve the supervision of the recording, investigation, trial and law enforcement of criminal cases. Prosecutors were also told to play a greater role in the supervision of death penalty reviews. China will begin to pilot a program whereby prosecutors are stationed at police stations downtown, the city outskirts and areas with high incidences of crimes, the meeting was told. Implementation of supervisory system reform measures were stressed to fight corruption. As procuratorial agencies in relevant pilot regions should properly carry out the reform measures, those in other regions were urged to ensure no weakening in the countercorruption campaign and no change in the "zero tolerance" stance against corruption.  

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/14/2017

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Chinese Vice Premier Underlines Crackdown on Counterfeits

 

Vice Premier Wang Yang said Monday that the country should make new headway in the campaign against intellectual property right (IPR) infringement and counterfeit products. IPR protection can support the country's supply-side structural reform and help create a more competitive environment to attract investors, Wang said at a meeting. In 2016, Chinese authorities cracked more than 170,000 cases concerning IPR infringement and counterfeit products and arrested nearly 20,000 suspects. Wang said the campaign's success is helping to create a fertile environment for innovation and entrepreneurship. In the future, the country should reinforce cooperation among different regions, government departments and countries with a focus on major products, major areas and important links, Wang said. China should find new ways to track products online, according to the vice premier. The country will continue to address IPR infringement and fake products exported to countries along the Belt and Road to maintain a good image of made-in-China products, Wang said. The Belt and Road Initiative, also known as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, was put forward by China in 2013.  

From http://www.news.cn/ 01/16/2016

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JAPAN: Gov't Sets Sights on Improving Pay for Contract Workers

 

The Japanese government has placed a high priority on narrowing the gap in pay and benefits between regular and contract employees as this will raise productivity and consumer spending, said Katsunobu Kato, minister for labor market reform. Companies can afford to narrow the pay gap without cutting salaries for regular workers, because companies have enough profits and reserves to increase labor’s share of profits, Kato told Reuters. The government will tackle Japan’s notoriously-long working hours by setting limits on overtime that could be submitted to parliament sometime next year, he said. A panel that Kato leads compiled guidelines on narrowing the pay gap on Tuesday, which is a central plan of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s labor reforms to end decades of stagnant growth and deflation. The guidelines say that companies should provide equal payment to nonregular employees who engage in work equal to that of regular employees. It also said bonuses and commuting allowances should also be given to nonregular workers.

 

“Wages are a big motivating factor. People want to feel they are being evaluated for their work and rewarded based on their work,” Kato said. “On a macroeconomic level, improving pay gives more people the chance to work and improve their pay, which feeds into higher consumption.” The government, at the behest of large companies, began promoting contract and non-regular worker status in the 2000s as a way to lower personnel costs and preserve jobs during a prolonged economic slump. Since then, the number of contract workers has swelled to around 37% of the workforce, and critics say this has created a two-tiered labor market because contract employees receive considerably less pay and benefits. Abe turned his attention to labor market reform earlier this year to revive his structural reform agenda, a move which economists genially welcomed.

 

The debate has taken on an added significance after the suicide of a recent college graduate who worked more than 100 hours of overtime at the country’s top advertising agency preceding her death. The government’s minimum threshold for death by overwork is 80 hours of overtime per month, which is excessive and contributes to long working hours, Kato said. It is too early to put an exact number on the overtime limits the government will set, but Kato hopes to reach a conclusion by March and said it is possible that limits could differ per industry. Improving working conditions has been a long-overdue task because the working-age population is shrinking and Japan’s productivity in the services sector is low by most international comparisons. Abe’s labor reforms have already raised the minimum wage and made companies more accountable for improving conditions for working mothers. Abe is also looking at encouraging more telecommuting and at attracting more high-skilled foreign labor.

From https://www.japantoday.com 12/21/2016

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New Teaching Guidelines Must Improve Students’ Reading Comprehension

 

It is necessary to develop children’s reading comprehension ability by giving them more opportunities to encounter various passages of writing at school. The Central Council for Education has submitted a basic policy for teaching guidelines to be implemented in stages at elementary, junior high and high schools from the 2020 school year. The key features of this report include steps to enhance English-language education to better equip students to deal with a globalized society, and the designation of improving children’s reading comprehension ability as “a matter to be addressed urgently.” Reading and gleaning necessary information from sentences and written materials, and then putting one’s ideas in order. Reading comprehension ability is the basic foundation of learning in all subjects. We can understand why the report spelled out the importance of improving Japanese-language education, such as by encouraging reading activities and strengthening students’ vocabulary development.

 

The decline in Japanese children’s reading comprehension ability has been pointed out before. In the results of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) announced this month, the reading comprehension ability of first-year high school students in Japan slipped to eighth from fourth in the previous assessment, and their average score also declined. In light of this, the report’s section on reading comprehension ability became more substantial. The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry’s analysis is that while exchanges involving short sentences, such as email and text messages, have grown, the decline in opportunities to encounter longer passages, such as in books and newspapers, has had an impact on reading comprehension ability.

 

If students are unable to read and properly understand a logical composition, they will not broaden their range of knowledge and will be unable to acquire the ability to make decisions on their own. The education ministry will conduct a detailed survey on high school students’ reading comprehension ability, and also start researching teaching methods to boost their linguistic ability. It will be important to provide schools with concrete measures to deal with the problem, based on accurately gauging the actual level of students’ reading comprehension skills. The next teaching guidelines will introduce “active learning” with an emphasis on debates and presentations. The report stressed the significance of using newspapers, statistics and other materials in these classes. It also recommends children use newspapers and other reading materials at home and discuss social issues.

 

In the survey based on the nationwide academic achievement tests for children, there is a clear trend that the more children read newspapers, the better their academic performance. It is effective that each school shares practical examples of their “newspapers in education” activities, in which newspapers are used as teaching material in classes. Textbooks also have a major role to play. Textbooks provide children with valuable chances to encounter longer written passages. The ministry intends to basically continue using paper textbooks along with “digital textbooks,” which involve using devices such as tablet computers. Inexpensive paper textbooks are very user-friendly for many children. We hope textbooks include a wide range of good-quality text, including logical explanatory passages, without focusing too much on tales. Efforts must be made to create an environment in which children feel an affinity for the printed word.

From http://the-japan-news.com 12/22/2016

 

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Japanese Technology Can Help Remove Dangerous Space Junk from Orbit

 

Cleaning up the massive volume of space junk that is floating high above the Earth has become a global problem. Concerned parties in the industrial, government and academic sectors are working briskly to use Japanese technology to reduce this nuisance. We hope these efforts will steadily make progress. Old satellites and fragments of rockets become space junk. When these pieces of junk collide, they scatter even more junk. An antisatellite missile test China pushed ahead with in 2007 created a surge in the amount of space junk. There are said to be more than 20,000 pieces of space junk 10 centimeters or bigger. That this space junk can become a major impediment to space activities is a serious problem. Space junk travels at the incredible speed of 7.5 kilometers per second at an altitude of about 400 kilometers, where the International Space Station is orbiting. If a piece of this junk collided with a satellite, it could render it inoperable. There are no effective countermeasures for space junk. At a time when research by the leading spacefaring nations, such as the United States and countries in Europe, is lagging, expectations are rising for efforts being developed by Japan. One plan is to make space junk slow down and then quickly fall to Earth. A basic experiment on this concept will soon be conducted using Kounotori, an unmanned Japanese cargo transporter that recently delivered supplies to the ISS.

 

After detaching from the station, Kounotori will extend a 700-meter cable through which an electric current flows. The experiment is described as aiming to confirm a slowdown effect caused by force generated on the cable in the opposite direction to which Kounotori is traveling, due to the Earth’s magnetic field. If this method can be successfully applied to space junk, this debris could be eliminated without waiting decades for it to fall by itself. The tricky issue is how to attach the cable to the debris. Astroscale Japan Inc., a start-up firm funded by the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, is aiming to implement a different method. Astroscale’s microsatellite has a receptacle that juts out and captures junk, then the engines fire and it falls to Earth. A demonstration model will be launched in 2018 or 2019. Astroscale also will put a satellite for tracking space junk into orbit this year. These business activities are believed to be without precedent anywhere in the world. Astroscale expects its customers will be new space businesses aiming to construct a satellite network containing around 1,000 satellites.

 

A company under the SoftBank Group umbrella is among those planning to set up space telecommunications networks. If the number of satellites increases, there will also be more malfunctions. Removing dead satellites will become an increasingly important task. We are also intrigued by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s space debris monitoring system. About ¥10 billion will be poured into this project, in which a radar monitoring installation and an optical telescope will be installed in Okayama Prefecture next fiscal year. The special feature of this project is that the world’s most accurate defense radar technology has been adopted for civilian use. It will be able to detect — from the ground — 10-centimeter pieces of space junk. This technology has been honed over many years under the nation’s exclusively defensive security policy. It will begin operating in 2020. The nation needs a strategy for promoting efforts by the private and public sectors to make Japanese technology become more widely used around the world.

From http://the-japan-news.com 01/06/2017

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Environment for Enabling Settlement of Youth Key to Regional Revitalization

 

How to change the trend toward accelerating overconcentration of population in Tokyo? An urgent task in this regard is upgrading the environment in which young people in regional areas can learn and work locally. The comprehensive strategy for regional revitalization put forward by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will enter the third year of a five-year implementation plan in fiscal 2017, starting in April. It is about time for concrete results to be seen. Concerning the numerical target of creating 300,000 jobs for young people in regional areas, about 100,000 jobs have been secured in the past two years. The number of regular workers has expanded and women’s employment rate has increased. On the other hand, the goal of realizing a new population flow from the Tokyo metropolitan area to regional areas has become rather distant. The initial plan called for increasing the population outflow from the Tokyo metropolitan area to regional areas by 40,000 and decreasing the population inflow from regional areas to the Tokyo metropolitan area by 60,000, thereby eliminating the inflow excess of 100,000.

 

As things turned out, however, the population inflow into the Tokyo metropolitan area expanded, leading to an inflow excess of 120,000 in 2015. The inflow was conspicuous among those in the 15-19 age bracket and 20-24 age bracket. Advancing to high schools and universities and employment are thought to be major factors behind this phenomenon. This underscores anew that a correction of the concentration in Tokyo is a difficult task to be achieved. The effects of conventional measures must be strictly scrutinized again. The comprehensive strategy revised by the government in December put an emphasis on the promotion of regional universities and support for the employment of students locally. Emphasizing the fostering of young people who will bear responsibility for regional development is a reasonable path to pursue.

 

There are some successful examples. Kochi University established in fiscal 2015 the Faculty of Regional Collaboration to conduct practical research and study in collaboration with municipalities and residents in Kochi Prefecture. Of the new enrollment in fiscal 2016, those hailing from the prefecture accounted for 42 percent, far surpassing the prefecture’s 25 percent share in the overall number of students. An increasing number of prefectures have set up a system under which the amount of scholarships to be repaid will be reduced or repayment will be waived on the condition that recipients take up local jobs. This, combined with the intern system at regional companies, will provide opportunities for students in urban areas to turn their eyes toward regional areas. It is understandable that the government strives to bolster regional assistance through such measures as establishing regional versions of the work style reform panel and providing tax grants to local governments. To lure more young people into regional areas, municipalities must make steady efforts to enhance their regional charms through brainstorming with local universities and businesses.

 

The Association of Prefectural Governors asks for restraint on the construction of new universities and faculties in the 23 wards of Tokyo. The government plans to work out concrete steps on the matter by this summer. New university construction in central Tokyo had long been regulated by a law that restricted factories and others. Since the law was abolished in 2002 out of concern about such possibilities as a hollowing out of the metropolis, an increasing number of private universities, which had moved to the suburbs, have been making a U-turn to central Tokyo. With the continued decline in the population of people aged 18, the survival of universities is an increasingly real concern. Amid this situation, it is required to study from a broad perspective how to strike a balance of higher education between big cities and regional areas and to consider what regulations will be appropriate.

From http://the-japan-news.com 01/07/2017

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Make Concerted Efforts to Promote Work Style Reforms / Trimming Health, Nursing Care Costs Essential

 

“Work style reforms” should be advanced steadily. This year will be a critical juncture in this regard. To overcome population decline and the ultra-aging of society are great challenges Japan faces. The working population of women, the middle-aged and the elderly should be increased by facilitating employment that is compatible with child-rearing and nursing care. The decline in the birthrate should be stopped in the medium and long run by sweeping away people’s concerns about the future and turning the economy around. The government aims at realizing a “society that enables the dynamic engagement of all citizens.” The key to this lies with reforming working styles, through such means as rectifying the problem of working long hours. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has emphasized that this is a “year to act decisively” in this regard. The public and private sectors should join hands in tackling these challenges.

 

The number of births in 2016 is estimated to have totaled 980,000, falling short of 1 million for the first time since the government began keeping the relevant statistics in the Meiji era (1868-1912). If present trends continue, the total population will fall from the current 127 million to as low as 87 million in 2060, with the elderly population reaching 40 percent of the total. The working population will also shrink to two-thirds of the current level in 2050. Unless the population decline is curbed and the working population is increased, the nation’s social security system will become dysfunctional. In order to make the system sustainable, it is necessary to rectify such labor practices as workers doing overtime regularly. The average working hours of people with permanent employment status in Japan hovers at a high of around 2,000 hours a year. More than 20 percent of the workers work for longer than 49 hours a week, far more than the figure of around 10 percent for their counterparts in European countries.

 

Also prevalent are such labor practices as overtime exceeding 80 hours a month, considered the “death from overwork line.” The case of a young female employee at leading advertising agency Dentsu Inc., who committed suicide due to overwork, is representative of what has become a social problem. The work style of regular workers, often pressed to choose between their work and family life, has deterred women from developing their careers and men from participating in household chores and child-rearing. This has also been a major factor behind the low birthrate. Needless to say, expanding child-care and nursing care services is important. But that alone would not see women taking more active roles in society or bring about an increase in the birthrate. It is also quite doubtful that such measures alone will allow the government to realize its goal of “reducing to zero the number of people who are forced to leave their jobs for nursing care.” The government plans to set an upper limit on overtime. It is necessary to promote changes in the consciousness at workplaces, so that the practice of working shorter hours efficiently will be rated highly.

 

“Equal pay for equal work,” a system to ensure equal treatment regardless of the form of employment, is yet another pillar of the work style reforms. Wage levels of non-regular workers stand at 60 percent of those of regular workers in Japan. This ratio falls far short of comparable figures for non-regular workers in European countries, who get 80 percent of what regular workers get. Non-regular workers have increased to account for as much as 40 percent of the total workforce, spreading also among younger generations. The increase in young people who give up on getting married or having children due to economic reasons is exacerbating the problem of the low birthrate. Measures that will promote various human resources to play active roles, and hence increase productivity, include wages based on actual work regardless of employment status and paths to higher careers being widened by expanded education and training.

 

The government will come up with an action plan for work style reforms within this fiscal year. It must be an effective one. A hike in the consumption tax rate to 10 percent was postponed, forcing the integrated reform of social security and the tax system to be restructured. Among scheduled measures, the government plans to first implement those to improve treatment of workers in childcare and nursing care services to secure needed human resources. The urgent task is to secure permanent financial resources. Containment of ballooning costs in medical and nursing care services is the most vital part of building a social security system that can withstand the super-aging society. With revisions of fees for medical and nursing care services coming in fiscal 2018, the work to determine specific aspects of the revision will progress this year. A focus of attention will be how efficiency is reflected in the revisions.

 

To meet medical service needs, the number of hospitals’ short-term beds, which are high-cost, should be reduced while the number of beds for recovery and convalescent periods should be increased. Also a system enabling elderly people to live at home while feeling secure must be built, with enhanced combinations of home medical services and nursing care services. While the quality of medical services should be enhanced, reforms must progress to contain costs. Regarding nursing care insurance, it is inevitable to prioritize benefits for those who need a high level of service. Local governments must urgently develop frameworks for taking over responsibility for livelihood support services for elderly people who require a low level of nursing care. It is also vital to strictly implement a principal of sharing burdens according to people’s financial strength, including among elderly people.

 

During the extraordinary Diet session last year, the pension reform related law was enacted. But many issues are still pending. It is especially problematic that the new legislation did not get into the complete implementation of the “macroeconomic slide,” which will automatically lower pension levels in response to further declines in the low birthrate amid an aging society. Currently the implementation of the macroeconomic slide is restricted due to deflation, so that the lowering of pension levels has been delayed. However, the delay will bring reduced pension benefits to future generations. The macroeconomic slide must fully be implemented regardless of the economic conditions, as it is vital to protect pensions for future generations. The issues of expanding the range of people eligible to be covered under the kosei nenkin employee pension program and extending the period of premium payment for the basic pension have barely been addressed. It was confirmed in 2014 fiscal studies that these steps will be effective in improving pension benefits in the future. Reforms must not be allowed to slacken due to fear of a backlash from elderly people.

From http://the-japan-news.com 01/11/2017

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SOUTH KOREA: Investing in ‘Hologram’ Technology

 

Korea is now focusing on the development of hologram technologies which display a fully three-dimensional image of a subject by projecting light into the air. Hologram takes advantage of holography, a photographic technique that records light scattered from an object and then presents it in a way that appears three-dimensional. In Korea, an advanced version of the hologram has begun to emerge, offering more than just a three-dimensional image, allowing people to touch and feel the image, as well. On Dec. 29, the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) said that the number of patent applications for hologram technologies at home has reached 343 cases over the past four years since 2012, twice as many as the applications registered between 2008 and 2011. Compared to the past where most hologram patents were filed dominantly out of Korea, many Korean companies have turned to the highly promising technology of the era by conducting research and development of holograms. In 2015, 96 out of the total 100 patent applications were filed by Korean individuals and firms.

Among the holographic technologies under patent, there is the “floating” display technology which projects holographic images onto a semi-transparent fabric, to make the images look like they are floating in mid-air. There’s also the traditional “holographic” display which utilizes light diffraction to create a virtual three-dimensional image of an object. The “plasma” display is a type of display that creates a three-dimensional image in mid-air using the laser plasma emission. Lastly, “haptic holograms” create invisible three-dimensional objects that can be touched and felt and, also, can interact with a real human being. Samsung, too, obtained a patent for this kind of haptic hologram which allows the user to feel a ball-like holographic object mid-air when he tries to press the image down to make a dent in it. A sensor is attached to the body of the user, giving him or her a real feel of pressure and texture in the act of pressing the virtual ball. “It’s safe to say that holography completes the three-dimensional imaging technology. It can be utilized in various ways across such industries as architecture, education, medical services and games and it has a great ripple effect across the industries,” said an official from the KIPO. “The government will continue to fund the expansion of the nation’s hologram industry, so as to tap into the future market of astronomical proportions. Further effort will be made in research and development among industries and academics, as well as in acquiring patents.

From http://www.korea.net/ 12/30/2016

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Gov’t 3.0 Offers Information on Taxes, Health, Finance

 

In Korea, many people can issue their civil affairs documents, such as resident registrations, through the internet without having to visit a government office directly. They can also receive various useful pieces of information, ranging from taxes and year-end tax returns through to welfare policy and health benefits. These are all thanks to “government 3.0" services that are centered on the citizens. In order to better use such government 3.0 services, which intimately involve people’s daily routines, the Ministry of the Interior introduced on Jan. 3 a list of 10 selected services at which people should take a closer look in the new year. Among the 10 services is the Hometax website (홈택스) of the National Tax Service (https://www.hometax.go.kr). This is a must-see website this January for anyone who's doing economic activities here in Korea. At this website, users can use a simplified service for year-end tax settlements. They can also receive information about the four major insurance payments, and medical treatment payments. Smartphone users can also use the Hometax app to receive tax tips and to use an online tax calculator.

If you're on a set of wheels, make sure to apply for the auto tax annual payment this January. Car taxes are usually paid twice a year, in June and December. If you apply for an annual payment in January, however, you can get a 10 percent discount. Visit the Wetax website (
위택스) (https://www.wetax.go.kr) and click the "Additional Services" menu to apply for an annual payment. To issue civil affairs documents, such as resident registrations without having to visit government offices, visit the Minwon 24 government civil affairs portal (민원24). You can also check 41 kinds of customized information there, such as pensions, fines, vaccines, car inspection schedules and dormant deposits, if you register your personalized information in the “My Lifestyle Information” section.If you want to learn more about welfare policies scheduled to be introduced this year and other related information, please visit the Bokjiro website (복지로) (www.bokjiro.go.kr). Visitors to the website can learn more about the changes in welfare policies that start this year. On this website, users can learn more about the increased support voucher of KRW 900,000 for pregnant women with twins or triplets, which used to be only KRW 700,000, the child rearing support voucher of KRW 120,000 for single-parent households or low-income households, which used to be only KRW 100,000. They can also learn more about government’s support for families with infants and toddlers, such as extended support for child care services, and the extended number of hospitals that will operate late at night this year.

 

For people who are interested in health, please visit the Food Safety Information Portal (http://www.foodsafetykorea.go.kr) (식품안전정보포털) and the Geongang IN (건강인) (http://hi.nhis.or.kr) site. Geongang means "health" in Korean, and in means "people." The Food Safety Information Portal provides information about food and related health information, information about restaurants and schools near the user’s location, and information about unsanitary food. The Geongang IN site offers information about weight control, information about health examination schedules customized for the individual, and information about infant health and growth. For those who are interested in real estate, please visit the Onnara real estate information portal (온나라) (http://www.onnara.go.kr). This website informs users about the latest information about the actual purchase price of property, and the latest trends and news in the industry. Visitors to this website can also learn more about the new real estate policies.

If you want to know more about financial information and financial products, please visit the Financial Products at one Glance website of the Financial Supervisory Service. This website allows users to look at all the financial products newly launched this year so that they can compare and select the best products for their lifestyle. For families interested in education, please visit the Edunet website (http://www.edunet.net) and the EBS website (www.ebsi.co.kr). Edunet allows teachers, students and parents to use study material in a convenient manner. EBS offers educational broadcasting programs in order to help students prepare for the College Scholastic Ability Test and to manage their school records. “Government 3.0 services will greatly help people save time and money if they fully make use of it,” said Yoon Jong-in, deputy minister for government innovation and organization management. “We will actively provide information for citizens so that more people can be aware of new policies and use the benefits as much as possible,” Yoon said.

From http://www.korea.net 01/09/2017

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THAILAND: PM Orders Tough Action Against Website Hackers

 

PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha has urged law enforcement to take tough action against people carrying out illegal activities in retaliation for the amendment to the Computer Crime Act that was recently approved by the National Legislative Assembly. Several government websites and computer systems have been hacked by an online group opposing the new law, which opponents say violates people’s rights. Meanwhile, national police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaichinda said the police database of search and arrest warrants remained intact and people attempting to break into the system could access only basic data that was already available via the search engine Google. The database security of police divisions including traffic police and immigration police was compromised earlier, but no serious damage had been reported, authorities said. Hackers associated with a group opposed to a single Internet gateway have claimed responsibility for breaking into police and other government websites, including those of Government House, the Defence Ministry and the National Council for Peace and Order. Chakthip said police were investigating if several suspects detained by authorities belonged to the same group that opposed the new computer crime law.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 12/30/2016

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People Expect Backsliding in Battling Corruption, Implementing Road Map

 

MOST PEOPLE expect to see a decline in government efforts to tackle corruption this year and are not convinced that the “road map” for a return to democracy will be implemented as promised, a new public poll has found. However, more than 70 per cent of respondents said they still counted on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to improve the political situation this year, according to results of the Suan Dusit Poll released yesterday. Less than half of the people surveyed said they relied on politicians to resolve political issues. About two-thirds of the 1,266 people surveyed believe that the administration this year could strengthen the country and there would be peace, according to the poll conducted between last Sunday to Friday on the public’s perspective of the political situation. There are three areas where people expect to see improvement this year: Making the country strong came first with 69 per cent. Respondents said the government had clear policies and was serious about implementing them. They said all ministers were working in the same direction and had measures to service the public. The second thing that 66 per cent people expected to see over the next 12 months is an improvement in the peace situation in the country. The reasons cited were the government’s ability to control the situation and people of different parties wanting to see peace.

 

Organic laws seen as crucial

The writing of the organic laws came third on the list at 57 per cent. The respondents said the |situation would improve because these laws were crucial to the country and would have an impact on people and ensure democratic rights for the public. There are three areas where people expect to see a regression this year: Laxity in crackdown on corruption topped the list for about 71 per cent. They believe politics was about special interests, a problem that has persisted for a long time, and there were loopholes in government projects that could be exploited by the corrupt. The political conflict came second, with nearly 70 per cent of respondents saying the government hadn’t succeeded in bringing about reconciliation, and also because it was considered a |military government. Some 54 per cent remained doubtful about the government’s promise to stick to its road map. Their views were coloured by recent news of the next election being delayed and also because there were many issues the government had failed to deal with. Almost three-quarters of people surveyed, however, still have faith in Prime Minister Prayut’s ability to resolve political issues this year, while 64 per cent said that it was everyone’s duty to lend a helping hand. Faith in the government (61 per cent) was third, and faith in civil servants (56) fourth. Politicians were on the bottom of the list with nearly 49 per cent of people saying they counted on politicians to solve the political issues.

 

Who do you think can make Thai politics better in 2017?

1. Prime minister:      73%

2. Members of public:      64%

3. Government:     61%

4. Bureaucrats:     56%

5. Politicians:      48%

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 01/08/2017

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VIETNAM: PM Urges Resolve in Facing 2017 Difficulties

 

Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc has asked central and local officials to show political resolve and aspirations to develop the country despite the numerous difficulties facing the nation. Concluding a two-day teleconference between the Government and local authorities yesterday, Phúc said the achievements of 2016 were respectable, but an array of difficulties are forecast for 2017 regarding natural disasters, public debt, low economic competitiveness, and an unpredictable international situation. To better serve people and businesses, the whole political system must mobilise, particularly at the grass root administrative level which is closest to the people, he noted. “Leaders of ministries, sectors and localities must set aside their own interests to successfully perform the task of economic restructuring,” he stressed.  Phúc asked for efforts to ensure a stable macro-economy and an inflation no higher than 4 per cent in 2017 which, he said, are prerequisites and favourable conditions for sustainable development.

 

To achieve a growth rate of 6.7 per cent next year, he requested ministries and sectors to continue tackling business difficulties, promptly disburse public investment capital, apply scientific and technological solutions, and improve productivity and competitiveness.  Economic growth must be ensured, but not at all costs, he emphasised, while protecting the environment. Ministries, sectors and localities need to detect and ask the Government to abolish regulations that hamper national development. They also need to immediately eradicate irrational regulations, which fall within their jurisdiction. The Cabinet leader ordered the prompt settlement of non-performing loans and public debt and also asked officials at all levels to practice thrift, prevent wastefulness and take into account effectiveness when using people’s money. Localities, ministries and sectors must push forward with improving the business climate so that Việt Nam can be among the top four ASEAN countries with the best business environment. State-owned enterprises must be drastically restructured by 2020, he said, adding that the People’s Committee chairpersons of each locality and each minister must take responsibility for this restructuring. They must work to minimise the loss of State assets and deal with big loss projects.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 12/20/2016

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Vietnam to Tackle Major Corruption Cases in 2017: Party Commission

 

The Central Internal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) set its major tasks in 2017 as keeping a close eye on and providing consultancy for investigations and judging of serious economic and corruption cases. Head of the commission Phan Dinh Trac was quoted by Vietnam's state-run news agency VNA on Friday as saying that his commission will focus on giving advice to remove difficulties and complete the first instance hearing of six major cases, as well as the appeal hearing of other seven cases as scheduled. The corruption cases include those in the banking sector, and those in the state-run PetroVietnam Construction Corporation, said Trac. At the same time, the commission will also consult CPV Central Committee on measures to strictly handle individuals and collectives committing violations and causing losses for state-run projects, including northern Dinh Vu fiber factory, central Ethanol Dung Quat plant, northern Ninh Binh and Ha Bac nitrogen factories, among others, said Trac. In mid-2012, the CPV Central Committee approved the establishment of a central steering committee on preventing and combating corruption under the Politburo and re-establishment of the Central Internal Affairs Commission, which acts as a permanent agency of the steering committee.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 01/06/2017

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Police Mull Automatic Fine Collection for Cars

 

Police in the capital city have said they are considering electronic (and automatic) charging of traffic fines to offenders’ bank accounts. Police officers are mostly supportive of the idea, while others, including car drivers and authority figures, are not so impressed, urging careful study. The novel idea was recently put forward by Brigadier Đào Thanh Hải, Deputy Director of the Hà Nội municipal Department of Public Security, in a conference held last weekend announcing the transport sector’s activity plan for 2017. Hải requested the Ministry of Public Security (MoPS) to work on the proposal to submit to the Government for consideration. According to this proposal, car owners would be required to open a bank account and a certain amount of money is to be deposited in that account. Should violations occur, by identifying car owners via images captured by traffic cameras, fines will be automatically debited from the offenders’ accounts. Part of the reason for this proposal is, as Hải said, the police still face a number of difficulties in handling traffic violations, especially in cases of offenders whose car ownership certificates were not registered under their names.

 

Those who do not have proper ownership certificates for their vehicles will be forced to do so. Thus, law-enforcement and authorities will have an easier time managing cars. More importantly, Hải is convinced that when an amount of money is reserved in bank accounts specifically for paying fines and the fines are automatically deducted; car owners will have no choice but to pay more attention and obey traffic laws, be it parking in designated zones or wearing seatbelts, or speeding. Two birds with one stone, Hải added. Fully backing the measure, Colonel Nguyễn Văn Quỹ, former handler of traffic violations at the Traffic Police Unit No 1, said this will enhance drivers’ awareness to better follow the rules. Better yet, Quỹ added that if the offenders happen to be working in State agencies, the automatic fine collection will prevent the higher-ups from being able to pull strings or exert their influence on police officers to get out of trouble. This is something the public might appreciate, when all drivers are treated fairly, Major Nguyễn Mạnh Hùng, deputy head of the Road and Railway Traffic Police under the Hà Nội Police, said in approval of the measure.

 

“Besides, the offender doesn’t have to waste time [going to the State Treasury] to pay their fines,” Hùng stressed. Currently, traffic offenders pay on-the-spot fines in cash to police officers, which is more convenient for people, but not for the police officers. Dr. Lương Thanh Cường, head of the Faculty of State and Law Studies, from the National Academy of Public Administration, said allowing offenders to pay fines via bank accounts would free up traffic police officers from redundant tasks in order to focus on their primary role – to direct traffic and ensure traffic safety. “Traffic police officers have to carry with them all kinds of traffic ticket receipts. At the end of the working day or the day after, they have to bring the collected money to the State treasury. All the efforts devoted to calculating, counting, and keeping the fine money, are really unnecessary and distracting them from what they are supposed to do.” A more subtle advantage, Cường added, is that payment via banks would help to end the unbecoming sight of arguing, ‘dealing’ and exchanging money between traffic police officers and traffic offenders on the streets.

 

Concerns abound

Drivers may appreciate the fairer treatment as a result of automatic fine collection. However, car drivers still have many concerns regarding the proposal. According to Nguyễn Xuân Thông, 31, in Thanh Xuân District of Hà Nội, this is a very novel idea, and he wanted to know if the two methods, fine payment via bank accounts and by cash can be accepted simultaneously, or the former will be preferred. Thông is also concerned with exactly how the method will be implemented. Will those who commit traffic infringements suffer deductions immediately after being identified by traffic cameras, or will the agency handling traffic violations send offenders a notice, and only when the notice is accepted by the offender will their bank account be charged? Bùi Danh Liên, Chairman of the Hà Nội Transport Assocation, said even though he was in favour of setting up a bank account for easier fine collection, valuing the fairness and transparency it helps to create, requiring car owners to set up a bank account just to pay fines is unreasonable. According to Liên, the trouble is Vietnamese people still prefer dealing in cash rather than by debit or credit cards.

 

Another thing that might be problematic, he said, is that money deposited in the new bank account must be equal or higher than the highest penalty – which hovers somewhere around VNĐ20 million (US$890) as per Decree No 46, effective from August last year. This amount might not be much of a problem for individual car owners, but for an enterprise with hundreds of cars, it would be a significant financial burden. Major General Trần Thế Quân, Deputy Chief of the MoPS’s Legal and Judicial Administrative Reforms Department, while supporting the proposed measure, said many potential issues must be resolved prior to implementation. For example, will this measure be extended to motorbikes? Investment into modern traffic camera systems that will produce convincing evidence of violations will certainly be a considerable sum. The working partnership between police authorities and the banks also needs to be figured out. Quân also said a detailed roadmap must be released for feedback if the authorities decide to proceed with the idea. Back in November 2015, in a bid to ease traffic congestion in Hà Nội and HCM City, the then Deputy Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc ordered the MoPS, Ministry of Finance and the State Bank of Việt Nam to immediately work on a plan to implement collecting fines via bank accounts. It is not the first time that this idea has been floated by the city’s police heads, but the plan remains in the proposal phase.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 01/19/2017

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INDIA: BSNL to Lease 15,000 PoS to Push Digital Bill Payment


NEW DELHI: State-run BSNL is planning to take on lease about 15,000 point of sale machines to enable more customers to use digital methods of bill payment, and sees digital transactions accounting for up to 40 per cent of all bill payments by March 2017, nearly double of current levels. "We are in the process of leasing about 15,000 point of sale (PoS) machines to be used by customer service centres so that electronic payment can be encouraged. That is also the direction in which the country is moving, everyone is looking at electronic payment methods," BSNL CMD Anupam Shrivastava told PTI. He further said that telecom corporation intends to have about 20-50 customer service centres in each of its telecom districts, equipped with PoS machines.  "We have 334 telecom districts or SSA. We are saying that in each telecom district, between 20-50 customer service centres should have PoS machines," he said, adding that at present, 1,500-2000 PoS machines are available in BSNL's own customer service centres.  By March 31, BSNL expects up to 40 per cent of the total bill payments to come from digital mode. At present, digital payment account for less than 20 per cent of the overall bill payment. 

"Before March 31, we would like it (digital methods of payment) to account for 35-40 per cent of our overall bill payment across mobile, landline, broadband, Fibre to The Home (FTTH) services," he said.  At present, Shrivastava said, payment methods vary depending on the amount of bill. E-payment tends to be more favoured for FTTH billing, while cash finds favour in case of landline bill payment.  "On December 15, we had a meeting with the Chief General Managers (CGMs) and they have been told to equip the customer service centres with PoS facility. We are of the view that for POS machines at this point of time, capital expenditure should not be incurred and therefore it should be taken through lease mechanism for which talks have already started with various banks," he said.

From http://www.siliconindia.com 01/02/2017